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Wishlist 2010

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Ficlet(s)

This story is No. 2 in the series "Wishlists". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: Twenty-four gifts for twenty-four people giving me twenty-four prompts. Ficlet collection. Part II. - Now Up: To The Ground! verse Christmas fluff.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Multiple Crossings > General > Ficlet Collections - Other(Moderator)FaithUnbreakableFR152440,119311735,44530 Nov 1024 Dec 10Yes

flesh and blood - BtVS/True Blood

Warnings: Angel’s inner monologue. Apparently, nobody’s ever told him to spank his inner moppet.

Prompt: stellarluna35 asked for BtVS/SVM, Buffy/Eric, Run!Verse, Buffy meeting a Scooby, years later.

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flesh and blood

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Angel scans their surroundings as he helps Willow out of the car and waits for her to get comfortable. It’s dark and hot, a wet heat that makes his skin feel sticky despite the fact that he doesn’t have body heat.

That’s Louisiana for you, he guesses. He hasn’t really been here since the prohibition, and then only in winter.

Willow smiles up at him, her eyes crinkling and sincere as always. He marvels sometimes, how she can still be like this, content with life, accepting of all she has been dealt. It’s been almost ten years and she has long since gotten over what happened to her, but he definitely has not. Every time he looks at her, this small, gentle, fragile woman framed in hard black and steel lines, he wants to find a away to resurrect the things that did this to her and kill them. Again. Again.

Willow says he’s projecting. She says he wishes there had been someone to kill in Buffy’s name, not hers. He doesn’t know if that’s true, doesn’t really want to. He loved Buffy brilliantly for two years and he has loved Willow in a different, a passionless and quiet way, for twenty. One a lover, one a friend. If he could, he would avenge them both equally.

But tonight, they have someone else to save. The girl’s name is Devon and she’s an untrained witch in the debt of a vampire. Willow wants to get her out so she can join the Coven, be trained. Mostly so she is among her kind, not alone, not outcast. Not like Buffy was, scared and young and alone, on the run for something she couldn’t help, couldn’t change.

Willow doesn’t want anyone to die the way Buffy did and so she collects lost, special children and Angel helps her, because he owes the universe a million lives more than he can ever save.

He closes the car door and eyes the long line of Goths waiting in front of the bar. There is a garish red logo in neon writing above the door that proclaims the place to be called Fantasia. His lips curl in disgust at the whole thing, the fangbangers, the freak show air about the place. He’s not a fan of mainstreaming because he knows what lies under the skin, he knows that all those vampires playing sheep are doing just that, playing.

Sooner or later they all slip up. Sooner or later, people die. Better for the monsters to stay monsters. Makes them easier to kill, too.

There’s a bark of laughter from his right and he follows it into the dark recesses of the parking lot, finds a teenaged couple standing outside the circle of light cast by the club. They are both short, the guy stocky and dark haired, wearing grey from head to toe, jeans, loafers, knitted shirt. She’s wearing red skinny jeans and a black shirt, expensive heels. They’re young and obviously rich, probably here for the thrill of the big, bad vampires, but so obviously underage that they’ll never make it past the statuesque blonde manning the entrance, fangs extended for show.

He pushes Willow past the line of waiting idiots and is about to tell her their business when she waves them through. Obviously she knows who they are and that they are here to speak with the Sheriff of Area Five.

Angel sneers at her while Willow smiles and then he hefts her chair up the single step and pushes her inside.

.

“No,” the Sheriff says half an hour later, reclining in his throne like some debauched lord, tall and pretty and cold as marble. Angel hated him on sight, hates him more after watching him for a while. He’s arrogant and vain, too sure of his power, too sure that he will always win.

He would have liked to teach the other man a lesson, but he’s old. Old enough for his weight to feel like lead on Angel’s tongue. He would be dead before he got to the stake in his waistband.

“I don’t see what the problem is,” Willow says, still calm, still friendly despite her mounting frustration, with the vampire before her and the whole situation. The music and noise of the bar are throbbing around them and on the raised dais they were led to, she’s on exhibit like an attraction at a zoo. What’s the old chick in the wheelchair doing here?

Angel grits his teeth and Willow goes on, the patience of a saint. “Devon owes you money, correct?”

“Yes.”

“We are willing to settle her debt if you release her from your service. You get the money a lot quicker than if she works it off on a waitress’s salary.”

“Yes. But I also lose credibility if I let anyone buy anyone else off.” He smirks and Angel wants to see his fist buried in his face. It would be beautiful.

To curb the impulse, he looks around, studying the dance floor. It’s sprinkled liberally with vampires, all of them playing the crowd, all of them with half an eye on the proceedings surrounding their master. A good little flock, he thinks with disdain.

