Wreckage

by Felicity

 

 

Summary: Done with Darla, Angel visits Buffy in his search for warmth.

Author Notes: This is pretty dark, but it has its redeeming qualities I promise.

Story Notes: Set about a week after "Reprise" on Angel and "I Was Made to Love You" on Buffy. A companion to my story "Wreckage". The song is "Full of Grace" by Sarah McLachlan.

Warnings: language, violence

Disclaimer: They're not mine. If they were, none of this would ever have happened.

:

 

 

 

 

I just had to get away. All day, I'd been surrounded by so many people. My friends, mostly, and Giles, and my father, all being supportive and there for me and good and kind and just what I needed...except what I really needed was to scream, or to be alone, or to destroy something. I don't know. I suppose I was numb...it was all kind of hazy, like in a dream. Cliched, isn't it?

 

And Dawn of course. Dawn was always there.

 

Finally it got to be too much. I couldn't think about it anymore. I couldn't stand there while Willow squeezed my hand, or my father rubbed my back, or Dawn clung to me...I couldn't.

 

"I...I'll be back soon," I told Giles, and ran from the funeral home, from the sympathetic looks and red eyes. Ran and ran and found myself home. There was the couch where I'd found her body. There were the stairs where she'd stood every day and there was the door to the kitchen, where she cooked us pancakes on Sunday mornings.

 

There and there and there and there. She'd been in all those places, and she never would be again.

 

I walked up the stairs to my room and walked inside. It was dark. I didn't bother to turn on the light, what was the point? I'd only see her picture, or the lamp she bought me for my fourteenth birthday. I'd only remember her.

 

I wanted to smash something.

 

My senses must be getting better, because I knew he was there. I didn't see him, or hear him or...anything. I just knew he was there. I turned and closed the door, even though there was no one else in the house. One of my hands traced the familiar wood-grain as I said, "Angel."

 

"Buffy," he said softly. There was something...odd about his voice.

 

"Didn't expect to see you here," I said. How had he known? Did he still lurk? Or did he hear from Cordelia? Or Giles? Giles might have called them...why hadn't he come to the funeral? Why to my room? Why hiding, like this?

 

"What happened?" he asked, and it all came clear. It was like a punch to the teeth, or a shock running through my body. He didn't know. He hadn't come to comfort me, to mouth more meaningless sorries, as if I hadn't heard a thousand already. I turned to look at him, unable to stop myself. He didn't come to comfort me.

 

"My mother died," I said as calmly as I could manage. Very calmly actually. I couldn't seem to muster much emotion. It was all...too much. The words didn't fit in my mouth right.

 

"I'm sorry," he said. It sounded like a lie, but then, Angel never has been very sympathetic sounding. The boy needs an expression, stat. "What happened?

 

I gave a little shrug, uncomfortable in my sedate black clothing, in my own skin. "She had a brain tumor. They thought she'd gotten rid of it but...obviously not." I wanted to kill the doctors. When the ambulance came to get her, I nearly killed them right there. They couldn't save her. She was already dead and they...they told me she would be all right. She was just starting over. Her entire life was ahead of her and then...

 

I jerked my mind back to the present and gave Angel a sharp, inquiring look. "If you didn't know, why are you here?" I demanded.

 

He stayed right where he was. Bastard. The least he could do was let me see him. "I wanted to be."

 

The fucking asshole. My mother had just died.

 

I wanted to scream.

 

"Great," I commented acidly, crossing my arms and walking towards him. "Thanks for stopping by. If you don't mind I could use a little privacy at the moment."

 

"I do mind," he whispered, making my whole body tense. He finally stepped out of the shadows, into the moonlight, suddenly very close to me. Something...something in his face alerted me. This was not Angel. And not...not Angelus. Something was different.

 

 

I didn't really care at the moment.

 

"I could make you leave," I stated, knowing it was absolutely true. I wondered if he knew it too. Did he have any idea what I was now? The kind of strength that hummed through my body? Not enough strength-not enough to save my mother, not enough to keep Glory away-but enough to throw Angel out the window.

 

Enough, if I'd wanted to. I didn't really want to. See, when I said I wanted to be alone, I'd lied. I just didn't want to be with my friends, with all those sympathetic, kind, supportive people.

 

"You could," he agreed, closer still, and then bending his head. If he'd had breath, I would have felt it. If he radiated heat, it would have warmed my skin. "But you won't."

 

"Why not?" I demanded, wondering if he really knew. If I really knew.

