Water Under the Bridge
FEEDBACK- please feedback, I spent months writing this!
DISCLAIMER- I do not own Buffy, Angel, or anything associated with the shows.
THEME- Happy Angst, Descriptive
SPOILERS- None. I wrote this before Forever aired, back in March.
TIMEZONE- Alternate Universe, set after S5 finale, but my idea of what happened. Buffy never died, Glory was defeated and Dawn is now a regular girl (although she's in hospital, recovering, at the precise time of Buffy and Angel's meeting) That's all you need to know.
SCENARIO- Buffy receives a surprise phone-call from Angel, who has some important news to share. He tells her that he will be in Sunnydale within the next twelve hours, and asks her to wait for him at her house. She agrees, and walks into the garden, intent on doing exactly that.
I bade good morrow,
And thought to leave her far away behind;
But cheerly, cheerly,
She loves me dearly;
She is so constant to me, and so kind.
I would deceive her,
And so leave her,
But ah! she is so constant and so kind.
- A quotation from John Keats, Endymion (1818), IV. 173-81
The black raven soars across the dirty sky and through the streets of Sunnydale. As it hovers above one garden particularly, it notices something glittering on the ground, and dips downwards to investigate further.
To its disappointment, there are no golden jewels in the garden. But there's something else.
It doesn't understand humans, but it understands life, and when it sees the young, blond-haired woman sitting cross-legged on the grass, it instantly recognises that she is in pain. And even though it is just a bird- neither in the world nor out of it- the raven feels her intense power.
It circles above her for a few minutes, entranced, sucked nearer to the woman as if it were in a whirlpool; but she does not wave it away. She doesn't move. Why doesn't she move?
Her hands are carefully positioned on her knees and her golden hair cascades down her back like a glossy waterfall. She faces the street, but she does not look at it. Her eyes are closed.
Her eyes are blank.
Feeling an otherworldly presence nearby, the bird becomes frightened for its life and flies away.
She doesn't notice the hasty retreat. She never noticed the bird in the first place.
She sits on her lawn and stares into the night, focussing on nothing but her thoughts. To a stranger, she looks vulnerable, alone, open to the underworld. Yet she is not. For in her blood flows a strength which neither demon nor death has overthrown and no chalice has ever filled.
Beyond the garden fence and into the street, there is activity. For the vampires see her. They feel her. She's the dirt underneath their skin. She who kills their kind and has turned Sunnydale into a dank, sterile wasteland. She has ruined their playground, and they loathe her for it.
They crawl behind the hedges and gently hiss her name into the wind.
The one name they know her by, the one name they detest.
They watch her like hunters in the jungle. They are confused, surprised, wary. They have questions but no answers. Theories but no thoughts. They don't understand what their nemesis is doing, why she sits in the starlight, so easy for them to attack. They wonder if it is a trap. What would happen if they approach her? Would she be expecting them? Would she stake them in the heart? Instead of patrolling, she simply sits on the open ground and waits for them to come to her- that's what they believe she is planning, although they do not know for sure.
She can wait for them forever, for they shall not test to find out. They'd rather stay undead tomorrow than become ash tonight, in a rash decision to kill the slayer. She'd win. She always wins.
Yes, they hate her. Yes, they're terrified and disgusted by her. But yes, they're intrigued by her, and thus they stay. They are attracted to her. Not the woman-irrelevant and unimportant- but the inner beauty which she possesses within. That soul which glitters before them and draws them closer.
She's the siren of death.
They know that as they look upon her, they are looking at destruction personified. A woman, a MONSTER that cannot be killed. She could end their existence with but a glance of her cold eyes, like Medusa resurrected.
Her neck beckons to them invitingly. It is milk white in the moonlight.
*She wants them to attack her.*
They look to each other for guidance, for they do not know what to do. The same unspoken thought passes between them, that it is a trap. She probably has a stake hidden in her sleeve, or has sprinkled the grass with holy water so that when they run across the garden they disintegrate into nothing. They know her. She is capable of such malice.
