Robin took a sidelong glance at the diminutive blonde seated beside him at the fireside. They’d decided since their mounts had been on such a long journey not to leave until the morning, so at the moment, they were just biding their time. John had departed for parts unknown, while Marion had retired to her tent for the remainder of the night. Angel had accosted Friar Tuck, leading him off to the privacy of Tuck’s tent to talk.
Buffy had muttered something about immunity to things holy and taking the chance while he could get it, but Robin was a little confused on that point. At the moment she was whittling a stake with an almost care free air as he prodded the flaming logs with a stick.
"Buffy, may I ask you a question?"
Buffy glanced at him, her movements of carving the wood pausing for only a moment. "I don’t see why not. You know pretty much everything there is to know about Buffy the Vampire Slayer."
"You and Angel…Um…"
Buffy stopped her carving all together, turning to face the older man. An encouraging smile on her face, she took a moment to search Robin’s face, lit by the firelight, causing him to shift as she stared too long into his eyes. "You don’t usually ask others about their relationships do you?"
"How did you know?" he asked, slightly taken aback by the younger girl’s astuteness. Though at this point, he told himself, he shouldn’t be surprised by anything she did.
"You’re usually a lot more forthwith with your inquiries," she replied, making a face as she replayed her words in her head. "Oooo, I’m so killing Giles when I get home. I’m starting to talk like him. Note to self, spend less time with the G-man." Ignoring Robin’s utterly confused look, she forged on. "Anyway, I figured you weren’t asking me about being a slayer if you put Angel’s name out there too. What did you want to know?"
"Isn’t it difficult letting him fight with you? I mean, you’re close to him, and you fight with him. Isn’t it hard not to let that fact make everything else fade away?"
Buffy’s mouth opened slightly, and she tilted her head as she answered. "You mean like fighting against the forces of darkness? Or in your case, jealous and spoiled princes trying to overthrow the crown of his brother?" She shrugged, again ignoring anything Robin might be about to say. "We just don’t. We know the importance of what we do and that no one else is able to do it. Plus, not everything is as peachy back in the future between us as we make it seem here."
"What do you mean?"
"Your friend Olwyn helped to clear up a few problems for us so that we’d be able to help out. And don’t ask, ‘cuz I’m not telling."
Robin accepted this with a nod. "But don’t you think you would fight better if you weren’t together?"
Buffy sighed, twirling the knife she’d been carving with, idly with one hand. "All right Robin. We’re going to stop hedging and get to the point, because I’m not known for my patience. I’m going to tell you a little story.
"Yes, Angel and I fight together, and we love each other. We’ve found that working together is a whole hellavu lot easier than denying our feelings and dancing around the other, though. Two friends of ours liked each other a whole lot. However, before they were able to tell each other what they both felt, one of them was murdered. The moral of this story? Don’t let your chances slip by. Okay, sure, the life I live is tons more dangerous than yours, but the theory still applies.
"Angel and I learned the hard way that you can’t take things for granted. Shitty things happen and the world is always changing. So we take the things that we can have, and cherish them. Sexual tension went to a whole other level where we were concerned." Buffy paused, gripping the knife by the blade and throwing it toward a nearby tree. Beginning to rise, she placed a hand on his shoulder. "You want my advice? Stop skirting the issue and letting things like duty come between you and Marion."
Robin watched thoughtfully as Buffy dislodged her knife and disappeared toward the tent that her and Angel had been given for the night.
"Have a good confession with Tuck?" asked Buffy, as she pulled aside the blanket that served as a door and found Angel sharpening their swords.
Angel nodded, putting the weapons aside and pulling her onto his lap. "Tuck’s a good man."
"He is," agreed Buffy, combing her fingers through his hair. "You didn’t…"
"Tell him what I was?" Angel shook his head. "No, but I think he may suspect. I had him bless our swords."
"Good thinking," said Buffy, shifting so that she could place her head on that spot in his shoulder that seemed made for her.
One of his hands traveled up from its place on her hip to gently caress her long hair. "So what did you occupy yourself with while I was talking with him? Get into any trouble?"