 

"Because you want this too." Before I could answer he kissed me-sweetly, so sweetly. The kisses that haunted my dreams after he turned evil. Gentle, tender, like love made solid, made into touch.

 

It wasn't love that I needed then. So I kissed him back-only I kissed him like the nightmares that had haunted my dreams those same months. Hungry. Passionate. Rough. God, what the hell did he think he was doing kissing me? And what the hell was I doing kissing back?

 

I couldn't stop. I didn't want to stop. I needed him to do it for me.

 

I threw him against the wall and pinned him there, hoping it would sufficiently remind him of the reasons we'd broken up. Obviously it didn't-or it did, and he just didn't care. I think it was the second, actually. He looked down at me and laughed. He laughed.

 

"I'm not a little girl anymore," I reminded him savagely, wondering what he thought I'd been doing the last year and a half that he could just kiss me like that and walk away. I was an adult now. I wanted something to follow that kiss.

 

I wanted him. God help me, I wanted him. The way his lean, muscled body pressed against me as I held him there...the gleam in his eyes as he looked down at me... I wanted him more than I had ever wanted anyone in my whole life.

 

"Good," he whispered, the look in his eyes, and bent down to kiss me. It wasn't gentle this time, or loving, or sweet. It was just what I'd given him, only double, tripled, quadrupled-rage and rapture, hard, ravenous, painful. I kissed him right back, the same way, lost in the overwhelming need for oblivion, for him, for a feeling I'd lost somewhere in the midst of living.

 

He tore my skirt nearly in half getting it off me, but then, I popped most of the buttons from his shirt.

 

I have nothing to compare that night too. Not to my first time certainly-there's no room for comparison. Besides the basic technical elements it wasn't even the same thing. There was pain that first time, of course, but mostly love, gentleness, tender care and solicitude. He'd worked so hard to make it beautiful, to make me happy. I was happy, I was so happy. I'd wanted to touch every inch of his beautiful skin, and I had. Gentle touches, worshipful touches...This time, there was little touching. Fingernails digging in here or there, teeth maybe, a heavy grip. No exploration, no time, no solicitude. No love.

 

I wanted to feel alive, but I only felt more numb at the end. There was nothing. We collapsed on my bed and I looked over at Angel and knew that at no point during that...whatever it was...had there been any sort of happiness, besides possibly physical.

 

I didn't say anything, because I had no idea what to say. I hid beneath the sheets. In a way I felt...dirty. Shamed. But not really, not as much as I should have perhaps. It was what it was. Bestial, perhaps, slutty, sick that I should do this the day of my mother's funeral...but it was what it was. No more, no less. We both needed something, and we'd thought it was each other.

 

"I'll let you be alone," Angel said finally, climbing out of bed. I gave an incredulous laugh, amazed at his self-involvement...or mine, or something. I sat up uneasily, clutching the sheet over my breasts. He was watching me intensely, a familiar look in his eyes. For that matter, I probably returned the look as I watched him dress. He was in perfect shape-lean, powerful, an animal really, not even human. But I still wanted him. I wanted him to fill me again, to throw me against a wall and fuck me.

 

"You think that's really what I want?" I asked. "To be alone?" Of course not. Why would I have kept him there if I wanted to be alone? Why would I want to be alone? To reflect on the fact I was never going to see my mother again? To wonder what she would say if she could see me at that moment, how ashamed she would be? He kept watching me and I pulled up my knees self-consciously.

 

"More than you want to be with me right now," he offered and I had the feeling he was finally being honest. There was something in him, something dark and hurt that hadn't been there the last time I saw him. "I just gave you all the comfort I have to give." I winced at that, remembering his idea of comfort. I ached for days afterwards. He picked up his jacket and shrugged it on easily, turning towards the window.

 

Clarity came to me, sudden and certain. "Angel," I called. I waited until he turned back and wondered if what I was going to say would hurt him. Part of me hoped it did. "Are you looking for true happiness so you won't have to feel at all anymore, or because you want to remember what it feels like?"

 

He almost looked surprised. It flickered in his eyes, so I assumed I'd gotten part of it right anyway. Why else would he come to me? If he needed someone to screw he could have found plenty of girls in LA. He was looking for a proven quantity: the girl that made him lose his soul. Only I couldn't anymore.

 

He turned back to the window without a word and I watched him, leaning my head on my knees. And then his voice came, and I wondered if he was trying to hurt me back, or just saying it because it was true. "Did you let me because you hoped I'd kill you after, or because you wanted to feel alive again?"

