The trembling started before Angel made it out of the Hyperion. By the time he slid behind the wheel of his BMW, his magicks were so scattered that it was difficult maintaining a coherent thought. When he was with Buffy, touching her, the rush was so intense, the pleasure so intense that he didn't feel any negative effects. But the second she was gone, he was falling apart.
This couldn't continue. He knew that. He couldn't keep getting close to Buffy and then backing away abruptly. Maybe if he was with her more ... The thought trailed off into nothingness. Angel already knew what would happen. He would be fine as long as he was with Buffy, and the second they stopped touching, he would be right back here. And the more he touched her, the more violent his reaction afterwards was becoming. It wasn't exactly manageable. He couldn't very well expect to keep touching Buffy indefinitely.
He cursed under his breath. The only answer, if he wanted to maintain his power and magicks, was to make sure he never touched her again. But he'd known that before he went to the Hyperion this evening. Obviously that knowledge hadn't stopped him from almost taking Buffy on the floor of Wesley's office. He couldn't control his reaction to her. His hunger for her was so intense that all reason was lost.
"It doesn't make you special, you know."
Buffy closed her eyes, shaking her head in disgust. She was standing in the bathroom again, only this time she was trying to wash Merle's blood out of her shirt. It was the soft, gray long sleeve she wore almost every night, and she wasn't in the mood to try and find a new favorite shirt because of a demon bloodstain. Looking at the brown water flowing down the sink, she felt sort of bad. Merle was a creep, but he didn't seem terribly evil. It wasn't his fault that she had a Very Bad Day. But even beating Merle unconscious didn't make her feel any better about herself. The last thing she needed right now was Faith. All Buffy wanted was to go home and go to sleep. Turning, she looked at her sister Slayer. "I don't know what you're talking about," she said wearily.
Faith snorted, taking a seat atop Wesley's desk. "You're just the most recent in a very long line, blondie," she said cattily, idly cleaning her fingernails with an extremely wicked looking knife.
Buffy turned off the water. "Actually, you're the most recent," Buffy snapped. "I'm the elder Slayer."
Faith cocked an eyebrow. "Wow, so Pollyanna does have some spine. That's good. Of course, I already know that you know that's not what I meant. I'm talking about Roarke."
"What about Roarke?" Buffy asked, crossing her arms over her chest.
Faith looked around the room, smiling. "The office floor," she said. "Now that's a new one. Roarke and I did it in a lot of places, but never Wesley's office."
Buffy felt like she'd just been punched in the stomach.
Laughing coldly, Faith said, "Like I told you, you're just the most recent in a long line."
Doing her best to recover, Buffy said, "Why should it make a damn bit of difference what you two did?"
Faith shrugged. "So you're into open relationships," she said. "Cool. I was just going to wait until he got tired of you to have another go, but if you two aren't pretending to be exclusive, I might just give him a call tonight."
"There is nothing between me and Roarke," Buffy bit out.
"Sure there isn't," Faith sneered. "They're called Slayer senses, babe. Your breath smelled like his cum. I should know."
Buffy couldn't respond.
"I think my favorite place was on the stage at Caritas," Faith mused. "He ever do you there? Doggie style. All the lights on, a few janitors still mopping up. Damn, that was hot. He's one hell of a piece of meat. Sometimes the pretty ones are all style, no substance, but that boy damn sure knows how to use his gifts."
"I have no desire to hear about your slutty escapades," Buffy ground out, bile rising at the back of her throat.
Faith smiled, knowing her barbs were working. "Slutty?" she asked, feigning hurt. "Come on, girlfriend, the sexual revolution was decades ago. I'm not a slut, I'm merely expressing my sexual freedom. With your new boyfriend."
"You're a whore," Buffy countered coldly.
"A whore? For sleeping with Roarke?" Faith laughed. "I'd argue that he's the one who's the whore, but if I'm one then I guess your precious roommate is one too."
Buffy thought the night couldn't get any worse, but she had just been proven very wrong.
"You didn't know that either?" Faith asked happily. "Oh yeah, Willow and Roarke were hot and heavy for a while. It didn't last long. At least not long after Willow's lesbian lover found out. Ask her if you don't believe me. Little witch never could lie worth a damn."
Unable to bear another moment of Faith's taunting barbs, Buffy left.
"What the?" Lindsey sat up on the couch where he'd passed out, blinking rapidly in the harsh light. As soon as his pupils had adjusted enough to focus, he looked at the intruder. "What do you want?" he demanded with a sneer.
Angel walked around the grimly little apartment, surveying Lindsey's possessions with obvious distaste. "You're supposed to be in Austin, Linds."
"Yeah, well, things change," Lindsey said flippantly, pulling out a cigarette and lighting it. He didn't bother getting off the couch or offering Angel a seat.
"You called Buffy tonight."
Lindsey exhaled and shrugged. "Yeah. So?"
