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When she thinks of Angel, she first sees his smirk, that little, lithe lift of one side of his lips. And then she sees the silvery sweep of his ash on the breeze of an icy Carolina night. Terrible and beautiful at once. Her heart stopped in that moment and never quite recovered, but she feels it throb in her chest when she catches sight of Dean across the bar.

Dean's the same height and breadth as Angel. He carries himself with the same grace. But even though he's both tortured and been tortured, spent longer than a few hours dead, and spent decades in hell, he's not Angel. He can't quite fill that empty space in her soul, but Dean crowds close.

Twenty minutes later, she's staring down into her watered down bourbon when Dean bumps her shoulder. He presses his warm bulk against her back and breathes into her ear. It tickles. “Five minutes.” She nods and sips her drink and marvels again at how cold she is when he turns away.

Dean's a hunter.

He hunted her until Angel found him. And then he hunted Angel. He didn't kill him, though. Buffy thinks someday she may forgive him for not doing so. Someday, she expects Dean will forgive her for doing so.

The night Angel died, Buffy's skin seemed to have absorbed the crystals of ice that made the very air sparkle and never let them go. Dean swears she glitters in the moonlight, but she doesn't believe him. She suspects she absorbs the light, becoming just a darker spot of night. He is unerring in his ability to find her, but she knows he's just following the instinct of his soul.

He licks the ice off her skin, and parts her lips and heats her core. He did the same for Angel's soul, though they ignored each other's flesh. Buffy reveled in her role as the conduit between them and as beneficiary: Dean as Angel, incarnate. It hasn't changed.

Their mutual soulmate has just gone on, into the endless, star-filled night.

Dean's back. When he meets her eyes, she sees Angel looking back. “Okay,” he says, “The room is ours.”

††

Dean's been trailing a werewolf for five days. The moon's past full, the trail's gone cold, and Buffy appears in the bar he's hustling like she knows Angel's been haunting him.

They don't talk on the walk across the parking lot to the Impala. Her cheekbones bounce the buzzing security light into her eyes. They are reflective as a cat's. His blood surges, already anticipating her heat, the way in which she will twine her supple body around his own less flexible limbs, the stroke of her tongue along his newest scars, the hum she will unleash as she closes her mouth over his throbbing cock.

So what if the voice they both hear will be his?

So what if the movement of their hands and fingers and lips will follow his prescribed route, which ever one they fall into?

It's a comfort, this routine.

Angel lives both outside and between them.

Dean's okay with that.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

It started, of course, with a girl in a bar. Angel stepped into the hustler's space, twirling his pool stick to make him step back. The kid's barely concealed snarl amused him. He'd stopped losing on purpose about the same time Angel had and they'd drawn a small crowd with the fierceness of their game. Angel called and sunk the two ball and banked the four ball off the nine, sending it neatly into its called side pocket, but then clipped in on the three ball, bouncing the cue ball off the table and into the corner of the room.

“Scratch,” the hustler growled.

Just to infuriate him, Angel gave him the same sort of smile he used to give Spike, when he was young. “Any place you prefer?”

The kid frowned. He was tall, with wide shoulders, and fit. He was carrying, not only a pistol, but at least two knives. He shook his head and collected the cue ball. All the girls had an eye on him, except one.

When the brunette in the skimpy purple top at the bar stood up, they both set their sticks down at the same time. She turned into the side of a wannabe biker boy, who dropped a possessive arm over her shoulder and nuzzled her neck.

“It's yours,” Angel said, referring to the stack of cash sitting on the pool table's side rail, at the same time the hustler grunted, “Restroom,” and stalked off with looking back, shouldering his way through the onlookers.

Scooping up the cash, Angel followed him. He was striking an oblique angle to Angel's quarry, one that would take him into their path at about the back door into the alley.

“Are you done with the table?” someone called out behind them.

“Where they going?” a girl said.

“To make out,” a guy muttered. Angel could tell he was moving already, taking up a stick. The thump of the recovered balls hitting the pool table's green velvet top receded as Angel shifted gears, focusing forward, weaving among all the scents matted in the air, keeping the hustler's in the center, watching the bob of the wannabe's black hair above the crowd. He knew what the wannabe was, did the kid?

Drifting through the side door as it closed slow on sticky hinges, Angel caught a faceful of ash. He shook his head. Short machete blade raised in both hands and black with blood, the kid was staring at the brick alley wall in confusion. The girl was halfway to the street, her scream streaming back over shoulders, her hair whipping her onward. The loud clunks of her boot heels hitting the pavement echoed all the way back to them.

Angel brushed ash out of his hair. “Vampire,” he supplied.

“No shit,” the kid said. “Just never seen that kind.”

“You've seen the others?”

“Yeah, the viral ones,” he said, straightening, suspicion rising on his face like a blush. He stepped back, squaring himself with Angel, renewing his grip.

Angel held his hands up. “Don't bother, I'm on your side.” It wasn't exactly a lie.

“Are you a hunter?” He said it with a capitol 'H', the way they all did.

Angel shrugged and slowly reached into his pocket. It had been a long while since he'd last used the business card tucked away in the center of his money clip. Hunters got him out of LA after Wolfram and Hart went down. The man named on the card would remember him well. He tugged it out and held it up.

Looking down his nose at it, the kid remained poised for first strike. Angel approved. “Really,” the kid said.

