AUTHOR: Moscow Watcher
SYNOPSIS: Angel's arrival in season 7 happened under slightly different circumstances.
RATING: PG-13 (for mention of nudity)
DISCLAIMER: Characters belong to Joss, but says we can play with them, so...
TIMELINE: Goes AU towards the end of season 7.
NOTES: Big thanks to my wonderful beta Reddygirl who corrected my grammar and style, and to Kean who gave me a couple of great advices. All mistakes are mine. (Funny - it's a rewrite of season 7, but, in hindsight, I see that it's a fluffy rewrite of season 8 as well. Kind of.)
...On his way to Sunnydale Angel, nervous and excited, tried to imagine Buffy's possible reaction to his visit. They hadn't seen each other for more than a year. Had she forgotten about him? Was she angry that he didn't call her? Was she bitter?
As his car turned to the cemetery where Buffy usually finished her patrol, he braced himself preparing for the inevitable.
But the actual turn of events caught him completely off-guard. As soon as Buffy noticed him, she gave him a quick once-over and grinned.
"Long time no see. Why aren't you naked?"
Angel gulped. There was something about Buffy Summers that always turned him into a 12-years-old. Just a minute ago he was a responsible adult. Scratch that - he was a responsible CEO of the biggest law firm in LA, and a responsible champion who drove three hours to Sunnydale to bring her a magic amulet crucial to their epic fight against evil. And now he was ready to shed his clothes and make love to her right in the middle of Restfield cemetery.
Except... there was something wrong about Buffy's behavior.
She crossed her hands on her chest.
"Are you losing your shiny powers?" Her voice was dripping with disdain. "Or maybe you think that my secret kink is tearing the clothes off the undead? Or maybe you plan to dance a strip-tease to make me weak at my knees?"
He just stared at her, speechless.
"Got it!" Buffy exclaimed. "It's because the last time your tattoo was on the wrong shoulder! You don't want to make such a blunder again!"
Angel cautiously approached Buffy and touched her forehead.
"Buffy, are you sick? Thank God, you're not feverish..."
His touch produced a magical effect. Buffy froze and looked at him with horror and embarrassment.
"Oh, my God," she breathed. "You're the real one!"
...The First had a nasty habit of manifesting as naked Angel since Buffy's birthday.
That night, they had had a little birthday party, and nothing had gone wrong, and even Xander and Spike managed not to kill each other. Buffy went to bed with a thought that it was her first birthday that didn't end up in disaster.
Of course, it was that stupid thought that spoiled everything. As soon as her head touched the pillow, she heard a familiar voice. "Buffy..."
"Angel!" She leaped out of the bed and rushed to him - only to hug the void.
"Miss your dead lover?" The First was already on her bed in full Angel's naked glory.
"Stop it!" she hissed. "You're not him!"
The apparition laughed.
"Right. I'm not him. Because he has forgotten about you."
"It's not true."
"He doesn't call. He doesn't visit. He was eager to help Faith, but where is he when you need him so badly?"
"He'll come to help the minute I call him," Buffy murmured, clenching her fists.
"What are you waiting for, then?" The apparition pointed at the phone. "Call. The situation is desperate. You need all the help you can find."
"Don't flatter yourself. The situation isn't desperate for us - it's desperate for you. Only desperate idiots resort to such stupid and pathetic NC-17 ploys!"
The apparition smirked maliciously.
"Then why are you trembling?"
"I -- I'm not trembling! I'm shuddering with disgust!"
"Liar. You want your lover so badly that your knees are trembling, your mouth is dry and your head is spinning." The First teased her with his tongue. "And I'm only warming up."
Thankfully, Willow's appearance saved Buffy from further embarrassment. The First hissed and dissolved in the air.
Buffy tried to keep it secret. She really did. It wasn't her fault that the very next day everybody was discussing the First's new demoralizing tactics.
She couldn't not tell Willow who was very concerned about Buffy talking about NC-17 ploys in an empty room. Of course, Willow promised to keep her secret. Unfortunately, Spike heard them from the cellar - damn vampire hearing! - and in the morning he started complaining in the kitchen that "nekkid Poof never comes to me - and that could be fun".
Thankfully, he had enough sense not to talk about it in the presence of the Potentials. Unfortunately, Rona was sitting at the back porch, and the door to the kitchen was open.
When Rona entered the kitchen, a knowing smirk on her face, Buffy's heart sank. A couple of minutes later she heard a burst of laughter from the living room and quickly left for patrol, before her desire to kill something evil, ASAP, reached its apogee. And, of course, The First was already at the cemetery, distracting her from the good fight in the most unfair ways.
