after.midnight // v.naked TITLE: The Strangest Things
AUTHOR: Tamara
RATING: R for brief nudity, wet kisses, a raunchy joke by Spike, and a naughty thought or two from the Slayer herself.
SPOILERS: Knowledge of Season 4 of BtVS and Season 1 of A:TS should suffice. Though there are a few things from Season 4 I'd like stripped from my memory. I don't refer to any specific eps though.
SUMMARY: Hail, hail, the gang's all here.
DISCLAIMER: Joss Whedon owns the characters, human, vampire, werewolf, and witch.
NOTE: I was answering a challenge. Requirements below.

1) B/A is a must.
2) Total Riley humiliation.
3) Oz is back, with Willow

3 or more of the following:
-a 3 toed sloth
-bubbles (the kind you blow)
-a duckhunt gun
-a barrel of monkeys (either a game or real, don't care either way)
-a toilet bowl brush
-pleather (ya know...plastic leather)
-a sex manual

People sure do put the strangest things in challenges, don't they?


Strange did not begin to describe the scene that greeted Buffy when she and Riley walked into the mansion after a very uneventful and extremely soggy patrol.

Oz, in his wolf form, was lying on a very familiar dark grey blanket beside the couch where Willow sat thumbing through the latest issue of Cosmo. As Buffy watched, the witch leaned over, holding out a perfume sample to the wolf. Amazingly enough, Oz growled low in his throat signalling his appreciation. Willow smiled and rubbed the sample behind her ears, whispering something only her werewolf boyfriend could hear.

But that was not the strangest sight.

On the other couch across from Willow and Oz, a smiling Cordelia sat blowing bubbles at Wesley, who swatted them away absently with a toilet bowl brush, the first object he swiped out of the box on the floor beside him. Sitting between them on the unoccupied couch cushion was a large jar of a thick, clear neon green liquid. Buffy shuddered violently as she recognized the substance, recalling just how hard it had been to get Chaos demon slime out of her hair.

As her gaze traveled over the room she saw Spike sitting in a black leather recliner reading some dusty old book. Giles and Anya were seated at the table putting together a puzzle, and Xander sat in front of a small television watching the Smurfs.

Baffled by the normality of the scene before her, Buffy could only stand there, stumped.

Not clued in to how the Scooby Gang usually acted when gathered together, Riley turned to his girlfriend and smiled. "Are they always this peaceful," he asked, gesturing toward the group.

Buffy shook her head, but her answer was cut off as Willow looked up and saw her standing just inside the door.

"Buffy," she exclaimed, garnering the attention of all present. "Hi!" She stopped suddenly, frowning when she noticed the Slayer's appearance. "You're wet."

The Slayer nodded, but made no move to enter further. "What is going on," she asked instead. "What is everyone doing here?"

"Looking for privacy, were you," Spike commented with a smirk. "And you brought your little boytoy *here*?"

Riley frowned at the name and Buffy glared at the vampire. "I was soaking wet and this was the closest place."

Spike's smirk turned into an evil smile. "Soaking wet. Sounds like the same thing you were the last time you were here."

Strangely enough, the joke was lost on everyone but Cordelia, who stopped blowing bubbles and nearly fell off the couch laughing. Buffy's jaw dropped open and she could only stare in shock at Spike, who was feeling pretty darn pleased with himself.

Her jaw dropped even further when Angel walked out of the bedroom, smiling at his childe's joke. She thought that she would surely pass out when she saw what he was carrying.

"Why do you need the 'Pocket Kama Sutra'," she asked, her eyes narrowing as a list of possible answers popped into her mind. There wasn't one answer on the list she liked.

But Angel only smiled. "I don't," he answered simply. He declined to elaborate.

Spike did it for him. "He's got most of 'em memorized." His eyes met Angel's and the older vampire's lips curled up in a small smile. "He's tried most of 'em, too."

Having seen that particular smile on Angel's lips during some of their more intimate moments, Buffy had to stop herself from imagining just how much Spike knew about Angel's knowledge. It was not an easy task. She had a perfectly naughty fantasy all worked out in her mind; her, Angel, Spike, and a huge bed with silk sheets the color of blood, but, before she could get to the really good stuff, the subject of sex snagged Xander's attention from Smurfette. Something else focused Spike and Angel's attention on her.

"Any advice," Xander asked Angel, who turned to regard him silently.

