Now, since I'm done scaring you all, please, if you are spoiled, enjoy.
This is for Nariya. Happy Birthday, my little Stitch-lover. Many hugs and kisses and stuffed animals. *Hugs*
Title: Last Words
Author: Regala Electra
Rating: NC 17
Pairings: Buffy/Angel, Angel/Cordelia, Buffy/Spike, Buffy/Other
Summary: They’re worlds away and the words still drift in between.
Spoilers: Major ones for the finales of AtS and BtVS, S4, S7. Be warned, although it’s not too explicit, you will be spoiled.
Author’s Notes: This story was written for Nariya. Happy Birthday. *Hugs*
He knows the last word she said to him, remembers how the air was hot and heavy, and they were sweaty and dirty and there was blood and death, the smell was like home and memories of them in battle, and her eyes were beyond her years and that clear tone, the pitch and trickle of each sound, the way her voice whispered out that final word, he can still recall that word perfectly in a hauntingly pitch-perfect copy of the moment.
He also remembers the six words that preceded that word and he refuses to let that word be her last one to him, even if it’s over.
Even though it’s impossible.
He has purposely stranded himself out in this frozen tundra, a dead world in a forgotten dimension where the home fires burned out a long, long time ago.
It is here.
This is where the taste of the cold snow mingles with the vague perfume of her satin-smooth skin. He lets a snowflake rest coldly on his tongue, the warm breath melting it into a sharp bite of water.
She is no longer here. He will never find her.
That doesn’t stop him.
There was the first half of the six words she spoke before the last, those three words, “I love you.”
They did not give to loving each other so easily; it was not something simple, pure yes, simple no.
He wanted to protect her and he only broke her. That’s what he has realized: he broke her. He breaks things easily, not as much as he used to, but the result is always the same.
He doesn’t bother to shake out the white flakes that have fallen on his head as he places the hood back on. His breath is hot and his cheeks burn a numbing cold.
It is time to go back. The key burns in his hand as he wields it, the black iron hisses harshly and then-
He says to her (that damned smirk already annoying him) that there was nothing, nothing, the demons had been wiped out at the hands of an experienced warrior.
She condescendingly pats him on the arm and says something about champions and not wasting time on wild goose chases, but he doesn’t listen.
There are things you don’t share with anyone.
You do share that although you did love her, that you could have loved her more, that it wouldn’t have worked out. You don’t give the reasons why.
They couldn’t save Cordelia and people treat him as though he alone is the person who suffers this pain the most of all. He knows they also suffer, yet he doesn’t tell them to stop it, to stop walking on eggshells around him, because he understands now.
What he loved about her was the simplicity. It was an “of course” sort of love. Of course he loved her, of course he wanted to be with her, enjoy her company. Of course that would mean he would want to taste how her mouth felt in warm, hazy kisses and that he’d want to make love in a slow, sensuous rhythm, where the only sounds he heard were her voice and his own mingling together, where he only felt her.
But there was something missing back then and he’s regretful that he didn’t have any time to stop, to let the moment actually *live* and realize why it couldn’t be. To let it go before it ripened into an actual possibility, before it became something tangible. Angel. Angel and Cordelia.
Those words rest uneasy in his mind and he winces when he looks at an old picture of them (a time that doesn’t even feel like him, like those people caught in that moment are strangers, a family, not carefree, but certainly not as burdened as they became after that camera froze that instant): Cordelia, Wesley, himself. He knows the price of turning back the clock, but even when he’s most rational, he wonders if the price is so bad, given everything it’s cost them. But.... this was how it was always going to end, wasn’t it?
These are the times when he especially despises the Powers That Be.
He enters with his swagger and his put-upon face, the begrudging acceptance already a knot in Angel’s jaw. To say that he loathes Spike would be kind, and they still have to work together. He would have gladly staked Spike long ago, but Shanshu had its costs. Ironic fucking costs.
Mainly, if he killed Spike, he’d revert to a vampire. And vice versa for Spike.
They had a long conversation on why neither would do that, despite their temptations. Angel, to see Spike dead and Spike…to well, become a vampire again. His enthusiasm for becoming a vampire again had disgusted Angel and caused several knockdown drag-out fights that left the both of them in the infirmary for several weeks. Until finally, Spike accepted that yes, being human didn’t suck; it in fact had its benefits.
Such as being able to work in a building comprised of glass walls, offering sunlight around twelve hours a day, without turning into a pile of dust.