The wind rustles through the trees, and as they watch her, her hair is caught up in the breeze. It slowly, hypnotically, blows across her face.
They become hypnotised by the serenity.
Aye, this is a trap indeed.
They are so besotted with watching the Slayer, that they do not feel the presence of a stranger behind them- or the stranger's stake. The figure holds it firmly behind the nearest vampire's back and prepares to plunge it into the undead's pale, hard skin.
The Slayer's mind is a whirlpool. She is cleansing her thoughts, preparing herself for the inevitable reunion between herself and him. If she works hard enough, perhaps she can smother her desire to vomit. Her gut aches at the thought of seeing him again.
Over the past few months she has hurt more than she has ever been in her life, and to meet the guy who could certainly rival her mother's death in the 'hurting' stakes... it fills her with dread. Yet she can't wait to see him, and this is the paradox of their relationship. They can hurt each other just as intensely as they can fulfil each other, and although she knows that his visit will add to the heavy burden that is the contents of her heart, she knows that it will also soothe and strengthen her too. Love does that, it makes everything better.
Even if it does cause pain.
She thinks that she has all night to prepare herself for him. She has but moments.
She hears soft footsteps approach the garden, but she does not look up. Twigs cracking...vampires dusting?...an abrupt shout of pain. another... more screams!... ... ... and then silence.
And then she hears a light shimmery noise as leather shoes walk across the grass. She has already concluded that it is him. The one she was waiting for. The one who is exceedingly early. No matter. Time is only relative.
A hand touches her shoulder. She inwardly shivers with the touch. It feels good to have him touching her again. Is he testing to see if she's alive? If she were dead- like her mother- she'd fall over with the impact. And she'd lie on the floor, a body, a vessel. But she is alive, at least, she thinks she is.
"Hi there, stranger" she says in a girlish, teasing voice. She doesn't open her eyes. She doesn't need to. She knows who is there.
She expects a long silence to follow her warm welcome. Which is why she is caught off guard when he replies.
"H-Hi there... too" he says. His voice is shaky. She never knew his voice could even do 'shaky'. But it's him. She was right about that- her senses recognised his presence. She truly is getting better with the Slayer thang.
A smile falls across her face and she opens her eyes, finally ready to face him.
"You going to help me up?"
He is wearing similar clothes to that he wore last time. A long black coat, dark trousers and a white top. Yet his demeanour is less confident than that night and his cheeks are definitely flushed.
Her heartbeat quickens to see him again- the attraction is still there, racing through her skin like fire in a forest. Her pupils enlarge as she traces his face with her eyes. She feels an old pain return. The pain he has caused her and the pain he has been a victim of- it all fits her like a glove, as if it had never left.
She tries to dismiss it, but the pain only grows in strength. She struggles with her emotions, and eventually placates them by promising a cry-fest later that evening, after he has left Sunnydale and returned to LA. Her emotions accept, and she sighs with relief at that near escape. The last thing she wanted was to cry here, now, with him standing before her.
Bizarrely, he glances around the street before he offers her his arm. She grabs it with both hands and hoists herself up.
She's in his arms, exactly how she pictured she would be. He supports her weight as if she were a ballerina. She smiles as she gazes into his face, feeling any remnants of pain dissipate. She still loves him.
He isn't looking at her but at something above her right shoulder. She patiently waits, and eventually his eyes are drawn back to hers.
When he notices her smile, he immediately lets her go.
"What's wrong?" she asks, holding herself steady from the way that he abruptly drops hold of her. She is surprised by his coldness. They are not in a relationship any more, she accepts this fact, but she doesn't understand why they can't even flirt with each other. A few snatched moments with Angel every year is all that keeps her going. She has been aching for his arms for months. And yet now that he's here, he refuses.
"There are a lot of vampires hiding in this street, what's going on?" he asks, trying to divert her onto another topic.
She notices what he did, but decides not to push it. But the look on his face as he dropped her... it was chiselled like a block of ice.
Pain has returned...
She shakes her head and manages to dispel the ache that has continued to build in her gut.