“Call,” Angel said. He thrust the FBI logoed card out at arm's length.

Refusing to give Angel an opening, the kid held steady. “I know the number.” He dialed it one handed, keeping his blade between them.

Angel's feet tingled with his desire to move, just a little, to take the kid down, show him who he was dealing with here. He tamped it down, kept his feet still and his hands loose.

“Willis.”

“Bobby.”

“Why you calling on this line, Dean?” Bobby Singer barked.

It was good to know some things never changed.

“Guy gave this number to me. Don't want him to know any others.”

“What guy?”

“Six foot, 210, dark hair...” Dean raised his brows at Angel.

“Angel.”

“An..”

“I heard. He's a demonic vamp with a soul. You know, the ashy kind.”

“Why is he still breathing?”

“He's okay, Dean, as long as he's got his soul. Good to have at your back. Saved the world a couple of times.”

“He's a vampire,” Dean bit back, rolling his eyes.

“You got lucky, boy. Ask him about the Slayer and then leave him alone. And stay off this line, Gerold's getting his feet all toasty over Phoenix way.” Bobby slammed the handset down.

Angel liked to think things didn't surprise him much anymore, but those were words he didn't expect.

“Bye, Bobby,” Dean drawled into the dead air. He lowered the knife as he tucked his phone away.

“Why do you need a Slayer?”

“The Slayer.”

Angel waited.

“Found a decoy. In Rome.”

Angel shrugged.

“Got something for her. Apparently Angels aren't good at locating Slayers, either.”

Angel narrowed his eyes. He really needed a new routine. This standard dragging out of information reminded him too much of Cordelia. He missed the way she just talked, without prompting.

“Not you. Angels Of The Lord.”

“You know an Angel.”

“Several.”

Angel might have to call Bobby Singer, himself. The only Angel of The Lord he knew of had been rabble-rousing to a degree Angel didn't care for, and collecting a number of sacred objects along the way, leaving a trail of bodies behind. “Raphael?”

“Why are you still living?” Dean spit.

“I'm not,” Angel said and left at vamp speed- too fast for Dean to see, let alone follow. He hoped.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Dean was in Houston when their paths finally collided. A blonde girl leapt straight into his fray, seeming to just appear amongst the ghouls rising through the sub-floor of the Anderson tomb. Dean pulled his strike, only scraping hair off the girl's arm.

She flashed him a brilliant grin, spun and beheaded the ghoul to her right, side-stepped, and swept her sword across the belly of another. A cold arm landed hard across the front of Dean's throat. Clutching it, he ducked, curling his back as he knelt, and spilled the ugly thing over in front of him. He drove the iron crowbar he held down through its chest.

When he looked up, Buffy Summers was standing over him, a satisfied smile on her face. He knew she was about Sam's age, but she looked younger.

“Thanks,” he said.

“Buffy,” she offered, holding out her hand.

He let her pull him up. “Dean.”

“Ghouls?”

“Yeah.”

“Dean Winchester?”

“Yeah. How'd you know?”

She started out of the tomb, stepping over the ghouls without a glance. Dean scooped his Mag-lite off the ground and followed, swinging the beam wide as she talked, checking for survivors. “I make it a point to know who's looking for me. I need to scout a nest. Just the other side of the cemetery. Then we can talk.”

All the ghouls were too dismembered to live. Dean swept the beam up the concrete frame to the lintel stone, checking to see if the door was in good enough shape to shut behind them. “Vamps?”

She stopped, looking directly at him. “I heard you're good with vamps.”

Dean thought she'd heard entirely too much about him. “I'm no Slayer.”

The nest was hidden in the moldiest ivy-covered crypt on the grounds. Inside, though, they could be in any Houston nightclub. A languorous, dreamy music with lazy bass beats filled the air, which was rich with marijuana smoke laced with a bitter undertone. Dancers swayed, lost in their own little worlds.

Between the bass and the humans already in the room, Buffy and Dean went unnoticed. There were victims chained to the walls, but there were also several humans apparently playing servant. They slunk all the way to the rear of the massive crypt before pausing to turn around and take stock of the full room.

Dean cracked a door behind them and peeked in. An office, gleaming with tech, three monitors and lots of beeping lights, but no vamps. The next door opened into a corridor. An alcove yawned open to their left, couches and TVs beyond, dotted with bodies.

“I count twenty-three not chained, some are human.”

"At least eight more in there," he said, with a nod at the alcove.

“We need more good guys.”

“Too late,” Dean muttered. He pulled his blade, already stepping forward to cover Buffy, but she ducked under his elbow and plunged a stake into an oncoming vamp, striking backwards with her left hand to dust the one moving in on them from the alcove.

Dean decapped the next, and the one behind it, while Buffy moved forward in a whirl of ash and blonde hair. Trying to keep count of both their kills under his breath, Dean ran forward. He took three more, and then found nothing but empty space around him. Panting for breath, he looked around. Five separate clouds of ash settled in Buffy's wake. Dean squinted into the dark and smoke. Buffy had drawn the fight across the room. A woman reached for him, her lips moving, but he couldn't hear her over the music. He scuttled to her and pulled at her chain. The cuffs were sheepskin covered leather, but padlocked. He sliced them off and moved to the next one.

