Transposition
by indie





AUTHOR'S NOTE:  This really is only a tiny bit of this story, please bear with me.  I don't even make it to the "transposition" part yet.
 
 

***

Angel found consciousness slowly, every nerve in his body twisting in agony.  He couldn’t remember ever feeling this vile, not in Hell, not after Spike used him to restore Drusilla.  Never.  And that was saying a lot for a dead man.  He couldn’t muster the strength to open his eyelids but he knew that he was in a brightly lit room.  The pungent stench of industrial strength cleaners invaded his nasal passages, making his stomach roil.

That alone should have clued him in that something was wrong.  Very, very wrong.

It was like being underwater.  His senses were dull, but at the same time sharper.  He was not himself.   His head was fuzzy, his thoughts slow.  Maybe his eardrums had been damaged.  He was becoming intensely annoyed by a rhythmic beeping noise.

Angel searched his memory, but came up empty.  He’d been out.  Cordy had a vision - one that concerned someone important ...  He jogged his memory again and again, willing the synapses to fire.

Buffy.

His eyes open despite the excruciating pain and he searched wildly around the stark white room  as best he could without moving his head.  Where was Buffy?  Had she been hurt?  Had he failed her again?

“Buffy?” he rasped, trying to hoist himself off of his back into a sitting position.

“Easy, easy,” someone was saying, trying to gently urge him back into bed.

Angel struggled for a few moments as his cloudy mind cleared enough for him to realize who was speaking.  “Cordy?” he questioned, ceasing his struggles.

“Please,” she pled frantically, tears standing in her eyes, “just lie back down.  You’re going to hurt yourself.”

“Thank gods, thank gods, thank gods,” she chanted to herself under her breath, pulling the light blanket back up to his chest, smoothing it down in a nervous gesture.  Her hands were shaking badly.  Looking back over her shoulder she barked, “Gunn, go find a doctor.  Now!”

Simply to soothe Cordelia’s worry, Angel physically relaxed, but if anything his confusion had increased ten fold.  He was in a hospital, and Cordelia had sent Gunn to find a doctor … for him.  He had spent plenty of time in hospitals over the last five years, but never as the patient.  Doctors, as a rule, couldn’t do much for someone who was already dead.  Turning his head, he found the source of the beeping noise.  A heart monitor.  He followed the leads and realized that they were attached to his chest.

“What happened?” he whispered in shock.

Taking a deep breath, Cordy sat back down in her chair and scooted it closer to his bed.  Taking one of his large hands in both of her smaller ones, she smiled faintly at him.  “You’re human,” she said quietly.

Angel blinked dumbly.  Human?  For the first time, he became aware of how intense the light was in the room.  Turning his head, he looked out the open window and saw the parking lot lit by the bright, mid-afternoon sun.   It was painful to look at, but only because it was so intense.  He wasn’t being burned.

“How?” he whispered hoarsely.

“The demon … from my vision … “

“But,” Angel interjected quickly, momentarily forgetting his physical agony, “he wasn’t a Mohra demon.  It wasn’t like last time.”

Cordy nodded.  “His name was Toth.  The thing he used to hit you is called the Fuh ... something,” she said, searching for the name.

“Ferula-Gemina,” Wesley supplied automatically.

Angel stared at his friends blankly for several drawn out moments.  This wasn’t possible.  “It made me human?” he asked, his voice sounding oddly emotionless.  Some part of his brain registered that he was in shock.

Swallowing convulsively, Cordy looked away from his gaze sheepishly.

“Is Buffy all right?” Angel asked, his mind fixating on what was truly important to him.

“Yeah, Buffy’s fine,” Wesley said, well used to his priorities.  “Xander was disassociated for a while, but I guess everything is back to normal in Sunnydale.”

Buffy was fine, but Angel knew he wasn’t getting the whole story.  They were being evasive.  A chill of foreboding ran down his spine.  “What else is going on?” he asked pointedly.

Cordelia was spared the task of answering his question when a doctor came into the room followed by Wesley.  She quickly stood, making room for the physician.  “Good to see you’re awake,” the middle-aged man said cheerfully.  “I’m Dr. Nayyar.  You gave us quite a scare.”

“What’s wrong with me?” Angel asked.

The doctor smiled. “Mostly just bumps and bruises, young man.  Our main concern is the fact that you’ve been unconscious for four days.”  Angel held the rest of his questions while the doctor checked his reflexes, studied his CAT scan and asked him a bunch of questions.  Apparently satisfied, the doctor nodded.

“Looks like everything is all right,” Dr. Nayyar said.  “But I would like to keep you another night just for observation.  Barring any complications, I would say you should be able to leave tomorrow morning.  Fatigue and pain may be problems, so you’re going to have to take it easy for a while.”

Angel nodded, simply because he had no idea how else to respond.  The doctor took his silence as consent and bid them all farewell so he could attend to his other patients.

