Gone From Hell
Author: Laure Alexander
Title: Gone From Hell
Summary: For the IWRY marathon in years past I have posted fics about Buffy and Angelus in Hell. This is currently the last chronologically. For those new to the series, it is all up at AO3, A Series In Hell and it might help to read the other stories first, but this can be read if you know the following: Buffy and Angelus have lived a hundred years so far in Hell after he pulled her through Acathla before his soul was restored. While they fell in love, she made friends, assaulted the Gates to escape back to Earth, and intrigued Lucifer so much he made her a Baroness with her own lands. Now, after a hundred years, Buffy is happy with Angelus and her life in Hell, she and Lucifer remain friends, and Hell isn't so bad, so, of course, something happens to threaten that happiness, but...she's also given a chance for closure.
Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters on Buffy; wish I did. Don't sue!
Word Count: 8312
Warnings: angst, a bit of language, mentions of Hell and all that implies
A/N: I've had this story in mind for a couple years, but wanted to make it a really massive one. Well, it's not massive, and I didn't get in everything I wanted, including the sex *sigh*, but I'm still happy with it. My Lucifer and vision of Hell are drawn from Mike Carey's, but this isn't a crossover. I think it can stand alone if you keep the above information in mind.
Angelus sat at his desk going over production reports from the pomegranate groves they owned on the Northern border of their land when their major domo entered without knocking and looking flustered, both unheard of occurrences.
"My lord, I apologize for the intrusion, but Lady Buffy's horse has returned to the stable without her."
Buffy was an excellent rider. As far as he knew, she'd never been thrown. Dread filled him and, tossing down the reports, he jumped to his feet. "Do we know where she was riding today?" he barked as he strode across the room.
"The groom who saddled her horse, her usual mount, my lord, said she spoke of riding to the lake."
"Get men who can ride and track, and have my own horse saddled." Leaving the demon behind, he took the stairs two at a time then hurried for their suite to change quickly into riding clothes. By the time Angelus made it outside to the courtyard, half a dozen demons were on horseback and his own mount, a huge black beast of a stallion, awaited him. Swinging up onto its back, he reined it in and addressed the others. "We ride for the lake and, if we don't find her immediately, we'll spread out and begin to search. Night falls in four hours."
And even on their land, bad things crept out of the dark at night.
Kicking his heels, Angelus thundered away from the house, trying to keep his fear under control. There was always the possibility she had dismounted and failed to tie up the horse properly.
But, that was unlikely.
Buffy's first thought was 'ow'. Her head throbbed. Her second was that the ground beneath her was hard stone yet flat.
Forcing her eyes open, she groaned at the pain that splintered through her, and quickly closed them again. Wherever she was it was dark and quiet. Lying there, one cheek on the cold stone, she forced herself to remember.
She'd been riding to the lake, the warm breeze bringing with it both the scent of sulfur and late summer blooms. Her mind had been wandering to the wild boar Angelus had killed the day before that was destined for her dinner, and the reward she planned to grant him for giving her such a hard fought feast. Gored by its tusks, he'd been covered in his own blood as well as the beast's, but he'd finally won the battle with only a knife and his fangs.
Angelus was rarely more sexy when he was gory and reeking of triumph, but he'd been wounded and exhausted the night before, so she'd been sweet and gentle, tending his wounds.
Tonight she planned to tie him down and fuck him blind.
A shiver of desire went through her and slowly she opened her eyes again. This time the pain was manageable and she rolled onto her side, carefully rising to one elbow to take in her surroundings.
She was in a room with a stone floor, her back to a set of glass doors through which a new moon mostly hidden by clouds barely shown.
Fear gripped her. The moon only shown on her own lands.
And it was waxing towards full.
Ignoring the pain, Buffy pushed herself up to her knees then her feet, staggering slightly into a piece of furniture. A couch.
A couch across from a large pile of broken stone.
As realization hit her, her heart stuttered in her chest, pain making her gasp in shock.
That pile of rubble was Acathla.
This was Angelus' old house.
There was no sign of her at the lake. They tracked her to a copse of trees on the edge, a favorite spot of hers, but no farther. Hoof prints showed she'd arrived, and her scent lingered, but then...nothing. There were signs where her horse turned and ran, reins trailing in the soft dirt, but no sign of Buffy.
It was like she'd just vanished into thin air.
Still, they searched well into the night, before Angelus reluctantly called a halt and the returned to the mansion. As he dismounted, he instructed the groom to feed and curry his horse, getting it as much rest as possible, because there was only one person who would take Buffy with impunity. Only one being in Hell with the power to make her simply disappear.
"I leave for Dis at first light," Angelus growled before storming into the mansion and straight for the kitchen to sate his hunger on two embodied human souls who cowered in the larder. Buffy wouldn't approve, but she wasn't here and he needed his full strength to confront the King of Hell.
