Back in Time
Winner of Best Past in the Winter 2001 Halo Awards
Disclaimer: Nothing is mine.................................
Distribution: Sure. Just be nice and ask me first:)
Spoilers: Okay, let's put it this way - everything since "Sanctuary" - DIDN'T HAPPEN.
Summary: Well...first of - angst warning! Second - it's pretty much, Buffy's mad at Angel after their little "Sanctuary" talk, but when he suddenly needs her help and she finds out exactly WHAT is it that he needs, all the anger is miraculously forgotten. Just read it and see the rest.
Feedback - If you don't, I'll track you down, and torture it out of you! Just kidding:) But please do!
Buffy drowsily fumbled about for the phone in the dark. She cursed whoever it was calling her this late. She'd just gotten back from patrol, hoping to catch some sleep, before she had to get up for her exam the next morning. However, glancing at the alarm clock on her nightstand, she realized that 'tomorrow' was already 'today'. On top of that, she knew she wouldn't be getting any sleep. She had been turning and twisting in bed, instead of sleeping, ever since she got back from her 'surprise visit' to LA. She'd been crying for hours after she'd come back. The way he'd spoken to her.but after what she'd done to him, hadn't she deserved exactly that? She could see the hurt and the anguish in his eyes, and yet, she'd gone on, and on, breaking his heart even more. Had she been enjoying it? No! So why the Hell did she do it, telling the man she loved about 'her new life', about 'her new boyfriend'.who she 'loved'?! Was she completely out of her mind? How could she tell Angel she loved someone else, especially when she did not? She loved him. He had left her, saying it was for her own good. Maybe it was, what the Hell did she care? All she wanted was to be with him. Screw normal life, hope of any normal future had vanished. What future was there in a life without him? People used to tell her she had everything, in a way, she had. That was gone now, it was all as good as nothing without Angel. He was the one thing that mattered between Heaven and Hell. Like air, she couldn't be without him. And yet, he was the only thing she didn't have. Sometimes she even felt as if she could lose everything she had, but repossess him, and she would be the happiest person on earth. She'd even sacrifice the world for him...
In her heart though, she knew it was ridiculous, because she loved her friends. But she missed him so much.she needed him so frequently, and he wasn't there. He had caused her so much pain, and she still loved him so dearly. Buffy knew she would never be neither complete nor happy without her second half, not really, at least, so what was the point of trying? It had been so easy back then.it wasn't such a long time ago, but it seemed like it was. She had been just a girl, and she had been so in love, in love with the man of her dreams; a man who had loved her back just as much. She had thought that the fairytale that was known as her life would never end. But then she'd grown up. She'd finished high school, leaving her 'youth' behind her, leaving HIM behind. God, she'd do anything to go back only a year in time, just to be with him once again.only if it were so simple.
Buffy fought back against the tears that threatened to burst out every time she merely thought about him, and finally got a grip on the receiver.
"Hello?." her tone was a fusion of pain and fatigue.
"Buffy?" came from the other end of the line.
At that specific moment, she felt like she wanted to kill him. "I don't wanna hear from you, Riley!" she yelled in the receiver. "Calling me at this hour, you'd better make it good! What are you, suicidal or something?!"
Riley flinched at her tone. "Would you please NOT start another fight even before we got over yesterday's? One which I still have no idea what it was about?"
Buffy didn't know herself. She recently used to initiate a fight about everything with Riley. "Riley, wanna hear something? It is nearly 2am, I'm tired, I have an exam tomorrow, and I wanna sleep, okay? And YOU are the last person I wanna talk to, now or.ever, okay?" She hanged up.
"Damn you," she hissed, taking a deep breath to calm down, side-glancing at the phone, almost ready to pick it up and apologize for taking her frustration on him. But she never did. Buffy took another deep breath, briefly closing her eyes. This was the first time, for as long as she could remember, when she actually blamed Riley for her trouble with Angel. She knew it was stupid, just like her outburst a few seconds ago, but at the moment she just couldn't help it.
The phone rang again.
"I thought I told you," she shouted, but Giles' voice made her tone change. "Giles? What's the what? It is kinda late, you know."
"Yes, I know, and I'm very sorry for the late hour, Buffy, but this is important."
"Yeah." she breathed, "so, who's the demon? Sorry about before, thought you were Riley."
"Yes, I figured that much. Buffy, I...I asked him to call you. In fact, he's here right now."
"He is?" she queried in wonder.
"Yes, everyone is. We're all waiting for you. I tried to reach you earlier, but you."
"Patrol. I bagged three of the bad guys. Proud of me?" There was a grin in her tone, but it didn't seem to change Giles'. It remained grave.
"Yes, but...Buffy, this is of the utmost importance. You must get here as soon as you can."
She nodded, but then grasped Giles couldn't see her. "I'll be there. Wait, Will." only then she acknowledged her roommate was missing.
"She's here too. Buffy, please hurry."
"Right. Bye, Giles."
Giles had been right. Everyone was there by the time Buffy got to his apartment. She looked around the room after closing the door behind her. Xander, Anya, Willow and Spike were sitting on the sofa, Doyle on the armchair.*Doyle?! What's he doing here?*, with Cordelia in his lap *Cordelia?* Riley was sitting on a chair and.Angel. She stilled and swallowed to the sight of him. He was so gorgeous. He would always take her breath away every time she saw him, she knew.
"Please, take a seat, Buffy." Giles offered her, but she didn't hear him. Her eyes were still locked with Angel's. He gazed at her sadly. Only the sight of her caused his heart ache. She was so beautiful, so full of life, so rare.she was his. *Was*. He craved for her gentleness, her softness; her love.Angel shook these thoughts out of his head. Why was he being such a fool? Her boyfriend, the one she'd said she loved, was right here in the same room.
And she.she still wasn't able to get rid of the desire to run into his arms each time they met, to cover his handsome features with soft kisses, and never, but never, let go of him again. To hear him saying her name.saying he loves her.but then again, there was the reality to deal with.
"What the Hell are you doing here?" she snapped at him. "I thought I made myself clear when I last talked to you." Her eyes shot daggers at him, and it made his soul die within him. He couldn't stand her being so mad at him. It hurt him a lot more than he could ever foresee.
Her quick thinking brought Buffy onto Riley's lap in no time, and the stunned boy could respond in no other way than encircling his arms around her, as she hungrily kissed him. He thought perhaps she'd forgiven him for whatever there was he'd done, whilst she was using him to hurt Angel. "Meet my boyfriend," she told him, her stare challenging, "the one I love, remember?"
Riley was smug with himself beyond words, while Buffy hated herself, having been causing pain both the man she loved and her boyfriend, who happened to have been caught in the middle and hence suffered the consequences.
Angel looked away painfully, his eyes filling with the same tears from the last time she'd told him about the boyfriend 'she loved'. He swallowed hard. No. He wouldn't show her his pain. He wouldn't give her the satisfaction again.
Buffy's entire being was falling to pieces just by looking at him like that. But she still kept her bitchy attitude going. "So, I thought it was pretty clear, you know. I mean, in case you haven't figured it to the core yet, I kinda meant to say I wanted you out of my life! Not popping up here whenever you need help, cuz I really don't wanna give you any!"
Angel blinked away the tears rising in his eyes and averted his gaze again. Seeing that, Buffy leaped off Riley and hastily stamped over to Angel. She snatched his shirt and turned him so that he was forced to look at her. Now her face was inches from his. "You were the worst mistake of my life!" she hissed irately. "I can't believe I have ever even looked at you. You ruined my life, and I thought I loved you. Could you believe I was so stupid?! I don't EVER wanna see you again. Never. Whatever you need from us, don't think even for a second you'll get it from me. Like you earlier said to me, go home!"
Angel gaped at her for a second, unable to say a word. Then he freed himself from her grip, and stormed out of the apartment.
Buffy gazed at the floor, and wrapped her arms around herself, emitting a quiet and desperate sigh. Before she could do anything further, she was dragged out by Cordelia.
"What the Hell was that?!" Cordelia yelled at Buffy outside. "Why the Hell did you have to do that?!"
Buffy tried to regain some of her earlier manner. "Cordy, why won't you go stick your nose in your own business for a change?"
"Why are you being such a bitch to him? Somehow I find it hard to believe that your little act convinced anyone that you actually meant any of it. Except Angel, of course."
"Well, good for him. Let him suffer, like I care!"
"Why? I don't get it, Buffy. Why? I mean, what's the point?"
"The point is to put him through Hell, the same Hell he's been putting me through. How's that for a point?"
"He loves you! Do you even have the slightest idea of how much he loves you?"
Buffy chuckled. "Loves me?"
"He can't talk about you. He dreams about you, and he can't sleep. I come into his office sometimes and I see him staring at your picture, and there are tears in his eyes. You want more?"
