Saving the Slayer
PAIRING: B/A, of course!
DISTRIBUTION: All the same - my site (www.sunflower.com/~tango), Starrkitty's Adult B/A Archive (www.starrkitty.150m.com), Forever, Always and Then Some (Tara's site), Duck's Babble Board and my yahoogroups. Anyone else who houses my fic is welcome to it. All others, please ask me first. Thanks!
LYRICS: All lyrics are from Tracy Chapman
For Trammie you saved this fic from destruction! Thank you.
no words to say,
"The outcome doesn't look particularly...promising," Giles said, shifting uncomfortably. He yanked off his glasses to clean them for the seventeenth time that hour as if their cleanliness would make him see the solution more clearly.
"I don't have time for you to spare my feelings!" Angel roared in full game face, eyes fully golden and razor sharp fangs looking more dangerous than any of them ever remembered. He had been unable to even contemplate switching back to human form since he got the call from Buffy. Before, he feared that it was worse than merely horrible if she would call him herself and now that he saw her, he was convinced, "I need to find out how to save her! HOW do I SAVE her? That's the damn outcome I'm looking for!"
"Angel," Buffy whispered, her voice betraying as weak as her whole body was. He turned toward the sound of her voice. It was only a harsh whisper but it broke through any rage he might have had and coupled with the sight of her tiny form, swallowed in quilts on Giles' couch, sweating and shivering at the same time, he was deluged with agony. Hurrying to her, he brushed past the large and worried form of Riley Finn to fall on his knees by her side.
"I can save you," he said urgently, hissing the words around his fangs, trying more to convince himself than her. She looked resigned and ready, a sight that was almost more terrifying than the illness itself. She shook her head slowly and smiled at him. It was a painful grimace of a smile, but real. She caressed his ridged face slowly, with shaking hands colder than his own.
"It's okay, Angel," she said, wincing as the words made it to her lips, "They're looking for a cure, but there's no record of there ever being one. I might not-"
"Don't say that," he growled venomously, causing Riley to take a step forward to protect her from the demon. Angel would be damned if he'd sit there and let her give up. He wasn't going to let her die and there wasn't any room for thinking about what might happen. He snarled even louder as he whipped his head at the approaching boy. Finn had long needed a lesson for touching his mate and Angel was in the perfect mood to have a little chat with the boy.
"Riley," Buffy said, shaking her head as she touched Angel's arm, forcing his attention on her rather than her boyfriend. Riley stopped in his tracks, but didn't move back. He wanted to be as close as possible and despite his efforts not to, he found himself inching forward. Refocusing on Angel, she blinked slowly. She was so tired and even her Slayer stamina could only fight the pain and weakness for so long.
"You're not going to die," Angel said, a growl still radiating through every word, "I won't let it happen. There's a way to save you and I'm going to find it."
"Angel, please," Buffy begged, feeling the tears that she had been holding in begin to flow down her cheeks, "I need to you be strong for me. I can't do this if you..."
"I didn't give up everything to lose you," Angel said, "You can't die. They promised when I turned back the day that you would live. They promised me you would be safe. Don't you see, love? It's not your time. I fixed that."
"No, I don't see,'" Buffy said, "What are you talking about? What day? Who are they'?"
"That's why you can't die," Angel said, standing up to pace around the room, weaving around confused bodies of Buffy's friends, "I gave it back, I gave you back and they said that you would live. You have to live. I just have to find the detail we're missing."
"I'm confused. Gave me back?" Buffy said, struggling to sit up, "Giles?"
"I-I'm not entirely clear either, Buffy," Giles admitted as he watched the angry vampire take long strides around the small living room packed with people.
"I think the Poof's taken a long leap off a bloody short pier," Spike suggested from the corner, sipping blood out of Giles' yellow novelty mug that had the words "Kiss the Librarian" printed on the side.
"I'm with Spike for once," Xander volunteered, grimacing in distaste that he should ever have to agree with Spike for any reason.
"What do we know?" Angel demanded, stopping to face the Watcher, "How long do I have to save her?"
"Well, actually, it's not entirely clear..." Giles said, tapering off at the end. The look on the elder Watcher's face told Angel he was keeping something from him and everyone else.
"Don't spare me, Giles," Angel said, "I need to know everything."
"The illness is a rather serious poisoning. It's a mutated form of the poison designed to kill vampires, like the one you were infected with before you left Sunnydale."
Angel flinched from his words and glanced quickly at Buffy. Her fingers flew to the mark on her neck, left by his drinking of her and she closed her eyes painfully.
"Okay," Angel said, his game face still in place. He had been trying to calm down enough to shake it off but couldn't seem to. Everyone in the room felt the fury and sorrow radiating off the souled vampire. Along with their own worry and sadness, the air was becoming thicker by the second and more difficult to breathe.
"It was created in the fifteenth century," Giles continued, starting his own worried pace, "The Slayer exhibits a weakness that presents itself like a fever and the sickness grows worse, much like yours did. After three or four days it attacks the Central Nervous System and the brain. In effect, Buffy will go insane. Previous Slayers who were infected killed many people in a crazed state before they died."
"There's no record," Giles answered, shifting his eyes away.
"The council killed them," Willow said, her eyes widening in horror, "Didn't they? The Slayer was a threat so they killed them like they were going to do to Faith."
"I'm afraid so," Giles answered nodding, "And when I called for more information this afternoon, I didn't know that. My guess is that they have already deployed Council assassins to take out the threat."
"So we probably have four days at least, maybe even a whole week," Angel said. Nodding absently, he walked over the couch and scooped his Slayer along into his arms and headed for the door.
"Come on, baby," he whispered, brushing a kiss on her brow.
"What are you doing?" Riley demanded, standing in the way of the exit.
"We can't leave her here," Angel said to Riley before turning to face the rest of the room once more, "They know she's in Sunnydale. I'm taking her to LA, where we can see the enemy coming. You're all welcome to come."
Looking toward Riley, he growled lightly, "Even you...We need all the power we can get which means, Spike, you're coming too."
"She's your bint," Spike scoffed, setting his mug down on the counter, "Why do I have to come?"
"Because," Angel threatened, his face calm, but deadly, "As a childe of my line, you will protect my mate. Understood?"
"Yes, Sire," Spike said, the utter amazement and shock showing on his face as he stepped in behind Angel. Sure, he loved Buffy and would protect her. He had just been giving the Nancy Boy a little flack first. When Angel threw in the vampiric law card, he could hardly believe his ears. The Poof never followed vampiric law, not since he got his soul anyway. He followed human laws. Spike had never seen that kind of determination on his face, hadn't feared his Grande Sire seriously for one second since he regained his soul. But tonight, he saw a twinge of Angelus riding on the surface of soul boy's face and it chilled him all over.
Buffy remained curiously silent in Angel's arms, allowing herself to be taken. She knew at this point there was no way she could calm him down or get him to answer her questions as much as she was still intrigued by what he had said earlier. Who were they' anyway and what had he meant he when he said he gave her back?
"We can set up shop at the hotel," Angel said, facing everyone, "There are plenty of rooms there for everyone and space to perform any research or spells we need."
i never meant to hurt you
The Scoobies filed into the hotel behind Angel and found Cordelia, Wesley and Gunn waiting for their arrival. Greetings and not completely pleasant pleasantries started to take place, but Angel interrupted immediately.
"Gunn," Angel barked, "I want you to gather your people to guard the hotel at all hours. We'll pay well and Wesley, we need to hire every demon and thug we can think of that can be trusted and everyone who owes us a favor. Don't tell them they're guarding the Slayer, just tell them no one gets in or out without approval. Spike, get on the streets. Find out what you can about who wants the Slayer dead."
Turning with a sweep of his coat, he headed up the stairs to put Buffy in bed. Riley silently followed, while Willow, Tara, Xander and Giles talked to Cordelia about where they could set up the research session.
"Wait," Buffy said quietly, pressing her fingers against his chest, "I don't wanna be upstairs alone."
"Someone will be with you," Angel promised, "We'll take turns, okay? You won't be alone. Besides, notice my shadow."
Turning her slightly, she saw what Angel knew the entire time - Riley Finn was not letting his girl out of his sight, especially when a vampire with a rather volatile soul was with her. Convinced that she was pleased, he continued his way up the stairs, planning on continuing to ignore Riley.
