Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters I used, except for Eliza and the two Hell guys. The rest of the characters and also some quotes I used are all belong to Joss, WB, Mutant Enemy, and etc. I take no credit for them; neither I do for any of the songs.
Spoilers: It takes place about half a year after Buffy splits Sunnydale because of killing Angel, which automatically means she doesn't return home right after the Hell incident in 'Anne'. She stays in LA, because she feels that she's not ready to go back. I guess it's a little from both seasons 1&2.
Summary: Buffy is in LA. She misses Angel and is being eaten by the blame for killing the only man she loved. She meets a mysterious old woman that tells her she can change things for the best.
AN1: I'm having severe issues with the way Joss handled everything Hell-related, and I know I'm not the only one. I HAD to write a fic about the way I think Angel and Buffy would really react to that, because the swift recovering of Joss-verse is hardly convincing (anyone). I so don't think it went down like that. Imagine, people - (1) - I killed the only man I love and I gotta live with it for the rest of my life, and - (2) - I've been in Hell for centuries, which literally drove me to the point of insanity.
Now, Joss-verse - a month (three at most) and we both feel great! Everybody's happy!
My verse - read!:)
AN2: The phrases between ' // ' are memories.
Feedback: I want it!
Why can't I wake up with you?
Why can't I wake up with you?
See you there when I open my eyes
There when I open my eyes
Baby, why can't I wake up with you?
Baby, why can't I wake up with you?
You're my life
- Take That, "Why Can't I Wake Up With You?"
Buffy snuggled in Angel's arms. They were in his bed, in his old apartment, both naked.
"I love you," she whispered to him.
Angel didn't reply. He let go of her and sat up. "Really?" he asked simply.
Buffy sat beside him. "I love you," she repeated, as if it was something obvious he should have known. "It's easy for me to tell you how I feel."
He didn't answer for a short while. "You...feel?" Angel rose to his feet and got out of the bed, standing in front of her. All of a sudden there was a sword in his hand. "You can feel?" he asked with contempt.
Horror materialized in Buffy's orbs.
Angel brought the sword's point near Buffy's throat, the sneer still on his face. "You want to feel so much?" he queried huskily. "Well, feel this!"
Buffy didn't even manage to budge, before he impaled the sword through his stomach. "Angel!" she cried out in horror.
He laughed. "Feels good, doesn't it?" He pulled the sword out and looked at his laceration. It was bleeding. "Oops," he grinned. The fake innocents in his smile scared Buffy even more. "I guess that would be a tough one to heal." He clutched Buffy's hands behind her back, so that she couldn't move.
"Angel, I'm sorry," she sobbed, "I love you. Angel, I didn't have a choice...I'm sorry."
He merely laughed. "Sorry. That's nice. Well, in that case, you won't be mad now, cuz, you know...I'm sorry too." Saying that, he transfixed her.
Screaming, Buffy woke up.
It was like that, repeatedly, night after night. The nightmares were coming, and there was nowhere to escape, nowhere to flee from the culpability and the blame. The hollowness that was left in her heart after he was gone, and the loss, were irreparable. Most importantly - the guilt, the guilt for killing the one man she would ever love, for sending him to Hell, betraying his unconditional love and trust, dooming years of anguish on both of them. Flashbacks of Angel, holding her close in his arms - Angel closing his eyes - the sword being driven through him - Angel's hurt and stunned expression as he's being swallowed by the vortex into Hell...Angel's gone.
It wasn't enough that she hated herself, thinking if she could play false with someone who shared her love and trust so completely, why would she deserve to even be alive? But there also were the unstopping nightmares. Nightmares in which Angel blamed her for his murder. If blaming herself was unbearable, so having Angel blaming her as well was even worse. If worse was possible.
She climbed out of her bed and peered out of the window. At night, the city looked so calm, so innocuous. She could almost feel safe; if she didn't know what's really going on as the night fell down. Buffy had been to LA for almost six months now. She didn't really know anymore why she had left Sunnydale in the first place, she hadn't thought about reasons back then. Actually, she knew why. She wanted to escape what she had done; albeit it was stupid to think that by moving to another place she would be able to leave Angel behind. She had been a fool. It had only became harder. Only now she didn't want to come back anymore, she didn't want to face everyone and everything she knew she would have to once she returned. Without him.
As Buffy glanced at her nightstand, she saw a piece of paper with an address on it. She recalled how she had gotten it, she remembered the exact events that took place that night. It was a couple of months after she had returned from Hell. She was walking home, after finishing a nightshift at the diner when she met her. An old woman. She had a sweet face, caring.
She had approached Buffy and immediately introduced herself.
"My name is Eliza," she had said in an amiable tone. "I can help you."
Buffy hadn't been so nice at first. "I don't need anyone's help," she had snapped at her.
"I disagree," Eliza had insisted patiently.
Buffy had turned to her. It had been obvious to her even then that the old lady wouldn't just leave her alone. "What do you mean?" she asked.
"You need help," she had put her palm lovingly on Buffy's. "You're lost, child. I can help you find your way. Come to me, and I'll help you."
The cryptic had become annoying to Buffy. Besides, it had alarmed her. It had reminded her of Ken. "I don't need this again," she said and kept walking.
"He's lost too," Eliza called after Buffy.
Buffy halted her walk instantly and revolved. "What?" she asked.
"He's lost too," Eliza repeated tenderly. She proceeded towards Buffy. "After what you went through, you have troubles trusting me. That's understandable. Yet, I'm not like them. I promise you, I can help. I know what you're going through. The blame, the regret and the misery. It destroys you, slowly, and does not give you repose."
"How do you know?" Buffy still hadn't been sure whether to trust her or not. She'd looked harmless, yet...so had Ken, at first...
