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The Reward

The Reward

Author: Gia

 

Title:  The Reward

 

Rating: NC-17

 

Disclaimer:  Joss, ME, etc. own all. I own nothing.

 

Pairings: B/A.

 

Author's Notes:  Set after "Not Fade Away". 

 

Finished now for the IWRY 2013 marathon, but started years ago for the very lovely Harri. Thank you for your friendship.

 

Distribution:  My site, www.everysixseconds.com, and IWRY.

 

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Shanshu has roots in so many different languages. The most ancient source is the Proto-Bantu and they consider life and death the same thing. It's part of a cycle. Only a thing that's not alive never dies. It's - it's saying that you get to live until you die. It's saying - it's saying... you become human.

 

Ah, the vampire with a soul, once he fulfills his destiny, will Shanshu. Become human. It's his reward.

 

---

 

Buffy listened to the chatter around her with mute indifference.

 

Several of the Slayers in training were laughing at something Xander said, while Kennedy and Willow were regaling others with tales of their adventures in Brazil. Dawn and Andrew were bickering, as they tended to do more often than not, especially since they had all been staying in the one apartment. Someone else was commenting on the beautiful June weather and how it would be a perfect day to visit the Pantheon. Only Giles was quiet, sipping tea and watching her almost covertly, his expression concerned.

 

But none of it mattered.

 

Nothing really mattered anymore.

 

Her life… the one she had hoped and dreamed and imagined to have some day was over. 

 

There would be no happily ever after for her, not now, not anymore.

 

In the days and weeks following Giles' unexpected visit with news of Angel's final battle, his defeat, and, more significantly, his death, her friends feared for her sanity. She didn't eat, she barely slept, and though she continued to work and to go out on her routine patrol, she hardly seemed aware of her surroundings. Her detachment was so complete, that her friends worried that she'd be taken unaware by some vampire or demon – but they weren't able to convince her to stay in nor were they willing to keep pace with her night after night.

 

Though she said very little, Buffy was nearly overcome with grief. She couldn't believe that the love of her life was truly gone forever, that he had met his final fate at the hands of a dragon sent by the Senior Partners. It was beyond unfair that such evil triumph - though life was never fair, and she knew that more than most. 

 

Weeks slid into months, and finally, Buffy's silent anguish turned to tears. She withdrew from the world completely and cried, great wrenching sobs that tore through her until she became as pale and drawn as a ghost.  When the tears finally stopped, she took to spending hours sitting on the small balcony and staring off into the distance, as if watching for someone that they all knew would never come.  

 

Then one day without explanation and with little more than two hour's notice, Buffy left for Ireland alone. There she spent days wandering through the streets of Galway, and tried to imagine what it had been like over 250 years ago.  She attended services at St. Brendan's Church and wondered as she watched the children file quietly along the center aisle for communion, if young Liam had ever taken those same steps to participate in the sacred ritual.  She strolled for hours along the blissfully quiet country lanes and through neighborhood streets, and reflected on Angel, his life before and after the demon, and all he had meant to her.

 

After almost three weeks of searching she finally found a sense of peace in Galway, and hoped that somehow, someway, somewhere Angel had found a sense of peace as well.  He deserved as much after all he had suffered, and all he had sacrificed.

 

When she finally returned to Rome, and greeted everyone in a normal tone of voice, her friends breathed a collective sigh of relief.  Now that her recovery seemed certain, those who had gathered in Rome and then stayed on to provide to support during what they expected would be a difficult time, made plans to return to their own lives.  By the next week, Kennedy and Willow left for Greece; Giles, and the few SITs that had accompanied him, returned to London.  Xander, having nowhere else pressing to go, decided to stay on with Buffy, Dawn, and Andrew in Rome. 

 

In the days that followed, Buffy found a new job waitressing at Osteria Marcello and resumed her nightly patrols. She enrolled in a couple of classes at the American University, began training for the Rome marathon, and took up knitting.  Her flat mates didn't seem to understand why she was taking so much on; they simply rolled their eyes at the Slayer’s constant need for activity.  They wouldn’t understand that it was her way of keeping her own personal demons at bay. 

 

And somehow, as fall turned to winter, life in Rome returned to a semblance of normal, though the blonde Slayer's smiles were still few and far between.