Slowly the room lightened, but seated on the dusty sofa, knees drawn up and chin resting on them, Buffy barely noticed. For hours she sat in shock, her mind whirling over the possibilities, the worries, the fears. How had this happened? Why? When was it? She'd been in Hell nearly one hundred years. A little over two months from now, there was a grand ball planned in Dis to celebrate. But here it didn't look like a hundred years had passed--surely the house wouldn't be empty like this, the remains of the stone demon still there. None of the linens or curtains were in tatters and the dust and cobwebs weren't thick enough to signify the passing of many years.
More importantly, where was Angelus? Had he returned with her? She'd searched the mansion but there was no sign of him. No sign of anyone. Her booted feet left prints through the dust, but there were no others.
No one had been here.
The rising sun finally made an impression and she uncurled herself, wincing at the stiffness in her limbs that quickly faded due to her healing factor. She needed information. The date, first, then she could go from there.
Making her way to the French doors, she opened one, noticing it did so smoothly with no sound, and stepped out into the early morning. It was cool, but not cold, and the leaves on the trees in the garden were starting to turn the colors of autumn. Her soft wool jacket and trousers would keep her warm enough and wouldn't be too out of place if not much time had passed. At least Hell fashions had moved past the riding habits with long skirts and bustles.
When she reached the street, she noticed a few parked cars, the designs familiar enough, and went to look at the license on one. It was dated the year they'd gone to Hell. Not conclusive, as people could fail to get new plates, but the other car showed the same, and she hurried down the hill towards the first ungated house. A newspaper lay in the driveway and she picked it up, ripping off the plastic bag and unfolding it enough to see the date.
Five months. Five months had passed.
Bewildered, Buffy dropped the newspaper and sank down onto the curb, burying her face in her hands.
Everyone would still be alive. Her friends. Her mom. Giles.
What had they thought of her disappearance?
For the first several decades that had been a constant concern in the back of her mind. Did her mother blame herself? Did she think Buffy had run away? Had she contacted the police with a missing person's report? Had Giles and her friends searched, researched, wondered if it was more than her just fleeing town? Had they noticed Angelus was missing as well and worried that he'd taken her?
Had they been the ones to destroy Acathla?
A shiver of anger went through her. Had her friends, her Watcher destroyed a possible way back home?
Hell was home. Decades ago, Buffy had accepted that and stopped trying to escape. Partly it had been due to her belief that the same time had passed on Earth and, therefore, her friends and her family were dead or had moved on her, living their lives without her.
If she'd known the truth of how little time had passed, would she have kept struggling against the Gates? Against Lucifer?
The answer was simple.
Because her home, her place, her world, was Hell. Even if Angelus had returned with her, even if he was even now avoiding the sun and looking for her, desperate to find her, this wasn't home.
It would be a relief to give her mother and friends closure, but she had to go home.
Buffy was just afraid that finding her way into Hell would be as impossible as finding her way out had been.
Scared, worried, desperately wanting her lover, she pushed herself up and headed towards the center of town and Giles' apartment. Hopefully, even with her gone, he remained in Sunnydale.
Which led to another thought.
Was there a new Slayer?
Firmly and as calmly as he could, Angelus demanded an audience with Lucifer, throwing out Buffy's name to the major domo, knowing that would get the King of Hell's attention if nothing else would. He waited only fifteen minutes before being ushered into a private office, which gave him hope that Lucifer would listen and also that he wasn't going to be summarily slaughtered for making demands--that would be in front of the Court for their amusement.
His eyes cool and inquisitive, Lucifer sat in a high-backed, red leather chair behind a mahogany desk. He'd listen.
Angelus blurted out, "Buffy's missing," a part of him hoping Lucifer hadn't been the one to take her because, if he had, Angelus had probably just signed his death warrant. But if he hadn't taken her...who had?
And the fallen angel's face changed, concern crossing it, eyes blazing blue ice, and Angelus felt both fear and relief. She wasn't here.
"She went riding yesterday. Her horse returned without her. We searched for hours. She's never been thrown. Someone must have taken her."
"Who would dare?" Lucifer barked as he stood and rounded the desk.
"Outside of you, no one I can think of." It was true. Their estate was massive, their standing army large and powerful. It was well known that Angelus would torture and slaughter any demon who even made a disparaging comment about his lover.
And Lucifer would do even worse.
"She's not here," the King of Hell snarled.
"I know." Angelus dipped his head in as much submission as he could muster because he needed the angel's help. "To just take her isn't your style." For the last dozen hours he'd ignored that fact. Not only wasn't it his style, he'd gloat.
"I'd have made certain you knew."
Those blue eyes flashed red, revealing the demonic side Lucifer hid so well, and then he waved his hand and the room filled with a holographic, topographic map of Hell. Angelus stared at the shimmering images surrounding him--the land, the buildings, the billions of dark points that reflected souls, the thousands of red ones that had to be demons. Somehow, the proportions impossible, everything in Hell was reflected here. He found himself, a red dot standing next to the brightest golden one, then turned to notice the other golden ones, mostly at the seven Gates.
The fallen angels.
Then he turned back to Lucifer and saw his eyes closed, a look of concentration on his face. After a few minutes, his eyes opened, blue again, and...bewildered.
That look shook Angelus to his core.
"She is not here."
"From where did she disappear?"
