Disclaimer: Not mine, alas.
Setting: During ‘Fredless’, following Angel and Buffy’s off-screen meeting after Buffy’s return from Heaven.
Notes: Originally written for ba_rosebuds, but kept for IWRY 2010 as a back-up story in case of need.
Thanks for picking up the baton on IWRY, Dark Star. And thanks to Chrislee for the years of hosting this wonderful B/A event, and to Leni for starting it in the first place.
NB Unusually, I have taken a verbatim scene from ‘Fredless’, and interpolated into that framework what is going on in Angel’s head at the time. So, some of this is mine, and some of it is not. Angel’s thoughts are in italics, and they’re my story.
He stands in the shadows, listening to them talk, pouring poison over his love. He wants to kill them, but he won’t. Not today. They’re only speaking the truth – more truth than they understand – but he won’t give them the satisfaction of baring his wounds to them. And those wounds are ragged and raw. He doesn’t think they will ever heal, because he knows that the demon will lick at them for ever more. The demon understands what will make them better. So does he. One more murder. One more way to be happy. One more way to lose his soul.
Fred says, “But you said he loved her. And of course she's gonna love him back, because he's so strong and handsome and he really listens when you talk. I – I mean, if you go for that sort of thing, why wouldn't it work?”
Fred is biased, of course. But she’s lived with monsters for years. She’s used to them. She can’t see him as the others do.
Cordy. “Let me break it down for you, Fred.”
Cordy steps away from the reception counter and pretends to be Buffy. As if that could ever work...
Cordy. “Oh - Angel! I know that I'm a Slayer and you a vampire - and it would be *impossible* for us to *be* together - *but!*”
Gunn laughs at Cordy's act. Angel feels his fists clenching in anger. How dare he laugh? How dare they do this?
He had truly reconciled himself to Buffy’s death. He had vowed to himself that he would work to make amends for his sins. He would atone until Judgement Day, if necessary, throwing himself on the mercy of the Powers, giving himself to them in eternal servitude, if he could earn a place with her in whatever heaven she’d found. It had given him a kind of peace to know that, although the two worlds kept them apart, they could never be separated in thoughts and dreams. Perhaps naively, he had imagined she might be looking down on him, like the Blessed Damozel, waiting until he had earned forgiveness.
And then she had returned, bringing with her all the old pain and temptations.
Buffy had been cold, when he got to her, cold of body and of mind. Cold of heart. But he had reached out to her and touched her, and that ice had crumbled. She had fallen into his arms, and she had wept, because she wanted him to stay with her forever, to help her find her place again in this cold, cruel, loud, pugnacious world. To come back to Sunnydale with her and to never again leave her alone.
Wes stands up. "But!"
Oh, how he had yearned to do as she asked... But he’s weak. He’d known where that would lead.
Cordy turns to look at Wes, who takes his glasses off and lays them to the side.
“My gypsy curse sometimes prevents me from seeing the truth. Oh, Buffy!”
The truth was that they were only whole when they were together. It was the thing that healed them of sorrow, gave them strength to carry on. But... The curse, the vengeance that the gypsies had wreaked... It would rip and tear and claw at them, a monster, growing each day, drawing strength from them, even as it inexorably poisoned the love that lay between them.
Cordy is simpering at Wes. She’s trying to be like Buffy. Never!
Wes just doesn’t stop.
“Oh, I love you so much I almost forgot to *brood!*”
Angel’s lip curls, at Wes for the cruelty, and at himself for his weakness. They have no idea of the depth of his love, how it consumes him as so many other obsessions have consumed him. The difference is that his love for Buffy consumes the demon and strengthens the man, whereas his other obsessions have fed the demon and obliterated the man. She makes him forget the monster that he is, and that is why she is such a danger to him. And to herself.
Fred watches wide-eyed. Gunn is laughing again. It’s Cordy’s turn to scour the wounds now.
“And just because I sent you to hell that one time doesn't mean that we can't just be friends.”
Buffy had told him that Earth seemed like Hell to her, now, and she’d asked him whether he could ever forgive her enough to walk with her here, and not to abandon her, as she had left him to that terrible place. She’d pleaded with him to stay by her side, as her true friend. He’d wept as he told her that he hadn’t the strength.
They’ll never be friends. The ties that bind them are far more primal than that. The first time she saw him, he told her that he wasn’t her friend. He’d known, even then.