 

I think I made a little noise, I don't really remember. My turn to be surprised. He could still read me, or maybe it was just that my feelings on the matter were so close to his.

 

If he killed me, I would be with my mother again. I wouldn't have to defeat Glory. I wouldn't have to worry about the demons. I wouldn't have to look at everything around me and know that she would never be part of it again.

 

By the time I realized I should say something he was gone, out the window. He could have taken the door; no one else was home. They were all at...

 

The numbness descended again, as I knew it would. Angel didn't really make me feel alive, but he did make me feel something...even it was only lust, only shame or anger or need. It was something.

 

I took a shower and let the water wash away the smell of him. My skirt was irreparable, so I put on a black dress instead and hoped no one would notice. An hour later I was back at the funeral parlor and no one was the wiser, not for a minute. They were still comforting and sympathetic, and I was still in a daze, sinking in a sea of people that loved me, when all I wanted was someone that didn't.

 

//Spend all your time waiting

for that second chance

for a break that would make it okay

there's always one reason

to feel not good enough

and it's hard at the end of the day

I need some distraction

oh beautiful release

memory seeps from my veins

let me be empty

and weightless and maybe

I'll find some peace tonight//

 

My days were spent trying not to appear distracted; my nights, tossing and turning, helpless, hopeless. I dreamt of Angel; of my mother; of Glory butchering Dawn; of Angel again.

 

I thought too much. I was always thinking. That's all I knew how to do: think, punish myself. I couldn't talk, couldn't interact with people in any way but the superficial ones. I made Dawn breakfast and dinner every day. I looked into selling the house but couldn't go through with it. I called the Council and convinced them to start sending me a monthly paycheck. I helped at the Magic Box, I researched, I trained.

 

None of the training made me able to save my mother. And none of it did any good against the threat of Glory.

 

There was one dream I could deal with though.

 

"Did you call Angel?" I asked Giles one day. He looked up, startled. "About my mother...? Did you talk to him?"

 

"I called, and I spoke with Wesley," Giles said slowly. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you, I just..."

 

"What is it?" I asked.

 

"Angel's gone...well, rogue, you might say. He's still on our side, but he fired Cordelia and Wesley and one other employee. He never speaks to them. He's closed himself off from everyone and become rather obsessed with this law firm...He's set out to destroy them." Giles paused and took off his glasses. "I'm sorry Buffy. I'm sure he'll be all right." I shrugged. What did I care about Angel's personal problems?

 

If he never spoke to anyone, no one would know if he was gone one night a week.

 

"Wesley sends his condolences," Giles said softly. I nodded, and went back to punching the bag.

 

I sent him the note the next day. I don't really know why I did it. I suppose I thought that if I had him the dreams might stop. Or maybe I didn't care about the dreams stopping, I just wanted him. I'd been reduced to carnal lusts. At least it was a feeling, something breaking through my deadened haze.

 

I wasn't sure he'd come. I kept telling myself he probably wouldn't, but I suppose I assumed he really would. He did. He opened the door and stood there looking at me. I'd put on a bathrobe, so he wouldn't rip any of my other clothes. I wasn't sure what it was going to be like if he came; if it would be the same, or if that was only one night, if he was different now. I had no idea.

 

I told him why I was wearing a robe. He shrugged, said, "fair enough," and walked over to push me back onto the bed. We spent hours there, searching for something, satisfying our mutual passion and then collapsing for a few moments until we couldn't hold apart any longer. It was the same as before-harsh, satisfying. When I couldn't move any more we lay in bed for a few minutes. I played with the covers, idly, restless and exhausted.

 

"Where's Dawn?" he asked finally, startling me. He didn't know anything about it and yet...and yet those were his first real words to me all night long.

 

"She's with Xander," I replied automatically, and then just said it, "Movie night. Every Thursday." I suppose it was an offer. He took it as one anyway.

 

"Next week?" he asked, sliding out of the bed, beginning to get dressed.

 

"Same Bat time, same Bat place," I replied, lips curling in a self-mocking smile as I remembered the old show. Batman and Robin fought the bad guys and always won with the POW WHAM SMASH. No one good ever died, and it was always easy to tell who the bad ones were. But in that world, what would we be, Angel and I? Good or bad? After all, we never seemed to win. Did that mean we weren't really on the right side?

