By L.A. Ward
Part of The Long Night Series
Part One of the Long Night Series.
SPOILERS: The Gift. It's set somewhere near the beginning of Season 6. No real spoilers for the show. Buffy's back but beats me how. (This will be part of the series. Buckle up kiddies, it's going to be a long night in L.A.).
SUMMARY: Buffy's back and someone has to tell Angel
DISTRIBUTION: Sure take it. Wouldn't mind knowing where you take it though.
DISCLAIMER: Not mine. Never mine. They belong to Joss but I'm playing with them.
There was a scuff on the toe of her shoe. Buffy wondered where she had gotten a scuff on the toe of her shoe. Then she wondered why she was staring at her shoe.
When she glanced at the two people watching her, Buffy remembered why she was staring at her shoes. She was a freak--a big, whopping, undead freak. Well maybe not so big and not whopping at the moment, but she was definitely undead. . .although not in the way she usually used the word. No, Buffy was undead in the 'been there, done that, but not dead any more, non-vampire' way. The impossible sort of way...which brought her back to the whole 'freak' thing.
She had been dead for four months. Four. Count them And now she wasn't. If that didn't have the letters F-R-E-A-K written all over it, then nothing ever would.
Seconds ticked by, becoming minutes; then lots of minutes smooshed together as Buffy remained painfully aware of the man and woman watching her. Hello! Had no one taught them it was rude to stare at the freak?
Finally the woman with the sweet Southern accent asked, "Would you like a Coke while you wait?"
Buffy shook her head. "No. Thanks for the offer though."
The man asked, "How about blood?"
"Red stuff. O positive. AB negative."
"I know what blood is. Why are you offering it to me?" Because I'm a freak, Buffy thought. I'm a freak and it shows. I should go downtown and find a shop where they can tattoo it on my forehead.
The woman with the improbable name of Fred nervously explained, "Gunn's just being polite. Everyone's got different tastes and you might like a Coke or...or..."
"Pig's blood with Weetabix?" Buffy wasn't at all surprised when Gunn made a face.
He groaned. "That's just nasty."
"Having seen the combo, gotta agree with you, but you're the one offering it as a main course."
"Hell no, I'm not." Gunn's Nikes squeaked as he started across the marble floor. "I'm trying to find out if you're a vampire."
"Why would you think I'm a vampire?"
Gunn--who was quite handsome in a tall, dark skinned, dark eyed, nicely muscled sort of way--crossed the Hyperion Hotel's lobby to sit in a leather upholstered chair. He looked almost as sulky as Angel usually did. No wonder they were friends.
Buffy approached him. "Am I giving off vampy vibes or something? I know I don't look like a vamp--at least not your normal game faced vamp, but..." She touched her face. "Am I pale?" Some not very pleasant voice in her head snapped, Oh yeah, Buffy, being dead for four months was great for your complexion.
Gunn shrugged. "Seen enough vamps to know they don't all look alike." His gaze settled on Buffy. "But you've got the look of an Angel vamp."
"Blonde and petite, pretty little face that just might be deadly. Just Angel's type. Plus you showed up saying you're an old friend." Gunn turned his head toward Fred. "Cordy warn you that when someone from Angel's past shows up they're usually trying to kill us?"
Fred shook her head. "I don't remember her mentioning that."
"Well they are." He glared at Buffy. "And I'm really not in the mood to be killed."
"I'm not trying to kill you."
"That's what they all say. Then something happens and cute little blondie turns into bitch bent on destruction. First Darla--"
"Then Harm--and if I didn't mention it before, the name is a perfect fit."
"Harmony has been here?"
Gunn frowned and...oh yeah, he looked intimidating when he frowned. "You know her?"
"More than I would like," Buffy was quick to block the mental image of the last time she had seen Harmony. She really didn't want to trip down that memory lane.
Gunn scratched his head. "What is it with Angel and blonde psychobitches? I know we're in LA but, does it *always* have to be a blonde? And I won't even touch the vampire thing since he is one. I'm just saying it would be easier on his friends if he'd stick to the living."
"Right. Stick to dating the living. That's what I keep telling myself. It's a bloody mantra." Buffy slapped her hand over her mouth.
