Always

Always

By Insomnfreak
Author's Notes

It is midnight, the Witching Hour, when the things that go bump in the night come out to play. It is early for her, and although she is eager to get out and hunt, she finds herself drawn to the balcony, her feet on autopilot as they mark the distance in silence. The heavens are covered by a dark gray, mottled blanket of ever present smoke that hangs low in the night sky. She has grown to hate the wispy clouds of burnt ash. Not because it mutes the sun during the day. She has lived without the sun before. She hates the billowing reminder of destruction because it obscures the stars. She doesn’t need to see the blackness of the night sky to know that it is there, its inkiness as recognizable to her as the feel of her own skin. She needs its familiar comfort as she is forced to wait, something she has never been good at.

A break in the smoky clouds gives her a glimpse at the heavens hidden above, the stars shining like diamonds in a black sea. They were timeless, ageless, a million little points of light that had probably shown over a million lifetimes. Over another life.

Over another her.

Were these the same stars that had winked in the heavens above Sunnydale? Watching as a sixteen year old girl had energetically thrown herself into her unexpected calling. Marking the battles won and lost on an eternal scorecard that no one ever saw, or knew about. Battles won and lost in a war without end.

Were they the same stars that had born witness to a thousand hungry kisses that never seemed to be enough, to hands that danced over feverish flesh in desperate need, or to whispered words of love and devotion? She wanted to believe they were. She thought of them as tiny little sentinels in the night sky, witnesses to the dream of her, of him, of them.

It is there, standing on the balcony, her eyes cast skyward, that he finds her.

“Your thoughts are troubled, bella mia,” he said as his hand came to rest on her shoulder.

Buffy gave a wan smile, nearly lost in the shadows of their perch high above the remains of Los Angeles. Had it not been for his excellent night vision her smile may have been lost, but he did not have to see her face to know that the young woman standing on the balcony was despairing. Her sadness rolled off her in quiet waves, a melancholy tide that broke his ancient heart.

“I was just admiring the stars,” Buffy finally said, not really answering her companion since he hadn’t actually asked a question. He had stated a fact, one that Buffy had neither the heart nor the inclination to deny. “Wondering if they’re the same ones that used to shine over Sunnydale?”

The comforting hand at her shoulder slid slowly away. Out of her peripheral vision she could see her companion was still dressed in one of his many hand tailored, immaculate suits, his long slender fingers slipping the button from his jacket before draping it neatly upon the back of the chair to her right.

“Did you make your meeting?” Buffy questioned, her voice taut even as she tried to remain calm.

Lazarro Curiatti, more infamously known as The Immortal, cast Buffy a sideways glance as he loosened his tie, but chose for the moment not to answer her. His gaze turned to the city before them. From their place upon the balcony they could see what was left of the once sprawling metropolis known as Los Angeles.

Like some mega-bomb going off, the city had been sectioned into areas ranging from complete annihilation to relatively unscathed. Below them and surrounding them for several miles was what had become known as the Green Zone. It was the part of LA that had been graciously spared by the cataclysm that had rocked the city. Cars zoomed along on lighted streets while house lights flickered through windows, affirming that life in deed went on.

Beyond the Green Zone was the Orange Zone, the area of the city spared the full brunt of the catastrophe but not getting away completely unharmed. And then there was the Red Zone, no man’s land. Off in the far distance, on the cusp of the bleeding blackness, fires dancing erotically in celebration of the carnage. It was there that he knew Buffy wanted to travel, into the land of the destroyed and the damned.

It didn’t take Slayer senses to realize she was being carefully scrutinized. Dark eyes scanned her face from the muted shadows of the balcony, gleaming unnaturally as they reflected the dim light of the suite behind them. It was a gentle reminder that her companion was not wholly human.

“You think of him,” Lazzaro said, reaching across the small distance that separated them and taking Buffy’s hand in his, his thumb tracing the length of her pinky finger.

She didn’t need to ask him who he spoke of. He was why she had flown half way around the world. He was why she was living on the outskirts of a city that had barely been spared total obliteration. He was the man that haunted her dreams, dreams of such peace and beauty that Buffy clung to them when consciousness threatened to wash them away. Her desperate heart futilely attempting to ward of the sun as the dawn crept upon the horizon like a thief.

