Chapter 1: prompt: Red Lipstick
Buffy rattled her drawer one more time, as if the little offendant had decided to sneak into some hidden pocket of space at the back. "Will! Having a emergency here!"
Willow didn't even look up from her book. "You sound actually panicked - must be date night," she mumbled. "Misplaced key piece of make-up emergency or clean and pretty underwear emergency?"
Ah. The joys of having a best friend for roommate. There were no secrets. "Lipstick. The red shiny one."
"You have noticed it's fresh-blood colored." Willow gave a small shudder. "Isn't Angel past that stuff?"
Buffy shrugged. "He doesn't complain."
Chapter 2: prompt - Vindicated
It wasn't as if she always spied on her friends. But her hearing was more developed than the norm, and Angel had chosen a spot on the dance floor near their table. When Riley - Agent Finn - had headed over, Buffy's impulse to learn his motives had been as strong as the one to stay in her boyfriend's arms.
Middle ground, clearly, was to focus on the exchange. It turned out to be nothing of major importance, but then, right before Riley left...
"That's Buffy's boyfriend?"
Willow confirmed it.
"They look... happy."
Her friends' silent agreement felt a lot like vindication.
Chapter 3: prompt - First Time
It was the first time he saw Joyce Summers since she visited the mansion. He had no idea which one of them would feel more awkward at the memory. Probably himself. After all, she'd only brought up reasonable concerns that morning. "Ms. Summers," he offered politely.
Buffy frowned a little. Maybe because he'd once been on first name basis with her mother.
Before she had asked him to leave town for her daughter's sake.
Before he had bled that daughter on his way out.
"Angel." She looked at little uneasy, but waved him in. "Buffy tells me you like coffee?"
Chapter 4: prompt - Windshield
"I'm the Slayer," Buffy huffed, dropping her head against the wheel and hitting the dashboard hard enough that the windshield vibrated. "Slayer strength. Slayer reflexes. Slayer vision. I have them all!"
Angel would rather spend another weekend in Wolfram & Hart than point out how close to a tantrum this sounded.
"Why can't I do this right?" She gave him the evil eye. "Even you are a better driver."
Buffy's anger had always provoked a reaction. Now that reaction came complete with his heart rate picking up speed. "Yes, I am." He cocked an eyebrow. "You want to learn or not?"
Chapter 5: prompt - Sunshine
Tara looked up as Willow's laughter rang through the park. She looked happy, her aura healthy and bright-colored. "Almost like sunshine," she whispered.
"You mean Willow? Bliss does look good on her." Buffy smiled, glancing over as their significant others made their way to the hotdog stand. "It feels nice to see my friends happy. Especially Will. For a time, I was worried.... Well. She had a tough time last year."
Tara took a deep breath. "You don't mind...?"
"That she picked you? No way." Buffy grinned. "Believe me. I know all about going with your heart wherever it leads."
Chapter 6: prompt - Pretzel
"This better be good," Buffy warned as she trudged her way out of Angel's bedroom. She zoomed in on her lover, and headed straight for him. "And by 'good'"--she yawned as she cuddled against Angel, arms around him and her right knee propped on top of his--"I mean 'help! the hellmouth's opening!'."
"Sorry to disappoint." Wesley glared down at the couple, but neither took the hint to disengage; rather, Buffy's leg went up higher up Angel's thigh. Slayers made bendy human pretzels, he supposed - and was sorry when the thought came with visuals.
"McDonald again?" Angel asked.
Chapter 7: prompt - False
Buffy looked around. Pretty impressive setup, the Initiative. She was so writing to her congressman for some demon-fighting funding. The most multimedia she and the guys got was Willow's laptop - and that had been a gift from Mr. Rosenberg's mom when Willow started college.
Her weapons needed some updating, too.
"So, Maggie. Where's the big bad you wanted me to check out?" The doctor pursed her lips at the overfamiliar address. But why keep things formal when they knew each other's secrets? "Or maybe... Let me guess. You called me under false pretenses?" Buffy faked a gasp. "What a shock!"