"Answered a few of Robin’s questions about us. He wanted to know how we can be together and not overlook our job."
"And what did you tell him?"
"That we’d learned the hard way to cherish what we have while we have it."
"You think he’s going to do something about Marion?"
"I hope so," sighed Buffy, placing feather-light kisses right below his ear. "I genuinely like the both of them, and want them to be happy. Marion tries not to show it, but the situation is getting to her."
"Do you think she’s going to get fed up?"
Buffy shook her head faintly, arching into his touch as a finger traced down her arm. "I’m not sure. I don’t think so. She’s so in love with him she’s willing to stand the heartache just to be with him." Buffy paused as a low moan escaped her lips at Angel’s soft ministrations. "She was telling me about this time when a childhood friend of theirs tried to win her heart by making them think he’d changed his loyalty to Prince John and wanted to help Robin. This friend, Sir Guy, tried to get Robin out of the way, and for a short time, everyone thought Robin had died. She said that she’d almost given into Guy and had been tempted to stay with him, but her heart wouldn’t let her."
"Have you ever felt that way?" asked Angel, pulling back to look into her eyes.
"What way?" murmured Buffy, trying to comprehend his meaning through the haze of passion.
"Like it would be easier if you loved someone else?"
Buffy groaned, placing her hands on either side of Angel’s face. "This is the last time I’m going to say this. I love you Angel. I’ve tried dating other guys, remember? In my misguided attempt at getting a normal life? It doesn’t work that way for me. I need someone in my life that understands what I’m facing and fight by my side. I need you,
Angel. No one else."
Angel nodded softly, his hands raising to be placed on top of hers. "I think I just need to be told that every once in a while."
"I’ll tell you every damn hour if that’s what it takes to get it through that thick head of yours that I don’t want anyone else."
Angel chuckled, kissing her palms. "I don’t think that’s necessary. I love you, Buffy McKenna."
Buffy’s eyes shot wide open at that, her mouth falling open before giving a happy laugh and throwing her arms around his neck.
"All right, so you’re sure there’s another way in there?" said Buffy, as she and Angel stood with the foursome, looking at the ruins that were about 400 hundred feet away. The worn stone seemed to glow with menacing horror, and the entire area surrounding the ruins seemed sinister.
"I’m sure," answered Robin, his eyes not leaving Sturnsworth Manor. "When I was a boy I’d explore the ruins."
"Okay then. I can live with that. All right then, this you four’s last chance to bow out of this," she said solemnly. "Angel and I are here to fight this thing. You didn’t really have any say in the matter. There is a very real chance that we won’t survive this, as much as I’d like to say that there isn’t. So we wanted to give you this chance to back out."
Robin exchanged glances with his friends, then looked solemnly back at Buffy and Angel. "We’re fighting with you. We understand the risks."
Buffy smiled. "Thank you." With a nod, the group remounted their horses so they could ride closer. As the others took the lead, Buffy held Angel back, a worried look on her face. "Angel, can you still, Um…grr?"
A curious look on his face, Angel vamped out, and Buffy sighed. "Why?"
"Can you try not to get too caught up in the moment while we’re in there? Olwyn said that you were still a vampire, and while we know sunlight and holy objects don’t harm you, I’m not too keen on one of the others testing out beheading and staking."
With a wry grin, Angel nodded solemnly, urging his horse forward.
"We’d better be careful," warned Robin, who was leading the group through the darkened pathways. "There could be traps…"
Any other words he had to say faded away on his lips as the floor suddenly gave way beneath his feet and Marion, Angel and Buffy followed him in. Buffy groaned from her place in the middle of the heap, as someone tried to move and jammed their elbow firmly into her stomach.
"Is everyone all right?" asked Little John, holding the torch so that he could look down into the deep pit.
"Robin? Marion?" called Tuck. "Angel? Buffy? Is anyone hurt?"
Slowly the pile untangled, careful not to poke anyone’s eyes out. They all looked up, the light from the torch casting deep shadows against the smooth walls. Robin tilted his head up. "We’re all right, I think. Just bruised. We didn’t bring any rope with us, did we?"
