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Author's Note: Here's a part two, where as I have already warned there is a character death. However, its not any of the Fang Gang, or Buffy, or Angel. I would never do that. Lovely opening B/A scene for you to enjoy aswell. I've also advanced Spike's cannon by a year, as its suits my purposes more to have him as he was in year seven- barring the madness episodes -than year six. Enjoy.

FRIENDSHIP.

Angel's arms came around her from behind, and he felt a strange sense of deja vu as she pressed herself flush against him. Like the morning before, when he came to wrap his arms around her waist, finding her awake before him.

Only there were subtle differences that made the morning not the same as the one before. Instead of the blood red shirt she had worn yesterday, a pure white one clothed her, unfastened, the one which he had worn underneath his dinner jacket last night.

And they were in the hotel suite he had rented for them away from the Hyperion, to celebrate her birthday.

"Penny for your thoughts," he remarked, pressing a kiss to her scar.

"Nothing major," she replied, her fingers fiddling with something on her hand, "just reflections on birthdays and curses."

"Did last night change your mind about them?" He asked her.

"I think so," she answered. She glanced down at her hands, and he let go of her waist to part them, so he could see the cause of her preoccupation.

"Does it fit?"

"Perfectly," Buffy assured him, as she looked at the ring for the first time in the pale light after dawn. It was still something of a surprise to her; to see another claddagh on the third finger of her left hand, his final gift to her. Silently she leaned back against him as she recalled what had happened when they had finished their desert.

She remembered a conversation, during the journey from San Francisco to Los Angeles, after visiting the Charmed Ones for her cure, about his dreams on her graduation day, concerning an ill-fated wedding. It had led to her describing her idea of the perfect proposal. At the time all he had done was smile, and then turned off the interstate. She had no idea that he would remember it to replicate the fantasy last night.

He had led her to their hotel suite, whereupon he had asked her to close her eyes, before leading her inside. When he had told her she could open them, it was to find herself alone, save for a trail of red, white, pink and purple rose petals leading through the living room part of the suite to the bedroom doors.

The double doors were slightly open, allowing her to see that the trail led inside the bedroom, and she remembered telling him, causing a blush and a degree of nerves just in case her imagination turned out to be playing tricks on her. She walked to the doors and opened them, and the sight before her made her gasp.

The floor was covered in the same colour rose petals and lit by hundreds of candles. When she had turned her gaze to the bed, she saw him kneeling upon it, silk sheets covered with more rose petals. He was in his shirt and trousers, the shirt open and hanging out, and in his hands was a small velvet box.

Angel had doubted that she would answer yes so readily, concerned that it might be too soon for him to ask such a question, despite an overwhelming need within him to do so. Yet she had joined him on the bed before he had even finished, with a kiss that left him breathless.

Now, after a night spent love making in celebration, they stood together and admired the ring; a claddagh with her birthstone set in the heart, held by platinum hands and crown. Buffy tilted her head up slightly to see his face. "Thank you," she uttered softly, reluctant to disturb the peaceful calm which seemed to envelope them. "For making yesterday the happiest day of my life."

"My pleasure," he replied, before gently turning her around. He stood her a little back from him so he could see her face, and asked the question he dreaded. "When do you want to go back?"

"Cordy and Groo's flight leaves in about four hours," Buffy replied quietly, "we should get back in time before they have to leave for check in."

"An hour to spare then," Angel mused, his thumbs rubbing the material of the shirt over her slender waist.

"What could we possibly do to take up the time?" She laughingly questioned.

"Beats me," he remarked, before catching her lips with his.

Buffy's hands wrapped themselves around his neck, parting the opened shirt by such a movement, giving Angel the opportunity to let go of her waist, and roam his hands over her back under the shirt.

