You run into Buffy on a dark and foggy night in Cleveland.
When you see each other again, there is no time for reproof or recriminations, or even a hello. Buffy shouts a warning and you parry automatically, your fist striking demon flesh with a sickening thud. The exact species of demon is hard to make out in the thick fog, but they go down easily enough with the two of you there, one moment of mist-blurred violence after another. The fight takes minutes or hours, you're not sure; you're only conscious of her, lithe and quick, dispatching monsters with efficient grace. It's one of her many gifts.
You're grateful that you can keep up with her.
The last demon goes down and Buffy remains in a fighting stance, fists clenched and feet braced against the ground. You see it when she makes the decision to relax. She looks tired in her long black coat, every inch of her pearled with mist. The fog makes everything look otherworldly, though you of all people know that nothing about it is supernatural. It is just the weather, she is just standing there, you are just arrived.
"Angel," she says, and for once her entire heart isn't in her voice and in her eyes. And yet, you know her well enough to know that she is glad to see you, in spite of everything. There is a small smile starting at the corners of her mouth, an adult quirk of the lips. You feel one of your own forming in response.
"I was in the neighborhood," you say, falling back into the old banter.
"And this is your version of a social call?"
"Well, this is our thing. We meet up, we fight the forces of evil..."
"Then we have hot chocolate?" Buffy tilts her head to one side, smile widening. Her nose is pink with cold. "It's been a long day. I require chocolate-y goodness."
Just like that, you fall in step with her, fall back into more old ways. Your history together is like gravity: an undeniable force. Or perhaps it is another natural law; tonight, for once, your history does not weigh you down. There is a lightness to you as you walk with her, an easiness. You two make quiet conversation on the way back to her hotel room. She's taking a break from training Slayers by working solo across the country, a decision clearly borne of Buffy logic. You and Giles apparently translated the same apocalyptic prophecy pointing to Cleveland, and so you went east and Buffy went west, meeting in the middle. You are grateful beyond words to see her again, but your heart still twists within you, wondering if you would have gotten there first with Wes doing the translating.
You have lost so many. You wonder how many more you can stand to lose.
The hotel is quiet as you walk through the corridors, stopping at Buffy's door. You watch Buffy as she takes a box out of her suitcase, revealing a collection of Pop Tarts and a small tin of cocoa. You interpret her worried frown correctly and tell her it's all right that she only has one travel mug. She still doesn't look happy as she makes herself the hot chocolate, and after she takes a sip, she presses the mug into your hands.
It is impossible to argue with that tone of voice. You drink from the mug. The warmth, at least, is pleasing, and you make an effort to taste the powdered chocolate. It is faint, the memory of chocolate rather than the reality, but something about your face must have changed, because Buffy's expression softens--and yet her eyes are hungry. You slowly lower the mug, realize you are staring, and then look away. These are more old ways, easy to fall into as a bed. You focus on her hands as she takes the mug back. Buffy's hands are small, delicate, but you cannot look at any aspect of her without seeing her strength.
Her hands on you have always been like salvation.
"I should, uh, go. While it's still dark out." The sentence stumbles as you speak it, splits into two awkward phrases.
Buffy touches you then, just a finger under your chin to raise it, but you feel it with your whole body. You're gazing into her eyes again, and for a moment you're angry: at yourself, for being a fool, and at her, for being so calm when she rejected you long ago over Wolfram & Hart.
"Things change," she says, as if reading your thoughts. Her eyes are bright with unshed tears. "It's not perfect anymore. So we can..."
Desire becomes intention becomes action in the span of a heartbeat: you kiss her in answer to a thousand unasked questions; you kiss her to shatter the tenuous truce you have made with your emotions; you kiss her because she is Buffy and you are Angel; you kiss her. Her mouth is soft and the cocoa tastes better on her tongue. You draw her closer, pushing aside her wet coat and clothing to find damp skin underneath, trace the scars you know are there without looking. She shudders and bites your lip.
There is a strange innocence to the way you undress each other, a baring of souls as well as flesh. You cup her breasts in each hand, thumbs tracing slow and ever-tightening circles over her nipples. Her heart beats quicksilver underneath, the core of it ever true, untouched by pain and death. It is what makes her Buffy; it is what makes her the woman you love, after all these years. She kisses you, little gasps bursting against your mouth, and then she pushes you back onto the hotel bed, laying you out against the sheets.
You wonder what she sees as she looks down at you, if she sees all the mistakes, all the faults, all the sorrows. She looks beautiful poised above you, skin and hair golden in the lamplight. You reach out to touch her but then she's on the bed straddling you, and you want her so much that you use your hands to switch positions instead, intending to prolong the anticipation. Buffy is pinned underneath you for all of three seconds before she outright giggles and maneuvers you right back with such determined Slayer strength that something inside the bed cracks.
"My room, my rules," Buffy intones in sing-song. Then, belatedly: "Oops."
"Your hotel bill," you agree. Then all you can say is oh, because Buffy is lowering herself onto you, wet and warm and tight around your cock, and you can't think beyond arching up into her, wanting more, wanting to be closer. She rakes her nails down her chest and you hiss in mingled pain and pleasure, kiss her with fevered ferocity until her lips are swollen.
Buffy leans back and slides her hands down her body with slow deliberation, sighing when she brushes against still-sensitized breasts, down over ribs and stomach, all the way until she reaches her clitoris, touching herself as she rides you. You respond by gripping her thighs hard enough to bruise, trying not to come at the mere sight of her like this, open and uninhibited and so fucking gorgeous it hurts, it hurts so good. You have no choice but to surrender.
"Wanted this for so long," she says, her voice high and breathy, fingering her clit faster and faster, moving in sure rhythm with you, and then she moans your name deep down in her throat.
You hear yourself answering your name with hers through the roar of blood in your ears; you come in one hot bright burst of sensation, pulling her against you. You close your eyes and breathe her in, feel the trembling relaxation of afterglow set in. You remain entwined for an unspecified length of time: it could be two minutes, or twenty. You measure time in beats of her heart rather than the ticking of a clock, a quality of time rather than a quantity, and all you know is that there are not enough heartbeats in a lifetime to be with her, to feel this way.
To feel alive.
After however long, Buffy shifts herself over to the side, curling up against you, head on your chest. You stroke her hair, smiling when she hums in appreciation. She is by no means exhausted, but she does appear to be in a state of sleepy contentment.
"So," you say, "that was new."
Her laugh is quiet. "I wanted to decide everything this time." A pause. "You always get to pick when to go and when to stay."
Your hand stills against her hair for a moment. "I'm sorry," you say, and for the first time understand what you have to be sorry for. She's leaving tomorrow, leaving when the sun is up, and you cannot follow. Never mind your separate lives, never mind that you too have to return--Buffy is leaving, and the knowledge sinks like taffy into your bones.
"I love you," she whispers. "I love you so much."
"I love you, too." When was the last time you said that to anyone? Then: "We'll see each other again."
"We better," Buffy mutters, and then the painful moment is passed, put aside until morning departures.
You press a kiss to her temple and then you kiss each other, honey slow and sweet, gentle as only lovers can be. There are heartbeats and more heartbeats to spend with her, and so you close your eyes and await the dawn.
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Summary: Buffy and Angel steal another moment in time.