I was a taller girl too, once. (regala_electra) wrote,
I was a taller girl too, once.
regala_electra

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Betrayer Part 7 (Epilogue) (1/2)

Betrayer
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 Seven - Epilogue - The Rest is (Silence)
*

"Where did he go, Buffy?"

"You can keep on asking that. I still don't know."

He glared at her, unable to be patient, unable to do anything. Except sit by his son lying motionless on the bed.

The doctor had managed to stop the bleeding but told them that Connor would take a long time to heal and the scar would be permanent.

Angel really wanted to kill Wesley.

Drag out the torture a bit.

That would do just fine.

Buffy also sat by the bed, across from him, eyes dark yet empty. A nasty bruise marred one cheek, the swelling had gone down but it still looked tender.

I could just touch it...

He stopped that thought instantly. That was a long time ago. When he was foolish to believe that his touch didn't bring pain. Now, he knew the truth.

His son, he almost lost him again.

He had lost his son.

Forgiveness, no, he could never grant that.

His thoughts were broken, were too scattered to last long enough for any feeling to last. He would feel great rage, towards Wesley, towards Lilah, even towards Buffy, but his thoughts would change to his own self-loathing. His single-mindedness, his obsession, had nearly cost him the life of his son.

His son had locked him in that cold dark cell.

There was no way to keep his memories held together as tightly as before. It was like madness, only not, for he knew it, he realized it. Instead, he kept close the real moments, the little things, holding his son in his arms for the first time, rain-slicked, a moment that was tempered in its bliss, for Holtz could have ended his child's life right then.

The opening of the doors to the hotel, seeing Willow and - knowing. Well, just knowing.

The cold. So cold, and that was all he could cling to.

Shutting the doors, condemning his enemies to death and his other enemies, his other family, to freedom, because he just didn't care anymore.

Those kept him in check. They kept him from running out into the streets, hunting Wesley, exacting brutal revenge for Wesley's treachery, for his betrayal.

Kept him from leaving his son and losing him again.

So he instead stole a glance at Buffy, her hand unconsciously moving to examine the damage of the wound on her face. Because that, this, what was true, what was happening now, that kept him from forgetting.

He was the one that had hit Buffy. Because it was the only thing left to do. She had betrayed him as well. Yet, if she asked for forgiveness, he wondered if he would crumble, resolve breaking, and give it to her. He once willingly gave her his heart.

He once loved her.

"We'll have to move soon," she informed him, playing with the bandage on her right arm. "I bet Lilah's pretty pissed."

"They'll probably kill her," he answered, looking over his son. "We managed to escape and for that mistake, for the mistakes she's been making, I doubt they'll let her continue on."

"But then, they did hire her." Buffy smoothed back the hair on Connor's forehead and Angel wondered why Buffy was so concerned about him. Why she hadn't asked a single question about Connor. She had merely accepted it. Looking back at him, "Are these really the people that have been giving you so much trouble? I mean - they're kind of..."

"Dumb?" he asked, oddly feeling lightness inside despite his worry and his anger.

She didn't grin but her voice sounded a bit brighter, a little less faded, "Yeah."

"They would have killed you."

Killed her slowly just to see how much pain a Slayer could bear. Killed her and he would have left her there because that didn't matter - he had to kill Wesley. Damn everyone else.

He had to remember that, it was important. It couldn't happen again.

She bit her lip, a dark amused look in her eyes. "You would have killed me."

Snapping his gaze back to her, the apology began instantaneously, "I-"

"Say you're sorry," she warned, hand forming a fist without her meaning it, "and I'll be forced to finish what I started back there."

"You should have left too."

A derisive snort and she asked, "Excuse me?"

"It's just that you don't want to be here, Buffy. You've told me that. You told me-"

"It's over."

"A lot of stuff has happened over the past year," she cut in, a weariness beyond her years. "Before even helping rescue you. I'm dealing. I'm tired. That's it. Don't ask me to choose sides; don't ask me to leave. I - I'm doing the best I can do. And I want to make sure Connor wakes up. He'll be - he's okay, but he's not. He's had a life on his own, you didn't raise him, and he feels resentment towards you. In the huge daddy issues way. Maybe he'll get over it. Maybe he'll never accept you. But you, hunting down Wesley, not even caring about the future of your son, that's what's going to ruin you in the end. Are you here because you want to make sure that Connor's okay? Or are you hoping that I'll somehow reveal where Wesley went? Because, I don't think you realize what you nearly lost this morning."

Choking back words, trying to forget the memories of his only son being taken, the only chance he had to save Connor ending up dooming him, he whispered, "That's not true."

"Of course it isn't," her hand moved, touching the pulse point at Connor's right wrist, and his hand, it was only an inch away. As though realizing that, she quickly let go and moved her hands back onto her lap. Where it was safe. Away from him. " I don't - I don't know anything. I was able to trick myself into believing I'd be okay while Willow destroyed herself. I told my sister I wanted to show her the world when really, the things that she hasn't seen will kill her. Like they did me. Wow. That's self-absorbed. Sorry."

"You don't," he said, a breath that did not exist caught in his throat, "don't say that."

"Or you'll kick my ass?"

"Yeah," he agreed softly, trying to find signs of the girl he had fallen in love with, the girl he had convinced himself was someone worth fighting for, but seeing instead a hardened warrior, a woman that he did not know but still there lingered something just as strong as the memory of his love. "Something like that."

He went back to his silence, back to watching over his son.

"Connor will be fine," she informed him with that tone of voice that wasn't assured at all.

"I know that. I just wish he didn't have to be."

Be alone. Be without Angel's help. But his son had grown up and he had lost the chance to make it work.

He was sitting by his son, but he had lost him.

"You wish you could be his father." She did not look at him while she said that.

"Yes. But that time has passed. I..." Angel began, searching for the words, "He has to leave. Wolfram and Hart will be after him. Constantly using him as a tool against me."

"There's something else."

Always something else.

"Everything he did," Angel replied, caught in the memories, trying to dissociate the pain, the feelings, or he wouldn't be able to finish it. "He - he wanted to. A human. My son. Killing Fred. I don't want that part of him to destroy him."

