Zeppo Revisited

 

AUTHOR: Leni
SUMMARY:
Morning After & Other Fairytales. If Angel hadn't lost his soul, how would The Zeppo have finished?
WORDCOUNT: ~4300
THANK YOU: to Kairos and Ares, for the great beta job!
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**

 


01:18 am.
i. a ride down the wild side


Buffy didn't know how her fellow Slayer dealt with this... feeling. The shiver that ran down her body the moment the Sisterhood was vanquished, the delicious taste of victory in the back of her tongue, with a tang of her own blood adding a peculiar spice to the experience. Her skin sizzled with more than the burning slashes from demon claws and weapons; her mind felt fuzzy, pleasantly enveloped in a thick warmth that defied the clear-sighted logic of the battlefield.

She'd felt this before. The blast of energy as her stake struck true through the undead's chest, that stolen second where she was mistress of the Hellmouth, born and shaped into heights reserved for the deadliest predators. And through the power, through the sheer amazement of being so other and still so human, there was always the heat. From her fingertips to the beat of her heart, from the flush in her cheeks to the tingle travelling up her thighs. Sometimes it was a moment only, a guilty pleasure between one kill and the next.

Other times....

Other times it was the End of the World, and two girls standing between disaster and the rest of humankind. Giles's frequent speech had been right; in many ways, when the chips fell down, the Slayer walked alone. Even when two Slayers fought back an incoming army, even when her friends were in the background shouting incantations to close the portal, even when there was one more fighting at her side… even when the school library was bursting with activity, the Slayer focused on her own battle, her own fight for survival. Movement became another weapon. Space was measured by the enemy's retreat. It was more than everyday hunting, reaching beyond the limit between girl and wildness, it peeled away the trappings of humanity: so fragile when the Slayer needed all she was capable of to win a decisive battle.

It resonated in the depths of her. From beneath all she knew as Buffy Summers, a familiar stranger prowled under her skin. Not warmth, not anymore. A blaze razed her body, a unanimous silence of everything that wasn't the lethal dance she played at the doorstep to hell.

Then it was over.

But not over.

Silence blurred into the moment when the danger was past, but other people's voices still didn't register.

This moment.

Fire running along her nerves. A buzz in her ears. Her body vibrating with the backlash of energy spent, the knowledge that there was more in the well she'd dipped into. A well accessible to her in the purest form of Slayer she knew how to be. The savior of the world, with the potential to burn it to ashes.

Too much power, and all of it in her fingertips.

No, Buffy had no idea how Kendra dealt with the feeling, and once language returned to her, she never found the words to ask something that intimate.

"Buffy?"

A hand at her shoulder. Buffy recognized its weight before she turned her head to look at him. "Everybody alright?"

Angel nodded.

There was something in his eyes, too, a hint of gold that refused to recede. As if through a haze, Buffy remembered glimpses of his face throughout the fight, the ferocity with which he'd repelled the Sisterhood demons, and how she'd reminded herself not to aim for the vampire in the room. She tilted her head to rub her cheek against the back of his hand, his knuckles moving up to caress her face at the same time.

It should have been a shock of cold against her skin.

Instead it fanned flames that hadn't yet been doused. The feeling returned full force; raw lightning along her spine, the beat of thunder in her chest, a slow ache between her legs. It hit her so fast, she stifled a gasp before the others could hear her. But something must have shown in her face, because Angel's eyes glowed bright for a second and his grasp tightened on her collarbone. She watched him lick his lips, and her body had moved closer to him before she ordered it to do so.

Vampire and Slayer. In a corner of her mind, she understood why opposites must attract. Beyond love and loyalty, deeper than sweet words and promises, there was this. There would always be this.

Whatever it was.

They'd tasted it before. Kisses that went too far in the cemeteries, herself pressed between a mausoleum wall and his body as she let him play with her, him pinned against a solitary tree as she explored his mouth, tested their limits with a nip against the soft skin of his neck. It felt almost, almost, the same.