Eliza placed a piece of paper in Buffy's hand. "Come to me," she smiled. "Come to me any time you feel you're ready to face it. I'll be there." Then she disappeared.
Buffy held the address in her hand now, she'd been looking at it for a while, pondering whether or not to come. It'd been a few weeks since then, and she still hadn't decided what to do with it, although she couldn't bring herself to throw it away. But now she thought...*Tonight is the night. Tonight - I'll go.* The old lady looked so sweet. Her eyes were so peaceful and favorable. Buffy really felt as if she could trust her. There was another reason too. She really really needed to talk to someone. She needed someone to feel sympathy, or at least hear what she had to say, without calling the man she loved a murderer and a monster. She had just answered her question why was it that she hadn't stayed home...
It was almost 3:00am. Her clock was never on time, so she couldn't know for sure. Nevertheless, Eliza had said to come anytime, and she wanted so badly to stop these nightmares, everything she'd been going through. Now that she was resolved about it, Buffy felt that if she waited a little longer she wouldn't be able to go anymore. Anyway, what could possibly happen? The least she could do was to hear what she had to say. It wouldn't do her any harm, would it?
"I knew you'd come. I don't just approach people on the street, I recognize those who really need me. People with real problems, who are lost and melancholy and don't know where to refer for help. These people are always sure to come. And they always obtain the help they long for." Eliza gestured towards a black rug in the middle of the room. "Come," she invited Buffy there, "sit."
Buffy peered around the room. She couldn't discern any further furniture or anything, for that matter, because it was too dark, and seemed too small to contain anything else. There were no lights, but a single candle in the middle of the rug. Buffy headed there and perched on one side of the carpet. Eliza settled in front of her, having the candle between them.
"So.what, are you gonna read my fortune now?" Buffy made a lousy attempt to turn it all into a joke.
Eliza merely smiled weakly and looked deep into Buffy's eyes. "Don't try to make a crying heart laugh," she said softly. "It doesn't help. It only stresses the pain."
Buffy's expression saddened.
"I'm not a fortuneteller." Eliza continued. "I take no money for what I do, neither I try to see people's future. I don't believe anyone deserves to know what will happen before it does. Everything that happens, happens for a reason."
Buffy gave her a confused gaze, and swallowed. "Everything?"
"Everything." The woman placed her hand on Buffy's cheek. "Don't look at me," she advised, "concentrate on the flame. It relaxes. It makes it easier.to talk.to cry."
Buffy obeyed and lowered her eyes to the candle's flame.
"You feel guilty," Eliza observed. Buffy tuned in as she began to speak. "For something that wasn't your fault. It's not you to blame. You had no choice. Never forget that. Say it. Say it's not your fault."
"It's not my fault," Buffy mumbled. *I wish I could believe that,* she added to herself.
"With time you will," Eliza replied. "Angel. His name is Angel."
"Is. His name is Angel. He's the reason for all this. Tell me about him."
Buffy swallowed, and fastened his jacket around her body. Her orbs practically bored the flame in an attempt to remain dry. "He was."
"He IS," Eliza declared firmly, yet softly, "he is."
Buffy wasn't sure she could talk about Angel as if he were still alive. It was harder than talking about him as if he weren't. "He is...my life. The only one I ever truly loved. He.completes me, he's my heart.and my soul."
"You - a Slayer. You're in love with him, with a vampire. Tell me about him as a vampire."
"He.he was turned somewhere around the seventeenth hundred. By.I forgot her name."
Buffy nodded in agreement. "Why do you need me to tell you? You already know everything."
"I want to hear YOU talk about him."
"He'd been a vicious murderer in his first one hundred years or so, known to the world as 'Angelus'."
"The vampire with the angelic face."
"But this is not the person.I love. I just.I don't care what he had done back then."
"Tell me what made him into the person you love, then."
"Once, Angelus drank off a Romany girl. The elders punished him, they restored his soul. He's been destined to a life of pain, misery, and regret for the rest of his eternal existence, to carry the guilt for his former crimes, not to be able to forget the faces of his victims."
"Like you. You can't forget his face, his expression once you stabbed him."
A tear escaped Buffy's eye, but she continued. "The curse was stipulated. He'll maintain his soul, being the most loving, caring, and compassionate person, up until he experiences one moment of true happiness. Once it happens, it will lift his curse and make him again the man he was before. He shared this moment of true happiness.with me. I turned him back. It happened on my seventeenth birthday. Since then he was.a monster. And I still loved him. I couldn't kill him. I let him kill and torture more and more people only because I couldn't make myself kill him. I guess I couldn't let go the believing that one day.this nightmare will be over, and I will regain my Angel back. I was naive, wasn't I?"
"No. It was expected for you to act like this. You truly loved him, so did he. Tell me you didn't notice he couldn't kill you as well. He convinced himself he hated you. But even as a monster, he couldn't kill the woman he loved. And he had his chances, lots of them. So did you, but you just couldn't go through with it. It was beyond your power to kill each other. No matter how on the outside you hated, inside.you always loved."
"But then he was about to open a vortex to Hell. I knew that there could be no more games. If I didn't stop him, he'd destroy the world. I was a Slayer. I never hated my destiny more than then."
"Willow, a young witch," Eliza prompted.
"Yeah. My best friend. Only she could replicate the curse that restored his soul. Apparently she did so, because right when I was about to finish him off.he turned back. I don't know why she hasn't told me she was going to try again. If she had, perhaps I would have."
"But she had. She asked your other friend, Xander, to tell you. He was the one who chose to keep you in the dark."