Angel walked up to his bedroom and kicked the door shut, only to have Riley tuck his foot in the way to stop it from closing him out. Angel laid her on the bed and unwrapped the quilt. Going immediately to work, he removed her shoes and socks and began unbuttoning her jeans.
"What the hell are you doing?" Riley demanded, staring at Angel in disbelief, "Are you just going to undress my girl right here in front of me?"
"Yep," Angel quipped, shrugging dismissively and returning to his work. He stripped her pants off of her gently and swallowed harshly when her skimpy thong panties came into view. He tried to shake off the urges to stare and drool, as he realized her choice in underthings had slightly changed over the years. Rushing ahead, he lifted her into his arms and pulled back his blankets and placed her under them. She had been coming in and out of consciousness since they left Sunnydale and it made his worry rise higher than his libido, if that was even possible.
"Smells like Angel," she murmured, turning over on her side, towards Angel himself and pressing her face into the pillow, "Angel all over."
"Buffy," Angel whispered, brushing his hand over her brow. Riley was standing so close behind him that he could hear the heartbeat pounding in his chest.
"Angel," she whispered, opening her eyes. She looked like she was fading in and out, focusing and unfocusing seconds apart.
"I'm here, love."
"No," she said, shaking her head vigorously, "You're not. You left and I was all alone. Bad things happened and you didn't come back. I just wanted you to come back."
"I'm here," he said, cupping her face and making her crazed eyes focus on him, "Look at me, Buffy. I'm right here."
"Don't love me anymore," she whispered, shaking him off of her, "They all leave. Riley'll leave too. He just doesn't know it yet."
"No, I won't," Riley said, stepping in, "I'm here too, Buffy. We're all here to help you get better."
"I won't get better," she whispered back, tears falling once again, "Guess I get to leave this time, huh?"
"Buffy," Angel said, holding her shoulders and pulling her up in bed to meet his gaze directly once more, "You are going to live, understand me? Understand?"
"Game face," she said, pawing at his face lightly. It wasn't until then he realized he was in game face again or still, "Forgot how beautiful you are."
"Beautiful?" Riley echoed wildly.
"Yeah," Buffy said, laying back down with a dreamy smile on her face, closing her eyes and opening them again slowly as if she was trying to stay awake, "So strong. Know nothing bad can ever happen. Not with my Angel."
night i had another restless sleep
Riley stood guard leaning against the far wall in Angel's room where Buffy slept restlessly in Angel's bed. She tossed and turned, her skin glistening with sweat. Her violent sleep was starting to scare him. Buffy never tossed in her sleep, never spoke or made sounds. She slept silently, rarely snoring or even breathing heavily, which was why her current behavior made his concern for her life jump up a notch.
Most of the Scoobies had tried to take over his post and let him rest but he couldn't tear his eyes away, as if he thought she might die if he wasn't there. She looked so weak. Even when she was the most tired and beaten up, she had never looked so pallid and listless. For the first time in a really long time, Riley Finn was truly afraid.
He watched, glad the door was shut as she kicked the covers from her body, clad in only her flimsy camisole and those sexy little panties. She ripped the shirt from her body in her sleep, murmuring unintelligible words. Her chest heaved as she struggled to breathe, her braless breasts raising and dropping with her shuddering body.
He couldn't help himself, even as ill as she was, to notice how breathtakingly beautiful she was, so tiny and perfect. He felt guilty for his lustful thoughts, mentally chiding himself, and then any thought he might have had flew from his mind as her hands began to move on her body.
"No," she whispered, her words barely making it across the room to him, "Don't stop."
Her hands seemed aimless, sliding over her skin, tracing her breasts, arms, stomach and face. She moved around the bed, kicking away any covers that got in the way of her journey. Riley's mouth was dry as his girlfriend and lover moved from not only her hands but the hands of someone he couldn't see.
He only half heard the sounds of loud voices downstairs as he kept his eyes glued on her. Daylight crept in from the tightly closed blinds and it occurred to him that he should cover her up before Angel came back from prowling the streets and whatever crazy mission he had planned to get information about Buffy's recent and mystifying illness. No one was even sure how she was poisoned to begin with. His mind worked and then stopped and then began working again as she presented herself in the most erotic ways on her ex-lover's bed. He moved toward her, deciding to cover her up once more when she screamed.
"ANGEL," came her voice, breaking as she finished, "NO!"
Feet pounded up the stairs so quickly that Riley was barely able to turn around or hurry to cover Buffy up. He was steps from the bed when Angel burst in with Spike not too far behind him and more feet were thumping toward the bedroom. Angel was already in demon form as he entered, growling loudly, looking for the threat. He stared at Buffy on the bed, her camisole torn from her body, still hanging on her right arm and the covers roughly tossed away. Snarling more ferally than he did when he escaped from Hell, he grabbed Riley Finn and tossed him toward the door. Spike, Xander and Gunn were in the way and so his body slammed into Spike and Xander, knocking them both over. Angel followed Riley and pulled him up, throwing him over their bodies and out into the hallway.
"You've just lost all your being near Buffy privileges," Angel snarled.
"I didn't touch her," Riley said, groaning as he rose to his feet, "She did that herself."
"Yeah and then she screamed my name in terror," Angel said. Seeing the stares of Xander, Spike and Gunn on Buffy's still naked and writhing body, he moved across the room and covered her quickly. Turning back where Riley still stood, fuming angrily, he said, "Get the hell out of here, Finn. You wanna help Buffy? Find another way. You're not stepping foot in this room again."
"You can't seriously think I'm going to leave you alone with her?"
"I seriously think that if I find you in here, I'll fucking kill you," Angel said, his voice quiet and lethal. He stepped forward and all four men backed away, feeling more than slightly intimidated. Angel kept moving until they were all bunched in the hallway. Straight faced and serious, he swung the door shut. From the hallway, they could all hear the clicking of the lock.
you make me worry, baby
Buffy woke sometime in the middle of the day to find Angel sitting by her side, dozing in the chair. Willow had knocked on the door but Angel slept through the tiny knock. Buffy smiled at him for a second before she struggled to sit up. Everyone was a bit wary of the vampire since Buffy's illness, except of course, for Buffy herself, who could never fear him, even when he was at his worst.
Willow thought he had been downright spooky, even for Angel's standards. He had been in game face more in the past 24 hours than she had seen him in all the years she had known him and the growlyness was really just getting weird. What was even stranger was how Buffy didn't seem to mind or notice. When his words were drenched in growls, when he was in game face, she acted as if it were completely normal.
Buffy slipped from the bed to answer her friend's knock and her legs crumpled beneath her. Clutching the side of the bed, she tried to pull herself up, surprised at her own weakness. She struggled to get to her feet, legs shaking violently and realized that she was completely naked except for a pair of panties. She looked over where her ex-lover slept and saw that Angel was dressed, save for the fact that he shed his shirt and was resting in a chair several feet from the bed. She managed to reach the shirt he had been wearing, which was tossed carelessly to the floor and put it on before making her way to the door. Leaning against the wall by the doorframe, breathing heavily for her exertions, she twisted the lock and pulled the door open.
"Hey Will," Buffy whispered, motioning her in. Turning, she tried to get back to bed and wobbled on her feet. Willow balanced the tray of food she carried in one hand and grabbed her friend's arm with the other to keep her from toppling over and helped her back to bed.
"Brought you some food," Willow whispered, "And Cordy gave me some of Angel's blood, if he's hungry."
"Thanks," Buffy said, falling against the pillows and eyeing the tray filled with food, "Not sure I'll be able to eat that though."
"You can try," Willow said hopefully, pressing her hand against Buffy's forehead in a motherly fashion, "And Giles made you some tea with lots of sugar like you like it."
"Thanks Will," Buffy managed, feeling more tired by the second, "Have they found anything yet? Am I...going to...you know?"
"No," Angel said. Willow and Buffy jumped, startled to see that he was awake. His eyes were flaming yellow again and Willow fidgeted nervously.
"Kay, well, I'm gonna go back downstairs," Willow said, standing up again, "Gotta crack them books!"
Angel stared after the redheaded witch in bewilderment as she scooted out of the room, shutting the door behind her.
"Was it something I said?" he asked, leaning in to look over Buffy, having already forgotten his question.
"You're scaring them," Buffy said weakly looking over the tray of food, "They brought you some blood."
"They think I'm going to eat them?" he asked, shaking his head in irritation. Picking up the clear plastic container of blood, he realized was hungrier than he thought.