It was him, always him.

Buffy had had the dreams for years, but until recently they had been confined to a certain time of year. The first time they had washed upon her, Buffy had cried into her pillow for a solid hour upon waking, the loss of the reverie so profound she truly felt ill. When Willow had become concerned over Buffy, Buffy had disarmed her witch friend with the excuse of a head cold which had prompted Willow to immediately head for the local market and stock up on chicken noodle soup and orange juice.

Each year the dream would return, more powerful, more vivid then the one that had come before. And each year Buffy would get a head cold, lie in bed for two days, crying each time she woke and rejoicing once the dream returned to carry her away. For forty-eight hours every year, Buffy thought she knew what it was like to be a stone hard junkie jonesing for a fix.

She didn’t want to eat the soup Willow made her or drink the tea that Giles brought her. Buffy wanted to sleep and dream and even though she told herself not to hope, she did. Buffy hoped her dreams were more prophecy than wistful fancies drummed up by her subconscious. She wanted them to be real.

With each passing year it became harder for Buffy to recover until both Willow and Giles began to speculate her cold might be mystical in nature. In full blown research mode, their questions had sounded like anti-aircraft guns going off in Buffy’s head.

Boom, boom, boom!

It’s just a cold, it’s cold season.

Boom, boom, boom!

No weird auras. What the hell is a gizzard and why does a salamander want one?

Boom, boom, boom

No, no visions…Dreams?

No, no dreams.

It had been a lie, Buffy knew it, and maybe Willow was right and it was all mystical but Buffy didn’t care. She had wanted it. She had wanted the dream that left the feel of his skin still tingling on her fingertips long after she woke and the taste of his lips lingering on her own. Buffy had wanted to relive the delicious press of him as he filled all the aching voids in her as only he could, listening to the whispered words of eternal love echoing warmly in her ear. She wanted him, always him.

Always Angel.

And then the world had watched with bated breath as Los Angeles suffered a catastrophe that had half the city crumbling into the Pacific Ocean or going up in flames. Smoke and fire obscured satellite images, information was patchy and travel had been restricted. No one seemed to know what had happened. Natural, unnatural, mundane or mystical, Giles quickly reached out to all his various contacts trying to get any information they could.

But checking with contacts wasn’t Buffy’s bag. Her bag was full of shiny, metal weapons and pointy, wooden sticks and was already packed and in hand when Giles raced to his apartment door to stop Buffy from leaving. The former Watcher argued that they didn’t know if the disaster was of the ordinary variety or something more sinister.

“Rushing off’s not going to help, Buff,” Xander had said trying to bolster Giles’ argument.

Ignoring Xander, Buffy had simply turned to the man that had become more father to her than her own dad and said, “I have to know,” and with that she had left.

Weeks had passed by the time Buffy had made it to LA, and considering the lack of travel options available in the continental U.S., that was making pretty good time. Still, by the time Buffy had reached the destroyed city, the uncertainty churning in her belly had turned into fear, and Buffy didn’t do fear. Buffy did kick ass!

“You think of him.”

Buffy gazed at the man next to her, the infamous Immortal older than the Master but with the face to rival any of Michelangelo’s works. My friend, Buffy thought thankfully, knowing she would never have gotten to Los Angeles with out him.

“Angel’s been in my head from the moment I first knocked him on his butt,” Buffy at last confided. “I can’t remember a time when he wasn’t, you know, in there.” Buffy tapped a finger to her temple.

Lazarro smiled in amusement. He did not know Angel, but he had known Angelus, and Lazarro had no doubt that that demon had been more angered by his wounded pride, and possible ruined wardrobe than his sore ass.

“When he left me, all I could do was cry,” Buffy continued on, her verdant gaze bouncing between the heavens and her silent friend. “Then I was too mad to cry.”

Placing his hands upon the railing, Lazarro remained silent, his dark eyes urging her on. She was a walking, breathing contradiction, but she was also steadfastly true and selfless, and Lazarro Curiatti had been blown away by her. The Immortal had met Slayers before. They were usually young, physically strong warrior women, but none had had the vivaciousness of Buffy Summers, none had been a warrior by their own choosing. They had been chosen. And had Buffy simply been another young woman, he felt certain she would stand out in a crowd.

