Part Four- "Memory Failure"
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LYRICS: All lyrics are from the Cure.
and i'm wondering where she's been
It had not escaped Lindsey's attention that Angel had been watching for Buffy's arrival for over an hour now. It was past one and she still hadn't shown for the promised lunch date. The morning had been surprisingly relaxed and conversational and Lindsey quickly figured out that Angel was less guarded and watchful when Buffy wasn't there to be gawked at. Now that lunchtime had come and was dangerously close to exiting, he was back to being the overprotective dick that he was used to seeing.
"So..." Lindsey said, trying to lighten the mood as they plotted out the week's work. He was only going to coming to the house a couple of days a week since they wanted to do most the work themselves. He was more there for the giving of opinions and direction than anything else but he already knew he would be helping with the labor anyway. He wouldn't be able to keep himself away, "Didn't Buffy say that you had this house for two years now? What took you so long to start working on it?"
"We had some personal issues to deal with," Angel said, not wanting to delve into the whole Darla trial story, "Then we went on a little vacation. When we got back we had the plumbing professionally restored and the whole house rewired."
"Sounds pricey," he answered, watching Angel continue his worried path around the house. He knew that Angel had not heard what he said and didn't care that he had missed it.
"Where is she?" Angel said, walking to the front of the house and looking out the window, "She's never this late."
"Caught up with a client?" Lindsey suggested.
"Nope," he said, running a hand through his hair, "I seriously doubt it."
"No," Angel said, turning to glare at him before turning back to the window, "She doesn't forget when she has plans with me."
"Sorry," Lindsey mumbled, kicking himself for the hour or so he started to like the guy.
a single note rings on and on and on
"Huh?" She answered, jerking alert and looking around her. Slowly, she focused on her surroundings. She looked awkwardly around Ford's expensive car and ran her fingertips along the leather seats, "Sorry. I must have spaced off."
"That's okay," Ford answered, drumming his fingers casually on the steering wheel as they sat in front of the gallery. He watched her, anxiously waiting for her to speak again.
"What did you ask me?"
"If you wanted to have lunch," he said, twisting in the seat to give her his full attention. He clenched his hand into a fist to keep from touching her. It was too soon and even though he didn't want to wait, he knew he had to.
"Uh...no," she said, trying to shake the daze that was clouding her mind, "I have...plans...with Angel. What time is it?"
"1:15," he answered, after glancing at the green digital clock on the dashboard.
"1:15?" she shouted, scrambling from the car, "What happened to the morning? Sorry, Ford, but I'm really late. I gotta go."
"Hey Buff," he called out through the open window as she slammed his car door and prepared to run to her own car, "Wanna have lunch next Monday?"
"Sure," she called back, "Whatever. Call me."
so delicate, lost in the cold
The car ride to the house where Angel and Lindsey were waiting was agonizingly long. It didn't make sense. She couldn't place how so much time had passed. She glanced in the mirror as she pulled up and studied her face for a second. Her makeup seemed a bit smudged and her lipstick was completely gone. She quickly freshened up and dragged a brush through her hair before running inside.
"I am so sorry," Buffy said as she ran into the house, out of breath and frazzled. She screeched to a halt before the two concerned men and looked down at her empty hands, "I was going to bring lunch, wasn't I?"
"Are you okay, Buffy?" Angel asked, stepping forward and holding her shoulders as he looked into her eyes. She looked drowsy and alarmed as if she had overslept and just vaulted from bed.
"Yes," she said, taking a deep breath, "I just...I lost track of time."
"At the gallery?"
"Well, no," she said, "Ford stopped by and we..."
"We what?" Angel said, trying to keep his voice calm. He hated the idea of that guy being alone with her for 30 seconds, let alone however much time she had spent with him this morning and this afternoon.
"We..." Buffy said, starting again. For the life of her, she couldn't remember anything about their time together except for getting in the car and getting out of it, "We just drove around and talked."
"Did something happen, baby?" He asked, craning his neck to catch her eyes. He reminded himself that he wasn't going to jump to conclusions. He didn't trust Ford, but he did trust Buffy, "You seem upset."
"No," she said, shaking off the strange feeling, "I think I'm just tired."
"Okay," he said, caressing her cheek, "Why don't we call it a day? I'll take you home."
"Don't you guys have more to talk about?" she asked looking at Lindsey. Angel turned and looked at him as well. Taking the hint, Lindsey cleared his throat, "Nah. We're just about done for today, don't you think, Angel?"
"Yeah," he answered, shooting Lindsey a grateful look before turning back to Buffy, "We're all done. Come on, I'll take you home."
She nodded absently and leaned into him as he wrapped his arm around her shoulders. She felt strangely cold despite the warm weather and shivered. Angel fought the urge to carry her to the car. He slipped behind the driver's seat and moved the seat back to accommodate his height and waved at Lindsey as they drove away.
have to break you
"So?" Darla asked, sitting impatiently with that bitch, Jhiera, as Ford strolled into the room. They had been waiting for the better part of two hours while he took his time with the plain blonde man stealer. Darla was well beyond the point where she could even pretend to be patient. Two years in jail had been more than enough time for her to plot this out and make the arrangements. She wasn't going to wait one more fucking second.