"Don't worry," Buffy murmured, her eyes already closing, "Know you won't hurt anyone. You're just all vampy today."
"Sorry, love," he said, sitting back down on the edge of the bed, "Don't go to sleep. You need to eat."
"Tired, Angel," she mumbled, keeping her eyes closed, "Wanna sleep, kay?"
"Just eat a little," he prodded, "Just a couple of bites."
Setting his blood back on the tray, he gently pulled her into a sitting position and propped the pillows behind her. Taking the bowl of chicken and stars that Willow had undoubtably prepared for her, he spoon fed her until she sputtered and refused any more. He looked forlornly into the bowl that was still nearly full and was prepared to plead with her have more, when he noticed she was staring at him.
"What?" he asked, setting the bowl down gently on the tray.
"Why are you doing this?" she asked tearfully.
"Because I love you," he answered truthfully, meeting her gaze full on so there were no mistakes, "Because I'd do anything to make sure you live. Because there's no point to anything if you aren't here."
"Then why did you leave me?" Buffy asked. Seeing her error in the emotions that flew across his face, she pressed her fingers to his lips, "Never mind. Don't answer that."
hand dropped away and she wished that she could have more than just
a burst of energy at a time, that her mind would stay lucent for longer,
that the tremors would stop.
"Course," he muttered, as he helped lower her into the bed again. He sat there and looked down on her, forgetting his own hunger and as he watched her, the time they had been apart drifted away. She opened her eyes again and looked up at him and then at the blood on the tray. Angel was crushed at how slow her movements were. Even looking around the room seemed like too much work for her.
"Eat," she whispered, "Need you strong now."
"Can't even watch anyway, Mr. Sensitive," she whispered, "Tired."
got her ticket
Angel blinked open his eyes at the exact moment the sun set. His body always did that, no matter how exhausted he was. It was almost as if he could hear the sunlight leaving and he could definitely feel it. So, he wasn't all that surprised that he went from a deep sleep to wide awake in seconds as night enveloped them. He was surprised, however, that he was wrapped around Buffy's weak little body when he did wake.
He hadn't planned to hold her while he slept. He had gathered her into his arms and laid down with her after he'd fed hours before, needing to feel her against him, hear her heartbeat and warmth. All he'd wanted was to assure himself that she was real and alive, just for a moment.
He meant to get up and move away. He really did. But his body wouldn't cooperate. It had been so long since he had been able to touch her and hold her, he couldn't make himself let her go. He slowly pulled her against him more tightly and pressed his face into the crook of her neck, inhaling her scent. In spite of the strength he had been trying to hold on to, he felt all the pressure and fear of the passing hours welling up inside him and even before he knew what was happening, he was sobbing into her shoulder, his large body racked with tears as he cradled her and he jarred her awake with his violent shudders. He couldn't lose her. Not now. Not after everything they'd given up.
"Angel," she whispered, struggling to turn over in his arms, but finding she was pinned against him. "Angel," she pleaded again. He loosened his hold on her and she turned over painfully to look at him. He moved further down and pressed his face back into her shoulder, unable to face her, nearly paralyzed with the feelings of impending loss.
"It's okay, baby," she whispered, running her fingers through his hair, "Everything's going to be alright."
"You can't die," his muffled voice offered from her damp shoulder, "I can't let you die."
"Angel," she whispered, tugging him until he lifted his head to look at her. She could hardly stand the fear, exhaustion and sadness in his eyes. She brushed the tears from his eyes and kept one shaky hand on his face, "If I die-"
"Buffy, no," he begged.
"Let me finish," she said sternly - or as sternly as she could force her voice to be, "If I die, you can't think it was your fault. It's not. You have nothing to do with this. No Slayer has ever lived through this. It's a fact and it's okay. It really is."
"It's not," he said hoarsely, "It'll never be okay."
"You'll move on," she said, her lower lip trembling with her welling emotions, "You'll save the world when I can't. You'll help the new Slayer."
"No," he said, "I'll greet the dawn."
"NO," she tried to shout, "You'll live. I can't...I can't go knowing you won't be here to take care of everything...Giles, Willow, Xander...Angel, they're gonna need you. Promise me, you'll take care of them. Help them."
"Please," she begged and then was startled as a low growl came from his throat. Turning toward the door, she saw Riley was standing in the doorway, anger etched on his face.
"I told you that you weren't welcome in here," Angel snarled, moving to get up and take care of the intruder. She touched his arm as he moved away and in her weakened state, they both knew she could do nothing to stop him if he wanted to beat her boyfriend to a bloody pulp. But he looked over at her and she shook her head slowly, asking him silently not to do anything that they would both regret later. Angel nodded curtly and turned back to doorway and to Finn.
"Get out," he growled out, his lips curling over his protruding fangs. Buffy was startled at how even without a shirt and having just sobbed on her shoulder, that he could look so predatory and dangerous...and unbelievably sexy.
"Giles found something," Riley said, "He thinks you need to hear this."
"Alright," Angel said, moving from the bed and to his closet to get a shirt. He shrugged on a button up shirt and fumbled with two buttons before he gave up. He strolled back to the bed, breathing even, unneeded breaths in an attempt to calm himself. He was covering Buffy up and tucking her in securely, when she whispered quietly that she wanted to hear too. Claiming the quilt that they had borrowed from Giles', he wrapped her in it and carried her past Riley, almost unaware of the snarl that erupted when the boy came too close to them.
All the seats in the room were taken, including the chairs around the table they had set up in the lobby to research. Cordelia, Gunn and Spike were all seated on the round, drab gray couch and as they moved to get up, Angel moved to the counter, slid to the floor and held Buffy on his lap. She laid limply against his chest and attempted to smile at her friends. It came out more as a painful wince and seeing the sentiment, they all tried to smile back.
"Buffy, I'm glad you could make it down for this meeting," Giles said, standing abruptly, "We have found a solution of sorts. We still aren't sure how you were infected exactly, but we are attempting to trace the demon you killed several days ago, the one that bit you. We think he may have had something to do with this."
"Bit you?" Angel snarled.
"He was just a regular vamp," Buffy protested, "I mean, sure he bit me but it's not like he enthralled me to do it like Dracula or anything."
"Bit you?" Angel repeated, more forcefully.
"Like you haven't already," Xander snorted, "You think you have a biting the Slayer monopoly or something?"
"BIT YOU?" Angel roared a third time, causing Buffy to jump in his arms. The Scoobies gaped at him for his outburst, which he ignored, still focusing on the news.
"Explain later," Buffy said, looking up at him, her eyes round and mossy green, looking so small and sweet. She reached up and caressed his ridged face gently and snuggled back into his chest once more. "So what'd you find, Giles?"
"Dracula is going to die," Angel growled, "And you staked the one the other night right?"
"Yep," she said, nodding against his chest, "Can't kill Dracula."
"Misty fucker certainly *can* be killed," Angel argued, "Can't wait to dance in his dust."
"Get my eleven pounds first, mate," Spike added, "Needs to learn to pay his debts."
"You're coming with me," Angel said, eyeing his childe severely.
"I think I liked you more when you were all prancey, wounded Angel," Spike argued, "Can't stand this new attitude you've got, like you own me."
"Oh, stop with the snarling beast thing, Angel," Cordelia groaned, "Between you and Spike, I'm getting tired of it! How come you're always like this when Buffy's around?"
"I do own you," Angel snarled, his love's light body the only thing keeping him from jumping to his feet, "And for the rest of your undead days, you'll protect my mate."
"Wanker," Spike spat, but didn't disagree. Crossing his arms over his chest, he stared at Giles.
"Right then," Giles said, "Like I said, we have found a sort of solution that may be able to cure Buffy. There's a demon who grants wishes of sorts to those who pass the trials. It's a leap of faith."
"I'll do it," Angel said, rising to his feet with Buffy in his arms, "Does she need to come with me?"
"Angel," Wesley said gently, "There's a strong possibly that you could die during the trials. There's no guarantee that Buffy will live even if you die. You can fight off more than a human, but you are not invincible."
"I said, I'll do it,'" Angel said calmly, "My life is nothing compared to hers and we all know it."
"No!" Cordelia shouted, rising from her seat, "You aren't going to kill yourself for *her.*"
"One Slayer comes and another rises," Anya added. The glares she received from around the room forced her to tack on another sentence, "Not that I want Buffy to die, I'm just saying."
"Do I take her with me?" Angel asked, directing the question toward Giles.
