SPOILERS: It's a sequel to
Nights Like These which was a sequel to The Sighing Game, so there are spoilers for both stories. I'm pretty far away from canon at this point. Buffy killed the Master, and Angel the episode happened..but don't expect this to relate to the show too closely.
(This story was started before School Hard. When I started it Buffy and Angel still were not together...amd the Anointed One was still alive. So some things brought the story closer to canon...and others took it farther away from where the show itself went. )
CONTENT: Buffy/Angel romance, Willow/Xander romance, violence (part3), sex (part4 mainly)
SUMMARY: This picks up the day after Angel killed Lily in Nights Like These. It picks up right where Nights left off...Angel has to meet Buffy's mom, deal with his blood lust (which is stronger than ever),the couple finds that the *blood transfer* may have had a more lasting effect...plus Colin may be hatching a new scheme (Yippee)
DISCLAIMER: I don't own Buffy or any of the other characters on the show. I don't own any of the ideas that belong to the Buffyverse. All that good stuff belongs to Joss Whedon, the WB and I believe Fox. Definitely not me. Like I said before I've departed somewhat from canon, I try to follow the principles of the Buffyverse but if Joss hasn't given us a specific example of one thing or another I've made up my own theories.
Just a warning :)

Text enclosed in * * are thoughts.

The Morning After

by: Rebecca Carefoot

Part 1
Bloody Sunday

Buffy groaned as the sun beamed in through the window. She squinted against the bright light and rubbed the sleep from her eyes. As she sat up, she felt muscles she didn't even know she had aching with the movement. Last night, well it had been pretty much hell on earth. She had almost died when her boyfriend, who just happened to be a vampire, had nearly drained her of all her blood. And that had been the fun part of the night. After that she had gotten to sit helplessly while she watched him fight a supremely evil vampire and tear out her heart. She shuddered a little; the sharing of her blood with Angel had connected them in some way she didn't really understand. It had given him enough power to kill Lily, the Slayer turned vamp they had been fighting. And it had also let her experience the fight through his eyes. It had let her feel the battle rage and the blood lust. It was like nothing she had ever felt before, a surging of hunger, power, and a fierce desire to kill everything in her path. She shook her head absently. She wished it hadn't happened. It was easier to pretend your boyfriend was normal when you didn't know the terrible urges that he was feeling just about every second of the day. It scared her, that was the truth.

She got up and staggered into the shower. The hot water filled the room with steam and eased her tense muscles. She lathered herself with the bar of soap, trying to wash away the memory of those feelings. She turned her thoughts away from the fight. She had to admit that when they had gone to the Bronze afterward it had been incredible. She and Angel had danced a little. He refused to let her dance as much as she wanted; he was too worried about her. She had complained, but it was nice to have someone else take care of her. To just relax in his arms and feel totally safe. It was so wonderful to be around him, to know he loved her.

He was incredibly gorgeous, but the attraction wasn't just physical. It was something deeper, something that she couldn't explain. She knew she could tell him anything and he would still love her, that she could trust him with her secrets and he would trust her with his.

She hopped out of the shower when she noticed her fingers turning pruny from the hot water. She quickly got dressed and went down to eat breakfast. Her mother had fixed her some juice and some cereal. Panic touched her lightly at the thought of her mother. Her mother had agreed not to wig out until after she had met Angel and judged whether he was good enough for her darling daughter. Buffy sighed. If her mother forbade her from seeing Angel again, she would just have to start sneaking out again. But she hated lying to her mother. Mentally she crossed her fingers. *Please let Angel be charming enough that she'll approve of him,* she thought. She hated putting him through this, but this was their chance to go at least a little legit. She would much rather have a guy that wasn't a secret.  There were enough secrets in her life. 

She ate quickly and went back into her room. Her mom would be home from the gallery in a couple hours. She always did renovations and stuff on Sundays when the gallery was closed. Buffy picked up the phone to call Willow. If she had to wait around until nightfall with no one to talk to, she would go completely insane.

