AUTHOR'S NOTES: Written for the B/A ficathon, due 22nd April, 2004. The request was 'a blizzard,' and the restrictions were 'no Riley, no PWP.' For the record, a blizzard is: a severe snowstorm. However, I don't see why it can't be a severe anything: a flood of something that overwhelms, stops, freezes, stultifies...

Frozen Moments

He remembers a blizzard in Austria, some twenty years before the gypsies cursed him. He and Darla were invited into the chalet of a family whose blood and fear fed them for the full ten days of the brutal, whining snowstorm.

It was nothing like this.

The ache of his soul within him weighs him down to the bed, even as she stands by the window, her blonde hair slipping softly down over her naked shoulders. The bedrobe she wears is scarlet silk, edged with fine white fur, long enough to conceal, short enough to tantalise. He bought it for her when they went through London, two months earlier.

"They don't have blizzards in California," she says, her fingers trailing down the windowpane, unfeeling of the cold that leeches through the glass into her fingertips. "So beautiful..."

She's beautiful, he thinks, helplessly. Faintly illuminated by the light that filters through the whirling torrent of snowflakes outside, she is pale with the splendour of arrested youth, vivid with the passion he remembered when they were in Sunnydale together.

"Come back to bed."

Her smile is knowing as she turns from the window, pushing her hair back from her face as she makes her way towards him. "Hungry again?" The smile she gives him is knowing, teasing, wanton. And he is tormented as she slips her fingers into the edges of the robe, brushing pale fingers over paler skin, sliding down over the curve of her breasts to the hollow of her belly, to the triangle of dark blonde hair between her thighs.

It is a tease show as sensually elegant as any he ever knew in his life or unlife. She knows her response to him and she flaunts her body against him.

"Buffy..." The plea is lost against her mouth as she bounds into the bed, the scarlet of the robe fluttering to the floor behind her.

In the chill of the winter's night, her skin is cold, even when they fuck, heart-stoppingly, exquisitely sensual, as raw and rending as any consummation Angel has known as human or vampire. Beneath her hands, his body is warm, his blood sings with the pleasure of her touch, and his senses cry out in physical delight.

And yet, even in the pleasure there is pain. Heart pain, soul pain; fear's fine wire filaments binding his heart with an ever-tightening grasp.

He cannot keep this up forever. She will not suffer him eternally.

She curls up against him afterwards, kittenish in post-coital playfulness. Her nails scrape down his flanks, sending shudders through his body. Blue-green eyes watch his face beneath dark blonde lashes, red lips curving with delight at his response before she seizes his mouth in hers and drinks deep of his kiss.

Angel is lost in the taste and feel and youth of her.

Their first time – their first real time - was in Vegas, courtesy of some trickery on the part of a half-dozen employees of Wolfram and Hart. A fake 'crisis' took the former vampire and the Slayer to the bright, desert city for what they thought was a situation requiring their skills. Upon arrival, they received a call from Faith who told them that since they hadn't 'gotten a room already,' Wolfram and Hart departmental heads, under the authorisation of Wesley Wyndham-Pryce, had booked one for them.

Wes had then taken over the call and informed them that if they showed their noses within a fifty-mile radius of LA in the next six months, he'd just have them kicked out again. He wished them a pleasant holiday, and hung up – although not before Faith yelled, 'Don't do anything I wouldn't do!'

They travelled around the States for a month, then decided to return to Europe.

Angel came to Europe to start afresh. To create memories of old love and new life – real life, not the simulation he inhabited for some two hundred years – with Buffy. And they did.

They did.

For a while.

They spent a month in London, renting rooms, barely leaving them. Everything was new and fresh and beautiful to Angel, the cold droplets of rain across his skin, the taste of hot tea with too much milk and not enough sugar, the scent of him and Buffy tangled in sheets, endlessly exploring, delighting, touching, loving.

The constant rain washed away the unkind memories of Angelus and a thousand deaths. They vanished, one by one as Angel learned about modern London from Buffy's experience when she came here two years ago, and she learned about its history through his own. The old and the new, made new and made old.

And Angel loved every moment of it.

From London, they drove to France and spent a week in a winery, sitting out in the sun for long periods of time, talking and laughing, and exchanging stories. They went walking and climbing, travelling through the countryside, and he almost got tanned, the wasted pale of his skin glowing with the sunlight.

In Normandy, they argued briefly, a lover's spat, just over where they would eat, but driven by bigger issues they didn't wish to acknowledge.

They made up within the space of a day, putting it aside in favour of spending the morning in bed, and the afternoon in the sun.

Angel thought he would never be tired of the sun.

Spain was hot and dusty, wilder than he remembered - although perhaps that was the thrumming beat of his blood pounding in his flesh, intoxicating his senses. The experience was so much more immediate than his memories as Angelus indicated. They drank wine in tiny towns that had escaped the touch of commercial tourism, and listened to songs in Spanish. They slept with the windows open, and the curtains blowing, and the scent of orange blossom sweet on the air as he went down on her out on the balcony of their villa.

They travelled from Spain to Rome, and she showed him where she and her sister had lived for nearly a year. Buffy showed him the places they'd frequented in that time, and Angel learned that she'd cut a swathe through the boys of Rome as wide as the one left in the vampire populace that year.

Jealousy was an entirely human emotion. And he needed no demon in his soul to take his revenge.

She paid for those boys in a night when he showed her the side of him had always lurked closest to Angelus. The lines weren't crossed, but the boundaries of comfort were pushed; and when he untied her, she slapped him so hard, he had the mark of her hand in purple and green on his flesh for a week.

In Rome, Angel learned that distance brings forgetfulness, and a Slayer has a temper when roused.

In Rome, Buffy learned that love is possessive and jealous, and a soul doesn't mean saintliness.