Finger shaking, Angelus pointed to the lake.
"The Fourth Gate is only a few leagues from there."
"She wouldn't have," Angelus whispered because he truly believed that. Years ago Buffy had given up on escape. There had been no attempts, no plans, no conversations even. "And the tracks ended at the lake. She can't fly; she can't teleport. She's not an angel."
"No, but she's cunning enough to cover her tracks, disguise her scent."
"She wouldn't try to leave."
"You have much more faith in her than I." Lucifer glared at him.
"The Gates don't open out. You've told her this a hundred times."
Shocked, though really he shouldn't have been--Lucifer was the Prince of Lies, after all--Angelus staggered forward and grabbed the back of a chair. "What?"
"I lied. Why do you think the Gates are guarded?" Lucifer snarled in frustration. "Demons and the Fallen will burn on the other side. Souls cannot escape through them, but those embodied can."
"A hundred or so souls at any time are granted bodies. It is a gift, but some abuse it, try to escape, so the Gates are guarded. The embodied are not allowed to leave Hell. If they escape, our mandate from Heaven could be called into question. So, we tell everyone there is nothing outside the Gates, that they do not open. The truth is a closely guarded secret for a reason. No embodied soul has ever succeeded in opening one of the Gates, but if any could, it would be Buffy."
"Where do the Gates lead?"
"The one place all souls wish to go."
Heaven. Angelus' heart sank. That was a place he would never see. Demons burn outside the gates was what Lucifer had said. Demons had no place in Heaven.
Lucifer waved away the hologram and spoke one word, a name.
A few moments later, Marchosias appeared, a large winged wolf with a serpent's tail. With a shake he morphed into an angel, his wings pure black, a flaming sword at his hip. Ignoring Angelus, he bowed before Lucifer. "My lord?"
"Has anyone approached the Fourth Gate without my permission?"
"My cadre and I have seen no one unwarranted in decades, my lord."
"And the Gate has not opened from the outside?"
The fallen angel's eyes widened in shock. "No, my lord, not since our banishment through them have any of the Gates opened save at your command."
With a nod Lucifer dismissed him and the next fifteen minutes was spent summoning the leaders of the other guard units, checking the status of each Gate. The closest threat had been a few months before at the First Gate--a couple of wandering embodied souls had gotten close enough to be cut down by the power of the Gate itself.
After the last fallen angel returned to his post, Lucifer sank against the front of his desk, looking unusually flustered.
That look terrified Angelus who finally asked the question he'd been avoiding since Lucifer announced she wasn't in Hell. "Could she have...died?" Her body was still mortal. Although she didn't age, death could come for her. It had been a constant fear of his.
To his relief, Lucifer decisively shook his head. "I would have felt her true death. There remains a bond between us that would have broken with that. Her soul would have moved on to Heaven. The nearest Gate would have opened for her without my grant, but only for her, and the Fallen wouldn't have stopped her."
"If nothing is allowed to escape Hell, how is that possible?"
"Because she is unique, vampire. If she had died her soul would have found no impairment, would not have needed my grant to leave. She is still too pure for Hell."
"You keep mentioning permission and a grant. I don't understand. Souls, even the embodied, suffer for eternity."
"A fallacy," Lucifer said dismissively. "Do you really think there is no salvation here?" He called back up the hologram and pointed to a lone white mark approaching one of the Gates, only to disappear upon reaching it. "A soul cleansed of its sins has moved on to its reward. My grants are given each dawn to any who have earned them. I used to call them here and give out scrolls, but grew bored of that. Now I speak their true name, and they simply realize they are free, head to a Gate, and it opens for them. No demon, no Fallen will bar their way."
"So, the religions that claim that once you are damned to Hell, it's forever, are wrong?"
"Most religions are wrong, Angelus." Smirking, Lucifer banished the map again, then crossed his arms over his chest and stared at the vampire until he squirmed. "You love her with all your corrupted heart."
"For her, will you keep the secrets I have already shared and the greatest I am about to impart?"
"Yes," he swore more forcibly, but not less truthfully, and Lucifer nodded.
"She is not dead and she did not exit through one of the Gates, so she is not in Heaven, which is good, since I have no access there and am not prepared to storm the Silver City. Not yet. But..." He frowned and, gesturing for Angelus to take a seat, pushed off from the desk to go to one of the bookcases that lined the walls. From it, he took a small golden orb. "I am not trapped in Hell, Angelus. I never have been."
Sinking into a chair, Angelus felt himself gaping at the King of Hell. Everyone knew Lucifer was trapped here, unable to leave unless summoned, and no one ever summoned him because the spells to do so existed only in Hell. None of the fallen angels could be summoned, only demons. Everyone knew this.
"Of my fallen brethren only I can walk the Earth. As I find it as dismal a place as Hell, I rarely bother. All the dimensions are open to me and they are all equally dull. I have not left Hell in two thousand years, not since the birth of our Father's human son. But, if Buffy is not here and not in Heaven, she is on Earth or in one of the myriad dimensions. To search them all would take even I a millennia, but I am willing to look on Earth before attempting other methods to find her." He waved a hand at the books surrounding them. "My arcane library contains the spells for such searches, but even those could take decades and much of my power. To find her, I will use them and every being at my disposal, even drain my own power, but we start with Earth."