Chapter 8: prompt - Pomegranate
Cordelia turned around to collect a knife. For a moment, it struck her as strange that she didn't need it as a weapon - considering the company. "I can't believe Angel suggested this," she said, keeping an eye on her prospective roommate.
Faith lifted one shoulder. Impatient as ever, she just took the pomegranate between her hands and forced it open. "I don't mind the ghost."
"You shouldn't." She glared at the juice that'd dribbled down onto the floor. "Dennis cleans after himself."
Faith scowled. "Forget it. This isn't working."
Cordelia crossed her arms over her chest. "What gave it away?"
Chapter 9: prompt - Question
Buffy had laughed out loud when she found her boyfriend perched at her windowsill. "Let me guess - the front door was swallowed into antimatter and this was the only way to warn me?" At Angel's blank look, she smiled. "Xander has been introducing Anya to his first love: the DC universe."
Angel chuckled. "They really are dating."
"Yep." She walked toward him, trying not to think of the distance between her window and the ground. She couldn't help the next question. "Should you really...?"
Angel fixed her with a look. "I climbed higher when I was six, Buffy. Stop worrying."
Chapter 10: prompt - Satisfied
Her first mistake had been to tell Angel. But she'd been tired, and angry, and so frustrated; and Angel made it worse by siding with Faith. Faith! Even when asshole-Parker had made her a one-night-stand without her permission, she hadn't felt as betrayed!
She shouldn't have said that last out loud.
Her second mistake? Not to warn her friends.
"Look over there. Parker's nose will never recover." Willow made a Coke-toast. "Hear, hear."
When Angel stood up with obvious intent, Xander grabbed her arm. "Let him, Buff. The guy wants a little satisfaction." He smiled darkly. "Who can blame him?"
Chapter 11: prompt - Agenda
Giles looked over the noisy group assembled in his living room. Once upon a time, he'd been supposed to deal exclusively with a Slayer, train her for battle, and see that the girl didn't burn out too soon.
Instead he'd ended up with that Slayer and the one called after her, an ex vampire, a chipped vampire, two witches, and a small number of humans who refused to quit the fight against evil. With Doyle's visions on top.
He coughed - loudly - and conversation staggered to a halt. "Very well, since we're all here, the first item in the agenda is...."
Chapter 12: prompt - Hair
"I love that you let it grow," Angel murmured behind her.
Her face half-hidden into the small mound of pillows, Buffy gave in to a smug smile. "I noticed." Hard not to, when he spent up to half an hour playing with her hair on lazy mornings, and sometimes even when they were sitting together outside. "Must be the eighteenth century in you."
"I didn't dislike nineteen-thirties fashion."
Buffy recollected short, soft waves. "Lots of bared neck."
There was silence, and then he chuckled right before rolling her up and putting his lips to her throat. "Not a bad thing."
Chapter 13: prompt - Sapphire
Buffy wrinkled her nose. Had demons never heard of Colgate? There was a perfumed bath waiting after she finished these two - or that's what she would have planned if a third demon hadn't rushed in from behind.
Her reputation must be on the rise again, to be ambushed by whole nests. Yippie!
Thriumph lit the demons' dull grey eyes into gleaming sapphire, but it died out at a dying bellow at her back. Their shock made them slower.
"What. You didn't see my boyfriend with the crossbow over there?" Buffy grinned down at the last one. "Too bad for you."
Chapter 14: prompt - Dirty
"What are we doing here?" Willow sighed dejectedly, her voice almost a whine.
"Shopping." With no way out of it.
At least Anya didn't overhear this time. The last thing they needed was another five-minute speech - or had it been a scolding? - about how human females lacked in the bondage experience without realizing it made them stronger. By then it had been too late to escape. Now Buffy's most fervent hope was that either she had a dirty mind or Anya had mixed up her English. She must've meant 'bonding', as in women sticking together and girl power.
