YearsContactFictionIWRY 2013



Title: Five Times Buffy Saw Angel and One time She Didn't

 

Five Times Buffy Saw Angel and One time She Didn't

Author: landrews

Summary: Fifteen years is long enough – Buffy/Angel A/U following Angel Season 5

Word Count: ~ 5300

Rating: NC-17

Disclaimer: Not mine, Whedon's et al, a work of transformative fiction. Unbetaed.

A/N: Thanks Ares, for your undying support of my fiction!!

 

 

 

FIVE TIMES BUFFY SAW ANGEL AND ONE TIME SHE DIDN'T

 

 

2004 / Ground Zero

 

 

“I need more butter,” Buffy whispers to Dawn.

 

Dawn grunts back, an annoyed affirmative, so Buffy slides out of her seat and mutters 'sorry, sorry' as she makes her way out of the row and into the aisle. The movie had seemed like a good idea, but she's bored out of her mind. Dawn understands more Italian than she does, she's tired of subtitles, and Brad Pitt just isn't as hot when he's playing a goofball. She wishes she were home in Scotland.

 

She bursts into the light of the grand hall and right into a massive block of muscle, her stomach cramping and her senses exploding. Reaching out to fist the guy's shirt front with her left hand, she's dropped the popcorn and is reaching around to grab her stake with the right, when the guy begins to crumble. His dust and her popcorn drop and slide across the tiled floor at the same time. The point of her stake lands on Angel's chest.

 

His lip quirks up on one side. “Buffy.”

 

She jerks the stake back. Her tongue is stuck to the roof of her mouth and her heart jumps in her chest.

 

His smile dies as he sweeps an assessing gaze over her.

 

From the corner of her eye, she catches the movement of red approaching. An attendant, no doubt in response to their collision. She knows he will tell himself it was just the two of them, no third party involved. Civilian brains just seem built that way.

 

Angel licks his lips and glances the attendant's way.

 

“Can I buy you more,” he says.

 

She nods.

 

“Oh, my,” the attendant exclaims in near perfect English upon arrival. “I'll just get this cleaned up. Are you both okay?”

 

“Yes, we're fine,” Angel says for the both of them. “I'm sorry about the mess.”

 

“Happens more than you'd think, sir, the lights are bright out here.” He is already backing away, turning down the hall again, towards a utility door.

 

“Thank you,” Angel calls. He raises his brows at Buffy and she falls in beside him. Just before the lobby, he takes her hand and shoulders through the Women's room door, taking her with him. He swings her around and covers her mouth, his tongue darting in to taste her before she can react. She closes automatically around him, her mouth, her arms. Lets go and absorbs him.

 

He walks them backward into a stall, somehow slams the door shut while turning and lifting and then she's snugged up against him. Her leggings, with their built-in cotton crotch, are no barrier to the pleasurable shock of his hard length against her heat. She tilts her hips to let him caress her clit, hissing when he rolls his own hips in response so that he slides across her and back again.

 

Gasping for air, she lets her head tip back. He kisses across the line of her jaw and and trails his tongue down her throat to suckle at the hollow above her collarbone. The sensation drives her hips into him and he pushes back, setting up a steady rhythm that has her gulping for air, her eyes tearing up. She wants, just wants. In seconds, she's shuddering, grasping at his jacket, his shoulder, his neck as she tries to draw him closer.

 

“Shhh,” he whispers, his breath a brush of cool along the heated skin of her neck. “Buffy.”

 

And then she's crying and he straightens up to simply hold her, still hard against her as she quivers. He shifts one arm, reaches up to guide her head down until she's tucked beneath his chin. He strokes her hair and sways, soothing her for just a moment.

 

When she relaxes her legs around his waist, he lets her down, hugs her before he'll let her step back. She wipes her cheeks with both hands and then peeks up at him. His eyes are closed. She wants to lay her hand on his face, trace his cheekbone with her thumb, say his name.

 

Instead, she presses her hand to the center of his chest. He opens his eyes and stares down at it. Leaning into him, she eases the stall door open and backs away, grateful no one has come in. There's also no one in the grand hall. The tile gleams, spotless.

 

Dawn glances over when Buffy slips back in beside her. “Dust smudge,” she whispers, pointing at Buffy's cheek. “Just one?”

 

Buffy nods, rubbing her cheek. Dawn watches her a second longer before she focuses on the movie again, her shoulders dropping. She scoots down in her seat and relaxes. After a moment, Buffy does the same.

