WINTER IN MY HEART

 

IWRY Marathon November 2012

Author: Zuriel

Pairing: Buffy and Angel

Rating: PG-13

Word Count: 8,286

Disclaimer: I donít own, nor do I benefit from these characters.

Summary: This story takes place around S3 but has no particular, definitive timeline.

Authorís Note: A huge hats off thank you to fluffernutter8 for beta assistance!

 

I need a summer

But the summerís come and gone

I need a summer

But itís winter in my heart

 

- VAST

 

 

WINTER IN MY HEART

 

Every time I closed my eyes it was all I could see, every mind-blowing detail, so vivid and horrific.My mind wouldnít stop re-living it.

 

It started out as an average, ho hum night of patrolling, and I had assumed the rest of it wouldnít be any different.I should have known better.Falling into that old trap of believing that nothing could go wrong on such a beautiful, full moon night would come back to bite me - hard.It stabbed my heart, ripped it out of my chest, and hurled it over the moon.

 

I wonít ever take anything for granted again.Yeah, and I just might live to be fifty.I can tell myself all the little pretty lies and pretend the universe doesnít give me more than I can handle, but cold reality is staring back at me with icy-hollow eyes, reminding me how stupid assumptions can be, and proving that there is no such thing as too much pain and too much sorrow in my world - my world that crashed and burned last nightÖ

 

I glanced over my shoulder again to see if he was awake.He wasnít.I didnít know if he ever would be; something my heart and mind refused to accept.Vampires are impervious.The books say so.But now I wasnít so sure they knew everything.Sunlight, stakes, decapitation summed up the short list of how to kill one, but none of those things had happened to Angel.And now he was lying here with a hole in his skull, so much blood, so much stillness.And from what my feeble brain was able to remember, those smart-assery ancient scribes never mentioned what happened if a vampire got shot in the head.

 

Angel took the bullet meant for me.I didnít see it coming, but he did.I was so focused on taking out the vampire grabbing for my throat that I hadnít noticed his creepy friend sneaking up out of the dark, gun in hand.But Angel did.

 

If Angel tried to warn me, I didnít hear him, and I can only guess I was oblivious to everything except the roar of my intended victim rumbling loudly in my ears.I donít know, really.Itís the only explanation Iíve got which, when I say it, sounds pretty lame.Fact is I slipped up.

 

It all happened so fast.I remembered shoving my stake into the vampireís heart, watching his dust settle on the ground, but only for a moment.I heard a commotion, and as I started to turn my head around, the next thing I saw out of the corner of my eye was a blur of motion, which morphed into Angel.He was bounding off the ground, throwing himself at me, and my first thought was Ďwhat the hell is he doing hereí?Then I saw the blindingly bright, quick flash of light and heard the sickening crack of the gunshot echoing between the buildings, and I gasped as Angelís body arched in mid-air and fell against me, knocking both of us down.

 

I ended up underneath him, struggling to breathe, his dead weight crushing against my ribs.As I tried to roll him off, I smelled it - Angelís blood Ė and even as I felt the nausea creeping into my stomach and up my throat, I was vaguely aware that the gunman had fled into the night, his heavy-footed getaway steps pounding the pavement, fading into the night.As I heard the gunman fleeing I thought it was odd a vampire would be using a gun, and I kept mulling over that strange scenario for a moment or two just so I could screw my head on tighter, give myself a minute to sort out the whirlwind of craziness going through my mind about what just happened.

 

When a little sanity found an empty spot in my dumbfounded head and rooted itself firmly, I frantically grabbed Angel by the shoulders and turned him over, freeing myself from his massive frame.He was still as the night.I whispered his name hysterically, over and over, as I ran my hands over his body searching for the wound.I couldnít find it.I started to panic, but a little voice in my head Ė that pesky little sane part - tried to assure me that it was only a bullet and Angel was only stunned.Calm down, it said.Thereís nothing to worry about.Right then I should have strangled that little voice.

 

Finding no obvious wounds on his body, my eyes moved up to his face, and by the illumination of the dim, naked light bulb mounted at the back of a store, I saw the widening pool of blood forming under his head.I freaked, a sob bursting from my throat as I gently lifted his head with one hand.I probed at the back of his skull with my free hand, and in seconds my hand was covered in blood as my slippery fingers found the small ragged hole.Even worse, when I moved my hand around his head, it made contact with the exit wound at the hairline of his left temple, blood bubbling out and trickling down his cheek.It wasnít actually all that large as far as bullet holes go, and I calculated, very rationally, that it must have been a small caliber hand gun.I wondered how I had the sense to think of that in the midst of my mind-numbing panic, because, really, what did I know about guns?