"Flexibilty helps." That said, Angel turned his full attention to Buffy...and the man standing beside her. He raised a brow. "Who's your friend?"

Distracted from her fantasy, Buffy blinked and said, "Huh?"

Angel smiled, amused. "The equally rain soaked man standing beside you."

Buffy could have smacked herself. Casting a glance at Riley she flashed Angel an obviously phony smile. "This is Riley," she said, introducing him. "Riley, this is Angel."

The two men shook hands before Angel was, once again, focused on his Slayer. "You look good."

Buffy laughed. "I look wet," she replied, a genuine smile replacing the phony one. "You, on the other hand, look nice and dry. And really damn good," she added softly.

Angel overhead her and smiled. "So do you."

Riley frowned, sensing something between his girlfriend and the black clad man before him. In an attempt to focus Buffy's attention, which was still locked on Angel, elsewhere, he looked around the mansion. Although the place was mostly bare, the furniture was expensive and leather. There was a painting on the wall closest to him, and Riley was surprised to see the name 'Monet' scrawled across the bottom left corner. There was a fire in the fireplace to keep the chill away, and a big purple ceramic bowl decorated with Buffy's name and pictures of stakes and crossbows was sitting on the mantle filled with green and purple grapes, Buffy's favorite fruit.

"Nice place," he commented, his brows raising when he saw the chains hanging on the wall. "Lots of room."

Angel nodded. "Never know when you might be entertaining a Slayer and her gang," he remarked. "It helps to have lots of space."

Before Riley could wrap his brain around the fact that Angel, Buffy's twenty-something friend, owned the Crawford Street mansion, *the* biggest house in Sunnydale, a pretty brunette stood up and attached herself to Angel's arm.

"Angel's place in LA is pretty big, too," the beautiful brunette said. "I'm Cordelia."

"She's with me," Angel added, smiling fondly at his friend.

Riley, sure that Angel was no longer a threat, smiled at the woman. "I'm Riley. It's nice to meet you."

Cordelia smiled and turned to Buffy. "So, this is the replacement," she said, ignoring Angel's look of warning. "Nice hair."

Somewhere in the vicinity of Spike there was a snicker. A chortle of laughter came from the general direction of Xander.

Buffy sighed. "Good to see you, too, Cordy."

With her patented perceptive depths, Cordelia's smile softened and, surprising everyone but Angel and Wesley, who knew her better, she hugged the Slayer. "We should talk later," she told Buffy before returning to her seat.

Buffy's eyes flew to Angel's. "What was that all about?"

"'Delia's full of surprises."

Buffy opened her mouth to comment on that, but Angel stopped her with a smile. "You're cold," he said gently, noticing her shivering. "You've still got some clothes in the bedroom. You should go change."

Buffy smiled up at him, pleased with his concern. "Thanks," she said sweetly, her smile radiant. A moment later she remembered Riley and her mega-watt smile dimmed. "What about Riley?"

It was Spike who answered. "There are some clothes upstairs in one of the bathrooms." Ignoring Buffy's curious look, he smiled at Riley. "It's at the end of the hall. You can't miss it. It's the one with the clawfoot tub and bottles of Buffy's favorite foamy bath stuff." The vampire shuddered. "Smells like a bloody vanilla field up there."

Riley smiled his thanks and headed up the stairs, leaving Buffy to grab Angel's hand and drag him with her into the bedroom.

Spike glanced at the stairs and then back at the bedroom the two former lovers had disappeared into. Shaking his head, he sighed. "Poor Riley," he commented, earning a smile from Cordelia.

"He's so clueless it hurts," Xander said.

Giles nodded absently. "Poor Riley," he commiserated. "Now, can someone please explain to me why someone made a 1200 piece puzzle of a barrel of frolicking moneys?"


Angel laid back on the bed and watched as Buffy searched through drawers to find something to wear. The activity was taking a lot longer than neccesary and he figured she was stalling for time. When she opened up the closet and stared at one of his black shirts hanging beside one of her pink ones, he knew his assumption was correct.

"Buffy, staring at dry clothes is not going to make you any less wet," he told her gently, breaking the silence. "You have to actually take the wet ones off and put the dry ones on."

Buffy turned back to him with a smile. "I didn't know I'd left so much stuff here."