What the hell? Where had that come from? A Spikism. Why had she uttered a Spikism? This was bad. This was very bad. Whole heaping gobs of bad.
Buffy started again. "First off, I'm not a psychobitch, at least not until you piss me off which--hey, I'm half way there. Second of all, Harmony is a Spike ex, not an Angel ex. And third of all, Darla is dead."
Gunn snorted. "Oh yeah, in a 'not very' vampire way."
"No, in a permanent dusty way. Has been for years."
"Not the last time I checked."
Buffy blinked. "What do you mean?"
"I mean not too long ago Darla and her crazy girlfriend Dru went on a lawyer luncheon catered by Angel. Then little Harm thought we were her ticket into a mass murdering cult. Now, if it's all the same to you, can we skip the 'let's play nice' phase and go straight to the killing? It'll save time."
"No one is killing anyone tonight."
Gunn rubbed his eyelids as if they pained him. "Don't say you're another vampire we're not supposed to kill because I'm sick of those--"
"Here." Buffy held out her arm. "Check. Pulse and everything." She waited as he checked, and Buffy didn't blame Gunn for checking. In the last couple of days she'd checked her own pulse a couple hundred times.
Gunn let go of her hand. "Okay, so you're among the living."
"So I'm told." Buffy sank onto the sofa. "Look, it's like I told you, I'm here to see Angel. Nothing more."
"And I told you he isn't here."
"He'll be back though." Fred's smile was soft and shy. "He should be back real soon. And...um... I'm sure he'll be happy to see an old friend."
Even Gunn's features lightened. "Especially if you aren't trying to kill us."
Buffy forced herself to return their smiles. "Right. No killing. Promise." Her smile faded because that's what false smiles did. They faded. They disappeared. They ceased to matter and became distant, hazy memories...sort of like long lost friends.
Why am I here? Buffy asked herself. Why am I sitting here talking to strangers when I could be home with Dawn? She wanted to be home with Dawn. She *should* be home with Dawn. Instead here she sat in L.A.
Oh yeah, because Angel deserved to be told in person that she was back from the dead. It wasn't like she could simply call and say, "Hey, Angel, good news. I'm not dead. What's going on with you?" No, Buffy needed to see him.
Buffy sighed and leaned her head against the sofa. The problem was she *wasn't* seeing Angel. She was sitting in a hotel lobby talking to people she had never before met; and these people, these strangers, were Angel's friends. She was supposed to make polite small talk. She was supposed reassure Fred and Gunn she had no interest in killing them. She *wasn't* supposed to be tapping her foot and glaring at them impatiently...that part just came naturally.
Okay, so Fred and Gunn were Angel's friends. Why had she never heard of them? After all Angel's life and her life...
Buffy sighed. Angel's life and here life were completely separate things even before she died.
Bad thought. Bad, bad thought. Throw it away and never think it again. Besides, not knowing Angel's friends didn't mean she *couldn't* know Angel's friends. All it would take was a little effort. A little time and patience.
Quick. Make friends. Be approachable. Act interested.
"How long have you known Angel?" she asked.
Gunn shrugged. "Going on two years."
Buffy looked over at Fred who answered more vaguely, "Oh, um...it's sort of hard to say. I mean, time is relative, and with the differences in the way time flows in this dimension versus the way it flows in other dimensions." Fred paused. "Well, a few days in Pylea might be weeks here--"
Buffy's eyebrows rose. "You're from another dimension?"
"Yes." Fred nervously played with her hair. "That is, no. Actually, I'm from this dimension, but for a while I lived in another one." She took a deep breath and announced, "Three months."
"You lived in another dimension for three months?"
"No, I lived in another dimension for five years. I've known Angel for three months."
Okay, headache now, Buffy thought. A Willow supersize Tylenol bottle headache.
Maybe she *should* have called before showing up on Angel's doorstep. After all, that was the reason telephones had been invented...to, you know, tell people things--not that she and Angel had used it very much since they had parted ways.
Buffy straightened her spine and tried very hard to shake off her feelings of. . .well she wasn't quite sure what she felt, but she tried to shake it off anyway. Besides, the fact she and Angel weren't giving AT&T, MCI, or Sprint much business didn't mean a thing. Not a damn thing. Some things, some relationships simply had to be handled face to face.