"You want to save him." Her voice was steady, but there was pain in it. Pain she was trying to burying, but it came up before she could keep it hidden. Before she could lie again.

A deep, heavy sigh and he answered. "I can't."

"Maybe you should just let go." She did not look at him; perhaps she was looking behind him. "Maybe he'll find his way."

"Maybe all he'll think he is," Angel paused, the word too easy, too simple, too real to be true, "is a monster."

"You can't know that. You just have to - do. Whatever. Let go. Forget. Remember. Accept."

"Forget," he whispered more to himself. Not that again. A path he had tried but only found misery as his companion. "He's my son, I can't - I won't."

"You can't hide him from the world," she gently reminded him. "But he can't be in your world. Not just yet, Angel. He has to accept it. And maybe he'll come back."

He looked at her and that sadness, was that really the Buffy he had known? The one who made jokes and bantered with her enemies? No. This was different.

Cracking something of a dark grin that was more a sad grimace, the pain unavoidable, "I don't think that theory has ever worked for a person."

"Yeah," her voice a sickened whisper, "It hasn't."

A look passed between them.

What have I done to her?

"Buffy..."

"Stop. It's over. Not again," she pleaded, "I waited a while but I gave it up. Eventually I'll be able to stop it from being anything but a distant memory, unable to affect me."

Unable to contain the memories suddenly flooding him, kisses in the sun, prophecies he once believed in, and vows he made that he would always remember, the things he could never forget, no matter how tragic, all this emotion, this love, overwhelmed him. And he spoke, "Even if it doesn't matter, I love you. When you died, I did shut down. But that's, that's not why - it's still too dangerous."

"It's too old," she reminisced, hugging herself as though she had gotten a chill, "An old wound. Nothing lasting about it but the scar."

And the memories faded like a long-ago dream and it whispered away like a fragile wind.

"Is that really-" he began, not wanting to know the answer.

Cold, all too sad, yet perfectly clear eyes greeted his own.

"Yes."

*

She'd scream, but they had taped her mouth shut.

Hot flames surrounding her - Christ, they really were going to burn her at the stake as a punishment -

Skin flushed damp, she was so hot, it was so hot, it wasn't her fault dammit! She had to make a choice and - and -

Fucking Wesley. He had it planned.

But if she hadn't sliced the brat maybe they would have been lenient -

Maybe she would have survived -

Everything was fading -

And then, the burning stopped. Her skin was relatively unmarred. Bruises and cuts, but that was all.

"There is something more important we have to attend to," said one voice. He was one of the top partners of the firm, beady eyes cowering behind thick glasses still cast in a strange light from the fire that no longer was there.

Arm untied, she tugged off the binding around her mouth, stopping herself from saying anything that would land her back up there.

"Find Wesley," said a dark clothed being (definitely not human). "You will not be spared. But find him. He is still alive. Bring him back that way. No help. Just you."

"M...me? But-"

"Do it," the one with the flickering light cast on his eyeglasses commanded, "We must find the Slayer and Angel. And we will find the son, if he has survived in spite of your involvement."

"I-"

"No time," the dark one hissed, a low voice barely human, "Go. Now. And do not try to run. We know you've stolen files. You cannot blackmail Wolfram and Hart, Lilah. You belong to us."

She shivered, but she preferred to think it was a reaction to the lingering heat. "I will," she promised, trying not to show either fear or arrogance in her voice. She had fucked up.

They hadn't killed her.

She was one step ahead of the game.

And then the earthquake came and she fell to the ground, helpless to the tremors as she was jostled around.

Scrambling up, she made her way as the earth under her feet protested, shuddering and shaking for a long time.

This was no ordinary earthquake.

Magic. Tons and tons of magic. Someone - something -

"The portents!" shouted the demon under the cloth, his robe falling off, an elongated skeleton-like bird with slimy black webbing as a mottled skin. A monster.

One of the best partners at Wolfram and Hart.

Lilah wasted no time, no thoughts, she simply ran out of the building, into the darkness. It was evening. It was only a day since she had stabbed Connor? Less than a day - it had been morning when it happened. It had felt longer, but it wasn't.

Chaos outside, but there was an order to it. Just an earthquake, California had been through plenty. But it wasn't stopping.

It was getting worse.

This was not ordinary at all.

*

He would be fine. He'd laugh but there was no real reason for it.

Especially after the earthquake hit, causing quite the panic in the hospital.

He truly hated the banal walls, the smells of death, and the noise.

The insistent buzzing.

So, he decided to leave. There was enough chaos, just enough, so he could escape quietly, although he was still badly beaten, he would eventually heal. Besides, he wasn't going to die, so that was an improvement from before.

Dressing the best he could under the circumstances, his clothes fortunately decent enough to walk outside, he carefully unhooked himself from the I.V., walking out, trying to stay in doorways and around corners, hoping the doctors and nurses rushing about, shouting about how many cases they'd have tonight ("But it's not really that bad, is it? Can't be more than a-"), wouldn't take any notice of him.

Making his way in the hustle, he took the stairs, trying not to wince as his body protested moving.

Taking a breath of fresh air, he tried to think of his last thoughts before he had passed out when he was taken to the hospital. Yes, he had a brilliant plan and things had not followed it - but they were close enough.

It was enough.

"Three. Two," he muttered under his breath, hoping his calculations were correct, "one."

And then, the earthquake stopped as quickly as it began.

"Beautiful."

Perhaps he'd go for a congratulatory drink.

Hmm...but he'd better pick up some fresh clothes.

The bloody look was so passé.

Hiding a dark grin from appearing on his battered face, Wesley continued on his way, taking small steps, while inside one thought was running through his mind.

It's all over.

*

They had sat helplessly by Connor, hoping that the earthquake wouldn't knock out the power. Fortunately it hadn't.

Connor had managed to wake up, telling them very weakly that he'd be fine before going back to sleep.

Buffy, tired of sitting vigil, excused herself to the bathroom.

Washing up, she observed the already diminishing bruises on her face, the cut on her bottom lip healing. If she pushed her tongue hard enough on her lip it would split open and she'd taste the tangy copper again.

Shaking away that dark thought, she attempted to make herself at least look like she hadn't been involved in several biker brawls. Her hair was messy and matted against her head, so she half-heartedly tried to arrange it normally.