She glances up to realise he is intently staring at her. Great. Now that she's been humiliated, he's decided that he can stare at *her*. Of course when she does it, he drops her without warning, but it's all another rule for him. Where does he get off-
She realises that he is waiting for a response, and he is slightly hurt that she hasn't given one.
"Sorry," she sighs, "I did hear you. They've been watching me for the past three hours. They think I'm off my head. Sitting on the ground, acting like easy prey. They're curious. Or they were until you dusted them, thanks for that by the way. Saved me a day's work."
"I only got a couple. There's a few more on the other side of the garden." He casually replies.
He knows better than to ask what she was doing on the lawn in the first place.
"What were you doing?" he asks, "they could have attacked you."
Well, perhaps not then.
"Living on the edge, killing some hours, what's the diff?" she shrugs.
"A whole lot when you end up dead"
She uncomfortably looks away. She doesn't want to talk about her weird behaviour. She doesn't fully understand what prompted her to meditate outside anyway. Perhaps Spike is right. Maybe she does have a death-wish.
"I have issues" she admits.
"I know how that feels"
There is a moment of silence. They are both thinking the same thing- how they're brooding mere minutes after their reunion.
"Want to change the subject?" he asks.
She thankfully agrees.
"I'd like that"
Another silence, longer this time.
"Well..." she begins to say, rocking back and forth on her shoes, "You could tell me why you're here. The unexpected phonecall... the quick trip down here. It's all so sudden. What do you want to tell me?"
He stares at her. She stares back.
He smiles and motions towards the street, and as he does so a small group of vampires scatter away from the hedge.
"Want to take a walk?" he asks, "I feel like a sideshow attraction at the moment."
She nods. A walk sounds good.
He still hasn't told her. He begins to tell a story about goblins and demons, then suddenly stops.
But he'll tell her. In his own time. You don't travel all the way to Sunnydale in one evening just to change your mind.
It doesn't matter, anyway. They've managed to work through the silent gaps in their conversation, and are now able to sustain a conversation without staring uncomfortably at each other.
"After Glory, I nearly had a breakdown" she confides, linking her arm through his as they turn onto another street. "I've spent most of my life fighting my Slayer heritage, and after finally accepting it, I find my best is barely enough. That last fight was hard. I'm lucky Dawn even survived at all..." her words spill out with pain.
They only seem to talk about pain. Since breaking up two years ago, nothing else binds them together like pain does. As warriors, pain is the only thing they're guaranteed.
That, and death.
He feels this pain as if the same atrocities were done onto him. He holds back a tear. This woman is amazing. She fought a god and won- despite her suffering. She seems to feel guilty about Dawn, although it wasn't her fault.
"But she is alive, Buffy" he replies, trying to reassure her, "You saved her life. And now you have a real sister. You've survived everything that's been hurled at you. R-Riley leaving, the demons and vampires, Glory, Dawn, your mother..." he lets that last word linger, unsure how to proceed.
"So... 'big yay' me?" she bitterly asks, although she isn't particularly mad at him. She's heard this pep talk before from the others, "This year has been worse than anything I've ever been through. I'm finding it so hard just to hold myself together and not crack up."
"You're a fighter" he says admirably "You could survive anything"
"Who says I want to?" she retorts. And she means it. She longs for the time when her worst problem was whether she'd fit in at Sunnydale High or not and whether she had last years hair.
She takes a deep breath and continues talking.
"And the worst thing is, what I've been through is minuscule compared to Dawn. She only found out that she didn't even exist a few months ago. How can someone cope with that? And then- a-and then our mother dies-" she chokes on the word without realising it "-she cuts herself, and now she's in hospital, trying to stay alive after Glory hurt her. She's only fourteen, Angel! She shouldn't have this pain. She's too young!"
She becomes hysterical. He doesn't reply, but instead sweeps her into his arms for a long hug. This is what she wanted earlier, but she doesn't even realise it's happening, it all feels so natural. She pushes her soggy face into his neck and moans. He feels warm, reminding her of the night they made love. He was warm then, too. It's at times like these that she forgets he is a vampire, and she can almost hear a heartbeat and feel a pulse. She's prayed for that miracle many, many times in her life. She prays harder than ever in this embrace.