Buffy's astonishment and disappointment were blunt in her eyes as she beheld Eliza again. She had never felt more betrayed. Her best friend turned out to be the primary cause for the murder of her love. He hadn't been the one on her mind now though. "He held me." Buffy began to cry, "he held me so tight, and he kissed me, and said he loved me.and I killed him."
"And now it doesn't go away. It agonizes you, practically kills you from the inside. You can't live with yourself because of the blame. You can't stop accusing yourself."
"I have nightmares."
"Oh, yes. The terrible nightmares. The pain.of not only blaming yourself, but also the thought about HIM blaming you. It's unbearable for you. You still love him. You love him so deeply, in a kind of love that never dies, never forgotten. It afflicts you so much.the idea of him blaming you."
"Why can't I stop that?"
"It almost drives you crazy, doesn't it? No, you can't stop that, you'll never be able to. What bothers you the most.it's not the kill itself."
Buffy gave her a surprised gaze.
"What bothers you the most is the feeling of betrayal. You broke his trust. He trusted you, and he loved you, and you killed him."
"Yeah," Buffy whispered.
"You won't be able to redeem yourself. Never, not until you face it and fix what you've done. You have done nothing wrong, but your soul is what hankers for the expiation. It's in your power to forestall the life of suffering you're gradually building for yourself, hold on only to the happiness and the joy, to be with him like you always wanted to, to have your Angel back the way he really is. The man you remember; the man you love. Don't sink into the tribulation, you will never find your way to surface. You have a choice here. The power to repair everything is in your hands. Tell me if there is something you want more than to hold him once again in your arms. Is there?"
"What do you mean?"
"It's in your power. To find peace for both of you, in each other's arms."
"How can I find peace for us?!" Buffy wailed. "He's DEAD! I'm the one who killed him!"
"You have a demon inside you. It feeds of your guilt. Do not yield to it, you have to face it, face the moments you fear most."
"You must. Face the moment when you tell him to close his eyes, he's crying."
"You drive the sword through him. The astonished and shattered mien in his eyes as he watches you in disbelieve. He whispers your name.a second before he's gone."
"I can't do this." Buffy was about to stand up and leave when she suddenly froze.
"He's alive," Eliza imparted.
It returned Buffy right back to her previous place.
"He's alive," Eliza continued smiling, "you didn't kill him."
Buffy looked incoherent. "What?" she asked hesitantly.
Eliza kept smiling. "Angel isn't dead. You sent him to Hell, you didn't KILL him. After two years of slaying, you of all people should know that a vampire cannot be killed by a sword through the stomach."
Buffy began to relax.
"You've been to Hell," she proceeded, "you know how it is there. Time runs quicker there than in our dimension. One day here."
"Is a hundred years there."
"Precisely. He's been there for centuries now."
"Tortured in Hell.for centuries. Because of me. You know," Buffy smirked, "as ironic as it is, I think that in this point we'd both agree it would have been better for him if I'd killed him."
"I don't think so. I don't believe YOU really believe that. It is right though; he's being tortured. Life in there.is no life at all. He's suffering, yet he comes through all that. He keeps fighting. One thing holds him strong enough to endure all that is being done to him and keep going. Your name. The only thing he remembers, therefore he holds on to it."
"He.doesn't remember me?" Her heart felt more broken than before.
"He doesn't remember anything or anyone. You know how it is. They make you forget everything. Excruciate you in implausible means, until they make you believe you're no one. They couldn't make him forget your name. He even forgot you, forgot himself, but not your name. He just couldn't.albeit all they did, so they gave up trying, having no choice but to let him hold on to that. He has an object buried. Something valuable to him, to both of you. It's the second half of you. They give him a few hours of rest every 24. They know that a dead person can't be killed with too much torment, but can be damaged. And besides, it is much more agonizing to inflict torture on a being after allowing them, even for a several hours, to nurture the hope that it's over. Therefore they let him rest...infrequently. Every time he's free, he takes it out and beholds it, trying to remember what it was and why it's so dear to him, but he can't."
"You say I can get him out of there? Tell me how."
"You will have to return there, return to Hell. You will have five days to make him remember you, make him remember your love...all you've shared, make him Angel anew. He's no one now. He only knows the word 'Buffy'. He doesn't even know what 'Buffy' is. It's up to you to make him remember, remember who he was, who you were. The good things as well as the bad things, he must know it all. You've given five days. If you succeed, you'll be allowed to bring him back here with you, to stop his pain, as well as yours, to save him. This is a very rare opportunity. Not many people get the chance to bring their loved ones from the world of dead."
"How can I get."
"I'll send you there. I can also make the time in this dimension accord the time there. But for merely five days. Now, you tell me. Do you think you can accept such a challenge? Do you think you can take it on yourself? This is a difficult decision, you mustn't undertake it lightly."
There was nothing but determination on Buffy's face. "Send me there. Now."
"You must be sure."
"Please, send me there," she pleaded, "I'll do anything to get him out of there."
Eliza nodded. "Remember, you're brave, but sometimes being brave is foolish, sometimes it isn't enough. You won't have much time, and I don't think you fully comprehend the earnestness of what you've taken on yourself. Remember one more thing, no one will know you're there. This how I can protect you for these five days. Only Angel will be able to see you. Then you'll return here, with or without him - it's entirely up to you. If your love is strong enough, he'll remember."
"I can do it. As long as he's with me."
"But that is specifically the obstacle you're about to face. It ISN'T him anymore. It's not a person anymore. You'll understand what I mean once you'll lay eyes on him. It's an empty shell. You have to fill it with memories and with feelings - with life."
"Please," Buffy was settled on it.
"Close your eyes," Eliza whispered, and reposed her palm on Buffy's brow. As she did so, a white flash of light whacked her.
