By Maquis Leader
Author’s note: Set right after Beer Bad.
Spinning, she kicked one vampire in the chest, knocking it back. The second vampire grabbed her arm and she turned, driving the stake into its heart.
The first vampire scrambled to his feet and ran, deciding he could live with being a coward. She caught it before it had taken two steps, tackling it and driving it to the sidewalk. She punched the stake through its heart and it exploded into dust.
He watched as she pounded the stake into the pile of dust. When it splintered and she continued to pound her fist against the sidewalk, he sighed. “I think it’s dead.”
Buffy froze, and then turned to search the shadows.
“Though I can get a jackhammer if you want.”
He stepped out of the blackness, moonlight silvering his face. Her heart ached at the sight of him. The perfection she could never have again. “Angel.”
“Buffy.” Seeing her, he had turned to walk away, with the intention of going back to his apartment and pretending he hadn’t seen her.
Instead, he’d found himself turning back to watch, entranced as always. Dainty and quick, Buffy was a deadly predator, dancing a sensual dance of death. He shifted, trying to ease the ache just south of his heart.
“You’re probably wondering what I’m doing here.” Buffy got to her feet.
“Out of sidewalks to pummel in Sunnydale?”
“I was just – I didn’t – I wanted – “ She knew she was babbling; Angel had that effect on her. “I’m not here to bother you – “
“I didn’t think that you were.” The scent of blood carried to him. “You’re hurt.”
“No. I – “
Taking her hands, Angel held them up. The skin was scraped and raw. “You hurt yourself.”
“And I just had my nails done.” Angel’s cool fingers made her shiver. “Guess I can spend Dad’s money on new ones.”
“You’re here to see your father?” Of course she is, you stupid fool! Did you think she was here to see you? “How – how is he?”
“He’s fine. Great.” She frowned. “He’s got a new girlfriend. They went out. He gave me money and said ‘go have fun’ like I’m twelve.”
“You came to see him and he went out?” Was the man completely heartless?
“I surprised him. Didn’t call or anything.” Angel was still holding her hands and Buffy reluctantly pulled away. “He’s got this new life, and I need to make an appointment for my court mandated quality time.”
There was more here than her father blowing her off. Buffy's scent was clouded with sadness. He took her hands again. “What’s wrong? Tell me.”
“Nothing.” The gray eyes couldn’t lie.
The dark chocolate eyes understood as always, and she found herself pouring out her problems. “Everything is so big and hard and they told me it was okay to just go in but the professor yelled at me and then my roommate some roommate they gave me instead of Willow I don’t know why and oh my God she was from hell and – “ She sucked in a breath and continued.
Angel listened and nodded when it seemed appropriate, murmuring sympathetically at times, gleaning the facts from the Buffy babble. It amazed him how easy it still was for him to understand her. Like they’d never been apart. The big theme seemed to be that Buffy was alone and lonely.
“So you see?” Her bottom lip trembled as she looked up at him.
“I think so.” He brushed a strand of honey blonde hair back from her face. “You’re having trouble balancing being the Slayer and your schoolwork. Your roommate was a demon from another dimension and had bad taste. Your mom is using your room for storage. All your friends are too busy for you, and Giles is telling you that you’re an adult and you don’t need him. Xander gave you cursed beer that turned you into a cave girl – I’ll have a little talk with him later about that – and you squished a very small fear demon.” He paused and frowned. “And I have to kill someone named Parker for carving a notch on his bedpost with your name on it. Did I miss anything?”
“Wow. Witness my patheticness.” Her shoulders slumped. “And it’s only the first quarter.”
“Buffy – “ What could he say? These things happen? Not to most people they didn’t.
“What?” Her voice was soft, almost a whisper, so low only a vampire’s keen hearing could catch it.
“I keep ending up alone. Everyone leaves. Dad – you – “ She dropped her gaze to where her hands rested in Angel’s larger ones. “Am I bad? Am I a bad person?”
“No, Buffy, no.” He tipped her face up to look into her eyes. “People make decisions, and you can’t take on the responsibility for those decisions.”
“But it keeps happening – “
“I don’t know why your father left. And it’s beyond my ken why this Parker used you and threw you away. Not when you’re so precious and beautiful.” Angel lifted her hands to his lips and brushed a kiss across her knuckles. “I left because I love you, and staying with you would only bring you more pain.”
“You still love me?” Tears pooled up in her eyes.
“Buffy, I’ll always love you.”
“I love you, too.” The tears overflowed and ran down her cheeks.
A stake through his heart would hurt less than Buffy's tears. Pulling her into his arms, Angel kissed the tears from her cheeks.
The feel of Angel’s strong arms around her and his firm chest beneath her cheek was both comforting and painful. “I miss you. I miss you so much.”
“Everyday is endless without you.” He whispered his confession into her hair.
“I can’t figure it out. It’s completely random as far as I can tell. And not in any language I recognize.”
