She’d baked cookies every single day since he’d arrived in Rome. Oatmeal and raisin, apple spice, molasses, crispy ginger snaps, peanut butter made from a recipe Joyce had used a thousand times, and chocolate chip. Those were his favourite: fresh out of the oven, each mouthful a gooey treat.
The kitchen in Buffy’s Roman flat was painted a dazzling shade of daffodil yellow. She had a set of beautiful hand-painted Italian pottery dishes – the stuff that cost you a small fortune in the States, but that they practically gave away here. He’d often sit at the big square table and watch her, amazed at the culinary efficiency with which she worked. He’d never expected to see Buffy domesticated, but he supposed her new found skills had something to do with the loss of her mother. Baking was a ‘mom’ thing and therefore, in its way, comforting.
She’d cream the butter and sugar, add the eggs, measure and sift the flour; this was the same no matter what variety of cookies she decided to make. Then she’d pause and smile across the counter at him.
“What do you feel like?” She’d ask.
He’d shrug because it really didn’t matter. Not anymore.
He’d come to Rome after the battle in Los Angeles. He didn’t tell her he was coming. It wasn’t that he wanted to surprise her; he just wanted to be sure that seeing her was the right thing to do.
For a week he watched her and she’d seemed happy enough in a new life that was less about monsters and more about living; day to day stuff like going to the market and shopping for shoes with Dawn.
He’d pretty much made the decision to go back to L.A. when she got the news about Wes. She took it hard. Harder than he would have imagined and he wondered if maybe that had something to do with him.
So, one night he followed her to a little bar down the street from her flat. He waited until she’d ordered her glass of wine. Waited until she’d ordered another and then went in.
“You look well,” he said, taking the seat opposite her.
“I look like shit,” she managed, staring up at him with shocked surprise.
“I’ve had too much to drink.”
Buffy nodded. “I come here sometimes and try to remember when my life was ever normal, even for a second.”
“I get that,” Angel said.
“I guess you would. You’d be one of the few people who actually does get it.” Buffy paused. “I just want…”
“Something else, something more…”
“I know. So do I.”
“I just heard about Wes,” she said.
“Sorry,” Angel said. “I should have been the one to tell you.”
“That might have been better. When did you get here?” she asked and he wondered if a tiny lie might not be better. Then he thought, no, this time he would do it right. No more lies. There was no longer a need.
“I’ve been here a few days,” he said and, surprisingly, she seemed to accept that answer.
“I had a feeling,” she said, smiling.
He’d returned her smile. He’d reached out his hand and laid it over hers. She seemed to consider the hand for a moment, its weight, his smooth palm resting over her knobby knuckles.
“Oh,” she said.
“I shouldn’t be here. I don’t deserve to have survived, but I did.”
“Don’t,” Buffy said. “Please don’t say anything. Not yet.”
And they hadn’t said anything. For a long time they sat, quietly, in the little bar. Finally Buffy said, “I sometimes feel as though none of the pieces of my life are ever going to fit together,” Buffy said. “You were the only thing that ever made sense to me, Angel. Now you come here and you’re human and I feel as though I should have known; as soon as I saw you, I should have known.”
He stood and reached out a hand and drew her up to him.
That first morning he’d woken up to an empty bed. The windows of Buffy’s room opened out onto a small balcony and Angel had pulled the crisp white sheet off the bed and wrapping it around his waist, stepped outside.
The sun was already high in a cloudless blue sky. Rome. Angel had missed it.
At the end of the street, a truck was unloading vegetables for the local market. The driver set down a crate of tomatoes and started speaking animatedly to the market owner. Angel couldn’t make out the words, but he could tell by watching the waving hands that something wasn’t right. He breathed in the morning air and smiled.
“Good morning,” Buffy said behind him.
Angel turned and watched as she came into the room carrying a tray.
“I brought you breakfast.”
Angel’s stomach growled at the thought. He gathered the sheet closer and headed back across the room, settling on the bed.
Buffy joined him, putting the tray down next to him.
The tray held a bodom of coffee and two cups, a small picture of cream, a bowl of sliced cantaloupe and, strangely, a plate with a single cookie on it.
Angel picked the cookie up. It was still warm.
“This isn’t what I’d consider a nutritious breakfast,” he said.
“That’s rich coming from the man who existed on pig’s blood for the better part of a century,” Buffy laughed.
Angel took a bite. The buttery cookie (she’d made a simple sugar cookie for her first effort he discovered later) melted on his tongue and tasted better than anything in recent memory.
“I didn’t know you baked.”
“I don’t,” Buffy said. “It’s a symbol.” She smiled enigmatically.
Angel took another bite. “No, I’m pretty sure it’s just a cookie.”
Buffy crossed her arms. “Please don’t make me remind you with—words,” she said.
Angel reached out and pulled Buffy into his lap. “Wanna bite?” He asked, holding the last of the cookie up to her.
“No,” she grouched. “I was up at the crack of nine-ish, making those for you.”
“And they’re delicious,” Angel said. “And I understand.”
He nodded, popping the last bite into his mouth. “You want to fatten me up so no one else wants me.”
Buffy punched Angel’s arm and struggled out of his lap.
“Oh, no you don’t,” he said, pulling her back. “I’m not done eating just yet.”
It seemed too easy, this reunion. The careless way they’d come together, the way they avoided all talk of past lovers and curses and apocalypses and battles.
Angel was on his stomach, dozing; Buffy was tracing the delicate lines of the gryphon on his back. The room was full of light. It bounced off the white walls, the jug of pale roses, Buffy’s hair, Angel’s still pale skin.
