Almost three centuries of hedonistic debauchery under his belt and this still embarrassed the shit out of him. Angel shifted restlessly on the balls of his feet, eyeing one way down the aisle and then the other. The tinny drone of muzak pumped through Rite-Aid’s speaker system wasn’t doing much to help him make a decision.
Growling in irritation, he finally just grabbed a box off the shelf. A big one. So he wouldn’t have to do this next week. He stalked up to the register and tossed the condom box down on the counter. The brain dead teenager manning the scanner didn’t even bat an eye at the purchase, but Angel still blushed. Thirty seconds later, he was back in the car.
He hated these sordid little trips to the neighborhood pharmacy under cover of night, but he didn’t have much choice. Okay, that wasn’t strictly true. He did have a choice. He could forgo sex indefinitely. Which, really, wasn’t much of a choice. He’d managed to hold out for three weeks this time. It seemed that no amount of pouting, pleading or pressuring was going to coerce Buffy into having unprotected sex. He’d thought he could outlast her. He was wrong. Every morning, he got a little surlier while she could have her granola and fresh squeezed orange juice with a bright, chipper smile, skin flushed from her morning interlude with the shower head massager. While he enjoyed the occasional jerk off in the shower, it was no replacement for raw animal rutting with his mate.
Angel looked over at Steve. Ever since the final – supposedly – apocalypse had been thwarted, demons technically were extinct. That’s why Angel no longer had a problem making it to Sunday brunch on the sunniest day of the year. However, not all demons had been as lucky as vampires. Fifteen years ago, Steve would have been known as a Torkan demon, both feared and reviled by human and demon alike. Now, he was just an underemployed java programmer with bad skin, a severe overbite and no people skills. Oddly enough, in the industry, he really didn’t stand out.
“Nothing,” Angel snapped, throwing the car into reverse and leaving the parking lot as quickly as possible. It was Saturday night. He’d had the weekly poker game with the guys and now he was going to ditch Steve and head home. To have sex.
“Rubbers,” Steve said with a chuckle.
Angel snatched the box out of his hand and tossed it in the backseat, glaring at the former demon.
Steve frowned. Torkan demons had been notoriously difficult to intimidate, even by one so accomplished as the Scourge of Europe. Steve, in his current quasi-human-demon-hybrid-sandwich incarnation, wasn’t much better. “You’ve been married for like fucking ever, man,” Steve continued. “Why the hell are you buying rubbers?” He made an excited little noise and his eyes lit up. “Oh! You got a girlfriend?”
Angel turned and glowered at the former demon far longer than was strictly safe while driving. “No, I don’t have a girlfriend,” he bit out tersely. “My wife makes me use ‘em. Okay? Now can we drop this?”
Steve held his hands up in surrender. “Fine, man. Whatever.”
Angel turned his attention back to the road, his teeth grinding together. He really didn’t want to be having this conversation with Steve. Angel didn’t know what the fuck he had been thinking. He should have just run out on his lunch hour that afternoon and bought the damn things then. He could have spared himself the humiliation.
He sighed, turning onto the freeway onramp and heading in the direction of the gargantuan apartment complex where Steve lived. “So why don’t you two have kids?’
Angel didn’t even bother sighing. It would have been pointless. “We just don’t, okay. I mean, well, I do. Buffy and I don’t.”
“You got a kid?”
“I have a son,” Angel said quietly.
“Man, I never knew that,” Steve said, sounding halfway impressed. “Where is he? Living with the ex-wife?”
“I don’t have an ex-wife,” Angel corrected. “And no. Connor’s grown. He lives in Baltimore, works for the government.”
Steve chuckled. “Got started early, eh?” He playfully punched Angel in the shoulder. The fact that he was only half a mile from Steve’s apartment was the only thing that kept Angel from pulling the car over and beating the former demon to death.
After the longest ten minutes in the history of creation – including Illyria’s fun little time warping incidents – Steve was finally gone. Angel made the same vow he made every Saturday night. He was not going to allow himself to be guilted into inviting Steve to the weekly poker game.
Reaching into the backseat, Angel grabbed the Rite-Aid bag and once again tossed it into the passenger’s seat. Sex. Sex was good. He tried to keep himself on that line of thought.
It didn’t work. Steve’s stupid, ham fisted comments had affectively killed Angel’s mood. After all, why didn’t he and Buffy have kids? Angel groaned aloud. He and Buffy had had this conversation approximately 4.7 billion times. It always ended the same way – with him sleeping on the couch, or on those extra special occasions, his car.