"No," said Marion, "but maybe if you give me a boost Little John will be able to help me out."
Buffy and Angel watched for a moment as Robin began to lift Marion up, wincing as Marion tried to use his shoulder to reach Little John’s stretched out hand. "You want up first?"
Angel shrugged, moving to the closer to the wall. "It’s better than waiting around I guess. You’ll help Robin up?"
Buffy nodded, interlacing her fingers together and holding them out for his foot. "As long as you and Little John are ready to help him. I may be strong, but lifting a fully grown man with no superpowers to speak of is not my idea of fun."
With a timed hop on his part, Buffy pushed up, and Angel caught the rim of their jail, hoisting himself over the edge just in time for John to call out to him, the three outlaws peering into the darkness.
"All right Angel, send Buffy up! Angel?"
"Yes?" he asked, moving silently behind them and reaching out a steadying hand as Marion gave a startled shriek and almost fell back in.
"How did you get up here?"
"I gave him a little help!" called Buffy, bringing everyone’s gaze to her. "What?" she asked, shrugging as she directed a pointed look at Robin. "Okay Robin, your turn. Put your hands on my shoulders and your foot in my hands."
Her look brooked no argument, and Robin did much as Angel had, suddenly finding his arms held by Angel and John and being pulled out. "All right, that was strangely easy. But how is she going to get…"
Robin stopped as half of Buffy’s body was suddenly out of the hole, and she easily swung her legs out and stood up.
"How did you do that?" asked Little John.
"I’m the Slayer, John. We’re just lucky none of us got stabbed by our swords when we fell in there."
"Marion, before we get any closer, I wanted to talk with you," whispered Robin, as he fell back in the line to walk beside his childhood friend.
Marion glanced at him in the darkness, even as she continued on following Tuck. "You want to talk now? What has gotten into you Robin?"
Robin stopped, switching his sword to the other hand and grasping her free one. "I just wanted to let you know that I do love you, even if it seems like I haven’t at times. And if we make it through this, I want things to change between us."
Marion glared at him. "Don’t talk like you’re going to die on me Robin. I won’t let it happen. We’re going to be all right."
Robin nodded. "I know that, but I felt like I needed to say that just in case something happened."
Marion squeezed his hand. "Thank you for telling me."
"Are you two coming?" asked Little John. "Ow, Buffy, what did you do that for?"
"They’re having a moment, Little John. Give them a minute."
"Angel?" whimpered Buffy, holding one hand to her cramping stomach, the other grasping for his hand.
"I know, Baby. I feel it too."
"Angel, I’ve never felt power like this before," she ground out. "Not with the Master or Acathla. Not even the Mayor’s Ascension was this powerful."
Angel turned her to face him fully, ignoring the confused looks from the four friends, as they’d stopped movement when Buffy, who had been leading them had. Placing his hands on her shoulders, he bent down to look into her eyes. "Listen to me Buffy. Everything is going to be fine. You made it against those three. You’ve fought some of the worst demons in existence and won. You beat Angelus, and he was worse than the Master."
Buffy gave a humorless chuckle. "And look how well I made out after that one."
"You survived Buffy. You will again." He paused, making his voice more soothing. "Close your eyes Buffy, and I want you to take some deep breaths." As she did as he instructed, he spoke again. "Now I want you to look inward, deep inside you and I want you to find what it is that makes you the Slayer. Look past the knowledge of every other slayer that has come before you and draw on the knowledge of that first ancient
The darkened halls, having long faded from the dug out cavern to a sort of castle basement, were silent except for the breathing of its occupants. Five silent minutes later, Buffy’s eyes snapped open, glowing a yellow-red for a few moments. It faded quickly, and Buffy gave a tiny grin to Angel. "Woah. How did you know I could do that?"
"I have been known to read, Buffy."
"Oh, yeah." Buffy turned to look at those from Sherwood. "Sorry if I freaked for a moment. Shall we go on?"
