Rating: NC 17
Pairings: Wesley/Lilah, Buffy/Angel, (minor) Fred/Gunn
Timeline: Set before/during/after the finales of BtVS S6 and AtS 3.
Summary: If you're going to hell, might as well enjoy the ride.
Warnings: Language, sexual situations, violence
[she says: the epic to beat all my stories, a Wesley fic of immense proportions. Dark, no happy endings, and a rollercoaster. Because sometimes, you can beat destiny.]
Part 4 - Yet But A Shadow - NC 17
Guildenstern - Which dreams indeed are ambition, for the very substance of ambitious is merely the shadow of the dream.
Hamlet: A dream is but a shadow.
Rosencrantz: Truly, and I hold ambition of so airy and light a quality that it is but a shadow's shadow.
Lilah sat on the edge of her bed, towel still draped around her damp body. After a long stretch of silence as she held the phone in her hand, she finally said, "You're going to baby-sit Angel? What next, Wesley? Are you going to tell him everything? Beg for forgiveness and hope he takes you back?"
Ok, so sometimes she couldn't handle stuff that pissed her off.
Sneering at Wesley before he could say anything, "You want to be an idiot? Fine. I could just let it slip that you've been doing more than working for Wolfram and Hart...I'll see to it that Angel rips you-"
An oddly calm, yet vaguely annoyed voice cut into her threats, "Lilah, do shut up. Whatever you think, do not for a minute think that I am stupid enough to try to go against the Senior Partners, especially after the agreement I signed. The magics invoked to secure Angel from the bottom of the sea were quite dark and any imbalance in the spirits would negate the spells cast."
"Ugh," she groaned, annoyed, "All this talk about magic bores me."
"To put it simply, as you always need it, I can't simply revoke my binding agreement to Wolfram and Hart. Nor would I want to. Lilah, what did you think, I would leave Angel off by himself while he's half-insane? You tried that last year and it didn't work. What you want is something different. An alternate to a half-mad Angel. Besides, the way Angel currently is, he wouldn't be able to protect himself from sunlight, let alone aiding the firm in their End of Days mission."
Lilah cursed under her breath. What she really wanted was the fucking vampire dead. He'd been a thorn in her side and she longed for him to be ashes. But no, the Senior Partners and their orders about the vampire left no loophole for Angel to "accidentally" turn up dead. And she was tired of it.
And now, Wesley, who had been given a lot of information about the inner workings of the law firm, was going to play nursemaid for the one thing that was bent on destroying their work. Maybe she shouldn't have pushed to take up the project of bringing Wesley onto the team.
But, as she thought fondly of their past encounters, she decided he was a good enough fuck for her to deal with more of Angel's constant bullshit.
"Whatever it takes," she snapped, "Don't mess up."
"I was never intending that, Lilah, dear," he patronizingly snapped back.
Hanging up on him without a goodbye, she ran a hand through her wet hair. This was beginning to piss her off. If Wesley tried to break the deal...but he wouldn't. She had seen his reaction to Fred's death. And the tape from the hospital records...they'd been sure to make sure the hospital was monitored...that had shown him...he didn't care about them.
He didn't care about anything anymore.
And he was completely in the hands of Wolfram and Hart. He was their puppet.
Angel Investigations was now completely ruined.
She smiled at that. It would look good on her reports of the ruined alliance between Angel's simpering friends (currently one was dead, another MIA, one in the hospital, and the other working for them) and Angel, the company's most aggravating nuisance.
Linwood's position - she'd be perfect for it. One of the youngest partners of the company to move up to such a prestigious position, she thought, and all because of one vampire.
One single pain-in-the-ass vampire.
Perhaps all the ruined plans for Angel and all the times he'd manage to screw with Wolfram and Hart were going to finally pay off.
It smelled like blood. His body screamed for it.
Take it, take it all, rip it all open and drink down the sweetness...life, death...immortality...
Take it and rule.
Live. Die. Forever.
It was unbearable. He was lying on something soft (bed?) but he did not want to be there. There was something bright out and the small beam from a side of an open space (window?) irritated him when he tried to move on the softness that he lay on.
Whatever it was outside, he didn't want it to be near him. It burned.
A voice was speaking and the words, mostly nonsensical to him, washed over as he unintentionally listened.
"I'm afraid that the spells I used have permanently damaged him. The effects were only supposed to be temporary," there was a note of regret there, "But it hasn't subsided at all. He recognizes nothing. Only blood."
Yes. Blood. Life. He needed some now. Now. But he could barely move...his body was too tired.
He felt like there were bruises over his body, but there was not a mark to be seen.
He didn't look.
"I'm thinking of raiding the blood banks and picking up some human blood, the animal blood hasn't managed to sate his hunger. And perhaps the human blood will manage to snap him out of this state he's in."
