Hard Lesson
by indie
This story is a departure from my normal work.  It's angsty and written in first person POV.  Most likely, this is a voice is not one that I will be exploring further.  Pretty much canon through BTVS Season 6, AtS season 3 (though assume Connor never went to Quartoth).

He doesn’t know.  He doesn’t have any idea.  He just sits there, looking stoic and broody like he always does, waiting with a patience that would rival a stone sentry’s.  He waits for me to respond, to blink, to do anything.  But he won’t push.  And he won’t let the others do it either.  He keeps them away, every last one.  Even Giles, who views me as his own child, and looks upon me with the parental instinct to protect, won’t defy Angel.  Giles knows it would be pointless.  Patient, quiet like he is, Angel is more dangerous than anything the seasoned Watcher has ever faced.  He’s more dangerous than Angelus.  He wouldn’t hesitate to disembowel anything or anyone he thought would bring me further discomfort.

He’s protecting me like an animal protecting its wounded mate.

And maybe that’s what I am.  I am wounded, no doubt about it, grievously so.  I’ve been making a mental catalog of my wounds for several hours.  But I don’t feel like his mate.  Not anymore.  Not after everything he did, after everything I did.

We’re bound together.  But mates?  We’re destined to hurt each other for all eternity.  Maybe that’s what constitutes commitment to him.  What the hell does he know about loving relationships?  He killed his own parents in retribution for years of abuse.  The most successful relationship in his eternal existence was with his Sire and lover.  Talk about an Oedipal complex.  Fucking the woman who made him for a century and a half, now those are issues.

And then there’s me.  I know I bear more than a passing resemblance to The Bitch.  Petite, blonde, inordinately powerful.

But what does it matter now anyway?  That was years ago.  There is no BuffyandAngel.  What the hell does he think he’s doing watching over me?  We’re not together.  We haven’t been together in years.  Hell, we aren’t even friends.  And here he is guarding me like some nasty old alpha wolf who thinks someone is trying to bother his bitch.

I’m not his bitch.  Not any more.

I think maybe I’m still really pissed at him for abandoning me.  And I know it’s time to even the score.

I roll over with a groan and he’s there instantly, at my side.  Try as he might to act human, he’s not and in times of stress, it really shows.  Where a concerned boyfriend or lover would be patting my hand and asking if I’m okay, he’s snuffing at me, burrowing his head into the crook of my shoulder and taking in lung fulls of my scent, trying to sniff out something wrong.  There’s nothing to find.  No bleeding wound he doesn’t already know about.  The injury that pains me now is old,  but it will never heal.  Especially not now.

I won’t recover from this battle.  I won’t.  Maybe he knows that.

He whispers my name over and over again, like a mantra.  It reminds me of when he first came back from Hell, first made his way back to himself.  He used to do that.  He used to curl up with one of my sweaters and whimper my name.  It used to scare me, terrify me.  I was his entire world.  He needed me that much.  And I needed him too, but I couldn’t admit it.  I was the Slayer, primal and animalistic and I knew that he was my mate and he needed me.

But I was also a seventeen year old girl.

I was a bad student, but it wasn’t because I didn’t pay attention.  It was mostly because I was too busy saving the world to be bothered with finishing papers or showing up for tests.  Willow and Xander and I all had the required Health and Psychology classes.  I knew what a co-dependent relationship was.  I knew what Angel and I had wasn’t healthy.  I tried to use Scott to forget Angel, to make myself more human, to keep the darkness at bay.

It didn’t work.

And I’m having a hard time fending him off right now.  He curls up against me, and my human self bellows at me to push him away, to make him pay for all the pain and sorrow he wrought.  I’m not surprised when I don’t.  The Slayer has always been stronger, and she simply relaxes into her mate’s embrace, breathing in the scent of him and knowing, just from the smell, that he’s worried.

Humans don’t get that.

Willow and Xander could never figure out why I was friends with Spike, but the truth was, he got it.  It’s like when a guy can’t figure out why his girlfriend needs to spend time with her female friends.  Because, try as they might, men cannot understand what it’s like to be a woman.  Not really.  And humans can’t understand what it’s like to not be human.  I know Angel’s worried from the way he smells and I know that if I opened my mouth and ran my tongue along the side of his neck that I would be able to taste how much he loves me.  Not proverbially, but really, literally, I can taste it.  Spike understood that, so on some level, we were kindred spirits.

I’m not sure Spike appreciated that little fact when push truly came to shove.  The first time he came in my mouth, I couldn’t help but think how much he tasted like Angel.  I never said anything, but I know that Spike knew.  He never let me do that again.  Sometimes I begged, and he knew I was begging for some reminder of Angel and the bastard refused just to spite me.  I hope he had blueballs for days.