He watches expressionlessly as Wes grabs hold of Cordy's wrist.
He’d done that, too, and then he’d swept Buffy into his arms, and taken her to the motel bed, laying her gently down, and he’d lain there with her, holding her tightly.
Cordy sighs, “Oh!”
Wes’s reply sounds heartfelt.
“Or possibly more.”
He’d told Buffy he wanted to make love to her. He always wanted to make love to her. If he stayed with her, they would fall. And they’d both wept together. And even as he held her, his hands explored her, gently, tenderly, as though she might break. As though he might break, and he’d really thought that he might.
Cordy’s mockery continues. “Gasp! No! We mustn't.”
He’d seen something in Buffy’s eyes when she told him they mustn’t, something colder than her heart, something older, wiser, more calculating. More poisonous.
Wes pulls Cordy close.
He’d ignored that other thing and pulled Buffy close to him, his need for her throbbing in his head and his groin. And in his heart.
Wes. “Kiss me.”
“Kiss me,” he’d demanded, and he didn’t mean the kiss of a friend. But she’d turned her head away, and said something that shocked and thrilled him, something that haunted him even now, here in the shadows.
Cordy. “Bite me!”
That older, colder thing had flashed in Buffy’s eyes again, and she’d bent her neck to him.
“If I can’t have you as I am, then I want you to bite me.”
He’d let go of her, pushing her away, and she’d broken down again, clinging to him, pleading with him. If a person’s soul escaped the vampire, as he had told her, then why shouldn’t they let their souls run free together, leaving the unwanted flesh behind. Or, at worst, she would be something that he could be with.
And he’d wanted to. He’d wanted to so desperately that his blood was on fire with it. His fangs grazed against the sensual silk of her skin, the tip of his tongue searching out the throbbing life source beneath. It was unbearably wonderful.
And the demon had said ‘Yessss.’ The demon had wanted it as much as he did, sweetening the poison of temptation with promises.
The weakling, selfish man in him had tried to rationalise. Buffy was a Slayer. No one had turned a Slayer before. Perhaps it would be different. He had a soul. Perhaps that, too, would make it different. Perhaps it could work. And the knowledge of what he had done would surely prevent perfect happiness, while allowing both of them to have enough joy in each other. Perhaps they would continue to love. His fangs had pressed closer...
He fights off his demon face as Wes bends Cordy back over his arm, pretending to sink his fangs into her neck, and the acid of truth etches this reflection into the mirror of his soul.
He can’t bear to remember any more. Not now. He’ll relive it again and again, and he still wants to drink, but please, not now, when he hurts so much and the demon is screaming for their blood.
He is a poison to all those around him, even the woman he loves. He should have been taken, that Christmas morning in Sunnydale...
He steps forward out of the shadows, careful that it’s his human face they see.
“How about you both bite me.”
Perhaps he should see how they deal with being a vampire...
Fred jumps up.
Cordy and Wes see him and quickly scurry apart, looking guilty.
“How'd it go?” Gunn asks.
He tells them all that he’s prepared to say, to punish himself, rather than to enlighten them.
“I think those two pretty much summed it up. To be honest - I really don't want to talk about it.”
Cordy tugs her mini skirt back into place.
“But... ah, Angel - we're your friends.”
She gives him a big, false, friendly smile.
“And, and it – it's not healthy to repress stuff like this. You – you need to share your – pain, express those feelings of grief and longing or... The curiosity is gonna kill me!”
He can almost taste her blood on his tongue, mingled with the memory of Buffy’s blood. He wants to roar at her, but he tightens his control, his voice quiet.
“Oh, no. Wouldn't want that.”
Fred jumps to his defence, and he loves her for it.
“Personally, I don't care at all what happened."
Cordy snipes back at her.
“Shut up, Fred.”
The blood taste/memory grows stronger, and suddenly he knows what he needs. A small thing, but with huge memories. And it might take away the taste of poison and of blood. He tells them.
“Actually, you know what I need right now? Ice cream.”
He looks at Fred, his champion.
“You want to get some ice cream?”
Can he bear to eat cookie dough fudge mint chip? Can he bear not to?
Fred replies with a grin, “I like ice cream!”
She walks over to him and they walk out of the Hyperion together. He can hear Cordy in the distance.
“Now we'll never, ever know.”
He tosses the words back over his shoulder, as the door closes behind them.
1 The Blessed Damozel
A poem and a painting by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, about lovers separated by death.