The music cut off. Dean shook his head against the disorienting quiet filled with the howls and moans of the captives. The teenage boy in front of him sat against the base of an aquarium containing several toothy fish Dean thought might be Piranhas. He held his cuffed hands up as Dean knelt beside him. “You okay?” Dean asked.

“Yes, sir. Only been here a couple of days.”

“They feed you blood?”

“No, sir.”

Dean took the boy's face in his hand and turned it up. His eyes were swollen slits, his nose bloody. Dean couldn't say what made him hesitate.

Buffy knelt beside him. “Do it fast, it's easier,” she said, handing him a stake, and turned away, to check the next one.

“I'm not, man, they didn't...”

“Are you sure?” Dean called.

Buffy's voice came firm across the space. “Yes.”

In all, seven of the captives were fledglings. One was dead, hanging in the cuffs. Buffy staked him for good measure. Three were just being kept as food. Two of those were in relatively good shape. The third was the woman he'd released first. She lay where he'd left her, biting and clawing at her naked wrists. Dean figured she'd be locked away in a psych ward by morning. The other feeders took her with them as they escaped.

The servants deserted during the fight, dumb fucks.

Buffy and Dean walked back through the nest, checking every room in slow motion. He admired her silent step, the ease with which she carried her stake at the ready. In the office, she tucked a Mac laptop under her arm. “I'll send a team back for the rest.”

“A team?”

She nodded. And then lifted a hand to her head. “Whew. Think the pot's getting to me.”

Dean smiled, suddenly aware of his loose limbs. His lower legs just kind of swung from his knees, his thighs from his hips. He hadn't been so relaxed in years. He nodded. She nodded. They swum back towards the entrance of the crypt in the deep silence of a cemetery at two am.

“I liked that music they had on,” Dean said.

Buffy nodded.

“I like the way you move.”

She swung towards him and stopped. He raised his hand, amazed at the smooth bend of his elbow, the soft blurring of his fingers. He brushed ash off her cheek and then he kissed her. She kissed him back. They toppled against the concrete wall, but stuck there, propped together. Her breasts were soft and heavy against Dean's chest, her tongue slid hot over his. He breathed her in. Vanilla Cream soda. Something coconut in her hair- it curtained his face. Hot. Dropping his stake, he palmed her bottom, and pressed her to him, hip to hip. She wriggled. Her heat blossomed against his cock and he damn near spilled right then.

He broke the kiss, thinking, Dopey, Grumpy, Doc...

Tracing her tongue down his neck, she stopped to nibble.

“Darlin',” he muttered and let his knees give way and laid her down, her hands already tugging at his zipper.

It was fast and hard and left them panting more of the tainted air than they needed.

When they finally stumbled out, gulping deep breaths of frosty autumn air and giggling, Dean was disappointed to find Angel leaning on Buffy's rental, his arms crossed. He should have been expecting him, though, since he'd tracked Angel here, in hopes of finding Buffy.

“Angel,” she said, in a soft, sober tone that made Dean's heart double-pump.

Angel focused his gaze only on her, as if Dean weren't there at all. “Buffy.”

“It's been a long time,” she said.

“Sixteen months.”

The spell between them broke and she tucked her hair back behind her ears with both hands.“You aren't counting the days, too?” she teased.

Angel's lips lifted in a half smile. “Twenty-six days, fourteen hours, and-” He pretended to check the watch he wasn't wearing. “Six minutes.”

“This is Dean,” she offered, sweeping her hand in his direction.

“Winchester,” Angel added. “We've met.”

Buffy's eyebrows rose. “I should've known that's why I'm here.”

“He has something for you.”

Dean's stomach dropped, but he met Angel's eyes. “Had. I had something, but-” He spread his hands. “I don't anymore.”

He knew where it was, maybe, but Angel really didn't need to know that.

They stared at one another. Dean knew better than to drop his gaze first. In the corner of his eye, he could see Buffy cocking her head back and forth between them. She slapped her palm against Angel's belly, forcing him to glance down. He caught her car keys before they hit the ground. Dean barely saw him move.

“I'm high, can you drive me back?” Buffy said, sliding into the passenger's seat.

Dean didn't actually see Angel roll his eyes, but he might as well have. He sighed.

“Pot in the nest, man,” Dean muttered.

“Don't.” Angel growled. He strode around the little Ford and wrenched the driver's door open before pinning Dean with his dark eyes again, just as he was turning away. “Can you drive?”

Dean held up his hands. “I'm good, dude. Swear.” Good enough to get to the Impala anyway. And he'd slept in her more times than in a bed.

Angel dropped into the Ford. Buffy laid her head against the window. And then they were gone.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

In Albuquerque, two weeks after meeting him, Buffy spotted Dean walking down the opposite side Ricer Street in the same direction as she was, following the same shaman guy she'd been trying to locate. She wondered what Dean was doing, and if she should offer him a job with Slayer Command, since he seemed to be a step ahead of her. She tilted her head in his direction. Without a word, Angel crossed to the other side of the street to fall in behind Dean. He closed the gap a little, but stayed well back.

She knew Angel could smell Dean all over her that night, that he knew what they had done after destroying the nest, but he hadn't said a word to her about it. They were both adults. Still, he hadn't left her side. It had been years since they'd spent so much time together. Hunting, reading, sleeping. He kept his distance, for the most part, though he did like to hold her hand when they walked late at night, after their work was done.