Buffy looked like she was finally going to break. "Then why did he leave me?" she whispered, in the most rueful voice Cordelia had probably ever heard. "Then why did he leave me?" she echoed.
Cordelia fell silent.
"Do you know how many tears I've cried? Do you know how many times my heart broke, or how many times I woke up and he wasn't there? Or I needed him so much and he wasn't there? Do you know how empty and hollowed I feel inside? Do you know how it's like to lose someone you love like that? To lose a part of your soul you can't live without? No, you don't. How can you? You see his side, but have you ever tried to see mine? You think I DON'T love him? You think that nights, days, minutes.seconds without him are tolerable? Well, you're wrong! I will NEVER stop loving him, I can't. Even if I wanted to. And you know why I did that in the apartment? I'm gonna hate myself forever hence to that, but you wanna know why? Because in a way it makes me feel relief. It makes it easier. By that, I try to fight my feelings. I try to convince myself I don't love him anymore. And that is NOT a piece of cake! Despite what you think! And I hate pretending I love my...boyfriend! I hate doing that! But I have to, you know why? Because THIS is my only escape! If I don't do that, I might as well just die, because living without him is worse than dying!" Buffy covered her face with her hands and turned away from Cordelia, letting her long stored tears out.
For a minute Cordelia hadn't spoken. Then, Buffy thought she heard footsteps of someone approaching, but she didn't care enough to revolve back. She leaned against the wall before her with her one forearm, her other hand still covering her face. And then she felt arms wrapping around her, turning her around and pulling her into a loving embrace, and she only cried harder, clinching into him for all she's worth. He reinforced his hug, caressing her hair, trying to sooth her, but doing no good.
After Buffy had finally ran out of tears, she pulled back. "I'm so sorry," she whispered, looking directly into the eyes she loved so much, "I didn't mean a word of that. I need you to know.I didn't mean a word. Not then, and definitely not now. Angel, I'm so sorry," she hugged him again.
He gently stroked her back. "I know. I know you didn't. I heard you," he added, slightly embarrassed for eavesdropping her and Cordelia's conversation. He drew back a little. "I was right around the corner. I heard you. I heard what you said and.I had no idea. Maybe if I knew, if I knew you felt the same way I did.but I had no idea. I got the impression you moved on. That you were finally happy. I couldn't know, Buffy. And I'm sorry I put you through all this. If it hadn't been for me getting in your way in the first place, none of this would ever have happened, and."
"How can you say this?" she didn't believe his words. "I told you, I didn't mean it. When I said you were my worst mistake, I didn't mean it!"
He smiled sadly. "I know you didn't, but you were still right."
"No," Buffy shook her head determinately, "I love you. How can you say this?"
"I love you too. And THAT is WHY I'm saying this." He softly kissed her forehead. "Let's get in. You'll do what you have to do, and then things will be finally right. I promise you."
Buffy shook her head and didn't move. "No.there's something you're not telling me. What?"
Angel extended his hand for hers. "You'll know all the details inside," he smiled, that same sad smile she knew so well to be his.
Buffy still hadn't moved, so he walked over to her and wrapped one arm around her, pulling her to his side. She reluctantly begun pacing back to the apartment, along with him, the palm of the arm wrapped around her shoulders tightly clinched in her hands, her lips brushing slightly against it. "I won't do it," she avowed tenaciously, "whatever it is, I won't do it, because I already know it means losing you."
Angel only kissed her crown and tightened his cuddle, as they maintained walking towards Giles' dwelling.
I cried a tear, you wiped it dry
I was confused, you cleared my mind
I sold my soul, you bought it back for me
And held me up, and gave me dignity
Somehow you needed me
- Boyzone, 'You Needed Me'.
Both Buffy and Angel did everything to avoid the probing stares that met the two of them once they entered through the front door. For once, they simply didn't care what everyone else was thinking. And even Riley, whose eyes had evident difficulties in adjusting to the spectacle of his 'girlfriend' in the arms of another, got no response from either of them.
Angel reoccupied his past place in the bottom of the stairs heading to the second floor, and Buffy settled to his right, encircling her arms around his knee and resting her head on it, as he was tenderly stroking her back.
After the perplexed gazes were over, Giles took it it was time to begin. "Well," he said, "since everything is alright here," he couldn't help but peep at Buffy and Angel, who didn't seem to notice much of him, or anyone else for that matter, "I believe we should talk about what is truly significant here. Angel, will you tell them?" he asked the vampire. Receiving no answer, Giles reckoned he wouldn't. "Alright, then I will. Doyle had a vision tonight," he started, "what we managed to comprehend from its fine points led us to something I had formerly encountered in one of my books, but gave no mind to. Seems I made a rather reckless mistake." Giles opened the book he was holding, and began to read out loud. ".The malicious darkness chased by a light, as the good and the evil stood together in a fight, the outdone of which shall impact the lives of all, when an angelic face is blessed with an angelic soul." Giles scrutinized everyone's reaction. "I presume it sounds familiar to you." Yet, he got no response. "'An angelic face', that would be the vampire with the angelic face. Now, we all know that that would be Angel. And the soul...it's a reference to Angel's curse."
"So, what's the big bad evil?" Xander asked in blunt misapprehension, "We know all that. Angel is cursed with a soul. You know, Giles, it's kinda old news."
"This is precisely why I took no notice of it when coming across it in the past. But listen now to the last two lines of the prophecy," he turned back to the book. ".But then time is reversed, and the demon was never cursed."
They all took it in at once.
"W.what did they mean by that?" Riley stuttered.
"They meant that my dear Sire here, is about to become a bad boy again, you poof," Spike knew perfectly well that everybody in the room understood it too, but he just had to highlight it.
"Umm.Giles, just a question, but how the Hell did you overlook THAT?!" Xander shouted.
Giles appeared to be slightly discomfited. "I did not. I simply thought they were talking about.about." he blushed, looking at Buffy at Angel, who were still sitting in the same pose, "well, I assumed they had been referring to.the incident that transpired on Buffy's seventeenth birthday."
Xander rose and began fretfully marching the room. "For God's sake, they slept together, that's why he lost his soul! I don't recall any time being reversed, do you?! It doesn't take a genius to figure out it was NOT what the prophecy's talking about!"
Riley stole a glance towards Buffy and Angel. *Slept together?*
"I was rash, I'm not pleading otherwise. But there is no point in fighting over it now," Giles retorted, "let's go back to our main concern, shall we? Now, Doyle's vision made this prediction tremendously logical. Now, I know exactly what is going to happen."
"What?" Buffy finally spoke in a husky tone.
"Darla. I believe we all know who she was."
"Of course!" Spike cut in cheerfully. "My dear grandma!"
"Shut up!" Willow, Anya and Xander bawled at him all together, but it still hadn't erased the smirk off of his conceited face.
"And you killed her, you bloody ungrateful bastard," he teasingly reproached Angel, who paid no attention to his childe.
"In any way," Giles continued, "Darla was quite.upset after Angel regained his soul and renounced her. We all remember her abrupt appearance here several years ago, and we all recall that one of her supreme desires was to reclaim her former lover."
"Can we please skip the reminiscing?" Spike requested. "And then Peaches here staked his own Sire to save his beloved Slayer, yeah, we all know. Can we get to the next part? It kinda brings back bad memories, you know."
"You weren't even there!" Willow mocked him.
"So? You think it makes me proud to hear that my Sire did that?! Almost inspires me to watch the sunrise!"
"And of course we'd never want that to happen." Cordelia muttered.
"You open your mouth again, deary, and I'll drink you dry," Spike menaced, jerking up.
"And risk losing your head?" Cordy sneered.
Spike returned to his seat.
"Alright. May I please go on now, WITHOUT further interfering?" When everyone was finally quiet, Giles went on. "Darla is going to be the one to execute the prophecy. She will somehow go back in time, to preclude Angelus from ever even coming upon that Romany tribe whose elders cast the curse on him. If she succeeds."
"If she succeeds, Angel will never be even thought of and while Angelus will be relishing his 24/7-eat-all-you-want banquet party, we all will doubtless be amongst the many who are currently NOT alive."
Buffy peeped at Angel. He looked down in a shame. "Xander, do you have some severe difficulties in keeping your mouth shut? Cuz I can work them out for you in an instant," she forewarned tranquilly and Xander conformed.
"Oh! Cranky much, Slayer?" Spike laughed at her. "I thought you two.what was that? Ah, yes! Weren't together anymore!"
Before he could say anything else, he was ripped off the couch and pinned to the wall by the Slayer, in her not so good mood. "DON'T mess with me, Spike," she hissed, "I'm not playing nice today, as you can see!" she let him go and made one step backwards. "If I hear you chirp ONCE more, about ANYTHING at all, you and I will have a quick introduction with the California's morning sun. And I doubt anyone will miss you!" She dragged him back to the sofa and tossed him into his former place.
