Through a Glass, Darkly

Author: Doyle
Pairing: Buffy/Angelus
Rating: PG-13
Archive: Wherever, just let me know.
Notes: B/A ficathon entry. For sunka2 who wanted dark B/Aus.
Summary: First soldier down, and she'll do anything to stop it happening again. Darkfic, set between Passion and Killed by Death.


Angel is gone. Nothing is ever going to bring him back.

She says that to Giles, standing awkwardly at his side by Jenny's grave. He drives her home, neither of them talking, her own words playing on a loop in her brain. Angel's gone. Angel's gone. And something she said to Ms Calendar, maybe the last thing she ever said to her: I don't want anybody to be alone.

The universe shrugs and says oops! Too bad.

They pull up outside her house. She sits there, seatbelt still fastened, thinking that Giles in pain is the most horrible thing she's ever seen. Like seeing her mother crying when she was a little girl - that same wrongness, the way it pulls another piece of her world out from under her. It's a Saturday afternoon and she wants to be stuck training in the library with Giles complaining about her music. She wants to go to the mall with Willow and spend two hours picking out which outfit is guaranteed to make Angel crazy at the Bronze tonight. She wants to go to school on Monday and see Giles and Ms Calendar with their heads too close together in the hallway, laughing at some lame grown-up joke.

She wants to ask if there are any demons who can grant wishes, or turn back time.

"Will you be okay?"

He tries to smile at her. God, Giles. She hugs him so hard she'll probably leave bruises.

"Angelus may very well come to your house," he says, when she lets him go. "He'll want to gloat."

"Doesn't matter. He can't get in."

Giles tells her to look after herself, even so.

She stands with her hand cupping her eyes until the Citroen's just a sun-glare in the distance, and she realizes that Giles called him Angelus, not Angel. The name, when she whispers it to herself, doesn't sit right. It's too old, the wrong shape, not the name she wrote over and over in her diary or that she cried out the night of her birthday. And that's good, she tells herself. It's - easier.

She almost doesn't see the envelope on the step. Weighted down with a rock, tied around with… she jerks her hand away, presses it against her mouth. Hair. Almost black, too short to be Drusilla's.

The letter sits on her bed for hours as the sun drops in the sky and she doesn't want to look inside, she doesn't even want it in her house but she couldn't leave it there for her mom to find and she couldn't throw it in the trash. Jenny's hair is wrapped around it, and Angel (Angelus, Angelus) may as well have written across the envelope 'she died for this'.

Downstairs, she hears the door open and close. Her mother, getting back from setting up the exhibition at the gallery. Buffy spent a quarter hour at breakfast making her promise to be home before sunset and Joyce looked alarmed, like she was dying to rush to the basement to find her boxes of parenting books, but she promised.

Coward, she hears, clearly as if Angel is standing right behind her, brushing the hair back from her neck and leaning in to whisper. You can't even open a note? How are you ever gonna kill me?

So she reaches across the bed for it, rips away hair and thick paper in one movement. Two drawings inside, this time. One of them, just what she expected. Jenny's body laid out on Giles's bed, her neck twisted violently to one side. She died with her eyes open, Buffy thinks. I didn't know that. The other picture is a different girl, different bed. Eyes closed, mouth slightly open, head tilted back a little. Buffy traces the outline of her own body, wondering at the detail - the silver line of the ring on the hand that's clenched in the sheets; the rain clinging to the ends of her hair. The charcoal leaves black smudges on her fingers. She's in the bathroom when Joyce calls her downstairs for dinner, scrubbing her hands under scalding hot water. She wishes he was that easy to wash off.

**

Giles never said anything about tonight's patrol. She calls his house, but he doesn't pick up. Her mom makes her hot chocolate and says a lot of things about stages of grief and how hard it is to experience death up close for the first time.

Buffy remembers staking her first vampire, how she cried in the bathroom afterwards. She thought the dust was never coming to come off her skin.

Unconsciously, she rubs her fingers together.

She tries to watch TV, and tries to do her homework, and tries to talk to Willow, but she can't concentrate on any of those things. The TV's boring and any kind of work for school seems pointless right now and she can't hear anything Willow's saying because she's too busy wondering if that's who his next target will be. Willow, Xander, Giles, her mother - close to three years later and she's starting to see Merrick's point about why Slayers get taken away from their families. Sorry, she offers her first Watcher, wherever he is now, if there's a wherever for him to be.

At eleven thirty, Joyce comes in to kiss her goodnight. She hasn't done that in years. Fully clothed beneath the covers, Buffy feels five years old.

Once the house is quiet and dark, she gets ready. The dress she wore on the night she died is at the back of her closet. There were tears that couldn't be mended, marks the drycleaner couldn't get out, but she kept it anyway. She almost burned it the morning after the Spring Fling, and again after they crushed the Master's bones. Both times she just hung it away, hidden behind leather pants and Bronzing dresses and last season's jeans.

Hanging in front of her mirror, it looks like a wedding dress.

Facedown on the bed, chin propped on her hands, Willow sighs, "I'll never get married."