Looking pointedly at the Seer, Angel demanded, “What happened?”  Cordelia shot Wesley a pleading glance, and the former Watcher dutifully explained what had occurred.  Angel listened mutely, as Wesley related all the missing details.

Angel went after Toth, but ended up on the wrong side of the Ferula-Gemina.  It was also apparent that Cordy omitted quite a bit when she told him he was human.  Not that she had lied.  She hadn’t.  Angel was human.  But he hadn’t been made human.  He was split into two different entities by Toth.

Angel was human.  He had his soul and his mortal body.  But it was only half of the equation.  Somewhere in the wilds of Los Angeles, Angelus in vampiric form, was loose.

Cordy and Wes admitted that most of their knowledge of what had happened came from Giles, and even then, only yesterday.  Xander was a victim of Toth as well as Angel.  However, Xander’s disassociation came with far less dangerous ramifications.

“Giles knows about me?” Angel asked.

Wesley shook his head, looking a little sheepish.  “Not exactly.  We didn’t see any reason to raise the alarm in Sunnydale just yet, especially without telling you first.”

“So how did you get the info out of Giles?”

“Easy, we told him the truth,” the Watcher said seriously.  “We told him that Cordelia had a vision of Buffy in trouble.  We told him that Toth escaped us.  Unfortunately, Giles didn’t do much research on how the Ferula-Gemina would affect supernatural creatures other than the Slayer.  He hadn’t even considered what it would do to a being like you.”

Angel’s brow furrowed.  “You mean a vampire?”

“Not precisely,” Wesley said with a frown.  “Toth’s intended target was apparently the Slayer.  The reason for attacking her was obvious.  It would split her into two.  One half would be vicious, running purely on instinct, unadulterated Slayer.  But the other half would be Buffy in personality, but physically she would be no more than the average human girl.  While the Slayer half would undoubtedly be more deadly than the integrated Buffy, the normal girl half would be a very easy target.  Kill the girl, and the Slayer dies as well.  The two halves cannot exist independently.”

“But Buffy wasn’t hit, Xander was,” Angel stated.

“Yes,” Wesley said with a nod.  “Consequently, all of Giles research centered around how the split would affect a human.  In either case, the result is very different than what happened to you.”

“What exactly happened to Xander?” Angel inquired.

Wesley’s brow furrowed.  “The effects were fairly straight forward,” he explained.  “When Xander was split, his personality was divided into his strongest traits and his weakest.”

“Who knew Xander had strong traits,” Cordelia commented cattily.

Wes shot her an annoyed look for interrupting him.  “Yes,” he said, “one Xander was confident, competent and aggressive.  The other was full of self-doubt, self-deprecation and very meek.”

“That’s not what happened to Angel,” Cordelia supplied.

“Yes,” Wesley said cocking his head thoughtfully, “well, that is to be expected, I would assume.  Xander is a simple human.  Even attacking the Slayer would not have produced a result this unique.  Angel is ... er, was ... a being with two distinct personalities.  The split in his case did not divide weak from strong, but rather man from demon, physically as well as mentally.  Angel’s basic personality, given that it is attached to and driven by his soul, remains intact.”

Angel nodded, doing a quick self inventory.   “As far as I can tell, yes.  I’m still me.  Granted, my perspective is somewhat subjective.”

“Cordelia and I surmised as much,” Wesley said.  “It appears that since you were already housing two separate identities – ones that did not wish to be in close proximity – that there was a clean break when you were hit by the Ferula-Gemina.  You’re a human soul, with a human body ... alive.”

Angel looked at his friend, his expression bleak.  “I’ve been given my humanity,” he said.  “But Angelus is free now.”

Wesley sighed heavily, taking off his glasses and rubbing the bridge of his nose.  “There haven’t been any sightings, but yes, we must assume that is the case.”

“How did Giles make Xander whole again?” Angel asked, his voice flat and emotionless.

“Willow performed a simple spell.  The two Xanders were fighting nature in order to exist as two separate beings.  A few words, and Toth’s work was undone.”

“Let me guess,” Angel said wryly.  “It won’t be that simple in my case.”

Trying to sound optimistic, Wesley said, “We don’t know that for sure.”

“Yes you do,” Angel countered.

Wesley deflated.  “I stick to my initial decree that until we have tried, we simply do not know, but yes, I fear it will not be easy.  You were not a natural being, Angel.  You were a human/demon hybrid that was created with the use of very potent and ancient magics.  The Ferula-Gemina broke those magics.”

“So you’re saying that in my case the Ferula-Gemina did not create an unnatural state, it ... put things to rights.”

Wesley nodded.  “In a matter of speaking, yes.  It is much easier for you and Angelus to be separate entities.  That is your natural state.  The last century you’ve spent fighting each other was the anomaly.  But as before, you may be separate, but you are not independent of each other.”

Angel frowned.

“Just as was the case with the Slayer, you and Angelus need each other to survive.  Kill one half, and the other dies.”

