Part Ten "Memories"
FEEDBACK: Thank you to everyone who has give me such wonderful feedback on this fic! Fluff soon I PROMISE! And if I haven't gotten back to your email yet, I will very soon. I truly appreciate everyone's comments!
LYRICS: All lyrics are from the Cure.
AN: Sorry this took so long to get out. I was suffering from major writer's block. Hopefully, the last few parts of the story will make up for it.
feel like being eaten by a thousand
Angel was drinking again. Sitting in his apartment with Buffy asleep in bed, he sat in the studio, downing whiskey at an alarming rate while he reflected on the past twenty-four hours. The car ride home had been a shouting match that escalated to screaming. She insisted that he let Ford go and he suggested that they toss his sorry ass off the side of the mountain while there was still a high enough cliff to kill him.
"Let him go," she had said finally in voice that left no room for arguments, "Or I will go straight to the police and turn both of you in for my kidnapping and his."
"You can't be serious," he groaned, fighting the urge to pound his head on the steering wheel, "Buffy, he DRUGGED you!"
"And I will leave town," she said quietly, looking out of the window as she spoke, "I'll get on the next plane and I won't tell you or anyone else where I'm going."
"I'm serious," she said, "He's a person. He might be a horrible person, but he is a person. Let him go or you won't see me again unless I regain my memory...and even then I can't promise I'll come home."
"I'll make a deal with you," he said, "Let me take you to the hospital to get your side looked at and promise me you will move back in the apartment until you regain your memory and then I let that jackass go."
"One night," she said, "I'll stay one night and no hospital."
"Hospital," he said firmly, "We go to the hospital and you stay for two weeks."
"No hospital and two days," she huffed, crossing her arms and refusing to meet his gaze. Instead she stared out the window, focusing on the passing scenery.
"No hospital, four days and I'll let him go," he grumbled, "And if you're still hurt, I'm dragging you kicking and screaming to the hospital."
Now, hours later, she was sleeping in their bed and he was sitting in the studio staring at that painting he had done of her when she still loved him. His eyes caressed the representation of her sated body, still glowing from his kisses. She had a little half smile on her face as she slept, dreaming the dreams of a woman in love.
She whimpered in her sleep and he took another drink, scowling as he swallowed. Her whimpers grew louder and more frequent but he stayed where he was. He couldn't stand the thought of going in there and looking down on her while she was in pain. He couldn't bear the idea that he had to spend one more night without his true love. Mostly, he couldn't believe that he had actually told Lindsey to let Ford go.
He bent and picked up a paint brush and ran his fingers along the edge of the bristles. The feel seemed foreign to him. It had been so long since he had even touched one or thought about making one swipe of color on an empty canvas. Sighing, he set down his drink, struggled slowly to his feet and arranged his supplies. He stood for a long time, staring at the empty canvas, trying to decide what to paint. The longer he stared, the more it wouldn't come and he knew that thinking about it was the problem.
She cried out his name from the bedroom but he stayed put. Instead of running to her side, he refilled his glass. He was going to cuddle with the only sure warmth in the apartment - alcohol and memories. Closing his eyes momentarily from the painful whimpers coming from her, he went to work.
As he worked, her sobbing ebbed through him, meshing sorrow with his paints, lacing fear on the canvas. He tried to remember her smile, her laughter and the love in her eyes, but the memories always shifted to the blank, cold look she had taken on. He shivered as he continued. The idea of living with their memories alone was frightening. A couple of months ago, he knew he had found the woman of his dreams and now he had no idea how to get her back.
He thought back on the night he asked her to marry him. She had been so beautiful and so forgiving for his jumpiness. He had been a nervous wreck, carrying that ring in his pocket for hours, carefully planning the suave, romantic evening and promising himself that he wouldn't lose his mind if she said no. He lurked around the apartment as she got ready for the romantic evening he had planned. He remembered her asking him to zip up the back of her dress and nearly ripping it as he struggled with the tiny, delicate zipper.
"What's the matter with you?" she had asked, turning around and grabbing his shaking hands, "Did something happen today?"
"No," he said, gulping and losing himself in her eyes. He was always taken by the power she wielded without even realizing it. She looked up at him questioningly and smoothed her hand over his cheek, searching his face, which was filled with more fear than if someone had a gun pressed to his head.
"What is it?" she prodded gently. Her other hand rested on his hip, squeezing gently as he stood rigidly still before her as if she were trying to physically press the answer from him.