Chapter 15: prompt - Wicked
"It's funny how Xander believes we're the only ones doing it in semi-public places."
Buffy would have leaped away, but Angel grabbed her by the waist tightly enough that she couldn't have freed herself without hurting him. A second later, she realized he'd saved her from further embarrasment. "Oh God," she groaned. Turning her back to the amused intruder, she hastened to do up her front buttons. "You'll tell Xander, won't you?"
"I swear, Anya-"
Angel cut her off. "Don't forget any detail."
Buffy spluttered, but Anya was already laughing. "Who said you'd gotten the wicked out of you?"
Chapter 16: prompt - Lingerie
"Whoa, B. Didn't know you had it in you." Faith dangled a see-through pearl teddy from her thumb. "Next time Wes whines about Angel keeping to the Hellmouth, I'll assure him that he has good reason." She eyed the lingerie drawer and smirked. "Lots and lots of them."
Giles had always preached on using her enhanced abilities for battle or dire emergencies only. Well. If he asked, Buffy would argue that this was a little of both scenarios.
Two minutes later, she was panting but all her belongings were back in place.
Faith was laughing. "And they call me wild?"
Chapter 17: prompt - Luminous
Giles had been surprised when his suggestion to summon the LA faction had been accepted without fuss. He was chagrined to realize he'd expected Buffy to regress to her immature pretense that she could handle everything by herself.
"...and that's all I know," Riley finished his account.
Wesley looked up from his notes. "One has to admit, it's quite a revolutionary concept. Almost... luminous in its roots."
Cordelia punched his arm. "Repeat after me: building improved demons from demon parts is wrong."
"Of course, Cordy. But the applications could-"
"Excuse me," Xander interrupted, then waved between the pair wonderingly. "'Cordy'?"
Chapter 18: prompt - Vertigo
"Okay." Deep breath. "Okay."
Xander's voice drifted into the bedlam of her thoughts. "Not looking okay, Buffy."
There was a hand at her elbow, guiding her to a seat. Good. The floor had been rushing up at her. She wouldn't have stayed on her feet for long. But she needed to get back up, didn't she?
Because Angel was gone. Taken away.
Angel was human and he was gone.
"I know." Xander was patting her shoulder now. "Look. New concept: humans aren't as helpless as we look. And Angel, well. He's a cut above. He'll make it."
Chapter 19: prompt - Bad
"Oops." Doyle straightened, noticing his surroundings for the first time in an hour. "Guess I didn't remove myself to my bedroom after all." He attempted to lift himself up, but one glance at Angel stopped him. "On the other hand, it'd be bad manners not to invite the host to my pity party. Especially when he looks about to have one on his own."
"Gone." Doyle filled a glass, and after a moment's hesitation offered it up. "Trouble in paradise?"
Angel pointed to a gash along his leg. Yeah. That would've freaked out his girl. "You could say that."
Chapter 20: prompt - Lethargic
"I really do love you," Buffy sighed against his chest, dropping a lethargic kiss on the tiny bite mark beside his nipple. "Sometimes I feel as if I should have changed by now, as if everything should have changed between us"-she placed her ear over the spot where his heart beat, and smiled as if divining the cause for its quick pace–“but deep down, it feels the same."
"But with sex."
"All right." She laughed. "The same with one difference - a good difference," she added quickly.
Angel brought up her hair to tickle her nose. "I hope so."
Chapter 21: prompt - Tea
"Fascinating," Xander breathed, coming to a halt a step behind her.
Buffy nodded. "Like watching wild life feed in their own environment," she whispered back.
"I thought we'd domesticated him to our ways."
"Did you really?"
Xander snorted. Loudly.
The sound betrayed their presence.
"Buffy? I didn't expect you this early." Giles turned around to beckon her in. "Oh, and Xander. Good." He motioned toward his guest. "As you can see, Wesley has come down for a visit. We were just having some tea - would you like some?"
Both men looked on in confusion as the teenagers broke into laughter.