******

“What’s wrong?” Riley asked, in a more than slightly irritated tone once he had recovered.

“Nothing,” Buffy replied, not looking at him as she wiggled out from under his sweat drenched body and rose from bed.

Rolling onto his side, he watched in rising frustration as she rooted around on the floor for her clothes, quickly putting on the wrinkled skirt and shirt.  Their evening had not gone well.  Since Riley was being honest with himself, he admitted nothing had gone well since just before that night at the dump a week ago.  Riley knew he wasn’t the most observant boyfriend in the world, but he wasn’t an idiot.  He knew something was wrong, something Buffy didn’t want to share.  “How long are you going to drag this out?” he asked, lying on his back with his hands crossed behind his head, unashamed of his nudity and swiftly shrinking cock.

Slowly turning, the now dressed Slayer regarded him carefully, never letting her gaze stray from his face.  It made her feel too cheap to dwell on what they just shared, or rather what he shared and she endured.  A human male did not force the Slayer to do anything ... but that didn’t necessarily mean she liked everything that happened to her.  “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said evasively.

Riley nodded sarcastically.  “Sure you don’t.”

“Whatever,” Buffy bit out as she turned on her heel and left his bedroom.  Why did she keep doing this to herself?  It made her feel nauseous to let him touch her that way, but she was too weak to push him away, too lonely.  And most of the time, Riley was a great companion.  Just not in bed.

Riley lay on the bed and listened to the sound of the front door slam.  He’d fucked up.  He shouldn’t have pressed her.  It could be any of a thousand things bothering her, it wasn’t like she had little problems.  He sighed as he rose from the bed and headed for the shower.  Maybe he could catch her later on patrol and talk to her.

*****

Buffy strode forcefully away from Riley’s frat, she made it across the street and down two blocks before she sank to the sidewalk, silently crying.  Riley was right, something was wrong, really wrong.  But how could she tell him?  Riley wouldn’t understand, and even if he did, that might be even worse.  How could she tell him that she just felt … empty … inside in a way that she had never known possible.

She had watched Giles for days, waiting for him to betray some knowledge he was withholding from her, but there hadn’t been anything.  Every time the phone rang, she jumped, frozen in terror as she picked up the receiver … only to find out that Willow wanted to borrow her green sweater, or Xander wondered if she was headed for the Bronze later.

How was it that everyone carried on with their lives as normal when she felt like she was dying inside?  Dying because her mate was gone, and no one was even going to tell her.  Not that Buffy needed them to say it aloud.  She felt his absence in her bones.  Even after she sent Angel to hell, it hadn’t felt like this.  He had still been with her, almost closer than when he was alive.  But now, now he was just … gone, absent, missing.  And she had never been so alone.

She knew she was being cruel to Riley, but how could she tell him that she couldn’t abide his touch because her true love was dead?  How could he understand that she had to force herself to lie still as he pushed inside of her body because she could no longer pretend that he was someone else … because every part of her body knew that someone else was gone?

Rising to her feet, Buffy stumbled down the block.  She had to talk to someone.  The silence was driving her crazy.  She needed answers.

******

Spike woke with a start as the heavy iron door to his crypt came crashing open.  He had passed out in front of the TV after downing a twelve pack.  Once upon a time, a Slayer breaking into his lair would have been enough to snap him to full predator mode, but as it was now, he languidly stretched and yawned, coming awake slowly, well accustomed to such occurrences.

Blinking, he took a look at her and was shocked.  She looked like hell.  Sure, he hadn’t seen her in a few days, but something big must have gone down.  “Oi, Slayer, what’s got your knickers in a wad?” he barked, none too gently.

She let out a wrenching sob as she stumbled over to his couch and sat down heavily.  Spike cocked a speculative eyebrow.  “The world endin’ again?” he asked cautiously.  He really wasn’t in the mood to don his white hat again so soon.

“No,” Buffy hissed, her face stained with tears.  “And if you tell anybody about this, I swear you’ll wish I staked you years ago.”

Spike’s curiosity multiplied.  This must be good.  “Wassa matter?”

Taking several gulping breaths to calm down, Buffy got herself under control and fixed him with a piercing glare.  “Can you feel it?” she demanded, her voice almost back to normal.

He looked at her blankly.  “Feel what?”

She grit her teeth in frustration.  She hadn’t expected Spike to be a font of insight, but he was being even denser than usual.  “Nothing seems odd to you?” she prompted.

“Other than the fact that you just broke into my crypt, a big ball of grief smelling like Riley spunk and askin’ me what’s wrong?” he bit out sarcastically.  “No, nothing seems out of the ordinary.”

Buffy bit her bottom lip and shook her head.  Was she going crazy?

“Slayer,” Spike said more gently.  “What’s wrong?”

“Angel,” she said without thinking.