I'm so afraid to love you
But more afraid to lose
Clinging to a past that doesn't let me choose
Once there was a darkness
Deep and endless night
You gave me everything you had
Oh you gave me light
And I will remember you
- Sarah McLachlan, "I Will Remember You"
She woke up in a cage. Everything around her was dark, cold, and dank. She felt a weak stream of icy cold water leaking down from the wrecked ceiling on top of her hand. She set up and looked around again. It literally was Hell. She couldn't imagine someone surviving centuries in that. It made her shiver just from thinking about it. Buffy began to feel scared. Very scared. It wasn't like her to be afraid of such minorities, but she just couldn't help it. She almost regretted coming here, but then she recalled why she had. It gave her something to endure it for. Buffy knew she needed to get Angel out of there, and she wasn't going to leave until then.
Abruptly, her sharp ears perceived a noise verging upon the cage. The noise was of chains rustling, which implied on someone being dragged. She rushed to hide in the shadows, before she realized no one could see her. Still, she did it, because even if it were Angel who was approaching, she thought it would be for the best if she didn't reveal herself to him yet.
They came closer. Buffy was able to get a clearer view of them now. Two men. They looked very strong and substantial. They had human faces, as much as Buffy could see. *Probably masks,* she thought. They were clasping whips and batons in their hands, and harshly dragging someone after them. They approached the cell Buffy inhabited and unlocked it. They hurled the person inside and locked the gate again. After that, they simply rotated and strode off.
Buffy beheld the frame on the floor. Suddenly, he budged and started slowly standing up, leaning on the bars, having perceivable difficulty to remain on his feet. She couldn't see his exact lineaments because of the obscurity; she could only see the silhouette. But she didn't need more to perceive the so familiar frame of the one in front of her.
Buffy stirred in her hiding place, drawing his immediate attention. His advanced sight caught all of her and he leaped back in alarm and emitted a smarting shriek due to the abrasion of his back against the rusty grilles. Buffy approached closer, but as he minded that, he fled to where she'd just left. He sat there for what seemed to be forever, and all Buffy could do was to stay away, giving him time to adjust. She perched down on the floor; not drawing her eyes away from Angel's as he scrutinized hers.
"W...who.who are you?" he asked irresolutely.
Tears emerged in Buffy's eyes. She missed so much hearing his voice. She was only sorry he didn't remember.but it was why she's here for. To make him remember.
She strode closer to him. He no longer tried to skip out as she attained him. Buffy carefully stretched out her hand to touch him, and he shivered as it gently met his shoulder. She felt his tense muscles relaxing under the bruised skin, and mildly slid her palm down his arm, trying to prevent the tears from bursting out.
Angel merely gawked at her.
Buffy perched in front of him and smiled. "Angel," she whispered huskily. Not being able to restrain herself anymore, she threw her arms around him. "I missed you so much." she sobbed.
He didn't respond. No moves, no words. He just froze still. He was too muddled to understand what had just happened. Thoughts flew in and out through his mind. Missed her? He didn't miss her. He didn't even know her. How could he hug back someone he didn't even know? How could he show affection to anyone when he forgot what affection was? He didn't remember.
A groan of pain escaped his lips as she touched his back. Buffy darted backwards in surprise to look at him. He only shrunk away, looking ashamed and hurt, like a wounded animal. Buffy looked down at her palm. It was soiled with blood. She rose her eyes back at Angel and he turned his back to her.
"Oh my God," she hissed, both fright and disbelief in her voice.
His back was fully scattered with welts, bites, lacerations and every other remnant of abuse they could possibly come up with on him. There were more new lesions than there were old ones. On top of that, the dirt made it visible that they had never been treated by anyone. Then again, why would they be? It wasn't like anyone actually cared about him. Buffy glanced at the rest of his body. It was bruised almost just as much. "Oh, God..." she still hadn't reconciled with it, "Angel, what did they do to you?"
He didn't reply. He just looked away in mortification.
"I'm so sorry," she hugged him again. "Angel, I'm so sorry."
He didn't respond.
She raised her hand, seeking for the stream she knew had to be there. When she found it, she cupped her hands and filled them with water. Then she moistened Angel's back, feeling as he shivered every time the frost of the water met his sensitive skin. She repeated it for several times, in a pointless attempt to wash away the grime and the blood.
Buffy took off her jacket and wrapped it around Angel's shoulders. She grinned slightly, remembering how he once did the same thing to her. "Lie down," she said softly.
He looked at her in wonder. Who is that strange girl? Why did she want anything to do with him? Why would she want to take care of him? No one had ever taken care of him...or maybe, he just.didn't remember?
Still, there's something about that girl. Light...love, and she spread them all around her, and he felt they all were meant for only him. She was gentle, caring. She cared about him. It was unusual in this place. In here, he was used to only getting hurt. She made him feel like she would never hurt him. Not deliberately, anyway. He obeyed, and lay down, still embracing himself against the chill and the clamminess. Buffy looked at him sadly. He almost looked peaceful. She shuddered to the thought about what was truly going on inside of him. Even then she already knew it, that even when he would remember and regain the grip on his old self again, and the physical scars would heal, the mental scars made by centuries in this place would remain in him for all times. She lay beside him and protectively enfolded his shivering frame in her arms.
Buffy felt like only a couple of hours had passed until they were interrupted. Two men broke into the cage. Buffy wasn't sure whether they were the same from before. They grabbed Angel and violently pulled him out. Buffy stared at him, hindering the yearning to stop them and retrieve him back into her arms, make him feel safe again. She looked into his eyes, pleading for her to help him, his look hurt and betrayed once he saw she wasn't about to comply. An image of him being sucked into the vortex flashed through her mind again. She averted her eyes, crying.