 

Briefly I looked up, glancing around and asking myself why Angel hadnít attacked the gun-guy instead of throwing himself at me.A second later, when Iíd gauged the distance, I determined that it was faster to get to me, to protect me, than to tackle that guy.Thatís why heíd done it.And while I was shocked and dazed, I was still able to scan the empty alley with vengeance in my heart, swearing I would hunt that gun-toting bastard and kill him.He would learn that a slayerís wrath for messing with her boyfriend is worse than an apocalypse.

 

But right now I had to concentrate on Angel.I scrambled to remove my hooded sweatshirt, fumbling like an idiot in the process, taking too long to untangle my arms from its sleeves.After a curse word or two I was free of the thing and quickly folded it under Angelís head.His blood soaked into the fabric at an alarming rate, frightening me out of my mind.Tears started waterfalling onto my shirt and onto Angelís face as I looked around for help.My breathing was labored, and my heart thumped loudly in my ears.Sanity, donít leave me now!

 

The streets were empty.There was no one nearby, and I shut my eyes for a second and let out a mournful whimper.I felt so helpless sitting by his side, my bloody hands wrapped tightly around his, foolishly thinking that if I held his hands long enough, heíd wake up and smile at me.Heís a vampire, for godís sake.Why wasnít he waking up?

 

Suddenly I ranted at Angel, took out my misguided and pointless frustration on him.He came to Sunnydale to help me out with a strong and deadly demon. Heíd only come because Iíd asked him to.The first time heíd come back to Sunnydale had been years ago, courtesy of his side-kickís vision.Although Iíd been a little perturbed that heíd hidden in the shadows and avoided me (which I expounded upon in no uncertain terms at his LA office), I was as grateful for his help as I had been this time.But if it hadnít been for me asking him to come, heíd be safe back in LA and not lying here, critically injured.My rage increased ten-fold.How dare he take that bullet for me!I railed at him, but naturally, he didnít answer, though Iíd screamed loud enough to wake the dead.

 

Suddenly I heard footsteps, and I started yelling for help at the top of my lungs.To my shock and surprise Xander and Willow came running, having heard the gunshot.They gasped when they saw me, crying oh my god when they saw Angel.I was just so thankful they came.I broke down, sobbed, and managed to choke out some sketchy details as they helped me get Angel back to the mansion.

 

And as if I hadnít already been told this by my little sane mind-friend, Willow and Xander proceeded to tell me not to worry, that everything would be ok.Why does everyone say that?They knew damn well all I could do was worry.How could I not?This was Angel with a bullet hole in his head Ė because of me.It was major freaking worry.

 

Xander and Willow nervously stared at me as I carefully wiped the blood from Angelís face, cleaned his wounds and bandaged his head, and they quietly asked if there was anything they could do.They could see I was on the verge of a total breakdown and that it was in their best interest not to push me over the edge, so they spoke softly with sympathetic tones.Iím not sure why, but I didnít yell back at them the way I wanted to.They were, after all, just trying to help, but all they were doing was making me more nervous and upset as I watched their sad faces watching me.

 

I told them they couldnít give me what I wanted, they couldnít make Angel wake up, and finally, reluctantly, they left, telling me to call if I needed anything.I just needed Angel to be ok, and I wanted desperately to do something to help, but I couldnít think of a damn thing.So I raised my head and stared at the ceiling, hoping somebody up there was paying attention.I wasnít in the habit of asking the universe for favors, but I was asking now.

 

I lay on the bed facing him with my arm draped lightly across his chest, and closed my eyes.I was exhausted, but I knew I wouldnít sleep.I couldnít, not until Angel woke up, not until he told me he was fine, and that a little ole bullet in the head was nothing serious.But he should have been awake by now.I felt hot tears welling up in my eyes again, and I squeezed them shut tight, thinking I couldnít cry, couldnít breakdown now, but my tears didnít listen, and they ran down my cheeks regardless.And as a short sob burst from my raspy throat, I realized I needed to cry, because if I didnít, if I tried to hold back the storm brewing inside me, I would surely explode.

A million little pieces of Buffy wouldnít do Angel any good, I laughed, swiping uselessly at my freefalling tears, thinking how Iíd just made a sick joke in the middle of all this horror.So I was either going crazy or coming to my senses.Funny, though, I couldnít tell which, and I was really too tired to care.

 

Somehow, without my consent and without my being aware of it, I fell asleep for a while.I guess my body protested the constant stress and made me slow down since I was too stupid to do it on my own.But I was awake now, blinking away the fog in my head, staring at Angel.He hadnít moved, but I told myself his vampire-ness was keeping him under to help speed his recovery, convincing myself that the explanation made sense.It sounded really logical, but I was still so scared.Sanity and insanity warred with each other in my head, and for a while, I didnít know which one was going to win, but in the end I shouted at both to shut up and let meÖthink.I finally took command of my own mind and got down to the business of figuring out what came next.

