Text enclosed in * * represents thoughts.

Part 2

The moon began its descent into day, and Angel walked Buffy home. They kissed under the light of the moon, their lips passionately declaring devotion. They promised to meet the next night, and Buffy slipped inside her house. As she headed for the stairs, she found her path blocked by the bathrobe clad form of her mother. Her mother's face was a study of displeasure. Her mouth pulled down into a scowl, and her arms crossed angrily in front of her.

"Where have you been?" her mother asked.

"I was out," answered Buffy tiredly, in no mood for a fight.

"I have been worried sick. You have a curfew you know."

"Well I'm sorry. I don't have a watch. I lost track of time. It won't happen again." Buffy turned to climb up the stairs, but stopped when her mother's angry tirade began.

"Don't you DARE go upstairs, Buffy Summers. I am NOT through with you yet. You will turn and face me when I talk to you, and you will show a little respect. I am sick and tired of dealing with your teenage angst. You are going to shape up or pay the price. And you are going to stop sneaking around behind my back." Buffy opened her mouth to protest but her mother cut her off. "I saw you with that boy, the one you said goes to the college. Angel. I saw you kiss him on the doorstep. What is wrong with you? He is WAY too old for you." Buffy briefly considered telling her mother exactly how much older Angel was but decided against that kamikaze plan.

"I am old enough to take care of myself, Mother. I will date whoever I want. Besides you don't even know Angel. He's a very sweet, kind person."

"You are not old enough to take care of yourself. As long as you live under my roof, you'll do as I say. And I forbid you to date that boy."  The pair's voices were getting louder and louder as tempers flared.

"You can't stop me." screamed Buffy. "I love him, and he loves me!"

"You're being childish. You don't even know what love is. You're too young to know."

"Why is everyone telling me that today? How do you know what I feel? You make me sick!" Buffy screamed.  "Get out of my way. I'm going to my room." She roughly pushed past her mother and entered her room, slamming the door behind her. She could hear her mother scream from behind the door.

"You are grounded, young lady. You are to come straight home from school every day for a week. And no phone! No going out with your friends, and no Bronze!" Buffy threw a pillow as hard as she could against the wall, sending feathers flying. It just wasn't fair. She flung herself down on the bed; grown-ups didn't understand anything. She hugged her stuffed teddy bear to her chest and wallowed for a while in self-pity. She had to spend all her time fighting the most horrible things the world could offer, then she had to go to school, and try to act like a normal kid. It wasn’t fair. "Nobody understands me," she pouted. She almost let out a hysterical giggle thinking that if her mom got this mad because she thought that Angel was a couple years older, just imagine what she would do if she found out Angel was a vampire. The giggle died on her lips, and she began to cry softly. She hated fighting with her mom. Every day it was a temptation to tell her mom all about being the Slayer. She wanted to trust her mom with all her secrets. But that wouldn't be fair either. She knew her mom couldn't handle it, so she protected her as much as she could. Holding it all inside was better than hurting her mom, she just wished there was some way she wouldn't have to do either.

Buffy lay on her bed, and finally fell into exhausted sleep on her tear-dampened pillow.

After Angel dropped Buffy off at her house, he trudged home. He knew that they had to talk about his vampire side. But it would be so easy to just try to ignore it. Of course he could never really forget it. Every second of every night it tormented him. But he would rather she not think about it. He would rather she could just pretend that she was dating a normal human. He shook his head angrily. That was no good either. They had to talk about it. She had to understand the danger that always prickled right beneath his skin.

But it had hurt to tell her those things tonight, to let her see the bloodlust. He had been so afraid when she mentioned him lusting after her blood. So afraid that his answer would disgust her. But she hadn't turned away. He had seen the spark of doubt in her eyes, but she had swallowed it. She would stick with him through anything, he could see it in her eyes. Just knowing that she loved him sent him spinning. That she could accept him, care about him. It was unbelievable. It was amazing. It was what made his life worth living.

Angel reached his apartment and unlocked the door. Dawn was coming soon. Time to sleep. Not that he had a coffin or anything to get into. In fact he didn't even have to sleep during the day. Vampires didn't need much sleep at all actually. But sleeping was a great way to kill the boredom of being stuck inside all day. Reading was good too, but sleeping was best. The hours simply melted away when you slept. He slipped inside his apartment and froze. There was someone there. At least one vampire, maybe more. He could sense them. It had been awhile since any vamps had attacked him in his home. Actually since Darla, no one had entered the apartment. He wracked his brain. *Darla's dead, so who could it be?* Angel felt his face transform as his anger rose. A deep growl rumbled from his throat.