Angel returned her smile with a small one of his own. "I didn't know I'd left so much here either." He got up off the bed and walked over to the dresser, pulling out a pair of Buffy's sweatpants. Nestled beside them was his dark blue t-shirt. He smiled. "I'd forgotten how domestic we were."

At that, Buffy laughed. "We were," she said, gesturing toward the cloest. "You even let me invade your closet space. The peaceful sharing of closet space is like the ultimate test of true love."

"Do you remember the first time you looked inside that closet," Angel asked with a smile.

Buffy nodded, smiling. "From that day on I called your closet the Black Hole. I always wondered how you could see what to wear because everything in there was black."

"So you brought over all those bright clothes and hung them up," Angel continued. "You know, everytime I opened the closet I thought of you."

Buffy's smile turned sad. "I've missed you, you know," she told him, tears in her eyes. "I miss sharing closet space with you."

Angel cupped her face in his hands and smiled. "I miss sharing closet space with you, too." He leaned forward and lightly brushed her lips with his. "I miss sharing a lot of things with you."

"I miss falling asleep in your arms," Buffy said against his lips as he continued to kiss her. "And I miss waking up to find you smiling down at me."

Angel pulled away from her just long enough to tug the clingy red fabric of her shirt over her head and toss it on a chair beside the bed. Reaching out, he snatched his black shirt out of the cloest and slipped it over her bare shoulders.

"I miss undressing you," he continued, kissing her neck before buttoning up the shirt. He smiled. "I miss seeing you in my clothes."

"I miss wearing your clothes," Buffy replied with a smile.

Angel reached inside a drawer and pulled out a pair of black leggings. Buffy grabbed them and pushed Angel back on the bed as she shimmied out of her pants.

"But you know what I miss most," he said as he watched her struggle with the wet denim.

Buffy tossed the jeans on the chair with her shirt and steped into the leggings. When she had them on she smiled up at Angel. "Kissing me?"

Angel chuckled and pulled her close. "That too," he said, wrapping his arms around her waist. He rested his forehead against her stomach and held her, savoring the reality of her presence, enjoying the feel of her fingers running through his hair, soaking in the warmth of her body and the comfort of her touch, things he'd missed so much when he was lying alone in his bed in LA.

"I miss being able to touch you," he said when he spoke once again. "I miss being able to hold you. I miss sitting in front of the fireplace and hearing about your day. I miss watching you hunt. I miss the way you run to me when everything gets to be too much and you just want to feel safe and loved. I miss watching you sleep and hearing you whisper my name and smile." He looked up at her and his lips curled in a sad smile. "I miss everything about you."

This time Buffy didn't stop the tears from falling. Her lips met his in a slow gentle kiss as she tried to convey everything she felt for him, how much she missed him in her life. Angel responded, deepening the kiss, tasting her love, her sadness, and her passion. All for him.

They were interrupted by raucous laughter from the front room. Reluctantly, Angel pulled away and smiled up at the Slayer.

"Guess that's our cue," he said, wiping the tears from her eyes.

Buffy managed a tremulous smile. "Guess so," she agreed with a nod. Unable to stop herself, she kissed him again quickly and stepped out of his arms. "You go see what's so funny and I'll be out in a second."

Angel nodded and grabbed her shirt, tugging her back to him. "I love you," he told her softly, sincerely. "I will always love you. No matter what."

Buffy smiled. "I know," she said, believing it fully for the first time in a long time. "And I love you. Always."

Satisfied that she understood just what he was trying to tell her, Angel pushed her toward the bathroom. When she was gone he sighed and got up from the bed. Time to go see what was so darn funny.


The first thing Buffy saw when she stepped out of the bedroom was Angel standing outside in the middle of the garden, looking up at the sky. He didn't seem to mind the rain, seemed totally oblivious as it poured over him. He was lost in his own little world and Buffy wished that she was there with him.

That was until she found herself staring at some furry animal hanging upside down on a tree limb. The words 'Save the 3 Toed Sloth' were written under the picture and Buffy frowned. Xander had a shirt just like that one. The Slayer took a step back and, getting a good look at the person in front of her, she couldn't help but laugh.

Riley stood in front of her, dressed in Xander's 'Save the Sloth' t-shirt and a pair of purple pleather pants. He looked absolutely ridiculous and, from the look on his face, totally humiliated.

"Riley," she said when she finally stopped laughing. "That's quite a look you've got there."

