TIMELINE: During Earshot.
SPOILERS: Earshot, brief Enemies.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: I was watching Earshot for the first time. I heard 'isolation'. And I heard Angel say 'you can't get into my mind'. And I thought 'fluff'. NB, I'm sorry if the training scene sucks. That's why it's short.
FEEDBACK: Go on now. You know you want to.
Giles hurriedly briefed Angel, mindful of his Slayer sleeping restlessly in the bed next to him. Joyce and Willow collected various clothes and other items Buffy would need for the exile that would hopefully save her sanity.
'She can't handle the volume of thoughts,' Giles explained, 'And it will drive her mad. The only other afflicted I was able to find is in complete isolation. If we send her into such isolation now, we can look for a cure without the time pressure.'
'So you're sending me with her because ...?' Angel asked. Not that he didn't welcome the chance; he was just surprised it was being given to him.
'Because she can't hear you. It will be, in essence, her normal environment.'
'Just without the people,' Angel filled in, 'Okay. Where are we going?'
Giles produced a map and indicated a town about fifty miles from Sunnydale.
'This is Meols; it's a tourist town, there aren't many people there yet and I was able to get you a small holiday home for an indefinite period. She should be fine there.'
'Right,' Angel said, taking the map and examining it, 'How are we getting there?'
'Joyce has agreed to lend you her car for a couple of weeks.'
'As long as you don't let Buffy drive it,' Joyce said quickly.
'Yes,' Giles agreed, 'If she needs it urgently, someone will come and collect it. If you take Joyce to the store now, you can leave her there to get Buffy some food while you get some clothes and, uh ...'
'Some food?' Angel enquired.
Giles gave him a sheepish smile, 'Yes.'
Ten minutes later, Angel and Joyce were ensconced in an uncomfortable silence in her car. She looked over at him; he stared through the window, deep in thought. If he'd had more space, he would have brooded.
'I think you realise I'm not delighted with this situation,' Joyce began, trading the awkward silence for an awkward conversation, 'But it's best for Buffy.'
'Yeah, it is,' Angel said.
They drew up to the grocery store and both got out, Joyce waiting for Angel to come around to the driver's side before entering.
'I just want to know you'll take care of her,' she said firmly.
The brief look of hurt he gave her made her feel slightly guilty, but she persisted.
'I can control myself, Mrs. Summers,' he said flatly and got into the car.
Joyce sighed, knowing she hadn't fooled him about what she'd been talking about.
Angel threw clothes into a bag, barely noticing what he was packing, but assuming that as his staple colours were black, white and grey, it would all match.
He hoped he hadn't been lying to Buffy's mother when he'd told her he could control himself. Usually it wasn't much of a problem; a dull, permanant ache that he would never really know her again, but nothing he couldn't handle. But, alone with her for an unknown amount of time - he didn't know if he would prove able to handle that.
An hour after the idea had first been put to him, Angel stood outside Buffy's house, loading up the car with food (his-and-hers) and baggage (his-and-hers). It was kind of like how he imagined human roadtrips to be - complaining, frazzled people, a destination unknown in all but name and probably far too much clothing.
He went inside to find out how Giles was doing. Unwilling to wake Buffy up, but afraid she would panic if she woke during the car journey, Giles was going to sedate her, but didn't know precisely how much it would take to knock her out.
'Ready?' Angel asked, coming in. Joyce and Willow were stood around Buffy's bed, tense as they watched Giles slowly inject her with a pale liquid.
'Just about,' Giles replied, rising, 'As she's already asleep it shouldn't take too long for it to take effect.'
They watched Buffy carefully for a few minutes until Giles deemed her under enough to leave.
Angel picked her up gently and carried her out to the car, where he laid her on the backseat and Willow covered her in a light blanket.
Joyce waved cheerfully at the neighbour watering her plants next door, hoping she wouldn't ask what was going on.
Angel came around the car and stood in front of Joyce, Willow and Giles, subconsciously ranged in a line facing him.
'I'll call when we get there,' he said quickly.
'Fine, fine,' Giles said, taking his glasses off and beginning to clean them.
Angel waited a beat, but no more was said, so he got into the car, switched on the ignition and put the car into gear. Just as he was about to leave, Willow piped up, 'Bye, Angel.'