As the voice finished speaking, he was shocked by a new scent coming into the space he was stuck in.
There was Another.
"I don't understand Wesley. It wasn't that long that he was without blood and I thought you said it would be okay..."
"I hoped that it would be. Apparently, I was deceived. The magic invoked was strong enough to cast him out of the ocean, but the side effects may have scarred his psyche. I wasn't aware that it would happen. But I've researched further. If he's fed and if I use human blood, he may be able to regain his sanity."
"Only human blood..." Another's voice said. He liked Another's voice. It was...female. He recognized it, but the scent of her blood, so...so wild and pumping harshly under her skin...that was what he really cared about.
He remembered it. He had tasted her.
She tasted good.
The wanting overcame him and he made a soft whine, as the sense-memory of her blood was a ghostly taste in his mouth.
"No," the one (male?) said harshly. "He'd kill you. This is not like that poisoning. His mind and spirit have been ruined."
"But I have to..."
The very barest of a whisper, "You do not have to kill yourself. Not for him."
"But I...I...the spell...it took me there. To where Angel was - I have to...you don't know how much pain he's in!"
Buffy. It was Buffy. She was important. Important. He couldn't remember why.
Attempting to mimic her name, he growled out, "B-buffy?"
A soft gasp, "Angel?"
But before she came closer, he heard a struggle and she did not come closer.
"He may try to..."
A long pause and she agreed with a sigh, "Yeah."
They left him.
It was hard for him to see.
There was great darkness and that was all he knew.
And then he opened his eyes.
And laughed for a long time, silently to himself. He wasn't there anymore. It was gone. He was free, free of the metal and the coldness and the darkness and the silence.
He still made no noise of recognition.
He wanted blood. Now. And there was fresh scarlet drops now like rivers pulsating in their veins and he wanted to tear into delicate flesh and suck down, drink it all, and it would be so good and he would be full and never, never the pain again.
He would be free.
Yet he could not move.
A hiss emitted from his mouth, as suddenly an image of cold blue eyes, empty yet full of loathing.
The pain, the ache, the anger, the hatred...it came back in flash, a memory twisted with smiles that didn't mean anything and a word, a word that didn't mean anything to a child he loved...
And another name. Hers.
But he did not say it out loud again. It would not save him now.
He was so hungry.
Wesley was staring at Buffy as she sat across from him. She had gone only for a short while after their argument, coming back with a packed bag. She told him that she wasn't about to have Angel causing damage in his state.
She wanted to help.
But he was still refusing to allow her to use her blood to replenish him
Tiredly going over the argument, "Yes, while Slayer blood does have mystical properties, it also will not keep Angel from simply killing you."
"I can stop him."
Biting back his response of "like last time?" he remained calm and said, "Not if he snaps your neck. Which, he may do...unintentionally."
She went to argue, but stayed silent. Eyes cast downward, staring at her coffee, she asked, "Then what are we supposed to do?"
"Watch over him. That's all we can do at the moment."
"So we can't do anything."
She had no idea.
One move and they could change everything. Looking at her hands clutching the cup firmly in her hands, the signs of tension in her posture, he suddenly wanted. To tell her. It was so simple. Just tell her that he had used her because she was the best and most likely link and that he had filled her of all the emotion of Angel at the time he was imprisoned.
And his other plans. Of not bringing Angel sanity, but more insanity. Of a devil's deal gone horribly wrong and that he still couldn't bring himself to care.
A price he promised he would pay, but it was all a terrible lie.
He could tell her. She was the Slayer and she'd shown in her the ability to forgive. But that was another time and now did not offer him the easy out.
There wasn't any time for him to ask her to forgive him for his sins.
And he did not want forgiveness. He didn't need it. Didn't want it.
Couldn't have it.
He had to go through with all of his plans. Even though he was going to destroy so much. The dream returned in a flash and he remembered the looming shadow. Yes, he would have to betray them all.
He would not tell her.
She had finished her coffee and began speaking in an almost distant voice, as though what she said didn't matter, "I tried to deny it. So many years and you know, it was getting better. But still...Angel. I don't think I'm in love with him anymore. That would be pathetic, wouldn't it? Loving someone after he left you and told you it was over. Giles wasn't happy when I told him that I was going to be in L.A. for a while. I finally had to tell him that it wasn't his responsibility. I may be the Slayer, but..." she sighed and finally looked at Wesley with tired eyes that no longer held the same energy in them that they had when he had first met her all those years ago (it felt like an eternity away, now), "I'm being selfish, right? I shouldn't be helping Angel."
Even though he knew it would only make his situation more dangerous, he took her hand and said, "Of course not, Buffy. I may not agree with what you want to do, but I am glad that you are here...you've almost become a..."
