Disclaimer: Don't own things, thanks for asking.
Dana woke suddenly, not long after the sun set. It took her a moment to remember where she was, and to remember who the man sleeping in the room with her was. It rushed back to her all at once, while she was standing over him, blade in hand. Her grip slackened, just a little.
Dean. He was a good man. A good brother. Faith's brother, Dean, who had come for her in the awful place. Dana had done what she was told and now she was away from there; someplace different. Her sister had been right and Dana smiled, remembering.
The man, Dean, was blocking the door, so Dana went to the window. It was easy to open, so she didn't have to break it. That was good, because breaking things was bad and got her in trouble. But it was night time, and that meant it was time for her to hunt, so she would have broken it if she'd had to.
The night air was cold and she shivered, but she ignored the feeling, climbing out onto the window ledge before dropping easily onto the ground below. The ground was hard and damp, but she didn't mind. She remembered colder days in other places, fighting and bleeding and dying alone in the cold. She thumbed the blade, considering. It was sharp and clean; well-cared for. Warriors of the People always kept their weapons clean and sharp. She remembered that.
She stood quietly in the shadows, waiting. Something inside stretched out, telling her where to hunt; where to look for the bad men. The monsters. There weren't many, not in this place, but there was something… ah. Dana grinned and broke into a run, excited. The hunt was on and her blood was singing in her veins.
The sky was dark with proper night when Buffy crossed Restfield cemetery. Her job there was done for the night- one formerly-known-as-Danny-Carton was dust in the wind, having never made it out of his grave. She liked it when they made it easy for her, though she almost missed the fight. With the town on demonic lockdown before the Mayor made his big debut, there were few real challenges in the past weeks.
Not that she was complaining, really, but a nice fight now and then would keep her in shape and stop Giles from forcing hours and hours of drills after school instead.
It's not her fault that the forces of evil were marshalling behind the stupid mayor, anyway, so it wasn't fair that she was the one being punished.
"Buffy?" She spun around, taken by surprise, and her whole body was tensed, ready for a fight. She didn't relax when she realized it was Angel standing there, watching her. He was almost worse- a fight she could handle. Angel, she could not. History had thought them that her handling him led to bad places.
"Angel?" She would be embarrassed later at how little-girl-ish her voice sounded. "You're back? You're okay?" She'd imagined this conversation a thousand times but in all of her imaginings, she'd been brave enough to hug him. Standing there, she just about managed to lower her stake.
"Yeah, I'm… better. I was going to call but I thought I should come see you in person."
"Good. That's… good." She had a thousand questions, but none of them came out. He looked different. Good. Strong. He was wearing blue jeans, which was weird, and boots that she would never in a million years have said he'd wear, but he looked good. "You look good." Oh god, someone please try to kill her now.
"So do you." At least he seemed as awkward as she felt.
"I'm so sorry." And there it was, the crying and blubbering portion of their reunion. "I'm so, so sorry. I didn't know what else to do and I should have killed him, I should have, because what happened was a thousand times worse and it was my fault, I know, but I'm so sorry." She couldn't look at him, dropping her stare to the ground and wrapping her arms around her middle to hold herself together.
"It's okay, Buffy. Please don't blame yourself. You did what you had to do and yeah, it wasn't so great there for a while, but everything is okay now." Was it? Really? How could it ever be? He'd been in hell, and she'd sent him there. She'd killed him, and he'd gone to hell for who-knows-how-long and come back a crazy, feral version of himself. But he was looking at her like he used to- eyes full of compassion and awe and, oh god, she was so relieved to see him for herself.
Faith had kept her informed, more or less, but she hadn't spoken to any of the Winchesters since the day Faith 'died' and Dean wasn't answering her calls.
"Is Faith okay?" She didn't mean to blurt it out. Really, she knew they had more to talk about; more to work through than they'd even scratched the surface of, but… god, that was hard.
"She's still in a coma." And, oh god, that was hard too. She'd known, of course, but without any word, she'd been able to imagine that her sister-Slayer was up and kicking.
It was too much, too quickly, and Buffy let her body collapse against the nearest headstone, the cold stone holding her upright.
"Is she going to wake up?" Angel shrugged slowly, taking a few steps forward to sit on the headstone next to hers.
"Dean has a plan, so… we'll see how that goes. His plans don't always work out the way he wants them to. I'm sure he'll call when something changes." The way he said it, something in his voice told her that he wouldn't be there to see it himself.
"You're not staying with him anymore?" 'Staying with' sounded much better than 'following him around', she thought. Angel winced, hearing what she hadn't said.
"No. I don't need to anymore, now that I'm lucid again." He sounded embarrassed, which the Slayer really couldn't understand. In a few, short, months, he'd returned to the guy he'd been before hell- more or less. What else could he have expected from himself? She said as much, her tone tainted with amazement, and if Angel could have, he would have blushed. She was sure of it.
They talked for a while, quietly exchanging stories, until it got easier to sit there next to him; to see him there, whole and unharmed and not-Angelus. It wouldn't ever be easy, maybe, but it was easier. He told her about hunting Shapeshifters with the Winchesters in the forests of Wyoming and she filled him in on the Mayor's plan for ascension.
