Buffy was staring at her distorted reflection in The Bean, her breaths noticeable in her reflection. It was only October, but it was so cold and out. She fidgeted with her ring, and was thinking about how Sunnydale was only this cold once, when she felt a familiar presence. It was late, and she saw no one but her reflected.
“If I turn around, are you still going to be there?” she asked.
Buffy turned quickly on her heels, and came face to face with a man she had thought was dust. “You would come to a tourist attraction where people look at their reflections in a giant steel bean.”
Angel shrugged, and said, “The artist originally intended it to reflect the skyline.”
“Oh,” she said. “Sorry to ruin your view.”
Buffy sighed, and found the silence to be like the giant hole that Sunnydale now was. She remembered when his silence was comforting.
“You know, it’s polite to tell people who care about you that you’re not dead,” she told him.
When he didn’t answer, she added, “When I came back from…where I was, I saw you. We had that whole hey, Buffy’s not six feet under conversation, remember?”
“I’m sorry,” he replied, and the two words did nothing for her.
“Is Spike still alive, well undead too?” she asked him.
Angel shook his head, and to her surprise, he looked like genuinely upset about it.
Buffy wrapped her arms around herself, and looked down at her boots. “What are you in Chicago for?” she asked, resisting the urge to reach out and touch him and confirm for herself that he was real.
“Connor started medical school at the University of Chicago, and I wanted to visit,” he replied, his eyes lighting up.
“Your son?” she asked. At his surprised look, she said, “Faith was in the middle of telling me a story when she froze, and had a memory of your son pop into her head. It was a little strange,” she said.
“Oh,” he said.
“Medical school huh? I bet you’re proud,” she told him.
“I am. He wants to be a cardiologist,” Angel said.
Buffy couldn’t help the laughter that bubbled out of her. At his offended look she replied, “You have to see the irony in that somewhere.”
The corners of his lips turned up in a half-smile and he nodded. “What brings you to Chicago?”
“One of our slayers died, and her parents live her. I gave the whole heroic your daughter died saving the world speech, except she didn’t.” she said, blinking back tears, surprised at how shaky her emotional control was around him.
“Didn’t what?” Angel asked.
“Die saving the world, it was just a garden variety vampire, and Stacey was having an off day. Slayers don’t get off days,” she said, unwilling to look him in the eyes or take any comfort from his presence. She stuck her hands in her coat pockets, and wished she had thought to buy gloves. Angel had noticed.
“Buffy, would you like to grab a coffee? It’s late, but I’m sure someplace is open. Your coat doesn’t look especially warm,” he said, looking at her light peacoat.
“But it’s completely fashionable,” she replied with a smile. “I can do coffee.”
They walked in silence toward the nearest open Starbucks. Buffy noticed that the green S on the sign was flickering on and off, and she felt a flash of annoyance go through her. Angel held the door open for her, and they walked up to the counter together.
“I’ll have a tall coffee, and a mocha,” he told the barista, pulling out his wallet. She wanted to tell him that she was a regular coffee girl too these days, but he looked so confident placing the order that she hadn’t the heart.
He told the barista his name when she asked, and she wrote it on their cups in a distinctly feminine squiggle and told Angel that he had a very pretty name. Buffy valiantly restrained the urge to roll her eyes.
They picked up their drinks, and Buffy took a sip of her sickeningly sweet mocha, as she sat down across from Angel.
“You’re engaged,” he said, gesturing to her left hand.
“You noticed, huh?” she said, hating the guilt that was creeping into her voice.
“I knew,” he said.
“Wait—let me get this straight. You don’t care enough to tell me that you’re not dead, but you care enough to find out my relationship status?” she said with her hands waving in the air, spilling a bit of her mocha on her coat.
“It’s not that I didn’t care,” he said softly, leaning in closer to her.
“Can you try to explain to me what it was then?” she asked, her tone gentler.
“I heard you were busy, and I didn’t want to burden you,” he said.
“You didn’t want to burden me..,” she said, trailing off. “You have never been a burden Angel. God, I thought men stopped being insecure after they hit two-hundred.”
“I had my reasons for not telling you,” he said.
“I’m sure you did. You always have your reasons. I am glad you’re not dead though,” she said earnestly, reaching out to place her hand on top of his. He was solid and cool, and not at all some sort of fantasy or the first evil returned, banking on making her crazy by way of mochas.
“Thank you,” he said. He smiled at her and she found the gesture particularly attractive.
She held eye contact for too long, and looked away, embarrassed. He reached out, and brushed a stray hair off of her face. She was engaged, but he was still Angel, and when he leaned in to kiss her, she let him. She parted her lips, and tangled her hands in his hair. She broke away from him when she felt the barista’s eyes on her, and blushed, feeling like she was sixteen again.
“I’m sorry,” Angel said.
“You’re lying,” she said, fiddling with her engagement ring.
“I am,” he said. “I wanted to do that for a long time.”
