I’d known for weeks that something was wrong. Cordelia had told me on more than one occasion that I was wearing ‘Buffy face’. I had snapped at her every time but I knew she was right. I could sense Buffy and what I could sense scared me.
“Look Angel, I can ring and check up on her if you want.”
I went to snap again but bit it back. “Would you do that please Cordy.”
She rolled her eyes. “Jeez! About time Mr Grumpy...”
Twenty minutes later she came back into my office. One look at her face told me that I wasn’t being paranoid.
“Buffy’s missing. She left Giles a note saying she needed some time out and that was the last anyone has heard from her.”
“Three and a half weeks ago.”
I slammed my fist into the wall, ignoring the cracking bone and the pain which soon followed.
“Why the hell didn’t they call me?”
“Angel, calm down. I don’t know why they didn’t call you but getting angry and punching walls isn’t going to help.”
“You’re right, it isn’t. I have to find her and fast. Get Kate on the phone and call in every favour we’re owed. We don’t have much time.”
Cordy didn’t argue with me. She knew by now to trust my judgement, even when it concerned Buffy.
“Consider it done.”
I sat and concentrated, trying hard to reach out to Buffy. The connection was made and I was hit by a tidal wave of negative emotions threatening to overwhelm me. I battled against them.
‘Fight it Beloved. I’m going to find you.’
‘Fight it Beloved. I’m going to find you.’
I jerked my head up, my arm catching the bottle of vodka beside me, knocking it to the floor.
I looked frantically around the room. I had heard Angel. Where was he? Slowly it dawned on me that I was still alone. As the realisation hit me I turned my attention back to the spilt alcohol.
“Great. Nearly a full bottle wasted. Now I have to go out and get another one.”
In the three and a half weeks since I had disappeared from Sunnydale I had only left my room to visit the local liquor store. I wasn’t really interested in food; eating took up precious drinking time. Vodka and the occasional box of crackers was my staple diet. Some distant part of my consciousness realised that it was all going to hell in a hand basket and that if I didn’t stop I was going to kill myself, the rest of me didn’t give a shit.
I gathered together my money and headed out. Downtown LA was not the safest of places normally, for a paralytic Slayer it was even more dangerous. Not that I cared. I was beyond worrying about surviving. I wanted it over and I wanted it soon. Slow and painful or quick and painless, it didn’t matter to me. The end result was the same; my suffering would be gone.
I stumbled through the door of the store.
“Evening Lily. Your usual?”
Registering that he was talking to me I nodded. The name took a bit of getting used to. I figured that if Lily could use mine it was only fair that I used hers; I knew she wouldn’t mind. We were both lost souls dealing with the hand that fate had dealt us.
I took the brown paper bag, dumped the cash on the counter and made my way back onto the street. I was taking a risk being here, so close to him. Maybe I wanted him to find me. Maybe I wanted rescuing from the eternal torment that was my life. I was so confused. The only thing I was sure of was that death would be a welcome release.
I pushed my door closed and staggered over to the bed. Time to rest. I tugged the grimy comforter over me and waited for sleep to claim me. Ok, that was when the dreams came but it was better than reality. At least then Angel still loved me.
“Cordy, I’m going to bed.”
“WHAT??? I thought we were all in a panic to find Buffy.”
“We are. Listen to me. Remember when Buffy and I met in our dreams? I’m going to try and reach her that way. We’re running out of time Cordy. I have to try everything, however slim the chance of it working.”
“What’s going on with her Angel? Why the rush? I know you’re connected to her; what are you sensing?”
“She’s killing herself.” Cordy’s face dropped. “Please don’t disturb me unless you have a definite fix on her whereabouts...”
I lay on my bed talking deep calming breaths. Even if I managed to connect with her would she acknowledge me? I slowly let myself drift off...
‘Buffy. Talk to me.’
‘You’re not wanted here. Every time I sleep you come to me. You whisper sweet words and then you leave. I can’t cope with that anymore. I know you don’t love me. You’ve moved on and I can’t blame you for that but I can blame you for toying with me. I’m not your plaything Angel. You can’t keep picking me up and putting me down.’
‘I love you. I haven’t moved on and I never will. It took me over two hundred years to discover what love is. Do you think I could forget you so easily? Tell me where you are so I can come and help you.’
‘Words. You were always so good with words. Not so good at the emotional commitment behind them though were you. Remember all that forever shit do you Angel?’
‘I meant every word of it. I WILL love you forever. I didn’t want you to be tied to me. I wanted you to have something other than darkness.’
‘Everyone always thinks that they know what is right for ME. Why does no one ever ask me what I want? I’m treated like a child and yet expected to behave like an adult. Is it any wonder that I’m as fucked up as I am??? The only surprise here is that I didn’t go over the edge sooner!’
‘Let me help you Buffy. Please tell me where you are. You don’t have to go through this alone.’
