Some Kind of Heaven Written in Your Face
S.J. Smith (Laughnfx@yahoo.com)
Disclaimer: Mr. Whedon, Mr. Greenwalt, Mutant Enemy, et. al., own the characters. I just followed through with the story idea to what I thought might be the conclusion.
Timeline: Right after "Flooded", of course
Synopsis: Buffy and Angel meet. Need I say more?
Distribution: BA_Fluff list, Fanfiction.net. Let me know if you think you want it. I'm sure we can work something out.
Feedback: Please. Thanks.
Rating: PG13 (maybe. If you can watch the shows, you can read this).
Dedication: For Karen, who kept saying, "You've got to see Buffy sometime," and for Dana, whom I said the same thing to. Cheers, ladies!
* * * * *
The sky had darkened, well, as much as it could with the light pollution in Southern California. Buffy pulled the Jeep Cherokee off the street, ducking her head to look at the neon lights, spelling out the words, "The Cabbage Patch." Semis littered the parking lot, belching out exhaust fumes. A few motorcycles hugged close to the building while pick-ups and cars mixed randomly. Buffy glanced around. It didn't look quite familiar. She remembered it from trips up and down the highway, from L.A. to Sunnydale and back but this was her first nighttime journey here. It looked different at night. Harder, harsher. Unreal. She eased the Jeep into a parking space, her hands clenching the steering wheel tightly. She wished she knew some other place to meet Angel, but at least the truck stop was a landmark. Besides, it wasn't like either of them couldn't handle themselves if trouble started.
The door to the diner opened and Buffy winced. The interior was brilliant with artificial lighting, so much that it warred with the neon wrapping around the building and the sign overhead. She adjusted her grip on the wheel, looking into the rear and side view mirrors. Not that she'd see Angel but it made her feel a little better, being able to watch other people walking to the restaurant. Realizing the engine was still running, Buffy twisted the key to cut the power. She glanced up into the rear view mirror again, turning it to check her reflection. She sighed, pushing it back into its original position.
Buffy's stomach clenched at the same time she heard a soft tap on the window. Angel looked in at her, his hand still pressed to the glass. Buffy matched her fingertips to his, raising her eyes. The corner of his mouth tilted up slightly. She nodded at his unspoken question and Buffy unlocked the door. Angel opened it, stepping back to let her out.
They looked at each other, then up at the building, all the light. "I don't," Buffy started to say.
"I understand." Angel gestured with his head towards a huge black convertible. She took another look at The Cabbage Patch and locked up the Jeep, turning back to Angel and dropping her keys in her pocket. Angel started to reach out to her but hesitated, his hand not quite touching the small of her back, guiding her towards the car. He opened the passenger door and Buffy slid onto the bench seat as he closed the door, walking around the front of the car. He dropped into the driver's seat and rested his hands on the steering wheel.
Scooting closer, Buffy didn't meet Angel's gaze, not sure if she really could yet. Instead, she slowly lowered her head to rest against his shoulder. She felt Angel take a deep, shaky, unneeded breath. He slipped the key into the ignition and twisted it, the engine roaring to life. Guiding the car out of the parking lot, Angel drove away from the maelstrom of neon. Buffy sighed, realizing that her body, so tense since her return, relaxed finally. She let her eyes close.
The drive wasn't long, just enough to lull Buffy into a light doze. The convertible stopped eventually and she heard Angel saying softly, "Hey."
She opened her eyes, brushing at a strand of hair that slipped into her face. "Hey," she said quietly back. Sitting up, Buffy glanced around.
Angel had found a park surrounded by a wrought iron fence. It felt familiar to Buffy, like a cemetery with its manicured lawn and thick trees. The only difference was the lack of headstones, though a pavilion made up for the deficiency of mausoleums. Buffy slipped out of the car, walking through the open gate. Careless of someone to not leave it locked. Who knew what could get inside? Just because Angel's car was the only one around didn't mean someone wasn't in there.
"Where are you going?" Angel asked.
"This way." Buffy followed a path deeper into the park, away from the blare of traffic, trusting Angel to come along. He caught up to her and they walked in silence. The path led them up a man-made hill, crowned with a small reflecting pool with a bubbling fountain. By unspoken agreement, they settled near it, under one of the large trees. Buffy leaned back against Angel's chest. It felt comfortable, though strange, as if they repeated the night after her Mom's funeral. Buffy shivered involuntarily and Angel shifted, pulling her closer, draping his arm and jacket around her shoulders.