Before he said anything he would regret, she closed the gap between them and kissed him again. She had not seen him in more than four years, but he felt so familiar to her. He pulled away this time, and looked down at her diamond.
“My hotel isn’t far from here,” he said.
“Are you propositioning me?” she asked.
“Yes,” he replied instanteously.
“Okay,” she said, and the word of assent coming out of her mouth felt so foreign and unwarranted that she didn’t almost recognize it as her voice. “Okay,” she repeated.
He gracefully tossed their cups into the trash, and she followed him, letting him hold her hand as they walked to his hotel. She entered his hotel, “The Palmer House,” and thought it was beautiful, and told him so.
He smiled at her and led her up to his room. The decorations were traditional and classy, and although she knew it was rented and he was probably only here for the night, she felt like the room fit him.
“Is this okay?” she asked him, dropping his hand, and balling hers into fists.
“I’m in no danger of losing my soul Buffy,” he told her, and she knew he wasn’t lying to her. She remembered when she was his entire world. He used to wait around for hours for a glimpse of her, and she was so young and would push and pull him. His affection for her was a constant once.
She carefully unbuttoned her coat, and draped it on a chair. She slid her engagement ring off gently, and placed it on the nightstand. She felt him watch her, his eyes burning a hole in her back, and she didn’t feel half as guilty as she thought she would.
She sat down on the bed, waiting for Angel to make the first move. He did, and he kissed her fiercely. She responded, and wrapped her legs around him, crossing her ankles at his back. She tore off his shirt, letting her hands roam over the expanse of his chest while he made quick work of her top. He undid her bra more slowly, and her breasts fell into his hands. It had been far too long since he had last touched her, she thought.
Buffy was making tiny noises into his mouth, and was frustrated at the intricacies of Angel’s belt-buckle. He stopped, and pulled it off himself. She pulled off his pants, and reached for him, enjoying the look on his face that appeared at her touch. She lifted her hips up, and let him tug her clothes off so she could be free of the constraints of her clothing. His eyes darkened, and he looked at her like she was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.
She flipped him over, enjoying the surprise in his eyes at her assertiveness. She hadn’t been a virgin in a long time, and she wasn’t shy. She guided him into her, him fitting as perfectly as she remembered, and his hands snaked up to her hips, pushing her deeper into him. She closed her eyes, and felt his gaze on her as she came. He came soon after, and she collapsed against him, and buried her face in his chest.
Buffy stayed like that for several moments, content to be in his arms.
She closed here eyes, but open them soon after, not letting herself fall asleep. She reached over him to grab her engagement ring, and slid it back on her finger.
“Leave him,” he sajd forcefully, grabbing her left hand..
“I’m doing what you want,” she told him, removing his hand from her gently.
“Sunshine, normal guy, making love—well I guess we can do that now. Picket fence Buffy,” she said.
“Does he know about you?” he asked.
“The slayer thing? Sure. He’s from a family of watchers,” she told him.
“He’s English?” Angel said.
“Irish, actually,” she said, her heart feeling so heavy when she saw the look that flashed across his face.
“Do you love him?” he asked.
“Yeah, I do,” she said. He started to sit up, and she pushed him back down. “Listen.”
“If you’re going to tell me that I’d like him, don’t even bother,” he said, crossing his arms across his bare chest.
“I’m not. Angel, I love you. I have since I was 16 years old. When you were in the process of dumping me in the sewer, I told you that wasn’t going to change, and it didn’t. I love you. But love isn’t enough. If it was, you’d never have left. If it was, I wouldn’t have had to been the girl who killed the man she loved to save the world. If it was, you would have told me you were alive,” she said slowly and deliberately, pulling the sutures out of old wounds.
“Buffy,” Angel said, reaching out to touch her.
“No, I’m not done. I’ve gotten good at the righteous indignation lately,” she said, deflating. She took a shallow breath, and composed herself.
“Angel, we be so happy, but one day, you’d decide you were getting too happy and leave. Or you’d decide you don’t deserve me and leave. Matt makes me happy, and if he doesn’t make me perfectly happy, or if I don’t love him as much as you, that’s something I can live with, because he’s not going to leave,” she said. “I love you,” she told him, and it felt like a goodbye. She hopped off the bed, and put her clothes back on, her cheeks heating up as she felt him watch her.
“You’re the not the only woman I ever loved,” she heard him tell her.
“I know,” she said.
“Besides for my son, I love you more than anything. I always will,” he told her, his expression earnest.
“Always is a funny word. I’m so glad you’re alive Angel,” she said, grabbing her coat and heading toward the door. He made no move to stop her, and she was grateful. She spared him a look as she headed out, and she felt numb. She didn’t like being the one that left, though she knew she’d see him again. One day, but not tomorrow.
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Summary: Buffy finds Angel in Chicago, and realizes that they’re still the same.
Author’s Notes: Thanks to a_white_rain for beta’ing this. The mistakes belong to me, the characters do not. The fic title comes from a Bob Dylan song with the same title. Thanks to Chrislee for running an awesome ficathon.