He gently holds her and looks out into the street, gazing at the bright lights far ahead of them, and at the popular nightspots of the town. He whispers her name into her ear, fearing that he can't help her in any other way. Love is not enough. It doesn't bring people back from the dead. A kiss doesn't wipe out bad memories. A hug cannot protect her sister. He is of no use at all.
But he'll try his damn best anyway.
And this makes him wonder. Perhaps he shouldn't tell her his news. She might not want to know. It might be too late. It might not be the right time. Would the caring thing be to tell her, or to not tell her?
He doesn't know, and doesn't get a chance to decide, for she has already dried her eyes and broken her hug with him. She silently thanks him, and he silently accepts the gratitude.
If only he could do more.
"So" she says in a lighthearted tone of voice, "We should talk about trivial stuff. You know, the weather and all that. It doesn't end up with me sobbing and you brooding."
"Perhaps that's what our destiny's actually are. To be a sobber and brooder" he jokes, linking arms with her once more.
She giggles- a mixture of tears and laughter. They continue walking.
"Yeah. Unto every generation is born one that sobs and one that broods. Maybe we could dramatise it and sell it to a television network" she says.
"Primetime TV" he chips in.
"We'd have to make it raunchier. Give the show some 'bite' as it were. Stick a church, a priest, a confessor and a king-sized bed into it and we've hit a winner"
"I have a thing for churches" he suddenly confides.
She suspiciously raises an eyebrow.
"I didn't know that. I thought churches were no-go areas for you vamps."
She remembers Faith beating a gang of them up last year in Riley's local church, and realises they aren't. Thinking of Faith sets her on an entirely different train of thought.
"Do you think you'd have noticed if we had sex and it was Faith in my body, not me?" she blurts out.
"What?!" he asks, taken by surprise.
"Forget it" she says, waving her hand around in dismissal. But she doesn't seem to, because a few seconds later, she asks him again. "well, would you?"
He takes a second to think about it.
"Sure" he shrugs nonchalantly, "Faith has this ear thing which would have given her away"
He's straight-faced, and she very nearly believes him, if he didn't look so serious.
He's joking. Isn't he?
A silence gathers. He struggles not to smirk, but he fails miserably. She catches it and loudly sighs in relief. She reprimands him by lightly hitting him on the arm. She growls for sound effect.
"Seriously" he says "You're my soul-mate. I'd obviously know it wasn't you"
"S..soul-mates, huh?" she stutters.
She wanted to hear that, although she didn't expect him to ever say it again. To hear *his* voice tell her what they are... it warms her body like red wine. And makes her just as drunk.
They stop walking. They face each other.
She lifts her hand out and touches his face. He has day-old stubble. It feels rough but pleasant. Is he growing a beard like Russell Crowe or something?
"Beard?" she asks.
He reaches for her hand and gently guides it around his bristly lower cheek.
"Beard" he confirms.
They lean forward- mere moments away from a passionate kiss.
His eyes are set hungrily on her mouth. She parts her coral lips and tilts her head slightly. He grips her back with his strong hands and pulls her to him with a feral lust.
At the last possible second, he suddenly pulls back and steps away.
Her mouth remains open- gaping and aghast.
*He doesn't want me.*
She drops her head. She feels numb. She doesn't want to think about what just happened. She doesn't want to hate him for leading her on.
Those well-worn words echo from across the other side of the road.
Sorry is not good enough, but she takes a deep breath and resolves not to think about it anyway. Not tonight.
"That's okay" she lies, "Don't want to retread old paths, do we?"
His back is turned away from her and he is looking towards the Bronze in the distance, at the end of the road, which is buzzing with night-life in the distance.
"Do you feel like dancing?" he asks, without turning around.
She stands beside him and crosses her arms. They don't look at each other.