 

Random thoughts filled my head, all the injuries Angel had suffered in the past, not to mention a stint in hell, and how heíd survived all that.I stubbornly focused on the fact that bullets didnít kill vampires.I knew that was true, but this bullet didnít hit him in the side or his arm.It traveled through his brain, dammit, and I was beyond worry that when he did wake up Ė and he had to wake up Ė there might be lasting damage.

 

I tried not to dwell on that, stuffing my thoughts into the back of mind and telling myself to cut out the morbid gloom and deal with each minute at a time and not think too hard about what might not even happen.It wasnít easy, but I managed to keep my dreadful thoughts from overwhelming me.I finally left Angelís side to stretch my legs and splash cold water on my face, feeling too jittery to lie still, too afraid of falling asleep again.Iíd almost made it to the kitchen for a drink of water when I heard it.I stopped and listened.And I heard it again.Oh, god!It was Angel, moaning.

 

Rushing back to the bedroom I saw his eyes flutter open and close several times, wincing, complaining of the brightness from the faint light of the beside lamp.He blinked a few more times, looking utterly confused and bewildered as his eyes darted frantically around the room.I threw myself on the bed, kissed him tenderly with tears of relief streaming down my cheeks.But he kept staring at me as though I was a ghastly apparition.My heart sunk to my toes as I realized there was no flicker of recognition on his face.

 

Angel didnít remember me or anything about the world he woke up in.I stumbled over my words in a rush to explain what happened; the vampires, the fight, taking the bullet for me.He stared blankly, blinked again several times, and I gasped, feeling the air sucked out of me, the manic beating of my heart, as he repeated over and over, I donít remember.

 

Angelís memories were stolen by that bullet he took for me, and of course, I blamed myself.I should have been paying more attention.I should have seen that gunman.But Iíd let down my guard last night; felt too smug for my own good.

 

Patrolling had become so mundane, and Iíd let myself become too complacent.Only a few nights ago Iíd been thinking about this, but Iíd always assumed the victim would be me, that I would be too cocky and overly confident for my own good and miss the blow that took me down.I didnít consider anyone else would be hurt.How stupid and selfish!

 

Vainly I tried to jog Angelís memory, but he only looked at me with hollow eyes and a questioning expression, politely excusing himself for not grasping anything I said.I told him it was ok, that his memory would return (God, donít make me a liar) and in the meantime Iíd explain everything he needed to know.

 

He managed to sit up, gave me one of those little adorable grins I loved and weakly whispered a thank you, the way you thank a stranger for picking up a package youíve dropped on the sidewalk.It hurt that he didnít know me, but I threw back my shoulders and tried not to show my disappointment.My sane-mind-friend planted the notion in my head that this was only a temporary situation, soon to be remedied with a little time and patience.So against my realistic sense of doom and gloom, I went with the little voice this time.I liked her version the best.The alternative was unthinkable, and I denied its possible existence, for if I let it consume my thoughts, it would only cause my heart to crumble and my mind to spin out of control.God, itís so hard to think straight!

 

And then I stopped thinking - just for a minute, I let my mind go blank and calmed down, breathing in and out long, slow breaths, rather steady under the circumstances, and finally got some relief.And then I considered what more I should say.I needed to choose my words carefully, because I wasnít up to full introductions to the wacky world of Sunnydale, and neither was he.

 

Oh, by the way, Iím a slayer and I kill vampires, and oh, yeah, youíre a vampire and youíve got a soul and we love each other.Yeah, I should ease into that.It sounds like the makings of a bad B-movie on late-night TV.

 

I started in slowly, picking the safest topics I could think of.CaliforniaÖSunnydaleÖthe mansion where he lived, but after that I realized there wasnít much else I could tell him without going into the supernatural spooky-scary aspects.I held my breath waiting for him to ask questions I wasnít ready to answer, and certainly none he was ready to hear, but thankfully, he let me do all the talking, didnít interrupt as I rambled on and on, which I so often do when Iím strung-out nervous.I almost wished my boring, informative lecture would lull him back to sleep so I could stop and reload my brain.

 

Angel tried so hard to remember, listened intensely to every word I said, but when he realized he couldnít make his mind work the way he wanted, to make the memories solidify, that it wasnít filling in the blanks, he got very frustrated and sullen.Thatís when I saw the glint of despair in his eyes, and I had to explain to him these things would take time and praised him for the tiny bit of progress heíd made so far.He didnít look all that convinced, probably because he could tell I was lying.He hadnít had a glimmer of a memory yet and he knew it.He might have lost his memory but he wasnít brain dead.