After a rapid recuperation, Spike stood up, and left the room with a huff.
Buffy ignored the stares of everyone around her, mainly Riley's, and returned to her place next to Angel. "I'm going to stop it," she told her Watcher, resolve on her face, "and you're going to tell me what I need to do."
Giles looked at her regretfully. "Nothing, actually."
She returned him a disapproving and yet desperate stare. "Nothing?!"
Angel put his hands firmly on her shoulders and made her face him. "We have a spell," he started.
"A spell that can transport you back in time."
"To do what?" Buffy's voice reflected fear. A fear, she herself didn't know the source of.
Angel breathed in deeply, preparing himself for the upcoming. "To make me nonexistent."
Buffy shrunk away, so flabbergasted by his statement that her head hit the railing of the staircase. "I'm sorry," she stumbled, "could you please.repeat that for me.cuz I thought I heard you say."
"To make me nonexistent," Angel repeated. "If you go back, and stop me from ever becoming a vampire in the first place."
Buffy sprang up. "No!" she yelled. "No! This.this isn't even an option!"
Angel tried to calm her. "Buffy, listen to me." he attempted to touch her, but she recoiled.
"I said, NO!" she viewed everybody's faces. "Have you actually CONSIDERED it?! I can't believe you!"
"Buffy, this is the only way." Angel tried to explain, but she wouldn't listen.
"Find another!" she yelled, shaking him, as in trying to awake him from a dream. "Do you even realize what it means?"
"Yes, I do, but."
She wouldn't listen. Tears sparkled in her eyes when she later looked at him. "It means.I will never see you again," she said softly, "it means I will never get to know you. It means.it means I will never get to love you. How can you let that happen? No," she firmly shook her head, "no, there has to be another way, Angel," she buried her face in his chest, crying, as he held her close, "there has to be another way."
"I wish there was, love," he whispered. Angel sat back on the step, pulling her down with him, still holding her in his arms.
When she finally pulled away, her eyes were red, swollen, much like his. He gently caressed her cheek, and she pressed her face into his palm. "You see.if I become him," he struggled to talk logic into both of them, "let's say I were him, for nearly one hundred years now, millions of innocent people would be dead. I can't let that happen. And I know you can't either."
"There has to be a way to."
"But there isn't. You don't understand, Buffy, if Darla succeeds in whatever she wants to do, YOU might be very well one of those people. Angelus will go for the Slayer first, believe me, I know. He had killed numerous Slayers; you would only be one more. He won't even blink, and you'll be lying dead at his feet. No sweat for someone like him. He tried to bring Hell onto this earth last time around and he almost did. Think he wouldn't have done it before if he could? You're wrong. If it weren't for my soul, this WOULD be Hell now. You have no idea what this monster is capable of. You haven't faced the true Angelus yet. What you saw was such a minor and meaningless part of him, that you can never imagine the real him, and there aren't enough Watchers' Diaries in the world to hold all of his deeds. I know what he's able to do. Only I know, and I will never allow more people to experience his menace on their own flesh. Trust me, Buffy, there's a reason why Angelus was known as the world's most vicious vampire. Getting the nickname 'The Scourge of Europe' was something he was more than very proud of. I can't let that happen again. And trust me with this too; Darla won't give up until she gets her pet back. I was her obsession. She Sired me only to make me as her lover, having no clue what kind of a fiend she was nurturing, and after she'd seen the power and the malevolence I held within me, she only became more and more pleased with her creation. Nothing will stop her from accomplishing her goal, unless she'll be beaten to it, and this is exactly what we're going to do."
Buffy just gaped at him with teary eyes. "I can't lose you," she murmured faintly, "we have to find another way. What do you want me to do? What, you expect me to jump back in time and just kill you or something, make it like you were never in my life?! Do you really think I can kill you again?" she looked him straight in the eye, her tears never ceased falling. "Ask them," she gestured at the others, "ask them, what kind of a.person I was, what a wreck I was after I'd had to send you to Hell! Ask them! Do you think I can do that again?! I still have nightmares about it! I can still hear you calling my name, and I can still see you extending your hand for me to save you.and I still want to pull you back.and I STILL can't! I can't do this! I'm not strong enough to kill you twice!" her voice died away, muffled with her tears. Angel gathered her into his arms and gently squeezed her. "I can't, Angel. I won't be able to live with myself after the second time, I won't be able to live at all. I need to be sure you're alive and well before I can fall asleep at night. I couldn't sleep, knowing I killed the man I loved.again."
Angel kissed her tenderly, soothingly pulling the disheveled hair off of her face. "You won't have to," he pledged. "You won't have to go through that, I give you my word. You won't remember me. You won't even know me. You will never have met me. You can't miss or love someone you've never met. If I'm.killed before I'm turned, I won't live long enough for you to know me. I will remain and die as a normal man. In my own time, and not.centuries after."
Buffy sniffled and managed a nervous chuckle. "Won't know you? Won't remember you? God, are you for real? I knew you, even before I met you. You're such a part of me that we have NEVER been apart. You've always been with me. I only became aware of that after you entered my life, but that doesn't mean you weren't there before. You have ALWAYS been there, Angel, every step of the way. I don't even want to imagine the person I would have become if you hadn't been there. You made me, Angel. You were my mentor and my protector, you were that strength within me that always told me there was nothing I couldn't overcome. It was you. Do you think I would still be the same without you?"
Angel focused on her. "Do you think I wanted it to be like that? Do you think I want to give up the only thing in my life that's actually worth something? That makes my nightly existence worth something?" He clasped her small hands in his, kissing each one and locked eyes with her again, both of their orbs are full of despair of eventually having to face the reality there was no other way. "I've lived for over two hundred years, and when I met you, I knew why. You are the best thing that ever happened to me. I wasn't lying to you when I told you I haven't loved anyone but you all my life. I didn't know what love truly was until I met you." He paused, and swallowed hard before talking again. "Do you think it's easy for me to give all that up? Even when you weren't there, in my hardest times, when I needed you so much; when I needed you to hold me or just to say that you love me again, I used to stare at a picture of you, and it filled me with an unbelievable strength. You give me hope, Buffy. Hope for that maybe I'm something more than a bloodsucking fiend. Maybe I too have a purpose. You say I'm your strength.you are mine. Don't think that because you are the one to kill me and not the other way around, it's in any way easier for me to handle. But I have no choice, so don't you." He looked at her seriously, trying to prevent the emotions from clouding his gaze. "You are the Slayer, Buffy. You can't preordain innocent people's death. You can't kill, even if it's for me. You did it once, but it was only one person. Picture the lives of thousands, no, millions of people, being taken by Angelus. Can you let that happen? You're not that selfish, Buffy. That's why I love you so much."
Buffy embraced him, pressing his body against hers, lovingly. "I can't, Angel, it's just.it's too hard," she sobbed, "I really can't."
He looked her in the eyes. "You have to," he raised her chin, "please."
She leaned forward, catching his lips halfway in a passionate kiss, to which he responded equally. The kiss lasted for as long as Buffy could do without breathing, drawing various stares from every person in the room. It was extremely typical for them to act as if no one else existed whenever they were together. These stares were soon turned to Riley, who strove to remain calm.
"I love you," Buffy whispered as she pulled back slowly, reluctantly.
"I love you too," he echoed, "but please, Buffy, do it for me. If you don't.Buffy, I can't kill all those people. Don't you know me enough to understand I'd rather die than do that?"
She smiled and put her hand on his cheek. "I do. And I love you too much to ever force this on you."
Angel kissed her hand and smiled too. "Thank you."
Buffy nodded and rotated to Giles. "What's the drill?" she inquired.
"A spell," he answered. "Only a few words. I know it by heart."
"Gee, Giles you got a way to send people through time and you never told anyone? You could have made a fortune by now," she endeavored a joke.
Giles coughed tensely. "Yes, well.we can do it right now. The sooner, the better, Buffy."
"We have time," she cut him.
"No, I believe we'd better do it now. If Darla implements the prophecy before us, we'll be too late. If we act fast, we might still prevent it from."
"It's not enough time." she cried in Angel's shirt.
Angel nearly froze. *No, I.I misheard. She couldn't have.*
"It's not enough time." she reiterated.
Giles intervened his reflection. "Buffy, I'm sorry, but I don't know the precise time when the prophecy is to come to pass."
But she wasn't with him. The Slayer's full attention was in savoring her final moments in Angel's arms. She clung to him like there was no force in the world to pull her away, and he held her tight, wanting her to stay as much as she didn't want to go.