They stood together for a short while, the kiss long and fervent, with the easy languidness of familiarity and enjoyment. Soon Angel swept her into his arms and gently laid her upon the bed, his hands moving to caress her thighs, parting them deftly under him. Buffy moved her hands from around his neck to the upper realms of his back, finding by rote his tattoo, to trace its shape with her fingers. She barely felt him enter, so soft and unhurried the motion was. Only the swelling of his girth caused her to realise they were joined. She tightened around him with a pleasurable sigh, able to escape from her mouth by his drawing back, in order that he might see her face as they climbed to a higher plane of bliss.

Angel gazed deeply into her eyes, a part of him suddenly struck by the miracle of events which had taken place in order to bring them here. Her death at the hands of a god, to save a sister that never was. The act of dark magic undertaken by her once group of friends to bring her back. He, moved by the death of an old friend, visiting her grave just as she was wrenched from heaven to return to earth. Their return to the Hyperion, where they were given the solution to rid her of the dark magic which had remained within her due to the level of witchcraft required to bring her back. A journey to San Francisco, where not only was she cured, but so was he, given his Shanshu and made a human champion like her. And now this, the morning after their engagement. So much had happened to test them both, and their relationship, yet they had come through it all, scarred but still willing to serve the good fight, and determined that nothing would part them.

"I love you," he breathed out as their joining exploded into pure bliss, a vow which he could see seconded by her soulful gaze.

Sated he rolled them until she was resting on his front. Her thigh locked around the upper half of his legs, and she nestled her head on his chest in pure contentment. "I'm not worried about them, you know," she uttered, knowing he could understand this apparent non sequitur.

"Why not?" He asked her softly.

"Because nothing that they can say could ever touch me, touch us." She dealt a kiss to his smooth chest. "I know that nothing will separate us, ever."

"Me too," he agreed, not understanding how they knew, but as certain in the belief as she.


Only the members of Angel Investigations were awake and present in the lobby when the couple returned to Hyperion.

"Lets have a look," Cordelia commanded, dragging the slayer's left hand out of its folded position with the other. "Oh very nice," she uttered.

"You guys knew about this?" Buffy asked them.

"Yep," Gunn replied, "Angel told us his plans a couple of days ago."

"So any date set yet?" Wesley asked as he hugged her in congratulation.

"Barring apocalypses, some time in May," Buffy revealed.

"Well that's just jinxed it," Cordelia muttered as she stepped back to get her bag.

Angel inclined his head in the direction of the floors above them. "How did it go last night?"

"Just as we imagined it might," Wes informed them, as they walked further inside to gather around the reception desk. "They feel very betrayed."

"They're not the only ones," Buffy said, Angel's arm coming around her waist in support as she did so. "How did Dawn take it?" She asked.

"When I said you didn't remember her, she ran out," Wes replied, feeling a little guilty at how harsh he was to her last night. "Spike persuaded her to come in and rest."

"Well, Groo and I need to take off," Cordelia announced after a moment of silence dealing with that news.

The fang gang turned to them and one by one said their farewells and expressed hopes for a good trip and vacation.

By the time the doors had closed and Buffy, Fred, Wesley, Gunn and Angel had returned to the reception area, a sound alerted them to the fact that their guests were beginning to rise.

Cautiously the slayer glanced upwards, and sighed with relief as she identified Spike and Giles making their way down the front walkway from the elevators to the staircase that led into the lobby. "Morning guys."

"Morning Buffy," Giles remarked as he arrived before them. "How are you?"

"Very well, all things considered," she assured him. "I have a question to ask." She paused to take his hand with her left. "Would you give me away?"

Giles looked at her blankly for a moment, then glanced down at the hand which clutched at his, to see the new ring resting there. A smile broke out on his and he pulled her into his arms. "I'd be honoured," he answered. "Congratulations. When did this happen?"

"Angel asked me last night," Buffy informed them, as Spike joined the group to look at the slayer and his sire. "Morning, Spike."

"Morning, Bit," he greeted her, before taking a look at the ring. "Well done," he remarked to Angel.

"Thanks," Angel replied. "You're invited to the wedding, by the way."