Chapter 22: prompt - Comely
Lilah looked over the two little witches who'd placed themselves between her and her latest tool to reel Angel back to the side where he belonged. Loyal girls, she'd give them that. Most of their power must have gone in containing the werewolf.
"That wasn't Oz's doing, was it?" the redhead demanded in a yell. Demanded. With that comely, sweet face, she'd never looked like she had it in her.
Lilah's shoulders did an elegant shrug. "Actually, it was. I just enhanced his reaction."
Lilah arched an eyebrow. Well, well. Was that a backbone? What an unpleasant surprise.
Chapter 23: prompt - Hunger
Willow rooted deeper into the picnic basket she and Tara had prepared that morning. "I know we made more sandwiches," she mumbled, looking ready to motion the whole thing into overturning itself.
At the other side of the basket, Buffy chuckled. "You mean, the ones the guys wolfed down hours ago?"
Willow's hand retreated back onto her lap. "Damn. Guess they worked up an appetite during the game." She leaned back until her shoulder and Tara's were touching again. "Who knew Angel was that competitive?"
Buffy started laughing, but a small frown made an appearance. "I had no idea either."
Chapter 24: prompt - Wire
Metal clanged moodily against the porcelain tub at Angel's entrance, but surprisingly there were no voiced protests. The small room stayed silent except for his breathing and, he knew even though he couldn't hear it himself, the beating of his heart.
Two details that spoke volumes by themselves.
"Buffy says that killing you would be inhumane-"
"Inhumane." Spike's eyes fixed on the pulse point at Angel's jugular. "A fitting word, considering."
"-and you can't kill me either."
"Which means... truce?"
Angel laughed. "A high-wire act for two, more like."
"While tripping each other up?" Spike understood instantly. "I like that."
Chapter 25: prompt - Wishes
After they'd carried the books into the mansion's main room, the children had been quick to leave. Giles didn't blame them; it was a beautiful spring day outside, perfect for young people to enjoy the beach.
To be fair, they'd invited him along.
But he'd wanted to take advantage of Angel's absence. He needed some time alone to come to grips with having this place as their new headquarters.
Had he even been under Angel's roof since the night he attempted to burn it down?
"I wish," Giles whispered, but had no idea where to start.
If wishes were horses....
Chapter 26: prompt - Joy
"Hey!" A familiar figure strode into the mansion's courtyard and hopped onto the fountain's edge. "Thought I'd keep you company."
Angel stopped his movements and grabbed a towel. Tai Chi sessions never survived this visitor's conversation. "Good morning, Anya."
Anyanka may have been a fearsome legend, a favorite of Darla's whenever he strayed away; but now she was a young woman with plenty of free time, no end of stories, and, to her joy, an audience that didn't go green as she told them.
"I've been thinking. Weren't you in London during the influenza outbreak of 1833? Do you remember..."
Chapter 27: prompt - Ruler
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
The first thing he found out about Lilah Morgan was that she wore size 7 brown leather stilettos. Of course, his eyes had been at a level with her feet; it was understandable that his next discovery took a moment: Here was a woman at ease on four-inch heels, wearing a calculating shark smile, a born ruler and schemer.
In another world, he would have loved to cast off her soul and watch her sharpen herself, eternity at her fingertips. Here, he struggled to his feet and sneered down at her. "As you can see, I couldn't resist your invitation."
Feedback does warm a writer's soul. Thank you, sailorsdelight!
Chapter 28: prompt - Last Rites
He could have borrowed Joyce's jeep to get to LA, or even Giles' Citroën, but he had a feeling that Oz's misery could use the company. Hightailing it from Sunnydale to protect a loved one was a familiar story. And the part where Oz's werewolf had attacked Willow? Such were the last rites of a love story on the Hellmouth; he could also relate to that.
"I thought controlling the wolf would be a wish come true," Oz mused aloud when they arrived at Wesley's place. He glanced at Angel and shrugged, smiling without rancor. "I need to wish bigger."