"Buffy." Giles coughed again. Couldn't he give them just a little more time?
"Do it," Buffy said, not leaving Angel's arms, and he seemed to be fortifying his clasp.
"But...Buffy, you should part."
"Damn it, Giles, just say the stupid spell," she murmured gruffly, Angel hugged her even more if that was possible.
Giles began reciting, and Buffy felt she was fading away.
She angled her head up to kiss Angel one last time. "I will remember you," she vowed, "I will never forget."
The reverberation of her words stayed put in Angel's mind long after his arms were empty. She knew.
Buffy gazed around her. It was dark. Too dark, for that matter, but she soon realized why. There were no streetlights. It looked odd at first, but then she remembered. *What streetlights? These people don't even know about electricity yet!* she rebuked herself for her stupidity, but then she descried some lights. Well.fires, to be exact. They were scattered everywhere around. Some surrounded by groups of people, probably trying to warm up. This was when Buffy noted it was indeed colder than usually. *What do I know about Ireland's climate?* she rebuked herself again. *How do I know I'm even in Ireland?.* but somehow, she knew.
Buffy surveyed the bonfires anew. They spread a gentle glow on all sides.somewhat enchanted even. She felt fascinated by a marginal matter such as this. Everything all over looked so.magical. As a sentient fairytale. She could not believe her eyes. The ambiance alone, but.the people, the clothes they wore, the way they looked, the way they acted.how everything was so old, so ancient and so.beautiful.she couldn't arrest her astounded gaze from roaming all over the streets, the buildings.everywhere. She felt like it all had jumped right out of the pages of a history book. It was extraordinarily dreamlike. It was too striking. A man and a woman strolled past her, the man was relatively young, and he was wearing a long blue coat with matching hat and shoes, and holding a cane in his right hand, casually hurling it back and forth, along with his walking. His left arm was entwined with the woman's right one, who was dressed in an elegant and ornamented gown. He courteously took his hat off and slightly bowed as they passed near Buffy, and the woman smiled nicely at her. Buffy's mouth opened wide and she kept following the couple with her flabbergasted orbs even after they had walked off.
Buffy rubbed her arms against the cold, and only then became susceptible to the strange fabric of her attire. She couldn't believe her eyes when she beheld herself and what she was wearing. "Oh, God," escaped her lips, "is this a joke? I don't have a good luck with these dresses!"
Buffy's hair was combed neatly, her long blonde locks falling gracefully below her shoulders. She was togged up in an inflated gorgeous dress, mostly azure, but tastefully trimmed with blue laces. It had a deep neckline, was skin tight around her waist, and then expanded down to her white high-heeled shoes, as a large and rather heavy skirt. The style was very much like the one of her Halloween's dress of years ago, when she had tried to be a normal girl for Angel.
The thoughts of her love filled her whole again, and the tears started once more rising in her throat. "I wonder who you are now," she pondered. *He must be stunning in all those fancy clothes. Yet.he's stunning in pretty much everything.*
Buffy decided to inspect the area, to know to some extent where she was. The dress turned out to be a lot heavier than the one from Halloween, when Buffy started heading towards the nearest pub.or at least, she presumed it was a pub. *The real thing,* she observed. Suddenly she preferred her costume over the dress. *How were they moving around in this?*
She was unpredictably held up by three men advancing in her direction, nearly falling off their feet. They were evidently inebriated. *Men,* Buffy thought, *never change. Time has no effect on them,* she already forecast the imminent. the Slayer crossed her hands on her chest and stood there, waiting. The last thing she wanted was to deal with that drunken threesome, but she didn't seem to have much of a choice.
"Why, look what we have here, James!" one of them exclaimed in intoxication, leaning his weight on the one that was called James.
"Indeed a pretty lass, gentlemen!" the third one agreed, drunken just as much, about to cave in to the ground any second.
Buffy smirked. "Yeah, great. Listen, guys, don't you have somewhere to be? I know I do.*I just wish I also knew where that was* so be kind and get lost."
She intended to leave the other way, when her ears caught a familiar sound. "This is no way to talk for a Lady."
Buffy immediately halted and turned around. Her heart almost skipped a beat once he emerged into view. "Angel," she gasped. He truly was gorgeous. He was in a white silk wide sleeved shirt, laced in the lapels, black tight pants that stressed the strong muscles of his hips, and white stockings, all that completed with black velvet shoes. He had a longer hairstyle, and Buffy decided she liked his hair spiny. Long hair decreased mildness from his features. But he still looked perfect to her. It seemed like he would never have any faults. He couldn't have, not when SHE was looking at him. So, that he was. That was her Angel, when he was still human. That was the man she had been sent here to kill.Buffy shuddered at the thought.
"Angel?" his voice sounded again, "I do not see an angel." He turned to his companions. "Do you see an angel?"
"No," they all shook their heads.
"But I can be an angel for you, my Lady," he bowed, "you truly are a beauty," he complimented her, using his most dulcet voice.
Buffy looked into his eyes. They were shining with life. She missed so much seeing it in Angel. She only saw it once, that day that she wasn't supposed to remember. And, now, there he was again, alive, right before her. But was this man really her Angel? Was he who she knew him to be? "You're drunk," she designated.
"I am?" he looked around in confusion. "I have not noticed so, lass. Perhaps, I am," his lips curved in an enthralling smile.
*He's dazzling even when drunk.* But Buffy saw there was unfortunately no point in trying to get to know him, or anything, tonight. "When you're sober, look me up," she said, "I'll still be here."
Disillusionment emerged on his face. He didn't know why, but he didn't want to let her leave. "Where are you going?"
She shrugged and grinned. "Someplace. I don't know yet."
If it were possible to become sober at once, he just had. "Why?"
"Because we have to talk, but not now." With that, she rotated and strode off.
"A lovely girl, Liam," one of the men stated after Buffy had left. "Liam?" his friend was still staring at where her image faded in the horizon, not listening to his approval, until he nudged his side.
"What?" Liam questioned.
"I said she was lovely," the man repeated.
"Leave her, men!" James laughed at the two of them. "There are more back in the tavern! Ladies who will willingly give you more than just a brief talk! Let us go back." He turned to walk back, and the other two tailed him, but Liam remained, longingly gazing after that strange girl. "Are you coming along, mate?" one yelled over his shoulder and they all stopped to wait for a response.
"No," Liam refused, "I will be heading home instead." He left the way Buffy did, hoping to maybe run into her again.
"I never thought I would say this," one remarked, his gaze following Liam's disappearing form, "but I think he is in love."
Liam quietly knocked on the huge doors of the mansion he knew to be his home, and an old servant opened them for him to enter. "You are miraculously early this morning, master Liam," he observed. It wasn't even dawn yet. For Liam to return from his drinking parties it truly was early. "Is anything the matter?"
"No, Thomas. Tell me, is mother asleep?" They paced together into the main hall.
"She is certainly not. She and your sisters were at the ball until late, they assumed you would be joining them. Your sister Laura has gone to bed perhaps an hour ago, but your mother and Lady Ilana are yet awake."
Liam looked confused. "What ball, Thomas?"
"You received an invitation from Lord Hindley three days ago. Your mother has told you, I am certain of it. I must say she was extremely upset for your absence."
Liam's hand flew to his head in frustration. "My God, I completely forgot about it!" he put his hands on Thomas' shoulders and scrutinized him. "You say she was.only upset?"
The butler hesitated. "Well."
"William!" his mother's irritated tone jerked him erect. He let go of Thomas and the old butler absconded out of sight, knowing what scandal his mistress' exasperation could set off.
Liam looked down. "Mother," he muttered with fake calmness, then looked back at the woman before him, awaiting for his doom.
She put her hands on her hips and glared at her son with exasperation. "Where have you been?" she inquired rhetorically. "Has the tonight's ball slipped your mind?"
"I forgot, mother."
She nodded in unrestrained irritation. "You forgot. Did you also forget that THIS was the night you were to be presented before Lord Hindley's daughter? Who is to become your wife?!" she shouted.
"She will NOT become my wife," he persisted (he had been doing it for months now, but his mother didn't seem to be listening). "I am not marrying some ignorant doll who has no mind of her own, and there is NOTHING you can say or do about it!"
Prior to Liam finishing his sentence, she whacked his cheek with full force, leaving him not at all thunderstruck. There was not a glimpse of compunction in her cold eyes when he looked back at her, bringing his hand to his distending side of the face. He simpered, as if he were expecting her to slap him. "And this will not help," he said.
"How dare you?!" she yelled, just as a young woman, maybe three years younger than Liam himself, entered the room, concern on her face.
"What is going on here?" she questioned.
Liam turned to look at his sister. "Nothing you have not seen before, Ilana. Our mother is having a nervous outbreak."
