Title: A Cure for Loneliness
Author: Semby
Pairing: Some B/A
Summary: Buffy and Angel have a talk sometime post-NFA.
Disclaimer: I still don't own them.
Note: This is a one-shot.

Angel was frustrated. It was difficult to get back into fighting, not only when he no longer had a business that encouraged potential victims to call and ask for help, but because he wasn't yet over losing his old town enough to want to familiarize himself with the new one. He didn't know the hot spots for dangerous activity and so far he'd been too unmotivated to find them, outside of hanging around a few bars and listening for a clue. It also didn't help that the only bars he knew so far weren't demon bars.

He sighed. His apartment was too bare and depressing for him to stick around much longer. He figured he might as well go to one of the bars again - wallow away the night with a pint.

He grabbed his coat and headed for the door. Upon opening it, he was more than a little surprised to find someone standing on the other side.

Buffy grinned up at him sheepishly and, with a light-hearted tinge of self-mocking, commented, "You know, it's a lot easier for me to work up the nerve to knock when you keep the door closed."

"You're here," he stated in obvious bewilderment. "Why are you here?"

She didn't answer - instead motioned to the coat he was holding and commented, "You're heading out."

"I don't have to," he responded immediately.

"No, I'm intruding. I'm sorry. I should have called first or something," she babbled nervously. "I could call tomorrow and see if there's a time that's better for you."

"I really wasn't going anywhere important," he insisted, throwing his coat back onto his sofa to emphasize the point. "Please, come in."

"Well, if you're sure," she replied, stepping in and letting him close the door behind her. She added, "I just arrived this afternoon. I thought it was time to visit for a few days."

"That's great!" He tried to sound enthusiastic, but he'd hardly ever felt so self-conscious. He didn't know what to do with his hands; they insisted on fiddling with all of his buttons. "It's really good to see you. It's been, well, too long."

She smiled in response. There was an awkward pause, and Buffy filled it by stepping up to give him a hug. He returned it eagerly; it was over all too soon.

"So, this is nice," Buffy commented, in reference to his apartment. She took a few extra steps into the room to get a better look and then turned back to him. "Seems like you're settling in here well enough. Do you like it - living in Cleveland?"

"As much as any place, I guess," Angel answered, not really having anything more to say in response. He motioned for her to sit on the couch. She did and he joined her, leaving a modest space between them.

"Why'd you pick here?" she asked.

"Well, you know," he started hesitantly. "There's a Hellmouth, so we could be useful here. And, um, Connor mentioned that he might be transferring to a school nearby in the next year or so, so that would be, uh, nice - convenient."

"And Faith's here," Buffy added pointedly.

"That's not-" He hesitated, unsure of her feelings on that issue. "That wasn't one of the reasons. I mean, I've barely even seen her since I've been here."

"Yeah, she mentioned that," Buffy replied. "I'm staying with her while I'm here. I wasn't bringing her up out of jealousy or anything, Angel. That's… that's long past. She said you've been really unavailable. She sounded worried; she made me worry."

"Worry how?" Angel looked away. "We've spoken on the phone plenty of times. You know I'm doing fine; I've told you-"

"Yes, but I told people I was doing fine when I came back from Heaven, too," Buffy pointed out in a no-nonsense tone. "We don't always mean it, do we?"

"I do," he argued irritably.

"You do?" Buffy repeated disbelievingly. "Angel, practically all of LA, your home for five years, got destroyed. That has to be hitting hard."

"I've been handling it," he replied, standing up, putting some distance between them.

"Spike said you've been distant since you've been here," she said.

"You went to see him first," Angel acknowledged. His face was expressionless, but he couldn't hide the annoyance in his tone.

She shrugged. She offered as explanation, even though she didn't feel she really had to, "His place is closer to Faith's than you are."

"And that's the only reason?" he asked bitterly. "That's the only reason you'd want to see him before seeing me?"

Buffy sighed. "Nothing happened, if that's what you're implying."

"I know nothing happened; I'd smell it," he replied unabashedly, sitting down in his armchair, separated from her place on the couch.

"Again with the smelling people." Buffy rolled her eyes. "You know, that's so not a turn on."

"It's not the point whether or not something 'happened'," he continued. He then paused and looked at her. He couldn't help giving a small grin. "You think I'm trying to turn you on right now?"

She gave a slight laugh. "I might be a little insulted if the thought of making the effort wasn't at least in the back of your mind. I'd think I was losing my touch."

"You're not," he reassured her with a smile. It was his first real smile in weeks.

"Thank you, that's always nice to hear," she said, brightly grinning back at him. She abruptly and unexpectedly turned serious and added, "I lied."

He looked at her in surprise. "Lied about what? You and Spike-"

"Not about Spike," she interrupted, annoyed and not wanting the conversation to head back in that direction. "About staying here for a few days. It's longer." He furrowed his brow and was about to start asking questions, but she predicted his response and added, "I tried. You know, being a normal girl. I spent the past year and a half pretty much just playing, taking my time to chill out and see the world. I'm sick of it. I want to be the slayer again. I could spend all the time in the world trying to think of what I'd rather do with the rest of my life, and nothing else would come to me. There's no part of me that would want to be a lawyer or a teacher or an environmentalist or whatever. This is the only job I'll ever want. I mean, could you bring yourself to do anything else if you had the opportunity?"

"No," he responded thoughtfully. "I really couldn't."

She nodded. "And like you said: Hellmouth, so I think I'm going to fit in here just fine." She paused. "And it will be nice – to be able to start out somewhere where I won't be alone. I mean, hopefully."

"You won't be alone," he said tenderly. It was a promise.

"Neither will you." Buffy leaned forward and took his hand in hers, entwining their fingers and marveling at the size and strength of his before looking back to his eyes with a small smile. "I don't want you to be alone anymore."

Angel suddenly let out a shuddering broken sigh, unable to hold it in any longer. "I don't want to be alone anymore, either," he practically choked. "Buffy, we lost them all. They're all gone."

"I know," she responded, tears forming in her own eyes. She moved towards him to join him uncomfortably on his chair, only able to partially squish next to him and partially sit on his lap. The awkwardness of the position didn't faze her, and she cradled his head against her shoulder, running her hands comfortingly through his hair. "I know," she repeated. "But you don't have to deal with this alone." He finally raised his face to look at her with an immensely grateful expression and she pressed a gentle kiss to his forehead, smiled softly at him, and pressed another to his lips. Quick, soft, not overly passionate, but just the right amount of comfort that he needed.

She looked into his eyes and asked, "What do you want to do?"

He lowered his face to her shoulder once more and stayed silent for a long moment, composing himself. Eventually he murmured against her shirt, "I want to get out and start fighting again."

"Magic words," she said with a grin. "You read my mind. Right now?"

"Now," he confirmed. "Please."

Without another word, they both got up and grabbed their coats. Angel interrupted Buffy in the process of putting hers on by drawing her into a second mutually comforting hug, and she was less than argumentative when it led to the second kiss of the night as well, longer and deeper this time.

They drew apart after a long moment, softly smiling, feeling better. Better than either of them had felt in a very long time. "Ready?" he asked her.

She drew her coat the rest of the way around her. "Ready," she answered. "Let's go to work!"

Angel grinned as they headed for the door.