"Aside from the fact that I'll kill you if you go near her again," Angel said blandly, "you have to know that you don't have a chance."
Lindsey looked around the interior of his apartment. "What? You're saying that this isn't a tempting package?" he asked, his voice thick with self-loathing.
Angel looked at Lindsey, trying to deny how much it pained him to see the once proud young man brought so low. Lindsey had always sworn he would never be like his father, never stand idly by while someone walked away with his life. That much remained constant. No doubt Lindsey felt him completely responsible for his current state and thought revenge was his only recourse. Angel's lips pursed into a thin, hard line. "You chose this path," he said.
"No, you're wrong there," Lindsey countered with vitriol. "I strictly remember having a high rise condo, a new Mercedes and a track to a partnership at the biggest law firm in town. Until you arranged for it to all be taken away."
"It didn't have to end like that," Angel said. "You were the one who wanted all or nothing."
Lindsey smirked. "Let's just say that there were limits as to how much of a bitch I was willing to be for you."
Angel ignored his comment and took a seat in a threadbare recliner, propping his feet up on Lindsey's scarred, rickety coffee table. He pinched the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger, taking a deep breath.
"Not feeling well?" Lindsey asked with feigned sweetness.
Opening his eyes, Angel glared. "What do you know about it?" he demanded.
Lindsey slumped back against the cushions, his features coolly neutral. "I still have a few friends at Wolfram and Hart," he said evenly.
Angel put his feet on the floor and leaned forward, bracing his elbows on his knees. "And what exactly does Wolfram and Hart know about me and the Slayer?"
Lindsey smiled maliciously. "Surely you've figured it out by now," Lindsey said in mocking tones. "That beautiful little girl is your Kryptonite, Superman."
A low growl sounded in Angel's throat. He was in no mood for Lindsey's games. "What the fuck are you talking about?" he spat.
Lindsey looked positively gleeful. "She's your home, Clark," he said happily. "Whatever inside you is still human is drawn to her." Lindsey smiled so wide you could almost see his wisdom teeth. "But get too close to her and it'll kill the rest of you."
Angel snarled. "And what's in it for you?"
"For me?" Lindsey asked flippantly. "Nothing but a sense of bone deep satisfaction. You see, if you get rid of her, you'll keep your power, but you'll end up breaking the heart of the only person on this earth that you'll ever truly love." Lindsey's voice was light, but he couldn't fully mask his anger. "And if you don't send her packing, then you can kiss all your dark magicks goodbye. Either way I figure I want a ringside seat. And who knows, if you break her heart or die, then maybe she'll need some consoling."
Angel looked at Lindsey, unable to muster anything more virulent than pity towards him. Shaking his head, Angel asked, "What did I do to wound you so deeply?"
Lindsey's expression sobered instantly. Looking for distraction, he finished off what remained of a glass of whiskey. "Wolfram and Hart aren't exactly sure what will happen to you if you decide to keep the Slayer," he said blandly, not making eye contact. "They have their demonic bean counters running scenarios, but so far they can't tell. You're a slippery creature anyway, a human imbued with demonic power. Unlike a Slayer, you don't have a thousand generations of forerunners to help bear out the consequences. They figure it all comes down to your soul." Lindsey's tone became conspiratorial. "That's what they insist on calling it," he said acridly. "Personally, I don't think you have a soul."
Angel frowned, but dared not interrupt. He needed to know what Lindsey knew.
"The way they see it," Lindsey continued, "your soul and your dark power are in flux. They always have been. But for whatever reason, that little girl pushes the issue."
"And what could Wolfram and Hart possibly stand to gain from this?" Angel asked snidely.
Lindsey rolled his eyes. "They stand to gain what they've always wanted. You out of the picture."
Angel snorted at the very idea.
"They think the most likely scenario," Lindsey said, "is that you'll ditch the girl."
The muscles in Angel's jaw flexed, but he remained silent.
Lindsey smiled. "But see," he said, "I think that's where they're wrong. They don't know you the way I know you. They don't know that this Slayer is more than just another weapon in your arsenal and a warm body in your bed."
He stared expectantly at Angel, but the latter declined to elaborate. Lindsey sighed and his amusement seemed to die. "Whatever humanity remains inside of you belongs to that girl," he said plainly.
Angel watched his former confidant, but allowed his expression to betray nothing. Regardless of their past, they would never be close again. The intimacy that had existed was long dead and buried under years of seething anger, betrayal and jealousy. Lindsey deserved no answers about his relationship with Buffy.
Lindsey laughed and it was a cold sound. He flicked his ash into a nearby cup and took another drag on the cigarette. He held his hand up, staring at the glowing red tip. "She'll be your death," Lindsey mused. "There isn't enough humanity left in you to win this battle." He smiled mirthlessly, lifting his gaze to meet Angel's. "I'm going to love watching you lose."