"So?" Ford repeated, mischievously grinning at her.
"Did she remember anything?" Darla demanded, fighting the urge to lose her temper. The man infuriated her, mostly because he was nearly as good at playing the game as she was. In fact, all three of them were just as manipulative and devious as the next. It would be a miracle if they didn't kill each other before this was over.
"Not a thing," he said, flashing both women a cocky smile, "She was trying to figure out where the time had gone and didn't hesitate to agree to lunch next week."
"You're sure," Jhiera asked, leaning back into the couch, looking calculating and erotically hedonistic. She crossed her legs and caressed her thigh, "She might have been faking it."
"You obviously know nothing about Buffy Summers," he said, glancing over to see Darla nodding in agreement, "She wouldn't have been able to hide her reaction. Trust me. She's as honest as she is naive. She has no idea what happened."
"I'm sure you're right," Jhiera answered and then turned to Darla, "You'd better be right about this. I know you think you know how Angel is going to react to this, but I disagree. He's not going to just lose her."
"Yes, he will," Darla answered confidently, "He will and you will do your part and walk away. He's mine."
"Of course," Jhiera answered, flicking a glance over at Ford so quickly that Darla missed it. If Darla thought that Jhiera was in this just because she wanted to commit a little crime in her spare time, she was sadly mistaken. Angel would hate Darla when this was over and Jhiera would waste no time filling the gap. She smiled sweetly at Darla and rose to her feet. With a nod, she swayed from the room.
futility feeling the monster climb deeper inside of me
Buffy slept harder that afternoon than she had in years. She drifted in and out of strange, vibrant dreams, until she stepped into a world that seemed so real, she was no longer sure she was sleeping. Nestled in her sleep, she found herself in her bedroom in her old apartment. She woke inside her dream to see Angel sitting on her bed. It was before they were lovers in the dream, but she already loved him. She wasn't sure if she sensed his entrance to her room, if she heard him or if it was his weight on the mattress that jarred her dream mind awake, but it didn't matter because he was twining his fingers with hers, caressing her palm with his thumb.
He pulled her up to a sitting position, pressing her against him and immediately into his ardent kiss. It was pure passion, pure love. She pulled his shirt off, scraping his skin with her fingernails in her urgency and he wasted no time removing hers. She thought she heard him expel a long held breath as her bare skin moved over his. He smoothed his hands over her back as he kissed her, leaving no golden inch untouched.
He leaned forward, lowering her to the mattress again. Languidly, taking his time, he moved on top of her and explored her body as he positioned himself between her open thighs. He entered her without warning, diving into her liquid heat and it felt just like the first time as he laved kisses on her breasts. After long moments, he lifted his head to look at her. She rocked back against him as she focused on his face. But the smiling lips weren't Angel's, they were Ford's. He moved harder inside of her as she reared back, gasping at the sight of the wrong man.
Strangling on a scream, she looked over his shoulder and Angel was standing in the doorway, a look of anguish rather than fury on his handsome face. As Ford spilled his seed inside of her, she screamed Angel's name, but it was too late. Fear settled over her soul as she watched him walk away. The last sounds she heard over her own screams was Ford's groan of release and the click of the front door closing behind the man she loved.
Angel held her until she fell asleep. He laid there holding her for long moments, smoothing his hand over her back in slow, soothing strokes until her breathing evened out. Finally, he untangled himself from her and paced around the house. Hours passed and he was still pacing and Buffy was still sleeping. Occasionally, she choked squeaks into the silent room and he hurried in to check on her. Finally, his own worry getting the best of him, he picked up the phone and dialed.
"Gunn," he whispered, "It's Angel."
"Hey man," Gunn said laughing, "Where have you been for the last couple of weeks? That hot little fiancé of yours tie you to the bed again?"
"I need a favor," he whispered, moving further from the bedroom.
"Why are you whispering?" Gunn asked, "Oh damn. This is about Buffy, isn't it?"
"Yeah. I need you to look into someone for me."
"Angel," Gunn said, "The last time she was in trouble, you were right. But I think you're paranoid, man."
"Billy Fordham," Angel said, ignoring his friend's comments, "Look him up. He went to high school with Buffy and lived in Boston for a couple of years. Now he's back. She spent the afternoon with him and now she's acting like she's been drugged."
"Angel. Seek help. She's fine. No one is trying to kill her."
"Billy Fordham," he repeated a little more sternly, "F-O-R-D-H-A-M."
"Alright, alright. This is the last time. I'm not kidding," Gunn said, scribbling the guy's name into his notebook.
"I want to know everything about him," Angel explained, making sure he was making himself completely clear, "where he lives, what he does for a living. Gunn, I want to know who is mother is, got it?"
"ANGEL!" His lover's desperate scream caused him to hang up the phone without bothering to say goodbye. He dashed to the bedroom where Buffy was thrashing on the bed and screaming. He grabbed her shoulders to calm her and she bucked away, flinging herself from the bed and onto the floor.