 

Buffy didn’t stop grieving for the love of her life, although she took great care to do her mourning in private.  Her friends and family had little understanding or patience for her heartbreak, and she wanted to spare them all from awkward explanations and excuses.  Still, in the dark, quiet cemeteries on her patrol route, or in the peaceful, solitude of her room, she would cry for all she had lost – her love, her happiness, and hope for the future she had so often dreamt of.

 

#

 

It was a crisp January evening, and Buffy, Dawn, and Xander were huddled together on their small balcony. They were sipping cappuccinos and nibbling on slices on dark chocolate cake while idly watching the people walking on the street below.  The narrow lane was busy but not crowded, and the few golden-hued lights along the way left the figures largely shadowed in darkness.

 

Dawn was rambling on about the wonderfulness of her current boyfriend, Lucien, though only three weeks ago they were treated to a similar discourse about her then boyfriend Paolo. Xander would chime in with a joke or a comment every now and then, while Buffy only half-listened as she studied her fingernails and thought about the route she'd take on her patrol in a couple of hours.

 

When the conversation stopped abruptly with Dawn making a strangled exclamation, Buffy glanced up questioningly. There were very few things that would stop her sister from talking when she was on a roll. Her eyes wide and her mouth agape, Dawn was staring at someone on the street below.  Curious, Buffy quickly followed her line of sight.

 

A figure in the street below had paused and was looking up in their direction.

 

Buffy's breath caught in her throat. The man's tall form and dark hair, darker in the dim light and casually spiked in disarray, struck a vivid chord in memory and for one wild moment, Buffy was absolutely sure she was losing her mind. It wasn't…  It couldn't be… It just wasn't possible. She blinked to clear the apparition, but her sister's continued silence and now her arm held out and pointing in that direction as well Xander's dropped jaw assured her that they saw what she was seeing too.

 

Buffy closed her eyes again and attempted to order the chaotic jumble of her thoughts. Breath held she lifted her lashes with excruciating slowness.  She was both afraid of what she would and would not see. He was still there. He wasn't a ghost or a hallucination. He was real.

 

With her heart beating a wild tattoo, Buffy rose slowly to her feet. She couldn't see his face clearly, but she knew somehow that his eyes held hers. Time seemed to stand still as seconds ticked by and neither of them moved.

 

Finally, his lips moved as he said her name, and he took a hesitant step forward.

 

That simple gesture was all she needed. Turning, Buffy raced through the apartment and out to the stairs, taking them two at a time down to the street.  Exiting the building, she rounded the corner to reach the section of the block they had been looking down on.  She shouted his name.

 

Buffy could almost feel his pain as he began to walk toward her, his normally graceful movements stiff and awkward, a noticeable limp in his stride. Her eyes filled with tears as she ran toward him. He was hurt. He was here. He was alive!

 

Reaching him, Buffy flung herself solidly into Angel's arms. At the force of the impact, he sucked in a pained breath and staggered back a few steps. In the next instant, he closed his arms around her and buried his face in her hair. 

 

They ignored the curious looks of everyone that passed by them as they stood there on the street tightly clasped together, hugging, crying, laughing, kissing, touching, murmuring love words, and feeling giddy and elated and whole once again.

 

"You're here. You're alive," Buffy breathed joyfully at last, her face warm against his neck, her eyes closed tightly. She didn't ask where he'd been, or how he'd gotten here, or how it was possible that his heart was beating strongly against her own, or any of the thousands of other questions in her mind. It was enough for now that he was here; there would be time for answers later.  

 

"I am," he returned in a low, emotion-filled voice. His eyes were still tightly closed as he savored the moment, as well as the long missed sensation of the feel of her body pressed against his. 

 

"Tell me you're staying," she demanded, tilting her head back to look up at him.  It didn’t matter now what had happened or where he had been.  It mattered only that he was here and he wasn’t leaving.

 

He studied her face with a serious expression for a moment before his lips curved up in a hint of a smile. "Forever. Or as long as you'll have me." He kissed her then with years of pent-up deprivation and longing. Her lips were as soft and sweet as he remembered, and a savage need for her nearly overwhelmed him. In return, Buffy clung to him as ferociously as a drowning person clings to life. He was her life, and he was here. It was unbelievable.

 

"Forever works for me," she replied when he finally broke their kiss, both of them panting for air. She laughed then, a triumphant, jubilant sound. It was a rare sound that reminded him of their years in Sunnydale when things were new and simple. He smiled fondly at the memory.