 

He didnít say how he felt about all this.He just sat quietly contemplating, but I could see the worry lines on his face, the slump of his shoulders, the emptiness in his eyes.He must have wondered if he would ever get his full memory back and so did I.When I told him his name was Angel, he laughed, and for a second of a second I thought maybe it had broken that barrier in his mind, but all it had done was amuse him.He repeated his name a few times and accepted it with little emotion which suited me just fine.There were too many other, stranger things to describe soon enough.His name would be the last of his concerns.††

 

The interlude where I stopped talking and Angel silently absorbed everything was a welcome respite.But too soon it ended when he apologized for taking up my time and told me how much he appreciated my help.I cringed when he said that.He didnít know I was doing this out of my undying love for him.But I planned to tell him, just as soon as I found the right moment.What would he think about that?If I said it, that I loved him, would it bring back his loving thoughts of me?Or would he think I was totally looney-tunes?Or worse yet, would he just label me as a good friend but nothing more?Oh, God, I was so not up for this.

 

But the worst of it, the thing that burned a hole in my heart, was that Angel didnít know me, that he was completely ignorant of what a Buffy person was.Heíd asked my name not long after waking up, repeated it back to me a few times as if saying it over and over it would ring a bell, but it didnít spark in his mind.Undaunted, hoping to ignite that spark, I gave him a quick rundown of Buffy Anne Summers, Sunnydale student, all the normal stuff I could think of (which wasnít much).Naturally, I left out that thereís a Hellmouth full of nasty demons right under the high school just waiting to kill us all, and the gruesome truth of the assorted other craziness it causes.

 

For now I was just going to let him think that I was a normal (my tongue tripped over that word) girl, a very good friend of his, and when Iíd described this perfect little world and perfect little me, he grinned and said it was comforting to know we were friends.Iíd wanted to tell him more, and it was killing me that I couldnít, but that was all I thought he could handle for now.

 

Most of all I dreaded telling Angel he was a vampire.How would I get him to even grasp the concept?And then there was the whole slayer thing.Could he possibly believe that someone who killed vampires could love one?I wasnít sure I could have explained how close we were, despite who we were.I didnít like to think that much about the mechanics of the two of us.Why and how we were.Probably because if I tried to analyze us, Iíd have to admit we made no sense in the real world, and if I couldnít explain this to myself, how could I expect this memory-less Angel to understand?

 

Silently I practiced what and how much of Angelís past I needed to tell him.Should I even broach the subject of getting his soul back or should I just let him think heís had it all along?And speaking of which, when, if ever, was a good time to bring up Angelus?There was so much I had to consider, and I wasnít looking forward to any of it, but shortly I found myself thrust into defining a vampireís limitations, whether I was ready or not.

 

But for now Angel was asleep, again, so I quietly slipped out of bed and headed to the bathroom.I thought for a moment it would be nice to have a mirror, but then I reconsidered.I must have looked a wreck.My clothes were dirty, Angelís dried blood all over them, my hands were still stained red, and I wouldnít even think about what state of messiness my hair was in.I did determine that a shower was just what I needed to boost my flagging spirits and clear my head.

 

And it did feel good.My body relaxed in the hot spray, my tense muscles eased, and the nightís horror washed down the drain with the dirt and blood.I rummaged through Angelís clothes and found a clean shirt to replace my blood-spattered blouse.Even though I was still in dirty jeans when I emerged, my head was rejuvenated just like my body, ready to meet the challenges ahead.I can do this, I can handle this, I can live with whatever fate throws in my lap.I repeated the mantra over and over as I walked back to Angelís room.But in my heart I worried I wasnít as confident as I pretended to be.

 

And the first challenge smacked me in the face immediately upon leaving the bathroom when I spotted Angel, mobile, sans head bandage, and striding, in a surprisingly steady gait, towards the garden door.I nearly tripped over my own feet as I dashed towards him, and by sheer luck, I caught him by the arm before he made deadly contact with the sun.I startled him.He jerked his arm out of my grasp and backed away, frowning, questioning why I did that.Of course, he didnít know.I couldnít put off the talk any longer.

 

I sighed and asked him to sit down on the sofa so I could explain, and I warned him what I was about to reveal was going to sound crazy, but it would be the truth and nothing but.He nodded and said he trusted me, but there was a hint of wariness on his face.