"Because she's from there?"
"Can you take me with you?"
"No, and as you are not a true demon, once there, I cannot summon you."
Angelus' heart sank, but he looked up with pleading, hopeful eyes. "If you find her, can you bring her back?"
"If that is her wish."
At Lucifer's softly spoken comment, all he could do was helplessly nod.
As Sunnydale came to life, shops opening, cars going by, people milling about, it seemed surreal to Buffy. Everything looked the same. Willie's was still down that alley. The Bronze another. There was the one Starbucks doing a booming business and the Doublemeat Palace opening for breakfast. Main Street housed her favorite shoe store, the magic store, the police station. Everything was the same. Passing her mom's gallery, she stopped and looked at the window display. That was different, but then it changed monthly. The gallery was still closed, her mom probably still at home.
Buffy thought about changing her destination and going there, seeing her mother, but she wasn't sure what to say, how to explain. Had Giles sat her down and told her everything or was she floundering with only partial information about the supernatural?
No, she had to talk to him first.
Determined, she turned down the next street and headed into a residential neighborhood. It was only four more blocks to his apartment complex, a distance covered quickly, even if she was more accustomed to riding than walking these days--she really hoped Rosebud was okay; she'd been her favorite mount for decades.
It was amazing how quickly long forgotten details returned to her. She had no problem remembering which apartment was Giles', and the exterior, down to the potted plants, was clear in her mind when she arrived. She had changed, though. Still physically sixteen, she knew she looked older, more sophisticated.
And no longer innocent at all. The demonic blood in her veins had slowly but surely grown stronger. It was an infection she'd long since stopped fighting, even reveling in the darkness it imbued her with.
Angelus certainly enjoyed it.
A pang of pain went through her and, taking a deep breath, she knocked on the door. A few minutes passed before she heard footsteps and then the door opened.
He looked the same.
He looked the same, in tweed with bleary eyes and his hair mussed, and... Emotion choked her.
"Buffy?" Giles asked in wonder, staggering back, one hand gripping the door frame for support.
"Hi, Giles. Can I beg a cup of coffee?" Tea grew in Hell; coffee didn't. Buffy'd been craving it for a hundred years.
"Dear Lord," he choked and reached for her, pulling her into a hard, desperate embrace.
Instinctively Buffy sagged into him, burying her face in his wool covered chest, drinking in the scent that brought back so many memories. He smelled like books and tea and Giles. Tears burned the corners of her eyes and she clutched him tighter.
"My dear girl, oh, my girl, we thought you lost," he murmured into her hair, stroking her back.
She didn't know how to respond, only shook her head, until he drew her into the apartment and over to the couch. Slowly Buffy pulled away and sank down onto the soft cushions, then looked up at him as she wiped the tears from her cheeks. He sat on the coffee table in front of her, hands twitching as if he wanted to grab her again, and finally he took off his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose before replacing them.
"What happened, Buffy?"
"It's a really long story, Giles, but I didn't mean to disappear. I just...couldn't come back."
"The police charges were dropped. Your mother--have you seen her?" At her head shake, he frowned slightly. "She's forgiven you. She just wants you home. We put out feelers trying to find you, fearing you'd run away or, worse, been taken by Angelus. We searched...we searched morgues and hospitals from here to San Francisco. There was no sign of you and no sign of him."
"There wouldn't have been."
Giles' face froze and he swallowed hard. "Did he take you?"
Buffy saw his hand moving slowly to his pocket and sighed. "Giles, I was just in full sunshine. I'm not a vampire."
"Right. Yes, of course." Huffing in relief, he clasped his hands together in his lap. "So, please, Buffy, what did happen?"
"Acathla opened and to close it I stabbed Angelus through the stomach and he fell into the portal and...dragged me with him."
Giles stared at her in shock, the finally stammered, "Portal to where?"
"Where do you think? To Hell. I've been in Hell." As he continued to stare, she unbuttoned her jacket and slipped it off, revealing a fine white linen blouse with a lace collar and cuffs. "It's not as hot there as you'd think," she explained, because his apartment was warm and she'd gotten heated from the long walk. "A glass of water would be appreciated, but I also would really like some coffee."
"Yes," she replied calmly and crossed one leg over the other, getting comfortable, because this was going to take some time.
Slowly, not taking his eyes off her, Giles rose and retreated to the kitchen. A moment later, he returned with a chilled bottle of water and a mug of coffee with cream and sugar. Setting them on the table, he drew up a chair a few feet from her and, while she waited for him to process his thoughts, she opened the water and drank it gratefully.
"Are you all right?" he finally asked, voice dripping with concern, and she was touched by it.
Just being here with him reminded her there was still good in her. "I'm fine. More than fine. Hell is...well, not a paradise, but I didn't suffer." Unless she wanted to, but she kept that wicked thought to herself.