"N-nothing. Are you ready to go?," he said, attempting to turn away. She caught him and gripped his upper arms, "I'm not going anywhere until you tell me why you're acting like a freak. What's wrong with you, Angel?"
"I love you, Buffy," he said more shakily than he had the first time he uttered those words to her, "I never want to lose you."
"You won't," she said, red lips slipping into a slow smile, "But what does that have to do with the way you're acting?"
"I planned all this perfectly," he said, prying her fingers from his arms before moving across the room to reach into the pocket of his leather jacket, "I had the dinner planned and the romantic stroll afterwards."
She watched him as he stalked back across the room, managing to look graceful even when he was covered with apprehension.
"I was going to get down on one knee," he said, lowering himself before her and opening the blue velvet box with shaking fingers, "And ask you to be my wife."
Her hand flew to her mouth and her eyes filled with tears as she looked at the offered symbol before her. She reached slowly out to touch the ring with her other hand as if she wanted to make sure that it was really there. He waited as her silence filled their bedroom and began to take root in his soul.
"I love you, Buffy. I want to spend the rest of my life with you," he whispered through weighted silence, "Will you marry me?" His resolve was waning as she looked into his eyes and he made himself wait there until she answered. He actually was beginning to think he would be knelt there all night and reduced to begging her to agree. There was no way this little blonde goddess would consent to his forever, but then she spoke in a choked whisper, "Yes."
"Yes?" he echoed in confusion. Surely she hadn't just agreed. He had already prepared the second part of the night where he consoled himself with the fact that she had refused him after hours of pleading.
"Yes," she confirmed slipping to her knees as well and pressing her lips against his. He wrapped his arms around her, still holding the ring and returned her kiss.
As he painted, he almost smiled at the memory. They had made love there on the floor of their bedroom and never made it to dinner or the romantic stroll or anywhere else. Hours later, they had rooted around on the floor looking for the ring, which had been tossed aside during their lovemaking. When he finally placed it on her finger, the sunrise was just contemplating its arrival. The sky was beginning to light up but the sun had not yet shone even a slice of her face.
He reached down and gathered the chain he wore around his neck. Looking over the ring for a moment, he wondered if she would ever remember that night they spent reaffirming their love and promising forever. He tried to convince himself that she would wear that ring again, that she would love him again but he couldn't be sure. Right then, she was whimpering in her sleep and he was in a separate room clinging to something that no longer existed.
He dropped the ring and it bounced against his chest as he moved forward to paint once more. Bitterly, he swiped at the canvas, letting his irritation come out in paint. If she never loved him again, he knew that he would never recover. He would become a shadow of the person he had been even before he met her and he would be lost.
could give you the wrong lines
Billy Fordham limped into his apartment and looked around at the sparse decorations of a man who had never intended to stay. He lowered himself into a chair and looked around, cursing his stupidity. He had truly thought that Buffy would stop loving Angel with the help of Penn, Darla and Jhiera and she would fall in love with him. He had so many plans to move her from LA and all it's pretenses. The dreams of whisking her away to the East Coast had seemed so lifelike that it had never occurred to him that they would never happen.
"Did you tell him?" Jhiera said, waltzing through the front door.
"No," he muttered, not bothering to look up at her. He wasn't surprised at all that she was waiting for him, nor that she didn't care that he was obviously beaten and kidnaped. Jhiera was always more concerned with the big picture, "But I'm going to."
"He beat a conscience into you?" she asked, settling onto the couch and looking over his bruised face with disinterest.
"I need your help, Jhiera," he said, "I have to get the drug from Penn and Darla tonight."
"What's in it for me?" she asked with a cold smile.
"I'll do whatever you want," he said, "But if she doesn't get her memory back soon, the damages will be irreversible and I can't lose her. Not like this."
"Why would I help you?" she asked, rephrasing the same question, "Buffy is not what I've invested my time in."
"Angel will be destroyed by this," he said, shaking his head and regretting the movement, "He won't be the guy you want. I'm not sure he'll ever be that guy again."
"Dramatic, aren't we?"
"He's losing it," he said, rubbing his swollen jaw, "And it's just a matter of time before he snaps. Help me. Fuck, baby, help him."
"What do you want to do?" she sighed.
try and laugh about it
Angel had resolved to paint and brood until the sun rose. He had promised himself that he would not run in when she cried out, but when her whimpers turned to screams, he unsteadily ran to the bedroom.