Spike fought the urge to throw his hands up in frustration.  Not again for Christ’s sake!  Why was it that every time there was something wrong with the Slayer somehow Peaches was involved?  “What’d the prick do now, pet?  Get a new boyfriend?”

She looked at him in complete confusion, ignoring his boyfriend comment.  “You honestly don’t know?” she hissed.  “I thought you could … feel … each other or something.”

Spike looked at her with a guarded expression.  “Feel?” he said cautiously.  “What exactly did Peaches tell you about him and me? I swear, I’m strictly into the birds.  If that pansy said anything about something that might have happened once when I was really drunk-”

Buffy’s expression turned homicidal.  “I’m talking about your vamp senses you idiot!” she screamed.  “I thought that vamps in the same line could sense one another.”

Spike tried to play off his earlier outbreak.  He shrugged.  “We can.”

“And nothing feels strange to you … about Angel?”

Spike took a moment and did something he never did, he reached out with his vamp senses.  “Nope,” he said efficiently, “Poof’s still there.”

Buffy’s expression was one of hopeless confusion.  “What do you mean he’s there?”

“I mean I can feel him, the Nonce isn’t ready for an ashtray if that’s what you mean.”

Her brow furrowed even more.  “He’s alive?”

Spike let out a bark of laughter.  “As alive as an animated corpse gets.”

Buffy stood and began pacing around the room.  What the hell was going on?  Why could Spike feel him, but she couldn’t?  “Spike?”

“Yeah, Pet?”

“After ... Acathla, could you feel Angel then?”

“After you sent Peaches to hell?”

Buffy swallowed harshly.  Gee, Spike made it sound so normal, she though dryly.  Clearing her throat, she said, “Yeah.”  Understatement of the year much?

“No, pet,” Spike said with a shake of his head.  “I couldn’t feel him then.  Not until he came back, but by then Dru had dumped me and I was ... self-medicating most of the time, so it took me a while to notice.”

Buffy nodded and left the crypt without another word.  Spike’s responses meant that he could feel Angelus, while she could feel Angel.  How was it that Angelus was still present, but Angel wasn’t.  Even after he’d lost his soul, Buffy could still feel him as strong as ever.  Blindly, she made her way to Giles in search of answers.

*****

Although it was after midnight, Giles was still awake when Buffy knocked on his door several minutes later.  He ushered her inside with a worried look.  She wasn’t crying any longer, far more confused than upset at this point, but he could still see traces of pain on her face.

“Buffy?” he asked gently, laying a soothing hand on her shoulder.

It took several seconds for her to acknowledge his query, but when she did, she asked, “Have you heard anything from ... Wesley or his co-workers lately?”

Giles had an apprehensive look on his face and he stared at her for several long moments.

Fearing that her Watcher had some sort of physical problem, Buffy asked, “Giles?”

Slowly the Watcher smiled a wry grin.  “Sorry,” he said, “just checking to see if you had regained your ability to read minds.”

Brow furrowing, Buffy asked, “Read minds?”

Giles shrugged.  “Wesley called me earlier this evening,” he admitted.  “I thought maybe you were picking up on that.”

Buffy shook her head and moved over to the couch, sitting down heavily.  “What did he want?” she asked, steeling herself for the worst.

Considering whether or not he should tell her, Giles finally decided Buffy had a right to know.  “He wanted to let me know that he ... and his co-workers are in town.”

Buffy paled, her worst fear were about to be confirmed.  “Why?  What’s the matter?”

“I’m not really sure,” Giles admitted.  “Wesley didn’t go into detail and I didn’t pry.  He said he would speak to me about it tomorrow.”

Her bottom lip trembling, Buffy looked at him blankly.

“Buffy?” he said, in a worried tone as took her trembling hands in his.  “Buffy, what’s wrong?  Speak to me.”

A fat tear slid down the Slayers face as she looked at the man whom she viewed as a father.  “Angel,” Buffy said quietly.  “I think he may be ... dead.”  She choked on the last word and broke down sobbing in Giles’ embrace.  Pulling her to his chest, Giles gently stroked her hair, whispering calming words to her.

*****

Wesley was sitting at the large stone table in the mansion’s living room when Cordelia showed in Giles, followed by a vacant looking Slayer.  Concerned, Wesley rose to his feet and fixed Giles with a questing glance.  “What’s wrong?” the younger Watcher asked, fearing Buffy had been injured.

Giles turned around and looked helplessly at his Slayer.  She was nearly catatonic.  “We need to speak with you about ... Angel,” Giles said, almost whispering the last word.

“Angel?” Wesley asked loudly.  Were they aware of what had happened to the ensouled vampire?

“Yeah?” Angel asked absently as he entered the room, his nose buried in a book.

Slayer and Watcher stared openly at the newcomer.  Lifting his head from the book, Angel startled as he saw Giles.  As his vision lighted on Buffy, time slowed down.  She looked awful.  Something was wrong.  In human form he didn’t have all the physical cues like smell to tell him if she was injured or not, but she didn’t look well.   “Buffy?” he asked hesitantly.  From the look on her face, he wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the world was ending.