 

He didn't say goodbye. I was so caught up in my contemplation of our pure uselessness that I hardly even noticed. I heard the door close and closed my eyes, wondering why I was there. I could have a boyfriend if I wanted one, I knew I could. Men had always been attracted to me-I could have Ben, or someone else, anyone else. Someone that would be sweet, and teasing and feed me chocolates. Someone that would hold me afterwards. Someone I wouldn't have to sneak away to see, lie to my friends, to my sister, say I needed a little time to myself when all I really needed was someone to fuck me into oblivion.

 

Why was I there, in that dirty little hotel room, the smell of Angel still lingering on me? The truth is, I had no idea. No justification. Just the need, and no reason not to fulfill it.

 

Things got worse. Glory got bored and killed a room full of people for fun. A few of them she left alive-babbling idiots. I went after her, because I had to. It was stupid, but there was nothing else to do. I couldn't just sit around. She laughed, and beat me into a pulp. I couldn't move my arm for two days it was so bruised, and it was painful to the touch for a week. I needed stitches on my forehead. I'd never needed stitches before.

 

Dawn cried when she came to see me in my hospital room. Dawn cried a lot those days. "This is my fault," she whispered. "If it wasn't for me Glory would never have come here."

 

"It doesn't matter," I told her, even though it did. I wasn't going to justify her own self-hatred, feed it. I knew how much that could eat you up inside. I'd lived with it for years: if I hadn't come, Xander would never have been turned into a hyena. If I hadn't come, Angel would never have lost his soul. If I hadn't come, Ms. Calendar would still be alive.

 

If I hadn't come, maybe the Master would have risen. And if Dawn hadn't come...well, my mother would still have died, only I'd be alone.

 

She cried and put her head down on my lap and I stroked her hair, closed my eyes and pretended it all away. It didn't go away.

 

I thought about not going that Thursday, but it had been a month by then and Angel would wonder if I didn't come. He might come to my house, and I wouldn't be able to send him away. I wouldn't want to. Better at the hotel than at my house. Besides, I wanted to forget. Wanted to pretend things were normal. I wore a long-sleeved dress with a high neck to cover my bruises and little underwear so he wouldn't feel the need to undress me. Not that I gave him a chance to. I grabbed him the second he came in the room-with my good arm-and kissed him hungrily, more determined than ever to wipe away my life. He pushed me against the wall as I'd known he would-I was beginning to know him well by that time, or at least his appetites-and pushed up my skirt, rough, ready. He grabbed my arms to pin me and pain shot through my body like a scream. I must have cried out, I don't even remember. I was trying to stay conscious.

 

He let go of me like I had the plague, stepped away his eyes blazing. "What is it?"

 

Why did he care? He wasn't supposed to care. I was there to forget, to screw, not to have him get all protective. That wasn't what I needed now. "Nothing," I spat back at him and reached for his belt, trying to distract him, to return to the purpose of the evening. He jerked away and reached for the back of my dress, nearly tearing off the zipper in his haste. He jerked aside the shoulder, revealing the proverbial black-and-blue of my shoulder and upper arm. I knew it looked terrible. From the look in his eyes, it was worse than I'd thought.

 

"Who did this to you?" he demanded, sounding angry. At me for being this weak? At them? What did he think he was going to do, rush out like my knight in shining armor? News flash Angel: you're not exactly knight material, and those black pants aren't shining armor. "What's going on?"

 

"Why do you care?" I snapped, jerking my dress back to order, not wanting him to stare at it anymore. Irrational, but there it was. Maybe I didn't want him to think I was weak. Maybe the fact that I gave as good as I got on those Thursday nights was all my twisted way of making him realize that I'd grown up, that I was strong, stronger than he was.

 

Whatever it was, I wasn't going to stay around and deal with this bulshit. I wasn't going to stand there and watch him get righteous and condescending. I wasn't.

 

"It's none of your business Angel," I said coldly, or hotly maybe, angrily. "You're not part of my life. Don't try and pretend like you are."

 

There it was. That was my reason. He was worrying about me, just like everyone else. I couldn't let him worry about me. If he started caring then...then I'd have to stop coming. Too many people cared already. The whole point of this arrangement was that Angel didn't. I didn't have to worry about hurting him, about him being disappointed in me-there was nothing to hurt, nothing to be disappointed in. We had no relationship. Just...just what it was...

 

I started towards the door, angry beyond all reason. What had I expected? He was still Angel. Still had a soul. It was inevitable that at some point he would feel something...

 

Or maybe not.

 

Before I reached the door he jerked me back and in a moment he was devouring my mouth again, as if it had never happened, as if I'd never walked away. We returned to our previous position-and this time when I cried out he didn't care. I don't know if he even heard me.