In Rome, they learned that if one is determined to forgive and forget, then the past doesn't matter in the face of the future.

They made love in a tiny church one night, on the sanctity of holy ground. Not out of disrespect for the faith, but in offering to love. She complained the stone of the wall was cold, and he laughed and warmed her front as their voices rose, intermingled in a sacred song of joy and delight as old as man, woman, and the love that could spark between them.

Afterwards, they straightened their clothes and kissed softly, and stole silently into the night, free as the wind.

Summer and fall were spent in southern Europe, and when winter appeared on their doorstep with its promise of biting, freezing cold, they began the journey north.

Their wanderings took them through cities frosted in black ice and white fire; sunlight on snow could dazzle, and the midnight drip-and-gleam of icicles held a beauty all its own. And they trekked slowly and sensually from the northern states of Italy up into the Alps.

They'd planned to travel up through the Alps and the Black Forest to Germany, then down through Austria and over to Romania where he'd been blessed and cursed with the soul that brought him redemption for his wastrel life as a youth and his bloody acts as a demon.

But the best-laid plans never survive the first engagement with the enemy.

Four days ago, Buffy Summers went out of the cabin at the break of day, and never came back.

Her body returned to Angel, but the woman inside it isn't Buffy.

Her body moves against him beneath the thick quilted covers, but her flesh is cold and dead. He stares up at the rafters of the wooden ceiling and thinks about the blizzard outside, the whirling masses of snow chilling and killing anything that it contacts. Freezing things, pristine and perfect, but dead and gone, never to return.

Buffy is dead and gone, never to return.

It's not Buffy whose lips tremble over the line of his jaw. It's not Buffy whose mouth travels down over his throat. It's not Buffy whose fangs sink into his neck and drink his all-too-human blood from his all-too-human body.

Angel knows this, and he hates it.

He hates looking at her and seeing what she has become. He hates knowing that those few, fragile months are all he'll have of her after waiting and loving and longing for years. He hates his inability to end her unliving existence.

And she sees his hatred and his self-loathing, and takes pleasure in his grief.

That is why she suffers him to live. That is why she never drinks him dry. His pain brings her more pleasure than his death would, and she is content to sup on his pain rather than end his life.

The blonde hair drifts across his face as her mouth adjusts on his neck, sensing the flow of his blood beneath the skin, gauging his strength, his ability to withstand her feeding. But for the pain, he could believe it's just Buffy, kissing his throat as they lie, sated, among the sheets.

And when she is finished, the face she lifts to his is Buffy's again and his heart and his eyes are lied to anew.

Now he knows the knife twisted in her heart during the long, hard months he was Angelus. He knows what it is to see the face of someone beloved, and die inside with the knowledge that it is not them. Never them again.

She will not suffer him eternally.

And he – he will not suffer to be fed from, lied to, devoured, destroyed, every night. His body cannot stand it. His heart will not support it. His soul will not allow it. She certainly will not. Sooner or later, he will die, or be turned.

Angel wants to live.

He wanted to live the rest of his life with Buffy, to smile at her in the sunshine and make love to her in the twilight. That dream is gone, dust and ashes in his mouth.

Now, he just wants to live.

He lies in the sheets, panting as his body throbs with the arrhythmia from blood loss. She rises and slips the robe back on, the demon wearing the face of Angel's beloved, wearing her clothes like she wears Buffy's body. In such a way she conceals the evil of her demon self beneath the face Angel always thought was more like an angel's than his own.

His soul. His salvation.

She crosses to the window, watching the blizzard pile snow upon snow upon snow.

Angel cannot live like this and he will not watch her live like that.

Oh, he could call her back with the spell of restoration, but Angel has endured centuries of living death, and he would condemn nobody to such torment, not even for the sake of love. Buffy has died once before. This time, he wants her to rest in peace.

So he slides the thin sliver of wood from beneath the mattress where he hid it while she slept, and palms it as he throws on a fur-lined robe, thick and heavy. She once made love to him on that robe, the thick silk slipping under his buttocks and her knees as he thrust up into her.

Hazy ghosts of memory haunt him as his feet hit the cold rug by the bed. Her head turns as he comes to the window and rests his hand on the wooden sill. The winter cold is seeping into the cabin through the cracks, but the ice has already touched his heart, even as the sliver of wood pierces hers.

Within a moment, even the physical reminder of the woman he loved has splintered and shattered into nothing more dangerous than motes of dust. Angel stands at the window, alone, and looks out into the snow where the blizzard still rages, freezing all life outside with relentless determination.

In his memory, they are frozen in time; the memories of he-and-she; the memories of them.

He will remember the first time she saw him in sunlight, four hours after his humanity was restored to him – the promised Shanshu from the Powers That Be. He will remember the easy silences of their all-night drive to Vegas, punctuated by bursts of conversation, speculation, concern. He will remember their first real night together, no curse, no fear, no schoolgirl crushes or hundred-year angsts; just Angel and Buffy.

He will remember them in London, laughing at the sky. He will remember them in the vineyard, sneaking the sour, unripe grapes from the vines and delighting in their tart flavour. He will remember the taste of sangria and Buffy in his mouth, and the sound of the nightingale mingling with her moans on the balcony. He will remember her tied to the bed in Rome, eyes ablaze, hungry for what he taunted her with and yet denied her; and the way her palm felt cracking across his cheek. He will remember the way they made love that last morning before she climbed out of bed and dressed, brushed her mouth across his, and slipped outside into the crisp, pure snow.

So many memories, kept close, held safe.

He will freeze them, preserve them in the rattle of the storm. They will degrade when the summer of time melts the ice, blurring the details, losing integrity, but he will still remember.

Angel stands at the window, staring out into the whirling snow, remembering.

- fin -