“Skipped out again?” he asks, a grin playing on his face. He slides easily into the leather chair, sweeping his boots onto Angel’s neatly arranged desktop. Thankfully, mud doesn’t cling to the soles of the boots, but that doesn’t stop Angel from gritting his teeth.
“I don’t talk about her. To you.” He states this clearly; as he does every time Spike wanders into his office, always ready to drop her name, knowing the reaction it’ll get. The results are always the same.
“She doesn’t write, she doesn’t call.” His voice is facetious and mocking and Angel tries very, very hard to restrain himself from jumping over the desk to strangle him. “She just leaves us, eh, Angelus? Leaves us to sort out the mess and brush all the broken bits of heart into the dustbin.”
“Lovely imagery,” he snarls, rage familiar, like when they were both vampires.
“Sometimes it’s like she hasn’t left. Like she’s still there, those legs wrapped around-well you get the picture.” Spike hopes that he does, leaving a lengthy pause. Angel does not reply. He’s learned that reactions only make him stick around longer. “Mind if I smoke?”
“I thought you quit.”
He grins at that, easily taking out a cigarette from a battered case and flickering a bright flame off his lighter. Easy puff and he replies, “I did. Started up again. These things turned out to be addictive, who knew? Maybe I should get a lawyer and start a lawsuit against the tobacco companies.”
“Hilarious. Don’t you have somewhere else to be?”
Spike’s face is darker now, a healthy, living tan, but he’s still on the thin side, all sharp angles in his face. He grins larger now and there’s something reminiscent of his vamp face in that expression. “Fuck no, I don’t have nowheres to be. Just thought I’d pop in and cheer you up, eventually you’ll get over the One True Love; aren’t you done moping?”
He sighs then, realizing how tired he is of endless chases and circles as faint and foul as the wisps of cigarette smoke that Spike blows out of his mouth. “I’m not going to repeat myself. So just leave.”
“Cordelia and Buffy,” he comments wistfully. “Had ‘em both panting after you. Masterful work, that. If you had just let her go, we could have been happy, you know that don’t you? That’s what’s eating you up. If you caught Buffy, do you think she’d stay with you?”
He gets up then; jamming down the smoked-down stub into an ashtray Angel has left on the corner of the desktop. It’s clearly for him, even though Angel longs to remove it one day, he still keeps it there, knowing that their conversations are far from over. “I don’t have to run after her, Angel. She either comes back or she doesn’t. It won’t change how I feel about her.”
Just as Spike leaves, Angel calls out, “I love her. You know that.”
“We all do, we all do,” he answers, a darkness clouding his expression. “But you love someone else too and you should just give up her, she’s a ghost now.”
He doesn’t say which one is a ghost and for that, Angel is grateful.
But Spike is wrong. He could have loved someone who never existed or he could do this, he could find her and tell her the truth.
He could admit to her all his mistakes, all his fears and wait for words that were not last ones, but were beginning words.
Words that signified an end to the past and the beginning to the future.
There are three words she says after “I love you” and before “Angel.”
They are words he does not believe in.
Sometimes, he gets dressed in a crisp black suit and buys a bouquet of flowers. He always prepares, it’s become a mindless ritual.
Sometimes, he believes he’ll actually go there.
Cordelia’s grave is marked with flowers, but his hands do not place them there. Those flowers are from the others, from people who loved her and miss her and are still confused. Are still in pain that they could not save her.
He does not wish to desecrate her grave with his awful truth: he doesn’t miss her. No, he does miss her; he misses her voice and her bad secretarial work and awful acting. The little things, he misses. He doesn’t miss that awful sinking feeling, that this is supposed to be love, that this is working, that this comfortable awkwardness is a good thing.
He misses the Cordelia of before and doesn’t want to remember the Cordelia everyone else thinks he mourns for.
He doesn’t grieve.
He turns in his chair and watches the sun set, the wine darkness of the clouds reminiscent of a time when that darkness was blood and when he shunned daylight. He watches the sun rise and set every day and he will, for as long as he lives. And he thinks of her.
She said to him three words in the beginning of the last words to him, and there are “I love you.” And he believes in that. He’s finally accepted it, years apart, by his own free will, and he believes she does, without any condition. She loves him and he’s realized he loves her too.
And then she said three more words.
He doesn’t believe her words. He will find her.
Lean thighs atop his own.
That is what he can first feel pressing down on his hardness. Grinding out, grinding *down* on him and the smooth body above his own moves slowly, carefully, a plan in mind and one that he would never dare to question.