Buffy flattened herself along the wall, peeking around the corner to what remained of Sturnworth’s Great Hall. It had been laughable how easy they had made their way to the main levels, only coming across four guards, who had quickly been dispatched. Looking into the large area though, she understood.
It was crowded with the same type of men that had been in the town square that first day, a sort of half human, half demon mercenary. Her spider sense was tingling from vampires, at least twenty of them, and lording over them on the raised dais, had to be Conakur. He stood at least seven feet, his hide was a dark, burnt red, cracked with lines of black. Sharp talons extended from his large hands, and his face was cruelly twisted with two thick horns that curved toward his head. Eerie eyes glowed yellow from beneath the dark recesses of his overhanging brow, and his teeth were tinged with red. Leaning back, she turned and silently made her way down the hall to where her friends were. "He’s got major resources," she whispered.
"Also, not the prettiest guy."
"Can we handle it?" asked Robin. "Is the six of us going to be enough?"
Buffy nodded tersely. "Yeah, but we don’t have much of a choice. It looks like they’re building forces. There looks like there is some sort of second level over looking the room. We’re going to need to split up and some of you go up there to try and even the odds with arrows."
"I’ll go," volunteered Little John.
Buffy shook her head. "No, we need your strength going up against them face to face. Robin, you’re supposed to be the best with a bow and arrow. Will you go? When it gets to hard to get targets you can come and join in the fray."
"All right," he conceded. "Marion will come with me and watch my back?"
Buffy nodded, turning now to Friar Tuck. "Tuck, I want you to bless that main doorway after we go in. It should keep everything unholy from leaving. Stay on the outskirts, and take any shots you can."
"And me?" asked Angel, amusedly.
"You go where I go," replied Buffy, pulling her compact crossbow from her belt and setting it up, quickly moving the bolts into position. "Robin, Marion, we’ll give you five minutes to get up there and get situated. Try and take out as many as you can before they realize what’s going on."
As soon as they disappeared, Buffy looked up at Angel. "That didn’t seem too bossy, did it?"
Angel chuckled and shook his head, starting down the hallway. "Buffy, you’re the Slayer. It’s what you do."
"You think I’m bossy?"
"You do!" she hissed.
Angel whirled and crushed his lips to hers, effectively silencing her. Breaking away, he looked at her. "It’s what you have to do Buffy. It’s how you survive, and how others survive along with you. Plus, sometimes it can be fun to be dominated."
Buffy’s eyes went wide, and then she gave him an appraising look. "Later, Lover."
The demon and his minions had no clue what hit them. Robin quickly downed 5 with one shot of his bow, three of them vampires. Marion handed him the first couple of arrows before becoming engrossed in fighting off the few that somehow made it up to the second level.
Robin continued picking off enemies, knowing that Marion had his back. He was having enough trouble picking targets now that the main attack had begun. Little John was making small gains with his opponents, his strength almost matching that of the vampires that came after him. Buffy and Angel on the other hand, were fighting with concentrated effort.
Robin gave himself a moment to assess their technique, swords in one hand, stakes in the other. They were gifted fighters. Giving himself a shake, he pulled out his sword and finished off Marion’s opponent so that they could join in the fray.
Buffy jumped high as one of the mercenary demons swung at her with a mace, bringing her feet above the weapon as it tried to knock her off her feet. Landing, she automatically brought one foot up, connecting with his chin. Turning quickly with no prompt from Angel, they switched opponents, and she brought her sword up as he swung downward. Not prepared for the force of the blow, she momentarily fell, falling to one knee even as the guy’s double handed grip forced her sword downward. Tossing her stake away, inadvertently dusting a vampire, she shifted her grip, slowly but surely pressing upward before pushing him off her altogether.
As she moved onto the next opponent, she faintly gathered that Marion and Robin had joined them on the floor, slowly making their way forward. Distracted for that short second, searing pain slashed across her upper bicep as it was cut with a dagger. Giving a low growl, Buffy spun, her sword extended, smoothly taking his head.
"Buffy! Are you all right?" yelled Angel from across the room.
