Mush and fluff and angst and woe... oh my. Moments of perfect happiness happen, so NC-17.
To re-affirm my B/A-ship.
Dedication: To Joss, for this recently said in an interview with ET Online:
"Stephanie: What are your favorite "Angel" and "Buffy" episodes?
Joss: Favorite episodes. "Buffy": Hush was so exciting to make and just felt really cool when we finished it. It felt like we'd done something new and that was a nice experience. Ultimately, Innocence, the episode where Angel goes bad, is my favorite. That was the moment when everybody working on the show realized we had done something that was emotionally true and really different, and taken the show to a whole new level, so I would say Innocence probably comes in first. "Angel": so far the episodes that are about to air. I'm not sure when these answers will come out, but the episodes that follow, 17, 18 and 19 of this first season, get into some very interesting and creepy personal stuff with our characters and the people around them, and they made me more excited about the show than I've been yet. Apart from that, I'd say the "Buffy" crossover "I Will Remember You." 'Cause it kinda broke my heart. "
No matter how many nasty things we say about you, Joss, I hope you know we love you.
It's roughly now in the BtVS/Angel timelines. Pretty much everything we've seen has happened.
Spoilers for I Will Remember You. Big time. Again.
Summary: The first big battle of the End Days has just ended. The armies of the Forces of Good rejoice in their initial victory, but not everyone is comfortable with the close quarters being warriors requires...
Music: Wasted Time and Beautiful by Me'Shell N'Degeocello, from her CD Bitter...; Falling in Love and How by Lisa Loeb, from Firecracker . The points where the song changes are marked in the story, like chapter titles. At the end, they all kind of blend together.
The poem is "Quick and Bitter" by Yehuda Amichai
The graphics are just random visual thoughts.
1.) Wasted Time
Buffy bolted into the crowd, not caring who got bashed if they got in her way. Riley was there, somewhere... and Willow said he was hurt.
She peeked into every ambulance and under every sheet, ashamed that she felt better each time she looked on a corpse that she didn't recognize... until she finally found him, resting on the fender of a fire truck, covered in a wool blanket and sipping coffee from a Styrofoam cup.
Riley saw her approach and stood up, wincing, and Buffy grabbed him and squeezed him with all of her might.
"Oh, thank God!" she exclaimed into his broad chest.
"Um... hi... Ow?" he objected quietly.
She let him go.
"How did you get all the way up here? I thought I asked you to guard the rear, with the others?" she asked him, frustrated and frantic, "And I find you right here on the edge of the Hellmouth itself!"
Riley looked down at her, "A friend of yours came by looking for you. He said he had the ritual that would bind the Hellmouth."
"Again..." Buffy muttered. And then, she suddenly realized exactly which "friend" Riley must be talking about.
Riley nodded, "They needed my help, so I went."
Buffy scowled, "Angel brought you here?"
"And Xander, and Giles, and Willow, and the others... They needed people to physically back up the ones doing the magick. It was the only way."
"You could have been killed..." she said, only half to Riley. The other half was quickly blaming Angel for being so cavalier and careless with her lover.
"It had to be done, Buffy. We would have lost, if he hadn't come."
Buffy's face collapsed into her furious frown.
//He can't do this. I can't let him get away with this...//
She looked closely at Riley, "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'll be fine. Just a little bruised, that's all," he said.
"Okay," Buffy said, "Then, wait here. I have something I have to take care of."
She turned and marched back into the crowd. Riley watched her disappear into the throng, wondering what could be so important that it couldn't wait.
// I KNEW it. I KNEW he was here!//
She'd felt that twitching in her stomach... that cold tingle in her fingers and toes, and the automatic, pounding response of her heart to his presence. Buffy tried to ignore the little thrill that ran through her when she realized he really was here. She fought to focus on her fury, instead.
He was the one who had left so she could have a 'normal' life... and now that she had as close to normal as she could get, he just showed up as sweet as you please and decided to tear it all down again.
//He's not getting away with it. Not this time.//
This time she would make herself heard. After everything Riley had done for her, she at least owed him that.
Buffy came up over the crest of the hill, and froze in her tracks.
2.) Falling in Love
Angel stood, proud and tall against the moonlit sky, towering over a crowd of people and demons who gathered around him. He looked like some Greek god, standing there, surveying the scene of his people's victory.
He immediately looked up, and their eyes met.
Buffy's breath caught in her throat at the sight of his gaze settling upon her. And involuntary little smile stole across his lips, but he caught it and squashed it quickly before it could spread to he rest of his face.
This was business. And by the fierce, angry look on the Slayer's face, it was pretty clear she wasn't there to thank him.