They sat together; soaking in their companionship and Buffy again felt herself relax. She had to be strong for the others, for Willow and Xander, for Giles and especially for Dawn. She leaned her head back, rolling it to the side so, if she tilted her eyes, she could look at Angel.
"Willow came to see me," Angel said to the air above her head. "After. Cordy had been transported to another dimension and we had to rescue her." He paused. "I'm sorry I wasn't there."
"It's okay, Angel," she said. "You didn't know." Buffy rubbed her cheek against his shoulder. "And now I'm back." The words tasted bitter and she wondered how they sounded.
Angel sat quietly, listening to her breathe, or maybe the sounds the stars made. Buffy moved her head a little, watching the play of the moonlight on the fountain. "I died, Angel. I wasn't in another dimension. I was in a good place. I...didn't want to come back to this." She rolled her eyes up at him then glanced away when he met her gaze.
"I-I haven't told them, not even Giles. It might hurt them, to hear." She twined her fingers together in her lap. "I told Spike." She felt Angel tense at the other vampire's name. "I had to talk to someone, Angel."
"Spike?" There was a disbelieving tone to Angel's voice.
"He, I thought he'd understand." Buffy shrugged the shoulder pressed against him.
"Buffy," Angel said, "don't trust him. You've told me about the chip. It doesn't mean he's on your side." His words gentled and brushed her cheek. "If you need to talk, I'm here."
"I know." Buffy thought her voice almost sounded normal. "But I didn't, you know?"
They were quiet again for a little time, and then Buffy said, "Tell me about the other dimension."
Angel obeyed, explaining about a demon who ran a karaoke bar. About Cordelia opening a portal. About going after her, with Wesley, the singing demon and a young man named Gunn. He told her about standing in the sunlight and not burning, about seeing his reflection in the mirror. "Why didn't you tell me my hair did this?" he asked, gesturing at his scalp.
"I thought it was supposed to do that. You know, Spike's hair is starting to stick up, too. Is that a trait of good vampires, sticky-uppy hair? Should I have Giles look into it?"
"You're making fun of me."
Buffy found herself smiling. "Only a little." She heard the wistfulness in her voice. "I'd have given anything to see you in the sunlight, Angel."
The corners of his mouth quirked. "It wasn't...always good there. I lost control of the demon."
Surprised at the hurt that statement brought, Buffy sat a little straighter. "Really," she said, managing to keep her voice level.
"Not that way," Angel said, shaking his head slowly. "The dimension, the demon was more powerful. I didn't kill anyone and I regained my control. But for a while, I nearly gave up."
"What stopped it?"
"Fred had something to do with it."
Buffy frowned. This was a new name. "Fred?"
"We were investigating her disappearance when Cordy opened the first portal," Angel said. "She vanished five years ago. It turned out she was in Pylea. She survived on her own." He glanced at her out of the corners of his eyes. "We brought her back with us. She's been living in the hotel with me."
"With you?" Buffy found herself sitting up even straighter, not resting against Angel at all. "In a hotel?"
"The hotel is a long story," Angel said, "and Fred's...a little different. She needs time to get adjusted to people again." He slid his hand down Buffy's back and took it away. "She has a crush on me. I think...she might be over it."
"A crush?" This was getting worse.
"Yeah. Well, I did rescue her," Angel said, gazing at the fountain. "And Cordy, too, but she doesn't have a crush on me."
"Thank god," Buffy muttered.
He went on. "Fred's a very nice young woman. A little mixed up but that's to be expected. Living in a demon dimension would probably do that to you."
"She's over the crush?"
His eyes warmed at her irritation. "I think. When my body was possessed by that old man, he did some awful things to her."
"Oh." Buffy twisted her fingers again, almost painfully. "Like Faith did to Riley," she said, "when she switched bodies with me."
"Pretty close," Angel said.
She looked at him. "You didn't, I mean, he didn't?"
"That's good. I'd hate to have Angelus free again." Buffy saw him stiffen. "What?"
