Buffy. One decision and a few steps away. So close that I can hardly stand it. So far that I can hardly stand it. I could hear her breathe, it occurred to me that the simple fact that she lives, blood- warm, intoxicating- pumping through her veins, is enough. Knowing that makes me happier than I could ever deserve to be.
She kept looking over her shoulder. Her face creased with a frown and I wanted to smooth it away. She could feel me. A whisper in the corner of her mind. Would she recognise the voice?
I watched her go in. Hovered outside the crypt. Stealth- a habit so old, it felt new. I hadn’t lurked in a while. Nostalgia crept up on me and did some lurking of its own. She shouldn’t have been alone. Why did I make her do it all alone? We’ve both been condemned, to cemeteries and sewers...and now crypts, it seemed. I wondered why she hadn’t come out. What she could be doing. The truth was barely a passing thought, but the rage was there, just the same.
I could hardly believe how much had changed, how far I’d travelled in my mind- forwards and back and everywhere in between. L.A. to Sunnydale was nothing in comparison. I remembered so clearly the way I felt that very same night. Cordelia. I loved Cordelia. I still do. Why couldn’t that be all?
I wanted to comfort her, the way she comforted me when I lost Connor. My boy. Innocent product of my cursed flesh. My precious baby boy. I could see it there in her eyes. The pain. Still. She lost someone too. Gone to another dimension, like Connor, but by choice. Groo went home, his people needed him, we needed Cordy. Connor will never come home. I need him. He won’t come home. She stayed for us, but the pain, that pain will stay too. I think she loved him. I was jealous, I’ve always been jealous. Buffy taught me that.
It hurt, to see Cordy trust someone else. She needed him. What if she didn’t need me anymore? I’ve grown used to being needed, it’s my reason for being, but I forgot that the people who need me most are strangers. I have a mission, I’m on a journey. There’s a cynical voice inside me telling me I should write that down.
They’re my family. I was afraid of losing them to him. I’m an idiot.
Buffy made me realize that I needed people. She opened something inside of me that’s never been filled, a constant thirst. When she died it got worse. I realised I was drinking salt water.
There was one moment, one pure, clear moment when I knew it all. Willow didn’t need to say the words. The very instant that it was too late, I knew. Knew I’d been wrong, knew we should never have been apart, knew I’d do anything to see her again, to take her place. It was too late. She was dead. My lover had died. I left her to let her live. She died. What kind of cruel, sick fate was working so hard against us? I gave up my humanity so that she would live. She died.
I wanted to tell her when she came back...
she opened her eyes to the dark, to thick silence in her rotting shrine. I wasn’t there, may every power condemn me. I wasn’t there
...tell her that I was wrong, it was all wrong. I called, I had to see her, no more waiting, no more waste. We should have snatched the time we had together and hidden it away, protected it like we protect everything else. With our lives. I was going to tell her. I needed to tell her. How could I? She was barely there. Her eyes vague and distant, terrifyingly void. Needing to be filled. Begging me to give. Her words restrained, stilted. Bewildered and tired. Too tired to let me in. Refusing to receive.
And I was afraid.
To have her was to lose her again. How could I lose her again? And what if I hurt her. The curse. What if I killed her next time? And Joyce. Joyce, who wanted only a normal life for her little girl. I promised Joyce and she’s gone.
I wanted to tell her so much. To tell her about my redemption, my reward. How cruel when it might not happen in her lifetime, her children’s lifetimes? Children. Connor. Where is my son? Someone help me find my son. It’s been too long, I’m losing his scent. Too long without my boy.
I was angry. She hadn’t come to me. The world was ending and still she hadn’t asked for my help. Pylea. Were you dying, my love, while I laughed in the sunlight? I thought of you then. With me, in a world of light. Was that why I didn’t know? Didn’t feel your fear creep through me like my own. No gnawing unease. No trickle of dread.
She was angry too. It was proven. No normal life, just demons and darkness and death. She forgave me Darla without question, I told her and she forgave me. I should have gone to her she said. Proved me a hypocrite as well, clever girl.
But I said the rules were still the same. She wouldn’t forgive me that. How could she ever forgive me that? I told her no. Said I would be there to help her, but we couldn’t be together. Did you hate me then, in that moment when you needed me most and I reminded you of the rules? Distance. Separation. Mandatory picnics in the sunshine with some lucky man, and children and laughter and hope for a future. Old rules. Buffy, did you hate me?
She asked me never to see her again. Never. No matter what. Never. Wishes, uncertainty, too much of a burden. End it all. Mute the craving, make it numb.
I went back to L.A., there are so many lights and still it was so dark. Never. She said never. Couldn’t keep wondering if. So, never.
She died, I wasn’t there, she would die, I wouldn’t be there.
I closed off, easy as flipping a switch. I laughed and worked and never felt the stir of emotion. Never. Numb, hollow, lacking. I played a part. A new part. Not like me. I wasn’t me. I animated my body from my watchtower below the surface. Over animated perhaps.
Then there was Connor, a new reason, new page. And Kyerumption and Moira and needing a family, for him, for my thirst. Cordelia suffering, me suffering. Wanting it to stop. Selfish, stupid, knowing it was safe. I’ll never have perfect happiness again. Connor is gone. My son is gone. She deserves better. Cordelia. She deserves better. Buffy.
Cordelia knew. The others didn’t. They encouraged me, said we should be together, told me I loved her. I didn’t need to be told. Of course I love her. She’s part of my family, part of my journey. She knew my heart was never free, knew what little I offered. Knew she’d never break my curse. She didn’t slap me. I expected to be slapped. Really, it’s Cordelia.
