He has a life, of sorts. He's a warrior, a champion if one is to believe the ravings of the couple of annoying demigods. He can't deny that fate has conspired to give him things to fight for – a mission, a soul, a family. Even a new love to tether him the world.
But his thrice-cursed soul still protests when they invade his solitude. Cordelia and Wesley, Fred and Gunn - they poke at him, pull him out of himself, coax him towards their light. Sometimes he lets himself follow, but they can't understand.
He hasn't told them she's waiting in the dark.
He was going away, she says. She can't bear it - she needs him here, close. Right here, she sobs, and he grabs her hand to show her he's not going anywhere right now. His love for this child has been near chaste so far, but when she bares herself to him, shaking, desire stalks in like a hungry cat. His fingers slide on wet skin, and she stiffens when they ghost over the gentle jut of one blushing nipple. He drops a soothing kiss onto her temple, but brings thumb and fingers together to tease that quivering potential into a hard, aching point. And when her breath catches in an astonished gasp, he lowers his mouth to suck. Their path is set after that: her body climbing up his, his hands drifting ever lower, her first, desperate release. Her eyes holding his, frightened but determined, as she tugs his underwear down. Her delighted sob when he stops protesting, and rids her of her own.
They're not dreams, exactly, since he doesn't sleep, but unwaking moments when he can tangle himself in that gilt-dipped hair, and discover the secret places of her body. Sensory hallucinations, a doctor might say; fingertips sensitised from stroking her skin, mouth rich and wet with the taste of her. Delusions, perhaps, shock and memory and loss combining in a whirl of what-might-have-been.
For his sorrow doesn't always take him back to that desperate meeting of first lovers. It throws him visions of a future, two years on, or ten, or one hundred. Of a woman grown, fierce and uncompromising, the awesome warrior she's set to become. Of the world's most formidable Slayer at the height of her powers, and a crone, tired of life.
He'd give up forever for any one of those women. Already has, more than once, and had to bear the agony of it alone.
She glows gold in the afternoon sun, her skin gritted with sand and salt from her swim. At first, she's all helpless giggles as he dries her off, but then she starts to bite her lip as he moves slowly down her body, efficiency lost to the drag of the towel over breasts, and belly, and thighs. He drops to his knees to move lower, and the air is thick with her by the time he reaches her feet. He starts to move upward again, but her breath is coming in jags, her thighs shaking with the pressure of staying upright. He hides his smile and hovers, warm puffs of air over that bare mound, until she breaks. He thinks of the big white bed in their room, but it's a dozen metres away, and she's mewling like a kitten here and now. He doesn't have it in him to deny her the release she's about to beg for, so he spreads her wide and dives in …
She laughs forever, his golden love, and he comes back to himself smiling and strong, warmed by the memory of sun on his back, and the transcendent pleasures of food and love and sweet, sticky sex. But he can never forget that he fell in love with a Slayer, he who had hunted them for so long. It lies in wait for him, that fact. Slinks lows, creeps under his defences, then strikes.
His subconscious is greedy to supply all the details his love-struck heart always refused to contemplate - the thrill of sparring with her, and the roar of the beast when he managed to hold her down. The lush velvet of her blood on his tongue, and the way her slayer's strength infused him with dizzying power. Sex, snarling between them as they grappled, hard cock fighting its way towards moist cunt, bodies rubbing and sliding and grinding their way to an inevitable capitulation, even after they'd sworn never to touch each other again. (Especially then.)
His adoring soul likes to forget that the demon is hungry for her too.
He drinks them down, resplendent with power and youth and the desperate beauty of god-tapped mortality. As one dies, so another is risen, and off they go to hunt. But this girl is no ordinary prey. This girl, he loves. And so it begins.
Denial. Temptation that gnaws, and bites, and chews him bloody. Bliss as he roars his pursuit and surrenders to the chase. She looks back and laughs, at first, but she has underestimated him. He gains, and overtakes, and throws her to the ground.
It's heady, overpowering her, never knowing whether she is allowing it or not. He turns her over, pulls up her shapely arse, and his cock is magically free to plunge into her, hard and fast and merciless. That exquisite weapon of a body is slick and welcoming inside; ripples of pleasure tug at his cock as he grazes his fangs along the side of her neck. He nicks her, at first, laps at the blood, only for her to push back hard until he is slurping his fill, waves of power and strength coursing through his body to erupt from his cock in a cataclysm of pleasure.