He smiled out at her, 'Bye.'
And then he drove off, Buffy lying unconscious in the back seat.
About halfway there, he heard her begin to wake up over the classical music playing quietly over the radio. He twisted in his seat, and, seeing her twist and turn, muttering, made the hasty decision to pull over.
He climbed into the back seat and tried to judge how awake she was, assuming Giles had been wrong about how much sedative would be needed.
'Angel,' she said, so quietly he could barely hear her.
'Yeah,' he said, shifting closer to her to lay a comforting hand on her cheek, 'I'm here.'
Her eyes flickered over and she focused on him, confused.
'Angel? What's going on?' her hand came up to gingerly touch her head and she gave a brilliant smile, 'I can't hear thoughts.'
Angel shut his eyes briefly in sympathy, 'That's because there's no-one around. They're still looking for a cure.'
'But there is one, right?' she suddenly looked very young.
'They'll find one,' he said reassuringly.
She struggled to sit up, and he moved back to give her space, until she grabbed his hand with a surprisingly strong grip, preventing him from moving further.
'Where are we?'
'We're going somewhere there's not many people. You'll be safe until Giles finds the cure.'
'Safe from what?' she said, moments away from a full-scale panic, screaming temper tantrum optional.
He looked down, then back up at her, his eyes deep, 'Madness, Buffy. You can't control the telepathy ... it drives you insane.'
She stared at him in shock, then pulled herself together forcefully.
'You're here ...' she said slowly, trying to regroup.
'You can't hear me, remember? I'm staying.'
She gave him another stunning smile, slightly weaker, but no less beautiful.
Angel gently roused Buffy from the fitful sleep she had resumed, grinning inwardly and picking her up again when she mumbled protests against walking herself.
He carried her into the bedroom of the small apartment and placed her gently on the bed.
The one bed. The one double bed. The one double bed in the one bedroom.
He groaned and went to scrutinise the couch for sleeping possibilities. Pretty long ... he wouldn't be too uncomfortable. If he didn't roll off it.
He returned to the car and brought in the bags of their clothes and food, stowing his blood and some of Buffy's food in the refrigerator, deciding the rest could wait until morning.
Or whenever he got up.
He made sure the curtains were closed tightly and stripped off his shirt, preparing to go to sleep himself. It was kind of early for him, but it seemed like Buffy was still somewhat under the effects of the drug and he didn't have much else to do ... better to be rested for when she woke up and started demanding more answers than what he'd given her earlier, assuming she still remembered those.
When he went into the bedroom to search for covers and pillows, he was surprised to see Buffy sleeping on only one side of the bed, rather than sprawled as he had left her.
She rolled over when she heard him open the cupboard and fixed him with a sleepy eye.
'What are you doing?'
'Getting blankets,' he replied.
She grinned and flopped back down, 'The bed's made, Angel.'
'I'm sleeping on the couch,' he informed her, leaving the empty closet and moving over to another.
She looked kind of surprised, but kind of not, as if she expected this behaviour, 'Why?'
Angel turned and stared at her, 'Well, because of ... I ...' words failed him. He had assumed it would be obvious.
She smiled approvingly as she saw he had no answer and patted the bed beside her, 'Come on. I'm tired.'
'Buffy, I don't think ...' he tried.
'I think I might have trouble sleeping,' she said thoughtfully, 'Strange bed, stressful time, all that. I need something familiar.'
Her smile made it quite clear what familiar thing she wanted. And it wasn't Mr Gordo.
Suddenly Angel wondered why he was arguing. But he had to check once more, 'Sure?'
She gave him a look and he turned the light off and got into the bed. Instantly she rolled over to him, wrapping a leg around his and lying her head on his chest, his arm around her and hers draped securely over his well-muscled chest.
'Night,' he said softly.
'I love you,' she drawled sleepily in return.
A second later, secure in Angel's arms, she was back asleep.
Buffy woke up groggily well into the next morning. She was surprised that she wasn't surprised to find herself in Angel's embrace; he was on his stomach with his head turned towards her and arm heavy across her torso, though still deep in sleep.
She watched him affectionately for minutes, noting how he didn't even have the appearance that he was breathing while asleep, but it didn't matter. It occured to her in a bittersweet pang that this was the first time they'd woken up together.