"How dare you speak to me.with such insolence?! You are a disgrace! A disgrace to the entire family! I cannot believe you are the one to inherit your father's name!"
Liam sniggered. "You do not care about father or his name! All YOU care about is yourself! All you care about is not losing the title and the money after his death! And the rest can go to Hell!"
His mother looked like she was going to blow any second. "You are not to call me your mother any more, you ignorant fool!"
"Mother, please." Ilana tried to allay her.
"Shut your mouth, Ilana!" she snapped at her. "The son of a Duke! Spending his life drinking and enjoying substandard whores! Twenty-six years old, and has not yet married and brought a successor! You do not deserve to be called your father's son!"
Liam didn't tremble. He was used to that. It almost was a nightly routine.
"I said quiet, Ilana!" the Duchess turned back to her son. "Have you heard what people are saying about you? Do you even aware of how much you tarnish our family? And nonetheless, Lord Hindley put forward his younger daughter for you to wed! Such a lovely girl, the dream of every man. Chaste, dutiful, subdued, and he gives her away with such a reverent dowry. And you have the audacity to rebuff! To turn down such bargain! Do you think that so many fathers would want to marry their daughters to someone of a reputation such as your own?! You not only dishonored me by not attending to that ball, you also embarrassed Lord Hindley! You must start praying he shall uphold his bighearted offer after that!"
"I will NOT marry her," Liam asserted, perhaps the millionth time, "I will choose the woman whom I will marry, not her father, and definitely not you. I will NOT marry someone I do not love."
"Love?!" she interrupted. "What on earth does love have to do with marriage?!"
"Who are you to know?" he derided, but continued his speech. "I will not walk down the aisle with someone I do not love and do not want to be with, only to make you happy. I will find a wife in due course, and she does NOT need to be a Lord's daughter to make me care for her. I want her to be herself, to be special, and not a mindless over adorned mannequin. But you will not understand any of it, will you, mother?"
She was too angry with him to retort. He had predicted her to shut, so he gyrated and went up to his room, not willing to allow her enough time to set off another squabble.
"I shall go talk to him," Ilana offered.
Her mother didn't pay attention. As she was ambling up the stairs, Ilana heard the Duchess still muttering. "The son of a Duke, and such a disgrace."
"You may enter, Ilana," Liam voiced, once he heard the first knock on his door.
Ilana walked in, shutting the flap behind her.
"For God's sake, cover yourself, Liam. It is not a proper sight for a gentleman, especially one who entertains a Lady in his bedchamber."
Liam was lying on his bed when she came, shirtless. He smiled at his younger sister. She resembled her mother more with every passing day, the poor thing. He only wished for Ilana's sake she wouldn't become her once she was old enough. He obeyed though, and put back his blouse, gesturing for Ilana to the nearest armchair, and sitting across of her. "What did you want?" he queried.
"I wanted to talk about mother."
"There is no need. As I said before, and as you know, she is being herself."
"She may be, but in a way, you are too to blame, Liam. Why cannot you comply with her wishes and marry Lady Abigail?"
"I will not, Ilana. I cannot believe you are taking our mother's side in this," he stared at her with incredulity, both in his eyes and his voice, "I thought you understood me."
Ilana was noticeably disappointed by her brother's mistrust. "I do. But I begin to see mother's point as well, and in some ways, she is right. Liam, you are already twenty-six years old, and yet have not established a family of your own. Father is very ill," she reminded, "as distressing as it is for me to say, he will not last long, and when he shall pass away, everything will go over to you, and you have no wife, and no heir. This is an indignity for itself, Liam, but it is inconsequential against the fact that if something Heaven forbid happens to you, we will lose all our possessions. We are women, Liam. We are dependent on you and you know it," Ilana took in her brother's amazed gaze. She didn't mean to sound like her mother. "I do not mean to sound like her, Liam, but however, it is the truth. We cannot keep the money, nor the estates, unless there is a man to govern it all. We shall wind up on the street. Is that what you wish?"
Liam grinned reassuringly. "I am not going to die any time soon, Ilana."
She took a deep breath and shook her head 'no'. "She is a lovely Lady, Liam. She will always be modest and do as told."
"That is it exactly. Cannot you see? I do not want someone like her."
"What do you want, then?"
Liam's gaze wandered away from Ilana's. A light smile illuminated his features.
His sister regarded it. "Is there someone else, Liam? Is there a Lady who will satisfy your taste?"
He faced her again. "I have met someone," he imparted.
"Who is she?" there was prospect in her voice.
"I do not know, Ilana."
"Whatever do you mean.well, she surely has a family, a father, and she surely has a name."
"I do not know any of these. All I know is that she was the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. I only glanced once at her and her face will not leave my mind ever since. I do not care whether or not she has come from a wealthy family, or if she has a family at all. I purely want to see her again."
"It sounds to me that Lady has captured your heart, Liam."
"She has. She has such glow about her, such beauty, and rareness...a distinctiveness. She is one of a kind, I am sure of it. She is the one I wish to spend my life with, Ilana, no doubt here. She is what I have been looking for, and until now thought never to be found. SHE is what I want."
Ilana wasn't sure whether she should share her brother's happiness. "But what if she is a simple maid, Liam? What if she has no class?."
"I told you, I do not care," he stood up and paced back to his bed. "I am tired now, if you do not mind. It was a long night."
"Of course," Ilana also stood up, "I shall retire myself. But Liam, please, promise me you will give as much thought as you can to that mysterious girl of yours before you will do anything rash."
He only beamed at her. "Good night, Ilana."
"Good night," she closed the door after her, leaving him alone in the room.
Liam knew exactly who would be haunting his dreams tonight, as he curled up under the covers with a content smile on his face.
It's so hard
I don't have you right beside me
As I long to touch you
But you're out of my reach
And my heart doesn't feel
It's so very cold inside me
Just a shadow of someone that I used to be
Mariah Carey - "Just to Hold You Once Again"
Buffy was silently pacing the dusky lanes, when she abruptly paused. It was like a thought, a concept, materialized in her mind out of the blue. What was she doing? Had she essentially realized what she was doing? She was there to KILL the man she loved, and all she'd been doing till now was enjoying the view! Had she given enough thought to what she was going to do? Was she truly that ready as she professed to be? NO! How could she? It was impossible. It was out of the question. How on earth had she ever managed to mess up her life so much? How could she ever promise Angel she would do such a thing? It was Angel. It was her Angel. The only man who she would ever love, and she'd promised him to kill him. How could she have done this? She had killed him once *for the greater good of all mankind,* she scorned herself. Then, she'd almost killed him again; when it was clearly HER fault he was on that hill that Christmas daybreak, trying to commit suicide. If it hadn't been for her, he would have never winded up even reflecting upon it. He had been anxious he might hurt her, so he'd just decided that the simplest resolution would be to let the sun burn him down to ash. It hadn't been enough she had been incessantly plagued with nightmares of her killing Angel, of his forlorn and betrayed expression the moment she'd driven the sword through him, but seeing this same face again on that hill, when she was as desperately trying to bring him to shelter from the sun, as he was trying to stay put... She had never seen him so lost and so broken like he was then, and she had translated it all into being her fault. She'd stopped a long time ago, trying to analyze whether it actually WAS her fault, she'd preferred to just hold on to it as it was. It sometimes made finding at least one sound reason for Angel's leaving easier, considering she had been convinced she had done something wrong.
And then, on top of all that, he'd gone and given up his humanity, his only chance for a real life and a real future for HER sake - AGAIN. She had never forgotten that day. How could she? Had he actually been counting on that she would? Would she ever be able to forget it? People can never bring themselves to forget the transpiration of their most cherished dream, especially not someone who had to later live her life clinging to that dream as to the only thing she had. And it really was. It was the only thing.
She was so mad at him. She was so angry with him after she hadn't forgotten that day and he'd still let her go. How could he do that to her?! Hadn't he cared? Hadn't she mattered to him AT ALL? But on the other hand, it was no surprise either. It was he. Her Angel. Her loving and caring Angel, who would do anything for her. Who would die for her.and he had. He'd died for her. "We could have been happy now," she whispered, as a first of many tears to come rolled down her cheek. "We could have been so happy, my love."
She reminisced of Angel. She remembered his handsome face, his bright smile, illuminated by the sun.she would give her life just to see that smile again. And the way he'd held her in his arms, so protective, so loving, and so secure. He had never been so free like in that day. He was truly happy. He'd tried all the time to let her see how happy she'd made him, but in his smiling eyes there was also the hidden fear of becoming too happy and suffering the consequences. But that day it was absent. He was purely happy. He was holding his love in his arms, kissing her, caressing her, telling her how much he loved her, and there was no stupid curse that could ruin these perfect moments. She missed him so much. She would wake up crying in the middle of the night at least ten times per night, and Willow would always worriedly ask if anything was wrong, if she had a nightmare, and all Buffy could say was that nothing was wrong, and fall back asleep, until she would wake up in another two hours or so and the whole thing would repeat itself. How could she ever tell her?