Chapter 29: prompt - Summer
"Would it be wrong to leave Sunnydale?" Buffy asked one night while they were researching the demons that made up Adam, looking for a weakness.
Tara and Anya gave short headshakes and kept reading, but Willow and Xander were instantly alert. They exchanged looks; the result was Willow whispering, "Everything okay?"
Buffy frowned at their obvious concern, then sighed when she understood the cause. A girl ran away once.... "Not leaving leaving. Just a couple weeks in August." She smiled shyly. "Angel's treat."
Xander pursed his lips, but shrugged. "Sure. He does owe you big after the last two summers."
Chapter 30: prompt - Good vs. Evil
Buffy hesitated. Her Slayer senses had gone on overdrive ever since she'd stepped into Wolfram&Hart quarters; not because it was chock-full with demons, but because of how few there were.
So many people... A whole building of them! Didn't they realize Good already had to struggle in the battle without people rushing to earn Evil's paycheck? She'd seen her share of men and women embrace darkness, but never this blindly.
"Miss Summers? I believe you've been asking for me."
The voice was familiar. "Indeed." So this was Lindsey McDonald. Handsome, smart, and undeservedly human.
The blind leading the blind.
Chapter 31: prompt - Pray
At first he was unsettled by the reality of not being repulsed by the cross presiding over the altar, of having holy water harmlessly brush his forehead in the sign of the cross.
Early Sunday mornings, while Buffy slept off a late night's patrol, eventually became a trek to the old convent's church. The priest's voice was soothing; the murmur of the nun's prayers, a pleasant background.
He wasn't sure he believed in the God of his childhood anymore. But something had stopped the Oracles' time reversal spell - and this was the closest he could come to give his thanks.
Chapter 32: prompt - Prison
Wesley grit his teeth as Cordelia made another attempt to clean his wound. Not for the first time, he wondered whether she'd consider taking nursing classes, if only to broaden her acting skills.
Of course, she already got more experience on the field than most students.
"...and she just went her own way. What else can one expect of Faith?" Cordelia kept ranting as she reached for a clean cotton swab. "This is why we need a real Slayer, not one who belongs in prison!"
"You could go back to Sunnydale," he suggested.
Big brown eyes glared dangerously. "As if!"
Chapter 33: prompt - Out
Mr. Giles' words had been running through his mind all night. Riley knew that the older man was right: in the Initiative's work he'd found his purpose in life; to give up ridding the world of evil was unthinkable.
The offer had been kindly meant, Riley understood that. Several of Buffy's teammates were humans, most of them less physically able than himself. Even without the drugs, he'd be an asset if he joined them.
But, at least for the moment, Riley didn't care about his life's calling or the disappointments of this last year. Right now... he just wanted out.
Chapter 34: prompt - Mind
"Why's she here, anyway?" Anya was saying. "She should be with Willow, that's why they're best friends."
"Or maybe Giles," she steamrolled ahead. "About time he behaved like a Watcher!"
"I don't think-"
"She's spoiled tonight's sex." Anya sulked. "It's not our fault that Angel lost his mind and helped the wrong Slayer."
Xander cringed. He was sure that this 'private word' could be heard abovestairs, where Buffy was waiting. "Ahn, honey." He smiled patiently. "What Buffy needs is a blistering rant against the man who's just wronged her. Have you considered you're the best for that job?"
Chapter 35: prompt - Healing
Xander rubbed his eyes, tired from a day's work and over half the night poring through books with the wrong kind of English - when they were written in English at all - and gruesome pictures that would have given nightmares to gore comic artists.
"There's an empty guest bedroom," Willow commented in response to a huge yawn, flipping to another page.
Xander eyed her keenly. She looked as fresh as if she'd just stepped out of bed. "Will, have you slept at all?"
Her flush was answer enough.
"Just a little healing spell here and there," she defended. "It's harmless!"
Chapter 36: prompt - Small Bump
Riley woke up to a small bump and a giggled 'oops!'.