He excused himself, and stepped away from the others, meeting her halfway across what had once been the Sunnydale High School front lawn. They approached one another cautiously, each sizing up the other's condition and mood, taking a moment to decide on what strategy to take that would make this moment the least awkward.
"Hi," he said quietly.
They stopped a foot away from one another, and stood, rigid, as if there were a physical barrier between them.
Buffy was so completely overwhelmed by his closeness, she shook. Their bond flowed between them like a living, burning thing, crackling in the cool air around them. Thrown utterly off her bearings, feeling cornered and angry, Buffy the Vampire Slayer did the only thing she knew how to do.
She took a step forward, reached out, and slapped Angel square across the jaw.
His head snapped back, and his hand flew up automatically to cover the offended spot.
"Don't 'HI' me!" she screeched at him, "Don't you DARE! You almost got all my friends killed tonight! ALL of them! And Riley..."
The sound of her saying his name with such fear and concern was like a ten ton stone dropping on his head. He tried not to let the pain show.
"I had no choice," he said, 'The ritual had to be done then. There was no time to find out or it would have been too late," he said calmly.
Buffy glared at him. He had that look on his face; that puppy-dog-pleading-for-forgiveness-for-something-he-couldn't-help look, on top of the refusing-to-take-any-of-her-crap look, which was relatively new.
//Mad. You're mad. Riley. He got Riley hurt.//
She got in his face, "How could you take them? What were you thinking?"
Angel sneered bitterly, knowing she mostly meant her boyfriend.
"They understand the stakes, Buffy. They did this with their eyes wide open."
Of course, he knew that was a lie... Buffy's boyfriend obviously had no idea who he was. He'd just followed the orders of someone who seemed to be in charge, like a good soldier.
"Just stay away from us!" Buffy spat, and turned to walk away.
"You're welcome," he snapped at her retreating back.
Buffy froze once again, but before her retort made it from her mind to her lips, the ground beneath her began to groan, and then, heave violently.
She looked back at Angel. He was struggling to maintain his own balance. The other people and soldiers, hundreds of yards away from them, remained seemingly undisturbed.
Buffy heard a distinct crack as the earth shifted beneath them.
"Buffy!" Angel shouted, and dove for her.
His body weight carried her away from the first rending of the earth, but as soon as they landed, the grass beneath them split open, as well, and swallowed them.
All she could feel were Angel's arms around her, and the air rushing by them in the dark as they fell. Then, she knew nothing.
When she came to, Buffy was wrapped in Angel's warm coat, her head propped up on her own thing jacket. She felt warm and relaxed, despite what she knew would be a crippling stiffness in her back, come morning, and rejoiced to see a small, cheerful fire nearby. She slowly sat up and looked around.
Angel sat across the fire, quietly watching her.
She blinked slowly at him, "Where are we?"
He looked at her, giving her a casual once-over for injuries, "I'm not sure. We fell, but I don't know how far. I can't see the sky from here, that much I know."
Buffy took a closer look at their surroundings -- a small, round cave about 20 feet in diameter, the roof of which was nowhere within her sight. It just looked like a tub that went up and up into nowhere.
"I'm gonna take a wild stab at it, and say we fell far," she said.
Angel nodded, "Probably a fair estimation."
Buffy sighed. Great. She was stuck down in the bowels of the earth with the one person who constantly made her dizzy and tied her stomach up in crampy, fluttering knots, a sensation only made worse by her ravenous hunger.
As if in response, her stomach growled loudly.
Angle looked at her, his brow furrowed with concern, "You're hungry."
She shrugged, 'I forgot to eat. With all the... you know, end of the world and all, I guess it kind of slipped my mind."
"If it comes to that, there are rats," he told her, as if that were an important survival fact.
Maybe if they were the Donner party...
Buffy made a face, 'Nothing handier than a predator when you're facing starvation, "she muttered under her breath.
Angel shot her a dark look that she didn't see, because she got up and began to examine the walls of their prison up close.
"They're smooth. I already check," he assured her. Angel had had to struggled to occupy himself while she lay there, unconscious. He fought the demonic rage, and the burning panic that both threatened to consume him, by pacing the room like a big cat.
Buffy looked back at him, "This isn't a natural cave..."
Angel shook his head, "I have a feeling this is the work of your boyfriend and his bunch."
Buffy squinted at him, unsure how to take his tone.
He nonchalantly pulled a book out of his pocket and began to read.
"What are you doing?" Buffy asked him.
He looked up, "Reading. We could be waiting for a while."
She stared at him for a moment longer, then sat back on her makeshift bed and stared morosely into the fire.
He watched her out of the corner of his eye, careful to keep his face turned down to the pages before him, so she wouldn't see.
What was she thinking?
"Are you okay?" he asked her finally.