His hands move of their own volition and she stops them, twining fingers together. She doesn’t say a word, but he knows.
Moves up and away, oh so briefly, pulling down the sheet, the only boundary between them. The air exposes him in an airy embrace and he gasps as she presses long and wet kisses against his length.
Back up, on top, her naked flesh pressing against his, hardened nipples that he needs to touch on his skin, and he stares at her soft, soft lips, begging him, *telling* him to do something.
She kisses him then, just once.
And he wakes from the dream and the bitter taste resonates, long after he’s come calling out her name in an endless prayer, long after he’s fallen asleep to a dreamless state where he remembers nothing, long after he wakes and his new human routine starts up all over again.
Her kisses hover over him, the memory turning to ashes. And he will find her.
The suns are blackened like ancient disks hovering in the dying sky. The air hangs like death, fire and smoke blacken his skin but he continues walking.
The village is primitive at best, possibly the worse he has seen of any dimension, razed to the ground save for a few buildings in the center, protected by heavy, crudely constructed borders raised at least fifty feet into the dead sky.
A man clothed in heavy skins and a cloak covering his face gestures over to Angel. His name is Gereck and it has taken Angel weeks to find him.
Another link in the endless chase. Round and round, he goes.
Angel is ushered into a dark hut, lit brilliantly by a heady purple-flamed fire. The cloaks and heavier skins are removed from Gereck’s body, revealing a simple tunic and pants, a heavy, impressive sword at his waist, along with several cruel knifes on his leathern belt.
Gereck appraises Angel in much the same way, taking inventory in the solid, protective duster and the hint of steel underneath, a sharp sword Angel is particularly fond of. His smile isn’t warm, but it is somewhat friendly.
“You are the one.” It is a simple comment and Gereck settles on a cushion on furs by the fire, gesturing for Angel to do the same.
“Angel,” he answers after a pause, the stifling heat causing him to feel drowsy and slow-winded.
“Yes. Angel. Forgive me, your…speech? It takes…to be getting used to.” Gereck was impressive under his mass of heavy clothes, but he is a slender man, dark of skin, well-muscled and highly trained body, bred to be a warrior. He is obviously mortal, possibly human, and has a slow accent, rolling and flickering like the dark flames.
“That’s fine. You know why I’m here.”
“Yes,” Gereck rubs hands, callused and rough, together. His eyes are an inhuman green (the pupils are but small pin pricks), unusually bright and stare into the fire without any discomfort. “You are seeking Her.” There is a reverent emphasis placed on the last word and Angel’s heart seizes for a moment, a single beat skipped.
For an instant, he believes that she is still here.
Gereck continues, “This world – is nearly dead. Is dead. The demons overran? Yes, overran my people. We fight – fought back. Took back our world. And then, the last demon, so powerful, greatly so.” He closes his eyes, as though burdened by the memories. “So many lost. Had she not come, we would have been lost. No world for you to find. Sejtii terhi. I do not know how to explain the time – the time she fought with us. Long but far too short. She is gone.”
There is obvious pain in Gereck’s dark face.
They were lovers.
It hurts Angel to realize it, but he is not shocked. There was another, or so he was told in second-hand fashion, that one had died on the battlefield, died for his world. Gereck still lives, lives with the memory of Buffy. He has tasted her, kissed her, felt her move beneath (above? Angel can’t stop the visions of her in his head with another man) him, and – she could have loved him. Perhaps she did.
“Why did she leave?”
This smile that Gereck offers is warm but certainly not friendly. “Such is Buffy. She tells me from the start: this will not last. Beautiful, I tell her and do not care. My own mate died in the first attack, I am not looking for another. And besides,” Gereck rises, opening the flap to the dead world, “you are her mate. She did not say, but I can see. She told me a thing. Words for you.”
“I know them,” Angel brusquely answers, shouldering his way out of the ever-stifling hut.
“Stop for a moment. And hear.”
Angel wants to stop, he truly does. He wants to know that she’s finally said something else; those other words are forgotten, are rejected, that she needs him.
He continues on. And in the fading wind, he hears.
“You will not find me.”
That is how long this chase will be, how long he will keep searching. He once forgot the meaning of always, stored it away and moved onto living. But it was only moving, wading in shallow ponds while the ocean mocked him, the waves crashing, living, dying.
The warrior of the dead world had given him more information than words, he had told him that Buffy still lived, that she still desired, and that he was not forgotten to her, not pushed away so she could move on.