What revenges of spirit
Conjured their tempestuous rage
Created you a monster
Broken by the rules of love
And fate has led you through it
You do what you have to do
And I have the sense to recognize that
I don't know how to let you go
- Sarah McLachlan, "Do What You Have to Do"
Buffy didn't know how much time had exactly passed up to when Angel was thrown into the cage again. And again, when the gate was locked after him, the first thing he saw was Buffy. Angel looked at her in confusion.
She walked up to him and pulled him into her hug. He still didn't react to her.
After a few moments, he pulled off. "Who are you?" he repeated his query from before. His tone was much steadier as he spoke to her now, as he was scrutinizing her. He contemplated for a while before asking the next question, but he had a feeling she knew. "Who.am I?"
She beamed briefly and blandly touched his cheek with her knuckles.
He wrenched off. "Answer me," he insisted, but carefully. He still wasn't sure whether he was in a position to insist. Beside that, he wasn't sure he could trust her. He had put all the trust he had in her when they last met, and she had betrayed that trust. He was craving for her to hold him in her arms like a drug, and simultaneously, he didn't know if he'd be able to cope the next time she'd let them take him away from her arms as if he meant nothing. Instantly, a speculation occurred to him. That name, the memory that wouldn't leave him. *Is it possible.it is she?* "Buffy?." he asked, still prudish.
Buffy smiled. She wished he knew what he was talking about. "Yeah," she prompted. She took his hand and kissed it. "Angel," she said. "It's your name."
"Angel," he echoed his name. It was a mitigation to know he had one. "Who am I?" he catechized. "Please," he gulped, "tell me."
Buffy couldn't stop smiling. She took his other hand into hers and squatted in front of him. "Seventeen-fifty-three," she began to tell, "was the year you were turned. It happened in Galway, Ireland. She was a beautiful woman, and she caught you with her charm. Her name was Darla, she was your Sire. She turned you into a vampire."
Buffy watched Angel. He was listening carefully to her story, bearing in mind every word. She knew she'd hate telling this part, the last thing she wanted was to hurt him even more. But she didn't really have a choice, did she? He had to know. The good things as well as the bad things. She tightened her grip on his hands. "For about a century and a half.I think, you and Darla were...together. Roaming Europe, killing, torturing, spreading havoc and devastation everywhere you were. Your nickname then was Angelus. Everyone who had the misfortune of turning up in your way, or to have you in their, was generally killed. You horrified Europe so much and for so long, that you soon became known as the Scourge of Europe. During that part of your life...you killed your entire family, among the others. You also turned others into vampires. Those I know of are Drusilla and Spike. I know that Drusilla is the older. You drove her insane and killed her family as well before turning her. I guess later you turned Spike. They both are depraved murderers, together even worse than apart, and they are together." Buffy stopped to peer at Angel. Behind the hurt and the pain in his orbs, she could see his deep and candid compunction, one only he could have. Compunction and remorse. She drew him to her and embraced him close.
He merely reposed his head on her breasts, feeling her warmth and integrity. A part of him tried to remember how to cry...
He suddenly felt that no matter what, he'd find peace in her arms. Love. A familiar, yet lost and forlorn emotion awoken in him. He didn't know what it was, didn't know whether feeling it was okay.
Holding Angel tight in her arms, Buffy continued. "In nineteen-eighty, you fed on a Gypsy girl in Romania. The elders of the clan punished you, they restored your soul. They decreed you to an existence full with regret and reminiscing of all you've done. This is the fiercest penalty for a vampire. Since then you couldn't feed of people anymore. You couldn't bring yourself to hurt anyone at all. You migrated to America, New York, to start a new life. You changed your name to Angel and lived alone, in solitude, eaten with regret. You shut yourself out of the world thinking you didn't deserve anything or anyone. You didn't have a place to live, and you didn't have food. In nineteen-ninety-six, a good demon named Whistler found you, and offered you to change your life. I was a new called Slayer then, and he offered you to become my protector. You've been on the streets for so long, and you only wanted to be left alone, but luckily for me, something changed your mind." She gazed at Angel. It felt right to hold him like that again. "This is all I know about your past. I realize I'm leaving you too many blanks, but I guess I'm not the suitable person to fill them. Do you remember any of it?"
"No," he replied quietly. "Why?" he asked after a short silence. "Why do you want to be with me? If I really am the monster you say I am, why on earth would you want anything to do with me? Why would someone like you want to take care of me? If I were you, I would be afraid to come anywhere near me. Who are you for me? Why can't I remember you? There's something.peculiar about you. Something familiar.and outlandish. Forgotten. Tell me who you are."
Buffy kissed his head. She felt him trembling as he felt the kiss. "Have some sleep now. We have time. I will tell you everything I know. And in the next part, I do know everything. I promise."
"I'm not tired." They both knew he lied.
Buffy smiled. "When was the last time you actually slept?"
He didn't answer. The last time he actually slept.he knew that. When he was with her. In her arms. Angel lay on the floor and turned his back to Buffy. Somehow he knew she would be that stubborn.
Buffy enfolded her arms around his waist, and pressed her face to his back. Very soon she espied that Angel was already sound asleep. Suddenly, her fingers distinguished a scarcely perceptible mark on his abdomen. Her fingertips carefully fluttered over the small scar. She pondered momentarily whether or not he had ever wondered where he got it.