"Buffy!" Angel shouted, dropping to his knees on the floor beside her, "Baby, wake up. It's a dream. It's just a dream."
She blinked, heaving breaths as she recognized him. She sat there, looking at him through a layer of fresh tears before forcing his name from her lips, "Angel?"
"It's me," he said softly, reaching to brush her tears away, "It's just me."
She launched herself into his arms and pressed her face against his chest, calmed by the sound of his heart beating, "Promise me you'll never leave me."
"I'll never leave you," he promised, kissing the top of her head.
"You'll love me forever?" she whispered, pulling back to look at him, nearly begging him for the promise.
"Forever," he answered, "That's the whole point."
He picked her up and put her back in bed, holding her tightly for a moment, "What was the dream about?"
"We were in my old apartment," she answered, muffled against his chest, "You came in and we were making love and..."
"I-I can't remember," she answered, sitting up in bed and looking down at him, "We were making love and then...something happened. God, what happened?"
She stared at him for a long moment, reaching her mental fingers out to recapture the escaping memory. The more she reached, the further it fluttered away until she couldn't even remember the beginning.
Part Five "Choices"
by one her senses die
Buffy woke in the morning, peeled Angel's fingers from her waist and eased out of his arms. She looked down at the dress she still wore from the day before and tried to remember why she had gone to bed in it. The night before was a bit hazy and she was having trouble recalling much of anything at all from the day before. She looked down at Angel, who was still sleeping soundly and crunched her face in confusion to see that he had slept fully clothed as well. He even had his boots on.
She sat on the edge of the bed and looked down on him. He looked as if he hadn't slept at all. Dark circles ringed his eyes and even in his sleep he looked concerned and far from content. She traced his eyebrows with her fingertips, reverently pursuing the paths of them. After a moment, she kissed his forehead lightly and stood, shedding her rumpled clothing. She ran her fingers through her hair and headed for the bathroom, focusing her mind on the day ahead rather than the one that had already passed. When she stepped underneath the warm spray, she was intent on washing away the muddled feelings that were still clouding her mind. The water did wonders for her spirit and by the time she stepped out onto the cool tiled floor, she was humming a tune. She dried off and slipped on Angel's black silk shirt, which had become her robe over the past year or so.
Five minutes later, she was standing at the window, cradling her bright flowered mug as she waited for the coffee to sputter from the pot. She smiled into the quasi-quad that sat in the center of their apartment complex, out of place when she thought about the city right outside her front door. Large leafy trees towered over the building and flower beds contemplating buds surrounded by cobble stones sat happily around the base of the building. All that life was blooming in the peaking dawn and she felt it was just for her today.
know just what to do
Angel woke up from a sound sleep and reached for his lover only to find her missing. He lurched up in bed and before he scrambled out in search of her, he forced himself to sit still, listen and breath. He could smell coffee brewing and the faint sound of his fiancé humming a little song from the other room. He released a sigh of relief as he bent to unlace his boots and toss them aside. He wasn't sure where he thought she would be. It wasn't like she had ever left without telling him goodbye, but a knot of apprehension and fear had been sitting in his stomach since the night before. He felt constricted and overly warm after sleeping all night in his clothes, so pulled his shirt off before padding out of the bedroom to find Buffy.
She was standing at the window, sipping a cup of coffee and enjoying the early morning. He walked up behind her and brushed her long blonde hair aside to kiss her neck before wrapping his arms around her waist.
"Good morning," she said as she relaxed against him, molding herself to the space that fit her perfectly.
"Morning, love," he said, resting his chin on the top of her head as he watched her reflection in the glass, "How are you feeling?"
"Fine," she said in a deceivingly bright tone, turning in his arms and offering him her cup. He took a sip of the sugary liquid and grimaced at her. He liked his coffee strong enough to chew with no sugar or cream. Buffy, on the other hand, added so much to hers that it no longer resembled coffee at all, "How are you?"
"I'll be better when I get real coffee," he answered gruffly, his voice a deep rumbling that always reminded her how much she loved him. He kissed her gently before heading to the kitchen for his cup, taking on his tired morning swagger as he made his way toward the coffee pot holding liquid he knew wouldn't be nearly strong enough for his liking, "Are you sure you're feeling okay?" he called out from the kitchen.
"I'm great," she called back, shaking her head at his constant concern, "Why wouldn't I be?"
"Well, last night..." he said, coming out with a steaming mug that had Van Gogh's Starry Night on the side of it, a gift from Buffy six months ago. He would have never bought a mug like that but she insisted that they both have their own special cups for coffee together. It's tradition, she had said, handing it to him with that sexy, innocent smile on her face, Everyone has their own special cup. She had turned, pulling mugs from the cupboard to prove her point. This one's Willow's, she said, revealing a bright orange mug that slightly resembled a toppled over birthday cake to Angel. He had laughed at her while she pulled out all the coffee cups and told him whose cup was whose.
