POWERS STRONGER THAN THEY
Buffy turns twenty-seventh and experiences something strange. A day later she gets a surprise visitor.
An established relationship story.
Written: January 2013. Word count: 2,605.
"Angel," Buffy murmured the name as she arched her back and sighed with pleasure. A second later she was sitting up, shaking her head and looking around her. She pulled the sheet up to cover her breasts, even though she was quite alone, and shivered just a little as against her will her mind went back ten years to her seventeenth birthday when she had given herself fully to Angel only to discover in doing so she had been responsible, at least in part, for him once again becoming Angelus.
She ran her hand through her hair and just sat for a moment or two before she got out of bed, pulled on her robe and went into the bathroom. She tried not to think about the past, especially the parts that involved Angel as it was too painful.
It was too painful because over the last year or so she had finally admitted to herself what she'd denied for several years: she was still in love with Angel. She'd always been in love with Angel; even when he was Angelus and was doing such awful things, even when she had hated him, despised him, tried to kill him, she'd still loved him. And at, what was for a slayer quite old, the age of twenty-seven, she knew she'd love him until the day she died.
He was a part of her; he was a part of her in a way no other man (or vampire) had ever been or could ever be. He was a part of her, even though she didn't want him to be; he was a part of her and had been almost from the moment they had met. Together they had been -
Stronger together than apart. She jumped as she heard the words, not just in her head, but she heard them; she was sure she'd heard them. And yet it wasn't possible; the door was locked, bolted, chained; the windows were all locked; she was alone in her apartment. And yet she had heard the words and they were words she knew she knew; they were words she had never heard before.
"Buffy!" Angel cried the name as he sat up in bed, breathing heavily, blinking hard and shaking his head as he looked around him. He pulled the sheet up to cover his lower body, even though he was quite alone, and shivered just a little as against his will his mind went back ten years to Buffy's seventeenth birthday when she had given herself fully to him only to discover in doing so she had been responsible, at least in part, for him once again becoming Angelus.
He ran his hand through his hair and just sat for a moment or two before he got out of bed and went into the bathroom. He tried not to think about the past, especially the parts that involved Buffy as it was too painful.
It was too painful because over the last year or so he had finally admitted to himself what he'd denied for several years: he was still in love with Buffy. She was still his girl; she would always be his girl; even though they weren't, and hadn't been for many years, together, she was still his girl. On the occasion of her twenty-seventh birthday, ten years to the day since she had given herself to him, ten years to the day since he'd taken her virginity and so much more from her, he finally admitted he'd love her until the day he died.
She was a part of him; she was a part of him in a way no other girl (or vampire) had ever been or could ever be. She was a part of him, even though he didn't want her to be; she was a part of him and had been almost from the moment they had met. Together they had been -
Stronger together than apart. He jumped as he heard the words, not just in his head, but he heard them; he was sure he'd heard them. And yet it wasn't possible; the door was locked, bolted, chained; the windows were all locked; he was alone in his apartment. And yet he had heard the words and they were words he knew he knew; they were words he had heard before.
He dressed quickly and before he could change his mind, he threw some things into a bag, put it and another bag he took everywhere with him into his car, got in and began to drive. He knew where she was; he always knew where she was. She'd moved several times since he'd last heard from her, a message delivered by Andrew of all people, but he'd never once lost track of her.
"For old time's sake," he told himself more than once as he drove. "For old time's sake. That's all it is. Nothing more." And he pointedly ignored the 'stronger together than apart' murmurs that infiltrated the car from time to time.
Day became night and dawn was breaking before he finally stopped the car in front of the apartment building she lived in. He looked up, firstly at the sky and then at the building, his eyes coming to rest on the floor he knew she lived on. With one more glance at the sky and the first signs of the sun, he hurried from the car and into the building where he took the elevator to her floor.
Once there he leaned against the wall and slid down to sit on the floor. He waited, keeping her door in his sight, for two hours before he stood up and made his way to her door. He hesitated for only a moment or two before he raised his hand and rang the bell.
"Angel," she whispered as she opened the door and stared up at him. He stared back down at her; in many ways she looked just as she'd looked the first time he'd seen her. In other ways she looked quite different - harder, older, more weary, as if the weight of the world was on her shoulders (which it wasn't any longer) and fragile in a way she'd never looked. He just wanted to take her into his arms, hold her and shelter her from any and all harm. "What are you doing here?"
He mentally shook himself as he realized in his haste to get to her, he hadn't invented an initial good reason for being there. "I came to wish you a Happy Birthday," he said.
"That was yesterday."
He nodded. "I remember. Happy Belated Birthday, Buffy." Just for a moment her face softened and the world weariness and fragility vanished and he got a fleeting impression that she too had remembered what had happened on the night of her seventeenth birthday.
Then her face became harder again and the world weariness and fragility returned. "Thank you," she said. "Now why donít you tell me why you're really here?"
All his plans about old time's sake and just seeing how she was fled; he may be able to lie to himself, but he couldn't lie to her. "Can I come in?"
She stared at him for a moment and he was sure she was going to refuse. Then she gave a half-shrug and moved back from the door. He hesitated for a moment. "Oh," she said her tone flat, "I forgot. Do come in, Angel."
"Thanks." He went into her apartment, closed the door and followed her into a fairly large room. It was completely impersonal; he guessed it had been let out furnished and she hadn't done anything to make it hers. Maybe she wasn't planning on staying long; she didn't tend to; she seemed to like to move on to a new apartment, a new city after only a few months.
"Sit down," she said, dropping down onto the couch and curling her legs beneath her.