"I met you shortly after I arrived to Sunnydale. You were following me, and I led you into a dark alley. I can't say our first meeting was friendly," she quipped. "I was kinda...cynical towards you. I didn't know who you were and why you were following me, and it irritated me. Still, when I first looked into your eyes, I knew already then that I would never want you to stop stalking me. I knew I loved you. You came to warn me about the Harvest. You gave me a silver cross that night, to wear for protection. You had this...something...in your eyes. I knew that...in this Hellmouth, you were the only one I shouldn't fear. I knew I could trust you completely. Later, I found out about you being a vampire. It was when Darla came to Sunnydale. She fed of my mother and made it seem like it was your fault, and I stupidly bought that because I found you holding her right after she was bitten. It brought you to first telling me about your curse, your soul that has been restored. All these made hating you even harder. It was too late to hate you, I already loved you. It was impossible not to forgive you, mainly after you killed your own Sire to save my life. This is how it had been for a while. We were meeting at random. Actually, we weren't meeting, you were skulking around, always appearing in the exact moment when I needed you the most. You know," Buffy smiled at him, "you maybe didn't know it, but I always knew you were around. I just had these weird sensors, revealing to me that you were there. You constantly used to bring me some cryptic admonition, telling me to be careful from this and that wacky prophecy. You were too noble to ever try to entangle me into your dark life, always protective, caring, lying to both of us that you didn't love me. After months of that routine, you finally asked me out. Since then, things went plain and simple. We both found what we needed the most, the only things that could complete us. We found each other. No one could understand us. Me - the Slayer, you - a vampire. No one coould conceive why we loved each other. But we didn't care. We were happy. It was all that mattered." She kept telling about Spike and Dru, about how they captured and tortured him, because he was the one to heal Dru from her illness, about the other monsters and demons they confronted. About how they loved, about the happy times they shared, so perfect.just him and her. Nothing else was in the world. She trailed off as she reached her seventeenth birthday. She didn't know how to tell it, it hurt her as much as it would hurt him.if he remembered.
"What happened?" he asked her worryingly.
She glanced at him. "Nothing," she whispered.
"It's more like a something. Something that's bothering you. I can feel it."
It felt now more than ever it was the old real Angel. Only the real Angel could discriminate when she was troubled or hurt even if she didn't say a word. "On my seventeenth birthday, I had a nightmare. It was like a prediction, about how Drusilla killed you. I was so afraid I'd lose you, that instead of going to school that morning, I rushed to your apartment, to see if you were alright. From the very beginning of that day, I had a bad feeling something horrible would happen. I caught you right when you were getting ready for bed. I was so relieved I found you in one piece, that the nightmare slipped my mind. Later that day, we found out that Drusilla and Spike were about to assemble the Judge. He was a powerful demon. They had one piece missing, though, we possessed it. It needed to be hidden away ASAP, so you offered to take it away to Asia. I didn't want to let you go that night on the docks." Buffy felt she was about to burst into tears, but she restrained herself. "I didn't want to let you go. Only the thought of not seeing you for maybe a year was unendurable. I needed you.to be with me. I didn't realize how much I needed you, but when I was about to lose you. When we.said goodbye on the docks, you gave me the Claddagh ring. It was my birthday present from you. It signified our love." Buffy showed him the ring on her finger. "I still wear it," she said, grinning. Hindering the tears became harder. "When we kissed afterwards, we were ambushed by vampires, who were after the missing piece. One of them threw me into the water and you let them have it and jumped after me. After that, we witnessed Drusilla assembling the Judge. Then we winded up in your apartment. There.for the first time.we made love. It broke the curse. One moment of true happiness was the only thing that could turn you back into what you were before, and it happened. I lost you that night." Buffy covered her face with her hands. She couldn't restrain anymore.
Angel felt her warm tears dripping on his cold body. Every one of them was slowly melting his frozen heart. He couldn't bear seeing that girl crying. Even more he couldn't have her crying because of him. He rose his hand toward her face, but at the last second repented and put it down. "Don't tell anymore," he whispered, "it's not worth it."
"I need you to know," she tried to explain.
"It's not worth it. I'm a lost cause anyway. I'm nothing. Knowing that maybe once I was something...it won't help me."
Buffy wiped her tears. "I have to.I did it to you. I sent you here. All that has been happening to you lately, this only world that you do know.it was all my fault. You turned into a monster after you lost your soul. I had no choice. You were about to open a vortex to Hell and send the entire world in there. It was your blood.that was the key to both seal and open that vortex. I stabbed you, to release your blood.I'm sorry.it closed the vortex, b.but it took you with it. I love you.I'm sorry." she sobbed, turning away from him.
"What you did was right," Angel said simply. "You had to. It was the only way. It's not your fault. If it.if it means anything at all to you, I.I would never.I don't blame you. If there were someone to blame, it would never be you. It's me. I brought it on myself. If I really did all you say I did, I deserve even worse."
Buffy could only stare at him, speechlessly. It was what she had lusted after for so long, his forgiveness, hearing him say he doesn't blame her. She wanted to hug him so tight and never let go of him again. She would have done so, if the two human faced monsters hadn't dragged him away again.
After the three of them disappeared from her sight, Buffy still kept staring after them. She knew they would bring him back again, and then she would have only several hours to make Angel remember her. She hoped it could be done. At least, she knew one thing. He'd forgiven her.
