Maybe it's serendipity, you say to yourself, when you see her on the train platform. All light and beauty, just as you remember.
Serendipity, because just the other day you were telling the Pou--, Angel, to lay off; that you weren't ready.
"Go to her, Spike," he'd demanded more times than a rag-paper romance.
"Why don't you go to her?" you'd volleyed back.
"I'm the last thing she needs," he'd muttered.
"And here I was thinking that was me."
"It's not about being ready, it's about being right." He'd given you that long look. "And you are not a thing."
He'd stalked off after that. One or the other of you always did, though this time he'd skipped the second verse about fat babies and signing it all away. The third verse was always that look. His eyes full of pain and longing and the embers of hope cooling just a wee bit more into something that didn't set with you. Maybe that's why, when you went out for a pack of smokes, you kept going.
And it's just then, just as you're on a strange platform in a different city, crinkling up the cellophane of a now empty pack, that you look up and spy that one girl in all the world. How can you feel anything but serendipity?
So you buy a ticket for her train and board it. You don't think she's seen you, or if she had, she hadn't recognized you. Not many do, now that you've stopped bleaching your hair. A bloke's scalp can only take so much. At least that's the reason you gave Angel.
It's late when you finally work up the nerve to put one foot in front of the other and join her at her table.
She turns from peering into the dark night to you. For a moment your heart is in your throat, wondering if she'll want anything to do with you after being away, being silent for so long. Then her face is radiant as she smiles and says your name.
There's a small tremor to her voice as she invites you to join her. Then she's looking at you like it's Christmas Day, and you don't need a mirror to know you're sporting a similar look. You try to get your tongue untied, and find yourself asking the most pedestrian of questions.
"Where you off to on this clatter trap?"
She relaxes into the normalcy of it, saying, "I'm off to visit a city and a girl of the same name." You resist asking when it was that she started listening to The World's geo-quiz.
The conversation starts in slow fits and chugs. Maybe there's too much to be said. She talks about being a goodwill ambassador to new slayers.
"Like Angelina Jolie?" you ask, regretting it immediately, less she think you're mocking her.
But she smiles, you relax a bit, and suddenly things pick up speed like the steam locomotives of your youth. She's enthusiastic as she talks about visiting families, reassuring them that their daughter's strength is a gift, that the school is a good one, and that they'll be safe and thrive.
She tells you how Harris suggested it be called Rupert Giles' School for Gifted Youngsters. You chuckle and admit that the same geek level three joke had crossed your mind.
But your intuition tells you not to let her quip away what she's doing. "That counseling kids bit, you've grown into it, eh?"
For a minute you think she'll put on a mock affront. That you're commenting on her weight, but she doesn't. Instead she leans in and nods and talks. You tamp down the if-only-back-thens and turn your sail toward the now, listening with your whole heart.
You find yourself opening up like you haven't to anyone, telling her what it's like to be a real boy after all this time. How everything feels so muffled, so dead. Such irony. Sounds that were once distinct are now blended, your vision blurred. Nothing tastes right. Even your skin feels tight. You don't tell her about feeling like a heel, struggling to adjust when Angel… Well, you just don't.
She tells you of her own pain in struggling back to life; this time sharing her story with words and smiles and a tear or two instead of blows and sex and silence. You're amazed when you discover your hand twined with hers across the table, comforting and comfortable. It feels right.
You hear his voice playing back to you - it's not about being ready, it's about being right.
You think about keeping quiet, but that wouldn't be quite right either. So you tell her about Angel. How he's been there every step of the way as you've reacclimated to humanity.
"Couldn't have done it without him." Her eyebrows climb and you're smiling at the absurdity. "Never thought that'd cross my lips, eh?"
"Should I look for an apocalypse now that hell's frozen over?"
Her words are light, and she's not moved more than those eyebrows since you said his name. Her hand is still comfortably twined with yours, the palms pressed together; her head and smile slightly tilted. But you see it all in her eyes: the pain and the longing and the hope cooling into something you don’t want for her.
So you do what you do best, well one of the things you do best, and you keep talking. You tell her a dozen amusing stories about life as a human-come-lately, giving the Angel parts wide berth. You live in her laughter as you show her, with flourish, your blood donor card.