She could feel him, knew he was keeping pace with her, without looking. He was her secret weapon if needed. She wouldn't give him away by glancing over. He still woke her need more than any other man she'd ever had in her life. She ached for him. She wanted him, aware, always, of the coiled heat low in her belly, the fullness of her sex, the dampness of being ready for his cool touch; ready for him. Always.

It distracted her. Giles' worried tone whenever she called in soured her temper further. The fact that despite her fingers smelling like old, musty text and five favors called in, she couldn't discover what card Dean was trying to play rubbed her up one side of the wrong way and back down the other.

She walked around a couple reading a menu in front of a Thai restaurant and threaded herself between two women talking together, but walking three feet apart. It was late for this part of town, after ten pm, but there were clubs a few blocks down and they were just starting their night. Before long, there'd be more people out on the sidewalks.

The shaman guy stole a furtive glance over his shoulder and broke into a little jog. Dean turned his head, scoping for immediate threat, and then lengthened his stride in pursuit, though he kept it to a walk. Buffy avoided checking in with Angel, and forced herself to maintain her established stroll. Angel could track them by scent if need be.

Jogging ahead, shaman guy made the crosswalk, but Dean didn't. He waited, hiding his impatience pretty well, Buffy thought. When the light traffic cleared, the shaman was out of sight. Dean kept up a brisk pace, checking every storefront as he passed, scanning the far side of the street. As Buffy crossed the intersection to his side of the street, Dean ducked left, into a narrow alley opening.

Knowing Angel had her back, she picked up her pace. A truck horn made her jump as she slowed before the alley and eased to the edge. Angel crowded her back. There was nothing to see in the dark, dead-end alley. No Dean, no shaman. The faint rays of the nearest streetlight on Ricer touched on a filthy dark blue Jetta with peeling paint. It sat on its axles ten feet down on the right. A sagging chain link and plywood fence bisected the narrow space no more than thirty feet back. Angel entered first. They walked to the fence, looking for signs that Dean had gone over the fence, or into one of the windowless, painted block buildings on either side.

Angel reversed from the fence and stopped near the wall across from the car, a deep crease forming between his brows. “Here,” he said.

A great flutter of wings rushed at Buffy. She ducked, swiping her stake from her waistband, and crouched, ready to strike. But there was nothing there, only Angel, staggering back under Dean's dead weight. Buffy ran forward as Angel's shoulders found the wall, Dean's back to his chest, and they stutter-bumped down the concrete wall until they were sitting on the ground. Reaching for Dean's neck, Buffy felt for his pulse. “Heart's beating,” Angel grunted. “There's blood on him.”

Buffy couldn't see any, but it was dark. Straddling Dean and Angel's tangled legs, she ripped his top shirt open. The buttons pelted down hard enough around them that she knew where each landed, despite the muted traffic noise from the street. She tugged his tee shirt up. His chest and shoulders were clean. She ran her hands over his ribs and down under his back. “Nothing.”

“Check his head,” Angel growled. Buffy looked up at him. His eyes were closed, his head turned.

Kneeling over his hips, Buffy scooted closer and lifted Dean's head from Angel's chest. His hair was coated in blood. She ran her fingers over his scalp and ears. Leaning her head next to Angel's, she checked his neck. “It's not his.”

“It's like yours, Buffy. Strong.”

Buffy turned her face as Angel turned his, their noses and lips brushing. His eyes were golden, his face ridged. Very carefully, she kissed him. He surged up, claiming her mouth, raising one hand to cup the back of her head. Dean, pressed between them, groaned. His warm breath hardened her nipples, sending an electric shock straight through her. Her hips jerked. She gasped into Angel's hungry mouth and pulled back, standing up in one swift motion.

“I'll get the car,” she said, and left Angel to quiet Dean as he woke.

 

†††

 

This is what Dean remembers:

His brother's strong arms around him. The beat of his heart. Castiel's hand upon his head. The coppery scent of fresh blood. Heated hands smoothing his ribs. Want. Hush. Almost there. Water sluicing over his head. Angel murmuring under his breath, I've got you. I've got you now. Waking cold, Buffy warm beside him. Long, white limbs. Want. Need. Almost there. Angel's voice a whisper on his burning, fevered skin, guiding, guiding, taking them there...

 

†††

 

Over the weeks that fall became winter, Buffy and Dean and Angel became a unit, bonded by their desires, in bed and out of it. Dean couldn't recall ever wanting that, another man to watch, to direct, to order his actions. He remembered a time when he'd have been incensed at the suggestion, but that didn't stop his almost painful physical need for Buffy's heat and the honing of his arousal when Angel's voice fell upon him like cool water.

In the field, Dean found he spoke less, coming to rely on the instincts of his hunting partners, following their lead, but not hesitating to step in when his practical knowledge would give them the upper hand. Angel proved a valuable sounding board while researching, filling in gaps in Dean and John's journals, leafing through the pages of the books or websites Dean found with interest and asking questions of his own.

Some of them were questions Dean wanted buried.

Half-drunk one freezing night near Christmas, after being alone for two days while Buffy checked in with Giles and Angel disappeared to bolster his blood supply, Dean tried cursing Castiel's name. He'd already prayed. And shouted. But the Angel hadn't come. “God damn your sorry ass, Castiel,” he cursed into the starless black sky. “And He can damn his own lazy ass, too!”

“What did he take,” Angel said from the shadows under the low eaves of the cabin they were squatting in.