She pokes her best friend in the side. "Did we not declare this a no-negativity zone? Anyway, we're only sixteen. You have decades for Xander to wake up to the Willowness that is you. Keep your hand still." Willow lets her paint her nails, provided she takes it off before she goes home. She brings the brush down in a smooth, crimson stroke.

"Do you think you will? Get married, I mean, not discover the Willowness of me."

"Nah," she says in the giggly, in-love way that means 'God, I hope so.' "California law not big with the marrying of the dead."

Willow's eyes go saucer-sized. "So you would? I mean, if he asked you?"

"Maybe," she admits.

They're way too old to be giggling with their heads together like sixth-graders at a slumber party, but she's allowed to be immature, just this once. She's seventeen in four months and then she'll grow up, she solemnly swears.


She strips off her rings till there's just the Claddagh left, heart facing towards her. The necklace makes her hesitate, but she keeps it on. He gave it to her.

She puts on the dress and spends a long time looking at herself.

**

I'm sixteen years old. I don't want to die.

She said that to Giles before she faced down the Master. Half of it is still true. She's a year older, and she doesn't want to die.

The dress makes it hard to go out the window. This one time, she takes the door. Something makes her pass the empty bedroom, the one they use as a junkroom. She pauses with her hand on the doorframe, and then she shakes her head and slips off her shoes before she creeps down the stairs.

**

There's no master plan to find Angelus. She heads to the nearest cemetery, and there he is. Good as chanting his name thirteen times in front of a mirror, though she guesses that wouldn't work. No reflection.

"Not what you usually wear for patrolling," he says. "Hot date?"

"He seems to think so."

There's none of the adrenaline rush she always gets before a fight. She wants to lie down in the dew-wet grass and sleep for a couple of centuries.

Angelus circles slowly around her. She could close her eyes and feel exactly where he is because it's as if every cell in her body lights on fire. Normal Slayer response to a vampire, she tries to tell herself, except it isn't. It really isn't.

"You dressed up for me. Nice. Very nice."

She thinks he might actually mean that. Just another way he's different, with his noticing her clothes and his love-notes and his drawings that capture every aspect of her and the fact that he must have risked the sun to leave them on her step. Compare to Angel - suffering and noble and tragic, not even able to tell her he loved her till it was too late.

And she realizes her mistake in that thought, because whenever he loved her would have been too late. She's the reason he lost his soul. She's the built-in too late switch.

"Does Mommy know you're out so late?" He trails one fingertip along the length of her neck. It leaves goosepimples behind it. "I should call on her sometime. Poor Joyce. Must be lonely for her since your dad got bored of you." The touch is past her neck, onto the skin above the top of her dress. "Just wondering, did good old Hank know what a screamer you are?"

It's enough to penetrate the apathy around her. She slaps his hand away but he catches her arms, presses a kiss to her wrist. His teeth scrape her skin.

"Sure he did," he says. "Probably why you've got such a thing for older men."

Don't react, she thinks, even though he's reaching around her, laying his hand flat over the cross and laughing softly at her ear as his flesh starts to smoke. The smell of burning makes her eyes water and he's close enough against her that she can feel he's hard.

Her skin feels like it's trying to crawl away from her body, and the worst part is that not all of that feeling is completely bad.

"What is this? Sacrificial lamb?"

No, because she's not a martyr. If this finishes it, if it means that her mother and Giles and Willow and Xander don't get broken into pieces then she'll do it, but this is not suicide. She's seventeen years old and she doesn't want to die.

Angelus's hand shifts down. Cups her breast, rougher than Angel ever touched her. And she twists around in his arms and kisses him, hard as she can make it.

"Shut up," she gasps when she pulls away. "Just shut up."

First thing she's asked of him, so of course he does the opposite. He drags her to one of the big crypts looming in the moonlight and he's saying, "So how much work is the blushing virgin act to keep up?" He pushes her back against the cold stone wall, hands clamped to her wrists, and he's saying, "That teacher. The gypsy-girl. There's a woman who knows what a guy wants. Oh, she was far better than you." He tears at her dress, ripping it almost to her waist. "And she was already dead."

She wants to feel sick, horrified, tainted just by him touching her. She wants to look at him and not think that he's still the most beautiful thing she's ever seen. She wants to believe that she wasn't lying when she told her mother she didn't love him any more.

He's not touching her. Her eyes have been squeezed as tightly shut as her fists. She opens them, lowers her arms, and he's standing back as if she's a painting in her mother's gallery that he needs to appreciate from a distance.

"What are you waiting for?" Her voice sounds like she hasn't spoken in weeks.

Angelus smiles, wide and vicious. "Maybe for you to realize you don't get to say when the game's over, Buffy." Shrugs, spreading his hands wide, walking backwards away from her: "Where's the poetry? Where's the fun?"

She doesn't even have a stake, she remembers, sinking slowly to the ground. He's walking away and he could be going looking for something more fun - like slaughtering her friends - and if she can't even die to save them what's she supposed to do?

"Till next time, lover," he calls from the edge of the cemetery, and then Angel's gone.


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