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In The Gloaming

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Angel's swinging a sword at the slender neck of a blue Tyhuik the very first time she appears. She blinks at him; a frown narrows her eyes and purses her lips and then he's got fifteen fangs buried in his shoulder. Grunting, he finishes his belated swing, but it takes three more to do the job and by the time he's standing over the remains of Sedona's only serpent-god, she's gone.

†††

In Tucson, the very next night, he watches her walk into a bar. He can't stop the color commentator in his head from chipping in, 'Buffy, the head Vampire Slayer has only returned to her homeland twice in the past four years, what is she after this time?' or maybe that's just Spike having him on from the ever after.

She saunters to a table near the center of the demon-crowded room and seats herself without so much as a second glance at her neighbors, although one of them is a baby-eating Guthloy with blood drying in his neck folds. Drink in hand, Angel turns to watch her. They've always had this thing between them, this feel, a kind of itch where their hearts might be if life hadn't plucked them out and replaced them with loyalty and guilt and a hero complex forged from stone.

Sure enough, when she looks to the bar, lifting her hand at the bar-back waiting tables, Buffy's gaze falls unerringly upon him. He lifts his bourbon in hello. She turns her head, surveying the room...for what, he doesn't know. There's nothing out of the ordinary. He tilts his head to peek at her, easing a smile onto his face in preparation of her aknowledgement.

But she's gone.

Only her scent remains.

†††

Just before dawn, he checks into the only post-apocalyptic motel in Las Cruces. He's counting out Euros for the room. A black shadow trails its fingers along the far side of his car. Annoyed, he hits the door hard on the way outside. The shadow looks up, blond hair swinging.

“It's just the same,” Buffy says.

'So are you,' he wants to say, but she's not. She used to always say, 'Angel', with the last air in her lungs, waiting for his confirmation to breathe again. Her heartbeat always slowed, but now it's beating fit to burst.

Her eyes widen and she spins away from him, eyes everywhere at once, gasping in the dry, desert air with shallow breaths. “Angel,” she says, but not to him. “Angel!” she screams. “Angel! Angel!”

He bolts for her, dents the car hood with his hand as he vaults over it, swinging his legs to land feet first next to her.

She fizzles into sparkling bits that wink out of existence all at once, revealing the full moon setting low in the western sky.

†††

Angel's been beating himself up for a month, wishing he still had a network in place, contact with Giles or Andrew or even Xander. All he knows is they're holed up somewhere in Scotland. Inter-Atlantic travel is at about the level of the late-1800's and he has zero desire to risk the watery depths. He could probably liberate a couple of relics or a totem or two to sell or exchange and then charter a flight, but the two weeks it'll take to hop from fuel depot to fuel depot to Edinburgh and to do it all at night... he sips the warm AB the Rusty Knife sells by the pint and lets the thought die.

“Where are we?” Buffy says.

He jumps, nearly dropping his pint. He sets it on the bar and watches her pull out the stool next to him and sit.

“Reno,” he stutters.

She makes a swiping motion across her upper lip. Embarrassed, Angel ducks his head, licking the blood away.

“I figure if I'm gonna start dreaming about you again, I might as well know where we are.”

“Where are you?”

Lifting her head, she listens to something that must sound far away from her. He hears only the familiar sounds of a demon bar; the clinking of glasses, Randy Travis singing, 'A Little Left Of Center', the random raised voice, the argument in the back over kittens when the dart game's been won.

“Someone's calling me.”

“Buffy...” Angel says, reaching out. His hand lands on the counter.

He stays in town that day, waiting on the moonrise to bring her back to him.

†††

It's near on three am when she shows again, surprise on her face as she scans the Rusty Knife.

“Buffy,” he calls, threading his way through the party of drunk Hewtews between them. One of the Hewtews sprays vodka through its trunk when he jostles by, soaking his neck and ragged canvas coat. He shakes his head and plows through the rest, ignoring their bellows and stepping on as many of their scaly orange toes as he can manage.

He falls out of the pack and hits her at full speed. She stumbles back, grabbing at him. They fall as one, patrons side-stepping out of the way. Angel twists, trying not to crush her under him, but her breath gusts out, sweet on his face as she lands on her back. And then he's falling the last eight inches.

The filthy, wooden floor is all that meets him. The demons form a circle around him, and one offers him a hand up. They pat his back and shove him towards the door. Outside, it's nearly bright as day. The moon is luminous and round.