Her clothes were beyond repair, another ruined outfit added to her always-growing clothing bills. And she had left her bag in Wesley's car.

Great. Just great.

Stuck with Angel.

Dressed like the poster girl for some third world country.

Just survived: a fight, a love proclamation by someone she really didn't want to hear it from, and an earthquake.

A usual day in her life.

Leaving the restroom, she was surprised to see the doctor there, looking immaculate, right in front of the door.

"Miss Summers."'

"Umm, I didn't catch your name."

"Unimportant. You and Angel are fine. I will be having more patients arriving due to the circumstances. Present and future," she added with a wry smile as though it was particularly funny. "You will have to depart. As well as the vampire."

"But - Connor."

"Is in my care. And will stay as long as is required. No more than a few days. I have learned many healing secrets. Believe me, Connor is under my protection."

She smiled again and Buffy realized she had never looked at her eyes. They weren't dark in color; they were burning, burning with some unusual light. Like a night sky on fire.

Buffy had no idea where that thought came from.

"I have procured a few garments. A shirt for each of you, considering the state of your own..." she trailed off, not needing to finish the statement. "I left them in Connor's room. Oh," she added as she walked back down the corridor to the elevator of the converted apartment building, "Wolfram and Hart, an organization I do not want to interfere with my work, seem to be after you two. I can protect the boy for now. But not you two. I'd suggest you leave. Now."

"I - yes. Got it."

"Goodbye Miss Summers. Take care of yourself."

Walking back to the room, she saw Angel had changed into the dark gray shirt. He was scowling; obviously the doctor had already spoken with him.

"We have to leave," he told her, the irritation causing him to bite out his words sharply.

"No we. Just you and then, well, me. I'm going and you can brood and lurk until Connor gets discharged. Just not here."

Shameless, she pulled off her shirt, not really giving a fuck if Angel was looking, because it wasn't the time and she didn't care what he saw; she was wearing a bra and that was enough.

"You lost a lot of weight."

"Nice way to start a conversation, Mr. Peeping Tom. Even heard of closing your eyes?" she trailed off as she saw him wince. Bad choice of words.

"Yes," he stated, tone unclear.

Damn. He was being difficult.

Shaking her head, she told him, "I'm going. I have to get my bag and then I'm off."

"I could drive you," he offered in a tentative tone.

"No." She moved away from him, standing by the doorway, "You really don't have to."

"I - I should."

"I thought you were pissed at me." She cast a scrutinizing gaze at his face as she turned around, "Isn't that why you decided to leave me back? Well, besides the fact that you wanted to kill Wesley, of course."

"Buffy," he said, exasperated, "Look at what he did. My son."

"The same son you were going to leave there. With me."

"I don't want to talk about this. With you."

"Then we won't, okay?" she offered, trying not to raise her voice to a shout. "I'll just leave and that will be it. I'll go home and deal with my life because I'm tired of constantly being dragged into your dramas."

"I wasn't the only one who asked you. And the first time - you came on your own, Buffy."

"Yeah. That was me trying to do the right thing. Being an idiot. I'm leaving."

"Buffy, please, can't you at least...?"

"What?"

"Let me drive you there," he repeated, voice more insistent.

"Fine." It wouldn't matter. It would be quicker and she'd be able to go home and pretend that none of this had mattered; none of this had affected her.

She'd do what she did best.

And then everything went dark and all she heard was screaming. Howling. And she knew what it was.

Demons.

*

They came outside not because they wanted to. Not for food, for they had fed upon the city for a long time and knew that they could never mount an attack or take over.

They came because it was time.

Vampires, a feuding demon, never able to properly unite together, joined together in the streets, the false human visages gone.

The demons who could not hide under a mask of humanity, they rose from the sewers, from the dark places, voices terrible in their own tongues, for they knew it was time, it was -

Time.

The gaping holes left by the earthquake, the panic in the air, this was what they waited for, the air was dark and heavy with magics from the past bloomed fully into some twisted rotted form.

Into the now.

And, as though there was a siren calling for them, they all took a slow, steady march to one place, the only place.

The place they had to destroy.

The offices of Wolfram and Hart.

*

"How all seasons do inform against me," he commented before turning around. A grin and he replied, "Lilah dear, you've certainly seen better days."

"You - you fuck," she wheezed out, her appearance soiled by the best of terms. Hair oily and matted down, the slight singe around her clothes, the bruises - she had never looked more real. Forcing her voice to work, she snipped in her haughty tone, "Practicing Shakespearean soliloquies?"

Smiling, he toasted her with a quick tip of his champagne flute. "Only for my personal amusement. You must sit down and celebrate. It's the end of the world you know," he added cheerfully.

"It is - it fucking is, isn't it? You...I helped you. Gave you the plans." Even in her state, she remained icy cool, sauntering up like a cat circling its prey and not like the doomed creature she truly was.

"You never helped me." His eyes narrowed and he continued, "I did help you, but that doesn't quite matter right now. I'd say it's a good thing they let you out otherwise you wouldn't have lived long enough to watch the demons bring down Wolfram and Hart. The very creatures you tried to control, well, they're freed. Freed from both sides."

"It'll be a bloodbath. Thousands killed."

"Yes. Complete chaos. It's everything that you hadn't wanted. Perhaps you should run. Maybe you'll get to live a little longer. Thirsty?" he asked, filling up an extra glass he had next to the bottle.

There was no one in the bar. They'd all left. To run, to hide, to pray, to get lost in the confusion. Creatures outside, destroying the streets, attacking any that dared to come outside -

It was everything that should have happened when Wolfram and Hart took over the Earth.

It wasn't supposed to be like this.

Going around the bar, she found the scotch, pouring herself a glass. Wincing as she drank, throat sore, she hissed, "You know, I'll bring you in."

"In where? By now, I expect any beings at headquarters to be dead. Probably not the little oracle-girl. She's quite clever. She saw this all, didn't she?"

"Only saw chaos."

"Yes, well, it was foolish for her to think that she could actually control it. You see, it's letting go, that's where the true power lies. But what do I know? I'm a former Watcher with a price on his head. God, that's pathetic."