He enters his office and finds Wesley there. They have not spoken much, a friendship shattered, a betrayal forgiven, settled into an amiable working relationship rarely acted upon unless they needed to work together.
“I don’t want to hear it.”
Wesley feigns surprise, a false frown on his face. “You haven’t even heard what I wanted to discuss.”
“You want to talk about me. And Buffy.” He grits out the last word, still caught in visions of her in Gereck’s arms.
“I don’t want to talk about personal obsessions – relationships,” he amends, a wry look cast at a document with Lilah’s handwriting on it. “I want to talk about your mission.”
“My. Mission.” Angel doesn’t bother to hide the sarcasm.
“We are subverting the grand plans. You know this; I don’t need to bother going into it any further. But what you seem to be forgetting is that there is only one way to do that.”
Wesley then picks up a slim file from Angel’s desk, one that Angel himself did not put there. Handing it to him with an airy ease, as though it’s of some insubstantial matter, Wesley continues, “We stop them by staying a step ahead of them. I think I found a solution. Good luck, Angel.”
Angel does not thank Wesley as he leaves the office. Angel does not say anything.
He reads the file. And promptly leaves the office after taking the heavy key out of a drawer.
She said three words after “I love you,” just before she said his name, that last word from her sweet voice.
He will never believe them and never obey them. Because she’s said other words, she’s told him so many times never to leave, that there wasn’t enough time, and he’s never believed that. He was and is a fool.
He never thought that she’d feel like him, never thought that it was impossible for her to forget, for her memories to be like his own, overpowering, painful, and *real.*
He tried, once upon a time ago, to listen to his own advice, to shun the memories like he shunned the day, but that didn’t stop him from remembering, even in the deepest part of his mind, just like his skin never forgot when the sun blazed triumphantly overhead.
Because, she, no matter how long, will always be there and he cannot let her go.
She tells him (and he remembers this perfectly): “I love you, don’t follow me, Angel.”
Don’t follow me.
She said it to him like he has a choice. No, he has a choice; she said it like he’ll deny himself.
Like he’ll forget.
This new world (he’s lost count of all the places he’s searched, waiting for her, looking for some sign that she is there, and not just a memory of her) is unsettling, war-torn, a battle choking the life out of a chaotic city.
He carefully walks through streets, teeming with armed soldiers and faceless citizens. He’s nearly there, so close.
Flashes identification at a checkpoint outside a guarded building.
He enters it, noticing that the building is eerily empty. Goes up a metal, mirrored elevator until he reaches the top floor. It opens into a large, heavily armed room. There are dark-clothed guards bearing weapons pointed at his head.
But he only looks at the person in the middle of this crowd.
And says, with a promise of more words to come, “Hello, Buffy.”
“Angel,” she repeats, the word echoing the past, the word more powerful than anything he has ever heard in a long time. “So you found me.”
Her kiss shocks him, so quick and unrealized that he doesn’t believe his lips until he looks back into her face, the eyes the same, although not as haunted as the last time he saw her, the skin just a touch paler, and lips warmed from her assault.
“I told you not to follow me.” These are just words, things that have to be said, mere pleasantries.
“I didn’t. I came because I was needed.”
“Are you ready to fight?”
“Only if you’re coming back with me.”
“You don’t have to say that. You don’t have to say anything.”
He knows exactly what she’s going to say. It’s like hope, only it’s not a dream. He aches to take her in his arms, to go back down the elevator, away from this otherworld, but they both have missions now, missions that are one and the same.
“We have a lot of things to talk about,” she whispers in an undertone, bringing him into the crowd of generals, for that is what they are, generals readying their final attack on the demonic forces. “But we have later. We have time.”
“I know.” And because he has to say it, although she probably knows it, “I’m glad I found you.”
Her mouth crinkles into a bright, amused smile. She picks up a sharply curved axe, the glint of steel brazen in her eyes. For a moment, she is not Buffy, she is the Slayer, the Last and final one, the destroyer of demons. And he loves her just as much, just as equally. He takes her hand, his sword unsheathed and sturdy in his other hand, and listens to her steady, calm words to the generals, to him, to herself.
“We have work to do.”
If he listens closely enough, he can believe in her, in him, he can believe in anything. He can believe for just this moment that she’s ready and that she isn’t planning on running away again.
He can believe that he’s finally found her. For him, that’s enough, he’ll take comfort where he can. She is still Buffy, after all.
And he has so many things left to say.