"It's not important," Angel said. He lifted his hand to smooth the wayward strand of hair out of her face. Buffy pressed her cheek into his palm, holding his gaze with her own. His expression softened. "Buffy," he said her name like a prayer. "I'm sorry for you that you had to come back. And I'm sorry this isn't where you deserve to be." He stroked her cheek, his voice dropping to a near-whisper. "But I'm selfish and I hope you forgive me, because I didn't like the world without you in it. The fact that you're here, now, with me," he shook his head slowly. "The only thing I can say is, I missed you. And that's not what I mean but there aren't words to express the way I felt."
She turned to kiss him softly, laying her fingers against his face. "It sounded good to me," Buffy murmured. Settling back against him, Buffy closed her eyes. Exhaustion was catching up. Nervous energy and Slayer strength were no help against ongoing sleep deprivation.
"You can rest." Angel's voice was a soft burr in her ear.
"I-I can't. There's this problem with lying down." She started to move away but the weight of Angel's arm on her shoulder stopped her. Not to mention that his other arm came around her, effectively trapping her. Buffy knew she could break out of it but managed to stay still. This was Angel. She could trust him. He was...she realized, suddenly frightened, the only place where she felt safe.
I can't have that, she thought wildly. We're not together any more. He's just...my ex-demon-of-the-night boyfriend. He has his own life that I'm not a part of, with Cordelia and Wesley and some guy with a weapony name and a woman named Fred with a crush on him. Oh, god. She has a crush on Angel and she's living with him. And me...I lost my father and my mother, Riley and soon, Giles will want to go back to England. I could see it in his eyes. He's not sure what to make of me being back and...he's made a life apart from me. So he'll leave me too, and I've lost my place in heaven and I don't even know if I can fight any more, if I even want to fight any more because it was so good there. Buffy buried her face in her hands. "I can't do this," she whispered. "I can't keep this up."
"Buffy." Angel sounded alarmed. She had to look up at that. Once she might've laughed, or cried, she wasn't quite sure which emotion would've worked for Angel being alarmed. His eyes bored into hers and his hands clenched her shoulders. "Buffy, please."
She laughed without joy, hearing it sound like shattering glass, falling into shards between them. "Why should I fight? Why should I live? They take my hope." She thrust off his hands, pushing away from him to stand, swaying above him. Angel stared up at her, his expression lost. "They take it all and grind it down until there's nothing left. No hopes, no dreams, nothing. Just the Slayer." Buffy realized she was shouting. She didn't care. Maybe some cop would come along and throw her into jail. Maybe she and Faith could be cellmates.
"What is this, Buffy?" Angel asked, breaking into her thoughts the way he always did, even when she tried to keep him out. Even when she was with Riley, Angel intruded. Even with Spike backing her up, she'd remember Angel. Researching. The Scooby Gang. The tree outside her window. Angel.
Angel. "It's you," she hissed. "I lost my hope with you. You walked away and left me there, to face it all alone."
He was angry now, his eyes narrowed to slits as he moved to his feet like the predator he was. "I did it for you."
"Normal life, right?" Buffy flung her hand in the air. "How normal is it to come back to life after being dead for three months?"
"It isn't normal," Angel growled, somehow managing to capture her shoulders. He gave her a little shake. "They did what they thought they should. Willow said she thought you were in a hell dimension. She didn't know. They didn't know. They did it for you and for Dawn and for themselves. It was selfish and cruel, yes, I know, and I'm sorry. And I wish there was something I could do to make it better, Buffy, but...." He sighed, the anger falling from him in a rush. "But I can't think of anything. I'm still...trying to get around the idea that you're back." His voice softened and became rougher, all at once. "What can I do, to convince you to fight?"
Buffy caught his wrists and squeezed them. "Give me a dream, Angel."
His face shuttered for an instant, then cleared. His fingers loosened on her shoulders, though Buffy knew there'd be bruises from his grip. "I stole a scroll from a law office," he said, his voice low. "I was trying to keep them from doing something terrible. It didn't actually stop them but I got the scroll. And...Wesley translated it. There were prophecies in it, about the vampire with a soul."
Angel swallowed, adjusting his hands. Buffy found herself stroking his wrists, and wondered when she'd started doing that. She liked the way his fingers were sliding up to her neck, so his fingers could just touch the loose hair there. "Prophecies," she said.
He nodded. "There is a prophecy in the scroll, that says," Angel hesitated, "at first Wesley thought it said I was going to die."