It felt like they'd walked through a summer day and now were caught in the storm. Buffy paid no mind to her dirty clothes, or that her lower lip was still bleeding and his tongue travelled freely over the spot. She didn't remember where they were, or why they were there. She cared for nothing except that after she'd closed the door on Death's face, she would wrench it back open if he were on the other side.

"Guys?"

Angel broke the kiss first, and for a moment she hated him for it. But he kept his arms around her, even if he gave her enough leverage to turn around if she so wanted. Why would she want that?

"Um. I'm, um. Sorry to interrupt." Willow. Willow was there. And so were the others. Oz and Wesley, Jenny and Kendra. Other people who hadn't yet left the room. "You okay?" Willow asked.

Buffy turned around.

The expression on her face must have been answer enough, because the redhead blushed and stuck her hands into the pockets of her coverall. "Right. You are okay. You know? I'm done being Wesley's messenger." She nodded towards the table where the Watcher was already settling with a notebook in one hand and a pen in the other. "He said you could take your turn after Kendra had hers."

"He did?" In times like this, she missed Giles the most. She'd never appreciated his respect for her personal space until Wesley came to push and crowd into it. Angel's hand came to rest on her bare abdomen, giving the skin a slow caress that was probably meant to soothe but had the opposite effect. She rested back against him, bending her head until her lips brushed the base of his neck. "Mmmm. Stay or go." Angel didn't react one way or the other, which was half of the battle won. She played dirty for the other half, the tips of her nails grazing the nape of his neck. Buffy smiled against his skin, then tilted her head for the kiss she knew was coming. A shorter one this time, but his fingers were playing with the edge of her tank top when it ended. "I'd say go."

Angel nodded in agreement, his eyes locked with hers.

"Wow," Willow breathed. When both turned toward her, her friend actually took a step back, but a tentative smile appeared as they made no move to follow her. "I could tell Wes to stop by your house tomorrow. Or. Wait, no. You'll be at the mansion, won't you?" She didn't wait for an answer. "I better tell him that you'll come by."

There was a reason Willow was her best friend. "Thanks, Will."

The redhead grinned back. "He'll be up with Kendra for the rest of the night, probably. I suspect she likes to be grilled to the last detail."

Buffy looked over at the table, at the way Kendra held herself as she fulfilled her duty and debriefed to the Hellmouth's Watcher. Stiff and hard-eyed, the perfect picture of a Slayer after an arduous battle. But maybe too stiff, Buffy thought as she and Angel began to make their way to the library doors. Maybe Kendra's eyes were a little too hard, shutters thrown down and sealed.

She couldn't imagine letting all this feeling disappear, couldn't imagine not drawing on it as her hand sneaked under Angel's shirt, as she caressed his back and remembered he was the prey she might let go if he asked - and he didn't. She couldn't imagine losing the thrill, the accomplishment, the hunger for more.

Crawford Street had never seemed so far away.

"We need to get Kendra a boyfriend," she muttered.

"Any particular reason?" Angel's voice sounded innocent, but his hand moved down to the top of her jeans, brushed against her thin belt buckle before drifting to her hip.

Forget Crawford Street.

She changed directions. "This way," Buffy said when he tugged her towards the main doors. "The infirmary has a bed."

A day ago, an hour ago, he would have hesitated, maybe even protested such a risky behavior - and she would have never suggested it. Instead he squeezed her hip and matched her step, "You sure?"

"Hell, yes."

Angel laughed. "You're such a romantic when you save the world."

She pivoted in his arms, her intention clear as they walked back into a wall. She kissed him, hard. Hands digging into his shoulders as she held him against the side of a trophy cabinet. The sweet thrill came back, just a little dimmer, just enough to allow her to end the kiss before they went further down the hallway. "Romantic enough?"

His smile was contagious, but the humor disappeared when he put his fingers under her chin to tilt her head up and kissed her forehead. "Don't ever change, Buffy Summers."

Buffy caught his hand in hers, kissed the ring on it. It was okay. She could give him everything, and he'd find a place for it in his heart. "Wasn't planning to."