Wesley ignored the sick feeling in his stomach. "Yes. Exactly." He hoped she didn't notice the pale echo of his agreement.
"It's nice to have someone to talk to. Someone that isn't an evil demon," she snapped her mouth shut, a flash of anger appearing in her face, and shook her head briefly before, "It isn't worth it. Never mind. I haven't been able to really talk to someone for a long time."
"Neither have I."
He couldn't ignore the ill feeling now. He actually felt bad. Well, this was just going to put a damper on his next step.
Feed Angel Buffy's blood.
She was very soft. He remembered that fondly. And she was sweet, even though there was a touch of the outside, of smog and dirty streets, clouding her delicate skin.
It was Her.
He made a sound that was not as animalistic as it had been before; it was a moan. Trying to gather the softness in his arms, he took in the fragrance underneath...blood.
Pounding, living heat. It had been too long.
Shivering against her softness, he dared to nuzzle into her neck as he rolled her over so that they lay side by side.
He hadn't forgotten her. Even in the worst moments, when gray darkness was all he could see, whether his eyes were opened or closed, it didn't matter. He still knew of soft flesh, that he shouldn't desire, shouldn't still want, yet did.
There was no cold darkness here. No silence as her strong heartbeat thudded against his still body. This was peace. What he had been forsaken to touch, to know...to feel.
This was what he would never give up again.
He could smell her excitement, tinged with nervousness. He could taste it even better.
He had to.
And he grazed a single fang across the gentle glow of the too sweet flesh.
She made a soft, keening noise as his mouth gently fastened on a spot of scared tissue, barely drawing any blood. Just the tiny taste of coppery-nectar.
He had marked her. She was his. Always. Forever.
So warm, he was cold and he liked her warmth. She was quite hot and it was so good that he had to get closer, closer, and had to feel all of her.
He needed more.
It had been too long.
As one hand held back soft tresses that felt so nice, so soft, in his fingers, the other ventured over slims curves and dips, exploring the soft little thing by him and he wanted, needed more.
He tangled his hand into her hair - she was here and she wouldn't go.
He wouldn't have to go in darkness again. He was safe.
No metal boxes and coldness and nothing else but her and her slowing breaths and was there something...
No, no, it was perfect as he brought her closer, because she had to get closer and never leave him. Stay.
A soft, very soft gasp, and a whisper he did not listen to.
He had to continue, to have the hot flesh close and nuzzled his face against the thundering pulse, teeth gently breaking skin and the heat, the essence, pouring into his mouth...
It was perfect.
He continued to drink, to feel her warm body responding to him - yes, he remembered this longing.
She was moving more against him and for a moment he thought she was trying to leave him.
He kept her even closer, tightening his grip.
She wouldn't leave again. He wasn't going to leave her.
Together forever. Forever.
He did not hear the faltered screaming.
Did not feel the struggling.
Did not hear the silence.
There was no recognition of something being wrong. Of coldness.
Until the body grew cold.
Unlatching his mouth, he cuddled against her, trying to wake her up. She stayed motionless.
Confused, he reached a fingertip out to the open wound, her mark.
The little remnant of scar tissue was not there.
There was no mark.
Only a gaping wound, still oozing blood.
He opened his eyes and saw her. Looked at the pale, broken, bleeding body.
It was not Her.
Dark hair tangled and spread over the white of the sheets. Bloodshot gray eyes. They were open and unfocused. Dead.
It was someone else.
This couldn't be.
Some sort of new nightmare...a dream. It had to be. She wasn't dead and he hadn't...couldn't...
Wasn't in his nature.
Touched his mouth and felt the still wet drops of blood remaining. No fangs. He wasn't a monster. No such thing. Wasn't a monster.
There's no such thing as monsters.
Shards of broken recollections suddenly came back to him, all unfocused, but they were there.
He smelled blood and he found himself loving the scent. But, no.
He had fed from her. A human. A living being.
Wasn't living anymore.
He realized there was someone standing in the doorway.
Struggling for words, his mouth bloody (the taste of the woman still stinging his mouth...he could now taste the fear and shock...there was no passion and love), he said, "W-Wesley?"
A long, cold stare, and Angel could feel the revulsion from him.
"You killed her."
And he shut the door promptly after that comment.
She wasn't Her and she wasn't soft and warm and there was no scar.
She wasn't Buffy. Buffy. Sweet smile that was rarely seen and tired eyes that showed she'd been through it all. Stronger than most and she had an air about her. Buffy.
But this wasn't her.
The body was limp against him, as he still held her, but it was clear to him that her body had been slightly broken. The ribs were crushed.
He broke her.
The door opened again.