Progeny, or the lack thereof, had been one of the fundamental caveats to their reconciliation, nearly seventeen years ago. For years they danced around one another, only the venue changing – Sunnydale, LA, Rome ... Cleveland. Both of them were gunshy, both of them were damaged, but they both kept tabs on one another. Angel knew when Buffy finally retired from Slaying. She knew when he got his shanshu. Neither of them called, even if they did dial.
They should have run into each other at a wedding, or maybe a funeral. Or hell, maybe even one of the myriad plays or piano recitals that seemed near daily events given both of their huge circles of extended family’s propensity for procreation.
They ran into each other at the Gap. It was so perversely, perfectly serendipitous that Buffy started braying like a hyena amid tables of crew neck sweaters and hip hugger jeans.
Their reconciliation was slow. Not that they didn’t fuck. They did. Like bunnies. Hell, that first day, they barely made it out to Angel’s car in the parking garage before her hot little cunt was wrapped around his cock, milking him for everything he was worth.
The actual meeting of the minds, if not the hearts, was a little less forthcoming. He’d push, she’d bolt, he’d date, she’d get jealous and show up at one of his work cocktail parties in a barely-there dress letting Missy know that even if she arrived with Angel, she wasn’t going home with him. The war of wills went on for months until one lazy June afternoon.
They were naked, sharing a bottle of water and a joint as they lay on the floor in the shade of Angel’s balcony, basking in the after glow. Buffy was on her stomach, head resting on her crossed arms. He lay on his back, perpendicular, his head pillowed by the small of her back. Angel took another deep drag and handed it off to Buffy, watching her inhale before he finally released his breath. She tried to hand it back to him, but he waved her off. “No,” he said, “I’m baked. Where the fuck do you get that stuff?”
She took another hit, smiling. “Winston,” she said, exhaling a cloud of smoke. “He used to be a Sohlonj demon. Now he runs a car repair place in Encino.”
“Ah, yeah,” Angel said dreamily. “Sohlonj demons always did have the best drugs.”
Buffy chuckled, watching him as he stared at the ceiling fan with a goofy smile. Angel could outmatch her in a lot of things, but drinking and drugging were not among them. He was such a lightweight.
Restlessly, she rolled over onto her back, but was careful not to dislodge him. One hand folded behind her head, acting as a pillow as the opposite hand sifted through Angel’s hair, his head now pillowed low on her abdomen.
He looked over at her. “Marry me.”
Buffy smiled and rolled her eyes.
“You always do that,” he said petulantly. “I’m serious.”
“Yes, but I’m also serious. Why won’t you marry me?”
She frowned, looking up at the ceiling. “Can’t we just take a nap?”
Sighing, he sat up and turned to look at her. “Buffy.”
She looked at him, growing more and more agitated. She gestured toward him with her hands. “You’re just so ... needy.”
“Needy?” He spat the word at her.
She sat up, pulling her knees up to her chest and wrapping her arms around them. “Yes,” she said bluntly, “needy.”
He scoffed, shaking his head. “I am not needy.”
“Jesus Christ, Angel,” she cursed. “You can’t even just look at me. You can’t see me.”
He stared at her, his expression blank. He really wanted Doritos and Mountain Dew. Maybe there was some left over chicken in the fridge. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Me,” she said forcefully. “Me! Buffy, freelance security consultant, occasional party girl, kills all her houseplants, horrible at housekeeping, worse at cooking, about to have her car repo’d, Summers.”
His face settled into a scowl. “I already knew all that.”
Rolling her eyes again, she stood up and walked back into the apartment, plucking his button up shirt off the couch and shrugging into it. He followed her and was leaning against the doorframe waiting.
“You may know it,” she said, “but you don’t see it.”
“So why don’t you tell me what I do see,” he snapped.
She looked at him, her eyes searching his face. “When you look at me, it’s like ... It’s like you can’t look at me without seeing your entire future laid out before you.”
“Is that such a bad thing?” he demanded. “I love you.”
“And I love you,” she stressed. “But I need you to love me here. Now. I need you to love what I am at this very second, not some idealized version of me you have your heart set on for the future. It’s like you can’t just look at me without it being a prelude to The Rest Of Our Lives.”
Silence descended in the room and the only sound was the whirl of the ceiling fan and the occasional sound of traffic through the open sliding-glass door that led to the balcony.
“I’m going to disappoint you,” she said softly. “And as much as that hurts me, it pisses me off more.”
Tentatively, he stepped farther into the room, coming closer until he could reach out and run his fingertips across her cheekbone. “How do you think you could ever disappoint me?”