 

In my infamous spit-out-the-truth, no-holds-barred fashion, I got right to it, hitting the highlights rapidly.He was a vampire, sired two centuries ago, but not evil, because he had a soul.I could tell he didnít understand what a vampire really was, so I launched into a brief dissertation about drinking blood, what being sired meant and added a long, run-on sentence about how he had overcome and controlled his feral nature, basically integrating himself into the human world.

 

Angel stared at me with incredulous eyes, my rant meaning little to nothing, and before I could stop him heíd defiantly walked back to the door.I jumped up and pleaded with him not to go out, but his curiosity was piqued.I yelled at him to please stop, and I thought for a minute he wasnít going to put himself in danger, so I hesitated - too long Ė and couldnít grab him before he stretched out his arm into the bright morning.He instantly drew it back when it smoldered, singed with pain.He blinked and glared at me in disbelief, shoved past me and walked back to the bedroom, slamming the door.I thought about going to him but I realized he needed time to absorb what Iíd said - the awful truth of who he was.

 

Angel finally came out to face me.He looked more haggard, a little tense, and somewhat embarrassed, as he gazed into my eyes and thanked me for being honest; he knew it wasnít easy for me.He even admitted heíd been feeling strange when he was near me; the scent of my blood filling his senses.He didnít understand why I had this effect on him, but he thought I should stay away from him, worried about the temptation I posed.I chuckled and only confessed to being a very strong person, despite my petite size, telling him that I could take care of myself, if he tried anything.He let that go without question, and I was a little disturbed that he took everything I said as the Godís honest truth, without the slightest concern I might have been lying.Perhaps it was a sign that my Angel was still in there.Heíd always trusted me, to a fault, after all.

 

I should have been flattered, but I wasnít.I was just the default, trustworthy person he had to rely on, lean on, to believe in.It was a little spooky that I had so much control over Angel, and I cringed to think what someone else would have done to him, what lies they would have told him, if something had happened to me.I wasnít so sure I liked having all this responsibility on my shoulders.†††††††

 

I groaned and threw my head back, stared at the ceiling, and thought Iíd wake up from this nightmare, and any minute Angel would remember me, make love to me, whisper in my ear, run his fingers through my hair and kiss my cheeks, my lips.I would give anything to have those moments back.

 

Angel was sleeping again as he had been for the last hour or so.All this thinking and trying to remember seemed to be wearing him out more than being shot in the head, or maybe it was just the effect of the two combined.Iíd been pacing up and down in front of the fireplace incessantly, the empty, unlit grate offering no warmth to fend off the chill of this cavernous room.It was May Ė and warm as any normal spring day Ė but to me it felt more like December, bleak and joyless as a winterís bitter night.I gathered my arms across my body and continued my manic pacing.I could almost see my icy breath.I felt so cold, and I wondered if I would I turn into a frozen statue, if I stopped moving.That was a grim thought even for me, I decided, and kept pacing.Get a grip, Buffy, I said.Did you listen to how pathetic you sounded?I laughed wearily.I hated it when my smarty-pants conscience started thinking better than I did.

 

And then Giles came, having gotten word from Willow, and I suddenly realized how much I needed him right now.Tears puddled up in my eyes again.I must have looked awful, because Gilesí face turned very somber, his eyes soft and worried.Gently he took me by the hand and led me out to the garden where I promptly let out all my frustrations and disappointment at Angelís lack of memories and the cruel world that had again brought all this pain down on top of our heads.

 

Giles expressed sympathy, but he admitted he was more concerned that I had been neglecting my duties, obsessively focusing on Angelís memories, or lack thereof.He started to tell me Angel may never get them back, and I jerked my head up, fuming, eyes wide and angry.

 

ďHe has to,Ē I cried out.ďHe has to remember!ĒAnd, I pointed out, seething, that I didnít care about slayer duty.I yelled at Giles that the stupid world could go to hell, if I couldnít have Angel back.And I kept on venting and raging at Giles for thinking I would leave Angel right now, telling him he was daft (a word Iíd learned from him, so it seemed appropriate), if he thought for a minute I could wrap my head around anything else.

 

When I finally calmed down, exhausted, Giles looked at me for a moment, then frowned and shook his head sullenly.This only served to reactivate my fury, making me livid and all the more furious.I ranted a little more, just so he knew how upset I was Ė as if he didnít already know - and he just listened.I sank down on the stone bench, and he sat beside me.My hands were shaking and I was breathing deeply, trying to control my anger.And Giles stayed with me, even though Iíd just called him every vile name I could think of.

