There was a roiling in his senses, his spine was all a tingle and dread seeped into his very being. Her anger burned in her so fierce that she was a beacon in the night saying, “stay away.” He could feel it and he knew that what was to come was going to burn just as bright, just as deadly. He sighed and braced himself for it.
His body had healed in its preternatural way, bones knitting, flesh renewing, scars fading. Fresh onslaughts came anew and the cycle began all over again. Heart and soul carried the wounds, the scars; deep as the Deeper Well; they will never heal. Borne perhaps; surely as the world turns, each one a testament to every failure, every victory. For victories came with a price, a bitter laugh broke the silence; some prices were harder to pay than others. Failures were absolutely steeped in blood, in Pryce and that harsh laugh echoed once more from his throat.
Looking out over the war zone that had become Los Angeles he knew that others had paid the price. Innocents, not so innocent and the down right evil had all felt the dark hand of retribution as it came down hard against him and his. It had been months and the evil had been routed, for the moment anyway. It always lurked, was always ready to slaver and pounce, always ready to show its face and howl.
Slayers had come, those that were not already here and the civilian defence had risen to take stock and render assistance in a *natural* disaster. Man made weapons had finished off the unfamiliar; the power of the Gunn had prevailed. That scar rubbed raw still as he pictured that easy handsome face, ready to die for the side of good. He hadn’t been disappointed.
She had finally arrived in his city and he had been clever in avoiding her. His purpose was to slay the dragon and he had done so and now dealt with the minions of Hell. Avoiding a stake had been entertaining, his final death had been in the thrust of wood, the slayer not bothering to ask “who or why?” He didn’t lay blame, for after all he wasn’t blameless. Never was and never is and sadly never will be.
He felt her proximity and could almost count the stairs as she trod them determinedly. Illyria and Spike were out there somewhere in the vastness of it all. They would return to this temporary bastion of what passed for a home. He would join them soon, join them in keeping the city safe once more and there was the irony. How safe had it been three months ago with him in charge?
Without preamble the door behind him flew off its hinges and clanged in surrender to the concrete roof top he stood upon. He refused to turn around; he steeled his heart and kept his face resolute.
“So this is where you’re hiding!” The slayer stormed over to where he stood looking out over the city.
Angel felt her ire rise to new heights and didn’t that seem impossible but Buffy managed it, when he did not turn to her.
“Are you going to stand there and ignore me or am I going to kick your ass?” she fumed.
He turned his head then and gave her a small nod. “Buffy.”
Hands on hips and fire sparking in her eyes Buffy was not amused. Angel saw her eyes narrow and the blow was not unexpected.
“WHAT were you thinking?” she yelled and he rubbed his jaw but refused to retaliate.
She stood there waiting for his answer and he found he didn’t have one so he said, “Apparently I wasn’t.”
Buffy waited for more, he could see it but didn’t have the strength to do so. He was tired of it all, tired of this, tired of fighting at least with her.
“So! Blowing up a couple of streets, inviting demon armies to come out and play and thinking you could handle it all was what, a lapse in judgment? Did you not have anything else to do up there in your ivory tower?” She punched him again for good measure and he let her fist connect with his arm.
So it still came down to that. Angel felt the tiredness slip away and a little anger crept in.
“We stopped The Apocalypse.” He paused to see if that registered. Her eyes were on his and the anger although still present dimmed a little as she considered his words.
“The Apocalypse, not some God who wants to take over the world, not some hybrid demon madman, some Power That Was but the Final Apocalypse.” And just like that his anger drained away and his jaded nerves made him step away from towering over her smaller frame.
He watched as she folded her arms tightly against her chest and tossed back her hair.
“We’ve fought demons before and we’ve always won, why is this any different?”
He sighed and forced his words out. “The demons were payback for thwarting their big plan. The Apocalypse was being run by another group and we took them out. Wolfram and Hart didn’t like that for some reason and…” he flung his arm out towards the city, “you saw the result.”
He saw her face soften and he took another step back. Her face hardened at that and she asked the inevitable question.
“So you didn’t think to call?”
“I wasn’t thinking remember?” It came out and he knew that he had just added fuel to her fire.
“And people paid the price for that lapse of memory! God!” Buffy paced away and back again stabbing her finger as if she wished she held a stake. “You have to do everything your way and never mind the consequences!”
His back stiffened and he knew that this was it. Get it over with, get it done. He steeled his voice until it came out cold and expressionless the muscles in his face a reflection of his tone.
“I did do it my way and I do mind the consequences! If I could change the circumstances I would but I had no choice as I saw it then.” He ground out the next sentence as stone against stone. “I did unconscionable things to get the job done and lost the people I care about in the process. You of all people should understand that.”
Buffy lowered her hand and pain flashed across her face. “I do know Angel and it hurts that you didn’t call.”
To his ears his voice sounded like the tolling of the bell, it could only bring pain and despair and the acknowledgement of finality that only death could bring.