"Why weren't you torn to pieces? I mean, I'm so glad you're all right, but I don't understand."
"I know. It's really complicated. Time, Giles, it moved very differently. I've been missing for five months, but, for me, it was just under a hundred years."
"I was an enigma to the demons. An embodied soul still alive is unheard of. I didn't age, but I need food and drink and sleep. I'm unique and it was that quality which kept me alive those first few days and, in the end, gave me a life in Hell. I was taken before Lord Lucifer and I intrigued him. A Slayer has never been to Hell."
"Yeah, the Fallen Angel, the Morningstar, the King of Hell." She reached for her coffee and took a sip, then moaned in pleasure. "I've missed this. We can't get it to grow for some reason."
"You intrigued Lucifer," Giles stammered, and she smiled wistfully.
"I still do. Originally his favor kept me alive, though, we've long since built our own power base big and strong enough to keep me safe from attack."
"We?" he asked sharply.
"Angelus," she replied cooly. "As a half-breed demon he was nothing special, but Hell actually calmed him, made him nicer. We...we've been together almost the entire time. We rule a large estate, the core of which was given to me by Lucifer to keep me in food and sunshine. Angelus leads our army. I sit on Lucifer's council." She took another sip and set down her cup. "I had to survive, Giles. I had to do anything I could to survive." There was so much more she needed to say, but Giles had gone pale, his eyes were stricken, his breathing rapid, and she waited for him to respond, fearing an explosion.
"You and Angelus?" No explosion but there was disappointment in his voice. Decades ago that would have caused her pain, but her belief in Angelus' love was unassailable.
"He loves me and I love him. In Hell, he's so different, Giles. The demon's not broken. He's happy. There's no reason for him to be cruel to me."
The silence fell again and she finished her coffee, trying not to fidget, because a minuscule part of her was still sixteen years old, wanting his approval.
Finally, Giles sank back into his seat and rubbed his hands over his face. "How did you get home?"
"I don't know." This wasn't home, but he wasn't ready to hear that. "I was riding, a familiar path, my favorite horse, and suddenly I woke up in Angelus' old mansion. When I started walking, I saw a newspaper with the date. I don't know why the time is different, why I was brought back and why Angelus wasn't, at least not in the same place."
"Was he with you?"
"No." Softly sighing, she fiddled with her ring, a habit that betrayed her worry. "I'm afraid he's still there."
Going cold, she sat up straight. "No, not good. I love him," she stressed. "I don't want to be without him."
"And if he returned here, he'd be the insane demon again," Giles argued.
"Not with me. Not after a hundred years. Not after what I've become."
"And what is that?"
Buffy hadn't meant for that to slip, but she shrugged. It didn't bother her anymore. "Why didn't you tell me about the origins of Slayers, Giles? How the first Slayer was made? Where our powers come from?"
He paled again.
"Yeah, I know. I denied it for a long time, but Lucifer finally convinced me, and after so many decades I can feel it, the demon blood in me, influencing me. I'm guessing that one of the reasons Slayers die young is so that they don't have time to be corrupted."
"And you are." It wasn't a question.
Shrugging again, because she really didn't care, Buffy replied, "Yes. A hundred years in Hell will do that to a girl. I'm not a demon. I'm not evil, but I'm not wholly good either. I finally accepted that about fifty years ago when I finally stopped trying to escape."
Stricken again, Giles rose and Buffy wasn't surprised when he headed for the whisky bottle. Dispassionately she watched him drain one glass and then pour another before returning to his seat.
"You did what you had to do to survive," he agreed dully.
"Yes, and part of that survival had to be to find a way to be happy. There's enough misery in Hell."
"What...what was it like?"
"I...I don't know if I can explain. The pain fields. The factories of the damned. The screaming souls on the endless torture racks. They horrified me for so long, but then...I guess I became so used to them that I no longer cared. I don't have any in my lands. I don't torture souls. But I don't try to stop any of it. I used to cry when I heard them wailing in the walls of Dis, but now I just ignore them. I had to grow cold, Giles, or go mad. I had to make friends of demons, or lose myself in loneliness. I stopped seeing their red skin, black eyes, horns. I stopped being bothered by them feeding on souls and blood. Dis is a city like any other. My friends are just that. Angelus told me that Lucifer's court reminded him of the ones he attended in eighteenth century London. The demons gossip and intrigue, have affairs and go on hunts. There are balls and politics, dinner parties, and fashion. I became a part of it because Lucifer wanted me to and I needed his favor to survive. Even after he gave me my own title and estates, Angelus and I continued to develop friendships, alliances, built our lands through trade and battle. We are a powerhouse couple in Hell."
"You're speaking in the present tense."
Slowly she nodded and tried to be delicate. "I don't want to hurt you, Giles, to hurt any of you, my friends, my mom, but Hell is my home. I have to go back. I want to go back, and not just because of Angelus," she stressed, her voice trembling with raw emotion. "I can't fit in here anymore."
"You haven't tried," he passionately cried. "Your mother loves you, needs you. We all need you, Buffy."
"And I need Hell. I'm sorry." Fresh tears slipped from her eyes and she swiped at them in frustration. "Please find me a way home."
