Angel was supposed to be sleeping, but sleep had not come easy for him in a long time.
He lay awake, listening to the conversation going on in the room below him. His hearing was a good deal more acute than the monks realized, and he heard every detail of their plan to bring about the apocalypse. Buffy didn’t die saving the world only for it to be destroyed three months later.
He grabbed his sword, destroyed the altar he found in the middle of the monastery, getting a grim feeling of satisfaction from the harsh clang the altar made as it tumbled to the ground. Angel fended off attacks from the monks, who all rushed at him once the altar fell. He enjoyed the familiar feel of a fight and the reprieve from thinking about Buffy that it gave him. He ended the lives of all the demon monks, and cleaned off his sword with one of their robes.
He walked out of the monastery, ready to start his journey back to Los Angeles. He had walked only several paces when a bright white light flooded his vision, and nearly blinded him. Angel had a flashback to a day he spent in a nunnery, and remembered the way Drusilla’s voice sounded when she recited the story of Paul being struck blind on the way to Damascus. His hands clenched at the memory, and when he opened his eyes he saw the Oracles blocking his path.
“You’re not dead?” Angel said. “I saw your dead bodies,” he added when he saw a sneer on one of the oracle’s faces at his question.
“I see your dead body now,” the male Oracle replied, a look of disdain on his face.
“Our life and death is not as simple as you believed. You thought we were dead because we wanted you to believe us dead,” his sister said.
A frown clouded Angel’s face.
“Warrior, you have averted the apocalypse and saved humanity. You will be granted your gift,” the female Oracle told him, a bright smile on her face.
“My gift?” Angel repeated, a sinking feeling pooling in his gut.
“You will regain your lost humanity, and the demon that lives inside of you will be no more.” She walked up to him, touched his face gently, and Angel felt his heart start to beat.
“You’re giving me this now?” Angel asked, anger creeping into his voice.
“I want to trade. I’m giving it back. Give Buffy this life, and take mine,” he said, starting to pace back and forth.
“The slayer is at peace. Do you wish to take that gift from her?” the Oracle asked him pointedly.
Yes, yes I do, was Angel’s first though. He let out a breath, it was strange actually needing to breathe, and imagined Buffy without the enormous weight she carried on her shoulders. At peace. It was a funny concept.
“I don’t want to take anything good from her,” he replied after a beat.
They nodded, and Angel wanted to hit them.
“Use this gift well,” the male Oracle said and they both disappeared from his sight.
Angel watched them leave, and his heart felt heavy.
He sank to the ground and started to laugh. Buffy was dead, and he was human. She was in heaven and he was on earth. When he was in hell, she was on earth. Their timing was just perfect, he thought.
Angel’s stomach growled, but he ignored it. He pulled his legs up into him, and wrapped his arms around his body in attempt to fight the chill of the nighttime. He watched the sun rise, and half-wished that it would end his life like it would have the morning before. Instead, the sun’s rays felt wonderful on his skin, warming him from the outside in.
He spared a glance to the sword sitting next to him, and picked it up, toying with it carefully. He remembered what it felt like when Buffy stuck a sword through his gut. He deserved it. He still deserved it, he thought, and ran his warm hand up and down the cool blade carefully. Briefly, he considered using it to end to his new life, but he imagined Cordelia calling him a moron, and he threw the sword down. He would not join Buffy in death. Heaven would never open up its pearly gates for him.
Instead, he started to walk toward the nearest town. He had miles to walk, and he wiped beads of sweat off of his forehead. He had forgotten what that felt like. When he got into town, he stole a calling card from a store that catered to Westerners. He was not above petty theft, he thought as he dialed home.
“Angel Investigations, we help the helpless, how can we help you?” Cordelia’s voice was clear despite the thousands of miles separating them.
“I’m alive,” he said.
“Angel! I was so worried, where are you? Are you coming home?”
“Tibet. I’m alive,” he said mechanically.
“Angel, I don’t think you’d be calling me if you were dust,” she said warmly.
“I’m human, Cordy,” he said softly.
“Human? Angel, that’s great! How?” she said, and he could hear the joy in her voice.
“The oracles gave it to me, I averted an apocalypse the monks were planning,” he said tonelessly.
“You’re not happy about this?” Cordelia asked, gauging his tone.
Angel deigned not to reply. He heard Cordelia’s careful intake of breath on the other line.
“I’m happy even if you’re not. You can take me out to lunch places that aren’t close to sewers,” she joked. “That is, if you’re coming back,” she said, her voice taking on a harder tone.
“I’m coming back,” he heard himself say, stomach growling at the mention of lunch.
“Good,” she said. “I missed you.’
“I’ll see you soon,” he told her, and hung up the phone. He did not want to have to say goodbye.
Angel fell back into an easy rhythm in Los Angeles. Cordelia still received visions-fewer and farther between than before-but she was not free of them. He went with Wesley and Gunn to save the helpless Cordelia saw in her visions, and came back to the Hyperion afterwards, usually battered, bruised and bleeding but alive.