"Angel," Buffy whimpered, "I don't think this is a good idea. We don't know enough. You don't know what you're getting into."
"I think it's a great idea," Riley said and then his eyes widened as he realized he said that out loud, "Buffy, there's a chance that you can survive and I think Angel can fight anything they throw at him. He should at least check it out."
things we won't do for love
Angel carried Buffy to the place where Giles instructed they go and they both stared down at the empty swimming pool in front them. It was strange to say the least.
"Well...here we are," Angel said, looking around him grimly. Already this seemed like a bad idea.
"I don't think this is right," Buffy said, leaning weakly against his chest, "This can't be right."
"Well, he said I had to take the plunge," Angel said, chuckling.
"Into a pool?" Buffy said, peering down into the dirty bottom.
"Sure," Angel said, feeling more lighthearted as a glimmer of hope started inside him for her life. Even if they were staring at the bottom of a moldy pool, there was a chance now, "Cause if you had water, you'd get all wet and miss out on all that skull crushing."
"Maybe he meant another pool," Buffy said doubtfully.
"Something in a Koi pond," Angel said, "Giles said they were Zen. It's a test, Buffy - the whole leap of faith thing. I'm just going to leave you right here and I'm either coming back with a cure, or you're about to see something kinda funny."
"No," Buffy said, as he started to set her down on the side of the pool, "You're going, I'm going."
"I'm the Slayer," Buffy protested.
"You're a Slayer who can barely walk ten feet," Angel countered, still holding her against his chest.
"Take me with you," Buffy demanded, "I'm not going to stay here."
Sighing in defeat as he saw the determination on her face, he climbed on the diving board, and with Buffy securely in his arms, he ran to the end and dove off. He braced himself to hit the bottom, holding her more tightly as he prepared to fall, making sure he didn't lose her if he crushed his head on solid cement. Instead of hitting the bottom, he disappeared through it, the gray swimming aside to a blue portal. He tucked and rolled as he fell through, landing on his feet.
"Where the hell is Buffy?" He asked the butler looking guy who stood in the center of room that looked suspiciously like a dungeon. He hadn't dropped her. He knew that for sure, but she was no longer in his arms or in the room at all.
"Well, we certainly have faith," the man answered in a clipped tone, "Now we'll test your valor. I shall be assisting you with the trials, sir."
"Where is-" Angel asked, preparing to repeat his question when Buffy appeared, curled in a chair across the room, her quilt still around her.
"You wish to save her life?" the man asked, gesturing toward Buffy.
"Yes," Angel answered solemnly.
"She is your collateral then," he answered, "Should you complete all three trials, she will be made whole."
"What happens if I don't complete the trials?" Angel asked, his eyes narrowing at the smaller man.
"She dies instantly," he answered cheerfully, "In the meantime, Buffy, you can relax with an iced beverage in our antechamber."
"No!" Angel shouted as Buffy disappeared. The room was suddenly empty as if she had never been there at all. A simultaneous dread and determination filled Angel at once. No one ever said anything about the risk for Buffy. It was supposed to just be a risk for him.
"Oh, it's better this way, sir," his guardian answered, "In a few minutes, no living thing will be safe in here."
"You can't," Angel protested, "Nobody said anything about her-"
"Oh, I'm sorry if there was a misunderstanding, but life is the bargain here. You have to place hers in the balance along with your own, of course. Anyway, you best get ready now, sir. This is no time to be dwelling with the negative. Your trials will consist of three separate challenges. I'll need your shirt and shoes."
"Unarmed combat?" Angel asked confidently as he began removing his shirt. Luckily, being a vampire, he may not need a weapon.
"Well, you'll be unarmed, yes."
"Okay," Angel said, ignoring the growling sound that was starting to fill the chamber. Tossing his shirt to the man, he continued, "Three challenges. What are they?"
"That's for you to discover," the guardian answered, holding out his hands, "Um...shoes and socks please."
"I'm thinking you've seen this play before," Angel argued, "Give me something I can work with."
"I've never given information to a challenger before," the guardian huffed.
"How many of them have asked?" Angel reasoned. He had to save Buffy and do that he needed as much information as possible to begin with. If he got lucky, the Jeeves wannabe leading this torture session would inadvertently give something up. All he had to do was keep him talking.
"Well, in theory," the man Angel had started to think of as a poor copy of P.G. Wodehouse's Jeeves said, "the first test is child's play. Once that gate opens, all you have to do it walk through it."
"That's it?" Angel asked, unable to miss the growling that had been coming from said gate for the last couple of minutes, "What's the catch?"
"Yes, well, umm," Jeeves said, "That would be telling, wouldn't it?"
"Okay," Angel sighed, "What's two and three then?"
"Oh, I really wouldn't know about the last two tests, sir," Jeeves said with a hint of a smile, "I've never seen anyone survive the first one. Best of luck!"
was blinded by my devotion
Buffy, suddenly more alert than she had been in two days, stared ahead, straining to hear what was happening. She could hear the grunts of battle and the sound of metal striking things, walls and floors maybe. Enthralled with sounds of Angel's battle, she barely noticed when Jeeves appeared next to her with a pocket watch in his hand, "Seventeen seconds. Already twice the time most others have lasted."
"Call this off!"
"Impossible," Jeeves answered, "Once the tests have started, they can't be stopped."
"Please," Buffy begged, "I need to see what's happening now. I have to know if he's okay."
"If you insist," he answer, "But please remember, you did ask."
As soon as his fingers touched her head a blinding white light flashed and she could not only see, but almost feel when the large, ugly, yellow demon attacked Angel. Buffy whimpered as the demon appeared to be winning, striking Angel and tossing him into the walls. When one of the hooks on the chain the demon carried lodged in Angel's upper thigh, she screamed. She immediately clamped a hand over her mouth as his head jerked around.
He had heard her scream.
"There's no wood," Buffy reminded herself in a whisper. All he had to do was avoid being beheaded by the sword and he would be okay. Course, that didn't make it easier to watch as the battle to the death went on for long minutes. Finally, Buffy gasped in excitement as he was able to get the sword from the demon and slice him in half.
"Hey!" Angel shouted, his voice loud in her ears as he limped over to the securely closed gate, "I defeated him! Open up!"
With her hand clamped securely over her mouth, she watched the demon begin to attack once more, his two halves merging together and sealing. Angel, giving a ferocious roar, cut him in half once more and then used the demons chains to tie him to the light fixtures on either side of the room so that he couldn't rejoin. It was one of the more sickening things Buffy had the displeasure of witnessing in quite some time. But Angel was safe and she was able to sag thankfully. She watched him limp through the gate as it rose to free him and was heaving grateful breaths when the guardian appeared at her side once more with a watch in his hand again.
"Is this how a guy like you gets his rocks off?" Buffy sneered.
"Oh, I have no feelings about this contest one way or another miss," he said simply, "Do you?
"Do I?" Buffy asked incredulously. She lost track of the yelling she planned to do to the butler guy, when she saw Angel had made it through the gate. The large metal structure slammed down behind him, locking him in a long, dark hallway. Moonlight spilled in from the ceiling enough to show that crosses covered nearly every inch of the floors and walls. In the center sat a sort of basin on a pedestal, bathed in moonlight.
"Why don't you just kill him if you want him dead?" Buffy demanded, tears springing to her eyes. She couldn't believe it when she saw Jeeves was munching happily on a cookie as if there had been no gruesome events that evening.
"We don't want anything, miss," he explained, "In this place, the journey is the whole point. Where it may lead is not our concern."
Buffy snorted irritably at him as she watched Angel propel himself forward, sprinting over the long pathway of deadly symbols. She hissed in pain for him as steam rose around his bare feet, almost feeling the burns herself. She screamed as he stumbled past the pedestal and fell on the floor. His own roar of pain seeped into her as the crosses burned first his chest then his hands as he pushed himself up. Buffy squeezed her eyes shut, but couldn't get away from the visions that were burned into her mind.
The guardian was right. She did ask for this. When he made it to the door and it was locked, Buffy felt hot tears running down her cheeks. The steam rising all around him was unbearable to watch. He limped down the hall, searing his feet more with every step but was unable to move faster. He looked down into the basin, which was filled with water and at the bottom rested a key.