 

 

2007/ Year Three

 

 

She's on the Buriganga River in Dhaka. The city isn't what she expected from Bangladesh. It's massive and modern and there's a huge number of people on the streets. A lot of them have fled the rising sea and their own flooded villages. Many of them seem as out of place as she herself.

 

This morning, she and Nora and Kat followed the river out to Lalbagh Fort in pursuit of a Brytlannet demon that's been punching holes into other dimensions these last three months, in search of something. Andrew and Giles have yet to ascertain what that something is, but considering the body count the demon's stacking up, Buffy's not waiting for answers anymore.  

 

She slips in from the south, coming up from the river through the rising fog to cross an uneven veranda into an underground room below the remains of the central bastion. Easing her way to the left, she climbs the stairs and crosses another patch of leftover veranda, following her instinct and her nose. The demon exudes a distinct odor. It's bitter, but not unpleasant. Xander said it smelled like fermented chestnuts mixed in coffee, which made Buffy rethink the places they'd been sending him.

 

The ruined stables are dark, the stone damp. Shards of near petrified wood, which is all that is left of the interior, stab every which way. She feels her way in. After a few minutes, she understands they have been purposely placed and the spaces between them shorten the further in she goes. She's entering a nest.

 

Reaching over her shoulder, she draws the short sword at her back. It's been blessed by a local priest and dipped in goat's blood before dawn. The shuuush of the blade sliding free seems loud. The Brytlannet is not. She registers the explosion of sharp pain in her ribs just before her face scrapes wood, she bounces off the stone floor, and skids, the shaky nest collapsing onto her as she goes, until she fetches up hard against the outside wall. The demon's roar fills her ears. Her face stings and her ribs scream. Shoving the sharp fragments of wood aside, she scrambles up, and heaves in a deep breath, relieved to find her ribs unbroken and her sword still in her hand. Muscle damage she can deal with. She swaps the sword to her other hand, tucking her right arm around her ribcage. The pressure helps.

 

The demon swings down from above. She slashes upward, twisting her wrist. It falls at her feet in the tangle of wood and looks upward, baring its neck for the eighth of a second she needs to drive the sword home. Its distinctive, odd, warbling shout, the sound of a thousand sparrows wheeling overhead, dies in its throat.

 

“Okay, then,” Buffy says out loud.

 

The damp absorbs her words so fast, she can barely hear them. Frowning, she pulls her sword, wipes it on the demon's red cotton shirt, and picks her way back out into the fort. The fog is thicker than when she entered, though the light is rising, too, so that everything is white. Nora is running towards her, but something else captures her attention. A dark shape shifts atop the central bastion and disappears.

 

“Buffy!” Nora says, slowing to a trot and then a walk.

 

“Got it,” Buffy tells her. “Where's Kat?”

 

Nora points to the east. “Main building.”

 

“Get her. Meet me at the river.”

 

Wary, Buffy is careful crossing back into the underground room. He lets her see him, stands for just long enough that he is silhouetted in the archway. His scent lingers in the room.

 

“Angel,” she calls, but he's gone, his name only an echo in her ears.

 

 

2011 / Year Seven

 

 

Walking across the Pont del Diable in Catalonia, in Catalonia, she feels him. It's near three am and she's done for the night, bar de-briefing the slayers that remain. The draft off the river Llobregat below is chilly, despite the fleece coat she's wearing. She can't help but think of cold Sunnydale nights, heating up under his touch. She stops at the bridge's highest point and waits, but he doesn't show himself.

 

At the far end, she glances back. The full moon gilds him in silver.

 

She breaks first, walks back towards him. And then he's moving forward. They meet at the bridge's highest point.

 

“Buffy,” he whispers.

 

“Angel.”

 

She doesn't know what it is she does that tangles them up between heartbeats, but he's under her hands, her lips, her thighs. He sinks under their weight, lays her down upon him, her hands between them, freeing them, and then he's thrusting up against her, growing warmer by the second. He only shifts, the smallest rock of his hips against her frantic pelvic roll, and they both moan as he slides inside.

 

She freezes. The river roars in her ears. He rolls them over, his arms keeping her back and head clear of the worn stone, but the grit scratches and scrapes her lower back and bared cheeks. She slides her legs up, spreading her thighs, welcoming the bite of the stone as Angel settles further into her, his weight pressing her to the ancient footprints the ghosts of millions have left behind.