Letting her voice break, she whispered, "I don't want them to find me."

"Of course not. Always thinking about yourself. I thought you'd be able to take care of yourself better, but alas, I was wrong. I mean, how did you think this would end, Lilah? You becoming the princess of Wolfram and Hart? You weren't even able to follow the simplest of orders. No, perhaps it was blackmailing them, weaseling enough money to go someplace warm for the rest of your life. Like Lindsey did. But no," and with this, he shook his head, putting down his glass, "you're not like that. I bet you're going to stay. Try to get me to come with you. That's the problem with you Lilah; you actually think that you can do something original. But you're a walking cliché."

"Speak for yourself," she mumbled, drinking more, obviously trying to find that pleasant intoxicated buzz that would give her a reprieve from all this fucking truth.

Wesley was currently experiencing the same, although he was celebrating the truth. Something he hadn't been able to do for quite a while.

"I never do that. Tends to get me in trouble. Far better to watch the world as I knew it be destroyed, then to comment on my sorry state of affairs."

Glare and she said accusingly in a how-dare-you voice, "You're the one who did this."

"I merely set things up in motion. Really, what I needed was for someone to truly screw up the prophecy. Shanshu," he said with disgust, shaking his head. "The prophecies about Connor. And the ones you allowed me to read. The ones I read without permission. I was given an insight no human being should have ever known. Would drive a lesser man insane."

"Of course you being so great-"

"Me being so tired," he cut in, swiping the bottle away from Lilah, forcing her to listen, "I didn't let myself get swayed. Didn't try to stop anything, because then, I would have played into their game so perfectly. I'd assume you know what I'm talking about, but then, I never really understood what they hired you for. Certainly not a brilliant mind."

He let the pause last just long enough before he revealed to her, "I know."

"I have no idea-"

"Lies," he interrupted, voice more disappointed than angry, "No time for them. By the time the sun rises, Wolfram and Hart will be powerless, the Watchers Council will notice a large disturbance in the magics of this area, and I'll be on my way, doing whatever I must to survive. And I know that this wasn't the way it was supposed to be. But this is a way. The only way, now. Tell me the truth. Tell me what should have been, but now, will never be."

She let out a sigh and moved back to the bar, sitting next to him, turning the glass she held in her hand around and around. "You were supposed to bring in Connor."

"Yes."

"He'd work for us, eventually." Lilah pushed away a wet lock of hair from her face, making the purpled black bruises all the more noticeable. "We'd tell him the lies he wanted to hear about Angel."

"Yes."

"If - if we couldn't bring in Angel, well, the son was powerful and-"

"And you could mold him into the perfect little soldier. Force him as though he was a misshapen puzzle piece to finish your game. So you'd win. Without Angel. If not him, well, Connor is his son, after all. That was the missing piece in the prophecies, the one thing that eluded me. If not Angel, then someone just as powerful. Someone like him enough to solve the dilemma of Angel's decision in the upcoming Apocalypse, enough to sway the power back to your side."

"That..." she trailed off, looking at him with a genuinely shocked look that could be almost comical. "I wasn't aware."

He took the glass she'd been gripping with bloodied hands, each finger tipped with a torn fingernail.

"Now, Connor may be alive or dead. He isn't important now. Angel will never join you, nor will you be able to use his son against him. You let go the only active Slayer. When Faith is released, or escapes, doesn't really matter actually, she'll likely fight on the so-called good side." He squeezed the cold hands that would have looked like a kind gesture, but it wasn't like that at all. "So, now you know what I was doing. You were trying to play a game. The Powers That Be, they too were playing us. The Watchers Council...you know how powerful the backlash will be once Wolfram and Hart crumbles in this dimension? Oh, it'll be stupendous."

"It's the Apocalypse," she replied in a dull voice.

"And no one's prepared for it. The demons will fight amongst one another - humanity, well humanity will do whatever they want. Wake up and see the truth. Stay blind. It doesn't matter. I don't matter. Here's to a glorious future," he cheered, finishing his champagne, the empty bottle lying sideways on the bar.

"I'm leaving," she managed through a drunken haze, her mind unwilling to process the horribly careful plot Wesley had laid out, the final outcome too horrifying to accept.

She didn't matter. Nothing did.

It was the end.

"Do be careful and not get yourself eaten, is that clear?" Wesley chided like an overly protective father. "Some demons may be able to sense some Wolfram and Hart stench on you. It's quite dangerous, considering the energies out there are mainly focused on destroying that."

She mumbled something, not able to think of anything witty or clever to say, as she stumbled outside, watching the blazing fires of the demons burning whatever they could get their hands on, while a slight, unhurried rain carefully drizzled down in a strangely delicate pattern on the ash-strewn streets.

"Will you walk out of the air, my lord?" he unnecessarily asked in the empty bar, already knowing the answer.

*

It hadn't been necessary to rip open the passenger door of Wesley's car but Angel had insisted.

Collecting her bag, she sighed as she wiped her already dampening strands away from her face. "Rain. Great. Demons and rain. Perfect. I think being in Sunnydale is actually more fun than being in L.A. That's really sad."

"There have been less demons the further we got from the city."

"So I noticed," she remarked, looking around as they stood in the vacant lot. The streets were mostly empty; everyone seemed to be staying indoors. A good idea. "Something's up. Wolfram and Hart?"

"Yes." Voice deflating, he said, "You - you don't have to fight."

"Oh, why not," she said casually, "it is my job and all. Besides, killing things would actually make this night a little more bearable."

"But you should go. You-"

"You should stop ordering me around. It's getting boring. It's not like I'm going to listen." Continuing on, not meaning to be harsh, but they were stuck together in a car and she really wanted to go back to Sunnydale, and it was easier to be cruel than to face the old feelings springing up along with some new ones, "The last time you gave me advice I ended up jumping off a tower. Hmmm...that should tell you something, shouldn't it?"

"Was that really...?"

She sighed, closing her eyes for a brief moment, shoving her backpack behind her seat as she got back into Angel's car. "No. It was a lot of things."

"I was..." he attempted, unsure of himself, "when you died..."

"Grief stricken? Horrified? Pissed off? Need a thesaurus?"