"ANGEL!" Buffy screamed as he arrived at the door. She was thrashing on the bed so violently, he was sure she would crack a rib, if she hadn't already. Rushing over and nearly tripping on the area rug next to the bed, he sat down and grabbed her shoulders to calm her but she bucked away, choking on her screams. Angel fought his tiny ex-lover as her fists beat against his chest, "LET ME GO! ANGEL! Please come back! I love you!"
He let go of her at her last words as if the syllables had pierced his skin. The sound her voice saying those three words, even while sleeping, punctured his soul. He wanted so much to believe that she meant it, but he knew that the only thing that loved him were memories and nightmares.
He remembered this dream, even though he hadn't experienced it himself. It was the reaction she had to the dreams in the beginning when she still was his, when he was still part human, part sane. She curled in a ball and scooted away, wincing from the pain in her side. She balled the blanket in her little hands and sobbed against the pillow. He watched for long moments as the tears rolled over her cheeks and splattered on the pillowcase.
"Angel," she cried, chest heaving in ragged breaths, "Don't leave me. I love you. I love you, Angel."
"Buffy," he finally whispered, reaching across the bed to wipe her tears away gently, even as his own welled in his eyes, "Wake up, love. It's a dream."
"It was a dream," he whispered, "Just another bad dream."
"You left me," she said, shifting to move her head in his lap. She clutched the hand that smoothed over her shoulder so tightly it was painful and he relished the feeling of it. The pain was better than no warmth from her at all.
"I'll never leave you," he said, bending kissing her forehead, "Even if you never remember loving me, I'll stay."
She snuggled closer and he watched as she fell back into her slumber. He doubted she would remember this exchange in the morning, but he didn't care. She had said she loved him again and the voice was of the woman he loved, not of this new creature who wore her face.
i forget to move when my mouth is this dry
"Did Lindsey beat the shit out of you again before he let you go?" Angel asked, looking over Ford at his open doorway, "And what the hell are you doing here?"
"Here," Ford said, thrusting a small black pouch into Angel's hands, "It's the antidote."
"Antidote?" Angel asked blankly, opening the pouch to reveal a small vial and a syringe.
"Yes," Ford nodded, leaning heavily on the doorframe and wincing as he did, "She will never remember without it."
"Do you really think I'm that fucking stupid?" Angel demanded quietly, trying not to wake her, "For all I know this is the same thing you were giving her before. This could kill her!"
"It won't," Ford answered, "I'm in love with her. I wouldn't poison her."
"Right," Angel spat, "You're in love with her. That's why you've been screwing with her mind and pumping her with drugs. Remind again why I haven't killed you."
"Because you need me. Without me, she'll never remember," he said, taking a deep breath, "They lied to me. They told me the drug would make her forget you. I didn't know that this would happen. I would have never agreed to help them if I knew."
"Darla and Penn?" Angel asked.
"Do they know you took this?" Angel asked, narrowing his eyes, "Are they in on it?"
"No," he answered, "They're dead."
Part Eleven "Ghosts from the Past"
leave you with photographs
"Dead?" Angel echoed, numbly. He stepped aside and gestured for Ford to enter, "I want to hear the whole story."
"Did someone break in here or what?" Ford asked, stepping over broken objects and things scattered all over the floor.
"I'm sure you didn't come over here to criticize my housekeeping," Angel said as he sat down in his leather chair and waited for Ford to sit down before continuing, "How did Darla and Penn die?"
"After Lindsey dropped me off, I went back to my apartment to think about what to do next and...a friend stopped by."
"I know you're working with Jhiera," Angel said evenly, "And don't leave out any details."
"Okay," Ford said, after a moment of shocked silence, "Jhiera came by and I asked her to help me help Buffy. We knew the antidote was at Darla's house and we knew that she wouldn't just hand it over. So we went over and waited for her and Penn to go to bed-"
"Penn's sleeping with Darla?" Angel asked, and then quickly added, "Never mind. Doesn't matter. Keep going."
"Then we broke
in," he said, taking a deep breath, "I bumped into a table and
knocked a sculpture to the floor. It was one of yours, I think. Anyway,
it broke and we hurried to get the antidote and get out but they woke
up and came downstairs."
"I know," Angel answered, narrowing his eyes at the thought of Darla. There weren't words to describe his hatred for her, "But how did they die? What happened?"