Willow's phone line was busy. *Probably surfing the net again,* Buffy thought as she dialed Xander's number. It was busy too. Buffy sat for a moment on the floor of her room, phone in hand. *Well, this sucks. I need to get a few more friends,* she thought to herself. *Two numbers, that was pretty pathetic.* She briefly considered calling Giles. But she really wasn't in the mood to talk about the whole blood transfer, and she knew that was all he'd be interested in. Besides, talking about boys with a man who could practically be her father, was even more pathetic than only having two friends. She sighed, looking around her room for inspiration. There had to be something she could do to keep her mind off the nervousness growing in the pit of her stomach.

Buffy considered vegging out in front of the TV for a couple of hours. But she was too anxious, too nervous to sit through a barrage of music videos or lame jokes punctuated by laugh tracks. Besides there was nothing good on in the middle of the day anyway. She grabbed her keys and headed for the front door. Almost as an afterthought, she strapped on her left wrist sheath and filled it with a stake. There shouldn't be any trouble since it was broad daylight, but a careless Slayer is a dead Slayer. She grabbed the leather jacket Angel had given her and headed out into the brilliant light of a Sunnydale Sunday.

She squinted as the light stabbed painfully against her eyes. Her skin felt raw, exposed. Each nerve ending tingled with a sensation bordering on pain. She huddled deeper in the jacket, as if it's thick weight could protect her from the stabbing light. "Okay," she muttered. "I've been spending way too much of my time at night if I'm having paranoid delusions that the sun is burning me." Once she had vocalized it she realized that the sensation she was feeling was like burning. Only it wasn't really. It was like the feelings were deep, layers under her skin. She shook her head in confusion and stared at her hands. They weren't smoking or sizzling slowly to a burnt black, which was a relief. She hurried into some shade and immediately felt relief. It wasn't really that the sun hurt her, it just made her extremely uncomfortable. She slumped against the shade giving tree and decided to ask Giles about it in school tomorrow. Right now she had other things to worry about, her delusions of insta-sunburn were probably easily explainable..some kind of global warming thing or whatever.

She walked along the sidewalk trying to decide where to go. She had planned to drop by at Willow's and pull the girl off the net for a quick submersion into the outside world. But now that she thought about it Willow was probably busy, and she didn't want to just sit around uselessly in Willow's room. Besides right about now she didn't want to be in the outside world, much less drag anyone else outside with her. She found her feet had carried her towards the Bronze, and she realized what her feet had apparently already known; the person she really wanted to see was Angel. This settled she walked with a purpose to his apartment. She was really hungry all of a sudden. *Should've eaten more of that breakfast,* she admonished herself. *It's the most important meal of the day.* Her stomach growled loudly in agreement, and she bit her lip to silence a giggle. The coppery taste of blood touched her tongue, and she stood still for a moment outside Angel's door. She licked at her lip cautiously and discovered that she had bitten herself a little harder than she'd meant to. She continued to lick at the blood thoughtfully. It was a small cut, so the bleeding stopped quickly. She felt almost a pang of regret, and tried to clear her head. She felt even hungrier now, as if the taste of blood had whet her appetite. With each second that ticked by the hunger grew, until she felt she was being eaten from the inside out. Impatiently, she knocked once and pushed open the door to Angel's apartment, quickly stepping into the welcoming darkness.

As her eyes adjusted to the dark, her mouth fell open in horror. Angel stared at her with stricken eyes, his fangs sunken deep into a bag of blood, his mouth filled with blood. The mark of the feed was upon him. For a moment they were both frozen by shock, the moment stretched for an eternity and then was broken as they burst into movement. Angel hastily thrust the half filled bloodbag behind his back, while wiping his mouth clean of the crimson liquid. His eyes cast down at the floor, he refused to look at Buffy. He had seen the disgust in her eyes and wanted only to hide from it. She knew he drank blood, she had seen him do it before...she had seen him do it to her. But it had been different then; it had been necessary. This was him feeding; he did this every day...he drank blood every day. Somehow knowing about it was different from seeing it. But she swallowed her surprise and disgust. This was Angel, not some random vampire, this was Angel who she loved more than even she would've thought possible. She walked toward him and he turned his head aside, refusing to meet her gaze. When she reached his side, she touched the side of his face lightly, forcing him to turn, to face her. His fear was almost tangible, the fear that she would reject him. But she only smiled. The disgust was gone, all her features wore was love. Slowly the shame faded, the pain lost its grip. She reached behind his back and pulled the bag out of his hand. Then she handed it back to him.