“God, he could make me soooo mad,” Buffy recalled with a small smile. “But, I could never stay mad at him. He broke my heart but he did it because he loved me.” Buffy frowned. “Did that make sense?”

Lazarro’s smile grew, his straight, white teeth almost shining in the darkness. “Si,” he answered, gently pulling Buffy into one of the overly wide chaises sitting upon the balcony.

“And he always came back, you know,” Buffy continued, her voice thick with emotions she dared not let loose. “Whenever I really needed him, there he was. I guess I thought, maybe…I don’t know.”

“He would return to you for all time?”

“Yes,” Buffy sighed, her hopes slowly turning to ash.

Buffy nestled against Lazarro’s side, her head seeking the comfort of his shoulder as his arms worked around her in a tender embrace.

“Aw, little one, how the Powers have wronged you,” he told her, one hand gently massaging her upper arm. “Such abuse, it is shameful.”

Buffy made a sound somewhere between a snort and a huff. “That’s what I keep saying.”

Lazarro smiled into the top of Buffy’s blonde head, always appreciating the young woman’s sense of humor.

“Tell me, bella mia, what makes this dream so magnificent, so powerful?” He asked, noting her hand playing with his tie upon his chest.

If she had been different, if he had been the Immortal he was a century ago, seventy years ago, Lazarro knew he would have taken advantage of the situation. But that had been before a young woman, blind to the world and its ugliness, blind to his glamour and smooth ways had shown him a heart he had not known he possessed. She had loved him, as Buffy loved Angel, with her whole and giving heart.

“It’s just so vivid, like…like it’s a memory, not a dream,” Buffy explained, smoothing the tie down his front.

“And you are certain it is not a memory, this dream that makes you both happy and sad?”

“Oh,” Buffy gave a tiny shake of her head, her eyes getting a far away look in them. “I would remember if Angel had turned human. I could never forget what we shared in my dream.”

“The world forgets things everyday, mia adorata.” Lazaaro fanned his free hand in the air above them, indicating the night sky, the stars twinkling faintly. “Ages have been forgotten and lost under these very stars.”

Buffy’s verdant gaze searched the sky overhead, again wondering if the stars twinkling overhead had been the same ones that had danced above her and Angel as they protected their small part of the world. It was a life so very different from the one that she now lead, and yet…She was still the Slayer, the bad guys still wandered the darkness of night, and she still longed for Angel. Always.

With a strained chuckle, Buffy rose from the chaise, Lazarro’s arms slipping down her arms as she pulled away. She wasn’t sure where she was going but with a few easy paces Buffy found herself at the balcony’s railing.

“Yeah,” Buffy began, speaking softly, looking as if she were talking to the unsuspecting pedestrians below. “We’re regular guppies around her.”

A knock at their suite’s door had Lazarro rising from the chaise and offering Buffy an apology as he answered it. He was hoping it was the package he had worked to acquire for the past three days and not his security team warning him of another rogue demon in the area.

A strong breeze wound its way around the upper floor of the hotel, whipping up the gossamer white curtains of the balcony doors. The yellow glow of the suite within captured the drapes in flight, making them appear to pulse with light and life as they danced upon the wind. From the center Lazarro emerged, a phoenix in Versace, as his long, elegant stride brought him quickly to Buffy.

“Lazarro?” Buffy questioned, her instincts telling her something was not as it normally was with her gentle friend.

“Do you trust me, cara mia?” He asked, his dark eyes bearing down on hers.

Buffy’s head slowly nodded her gaze never leaving his. Her senses tingled, her blood hummed and her skin felt tight. She could feel each strand of hair upon her head as they floated on the breeze that had yet to cease. She could hear the banal conversations of lovers and friends ten stories below and she could feel the heavy presence of magic as it swirled around them, like an unseen mist.

Benissimo,” he nearly sighed, the whisper of a smile upon his lips a contradiction to the worried frown upon his brow.