Riley glared at her. "I look ridiculous."

Buffy smiled. "But it's so cute."

Riley's frown deepened. "No, it's not."

Buffy laughed again. "You're right," she said. "You look ridiculous."

Spike and Xander started laughing again and Buffy composed herself enough to glare at them. This only served to make them laugh more.

Buffy ignored them. "Why don't you go home and change," she said to him. "I'm going to stay here and see why we're having the gathering."

Riley looked down at his outfit. "There's no way I'm walking home dressed like this," he said indignantly. "I look-"

"Like a very poor whore?" That was Spike.

"Stupid as always?" That was Xander.

This time Riley glared at them. It had no affect. Whatever he was going to say was halted as Angel stepped out of the rain and into the room dripping water onto the floor. Buffy's eyes tracked him as he strolled gracefully past them and into the bedroom, returning a moment later with a black leather duster.

"Put this on," he said, tossing the duster to Riley. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his car keys, which he tossed to Buffy. "Buffy will drive you home. She can bring the car back later."

All the occupants of the room turned to look at the trio, shock clear on their faces. Buffy couldn't decide if they were shocked that Angel was pretty much telling everyone he was perfectly okay with Buffy and Riley going off to do who knows what together or that Angel was leaving the life of his car the Slayer's hands. Buffy was a little shocked at both.

"You're letting me drive," she questioned skeptically.

Angel smiled. "It's two in the morning and the storm's let up for now," he told her. "There isn't much you can hit."

Buffy shook her head. "Stop signs. Telephone poles. Parked cars!"

Angel chuckled. "Do you promise not to wreck my car?" Buffy nodded. "Do you promise not to get yourself killed?"

She looked up at him, really looked at him, and her eyes softened. "I promise," she said with a smile. "I won't get myself killed."

"Then I trust you," Angel told her.

"And I'll be back before you know it."

Angel frowned. "You don't have to-"

She reached out and placed a hand on his chest, smiling when he leaned into her touch. "I'll be back," she said firmly. She glanced at Cordelia, who was watching them intently. "Cordelia and I have to talk."

Cordelia smiled at Riley. "I haven't seen her in ages," she explained. "We've got lots of catching up to do."

"We all do," Willow said with a smile. "The whole gang's back together again."

"And we've got an apocolypse to research," Xander added.

Buffy whirled around to face Angel, who stopped her with a shake of his head. "He's joking."

Buffy glared at the boy and this time it had the desired affect. "Okay, so I'll go and I'll be back and we'll talk and celebrate and research the end of the world." Everybody in the room nodded in agreement. Buffy smiled. "Now *this* is what I expect from the gang."


When Buffy returned, Slayer and car both intact, the scene was much the same as it had been before. Willow was still sitting with Oz, only this time she was reading to him. Cordelia was now blowing bubbles at Spike, who was blowing bubbles back at her, only this time they were of the gum variety. That and the fact that Spike and Cordy seemed to get along just fine, added to Spike and Angel's friendly tolerance of each other, made her pause. She would definitely have to ask Angel about that.

Giles and Anya had finished their puzzle and they, plus Wesley and Xander, were huddled around the television. Angel sat alone and dry on the chair Spike had abandoned, reading a book. They all looked so happy and Buffy could only smile. After a moment, she pulled away from the door and walked into the room.

Spike looked up. "Back so soon?"

"You know she can only be parted from Dead Boy for so long," Xander remarked playfully.

Buffy ignored the two, instead focusing her attention on Angel who was smiling at her. And as she settled down next to him, his arms wrapped around her, she knew that here in Angel's arms, with all her friends, unique as they were, was the only place she wanted to be, the only place she belonged. With her family.

Buffy smiled and nestled deeper into Angel's embrace, listening intently to his voice as he read to her. She knew that soon Angel, Cordelia and Wesley would be back in LA and that Spike and Xander would be back to sniping at each other and she would have to go back to living her life the way it was now. She knew watching Angel leave would hurt, and that she'd miss him more than life. But she knew that if she ever needed him he'd be there, that even though he was far away, his love for her would never disappear. She knew that her friends would be around to keep her sane, or drive her insane, but they would always be with her every step of the way, backing her up, researching until the wee hours of the morning, making sure she passed Western Civ with flying colors.

To anyone else that would have been the strangest thing. But Buffy wouldn't have it any other way.