 

I reveled in it, just as much as I hated it. I urged him on while I cried at the pain, at the shame of what I was doing. What I was.

 

When it was over he picked me up and I moaned, afraid it wasn't over, wanting it not to be over. But he only carried me to the bed and laid me down. I think he pulled the covers over me. I'd retreated into numbness again. It was easier that way. I hardly noticed what he was doing...I think I assumed he'd left, until I realized that I'd been staring straight at him for ten minutes, unseeing. He'd laid down on the bed beside me, not touching me, just...laying there.

 

I was afraid. Afraid he had begun to feel something. Afraid he had begun to worry.

 

I was afraid he hadn't.

 

"You can go," I said softly. "I'm fine." That was a lie, but the justifiable kind. In a way I was-physically I wasn't any worse off than I had been. Mentally I was so screwed up anyway it hadn't done me much harm.

 

Why was I there? To find oblivion in the arms of a fallen Angel. And hadn't I?

 

"I know," he said, and he didn't leave.

 

I closed my eyes and tried not to think about what had just happened, or what was happening. I tried not to remember the look in his eyes when he hurt me, and I tried not to imagine if it was one of horror or triumph. I tried not to think why I hadn't kept walking out that door. I tried not to think.

 

After a while it worked, and I feel asleep. I didn't even dream that night.

 

//in the arms of an angel

fly away from here

from this dark cold hotel room

and the endlessness that you fear

you are pulled from the wreckage

of your silent reverie

you're in the arms of the angel

may you find some comfort there//

 

He didn't say anything about it the next week. I thanked...well, not God. Whatever there was left to thank in my screwed up mind. He started staying around afterwards, which was strange, but not altogether bad. I usually stayed the whole night, even before he started doing the same. I didn't like going back to my bed, to my empty house. I could go to Xander's, I knew, or Giles' and crash on a couch, but somehow I couldn't do that either. Not after...

 

I wondered if they ever guessed, if they had any idea. I didn't think so, but then there were lots of things I didn't notice those days.

 

We rarely talked. I slept, but my nightmares usually came, so I would wake up and stare at him. He never slept. Sometime he would lay down, but usually he paced the floor, or stared out the window. He could stand like that for hours, unmoving...Once in a while if I was really bored I would say something, and he would reply shortly, and then I would try to sleep again.

 

I wonder if I cried out while I slept, if I begged or whimpered or did any of the things I did in my dreams. I doubted he would say anything if I did, or wake me up.

 

One night I dreamt that Glory was killing Dawn in front of my eyes, using her up while she faded away, withered, screaming. Something held me down-I couldn't fight, couldn't get to them. Couldn't save her.

 

When I woke up, Angel was gone though it wasn't yet dawn. On the table beside the bed was a wad of bills. Money. He had left money, like I was some whore.

 

Wasn't I?

 

I sat in that creaky, dirty bed, and cried.

 

All week I thought about not going back. I told myself I wouldn't, that it was over, that no one could do that to me, could even suggest that to me. I told myself that I didn't need him, that I could deal with my life as it was. I told myself it was only lust, which was true, and I told myself I could deal with lust, which wasn't entirely. I told myself a thousand things, but Thursday night still found me sitting in that hotel room.

 

He didn't say anything. I wondered if he'd gotten the money I sent back to him, and the note I sent with him. I guessed he had. I wondered what he thought of it, and didn't ask.

 

I didn't say anything either. We didn't say anything at all, the entire time. We were quiet, angry, screaming silently at each other the whole time, like we had to prove who could hold out the longest.

 

He didn't stay that night.

 

Sometimes I wondered what his life was like, what he did in LA. I assumed he still wasn't speaking to Cordelia or Wesley. I wondered how they were doing, how the demon fighting was going. Generally I didn't have enough energy to wonder about anything besides how we were going to get through another day.

 

Riley sent me a telegram from...wherever the hell he was. It was short. "Coming home in September STOP Call parents if you want to see me STOP"

 

Did I want to see him? Part of me did. Riley was sweet, and kind and good to me. He would be comforting. He would hold me all night while I cried. Only I didn't want to cry while he held me. I didn't want comfort. I wanted to smash something.

 

I tried to imagine what Riley would do if I did with him what I did with Angel. Freak, probably. Or maybe he'd like it. Who knows what he did with all those vampires while they were biting him...

 

Would I be able to sleep with him any other way? I wasn't even sure if I was capable of lovemaking anymore. I'd learned a thousand things with Angel, about the ways bodies fit together, about pleasure and pain and...everything. Would I be able to be the Buffy Summers that was gentle and hesitant...the Buffy Summers that Riley had loved?