"Another woman showed up and demanded the antidote," he said, "She shot Penn when he tried to attack her and then Darla started shooting at her. They ran around the house, opening fire and someone called the police. Jhiera and I were trapped there, tied to chairs. The girl got away and I didn't know she killed Darla until the police came in."
"Who was she?" Angel asked, scooting forward and leaning his elbows on his knees as he listened intently.
"Buffy's sister," Ford stammered after a moment. He stuck his hands in the pockets of his jacket when he realized they were shaking and looked back up at Angel.
"Buffy doesn't have a sister," Angel said slowly, "She died in a car accident with her mother."
"No," Ford said, "Faith's alive and she nearly beat the shit out of me tonight for the antidote. Believe me, she is alive. Very alive and pissed."
"Where is she now?" Angel demanded, "How did she get away?"
"She's in the hallway," Ford said as he nodded toward the door. Angel stood and hurriedly crossed the room, opening the door to find a beautiful young woman leaning casually against the wall. How she was Buffy's sister was beyond him. They were complete opposites.
"That's me," she said, rising to her full height, "Mind if I come in?"
"Sure," Angel said, clearly confused as he watched her sashay into his apartment.
"I can see why she likes you," Faith said seductively, sizing Angel up before glancing over at Ford, "Much better than that piece of shit."
"How did you...I mean Buffy thinks..."
"Yeah," Faith nodded, "Buffy thinks I'm dead. Well, I'm not, cause check it out."
"How did you..." Angel repeated. He was shocked at both her appearance and her carriage. She carried herself like a predator, both lethal and frightening. Everything she did carried with it the fragrance of sex and death, a quality Angel hadn't seen in a person since his life on the streets. She took in her surroundings but was so nonchalant about it that the casual observer wouldn't think she even cared about where she was.
"Look," Faith said, plopping down in his leather chair, "I'll make this quick because I don't have a lot of time. After the car accident, I was offered an opportunity that I couldn't pass up, but I couldn't have contact with my family. Uncle Ripper knows I'm alive, but he's the only one. He called me when all this shit happened with B and I came home since you obviously were jacking things up. Sometimes you just need a woman to get things done. Now, did dumbass over there give you the antidote?"
"Yeah," Angel said, scrutinizing the dark haired girl, "But why should I trust you? You might not even be Faith."
"Have you seen pictures of me and my sister?"
"So?" Angel didn't care if she looked like the girl in the pictures. Hell, he didn't care if she was Buffy's identical twin. He was not going to trust anyone with her again. Ever.
"Call Giles if you don't believe me."
went away alone
It was a long night. Angel called and talked to Giles, who confirmed Faith's identity with a little surprise that she actually revealed herself. Ford took the first opportunity to bolt. He looked as if he knew his days were numbered and couldn't wait to get away from Faith and Angel. As Ford made a beeline for the door, having done what he came to do, Angel stopped him, gathering a handful of his shirt and hauling him close.
"You touch her again, I'll fucking kill you," Angel snarled, "I don't care if I have to go to jail, the memory of watching the life drain from you will be enough to wile away the dull hours in jail."
"You'll have to get in line after Faith," Ford said, shivering slightly before twisting his way out of Angel's grasp and stumbling through the door.
As soon as Ford walked out, Angel was on the phone to Gunn, who confirmed that they would follow him. A call to Willow was also part of the evening's festivities. Willow, being the best friend that she is, crawled out of bed and met Angel to study the antidote. Faith stayed to watch over her sister as he waited for Willow to identify the fluid in the syringe. He felt bad for how abrupt he was with Willow. Especially considering she got up in the middle of the night to help him, but he didn't like the idea of leaving Buffy alone, even for a minute, even with her sister.
"So?" Faith said, when he came back into the apartment, "It's a go?"
"I guess," Angel said doubtfully, "Willow said that the compound isn't poison and isn't likely to hurt her. I guess it's worth trying."
"How long until it kicks in?"
"Ford didn't say," Angel said, "It took several hours for the other one to set in but she's been drugged so much, I don't know how long it'll take."
"Call Giles when it does," she said, moving toward the exit.
"Are you going to tell Buffy you were here?"
"Yeah," she said, appearing mildly irritated by the question, "Now that I blew it to you, I'm sure I don't have a choice. I know you'll tell her anyway. You're obviously one of those can't-keep-a-secret-from-my-fiancé types."