Her resolve cracked and her eyes watered. She’d successfully avoided having this conversation for eight months – or ten years depending on how you wanted to look at it. She should have known it couldn’t last. She shook her head, tears streaming down her cheeks. “I’m not who you think I am, Angel.”
“I know you,” he said firmly. “I love you.”
She shook her head more vehemently. “You love the girl I used to be and believe me, she’s long gone.” She laughed, punchy. “Even Willow’s resurrection spell couldn’t save that one.”
“Buffy,” he said so softly, gently drawing her closer to his body. He wrapped his arms around her and held her as she cried. “It’ll be okay,” he whispered.
She growled, twisting out of his embrace. “Goddamn you!” she bellowed. “That’s exactly what I’m talking about. You always say things like that, it’ll be okay, it’ll pass. Guess what! It won’t! This is who I am, Angel. This is who we are and we’re fucking broken!”
“Buffy, don’t s – “
“Don’t say that?” she parroted caustically. “Why not? It’s the truth. You just don’t want to see it. We’re a couple of fuckups. Great champions given their rewards by the Powers that Be and here we are in the LA’s daily grind. I’m unemployed half the time, getting by on Easy Mac and water. You’ve got some dead end job doing magazine layouts. You have to commute two hours each way in your piece of crap truck that breaks down once a month. We’re ... gods, I don’t even know what we are. We fight all the time and fuck all the time. We get high together.”
“I love you.”
She turned and looked at him, her righteous rage dissipating.
“You want forever?” she asked quietly.
“Fine,” she said wearily, “but we have to get a few things straight.”
Crossing her arms over her chest, Buffy looked at her other half. “I don’t want kids. Ever.”
He watched her for a moment, very taken aback by her declaration. “You’re still young, maybe in the future-“
“It won’t change,” she interrupted flatly. “I don’t want kids. Not yours. Not anyone else’s. If you have your heart set on babies, go find yourself a breeder because I’m not doing it. I’m finished with taking care of people.”
Taking a deep breath, Angel looked at his love. He’d seen that expression before many times. She wasn’t bluffing. “Anything else?” he asked nonchalantly.
“That’s it?” she demanded. “No comment on the kids?”
“You didn’t give me the impression it was up for debate.”
Her expression was confused. “It’s ... not.”
“Okay, so anything else?”
“You’re really just going to let it go like this?”
“What do you want me to say, Buffy?” he asked. “Yes, I would like to have kids. I would like to have kids with you. But if this is the only way I can have you in my life, I’ll take it.”
Leave it to him to have one of the most important conversation of his impressively long life in the nude, stoned out of his fucking gord. But then again, given his life, that was pretty much par for the course. And as usual, he'd missed at least three-fourths of the subtext in that particular exchange. But he knew that Buffy knew that.
Angel’s attention snapped back to the present and he managed to not miss the turn into his subdivision. All the houses looked exactly alike. He hated it. Two blocks down, then a left, house on the far east side of the cul-de-sac. He hit the garage door opener and parked his sensible, boring econo-box next to Buffy’s little import sports car. How exactly she got the sexy car while he was driving the fuel efficient one had never really been explained to his satisfaction. It was one of the great mysteries of married life. Much like the mystery of how all his comfortable underwear had been replaced by designer boxer briefs.
Angel stopped at the hall closet, shrugging out of his fleece jacket and hanging it up. He was careful to grab the Rite-Aid bag out of the pocket. Toeing off his shoes, he left them on the welcome mat next to the door. He walked through the quiet living room, remembering the days when he and Buffy would argue with each other until they were hoarse, get high and fuck each other unconscious – not necessarily in that order. The intervening years had toned that down considerably. Angel had a bad knee. Buffy was a recovering narcotic addict. They also had a Rottweiler named Kitten who tended to bark and whine really loudly if you tried to get freaky in the living room. Angel had done more than his fair share of kinky shit in his life, but doing it in front of the dog still tweaked him out.
So these days, their romps were generally relegated to the bedroom. More specifically to the bed itself. And as much as Angel loved having sex with his wife, he usually derived more pleasure from simply sleeping and waking next to her. Usually. But usually he hadn't been in a no-fly zone for the last three weeks. Gods he hated condoms. Maybe it was a hold over from his centuries of pre-safe-sex debauchery. Maybe it was just a guy thing. He really didn’t care either way. He just knew he hated them. Conversely, Buffy hated the Pill. She hated the shot more. They both hated her diaphragm. And after a decade and a half of bearing the burden of their child-free life, Buffy simply threw the Pills away and told him that if he ever wanted to get laid that he was going to have to wear a raincoat.