"Holy water!" Buffy screamed as he plunged his hand into the basin. He roared in pain, but wasn't surprised. They had tailored everything to him and so the only option was the most painful one. She winced when he pulled his hand out with the key. The skin on his hand and wrist was red and she could see that the flesh had already started to bubble. It took almost a whole minute for him to make it back to the door and open it with the key and only then did Buffy start to breath again.
"He's quite remarkable," Jeeves said, glancing at his ever present pocketwatch.
"Yes," Buffy said tearfully, "He is."
As she finished her sentence, she realized she was talking to herself. Jeeves the great was gone and next to Angel in the third chamber. She gasped as chains shot up with manacles attached and clamped around his ankles and wrists, spreading him out and stretching his damaged body tightly. He grimaced in pain and she did along with him.
"Well played!" Jeeves announced, clapping his hands triumphantly, "You fielded our strokes from end to end. My hat's off to you, sir. Of course, there is one final challenge."
"What is this?" Angel asked nervously as Jeeves gestured to the wall in front of Angel where, thousands of wooden stakes appeared lodged in the walls. Buffy and Angel both began breathing hard, in a soulmated concert of the disaster to come.
"I think you know, sir," Jeeves said, no longer sporting the happiness he had moments before.
"Stakes?" Angel shouted, breaking into a fit of coughing, "You call this a test? The only way this can work is if you kill me, huh?"
"Exactly," Jeeves clipped out, "You do understand, this third test has no catch, as you put it. Death is the final challenge. We can't restore one life without taking another. You see? In order for Buffy to live, you must die. I apologize for any discomfort this may be causing. I really can't imagine the pain."
"How about we switch places and we won't have to, huh?" Angel growled angrily.
"Oh, my death wouldn't balance a thing, sir. Yours on the other hand..."
"I die, Buffy lives."
"Yes," he answered, "I'm unaware of any deities that vampires worship, but if you'd like to pray, now would be the time."
"Don't do this," Buffy whispered, clenching her hands so tightly her fingernails dug into her palms. Screaming, she repeated her sentence, "ANGEL! Don't do this!"
"What are you waiting for?" Angel asked, nearly hysterical, as Jeeves' hand rested lightly on the lever that would release all the flying fatality in his direction.
"For you, sir," he said calmly, "I can't proceed without your permission. You've earned a choice. Accept your death so she may live...or..."
"There is no or,'" Angel growled, "Do it."
"Are you certain, sir?" he asked, "You may walk out and be free."
"And my mate dies?" Angel snorted, "No deal."
"I expected as much," Jeeves said sadly, "A pity. I'm beginning to like you."
"I'd very much like to," Jeeves answered, "Do you mind if I ask you a question? Isn't the world a better place with you in it? You can save so many people-"
"So can she."
"Ah, but she can easily be replaced. You, on the other hand, cannot. You know better than anyone that the world can be a very bad place. Take yourself out and leave her in and she could still die tomorrow."
"She has to live," Angel said, closing his eyes.
"You cannot be together," Jeeves continued, "She can offer you nothing."
"That's where you're wrong," Angel said, his face stone serious, "She offers me everything."
"As you wish," the guardian said sadly. Nodding his head, he slammed down the lever.
"No," Buffy shouted, "NO! NO! ANGEL!"
Buffy squeezed her eyes shut, tears streaming from them as her mind's eye had no choice but to watch the stakes fly from the wall toward the only man she had ever loved. She heard her own heart explode as they struck him and then...
Nothing. He didn't explode into dust. He didn't die. It was just all gone. Angel appeared, along with the guardian in the same room as Buffy and she jumped up from the chair she sat in and managed to use a burst of energy to launch herself at him. He winced as her tiny body hit his wounds but he didn't attempt to move away.
"Congratulations," the guardian announced, "You've passed the third test, by accepting death. I'm told no one's ever gone that far before in terms of sacrifice. Kudos."
"Pay up," Angel demanded, happy his arms were no longer stretched in those chains. They had disappeared with the stakes and he was extremely thankful for that small gift.
"Of course," the guardian quipped, looking down at Buffy, "You're a lucky woman and soon you'll have your whole life ahead. Use it wisely."
"Hey Jeeves," Angel snapped, "Unless this fortune cookie crap is some new kind of torture, what do you say we get on with it, huh?"
"This way miss," Jeeves said, motioning her toward him. Placing his hands on either side of her head, Angel watched as they both closed their eyes. Several seconds later, he dropped his hands.
"Oh," he said.
"What?" Buffy and Angel ask in irritation.
"This is...very embarrassing," Jeeves said, "Not to mention unprecedented. She's been giving a life once before, yes?"
"I was only gone for a minute," Buffy said, looking at Angel fearfully.
"She wasn't even really dead," Angel disputed, rather loudly.
"I'm sorry. She's already been given her second chance. I can't help you."
can't give her what she needs
Burned all over his body, limping and sore, Angel carried Buffy back to the car after attacking the guards that protected the place in a fury than she had never seen in him. He was shaking in pain and anger as he drove them back to the hotel and slowly carried her inside, his head hanging in defeat. Stopping just outside the doors, he looked down at her tearful face.
"I'm not gonna leave you, Buffy," he said as she bit her lip trying not to sob, "You're never gonna be alone again. Ever."
"Even if I live?" she asked, eyes wide from trying to keep in her tears.
"You're never gonna be alone again," he repeated slowly and directly, tears filling eyes, "I'm not leaving you again, Buffy. Ever." He pulled her close as her body convulsed in sobs. She clutched him tightly as he fell to his knees just outside the front door and lost themselves in each other. He rocked her and he could feel nothing but her, the perfection in his arms.
"Sun," Buffy whimpered, peeking her head up at him. For the first time in over two centuries, Angel hadn't noticed it coming. He stared at the light peeking over the horizon for a second before rising slowly to his feet and taking a deep breath as he trudged through the front doors where the gang waited for the results of his leap of faith.
"Oh my god," Cordelia shouted as Angel came in, wincing with every step. His arms were shaking as he held his precious cargo against his burned and torn chest. He couldn't even pretend to look hopeful as they stared at his bruised and bloody face and body.
"Did you succeed?" Giles asked hopefully, rising to his feet.
"Yes," Buffy answered as Angel said, "No."
"No," Angel repeated, "We would have...but...but we didn't."
"Wanna vague that up for us?" Xander demanded.
"You blew it, eh, mate?" Spike offered with a slight laugh.
"No," Buffy said, "Angel didn't blow it. I-I...I did."
"No," Angel said, shaking his head angrily, "It wasn't Buffy's fault."
"Please elaborate," Giles asked, sitting back down tiredly, "Angel, perhaps you ought to sit down."
Angel stumbled down the stairs and sat down on the couch, refusing to let Buffy go but thankful to be off his feet. He hissed in pain as he sat down but held Buffy even closer to him despite how it felt against his skin.
"He needs to feed," Buffy said, "Cordy? Please?"
"No," Angel said shaking his head. He didn't want to feed. He wanted to curl up in his bed and hold on to her for all of eternity. Turning her flashed through his mind and he squeezed his eyes shut in embarrassment and disgust. He couldn't believe he even had that thought.
"Yes," Cordy countered, rising and backing away the first couple of steps before turning and leaving the room.
"I already died," Buffy explained, into the silent room, her eyes welling again. She was so exhausted and was trembling through every word, "Angel passed all the trials and they almost killed him and then they said they couldn't cure me cause I already died. That's all."
"We'll think of something else," Angel whispered to her, kissing her brow lightly before addressing the rest of the room, "We're going to lay down."
Angel grunted in pain as he stood and moved with Buffy toward the stairs. Each step caused everyone else in the room pain as they watched him move. Even Xander felt sorry for him.
"I'll carry her," Riley said, stepping forward. For once, it wasn't a jealous gesture, but a kind one. He could almost feel Angel's pain with each move he made.
"I'm fine," Angel said, looking over Buffy's boyfriend with regret. As much as he disliked him, he felt sorry for what Riley was going to lose. He knew what it felt like to lose Buffy. There was nothing worse, not even what he went through tonight, not even Hell itself.
Angel struggled up the stairs and moved so slowly, it was hard to watch and yet none of them could tear their eyes away.
this point in my life,
Angel tiredly laid down in bed with Buffy and mulled over the last couple of days. They had been pure, unadulterated torture. It had been everything he could have prayed against if the Powers even cared about his pain.
The Powers. That was it. Mere minutes after he had laid down, he got up, found a new shirt and shoes and put them on quickly. Buffy roused from her new sleep and looked at him sleepily.
