Summary: Set somewhere between "What's My Line: Part II" and "Bad Eggs", during one of Buffy's visits to Angel's apartment. If Xander retained his Soldier Guy knowledge and skills from "Halloween", then it follows logically that Buffy retained just as much from the 18th century noblewoman.
Rating: PG (sorta)
Angel couldn’t bring himself to feel any regret or anger that Spike and Drusilla had nearly killed him in their ritual to restore Drusilla’s strength—not when one consequence was that Buffy had been spending a couple of hours with him at his apartment every day since. However, he was resigned to the fact that, soon, this convenient excuse for her to come over so often would no longer apply. The debilitating weakness and exhaustion had almost completely left him, the holy water burns had healed, and all that remained of the wound in his hand was a fading scar. In at most two days, he’d be completely back to normal. Sometimes accelerated healing wasn’t such a good thing.
His heart leapt when he heard her coming down the stairs in the outer hallway, and he grew even happier when she entered the apartment without knocking. She offered a slightly sheepish smile when her eyes met his. “Hey,” she said, closing the door behind her.
He returned the greeting and smiled back at her, then noticed that she was carrying a large paper bag. His eyes widened in surprise. “Is that—”
“Yesterday, I noticed you were running low,” she explained hastily, a hint of a blush rising in her cheeks. “So I stopped by the butcher’s earlier.”
“Thanks,” he said, unable to think of anything else to say. He felt both touched that she would do something like that for him and ashamed of the automatic surge of hunger he felt. It was an odd combination.
He suddenly found himself thinking back to the long interval between their second kiss and their third. He had been trying to stay away from her, knowing he didn’t deserve her, but his resolve hadn’t held for long. It was funny how he could resist the temptation of human blood for decades at a time, but he could only resist his yearning to be a part of her life for a few months.
By now, he’d stopped trying. He had told her about Drusilla, his greatest sin, and she still loved him. She could look on him with the same tenderness in her eyes when his features were vampiric as when they were human, and kiss either face without reserve. He had never asked or expected her to do it, but she had come every evening after school or patrol (and sometimes both) to aid him in his recovery—he hadn’t told her that her presence alone was a more soothing balm than anything she could actually do to physically treat his wounds. And now here she was, serenely humming the tune of an unfamiliar pop song to herself as she unloaded containers of pigs’ blood into his fridge. The knowledge that he didn’t deserve her couldn’t stand up against such devotion and acceptance.
“What’s wrong?” asked Angel.
Buffy jumped and looked up at him. He stared at her with a mixture of puzzlement and concern.
She had recently finished removing the now-unnecessary bandages from his hand, after which she had curled up in his lap on the armchair, and they had fallen into a peaceful silence. He always reveled in moments like these, when he could reflect in awe on the fact that this was where she had chosen to be, her head nestled in the crook of his neck and her fingers idly playing with his. But when he looked down at her face, he noticed the vague frown that had appeared there, and the slight crease marring her normally smooth brow.
“Oh,” she said, then smiled apologetically. “It’s nothing, I just….”
“What?” he said, tilting his head slightly.
Buffy grimaced. “You’re gonna think it’s stupid.”
“Okay,” she said. “You know how I got turned into a real eighteenth century girl on Halloween?”
“Yeah,” he said. His brow furrowed. “You don’t still think I wish you were one, do you?”
“No, it’s not that,” she said reassuringly. “I still remember that girl’s life, and there are a lot of reasons I’m really glad it isn’t mine, even though there were one or two nifty things thrown in.”
Angel raised an eyebrow and the corners of his mouth lifted. “Like what?”
“Well, I can write in this gorgeous scripty cursive if I want to now,” she said brightly. “I could also out-Queen’s English and etiquette Giles, but it’s more fun to horrify him with my American-ness. Oh, and I think I could play some pretty intense Haydn on the pianoforte—I mean, piano, if I had one.” She trailed off, frowning again.
“But all the eighteenth century dances I know are completely useless!” she exploded crossly.
Angel let out a burst of laughter that momentarily distracted her. It felt wonderful to do, and he hoped she wouldn’t be annoyed that it came at the expense of her frustration, but he couldn’t help it. He had a sudden powerful urge to tell her exactly how much he loved her, but he mastered it and instead asked, his eyes still full of mirth, “What’s wrong with eighteenth century dances?”
He watched the heat rising in her face until she looked away from him. “None of them are pair dances,” she mumbled. “Except the minuets,” she amended, wrinkling her nose. “But those look really goofy.”
He briefly lifted the eyebrow again. “You missed the pair dances by a few decades. Especially since you were part of the nobility. Pair dancing was still considered scandalous and immoral then, particularly in England.” Which was exactly what he had loved about it in those days.
“And those are the refined, elegant dances, these days,” Buffy mused dryly. Then she pouted indignantly. “None of the dances I got from being Miss Dainty Nobleman’s Daughter are romantic at all, though! I always thought that was what balls were like back then, but so much for that treasured childhood fantasy.”
“You want to know a romantic dance?”