So here she was, face to Angel's absence while Fred and Gunn sat staring at her.
Buffy hated it. She hated making small talk. She hated waiting. She hating feeling weird and out of place. She felt weird enough without any help from incredibly awkward situations.
Just once it would be nice if awkward moments could be avoided. Come to think of it, avoiding awkward moments should go on her 'to do' list. Near the top. More than once. It was just that no matter how hard Buffy tried, sooner or later--wham!--she ran straight into one. . .and she had definitely gone splat this time.
Nope, this was not shaping into the joyous reunion Buffy would have planned if she could have. In her head Angel would have been waiting for her and he would have been so happy to see her--not Angelus happy, but happy enough to make the trip to L.A. worthwhile. Instead he was out doing whatever it is he did.
It would be horribly unfair to blame Angel for that. He'd had no way of knowing she would show up. Angel thought she was dead!
Okay, so it wouldn't have followed the script of a romantic movie, Buffy could have called and given Angel some warning. It would have been easier than sitting here waiting for him to show up. Then again, if there was an easy way and a hard way to do something, Buffy took the hard one. It was a curse.
Buffy looked longingly at the coffee table and wondered whether banging her head against it would be any more painful than the silence or the conversation that had preceded it.
"Is Cordy around?" she asked, and the look of impatience crossing Gunn's face reminded Buffy she'd asked the question a dozen times in the last half hour. "What about Wesley?"
"They're out." Gunn actually looked like he might be grinding his teeth.
Okay, I know I'm being annoying, but...but what?
These people weren't her friends. They weren't even her acquaintances. They had no reason to tolerate her moods or be understanding about her disorientation. They didn't know she had been dead for four months. Gunn and Fred were Angel's friends, not hers. . .and again Buffy wondered how that could be. How could the people closest to Angel be people whose names she had never even heard? For that matter Buffy hadn't known Angel owned a hotel. And she certainly hadn't known Darla was back from the dead. Buffy would have remembered *that.*
Buffy tilted her head slightly to one side. "How did Darla come back?"
"Resurrection spell." Gunn sounded bored, like the answer was obvious or mundane or something.
"Oh. One of those." Buffy tried to sound as blasé about it. She really did, except to her own ears she sounded like a big, bad liar. Coming back from the dead *was* a big deal, a very big deal. She knew these things. She'd done it . .but apparently so had Darla--a few times.
Well, maybe I'm not such a freak after all, Buffy consoled herself. If Gunn could be sanguine about resurrection spells, maybe she could too.
Nope. Wasn't working. Buffy remained more than slightly wigged.
So what now?
At the moment battling a horde of vampires sounded easier than sitting in the Hyperion's lobby making small talk. It would have been easier than gazing into Angel's face as he stood in the doorway looking more pale than usual, looking like he had seen a ghost, looking *worse* than if he had seen a ghost. . .looking like he was looking at her now.
Buffy rose to her feet and Angel whispered her name. Just her name and nothing more, just "Buffy. . .?"
Buffy couldn't speak so she gave a watery smile. She wanted to say, "Yeah, it's me. Here in the not quite so dead flesh." But she couldn't make the words come out.
Suddenly Angel's face hardened and Buffy wondered why.
"Are you a vampire?" he asked.
Buffy glanced around in confusion. "Why does everyone keep asking that?"
"You were dead and now you're not. That usually means vampire."
Buffy was dumbstruck. How could Angel--*Angel*--ask what she was? How could he not sense it when--
Stop. Don't go there, Buffy warned herself. Do *not* go there. Not even close.
"She's not a vamp," Gunn reassured. "Checked her credentials. Living, breathing, pulse pounding--" He stopped mid-sentence and looked at her with an expression of shock. "Did he say your name was Buffy?"
"You were dead," Gunn accused.
"So I've been told."
"And now you're not."
Buffy gave a weak smile. "Resurrection spell."
Gunn seemed to weigh the comment for a moment then smiled. "Well thank God. Now homeboy there can give it a rest."
Buffy glanced at Angel. He still hadn't moved. He looked so disbelieving, so scared of accepting the miracle standing in front of him.
"I'm here," Buffy whispered.
Well, duh! she thought. Of course she was here. It wasn't like she was someplace else. Couldn't she have thought of something more eloquent-ish?