"I should hope so," Spike said, though his face belied any insult. "I only came with that lot to give the slayer some much needed support."

"And we're grateful for it," Buffy assured him, before surprising him by pulling into her arms for a hug. "Thanks for what you did last year."

"No problem," he replied, drawing back from her.

Another sound caused them to widen the circle of their stance. Directing their gaze to the upper floor, they saw the doors of lift part, to reveal en masse the members of the Scooby gang, the once slayerettes.

Buffy placed her hands on her hips, forming her typical slayer position, readied for battle. Angel and fang gang moved to support spots beside and behind her, attempting a casual but alert positions, ready for anything. Giles and Spike also joined them.

Willow and Xander were at the forefront of the group as it descended the stairs and took up a stance opposite Angel Investigations in the lobby. It was the former that spoke first. "Buffy, you're really back."

"Yes, I am," the slayer replied, watching them carefully.

"Why didn't you stay in Sunnydale?" Willow asked.

"Because Angel welcomed me into the firm here," Buffy said simply, as though that answered everything.

"But we brought you back," Xander added now, at somewhat at a loss.

"No, the Powers That Be brought me back," Buffy revealed. "Dark magic of that kind never works unless they allow it to."

"We had to rescue you," Willow uttered, "you were in a hell dimension. You weren't meant to die."

"I wasn't in a hell dimension. I was in heaven," Buffy answered, keeping her tone even, her words straightforward. "But, you're right, I wasn't meant to give my life."

"Then how should we have defeated Glory?" Anya asked.

"Keys lock doors as well as opening them," Buffy answered.

Dawn drew in a startled breath. "I was meant to sacrifice myself?" She asked.

"According to what our contacts for above revealed, yes," Buffy remarked, her tone gentle and kind.

Willow turned horrified eyes on her once best friend. "Buffy, she's just a girl!" She appealed, while Dawn stepped to the back of the group and walked outside into the courtyard.

The slayer glanced silently at Angel, who nodded and together with Spike, left the ranks to follow her out into the sheltered garden. "So was I," she said in response to the redhead's appeal. "Before I was called. I was her age infact, when Merrick came to me on the steps of my school-yard and revealed to me the world I had inherited. But my youth didn't stop the Watcher's Council deciding that I should be trained. Nor did it stop any of you asking me to sacrifice any normal kind of a life again and again to save the world."

"How dare you claim it was us!" Xander shouted, the first to raise his voice. "Last year and the year before you frequently insisted that you could do it by yourself. You shut yourself off from the rest of us, and made all the decisions."

"Yes, I shut myself off from you all," Buffy agreed, surprising them, "but not out of selfishness. I shut myself off to protect you, to save you from the effects my kind of power has, everyday. Did you think it was easy for me to deal with death on a daily basis for over six years? To be expected to survive each battle, no matter who my opponent, vampire, demon, god, ghost. Expected to carry on with school, with college, with boyfriends. With the appearance of a sister, and the death of my mother. For five years I stuck with you, endured that pressure, all because of the hellmouth and responsibility that was thrust upon me. Did you ever once think I wouldn't get tired of it all? That I wouldn't wish for a release?"

"How could we?" Willow countered. "You never confided in any of us!"

"Because you never listened. You just expected me to cope. Oh, sorry Buffy, that's so bad, you having to send Angel to hell. We're sorry you lost your soulmate, but life goes on, plenty more fish in the sea. Or, sorry Buffy that he left you for your own good on the night of your prom, but don't worry, here's Riley, a perfectly normal psych TA, complete with a double life and drug problems for you. And so what if he's letting vampires suck blood out of him every night in a vain attempt to understand your strange fascination for vampires. He's still perfect for you, you shouldn't let him leave. Then, arw-shucks Buffy, we're sorry about your mom dying, but there's the world to save again, and you have to protect your little sister from the awful god Glory." Buffy dropped her mocking tone. "What were you gonna say when you brought me back? Sorry Buff, but we thought you in a hell dimension? Oh, and by the way, there's these three boys who we think are trying to take over the hellmouth?" She looked at them hard. "You couldn't think for one second that you might be able to cope with the trio by yourselves?"