He took a sip from his mug and settled in his chair, now feeling uneasy about the memory as if it would soon just be that - a memory, rather than a part of their lives together. He shook off the thought and looked at her, unable to finish his sentence.
"I'm fine," she chirped, crossing the room in a few steps and crawling on his lap. She ran her fingers through his tousled hair and looked down on him with a serious, but happy expression, "Really, Angel, it was no big deal."
"No big deal? You were really out of it, Buffy," he said, unconvinced of just how fine she was. She carefully set her mug down on the table and took his to do the same before leaning in to kiss him. He wrapped his arms around her, his large hands sliding over the black silk as the kiss deepened.
"I'm fine," she repeated against his lips. He tried to object but she pressed against him again, dipping her tongue into his mouth. She pulled his hand from her hip and guided it between her thighs as she bit at his lips. He stopped her guidance just before he reached her moist center and gripped her thigh instead as he pulled his mouth away from hers.
"I'm not going to be this easily distracted, baby," he said, "I know what you're trying to do and I will be glad to make love to you just as soon as I'm sure you're alright."
"One more fine' and I'm going to lose it," he growled in warning.
"Angel," Buffy groaned, "I wasn't feeling well yesterday. Maybe it was something I ate. Who knows? I'm feeling wonderful today. Everything is perfectly f...great."
"I'm worried," he said, "I think we should take you to the doctor and find out what happened."
"I have an idea," she said, moving to straddle his thighs, "Why don't we forget about going to the doctor and make love instead?"
"Buffy," he said as she unbuttoned his pants, "It's important to me that you're okay."
"I'll be okay," she whispered as she wrapped her hand around his erect cock, "When you're inside me."
the hope of secrecy
"Darla," Penn said, frantically standing up from his desk and walking around the large oak blockade to reach her. He grabbed her arm and pulled her to the side, as if he thought that three inches of space he just moved her would make all the difference. Using his height as a failed attempted at intimidation, he whispered, "What the hell are you doing here? We agreed we would not be seen together again until Monday."
"I need reassurance, Penn," she said, standing her ground as he invaded her space. No man would ever intimidate her, especially not Penn Jacobs, "My sources say she isn't acting any differently at all. It's almost as if it didn't happen at all."
"I told you," he answered, "It's a two phase project. I already explained that there would be no reaction after last week. We've been through this and you are risking both of our asses to get information you already have. You have to go now."
"You're already knee deep in this and I'm paying you enough to make it worth your while," she answered, lowering herself into one of his office chairs with a confident smile, "Now, I want you go over it again and be specific."
"This doesn't have a damn thing to do with money and you know it."
"Fine," she breathed, "Whatever. You'll get your revenge on Angel and you'll be rich as well."
"If I get arrested for this..."
"Penn, honey," she crooned, "Let's just take it one step at a time, okay?"
smile at me slyly
Thursday morning, Angel groaned as the alarm went off and slapped it so hard it bounced on the end table. He hadn't been sleeping well and it was beginning to show in his attitude. Several days had passed since Buffy's little incident and she hadn't shown the slightest relapse into her peculiar behavior. In fact, she seemed happier than usual. She hadn't acted strangely at all and hadn't had a single nightmare. She never mentioned it again and seemed to have completely forgotten about it. Angel, however, was not even close to forgetting about it. Gunn had come up with a bunch of useless information that led nowhere. Ford was a guy who had no prison record, no shady dealings. The most incriminating evidence he found was that he had a speeding ticket six months ago.
Angel was more than frustrated by both the information provided and the patronizing tone to which it was given to him. He didn't give a good godamn if the man was up for sainthood. He knew people and he didn't trust that guy as far as he could throw him, which was a good long way if he found out he had anything to do with Buffy's incident the week before.
"You have to get up," Buffy whispered, her breath tickling his ear.
"I'm calling in sick," he grumbled, his back to her as he faced the alarm clock's angry red numbers. He didn't want to go work on that stupid fucking house while something was very wrong with his lover. He had no intention of leaving her alone at the gallery day in and day out when Ford could walk in at any second and do something to her.
"There's no one to call," she said, her voice betraying her smile, "Guess I'm the boss then, huh?"
She smiled at his growl of irritation and began tracing his back with her fingertips. When she spoke again, her voice was silky and streaked with want, "I don't take kindly to slacker employees. You'll have to be punished."
"Really?" he said, turning over to face her, his eyes brightening. He pulled her to his chest in a sudden movement and she squealed in protest. His hands wandered over her back and slid down to cup her ass.
"No," she said, wiggling out of his embrace, "No goodies for you. Especially if you're going to stay home and be a big ole grouch."
"Buffy," Angel whined, falling against the pillows in exasperation.
"How about this," she said, pulling closer, "I'll leave the gallery in my employees' capable hands and I'll go work at the house with you today."
"Uh-huh," she said, intertwining her hands with his as they began their naughty approach once more, "Come on. It's time to get up."