Somehow sensing her scrutiny, he wriggled slightly as he woke, removing his arm, at which Buffy felt another pang at the loss of the comforting contact.
He opened his eyes and she realised he was still half under as he sat up, confused, before coming fully awake and remembering. He turned to her, giving her a heart-stopping grin, then reached out to smooth a wayward strand of hair from her forehead.
'Did you sleep well?' he asked sweetly.
'Very well,' she answered, and it was the first time she had in a while; possibly it was the sedatives, but she had an idea it was more to do with his protective presence so close.
She moved closer and he allowed her to curl herself around him, gently rubbing her back when she was comfortable.
They lay in companionable silence for a while, Angel changing to stroking her hair while she designed lazy patterns on his bare chest.
'You want breakfast?' he said eventually.
'There's breakfast?' she said.
He laughed, 'Oh yeah. Your mom wouldn't have let you go if she didn't think you'd be getting fed,' he teased.
Buffy went to get out of bed, 'Sure.'
He pushed her down, 'Stay there. I'll get it.'
She let him go, feeling a rush of love.
'What do you want?' he asked.
'Omelettes,' she said, joking, assuming he wouldn't be able to cook.
He didn't blink an eyelid, 'Fifteen minutes.'
'Wha - Angel, you can cook?' she said, amazed.
He leaned over to kiss her lightly on the lips.
'Guess you're about to find out,' and then he was off the bed and through to the kitchen. She lay back, a contented smile on her face.
An hour later, he had given her the (excellent) omelettes, and he had also eaten, though he hadn't mentioned it to her. Despite knowing Giles could call any minute with the cure, and a return back to their normal lives, he felt like this idyll with Buffy would last forever.
Giles. Call. He needed to call.
He found the phone, calling Buffy over so she could prove she was okay.
'I'm comfortable!' she complained from the bedroom.
He grinned indulgently, going into the bedroom to sweep her up in his arms, comforter and all, to carry her into the living area and settle her on the couch by the phone. Buffy giggled girlishly and wrapped her arms around his neck, and he suddenly felt two hundred years younger.
As Angel picked her up effortlessly and brought her into the living room, Buffy felt younger than she had in a long while and leaned against him as he sat next to her on the couch, phone in hand.
'Hi, Giles. It's Angel. No problem. Yeah, it's nice. I don't think there'll be a problem, it's a way away from anywhere else ... she's fine. You want to speak to her? No, she's right here.'
He offered the phone to Buffy and she took it, transferring it into her other hand and interlacing her fingers with his.
'Buffy, how are you feeling?' Giles said from Sunnydale.
'Fine,' she replied, 'I'm not hearing thoughts, Angel has been hiding formidable cooking skills. How's everybody?'
'We're all well, Buffy. We're searching for a cure for the demon aspect, I'm confident we'll find one soon.'
'Good,' she said absently, concentrating more on Angel's fingers running lightly up and down her arm.
' - ooks of Telior,' Giles finished.
'What? Good, fine,' she said quickly, 'I'll talk to you soon, okay? Bye.'
'Goodbye, Buffy,' the dialling tone came on.
Buffy dropped the phone and leaned closer to Angel, kissing him strongly, winding her arms around his neck. He responded, sliding his arms around her back and pulling her closer, but pulled away after a couple of minutes.
'You have to call your mother.'
She pouted, but sat up, 'I do?'
'Well, I don't want to do it.'
'You don't like my mother?'
'Your mother doesn't like me.'
She gave him a wry grin, 'My mother never likes my boyfriends. You're lucky you haven't met my dad.'
Angel got up to make coffee while Buffy reassured her mother. When he returned, she was off the phone and pensive.
'You okay?' he handed her a cup of coffee.
She accepted it gratefully and nodded up at him, 'Yeah. Actually, I'm a little bored.'
'Already?' he said, 'I think Willow put some of your books in here ...'
The expression of horror on her face was comical, 'I don't think so. How about a little training?'
'I don't think so,' he echoed.
'But -' she began.
He stopped her with a raised hand and an unshakeable look, 'Not today. Tomorrow.'
'But what am I going to do today?' she whined pitifully.
He looked over at the television.