"You were eating?" she said awkwardly.

"I don't have to right now, I can wait until you go."

"It's all right," she said. "I don't mind."

"Buffy you don't have to do this, I understand. And you aren't the only one who's embarrassed by it."

"Angel, I love you. Okay? All of you. Your eyes, your lips, your gorgeous body," Buffy grinned as Angel cracked a tiny smile, "and your fangs," she finished. "I mean personally I don't like blood as far as meal time goes, but then I don't like mayonnaise either and I watch people eat that all the time."

"This is different," Angel protested.

"I know that, I'm not a complete blonde. All I'm trying to say is that I can take it. I love you, and as far as I'm concerned that means that whatever vampy things you have to do I can stand to watch because it's you who's doing them."

"All right," Angel finally sighed. "You can watch, are you happy now?"

She nodded grimly, backing away to give him room. As he sunk his fangs back into the half-filled bloodbag, she felt a wave of hunger sweep her and her knees buckled below her. Her head swam with a nameless need that shook her to her very core. Intense pleasure overwhelmed her, surging through her body. It was a pleasure so deep it almost hurt, touching every part of her and setting her skin on fire. But the pleasure did not the satiate the hunger, it deepened it, fed it until she thought there was no way she could stand it for a second longer. The world became clearer, sharper; each sound and motion more intense. She sank down against the wall and slumped with her head between her legs, letting the feelings run their course. Slowly the hunger faded, and she realized that the pleasure had faded as well. Tiredly she lifted her head to see Angel squatting beside her, his eyes worried.

"Are you all right?" he asked anxiously.

"I don't know," she said. "I don't think I am."

"What happened?" he asked her.

"You tell me."

"I can't," he said. He answered her confused look with an explanation. "When I'm feeding all I can do is feed, the hunger takes over. It's all I can do not to give in."

"To the pleasure," Buffy added. Angel stared at her for a moment, searching her upturned face for an answer that he could not see. He nodded wordlessly, and lifted her to her feet. "Angel?" she asked.


"I think something happened, with the blood."

"You mean with the fact that you shared your blood with me?" he asked, seeking clarification. She nodded before continuing.

"I felt all that," she said in a small voice, "the hunger, the pleasure when you were feeding." He looked at her sharply.

"You mean that we have some kind of bond that causes you to feel what I'm feeling?"

"I don't know," she said. "All I'm saying is that I feel very weird." Seeing the worried look on his face she hurried to reassure him. "Look, we don't need to worry about it right now, I'll talk to Giles tomorrow. Right now what we really have to worry about is my mom. You're meeting her tonight remember?"

"Of course I remember," said Angel. "Are you afraid I'll embarrass you?" Buffy grinned up at him. Distracted by their upcoming meeting with the mom, the hunger she had felt seemed a distant memory.

"Oh I'm sure you'll embarrass me, I'm just hoping you don't bite her accidentally." Angel clutched his chest, a pained look on his face.

"Oh ye of little faith," he grinned and flopped backwards onto his bed. "You kill me with your harsh words." Buffy giggled and settled down on the bed next to him. Nestling into the curve of his arm, she lay her head against his chest. He kissed her lightly, pressing his lips to her forehead; and she ran her hand up his chest, feeling the muscle beneath the cotton t-shirt. She left a trail of kisses up his neck and ended with a slow deep kiss on his open lips. She could feel his warmth, and her breath quickened. He rolled over, trapping her under him; and she locked her arms behind his neck. They kissed again and he ran his hands through her hair, twisting a handful of it in his fingers. She laced her fingers though his and ran her other hand up underneath his shirt, pulling at the material. They rolled over again and she sat on top of him, tearing at his shirt. He pulled it off with one smooth movement as she traced kisses across his bare chest. He sat up reaching to encircle her in his arms but the movement unbalanced the pair from their precarious perch on the side of the bed. They landed in a heap on the floor, and Buffy began to laugh. Her laugh was infectious, and Angel couldn't help joining in. Once they got started they were unable to stop, so the pair huddled together on the floor, laughing hysterically.

