Masquerade.

AUTHOR: Kim
E-MAIL: kim.harmel@ntlworld.com. DISCLAIMER: I don't own them, I don't want them, they make me cry too much. Joss and his people do the owning thing SPOILERS: Nothing. Completely AU fic. DISTRIBUTION: Great, just let me know where. FEEDBACK: Please. RATING: R-rated AUTHOR'S NOTES: No Vamps, no slayers and the only monsters in this story are human ;^) I just wanted to write something different, this is it.

Masquerade Prologue First there was nothing. A deep black abyss of nothingness staked its claim on her soul, smothering it slowly in triumph. It was strong, fierce and ruthless. But the spirit was stronger... Slowly, one by one her five senses started to reconnect, each one breaking down the walls of unconsciousness and grasping the brand new day. It was a small room. Small, white, with a strong smell of disinfectant and something she couldn't quite put her mind to... ** Flowers** **That was it** The fragrance of fresh cut flowers fought its way bravely through the sanitised aura of the room. A sharp intake of breath confirmed the flowers in question were roses.

**Most likely long stemmed and yellow** She liked roses. She liked yellow. As the perfume filled her senses her mind was flooded with reminders of sunlight. Vibrant, warm and nurturing. **Peaceful** Inside her mind it was almost silent. The only sound that penetrated the quietness was the faint ticking of a distant clock. It's subtle tick, tick; ticking was just enough to be noticed but not enough to be annoying. Not yet anyway. Turning her head, the first thing her eyes focused on was a cheap painting of the seashore hanging crookedly on the far wall. Angry waves broke over jagged rocks but a small sliver of sunlight seemed to appease the hungry sea. In different surroundings it might have passed as pleasant but, on closer inspection, the work had been ruined by bad brushwork and to add insult to injury, a really tacky frame. The painting was unfamiliar, but then so was the hard wooden chair in the corner and the small bedside cabinet that looked surprisingly like a hospital locker, right down to the small jug of water and chipped glass tumbler. On reflection, it didn't just look like a hospital locker; it *was* a hospital locker. With that startling revelation the smell of disinfectant returned and the white sterile walls that surrounded her hard uncomfortable bed started to close in. Fighting against a wave of panic and nausea, her head slipped to the other side of the crisp starched pillow. The scenery she faced wasn't very different. The same white washed walls, a slightly different seashore painting but it still had the same tacky frame, and yet another uncomfortable looking chair. It was definitely part of a hospital. She sighed, and then she saw him. At the far end of the room the figure of a man stood at the window with his back to her, seemingly gazing into nothingness. His broad shoulders hunched slightly under a crumpled black silk shirt, and his hands were thrust into the pockets of equally dark trousers, stretching the fabric over his lean hips.

Suddenly, her skin felt hot and her mouth was too dry. As she cleared her parched throat, the slight noise seemed to cut right through his reverie, causing him to turn and stare hard in the direction of the hospital bed. "Buffy. It's about time you came back" His voice sounded like crushed velvet, each syllable smooth and soft as it slipped into the quiet room. "Back?" The patient asked the question with uncertainty as her large hazel eyes studied his expressionless face. As he moved out of the direct sunlight, she could make out his features more clearly. At a little over six feet tall, with chiseled good looks and deep-set dark eyes, the expression *Tall dark and strikingly gorgeous* didn't really do him full justice, but it was a start. "Back. Back to the land of the living, of course. It was touch and go for a while, you gave the doctors a real scare" As she carefully studied him, she noticed that *Mr.Tall dark and strikingly gorgeous* was giving off an array of confusing signals. His softly spoken voice sounded relieved but at the same time, his body language remained cool, almost distant. When she didn't speak he continued. "You've been unconscious for a while now, almost forty-eight hours" he stopped and sighed wearily "Do you remember what happened?" "Unconscious?" She started to sit up but her whole body seemed to protest against the idea. The tall dark man with enigmatic eyes sighed, pulling his hands from his pockets. In a few long strides he crossed the room. "You shouldn't try and get up yet, not until a doctor has spoken to you." His voice stayed remote but those eyes told a different story. Placing a hand on her arm he lowered her back down onto the hard mattress. She was too weak and disorientated to put up any real resistance, but it was something else that stopped her trying. The touch of his warm fingers on her bare arm caused her skin to tingle as if a small spark of static electricity had brushed over her body. It was a shock to her system in more ways than one.

For a brief second their eyes met, and he could clearly read the questions that lurked in the confusion, questions she seemed nervous to ask. In that same second, she found herself needing to breathe, and when she did, his masculine scent flooded her senses. He smelt of ivory soap and stale cigarettes. The sudden sound of a nurse's soft footsteps interrupted them, causing the man to step back and thrust his hands back into his pockets. "Good morning, sleepy head. How are you feeling?" The middle aged woman smiled. Picking up the patient's slender wrist, she checked the rate of her pulse against her watch. "I'm not too sure. It kinda hurts all over" Still smiling, the nurse removed a thermometer from her top pocket and after shaking it a couple of times, slipped it under the patient's tongue. "That's perfectly understandable in the circumstances. Just lay still until the doctor gets here, he will explain why you're in pain" Years of practice gave her voice the calming edge it needed to ease the patient's fears. "My head's beginning to really hurt" Leaning across, the nurse removed the thermometer and placed her hand to the younger woman's forehead. "Your temperature's fine, but you did take a bad knock, the swelling has only recently gone down" "Knock? Did I knock my head?" The nurse raised her eyes over the young woman's head and looked towards the other occupant in the room, when he shrugged his shoulders she returned to her patient. "I just want to ask you a few questions, just normal procedure to check for concussion. Okay? " "Sure" "Do you know what year it is?" "2003" The answer was a knee jerk reaction, it slipped over her tongue without any need for thought. "And your date of birth?" "January 19th 1981" Still not a hint of hesitancy.

"And who is the President of the United States?" The patient chewed her bottom lip slightly before answering. "George Walker Bush, unless they've finally found a way to kick him out" This time the reply was even light hearted as her confidence seemed to grow. The nurse smiled, putting her more at ease. "Good girl, no problem there at all. Just one last question and I'll get you something for that headache. Can you tell me your name" "My name? Of course I can, its..." The nurse watched and waited, as the younger woman seemed to struggle on the simplest question of them all. After a few moments she admitted defeat and her face crumbled into a large frown. Biting back tears, she slowly shook her head. " Elizabeth Angelus." The quiet words came from the other side of the room. The confused patient looked up with large grateful eyes. For a moment real fear had squeezed her heart at the failure of that question, but at least now she had an identity. She met his gaze, looking slightly puzzled. "Wait. I remember now, but not Elizabeth, I think my friends call me Buffy" He nodded, and once again moved closer to the bed. That's right, it was a childhood nickname but now everyone calls you Buffy." The voice continued softly spoken but remained devoid of all emotion. In her gratitude she didn't really notice. "Wow! That's a real relief, I was beginning to get worried there for a moment" Buffy laughed as a tinge of colour returned to her cheeks but was quickly reminded of the throbbing in her temple. Her slight grimace reminded the others. "Do you still need something for the pain?" "Please" Buffy replied trying not to nod her head and increase her discomfort. While the nurse attended to the pain relief, Buffy turned to the other presence in the

. He was definitely *tall dark and gorgeous* but there was an also a hint of something uneasy about him. Oxygen was only returned to her protesting lungs when she realised that all her other fingers were also bare. " No. something dangerous. the room was too hot and a troupe of small men with wooden clogs on their feet. We're not friends. so the lack of a ring at this point didn't prove or disprove anything. her gaze travelled nervously down the length of his muscular left arm and on reaching his fingers. Turning her head. Buffy" He snorted.. The silence that filled the room was almost deafening. an invisible band tightened around her chest. Buffy calmed herself with the knowledge that she was in a hospital bed and almost naked.. **This is utter madness** From the moment she awoke her life had become surreal. At her startled expression. squeezing all the air from her lungs. Are we friends?" Turning to face her.room. Buffy's shocked eyes edged slowly to her own left hand. Suddenly her throat was too dry. darkness covered his handsome features. "You're my wife" "WIFE? Buffy squeaked out the word in total disbelief. His broad shoulders seemed to slump beneath his shirt and she was almost certain she heard him quietly sigh. danced frantically up and down inside her head. only to discover the third finger was suspiciously bare. almost black expressionless eyes flashed in her direction. Buffy's anxious eyes flickered back to her *husband* and the coolness this man radiated caused her to shudder. Cold. you seem to know me and yet. Biting back the acid bile that was burning her throat. nothing made sense anymore. gold wedding ring. . it settled on what appeared to be a small. **You're my wife** At the sight of the ring. Tearing her eyes from his face. Whatever she'd been expecting it certainly wasn't this little bombshell. He bothered her in a way she didn't understand. Taking a welcoming gasp. almost angry frown.. sending a shiver screaming down her spine. "I'm sorry. her so called *husband's* face creased into a dark.

dark and scary. and now the lack of sleep. Their coolness cut through her like freezing rain. "I thought your name was Liam?" She asked suspiciously. "Buffy. "It is.** Each shaky breath caused her small chest to swell up against the rough hospital gown. breathe Buffy. He ran his hand slowly over his chin and the slight growth of stubble reminded him that he'd hardly slept in three days.. You remember how to do that much." Do you recognise this man?" **Do you recognise this man?** The simple question brought Buffy crashing back to reality. "You're my wife" "We're married?. His whole body seemed to tense up at her question. tall." She started with a calming smile.**Okay. For a second. " You're Angel?" It was more of a question than an answer. bitterness flash in his deep chocolate orbs. you were the ones that called me.. the nurse took a diplomatic step forward. carefully choosing the name the girl seemed more comfortable with. out. "I'm sorry. The man claiming to be her husband glared. causing Buffy's whole body to tremble. dark and gorgeous suddenly looked tall. It goes in.. in. Feeling the tension between the couple grow. You and me?" Buffy's large hazel eyes blinked as the information tried yet again to break through her disbelief.. remember?" With a frustrated sigh he returned his voice to a softer level " All I'm . When she looked again only indifference shone back at her. On her almost uncertain reply the nurse turned her head.. Buffy could have sworn she saw something resembling anger or even worse. out.. it was no wonder he was becoming irritable. but you people already know who I am. she took a few more seconds to study his handsome features and then slowly nodded her head. Only my wife calls me Angel" Angel snapped back. Mr. only his cryptic eyes showed any real emotion. What with the resent stress he'd been under. Looking up. annoyed that he had to explain something so intimate to a total stranger. Did she recognise him?.

like the fact she liked yellow roses. and yet still remember insignificant things. Reaching over. take these" The nurse held out her hand and dropped two small pills into Buffy's trembling palm.. she massaged her temples." "But I. The doctor has been called and he will want to talk to both of you but. please try and sleep. in the meantime. the nurse then offered a reassuring smile. nothing's in the right place.** "Here.. there's obviously a real problem here" Buffy watched quietly. Straightening the crumpled sheets. trying to rub out all the confusion swimming around in her memory. He was giving off the most confusing signals. ." Angel's clear voice was the last thing she heard. "I don't want to sleep." She tried to stifle the yawn that broke free but failed as a renewed wave of exhaustion attacked her whole body." Buffy closed her eyes begging for the blackness to swallow her again. but her eyelids were already dropping. it's all mixed up. her eyes never once leaving his face. everything's so fuzzy. **Was there really a giant hole inside her head that used to hold memories of loving this man. silent vortex. marrying this man?. I need to understand what happened to me. Within seconds. do as you're told. Close your eyes. My head. and return her to it's warm nothingness. First you need to rest.. Buffy threw both tablets inside her mouth and swallowed them down with a large gulp of water. "They should ease the pain and also help you sleep" Buffy shook her head. "I don't understand any of this." "Buffy... the darkness was washing back over her. She wanted desperately to protest. Raising both hands to the side of her head. Without hesitation.... who ever he was. "All in good time. she filled a small glass with water from the jug on the bedside locker and carefully placed it in her patient's other hand.. The face of this *Angel*. Only one picture accompanied her on the journey.concerned about is my wife.. pulling her into its safe. How could she possibly forget something that monumental.

he was nearly as tired as Angel after being on call for almost forty-eight hours. Catching sight of an important sentence. "You said a small amount of memory loss. hungry and extremely frustrated but all that was put aside by his need to understand Buffy's condition. Refusing to be intimidated. school. Ever since the accident two days earlier. even though the CAT scan showed no damage to her brain. He sympathised with the anxious man but knew in cases of amnesia. there really were no text book answers. Doctor Adam Walsh carefully studied the notes in front of him. she remembered some personal information?" Angel nodded. a small amount of memory loss is not uncommon in cases like this. "I understand Elizabeth recognised you." Angel sat in the cramped doctor's office several hours later. what horrors her mind is trying to forget. Every member on the staff had worked around the clock as they fought bravely to save the survivors. the young doctor looked back across his desk.***** "Try not to be too concerned Mr. Angelus. his large body leaned across the desk making it clear he was sick of being brushed off. just how small are we talking about here?" Angel asked impatiently. she remembered a pet name. He wanted answers and he wanted them now. Adam Walsh scanned the papers again. each case was different. let alone be responsible for Buffy's care. In your wife's case she seems to have shut down part of her mind. not liking the idea one little bit. there's still the problem of shock to deal with. the hospital resources had been pushed to breaking point. the kid in the white lab coat didn't look old enough to be out of med. People have strange ways of handling stress. Slipping off a pair of thin." "You're saying Buffy has amnesia?" Angel asked. He was tired. he rubbed his own tired eyes before returning his attention to the notes Angel wasn't impressed. we don't know how much of the accident she witnessed. how can she forget something like that?" A small muscle in his jaw twitched with frustration. . "The accident must have been very traumatic. gold rimmed glasses. From what I've been told it was hell on earth out there. He also acknowledged that Liam Angelus wasn't a man to be messed around. "Sure. but she's my wife dammit.

especially in cases where there was no damage to the brain. The female voice on the other end of the line soon broke him from his reverie." "And what if her memory never comes back. its been a rough few days" He almost laughed at the understatement. I've been worried sick" The woman's reply was both angry and concerned. Maybe when she's in familiar surroundings she'll feel safe enough to open her mind and let out what ever demons frightened her into closing it. "So how long will it last?" Angel asked. the last few days had been a nightmare and from what the doctor had just told him. it's me" His weary voice breathed deeply into the small cell phone resting against his ear. after a few short rings. "I know and I'm sorry." "And in the meantime what am I supposed to do?" "At this moment in time Mr. a week. Angel sat in his car and dialed the familiar number by heart. What if she never remembers me?" Angel didn't even want to consider that possibility. your wife seems to be suppressing something. Adam Walsh shook his head "Permanent amnesia is extremely rare. all we can do is give her time" ***** Outside the hospital. you know your wife better than she knows herself. the other end clicked open "Hi Cordy. No. what can i say. "We can't know. You need to take her home and treat her as normally as possible. a year. She will need as much love and support as you can possibly give her. Angelus. it was only just beginning. . Adam considered the question carefully before replying. For a hire car it wasn't too comfortable but it was better than nothing.The doctor nodded. it could be an hour. Adam Walsh had seen more than his fair share of amnesia cases. Angel rubbed his hand over his tired eyes and relaxed deeper into his seat. It all depends on Buffy and her state of mind. Scratching his chin. especially accident victims. "Liam. It's about time you called.

she knew shouting at her brother wasn't the answer. "So. .. Cordelia didn't give him time to reply "Liam... he waited for the explosion to follow. Sorry. She could almost see him shrugging his shoulders as he fought for the right answer. "And what has the bitc. stupid. He wasn't disappointed. she's got amnesia" Angel shook his head. please. now what?" Cordelia calmed her tone of voice. don't tell me you forgave her" Cordelia angrily interrupted. "And you believed her! Liam you really are a dumbass" "That's enough. dumb ass. the pain he had carefully hidden for the last three months surfaced and threatened to suffocate him all over again. both sibling was too consumed with their own conflicting emotions to risk hurting the other. "It's not that simple. Is it the little bitch or not?" This time her tone was almost venomous.. "Yes. months of heartache had turned him into quite the actor. "I guess that's up to Buffy" "You really are a big. please be careful this time" At the sound of his sister's real concern Angel pulled himself together. But now out in the real world. it's Buffy" His eyes softened as the memory of her smile caressed his battered heart. be careful. his patience now pushed passed its breaking point. Cordelia would be green with envy at the skills he had picked up." She repeated her earlier insult but this time there was real pain in her voice.. It had been easy to hide his feelings from Buffy. For a second neither spoke. "Cordelia! Don't talk about her like that" Angel's mask slipped for the first time and real pain showed in his hard brooding eyes. will you just cut to the chase. what has your wife got to say for herself? What excuse did she try to fool you off with" "She didn't." "Oh please. cradling the phone closer to his ear. I think you should remember your place."Liam. you're my little sister.. not my mother" Angel snapped. He could almost feel her contempt burn across the miles separating them.

Reluctantly. "So.she could go to hell for all he cared. replacing her notes and removing a . When Buffy finally did pull herself up. nobody played him for a fool twice** As his heart started to freeze back over. **There was no chance of that occurring. After scanning the results of the last few tests. She won't break my heart a second time" Ending the call. sis." Adam added as he turned and picked up her chart from the clipboard at the foot of her bed. All he wanted from Elizabeth Angelus was closure and once that happened. "Hello Elizabeth" "I'd rather you call me Buffy. she realised what she'd thought was a nightmare had started all over again. Buffy it is. Buffy lifted her heavy eyelids and with the first whiff of disinfectant. how are you feeling now?" He asked. distant and jumbled broke into the warm dark place that cradled her mind. Angel turned on the ignition and pulled away from the hospital. and being pleased with their readings. **She won't break my heart a second time** The promise he'd make to Cordelia rang loudly as he drove the short distance back to his hotel."Don't worry. he turned his full attention back to his patient. Angel made a new promise to himself." Adam Walsh smiled warmly at his patient.. His handsome young face and light blonde hair immediately putting her at ease. "I'm Dr Walsh and I've been overseeing your treatment for the last few days. she was greeted with almost navy blue eyes. He seriously needed to shave.. Buffy. "How long now?" "She's been out for about twelve hours" "I think it's time you woke her" ~~~~~~ Voices. "Of course. take a hot shower and change his clothes before seeing his *wife* again." She replied without even looking up.

only three of the bus passengers survived. he shone a tiny beam of the light first in to her left eye and after watching the pupil's response. terrified her. transferred it to the right." Adam switched off the light and returned it to his top pocket. you seem to have escaped lightly. Buffy. We've been having some real freak weather here in New York this last month." Buffy replied as she sat up and adjusted her ill-fitting hospital gown. the unknown that was once her past. It's been chaos here the last few days. there were so many fatalities. "Escaped?" Buffy's voice was barely a whisper. and it crashed. Adam Walsh watched the frightened young woman's face and hoped she was strong enough to learn the truth about the accident. two of them. well. "I think the word *confused* sums it up perfectly." Buffy felt the air sucked out of her lungs as the doctor's words entered her head. In normal circumstances he would have waited for her husband to be present. a few nasty cuts and bruises and of course the knock to your head. Sadly. "That's understandable" Adam murmured. There were a lot of other vehicles involved. " You were involved in an accident. As much as she needed to hear this information. It seems the bus you were travelling on lost control in the heavy rain. but her . "Oh God!" Her pretty face lost all colour as the blood drained away in shock. "And are you still having difficulty remembering?" Buffy blinked as the bright beam of light hit her eyes. Cold fear started creeping through her veins.small penlight from his coat pocket. are in intensive care and the third. "The paramedic who brought you in said you were thrown clear before the bus burst into flames. but these were far from normal circumstances. "Yes" "From what I've been told you were a very lucky woman. that's you. you came out of it pretty unscathed" "I think I'm going to be sick" Buffy threw her head forward and wrenched. an elderly couple. Leaning forward. Some of the worst storms in twenty years. Considering the injuries of the other victims. Apart from a badly sprained ankle.

"After hearing about the other passengers I guess my pathetic worries make me look pretty superficial" Tears ran unchecked down her cheeks as she lowered her hand. She couldn't help feeling ashamed of her reaction.. It's just like your other injuries. these things are quite common. A knock to the head or a traumatic experience can often lead to these problems.. you are a beautiful young woman. We just have to give them time." The doctor added softly on seeing the fear in her eyes. and unlike most of the other passengers on that bus.. "You will need to keep off that foot for a few days. The truth.stomach was too empty to comply. Buffy. People had burned to death and here she was worrying about her face. "As I've already discussed with your husband. she did still have *time* on her side. "And what about my memory. She knew from the pain that it was only one of many cuts and bruises covering her body. On reflection they were. but apart from that. the doctor gently persuaded her to lay back against the pillow. . it's only natural you would be concerned. Try not to worry too much." **Time** Buffy laid back and closed her eyes. or the lack of it?" She asked. Buffy bit into her bottom lip as hot salty tears started to burn. she was thankful for the kind words but they failed to make her feel any better. you'll be fine" Raising her fingers to her face. "The cuts to your face are only superficial. "Of course not. Buffy gingerly traced the row of butterfly stitches that snaked across her cheek. finally pulling herself back together. just rest and let time do the healing" Buffy sniffed back the last of her tears. Adam knew this question was coming and he replied with the only answer he could. At least she was alive. they'll heal without scaring. Rubbing his hand over her back in support. A few scars should be the least of her problems.

She seriously needed a distraction. a blanket bath maybe?" she offered. "You're missing the point. Something even darker lurked behind the black hole that had replaced her memory. it's too soon. If you fell on that ankle you could seriously hurt yourself. feeling a new wave of sympathy for the younger woman's plight. .. "How about I wash your hair for you. you're not allowed out of bed. but Buffy knew it wasn't the only ghost that haunted her past." Buffy almost laughed "Didn't you hear? I'm invincible" The sarcastic reply was ignored. On Buffy's defeated expression the nurse softened. anything. Now she was fully awake. just maybe she could remember. she needed desperately to relax. "What about a bath then. even if it was only for an hour. but also all the confusion and pain that invisibly coated her body. you really don't want to get your stitches wet" Buffy looked up. then maybe. Her greatest fear was that mere soap and water would never be enough to remove its stench from her soul. not only the sweat and dirt of the last few days. "Sorry.She also had something else A Husband she couldn't remember and now survivor's guilt she would never forget **Would the nightmare ever end?** **** "I would kill for a shower" Buffy sighed running her fingers through her lank and greasy hair. honey. The news of the accident had been a real shock. you can't visit the shower room yet. Even though she still couldn't remember the accident. "You also need to rest that foot for a few more days" The nurse replied apologetically as she straightened her patient's bedding. the smell of death seemed to linger on her skin. Because if she could relax. something even harder to accept than the fact she had almost been killed. just so i can feel human again" Buffy continued to plead her case and tried to leave the dark thoughts that had swamped her to one side. she longed to stand beneath a jet spray of hot water and wash away.

she looked as if she hadn't eaten properly in weeks. was the colour of golden honey. For a split second. apart from the abrasions received in the accident. she could tell the young woman was a real beauty. Liam was one of her ghosts. her fear of the unknown was pushed aside. As the nurse wrapped a towel around her shoulders and poured warm water from a jug over her head. There was only one thing that worried the nurse. Buffy's whole face changed. Just the thought of Liam filled her with trepidation. "Besides. she looked like a completely different person. this kinda itches in all the wrong places" She giggled and for the first time that morning.At the offer. Even without a trace of makeup. Buffy looked down at the simple cotton gown and smiled. In that instant. and with the new sparkle of light dancing across her eyes. but suddenly the happiness she was feeling slipped away. the picture brought her real hope. the concerned nurse tied the small strings at the back of Buffy's ill fitting nightgown and tried not to notice the ribs poking through her skin. You look as pretty as a picture" The nurse pulled Buffy's freshly washed hair back into a ponytail and snapped on a small coloured band to hold it in place. There was something odd about the way Liam's cold dark eyes washed over her. **Not looking like this anyway** Buffy didn't like where that thought came from and quickly closed it off. but. we can't have you looking all grubby when that handsome husband of your arrives. He was incredibly good looking and as sexy as hell. Her petite patient was far too thin. "We really must get you something new to wear. she seemed to remember the face of her mother." "Thank you" Buffy replied. It wasn't much. Buffy frowned Without a doubt. Buffy couldn't shake the feeling that something bad had passed between them. or lack of weight. "That would be nice. just a warm caring face. Buffy's large hazel eyes were framed with the longest lashes and her perfect silky skin. At her soft words. but it was a start and in that second. Leaning forward. this hospital gown doesn't look at all comfortable" She added adjusting the large starched pillows behind Buffy's head. no matter how hard she tried. Buffy's large hazel eyes lit up and smiled back warmly at the kindness.. . "There!.. and that was the girl's weight. it was no particular memory. She certainly wasn't looking forward to seeing him again.

her patient blushed. It was hard enough just keeping water inside her stomach. The turmoil returned like a mist swirling over the sea. "Do you think you could manage something to eat? I could order you something light.?" Leaning forward. she placed them on her trolley." she frowned sadly as a wave of nausea washed over her. "You need to get your strength back as soon as possible. its presence once again smothering the light from Buffy's eyes. it really suits you" The nurse smiled back."You need to smile more. The nurse still wasn't happy and tried a different approach. you can call me Tara. Buffy. turning to the bedside locker. a small tinge of colour highlighting her pale cheeks.. Just before leaving." **Discharge me. the nurse tactfully changed the subject. "Not a good idea. **Pale thin cheeks** As diplomatically as possible. Unless there's a doctor in the room" Tara winked back and picking up the bowl of dirty water.. it wasn't the shower she had dreamed of but it was a real relief to feel clean again "Thank you. . the nurse broached the subject of food. she stopped and turned her head back. maybe some eggs?" She offered hopefully Buffy wrinkled her nose. In the confusion of the last few hours. At the compliment. reality snapped back in. Doctor Walsh will never discharge you until you do. Buffy nodded. "So. all thoughts of food had been pushed out of her head. you've been very sweet. she started picking up the damp towels and after folding them neatly. the blanket bath was a success?" She asked. she squinted to read the small nametag on the front of the woman's uniform.. I hardly know what day it is** As the well meaning words entered her head.. Watching the change cover her face. "Tara. pleased with the transformation. she turned and pushed her trolley towards the door. nurse.

uncertainty. before moving across her nose and stopping at her swollen left eye. a makeover was the last thing on her mind.. Finally pulling her gaze away. under all that trauma. her fingers traced lightly over the line of butterfly stitches on her cheek. But it wasn't the sight of her injuries that caused her to cry with relief. The many cuts and bruises covering her skin didn't surprise her. she studied the back of the small looking glass as if it held the secrets to the universe. she finally saw something she remembered. The reflection staring back at her was one she instantly recognised. Sitting cradled between her fingers was the small make up mirror she had earlier requested. **You seem to have escaped lightly** Adam Walsh's words filtered into her head and lingered.. closing the door quietly behind her.... Raising her hand. peaceful state. "Oh God! Thank you. Taking a deep breath she raised the mirror to her face and slowly opened her eyes. But Buffy had argued. Just knowing it was there caused a dozen different emotions to run screaming through her body. at that moment. it did. For a few minutes she just sat quietly turning the mirror over in her hands but never once looking into its face. It was true. Try to remember what the doctor told you." Buffy looked up from her bed and their eyes met for a moment and held. The large black eye was a bit of a shocker. anticipation. she nodded her head indicating that she understood perfectly. or maybe even worse. and won. Not that she was worried about applying her lip-gloss. her face wasn't too horrifying. it's just superficial. "Sure. Fear. insisting that this was something she shouldn't have to face alone. Tara left the room. . Both Tara and Doctor Walsh had offered to be with her when she took that first look." A small prayer of relief slipped softly over her tongue. Buffy sighed deeply and a single tear slipped over her dark lashes and trickled silently down her cheek. This was definitely something she needed to do on her own. Amnesia wasn't such a high price to pay after all. they were pretty much what she had come to expect. As her small world returned to its quiet. just superficial" With one last smile. an inch either way and she could have been blinded. but all in all.."Buffy. But she wasn't. curiosity. and in a strange way. Somehow a miracle had given her the chance to see another day. At least the universe she had once lived in. Running her tongue nervously over her dry lips. Buffy let her eyes drop down into her lap.

Buffy shivered. but no matter how hard she tried. her empty stomach growled out loudly as the water reminded her again that she hadn't eaten in days. " He asked as calmly as he could manage. Liam Angelus had just fallen into a big dark hole of nothingness inside her head. **Buffy Anne Summers** For reasons she didn't understand. it took every ounce of determination he possessed not to tell her just how much he really cared. the same stoic expression masking his handsome face.. Buffy shook her head. but it didn't quite reach her eyes. Feeling slightly sick. Buffy couldn't find a trace of that life in her memory. pictures of their past life together taunted his head. It felt strange looking at a man who she obviously shared so much of her life with. but out of the two. **Your name's Elizabeth Angelus** At the new thought. **Maybe this man hadn't fallen completely into that black hole after all** Buffy looked up as his face closed in and she felt a slight tug in her chest. Buffy reached over for a glass of water and to fight the effect of the nausea. "How are you feeling?. she recognised the name and the face.Buffy Anne Summers" She smiled softly and watched her eyes reflect back the pleasure she felt at seeing a familiar face. There was . you're Buffy. it opened. On seeing her new visitor Buffy attempted to smile.. In a few long strides he was standing at her bedside. even if it was only her own.. Lost in thought. she didn't know that person either. but no matter how hard she tried. waiting for the nurse to leave and in all that time. "Here. Just seeing his wife looking so vulnerable had awoken feelings Angel didn't want to acknowledge. she couldn't find a single memory of being the person. her fingers must have trembled because suddenly Angel was reaching over and removing the glass of water from her hands.. As he walked into her room. In the quiet room. this was the name that best fitted the reflection. she sipped the cool liquid slowly. He had stood outside her room for thirty minutes. "Can I come in?" Angel asked but didn't wait to be invited... she knew which one she preferred."I know you. let me take that for you before you soak the whole bed" His deep rich voice sent prickles over her skin. A small rap at the door caught her attention and before she could call out.

just add it to the long list of things I seem to have forgotten!" Buffy apologised for not understanding and waited for a deeper explanation. Not long after they married. Buffy. Angel shifted uncomfortably in his chair as he remembered the first time she had confided her phobia." Her vacant expression portrayed that she had no idea what he was talking about. *Were they close. just his nearness set alarm bells ringing in her blood. She explained about a cousin who had once died in hospital when she was a child and the irrational fear had followed her into adulthood. "Why wouldn't I be alright with it?" She asked confused at such a strange question. "I just thought with your fear of hospitals and such. No matter how much she had hurt him. "Me too "Buffy smiled back again. But her pleasant smile was ignored and his face remained stoic. trying to lighten the mood between them. It was just so confusing. The thought of Buffy's lovely face being disfigured had haunted his dreams every night since the accident. it surprised her. He said he was her husband and sometimes he looked as if he really worried about her. or maybe there was something missing from his eyes. Pulling up a small chair Angel sat down. she was immediately rushed to the emergency room with a suspected Appendicitis. If they really were husband and wife they should at least be able to talk to one another. never moving in case she woke up and thought she was alone. but there was definitely something missing between them. Angel had stayed by her bedside the whole night. **You should know better. "Hospital fear? Sorry.. Buffy had woken one morning in incredible pain.obviously something between them. but Buffy had been almost hysterical at the thought of staying in overnight.. he couldn't help feeling that she didn't deserve that.. only a touch of food poisoning. Are you all right with that?" Buffy raised her eyebrows. He forced his eyes not to stare at the small row of butterfly stitches that snaked across her cheek and involuntarily found himself hoping they wouldn't leave a scar. "I've spoken to your doctor" His voice was soft when he spoke and although it gave nothing away. just for observation. There was just something in his eyes. "They want to keep you in for a few more days. I'll never leave you** . It turned out to be a false alarm. Had they ever been close?* Far too many questions and no where near enough answers made Buffy's mind even more jumbled.

Angel felt himself drawn into the deep hazel pools and felt a pang of regret crush his chest. they were the windows to her soul. Mr. He'd always loved her eyes. "No. gelled his hair in to tiny spikes and swapped the crumpled black outfit for blue faded jeans and a dark navy sweater. He seemed tense.. just the memory" Buffy playfully grinned back. When she had first woken the man greeting her had looked a wreck. Even though she'd already been told there were only three survivors. Cordelia nearly . As the words passed between them her eyes carefully studied his body language. they sounded more like lovers than strangers " You were so lucky. determined not to let her see the effect she was having on him. they . Without either noticing. Buffy couldn't help wondering where her husband had been that day. Buffy had shortened his surname Angelus to Angel and had used the endearment as a pet name just between the two of them. For the first time she found herself relaxing and enjoying his company. tall dark and breathtaking. "How's your head?" Realising that he had stopped talking and was waiting for an answer. She hadn't called him Liam since the first few weeks of their relationship. all being a drop dead gorgeous wreck. "I think my head's still there" she smiled at his concern and this time her eyes sparkled... but deep in his chest. You could have died" His warm brown eyes looked distant for a moment. Buffy. Angel shook his head and his eyes filled with regret.It was only that promise that had kept her in the hospital that night. Liam had shaved. almost as if he were holding back a torrent of emotion she had yet to see." Buffy watched carefully as he explained her childhood fear in more detail. Buffy raised her hand and ran her fingers lightly over the small bump. his heart ached at the irony. Now was a different story. tall dark and gorgeous suddenly appeared Mr. It baffled her but then again so much about this man confused her. the tone of their voices changed and as they continued the conversation. "Liam? You weren't with me on the bus. Angel almost smirked at the memory. right?" This was a question that had played on her mind more than once. He looked different today. "You once told me you hated hospitals. "I see you haven't lost your sense of humour" he grinned.

Buffy crinkled her forehead as she struggled to delve into her memory but no matter how many times she tried. A nightmare that seemed to grow more confusing by the second. "So what do you remember?" Angel persisted with his questioning. . but that wasn't what Liam wanted to know... "Do you remember any of the accident?" He asked curiously Buffy bit her lip and stared at him blankly for a few seconds before replying "No. His sister had cried with laughter but it hadn't worried him at all. "Where was I going?" The not knowing was driving her crazy. He loved the way the new name caressed his wife's tongue. back in the days when his sister and wife had been the closest of friends.. Angel shook his head "We live in a small town called Sunnydale. "Well." At the name of their hometown Buffy looked at a loss "You don't remember Sunnydale?" "No" The name meant nothing.. As the memories continued. there were still no answers to be found.had a fit the first time she heard it. You weren't on the bus with me. there were other insignificant things she remembered. "From what I understand the bus was leaving New York.The president of the United States. It seemed so long ago now. She knew she was clutching at straws.. right? "No.. And then out of nowhere Buffy had ruined everything. Angel slammed the door shut on the past and brought his mind back to Buffy's question. I got that one right" Buffy joked. Just waking up" Into this nightmare she added silently. The police think you were travelling alone" he replied honestly." " We live in New York?" she asked hopefully. the pain in his heart grew.Umm.

he swore she almost looked embarrassed... but I don't remember you at all" Angel sighed with disappointment. Picking up her hand for the first time.Denial returned quickly. But they did matter and the romantic thoughts shook him right down to his toes. "That's all.. her features covered in grief.. Joyce. He'd always hated seeing his wife cry.. Dawn. I didn't remember her being dead .. I know this is stupid but it feels like I've just lost her all over again" Her small voice broke. "I remembered something earlier today.. "There's not really much to tell. Buffy bit her lip again. An uncomfortable silence fell between them.... Buffy are you all right?" Angel stopped talking on seeing a stream of tears run unchecked down her cheeks. but he needed to know all the same. She was his life and the explanations he looked for didn't matter any more. Angel had waited a long time for this moment. Your father's alive but you haven't had contact in a while. After a few frustrating seconds she shook her head. Dawnie's away in college at the moment. I know you said that I'm your wife but.. It was my mom's.His next question proved her right. I. Until Buffy remembered her past. The pain and exhaustion of the last few days finally taking their toll. "Tell me about my family" Buffy asked startling him slightly. Buffy?. unsure of herself.. Angel wasn't sure if it was a good idea but they had to begin somewhere.. Drawing her legs up to her chest. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. that he would take care of her. "And?" Angel fought to get the word out. neither of them would ever find the peace they were both searching for.. " I remembered your name. How much do you remember about us?" the faintest hint of a humourless smile crossed his lips as he waited for the answer. He didn't want to . Your mother. she died before we met.. Her small shoulders shook and his heart melted at the sight. it was worse than he first thought. he wasn't going to like what he heard. Buffy wrapped her arms around them. He suddenly had a crazy urge to put his arms around her and tell her that everything was going to work out fine." Her eyes looked away. just a face really. "What about me Buffy. She was killed one night coming home from the gallery she owned. you said you recognised me. That just left you and your sister. She suddenly looked like a small child again. Angel absentmindedly caressed her fingers.

he simply couldn't bear to remember the lies that had broken his heart. I've got no one" Buffy sniffed. Everything was becoming too confusing. he wanted to cut her heart out and use it for target practice. Suddenly she was beginning to believe that there was maybe something between them after all. a glimmer in his eyes that didn't lie. his lonely heart continued to rebel. As his fury rose. Buffy looked back into Angel's dark eyes "And there's you" She whispered as she wiped away her tears. "You're not completely alone. Buffy?" . He closed his eyes for a moment and when he re-opened them. Angel slammed the door shut on those sickening memories. Angel dropped them. All except one** Looking up. Finding out she was almost totally alone in the world scared her more than she wanted to admit. Something else scared her. "Do you want me to take you home. Angel pulled all his bitterness to the front of his mind. she didn't seem to notice the coolness return to his eyes. he had been enough. Realising he was holding her fingers.. he couldn't. draining all the emotion he felt from his features. Taking a calming breath. Dammit.. Buffy could never do anything wrong in their eyes. This man. when Liam was holding her hand she had the strangest feeling she never wanted him to let it go. he was reminded of all the reasons he had loved this woman in the first place. just as she had always been enough for him. just as she had done with his. almost as if they burned his skin. his mask returned and covered his face.. There was a time. Buffy wasn't sure how she felt at that moment. Buffy. It terrified him . At her careless words a cold shiver run down Angel's spine. when all Buffy had ever wanted was him. You have a few close friends. "So. Angry at his weakness." he sneered at the thought. Months of bitterness had kept his anger strong but every time he looked into her eyes. No matter how much he wanted to hate her. She knew for some reason he cared about her more than he wanted her to know. **They had all taken her side. feeling even more sorry for herself. Angel didn't answer her. three months earlier.take care of her. he had been everything to her. this stranger who held her hand for a few moments might act indifferent but she had felt warmth in his touch. apart form my sister. not long ago.

"Yes."Home?" To Buffy. As she studied him more closely. he was carrying an armful of expensive looking shopping bags. She watched for a moment as he slowly climbed the hospital stairs. home was warm and safe and smelled of chocolate cookies and family. the word sounded almost unreal. Liam should have been the happiest man alive. but it was very clear to Tara that for some unknown reason he wasn't. and that the rest of her injuries would soon fade from sight. his emotions were an entirely different story. Tara was usually a good judge of character and she knew immediately that things were not as they seemed with this man. at her hesitation. Memory loss might be troublesome but it was far from being life threatening. His wife. his shoulders were slightly slumped and his deep brown eyes seemed lost in a world of their own.. had miraculously survived the accident intact. Tara Giles caught sight of the handsome young man as she wearily headed for home. Walsh had already confirmed that Buffy's amnesia had a 90% chance of being only temporary. she hadn't failed to notice how he acted around his young wife. he couldn't stop the twinge of bitterness that entered his voice Buffy sighed deeply. take me home. Liam looked tired again. calm and collected with Buffy. Just finishing her nightshift. Dr. From the dark look on his face as . bright and early the next morning. Where Buffy was concerned he was definitely hiding his true face behind a stoic mask.. On that information alone.." When Angel arrived. there really was nowhere else. who even a complete stranger could see he adored. but when he thought he wasn't being observed. Flashes deep inside her mind told her that home was were the heart was.. While working on Buffy's rehabilitation. Liam Angelus always seemed so cool. But where else is there to go??? Her head whispered back sadly "Well.?" Angel asked impatiently. Not strangers with cold hands and even colder hearts. He showed all the classic signs of nursing a badly broken heart and yet that little scenario didn't make any sense at all. In no time at all Buffy had a great chance of being the same person she was before the accident.. Tara noticed a sadness about Liam that she'd rarely seen before.

he would never let her get close enough to hurt him again** **** "Good morning. all the time refusing to give into the bitter tears that stung the back of his eyes. its' warm rays falling gently across Buffy's bed. At the sight. Angel's breath hitched in his throat and he was certain he felt his heart break for the millionth time. Angel pushed open the door and quietly entered her room.he reached the top step. Her pale face resting against the hard pillow looked totally relaxed in its slumber. In her new position. sterile room was bathed in soft golden sunlight. For a second he thought she was waking. Her long blonde hair spilling softly across the pillow like an angelic halo. As Angel moved closer he noticed that she was still sleeping peacefully. Her patient. With every minute that slowly ticked by. who she had grown very fond of. For a few seconds she seemed disorientated but as the haze of confusion lifted. Tara Giles hoped with all her heart that Buffy wasn't making a big mistake. Tara sighed. the soft rays of golden sunlight now highlighted her whole face. Turning towards her car. As he rounded the corner of the hospital and finally disappeared from her view. Angel's resolve grew stronger. the corners of her mouth turned into a small smile. . **It didn't matter how beautiful she looked. Sitting quietly in the bedside chair. That morning the small. ****** After inquiring about his wife's condition with the nurse on reception. or should I say afternoon?" At the sound of his smooth voice Buffy's lashes flicked and slowly opened. The swelling to her left eye seemed to have reduced and the beauty that lurked beneath the bruises shone out like a beacon in the dark. was going home with this man in a few days time. Liam was a million miles away from being happy. but Buffy only sighed in her sleep and rolled over. he watched as she continued to sleep for another hour. "Angel" The sudden murmur of his name was so quiet that he almost missed it.

." She finally returned the greeting to her early morning visitor. Angel found his own face smiling back at her. I hope they fit. "I bought you some nightwear. I wasn't too sure of your bra size so I brought a few different ones" Angel stuttered slightly as the garments came into view. the one who was in here last night. " It looks like its Christmas morning.."Hi... But as she opened the next bag her attention switched to its contents. Buffy.." Angel said casually dropping the parcels he'd purchased onto her bed. I went shopping. Angel watched quietly as an almost childish quality covered her beautiful features.. For the first time since she had woken from the accident. A few parcels had done more than any pep talk could have. For a second he was almost tempted to question her answer. or as close to normal as possible in the circumstances... she found herself wondering if he had ever bought her gifts like this before. surely she couldn't have lost that much weight in just a few days. the pain and confusion that had taken residence upon Buffy's face seemed to have faded from sight. she would have to accept without question that they had once shared a life together. she told me you needed a few things.. Looking back at the cream silk and lace underwear. When she looked ." Buffy gasped as she pulled a pale blue.. "Your nurse. nightgown from a gift-wrapped package. "They're lovely and I really appreciate you going to so much trouble. Without meaning to. silk." She smiled and reached excitedly for the first bag. **He's not a visitor. she made a firm decision the night before to try a lot harder. you seem to have lost weight recently. Although Buffy still had problems thinking of Liam as her husband. Or at least she hoped it wouldn't Slowly sitting up she curiously eyed the bags he was holding.. "I. a few toiletries and some clothes to travel home in. which Christmas morning was she referring to? But just the look in her eyes made him hold back. Buffy looked up and caught the blush that crossed his cheeks before he had time to remove it." His eyes hadn't failed to notice how tight her skin now stretched over her small frame. The jeans and shirt might be a little on the large size. "A few?" Buffy's eyes lit up. If they were ever to get back to normal. It would be hard but it wouldn't be impossible. he's your husband** The little voice inside her head reminded her quickly. **You seem to have lost weight recently** Buffy thought the remark a little strange..

Angel carried on out the room.. her eyes were once again filled with questions. "Liam. If you had any luggage on the bus it was destroyed in the fire. "I'll see if that nurse is around. I must have told you where I was going" Buffy interrupted. Of course. I'm sure you'll feel much better once you're back in normal clothes. please.back up. ****** Five days later The fire burned. It tickled and teased.." The subject was changed. Leaning forward he gently picked up the new nightgown. running the soft material through his fingers. " Buffy. "What about my own clothes?" she asked quietly.. Angel slowly shook his head. "The ones you were wearing were ruined in the accident. Angel sat back down in the chair next to her bed. he turned and walked towards the door. there's a possibility that the rest of your clothes are safe but because you can't remember where you were staying. as it's hot red tentacles licked at her skin. I really need to understand. How did the hospital know who I was? How did they know where to find you? "They found your driving license and passport close to the wreckage" Angel noticed how pale she suddenly looked. Buffy reached out her hand and watched in horror as the once smooth texture of her tanned arm crinkled and blistered as it slowly melted from the bone. "No" His voice was cold. why don't you get changed." "But surely you must know. the darkness that passed across his eyes made it perfectly clear that the conversation was over. "This is getting more confusing by the second. Pain bubbled up in her throat but when she .. "We can talk about this later" Standing abruptly." Buffy changed it straight back again. The second he had seen it in the shop window he knew it would look beautiful against her golden skin. But Angel wasn't in the mood to be manipulated. you might need some help" Without even looking back.

Buffy slowly opened her eyes and blinked as warm brown orbs filled with concern stared deeply into her face. "You were dreaming. "No. it didn't make any sense" Angel couldn't help the small sigh of disappointment. Buffy concentrated on controlling the violent trembling that had invaded her body. "But it seemed so real" Buffy shook her head refusing to accept the truth for a few moments. Buffy laid her head back against the headrest of her seat and let the low drones of the aircraft soothe her fragile nerves. Everything about the dream had been so real she could almost taste it. "ANGEL. Buffy" his gentle voice smothered her. "Was it the accident? Did you remember something?" Angel leant forward curiously. Buffy's whole body trembled as she tried to sit up in her seat." "Hey!" The soft calming word instantly brought her out from the terror of her dream. Buffy's foot was still heavily bandaged and every thirty minutes she had to manoeuvre it in an attempt the stop the beginnings of . for a moment he actually believed his wife was breaking through her blocked mind. It was only a dream" Angel continued to try and reassure his wife. But no matter how hard she tried to put them in order. the other passengers on the aircraft were already beginning to look away from the strange young woman who had called out so fearfully in her sleep. There was nowhere left to run nowhere safe to hide and no one she could trust. Backing into her shell she watched as the red evil moved ever closer. Forgetting the embarrassment that would have normally turned her cheeks scarlet. they were still nothing more than a jumbled mess. Lost deep in a maze of confusion. I don't think so. *** It was a long. the sound was lost. engulfing her in its heat and anger. "Sssh. only dreaming. flight from New York back to Sunnydale but the first class seats had made the journey slightly more bearable. But even if it was. The look of terror on her face was beginning to scare him. Buffy closed her eyes as the visions continued to taunt her head. He should have known better. tiring. All around her. washing away the pain of the fire.tried to scream.. With her last breath she screamed.

even considerate on occasion. Buffy hugged her back. the good-looking doctor shook her hand and informed her that all her notes had been transferred to the hospital in Sunnydale. With an almost sad smile.cramp from setting in. At the sweet gesture. **Nothing** **No. she felt as if she was stepping out of the frying pan. she was being discharged and sent home. it seemed as if her whole new life was just one long nightmare after another. . Just the short ride to the airport had been a nightmare. a place where she actually felt safe. her new friend had hugged her and wished her well. Angel had offered to drive them back to Sunnydale in his hire car. To Buffy. Originally. Standing on the steps outside the hospital entrance. that wasn't true** He was cold and distant and sometimes even hostile. The clothes he had brought her were expensive and tasteful. It felt strange leaving the hospital.. all she had to do was pick up the phone. He seemed intelligent. she carefully studied her travelling companion/husband. Adam Walsh then approached her. he told his patient that any future treatment would be carried out there and he hoped it wasn't too long before her life became clearer. in a drop dead gorgeous sort of way. *** Buffy shifted uncomfortably in her seat. straight into the fire. in its own way it had become a security blanket. For some strange reason she couldn't quite understand. She still couldn't believe she'd actually agreed to go home with a man she still had no memory of even marrying. was simply too much for Buffy's state of mind. He was handsome. The last week had passed in a blur and before she had time to realise it. Tara slipped a small piece of paper into Buffy's pocket and told her that if she ever needed somebody to talk to. Lowering herself into the passenger seat of Angel's car. Buffy was hesitant to take the first step to rehabilitation. almost afraid to let go. But what did she really know about this man. Turning her head slightly. Buffy waved goodbye to her new friends until her eyes were so blurred with tears she could no longer see them. but the thought of travelling on the freeways so soon after almost being killed. Now faced with the outside world and a husband she still didn't know.

was reassessing the person he had once known.. "Not that I didn't want to be chased. as I remember" Angel found himself smiling at the reminiscence. Taking a deep breath. Lost in a trip down memory lane. He understood that if he wanted to help Buffy remember her past. Buffy's jaw dropped open in shock. it was the last thing she had expected to hear. His own expression seemed to take on a whole new life. "You were the most beautiful girl I'd ever seen.. For the first time Buffy saw the real man behind the mask he wore so securely.** **The person that might be lost forever. It must have been. . **The person she couldn't remember being. but that was the problem." Buffy opened her mouth again but she was still doing an impression of a goldfish. he would have to tell her certain things about their life together. At the revelation.** She needed answers and he was the only one that could tell her. How could she have married a man who plainly didn't love her? She sneaked another look at him and found his enigmatic eyes studying her intensely. " You were relentless and ruthless" he grinned " But that's you all over Buffy.. Angel continued with his story. how did we meet?" Buffy started nervously. Angel thought about the question very carefully before replying.as if he too. After the way Liam had behaved towards her the last week. he brought the memory of their first meeting to the front of his mind and let it play out painfully before his eyes. " You said it was lust at first sight. He knew it made no sense lying. Her lips moved but no sound was made as she struggled to come to terms with the information about her past. "Liam. When you set your mind to something there's no changing it" "Oh?" Now she really was speechless.Buffy struggled to find it in her heart to accept the truth." He chuckled lightly and the warm sound tugged at her heart. If Angel noticed the amazed expression cover her face he didn't comment on it. he could see the younger version of Buffy as clear as day. Her hair was much longer in those days and she had the largest hazel eyes he had ever seen. In his mind.. because you chased me clear across Sunnydale.

Coming from a man. Angel nodded "For a while. I did" "And did I love you?" At her question he physically flinched." Buffy finally found her voice.. " Yes. or hardly breathe as she waited for the story to continue... you flew into my office like a tornado from hell. "I stopped running and let you catch me. Within a month you had won over your father. "You were so tiny but you fought like a tiger. who wouldn't even touch her. It was a Friday afternoon."You were a mere girl when we first met and I was terrified about the difference in our ages. he wanted custody of Dawn. I didn't care about our age difference any longer. I quit working for W&H and took your side instead..?" Buffy bit hard into her bottom lip." Angel trailed off and looked down. I knew I wanted to be with you for the rest of my life. " At that point Angel looked up. I'll never forget.. "Did you love me?" There was a faint uncertainty in her voice as Buffy struggled to accept the possibility. I realised how wrong it was. After I read the case notes and talked to you and Dawn. " You were helping my father take my little sister away from me?" she finally asked with disbelief. I could see with my own eyes how much you loved your sister." "And. At the time your mother had just died and I was acting on behalf of your father. you were awarded custody of Dawn and. his eyes burning with repressed feelings. this was almost too hard to believe Angel let out a deep breath and nodded his head sadly. He was suddenly worried that maybe he'd given too much of himself away. Buffy couldn't speak. I don't think Hank Summers ever knew what really hit him. **And did I love you** ... not that you needed me.. they were a large law practice in LA. I was working for Wolfram and Hart in those days. or move.

the conversation was over. Pain and a deep-rooted sadness. seemed to close in as she searched deep into her mind for a trigger. hangars. warning that Sunnydale airport was fast approaching and that the pilot was getting ready to descend. what on earth could have ripped them apart? Manoeuvring her crutches as carefully as she could. Buffy almost swore at one point she saw outright hatred. **Oh God. the other passengers from the flight moved impatiently passed the small girl with the bruised face and bandaged leg in their haste to collect their luggage and reach their own final destination. when he spoke. people..Angel felt so frustrated he wanted to scream. She was too busy being scared to death. she closed her eyes and tried to make sense of all the information she now knew. **So this is Sunnydale** She thought as her eyes flickered nervously at her new surroundings. When Buffy looked back from the flashing light. But there had also been bitterness and something a lot worse. I'm still lost** One by one. the grey faceless buildings that framed the airport.. All around her.. In that split second Buffy could see pure pain in the depths of his dark chocolate eyes. she took a deep breath and turned to face the unknown. her husband had turned his back and was now gazing out of the window. she could feel the emotion of their past radiating off his body like heat on a warm summer's day. buildings. Buffy checked her seat belt and laying her head back against the seat. At times. But Buffy was in no hurry.. both passion and tenderness. If they really had fallen so hopelessly in love just a few short years earlier. Not one thing reached through the blackness in recognition and welcomed her home. Just watching Liam speak.. Nothing. anything that would break through the endless black void that had stolen her life. The aircraft landing lights chose that precise moment to start flashing. there had been real passion in his eyes. It terrified her but it also sent her mind searching for answers. Buffy slowly made her way down the steep steps of the aeroplane. . Planes.. His broad shoulders seemed rigid and as far as he was concerned. She waited for the answer but it never came. As her small feet landed safely on the tarmac at Sunnydale airport.

no matter how hard she tried. Buffy couldn't bring herself to use her husband's surname. her whole future would be left in limbo. But sadly."Well. "You really shouldn't be putting so much pressure on that foot. he gently squeezed her shoulder "Come on.. to Buffy. Buffy slowly moved away from the plane and hoped with all her heart that something on the other side of the airport would look more familiar. To the outside world she looked deep in thought as she carefully scanned the small airport. the building just looked the same as the one they had just left. **Stop feeling so sorry for yourself ** A tiny spark of inner strength struggled through her fear. Angel took a small step back and reaching out his arm. Buffy couldn't move. but no matter how hard she tried. That could be the reason you don't remember it** The small thought that danced lightly through her head brought little comfort. And until she could remember that past. after noticing that his wife had stopped moving. You might never have visited this airport. lets get you home" As he spoke. it was just an airport. Summers. On reaching the main terminal.. Angel had offered to find a wheelchair but his obstinate wife had blankly refused and continued to hobble painfully until they exited the building. She couldn't do this. Buffy didn't reply at first.. I really don't mind getting you a chair" Angel offered again as he watched the pain grow in Buffy's stubborn eyes. A tidal wave of fear and uncertainty swept over her tired limbs. Neither did the fact that she continued to think of herself as *Summers*. Just another disappointing dead-end. a hint of concern softened his hard features. . The doctor told you to rest it for a few more days. Leaning heavily on the two metal crutches for support. what do you think of the place so far?" Angel's calm voice floated into her ear as he too descended the steps of the plane and continued on past her. Seeing the pain slip across her face. It was a lot smaller than New York airport and the weather here was much nicer but apart from that. With a weary sigh of disappointment. "Are you all right?" Angel asked softly. leaving her rooted to the spot. she was terrified of taking the next step because that step would lead her straight into the past. **Pull yourself together. It was discouraging that she remembered her maiden name and not the name of the man she had married. Buffy and Angel walked silently through the customs area and then on to collect their small amount of luggage.