 

A few moments of silence later and I was feeling better, especially when Giles reached over and gripped my hand firmly, told me how sorry he was, that he shouldnít have dismissed my feelings, my love for Angel, so lightly.It was insensitive of him, he said, and he realized the error of his thinking.I told him it was ok, even though it wasnít, and I warned him not to do it again.He gave a small smile and adamantly proclaimed there would be no next time.I managed a little smirk back at him, but I was still pissed and upset that after all this time, no one understood how much I loved Angel, what he meant to me.

 

Clearing his throat Giles began, cautiously, trying to make amends.He really sucked at it.First he tried reassuring me Angel should remember, someday.Then he proceeded to back pedal, telling me that he believed full recovery was unlikely, although there was always the chance Angel would remember some things.If he did regain his memories they would be slow in returning, and it might be quite a long time before there was any real progress.Maybe months or years.

 

I cringed and shot Giles an evil-eyed glare.He quickly continued, explaining heíd never seen any actual references to situations such as this, so as much as he wanted to give me a definitive answer, he really didnít have one.I cringed.He saw the look of despair on my face, and thatís when he told me not to assume the worst.ďDonít give up hope, Buffy,Ē he said.All I wanted to do was yell at him again and tell him to go to hell, that he wasnít helping with his wishy-washy stammering.Giles let me rant though I know I was testing his patience.

 

Finally, I bit my lower lip and said I did have hope, though in the back of my mind, I was still mad at the stupid world for conspiring against me Ė and Angel.And then I chuckled to myself.Stupid must have been my word for the day, since Iíd pasted that label on everything.And I really wanted to say ďfuck the worldĒ but I stuck with stupid.I didnít want to think Iíd turned into a zombie blurting out four-letter words because things didnít go my way.

 

Well, then, stupid me wanted something I could fight, some stupid thing I could pummel to death with my stupid bare hands, but even as I thought it, I knew there was nothing I could hit or kill that would make me feel better.I swallowed my anger as far as it would go, which was somewhere in the middle of my throat, and dreamed about the moment when Angel would walk up to me, grinning from ear to ear, and tell me he remembered everything.It had to happen.It had to.

 

Giles stood up and apologized, muttering regretfully that he was needed back at school for a faculty meeting.I murmured something about seeing him later, promising to let him know if there were any changes to report.He looked a little doubtful when I told him Iíd be fine.I knew I wasnít even close to that, and he knew it, too.He kissed me lightly on the cheek and told me I meant a lot to him, that he only wanted to see me happy.I met his gaze but only responded with a slight curve to my lips which could hardly be considered a grin or a smile.As he left I didnít thank him for coming.It was petty of me, I know, but I wasnít feeling that generous.

 

Angel woke up shortly after Giles left.He looked more rested, seemed more relaxed as he sat on the hearth and stared out into world beyond these walls.It nearly broke my heart.I knew what he was thinking, that he realized how much he must be missing in the daytime world.I approached him quietly.He turned to me and grinned, said he felt a lot better, though I noticed the twitch at the corner of his eye that revealed the lie as he spoke it.

 

Somehow I smiled back and told him that was great, and from there I began to inundate him with details about everything he should know, all the little things that I thought might jog his memory.He sat mutely, drinking in my words, occasionally asking me to elaborate or clarify.I did the best I could.And to my surprise my chatter appeared to have a dramatic effect on Angel.I saw his mind whirling as his eyes darted back and forth or blinked rapidly, absorbing everything and piecing it together in his head.Finally, possibly, just maybe, Iíd lit that spark, ignited his memories.I grinned to myself and put hope back in my heart.

 

By now the sun had shifted, lingering behind the garden walls on its journey below the horizon, leaving shadows as handy vampire shields. I grabbed Angelís hand and made him follow me outside.We sat and talked.Well, I did most of the talking, still spewing out details while Angel soaked it all in, his eyes never wavering from my face.And right in the middle of my ramblings Angel looked over, his warm brown eyes staring at me, his mouth turned up in a wide grin, and blurted out, ďYouíre beautiful.ĒThat shut me up.I stared at him for a second.My cheeks flushed and I muttered a demure thank you.It wasnít like he hadnít said that before, many times, but this time felt special.And it suddenly hit me why.

 

I realized there was something in his eyes, something different, that I hadnít seen until this moment, a flicker of an old memory resurfacing or a new one being made.I couldnít be sure, but either way it made no difference.I gasped ever so slightly, but not enough for Angel to notice, and a tiny grin spread over my face.Angel was falling in love with me all over again.It was a subtle, tiny tug on my heartstrings, the familiar sense I always felt when he was close, the way I instinctively knew things that I couldnít explain if I had to.I felt more confident that everything was going to be fine.But as I saw a few moments later there were still big hurdles to cross.