Buffy got a glimpse of his black tunic as she somersaulted under an attacker’s blade. "Fine! Oh no you don’t," she ordered to the minion behind her, grabbing its hand as it tried to blind-side her, and twisting it around to break its arm. "This’ll teach you for sneaking up on a lady," she punned, sticking her sword through his stomach.
Pushing the body away from her, Buffy surveyed her surrounding area. Tuck was using a cross on a vampire that couldn’t get out of the doorway, staking it as it howled in pain as he pressed the cross to its face when it got too close. Little John was using his quarterstaff against a demon mercenary and a vampire, and seemed to be holding his own. Marion had a whip in one hand, her sword in the other, her back protected by Robin as he fought with three sword-carrying enemies. Angel was doing fine as he ducked a swing to his neck, pressing the advantage as his attacker left his side open.
"Yyyyoooouuuuu." Came a hiss. The voice was thick and deep, and Buffy shivered at the sound. "You are the one."
Buffy stood feet apart and the sword held with both hands in front of her as Conakur stepped down from the dais, each step cracking the stone beneath his feet. "The one? Oh, you mean the one that’s come to send you back to hell?" Buffy gave a feral grin. "That would be me I guess."
Conakur stretched out his arms to the side, flexing what Buffy guessed would be his muscles. "You have no idea of my power little girl! I have felt the heavens tremble at my feet! I can not be defeated!
"At least give a girl a chance," replied Buffy as she began to slowly circle him.
Conakur said nothing, instead lunging at her with surprising speed for his size, and she was forced to spin out of the way, bringing her sword reflexively around to block the arm that came back at her. The impact jarred her joints as the sword’s metal connected with the tough hide of the true demon. He growled, and Buffy was gratified to see that demons straight from hell did bleed. They bled green goo, but he still bled.
"Who’s so tough now?" mocked Buffy, unexpectedly getting hit across the cheek by his other clawed hand. The blow threw her back a few feet, and she landed on her back. Shaking her head to clear it, she did a spin kick to her knees, reaffirming her grip on her sword just as Conakur came at her once more.
"You celebrate prematurely, human. A lowly creature such as you can not hope to win against one such as I!"
"Why don’t you try two lowly creatures?" volunteered Angel’s voice as he suddenly appeared, trying a flying football tackle on the larger being.
"Insolent beings. Bow to your fate as my humble servants," roared the demon as he flung Angel off of him.
"Hmm…let me see. No," replied Buffy, using her sword against his hands as they tried to claw at her.
"Then you will die."
No more was spoken as Buffy and Angel tag teamed Conakur, darting in and out around his arms, using their swords when possible to cut into his flesh, doing nothing more than annoy him. Suddenly, Buffy found herself being pushed backward as Conakur’s claws raked down toward her. Lying on her back, she watched in horror as Angel flung himself in harms way, the sharp talons slashing across his torso as he was thrown across the room, hitting the wall with a bone-crushing crack.
"Let us see you fight now," Conakur seemed to chuckle.
Rage filled her eyes, and Buffy had to fight not to let it overwhelm her. If she got to lost in revenge, she’d end up worse off than Angel. Taking a deep breath, she focused her center, trying to call up that power that she held deep inside her. She was so training more if she would be able to do this all the time.
Even more determined that he was going to be going down, Buffy did a reverse donkey kick to her feet, shrugging her shoulders as Conakur seemed to be taken aback. With focused intent, she swiftly moved in and out of his reach, seemingly enjoying infuriating him as she made small, precise slashes with her blade.
Sensing an evil presence coming at her back, Buffy swung and threw, her sword imbedding itself in the body of her attacker even as the body was pushed back a few feet. With a twist, Buffy threw herself into a series of back handsprings, pulling her sword free with a deft hand movement. Narrowing her eyes at a suspicious Conakur, she ran toward him, springing herself up and over as he tried to grab her, her sword slicing through his shoulder. Re-centering herself as she landed, her eyes grew wide as Conakur didn’t even seem to notice the deep slash.
"I did tell you human. No one can hope to defeat me."