"What about your...uh...career?"
"Don't know," she said, "I'm going to try and salvage it. We'll have to see what my little trip away has done to it."
"What about the people you killed?" Angel asked, feeling slightly intimated by the girl, which was strange for him. Normally, no one made him feel uneasy but she possessed such a dangerous, sexual quality, it made him fidgety.
"No big deal," she shrugged, turning the doorknob, "They won't trace it back to me. They can't. I'm dead."
"Why did you come back?"
"Buffy's the only thing on this planet I give a shit about," she said in an icy, murderous tone, "And no one fucks with my sister." And then she was gone.
stop and kneel beside you
Buffy woke up just as the sun was peaking into the windows, stretching through the bedroom like a curious cat. She rose with it and looked around expecting to find Angel there with her. When she didn't find him, tears sprang to her eyes. He did leave her. It wasn't a dream. She sat up quickly and grabbed her side, looking down in surprise at the pain she felt there. Carefully, she gathered the material of her shirt and pulled it aside to stare in confusion at the large bruise decorating her side. As she was inspecting her mysterious bruise, she noticed her engagement ring was missing.
She allowed the tears to fall as she stood. He really did leave her. She picked her way carefully through the cluttered apartment trying to remember what happened and coming up with nothing. Each step caused her more confusion. Did someone break in? Did Angel do this when he left? Did she? Their things were strewn all over the place, some broken and some just tossed aside. The living room was just as bad as the bedroom and Angel was nowhere to be seen.
"He left me," she said out loud, announcing her loss to the room as she lowered herself into his leather chair. She stared out the window for a moment as the shock set in before her body was racked with sobs. He had left all his paintings, all his things. He couldn't even stand to be around her long enough to take anything with him. She struggled to remember what happened as she wept. She hadn't actually slept with Ford, had she? All she could see in her mind's eye was Angel's face twisted in contempt and disgust as he walked away. She shuddered at the memory of opening her eyes to look into the eyes of her lover and finding Ford there instead of Angel. She rubbed her bare ring finger as her sobbing became more violent.
"Buffy?" Angel said as he appeared at the door between the studio and the living room.
She gasped in shock at the sight of him. He looked like he hadn't shaved, slept or showered in days. His hair was standing up in more disarray than usual and his eyes were red rimmed and blood shot. He didn't look at all surprised to see her crying. In fact, he looked as if he expected it.
"What is it? What's wrong?" he asked, leaning heavily against the door, "Did you have another bad dream?"
"Angel," she whispered, staying in the chair as if she was afraid he would disappear if she moved, "A-are you leaving me?"
"Leaving you?" he asked numbly. His mind raced as his heart started to pound. It had only been a couple of hours. There was no way the drug could have kicked in already.
"My ring is missing," she explained, holding her left hand up for him to see, "My ring is missing and I woke up and you were gone-"
"Buffy," he said firmly, interrupting her. He stood there for a long moment and looked into her eyes, searching. Finally, he took a deep breath and closed his eyes before asking, "Do you love me?"
"I didn't do it," she whimpered, "Angel, I swear, I didn't."
"Buffy," he repeated, opening his eyes, but holding his breath, "Do. You. Love. Me."
"Yes," she gasped. He was shaking as he crossed the room and knelt before the chair. He grabbed her shoulders and pulled her so that she was bending forward, looking directly in his eyes.
"Say it," he whispered, "Say the words."
"I love you, Angel," she answered, blinking in confusion, "I love you. Do you...do you still love me?"
"My whole life," he answered, "I've never loved anything else." Angel lowered his head to her lap and wept like a child. Sobs wracked through his large frame as he clung to her.
i got so scared
It took hours to explain to Buffy what had happened in the space of time that she had lost. She was pretty sure that if someone other than Angel had been telling her this story, she wouldn't be willing to believe it. How could she possibly be missing a month of time? After an exhausting morning, he fell asleep holding her, clutching her against him with dear life.
She finally wiggled her way out of his embrace, kissed him gently and set about cleaning up the mess he'd made in the apartment. If their things strewn about the apartment weren't a sure sign on his sorrow, then the painting she came across in the studio certainly was. She sat down in the only chair in the room and pulled her knees to her chest as she stared at his work.
