Enshrined in My Soul
Rating - NC-17 or R...I'm not sure.
Disclaimer - we've been over the drill.
Spoilers - "The Gift", everything prior to it in both Angel and Buffy-verse (just to be sure), and also based on some of the spoilers for season 6 of BtVS.
Summary - post "The Gift". That should sum it up.
Note1 - I hate Tara's character, so she's not in this story. Same goes for Fred.
Note2 - Doyle is dead (and I hate myself for it, but I couldn't bring him back this time:()
Distribution - please ask me first.
Feedback - is the most addictive drug...
"That's it!" Cordelia bolted from the couch she'd been sitting on.
The two men in the room turned towards her at once, with an utterly confused expression on both of their faces.
"I can't stand this any longer!" she exclaimed, throwing her hands in the air, seeing they obviously hadn't quite followed. "How can you stand this? How can you two.pretend as if nothing's going on?!"
The two gazed at her for a while, both silent, either having nothing to say or simply choosing to be quiet this time. Then they returned to their former occupation.
Cordelia glared at the two, then flopped back on the couch, folding her arms on her chest. "It's been over three months," she remarked, in a much softer voice, speaking more to herself than to her two friends. Then she looked up at the two of them, just the same moment as Wesley rapidly hid his face back in his book, visibly avoiding her gaze. "How much longer can this go on?" her voice possessed a hint of despair as she uttered the question.
"Perhaps.perhaps someone should go in there and talk to him?" Wesley suggested, stuttering slightly.
"Someone should GO IN," Cordelia smirked. "Talk to him would be step two of the plan. You can't execute step two before step one, and he doesn't exactly keep his door open to the wide crowd. Or.to anyone.at all."
"Well.he goes out."
"Yeah, to kill whatever pops up in my vision, then it's right back to his sanctuary. Sometimes I think he wouldn't come out even if the entire hotel is on fire."
"What's the story with the dead chick anyway?" Gunn spoke for the first time, contently inspecting the burnished sword he'd been honing up till now. "I mean, sure, she was his lady-love for what.three years?" he looked up at Cordelia for confirmation, but the brunette didn't seem to play along. He went on nevertheless. "They broke up. Almost three years ago. Don't you think it's enough to get one girl out of your head?"
"Have you always had no heart, or is it a recently developed one?" Cordelia inquired after a lapse of silence.
"Look who's talking, Ms. 'I can't take this anymore'," Gunn mocked. "Look, I can understand the man's grieving, but ain't no grief lasts forever."
"You think I disagree? But you don't know how it's like, okay? You're not familiar with the Buffy and Angel saga, okay? I am. No matter what he says, he never was, and never will be over her. Since she," the brunette gulped, biting her lip to forestall tears. She had never thought of Buffy as one her closest friends, but even so, the Slayer's death had been a much more agonizing blow to her than she could ever have imagined. Despite having never been particularly close to Buffy, she had felt the same as if she had lost one of her closest friends. "Since she died," Cordelia continued, "he's been walking around, that's when he is AROUND, like a dead man, and there was no pun intended there. He's been worse than he used to be in his.'Darla' stage."
"Well, Cordelia, you said it yourself.it's Buffy," Wesley tried to reason.
But his colleague didn't seem to be listening. "And.I can understand. Okay? To.to some extend, he loved.crap, he loves her. He still loves her, so.I can understand, but.he can't go on like this forever. I can't.see him like that anymore." She looked down on her hands folded in her lap in defeat.
"And there are also the many people whose lives are nightly in his hands. He can't let them down," the Brit added.
"He still fights," Gunn shrugged, inwardly acknowledging it wasn't his wisest remark of the day.
"Not as he used to," Wesley argued softly. "He seems.not to have a purpose anymore. He used to fight.for a purpose. For something greater than he, for.for redemption. Now, he doesn't. Now, he simply.carries out his duty."
"Can you blame him?" the former cheerleader chuckled bitterly. "He's lost faith in them," she briefly gazed up at the ceiling, "No surprise there. First Doyle.then, Buffy," she felt a pinch in her heart each time she voiced a name. "If I were him.I think I would too."
Gunn sighed. "Sooner or later, he's gonna have to join us in the real world. English here's right. Too much and too many are dependant on him. He can't mope around in the dark forever." his voice died away as the three of them first became aware of the vampire in question eavesdropping from the top of the stairs.
"Angel." Cordelia gasped, being the first one who actually managed to say ANYTHING at all.
"Angel," Wesley rose from his seat, "we were just talking.."
"I heard enough," the vampire cut him short. He scanned the three people with piercing dark eyes, that despite being penetrating, were as tired as never before, and then spoke again. "Keep out of it," he told them, in a low, firm voice, "all of you. None of it is your business. I'm not expecting you to understand, neither one of you."
"Don't do it, Angel!" Cordelia interrupted him. "Don't you dare shut us out again. I won't have Darla repeating itself, I had enough the first time! You'd better get used to the idea of us sticking around!" she beheld him tenderly for a moment, letting the slight flicker of anger and hurt in her eyes to fade away. "We can help you, Angel," she said softly, somewhat pleadingly, taking one step in the direction of the staircase, "all you have to do is ask."
"I didn't ask, Cordelia. Maybe, you should pay a little more attention and finally come to realize that. I didn't ask for compassion, I didn't ask for understanding, and I didn't ask for anything at all from you. My ONLY wish is to be left alone, but that one somehow skipped past your ears." He turned around to leave.
"Angel, this is got to stop!" Cordelia yelled after him, but he was already gone.
"Damn him," she muttered, sitting back down.
"Perhaps we should do as he asks."
"No, Wesley! He doesn't know what he wants right now! If we leave him this time, it will be Darla all over again."
"It is his own grief, Cordelia. He's right. You, none of us, can possibly conceive his loss. It will be over eventually, when his pain will lessen."
"Well, he happens to have forever for that, which I don't!" she exclaimed.
"It sounds a little selfish, Cordelia," Wesley commented gently.
Her eyes shot daggers at him. "You damn right, it's selfish! I don't wanna lose him again, it's as selfish as it gets! I won't let him slip again, mind my word!"
That very same moment, her hands flew to her head.
Angel stared vacantly at the floor underneath his feet. He sighed, and tiredly ran his hands through his spiky hair. He was so tired. Only in moments like these, when he found the time to actually think about it, would he realize just how truly tired he was. It wasn't even the pain anymore. The pain had been so strong, so agonizing, humming, throbbing through every inch of his body.it had been more than he had been able to stand, maybe because he had never thought such pain would ever come to him, maybe because he'd never thought the only occurrence that could evoke that pain in him would ever come to pass. But still, as excruciating as that pain had been.it was now gone. Sure, there was still pain. There would always be a certain amount of it in him, a certain amount that would never ever leave him, but it wasn't that pain. Not that one. Not anymore. Now, it wasn't the pain, and it wasn't the seclusion, or the barrenness. Because now, there was nothing left in him. Now.he was just tired. Tired. He had never been so worn in his almost three hundred years of living. Nearly three centuries. It was hard to take in he had really been.existing for such a long time. Yet, all in all, it too was now meaningless.
She had taken it all away from him. She had taken the meaning out of his so-called life. She had left him empty. So empty, he was now scared of himself. He had abruptly realized that never once in all these many years had he lived without a purpose. Not once had he had to do something without a reason. Not once.until now.
Why did she have to mean so much to him? Why did he have to love her so much? Why couldn't he stop? Why couldn't he let go?
Angel wasn't sure who he blamed more for it. Was it her, or was it himself?.
He chuckled despondently, thinking back to what he had heard Cordelia saying downstairs in the lobby. She had been right in what she'd said. She'd said he'd lost faith, and she had been right. The Powers that Be had toyed with him one time too many. They had taken away Doyle, then. Angel swallowed. He had just acknowledged he still wasn't able to bring himself to even ponder her name. At least, not intentionally. He would say her name only in his dreams these days. And in these dreams, she was so painfully alive, he often wondered whether to fall asleep at all. He sometimes refused to give in to the overwhelming sleep, because then the dreams would take over. And then, after he would wake up.she wouldn't be there.
So, what was he fighting for now, then? Angel didn't know. Maybe he did, somewhere deep inside, but he didn't really. They used to fight together, side by side, protecting the very same sorry world that was slowly consuming them both. They had had a purpose. Then, their ways had parted, but they still kept fighting, for that same cause. Strong is fighting, that's what she had told him once, years ago. Well, now they weren't even existing in the same time and space anymore, and he was still fighting.did that mean he was also still strong?