 

She tightens around him and then she's bucking, bucking, bucking, and he pulses down there, deep, so deep inside her, breathing a strangled cry into her neck. She shudders and jerks and jerks and jerks again, slamming her head against his hand against the stone. The scrape of his teeth makes her grab his hair, bring him closer, but he only opens his mouth, closes it again, opens it with a needy groan, lets his teeth and tongue brand her without taking as he rocks into her, her legs wrapped around him.

 

Eventually, he kisses her, long and deep, until her head is spinning and she's lost, so lost. He draws himself back, traces her lips with his tongue. He's hard again and rolls his hips. Her body speaks for her, and he ignites her again with a slow flame, until she gasping. He leans to the side until she takes them over and sits up as he lands on his back. He grasps her hips and holds her as he gives her everything, demands she meet him thrust for thrust until they're both shaking and she's collapsed against him, the leather of his jacket soft on her cheek, sharp in her nose.

 

The wind off the river is brisk and cold when she lifts herself off him, planting her feet on either side of him to stand. She pulls her simple black cotton panties and leather slacks back up. He's still turgid and slick, the moon gleaming off the slick coating him, spread across his belly.

 

When she starts to step away, he wraps a hand around her calf, licks his swollen lips when she looks down. Her heart flips over, her stomach churns.

 

“Stay safe,” he says.

 

She feels his gaze like a stone between her shoulders all the way to the end of the bridge, but when she looks back, he's gone.  

 

 

2014 / Year Ten

 

 

The storm creeps in from the south, distant rumbling and sheet lightning, just before midnight. Angel hates Boston. Hates the stink of the harbor, the constant harsh wind. Everybody tastes like fish. Since the economy failed and the charities dried up, the Red Cross and the occasional hospital still in operation are the only sources of bagged blood. He went back to drinking criminals and dogs a long time ago, but he might give it up here. Just starve until Buffy blows town.

 

He has no idea why Buffy's here, which means he's got a hole in his sources that he needs to shore up. She's far from the the home she made of Europe and he wonders if she'll go back. He follows her by scent, not willing to explain himself if she catches sight of him. His plan for redemption and revenge is far from settled. He's maybe three years from starting his initial distractive assault, fifteen years from gaining real power, maybe twenty until the slippery slope of actual takeover.

 

Globalization and the resulting economic fall of every major nation drastically affected mankind, but the silver lining is that he can do this now, save the rest of them, end the constant threat of human annihilation or universal enslavement by the Senior Partners and all their incarnations. He supposes there's no way to rid the world of the occasional dimensional tear, but hell spawn should be out of the picture. And it'll take centuries for Evil, Inc. to reform under some other leadership.

 

Buffy got him into this, encouraged him to fight the good fight instead of slinking in the sewers, staying out of the way of anything that might engage him. And then showed up on his doorstep that day that isn't anymore and forced him to face the fact that his very long life and its unique circumstances put him squarely in position to champion mankind. He didn't really concentrate on the matter, though, until he had revenge to drive him. It helped that Willow made matters worse between them, though he's still unfathomably thankful she was stupid enough to bring Buffy back. It helped that Giles drove them even further apart, that his former friends and support believed the worst of him.

 

After Spike dusted, no other like him exists. He can draw on the wealth of his experience, his personal knowledge of human development and culture and emotion, the desire of demons to rob them of it, in a way no other human or demon leader possibly can. Being both, he has a deep, long-term understanding of them both. It puts him on top of the dog pile, no matter how wrong or insane various humans and demons have accused him of being.

 

He's not going to let Buffy off the hook for putting him into this position. He's just biding his time until he needs her. He wouldn't deny the fact that he still loves her, still wants her, if anyone were to ask. But no one has. There's no one left who knows to ask.

 

The cemetery is wedged in a square plot of land in the middle of a residential block built two centuries ago. The area hasn't fared well. There are few humans in the crumbling row houses they pass. Angel scrunches his nose at the strong odor of decay and eases close enough to hear the click of Buffy's boot heels bouncing off the brick and the thick, humid air just before the rain starts. She hops the rusted gate and slows, picking her way through the high grass and raindrops. Angel lingers around the edge of a feral oak. She stops once and peers around, throwing her senses out hard enough that Angel feels the ripple like a buzz along his damp skin. It's proof of his theory that she's aging like cognac, her power condensing and strengthening.