She understood, she knows that I love her, knows that I never want her to feel lonely. I would never have kissed her, not just for me. I’ve been blind and reckless and ignorant, but I really do want her to be happy. In that moment I thought I could give her that. I thought that my love for her would be enough, better than emptiness and nothing, better than what she had. Selfish and stupid. How old am I? How long have I had to come to know myself, my heart? They confused me, I let them. We all wanted it to be true. Cordelia wished it were true. Destined. Champions. She was part demon- I’d never see her die, never feel that deep-rooted misery twisting my soul. Never be reminded.
They don’t know Buffy, they didn’t understand. Cordelia and I made sense to them. It does make sense. Especially with Connor. For my boy. It was the simple answer. It made sense. It was still wrong.
Wrong choice. Wrong moment. I kissed her. The door swung open. Buffy. She was there. She told me never. Buffy was there. Cordelia told me to go. Told me that never didn’t count. Buffy had come to me. What had happened? What was wrong? What had she seen? What was she thinking? She ran so fast. I didn’t know which way. It didn’t matter. I would search. Didn’t she know I would follow? Anywhere.
Sunnydale. It hurt just to be here. I don’t know how long I waited, watching the entrance, an hour? More? But she didn’t come out. What if she was in trouble? I knew she wasn’t. Somehow I think I knew everything. They’re both so tightly woven into my being, I had to know. I wish I never saw.
The harsh reality came rushing in, greeted me like a thousand poisonous blades. This is what I’d left her to become? Giving herself to a soulless demon on the floor of a stinking crypt? Did this honour Joyce’s wishes? Was this what all our sacrifices were for?
I dragged him away by the hair. A thing. I slung him down. Away from her. Away from my love. My mate. Mine. He touched her. I saw. Somehow it’s worse. Riley, even Parker. I wanted them for her, wanted her to have all those things. Every time I thought of them with her, near her, my heart slashed open. But this? Spike? His lips, his hands, his breath on her body. Her body, sacred, violated. Her form, it’s warmth beneath my palms, her scent everywhere, the taste thrilling my soul, worshipped, adored. Debased.
I felt the red blaze engulf me, let the heat spur me on. The demon screaming through my veins, the image scratched on my eyelids. My skin was burning, branded in the places I saw him touch her. I beat the laughter out of him, the lust, the words of love. There was no control, just white-hot rage, passion unleashed, snarling, spitting his name, cursing his wretched existence through every dimension of hell. He’ll never look at her again without seeing my face. Seeing the blood and the hate. Seeing that his love is nothing. He was taking from her. Draining the light from her eyes with whispered promises. That isn’t love. His kind of love would destroy her. I made him pay. Not enough. I could have rained torture on him for my eternity, made my demon cower from its own fury. I wanted to breathe his dust.
How long? Tonight? Did I drive her to it? Before she came to L.A.? Was it the reason she came to me? I don’t care. I’ll forgive her anything. Like she forgave me Darla. Like I need her to forgive me Cordelia. It’s so much worse, worse than Darla, worse than Spike. Worse than anything Angelus could do to hurt her, because I did it. I betrayed her. I know Buffy. She’ll fight it, but she’ll understand. Part of me doesn’t want that. Doesn’t want her to have to. Like so many things, I don’t deserve it. Forgiveness. I’ll forgive her anything.
She pulled me away. She was stained with tears, stained with him. Fiery, irascible beauty, broken. Broken. She died. They brought her back. I sent her away. She came back. She saw us. I killed her. Why did she come back? There were not enough words, too much meaning, so many things. She shook her head. I could stake Spike, she could snap Cordelia’s neck with a graceful twist, it wouldn’t matter. They were balm to wounds that can’t be healed.
I brushed away her hair. Touched my fingers to her throat, my mark. Reverent. It was enough. I wrapped her in my coat, sealed her from him permanently. Lifted her gently, carried her away, out of the darkness, into the night.
She’s safe in my arms. Cradled like a child. Connor. We’ll find Connor. Take care of Dawn. There’s time to explain. To plan. The words will come. Not now. How long have we sheltered here, weeping softly for losing so much, for finding each other? It doesn’t matter. None of it does. She knows. She knows it was a mistake. Spike. Cordelia. The same mistake. I can feel it. The way she’s straining to be closer to me, the way she yields to my kiss. I’m going to promise her everything, all over again, whatever it takes, I’ll do it. I can’t trust her happiness to anyone else, can’t risk her slipping away. Away into the world she pulled me from all that time ago. That dark place.
There’s light when we’re together, she fills me with it, fills everything with it. I can’t take her there, to walk in the sunshine, but she can bring it to me. She always did. I know her heart. But I shut it out, heard the fears of her family, her friends. They wanted better for her. I wanted the best for her. Everything. She wanted me. I should have listened.
The black seeps in when we’re apart. But I swear, I’ll never let it touch her again. Never. The powers gave me her love, they gave me my son. I failed them both. I was never worthy of such gifts, I never can be, but I have no right to sacrifice them. I don’t understand it, but there’s no choice to be made here. She’s mine. It’s written through our blood, across our souls, in the tapestry of the Fates. She’s known that all along. Put herself through agony trying to forget, the same way I did trying to deny it. All the wisdom and experience of so many lifetimes and I couldn’t see the simple truth that was so plain to her open heart. I see it now, it’s no stranger, but its face is bared and I greet it in awe, like the miracle that I know it to be. We’re beginning again. So much has gone. So much will come. It won’t change this. Won’t change my promise. I made it years ago, I’ll make it everyday and I’ll keep it.
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