Beauty Effulgent

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Turn to Stone, Part Two
Just Like Heaven

She was in a big open space. She caught her bearings and looked around, her hands automatically reaching into her pocket for a stake, but remembering she didn’t have anything on her. She was supposed to be questing. She was in…it looked like a hotel. A big, really empty hotel. She circled slowly around, taking in the visible exits, the large front desk that was bare of anything but a phone book and what appeared to be one Giles’ large, dusty books of demons. A book of demons. In an old, abandoned hotel. Creepy.


She walked over and opened the book for a closer look. Yep, big old book of demons. Where the hell was she?


She heard the door open behind her and whirled around, dropping to a defensive crouch. The door flew open and a man strode in, a black leather coat flapping grandly about his legs as he stopped in the doorway.


“Buffy!” he said, striding toward her. “Where have you been? I’ve been calling you for hours. Well, trying to, anyway. Stupid cell phone. Why do the they make the buttons for call and disconnect look the same?” He smiled disarmingly down at her.


“Angel,” Buffy breathed, rising to look at him gratefully. Suddenly, she didn’t care where she was, or when she was, she just launched herself at him and pulled him to her tightly.


“Hey,” Angel said, easing slightly out of her embrace to reach up and brush her hair out of her face and smile down at her. “God, I love that you still get so excited to see me. Promise me it’ll always be like that with us, huh?”


Buffy pulled back and looked at him. “Angel, what are you doing here?”


He dropped his arms and then raised one hand to his forehead, sighing. “Wesley and Gunn didn’t find anything at this Kramer guy’s house – Wes said it looks like a professional clean-up. Dead end. So we’re supposed to meet them and see if the Host can figure anything out. C’mon.” He grabbed her hand and started to the door. “So, what do you think I should do,” he asked. “Manilow’s my standard, but maybe some Sinatra this time? Or, ooo, maybe some Dino?”


Buffy pulled back on his hand. “Angel, stop,” she said. “Look, I don’t know what you’re talking about. Something’s…wrong here. I think you and I should stay here and try to…”


Angel turned, smiling at her as she clung to his fingers. “Buf-fy,” he groaned. “Okay, look, let’s just go see if we can find out what this has to do with Cordy’s vision and then,” he stepped forward, brushing his lips against her ear. “Then I promise, I’ll distract Cordy, Gunn and Wes with some research and we’ll sneak upstairs and,” he voice dropped to a whisper as he breathed something they’d certainly never done in the past without a great loss of soul.


Buffy jerked away from him, her mouth falling open. “Angel!” she squeaked.


He sighed. “I know, Buffy, I mean, I want to right now, too, but you know the mission comes first. You can wait. And hey, just imagine how watching me sing is gonna get you all hot and…”


“Hello!” Buffy interrupted. “Gypsy curse?”


“Gypsy Curse?” Angel asked frowning, and then he grinned. “I thought you said you weren’t reading Cordy’s cheesy romance novels. I thought you said you were just looking for a Psych book and just happened to pick up…”


“Angel!” Buffy shouted, throwing her hands up. “Just…stop!” She stepped closer, spitting the words at him. “I – have – no – idea – what – you – are – talking – about. *I* am talking about the gypsy curse. Your gypsy curse. You know, the one where we, uh, do that thing you just said and then you go all Angelus on me and tell me I’m lame in the sack and try to kill my friends?”


Angel froze. “Buffy,” he said darkly, glaring at her, “I have not been Angelus in almost a hundred years. And you of all people should know what that name…” He stopped, seeing Buffy’s face go white. “What?” he asked slowly.


Buffy stopped, trying to gather herself, distancing herself from the distraction Angel presented. She breathed deeply. The quest. The fire. Then here. “Angel,” she said, backing away from him. “When was the last time you remember seeing me? Before just now?”


Angel stepped toward her and then paused when she braced herself, her hands rising defensively. “Buffy, what,” he asked moving toward her again.


“No,” Buffy answered, backing farther away. “Just tell me. When was the last time you remember seeing me?”


Angel stopped, confused and not a little irritated. “Okay,” he said sharply. “Let me see if I can search my memory back to this morning when I woke up to you kissing me goodbye on your way to class. Then there was this afternoon when you stopped by and brought Cordy and me lunch and checked on how her vision migraine was going. Then you forced me to push her for more information while you went back to class, telling me you’d be home early to see what we had found out in case it was something you could slay.” He stopped, still wearing a pissed off expression. Then his face fell. “What? Oh, God, did I forget an anniversary – it’s not your birthday, is it? Buffy, you know time’s weird for me…”


Buffy stood trembling, her mind refusing to accept that whatever this…evil was, it was using Angel to get to her. Angel, not Angelus. And, wait, did he say anniversary? She shook her head. “Angel, the last time I was here, you were choosing to believe Faith over me and you told me to get out of your city, to go home.”