Giles shook his head, and she could tell it was more from confusion than denial, but it made her angry.
"If you won't help me, someone will. Ethan maybe. Spike. I'll find someone. It's got to be easier to get into Hell than out. All I need is a portal, but if need be, I'll damn myself and slit my throat."
His anger shut her up and she swallowed down her own, shaking slightly from it. "I...I'm sorry. I just...This isn't my home. I missed you all so much, but I moved on. I had to. And, of course I'll see my mom and my friends and hopefully we'll get some closure, but I have to find my way back, not only to Angelus, but to my life."
Before Giles could respond, the front door burst apart and bright golden light flooded in, nearly blinding them both. As they shielded their stinging eyes and Giles half rose to his feet, a figure stepped inside and the light began to fade.
"I am pleased to hear that, my dearest," a smug so familiar voice said, and the light disappeared, revealing Lucifer standing there in a crisp black suit and a smile of true pleasure on his face.
Happiness flooding her, Buffy jumped to her feet and flung herself against him, feeling his wings encircle her as his arms did as well. "How...?"
"Now, I must have some secrets. I am just glad it was so easy to find you. When I discover who stole you from us, they shall pay dearly."
At his threats, she chuckled, then stepped back, unable to stop smiling. "Angelus?"
"Awaiting you in my palace. Impatiently and fearfully, I might add. There was no guarantee you had been returned to Earth."
"Only a few months have passed here. Why?"
"Time has always moved differently. Hell is for suffering, after all. The longer, the better, I suppose."
At Giles' hesitantly spoken question, she turned, then crossed to him to take his hand. "It's okay. He's here for me. I'm not sure how," she shot over her shoulder and Lucifer smirked at her.
"Lucifer, yes." At the annoyed sound behind her, she rolled her eyes. "Lord Lucifer. This is Giles, my Watcher when I was the Slayer."
"A rather wicked Watcher, my dear. You never said he was one of Eyghon's."
In front of her, Giles paled, and Buffy sighed. "Don't worry. When you come to us, if any of you come to us, I'll make sure you don't suffer."
"My friends don't suffer, Lucifer," she snapped.
"The things I do for you, my love," he sighed. "I assume by your eagerness, you do wish to return to Hell." At her quick nod, he asked, "So, shall we?"
"What? Wait, no. Um. Look, this is my only chance to say goodbye properly to my friends, my...mom." She was surprised at the pain that thought brought her, but it was necessary. Turning to Lucifer, she nibbled on her lower lip and tried not to wring her hands. "Please?"
"All right. I have business in Los Angeles. Forty eight hours. I shall find you, but hopefully not in the hovel I arrived in--you never mentioned that idiot Acathla was your way into Hell in the first place, but I do thank whomever destroyed his earthbound form."
"I was a bit frustrated," Giles mumbled and, smiling at him, Buffy squeezed his hand, then looked back at Lucifer.
"How long will that be in Hell?"
"Long enough that your vampire will probably have rampaged through my palace and killed half my guards in frustration. I trust you'll punish him properly."
She sent him a wicked grin and nodded. "Forty eight hours, and don't think we're not going to talk about how easily you got here, my lord."
Bowing slightly, he smirked back at her. "I look forward to our discussion and your attempts to wheedle the truth from me."
With a sweep of his wings he vanished, and the front door rebuilt itself, leaving not a splinter behind.
"Buffy?" Giles sank down into the chair, a hand pressed to his chest.
"Oh geez, don't have a heart attack!"
Helplessly, he laughed, and she smiled in pleasure and leaned down to hug him. "That was...that was..."
"Yeah, it was."
"Just his presence..."
"Yeah," she acknowledged. Although just the sight of Lucifer no longer made her weak in the knees, it had taken years for her to build up a tolerance. He was truly a beautiful creature. "He is an angel, after all." Confident Giles wasn't having a stroke or heart failure, Buffy sat back down on the couch. "I really don't know how he got here, but, Giles, I'm glad. I want to go home."
"You swear that you don't suffer there?"
Only when she wanted to. "I swear. I have a really good life. I love Angelus with all my heart. I have friends. I get to annoy the Fallen, which brings me as much joy as it does Lucifer--he really doesn't like his fellow angels very much. I even get trashy romance novels and the latest nail polish colors. Hell is...weird."
"While I can't express how happy I am that you're here, alive and well, that we know what happened to you, I...I'll miss you."
"I have missed you, Giles." Reaching out she took his hand again. "You're my Watcher and my friend. I'm glad I get to say goodbye this time. I...need to see the gang and my mom. We have two days. We need to make the most of them."
He tightened his hold on her hand and asked, "Is there any way you can come back?"
"I'm not sure how I got here, but if Lucifer can come to Earth, maybe he'll bring me back some time for a visit. I don't know if it's possible, but if it is, he'll do it for me." She grinned. "He likes me."
She grinned even wider, then gestured to the phone. "Can you call Willow and Xander and my mom and even Cordy and...do you have a new Slayer?"