She started crying openly, and Angel was immediately at her side, holding her against him as her body was wracked with sobs.  He cuddled her close, mindless of all the pain and estrangement between them.  She needed him and he could not deny her.

At some point, Buffy became aware that she wasn’t hallucinating.  Angel was really there, in one piece, and he was ... warm.  Abruptly her sobs ceased and she pulled back far enough to look up at his face.  She stared at him for long moments before dropping her hand to his chest, pressing it over his heart.  Her own heartbeat doubled in intensity.  “You’re alive,” she whispered, too shocked to truly respond.

Angel looked at the Watchers pointedly and they quietly slipped from the room, dragging Cordelia behind them.  When they were alone at last, Angel impulsively dropped his head and caught Buffy’s mouth in a tender kiss.  She didn’t respond at first, too disoriented to process what was happening.  Fortunately, her body wasn’t having as much trouble as her mind and her mouth opened for him of its own accord.  As his tongue slipped past her lips and his intimate taste invaded her mouth, Buffy snapped out of her catatonia.  This was Angel.  He was alive and safe and ... human.  She wanted to cry and laugh at the same time.  Slowly, he ended the kiss.

“You’re okay,” Buffy said, slightly breathless.

“I’m okay now that I know you’re safe,” he said seriously.

Buffy stepped back, moving out of the circle of his arms.  He was safe, but there were still so many questions unanswered.  She met his gaze, wrapped her arms around herself.  “I couldn’t feel you,” she said, unable to keep the accusatory tone out of her voice.  “I was so worried.”

“I know,” Angel said guiltily, lowering his eyes.  “Now that I’m human, things are different.”  He took a deep breath and stepped back.  “Well, not everything is different,” he muttered.

He shifted uneasily and Buffy’s vision was automatically drawn to his groin.  She swallowed harshly and averted her eyes.  Not that it did any good.  The insistent press of his rigid flesh against the front of his jeans was burned into her mind. She took a deep breath and attempted to calm herself down.  They couldn’t ... The thought died quickly.  Angel was human.  Alive.  His soul was better than super-glued on.  She glanced back at him and found him untucking his shirt to camouflage himself.

He met her eyes and it was awkward.  Buffy blushed and smiled nervously.  Was it the time they had been apart that made it so awkward?  Was it the fact that he was human now and had a harder time disguising his reaction to her?  Her head ached with the effort of trying to figure it out.  With a sigh, she walked over to the couch and sat down. Angel followed her lead, but sat a safe distance away.

“So,” Angel said lamely, “how have you been?”

“Not good,” she said seriously.  “I went a little crazy when I thought you were gone.”

Angel’s face tightened.  “I’m sorry,” he said quietly.  “I should have called you.”

“Yes,” she said firmly, “you should have.  I’ve been in Hell thinking that you were killed.”

He pursed his lips and said, “In my defense, I was unconscious for most of the time.”

She looked at him warily.  Now wasn’t the time to rehash old grievances.  He always kept her out of the loop.  It wasn’t a new problem and she didn’t feel like dwelling on it.  “What happened?” she asked, trying to sound businesslike.

Angel related the story as it had been told to him.  Buffy’s expression tightened at the revelation that Angelus was on the loose.  “He’s out there,” she said quietly.

“Yes, he is,” Angel replied.  “We have to find him, fast.  The damage he can do ... “

Intently, Buffy looked at her former lover.  “Do you really want that?” she asked seriously.

“What?”

“To return to the way you were?  To be a human soul trapped in a vampiric body, fighting with the demon every day?” she pressed.

He sighed sinking back into the cushions of the couch.  As much as he hated to admit it, he had been tempted by the idea of ‘what if’.  He knew that it was his cross to bear, that he deserved to be punished for eternity, to house the demon that his own hedonism and rage had helped create.  But with something of this magnitude dropped in his lap, he couldn’t help but dream.  “Of course I don’t want it,” he admitted wearily, “but I don’t have a choice.  We can’t let Angelus run wild.”

“No,” Buffy admitted reluctantly, embarrassed.  “Angelus can’t run free.  I just wondered  ... “

“Wondered?”

She looked at him, her expression guarded.  It was insanity.  They hadn’t even spoken in months.  “I don’t know,” she said, “I wondered if it would be different this way.  You’re human now ... “

Angel swallowed convulsively.  Only a year earlier he’d been faced with the same dilemma.  It had killed something inside of him to throw away his chance for a normal life with Buffy.  He had thought that faced with the choice again, that he wouldn’t be strong enough.  But here it was.  Only this time Angelus was free.  The memories of the horrors wrought by his demon assaulted him.  He saw his tiny sister’s body, broken and battered.  He knew what Angelus would do to those he loved and he found strength he didn’t know he possessed.

“You know I can’t Buffy,” he said softly.  “I can’t let him be free.”