That particular declaration had led to the fight that had him sleeping on the couch for a week while Kitten warmed his side of their king size bed.
Angel supposed he should have figured it out a long time ago. Coulda woulda shoulda. Satan's death seven years ago was a big tip off. Satan was what he had unaffectionately called Buffy's cat, Liam -- who, for the record, had been adopted and christened a year before the reconciliation. Satan was vile little flame point Siamese that seemed to have no other purpose in life than to fuck up all of Angel's personal belongings and generally be a pain in the ass. Angel had hated that cat and the cat hated him. For years it had been a war of the wills. The war, however, was one that Angel had never truly intended to win in any manner other than simply outliving the damn cat.
It was all so stupid. It was a chilly February morning. The weather had been unseasonably cold. Buffy was working on some damn crafts project on his half of the garage, so when he got home from work late, he parked in the driveway rather than the garage. Satan had apparently slipped outside and been prowling around the neighborhood. Neither Buffy nor Angel had been particularly attentive to his absence. Best Angel could figure, when Satan discovered he couldn't get back in the house, he found the warmest place he could to spend the night. It just so happened that the warmest place was the engine block of Angel's truck.
What a mess.
He’d simply pulled out his cell, called a tow truck and had it hauled off to a used car place. By noon he was driving the econo-box. Angel wasn’t dense enough to think that stupid cat was the reason Buffy’s dabbling in drugs became a full blown way of life. He’d denied the signs for months, ignoring her depression and self-medication in equal measure. More than a small part of that was resentment. How fucking childish. None of it had seemed real until it was. Real. Very real. Real Buffy lying in a pool of real vomit with a very real, very empty bottle of Oxycontin in her hand.
Statistically speaking, women are only successful at suicide attempts 25% of the time. Their attempts are usually done with pills. They usually do it somewhere with a decent likelihood of being found. Even if they are eventually successful, it usually takes three or four attempts before they finally get it right. Men, on the other hand, are almost always successful. And they do it in messy ways; car wrecks, hanging, self-inflicted gunshot wounds. Women cry for help. Men just end it.
Leave it to Buffy to buck the gender norms yet again. Not yet forty and she was already two for two. Not many people could say that – especially since there were no more walking dead.
She’d had absolutely no intention of being found. She’d gone to great lengths to ensure she’d be long gone by the time anyone guessed, both in terms of the amount of poison she ingested and the duration of time she planned before being found. He wasn’t supposed to be there. He was supposed to be on a plane to Newark, going to some damn magazine industry convention like a trained monkey. But the econo-box had blown a tire on the way to the airport and he’d missed his flight. For reasons he could never adequately explain, he’d had the taxi stop by the house on his way back to the office. He managed to resuscitate her with CPR, but he didn’t know how long she’d been gone before he found her.
She hadn’t even written him a note.
That, more than anything else, had pissed him off.
At least until he got the ziplock baggie o’ evidence from the cops. He’d been sitting in the waiting room of the hospital for hours, literally dying find out if his wife was going to live or not. He’d opened the baggie simply for some sort of distraction. Personal effects. There weren’t many. Buffy had been nude when he found her, though Angel didn’t even begin to process that information for hours. She’d only had one item, a silver Claddagh ring.
On the living room floor.
With a silver Claddagh on her left hand ring finger.
It was her thirty-fourth birthday. Seventeen years after her seventeenth birthday.
The nurses were nice to him, but their smiles were a little too forced. Buffy was still unconscious. They tried to prepare him for the fact that even if she did pull through, she might be a vegetable. They reminded him that she had a living will. She specifically stated she didn’t want to be on a ventilator. Of course, he knew that the hospital wouldn’t unplug her. Sure it might be against Buffy’s wishes, but they weren’t going to risk a lawsuit over it. He didn’t even pretend to listen to the rest of their lectures. Her lab workup came back. The doctor looked at him with a great deal of censure. Buffy was an addict. She’d been an addict for a long time. The organ damage that her addiction and suicide attempt had wrought was staggering.
Against all the odds, she did wake up. Her first word was “Fuck.” Her second and third words were “home” and “now.” She checked herself out against doctor’s orders. Angel wasn’t willing to have her committed against her wishes. The doctor looked ready to strangle him for that one, but Angel didn’t care. The doctor didn’t know Buffy. And yes, while Angel admitted to himself that he could have handled the situation much differently, he knew that locking her up in that place wouldn’t help anything.
So he took her home. They adopted Kitten the next day.
Buffy stared at the little ball of black and brown fuzz he deposited on the pillow next to her head. “What is it?”