“It hurt that I *couldn’t* call. You don’t trust me, wasn’t that the message? You don’t trust the Vampire With A Soul because he ran Wolfram and Hart and therefore he must be evil. So don’t come here with hurt in your voice and pain on your face and tell me that I could have picked up the phone and you would have been here.” He was bitter and it stung him but he couldn’t shut his goddamn mouth. It killed him to see her pain, she was only a girl and he still loved her desperately but now was the time to let go, to put away childish things.
A small part of his psyche relished the look of chagrin that appeared but his soul cried out *fool, you’ve hurt her again.*
Buffy’s heart was breaking. It never got any easier with Angel. Their meetings were beyond bearing and they always ended in such desolation. She could recall a simpler time when it did not and she wished for those times again.
“What were we to think?” she retaliated her lips thinned in anger. “Evil Incorporated had a new boss…”
Angel interjected with a cutting motion of his hand. “The phone works both ways Buffy and I thought you knew me. Knew that I would never…”
Now it was she who interrupted, “You would Angel, that’s the whole point. You have been evil, done evil and…”
“So am evil.” Angel didn’t want to fight anymore and his voice softened. He looked away to gather his thoughts. “You’re right of course about all of it. Except that I am not Angelus and haven’t been for awhile.” He knew that she was right not to trust him because hadn’t he proved that over time? The twist of the knife was in the way the message had been relayed and he…shook his head with a sigh and finally put that side too. He let his indignation fade away. She was only human and oh so young.
He looked back at the love of his life. “Are you still cookie dough?” he asked.
“What?” A puzzled frown creased her brow and Angel wanted to kiss the damage away.
“You said when we met in the cemetery….”
He saw the blush colour her cheeks and felt her anger drain away in confusion.
Buffy’s eyes flicked away from him for a moment in embarrassment and then they were intent upon his once again. “Not one of my finer speeches….Angel…”
He waited as her arm stretched out across the infinity that was their love and saw it drop when the reach was too far.
“You’re still baking then.” He swallowed before continuing not wanting to hear the answer but asking it all the same. “Are you still baking?” His voice came out too needy.
She looked away and that was answer enough. He turned away too, building a wall between them, shoring up his defenses because she was only one of the two people who could slay him with her words.
She surprised him though as she usually did. “I’m still baking Angel.”
Her soft whisper sent shivers through his heart and he was speechless. The silence stretched and he let it because his next words were going to be too harrowing to contemplate.
Buffy moved to stand beside him and he felt her warmth drawing him in. Instead he looked once more over the city trying hard to ignore the tug of her soul.
“How has it got to this?” she murmured and his heart nearly started when her hand laid over his.
Not moving at all and hanging on to the feel of her skin, the scent of Buffy pervading his senses Angel whispered back,
“Destiny, prophecy, love, heartbreak, death, Angelus…have I missed anything?”
A sad little laugh escaped her lips and she squeezed his hand.
“I’m sorry for not trusting you…you of all people.”
And Angel was sorry that she did not trust him, he needed to feel that from her. He couldn’t blame her though.
“Perhaps it’s for the best.”
He heard the lurch of her heart and he swore his heart echoed.
“I’ve never loved anyone as much as I have loved you.” She turned and her eyes glowed with city light reflecting that love. “I killed you and yet I loved you….and still do.”
He waited for the knife to fall and when she drew a trembling breath couldn’t let her be the slayer in this. She had suffered too much in his name.
“Don’t!” He held up a hand and with a turn of his wrist brought it softly to her face and cupped her chin.
Angel leaned in and dropped a whisper of a kiss onto her sweet lips. He straightened and relinquished his hold on her. The shimmer of tears nearly undid him but he swallowed it down, and shelved it away for future flagellation.
“I love you too,” and he did with all his heart. “But we need to move on,” and it killed him to say it and it buried him when she nodded.
“Nothing’s changed,” he croaked.
She blinked and a tear escaped and he slid his thumb over the terrain of her face and smoothed it away.
“No…nothing’s changed,” she said, a sob deepening her voice.
Angel stared at her and she stared back, hot tears splashing against his fingers.
Buffy reached up and pulled his head down and kissed him real hard and long. Too soon she needed to breathe and broke away; he tasted salt in his mouth.
Buffy slipped away and raced for the empty doorway.
Her hand caught the frame as he asked, “Are you still my girl?”
Her golden head looked back at him standing there.
“Always;” and she was gone.
Though my many faults defaced me,
Could no other arm be found,
Than the one which once embraced me,
To inflict a cureless wound?
Yet, oh yet, thyself deceive not;
Love may sink by slow decay,
But by sudden wrench, believe not
Hearts can thus be torn away:
Fare thee well! thus disunited,
Torn from every nearer tie.
Seared in heart, and lone, and blighted,
More than this I scarce can die.
Fare Thee Well.
| Fiction Index | Home Page | Back |