Dean jumped. “Dude. Use your heavy boots.”

“What did the shaman take, that night?”

Dean sighed, his breath streaming out in a long cloud. He lifted the bottle of Jack in his hand, tilting it towards the porch light. “There isn't enough here to tell that story.”

“Tell me anyway,” Angel said, his tone implacable.

Dean closed his eyes. He steeled himself. “A journal.”

“Whose,” Angel asked, walking forward. He took the bottle from Dean's hand and tipped it up, eyeing it before he swallowed a healthy slug. He wiped his lip, regarding Dean. “Whose,” he repeated.

“Reaper's.”

Angel handed the bottle back and led Dean to the chairs propped up outside the front door. He pulled one out, shook it free of dead spiders and curled up brown leaves, and set it down. He motioned at Dean. Dean sighed again and sat. Angel repeated the ritual and sat himself. He stretched his legs out in front of him. “Tell me.”

So Dean did.

He'd been dragged from Hell by an Angel, and Buffy had been dragged from Heaven by a human. Standing together, using the words buried in that journal, they could have reaped Lucifer's captive soul, plucked it from that fucking cage, and given it back to Sam, who owned it.

††

They worked their way east, looking for another way to save Sam's soul. They were careful not to give Slayer Command evidence of Angel or Dean's continuing presence in Buffy's company to worry over, covering their tracks with fake paper and real detours to hunt.

He knew it wouldn't last, but Angel wanted it to, with a fierce longing that roused him in the small hours, seeking, slotting himself between Buffy's silky body and Dean's sensual passion, as cog, conduit, rite-of-passage. Angel's blood surged at her slightest touch, and Dean's single minded focus on following his every carnal command drove fire across Angel's skin and mind, bringing him an intense, prolonged pleasure he craved now like blood.

And yet.

He stayed focused. It seemed easier to him. The hunting. The research. His brain was hitting on all cylinders for the first time since LA. He'd missed his team, his family, missed working as one part of a whole. It couldn't last, he knew that, but when he saw the article in the local Beaufort paper, his dead heart dropped.

They needed to get a move on. Today. After too long, he made himself close the section. He folded it on top of Buffy's laptop, and ordered three coffees to go.

The sun was just breaking to the east when he drove into the motel parking lot. He fumbled with the key. Dean opened the door, shirtless and barefoot, his hair wet.

“Found it,” Angel said, his shoulders smoking.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

In a cottage on the grounds of a tiny bed and breakfast in Waxhaw, North Carolina, they were finished prepping. They'd packed their weapons, planned their routes and finished all the recon they could run down on the disappearances Angel had read about in Beaufort. Every one of the victims had been found within days of being reported missing. They were physically sound, but profoundly changed in personality. The only link between the victims was an abandoned distillery in a dry county just over the North Carolina line from South Carolina.

An outfit in Charlotte ran a shuttle bus out for picnic tours of the place by day, and ghost tours by night. They also hosted an illicit poker game on the property every Friday night. Angel wrangled an invite, though Buffy figured crashing would work as a back-up plan.

With hours of daylight left to burn, too restless to sleep, too dangerously hyped to go out, they'd been warming up for the game, letting Angel show off his card sharp skills. He had eventually suggested strip poker and now... now they were onto the real game.

“Buffy,” Angel whispered after she stood and dropped her last piece of clothing, a pair of black boy shorts, onto the floor.

Joining her, he stepped them back and laid her onto the bed. He traced the curve of her brow bone, trailed his fingertips across her lips, before drawing back. Dean, stripping out of his tee-shirt when she looked up to find him, had both arms raised. Castiel's handprint emerged as Dean pulled the shirt from his back and over his head, leaving his hair on end. Before he could drop the shirt, Angel closed his fist around it. He twisted it around each of Dean's wrists, trapping Dean's hands.

They stared at one another, until Dean cast his gaze down and straightened, his shoulders dropping as he stood still at the foot of the bed.

“Stay,” Angel muttered.

Dean didn't want to, Buffy could see that. But he did, hard already, looking uncomfortable in his faded jeans. They'd been hands on, both their hands on Buffy, for more than an hour already. She grinned up at him and then licked her lips, watching his gaze follow the path of her tongue.

Angel had been watching, too. He kissed her, deep and thorough, his hands running along her sides, until he settled his long fingers on her nipples. He circled them until she arched, her mouth opening, and then he rubbed, twisted, suckled, his wet tongue swirling over the sensitive tips. She panted, pulling at back of his shirt with one hand while teasing herself with the other.

“Shhh,” he said. He brushed her hand aside, and took over her clit, working it with his thumb, before sliding two fingers inside her. “She's wet, Dean,” he muttered. “So hot. So tight when she squeezes me.”

His voice was dark honey and Buffy rose on his words, quivering on the edge.

She reached over her head, stretching, to plant her hands on the head board, push herself down against Angels' swift stokes. Her breath sighed out in long 'oh's.

He stopped.

She fluttered, abandoned, opened her eyes to see Dean still standing where he'd been told. His head was back, eyes closed. Though his hands were still, tangled in his shirt, his arms were corded with tension as he pressed his wrists against himself. He bit his lip and then rolled his hips, real slow.

Angel stroked her belly, waiting.

When Dean noticed their pause and opened his eyes, Angel went down on her for the first time since they'd begun, all those weeks ago.