 

Would he be able to tell?

 

I asked Angel one night. Not really asked...I was thinking about it while I half-lay in bed, brushing my hair. He was near the window, like always, barely dressed.

 

"Tell what?" he demanded, his voice harsh. I gave him a rather surprised look. Was he jealous? For all he knew I'd been dating Riley this whole time. He'd never asked if I had a boyfriend, or given any indication that he cared one way or another. I averted my gaze and re-focused on my hair.

 

"The difference," I said. "He was...my third. You, this jerk, and then Riley. I was still pretty...Well, I wonder if he could tell now, if I slept with him again. If he'd know what I've been doing since he left."

 

"He left?" Angel asked. I nodded. It didn't even hurt much anymore. Losing my mother-god, I still couldn't believe it-had sort of eclipsed every other experience of being left behind. Besides, I probably would have broken up with him by now. I couldn't deal with what he would have tried to give me. Probably what I really needed. But I couldn't deal with it.

 

"I didn't care enough," I told Angel, a hint of bitterness creeping into my voice. I laughed and looked over at him again. This time he was looking at me. "And with you I cared too much. Funny, isn't it?"

 

"Hilarious," he murmured, coolness creeping into his voice, like ice. I could almost feel the chill. He was angry. He walked over and I paused, the hairbrush stilled, looking up at him. I knew what was coming, knew the look in his eyes. He took the hairbrush from my fingers, almost gently and set it aside. "We'll save this for later." I shivered a little, but didn't say anything, didn't look away. My gaze met him steadily, determined not to give. I'd take anything he had to give, and he'd do the same. That was our deal, even if we'd never said as much. One of his hands trailed up my thigh as he bent closer and said, "He'd know."

 

I curled the leg up around the back of his, catching it around his thigh, pulling him towards me. "How would he know?" I asked, only half my mind on the conversation as I trailed my nails across his neck, his back...

 

He bent his head and kissed my neck. I didn't really expect an answer anymore, or even words. I trembled at his touch; moaned when his tongue found the hollow of my throat, my ear, his teeth following.

 

And then the words came, cold and merciless and so different from the feeling his hands were still evoking. "Because you'd kill him."

 

I stiffened, wanting to scream, wanting to throw him across the wall, through the window, anything to get him away, to make him stop, to not think of what that meant, or the truth in the words.

 

Because I'd kill him. A normal, human, sweet, tender boyfriend, and if I tried to screw him I would kill him. I had no capacity for love anymore, for tenderness, for gentleness. I would kill him.

 

I flipped Angel over in a second, straddled him, cold inside, hard and hating him for being right. I would kill him. "I could kill you," I said, fully intending to go through with it.

 

He grinned up at me, not at all repentant, and distracted me in a way only he could. I still wanted to kill him. More even. But I didn't.

 

"Not tonight," he told me, and he was right. He was too right. Not that night, not any of the nights.

 

//so tired of the straight line

and everywhere you turn

there's vultures and thieves at your back and the storm keeps on twisting

you keep on building the lie

that you make up for all that you lack

it don't make no difference

escaping one last time

it's easier to believe in this sweet madness oh this glorious sadness that brings me to my knees//

 

We found out what the Key was, why Glory wanted her. I say 'we', but I really mean Giles found out. I'd lost the ability to research long before, lost any patience whatsoever with reading old, dull books. I spent my time training, as if it would make any difference.

 

We found out what the Key was, and what Glory could do with it. With her. When we told Dawn she went pale, and gave a little nod, and said, "So then we just have to stop her, right?"

 

We couldn't stop her. That's where we turned our attention next. We practically stopped living for days at a time, pausing only to eat when we remembered, sleeping at the table when our eyes refused to stay open. Some way, any way, to disable a god. There weren't any. We could have foregone the days of reading, there was no point. Glory couldn't be defeated. Not by anything human.

 

I didn't bother to pray. I knew that wouldn't work either.

 

Willow found the spell, but she tried to hide it. We asked what it was, but she wouldn't say. Finally Dawn snuck into Willow's room and stole the book. When I found her on the couch the next morning, she was still staring at the words, having not moved for five hours. Just staring.

 

"What is it?" I asked softly, sitting down beside her. She couldn't even say it, she just handed me the book. The spell was for the dissipation of energy. "To destroy the Key," it said. I closed the book and considered burning it, but I didn't.

 

I should have.