“Love,” Angel whispers into my hair, jerking me from my mental digressions.

I nod because it’s a question.  He wants to know if I’m all right, if I’m sane, whole.  I am, but I’m not up to speaking just yet, so I nod.  His body shakes as he weeps, clutching me so tightly that it hurts, but I don’t complain.  Sometimes I like it when he hurts me.  I’m not even ashamed of that anymore.  Maybe I’m finally grown up.  Or maybe I’m finally broken.  I know that days have passed since the battle, maybe even weeks, but it’s all somewhat fuzzy.  I should be used to this by now.  Old hat.  I died twice and came back, fighting all the disorientation.  I didn’t even die this time.  Not yet.

And yet again, everything is different.  I’m different.  I’m tired.  I have no intention of going on, regardless of how much he needs me.  I can’t.

He kisses me and I don’t even consider denying him.  I open my mouth like a well trained whore and let him in.  Only I don’t feel like a whore.  I know he loves me and that makes it all right.  That makes everything all right.  It makes it okay for me to suck him off in a cemetery or fuck him on his kitchen table.  We love each other.  It’s not dirty.  It’s right.

Fucking Riley was always dirty.  Especially when he told me he loved me.

I kiss Angel and I soothe him as best I can, though I don’t really want to assuage his pain.  When he’s upset, frazzled and frayed as he is now, he doesn’t hide.  He’s too jumbled up inside to crawl into his shell and I get a fleeting glimpse of what he really thinks.  He loves me and I know that.  He’s too worried about me, too relieved that I’m alive to deny himself anything at the moment.  He kisses me with abandon, mindless of whatever nasty consequences it might bring.  He isn’t even considering what ‘the right thing’ might be and I’m so glad, even if I know it’s fleeting at best.

I didn’t know if he would ever touch me like this again, especially after Riley.  It’s hard enough to get back together with your ex, but when you’re forced with the cold hard reality that they’ve been warming someone else’s bed, it’s even worse.  I didn’t know if he’d want to touch me after I gave myself to Riley.  When Angel was in Sunnydale and we couldn’t be together, after I sent him to Hell, I dated Scott.  But even then, Angel was still the only one I’d taken inside my body.

I don’t know, I thought maybe Angel would see me as used after my mockery of a relationship with Riley.  I thought maybe Angel liked virgins, as if chastity  is some sort of genetic equivalent of the new car smell that men so love.

I definitely do not have the new car smell.  I’m firmly situated on the used lot, with Spike holding the keys and charging way too much for a late year model.  Angel has to know that.  Spike bit me one night when we were fucking.  He said it was an accident, but I know the truth.  He wanted Angel to know he’d had me.  I’d never admit it to Spike – actually, I kicked his ass pretty good for it – but I was glad.  I wanted Angel to know too.  I probably had an even greater desire than Spike to see Angel in pain, and that’s saying something.  Yet, I still don’t think it makes us even.

I whimper, pressing into Angel as he calms his fervent kisses.  I’m wounded, and though he’s thrilled that I’m alive, he won’t do anything to risk further injury.  It’s sort of a shame.  He doesn’t know it yet, but he won’t have many more chances.  But he doesn’t know it, so he backs off.  I sigh and look into his eyes.  He’s sad, probably because he thinks he’ll have to let me go again, for my own good, of course.  I look away, trying to be more disgusted than hurt and failing miserably.

“You should sleep,” he says.

“I’m not tired,” I reply.  “I’ve been sleeping for days.  How long have I been out?”

“Eight days,” he admits, confirming my suspicions.  “You were badly hurt.  You had surgery. The doctors kept you heavily sedated for the first few days.  We almost lost you.  You’re injuries are still very serious.”

I look at him.  He’s trembling with pain and relief, but there’s more.  He’s hedging. I wonder if he’ll tell me what I already know.  Does he seriously think I can’t tell?  I’m the Slayer, for God’s sake, the ultimate protector of human life.  Doesn’t he know that it resonates physically within me?  I wonder if he’s going to let Giles do it.  Let my parent tell me, rather than my lover, as if it would be easier to take that way.  If Angel told me, it wouldn’t only be about what I lost, but about what we lost.  Only he doesn’t know the whole story.  And maybe he thinks I don’t know the whole story either.