Angel didn't seem to mind. He crossed the room with blurry speed and wrapped Buffy in his arms. Nice arms. Strong arms. Familiar arms.
It felt good.
Angel buried his face in Buffy's hair, breathing in her scent as his arms tightened around her, enveloping her, pulling her into the solid wall of his chest, holding her so tightly that Buffy couldn't breathe. Oh well. At that moment Buffy really didn't care about breathing. She just wanted to be held. It felt good to be held. It was overwhelming.
*This* was of the good, Buffy thought rubbing her cheek against Angel's silk shirt. Angel, she thought. Angel, I'm here. I'm here and I'm alive and...and...
And what? What now? an evil little voice asked.
Go away, voice. Go far away. Now I hug him. Now I remember why I'm so happy to be here and not dead and in Sunnydale.
Well no. Actually, she wasn't happy to not be in Sunnydale. Sunnydale was home...not that LA was bad. It just wasn't home. LA was a nice, and home was...nice. It was just that LA was LA and home was...well...*home.*
Buffy! A different, somewhat strident inner voice screamed. Focus! This is Angel. Angel's arms are around you. Hug him. Feel him. Love him. Sheesh! How hard is that to remember?
Angel kissed her forehead as Buffy sank into his embrace. She lost herself in him. It was what she had come here to do. To hold Angel and tell him...tell him...uh...hmmm. Other than the 'not dead' part, what was she supposed to tell him?
Buffy didn't know.
Well thank God, Angel wasn't the questioning type. Not like other, not so pleasant vampires Buffy could name but wouldn't. No, she wouldn't! Not now that she was in Angel's arms. Not when this was where she was supposed to be. Where she *wanted* to be. And, yes damnit, she was happy that Angel seemed quite content to simply hold her.
It was nice. Buffy liked--no loved--the way Angel held her as seconds passed. Minutes passed. Many minutes, and somewhere along the way the sense of relief passed and ran headlong into awkward silence followed by the painful realization that they had stood there so long that there was no graceful way to separate. The moment had passed.
Now what? The evil little voice asked again.
Angel was the first to pull away.
Wasn't he always?
He pulled back and framed her face with his hands. For a moment Buffy thought Angel would kiss her. It was always good when he kissed her. It made her ache with unfulfilled longing--which was a good thing, right? It was unquenched desire. Unfulfilled need. It was the kind of thing that filled a person up and somehow still left them wanting. Begging. . .
Angel didn't kiss her. He stepped back.
And now for the questions Buffy thought. Lots of questions. The who, what, when, where, and why of Journalism 101...not that Buffy had taken Journalism 101, not that she was sure they taught a Journalism 101. Hey, she had just come back from the dead. It wasn't as easy as it looked!
Angel didn't ask questions. He just looked at her, watched her with his dark, unfathomable eyes as he brushed a tear from her cheek.
And that's a good, Buffy told herself. It's unspoken communication. It's silent understanding. It shows we're so connected that we don't need words even if, you know, words would be kind of nice to break up the teeth grindingly awkward silence.
It was just silence had *not* been the general reaction to Buffy resurrection. Willow had burst into tears. Not nice pretty tears like in the movies but loud, choking, red nosed tears; and Xander had been much the same just before they both rushed her for a tag team hug. Willow and Xander arms were definitely of the good.
Anya, who perhaps had seen everything in her thousand plus years of existence, and had only smiled, nodded and said, "It's very nice to have you back. Do you like yellow? I'm thinking of having my bridesmaids wear yellow. Blondes usually don't like to wear yellow, but bridesmaids aren't supposed to like their dresses so that would be okay. You will be my bridesmaid, right? Have you seen my ring?" Anya had held out her hand. There had been a diamond ring on it.
Xander blushed and stammered and mumbled--all things he would later deny. It was goofy and cute, and Buffy could tell that despite his embarrassment Xander was quite happy. Anya, of course, was ecstatic. She had a mountain of magazines, clippings and two copies of Martha Stewart's advice on weddings. Anya had then promptly dragged Xander to the mall saying they were scheduled to register for gifts.