But eventually she had to, after she'd woken up screaming one night, and Willow was by her side, the redhead told Buffy she was crying something like 'Never forget' in her nightmare and constantly calling for Angel. Buffy ran out of arguments then. She could no longer claim it was nothing, after Willow had heard her saying 'Angel'. So, she told her. She spilled her heart before her best friend and told her everything. And all Willow could do was just hold her. Hold her, and soothingly stroke her hair while she was lamenting in her lap, just like she had done after Angel had first told her he was leaving. She was crying so terribly and heartrendingly, Willow feared she would any minute choke from her amount of tears. And again, in some point Willow told her it was horrible. And again.Buffy knew that horrible was still coming.
And horrible was coming. Horrible was coming and getting even more horrible. She'd cried so much. She'd cried more tears than she'd thought her body contained. She'd felt as if a part of her was gone. She'd remembered what she'd told Willow right after Angel had broken up with her - 'right now I'm just trying to keep from dying'. And at first, she was, she truly was. Only that then she felt she was already dead. Her soul and her heart were dead and nothing but an ensouled creature of the night could bring them back to life. Buffy used to cling to his image, to his loving and tender face, to his soft voice. She'd even held a habit of calling him sometimes, only to hear him answer, and then hang up. She used to visualize his arms wrapped around her when she felt pain. And she'd felt pain. And most of the times, he had been the reason for her pain, and even despite that, the imaginary feeling of being held in his strong arms when she cried, was seldom enough to grant her at least a certain comfort.
She had never felt as lost as she felt now. She had given the only man she loved a promise she couldn't keep. She had the spell, she could go back whenever she wanted and admit to everyone that she'd failed. *It's not like it would be a first,* she thought. But at the same time, she knew she'd never do it. She couldn't. After all, she had promised, and she was known for keeping her word. She would never forget.
Liam had promised himself he wouldn't drink tonight. He'd promised himself for thousands of times the very same thing, but tonight it was different. Tonight, he really wanted to make it. Before, it had been for his mother, for his father, for his sisters, other countless members of his broad family who begged him to stop and act like his caste claimed him to, mostly to stop humiliating them by doing so. Yes, he cared about them, but he also was a young man who wanted to have fun, and this was his idea of fun. He had usually avoided them, giving less and less significance to their opinion of him, but tonight, he had swore he wouldn't drink, and for a change, THEY had nothing to do with it. It was she, that girl he'd met the night before. For the first time in his life, he had truly felt humiliated by someone telling him he was drunk. What bothered him the most was the idea of appearing low in her eyes. He wasn't able to bear the thought alone, needless to mention the effect the look in her eyes once she told him he was drunk had on him. He was discomfited to the core. It bothered him. It more than bothered him, and at first, he had hated it; he had hated her for making him feel like he was worth nothing, but then the anger had vanished into the will to be right for her, into the will to never have her looking at him like that again. He remembered her gaze the moment she had first seen him, before acknowledging his drunkenness. He longed for her to look at him like that again. It was a gaze so warm, so full of love. He hadn't known love. He had never loved anyone before. At least, not the kind of love a man must be feeling towards a woman. But somehow he was sure he was in love with her. He didn't know why. After all, he had only seen her once, but after that one time, everything inside him felt different. He didn't feel himself anymore, and the way he did feel - the way his entire body was quivering, swept in delightful warmth to the mere thought of her - he loved it.
But he failed. He hated himself so much for failing, because for the first, it was also a failure in HIS eyes, and especially - HER eyes. Not only the eyes of others. He was sitting in the tavern, on his.sixth, perhaps ninth.he had even stopped counting how many beakers of whisky had he drunk. He cursed his mother silently, blaming her for the whole event. He was so self satisfied after he had turned down his friends' invitation to spend the night with them in their usual routine and stayed home, but no. The Duchess hadn't seemed to be finished with the previous night's quarrel, she had to continue it tonight as well. After maybe an hour or so of wrangling with her, he simply stormed out, and ended up here, ordering his first tipple. He couldn't have possibly imagined what the future held for him. His nightmarish night was nowhere near being over.
Buffy was slowly sauntering the dark streets. Even after a whole day of seeing practically everything, she could still enjoy it all every time as if it were the first. It was too spectacular. Already then Buffy knew she would need a lot more than a day to fully estimate everything she had seen until now and everything she hadn't yet seen but hoped to. She knew exactly what had captured her. The innocence, the simplicity, and the delicate yet fabulous beauty of almost everything in this ancient Ireland. She hadn't known it back home. She probably hadn't even known such things existed, or could have existed. She had only heard about them in stories, fairytales her mother used to tell her when she had been little, history classes she had never bothered to stay awake in. And naturally, witnessing it all with her own eyes was nothing in comparison to hearing about it from someone else.
Buffy had spent most of the past night in an inn. Not that she had had any money with her to pay for a room, but it was better to be sitting in there by the fire than maybe freezing outdoors. She beamed to herself, reminiscing of the stares she drew last night in the tavern. She could only guess by the way she was dressed that a lady 'of her station' wasn't supposed to be seen in a place like this. She had no idea that a lady of any station wasn't supposed to be seen there, especially when she was unescorted. She saw women there, so she naturally couldn't understand why it wasn't 'okay' for her to be there as well. How could she know these women were mostly harlots? Their outfits seemed as respectable to her as her own.
Buffy was hungry too. She didn't feel hunger, but deep inside she was, because she hadn't eaten anything since she got here. She had no money, and even if she had, most of the food she saw there she didn't recognize. She didn't know what wouldn't kill her if she ate it. But she didn't give much notice to the hunger, or even the cold (most of the day she had spent outside). Her thoughts were constantly plunged with Angel. Her Angel, the one she'd met here. She'd never tried to equate between the two men that in the end were the same person anyway. A person could not change completely. The body could change, of course. The body could be harmed, it could be killed, but not the soul. The soul would always remain the same. She knew if she dug deep enough in the human Angel, she would find the man she loved. She would find his soul, and she intended to. Buffy completely disregarded that her 'mission' was to kill him. Now that she thought of that, she knew from the start she could never do that. But she had promised Angel. She'd promised her love she wouldn't let him be taken by his demon again. She would never do this to the soul she loved so much, she would never let it be tormented like that. So, what she was brooding over was finding an alternate solution. Buffy had no clue that her solution was behind the next turn, in a murky lane.
Her ponderings were abruptly stopped by a strong thud coming from an alley.
She couldn't believe her eyes when what was transpiring there became evident to her. She was witnessing an event of history, the very event the repercussions of which had turned her entire life upside down, the very same event she had been sent here to prevent from happening. Her mind wasn't working clearly when she saw Darla feeding on Liam before her eyes. She wasn't contemplating over what she should or should not do. She had no more time left to seek out for a different solution anymore. All she could see was someone killing the man she loved, and that was ALL she could care about. As it was already proven in Faith's case, she could be homicidal to anyone who would harm him. She ran over to them and ripped Darla off of him, throwing her with all her Slayer's strength into the wall. When the vampire recovered from her shock and came forth to attack, Buffy was already prepared. She swept out a stake (she had made one for a case of running into a vampire), and drove it right through Darla's dead heart. She immediately turned to dust.
Buffy was standing there, gazing at the dust scattered allover her and around her, and the entirety of what she had just done finally sank in. Now, there was no way back anymore. She felt strange. She realized she didn't care. It was a decision made in a sweep of a moment, but it was the right one. She had less than one second to decide whether or not to let Angel become a vampire. If she let him, then nothing would change. She would go back to where she came from. If she didn't.she would go back to a world without Angel. A world in which she most likely wouldn't be alive, but even if she were, her life would not be the same. She remembered the spell, she could use it anytime, whenever she wanted to. But she no longer wanted to. She erased the spell from her mind as if it were never there. The moment she dashed to save Angel, she actually chose between the two. And she already knew what her next choice would be. She already knew she was never coming back.
Buffy hastened to Liam lying on the cold ground, his eyelids almost entirely shut. She could see he was too disoriented to fully realize what had happened to him. His hand flew to his neck as Buffy kneeled beside him, and he paled even more than he already was from the blood loss to the sight of the blood. Then he looked at her. Liam tried to say something. His lips were moving, but no sound was coming out of his mouth. Then he restored his hand back on his neck, ineffectually trying to stop the intensive bleeding there.
Luckily, Buffy had a quick thinking. She tore at her dress, and tied the piece of cloth tightly around his punctured neck. Nevertheless, she saw it wasn't enough. The fabric was soon drenched with blood. She needed to somehow get him home. But where the Hell was 'home'?!