'Afternoon telvision?' she exclaimed, 'I'd rather be hearing the thoughts!'
'I'll go get a movie later,' he promised.
Buffy's eyes lit up, 'Has potential. Gonna let me get a chick flick?'
She crawled over to him on the couch and nudged under his arm.
'Maybe,' he said playfully, 'Why don't you try and get some more sleep?'
'Well,' she said, considering, 'That's a good idea, but I'm kind of ... tense. I need to relax a little,' she paused. He didn't take the bait so she carried on, as if the thought had just occured to her, 'Oh, you know what's relaxing?'
He looked down speculatively into her mischevious expression.
Buffy lay facedown on the bed, groaning with pleasure as Angel's strong hands worked the bare skin of her back. He straddled her, careful not to put too much weight on her, leaning forward to rub her shoulders, then slide his hands down to the small of her back and tenderly press there for a few moments.
She wriggled underneath him as his hands glided smoothly all over her tanned back, coming up to cup the back of her skull. She arched her head back to fully feel his sure touch and breathed contentedly, eyes closed.
His hands disappeared and she whimpered and reached behind herself to try and pull them back. She heard his low laugh, and his hands slid up the curve of her arms, trapping her wrists and laying them above her head. She got the message and lay back down quietly.
After a few moments, when she was sensitised to his touch, he swooped down over her and she squealed as she felt his lips lovingly caress the nape of her neck. She pushed herself back into him and he answered her silent plea, moving down her back, alternating kissing with little nibbles and sucks as she writhed under him in delight.
After what felt like mere moments, he pulled away and flipped her over easily, fastening his eyes on her face as he handed her a shirt to cover herself. She gave him a lazy, sated smile, then closed her eyes, pulling him down to her to kiss him and duel her tongue with his for long moments while he braced himself above her. Then she pulled him back to the bed and wrapped herself securely around him before falling easily back into sleep.
'I just have to say, The Last Seduction isn't actually a chick flick,' Angel warned, picking up Joyce's car keys.
'I want to see it anyway,' Buffy said. 'And get something action as well. Oh, and something that's -'
'I'll get a selection!' Angel said, leaning down to kiss her.
'And popcorn!' she yelled to his departing back. He turned around and nodded, smirking, then blew her a kiss and left.
Buffy sat. She looked around aimlessly for something to distract her. Her gaze fell on the old teenage standby - the phone.
'Hi, could I speak to Willow?' she said politely when Mrs Rosenberg came onto the line. She waited, going onto the other standby of inspecting her nails.
'Buffy, how are you? Are you okay?' Willow babbled as she came onto the phone.
Buffy laughed, 'Yeah, I'm fine. You?'
'I'm good,' Willow said.
Buffy turned serious, 'Did you find the killer?'
'Oh, oh, yeah!' Willow said eagerly, 'It was the lunch lady, she tried to poison us all.'
'But you got her?' Buffy asked, a little disbelievingly.
'Yeah,' Willow reassured her, 'And then we stopped Jonathan from shooting himself.'
'Jonathan? Is he alright?'
'Fine. Suspended and in trouble, but alive, so that's a plus,' Willow said cheerfully. 'But how are you? And how are you and Angel?'
'We're great,' Buffy confided, 'He's being so sweet. He's gone to get movies. And he can cook! Really well!'
'Ohhhh,' Willow said, 'You want us to slow down a little on that cure?'
'Kind of,' Buffy said, 'I mean, I want to go home eventually, but I'm just enjoying having some time with the two of us. Alone.'
'But you're not - well, you know?' Willow checked, her tone laced with worry.
Buffy sighed, 'Of course not. But it's difficult. He gave me a massage before, and I just wanted to jump him.'
'That's too - he gave you a massage?' Willow said.
'Yeah,' Buffy giggled, 'I was tense. He was great at it.'
'Oohhhhhhh,' Willow repeated.
'I know,' Buffy said, 'Look, he's going to be back soon, so I'll talk to you soon, okay?'
'Sure. Bye, Buffy,' Willow said.
'Bye,' she answered.
'Movies,' Angel declared as he came back into the house. He dropped them onto the table for her to see then went into the kitchen with the bag of food.
Buffy looked over what he'd got, 'Great.'