“Angel,” she cried, bucking under his sudden onslaught, fisting her hands in the sheets. “Angel.”

“Oh, god,” Dean panted.

She thrust up hard and came, shuddering. His cool tongue kept her suspended there, trembling, ripping snatches of sound from her throat, until, finally, finally, he let her down.

On his knees now, Dean's breaths were harsh in his throat.

Angel wiped his face on the sheets and rose above her, kissing his way up her pliant body. He built her fire again, stroking her tongue with his, kneading her, licking his way back down to lavish attention on her breasts, her hips, her knees. He ran his thumbnail up the bottom of her foot, caught her knee when she kicked and turned her over. Ran his wide hand up along her back, and down again, using his nails. Goosebumps prickled her skin. He swept her hair from her neck, making her shiver, before he stepped away.

“Come here,” he said, softly, and Buffy knew he was talking to Dean. She quivered. Her lips and clit filled and moisture trickled from her. She felt fifteen again, hot and damp and waiting for something without knowing what it really was she wanted.

She heard a zipper snicking down. Dean's. Angel never stripped. He didn't trust himself. Although her heart ached at the thought, she loved him for that. Dean inhaled sharply. “Take them off,” Angel ordered.

Her skin flushed. Her belly cramped, low, sending out its useless reminder of Angel's presence at the tone of his words. Cool air wafted over her with Dean's movement. She squeezed her walls together, rocketing a throb of pleasure up through her belly, chest and head, that made her hips buck.

Dean's hands steadied her, fingers firm on her hips, his shirt still binding him, soft across her lower back. He radiated heat. He tugged her back, urging her to stand, bent over the high, old-fashioned bed. Gentle with her, he kicked her feet apart. His hot, rigid cock lay along her, spreading her cheeks apart. Angel's cool hand pressed down between her shoulders.

She turned her head. Angel stroked her hair and then wrapped his fingers in it.

Dean gasped, rocking against her, just as something cold breeched her cunt. She jumped.

“Ice,” Angel whispered, holding her down, as he eased the coldness up inside her, his fingers warm against her swollen lips. “Let me in.”

She relaxed, opening herself to him, letting the ice slide inside. Instead of cooling her heat, it lit her up.

He slid a second piece over her shoulder blades, down her backbone, over her butt. Dean shivered as the cold water it left behind ran onto him. His cock thickened. He chanted something below his breath as Angel positioned the second piece just inside her.

Just knowing that Dean was holding back, that Angel's fingers caressed them both, made the walls of her vagina pulse. Her back arched. Dean pressed her hips to the bed, hard enough to bruise, rocked back, and plunged inside her. She screamed as the cold ice sunk deep inside, exploding inside as it melted, Dean hot as plutonium, thrusting, thrusting. Slick, sliding heat. She braced against Angel's hand, using his weight to anchor herself, pushing back hard onto Dean, urging him deeper.

“Angel, Angel,” she breathed. Dean responded, throwing his weight into it, fucking her into the mattress, her swollen clit hitting with every stroke. “Kiss me.”

Angel drew her head back by her hair, exposing the curve of her neck.

Dean slowed his pace, lengthened his thrust. She could feel his uncertainty, but he was also bigger, his cock heavy, stretching her, his breath and hips hitching with need. Angel had never stood so close, so silent, had never laid a hand on Dean before, usually withdrew everything but his voice when they started.

He kissed her, slow, lingering. He eased onto the bed, lay on his back, and made love to her mouth, stroking her breasts. Dean pulled one hand free and slid it down to rub her in slow circles, rocking his hips to the same slow rhythm.

“I want you,” Angel whispered against her lips. “I want to kiss you while you come.”

“Let me,” Buffy pleaded, his fingers clenching in his shirt. “Touch you.”

“No,” he said, and took possession of her tongue. Her head filled with fog. Dean's slow thrusts were like a drug, his fingers dove and circled, teasing, teasing. When Angel let her come up for air, he said, “I love you.”

She closed her eyes, and let Dean sweep her away.

††

 

The distillery had been housed in a huge, old, wooden tobacco barn. It had been remodeled, closing it off to the weather, although it was still cold, even with the big double doors pulled shut. Portable standing heaters stood near each of the twelve poker tables and as book-ends to the long bar along the back wall. It wasn't the fanciest set-up, ever, but Dean could appreciate the location and atmosphere.

When Angel won the rusted scythe hanging above poker table number five on a fair bet, all hell broke loose. Angel flipped his table over, confusing the staff member trying to steal the scythe right off the wall, claiming it was his. Buffy followed suite, but the picturesque gas lamp on her table spilled over as it hit the floor and several of the fluttering playing cards went up in flame. At the bar, Dean fired a salt round into the air.

Everyone froze; even Angel.

The red-headed man in charge cleared his throat. “Stamp those cards, out, Ernie, don't just stand there. Now, I laid that bet, Arnold,” he said, addressing the would-be thief. “This man here has won that there scythe fair and square. It belongs to me, after all. It was on the property when I bought it.”

Arnold shook his head. “I been using it. It's mine.”

“It's just a rusty old scythe, Arnold, what could you be doin' with it, anyhow?”

Crossing his arms, Arnold eyed the scythe sitting crooked on its hook. “I been cutting that pampas grass out there. It's a fair blade.”