"You need backup? I'll stay until it's over and I can call the Hunters in, too, if you think you need them." And there it was… the difference in him, clear as day, and Buffy felt inexplicably sad.
Angel was willing to call for help.
He had someone- not her- that he trusted to back him up; to come if he asked. She smiled, sadly, and shook her head.
"I don't know anything yet. He's planning to ascend, sure, but the wheres and whens are iffy. I can't call in Hunters and have them hanging around the Hellmouth for months, waiting." He nodded; tacit agreement that Hunters weren't exactly known for their patience. Buffy didn't want them on her turf, anyway. Sure, Faith was cool and Dean seemed nice the few times she'd talked to him, but that changed nothing. For every Winchester, there was a Cain, and she wasn't willing to take that risk.
"I'll be in L.A. for a while, so call me when you know." He handed her a tiny slip of paper with a phone number scrawled on it in neat, precise numbers.
"You have a cell phone?" Seriously? She wasn't even sure Angel knew those existed. She didn't even have a cell phone! That was just not cool.
"Dean insisted." He reached into the pocket of his jacket and showed her- top of the line model, sleek and black and so pretty and it was stupid to be jealous of a phone, right? Even though Angel was handling the phone like it was precious and it got tucked back into his pocket carefully.
"I'm sure he can be pretty insistent." Yeah, she sounded jealous, and not of the stupid phone.
"He's a good guy, Buffy, and I owe him more than I can say." Well, didn't that just take her jealousy and make it petty? Buffy flushed, embarrassed.
"I know. I owe him, too." After all, it was her fault and even if Angel didn't blame her, she wasn't going to stop blaming herself anytime soon.
"I should go. Call me, when you need me." He stood and they hugged, but it was awkward and when she said goodbye, it felt like actual goodbye; like a weight had been lifted and she was relieved in a way she hadn't thought she would be. She'd never imagined that she would be able to breathe easier when he was gone; that knowing he was okay would be great, but that watching him walk away wouldn't hurt to her core.
Huh. Maybe she was growing up, like her mom had told her would happen someday.
Or maybe, just maybe, running someone through with a sword and sending him to hell for months until he came back crazy and left town as soon as he could manage was actually the death-knoll of a relationship. Who'd have thought it?
Angel watched her walk away, feeling the same pang of love and heartbreak that he always felt around her. She'd been his reason for living; his reason for crawling his way back into society and into the good fight… but there was too much between them, now. Maybe if he hadn't left town with the Hunters, he'd have been able to find his way back to her, but he was glad he hadn't. He'd spent months watching the Winchesters and they were young and bright and vibrant and had so much to give to the world, and Buffy was just like them.
She was a Slayer, true, but he'd seen first hand what that meant: a hospital bed and a ring of bruises around your neck. It meant a sword through the chest because that was the right thing to do. He wasn't going to do that to her again- she was young and she'd recover and go on to love someone else; someone who would be able to love her back without the risk of death and dismemberment hanging over them.
He wasn't sure he would, but he could see it in her, now, as she walked away. He could smell her relief and it broke his heart and mended it, all at once.
The sky was just brightening as she approached the house. It was quiet inside and she could hear the heartbeats and even breaths of deep sleep. The window was still open and she climbed up to it quickly, dropping inside on silent feet. She was cold and dirty, but her blood had calmed and her head felt fresher; cleaner. She made sure to clean her blade carefully, wiping it on her shirt and noting that it would need to be sharpened again.
She didn't notice when Dean woke but when she turned, she saw him watching her, eyes wide.
"What the hell have you been doing?" He was whispering, but he sounded angry. The anger poked at her; made her wince and took some of the clean away. Why would he be angry?
"Dana hunt." She hunted. Slayers hunt. He should know that. Faith had said he would. Dana thought he did.
"Dee…" His breathing turned heavier and his heart was beating faster. "Please don't leave without telling me, okay? I don't want you to get hurt."
"Dana strong. Dana hunt the bad things." She felt confused; it had been clear, hadn't it? She remembered running and fighting and not being confused. She wasn't in the awful place anymore and she was strong. Dana would hunt.
"I know, kid. I just worry, is all." He stood up, reaching across the small room and taking the blade from her hand. "This'll need to be sharpened." She smiled, happy because he knew that too. "Come on, let's get you cleaned up."
Dean let her close the bathroom door this time, but he sat outside all the same, too stunned to leave her alone. The shower was running inside and he hoped that she'd remembered to take off her clothes this time- the first time she'd showered, she'd kept the hospital scrubs on.
And Jesus H., he hoped she'd been listening when he told her to wash her face, where four precise lines of dried blood had been streaked like war paint. Her clothes were destroyed, her legs were covered in muck and blood and he was sure that at least some of it was hers, but most of it wasn't and he'd have to clean it up before John or Bobby saw.
He'd been listening when Sam had described the First Slayer, but he hadn't really been able to get a picture of her in his head. Until now. Now, he was pretty sure he knew exactly what his brother had seen and Sam was right: she was fucking terrifying.