"Well we have been!" Anya countered. "No thanks to you!"

"Giles kept me informed of every event," Buffy revealed. "If I felt that you needed my help, I would have come. But you have a former watcher, two witches, one chipped vampire, and a former vengeance demon. I think you can take on three nerds!"

"Why are you being so horrible?" Willow asked. "We brought you back, you should be grateful!"

"Oh I am! Not for the wrenching from heaven, or for the fact that I woke up in my coffin and had to crawl my way out of the ground, but for the act itself, which brought me here, and back to a life that, for the first time in years, didn't feel like a form of imprisonment." Buffy took a deep breath, making herself calm down. "I'm sorry, Willow, Xander, Tara, Anya, I truly am. But you came here for nothing more than confirmation that I'm alive. I'm also, where I belong."

With that she stepped back, and leaving them shocked and subdued, walked outside to join Angel, Spike and Dawn.


"Buffy is sorry you know," Angel revealed to Dawn as soon as he came outside. He joined her on the bench, while Spike hung back amongst the safety of the shade afforded him by the doors onto the courtyard.

"For what?" Dawn asked, looking at him with surprise. "How come you're not on fire?" She added.

"When Buffy came here, she still had some of the dark magic performed on her inside her soul," Angel began. "We had to travel to San Francisco and have cured by some powerful witches. Who also gave me my humanity, from the PTB."

"The Charmed Ones?" Spike sought to confirm, receiving Angel's nod in reply. "Heard of them awhile back," he mused. "Almost wish I had gone to them instead."

His choice of words made Angel look up. "For what?" He asked.

"I was having a few problems with my chip," Spike remarked. "The Scoobs weren't inclined to help, so I went to a few shamans and demons I knew. And instead of repairing the chip, they gave me my soul."

"You have your soul?" Angel queried, looking at his childe in a new light. "How on earth did you survive the nightmares?"

"I didn't have to," Spike revealed. "They were part of your gypsy curse. The Romany intended on making you crazy. I just have the guilt trip. I'm doing okay though."

"I'm pleased for you."

"Thanks mate," Spike grinned, "but I think we really ought to focus on Nibblet here," he added, gesturing at Dawn.

"Buffy's sorry for not being allowed to keep her memories of you being her sister," Angel explained, returning to the main cause at hand. "And for leaving you with the group in Sunnydale."

"Why didn't you come back for me?" Dawn asked.

"Because Buffy's still hurting, over all that has happened to her. And she has no legal claim on you, or memory to assert any. She also thought you would be better protected at the hellmouth."

"You have no memory of me either, do you?" Dawn guessed.

"No, I never did. I was here, the powers didn't see a need for me to be informed." Angel paused, before adding, "if you want to join us however, and be with Buffy, then you can. But on your own terms, no one else's."

"What does Buffy say to that?" Dawn asked.

"She agrees with her fiancee," Buffy remarked, as she stepped outside and joined her once sister and the former on the bench, sitting the other side of Dawn. "The Scoobs clearly have enough things to deal with, and Giles plans to move back to England." She turned to gaze at their other companion. "There's a place here for you as well, you know."

"Thanks but I'll pass," Spike informed her. "I think I ought to keep a watch on the hellmouth for you, as Rupert's leaving for home. God knows the others can't."

"Tara's okay," Dawn argued.

"She is, Nibblet," Spike agreed, "but she has Willow to keep under control. No my place is in Sunnyhell. But yours is anywhere you choose."

Dawn was silent as they all looked at her, waiting for her decision. Then suddenly she looked up, and seemed to smile. "I guess, if....." she trailed, and her skin suddenly paled.

"Dawn," Buffy began, "what's the matter?"

