Pairing: Buffy/Angel. I repeat, Buffy/ANGEL. You've been warned. :P

Summary: In a world where Buffy and Angel have never met before, Cordelia calls Buffy, frantic, when Angel goes off the deep end. Takes place after BtVS Triangle and AtS Reprise.

Notes: Since this is an experimentation of what kind of relationship would be feasible had Buffy and Angel gotten past the teenager hurdle, neither Buffy nor Angel have met before, but they are still in the normal setting that they would have been in if they'd been through all they'd been through together. So basically, no AU Buffy, no AU Angel. I just skirt around all the references to Angel-moments in Buffy's life, and Buffy-moments in Angel's life.

My thoughts and reasoning on why I decided to write a Bangel fic are here- coalitiongirl(dot)livejournal(dot)com/86686(dot)html.


She stalked her prey with careful precision, following him through the twists and turns of Los Angeles as he flew down the streets. She'd been warned that he was cautious, that he'd find her and stop her before she could make a difference, but he didn't seem like much of a quarry now. He seemed…desperate, almost, searching for something that even he knew couldn't be found.

No matter. He'd have little to worry about in a moment or two.

He turned a corner, heading toward the address that she had been given for his hotel, and she seized the opportunity to speed up and shove him into a wall, brandishing a stake.

He stared at her incredulously for a moment, the sight of a little blonde girl disconcerting him enough that he didn't resist when she moved the stake to his heart. "Darla?" he said hoarsely, and the incongruity made her laugh.

"Not quite. That what you're heading for? Your sire, to go wreak havoc on us all?"

His eyes cleared and he swung backward, taking her by surprise. She went flying across the road, crashing into a pole at full force. "Ow. Note to self, stake first, ask questions later," she muttered, getting back up and running at him. They traded blows in rapid succession, blocking and attacking with little more success than they had had at first.

"Who are you?" the vampire asked wonderingly as he aimed a fist at her stomach.

She dodged the blow and took advantage of his distraction to land a hard swing on his nose. "Hot chick who can kick your ass any day? How are you not getting this?"

"You're the slayer," he realized. "Betty…Bunny…Cordy's friend. Aren't you in Sunnydale?"

"Buffy," she corrected. "And yeah, I would be, but Cordelia called me the other day to tell me that her boss Angel, the famed vampire with a soul, has completely lost his mind." She kicked high, nicking him in the chin and sending him tumbling to the ground, flat on his back.

She wasn't going to hesitate this time, and in seconds, she had scrambled to pin him down and had a stake at his heart. And suddenly, he was limp, surrendering to her willingly with all the weariness of the eternally defeated. "Cordy…she asked you to kill me?"

Buffy shook her head. "She asked me to try to keep you under control. But in my opinion? Any out-of-control vampire is a dead vampire." She made a face. "Unless if you have a chip in your head. You have a chip?"

He shook his head dumbly.

She sighed. "Yeah, I thought so. Cordelia's going to be pissed, but what can you do?" The stake descended.

Angel caught it with his hand. "Wait."

"Wait? What, do you want one last call or something?"

"No, I…" And a look of such utter loss crossed his face, and Buffy almost felt guilty that she was going to have to stake him. Never had she seen a vampire with such a capacity for despair as this one, and it seemed almost cruel to finish him now that he'd displayed such humanity. "You're the slayer," he said finally.

"We've established that. What, do you want my business card or something?" Buffy asked archly, but she lowered the stake reluctantly.

He closed his eyes. "How do you do it?"

"Well, there's this piece of wood, and you aim for the heart-"

"I'm serious, Bett- Buffy. How can you go on, day after day, knowing that you're fighting a losing battle? That you're never going to defeat all the forces of evil?" His dark eyes were beseeching her for answers, and she knew then that she couldn't stake him. She'd laughed off the soul as some kind of pointless mojo, but it she hadn't understood. It changed him, made him as human as she was. Well, with a sun allergy, anyway.

She moved off of him, scooting to the side to sit against the side of the building. "It's kind of a given, isn't it? One girl against all the forces of darkness in the world means that I won't be able to win."

He pulled himself up to sit beside her. "Why do you even bother?"

She looked at him as though he were insane. "Why do I bother? It's not about some huge, universal war or about good trumping evil, Angel. It's about stopping evil in any little way that I can. Saving a life from time to time, taking down a few Big Bads…that's all I can do."

"It's so empty," he whispered. "We can never win."

"It's not about winning." Buffy was silent for a moment, considering. "It's about, for one moment, saving people. Sometimes I look around Sunnydale, and I see the way that they all look at me. I'm a college dropout, a troublemaker, I burn down schools and occasionally get arrested for murder. They see me as a delinquent, a waste of space. They don't know that I spend every night out there, keeping Sunnydale safe for them." She shook her head. "And it doesn't matter. It took me a while to figure it out, but I'm not doing this for accolades- though they would be nice," she said, grinning prettily. "I'm doing it because every time I stake a vampire, that's one more person who's going home safe each night. One less person who will lose a brother, or a mother, or a friend. And if that means that I could die decades before I should, it's worth it. It's always worth it."

Angel turned to give her a hard look. "Look at them. Don't you see what they are? How much evil is in each one of them? You save a life, but what kind of life is it?"