 

As she turns back to her search, he relaxes, widening his own net to protect her while she's distracted. She stops in the northwest corner. The rain is coming down a little heavier, less mist and more drizzle. Kneeling she plucks at the weeds in front of her. There's no headstone, but there must be a plaque. Her hands still and she just sits there, staring into the gloom that surrounds her.

 

The boom of thunder moves closer, louder. The lightning strikes make it all the way down to the ground. The cold rain comes down in earnest. Angel is zoned, and almost misses Buffy's movement as she stands. She walks away from him and disappears over the back wall in a blur of black coat and blond hair.

 

Striding across the cemetery, Angel pauses to check the plaque. Faith's. A surge of regret catches him up and slams into his chest. But back then, he had no sources, no resources, no people. He couldn't be there to save her. He takes a knee on the soaked ground, crosses himself and mutters the Hail Mary of his youth. “I remember  you, Faith,” he says out loud. Rainwater runs into his mouth, tasting of dirt and the harbor. “I'll still remember you for a hundred years and for a hundred more.”

 

He scrambles up as static electricity wraps around him. A brilliant flash of light blinds him as thunder cracks overhead and the bitter scent of ozone and burnt wood fills the air. He shakes off his shock at the close hit and moves in the direction Buffy took at high speed, catching her up in seconds, in time to see the cloud of dust explode around her, close enough to hear the steady drum of her heart. He drops into a shadow and watches her circle a second vamp. The vamp shakes water from his head and Buffy takes the opportunity to step in close and stake him.

 

She twirls the stake in her hand and tucks it back into the thigh holster she's taken to wearing before adjusting her backpack on her shoulders. As far as Angel knows, the small pack and its contents, the clothes on her back, the shoes on her feet, her stake and her sword, make up all of Buffy's earthly possessions. Lightning silhouettes her, followed by another resounding rip of thunder and she's halfway down the next block before he moves to follow.

 

As she disappears around the corner of the next building, some sixth sense has Angel lunging after her. He slams into the wide back of a man in a slick yellow raincoat and bounces back, falling to the cracked, uprooted sidewalk. The man spins, Buffy in his arms, a forearm across her chest, a knife to her throat. Her eyes go wide. The rush of her blood makes him dizzy before it appears, a curtain of red down her neck, over the man's arm. He drops her, lifting his lips in a snarl. Angel snaps his neck and still gets his hand under Buffy's head before she hits the concrete.

 

He wraps his hand across the wound, spanning both jugulars, feels that only one is sliced through. There's no bright, scent rich, arterial blood that he can tell through the haze of his blood lust. Lightning flashes. She is staring up at him, but seeing nothing. The thunder is three seconds late. The storm is passing. He lifts her, letting her balance on the hand around her neck a single second, before he cradles her against him in one arm, and hitches her up until he's got her.

 

He runs, more than runs, carries her at vamp speed down Charter to Henchman and into the grungy clinic that supports what's left of the Coast Guard Station. There's so much blood covering them as he bangs through the swinging glass doors that the staff leaps into action the second he's cleared them.

 

Swallowing convulsively against the need, the want, the take, take, take, coursing through him, he roots back into the shadows as if his life depends on it.

 

Maybe it does. He knows hers does.

 

For now.

 

 

2016 / Year Twelve

 

 

It took sixteen months for her to work her way here, to what the rest of the world whispers about, a near paradise. There's no one left on the coast. The typhoons of 2014 took care of that, but New Auckland is thriving. It has electric power and cell towers.

 

She has no one to call, so she doesn't purchase a phone, but the internet here is not limited to the elite, so she does buy an hour to surf in a little cafe on Lake Taupo. It's limited, and non-commercial, mostly news and weather, currency exchanges, barter sites meant for local traffic. The forums are out of New Vegas, Philadelphia, Berlin, Paris, Devon, Shanghai, New Sydney, New Delhi, Petah Tikva and New Cairo.

 

Her new slaying-free life lasts eight days.

 

She beheads a creepy, scaly, red-eyed, four-armed thing to save a young girl who then turns on her. Blocking her blow for blow, Buffy waits for an opening. The girl tires before Buffy's even winded. Seeing her chance, she sweeps the girl's legs out from under her with a low kick, and twirls away, bouncing upright, ready for retaliation. The girl just lays on the dirty pavement of the alley long enough for Buffy to wish New Auckland had done away with alleys so that she wouldn't be here with demon gore on her shirt and blood on her shoes with a new slayer staring up at her.