No one. The phrase rang through her head repeatedly until she spotted Angel’s sword lying on the cement floor. "Robin! Angel’s sword!"
Robin seemed unsure of her intent, but he followed her orders immediately, using his foot to flip the sword into his hand, tossing his own blade to a nearby Little John. "All right, I have it. What do I do with it though?"
Buffy shook her head, quickly coming to his side. "He seemed to unwilling to fight Angel and I at the same time. We had taken it one at a time, but…"
"You didn’t try at the same time," concluded Robin, quickly coming to the same conclusion that she had.
"It can’t hurt to try."
"I’ll take your lead."
Buffy nodded, shifting to put some space between them, at the same time inadvertently touching her sword’s blade to his. "Holy Shit," cursed Buffy. The blades had begun to glow a faint blue. Removing the blade from his, it quickly died, and Buffy looked up to catch Robin’s gaze. Resolutely, they crossed swords, and the glow at once became brighter.
Arching an eyebrow, Buffy looked from the two swords to a now unmoving Conakur. "No! It can’t be!" he called.
"I think someone’s a little afraid of our weapon here," said Robin.
Pressing their advantage at Conakur’s obvious disbelief, they both ran toward him, jumping up and twirling their body so that when they landed, they were facing his back. Counting to three, the two fighters raised their swords, bringing them down simultaneously on either side of his body, going from shoulder to navel.
With a thunderous roar, the blades went from blue to a blinding white, sucking both the true demon and his mercenaries into hell. Buffy surveyed the floor, finding it empty of any threats. Angel…
Turning on her heel, she sprinted to where Friar Tuck bent over his prone body, studying the three deep gashes that crossed his chest, the tunic torn open. With a cry, she fell to her knees, pulling his head onto her lap. "Angel…come on, Baby. You have to wake up."
Tuck was talking softly to the other outlaws. "I don’t understand this. Those gashes should be bleeding profusely."
Buffy’s eyes drew to the slashes, her quick eye determining that they had barely even begun to stitch themselves closed. "Damn you Angel. Come on, Angel, You have to open your eyes if you want us to help you."
"B-Buffy?" gasped out Angel, his eyes opening slightly.
"We won Angel, but you’re pretty hurt." Buffy traced his eyebrows softly. "Angel, when was the last time you fed?"
"Ascension," he whispered. "Have…haven’t felt the need…here."
"I have a feeling it’s something you still need."
"No…" Angel shook his head weakly, and attempted to shift away from her. "No…I won’t."
A firm hand on his shoulder impeded his progress, and Buffy looked imploringly up at Little John and Robin. "Can you two hold him still? He’s going to be a baby about this, and it’ll go faster if I don’t have to hold him down as well."
"Buffy?" asked Robin.
"We’ll get answers later, Robin," advised Tuck.
Hands free now that John and Robin were keeping Angel stable, Buffy slipped her unused dagger from the leg of her boot. Taking a deep breath as she looked at the sharp blade, she held out a wrist and slashed the dagger across. Blood welled up quickly, and dropping the dagger, she moved her wrist to Angel’s mouth. As he tried to shift away, she just pressed harder.
"You’re going to have to drink it now, or else I’m going to end up wasting a lot of blood. It’ll be easier on all of us if you just give in," she warned him.
Angel seemed to relent, and the others watched in fascination and a bit of horror as his face suddenly morphed into that of a vampire and he attached his mouth to her wrist. Buffy stroked his hair as he drank, careful to make sure he didn’t take too much.
When Angel became more alert, he pulled away, sitting up without help from the others. Before she could move away, he took her wrist, noticing that the slice was beginning to heal. "Are you all right?"
Buffy nodded as she began to stand. "I’m fine Angel. Are you? You scared me half to death."
Angel smirked, pushing back a strand of her hair. "I’ll be as good as new in a day. Slayer’s blood works wonders."
Buffy folded herself into his embrace, closing her eyes for a moment to cherish his hold. Opening them, she found herself staring at four very dumbstruck people. "Ooops."
"So you two are heading out in the morning?" asked Marion, walking beside Buffy as they returned from the river where they had cleaned up after returning from the ruins.