‘Oh but I do Angel, don’t you see? Where I’m going no one can follow. You’ve been there, you know what its like. Go to Hell, go straight to Hell. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. The devil and me are going to have such a blast! I have to go now. I’d like to say it’s been fun but I’m not that good a liar.’
“Angel? Wake up. Angel???”
“Ugh, what? Cordy?” I looked around the room in confusion.
“What happened Angel?”
“We met up.”
“Let’s just say that time is running out quicker than I thought. Any news?”
“Nothing so far. Everyone is doing all they can.”
“Unfortunately it might be too little too late.”
I woke suddenly, my legs tangled in the comforter. Angel had been here, again. I remembered every word that he had said. And all of it was lies. ‘Awww, he loved me’ I scoffed. If I believed that I obviously hadn’t had enough to drink! That was easy enough to remedy.
I opened the bottle, raised it to my lips and took a long swig. The liquid burnt my throat but I didn’t care. When had I last been sober? Probably around the same time I had last had a decent meal. What did it matter? Nothing at all. Minutes merged into hours and hours into days. And all I ever thought about was him.
I took another swig. Vodka for breakfast, Mom would be so proud. After all, I was only following her example. Who was it who sought solace in the bottom of a glass when Kendra was killed and the police were after me? Good old Mom, I really was my mother’s daughter.
I nestled back down in the bed. There was no reason to get up, no reason to do anything. Clutching the bottle like a child does a security blanket I fell asleep once more...
‘Oh God, not you again! Can’t you take the hint?’
‘I’m not giving up on you.’
‘Look at me Angel. Take a good look at me. The Buffy you knew is long gone. This is all that is left now. This is what YOU made me. A masterpiece aren’t I? Are you proud of your work?’
‘Buffy, I know I did wrong. I want to make it up to you if you’ll let me. I know it will take time, time is all I have now. Please forgive me.’
‘Fuck! You just can’t let it go can you? What do you want me to say? You want me to tell you that I love you? Ok, I love you. You want me to tell you that I can’t live without you? I can’t. I’m a drunken mess and it’s all because of you. Is that what you want to hear? Are you happy now? Oops, we don’t want you to be happy do we? Sorry. Still got your soul Dead Boy?’
‘It won’t work Buffy. You can hit out at me all you want and you won’t make me go away. You have every right to be angry, I’ve hurt you. But believe this, I am going to find you and I’m going to make it up to you. However long it takes.’
‘Just piss off. Go back to your precious new friends and leave me alone.’
‘GET OUT OF MY FUCKING HEAD ANGEL!!!’
‘Not even if you kill me...’
I awoke feeling totally drained. This continual fighting with Buffy, even in dream state, was taking it out of me. I couldn’t believe how bitter she was. I knew that I had hurt her but I thought that in time she would come to realise that it was for her own good. I had been wrong. All time had done was allow the hurt to fester and spread. Slowly it had taken her over and destroyed the feisty young girl who had captured my heart. I had done this to her and only I could repair the damage. I had to find her.
I pushed myself up off the bed and went into the kitchen. I needed to feed. As I walked through the door I was assaulted by the memories of the day that wasn’t. Sitting together drinking tea and talking. Her getting up to leave. Our hands touching and passion consuming us. Making love to her on the kitchen table, it breaking under us. Had I been wrong? Maybe it would have been better if I had stayed human. Our lives may have been shorter but we would have been together and we would have been happy. Instead I had done what I thought was the right thing and now Buffy was drinking herself into oblivion and I was helpless to stop her. Unless I got a break soon it would be too late.
This thought snapped me back into reality. I didn’t have the luxury of self pity. Every moment I wasted standing around feeling sorry for myself was a moment that drew Buffy closer to the grave. In a matter of seconds I was in the elevator and on my way up to the office. Time to find out just what progress, if any, we had made.
I tipped the bottle to my lips. Nothing. I squinted up the neck of the bottle with a puzzled look on my face and then tipped it back to my lips again. Still nothing.
The bottle hit the wall and disassembled. I rolled off the bed and scrabbled about in the drawer of the bedside table for money. Pocketing what I found I left my room and started on the now familiar route to the liquor store...
“Doyle my man, how’s tricks?”
“Fine, fine. A bottle of your best please.”
As I entered the store I bumped into someone. I grunted an apology and carried on my way.
“Back again Lily?”
“You complaining? Coz I can take my money elsewhere..”
“Just an observation Babe, I meant no offence.”
I threw the money down and snatched the bottle from him.
“I’m not your Babe!” I snarled as I went back out into the darkness.
“This is pointless!”
I hurled my coffee cup across the room, narrowly missing Doyle as he entered.
“Nearly as charming as your little lady.”
“What?” I could barely hide my irritation.
