Disclaimer: Joss Whedon owns B:tVS and A:tS
Spoilers: Through S7 of B:tVS and S5 of A:tS, AU for comics
Despite what she had told Angel during their admittedly somewhat poorly thought out cookie dough conversation, Buffy always kind of assumed she’d end up with him. That’s not to say she never thought about ending up with anyone else. There was a brief time when she thought her and her now decidedly ex-boyfriend, The Immortal, would be together forever. And she did have some fairly elaborate imaginings about getting back with Riley or Spike, which were really more fantasies than anything, what with the being married and dust, respectively. Then there was that one time when she wondered what would happen if she got with Xander, a thought she’d be taking with her to her grave. But mostly, she just assumed that in the end the guy for her would be Angel.
It was really sudden when it happened. One minute she was sitting on the couch with Andrew and Dawn watching one of Andrew’s cartoon movies that he swore they’d like because it had a witch in it (though she couldn’t ever remember Willow or Tara flying around on a broomstick and delivering packages) and the next minute she just knew. She was twenty-four, had a nice apartment, a good job that didn’t interfere with her slaying, happy well-adjusted friends and sister, and she was finally ready. It was only Andrew’s insistence that she finish the movie that kept her from booking the tickets to California right at that moment.
Her plane was touching down in SFO when she was suddenly hit with a major case of the stomach butterflies. She hadn’t talked to Angel in over a year, not since his brief call to let her know his new address and phone number up in San Francisco. Apparently there had been some big battle in LA and he had had to get the hell out of dodge, restarting Angel Investigations in a city that didn’t have evil lawyers looking over his shoulder. The whole “show up and surprise him” thing that she decided on, and had made Dawn and Andrew swear to, was seeming like a worse and worse idea by the second. She had just felt like this conversation wasn’t one she could have over the phone, and she really wasn’t sure how to call ahead without letting him know why she was coming.
Which landed her here, standing in front of a building, which sort of reminded her of the place Angel had moved into when he first went to LA, wondering if maybe she was just a bit crazy after all.
Steeling herself, Buffy walked in the door. In the front room there was a blue-haired woman, whom she assumed was Illyria, a black man, Gunn, and an Asian woman she didn’t remember hearing about, though she supposed she might be new, or a client. Luckily, Gunn and Illyria seemed to recognize from her from a picture, or by description, and were willing to direct her to Angel’s office when she asked.
She swept into the room, and there he was, sitting behind his desk, looking through some papers. When he heard the door open Angel looked up.
“Buffy,” he breathed, standing up to greet her. She smiled, but rather than bothering with the more conventional sort of hello, she walked right up to him and kissed him.
It was a good kiss. Really good. Possibly even one of the top twenty Buffy kisses of all time. But that was it. There were no fireworks or angel’s choirs and rather than ending with them giving each other, panting, breathless smiles, it just sort of… stopped. Leaving them standing there staring at each other. Well, staring at each other’s shoes.
“That was… nice,” Buffy said.
“Yeah, really… nice,” agreed Angel.
“Really nice,” she echoed, searching desperately for something to say. “You’ve gotten better at the whole kissing thing.” Okay, maybe not that something. Was there any way she could cover her mouth to prevent words that were apparently not connected to her brain from spilling out without looking like she was seven? Probably not, she decided.
“Thanks,” Angel replied, sounding a bit confused. “I was kind of out of practice back when we first started dating.”
“Because of the whole vampire thing?”
“Because of the whole vampire with a soul thing,” he corrected. “No kissing humans because you’re a vampire, and no kissing demons or other vampires because you have a soul.”
Angel shifted uncomfortably, which really was a weird thing for a vampire to do.
Buffy scratched her nose.
Angel cleared his throat, which she knew for a fact vampires didn’t need to do, what with the no breathing thing.
Finally Buffy spoke. “So are we going to talk about what just happened or just wait around to see if one of us actually dies from the awkward?”
“Well, we kissed…” Angel hedged.