"Where are you going, Angel?"
"I just thought of something," he said quickly, not wanting to share with her just yet. Maybe later. Maybe after. "I'll be back."
"No," she said, "Tell me first."
"I...I can't Buffy," he said quickly, "Just trust me. I think I have the answers."
"Angel," she warned, her tone unforgiving, even as weak as she was, "Tell me where you're going."
"I have to talk to the Powers that Be," he said, quickly moving toward the door.
"The powers that be what?" she whispered, struggling to sit up. She managed to scoot up in the bed, but she was so tired. She didn't want to fight, she didn't want to worry about this. She just wanted to rest. Course, as the Slayer's life went, she knew there was no chance of that happening.
"The Powers That Be," he said, waving his hand much like Doyle had that day they first met, "The Oracles."
"You know them?" she asked and then quickly changed her route, "Why are you going there?"
"To trade for your life," he said, opening the closed door he was standing at, "They're into bartering."
"Angel, what are you going to trade?" she asked fearfully, as an ice cold shiver went down her spine.
"My gift," he whispered. He yanked the door open and nearly collided with Cordelia as he hurried out. Buffy called his name out, a weak attempt at screaming, and it propelled him forward. Not speaking to anyone, wincing in pain with every step of his preternatural sprint, he ran into the basement and scrounged until he found a small sculpture he had saved since the turn of the century.
I'd made something that could be mine forever
"You again," the male oracle snorted at Angel's arrival, "Do you not grow weary of coming before us?"
"What have you brought us?" the female oracle asked, her voice always intoning and singing, as though she could release a siren's call of power at any moment. He tossed the sculpture towards her, which she caught, as he knew she would. "Lovely," she murmured, staring at the intricate carving.
"Why are you here, lowering being?" the male asked, ignoring his sister Oracle's new gift.
"I'm here to beg for her life...again," Angel said, eyeing them harshly. He already expected them to say no but he knew he wasn't leave until he got what he came for.
"We have told you before, vampire," the female said, looking up from the sculpture, "It is not our place to grant life or death."
"I ask you to take mine," Angel argued as they started to turn away, echoing his words from before, which caused a twinge of sorrow to hallow through his body, "When Shanshu is given to me, you will again lose a warrior for your cause. If I remain as I am, then I can keep fighting for you."
"As we told you before, lower being," the male announced, "Matters of love do not concern us, even for a Slayer."
"But to have two warriors on your side, instead of losing two!" Angel shouted, "I know you have the power to make this right! Save the Slayer and take my gift or you lose us both. You, yourself, said I was not a lower being. I will give everything to save her."
"What is done cannot be undone," the male said, tipping his head up defiantly, "There is no cure for the Slayer's illness and one life not yet given cannot be traded for a life not yet taken."
"My brother is right," the female said with a sad shake of her head. It was almost as if they *cared,* "We cannot save her. She will have to die. Such is the life of a Slayer."
"You can have my soul!" Angel shouted, his voice breaking as tears streamed down his face. Throwing himself to his knees before them, he begged, "You can have my life. You can have everything. Please."
"There is one way," the male said, seeming to feel the deadly gaze of his sister, "But again, this is not to undertaken lightly."
"I'll take it," Angel shouted, raising his bowed head, "I'll do anything. I'll do anything to save her."
"We cannot take your soul," the woman said, "Just as your leap of faith proved, you must be willing to give of yourself."
"Once you have lost your soul this time, it cannot be returned to you," the male said, "The Romani curse will have no power over what is lost."
"Your soul's essence will cease to exist," the woman whispered, earning a glare from her brother, "in exchange for the Slayer's life. Can she carry that burden?"
"I don't know," he whispered.
"Leave us," the male said, waving his hand.
this point in my life,
"Giles," Angel said, when he entered, ignoring the rest of the room. Buffy was curled up on the couch and he was not at all surprised that she refused to wait upstairs. She looked worse for the wear and it made his decision seal even more firmly in his mind.
"Angel," Buffy whispered, "What did you do?"
"Giles," Angel said, his jaw clenched so tightly to keep his emotions in check that he was shaking. He didn't dare look at Buffy. He couldn't, "Can I speak with you for a moment in private?"
Giles wearily rose to his feet and Buffy's voice, although weakened, took over the room, "No. This is not Giles' choice. This is my choice. Tell me what you did, Angel."
"I went to the Powers that Be," he said, looking at no one, staring at the floor, "I begged the Oracles for your life."
"They barter," Buffy said, lolling her head against the couch, "What did you offer them in exchange? What gift were you talking about?"
"Gift?" Cordelia echoed in confusion and then her eyes widened. Screaming, she continued, "You gave them your SHANSHU!"
"No," Angel said sadly, "They wouldn't take it."
"Shanshu?" Giles echoed.
"Angel," Wesley asked softly. Angel nodded slowly, his eyes flipping to his friend quickly before returning his gaze to the floor. He felt like he was on trial once more.
"Angel breached the law firm, Wolfram and Hart," Wesley said clearly, but sadly, feeling as if he had already lost his friend, "He was drawn to a certain scroll while he was inside and brought it to us. After close inspection, I discovered that he had stolen the prophecies of Aberjian."
"Oh my," Giles said, nodding quickly, "They were written over the last 4,000 years in dozens of languages, yes? They predict the End of Days."
"Quite right. There was an entire passage written about the vampire with a soul, which I deemed to be Phygian in origin," Wesley said, "but it descended from the ancient Magyars. Its root was instead proto-Ugaric-"
"Oh please, get on with it!" Cordelia shouted in exasperation, "It means that Angel will be human."
"What?" Buffy gasped.
"After fighting the End of Days, Angel will be gifted with his humanity," Wesley confirmed with a nod.
"And you tried to give that away?" Buffy asked, closing her eyes for a moment before glaring at Angel, trying to muster as much venom as she could in her slowed words, "And you never even thought to tell me about it? Just thought you would give your life for mine without evening asking me?"
"They wouldn't take it," Angel said, shaking his head, closing his eyes briefly.
"And then they tossed you out?" Cordelia asked hopefully.
"No," Angel said, shaking his head slowly.
"Then what did you do, Angel?" Buffy asked, gripping her quilt tightly in her little fists, "What did you offer them?"
"I gave them my soul," he said, turning to look her in the eye for the first time. She hitched a violent breath and looked into eyes which still clearly held his soul.
"No," she said, her voice cracking as she spoke, "No, you can't do that."
"It's done," he whispered, and then echoed their words lightly, "What's done cannot be undone.'"
"We'll just recurse you then," Buffy announced and then looked over at her best friend, "Will?"
"Sure," Willow said, nodding quickly.
"No," Angel said, "You can't. Not this time."
"Why not?" Buffy demanded.
"Because my soul will cease to exist," Angel whispered. He crossed over to her and dropped to his knees before her.
"No," Buffy whispered, "No, Angel. Please don't do this."
"Don't you see, love?" He whispered, "It's just like the leap of faith. Without you, there is no me."
"You're taking the easy way out," she cried, threading her fingers through his hair and pulling him closer, "You're killing yourself so you don't have to live without me. And then I have to stay here alone."
Everyone but Buffy and Angel noticed when the breath came out of Riley Finn. He sat down heavily on the stairs, looking as if he were the one who was dying.
"You'll take care of them," he whispered, "It's what you were meant to do. I'm just a vampire."
"But, but the prophecy," she argued, glaring at Wesley, "He's like the key guy in the End of Days, right?"
"Yes," Wesley nodded slowly, "He saves the world."
"It's too late," Angel whispered, "It's done."
"When?" Buffy demanded, "We have to stop it!"
"I have to give it freely," he said, and when her eyes widened, he nodded slowly, "And I will."
"I won't do it!" she sobbed, trying to keep her strength up, "I won't. You can't make me."
"Yes, you will," he said softly.
"How can you be so sure?"
"Because you love me," he whispered, "Because you have to live."
"I can't live through him again, Angel," she whispered, "I'll just let him kill me."
"No," he said, "You'll kill me."
"I won't," she said, crossing her arms. Setting her gaze firmly on him, she tried to look strong, but he already knew she would take his soul, but not his life.
"Then Spike will," Angel said, turning to his grande childe, "My childe hates his Sire, don't you, Spikey?"
"Right effin' bastard," Spike said, "And that's saying something coming from me."
"We know," Cordelia groaned.