You get coffees and hear all about the Niblet, who's not quite a bit anymore. And Harris, and of all things, the Bit with Harris, which you reckon means it's time to think of him as Xander and her as Dawn. Well, maybe not the latter just yet. That leads to stories of Red and of Rupert and the gaggle of slayers. A gaggle of slayers? And you banter back and forth about how to describe a number of slayers, now that they are multitude.
"How 'bout a slew of slayers?" you suggest.
"Yes! Of course!" she says, her eyes aglow, her smile… Her smile.
You want to write your god-awful poetry about her smile; about the way she shines like a beacon. She's been your lighthouse all these years, guiding you, directing you, keeping you from catching and crashing and cracking open on the rocky shoals.
But none of the pretty words you string together stop the knot pulling tighter in your stomach. God, you hate that feeling. Say what you will about a soul, but it's anemic when it comes to proddin' a fellow to action without its partner, the knotted gut.
So words come out of your mouth that you didn't expect. Words that have to do with where you've been calling home, and by implication, who lives there. "Come, and see."
"Angel's there?" she asks.
Your knots are gone, though other parts ache like hell. As for Buffy, her defenses are up, high as they ever were. You have reminisced about your Sunnydale days with her, and astoundingly even this you have missed.
"Yes," you say and settle in for adventures in de-fencing, ignoring the madness of what you are about to do. You try cajoling and reasoning and charming. For once her eyes and words match, both saying no. You wish mightily that you had a bottle of persuasion handy. Overhead is an announcement that her destination is nearing, and you feel the serendipity slipping away.
"Buffy, you're the most stubborn, pig-headed person I know, and damned if I didn't just tell him the same thing the other day!"
That pulls you both up short. She blinks slowly and you're surprised to see the sparkle in her eyes, the smile playing around her lips.
"Well, when you put it that way," she drawls.
But this was a business trip for her and that can't be ignored. Color you surprised, she invites you along.
"Yes!" you say with enthusiasm. Only after do you remember that your snark lacks its former partner, bite.
When you see the whole extended family packed into the book-lined apartment, you remember she's not here to fight an apocalypse, but to gather a girl for slayer school. She doesn't need muscle, but welcomes the charm of a silver-tongued semi-reformed devil. And this you can do.
A day later you find your party of two turned to three. There is no more conversation about vampires in the specific, either reformed or humanistic. Instead you stick to the Vampires 101 textbook of soulless, evil demons and the various ways to kill them. Sofia asks if flame will incinerate them. Nearly always, you say.
You arrive at Sofia's destination and as Buffy makes arrangements, you wonder what she is thinking, if she's changed her mind. With the little pitcher around, you didn't need to predict Buffy's actions. But now? You want to shadow her close, but you resist the urge because sometimes it is about being ready.
Finally, she turns to you. Her calm in stark relief to your agitation. "Ready?" she asks.
You don't live far away. You wonder if Angel knew. If so, he hadn't let on, though you wouldn't put it past the king of compulsion to have dabbled in a little stalking on the side. You smirk, knowing he'll never see this one coming.
When you walk through the door, he's surprised to see you, though he pretends nonchalance. As if it always takes you nearly a week to pick up a pack of smokes. But astonishment breaks through his stoic reserve when she steps through the doorway.
Four syllables forming two words. Makes the earth shake, but today Gibraltar's not about to tumble. Wretched, maudlin sap; true of yourself and your thoughts. Dead or alive, the worst of your poetry has always sprung from your broken heart.
The space disappears between them. Hell, the world disappears around them. Yet Angel, somehow, manages to lift his eyes, seeking you out. In that moment you see hope burning bright again, searing away the pain and despair. And you don't need to see Buffy's face to know the same thing's mirrored in her eyes.
You nod to him and then to the door. "'Spect we're out of milk. Be back in a jiff."
Closing the door, you wonder at it all. She might be your beacon, guiding you with her light, but for them it's different. They've always been both sailor and siren to the other. After calling and crashing and drowning more often than any of you can count, maybe this time will be true.
Maybe it's serendipity.
Feed Spiralleds Visit Spiralleds
Summary: The shanshu doesn't make things any simpler. Sometimes you need serendipity. (Post-Chosen and Not Fade Away)
A/N: Thank you Chrislee for hosting and coordinating the IWRY ficathon again. Thank you to my beta's, mommanerd, married_n_mich, and sunnyd_lite; they make sure I clarify the vague and tighten the loose. Any errors are all mine. Thank you to Z for her firsthand knowledge of Sofia, Bulgaria.