“And there was no spark,” Buffy finished. “Not that it wasn’t nice.”
“Really nice. You’ve gotten better at the whole kissing thing too.” Which as it turns out was even weirder to hear than it was to say.
“Thanks. My last boyfriend, aside from being a total poop-head, was actually a pretty good kisser.”
“So I’ve heard,” Angel muttered. And that was such a weird thing for even her original vampire stalker to say that Buffy wasn’t really sure how to respond. Apparently sensing her confusion Angel elaborated. “Andrew told me about it.”
Buffy considered that for a moment before deciding that, no she really didn’t want to know how Andrew knew her ex was a good kisser, and ignored it in favor of their current problem.
“So we kissed, and it was nice, and we’re both good kissers, but there was no spark. Why wasn’t there a spark? Last time there was a spark. It was very sparky.”
“Last time we kissed I had just survived an apocalypse and we both kind of thought you were going to die in the next one,” Angel reminded her, which was a good point, but so not helping right now.
“Okay, but why wasn’t there anything this time. Is there a demon messing this up somehow? Or a spell or something?” Distantly Buffy was aware she was being a bit ridiculous, but this was not how it was supposed to be. She was ready, she was Cookie Buffy and Angel was standing right there in front of her and it was supposed to be all magic and fireworks, but it wasn’t.
“I think I might know why, but there are no demons.”
“It’s a spell isn’t it? I knew it; the whole demon thing didn’t really make a lot of sense.” She was starting to sound a bit hysterical now, and her eyes were itching painfully.
“No, there’s not a spell, or a demon, or anything supernatural.” He began pacing around the office. “Buffy when I first saw you I was a mess. I’d made a stupid mistake two decades before and I hated myself for it. I was living in the gutters, eating rats to survive. And then I saw you and you were so beautiful, innocent and pure, and I just knew I had to protect you. That if I could keep you safe, then it might let me atone for all the horrible things I’d done.”
Buffy’s eyes burned and she swiped at them furiously. “Was that all I was to you? The first stop on your quest for redemption?”
He stopped pacing to look at her, lines of horror etched on his face. “God, no… Buffy.” Angel reached out and grabbed one of her hands, sandwiching it between his two. Part of her thought she should pull away, but she couldn’t seem to move. “I loved you more than anything. I lost my soul because of you.”
Her laughter was thick and bitter. “Just what every girl wants to hear.”
“No, I’m not…” He closed his eyes and took a deep, albeit unnecessary, breath. Calmed, he looked her straight in the eyes. “There has only been one time in my life where, without the use of magic or drugs, I was wholly and truly happy. And I felt that because I was with you. I loved you more than I have ever loved anyone, and probably more than I ever will love anyone else.”
Buffy wished she could freeze time in this moment, wished she could pretend she didn’t hear the word “but” hanging in his voice like a guillotine. But then when have any of the Powers That Be been sympathetic to Buffy’s wishes? “But Buffy, it’s been seven and a half years since then. We broke up over six years ago now, and we’ve barely talked since then.” He dropped her hand and began pacing about again, like an animal in a cage. Buffy looked at her hand, thinking she should be upset by the way he had dropped it, practically throwing it away. All she could seem to conjure up was a sort of wistfulness.
“People don’t just keep loving each other after stuff like that,” Angel continued. “They move on, but I never did. I never let go of you, and I think it’s because part of me still thought of you as some sort of end goal, as proof of my redemption. And maybe I’m finally realizing I don’t need that anymore.” Spent, he collapsed on his desk. “Is any of this making sense to you?”
She didn’t want to answer him. If she answered then she’d have to acknowledge something that she, in her heart of hearts, known for a long time now. If she answered him then everything would change. If she answered him some part of her would finally have to die. So she just stood there and didn’t say anything.
Angel didn’t push her. He didn’t try to goad her into speaking, or look at her beseechingly. He just sat there and waited. He would wait forever, she suddenly realized. It didn’t matter that she wasn’t his redemption anymore, that he didn’t have feelings for her anymore. He would sit there waiting for her through the last apocalypse and until they were all ashes swirling about on the wind if she needed him to. And that’s what gave her the courage to speak.