As if reading her thoughts, Liam attempted to rise, propping himself up on his palms, and she helped him up. He turned her attention over to a great castle in approximately ten or fifteen minutes walking from where they were. Buffy nodded and let him lean on her. It was obvious that in his present state he wouldn't be able to walk there on his own. But the feeling of having his body so adjacent to hers, allowed other thoughts into her mind. Buffy held him more firmly now, not only keeping him stable, but also taking pleasure in the closeness they hadn't shared.for far too long. He reclined on her hesitantly, not definite if it was proper for him to be so close to her, but then again, not that he had been such a great fan of 'what's right' formerly.
Thomas' eyes widened in fear to the sight before him. He scurried to let both Buffy and Liam inside. "What happened, miss?" he questioned her, as she was seating Liam on the nearest chair.
Before she could answer anything, a girl, not much older than she, entered the room. Seeing her brother, Ilana gasped fearfully. "What happened to him?" she asked Buffy. "And who would you be, if I may ask?" that was uttered in a more suspicious tone. "Thomas, go fetch someone to help him to his room," she ordered the elder man. "Well?" Ilana queried nervously.
*What am I supposed to say?* Buffy pondered, *I'm his lover from the future?* "A vampire bit him. Hope you know what that is.I found him."
That moment two younger servants walked into the room with Thomas and took Liam up to his bedroom, supporting him from both sides.
After they were gone, Ilana faced Buffy. "I thank you very much for helping my brother," she said politely, "you can go now, we will no longer require your services."
*Services?! Who the Hell does she think she is?!* Buffy felt a strong urge to slap her at this moment, but she decided she'd better behave herself. "Listen, can I at least see if he's okay?"
Ilana refused. "It will not be necessary. I am sure he will be alright," she seemed anxious to get Buffy out of her house. She opened the door, by that bluntly asking her to leave.
Buffy did so, choosing not to argue over this, but something told her to remain close to the mansion for a while, and of course, she did that too. She found a bench outside and sat there.
Liam was already in bed when Ilana came into his bedroom.
"May I come in?" she opened the door a little and asked before stepping in.
"Yes," he approved hoarsely. It was still painful for him to speak. "Where is she?" he asked Ilana as soon as she was in the room.
"Who?" his sister asked innocently. Somehow, she knew whom he was referring to.
"The lass.who brought me here."
"Well.she has left."
He exerted to rise on his elbows to look his sister in the eyes. "She has not left. You have banished her." It was a statement.
"I had to, Liam," she tried to justify, "she was so rude, and so.well, her language alone, and her dress...was dirty and torn... She resembled a farm maid, Liam. You must not be involved with someone of her kind. It is not right."
He wasn't listening. "Bring her back, Ilana," he tried to sound convincing, "bring her back, now."
"No," she insisted, "I shall not."
He sank back into his bed. He didn't possess the strength to argue now. He barely had the strength to keep his eyes open. But he still wanted that girl. He wanted her to hold him. He wanted to feel safe in her arms again. *Why did she have to send her away like that?* "She saved my life," he whispered, as he seemed to be drifting into sleep.
Ilana gazed at him. *Saved his life?* she thought. *She is merely a girl. How could she have fought a vampire? And yet.here he is. And SHE brought him here.* "Mother is going to kill me," she muttered, as she rushed down the stairs.
"Did you want anything, my Lady?" Thomas asked when she was down. "Is master Liam well?"
"He is, Thomas. I need you to go and find that lass who brought him here. Do it now, please."
He looked at her with surprise. "Where shall I seek for her?"
"I do not know, Thomas, but Liam asked for her. I did not have the heart to refuse him. And please, Thomas, do not tell my mother of that," she pondered over her words for a second, "also, do not tell anyone else."
"Of course, ma'am," he bowed.
The old butler took his coat and went outside.
To Ilana's surprise, he returned seconds later, with Buffy by his side. "The young lady was awaiting outside, ma'am," he explained.
Buffy gazed at Ilana questioningly. *What does she want?*
"My brother has called for you," Ilana said.
Buffy couldn't help but smile. "So, are you going to show me where his room is?"
Ilana swallowed. Oh, her mother was definitely going to kill her when she found out. She led the way to Liam's room.
Buffy didn't wait for a special invitation to walk in. Secretly, Ilana wondered over the rudeness of that girl. *Where did she come from?* she carefully closed the door behind her, and stayed in, watching as Buffy sat on the edge of Liam's bed, without the slightest hesitation. *He is not even fully dressed!* she observed. *Has she no shame at all, being so close to a single man? And in his own bedchamber?!*
Buffy gently caressed his peaceful sleeping face. She untangled the cloth off his neck, seeing the blood had already stiffened, but still needed to be cleaned. She absorbed it in the bowl of water on his nightstand, which's original purpose was to wash hands, and began cautiously washing around the holes in his neck.
Ilana was amazed. *What is she doing? It is not a lady's charge to mess with blood. Such plainness of a person.where was she raised?*
Buffy didn't seem to mind her piercing eyes, but she also preferred not to have her there at all.
Suddenly, Liam stirred and opened his eyes a little. "You." he whispered, gazing at Buffy, "who are you?"
She stuttered. "I.ummm.Buff...Anne," She finally decided on her middle name. She assumed it would make her less alien to this era than her real one. It was a clever choice.
"Anne," he echoed her name softly, "it is a beautiful name."
She merely smiled.
"Where are you from, Anne?" Ilana queried.
Buffy shrugged. "Around."
"You have no home?" Ilana refused to believe.
"No," Buffy saw no point in lying.
"You are welcome to stay here," Liam addressed it more to his sister than to Buffy. "My home is yours."
Ilana stared at him in shock. "Liam, mother will not approve such a thing."
"Mother will approve whatever I will tell her to approve," he grinned weakly. "She occasionally tends to forget that when father is not functioning, I am the Duke and this is my roof she lives under."
Ilana recognized the truth in his words. Still, standing up against her mother was a risky thing to do. Even when you're a Duke.
"I can say you are a friend of mine who has come to visit," Ilana suggested.
Liam smiled at her gratefully. He also knew it was better not to appose his mother.
Buffy decided she was starting to like Ilana after all. "Could you please leave us alone for a few minutes?" she asked as politely as she could conjure up.
Ilana was astounded. "W.what? Alone? In my brother's room? How can you ask me to do such a thing?"
Buffy smiled sweetly. "I will not harm him, I promise."
"B.but this is so wrong.what will people say?."
"Please, Ilana?" Liam joined Buffy's request. "I promise to behave."
"As you wish then, but if mother ever finds out, she shall kill us both." With that, she left.
Buffy leaned forward and tenderly kissed Liam on his brow. He never expected such blunt display of affection. He beamed, his eyes closed, as he was still feeling her lips against his skin.
Buffy smiled at the immediate change in him. She loved the way she could affect him with a simple kiss. She had been right all along. Deep inside, it was the same person. Maybe even not as deep as she had thought. She gently let her hand caress the sides of his face, as he kept his eyes closed, living the dream her touch made reality, until he fell asleep.
Buffy just sat there, not moving from his side, observing as he was fast asleep. The smile caused by being with him like that again, never leaving her face. She could only gaze at him sleeping, note the way his chest rose and fell regularly with each breath, as the warmth of his hand clasped in hers penetrated through her skin.if she concentrated enough, she could even hear his heart beating.
Liam wasn't even hardly surprised when the first thing his eyes saw when he opened them the next morning was Buffy, rumpled in an armchair in front of the bed. She was still sleeping peacefuly, and she looked so beautiful to him. She looked like an angel. *She stayed with me all night,* he thought to himself. Suddenly, his ears caught a weak rap on his door. "Come in," he whispered.
Ilana entered and closed the door. Liam put his finger to his lips to indicate her to keep her voice down.
"She has spent the night?" Ilana queried in astonishment.
Her brother nodded. Abruptly a worried look crossed his face. "You did not tell mother, did you?"
"Of course not, Liam. What a fool do you think I am? But she will know in a short time. I presume you do remember there is still breakfast to attend."
Liam felt sick due to a mere thought of food. "I do not think I will be eating anything. I feel somewhat sick. But do have food brought here," he peered at Buffy, "I have a feeling she is starved."
"Alright," Ilana consented, "I reason she will not be.sharing your room from now on." It wasn't a question. "I have ordered to prepare one of the guest rooms for her."
Liam opposed. "It was not necessary, Ilana. I will put her in the room next to mine. It is standing empty anyway. The guests' wing has not been in use for a very long time. There are rats there and Heavens know what else. I will not have her sleeping there. She is my guest, and she will live in my quarters. There is plenty of room."