"You know what I hate?" he asked loudly. "When monsters invade my personal space; I REALLY hate that." Two vampires drifted from the shadows in answer to his voice. "Only two?" he asked. Keeping his back to the wall and a nonchalant grin on his face, Angel prepared himself for a fight.

"We did not come to kill you, Angelus," said one of the vampires, a tall man with jet black hair curling down around his shoulders. He was muscular, not muscle-bound but powerful looking.

"This time," hissed the other vampire, moving in closer to Angel. The vampire was smaller, her light brown hair cut short in a pixie cut that framed her small boned face. At first glance Angel would have said she was cute, reminding him of a figure skater of gymnist. However, the look in her eyes was anything but cute. Angel swallowed a gasp as he stared into a black gaze that projected pure hatred.  Evil emanated from her like a scent. She ran her hand down his cheek and he shuddered, pulling away from her. "The Anointed One wants us to give you a message," she said.

"What, my answering machine wasn't working?" Angel asked flippantly. His mind worked feverishly. He thought he could take the big guy, and normally the woman would have been a breeze. But her touch had scared him. It made his skin crawl with fear. She wasn't very impressive looking, but he could feel the power rolling off her. She could have rivaled the Master. He looked into her eyes, they were completely empty of emotion. Dead eyes. "Why are you taking orders from anyone?" he asked.

She hissed at him. It seemed to be a sore point. "I'll take orders for now. But things may change in the future." She stared at the tall man. "Give him the message" she ordered.

The tall man grabbed Angel's hair before he had a chance to react and banged his head against the wall. Stars exploded in Angel's vision, but he had the presence of mind to kick out with one leg while he jabbed the man as hard as he could in the throat. The man gasped, loosening his grip on Angel's hair. Angel's vision had begun to clear, but he knew he would have a nasty headache all day. He was beginning to get severely pissed. He threw the man against the wall and was about to do the same to the smaller woman. Before he could throw her, she raised her hands and he felt himself frozen. "Enough!" she screamed. "Put me down." Angel obeyed. He had no choice; he had lost control of her body. "Forgive Daniel," she said, nodding towards the man who was picking himself up off the floor. "This was not supposed to happen. I will give you the message, and we will leave you in peace. The Anointed One says that your relationship with the Slayer is an abomination. You are forbidden to continue this relationship, and in penance for this sin you must bring her dead body to the Anointed One within three days. If you fail, every vampire in this city will hunt you down until you have been annihilated."

With that the two vampires slipped away into the sewer system that ran beneath the apartment. Angel stared at the wall for a moment. Just what he needed, threats from his fellow vampires, ultimatums. *This is absolutely great,* he thought, *as if being in a relationship isn't hard enough.*

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Part 3

Buffy woke up to the blaring of her alarm. She groaned and hit the snooze button. When the alarm rang again five minutes later, she sat up in her bed. She had fallen asleep fully dressed. She struggled to remember last night's events as she stared at her wildly knotted hair in the mirror. It came back to her in a rush. Angel, the beautiful little lake, and a huge fight with her mom. She decided she would rather not have remembered the last part.

She dragged herself through the motions of getting ready for school and rode silently with her mom towards another exciting day at Sunnydale High. She was almost late for her first class so she didn't get to see Willow and Xander until they met in the library for their free third period.

"Hi, Buffy," Willow chirped as Buffy entered the dark confines of the library. She motioned for Buffy to sit down next to her and began pumping her for details. "So? How was your date with Angel?" Buffy glanced round the library, but didn't see the menfolk anywhere. She sighed happily remembering the feel of Angel's arms around her.

"It was so wonderful. He took me to his secret place and we sat and talked...and kissed. He told me that he loves me."

"It's so romantic," Willow sighed.

"Yeah, well it gets less romantic." Buffy said bitterly. "When I got home my mom had seen us kissing on the porch, and she totally wigged out. She thinks Angel's too old for me. So now I'm grounded."

"Parents just don't understand," said Willow sympathetically.

'You know what my mom really won't understand is if she finds out what he is."

"How would she find out?"

"She won't if I can help it. But for now I have to sneak out to see Angel."