“Before I was the Slayer I was really shallow.” Buffy began. Angel opened his mouth to disagree and she held up her hand to stop him. “Please, I need to… It’s my turn.” He nodded his understanding, and she continued. “I was really shallow. I treated the guys I liked less like people and more like accessories. But, in spite of that, I still believed in destiny, that someday I would find the one. And after I became the Slayer I had to keep believing in that kind of stuff because I couldn’t live in a world where monsters were real and fairy tales weren’t.
“Then you came along, the protector in the shadows. The mysterious stranger who shows up to helps save the day and then vanishes, and I thought-” A sob escaped her. “God Angel, I was sixteen, what was I supposed to think? And when you left it felt like I was dying and a part of me kept pretending that it wasn’t real, that you were going to come back. You were my soul mate; you couldn’t just leave me like that. And that eighteen year old girl is still somewhere inside of me, waiting for you, because I couldn’t let her go.” She could barely see him now through the tears swarming in her eyes and suddenly this whole thing felt stupid. Thinking she could just mystically be ready for commitment, coming to San Francisco, trying to fall into Angel’s arms like the past six years never happened, it was all just the delusions of her teenaged-self wanting to believe in happy endings when she should know better. “God, I’m so pathetic.”
“You’re not pathetic,” Angel protested. “After everything you’ve been through you can still believe in true love and soul mates. Buffy, that’s amazing. It’s one of the things I love- one of things I loved about you.”
That’s what undid her. A simple correction from present to past tense and suddenly she was sobbing with abandon. Angel didn’t say a word, just opened his arms, and she felt herself stumble forward into them. There was nothing intimate or sexual about the embrace, just two lost souls clinging together as the world rearranged around them. It occurred to Buffy briefly that she should feel bad for crying all over his shirt, but decided that they were even when she felt teardrops in her hair. And for some reason, that thought just made her cry harder.
She wasn’t sure how long she stood there, encased in his arms, but eventually she felt herself regain control. Stepping back she wiped the last tears away, catching Angel trying to discretely do the same.
“So what now?” Buffy asked.
“I’m not sure,” he replied. “I’ve never done this before. All my other ex-girlfriends are dead.” He paused, frowning “And most of them were evil at some point.”
“Good to know it’s not just me,” she remarked dryly. Then she realized what he was saying. She had dated Riley, who was neither dead nor evil. Which meant she was the expert. Which meant they were probably screwed.
“We could be friends,” Buffy suggested hesitantly.
“Could we?” Angel asked. “I seem to remember Spike going on a rant about why, exactly, we could never be friends.”
Buffy bit back her immediate “Spike is stupid” retort and actually thought about it. Because while Spike was stupid at times, (not that she was bitter, because he was dead, so being mad because his idea of a first date was staking out a vamp nest in his car would be petty) he did know people pretty well. And when he started spouting off the deep meaningful stuff he was usually right.
“I think,” she said haltingly, “that maybe before we couldn’t. It was too soon, and there was too much between us. But we just had the big “people change” talk didn’t we? So we could probably be friends now. That is, if you wanted to. Because it you didn’t I’d totally understand.”
Angel gave her a hesitant smile in response. “I’d love to be friends with you, Buffy.”
Oh, good,” she said, and smiled back. And suddenly it was like a huge weight that she hadn’t even realized was there lifted from her shoulders. She felt lighter than she had for longer than she could remember, and she let out a little laugh in surprise.
“What is it?”
“It’s just that it’s finally over, all the drama and tears. I feel like I’ve been carrying all this baggage around with me and I’m now able to put it down at last.” She grinned at him. “It feels pretty amazing.”