It was only after Xander and Anya had left the magic shop that Buffy had been told about Giles leaving the country. He was a Watcher and without Buffy there was no Slayer to watch. Willow had also admitted to thinking that after Buffy's death living in Sunnydale had hurt Giles. It had made him feel worse about everything so returning to London had been good for him. The last time Willow had spoken to him Giles had sounded...better.
After Buffy had called her Watcher, she was fairly certain Giles had sounded better still. Oh, he had questions. He wasn't happy about Willow playing with such powerful magics. He had warned of the terrible, awful things that could but--thank God--hadn't happened with her resurrection. He had babbled. . .but in a good way, in a happy way. And when Buffy had asked him about London he had talked about the politics within the Watchers Council, about a haunted house he had been hired to de-spook, about stopping a blood sacrifice ritual at the founding of the new Hellfire Club at Cambrige...or had it been Oxford? Buffy had never been able to tell the two apart, but it really didn't matter. Giles had sounded happy, energized, and busy. Very busy. It was a good thing.
Dawn had simply tackled her. She'd given a loud, ear piercing teenaged girl shriek and tackled Buffy like she was a member of N'Sync or something. "Ohmygod! Ohmygod! Buffy! Buffy, I missed you." Tight sqeeeze. Bruised rib squeeze. Wonderful squeeze. Buffy had brushed her hand across Dawn's hair, feeling the silky texture and something inside Buffy had clenched. It just clenched and hurt and ached in an awesome, happy sort of way.
Words had tumbled out of Dawn and out of herself. Words and more words. Hours of them. Happiness had ensued and all was good with the world.
Really. It was good, but it's a proven fact that teenagers have short attention spans. At least Buffy thought it had been proven. Honestly, she thought she had once seen a report about it on CNN, or maybe it was FOX. She wasn't sure, but it didn't matter. It was just that twenty-four hours after her miraculous return from the dead Dawn had begun behaving as though Buffy had *never* been dead. Life went back to normal... or what passed for normal for an almost orphaned Slayer and Mystical Glowy Key thing. Dawn had lit up, laughed, talked, and made a bee-line for the phone to call her best friend and schedule a trip to the mall to shop for school clothes. . .which was great. It was reassuring. Everything just slipped back into place as if nothing had ever been out of place in the first place.
Who was she kidding? It had been anti-climactic, and it had made Buffy feel out of sync with everyone around her. *Their* world was right again. With Buffy's return they had been given a free trip to Happyville where after a few moments for readjustment they were off to continue with their lives.
For Buffy it wasn't that easy.
Hello! Something had happened here. Something she couldn't quite process. She had just returned from the dead for God's sake! Didn't that mean anything?
Buffy had brooded about that as Dawn made plans to spend the night with her friend. Gee, her sister returns from the dead. They have this great, tearful, stay up all night reunion, and the next day Dawn was arranging sleepovers leaving Buffy alone with nothing to do but think. She hated thinking.
It was somewhere around that point that Buffy had become aware of the fact she had touched bases with all Scoobies but one. . .only he wasn't a Scooby. Not really. Not even close actually. He was a one time mortal enemy who for some reason no longer was--an enemy that is. But that didn't make him a Scooby. . .just something. Buffy couldn't define what that something might be, but it was real and it existed and where the hell was he?
Spike had been conspicuous in his absence, mainly because his absence was so damn rare. Spike always had a way of, you know, being around. Constantly. He was the ultimate 'thing that would not leave'...so why hadn't he been around making a nuisance of himself?
It wasn't like his name hadn't been mentioned. It had. Willow had said. . .something. Buffy couldn't pinpoint what. Will's words had been quiet and muffled and sort of vague. Dawn had mentioned his name several times, always adding how thrilled he would be. But Buffy hadn't seen him. She hadn't spoken to him. She had been avoiding the very thought of him.
Left sitting alone on a Friday night, a person's mind could wander to unexpected places, and Buffy's had wandered to a certain annoying vampire named Spike.
When Buffy had found Spike, he had looked like hell. Hell on earth that is. He had been covered in blue goo. Icky, stinky blue goo because he had just ripped the head off a demon and...well, head ripping in general tended to be messy business. Spike had then kicked the headless corpse.
"I think you won," she had drawled.
"Hyeah, but you never know. Some demons are hard to ki--" Spike had stopped mid sentence. He had turned. A light had entered his eyes and--
Continued in 2. Questioning