 

In one of my more theatrical gestures as I continued my memory-jarring speech, I flung my arms out in a wide arc, and the sweater I had draped around my shoulders to ward off the chill (that wasnít really there), slipped off and landed on the ground.I said ďOops,Ē and bent down to pick it up, and Angel leaned down to help at the same time, grabbing the sweater before I did.As his hand came back up with my sweater I was still hunched over, and his fingers brushed against the silver cross dangling from my neck.He yelped and pulled his hand away, just enough smoke and shocked flesh to freak him out.He looked at me with another of his woeful stares as I explained it was just an aspect of being a vampire we hadnít discussed yet.He lowered his head and sat silently for several moments.When he did speak his voice was low and quavering.

 

ďIím damned arenít I,Ē he asked.ďIs that true of all vampires?ĒI blinked and nodded it was.I started to smooth over the rough edges of this new discovery, but he waved a hand at me to let it go.

 

He stood up and walked dejectedly back to his room.Dammit!Iíd hoped to sidestep the whole ĎGod doesnít want you thingí until much, much later, but then I thought it over and realized that wasnít fair to him.I couldnít sugar-coat what he was regardless of how much I wanted to spare him the harsh reality.

 

I didnít see him for another three hours.When Angel emerged from his room, I noticed a change.He strode towards me, shoulders back and eyes softer than theyíd been since he woke up.He started telling me that heíd been thinking for the last few hours, really thinking about everything, and heíd decided to accept who he was, for better, for worse, realizing he had no choice.He was who he was and nothing, not any amount of wishful thinking, would change that fact.Then he grinned wide and blurted out the best part.He was starting to remember.It wasnít enough to celebrate Ė yet Ė but it was a good sign that his mind was working its way back, and it was that little nudge that helped him surrender to the inevitable.

 

I was beside myself with elation, and every bone in my body tingled as he touched my hand and told me how grateful he was to have someone like me to help.All I could do was smile and say it was the least I could do since heíd saved my life.He nodded and told me it was the least he could do, that the world was a definitely a better place with me in it and the thought of a Buffy-less world was depressing.I blushed and said thanks as calmly as I could, like it was common for me to hear that every day, but inside I was squealing with delight.

 

There was joy in knowing he was slowly coming back to me, but there was further joy in shaking off the winter chill Iíd been feeling all day.Even if Angel didnít remember everything, even if he didnít remember me the way he used to, it didnít matter.He loved me, this Buffy, anyway.I donít know why that surprised me.Iíd been feeling that enigmatic bond; that unspoken connection between us which had remained this whole time, unchanged.I just didnít know if Angel did, until now.Now I had my answer Ė a resounding yes.I got the impression Ė spidey sense wise Ė that he knew I had deep feelings for him, but I was pretty sure he didnít know their true depth.I was still holding that ace in my hand, waiting for the perfect moment.I didnít have to wait long.

 

I glanced at him, about to open my mouth, but I stopped.He suddenly looked forlorn, and I shuddered, wondering what awful memory might have surfaced.A moment later he told me that he was sorry, and before I had time to consider why, he blurted out that he had assumed too much, that he shouldnít have felt the way he did, because it was unthinkable that I had the same feelings for him, because of what he was.

 

I moved closer to him and took his hand in mine.He was looking down, afraid to face me, but I knew my next revelation would cure his long, sad face.Softly I said the three little words Iíd been holding onto until the perfect moment, and I could see Angelís demeanor change, the slight shift of his body, as he absorbed my confession into his being.

 

In seconds he was turning to look at me with misty eyes, the hint of a smile playing over his face.I leaned in and laid my head on his shoulder.He laid his head on mine and whispered those three little words back at me.

 

And that was when I told him the rest.About what we were to each other before and about the love we shared.An incredulous expression of surprise and happiness swept through his eyes.He murmured that he had known I was special from the beginning, and he was falling more in love with me every passing hour, though he didnít understand the depth of his feelings for someone he thought he barely knew.

 

ďFunny,Ē I said, ďthat was how this all began for me.ĒSomething special that turned into this love I canít describe.

 

We ended up wrapping our arms around each other, sitting in quiet reverie for the rest of the night, sharing a gentle kiss or two, holding tight to each otherís hands.We both wanted more, but we needed this time to reflect on the past few days and where all of this would lead.Still I felt more alive and content than Iíd been in a long, long time.Maybe ever.