" . Buffy knew it was true. "I'm not a child.. part of him still cared.** Watching his body language change.** Although the thought came out from nowhere. **If the damn woman wanted to cripple herself why should he care. **Frustrating was the understatement of the year** "Come on. " I'm sorry.. trying to keep her disappointment from showing. Moving froward she stumbled slightly and when Angel reached out to stop her falling. its not far now. For the first time since waking into this nightmarish world..** Angel backed away. she pushed him away. she even welcomed the support of his warm hand on her tired arm. and apologised." He smiled tightly. He did care.. his face darkening at her cruel dismissal. The feeling was surprisingly comforting. she actually felt safe in his presence. I didn't mean to snap. The outside of the airport looked as unfamiliar as the inside. Buffy nodded. "Suit yourself."I'm fine" Buffy mumbled. "Are you sure you're alright? You look very pale.." "Frustrating?" Angel offered. I can manage perfectly alright on my own" Buffy snapped. lets get out of this place?" Angel took her elbow and guided her safely across the parking lot to where he had left his car ten days earlier. but she wasn't so much angry at Angel's offer of help as she was of her own failure. that's exactly what it is" she sighed sadly accepting the truth. On reaching his parking place Angel checked once again on the state of her health. **Her failure to walk. This time Buffy didn't protest. "Yeah. It's just so. Buffy realised how unfair her outburst had been.. No matter how hard he fought to hate her.** But that was always his trouble. her failure to remember. **This man might not like you very much but he'd never let you fall. **A small part of him would always care. but more importantly.. unsure why he felt so annoyed by her reluctance to accept his help.

I don't seem to remember learning how to drive" She teased this time and her eyes twinkled with a hint of mischief. slammed the lid and dropped in the seat beside her. " Nice car" Buffy sighed softly. You just have to keep believing that" He offered reassuringly. And before you ask Buffy. I think that can be called that a plus" Buffy tried to smile but failed miserably to make it look convincing. Buffy lifted her face at the concern she had heard in his voice and although she couldn't find it in her heart to believe him. As her warm smile tore into his heart. At her comment. the subtle blend of aromas was the first thing she'd recognised in what felt a lifetime.. She knew without a doubt that she'd travelled in this convertible many times before. the answer's no. " You always thought so. Immediately. she slowly sank into the passenger's seat of the black Plymouth convertible. Knowing he was fighting an uphill battle.This time there was no violent outburst. As Angel paid the parking fee and joined the line of traffic leaving the airport. Buffy just nodded her head sadly and after passing Angel her crutches. Even the feel of it beneath her fingertips felt familiar. There was nothing good about losing everything you had ever learned. There were no pluses as far as she could see. hoping to catch a glimmer of something. she was more than grateful that he tried. It was familiar and comforting but more than that. . the smell of polish and leather washed over her senses and she breathed it in deeply. Angel couldn't resist the chuckle he gave back. " I know this is hard but it will get better. anything that would tell her she was really home. Angel joined in with the joke and did a little teasing of his own. running her hand admiringly over the dashboard. Angel started the car and moved out of the car park. "The way you used to drive. she turned away and looked out of the side window. I'm still not letting you drive it" Buffy looked up and for the first time since arriving in Sunnydale she smiled "I think that's a very wise idea. Angel threw the luggage in the boot.

It feels as if I'm returning to a place I once visited as a child. that will give you a clearer picture of Sunnydale" Angel mumbled and cursed himself for touching her hand. On Angel's mention that she had once attended classes there. "I'll drive the long way round. I can feel it. Sunnydale is a lot smaller than I imagined" Her small voice trembled and the sound of tears was plainly heard by both of them. Her delicate features looked strained as she tried to place the assortment of buildings flashing passed without any success. Buffy sank deeper into her depression. Buffy shook her head and watched the campus flash past the widow as he drove a little faster. before her mother's death had brought an end to her education. she couldn't remember a single day she'd ever spent there. She suddenly found herself holding her breath as he unconsciously caressed her hand. Now all he could think about was how much he wanted to hold her. Buffy was so strong and this new weakness was something he hadn't expected. It's vaguely familiar but nothing really jumps out at me. Angel glanced over to see his wife deeply engrossed in the passing scenery.After they had been driving for a few minutes. comfort her. . and after realising what he was doing. Angel reached over and softly squeezed her hand. one of those deja vu ones where you know you've seen it all before and yet. He could feel the growing disappointment radiating from her small body as yet another row of houses passed by with no recognition. "I feel as if I'm looking out from behind a dream. "It's in there. he knew this was something Buffy could only do by herself. much to Buffy's disappointment. No matter how helpless Angel felt. Buffy shivered." Buffy sighed again with frustration. wipe away her tears and it was all a waste of energy. Without taking his eyes off the road. After a few seconds. **Keep saying it and you might believe it one of these days** Even his own thoughts knew he was lying. the bitch could cry a river for all he cared. One by one places of importance went by unobserved. Angel stopped and placed his hand back on the steering wheel. At the end of the day all he wanted was answers and when he had them. At the touch of his warm fingers. "Maybe you're trying too hard" Angel offered again.. This time they were passing the university she had once attended. "It will all sort itself out in the end" He hated the thought of her crying.

not normal people with normal lives. There was something really wrong with this whole picture. For a second. Angel spoke quietly. a week at most. His long fingers gripped the steering wheel so hard that his knuckles turned white. Angel bit back the sigh that rose in his throat. He didn't answer at once. " Liam?" "Yes" he replied tightly not taking his eyes off the car in front.. some things really could wait. "It feels as if I've not been here for years. she asked the question that was bothering her most.. "You said you needed some time on your own. **Did they?** After letting a dozen different scenarios play havoc with her imagination. "Three months?" Buffy was stunned. he looked deep in thought as if trying to decide whether to reply or not. "What was I doing that kept me away for so long?" Angel slowed the car as the traffic lights ahead turned red. Angel resisted telling Buffy that her mother was buried there. Keeping his eyes firmly on the road ahead.. Speeding up to pass a couple of slower moving cars in the outside lane. he found himself lying rather than coming out and saying just what needed to be said.." The well practiced lie slipped easily over his tongue. just how long was I away?" The question was innocent... she had expected to hear a few days. Once again.As they drove past Restfield cemetery. Liam. Angel was caught completely off guard. People didn't just take off for three months at a time. .. Buffy was going to find out sooner or later but until then. as if it hurt just saying the words out aloud. Trying desperately to add two and two together without coming up with six. You had a lot of stuff going on in your life with the gallery and such. Buffy had no idea how much the answer would shock her. He knew that little snippet of information would be too hard on the first day. "A little over three months" He finally gave in and answered. With his reply Buffy remained silent.

"I think so" At last a building really did look familiar. They had always had the most perfect marriage. " Recognise it?" Looking out at the small club. I was just wondering if we quarrelled. sadly. not once" It was true and that's what hurt him the most. just the thought of fire now terrified her. She remained silent then until Angel pointed out the next landmark. burnt out shell. each location continued to draw a blank expression. "I have a feeling I spent most of my teenage years behind those doors. Taking a deep breath Angel knew this question could only be answered with the truth. "What on earth happened there?" Her voice trembled." She added getting more and more excited. or so he had always believed **What a fucking joke that turned out to be** With the traffic light switching to green Angel pulled away. You told me there was a fire during the speeches.. we never fought.. he changed the subject by describing different places of interest in a hope they might set off a trigger in her memory." Buffy looked up and her eyes reflected all the turmoil she felt. Passing the high school. "Did we argue?" " That's a strange question" Angel didn't like the way this was heading. 1999 I think. "No. "Graduation day. or what she seemed to be insinuating. "That's the Bronze" He glanced at her as the traffic slowed. But.?" "Sorry?" At his cold glare Buffy tried a different approach.. Trying to get his mind off Buffy's earlier question. the principal and a few of the students were killed. Buffy gasped at the black. "You said I needed space. They have only just started to rebuild" At the confirmation of the fire Buffy felt a cold shiver cover her body and sat further into the seat. ."Did we fight. In fact we never argued Buffy. Buffy's eyes lit up..

. how long have we lived here?" Buffy asked looking at the tastefully furnished sitting room. **I carried you over that threshold. It's your home" Angel jumped out of the car." Angel replied placing their luggage down on the floor. It felt good to be home and yet.. **Home?** As she took the first step. We made love on that carpet. I know this house. He smiled.."You did" A small smile lifted the corners of Angel's mouth at his success." The coolness that returned to his deep. Buffy. She didn't know why she knew it but the picture was imprinted in her heart.. the way he felt. Turning the corner of Ravello Drive.." Buffy's grinned with deep relief. but for reasons of his own it failed to penetrate his dark brown eyes. "Welcome home. "I've seen this house before.. Angel would have chanced places with her in a heartbeat. "You were born here. turning off the past wasn't so easy. just seeing Buffy standing there after so many months brought back more memories that he could bear to remember. Buffy was overwhelmed with a terrible urge to turn and run. Walking to the other side.. Buffy didn't know how lucky she was with her amnesia. You broke my heart in the kitchen** For Angel." "Of course you have Buffy. I moved in with you and Dawn after we were married" He turned his attention back on the present and tried desperately to ignore the pain of the past. rich voice sent a shiver of uncertainty screaming through her body. he knew the real test was fast approaching.. But even though he smiled.. he opened the passenger's door and held out his hand. . " You've lived here all your life. Buffy. **But where on earth could she go?** "So. "Oh God.. about a million times. Angel stopped the car outside number 1630 and waited.

he continued in a quiet voice " I think you need to rest after that long flight. she definitely liked the house. The disappointment was sickening. He immediately withdrew it when he felt her flinch. not even before marrying Liam. it will be a lot more comfortable in your own room" His eyes suppressed the anger he felt as they bored into hers. the curtains. and the pictures on the wall. she remembered her ideal vision of what home should be. The chocolate cookies might turn out to be a bit of a problem. He needed this to be over while he was still strong enough to walk away. something . **Sex with Liam** . suddenly feeling both foolish and embarrassed at the same time. Buffy had been sure that. a safety she associated with the word home. telling Buffy that his intentions were strictly honourable. let alone want to have sex with her the second they walked through the door.. But. "It's not as familiar inside as it was outside" Her quiet voice finally broke into the stillness of the room. "I'll show you the bedroom" Angel reached out and took her arm. It had an aura of calm about it. the uneasy feelings she had been experiencing started to fade. let me show you around" As Buffy hobbled from room to room. she couldn't remember ever living here.Walking slowly around the room Buffy silently studied the furnishings. He wanted her to remember.would help make things fall into place.anything . **Home was where the heart was. once she walked through the front door. Determined not to let her see how much that small reaction had hurt him. Angel was just as disappointed at her failure.. the chairs. to Buffy's jumbled mind.. Although she didn't remember living there. home was warm and safe and it smelt of chocolate cookies and family. no matter how hard she tried. "Come on.** There wasn't much in the way of family here but. Buffy still had no idea if she could even cook. she guessed this was close enough. The guy could hardly bear to touch her. Casting her mind back to her recent stay in hospital.. Buffy felt a rush of heat to her face. he wanted this over.

"Under the circumstances I thought I'd move into the guest room. Almost hesitantly he raised a hand and . Angel went to step back but changed his mind. Leading the way up the stairs.. Buffy" **That makes sense** Buffy accepted the answer and nodded in gratitude. This time he was teasing and they both knew it. for the time being at least. Buffy tried to tell herself that it shouldn't.. "My room. Angel picked up her small bag and showed her to the master bedroom.. "This is your room" he told her placing the bag on the floor next to the door. As her eyes flicked over his tall strong body. **How his large hands would feel as they softly caressed her skin. She noticed that Angel was looking at her with a quizzical expression but nothing on earth would make her divulge that little thought.** **STOP IT!** It was insane to think like that. and on reflection. She was horrified with her thoughts. "Besides... Buffy forced herself to look away. **Was that a memory returning or simple wishful thinking?** Buffy quickly closed the thought down. but what really shocked her was the possibility that she would love every second of it.?" Seeing the questions start to rise again in her large hazel eyes Angel quickly continued. She tried to reason.Just the thought of being so intimate with him shook her.. how his lips would. "I have a strange feeling you don't" Buffy found herself laughing at the change of mood. "I am tired and my foot hurts a little" Buffy admitted. I don't want you to feel uncomfortable in your own home. I snore" Angel added as an afterthought. Buffy's eyes widened. they had been married for over two years and they had obviously made love many times. agreed that she would feel better after a rest. after all her husband. For a fraction of a micro second she actually fantasised about what making love to this gorgeous looking man would feel like. he was.

looks nice" He whispered and leaned forward. she watched in awe as his fingers slipped slowly down her hair and then moved to her cheek. When he was completely out of sight. . "There's nothing to be afraid of here. "You changed your hair. I would never hurt you. Angel replied with a clear conscience. he sighed deeply. "Thank you." Buffy whispered as she watched him leave. He then shoved his hands deep into his trouser pockets and turned away." Her reply was instantaneous. My room's just down the hall" Unconsciously. but in her heart Buffy knew it was the only reply she could give. the answer sounded strange.reached out. "I know" Considering she couldn't remember spending a single second of her life with him. Liam was sometimes cold and uncaring but she felt deep inside that he hid a gentle soul. "You're still the most beautiful woman I've ever met" Angel's voice was deep with sincerity. Buffy didn't move. Buffy looked up into his face and couldn't miss the faint blur of tears that shimmered in his eyes. He took a deep breath but it did nothing to dispel the tension that was knotting his stomach. Gently running his thumb across what remained of her stitches. She could still feel the imprint of his warm fingers burn against her bruised skin. Remaining as neutral as possible. When he looked back his feelings were carefully masked again. At the intensity shining there. Gently. "If you need me for anything. Buffy. Misreading her reaction Angel dropped his hand and looked down. he stroked a stray lock of blonde hair that had escaped the pins Buffy had used that morning to style it. More determined than ever to resist the temptation he felt pulling his heart apart. You're perfectly safe. she shivered. her small hand rose to her cheek and rested lightly over his touch. just shout. his tone softened. Opening the bedroom door Angel stood back and waited for her to pass inside.

Angel held his wife's abandoned wedding ring firmly in his hand and sobbed. "Forgive me for what. I never want to see you again. Angel had convinced himself that the moment Buffy walked through the front door. he removed the small bottle of Scotch he found inside and ripped off the lid. Every word had been carved on his heart. a single sheet of paper fell out and with it. even if at times he wasn't too certain. **It's over. bewildered eyes. Buffy** Raking his fingers through his dark brown hair. It quickly coursed through his veins. Closing the door behind him.. he knew she still didn't have a clue of what happened between them. . Yanking open the top drawer of his desk. Dammit? All I ever did was love you. But as he stared into her frightened. **That's what women do to you. Talking a deep swig he felt the cool liquor burn as it swirled over his tongue and slipped easily down the back of his throat. Buffy. He really was a mystery and she couldn't read him at all. the floodgates would open and the past would tumble around her like toy building blocks. a small golden ring. She could feel the tension between them. he proceeded to sink exhaustedly into it's softness. Love or hate.Buffy tried to understand her feelings for this man. He picked up the small wedding ring and clasped it so tightly in his hand it almost drew blood. Angel sighed in utter frustration.. I'll never forgive you for this. Angel didn't even bother hunting for a glass. one thing was for sure. Talking a second long swig from his bottle... They suck the life out of you and leave you dry** He wasn't sure if it was bitterness or self-pity talking but whichever it was. He didn't need to open the letter to know what it said. it was almost tangible but only he knew the reasons why." Dropping his head down on to the desk. not as long as I live. he made his way across to the small desk in the corner and pulling out a large leather chair. Don't even think of looking for me because I'm never coming back. What ever the future held for them it certainly wouldn't be boring.. reminding him that he really was still alive. The whole trip had been a disaster. ***** Angel walked slowly down the stairs and headed straight for the small room he had converted into a study the year before. he agreed whole heartily with the tiny voice in his head. Angel reached deeper into his desk drawer and drew out a small yellow envelope.. Shaking it slightly. He frightened her and yet excited her at the same time.

the man behind the angry mask** "Easier said than done" Buffy spoke her thoughts aloud. Whilst in hospital. **Home** That's what Liam. Turning her head towards the window.. But now there was no hiding from the truth.. she pulled herself up in the large double bed and took a deep breath of morning air. that the roses growing outside in the gardens below would be yellow. but it was there in her memory. she caught sight of the small clock on the bedside cabinet.** Angel** Buffy sighed. the faint fragrance of roses drifted in through the window and Buffy knew without even looking.45. she didn't remember why. she had forgotten to draw the curtains the night before so now the early morning light bathed the whole room with a soft warm glow. even though the subject of her weight loss had risen on more than one occasion. she'd recognised the face and somehow she remembered that part of his name. confused and bewildered. but to Buffy. images of the past few days trickled into her head.Buffy woke to a room flooded with warm golden sunlight. But it wasn't the thought of the new day that bothered her. every one of them.. her mother's face. Buffy knew she had to get dressed and go and greet the new day. **Now if only I could remember the real person. there was too much on her mind to really pay attention to her body. Momentarily disorientated with her new surroundings. After putting off the inevitable for as long as possible. safe in the knowledge that nobody else could hear her.. She liked yellow roses. Running her hands through her loose. When nothing did. no matter how small or insignificant were unbelievably precious. it wasn't as early as she'd first thought. At 9.. a third calming breath was needed to squash the growing fear. blonde hair. Slowly. Buffy stopped for a moment and studied how thin they looked. Swinging her legs over the side of the bed. She might have returned *home* but she was still totally lost. Standing gingerly on her still . Just as she lost hope of ever finding anything familiar. she looked around the pretty peach bedroom hoping that something would shout out from its hiding place and welcome her back. **She was home and safe and. These tiny scraps from her past were all that were keeping her sane. the accident and then the tiring journey home. more the thought of spending that day with Liam.** Buffy took a second deep breath to calm the rise of panic that had started to surge inside the walls of her chest. Their first day together completely alone. There seemed so few of those memories left. one of the few details about her past life that she could still cling too. Her sister's name. the outside view of her house and... The hospital. her *husband* had told her the night before. Utterly exhausted.am.

. gorgeous way** "Now. or something a lot deeper. She was still not happy with Liam's reply and made a mental note to ask him about it later. Just the thought of his fingers caressing her cheek brought a healthy pink flush to her face. almost a bag of bones. **In a drop dead. Buffy couldn't be certain if it was just her imagination playing games with her.. once she got dressed that was. Raising her hand to the cheek that Liam had caressed the night before. Buffy found herself once again questioning the reason for her absence. She could see her body properly now and it scared her to death. Buffy shuddered. **You were away for over three months** As his words returned and lingered inside her head. she was skinny. "And remember why those beautiful eyes always look so cold" she added as an afterthought. The deep brown pools filling her dreams that night had burned with real passion. Not seething with anger or cool with indifference. There was just something about him that terrified and excited her at the same time. " Buffy told her reflection with a soft smile. if only I could remember him. Her dreams were filled with jumbled visions but one thing stood out from the chaos more than anything else . "No wonder Liam couldn't bare to touch me" Buffy sighed softly as she ran her hand lightly across her small chest and prodded her protruding ribs with her fingertips.painful leg. his eyes. It didn't matter how hard she tried not to. **Was the lost part of her memory finally rising to the surface? Could it break through and return while she slept? ** Doctor Walsh had thought so and the possibility that he was right brought a new wave of joy to her heart. with a stranger for a husband. No matter how much she wanted to deny it. but the thought bothered her. there was definitely a spark between the two of them. enigmatic orbs. something resembling an electrical current passed through her body whenever he touched her skin. But the joy was momentarily put to one side as her thoughts returned to deep brown. she moved slowly across the room and stood before the full-length mirror on the front of her wardrobe door. Raising her eyes she took notice of her frail appearance for the first time.. Buffy found herself thinking about Liam more and more. She wasn't sure why. If she really did have to wake up in a void world. Buffy sighed softly. Liam Angelus wasn't such a bad catch. She wasn't just slim. **Passion? ** As she struggled to remember the dream. At the reflection staring back.

She eyed her jeans and shirt still lying on the chair in the corner and. Buffy unzipped it and withdrew a fresh set of underwear. This was supposedly her home. . Although he looked deeply engrossed in the sports pages. The alcohol flowing through his blood stream did little to help his mood. Now. no toiletries. This time she was more than a little confused "So were the hell are my clothes?" She mumbled. she stood back in horror. especially after spending the whole night lying awake. ******* Meanwhile Angel was sitting at the kitchen table holding a cup of strong black coffee in one hand and flicking through the newspaper with the other. Buffy struggled to understand. all Angel could do was stare up at the ceiling and wonder for the millionth time how their once perfect marriage had disintegrated all around them. as her hands reached up and flicked through the endless rows of naked hangers. As the endless dark hours slipped silently by. she had kicked off her shoes. if anything. No photos. it left him feeling even more frustrated. she found the same thing. The dressing table was also completely bare. he wasn't concentrating on any article in particular. standing in front of the mirror almost naked. "Now. Buffy was grateful that at least she wouldn't have to walk around the house almost naked. Buffy opened the closet door and after viewing its contents for a few seconds. Too tired the night before to worry about anything but sleep. she walked across the room and stood at the bedroom door. if only I remembered where the hell the shower was?" she grumbled in frustration before finally walking out. dropped her jeans and shirt casually over a chair and crawled into bed wearing just her underwear.**Dressed** Buffy blushed again as she glanced at her near naked form. Angel had pulled his weary body up the stairs to their small guest bedroom and collapsed in a heap on the tiny single bed. not even a hairbrush. Noticing the small bag that Liam had brought back from the hospital. Reaching out. Moving to the drawers on her left. her bedroom and yet there was nothing here that proved she'd ever spent a single day in this room. although they had been worn to travel home in the day before. Collecting the garments in her arms. After finishing the bottle of scotch in his study. nor make up. On that thought. she decided that getting showered and finding some clean clothes were definitely the first priorities of the day. she placed her hand on the handle only to hesitate again before pulling it open. without him noticing a single crack in the paintwork.

a low ache in his stomach twisted so tight he wanted to scream.am but the pain in his chest and the ache in his groin. Climbing out of bed for a third time. nothing mattered at 2.Sleep was impossible. but they simply wouldn't quit. lay sleeping just a few feet along the corridor. with a little help from the alcohol in his system. It didn't matter if she hated him. With Buffy being home again and sleeping in a room so close by. he couldn't help himself. Although he knew it was wrong. he reached inside and removed a pale yellow bathrobe from its . his body burned for her. feeling utterly disgusted with his weakness. **You want her** **You need her** ** You love her. his imagination refused to allow him one moment of peace as it ran riot with images of Buffy. He tried everything to remind himself he no longer cared. **Wife?** ** Friend?** ** Lover?** **Bitch?** It simply hurt too much to decide. ** Angel jerked upright in bed. his face strained and tiny beads of sweat peppering his brow. But his heart knew it was a lie and the torture continued. the tormented man threw open the small closet door and without even looking. Twice that night. No matter how hard Angel tried. All night long. he tortured himself in a desperate need to control his emotions. Angel had forced himself away from her bedroom door only to return to his cold empty bed. **But She doesn't want you** **She left you** **The bitch even had the audacity to blame you** Angel pulled the pillow over his head to cut out the annoying voices in his mind. The woman who had stolen his heart with a single glance and had broken it just as quickly.

"Did you. Angel wanted to be strong. ****** "Hey!" Buffy's small voice broke into his thoughts and snapped his attention right back to the present.. She surmised that Liam hadn't been as fortunate with sleep as she had. he needed to forget the emptiness that threatened to suffocate him and just this one night let his heart drown in the smell of her scent. Did you sleep well?" Angel asked. sadly. Angel held Buffy's old robe against his cheek and tried desperately to shut out the pain he was feeling. Angel could feel her warm gaze wash over his face.. Holding it close to his face he breathed deeply and the faint smell of Buffy flooded his senses and melted down the steel wall surrounding his heart. Sleep never came. Without looking up. needing to do something. Angel folded the newspaper and placed it on the table. she couldn't fail to notice the dark rings that circled his eyes. he pulled out the nearest chair and indicated for her to sit down. be careful. he found the spark of comfort he needed to get through the rest of the night.. He had showered and shaved that morning but he knew after drinking a bottle of scotch and failing to sleep. It was probably a mistake but for a few hours it was enough. He knew it was insanity to lower his defences but.hiding place. Falling back on his bed. he discovered he couldn't lie to himself any more. but as Angel lay in the darkness with the scent of his lost love by his side. anything to stop losing himself in her eyes. after months of being alone. sis. When he did raise his eyes his breath caught deep in his throat at the sight before him.. stupid. Tomorrow his strength would return.. "Yes. he always would. but I must have been exhausted because I slept like the dead last night. She won't break my heart a second time** His sister's voice of warning was clear in his mind. I didn't think I would. thanks. the disappointment and the hatred. but it didn't help. . he always had and. but in the early hours of that morning. please. he longed to cut Buffy Angelus out of his heart once and for all. Standing up. please be careful this time** **Don't worry." Buffy accepted the offer of the chair and when she looked up. he wasn't looking his best His wife on the other hand looked amazing. **You really are a big. Even with his head down. dumb ass** **Liam. tonight he just wanted to hold part of her. He loved her... with the sunlight he would remember the anger. But not tonight.

." Buffy started to question her lack of clothing but was cut off before she could reach the end of her sentence.. "What would you like for breakfast.. the way her breasts swelled against the thin material of her shirt . But Angel noticed. he noticed everything. Her long blonde hair was still wet and Angel watched in awe as tiny droplets of water sparkled like silver as they dripped unnoticed onto her skin. "Thanks. I could fix you some cereal or maybe something hot." Angel asked. After everything that had happened.. As Buffy watched helplessly from her seat at the table. "Liam. from now on she would force herself. eggs would be great" she accepted gratefully then as an afterthought added "But shouldn't I be doing the cooking?" Angel blinked at the unexpected question. sitting there with the morning sunlight caressing her skin. her home and yet she felt like an intruder. **The way she shuddered when you touched her** That thought hurt more than he wanted to admit and the flicker of despair he felt lingered. her frustration continued to grow. Buffy was completely unaware how beautiful she looked. Moving easily around the large kitchen.. We both work. She was thinner now but there was still enough of her curves to set his blood on fire. she remembered how thin she'd looked in the bedroom mirror and knew that her body couldn't afford to lose any more weight. dragging his hungry eyes away from her body. He was right.. she still took his breath away."I see you found the shower" He reluctantly turned his head and met her gaze Buffy nodded her head. He observed the way the golden light danced gently across her large hazel eyes. seeing that her appetite had disappeared along with the rest of her past. This was her kitchen. so we both share the cooking. Besides. she didn't have a clue where anything belonged.. Buffy was about to refuse. it will be quicker if I do it" He walked to the refrigerator and removed a large carton of eggs.. I do a mean scrambled eggs. I was. Angel then set about preparing the meal. no past and now no belongings. She had no memory. "We don't have that sort of marriage. It didn't matter that she wasn't hungry. until you remember where everything is kept. but as she opened her mouth to speak. Buffy.

Buffy shook her head as the name of her sister-in-law bounced around her empty mind.. He recalled how his heart sank when he first discovered her in that hospital bed. Buffy's whole body cried out that the last three months had been as hard on her as they had been on him. She didn't need to speak her fear. she didn't belong anywhere else. and you. Angel smiled and his features relaxed. She didn't think you were good enough for her big brother. grilled tomatoes and three pieces of buttered toast. Cordy's in Hollywood.." Angel paused for a second noticing Buffy's concern. "That was delicious. Where is she now? . "Hardly. "Your sister?." Angel chuckled lightly remembering the heated arguments between the two women he loved.Buffy knew she didn't belong here anymore. trying to make a name for herself. scrambled eggs.Does she live here with us?" Buffy asked hesitantly. "Sorry" She looked back at him " Were we close friends?" At her question Angel laughed out loud.. His wife and sister could cat fight like no other females he'd ever known. He remained silent but secretly he was pleased to see her tucking into her food so enthusiastically. " You don't remember Cordelia either?" He frowned with disappointment but was already guessing the answer. his explanation wasn't anything she'd expected to . "My sister Cordelia taught me. I think you two hated each other on sight. easy voice. She's playing at being an actress at the moment. but until she found out who she really was.. where did you learn to cook like that?" Buffy asked the question in a soft. Both slightly uneasy at the difficult situation they found themselves in. They sat in silence for a while. It wasn't just her injuries from the accident that had caused him to shiver. Although Buffy had stated that she wasn't that hungry. Wherever Buffy had run to. Buffy was momentarily speechless.. "No. well you thought she was a stuck up bitch with a bug up her ass the size of an emu. by now he could almost read her mind.. Angel watched in amusement as she demolished a whole plate of bacon. We both moved to LA at the same time and shared an apartment for a while" At the thought of his sister's cooking abilities. it hadn't treated her well. trying to keep the mood as light as possible. not sure if she was ready to deal with another new face.

**You made me happy. her eyes never once leaving his face. Angel did. He needed to find the closure he'd searched so hard for. as if struggling with truth. he'd put this woman behind him once and for all. he had to fight the need that tore at his chest like an open wound and forget how soft her body felt in his arms." Angel explained quietly. I'll put it in the dishwasher" He took the plate from her hand and resisted the temptation to touch her fingers. As she felt her chest tighten. "You made me happy. "I wish you could too" His dark gaze bore directly into Buffy's eyes.hear. When they both finally found the courage to look up. "You soon proved my little sister wrong" He turned towards the sink and when he looked back Buffy was standing next to him holding out her empty plate. When he did finally answer Buffy couldn't fail to notice the flicker of regret in his dark brown eyes. and then silently added **Until you walked out on me and broke my heart. Happier than I'd ever been in my whole life. Her cheeks flushed scarlet but she refused to look away. Angel went quiet for a moment. At her shocked expression Angel smiled. he'd be lost forever. closing the distance that separated them. she realised she was still holding her breath. Happier than I'd ever been before** For a few moments his words hung in the air. He had to try harder. You never really became good friends. "I wish I could remember. Buffy. Angel's soft words were so low that Buffy had to strain to hear them. I want to remember" She sighed wishfully. "How did I prove her wrong?" She asked curiously. By now their bodies were so close that Angel could feel the heat radiating from skin. Buffy turned to walk away but as she took her first step she stopped. Angel knew if he touched her today. eager to lean anything about her past that could possibly fill in the blank pages of her memory. Buffy took a small step forward. . Buffy. Cordelia wouldn't be visiting any time soon and Buffy didn't need to know how much his sister now hated her. their eyes locked and after a heartbeat. and then once he had it. Now she wants your blood with a vengeance** He kept that information to himself. After a moment's hesitation. but I think after a while you came to a understanding. after fighting all night to keep away from her door. "Here give me that. Even Cordelia couldn't argue with what was plainly staring her in the face.

Here. Buffy. Angel immediately reached for it but Buffy got there first. **Memories. The two people looked so happy that the emotion leapt out from the picture and reached deep into her heart. Something else to add to the long list of what she had lost. Angel waited a few seconds before reaching for the picture.. How could she ever remember her past when there was nothing left of that past for her to cling on too** Reaching into his back pocket Angel withdrew his wallet. Turning it over in her fingers her eyes settled on the happy smiling faces staring back at her. It's us ** Her eyes widened in surprise."What happened to my clothes? I mean all the hangers in my room are empty" She asked. feelings. take this and charge anything . "You threw out a lot before you left. **After all. You said you wanted to change your image. **Wow!. "I already told you. It came as another painful blow. Looks like you got your wish" Slipping the dish he was still holding into the dishwasher. Angel bit into his lip. "I took *everything* I ever owned on a trip?" She finally asked in disbelief. trying not to react to his nearness. somehow they had thrown away something so special it frightened her. It wasn't like she ever planned to come back for them** "So all I have left now are the clothes I'm standing in?" Buffy frowned at the realisation. Angel lied well. Somewhere. like her letter had painfully reminded him. It was easier to let her believe she took them all with her. Keeping his back to her. "A few clothes are the least of your problems. and now even her belongings had all disappeared into a black vortex. he flicked it open and while he was searching for a credit card a small photograph fell on to the kitchen table. He didn't want to tell his wife that he'd destroyed nearly all her belongings in a drunken rage about a month after she'd walked out on him. Buffy didn't speak for a moment as she carefully digested the answer. you took them all with you" His voice remained calm but his heartbeat increased and pounded loudly in his ears.

he hated seeing his wife this vulnerable. burst their banks and streamed down her face as she finally broke down and cried. "Just give them the card. you destroyed my life. " Buffy stood still and the tears she had held inside her. I can't remember my size and I.. Angel was wrapping her up in his arms and soothing her pain with gentle words of comfort. **Here. take this and charge anything you need.." The desperate plea was heartbreaking in its simplicity. Buffy's heart was racing but she released the photograph without uttering a word. But Angel hid his feelings well.. The thoughtless remark was one reminder too many of everything she had forgotten. "Just give it time" He offered softly. Angel ignored the consequences and held her tighter. Dammit.. I can't remember what day it is. He knew he was playing with fire.** He bitterly reminded himself as he retrieved his picture. all I destroyed were a few stupid possessions. "And you will" Angel reminded her softly as he continued to stroke her damp hair.. "I can't. Looking at the credit card on the table she finally started to crumble. Angel continued. I can't walk very well and I can't remember where the shops are. **Besides. Buffy. But it didn't matter. ever since the accident. Buffy felt as if she'd been slapped. "I need to remember. she would have seen both guilt and embarrassment that he had acted so childishly in a moment of weakness... she was too close and she felt so right back in his arms.. If she could.. his voice once again cold and uncaring. As Buffy's small body shook with her pain. his voice conveying his own feelings of helplessness . Within a heartbeat. but its not" She whispered trying desperately to hold herself together. I'm sure you haven't forgotten how you love to spend my money" He smirked as he replaced his wallet. Without looking at her. Hell.you need" He offered his small credit card and when Buffy looked up she couldn't read anything in his dark eyes. "Shopping was always one of your favourite pastimes. the shop assistants will do the rest" Angel repeated wearily not yet noticing how badly she was reacting to such a simple statement.. Hot salty tears burned the back of her throat and quickly rose to brim in her eyes. I'm sure you haven't forgotten how you love to spend my money** " You make it all sound so easy.

part of him was still in her heart. Buffy struggled against the rising depression inside her head but she was slowly suffocating. "I want to remember my childhood. No matter how much of her life she had lost. making friends. Can't you see how lost I am here? I'm hurt.**Give it time. Lost so far in the darkness.. That was the moment her patience finally snapped.. Far too late.. His fingertips tingled as they slid across the velvet softness of her skin. Buffy didn't want him to see her cry anymore but it was too late. I want to remember going to school. Buffy had used his pet name for the first time. his earlier words of reassurance returned in a rush. Dammit." Her voice cracked. Looking into his face she noticed that his normally harsh features suddenly seemed incredibly kind. "I'd give it to you if I could. Buffy" He answered truthfully. Words simply didn't help. Just hearing her say the word affected him more then he thought possible. he knew then that somewhere in that void of her memory. She looked so young and lovely that he would have needed a heart of stone to remain immune for a second longer. **Angel I want my life back ** Her desperate plea broke his heart. she simply couldn't take it one second longer.. Raising his hand Angel tried to sweep the teardrops from her cheek. Everything around them seemed to go still. Buffy felt as if she was slowly going out of her mind. It will all come back when it's ready... She needed more than reassuring words she needed answers. my mother putting me to bed at night.. Angel I want my life back and I want it back now. Angel and I desperately need to remember that girl in the photograph" Buffy sniffed quietly Angel's expression softened as his hand slipped from her face and moved to circle her tiny waist.** As Buffy stood in the cradle of his strong arms. "I know" Buffy whispered back suddenly realising how close their bodies had become. **I'd give it to you if I could. falling in love. "I'm sick of giving it time.. She felt hot tears burn the back of her throat again and cursed her weakness. Don't rush things. I'm lonely. He couldn't resist letting them follow the contours of her cheekbone even though he knew it was a dangerous indulgence. Buffy** At that moment she honestly believed him." At her unexpected outburst. . a sob catching in her throat "I want to remember you. It was hopeless.. Angel jerked away and stared at her face in shock. I'm afraid.

he murmured in pleasure and pressed her harder into the cool wooden tabletop. Buffy didn't know what she was feeling. Lowering his mouth he captured her lips and softly kissed her. There was no way she could make love to a man she didn't remember.Warning bells went off in his head. and they knew him well. "Maybe this will help you remember" Angel gave up the battle he'd fought so hard. her body and her heart both knew him. Buffy came back to earth with a jolt. over the last three months. The coffee cups scattered noisily across the floor as Angel's large body covered hers. but he ignored them and felt the barriers he'd so carefully erected around his bruised heart. why can't I remember you? ** With that thought. **Oh. "No. intimate and yet surprisingly gentle as his mouth caressed her lips. a man she didn't even know if she liked. Buffy felt a warm rush of arousal and cursed bitterly that her body and heart seemed to remember what her mind still refused to acknowledge. and swept Buffy up against his hard chest. **How could I have ever forgotten something as wonderful as kissing? No. As the kiss deepened. start to erode and crumble. the situation changed drastically and Buffy felt her back lowered down to the hard kitchen table. It was only when his large hand slipped smoothly beneath her shirt that the spell was broken. Before she could gather her senses. God. The kiss was warm. As his tongue reacquainted itself with her mouth Angel pulled her closer into his arms. but his hard muscular body felt so right pressing into her soft flesh that she didn't argue as she melted into his arms. Liam not like this" Buffy struggled and pushed at his chest with her small hands . Buffy closed her eyes and moaned. her small arms automatically wrapped themselves around his neck and her whole body ached to push closer. it was far too soon. your blood's screaming for him to touch you** Her heart tried to reason but common sense prevailed. This was wrong. "Buffy" Angel softly moaned her name as his lips pulled away from her mouth and moved to the soft flesh of her neck. As she kissed him back. as wonderful as kissing Liam?** Buffy's heart called for to her subconscious to remember. It didn't matter what her head told her. to hate her. Buffy involuntary sighed and Angel's tongue slipped softly into the wet interior of her mouth. returning memory or just amazing chemistry. As the hunger inside her grew. No matter how wonderful it felt. **But your body knows him. Everything inside his head screamed that this was wrong but the lonely beat of his heart drowned their protest.

"I'm sorry. not black. this won't happen again " Turning. . He knew she was still covered in bruises and he cursed himself for not remembering how fragile she still was.. Buffy felt herself start shaking but knew she had to continue. He took a deep breath but it did nothing to ease the raging tension that was knotting his insides.. I'm.. **You damn fool. standing in her hospital room." "Don't.. His broad shoulders hunched slightly then. he quickly left the room leaving Buffy to deal with what had just happened between them. believe me.. The kiss had left him confused and shaken and he really needed to get as far away from Buffy as he possibly could. weighing her next words carefully. Angel immediately backed off. His voice was cold now and etched in pain. "Liam. she found him in the sitting room. "I'm not sure what just happened?" Buffy whispered. At the fear he saw in her eyes he quickly moved away. I still haven't remembered anything more but I can feel things now that I didn't feel before. her cheeks still flushed with embarrassment." Angel slowly turned around. " It was my fault. He couldn't bear to hear where this was leading.Feeling her sudden resistance. "No" The tiny word was barely a whisper. When Buffy finally pulled herself together and readjusted her clothes. a cold shiver passing over his heart. Buffy. His hands were shaking and his heart raced as he realised just how close he had been to letting Buffy into his heart again. Buffy gazed at his back. I understand what you were trying to do and in a way it worked. I can feel you. Buffy looked up and her eyes reflected the turmoil she felt. hands thrust deep into his pockets. His back was to her and her mind flashed back to the first vision she had of him. Angel shuddered. pain slashed across his face. staring out of the window. "Did I hurt you?" Angel voice was hoarse and tight with disappointment. days earlier. it won't happen again" Angel spoke quietly without looking round. But just the sight of her pleading eyes kept him from fleeing. she still doesn't want you** Angel suddenly felt sick at the mistake he'd just made.. only this time his shirt was white.

turn the camera on Buffy" a female voice ordered and the . he knew that if this were going to work." Buffy implored him with both her words and her eyes. The panic was gone from her voice. As beautiful as the day looked she had no memory of ever attending the wedding. I'm not sure if this will help but I'll give you the answers you need" He sighed sadly and walked away from the window. I know how hard this must be for you but I need you to understand. he pressed the play button. **Maybe it was time she found out just who she really was. Even though he was dying for her to remember. the memories would have to be triggered by Buffy's own mind. It was a bright sunny day and the small group of people that filled the screen was all dressed up for a wedding. I thought a video would be better than a few photos in an album. I need to find out how much of me there is still inside here. Buffy nodded her face full of determination. "Yeah. "I'm more than sure."Please. Buffy. if anything at all. everyone you care about was there that day. acknowledging her words and the despair behind them. unable to control her excitement. ** ***** "Are you sure you want to do this?" Angel asked as they settled down in the sitting room. "No. In a flash the television screen was filled with happy voices and smiling faces. Besides. "Okay. Angel lifted the small remote control and aiming it at the TV set in the corner of the room. Angel sat back in his seat and kept his voice as expressionless as possible. " This is our wedding day?" It was a question not a statement. Faces that were now vaguely familiar caused little sparks to flash in the dark void of her memory. Buffy edged to the front of her seat as her eyes widened in amazement. it might help" Buffy hovered on the edge of her seat.. stop filming me Xander. One by one." she said raising her hand and tapping the side of head. Angel nodded. friends and family fidgeted nervously at the camera and stuttered their best wishes for the bride and groom. This is driving me crazy. as an array of happy young faces laughed out from the TV screen. Sadness and confusion now replaced it.

appeared by her side. The elegant gown gently hugged every curve of her perfect body before pooling out around her feet. When you walked into that church you took everyone's breath away" Angel's voice trailed off in remembrance. Buffy gasped as her sister came into view. his eyes took in the rapid play of emotions that crossed her face. Before Buffy got a chance to ask who the voice belonged to. **And did I love you? ** The young woman in the fairytale wedding dress adored him. the girl wearing her face in the video looked simply radiant as she floated across the room looking like something out of a fairytale. **But none more than mine** He added silently Buffy smiled with relief. There was no doubt about it. "Buffy. He couldn't keep his hands off her. Buffy's eyes watched in awe as her younger self wrapped her arms around her lover and held him as if she never wanted to let him go. . She had been head over heels in love on her wedding day and just one glance at Angel's happy smiling face confirmed he had felt the same. The beautiful young woman. that she certainly hadn't always looked like a bag of bones. she couldn't help herself as family and friends danced around the happy couple on the screen. "Oh. dressed in a black tuxedo. Buffy's mouth dropped open. Angel didn't speak but silently sighed in relief that at least one face from her past had broken though the mist. and the love they reflected made her shiver. smile" The cameraman laughed. with long dark hair laughed brightly and she tried to arrange her sister's dress. obviously a friend. "You were so beautiful that day. the next left her stunned. Watching how her full breasts pushed up against the soft lace Buffy realised with a strange pang. Remaining quietly by her side. the question that hadn't been answered for her on the plane trip home was clear for the whole world to see. If Buffy thought that image shocked her. Buffy felt her breath leave her body. Buffy then watched as she and her new husband took to the floor for the first dance and when Angel kissed her. As the camera moved in closer it captured his eyes perfectly. this way. Liam. God. His long arms snaked around her waist and lovingly pressed soft kisses to her neck.camera immediately changed direction. the image of her younger self entered the picture. look at Dawnie" Heart racing.

"No. "That's Darla. You've been friends with Darla since you were five years old.."Who's that girl?" A face in the video caught her eye." . "I do. Buffy shook her head. Turning back to the TV screen she tried to search her mind for answers to her first question. " Xander Harris. Willow's my best friend. Willow married Xander and it rained all day. but there's more" She bit deep into her lip as she continued to receive the small flash of memory. Willow's studying alternative medicine" Buffy smiled. They're both in Africa at the moment. Buffy. "You remembered Willow as well?" He asked hopefully. Darla Penn. who's the blonde woman with my flowers?" Her voice grew slightly suspicious. "Which one?" "The small blonde one catching my bouquet" Buffy watched as the pretty blonde woman pushed through the small group of females to catch the bouquet of delicate yellow roses. I don't think so. "Yes. Right?" Buffy was still a little unsure but even though the memory was vague. Angel turned his face back to the video and studied the screen. Xander's goofy smile came to mind along with Willow's compassion. Angel sucked in a breath. "That's your best friend" He chuckled lightly at Buffy's bemused expression. there she is. the red head with the long skirt in the background" Angel turned and caught the gleam in Buffy's eyes as another piece of the jigsaw fell into place. Angel moved closer and Buffy felt her heart react to his nearness. they married a month before we did. As his eyes picked out the woman in question a small smile turned the corners of his lips. it felt right. warm tears gathered in her eyes as she remembered more about her two friends. "So.

Xander. one stormy night just after they had first met. " Buffy didn't speak. her best friend. understanding her need to continually relive their wedding day. I will finally be able to reclaim mine** Although it had become his dearest wish over the last three months to discover the truth. but underneath her calm exterior. **And when that day comes.Angel smiled softly as he remembered Buffy telling him about her childhood. her mother and Dawnie quite clearly. With every smile. But not her husband. He could see from the tears shimmering in her beautiful eyes that the memories repeating on the screen gave her comfort. After the teachers pulled you apart for fighting. No matter how hard Buffy searched her memory. so close and yet so far. . her eyes were too busy watching how the blonde woman in the expensive white suit lingered around Liam on the screen. strangely. "You told me she broke your favourite Barbie doll so you punched her across the school yard. Masquerade Angel watched as Buffy rewound the video and pressed the play button for the fifth time in succession. she continued to watch the rest of the video in silence. Looking back towards the television screen. From the excited expression on her face. laugh or sigh one of her friends or family made. you shook hands and became close friends. **Best friend my ass** Something didn't feel right. giggle. As they sat silently on the sofa. not this Darla who was supposedly. the face of this young woman stayed lost deep in the darkest corner of her mind. drawing strength and determination from each memory that battled its way through the amnesia. Every now and again she would gasp out loud as a new piece of the jigsaw puzzle slotted into place. uneasiness started to grow. some small flicker of light to cling on to in her new dark world. who she had obviously loved dearly and. She could now remember Willow. Buffy seemed to grow more confident. he didn't once interrupt. Angel could see that his wife now believed there really was a chance that she would one day reclaim her life from the vortex it had fallen into.

Now the bride and groom were kissing again and he knew that if you listened very carefully you could hear the younger Buffy moan passionately as his mouth covered hers. Buffy pressed the remote control and started the video one more .Angel found the prospect now gave him little joy. it was just one memory too many. she had absolutely no idea what those same visions were doing to Angel. but her feelings towards him were growing stronger by the second. For a moment the fear she felt at being left on her own reflected in her hazel orbs but she quickly shut it out. there was nothing here to be frightened of she quickly reassured herself. Although she didn't move from her seat. Buffy tore her eyes away from the kiss and stared into his eyes. Slipping a black leather jacket over his broad shoulders he reached for his car keys and as the video started to rewind for the umpteenth time. Angel knew he had to get away. Meanwhile. " Buffy smiled knowing that her earlier thought had been foolish. She wasn't to know that seeing her younger self. She was home. He had to get out of the house and put as much distance between him and the past as was possible. Looking away from the screen. he walked out of the room. their life together would change forever. she would have seen that the memories coming from the video tore into him so fiercely that he almost cried out in pain. He understood only too well that when Buffy did finally remember her past. For his broken heart. She was blissfully ignorant of the fact that every time their lips met on the screen. It surprised her how much his absence left her feeling empty. "Sure. **And maybe then I'll remember you ** The little voice in her head added almost wistfully. the quiet man sitting so patiently by her side. It wasn't Buffy's fault. as Buffy sat quietly mesmerised by the faces from her past. Hearing Angel's soft words. She still might not have clear memories of living with this man. Buffy stared at the empty doorway for a long time after he was gone. If she had. was ripping his heart to shreds. "Will you be okay for a few hours? I have a few things I need to do" Angel asked quietly as the picture on the screen changed. I'll just watch this video again. With nothing better to do. longed desperately to pull her into his arms and kiss her until they were both senseless. Now that her memories had started to return she hoped it wouldn't be much longer before the house she was staying in stopped being just a strange house and became her home again. smiling at him with eyes so full of love. "I really should check in at the office and let them know I'm back" Without looking at her Angel stood up and silently crossed the room. as they became man and wife for the fifth time.

It was only after he closed and locked the door that the silence greeted him. Angel stood still and fought down the unexpected wave of panic that rose in his throat and burned the back of his mouth. Lying was no longer an option. **Unless you take this second chance** Walking into the kitchen he pulled open the refrigerator door and stood in the shaft of cool light it reflected across the kitchen floor.not to himself. The wedding video had affected him more than he thought possible and although he'd walked for hours trying to get the anger back into his heart. Hesitating for a moment in the doorway he stopped and let out a deep sigh of regret. Buffy lay curled up on the sofa fast asleep. Angel poured himself a glass and swallowed the cool liquid quickly. This was how the house had felt for the last three months. there had to be a way they could make it right. She looked so utterly adorable that his heart constricted and he was swamped with a rush . **And when she leaves you again. As he moved into the hallway. It will feel like this forever** his heart whispered into the stillness that surrounded him. he couldn't lie. They had to work it out because life without Buffy. Removing a carton of juice. On the far side of the room. **A second chance** All night long he had considered the possibility. **Not the way they had loved each other** As soon as Buffy remembered what had caused her to write that letter. not to Buffy and . which he dropped happily into the corner before removing his jacket. Lonely. Whatever had driven her away from him that night. Finishing the juice. he was determined they would work it out.time. He was just about to leave and head for his bed when he came to an abrupt halt. He couldn't.more importantly . as the last three months had shown. empty and bare. Angel walked into the sitting room. ***** Angel was gone longer than he expected and it was dark when he finally walked through the front door. was unbearable. **You don't just wake up one morning and stop loving somebody** Angel rationalised with his conscience. his arms were once again loaded with expensive looking shopping bags.

Shaking her head after a few seconds. Dropping on to his knees. Angel understood the look of confusion. Struggling to sit up. she gave up in defeat. Not wanting to startle her. What time is it?" Buffy yawned and raised her hand to cover her mouth. Unable to stop himself. . At once a gentle glow filled the room. Within seconds his hungry eyes raked over her small curled body. "Liam?" Angel almost moaned out loud. he had seen it on her face continually over the last few days. "That's not the most comfortable place to spend the night" He teased lightly. Angel moved closer.of emotions he could no longer control. "I must have fallen asleep. Buffy murmured softly and opened her sleepy hazel eyes. "I remember you telling me about Wolfram and Hart. after the case with your father. he switched on the table lamp. When I left. Lindsey came with me and we set up a law practice together here in Sunnydale" As he repeated the story. Without conscious thought Angel stood totally still as he continued to watch her sleep. falling softly across Buffy's face. but I don't think you mentioned Lindsey. taking in how her cheek rested peacefully on the palm of her hand and the way her full lips parted slightly with each new breath she inhaled. "Lindsey Macdonald and I used to work for Wolfram and Hart in LA. "Lindsey?" Buffy thought hard for a moment but she failed to recognise the name. I ran into Lindsey and we went for a drink" Angel replied quietly and reaching over to the small table on his right. pushing it away from her face. raising his hand. "It's late. he started to sweep a stray lock of hair away from her face. he kept all trace of the emotion he was feeling out of his voice. Buffy ran a hand through her hair. Angel smiled softly. After a few seconds. The anger and bitterness that she'd often sensed in him since waking up in hospital seemed to have faded from his face. She had no idea how delectable she looked at that moment. Angel smiled softly and Buffy couldn't fail to notice the change in his features. For the time being anyway. all soft and warm with sleep. he knelt by her sleeping head and.