Angel chuckled. She would laugh at the irony of her own words, if she had only seen him now.strong. Sure, he was strong. As strong as a person whose true being had died could be.yeah, strong. He used to be fighting for redemption, for forgiveness, for salvation, for peace. His prophesied humanity was only a small step in his way towards something so much larger. And then, the key to this something had died. She, who had been his true redemption, was now gone. So, what was he fighting for now? Maybe it was simply the battle she had left unfinished? Maybe there wasn't supposed to be a purpose at all? It would certainly be easier to think so, he admitted to himself. It would be one failure less in his own book.
A hesitant knock on the door tore into his thoughts.
Angel looked up from the floor, fixing his eyes on the door, as if waiting for it to open up by itself. It didn't.
The knock repeated itself, this time with an addition of Cordelia's voice, calling his name.
The vampire sighed. "What is it?" he wanted to know, sounding everything but demanding, or angry.
"I need to talk to you," came the reply.
He groaned. "Hardly."
"Angel, I'm not kidding. I need to talk to you. We have no time to argue, this is serious."
No answer followed.
"Angel, open the door."
"It's open," he breathed out the words.
Cordelia walked in, rapidly advancing upon him.
Angel didn't stand up from his bed. "What?" he asked curtly.
"Vision," she said.
The vampire stood up, walking past her to grab a shirt. "Where?"
He slowly rotated, until he was face to face with Cordelia.
She peered him straight in the eye as she went on. "Angel," she took a deep, shaky, breath, "what I saw in the vision."
"What about it?"
"It was you."
Angel frowned. "What are you talking about?"
"No jokes, I swear. I saw you in my vision."
"Alright. Me, and.what else?"
Cordelia gazed at him for a long moment. No, she couldn't tell him. She'd use every possible way around it, before she would tell him. Even though a voice in the back of her head prompted there was no way for her to break his heart even more, she was not willing to take that chance. "You have to speak to the Oracles," was all she said.
"Why?" he inquired slowly.
"Because my job is to get mind splitting visions I don't understand. It's their job to explain them." Saying that, she revolved, pacing back towards the door. She halted as she reached it, and turned her head around. "Feel like joining me?" she asked, clearly, waiting for Angel to tag along.
He sighed, buttoning up his habitual black shirt, and started after her.
Willow was silently descending from the second floor of the Summers' residence, too preoccupied with her thoughts to pay attention to anything, or anyone, else. Her head snapped up in alarm to the sound of a male voice.
"Sorry," he apologized, seeing he'd obviously startled her.
She took a deep breath, dismissing it with a wave of her hand, as she proceeded after him into the living room.
"What's new?" Xander inquired, as the two sat down on the sofa.
"Nothing. We talked for a while, then she said she was tired."
"Don't you think I would tell you if there were anything else?"
"I know, I'm sorry, Will, but.I just want it to be over already," he apologized, trying to explain himself.
Willow breathed deeply again. "We talked. For not more than fifteen minutes. We talked about her patrol, about vampires, about how much she wished she were a regular woman without the weight of the world on her shoulder, despite the fact she admitted she liked slaying.but nothing, Xander. Nothing," she finished.
His eyes stared at her with tenaciously desperate hope, and Willow knew he wasn't the only one who she'd just let down with her reply.
"She didn't say anything. She had no flashbacks, no bits of," she bit her lower lip. "Nothing."
"I don't get it!" her childhood friend said, frustratingly punching the sofa. "Why can't she just remember? Why can't she."
"Come back?" the redhead guessed his precise words.
"Yeah," he groaned silently.
"To be honest, I don't even think it's in her power," Willow mused. "If to base an assumption on everything I've read about amnesias of any kind.memories don't come back on their own. That is.they do, but.but something has to trigger them. Whatever can trigger Buffy's memories is clearly." she sighed, "God, let's face it. We didn't, and we DON'T know what we're doing. We screwed up. Plain and simple."
Xander gave her a look, just as she tiredly put her face in her open palms.
He sighed, and reposed his hands on her shoulders, massaging them slightly.
Willow straightened up, her gaze fixed on the opposite wall. "I can't believe I'm going to actually say this," she begun.
The witch shook his hands off of her, whirling around to face him. "Open your eyes Xander, please! I can't stand being the only one among us who's ready to face this truth."
He didn't answer, merely cast his eyes to the floor in defeat.
Willow softened, taking one of his hands in hers. "Two months is a very long time," she spoke. "She's been alive for almost two months now. Hardly anything has changed since we brought her back. She has barely regained anything, even the tiniest aspect of.her former self. I sometimes feel like.like we're living with a.a zombie. She is the Slayer now, that's what she is. She's just.the Slayer. She isn't Buffy anymore, Xander," Willow was in tears by now, "she's not our Buffy. We've lost her. She moves like her, she looks like her, and she sounds like her.but it's not her. It's not Buffy," she sobbed, "she's gone! Everything's cleared up for me the last couple of months. She's really gone."
Xander didn't say anything, knowing of nothing to say to comfort her with. He plainly gathered her into his arms, soothingly stroking her back until she pulled away from him.
"We have her body, Xander," she said. "It's just a body. It's an empty shell of.of a person we loved so much. But it's not her. At some point, you'll see it too. It's not her, it's just.her body. Buffy isn't there. Her SOUL.isn't there, and there isn't a spell in this world using which we can ever get it back. I wish." she looked away from him, preferring to lose eye contact before uttering the next words. "I wish we hadn't brought her back at all. I don't want to settle for this," she continued, taking in his wounded gaze, "not for this. Seeing her.that way, is sometimes so much worse than not seeing her at all. At least, then, we knew her soul was somehow at peace, we knew.SHE was at peace. What we did to her.the resurrection.it's wrong," she shook her head determinately, disregarding the tears that kept streaming down her cheeks. "We had no right."
Both grown-ups turned their heads at once, only to come face to face with a tearful Dawn.
"Dawnie," Willow tried to approach her, but the girl darted backwards.
"I will NEVER let you take her away from me!" she cried. "I don't care what she remembers, or doesn't remember! She's all I have.she's my sister!" and with that, she ran up the stairs.
The redheaded witch chewed on her lip, nervously fidgeting with her hands.
"You think we should go after her?" her friend asked, not entirely sure, or ready to follow his own advice.
Willow gazed up at him and opened her mouth to speak, but the words had never gone past her lips.
"You two stay here," Spike, who had just entered the room, instructed, his voice leaving no room for discussion.
Without honoring them with even a single glance, he strode after Dawn.
"Hey, kid," Spike peeped into Dawn's bedroom. "Mind if I join you?"
She merely looked up for a brief moment, not letting out a sound, and rapidly wiped her tears as he paced into the room.
He perched down on her bed, patting her back as she sat up, not saying anything yet, waiting for her to begin talking when she'd be ready.
"You think she's right?" Dawn asked hesitantly, and at his look added, "Willow."
"You know what," she slightly rolled her eyes.
He peered at the girl for a long spell. "What do you want me to tell you?" he inquired honestly.
"The truth?" she suggested.
"Right," he sighed. Then turned to look her in the eye. "She's strong, kid. She's the bloody Slayer. She'll recover. Hey, it's nothing for her," he waved his hand. "She faced worse. Look," he raised her chin with his index finger, "She's Buffy. Memories or no memories, somewhere, deep down in there, she's still your sister."
Dawn offered a feeble smile as a response to his attempt to comfort her. "Willow said."
"Red doesn't know what she's talking about. None of them do. Bleeding humans, they do everything by the book. First sight of trouble and they flip."
"Thank you," she smiled.
Spike chuckled. "They'll get over it eventually, trust me. Maybe, if they actually tried to help her restore her memories, instead of leaving her hanging in mid air, thinking it's for her own good, she'd be back to us a lot faster."
"Forget it," the vampire shook his head. "What do you see when you look at her?"
"My sister," she beamed.
"So, why are you wasting my bloody time?"
Dawn hit his hip playfully. When she gazed up at him again though, her eyes wore a grave expression. "Do you really think we're doing it wrong?" she insisted on her formerly unanswered question .
He gave her a look. "I've been telling you ever since Red started messing with her magick two months ago, you should get the poof here."
Buffy's sister reflected upon it for a minute. "You think it would make."