 

Wrapping an arm around his waist and looping his arm over her shoulder, Buffy led him inside. She moved slowly on the stairs, conscious of the pain each step caused him.

 

"On my God. It is… You… You're… you're… you…" Dawn stammered as they came through the apartment doorway, her eyes wide with disbelief. She and Xander had been watching the reunion from the balcony, only moving inside when the pair finally turned the corner toward the apartment building entrance.  Andrew joined them in the living room, hearing a brief version of the events from Dawn and Xander as Buffy and Angel made their way up the stairs.

 

"Alive! Er, not dead. No, wait. Undead. You're undead. That's it, isn't it, undead?" Xander babbled, attempting to finish the thought. He was equally shocked by the vampire's unexpected appearance. 

 

"No, alive is right," Angel replied quietly.

 

"Alive? Alive as in human alive, alive?" Andrew gaped, eyeing the former vampire incredulously.

 

"Heart beating, needs to breathe, no longer can we call you dead-boy, alive?" Xander rambled, skeptically. "That kind of alive?"

 

"Yes," Angel murmured, glancing apprehensively at Buffy. They hadn't had a chance to talk about… well, any of this. What was she going to say?

 

At the startling revelation, they were all immediately full of questions. How had that happened? When had it happened?  How did he know? Was it permanent? Was it because of the fight with the Wolfram & Hart Senior Partners?  Had there really been a dragon?  What was the battle like? Where were Spike and the others? Where had he been all this time? What was he doing here, now?

 

Angel answered the questions patiently with as much information as he himself knew.  No one else survived the battle, at least as far as he was aware.  He didn't know what happened exactly to make him human; his last memory of the battle was of killing the flying dragon. Afterwards he had fallen, severely injured, and destined, he was sure, to meet his death. Instead, he woke several weeks later in a hospital with no memory of who he was or what had happened.  His memory – most of it anyway – gradually returned over the next several weeks. As for what he was doing here…

 

Sensing his uncertainty, as well as his fatigue and the strain that the conversation was taking, Buffy declared an end to the interrogation. Angel needed food and rest, in that order. Ushering the others out with a promise to pick up the tab for whatever they ended up doing that evening as long as they didn't return before two am, she led Angel to the table. She poured him a glass of red wine and answered his questions about her life in Rome while she reheated the leftover manicotti from her earlier dinner. Refilling his glass and pouring one for herself, she sat next to him while he ate.

 

She didn't speak. Instead, she watched him quietly, mulling over all that he had said so far about what had happened to him in the previous months. How incredibly blessed she was to have him here with her now, after all that he had been through. How astonishing it was that, despite everything, he still seemed to be the same man she knew and had fallen in love with.  Sensing her scrutiny, he paused in his eating and looked up.

 

"I love you," he said simply after a moment.

 

Something his in voice touched her, causing a warmth to shiver down the length of her spine. "Me too," she returned, smiling despite the tears in her eyes.  The joy and love between them was palpable. Her heart was whole again.

 

#

 

It was just after midnight when Buffy led Angel though the quiet flat to her bedroom.

 

"Have I told you how much I've missed you?" he asked, pausing in the doorway to brush a strand of hair back from her face.

 

"Not yet," she returned affectionately, "but you can tell me tomorrow. Now, you will go to bed and get some rest. You look exhausted. And you're still injured…" She frowned, wondering still at the extent of his injuries since he hadn’t elaborated on details. 

 

"I'm fine," he countered, inching closer.

 

Buffy's brows rose infinitesimally.  "You're not fine. You're in pain, I can tell."

 

"I am fine," he insisted with half smile as he leaned down to kiss her. "Though I know how I could be better…"

 

"Absolutely not," she said, holding up a hand as though to stop him. "You're barely on your feet. You need rest."

 

"I don't think so." After escaping death and now finding her again, rest wasn't high on his list of priorities.

 

"A few days, Angel," Buffy said gently, as though talking to a recalcitrant child. "Then we can… do whatever you want to do." 

 

“I feel like I have waited a lifetime for this moment,” Angel murmured softly, reaching out and removing the clip that had been holding her hair up then threading his fingers through the golden strands.  He had been aroused the moment he had seen her, but he had not anticipated the physical impact touching her would have on him now that he was human. He felt as though a hard jolt struck him in the center of his chest, traveling down into his stomach and then lower.  He was undeniably hard, hot and ready. He felt any semblance of self-control melting away along with any reminder of his injuries. “I don’t want to wait any more.” 