She was slightly hurt in the accident but considering most of the other passengers on the coach were killed. As Angel turned his head. "Yeah. it was Buffy alright. earlier that evening. she was extremely lucky" Angel spoke quietly with a hint of sadness in his voice. you decided to come back after all " The soft familiar drawl of Lindsey Macdonald's voice caused Angel to look up from his drink and realise that he was no longer sitting on his own.. "No. That's convenient" Lindsey laughed but there was no humour in his voice. sitting in Willie's bar nursing a small untouched glass of whiskey and a large heavy heart. he wasn't in the mood to share his feelings. After working together for over four years he understood when Liam Angelus was holding back. When Willie approached placing a second glass next to Angel's. Lindsey had found him. Wrong girl?" He asked pouring a small measure of golden liquid into the empty glass in front of him. "I'm sensing a large *but* here" Lindsey knew his friend too well. "So how much memory has . Lindsey indicated for him to leave the bottle he was holding and give them some privacy. "She has amnesia" Angel sighed wearily. Lindsey was his best friend as well as his partner in the law firm they shared. I flew in last night" Angel quietly replied without giving any more details away than was necessary. Angel continued to stare at his own untouched glass without making any attempt to lift it. sat down quietly beside his friend at the bar. not with anybody. "No shit!. "From the look on your face I'm taking it was bad news. Dropping his briefcase on the floor next to the bar stool. exhausted from a long day in court.What's he like?" "He's a bit of a roughneck but he's a good man to have on your side in a fight" Angel laughed. Months with hardly any sleep and continual worry had finally caught up and Liam's once. the good looking young lawyer. He had witnessed his friend's agony these last few months and knew how desperately Liam needed to find Buffy and discover what had driven her away. remembering his encounter with his best friend. but after the week Angel had just had. lively dark eyes now looked haunted as they stared back at him. "So. If Lindsey was offended he didn't show it. Lindsey immediately noticed the dark circles surrounding his friend's eyes and knew that the trip to New York had really taken it's toll.

In the end it was Lindsey that asked the question haunting both their minds "Now you have her back." His voice trailed off. Toying with his empty glass. An awkward silence fell over the two men as they both took in the enormity of the problem. as he visualised the look of panic and grief that had covered Buffy's face from the second she had opened her eyes in that hospital bed. although earlier she showed signs of recovering some of it. " She just doesn't remember me" This time there was a touch of real bitterness about the words.. her eyes wouldn't be able to lie that well. and suddenly he no longer had an answer to it. Closing his eyes and shutting out the noise of the bar. the young lawyer sat quietly on the barstool as Angel's tormented mind covered every possibility. noticing how the liquid in his glass changed colour when the light hit it. what are you going to do?" Angel wrapped his long fingers around the small glass that had sat in front of him for the last two hours and. her smile." Angel look a deep breath before he found the strength to continue. As his friend struggled for an answer.she lost" Angel looked back down at the bar. "Is she faking it?" Lindsey asked suspiciously. finally. "About 90%. "No. He found himself thinking of her hair. **What was he going to do** That really was the million dollar question. raising it to his lips he swallowed the warm liquid down in one smooth gulp. Angel shook his head. He remembered with a heavy heart the way her soft mouth tasted when they kissed and how her perfect body melted into his when they made love. Lindsey didn't press. It all felt like a lifetime ago. . Angel's thoughts drifted to Buffy. It's too real. With a sigh. I wish she were but no. He knew he had to let Liam find the solution to this problem on his own. the way she laughed when she was happy and the way her small face creased up and trembled when she cried.

"That's ridiculous! Darla is Buffy's best friend and she's been a great support these last few months. "Like jumping your bones" He replied as plainly as he could. In the company of his best friend he was finally able to show his real feelings.In the end he gave the only answer he knew. To an outsider. not sure how close Liam and this woman had become. " I honestly don't know" Angel crumbled and the pain he had been hiding from Buffy saturated his deep voice. " I didn't say you wanted to jump hers" Lindsey responded defensively. There has never been anything between us" Angel's eyes darkened over dangerously at the insinuation. Their marriage had looked so solid that it had shocked everyone who knew them when it all fell apart. he had always liked Buffy Angelus. " Darla knows how much I love Buffy. On the other hand. especially after the last few months. But that's all. you couldn't be more wrong if you tried" .. he liked her fighting spirit and envied the way she adored his best friend. like what?" He asked not quite understanding what the other man was asking. **Except maybe Darla** "Are you sure Darla doesn't have an ulterior motive?" Lindsey asked carefully. "Cordy said I should kick her out once and for all. Even Darla thinks the relationship is over" " Darla?" Lindsey didn't even bother to hide his dislike of the small blonde woman who was supposedly Buffy's friend but spent most of her time chasing after her husband. his face was deadly serious. The last thing he wanted was a fight but the look in Liam's eyes was frighteningly too serious at that moment. Lindsey sighed. Angel ran his hand over his chin as he listened to the question. and when he looked up. "Ulterior motive. she seemed to be there every time he turned around. It was no secret that he'd never trusted her. Angel looked horrified. For a tense few seconds neither spoke.

Kick the bitch out of your life and forget her. "Well. what do you want to do?" He didn't so much change the subject as bring it full circle. but he couldn't stop the pain flashing across his face. this whole situation stunk and it had done from the second Buffy had fled into the night leaving just a few short words and a wedding ring. . the lawyer considered the question very carefully. I'd fight for her. "Fine. and I loved her as much as you obviously do. "What would you do?" He quietly asked his friend for advice. I don't care what her reason was for leaving. As far as he was concerned. He had spent so long hating Buffy for leaving him that he hadn't really thought about what would happen if she ever came back.. Angel raked his hand through his hair as he struggled to come to a decision. **If Liam let this girl go again he was a damn fool** Lifting the whisky bottle from the bar. Reading the anger and desperation in Liam's face Lindsey knew it was time to change the subject. "I *need* closure" Angel replied slowly. that he realise how much he believed in them. From the way he had reacted it was obvious that he didn't have any romantic feelings for Darla.. Realising that a helping hand was needed. Knocking back his drink. "If Buffy was my wife. then leave her. Lindsey didn't believe him for a second." Taking a deep breath he spoke straight from the heart. he cautiously considered his next move. It wasn't until the words had left his mouth. " Lindsey's eyes shone brightly as he finished his speech. His words said one thing but his body language told a completely different story. he went to refill Angel's glass for a third time but Angel placed his hand over the top to stop him. I'd use this second chance to remind her of why she fell in love with me in the first place and I'd make sure she never wanted to leave me again." Lindsey said casually as he refilled both their glasses. "So.Angel shook his head and backed down. He had enough problems in his life at the moment without punching out his best friend. He purposely let the words sink in knowing that they were having the desired effect. but Lindsey still wasn't convinced that Darla was so innocent.

I almost forgot. she knew exactly who Darla Penn was. "Darla? The woman in the video?" She sounded a little vague. Slowly standing from the barstool he reached down and picked up the shopping he'd earlier purchased and slowly made his way home. "She's been a good friend" Angel offered and tried to forget Lindsey's ridiculous words of warning. Finally somebody had told him something he needed to hear. "To you or to me?" She asked quietly. Buffy was still frowning. I thought you'd rather go with her than me" Buffy frowned. . she's agreed to take you. "No" She didn't remember her but she had a feeling she wouldn't forget her again in a hurry. Angel laughed at her troubled expression." Thank you. "He sends you his love" "Do I like him?" "Yes " Angel couldn't help but smile again. **Lindsey and I used to work for a law firm in LA. I also dropped in on Darla. "You really don't remember her at all?" Buffy shook her head. as you were so worried about going shopping. her face suddenly appeared very serious. when I left he came with me and we set up a practice together here in Sunnydale** Turning his attention back to Buffy Angel smiled again. but after watching their wedding seven times now. but I need to go home" Angel's tired eyes reflected his gratitude. I brought you a few things" "Things?" "A change of clothes." It was only a small white lie "Oh. "We got talking about a case he's been working on and I guess I lost track of the time.

"Come on. "Liam. she's been so busy with college that I didn't tell her. Buffy yawned again. he lent forward and softly brushed his lips across her forehead. let's get you upstairs. An air of anticipation buzzed around them as their faces moved closer together. let me help you upstairs" Angel offered gently. He could have sworn he heard jealousy in her voice and the thought sent a warm shiver through his lonely body. when we've both had a good night's sleep" Buffy smiled in thanks and when she reached out her hand. her eyes locked on his. as he rose from the floor. . we can talk more in the morning. he gazed deeply into her eyes. Without conscious thought Angel reacted first. "I'll ring her in the morning" Buffy went to stand but when she transferred her weight on to her swollen ankle she winced in pain. the exhaustion of the last few months finally catching up with her tired body." He told her quietly. Leaning forward. he took it and pulled her to her feet. searching and finding a certain comfort in the warm chocolate pools. he knew once she remembered that Buffy would need to do both those things. Angel reached for the handle and pushed it open. Pulling her close. " Dawn doesn't know about the accident. On reaching Buffy's bedroom door.Angel opened his eyes in surprise. I need to phone Dawn and I want to visit my mother's grave as soon as possible" Angel nodded. She doesn't even know you were away. For a moment an awkward silence fell over both of them as each waited for the other to move away. "We have both been really worried Buffy. But you're back now and that's all that matters" Buffy didn't speak. "Come on. Buffy shivered as his large arm slipped around her waist and she leaned into him for support as they slowly made their way up the stairs. but before anything could happen.

it gatecrashed through her peaceful slumber and set about its cruel. Raising her hand to the side of his face she reached up and gently drew his head down to her lips."Sweet dreams" His hot breath burned against her skin and sent a shiver of pleasure right down her spine. their eyes met and her turmoil shone like a lantern on a dark night. Angel didn't take advantage of the situation. after his talk with Lindsey he now knew exactly what he was going to do and it was a relief after all the uncertainty and heartache. She had only seen that look in his eyes once before. Angel went to move back but before he had the chance. ***** The fire returned. . I'd use this second chance to remind her of why she loved me in the first place. She tried to scream. Although his heart was screaming to kiss her back. What's changed? " Buffy asked as a sense of bewilderment spread through her whole body. evil destruction. Buffy sighed as the scent of his masculinity flooded over her senses. Like an unwelcome guest at a party. Looking up. Gently pulling away. and then slowly melted away from the bones. The kiss was soft and innocent and over in a heartbeat. "Goodnight Buffy" Before she could speak again. he was gone. but the severe pain she felt in every cell of her body clenched the muscles of her throat closed. Reaching out his hand. "Something's different. **If Buffy was my wife and I loved her as much as you obviously do. black ash. Buffy could only watch in horror as the skin on her arms turned from a soft golden brown to a crisp. Buffy was still in pain and still confused and the last thing he wanted to do was ruin the relationship before it had even restarted. Angel softly brushed her cheek. and her cry of desperation was lost.** Angel smiled again. I'd fight for her. Their earlier kiss had left her feeling frustrated and confused and the wedding video had only added to those feelings tenfold. He then leaned closer so that his lips were almost brushing her ear. As his blood thundered through his veins. For the moment he had to hold back. I don't care what her reason for leaving was. in their wedding video. Buffy stepped forward this time. Angel smiled and the expression in his deep brown eyes was so warm it melted her heart. He knew kissing Buffy now would be dangerous.

She was trapped. "It was so real. Angel lent forward and wrapping his arm around her trembling body. red blanket moved ever closer. as a rush of adrenaline raced through her veins. she remembered that this nightmare was identical to the one she had dreamt on the plane trip home. panting for breath as she struggled through her disorientation. his arms tightened and rocking her gently. "D. Buffy just stared at him. they did little to soothe the panic that was screaming through her blood. shaking and clearly terrified. There was nowhere left to run nowhere safe to hide and no one she could trust. her fingers dug deep into the flesh of his back. "Buffy! Buffy! Wake up!" The hand on her shoulder shook gently. As her eyes focused. eyes wide. Something wanted her dead. "Shh.. he kissed the crown of her head. It wants to burn me alive** . When he felt the first hot tear fall against his chest. "It was a dream. Turning her head.dr. Buffy screamed again. she saw that Angel was sitting on the side of her bed. **It was so real. Angel couldn't fail to notice how her heartbeat had doubled. Or was there? As the fierce. engulfing her in its heat and anger. fearful that if she spoke too loud. Buffy couldn't explain why. Buffy sat upright in bed. Buffy pressed her face into the curve of his shoulder and as she clung to him. Seeing the fear continue to grow behind her frantic eyes. Pressed so closed against his skin. his face wide-awake with concern. the flames from her dream would return and finish the job. It wants to burn me alive" Buffy whispered. "You were dreaming" Angel tried once again to comfort her. and this time the noise of her terror exploded from her throat. velvety voice tried its' best to reassure her. but something evil was haunting her.. Although his kind words meant well. As the visions of her dream became clearer. he cradled her up against bare chest. Just a dream" His rich. You're safe now" Angel tried again to soothe away the terror that had possessed her petite body. Dreaming?" Buffy stuttered as she realised that the fire was no longer burning her body..

Buffy leaned in closer and ran her hands down his naked back. Now. I've got you " He whispered. as her breathing returned to normal. he ignored his state of undress and concentrated fully on Buffy's pain. but exciting. She wouldn't cry. "Angel" Buffy's small sigh was barely above a whisper. Pulled from his sleep by her frantic cries. Her fingers lessened their death grip on his flesh but they made no attempt to move away. Slowly. Sensing her reluctance and mistaking it for fear. because if she did. he felt her began to relax. Buffy bit into her lip. I just don't remember. Angel moved his mouth to the top of her head. As her small hand absentmindedly caressed the sinewy muscles in his back. he had never seen anybody look so terrified in his whole life. Angel silently groaned. This time Angel was the one to tremble. Angel had run almost naked to her room. All I can see is the fire. She had no idea what it did to him when she called him by that name. Although she was beginning to feel slightly calmer. because if she did she feared she would never be able to stop. . softly brushing his lips against her temple. it's hot and bright and burning everything in its path.Her pitiful remark made Angel's heart lurch. No idea of the memories that one simple word could provoke. she couldn't. perched on the side of what was once *their* bed. It's unbearable" Squeezing back more tears. "I won't let anybody hurt you. as he continued to rock her in the circle of his strong arms. he considered his next words carefully. Buffy was almost too frightened to think. This time the feeling of being burned wasn't fearful. As she ran her fingers lightly across his bare arm. "Was it memories from the accident?" He asked gently. "There's no need to be afraid. "I don't know. At her alarmed state. Maybe. not ever again" Angel murmured as he ran his hand down the length of her back. as she felt her skin burn beneath his lips. he couldn't stop his own body from reacting. Buffy was nowhere near ready to let go of the man holding her.

." Buffy stopped. Suddenly the room felt cold and sitting there in just his black boxer shorts he feared he would soon be trembling himself. don't go. he couldn't refuse her. Resting his forehead against hers. Angel drew in a sharp breath. as her face relaxed with relief. but just until you fall asleep" Overcome by tenderness. with more strength then he knew he possessed Angel broke off the kiss and pulled away. When Buffy felt him start to move away.. Angel knew.Pulling her face from the safety of his shoulder. claiming her once more as his own. "I. When they finally did make love Angel wanted it to be because she *wanted* him with her heart. "Please. You can remember so much more than I can and.. at that second the pain and loneliness reflected in his eyes told her without words how desperately he had missed her. "You should try and get some sleep now. But not tonight. she turned his face and softly kissed his lips. I. it intensified. I'll stay. "Okay. At the unexpected show of affection.. His body ached to continue the kiss.. he fought to control the race of his own heartbeat. he slipped his long body beneath the covers and wrapping a protective arm around her." She hesitated. Then. no matter how hard the temptation would be.. For a few minutes they lay quietly together not moving but. body and soul and not just because she was scared of the dark. the fear she had pushed aside a few moments earlier raised its ugly head again. Buffy looked directly into Angel's dark eyes and tried not to react to his nearness. Their eyes locked and needing to break the tension. he hugged her small back into his hard chest. I don't want to be on my own. he smiled softly. struggling to keep his voice even. Pulling back the sheets. Buffy turned in his arms. Reaching up with her hand. unsure if she should continue but knowing that she no longer had a choice. as she felt his long legs rubbing against her. The kiss started softly but as each heartbeat passed. shaking her head. I really need you tonight" Her nervous voice was small and shaky. "I know this must be just as confusing for you as it is for me. Or his nakedness. it's late" He looked deep into her confused eyes.. longed to hold her and press her soft body into *their* mattress. But it wouldn't be just from the cold. Angel smiled again and brushed a .

Slipping her new robe off her shoulders. his hand lightly stroking her back for the rest of the night. "Hey" Buffy tensed when he started to speak but as her eyes flicked over his friendly face. This time she had dreamt of twisting bodies not crying out in pain. designer suit he was wearing. When she woke the next morning. She couldn't fail to miss the dark. she gave in to her exhaustion and let the sleep that she needed. She had no idea how long she lay there. . Then. Feeling safe and secure for the first time that night. she rested her head against his chest and with the steady beat of his heart drumming against her ear.feather-light kiss to the end of her nose. " Hey!" Angel was the first to break the awkward silence. and resisted telling him that the rest of the night her dreams had taken a completely different direction. Buffy's tense muscles began to soothe. but it must have been for a while because the water had turned tepid before she reluctantly climbed out. "No more bad dreams?" Buffy shook her head in relief. Leaving the bathroom. he was gone. Angel smiled softly as he watched her sleep. "You look very nice this morning" Buffy cursed as she felt her cheeks blush. "That's good" Angel replied again with a small grin. she sunk gratefully into its depths. For a few minutes the uncomfortable small talk continued. Buffy moved towards the shower but at the last moment she changed her mind. with a contented sigh. ***** Walking into the bathroom. As her body adjusted to the heat. reclaim her. Buffy returned the smile with one that was so grateful. but in passion. releasing a fast flow of steaming water. thank you" She whispered shyly. it almost melted his heart. silently reliving the night before. she let out the breath she didn't even know she was holding. "No. She reached over the bathtub and turned on the taps. she waited until the water level had risen to a level of luxury and after testing the temperature with her fingers. she hurried along the corridor and walked straight into Angel coming out of his room.

Just one thing. He had felt the trepidation radiating from her body all morning and it left him frustrated knowing there was nothing he could do but offer her support. He couldn't have been more wrong. "Sure. Buffy needed her friends just as much as she needed him. With the slightest nod of her head she looked across and when their eyes met and held. this time it was grief. This time it wasn't passion that caused the reaction. Can't wait" Her false smile was frighteningly convincing and on accepting it. Dropping into his own seat. "I promised Lindsey that I'd go into the office today.. Reaching over. As you'll be busy shopping with Darla I thought it would be all right. He wanted her to say no. As he passed her. her small voice failed to hide the pain she was really feeling. her large hazel orbs reflected not only the deep sadness she carried but also an unexpected flash of determination. "I have to face this. If you have the time. he wanted to be the one to help her buy her new clothes but he quickly shut those selfish thoughts out of his head. Buffy was having her own doubts about her planned afternoon with her so called *best* friend. "Liam.Ignoring the colour rising in her cheeks Angel just continued to grin. Angel started the car without another word and slowly pulled away from the driveway. ***** . You are still okay about going with Darla and not me?" Angel asked quietly. Angel squeezed Buffy's hand wanting to offer some measure of comfort and felt her fingers tremble. there's somewhere I have to go first" ***** "Are you sure you're ready for this?" Angel asked softly as Buffy lowered herself into the passenger's seat of the shiny black convertible. Buffy reached out her hand and rested it lightly on his hand. he watched from the corner of his eye as Buffy slowly pulled the taut seatbelt across her small chest and clicked it securely into place. Angel started to walk away. Feeling utterly helpless and unable to bear the suffering he saw in her eyes. Until I see it for myself it will never be real" Although she tried to sound strong.

"Mommy" Her shaking fingers reached out and clenched the grass covering her beloved parent. "I miss her so much. Focusing on the pale yellow flowers that her mother had loved so dearly. Of all the memories she longed to remember. they cried the same tears. She glanced desperately round the graveyard. This time the tears had to fall. " Buffy's voice cracked.Buffy knelt down in the soft. down in the centre of the grave. not wishing to intrude on his wife's grief. he . This time there was no holding back. Angel reached down and pulling her up from the grassy graveside. she would never see her mother again. And yet here she was. Buffy remembered every second of the funeral and how the rain had fallen that day as if the Gods in heaven shared her sorrow and in sending the rain. Buffy traced out the small letters of her mother's name and a new wave of pain she didn't know was possible crashed over heart. She could now only feel and what she felt broke her heart. Running her finger gently over the cold marble headstone. a sob catching in her throat. her large hazel eyes were brimming with tears. green grass and lovingly laid the bouquet of fresh yellow roses.. and now she finally understood why. her mother's death was not one of them. As she plucked out a few stray tuffs of grass from the otherwise immaculate grave. she had clutched tightly in her hand ever since leaving the flower shop. and suddenly the pain returned as if it had only been a day since she buried the woman who had blessed her with life. Buffy closed her eyes as flashes of her past broke into the darkness and pounded her head with the grief. Every time she had turned around the delicate fragrance had awoken a thought deep inside her head.. Angel stood back from the graveside. but when he saw her shoulders buckle under the weight of her pain he moved quickly to her side. When she did finally turn towards Angel. Buffy had no choice but to accept that even when her memories finally returned. In a heartbeat. **Until I see it for myself it will never be real** Her earlier words returned and the sad truth was. looking everywhere but in his direction. she saw Dawnie's young face hysterically screaming that it wasn't true. She could now remember the police officer knocking on the door and telling her that her mother had been killed. the grave in front of her bearing witness to the fact. Buffy felt tears burn in the back of her eyes. and the anguish that she felt was clearly evident on her face. surrounded by gravestones on a beautiful Tuesday morning. it was real. For days now the smell of yellow roses had unexplainably haunted her senses. her vision blurred until she could no longer see anything.

As Buffy's petite body shook from the force of her sobs. grasping her hand gently in his and lead her away from the cemetery and back to the car. ****** "Come on I'll take you home" Angel spoke quietly as he opened the passenger door of their car. Angel ran around the other side of the car and dropped down into his own seat. Besides. Looking into her heartbroken eyes. his dark eyes blazed with his concern for her. that this was not the time or the place. Without saying a word. I'll be fine. Really. After re-watching her wedding video more times then she could remember. Buffy shook her head. you said yesterday that Darla is taking time off work today to take me shopping. For a while time seemed to stand still. Buffy buried her head against his hard chest and cried. Although he hated seeing his wife so upset. "No. she was quite looking forward to meeting Darla Penn. Buffy raised her head and when she looked Angel in the face. so I can't cancel on her now" Not that Buffy wanted to cancel. reluctantly. not home. Knowing there was nothing he could possibly say that would make a difference. No matter how hard she tried Buffy couldn't shake the thought from her head that they were not the . Finally. **This is becoming a habit** He thought as the memory of their night together played over in his head **But is holding the woman you adore in your arms and comforting her a habit you ever want to break?** He already knew the answer to that question. whispering meaningless words and rocking her gently in his arms. loneliness and grief finally became too great to hold in. Without looking up. I'm supposed to be meeting Darla this afternoon" Buffy took a deep breath and tried to pull herself back together. Angel tightened his arms around her and encouraged her to cry all the pent up grief out of her heart once and for all. maybe you should go shopping another day" He asked as he placed the car key in the ignition and fired the engine. Angel just held her. Angel longed to kiss away her pain but he knew once again. He knew he would be happy to hold her in his arms for the rest of their lives. "No. As the pain. he reached out.wrapped her tightly in his arms. Waiting until his wife was safely seated. "Buffy.

Raising her arm. she smiled. "I remember that bell" Her whole face came alive as another memory fell into place. " I have a few hours yet before I'm due to meet her. She didn't understand where this feeling of doubt was coming from. Moving away from the door Buffy walked slowly around the displays. "You've been saying for years that you wanted to take it down and replace it. can you drop me off at my mother's I mean. she hesitated. because she failed miserably. ***** Buffy gripped Angel's hand tighter as they walked towards the Joyce Summers art gallery on Main Street. If I want to find the past I have to look where it happened. Seeing her determination. I'd really like to take a look around the place. Maybe if I can see where my mother worked all those years it might help trigger more of my memory" Angel wasn't sure if it would work but he agreed just the same. but she knew that she would only be able to get over it once she met the woman for herself. the small old-fashioned bell hanging over the doorway rang announcing their arrival. he pushed open the door. Buffy turned her face up to see where the sound had come from and on noticing the small antique over the door. Angel withdrew a small bunch of keys from his pocket and after turning the largest key in the lock. It was a small building and as she approached the front door.. but you never did" Angel laughed. Once inside.close friends that Angel had led her to believe. "Yes I do.. It was a good job Angel was driving and concentrating on the road.." . and knowing there was no changing her mind. Walking inside the gallery. Buffy took a deep breath and nodded her head. "Has the gallery been closed for a long time" She asked running her finger down the small glass counter and watching a faint line appear in the thin layer of dust "Anya kept it open for a few weeks but. my Gallery. "You don't have to go inside" Angel said and softly squeezed her fingers. Buffy checked her watch and tried to swap the frown she was wearing into a smile.

For a second the name seemed to register in her mind but just as quickly. "I think I'd like to stay here for a while. she didn't even notice Angel leave the gallery. it was gone."Angel's voice trailed off unsure of how to continue. Walking across the room Buffy studied the many works of art hoping that something would jump out on her. "Why don't I call Darla from the office and tell her to pick you up from here?" He offered. that would be better" Without looking back Buffy nodded. "You promised Lindsey that you'd drop in at the office today. after his wife had disappeared.. I could show you around. Something invisible almost pulling her.. not long after. although her public relations skills left a lot to be desired. The day had been hard enough on Buffy as it was.. **** . didn't you?" Angel nodded "I should really. Buffy shook her head.. Angel reluctantly agreed.. she quit. Why don't you come with me. Seeing her need to be alone.. "I'm afraid she no longer works here. it wasn't the time or the place to bring up the small fact that she'd run out on him three months earlier and to this day he still had no idea why. "Anya Chase was the young woman that worked for you. "Yeah. It didn't. he was simply too worried and upset to care." Angel laughed again as he remembered the small assistant and her aptitude for making a quick buck. Closing the gallery hadn't been done out of spite. As she opened the office door and walked slowly inside. it's only a couple of blocks away. Turning around she caught Angel glancing at his watch. You used to say she had a great head for business." She said as she moved closer towards the office door. "So where is she now?" Buffy's eyes returned to the dust covering the galley and knew nobody had cleaned in weeks." Noticing a small door that had the word office clearly written across it."Anya?" Buffy interrupted.

a memory. On seeing that it was neither Liam or Darla. that she could hardly find the air to breathe. Me. she frowned. But no matter how hard she searched the black void that had temporarily replaced her memory. Buffy almost missed the small bell ring as the front door opened. Tight faded jeans sheathed his lean hips and a white T-shirt hugged his well-developed chest. or maybe the dreaded Darla was early.." She didn't get a chance to continue. For a second.. Where the hell have you been for the last three months?" "Please!. His eyes were bright blue. He was tall. I'm afraid the galley is closed today" Buffy apologised as she walked from the office. her whole body froze as a wave of panic crashed over her and almost scared her rigid.Deeply engrossed with the gallery invoices. At this second urgent plea. I thought I was seeing a ghost for a minute" His hoarse voice brushed against her ear.. she placed the book she had been studying down on the desk and walked into the main room. "Dammit Buffy. "Please! Put. When unknown fingers started brushing against places they had no right to touch. Down. "I'm sorry. That was the first thing she noticed... she found nothing about this man that would help. Buffy could no longer breathe as she was then crushed into his hard embrace.. Buffy almost swore they devoured her every movement. sparkling. finding herself gripped so tightly against a strong masculine chest. Buffy frantically searched for a name. fair and incredibly good-looking. her eyes widening in horror as warm lips slipped across her earlobe. With three long strides he had passed the counter and had swept her clean off her feet. On reaching the front desk she stopped. with just a hint of mischief and when he looked directly at her. "I.. The last thing she needed was for a customer to come in asking questions about a subject she was yet to remember. his large hands slowly released their grip and gently lowered . "Bloody hell. Um.. realising that she should have locked the door. I've been worried sick. Thinking that Liam had returned.. Please put me down!" Buffy gasped." Buffy gasped again. anything that would explain why she was being molested and nearly crushed to death by a complete stranger.

The small jagged scar that crossed his left eyebrow only added to the mystery. Looking deeply into her dubious eyes. he smiled and took a step forward and she in return. **Summers?** Buffy opened her mouth but suddenly found herself speechless. her good looking stranger ran his fingers lightly across her cheek. it was English. she noticed that his eyes were now more green than blue and. Under this stranger's hungry gaze. his happy grin turning slightly into a frown as he noticed the almost faded bruising. Backing away. his eyes twinkling as they took in the changes in her appearance. Summers" He chuckled and the colour of his eyes changed yet again. tanned body. he definitely had the word *honey* stamped all over him. pet? You've gone a bit white" When he spoke his voice was a mixture of laughter and concern. As she apprehensively stepped away. when the sunlight danced lightly across them. He didn't look like your average psychopath. His accent wasn't American like hers. But it was his eyes that Buffy was drawn to. Staring deeply. they twinkled with mischief and just the tiniest hint of danger. "I heard about the accident " He took a another small step forward. Growing slightly nervous at the closeness of his lean. "Are you all right. Buffy reached out her trembling fingers and gripped the edge of the desk for support. she tilted her head and stared hard at the handsome face grinning excitedly in front of her. Buffy thought hard for a moment and then it came to her. . Raising his hand. Her would be molester was strikingly handsome. Buffy's back bumped into the corner of the glass counter and she froze again as her withdrawal came to an abrupt end. she silently cursed herself for sending Liam to his office and leaving her alone and vulnerable.her feet back to the ground. took one back. and something else. she suddenly started to feel uncomfortable. Buffy flinched as her back pressed harder into the cool glass display cabinet. "God! I've missed you. exquisite cheekbones and boyish good looks. Struggling to restart her breathing. With short bleached blonde hair.

"You don't remember me?" A tiny flicker of confusion wrinkled his brow. Buffy felt her heartbeat increase and she tensed as he started to speak. Buffy could tell from the look in his eyes that he knew her even if she had no memory of him. she just shook her head again in polite regret.. "I don't believe this. Buffy." "I'm sorry.. do I know you?" She blurted out her reply before he had a chance to finish his curse. she felt the absurd impulse to say. "It's Will.. then laughed at the absurdity of the question. are you playing games with me?" "I'm not playing games. Buffy nodded and sighed. "Why didn't you call me? Are you okay?" His soft voice asked tenderly. Buffy looked at him curiously. But even as the thought entered her head.The visitor took a final step forward and his gaze bore directly into Buffy's eyes.. When he tried to reach for her again. I'm not playing anything" she argued thinly "I have amnesia" "Amnesia? " The small word almost choked him with disbelief. " I was hurt in the crash and it affected my memory" She explained as simply as she could. 'How do you do' but realising that it would sound like a slap in the face. Buffy shook her head. At his expectant look. William Pennington " He waited patiently for a few seconds for her to make the connection. Buffy quickly side stepped him and moved away. Buffy ran the name inside her head but it still came up blank. She was right. The last thing she wanted to do at that moment was go into personal details with a complete stranger. "Buffy? What the f. .. I.. "Know me" The man blinked.

. not knowing what to say next. **If she had ever made love to this man she would have remembered** Buffy silently argued. Buffy cleared her throat. Ignoring her pain. "That's not true" She instinctively denied the allegation. I'm sorry. I'm not sure what you'd call us these days. but we have been sleeping together for over a year" Buffy watched his lips move and heard the words form but. he removed a packet of cigarettes. for all the sense they made. I wouldn't really call us friends." I've lost almost 90% of my memory. The thought that she could have cheated on her husband was so alien to her that it was almost impossible to conceive. Feeling even more uncomfortable. "I guess we must be friends then. he screwed up the wrapper and angrily tossed it to the wastepaper bin at his feet. but like I said before.?" She paused. luv" This time when he laughed it was cold and humourless and the sound made Buffy shiver from her head right down to her toes. desperate for his words to be a lie. William leaned against the counter and reaching into the back pocket of his tight jeans. "I can't be sleeping with you. he might as well have been speaking a foreign language.. or worse still. At her bewildered expression he snorted. and then continued. Realising that they were empty. **Would I? ** . She suddenly remembered her wedding video and the way her eyes had looked adoringly towards her new husband. " No. "Friends! I think that's got to be the understatement of the year. I have absolutely no idea who you are" He didn't speak. pet. it's just. I'm married" Buffy spoke quietly. **But you didn't remember Liam when you first saw him** A small voice in her head argued back **But my heart remembers Liam. his intense eyes studying her face for signs that she was joking. my body remembers Liam** A vision of her husband's face then came to her mind and her heart sank. lying.. There was no way a few short months later she would have taken a lover.

we're hoping.." Buffy started to explain but before she could complete the sentence her words were lost in an angry outburst." "We? Not that bastard husband of yours. his eyes darkened and for an instant. not that I'm complaining. "Liam. "It's not possible. William brought his mouth crashing down on her lips. Buffy shivered. realising there was obviously no love lost between the two men. and taking Buffy's face firmly between his hands.. . just a strong gut reaction and that reaction told her that something about this man just didn't add up. Your old man was such an arsehole you couldn't wait to jump between my sheets. **And yet if Liam knew. There wasn't any logic in her thinking. but it never worried you before. "So! You can remember him. he reached out. For your information. She couldn't believe that something this important had been so seriously overlooked." Buffy denied the allegation again in total disbelief as all the colour drained from her face. She knew deep in her heart that kissing this man wasn't right.. well." He smirked and his eyes narrowed slightly. Startled. Although his kiss was warm and passionate Buffy knew she couldn't respond. As his tongue slipped into her mouth Buffy pulled violently away. *you* chased *me* Summers.. She didn't have one memory of ever kissing this man before. "You're serious. in less than a heartbeat. Then. **This is wrong** A thousand tiny voices cried into her head.As she studied the cocky expression on his face Buffy feared that William Pennington looked far too sure of himself. Buffy struggled as his long arms wrapped themselves around her body and pulled her closer into his arms. Did you remember him?" William's voice rose and his eyes changed from stormy to almost deadly. why hadn't he said anything** The thought bothered her. William just stared at her with stormy eyes. Buffy felt a small tremor of fear. "Yeah. I know you're married. but not me?" William's handsome face grew pale. aren't you" He said at last "You really don't remember me?" Buffy moistened her lips "My memory before the accident is almost blank.

I've had you on that office floor more times than I can count and now suddenly you can't bear to even kiss me " He shouted angrily. His fists curled and he had a strong urge to smash them through the glass counter in temper. As he opened his eyes again. Buffy glared back. "That's none of your business" . haven't you. "No!" Buffy shook her head violently "How can I love you when I can't even remember you" "But you remember that bastard. trying to calm the raging fire that burned through his body. Dammit Buffy. you're suddenly in love with him all over again? " He demanded furiously. "Buffy. He didn't give her time to answer. "I need time to think about this. I think that knock to your head did more than just wipe out a few memory cells.. he looked into Buffy's face and hardly recognised her frightened features. "So now what. you're sleeping with the bastard again?" His voice exploded." "What is there to think about? I love you and you love me" William shrugged his shoulders. Stepping back. In his eyes it was as simple as that. Although he sounded genuine Buffy still couldn't find it in her heart to believe him. "I don't bloody believe this". William let out a deep sigh of frustration and ran his hands through his short blonde hair. What on earth's gotten into you? I've already told you that we're lovers. Angelus" William spat out in fury. I want you to leave. William closed his eyes and took a deep breath. William's last thread of control snapped. "The next thing you'll be telling me is you let the sod back in your bed" At the slight rise in the colour of her cheeks. She needed to think. "Don't call him that" She defended her husband without a second thought."Don't touch me" Buffy struggled to reclaim her composure as her large hazel eyes flashed her distrust. "You already have.

Okay. flung open the door and disappeared down the street." "I'm not shutting you out. and Buffy.. William sighed. I'm in your life. not for a second. I'll give you the space you need. ** No. ringing its heart out. right. I'm not sure what you'd call us these days. not wanting to see the confusion on her face as he delivered his final words.. you'll remember that I love you much more than he *ever* did. if you care about me you'll give me time to sort this mess out.Buffy's eyes flickered around the room looking for an escape route. like it or not. I'll give you what you want but. She didn't really believe that he was dangerous but she doubted she had ever seen anybody that angry and frustrated before. "Hopefully. over head. her complicated life had once again been thrust into the dark. You're my wife** **No. he turned away from her so that she wouldn't see his heart shatter into a million pieces. the small bell. In the space of a few minutes. and when he breaks your heart again. and slowly walked away. How much of your life do you remember with him? You left him once and now you're right back where you started" "I asked you to leave. Shaking his head sadly. I simply need time to remember" "Yeah. leaving his eyes full of pain... when you finally come to your senses. keeping his face forward. We're not friends. you can't just shut me out. I'll still love you" With those last words the unhappy young man. "Okay. pet. Buffy stood very still as the door swung closed. don't trust him. Buffy. two very different voices replayed over and over inside her head. I wouldn't really call us friends. I'm warning you." William swallowed hard and his voice lowered down into a painful whisper.. But. When William reached the front door he stopped and leaned his forehead against the cold glass. "I'll still be here waiting. but then reluctantly nodded his head. luv. He'll rip your bleeding heart out " William finished and when he looked back up. "None of my bloody business???. as if searching for some inner strength to continue. Please. The hell it is. Buffy watched as the anger drained from his face.. but . you win. As she fought to come to terms with the new information. once and for all" Buffy closed her eyes and took a deep breath.

not ever again** Buffy closed her eyes as a solitary tear trickled down her cheek. I've got you** He had been right. It was only now.. William Pennington breezes in and extinguishes it. when she had time to reflect. ** How much of your life do you remember with him? You left him once and now you're right back where you started** "Left him?" Buffy gasped out loud.. Standing there. suffocating her. But why would William lie? He had seemed genuinely shocked to hear about the amnesia. that the true meaning of the statement sunk in to her head. **When you come to your senses. Two men. I'll still love you** **I won't let anybody hurt you. Buffy sighed. her heart raced uncomfortably fast and her throat started to close in. as more and more memories from the recent week replayed before her eyes. Just when the light was beginning to break through her nightmarish life. **There's no need to be afraid. nowhere near the monster that William had painted. **What could he possibly gain by lying?** Buffy asked herself as more words returned to haunt her mind. **Was it really possible that she had cheated on Liam?** Every instinct rejected the idea. . hopefully you'll remember that I love you much more that he ever did. Liam had been kind.I'll still be here and Buffy. still clinging to the counter for support. desperately needing those arms around her at that moment. **I've had you on that office floor more times than I can count and suddenly you can't bear to kiss me** William's arrogant boast was quickly replaced with her husband's gentle words of reassurance. fought each other inside her head. anguish and pain laced her voice as she relived her so-called lover's words. in Angel's arms she wasn't afraid. considerate and loving.we have been sleeping together for over a year** Buffy gripped the counter until her knuckles turned white. so different in appearance and yet both claiming to know her better than she knew herself. and when he breaks your heart again.

his heart raced. For Will.. **How can I love you when I can't even remember you** Buffy's frightened voice echoed deep inside his head as he moved away from the gallery as fast as the muscles in his legs would allow **But you remember that bastard.. in fact it mattered a lot. a drink and then he seriously needed to hit somebody. he quickly crossed the road. it didn't matter how much distance he put between him and Buffy. Liam. .. No. don't I know it" He mumbled to himself and stepping off the pavement. his foot struck out at an empty coke can lying in his path and sent it spinning across the pavement with the full force of his anger. **I can't be sleeping with you. but she was too late. correction. As he continued down the street. William needed air. just how long was I away?** **A little over three months** **What happened to my clothes? I mean all the hangers in my room are empty** "Oh God" Buffy gasped as the pieces of her life started to fall into place. William's troubled mind filled with visions of his fists punching Liam Angelus' head right through the nearest wall..**It feels as if I've not been here for years. ** "Yeah. haven't you. most of her breakfast decorated the floor. As his long legs moved angrily down Main Street. Angelus?** **So now what. as her insides violently clenched. you're suddenly in love with him all over again? The next thing you'll be telling me is you let the sod back in your bed** **You already have.. frantically pumping the bitterness he felt into every cell of his body. her painful words continued to crush his broken heart with every new step he took. It didn't matter who. "Bloody bastard" William cursed in frustration. actually it did matter who... you're sleeping with the bastard again** **That's none of your business** As William's thoughts turned to Liam worming his way back into Buffy's bed. Hard. he needed a cigarette. she clutching her stomach with one hand while the other flew to cover her mouth. Bending over. No.. I'm married. Dammit Buffy.

as her small heels struggled to keep up the hurried pace. Bitch** Without slowing. the other pedestrians on the street quickly moved out of the troubled young man's path.As he headed in the direction of Willie's bar. So just Piss off and leave me alone" He muttered harshly and intending to put as much distance between them as possible. **Tough luck. he increased his stride. "Hey! Wait! Where do you think you're going?" A female voice called and although William heard the question clearly. As he started to turn away again. William! Will you slow down?" she finally snapped. the woman's voice softened slightly. William threw his reply over his shoulder. The blonde woman following him was small but she moved swiftly and within a few seconds she had caught up and moved along side. "Stop acting so damn pathetic and just tell me where you're going?" At the fleeting look of pain that flickered in his eyes. and. Will spun a U-turn and glared dangerously into the woman's pale blue eyes " I'm having a really bad day. and from her vantagepoint she couldn't fail to notice the anguish radiating from his lean body. "Okay. From the determined look on her face it would have been a complete waste of time anyway. so please. As the neon sigh advertising Willie's bar caught his eye." She purred sarcastically. William ignored his unwanted companion and turned sharply towards the entrance. "I'm really not in the mood to play happy families right this minute. a small. "For a poet you really use the most charming language.. you want charming. he made no attempt to slow down." He sighed deeply and decided not to finish the insult.. "Dammit. "William!" Her voice called again and the cold sharp tone left little doubt in his mind that there would be real trouble if he didn't answer her. well-manicured hand reached out and came to rest lightly on his arm. do us both a favour. "Honey! It couldn't have gone that badly" She cooed as her long fingers slid softly across .. how's this for charming" Finally losing his temper.

his bare arm. The fair-haired man, with thunder in his dangerous eyes glared for a few more seconds and then shook off her unwanted hand. "After what I've just done, I think I deserve a bloody stiff drink. Nah, make that the whole fucking bottle." William turned his head towards the neon sign and could almost taste the cool beer he desperately needed. "There will be plenty of time for that later. Just tell me what happened at the gallery?" The female snapped back, impatient for an answer to her question. With a sigh, William shook his head. Suddenly needing a cigarette, he reached into the back pocket of his jeans only to remember the empty packet he had earlier tossed away at the gallery. **Don't touch me** The moment he thought of the gallery, the memories of Buffy pushing him away returned and once again his fragile mood turned black. As if reading his mind, his companion pulled an unopened carton of cigarettes from her jacket pocket and carelessly threw them at him. Without a word, William caught the packet, ripped off the top and after lighting up; he drew the thick smoke deep into his lungs. As the nicotine entered his blood stream, and set to work at soothing his nerves, Will let out a deep sigh of relief. "I take it you saw her?" The woman's cool words cut through the calm haze that had formed inside his head and immediately returned the tension to his body. "You know damn well that I saw her, you cunning bitch. After all, you were the one who told me where she was going to be" William shot the reply back and returned the cigarette to his mouth. "And did she believe you?" The female asked coldly, but she couldn't stop the delighted smirk on her face shinning through her cool show of indifference. Everything was going better than she had dreamed possible. Buffy being left alone at the gallery so soon had been a godsend. At the question William's eyes narrowed. "And why wouldn't she believe me, Darla?" He took a step forward but the much smaller woman just blocked his path and refused to move.

William tilted his face closer; and a small muscle twitched in the side of his jaw as dared his companion to argue with him. "You told her everything we agreed and she believed you?" Darla's eyes lit up in delight. " I told her the truth" As he replied to the question, William exhaled a mouthful of smoke right in the woman's smirking face. The insult was ignored. "The truth?" Darla laughed cruelly, as she ran the two words over her tongue. " Well, I guess it's the truth as your twisted mind sees it. My dear boy, before her accident, Liam's little cheerleader never gave you so much as a second glance, and we both know it." The second she saw William flinch she knew she had struck a raw nerve. "My relationship with Buffy is none of your God damn business" William growled through clenched teeth. The female smiled. "So you keep telling me." The disbelief in her voice wasn't lost on either of them. Darla drew in a deep breath and when she met his blue eyes again her expression was deadly serious. "Honey, I really don't care whether you were screwing the bitch or not, just make sure you convince *her* that you were." Dropping what was left of his cigarette to the floor, William ground it out with the toe of his boot. This time it was his turn to smirk. "Don't worry about me, I'll have Buffy eating out of the palm of my hand before you know it" **And then I'll really screw her on that office floor ** He added as a silently afterthought. At the prospect, William smiled for the very first time since leaving the gallery. Darla watched as the light returned to his cool eyes and with a sigh of disbelief, she shook her head. It still amazed her that he could possibly love the skinny blonde girl who

had made her life hell for so many years. But it didn't matter; in fact it actually helped with her plan. "You're sick, Will, and you're welcome to the little bitch. As long as she stays away from Liam, I really don't care what happens to her. But I promise you this; I'm not losing Liam Angelus again, not for anyone. If Buffy Summers gets in my way this time, amnesia will be the least of her problems " Darla smiled, but her eyes were so hard William almost shivered. When she spoke again she left him with little doubt how deadly serious she was. "If she crosses me one more time, I'll crush her like a bug" Inside the Joyce Summer's Gallery it was so quiet you could have heard a pin drop. Nothing moved for what felt like an eternity. Eventually, the first sound that broke through the eerie stillness was the rapid beating of a heart. It pounded so hard behind the ribcage of the small woman's chest that there was serious danger of physical pain. Then, somewhere in the distance, a new sound joined the equation. The muffled ticking of a small clock was the only sign that time hadn't completely come to a stand still, although for the life of her, Buffy found that fact hard to deal with. From the second William Pennington's tall frame had disappeared through the front door of the gallery, reality had turned into a nightmare. Although the antique bell over the front door had long stopped ringing, Buffy almost swore the sound still reverberated right into her very soul. Even when she closed her eyes, she could still feel the vibrations echoing through her body. As she wrapped her arms around her chest to stop her trembling, she knew it wasn't only the ringing of the bell that had left an echo. Buffy was now filled with so much confusion she feared her head would explode. She had thought not remembering her past was hard enough, but learning the things William Pennington had just told her was a million times worse. **Friends! I think that's got to be the understatement of the year, luv** Even though she was now totally alone, Buffy still felt William's presence all around the room. His clear-cut voice remained and taunted her from every direction. ** No, I wouldn't really call us friends, pet. I'm not sure what you'd call us these days, but we have been sleeping together for over a year**

"Oh God. What have I done?" Buffy whispered out loud as she felt her knees begin to shake again. Alone and vulnerable, Buffy was beginning to get really frightened. She was suddenly terrified that the past life she had searched so hard to find wasn't the happy secure place she had believed it to be. In the blink of an eye, her safety blanket of the perfect past had been totally stripped away and the small fragments of her new life were now spinning totally out of control. Not only was she not the person she had believed she was, but Buffy Angelus was now somebody she didn't even know if she even liked. Once again the frightened young woman was plagued with questions she couldn't begin to answer. "So, if I wasn't the happy loving wife in the video, who the hell was I?" This new question haunted her more than any of the others. **Had she really been the kind of woman that would take a lover so easily and cheat behind her husband's back? ** Buffy shook her head, the idea was just too horrid, but sadly there were worse thoughts to follow. **If William Pennington was telling the truth, and that was exactly the woman she had been, why had she run off and left her husband *and * her lover behind. Was it possible she had run out on both of them? ** Buffy couldn't think straight as another wave of nausea rose over her and sent her small frame doubling over with the force of its anger. For ten minutes her fragile stomach continued to wrench but after the second time of decorating the gallery floor, there was simply nothing left for the wrenching to bring up. Finally, wiping the back of her hand across her mouth and tucking her loose hair behind her ears, Buffy straightened up. With all the effort she could muster she turned and, walking back into the small office at the rear of the gallery, silently closed the door behind her. The change of environment brought little comfort. **I've had you on that office floor more times than I can count. ** At the memory of William's crude words, Buffy shuddered. **How could she have done something so intimate with a man she had absolutely no memory of. If their bodies had really made love on the office floor more times then he could count; surely there should be something in the back of her mind that would prove he was telling the truth. But there wasn't. There wasn't any memory inside her shattered

head of William at all ** Of course, she hadn't remembered marrying Liam at first. Buffy tried to make sense of the situation but her argument was quickly shot to pieces. She might not have remembered Liam Angelus as her mate but she had always known his face and his name. Her subconscious might have misplaced him as being her husband, but her heart and soul hadn't wiped him out. When he touched her skin, her whole body had responded with a will of its own. William was a completely different story. It didn't matter how hard she tried; Buffy couldn't find any feelings for William at all. Not in her memories, not in her heart and not in her soul. He said they were lovers and she had no reason to think he would lie, but the plain truth was, William Pennington meant nothing to her at all. Feeling incredibly light-headed, Buffy threw open the office window and resting her head lightly against the security bars, she filled her lungs with a rush of cool air. Outside, the world went about its business as normal but on the other side of the window, Buffy Summers Angelus felt as if her life was crashing down all around her. For a woman who, only a few hours earlier, had no past, present or future, she suddenly found herself in a very difficult position. On one hand there was Liam, not only a husband, but also a man she knew she could love very easily. He had pulled her out of the darkness and had held her through the pain and the confusion that had followed. The very last thing she wanted to do was hurt him, especially if he hadn't know about her affair. **Her affair** That thought returned Buffy to the other man in the equation. William. The good-looking blonde lover that had come out of nowhere and genuinely seemed to care about her, even when she had pushed him away. He had promised her that Liam would break her heart again. **Was it really possible that he had broken her heart once before. Was that why she had left him?** Too many questions and nowhere near enough answers made Buffy's head throb with uncertainty. **Was Liam still wearing a mask? Or maybe the mask belonged to William. Someone was lying** As Buffy closed her eyes she could see Liam and William so clearly. Both men were

she hesitantly looked at her reflection in the mirror hanging just above the sink and shuddered. charming and kind. Tilting her head slightly. **Had she really been having a torrid affair behind Liam's back?** Every cell in her body rejected the idea. She could easily see why she would have been attracted to either of them. Liam had been cold. It was only once they had been home for a few days. Buffy splashed her face with cool water and took a deep breath to calm her shaking body. Her eyes. But this time Buffy wouldn't allow herself the luxury of crying. "No wonder you ran away" The first bitter sting of tears was already burning behind her eyes as self-pity rose up from its hiding place and threatened to drown her. passionate. but in all honesty. but Buffy also knew in her heart that when she had kissed them. Raising her trembling fingers she slowly traced the contours of the face staring out at her from behind the glass. almost untouchable. not to mention her nose. **But had she been in her right mind? Or had Liam somehow driven her into the arms of another man? ** Leaning over the small sink in the women's rest room. "Who the hell are you?" Buffy asked as she tried desperately to see past the reflection and into the person who wore her face. while her cheeks were now a ghostly shade of white. patient and loving man had emerged. only one of the two had made her heart yearn for the kiss to continue. When she had first woken in the hospital. Buffy had no idea what kind of relationship her marriage had been. were both flushed bright red. Buffy carefully studied the information she had collected over the last few days. or a adulterous bitch who had cheated on her husband and then ran out on him without a second thought** As small droplets of water dripped from the edge of her hair and rolled slowly down her face. In her right mind she wouldn't have looked at another man so soon after marrying Liam. Then just as she was beginning to fall back in love with him. **She needed to pull herself together and sort this mess out once and for all and then she . that he had dropped the mask he wore so carefully over his expressions and a kind. William Pennington enters her life and it all gets thrown back into confusion.incredibly good looking in totally different ways. **What sort of woman had she *really* been? A loving wife as the wedding video portrayed. Sexy. Only one of them had made her blood course through her veins at a thousand miles an hour.