"Hell, I do!" he exclaimed. It was hard for him to admit, but there really was no other person, or rather vampire, better for the job. "The 'I'm so tortured' collected the Slayer's pieces more times than I can count, give me a single darn reason why it was good to keep him in the dark during all this? Besides, it isn't fair," he muttered the last sentence in barely a whisper. He couldn't believe he was actually taking Angel's side in ANYTHING, but he knew he wouldn't want to be left out if he were in his Sire's place. He wouldn't want to be left out being in HIS place, and he and the Slayer, as much as she'd like for things to be different, had never been half as close.
But why would any of them ever listen to him?
He looked at the girl sitting next to him on the bed. Dawn was the only one who agreed with him they should notify Angel. The rest of them refused to even hear about it. Every time he suggested it.
He reminisced Xander's remark from two days ago, when he'd brought the subject up again. 'Bringing Angel here will restore her most painful memories, which I'm kinda HAPPY she's lost. She doesn't need this now,' was what he'd said. Typical to him.and yet, they all seemed to agree.
And Willow...she had ran straight to Angel to tell him of the news of Buffy's death, she had sobbed in his arms at the funeral, but never once had she agreed with Spike that he had the right to be notified. Not once.
Spike had sworn at least a dozen times he would go and bring Angel there himself, if they didn't. He had even threatened them out in the open, saying he'd call Buffy's ex-lover if her condition didn't change in a three days.in a week.in a month. they had never taken him seriously enough though. It had pissed him off, and yet, he had to admit he wasn't ready to defy them just yet.
He turned to look at Dawn again. The girl had been eyeing him for several minutes now, as he'd obviously been deep in thoughts. "Go to sleep, kid," he patted her back, "it's late. You got school tomorrow."
She gave him a look, at which he couldn't help but laugh.
"Alright, just hit the sack, will you? Your sister would stake me in a flash if she knew I kept you up this late."
She smiled. "She still has trouble adjusting to the fact there's a 'friendly' vamp hanging around here. I don't think it'll win you extra credit in her book."
"Yeah," he stood up, sighing. "Night, smartass. See you tomorrow."
"Where are you going?" the girl asked him as he was leaving her room.
"I'm in an abrupt need to kill something," he replied, without turning around.
"Why do we always meet here?"
She rotated, smiling, her blonde hair slightly wavering in the breeze. "You don't like it here?" she asked, then looked back at the ocean, she liked watching the graceful waves as they lapped at the shore, shimmering in the dazzling moonlight. "I do," she whispered.
He walked up behind her and encircled his arms around her waist. She leaned backwards into his wide chest, and closed her eyes. "As long as you're here with me, so do I."
Buffy smiled. "You didn't come to me last night," she remarked.
"I'm sorry. Something.came up."
She rotated in his embrace, facing him. "What?"
Angel shook his head. "Nothing," he assured, softly caressing her cheek. "I just want to be with you. I want to stay here forever.just holding you. This time is too precious for me to waste it on something that isn't really important."
"But it is," she covered his hand on her cheek with her own. "I feel that it is. Who else will you talk to, if not me?"
He sighed. "I've seen the Oracles."
"This is never good," she observed.
Angel gazed at her tenderly. "I'm sorry," he uttered softly.
"It's okay," she beamed. "Once you die, your disappointments in life lose their significance."
He flinched, averting his eyes.
"Besides," she took his hand in hers. "I understand now. I probably wouldn't.then, but now, I do. Go on."
He nodded. "Cordelia had a vision. It was about me, so I went to see the Oracles, thinking they could tell me what was up."
"What did they say?"
"I seem to." he rubbed his rear, "I'm going to replace you," he said finally, seeing no point in dwelling around the subject any longer.
Buffy frowned. "I don't understand."
"At first, neither did I," Angel admitted. "A new Slayer was to be called after." he gulped, unable to say it, "after."
She clasped his hand. "It's okay."
"A new Slayer was supposed to be called," he went on. "But there won't be. It has been a mess ever since Kendra was called.two active Slayers in the same time.it needed to be stopped. Right now.there's just Faith. There won't be another Slayer called to replace you anymore. Not as long as Faith is alive."
"But she's in jail. What will happen to."
"I'll do it. It's my job to take over.what you left behind."
"They.made you a.Slayer?"
"No," Angel smiled. "I'm not a Slayer."
"You aren't a vampire anymore either," she suddenly observed, reposing a hand on where his heart was supposed to be beating, but she felt nothing there. "Something is different about you," she gazed up into his soft dark eyes. "I felt it before too. Angel, what happened?"
"I'm not human," he told her right away, "but I'm not a vampire either. I'm.something in between."
"I don't understand."
"Well, for starters, sunlight can't kill me anymore. It was gifted to me so that I will be able to fight during the day as well without bursting into flames."
Buffy sighed, taking it in. "Something in between." she repeated his phrase, "nice. What else is there in the new 'you'?"
"I'm immortal.still. I'm as strong as I used to be while being a regular vampire, I still need blood to survive. Other than that, I'm just like you."
"What about your soul?" Buffy asked the question.
Angel averted his eyes.
She gazed at him, smiling despite the tears rolling down her cheeks, and tenderly brushed her hand over his face. "They're just a little late," she observed, biting her lip not to start crying. "Just.a few months."
Angel felt his own tears threatening to escape his eyes. "I'm sorry," he said hoarsely.
She sighed, and leaned into his embrace, burying her face in his chest. Once she was no longer looking at him, Angel allowed a lone tear to slip through his barriers, as he tightened his arms around her small body.
"I'm happy for you."
*At least, one of us is.*
Buffy looked up, running her thumb over his tear's trail. "It's your chance, Angel. Take it. Do it for me."
"I want to do it WITH you."
"We want many things. Everything happens for a reason, Angel."
"I lost you. Why did this happen? Give me a sound reason, Buffy. If you don't, I can't go on."
"But you will," she stroked his face with a gentle hand, "and you are. You're strong, Angel. You're so much stronger than you think, or would ever admit."
"Not without you."
"You're not without me. I'm here now," she gazed around them, "but I'm here too," she placed a hand over his heart. "I'm always here, Angel."
"It's not enough," he argued.
"It'll have to be. For now."
"I will come back to you, Angel. I promise you that much. One day.I will hold you, just like I used to do, and it won't be a dream." She brushed away another one of his tears. "Until then, I'm always with you."
His eyes roamed upwards over her blond crown, peering at the horizon, where the sky was being slightly tinted in soft shades of pink and orange.
"You have to go," she uttered the words for him.
Angel looked down at his love, taking in her candid smile. "I love you," he said.
"Kiss me before you say goodbye," she requested, letting herself drown in the bottomless depth of his eyes.
"So, how did he react to it?" Wesley asked Cordelia, while the brunette was engrossed in filing.
She shrugged. "In his recently typical way."
"Which would be?" he prompted.
"What do you mean, it's.it's great news."
She groaned, and finally whirled around. "Jesus, Wesley, has it ever occurred to you he doesn't care?"
"But what?" she tossed her hands up in vexation. "He. Doesn't. Care! About anything AT ALL!"
"Cordelia, he cannot possibly NOT care. Perhaps he's just."
"So he's doing a Hell of a job PRETENDING he doesn't. Happy now? Why don't you go up and ask him yourself?"
"I don't understand," Wesley mused, taking off his glasses and rubbing the bridge of his nose with his thumb and index finger. "It is.it's what he wanted the most. Well, it is almost. And he's obviously earned it, I mean, the Powers that Be don't just give out humanity just like that."
"He's not human."
"He is almost," the Englishman argued.
"You don't get it, do you?" the former cheerleader turned to look at him again, folding her arms on her chest. "It's Buffy."
"What? What does she have to do with."
"God, did you have enough coffee this morning?" she eyed him, irritated. "It was all for her. All this time, it was for her. As 'over her' as he was, he always hoped that when he did that Shan...Shans...when he got his redemption, he'd finally have a real chance with her. It was his dream. It was driving him. IT is gone now. Other than the fact it'll allow him to help a lot more people, why the Hell should he care if he's nearly human or not?!"
"Yo, what's with the yelling?" Gunn joined them in the room. He glanced at Cordelia, who was glaring at him, and grinned. "Her majesty woke up on the wrong side of the bed?"
She rolled her eyes, not even planning to answer that, and returned to her filing. "What do you want?"
"A little grumpy this morning, aren't we?" he quipped. "And I here thought I'd ask you out."
The folder she was holding fell from Cordelia's hand to the floor. "What?!" she mouthed the word, at first, not grasping she wasn't making a sound, as she turned to look at the African-American.
"Hell, is this the best you can do?" he bantered. "I was expecting yelling, grumbling.you disappoint me."
"I don't have time for this," she muttered under her breath. "Save your twisted sense of humor for someone who wants to play along."