A part of Buffy wondered what might have happened if they hadn't fallen, a part of her wished that they had gone farther. But the rational part of her mind breathed a sigh of relief. Sex was such a big step, and it had nothing to do with the fact that she was a virgin. Or at least that wasn't the main thing. The thing that worried Buffy was that she knew absolutely nothing about the consequences of sex with a vampire. Could he get her pregnant? Would it turn her into a vampire too? There was only one person she knew who would have the answers to those questions. Silently Buffy groaned, talking about sex with Giles was definitely not on her list of top ten fun things to do.

Angel shuddered a little in the midst of his laughter. He had wanted her so much, he still wanted her. He had almost let his desire take over. His emotions were hard enough to control normally, but right now only a day after drinking from a living human he knew he was a powder keg waiting to blow. He couldn't admit it to Buffy, but the truth was he was actually glad their fall had interrupted them. He wasn't sure what would happen if he gave into the heat of the moment. He wasn't sure he wanted to know. All he was sure of was that he had to keep her safe. He didn't really know what that meant, but he refused to put her in any more danger. If it got to the point where he thought he might lose control, he would kill himself rather than put her at risk.


"Okay," Buffy said as she opened the door to leave. "So you'll be there at eight right?" Her mom was going to be home soon, and she had decided that she wanted to be there when her mom arrived.

"Yes," Angel said. "We've been over it three times, Buffy. I know the drill. I get there at eight. I'm twenty, a sophomore at the community college. I charm your mother, then I leave."

"This isn't going to work." Buffy said, suddenly filled with doubt. "I mean, what's your major? How did we meet? Do you have a job? She's going to ask stuff like that and what are we going to say? Probably we'll blurt out two different answers like they always do in the movies, and then mom will figure out that we're lying, and..."

"Buffy!" Angel interrupted. "Calm down. I don't have a major, I'm undecided as of now. We met at the Bronze. And I quit my last job because it was interfering with my studies." He punctuated each answer with a kiss, then continued to reassure his distraught girlfriend. "We're both reasonably intelligent people, I think it'll be okay. Just let me answer if she asks me a question."

"Okay," Buffy said doubtfully. "I'll see you then." Angel nodded in response as she walked out the door. Once she had gone, he could admit to himself that he was very worried. He was out of practice in the whole dating scheme of things. He hadn't gone to meet anyone's parents in hundreds of years. Besides that, he had only met Buffy's mom once and he knew she was predisposed to hate him. He was the older man trying to corrupt her sweet innocent daughter. And irrational as his fear might be, he also had the feeling she would remember his part in the attack against her. He hadn't actually attacked her, Darla had done that. She had set him up perfectly, and Buffy had believed that he was responsible. Although he knew Buffy's mom had been unconscious when he came into the picture, a part of him was sure she would remember him as her attacker. Well, there was nothing he could do about it now. If there was one thing he was used to it was pretending to be something he was not. Everyday he tried to fool himself into believing he was human just like everyone else. He couldn't make himself believe it, but Buffy's mom wouldn't be as hard to convince.

He stared at the mirror, and ran a comb through his hair. The empty glass face of the mirror glared back at him. He couldn't even remember what he looked like to tell the truth. He knew he had been attractive, that in his human form he still was. The reactions, the appreciative looks girls gave him when he walked past them were his true mirror. They told him what he could no longer see for himself. He changed out of his tank top into a dress shirt, then pulled on a clean pair of pants,and the new black blazer he had bought a couple weeks ago. *Dressy enough,* he decided. He didn't want his clothes to scream how hard he was trying to please. *Ready as I'll ever be,* he thought. The sun had set and the world lay bathed in darkness as he walked towards Buffy's house.

Dusky darkness enfolded him, and for a moment he was purely happy to be alive. The world was beautiful, he was completely in love, and eternal life seemed worth living for once. Angel's happy thoughts were suddenly banished as he was brought to his knees by a heavy blow to his back. He staggered to his feet, looking coldly for his attacker. He could feel the power surging through him. It wasn't as strong as it had been the night before, right after he had bitten Buffy, but it was strong enough.