Buffy walked forward. Not in the form of a memory. she dried off the remaining moisture. As she giggled her long blonde hair bobbed perfectly around her slim shoulders and her shapely figure attracted lustful glances from every passing male within a twenty-foot radius. God. I really think we deserve a rest. Standing in an immaculate white designer suit. Especially where her husband was concerned. Darla. Buffy missed the small bell ringing again over the door. After spending countless years. As Buffy's eyes caught sight of her own dishevelled reflection in the mirror. and thousands of dollars. **So this woman is your best friend?** ** Not in a million years** "After spending all of your husband's money..needed. Buffy turned. to . you look dreadful. A best friend Buffy had a sneaky feeling she'd be a real fool to trust. Buffy knew this was the face from her wedding video. The face of the woman smiling at her was now imprinted firmly on her brain. Buffy also missed the creak of the office door slowly being pushed open.** So lost in her thoughts. but as the two women embraced she heard a small warning voice deep inside her head. with matching shoes and perfect makeup was her so called *best friend*. "Liam told me to meet you here.. As her thoughts turned to finding her bag and repairing the damage to her makeup. what on earth happened?" Buffy didn't need introductions. "Hello. she reached out her hand and finding a paper towel in the dispenser. Darla knew she looked good. "Hello Buffy" Startled. she fought off the wave of panic that threatened to strike and instead forced a small smile to her lips. It's good to see you again" Her voice was remarkably calm. announcing that a new visitor had entered the building." Darla threw back her head and laughed as they descended the escalator at the mall. Splashing her face one last time.

get the right look. as Buffy fought through the confusion to join the pieces of the puzzle together. she had no choice but to rely on the generosity of others. Buffy was increasingly frustrated that she hadn't learned more about her past. But it hadn't stopped her. By now both her small hands were filled with carrier bags and Darla's poor joke about spending all of Liam's money wasn't that far from the truth. Family days out at the mall. "Come on. they flocked around her like moths to an open flame. I know this great pasta house. But not everything she saw was unknown. turned to the right and. she reflected on the short amount of time they had spent together and as much as she hated to admit it. As Buffy watched Darla move further away from her. She had tried purchasing just the basics but even doing that had left a large dent in her husband's credit card." Without another word. The fact that she had already tricked the bitch out of Liam's life once only added to her twisted confidence. For a few tantalising seconds they danced close to the surface of her memory but. she rolled her eyes and let out a deep sigh of relief that the shopping nightmare was finally coming to an end. Shops that were vaguely familiar caused little sparks to flare in her memory but the flashes were blurred and fleeting. Until her fragile memory returned. . occasionally rose up from the darkness of her shattered past and taunted her with half promises of remembering. Rejection had never been a problem before and as Darla stepped off the escalator and caught sight of her and Buffy's reflections in the large store window to her left. As much as Buffy hated shopping with Darla she knew it as an evil necessity. they quickly faded from her reach. swiftly moved away. attracting men had never been a problem. She hated feeling so useless and made a strong mental point to memorise every shop she was likely to need in the future. Darla placed her small shoe back on solid ground. All but one. with her mom and Dawn. Only one man had ever rejected her advances and that. You'll love it. That was the trouble with owning nothing but the clothing she stood up in. of course. Buffy stared at her silently for a few seconds and watched in wonder as her so called *friend* slinked almost catlike across the floor of the mall. she still knew absolutely nothing about this woman at all. she knew she wore it well. Although the shopping trip had proved a success. she knew without a doubt that it wouldn't be a problem now. For Darla. swinging her hips. Buffy's pale face and skinny body looked almost childish next to her stunning appearance. had to be the only man on earth she had ever really wanted. Struggling to keep up. Lost for words.

It was a set back and a bitter pill to swallow. she had known Buffy nearly all of their lives and there was no way on earth her rival would be able to pretend forever. **Stayed in bed with Liam** The unexpected thought of her husband brought a smile to her lips for the first time that afternoon. Darla had been content to just study Buffy from a safe distance and watch for any signs that her amnesia claim was nothing but a annoying sham. there was always plan B. But. when Darla had first stared into her troubled eyes. Darla's cunning eyes followed Buffy's every move but no matter how hard she tried. but she had no intention of ever allowing that happen again. From the moment Liam had told her about the accident and the convenient amnesia that had followed. woman Buffy Summers had always portrayed now seemed lost behind a dark wall of confusion. But she wasn't about to give up. Darla had been filled with doubts about its authenticity. Buffy sighed deeply and wished with all her heart that she had stayed in bed that morning. **William** As the two women worked their way out of the shopping area and on to the main street. the confidant. she watched and waited patiently for the girl she hated with a vengeance to trip up and show herself for the liar Darla believed she was. a cold dread replaced it with the memory of Will Pennington's devastating revaluation. strong. Darla Penn was convinced that Buffy's memory loss was all part of an elaborate trick to worm her way back into Liam's affections. With a smile planted firmly on her face.Darla had been quiet for most of the afternoon. Darla was convinced she would see through it in a heartbeat. But it didn't happen. She didn't seem to be pretending at all and it frustrated Darla all afternoon that she couldn't find a way to break through the masquerade and expose her rival as a fraud. Apart from the odd comment about a certain style of dress or the colour of a pair of leather pants. but if the amnesia was true and she really had lost all of her past memory. **Was he really her lover?** . she couldn't catch Buffy out with a single lie By the end of the afternoon she had no choice but to accept that the little ex-cheerleader was indeed telling the truth. But back at the gallery. just as the warm feeling washed over her heart.

Buffy's female intuition told her that Darla Penn was simply too good to be true. Darla. "Honey. There was simply nothing about this strange young woman that Buffy could relate too. she escaped to the ladies restroom. For some unknown reason Buffy suddenly understood how a fly would feel caught in a spider's web. It had nothing to do with her lack of memory. Come on. "There you are. that won't do at all" Her bright blue eyes sparkled and although Buffy was looking straight at her. Buffy felt too tired to put up any real form of resistance. Darla teased and grinned a row of perfect white teeth. Buffy found to her horror that Darla had not only ordered coffee she had also ordered the house special for both of them. the word *guilty* wouldn't release its sharp claws from her soul. Buffy. even best friends was becoming more alien with every passing minute. the last thing Buffy wanted at that moment in time was food. Darla Penn. The thought that they had once been close.**No no no no no no no no** Buffy fought to shut out of the handsome young man's face but no matter how hard she tried. on the other hand. Buffy found herself asking that question. she failed miserably to read the expression the other woman wore so carefully over her gaze. **Liam. Darla spun around. "If it's all the same to you I'd much rather go home and put my feet up for a few hours" She tried to refuse the offer of a meal but she was quickly dismissed. but when she finally returned to the table. I've been dying to talk to you properly ever since Liam told me you were home. After leaving her breakfast all over the gallery floor. where the hell are you when I need you?** For the second time that day. was a master at hiding her feelings and as the day wore on Buffy was beginning to feel more and more uncomfortable in her presence. Needing a few minutes alone to collect her thoughts. "Oh no. I insist we at least grab a cup of coffee. . like Liam. had no intention of taking no for an answer and at the determined look on her face. I thought for a moment you had *forgotten* where we were sitting" Looking up from the table. it's my treat" Darla steered Buffy through the door of the most expensive restaurant in Sunnydale and made a large fuss about getting the best table in the house.

"I was hoping you could fill in a few of the blanks" Buffy asked and totally ignored the glass of white wine the other woman placed in front of her. she sipped gratefully at her drink. " After all. I told him not to worry about you. "I just left a message for Liam. "Sure honey" Darla purred softly. she felt her stomach strongly protest.. I don't know about you Buffy. she pulled out the wooden chair opposite her companion and reluctantly sat down. and a whole lot more tiring. I've already ordered for you.. that's what best friends are for. but after spending all that money I'm suddenly ravenous" Darla laughed again and her smile grew even larger.She was trapped into spending more time with a person she really didn't like very much and in such a small environment. "Sorry. she filled the two tall glasses on the table with the clear cool liquid. "Now you can ask me all those questions I know you're just dying to ask" Darla picked up a bottle of house wine and.. the walls felt as if they were slowly closing in. knowing that there was simply no way of getting out without making a real fool of herself. Looking toward the exit Buffy surrendered gracefully."Buffy started to refuse again but was quickly interrupted. "I'm sorry Darla but I'm really not hungry." Buffy bit back the wave of nausea she felt bubble in her throat and raised her hand to stop . Slowly.. we were still catching up. But let's eat first and then you can ask what ever you want to know" "Eat? But I'm really not. **Come into my parlour said the spider to the fly** **Stop it** **Don't trust her** **STOP IT! ** While the voices deep inside her head battled with each other. Buffy cringed and realised that a long tiring day was just about to get a hell of a lot longer. With a frown Buffy looked up and on seeing the overflowing plates of food being brought to their table. and raising her own glass to her lips. I wasn't sure if your tastes were still the same so i just took a chance" Darla explained as their food arrived. ignoring Buffy's refusal.

"Whether you want the food or not. I can see the bones in your throat sticking right through your skin. "Would you like something else?" She asked as she hovered with the food but Buffy firmly shook her head. "Just leave it" She snapped and then realising her perfect image had slipped. Darla's voice seemed to carry across the whole restaurant. Darla raised her hand and pointed her finger across the table.the waitress lowering the plate of pasta and salad in front of her. she tilted her head towards the young girl and smiled sweetly "Thank you. She hadn't been working at the restaurant very long and this was the first time a meal had been sent back before the customer had even seen it. "Please. Buffy felt as if a dozen pairs of eyes were suddenly scrutinising her less than perfect appearance. "It doesn't matter if you're not hungry. She found herself wishing with all her heart that she could just get up from the table and run as far away from this overpowering woman as she possibly could." Much to Buffy's embarrassment. Buffy felt her stomach turn over for the fourth time in as many minutes. Buffy. Before she had a chance to defend herself. . Unconsciously." Lowering her glass. "Just a glass of water. For a few seconds the noise level dropped considerably and heads at nearly every table turned in their direction. Darla's loud voice was booming across the table once again. please" Seeing the waitress start to turn away. the small bones in question were easily felt beneath her fingertips. I promised Liam that I'd look after you and I never beak a promise" At that point Darla turned on her most concerned smile and almost sounded sincere. " Look! I really didn't want to have to say this but you look dreadful. dear" As the food was once again placed in front of her. Confused by Buffy's unusual reaction. you need to eat. Darla motioned for her to lower the plate anyway. you look anorexic.. honey. the young waitress hesitated for a moment unsure of what to do next." She raised her hand again but her refusal was quickly brushed aside. I really. she raised her hand to her throat and although she hated to admit that the damn woman was right..

First Liam had been suspicious and then William and now Darla. Dammit. and I'm not playing games. Darla laughed as she split open a bread roll and lifted the butter knife. "No. "You could say that. Just knocking that smug look from the other woman's face felt surprisingly good. The question was not only an insult it was extremely cruel. Lifting up a fork she proceeded to move a small amount of the food around her plate and hoped that Darla was too busy with her own meal to realise what she was doing. Why does every one keep asking me that. Now they were sitting only a few feet apart Buffy knew Darla could no longer avoid giving her the answers she so desperately needed to know. I'm not faking it. We were five and you stole my boyfriend" Buffy lifted a skeptical brow. Buffy took serious offence at the accusation. " You're not faking this. but when Darla looked deeply into the hazel orbs directly opposite her she knew with a pang of disappointment that they only shone back with the truth. "Liam told me we've known each other for a long time" The first question came easily. "I thought you broke my Barbie doll and I beat the crap out of you in the school yard" The spontaneous reply brought an unexpected glow of warmth and Buffy couldn't resist a tiny smile.With a tiny apologetic grin. With a sigh of defeat Buffy stared down at the food on her plate and while she really couldn't face eating anything. the young waitress finally placed the plate of hot pasta back in front of the anorexic looking woman and silently slipped away. Suddenly fresh hope sprung up that Buffy was playing a scam after all." She snapped. Her eyes flashed and she only cooled her temper when she realised that her voice had risen and the . Buffy was sick to death of that question. are you?" Her blue eyes flashed a quizzical look. "Why the hell would anybody want to fake amnesia? " Buffy demanded angrily.. "You remembered that?" Darla raised her eyes suspiciously and studied Buffy's face for fresh signs of deceit. Leaning forward she demanded an answer of her own. she didn't want to argue either..

Darla continued to prod. By the end of the evening she had tricked Buffy into believing her marriage was over and the stupid girl had fled into the night never to been seen again. It was perfect. After a week it was much smaller now but there was still enough of a bump left to prove the accident hadn't been a complete figment . Darla still needed to delve a little deeper. That time everything had ran so smoothly that Darla could hardly believe her luck. " So. It had been such a difficult time. I guess it must be true because I've still got the lump to prove it. deep breath. On that small thought Darla knew the amnesia story had to be on the level. Leaning back in her seat. calm down. how much do you remember?" Buffy sighed. Buffy chewed down on her lower lip and considered the question. "Honey. "That's what the doctor told me. Or it would have been if she had just stayed lost. "Liam said you hit your head?" Still needing her own answers. **Bloody accident** Darla silently cursed the event that had brought Buffy home. You're right. Although she was now ninety-nine percent convinced that the amnesia was true. When asked she had recited the name of the president with ease but for the life of her she hadn't been able to remember her own name. Why would anybody want to fake amnesia?" In the blink of an eye Darla's* I really am your best friend* voice was firmly back in place. Everything she had planned rested with the foolish girl believing and trusting her completely." The frustration she felt returned to her voice as Buffy recalled the first few hours after waking in hospital. I could remember a few ordinary. Darla dropped the suspicion she was showing and replaced her expression with laughter. Just as she had done the last time their paths had crossed. everyday things but almost nothing about my personal life. "When I first woke up after the accident. It had played out just as she had planned. my mind was almost a blank.occupants of both surrounding tables had stopped eating again and were now looking across with renewed curiosity. letting out a long. I believe you." She raised her hand slightly and let her fingertips slide across the slight swelling that was still on the side of her head. The last thing she wanted was for Buffy not to trust her. There was no way Buffy could have faked not remembering that little encounter.

but the last few days have brought back a few memories. Free for her. When she started talking again her voice was much softer. Sadly mind reading wasn't one of her talents and in her state of ignorance. "At first I was terrified that I'd never recover any of my past. "The crash must have been pretty horrific" She didn't really need to ask. Buffy let her guard down and the two women started chatting like they really could have once been friends. At the act of concern Buffy started to forget her earlier fears that this woman could not be trusted and felt her body relax. "That must be so creepy" she sympathised with all the skill of an award winning actress. Darla remembered watching the pictures on her TV screen without even knowing that the girl she had tried to destroy a few months earlier was now amongst the victims. who pretended to be her friend. The irony was.of her imagination. the shadow of not knowing would remain. and haunt her every waking moment. Buffy's anger slipped away. Darla reached out across the table and unexpectedly gripped her hand. There were so many blank pages of her lost life she needed to fill in before she could even hope to reclaim her past. As her fingertips touched a nerve. She was so in need of somebody to talk to that common . Feelings more than anything else but there was also a few family faces. If Buffy could have read her thoughts she would have been horrified to learn just how much this woman. "The hardest thing is not knowing who I am. Buffy winced slightly in pain and for the first time since coming face to face. Liam would be free. As she continued to push the food around her plate with the back of her fork." Buffy smile sadly as she remembered her mother and Dawnie's happy faces grinning across the breakfast table each morning. Buffy's death meant only one thing. It feels like I have this huge shadow hanging over me and it's suffocating me with frustration. almost distant." Buffy opened her heart and revealed the true extent of her pain. Darla felt a small jolt of pity. If Buffy Angelus had died that day all of Darla's problems would have died along with her. Until that past was returned. Without noticing it. Darla already knew the answer. Not that it really mattered. or who I was. The New York coach crash had been so dreadful that footage of the accident was even covered on the Sunnydale evening news. That was just how she felt. really hated her.

Inside her chest. the forgotten affair started to feel terrifyingly real again. "Because the guy's madly in love with you. Darla stopped and repeated Buffy's question. her heart was beating so fast Buffy swore the word *guilty* shone brightly in her terrified eyes. ." "William?" Buffy choked slightly as the pasta she had attempted to swallow got stuck in her throat. All my dreams for the future have disappeared into a deep black hole " Darla didn't have time to smirk. because Buffy's next words sent a bolt of cold fear straight to her heart. "Why?" She laughed. Darla was frantic to destroy the newfound feelings Buffy was confessing she had discovered. "It is. I bet he didn't take being forgotten too well. He tells me *everything*" When she look up. William Pennington's my brother. "Why would William be upset?" She asked. She had hoped with all her heart that William had been lying. but suddenly with Darla mentioning his name. "But luckily Liam's been wonderful" As Buffy proceeded to explain everything that had happened since returning to Sunnydale. Darla fought with all her might to keep her seething face expressionless. Outside her body language portrayed the very vision of concern but inside. "Who told you that?" Darla rolled her eyes.sense was pushed to one side. nervously hoping the question sounded innocent. "Duh! Buffy. her cool blue eyes were now positively twinkling with mischief. He has been for nearly two years" Buffy felt sick. "But what about poor William. Raising her glass of wine once again to her lips. For reasons she wasn't quite sure of Buffy wasn't about to admit anything. it's like I'm living in limbo.

It suddenly hit her like a bolt out of the blue." Darla laughed and her smile grew as she noticed how uncomfortable Buffy appeared. She needn't have worried. Although the facts were staring her plainly in the face Buffy still wasn't about to confess. "Brother" Buffy couldn't think straight as she ran her eyes over the small blonde woman facing her and took in the family resemblance. She knew. still clinging to the belief that Will had been lying about their relationship. that you had been for awhile" She kept her face expressionless and prayed Buffy couldn't hear the rapid beating of her excited heart. Same father. Buffy was too troubled to hear anything. "He told me that you were lovers. He might have boasted to his sister that they were lovers but unless she had told Darla herself. " Half brother actually. Buffy went cold. she needed to know the truth and she needed to know it now. "What did he tell you about us?" Darla laughed again. Buffy still refused to believe it. Darla placed her fork down on the table with a loud sigh. The tiny speck of hope she had held in her heart that the affair was all in William's mind was being completely blown apart. . P. But he's my darling brother all right. "Please. She didn't care if Darla was eating. which is why he speaks with that silly accent. William knew and now Darla. do you really want me to go into all the sordid details while we're eating" "Tell me" Buffy repeated as calmly as possible.Pennington?" Buffy stuttered as the name fell into place. Especially to an affair she couldn't remember. He changed his name slightly because he thinks in his line of work it sounds more romantic. "But did *I* ever tell you we were having an affair?" Buffy pleaded. William lived in England until two years ago. The hair colour was slightly different but there was definitely something around the eyes. The affair was no longer a dirty secret."Penn.

I'm sure if you ask the staff they will confirm this?" "But that doesn't mean.. Of course he might have covered it up after you left him. To be honest Buffy.. She didn't have any appetite to start with but now the smell of the food was making her sick again. **But let her suffer for a while before that happens. She could see that Buffy was already falling for William's lies and it warmed her heart. She wanted to come right out and tell her every word her brother had told her was true but that was too easy. Darla wanted Buffy to suffer with the knowledge that she had cheated on her husband. . if he knew about you two he never said anything to me. After all. Despite the warm day she felt cold. **Was that where the underlying anger she sensed in him came from** "Liam?. Her companion frowned for a second before carefully hiding the expression. "I'm saying that William was at your gallery nearly every afternoon Buffy. Forcing herself to look up Buffy asked the question that had burned in her mind from the second William had first dropped his bombshell. She knew Buffy would never be able to hide that kind of secret and the pressure to tell Liam would rip them apart."Not directly. although William's earlier words had already confirmed that suspicion. "Do you think Liam knew?" Buffy shuddered at the idea. Do you expect me to believe you were only having tea and crackers when you locked yourselves in that little office for all hours" she smirked with satisfaction At Buffy's pained look Darla knew she had hit the mark.. Liam is a proud man" **You left him once and now you're right back where you started** "So I did leave him?" Buffy asked quietly." Buffy started to protest but Darla cut her off with a wave of her hand. **I've had you on that office floor more times than I can count ** Buffy looked down at the food on her plate. Buffy was well and truly suckered. Let her beat herself up with the fear of the affair becoming public** "What are you saying?" Buffy repeated her question. "Oh sure. but the two of you were hardly discreet" "What are you saying?" Darla rolled her eyes.

**Maybe she would be better off running away from all this madness and starting a new life. Darla chewed her lip.** Without even trying. No sweet lips to kiss away your tears. No ties. She had expected Liam to throw that little detail right in her face. "I don't know. Liam Angelus was all she had been able to see. "Buffy?" She spoke just loud enough to break through the lost woman's reverie. Darla waited for a moment. the questions answered themselves. She wanted the man that made her heart race with just a single glance. giving Buffy just enough time to get used to the lie. No strong arms to hold you in the dark. Buffy looked up and her eyes flickered. Darla felt real panic now as she watched the play of emotions cover Buffy's face. I wish I did" She finally replied and even as the words left her mouth she started to feel her heart ache. Twice.. she hadn't been counting on that. She knew precisely what her rival was thinking. no problems. she could reinvent herself and start all over again.. She hope against hope that the statement was wrong but when Darla finally nodded her head. she was losing her battle to send the girl . From the ghostly colour of her face she knew it wouldn't be too long before Buffy's shattered life imploded "What now? Will you leave him again?" Buffy shrugged her small shoulders and her face crumbled into a mask of confusion. Buffy didn't want a new life and she didn't want a forgotten lover. What did the past really matter. From the moment she had opened her eyes in that hospital room. "I really walked out on him?" Buffy found that piece of information the hardest to deal with. She wanted the man she had fallen in lust with at first sight. the last fragment that a mistake had been made was lost. The only thoughts that danced in the dark corners of her mind were **Did she want to lose Liam again so soon after rediscovering him ** and **Would her life be better without him?** Both questions brought more pain than she wanted to admit.. if she was being honest."He never told you?" Buffy shook her head. No Liam. At the hesitation Darla started to get nervous.

She loved Liam. Darla had almost convinced the heartbroken man that Buffy was the worse mistake of his life. I might have forgotten nearly all my life but my feelings are returning faster than my memories and one thing I'm very sure about. Buffy wasn't supposed to fall in love with Liam. Buffy was still too caught up in her own new plans to notice the change in her companion." As she . when William kissed me I felt nothing. then maybe he still loves me too. But just as Liam was beginning to respond to her.running and it scared her to death. whatever pain I caused him I want to make it right. I'm sorry but don't feel anything for your brother at all. "Buffy. As Darla finished her drink. Snatching up the wine bottle. In her ignorance." She argued. If Liam came all the way to New York to bring me home." "And Liam. For her. it's like the lights dim everywhere else. the conversation was about to go from bad to worse. The smile that flickered at the corner of Buffy's lips was all the conformation she needed to fear the worse. her blood was beginning to freeze. this was the last one she had considered." With the words came the relief. If there's anyway to save my marriage I'm determined to find it. "I was thinking. I want to make it up to him.. the accident had sent him running back to New York and weeks of turning him against Buffy had collapsed. "When Liam's around. She wanted only Liam** "But you left him.. I don't remember him yet but I already know I still love him.?" Darla struggled to keep the bitterness she felt from her voice but inside her veins. **She loved him. Of all the scenarios that had played out in her head. my brother loves you and inside your mind. Darla. I don't. underneath all that confusion. she was supposed to run off with William leaving her to pick up the pieces of his broken heart all over again. Darla refilled her glass and swallowed the contents as if she was drinking water on a hot day. "But that's the trouble. you feel the same way about him.. The smile that was growing on Buffy's face was starting to make her feel ill. vainly trying to recover some lost ground. There were no longer any doubts in her mind. After successfully destroying their marriage the last time. You couldn't have loved him if you ran away" Darla started to lose control as all her well thought out plans started to crumble around her. the wine rushed straight to her head but it did little to help her mood.

**If William really cared about her surely he would want her to be happy? ** Buffy suddenly felt very tired. Darla. hoping she had read William Pennington's character as well as she thought.finished the rush of words Buffy sighed with relief. " Don't worry about Will. I'll talk to him and explain everything. the two blonde women walked to the door of the restaurant. . Darla looked across the table and reached out her hands to clasp Buffy's fingers. Not sure of how to proceed Darla played the last card she could think of. Buffy. She now knew exactly what she wanted to do. I hope he understands" Buffy spoke wishfully. She and Liam needed to have a long talk and maybe then they could decide where their future lay. It had been a long day and all she wanted to do was head for her home and try and put the mess that had over taken her life into some sort of order. "William seemed like a fair person. **The ink on the divorce paper was almost dry and Buffy would never see it coming** With the new plan taking shape Darla felt better but she wasn't home and dry yet. "Thanks. She wanted to make a life with Liam and she wanted to tell him how she felt as soon as possible. What would I do without you" Buffy replied and for the first time she felt as if a large weight had been removed from her small shoulders. "And you really think that William is going to let you?" She asked sympathetically but inside she was seething with rage.** Darla realised. **As long as Buffy couldn't remember the truth she couldn't deny the affair. If Buffy wouldn't leave her husband then maybe she and William would help Liam leave Buffy. Suddenly the amnesia she so wanted to be a lie was becoming her best ally. Darla started to feel a tiny ray of hope. **William really did love the little bitch so it wouldn't be too hard convincing him to make as much trouble for Buffy and Liam as was possible** With that thought. When their bill was settled. **Why would he want to stay with her when she was screwing another man?** The ray of hope started to grow. Liam was far too proud to stand by a cheating wife. I'm sure I can make him see things from our perspective" The happy woman was purring again as her confidence returned.

" If you think for one second that I'm going to stand back and let you and *my* Liam live happily ever after. With the nod of her head. but whatever we had is over. It has to be" Buffy turned and before Darla had a chance to reply she climbed into the back of a waiting cab and was gone. please tell him that I'm sorry.. "Try not to worry. **When you see William.** The explanation made a lot of sense. **Admit it. Believe me" She whispered her reassurances with almost believable sincerity.Before leaving Darla turned and smiled as she hugged Buffy close. but this time. please tell him that I'm sorry. After spending almost every second of the last two weeks in Liam's company. She might not remember falling in love with the man the first time around. you couldn't be more wrong. it's like the lights dim everywhere else. That *my dear girl* is a real promise. When he's not around you really miss him. I'm going to rip you two so far apart that you'll never become a problem again. Buffy smiled her thanks again and pulled way.. Walking up to the front door with her arms filled with parcels. it was an entirely different story. Buffy knew the feelings she had for Liam went a lot deeper than just missing him. I don't remember him . the house was dark and empty when Buffy returned from her depressing encounter with Darla." **And I never break a promise** To her surprise. his unexpected absence felt strangely unsettling. As the taillights disappeared around the corner taking Buffy back to her husband. Everything will work itself out for the best. but whatever we had is over. **When Liam's around. "When you see William. the real hatred Darla was feeling broke free and flashed dangerously across her face. After the events of the last twenty-four hours. but it didn't quite hit the mark. Summers. right** Standing in the doorway of the restaurant. the peaceful stillness that greeted the exhausted girl caused a shudder of disappointment to slide the full length of her tired body. Darla started to laugh. Buffy. It has to be** **Yeah.

**It's Will. **Was she really the sort of woman who could run out on a husband who had obviously loved her and yet leave no explanation for her actions? ** **The sort of woman who took a lover after less than two years of marriage?** The reply to her questions brought a small amount of comfort. **You left him once and now you're right back where you started** As she closed the door behind her with a deep sigh of regret.. no matter how hard she tried. three months after leaving Sunnydale?** . Buffy. Buffy sighed as she struggled to find her keys. for the first time since the accident. After spending days looking for answers she realised.** ** When he breaks your heart again. **If William loved her as much as he said he did.. If not handled carefully. both thoughts seemed impossible to accept. Buffy still couldn't remember being the person who had lived in this house just four months earlier.I'll still be here and Buffy. **You might have run out on a husband but you didn't run away with a lover** Ever since William had dropped his little bombshell.. one thought wouldn't leave her alone. ** Buffy Angelus. that maybe something's in life really were better left forgotten.yet but I already know I still love him** A warm smile started to spread across her face but before she had the chance to enjoy it. From the feelings she was receiving from her heart. I'll still love you** Reaching in her purse.** **A liar? ** **A cheat?** With a shudder Buffy shook the unpleasant words from her head. why hadn't he been with her in New York? Why was she travelling on that bus all on her own. William Pennington. the new knowledge she now possessed could possibly destroy any chance she might have of ever being happy with Liam again.. a new voice entered Buffy's head and the smile that had started so readily died on her lips.

**Maybe she could tell Liam the truth?** **And lose him** . no matter what anyone told her. the shattered young woman might have had some chance of seeing through the masquerade that was being cleverly played out in front of her. **If Liam finds out about William he'll be the one leaving this time** Buffy stood at the kitchen sink and filled the kettle. .**Maybe because it's all Bullshit** Deep in her heart Buffy knew that there was something very wrong with the picture in front of her. in turn. It couldn't be William because Darla had backed up his story. the empty rooms just felt like any other bricks and mortar.. **Why would they both lie to her? What could they possibly gain that would make their deception worth all their trouble? ** In her right mind. trusted her brother. anything to take her mind off the events of the day. But with her past temporarily wiped out and her future uncertain. but. *** Walking through the empty rooms of her childhood home. She didn't really want a drink but she needed to do something. For the time being Buffy knew she had no choice but to trust all three of them. Without his presence.. Those thoughts refused to stay silent. she couldn't put her finger on what part of the equation was troubling her the most. she still smelt a rat.. Buffy had no idea which direction the deceit was coming from. try as she might. Liam obviously trusted Darla and Darla. Buffy felt the loneliness close in all around her. It was strange how the house only felt like a home when Liam was around. **William's a liar? ** She shook her head. **Darla's a liar as well? ** Again Buffy shook the thought from her mind. However.

**But you need to talk to Liam and you need to do it tonight** With a deep sigh of regret Buffy reluctantly struggled back up on her feet. kicked off her shoes and sat down.** **But then there was always the chance that if Liam found out later she would still lose him** "Let's face it. felt so comfortable and welcoming that every weary bone in her body pleaded for her to just swing her legs over the side of the bed and disappear into the warmth of the covers. but a shower would be all right. The liquid therapy cascaded down over her bowed head and worked its magic on her shoulders. Buffy felt as if she was flying high above the clouds without a . ***** After the day she had just gone through. she let the full force of the spray pound against her flesh washing away all the pain of the last twelve hours. The softness. she knew a scented bubble bath was out of the question.**Or she could hope that William left her in peace. which Buffy sank into. As the steam started to fill the shower. Buffy felt as if she could easily sleep for a week. For a few blissful seconds. Buffy leant forward and rested her two small hands flat against the shower wall for support. When a tidal wave of exhaustion crept up and rolled over her. Buffy walked naked to the bathroom and setting the water for blisteringly hot she stepped in to the shower and closed the door behind her. her taut muscles slowly starting to relax as the stinging needles hit every inch of her aching body. far too relaxing. As the long day and all its complications finally caught up with her. Walking into her bedroom. Dropping the clothes she had worn that day in a tidy pile on her bed. Buffy closed her eyes and in trying to clear her head of all thoughts. with a sigh of relief. she dropped all of her shopping bags on the left side of her bed and. I'm dammed if I tell him and I'm dammed if I don't" With a heavy heart Buffy climbed the stairs to her bedroom. spine and buttocks before pooling at her feet and finally draining away. Buffy was so exhausted all she wanted to do was stand under a blistering hot shower for a few hours and then crawl into bed. Within seconds she was standing under a hot spray of steamy water. A long hot shower was possibly the only thing likely to chase away the slumber that had serious designs on her body.

but the woman staring back at her looked a lot better than she had a few days earlier. Buffy quickly shampooed her hair in the last of the tepid waters and stepped out of the shower before being blasted with an icy spray. Buffy jumped to her feet with a wide grin across her face. The sudden sound of movement downstairs caused her to turn her head and. that only a ghostly outline of her bruising remained and the thin pink line where her face had been stitched back together was quickly fading from sight. **Liam** In her excitement. fluffy towel and returned to her bedroom feeling a lot brighter. On hearing the water running in the shower above. wondering how her shopping trip with Darla had gone. He and Buffy had made love in that shower more times than he could count and the thought that they would never do it again brought a sharp sting of regret to his heart. he had been more than a little surprised to discover Buffy was already home. Feeling relaxed for the first time that day.care in the world. ***** Angel was pouring himself a drink when his wife entered the room. Dressed in just her bra and panties Buffy sat in front of her bedroom mirror and combed the tangles from her blonde hair. and cooled. thankfully. but he had just spent the whole afternoon missing her. Seeing his friend could hardly concentrate for more than a few seconds at a time. when her name was called. . Arriving home. Buffy was almost out of the bedroom door before she realised to her horror that she was still in her underwear. Whether it was the effects of the relaxing shower she wasn't sure. but when Darla left a message saying they were still catching up. Angel had disappointedly carried on with his work. He wouldn't have admitted it. reality returned and sent her crashing back to earth with a shiver. if only I could remove the scars on my mind that easily" Buffy sighed wishfully as she brushed just a hint of colour to her cheeks. she dried herself with a large. But bliss never lasts for long. Mourning the warmth leaving her skin. She still looked very tired and far too thin for her liking but Buffy noticed. "Now. it took all of Angel's restraint not to pull open the bathroom door and join her. When the water temperature changed. Lindsey had offered to stand in for him at their afternoon meeting. A light touch of makeup was all it took to hide the last remaining evidence that she had ever been in an accident at all.

"I wasn't talking about the dress" He lifted his dark hungry eyes and the heated gaze that devoured her body caused Buffy to blush almost to the roots of her hair. Angel looked over and smiled. Really" Angel chuckled softly and without taking his eyes from her face he moved a silent step forward. The sight before him made it impossible to speak calmly. "You're wrong. "R. I can see the bones in your throat sticking right through your skin. A terrible liar. At the pain he heard in her voice. " I know I'm only a shadow of the girl you married. ** At the painful memory. Buffy. "So. Angel watched her for a moment. remember" The smile that kissed the corners of her mouth was already fading. fighting to keep his tone level but it was a waste of effort. Admittedly she looked better than she had a few days earlier. **Look! I really didn't want to have to say this but you look dreadful. but knowing they couldn't be true. "Yes. as she continued to erase a non-existent crease from the dress. At the compliment Buffy smiled. Buffy's confidence started to tumble. Angel shook his head. wanting desperately to believe in his words. "You're sweet. noting the tension that seemed to radiate from her body. I've seen the wedding video. "Thank you. You're exactly the girl I married" He replied truthfully. Really? " She stuttered nervously and felt a rush of blood surge to her head. Angel almost missed when the object of his daydream started to speak. I wasn't sure about the colour at first" She replied quietly. honey.So lost in his memories of wet bodies and loud moaning. Putting down his now empty glass. but she was a shell of the woman she used to be. . What do you think?" Buffy asked shyly and moved her hands over the soft material of her new dress. "Breath-taking" He replied. Buffy sighed. but sweet" Her voice started with a small smile but Darla's cruel words were never more than a breath away.

. Buffy" He admitted truthfully and knew he was leaving himself wide open. Buffy hesitated for a moment. "You're the only woman who has ever done that to me" Angel's hands slipped over her shoulders. Buffy looked doubtful for a moment... She took a deep breath. Buffy swallowed the lump of self-pity that had risen in her throat and her fingers ran lightly across her collarbone. not skinny little things like her. but just as she was about to ask him to explain. covering her small hand with his and lowering it away from her throat." **You look dreadful** Darla's voice continued its torment. she felt the rapid beat of Liam's heart pounding beneath her fingertips. full of fire and spirit and when Angel had finally caught his breath after her attack. Buffy. his heart aching as he saw the need for reassurance in her troubled eyes. which made her breasts swell up against the soft material of her new dress." He licked his lips nervously..." But I look. Raising her head.." Angel smiled softly into her eyes as he related the memory of their first meeting. Look " Without another word he picked up her trembling hand and brought it to rest lightly over his chest. their eyes met in understanding. he knew in a heartbeat that she was the most beautiful creature he had ever laid eyes on. before she had a chance to blink Angel was in front of her. unsure of his meaning. Angel nodded his head and almost groaned out loud. "You constantly take my breath away. But. " You have from the very first moment you marched into my office at Wolfram and Hart and threatened to kick my ass if I even tried to take Dawn away from you. as if the words were so unbelievable they couldn't possibly be real. . her husband was strongly disagreeing with her. "I really do that?" Buffy asked in amazement. But from the look on his face. "You do that to me every time you walk into a room. She had been so angry that day. Not to me. "That's not important. before continuing. Women like Darla took men's breath away.

**Kissing her. As he watched her come to terms with the revelation. but suddenly their lips were touching. now dark with passion. holding her. Angel's dark gaze bore directly into Buffy's eyes and he waited for her response. the unexpected passion in Buffy's shining hazel eyes sent a shiver right down his spine. Touching the side of his face tenderly. It seemed to her that the breathlessness now worked both ways. and her hips pressing against him so tightly that there was no mistaking how much he wanted her. Angel moaned as his tongue slipped into her warm mouth and a million memories of kissing Buffy swam painfully around his head.** . Angel knew at that moment that they were both incredibly vulnerable. her small breasts pushing against the hard wall of his chest. Buffy gasped. Angel wasn't sure who moved first.. With a gasp. she smiled and looked into his chocolate eyes.. as her breath caught deep in her throat. Tilting his head slightly. Buffy reached up and slipped her arms tightly around his neck. it was almost a silent caress that brushed softly over his skin and soaked deep into his lonely soul. melting together so urgently that the spark they created almost set his blood on fire. making love to her. but straight from her heart "Angel" The name was less than a sigh. He didn't need to wait long. When Buffy finally spoke. but made no attempt to move. ringing with a conviction that tore at her soul. When he looked up. he ached in places he had almost forgotten existed these last four months. he slowly drew her closer until their bodies were locked together. "I missed you so much" His voice was husky and raw. **How on earth could I have forgotten this** Every particle of her being cried out as her body ached for his touch.Deciding that actions would be better than words. Closing his own eyes and deepening their kiss. Their bodies were pressing so closely together that Angel could feel the heat radiating from her skin. He wanted her so much. but he didn't care. the word came not from her lost memory.

" Angel replied. I always wanted you" "But I don't understand?" Angel sighed and held out his hand. He watched as Buffy struggled to accept his words and knew that she was finding the situation even harder to understand then he was. "Did I do something wrong?" Buffy whispered again as a small frown marred her beautiful face. Only they didn't share them any more. not while you still can't remember" "You don't want me?" Buffy hated the tremor that appeared in her voice as she spoke. body and soul but he had simply rejected her** "Not want you?" Angel laughed. **She's kissing you but she still doesn't really know you** "I can't do this" Panting for breath. heart. me wanting you was never the problem. running his hand through his hair with sheer frustration.Every memory they had ever shared. Squeezing his eyes shut for a moment to cut out the pain he saw Angel shook his head. "Liam?" When Angel stepped back even further her large troubled eyes filled with pain and rejection. " Buffy. "Buffy I want you so much I'm physically in pain. Taking a deep breath. she simply couldn't prevent it. As he stood back his heartbeat thundered so loud in his ears that he thought it was in serious danger of exploding Immediately missing the intimacy of his body pressing against hers. " I shouldn't be taking advantage of you. The memories were now only his. "No" His voice was barely a whisper. . **She had been ready to give herself to Liam.. Buffy looked up with confusion.. The cool chuckle rattled through the room with deep felt bitterness. but the sound that fell from his lips held no amusement. he continued in a much softer tone.. but no matter how hard she tried. Angel reluctantly broke the kiss and gently pushed away.

as quickly as it had appeared. The look on Liam's face was the same unreadable mask he had worn at the hospital. it was hidden Standing in silence she watched and waited as the contents of a long envelope were then poured onto the table." Slowly. From the second he had taken Buffy's small hand and led her into the study. searching for any sign of recognition that the two rings had triggered a memory. a tiny voice deep inside his head protested that this was possibly the biggest mistake of his life. dreamed about for weeks and yet. The two small golden rings danced as they hit the hard wooden desktop. he would never forgive himself. Two rings and a folded sheet of paper. Angel nervously licked his lips. he led her towards his study and on reaching his desk. This was the moment he had waited for. they had no choice but to confront the past. Gripping the now empty envelope tightly in his hand. He knew this was a pivotal moment and his dark enigmatic eyes swept eagerly over his wife's face. No matter how painful. **They couldn't** If he and Buffy were ever to have any kind of a future together. no matter how hard he tried to convince himself that Buffy knowing was for the best. Angel knew that there was no turning back. Taking a deep breath that did little to ease the tension knotting his insides. Buffy felt her heart lurch in sudden panic. As uncomfortable seconds slipped into eternity. Angel pulled open the top drawer. For a second she swore she caught a fleeting look of anger but. If the information Buffy was about to learn upset her and she ran away again. Angel stood quietly by his desk. **But how could they continue to live in the dark** Angel already knew the answer."Then maybe it's time I told you the truth. each reverberating in a spiralling circle before coming to rest in the silent room. Angel's heartbeat thundered in his ears and a thin sheen of sweat coated his palms. .

When a surge of fear and anticipation swept over her shocked body and threatened to send her spinning towards a black. Emotions she didn't understand rose to the surface of her consciousness only to submerge and leave her feeling confused and bereft. Next to the folded sheet of writing paper. Buffy thought back to the day she had woken up in the hospital. For a moment. Angel cut off the annoying buzz of the alarm clock that had not only jolted him awake from his slumber. Confronted with the sight before her. silent abyss. As he stood watching the turmoil play across her features. but had also ripped him from the most wonderfully erotic dream. Not wanting to make a fuss about a little bit of jewellery when so many of the other passengers had died. Looking for something to cling to. Laying back against the soft fluffy pillows. mesmerised by the two tiny bands of gold that now lay glistening on the dark wooden desk. She had questioned her lack of rings then but at the time there had been so much confusion following the accident that nobody could confirm ever seeing them.The truth was so close now he could almost taste it. he relived that last fateful day over and over in his own memory. ~*~*~* Four months earlier~*~*~ 6. The day when his once perfect world had cracked and splintered all around him. The rings called out to her. Once she had returned home the subject hadn't rose again. Struggling to stay in the land of reality. Angel's heart leap as Buffy moved her right thumb over the naked third finger on her left hand. . Until now. but no matter how far Buffy reached. she reached out a trembling hand and gripped the edge of the desk to prevent herself from toppling in. her horrified eyes froze. Almost too afraid to hope. tiny whispers floated inside her head like a lost dream. the memories slipped through her fingers like the early morning mist. flickers of something resembling pain danced behind Buffy's eyelids as her memory taunted and teased her. Buffy accepted the loss without question. the simple wedding band and a diamond solitaire engagement ring called out to her tormented mind to remember. a large satisfying grin crept across his handsome features as the last fragments of his night time fantasy lingered on the edge of his memory. Buffy found she could no longer breath. 45am Slinging out a long muscular arm.

its time to get up" Keeping her eyes firmly closed. Buffy looked so utterly adorable that he felt his heart constrict as he was swamped by a whole range of emotions. Angel leant forward and brushed his lips softly across Buffy's rosebud mouth. this really was the greatest way to wake up. Angel still marvelled at how fortunate his life had become. inviting his tongue deeper into her mouth. Buffy snuggled closer. "Wake up sleepy head. flashed by far too quickly. From the first moment the petite blonde girl had breezed into his life. Still happily in the land of dreams. It was the same game every morning. Both were putting off the separation for as long as they could. Meeting Buffy Summers and making her his wife was his greatest blessing. . he swept a stray lock of silky blonde hair away from Buffy's cheek and thrilled at the smoothness beneath his fingertips. Stirring slightly. Although he had an early breakfast meeting planned with Lindsey.**He and Buffy would definitely have to put that little dream into practice sometime in the very near future** As his thoughts turned to the sleeping woman by his side. she had changed it forever. For a few blissful minutes. Angel dropped a feather light kiss on the tip of her nose. Love. And that was the blessing Angel thanked God for every morning he woke up. Buffy snuggled in to his side and pretended not to have heard the wakeup call. Buffy sighed softly in recognition of her mate and parted her lips. passion and pride. loyalty. some things in life really were more important. Angel was content just to watch his wife sleep. As the digital seconds on the bedside clock. Even after almost two years of marriage. "Just a few more minutes" Her warm breath brushed against his shoulder. She adored the warmth of his hard body pressing against her skin and always made waking up last as long as possible. before a full day in court. Softly reaching over. "I know you're awake" Angel's soft voice teased. For Buffy. She touched him in ways he couldn't even begin to explain. Angel turned his head and the smug expression was quickly replaced with a tender smile. Smiling at her response. and unable to put off their inevitable parting any longer.

You haven't forget that Cordy is flying in this weekend?" Buffy rolled her eyes. "I guess we could pretend to be out when she calls" Buffy grinned this time and Angel started to chuckle.. It's almost 7am " When Buffy felt his warm body moving away from her. ** Angel silently groaned again. "You are so evil " His fingers continued to caress her skin with feather-light circles. They would lock the door to the outside world and just focus on making each other as perfectly happy as was humanly possible. As work commitments returned to his mind. Buffy gave a little moan as her blood started to flow faster along her veins. Angel quirked an eyebrow "Then we could stay in bed all day" Buffy was teasing him and her eyes sparkled. With Dawnie away at school now. their weekends together had become a time they both cherished.With a groan of disappointment. Buffy didn't really resent Angel's sister paying a visit. "She's only in town for a few days" Angel smiled. . "I'm sure you have a hundred things to do today. "As much as I'd love to spend the whole day in bed with you. "You could always ring in sick" She smiled seductively. he then slipped his hand beneath the sheets and ran his fingertips across the naked flesh of his wife's tight stomach. she just hated having to share him with anybody. because she knew for a split second that he was actually considering the idea.. Angel started to sit up. She loved it when he flirted with her. No.. **Maybe they could try that dream?. this time he would have to regretfully pass up the offer. he knew as tempting as a day in bed with Buffy sounded. "How could I possibly forget a visit from your dear sister" She sighed but her voice was full of mischief. she finally opened her sleepy hazel eyes.

. she felt her lover shiver in anticipation. When he purposely missed touching her breasts."I know. Buffy giggled. "Okay. I love your body. deliberately sensual smile that he knew always melted Buffy's heart "Well. he kissed her eyelids. "Throw in a night of red hot sex and you have a deal" "You're insatiable " "What can I say. " Because Cordelia's going to be here all weekend. her nose. he reached up and softly stroked her cheek Buffy lifted her eyelashes and her eyes sparkled with mischief.. Sliding closer. before moving to claim her warm willing lips . but that's why you love me" Buffy flirted right back. you're going to make me *so* late this morning" As their lips met in a deep searing kiss all thoughts of court cases. he used a slow. " Especially when it's inside of mine" The smoky passion reflected in her eyes was too much for her husband's restraint. Stop crawling. how about I spoil you tonight instead. brushing against the skin in away he knew would drive her crazy. " His soft velvety voice started with a purr that sent shivers through his wife's blood. "God.." Angel's fingertips moved slowly up her ribcage. her cheeks. sisters and the outside world were temporally forgotten. "Oh. A romantic dinner for two. followed by a night at the bronze. really. a cool shiver of need flooded her body as Angel's expert thumbs teased her sensitive nipples. Angel groaned and rolled her over on to her back. She knew immediately that he wasn't playing fair. And there I was thinking I loved you because you were smart and sexy and funny and beautiful and ." Buffy snaked out a slender arm and running it over the firm abs of Angel's muscular chest. Buffy gasped. leaning forward. For the young lovers. Angel levered up on one elbow. What do you think?" Bringing his hand from beneath the sheets. but within one beat of her heart. their time together was far too short and making love far too much fun. Your sister can stay " With a chuckle. "You're so beautiful" Angel murmured softly as his large hands gently cupped his wife's warm breasts.

"I'm going to be so late" *** Later that night Closing the door of his car. and he laughed. The small bedroom was then filled with gentle moans and soft sighs as the lovers satisfied their need for each other to the full. causing Buffy to arch up and thread her fingers though his hair. Angel had spent the last two hours calming a nearly hysterical client. The damn woman always called at the most inconvenient times. If it had been any other client. Letting out a low breathy moan. Sliding her hands down over his broad shoulders. **Bloody Darla Penn** Angel cursed again as he struggled with the most enormous bunch of yellow roses. she reached the tight muscles of his butt and set up a gentle kneading motion. reality kicked back in. Instead of having a romantic meal with his wife. he would have handed the whole matter over to the police and let . who swore her ex-lover. she felt the strength of his desire and insistently twined her legs about his body. He had promised Buffy a night out and he was already two hours late. pressing him closer. His tongue tickled and swirled around her sensitive nipple. After ravishing her mouth with long cool strokes of his tongue. As his body surged against her. was trying to break into her house. Thirty minutes later Angel laid back against his pillow and letting out a deep sigh of contentment. content just to hold each other as the world passed them by. Angel muttered a silent curse as his eyes caught sight of the time.again. closed his eyes "I love you" Buffy softly kissed his shoulder. Buffy dug her fingers deep into Angel's shoulders as a tide of pleasure flooded her whole body. "I love you too" For a moment the two lovers lay silent. Angel broke away from Buffy's lips and moved swiftly to her breast. When Angel finally turned his head towards the alarm clock.

Although she felt a flutter deep inside her head she failed to place ever wearing the ring. That was where Buffy would have left a message if she needed to go out in a hurry. it was a fact. As she took in the painful evidence. a beautiful solitaire engagement ring. Her small fingers trembling in both anticipation and fear.wrapped its icy claws around her heart. fear as cold as winter . **A cheat and a liar** "So. For a second Buffy saw a flicker of despair in his gaze. ~*~*~* End of flash back *~*~*~ While Angel relived the last day of their marriage. as much as Angel hated spending the best part of the evening with Darla. Everything William and Darla had told her was true. he knew they couldn't afford to lose her as a client. Angel stared down at her. Liam Angelus' whole world fell apart. Buffy's eyes were still mesmerised by the folded sheet of paper and two golden rings. But Darla Penn was an old school friend of Buffy's and she and her brother William. I did leave you" Buffy's hand reached out towards the contents of the envelope. her voice was paralysed by the nightmares her brain was trying to deny. Reaching out. . his chocolate eyes almost changing to black. and squeezed with all its might. there was no reply. shining in the fading evening light. his concerned eyes focused on two small gold bands. "Buffy! I'm home" Angel called out as he walked through the front door but much to his surprise and disappointment. Buffy finally shook her head sadly as her fingers slipped over the first gold band. **She really had left him** It was no longer just a possibility. he ripped open the envelope and five seconds later. Angel noticed the envelope immediately but as he approached the desk. The first time she tried to respond she couldn't. let alone removing it and leaving it behind. The small Law practice he and Lindsey ran was just beginning to make a profit and. it's really true. After searching the kitchen and lounge. In the space of a heartbeat she had become the woman she despised.them deal with it. he walked into his study. After what felt like a small lifetime. "You remember?" The air seemed to crackle between them. were both valued clients. but it was quickly hidden.

The bitterness screaming from the letter was completely out of context. "Buffy." Buffy swallowed. From the gist of her words Buffy realised that she certainly hadn't left Liam because of William. his wife had thrown the ring back and walked out on their marriage without a word of explanation. Angel.. but I just can't. " She stuttered slightly Without warning. This was the last thing in the world she had expected to read. Buffy's fingers moved away from the rings and lifting the folded sheet of paper.. her bewildered eyes shot open in amazement. his voice tinged with months of suppressed anger There was no justification for Buffy's actions that night.. **It's over. She immediately recognised her handwriting. I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Angel laughed and the sound sent a sliver of fear down her spine. the glimmer of hope in his chocolate eyes died. I thought..As Angel watched the confusion build in his wife's eyes he shuddered as his own memories kicked in and his tormented mind flashed back to the night he proposed..** As the words echoed around his mind... each tiny word was written with such bitterness. I never want to see you again.. I don't " As the disappointing words slowly sank into Angel's head. I wish I could tell you that I did. Don't even think of looking for me because I'm never coming back. "No. As she struggled to control her trembling fingers her mind surged with confusion. I thought I was.. I'll never forgive you for this. Angel felt as if somebody had pushed a stake through his heart.. "I don't understand what this means. Bringing his mind back to the present Angel repeated his question. not as long as I live. **Yes! Yes! I love you. Within two years. The letter almost burned with anger. " You don't understand? "He snorted. All he had ever done was love ..** Angel silently cursed and knew matters would now go seriously downhill. Buffy** As the contents finally sunk in. Do you remember? " Buffy nervously moistened her lips. she opened it. **It was too soon. "What the. It simply didn't make sense. Buffy had been so happy when he slipped the ring on her finger that she cried.

** When she looked up at her husband again she hardly recognised the man in front of her. "Don't worry about it. a peal of warning bells rang loudly inside Buffy's head. Buffy. Shock had stolen every vestige of colour from her skin. Consumed by a wave of guilt. This was certainly not the time for a confession "William called in at the gallery when I was waiting for Darla" She took a deep breath before continuing with her explanation. This time I'll kill him" "Liam" Buffy gasped. You didn't give me a chance to understand" But William said. "Back?. "You just left. "Did he hurt you?" . I don't understand " **William hadn't been with her. but she never got the chance. he hadn't said anything about being away. Buffy blinked.. She looked horrified. "So he came back here after all?" Angel demanded." "Pennington" Angel's dark eyes flashed dangerously and Buffy stepped back.. making her eyes even more brilliant. Buffy.her. she lowered her lashes. "I promised that bastard if he ever went near you again it would be the sorriest day of his life" **So much for him not knowing ** Buffy started to realised her greatest fear but Liam's next words contradicted everything she had started to believe. His voice was so cold it sent a chill through the whole room. and afraid of what Liam might see in her eyes. Angel was too incensed to notice "You've seen Pennington?" At the high level of anger in his voice...