She bit back tears and nodded.  “No,” she admitted dejectedly, “we can’t.”

Taking a deep, needed, breath, Angel said, “You’re still with Riley anyway.”  It killed him to say it, but it was true.  She was with Riley.  She claimed to love the irritating overgrown boy scout.  She had moved on.  She had a real chance at the future.

“I am,” she said, not bothering to be embarrassed by her duplicity.  “But I won’t pretend for one second that I would choose him over you.”

Angel was quiet for a moment, absorbing her confession.  “I thought you loved him,” he said, not bothering to hide his bitterness.  “I thought you trusted him.”

She regarded him carefully, shamed by the untrue words she spat at him the year before.  “I only told you that to hurt you,” she said baldly.  “You know that and so do I.”

Angel looked and then dropped his gaze to the floor guiltily.  He did know it.  And he knew that she had lashed out at him because he had lashed out at her.  He had done this to her.  He had turned her into a bitter young woman who would hurt those she loved.  “I know,” he said quietly.  “But it didn’t stop me from trying to convince myself that you were really happy with him.”

Buffy looked at him, her expression hard.  “I love you,” she said plainly.  “I always have, I always will.  There’s not going to be any other man that can ever make me feel the way you do.”

Angel pushed away the joy that her words conjured in him.  She couldn’t do this.  He couldn’t allow her to think that being with him was actually an option.  He wasn’t going to be human for long.  Either he and Angelus would be melded together again, or Angelus would die and he would die with him.  It didn’t take a genius to figure out that he didn’t have a future with Buffy.  He couldn’t allow her waste any more of her life on him.  She had a real chance at a future with Riley and though she was willing to let it go to be with him, however briefly, he couldn’t allow it.  He wanted her, more than anything, but a reunion would only prolong their pain.

“Let me walk you home,” he said, “it’s late.”

Buffy stared at him blankly for several moments.  “That’s it?” she asked in a tiny voice.

He looked at her silently.

“You’ve decided, haven’t you?” she asked.  “Once again, you’ve decided what’s good for both of us, and I’m being sent home.”

“Come on,” he said, rising to his feet.  He didn’t offer his hand to her, which stung all the more.

“Don’t bother,” she said, standing, her voice venomous.  “I’m the Slayer, you’re just a human.  I don’t need you to walk me home.”

Their eyes met for several, mutual heartbeats, both of them reflecting barely contained pain.

“Please,” he said quietly, holding out his hand.

Buffy’s bottom lip quivered, so she bit down on it to keep from crying.  Automatically, she took his hand and let him lead her to the door.  Despite her being the super hero and him being just a human, it was too ingrained in her psyche to take shelter in his presence.  He was her protector.

They were both silent as he walked her to her mother’s house.  The house was dark and Angel gave Buffy a confused look as she headed for the front door rather than the tree that led to her bedroom window.  In spite of her foul mood, Buffy smiled.  “I’m a grown up now,” she said.  “Mom knows that some nights I don’t come home.”

Angel flinched a bit at the cut.  No doubt the nights she didn’t come home were the ones she spent with Riley.  But he didn’t have any room for jealousy.  It didn’t stop his body from aching just by looking at her.  Releasing her hand, he said, “Goodnight.”

*****

Everyone looked up as Giles’ door was thrown open and Buffy strode through it with a murderous expression on her face.

“I think I deserve an explanation,” Riley seethed, following on her heels.

Twisting around, Buffy glared at him.  “Well,” she said, “you’re wrong.  I don’t have to account to you for my whereabouts twenty-four hours a day.  You’re not my father.”

“You weren’t on patrol,” he said accusatorily.

“How do you know?” she demanded.  “You were all sacked out when I left you, too tired to do anything else.”

Riley’s gaze narrowed at her as he listened to her thinly veiled insult to his male prowess.  Trying to calm down he looked around the room.  It was the wrong thing to do.  “Never mind,” he said, through clenched teeth, “I just figured out where you were.”

Turning, Buffy followed his gaze and for the first time realized that Giles’ living room was crowded to overflowing.  Everyone was listening to their argument, but none so closely as Angel, who looked ready to jump over the sofa and rip Riley’s head off.  It figured.  The only time Angel wanted her was when another male was sniffing around.  She snorted in disgust.  “Don’t bother getting upset about him,” she said to Riley.  “He doesn’t want me.”

Turning, she went into the kitchen and pulled open the refrigerator door, digging around for a bottle of juice.  Riley stood, rooted to the spot, and glared at Angel.

“Wonderful,” Giles said, taking off his glasses to polish them.  It was easier to deal with the carnage if you didn’t actually have to see it.

*****

Buffy absently kicked at the empty pizza box with her foot.  The day spent researching had been absolutely fruitless, even with the added help of Angel, Cordy, Wes and Gunn.  Riley, much to her annoyance, had stuck to her like glue all day, refusing to leave her alone with Angel.  For his part, her newly-human former-boyfriend was maintaining a safe distance.  So far, he managed to avoid having to speak directly to her.