"I'm in no mood for whatever game you're playing," he called into the darkness. The night swallowed his words and returned no answer. "Dammit," Angel swore. He didn't have time for this crap. Cautiously he turned back towards Buffy's house. He only had few more blocks to walk, so he decided to deal with this later. As he began to walk again, he heard the soft patter of feet against pavement and knew someone was following him. He pretended not to notice at first, but slowed his pace almost imperceptibly. When he felt the time was right, he whirled suddenly on the balls of his feet to face his stalker.

A small boy stood before him, his red jacket and blue jeans obscured by the dark. The boy's wide brown eyes met Angel's, and Angel growled deep in his throat. He backed up a step and took a defensive stance. The boy smiled and fear tried to well up in Angel's throat. Angrily he beat it back, he had defeated the boy's Master the day before. The Anointed One was no threat to him. He smiled back, flashing a mouthful of fangs and thought he saw a flicker of doubt enter the boy's dark eyes.

"Run along home, little boy," he laughed, half-turning to walk away.

"Wait!" the boy cried. Angel coldly ignored the plea, and the boy tried again. "Angelus, please." Angel faced the boy again, almost against his will, drawn by his other name.

"Make it quick, Colin," he threatened.

"I only wanted to thank you," Colin protested. Angel stared skeptically at the sidewalk. "I mean for killing Lily, I wasn't strong enough to do it myself."

"My pleasure," said Angel flippantly. "Don't mention it."

"I wanted to repay you," Colin continued determinedly. His voice dropped seductively. "I’ve found a way for you and the girl to be together forever, and I want you to join me. I want you to rule with me."

"Thanks, but no thanks" Angel replied and began to walk again. He refused to look back, refused to face the offer that had been made.

"I know you love the girl." Colin said, his soft voice somehow reaching Angel's ears across the distance. "If you join me you won't have to lose her."

"I won't lose her anyway," Angel said calmly, turning despite himself. He thought he saw the smile peek out again.

"Of course you will," Colin said patronizingly. "Oh, I'm not threatening her. I'm just stating a fact: she will grow old and die. You'll lose her one way or the other."

"And you can stop her from dying?" Angel asked. "Aren't you supposed to kill the Slayer?"

"YOU can stop her from dying," whispered the Anointed One. "Make her one of us." Angel recoiled slightly in horror.

"Why would you want another Lily?" he asked.

"It won't be that way," the boy insisted. "We will rule together, all of us." He turned away and disappeared into the darkness, leaving Angel staring after him, his mind agitated with unanswered questions.

* * * * * * * * * *
Buffy carried her dinner dishes to the sink. Dinner had been tense, both she and her mom had tread lightly around the subject of Angel, refusing to mention it, though that was all that was on either of their minds. She returned to the dining room and began to clear away the leftovers. Her mom sat still, concentrating intently on pushing food from one side of her plate to the next. *I have to say something,* Buffy thought. She took a deep breath and plunged in.

"You are going to give him a chance aren't you?" she questioned her mom.

"Of course, honey," her mother answered, keeping her eyes on her plate.

"Because no offense, mom, but when you get an idea in your head...well, you tend to hold onto it despite everything." Joyce raised her eyes to look at her daughter, standing with a dish of leftovers in her hands and an anxious look in her eyes.

"I said I'd give the boy a chance and I will," she said shortly. *The boy, Angel, what kind of name was that anyway?* she thought. Buffy gave her a doubtful look and she regretted her sharpness. "Buffy, I'm sorry. I'm going to try to keep an open mind," she hesitated, "But you have to understand how hard it is for me to accept that you're growing up."

"Mom," Buffy chided. "This is all just part of the natural growth process. The children grow up, and the parents feel old and treat them like babies. Please, don't take it out on him though."

"I just feel like he's taking advantage of you."

"How? By loving me?" Joyce shook her head at her daughter's words. *When did this happen?* she wondered. *When did my daughter become so mature?*

"I'll try, honey," she promised. Buffy simply nodded and entered the kitchen with the leftovers. She hoped her mother would be able to get past her own prejudices and see how wonderful Angel was. She hoped her mother would be able to let her go.