She was blushing again, but seemed to be trying not to let it get to her this time. “Well, yeah. If I did…if I did, then it would mean I’d know one from back then that maybe nobody else but you knows how to do firsthand anymore.” She ducked her head and began fidgeting with the edge of the armchair’s cushion. “And then it would be something from your past that we could share, and it would only be ours.”
He spent the next few seconds in another silent wrestling match against his increasingly overwhelming need to confess his feelings for her aloud, and he had only barely conquered it when she glanced hesitantly at him.
“I could teach you,” he said softly, shifting a little and reclaiming her hands with his.
They moved to the center of the apartment where the floor was free of furniture, and Angel released Buffy’s hands and stepped back.
“So, what dance are we doing?” she asked eagerly.
“You’ll see,” he said with a mysterious smile.
“But how am I going to know which steps to do if I don’t even know what the dance is?” she said, pouting.
“All you have to do is follow my lead.”
“Okay.” She felt slightly nervous, but the look on his face reassured her.
He stepped forward until his body was only a few inches away from hers, but slightly off-center, so that his right foot fell just to the inside of hers. He took her right hand in his left, guided her left up to rest on his shoulder, and placed his right a few inches below her shoulder blade.
“What about music?” she asked, frowning.
He flashed that mysterious smile again, and due to the physical contact, it was impossible to pretend it didn’t make her go weak in the knees this time. “I’ve got all the music I need.”
She had no idea what he meant by this, but was now too intent on looking into his eyes to want to burden the moment with more words. He stepped to the side, and she followed; the subtle pressure he exerted with each hand told her exactly how she needed to move. Now he stepped back, then brought their feet back together, and then they did it all over again, traveling in a small square that turned slowly counterclockwise. They went a few repetitions stepping backward, then stepped forward for the next few.
Angel’s movements were deliberate, yet so fluid that Buffy almost felt like they were floating from one step to the next, and she was surprised at how smoothly she was able to follow his lead without ever having done this before. She wondered if it had something to do with the particular rhythm he was setting; even without music, it felt like the most natural thing in the world.
The first time he moved his hand away from her back, she barely managed to stifle a squeak of surprise, but miraculously did not lose her footing as he brought their joined hands inward and over her head, leading her into a twirl. When she faced him again, he changed the footwork. Now they stepped back first, then to the side. Somehow, this alteration made the dance much more energetic.
She was amazed at how the tempo seemed to be increasing without breaking away from that natural rhythm at all. They cut a larger path across the apartment floor, and they spun into faster revolutions, going full circles in three steps, her back arched and their bodies coming into full contact from chest to waist, spinning tightly around the invisible axis that seemed to exist in the millimeters of space between his right leg and hers.
Buffy had forgotten that they were in a dimly lit basement apartment, Angel dressed in a white undershirt and black sweatpants and she in the clothes she had worn to school; they had gone back in time to a nineteenth century ballroom lit by vast crystal chandeliers, he wore a tailored suit complete with waistcoat and neck cloth, and she a beautiful ball gown of flowing silk that swirled and billowed around her at the slightest movement.
With the more energetic pace and footwork came more and more interesting moves. The twirls became more elaborate, where he would spin her out away from him until their arms were fully outstretched and only the tips of their fingers were still touching, then pull her back in and tuck her against his chest again.
The third time this happened, she was still facing away from him when he brought her back against him, and she realized that somewhere in the midst of her twirl, he had deftly switched hands so that he was cradling her left hand in his, while his right rested gently at the side of her stomach. She moved her own right instinctively to cover it, and they danced on. She was surprised to find that not being able to see his movements in this position did not impair her ability to follow them in the slightest, though it did add an oddly thrilling sense of precariousness to the steps.
Angel released her left hand and raised his right, transferring hers back to his left after yet another twirl, and they were facing each other again. With his right hand once more on her back, and her left returned to his shoulder, he slid his right leg back and bent his left knee slightly, and she felt herself fall into a graceful dip, the hand at her back easily supporting her weight.
They remained in that pose for a long moment, savoring the end of the dance as nineteen ninety-seven settled back in around them. Buffy was sure she could state categorically that nothing she had ever done before this qualified as dancing. For the first time, she became aware of how rapidly her heart was beating, and she suddenly realized what his music and her natural rhythm had been all along.
He slowly drew her back up until they were standing normally again, then smiled. Conveniently, he hadn’t let go of her yet, so she simply pulled their joined hands in towards them, moved the hand still on his shoulder up to the back of his neck, and stood on tiptoe to kiss him. As fast-paced as the dance had been at the end, this was much slower—the more tranquil portion of the coda.
“Thank you for the dance, kind sir,” she said after they broke apart, sweeping back into the final curtsey, unable to suppress a broad grin.
“The pleasure was mine, milady,” he replied with a bow; his own grin was all in his eyes.
Author's note: The footwork change signified a historical period shift. The waltz step was side-back-together at first, but it changed to back-side-together once the ladies started wearing more danceable dresses. And, incidentally, that dip there at the end of the dance would have left Buffy's neck very, very exposed. Just so you know.
A graphic has been made to go with this story, and you can find it here