She follows his gaze and wonders if Willow and Xander are partying there tonight.
"Me neither" he sighs, "I can't dance anyway."
"Sure you can. Remember Prom?" she prods.
"That was a long time ago."
"Says the vamp clocking on two hundred and fifty years"
He doesn't reply to that, but she notices that his body has tensed up. He can't seem to pull his eyes from the Bronze.
"You...wanna go in there?" she asks.
"I do. It has a lot of memories."
"Good or bad?"
He suddenly spins around and grabs her.
"I need to talk to you." he exclaims. The urgency is present in his voice.
She nods, unsure what else to do.
"I think we should sit down" he continues to say, indicating towards the Bronze again.
"It's not the best place to have a heart to heart" she whispers, staring into his deep brown eyes.
"I wanted to make this special, but I can't seem to..." he trails off. "The Bronze will have to do. Is that okay?"
She tells him that it's fine. Her voice has become lower, softer. She's deeply concerned.
He firmly holds onto her hand and leads her towards the building. She has to increase her pace to keep up with his.
The Bronze is busy for a Monday night. Hundreds of bodies occupy the dance floor and it is hypnotic to watch them gyrate to the crash-bang music. They do not care for the two loners who have found solace in each other for this uneventful night.
She doesn't recognise anyone there, they are all strangers to her. But this doesn't matter, because she's in the company of a very old acquaintance indeed.
They are sitting on a small, secluded table underneath the stairs. After the Olaf incident, where the troll ripped this entire area apart, it's become a bit of a fire hazard, but it is the quietest, most intimate place in the building.
She sucks on her cola, wondering when the last time was she had a straw in her drink. He doesn't drink anything himself, but simply keeps his bottle of beer firmly set on the table.
He was never a drinker.
He has taken his leather jacket off, and she notices that there are even more muscles rippling under his tee-shirt than last year. He notices her surprise, and shyly adjusts himself on his seat, knocking the beer over as he does so.
It falls under the table and begins to leak onto the floor. They both climb under the table to pick it up, and accidentally knock into each other's heads as they do so.
"Sorry" they say in unison.
She sits back up on her chair, rubbing her head as she places her wallet next to her glass on the table. A few seconds later he also appears from under the table, having managed to retrieve the now empty bottle. He puts it on the table in front of him, moves it aside, then places it back again. He's acting like he's on a first date, unsure what to do or how to act.
Nervous and shy. What a guy.
But there's something wrong about that. Angel's usually stealthy, not shy.
"I'm not stupid, Angel" she tells him out of the blue.
He stops playing with his beer and turns a guilty shade of red.
"What do you mean?" he asks, choosing his words far too carefully.
"I know that something's going on, something damn important for you to have come back here. It's bad, whatever it is." she says this softly, changing the blunt tone of voice to a soothing one.
"No, that's not true" he replies, shaking his head out of protest.
"No? Well...I could do with hearing some good news for once in my life" she smiles, baiting him.
"It's something *very*... good, but I- I don't know how to say it or wha-" he becomes caught up in anguish, and closes his eyes.
She reaches over the table and grabs his hand. He appreciates the support, and she appreciates giving it for once. She always feels weak when people are pandering around her.
"Tell me" she pleads. Her heart is thumping 2000 times a second, she digs her nails into his fingers as she waits for his response.
"I was fighting a war last week."
"A war!" she screams aloud, coincidentally as the DJ's music breaks between songs, causing everyone in the near vicinity to hear her and look at them.
Warily, they glance around before continuing their conversation in hushed tones.
"A war!" she hisses again. "Why wasn't I called? Are you hurt? What happened?"
He opens her balled-up hand and gently strokes her palm with his fore-finger.
"It was sudden. Complicated, it involved Wolfram and Hart, this lawyer firm I've come across a few times. I-I lost a friend."
"God, I'm so sorry, who?"
She prays that it wasn't Cordelia.
"You don't know him. He was a good man, and didn't deserve to die like that. He was so much more worthy than me... and I get this and he gets nothing."
He solemnly raises his eyes.