* * * * * * * * * *

Angel sagged weakly against a welcoming tree. His mind was racing, jumping a million miles an hour. He knew he shouldn't be considering the offer. It would be the ultimate act of betrayal. It would be making Buffy the thing she hated most in the world. She would despise him forever. *No,* he reminded himself. *She wouldn't have a soul, she wouldn't regret the change.* He imagined her a vampire and felt the hair rise on the back of his neck. *She would thank me once the change was made. NO,* he told himself angrily. *She would be gone. The demon would thank me, using her lovely voice. She would be dead.* He couldn't really consider it; he wasn't considering it. He was an old vampire, powerful. This was no threat to him if he ignored it. So why was there a worm of doubt crawling in his brain? Why was he tempted? A growl rose up in his throat, and he choked it back. Now was not the time. He had a mother to charm and growling at her was probably not the way to do it. He reminded himself that he had consumed warm human blood yesterday. The demon was raging, it was that part of him which was considering this. Recognizing the cause of his uncharacteristic weakness in the face of the offer, he was able to take conscious control of the demon. Slowly the heat receded, leaving his blood cold; and he pushed the temptation away, hiding Colin's offer deep within his mind.

He stretched his mouth into a grimace that he hoped resembled a smile and walked down the street to Buffy's house. On the doorstep he rang the doorbell and absent-mindedly touched his face. No ridges. For some reason that surprised him. He roused himself from his semi-stupor when he heard feet approach the door and watched it swing open to reveal Buffy's mom. Her hair was curled stylishly, and she wore a casual pantsuit. She smiled at him with the warmth of a two-day old grilled cheese sandwich. Inwardly, he sighed. They were quite a pair, glaring at each other over fake smiles.

"Angel," Buffy's mom finally spoke up. "So nice to see you again."

"Thank you, ma'am," Angel said politely. "I've really been looking forward to this." *About as much as a nice long sunbath,* he finished silently, still flashing his most charming smile. Suddenly he wondered if he was smiling too much, maybe she would think he was some sort of psychopathic, grinning fool. He wiped the painful grin off his face and firmly told himself to stop being a paranoid idiot. Joyce Summers jumped a little when her daughter came up behind her.

"I see you guys are talking," Buffy said cheerfully. "Aren't you going to invite him in?" she asked her mom pointedly.

"Oh yes, of course. Forgive me Angel, I'm standing here in the doorway like a dimwit while you wait out in the cold." *Where you belong,* she finished silently. She didn't like this young punk, who did he think he was scowling at her that way? With another glaringly cheery smile, she moved out of the doorway to allow her daughter's boyfriend to enter. "Come on in. I thought we could all sit out in the living room and get to know each other. There are lots of snacks if you're hungry."

Angel winced at the mention of hunger, but managed to smile weakly over the dull roaring that started in his head. "Thank you," he said in a voice that managed not to shake. Buffy took his hand reassuringly as they entered the living room and settled on the couch. The tension that filled the room was stretched so tight Buffy thought she would scream. But that probably wouldn't turn out to be a great solution. She frowned, hoping Angel would pour on the charm and win her mother over before they all strangled each other, bright smiles still firmly fastened to their faces. But Angel seemed awfully subdued tonight. She hoped nothing was wrong. Worriedly she looked into his staring eyes, trying to find him behind this odd silence.

Angel noticed Buffy staring at him from her seat beside him on the couch and once again tried to rouse himself from the lethargy that was overtaking him. His mind was racing all over the place, and he was finding it almost impossible to concentrate on the task at hand. He pulled himself together and addressed Buffy's mom. "Buffy tells me you run an art gallery."

"That's right," she answered shortly. She caught the tale end of a glare from Buffy and regretted her rudeness. *I promised to try,* she reminded herself. "We're a small gallery," she continued. "But I think we have an exceptional collection. And we're doing a fair amount of business." She was finding it difficult to give Angel a hard time while talking about the gallery. Her pride in it always surfaced once the subject was broached. *And he does seem interested,* she said to herself. *Of course, I'm probably boring him out of his mind in reality. He probably knows nothing about art.* "We just got a piece from 17th century Japan; it's incredible." Her mouth seemed to still be speaking while her mind wandered. She wondered how long she had been rambling.

"Really?" Angel asked. "I find Japanese art extremely elegant. It exudes an aura of peace."

"That's exactly what it is," Joyce exclaimed. "The lines are so clean."

"Do you have anything in ivory?" Angel asked beginning to be excited despite himself. "Any statues? The color of ivory is so pure and unflawed."