The canvas was a splattering of emotion, unlike any of his other paintings. The entire canvas was misery personified, swirling madness and choking despair and in the center was her face. She shuddered to look at herself. Her eyes were devoid of emotion and cold, so cold she was sure she had never had that expression. In the corner of the painting was a small speck that seemed to seep into the hysterical paint, leaking into the chaos. She stepped closer and got on her tiptoes to see if she could make it out. The bit of hope in the corner was the diamond from her engagement ring, so small she could barely make it out but emitting so much bright light that she could see it was killing the darkness.
She turned and headed back into the bedroom and looked down on him, still troubled even in his sleep. She sat down beside him and smoothed her hand over his brow. She sat there for a long time, looking down on the man she loved, trying to figure out how she would have lasted that month thinking he didn't love her anymore.
She wasn't sure how long she sat there before a knock sound and she quietly shut the bedroom door behind her as she went to answer the front door. When she opened it, her hand flew to her mouth in shock and she gasped, "Faith."
"Hey B," she replied gently, stepping an inch closer to her sister.
Try not to fall over that cliff. (Right, tram?) LOL. TBC...Please feedback!
Part 12, Prodigal Sibling"
you make me feel like i'm living on the edge of the world
She wasn't sure how long she sat there before a knock sound and she quietly shut the bedroom door behind her as she went to answer the front door. When she opened it, her hand flew to her mouth in shock and she gasped, "Faith."
"Hey B," she replied gently, stepping an inch closer to her sister.
"Y-you're dead," Buffy choked as her sister stepped inside the front door, which Buffy stilled held loosely between her fingertips as if it were proof that she wasn't imagining this. Her sister was there. She was standing there alive and breathing.
"No," Faith answered, shaking her dark head with regret, almost as if she wished she were. She pulled the door from Buffy and swung it closed, turning to face her ashen sibling.
"But...the accident," Buffy stammered, "They found your...your body."
"They found a body. Not mine." Faith waited, following Buffy to the couch and sank in next to her shaken sister.
"You've been alive all this time," Buffy asked, staring at her like she was sprouting a third eye in the center of her forehead, "and you didn't even care enough to tell me?"
"I couldn't tell you," Faith whispered back, shrinking under the hurt gaze of the only person alive who could reduce her to caring, "I love you, Buffy. You're my sister...but..."
"But what?" Buffy said, spitting out the words, "It seemed okay to leave me all alone? I was destroyed by losing the two closest people to me in the world! Where have you been?"
"It's a long story."
"I've got time," Buffy huffed, crossing her arms. Tears were shimmering in her eyes, but she wouldn't let them fall. She was torn between the traumatic loss of her sister and the anger she felt with her return. She wanted nothing more that to pull her into her arms and cry away the time she was gone, but not until she had the truth.
"I was offered a job," Faith started, staring at her hands for a moment before she got up to pace. She couldn't handle the hurt coming from the those hazel eyes. It was so much easier when Buffy thought she was dead. She knew Buffy could love the memory but the person was so much worse than what she remembered, "It was a once in a lifetime deal because the world had to think I was dead for it to work. They were there so quickly, I thought maybe they had planned the whole thing. Maybe they did. They pried me from the wreckage before the ambulance came and left another body in it's place. It was so...mangled, it could have been me."
"Where did they take you?"
"I don't know. They locked me in a room and nursed me back to health and for a long time I didn't know where I was or how to get home," she pleaded, dropping to her knees in front of her sister and grabbing her hands, "I wanted to come home, B. I tried. I fought and screamed, but they wouldn't let me. They told me Mom died and they told me about the job. After a while, I knew I couldn't come home even if I wanted to."
"Why not?" Buffy asked gently, "I would have been here for you."
"Because of what I do," Faith answered, yanking her hands away from Buffy's.
"W-what do you do?"
"I can't tell you."
Buffy stared at her and stiffened. Couldn't tell her? Faith always told her everything, especially when she didn't want to know. The possibilities of her sister's new job sent chills running up and down her spine, "Why did you come back?"
"Because I found out you were being drugged," Faith explained angrily, "And I couldn't stand the idea of someone hurting you. So, I came back. I got the antidote and made Ford give it to Angel."
A moment of shocked silence followed, until Buffy asked quietly, "Are you going back?"
"I don't know. It depends..."
"On you," Faith whispered, her face twisting into tearful sorrow, "If you can f-forgive me, then maybe I don't have to go back. Maybe I can stay...with you."
"Of course I forgive you," Buffy said, pulling herself to her feet and crossing the room to pull her crumbling sibling into her arms, "You know I'll always forgive you."