If Buffy had known how much Angel was itching to beat the crap out of Riley, she might have felt somewhat appeased.  He wasn’t avoiding talking to her because he wanted to, but rather because Buffy was still with Riley.  He had no business trying to come between them.  Even if that was exactly what he wanted to do.  He had to respect the fact that Buffy wanted to be with Riley.  Or at least she said she did, her actions were speaking volumes to the contrary.

“I’m going to patrol,” Buffy said, pushing herself off the couch.

“I’ll go,” Riley and Angel said in unison, then glared at each other.

“Oh, how fun,” Buffy said sarcastically, heading for the door.

*****

Angel followed behind the Slayer, trying not to break an ankle as he stumbled around in the dark.  There was something to be said for preternatural vision and grace.  He was severely lacking in both at the moment.

After about ten minutes of arguing, during which time Buffy had refused to make Angel stay at Giles’, Riley had stalked off, preferring to patrol on his own.  Buffy had watched him go without even feeling guilty about it.  She was mad.  No, that wasn’t right.  She was pissed.  She wanted to scream and hit her fists against something, anything.  She had never felt so frustrated or boxed in.  She was mad at Riley, at Angel, at Giles ... at the world.  Why did she keep getting the short end of the stick on everything?

“Would you please slow down a little,” Angel complained after banging his knee on a headstone for the third time that evening.

Whipping around, Buffy glared at him in the dim lighting of Sunny Rest Cemetery.  “Maybe you should have stayed at Giles’,” she snapped.

Angel glared back.  “If you wanted me to stay at Giles’, why didn’t you say that when Riley was there?”

Buffy fumed, but she knew he had her.  Of course, she didn’t have to be adult about it.  He called her a brat once ... Well, he hadn’t seen anything yet.  “Riley doesn’t ask me to slow down,” she zinged at him.

Angel did a very respectable job of growling for a human.  “Riley has had more practice at this as a human than I have,” he ground out.

“Don’t worry,” Buffy said, “once we find your demonic alter-ego, you’ll be back to skillfully slinking around in the dark in no time.”

Angel looked at her and shook his head in frustration.  “You’re mad at me,” he said.

“Of course I’m mad at you,” she replied coldly.

“Are you mad at me for being too human or for not being human enough?” he asked.

“Yes,” she replied, crossing her arms over her chest.

Angel lowered his head and threw his hands up in frustration.  Slowly, he looked up.  “We’ve had this conversation before,” he said, “and it leads nowhere good.”

“Just like you,” Buffy said, almost scandalizing herself with how bitchy her statement was.

Angel laughed and slowly turned in a circle.  He was losing his mind.  “Why am I even here?” he asked the darkness.

“I don’t know,” she replied.  “Why are you here?  It’s definitely not for my benefit.”

“Yeah, well, I’m not exactly enjoying it myself,” he snapped.

She stalked towards him and mentally gave him points for not retreating.  Standing less than a foot away, she craned her head back to look at him.  “Why are you here, Angel and don’t lie to me,” she demanded.

He took a deep breath and let it out very slowly.  “Angelus,” he said quietly.

Buffy flinched at his explanation.  Some part of her wanted, no needed, him to say that it was for her, that he had come to Sunnydale to see her.  Of course, that wasn’t the case.   Angel was all business as usual.  “He’s not here,” she said, unable to keep the raw pain out of her voice, “so why don’t you leave.  If I see him, I’ll send you a postcard and let you know.”

Angel looked at her and all of the anger and frustration drained out of his body.  He had hurt her so badly.  “You don’t understand,” he said quietly.

“You keep telling me that,” she bit out.  “It makes me think that you must not find me very smart.”

He shook his head and it was a tired gesture.  “Angelus will come here, Buffy,” he said very quietly.  “He will come here looking for you because you’re all he thinks about.  You’re all I think about.  Day and night – mostly night - living in Los Angeles, every thought is still of you.”

Buffy opened her mouth to speak, but fell silent.  Tears pricked at her eyes.  She started to turn away, but Angel grabbed her forearm.  She stopped and stared down at his restraining hand.  Slowly, she raised her face to look at him.  The mask was gone, his longing was so raw and naked it made her breath catch in her throat.  Roughly, he grabbed at her, yanking her against his body and Buffy reveled in the sensation.  As his head lowered to hers in a crushing kiss, she welcomed it joyously.

Before either of them knew what was happening, Buffy was flat on her back with Angel on top.  Her legs were wrapped around his waist, his fingers buried in her hair, their tongues molesting each other’s mouths.  They ripped at each other’s clothes, fighting to reach bare skin.  Buffy, being the Slayer had the upper hand in that battle and before long, her mouth was pressed against Angel’s naked chest, causing him to moan aloud.