"Yes. Angry. I - I didn't think of you dying." He started up the car and pulled out of the lot. "Buffy, I couldn't imagine you being dead."

"Angel," she said loudly, snapping him out of his brooding, not wanting any tears to suddenly cloud her vision, "Slayer. Shelf life. Limited. Big Picture, see it? I'm not meant for long years. I'm twenty-one, I've died twice. I think that should be a clue."

"You're not just the Slayer."

"It's what I am." What she could only be.

"You're Buffy."

Not anymore.

"Spare me that, Angel. I don't want to hear it." Biting her lip, she paused before saying in a sharp voice to keep herself from giving away anything, "Any 'I love yous' or anything else said like that, and I'm jumping out and hitching a ride back to Sunnydale. I - I can only take so much."

I want my life to be with you!

You belong, Slayer, with me...

She snapped out of those thoughts in an instant. God, she hated remembering, hated having a past that didn't stay off in the distance. No, her past always came up, reminding her, bringing up old feelings. Opening old wounds. Helping to create new ones.

"Fine. We have nothing to say to each other," he muttered darkly.

Sadly, she looked past the windshield into the world gone awry and agreed with a slight nod to her head

Nothing to say.

That was it really. Three years ago, he had walked away, left Sunnydale, without a word. It was better that way, better in retrospect, because what could he have said, what could she have said? There was nothing.

Chaos surrounded them. She could sense the demons, but they weren't close enough, they weren't there. Yet.

She knew they'd find them. Defeat them.

It's what she had to do.

Yet when they came across the rubble she couldn't help but feel nauseous. The ground was cracked here; Angel was forced to slow down, to stop driving when the giant splintered crack, a gash dividing the street in half, came all too quick.

"This - this is..." he softly muttered, not to her, no, not to her at all. To himself.

"Like hell." Oh God. She had never really felt like this, not even when she had to jump off a tower, when she had to slice into Faith's stomach (And she had to do it, even if it changed everything), when she gave a goodbye kiss punctuated with a sword's jab, when she felt the teeth break her skin, the despair that if she hadn't followed her destiny she wouldn't have felt the cool waters, never drowned, maybe she'd be just another girl -

But that's not who I am.

This new feeling was just wrong.

Like hell.

They got out automatically, Angel popping open the trunk, weapons, yes. They needed those. Needed - needed to do this. To stop them.

Across the divide, the demons gathered, some watching as Buffy and Angel quickly prepared themselves, others simply continuing.

Continuing.

They moved like somnambulists, sleepy, practiced moves. Like a spell. A dream. A nightmare. Buffy didn't have any time to pick one.

Not like she actually would.

The steady thud and crackle of fire, the rain had slowed enough, unable to meet the demands of the fire, unable to do anything as the flames reached up, licked at anything solid, tasting the air that the flames could not find purchase on.

Hell.

And fewer and fewer demons took the time to look as Buffy and Angel were prepared: Buffy had selected a coat she had mindlessly tossed in her bag when she had prepared for the journey back to L.A., stakes ready for use, heavy sword (taken from the truck) in her grip, Angel, with his long duster, an unreadable face, held a heavy axe securely.

They had no time for these warriors; Buffy could read that in their expressions immediately. They had other things to do.

Braving the crumbling chasm of the gash, finding the spot that was still somewhat held together on the far right side, they made it and easily, too easily, rushed into the fray.

Flesh was torn and sliced and new gashes in various shades of demonic blood splattered, but as long as none of the stains were her own, she would be fine. Shutting down her mind, shutting down her thoughts, she hacked away, ducked, parried, fought.

It was blindness, maddeningly foolish and she felt alive. Not like what she had promised Dawn, not the peace or the warmth or the gift of hope, no, that was not living. That was something else. Something after life.

This was living, breathing, ducking, moments that were not waited on; they were acted, instantly, thoughtlessly -

And with each moment, every demon that tried to attack (which she easily defeated), she wondered if it was possible she could live like this forever.

Fighting.

The days that stretched between these fights, the peace of those moments; that was the horror, the pain. That was what had sunk her, she thought as her blade neatly went through neck, muscle and sinew too soft to stop her blow from ending. This, this was being the Slayer, being the protector.

The warrior.

Buffy continued on, not caring, finally, being free and breathing, locked boxes and darkness and rot could not touch her, this was being something else entirely.

Being alive.

Damp hair flicked away from her face, she had to see, had to continue, this was it, this was her time, her place -

"Buffy!!!"

And he shouted, breaking the silence like a shattered spell, only she wasn't a maiden that needed rescuing.

Not listening, she continued, the demons coming closer. More of them dared to challenge her and she'd kill all of them, kill to live.

Never die.

Arm suddenly appeared and she wasn't fast enough, couldn't stop the hand from reaching, capturing her wrist, turning her around, and then, no - she saw.

Angel stood in front of her, wounds from their earlier fight still healing, new ones over the old ones, a shattered, yet tightly clutched axe in his hand. "Stop."

If he hadn't used that soft, desperate plea, she would have easily broken his grip and brought down a deathblow without a final thought.

Without a care.

"I-" She was lost, at a loss, what had just happened? It was like something else had possessed her, something else had taken over her. A cold shiver and Buffy hated that feeling. Being controlled, being possessed, it was all the same terrible thing. Went to brush something off her cheek, too numb to be shocked that it was blood and not her own.

"There's magic here," he replied and she wanted to snap at him. Of course there was magic here, she could feel it. The deep gash they had crossed, it wasn't natural; it thrummed and rumbled all on its own, but she hadn't known it until...

They crossed the border.

"We-" she said, the veteran warrior in her, taking command, plans forming, ideas slowly coming to light (and she really, really hoped she was terribly wrong), "We have to get out of here."

"Exactly what I was thinking," he commented darkly, looking around them.

Bodies. Body parts. All over. The smarter ones hadn't stayed, hadn't bothered to challenge them.

The other ones were dead.

She'd be sick, but the energies violently thrumming around her, demanding like some sort of blood-call for there to be more, managed to cancel each other out.

Shakily nodding her head, she slowly backtracked, taking hesitant steps back, back to the car, back to where it wasn't like this, war and blood and screaming and the wanting.