"Wha-a?" A few blinks later, the unknown brunette was still sitting on the bed, unzipping her boots and... unhooking her brassiere? "Excuse me!"
"Relax, big boy. Not looking for fun, if you know what I mean." Dark eyes regarded him, and he fought the urge to cover his chest. "And I'm su-u-re you do."
"You'll find out tomorrow," she promised. "But LA almost blew me to bits tonight, and I'm not in the mood for big brother's questions. So..." She lay down on top of the sheets. "G'night!"
Chapter 37: prompt - Patchwork
Spike had been glared at by meaner, bigger, and stronger. Even the pathetic human who'd once been his grandsire had more of an effect when he'd showed his anger. In his opinion, Frankenmonster was trying too hard.
"You're reneguing of our deal?"
"Nothing personal. I took a look at you, then I went to peek over at the Slayer's deal. Fair's fair, isn't it?" Spike shrugged. "Thing is, my friend, in the end you're a stitched-up patchwork, and the girl is... whole. And shiny. And pretty determined to have her happy-ever-after." He frowned. "Pretty nauseating, but - bottom line?
Chapter 38: prompt - Crazy
Lindsey doubted he'd get another interlude with the little Slayer. Even now, she was too preoccupied with her lover's health to pay him any attention. But Lindsey liked her, her fire; he didn't felt like watching her go without a last flare.
"You can say 'thank you' now," he suggested. "Nobody's listening."
"That's crazy." Her voice dripped contempt. "You helped only to help yourself!"
He shrugged. He'd already admitted that retrieving Angel equated stealing Lilah's thunder for him. "But I did help."
The word wasn't hers, but the meaning was clear. She subsided with obvious reluctance. "I guess."
Chapter 39: prompt - Timeless
A mother's love knew no boundaries.
It was timeless. From the child's first heart beat, her first breath, her first step; through temper tantrums and first dates, near-death experiences and bloodstains in the laundry.
Being a Slayer's mother didn't change anything, except for a twinge of sorrow for all those girls who'd lived before Buffy - and those who came after.
"Faith." When Angel had called, he'd mentioned to prepare herself for the visit. Joyce hadn't known what to expect - maybe fear, maybe even some hate.
But a mother's love knew no boundaries...
...and it always recognized a child in need.
Chapter 40: prompt - Tinsel
Another shriek broke from the kitchen. Anya burning herself again, surely.
"Good thing Xander's a fast food fan," Willow commented from below, wearing that cat smile that told of Xander's girlfriends doing something below her standards.
Buffy laughed, pulling on the ball of tinsel that Willow held and wrapping it around the very top of the tree. Angel had been right to refuse to host their Christmas reunion. The mansion may be more spacious, but her friends did feel more relaxed here. Even Anya had agreed to take an impromptu cooking lesson. "For Xander's sake, I hope mom succeeds today."
Chapter 41: prompt - New
Doyle woke up to a clear head and a warmth that was already familiar. "Miss Tara," he said before his eyes opened. Headache-ridding magic was always appreciated but, and no offense to the redhead, Tara's healing was just that little more welcome.
Like an old comfy sweater vs. a brand new one.
In Hellmouth-speak, that amounted to Can't believe you survived that. Then he remembered the onslaught of visions.... "So many helpless people out there," he breathed.
"True." Tara poured him her special tea and offered it with a smile. "But I prefer to help first at home."
Chapter 42: prompt - Hollow
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
"Hey, love." She wasn't surprised to find Angel lying beside her. "I left the window open for you."
He flushed. "I... uh... asked your mom to let me in."
Buffy laughed, burrowing into his chest. "Your heart beats so strong...." She paused, then quietly said, "When you left your apartment that day, you found a way to take it back."
Knowing she was right was a hollow advantage.
After a long silence, Angel's answer was a hug tight enough to make her breathless. "I'm not sorry."
She smiled; she hadn't expected him to be. "But you're glad it didn't work."
...and that's it.
Hope you enjoyed this collection!