She looked quickly up at him, then back to the fire, "I'm fine," she assured him.
"Good," he said, looking at her for another heartbeat before going back to his reading.
Buffy tried to look at everything around her at least ten times so she wouldn't have to watch him. She pulled items one by one out of her jacket pockets, and either examined or used them. She fixed her lip gloss, sharpened her stakes, and fidgeted with her knife.
Everything else possible done, she looked up at Angel at last.
"What are you reading?" She asked.
When he had discovered the worn leatherback book in his pocket while Buffy was unconscious, he had almost dropped to his knees to thank the gods... Something, anything to distract him, from staring at the love of his life, lying right there...right there... by the fire.
"It's... uh... it's a book of poetry," he told her.
"What kind of poetry?" she asked. The kind of stuff Angel read was always heavy and sad, exactly what being so close to him right that moment made her feel.
Angel looked at her for a long time, and then began to read:
end was quick and bitter
Slow and sweet was the time between us,
Slow and sweet were the nights
When my hands did not touch one another in despair
But with the love of your body
Which came between them.
when I entered into you
It seemed then that great happiness
Could be measured with the precision
Of sharp pain. Quick and bitter.
and sweet were the nights
Now is as bitter and grinding as sand --
'We shall be sensible,' and similar curses.
as we stray further from love
We multiply the words,
Words and sentences long and orderly.
Had we remained together
We could have become a silence."
Such a silence fell over them when he finished speaking.
Angel knew it was inappropriate. He could have read to her from Rikki-Tikki-Tavi or The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner -- something long and safe and simple that would have allowed them to while away the hours, thinking of any adventure but their own...
But the way she looked at him... that old, familiar way only slightly hardened into bitterness by the years, made him think suddenly of longing... of bitterness, and the memory of his hands on her warm body...
There was no other poem he could have read.
Buffy continued to stare at him, frozen by the words he had read, unable to think, or to act. He was the only one who could cripple even her deepest instincts.
She had only just been thinking about the night she and Angel made love... the differences between the sensations his hands and lips had stirred in her, versus what Riley felt like.
Angel put the book back in his pocket.
//I think that's enough poetry for one night...//
"So, how are.."
"I wonder if the others..."
They both broke the painful silence simultaneously, latching desperately on to the first thought in their muddled heads, praying for Small Talk to appear and shatter the burning tension that choked the air between them.
Buffy laughed awkwardly, and Angel smiled.
"Go ahead," he offered.
"I was just wondering if the others are okay," she finished.
"I'm sure they are. I only saw the one fault line, and that was..."
"The one we plummeted into," she finished for him.
"I'm sure they'll find us pretty soon..." she said.
Angel looked at her, wondering where this new "Power of Positive Thought" Buffy had come from.
//She's growing up, dolt. She's not 16 anymore...//
He couldn't help but notice how much she had grown up... how much she'd grown into her own body... he swallowed hard and didn't let the rest of the thought even materialize in his mind.
"I'm sure," he agreed, fighting to keep his voice steady and even.
Buffy wrapped her arms around her knees and rest her chin on them morosely.
"So... how are you?" he ventured, now that the initial ice was broken... sort-of..."You look... well."
Buffy gave him a look, "Oh, I don't look run down, undernourished, stressed-out and frustrated? Everybody else seems to think I do."
Angel blinked at her.
She relaxed a little, "I'm sorry. I just... I wasn't ready for this."
She gestured between them, "This. You being here. It's just... weird, that's all."
He nodded. "Weird" wasn't the exact word he'd been thinking (actually, it was "awe-inspiring"), but it was close enough.
"I'm sorry," he said gently, looking away from her.
"I'm happy, damn it! I'm happy!!!" Her voice was shrill, and both of them wondered who she was trying to convince.
When he looked up at her again, she could see the faint shine of tears beginning behind his dark eyes.
"He... treats you well, then?" he asked, almost hoping she would say 'no'. That he would have a legitimate excuse for making the boy pay for the involuntary, irrational jealous RAGE that coursed through him. Of course, he knew better, and he let the razor-sharp anger go dull from Buffy's calming presence.
"Like a princess," she said honestly. Riley was kind and giving...attentive... sweet... He made her feel... normal. Special in a different, human kind of way.
But now, looking at Angel, she remembered clearly what it felt like to be honored...revered...worshipped. Like the only Goddess in all the universe.
Buffy clenched her teeth, sealing her lips tight against all the words that threatened to spill forth from the barely patched remains of her broken heart.
Angel set his jaw and fought harder against the sadness that threatened to suck all of his strength and resolve away.
"I'm glad to hear that," he said sincerely.
But Buffy heard his voice break, and saw the first of his tears spill off his high cheekbones.