You didn't give me the chance to understand." Angel spat the words in disgust. What a mistake that had been. that's all.. Buffy. Everywhere she looked there were contradictions. Buffy was shocked to learn that her . **From the pain reflected in his dark. lonely eyes. This conversation wasn't going anywhere near the direction she had expected. ** As Buffy stood listening to the sound of her own heartbeat. Just. Blinking back a sudden rush of tears. a blink in time. He said we were close friends" Buffy hated lying. As a single tear escaped and slipped down her cheek. He made your life hell for weeks and I promised him that the next time I saw him. that her life couldn't possibly get any more surreal. suffocating her with new deceptions.. her troubled world had once again been turned on its head. Buffy stood motionless in the middle of the study. William Pennington is nothing but a stalker. but from the hatred she felt emanating from her husband. hot tears pressed behind her eyelids and her throat grew tight with frustration as the nightmare that had become her life since the accident. So many lies."Hurt me?" Buffy gasped in confusion. As the front door slammed. One minute she was led to believe she was the one having an affair and the next. Buffy had really tried to believe that the worst part of losing her memory was finally behind her. grew even darker. Buffy picked up the sheet of writing paper once more and carefully re-read every word. Angel's sad words echoed through the room and reverberated right into her soul. Left. Buffy stood trembling in the now deserted study. For a short period. Standing alone with just her troubled thoughts for company. "No! He was just worried about me.. **You just left. the fragile world that she had awoken to just a few weeks earlier had crumbled into total confusion. " *Friends* That's a laugh. All around her. she truly feared for William's safely if Liam knew the truth. Once again. I'd send him all the way back to the Mother country in a wooden box" Without another word Angel snatched up his jacket and marched from the room. " Buffy.. She could no longer read the emotions blazing from Liam's face. she curled her fingers around the note and crushed it into a ball With the slamming of the front door still echoing loudly in her ears. In a single second. the walls of the small room started to close in. You.

the rest of her life would be lived in limbo. from every corner of the room. Buffy suddenly understood what it felt like to be abandoned. Buffy swore a light of recognition fought its way through the darkness. all Buffy could feel was an awful emptiness. While struggling to hold on to her sanity. Buffy trembled.husband really didn't have any idea why she had abandoned him three months earlier. just the realisation that part of her life could be forever shrouded in darkness. try as she might. this was the nightmare that haunted Buffy's sleep night after night. At that moment in time. the fear that she would stay like this for the rest of her life returned and immediately all the colour drained from her face. Deep inside her head the sound of trapped memories. Liam Angelus seemed as much in the dark about her reasons for leaving him as she was** As the frightened young woman struggled to come to terms with the new turn of events. Once again. Buffy found a deep ache form in the centre of her chest. desperate to be free. but no matter how many smiling faces called out from their frames. but the small study surrounding her had other ideas. Apart from her dreams of burning alive. **The nightmare was indeed coming true. Photographs and mementos from a lost past did their best to jerk a reaction from the frightened girl. Liam's small study seemed to close in all around her. As her eyes once again drifted to the two golden rings lying abandoned on the wooden desktop. Desperately trying to shake the icy visions from her head. tiny whispers from Buffy's past teased her tired . **What if this time it was Angel who didn't come back? What if William told him the same story he had told her?** With the idea of losing her husband. lost in a distant corner of her mind rattled angrily against their prison walls. Liam had only been gone for a few minutes but already she was missing him. each failed miserably to bring a response. as if her brain was hollowed out and that this was as good as it ever gets. The real terror that if her memory never returned. leaving only a ghost of the beautiful young woman she had once been in its place. A familiarity that. subtle images of the happy life she and Liam had built together over the last two years silently called out to be remembered. mocking her with its familiarity. Slowly. she still couldn't place ever being apart of. sent a cold shiver down the length of her spine. she was going to stay lost in this darkness forever** Standing all alone in the now empty room. Buffy fought to pull herself together.

she felt both anger and betrayal flow though her veins like iced water. She really had left him. feelings of anger and bitterness shot to the surface of her subconscious and her slight body shook with the force of their escape. she really had started to remember. as she had turned on her heel and walked out of the front door for the very last time. a shudder of fear ripped right through her heart. **It wasn't love that had chased her away that day. **For a split second It was all there in black and white. Dropping her eyes. but which one? And more importantly. As the vision before her faded Buffy realised she had been very alone on that bus. From the words she had written in her note. William Pennington or Darla Penn One of those was an outright liar. With a flash of pain. At last the first tiny piece of the puzzle had started to fall into place and with that realisation.. the blackness that had filled her mind since the accident momentarily lifted and Buffy actually tasted the hatred she had felt writing those very words. Buffy knew one of them had to be lying** Liam.** Buffy shook her head trying to break through the fog that had returned to cover her mind. but. Buffy looked down again at the crumpled note lying abandoned on the study floor.eyes with flashes of colour. the reasons for her leaving were still not explained. On reflection it had only been the briefest flicker into her past. Gripping the edge of Liam's desk for support.** Struggling to come to terms with this new information.. **I'll never forgive you for this** With a gasp of disbelief. one thought refused to leave Buffy's head ** Someone had to be lying to her** **Only three people had entered her life since returning to Sunnydale. Buffy witnessed despair as she ripped the gold wedding band from her third finger. it was pain. her heart was flooded with a terrible sense of loneliness as she then watched herself sitting on a greyhound bus heading for a new life in New York. Without any warning. but just as suddenly as it had started the memory was over. She fought to hold onto the picture for as long as possible. why? Buffy closed her eyes as the question she couldn't even begin to answer pounded at her . and for whatever the reason. she watched her shattered mind replay the events of a few months earlier. All Buffy knew for sure was the pain she had felt in her heart that day had been unbearable. but Buffy staggered as she realised the memory was real. It wasn't wishful thinking any longer.

The thing that scared Buffy most about William was. Buffy sighed. **No. there was also William Pennington and no matter how much she wished she could deny it. I'll still love you. Buffy. One moment he was so cold and the next. When Liam touched her skin. But Liam wasn't the only man in this equation. The hurt look on his face when she failed to recognise him was genuine enough. Whatever fate had in store for her. but she certainly knew the second time it had happened. I've had you on that office floor more times than I can count and now suddenly you can't bear to even kiss me. We're not friends.. His kisses were remembered... I think that knock to your head did more than just wipe out a few memory cells. You're my wife. Her husband was the first person to slip into her mind. **Buffy. **When you come to your senses. as far as she could throw her.** As Buffy shook her head to clear William's declaration of love. it also proved that Liam Angelus was certainly no Angel.. and when he breaks your heart again.. when he spoke. whether she trusted her or not. her thoughts then turned to her so-called best friend. Darla Penn backed up William's story to perfection and William's story destroyed any future she might have with Liam. with the shock of bleached hair and mischievous blue eyes. she realised with a shudder that it started the instant she had opened her eyes in that hospital room. if she believed the story he had told her... who Liam swore was her best friend. At times. **Darla** Buffy still didn't trust the blonde female. I'll still be here and Buffy. . Buffy was positive about that..exhausted brain. she still couldn't remember falling in love with this man the first time he had entered her life. What on earth's gotten into you? I've already told you that we're lovers.. Buffy knew that the sweet looking guy. hopefully you'll remember that I love you much more that he ever did.. But sadly. her mind might not remember him but her body did. not in her memory but deep in her heart. Looking back. **Buffy I want you so much I'm physically in pain.** Buffy had felt the emotion of their past radiating from his body like heat on a warm summer's day. if nothing else. it seemed Buffy was destined to love Liam Angelus whether she wanted to or not. there was real passion in his dark eyes. not only was she an adulteress.** Liam was the most complicated of the three to understand. both passion and tenderness. seriously cared about her.

" As she regretfully accepted that Liam was the one most likely misleading her.**Buffy. Turning to the page marked with a large dark P. Don't even think of looking for me because I'm never coming back. my brother loves you and inside your mind. I never want to see you again. Buffy pulled open the top desk drawer and removed a large address book.. but as her fingers slid down the long list of names. Buffy remembered where her husband was heading." A soft sigh slipped into her voice as she picked up the rings again from the desk and held them in the palm of her hand. just as she lost all hope of preventing a bloodbath the sound of an annoyed female screeched into her ear. I love Liam. ** Buffy's heart sank as the rings once again fell to the desk. Buffy knew in her heart that the name Pennington would not be there. I'll never forgive you for this. This time I'll kill him. "This better be important. . the second name on her lips was. you feel the same way about him** Buffy shook her head again and ran her fingers through her silky blonde hair in frustration. Darla Penn. As Buffy started to slip the gold wedding band back over her finger. "Or at least I thought I did. Penn. her words from her past came back with an icy blast. William Pennington is nothing but a stalker.... Buffy pushed the numbers and waited with panic building as the phone continued to ring unanswered. I don't love William. underneath all that confusion. Snatching up the receiver.. Then. I was in the shower" Buffy sighed as she recognised Darla's voice. I don't. **Buffy. I promised that bastard if he ever went near you again that it would be the sorriest day of his life** "Oh God!" Finally realising the seriousness of the situation. "But that's the trouble. she didn't even question how she had found the book so quickly. As her slim fingers quickly skimmed through the pages. not as long as I live. He made your life hell for weeks. ** It's over.

Liam was likely to end up on the wrong end of a real beating."Darla. much to her delight. The panic in the Buffy's annoying voice wasn't missed and a warm glow of satisfaction started to spread slowly through her cool veins. All she could see was Liam and William coming to blows and she was terrified of the outcome. Thank God you answered. Buffy was too worried to notice the treachery in the other woman's voice. William Pennington had a strong reputation of being able to look after himself. Not that William needed her concern. **And I'll be the one to kiss him better** As the evil smile on her face widened. Darla transformed herself into Buffy's sympathetic best friend "So. Ring me back in an hour will you?" "I need to find William. on the other end of the line. Buffy's beautiful features creased into a worried frown. Liam knows I've seen him and he wants blood" At the increased panic coming from Buffy's end of the line Darla grinned and played the part of a worried sister to perfection "Buffy. Why on earth did you tell him. not that Buffy remembered. "Darla. her voice laced with fake concern. I need to find William immediately. Darla's voice started to rise as she acted out her concern for her brother's safety. what the hell have you done. I didn't know who else I could ask" "Buffy? Honey. it seemed the stupid little bitch hadn't keep her mouth shut after all. but now. Darla had been worried that all her scheming had been for nothing. Real fear started to twist knots in her stomach as her patience ran out. After her lunch date with Buffy. . like yesterday" Buffy demanded. Darla grinned. I'm soaking wet here. If anything. you finally came to your senses and realised where your heart really belonged " She started softly. the dripping wet female smiled as she clutched her towel closer to her body. why couldn't you have just disappeared again?" Slowly. I haven't got time to go into the full story. Studying her reflection in the bathroom mirror and taking a deep satisfying breath. Although Darla had planned for Liam to eventually find out about her brother's *affair* it seemed the news had broken much quicker than even she had thought possible. ignoring the other woman's request At the other end of the phone line. Will's no match for Liam.

Buffy was out of the front door and half way down the road before she'd even released that she didn't have the slightest idea where Crawford Street was. I still can't remember where William lives and Liam is already on his way. Darla was right. wearing the already guilt ridden girl to the bone. " Dammit. she continued her attack. replaced the receiver while a large satisfied grin covered her smug face. Buffy? You should never have returned" Running her fingers through her hair with frustration.. William owns the large mansion on Crawford Street.. and now blood was going to be spilt. Buffy shook her head.. Buffy reluctantly admitted defeat. If either man was seriously hurt she was the only one to blame** "I. Everything was going better than she'd ever dreamt possible. Buffy had all the information she needed and didn't have time to waste on long *good-byes* The blonde. It was a mistake." Buffy started. This time the little cheerleader's marriage was well and truly history.**This was all her fault. stop" After running in circles for at least four blocks.. But Darla didn't give her victim time to think about an answer. wrapped only in a towel. When are you going to accept that you don't belong here. Look. Just give me the goddamn address" Darla paused for a moment for effect and then reluctantly answered "Crawford Street.. Masquerade "Stop! Dammit. It was useless. As the consequences pounded her head Buffy finally snapped. she really should never have come back to Sunnydale. Her poor excuse for a memory wouldn't play fair and even though she'd been born in this small town. I haven't got time for this now." She didn't have time to finish her sentence before the phone was slammed down in her ear. Meanwhile Back at Ravello Drive. and supposedly lived here all of her life. hoping that something familiar would trigger her memory and point her in the right direction. " William would've happily given up his life here in Sunnydale to have gone away with you. it made no .

In her present state of mind. ** When you finally come to your senses. This time I'll kill him** **I promised that bastard if he ever went near you again it would be the sorriest day of his life** Feeling the panic in her stomach start to spread like a forest fire. the troubled young woman was completely lost. Feeling bitter. **Don't worry about it. you'll remember that I love you much more than he *ever* did. Only one love had ever reached out and truly touched her heart.difference. her enraged husband could be carrying out his threat against William Pennington's at that very second. she was almost certain that Liam knew exactly where Crawford Street was and from the look on his face. good-looking and he seemed genuinely found of her. Fragments of her lost life teased and tormented her as they fought to return home. the more she knew she was being lied to. Tiny flashes from somewhere deep inside her subconscious continually echoed that there was only one man in her life. only one thought kept Buffy searching. **Two men in her life? ** As the words throbbed inside her brain. He made your life hell for weeks** Liam's angry voice broke through her thoughts. rich. and the more she questioned her past.fire. Buffy's head began to hurt.. heat . **But was it William or Liam?** **William Pennington is nothing but a stalker. But it felt wrong. but only to be counter attacked by Will's. There was something missing with this man. and just four blocks from home. the prospect of stopping the violence between the two men in her life grew less likely. Deep inside her mind forgotten memories were surging to reach through the black abyss that kept them trapped. William was. and when he breaks your heart again** More confused than ever. burning out of control. Buffy. There was simply no spark when he kissed her. With every wasted minute that swirled past her. angry and frustrated. Buffy knew she had to do something and she had to do it fast. Buffy struggled with the two faces dancing before her eyes. . Sadly.

With the two men in the same room. **But would he still want her? After this night was over would he be the one leaving this time?** As her thoughts snapped back to the present. then maybe William would. but if she really searched her heart. She was no longer taking *no* for an answer. She didn't have a past and until it returned her present was stuck in limbo but when Buffy thought of the future. he sent shock waves of electricity right through her body. Buffy stood in the middle of the road and holding out both of her small arms she waved frantically. especially a crazy one. **She might not remember the way to the mansion but there were others that did** Stepping off the sidewalk. all she could see was Liam. if she was truly honest with herself. have you got a serious death wish or something?" Charles Gunn demanded as he watched the small blonde waif step closer to his cab. She belonged to Liam. **If only these streets didn't all look the same** Turing her head one last time for inspiration. Buffy knew she was wasting precious time. .. When Liam touched her skin he set her blood on fire.. All she wanted was Liam. And if they didn't. She had to find both the mansion and Pennington before Liam did. forcing the approaching taxi to stop in its tracks. He not only sparked.. Buffy still couldn't remember falling in love with the man she had married.. Buffy was too immersed in her own troubles to notice the sarcasm in the driver's voice. **That's if they hadn't killed each other first ** "Hey! Do you want a cab or not?" The rich masculine voice of the driver broke her out of reverie. For all their sakes. "Lady. but while she was heading in that direction. if Liam couldn't or wouldn't fill in the lost pieces of the puzzle. He held the missing element. With a slight screech of rubber tyres the car came to an abrupt halt and the bald headed driver shook his head in amazement as he glared out of the side window. Buffy also knew there was a second reason for seeking out the English poet. It was his last run of the night and the last thing he needed was to hit a pedestrian. Relieved that the car had stopped for her. Her first priority was stopping any bloodshed. maybe it was time to make them. a flash of blurring yellow on the horizon answered her prayers. and to the look on Liam's face when he first heard that William was back. Her only concern was getting to William Pennington's house as quickly as possible and putting an end to the nightmare that had taken over her life.Liam on the other hand was a different story. she didn't need her memories to know the answer.

was just on the outskirts of town and much to Buffy's surprise. I guess my memory's not what it used to be" She tried to act calmly but the tension in her voice wasn't missed on either of them. My wife reads his work all the time. he was surprised the girl needed a cab. the sad hazel orbs almost looked haunted. I'm looking for a mansion " She asked as she flung open the car door and after closing it behind her.. Charles Gunn studied his passenger sitting quietly in the back seat. In the end she didn't need to . we'll be there in less than ten minutes" "Good. Although it was getting dark. "Please. hoping that one of them would jump out at her and shout its recognition. "I need to get to Crawford Street. It's not that far. "I've been away for a while... That's good. dropped wearily into the back seat. That's where that poet lives. but it wasn't her looks that caught his attention. Everyone that was except her. at the question she sighed sadly. ***** Crawford street. it turned out. "I guess you must be new in town" He asked." Buffy turned her head away from the window as her gallery flashed past and closed her eyes. The journey seemed to last forever and as the cab turned down the impressive street in question. " Don't worry. She was an extremely attractive young woman. how many celebrities were there in Sunnydale? Raising his eyes to his mirror. as quickly as possible" "Sure.. although a little on the thin side if he was honest. Buffy's eyes nervously flicked from one large building to the next. It seemed the longest ten minutes of her life. The girl's eyes were so troubled. After all. not believing a local wouldn't know where Crawford street was. A bit hearts and flowers for my taste but she likes it" The driver chatted happily as he pulled back out into the road.Leaning forward. Buffy peered into the side window and gratefully nodded her head. Turning on to main Street Charles tried to strike up a conversation. it seemed that every person in Sunnydale knew of William Pennington and the large mansion he kept on in Sunnydale. Buffy was looking out of the window at the passing houses. it was such a short distance and every person in Sunnydale knew where the English writer lived. I know the place you want.

be told that they had arrived. When the car pulled up in front of the most impressive building in Sunnydale, Buffy went cold. Looming up out of the dark night, the cold gray structure seemed to whisper out her name from every nook and cranny. "This is Pennington's place, but it doesn't look like anyone's at home" the driver said offering his opinion as he glanced up at the tall building, blanketed in total darkness. This part of town was so isolated; he didn't like the idea of leaving the young woman all alone. There was something very vulnerable about the small blonde girl in the back seat of his cab and the thought of leaving her stranded went against his better judgement. "I can wait for you if you want" Charles asked over his shoulder. Buffy smiled her gratitude but refused the kind offer. "Thanks, but I'll be fine" Climbing from the cab, she watched the taillights disappear back up the street, and turning towards the mansion, Buffy shivered and felt the small hairs on the back of her neck stand on end. There was something evil about this house. At one time in her life this house had caused her intense pain. **And you want to go right back inside? Great idea** Buffy tried to reason with herself about going inside, but she already knew she would lose that argument. **Liam's inside that house. Liam, William Pennington and the secrets from my past.. ** It didn't matter how afraid she was; there was no going back.. ***** Climbing the stone steps that lead to the front door, Buffy took a deep breath and felt a needed rush of adrenaline wash through her tired body. She was through with all the lies, all the bullshit she had been spun since she'd first woken into this nightmare of a world. It was time to take charge of her life and stop being the victim. It was time to fight fire with fire and at that very moment Buffy realised that maybe it was time she used a few dirty tricks of her own. **You just left, Buffy. You didn't give me the chance to understand. You. Just. Left. ** If what Liam had told her was true, he couldn't help her; so, she would just have to help herself. On reaching the top step, the first signs that Liam had reached the mansion before her was clearly obvious. The large front door was left ajar and as Buffy pushed it open and walked in, she immediately noticed the sound of broken glass snap crisply beneath her small feet.

**Oh God, Liam. What have i done** Buffy felt her stomach nosedive and it took every ounce of strength she had, not to turn around and run as far away from the house as possible. Only the knowledge that if she did run, it wouldn't just be from the house stopped her. Buffy knew if she didn't confront her demons now she wouldn't stop running until she could never be found again. As a vision of soft brown, enigmatic eyes rose up and teased her memory, she finally accepted that she didn't want to run any longer. She wanted answers. Straight answers. What ever happened next she was finally taking back her life. "Hello?.." Buffy waited for a second but there was no reply. Only faint echoes of her own voice accompanied her footsteps. "Liam?" She called out louder this time but received the same response. Continuing to walk through the impressive hallway, the sound of shattered glass was the only noise that broke the eerie stillness. The hall was in darkness but even still, Buffy couldn't fail to notice other telltale signs of a fight. On noticing a splintered table blocking her path a sliver of fear crept slowly up her spine. **This was all her fault and if Liam was hurt...** Buffy shut that thought down as quickly as it flashed through her head. The thought of her husband suffering pain because he thought she was an unfaithful bitch was more than she could bear. "Maybe I should reconsider that running away option again" Buffy tried to joke but it fell flat. Following the trail of damage, she eventually noticed a small glow coming from under a door at the far end of the hall. With a small push the large door opened without a sound. Buffy stopped dead still in the doorway and peered inside. The room was beautiful. Heavy drapes hung across all the windows and although the only light in the room came from a small over turned lamp, the uninvited guest had little difficulty making out the lone figure, leaning drunkenly against one wall at the far end of the sitting room. As she stood in the doorway William Pennington made no attempt to look up. His thoughts were far too immersed in the bottle of bourbon that was happily slipping down his throat, trying to numb the burning pain that shot behind his bruised eyes. His whole body ached but that wasn't the pain William was trying to wipe out. He had been so close, so bloody close to taking Buffy away from that bastard Angelus that he could almost taste it. But suddenly it didn't taste so sweet. It wasn't supposed to have

happened this way. When Darla had first asked him to help her get rid of Liam's wife it had all seemed so simple. He wasn't supposed to care about her, just break them apart. **That stupid bitch of a sister should have warned me. ** William inwardly cursed as he once again raised the bottle to his lips and tried to numb the pain in his heart. ** Nothing about Buffy Angelus was simple, she had away of getting into a man's blood and once under his skin, there was no way of getting free.** For the first time in his life, William was hopelessly in love and there was nothing he wouldn't do to keep her. The fight had been wonderful; Liam had played right into his hands and as soon as his bruises were at their best, he would put a call into the cops and have the loser arrested. At the though of Buffy's husband behind bars and finally out of his hair, Will smiled. It was at that point that he felt her presence. "William.. " Buffy's spoke quietly but made no attempt to enter the room. Lifting his head to the sound of her voice, he didn't answer at first; he just let his eyes drink in the contours of her face. Under such an intense gaze Buffy felt her cheeks flush and her throat go dry. On closer inspection, the room was a real mess. As her eyes scanned the damage, Will's head turned a fraction and the light from the lamp lit up the full extent of his beating. Both his eyes were beginning to swell and there was a thin line of blood smeared beneath nose, which by the shape of it was possibly broken. "Oh, God.. Are you all right?" With the shock of seeing the good looking face, battered and bruised almost beyond recognition, Buffy took her first steps into the room. Yet again broken glass cracked beneath her feet. At this second question William shook his head, slightly amused at her concern. At the sudden movement a searing pain shot through his battered body and he quickly lifted the bottle he was still holding to his split lips and knocked back what was left of the contents. The cool amber liquid burned with a welcome fire as it slid effortlessly down the back of his throat, but even though most of the alcohol was now swimming happily through his blood stream, it so far hadn't numbed the pain. "I hope your husband knows a good defence lawyer, he's certainly going to need one" William looked up and his hungry gaze bore directly into Buffy's eyes. For an instant, she felt an unreasonable tremor of fear flutter through her body but it was quickly pushed a side.

"I think it's safe to say Liam has that covered" Refusing to let herself feel intimidated, Buffy's voice hid her fear well. As she studied the damage her husband had left on the younger man's face, strangely, her first thought was for Liam's safety. ** Liam might be an excellent attorney but If Pennington pressed assault charges against him...** Buffy tried not to think of the consequences. Trying to ignore the deep purple swellings now covering what had earlier been a devilishly handsome face, she tried to change the subject. "You told me we were lovers.. I want to know why you lied to me." "I never lied to you, pet." Buffy didn't move. "Angelus got to you, didn't he?" Pulling away from the wall, William snorted in disgust. Buffy still didn't move, although her heart was beating so hard she thought that it would break her chest she stood her ground. "He's a clever sod, I'll give him that much" William spat a mouthful of blood towards the floor and dropped the bottle he was holding into the nearest chair. "It never crossed your mind that he's the one telling the lies. No, you'd rather believe what that smarmy bastard fed you than follow your own heart" Shoving his hands in the front pockets of his tight, faded jeans, Will slowly sauntered forward. As the tall, slim figure moved through the dim light, Buffy tried not to notice how his jeans sheathed his lean hips or how his white T-shirt hugged his well-developed chest. Tilting her head slightly, their eyes met and for a second she almost swore she saw a flicker of despair in his penetrating gaze, but only for a second. When she looked again it was quickly replaced with an arrogant gleam. **Sexy, arrogant bastard** Even on the wrong end of a severe beating William Pennington looked hot, but no matter how much sex appeal he radiated, Buffy didn't feel the attraction. Even with amnesia she knew he wasn't her type **He's wasn't Liam** **You'd rather believe what that smarmy bastard fed you than follow your own heart**

"But that's where you're wrong. It's my heart that knows you're lying." Buffy snapped back the reply with cool certainty. William laughed "Am I? And why would I lie Buffy?" he asked as his hungry eyes slid insolently down the full length of her body. She was still wearing her new dress and it was having the same effect on him as it had earlier worked on Angel Buffy stood frozen to the spot as William continued to close the distance between them. As his tall lean body moved ever closer the air between them seemed to crackle. Anticipation, fear, love, hate. The emotions being exchanged between the two of them with each new step were almost tangible. "Someone is lying to me" Feeling uncomfortable by his closeness, Buffy tried to retreat but her progress was stopped as she felt her back hit the cold wall "Like I said before, why would *I* lie? You might not remember yet but when you do you'll know that you belong to me, Buffy. You love me" William's grin was so smug Buffy would have given anything at that moment to knock it right off his face. Coming to a stand still Will placed his hands on each side of her body, trapping her small frame up against the wall. He leaned forward, his nose nearly touching hers. Buffy swallowed, she could almost taste the alcohol on his breath, as she took a nervous breath, she could smell his blood "Trust me, pet. I'm the good guy here" He was teasing her now and his eyes glinted seductively as his body pressed even closer. Buffy nervously bit into her bottom lip. "I don't believe.. " she didn't get a chance to finish her sentence. William grabbed her; his long slim fingers gripping her thin arms so tightly they bruised the delicate flesh. Buffy struggled but before she could breakaway he clamped his hot mouth over her lips and kissed her with a desire so passionate that the girl in his arms almost forgot how to breathe. "Buffy. Oh, God, Buffy." William whispered fiercely as time after time, his hungry mouth tore at her lips Caught completely off guard, Buffy's mind whirled as her blood pumped wildly through her veins. The kiss was rough, almost violent and as William groaned deep in his throat, his arms tightened around Buffy's slim shoulders pulling her body into his. The kiss grew more intense but even as Buffy's heart thundered against her ribs she knew that it wasn't passion she was feeling.... The kiss was wrong, in every way possible it was wrong.

"Your memory's returned" It was a statement. Stretching the truth a little or even a lot if he got the girl of his dreams wasn't a problem. She didn't love him. but she knew it was the truth. Just a few more days and the Angelus' marriage would have been destroyed forever.This man could never have been her lover. not a question. William felt his happiness slide away. For the longest moment of William Pennington's life there was no sound in the room. . Fooled into believing that the woman he adored now knew who really was lying. now that she remembered her past. she knew it would once again change her life forever. she would never be his. The harsh words stuck home and stole every vestige of colour from the blonde man's cheeks. it was never you" For a moment only the sound of hard breathing separated them. One glance at the fire in her hazel eyes told him without doubt that the deception was over. **This man wasn't the reason you left Angel** With the realisation set in stone. It's not you. If he were completely honest with himself he would have admitted that her kiss had already told him everything he needed to know. Buffy finally yanked her head away. He might be touching her body but he could never reach inside her soul. even in a complete state of amnesia Buffy couldn't return the feelings his heart overflowed with and. And it had almost worked. he didn't come near to touching her heart the way Liam always did. Her large hazel eyes flashing with emotion "Let go of me. Standing in the dim light. She didn't know if it was a just a gut feeling or a lost memory trying to break through. but it was a chance he accepted willingly. The look on the old sod's face that night had told him that much. Buffy just continued to glare and played her own charade for all she was worth. the temperature in the room seemed to drop to freezing and both occupants knew their lives would never be the same again. Whatever happened next. There was always a strong possibility that Buffy would remember their so-called love affair was only in his head. a liar and that was the truth. his skin took on the deadly white appearance of the dead. In an instant. "It was never you" Buffy whispered again as she fought to control her breathing. The bluff was called and he had lost. He'd always known the game he and Darla were playing was dangerous. William Pennington was a fraud. It was over.

The way he treated you. and knowing he had nothing left to lose William took a step towards Buffy. That was when you could have saved me " Buffy cried out as the pain and confusion trapped inside her head exploded. "I only did it because I love you. You were in so much pain. **Fuck it** At the look of horror that crossed her beautiful features. once again pulling her body . I've been in Hell now for the last two years. William started to laugh but there was no humour in the cold sound " You're not the only one. I'm drowning in you Summers. Buffy.. Buffy hadn't remembered her past at all.. ** If only the bloody amnesia had lasted a few more days** Cursing under his breath. I didn't want to fall in love with you. Will quickly tried to justify his actions. She wasn't a cheat or a liar. being so unhappy. Everything you told me was a lie. luv. Buffy. I've had this ache in my chest ever since the first second I saw you. Holding on to the back of a chair for support. William realised his mistake. but it doesn't change how I feel about you. William's fingers clamped around her wrists. To her surprise.. He was. "Oh God. She had played him for a fool and he had let her trick a confession from his stupid mouth. I just wanted to save you " William's jaw tightened and his skin drew tight across his chiselled cheekbones. Buffy closed her eyes as a single tear slipped beneath her dark lashes.. "I might have lied about our affair. I knew it was wrong. "You bastard. but as the realisation of William's deceit sank in. it was you all the time. I almost believed you" Too late. Buffy moved away from the wall. but I had no choice. Thinking she was being lied to was one thing but hearing somebody admit that they had purposely tried to ruin her life was very different. I'm drowning in you" Before she could move further away. day after day. You have no idea what it's like watching you. I've been in hell for the last two weeks and all the time you could have ended it..Liam Angelus had walked from his house a shattered man.. her anger started to spin out of control. "I love you" He tried to reach for her but she pushed his hand away. in my throat." He started softly and nervously ran his hand across his bruised jaw. I was right. You're in my gut. You low-life lying bastard.

..up hard against his chest. "No" Buffy gasped She tried pulling her hands free but his long fingers bit deep into her flesh. Buffy tried to break free... once again Will's lips firmly moulded over her mouth. "You bitch." Buffy refused to listen as renewed anger burned through her veins. dangerous eyes. "You're beneath me" Pennington jerked as if she had physically slapped him but continued to grip both her small wrists in his large fingers. " The sound of her voice sent a chill right through the room. the handsome features facing her changed into an almost unrecognisable mask of fury. I won't hurt you" "You already have" "Please. "Stop fighting me. Continuing to struggle. "After what you've put me through there's nothing you could say that I would believe. " Just give me a chance to explain" Leaning his face close to her ear. Go. but her next three words cut right through his heart and shattered the four beating chambers into a million shards. Will's hot breath washed over her cold skin in shuddering waves. Still locked within the circle of William's strong arms Buffy glared at him with stormy green eyes "Buffy. hot tears of anger welled up in her eyes but it was only when she tasted blood in her mouth. where his teeth had bitten into her lower lip did she finally find the strength to push away "Let. please" William pleaded as he tried desperately to hold onto the struggling girl's .. With a violent jerk. William smirked. I could never love a man like you. but he was too strong. You bloody bitch. Gasping in horror. I'll show you who's beneath who" Before Buffy could move. Me." She raised her head and stared straight into his cool.

William sighed. It worked like a charm the last time they had tried it. "For what its worth. Buffy kicked out her foot and nailed his shin as hard as she could. For a second. she stopped. The situation was getting out of control and he had to try and make her see sense.wrists. As long as Buffy thought it was only him plotting against her. maybe. When she lifted her hand to her mouth and ran her trembling fingers across her swollen lips. William inwardly smiled. "Just answer me one question honestly. Darla has nothing to do with any of this "Even as the lie was growing William started to feel that there was . just maybe he could still save something from this disaster. Darla. Not wanting to stay in the same room as Pennington for another second. letting out a deep ragged breath. I could have you arrested for this" Buffy's voice was so quiet he almost missed the threat. " You bastard. Her bruised lips throbbed and her wrists stung with the pressure of his finger. Darla had almost convinced her that William was telling the truth. Buffy was now beyond listening to anything he said. releasing Buffy's wrist at the same time. William suddenly saw one last spark of hope. At the sound of his sister's name.. Darla told me the same story. she's my sister and she believed what I told her. If he couldn't have Buffy he would do everything in his power to make sure that Liam never could. Turning his head he let his eyes shadow with guilt... I'm sorry" Even as the words slipped over his lips he knew in his heart that he wasn't sorry for lying. Buffy was so angry she ran all the way to New York. but as she went to walk out the door. "Bloody Hell" William jerked back in shock. Darla still had a chance to break them wide apart. Buffy might hate him at the moment but if she thought Liam was screwing Darla. "Get the fuck off me" Without another word. Buffy shook her head and turned to walk away.... Knowing that he had burnt all his bridges the handsome young man's heavy shoulders finally sagged in defeat and he stepped back.. "Don't blame Darla. just sorry it hadn't worked. As long as she still had amnesia there was no reason it wouldn't work again. Why? " That was the one part of this charade that Buffy still didn't understand.. a look of sheer disbelief flashed across his face but it was quickly dropped.

especially the part about his sister not knowing. And stayed there" ****** William dragged his bruised body up the stairs and headed straight for the bathroom. Darla would make it right. Pain and a deep sadness. Buffy held her head high and walked away from William Pennington's house determined to bring an end. Darla would save the day. she had got him into this fucking mess in the first place** Lowering his eyes and looking as sad and pathetic as he possibly could. Stepping under the spray the water was ice cold and it stung. With the sound of the front door slamming loudly behind her. Both eyes were now nothing more than swollen slits and the best part of his jaw was purple. It was a welcome distraction. he leant against the cold tiles and as the icy water washed over his body he let all thoughts of Buffy wash over his mind. After all. Sharp needles attacked his bruised flesh but in his present state of mind William didn't care. He took a slow breath. Closing his eyes. she left William Pennington with a final shot.. first thing he would call Darla. fighting to keep his tone as level as possible. Turning on the shower spray. Moving through the doorway Buffy realised that she still had so many questions unanswered but now was not the time or the place to ask them. Will kicked off his boots. . She still wasn't sure if she believed William. She would know what to do. carefully pulled his blood splattered T-shirt over his head and dropped his jeans on the bathroom floor. the young poet was already working out his next move. There was still a hint of bitterness in his voice but that couldn't be helped. she always was the stronger sibling. his dreams of a life with Buffy were in ruins and there was no hot water. once and for all. "Maybe its time you took a trip back to the mother country.still a chance. His face was a mess. he was a poet not a bloody actor. It was definitely not one of his better nights. she always did. to the nightmare that had plunged her life into confusion. Buffy nodded. **Besides. " Tell your *husband* I won't be pressing charges" Will rubbed the large purple swelling that covered his jaw and winced slightly with the pain. Taking one final look at the man who had tried to destroy her marriage. Relieved that Liam wouldn't get in trouble. As he switched on the light he caught his reflection in the mirror and winced. but when her gaze finally settled on his battered face all she could read was pain in the depths of his troubled eyes. Tomorrow.

Whatever was trapped inside her mind it was content to stay there. Buffy refused to feel sorry for herself.. as her heartbeat pounded so hard in her chest that it almost snapped a rib. . Her skin whispered it to her and the beat of her heart confirmed it and if she really needed more confirmation. But.. She realised sadly. Buffy accepted that her *stalker* had finally accepted the painful truth. this time. The foolish young man had worn his heart on his sleeve and his emotions had blazed from his cool blue eyes with every longing glance. she pressed her fingers firmly against the skin. She couldn't love him. or of even falling in love. A year.For one terrifying moment. she swore she felt William's presence behind her.. that in all fairness. Buffy couldn't change her feelings about him. Despite everything that had happened between the two of them. Running her hands through her hair she stopped when she reached her temples and ignoring the pain. **But for how long.. the rich blood that pounded through her veins screamed out that her heart had been lost long before she had ever known William. she knew that the cruel description of the blonde English poet wasn't really the truth. it didn't include loving Will Pennington. she now knew she had the strength to deal with it. She would never love William. But. No matter how much he thought he loved her. The rest of my life** The thought of living the rest of her life with no memory of her childhood. Just a few names and faces would be a start. A month. Buffy silently cursed her amnesia and the fact that she still couldn't remember what her life had been like just a few months earlier. sent a rush of depression straight to her heart. William really did seem to love her. The scene with William had been painful but it had cleared up a lot of confusion Buffy now knew that whatever her past life had been like. "It's not like I'm asking for total recall. It was so hard living in the dark. **Stalker?** As soon as the word Angel had used for William slipped in to her head Buffy rejected it. Taking a full breath of cool night air.. If that was how her life played out. as she fled along the darkened hallway of the mansion. her family. not knowing who she could to turn to or who she to trust. She didn't need memories to know that much. but it still didn't change anything. A week." Buffy tried to reason with the dark void that swirled inside in her head but as always it remained immune to her pleas.

she exhaled a deep sigh of relief. she had left without a coat and was now stranded in the middle of Sunnydale. she wasn't an adulteress** A cool breeze fluttered down Crawford Street and gently rattled the leaves in the nearby trees.. After tonight. Buffy shook her head not wanting to even travel up that road of thought. As the stars faded from her sight. How easily it could have all gone wrong. The swirling grey masses dominating the skyline matched her mood perfectly.. In different circumstances they might have become friends.. Buffy's heart would always belong to Angel. Pennington had taken advantage of her amnesia and used it for. Buffy would never be able forgive the goodlooking Englishman for his deceit and dishonesty. There was definitely a storm in the air and in all her hurry to stop Liam from killing William. Buffy sighed. Buffy shivered as the chill brushed over her skin and left tiny goosebumps on her bare arms. ** How could she have been fooled so easily.. "Stop it!" Again she slammed the door on thoughts of William.. **Maybe that was for the best** Feeling a slight weight lift from her slim shoulders Buffy walked down the stone steps and. she watched a thick blanket of cloud move slowly across the evening sky.?** She already knew both these arguments were irrational.. but that could never happen now. It didn't matter if he now hated her.. the defeated look in his eyes when she turned away from him had told her that much. for what?. With a shudder she realised how simple it would have been to have believed his stories and fallen into his bed. She now had to look only towards the future** . standing in the middle of the deserted street. Buffy knew that she would never see William again.. Whatever else she might turn out to be. He had taken advantage of her when she had been at her lowest and that in itself was unforgivable. If he never forgave her..Her heart belonged to Angel. **William was now firmly in the past. She should have known right from the start that William was lying. **She had one tiny part of her life back. any chance of a friendship was ruined.. Tilting her head up towards the heavens.. Thinking back to William she sadly shook her head What ever his reasons were for lying to her.** **Why hadn't she seen right through him... For a second she felt a flicker of grief.

where on earth would she start? "Where would Liam go?" Buffy closed her eyes and took a slow deep breath. A new life with Angel?** The second choice brought a small smile to her lips.. instead of giving in to the darkness that fought her at every turn. "Or maybe I could just stay.. if she ran now.. Leave Sunnydale and all this misery behind you. ** A life completely on her own or. But Buffy was tired of playing the victim.. just the usual swirling void that blocked her mind with its confusion and tormented her with its empty promises.. From the damage to William's face she knew it hadn't gone well. stay here and make a new life for myself?" Ignoring the fact that she was standing in the middle of the street talking to herself. There were two options now staring in front of her.With the whole town so unfamiliar. Her memory might not play fair but as Buffy delved into her soul. **How many people get a second chance?** "But would Angel still want her?** Buffy looked up and then down the still deserted street and shook her head wishing that she had accepted the cab driver's kind offer to wait for her. The first thing she had to do now was find her husband and bring an end to William's deception once and for all.. would surely follow her for the rest of her days. **The beach. A tiny crack appeared in the void and a trickle of light seeped into her mind. the empty void that lived within her... But there was one giant stumbling block. her heart played its trump card. Leaving this town was a possibility but the only trouble was. Go to the beach** Night had completely fallen on Sunnydale by the time she reached her destination and the ...** Buffy closed her eyes as the thought drifted into her mind. Only after they had laid the past to rest could they talk about the future. She shuddered to think what William had told Liam and how much he had believed. Buffy pondered the argument out loud."Do I even have a future?" **You could always get the hell out of here once and for all. At first she felt nothing. she battered her way through the abyss..

Buffy had the strangest feeling that she was safe there. . Walking to the water's edge. And that was the moment she felt his presence **Angel was there** She couldn't see him yet. but it had been a mistake. The beach was simply beautiful in the dim light. Buffy knew that somewhere in this darkness Liam was out there. After sinking up to her ankles in the soft sand. At his feet the usually lazy waves were almost unrecognisable as they crashed angrily along the shoreline. hurt and alone and fighting with demons of his own ****** A mile along the beach and with the lights of Sunnydale now a distant memory. a small rush of water would slip over her toes as the cool waves caressed the shore and then quickly fled back to the sea. Buffy was everywhere. the fine white sand felt cold and damp beneath her small feet and every few seconds. She licked her lips tasting the salt in the air and sighed as the cool sea breeze washed over her and revitalised her tired skin. His expensive leather shoes were probably already ruined as the salt water splashed around his ankles. the small girl didn't feel at all out of place. The beach was the last place he should have sought solace. and even though it appeared to be totally deserted. The surf whispered her name as it tumbled over his feet. Staying near the water's edge for a guideline. Every grain of sand reminded him of happier times and just what he had lost. Buffy slipped off her shoes and decided to continue on barefoot. she continued to walk along the wet sand with just the sound of the waves for company. He'd gone there hoping the cool sea air would clear his hot head and maybe blow all thoughts of his wife away once and for all.occasional moonbeam peeping through the gathering clouds was the only light breaking the darkness. soaking through his sock and trousers. Not that Liam cared. For the very first time that night she felt relaxed. but she could feel him. Angel stared out at the ocean in front of him and his handsome face fell into a deep scowl. Buffy stopped to pick up a small shell from beneath her toes and breathed in deeply.

He couldn't believe that he'd almost fallen for that poet's bullshit. not so much as a cross word and. As the events of the last few hours replayed in his head like a bad movie. it was that Buffy had never cheated on him. the small glow of moonlight that had guided her earlier path grew dimmer. With a lonely sigh.. But it didn't matter how dark or how cold the night got. Liam honestly believed that he would have known if she had been that unhappy. he hadn't seen her leaving him. the lonely young man angrily chastised himself for acting so foolishly. the tall dark figure tried desperately to put the shattered pieces of his life back together. completely out of the blue his wife had fled into the night. **It's over. it was too close to home. with the salty spray blowing through his hair. she wasn't quitting until she found him.Standing alone in the darkness. In all honesty. the day it happened had been such a surprise it had almost knocked him over. They hadn't fought. then. ****** Thirty minutes after arriving at the beach. Life had been crazy these last four months and nothing made sense any more but if there was one thing he was certain of. I'll never forgive you for this. Buffy's sand covered feet had covered almost a mile without seeing another human being. not as long as I live. Their marriage had been so damn perfect that the idea of either of them cheating was laughable. Liam was still dammed if he knew what on earth it was. I never want to see you again. Buffy had left him for something *HE* had supposedly done and no matter how hard he tried to think back. Don't even think of looking for me because I'm never coming back. **But you didn't feel her leave you** Closing his eyes Liam shook the argument from his head. He would have felt it in his soul if she had given her heart away to Pennington.. It was true. The beach was totally deserted and as the clouds continued to roll in from the sea. Buffy wrapped her cold arms around her body and walked deeper into the night . **But she didn't leave you for him. She wasn't just his wife. Buffy** He still found it madness. bringing the promise of a real downpour. ** The thought brought little comfort. Somewhere lost deep in his wife's memory there was still the real reason for her leaving and until she remembered. she was his lover and his best friend all rolled into one. Liam knew they would both continue to be haunted.

"Your heart told you I was here?" Buffy nodded. Almost . Even if she turned back now she doubted she would make it in time. the tall form was almost cloaked by the blanket of night. Buffy stopped for a moment to get her bearings. A soft moonbeam of light swept down on the sand casting an almost ghostly white glow on the hidden figure. Liam made no attempt to turn around. as the troubles of the world pressed firmly down on his broad shoulders. he just kept his gaze fixed on the dark waves dancing in the distance and focused on their anger instead of his own pain. On that thought. In dark trousers and a loose black silk shirt. I just closed my eyes and followed my heart" Still refusing to turn around and face her. which flapped freely in the soft sea breeze. On the horizon large black rain clouds merged over the silky waters. In the end she just told him the truth. she still wasn't really sure herself. "Angel. "Hey!" She tried for the casual approach but the tone was a little strained. Liam's eyes fixed firmly on the ocean in frustration. Buffy knew she would be in for one hell of soaking. .." ***** Even though he hadn't seen a soul in over an hour. Watching the endless shoreline blend into the distance with no sign of another human being in sight.A lone dark figure stood gazing out toward the sea. his mind lost deep in thought... The sensation grew. "I have no idea. Liam had the strangest sensation of being watched. she glanced one last time at what she believed was a deserted beach and as her eyes swept the vast nothingness. ready to do battle with each other all night and if she wasn't careful.but not quite. "How did you find me?" Buffy sighed. From all indications there was a real storm rolling in from the ocean. the moon chose that precise moment to slip out from beneath a blanket of cloud. She turned her face towards the water's edge and let the salty breeze spray up over her face.

"I don't understand how, but it's as if i could feel you. I just knew you would be here." She watched his broad shoulders waiting for some kind of reaction, when there was none, she continued in a low whisper. " Angel.. My head might have forgotten you but my heart remembers" As the words slipped into his head, Liam slowly turned around and met her eyes. Buffy watched as the anger drained from his tired face, leaving his dark haunted gaze full of pain and sadness. "My heart remembers as well and that's what's killing me Buffy. I don't know when it all fell apart and I don't know how to make it right" The sadness in his voice cut her deeply. Until now they had been going around in circles but it was time to stop dancing with each other and face their problems head on. "I've seen William" she started quietly but didn't get very far before Liam interrupted. "Me too" At the sound of the other man's name, he smirked bitterly and unconsciously rubbed his bruised knuckles. The back of his right hand was swollen and already turning a painful shade of blue. For a second his mind flickered back to the earlier confrontation with Pennington and his anger intensified. Buffy watched as a rapid play of emotion flashed across his face. "Are you alright? Did he hurt you? "She asked with concern but she could already see for her self that his face was unmarked. Liam snorted with disgust. The very thought of Pennington hurting him physically was ridiculous. But even as he thought it, he knew it wasn't quite true. Pennington had hurt him, as much as Liam hated to admit it, the arrogant bastard had almost destroyed him with a few smug words. "He told me the two of you were having an affair behind my back" Liam couldn't stop himself, he knew it was bullshit but the words tumbled over his lips before he could stop them Buffy fell silent for a moment carefully choosing her next words; the last thing she wanted was to send her husband running off after William again. She needed to tell him the truth but maybe she should hold back on some of the more sordid details. "He was lying." Liam lifted his head, noticing immediately the turmoil on her face. "Was he? And how do you know that. I thought you couldn't remember him?" For a

second the anger returned and flashed brightly in his chocolate orbs. Buffy swallowed hard but refused to feel intimidated. She hadn't done anything wrong. "He told me the same thing that he told you and because I was hurt and confused I believed him. How could I ask you? I didn't have anybody I could turn too. I didn't have anybody..." Liam started to move forward but on seeing the distress on her face he stopped. Buffy fought back the tears that burned the back of her throat and held her head high. "He was very convincing. He was sweet and kind and he could see how lost I was and he used it to his advantage." "And you just fell for it?" " I might have amnesia but dammit I'm not stupid, It took a while but I saw through his lies and tonight I called his bluff. " Did he touch you?" Liam asked, his jaw tight with frustration. Wanting the violence to end Buffy shook her head "In his own crazy way I think he really does loves me, but it was all in his head. I don't love him. I don't feel anything for him at all..." A look of doubt shadowed Liam's eyes and for the longest time it lingered there. "We don't have to worry about him anymore. William's promised to leave me alone, he's not going to cause us any more problems" Angel snorted again. William Pennington had made it very clear that night that their problems had only just started. **For a start there would be assault charges** Whilst caught up in his own thoughts he failed to notice the expression on Buffy's face as her eyes started to move around the beach. "Angel.. I..." She bit into her bottom lip as her eyes took in the dark rocks that towered up behind them. "This place is so familiar. Have we been here before" The question jolted Liam back to the present. "Do you remember?" "Just for a second there was something... It's gone now but I have been here before,

right?" **Tell her the truth** " Yes.. We used to come here to swim. Before we were married we would come down here to get away from Dawn and... " The sadness in his voice returned but it wasn't swimming in the sea that Buffy remembered "No, there's something else" She struggled desperately to retain the memory. This time the feelings were so strong that she could almost touch them. Tiny echoes whispered deep inside her head as the void, that was holding back her past, started to break down. Shaking her head she frowned not able to make any sense of the feelings she was receiving. "Why does this place seem so important to me?" Liam sighed deeply. From now on there was no more secrets, if she asked a question he would tell her what she needed to know. No matter how much it hurt. "Because this is where I asked you to marry me. I got down on one knee right there in the sand and I got soaked to the skin for my trouble." Buffy closed her eyes and searched deep for the memory, surely something that important couldn't stay hidden forever. "Did we ever make love here?" Before he could make it stop a flash of tangled limbs and gentle moans rose up from of his memory and once again tormented his eyes. Liam just nodded his reply as he fought to wipe the visions way. It simply hurt too much knowing that Buffy no longer shared these memories with him. Everything hurt too much these days. Feeling his chest start to ache, Liam realised that for Buffy those memories could possibly be lost forever. Buffy shivered as the sea breeze increased and she wrapped her arms around slender frame. In the sky overhead the clouds were continuing to gather, growing thicker with their promise of rain. "I think I was happy here" "You were"

A single clap of thunder brought the conversation to an abrupt end... It was no surprise when it began to rain, the first few drops turning quickly into a downpour. "Quick.. This way" Angel grabbed his wife's hand and turning away from the water's edge, he pulled her towards the nearest shelter ***** "You're soaking wet" "So are you" Buffy blushed feeling her wet dress cling to her curves like a second skin. Using incredible willpower, Liam dragged his hungry eyes away from his wife's trembling body. The shower had made the material of her light dress almost transparent and the sight of her slender frame so close and yet so far away, was driving him almost insane. Scrambling from the storm, Buffy thought the small cave carved out at the foot of the rocks had been a miracle find. Liam remained quiet; he didn't have the heart to tell her that they had been there before. Trying to take his mind off the thoughts he knew would hurt like hell, he turned his head and glanced back outside, hoping for a break in the weather. Outside the moon had temporarily escaped the grey mass of cloud, but the heavens over Sunnydale continued to pour down on them. Turning his back on the rain, and keeping his eyes away from Buffy's curves, he knew their only option was to sit tight and wait for the storm to blow its self out. It was going to be a very long night. Almost soaked to the skin, Buffy shivered and pushed her wet hair away from her eyes. Illuminated by only the soft glow of the moon, she looked so heartbreakingly young and beautiful that Liam felt his body stir with a speed that shocked him. Memories of them making love late at night in the cool sand, just a few months earlier, rose up and washed over his frustrated body and he had to fight back an overwhelming urge to pull her into his arms and kiss her until they were both senseless. The wind chose that precise moment to howl through the cave and to Liam's relief, thoughts of kissing disappeared.

Buffy wrapped her arms around herself to try and keep the chill away but it didn't work. "Buffy, you're cold" Liam reached up and gently brushed the rain away from her face with his fingertips. Buffy shivered again and knew it was more from his touch than the cold. "A little" Her voice shook and the small hairs on her arm stood on end. Liam lifted her hand and started to gently rub the cool flesh beneath his fingertips. As his feather light caresses slid across her skin Buffy's stomach flipped. "I know it's not going to be easy, with the amnesia and all, but we need to talk, Buffy. About Pennington and everything else that's coming between us" Liam took a slow breath, fighting to keep his tone level but it was a waste of effort. How could he speak calmly when his heart was doing somersaults inside his chest? As his long fingers continued to dance lightly across her skin, setting every nerve and fibre alight with their touch, Buffy fought with the very same needs. His touch was so warm and familiar that it was leaving her breathless. Feeling her mouth go dry she slid her tongue nervously across her lower lip, never once taking her eyes from Liam's face. "I know " she whispered and took a small step closer. Looking deeply into his dark eyes, she was amazed at the emotion shining back at her. After everything that had happened between the two of them, he still loved her. He still wanted her. Raising her free hand she trailed one finger gently down his cheek. "I know in my heart that there's a chance that my memory might never return. I also know that people like William can take advantage of that if I let them. So, I'm not letting anyone take advantage of me ever again. I'll call the doctor in the morning and I'll get some help if I can, but I can't worry about the past any more. If it's gone then I'll have to accept that and move on. " Buffy heartbeat increased and she felt a rush of adrenaline pump through her veins, giving her the courage she needed to continue. Taking a deep breath she spoke straight from her heart. "I want a future, Angel.... I want a future with you.. Only you" Outside, the rain thundered down on the sand and the waves crashed up against the shore, but inside the small cave the air between the two ex-lovers grew very still.

her thoughts twisted through her head like ivy. her flesh was now burning with a very different kind of heat. he crushed her into his chest with a deep sigh of relief When he finally spoke his voice was husky and raw. the second one turned Liam's whole body into molten liquid. Panting to catch her breath. Buffy's body began to ache in all the most delicious places.After what seemed like eternity. Lost in the bliss of his mouth. He then moved his hand to her tiny waist and before Buffy could even think about changing her mind. beneath the chill. she stared up at him through the darkness of the cave and the smile that she offered him melted his heart. "God! I missed you so much" For a split second Buffy heard a hint of pain return to his velvet voice but it was pushed aside as his hungry lips once again claimed her mouth. "I want you too" ***** Buffy trembled but she was no longer shivering from the cold. there was a fire that heated her blood. She moaned gently as he wrapped his fingers in her hair and settled his mouth over her lips. As his lips devoured her mouth. When his warm tongue found and traced the small bones in her throat Buffy through her head back and moaned out loud. Breaking away from the heaven of her lips. Pressed firmly up against Angel's muscular chest. When Buffy mewled deep in her throat his breath caught on a wave of desire so strong. " You are so beautiful" Liam broke away and looked deep into his wife's hazel eyes. "You're not so hard on the eyes yourself " If the first smile she gave him melted his lonely heart. ringing with a conviction that tore at her soul. her cheeks. Liam's hands slid over the folds of her wet dress and followed the soft curves of her body. Liam kissed her eyes. . Feeling Buffy respond to his kiss. Liam brought his lips to her forehead and gently brushed them across her wet skin. The memories from her past were so close to the surface that they fought each other to break into her head. Liam's lips were cool from the sea breeze and yet. and then her neck. She wrapped her arms around his lean waist and kissed him back with all the forgotten passion that she had buried deep inside her heart. it caused a shudder to pass through his whole body.