"Thanks," he said again and sat on a chair opposite her.
"Well?" she demanded after they had sat in silence for several minutes. "What are you really doing here?"
Now he was face to face with her, he wasn't completely certain how to begin. He linked his fingers together, looked down at them and then back at her. "Did anything," he paused for a second and chose his word carefully, "strange happen to you yesterday?"
She had been staring into the distance over his shoulder, but as he spoke she jerked and looked directly at him. She made a noise that seemed to be a mix of laughter, derision and something he couldn't place. "Strange?" she said and this coming from a vampire with a soul. Angel, in our world, what's normal?"
He hesitated; should he tell her yet? "Did it?" he urged, deciding it wasn't the right moment. "Did you maybe wake up suddenly as you remembered -"
"No!" Now she sat upright and her look was one of almost panic.
He went on as if she hadn't answered him. "As you remembered what happened ten years ago?" She was shaking her head, but he ignored her. "Did you 'hear' something? Something you knew, but had never heard before?"
She stood up swiftly and moved towards the door. But he was there before her, standing in front of her. She stared up at him and again shook her head. "No. Now you can go."
"I said go!" And she started to punch him and tears began to gleam in her eyes.
He caught her hands and just held her firmly until finally she stopped fighting. She lowered her head, letting her hair fall around her face as she sobbed. "Please," she whispered. "Please go, Angel. I can't -"
"Can't what, Buffy?" His tone was gentle as he now held both of her hands in one of his and swept her hair back from her face.
"You can't be here. I can't . . . I won't . . . Angel, I can't . . . We can't. Not again. I can't watch you walk away again. I can't. I don't know why you came here and I don't care. I just want you to go."
"And if I said I didn't want to go?"
"I don't care what you want. Look, if you just stopped by for old time's sake or whatever, if you just want a cup of coffee or blood - except I don't have any - then just say so. But don't ask me -"
"Stronger together than apart," he said softly.
Her head jerked up and she stared at him in horror and amazement. "What?" she whispered. "What did you say?"
"Stronger together than apart," he said again.
She shook her head. "No."
"Yes, Buffy. Yes. We always were."
"No," she said again as she tried to pull her hands from his. But he held onto her, using his greater strength. "You heard it yesterday, didn't you?"
She shook her head again. "No." He stared at her until she once more stopped fighting and sagged against him. "Yes," she whispered. "Yes, Angel. I heard it. And yes, yes, I woke up remembering what happened on my seventeenth birthday. There, are you happy now?" Tears still shining in her eyes she glared at him. Then her look softened and she said, her tone more than a little defeated, "What does it mean? And why did we both hear it?"
He pulled her a little nearer to him and to his surprise she let him. "I don't know what it means, not exactly. I think we have to figure that out. But it was no coincidence we both heard it."
"Who said it?"
"The Powers That Be."
"The Powers That Be; they said it to me once a few years ago - it was about you and me. And it's always been true, Buffy. You know it has."
She shook her head again. "I'm so tried," she said. "Tired of," she paused, pulled away from him a little and looked up at him. Under his gaze the world weariness faded, the young woman who was far too old in many ways for her age vanished and he saw again the girl he'd first fallen in love with. She smiled and her face softened. "I'm tired of trying to lie to myself; I'm tired of trying to deny I still love you; that I never stopped loving you." She shrugged and pulled herself completely out of his arms. "Now you know." She sounded defeated and yet oddly content.
He smiled, swept her hair back from where it had once again fallen around her face, pulled her back towards him and kissed her. "I never stopped loving you either, Buffy," he said softly, lifting his head from hers. "I never could."
For a moment she clung to him tightly, then she sighed and once more pulled herself out of his arms, this time she turned and returned to the couch. "How long do I have this time?"
He followed her, sitting down next to her rather than on the chair opposite her. "What?"
"How long are you going to stick around for before you once again decide it's better for me for you to leave?"
"I don't -"
"Yes, you do know," she said sharply. "It'll be better for me because I'll get older and you won't and -"
"I will get older."
She stared at him. "Angel?"
He sighed and stood up again. "The PTB owed me a life."
"Angel?" He eyes were wide and once again he saw the young girl he'd first fallen in love with. It really was, in many ways, as if time had been turned back or even stopped. "You're . . . Human?"
He nodded. "With one exception."
"I still have the strength and speed of a vampire."
She stared at him. "How?"
He shrugged. "The PTB can do whatever they want."
"Something's coming, Buffy. I don't know what or when or why it's going to come down to us. But something is coming and we are the ones who'll have to deal with it. We'll stand together against whatever is coming."
She stood up and moved towards him. "Just like old times," she said softly, standing up on her toes to kiss him.
He swept her up into his arms, lifting her with ease, just as he always had, and spun her around, before kissing her again. "Just like old times," he repeated. "Well," he added, turning her so he had one arm under her knees and the other around her back as he carried her towards the door of the lounge. "Almost." She laughed and pointed out the bedroom to him.
SOME HOURS LATER
He pushed himself up onto one arm and gazed down at her. Ten years plus one day ago he'd made love to her and lost his soul; now all he'd lost was his heart - and in truth she'd had that from the moment they'd met.
He didn't know what was coming; he didn't know what it would take to destroy it; he didn't even know if they'd survive - but if they couldn't no-one could. But he thought they would survive, because they were, as The Powers That Be had said, stronger together than apart. They always had been and they always would be.
He bent to kiss her again before he pulled her into his arms and closed his eyes. Just like old times and yet so very, very different.
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