Bending forward, Lazarro placed a butterfly soft kiss upon Buffy’s cheek before whispering in her ear. “Then trust in you, and him,” he told her, giving one of her arms a gentle squeeze.

Buffy didn’t know why, but she knew she was crying. She could feel the tears sliding down her face, chilling in the ever present wind. “Yes,” she whispered, uncertain what it was she was answering.

The distinct smell that came from big magic tickled Buffy’s nose. It smelled like lightening and smoke, a hint of sulfur and underlying aroma of ginger. The fact that she smelled it should have sent Buffy’s Slayer senses into high alert but it didn’t. And although she trusted Lazarro greatly, she was not one to trust wholeheartedly, hard lessons had taught her that one.

“Close your eyes,” he said softly, his dark eyes a mixture of sadness and joy.

The wind kissed her skin, its cool touch reminding her of an erstwhile lover’s lips “Yes,” she said again, her hazel eyes slowly drifting shut.

Lazarro watched Buffy close her eyes, his dark gaze mapping and admiring her features as if she were a great work of art. And she was. He knew she was. Buffy Summers, the one true Slayer, was like no other that had come before, and was beyond and above any that had been summoned since. She was strong and she was noble and he, Lazarro Curiatti the infamous Immortal, felt humbled to know her.

“Now,” he said, pausing briefly as he put a little space between them. “Go to him. Be with him.”

A white hot fire pierced Buffy’s chest, its energy flowing in and out of her like living rivers. Pulsing, building, overflowing, it sparked and singed the ozone around her. Her senses expanded with each short breath and Buffy was consumed by the enormity of it all. Beyond The Immortal’s voice, she could hear the thoughts and words of the devastated city.

Her senses amplified, racing farther, faster. She could smell the energy of the rising sun hours away, its heat paling at the force surrounding her, coursing through her, as it climbed the heavens. Buffy could feel time pass, even as it stood still, each second having a tangible weight and feel to it, as if she could move it to her will. Then all at once there it was, buzzing on the periphery of her perception, an awareness that coursed in her veins and caused her spine to tingle and her mind to sharpen.

Only one thing had ever caused this quickening of her mind and body. Only one person, only him, always him.

His name rang in her head and danced in her veins as her heartbeat faster and faster and faster. Thump, thump, thump! It pounded away like Japanese Taiko drums, the sound all that Buffy could hear until, there, just beyond the racing world with its jetting time that stood still, she could hear it…him…Angel.

Whether by magic, wishful thinking or force of will, Buffy found herself on an unfamiliar plane, the balcony of hers and Lazarro’s hotel suite gone. In its place was the detritus left by complete carnage, the stench of death as thick as the smoke that roiled from the rubble of buildings obliterated

She didn’t bother wondering how she had gotten there because her mind and body was pulsating with the familiar sensation of him. He was near, closer than he had been in more than a year, but Buffy needed him closer. She needed to feel his strength below her fingertips. She needed to know that he was safe, well. She needed to let him know that she was tired of being cookie dough, that she was a full fledged cookie.

With anxious eyes she searched. Looking, seeking, finding him standing upon a smoldering rise, his black overcoat flapping in the hot breeze, his broad sword in one hand.

“Angel,” she whisperd in awed relief, making her way to him.

Angel had felt her coming before he had laid eyes upon her. The ever present cold that had settled in his chest so long ago turning to a warm glow with each stride she took. He didn’t know how she had gotten there and, to be honest, he wasn’t surprised to see her. This was Buffy Summers. The Slayer. The woman who, as a young girl, had captured his long dead heart. She had given him purpose and made him belief in redemption because she had given her heart to him in return.

“Buffy,” Angel said, as she came to stand before him.

“You were expecting someone else?” Buffy asked, a saucy look upon her beautiful features as she placed a hand on one hip.

“No,” Angel answered, unable to miter his growing smile or the hands that reached for her. Just her. Always her.

The End

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Author's Notes:
Rating: PG
Summary: I suck at summaries. It’s about Buffy and Angel.
Disclaimer: Nope, not mine.
Author’s Notes:Written for IWRY. Story not beta’d . I own every mistake but will sell them cheap.

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