Holding several white towels, Wesley said in a gravely quiet voice, "You'll need to clean up. It's possible that the fresh human blood was able to counter the effects of the spell."
A spell? He didn't remember. Yes, there had been many spells - curses - attempts to rip apart the universe if necessary. But they were fragments and hazy details. The thoughts were there in his mind, but he couldn't see them as a whole.
Effects of a spell.
There were always prices to magic, a particular memory chided at him. And for a second he was back in cold steel, locked away amid darkness.
A cold, dead body in his arms.
"I - I killed her." No. He couldn't have. This was just another nightmare, another ill memory.
Yet it was so clear. The already rot of flesh...she was dead now and just another corpse. Life had left her. No, it hadn't. He had stolen it from her.
The dark stains on the sheets.
And Wesley was here, waiting, holding towels, with a look on his face that Angel could not read.
It was so cold.
He had killed her.
Like a dark box he was strapped in, with the constant damn silence screaming and memories coming upon him constantly until it was as muddled and dark as the outside he couldn't see...
"Yes, I'm afraid you did. I had asked Miss Evelynn Westminster, an associate of mine, to drop off a book I needed. But she must have arrived early. I hadn't given her a key - I had put a spare on top of the door jamb - I should have taken her advice and stopped leaving it there, but I had forgotten..." He paused, and Angel took a better look at him.
Though his face was clearly shaved and his clothes were neat, his face looked much older. New wrinkles that Angel hadn't remembered seeing before.
*"I'll kill you!"*
No. He couldn't have done that. He wasn't - was a monster. He had tried to kill him. But why? Why...
There was no answer.
"I had stopped off for a bit." Angel knew where, as well. The stench of alcohol was unmistakable. "She must have heard you and checked in..."
"Oh God..." The word came to him before he even thought of its meaning. God? He had forgotten who was God. Or if he mattered.
There was no God.
Angel left go of the body and moved away from it.
Gently pressing down on the young woman's wound, though it was useless, Wesley continued in his dull, emotionless voice, "I...she won't be missed. We won't have to notify the authorities,I can take care of it..."
Why was he trying to heal the dead? It wouldn't work. He had closed the woman's - Westminster he had said - eyes.
"The authorities," Angel managed to choke out, still in shock. "I thought..."
He didn't want to let himself accept what he thought.
He thought it was Her.
He was dreaming of drinking from Buffy.
The nauseous feeling was deeply seated in his stomach now, and even if vampires couldn't get sick, he had never felt worse.
"That it was someone else?" Wesley's voice sounded different. Not deeper, but darker. Thicker. There was an inquisitive tone and as Angel looked harder, he could swear he saw nothing in Wesley's eyes but a blank pretense of sympathy.
"No!" He protested, trying to hide that feeble part of him that screamed, 'yes!' "No. I was - I wasn't awake."
Still wrapping up the body in towels, now stripping off the sheets as Angel got off the bed, moving to sit against one of the walls.
This couldn't be real.
Finally, as Wesley gathered the sheets containing the body, he said in cold, dispassionate voice, "You haven't been awake for a long time."
Angel slammed his knees into his chest as he cradled his arms around him, rocking silently.
It wasn't helping.
This couldn't be happening.
He couldn't have.
He was a monster.
Wesley handed him the last clean towel. "I'll take care of the body."
He left, carrying the large bundle over one shoulder as though its weight was meaningless.
Trying to stop shaking, to soothe the parts of him that felt disgusted and another darker part that still was hungry, he peeled off the pants that he was only wearing, exiting into another room.
There was a cracked mirror over a sink.
Nothing to see.
Turning on the water, he tried to make it as hot as possible. To stop the ill coldness in his body, the strange clawing of something inside him to go out and taste more. To kill.
He had to forget.
Forced his head under the faucet as the stream hit him with the boiling heat. Cells of his skin protesting the onslaught, but he ignored them.
Opened his mouth to the hot water, burning away the taste of dying blood, of the screams flavoring the taste. Washed away it all, hoping for a moment that it would be enough.
That he wouldn't have to remember.
He tried to leave his thoughts, his constant replay of an idle dream turned horrible reality.
The sound of water hitting his body.
Still, too silent.
He heard a noise distantly as he showered.
"Wesley?" came a female voice, attempting to keep her volume low.
Getting out, still dripping wet, he wrapped the towel around his waist.
And froze the second he saw her.
It couldn't be.
He had killed another and this wasn't - couldn't be real. Another dream. Another one and he was still in the shower, because this couldn't be happening. If he sunk his jaws into her, whom would it be that he was killing?
Because it looked like Her and it had to be lie.
She turned to him: blonde hair, hazel eyes. Older, but still so beautiful and it was like a frozen moment, but it wasn't a nightmare or stained red on white sheets and dead eyes staring up at the nothingness. It was something beautiful, but he didn't remember he had ever been able to see such beauty except in her.
