Stumble Into Grace

Summary: Future fic. Five years after present day. Buffy is Cleveland. Spike got tired of the Helping the Helpless gig and went there too. Angel decides a trip to Cleveland is in order. It starts out B/S (I know I never thought I'd do it. This story had been nagging me for weeks now) but I swear to you it's going to turn out B/A. This was actually inspired by Dido's White Flag video.

Feedback: Please send me feedback! This is my first attempt at writing B/S in any shape or form. I generally try to forget that ever happened. It's pretty dark and depressing at first, which I'm finding a bit hard to write so let me know if it's something worth continuing.

Rating: I'm going to say R just because it will probably get there eventually.

Enjoy!

-Angel-

She didn't even come for the apocalypse. She sent a lot of slayers. Faith was there but my slayer wasn't. It's funny, after all these years apart I still think of her as my slayer. I've got to find something to do, get out of this penthouse, out of this office building. There's too much time for introspection and brooding here. Normally, I'm all for the brooding. Now I'm acutely aware of how short my time here will be. I don't want to waste it brooding. I'm human now. I might have forgotten to mention it. It doesn't mean as much now as I thought it would then. It just means I don't suffer an eternity of torment, only sixty years or so. It happened after the apocalypse. There wasn't a big bang or anything. I went to bed one morning nursing the injuries I'd gotten and I woke up with a heartbeat.

I have always had this fantasy of what it would be like if I ever turned human during Buffy's lifetime. It was this big movie production. I'd sweep into Cleveland, or whatever Buffy's current city of choice happened to be, in my convertible on the brightest sunniest day of the year. I'd knock on her door. She'd answer and as soon as she saw me tears would come to her eyes. She'd throw herself into my arms, cue the dramatic music. We'd walk off into the sunset together.

So I pack. I'm taking a trip to Cleveland. It's not like there's anything here for me. I mean there's Hell, otherwise known as Wolfram and Hart, and my friends. Fred and Wes are both so wrapped up in their children that I doubt they would notice I'm gone. Gunn is working on some big profile case. And I'm not the champion for the Powers that Be anymore. I didn't get to keep the vamp strength, healing, speed or anything else. I'm just your average Joe with a nice bank account and a less-evil-then-it-was- five-years-ago law firm.

I just want to see if she's happy. I talk to Giles, I talk to Willow. They say she is but they don't sound like she is. It sounds like they are repeating a script she gave them. I'm not going to be nosy; I'm not going to interfere. If she'd wanted to see me she would have come during the apocalypse. I understand why she doesn't, seeing her hurts. It reminds me of all the things I want and can't have. So I'm going to stay back and do what I've spent 256 years doing. I'm going to lurk. I've also hired a private detective to take pictures for me, pictures of her. He has already sent me a few.

She's with Spike. Giles told me that much. Some of the pictures confirm it. He showed up about four years ago. Buffy took him in and they've been a couple ever since. It hurts a lot. I could excuse her relationship with him after she came back from Heaven. I understand what it's like to hit rock bottom and to want someone that's there too. I did sleep with Darla and if I hadn't had my epiphany, I probably would have spent a lot more time sleeping with Darla. This time it hurts more. He's got a soul now. He's not about rock bottom. Maybe he's everything I can't be to her, or couldn't. Or maybe she's in love with him. Maybe she was all those years ago before the crater that was Sunnydale became a state park. I push that thought aside. I can't think of that. It hurts too much.

And yet I know I'm going to have to. I'm going to her town. I'll be watching her. I'm sure a lot of her life has him in it. He'll know I'm there. I'll eventually have to talk to him. It's not a confrontation I'm looking forward to. She won't know I'm there. I'm not a vampire anymore. She won't get any spidey sense readings off of me. I hope I can keep it that way, for a while anyhow.

The plane lands and I take a cab to an address I've got written down. It's my new apartment. It's not far from her apartment. I rented it sight unseen. The landlord was skeptical about it. I paid six months rent upfront. That cured the skepticism. I unlock the door and walk in. The apartment is sterile. White walls, beige carpet. I bought furniture off the internet. It's beige and ivory furniture, bleached woods and sterile fabrics. It was delivered yesterday. It's sitting rather haphazardly around the place, not that furniture placement matters.

I make up the bed with sterile white sheets. A beige and ivory comforter finishes the bed. It looks like Buffy's bed in her old room in the house on Revello minus the pig or the stuffed animals. I guess I noticed that when I bought the things. I just didn't admit it. I unpack and hang the clothes I've brought in the closet. I got used to wearing suits at the law firm. I left most of them in the penthouse there. Hanging up now are dark slacks, dark button down shirts, sweaters, clothes I wore before the law firm, lurking clothes. They are also clothes that Buffy will find familiar.

I open my briefcase and take out the pictures the detective took for me. As per orders, he tried to keep Spike out of them but there are a few with his arm around her. I cut him out of those. There are pictures of Buffy at work. She helps Giles run a magic shop. She is beautiful. She doesn't smile in any of them. She also looks tired, weary and unhappy. This is the reason I'm here. She looks unhappy. It's most likely that I can't do anything about that. My track record for making Buffy happy isn't exactly stellar. I also know I can't sit in my fancy penthouse in LA when she's unhappy. I did that for to many years because there was a little thing like a Gypsy curse between us. I'm not cursed anymore, at least not with that particular curse. I can't lose my soul, or at least I assume I can't. I haven't actually approached anything near perfect happiness since that one night with Buffy when she was 17. I tack her pictures up on the wall, across from the bed. I take a steaming hot shower and crawl under the blankets. I fall asleep looking at pictures of her.