“I know what you mean,” he said. “Even when I was in love with Cordy-”
“Wait, Cordy?” Buffy interrupted. “As in Cordelia Chase?” As in ex-cheerleader Cordelia Chase? Angel dated her? When had this happened? Did everyone else know? Why hadn’t anyone told her? Distantly she was aware that Angel was talking, sounding defensive, which is when she realized she had just insulted his girlfriend. His dead
girlfriend. Definitely not of the good.
“Sorry I wasn’t trying to judge you or anything. Very non-judgy Buffy here. I just didn’t see that one coming. Suspected it in a jealous rage maybe, but I never actually thought it would happen,” she explained.
“It’s okay,” he said, and then smiled mischievously at her. And who even knew Angel could be mischievous? Seriously, why did no one tell her these things? “Now you know how I felt about you and Spike.”
Buffy groaned. “Do not
even get me started on the train wreck that was my relationship with Spike. Did you know he tried to get me to believe he loved me by chaining me up and offering to kill his ex? And then there was the Buffybot. And after I came back to life he was all the sudden Mr. Sensitive, but then I started sleeping with him and it turned into this big destructive thing. Then he does that horrible thing and it was totally wrong, of course, but I’m not even sure it was all his fault. And even though he’s a soulless demon he somehow realizes it’s wrong and goes and gets a soul for me. He got a soul for me. How are you even supposed to react to something like that? And when I finally tell him I love him, which he’s been waiting for for two years
, he turns around and tells me I’m lying. Sometimes I just wish I could punch him again, right in the nose.”
Angel smiled amusedly, but then she was talking about beating on Spike. “I think he’s still asleep downstairs if you want to take advantage of the situation.”
“Huh?” Maybe not her most elegant reply ever, but in her defense, Angel was apparently going crazy.
“Spike. He’s sleeping downstairs right now, if you wanted to go punch him.”
Okay, someone really ought to have told her Angel was having hallucinations. Which was strange because if anyone was going to go insane and think Spike was still alive Buffy’s money would have been on herself, or Andrew. Maybe Dawn. Definitely not Angel though. “Angel,” she said slowly, in her best talking to a crazy person voice, “Spike is dead. He burned up in the Hellmouth two years ago, remember?”
Now he was starting to look panicked. “You mean Andrew didn’t tell you Spike was back? I thought that was why you were here.”
Typical. She comes to sweep the man of her dreams off his feet, and he thinks she’s here for someone else. Slowly what Angel had just said started to sink in. “Are you saying Spike is alive?”
“No, it’s nothing, just forget I said anything. In fact-“
“Angel,” she growled. “Is. Spike. Alive?”
“Well not alive exactly, but he is talking and walking around again.” He paused, then as an afterthought, “And he’s solid too.”
“He came back as a ghost about… four months after he burnt up. But he wasn’t corporeal until about a month or two after that.”
“Two years,” she said flatly. “He’s been alive-”
“Undead,” Angel corrected. Buffy glared at him, letting know this was so not the time for that.
“He’s been undead
for almost two years now and didn’t tell anyone. I cried for weeks. I could barely eat for over a month. Dawn and I had sobfests because we thought he thought we hated him when he died. Hell I walked in on Willow, Andrew and Xander- Xander
, eating a tub of chocolate ice cream and reminiscing. And while we were mourning him, he was living it up in LA?” She glared at him and Angel had the decency to look properly terrified.
“Yes and you should go yell at him. Stairs are right across from the office, then he’s down the hall, second door on the left.”
It was a pretty obvious ploy, but he was right. She apparently had a lot of people to yell at, but Spike definitely deserved the first round of Buffy anger. Turning on her heel she started to walk off, but stopped, standing in the doorway.
“Hey Angel,” she said, turning to look over her shoulder.
He started. “Yes?”
“I’ll probably go straight back to my hotel after I talk with Spike, but tomorrow would you want to go out a get some coffee? To catch up and try out that whole friend thing?”
He smiled. It was probably the first time Buffy had ever seen Angel with such a warm, genuine smile, and that, if nothing else, seemed to make the whole trip worth it.
“I’d love to.”