It was something else.
"A-Angel?" she managed to say in her shock.
Without warning, he slammed her against the wall. God, she smelled the same but he had been deceived before and he wasn't going to be fooled again. He crushed his mouth against hers, because even if it was a lie, it was better than the truth, the horrors.
The constant darkness.
The memory of the place he had been imprisoned in, the cold gray, and the place he hadn't escaped yet.
Groaning slightly, he ran his hands over her, not caring that his towel fell, that he was naked to her. She was here and it was a fucking dream, another nightmare, but he didn't care because there was a dead body and another life he had taken, but he wasn't going to let that stop him.
Because the promises and dreams of forever were a lie and why those things were attached to her, he did not know.
And she was kissing him back and he swore he tasted salty wetness mingling with her sweet taste that was slightly bitter now.
He ignored it, because this wasn't real and he was too tired of trying to see.
He couldn't see anymore.
Unfastening her pants, she suddenly regained control as she protested, "We can't."
He didn't care. But she pushed him away and he felt her strength, she was stronger than him, he was the weak one, so he tried to focus on her, tried to see.
This wasn't real and he could and he would.
"I - this is just another dream," he told her, not caring that it was nonsense to try to tell her that.
"Angel," she said weakly, touching his face with warm fingers that couldn't be real, but he remembered so fondly, "This isn't a dream. I-"
She didn't say anything else. Instead, she brought him back to her, allowed him to remove her clothing, and made soft noises, demanding that he stay with her.
Like he would ever refuse. He wouldn't leave again and this was but another dream and there was no reason why he shouldn't rip open the scar tissue that wouldn't be there when he woke, but he didn't.
Instead, he found himself inside, back to a warmth he hadn't been since a long time ago - there was a day somewhere, but it was just another broken shard of a dream - and cried out for the insane rightness and wrongness that it brought at the same time.
But she was with him and wouldn't leave again and there wouldn't be the truth when he snapped out of it, because he was pumping wildly and fucking her and screaming and forgetting of cold gray coffins and eyes filled with hatred and pillows and bodies struggling, but he was a monster and this was his life and he would do as he damn pleased.
And as he felt the ripped remnants of the world he was barely a part of begin to finally tear and break away, he cried out the one word that had started him on this path, the one word that would not save him, no matter how much he wanted it to be true.
"I'm glad you came," he said to her as she took a seat in the pub, not meaning a single word of it.
Rolling her eyes at his politeness, she snarked back, "Oh, whatever you want. After all, murdering your team members is always looked fondly upon. Actually," she said, after a brief moment of consideration, "Sometimes it is. Still, good little secretaries are hard to come by these days. Secretaries that don't ask questions."
"I didn't kill her." A brief pause to finish off the whiskey he had been staring at while he waited for Lilah.
"Sure, Wesley. You just sent your naïve secretary to the place you were storing an insane vampire. Wise move," she congratulated him, as she tipped the spare shot glass he had set for her. Leaning over to him, she asked, only halfway interested, "So, was this the brilliant plan you had set up to try to challenge Wolfram and Hart? Because I always knew you still had an inkling to go back and play with the good guys, but I didn't think you'd fuck it up so badly that you'd end up asking me to help get rid of a body."
He shot her a dark look as he replied sarcastically, "I had to go with the alternate."
Eyes widened in surprise; she wasn't expecting him to admit that he'd been screwing with Wolfram and Hart. "What?"
"That plan wasn't to come back and play for the other side again," he said idly staring at the stains on the tabletop. "Frankly, I've had enough of them. But as Angel does bear importance in the upcoming End of Days, I had wanted to..."
A brilliant grin full of hateful glee. "You wanted to hurt him."
He shook his head. Even though it was partly true. "What I wanted was to have never translated that prophecy."
"Hmm," she muttered, disappointed, "'The father will kill the son.'"
"Oh heavens no," he exclaimed. "The first one. Shanshu. If I had never translated that - well, perhaps I wouldn't have ended up in that hospital two years ago, or perhaps I'd be dead. Both are two alternates that would have saved me a lot of trouble."
"Oh, poor you," she sarcastically chided. "You have the weight of the future on your shoulders."
"Lilah, you are such a-" he took one of her perfectly manicured hands into his, and said, "You are completely wrong about that. I do what is necessary. What Angel did by killing her - it's the catalyst. Yes, his mind will be restored to how it normally is, but he has murdered an innocent woman. He may not want to become sane. And you'll find that this Angel will be more susceptible to whatever Wolfram and Hart wants to do with him. Though I suggest patience in his case. Whatever doesn't kill us, makes us stronger."