Angel stared blankly back at her. “What?” he asked finally. “I mean, okay, what? And who the hell is Faith? And I would never say something as arrogant as ‘my city.’”


Buffy met his eyes with hers, knowing that something was very wrong. He was Angel…he just wasn’t her Angel. “Angel,” she said slowly, dropping her hands and walking back toward him. “The last time we saw each other was a few weeks ago. At my mother’s grave.”


Angel raised his hands to her. “Buffy,” he said, and this time he was the one backing away. “We just saw your mother last weekend. Remember?”


Buffy shook her head frantically. “Shut up, shut up, just shut up!” she finally yelled.  “God, what is this?”


Angel rushed her, grabbing her by the arms. “Buffy, stop it, you’re scaring me,” he said. “What’s happened? Did something happen today? Was someone here?” He looked around the hotel. “Was Lilah here?” His voice dropped to an ominous growl. “Or Lindsey?”


Buffy fought briefly against his hold and then just stopped. “I wasn’t here today, Angel. I was in the desert with Giles. I’m on a quest.”


Angel frowned down at her. “Buffy, I have no idea…”


Buffy broke away from him. “That’s just it, Angel. We’re talking to each other but we don’t understand anything the other one says.” She stopped suddenly as her gaze was caught by a picture on a desk behind them. She knew that picture, she had one almost just like it. Herself, Willow, Xander and Cordy. Graduation Day. And Angel. Standing next to her in it, smiling down at her like he had no intention of ever leaving. 


She turned slowly back to him. “Tell me the story of us.”


“What?” he asked, starting to rake a hand through his hair and stopping short. “The story of us?”


“Yeah,” she answered, walking over to seat herself on one of those weird, big round ottoman things. “Tell me what you remember about us. All of it.”


He glanced around quickly, placing his hands on his hips. “Buffy, that could take a while, and I don’t think that’s going to help with this - whatever - that’s happened to you, and we’ve got to meet the guys…”


“Angel,” she interrupted firmly. “Please. Just tell me.”


Angel walked over and sat down next to her, looking at her with fear and concern and oh, God, that desperate Angel love, but somehow it was different. He sighed. “Okay. All of it. You were called, I came to Sunnydale,” he stopped. “Buffy, this feels stupid.”


“Angel, please,” she said again, her hand trembling as it reached for his. “I need you to tell me.”


“I will but, Buffy,” he looked at her searchingly. “We don’t talk about some of this stuff, remember? Because it’s too hard, and we promised…”


“I understand,” she answered, and even though she didn’t remember the promise, she did understand.


Angel took a deep breath and continued. “Okay. We met and I tried to help you,” he smiled, “even though I knew you didn’t really need me. And I loved you, and I didn’t want to. And you fought everyone for me. Giles. Willow and Xander. Your mom.”


Buffy stopped him. “I…fought them?”


He nodded. “Yeah. God, those old arguments. The Slayer in love with a vampire, soul or no soul. And when they found out that it wasn’t just a crush, when they found out that we were lovers…well,” he grinned lopsidedly. “Giles didn’t find it so ironically poetic then.”


“We were lovers?” Buffy asked softly.


Angel nodded again. “Yes,” he answered slowly. “That sometimes happens when you’re in love.” He looked at her, his hand tightening on hers. “You’re scaring me again, Buffy.”


She shook her head. “I’m sorry. I’ll stop, just…go on.”


He raised her hand to his lips, brushing it slowly across his mouth. “And you saved me, Buffy. I mean, I knew I had a purpose, to help you – to help the Slayer. But your love made me so much more.” He laughed softly. “Made me a hero – like you. Anyway, we stopped the Master from rising. Although Xander will never let me live down that he actually saved you. And then,” he faltered. He looked quickly back at her. “The stuff we don’t talk about, remember?” She nodded back slowly.


“Spike and Dru came and tried to open that fucking hell portal and we, I…” he sighed raggedly. “And we stopped them. I sent them to hell. I made them, and I destroyed them.” His face contorted with pain and then he went on quickly. “We fought the Mayor at graduation and, God, Buffy, you were brilliant. Organizing everyone. Stopping a massacre. And then you convinced your mom and Giles and everyone that you were strong enough and wise enough to make your own decisions. And then we came here.” He stopped, looking to see if that was what she had needed.


She looked back at him, wondering at everything that was the same, and everything that was very wrong, but somehow more right than it should be. “Then what?” she asked fiercely.