"Life isn't fair, Buffy"
Tears steadily fall across his face, and he lifts his hand to them, trying to wipe them away.
Her heart flutters as she watches this, for he rarely cries.
Instinctively, she leans across the table and grabs his head to her chest, wrapping her arms around his shoulders.
He cries on.
"Ssh, honey" she whispers, holding him as hard as she can. She remembers that they were in this exact position-but visa versa- barely half an hour ago, but finds that a sad tale of events rather than an ironic one.
She can't see his face, but she feels that it is wet. After an elapse of time, his sobs become further apart and he finally stops. He pulls away from her and she sadly sits back down, but not without clutching his hand once more.
His face is blotchy, and his hair is mussed, but he still looks the same. He wipes his eyes with his free hand and smiles out of embarrassment.
"You did the same for me just now" she points out.
"I guess we're both sobbers" he tries to joke, but the humour is not in his voice.
"To me you'll always be a brooder" she shoots back, grinning.
"Maybe I'll just be a part-timer from now on"
A blond waitress interrupts their discussion to wipe the table from where the beer spilt, breaking up their hands as she does so. As they wait for her to leave, they compose themselves once more.
When she does, they resume holding hands.
He takes a few shallow breaths and continues to talk.
"I've been repressing all week. It's been building up" he says as a way of explanation for his emotional outburst.
"Good luck with that" she replies, thinking of her mother.
"He died when I was fighting a hell-demon on a cliff-face. I was nowhere near, but I could have...I should have been able to do something"
"Listen!" she says, setting her face adamantly, "You couldn't have done anything. Don't blame yourself. It's not your fault."
He doesn't agree, but changes the direction of his tale. He carefully chooses which parts to tell and which to omit.
"Wolfram and Hart played their 'apocalypse' card. We fought the lawyers the best we could, and even managed to plug a cork in the vortex which was letting the demons through. But we still had to kill the ones that did. The last one was the hardest."
"They always are"
"It recognised me from my short stint in hell a few years back. I don't remember hell all too well, but the things it said... it caught me off-guard, put me at a disadvantage. I tried to impale it onto my sword, but as we got closer to the edge of the cliff, it pulled me over with it and we both fell down onto the rocks below."
Her face demonstrates a variety of emotions, most notably horror. He feels her eyes check him over for signs of bone-breakage, and hears her sigh with relief when she fails.
"And that was where I woke up the next morning- on the rocks. The smell of sea-water forced me to open my eyes. I squinted from the bright light, turned over and came face to face with the squished remains of the hell-demon. I was pretty out of it, but somewhere deep inside me, I remembered that vampire's don't like sunlight."
He lets those last few words linger in the air.
"What are you saying?"
He calmly places her hand on his chest and pushes it hard. At first she doesn't understand, but suddenly she can feel it.
*thump thump* *thump thump* *thump thump*
Her eyes instantly freeze in their place and she gasps loudly. She tries to stutter a few broken words, but only heavy breathing comes out.
"I'm alive" he says, for dramatic effect as much as confirmation.
"I-I can feel that"
She screams. Her hands fly to her mouth and she muffles the shrieks of happiness which follow.
"You're alive!" she grins, unable to restrain herself from remaining calm. She feels goddamn hysterical!
He watches her react with a smile.
She abruptly stands up and kicks her chair aside as she leans across the table and grabs him into a passionate clinch.
How many times has she wanted this? How many times has she wished and prayed and begged for this miracle?
"I've only got human hearing now" he tells her, "You're going to have to raise your voice a bit in future" he smirks.
"YOU'RE ALIVE!" she gleefully replies, willing to do just that. She makes a face at the dozen or so strangers staring at her as if she were blue and had horns coming out of her head.
With the table hurting her legs, she darts around the table and pulls him aside.
She takes in his appearance once more. She's seen a woman give birth in an elevator, but this is the first time that she has seen someone turn alive. He's pure, pure as the snow. Human!
A heartbeat and a clean slate and a toned body and a pulse and he can breathe and eat and sing and dance and grow and die and live! For the first time in two hundred and fifty years, he can truly live!