“I'll buy you a new one, Arnold. And we have a grass cutter in every week, anyhow.” He grabbed a chair and held it in front of him as a weapon. “Now, either let me by, or take ahold of that thing and give it to me now.”

Arnold never blinked, just reached up and snatched it down. It glowed in his hands. The rust burst off in chunks, raining down, until it gleamed silver.

“Hold it, there, now, Arnold,” the boss man said.

Dean could almost see it happening before it did.

He ran at Arnold as he raised the scythe, circling it over his head as if to cast it. The scythe jerked through the smoky air and stopped dead, the blade vibrating. Dean leaped. Arnold yanked it, like yanking a big rod with a fish on, just as Dean hit him, taking his legs out from under him.

The scythe clattered to the floor. “It's mine,” Arnold screamed in Dean's face, spittle landing on his cheek.

“Shit,” Dean muttered. He looked to see who'd been reaped. Angel was down on one knee. “Oh, shit.”

“Buffy,” Dean shouted.

Angel materialized out of the air in front of him, and grabbed his neck.

Dean pried at his fingers with one hand, scrabbling for his Colt with the other. “Angel,” he croaked.

“Wrong, lover boy.”

“Let him go, Angelus.”

Angel shifted his attention, just long enough for Dean to raise the pistol in his rapidly numbing hand. Fumbling the muzzle against Angel's side, he pulled the trigger. The blast hurt Dean's brain, but the resulting blood mist made him grin.

Angel half-folded to the side, dragging Dean down with him, but didn't fall. “Ow,” he said, taking the gun and tossing it behind the bar. “Walk with me.”

He stooped and picked up the scythe, then straightened, and turned. Dean's feet tangled. His vision darkened at the edges. Angel shook him. “Walk, boy.”

Most of the players had run, but a few still cowered on the ground below their tables. Angel paid no attention to them, or to Buffy, walking backwards in front of them, crossbow loaded and aimed dead steady on Angel's heart. Dean tried to swallow and keep his feet moving sideways and backwards at the same time. He couldn't. Spit slicked his chin.

“You, Arnold,” Angelus called, as he dragged Dean backwards through the now wide open double door into the dark. Ice crystals glittered in the air. Angel spotted and advanced on the scared wielder of Death's original Scythe. Dean wondered if he really thought the ratty hedges hid him from view. “Is this thing directly connected to a soul catcher?”

“N..n..no,” Arnold stuttered from the hedge. “I. I. I...”

“Let them go,” Angel guessed.

“Catch them."

"You catch them," Angel growled and gave Dean a shake for good measure. "In what?"

Dean's grip weakened, his fingers falling from Angel's hand and arm. He couldn't find them again to lift them. Arnold's voice barely pierced the buzz in his ears.

"Anything at all, but I have glass globes. They sell for forty bucks each at the Farmer's Market.”

“Where's mine?”

“Oh, I haven't said the spell, yet. Your soul's right here, somewhere, Sir. They can go wild on you if you don't catch them fast.”

“How fast?”

Getting braver with every word, despite Dean hanging at half-mast from Angel's hand, Arnold inched out into the open. “Oh, fifteen minutes or...”

Angel dropped the Scythe, and applied both hands to Dean's neck.

Dean kicked. Pain burst behind his eyes and speared his throat. The pressure gave suddenly, and he was falling into a cacophony of fluttering wings.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Angel's dust swirled silver on the Carolina night breeze, mixing with the ice crystals that glimmered in the moonlight.

Colliding with the spent bolt Buffy had loosed from her crossbow, Dean fell to the ground.

A brilliant light blinded her. Eyes screwed shut, she covered her ears against the high-pitched hum that threatened to overwhelm her. A cross current created by the beat of great wings buffeted her. It stopped. A soft caress of feathers over her hunched back and then the cold air rushed back in. She opened her eyes.

The Scythe was gone. Angel was gone. Dean lay sprawled in a heap.

Buffy crawled to him, and turned him over. His chest was still, his eyes half-open. No breath fogged the crystalline air. She laid her head on his chest and heard only silence. No one came up to help her. Tiny pellets of ice settled along the crease in the elbow of Dean's jacket. The tears she didn't know she was crying stung her eyes and froze her face and wet Dean's shirt.

Someone nearby spoke in a low, urgent tone.

She started to lift her head, to yell out, and then she heard it, a single beat, like his heart had been startled. She waited. It thumped again, jumping in his chest, and she waited. The reassuring thump came again, lub-dub, and again.

“Buffy?”

It was harsh, grated out through his damaged throat.

Buffy sat up. “Don't, Dean. Your throat.”

There was movement back towards the crowded card room. Buffy could hear other voices now, growing louder as people picked themselves up off the floor. “Hey,” she yelled. “Hey! Call 911!”

“I will, Miss,” Arnold volunteered from the hedge beside them. He clambered out.

“Hurry,” Buffy ordered, swiping at her frozen cheeks.

Arnold scurried off.

“Buffy,” Dean said again. “Buffy.”

“I'm here, Dean.” She caught her breath before her voice broke. “Angel's...”

“Here. I'm here.”

“Dean...”

“Not. Dean.” Dean's eyes held her, implored her to understand him. “It's me, Buffy.” His throat seized up. He coughed, and grabbed at her. Buffy pulled him to sitting and his breathing eased. “It's me, Angel.”