"Who said I was joking?"
She reposed a file on the desk, and slowly turned around.
"If you two excuse me," Wesley quickly retreated out of sight.
Cordelia wordlessly eyed Gunn for a long while, narrowing her eyes. "You and me?"
"Good, you're catching on. I knew you had it in you somewhere," he grinned.
"You're asking me out. On a real date. With you."
"Yeah, if I'm the one asking you, chances are I'm the one taking you. So? What would it be?"
She eyed him for a few more minutes. "You do realize it isn't an alternate reality when you could have a chance.ever?"
He smirked, taken aback by her answer. "Should have seen that one coming. You know, I kinda thought you were different. Guess I'm a bad judge of character."
"Different from what exactly?" she wanted to know.
"From other snobs." Saying that, he turned to walk away.
"Oh, no, you don't!" she yelled after him, rapidly closing the distance between them. "You so DON'T get to call me a snob and then pull the dramatic exit on me, pal!"
Wesley giggled from his place on the couch as the two stormed past him.
Abruptly, everyone hushed, as they descried the vampire beholding them from the stairs.
"Angel," Cordelia swallowed, eyeing him. "You're out. And you weren't even dragged out." She eyed him again. "What's going on?"
The two other men gazed at him with joint inquisitiveness.
"I'm leaving," he eventually supplied the answer.
"W.what?" Wesley stuttered. "What?!"
"Not permanently," he appeased their fears. "For a while. I just.I have to go to."
"Where?" Cordelia demanded.
Buffy was standing by the kitchen's counter, pouring herself a cup of coffee, when she suddenly heard someone approaching her from behind. Dawn had gone to school already, so it couldn't be her, and only the two of them were living in the house. She slowly put her cup down, as her Slayer senses started tingling. Vampire. In an instant, she grabbed the nearest wooden object, which luckily happened to be a pencil Dawn had probably forgotten she'd left there, and whirled around.
"Hey!" Spike darted backwards in the last second, stumbling over a chair and tumbling to the floor. "Bloody Hell, woman!" he muttered. "What'd I do to YOU?"
Buffy moved back, and folded her arms on her chest, watching with a smirk as the bleached vampire was climbing back to his feet. "I don't usually tend to care before I stake a vampire," she replied to his question. "What the Hell are you doing in my house?"
"Nothing," he replied. "I crashed in the basement last night after patrol, calm."
Buffy grabbed him by the neck and nailed him to the wall. "DON'T tell me to calm," she uttered through screeched teeth. "I don't care what they all say about you. For me, you're just a vampire. If you're planning to get on my nerves ONE more time, you'd better book yourself an ashtray!"
"Back off, Slayer!" Spike freed himself from her grip, rubbing his sore neck. It wasn't new to him. The attitude of the 'new' Buffy was everything BUT tolerable, at least, whenever it came to do with him. It was certainly not the first time he came a little too close to the pointy end of her stake. She hated him. He was nothing but a vampire for her. No matter how much he'd repeatedly tried to prove himself to her, with things such as helping her with patrols, for example, he still meant less than nothing to the new 'Slayer'. She didn't want to hear about his chip, or that he had been an important part of her closest circle of friends lately, or that he had helped her and had fought by her side enough times to assure everyone it wasn't in his agenda to kill her. For her, he was just a vampire. Something she killed. And she had made it perfectly clear, more than just once, when she straightforwardly told him to 'stay out of her way if he wanted his miserable existence to last a few more nights'.
It hurt him, for personal reasons she would never know, ones she would never even conceive, and every time she had threatened him with a stake, it cut a lot deeper than she would ever realize. But even if she did realize, she wouldn't care. She'd just keep on doing it.
He took a deep unnecessary breath, taking in her annoyed mien. At least, the 'weapon' was now gone from her hand, he observed. "Look."
"Out," she cut him.
"Out. Of. My. House. Now."
He briefly glanced outside the draped kitchen window. "Now?!"
"You're right, let me think of someone who might miss you.okay, I'm done," she smirked. "No one springs to mind, sorry. Out."
"What's going on here?" Willow, who had just walked in, asked the two.
Spike let out a sigh of relief. There was no way of knowing if she would have really thrown him out, but he was glad he had been spared the chance to find out.
Willow looked at the vampire, then at her friend's angry face, then at the pencil, and it was sufficient for her to know the entire story. She exchanged a silent look of understanding with Spike, and the vampire, having never been so grateful for her in his life, absconded from the room while he had the chance.
"He annoys me," the Slayer told her friend. "Why can't I just stake him?"
"Because you can't," Willow had never intended to get into details about this subject, just as about every other. "He's our friend."
"He's a vampire!" the Slayer argued. "You don't call vampires 'friends', you dust them."
"Good to know you're so big against vampires," the redhead mumbled quietly to herself.
But Buffy caught it nevertheless. "What's that supposed to mean?" she demanded.
"Don't 'nothing' me, Willow! Just tell me. You're not telling me something. All these talks about vampires, there's.something's going on, something that you all are hiding from me. I want to know what it is, I have the right, Willow. Just tell me, for crying out loud!"
"Nothing is going on," her friend assured her, "and we're not hiding anything from you. But we can't tell you anything either, you know that, and you know why. You have to remember by yourself."
"But I don't! I don't remember anything. You have no idea what it feels like, not to know ANYTHING about yourself, and none of you, NONE OF YOU, is willing to help me!" she was on the verge of tears now.
"Buffy, you can't just have us telling you everything. We can do that. I can give you the cliff-notes version for the story of your life, but that's what it's gonna be - a story. You can't base your life on stories, Buffy. They are NOT real memories. It won't make any difference to you if you know what happened, how and where. Unless you remember it yourself, it's as good as nothing."
"But.but what if it does help me? I mean, what if it can somehow.give me a lead to my memories. What if all I gotta do in order to bring these memories forward is to hear these stories? What if I remember BECAUSE you told me?"
Willow gazed at her for a long while, then turned away her eyes, unable to stand her desperate and lost expression any longer. "Giles.called. He wanted to meet at his place..."
Buffy sighed, again, defeated. "When?"
"Not you, just.us."
"Why not?" she didn't understand.
"It's.probably just research. You never were much of a research girl," Willow smiled, but inwardly, would give her soul to know what Giles had wanted. She couldn't help the feeling something was seriously up. And to top everything, she was the most horrible liar. Naturally, Buffy wasn't convinced at all. "I.was on my way to his place. Just came by to tell you that our coffee date would have to be postponed. It's okay.right?"
Buffy nodded, but didn't say anything.
Willow nodded too, and an uncomfortable silence settled on the two women.
"I'd better go," the redhead ultimately spoke.
"Right. So, we'll.hook up later?"
Willow smiled. "Count on it. Oh, and Buffy?"
The Slayer met her friend's eyes.
"Please, leave Spike alone, okay? I know, he's a vampire, but.just trust me with this one."
Giles looked at the young people who filled his living room, awaiting for their response to what he'd just told them.
"Are you sure?" Xander spoke first.
"I have received a visit from the head of the Watcher's Council. Yes, I am quite sure."
"Weren't you fired?" Willow asked.
"The Council is.fully aware of.that I am supervising over the situation on the Hellmouth in Sunnydale. I no longer officially work for them as a Watcher, but it doesn't mean."
"Okay, anyway," Xander cut in, "Are THEY sure?"
"Yes, Xander," Giles began to rapidly lose his tamper with the younger man.
"Can something like this really happen?" Anya asked.
"Yes, obviously," the former Watcher replied. "The Council has always had contact with the Powers that Be through the Oracles. This is how they know when and who is to be called as the new Slayer."
"But Dead Boy?" Xander clearly still had trouble reconciling with the news.
"It kinda makes sense, once you think about it," Willow remarked. "He is a very strong fighter. He fought next to the Slayer more than once.it's only rational these Powers, whoever they are, will pick him to fill for her. I think it makes sense."
"So, cut to the chase, is he all like.a male Slayer now?" her friend asked.
"No, I don't believe.I don't think so," Giles replied, suddenly looking confused. "Truth is, they were all but specific about the details. I presume Angel will.he most probably will continue fighting."
"Giles, time out," the younger man interrupted him. "Something's changed, okay? After living on the Hellmouth pretty much my entire life, there's one thing I've learned - we don't get easy ways out. A vampire isn't being called to substitute the slyer 'just because'. Besides, what's he gonna do during daylight hours? Hire someone to substitute HIM? Giles, something's up."