"I'm not sure," she replied, "I feel very strange......."

"Dawnie!" Buffy cried out, as she collapsed in her arms.


After that, events were somewhat of a blur. The four in the courtyard rapidly returned to the lobby, the slayer carrying the key upstairs to the nearest bed, shouting to her boss to get some help. The members of both groups followed her up, and formed a semicircle round the bed, crowding the hotel room. Only the arrival of the doctor herded them all out.

Buffy and Angel remained in the room, neither choosing to query for once the protection of sibling relationship.

The doctor examined her for a long time, before drawing back and walking to where the chosen warriors stood by the door, waiting. "Well, I must say I'm puzzled," he revealed to them. "You say she just went pale and collapsed?"

"Yes," Buffy confirmed. "What's wrong with her, doctor?"

"Nothing, as far as I can determine. I've done all the tests I can, and nothing medical is afflicting her. However, what I can tell you, is that she is dying."

"Dying?" Angel echoed, shocked.

"I'm afraid so. And there is nothing I can do." The doctor paused to allow them to take that in. "I've drawn some blood and I'll run it through some tests at the hospital, but I don't expect to reveal anything. I'd advise you to take her there, if I thought it would accomplish more than putting in the ICU permanently. Whatever her illness, I've never seen such a case."

"Thank you doctor, for seeing her anyway," Angel said to him, and showing him out of the room, leaving Buffy alone with Dawn.

She was still there when he returned, having shown the doctor out and informed everyone else of the situation.

"What do you want to do?" He asked her softly as he joined her on the edge of the bed, where she was, holding one of Dawn's hands.

"I don't know, Angel," Buffy uttered, tears falling down her face. "I don't know. This is all my fault."

Angel pulled her against him. "No it isn't, how can you say that? Your presence here changes nothing."

"How do we know that? I could have been meant to keep watch over her."

"The PTB told us you were meant to be here, remember?" Angel reminded her.

"But we didn't think to ask about Dawn, other than that she was meant to die instead of me," Buffy persisted. "We didn't ask if I should still protect her."

"Buffy, no one told us this would happen. And as they gave her to your protection, I think they would have let you know if she still needed you, now that Glory was dead." Angel paused to gaze at the person lying in the bed. "I think no natural causes are wrong with her," he said slowly. "She was made by supernatural powers. Authorities in such must be able to find out what's wrong with her."

A moment of silence passed, and then slayer realised what he meant. She rose from the bed and grabbed the handset of the phone on the nearby table. With shaking fingers, she put a call to the Lobby, where Fred and Gunn were stationed to keep a watch on any business which might call in. "Fred, call the Halliwells for us, will you? Tell them we need Leo here, urgently."


The wait seemed interminable, but it could only have been a matter of an hour when blue and white lights appeared in the hotel room, startling two new occupants, Willow and Xander, who along with Tara and Spike had been permitted to join the vigil of the chosen warriors over the key.

"You asked for me?" Leo began when he had fully appeared in the room.

Buffy turned from the bed. "Can you heal her?" She asked.

Leo came to stand beside the edge of the bed. He held his hands just above Dawn, and closed his eyes. When nothing happened, he opened his eyes and gazed at her, puzzled. He tried waving his hand up and down her body. Again nothing. Silently he stood up.

"What's wrong?" Buffy asked him.

"I can't seem to heal her," Leo said, puzzled still. "I'm gonna go and visit the Elders, see what they have to say about her." He orbed out.

"Who was that?" Willow asked.

"Leo healed Cordelia, and restored Angel's humanity," Buffy remarked, her eyes still on Dawn. "He's part of a race of guardians over witches and future people of his kind. I thought he might be able to cure her," she finished, her tone sounding certain suddenly that there nothing any one could do.

The whitelighter proved her right when he returned a few minutes later, orbing into the room with a solemn face.

"I'm sorry, Buffy," he said. "But there's nothing no one can do. This was meant to be."

"Why?" Xander asked.