Does he know that I know about his son with Darla?  Probably not.  He still has this mental picture of me as the insecure seventeen-year-old.  He probably assumes that if I found out about Connor that I would have come rushing to Los Angeles to throw all of my pain in his face.  I didn’t.  I’ve learned over time that my pain is mine.  Not even he has any rights to it.  Besides, he wouldn’t have understood, not completely, and I’m not going to tell him.  Not yet.  Maybe not ever.

But it would be a wonderful way to hurt him, especially now.

I know about Angel’s son.  But more than that, I’ve seen Connor, touched him.  I’ve held the little boy in my arms.  And for several forbidden seconds, I imagined that he was mine.  I don’t know why Cordy did it.  Maybe she knew it would have been pointless to lie.  I knew without a doubt exactly who Connor’s parents were the moment I saw him.  But I didn’t get angry.  I just watched the little boy as he tugged on Cordy’s hair, totally comfortable in her arms.  I understood that Cordy was the mother that Darla never could have been.  That almost hurt more than anything.  The job should have been mine.  But then Cordy did something I never would have imagined.  She held her son out to me.  I took him, and wrapped him in my embrace.  He was nervous and fidgety the way small children are around people they don’t know.  There was probably more to it than that.  His vampiric parentage probably clued him into my Slayerness.  Whatever the reason, he started crying and I handed him back to Cordy.

I smiled.  I told her ‘thank you’ and commented truthfully on what a beautiful child he was.  I left without looking back, my head held high.  I was the Slayer.  I had survived death several times over.  I had let Angel go.  We were of the past.  I was over him.

I was so over him that I drove home at ninety miles an hour, got smashed out of my mind on rot-gut whiskey and fucked Spike until neither of us could move.  I spent the next day puking and crying so hard I thought I was going to die.  Giles and Spike both tiptoed around me, saying nothing about exactly how psychotic they thought I was being.  And that must have been what it looked like.  Buffy being a psycho because Angel has a kid.

No one knows.

But even that pain is years old.  Connor is old enough to go to preschool now.  And once again, Angel is at my side.

“Buffy,” he says quietly, “your injuries ... they were very extensive ... “

“I know,” I say, my voice sounding dead, even to my own ears.

“The doctor said that the stab wounds ... the damage they caused ... “

“I can’t have children,” I say dully, stealing his thunder.

He looks into my eyes for several minutes, pain marring his beautiful features.  He’s hurt that I could be so callous about something this serious and it hits me.  He doesn’t intend to leave me.  That’s why he’s upset.  Don’t I realize what I’ve lost ... what he’s lost?  He’ll be human soon, and apparently he has decided that I’m his mate.  I can never give him children, but he still wants to be with me. He’s made a huge sacrifice and he wants me to be more grave about the situation.

He has no idea.  I turn away from him, staring out the window which is opened to admit the late afternoon sunlight.  I’m not sure if it’s for my benefit or Angel’s.

“At least you have Connor,” I say quietly.  I can feel him go still behind me, waiting for me to go on the offensive.  I have no intention of attacking him.  I mean what I said, and I meant it just as I said it.  No malice, but lots of regret.  If he wants to stay with me, he will, but we won’t have children.  I’m happy he has Connor.  Maybe it will make the other easier to deal with.

Maybe.

He clears his throat loudly and says, “The others are outside.  They want to see you.”

“Not yet,” I tell him and I feel him acquiesce.  He won’t push.  Not today.  He wraps an arm around me and his head sinks into the pillow next to mine.

***

It’s night when I finally wake and I know the sun will be up in less than an hour.  Angel stirs when I lift my head.  I sink back into the pillow without saying anything.  You reap what you sow.  How extremely appropriate that phrase seems at the moment.  I’ve sown almost eight years of lies, betrayals and secrets.  I won’t do it anymore.  I weep silently and Angel remains quiet.  Maybe he thinks the implications of my injuries have finally caught up with me, but he’s wrong.  Even if I had been able, I never would have had another child.

Yes, another.  My little boy would be eight years old this September.

I know Giles thought I’d gone completely off the deep end when things finally went down with Glory.  I wasn’t lying when I told him that if anyone tried to kill Dawn, that it would mean their death at my hands.  I know he thought I was losing my grip on reality, that losing Angel, Riley and then my mother had pushed me over the edge.  He was wrong.  But he didn’t know, because I never told him that I was pregnant with a son.

My son.  Angel’s son.

Giles didn’t know how much Dawn symbolized the child I didn’t have.  She was part of me, crafted by magic from my body.  She was blood of my blood, flesh of my flesh.  Giles couldn't know how much she represented to me.  He couldn’t even begin to imagine.