"Umm," Anya raised her hand, drawing everyone's attention to her, "I could be seriously out of my game right now, but.I think you're all just a LITTLE out of line."
All eyes fixed on her, waiting for her to continue whatever she had to say. "Angel's gonna be fighting, big deal, he's fighting already, Slayer or not, so nothing's new in that scenario. However, Angel coming to Sunnydale, THAT'S new. Now, the carefully laid out plan to keep him OUT of Buffy's life for now is gonna crumble. Let's see you handle THAT." She leaned back in her seat, contently watching the concerned faces surrounding her.
Nobody uttered a word for the first several minutes that followed. They were so busy seeking for a rational explanation to what was going on, that they had completely neglected it. Neither one of them had even stopped to consider that aspect of the matter.
"I bet he's on his way here right now," Xander's fiancee grinned.
"You are NOT going to Sunnydale!" Cordelia said, yelled, to be exact, for maybe the hundredth time.
"Over my dead body!"
"Cordy, you don't really have a say in the matter," Angel reminded her.
She glowered at him. "It's a done deal. You're not going."
"She's got issues since this morning," Gunn stepped in, "I wouldn't argue with her, if I were you, man."
Angel glanced at him, then looked back at his friend. "I don't have time for this," he shook his head. "I want to leave as soon as possible."
"Why?" she pleaded. "So you can have your heart broken, AGAIN? She's dead, Angel."
He tried to hide the flash of agony in his eyes, but failed.
"She's dead," Cordelia went on saying, softly now. "I'm sorry. I am, Angel, but it doesn't change it. You can't deal with that being miles away, how can you even THINK about going back there?! You've been.a wreck for months, in which we barely got to even see you, and you've only recently started coming around, and now.don't you understand it's gonna repeat itself all over again the second you'll step one foot in that town?"
Angel gazed at her tenderly. He knew she was merely worried about him. She had a definitely strange way of showing it, but the fact remained that she was. They all were. But he couldn't listen to any of them right now. Right now, was what he'd been dreading for months. He had always known he would have to return there in the end, face all those people again, the people who loved her, who missed her, who reminded him she was gone.constantly.
But it didn't change a thing. He had years of practice in putting his most inner and personal feelings aside, hiding his most unendurable pain, so he might as well start putting this piled up skill into action. "I don't have a choice," he said simply .
"Why?" she was clearly not letting him off the hook that easily.
"Angel, man, maybe you should listen to her."
"Angel, if I may," Wesley cleared his throat, "Cordelia is right." He exchanged a glance with the brunette woman. "It is perhaps, just a bit too soon for you to."
"Don't take her side in this, Wesley," Angel held up his hand before the other man.
"You used to be a Watcher, you should know these things. When I'm called to replace a Slayer, the place I'm supposed to be at is the Hellmouth."
"Why? Not enough demons in LA to fill your busy nights?" Cordelia wanted to know. "There are things ten times more worse than demons which you'll have no choice but to face once you get there, and you know it! When the Hell is your self-tormenting period is gonna be over for God's sake? It is only ONE more thing you can avoid, but NO!."
"Cordelia, that's enough!" the vampire stood up from the couch. "I see no reason to why we're even running this argument right now. It is MY decision, incase you've got that part lost somewhere on the way, not yours," he looked at the former cheerleader, "not yours," he looked at Gunn, "or yours," he turned to Wesley. "It's mine," he spoke to the three of them this time, "mine alone. Am I clear? If I have ANYTHING to do with it, which I have, this discussion is starting now, OVER. If either of you has anything to say, save it, because I'm done with listening." He waited for an any kind of a reply to follow, and once it didn't, he went on. "Now, I'm going. I want to be there as soon as I can, and I also want to stop by at Giles' and fill him in on everything. If nothing is currently happening on the Hellmouth, I will be back soon, but if the situation is in any sense different, I'll be staying, and no, I DON'T know for how long, but I will let you know, and you'll be able to reach me. Gunn," he addressed the African American, "You and your boys can keep things here under control while I'm gone, right?"
"Perfect. Then, I'm counting on you." He grabbed his coat from the sofa and his bag from the floor, and turned away to leave, with three dumbfounded faces staring after him.
As he reached the door though, he was stopped, and by the LAST person he'd expected to come across.
"Spike," Angel pronounced the name through gnashed teeth.
The bleached vampire grinned. "Nice to see you too, Peaches." He casually strolled past the glaring vampire into the lobby .
"What the Hell are you doing here?" Angel growled, not moving from where he had been standing when Spike had come in.
"Looking for you, of course," Spike slumped on a couch, as if he were in his own home. "Cordelia, what a pleasure, again," he grinned at the brunette. "You think your boss'd mind if you get me some of his blood, I've had a long drive, I'm starving."
"Like Hell I'll be serving you!" she retorted.
"He's a vampire?" Gunn exclaimed, standing up.
"Yeah, what of it?" Spike nonchalantly waved his hand at the man. "You never told me you got yourself so many new friends, Angelus," he told Angel, who still hadn't moved to come closer. "Now, what were you saying about that blood?" he asked Cordelia .
She rolled her eyes. "How about a stake through the heart instead?"
"Spike." Wesley mused to himself, searching through his memory, "would that be William the Bloody?"
"Is THAT a Watcher?" Spike asked Cordelia, after inspecting Wesley for a while, completely ignoring his question.
"Yes, already! What do you want?" she started losing her patience with him. With Angel's abrupt announcement, and now a visit from Spike, she almost prayed for a mind numbing vision.
"You know, I've come to you with very important information, and I don't like the hostility."
"You can go just as quickly," Angel spoke for the first time in a long while, and everyone faced him. "Hear what he has to say," he told his crew. "If it's important, call me." With that, he left the hotel.
"Great, his best friend comes to visit, and he takes off. Now, I'm hurt. And I still want that blood," he reminded Cordelia.
"Pick your ass from that couch and get it yourself," she retorted.
"Very nice," he chuckled. "So where's he running so late?"
"To Sunnydale," Gunn answered for her, eyeing the vampire carefully. Angel had a soul, so that he could in a sense understand, but.that Spike guy.what was his story? Neither Cordelia, nor Wesley had tried even once to stake him, well, Wesley didn't seem to know him, but.even Angel hadn't staked him. Why?
"Bloody Hell!" the second Spike heard his reply, he darted from the sofa and out of the hotel, surprising everyone else in the room.
Riley Finn stepped out of his car, and inhaled a breath of fresh air, in an obvious and dull attempt to calm his bouncing nerves. But it was in vain. There didn't seem to be a single thing in the world right now that could somehow calm him down. He tried to recall what exactly had brought him back here to begin with.well, he knew the answer to that one. It was, in fact, only too easy. Buffy. It had always been Buffy. Of course, he had left her, months ago, actually, which was a very long time. MORE than enough time to forget, especially a relationship of the kind they had shared. There wasn't a single thing in his life Riley despised himself more for than what he had done to Buffy. Not a single thing. He even inwardly discussed how could she have born with him for so long and not be the one to cut him loose first. The way he'd hurt her. Riley chuckled bitterly. Even that vampire, Angel.God, how he hated that name! But even he could never hurt her that much. Never that much. It had been over because of him, after all, because of that vampire. Obviously, technically, it had been over because he'd left, but.WHY had he left?
Like he had said then.she'd never loved him. He had been deluding himself, for far too long, that perhaps one day, once, she would. but he had known better. And KNEW better, now too, because things like that one had always lacked the tendency to change. There was only one person each one could love, REALLY love, one's entire life. Riley knew that. He always had, and it wasn't any less painful now than it had been back then. She loved HIM. He had seen it when she whispered that hated name in her dreams on random nights, her voice a soft velvety caress, so gentle as she uttered that one little word, the name that had hovered over him as an indissoluble shadow ever since the day he had first laid eyes on her. He had seen it in the silent tears she had sometimes cried while thinking he hadn't been there, whenever she had felt like dying, whenever her heart had broken, and he had never been the first person on her mind to wrap herself in his arms, to lay her head on his beating heart.. Riley couldn't help but ponder, what if the unbeating one really was so much warmer?.
And what was it that Dawn had said? She could so freely let herself fall apart before Angel, it had been so easy to open her heart and soul for that vampire. that vampire.no, Riley was way beyond blaming his own failures in life on him. There was not a single reason to do so. Angel hadn't even been there, it was HIS fault.his alone.
But had he ever REALLY not been there? Ever?