With Buffy's arms around her, she was finally able to let go of all the anguish she had carried around with her since she left. As she sobbed in the safety of her sister's arms, she could almost forget all those horrible things she had done. Buffy always brought peace to her tumultuous life. Faith was always the tough one, the bitch, the easy one. She wouldn't let anyone reduce her to emotions, but Buffy, with all her patience and sweetness could bring that humanity out. She could reduce Faith to those emotions with just a glace of disapproval.
Buffy held her for a long time, rubbing her back as she unleashed, shedding silent tears with her. Finally, they lowered themselves to the floor as Faith wiped her eyes. She looked up and shrugged in traditional Faith fashion, as if to ask what's next.
"Well, I'm still going to be pissed off at you," Buffy said, drawing her knees to her chest, "And eventually, I want to hear everything."
"Buffy, I don't think I can ever tell you some things."
"You'll tell me," Buffy said, flashing her sister a confident, mocking smile, "Someday, you'll tell me."
"Whatever," Faith said, rolling her eyes even as breathed a sigh of relief and scrambled to her feet. Buffy forgave her and she could give a damn about everything else. The whole world could go fuck itself as far as she was concerned.
"Are you better now?" Buffy asked, looking over her carefully, as she climbed to he feet as well.
"You know me, B," Faith piped, putting back on her usual attitude as wiped her tears away, "I'm five by five."
"There's the bitch I know," Buffy said, laughing.
you falling into my arms
Angel woke up feeling like hell. His head was pounding from drinking enough the night before to take out a small community and his whole body ached. He turned over and looked at the spot in bed where Buffy used to sleep and groaned before heading to the shower. Maybe he had imagined the night before with Ford, Faith and Buffy. He stumbled to the shower and promised himself that when he walked out of the bedroom to find her that he wouldn't be destroyed when she still didn't remember. He rubbed the ring hanging from the chain around his neck before stepping into the warm spray.
Once he had dried off and shaved, he stepped into a pair of jeans and forced himself to smile as he buttoned them. They were worn and old, but he'd kept them because they were Buffy's favorite for some strange reason. He heard music coming from the living room and shook his head to clear the emotion from it. He wouldn't believe she was back until he saw her. He couldn't get his hopes up only to have them shattered under her little, perfect feet.
He stopped in the center of the living room and stared incredulously as Buffy and Faith sat on the couch together. They were laughing and not just little giggles, but loud, stomach grabbing guffaws. Tears were streaming from Buffy's eyes as she forced words out of her mouth, "And then you went up to him at the dance..."
"And told him," Faith said, falling back on the couch, "in front of his date that the disease would...."
Angel watched, missing the rest of the memory as Faith and Buffy both lost themselves in laughter. A smile tugged at him until he almost started laughing with them. It was the cutest thing he had ever seen and for the first time, he had an idea that Faith may actually be a human being with emotions. He leaned against the doorway, watching their laughter die down and disappear into the thumping beat coming from the stereo.
Realizing he wasn't wearing a shirt, he started back into the bedroom when he heard her voice, "Angel!" He turned back around and faced her, shoving his hands in his pockets. She balanced on her tiptoes to give him a kiss and he leaned down into it. She smoothed her hands on his sides and then tugged him further into the room, oblivious to his bare chest.
"I was just going to put a shirt," Angel whispered against her neck.
"I wanted you to see my sister! You've met her already, right?" Buffy asked, nodding at the girl, who was now nervously standing next to the couch.
"Yeah," he answered, "Hello Faith."
"Hey," she said quickly. She pleaded with him with her eyes and he immediately knew that she had not told Buffy about Darla and Penn. Quickly, he made a decision and smiled carefully at her, hoping she caught the look in his eyes. There was no way he was going to tell the happy golden girl by his side that her sister was a murderer.
"You guys are so serious," Buffy chided, "Fine. Go put on a shirt, Mr.-I-Have-To-Be-A-Gentleman. She's family, you know."
"I know, love," he answered, leaning in to kiss her again, "I'll be right back."
Buffy watched him walk back to the bedroom for a second and then turned back to Faith, "I'll be right back, kay?"
"Don't leave," Buffy warned.