Angel and I conceived a child on the night of my seventeenth birthday.  I carried our little boy, loved him though all of the dark days of Angelus’ reign.  I never told anyone.  I was small enough, muscled enough that I didn’t show until very late in my pregnancy.  If Angelus suspected, he never said anything.  But I don't think he did suspect.  Vampires can't work for the phone company and they can't have baby vampires.  It was too far outside the realm of possibility to contemplate.  Of course, Connor is now living proof of the fly in that logic ointment.  But none of us knew that then.

I thought I could do it.  I thought I could get rid of Angelus and keep some part of Angel with me.  But that’s not how it happened.  I didn’t kill Angelus.  I was forced to send my lover, my unborn child’s father to Hell.  It was too much.  After everything with Acathla, I took off, hiding on the streets of  L.A.  I was more alone than I ever could have imagined.  I had no money, no home, no prospects.  My love, my lover, my Angel was dead.  I couldn’t imagine living without him, so I decided I wouldn’t.  I wasn't used to feeling helpless and lost.  I needed control.  Funny how rational something irrational can sound.

You can get anything on the streets of L.A. and that’s what I did.  I sold what little jewelry I’d taken with me from Sunnydale and I bought a bunch of pills and washed them down with a lot of cheap vodka.  I woke up three days later in a hospital.  I survived.

My son didn’t.

If I’d been in a depression before my suicide attempt, then I don’t know what you’d call it after.  Some sort of walking death, maybe?  I didn’t even feel human anymore.  I’d simply wanted the pain to end, but it hadn’t.  It had multiplied to an extent I couldn’t have possibly imagined.

I killed my son.

Cordy once told me about Darla’s pregnancy, about how the vampire tried everything short of staking herself to get rid of the child in her womb.  I took it all in stride, but I went home and went on another bender.  The Powers That Be had intervened to keep Darla’s son safe, but they completely abandoned my little boy.  They used their power to protect a child conceived in hate and despair, protected him from a mother that did not want him, while my son died quietly, without anyone noticing at all.  That alone is enough reason for me to desert them all now.

I am going to die.  Not by my own hand, but by my will.  My wounds are serious and ironically, when the battle was over, I ceased to be the Slayer.  I’m just a normal human woman whose body cannot withstand the injuries inflicted upon it.  Oh, maybe I could, but I don’t want to.  I have no will to live and my body will soon realize that fact and wither.

***

It’s days before anyone realizes that my return to lucidity does not herald my being on the road to recovery.  Giles is the first to voice any sort of negative opinion.  He asks me quietly if I want to live.  I’m surprised by both his candor and his insightfulness.  I ignore the question and ramble on about something until he gives up on the line of questioning.

Angel comes in a few minutes later, taking a seat in a chair near my bed.

“Can I see Connor?” I ask.

His head snaps up from the magazine he was leafing though and he has no idea how to respond.  “He’s not here,” he finally says.

“Sometime,” I clarify, “sometime soon, could I see Connor?”

He’s confused but relents.  “Of course,” he says, “I’ll bring him by later tonight.”  And he does.  It’s late when Angel arrives at the hospital with his son.  The little boy is asleep, his head resting on his father’s shoulder in complete trust.  Angel scoots the chair as close to the bed as possible and sits down with Connor in his lap.

Angel’s son.

This is probably what our son would have looked like.  Darla and I shared enough common physical traits to make that guess.  Connor is a mix of the two, his father's dark hair and vaguely brooding expression, even in sleep.  But his build is slender like Darla's and I know from memory that his eyes are a brilliant, clear blue.  I reach out and curl my fingers around his little hand, feeling the life beating so fiercly inside of him.  He'll be a warrior, a fighter just like his father.

He and Angel close, bonded together more tightly than most fathers and sons.  It’s because of Darla.  Because she sacrificed herself for her son, leaving him with Angel.  They are all each other has in this world.  My heart aches because I know Angel never would have been this close to our son.  He was too disoriented, too guilt riddled when he returned from Hell.  He would have abandoned us both for our own goods.  Despite being close to three centuries old, Angel wouldn’t have been mature enough to handle the responsibility of having a son at that time.  In that respect, Darla gave him something I never could, a son that he is free to love completely.

“Buffy?” Angel whispers as tears slide down my cheeks.

I smile at him, tell him thank-you for letting me see Connor.  He nods uneasily, informing me that he needs to get Connor home.  Tomorrow is a school day, but that he’ll be back soon.  I smile again in reply, lightly kiss his cheek as he leans down and kisses mine.

I’m glad Angel has Connor.  It means he won't be alone.  Because I’m not going to be here when he returns.
 

Feedback to indie