Well, whatever it was, or WOULD BE, Riley would have no choice but to face it. He hadn't come back for no reason. Yes, he knew he could never have her. Not her heart, nor her soul, the only thing he had ever had was her body, a certain amount of appreciation and care too, but even that had been probably gone once he had started. Riley shook his head. No, he wouldn't ponder about the past. The past could never be ignored, he knew that. He had had an experience with it first hand, when the shadows of the past had stood as an everlasting shield between him and the love of his girlfriend. But now, he would put at least a part of the past behind. He was here to start over, wasn't he? He had had months to think about it, months to experience life without her, and it had been way more than enough. He was ready for the package. He'd take it this time, whole of it, he would embrace it and never let it go. If the only way it could be done was to include Angel.well, then, so be it. Angel it was.
"Something is going to happen," she whispered, somewhat fretfully, holding on to his hands, these large gentle hands that had always felt so right on her body, so warm, even though they were cold. "You feel it too, don't you?" she gazed up into his large chocolate orbs.
"What is it? My entire being is...tingling, something feels so different, I can't.I can't put my finger on it, but."
"Shh." he stopped her babbling with a finger to her lips. "It'll be okay."
"How do you know?"
He smiled, the only smile that could melt her heart until practically nothing remained from it. "I know," he just said, and surprisingly, it was enough.
She reached out to caress his marble cheek, her eyes shining with an emotion she wasn't aware of. "I wish." she abruptly stopped, wondering whether she should finish the sentence.
"What?" he prompted softly.
"I wish." she hesitated again, "you had existed outside my dreams."
He smiled, again. "Who said it was a dream?"
She beamed. "In some parts, it is.in others, it isn't. I don't know you, I don't remember you, and I will forget you once I wake up, but.I feel like I've known you my entire life."
"Oh, you know me. Look deep into your soul. I'm there, I always am. I was born there," he placed his palm over her heart.
"You are?" she inquired skeptically, but with a feeble smile flickering across her lips.
He grinned. "Always."
"Always." she echoed silently, not removing her gaze from his palm until it left her chest, then she looked up into his eyes. "You have to go?"
He nodded sadly, reluctantly.
"When will I see you again?"
"I told you," he gracefully kissed the upside of her hand, "when you look into your soul."
"My soul." she cast her eyes down to the earth, a confused expression on her face. When she finally looked up, her gaze encountered his retreating back. "Wait!" she shouted, but he didn't stop, until he vanished in the horizon. "Why don't you ever tell me your name?" her whisper sounded, in the black silence of the night.
Buffy bolted up in her bed, as a person who had just woken up from a nightmare, only that for her it was one of her best dreams. And again, just like each and every single time before, she forgot him. HIM, the one thing she could never remember. She could recollect everything, every breath she'd taken in that dream, every when, what, where and why, but HIM, she could never remember. The touch she loved so much, the softness of his voice, the little half smile...she could never remember those. And she'd tried, oh, how she had tried! But it had all been in vain. He would always disappear. He would be gone the second she woke up. Or was it that she was waking up the second he disappeared?
No, it was everything BUT important. Nothing was important, but the fact that he was gone.
Buffy swung her long legs over the side of the bed and got up. She really needed to release that stored tension. Every one of those dreams would leave her high and dry, and she hated being in that state for longer than necessary. Besides, Sunnydale could always do without two or three more vampires.
The Slayer quickly dressed, grabbed a stake, and stealthily, not to awake her slumbering sister, left the house.
Angel sighed, and sniffled, not moving his glassy eyes from the gray tombstone. It was the first place he visited after coming to town. He had known all along he would go there first. He needed to see her. Knowing, of course, that it wasn't her, but it was the only 'her' he now had left. He hadn't known it would be so hard. He hadn't been to her grave ever since the funeral, inwardly, he had to admit he simply lacked the strength, but now.now, that he was in town again, there was no escape. He couldn't avoid it. It wasn't that simple. Not this time.
He hunkered down on the wet grass, and reposed a single white rose in front of the tombstone.
He sighed again. He had never intended to make it long, he'd never thought he'd be able to stand it, but all in all, he simply couldn't take his eyes off of that stone.
Angel felt a lone tear escape his eye, and he hastened to wipe it away. "I love you," he whispered softly, reposing his hand on the stone. "I miss you so much," he whispered, knowing it wasn't one of his dreams, therefore there was really no one to answer him.
"You promised me I would hold you again, once, when it wouldn't be a dream anymore," he spoke softly, his gaze fixed on her curved name, "you think it'll be long? How long will it take me to die? Will you really wait for me when I'll get there? You said I would hold you again, so, just tell me.how long is it until I'll die?"
No answer followed, and he brushed away another tear that was loosely dangling from his chin.
Buffy stared from the shadows, her eyes not quite believing the scene that was playing out before her.
He seemed to be grieving. She knew he was talking, saying something, but she couldn't hear a word he uttered due to the distance between them. And yet, he was a vampire. Her Slayer senses kicked in right away. Something wasn't right about that vampire, no need to even mention the display transpiring before her, that was making absolutely no sense, but still, she was a Slayer, a Slayer on the hunt, no less. She wasn't going to give ANY vampire the benefit of the doubt. She jumped out of her hiding spot.
Angel was startled by the noises behind him, but by the time he had managed to make his senses work their way through the shroud of grief and respond, he was thrown at least ten feet away from the tombstone. But the worst part hadn't even begun yet. He looked up, straight into his attacker's face.
His eyes widened, and a both shocked and shattered expression filled them, as he looked at her, unable to move, or even breathe, which he luckily didn't have to do. His lips curved in attempt to utter her name, while her cold green eyes glared down at him.
"Why so in shock?" she mocked, producing a stake from her jacket's pocket. "Never had a Slayer kicking your dead ass before?" she grabbed his collar and brutally pulled him upward, just to inspect his expression, which, as she noted, hadn't changed one bit. If anything, it became even more shattered than earlier, but not a glimpse of fear, what she had expected to find, was evident in his eyes. And no wonder, because fear was the last thing on Angel's mind, together with the pain he felt when she kicked him in the chest, hurling him back to the ground. He couldn't take his eyes off of her face.
"You know, I'm not in my best mood tonight, I gotta admit, but I like you. You don't talk and you don't make stupid comments. If you ask me really nice, I can make it quick," she grinned, albeit the smile never reached her eyes, because they showed nothing but rage mixed with pleasure. "Okay, I see you're not playing my game," she muttered, after receiving no reply from the vampire. "Say bye-bye!" and with the speed of light, she lowered the stake on his chest.
Rupert Giles bolted up on his sofa, and the book in his hand slid down to the floor, as his drowsy mind was still trying to process he source of the constant callings of his name and the poundings on his door. While rubbing his temple with one hand, he searched for his glasses, which had slid from the bridge of his nose when he'd fallen asleep while reading, with his other hand.
"Giles, I know you're in there!" the voice, which now he knew for certain belonged to his Slayer, sounded again. "Open the God damned door! I'll wake the entire building, if I have to!"
When he finally acted upon her wishes, she stormed into his apartment, without even waiting for an invitation from him. Confused, Giles shut the door, and followed her into the living room.
"Buffy," he cleared his throat, "what on earth is going on?"
She glared at him, more with perplexity and distress than with real fury.
Her former Watcher glanced at the clock hanged on the wall across the room. "What are you doing awake at this hour?."
"Who's Angel?" she popped up the question that nearly swept Giles off his feet.
"W.what?" he stuttered.
"Who. Is. Angel?" she reiterated, this time slower, in a voice that clearly indicated she wanted an answer, right NOW.
"Who.who told you."
"DON'T,'" she held up her hand. "No one told me. NO ONE. And I don't wanna hear anymore of this 'your memory will come back on its own' crap. I wanna know, and I wanna know NOW!"
"B.but.why Angel? What did you remember, Buffy? Please, sit," he motioned towards the sofa, after clearing the books that were piled up on it. "Calm down, just relax, and tell me slowly everything that's happened, alright?"
She nodded, a bit reluctantly, and sat down.
"Now, tell me," Giles prompted gently. "Everything that's happened, from the very beginning."
"I woke up tonight, from.from a dream. It doesn't matter."
"What was it about?"
"It's not the point, Giles. It's just a dream. I've been having them a lot.since I came back. There's never something special, they're mostly just about me and.and there's this second person, but.I never know who he is. I mean, I do, but.once I wake up, I forget him. Plain and simple. Anyway," she sighed, "so I woke up, and I just felt like patrolling. It helps me sometimes to.to release tension, if you want. So, I just went. On patrol, I.I don't know why, I.well," she swallowed, then took a deep breath, "I went to the cemetery where.where I was buried. When I approached my grave, I.saw someone."