Her hand still held the sword as though it was a part of her. Looking over to Angel, she realized he was carrying his weapon the same way.

"How?" she asked, yet there wasn't a single question she wanted an answer to.

"I -I looked at you. And you weren't..." he sighed deeply and started again, "I can't explain. But it wasn't right. So I managed to stop. Just in time."

"Oh." And as they made their way back, Buffy felt the sword grow heavy in her hand, dropping it without a care, when before, she wasn't able to contemplate not having a weapon.

Shoulders shook as she fell to the ground, weary knees making contact with the still-slicked wet cement, etchings of the pavement beginning to mark her skin. She'd heave, empty and harshly, but there didn't seem to be a point. It was like being drained, like death, some sort of unsettling weariness, and she really wanted to be tucked into a soft bed with some cocoa and a warm kiss, a promise:

"Mommy will be here."

But that wouldn't happen, couldn't, so after a few dizzy moments, she felt the cold hand, cool as the wet night, brush her cheek, and she looked up. Taking Angel's hand, she got up, daring a glance back towards the destruction, towards the ruin that they had participated in.

"We have to stop this." His voice was commanding and certain, a piece of the old Angel, the battle-hard one, showing through this one still laced with insanity and rage. Too thin though, she thought, and too not like her Angel to make her allow any of her ill-timed delusions or hope to resurface.

They got back into the car, Buffy had taken off the jacket, thankful that most of the splattered blood was on it, and well, she hadn't really loved it, so she left the discarded piece of clothing in a trash bin, making sure all her stakes were taken out of the sleeves.

She immediately stopped any ill-timed cracks about tricks up her sleeves before they came up.

Hands, still somewhat shaking, pushed back hair and wiped away the dirt and blood on her face. Angel managed to hand her a piece of cloth as he silently drove (somewhere away), and she tried to clean herself the best she could. The rain had been reduced to a slow, gentle trickle, but in the rearview mirror, the burning reds and oranges still lit the dark night while little yellow bulbs overhead cast that strange yellow gleam on everything below.

The bile was still residing in the back of her throat but she ignored it. She had lost control back there, and it wasn't emotional, the control that had been lost, not that. She had lost herself. Lost Buffy.

It was like becoming the Slayer, becoming the thing that had haunted her in a dream, had told her that they were creatures destined to be alone.

But Angel had fought with her.

"Where are we going?" she asked, wanting to ask him what would come next, wanting to know that this really wasn't the apocalypse. She was so drained, so tired. But the magic hadn't left her system and it called for more, for more fighting.

And she knew that if they stopped, she'd take care of that itch.

"To the hotel."

"The - the Hyperion?"

"Yes."

"I thought - I thought you'd want to go back to Connor."

"I'm not welcome there." There was something in his voice that sounded tight, but he didn't explain any more.

"Oh. Angel, we should-"

"Buffy," he sighed and she would have remembered nights where he said her name so soft and graceful that she knew he loved her. Now, it was weary and resigned. "She'll - she knows how to handle these situations. I'm sure that she's prepared. Right now, he's safe."

Angel said it all in a very terse voice, as though he was trying to convince himself that it was the truth. And since she wasn't inclined to argue, she simply nodded. A silence, which seemed to her to stretch long and uncomfortably, so Buffy replied lightly with a wry cock of her eyebrow, "Seems wherever I go, I always end up having to handle some apocalyptic situation."

The car jerked to a stop, a red light overhead.

Angel turned his steady, pained gaze over to Buffy, "That's not true, this - this is something that Wolfram and Hart planned, but-"

He cut himself off, turning to look back at the road ahead, but Buffy wanted to know what he was about to say. "This is what, Angel?"

She watched his jaw clench, eyes revealing nothing but a steady gaze on the road. Slowly, he commented as the light changed to green, "They wouldn't do it like this. They have - *had* - a plan. And the demons. They were all going - moving - in the direction of the offices of Wolfram and Hart. Like they were drawn there."

"By the magic," she whispered and it all fell into place and she wondered why there wasn't the plink-plink of piano keys as it all came together. She'd gasp, or cry out, or make a sound, but it was too terrible, too true.

And it was so plain to see.

"I-" he started again, something angry flashing across his face, "They were going there to destroy them."

A nervous upward twitch to her lips as she said slowly, digesting the information, "The demons are taking out the Big Bad."

"And probably killing each other as they do it. And after-"

"Everyone, they're indoors, aren't they?" she commented, asking about the people. "They're probably scared but they don't realize..."

"There were some humans," Angel said softly. "I could smell them. Yes. They're indoors. And they know that something's wrong. But I think the magic's acting as a barrier. For now. Right now, the demons are drawn to Wolfram and Hart."

"You can feel it," she asked, shifting in her seat, the calling still residing inside her, "Can't you?"

"Not like them," he said with something like genuine shock. "I don't know why."

Angel had fought with her. He had followed her, told her to go back...

"It's the spell. It - it's drawing up demons. But it can't affect you. You're blocked from it. Somewhat."

And then the final part was laid out. The spell that Wesley had cast to bring back Angel. The fact that she had see into Angel's mind, had felt the same. It wasn't just to rescue him from the ocean. It was to protect him...for later.

Wesley.

He had planned this all from the beginning.

She bit her lip and tasted the coppery tang. This was really happening.

This was real.

The car screeched to an angry halt and she could see the rage, fully, wholly on Angel. She could almost smell it, and that, that made her realize that they weren't free from the magic, she still felt the violent calling, no matter how ill she was feeling, it was still there.

Waiting.

Slamming of doors and they were both out in the open. An empty alley. No demons would be here.

Only them.

"He...he planned this!" Angel shouted, pacing with the energy of someone who wanted to hit something really, really badly.

"I-" she started, but she wasn't going to defend Wesley, nor was she going to stop Angel. Because Wesley had known all along and been nice (like a friend), but this had been planned for a long time. "I know," she finished weakly.

"Did you?" he suddenly yelled, grabbing her arms, pulling her close to him. "Did you know Wesley could do this?!!"

Sucking in a shocked breath (too close), she shook her head, pushing him off. "I didn't! I just put it all together, Angel! I...I think I'm going to be sick."