"I am up," he said, lifting his hips to press against her suggestively.
through the door
Lindsey never went to the house on Thursdays, but this week his other projects looked like they were on track, so he decided to head over to Buffy and Angel's monster of a fixer-upper to see if they wanted an extra pair of hands to reinforce the dining room wall. Angel was trying his hand at dry walling and Lindsey had given him some tips, but rebuilding a whole wall for the first time was a bit of a job.
He walked into the house and immediately knew Buffy was there by the trademark blasting of the radio. He could already see her bopping around the room in his mind, smudged with paint and dust in those little cut-offs he had grown to love. He threaded his way through the rooms, looking for the annoyingly happy couple and stopped when he heard a groan of pleasure coming from the other room. Guiltily, he tiptoed toward the sound and peeked around corner.
He sucked in a silent breath at the sight of them. They were both covered in dust and Angel was leaning against the partially gutted dining room wall. Debris from their efforts lay scattered on the floor around them as Buffy knelt in front of him, impressively deep throating his frustratingly large cock. Lindsey watched awestruck as her beautiful mouth circled his cock, her head bobbing back and forth just slow enough to cause Angel to groan in need. His dark head slammed against the broken wall as he arched his back, pressing against her lovely mouth as he came. Lindsey was hard as a rock as he watched her swallow his seed, milking him for every drop. She licked her lips with a satisfied smile as Angel looked down on her through heavy lidded eyes.
"Feel better now?" she asked, sliding up his body and kissing his neck. He didn't answer as he pulled back and yanked her shirt roughly from her tiny body. Lindsey watched as a pair of perfectly rounded breasts bounced free. Angel dipped down and sucked a nipple into his mouth as his large hand completely covered the other. She tossed her head back and her long blonde hair streamed down her narrow back as she writhed against him, threading her fingers through his hair. Angel pulled off her shorts and Lindsey stepped back one step, contemplating leaving but knew he couldn't as her tight ass came into full view. Angel quickly looked around for a cleaner place on the floor and lowered her in a manner suggesting he had done that very same thing dozens of times before. He kissed down her body before pressing his face into her nest of damp curls.
Lindsey should have left. He was well aware that what he was doing was very, very wrong. He was also aware that Angel would not only fire him, but beat him within an inch of his life if he knew he watched this whole miraculous event. It almost would have been worth the prospect of a few broken bones when he watched the look of ecstasy cross her lovely face. She made the most groin tightening mewls of pleasure as Angel greedily ate her pussy, lapping at her and biting. When she came, she arched up, her hips leaving the floor, her back arching so that her shoulder blades were pressed against the floor and her breasts were suspended in the air, nipples hard and begging to be sucked. Her face in release was one of the most beautiful things he had ever seen.
She pulled Angel's shirt off as he positioned himself between her thighs, still mostly clad in his worn blue jeans. Lindsey nearly came as he heard her sweet voice come ragged from her lips, "Inside me, Angel. Now."
He watched in fascination as she spread wider for him and Angel plunged into her with a force that made Lindsey think her fragile bones should have broken. She didn't appear to mind, however, but bucked back against him, grabbing his ass to pull him in deeper. Lindsey backed away and nearly ran from the house. He jumped in his truck and peeled away from the house, driving several miles away and then pulling over to park. He leaned his head against the seat and closed his eyes as he willed his erection to go away. She was the most magnificent creature he had ever seen. He was tormented by the fact that Angel was becoming his friend and yet, given the chance, he would steal Buffy from him and never look back.
"He's completely lost his damn mind this time," Gunn said, late Friday night at Spike's bar, downing the rest of his beer and sliding it over to Doyle for a refill.
"He's like that when it comes to the chit," Spike said in an almost grunt, "Why're you surprised?"
"I don't know," Gunn answered sullenly. Angel had made himself overly annoying this week with calls and visits. He had asked him to double check leads and look into things about this guy that were lost causes. William Fordham was a boy scout, for crying out loud, "This is worse than before."
"Worse how?" Doyle asked, pouring himself a drink. He always found that bartending went so much smoother when he was partaking of what he was serving.
"He's called me twice a day every day for more information on this guy. Whatever happened to Buffy didn't even upset her at all. I don't even know why I'm still investigating Mr. Squeaky Clean."
"Let Peaches pay you to have your guys waste their time," Spike said, and then took a drink, contemplating for a second, "Did you tell him yet?"
"Bout Darla?" Doyle asked, receiving a confirming nod from Spike.
"Hell no," Gunn answered, "He finds out she's out of the slammer and I'll never get to sleep again. He's got a restraining order against her and she hasn't been within ten miles of either of them."
"You've been having her followed then?"
"On and off."
"Good man," Spike said, sliding from his barstool and landing on his feet, feeling a bit more wobbly than he expected, "But I have to tell you, mate, if he finds out you've been keeping this from him, there's going to be a bloody slaughter."
so sad with red desperation, i clench my hands
After breakfast with Lindsey on Monday morning, the three of them sat chatting over coffee. He hated Ford, but Lindsey, he was actually starting to like. He was so down to earth and friendly, he couldn't help but like him. Sure, he caught him eyeing Buffy more than once, but a man would have to be blind to keep from sneaking a peek now and then. Lindsey never ogled her, which was really as much as he could expect. Hell, Gunn was more obvious about it than Lindsey.