 

"You can't do this," I told her sternly. "I won't let you. We'll find a way, I promise. We'll find a way."

 

That night Glory cast some sort of new spell-Dawn started to glow. We knew it was only a matter of time.

 

I tried to stop her. We all took turns watching her, talking to her, staying with her, so she'd never have a moment alone, never have a chance to try. I don't know how it happened. Somehow she got away-Tara said she must have cast a confusion spell on us. All we found was the spell book, and a letter. I couldn't even read it.

 

That was on Thursday afternoon.

 

I didn't even think of going. I could hardly stand up, walk, much less...I couldn't take being pummeled. Not that night. I sent everyone home and lay on my bed, sobbing quietly, because part of me still thought there was someone else in the house I had to protect. I couldn't let her hear, even if she wasn't there anymore.

 

No one was there. I was alone, finally, all alone.

 

And then I wasn't. I felt him even before his feet hit the floor heavily, as if warning me he was there.

 

"Not tonight," I whispered, amazed that I was still able to form words. "I-I can't tonight."

 

He didn't leave. Why didn't he leave?

 

"What happened?" he asked, like he cared. And I found myself telling him, as if he really did.

 

"Dawn," I said. Weight shifted on the bed. He'd sat down on the edge. I turned over to look at him. "She's gone."

 

"She ran away?" he asked blankly. I laughed, but it came out as more of a sob, which is probably what it was, really.

 

"I wish. People run away...they come back. She's not coming back."

 

She wasn't coming back. Like my mother wasn't coming back. No one ever came back, and I was all alone, alone in the wreckage of what was left of my life.

 

"Why?" Angel asked. I gave him an incredulous look, searching his face for a sign that he wasn't mocking me with this, pretending he cared. I don't think he was...pretending I mean. There was something in his eyes. I was too tired to care what, too tired to refuse to answer. It was almost nice to tell someone. I hadn't ever told anyone, and I never would be able to tell anyone else.

 

"She wasn't real. She was a...a thing. Energy. There's this law of the universe...energy is always conserved. Well she's the thing that broke that law. She was energy. She created it. She was called the Key...they put her in human form to keep her safe, and sent her to me. Only I couldn't, I couldn't keep her safe."

 

They sent her to me, and I failed. They made me love her, and it still wasn't enough.

 

Somehow Angel's arms slipped around me. Not in a heated way, not in...any way really. I leaned against his chest as he asked, "Key to what?"

 

I explained about the other dimensions, about Glory...I don't even remember my exact words. They just kept spilling out of me.

 

"She did that to you," he said. It took me a minute to realize what he meant, to remember the bruise. It took me a minute to realize he still thought about it.

 

"She's strong," I said, as if that justified the fact that I'd given up against her. "Well...she was. She fed off the extra energy Dawn emitted, just by existing. By now she'll be like anyone. Anyway...I couldn't stop her. No one could. And there were other things...there would always be someone after her. I couldn't protect her forever."

 

At least Glory was done for now. That afforded a little pleasure, but only a little, swamped by the tidal wave of despair. It was nice that I could justify it to myself. Nice that I had excuses, like someone would always have been after Dawn. Nice that I could pretend what had happened was all right, was as it should be.

 

"Did she do it or was it a mutual decision?" Angel asked. My stomach turned and for a minute I couldn't believe I'd ever let him touch me. This was what I'd become. This was the level I'd been reduced to. Not the sex...that didn't matter. It was just physical. But that he could even imagine I would willingly let Dawn do that...that I would encourage it...

 

That was who I was now. That's all I had left.

 

"You think I told my little sister to kill herself?" I asked, my voice rising slightly hysterically. It wasn't really him I was angry at-it was me, for letting myself get to a place where that was even imaginable. I took it out on him though. "Maybe that's all you know anymore Angel. Maybe you have closed yourself off from everything and everyone so much that you can't fathom what it's like to love someone so much it hurts, or to feel every pain they feel doubled, because they should never have felt it in the first place. Maybe that's just too much for you-I know what you did. How you closed yourself off from Cordelia and Wesley. And maybe you thought because I fucked you once a week that I'd done the same Angel, but you were wrong. Because I would never have given up on Dawn. Never. She was my sister."

 

She was my sister. And then she was gone. And I had condoned it-I had let it happen. I hadn't stopped it. Hadn't saved her. Hadn't kept her safe. I was all the things Angel thought me to be.

 

I was crying, and shaking all over and I didn't even know if it was for Dawn or for me. I loved her so much and she was gone, but all I could think was 'I'm alone, I'm all alone and this is all that is left of me...'