Since that day, everything has changed. At first, she tried to pretend that nothing happened, but it was impossible. She couldn't train the Potentials, because they giggled behind her back. She couldn't discuss the strategy of their fight against the The First with the Scoobies, because very time The First was mentioned she could see what everybody was thinking about. Willow blushed furiously. Xander fumed. Spike smirked. Giles coughed and wiped his glasses. While Andrew has been working arduously on assembling a magic camera that could caught The First on tape (according to Dawn, he was into gay porn).
She tried to ignore The First's jabs - but, of course, she just couldn't keep her mouth shut. The First mocked her love life. She mocked his lameness.
Thankfully, she quickly found his soft spot - like every villain, he loved to talk about his importance. Buffy's irreverence made him crazy with rage, and usually she managed to get rid of him after a quick round of mutual insults. It became quite a routine until...
Until her disastrous encounter with Angel. An embarrassment of the year would be an understatement. It took a lot of apologizing and explanations to convince him that she wasn't bonkers.
The first thing Buffy did when Angel entered her room was giving him a hug. "Just to make sure that you're real," she murmured, blushing.
A week after his arrival, it was becoming a routine. To tell real Angel from The First!Angel, Spike regularly pinched his sire, while Buffy never missed an opportunity to touch Angel affectionately. She had a valid excuse - after Angel's arrival, The First started to visit her fully clothed, so she had to be 100% sure that she doesn't talk to an enemy.
Angel smiled tentatively. "So, have you found anything about the amulet that I brought you?"
Buffy nodded. "We found a mention in one of Giles' books. It says that the amulet is..." she took a sheet of paper from her pocket and read haltingly, "transreality amplifier that works only when the soul is in an elevated state. When a warrior goes into a battle, or when passionate lovers kiss... and, um, do other stuff - their emotions feed the amulet and it starts to... reform? re-arrange? rewrite? - the translation is unclear - the environment."
Buffy gave Angel a furtive glance and went on. "Willow says its mechanism is similar to wish-granting pendants. It basically takes the person's needs and desires and projects them on the reality. It's a powerful weapon. We just have to practice it before using in the crucial battle. I say we test it on something... less global."
Angel blinked. "Less global?"
"Uh-huh. I'd rather say, something intimate. We can't afford a test battle, can we? But we can try to test it in some other way..." She blushed. "What do you think?"
What could he say? He forbade himself to think about it for so long it became a habit.
"It's too dangerous. We don't know about the consequences..."
Buffy touched his hand. "It's always dangerous. It's the story of our life, Angel. We never had and we'll never have a normal, safe life." She stroked his cheek. "Unless we risk everything."
"Of course, if you don't want to test it with me, you can test it with somebody else." She smiled mischievously. "Just not Willow, because she's a lesbian, not Dawn or the potentials, because they're minors. That leaves Spike, Xander, Giles and Andrew. Who is into gay porn, unless Dawn is making it up to tease me".
He chuckled, despite himself. Her flippancy was so sweet and brave, given the circumstances. Maybe she was right? Maybe they're really given the chance of a lifetime?
She watched him intensely, pleadingly.
"Okay," he said finally. "But we'll proceed slowly - very slowly. And we stop if something goes wrong. And it will be me who wears the amulet."
She tried to argue but he was firm, so, in a while, they stopped talking and started kissing.
At first, the touches of her lips were light like feathers; but, gradually, her kisses became more passionate, her hands - more demanding, her eyes - more rapturous. He joined her on the wave of pleasure that swept over him and devoured his whole being, which, inexplicably, centered around a glowing trinket on his chest. It was their love that glowed, warm and tender; it welcomed them into a vortex of gentle fire that engulfed and purified them, redeemed their mistakes, relieved from the sorrows of their past and rushed them to the final point of their destiny.
When he woke up, it was morning. The sun shone brightly and its rays were falling on Angel's naked chest. He tensed, ready to spring out of the bed and draw the curtains - but the sun wasn't hurting him. His skin was warm, its warmth nearly unbearable; his heart was beating like crazy and the rush of blood made him giddy.
Shanshu. It wasn't a myth. It happened.
Buffy smiled in her sleep - apparently, her dreams were of a pleasant variety. Her face was soft and serene. Ready for the new start, new life. Angel sighed contentedly and relaxed in bed, unable to look away from her happy face.
He did it.
No - *they* did it. Finally, they did it right.
When she woke up, he wrapped his hands around her and she clung to him, her hair tickling his neck.