Angel was thinking about what he’d look like as an old man after his body-swap experience when Cordelia’s voice interrupted his inner monologue, saying that Buffy was alive. He blinked, and Cordy was still there, smiling at him expectantly, and he realized that he wasn’t dreaming.
“How?” he asked Cordelia.
“Willow mentioned something about a spell,” she said, walking down the stairs to sit down next to him.
“I have to go see her,” he told Cordelia, not allowing himself to believe the news unless he saw it for himself, and she nodded in understanding. He could feel her concerned gaze at his back as he left the hotel.
Angel walked as quickly as he could to his car, and headed off down the freeway, the top down in the mid-afternoon. An image flashed in his mind of Buffy sitting in the passenger seat, the sun shining, and the wind blowing her golden hair before he shook himself to make the fantasy go away. He tried to concentrate on the road instead, and made it to Sunnydale in record time. He pulled up next to Buffy’s house, and took a deep breath before walking up to the door. He knocked, and Dawn answered.
She let out a small shriek, and pulled him inside. “Do you want to be a pile of dust?” she asked him.
“Not particularly. Is it true?” he asked softly.
“Yeah,” Dawn said, and she reached out and squeezed his hand. “She’s in her room if you’d like to see her.”
“Thanks,” he said, and climbed up the stairs, and stood outside the door to Buffy’s bedroom. He turned the doorknob, and let himself in. She was standing next to her bed, folding piles of laundry, and looked every bit the death that he no longer was. She was still so beautiful, but her eyes looked listless, and her shoulders were hunched over, like she was caving into herself. It took her a second to turn and look at him.
“Angel,” she said, dropping her laundry to walk closer to him.
He could not help himself, he closed the gap between them, and pulled her in close to him. It had been far too long since he had last touched her. She was stiff in his arms at first, but soon relaxed. She sat down on the side of her bed that was not covered in laundry, and motioned for him to sit next to her.
“So you heard, huh?” she said.
“I did,” he replied, placing his hand on top of hers. Her wrist was so tiny, and he could see the remnants of cuts on her knuckles and fingernails. His heart broke for her; heaven was a place no one should have to leave. “I missed you,” he settled on saying.
“Me too,” she replied, and he almost believed her.
“I’m not sorry that you’re back, but I’m sorry that you’re not at peace anymore,” he said, looking away from her.
She stiffened, but made no move away from him. “How did you know?” she asked.
“You couldn’t be anywhere else,” he said softly, leaving out the part about messengers from the powers that be and Tibet.
She nodded, and looked out the window, and back to Angel. “It’s the middle of the afternoon, and the top is off of your car,” she said.
“Do you have a death wish?” she asked.
“Sometimes,” he replied, and she frowned.
Buffy scooted in closer to him, and put her hand on his chest. “You’re human,” she whispered.
He nodded, and leaned into her touch.
“Are you planning on giving it up without asking me this time?” she said, steel in her voice, but still not removing her hand from his heart.
He looked away from her eyes, and a strange looked flashed across his face. “You remembered.”
“You learn a lot of things in heaven,” she said with a shrug.
“I’m sorry,” he said, brushing a stray hair off of her face.
“Angel, no you’re not,” she said pointedly. “You’d do it again.”
“I would,” he admitted. “But I can’t. Not this time.”
“I’m glad,” she said. “Besides, you look good with a tan,” she said, and meant it. She had only imagined seeing Angel sun-kissed, that one forgotten day wasn’t enough.
Angel smiled at the compliment, and planted a kiss to the top of her head. She leaned back, and bit her lip as she looked at him. He saw the wheels spinning in her head as she put her hands on his face and kissed him. He responded gently at first, but soon matched the urgency that she was kissing him with. He peppered kisses down her neck, and let his hands roam over the expanse of her back. He let her unbutton his shirt, could not help the smile on his face that came when she dropped a kiss over his heart. With every kiss, he tried to show her how much he loved her. She pulled her top over her head, and he fondled her breasts gently, as she made work of his belt buckle. He lifted his hips while she pulled off his pants, and he shoved her clean laundry off of her bed. She tugged her yoga pants off, and curled her legs around him. He flipped her over, and she guided him into her, more forceful and insistent than he had remembered. Angel looked into her eyes, and saw himself reflected. She cried out softly, and collapsed against him, and he came with a grunt deep inside of her. He rolled off of her, but pulled Buffy tightly back into him, ensconcing her in his warm arms. She looked at him, leaned her head into his chest to hear the beating of his heart. A ghost of a smile flickered across her face at the sound. It was a start.
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Summary: Angel experiences some changes after he leaves the monastery, and finds new life on more ways than one. AU from Heartthrob.
Notes: Thanks to carlyinrome for the beta and general help and encouragement. Also, thanks to a2zmom for giving me the idea to turn this from a drabble into a fic.