His heart leapt as he felt her small fingers on the front of his damp shirt. Liam pulled her back into his arms. Before she could find her lost breath. a warm colour highlighting her pale cheeks. she loved him with every fibre of her body. When her husband finally tore his eyes from her wet breasts. feeling her nipples puckering in the cool evening breeze. when his tongue flicked the roof of her mouth naked heat pooled in the pit of Buffy's stomach and she almost melted there and then. Liam lips then found hers again. Swallowing deeply. nibbled and kissed almost to the point of insanity. She didn't get a chance. that Buffy felt a sudden need to dive back outside into the raging storm just so she could cool off her burning skin. the shirt slipped down his arms and disappeared. She wanted him. Her blood ran first hot and then ice cold with each wet caress of his soft tongue. desperate to be touched. Buffy found herself shivering again but this time it was from anticipation. Undoing the front clasp. So lost in the heat of Buffy's mouth Liam almost missed her small fingers work between their tight . lowering the zip of her dress. Liam released her small breasts and held them lovingly in his hands. such hot-blooded desire. forgotten onto the dark floor. As the cool night air wafted over her skin. leaving her standing almost naked in the dim moonlight. When her nails grazed across a tight dark nipple he sucked in a short breath. Buffy forgot how to breathe. exploding the man she had married and yet cruelly forgotten. she needed him but more than that. "My turn" He stared at her with such intensity. brushing his mouth over the soft lace of her bra. Meeting his dark gaze she saw Liam's eyes were almost black with passion With a groan he pulled her into his arms again. she reached out her hand and ran her nervous fingers over the taut muscles of her husband's smooth tanned chest. pulling away at the buttons. the wet garment was pooling at her feet. A flash of white-hot fire shot through her bloodstream as his hands slowly drifted down her back. Liam then lifted own his hand and covered her small fingers. Buffy blushed. Buffy sighed. Buffy felt her nipples harden into tiny buds. pulling her hips up against him so hard that she could feel the hardness of his desire pressed firmly against her abdomen. Almost as if he could read her mind. he lowered his dark head and kissed his way down her throat. She then threw her head back with a soft moan as her skin was licked. Finally free.

Buffy stood as still as marble. Reaching out. He felt his damp trousers slide over his hips and as they fell at his feet he kicked them free. Buffy found her back being pressed into the cool damp sand. "Buffy. He knew at that moment that he couldn't bear it if he ever lost her again. Liam smiled softly as his hands gripped her hips and gently rested between her open thighs. A clap of thunder high above them broke the lovers apart.bodies and slip the button on his fly. Buffy answered the question with her eyes long before she found her voice. With the declaration ringing in her heart. take it as fast or as slow as she needed. His heartbeat quickened until it's pounding blocked out every other noise. "I love you " her reply was barely above a whisper but it was all Liam needed to hear. Buffy's heart stopped for a second as the air between them grew still. her large hazel eyes never once leaving Liam's face. Closing her eyes for a second she finally let her heart answer for her. . He would do what ever she wanted. Buffy's reached out her hand. Lifting his head he looked deep into his wife's eyes "Do you still love me?" He asked the question so quietly that it was almost lost on the breeze. The storm outside was then quickly forgotten as Liam's eyes drank in the sight before him. It was a question she had asked herself a million times over the last few days. cupping the back of his neck and pulled him down into her body. are you sure you want this?" Liam brushed a loose strand of hair away from his wife's face and marvelled at how much he still loved her." Lowering her gently to the floor. "I love you" The vulnerable expression in his dark eyes was so sincere that it reached right into Buffy's heart and touched her soul. before tangling his fingers in the silk of her blonde hair. "Yes. Within a second the lightning strike followed. he softly traced the contours of Buffy's face.

Buffy hands slid down and came to rest on his firm buttocks. Moaning softly. Only him. Feeling her muscles tighten around him. All that mattered now was that Buffy was back in his life and she still loved him. stretching and filling her to perfection.. encouraging him on with her hands and her eyes. The friction causing her nipples to harden even more. She was home. Liam was where her heart should be. As he moved. and after witnessing Buffy and Liam's little reunion. a lone blonde figure. As Liam started to move deep inside of her. The past no longer mattered. her heart and her soul. that hatred had sent her completely over the edge. Tomorrow they would talk but not tonight. Buffy dug her fingers into the taut muscles of his backside. Buffy let all her fears for the future blow away with the howling wind. Liam's hard chest rubbed against Buffy's breasts. soaked to the skin stood quietly unobserved by the sated lovers. Their hands joined. Thrusting her hips up to match his rhythm.Tonight they would heal other wounds Feeling Liam's mouth once more descend on her lips.With those three words all the hatred and bitterness he had felt over the last few months seeped away. she gave her husband back her body. both desperate never to let go of the other again. A deep bitter hatred was burning out of all control. as the pleasure she was feeling became almost unbearable. William wouldn't like it but . but instinctively she wrapped her legs around his hips. Swallowing her cries of passion. Fingers locking together. but his lover easily matched his pace. Liam moved his hips faster. Slow and hard. Buffy threw her head back and screamed out as a burst of coloured stars erupted before her eyes. Darla Penn wasn't worried about the storm raging high in the sky above Sunnydale. if it did someday return she would accept it as a bonus and they would deal with it. she had her own storm brewing deep inside her soul. Buffy gasped. She might not remember making love with this man but her body responded with a memory of its own. ***** Outside in the pouring rain.. she gasped as she felt his full weight push into her small body. Darla's plans changed that night. their mouths locked in a bruising kiss. Knowing that she had once again failed to break the lovers apart she decided a more drastic option was needed. With that final thrust. In Liam's arms she knew without question that she was safe and that she was loved.

killing off the little chance of sleep he might still yet salvage. it would be almost impossible to destroy the prosecution's case that afternoon. His mouth dropped open and his brain whirled deep inside his head but as he stood staring at the scene before him. destroying what was left of an already poor night's sleep. As the plan took shape in her demented head the tormented woman smiled. As soon as the sun rose Darla was going to put an end to the thorn in her side once and for all. pulled the pillow tighter around his ears but it was all to no avail. this time she would do the job herself.. Shaking his head. She was going to have to kill her- For the first time in his life Lindsay Macdonald was totally speechless. and the tired young lawyer knew unless he got a full eight hours sleep. Dropping his pillow back behind his head. No. not one of them had come even close to the actual sight that greeted him. if he had any real hope of winning his case.. The Prosecutor he was up against was a real evil piece of work and Lindsey needed to be at his sharpest. There was only way to keep Buffy away from Liam. remembering that he was due in court all afternoon and the last thing he needed was early morning phone calls. the yawning young lawyer silently cursed his misfortune and pulled his pillow over the top of his head. he closed his tired eyes.there was no other choice. the incessant ringing refused to end. Lindsey groaned. Lindsey turned his bleary eyes towards the . The thunder and lightning that crashed its' way violently across the Sunnydale skyline had kept him wake for hours. **Some people never cease to amaze you** ***** When the phone had first rung that morning. Of all the scenarios that had crossed his mind on the short journey across Sunnydale. not a single coherent word could find its way across the barrier of his amazement. **Never send a boy to do a woman's job** she thought bitterly at her brother's failure.

You want me to do what?" With the reply. "If this is your idea of a joke. With a low groan of annoyance. What? " The lawyer's eyes widened as the voice on the other end of the line actually seemed to laugh.. If it had been anybody else but Liam calling. the young man's frown grew darker " Say that again. but the thought of being torn from his nice warm bed was something he really didn't want to face. which he made no attempt to disguise.. Lindsey ran his hand through his rumpled hair and scratched the back of his head. As his sleepy head slowly started to wake up.. Liam. And when he got his hands on the caller. The unexpected storm had torn its way through Sunnydale until the early hours of the morning and. it's not funny" He shook his sleepy head and glanced once more at the alarm clock.? " With a tired sigh he rolled his eyes. **Just totally insane** As an evil little voice whispered the thought deep inside his mind. Lindsey pulled himself up against the pillow and cradled the receiver next to his ear. at that time of the morning his body might be awake but his sense of humour was still very much asleep and if he heard so much as a hint of laughter. even more convinced that the call was a practical joke. he noticed that the room was still dark and even the damn birds that chirped annoyingly outside his window each morning had better sense than to rise at this ungodly hour. Lindsey grinned first . "You're where? What the hell are you doing at the beach. "Do you have any idea what time it is? We have to be in court this afternoon and. he was throwing the phone out of the window. believe me. Have you been drinking again? " The answer he heard from the other end of the line was short and sharp and left no doubt that his friend was perfectly sober. in his opinion. It was bad enough being torn from his sleep. still disbelieving that anyone would call him at that hour of the morning. in fact it wasn't even dawn..bedside clock. Turning his thoughts back to the conversation in his ear. Even half-asleep Lindsey knew that no one in his or her right mind would have ventured out onto the beach the previous evening. and saw with horror. only an utter fool would have headed there in that kind of weather. "Dammit. Lindsey scowled. that it wasn't morning at all. the conversation would have already ended. the person in question was likely to go in the very same direction.

Lindsey had little difficulty getting to his destination. there was one thing that the lawyer had to admit. for your sake. but not quite. the smooth golden sand looked almost deserted. this better be good" With a resigned groan that his beauty sleep was well and truly over for the night. the Sunnydale skyline was once again giving birth to a glorious morning. the roads to the beach were almost deserted and before he even had time to moan about missing his breakfast. but Liam. Liam could use a little tranquillity in his screwed up life** Lindsey brought his thoughts back to the matter at hand and immediately noticed that apart from the seagulls squawking overhead. Raising his hand to cover his eyes from the rising sun. **Whatever the reason turned out to be. he left his car by the side of the road and strolled across to the beach. He then closed his eyes and shook his head again. I'll be there as soon as I can. Lindsey took a moment to breathe in the fresh salty air and wondered again what the hell he was doing up at that time of the morning. you win. The peace and tranquillity that washed over his tense body was amazing. one thing was very sure. **Maybe that was what Liam had been looking for on the beach the previous evening. Lindsey watched as Liam jumped .. Lindsey threw his long legs over the side of his bed and reached for his jeans ***** Thirty minutes later. Liam was going to seriously owe him for this** Not bothering to lock the door. he was turning his car towards the small slip road that led to the more secluded part of the coast. Almost.time that morning. the first sighs of dawn had finally started to break their way through the darkness and with the storm now miles away. Finding himself standing alone in the morning sunlight. Parking his car just a few feet from the sand. "Okay. " Hey!" A familiar voice broke through the stillness and brought all thoughts of tranquillity to an end. On the horizon.

** Lindsey eyes widened in amazement when his gaze took in the state of his best friend's hair. Or for that matter. One that didn't call him out in the early hours of the morning and definitely one that didn't want to share his clothing. a few minutes later the confusion differed away when Buffy walked out of the rocks along side her husband. Lindsey had never seen his best friend looking so dishevelled. **He looks like a bloody tourist. wearing his leather jacket. just try not to get it covered in sand" He reluctantly handed over the garment and then became even more confused as his soon to be ex best friend. The smile on his face was enough to light up the darkest night's sky. "Lindsey.. I need your Jacket" Lindsay's eyes glanced to the size of Liam's arms and slowly shook his head. and without another word walked away.down from a large rock formation. I need to borrow your jacket?" Lindsay's mouth fell open and did a perfect impersonation of a goldfish as he watched Liam walk bare foot across the damp morning sand. Liam covered the short stretch of sand that separated them. . In all the years he and Liam Angelus had know each other. "Here. "Liam! What the Hell's going on? I thought you wanted a ride home?" Not breaking his stride Liam through the reply over his shoulder and left his bewildered friend scratching his head in wonder. As he moved. turned. and walked swiftly towards him. with an evil grin that it would take at least a dozen washes to remove all the sand that Liam had obviously been rolling in. " Sure.. it's freezing out here. The gelled spikes were nowhere to be seen and he guessed. his dark silk shirt flapped open around his shoulder and his designer trousers. With a dozen long strides. were happily rolled half way up his shins. "We do " Lindsey didn't have time to wonder for long. "It's about time you showed up. so contented. which appeared to be covered in sand and dirt.. but you realise it will never fit you" He replied as he slipped the brand new leather jacket from his shoulders and seriously considered trading in his best friend for a more considerate model. Not that Liam seemed to care.

" Liam said sincerely and tightening his arm protectively around Buffy's small shoulders he followed Lindsay to the car. The lawyer took a step forward and smiled "Hello Buffy. the extra sleep he longed for seemed more and more unlikely. Lindsey watched as she pulled his jacket closer to her thin body and realised how cold she must have been spending the night waiting for the storm to pass. you can give me all the fun facts later" Liam quirked an eyebrow and his friend knew at once that there was no way he would ever learn what really happened that night. Not that it mattered. That. "I'll remind you of that the next time your sister comes to town" He replied happily. let's get you two home. "I owe you. it's really good to see you again" His soft voice was sincere and Buffy immediately felt at ease. a vision of Cordelia rose up and danced before his eyes. as the sun continued its rise in the early morning sky. causing the smug grin he was wearing to double in size. he indicated to his car "Come on. **A date with Cordy was just what he needed** Lindsey would definitely be calling in that favour.. . and a few more hours sleep. At the promise Lindsey grinned. Just seeing Liam smile again was enough to make him happy.Looking at her bare feet and similar dishevelled hair. Not wanting either of his friends to catch a chill he cut off the reunion speeches and raising his hand. At the thought. She didn't remember anything about him but she immediately liked him and she sensed. that he and her husband were definitely good friends. the penny finally dropped and Lindsey roared out loud "I should have guessed" Buffy blushed and her cheeks flamed with embarrassment as she studied the handsome young man's face. I was beginning to turn a little blue around the edges" Buffy joked and tried to prevent her voice from showing how cold she really was feeling. "Thanks for the jacket. But. from his good-natured grin. It was a glorious morning but the sea breeze was still blowing enough to stop any real heat from warming her cool skin.

Dropping into the front seat. Buffy slipped the ruined dress from her shoulders and twisting her tiny hips slightly. now locking lips in the back. ***** "Home sweet home" With a heart-felt thank you. she quickly peeled off her bra and panties and with the flick of her wrist. she knew that later she would be paying the price for being so reckless. he twisted the key in the ignition and purposely turned his eyes away from the reunited lovers. she let the damp material pool at her feet in the middle of the bedroom floor. **Home sweet home** As her husband's words slowly filtered into her thoughts Buffy looked up at the pretty white house and for the first time since the accident. It was sad that all three items were less than a day old but Buffy knew they were all beyond repair. she would remember to take along a blanket. Liam watched his friend drive away. As she looked down at the overflowing wastepaper bin. almost. the memory of Angel removing each garment brought a warm flush of colour back to her cheeks. there would certainly be a next time in the . ****** With a small sigh. Their night together had been wonderful but as she ran her fingers over her pink skin. scratched from rolling in the sand. but the new memories they were creating certainly made up for the ones she had lost. and a promise that he wouldn't be late for court that afternoon. Touching the tender flesh again. This really was her home and she was never going to leave it again. the sand filled underwear quickly followed the dress into the waste paper basket. she remembered the events of the last few hours and smiled. Once the car was out of sight. she viewed the building with a completely new perspective. he wrapped his arm around Buffy's shoulders and guided her towards the steps of their house. **And if last night was anything to go by. she silently made a note that the next time they rolled naked in the sand. "You two *really* need to get a room" Lindsey laughed He was still smiling ten minutes later as he drove away from Revello Drive.. Well. Standing still. She might only remember enough about her past to fill up a thimble. Stepping out of the garment. He was right.

she hurried back down the hallway. he was still occupying the shower. Although they had spent the best part of the night making love. her mouth dry. . and her heart thundering as she watched the naked silhouette through the misty glass door. she cringed at the tangled mess beneath her fingertips. As her eyes adjusted to the steamy haze. At the sight of his glistening tanned flesh. her small pink tongue slipped over her dry lips and the swirl of heat in the pit of her stomach ignited and seeped deep into her pelvis. For the first time since her accident. Buffy was unable to drag her eyes away from his long naked form. she was relieved to see that her petite body was slowly starting to show signs of gaining the weight she had lost over her four-month absence. the cave had been dark and the opportunity to get a good look at her husband's naked body had been limited. She watched as the hot water crashed over his dark head. Buffy could see the man she had married in the full light of day. all she could smell was the scent of Liam's shampoo filling the air. Buffy stood dead still. She took her first deep breath and let the heady aroma flood over her senses. **Gulp** Apart from the butterflies in her stomach. Buffy turned away from the mirror. On reaching the bathroom. Gazing down at her reflection. she raised her hand and running her fingers through her hair. the sight that greeted her almost took her breath away. But now was an entirely different story. ran smoothly down his back and almost seemed to caress his firm buttocks before it faded from her sight. Not able to wait another second. how it cascaded over broad shoulders. Buffy picked up the large fluffy towel she had earlier placed on her bed. **I so need a shower** At the blissful thought of standing beneath a jet of hot soapy water. She swallowed the lump that rose in her throat but still didn't move. As Liam moved gracefully beneath the cloud of steam.very near future** Walking across the room with a large grin on her face. and after securing it tightly around her breasts. Her figure was nowhere near the curvy shape it appeared in their wedding video but she realistically accepted that every new pound she added was a bonus. the sound of running water informed her that Liam had not only beaten her to the bathroom. Buffy quietly opened the door and slipped silently inside the steamcovered room. Buffy stopped and stood naked in front of the full-length mirror. The room was humid and as she stood nervously biting into her bottom lip.

just letting his hungry eyes roam over her beautiful body. Closing her eyes. Liam's hard lean body was pure poetry in motion. feeling both safe and loved. He had a smooth chest. Buffy sighed as her eyes continued their journey down his long wet legs and just for a moment.. **She was really home ** Liam reached out his hand and turning a small dial on the wall. she unwrapped the towel she was wearing and picked up a bottle of her own shampoo from the shelf. Buffy smiled up at him through the steam and reaching up a small hand. muscled thighs and legs that seemed to. maybe there was a heaven to be found on earth after all A rush of hot water crashed over her head as she lovingly slid her hands around her husband's waist and laid her cheek against his wet back. he adjusted the speed of the water crashing over their heads before closing the small distance between them. lean hips.. standing in the warmth. The image was electric and sent a hot delicious shiver right down to her toes. she slipped inside the small cubicle and closed the door behind her.. He'd known she was there from the second the shower door had opened. But now. the darkness. **Maybe I better have a cold shower** she smiled at the thought and quickly rejected the idea. she ran her fingers lightly through the soap in his wet hair. For a moment he stood. Buffy breathed in deeply as the water cascaded over her tired skin. With a soft moan. her breasts pushing up against the hard wall of his chest and her hips . her mind imagined them twisted around her body. slowly revitalising her weary flesh. His shoulders were broad and like most of his body they were sculptured with sinewy muscles. Buffy slid back the shower door and without making a sound.No wonder she found it so hard to breathe. **Maybe after being in hell the last few weeks there really was a heaven to be found on earth** She remembered the hell well enough. who they were. the loneliness. the isolation of not remembering who she was. No longer able to wait for her turn. Liam reached out and drew her closer until their bodies were finally locked together. Liam smiled at the feel of her small breasts brushing against his back and slowly turned around. "You were taking far too long" She tried to smile but there was simply too much heat in her eyes. After four long months of believing he would never see her again. It was like suddenly being hit by lightning.

"So I got tired of waiting and though it might be fun to share" Her voice whispered suggestively and standing up on tiptoes. "Nice?" Angel raised an eyebrow in amusement. tepid.. Sliding her hand down the length of the bed. feeling the hard evidence of how much he wanted her. "Nice?. ***** "Mmmmm. That was so nice" Buffy rolled on to her side and purred out a long satisfied yawn. Buffy wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed her hungry lips to his mouth. Nothing was breaking them apart. warm. "Want to try it again. While the sounds of lovemaking shook the air. he watched the sheet cover her naked form and a small smile turned the corners of his lips when he felt her small warm body snuggle up against his side. Hot. His fingers reached out and lazily toyed with a loose strand of her damp hair." She blushed as she heard a replay of her own words and then with a soft sensual smile... she reached out her hand and gently traced her fingertips across his lips..pressed firmly against his. Lowering his head. maybe we could try something not so nice" He suggested with a grin Buffy's eyes widened "I was talking about the shower not. . she found their forgotten sheet and with a sigh of contentment she pulled it up to cover her cooling body. the shower continued to spray water over the occupants inside it's four walls. The lovers were still locked together when the water ran cold. **Nice?** Buffy tilted her head at the question and almost laughed at the pouting expression her lover wore across his face. Lowering his eyes. I only rate a *nice* now?" Liam's dark eyes glinted seductively as he teased. he dropped a soft kiss on Buffy's warm shoulder and felt a tiny shiver run right through his wife's body.

But with the rising sun. he found himself almost praying **Please God."The shower was nice."He started but the words were quickly lost when Buffy lowered her mouth back to his lips and slipped her tongue deep into his mouth for a long tender kiss. He was teasing.. It had been easier in the cave. Liam couldn't stop the fear flooding through him that maybe.. Whatever happens in the future. Buffy's heart filled with joy and when she smiled.. " You had me worried for a moment. Buffy. lying side by side in their own bed. he gently traced the soft curves of her face. invading his every nerve and fibre. her eyes were shining with such raw passion it made him tremble. came reality and now. dry and warm again is nice but you. Liam shivered with anticipation and the raw heat that swirled in the pit of his stomach flashed so intensely that it almost burnt him alive. Reaching out. I just need you to hold on to that. the passion in her sparkling eyes . Buffy would leave his life again. one day. Leaning forward Buffy brushed her lips to his mouth and softly kissed her reply " You were perfect" She pulled away to gaze into his face and the gleam in his dark eyes told her all that she needed to know. he knew very well what she meant but he was enjoying the game. She looked so beautiful lying there.. That he would wake any second to the buzzing of his alarm clock and find his bed empty and his life once again in shambles. "I love you. "I can't tell you how many times in the last four months I've dreamt of this" His soft voice trembled as he opened up his battered heart and laid it open for the entire world to see. if you remember your past or not. don't ever take her away from me again ** The though of losing Buffy again sent a bolt of terror straight through his heart.. Liam suddenly felt scared to death that none of it was real. Liam breathed deeply and let her scent fill his senses. She was still slightly damp from the shower and her eyes. He closed his eyes and without even realising it. There were still so many unanswered questions between them and even though they had both promised to make a fresh start. It flowed over his tired body in waves. The storm and being trapped together had made the whole night seem almost surreal. Breaking the kiss he pulled back slightly to stare at her face and was almost choked with emotion. Buffy on the other hand was through with playing games. being clean.

Leaning into her husband's strong body. She insistently eased her thighs apart to take him and then twined her legs around his body. ***** "God! You were right. With a final shudder of release the man she hadn't remembered. the very last word on Buffy's mind. For a few contented moments they lay there in silence. With a soft moan Liam turned her in his arms. She let her hands caress their way down his muscular back and dug her fingers into his hard buttocks." Wrapping her tightly in his arms Liam softly kissed Buffy's forehead and stroked her hair. Buffy felt the strength of his desire press harder. Liam finally sank deep inside of her. but already knew that she would love for the rest of her life. Her skin was on fire and it burned where ever his lips kissed her. Buffy closed her eyes as a wave of exhaustion washed over her tired bones. He kissed her eyes. Buffy sucked in a deep breath and mewed in her throat. With a passionate sigh. "No arguments from me" Buffy sighed happily as she tried to bring her own breathing under control. At the now familiar feel of his mouth on her breast. rolling her until she was beneath him. "It was Perfect" He breathed deeply as the pounding in his chest started to slowly return to its normal level. As her lover's body surged against her. slowly licking his way along the smooth column of her throat. and as wave after wave of ecstasy flooded over her tired soul. filling her body almost to the point of pain. she cried out his name. her neck.. collapsed bonelessly on top of her.changed to tenderness. The curtains had been left open from the day before and the warm morning sun now fell in soft golden ribbons across their bed. I have something for you" Liam turned away for a moment and when he turned back. reluctant to untangle their sated bodies. "Before you fall asleep. Her mind flashed back to the scene in the study and she . her cheeks. She didn't get a chance to reply. was *Nice*. Feeling complete. he held a small gold band between his long fingers. Buffy recognised it immediately. The room fell quiet.

" She fell silent for a moment. She hadn't remembered removing the ring then and with a sad tug at her heartstrings. The darkness inside her head was still ever present but whatever demons it hid. at least for that night. I . Buffy accepted the tiny circle and slipped it over the third finger of her left hand. holding her tight." Liam smiled. no. struggling against the forces of sleep.remembered the pain in Angel's eyes as he waited for her to remember why she had left him. she knew all the love she felt was shinning in her eyes." At the remark Liam looked astounded "What? You couldn't possibly. ." His lips tenderly brushed a featherweight kiss to her hair as he watched her eyelids flutter. Not that I wouldn't. the exhaustion of the last twenty-four hours slipped over her face and reflected from her sleepy hazel eyes.. but in his heart he knew he would never be truly spent where this woman was concerned. " I'm so sleepy.so this day can keep happening. "I thought you might like this back. Feeling his wife's hot breath sigh softly against his skin. she snuggled up against him." His long fingers danced lazy circles over her taut stomach. You?" "For now. It fitted perfectly. secure in the knowledge that she was no longer alone in this dark world. Their eyes met and held. "I love you too. I want it to last forever" She tried to hide the tiny yawn that crept into her voice but as her eyelids fluttered.want to stay awake .. "No. I'm spent. All thoughts of William Pennington and his sister were firmly pushed out of her head.. "No. Laying her head against his muscular chest.but I still want. Buffy giggled at her husband's stamina and when she looked at him. then with trembling fingers." Buffy smiled at how easily the words slipped over her lips. she still couldn't remember why she would have taken such a drastic action. This is the best day of my new life. . Liam wrapped his arm around her. once again teasing every nerve ending into life. Buffy knew they would now face them together. "I love you.

but not able to rest. but even as he closed his eyes he knew sleep wouldn't come. There were just too many demons running through his head. she rested her head against his warm chest. We'll make another one like it tomorrow. memories of his fight with Pennington returned to haunt him and the ugliness that they brought left a bitter taste in his mouth. "Sweet dreams" Without disturbing her slumber. Liam cradled her closer to him and tenderly kissed her head. as once again it's hot red tentacles licked all around her skin. he knew the lying little bastard would never give them a second's peace. She tangled her legs with his. **We don't have to worry about him anymore. Exhausted. Buffy sighed in contentment. William's promised to leave me alone. ****** "Angel" Buffy cried out in terror as the fire that haunted her earlier dreams returned with a vengeance. Buffy closed her eyes. He wouldn't worry Buffy for the world but he seriously suspected that their problems with Pennington were far from over. Liam then settled back against the pillow and tried to relax. If William loved Buffy as much as he proclaimed he did. he's not going to cause us any more problems** Buffy seemed certain that their problems with the lovesick poet were now in the past but Liam didn't believe it for a second. As his imagination kicked in. As the events of the last twenty-four hours took their toll. and within minutes she was sleeping peacefully. he reached out his free arm and reset the alarm clock by his bed. Liam lay watching Buffy sleep for the next three hours before turning off the alarm clock and silently slipping away.Liam could hardly reply he felt so relieved." His voice was little more than a whisper. He knew that if he were late for court that afternoon Lindsey would never forgive him. Happy with his promise. "Sleep. It burned and scorched. it never changed . she knew what would happen next. Even fast asleep. tucked her head under his chin and finally letting out a small yawn.

No matter what she did. Buffy. . **Run away and hide little girl** Pain bubbled up in her throat but when she tried to scream. The voice she was hearing was her past. In the darkness of her mind there was no one there to hear her cry. All her hopes for the future appeared to have crashed and burned before her very eyes. He never loved you** **You were never the cheat. **This time it will get you** A voice that she knew but couldn't quite place whispered out the warning. It stood right outside the door of her mind now and with a blaze of pure hatred. Only this time the words sounded more like a threat. she knew it was already useless... **You should never have come back.Buffy reached out her hand and watched in horror as the once smooth texture of her tanned arm crinkled and blistered as it slowly melted from the bone. licking it's way up her ankles and slowly burning her alive. it screamed to be let in.** **He doesn't love you. her eyes widened in fear.** **He was** "ANGEL" Buffy sat up in her bed. The heat was like a flaming stalker. engulfing her in its hatred. Buffy watched the fire danced around her feet. or how far she ran. it followed her every movement and it was still heading her way. the shattered young woman felt as if her whole world had come to an end that night. Buffy stood frozen as she watched the burning heat move ever closer. Wrapped in a blanket of darkness. Deep inside her nightmare.. she wouldn't escape it this time. **Never send a boy to do a woman's job** Darla Penn stood on the rocks for more than an hour before finally tearing her drenched body away from its unobserved vantagepoint..

**A future that until just a few hours ago included the man of her dreams and the words. Closing her eyes. the petite blonde quickly blinked back the tears of frustration that burned behind her eyelids. Buffy's voice was the first to taunt her head. like yesterday** **Sorry.Darla's skin crawled and she felt truly sick to her stomach but. **When Liam's around. The open tear in her battered heart was still very raw. Darla turned silently from the cave's entrance but her exit from the beach was short lived. and a constant ache for revenge screamed its . Lost forever on the swollen tide. I don't remember him yet but I already know I still love him** **Darla. almost physically attacking her small frame with the weight of their anger. her feet found their way to the water's edge and her toes sank deep into the cold wet sand. Darla's troubled mind was abruptly brought back to the present. What a laugh that was" Before Darla could even hear her own bitterness. Filling her lungs with deep gulps of damp salty air. Neither the storm raging high in the sky above or the cold water splashing at her skin seemed to penetrate even the first layer of her senses that night. but the chill of the spray attacking her bare legs didn't bother her in the slightest. the angrily whispered words were swept up by the wind swirling around her and blown far out to sea. refusing to show so much as a sliver of weakness. but I've fucked up big time.. With a violent crash of water. She shivered. **Crying was for fools and for babies** She wasn't either. it's like the lights dim everywhere else. quickly followed by her brother's sad confession. Not that she needed to hear words that night to feel the bitter pain of betrayal. the lone female on the sand tried desperately to clear the confusion swimming around her head and contemplate her now uncertain future. Ignoring the storm still raging high above Sunnydale as it tore violently into the dark velvet skyline. I need to find William.. She's out looking for Liam right now and when she finds him. happily ever after stamped right through it** "Happily ever after. Darla couldn't prevent the memories of the last few days crashing over her tired body. Not yet ready to deal with hard reality. luv. it's all over**. Buffy knows I lied to her.

always coming in second place. Her shattered heart fuelled with a lifetime of hatred. Buffy was always there in front of her. Darla painfully twisted her fingers together as her thoughts returned to her childhood rival. **No matter what she had just witnessed in that cave. Darla swiped an annoying strand of wet hair away from her face. the lightning's natural energy lit up the darkness. Her body was on fire. Stealing her life. For a split second. she watched in awe as a lightning bolt streaked its way across the infinite heavens. Arms that would have been wrapped around her if only Buffy had stayed lost** Darla trembled again as the hatred she felt for Liam's wife. Strangely. . throwing a ghostly shadow across the silver sand and further highlighting the rage of the surf. the wind picked up. Mother Nature's violence and fury matching her own feelings to perfection. attacking her small frame but even as her pale skin started to tinge blue with the cold. but she still didn't move away from the water's edge. As the violence from the storm washed over her. finding solace in its rage. Once again Buffy had destroyed her one chance of happiness. She had spent her whole life living in Buffy's shadow. It didn't matter what she did.way through her blood stream with every new beat. Lifting her thin arm against the driving rain. Darla didn't feel the chill seeping into her bones. Long months of scheming and planning had been ruined the second Liam had taken that bitch of a wife back into his arms. And the rage in her heart. her *happily ever after* wasn't over yet** Tilting up her wet face towards the sky. or who she loved. the deranged female allowed her twisted feelings of betrayal to slowly bleed into any sense of reason she might have once possessed. pounding in her chest until she was in serious danger of combusting. At that moment. **Arms that should have been wrapped around her. she took comfort from its anger. Stealing the show.. radiated out from every pore in her skin. Fighting back the anger Darla slowly brought her breathing under control by reminding herself of one sure thing.

The plague of Buffy Summers. Darla stared so intensely into the violence of the sea. taunting her stupidity. but this sickening reunion was almost the pink icing on a very sickly cake. Standing in the middle of the raging storm. an annoying little insect that continually gnawed at her flesh.** ** You exterminate them. William's fight with Liam. Her rival's face danced in front of her eyes. Darla let the violence fuel her own anger and only one thought whispered in her head She really had no other choice now but to wipe out the plague that had blighted her life for more years than she wished to remember. echoing deep inside her head with each thunderous roll of water. Darla let her imagination run wild. all of her hopes and dreams crumbled into dust. **Buffy was a bug. **It simply wasn't fair that Buffy Summers would win again** Darla sighed and closed her eyes. and there only way to deal with bugs that wouldn't go away. Laughing at her pain. Once and for all** Turning her head back towards the crashing waves that ripped across the soft pale sand. and his confrontation with Buffy were bad enough. **Could she really kill Buffy?** The question repeated over and over. .But not this time.. that the dark vision slowly blurred in front of her eyes. but could she take her life?** **Could she kill for Liam?** After a few seconds a small smile curled the corner of the woman's cool lips. The answer was almost too easy. out of the blue.. **Buffy wins again** Cutting out all other sounds from her mind. ** Could she really kill her rival in order to secure her own *Happily ever after* ?** **Sending the bitch away was one thing. Everything had been going so well until.

***** "Don't do anything stupid and try not to worry." Darla sighed deeply and regretted her decision to tell William the scene she had witnessed on the beach."Yes. They had plans to make. that marriage was over. he was a survivor. there was no reason why they couldn't do it again.** **Okay. it roared. the dripping wet woman had promised to call around as soon as she had showered and changed her clothes. Darla already knew Liam's agenda off by heart. Trying to ignore the heartbreak she heard in his voice. **But what if he does throw in the towel. I did before and I'll do it again. The lovesick fool really does have strong . Darla felt his tired spirit crack underneath the painful information. she remembered that he would be in court most of the afternoon. leaving the vulnerable little wife at home all alone. she and Will had to move fast **Buffy and Liam's sickening little reunion wasn't long for this world. William needed her to stay strong and in order to do that. If she was going to stop all of her dreams from slipping through her fingers. Her brother had been devastated by the news that Buffy was once again sleeping with her husband and even though she couldn't see his face. the very second she put down the phone. just like she was. One way or another.. **After all. Darla Penn's evil little mind was turning over the possibilities. " Darla's voice was barely a whisper but the sea heard her answer and almost in response. like sand through an hourglass.** Darla smiled as she kicked off her wet clothes and stepped into a shower of hot water. between them they had broken Buffy and Liam apart once before.** Darla knew her half brother too well. she tried to block all negative thoughts from her head. I'll fix it. It really wouldn't be that difficult. Lathering her body and shampooing a beach full of sand from her tangled hair. he had the same lust for life running through his veins that she did. Even before the receiver was placed back on its catch. Will was a romantic at heart but he wouldn't quit. she needed to stay positive. so William was feeling down but he would soon bounce back. Trust me.

the room was scattered with personal belongings. Is. preventing the pile of poetry books that her brother was now holding from being added to his shirts. Home" Her voice was so cold it sent an icy chill right through the room. William threw open a large packing case and without even looking. would he stand in her way? ** Darla shook the thought from her head. I'm going home" With a casual shrug of his shoulders. "What does it look like I'm doing? I've had as much as I can take of this bloody freak show. If the siblings couldn't split them apart. Sinking to the floor of his broken home. William sighed deeply with frustration as the books he had been about to deposit tumbled down onto the closed lid and then bounced onto the floor. This was the last thing she had expected. "This. The broken glass and splintered furniture from his fight with Liam was still scattered all around the once stylish room but it wasn't the destruction that caught Darla Penn's attention. I'm through with this bloody town. After receiving his sister's bad news about the state of Buffy and Liam's marriage. William answered the question with hardly a trace of emotion in his voice.feelings for the ex cheerleader. its caused me nothing but aggravation" His voice was still quiet but the tone was now deadly serious. ** ****** Two hours later. **Maybe it wouldn't do to tell William everything she had planned after all. Everywhere she looked. Your. he dropped the armful of shirts he was carrying into its depths. "Have you gone insane?" Darla quickly crossed the room and with a flash of anger. Not even bothering to turn his head. Without even looking at his sister he bent his knees and started to retrieve his property. "Darla. the poet's vivid imagination had run wild. all he . she slammed down the lid of the expensive packing case. He simply couldn't carry on living like this. "What on earth are you doing?" Darla asked as her widened eyes swept over the devastation that had once been her brother's living room.

Lifting his . He was exhausted. marble. **God. "And what about Buffy?" She asked. nothing was sacred as the anger in his blood flooded his body and he ripped loose with a vengeance. For a second he actually meant it He remained silent and as Darla watched the emotions flicker across his face. As the emotions attacking his heart flicked across his swollen face. But the rampage didn't last for long. once the fury in his heart had burned out. wood. **Poetic justice really** **She was never really your girl** **It was never you** At first he had raged. he decided that he wouldn't take the romantic reminders with him after all. Sitting alone and feeling like a small child who had lost his favourite toy. William cried for what he had become. she started to panic slightly. A painful shudder went through William. sated and exhausted. laying naked in arms that weren't his. Glass. for the first time in remembrance William Pennington cried. breaking what was left of any still standing furniture. trying to keep her voice calm. Just the sound of her name caused the blood in his veins to run icy cold. "I'm going home" ** William glanced back down at the book he was holding in his hands and after reading its flowery title. But in all honesty. he silently swore that he was finished with love and all the pain it had brought him. Darla's words sliced through the poet's misery and his broken heart clenched deep in his chest. William took a real good look at his future and reluctantly accepted that the picture staring back at him wasn't Sunnydale. what have I done?** Finally. all that was left was the pain. as the tears rolled freely down his perfectly chiselled cheekbones. both physically and mentally.could see was his golden girl. He cried for Buffy. He cried for what might have been if fate hadn't been such a cruel bastard.

it wouldn't make Buffy love him." "Yeah. but if nothing else. Slowly standing to his feet." Not bothering with a glass. William turned away. William stared into his sister's face with a look of disbelief. he knew that nothing they did could ever fix this mess now. William desperately needed something to help him forget. it would numb it for a while. because there was only so much pain a person could stand before it sent them insane. his tired eyes swept around for the half empty bottle of scotch he had earlier placed by his packing case.badly swollen eyes for the first time. William understood only too well that he had crossed the line with Buffy the night before and standing there in the cold light of day." The pain in his eyes almost took her breath away. Something to help him move on before the feelings inside him burned and consumed him until there was nothing left. Darla didn't want too see . It wouldn't take away the pain or the continuous ache in his chest. That had to be better than nothing. Darla on the other hand didn't want to see the cold light of day. It was the look of defeat that bled into it Feeling her gaze sweep over his darkening bruises. No matter how much he drank. "Suit yourself" "That's not going to help. He really couldn't play this game any more. Darla shook her head. "Are you taking the piss? You made it perfectly clear that Buffy and that bastard she married are screwing each other again. It didn't matter how much of the stuff he poured down his throat.. Darla. no longer disguising the fact that his heart was broken and his pride was ripped to shreds. "It's over. William shrugged his shoulders. The solution to their problems wasn't going to be found at the bottom of a whisky bottle. well I happen to think it just might. The first mouthful stung as it found the small cuts inside his mouth and as much as he hated to admit it. William gulped the burning liquid straight from the bottle. " He continued.. it wasn't a magical cure. Darla was right. "Do you want a drink?" He asked holding the amber bottle in one hand and twisted the lid with the other. But it wasn't the pain that made her worry.

Look. William raised his hand to his face and when his fingers touched the dark purple bruise on his jaw. i just need a little more time" Her fingers played nervously with the folds of her skirt. Darla. Shoving his hands in his pockets. Darla felt a knot of fear in her chest grip tight but the pained expression that slipped into William's sad blue eyes indicated that she had hit her mark. It's not going to happen that way.any negativity at all. For a split second William thought he was breaking through her denial but the moment passed and when Darla met his eyes again. he slowly crossed the room and crouched down in front of her. he had spent the whole night plotting how he could turn this mess around and make Buffy understand that he was the only chance she had for a happy life. luv. It was true. Sunnydale was too small a town to hide in and there was no way he was going to watch Buffy and Liam playing happy families everyday. do yourself a favour and give it up. he was simply too tired of playing Darla's games and of finding himself on the losing side. you know it as well" His sad eyes sought hers and they held for a moment." The word tore from her lips like an explosion. .. Darla pushed the contents of a leather armchair onto the floor and dropped into the seat "I can still make this happen for us. she smirked. It's time you grew a backbone little brother" He jerked as if she had physically hit him. "We can still do this. you were never close. I'm so close. Last night you were begging me to help you and now you want to run back to London with your tail between your legs. he winced in pain. I should never have agreed to this crap in the first place and I'm not staying around Sunnydale to get my bloody heart cut out day after day. "Why don't you just give it a bleeding rest. Taking his sister's small hand between his large fingers. But Darla's revelations about the fuckfeast on the beach had destroyed his last remaining hope. "No. Ignoring the outburst.. Come back to England with me because Buffy will never leave him now. he softly rubbed her skin." Anger flashed across his face. I know it and in your heart.. William looked at his sister and for the first time he thought about her sadness. He had to get away. "No.

This conversation was going nowhere. she lifted her chin. "Now who's being all dramatic?" She smirked and a flicker of playful mischief danced across her cool eyes. hunting for the real meaning behind her words. "Stop being so dramatic" Pushing away from her."Well maybe its time to stop playing games and get rid of the little bitch once and for all" William shook his head and sighed heavily. Darla opened her mouth to protest." William rolled his eyes at the ridiculous notion. maybe it's time I got rid of the bitch once and for all" William spun around and grabbed her arm. . **Darla and her schemes** Keeping his voice as free from emotion as possible. pet. even though it was an effort to do so. As long as Buffy can breathe she will always find her way back to Liam" The resentment at the simple fact once again tore deeply into the poet's heart. "If you so much as touch a single hair on her head. His dark blue eyes were like pinpoints. boring into her flesh. Darla swallowed the slight lump that had risen in her throat and almost as an act of defiance. A war of emotions raged within her as she slowly walked across the room. but clamped it shut as her brother's gaze drilled into every inch of her face. Darla rose from her chair and followed him. she came right back. Dropping her arm he slowly backed away. William knew that look only too well. I'll make you sorry you were born" His gaze darkened and the promise was very real. "You tried that once before and it failed. he stood up again and turned away. Don't you understand. You sent her running and look where it got us. That works just fine for me. I'm just saying. **As long as Buffy can breathe she will always find her way back to Liam** Darla's smirk grew wider as her brother's words mirrored her own earlier thoughts "Stopping her from breathing? Good idea little brother. "I'm not being dramatic. he continued in a quiet tone.

William's eyes searched the wreckage of his home for a bottle of anything that would numb his pain. His gaze darkened but Darla stared right back at him. you were MORE than happy to help last time" Darla continued. "Then we might be both better off with her out of our lives once and for all" This time Darla didn't even bother to hide the hostility in her voice. Buffy ran and I lost her. Forgetting his need for alcohol." The anger was gone from his voice. William's jaw tightened and his skin drew flat over his features. cruelly pushing her point home." Turning away from his sister. Sadness and regret had replaced it. Darla. it never bothered you the last time." To cover her frustration.. Darla looked into her brother's face and wished she could shake some sense into him. I love you. "And when did you become so damn righteous. "And what did it get me? Your bloody plan worked too well. Watching his body tremble at the memories Darla continued.When he spoke again it was in a deadly quiet voice.. but I won't let you hurt Buffy". deliberately moving away from her William closed his eyes. Darla. You were happy to help then. "Sending her away won't help me this time. A sliver of fear clouded his eyes at the thought his little sister might actually be serious. "In point of fact. . but he shook her off. you're my only family. I can't go with her. He'd lived with that little deception for the last four months. Walking closer. acknowledging her words. Darla laid a hand on his tense arm. "I mean it. Darla changed the smirk on her face into a full-blown smile. "I might have set the stage little brother but you led the audience right to her seat" She smirked and knew she had scored an important point. He was sobering up far too quickly and the agony in his head was pounding. She doesn't love me" His voice trailed off in remembrance. William's eyes filled with guilt as he remembered only too clearly how he had helped destroy Buffy's once perfect life. He didn't need her to remind him. not backing down "I can't let you hurt her. pet.

I won't touch a hair on the cheerleaders head. Darla come back to England with me. Darla's pleading would have melted his resolve.Somewhere over the last few weeks. **Men** Darla knew better than to continue in that direction. Pulling slightly away. . William Pennington was simply too tired of picking up the pieces of his broken heart and shoving them back into his chest. It was the same look it had taken her weeks to remove from Liam's face after Buffy first fled. Please Will. In the end it was William's soft voice that broke through the stillness. He stayed still this time." William shook his head and ignored the pain the jerky movement created. If you change your mind you are always welcome to join me" Darla sighed and shook her head. their eyes locking in understanding "Okay. but it doesn't work that way.. Neither spoke and the room fell deadly silent while the two lost siblings struggled with their own inner turmoil. the last thing she needed was William spoiling her plans. At any other time in his life. The look disgusted her. we lost. resting against her forehead. William's hand gently stroked her back." The anger was gone from his voice. frustration stiffening her body. okay. Darla looked into his tired swollen eyes and tried one last time. but not today. Stay here and help me. he'd changed from the ruthless young man she had always known to a sickly lap dog. His voice rose. She might act like a cold heartless bitch but at the end of the day she would always be his sister and. I have a great idea that will split them apart once and for all. With a forced smile to her lips she moved closer to him again and placed a hand back on his arm. He had to get as far away from Sunnydale as possible. I need you. he would always love her. She wanted his help not his hindrance. his whole body vibrating with the pain of defeat "I can't do this without you" Darla's voice rose as well. just for a few months until this all dies down. for all her faults. We tried. He had no choice this time. "You know I can't do that. I promise" William's head lowered. "I'm on the midnight flight to London. "I really worry about you sometimes. I'd march into Hell and sell my soul to the devil himself. frustrated. "If I thought for one second that I could really have Buffy.

He was now running seriously behind schedule and. But they won't be mine" **The past always has a way of catching up with us ** William Pennington. Don't you understand. "You're a fool Darla. Walking away."I can't. at this rate.. she started for the door. The sun. You're always late these days** He didn't need to be a mind reader to know the very first words his friend would greet . I can still make it right" She replied sadly. streamed through the kitchen windows in soft golden waves. "Buffy. yet? It's too late to make it right. " she turned her head and knowing it was useless to continue the argument. "This can only end in tears" The words were so low that she had to strain to hear them When they finally registered. William tried one last time to make his sister see sense. ** This is getting a habit. I have to try one last time.. The aroma of coffee teased the warm morning air and. I can't give up Liam. already hot and hazy in a cloudless blue sky. it was almost a certainty that he would miss his breakfast meeting with Lindsey. an almost forgotten radio gave traffic and weather reports every fifteen minutes. Four months earlier The past catching up. inwardly groaned.. checking his wristwatch. her face expressionless "I know. It was a Friday. Angelus. have you seen my case? I'm sure I left it on the table last night and now it's just vanished" Walking into the kitchen. in the corner of the room. Darla merely nodded. The past has a way of catching up with us. Liam ran his hand through his spiky hair and. In all respects. the start of a perfectly normal day. we can't change what we did and we can't make it right" He took a breath before continuing with his last words on the subject. still refusing to admit defeat. her final words were missed by the dejected young poet "There will be tears all right..

.. **Just because you found the perfect woman doesn't mean that there's one out there for all of us. there really was only one Buffy Anne Summers and he thanked God daily. everyday reality came crashing back down on his shoulders.. and then immediately realised the flaw in that little scenario. but It wasn't as if he didn't have a perfectly good reason for being late that morning. or any other morning for that matter** Making love with Buffy took preference over a boring business meeting any day. Lindsey needed somebody like Buffy. once more searching for the missing .15am and the weather here in Sunnydale is set to break all records for this time of year" Liam snapped out of his reverie when the radio in the corner of the kitchen announced a time check. and with a groan. His gaze softened as it caressed every inch of her small frame and he smiled tenderly at his wife. being married to the right person was the most wonderful experience in the world. Liam shook his head. At the thought of the other lawyer's disapproving face. Now very late** "Dammit" he silently muttered the curse under his breath. Liam smiled again. you fool** With a nod of acceptance. Not that Lindsey would see it that way. Cordelia and Lindsey were too alike in far too many ways. for finding her and for loving her** "It's 9. Lindsey was like a broken record at times.** As a mental image of the two in question flashed into his mind. Lindsey. **Maybe it was time for his best friend and his sister to. knowing that the pairing would probably be a match made in hell. Well.. at seven o'clock in the morning it did. he was never on time these days.him with. Liam cast his eyes around the room. Unless of course you feel like putting in a good word with that gorgeous sister of yours for me** Lindsey was always joking about his feelings for Cordelia.. Liam bit back the small smile that tugged at the corner of his lips. The trouble with Lindsey McDonald was that he needed a wife. **There is nobody else in the world like Buffy. ** It was true. Tucking the back of his shirt in his suit pants. **No. someone to tie him down and domesticate him once and for all. Liam reflected. he turned his head and let his dark eyes run hungrily over the woman that occupied his whole world. his so-called unrequited love. For Liam. a fact that his best friend Lindsey sadly seemed to miss out on. **Meeting. Case. but Liam suspected that the feelings went a whole lot deeper than he really let on.