She followed him into the kitchen and slid her arms around him from behind as he poured popcorn into a bowl. Then she was diverted by the sight of -
'Oooh. Ice cream.'
'Mmm,' Angel agreed, grabbing two spoons from the set in the drawer.
She trailed him into the living room, where he knelt to put '10 Things I Hate About You' into the VCR.
'This movie is a sacrifice, you know,' he told her, 'I prefer my Shakespeare straight.'
'What does Shakespeare have to do with anything?' she said, waiting for him to grab the remote and sit down before throwing herself onto the couch and into his arms.
'Never mind,' he said.
Halfway through the movie, Angel and Buffy were ignoring it in favour of throwing popcorn into each other's mouths.
'Two points!' Angel said as her throw landed squarely in his open mouth.
'I think I should get three,' she said, 'Cause you're so big your mouth is really far away.'
'Good point,' he conceded, 'But you have to lose a point because you're the Slayer, and so a much better pitcher than most people.'
'Alright,' she said, pelting him with popcorn she made no effort to aim into his mouth.
'Hey!' he laughed, pulling her into his embrace and immobilising her arms. He picked up a spoon and carefully scooped up some ice-cream, sliding it into her mouth. She closed her eyes and licked the spoon deliberately. A moment later, it was replaced by his lips, and she responded to his kiss by pulling him down to her, sinking into the sofa cushions with his weight on top of her. He pushed his tongue into her mouth, tasting the chocolate flavour of the ice cream and the unique flavour of Buffy, and she met his tongue with her own, as her arms slid around his back and his caressed her body.
A moment later, she pulled away from him, panting. She rested her forehead against his and he grinned into her eyes as she caught her breath. Then he pulled her up with him as he rose, keeping their eyes locked together and reaching back for the forgotten ice cream. Their legs staying intertwined, he moved closer again and continued to feed her the ice cream.
Buffy could barely breathe. She'd thought about moments like this - well, it was a classic movie scene - but she'd never brought the subject up, both because he was a vampire and later, because she'd also thought it was as sensual an experience as it was turning out to be. But, he seemed to be handling it, so she wasn't going to tell him to stop.
'I think the movie's finished.'
Buffy squinted and rolled over, her body coming into contact with a hard, cold chest. As Angel mumbled a complaint and pulled her closer, Buffy nestled into him and shut her eyes tightly, trying to find respite from the nervous energy inside her. She needed to hunt tonight, she decided.
But now, she needed to use the bathroom.
When she came back, Angel was leaning up on his elbow, fully awake, and he regarded her solemnly as she crossed to the dressing table.
'How are you feeling?'
'I'm fine,' she replied, a little puzzled. 'Why?'
He shrugged, 'I just didn't think you slept very well.' He gracefully got up from the bed and came over to her. She watched the fine lines of his body, and wondered how she came to deserve someone who was so in tune with her.
'A little too raring to go,' she reassured him, 'Don't worry about it.'
He took the hairbrush from the bureau and began to softly brush her hair. Buffy closed her eyes and leaned back into him, enjoying the brush moving over her scalp, massaging, and his big hands gently working out the tangles in her hair.
Minutes later, she stopped him.
'I'm going to use the shower,' she said, a little shyly, 'Why don't you get some more sleep? I know these aren't exactly your usual hours.'
'It's okay,' he said, his eyes scrutinising her, raking over her body in a way that made her blush, 'I don't need a lot of sleep.'
'Okay,' she said, watching as he passed her.
'I'll be in the living room,' he tossed over his shoulder, 'If you need someone to scrub your back.'
Buffy started, then a slow smile spread across her face.
Angel didn't catch the smile, and mentally kicked himself as he walked through into the lounge. Way to terrify the girl.
They spent a lazy day, Angel reading with Buffy's head on his lap as she appreciated the chance for a small interval in her life as a Slayer.
All was calm. Until Buffy insisted on helping with dinner.
'You don't cook at all, right?' Angel had asked dubiously.
'All the time,' Buffy had assured him with an airy wave of her hand.
As she surveyed the state the kichen was in, dismayed, she wished she hadn't. Angel looked at her affectionately.
'Sure you want to help?' he said, slipping his arms around her and nuzzling her neck.