 

What had begun as unbelievably tragic turned into this beautiful moment, and all the emotions Iíd endured left me terribly tired and tremendously happy.There was a lot to celebrate, I mused.So much had happened in such a short time; so much that could have gone horribly wrong.Yet it didnít.We had survived and I had Angel back, and though I wished that day had never happened, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

 

Angelís memory was returning in snippets and fragments, and heíd accepted who he was- Angelus and all.And he didnít even flinch when I explained who I was, probably because at this point I was such a primary focus in his life that he didnít care.And he didnít seem to be so burdened with all that guilt heíd carried before.Maybe (I crossed my fingers) he didnít remember every sordid detail of his demon past.There was a little less scowling and a lot more smiling, and where I had once dreaded their absence, I now hoped those old memories stayed gone for good.

 

This time we were going to start with a blank slate, no concern for the past, mine or his.We kissed and told each other we would make it work.Then all the passion weíd been holding back erupted into a magical night of love-making and desperate need to cling to each other, ending as we lay in each otherís arms thinking about our future.

 

And though I knew there were large gaps and empty holes in his memory, most of them were of the sordid and ugly variety, so I would be eternally grateful if they never came back.I also laughed, my hot breath tickling his ear as I whispered Iíd give him some brand-new memories heíd not soon forget.Heíd moaned, grabbing me, pulling me down on top of him.I playfully bit his lower lip before I pressed my lips hard against his and we tasted each other, devoured each other.Iím hazy about the rest, too lost in the purely physical, divine nirvana of crazy sex Iíd been denying myself Ė despite the craving I had felt for so long.It was unbelievable hotness.I heard my little mind friend say, Holy Snickers, Buffy, you slut.But I ignored her judgment (what did she know) and concentrated instead on how it felt so damn good.††

 

And as if the universe understood the precarious situation, it granted Angel no memory of that night weíd made love on my birthday, and I never mentioned it.I didnít want him to back away from me in fear that losing his soul was a possibility.I suppose I should have, but I liked thinking ignorance was bliss Ė not too much bliss - but I knew Angel was different.He wasnít the lonely, love-starved stranger Iíd first met.Maybe it was stupid to be so naÔve or maybe it was just wishful thinking, but I wanted to call it faith.†††††

 

Then Angelís eyes glazed over, a far-off but happy look on his face, and he said something that stunned me at first.His lips curled up in a little grin and he started talking about a night he remembered when he was human.I listened in fascination as he talked about how much he savored that twenty-four hours weíd shared in his LA apartment, how great the sex was (wrecked kitchen and all) and then laughed as he mentioned melting ice cream and me licking it off his chest.I was speechless for a moment, but then I figured he was just remembering a dream heíd had.But the way his eyes lit up I found myself imagining it had happened.

 

I giggled and told him I wished it was real, that it sounded awesome, that I was a little jealous I didnít get to share that dream.And I told him how lucky he was to have the memory back.I wasnít prepared for the look he shot at me with wide, almost frightened eyes.For a second his face turned serious, and I wondered if there was something else he wanted to add.Another second later he muttered that yeah, of course, it was only a dream.He pulled off a half grin and sank back into silence.

 

It happened so fast I wasnít exactly sure the shift in Angelís mood meant, but I shrugged it off as nothing of any consequence.Geez Buffy, give him a break, said my royal pain in the ass, sane-mind friend.Heís still trying to sort out a couple of hundred years of life.She was right - again.I guess Iíll keep her, smart-ass that she is.††

 

And during that brief moment of silence, I conjured up my own version of his dream, pretending I was lapping sweet, yummy ice cream off his chest, ending with me moving my sticky lips up to his and smothering his mouth with mine.I was about to get into the X-rated part where we kissed passionately, locked our bodies together and humped until we hurt, before I reluctantly shook myself out of that ice cream fantasy.I made a mental note to buy some cookie dough fudge mint chip ice cream the next time I went to the store Ė like tomorrow.

 

Angel fell asleep, his head leaning on my shoulder.Poor guy.Iíd worn him out, I guess.My mind was still too active to sleep.I kept thinking about what I hadnít told Angel yet, but I would someday, if he didnít remember on his own.He had a right to know.Just not today.

 

Strange how your mind wanders and brings up random thoughts you wouldnít normally think of.Like the thought I suddenly had about a high school science class.The teacher (canít remember his name, but I think heís still alive, or maybe he was the teacher that got eaten by that giant demon snail a couple of years ago.Not sure, but anywayÖ), he lectured about the Laws of Physics Ė gravity and all.What goes up must come down.An apple a day keeps the doctor away.Oh.Wait.Thatís not one.An object in motion remains in motion Ė unless your superhero vampire lover stops it with his head.Love is better the second time around.Now Iím just throwing silly old sayings into the mix.Love at first sight?Yeah, why not add that one, too.

 

Can you really be in love at first sight?Is love really better the second time around?I grinned, followed by a wide yawn, as I snuggled under the covers.

 

Stupid life is good again.

 

~end~