"What's this about sneaking?" Xander asked as he walked out of the stacks. "I can sneak."

"Nothing much," said Buffy. "I'm just going to have to sneak out to meet Angel tonight, that's all...it's a whole being grounded thing."

"You're seeing Angel again tonight?!" Xander demanded.

"Yeah, so?"

"It's nothing." Xander said. Then he corrected himself. "I mean just how close are you going to get to this guy?! Because soul or not, he's still a vampire."

"I know that, Xander," Buffy said angrily.

"Hey, I'm just looking out for you," replied Xander. But everyone in the room knew that wasn't the whole truth. It was more jealousy than anything. Buffy glared at Xander, and he hated himself a little for doing what he was about to; but he couldn't stop. "Are you going to sleep with him?" he asked bluntly.

"Xander!" Willow exclaimed.

"That is SO none of your business," Buffy retorted angrily.

"Well, have you thought about it? He's an older man, that's what older men want. You already kissed a corpse. Would you have sex with one too?"

"SHUT UP, just shut up," Buffy yelled. "You don't know him. He's not like that at all." She picked up a book and threw it at Xander with all her strength. It flew just wide of his face. "You're supposed to be my friend," she hissed.

"God, Xander, what's wrong with you?" asked Willow angrily.

"I'm sorry that I don't feel for you the way you feel for me," Buffy continued. "But don't take your jealousy out on me or Angel. If you can't handle it then you aren't really my friend and I don't want you around," she said coldly. Xander took a step towards Buffy, who was shaking with anger. He reached out a hand to touch her, but she pulled away.

"I'm sorry," he said softly. "I didn't mean it. I'm sorry," he whispered as he walked out of the library. Willow stood shocked, unable to believe that her two best friends had practically torn each other's heads off right in front of her. She walked over to Buffy and hugged her tightly as Buffy cried. At that moment Giles walked in.

"Wh..What's wrong with Xander?" he asked. He stared for a moment at Buffy sobbing in Willow's arms. "I take it there was a fight?"

"You could say that," answered Willow, "if you were really into understatement." Giles reached behind his desk and pulled out a box of tissues.

"I'm going to make some coffee," he said. "Does anyone want a cup?" Buffy shook her head while blowing her nose, and Willow didn't drink coffee. Willow led Buffy over to chair and gave her a fresh Kleenex.

"I'm sorry, Will, I usually don't fall apart like this."

"You haven't been getting enough sleep lately, and Xander was being a total jerk. He's usually not like that," Willow answered.

"I know.  I have to meet with Angel at night, but I don't get to sleep during the day." She smiled weakly. "Just another benefit of dating a local vampire boy." She touched Willow's hand gently and looked into her friend's eyes. "Am I doing the right thing, Willow? Everyone else seems to think I'm crazy for doing this." Willow squeezed Buffy's hand gently and smiled encouragingly.

"If Xander loved me, then nothing could keep me way from him. If he was a vampire I would still love him." Willow said. Buffy almost sighed with relief. At least one person understood how she felt. *But poor Willow, it must be so hard for her to carry that secret.*

"Willow, I think you should tell Xander how you feel." Buffy was beginning to shake off her sadness in her eagerness to help her friend. Willow shook her head firmly, negatively.

"After all this? Not a good idea. You think I want to screw up our friendships even more."

"One day?" Buffy asked.

"Maybe," answered Willow doubtfully. Buffy shook her head, grabbed Willow's hand and squeezed it encouragingly. Buffy knew that Willow was in pain too. She thanked her lucky stars that she and Angel were together. No matter how hard being together was, she knew that unrequited love would be worse. She couldn't imagine trying to live without Angel. They had tried to stay apart, but love was too strong. It drew them together, and neither of them could resist.  Neither of them really wanted to resist. *Soul mates, Buffy and Angel.* Buffy sighed, she knew they were meant for each other. *Poor Willow.*

"Willow?" Buffy asked. "Have you ever thought that maybe you aren't meant for Xander? That maybe he's not the guy for you. Because there are other guys out there." Willow shook her head slowly.

"It doesn't matter if Xander doesn't feel the same way I do. I can't help loving him. If Angel wasn't in love with you, would you just give up on him?"

"Touché" Buffy conceded. "Come on, we have to go to class. I don't think I can handle getting detention today." The girls walked toward class, talking of boys.

"Do they ever talk of anything else?" Giles wondered to himself as he watched them go.