**If it had had teeth it would have bitten him. his sad pathetic wife has absolutely no idea". Angel might not have time for breakfast that morning but there was no way she was letting him leave the house without at least drinking one cup of coffee with her. I bumped into Darla yesterday at the hair salon. he was that close. McDonald would really have my head if I'm late AND left these papers behind. gloating over the wife in question's stupidity. but Darla Penn would never accept . Buffy placed the coffee cup down on the table next to him. "I'm sure I put it on this table" From the other side of the kitchen. Of course it wasn't. he snatched up the black leather case. Running a hand through her newly highlighted hair. While her husband was immersed in legal papers. The small briefcase was lying up against the wall just inside the doorway. Buffy realised that he must have walked past it at least three times in his earlier search. She told me to say hello to you and Lindsey and then proceeded to bore me to tears for the next hour about her sick new love life. "Oh. that Buffy had felt an overwhelming urge to wipe the look off the slut's face and shove her head right under the scalding faucet. Liam quickly crossed the room and with a slight sigh of relief. nothing had ever changed where Darla was concerned. Buffy removed a small carton of milk and tearing off the top.** Following her direction. Darla had sounded so smug that afternoon in the hair salon." he said as he flipped the catch and quickly confirmed that all the documents he needed for court that afternoon were neatly filed away. it should still be there. Lindsey would just have to wait a little longer. he searched underneath the table with little success. With a grin. Opening the fridge door. Buffy snorted at the memory and took a sip from her coffee cup. In all the years the two women had know each other. and after dragging her gaze away from her husband's muscular behind. switching it off. "It seems that she's now boinking some married man and would you believe it. she carefully poured the contents onto the steaming liquid in her cup. Buffy rolled her eyes in quiet disgust before continuing." At the re-lived memory. I forgot to tell you. As the dark rich coffee changed colour. poured the hot water into two bone china cups. she stirred in a sweetener and walking over to where Liam was still busily shuffling papers.case. Buffy turned back to the kettle and. Scratching his head and bending over. Buffy smiled. always trying to see if the grass was really greener on the other side. she pointed to where Liam had left the case in question. Darla was never content with anything in her life. "Thanks sweetheart. It was there the night before and unless it had suddenly grown feet and walked away.

the young Buffy Summers had promised that she would never find herself in that situation. leaving the poor woman suicidal at her loss. What did you say?" Liam was too busy looking through the papers in his briefcase to catch much of the conversation. As his hand checked for his wallet. "I can't even remember how many restraining orders she's taken out against that ex boyfriend of hers. **And now she's moving on to married men** "I don't get it. Without consciously trying.. Could those breasts look any more fake if she tried?" Again. Buffy remembered only too clearly visiting her aunt in hospital one sunny afternoon." Liam pulled his jacket from the back of a chair and started to slip his arm through the long sleeve. Not that he seemed to notice. Watching the life drain from the once vibrant woman. she muttered the sarcastic thought more to herself than her husband. Besides. Buffy took another sip of her coffee "And can you say implants. That level of betrayal was unforgivable. had run off with a girl years younger. knowing that she would never put up with a cheating husband. it wasn't like she needed to worry on that score." At the mention of the other woman's name. after she had *accidentally* fallen on glass and cut both of her wrists. her husband closed his briefcase with a click and frowned. Jenny Calendar's husband Rupert. her husband had never once looked at another woman.. How could the wife be so blind?. Darla is a real magnet for trouble these days. the love of her life. Although she was only a slip of a girl at the time. Buffy. For some strange reason. a picture of her Aunt Jenny slipped easily into her mind and she remembered the heartache her family had suffered many years earlier. I know that she's a friend of yours but that woman drives me crazy. In all the time they had known each other. "Sorry. I'm sorry. So stupid?" Buffy asked the question more to herself. "Honey. every relationship she had ever ventured into had failed miserably." Picking up his keys from .that. Angel had never once caused her any reason to believe that she wasn't his whole world. leaving others to pick up the pieces. **Poor aunt Jenny. "I said I saw Darla Penn in town yesterday and she said to say hello. Noticing his coffee cup for the first time he snatched a quick mouthful before turning to his wife. Poor stupid aunt Jenny** Buffy took a deep breath and wiped the unhappy memory from her head. the frown creasing his handsome features seemed to grow.

gently stroking the soft skin. but thanks for the offer" Liam rolled his eyes. "Well. he added. I think she has a crush on me" Buffy arched one eyebrow at him and her eyes twinkled. honey. there was a giggle in her voice as she teased again. His fingertip ran over her cheek. if she did I know this great defence lawyer who will come running to my rescue" Her tone was playful and her bright hazel eyes glinted with mischief. He looked so sweet when he was ranting "It's not funny. he softly kissed the tip of her nose. Buffy shrugged her small shoulders. "I'll always come to your rescue.. brushing her mouth with a light kiss. " That's if I ever get there. I'm the poor sucker who has to deal with it." he teased back. I talking about Lindsey. The first of their many fights and disagreements over the years. Besides." Liam whispered huskily. "She might be a great client financially. the frown on Liam's face had morphed into a full grown scowl Buffy chuckled. Reaching out his hand Liam brushed a loose strand of hair away from his wife's face and marvelled at how much he loved her. but then grew serious. but Lindsey is so sick of her antics that he won't have anything more to do with her case.. and now every time she has a problem. I don't want Darla taking a restraining order out on you" He replied and tilting his head slightly. The thought of his wife protecting his honour was adorable "No. Do you want me to beat her up? I did it once before. For a moment the air seemed to crackle between them. "That's okay. she did say she has a thing for married men these days. he slipped the bunch into his jacket pocket. Buffy tried to keep a straight face but when she finally spoke. "Actually. then glancing at his watch and realising the time. I'll tell Lindsey that he has a new client as soon as I see him. This time Liam laughed.the table.. You are such a bad influence on me" . and the memory of Darla's split lip and angry red face slipped its way into her mind. "Okay. He grinned. We were five" She grinned. I think its time that she and that fool of a brother found a new law firm" At the mention of Darla's brother.

"Lindsey is waiting" Buffy breathed deeply and knowing one of them had to make the first move. he pouted his bottom lip for a second but then his whole face broke into a wide grin. The smile was his undoing. and exquisitely tender. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Liam tilted her face. He touched a finger under her chin again and lifted her gaze to his. she crossed the distance separating them and reaching up on tiptoes Buffy wrapped her arms around his neck. all thoughts of work. Feeling her body press even closer. her skin quivered as his hands started to caress her. before his tongue slowly gave into temptation and slipped effortlessly into her mouth. " I love you" Liam smiled softly. "Angel" his pet name was a soft sigh "You have to go to work" Reluctantly. All traces of their earlier teasing were gone. his large hands splayed over her back. On ly when Buffy broke away did Liam open his eyes. The kiss was long. They might have been married for two years but when his wife looked at him like that. twice. Buffy sighed softly and beneath the thin material. Liam Angelus was lost. Their eyes met and held. "I love you too" Dropping his case silently to the floor. winding her fingers in his hair. trying to calm the raging fire that always burnt through his body when ever he touched his wife's skin. His breathing was as ragged as hers. he paused and turned. reluctant to leave. . Buffy returned his smile with one that sent a shiver right down his spine. deep. Placing a finger under Buffy's chin. Liam nodded. she took a small step back. Lindsey McDonald and court cases were forgotten.Picking up his case. he headed towards the front door but just as his hand reached the door handle. Bringing his breathing under control. the heat of his long fingers seeping through the thin cotton of her robe. Buffy smiled back at him with eyes overflowing with the same emotion. Liam nuzzled his face against her hair. breathing in the fragrance of her shampoo. With a slight groan. His lips brushed hers once. Hopelessly lost. In less than a heartbeat.

You" he mouthed the words silently and not waiting for a reply. "I. he was already late. Love. A romantic dinner for two. a night at the Bronze and Buffy's promise of red-hot sex was not going to leave his mind for the rest of the day. followed by a night at the Bronze. **Besides. Liam reached out his hand and pulled his wife back into his empty arms. In the clear blue sky above. Dinner at eight thirty sharp" **Because Cordelia's going to be here all weekend. Buffy dropped the brush she . *** Fifteen minutes later. she watched her husband's dark convertible pull into the street and didn't move until all sight of the vehicle had faded from her view. but for just a moment. Liam quickly slipped into his car. The image of dinner. Buffy shivered and pulled her robe closer to her body. Liam glanced back over his shoulder and their eyes met and held one last time. She didn't understand why. ***** Later that night Hearing the sound of a car pulling up outside her window. what would a few more minutes matter** With a devilish smile. Buffy stood on the doorstep and waved her fingers in a final goodbye. "Don't forget about our deal. how about I spoil you tonight instead. There really is no rest for the wicked" Liam's voice spoke but his eyes continued to tell her that work was really the last thing on his mind. the bright morning sun was burning down in golden yellow rays but as the car pulled out of the driveway. Shaking off her stupidity. On reaching his car. she felt an unexplainable sadness cover her soul. What do you think?** **Throw in a night of red hot sex and you have a deal** Liam nodded."I know.

we have a table booked for eight" slightly panicked. Raising her eyes. Pushing back her disappointment and realising her bad manners. The table was booked for eight thirty but the sooner she got rid of her unwanted guest. fearing that if Liam pulled up now and saw Pennington waiting at his door. **So much for dinner. "Where on earth have you been? I was starting to get worried. Buffy frowned again. but her husband was now seriously overdue and the way things stood. dancing and hot sex** The smile on her face slipped a fraction more and by the time she fully accepted that the night was almost certainly a write off. Liam should be here at any moment. Will had rehearsed this scene in his head all afternoon and nothing was allowed to go wrong. William Pennington stood silently on the doorstep. Buffy had reluctantly distanced herself from the friendship. "Hello Buffy. "William. he took a slow breath to hide the tension swirling inside his stomach and debated one final time how he was going to handle their confrontation. Buffy turned her attention back to her visitor and tried to reinsert the smile as best she could. Not that he didn't already know. William Pennington had been a great help with the gallery over the last year but for some unknown reason. Lifting her head. there would be hell to pay. his face broke into a shy smile... I thought you were Liam" Dressed all in black. May I come in?" Unable to keep up the pretence that she was happy to see him for more than a few seconds. they would never make the restaurant in time. in the same room. Buffy nervously glanced over his shoulder. still disappointed that the man standing on her front porch was not Liam and that all her plans for their night lay in ruins. It was no secret that he and her husband disliked each other immensely. what was left of the greeting now resembled a frown. When Buffy returned the smile to her face. When it got to the point where the two men couldn't even be civil to each other. Not only was it not Liam standing in front of her. the smile that curled the corners of Buffy's lips slipped a little with disappointment. Buffy's eyes returned to her unexpected visitor. This time the . Liam had taken an instant dislike to the cocky. Although she once considered the young English poet her friend." On confronting her visitor. Nerves pushed aside.. brash Englishman.was using to style her hair and taking a quick glance in the bedroom mirror. She shook her head reinforcing her point. " Sorry. the better. the flustered young woman knew it was only a small lie but he didn't need to know that. this is really a bad time for me. she headed down the stairs and threw open the front door with a relieved smile. It was the only time in her marriage when she and her husband hadn't agreed.

tilting his head slightly to the side. For a heartbeat or two he didn't respond. One step at a time he closed the distance between them. his emotions still unreadable. I have to show you something" He moved closer..** Buffy shut the last thought right out of her head telling herself that she would know if something really bad had happened. Ignoring the man standing in her hallway. As much as she hated to admit it. After a few agonising moments she realised it was switched off. she remembered the feeling of trepidation she had experienced on the doorstep that very morning. William's cool blue eyes swept over her face but his expression still refused to give anything away. Shocked by his behaviour Buffy turned. Buffy reached for the phone and punched in the digits to her husband's cell phone. something seriously wrong ** Before Buffy could further protest. . slowly. "There's not been an accident but you really do have to come with me.. Buffy shivered and as her skin prickled with goosebumps. "That's why I'm here.seriousness in his expression caused a small shiver to slide the length of her spine.. **There was something wrong here." William hesitated. you really need to see this" At his cool words. luv. Liam lying in the wreckage of his car. Buffy found herself becoming intrigued. build the suspense. his liquid blue eyes never leaving her bewildered features. He had to keep her guessing. With the front door left wide open. "Has there been an accident? Is it Liam?" There was a real tinge of panic in her tone as her frantic mind ran with a dozen different scenarios. Get your coat. Then. pet. If her lover were really hurt she would have felt it. Liam de. his eyes shadowing for a second. a cold breeze swept through the entrance and brushed its evening chill over her bare arms. Ploughing his hand through his short bleached hair. **Liam in hospital. the already alarmed young woman felt her stomach drop into free-fall. her worried face demanded answers "Buffy. her unwanted visitor's long legs moved over the doorstep and carried him into the hall. Turning her head back to her blonde visitor. It was cruel but it was necessary. the handsome young man shook his head.

Thank God for Aunt Jenny** Tearful over her mother's death one afternoon. drunk and depressed. Darla had danced for joy when. please. William remained silent as his imagination undressed her petite body and the crotch of his black denim jeans suddenly felt uncomfortably tight. **So poor little Buffy had issues with abandonment. Not only would he finally be with the woman he loved.. Hardly moving a muscle. **Aunt Jenny. she ran a hand through her hair. but also. her brother changed his mind and jumped on board with a . freshly washed.. what a shame. being that unhappy. I'll send you all the way back to the Mother country in a wooden box** A wave of undiluted hatred rose up and washed over William at the memory. **If you so much as go near my wife one more time.** Once Darla' plan was hatched. tucking an escaped strand behind her ear Pennington watched the woman he adored closely and with each beat of his lonely heart. It didn't take long to rain. Buffy would hate Liam with ever fibre of her body for the rest of her life. Her silky golden hair. patted her back and carefully stored the information away for a rainy day. Especially as I'm just the person to manipulate them.. Months of waiting to destroy Liam Angeuls' marriage once and for all. Ever the sensitive soul. and Liam being away in new York for a week. Tonight was payback. Buffy had confided in him that it was also her aunt's birthday and then related the story of how the poor unfortunate woman had met her death. he would have happily done anything in his power to teach the young arrogant lawyer a lesson. William had been dead against the idea. he ached for her. When Darla had first broached the subject of breaking up the happy newlyweds. He couldn't bear to see the girl he had fallen so badly for. William held her."William. William hated Liam with a passion and even if he hadn't fallen in love with Buffy at first sight. It was only after a jealous Liam intervened and prevented Buffy from even being his friend that everything changed. by the time he and Darla had finished this little masquerade. hung in soft curls around her slim shoulders and the slight aroma of her perfume floated between them and seeped into to his hungry senses. He'd waited months for this moment. the poet had let the story slip three months later. He and Liam had a real score to settle and taking Buffy away from the bastard was the icing on the cake. You're frightening me" Making no attempt to close the door.

that he would take care of her. And now. Buffy shifted uncomfortably on the seat. her eyes narrowing with suspicion but the blonde poet wasn't volunteering any more information. her eyes wondered to William's face. Almost on autopilot. Buffy waited. For an insane moment. turning her head slightly. The faint clamour of warning bells drifted into her mind again and the uneasy feeling that had started earlier now knotted in the pit of her stomach. While William reminisced. Her husband was seriously overdue. he spoke quietly. "Come on. "I wish you would just tell me what this is all about" Buffy asked quietly when they pulled up for a red light. he slipped his hand under her elbow and swiftly propelled her towards his waiting car. he yearned to pull her into his arms and tell her that everything would be all right. But. as if he couldn't fully relax. he might as well benefit. she let out a heartrending sigh. William turned his head and stared as her sweet voice broke through the silence. A rush of longing flooded through his veins as his hungry blue eyes swept over her pale features. For the first ten minutes they drove in complete silence. When William felt her momentarily hesitate. Nothing made sense. this is hard** William's increasing heartbeat thundered through his chest as he watched Buffy slide her . His grip was warm and firm and Buffy moved without question. pet" Opening the car door for her. we need to hurry" He reached out a hand and snatched up her jacket Buffy felt uneasy leaving the house but knew she had no other choice. Buffy merely nodded her agreement and slipped into the passenger's seat of the dark DeSoto. the benefits were just about to come home.vengeance. his cell phone was switched off and the only person who seemed to know anything about his disappearance was standing right in front of her. Buffy looked so breathtakingly young and beautiful that all thought of the deception he was leading her to was temporarily forgotten. as much as he longed to hold her. but his angular face was still void of all emotion. **God. he knew it would spoil everything. If there was going to be a separation between the Angelus'. after all their hard work and planning. The car moved out of Ravello drive and was soon heading through the town. and he seemed tense. Buffy then lifted her hand towards the short leather jacket but didn't quite make contact. In the dim light. Torn. It was freshly shaven but his eyes looked tired. "You have to see this for yourself.

Buffy raised a suspicious eyebrow. "Buffy. Turning his gaze back to the road and away from the temptation of her lips. he still kept his face expressionless. "Just go on in. she shoved the feeling aside. The coffee shop. When Buffy turned back to face him there was a lingering uneasiness in the look she that gave him but. Buffy realised where they were going immediately. Putting his foot down. **Bide your time you horny fool." He switched off the engine but made no attempt to move. the Sun cinema. The traffic lights then thankfully changed to green and the car swiftly moved away without another word. When William pulled up outside the main entrance. it's not right. Not that she had ever been inside. **This will only hurt her for a little while and then life will be better. what they're doing to you.. something far too intimate. Suddenly there was a *they* in the equation and that one little word filled her with new terror. Will tried to remove all romantic thoughts of Buffy from his mind. After tonight she's all yours** "We'll be there in a few minutes. I hate being the one to do this but its bloody wrong. I don't understand" She felt her throat tighten but not wanting to show any more fear than was necessary. He swung the car effortlessly into Crawford Street and drove straight for the mansion. Buffy's gallery. the door's open. Buffy frowned. Buffy" His voice was low. he gripped the steering wheel so hard that his knuckles turned white from the pressure.tongue nervously across her bottom lip and he felt his lower body stir with a speed that seriously shocked him. . trying to make sense this new information. but her curiosity piqued by his outburst "They?" she paused for a moment. "Will. An array of buildings flashed by unnoticed. "This is your home?" He ignored the question and went straight for the kill. annoyingly.. she had heard from Darla that her brother had finished the conversions on the once abandoned building and the renovations were said to be spectacular." There was a slight tint of anger in his voice but also something else. for all concerned.

She told me to say hello to you and Lindsey and then proceeded to bore me to tears about her sick love life. At the sound of familiar voices coming from further down the hall. William then removed a packet of cigarettes from his jacket pocket. She could now see and hear everything perfectly Buffy suddenly couldn't breath. the blonde man justified his actions. her feet moved slowly. You have to stop it. At that point Darla threw her arms around him and sobbed into his chest. pulling her closer. I hate being the one to do this but its bloody wrong. I need you to put an end to this nightmare once and for all. I won't leave you" Buffy couldn't see his face but she was in no doubt that the male in the room was Liam. she hesitated just inside the doorway. silently following the sounds until she reached the large living room door. Buffy's body went taut. Coming to rest in the doorway. His arms immediately went around her waist. it will be alright. the light from a single lamp cast the room in soft shadows but she could still see the figures perfectly. It seems she's screwing some married man and his pathetic wife has no idea** **Buffy." William Pennington's sister sounded almost hysterical. Turning back for a second. Her long blonde hair was loose around her shoulders and her face flushed with excitement "I can't do this any more. it's not right** .well. and it was a real relief for William when her attention was suddenly distracted. honey. I'll do what ever it takes. Unable to form speech she watched in horror as the scene being played out before her unfolded. Buffy moved slowly up the steps. Darla Penn flounced around in nothing but a thin silk bathrobe. what they're doing to you. Although the male occupant in the room appeared partially dressed. "Calm down. She couldn't make out exactly what they were saying but she was already starting to get suspicious. **I bumped into Darla yesterday at the hair salon. Trusting hazel blending with treacherous blue but neither spoke. When curiosity finally got the better of her. their eyes met and held one last time. he put one to his lips and flicked open his lighter. apart for Liam** Pushing down any trace guilt. Her mouth fell open and utter disbelief etched deeply into the contours of her face. Pulling smoke deep into his lungs he watched as Buffy pushed open the DeSoto's passenger door and slipped out of the car.

Cold fear gripped her heart as she realised who Darla's married lover was. Darla maybe. willingly stepped in and did the rest. Buffy** **I love you. Buffy** **I love you. **Who the stupid pathetic wife was** Unable to even breathe. not her Angel. Angel would never do this to her. His lips whispering against her hair. it had worked like a dream. The deception had been carefully prepared and from the shell-shocked look of the cheerleader's face. Darla knew the second Buffy had walked into the room. Outside. Except that he was.Buffy's earlier words crashed over her like a tidal wave of pure fury. she froze in the doorway as her heart shattered into a million painful shards of betrayal. Her gaze was transfixed on the train wreck that had just become her life. If she hadn't been in so much pain she might have caught the tiny victorious smile that curled around Darla mouth. Buffy just stood as still as the grave. William. **The same lips that had whispered to her** **I love you. A frantic call to his office that afternoon about her ex lover still stalking her was all it took to get the lawyer running to her defence. William stood back and waited for the explosion that would rip the Angelus' marriage apart forever. Time seemed to slow down allowing the pain invading her body to seep deeper into her soul. Buffy** "Liar. stayed locked deep inside her head. Setting up Liam was easy. cutting her up into tiny unrecognisable pieces. Buffy** **I love you. She tried to close her eyes to block out the sight of the treachery. but she couldn't. His hand. Angel was reaching for the cheap bitch and pulling her into his arms right in front of her. with his information about the betrayed aunt. Liar Liar" Buffy's lips moved but the words she wanted to scream across the room. . but it never came. Darla had arranged the same hair appointment the day before and then carefully planted a few seeds of doubt into her mind about her affair with a married man. Buffy** **I love you. **Her husband and her school friend** If she hadn't witnessed the deception with her own two eyes she would never have believed it. unobserved in the doorway. It was a shame she couldn't get him out of his shirt as well but the removal of his jacket looked good. but not Liam. the same hand that had caressed her own body that very morning. An accidental glass of red wine down his jacket had been a godsend. Buffy had taken a little more attention. was now gently stroking Darla's back.

She didn't see Darla theatrically blush and apologise for her drunken familiarity. No matter how much Liam denied a relationship. he tore his gaze away first. his heart constricted as he watched the small blonde's once happy life shard into a million jagged pieces right before his very eyes. . no arguments. he found himself feeling almost ashamed by his part in the conspiracy. the stupid little wife would never believe him. she didn't see her husband push away from her ex school friend. She failed.Watching the pain streak across her rival's face. **Angel. Darla smiled.. so extreme it made her bones ache. Buffy stopped for a second and her haunted eyes raked over William's stoic face. she struggled to rein in her emotions. They would argue. Darla hugged Liam tighter and buried her head into his shoulder. What would I do with out you?" Darla lifted her face and moved her lips towards his mouth..That level of betrayal was unforgivable** Her thoughts were in too much turmoil to attempt speech so. and unable to stand the pain reflected in her sad eyes. ** It was over.. without a single word Buffy turned on shaky legs and silently fled back along the hallway. maybe fight but Buffy's trust would be gone forever and she would patiently bide her time and be there when it all fell apart. As hot salty tears started to well in the corners of her eyes. Back in the living room. As she fled. Momentarily horrified. the shattered young woman felt her heart crack.. She saw only betrayal and lies. "Thank you. Unexpectedly.. There were no fireworks. Just abject misery. Buffy had slipped away into the night. Biting deep into her lip. Angel. The look on Buffy's face said it all. On reaching the front door. no screaming. William didn't try and restrain her and before he could find the words he needed to comfort her. a shock of deep embarrassment etched across his dark features. flooded through Buffy's body causing her limbs to tremble. She didn't see the masquerade played out so convincingly for her benefit. William had braced himself for a confrontation but this was the last thing he had expected. She called him Angel ** Devastation. Waiting by the door. Little did Darla know but her masquerade that night worked better than she had ever dreamed. When she moved again.

who swore her ex-lover. her wish would be painfully granted. Liam muttered a silent curse as his eyes caught sight of the time. Buffy ran her hands over her tired eyes and when her gaze caught the ring of pale skin on her third finger where her wedding ring had once lay. the haunting visions replayed behind her closed eyelids. Liam had spent the last two hours calming a nearly hysterical client. *** That same night Closing the door of his car. only to have the terrified woman threaten to do something stupid if he left her alone. He had promised Buffy a night out and he was already three hours late.***** One hour later. Wave after wave. was trying to break into her house and kill her. She needed to escape. run away and collect her bearings before facing the truth. heading in a different direction. Buffy wished with all her heart that she could forget him. screamed and shouted and maybe cracked a few skulls but she couldn't do it. As the pain of betrayal once again ripped open her chest. Unable to sleep. a shattered and broken hearted young woman walked silently into the bus station and caught the first greyhound leaving Sunnydale. More than once that night he had tried to leave. Darla's hysterics were Pennington's problem now. . She knew she should have confronted them. That her marriage was over and everything her lover had ever told her was a lie. refusing to leave her in peace for a single second. The damn woman always called at the most inconvenient times. It was only the arrival of her brother that let him finally escape. She tried to fight it but even with her eyes closed the image of Angel and Darla continued to taunt her head. on a different bus. The pain was simply too much to fight through. Instead of having a romantic meal with his wife. It was fifty miles before she realised she had no idea which direction she was heading. Little was she know that only a few months later. leaving her emotions to slowly bleed with the truth. silent tears trickled down her anguished face. Buffy laid her head against the glass and let the drone of the engine seep deep into her mind. **Bloody Darla Penn** Liam cursed again as he struggled with the most enormous bunch of yellow roses. her emotions barely under control.

was still there. Liam noticed the envelope immediately. Reaching out.. His concerned eyes then focused on two small gold bands. not as long as I live. all that would be left of her new life was the wreckage.He pushed the door open and laid the flowers on the hall table. he placed it next to the flowers. **It was a dream. The past was screaming like a freight train running out of all control. Just another dream** She tried desperately to reassure herself but even as the words slipped into her head she knew how false they sounded. The nightmare that had stolen into her sleep. that woman needs a new lawyer first thing Monday morning** "Buffy! I'm home" Liam called out. Buffy** ***** The present "ANGEL" Buffy woke up with a start. His jacket still reeked of red wine and stripping the ruined garment from his shoulders. I never want to see you again. but much to his surprise and disappointment. there was no reply. the whole dark world would come crashing back in. perched on the very edge of reality and Buffy had no doubt. He should have called her and if he hadn't lost his damn cell phone that night he would have. and had had terrified her dreams. and Buffy had no doubt that when it finally arrived. Letting out a long breath. **It's over. her heart pounded in her chest at least a thousand beats a minute. he ripped open the envelope and five seconds later. **I don't care how rich she is. he walked into his study. shining in the fading evening light.. As her fear filled eyes flicked around the shaded room. As he approached his desk. she turned her head and her eyes immediately caught sight of . That was where Buffy would have left a message if she needed to go out in a hurry. After searching the kitchen and lounge. Don't even think of looking for me because I'm never coming back. I'll never forgive you for this. Her memory was coming back. his whole world fell apart. that if she just reached out with her mind.

but Will's pressing assault charges against Liam. A mixture of anger and concern blended with her voice and carefully hid her real agenda. After floating on a cloud for the last twelve hours she hit the ground with a bump. I don't know what happened between you last night. **But you left. Buffy. I've tried to talk him out of it. She was halfway across the room when the phone rang "Liam?" "No." Buffy didn't get the chance to finish the sentence. she continued pressing her advantage. You left him and very soon you are going to remember why** The unwanted thought ripped the smile from her face and all the pleasure at seeing those three little words disappeared. You looked so peaceful laying there that I couldn't wake you for the world. "Look. You know how much I care about . I thought. its me" Buffy's smile died on hearing Darla's voice and not that of her husbands. He loved her and the fluttering in her own stomach confirmed that the feeling was very mutual. Trying to push the trepidation as far to the back of her mind as was possible. I love you Angel Buffy smiled softly as she read the words. "Sorry. Taking the silence on the other end of the line as a good sign. Buffy slipped from the bed and tossed her robe over her naked shoulders. You should see the state of his face. "What the hell have you done to my brother?" the angry female voice that greeted her was the very last thing she had expected. Buffy sighed and tried to remove the vision of a battered face from her mind. I'll be back as soon I can and we'll celebrate all over again.." Darla played the part of the wounded sister to perfection.note that had been left by the bedside.. "It's a long story " "Long story?" There was a slight hesitation on the other end of the line "William wouldn't tell me what happened but he's going crazy. Buffy.

Buffy waited a good five minutes before deciding that she would be far more comfortable waiting in her own office. Knowing that she had shaken Buffy. She wanted this confrontation over with. Buffy felt a slight shiver run down her spine. She couldn't believe that William had lied to her once again. Liam's whole future would be ruined if William kept his promise and pressed assault charges and. Darla played her trump card and pulled the second largest bluff of her life "Look. As she covered the pavement.. Deep inside her head a tiny nagging voice kept repeating over and over that Darla couldn't be trusted. **Trust your first instinct. she twisted and burned with an intense uneasiness. Buffy anxiously checked her watch and then looked in both directions for any sign of her so called friend.. He promised" "Believe me he can. I think I know how to fix this mess once and for all. Her whole life was becoming one lie after another. He wants blood" Darla bit into her lip as she took in the small gasp on the other end of the line. no matter how much she distrusted the other woman." Buffy felt sick. what ever the outcome might be. he will. she had to give her the benefit of the doubt Realising that she was the first to arrive. **So much for punctuality** Buffy sighed impatiently. Standing on the sidewalk. as if a ghost from her past had suddenly woken up and walked over her skin.. and from the sound of him. You don't remember this woman so how the hell can you trust her?** Buffy shook the warning from her head. Buffy took a deep breath as she closed the door but it did nothing to dispel the tension that knotted her stomach.you and Liam.. Darla was the fire in her dreams. Turning towards her building she pulled the gallery keys from her pocket and headed towards the front door. the seriousness of the matter gave her no choice but to trust Darla. "He can't do that. . it had to end today. Meet me at the gallery in twenty minutes " ******* Climbing from the cab. but I couldn't calm him down this time. Liam could be in serious trouble.

Bending her knees.**Not good. with the slight touch of her hand the door slipped open. Once sure that she wouldn't be disturbed. Buffy's eyes narrowed. Darla dropped the wooden African figure that she had been holding in the palm of her hand and looked down at the unconscious form lying sprawled across the tiled floor.. A quick painless death wasn't on the agenda that afternoon.. .. For an instant there was a sharp pain and then all the light in her head went out. she quickly pulled down the blind and replaced the *closed* sign. "Darla?" It was dark. trying to adjust her eyes to dim light of her surroundings. At the sound of a footstep she turned her head and started to speak. she dragged Buffy's limp form away from the open doorway and after checking that there was nobody else outside on the street. This is really not good** She fumbled for the right key and as she finally inserted it in the lock the first sign that something wasn't right confirmed her earlier fears. With a body on the floor. the last thing she needed was a nosy customer walking in on her. checking for a pulse and was almost disappointed to feel the faint throbbing beneath her fingertips. reality crashed in and Darla shook her head. Not that it mattered to Darla." She never got to finish the second word. Darla touched two fingers to her unconscious victim's neck. the shutters were all closed and the display lighting was turned off. Buffy took a second step. not quite able to make out the lurking figure. At the sight of her rival's blood. her throat felt dry and her fingers twisted nervously with the strap of her purse. and poked her head inside. Her eyes watched her handiwork in awe as a shock of crimson seeped slowly through the ribbons of golden hair. Looking towards the handle Buffy noticed that a tiny section of glass had been broken and the lock forced open. "Darla? .Willia. Buffy shook off the anxiety but as she took a third step inside the gallery door. Silently cursing her stupidity. With the new step she felt a chill brush its way up over her skin and the hairs on the back of her neck lifted.. gaining her wits. "Hello?" The small bell handing on the back of the door jangled twice with the movement. she pushed harder on the door. The lock in question didn't need to be turned. Ignoring all the danger signs.

drew the nicotine deep into his lungs. nursing a large glass of whiskey. would remain with him for the rest of his life. with the knowledge that the rest of his personal belongings were already winging their way across the country. but Will was finally being realistic and accepting the truth. It was. although he couldn't bear staying in Sunnyhell a moment longer than necessary. He had to get out of this town not only for Buffy's sake but more importantly. Deep in reflection. or even touch her was a pain he could no longer live with. of coming to this place. the quick painless part anyway** Late afternoon **** William Pennington perched quietly on a stool at the bar. The airport would be hot and stuffy at that time of day and. He simply wasn't that strong. A small flight bag lay at his feet and. well. with just a few packing cases in tow. After his talk with Darla he was more sure of his decision than ever. a few hours later. going to be a bloody long afternoon. reluctantly. He worried that the scars. You keep telling yourself that mate and one day you might actually believe it** Sliding his gaze down the length of the bar William motioned for the bartender to fill up his glass again. Pennington had time to kill. It was killing him having to give up his home and his family. it could rot for all he cared. William closed his weary eyes and took another long drag on his cigarette. a long slender finger absentmindedly toyed with his glass as the troubles of the last few months rested heavily on his bowed shoulders. Deciding to drown his sorrows with bad American booze one last time he stopped the cab right . There was no future for him now in Sunnydale. left a dull nagging ache deep in his chest. Darla could have the place now and if for any reason she didn't want it. for his own. William lit up a cigarette and. Seeing Buffy everyday and not being able to love her. Pulling a crumpled Marlboro packet from his jacket pocket. the prospect of forever leaving the small town.**Well. William was well on his way to the airport when it dawned on him just how much time he had to kill before his late night flight to London. he closed the mansion door for the very last time. So. In the end it was that reason and that reason alone that made up his mind for him. staring at what appeared to be a damp patch on the far wall of the bar. after all. **That's right.

And that's how he stayed. In three hours. knocked it back in one long swig and then. Lifting his piercing blue eyes. but years of experience had taught him to appreciate when a person wanted to talk or when they needed be left alone. I'm through. "Again?" Willy asked." With the air of defeat radiating from every pore in his body William . The perfect place for him to lose himself in. the bartender was the only one brave enough to approach the downcast young man. he really didn't care anymore. but his customer was no longer interested. Crushing out his third cigarette in an ashtray on the bar. Sadly. holding a cheap bottle of imported scotch. he steadily worked his way through the first half of the bottle. William was past caring about anything** The local bar he often frequented was at best a dive. William stared down into the golden depths of his drink and realised that it was definitely cutting off time.outside the local bar and sent his luggage on in his place. He had places to be and the airline wouldn't let him board the plane and fly back home if he arrived at the check-in desk too drunk to stand up. the bartender recognised the young poet the moment he first entered the bar. Willy. "No. William Pennington very much wanted to be left alone. Lost in a dark world of sorrow and regret. what was the point of getting paralytic? ** He thought bitterly. From the dark expression etched on the troubled man's face. it was always deadly quiet at that time of the afternoon. if not. the customer shook his head. William knew only too well that getting pissed wouldn't help. ignoring the misery that was threatening to suffocate him. No matter how hard he looked at it. but it did have one saving quality. the poet pulled a handful of American bills from his wallet and slapped them down on the counter. The tip was generous and the bartender smiled. **Besides. **There's no peace to be found anywhere in this god-forsaken town. Glancing at his tab. **If it got there great. there was simply no solace to be found in the bottom of his glass. Will kept his back to the room and blanked out anyone who came too close for comfort.** Willy was still hovering. He ordered a whiskey. pointing towards the almost empty glass on the counter.

it was never you** **I could never love a man like you. and then added almost as an afterthought " I've got to get the fuck out of this hell hole before I go insane" Tossing back the remains of his drink.slipped off the stool. even as he stood there hesitating. You low-life lying bastard. as the door was slightly ajar. he was gone. He failed miserably. threw it over his shoulder and. No matter how hard he tried his Judas thoughts refused to comply and his mind was filled with images of Buffy. William tried for at least ten minutes to find a cab but. . Buffy had made her feelings perfectly clear about never wanting to set eyes on him again and the very last thing he should be doing was contemplating walking in and surprising her. There was simply no escape from his torment. And then. It was wrong. without a backward glance. He knew it wouldn't do any good but. and in every fair-haired female that smiled in his direction. at that time of the evening. Not wanting to waste any more time hanging around outside the bar. Will also knew that he had to try one last time to make his peace with the girl he would never see again. She was everywhere in this town. Just one last time he needed to tell her that he really was sorry and reassure her that he would never interfere in her life again. ***** Outside the street was almost deserted. The building was dark and the shutter was pulled down but. he picked up his small flight bag. he tried everything in his power not to think of a certain blonde girl who would always hold a special place in his heart.. It's not you. William knew that Buffy could easily laugh the apology back in his face. **You bastard. it was near impossible. every instinct shouted out for him to keep on walking. he knew she had to be in there. As he ran his eyes lovingly over the Summers name above the door. I've been in hell for the last two weeks and all the time you could have ended it. You're beneath me** Before he'd even realised where he was heading William found himself on the sidewalk outside Buffy's gallery. William could see her face in every building. he walked out into the fading daylight. He couldn't bear that her last memory of him was so disgusting. his feet turned and headed off in the direction of the local bus station. but that was a chance he would just have to take. He wasn't a complete fool. no matter if she laughed or not. As William pounded along the pavement. on every street corner. That was when you could have saved me ** **Let go of me. every way he turned Buffy Angelus was haunting him.

. Hitting the light switch on the wall by the doorway. I'm just saying. "BUFFY?" Dropping to his knees William ran his finger through the small pool of congealed blood and recoiled with horror as Darla's chilling words came back to haunt him. **Well maybe its time to stop playing games and get rid of the little bitch once and for all** **Stopping her from breathing? Good idea little brother. William frantically cast his eyes around the room. Picking up the . Tiny shards of glass snapped beneath his boots as he ventured deeper into the building. God" **I'm not being dramatic."Hello?. maybe it's time I got rid of the bitch once and for all** "You stupid Wanker" William cursed himself for not taking his sister's threats seriously. From the amount of blood on the floor and the lack of a struggle he knew Buffy was in the worse kind of trouble imaginable. **That's if that physco bitch hadn't already carried out her threat** The small hairs on the back of his neck stood on edge and his blood almost burned with rage "DARLA! Where the hell are you?" Getting up off the floor. "Buffy?" The first thing Will saw was the African figure abandoned on the floor at his feet. He recognised it immediately seeing as how it had cost him a thousand bucks the previous Christmas. he honestly didn't have a clue where to start looking for her. at that moment in time. " William pushed open the gallery door and knew immediately that something was very wrong. the room flooded with artificial light. Just as he was about to head back outside. a small black purse caught the corner of his eye. Darla had played this far too close to her chest and. looking for anything that would give him an insight into his sister's twisted head..** "Oh. That works just fine for me. His voice rose an octave as tiny tremors of fear flitted into his heart.

hidden away in a small side pocket brought a total blank but on sliding his fingers deeper into the designer bag. McDonald were both unavailable that afternoon but William was too frantic to take notice of her excuses. His deep blue eyes widened in horror at the hatred blazing out from every page. "Oh. it was the most recent entries that finally stopped him cold. make up. Monday 2nd. you listen you daft old bint.bag from under a counter. "Just get him out of the fucking meeting and tell him to meet me at the old high school . tissues and a fistful of loose change spiralled across the flat surface. William quickly turned the contents out across a glass display case. YOU don't understand. William smiled in relief and carefully removed a small leather bound diary. On the other end of the line a secretary was trying her best to persuade him that Mr. Liam called to cancel our lunch Date. 91. William continued to scan the articulate handwriting for anything that would help in his search for Buffy. NO. I need to speak to Liam Angelus. William shouted into his cell phone.. Everything he needed to know was there. this is a matter of life and death" Raking a nervous hand through his hair. After reading page after page of endless female gossip. "What do you mean the tosser can't be disturbed? Look. not next Wednesday RIGHT THIS SODDING SECOND" He cut off the annoying secretary before she could protest and immediately started to dial a new number. not tomorrow. There's been an accident and he has to fly to New York.. "What the hell am I doing?" **This is kidnapping and possibly a damn sight lot worse** . the enormity of the situation sinking down so heavily on his shoulders that he caught his breath. The tiny gold lock wasn't a problem for the heel of his boot and within seconds of ripping its remains from the hard leather cover his fingers were furiously flipping through the fragile pages.. NOW! " William paced anxiously up and down the gallery floor as he waited to be connected to Liam. Just as he was about to hit the final digit William's shaking finger hesitated. fuck!" ****** "No. I'm not fooling about here.. Angelus and Mr.. In the blink of an eye. Darla's address book.

There were stacks up against the far walls but for some unknown reason there were no books in this library. As much as he wanted to protect Buffy.William was torn. Once Buffy was safe. she tried to lift her head. possibly a library. Blood. He would save Buffy at all costs but first he needed to see how bad the situation was. self-preservation kicked in and reluctantly he switched off the phone. trying desperately to see through the dim light and place her new surroundings.. In fact. All around her the air was filled with strange aromas. keeping her eyes closed against the intense pain. If the police got involved before he could find her. ***** Buffy groaned and. Although it was getting dark. he had no choice but to try and save her from prison. you pillock?** At that second thought. he would find a way to save both his and Darla's worthless hides anyway he could. Slightly disorientated. and no matter what she had done. **Someone had hit her. rich and sticky matted her blonde hair and a wave of nausea rose up and burnt the back of her throat. Fresh paint. as the ropes binding her wrists burned angrily into her flesh. she blinked twice. **And what about your own involvement. Gasoline? Lifting her head a fraction Buffy winced as a searing pain shot through the back of her battered skull. new wood. confused by her strange surroundings. Wherever she was Buffy knew she certainly wasn't in the gallery any longer. the moonlight shining in from the large glass windows gave enough light to make out the outline of a large room. . "There you are" A chillingly calm voice floated out from the shadows and drifted deep inside her mind "I was beginning to think you'd sleep the whole night away" Buffy shifted uncomfortably in her seat. Darla would end up behind bars for the rest of her life. Buffy's eyes flickered through the shadows. as the last thing she remembered that afternoon surged back into her head. Hard** Without moving her head more than was necessary. the whole room was stripped of all furniture and the high bare walls had a strong odour of fresh paint. and something quite out of place. he also realised that his sister was all he had left in the world. plaster.

Chillingly. there had been footsteps and then. Oh. Acting her part to perfection Darla lifted her nose and took in the strong scent that floated on the evening air. With a small unnerving smile turning the corners of her lips. not a flicker of emotion covered her own face. Darla took a footstep forward. Someone had been waiting for her at the gallery that afternoon. Buffy pushed down the pain and fought to remember. Buffy snaked her tongue out to moisten her dry lips. It was fuzzy but the memory was still there. Still struggling with the shock of being tied up. Bully swallowed the shock that took her breath away. She could taste. and Darla's impersonation of Casper. From the aching in her limbs she felt as if she was bruised from head to toe. dear. there were just too many similarities for comfort. Darla stood stock-still and savoured the flash of dismay that briefly froze her rival's features." . "What's that smell?" Buffy didn't know why she'd even asked. She'd known the answer before the words had left her mouth. Summers" Buffy immediately recognised the female voice and a large pang of resentment coursed through her that she had been so easily fooled. her whole body was now in pain. **Deja vu** This was how all her nightmares had started ever since the accident. **I was beginning to think you'd sleep the whole night away** "Darla?" The silence only lasted for the duration of a single heartbeat "You should never have come back. The strongest aroma in the room also clung to her skin. Narrowing her eyes slightly. Pale moonlight washed over her small frame and when its silver glow highlighted the blonde woman's hair.. She swallowed again. it gave her an almost ghostly appearance. It looks like the whole place is doused with it... "My guess would be gasoline. she once again searched through the shadows.Whatever had happened in the time that had elapsed..

. Well.She replied innocently and ran her finger across the wet counter in the middle of the room.. "Where's William?" Darla looked up in genuine surprise. this is what's left of the high school. A sticky trail proved her right. Ignoring the walk down memory lane. I think the jury is still out on that one" Buffy shook her aching head wishing she could make sense of Darla's strange babbling and that the bitch would get to the point. not if that amnesia of yours is genuine." she took a slow breath and the tone of her voice then dripped in sarcasm " Though personally. At Buffy's still confused look.. Buffy. Buffy?" She raised a sardonic eyebrow and then. The room was literally swimming with the volatile substance. Where are we?" Buffy asked the one question that seemed to be haunting her most. This is our beloved high school. "You don't recognise the old place. almost too calmly. of course you wouldn't.. "I don't understand. "It's funny really. It was only the gym and a few of the outer buildings that were really lost. Darla's lips tightened together "Give up? Okay. See how nice it's looking. " Damn. A slow smile then spread across her features.. Suddenly.. All for nothing" Darla rambled almost affectionately about the building they had both attended in their teens. **Amnesia girl still hadn't got it** . There had to be a second party. I was there that day and I remember. the array of alarm bells ringing inside her head was going into overdrive. Those poor workman have been renovating it all summer. Darla walked closer." she answered calmly. The main building stood up well to the fire of 99. Well. let me give you a little clue. almost as an afterthought she sighed slightly too theatrically. she frantically searched the room looking for a second party. Not that much of it made sense to Buffy. Her head was splitting and she could feel a lump the size of a mountain protruding out from her hair but no matter how hard she delved into the dark void of her mind she couldn't place the room. There was something so familiar about the room but she couldn't quite put her finger on it. from the outside everyone thinks this place is nothing but a burnt out shell but that's where they're wrong. We're right back where it all started.

"Poor little Will. Her confusion and lack of memory could only be blamed so much. she had ignored the warning time after time. Buffy Summers. I hate you. In point of fact. "William didn't do this. that fool really does love you and if you hadn't been so determined to hold on to Liam. right from that first meeting at lunch when the nagging voice in her ear had screamed out that Darla Penn was not to be trusted. you stupid little cheerleader.."You really do give blondes a bad name" She snorted as she walked around the chair. desperate for crumbs of her past. For the first time she could see the real hatred shining from the other woman's face "I thought we were supposed to be friends?" In her heart Buffy already knew the answer to that statement. For years she had blamed every one of her many failures on Buffy. almost everything** "Friends? Don't make me laugh. To see the truth finally dawn across her dim rival's features was everything she had ever wanted. always looking down your crooked nose thinking you were better than me. **Well. She needed a better view. Darla threw back her head and laughed.. You're nothing but a whiny. She smirked and the expression cruelly distorted her once beautiful face. Every instinct inside her begged not to trust this two-faced devil. but like a blind fool. it could have been so different. I did" A mixture of cold insanity and red-hot pride danced in her cool liquid eyes.. she didn't want to miss a second of Buffy's pain. " You and that little brat pack of friends of yours made my school life a living hell. she was on a roll now and nothing would stop her. Too late now of course. selfish. annoying. At the array of emotions crossing Buffy's face. Buffy cursed her stupidity "I can't believe I walked right into this" Darla laughed again. Buffy shook her head . Even with total amnesia she had known it was all a lie. little bitch. I've always hated you. You and my little brother could have gone off happily into the sunset. now we are playing with my rules" As the words slowly registered Buffy froze and glared at her in horror. " Darla's grin widened across her cruel mouth as she backed away.." Darla whined miserably at her distorted memories of high school.

"Or maybe it was the crack to your poor little head that did the trick. as ghosts from her past crept over her soul and brought back the memory with tiny whispers. God. You're completely crazy" Buffy's heart dropped with the sudden realisation.** Buffy suddenly remembered how the poor little boy had won her heart with a bar of chocolate one afternoon in the schoolyard. Darla quirked and eyebrow. It was hardly Romeo and Juliet. Strangely. your the one living in fantasy land" Buffy shot back. "We were five" she responded softly. Three hours after the chocolate had gone. Darla took a step forward. . As if a veil lifted. as the pictures replayed in her mind. Riley cried for a month. She was the one in control here. I'm not the one here with convenient amnesia" "No. Buffy gasped. her hatred for Buffy intensified. I don't think so. Maybe I should charge you a fee for returning your memory" The few seconds of silence that followed was deafening "Oh. she remembered the little boy in question. so softly that her rival. As more of her twisted past rose to the surface of her mind. she had cruelly dumped him. Darla rolled her eyes and dismissed the insult without a second thought. Finally. her suspicious eyes never leaving Buffy's face for a second. Remember. She wasn't sure yet how she knew the other woman was lying but she just did. in her angry state almost didn't hear her. Buffy had no memory of Darla in the equation at all. "It just didn't matter what I did you always had to be first" Her pained gaze turned dark " You even stole my first boyfriend" And there it was the first seed of a life long hatred. "So you do remember? I guess I was right about your so-called amnesia " She snapped fiercely and then smiled. Buffy's eyes then widened in disbelief. ** His name was Riley."You're wrong" she argued defensively. Sandy blonde hair. she was the one with the power. "Am I?. Summers. long lanky legs and a face full of freckles.

Darla leaned towards her. But try not to take this personally. Revelling in the bewilderment written clearly across her rival's face." Darla splashed the gasoline at Buffy's feet and the liquid happily added to the multitude already soaking into the floor. the one that ran off.. In her heart she knew it and yet hearing the words still knocked her sideways. Without once taking her eyes from Buffy's face. As the full impact of Darla's words struck home Buffy hit back "You're delusional. I'm not doing this *just* because I hate you with every bone in my body." For an instant Buffy was too stunned to even respond. honey. The woman holding her captive wasn't playing with a full deck of cards anymore. again. her long manicured fingers slowly twisted the cap. the strong smell of gasoline lingering on her manicured hand.This wasn't an angry William keeping her prisoner over a broken heart. "Oh. Buffy flinched when Darla's hand touched her hair. That's if there's still a floor left when the fire finishes its feast. the mother to his children and you. Darla tossed her head back and chuckled. she removed a large. this was much more dangerous than that. you are all that's standing between us and that perfect happy ending every couple in love dream about. her eyes so fierce it took all Buffy's strength not to show the fear that was choking her. Barbie. Only the two of us will ever know the truth. Shock and disbelief registered on her face as it all fell into place. No. "That's how the official report on your disappearance will read. Even if I wasn't around it would still NEVER be you. "I want your husband" Buffy felt as though she had been physically struck." Buffy's eyes flashed with fire as the other woman physically flinched " Face it. I always have and you. Angel will never love you. My husband's just not into crazy bitches with plastic breasts" . I left being crazy about three turnings back." Darla smiled and insanity burned brightly from her pale blue eyes. That poor little Buffy ended up nothing more than a big pile of ash on the library floor. "I'll be his wife. it's much simpler than that. well-hidden gasoline can. you my dear girl will just be the first wife. " I love Liam. Then reaching beneath the freshly painted counter.

Momentarily Darla froze, her bright smile of success fading away. Her recovery, however, was swift and violent. Buffy's head snapped back with a crack as Darla's small hand viciously backhanded her. "And that's just where you are wrong, bitch." She raised her hand again as if to continue the assault but when Buffy held her head high, ignoring the blood dripping from her split lip, Darla decided that words would hurt her far more than actions ever could. "Liam will be so devastated by your second disappearance that he will be easy pickings. I can even make him believe that you ran off with William for a while, that will be fun. That poor boy, his heart will be broken all over again. But don't you worry about Angel too much; I'll be here to give him all the support he needs.... Just like I did the last time you ran off." Darla smirked as the words hit right where she knew they would. "You should never have come back, Buffy." A tiny spark flashed unnoticed in hazel orbs. Darla made her first real mistake. Anger only made the other woman stronger. Buffy refused to show any of the fear that was racing through her body. She was sick and tired of being manipulated by the woman in front of her and if she somehow did manage to escape this alive, she promised herself she would strangle Darla Penn with her own two hands. **And dance on your grave** Snaking out her tongue she licked the blood from her split lip and glared back. "But I did come back and even after everything you did to us, Liam still wanted me and not you. Face it, Darla. Once a loser always a loser" Darla shrugged her slim shoulders as if the words were of little importance. She grinned and the slow knowing smile that spread across her face sent renewed shivers down Buffy's spine. "Yes, you came back once, but unless you believe in reincarnation you won't be doing it again. So, tell me this, Buffy. Now who's the loser?" The smell of fresh gasoline rose up from the floor and swelled around her head. Cold fear gripped Buffy's heart as she realised that she'd been here before. This was how she felt in her dreams. Suddenly her nightmare was being played out right before her very

eyes. The fire that had haunted her every night since her return wasn't just a memory trying to break through from her past; it was also a glimpse of her future. For a moment there was no sound. Nothing changed except the level of hatred passing between the two females occupying the room. And then the equation shifted. "Darla. Where the fuck are you?" At the introduction of the third voice both Darla and Buffy turned their heads. The voice was male and sounded distant yet each female recognised it at once. William. Placing the gasoline can on the floor, Darla turned and headed towards the shuttered windows. She placed her small fingers on either side of the bars and peered through. Although the light was dim, her brother's bleached hair was plainly seen in the moonlight. "Dammit, I should have known he'd never really leave you. " Darla muttered the curse beneath her breath before turning back. "Looks like a hero is here to save the day after all. What a shame he's not going to succeed in time. " With a swift kick, Darla's foot struck out and hit the gasoline can, toppling it over with a crash and sending the remaining contents snaking out across the new wooden floor. Buffy's eyes widened in horror as the clear, volatile liquid snaked towards her. As panic and adrenaline raced through her blood stream, her hands frantically tore at the ropes binding her wrists and ignoring the pain, she hid any show of emotion on feeling them slowly loosen. For a second they shifted slightly but it still wasn't enough to free her. Her bones were small but Darla had done a good job tying them and no matter how hard she fought, the ropes struggled to hold on to their prisoner. "Now, where did I put those matches?" Darla smirked and brought a small box from her pocket. With an almost silent strike, she waited for a second before carelessly dropping the match. "Ooops," an evil grin lit up her face as the naked flame came into contact with the wet wood. With a horrifying whoosh, a ball of orange engulfed the counter and surrounding area, hungrily feasting on the fuel that had earlier soaked into the floor. Like a golden predator, the flames moved almost in slow motion, licking at the freshly vanished wood, feeding from the fabrics and devouring the paint. Nothing was safe from the budding inferno. Crackling with gratitude, the fire consumed everything in its path, suffocating

natural colour from the room and leaving a trail of black destruction. Feeling the heat prickle on her skin, Darla stepped back. She watched in fascination as the fire spread, slowly wrapping its red and yellow tentacles around the wooden stacks. Fuelled by the gasoline and the evening breeze, the energetic flames danced happily up the walls, scorching off the new magnolia covering. In seconds, months of hard work and restoration went back up in smoke. Darla giggled as she watched her handiwork. As the flames threatened yet another set of stacks a new thought crossed her twisted mind. What a shame, it seems the next generation of Sunnydale wouldn't be attending the high school this year after all.. Or the next, or even the one after that. "I would stay and enjoy the show but sadly I've got places to be, husbands to console" Darla let the real hatred she felt for Buffy burn dangerously in her eyes. Taking one last glance in her rival's direction, she watched as the flames moved ever closer and knew that this time, up against Buffy Summers, she would be the one to come out on top. There would only be one winner in this last little competition and for the first time in her life, it wouldn't be Summers. Darla took a step back. "For God sake, Darla. Don't do this." Looking across the distance that separated them, Buffy met her eyes and knew in that single glance that it was hopeless to try and reason with the other woman. Futilely twisting her hands against the rope binding her, she felt her whole body stiffen with frustration and rage. As the worried flesh tore from her small wrists Buffy realised with a sinking heart that the woman in front of her was beyond listening. Darla Penn was beyond rational thought, beyond sanity, and sadly for Buffy, she was beyond reasoning with. Darla was running on a mixture of pure hatred and insanity and no matter what happened next, Buffy knew she wouldn't get any help in that direction. Darla smiled as if she suddenly had all the troubles of the world lifted from her shoulders. "So long Buffy, have a nice... death" With those final words she took a few more steps backwards and let the shadows behind her swallow her retreat ***** Now alone in the library with only the fire as a companion, Buffy fought hard to breathe. Within a few seconds the hungry flames had reached the abandoned paint cans and turpentine stored in the corner and one by one the lids exploded, feeding the monster and

spawning tiny offspring in every direction. Refusing to die like a frightened animal, Buffy struggled even harder, but as she fought for her very existence, the dam holding back her memory began to crumble. Suddenly, a world full of images flooded Buffy's mind The smell of burning was all around her, filling her senses, bringing back the past in a rush of terrifying Technicolor.. As she struggled to loosen her binds, her head was filled with forgotten pictures... The sound of people screaming, dying in agony filled every corner of her mind as her shattered memory was thrown back with a vengeance. Unable to do anything else, she watched in horror as the bus that she had been travelling on crashed and burst into flames. She'd been asleep when the brakes had first locked on. The force of the skid violently woke her from her slumber that night and then, almost in slow motion, the vehicle had started spinning out of control. As it careered across the lanes of traffic, hitting everything in its' path, the metallic monster finally smashed through the barriers and rolled down the embankment. Inside the carnage, bodies of every description moved almost silently through the air, hitting against the seats like broken dolls. There was glass and metal and pain and then, when it looked as if it couldn't possibly get any worse, a shock wave of heat rushed through the debris scorching everything in sight. Buffy watched through closed eyes as the flames in her memory shot through the destruction with a brutal, hungry roar, not discriminating who or what they smothered. The old, the young, the trapped, their screams all filled Buffy's ears as her own battered body was thrown miraculously from the wreckage. Then, as she waited for her turn to die, the sound of sirens filtered through the madness and made their way into her head. Through the pain she felt a soft hand reach out an d stroke her brow and then, with a last vision of Liam flickering across her dropping eyelids, her traumatised mind finally closed down. Amnesia and a world full of confusion had followed and brought her right back here. And now, in a sick twist of fate she was burning all over again. As wave after wave of memory attacked Buffy's mind, she became even more determined to stay alive. She rocked on her chair, twisting at her wrists and ignored the blood that dripped down her fingers. After devouring the counter and the freshly varnished stacks, the fire moved straight for it's next victim. Buffy choked as a wave of thick toxic smoke attacked her lungs. As the thought of burning to death became a frightening reality, Buffy's resolve to escape became even stronger. Her eyes streamed and her lungs burned but she refused to give in. She'd see Darla Penn in Hell first.