"What are you doing today, Buffy?" Lindsey asked with a twinkle in his eye. Every time he looked at her since Thursday, he felt his body jerk in response to what he had seen, "It must be hard work with as much sugar as you just put in your coffee."
"Going to the gallery, Linds. Same as every Monday," Buffy said with a laugh, "But you know it's extremely hard work."
"Coming over for lunch today?" Angel asked casually, sipping his own sugar free brew.
"No, actually," she answered, grabbing his hand, "I almost forgot to tell you. Ford called. I'm having lunch with him today."
"The fuck you are," Angel growled, in a voice so dangerously low that Lindsey nearly choked on his coffee in surprise.
Part Six "Missing"
"The fuck you are," Angel growled, in a voice so dangerously low that Lindsey nearly choked on his coffee in surprise. Buffy's jaw dropped and for a second she just stared at him, trying to figure out if she had imagined the harsh words. She didn't imagine it, however, and after a moment of shocked silenced, he continued, "I don't trust him. I don't want you to be alone with him. Ever."
"Angel," Buffy said, trying to keep her annoyance in check, especially considering they were in a public place, "I understand that you don't like Ford, but he's my friend. I already told him that I would meet him for lunch and I fully intend to go."
"Then I'm coming with you," he said, still speaking in a voice that Lindsey thought sounded murderous. He now understood what must have been flying through that other guy's mind just before his arm snapped in three places.
"No," Buffy said in a quiet, but determined voice.
"Buffy," Angel warned, struggling to keep his temper flaring more than it already was, "You can't go. You won't go. I'll fucking kill him before you spend one minute alone with him."
"Don't threaten us, Angel," Buffy said, wrenching her hand free from his and raising her voice, "I will go to lunch and you will not touch him!"
"US?" Angel shouted, the patrons of the establishment be damned.
She stood and pushed her chair back, nearly knocking it over with the motion and looked over at Lindsey, "Excuse me, Lindsey. I'm sorry. I have to go."
"Sure," Lindsey nodding, thankful he was able to get that word out of his suddenly dry mouth. He couldn't believe it when Angel stood, grabbed her arm and held her fast. Actually, he could believe that part. What he couldn't believe was the way she expertly twisted free of his grasp and looked up angrily at her fiancé, who both towered over her and outweighed her by a good 100 pounds, unwilling to be bullied by his fury or his size. She irately spat out, "I'm going. If you try to stop me, if you follow me or have me followed by Gunn or anyone else I will never forgive you."
Buffy stormed from the restaurant, nearly knocking over a passing waiter and disappeared through the front door without a look back. Angel sank into his chair and gripped the edge of the table as he tried to calm down.
"Fuck," he growled, staring at the table as if it were mocking him.
"You...uh...think that Ford guy had something to do with what happened to Buffy last week?" Lindsey asked, after waiting a few moments for Angel to gather his senses. When he looked up, Lindsey almost wished he had kept his mouth shut because what met his eyes was a painful mixture of anger, hurt and concern, "I know that bastard had everything to do with what happened to her last week. And now, there's not a damn thing I can do to protect her. I should have shut the hell up and followed her instead. For a taciturn guy, I sure chose the wrong times to talk."
"Let's go," Lindsey said, standing up and tossing several crisp bills onto the table.
"You think a little manual labor is going to make me feel better? Believe me, Lindsey. I'm not going to the house today or I'll knock down more than a godamn wall."
"You know where Ford lives and works, right?"
"Good," Lindsey said, "She never said anything about following him. Come on."
Angel almost smiled as he followed Lindsey from the restaurant. Lindsey wasn't a saint. He didn't want Buffy to be with Angel, but he was damned if he was going to lose her to that lowlife piece of shit, Billy Fordham.
Ford wasn't at the office building he either worked at or pretended to, so Lindsey drove over to his house, which was a nice, neat little two story in a decent suburban area. Lindsey parked a few houses down and settled in to wait. He was floored when Angel opened the door and hopped out. Course, he realized that by now, nothing about his lunatic almost friend should ever take him off guard.
"Where are you going?"
"I'm going to take a closer look," Angel said, "We didn't come all the way here to sit outside and wonder what he's doing in there. For all we know, he's making the damn syringe he plans to stick in Buffy later."
"Right," Lindsey said, in a sarcastic tone, which earned him a dirty look. He followed Angel to the house and crept closely behind him as he walked around the entire house. When that was fruitless, Angel rounded the back of the house and jumped up, grabbing the second floor balcony and began to climb up.
"Are you out of your mind?" Lindsey whispered loudly as Angel landed soundlessly and crept toward the window, ignoring him. Sighing in frustration, Lindsey jumped up and hoisted himself up as well.
"She's...stunning," Lindsey said, peering through the window next to Angel at the couple talking while lying lazily in bed.