Angel found her asleep once he was returned. He perched in the opposite corner of the cell, watching her sleep. Following her every motion, every stir, with awe. How her lashes flapped in her slumber, how her chest rose and sank steadfastly with her each breath, how her hair moved lightly with every blast of the cold wind. Suddenly, he heard something budging beside him. It was a rat. A huge and ugly animal, but it also was Angel's first meal in nearly a week. He considered himself to be lucky. When he grabbed it though, he was taken aback. Something felt wrong about it. He didn't feel it was appropriate to eat in front of that girl. She claimed to love him, when he wasn't sure what love was. And she knew so much about him. Well, he couldn't prove her lying, because he didn't know a thing about himself, so maybe what she had been saying really was the truth. Besides, there was that scar on his abdomen. He didn't know how it had happened and he didn't know when. He had many scars, too many even, but with the time, they faded away. But this one never did. He had it for as long as he could remember, and he always wanted to know where it came from. He could never recall.up until he had heard what she had told him. She hadn't even said where exactly she had stabbed him, but he had a feeling it was it. But there was one more thing he wasn't fully sure about. This girl asserted to be Buffy. He didn't know who or what Buffy was, so he couldn't prove her lying here also, but he knew whoever Buffy was.she clearly was very dear to him, considering it had been the only thing he remembered. Something just.seemed wrong. He knew he was risking in being starved for at least another week, but still, he just couldn't. He let the rat escape.
Angel felt very tired. The starvation and the pain were slowly taking him down, a little every day. His entire body was aching and all he wanted now was to relax, so he lay down and tried to fall asleep. He couldn't. He couldn't stop looking at the girl. He almost was afraid to close his eyes because then he wouldn't see her anymore. The last thing he needed in his present state was another insomnia, though that by now he was supposed to get used to not having any sleep. Angel thought that maybe.maybe if he were with her. He reminisced of how good it felt, to be held in her arms. How safe he felt, how peaceful. He wanted to regain that. It took him a while until he made up his mind to crawl near her. He crept towards her and lay by her side, quiet, careful not to disturb her. He tenderly moved her one arm and placed it around him. It finally felt right. Felt real. Like this was how he's meant to be. Angel looked at her small palm in his hand, it was the one with the ring on it. She had told him about that ring. It was a Claddagh ring, it was him who'd given it to her. At least, according to her version it was, but since he knew no other. He gently slipped the ring off of her small finger, and immediately returned it to its former place. As he did so, a flashback hit him.
They are on the docks, making their way towards a boat. He has a large box on his right shoulder; Buffy is leaning into him, tightly clinging to his left arm. He lowers his head and places a fond kiss on her temple. Finally, they reach the gangplank.
He puts down the box and faces Buffy. "I should go the rest of the way alone," he says softly.
"Okay," she answers, facially not accepting the inevitable.
"But I'll be back," he promises reassuringly, "I will."
Buffy doesn't fall for it though. "When? Six months? A year? You don't know how long it's gonna take, or if we even." she looks down.
"Hey," he whispers, and delicately raises her chin, "if we even what?"
Buffy is about to cry. "Well, if you haven't noticed, someone is pretty much always wants us dead."
He hastens to allay her, still trying to cover his own dejection with a smile. "Don't say this. We'll be fine."
"We don't know that."
"We can't know, Buffy. That's just the deal." He looks down and reaches into his pocket. "I have something for you," he takes out a small object, "for your birthday. I.I was gonna give it to you earlier, but." he shows her a ring.
"It's beautiful," she almost smiles.
"My people.before I was changed.they exchanged this as a sign of devotion. It's a Claddagh ring. The hands represent friendship; the crown represents loyalty and the heart.well, you know. Wear it with the heart pointed towards you. It means you belong to somebody. Like this," he shows her his matching ring, as it's worn on his finger.
She takes his hand and gently kisses the ring placed on it.
He still endeavors to smile. "Put it on," he says, and slips the other ring on her finger.
"I don't wanna do this," she sobs.
"Me neither," he's also on the verge of breaking. Tears escaping his eyes without him being able to do anything about it.
"So, don't go," she still hopes there is a chance.
He slowly leans forward and they kiss. They intensely wrap their arms around each other and embrace one another even tighter, disputing the inescapable. Ultimately, they let go.
He wants to say something. He wants to tell her he loves her. "Buffy, I."
Two vampires attack them from out of nowhere. A fight develops.Buffy is being thrown into the water.he jumps after her to save her. //
Angel opened his eyes in perplexity and looked around in stupefaction. He remembered. Putting the ring on her finger, the ring that epitomizes their love. That simple deed made him remember. He slowly freed himself from under her arm and headed to the opposite corner. He began to dig for something in the ground. Angel took out a small object and examined it.
Now he finally knew what it was. The other matching ring, his ring. He placed it on his finger, with the heart pointing in. He belonged to somebody, he finally remembered. He skulked back to Buffy and lay beside her. He knew that this time he'd fall asleep, and he also knew exactly what he'd be dreaming about.
Pieces of conversations, places, people, circumstances, they all suddenly emerged in his mind, memories of the past, hopes of the future, all that had been lost was being restored. Everything came back to him. The night when he first met the girl of his dreams.
// "What do you want?"
"The same thing you do."
"Okay, what do I want?"
"To kill them. To kill them all."
"Sorry, that's incorrect. But you do get this lovely watch and a year's supply of Turtle Wax. What I want is to be left alone!"
"Do you really think that's an option anymore? You're standing on the mouth of Hell, and it's about to open. Don't turn your back on this. You've gotta be ready."
"For the Harvest."
"Who are you?"
"Let's just say.I'm a friend."
"Yeah, well, maybe I don't wanna friend."
"I didn't say I was yours." //
Then the night she found out the truth about him.
// "I invited you into my home, and then you attacked my family?!"
"Why not? I killed mine. I killed their friends, and their friends' children. For a hundred years I offered ugly death to everyone I met, and I did it with a song in my heart."
"Fed on a girl, around your age. Beautiful. Dumb as a post, but a favorite among her clan."
"Romany. Gypsies. The elders conjured the perfect punishment for me. They restored my soul."
"What, they were all out of boils and blinding torment?"