02:42 am.
ii. lines crossed


They stumbled into the wall next to the front door together, half-laughing, half-kissing, and too much in love. They wouldn't even make it to the doorway, much less to the couch she'd been thinking about since they had finally sneaked out of the school. Right now, they didn't even care that there was comfortable furniture through the door and not three yards away. What mattered was that they didn't trip on each other, that his mouth was warm from their kisses, and that the hands at her hips didn't show the least desire to let her go. "I thought we'd sleep," Buffy teased him, all the while tugging the buttons of his shirt out of their holes. "Bodies to rest, energy to replenish. We did have an intense night."

Angel made as if to nod, but he was really bending his head to capture her earlobe between his lips, gave it a nip and murmured against her skin, "And we fought off a demon army before that."

She let out a delighted laugh. "Are you being funny about sex?" Her arms rose to thread around his neck, and she brought him closer, arching her neck to one side so more of her skin was accessible. Her next sentence was more a gasp than actual words, but she still forced it out. Playful Angel was not a side she got to see often, and one she relished while it was about. If she'd known semi-public sex did the trick, she'd have searched for her adventurous bone a lot sooner than this. She was catching up, though. After all, technically they were still in the open. "Who are you, and what did you do to my boyfriend?"

"You wore him out, woman." There was a rough hint in his voice, one that usually preceded a change in his features. But the lips at her throat were still human smooth, and there was no sharpness announcing the advent of fangs. She was not disappointed, Buffy told herself. Before she could convince her demanding libido, his grasp tightened, and she couldn't help the moan that escaped her. "He had to call for a replacement," Angel whispered in her ear, "Lucky for you I was available."

"Mmm." Was this roleplay land? Did she care right now? "Fast delivery. Me like."

Angel laughed again. "Only the best for his girl, he said," and he set to give her his best effort at driving her out of her mind.

Yep, they were definitely in unmarked territory. Talking about one of them as a third person qualified as a kink. Or so she thought. Didn't it? Whatever this was, she would ask… someone… later. Or look it up online - on a public server. She'd die of shame if Jenny caught her, and then kill herself if Wesley learned of her search. But that was for tomorrow; tonight Angel's hands were roaming across her back, playing with the elastic edge of her tank top, rolling it up to spread his hand between her bare shoulder blades and press her closer, then snapping it back into place and soothing the sting with a coordinated brush of his other hand between her legs. "God…."

"You like?"

He had always been the more vocal of them when it came to sex. But Buffy was a fast learner, and more adaptable than she'd been a year ago. Grabbing the sides of his head, she pulled him in for a hard kiss and waited until his hands stopped their wandering and dedicated themselves to holding her in place. That was when she drew back, licked the line between his lips before he could protest, and smirked up at him. "Don't worry. I'll give you a glowing review."

For a moment, he stared at her. Just when she was about to blush and stammer her way out of their embrace, Angel hoisted her up and turned them around so her back was against the wall and he was hovering over her. A more familiar ground, and a favorite of his. She relaxed, and smiled back at his expression. His eyes burned with desire, a hint of gold among the brown, but there was a softness to the tilt of his lips, and when he kissed her, it was only a brush against her cheek. "I love you. You're something else, you know." Before she could answer in kind, his smile sharpened and his hands tightened at her waist. Just like that, the atmosphere was changed. Charged. "I'm gonna enjoy you tonight," he said - warned - before moving in for a kiss.

A familiar stranger. Under whose mercy she now found herself. Unrecognizable, and yet the very same to whom she had surrendered long before this night. Familiar were the hands, the mouth, the body pressing against hers. Everything else had something of discovery in it, an overwhelming spice in his touch, a responding catch in her breath.

There was a part of him being released tonight, and Buffy was glad it had waited until she was ready to meet it. She clutched at his shoulder, rose up on her tiptoes to rub her chest against his. Only the material of her top separated them, and a corner of her mind wondered at it. Not in regret, no. But… hadn't he been wearing something under his shirt? She clearly remembered being frustrated with removing his jacket, sweater and button-up shirt earlier that night: and why would a vampire wear layers, anyway? Then she'd taken hold of that final barrier - wife beater, a white one - stripped the garment off of Angel and tossed it…. "Oh, damn."

Bad choice of words.