 

“You're not a lurker, then?” the girl says.

 

“A what?”

 

“A lurker, y'know.”

 

“I don't.”

 

The girl rolls her eyes. “A vampire,” she over enunciates.

 

“No. I'm the vampire slayer.”

 

“The?”

 

Buffy shakes her head. “What are you?”

 

“Just a girl.”

 

“Who taught you about vampires?”

 

“They did.”

 

Buffy lowers her fists. The girl sits up, her eyes trained on Buffy's.

 

“The vampires,” she adds.

 

Raising her brows, Buffy spreads her hands.

 

“They started finding me. I just fought back, and you know, I was good at it. I looked stuff up on the net. Then my brother got bit and I killed him.” She tucks her chin down, but only for a second before she squares her jaw and meets Buffy's eyes. “I started hunting them,” she spits. “Found other things to kill.”

 

“You're stronger and faster than you used to be? Your belly cramps when they're near?”

 

The girl nods.

 

“You're chosen. You're a slayer, like me.”

 

“I am?”

 

“Yeah,” Buffy says.

 

She offers the girl a hand and pulls her up when she takes it.

 

“Keep fighting,” she says, and drops the girl's calloused hand. She turns and stalks away.

 

“Hey, Buffy,” the girl calls.

 

Buffy's head turns before she can stop herself, but she keeps on walking.

 

“You're really Buffy Summers?” she yells. “You're dead, you know. You're a legend, a myth the demons tell their kids about to make them sit down and shut up.”

 

No one passing by on the sidewalk seems to notice the commotion. Maybe they're just ignoring yet another argument in an alley, another damaged voice in the endless wilderness their lives have become. So what if the world believes her dead? It makes her life easier, makes the things she kills complacent. 

 

“Hey,” the girl screams. “Hey, blondie, I don't believe you. You hear me? I don't believe you're her! She cares! I pray to her every night and Buffy Summers keeps me safe!”

 

Out on the street, Buffy walks east through the light crowd still prowling the bars until she walks right out of the district. In the pitch black, she hears an engine growling up behind her and sticks out her thumb.

 

It takes her two days to get to Hawke's Bay, but at dusk on the third day, she finds a cargo ship heading out that will take her as far as New Caledonia. She stands at the railing, watching the scurry of the busy port under the brightest lights she's seen in two years, as a tug begins the laborious process of moving the ship out to the channel. A spot of utter stillness draws her eye and she catches her breath.

 

She stares at Angel, and then the port, when she loses sight of him, and then the glow of lights above the horizon until it fades away in the lap of the water against the hull, the salt on her tongue, the tears in eyes.

 

 

 2019 / Year Fifteen

 

 

The note comes by courier. The handwriting is not his. It is three weeks old. Still, Buffy is curious, Leeds is not terribly out of her way, and there's no one to tell her duty's calling.

 

The church doors are solid and locked, but the brick walls are tumbling down. She walks along the massive north wall, all crumbling arches and shattered stained glass, the last of the sun warm on her shoulders and neck, until she finds a hole large enough to let her pass. Pigeons squabble and fuss in the vestry. They dart out in front of her as she enters the church proper. She's two hours early, but he's there, sitting in the last remaining section of the third pew, and looks up just as she finds him.

 

It's as if no time has passed. She doesn't think she's ever hit bottom since she first fell into his dark gaze in that alley in Sunnydale. She's still falling.

 

The difference between her teenaged self and the woman she's become is time and experience. If she ever lands, it'll be on her feet and she can think in the air these days. She holds his stark gaze until it shifts, wanders to her chopped off hair, the ridged scar that traverses her neck, her muscled shoulders, small breasts, gaunt belly, cocked hips, the left knee brace that hugs her thigh, and down to the scuffed toes of her battered black boots.

 

She lifts her chin, lets him look, even as she registers his unchanging beauty, the familiar slump of his wide shoulders, the standard dark coat, his unmarked, sturdy limbs, the long fingers and wide hands upon his thighs.

 

“There's a hellmouth opening in Rouen. I'm raising an army,” he says.

 

She feels nothing. He's delusional. The courier, a village boy of eight, arrived on foot. The note had passed from hand to hand to hand over a distance of some sixty miles. None of those hands would have been more than fifteen years old. Anyone older is in positions of whatever limited authority they can manage in order to keep the devastated population fed and sheltered.

