This is it, the final chapter.
Buffy came awake slowly. Mornings were not her thing and she hadn't gotten a lot of sleep last night. A small smile started as she remembered the previous night. Her smile turned to terror as she realized what they had done. As quickly as the terror struck, it stopped as Buffy realized she had two arms wrapped around her. He wasn't gone. He hadn't changed!
Angel had been awake for a while, just holding Buffy while she slept. He knew the instant she had awakened and almost as if he could read her mind, knew what thoughts went through her mind and when.
Buffy rolled to face the man who was holding her. She was sure today would have a lot of questions and probably a few fights. He was going to want her to go back and she wasn't sure she could that. She didn't know that she was ready for that.
Angel knew the moment she tensed what she was thinking. He had spent most of last night thinking the same thing. Where did they go from here? Could he convince her to come home? Angel sighed to himself as the questions raced through his mind again, and again he had no answers.
"Good morning." Angel said when Buffy looked up at him.
"Morning." She replied, trying to rid the sleep from her brain and clear her mind for the confrontation she was sure was coming.
"Sleep well?" Angel asked.
"Yeah, I did." Buffy replied as she tried to push herself away.
"Don't." Angel said softly, hoping not to piss her off. He just didn't want to let her go. He didn't want her to run again.
Buffy heard the anguish in his voice and stopped trying to push away, but refused to meet Angel's eyes.
"What does it matter if it's now or later?" Buffy asked.
"It doesn't have to be either." Angel replied, his voice soft and almost begging.
"Yes, it does. I'm not ready to go back and you can't stay here. You have a life in LA and I have my life here."
"I understand why you feel you can't go back. I really do. But, I don't want to lose you again." Angel responded, resisting the urge to beg. "Everyone would be happy to have you come back to LA."
Buffy found the strength to push away from him and get out of bed. She forgot she was nude until she stood up. She fought the urge to blush and cover up. It wasn't as if he hadn't already seen and touched every part of her. Instead, she calmly started to gather her clothes. "I can't do this right now, Angel." She began as she pulled some clothes out of her dresser. "I have to get downstairs and get breakfast started."
With her clothes in hand she headed for the bathroom and heard Angel call out behind her. "This isn't over. You can't run forever." Buffy didn't respond as she closed the door.
Angel lay in the bed and watched her as she moved. He had never seen anyone as beautiful as her. Watching her in all her natural glory, he had to resist the urge to get out of bed and bring her back to the bed and make love to her again. He wondered if she had any idea what she was doing to him. There were a lot of things he wanted to say and was sure he shouldn't say any of them. He didn't want to push her away and he didn't want to make her think she didn't have any choices. Running was her defense. She ran when she didn't know what to do. Angel knew she wouldn't run forever. He didn't think it would be wise to still be here when she got out of the bathroom, so he got dressed and headed for his room.
Angel's words echoed in her mind while she showered and dressed. He was right. She couldn't run forever. Was she being silly and childish by refusing to go back? Was she willing to give up the one man her ever made her truly happy? The other side of her brain was working too. Could she face all the people she let down? Could she really go back to all the things she had left and all the memories? Could she leave the people here? The people who had taken her under their wing and helped her build a home?
With no answers to any of her questions, she headed downstairs to start breakfast. Everyone, with the exception of Burt, had stayed at the hotel last night. Burt wasn't comfortable sleeping in any place that he hadn't inspected. They would all be getting up soon and would be hungry. True, they weren't paying guests, but they were her friends.
To Buffy's surprise, Nancy was already in the kitchen and breakfast was almost ready.
"Hey. I hope you don't mind that I started breakfast. I didn't know what time you would be up. You seemed exhausted last night." Nancy said.
"No, I don't mind. I just didn't expect anyone else to be up yet. Everybody was worn out last night."
"Well, Twitchell called and they're going to reopen the road this morning. Everyone wanted to get an early start."
As they worked, everyone else made their way downstairs. Everyone, that is, but Faith. Buffy went up to her room and knocked on her door. No one answered and she knocked again and called Faith's name.
Still, no one answered the door. Starting to get worried, Buffy took out the skeleton key she always carried and opened the door.
Faith's bed was still made and it was obvious it hadn't been slept in. Buffy was really starting to get worried now. What if she had decided on a midnight walk and El Blanco found her?
She hurried back downstairs.
"Does anyone know where Faith is?" Buffy asked as she walked into the dining room. "Her bed hasn't been slept in."
"She was still up talking to Burt when I turned in." Tyler began. "We were the last three to turn in."
"But, Burt went home last night." Rosalita cut in. "I heard his truck leave last night."
Buffy walked over to the phone. "Maybe Burt knows something." She said as she dialed Burt's home number.
The phone rang about ten times and Buffy was getting ready to hang up when she heard Jody say, "Burt's here! And Faith's with him."
Buffy ran out to meet Burt's truck. "What's wrong?" she asked.
