Free To A Good Home
By Maquis Leader
Author’s note: Buffy's first birthday after Chosen. This is a birthday present for Ralkana, my Chief Minion, beta reader, and all around bestest buddy!
“I look ridiculous.”
“You look fine.”
“I look ridiculous.”
“You look fine.” Willow repeated firmly. “Better than fine.”
“I feel ridiculous.” Angel fidgeted while she straightened the bow. “She’s going to laugh at me.”
“No, she won’t.” The redhead smiled. “She’s going to be happy to see you.”
“I don’t know that this is a good idea.” He looked over the top of her head at the door to Buffy's room. “She doesn’t like surprises – ”
“She’ll like this one.” Willow said confidently.
“Especially on her birthday.” He finished. “Birthdays are a – “
“Hey! You just stop right there, mister!” Grabbing his jacket lapels, she pulled him down to where she could look him in the eye. “I didn’t search for forever for this spell – sit on it for two whole long months – plan this out – for you to get the wiggins at the last minute!”
“I’m just – “ Her ferocity surprised him. Nose to nose with a vampire, and he was the one backing down. “I’m just… scared… a little.”
“Oh, Angel.” It was hard to remember that he was shy and unsure behind the stoic broodiness. “Buffy loves you, you know that.”
“She said she needed time.” More than anything he wanted to believe that Buffy still loved him.
“Yeah, yeah, cookie dough, blah, blah.” Rolling her eyes, she cupped his face in her hands. “I’ve listened to Buffy go on and on about you for years. All that’s kept her from chaining you to her bed is the curse.”
“And that’s not a problem anymore.” Happiness bubbled up inside of him, and for the first time in over a hundred years, Angel didn’t try to push it away with guilt or fear.
“No, and can I just say – wow, your skin is cool.” Willow looked at her hands. “Buffy's right, you’re like the cool side of the pillow.”
Straightening Angel’s jacket, she pushed him toward the door. “Now, go – make with the happy.”
“You’re sure she won’t laugh at me?” Angel looked over his shoulder at her.
“Positive.” Reaching past him, Willow knocked on the door. “Buffy, there’s a delivery for you!”
“Ah…” Willow looked up at Angel and smiled nervously. “Did I mention she said she’s not coming out of her room today?”
“She’s not – “ He stumbled as Willow opened the door and shoved him inside, shutting the door firmly behind him.
“Willow, I said no birthday!” Buffy threw her book at the door. Too late she saw the door swing open. The book bounced off a broad male chest. “Angel! Oh my God, I’m sorry!”
“It’s okay.” He rubbed his chest. “Just warn me if you start throwing stakes.”
“I’m sorry, I – “ She frowned. “Why are you wearing that?”
“I – ah – I – “ He held his hands up. “Happy birthday?”
A red bow was tied around Angel’s neck, long ribbons streaming down his chest, and a small tag dangled from the bow. For Buffy.
A giggle burst from her before she could stop it. Covering her mouth, Buffy tried her best to hold the laughter in, but it poured out.
Hurt filled the chocolate eyes, and he turned around. “I told her you’d laugh at me.” He tried to turn the doorknob, but it wouldn’t turn. “Willow, let me out.”
“Uh… Willow’s not here!” Her voice came from the other side. “Nobody here named Willow!”
“Angel, I’m sorry.” Buffy scrambled off the bed and caught his arm. “I didn’t mean to laugh at you.”
“I knew this was a stupid idea.” Growling, Angel twisted the doorknob. “Are you using magic? Willow – open – the – door!”
“Angel.” Buffy slid her hands up his back to his shoulders. ”Don’t go.” Laying her head on his back, she held on to those wonderfully broad, strong shoulders.
The taut muscles under her cheek shuddered and relaxed slowly. “Promise me you won’t laugh anymore?”
“Promise.” She didn’t step back as he turned around, savoring the feel of soft leather and silk. She smiled up at him. “You just looked so cute.”
“Cute? Cute?” He’d been called many things, but he was fairly sure that cute hadn’t been one of them. “I’m an evil, bloodsucking, creature of the night. I am not cute.”
“And you’re not evil.” Stepping up on tiptoe, Buffy kissed the pouting, sensuous lips. “Though bloodsucking and creature of the night – so you’re my birthday present?”
He brushed a hand over her hair. “Happy birthday.”
“The last time I had you as a birthday present didn’t work out too well.”
“Buffy.” The sadness in her gray eyes was more than he could bear; he had to tell her what the real present was. “Buffy – “
“Get on with the present giving!” Willow hollered through the door.
“Let’s see…” Buffy looked at the tag. “For Buffy. That’d be me.”
“Turn it over!” Willow ordered.
“Will you go away?” Buffy shouted back. “You’d think it was her birthday.”
Turning the tag over, she read the back. “My name is Angel. Please love me, feed me, and take care of me. Oh, that’s so – “
“Wait!” The door opened and Angel sidestepped quickly to keep it from hitting him in the back. Willow ran in and grabbed the tag from Buffy. “Okay – no on the feeding!” She marked the word feed off the tag. “Forgot about that part.”
Over her head, Angel winked at Buffy. His occasional nips and love bites were their secret. He had only fed from her the one time, but he had tasted her many times.
Backing out of the room, Willow waved her hands. “Carry on, make with the happy.”
“Happy?” Buffy glared at her. “We can’t do happy, remember?”
“I meant – uh – happy as in birthday.” The redhead slipped back out the door and closed it behind her.
“She didn’t mean anything. It’s easy for them to forget sometimes.” Buffy untied the bow and pulled the ribbons from Angel’s neck. “We can still have some birthday smoochies.”
“We can do more than that.” Sliding his hands down her back, he pulled Buffy against him. “We can do happy.”
“Angel?” He was serious. “We can’t – Angelus – “
“Willow found a spell to bind my soul to my body – and no escape clauses for Angelus.” He grinned, making his nose wrinkle and his eyes light up. “Though it did involve some smelly herbs and other things I’d rather not do again.”
Her hand trembled as she lifted it to his face. “We can make love?”
“If you’re ready. If you’re – do I still have to use the cookie dough analogy?”
“If I’m ready?” She pushed him toward the bed. “If I’m ready?”
The back of his legs hit the bed, and Angel fell back with a grunt. Buffy immediately moved over him, straddling his hips. Jerking his shirt open, she slid her hands over the cool, pale skin. “Let me unwrap my present, and I’ll show you ready.” Her lips met his in a hot, wet kiss.
Outside, Willow tiptoed away as a low growl rumbled through the door.
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