A pang in his chest catches him offguard. She's gone already.

†††

With a dogged stride, the next night, he's walking across the parking lot of the Rusty Knife through drizzle of rain that's been beating on the roof of his car all day.

He trips, but a hand at his elbow steadies him.

“These are really weird dreams,” Buffy says. “I knew you were clumsy, but...”

They stop, facing each other. Moonlight traces her lips, reflecting off her strawberry gloss. “I'm not dreaming,” Angel says.

“Yes, you are,” she argues. But then she pouts. “Or maybe not. Since you're in my dream, I guess you're just a ... figment. Of my imagination. So I guess you're right. You're not dreaming, I am, in which case...” She kisses him.

Angel flinches.

†††

For twenty-eight days, Angel dreams of that kiss, dreams of drawing her closer to him, her mouth opening under his, her tongue...

...is poking from the corner of her mouth as she concentrates a desperate, ferocious energy into her attack upon a spiked and oozing monster three times her size. Angel crouches defensively, taking in the scene. She's wounded it. It seems it has a gelatinous slime for blood. Two other slayers are occupied with its apparent minions, two furry Grochlers.

Angel grimaces, gearing up for the slime, and rushes in, careening into the thing at full-steam. Buffy's sword slices his shoulder. O-pos blooms in a cloud-burst of scent that's destroyed by the acrid sting of the demon's skin as he crashes into it. His sinuses protest and tears blur his vision, but he doesn't let go.

Buffy's sword sings. Angel tries to pull his head into his neck. It passes close over his scalp. The demon's head lops over and splats onto the ground. A geyser of gross erupts, covering Angel.

“Angel?” Buffy says.

And then he wakes, his lips opening on her name. Slime slides into his mouth; nasty-tasting slime. He rolls over, shaking and spitting with his head over the edge of the bed. He's covered in the stuff. Flipping half-way over, he checks the room. Same crappy dive in San Antonio that he went to bed in.

†††

Hours later, he's staking out an alley, well, a doorway, really. He's in the alley, leaning against the tan brick, one knee bent, with his foot flat against the wall. Which is why when she materializes beside him and sweeps his supporting leg out from under him, he finds himself on his back.

She stands over him, black boots planted to either side of his hips, leather defining the muscles of her calves, the strong, sleek curve of her thighs, the rise of her mound... blood rushes to Angel's cock, making him dizzy.

Buffy grins. She sinks, lowering herself onto his hardness in slow motion. His eyes close involuntarily and he arches up to meet her heat, exposing his neck, his heart, his soul to the one creature he would give his life to upon request.

She runs her fever-hot fingers down his throat and then settles herself fully on him, riding him down as he rocks his pelvis up. Lifting his head, he opens his eyes, his hands already grasping the wings of her hips, his thumbs stroking the soft tautness of her belly under the short pink tee she has on. Locking her eyes on his, one hand flat on his chest, Buffy reaches back and withdraws a stake from the waistband of her black pants.

Positioning the stake point over his heart, she bears down just hard enough for him to feel the prick of it, and then she tilts just so. His cock throbs under her. He bends his knees, lifts his hips slow, so slow, fitting himself to her. She makes a noise, an almost noise, that he wants to hear again.

He drops from her, she follows him down and then he thrusts up, holding her firmly in his hands, crushing them together. She slides and there it is, only it's coming from his own throat. Pain blossoms in his chest. He opens his eyes again, to see the long, white column of her throat, her hair swinging free over her shoulders.

She slides again, and rocks, and thrusts, building a rhythm in seconds. His body answers thoughtlessly.

Twenty feet away, the steel door to the club bangs open. Buffy rises, turning. Watching the Lipor demon fall out the door, arms whirling, bounce off the brick across the alley, crash into two steel cans, reel off the Dumpster, and then scramble away, she fades away like a mirage, the full moon's light absorbing her.

Angel folds up, aching, around her absence. He groans, rolls onto his side, and lumbers to his feet.

His hard-on remains. Looking down at it, he discovers a lotus-size bloom of blood on his chest. And a blonde hair on his shirt.

†††

The day after, Angel can't sleep.

Apparently, neither can Buffy.

†††

The third night of the full moon, he's pelting hell for leather through the sewer, bent on stopping the Lipor from reaching the San Antonio River and freedom. Angel couldn't stop it from conducting its business and collecting its contracted human innocent for the year, but he thinks he can stop it from running out to sea, where it'll live happily sated until next year's foray.