Their coupling was raw and animal, nails and teeth, grunts and gasps, each of them fighting for dominance, fighting to reassert their claim on their mate.  There were no words, only groans and hisses as they twisted on the dew wetted grass, striving blindly for climax.

In the aftermath, Angel pulled Buffy’s exhausted form against his own, covering her with his duster.  She went willingly, her desire to be contrary having faded with their first kiss.  He wrapped his arms around her, his nose buried in her hair, breathing in her sweet, vanilla scent.  As a vampire, his senses had been sharper, but they had lacked the richness he possessed as human.  Buffy’s scent when he was a vampire was compelling, but as a human she was absolutely delectable.  For her part, Buffy simply rested her head against his chest, listening to the steady rhythm of his heart.  Human.  Her Angel was human.

*****

“Buffy, get your lazy butt out of bed.  Mom says that the gang –“  Dawn stopped mid-sentence, her mouth hanging open like a fish as she gaped at her sister.  Dawn’s mouth snapped shut and then opened again.  Angel.  Buffy.  Naked Angel.  Naked Buffy.  Dawn clapped a hand over her eyes, backing out of the room quickly.  The door shook as she pulled it shut as hard as she could manage.  The sound of the teen’s running footfalls on the stairs were unmistakable.

Pushing herself up on her elbows, Buffy raised an eyebrow at Angel and then looked at the door.  She turned back to her once-again lover.  “Considering how good she’s not with the stealth, I’m going to assume that everyone will know about us in less than five seconds,” she said.

She had been expecting some sort of repentant reply from Angel, but he merely smiled.  She watched, appreciatively, as he stretched, completely comfortable with his nudity.  He yawned loudly and wrapped his arms around her, pulling her close for a kiss.

Buffy hated to ruin the mood, but she had to.  Pulling back, she asked, “What’s going on with us?”

Angel looked at her and frowned.  He sat up, scooting back against the headboard.  Buffy sat up as well, wishing she had thought to get dressed.  If he broke her heart again, she would rather it not happen in the nude.

“I have to put Angelus back,” he said somberly.  “You know that and I know that.  There is no other option.”

Buffy felt tears burning her eyes and she looked out the window, nodding sadly.  She did know.  She wanted nothing more than to keep her human Angel, but she knew there was no choice.  “At least last night was fun,” she said dryly.  “And hey, this time I actually woke up with you rather than alone and you haven’t told me yet how bad I was in bed –“

Angel grabbed her arm and shook her hard enough to get her attention.  Her head snapped to him, her pain raw on her face.  “It’s not like that,” he said harshly.  “I want you, Buffy, more than I have ever wanted anything in my life, but I can’t stay like this.  You know that.”

The tears that had been threatening to fall finally did and Buffy nodded slowly, seeming to collapse in on herself.  “I know,” she said.

He pulled her close, wrapping his arms around her.  “This may just make it harder,” he said.  “But I want this. For as long as I can have it, I want this.  I want you.  I want us.  I don’t know how long it is going to take to find Angelus, but until we do, I want to be with you.”

Buffy looked at him.  His was a desperate, foolish plea but she grabbed onto it with everything she had.  Some part of her knew that in the end, this decision would only make it harder, but she didn’t care.  She needed him, however she could get him, for however long she could have him.

“Yes,” she said, kissing him harshly.

*****

Buffy kicked the vampire, sending it sprawling down the alley on its back.  Leaping to its feet the vampire went on the offensive again.  Angel swung with the axe, but his timing was off.  The vampire reacted on instinct, grabbing Angel by the throat.  Buffy’s heart skipped a beat as she watched.  This couldn’t be happening ...

But the unthinkable happened, the vampire froze.  It stared dumbly at Angel.  Recovering, Buffy plunged the stake through its back into its heart.  As the dust settled she met her lover’s gaze.  Angel snapped out of the mild catatonia first, dusting the ash off of his jacket.  Buffy simply stared at him, searching for an explanation.  “You okay,” she asked quietly.

Angel coughed to clear his throat.  “Fine,” he said, his voice somewhat hoarse.

They looked at each other for an awkward moment.  Finally, Angel reached out for Buffy’s hand.  She grabbed onto like a drowning man to a life preserver.  They walked back to Buffy’s house in silence.

Neither of them were going to say it.  Maybe if they didn’t say it, it wouldn’t be true.  Vocalization gave weight to thoughts, they both knew that.

So, maybe if they didn’t mention the fact that vampires were specifically avoiding Angel, it wouldn’t be true.  Because if it were true, it would mean that something was out there protecting Angel, something with power over vampires.

Something like Angelus.

Buffy and Angel were warriors for the side of Good.  It was their duty to protect the innocents from monsters like Angelus.  Even if it meant sacrificing their own happiness, the happiness they had just found, the happiness that kept them both warm at night in each other’s arms.

Not a word was spoken the entire way home.

*****
 
 
 

END ... for now

Feedback to indie

Back to WIP index