"Save me the fucking platitudes," she snapped as she yanked her hand away from his. "I've been working for Wolfram and Hart longer than you; don't assume that-"
"You have no idea what you're doing?" He didn't even bothering hiding his grin. "Wouldn't dream of it, Lilah dear."
She seemed to clamp her mouth, as though trying to keep whatever she wanted to say to him from coming out. Finally, she said, "So why didn't you try to get rid of the Slayer, instead? As amusing as it was to have her being used as the embodiment of the demonic powers used in freeing Angel, I've read her files. She tends to get pissed off and violent when people mess with loved ones. And she didn't like you when you were her Watcher."
He let out a rare and full laugh, agreeing with Lilah, "God, she despised me. Well, I can certainly understand why. I was a complete prig back then. But things change."
"Hmm, yeah. Stuffy Brits become unstable bastards sporting nasty scars." She smiled at his dark look. He hated when she made light of his scar, but that didn't stop her.
Scowling, he agreed, "Quite right. But icy bitches always remain the same."
"Aww, how romantic. Don't flatter me Wesley, I may fall in love with you, or something completely sad like that."
"That, I doubt highly, Lilah."
"So why didn't you let Angel take a bite out of Buffy?"
"You've read the records. You know about a Slayer's blood."
"Yeah. It's powerful. Whatever."
"More than that. It saved Angel, once ago. I had argued with Buffy about her allowing Angel to feed from him when I told her the spells had rendered Angel insane. Buffy wanted to save him again. I had planned for her sacrifice but it couldn't be."
"Because then, she'd be dead. And no, she can't die. She's died already. And come back."
"Yeah. I know."
"Buffy cannot die. I won't allow it. Not because I want her to live, but because I don't want Angel to regain his senses. Losing her, her sacrificing herself for Angel, that is what can give Angel a form of desperate sanity. Which I assure, you, do not want."
It came to him, unbidden; the memory of choking as a pillow smothered him, the yelling, the promise that he would pay.
*"You know this is me, right? Not Angelus. Angel."*
A desperate sanity.
Yes, Wesley knew it all too well. Which is why he couldn't allow Angel to gain the same dead calm as himself, the cold calm that was all that was driving him to complete his plans.
*Choking, choking, he couldn't breath - worse than lying facedown in grass, bleeding, wasting away, because he knew as the white pillow gave way to darkness, that he wasn't going to be saved, that he was damned and that the screaming would ring in his eardrums forever.*
Wesley ignored it all as he made a false tender touch on Lilah's soft, but always harsh, face. "Thank you for helping me to get rid of the body."
"Oh, it wasn't a problem. She was insured."
He grinned slightly, amused at how cheerful Lilah seemed about the unfortunate Ms. Westminster being insured. "Perhaps I should explain in small words, for your benefit, why what is happening now, is going to help both of our careers." Ah, talk about Lilah moving up in the ranks. The perfect seduction technique.
Moving one of her hands underneath the table, she asked, "Why don't you educate me?"
Reaching for icy cold lips that he felt nothing for, he promised, "Be glad to."
Buffy tried to grasp of sense of what just happened. But when she did, she had to come to terms with several facts. She was lying on the floor completely nude. She had just had sex.
And Angel was with her.
She had slept with Angel.
So she stayed awake, holding the stake in her hand, hoping that, even though logically it all pointed to it, that she hadn't done this.
She couldn't have done it.
Her body, completely sated, begged to differ.
But she had just had sex with Angel.
Her mind was slow to grasp the concept.
While she lay on the ground, she had run all the possibilities of when Angel woke up. So many scenarios, and not a single one convinced her that this really happened. Because it had to be some horrible dream or nightmare.
Some horrible reality.
"You belong with me, Slayer, in darkness."
And, what she denied since she woke up in a cold, decaying coffin, could she really deny it anymore?
That she wasn't supposed to have happiness and peace, and just comfort.
She had left her friends (the sister Buffy had promised she'd show the world to) to go take care of Angel, because it was Angel and she had to.
But that was a lie.
It was what they all expected. She was supposed to be in love with Angel forever, because that's why Riley drifted away and finally left. Why he went off and found someone else, because he did deserve love and not a false pretense that she offered.
She wasn't allowed to say it out loud. Because that would be foolish, little girl dreams trapped in her heart, but she couldn't bear them anymore. Too many years and too much pain, no she didn't dream of Angel saving her, of Angel coming back to her.
Of Angel loving her.
Because it was just a foolish dream and she wasn't going to try to let them stop her from (not living) existing.
Leaving her again for her own good.
But that didn't matter anymore. She didn't love him. She couldn't. And it could be easy to say it was just denial speaking, but it was true. She had gotten older, had to watch her friend destroy herself, and had become hardened to everything. Nothing was going to hurt her anymore.