At the thought of the crazy bitch playing happy families with Angel, anger surged through her bloodstream again. With a crash the wooden chair holding her toppled over and without knowing, or at that point caring, Buffy found her hands finally free. She tossed the ropes away and scrambled to her knees. Although the fire was too close for comfort, Buffy stayed down on the floor for a few seconds gasping for breath. The oxygen at that level made breathing slightly easier and she needed a clear head to workout the best escape route. Looking across the smoke she saw that the exit Darla had used was now totally blocked by flames so the only way out now was to move back through the school. Through pitch black, smoke filled corridors. What ever her plan Buffy had to do it sooner rather than later. When the fire made contact with a second set of builder's supplies, a blinding flash sucked any remaining oxygen right out of the air. Taking one last deep breath Buffy crawled towards what she hoped she remembered as the exit. **** While Buffy was fighting for her life, fate joined in the twisted equation and once again played its hand. Suddenly, the fire destroying the library found a new friend to play with. A small storeroom, out of sight but situated directly beneath the blaze, started to silently smoulder with the ferocious heat. Within seconds of the small explosion above, gallons of forgotten cleaning fluid ignited with a swish and as the plastic canisters melted with the heat, the liquid they were holding exploded with a vengeance. There were now two fires raging out of control. **** Back in the library. Buffy couldn't believe how quickly the room was disintegrating. One by one the beams supporting the ceiling began to creak and groan, as the timber grew weaker. Covering her hair with her hands she crawled her way through smoke as burning cinders rained down

he could just about make out which direction he needed to follow. The gymnasium was the first building he came across. He Skirting around the outside of a building destined to soon be demolished. Buffy was in trouble and that bastard Englishman was once again involved. **The caller said it was a matter of life and death** **William Pennington** **You need to meet him at the old High School right away** Liam scanned as far as the eye could see but there was still no sign of Pennington anywhere. For a moment he wondered if he had read the instructions wrong but on second thought. **Oh. There would be no second chances this time. God. **Where the hell was she** Tired of waiting around Liam cupped his hands to his mouth a shouted deep into the . Liam shook his head and pushed aside the tiny gnaw of apprehension warning him that there was something seriously wrong with this picture.on her head. the derilect shell was a chilling reminder of how unsafe the whole damn campus was. he was sure he hadn't. The message had been garbled at best but somehow he had managed to get the gist of it. William Pennington was going to wish that he'd never set foot on American soil. Liam vowed that when he finally got his hands on the devious poet in question. He didn't have time to listen to warnings. I'm really not going to get out of this alive** **** On arriving at the old High School. in the ghostly darkness that covered the main building. It was only after he entered the quad and stopped running that he allowed his secretary's earlier words to slice through his thoughts. he took a deep breath but it did nothing to dispel the tension that was knotting his stomach. Liam Angelus jumped from his car and sprinted across the grass as if the devil himself was after his soul. **And if he's laid so much as a finger on my wife I'll make sure he's buried under American soil for the rest of eternity** Liam silently raged while trying to push back the panic that continued to multiply every second that Buffy was still missing. Moving closer to the main building. The school grounds looked completely deserted and.

Liam's eyes narrowed. the empty echo of her name was all that returned to him. Knowing that breathing would soon become an issue. **The caller said it was a matter of life and death** "BUFFY" Liam felt his heart rate double as he sprinted for the nearest entrance. to his horror.. wife-stealing neck. tendrils of rich smoke swirled in the air towards him. He felt as if he was suddenly caught up in a sick game of cat and mouse and at that very second. **Oh. Liam crashed into the school hallway. The fire. A shock of orange fury licked at the upper windows of the main building. you fucking son of a. he was the prey.. wherever it had started. Standing in the middle of the quad.. Somewhere out there in the shadows Pennington was mocking him.. " He never got a chance to finish the curse as the angry words died in his throat. ***** Meanwhile . the elderly door gave way.night "BUFFY?" **Buffy** Frustratingly. he used his shoulder as a battering ram and lunged the obstruction. pushing him just far enough to see if he would snap. Ignoring the pain shooting through his right arm. his long legs moved swiftly on into its hot embrace. Without so much as another thought. Immediately. Liam's eyes quickly scanned the rusted padlock and the worn wood that framed the door and without a second's hesitation. he held it across his nose and mouth. much to his relief. but also bolted. the stillness of the night was violently interrupted by the sound of exploding glass. was now roaring out of control but Liam knew that at this distance the smoke was more of a danger than the flames.** "William. he found that all the main doors were not only locked. On reaching the front of the school. reaching through the shutters as they sucked in the cool night air. he ripped off his jacket and using it as a makeshift mask. The sound of bone connecting with wood gave a sickening crack but. I'll snap his scrawny. he'll see me snap alright.

He had no choice now but to go deeper. "Buffy?" "Drama?" William tried to shout out for the two missing women but as the words left his lips.William was already inside the burning building. Holding them back with his foot. the smoke smothered the sound of his voice. The coolness of the barrier meant William hadn't reached the fire yet but it also meant that he still hadn't found Buffy or Darla. Will pressed his palms against the solid wood. corridors of a school he had never attended. **Even if the smoke didn't get him. She really had done it this time. his fear filled mind mapped out an escape route the best way he could. at this rate. much deeper. the poet hadn't given Liam a second thought after making the phone call. Drama had crossed the line by a mile and no matter which way you looked at things. it looked almost impossible. you stupid moron** William swept the thought of Buffy's death from his mind and pushed open the doors. At the thought of walking into a raging inferno. Will clutched at his chest and coughed bitterly as the heat and smoke jointly attacked him. ** What if she's already dead** **No. smoke filled. Whatever he did that night it wouldn't make a shred of difference. he forced himself to think clearly. blood thundered in his ears and his erratic heartbeat. Running all the way over to the high school he had tried to put Dare's crazy actions into perspective but as soon as his lean body squeezed its way through a conveniently broken window. Escaping when you knew where you were going was hard enough but in dark. He then moved blindly along the hallways cursing the unfamiliar surroundings as he tripped and stumbled time after time. The cool response against his fingers was both reassuring and terrifying. his hands groped through the haze until he found . Stumbling blindly through the darkness. He and Drama were both seriously screwed. he was sure to break his neck** When two large wooden doors blocked his path. call it a day and get out of Sunnydale as fast as he could. The fire escape on the far side of the school had been the easiest option after seeing the chained front entrance. Frantic with worry over his sister's actions and Buffy's safety. pounded hard enough to break his chest. there was simply no going back from this disaster. As his feet carried him forward. Fighting back the bile in his throat. the reality along with the smell of burning hit him. But he couldn't. Strong feelings of self preservation told him to go back. if he was ever going to find them and save his ass.

as she faced her own death. I don't want to be ash** Backing into a free corner. evil bitch but she had planned this murder to perfection. the frightened young woman tried desperately to calm the racing beat of heart. Darla Penn might be a manipulative. **** Library Trapped. This was the last place on earth that she wanted Angel to be in.something solid enough to wedge at least one of them open. but she failed miserably. With every part of the room carefully soaked in gasoline she knew that her chances of survival were fading fast. Ash Buffy trembled at the thought. she clung to that image and cursed Darla Penn's soul to damnation. crazy. When the fires burnt down there would be nothing left in the ash but. "Well. Buffy screamed as the exit she was trying to move towards became engulfed in a wall of torrid flame. It's red and golden flames crackling and hissing as they all merged together. Liam's face was there in a heartbeat. Little by little his escape route was taking form. making the room one enormous mass of heat. she stood spellbound as the fire danced over every wooden surface. **Please God. honey. Not wanting to be alone she closed her eyes and scanned through her memory for a picture to meet her maker with. Now all he had to do was stay alive long enough to use it. feeling death's heat blistering at her skin. Begrudgingly. ****** . All around her the room was glowing and the unbearable temperature was increasing by the second. **No one except Darla** Buffy wrapped her arms around her small frame and trembled. This building was now a death trap and no one should die like that.. Watching in horror. Now would be a really good time" As soon as the words left her lips Buffy wished them back. **I'll always come to your rescue** She closed her eyes as she remembered his promise of long ago. Buffy had to give Darla her due.

Liam stumbled on the main source of the fire almost by accident.A few minutes away. God. she buried her face in his shoulder and clung to on him. Raising his hands to his face he tried to shield his eyes from the heat. **Not without my wife** "Buffy" Pulling down his makeshift mask he shouted as loud as his tinder dry throat would allow but even before the sound left his lips he knew that it was pointless. Lost in the dark hallways that all seemed the same. "We need to get out of here fast. Head down. All around them the room was disintegrating. all the while desperately looking for a sign of where to search next. As much as he wanted to hold her and never let her go. he lunged through a pocket in the blaze.. Liam pulled away. it was Darla" No longer able to keep her emotions in reign. and just as he was about to backtrack. she cried out her frustration into the thin material of his shirt. It was very muffled but the sound of a female scream drifted over the roar of the fire and stopped him dead in his tracks. One hard kick was all it took for the door to cave in. determination fixed to his face. "Angel?. quickly closing the distance that separated him and his love. Angel" Sobbing out her relief. he turned left at one point instead of going straight on and found a staircase leading to a second level. The heat was unbearable and as he approached the blazing library every particle of common sense he had ever known pleaded with him to turn back. Not giving her time to think. Liam snatched Buffy's small hand between his large fingers .. The noise of glass exploding easily blocked out the sound of his voice. For a brief moment Buffy stared in wide-eyed shock. Liam turned. Liam turned back. sending showers of scorching cinders in every direction. "Darla. Oh. this simply wasn't the time or the place. fate changed the rules one more time.

Her head was pounding from Darla's assault and her lungs felt as if they were going to implode. just leave me and go" Gasping for breath. raising his hand. I just wanted you to know that" As the words slipped over her lips she started coughing again. In all the madness that was . but if there had been. It was now only a matter of what evil took them first. Please. Can't.and gripping on for dear life. loss of blood. Liam stopped and turned back. "Leave me. Not able to find a quick way-out through the ever-increasing fumes. he knew that they had both come to the same realisation. Buffy took a small step forward. "I love you. Buffy finally sagged to her knees. he pulled her back through the closing air pocket. His skin was covered in sweat and. When she finally found the strength she needed to lift her head. As the flames licked at their heels. and overcome with the smoke. he wiped away the tiny beads rolling across his forehead. "I. Buffy choked as the thick toxic smoke attacked the lining of her lungs once again. She felt her insides lurch and when a wave of nausea rose up from her stomach Buffy bent over. she violently heaved. A swirling wave of dizziness washed over her body and for a moment it left her light headed and disorientated. Angel. Angel. there wasn't time for a prayer. all hopes of ever seeing another sunrise started to fade away. as the deadly smoke poisoning her body started to close down her system. A few seconds felt like hours and as the smoke grew and the air thinned.. there simply wasn't anything left inside of her to come up. but to no avail. her tired eyes streamed with tears. The smoke or the fire.Breathe" Exhausted from the heat. both would have made it as they crashed through what was left of the library door and out into the hallway.. Buffy was slowly dying on her feet and as much as Angel wanted to deny it. They were just going around in circles. ***** In the darkness and the smoke. the school was a maze of endless walkways that seemed to go on forever. his worried brown eyes reaching her through the smoke. Resting her hands on her thighs for support..

"Go. "Come on. **She remembered him. they both took off through the smoke.. At her pained expression his dark brown orbs softened as if trying to relay one thing and yet say another. Not again! Not like this. Away from the fire. No! He wouldn't lose her. " Liam angrily shook his head. he realised with shock that the smoke was much thinner here." "Buffy. She remembered every little detail of their life together and although dying wasn't her first choice for the day. he was now heading in the wrong direction.. Without another word of giving up. it was obvious that the workmen had set up their own supplies there and he wasted no time in finding a bottle of drinking water abandoned on the table. Although it hadn't been completely renovated. It no longer mattered what happened that night. Somehow in the darkness he had completely lost direction and much to his dismay. Drawing renewed strength from the love she saw shining in his eyes. He had and always would be the only love of her life. we have to get out of here before the whole lot comes down on our heads" He reached out. He couldn't lose her. William found himself in what was once the school cafeteria. You can get help and. quenching his thirst and cooling the burning in his raw throat. For a second she saw a flicker of despair in his dark eyes but it was quickly hidden. what was in her heart. Taking a deep breath. She might not make it out but she was determined that he would. ***** On a different level Just as lost as Buffy and Angel. He could feel the poisonous fumes attacking his own body but he was determined to get them both out alive. . and entwined his fingers tightly through hers. No..going on around them Buffy suddenly needed for Angel to know what was in her mind and more importantly. that didn't immediately choke him. as long as her husband survived. Buffy nodded. It was too fucking unfair to put them both through so much and then rip them apart forever. Ripping the cap off he downed the liquid in one go. Buffy knew that her soul would live on inside of him. Buffy would carry those regained memories in her heart where ever she was taken** Angel meant the whole world to her.

a sea of flames shot out from a side classroom and completely blocked the path forward. Buffy. at that very moment. Will wasn't the only one making mistakes. "Can this day possibly get any worse?" William dropped the bottle he was holding to the floor and with a frustrating sigh. he turned back into the school. Not that he would ever tell Buffy. his heart pounding so hard that he was in danger of cracking a rib. It can't be much further now. "We have to go back" Buffy's eyes widened in horror as their escape route was closed off. Keeping a cool head Liam tried to catch his own breath. before we get cut off completely. Refusing to lay down and die like a scared animal. he pulled her back in the direction they . ***** In a much hotter part of the school. "It looks like there's more than one fire now. it was closing in faster than he could drag them. The fire was already on their tails and at this rate.Ahead of him a forgotten window flapped open and just outside was the promise of old age." he shouted. All around them the hallway was now burning from top to bottom. her tired voice hoarse and breathless. We have to keep moving. "This way" As Buffy and Liam turned the corner. Liam came to a screeching halt and turned. Sadly. " she pleaded. Her last thread of hope dangled. He too was having serious difficulty breathing now and he knew that if they stopped for even a second they might as well lay down and wait for the grim reaper to catch them. Blood poured down the side of her face from her re-opened head wound and her legs threatened to go on strike. "I can't. Liam ignored her plea for a few more seconds and grabbing Buffy's hand one final time. twisted and finally snapped.

pushing her out of the way and taking the full force of the falling debris. the floor gave way. that the fire had already beaten them there. was for her husband and the future they would now never share. They seemed to be still going around in circles. Thick smoke followed their every move. blindly searching for Buffy. Pushing down the pain. only to discover to their horror. ***** "BUFFY!" Liam screamed and watched in horror as his wife lay deadly still on the floor below He lowered himself over the edge of the splintered floor and hanging from one hand he awkwardly dropped down into the wreckage below. Liam cried out in agony as his already damaged shoulder took the full impact of his actions.had just come. disintegrating under their joint weight. he threw his body at the small girl in front of him. One hard kick and the hinges splintered right off the frame. he rolled across the floor. ***** Meanwhile Even through the noise of the fire. With a sickening splinter of timbers. Without a thought for his own safety. "Angel" Buffy's last coherent thought as her body twisted and fell from the room above. Buffy and Liam both headed through the open doorway. The door to the office was locked but not for long. the room above rumbled and shook. William heard Buffy cry as she fell. In the darkness every turning looked the same." Buffy gasped the words through her hand as a memory of her old headmaster surfaced through the smoke. . Liam lifted his head and was just in time to see the rest of the ceiling cave in on top of them. His body went down like a dead weight. He reached her in less than a second but just as he started to check for a pulse. "Left or right?" Liam's eyes looked up in despair. "I think that's Snyders old office.

He crawled over to Buffy first and talking her small. "Come on. love. was slipping in and out of consciousness. As tiny fires started to burst into life all around him. he had wisely decided to stay on the lower level and pass underneath the fire. . Don't do this to me" William's open palm smacked against the smoke covered cheek. I should never have let this happen" his pained voice started to crack but Will knew he couldn't allow himself to fall apart now. but no matter how hard he tried. ***** With the aid of the air-conditioning vents. but with hindsight. he knew time was running out fast. rather than try and fight his way through it. William's heart raced as he studied the two lifeless forms. while Liam was pinned beneath part of the collapsed ceiling.Returning from the cafeteria. Soaking the halls all around the library had seemed like a great idea when she was pouring the gasoline onto the floor. Reluctantly releasing Buffy from his arms. the roar of the fire moved ever closer. Lowering his ear to Buffy's chest he sighed in relief at the faint beat of her heart. who. William needed to make a decision. in the middle of what looked like hell on earth. The heat was suffocating. Buffy made no response at all. seemingly. and he needed to do it now. Buffy's small frame lay twisted in a painfully unnatural heap. lifeless body in his arms he tried bringing her around by slapping her face. William's legs had never moved so fast as he crashed blindly through the darkness. ****** Buffy and Liam both appeared to be unconscious when William finally found where the floor above had collapsed. a mass of orange liquid death would soon be falling. Too well. and knew the sky above. William looked up. Above. Although he hadn't set out to kill anybody he was definitely guilty by association and. Dropping to his knees. William turned his attention to Liam. he was exhausted. "I'm so sorry. he promised himself that he would make amends to her even if it were the last thing he ever did. in obvious pain. new fires were now breaking out all over the school. but hearing the sound of Buffy falling sent him running with pure terror. Darla's plan worked well.

William knew that there was no decision to make on which one he would save from the fire. his narrowed eyes barely resting on him and as his emotions hardened. Sweeping Buffy's limp form up into his muscular arms he was almost out of the hallway before he heard her softly cry out her husband's name. Take the bleedin' girl and just get the hell out of here** . Darla kicked at the door in temper and then almost growled as the heel of her designer shoe snapped clean off. you pillock. Buffy was filthy and bloodied and her lips were swollen but. he reminded himself that *all was fair in love and war*. "I knew I should have just drowned the fucking bitch in the school pool" **** Looking down at the two people at his feet. she realised that maybe arson wasn't such a good idea after all Darla took a deep breath and her body shook with rage and frustration. she found the door heavily locked. "Angel" Buffy moaned out the word almost pitifully. William cursed loudly " Oh.maybe she shouldn't have gone quite so far. It screamed out that he couldn't save them both and if he tried. The biggest mistake he made that second was to look down at the girl in his arms. Bollocks" **Don't look back** His whole body urged him to keep on going. On arriving at what she had believed was her exit. Still trapped inside her own fire. Even unconsciously. all three of them would end up as crispy critters. "Shit" She swore. The shoe was ruined and as tentacles of smoke curled along the hallway behind her. "No hard feelings. mate" A sheet of ice covered William's heart as he left the dark haired man to his own fate. Running along the dark hallways she cursed bitterly as she realised that she was now somehow on wrong side of the fire. despite all of the hardship she had suffered. **Go. he still thought she was the most beautiful creature he had ever set eyes on. He briefly glanced at Liam. she seemed to feel her soul being pulled away from its mate. to shut out his conscience and just keep moving.

then he could leave him to burn with a clear conscience. With one final slap to the face. The last thing he wanted to feel at that moment was sympathy. Will knew he couldn't live with her being in that much pain.. Will heard Buffy cry out again for her husband and he jerked when her sad face twisted in pain. " Buffy's hurt and I can't carry you both" he tried to shout over the roar of the approaching flames as best as he could. " Get the fuck up" William shook Liam so hard he almost swore he heard more of his broken bones crack. . William tensed. he bent his knees and placed Buffy back on the floor as gently as he could. but the smoke that now flooded the lower level muffled the sound. No matter how much he wanted her. he hated the tug of emotion continually pulling at his conscience. He couldn't do It. and no matter how much Liam being dead would make that possible. Without needing confirmation. Grabbing Liam's shoulders he pulled him roughly around to face him. Alive or dead Angel would always be there. William didn't bother with pleasantries.As he moved her body closer to his chest. Subconsciously. forcing his way between them. Liam winced and opened his eyes. William reluctantly walked back the few feet to the man he envied more than any other person in the world. **Let the fucker burn** Biting into his lip until it almost drew blood. The pain in his chest was almost unbearable. Slightly disorientated Liam lunged for the blonde man. "This is all your fault" His body immediately recoiled in pain. he knew if he left Angelus to burn to death he would see the pain in Buffy's eyes for the rest of her life. The fire was almost above them and if the dumb bastard wouldn't help save himself. "Angel" The sound of the other man's name on her lips wrenched him to his soul. Before he could change his mind again. Liam already knew that at least three of his ribs were broken in the fall and his shoulder was now dislocated at the very least. He then turned and hating every footstep he took. William silently cursed his conscience again.

he picked up her crumpled body with a smirk. I'll be a hero in her eyes for the rest of her life. I don't give a rats arse but.** "Straight up and then turn left" Almost grinning. Liam followed his gaze and felt his heart fell out of his chest. Everything's going to be okay" A masculine hand gently caressed her brow. he was personally going put the Englishman in the ground for this. sweetheart. Too much in pain at that moment to protest. Buffy's eyelashes flickered open and her blurred vision tried to focus on the face in front of her. by the looks of your wife I'd say she needs to get out of here as soon as possible" William's eyes turned and settled on the small form lying just a few feet up the hallway. With his good deed done for the day. Reaching the safety of the quad.. ignored the pain feeding on every nerve ending in his body and staggered to his feet. William burst out of the exit doors he had previously wedged open and staggered down the fire escape with almost a spring in his step. As much as he hated Pennington. Will barked out the direction and moved quickly ahead. and knowing that Buffy's life was all that mattered. the smug bastard had a valid point. Running a shaky hand through his hair. he gently laid the woman in his arms down onto the ground. . all bets were off.William just glared. The second they were outside. ***** With a rush of adrenaline. Liam pushed down his alpha male pride and followed the younger man carrying his wife. he hurried back to where he had left Buffy and without looking over his shoulder. "Personally. William knew Liam wasn't in a fit state to carry anyone. he nodded and seeing the real danger they were in. **No matter what happens to Liam now. From the way his arm hung uselessly at his side. She blinked twice at the sound of his voice. head down. Pennington would get everything he deserved once Buffy was safe. "Try not to talk. **I knew I should have left you** "Do you want to stay here and argue or do you want to live? "He couldn't stop the sneer that slipped across his face. damn the consequences. Moaning gently.

she felt like her whole world was once again slipping through her fingers. every word. With a sinking heart. He was still somewhere inside the blazing school." William looked over his shoulder and at the lack of the other presence. Her eyes lifted back to William and he felt his heart constrict when he saw the fear they held.. the emotion lingered there for a few seconds until cold reality set in and she realised that she was no longer inside a burning building. Tears spilled from her eyes. but wishing and cold reality were two very different things. "I swear he was right behind us. Liam hadn't followed them out after all. Buffy sadly turned her head away. "It's all right. Then it hit her that something was missing. The pain she felt in every part of her body was intense but the evening breeze washing over her at that moment brought a cool relief to her burning skin. The face of the young man in front of her suddenly lost every trace of colour. Even in her dazed state. Buffy" Frustration that he had lost sight of the other man in their flight emanated from every bone in his body. **Angel was the strong one. Her exhausted gaze focused on the man in front of her. After everything she had been through the last few months.. luv. As if time slowly reduced to a crawl. In the dim light of the quad. he felt his heart sink like a stone. Buffy took in the injuries that Liam had earlier inflicted on William's handsome face and realised that her pleas would fall on deaf ears.** If her husband was no longer alive Buffy didn't see any point in going on. Buffy realised that something was terrifyingly wrong. "Where's Angel?" Buffy's voice was barely a whisper.. the prospect of a life without Liam again was just too hard to accept. This wasn't supposed to happen to him. silently pleading with him to help her one last time. Pennington hated her husband nearly as much as Angel hated . He might have wished him dead a few minutes earlier. He's right behind. At the thought of Angel still trapped inside that building.. William's whole body went taut when he saw the anguish and desperation seep into Buffy's tear-filled eyes. every act and every deed between the three of them was playing out for the world to see. No longer able to look at the burning building that was possibly suffocating the life out of her lover at that very second. The raw emotion travelling across William's sharp features made her shiver..William's eyes locked with hers and his left hand lightly brushed along her blistered cheek. leaving his intense blue eyes even more brilliant in the soft light. confusion passed over Buffy's pale features.

him and there was no way on earth that he would risk his own life to save a man who only a few hours earlier had beaten him senseless. Physically. Knowing that William had already taken Buffy in that direction and that she was now safe on the outside of the school. he could feel his heartbeat slowing. **I love you. an exhausted Buffy Angelus gave up the fight. he now feared that it wasn't going to happen. Slowly closing his eyes. Liam could feel his death and he didn't have the strength to fight it. Mentally. Lying on the cold grass with both lungs full of toxic smoke. I just wanted you to know that** He didn't want to die. "Oh. In the thickening smoke and intense heat. his shattered body gave into the pain and the fumes and he slumped down against the wall. Sadly. Liam turned his face and through the smoke he could feel the tiny whispers of a cool breeze drifting in from the end of the hallway. Angel. His chest tightened and the incredible pain shooting through his left lung told him that it was a lot more than just smoke inhalation closing down his respiratory system. bloody Hell" ***** Liam couldn't breathe. Liam wanted nothing more in the world than to hold his wife in his arms one last time and tell her how much he loved her. The last thing she heard as a wave of darkness washed over her shattered soul and dragged her back down into oblivion was a softly muttered curse. third degree burns on five percent of her body and a badly broken heart. he could feel the lack of oxygen suffocating his brain. "I love you too" **** **Don't do this. Don't do it** "You need your bleeding head read. mate" William muttered as his body once again faced the smoke and heat of Sunnydale High. He felt drained. **Only someone not in their right mind would willingly walk back into the bloody lion's . **It's hopeless** With a painful sigh of regret Buffy started losing her struggle to remain conscious and her blood shot eyes closed back over.

With a thud. either way it wasn't doing him any favours. . William unceremoniously rolled Liam from his aching shoulders and dumped him down on the grass a few feet from his wife. "I should have been a fireman not a bloody poet" **** Dropping to his knees and gasping for breath. William gasped for another lungful of air. At the sudden movement Liam turned his head. Buffy had been as light as a feather but the other sod. "Remind me never to do anything as stupid as that again" Clutching his chest with his hand. By this time the whole school was glowing in the dark night as the fire staked its claim on everything inside. Both men turned back to the building at the same time." Liam didn't get time to finish the statement. Liam groaned out as his broken bones once again made contact with the hard ground. but the image remained stencilled into his head. A look of horror graced both their faces.. Liam rolled onto his side and slowly pulled himself up on his knees.** William found what he was looking for thirty feet from the exit. he picked up the much larger man and begrudgingly threw him across his shoulders. "Oh. With a deep weary sigh. "For what its worth. Take your bloody pick. His heartbeat thundered and with a rush of strength he didn't know he possessed..den like this** **Insanity or love. Aching from head to toe. Will lifted his eyes but at that moment in time he didn't think he could move even if he tried. Liam cried out in agonising pain but there wasn't time to go easy. At that moment the air was filled with the sound of hysterical screaming.. "Shit!" In the same state of disbelief William finished the sentence for him. William closed his eyes trying to cut out the picture of his sister surrounded by flames. At the chilling sound. He raised the arm that wasn't hanging out of its socket and wiped the sweat and dirt from his eyes. "Help me" Darla's terrified screams burst from a broken window at the top of the building. he had been so heavy it had almost broken his back.." Liam started to speak as his eyes made out the source of the screaming. he pulled his exhausted body slowly back to his feet.

the English man sadly shook his head. **Another man's wife** . "I have to try. If he had taken more time to really understand her feelings." His voice trailed off. Turning his head towards Buffy. His long fingers twisting in the ruined cotton. Lifting up his hand William ran his dirty fingers through his hair and drew in a deep shaking breath. When William didn't answer Liam tried again to make him see sense. When he finally spoke a mixture of pain. pain distorting his features. Liam didn't need to be a mind reader to realised what Pennington intended. His determination was written clearly across his smoke-covered face. he owed him that much and maybe a whole lot more. and he tried to swallow the fear clogging his throat Even with his broken ribs and his shoulder badly dislocated. his gaze swept over the unconscious form that he knew without a doubt he would love for the rest of his life. its suicide" He tried desperately to reason with the younger man.. "It was her choice" He argued. and in his own way he was as much to blame for her actions as she was.. He couldn't think of all the evilness his sister had just put them through. Because of his passion for Buffy he had willingly encouraged his sister's twisted obsession.. Darla had made her bed and now she could burn in it for all he was concerned.. his only kin. "Sometimes we don't have a choice" William coughed then."You can't be seriously thinking of going back in there?" He gasped out in disbelief. At the end of the day Darla was still his blood. she was realistically cut off from any chance of salvation. then maybe none of them would be fighting for their lives that night.. "Don't be insane. Buffy had almost died that night and he would never forgive her for that. his scorched lungs screaming out in protest at the prospect of inhaling more smoke. The bitterness in Liam's voice wasn't missed on either of them. Darla wasn't just a few feet inside this time. Eyes filled with grief. She might be a lunatic but she's still my sister. Liam still managed to grip the smaller man's shirt. frustration and helplessness touched every word.

by the time he had pulled himself across the quad. The next time William spoke he made his feelings perfectly clear." Will's voice trembled as his eyes caressed her slight figure one final time. devouring every stick of furniture and lick of paint that crossed its path. and in that instant.In that frozen second in time. "Nooooo" Liam lunged forward but. He took a deep breath and let go of the past. he ripped his eyes away. Their eyes met and held and in that stilled moment in time. He longed for an impossible dream that would forever be just out of his reach. the poet had already disappeared back up the fire escape and into the burning building. Most of that part of the building was now an inferno. his whole being longed for the beautiful blonde girl.. Determination. Darla's distant screams once again filled the air as the fire raged ever closer to the rooftops Cutting out her terror for a microsecond. their lives would never be the same again. William turned his face back to the man he both hated and envied with a passion. .. **She doesn't love you. stupid bastard" Staring at the empty staircase. Above. the blood pulsating through his veins at a frantic rate. both men could see their destinies. set across his features as he took the stairs to the roof two at a time. Their eyes then locked. "You stupid. She never loved you** "Tell Buffy that I. "Tell Buffy that I said goodbye" All traces of jealousy and bitterness were gone from his voice. ***** Fuelled by adrenaline William felt his heartbeat quicken. both men knew that after this night. that reaching her was impossible. Liam was everything he despised and yet he was still everything he wanted to be. like a grim death mask. Then in less than a heartbeat. Liam sank to his knees in utter frustration. leaving just the barest hint of regret in his tone. He wasn't completely stupid. In his heart he knew the first second he saw Darla screaming from the upper storey window.. He'd paid his debt to both Buffy and Liam and now it was time to close this chapter once and for all.

No prison food to choke on. He couldn't save Darla but he had saved Buffy. William wasn't even being noble or self-sacrificing. **She was never mine** A vision of Buffy's smile seared onto his memory and. Long before he reached the top of the stairs flying cinders caught his clothing alight. Resting in peace would come easier knowing that he wasn't a totally evil git after all. In a way he was being a coward. running head on into a blazing school was definitely the easier option. No keeping his lily-white arse pressed up against the wall for the rest of his incarcerated life and. more importantly. her name slipped softly from his lips as he fell. For the young poet who wrote endless words of passion but never found a love of his own. he knew realistically that he wasn't going to save his sister that night. Rushing into the depths of hell. All that mattered was stopping Pennington from throwing his life away. taking the easy way out.Liam was right. With a blistering crack the stairs supporting his weight disintegrated. This way there were no questions to answer. As much as he hated to admit it. As the skin on his once perfect body peeled away with the heat. when at last it did come. when it arrived was a truly welcome relief. He didn't think of the consequences. William Pennington's agonising screams died in his throat. No. William's demise was filled with visions of large hazel eyes and hair the colour of sweet corn. he was going to die right alongside her. Not in this lifetime and more than likely not in the next. ***** Outside Liam staggered to his feet and supporting his broken ribs with his left arm. he didn't have time to. Death. Soul mates and all that bollocks. no endless years of knowing that the love of his life didn't love him in return. melting the muscles and tendons to the bone. the agony scorching his body seemed to slightly ease. at that moment. he'd always known that she belonged with Liam Angelus. it was suicide but it still didn't stop him from trying. The crackling flames enveloped him in a heartbeat Dying seemed to take forever but. "Buffy" Almost like a silent prayer. he stumbled towards the school. William closed down the pain and focused all of his last thoughts on the woman that he would always love but was destined never to have. especially after he had .

softly cradled her small form against his chest. In the aftermath that followed. a final explosion shook the whole building to its foundations when the blaze inside made contact with the newly installed boilers. He gently stroked her cheek. emergency vehicles and a town full of help was all closing in to try and save what was left of the still smouldering school. the school. As he reached the bottom of the fire escape. "Buffy?" He saw her through the smoke and his stomach plummeted. Buffy. When the ringing in his ears from the explosion subsided. Liam pulled his wife into his arms and. Darla Penn and the poet William Pennington were gone. Not again. still and pale. his lungs only managing short painful gasps. She looked so lifeless. hardly noticing his own pain. blocking out both the moon and most of the stars. a shower of glass and debris rained down from every window that was left standing and the sky above the High School was filled with black swirling clouds. ***** Brushing the glass from his dirty hair. Liam closed the short distance between them and. a badly shaken Liam coughed. Almost in the blink of an eye. his hand trembled with fear. but as he reached out to stroke her hair.just saved both his and Buffy's. Her lips were cracked and bleeding. All the fight and determination that he had always adored about her had simply drained away. it was replaced with the high pitch sound of sirens filling the air. She was so still. brushing her hair away from her face "Don't leave me. half-stumbling and half-falling. He ignored all the madness around him. Turning away Liam winced and ignoring the nauseating pain coming from at least three broken ribs. Her blonde hair was singed and discoloured by the black smoke but the most terrifying of all was the waxen look that covered her face. Flashing lights. he tried to pull himself to his knees. She was . Just one glance at the destruction in front of him confirmed that they would be too late. Her once golden skin was now burned red and blistering. he could taste the blood that matted her hair. Like a dirty broken doll carelessly thrown aside. Never again" he pressed his lips to her head and even through the strong tang of smoke. he dropped to the ground by her side.

Buffy didn't move. "Anything yet?" One breath. Still nothing. Pulling his wife from his arms.so small. "Come on sweetheart. his abused lungs were missing a vital breath of air." One breath. the outside world came crashing in with a roar of activity. Over and over they pressed at her small chest. Silent tears slid down his cheeks as he continued to cling to her hand. Liam felt as if his own heart had stopped beating. so fragile looking and Angel knew that if he lost her again his heart would never recover. Have we got a pulse?" "No. Before Liam had a chance to grieve. **It can't end like this. five compressions. "No. "Breathing's stopped. It can't** The words chanted over and over in his head as he watched the paramedics start CPR. we'll take over now" Gently pushing Liam to the side the first two paramedics on the scene rolled the unconscious girl onto her back. "I've got the adrenaline" One breath. five compressions. "Alright son. his concerned eyes never left her face. As they sat there in what looked like the middle of a war zone. You can do it" One breath. All of a sudden. five compressions "Wait a second" . willing the organ behind her ribcage to pick up its tired beat. five compressions. Nothing" As his fears took on terrifying reality.

Slowly. Buffy didn't want peace. But pain was good. ** Flowers** . Buffy timidly opened her eyes. The first thing she noticed was pain. Pain meant she was still alive. after what seemed like forever. She just wanted to live.. Beat.One breath. with a strong smell of disinfectant and something she couldn't quite put her mind to. Small.. "I've got a pulse. Buffy ached all over. **Wherever alive might be** Turning her head ever so slightly she noticed she was in a small room. Beat. Beat. A safe. white. black void of nothingness that wrapped her tightly in its' embrace and refused to let go. she withered and burned. the darkness receded and the black of her world started to let in grey shards of light. she rejected the easy road and like a warrior she fought. she didn't want rest and she didn't want calm. Even lost in the silent vortex.. no part of her body was spared. calm and cool and she was so hot. The darkness was peaceful. It's very weak but it's definitely there" ***** First there was nothing.. with that thought as her lifeline. from the pounding in her head to the tingling in her toes. So.

already got the nightshift and the scars** Blinking against the light that was flooding across the sterilised room. A sharp intake of breath confirmed the flowers in question were roses. If it weren't for a new pain throbbing all around her body. It was real enough. Fire. **Long stemmed and yellow** As the perfume filled her senses her mind was flooded with memories. he was terrified that her memory would be lost forever. Everything looked so similar. stretching the fabric over his lean hips. Liam wasn't convinced. Liam turned in a heartbeat. When she first failed to wake up her doctors had tried to eradicate his fears. Sadly. Death** The strongest feeling of déjà vu closed in on her. Not really sure how to break the ice. his broad shoulders hunched slightly under a dark crumpled shirt and one hand was thrust into the pocket of equally dark trousers. Gripping the side of the bed. . Once again Angel was at a window standing just as she had first seen him that fateful morning in New York. Buffy slowly turned her head and shivered. immediately searched her face for signs that her memory was still intact. At the vision another rush of déjà vu came crashing over her in wave after tumbling wave. she would have sworn that the last few weeks were nothing but a terrible nightmare. Buffy spoke quietly through the silence. the red blistering of her skin told her otherwise. Seemingly gazing into nothingness. The sling supporting Liam's right arm was further proof of that. "We really must stop meeting like this" At the sound of her hoarse voice. Too real. After everything that had happened these last few days. redrimmed with fatigue. **People screaming. His dark worried eyes. and ignoring the IV in the back of her hand. Buffy took a deep steadying breath. her tone gently teasing.**That was it** The fragrance of fresh cut flowers fought its way bravely through the sanitised aura of the room. promising that his wife's condition was nowhere near as serious as it first appeared. **Been here. done this.

Unable to contain her relief at hearing his words Buffy turned her head into his hand and softly kissed his palm. He took a none too steady breath and rubbed his hand around the back of his neck. . quickly poured her a glass of water. Almost as if he could read her mind. the angry spasms racked her small frame as she fought to catch her breath. "Do you. She then sank back into her hard starched pillow and let all the new memories she was remembering replay in her mind. as she swallowed the cool liquid. There were a few gaps in the story that needed filling in but these missing moments were not due to lack of memory. With the whisper of a smile she tried to sit herself up but the jerky movement brought on an unexpected bout of coughing. picking up the jug from the small bedside cabinet. Buffy accepted it gratefully and. He gently brushed her hair back from her forehead and after trailing his fingertip down her nose and across her lips. but only for a second. Buffy nodded her head that she understood." Looking up to meet his eyes. "Don't worry about your scars. His eyes locked with hers and he hesitated. As Liam watched the emotions play across her pale features. Liam softly stroked her back and quietly reassured her that the damage done her lungs would heal over time. then raised her hand to her face and traced her fingers over the fresh pink skin on her cheek. they will heal completely" His voice was soft and the warmth of it flowed over her and soothed her fears. Not only did she recognise him but she also loved him.. just the simple lack of being conscious. Almost bending in half. the burning inside her throat subsided for a few blissful seconds. Do you remember what happened at the High School" Buffy nodded slowly and the tears brimming in her eyes told Liam that sadly. he knew there was no avoiding the next question. "You inhaled a lot of smoke but the effects are only temporary. Liam crossed the room and. Buffy took a moment to really look at him and the dark lines of worry crossing his handsome face melted her heart.The soft expression that caressed her features soon alleviated his fear. he let his hand rest lightly against her warm cheek. she remembered the details of the fire only too well. Reaching out his uninjured hand. Liam saw the new dread reflecting in her eyes.

I think we were both very much in the dark these last few months" Liam's low voice was tinged with a mixture of resentment and regret. He knew there was no point in putting off the inevitable. as if the information was simply too painful to talk about. Liam watched her carefully." Buffy said sadly. Closing her eyes for a moment. she would have to know the truth sooner or later. Darla Penn didn't deserve her tears. I think you should know that there are people that will want to talk to you as soon as you're up to it. Liam nodded. "Buffy. I've told them as much as I could but I wasn't a great help. . in a way. "I know the feeling" His strange reply left her feeling even more confused. "What happened to Darla?" Her gaze clung to his dark features. Buffy fought the tears building behind her swollen lids but she refused to cry. So much loathing for one person to carry was something she would never get her mind around. Liam just nodded. Resentment that he hadn't seen through Darla Penn a whole lot sooner and regret that he hadn't stopped her before it had cost people their lives."I remember being inside the school but after we fell it all gets a little confusing " she whispered as the memory flared up inside her head. "The last thing I remember was thinking that you were dead." Her voice cracked. "She's dead" Buffy just nodded. Buffy could read the angst in her husband's eyes only too well but there was no emotion in her voice at all when she asked about the other woman's fate. he was glad that she didn't have to live with any more of the horror than was necessary. but she caught the sob in her throat keeping her promise of no tears. Her only regret about the news was that she feared she would see Darla burning to death in her nightmares for years to come. One moment she was crashing through the floor and the next she was outside with William in the cool air. It was to be expected and. He took a small breath and went straight to the point.. "She must have hated me so much.

she was insane." **Tell Buffy that I said goodbye** Taking a deep breath. He looked at her for a long moment. "Yes. he knew this was going to be the most difficult part of the story. his dark eyes mixed with an array of emotions she couldn't quite place. preferring to get all of the bad news over and done with in one sitting Liam perched on the side of the bed. It was the part he knew he would never understand himself. If she didn't let go of her own anger. I hope the bitch burns in Hell. there really is no need to worry about Darla anymore.. It seems she's been gunning for you for most of her twisted life. to a hero. Her jealousy of you and her sick obsession with me brought it all to a head. **Oh. carefully watching his wife's reactions.. Her eyes opened and lifted to his and he felt his heart contract as he saw the turmoil they held. just long enough to give Buffy the distinct impression that there was still something he was not telling her." Buffy took a deep calming breath and closed her eyes. "Buffy.. forcing herself to think of the future instead of dwelling on the past. She found great delight in telling me just how my being alive ruined her life." he started slowly. Angel?" She prompted gently. She planned for me to disappear again. The police found all the evidence they needed in her diaries. all in the blink of an eye. she closed her eyes and a single tear slipped silently down her cheek. hoping that you would fall into her waiting arms. This whole sick masquerade is over. Liam stood silently as his wife confronted her demons. " He paused. bloody hell** Almost as if she knew what was coming next Buffy felt her throat start to thicken. "It seems I was wrong about William Pennington. to a corpse. she was likely to end up as insane as the woman that had almost killed her. "Well. Buffy. Maybe he wasn't such a ."Sweetheart. its over now.. "Is there anything else. He then lifted his wife's hand and softly stroked her fingers. The man he had always hated had suddenly gone from being a stalker." Liam saw his wife's eyes cloud in pain but she quickly pushed the emotion away. "I know.

That and the legacy of being an insane. single-handed had finally destroyed Sunnydale High School forever. Losing his young life in a futile attempt . the determined young woman plastered on her resolve face and threatened to discharge herself if she wasn't released. only one of the coffins was actually occupied. with just the flicker of a soft breeze gently teasing at her hair. on a bright sunny afternoon at Restfield cemetery. It was no secret that when the boilers at the high school exploded on the night of the fire. Angel had been her only ally that day. He not only supported her decision to say goodbye to the man who had helped save her life. Surprisingly.bastard after all" ****** Seven days later Buffy stood calmly composed. The day. like nearly every other day in Sunnydale was bright and sunny and although there was a great interest in the double funeral. William. stubborn to the last. Dressed in a simple black dress she watched in silence as the elegant coffin slid effortlessly into the rich American soil. stating that it would be far too distressing. With no family to claim him. Sadly. With no family on either side of the Atlantic. the intense blaze that ripped through the roof cremated everything in its path. all that was left of Darla Penn was a few pieces of expensive jewellery. that meant in the end you could count the actual mourners on two hands. cold-hearted bitch who. At first. everyone had tried to talk Buffy out of going to the funeral. the burial was kept to close friends only. But. on the other hand was a different story. but even after an extensive search of the ashes. but he also insisted on going along with her. deep in his heart. Darla wouldn't be mourned or missed. the troubled young poet would rest alongside his sister in Sunnydale for all eternity. Even though it was a joint ceremony. When the fire was finally extinguished William's charred remains had been discovered in the basement. she felt none of its heat that day. two flower-covered coffins had stood in a small corner of the cemetery. The past was going to be laid to rest that afternoon and. The warm golden rays of the sun trickled down through the trees and washed over her skin but sadly. in the end. found that he never could. it was decided to bury William Pennington in the town he was once desperate to leave but. it no longer mattered. shaded by a hundred-year-old willow tree. Hidden from the curious masses. Now. one being a nearly famous poet and the other a lunatic arsonist. he understood that good-byes were needed for all of them.

I didn't want to fall in love with you. "Good-bye. I could never love a man like you. Buffy. A tiny sigh slipped into her voice as put the horrors of the past few months firmly behind her. Turning her head slightly. Buffy doubted that she would ever be able to really cry again. the love. I'm drowning in you Summers. he showed his true colours and was there when she really needed him. After everything that had happened between them over the last five months. just maybe. but I had no choice. Both Buffy and Liam decided that the world didn't need to know any different. Buffy lifted her eyes to where her real love was still waiting and the smile he gave her wrenched at her heart. After the last few weeks. I knew it was wrong. when push came to shove. **I was wrong about William Pennington. Maybe he wasn't such a bastard after all** Albeit reluctantly. Buffy understood only too well how close William had come to helping Darla destroy her life but. and the . in my throat. You're in my gut. William had also been there when Angel needed him and that in itself warranted her forgiveness. The breeze and maybe. I'm drowning in you** **After what you've put me through there's nothing you could say that I would believe. the person they were meant for. Dust to dust" Buffy eyes focused on the falling earth as it crashed down on top of the coffin but her mind was somewhere else at that moment. Angel loved her. You're beneath me** **You're beneath me** **Six feet beneath me** Pulling herself out of her reverie Buffy leant slightly forward and dropped the single yellow rose she was holding in her right hand down onto the coffin lid below. She wasn't fooling herself. William" She didn't cry. She watched as the delicate flower came to its final resting-place alongside a man she would never love but also knew she could never hate. "Ashes to ashes. Suddenly she found herself thrown back into the past that she now could remember with heartbreaking clarity. "Thank you" Her soft words were whispered over the graveside so quietly that only the warm breeze heard their sound.to save his sick sister meant his death would be remembered as something heroic. **I've been in Hell now for the last two years. the passion...

rocking her against him as if he would never let her go. Reaching up on tiptoes Buffy wrapped her arms around his neck. "I think we've had enough amnesia in our lives to last us life time. Buffy just smiled "Me too" Not wanting to end the moment. A smile graced Buffy's lips for the first time that day. No one would ever come between them. "I'm not sure" Her eyes twinkled before adding "Maybe you should tell me again just in case I forget" With a soft groan. Liam gently ran his fingers down her back. Without realising that he had approached her. Buffy could feel the bandages that were still strapping his ribs so she leaned her head carefully against his chest. Buffy took a quick. winding her fingers in his hair. The return of her memory was a blessing but she didn't really need it to know how she felt about Angel. pulling her into the comfort of his body. Liam rolled his eyes and slipped his left hand around her small waist. Time after time fate had stepped in and saved the day. The way trouble seems to follow us around lately." He teased softly.desire her husband held for her still shone blatantly from the depths of his dark chocolate eyes." . a strong arm wrapped its way around her small shoulders. drawing feather-light circles over the thin material of her black dress. scramble under the covers and maybe get around to that night of red hot sex you promised me?. An expression that she knew she mirrored to perfection Squaring her small shoulders." His mouth leant closer. "Have I told you lately how much I love you?" Liam's soft words startled her out of her reverie as his warm breath tickled against her ear. Her arms crept around his body and he tightened. Liam *Angel* Angelus would always be the love of her life. " I was thinking. maybe we should just go home where it's nice and safe. his lips almost tasting her breath " We can lock all the doors. she shivered on realising just how many times she had come close to losing her husband. sharp breath and stepping away from the open graveside.

or even in his arms. she slipped quietly into the soft window seat. I clearly remember" She shook her head but her expression was soft and teasing. Suddenly it felt like a lifetime since she had been in his bed. "Don't worry. I guess there must still be a few parts missing from my memory after all" Liam chuckled and the undertone of his reply sent a shiver running down both their spines. At that moment. A blush of colour crept into her cheeks at the thought of their promise. she would never leave his side again. Closing that chapter on their lives. "That sounds fair to me. gently teasing every nerve ending in her body. Her eyes. on locating her place. covered by dark sunglasses searched along the row of numbers and. glance. Each painful step an effort in itself.. Buffy pulled back slightly.. ***** Epilogue Four weeks later The petite female moved slowly along the aisle. I'll soon help you remember" His fingers moved lower.. "Would you like a magazine?" The flight attendant smiled as she held out a copy of the . Lets go home.. the two lovers entwined their fingers and walked away from the two open graves without a backward. "Well. all thoughts of amnesia and the pain they had faced over the last few months were pushed away. that no matter what the future held for them. just enough to look into his eyes and lose herself in his smile. "You did. lock all those doors. and then you can start on helping me to remember" She whispered seductively into his ear and silently promised.Buffy quirked a suspicious eyebrow "I promised you?" Liam smiled and brushed a kiss to her lips.

From the interview in the magazine. With that reassuring thought the passenger closed her eyes. she had disappeared into the night.** William Pennington had died along with his sister in a blaze that completely destroyed Sunnydale High School. the sun was just rising on what promised to be a beautiful day but. Darla would have smiled if her face weren't so badly scarred.. Maybe fate had played yet another twisted hand. she hungrily devoured e very printed word. No one was looking for her. As the quiet unobserved female started to turn the pages of her magazine. she glanced out of the small side window. Outside. While the rest of Sunnydale was centred on the other side of the building. Along with a smiling picture. for the female hiding away in first class.early issue Without a word the passenger nodded and reached out a gloved hand. Darla would never really know how she managed to survive the fire that night. It was a good start. When the roof exploded she was still clinging to the fire escape and with the force of the explosion. Darla wiped the tears away from her pink. Parker might have been a violent prick but when she really needed him he had surprisingly come through for her. Slipping off her glasses. scarred cheeks and turning her face away from the other passengers. Flicking through the magazine pages. Her ex-lover. it had cost her most of her inheritance but Parker had managed to get her out of Sunnydale and into a private burns clinic without any real questions asked. a small article in the corner caught her attention. "Such a terrible way to die" The passenger looked across at the front page of the glossy and a shiver passed over her soul. it seemed that the whole world now believed she was dead. the twisted metal had carried her to a relatively safe dropping distance. she didn't see the beauty in anything any more. His funeral and the plans for a memorial. A tiny picture of Buffy and Liam loomed up from the page and taunted her with their annoying survival. Okay. she had somehow managed to find her car and. In the photograph Liam appeared to be wearing a sling and Buffy looked like shit but both were smiling and holding hands as . the headlines carried the full story of the poet William Pennington's heroic demise. **Two dead in High School blaze. Darla ignored the searing pain in her fingers and on finding the full story. in too much shock to feel the pain of her burns. If the attendant noticed her trembling fingers she didn't remark on it.

Twenty minutes later she was still lost in a world of her own. she carefully tore the picture of the two lovebirds from the magazine. As the plane slowly turned away from the small town below and headed out for LA. While Darla continued to glare at the picture. A world that believed she was dead and now allowed her to move freely without fear of reprisals.. Running her finger over his blurred dark features Darla Penn's insane. lover.. "Don't you get too comfortable now. This will never be over" The End.. Darla proceeded to tear Buffy's image away from Liam's side. vengeful mind raced with a million new possibilities. This is not over. slowly lifting into the brilliant morning skyline. the engines roared into life and the plane started its course along the runway. Holding it carefully between her gloved fingers.they left the hospital a few weeks earlier. .o) .