All movement ceased in a blink of an eye, and Buffy was puzzled at the sudden change of mood until she spied the contrition on his face. The next logical step would have been to reassure him. Instead she got mad - probably hormones, added to the appalling prospect of a piece of her boyfriend's clothing being stuck in the school's Lost & Found box. It might be silly, but the idea that there was evidence of her non-scholarly activities made her gut twist in three different ways. That the one thing that would make her forget potential disaster (what if one of her friends recognized it? What if Oz's nose caught wind of it? What if….?) had been brought to an unexpected - and unwanted! - end, made her snap, "Really, Angel. Do I look like I want you to stop?"

Angel raised an eyebrow, and there was silence as he studied her. After a long moment, his hands returned to their previous position, thank goodness. When it became obvious that it was not his touch she'd been protesting, he chuckled. "You got the bossy tone tonight." They kissed again, slow and gentle, and he didn't let her deepen the contact even as his hands were burning their way around her waist and beneath her tank top. The clasp of her bra snapped open, and between one second and the next, they were back in the game. "Aren't I lucky your boyfriend left specific instructions if that happened?"

"I'm not surprised," she laughed, then bit her lower lip against an embarrassingly loud groan when the fabric of the front of her top tore open. Not the first time this had happened, but the glint in his eyes made her wonder if he wasn't getting even for his lost wife beater. Then she realized it wasn't about clothing at all, or even that she was half-naked on the porch of his house. His pleasure stemmed from her willingness to play along.

"Is that so?" he wondered, a hand already molding against her breast, the other helping her discard the loose bra. Buffy nodded. Her hands moved to rake across his hair, guide him in a familiar path. His mouth was an inch away from her skin when he continued, "May I ask why?"

"That's easy," she answered, injecting her voice with as much confidence as possible when one was testing new waters. "My boyfriend is very thorough."

Angel grinned at that, perhaps with too much smugness, and set to prove her right.



03:05 am.
iii. welcome home


Buffy made a protesting noise at the back of her throat at the abruptness of their separation. One moment Angel was kissing her, hot and one-track-minded, and the next moment… he'd tracked away. "Angel?"

"I'll kill him," her boyfriend hissed, eyes fixed at some point behind her.

His arms lax around her, Buffy turned around easily. Gasped at the sight. Every bit of furniture was damaged, some more than others, wooden pieces and crashed picture frames on the floor. It looked nothing like the organized space she and Angel had left behind after sunset, and too much like her boyfriend's apartment had looked like after the fire. "Oh…." If they'd let a troll loose through the mansion, it wouldn't look any worse. "Angel. You okay?"

"I will be," he said, "After I'm done with the one who did this."

The couch was on its back, a large greasy stain covering the cushions in a pattern that seemed familiar to her. The remains of a kill, a part of her recognized. In Angel's living room.

"You'll kill that?" she asked, feeling her body tense at the possible threat. She told herself that any enemy would have had ample opportunity to attack when she and Angel had… stalled… at the porch. A hand resting at her elbow dissipated her doubts, a familiar sign that the coast was clear. She might have the advantage when it came to brute strength, but Angel's senses would always be sharper. "I think it's already dead," she found another stain trailing away from the center of the room and towards… "Eek!" She jumped away, even though she hadn't been standing on it. But Angel had. He took a step to the side, following her, and looked in utter disgust down at his shoes.

It was probably the smell that had caught his attention in the first place, and Buffy was glad the room had aired enough that she couldn't sense anything. Fresh demon guts were still first on her list of nauseating things. "Ugh. This would have totally ruined the mood outside."

"I thought it was a dead rat," Angel confessed.

No wonder he'd been so keen on staying outside, and… "There are rats?"

Annoyance shifted to a hint of sheepishness. "No?" But before she could voice her displeasure (rats were second on the list!), he found the remains of his bookshelf. Buffy cringed - after spending time with her, his favorite hobby was those books; often he mixed both activities, reading to her on the now defunct couch.

Someone was gonna pay for that couch.

Angel's thoughts must have wandered down a similar road, because he closed the distance between them, put his hands on Buffy's shoulders and pulled slightly until she was resting against his chest.. "I will kill him," he said into her hair.