"You can't beat Angelus," Buffy said, glaring at Spike angrily, "We both know he can take you and he'll remember this conversation."
Spike glanced away quickly and everyone gasped as Angel stood and walked over to him. Weakened, burned and beaten, Angel grabbed his childe by the lapels of his duster and hauled him closer. Switching into game face, he snarled in Spike's face, "You will kill me, childe. You will make sure I'm nothing but dust beneath my lover's feet because I WILL remember this conversation and I will make you pay. Your Sire will torture you for every sidelong glance you took at my *mate,* you turncoat piece of shit. You will pay for every demon you killed, every warrior of darkness you betrayed, every moment you lusted after what is MINE. He will round up Dru and together they'll pry your flesh from your useless bones. Understand?"
"Yes, Sire," Spike whispered.
"Good boy," Angel said, shoving him back and then turned toward Buffy again. Still in game face, he dropped to his knees again, "Let me do this, Buffy. It's the only way."
"It'll be my fault," she whispered, touching his face, "I can't...I can't live with it."
breaks your heart
"Angel," Riley said, grabbing his arm, which was holding Buffy. They were standing at the foot of the stairs, which seemed all of sudden like a long journey. Angel was prepared to set her down and beat the human boy into submission if he had to. Buffy was going to live and if Finn was too thick to realize what was going on, he didn't care.
"You'll need to take care of her when I'm gone," Angel said, eyeing the boy severely.
"I have been taking care of her," Riley said pointedly and then his eyes softened, "But I wanted to thank you for your sacrifice as much as I hate what has to happen first."
Nodding, Angel took another step toward the stairs and then stopped and turned to Spike, "Three hours. That's what you have. I haven't fed and I'm weakened. If you haven't heard from us by then, come upstairs."
"Alright," Spike said, lighting a cigarette. He looked bitterly resigned and hacked off, "I'm going to enjoy shoving a stake into your chest."
"I'll miss you too, Will," Angel said gently. Spike rose from his chair and stalked out of the room, proving to them what he was really feeling. A thunderous crash sounded but no one went to look as Spike tore out the hotel's kitchen in a fit of sorrowful rage.
is the beginning of the end
Angel carried Buffy upstairs, set her gently on the bed, walked to the bathroom, where he could still hear her sobs and started a bath, trying to gauge the right heat of the water for a human. He went back out, picked her up and carried her in there, wishing they weren't both hurt so badly for this final night together, but at the same time, it seemed right that two warriors should be nearly broken at the end of their love affair.
"We're having bath time?" she snapped bitterly as he carried her into the room.
"I'm sorry, love," he whispered, setting her gently on her feet near the wall where she could lean. He unwrapped the quilt from her shoulders and let it drop to her feet before he went about removing his shirt from her body, "I know you'll never forgive me and I can accept that for your life. Let me have these last moments with you, please. I don't want to fight, I just want to love you."
"This is all about what you want," she whimpered, trying to sound strong, but as he unbuttoned the last button and slipped the shirt from her shoulders, letting it drop with a flutter to the tiled bathroom floor, she couldn't find the sternness in her voice. He swept his eyes over her, now clad only in those thong panties and his hands followed his eyes over her narrow hips before he kissed her gently.
"I'm sorry, baby," he whispered against her lips, "I wish I could worship you until the end of time, but I can give you tonight. Will you take it?"
Nodding, more tears slipped over her cheeks. He place kisses in the valley of her breasts and made his way down as he pulled off the wisp of an excuse for panties from her. He lifted one leg then the other as he removed them and then lifted her and set her into the warm bath.
He slowly removed his own clothes, as if he could halt the outcome if he moved slower and climbed into the tub, slipping in behind her. Lathering a washrag with clean, white soap, he washed her whole body gently, sacredly. As he started, he began to whisper in her ear.
"I want to tell you so many things," he said, running the rag over her thigh, holding her leg up out of the water as he caressed her calves and moving to her little feet, grateful he didn't have to look into her eyes, "My whole life I never saw in a single person what I've seen in you. Never has anyone made me want to be good or want to make a difference. The day I saw you standing on the stairs of your High School, drenched in sunlight, I knew that my life would change forever. My whole body filled with light like it never had when I was human. The darkness that I had known moved aside for you.
"All I've wanted since that day was to become something that was worth the love you gave me, the love I didn't deserve. I fought countless demons, staked my own kind, beat down the forces of darkness and it was never for the world as much as it was for you. When I left you, I figured out that the only way to truly deserve you was to let you go."
"I didn't want that," she said, her voice thick with tears she was trying not to shed. She pivoted in the tub, sloshing water over the sides as she looked in his eyes, "I never wanted that. I don't want it now. Angel, there has to be a way. I don't think I can live without you."
"I would do anything to save you, Buffy," he said, "Anything. I'd give my life a thousand times over, I'd go back to Hell just so you could spend another day in the sunshine."
"When you left, I realized how much I could feel you...on the inside," she said, "and when you came in town and left again, I realized that I could still feel you even when you were so far away. When you die, I'll not only lose that, but I know I'll feel it and it'll kill more quickly than this disease ever could."
my true self
Angel gingerly dried them both off and then carried her into the bedroom. After he laid her on the bed, he looked down at her for a long time, just watching her. She stared back, raking her eyes over his naked body, which had already begun to heal, but only slightly since he hadn't bothered to feed.
Finally, he laid down next to her. She was so ashen and every breath seemed to be a struggle. Resolved even more by her astounding beauty when she was so close to death and her weakening body, he pulled her on top of him and let her rest against his chest. She laid there, saying nothing, her cheek over his unbeating heart. He wrapped his arms around her and held her, basking in the glow of her.
"I miss you already," she whispered, lifting her head to look at him, "Funny that this is all I ever wanted, to be in your arms like this."
"Me too," he whispered. He rolled them back over and deposited her against the pillow. Keeping his weight off of her fragile body as much as possible, he looked her directly in the eyes, "I want to make love to you, Buffy, but I won't do it against your will."
"Are you sure you want to do this?" she asked, "We can find another way."
"There's no cure for your illness," he whispered, "I wish there were another way, love."
Sighing in resignation, she whispered, "Make love to me, Angel."
Giving her a sad smile, he kissed her gently, nipping at her lips. A familiar aching pain coursed through his body as he remembered the day that she had forgotten. He remembered all of their other kisses as he traced her lips with his tongue, waiting for her to part them. She did immediately releasing a warm rush of air into his mouth as she exhaled another sorrowful sigh. Intertwining bodies and hands delving into each other's hair, they deepened their kiss, knowing it was taking them a step closer to their last.
She tugged him down so that his weight was resting fully on hers. She didn't want this to be a pampering, him saving her of every painful detail. There was no way that could happen. Not this time. He acquiesced and lowered himself over her, suddenly surrounded by the heat radiating from his tiny Slayer, as if he was wrapped up in her skin. He continued to kiss her as she pressed up against him, trying to get more of him, as if she wanted to crawl inside him.
She wrapped her arms around his neck and even as weak as she was, she still was able to pull him to her more tightly. She felt the flush of arousal filling her body and it made her stronger, like adrenaline was shooting through her. Angel reluctantly pulled himself from her lips to pepper kisses all over her face, her nose, her eyelids and her delicate jaw line. She moaned in pleasure as he made his way to her neck, moving along it in nips, taking in mouthfuls of sweet, warm flesh until he reached his mark on her. Fighting the demon, he clamped his blunt teeth on the raised flesh, knowing that long after he was gone, this would remain. Even when her memory of him had disappeared with old age, this scar would be proof that their love had once had been.
He sucked the flesh into his mouth and she cried out his name, writhing beneath him. Over and over, he dug his blunt teeth into that small piece of skin and then laved it with his tongue. He lost himself in that one part of her until she exploded in ecstasy underneath him.
"I will remember you," she whispered, as if she had read his mind, trying to catch her breath once more, shocked as much as he was that she had climaxed just from him biting that raised skin, "I won't forget."
Stifling a sob, he moved downward, kissing her arms all the way to her fingertips and gliding over her collarbone. She thought he took forever to get to her breasts, hardened to the point of pain, waiting for his attention. He avoided them at first, kissing around them as he caressed the soft undersides of her full breasts. Finally, he tentatively lapped the tight point of her right breast as his thumb caressed the left and she cried out, pressing herself harder against him. Urged on, he sucked it into his mouth, lashing his tongue over the pebbled nipple for long moments until he moved to the other.