 

Angel put his arms around me again, gently, and I didn't have the will to resist. I didn't even have the strength not to be comforted, I think I was, even a little. Not that there was really such a thing as comfort then, in that place, that night. But I was comforted a little.

 

"Why?" I cried, all my anger gone, replaced by despair. "Why did it have to be like this? Why did I have to lose them both? How could I lose them both?"

 

I didn't expect him to answer. What could he possibly say that would make anything different? Make it better at all? There was nothing to say. No answers anyone could give me, not anyone in this dimension anyway.

 

This dimension...

 

"I know she wasn't a person," I whispered, unable to help myself, "but do you think... do you think maybe there's a heaven somewhere for all the things that never should have been on this earth? Another dimension where she was just a girl?"

 

I wanted the answer to be yes. I needed it to be yes.

 

"Yes," he said. Maybe it was a lie. Probably it was a lie. But it was still yes.

 

I relaxed, tension gone from my body. The tears kept coming but they were quieter...pouring now, no shaking sobs. Just tears and emptiness. I was empty, I was alone. I was empty.

 

I didn't want to be so empty.

 

"Make me forget Angel," I begged, pulling away enough to see his face. My tears had stopped, though the streaks were probably still visible. My hunger was returning, the need to be filled. I was empty, and I wanted to forget. Make me forget, Angel, I begged silently. Make me full again, just for a moment.

 

//in the arms of an angel

fly away from here

from this dark cold hotel room

and the endlessness that you fear

you are pulled from the wreckage

of your silent reverie

you're in the arms of the angel

may you find some comfort there

you're in the arms of the angel

may you find some comfort here//

 

Angel kept gazing down at me with the oddest look in his eyes. No, that isn't true: it wasn't odd, just unfamiliar. I'd seen it before though, but not for long...long and longer. I couldn't even let myself imagine when the last time I'd seen it had been.

 

 

"Not tonight," he said finally, gently. Rage flared through me. How could he? How dare he deny me tonight, when I needed him? I had lost everything, how dare he?

 

"Why?" I demanded angrily.

 

"Remember the first time?" he asked. I frowned, confused. What was he talking about?

 

"Which one?" I asked. The very first time? When he...when I...god, it was so long ago. A different life almost.

 

"After your mother's funeral," he replied, and I retreated back into my safe cocoon of what I knew, what I remembered, the life I had now, not the old, forgotten one, where I'd loved and been loved. That first one. I remembered. That was when the emptiness started.

 

I wanted to be full again.

 

"The answer was both," he said, startling me.

 

"What do you mean?"

 

"You asked me what I was looking for, and the answer was both...But it didn't matter then, because neither came true. But they would now."

 

My breath caught as I remembered, and understood, I finally understood. I asked him why he was searching for true happiness: because he didn't want to feel anymore, or because he wanted to remember what it was like. The answer had been both, only neither had come true. There'd been no true happiness that night, no happiness at all, because he hadn't loved me.

 

He wasn't going to sleep with me.

 

I didn't feel empty anymore, just full, too full, of understanding, of...awe almost. Like something incredible had just happened within Angel, something neither of us quite understood. I felt like if I said a word I would overflow, or maybe that was just the tears welling up in my eyes.

 

"Me too," I whispered. He'd asked me if I let him because I wanted him to kill me after or just because I wanted to feel. "The answer was both. It's still both."

 

This time it would come true. I'd get my wish, if he touched me now. But that was too much to ask, even I knew it.

 

"Not tonight," he said softly, gazing at me with that look in his eyes. I recognized it finally, remembered it. Love. Grace.

 

"No," I agreed, because there wasn't anything else to do. "Not tonight." Part of me wept at it, at the acknowledgement, the defeat. It wasn't just that night, I knew, it was forever again. I'd lost him again, just as I found him. Maybe I didn't lose him entirely. He didn't let go of me and I couldn't let go of him. He lay me down on the bed and curled himself around me, holding me for the first time in...how long? All those nights we'd spent in the same bed, in the same room, and he'd never held me. I wouldn't have let him if he'd tried.

 

I let him that night. I don't really know why, except that maybe I was tired. Too tired to be alone that night. Too tired to be alone all the nights. Maybe I was empty and he made me feel full, of light or hope or whatever it was he saw in me that I could never manage to see in myself.

 

Maybe it was because there wasn't any comfort in that night, but I found it in his arms anyway, and in the dawn, when it came as I always knew it would.

 

 



| Fiction Index | Home Page | Back |