"At your grave?"
"Yeah. A person. I didn't see his face or anything. He was sitting by my grave, and.I think he was crying. But.I could sense he was a vampire. I felt something else too, that something was different about him, but.I didn't give enough notice to it. I was too impassive, or too hasty.I just came out and attacked him. While we were fighting, or rather, I was fighting him.he never did anything, never once tried to even hit me back. I think he was too in shock when he saw me to.or maybe there was something else too, I don't know. It was clear from the second I jumped him I'd be getting the upper hand in no time, and which I did, but.when I was about to stake him, I just.I couldn't. I looked into his eyes, and they.God, there was no fear in his eyes, no rage, nothing like that, but.there was so much pain.and confusion. I almost did it. I was THIS close to staking him. I even injured him with the edge of my stake, I think I stopped it less than an inch before it hit his heart. Then I looked him in the eye for another minute, and he was just staring at me.he was so broken, I.his expression when he looked at me, when he first saw me.I just fled from there. I ran as fast as I could. I didn't even know why or where I was running, just.as far as I could from.there. While I was running here, this name suddenly materialized in my mind. I know for sure it's a name, and.what's worse, I KNOW this name belongs to the person I met in the graveyard. And I know you know him, I know all of you know him, and for some reason you all felt it would be better if you hid it.HIM from me. I wanna know why." She gazed up at Giles once she finished her story.
The ex-Watcher beheld her for a long moment, not saying anything. "Buffy, I can't."
"NO! Don't you dare! I've had enough, Giles. I need to know this. I need to know who he is, who he was to me, and what caused you to hide him from me. I DESERVE to know."
He peered at her for a while longer, figuring out the best reply to get out of this subject as smoothly as he could, and as quickly as was possible. But luckily for him, he was saved by the ringing doorbell.
"Angel," he gasped the name of the person at his door. His eyes wandered down to the rip in his shirt, right where his heart was, that was slightly revealing the wound. Then he gazed back up, into his eyes. The first thing he acknowledged was just how much Buffy had underestimated his expression.
"How could you?" the vampire inquired, in a low, husky voice.
"Angel, I." he stepped backwards, as the other man made one step to enter the apartment.
"How could you?" he repeated his former question.
"I believe," Giles cleared his throat, and cast his eyes to the floor momentarily, "I suppose I owe you a few answers."
"Few answers?! That's what you think you owe me? A few answers?! You damn right you owe me, and it's so much more than just that! You knew what she meant to me! You.you knew how much I loved her, and I'm sure you GUESSED what it did to me when she died. How could you do this? Do you really hate me THAT much? How could you?" he stared at the aged Watcher, the expression in his teary eyes so shattered Giles had no choice but to avert his gaze.
"You loved me?" a small voice asked softly, and the two men turned at once, coming face to face with the Slayer.
Angel gasped, it was the first time he had seen her...REALLY seen her. She was standing right there, only a few feet away, peering at him, with hurt and confusion on her face, and all he wanted was to take her tiny body into his arms and hold her. Just hold her, never let go of her, and never leave her again. But he couldn't. It was all just.too much. He abruptly turned around and stormed out of the still ajar door.
"Angel" he heard her voice calling his name as he was striding down the dark street. Yet, he never even thought of stopping.
"Angel!" she yelled again. "Please, wait!" he could detect tears in her voice this time, and it alone broke his heart.or whatever's left of it. "Stop, please!"
He did, finally, but still couldn't turn around and face her. He hadn't mustered enough strength to do it yet.
Buffy ran up to him, inhaling a deep breath as she finally reached him. She didn't believe it yet. It required time to process. This.VAMPIRE, who she had been ready to kill earlier that night, was now the reason for a turmoil in both her heart and her soul she was sure she had never faced before. Who was he? What was he to HER? There were so many questions.TOO many.
Her heart broke for him, due to seeing his pain, his tears, his despair, his betrayal.the one that had been done TO him, to be exact. She FELT for a vampire. No, it was so much more than that, she knew. The first thing she remembered, after two months of living with a blank past, was his name. And yet, she knew it wasn't true. The first thing she remembered were the emotions that washed all over her when she peered deeply into his eyes, the force that was so much more powerful than the stake moving with the speed of light, the force that stopped her hand before that stake penetrated his heart.she knew only too well what it was, what it meant, and none of it was she ready to face. And yet, she was powerless against it.
And letting him just walk away...was simply beyond her.
"Why did you attack me?" he asked, the moment he was able to form words again.
"Because you were a vampire." was the first thing she said, yet once she uttered it, she regretted it more than she had ever regretted anything in her life.as far as she could recall, at least.
He laughed shortly, painfully. "So, that's it now, ha? That's how much we grew apart? I never.ONCE thought a day would come when you'd attack me.because I'm a vampire."
"I.I didn't mean." by that time, she felt like crying herself. "I don't know you."
His eyes widened, only for a split second, then he just sniffled, and peered at her, trying to hide the unbearable agony these words inflicted upon him. "Unfortunately, I can never say this to you," he told her, and with that, turned around, and started walking away.
"Wait!" she ran after him, until she caught up with him and moved in front of him. "Please, listen to me. I don't know what I said or did that hurt you so much, but.I'm sorry. I didn't know."
"Didn't know what, Buffy? You think it was nothing for me? To stand by your grave while they.threw dirt on you and.put you into the ground? What did you think it was.fun?" he mocked, but the tears that started once again forming in his eyes to the sight of her, and the mental picture of a certain funeral in his mind, and as a result of everything that had transpired in the last hour gave him away. "It killed me! Not literally, of course, but it did! And then, for months, I see you in my dreams, I hear your voice, and it haunts me, and it wouldn't let me go! Do you think I can forget you? Just like that?" he snapped his fingers. "Do you think I can EVER tell you 'I don't know you'?!"
"I'm sorry," she sobbed, and he had to fight the urge to erase his own pain and anger and take her into his arms. "I don't remember you.I'm sorry," she bit her lip, looking down.
"What?" Angel asked, not understanding what she was talking about.
"I don't remember anything," she looked up at him, straight into his eyes. "They brought me back, something like two months ago, but.I never got my memories back. It's not my fault! I didn't know you were important to me, I didn't know.I knew you! They never told me. they never told me anything," her sobs increased, and Angel felt he was melting faster than he could follow. "I begged them to tell me, something, anything about my life, that would give me the smallest idea of who I was, and they wouldn't! They say it will come to me, that I'll remember when it's time, and who knows, maybe they ARE right, but how long can I wait?! How long can a person wait to get their life back?! I just wanted them to help me.I hurt you tonight. I hurt you a lot, because I didn't know who you were. Who knows how many other people I have hurt who I used to care about by now, because I DIDN'T KNOW?! And they never wanted to help me! It isn't my fault." she finished the final sentence in a whisper.
Angel cogitated only a second longer, before wrapping his arms around her. He tightened his embrace, trying to capture all of her within it. As her small body trembled in his arms, all he could feel was just how alive she was, how warm, and how soft her scent was, so familiar, so longed for. He inhaled the smell of her hair, letting it wash all over him.
The only thing he could think of was that she kept her promise.
By the time Buffy and Angel returned to Giles' apartment, the last person both of them had expected to find had already been there. Well, maybe not both of them, considering the fact Buffy didn't remember many people outside the circle of the Scooby Gang. Angel most certainly hadn't expected to find him there. As if he hadn't had enough heartache for the night, HIS appearance pretty much took care of that.
"Buffy, Angel," Giles acknowledged the couple's arrival with a nod and a slight smile, as the two entered his apartment.
Buffy was nestled in the crook of Angel's arm, and noticeably the last among the two who had been crying. She didn't look at Giles at all, the only one who did was Angel, and the former Watcher abruptly wished he hadn't. There was real anger in the vampire's eyes, something Giles had never seen before. Real anger, although soothed and composed, but still anger. And Giles admitted, not quite reluctantly even, that Angel had every right and beyond to be mad at him, and even more, disappointed with him, because inwardly, Giles was even more disappointed with himself. Looking at the gentle way he held her, and the way she nestled herself so close to him, seemingly letting all of her worries and fears slip away in his arms, was simply priceless. He had never regretted having kept Angel in the dark more than he did now. The effect this vampire.man had on his Slayer was so enormous, so inimitable, Giles couldn't believe he had practically stolen from her the luxury of it.
"I assume you've.talked," he observed.