"Angel," she cried out, tears streaming down her cheeks in pleasure and pain, "please."
"I want to make it last," he whispered, moving over her ribs, kissing each inch of her torso, taking each patch of flesh into his mouth.
"Make it last forever," she forced out on a hitched breath. Growling against her belly, he took a deep breath, breathing her in and looking up at her, his eyes flashed golden.
"If I could, my love," he growled, as he resumed his journey over her body. He made a trail over her legs to her toes, sucking each one in his mouth before making his way to the other foot and back up her slender leg. Opening her legs, he kissed the flesh of her soft inner thighs, alternating in his worship.
Sliding up, he smiled at her exposed sex, glistening with her arousal for him. The fragrance of her lust was intoxicating his intensified vampiric senses and he groaned in pleasure. Lowering his mouth to her, he glanced up at her before focusing himself on tasting and pleasing her. Her mewls of desire grew louder as his tongue traced the contours of her, lapping at her flesh. He pressed two fingers into her slick passage and growled in need as her inner muscles clamped around his fingers. She pulled his head against her as he sucked her swollen flesh into his mouth. Both cried out in unison as she came, a wrenching release of the years they were forced apart.
Angel made his way back up her body and kissed her passionately, sucking her tongue roughly into his mouth as he realized that they were both shaking. He entered her slowly, meshing their bodies together fully. He cradled her head in one hand as he pulled her mouth to his once more, moving achingly slowly inside of her.
"I feel you," they said in at the same time, the sentence an erupting gasp of pleasure, moving harder against each other.
"Inside," Buffy gasped.
"God, you're so..." Angel managed to cry out as he felt her inside and out, her love exploding inside of him, all over him, streaking in his veins as if he had drank every essence of her soul.
"Beautiful," Buffy finished, raising her hips to take more of him. Her fingers curled into his shoulders, holding on to him more tightly. Moving more urgently, taking each other in, heart, soul and flesh they merged and slipped against each other.
As their passion culminated, they went over the edge together, crashing in a torrent of pleasure so unbearable, it was painful. The world blackened out around them and they screamed in double doses of pain and ecstasy. Angel was sure his soul couldn't wait this time for the aftermath like it had before. The pain shooting through his body crashed right into his mate.
"ANGEL!" Buffy screamed as she not only saw, but felt his soul leave his body, "NOOOOO!"
"BUFFY!" he screamed back, the scorch of his exiting soul coming at him from inside and out. He shook his head to clear it, because he thought it was coming from her as well.
"I love you," she wept, holding him to her tightly, "Please don't leave me, Angel. Staystaystaystay."
"I love you," he croaked back, "Don't....want...to...leave...you."
The wave of pain increased in its intensity and they clutched each other, their fingers digging into each other's skin in an attempt to hold on to what was leaving. Gasping for breaths, they waited, clinging, until the pain was gone. Buffy didn't make a move to scramble away as she waited to meet his eyes. A peace had fallen over her and her lover.
They stared at each other for long moments in silence, both afraid to speak. They were awash in each other emotions. Buffy could feel Angel's soul leave his body just as clearly as she felt his skin against hers. She now knew what kind of pain he felt every time it happened and yet he sat there in front of her, very clearly souled. The waves she felt of his emotions hadn't stopped. They were growing stronger the longer they sat there.
"Angel," she whispered, "W-what happened? Is your soul inside of me?"
"I don't know," he said, looking at her, "I think your soul is inside of me. I felt you...tear, like you tore in half inside your heart."
"I felt your soul leave," she whispered back, "I felt it, like it was me. I felt what you were feeling."
"Me too," he said, "I felt you. I still do. You aren't hurt...you're cured, aren't you?"
Focusing on herself for the first time, she smiled and nodded. Tears streamed from her eyes as she realized that wherever it had gone, Angel had stayed. Flipping them with her new strength, she pinned him to the bed and rained kisses on him.
"You stayed," she cheered, "You didn't leave me."
"I did," he said, nodding dazedly, "I just don't know how."
been having dreams and visions
Buffy and Angel dressed slowly and walked out of the room hand in hand, feeling as they never had before. It was almost as if they would still feel each other if they traveled to separate ends of the planet and it was exhilarating...and confusing.
Buffy perked with the knowledge of being stalked just as they stepped into the hallway. It was more than her usual instincts, stronger. Sniffing the air, she dropped Angel's hand and pivoted. Both of their legs flew out together, striking down the figure behind him.
"Bloody hell!" Spike swore as he pulled himself to his feet, "Did both of you lose your bloody soul this time?"
"Actually..." Angel said, looking at Buffy and quirking a half smile.
"Yes," they said, nodding with twin, silly smiles. Joining hands once more, they descended the stairs with a very confused blonde vampire stomping behind them. They looked around at the Scoobies and AI Teams that waited for them in muted silence. The group looked exhausted, apprehensive and afraid, while Buffy and Angel looked confused, pleased and rumpled.
"Buffy," Giles said, seeing that she was healed, "You've regained your strength that quickly?"
"Yes," Buffy answered with a slight smile. In fact, she couldn't stop smiling as Angel led her to the couch and sat down. Knowing what he wanted, she climbed into his lap and leaned in his embrace.
"But Angel, you didn't lose your soul?" Giles asked in confusion.
"No, I think I did," he said, with a perplexed look on his face. Glancing at Buffy, he asked, "Don't you think I did?"
"Yes," she whispered, "I felt it go."
"I'm sorry," Willow said, "You didn't feel it last time, did you?"
"No," Buffy said, struggling to explain what they felt, "I think that we joined somehow, like half of me went into him when his left."
"Intriguing," Wesley said, stepping closer, "You think that the two of you are actually sharing a soul?"
Smiling at each other and then the room, they nodded.
"So, can you like read each other's minds and stuff?" Willow asked excitedly.
"Not really," Angel said, "It's more emotional."
"Empathic," Giles murmured.
"It's amazing," they said at the same time and then lost themselves in laughter. When their delight died down, Buffy glanced over at Giles, who was lost in thought, holding his glasses loosely in his hand.
"Giles?" she questioned.
"Leap of Faith," he murmured, flipping the tome in front of him, "it makes perfect sense, you see. Angel took the leap of faith, yet reaped no reward for his efforts. The Powers could not bind your soul to you, Angel, without altering the balance of things."
"Ya lost me at leap,' Buffy said, scrunching her face in confusion. She glanced at her mate who seemed lost in thought as well. She sort of wished she could read his mind, but she was blessed with his emotions, which felt like a bubble inside her, rising with hope maybe for the future.
"The Powers That Be," Giles explained, "They couldn't save Angel's soul and they couldn't give him another. They couldn't save you and yet they couldn't let you die. They told Angel to give his soul freely because once it was gone, the two of you could share yours. He leapt, Buffy, and they had no choice but to provide the reward for his faith."
"So you think we're really sharing my soul?" Buffy asked in wonderment.
"It appears to be the case," Giles said, nodding.
Squealing in happiness, Buffy wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him with delight, "You can't get away from me now, mister."
"Not like I ever really wanted to escape," he said, with a twinkle in his eyes.
A shuffling on the other side of the room, took their attention from each other and they saw that Riley was pulling himself to his feet and heading toward the door. He cursed silently when he saw that they spotted him. He was hoping for a quick exit.
"Riley," Buffy said, standing up quickly. She didn't look at Angel as she moved toward him. It was a peaceful feeling to know that Angel felt what she felt, knew what she was doing, that he understood that she needed to tell her now ex-boyfriend goodbye.
"It's okay," he said, "I've known for a long time that you could never love me, Buffy. I just...hoped I was wrong."
"I'm sorry," she said, grabbing his hand, "I didn't want to hurt you."
"I know," he said. Leaning in, he kissed her cheek quickly and then caressed the place he kissed, "If you ever need me, I'll be there for you."
"Ditto," she said but she wasn't sure if he heard her as he quickly left the room. Turning around, she looked around the room at all the people who loved her and then focused on Angel again. Meeting his eyes for a second, she turned to Giles.
"I'm not coming home, Giles," she said.
"I think you are home," Giles said softly as he watched his Slayer and adopted daughter rush into the arms of her lover. It's a strange feeling, one of loss and happiness at the same time. Clearing his throat and gathering his things to hide the mistiness that was starting in his eyes, he said, "Come on, children. We probably should be heading back."
The End! Please let me know what you thought of this!