She didn't love him anymore. And for a moment, she thought of just staking him while he slept because Angel shouldn't know the truth, he shouldn't look at her, still thinking she loved him because it was all a lie.
And the sick thing was that she could do it and no one would care. Oh, Angel died, so what?
She'd been told that she still cared for him, that a part of her would always be his and she was sick of it. Sick of feeling because it was all a pretense anyway, because she couldn't let herself be torn apart anymore.
Because it always ended up being about Angel. And she wasn't about to let him break her heart again.
She was going to make sure that it would never happen again.
And then he opened his eyes.
"Buffy? You're here."
Buffy had never had a good track record with doing the sensible and real thing.
So, she sat up a bit, formed a weak, concerned smile as though she was unsure Angel still had his soul (she could see the truth just by looking at him, but it was easier to pretend, to show fear instead of the moment of gratefulness that swept through her as she realized his soul was intact, that he was ok, but that was so much easier, the false fear), "Angel, are you...you?"
Brow furrowed as though he was trying to piece together what happened. Recognition in his eyes and for a mere second Buffy could've sworn she saw a moment of horror, but it flickered away. "I didn't think it was real."
And before she could say anything, she found herself in a tight hug, his cold body against her own and for a brief moment, a flash of coldness tore at her and a panicked scream rose in her throat. But she was able to temper it and to regain herself before memories of a bathroom floor flooded her vision and screams echoed in her ears.
He was sobbing. He didn't cry tears, but his body wracked with sobs, and Buffy couldn't help but feel for him, even though she didn't love him and she couldn't-
But she did.
No matter how many times she repeated the lie, it never worked. A part of her would always, but that part was growing weaker by each day.
And would someday fade away.
She dared to kiss him, to taste him and confide in him how she felt, knowing how dangerous it was.
Yet as soon as it began, she stopped, taking his face into her hands and saying, "You're not there anymore. You won't ever be there again. There's no pain here. No cold darkness. It'll be okay, it'll be okay, it'll be okay."
And yet, it was not okay.
The darkness had crept into the both of them without their permission and now they would have the same memories plaguing them. Yes, the spells Wesley had used were too powerful. When she didn't pay attention, when she let her thoughts wander, they rested on the taste of dead earth and rotting wood and waking up gasping for breath when it was sacrilegious for the dead to dare such a thing. And then, the cold darkness of the solitude as there was nothing and everything screaming in her mind and it was too fucking silent.
Neither of them would ever escape because there was no way out.
"We should get dressed," she said, looking for her discarded clothes. "I should call Wesley. To tell him that you're okay now."
"He knows," she echoed back. "Oh. Good. Maybe we should, I mean, that can't ever happen again."
"Yeah," he said, still sitting on the ground, staring distantly at her. "It can't."
"Angel, it's been a really difficult year," she shut her mouth. Why did she still have the desire to tell him everything?
It didn't matter to him. From the little Wesley had told him, he had more important things in his life. His son. His son, who tried to kill him. And knowing Angel's obsession with saving lost souls, she was sure he'd go after his son as well.
Finally buttoning her blouse, she walked into the kitchen, asking, "Do you, um need to eat?"
"What?" he muttered distantly; not paying attention. He was still sitting on the ground. She had looked before at his body of course, but her mind had been elsewhere. A too pale back and his tattoo. His muscles were tensed and he had brought his knees to his chest, curled up, head hanging down. Harsh shake of his head, and he said, voice shaking full of pain, "I'm not hungry."
"Mmkay," she mumbled through the stale crackers she was chewing. Wesley had a fridge that was well stocked, if someone wanted blood or alcohol. There was nothing to eat except some tea crackers left, forgotten, in one of the cupboards.
She sat on the sofa, watching Angel as he finally got up and slowly searched for clothing. She had left a fresh set of clothes on Wesley's dresser before, despite the hidden opinion in Wesley's eyes that it would be quite a long time when Angel would be of enough mind to actually dress himself.
And now, he was better.
This was no miracle.
Fully dressed, he took a seat next to her. Finally, he spoke. "I was - I lost my mind. I don't know why - it wasn't like anything else. But it was like everything too. And then, there was this..."
"Wesley, he told me about this spell. We didn't know what it would do to you. We wouldn't have done it if," she sighed, and added, "I don't like magic. Only ends in badness."
When she had gone out patrolling before (it had become a habit she couldn't break), she had called Giles to tell him what she was doing and to find out about the current situation in Sunnydale. No Apocalypses, but he had made several observations on Willow's situation.
"I don't think we should hope for Willow to regain her mind, Buffy. We should only hope for the best."
The best. There was no best.