"Yes. I fought taking on a new one, but the Council finally insisted and we did need someone here at the Hellmouth," he admitted a bit sheepishly. "She's been here a couple months. Her name is Faith."
"I'd like to meet her."
"I'll call her as well. She's...well, she's very different from you," Giles said diplomatically as he reached for the phone.
Two weeks. Two weeks since Lucifer had used the golden orb and simply vanished from his office. Angelus remained in the palace, in the suite reserved for he and Buffy, waiting, but his patience quickly melted away. He became irritable, angry and frustrated, taking out those emotions through violent fights against whatever demons would take him on and long rides that wore out his mounts.
Mostly he did so to tire himself out enough to sleep. When he wasn't angry, he was worried. Worried that Lucifer wouldn't find her. Worried that, if he did, she wouldn't want to return. While she hadn't tried to escape Hell for nearly half a century, he knew she still missed her mother, her friends. Hell had become her home. Angelus had become her home.
But, he'd never completely believed he was enough for her.
A vampire in love with a Slayer was unheard of; a Slayer returning that love was unimaginable. He knew he didn't deserve that, didn't deserve her. He could never measure up to the goodness that remained a golden spark inside her soul.
After an extended hunt that brought down a dozen runaway souls from Belial's torture racks, Angelus returned exhausted to his rooms and collapsed on the bed. Still fully clothed, he fell into a deep slumber.
And he dreamed.
Of Buffy smiling at him across the dinner table. Of her yelling at him in anger until he grabbed her and kissed her silent. Of her spread naked across their bed, pale skin glistening with sweat, flush of blood high on her cheeks as she reached for him.
In his sleep, Angelus smiled.
And then the dream darkened. She no longer smiled, no longer kissed him, no longer welcomed him into her arms. Buffy turned away from him and disappeared into a mist.
He saw her on Earth with her friends, laughing, fitting right back into their lives so easily. He saw her with her mother, talking and hugging. He saw her with Giles, training, the Slayer again.
Angelus felt her break the love between them, break his heart, and he woke up panting breathlessly.
There were tears of despair on his cheeks, and he buried them in his pillow, his shoulders shaking in sorrow. He truly didn't know how to live without her.
While there was no longer any worry that he'd be slaughtered without her at his side--he controlled their armies, their lands produced goods many demons wanted, he had allies who wouldn't desert him--without her, it was all just pointless.
One hundred years and the Scourge of Europe had gone soft.
Had fallen helplessly, hopelessly, permanently in love.
Another week passed, and another, and Angelus stopped working out his frustration on others, started neglecting himself. He stopped eating, bathing, sleeping, until at the one month mark, he was a shadow haunting the palace, never going outside, just waiting.
"Are you sure this is what you want?" Joyce asked for at least the twentieth time, a frown on her face.
Turning from the front window, Buffy nodded. She understood, of course she did. The last two days had been wonderful. Once she'd been assured of a way home, back to Angelus, she'd reverted to the Buffy of old, happy to be with her friends, to spend time with her mom. They'd talked about everything, Buffy holding nothing back, not even her relationship with Lucifer. She knew Joyce really didn't understand, probably substituted Lucifer for just a guy, but she listened and gave advice. They shared things they'd never talked about before, Buffy talking for hours about Angelus, before the loss of his soul, after, and then how Hell had changed him for the better. She was frank about her own changes and it only took a couple hours for Joyce to begin treating her like an adult, sharing her own tales of love and heartache.
Connecting with Willow and Xander had actually been more difficult. They were still teenagers. Yes, she loved them. She'd missed them, but they didn't understand why she needed to go back to Hell, and Xander especially hated Angelus and couldn't accept her relationship with him. Oddly enough, Cordelia had been fine with it all, like she wasn't surprised Buffy managed not only to survive in Hell but prosper, and, as she said, Angelus was hot.
After just fifteen minutes speaking with Faith, once she'd assured the new Slayer she wasn't staying, which seemed to make her more relaxed, Buffy was convinced the Hellmouth was in good hands. The brassy girl would certainly keep Giles on his toes, and her friends accepted her, helped her.
As Buffy had watched them all interact, including the laid-back Oz who was dating Willow, she saw the relationships forming between them, and knew they were strong ties. A bit sadly, she realized that, while they'd undoubtedly miss her, and, if she stayed, welcome her back easily, they were moving on.
It was something she had done decades before. Sometimes it had hurt to think about them and sometimes she had missed them desperately, but mostly...her life was different, better in many ways.
Theirs would be, too.
"I know it's hard, mom. I almost wish years had passed here. I think it would be easier for all of you. It's not like I forgot you, any of you, but my life is there with Angelus. I have friends and a purpose there. I know it's weird, but I truly came alive in Hell."
"Yeah, it's weird," Joyce sighed, "But I can see it, the changes in you. You're all grown up and it's hard for me to see that because it's only been five months, but I am glad something sent you home to me, even for only two days. To know that you're alive and happy and not suffering alone somewhere...The only thing better than that would be if you stayed."