"When you become a vampire, the demon takes your body, but it doesn't get your soul. That's gone. No conscience, no remorse.that's an easy way to live. You have no idea what it's like.to have done the things I've done.and to care. I haven't fed on a human being since that day."
"So, you started with my mom?"
"I didn't bite her."
"So, why didn't you just say something?" //
Beaming, he reminisced of his jealousy towards Xander.
// "Are you jealous?"
"Of Xander? Please! He's just a kid."
"Is it cuz I danced with him?"
"'Danced with' is a pretty loose term. 'Mated with' might be a little closer."
"Don't you think you're being a little unfair? It was one little dance, which I only did to make you crazy, by the way. Behold my success."
"I'm NOT jealous."
"You're not jealous? What, vampires don't get jealous?"
"See? Whenever we fight, you always bring up the vampire thing."
"I didn't come here to fight." //
And then the make up.
// "Love makes you do the wacky."
"Oh, crazy. Like a two-hundred-forty-one year old being jealous of a high school junior?"
"Are you fessing up?"
"I thought about it. Maybe it bothers me a little."
"I don't love Xander."
"Yeah, but he's in your life. He gets to be there when I can't. Take your classes, eat your meals, hear your jokes and complaints.he gets to see you in sunlight."
"I don't look that good in direct light." //
All the memories just kept floating onto the surface. Every unforgettable moment, every expression in her deep green eyes, every word had ever been exchanged, they all returned to him. The first time ever he saw the one he'd been expecting for so long, the first time he made her laugh, the first time he kissed her, the first time he told her he loved her.loved her. He loved her. Now, he knew what love was, he was sure he knew. Just by looking at her.sleeping beside him, so natural with him. That was enough to stir every emotion in him that was long repressed. It made him so liberated, so happy; knowing that he loved her. It was as if he got his whole life back at once. He smiled, gazing at her. She was his. She belonged to him.and she loved him.
As if by feeling his eyes being focused on her, Buffy opened hers to look at him.
Angel wanted to talk to her, but the words refused to be uttered. He just lay there, gazing at her, realizing there's nothing about her he didn't know. At this moment, two monsters unlocked the cage and took him away.
Buffy just kept watching them walk away. The strange look in Angel's eyes was still etched in her mind. It was different, almost familiar.
She didn't yet let go of that thought, when she unexpectedly found herself back in Eliza's apartment.
Time was up.and she didn't accomplish the goal.
Buffy was sitting on the same carpet, on the same spot, with Eliza in front of her and the candle between them. If Buffy didn't know better, she'd think nothing had changed. She would never guess there had been...five days?...
"Are you alright?" Eliza asked her.
Buffy looked around, searching the room for Angel. There was no sign of him anywhere. "I failed," she recognized, "I didn't save him...I left him...to rot in..." tears streamed down her cheeks. "I can't believe I did it to him again..." She stooped, with her head in her hands, when a calming palm rested on her shoulder. Then loving strong arms embraced her whole from behind and a familiar kiss mildly touched her head. Buffy revolved and saw him. It was Angel. Her Angel. It was so clear, in his soft dark eyes - she saw Angel, and this Angel knew her, this Angel loved her. "Angel," she whispered, before completely sinking into his embrace. He reinforced his intense grip.
Finally, he pulled off a little and grinned at her. He lowered his face and kissed her. "I didn't tell you something back then," he whispered, taking her hands into his. "I love you." It was so blunt in his tone how much he wanted to say this, and how much he meant it. He pulled her back into his arms. "I love you so much."
Buffy smiled inwardly. *He remembered.* She thought she was never to hear from him these words again, and now...he uttered them, the words she thought were forever lost on her. "I love you," she said in response. "Close your eyes," she requested.
Angel complied trustingly.
She leaned towards him and placed a gentle kiss on his lips. Then she wrapped her arms around him and nestled on his chest.
His arms closed around her in a loving embrace.
"I see you succeeded, after all," Eliza observed.
Buffy turned to her, but remained in Angel's arms. "Thank you," She said. "What you did for us was something we both will be forever grateful for."
"I didn't do much," Eliza said with demure, "the hard part was always on the two of you. You two are a gift for each other, a gift to be cherished. Take him home now," she told Buffy, "take care of him and make him better. He has a lot of recovering ahead, more than you can conceive. You'll have a happy life, and it requires both of your presence." She beamed, as if there was something more to it. "Give me your hand."
As Buffy did so, Eliza placed it on Angel's chest. "What do you feel?" she asked Buffy.
Buffy's eyes opened wide as she felt the pulsation. "Oh, my God..." she couldn't express in words what she was feeling. She lifted her eyes to meet Angel's amazed face and reclined her head on his chest, wrapping him in her arms. It wasn't a dream. It was real. He was warm. Warm and alive.
They both turned to look at Eliza.
"It's been decided to grant you this small gesture, for all you two have sacrificed. You have already atoned way beyond your liability during these last centuries," she said to Angel, "you two deserve your happiness. You earned it."
Buffy turned to Angel, sobbing nervously and at the same time more happy than she could ever be, and kissed him. "Thank you," she addressed to Eliza, but as she rotated, she saw the aged woman was already gone. The candle and the rug were gone too.
Buffy rose to her feet and helped Angel to stand up after her. She supported him to keep his stance because he was trembling slightly. "Are you okay?" she asked.
"I'll be fine," he affirmed, but the faintness in his smile and his wavering voice betrayed him.
She beamed and kissed him. "Let's go home. We might be just in time for you to see your sunshine. You haven't seen it in a while, I'm guessing."
Angel gazed at her and smiled. "I haven't seen my sunshine...in centuries. There were times I feared I would never see her again." He leaned and kissed her tenderly.
On to A Broken Angel