Buffy nodded, running her fingers through her wet locks to comb them out, wincing as she hit a knot. "Robin is going to take us to Olwyn’s. Now that the big bad has been defeated and we’re not really needed here, we’re in a hurry to get back. Our friends are probably worried sick. It’s been over a week."
"Your friends know what Angel is?"
"Yeah," answered Buffy, stopping with Marion at the edge of the compound, her eyes going directly to Angel’s form at the fireside. She and Angel had explained as much as they could to their friends before returning to Sherwood. They had been wary at first, but having trusted him and trusting Buffy, they accepted the explanations. "It’s going to be hard to go back to the way things were after what we’ve had here."
"Do you think Olwyn’s spell will wear off?"
Buffy sighed. "I desperately hope not. But I have to resign myself to the fact that it probably will. That’s how our relationship works. We get that little taste of happiness, and then it’s all taken away from us." She lifted a shoulder in remorse, wrapping her arms around herself.
Gently, Marion put her arm around Buffy’s shoulders. "Maybe this time it will be different."
Setting her jaw, Buffy nodded, holding back the pain welling up inside. She’d examine the pain from every angle once she had access to a huge tub of chocolate ice cream. "If anything, this has taught me to try and fix things back home. Maybe there’s some way for us to work it out." Pasting on a stiff smile, she looked at Marion. "Has Robin talked to you yet?"
Marion shook her head. "It’s all right though. I wasn’t expecting him too. He always ‘forgets’ once the danger has passed."
"At least you know how he feels."
"I’ve always known how he felt. It’s the waiting around that gets to me."
"Marion, don’t give up on him."
"Good. Now what do you say we head over there and join our men?"
"You can find your way in from here," said Robin, pulling his mount to a halt as they entered the clearing in front of Olwyn’s cave.
"You’re not going to say hello to Olwyn?" asked Buffy, dismounting with the practiced ease of days spent riding.
Robin shook his head. "I need to get back to the compound. There are some…issues that need to be discussed."
Buffy exchanged a glance with Angel as they tied their mounts to tree branches before looking up at Robin Hood. "All right. Well, I guess this good-bye then."
Robin dismounted, engulfing Buffy’s small frame in a hug. "I suppose it is. It was a pleasure and an honor to meet you."
"The honor was ours, Robin Hood," replied Buffy as Angel and him did the man handshake with the hug.
"Thank you for the help," said Robin, getting back up on his horse.
"No problem," said Buffy, waving as he directed his horse homeward.
"And good luck with Marion!" As Robin disappeared into the trees, she looked up at Angel. "I guess this is it."
Angel nodded, reaching out and drawing her form closer. "Buffy, before we go in, I want to tell you that even if we have to go back to the way things were, nothing is going to change between us."
"Except for the obvious stuff," frowned Buffy, wrapping her arms around his waist and pressing a cheek to his chest.
He chuckled, bending his head to kiss the top of her head. "Well, yes, except for that. My feelings haven’t changed though, and they will be one thing you can always count on."
"I know. Do you think it will be hard, going back to the way it was?"
"It’ll take some getting used to after everything that has happened between us, but soon it will be back to normal, or as normal as our lives can get. It’s just something that we’re going to have deal with, like everything else."
"As soon as we get back, I say research party on the curse Willow did."
"We have to at least try, Angel."
"I just don’t want to get your hopes up."
"As long as we’re together, I can face anything," stated Buffy as she stood on tiptoe to take his mouth in a kiss.
They were so wrapped up in the embrace, that when a repeat performance of the sparkling gold light that had brought them back in time began to shine around them, they didn’t notice. As they pulled back from the kiss, they looked around, startled to find that they were no longer in the woods of medieval Britain, nor were they on the street where they had initially disappeared. Instead, they were on the cliff behind Angel’s mansion, the horizon tinting pink with the light of false dawn.
Buffy wasted no time to question their sudden switch of time and place, automatically pulling on Angel’s hand to get him to the safety of cover. Angel stood still, however, not allowing himself to be pulled away. "Angel? What is it? We have to get you inside, we don’t know if the magic Olwyn did still works!"