"You're crying," he said.
"I'm not!" She wiped her cheeks hastily. "It's just... so weird. You, human. It will take time to get used to it. I'm so scared, and happy, and proud and have I mentioned scared?"
"We have to learn to live happily. I'm not used to it and I suspect neither are you."
She nodded. "So we have to start from the basics." She tentatively stroked his chest. "Do you like when I do this?..."
Angel moaned. "Yes," he whispered. "Just don't stop..."
...When they finally got out of the bed, it was almost evening. They quickly explored their beautiful, cozy home. Hunger led them to the kitchen where they discovered a freezer full of ice-cream and nothing else - so they decided to have dinner outside.
Strangely, the local club was called The Bronze. It was the first sign of upcoming weirdness. The band on the stage was "Dingoes Ate My Baby"; Oz was playing his guitar with especial fervor. Willow was sitting at a table next to a pretty girl; they were holding hands and smiling at each other.
"Tara," Buffy said hoarsely. "How?"
"It's okay, Buffy," the girl said. "You'll get used to it."
With a growing sense of apprehension Angel looked around. Giles and Ethan Rayne were sitting at another table. They were holding hands and smiling at each other too.
Angel's heart sank. He noticed Spike pinned to a wall by a blue demoness who was licking him with a long snake-like tongue and petting him with powerful tentacles.
"Hey, Buff!" Xander emerged from the crowd, excited. "I just found out that my real father is Darth Vader!"
Angel turned to Buffy who gaped at them. "They're not real," she said.
Angel nodded. "The whole place is not real. We have to get out of here, quickly."
She looked around.
He tentatively touched the amulet on his chest. "It's our only return ticket. I think I figured out how it works, the first time. If we want to get back, we have to feed the amulet with our desires. But they have to be very intense. We must want to go back as passionately as we want to be together."
"We'll find a way be together in any reality. I promise. Do you believe me?"
She answered him with a passionate kiss. Together, he thought fiercely, as he felt the amulet warming his skin. My love, my reason of existence, my salvation, my guiding light as I make this leap of faith...
A gust of cosmic wind swept away The Bronze, the town, the whole bizarro universe...
...and suddenly, Angel was in a pyramidal tomb, together with Buffy, fighting an evil preacher named Caleb.
"I missed watching this so much!" he murmured, admiring her quick, assured moves. She was about to cut the bastard in half, and Angel was guarding her back, keenly aware of her dangerous, lethal strength, predatory instincts and animal grace. He and Buffy - they were so similar, after all.
When it was over, she stepped over the bloodied corpse of Caleb and looked around.
"Looks like we're back at our world. Goodbye, normal life - hello, apocalypse."
He smiled ruefully.
"Looks like the mojo I brought is useless. And dangerous." He took it off his neck. "Sorry."
"Give it to me." She stretched a hand. "Don't worry, I don't plan to send us to a shoe shop universe."
He put it on her palm reluctantly. "What do you want to do with it?"
"Wear it, of course. But not now and not here." She took his hand and led him out of the tomb. "Angel, you sent us to that weirdo place, because you wanted to protect me. I really, really appreciate your care. You're so cute when you try to keep me safe..."
"Hey! I'm not cute!"
"You are, but it's not the point. The point is that in your hands the mojo makes us safe. In Spike's hands it will most likely destroy the whole Sunnydale, together with him. In Willow's hands - I don't think she'd dare to wear it. And I'm asking myself what *I* could do with it. Could I make the world safe? Could I make it not too safe? Could I find the right emotions, the right thoughts, the right balance? And I think I could. If you anchor me."
She looked at him with shining eyes. "Will you?"
Suddenly he realized that this may be the most important moment of his life. He tried to leave her. He tried to forget about her. He tried to convince himself that nothing good would come from the love of a vampire and The Slayer.
But now, staring into her eyes, he realized that he had failed spectacularly. He can't stop thinking about her. He can't stop loving her - deeply, desperately, tenderly. Every cell of his body wants to be with her.
And, besides, it was the only way to save the world. Wasn't it?
"Of course, I will," he said, and was rewarded with the most beautiful smile in the world. "I'll be with you as long as you want me to. Until you get tired of me and send me to hell."
He wanted to add "again", but decided against it. Of course, they'll face huge problems. Impossible choices. Durability tests. Ordeals. Powers That Be will never let them have a normal life.
But right now they were together, in the middle of the cemetery, and she was kissing him, and her lips smelled of impatience and desire, and it was a moment that belonged to them.