 

This is not Angel's fault. The decimation of eastern Los Angeles can be laid at his feet, but it mostly recovered before the country fell. The world's condition is the fault of nations. Of man. Of economics and climate change. She knows this logically, but it doesn't feel that way. Since LA, the festering antipathy of Earth's non-human denizens has erupted again and again, driven to frothing hate, along with half the human population, by the world-wide rhetoric of Wolfram and Hart, interpreter of global law, major media conglomerate and political innovator.

 

“There's no one left,” she says, her voice louder than she intended. It echoes off the remaining walls. The pigeons take wing, whirring across the sanctuary.  

 

Angel stands, spreading his hands in a 'I have no weapons' gesture.

 

As if he could harm her.

 

“Come outside with me,” he says.

 

She remains rooted to her spot, even as her heart yearns to touch him, feel the reality of him standing there in front of her.

 

“Please.”

 

She nods. Waits for him to turn and lead the way. He leads her to the front of the church. A wooden side door leads onto a tree canopied side porch. He holds the wild thicket of vines hanging from the trees aside, but she waits until his lips flatten, his eyes unreadable, and he steps through first.

 

Under the foreboding light of a quarter moon, he is just a still and silent shadow. She stops even with him. Her heart stutters, not letting her feet take her sideways, although that old magnetic energy tugs at her. They are a foot apart and yet she can feel his shoulder snug against hers.

 

He whistles, low and sharp.

 

Darker than the night wisps drift from the woods all along the boundary of the church. Buffy steps back, finding her ready stance. She glances at Angel. He's watching her, a faint smile quirking his lips. She frowns at him and than focuses her attention back on whatever is approaching. They materialize under the moonlight as girls, young girls and women, the curves of young adulthood. Thirty, forty, maybe more. Some carry scars, already. All but the youngest settle into various defense-stances as they halt in two staggered battle lines a few yards away from Angel and Buffy. A second wave of movement reveals itself as boys, men. One keeps coming, steps through and between the girls in a graceful prowl, long dark hair fluttering in the light breeze.

 

Buffy's hands falter.

 

He halts in front of her with no acknowledgment of Angel.

 

“Xander,” she breathes. She grabs him as he reaches out for her, snugs him tight to her. He's hot against her. Solid muscle. She can feel his heart thudding. “You're dead.”

 

“A rumor,” he says, his breath warming her scalp, her neck, sending goosebumps down her back. “I couldn't find you.” He squeezes extra tight and then releases her, tilts his head towards Angel. “Until he found us.”

 

She steps back, glancing past him at the silent lines of girls, before searching his face, again, noting the worn leather patch, the lines of wear: the divot between his brows, the deep smile lines, the new-to-her faded scar that traverses both lips, before meeting his patient gaze. “Us?”

 

“You sent me out to find slayers.”

 

“That was twelve years ago, Xander.”

 

He grins at her, his good eye sparkling with amusement at her instant exasperation. “Well, I'm here now. And Angel says there's a job for us in Rouen. We're pretty good at what we do, but we'd be better with you.”

 

She looks at Angel, really looks at him. He stares at his feet. Turning back to Xander, she asks,“How did Angel find me?” Because it's true, maybe, that she's roamed hard and wide, putting down what demons she came across, but never establishing a base, restless after watching Giles die, Willow burn, Dawn succumb to fever. She lost her slayers one by one, each death ripping her further away from whatever it was she used to be, until she didn't look anymore, didn't see, didn't collect more lives to lose.

 

“They'll only die,” she says into the silence.

 

“It's their purpose, Buffy. Glory or death.”

 

“Wolfram and Hart.”

 

“Angel has people on the inside. Ten years, maybe fifteen, we'll be in charge. We're talking Senior Partners. We can shut them down.”

 

“How did you find me?” she asks, still looking at Xander, still earnest, still fighting.

 

Angel clears his throat. “I never lost you.”

 

Buffy fingers the long scar that curves around her neck from ear to ear, remembering the jostle of being carried, pelting rain filling her eyes, the unbearable crack of thunder as lightning lit the crazy jumble of overhead lines, angled lines of roofs, square jaw, the electric tingle wrapped around her throat, asking a question without words.

 

Xander nods.

 

Angel holds his hand out in clear invitation.

 

Breathing in the wind of fate cushioning her fall, Buffy reaches out and takes it.

 

 

 

 

FIN



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