"We have," Angel replied curtly. "From now on, I'm taking her under my care," he let the older man know, plainly and straightforwardly.
Giles' eyes widened in surprise, then he frowned. "What?"
"You heard me. I don't see the need to explain anything beyond that from now on, I'M responsible for her."
"What are you talking about?"
"I'm talking about supervising her healing process, which is the return of her memory, and I'll do it MY way."
"Angel, you can't."
"You WON'T tell me what I can or cannot do, is that clear? Be grateful for me even telling this to you. It's done deal. Starting this instant, you, all of you, for that matter, aren't responsible for her."
Giles nodded, seeing he had no chance in that argument. "Was it your decision, or hers?"
"Our," this time, Buffy was the one to reply. "I want to go with Angel."
"GO with Angel?" Giles didn't understand. He faced the vampire. "You didn't say anything about taking her with you to Los Angeles."
"I'm not taking her anywhere. For now," Angel responded. "But if I have to leave, she comes with me."
"Angel, she's been doing just fine with us."
"FINE?! You call that fine?! She hardly knows ANYTHING about herself. It isn't FINE!"
"And what makes you think it'll change once she's with you?"
"I'll take care of her," Angel told him simply, "in MY own way, and I'll do the best I can, starting with actually HELPING her remember, which YOU never did."
"We did what we thought."
"Not good enough!" he cut the ex-Watcher.
Giles sighed in defeat.
"Like Hell she's going with you!" a forth voice joined the conversation.
Both Angel and Buffy turned to the voice's owner. While the Slayer was only confused, the vampire felt like he'd been stabbed through the heart.
"What is he doing here?" Riley was speaking to Giles now. "What, even HE knew, but I didn't?"
"Angel also didn't know," Giles answered, looking down. "We didn't tell either of you."
Riley glanced again at the vampire, then at the Slayer at his side, who was now tightly holding onto his hand. For someone she didn't even remember, she felt a LITTLE too close to him. On the other hand, she hadn't even tried once to ask who HE was.
"Who are you?" Buffy inquired suddenly. She looked up at Angel for explanation, but once the vampire only looked away uncomfortably, looked over to Giles.
"This is, umm," Giles cleared his throat, "Riley Finn. He was your.well, your.boyfriend."
"Boyfriend?" Buffy echoed the word, gazing at Riley. Why didn't she remember him? Giles had never said Angel was her boyfriend, and yet, she felt closer to the vampire than she felt...to anyone else. He stirred emotions in her she was scared of, feelings she refused to admit she had. Riley, on the other hand, evoked nothing. He had been her boyfriend. No wonder she found it odd. She released Angel's hand, not even realizing how much that simple act hurt him, and paced over to where Riley stood. She looked the man straight into the eyes, trying to feel something, anything, maybe lost feelings that were buried far away in the back of her mind, but there was still the same nothingness as there was before. That nothingness only threw her more.
And those same emotions she didn't feel, Riley endeavored to find reflecting in her eyes. And he too, found nothing. And only when she finally looked away, both of them noticed Angel and Giles were no longer present in the room.
"Angel," Buffy murmured, in a voice of a small child who had just lost her mother, suddenly feeling his absence like a cold breeze running through her bones. She stepped back from Riley, embracing herself.
"Buffy," her former boyfriend softly uttered her name, and sent out his hand to repose it on her shoulder. However, once he came in contact with her, she flinched back. "I." she stammered, looking up at Riley, "I have to find him." And saying that, she walked out of the door, leaving Riley alone in the living room.
She found him right outside, fortunately for her, discussing something with Giles. A second after she descried him, she was in his arms, surprising both him and her former Watcher.
Angel embraced her, then looked up over her head, until his eyes met with Riley's. They were cold. "What happened?" he wanted to know.
The blond commando didn't quite grasp what he meant by that. "Nothing."
"I thought you left," he heard Buffy's voice, and looked down at her face.
"No," he assured her, crushing her back to him. "I'm not going. I've already promised you that."
A part of her wanted to say 'you promised me other things too,' but she didn't know where that even came from. Instead, she just nodded, then quickly pulled herself together, as if nothing had happened.
"Well," after the silence that'd settled became too awkward, Giles spoke first. "I presume it is quite late," he glanced around him, "for all of us, so why don't we call it a night?" They all approved with a nod, and he went on. "Angel, I would like us to meet again, perhaps tomorrow, if you can find the time?" he asked the vampire, who was still holding the Slayer in his arms, and for some reason, she had never appeared smaller to the Watcher.
"I'll find the time," he replied, somewhat sternly, looking down at Buffy. "WE will," he corrected himself.
"Very well," Giles nodded. "Where will you be staying?"
"I.I was planning on using the mansion."
"The old one on Crawford Street?" Buffy inquired.
"Yeah, that one," Angel grinned.
"Can you," she looked down briefly, not really knowing how to approach him with that question. The fact she was talking to a vampire and asking him THAT, had completely slipped her mind at that point. "Can you.stay with me? If you want, that is."
"With you?" he asked, not believing she'd just offered that.
"Yeah, I would like you to.if you want only."
"Are you sure?"
She nodded, biting her lower lip. "Please?"
"Alright," he smiled.
"What about you?" she then turned to Riley.
"Me?" the blond asked.
"Yeah," she shrugged, "where are you staying? Oh, do you.do you live here?"
"No, I.I never thought about staying somewhere." And he never had. He hadn't found the time for it, obviously. Too much had happened since he stepped foot in that town.
"You could come too," Buffy suggested innocently, while the two men fighting over her heart, exchanged looks over her head.
"Ahm, Buffy." her Watcher tried to come to their rescue.
"We're big kids, Giles," she promised with a slight smile, "we can manage. It's not like he has somewhere else to go. Right?" she gazed at Riley.
He opened his mouth to reply, but then just closed it back.
After a minute, he was back, a slightly defeated expression on his face. "Dammit," he fell back on the couch.
Cordelia beheld him, for the first time since he'd arrived, appearing confused. "What's going on?"
"He'll be ruined when he gets there. Crap, ruined is a bloody understatement. Why the Hell is the poof going to Sunnydale anyway?"
"He was called by the Powers that Be to fill in for the Slayer," Wesley explained, inwardly unable to grasp why he was so casual with that vampire. "Now that Buffy is.gone, a new Slyer should have been called by now, but.they obviously have other plans."
"Dammit," spike muttered again.
"You keep saying that," Cordelia observed. "What's going on?"
"The Slayer! They resurrected the Slayer!" he announced.
The three of them stood still for a moment, mouths hanging open.
"What?" Cordelia asked first.
"What are you, people, brain-dead? She's alive!"
"B.Buffy?" Wesley stuttered.
"Yes, Buffy! Do you know of another Slayer who's recently died?!"
"They brought her to life?" the Englishman couldn't believe. "H.how?"
"I don't know how, ask Red. She's the one messing with the dark magick. The point is, that she's alive. Very much alive even. The only flaw is that she's having some sort of amnesia or something. She doesn't remember a darn thing, just hanging around like a killing machine. The dumb asses that they are, they never even once tried to help her remember, they say it's gotta come on its own. So meanwhile, while it's.taking its time to arrive, I gotta watch my back day and night for the case our newly revived Slayer has a bad-hair day."
"Why didn't they tell Angel?" Cordelia questioned silently, still in shock herself.
"You know what, dearie, you go ask them. I tried to make them tell him, pretty much ever since they got her back, but no one besides the Slayer's sister was even ready to listen."
"I can hardly believe Mr. Giles would."
"Well, then you have a little surprise coming up your way," Spike replied to Wesley.
"How could they not tell him? If they only knew what he's been going through all this time, thinking.God, why didn't they tell him?" Cordelia asked, a both perplexed and hurt expression on her face.
"Look, beats me, okay? You better worry about how he's gonna react when he sees her. Man, how I don't wanna be in his boots now."
Everyone was silent for a while, realizing the pain they'd been trying so hard to protect their friend from being exposed to, was going to be so much worse now. None of them knew, or could even guess, how, or if, he would be able to handle seeing his ex-lover.alive. And even more to that, how would her memory loss affect him, seeing she didn't know him anymore?.
Cordelia was inwardly discussing which one of the Scooby Gang was she going to pummel first once she saw them again.
Gunn was the first to recover. He pulled his cell phone out of his jacket's pocket, and dialed a number.
"What are you doing?" Wesley inquired.
"Take a guess," the other man answered. After a while, he pressed a button and disconnected the call, tossing the cellular on the sofa next to Spike. "His phone is off."
On to Part Nine