It's a reminder, he berates himself, purging the arousal from his system with vicious jerks of his hand. Half sick fantasy, and half repugnant memory, Angelus vowing to rip and tear and fuck her bloody when she calls out for Angel in her sleep. Staying the demon the only way he knew how, promises of cleverer, crueller, more debauched ways to break her. Now he has to listen to that same demon mourn.
My way, and she'd live forever, it hisses. My way, and she'd be eternal, undimmed by time, stronger than anything between heaven and hell. Magnificent, it howls.
And there's nothing left in him to disagree, and he drowns in the blackness of his own soul.
“She's dead,” he practices in the deserted rooms. And, “she's dead!” to Wesley's tentative enquiry. “She'd dead.” Because Cordelia, of all people, needs to know his life starts and stops with her. “She's dead,” he sobs on the telephone with Willow, and “she's dead?” when he begs for news from the unquiet souls.
He tries it when he's alone, too, but it doesn't work. He can't believe it. Because the world is hell, and his heaven is waiting in the dark.
She steps out of the shadows and slowly liberates herself from hunter's black – first the ski hat, allowing her silver and gold hair to tumble free, and then the combat boots, which she lines up neatly next to at the foot of his bed. He shakes himself awake and sits up – he's a council member, and she's the head slayer. Whatever their past, she shouldn't be here – but she pushes him back down with a hand in the middle of his chest.
“How long has it been?” she asks, and he could pretend she's talking about the last time they saw each other, that blazing argument in front of the entire council. Or maybe she means the last time they spoke civilly. But he doesn't think so, because sex is clouding the room like smoke, his senses narrowing to the way she smells and the predatory glint in her eyes.
She catches his hand and places it over the ties on her leather pants, and she's half undone before he stops to question it.
“Expecting another Slayer, Angel? Some nubile teenager desperate to grace your bed?”
He wants to tell her that most of the kids don't even believe the stories. “A vampire in love with a slayer. It's rather poetic …” Giles had said, and written, and testified. (Maudlin had been thankfully absent from that account.) But the sheer impossibility of it, the abomination … with Faith gone, only he and Buffy know the truth of it now.
And over time, truths change. Mutate. Evolve.
“She wasn't desperate,” he says as he watches her push the trousers down. “She had more power than she knew.”
No girlish giggles anymore; a simple huff of amusement. “Bet you liked that.”
“Not as much as I do now,” he admits, and her laugh is sharp with danger. And promise.
She shucks shirt and bra in one quick movement, then climbs up onto the bed, not stopping till she's perched on his chest, knees pinning his shoulders. She leans down, tongue skimming the edge of his ear.
“Your safe word is 'blood',” she whispers, the suggestion alone making him clutch convulsively at her hips. She dominates him so thoroughly that he disintegrates into a mass of begging flesh. There's a knife, and blood, and he tastes his own evil, and doesn't fear it, because he exists only to be her slave.
They lurch between tender care and torment, pain and bliss; his world ruled by tongue and fingers and lips and that constant husky whisper telling him how fucked he is. How helpless, and owned. How pathetic.
He hasn't lost his human face in decades, but when his control snaps, his fangs drop down and the ridges appear. He turns his face away, but she yanks it back, staring down the demon as she lowers herself onto his cock.
“Angelus. Angelus. Angelus,” she chants as she ripples around him, cunt dripping with her excitement. “My Angelus.” His soul shies from the name, but she drags the orgasm out of him anyway, taking his dead seed deep inside her, then standing over him to display it dripping down her thighs.
“Clean me,” she snarls, and moments later, as her legs begin to shake, “drink!”
And it feels like heresy, here in the Slayer's Tower, but he pierces her sweet flesh anyway and guzzles the dizzying mix of blood and cum that gushes over his tongue. He is nearly beyond comprehension, another orgasm galloping down, but he snatches one last memory before the blackness descends.
It's his name she sobs as she surrenders to mindlessness.
He blinks at the vision of silver threads among the gold in her hair, and the feel of a long scar curving its way over her thigh. Remembers the taste of her in his mouth, and groans with delight at the unshakeable knowledge that it's going to happen. One day.
Things he cannot know. Futures they haven't lived yet. He reaches over and pulls the cord to flood the room with light. Calls for Wes, then remembers he sacked his entire team.
Apparently they don't take too well to sacking.
“Prophecies, Wes. The death of the Slayer. What have we got?”
He can see the dreadful pity dawning in his Watcher's eyes, but he doesn't have time to explain. If she's gone, they're going to get her back. He knows that now.
It's the rest of them who are stumbling in the dark.