He looked back at her, wondering again what this trip through the past meant and at the tears he could see welling in her eyes. “We came here to ah, fight the good fight. You enrolled at UCLA, you teased me about being a rogue demon hunter and then we ran into Cordy.” He shook his head at the memory. “You badgered me into hiring her to run the office to get her out of that flea trap she was living in. And then, of course, when she was infected by the Mohra demon and started getting visions from the Powers that Be, you were both terribly smug about what a great decision hiring her had been. Gunn joined our team after you pointed out how he had almost Slayer skills, and then he, along with you, Cordy, Wes and I fight demons. Help the helpless.” He looked up at her then, deeply into her eyes. “And you and I love each other. You do remember, that, right?”


“Yes, Angel,” she smiled tremulously back at him. “I do remember that.”


Angel leaned forward. “So what’s wrong, then?”


She stared back at him, not knowing what this was, if he believed all of that, or maybe if she had just bumped her head in the shower and it was all true.


“What’s wrong, Angel,” she sighed softly, “is that almost none of that happened.”


He frowned at her and then shook his head. “Buffy, I don’t know what you’re saying. That all happened – the good, the bad and the every day.”


“Angel,” she began, and then looked back at him, wondering if maybe this was where her quest had taken her. To a life where she never lost Angel. A life where her mother lived and she had left Sunnydale. But despite how comforting all of that would be to believe, it didn’t feel right. It didn’t feel real.


“Okay,” she sighed deeply. “My turn. You and I met and fell in love. We became lovers, and you became Angelus.” He shook his head at her desperately, but she stopped him, her hand against his lips. “Just listen, please? Spike and Drusilla didn’t open the hell portal. You did. And I,” her voice caught. How could this be so hard when he sat here right in front of her? “I sent you to hell. And somehow you came back, because the Powers that Be knew you were a champion. Not because I made you one. But it was never the same between us. You told me that it would never work: the vampire and the Slayer. The immortal and the only-too mortal. You left me. And then every time we saw each other we tore each other to shreds with our anger and our regret. And I changed, Angel. The loss, the slaying, it got to me. I tried to love Faith, but I lost her to the darkness. I almost lost Willow and Giles and Xander by pushing them away. And Riley loved me, really loved me, but I could never allow anyone that close again. And then mom…died. And now I could lose Dawn, too…”


Angel jumped up, pacing away from her and scrubbing his hand across his mouth. “Buffy – none of that happened. I never left you. Willow and Giles and Xander are in Sunnydale and you talk to them almost every damned day. Your mother is fine – happier than I’ve ever seen her, with Ted.”


“Ted?” Buffy asked, her heart in her throat.


“Yes,” Angel answered, kneeling down to take her hands in his. “Ted. Your step-father?” He smiled sadly. “I thought you and Xander had finally given up that ‘Ted-is-an-evil-robot’ theory. And I don’t know Faith or Don and I don’t think I want to know about Riley, but everyone you love is fine.” He stopped. “Well, I’m kind of freaked out, but…”


Buffy looked at him earnestly, knowing she couldn’t convince him but needing to try. “Dawn,” she correctly softly, “is my sister. She’s being hunted by an evil hell god and I have to get back to protect her. God, I just left her with Xander and Willow and Tara…”


“And Tara would be…?” Angel asked, terrified but fascinated by this elaborate tale that Buffy seemed to believe so deeply.


“Willow’s girlfriend.”


Angel laughed harshly. “Well, that will come as a surprise to Xander, considering that their engagement party is next week.”


Buffy stopped, now fascinated herself by Angel’s reality. “Willow and Xander?”


Angel shrugged. “Which is a shocker considering they’ve been dating since high school?”


Buffy shook her head. “Angel, this is getting us nowhere. You believe one thing, and I’m sure of something else. You think I’m crazy and I think you’re…just a dream.”


Angel stood, pulling her up. “But I think I know how we can find out what this is. We have to meet the guys at Caritas.”


Buffy frowned. “Carrot Top’s? We’re going to see that guy that does the phone commercials?”


Angel smiled. “Well, one thing hasn’t changed. I still don’t get your jokes.”




Buffy paused as she followed Angel into Caritas, which he had explained was a demon bar. She wasn’t sure if she was more freaked out that they often went to a demon haunt to hang out, or that she was able to get into an LA bar without being carded.


When they were approached by a green, horned demon in a purple lounge suit, Buffy schooled her features from showing surprise. She was familiar with demons, after all. However, when he referred to her former and somehow current boyfriend as “Angel-Hair” she was forced to quirk a brow.


“Buffy, Host,” Angel introduced. “Host, Buffy.”


The Host nodded slowly, clinking the ice cubes in his Sea Breeze. “Yes,” he said slowly. “We’ve met.”


“Oh, right,” Angel answered. “Sorry, everything’s just a little…” his gaze was caught by the singer on the karaoke stage. “What the hell is he doing here?”


“Lindsey?” The Host asked. “He used to come here all the time until his hand had an unfortunate run-in with a vampire. Guess he found a new one.”