"Dawn was never meant to live for so long," Leo explained gently. "The monks made her into what she was simply so Buffy could protect her from Glory. Once the god was defeated, Dawn was no longer in danger. She is now returning to her natural state of existence."

"Thank you, Leo," Buffy remarked, rising from the bed. "I'm sorry we called you here for nothing."

"I'm sorry there's nothing I can do," he returned, before orbing out.

Buffy kept her face from the others for a moment, holding back her grief. Despite the loss of memories, she still felt a connection with Dawn, who like her had been brought into the world for a higher purpose, and wasn't informed until someone tried to rid the world of her and the greater good she was able to perform.

"Buffy," a voice called out, making her turn. Dawn had opened her eyes and now called out to her from the bed. "I'm dying, aren't I?"

"Yes, you are," Buffy replied, before coming to sit beside her again.

"I knew," Dawn said. "I don't know how, but just as I was deciding about where to live, something inside of me told me that I wouldn't have to decide. That it wasn't up to me."

"Dawnie," Buffy uttered, letting her grief show for the first time, startling all but Angel and the figure in the bed.

"Its all right, B," Dawn replied, using the nickname she had given her, in implanted memories long before Faith's arrival and usage. "I'm strangely glad about it. I feel peaceful, you know. Like you did."

Buffy nodded, too choked to speak. Dawn's hand stroked the one of hers which was tightly gripping it, as if shear slayer willpower alone could keep her living. "I'm sorry, Buffy," Dawn replied.

"There's nothing you need to be sorry for," Buffy assured her. "I love you. Just remember that."

"I will, I promise." Dawn smiled. "I love you too, sis," she added, before taking a deep breath and closing her eyes.

"No, no," Buffy uttered rubbing her hand, trying to bring her back. "No."

Angel wrapped his arms around her, and held her quietly. Without a word she turned to him and cried.


It was another morning before the Scooby gang made their departure to return to Sunnydale.

After Dawn had passed, her body had disappeared, forming a pale blue gas of light and stars. It passed upwards, through the roof of the Hyperion, into the sky and the planes of dimensions beyond.

The slayer had cried out her grief in Angel's arms, before being ushered into their room, leaving the others to mourn and mull over all that had occurred. When she emerged, it was late evening, and various pizza boxes were scattered about the lobby, their contents being consumed halfheartedly by a silent and remorseful group.

Willow had been the first to speak, waiting until the slayer and her soulmate had sat down with the group and taken a proffered slice each.

"We're sorry," she said, speaking for all the former slayerettes. "I don't know if we'll ever understand fully what made you decide to come here, but we can see that you're happier here than you were in Sunnydale. So we're gonna return there, and we don't expect you to come with us. Not unless you want to."

"I don't," Buffy confirmed, before swallowing a bite of pizza. "And I'm grateful to you all. For bringing me back, and for being willing to try and understand that this place is now my home."

Willow nodded and paused, before adding, "I hear there's wedding soon, for you and Angel. Congratulations."

"Thanks." Buffy paused. "You're welcome to come."

"We'll see," Willow replied, understanding that things would never be the same again between them. That they would never be as close as they once thought they were.

After that, conversation had turned to shop, and they exchanged news and information on the latest demon, vampire, and Trio happenings. Somehow this conversation served to form a normality between them all, carrying well on until the hours of the night, whereupon exhaustion claimed them to all seek rooms once more in the former hotel.

In the morning Buffy and Angel were the only ones to see them go. They saw them to their car outside, wishing them a safe journey back, and to let them know whenever they needed their help.

Buffy and Angel hugged Giles and Spike, saying a more affectionate farewell to them, and they returned in kind.

When the car had disappeared round the corner of the block, heading for the interstate to take them back to the hellmouth, Angel had taken Buffy into his arms.

"Are you okay?" He asked her.

"Yeah," she replied, turning round to face him. "I am," she added, before kissing him.

The End.
To Be Continued In

Vale.