"Hey," Buffy said, coming up behind him from where he stood staring into the closet and wrapped her arms around his waist. She kissed his back and he turned in her arms, looking down into eyes that reflected love and happiness, something he never thought he'd see again. He was overjoyed, but it was so difficult that she didn't remember anything. She had no idea what he'd gone through while she was gone and she probably never would.
"Hey," he echoed, kissing the tip of her nose, "How are you doing today?"
"I'm great," she said, "Better than great, actually, but you're still upset."
"It's okay," he answered, slipping out of her arms and pulling a shirt from the closet, "I'll get over it. I'm just happy to have you back."
Before he knew it, he was being dragged over to the bed and pushed down. He sat obediently and she climbed into his lap, holding his gaze, "I know we have a lot to talk about, but my sister is here and I can't not spend time with her right now. She needs me and I need her. I'm sorry."
"That's okay," he said, feeling redundant today, "I can wait."
"I love you, Angel," she said, kissing him gently.
"Do you?" he asked, seeing it in her eyes but still unable to accept it. He was terrified that any moment he would wake up and she'd be gone.
"Yes," she said, "I love you. I'm going to spend the rest of my life with you and only you. Okay?"
"Tell me again," he requested quietly, staring into her eyes.
"I love you, Angel."
"I love you, too, baby," he groaned, lowering his head to the crook of her neck and tightening his arms around her, "I thought I lost you forever. I didn't know how I was going to live without you."
"You don't have to," she whispered, "I'm here. Forever. I love you. I promise."
She snaked a hand between them and gathered his necklace gently in her hand. He raised his head and looked down at the ring she held, "Do I get this back?"
His hands were shaking as he pulled the chain over his head, released the clasp and pulled the chain out, allowing the ring to fall into the palm of her hand. She handed to him and he took it reluctantly, looking up at her with momentary confusion. She held out her left hand and realizing what she wanted, he slipped it back on her finger. He was trembling violently as he did it - even worse than the first time. He felt like crushing her to him and never letting her go again.
"I love you," she repeated, taking his face into her hands and looking into his eyes, "I love you."
"I love you too," he answered finally, "More than you will ever know."
"I think I have an idea," she teased, kissing him gently and then deepening the kiss. Finally, she broke it off, breathless, "But my sister's gonna accuse me of screwing you in here if I don't get out there soon."
"Well, if that's what she's going to think that anyway..." Angel said, as he slipped his hands to her bottom.
"Angel!" she said, hopping out his lap, "Tell you what, my sister gets today and you get tonight. Meet us at the club at around ten?"
doesn't matter what you do
Slinking her way through Ford's house, Jhiera found him in the den, staring out the window, loosely holding a bottle of beer in his hand that had warmed long before. She perched on the arm of his chair and looked down at him. Disgust twisted over her face as she eyed the shell of the man before her, compared to who he had been when he came into town.
"Leave me alone," he said, taking a swig of the ale and then sputtering over the taste. He set the bottle down on the table next to him and rose to his feet, swaying his way toward the kitchen.
"No, I think I'll stay for a while," she answered, taking her time as she followed him. She watched as he opened the refrigerator and ducked in to fish out another bottle. He twisted off the cap and tossed it into the kitchen sink, which held a family of similar caps. He took a drink while he still stood at the open door, not bothering to glance in her direction.
"Why are you here?" he asked angrily, kicking the door shut and lowering himself into one of six kitchen chairs. He leaned on the wooden table and finally looked up at her with bloodshot eyes, "Can't you leave me the fuck alone? We lost."
"No," she said, sitting in the chair adjacent to his, "You lost. I'm still in the running."
"Are you out of your mind?" he demanded, "Get out!"
"No," she said, shaking her head, "You promised you would do anything for me if I helped you. Since I got tied up and nearly shot to death, I'd say that the bargain is sealed, wouldn't you?"
"No way." He shook his head drunkenly and looked up to see the anger on her face, just as he suspected, "Faith will kill me. She'll kill you. She'll kill your fucking mother. The hell with you. You can't make me help."
"Fine," she said, rising to her feet and heading swiftly out of the room, "I'll kill Buffy and tell Faith it was you. That should solve all my problems, tie up all the loose ends and then Angel will need some serious comforting. Why didn't I think of that before?"
"Wait!" he shouted, chasing through the house after her. He caught her at the front door and grabbed her by the shoulders, "You will not hurt Buffy!"
"Then help me," she offered sweetly, "And your precious princess will be safe."
"You're a horrible bitch," he said, sagging in defeat and following her back into the house.