"Nothing, B." Faith replied. "Why do think something's wrong?"
"Probably because your bed hasn't been slept in and we had no idea where you were. We didn't know what happened." Buffy couldn't keep the irritation out of her voice.
"Calm down, B. I'm a grown woman. I don't need anyone keeping track of me. I can take care of myself."
"You should have a left a note or something. I was worried. I was afraid you'd run into El Blanco or something."
"Well, as you can see, I'm fine."
"Yes, but where in the hell have you been?"
"I was with Burt." Faith answered, not disturbed in the least. "You know how I get after a battle."
It only took Buffy a moment to realize what Faith meant and she immediately looked at Burt with astonishment.
"You. you." Buffy began, but couldn't finish. Burt looked as if he wanted the ground to swallow him and for once he didn't have anything to say.
"Come on, B. Lighten up. We're all adults here."
"No, buts. From what I gathered before I left, I wasn't the only one that got lucky last night." Faith said, with a huge grin on her face.
Buffy couldn't and didn't try to respond to that comment. She just shook her head and went back inside.
"There's not another crisis is there?" Tyler asked.
"No. Everything's fine." Buffy managed to say.
Faith and Burt walked in and called out their greetings as they made their way to table.
Faith filled her plate and was a half way done before everyone else really got started.
"Hungry, Faith?" Buffy asked with some sarcasm.
"As a matter of fact, I am. I'm always hungry after a long, hard workout." Faith responded with a grin.
When she said those words, Burt choked on the sip of coffee he had just taken. Faith's grin grew bigger.
Everyone, besides Buffy, Faith, and Burt, were lost. They knew some kind of double talk was going on, but they didn't put it together. Angel, of course, was the first to figure it out.
"Rough night, Faith?" Angel asked with a knowing smile.
"At times." Was her only reply and it was Buffy's turn to choke on the piece of toast she was chewing.
Breakfast finished quickly. Everyone had things they needed to do since the road was being reopened. Faith stayed behind in the kitchen to help Buffy clean up.
They were doing the dishes when Faith finally spoke up.
"Are you pissed at me?" Faith asked.
"No." Buffy replied. "Just a little shocked. Didn't really think Burt was your type, or your age group."
"This coming from the woman who had a 250 year old vampire in her bed last night." Faith responded, trying to sound irritated, but failing. Her face didn't smile, but the smile was in her words.
"Yeah, well, I don't think we'll have a repeat of that." Buffy responded.
"Why the hell not?" Faith demanded.
"You know why!" Buffy retorted, already trying to fight back tears. "I can't go back. I just can't."
"Why not?" demanded Faith.
"I let everyone down." Buffy responded.
"That's bullshit." Faith exploded. "And exactly how did you do that? All I recall you doing was putting your life on the line to save a bunch of teenage girls that turned on you. Even then, you still tried to save them. You've saved the world how many times now? Yeah, B, you've got a lot to be ashamed of."
"You don't understand." Buffy said, shaking her head.
"The hell I don't. I was in prison for murder! I was the bad guy for a while, remember? I sure do. Hell, I even broke out of prison, but I have been accepted. I've done things a hell of lot worse than you ever had, and yet I am accepted. I have been taken in as one of the team. The only person that alienates you, is you. Everyone else doesn't see any failure in what you've done, only you. Think about that before you lose the one man who's ever made you happy." Faith ended her tirade by walking out of the kitchen, leaving Buffy alone.
Buffy finished the dishes in almost a trance state. She was lost in thought. She finished the clean up and went back up to her room. She needed to be alone, to think.
~~ * ~~
Buffy came back downstairs when a new group of tourists arrived to check in.
She played hostess and showed the guests to their rooms.
Faith met her on her way back to her room.
"We need to talk." Faith said.
"I'm not going back to LA." Faith stated.
"What? Why not?"
"I think I've found something here. I want to see how it works."
"Does this have something to do with Burt?" Buffy asked.
"Yeah. I know he's different, but then so am I."
"I see." Buffy replied, even though she really didn't. "What about Angel and Angel Investigations?"
"I've already talked to Angel. He told me to follow my heart."
"So, what did you want to talk to me about?"
"Well, I need somewhere to stay and some kind of work while I'm here. I can't be totally dependent on anyone. I wanted to know if I could work here in the hotel. I've already talked to Tyler and he said he could use some occasional help with the tour."
"You're asking me for a job?"
"Not really. I just want to work off my room and board. I can make some cash from Tyler."
"Well, I guess I could use the help around here. But, what about your redemption?"
"The way I look at it." Faith began. "I can do good here. From what I've been told, there's some sort of crisis here two or three times a week. I can still do the saving people and doing good deeds thing here."