Walking across the room, Buffy wrapped her mother in a tight embrace and they were quiet for several minutes, until she pulled back and took Joyce's hands. "I have missed you and will continue to miss you, but I know you're safe here. I'm glad you took in Faith, not only because she'll protect you, but so you're not lonely. I'm glad you know all the truths and that you've become friends with Giles. I know you'll be happy."
"I don't know if that's possible without you, Buffy, but I will try. I hope you can come back some day. We'll all be here."
"But, don't wait. Promise me, mom. Live your life and know that I'm happy in mine."
Slowly Joyce nodded and they hugged again until a knock came on the door, and Buffy's face lit up.
Forty eight hours on the dot.
Pulling away from her mom, she went to open the door. "No blasting open the door this time?" she teased.
Looking very casual in dark gray trousers and an open-necked pale blue shirt that matched his eyes, Lucifer gave her a look, and she grinned and curtsied, then stepped aside for him to enter. Her eyes flicked to her mom to gauge her reaction, which was mostly shock and awe, and since Buffy would never forget her first meeting with the Morningstar, she empathized. Moving towards her mother, she took her hand again. "Mom, this is Lord Lucifer. Lucifer, my mother, Joyce Summers."
Lucifer took Joyce's free hand and brought it to his lips. Only Buffy's grip on her other hand kept her on her feet. "Mrs. Summers, it is a true pleasure. Your daughter is a remarkable woman. She has brought joy to Hell, something unheard of before her arrival. Please trust that she is well cared for in my lands."
Releasing her hand and turning to Buffy, he asked, "Are you ready?"
"Yes. Thank you for giving me this time to say goodbye to everyone. We all needed the closure."
"To be torn from those we love with no chance to explain or bid them farewell, is a pain I would not have you suffer again," he said softly. "I shall await you on the lawn."
As he exited through the door, Buffy smiled at her mom who was gaping. "Yeah, he gets that reaction a lot."
"And you slept with him?"
Blushing, Buffy hugged Joyce one final time, whispered her love and goodbyes, then picked up a duffel bag full of mementos of her life on Earth, photographs of her friends and family, a batch of Willow's oatmeal cookies, Mr. Pointy, and a couple pairs of new shoes, and left without a backwards glance.
Like the wives of Lot and Orpheus, a look back might have done her in.
Tears sparkled in her eyes, but she knew she was doing the right thing.
On the lawn, surrounded by light, Lucifer held out his hand and Buffy took it.
"At least I didn't end up unconscious this time," she said with a quick smile as she smoothed down her ruffled mini-skirt and glanced around Lucifer's private office. "I..."
"Go," he ordered indulgently, and she flipped him a grin and took off at a run for her rooms. To her surprise, they were dark and stuffy, and she could smell dust. Even when she wasn't in residence, someone cleaned the suite, kept it aired out. Worried, she dropped the duffel bag and turned on the lights.
The sitting room was a mess, furniture overturned, glassware broken. The bar was strewn with empty bottles and the stale smell of spilt liquor made her nose twitch. Stepping around a broken chair, she headed for the bedroom and, with some difficulty, pushed open the door. As she turned on the light there, she saw a pile of dirty clothes behind the door. The bed was intact, but the coverings lay ripped and shredded on the floor.
"Angelus?" Now she was growing frightened. Lucifer had been sure he wouldn't leave Dis. Maybe he was out riding or with friends or...but the state of their rooms...he was suffering. This destruction was caused by anger, but mostly pain.
A sound from her dressing room drew her attention and she hurried there. The overhead light didn't turn on, but she found a lamp that still worked and righted it on a table just inside the door. It illuminated enough of the room to reveal several of her ball gowns heaped on the floor, and, a top the heap, curled her lover.
He was nude and shaking.
"Oh, Angelus," she whispered as she stumbled to him. Dropping to her knees, she carefully reached for him. At her touch, he stilled, then slowly craned his head and blinked open red, swollen eyes.
"You're not real."
"I'm so sorry. I wouldn't have stayed a minute longer if I'd known you were hurting so badly. I didn't leave you on purpose, I swear. I would never do that. All I wanted was to come home to you, but I also needed to say goodbye to my mom and Giles and my friends. I'm so..."
A tight grip on her stroking hand shut her up, and with a jerk, she found herself held tightly to her lover's shaking body. "You are real?" he asked, voice trembling with ill concealed hope.
"Yes. I'm here. I'm home."
"Fuck, Buffy...I...I thought you were gone forever and I didn't know what to do."
"You're never going to get rid of me, love," she swore, smiling with tears in her eyes, then kissed him, only to pull back quickly. "Um, shower? Teeth brushing? You kind of reek, darling."
Burying his face in her neck, Angelus growled his love for her over and over, until finally he pulled them both to their feet and yanked her over his shoulder.
"Shower later. You don't smell like me. I don't like it." This kind of feral side of him sent a shiver of desire through her, and she wondered if she could at least get him to pop a mint.
She could live with the smell.
When he threw them both down onto the mattress, she squealed in joy. When he kissed her with all the love and desire he had for her, she forgot about the mint, and returned the kiss with abandon.
Buffy was home.
They were both happy.