She made an impatient sound. Angel gave her a half-smile. "Wes figured out that he was wrong. The scroll said I would live to die. That I'd be human, one day."
Buffy froze, staring up at him. "Human?" she asked, just to hear the word.
"I don't know when. There wasn't really a time limit, stuff about apocalypses, but hey, we've been through a few of those on our own; and demons; and me, making amends. But someday," Angel said, his expression lighter than Buffy remembered seeing it in a long time.
"Someday," she repeated, a little dazed. Her brain suddenly kicked in and she lunged into him, hugging him tightly. He grunted with the impact but laughed, too. "Human. You'll be human." Buffy pulled back, just enough to look up at him. "Angel, that's, that's, incredible."
"So, you see, you won't be the only one coming back from the dead."
She grinned. "Maybe we could start a club."
"A club of two?"
Angel, teasing her. How long had it been since she'd heard him do that? How had she forgotten that she missed it in the first place? "It'll be exclusive. Everyone will want to join."
"I don't know," Angel said thoughtfully. "The admission fee seems pretty steep."
Buffy snuggled in against him. "You can pay it. I'm counting on you."
He stroked her hair, urging her to look at him again. "Buffy, I don't know when this will happen. I don't want you to get your hopes up, waiting for me."
"Angel, shut up." She put a finger on his lips to keep him from saying anything else. "Please don't spoil it. You just gave me this dream. Don't take it away."
"Sorry," he mumbled against her finger.
"Make it up to me?"
Buffy slid her hand around the back of his neck. "Kiss me?"
Jaw flexing, Angel glanced away. "Buffy, you know that might not be the best idea."
"I know. I just...please?"
Angel obeyed the plea in her voice, gathering her closer, bending into her. The brush of his mouth against hers was gentle and she ached, remembering different times and different kisses. Angel pulled back slightly; his eyes warm as he caressed her cheek. "I missed you," he said.
"I missed you," Buffy replied, pressing her cheek into his hand. "I don't want to miss you any more." Before he could protest, she said, "We could talk on the phone. Not every day, maybe once a week? Once every two weeks. And, maybe meet every once in a while. To have face-to-face summit meetings. Work on fighting techniques."
"I mean, I know we're not together any more and I know why but you're the first person who hasn't looked at me like I've come back with an extra head. I need someone who doesn't look at me like I'm a monster."
"You're not a monster." Angel tightened his arms around her and she relaxed against him, laying her cheek on his chest.
"Can we keep in touch, Angel?" Buffy was afraid to look at him. "Please?"
"Yes," he breathed into her hair.
Buffy squeezed her eyes shut, holding him tighter. There were many things wrong with her return to the living but maybe this was right. Maybe she and Angel would finally get their chance to be happy and together someday.
"Buffy," Angel said softly. "I have to go, in a few minutes."
"I know." She looked up at the sky, seeing the first strains of dawn. "I should go home, too. Everyone will be worried, the way I ran out of the house."
"Did you tell them where you were going?"
Nodding, Buffy said, "Yeah. I don't think they understood." She released him reluctantly, taking a step away and tucking her hands behind her back. "It's okay, I mean, I'll explain when I get home."
Angel was studying her as she spoke. "No."
"I don't want you driving. You're exhausted. You said you weren't sleeping well." He brushed a thumb over the circle below her eye. "You're not fit to drive."
"They'll worry," Buffy protested feebly as Angel took her hand, leading her back towards his car.
"There's a hotel back there. We'll call them from the room."
She skipped to catch up to him, stumbling at the words. "We?" she repeated.
"I'm staying to make sure you sleep." Angel raked her with his eyes. "When did you eat last?'
"You're staying with me?" Buffy asked as Angel handed her into the car. She tracked him as he walked around, getting into the driver's seat.
He inserted the key into the ignition and started the huge car before answering. "If you don't mind."
Buffy slid next to him and sighed. "Not at all, Angel." She leaned her head against his shoulder again. "I trust you."
Angel threw the car into gear, pulling out of the parking lot and onto the street. The sound of the rushing wind might have confused her, but she thought she heard him say, "I love you, Buffy."
She closed her eyes against the harshness of the street, hugging his arm. She couldn't answer him, not yet. Maybe someday, when they could both say it and not worry about the consequences. Until then, she'd be content with what she had.