"Does it matter?" She met his eyes. "Fine. Every human has a capacity for evil. But they also have just as great a capacity for good. I mean, take Cordy!" They both laughed at that, Angel's tinged with a hint of sourness. "She used to be a total bitch in high school. And now she's off with you, fighting demons and saving people."

"Not anymore. I'm not…it wasn't safe for them."

Buffy raised an eyebrow. "Safe for them or safe for you?" He opened his mouth to object, but she cut him off. "Listen, I'm not much good at the whole understanding people thing. But it sounds to me like you've gotten into some pretty dark stuff, and you tried to keep them out of it."

"Yeah."

"I used to be like that," Buffy said thoughtfully. "I used to think that I needed to keep my friends out of danger so that they'd be safe. But I didn't have a choice."

Angel frowned. "Your friends slay with you?"

"Sometimes, or they find other ways to help…" She shrugged. "It's not always easy. But a vampire pointed out recently that the only reason why I'm still alive is because I have people counting on me. And I'll bet that's pretty much the only thing that was keeping you sane, too."

Angel was still, and she watched him with unabashed curiosity. He carried the weight of the world on his shoulders even as she did the same, but his came with the added onus of vampirehood. She could see the darkness roiling within him, so close to the surface and finally tamed by sheer force of will. He was unnatural, a perversion of nature; yet despite all that she'd heard from Giles of the vampire's evil deeds prior to his ensoulment, she felt a kinship with him. They were so similar, two individuals bred to be warriors of good fighting an endless tide of evil, and she wasn't ready to give up on him. Not yet.

Her thoughts must have been written across her face, or perhaps they'd just been contemplating the same matters, because Angel barked out a short laugh and said, "We're two of a kind, aren't we?"

"Super-powered, super-moralled, and doomed to live the rest of our loves alone," Buffy nodded. She brightened. "Ooh! But very pretty. That's always a perk."

But Angel didn't laugh, distracted by what she'd said before. "Doomed to live the rest of our lives alone?" he repeated. "What happened to family and friends grounding you?"

She heaved a sigh. "Sorry. That's just me stuff. I went through a pretty bad breakup a few weeks ago, and I'm still kind of down."

Angel shook his head disbelievingly. "Who'd break up with you?"

She flushed under his scrutiny. "Don't...I'm not that great."

He gazed at her with a growing respect that made her redden even more. "Buffy, I've been around for centuries, and I've never seen anyone who radiates as much purity and goodness as you do. You're perfect."

She looked down. "He said he was okay with it, with the fact that I was stronger than him. That I served a greater purpose than just being his girlfriend. And then he left me because I didn't open myself to him, because I didn't need him enough." She blinked away tears, annoyed with herself. She'd thought that she was finally getting over Riley's betrayal, but now, baring it all to a complete stranger made it hurt all over again.

Except...he wasn't a complete stranger anymore, was he?

A strong hand was laid atop hers, and she looked up to meet Angel's eyes. "He was an idiot," Angel said firmly, brushing away an escaped teardrop with his other hand.

It felt so right to draw closer then, to let her eyes flutter closed and her lips touch his. He deepened the kiss, pulling her closer like she was his anchor, and she tangled a hand in his hair, letting him draw her even nearer. They were entwined in their mutual need and loneliness, their craving for another who understood the pain and the never-ending agony of fighting destiny and losing. And Buffy felt home in his kisses, the rightness of their joining and the rich potential of what it could be.

She tore apart from him finally, forced away by dizziness from loss of oxygen, and panted, "Wow."

"I know what you mean." His eyes were warm, the intensity and despair from earlier finally fading away, and for the first time, she let herself appreciate how gorgeous he was. Oh yeah, she could do a lot worse.

Except... "You're a vampire," she said sadly. "I'm the slayer. Who are we kidding? This wouldn't work."

He reached out to run a soft hand down her cheek. "Buffy, we were made for each other. Who else would we ever find who'd understand? Who could accept us as we are?"

She felt a warmth spread through her at his words and his touch, and she turned her face to kiss his palm. "You're, like, an old man," she pointed out, smirking. "But still pretty."

"Pretty?" he protested, sounding genuinely offended.

"Fine." She patted him on the back consolingly. "You're a dashingly handsome, macho, sexy manly man with- ooh." Her hand moved to his arm, squeezing. "A ver-y nice physique. Must be all that demon fighting."

He kissed her again, and it took all she had to pull away when it was over. "I've got to get back," she said regretfully. "I don't want to leave my sister alone with my mother for the night, and if I don't take the next bus, I won't get home until morning."

He stood, reaching out to help her up. "I also have some things to take care of." She didn't say anything, just looked at him, expectant. He rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly. "I...uh...I think I'll also go check on Cordy and Wes. See if they'll take me back. And I've pretty much made a mess of everything, so I've got to fix that."

"Good luck," she said softly, leaning in to give him one last kiss, rich with wanting and needing and hope, before she turned to go.

"Buffy!" he called after her.

She paused.

"Maybe, after things are settled again, I'll make a trip to Sunnydale. Check out the Hellmouth and its environs, do some good old-fashioned cemetery patrolling." He had that same quiet hope in his voice as he had had in his kisses, and she let a slow smile play at the corners of her lips.

"I'll be expecting you."