Buffy wanted to nod, pledge her help. But, "We're a bit late, don't you think? It's kind of dead."

"Even before it got here," Angel agreed, now sweeping his hands down her arms, thumbs digging into her elbows before they started their way back to her shoulders again. "Zombie," he spat the word in distaste. Buffy would have asked some questions, but his hands had settled into a nice, soothing back massage, and who cared what it'd been as long as it was dead now? "But someone killed the zombie - and left a mess behind."

"We'll catch him, honey."

"Sure we will," he said, too calmly. "He goes to your school, after all."

Despite the number of boys at her school, Buffy immediately knew which one Angel meant. "Xander? Xander did this?" Her anger flew away, replaced by concern, then both were stomped in by a wave of sheer panic. Xander and zombies? "Oh my goodness. Is he okay? Please say he's okay."

"Oh, he's fine." He sniffed the air. "There's not enough blood to be life-threatening…"

Buffy breathed in relief. Then realized that Angel was nowhere near as comforted by her friend's well-being.

"…I'll take care of that."

"Angel…"

His narrowed eyes slanted towards her, and Buffy had a second to suspect he was planning something before she was leaning into his touch. A fleeting caress up her cheek, the fingers of his other hand brushing her waist. It was…. "I'm not letting you kill my best friend." He tilted her head back, kissed her as if they weren't in the middle of a very important argument, thank you very much. "Angel," Buffy whined when her let her go to breathe, but even she couldn't say if it was an entreaty to leave Xander alone, or to kiss her again. He seemed to take the second option, and she didn't correct him.

"Just a scare," he whispered against her lips the next time. His hands were sweeping along her spine now, and it wasn't fair that Angel had been the one to discover how much she liked that. "He owes me, Buff. He owes us."

"Only a scare," she agreed, feeling naughtier at agreeing to this than when she'd been half-naked against the outside wall. "And only if he can't replace the couch." She had loved that couch - she had good memories every time she’d sat there. Xander better have a good excuse to be hanging out with animated corpses in her boyfriend's living room! "Or if he makes a fuss at cleaning this up."

Angel made a face. "I'm not waiting that long."

Buffy smiled, still amazed that she'd ended up with such a fussy guy. The state of his home must be driving him crazy, poor thing. "We will not be waiting here." This time it was she who threaded her arms around him and pulled herself closer. She had an idea - in fact, she'd had several ideas, but they'd been meant for the bedroom. Zombie guts; yucky, eek-y, ugh!, zombie guts was a major turn off, but she was the Slayer, and Slayers were resourceful. Hence, a new idea - that would facilitate the other ideas. "I'm sure Willow mentioned the motel was nearly empty when she made the reservation for Kendra." Angel's nose furrowed at the idea. Okay, the motel wasn't much cleaner than this. Wesley was so cheap. "Or something better - with actual room service." Her knuckles caressed his cheek, and Buffy smiled when he leaned into her touch.

"Sounds expensive," he said, but he didn't seem too put off by the idea.

All right, so Wesley wasn't the only cheap one in her closest circle, but she wasn't in love with her Watcher, was she? "We'll splurge." And by 'we', she meant 'you'. With the grades she brought home, she was lucky if her mom gave her enough to get into the Bronze. "Or do you want to spend the night here?"

After a brief kiss to her forehead, and longer consideration to their options, her boyfriend shook his head. "We're going." He shrugged off his jacket. "Wear this."

Buffy remembered the state of her tank top. She took the jacket to cover herself, but gave a look to the bedroom door, "I could…."

Angel shook his head again. "They got in there, too."

She trusted his nose, and if he'd sensed more zombie remains in there, then there were more zombie remains in there. Probably with more broken furniture. Like the dresser. Her eyes went to the shelf, the books scattered around it, some lying on that thick yellowish stain - and she pictured the dresser and her clothes instead. Her favorite clothes, because what was the point of keeping a couple drawers at one's boyfriend if the best outfits wouldn't be modelled in his bedroom?

"Forget about it," she said. "Xander's going down."

Angel zipped up the jacket around her, and grinned.
"Right behind you, love."