 

She arched a brow and parted her lips, no doubt to offer another reason for waiting but he didn’t give her a chance. Bending his head, he kissed her.  He shifted closer, holding her head tipped up to his and did what he had thought of often for the last months… he kissed her, deeply, slowly, thoroughly. 

 

As had always been the case between them in the past, passion erupted in a flash of searing heat.  Unlike the past however, he made no attempt to rein it in this time, instead letting all lucid thought recede in the some distant part of his brain while the burning desire took over.

 

Buffy’s hands slid up his chest, relishing the feel of the solid muscle beneath, his size and strength reassuring despite his injuries.  She kissed him back wantonly, with no more thought of delay. Rather, she wanted only to celebrate finally laying her hands once more on the magnificence of his body.

 

When he finally lifted his head, she rose up on her toes and wrapped her arms around his neck.  She touched her lips to the pulse that now beat in his throat. 

 

Her movements caused her breasts to press provocatively into his chest, fanning his desire into a savage, hungry need.  His hands grasped her waist and he pulled her closer.  His lips found hers again, parting them with his tongue.  She welcomed him in without hesitation, wanting only to return the pleasure he was offering.

 

When Angel finally released her lips, he bent his head to press hot kisses along her throat, pausing briefly to lave and nip at the scar he had marked her with so many years ago. 

 

She sank her fingers in his hair and fought for breath as his hand slipped up along her ribs under her shirt to cover her breast.  He squeezed, and she bit back a moan at the blatantly possessive caress. When his fingers pushed under her bra to tweak her nipple, her knees turned weak, and she would have fallen if he hadn’t been holding her so tightly.

 

Angel’s lips found hers again, his kiss greedy, ravenous.  His tongue slipped between her lips to stroke, plunder and claim her… a kiss Buffy eagerly returned, her tongue dueling with his.

 

His blood thundering through his veins, demanding appeasement, Angel broke the kiss as he grasped the hem of her shirt and tugged it over her head.  Buffy dropped her hands to the lapels of his jacket and yanked it back and down, pushing it along his arms.  He dropped it to the floor.

 

“I’m sorry,” he ground out at the sound of fabric wrenching as her bra gave way, the clasp uncooperative in his current state of mind.

 

“I don’t care,” Buffy returned, making fast work of the buttons on his shirt.  Once it had followed the path of his jacket, she wrapped her arms around his neck and lifted herself up again to capture his lips. 

 

Angel looped one arm around her bottom and lifted her up; she immediately wrapped her legs around his waist and pressed closer to feel his naked chest against her own.  His hand slid into her hair, holding her head as he claimed her lips with unrestrained hunger, his tongue thrusting in evocative rhythm.

 

Buffy wriggled and levered herself against him, enjoying the feel of her hard, pebbled nipples against his chest.  Rotating his head, he opened his eyes and walked toward the bed. 

 

Bending forward, he broke the kiss and lowered her on the mattress.  He kicked off his shoes as he looked down at her, his eyes drinking in the tantalizing view of her naked skin and rounded breasts. She was, and always had been, flawless in his view.

 

Buffy bent her knees so she could reach down and pull off her boots. She tossed them to the side without thought.  She looked up again, her gaze finding Angel’s.

 

Putting one knee on the bed, he leaned over and claimed her mouth again in a kiss. Buffy shifted beneath him as the heated, restless impatience took over.  She craved his touch, his body over hers, in hers… she wanted relief from the urgency clamoring in her skin, her blood.  She wanted his kisses, but it wasn’t enough… she wanted so much more.   She touched his chest, her hands sliding lightly down along his abdomen to find the clasp on his pants. Her fingertips grazed the bulge of his erection.

 

Breaking their kiss, Angel took her hands in his, his fingers interlacing with hers as he pressed them back against the mattress.  Her simple touch fractured his concentration… threatened his control. He sucked in a breath, trying to rein in his ardent desire. 

 

Breathless, Buffy tilted her head back as his lips skated down her throat, lingering at her pulse before moving lower. She could feel his warm breath on her exposed skin, an unusual yet startlingly welcome and intimate sensation.  She arched her back in invitation as he moved lower, expectation and anticipation creating a swell of heat in her belly, a giddy jump in her pulse.