“A puppy,” Angel said softly, completely unsure of how she was going to react.
“Is this the part where you give me something even more pathetic than myself to worry about?” she asked, her eyes narrowing suspiciously.
He sighed deeply. “Buffy – “
He fell silent as she completely ignored him and picked up the whining little pup, cooing at it as she pulled it under the covers with her. He stood there for a long while watching her baby the tiny little dog, letting it lick her face.
Adopting Kitten hadn’t been manipulation on his part. He simply thought she might be a nice distraction. And she was. She also had it going for her that she wasn’t a cat. And at 163 pounds full grown, the odds of her being able to crawl inside of a car engine to keep warm were pretty frickin’ slim. Hell, in a one on one with the econo-box, Angel would have bet money on Kitten. She was a beast. A beast that was currently asleep on his side of the bed.
“Move it,” Angel snapped.
Kitten looked at him, and then yawned, and then stretched before finally deciding to get off the bed. Angel’s glower had absolutely no effect.
When Kitten had finally padded off to the living room, Angel braced one knee on the bed and leaned over, pressing a hard kiss to Buffy’s jaw. She made a sleepy sound and blinked her eyes open. “Fell asleep,” she said, yawning. “I meant to wait up for you.”
He inhaled deeply. “You took a shower,” he said, kissing down her neck.
“Mmmm, hmmm,” she murmured, smiling as she threaded her fingers through his hair. They had a long standing argument about her showering after her Narconon meetings. He maintained that she smelled like she’d been living in an ashtray for a week after those meetings. Buffy maintained that she was tired and he could just fucking deal with it because she wasn’t taking a goddamn shower.
Angel kissed her deeply while tossing the box of condoms onto the nightstand next to her head. “I. Went. Shopping,” he said between nips of her skin.
She somehow managed to divest him of his shirt before he realized it. With a little growl, she flipped him over onto his back, straddling his hips. “Fuck it,” she said. “I want you.”
He slid his hands up her back, pulling her nightshirt over her head. She’d only worn it because she was cold without him in bed. Usually, she slept nude.
Her nimble fingers made quick work of his belt and she pulled his pants and boxers down his legs before tossing them over her shoulder. It occurred to him, only for a moment, that he should be irritated. He’d gone to all the trouble of buying condoms and she wasn’t even making a big deal out of it. Under any other circumstance, he would have said it was a matter of principle. But in this case, the principle could take a flying leap.
He groaned, his back arching as her hot mouth wrapped around his cock, sucking and stroking him to full tumescence. Her tongue played along his length, swirling around the head as one of her hand carefully cupped his testicles. He hissed her name, his fingers threading through her hair.
She stopped and he opened his mouth to protest, but then she was bracing one hand against his chest as the other wrapped around his cock, guiding him into her body. They both moaned as she sank down on him. “Too long,” she whimpered, arching up only to drop back down on him again and again and again.
His fingers bit deeply into her hips, abetting her movement. Her left hand wrapped around his right and she moved it across her abdomen. He took the hint, using his thumb to search out her clit. Her breath hissed sharply through her teeth and her head fell back as he rubbed more intensely.
“Angel,” she whimpered, her movements faltering. He braced his feet on the mattress, using the leverage to drive up into her. Her body shuddered, her internal muscles fluttering around him and he was lost. With a grunt, he joined her.
It was a long time before they stirred. She stretched, rubbing against him as much as possible, which was a lot given that she was still sprawled across his body. She buried her nose against his neck and inhaled deeply, making a soft, contented sound. “Mmmm. That was nice.”
He took a deep breath and let out a sigh of pride. “We aim to please.”
She thumped him in the forehead.
He rolled over onto his side, unceremoniously displacing her from her perch.
“Hey,” she groused, but before she could smack him again, he grabbed her hips and pulled her back against his body, spooning around her. She moved, trying to nail him in the shin with the back of her heel, but he sank his teeth into the nape of her neck and she shuddered, immediately stilling.
When he was satisfied she wasn’t going to try and fight anymore, he released his bite. “Go to sleep,” he said, wrapping his arm around her waist and throwing one leg over both of hers.
They were quiet for a long time and he had almost nodded off. “If I’m pregnant, you’re sleeping in the back yard,” she said with a yawn.
“You’re going to be forty-two in three months,” he said. “I’m good, but I don’t think I’m that good.”
He expected a slap, but she just snorted at him.
“I love you.”
He snuggled closer to her, burying his face against her back. “I know.”
He could almost hear the glare.
He smiled against her shoulder. “I love you too, Buffy.”
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