Then he sees a flash of grey in a sea of black and realizes the teenagers made it in after all. They are dancing, the girl with her hands buried in her blonde hair, hips swaying. The boy has his hands on her hips, is whispering something to her. He doesn’t look a day over sixteen.

The girl swings him around and dances around him in the same move. Suddenly, they both have their back to Angel and she curls her arms around him, grinding into his chest. He’s involuntarily reminded of another blonde dancing with another brunette boy twenty years ago. Buffy was trying to rile him up by dancing with Xander and it worked. God, he hated how she made him feel then.

Now he misses it, would give anything to have her around still. Everyone tells him to move on, but he hasn’t quite figured out how, haunted by a girl twenty years dead. It’s pathetic.

“Do you let in kindergarteners, too?” he wants to know, turning back to the conversation, cutting the Sheriff off mid-sentence. Bad manners, that, but they’re not going to get what they want anyway. The man is far too petty to let them have Devon.

“I beg your pardon?” the other vampire says and Angel points to the grey boy and his red-and-black girlfriend, “Those two are way too young to be in here.”

Northman follows the line of his finger. Then he throws his head back and laughs. “Oh, my friend,” and doesn’t that makes Angel grind his teeth, “You have spent too long slinking around humans. That ‘boy’ is my Maker.”

Angel whirls around, looks at the boy. Rosy cheeks, modern clothes, easy smile. He doesn’t look like someone older than the Sheriff, but he must be. Angel tries to feel the weight of him, but there are too many other corpses in the room, too many ages and powers. Still, “And the girl’s his dinner?”

Biting, angry. Willow puts a hand on his arm to calm him. It doesn’t help. Northman shakes his head and, without raising his voice, calls her name. “Josie.”

Impossibly, she hears him.

And she turns around.

.

She turns around and Angel is thrown backwards in time, twenty years into the past, into a rundown club called The Bronze, a dark place, filled with shadows, and a face filled with light standing out of the crowd.

So beautiful.

Willow cries out, soft and choked, grief and disbelief.

.

‘Josie’ and the Maker are there suddenly, at the table, no movement between there and here, just suddenly…. She bends low over the Sheriff’s chair, her hair obscuring her face. Angel feels like he can almost move again.

The Maker studies him, the full weight of age hitting the souled vampire, crippling him as surely as shock did a moment ago. Oldoldold.

The blonde, the girl, Josie, the… she whispers, “Let’s take this to the office.”

For an endless ten seconds, the two blondes stare at each other, utterly silent and motionless, unblinking. Then the Sheriff’s eyes widen, almost imperceptibly, he nods. He rises and the Maker takes hold of the handles of Willow’s wheelchair, pushing her toward a backdoor, leaving Angel no choice but to find his limbs again and move.

.

He stares. The door closes behind him, leaving him and Willow trapped with two Ancients between them and the exit, but he just stares. He can’t… she’s… she’s…

“You haven’t aged.”

It’s the very first thing he says to the girl he believed dead for the past two decades and it’s all he can think of. Beside him, Willow laughs, voice slick with tears.

Silence.

Behind them, Northman snorts. “Well,” he drawls, insufferably amused, “Isn’t this lovely. Josie?”

He doesn’t ask an actual question, but she still answers by shaking her head. Then
Buffy raises one hand to wave and says, “Hi, guys.”

.

Angel can’t react, can’t speak. Those three words took everything out of him and now he can only stare. God, when people talk of ghosts of the past, they can’t mean this, can’t mean dead girls that look like they did when they disappeared, flawless and perfect and alive.

Buffy takes his utter shock in stride, kneeling instead in front of Willow, clutching the woman’s hands. It’s bizarre, to see two childhood friends, one of them a woman of forty, the other a girl young enough to be her daughter.

“Wills,” Buffy whispers, “Oh, Wills, what happened?”

Willow opens her mouth to answer, tears flowing freely down her paper white cheeks, her smile impossibly wide and scared. She holds on to Buffy’s hands with more strength than a human should have.

Before she makes a single sound, Buffy rears back, eyes wide with surprise and sadness. “Oh,” she says, “Oh, I am so, so sorry. I…”

She still reads thoughts.

“Yes, I do.” To Angel.

He jumps. The vampires laugh. “You get used to it,” the Maker offers, speaking for the first time. Northman dryly adds, “Eventually.”

He sounds a lot more human, suddenly. “Don’t let him hear you say that,” Buffy smirks up at him. “He doesn’t like it.”

Northman sighs and she giggles and Willow finally breaks the almost hysteric giddiness permeating the room by asking, “How are you alive?”

Buffy, Josie, what’s her name now? What does he call her?

“Josie, if you don’t mind.”

“Stop that,” he snaps, then cringes. She grins wryly. “Eric helped me disappear. He faked my death and gave me a job. I wanted to come back, guys, I swear. But by the time the Council stopped being a problem, ten years had passed and I thought… you were better off without me.”