"I know what you mean," Joyce said. "We don't have any right now, but I was thinking of ordering a Buddha. You should come in. It's so rare to find a young person who truly appreciates art." Buffy stared awe-stricken at her mom and her boyfriend. They had something in common. Who would've thought? And who would've thought that it would be so incredibly boring to listen to? She realized she had no idea what they were talking about, but thought she should try to insert a comment into the discussion.

"Don't they kill elephants to make those ivory thingies?" she asked. Angel and her mom both turned to look at her. "I mean that's bad right?" she said uncertainly.

"Yes," Angel answered. "But these elephants were killed a long time ago and there's nothing we can do about it besides appreciate the art they gave their lives for." Joyce nodded, surprised at how deeply this boy thought about things. She found herself impressed despite her initial doubts. *No wonder Buffy has fallen for him, he's not only handsome but smart too.* She pulled herself together; this was no time to be swooning over her daughter's boyfriend of all people like an adolescent ninny. Out of pity for her completely left out daughter, she changed the subject.

"So how did you two meet?" she asked.

"At the Bronze," Buffy answered quickly, glancing over at Angel who shook his head almost imperceptibly. "Angel asked me to dance, and we just started talking." Buffy's mom nodded and turned to question Angel.

"Are you from around here?"

"I've lived here for a while now," Angel answered quickly when he saw Buffy opening her mouth to answer.

"And you go to the college?" Buffy's mom probed.

"That's right."

"Where did you learn so much about art?" asked Joyce. "Are you taking some sort of class?"

"Actually I am planning to, but really I've learned on my own. Art fascinates me." Buffy's mom smiled happily, she was definitely beginning to like this guy. But she had to bring up the real issue that bothered her.

"Exactly how old are you?" she asked bluntly, ignoring the glare Buffy sent her way.

"Just turned twenty," Angel lied with aplomb. *Plus or minus a couple hundred years,* he added silently. "I do realize that there's an age difference and that this worries you. But I can assure you that you have nothing to worry about. I respect Buffy as a person and our age difference is a non-issue as far as I'm concerned. I would never try to rush her into anything, if that's what you're thinking."

"I just don't understand why the two of you can't find someone your own age to go out with," Buffy's mom almost whined.

"Think of it this way," said Buffy consolingly, "when I'm twenty-five, he'll be twenty-nine. That doesn't seem so bad does it?"

"Well, no." Joyce admitted. "But you're only sixteen, Buffy, I don't know if you should be dating at all."

"Oh please, mom," Buffy snorted.

"What she means," interjected Angel, "is that she's going to go out eventually. She is going to date, it's just a matter of whom. Right now you have a measure of control over Buffy's social life but in a few years you will have to let her go. And you should start to do that now." *Yeah, what he said,* Buffy thought. *Angel is way better at this than I thought he would be. He sounds like an adult or something. He sounds like Giles!* She shuddered a little. * Just cause he's smart does not mean I'm dating someone like Giles.*

"I guess you're right," said Joyce uncertainly. "I do have to let you start making your own decisions. And while I wish you could've found someone your own age. I will say that the boy you have found seems intelligent and mature." She nodded at Angel. "I'm going to bed, you two don't stay up too late." She began to walk up the stairs. "And do try to come by the gallery."

"It was nice to meet you again," Angel replied. "I'll certainly try to come by the gallery." *And if it stays open past sunset maybe I could visit,* he thought.

Her mom gone, Buffy's spirits bubbled up filling her with happiness. "Come on," she whispered tugging on Angel's hand. She drew him outside, and they sat on the doorstep together. "We did it," she giggled. "Well, more like YOU did it. That was amazing, you totally blew her away with your intelligence. Where'd you learn all that stuff about Japanese art or whatever?"

"Japan," Angel answered. "And I thought we had decided that I was going to answer all the questions."

"Well I couldn't help it, I had to jump in. For a while there I thought the night would end in bloodshed. But things turned out great."

"Yes, they did."

"Angel? Is something wrong? I noticed it at the beginning of the night, but then I was distracted by your brilliance." She smiled at him, as he stared into the night. She wondered what he saw. "Something is wrong, isn't it?" He stared blankly, unresponsively. Then slowly turned his head.