The wet walls are close around him near the river. The Lipor's scent is heavier as he closes the distance between them. The steady pounding of it's cloven feet have softened, though. Angel's afraid that means it's metamorphosing into its eel-like incarnation.

Headed downhill, a cold breeze kicks up. Buffy passes him in the dark, and there's air and moonlight above his head; his elbows aren't scraping the walls. He double-takes, stumbles on the grass under his boots, tumbles down the slight incline, the scent of earth and wood smoke filling his nose. Tucking his shoulder, he rolls right up onto his feet again, sword in both hands, ready to strike.

Buffy's staring back at him from the sewer, the dank shadows hiding her expression. A cross bow hangs at her side. Water drips.

Angel twitches, a question he can't verbalize, an almost shrug.

Buffy turns into the sewer, lifting her bow, and moves off away from him, every step comes faster. Every step casts a deeper shadow over Angel's heart and his body, lowers the walls, increases the humidity, brings the San Antonio River back to him. A splash echoes from the sewer's mouth.

He spins, and dashes after the Lipor. Tossing his sword aside, he snags the last three inches of its disappearing tail and hauls the son-of-a-bitch back, hand over hand. Drenched, arms leaden, watching the sewer enclose him as Buffy runs away, in pursuit of her own monster, Angel grabs the last bit of the Lipor as it spits and hisses, twisting to snap at him, and rips its head from its neck.

He walks the sewer until the moon sets at dawn, waiting for grass to grow beneath his feet.

†††

Eighteen days later, he meets a slayer one dark night in Sacramento. He's careful not to kill her, though she isn't so careful of him. When he lays her down in a paid-up motel room, there's more of his blood soaking her shirt than vice versa. She smells good. He has trouble letting go of her. Finally, she stirs, breaking his trance.

Rifling through the desk drawer, he finds a note pad. Blood drips from his sleeve, each drop sizzling when it hits the Gideon Bible. Someone's tucked the only pen down between the pages. His fingers steam as he plucks it out. He scrawls a note to Buffy, folds it over, and writes BUFFY on the outside. Impulsively, he strokes his thumb over his neck and then presses a perfect bloody print below her name.

†††

Ten months pass. With every full moon, Angel tells himself to stop expecting her. He's nursing a broken arm with O pos and a shot of Jack Daniels at the Rusty Knife. He turns the glass, wondering if Daniels is a demon of some sort, since he's still managing distribution to the increasingly lawless west.

“Hey,” the bartender says, when Angel orders another shot “Aren't you Angel?”

While Angel's pondering the consequences of answering, he reaches below the bar and pulls out a .45. Angel dumps his stool over scrambling out of the way. The bartender laughs at him, sets the gun down on the counter, fishes out a massive rusty knife, two stainless steel containers, a box of salt, a naked pink baby doll, and a stack of papers held together with a strained green rubber band. “Yeah, yeah,” the bartender mutters. “I know it's here.”

Righting his stool, Angel shuffles it down a foot or two, shifts his blood and whiskey over and sits back down.

“Got it,” the demon says. He jerks a folded envelope out of the pile and offers it to Angel.

Wary, Angel takes it with two fingers. There's nothing on the back. He sips his whiskey before turning his hand palm up and reading the front. It's addressed to him, care of The Rusty Knife, Reno, NV, Affiliated Territories, North America. There's three international postal codes on it and it went through the US postal service in Lexington, Kentucky. How it ever came to actually land at The Rusty Knife without the help of a greater power is a mystery worth pondering.

But not right now. He sighs and slits the seal with his thumbnail. It's dated nine months previous.

You were right.

It was a Rynthumenabium Dreamtime curse. Xander located the Key and Giles broke it. It unites soulmates for the period of the full moon whenever one or the other sleeps. If you don't know your soulmate, it can be a devastating experience, being thrown together in various settings every full moon for your entire lives. If you do know each other, and manage to consummate, you are merged as one being, existing together in one body until death.

I guess you might call this proof, but I never needed it.

Buffy

Angel's eyes stick on that last line. He knows that, of course. Of course, he does. With his good hand, he re-folds the letter against his chest and then fumbles it into his jacket's inner pocket. He spins his shot glass, shoots the last of the Jack, and leaves the remainder of his O-pos on the bar.