Notes: Beta by TKP (thanks, love), future fic, AU after NFA/Chosen
Written for the I Will Remember You Ficathon
Story will be approximately 10 chapters
One evening Buffy opened her front door and Angel was standing there.
Later, it occurred to her that if this had been a chick flick, she would have leapt into his arms, they would have both exclaimed that they'd never let each other go, and years of regret, remorse and rancor would have vanished into thin air, followed by a mind blowing kiss. Her life, however, had nothing to do with the movies, unless it was one of those incomprehensible foreign ones where everybody dies at the end.
He didn't look any different, dressed completely in black as usual. It didn't matter; she couldn't be fooled. The clothes he had worn in Sunnydale had been about power and intimidation. Now he reminded her of the old Italian women she saw picking over fruit at the market stalls, supposedly mourning for forty-odd years, but in actuality wallowing in a type of living death. A sickly sweet smell, like gardenias past their prime, seemed to cling to him. His expression was blank, no begging, no pleading, not any appeal to what he had once been to her. In the end that was what decided her. If he had said anything, she would have slammed the door closed. Like this, she found it impossible to turn him away.
"Come in, Angel."
Her living room was decorated in sky blues and grassy greens. Photos of every shape and size littered every surface; there was even one of her mother from years ago that her father had been able to give her. The room was warm and lived in, dominated by a large window. She liked the image it presented. Now she felt off balance. Had those odd shadows in the corner always been present? "Why don't you sit," she said, pointing to the couch.
Angel still didn't speak and the silence stretched between them. The hush of a battlefield, the dead silently screaming. Buffy had no idea what to say. "I thought you were dust but you're not." "Why didn't you let me know you made it?' "Why didn't you call me before everything turned to shit in L.A.?" Finally she settled for, " I don't have anything for you to eat. I'll pick up something tomorrow." Angel hadn't moved once he sat down. His chest didn't rise with his habit of feigned breathing, there were no involuntary muscle twitches, even his eyes didn't blink. She turned away, barely able to repress a shudder.
The silence continued, thick and overwhelming. Buffy felt as if a weight was pressing on her, squeezing the air out of her body. She forced a light tone into her voice. "I was just on my way to patrol, so I'm going to head out. I'll be back later." She walked down to the door, calmly walked down the front steps, counted off thirty paces and then ran as fast as she could, her heart pounding.
When she returned hours later, she didn't spot him. Something akin to relief blossomed, until she saw that he was still on the couch, exactly where she had left him. "Angel?" She spoke slowly and softly, as if to a young child. "I've got a spare room." She touched his arm lightly and he got up and followed her. He shrugged out of his coat, leaving it on the chair. He sat on the bed and carefully took off his shoes. "Why don't you lie down and get comfortable? I'll be right back." She returned in a moment, carrying several bath towels with which she proceeded to cover the chintz curtains. Angel was lying under the covers, eyes closed. She had no idea whether he was actually asleep, but she was grateful that this way she didn't have to interact with him. She went into her own bedroom and closed her eyes, desperately trying to find oblivion.
The phone rang as she buttered a roll for breakfast. She picked it up and cheerfully spoke. "Hello, Giles."
"One of these days it will not be me on the other end and you will be properly mortified."
She rolled her eyes. "It's seven-thirty-two Giles. You always call at exactly seven-thirty-two. The only way it wouldn't be you was if you fell into an interdimensional ditch. Which, considering our line of work is not out of the realm of the never gonna happen, but even so, I'm confident that you would never foist Andrew on me at this hour of the morning."
"Splendid. She just started a class on identification of native Asian demons."
"It is. The Gravlichs are one of the most…"
"Kidding. Totally completely kidding. Are you keeping an eye on her?"
"Buffy, Dawn is no longer a child."
"If she was a child there wouldn't be an issue. If the tweed brigade started hitting on her and she was a kid, that would be perverted."
"She is old enough to make her own choices. You may recall I didn't interfere with your dating habits."
"It would have worked out better if you had." The bitterness in her voice surprised even her.
"Is everything all right?"
She feigned a small chuckle. "Fine. I just ran out of milk and you know a Buffy without her morning caffeine is a danger to children, small animals and watchers."
"Quite." He paused and Buffy imagined him polishing his glasses. For a moment, she wanted to confess to the guest in her spare room, but she dismissed the thought as soon as it formed. Giles had made the appropriate sympathetic noises when Faith had finally returned from L.A. with no news, but she knew he wasn't particularly bothered by Angel's demise. She didn't think telling him that Angel was currently in her apartment would be a wise move. "The coven called yesterday," Giles stated.
"What do the witches of Eastwick want now? Wait, don't tell me, apocalypse, demon, death, destruction, yada, yada."
Giles' reaction was a sigh. "It seems a demon--"
"A demon! Fancy that. Is it one of those cute in an ugly way species, like a platypus, or just one of those butt-ugly types that are covered with pus, my-what-big-teeth-you- have teeth, and smell like Xander's refrigerator?"
"They haven't been able to discern very much."
"In other words, you've got nothing with a side of nothing."
"They've had a strong visual of purple fire. I've already started investigating."
"Purple fire? Are you sure they're not getting a preview of the Euro Disney fireworks show?"
"Buffy, they know that whatever this thing is, it's extremely dangerous and it's headed your way." He waited half a beat; Buffy could almost see his hand tighten around the phone. "Please be careful."
"You know me. Always look both ways before I skewer the monster." Her voice softened. "Don't worry so much. I always get my demon."