She nodded. “I wrote it down as soon as I woke up, and then googled until I got the spelling right. It’s a real word.”
“Yeah. A disease, isn’t it?”
“I should have skipped Google and just asked you,” she said, smiling. “That smells amazing. When can I drink it?”
Angel poured the cocoa into a porcelain mug and set it in front of her, but before she could take a sip, edged it back away and requested, “Wait, one more thing.”
She stayed perched on her stool at the breakfast bar, watching him retrieve what he wanted from the refrigerator. “Ooh, whipped cream! Wait, why do you even own that?”
“There are things to put it on aside from food,” Angel said casually as he inverted the can over her cup and released a puffy white stream. He let her gape at him for a second, then said, “I’m kidding. I picked it up for you along with the hot chocolate.”
“Sweet of you.” She stirred until the whipped cream dissolved, a full moon sinking into a cloudy sky. When Angel had teased her about drinking hot chocolate in the middle of the Los Angeles summer, she pointed out that he drank his tea just as hot, and that any opportunity for chocolate was a good one. It was in his cupboard the very next time she came over. “Anyway, I’m not sure how this toxoplasma thing is going to be relevant. I gave it to Giles to research, but I don’t think we need to sit on our hands until we hear from him.”
“No,” he agreed. “What else did you get out of that dream? Werewolves, Hellmouth, Faith and Spike, makes me think--”
“Cleveland,” Buffy supplied at the same time he said it himself. It wasn’t any great surprise. Over the past few years, the Cleveland Hellmouth had been practically docile in comparison with the Sunnydale one, but it was still a likely source for supernatural trouble brewing. “According to their local news, they’ve had a streak of mysterious deaths lately, so all we need now is a fortune cookie telling us to hop on the next flight to Ohio.”
Angel hesitated. He had been enjoying the nostalgia of the moment: sitting with Buffy in his home, talking about her dreams, helping her figure out where her destiny would take her next. When they had first met, and even before that, he had never been able to get enough of her, leaving him in perpetual fear of the temptation to overstep his bounds. He wasn’t so paranoid now, but they were finally together again, and he just wanted to sit and listen to her and look and smell while she simply was. As far as he cared she could just talk forever, as long as she was talking while in a good mood and sitting in his kitchen.
Instead, he had to ask the question that might shatter the peace: “Us?”
Buffy dabbed a napkin to her lips, cleared her throat, and said, “Full disclosure: I’m a little nervous about this.”
That was an unusual thing to hear from her. “Because of your dream?” he asked. “I know it’s been awhile since you had one, but that doesn’t mean the enemy at work here is any tougher than usual.”
“Huh? Oh geez, no,” she laughed. “I’m not nervous about that.” She took a deep breath. “Angel, would you like to go out with me?”
Caught off guard, he laughed along with her. “What?” The terminology hadn’t quite been settled yet, but as far as he understood it, he and Buffy were already “going out”.
After they had both moved back to Los Angeles, him in a modern one-bedroom apartment, her with her Slayers in the Hyperion, they had each received a message from Connor that tricked them into seeing each other and talking out their issues. His plan had worked, inasmuch as they were now relaxed enough to spend time together without dancing around the fact that they had never fallen out of love. They hadn’t yet come up with a solution for Angel’s standing ban on intimacy, but they had also decided that they didn’t yet need one.
Being together again felt reckless, but he had expected that. It was the joy that surprised him. Not once since they had made the decision had he lamented his suppressed desire for her; not once had she complained about the limitations they had imposed on themselves.
“It just seems like this is a good opportunity for some quality time,” said Buffy. “And, sorry I don’t have anywhere better than Cleveland to take you, but we always had more fun on the slaying dates than the dinner-and-movie kind anyway, didn’t we?”
Angel reached across the kitchen bar to thread his fingers through hers. “I like any kind of date with you.” His past few years, with neither Buffy nor his team from LA to fight alongside, had been a low point in his life even by his standards. Whatever Buffy had in mind would be a vast improvement.
She smiled uncertainly and squeezed his hand. “I want to find a way to make this last.”
“Me too,” he replied. “But if it doesn’t last, it will still be worth it.” He let go of her hand and sat back. “Now who do you propose we get to cover us here while we’re in Cleveland?”