Only more and more pain, and the feeling of a cold metal bullet in her chest. The sight of a body, not her mother (but that vision still haunted her), of a friend that had supported her at a horrible moment ("Don't forgive me!"), lying on the ground.
Willow was luckier than all of them. Insanity was a blessing. Especially since the memories weren't always coming back to haunt her.
She sometimes was able to think Tara was somewhere else and she'd be home soon.
"I'm sorry about before," Angel said, snapping her out of her thoughts.
"About - I shouldn't have."
"Fuck you, Angel," she snapped, tired that he was trying to do the better thing by fucking apologizing for something that they both needed and would always still be wanting. "Don't even try to apologize to me. At least, not about that. So, you named your son Connor, did you?"
He visibly flinched but said in an even tone, "His name is Stephen now."
"Great." But she snapped out of her immature attitude and finally said, tiredly, "Forget it. I - it isn't my place. We'll find him, Angel. He'll.."
He wouldn't be okay.
Angel didn't know.
But instead of telling him, because she wasn't a part of that aspect of his life, she took his hand and promised him, "It'll be okay."
Neither of them was listening to her words. They both knew it was a lie.
When he arrived in his apartment, Buffy and Angel sitting on the couch, for a brief second, he had a sudden thought freeze his already cold insides.
But that simply couldn't be. Nobody knew what he was planning. Not Wolfram and Hart, no one.
And they wouldn't figure anything out until it was too late.
Buffy turned to him, eyes wide and guilty as though she had been caught doing something wrong. "Wesley. Hi. Angel - he's-"
"Better," Wesley said with a weak smile, trying to appear sympathetic, when really, he secretly hoped the 'better' was 'worse.' "I know."
"Yeah, Angel said..." she trailed off, unsure of her words. Standing up, she said, "I, maybe I should be going soon? I have to go back to Sunnydale."
Back to a place with a friend with a broken mind and a life of solitude. Yes, Wesley understood.
"Yes, well, I was expecting that. It is better that you should go home to take care of your friend, Willow."
A brief look crossed Buffy's face, something like sorrow and a flash of anger, but she hid it under a blank veneer soon after.
She moved to get up and Angel, who had been silent since Wesley arrived, suddenly grabbed her arm and said in a panicked voice, "You're not leaving?"
Before Buffy could say anything, Wesley moved closer and said in a harsh tone, trying not to make it too obvious to Buffy, "It is better this way, Angel. She has a life to lead in Sunnydale. And we have a mission as well."
"I remember," he said, letting go of Buffy's arm.
"No, I'm not talking about that," Wesley replied, a brief flash to their forgotten purpose. Help the helpless? A foolish, idiotic mission. If they couldn't help themselves, they may as well suffer. There wasn't anything left to hope for. "I'm talking about Connor."
"Angel's son," Buffy whispered more to herself, as she refastened the backpack she had brought for her stay.
"Yes, well, I was fortunate to find a consultant position at an agency dealing with...well, our line of work," he explained, wondering when they would be able to see through his shoddy lie. "And we may be able to find Connor. Before he does any more harm."
"Connor - he hurt someone?"
Trying not to roll his eyes at Angel's confusion, he said in a grave voice, "Fred, he killed her."
And for a moment, it seemed that Angel didn't remember anything, or he didn't believe that it had happened. "God," he mumbled. "She's-"
"And Gunn is still in the hospital, after attempting to stop Connor." Adding an afterthought, "Though I doubt he'd be happy if you called on him, I don't think he wants to - he loved Fred. It's better if you gave him time."
Gave him time by never contacting him again. Always, the price for fighting against darkness was greater than the benefit of defeating darkness. Pain. The loss of loved ones. Insanity. Never, ever a break. It was a sad thing to do the right thing.
Which is why Wesley didn't care anymore for it.
As Buffy put on the too-heavy backpack on her lean shoulders, she patted Wesley's arm as she left, saying, "Contact me if you need whatever, ok?"
She didn't even look at Angel as she said, "Goodbye Angel."
Nor did she stay to hear his barely audible, "Goodbye Buffy."
Another thing he could be fortunate for. No messy past to ruin his plans for the future. Yes, his past was full of many things - *stay in the darkness where he can't find you, the stench of alcohol* -
stinging wounds he had to hide - don't let them see your bruises - *I'll kill you!* - brown eyes that wouldn't ever see again - the blood soaking into the ground - *oh God, please, someone help me!* - a child he had to take away, the father will kill the son and life's just so fucking funny and he's about to be the punch line...
But he hadn't ever had the same kind of pain that always haunted him like Buffy did.
And, for a moment since he translated that damned prophecy, he was very grateful.
Because it gave him some leverage.
He needed only one.
Only one thing left to do.
And he would never have to be in pain ever again.