Yet she never wavered or leaned over to release the bile still clinging inside. She was torn, between the Slayer that was currently overdosing on magic energies clogging her insides and the little girl that she once was - the little girl she had thought she had lost a long time ago - it was tearing her up.

Mind reeling, all the possibilities - faith, hope and trust; she was always picking out the lies - she was too horrified at the reality of everything to do anything.

Currently, she was too stunned to form a proper reaction other than a very dull shock creeping through her body.

His anger seemed to be buried instantly, but she knew he was closing, burying it inside, closing it off for the moment. For only this moment. Concerned, he said, "We have to get to the hotel."

"No," she moaned, hating the sound of her pleading voice. Too ill, too tired, too ready to fight, it was like being torn in several directions. Being ripped apart. "I'm not going back there."

"We have to."

It wasn't a demand or a request, but there was an authoritative tone to it nonetheless.

"You're pulling rank?" she asked, disbelief in her voice. "On me? Nice try Angel. I think I'm going back to Sunnydale."

"I'm taking you then."

"No."

She didn't want this anymore. She wanted a soft bed and a quiet house and no more apocalypses (which really made wanting to go back to Sunnydale a really brilliant idea, only not).

Raising her chin up slightly, meeting his eyes, she replied in her strongest voice, "I'm going home."

A blatant lie.

"Don't."

"You want me to stay?" she challenged and before she was able to tell him he didn't get to ask that question she found him standing over her, face to face (the term a breath apart seemed to make a lot of sense at this moment), and she suddenly realized that she needed him much, much closer.

She reached closer, actually daring to touch him, to feel him, so solid and steady, unwavering, but they were both still thrumming with the magic, still feeling the pull of something.

Buffy smoothed her hands over his back, enjoying his coolness compared to her rising heat. They stood against the car, tense, but fully knowing that this moment, this single moment, would be it.

She didn't even feel cold or damp, despite the final drops of rain still clinging to her body.

He lowered his mouth and she reached towards him, warm and wonderful feelings overwhelming the weak protests in her thoughts.

She listened to one thing, one soft little thought ringing clear and true over all the jumbled worries and frantic emotions.

It'll be okay.

He pressed harder and she suppressed a whine.

Their lips opened together, perfect timing, simply perfect. It was as though they had never lost any time, had never been apart. Yet she could not delude herself to believe that, no matter how much her body remembered, how much her lips rejoiced in the passion rising, growing more and more hungry, more and more...

More.

Hands, not like the steady growing fire of their kissing, she finally moved them to the front of his body, skimming down his chest, pushing away his shirt, unbuckling his pants, eagerly relishing the feel of smooth skin just above there, just above his hardness.

His mouth, that taste was something dreams, good dreams, were made of, and she just needed more.

Pushing down pants and boxers, freeing him, yet not looking at all, mouths still fused together, playing, taunting, challenging, she pressed her body against his, against him.

Excited, she began unbuttoning his slightly torn shirt, ripping open the white tee underneath without a thought or hesitation. Too many clothes and she wanted him...now.

Hands making a gentle exploration of his bare chest, not allowing herself to go any faster...she wanted it to last, for the moment to stretch beyond time, but that would never happen, so she smoothed her hands flat as she explored the smoothness, then gently skimmed fingertips all over, enjoying the feel of his skin, loving the small pleasing (pleading?) sounds he made as she gently moved her hands, caressing the flesh.

His own hands stayed tangled in her hair, so gentle, but insistent, so wonderfully smooth, so perfect, she was dizzy just from his touch. From just him.

"We are not," he whispered, that strangled kind of whisper that she realized she would happily listen to over and over again and never get tired of, breaking away from her mouth, staying close to her cheek, "going to do this out here on the top of my car."

She panted harshly, trying to find her breath.

She would have pleaded, have teased him (he was ready, she knew that), just to have him close, just to have him.

Instead, she slowly nodded, slightly dazed, admiring the droplets clinging to his pale flesh, the rain had stopped, but they still were wet, and she had to hide a smile as very naughty thoughts suddenly came to mind. If she didn't stop them, she would have pushed him onto the car, damn his request, she wanted it now, but instead, she managed to drag what little willpower she had left and moved away.

Looking up into his dark eyes, she managed to softly say, "Oh, okay."

Not showing her disappointment as she watched him pull his pants and boxers back around his waist, quickly securing them, he gave a very small upward turn of his lips to her as he gently took her hand.

"Let's go."

*
He didn't know how he managed to stop her. She had undressed him, in the middle of that alley and it was everything and nothing like several of his fantasies of being with Buffy again, and he had stopped her.

There was something in his head that sounded suspiciously like "idiot" but he managed to ignore it for the most part. They had been prepared to part once more and never speak to each other again and now they were going back to the hotel...

To fuck?

He wasn't able to properly explain to himself why this was a bad thing. The word "curse" was repeated in his head, but he wondered if it was even possible for him to have perfect happiness ever again.

That kind of blind hope had been torn out of him against his will.

But he didn't want to think of that. In fact, his thoughts weren't really concerning him. The fact was that Wesley had called for the apocalypse to begin, Wolfram and Hart was most likely destroyed (or about to be), and he and Buffy were currently trying to pretend that they weren't affected by the magics at all, despite obvious evidence to the contrary.

He had told her he wasn't affected by it, but that wasn't true. He didn't have a desire to storm the doors of Wolfram and Hart (did that already). Didn't want to go out and destroy everything, unless it was a demon.

No, what he wanted was what was his.

Wesley's blood. Connor, back in his protection.

And Buffy.

He'd laugh bitterly, that it still came back to her, but he didn't. Wouldn't.

Because she was coming with him.

Because she had nearly taken him out on top of his car and he certainly wouldn't have disagreed if she forced him.

It was too damn long, but they made it to the hotel. Buffy had impatiently sat in her seat not saying a word. Which was oddly enough, good, because he was very tempted and very, very hungry. But it wasn't a hunger like blood, it was something else, something deeper and he was about to break and crumble, about to forget Wesley and apocalypses and fires and rain that fell down uselessly.

"Angel."

And just a word, like a spell, broke him. Reclaiming her lips and he realized she had bit open her lip before. He hadn't known before. It was good.