"It's nothing."

"Bullshit," Buffy answered angrily. "Spill it." Angel returned to mastering the art of the blank stare. Then slowly he began to speak.

"I was walking here and the Anointed One stopped me. We talked, I left."

"Oh, is that all?" Buffy asked sarcastically. "So what did the brat want?"

"Actually, he wanted to thank me."

"Oh I'm sure. That demon spawn doesn't know how to feel gratitude." Buffy looked at Angel who still seemed distant. "Hmmm, you have something against Anointed One bashing?" she asked.

"It's not that."

"Well what then?" Buffy tugged petulantly on the sleeve of Angel's jacket. "C'mon, tell me pwees?" She batted her eyes charmingly, but Angel didn't crack a smile.

"This wasn't the same old routine Buffy, he's up to something huge. I mean it wasn't threats or whatever. It wasn't the usual game. He was NICE to me. He thanked me for getting rid of Lily."

"How sweet."

"That's not all. He asked me to join him, to rule with him." Angel stopped tiredly, finally turning to look at Buffy. She was smiling, almost laughing.

"Boy was he barking up the wrong tree." Inwardly he winced at her blithe words. She didn't understand, she didn't even realize how tempted he had been. He suddenly didn't want to tell her the rest of it, but lying only made things worse. It might seem easy or the better thing to do, the thing that would save her from hurt. But in the end it was never the escape it seemed to be.

"He told me I could bring you along," he said bluntly.

"What like bring your girlfriend the Slayer along? We'll all go bowling?"

"Like we'll all rule together. That type of thing."

"Why on earth would he want to involve a Slayer?" she asked, confused.

"Because if he has his way you'll be a vampire too, and then you'll be a little less likely to be Slaying much of anything...besides humans."

"Um, yeah. The kid's a nutjob. Or else he is in severe denial. Is he not remembering Lily? Went on a big killing spree, slaughtered the vampire that made her. It wasn't a pretty scene I'm sure."

"He said he had a way around it. A way for you to live forever, without becoming another Lily."

"Well he couldn't have meant restoring my soul, because then I would still hate him, but I would be even stronger."

"I have no idea what he meant. But he seemed very sure of himself, too sure of himself. It worries me."

"Well, it sounds like another question to add to the Giles, please look this up list," Buffy said finally. Doubts swirled in her mind, and temptation twisted insidiously through her thoughts. *Temptation? Tempted to become a vampire?* She shuddered. There was nothing she dreaded more, even death would be preferable...painful, tortured death. So where was this temptation coming from? She looked at Angel, who was still morosely spaced out. "Don't tell me you were tempted!?" she exclaimed. He looked at her, startled, ashamed of the desires he was trying desperately to bury.

"I may have been."

"Were you or weren't you? What's this 'may have been' crap?"

"Okay so I was, a little." Angel admitted angrily. "It's not like I'm going to do what he says, but for Christsake, Buffy...if someone offered you power and immortality wouldn't you be a little tempted?"

"Not if it's this kind of immortality," Buffy declared, her face set in determined lines.

"You mean my kind of immortality."

"Yeah I do," she said coldly. "Look I love you, but I would kill myself before I became a vampire."

"I know," Angel said exasperated. "I know that, I wouldn't want you to become this way...to be a monster, like me," his voice trailed off slowly.

"You're not a monster," Buffy said, touching his hand lightly, but he jerked his hand away.

"I don't know why I'm tempted. I shouldn't be." Angel continued, speaking almost as if to himself. "The urges are stronger, the warm blood has strengthened the hunger. The demon must be getting stronger, that's what tempts me. The demon would fool me into killing you. Into making you a monster."

"Angel," Buffy said questioningly, trying to break him out of his reverie. She grabbed his hands in hers and knelt with her eyes level to his. "Angel," she said commandingly. "Listen to me, you are stronger than your demons. You are stronger than the hunger." He responded to her voice, and his eyes focused on her face.

"Talk to Giles," he said. He brought her hands to his lips, then got up from the step and walked into the night, leaving Buffy with an aching desire in the pit of her stomach for something she could not name, and a ravaging hunger she knew would not abate. Alone with her fears, she entered the house and climbed up the stairs to fall tiredly into bed.