The bar was quiet. The bartender was wiping the bottles of liquor absently, one eye (literally) on TSN. Across the tiny dance floor, a girl dressed all in black stood in front of the jukebox, one crimson-painted nail tracing the songs under the curved glass before digging into the front pocket of her leather pants for a quarter. Seconds later, Celine Dion was blaring from hidden speakers.
“Now that’s not what I thought she’d pick,” Angel said quietly, half to himself.
The bartender set the bottle of Blue Curaco back on the shelf and turned to face him. “That chick’s got no taste in music. None.” Noting Angel’s empty glass he added, “Another?”
Angel shrugged. The liquor wasn’t even making a dent tonight. He glanced up at the clock overhead and thinned his lips. “Sure, why not?”
“You waitin’ for someone?” The bartender asked, reaching for a Glen Fiddich and pouring a healthy measure, before sliding it across the bar to Angel.
“Sort of. I don’t know. Yes.”
The bartender laughed. “Let me guess: a woman.”
Angel smiled mirthlessly. “Yeah.”
“Nothin’ worse than waitin’ for a girl,” the bartender said. But instead of offering some pithy thoughts on the subject, he turned his eye back to the television and reached absently for another bottle.
Angel took a sip of his drink and closed his eyes.
Since Sunnydale had been sucked into the great beyond and the great battle in Los Angeles, many things had changed in his life. One thing hadn’t: he was still waiting for the girl.
It was ridiculous, of course. Occasionally he’d hear about people from his past. He knew, for instance, that Dawn had graduated and gone to medical school. He knew the Giles was now the head of the Watcher’s Council. He knew that Willow had met and married an English woman and that Willow was pregnant. (Apparently Oz had helped out with that.) Medical science had replaced Xander’s eye and he was on the beach in Mexico with interchangeable senioritis. All he had were scraps of information passed from one person to another, which eventually found their way through their network of mutual friends and acquaintances. Rarely, if ever was there news of Buffy.
The last time he’d seen her was in a night club in Rome. He’d been foolish enough to think that he could step between her and The Immortal. Past experience had taught him that nobody came between that demon and a woman. He has the clearest memory of standing in the club and watching Buffy’s hair, almost white under the nightclub lights, fly through the humid air. It had taken every ounce of self-control he had not to stride through the crowds and wrench her from the asshole she was dancing with. But there would have been no point. At the back of his mind, he kept thinking about what Andrew had said all those months ago: “She doesn’t trust you.”
It had been months since he’d had even a snippet of information. Any leads he’d been fortunate enough to follow had led to dead ends. No longer a part of the demon world, his contacts had shriveled up. Not for the first time in his life, Angel found himself very much on the outside.
Then, out of the blue, he’d had a phone call.
“She’s in London.”
“Pardon me,” he’d said.
“Buffy’s in London.”
“No, you big dufus,” the voice said and Angel immediately recognized Dawn. All grown up.
“I know it’s been a long time, but I think you should see each other,” Dawn said. She gave the address of a pub off Trafalgar Square. “Don’t screw this up.” The pub was of the non-human variety. The clientele was friendly enough and there were very few altercations or disagreements. Angel had started to come in a few weeks ago, stopping by every now and then to drink quietly in the corner.
He was beginning to think that Dawn had played him for a fool.
“Is that your girl?” The bartender asked suddenly and Angel half turned on his stool to watch the door swing close. Angel felt the air leave his lungs, a feeling that was still alien to him. He nodded, a small gesture not really directed at anyone.
The room was so empty there was no place else for her to look except at him and she did, meeting his eyes across the dance floor with a mixture of relief and caution.
“So, what are you waiting for?” The bartender asked.
“I don’t know,” Angel said. “A sign.”
“Ain’t no such thing,” the Bartender said. “Go on.”
Angel slid from the stool, testing the weight of his suddenly heavy body against the strength of his legs. He was thinner. Having a human physiology meant that he’d been able to play around with his weight and his shape. He’s was leaner and more muscular than he’d been. Right now, though, he didn’t feel as though he had the strength to walk the twenty or so steps across the room to her, and it didn’t appear that she was inclined to come to him.
Until suddenly, she was in his arms, her slender arms wrapped tightly around his neck, her hot face pressed into his neck. He’d barely had a chance to marvel at her sudden appearance and now he couldn’t catch his breath; her body was flush against his and she was…laughing.
“Oh my God,” she said, pulling back to look him in the eyes. “I can’t believe you’re here.”
“He’s been here for weeks,” the bartender interjected before walking to the end of the bar to switch the channel on the television.
“Dawn said you might come,” Buffy said. “She wasn’t wrong.”
“I guess I just didn’t believe it. I hoped and everything,” she said, unhooking herself from Angel’s neck and sliding down to the floor.
“Buffy. I’ve been here almost every night for the past month. I was beginning to think you might not show.”
“Can I have a half of lager, please?” Buffy said, hopping up unto the barstool.
Angel sat back on his stool and waited.
“I’m sorry. This is all just a bit much,” Buffy said, taking a sip of the beer the bartender placed in front of her. “I mean, I’ve waited for this day forever and now here it is. Here you are.”
“Buffy, what’s wrong?”
“Nothing, nothing’s wrong.”
Angel watched as Buffy’s eyes clouded over and filled with tears.
“It’s nothing,” she said, wiping at her eyes with the back of her hand. Her eyes immediately filled again. “I’ve just been…”
“Waiting?” Angel asked.
“Me too.” ***
They moved to a private booth against the back wall of the bar.
“I don’t even know where to start,” she said. Angel smiled. “Maybe it’s better if we start from right here.”
Buffy regarded him warily. “Can we do that?”
Angel reached across the table and traced the unblemished knuckles of Buffy’s left hand. “I think at this point we can do whatever in the hell we want.”
Buffy’s cheeks flushed. “Can we?” she whispered.
“It can’t be that easy,” Buffy said.
“It probably won’t be,” Angel admitted. “But what if just for now we pretend that it is.”
“Wow,” Buffy said. “That doesn’t sound like something you’d say.”
Angel grinned. “I’m a new man. Literally.”
“I dreamed of this moment, Angel.”
“So did I.”
“Generally, though, we’re not in some hole-in-the-wall demon bar. Any moment now Willie over there's gonna offer us another round.” Angel smiled. "I think Willie will be glad to see the end of me. I'm bad for business...you know, recovering vampire and all."
Buffy stared down at her empty glass. "Can we get out of here?"
Angel slid out of the booth and offered his hand to Buffy.
"Angel," she said once she was clear of the booth. "It isn't as if I can't wait or that it wouldn't be better if maybe we did wait, I just..."
"Just what?" Angel said, his mouth quirking expectantly.
"Want you," Buffy said. "I want you."
Angel traced the curve of Buffy's lower lip with his thumb and said: "I want you, too."
A cab whisked them through London to Bloomsbury Square where Angel had rented a flat. He didn't bother with the lights when he opened the door and ushered Buffy into the large front room. She could see, even in the dark, the feature that must have drawn him to the place: floor to ceiling windows, unadorned by curtains or blinds.
He made love to her against the glass.
His mouth kissed the scars left behind by dozens of fights, his tongue traced the delicate skin behind her knee, on her wrist. His fingers smoothed the way for bliss.
"It's brilliant in the daylight," Angel said about the view later, his arms holding her close.
"I imagine it must be."
"I see now."
But what she really saw was Angel's face in reflection, tracking the same falling star.
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