Willow smiles, forgiving, always so forgiving. But then, Angel can’t find it in himself to be angry for twenty years of deception either. Not when she’s here, alive, breathing. She looks like she did then, but she has a heartbeat, so she’s alright, still alive, still here and still so, so beautiful, still the golden girl she was, and he… he can…

“Angel,” she says, suddenly looking straight at him, her hands still twined with Willow’s on top of the red-head’s useless legs, shattered beyond saving, spine broken, in a fight, so long ago. Ages ago. But still long after Buffy left. After she died. In her name. Willow lost her legs fighting for a boy just like her once best friend, alone and scared. She lost her legs in Buffy’s name and Buffy flinches as those thoughts cross Angel’s mind, squeezes Willow’s hands tighter. But her gaze never wavers from Angel, never flinches as she says, “Don’t.”

She’s not talking about Willow’s injury. “Don’t go there,” she warns.

He shakes his head, looks at the other two vampires, silent and powerful, cold. He wonders if she loves them, the boy that isn’t a boy and the arrogant Viking. “I…”

He doesn’t know what to say. What do you say to a ghost that’s suddenly flesh and blood? ‘I love you’ sounds right, but it won’t pass his lips.

“You didn’t look for me.”

He jerks, surprised. Funny, he thought the ability to be surprised left him when he saw her on the dance floor.

“I wanted to,” he says, defense weak.

“Why didn’t you?”

Willow frees one hand and starts running it through long, blonde hair gently, like she used to when they had girls’ nights in. She told him that once, him and Xander, when they were both drunk and he watched over them because they were all he had left of Buffy.

Buffy doesn’t stop her and he looks away from the picture they make, so right, so wrong. Bizarre. Twisted.

“The Hellmouth,” he answers.

She snorts and stands, Willow’s hands falling away. “Buffy?”

Buffy look down and her expression softens. “Oh, Wills,” she whispers, yet again.

The older woman laughs, bats at her. “Oh, stop treating me like an insecure seventeen-year-old girl. I missed you. I love you. You’re my best friend. I won’t disappear, as long as you promise the same. I just wanted to know if you’re okay? You went a bit jumpy there.”

Buffy giggles. “Christ, you perfected the mothering, didn’t you? Yes, I promise not to disappear again. If I’d known,” she waves a hand at useless limbs in pretty pants, “I never would have…”

“I know,” Willow assures.

And just like that, they’re best friends again. Angel envies them so badly it hurts. And then Buffy turns to him and says, “I was eighteen. I was sick. I was alone. I was scared and on the run from a squad of trained killers. Fuck the Hellmouth, Angel, I needed you, and you never came.”

The part where she’s right is what hurts the most, so he looks away. “I know,” he whispers, and he does. Lord help him, he does, and not a night has passed in the past two decades, where he hasn’t thought of her, young and alone out there, dying with no-one to hold her hand and tell her that things would be okay.

Twenty years, Angel, she says, but she doesn’t speak at all. She’s in his head. She couldn’t do that when she left. That’s a long time to grieve.

Not long enough, he thinks at her.

I don’t blame you, so stop blaming yourself. But I’m not the naïve, starry-eyed girl I was either.

I love you.

Loved, she corrects, not unkindly.

That’s not fair.

No, she agrees readily, it’s not.

He frowns and turns his head away. He looks at Willow, who’s watching their silent interaction with a look of amused confusion on her face. So easy to forgive, so sweet and gentle and strong. He loved Buffy for two bright, burning years. He’s loved Willow for twenty slow, painful ones, first because she was Buffy’s and then for herself. For her vision and her determination. Xander, too, and Giles and everything Buffy left behind. In her name. Always, always in her name.

He looks at Buffy again and finds himself staring at a teenage girl with eyes that don’t match the rest of her. He loved her ghost, would have loved it forever. But this is flesh and bone and looking at her, really looking at her in her high heels and expensive blouse, her make-up a bit too heavy and her quick glances at the other two vampires a bit too familiar, she’s not the girl he loved.

“Wonderful,” she suddenly chirps, “Now, let’s finish that business thing of yours and then I have to sit in on two more meetings for Eric and after that, we have twenty years of gossip to catch up on!” She grins at Willow, at him, at Northman and the Maker, still nameless.

She bounces a bit on her heels and it’s familiar and wrong, off somehow. Twisted. And he doesn’t know if it’s his memory that’s distorted or her, but she doesn’t look right, in this place, these clothes. With these people. She tilts her head at Northman, obviously saying something in his head and then looks at Angel, smiling.

It’s a bright and beautiful thing, that smile, but it doesn’t make the sun rise like it does in his memories and Angel feels a twenty years overdue weight lift from his shoulders and suddenly there are no ghosts anymore.

Only people.
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