Buffy sighed and turned in his embrace, noticing a smear of tomato sauce on the tip of his nose. A soft smile came over her face and she leaned in and licked it off, then pressed her forehead against his.
'How about you finish cooking, and I'll clear up?' she bargained hopefully.
'Works for me,' he said laughingly, 'Scram.'
She gave him a million-dollar smile and wasted no time in obeying.
Angel gazed after her for a moment and then, turned, grimacing, to the mess of the kitchen.
When it became dark, they went out together to patrol. Both felt relief at hunting alongside each other again; Buffy had been doing most of her patrol with Faith before the other Slayer's deception came to light, and she felt safer knowing Angel was watching her back.
Unfortunately for Buffy's itching-to-fight body, Meols was light on the vamps or any demons at all. After a fruitless (dustless?) hour, she sighed, frustrated.
'Maybe the demons don't move in until the tourists do,' Angel suggested, coming up behind her to lay a settling hand on her back.
'Or maybe they're closer to where the people are,' Buffy countered.
Angel's hand tensed, pushing on her, then he relaxed and began rubbing her back soothingly, 'We can't risk that, Buffy.'
'So we risk people's lives before my sanity?' she shot back.
'If this place had a vamp problem, Giles wouldn't have sent us here,' he argued.
He felt the tiny change in her and knew she would capitulate.
'I guess ...' she wavered, needing reassurance.
'I know,' he said firmly, kissing the top of her head.
'Time to go home,' she said, reaching for his hand.
Their fingers remained tightly intertwined as they walked back.
Buffy had regained her good humour by the time they stepped in the door.
'Since I didn't get a chance to fight tonight, you're gonna have to give me that sparring session you promised,' she said brightly, bouncing in front of him.
He eyed her, 'Alright.'
She beamed and grabbed his hand again, dragging him through the house and into the spacious garden she had noticed earlier.
She attacked before he had a chance to get his bearings, and he barely defended himself, but managed to throw her off.
He grinned as she regrouped, welcoming the freshness and energy which made her such an attractive fighting opponent or partner ... well, made her so attractive, period.
At least to him. He supposed other vamps weren't so keen.
He took the initiative this time, moving forward to throw a quick double punch which she easily evaded, blocking her counter snap kick and coming in close to try and get her in a lock.
Just as he thought he had her, she moved, incredibly quickly, moving behind him before he could see and tripping him. He landed hard on his back, and in an instant she was over him, grinning widely.
'Give?' she said.
'Yeah,' he answered.
As she went to get up, he grabbed her hips in an equally fast move and brought her down on him. Her squeal of surprise was swallowed in his mouth as he kissed her and she relaxed into his hold, lying full length on him. He rolled over, bringing her under him.
'Is that enough training?' he asked.
'I think so,' she panted, curling her hands around his neck.
His reply was this time swallowed in her hungry kiss.
Buffy and Angel were disturbed in their sleep by a frantic banging on the door.
'S probly a mistake,' Buffy muttered as she felt Angel get up, 'G'nore it.'
'No,' he said back, humour in his voice, 'You can go back to sleep.'
Angel answered the door groggily. When he saw Giles standing there, he was glad he'd put on a shirt, even if - he checked discreetly - inside out.
'We have the cure,' Giles said excitedly, holding up a beaker half full of neon blue liquid.
'What was it?' Angel asked, guiding Giles through to the bedroom.
'The heart of the other demon ...' Giles said, breaking off when he saw Buffy asleep.
'Hi, Giles,' she said, stirring, 'And yes, we have been sharing a bed.'
Giles looked a little guilty, but offered her the beaker.
'Hello, Buffy. Glad to see you're coping with the ... well.'
'Cure?' she said, indicating the viscous blue liquid, 'Cause it looks like it'd kill me.'
He laughed, 'Yes, well. Drink a little of this and the telepathy should end, and you can, um, come back home.'
Buffy took the container from him and looked at the contents for a moment. Then she raised it to her lips, and, as she drank, her eyes met Angel's and held there.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: After all this happened, what the Mayor and Joyce said to Angel had less effect. He didn't break up with her, they had a great Prom and he didn't leave after Graduation. He saved Sunnydale souls, and when he got his Shanshu five years later, he and Buffy married immediately and went on to have four children before dying in each other's arms some sixty-three years later.
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