She is kissing him before she realises it. It's a firey, passionate, emotional kiss.
She pulls away just as suddenly, but only to ask him one question. Her hands roam his body, feeling the warmth of his skin and confirming that this is not a dream. Human arm, human leg, human chest and a human soul.
As they talk, she never lets go of him.
"How did this happen?"
"The Powers that Be granted my reward, humanity, for stopping the apocalypse. I had always expected to fight thousands of wars before -or if- I became human, but it turns out it has been an exaggeration. The PTB wanted to see if the thought of fighting thousands of wars would weaken my resolve to stay on the good side. If the reward was too far out of my grip, would it affect my loyalties? There was only ever going to be *one* apocalypse, and when I killed the last demon which came through the vortex, I was turned human. My reward"
She kisses him again, but slower this time. She wants to feel his lips in slo-mo.
"All my life"
He's not used to being human. It's been a long time. He's shy and unconfident and clumsy, and he's loving every minute.
They run back to her house like two teenagers in heat. She fumbles with the keys and lets them into the dark hall, sneaking up the stairs despite being completely alone in the house. She opens the door to her bedroom and they walk in.
He feels guilty that he is alive when he should rightfully be dead.
He feels that he doesn't deserve her for treating her so badly in the past.
He feels inexperienced and vulnerable.
He asks her to guide him through his new life- everything's different and this makes him confused and scared. He feels no shame in telling her that an ex-vampire who is 250 years old is scared, and she sees no humour in his plea for help.
She tells him that she will always be here for him, and that she will guide him where-ever she can. She tells him that the past is past, and all that matters is they love each other.
She tells him that she has never met a man more beautiful than him.
She tells him that her love has never faltered, and she always knew they would be together again.
She admits that she thought it would not this soon.
But she likes this way better, because it adds to the years that they can spend together for the rest of their human lives.
He tells her that a hundred years together wouldn't be enough, but without being a vampire, it'd be impossible to live that long anyway.
He tells her that he doesn't want to be a vampire again.
He tells her that he loves her.
She tells him that she knows.
They fall into another tender embrace and begin to undress each other.
She gently pulls him down onto the bed.
And then the lights fade.
They open her bedroom window and watch the sun rise without saying one word. It is his first sun-rise for hundreds of years, and it is well worth the wait. He once saw the sun-set a few years back, but somehow, the sunrise he sees today is even more beautiful than that. Because this time it means something. It signals a fresh beginning, a shiny new world which is open to them both.
It really is beautiful.
They return to her bed and lie down on the ruffled sheets, holding each other in a relaxed, lazy grip.
The room is getting lighter.
She is still amazed that he hasn't burst into flames.
He strokes her hair, reading her thoughts.
"It's weird, isn't it?" he admits. "I'm human. It takes some digesting."
"No, it's not weird. The word I'd use is...perfect"
She puts her hand on his chest and feels his heartbeat once more. She keeps doing this, she likes the rhythmic thumping.
"For the first time in months, I feel alive" she tells him.
"And happy?" he asks her, whispering into her ear.
"More than words can express"
As dawn turns into morning, they stay in bed, neither one inclined to get up.
"What happens during the next instalment in the lives of our favourite soul-mates?" she idly asks him.
"They go to Vegas and blow all their money on Roulette."
"That sounds fun"
"I love you so much" she confesses.
"More than you love those chocolates with the mint centres?" he asks, getting up and closing the curtains. A vampire might shirk away from the sunlight, but even a human will in the brightness that shines today.
"Now that's a tough one" she grins.
He suddenly leaps back onto the bed.
He grabs her and pulls her to him. She squeals in delight.
Later on that day, after they've made love and she's shown him what Sunnydale looks like during the day-time, he's going to kneel down on one knee, produce a Claddagh ring and ask her to marry him.
He's nervous at the thought, terrified that she will say 'no'.
Coincidentally? She intends to say yes.
She noticed the ring-box in his coat pocket last night.
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