Somehow, they managed to get out of the car fully clothed. But that didn't matter.

What did matter was getting inside and pulling at each other's clothes, shirts coming off, pants being almost removed...

And he again managed to stop himself long enough to mutter against her mouth, "Upstairs."

"'Kay," she mumbled distantly, sounding very satisfied.

Hands claiming every part of each other's bodies, hands making their way without a care or damn to Angel's request to get upstairs before they started fucking on the floor.

And her bra was unlatched but still on her as the door to his room was opened and they made it onto the bed.

"Buffy," he managed to say between tastes of her skin, making a path down her neck (the scar was still there and he didn't have any time to feel guilty about that), skimmed down her chest, settled in the valley of her breasts.

And the touch, the feel of her, warm and slightly wet and a rain-sweetness to her skin although they had both just been in a battle, she was amazing and it wasn't a lie when he told her he still loved her, it was deeper than anything he had ever felt in his existence and why was he getting all these maudlin thoughts as she laid on the bed, still somewhat dressed?

He keenly took the task of undressing her, making sure to tenderly examine every part of her, leaving kisses where he could and making sure to leave deeper ones in places that made her moan in pleasure.

"Mmm...Angel."

And he would have come if he hadn't been too concentrated on making sure her breasts had been completely and utterly tasted and teased in every way possible.

Wanting very much to hear that again, he flicked his tongue against one rose-tipped peak and she moaned in a way that was similar to that sound, but not quite the same. He made his way down, loving that she was so warm and smooth, reaching her sex, the core -

And he, very slowly and carefully, made a steady lick against her outer lips and she-

Screamed, "God yes," and hips went into the air, legs pushing her up, reaching, begging without a sound. He had wanted to make this slow and long and wonderful, but that plan was gone, just was, and he greedily dove in, tasting her essence, so wonderful and sweet, and he wanted to feel her - to see her -

Come and it was quicker than he expected.

Hand tightly tugging in his hair, the pain not even noticed, she was nearly sitting up, thrusting into his face as fast as possible, screaming louder and the words becoming a babble, "godyesAngelGODFUCKINGYESANGELANGELANGEL!!!!"

Pants that he hadn't quite managed to take off completely were gone in an instant and he was right back in there. Warmth. And god.

Fucking yes.

He let out a muffled groan against her throat, sliding into that tight heat and he was so fucking on the edge.

And about to fall over.

This was the reason, a long time ago. This was why his soul was ripped away. This was perfect goddamned happiness, but it wasn't the same as those years ago, but it was god...

Close enough.

She was undulating underneath him, eyes begging, chest rising as she tried to get closer to him and she wanted it just as much as him and this wasn't-

Right. But it was.

Right.

There, and he was pounding into her, going back to her mouth, that sweet mouth with the copper tang that still resided there.

Her legs were crossed around his back, hands hungrily searching, touching, caressing, but not as soft as before, and this wasn't going to last no matter how much he wanted it to. She was meeting his furious pace and it was something so perfect-

It could never end.

Reaching down and he easily found her clit and he watched her reaction watched as it began to wash over her.

"Buffy," he said and it was whisper sweet against her ear, and he felt those wonderful contractions against his cock, felt her and there was nothing really like it.

Like something he would do anything for.

She moaned as she came, this time it was slow and sweet, just as he wanted. But just as she came back from the bliss, he found himself on his back, Buffy sitting atop him.

Riding him.

"Buffy?" he managed in a half-surprised but very pleased voice.

"Shh," she pressed a finger against his mouth and he instantly obeyed.

Watching her, god, watching her, this wasn't some dream and if it was, he was going to be very pissed, because this was just too damned good to be true.

Warm, soft Buffy on top of him, riding him and he could only watch with a stunned silence, but not stunned enough not to participate.

Hands touching her, that smooth flesh, touching that rising chest, he brought her down, touching that soft, slightly damp hair, because he needed more, this was something he would want forever and he realized that he wasn't going to last.

Faster and they were pushing against one another, bodies wild now with need, not caring about anything else than finishing, than coming-

Together and just as she let out a hard breathless gasp, grasping him inside and out, he began pumping wildly and fuck yes, this was...

"BUFFY!!!" he shouted, changing positions with her again, on top, trying to get deeper, to get more-

And as they fell over the edge they had been dangling on, drifting off into some wonderful sex-laced dream together, he whispered very, very softly, "I love you."

"Angel..." she began, but they fell asleep before she remembered what she was about to say.

*

It was this beautiful, peaceful face that had always gotten to her. So fulfilled and not marred by the weight he carried on his shoulders, by the nightmares of his past. This was the Angel she had wanted to be with, the Angel that she wrote about in the diary of little-girl fantasies.

This was one of the Angels that she loved and he was the easiest to love. No past or issues or pain surrounded him as he slept, still caught in the wonderful dream, perhaps the wonderful memory of before.

But as she got up and put on the few articles of clothing that had made their way up with her, it was this Angel that was the most dangerous of all.

It was this Angel that she would always be desperately in love with.

No matter what.

He was beautiful and it had been beautiful. To be with him, really be with him, and she wondered if Angelus would be the one who woke up, but she doubted it.

If perfect happiness existed, it did not for Angel or Buffy.

As she made her way to the door, she turned and looked at him one more time.

If I kissed him...

She shook her head as though she had disagreed with herself. If she did that, she would stay in bed with him, wake up to his kisses and his promises that they would be able to fix this, that they would do it.

Together.

And that wasn't something she wanted.

Love, she loved him, still, and she had called it a sad joke a day ago, yet that had changed.

She left, quietly walked down the stairs, put on the shirt left on the floor, and she knew exactly why she was leaving.

For his own sake.

She wanted to think that it was over, that this was the goodbye they had been too cowardly to say to each other, but that wasn't it either.

It was her choice this time; her decision and she had had too many choices taken away from her and not this time.

Not like this.

So she left, taking the pack in Angel's car, tying back her hair as she looked out into the very early dawning of the new day.

Just a half hour till sunrise.

Plenty of time.

*
Part 7 continues on in next post...
Tags: btvs/ats fic, buffy/angel, fic, wesley/lilah
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