 

When his tongue rasped over her nipple, she gasped as a wave of escalating pleasure sparked and flared.  He drew it into his mouth and suckled hard. She panted beneath him, her hips lifting, seeking his.  She raised one leg, gliding her thigh along his hip. 

 

Angel released his grip on her hands as he kissed a path across her chest to find her other nipple.  Her hands found the nape of his neck as he suckled and licked. 

 

Pulling back, he reached for the buttons on her pants.  Meeting his gaze, Buffy reached down to help him as he tugged the jeans down and off her legs.  With one hand under each thigh, he parted her legs as he drew her toward the edge of the bed.  He dropped down to his knees and planted kisses along her inner thigh until he reached her center. 

 

“Angel,” she whispered on a hitched breath, expectation gripping her. She closed her eyes as she sank her fingers in his hair.

 

He smiled at the sound, at the sight of her naked wet beauty, and the tight grip she had on him as if he might go away.  He kissed her then, delighting in the taste and feel of her swollen pink cleft.  He licked and laved with slow deliberation, savoring what he had missed while making her frantic with desire, driving her wild with expertise perfected over the 200 plus years of his life.

 

The intensely erotic intimate pleasure built as his fingers joined his lips and tongue, slipping inside her, stroking in a sensual caress.  She panted and writhed, her head tossing back and forth until she sank her nails into his nape… and finally shattered.  Release washed over her in ripples as she clutched at him, a soft squeak escaping her lips…  moments passed before the tension eased from her body and her hands slipped from his neck to his shoulders. For a long moment she knew nothing other than the drumming, pulsing sensation racing through her.

 

As Angel stood, he reached for the buttons on his trousers and slid them free. A raw primitive passion, not unlike that he had known as a demon, was clamoring inside him to take her, to claim her his mate. His blood was raging with a desire more primal, more ravenous, more powerful than he had ever known.  Perhaps it was something about being human… 

 

As he eased her up in the bed and slid between her thighs, Buffy’s eyelashes fluttered, and she opened her eyes.  She felt his erection nudge her entry, and she tilted her hips and reached between them to guide him home.  She looked at his face.  Angel’s eyes were closed, a look of concentration etched on his features. 

 

He shifted, braced his arms and slid forward.  She was so hot, so tight… he had forgotten by half how glorious it felt to be inside her.

 

Buffy sighed and closed her eyes, wanting to make the moment last, wanting to absorb the incredible sensation of him, hot and hard, pushing deep inside her.  She ran her hands over his shoulders, along his back. 

 

He pressed home and paused, completely ensconced in the hot, wet wonder of her body. A sound escaped him, one of inexpressible pleasure.  When his lips brushed across hers, she stretched up, seeking his kiss. 

 

He moved, flexed his spine, withdrew then surged forward again.  He set a slow deliberate pace, their bodies rocking together, their mouths fused in hunger, in need.  His hands slid under her bottom, lifting and holding her to meet his every thrust as he moved with increasingly forceful possession. 

 

She clung to him as the raging hunger took over, as they moved with increasing urgency and force, chasing that elusive peak of pleasure.  Only feeling mattered, hot, ungovernable longing.  It felt as though the top of his head were lifting away… With a grunt, he tipped over the edge , pulling her close and releasing into her body with unrestrained zeal, and she met him with a violence that surprised them both.

 

Angel placed soft kisses on her eyes, her cheeks.  “I’ve missed you,” he murmured on a deep exhale, his now welcome breath warm and soft against her skin.  He buried his face in her neck, deeply gratified to be here with her. 

 

Buffy slid her fingers into his hair, holding his head as a feeling of deep contentment that only he had ever been able to bring settled over her.  She marveled at the beating of his heart against her own.

 

Angel rolled to the side, drawing her to snuggle against him.

 

"I still can’t believe you’re here," she whispered, a wealth of emotion in her voice.  She wanted nothing more than to lay here and feel the beating of his heart, to feel the lazy caress of his hand on her hair.  She now understood the true meaning of bliss.

 

Angel smiled. "Miracles do happen," he whispered, his eyes still closed as he drifted to sleep.

 

Buffy’s heart was whole again, her happiness very nearly overwhelming.  She had often wondered if the fates would let them have this moment.  Angel was here, he was hers, and they would make this work now and forever.  After all, that was the whole point, wasn’t it?

 



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