Buffy turned to look at the stage where a fairly ordinary, if kinda cute, guy was playing guitar and singing extremely well, if the smiles, well Buffy thought they were smiles, on the faces of the clientele meant anything. She caught a glimpse of Cordy, Wesley and an attractive black guy as they rushed the performer as he came off the stage.


“Hi,” Cordy breathed, stopping the man with the guitar as he went to brush past her. “You probably don’t remember me. Cordelia. I know you’re evil and everything but that was just so amazing.”


“That was kind of tight,” the cute black guy added.


“Terrific, really,” Wesley joined in with a much more masculine tone than Buffy remembered him having.


“Is everyone drunk?” Angel asked in frustration. He shook his head and turned to the Host. “Look, I need your help.”


“Yes, I know,” the Host answered. “Actually, you and Lindsey have the same problem. You see, he…”


“Not Lindsey,” Angel bit out. “And what was that he was singing, anyway? Country? Rock? A ballad? Pick a genre already. No, I need your help with her.” He pointed at Buffy.


“With Buffy?” Cordy asked, laughing. “Why? Was she successful – at last – in talking you out of singing?”


“No,” Angel said, tugging Buffy toward the Host. “I need you to hear her sing.”


“Buffy doesn’t sing,” Cordy said slowly, as if Angel had lost his mind.


“Ever,” Wesley added. “Not even in the shower. Not that I ever listen.”


“Um, yeah, Angel Cakes,” the Host added. “And we don’t ever try to force her. ‘Cause she’s the Slayer.” He whispered the last word to Angel in case he had somehow forgotten his lover’s supernatural ass-kicking abilities.


“It’s important,” Angel said, turning to Buffy. “Look, I know you don’t like to do this, but the Host can, well, read you when you sing. He can figure out what’s going on. Why you don’t remember.”


“I’ll sing,” Buffy said, shrugging easily.


Angel stopped. “You will?”


Buffy nodded. “Sure. I mean, I don’t usually do this in public, but if it will explain what’s going on…”


Buffy walked over to the stage and nodded to the Host. The song began and she started singing. Angel wasn’t even aware of the song or the words at first as he felt his heart freeze in his chest. Her voice…she reached the chorus and that soft, breathy and achingly sweet voice was aimed right at him. “Oh, I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain. I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end. I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend – but I always thought that I’d see you again.” Buffy’s smile was sad and loving and meant for him alone.


He could see the Host walking slowly toward him and turned to face him. “That’s not my Buffy,” Angel said quietly.


The Host looked at him measuringly and raised his glass to his lips. “How’d you figure it out?”


Angel shrugged. “Our memories are different. And she didn’t feel evil, but she didn’t feel right either.” He sighed. “And when my Buffy sings it sounds like a puppy being nailed to a wall.” He crossed his arms and looked at the Host. “So who is she? And how do we get Buffy back?”


“Oh, she’s Buffy,” the Host answered. “But you’re right – she’s not your Buffy. She’s just here to figure something out and when she does – your Buffy will come back.”


“Are you sure about that?” Angel asked, not daring to believe it could be that simple.


The Host shrugged. “I think so. These things are wiggy. Of course, I have no idea what she needs to learn, or how long it will take. It’s a mystery, really.”


“Helpful,” Angel answered. “Why do I come here, again?”


The Host smiled. “Because you got the Manilow monkey riding you hard. You just can’t admit it.”


Buffy’s song ended and Cordy swept her into a hug as she walked off the stage. “Wow, you can sang, girlfriend!”


“Um, thanks, Cordelia, I guess,” Buffy answered, half-heartedly patting Cordy on the back.


Buffy walked over to Angel. “So do we know?” she asked.


He nodded. “Yeah. I’m Angel. You’re Buffy. You’re just not…supposed to be here. You’re just here to learn something.”


“Ah,” Buffy answered. “Helpful.” She looked up at him. “So. Now that I know you’re not evil and I’m not evil…are we, um, married?” She wiggled her bare left ring finger at him.


He smiled at her sadly. “No. Vampire, remember? Still not a cure for that. We’re just – together. Forever.”


“Oh,” she answered. She tilted her head up at him. “So how do we do that, exactly? I mean, the whole immortal thing?”


He reached a hand out to her cheek. “We just do. Just day by day, or mostly, night by night. You told me once that you’d rather have a moment of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special. Then Cordy pointed out that you stole that from Steel Magnolias and you didn’t speak to her for a week. We just love each other, and have faith that it will work.”


Buffy nodded. “So, I know you’ve got that Lindsey guy to go after, but do you still want to go back to the hotel and,” she leaned forward and whispered in his ear.


He smiled back at her and started to answer and then the roar of fire blocked him out and she was falling again.



Continued in Something to Believe In


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