~~ * ~~
Buffy sat in her room that night considering everything that happened. Faith had decided to stay in Perfection and explore some kind of relationship with Burt of all people. Angel had announced he was leaving tomorrow. That news came as more of a shock than anything. Buffy thought he would have stayed longer and tried to talk her into going with him.
Buffy was jerked out of her thoughts by a knock on the door.
Angel opened the door and walked into the room. "Hi." He said.
"Listen, I'm sorry I've been kind of distant today. I've had a lot on my mind. I had some decisions to make."
"Like leaving tomorrow." Buffy said, without raising her head to look at him.
"Yeah, like that."
"So, what's the rush? Is there some big bad in LA?"
"No, nothing like that. It's just that I've been gone for a while. It's time for me to go back."
"I want you to come with me." Angel stated and Buffy looked up to meet his eyes. "Please come home with me."
"Angel, we've been over this. I can't. Not right now."
"Okay. I'm not going to push you. I just want you to know, that anytime you want to come home, we'll be there. Just remember, I still love you." Angel said. He didn't give Buffy time to respond before walking out the door and closing it softly behind him.
The door may as well have been slammed. When the door closed, Buffy felt her heart break. It was like graduation day all over again.
Buffy couldn't stop the tears that rolled down her face.
~~ * ~~
Angel loaded the last bag into his trunk. Daybreak was only a few minutes away. In only a few minutes he would be leaving, without Buffy. He had hoped to change her mind last night, but it didn't work. His heart was heavy and he didn't want to leave but he understood she would come back when she was ready.
Faith came out to see him off. "I see you're all packed and ready."
"Yeah. Just waiting for you so I could say good-bye. I knew you'd be out here."
"Bullshit. You were hoping she'd come running out to stop you."
Angel forced a small grin. "Well, that too." He replied.
"Well, have a safe trip back."
"Look after her when I'm gone." Angel pleaded.
"She's a big girl, Angel. She can take care of herself."
"I know. You take care of yourself, too. Don't be too hard on Burt." Angel tried to joke.
"Don't worry about that. I think he'll be good for me."
"So do I."
Angel gave her a hard hug then got in the driver's side of the car. He started the car and gave on last look at the hotel.
"Until next time, Angel." Faith replied.
Angel was just about to pull away when he heard her voice. He looked to see her walking out of the hotel looking very serious.
Buffy walked up to the car and looked at Angel. "Is your offer still open?"
"Which offer is that?" Angel asked.
"The one in which you said I would always be welcome when I decided to come home."
"Then pop the trunk and turn off the car while I get my things."
A smile began to form on Angel's lips. He hopped out of the car and picked her up and hugged her.
"Angel, I need oxygen." Buffy managed to say a few minutes later.
"Sorry." Angel said as he loosened his hold on her and saw her smiling face.
“I also want to make a few things clear.” Buffy said seriously.
“What things?” Angel asked.
“I can’t guarantee I’ll stay. I’m looking at this a visit, which may turn into a permanent move if everything works out.”
“I can live with that, just a long as you understand I’ll do everything in my power to make sure you don’t want to leave.”
Buffy smiled. “I can live with that.”
"I love you." Angel said.
"I love you." Buffy echoed.
"What about the hotel? What if you decide not to come back, except to visit?" Angel asked.
"Well, I had a long talk last night with Faith. If I decide to stay in LA with you, I'm going to be a silent partner and Faith is going to run the place."
Angel turned to Faith, who was smiling like the cat that ate the canary. "You knew and you let me think." Angel broke off when Faith burst out laughing.
"Sorry, Angel. She wanted to surprise you and I was trying to stall while she finished packing."
Angel and Buffy quickly loaded up her things. Buffy had already said good-bye to the other residents of Perfection. She had awakened them in the middle of the night and told them the situation. They were sorry to see her go, but understood why she was leaving. Even though Buffy told them the move might be temporary, everyone saw the way Buffy and Angel looked at each other and no one expected Buffy to come back here to live. They made her promise to visit if she decided the LA move was permanent. At least the only hotel in Perfection was staying open.
Faith stood and watched the car disappear in the distance. She hoped things worked out for them this time. Faith smiled to herself and made her way back to the hotel. The guests would be up soon and wanting breakfast.
~~ * ~~
I want to thank everyone that read and reviewed this story. It was a lot of fun to write. I hope everyone enjoyed it.
And before I get flames for putting Faith and Burt together, think about it. I think they fit together pretty well. Neither one likes authority. They both like violence a little more than is normal and both are very good with weapons. I just think it's a good match. I struggled with who to put Faith with, if anyone. I thought of Tyler first, but dismissed it. Tyler is cute and everything, but he's just not manly enough or tough enough for Faith. She needs someone as rough and tumble as she is, and Burt fits the bill. Plus, he's not THAT old. I've seen bigger age differences. Besides, Burt hasn't had anyone since Heather in the first movie. He deserves a little attention too. Anyway, that's how Faith and Burt came to be. Hopefully others will see it as I do.