Buffy stared at him. A buzzing filled her ears. He lifted his hand and ran his thumb over her cheekbone. “Remember.” He coughed. “The rink? You kissed me. Anyway.”

She shook her head, while he nodded his. “Remember the night we met, after I found out. You were alive? I brought you...”

Arnold shuffled back, shivering in a raggedy black coat he'd put on, the property owner trailing behind him, and a couple, arguing over whether or not they were leaving before the cops showed up.

“An albino orchid,” she said with him. Her body felt light, like sunrise.

“Alba. As rare. As you.”

“Oh, my God, “ Buffy burst out. She threw her arms around him as he struggled to sit up “Angel.”

He hugged her tightly to him, until he started coughing again. He wheezed and sunk against her, eyes closing.

“His throat's swelling,” the man beside Arnold said. “Grace, just go. Wait in the car. Lay him down, Miss, we can keep his airway open until they get here.”

Buffy heaved in breath, her chest tight.

“Tilt his head back with me. That's right.” He touched Angel's neck, walked his fingers along his throat and probed along his jaw.

Sirens wailed far away.

Buffy choked back the sob clogging her throat and drew in a shuddering breath.

“He's fine. He'll be fine,” the man soothed. “EMT's will be here in a sec. They'll spray his throat and intubate him, but he'll be fine, right as rain in a couple of days, you'll see.”

By the time Angel was intubated and loaded, the police were on scene. Buffy watched the flashing lights of the ambulance reflect off the ice coated trees along the road until they were out of sight, giving the officer interviewing her no useful information. He finally handed her his card and let her be. She'd hidden the bolt lying next to Angel in her jacket, when they moved him. No one had picked up her cross-bow.

She waited for a lull between cops, grabbed the cross-bow, and cranked the ice-glazed Impala over. If Angel's soul had settled in Dean's body, Dean was well and truly dead. Angel had his shanshu in a way they'd never expected. She cried all the way to the hospital.

 

†††

 

This is what Dean remembers:

The air sparkling like diamonds. The beat of great wings. Driving on the open road, his brother riding shotgun, Back In Black on the tape deck.

 

†††

 

On the third day after Dean died, Buffy found Angel sitting up when she entered his room, talking to his nurse in monosyllables. His eyes lit up when he saw her.

“Freddie! You're up,” Buffy exclaimed.

“And grumpy,” said the nurse. She held up an applesauce. “Convince him it's food, okay?”

As soon as she left, Angel said, “Freddie Prinze?” His voice was tight and hoarse

“That was the ID in Dean's wallet, sorry.”

“My wallet. I couldn't remember my last name for sure." He swallowed hard, with a grimace. "They keep the charts out in the hall. Where's Angel?”

All the air escaped the room.

“Buffy?”

“Angel?”

“Yeah. Angel. Where is he? That little guy re-souled him, right?”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

When she thinks of Angel, she first sees his smirk, that little, lithe lift of one side of his lips. And then she sees the silvery sweep of his ash on the breeze of an icy Carolina night. Terrible and beautiful at once. Her heart stopped in that moment and never quite recovered, but she feels it throb in her chest when she catches sight of Dean across the bar.

Dean's the same height and breadth as Angel. He carries himself with the same grace. But even though he's both tortured and been tortured, spent longer than a few hours dead, and spent decades in hell, he's not Angel. He can't quite fill that empty space in her soul, but Dean crowds close.

Twenty minutes later, she's staring down into her watered down bourbon when Dean bumps her shoulder. He presses his warm bulk against her back and breathes into her ear. It tickles. “Five minutes.” She nods and sips her drink and marvels again at how cold she is when he turns away.

Dean's a hunter.

He hunted her until Angel found him. And then he hunted Angel. He didn't kill him, though. Buffy thinks someday she may forgive him for not doing so. Someday, she expects Dean will forgive her for doing so.

The night Angel died, Buffy's skin seemed to have absorbed the crystals of ice that made the very air sparkle and never let them go. Dean swears she glitters in the moonlight, but she doesn't believe him. She suspects she absorbs the light, becoming just a darker spot of night. He is unerring in his ability to find her, but she knows he's just following the instinct of his soul.

He licks the ice off her skin, and parts her lips and heats her core. He did the same for Angel's soul, though they ignored each other's flesh. Buffy reveled in her role as the conduit between them and as beneficiary: Dean as Angel, incarnate. It hasn't changed.

Their mutual soulmate has just gone on, into the endless, star-filled night.

Dean's back. When he meets her eyes, she sees Angel looking back. “Okay,” he says, “The room is ours." He takes her hand. “Sam's cleared out for the night. Shall we?”

††

Dean's been trailing a werewolf for five days. The moon's past full, the trail's gone cold, and Buffy appears in the bar he's hustling like she knows Angel's been haunting him.

They don't talk on the walk across the parking lot to the Impala. Her cheekbones bounce the buzzing security light into her eyes. They are reflective as a cat's. His blood surges, already anticipating her heat, the way in which she will twine her supple body around his own less flexible limbs, the stroke of her tongue along his newest scars, the hum she will unleash as she closes her mouth over his throbbing cock.

So what if the voice they both hear will be his?

So what if the movement of their hands and fingers and lips will follow his prescribed route, which ever one they fall into?

It's a comfort, this routine.

Angel lives both outside and between them.

Dean's okay with that.

And if Buffy sometimes calls out Angel's name when she comes?

Dean's okay with that, too.