It was past dawn when Buffy finally made it home, her clothes disheveled, covered in vampire ash and demon goo. Hours of mindless fighting had left her physically numb, but her emotional anguish still held strong. She pressed the front door shut, leaning back against it.
"Thank gods, Buffy," Willow exclaimed, running into the room. "We've all been so wor-" She fell short, taking in Buffy's haggard appearance. "Buffy are you okay?" she asked, carefully venturing forward.
Buffy lifted her head and Willow stopped dead in her tracks.
"Tell me the truth," Buffy said very slowly. "Were you and Angel lovers?"
Willow's eyes went wide and she looked around the room frantically. "Buffy you need to rest," she said.
"Tell me," Buffy ground out.
Silence hung heavy in the air as the two women looked at each other.
Willow took a deep breath. "It didn't last long," she admitted. "A couple of weeks. I was getting in over my head with the magicks and being with someone like him, someone of his power, was exciting. It was wrong. We were wrong. When Tara found out ... I almost lost her. It was one of the dumbest things I've ever done."
Buffy snorted. "You must think I'm so stupid," she said. "You let me think ... You knew that there was something going on between me and Angel and you never said a word."
"Buffy what you have with Roarke ... It's different. He and I were just - it was sex and magick. Nothing more. The way he looks at you, the way he talks about you. Buffy, it's different."
"And Faith?" Buffy demanded. "What about her? Was he different with her too?"
Willow groaned, shaking her head. "Oh gods," she said, "this is all that bitch's fault, isn't it? Buffy, she's messing with your head. Faith is rotten to the core. She is a miserable hateful person and she wants everyone around her to be miserable too. She probably guessed there was something up with you and Roarke and she's doing her best to sabotage it."
"Did he fuck her?"
"Buffy, you have to understand Faith is broken - "
"Did he fuck her?" Buffy demanded.
Willow nodded sadly. "But it wasn't - "
Buffy didn't listen to the rest, turning on her heel and leaving the
Jenny didn't say a word when she opened the door, she just enveloped Buffy in a hug. Unable to control her emotions any longer, Buffy broke down into sobbing tears, clutching at her stepmother's shoulders, fighting to remain upright. Jenny supported her slight weight, half dragging her to her former rooms in the pool house. Once there, she helped Buffy into her nightgown, promising she could have a nice long shower after she got a little rest.
A little rest turned out to be a lot of rest. It was the next morning when Buffy woke, feeling physically stronger, but numb. She drained the glass of water Jenny had left on her bedside table and then sat under the spray of her shower until the water started to run cold.
Buffy noticed with mild amusement that nothing had changed since the morning she stormed out. Everything had been left exactly the way it was, as if waiting for her to return. But even with the aching familiarity, Buffy felt wrong. The array of designer dresses hanging in her closet cost more than she made in a month now. They seemed completely alien. The slick fashion magazines on her nightstand seemed as detached from her current existence as one could possibly get. She no longer fit into this life.
Rummaging around in a pile of clothes that she had been intending to give to charity, Buffy found a worn pair of denim jeans and a lightweight long sleeved black shirt. She dressed and then pulled her hair back into its customary ponytail. She faced herself in the full-length mirror.
She was no longer Buffy Summers, prom queen. She was the Slayer. She turned away from the mirror, shaking her head, unable to even muster the energy to hate herself. Apparently, Angel just made it a habit of sleeping with all of his female employees. Like Faith said, she was just the most recent in a long line. Except that she wasn't the most recent. Not really. Angel had messed around with her, but he made it clear he wouldn't sleep with her. Tears of pain and self-loathing slid down her cheeks. At least Faith had a good time, she used Angel and enjoyed it. She might be a skank, but she hadn't made the mistake of falling in love with him.
And in a cold hard moment of self-awareness, Buffy knew that's what it was. She knew that somewhere over the last weeks that she had fallen hopelessly in love with Angel. She stopped pushing him away, stopped ignoring their connection and let herself forget the bad parts. Angel was, after all, her other half. She allowed herself to fall victim to his manipulations. She even let herself believe the lies of a man who hated Angel and wanted revenge at any cost. She took a series of random coincidences and turned them into evidence that Angel did care. Evidence that was strictly her imagination.
She was in love with Angel and there was nothing she could do to change that fact. She loved him now. Hell, she loved him when she was eight. She would still love him when she was eighty. But that love didn't mean she had to lose all self-respect. It didn't mean she had to sit by listening to Faith's taunting barbs. She didn't have to be convenient whenever Angel wanted a little distraction. Her life was in upheaval, but the only solid thing she had at the moment was that she was the Slayer. Buffy Summers, prom queen, might be long dead. Angel might have been playing her from the first day. She might have no place to live, no friends and no definite future. But when it all came down to it, Buffy was the Slayer and she still had herself.
Resolved that she would find some way through this, Buffy shoved her feet into her boots and headed for the main house to tell her parents she was leaving.
[End Chapter 14]
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