"Mother will be angry, Liam. She will never approve."
"Mother will approve whatever I will tell her to approve," he declared plainly, again, "she has propensities to forget some things occasionally. It is about time I reminded her of these conventions she craves me so much to follow."
"Do not aggravate her, Liam. I beg you."
"I do not, and moreover do not intend to. But I will also not allow her do dictate my life any longer than she already did. And I will not put Anne in the guests' wing."
"She is a guest, Liam."
"She is MY guest, and she will reside in the room next to mine. It is the end of this discussion, Ilana."
Ilana accepted it under duress. "Alright. I shall be leaving now. I will be back when mother will leave for shopping, and I will bring some decent gowns of mine. She must not have mother seeing her in.that," she looked with slight aversion at Buffy's dress.
"Thank you. Do it, please, and ask someone to have food brought. I do not feel strong enough to go downstairs yet."
"I will ask Alice." She shut the door behind her.
Liam looked at Buffy. It really didn't surprise him when he had woken up and found her. He had known she had been there all night even before he saw she was. He had known she had been guarding him. He had never slept so peacefully in his life. Throughout the entire night, he had had the feeling of a guardian angel watching over his sleep. When he woke up, this feeling turned to be a reality. He had no doubt SHE was his guardian angel, in all manners concerned.
Suddenly, she began to stir and sluggishly stretched up.
Buffy instantly caught his intent look towards her. "Hey," she greeted him, still drowsily, "slept well?"
"Yes, thank you," he beamed. "You?"
"Was okay. I'd rather to do it in a bed next time though," she beamed mischievously, sending him a playful, yet alluring gaze.
He blushed and looked away.
"You look better," Buffy remarked.
"I feel better too."
She stood up and moved to sit next to him. He wasn't able to hide his surprise due to her boldness and bluntness. He simply prized it. Liam flinched unexpectedly when she touched his neck.
She smiled and he unwound. "Don't worry," she reassured, "I won't be biting you any time soon. Besides," she glanced at the open window and the sunlight shining through it, "if I wanted to, I'd be a toast by now."
He just smiled coyly, and let her touch his neck, where the bite marks were already long closed. He loved her brisk idiom and sense of humor, even though he didn't quite understand what she meant to say sometimes. But how could he tell her that it was her touch that made him quiver, and not the fear from her biting him? He tried to seek for the exact words to tell her how he felt about her, but didn't find any. He didn't know any. He had never said anything like this to anyone before. Besides the fact he simply had had no one to say it to, he was taught it wasn't.proper.
"You were lucky. She didn't drink too much."
"Because of you."
Buffy chuckled. "I somehow doubt it was just that. She had other planes for you, buddy. Killing you wasn't one of them."
"Never mind," she beamed.
He beamed too. "It wonders me every time anew how freely you do things. Like you do not have to answer to anyone. Like you do not care how everyone would feel about your deeds."
"What kind of a life would I have if I didn't?"
"I know. You are right. You are.you are." he paused, "special. If you believe something is right, you do it. You live your life according to yourself. You remind me of.of what I myself try to be. I only wish I could be like you."
Buffy giggled. "I take it as a compliment."
Liam blushed again. "It.it is. It is a compliment. I.love it.in you."
"You always have."
"Never mind again. I'll fill you in later."
Liam nodded in agreement, and looked down. He didn't say anything for a while, and Buffy descried him nervously pulling at the bedcover. She took a hold on his hands and smiled at him. "Tell me."
He hesitated. He didn't want her to think little of him. It was the last thing he wanted. His dilemma was whether he could trust her with his inner feelings.
"I was afraid," he said finally.
She knew exactly what he meant by that, and therefore squeezed his hands. "It's okay."
"No, I really.I really was. I thought I was going to die. I was not afraid of her. I was afraid of dying." He looked up at her. "Have you ever.been bitten?"
"Yeah," she replied right away.
"Were you also scared?"
She beamed simply. "Because I trusted him with all my heart. I knew he would never harm me. I knew he'd rather die before."
He was flabbergasted. "You mean to say you.LET a vampire to."
"My blood was the only way to save his life. I couldn't let the only man I loved die."
Liam started to feel increasing admiration towards her. This girl had devotion within her he hadn't known before. "It must have demanded an outstanding courage."
Buffy waved her hand dismissingly. "Don't over-flatter me," she grinned, but then her face turned solemn again. He could almost see the reflection of her reminisces in her eyes. It gave him a throwing sensation. "Really. It hasn't. It was actually the easiest thing I have ever done. The easiest decision, that is. When you love someone like we loved each other, you very soon come to the realization that your lover's life comes before your own in your order of priorities."
"He must be an exceptional man. And a very lucky one, if I might add. I wish I could meet him."
Buffy smiled and gently kissed his forehead. "You ARE he."
Liam's entire body tingled. He loved so much the way she touched him, the impact she had on him. It was like a spell. He never wanted to let her go. After having her in his life for only a couple of days, he dreaded the way his life would be without her. But her heart was given to another. She had said so herself. And still, if he hadn't known better, he would have thought the love radiating from her eyes was meant for him. Perhaps it was merely prompts of his inner desires. But.what was it she had said?. Before Liam could let the meaning of her words sink in completely, he heard a knock on the door. "Enter," he said.
A servant walked in, holding a tray of food in her hands. She halted for a second to make sure she was seeing right. A strange girl, sitting naturally on the bed of a half naked Liam.but she soon snapped out of it. Buffy strove not to laugh at her reaction, and so did Liam.
"Are you feeling better, sir?" She inquired.
"Yes, Alice, thank you. Put the tray on my nightstand, if you please. It is for the lady."
She obeyed, million thoughts running through her head as she placed the food before Buffy, granting her a polite curtsy. Buffy returned an approving nod and a smile. Then she shot Liam a questioning gaze, *He asked to bring me food? When did I tell him I was hungry?*
He beamed reassuringly in return.
"You do not wish to have breakfast, sir?" Alice asked.
"Not this morning, Alice. I do not feel well. Has mother left for shopping yet?"
"She has, sir. She has only just left, in fact."
"Thank you, Alice. And please do not inform anyone of Lady Anne's presence here until I do it myself."
"As you wish, sir. Anything else?"
"Yes. Could you please summon my sister Ilana to my room?"
"I am sorry, but mistress Ilana and mistress Laura are out in the gardens. They will be hard to find. But as soon as she returns, I will tell the Lady you wish to see her."
He nodded. "Thank you. That would be all, Alice."
She bowed. "I hope you will feel better and join the family for lunch today, sir," she glanced at Buffy and bowed again, "ma'am."
Buffy smiled and Alice left. She turned back to Liam. "You ordered food for me?"
He was taken aback. "I realize you have not asked, and I am sorry if you are displeased, but I was under the impression you were hungry, so I allowed myself to..."
She kissed his cheek. He felt immediate shivers running down his spine. He'd never get used to it, but how much he loved it!
"Thank you," she said in her sweet voice, "it's very nice of you. I can't wait to dig in, I'm starving!"
She chuckled. "Sorry. My bad. Eat."
He smiled. "You use all these phrases I have never heard before. I wish I could learn more about you."
*Was it irony in her eyes?*
"I always thought you were the one who knew everything about me."
"How could that." then her words from before hit him again, "what did you mean when you said 'you are he'?"
"I'll tell you after breakfast, okay?"
"Of course. You are hungry."
"No.WE are hungry." She surveyed the food. She saw some cupcakes, a schooner of orange juice, a cop of tea, a few waffles, and some other foods she didn't recognize. Buffy picked up the schooner and handed it to Liam. "Open wide!" she smiled.
He pulled back. "I am not hungry. Please, excuse me if I do not eat with you. I feel a little nauseous since last night's incident."
"But, sweetheart, this is exactly why you need to eat more. Besides, orange juice has vitamins in it, or whatever. It's good for you precisely because you lost a large amount of blood. Your system needs food to overcome that loss."
He pretty much stopped listening after 'sweetheart'. "You called me 'sweetheart'?"
She shrugged artlessly. "I did? Sorry, just habit, I guess. Why, you don't want me to call you that? I won't call you that."
"I do not.I do not know. I want to, but." he looked for a way out of this topic, "would that gentleman you talked about not mind you being here with me?"
She laughed. "Boy, you got SOO much I need to tell you! But I will tell you all about it ONLY after you drink everything in that glass," she stared at him expectantly.
Somehow, he knew there was no point in arguing with her. Liam sipped at the juice, and to his surprise, didn't feel like wanting to heave it all out.
Buffy read his thoughts. "So? It stays down?"
It took him a while to interpret the exact meaning of her words, but he did. He grinned approvingly.
She grinned back. "Good. Drink up, then."
On to Part Eight