“Considering you know lots of ‘em, that’s scary.” Buffy set her cup down. Angel had brought her to his apartment and let her tears get his shirt wet, then fixed her a cup of tea to cheer her up. “So why do you keep her around if she can’t file? Or type. Or do anything secretary like.”
“When I ran into her, she had no job, no money, a really crappy apartment.” Angel told her. “She was almost a vampire’s lunch.”
“So you felt sorry for her?” Buffy wasn’t happy that Cordelia was allowed to see Angel everyday when she couldn’t, but if he was only taking pity on her – no, she still didn’t like it.
“Very – but don’t tell her.” A smile tugged at one corner of his mouth. “It’s hard enough to put up with her now.”
“You’re made of stronger stuff than I am.” She loved the way a smile changed his face. He was handsome as broody boy, but when he smiled he was beautiful. “I probably would have strangled her by now.”
“She reminds me of you.” He said softly.
“Not like that.” It took all his strength not to grab the table and throw it out of his way so he could kiss Buffy and suck that pouty bottom lip into his mouth. “She’s a connection to you – proof that it was all real.”
“I’m afraid sometimes.” Buffy bit her lip. “That it was all a dream. That I’ll wake up and you won’t be – real – “
“I think that sometimes, but – “ He reached across the table for her hand. “If it was a dream – we’d have given ourselves a happier ending.”
“True.” She squeezed his fingers. “Much happier.” A silver glint on his finger caught her eye. “The ring?”
“I – “ He looked down at the Claddagh on his finger, the heart pointing toward him. “I never said that I was going to stop loving you, Buffy. Just because I can’t be with you doesn’t mean my heart doesn’t still belong to you.”
“I meant the other ring.” Smiling, she rubbed her fingers over the metal, only slightly cooler than his skin. “The Gem of Almay.” And I love that you're still wearing our ring!
“Amara.” Angel corrected automatically, embarrassed to have misunderstood her question. Like she cares if I have the Claddagh anymore? “I couldn’t keep it. Didn’t Oz tell you what happened?”
“No. He just said the trip was interesting.” A soft chuckle and she mimed Oz's stone face demeanor. "Typical Oz. The world is ending. Interesting."
“Spike tried to take it away from me, and this other vampire actually did get it – “ No sense upsetting her with the full version of his hanging from the ceiling while being skewered with hot pokers. “It’s just too dangerous; there’d always be a vamp trying to figure out how to take it from me.”
There was a frown on Buffy's face, and he hastened to explain. “I just felt that we – I couldn’t risk it.”
“No, it’s fine. I never thought about that part of it, you know? I sent it to you because I knew you’d do what was best.” She squeezed his fingers again. “You always know what’s best better than I do.”
So not true. “I want you to go home and – “
“Can’t I stay?”
“No.” Yes! Yes!
“Please?” She pouted, knowing Angel’s weakness for it. “Just for awhile?”
“No.” He raised a hand to her lips and then stopped himself. “You’re going to go home and have more faith in yourself. You’re strong and you’re smart – you’ll get the hang of this like you do everything else.”
“I dunno, Angel…” Buffy shook her head. “It’s all so – so big and scary.”
“Scary like finding out you were the Slayer? That vampires are real?” He smiled.
“No.” She frowned as he laughed softly. “Are you laughing at me?”
“I’m not. I was just remembering that horrible orange parka you had on.” Another chuckle escaped him. “And the gum you were chewing – I figured you wouldn’t last the night.”
“That parka was very fashionable!” She tried to hold back a grin. “At the time. And it wasn’t orange! It was – it was – some really fashionable color!”
“And the lollipop – “ Desire raced through him as it always did at the memory of Buffy licking and sucking on her lollipop as she stood out in front of her old high school.
“Yeah.” Angel had told her about the lollipop and the fantasies it had given him. A couple they’d even acted out. The memory made an ache start up in the pit of her belly.
“You’ll – ” The spicy scent of her desire washed over him, and he let go of her hands. “We – Buffy – we can’t – “
“I know.” She stood up. Those fantasies had been before Angel left. “We can’t see each other.”
“Buffy.” Getting up, he caught her arm as she walked toward the stairs leading up to his office. “Seeing you – it’s wonderful and – the worst agony – “
“I know that, too.” Stretching up on tiptoe, she pressed a kiss to his cool lips. “I’ll go home. I’ll deal.”
“You’ll be fine.” Angel kissed her again, softly, stealing one more precious memory. Their lips clung for a long moment, tongues seeking each other while their bodies pressed closer and molded in a familiar fashion.
Reluctantly Angel stepped back. “Buffy – you – “
“Better go.” She licked her lips, getting one last taste of him.
She was halfway up the stairs when Angel’s voice floated up to her. “Buffy, call me – if you really need me. I’ll always be here for you.”
A new strength flooded her. She wasn’t alone. Angel would always be there if she needed him. Smiling, Buffy continued up the stairs. UC Sunnydale, watch out!
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