"She's my ex," Angel explained, looking over Jhiera suspiciously, "What do you think she's doing with Ford? Seems a little fishy. My ex and Buffy's ex together."
you're jumping someone else's train
"Your boyfriend and some other guy have been following me all morning," Ford said as Buffy buckled her seatbelt, "Thought you might want to know before we left."
"Really?" Buffy asked, raising an eyebrow in disbelief and turning around in her seat. She was still fuming from this morning's argument and could scarcely believe that Angel would do exactly what she asked him not to. Of course, she was doing exactly what he asked her not to, but that really wasn't the point, "Where are they?"
"Parked a block away, on the right," Ford said, looking through his rearview mirror, "Behind that SUV."
"I'll be right back," she said as she released her seatbelt and jogged down the street. As she neared them, they looked at each other, pretending to be talking, knowing that she had seen them and there was no escaping the inevitable confrontation.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?" Buffy shouted as Angel rolled down the window of Lindsey's truck. She pointed her anger at Lindsey as well and shouted again, "And you're helping him!"
Lindsey shrugged noncommittally and said nothing as Angel started to open the door.
"No," she said, slamming the partially open door and nearly crushing his fingers in the process, "Don't get out. Stay here. In fact, stay here until we are far, far away."
"Buffy," Angel said, "He's planning something with my ex-girlfriend. We saw them together-"
"God!" she screamed, "Just...stop it, Angel! Stop."
She ran up the street as Angel called out after her. Breathing heavily, she jumped into Ford's car and shouted, "Go. Now. Lose them if you have to."
Ford peeled away from the curbed and swung around the corner, speeding up as he did. By the time Angel and Lindsey reached the end of the block, they were long gone.
passion is murdering me
Three hours and ten minutes later, Angel and Lindsey were drinking coffee across the street from the gallery, waiting for her to come back. After two hours, Angel called her cell phone and hung up when her voice mail answered. At three hours, he had drank a pot of coffee, his hands were shaking and Lindsey sat next to him in silence, unsure of what to do or say. He was pretty sure that Angel would sit there all night if he had to. Buffy's car was still parked in front of the gallery and so he wanted to believe that she would come back at some point to retrieve it.
Just as Angel was teetering on the edge of picking people off at random, Ford's car pulled up. He stood and watched as Buffy and Ford sat in the car, looking as if they were talking. Angel waited, inching toward the door and barely keeping himself from going across the street and ripping the ex out of his car and breaking his face on the asphalt. The only thing that kept him from moving forward was Buffy's anger.
Ford drove away and Buffy stood on the street, looking after him for a moment. Angel watched as she pulled her cell phone from her purse and dialed. He watched, puzzling out who she could be calling when his phone buzzed in his pocket. He glanced at Lindsey as he answered it.
"Angel," she said, swaying unevenly on the street as he moved toward the door, "Something's....wrong. Feel funny."
He ran out into the street and across it, hanging up on her as she stood there. Confused, she looked at the phone and closed it before slipping it into her purse. She didn't see Angel as tears sprang to her eyes but seconds later she was in his arms.
Lindsey pulled his truck up next to them and leaned across the seat, throwing the door open. Angel climbed in with Buffy on his lap. Cradling her against his chest, he shut the door and nodded at Lindsey.
"Hospital?" Lindsey asked nervously.
"Yes," Angel answered and Buffy responded as well with a shaky, "No."
"Buffy, you have to go," he whispered, "He hurt you." And I'm going to kill him for it, he added silently.
"Please," she whispered, sobbing against his chest, "Just wanna go home. Please Angel."
"Please," she rasped, "Hospital can't help me." Angel looked at Lindsey, defeated. He put the truck in gear and headed toward the apartment, knowing for certain he was doing the wrong thing, but just like Angel, he couldn't argue with her tearful plea.
"What happened, baby?" he whispered, stroking her hair with a shaking hand.
"We..." she said, hiccuping, "We drove away and I told him to lose you so you couldn't follow. He went around the corner and we went for a couple of miles. I was upset about our fight so I told him I wanted to come back and talk to you."
"And then what?" Angel said, his words coming out in a snarl.
"He came back. I got out and called you," Buffy answered, "And I felt funny."
"Buffy, you were gone for over three hours," he said, "Something else happened."
"Not three hours," Buffy said, snuggling against his chest, "Love you. Couldn't wait three hours."
staring at myself, reflected in the eyes of a dead man
Just as he had before, Angel climbed into bed, bringing Buffy with him. She slept and drifted in and out of similar vibrant dreams just as she had the week prior. Finally, her dream approached, the images so real she was certain she was awake. Again she found herself in her bedroom in her old apartment. Angel sat on her bed as she woke up.
Forgetting what happened in the last dream, she melted against him. He pulled her up to a sitting position, kissing her deeply. They undressed each other in surreal movements, slower than before. He smoothed his hands over her body, as if he were committing her to memory to save for a rainy day.