Angel shook his head slowly, wonder filled eyes lifting up to stare into her own hazel eyes. "I don’t think sunlight will ever be a problem again," he said.
"What? Angel, what on earth…" Buffy trailed off as he pulled her close again, lifting their joined hands to rest over his heart. Tears sprung to her eyes. "A-a heartbeat? You have a heartbeat? You’re human?"
Angel nodded, closing his eyes in joy as Buffy launched herself at him, and he fell backwards onto the grass as she rained kisses on his face and neck. Looking inward, he no longer felt the pull of the demon or the weight of so many deaths, he felt only the inhuman strength that had been left, the thump, thump of his heart, and the warmth of the body that was above him. He’d been given his reward.
"I’m sorry we can’t thank Olwyn," Buffy whispered, as they watched the sunrise together on their new life.
"I’m sure he knows what it means to us," answered Angel, touching his lips to hers and forgetting all about wizards and magic and anything else but the love of his life in his embrace.
Back in Sherwood
Marion looked up as the bushes that served as gates swung open and seeing Robin enter, turned back to her task of splicing feathers for arrows. He was back, having taken Buffy and Angel to Olwyn so that they could return home.
"Marion?" asked his voice a few minutes later, and she looked up in surprise.
"Angel and Buffy gone?"
"Hmm? Oh, yes. Listen, Marion, would you take a walk with me?"
Marion arched an eyebrow, but put aside her work, and was again surprised as Robin held out a hand to help her up. She walked beside him as he silently lead the way to the field that Buffy and Little John had fought in. "Is everything okay, Robin?" she asked, when it didn’t seem like he was ever going to speak.
"I had a talk with Buffy two nights ago. I asked her how she and Angel can fight together and not forget what they are fighting for."
A warm tingle began in her toes, but she tamped out the flicker of hope before it could grow. "And what did she say?"
"A lot of different stuff," replied Robin. "About how they know how important it is that they don’t disregard their duty and how they cherish the moments they have."
"Was that all?"
"No," said Robin, turning to face her and taking one of her hands in his own. "She also gave me some advice."
"Oh?" asked Marion, suddenly lost in his eyes.
"Mm-hmm," he murmured, his other hand reaching out and pushing a stray piece of hair off her face, his fingers lingering on her cheek. "She told me to ‘stop skirting the issue’ and letting things come between us."
"Are you going to let them?"
"Not if I have anything to do with it, and I swear, I don’t care if King Richard himself suddenly appears beside us, I’m going to kiss you." His grin softened into a gentle smile as he leaned closer, their lips touching in the barest of kisses.
Marion smiled up at him as they drew away, their foreheads touching. "After all this time, that’s the best you can do? I suppose the legend of Robin Hood isn’t as true as I thought."
Robin’s laughter rung out into the falling dusk, reaching even those in the nearby camp who looked up and smiled at their leader’s happiness. Marion squealed as he lifted her up, spinning her around in a dizzying circle before bringing her feet back down to earth and plundering her mouth with a breath-taking kiss.
When they finally came up for air, they looked tenderly at each other, their smiles those of lovers finally come home. "I do love you, Marion. I have for a very long time, you know that right?"
"I know Robin. I’ve always known, it’s what kept me here with you, even when common sense told me I should save my heart the pain and leave."
Pain flashed across Robin’s features. "I’m sorry I put you through that Marion. I’m glad you didn’t listen to it."
Marion just smiled at him. "I am too. But you’ve finally come to your senses, so we don’t have to worry about that anymore."
Robin nodded, wrapping his arms tighter around Marion’s thin waist. "I love you."
"I love you."
Their lips had just touched for another kiss, when the sound of clapping surprised them from the trees. Looking toward the sound, they saw Little John clapping, and Friar Tuck looking apologetic about disturbing them. The new couple laughed, Marion burying her head in Robin’s shoulder in embarrassment.
"Look on the bright side," smiled Robin as their friends came closer, "at least they have better timing than they usually do."
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