“A is for Always,” Buffy murmured. “And adored and…”
Angel turned his head and kissed her.
“Amazing,” Buffy said.
“Are we going to stay here,” Buffy asked one day. They were strolling through the Piazza Venezia.
“Right here?” Angel stopped and looked around. A row of people were sitting on the lip of a fountain eating lunch. A street vendor was scooping gelato for some hot tourists. A crowd of school children walked two by two behind a cross-looking school teacher.
“It’s not very private,” he said.
Buffy crossed her arms huffily. “Since when did you get a sense of humour?” She asked.
“I always had one; you just never appreciated it.”
“Let me rephrase,” Buffy said. “Are we staying in Rome or are we going home?”
Angel smiled. “Buffy,” he said, bending low, “home is wherever you are.”
Angel had been in Italy for almost a week. It was early morning and the day would be wet. Still, Angel woke up at first light; he loved to stand in the window and watch the sun turn the rooftops golden.
This morning, though, he watched the grey sky fill with dark clouds from the bed and pulled Buffy closer, murmuring nonsense against her hair.
“Do you want to talk about him?” Buffy rolled over and ran a finger along Angel’s collarbone, down the wall of his chest.
“Wesley. Did you want to--”
“There isn’t a lot I can say,” Angel said.
“But you miss him, right?”
“Yes. I miss them all.”
Buffy kissed Angel’s shoulder. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be. They made me live in the world.” He paused. “But that wouldn’t have even been a possibility without you.”
“Wes seemed different when I saw him last,” Buffy said.
“He was—more than we ever thought he’d be.”
Buffy sighed. “Aren’t we all?”
“Is this going to last?” Buffy asked one day while they stood side by side in the kitchen washing the dishes after her latest round of baking: pecan chews, currently cooling on the counter.
Angel turned on the hot water and rinsed the mixing bowl. He placed the bowl carefully on the drainer and turned off the tap.
He took the dish towel from her and dried his hands, leaning back against the stove which was still warm.
“I don’t know how to answer that,” he said finally. “There’s no answer.”
“There is,” she said. “You could say: “Of course it’s going to last. It’ll last until the end of time. It’ll last forever.””
Angel opened his arms and Buffy moved into the welcoming shelter they provided.
“Forever is a relative term,” he said.
At dusk, they walked to Tiber Island. “The temple to Aesculapius used to be here,” Angel said.
Angel smiled down at her. “He was the Greek god of healing. But until his temple was built, the people of Rome thought the island was evil and no one set foot here. In fact,” Angel continued, “the only people who ever set foot on the island were criminals sent to live out the rest of their days.”
Buffy shook her head. “You know a lot of useless stuff, do you know that?”
Angel took her hand. “I know,” he said.
He kissed her awake in the middle of the night.
Outside the window, the night sky was dusted with stars: star-shine on her cheeks and down the slope of her ribs and on her hipbone until he covered it with his hand.
She moaned as he tasted her.
“So hot,” he said, teasing her to full consciousness with his tongue.
“Oh, God,” she said.
“This is what I want,” he whispered. “To touch you all the time, to feel the heat of your skin, to be in you.”
He held her down with strong fingers as she came.
A card from Giles:
I hear Angel has joined you.
Buffy could almost see the pained expression on Giles’s face, not necessarily because Angel was here but because Giles would understand what that meant. But then he surprised her.
I hope you’re very happy, Buffy. Both of you.
He hadn’t imagined he would ever love anyone this much or that his life would be about these small, quiet moments.
Sometimes he still dreamed about blood, slippery-slick against his fingers, lips, cock. He’d wake up, terrified that this was all an illusion, his breath wild in his chest.
And then Buffy would sigh beside him and he’d settle beside her on the bed, watching her sleep, waiting for morning.
He weighed the tomatoes in his hands, smoothed their skin against his thumb and paused.
Buffy was beside him. She’d braided her hair in two neat pigtails and she was humming tunelessly.
“Get two,” she said looking up at him. “Or three. Or however many you’d like.”
If the market hadn’t been so crowded he would have thrown her on top of the produce and kissed her senseless.
He dropped the tomatoes into the basket and reached for the eggplant.
“You take too long deciding,” Buffy complained, taking the basket from him.
“It’s been a lifetime or two since food--”
“What? Didn’t run away from you?”
They watched the sun descend from the balcony and although it was as spectacular as it always was, Angel was still partial to sunrise these days; there was something hopeful about the sun coming up.
“Angel,” Buffy said.
“Hmm,” he said turning to look at her. Silhouetted against the indigo sky, she was breathtaking.
“This is a dream.”
The last of the blue faded from the sky and Angel lifted his hand and touched her cheek.
“Yes,” he said. “It is.”
Story Index Thoughts
This story was written as part of the We Will Not Fade Away:An Ats Post Finale Ficathon.
My story was written for Rachel, who requested:
One to Three Characters You'd Like To See: Angel, Wes, Gunn
One Pairing You'd Like to See (Optional): B/A
Two Things You Want: Happy B/A ending and someone cooking.
One Thing You Don't Want: Character death or any super heavy angst.
What Rating(s) You'd Like: Any, it's up to whoever gets it.
This story was written as part of the We Will Not Fade Away:An Ats Post Finale Ficathon. My story was written for Rachel, who requested: One to Three Characters You'd Like To See: Angel, Wes, Gunn One Pairing You'd Like to See (Optional): B/A Two Things You Want: Happy B/A ending and someone cooking. One Thing You Don't Want: Character death or any super heavy angst. What Rating(s) You'd Like: Any, it's up to whoever gets it.