He leaned forward, lowering her to the mattress again. He moved on top of her and she opened for him, never fearing her lover's entrance. It never occurred to her that it wasn't him. He entered her, diving into her liquid heat and it felt like it was the very last time. He moved in a memory and again lowered his head to lave kisses on her breasts. After long moments, he lifted his head to look at her. It wasn't Angel and strangling on the same scream, she looked over his shoulder. Angel was standing in the doorway, a look of fury and hatred on his handsome face. As Ford spilled his seed inside of her, she screamed Angel's name, but it was too late. Angel's face turned into pure abhorrence and contempt as he watched Buffy lying on the bed, legs spread for another man.
"Slut," he spat as he walked away, slamming the door over the sound of Ford's groan of release.
my eyes and hold so tightly
Angel fought his tiny lover as her fists beat against his chest. She screamed as she tried to get away, caught in his arms. Choking and crying, she shouted, "Angel! Come back! Let me go! LET ME GO! ANGEL!"
"Buffy!" Angel finally shouted, when his comforting words were not working. She blinked her eyes open and looked up at him.
"It was a dream," he whispered, "Just another bad dream."
"No," she said, biting her trembling lower lip. Her chest was aching. She was waiting for her heart to fall from it and roll unwanted on the floor. What if Angel left? What if he didn't love her anymore?
"Yes," he contradicted, kissing her damp forehead as proof of his existence. He held her more tightly as she shuddered in his arms.
"No," she said, "It was real. You left me. You didn't love me anymore. You called me a-"
"No," he said, pulling her against his chest, "No, love, I didn't say that. I love you. I'm here."
"Don't leave," she sobbed, "I didn't mean it. I didn't do it. I swear, Angel."
"I know, baby," he whispered, "I know you didn't."
would break down at your feet and beg forgiveness
When Buffy woke in the morning, she repeated her motions from the week before. She pried herself from Angel and stood, looking down at her clothing, trying to remember what happened and coming up empty. Heading for the shower, she washed away her fuzzy thoughts and missing memories. Again, she donned his black silk shirt and went to the kitchen to start the coffee.
As she listened to the coffee maker sputter and pop, she wandered around the apartment, looking at their things - some of them his, some hers and some belonging to both them. He always said they would share everything, that everything he had was hers. She made her way to the spare bedroom and looked over the room that had served as his studio for the past two years. Various paintings of her and some others hung on the walls and leaned against it. Leftovers from art showings and ones he or she chose to keep were piled up haphazardly, fully prepared to hang in their house when it was finished. Against the far wall was the one he had done last week. It was the first almost nude painting of herself and she sat in his chair and stared at it, cocking her head as she made out each curve and stroke.
Self disgust flung it's way up her throat and she leaned her head into her hands as she waited for it to pass before standing and heading to the bedroom. Forgetting about the coffee, she took off his shirt and let it slip to the floor. She dressed quickly and went to the closet, pulling her suitcase from the top shelf. She laid it on the floor and pulled her clothes from the closet, hanger and all, not really paying attention to what she was taking. When she had filled the suitcase, over half of her clothes remained, but she zipped up the case and pulled out her overnight bag. Swiftly and quietly, she stuffed panties, socks and shoes in the bag. She left just enough room for essential toiletries. Running to the bathroom, she stuffed them on top before closing the bag.
When she made it back into the bedroom, Angel was awake, sitting on the edge of the bed. He looked over her and the pack bags, then, after taking a deep breath, he asked, "Where are you going, Buffy?"
"I'm moving out, Angel," she firmly.
"I don't love you," she answered, her voice coming through with no emotion. Her words could not be mistaken. She had spoken them plainly. His jaw dropped as she set her bag down and slipped her engagement ring off of her finger and held it out for him, "Here."
"I don't want that," he said, shaking his head.
"It's yours," she said.
"No," he said. The ring made a tingling sound as it hit the bedside table, bouncing twice before wobbling to stillness. She turned, went across the room and began gathering her bags.
"Buffy," he said, in a voice that would have broken her heart if she still had one, "Please. Please, baby, just talk to me. We can work this out. Ford did something to you. This isn't you. Don't you remember? Last night you loved me. You begged me not to leave you and now you're leaving me. Don't you see?"
"I remember, Angel," she said, hoping the lie came through truthfully enough. In fact, she didn't remember last night. She barely remembered anything of loving him at all, "I can't believe it's taken me so long to realize how bad you are for me. You're right. I said I loved you. I thought I did, but I don't. I was afraid to face the world alone. I'm not anymore. I'm ready to be on my own."
She moved toward the bedroom door and he followed. She stopped, not turning around and spoke gently, "Don't try to stop me, Angel."
"I love you, Buffy," he said, "I know you love me. Buffy, you love me."
"I don't," she said and without looking back she walked toward the door and out of it. Angel stood there for a long time staring at the closed door, trying to make what happened unhappen in his mind because it just wasn't possible. You didn't lose the love of your life just like that. A person doesn't wake up in the morning and stop loving someone.
He went into their bedroom and picked up his black silk shirt from the floor. Strange that it didn't even seem like his anymore. He hadn't worn it in over two years since Buffy decided to use it as her bathrobe. He crumpled the shirt in his hands and brought it to his nose, inhaling her scent. It was that second that his mind and heart met and realized that she was really gone.