“The delightful Buffy. You always told me no good would come from my drinking, well you were wrong. I just bumped into her at Tony’s liquor store. Didn’t let on that I knew her though. I followed her back to her place. I know where she is man.”
“Doyle, I could kiss you!”
“Steady on now...there are better ways of showing your gratitude.”
“So what are you going to do now?” Cordy asked
“Go to her.”
“Are you sure that’s a good idea? She’s not exactly a pretty sight and her mood is pretty ugly too. She might stake you soon as look at you.”
“Doyle.” I warned.
“I say as I see it. Look man, I know you love her but she isn’t the same person. Maybe one of us should go.”
“I drove her to this, only I can put it right. Give me the address Doyle.”
“I can’t change your mind?”
“Don’t say I didn’t try.”
He’s here. I don’t know how the bastard found me but he’s here. How do I feel? Half of me is elated and the other half wants to ram a stake into his undead heart and then dance on his ashes.
A gentle knock heralds his arrival.
The door opens. “You know better than that Buffy. Never invite anyone in..”
“Save the sermon for someone who cares. I knew it was you, I sensed you when you were half a block away.”
If he’s taken aback by my attitude his face doesn’t show it.
“Can we talk?”
“Oh, and what kind of talk would you like to have? A ‘Sermon in the Sewer’ talk or a ‘Let’s Start Forgetting’ talk. My personal favourite is the ‘Sermon in the Sewer’, what’s yours?”
“You can keep this up all night Buffy and it won’t have any effect. I’m not going anywhere. You may have given up on yourself but I’m not going to. I love you.”
“Here we go again. God this gets so boring after a while.”
He shut the door but didn’t move away from it.
“If you’re going to stay then sit down. If I’d wanted to avoid you I could have been gone long before you got here, I told you I sensed you when you were half a block away. Anyhow, you’re making the place look untidy.”
I noticed him raise an eyebrow and at once I became aware of just how this place, and me, must look to him. I hadn’t had a shower in God knows when and the room was littered with empty bottles and the wrappings off crackers.
“Ok, so it isn’t the Hilton but it’s mine and it’s home.”
“When did you last eat?”
“Sometime before the bottom fell out of my world. I honestly don’t remember and I really don’t care.”
“Would you like to go get something? My treat.”
“Charity case now am I?”
“Buffy. Cut the attitude. It’s a pretty pathetic impression of Angelus.”
“What?” My eyes narrowed in blind fury and I flew at him, pummelling his chest with my fists. He held me off with ease; lack of food and an excess of alcohol weren’t a good combination. Eventually I exhausted myself and fell into his arms.
“Let me take you back to my place Buffy. You can have a shower, some food and relax. It’s warmer there, safer too. We can talk. One night and a chance to talk is all I ask. After that, what you do is up to you.”
I just nodded. He swept me into his arms and carried me off into the night.
Buffy was in the shower and I was in the kitchen making scrambled eggs on toast. I thought I had better keep it light, as her stomach wasn’t used to food.
She hadn’t fought with me since we’d left her place. In truth she hadn’t said much at all. It was as if the anger had been driving her and now that it was gone she didn’t know what to do. She was like a lost child. I knew I would have to tread very carefully.
At that moment she came into the kitchen in my robe, her hair wrapped in a towel.
“Yes. Is that for me?” She gestured to the plate that I had in my hand.
“If you’d like it.” I put it down on the table. She sat down and began to eat; I took the seat opposite her.
“I owe you an apology.”
“You’re not wrong there!”
I flinched slightly. If she noticed she didn’t say anything.
“Are we going to get past this or shall I just stake myself now?”
Her eyes opened wide, her fork poised mid way to her mouth.
“You almost cracked a funny.”
I smiled. “I guess you’re not the only one who’s changed.”
“So, do you want to tell me what finally pushed you over the edge as you put it?”
“And what?” I coaxed gently.
She lowered her eyes and played with her food.
“You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to.”
“You’ll hate me.”
“I could never hate you Buffy. Whatever it is I want to help you, if you’ll let me.”
I could have exploded, but I didn’t. She had been starving herself and drinking herself into oblivion at the same time. Neither could be classed as good prenatal care.
“When did you find out?”
“Three and a half weeks ago. I’m over three months pregnant. I haven’t slept with anybody Angel. I can’t be pregnant. What is happening to me?”
I did some quick mental arithmetic and came up with one answer. Thanksgiving. Oh great! Another thing for her to hate me about. So much for The Oracles and their erasing the day.
“Angel? What is it?”
“I think I know what’s going on but I need to speak to someone first.”
“Not Giles?” She began to panic.
“No not Giles. Don’t worry Buffy, everything will be ok.”
She looked at me, her eyes full of fear.
“Do you promise me?”
“I promise. “
“I know that you said it was only for one night but, can I stay with you? I’ll understand if you say no, what with me being a total bitch and everything but..”
“Of course you can stay. You can have the bed.”
“Will you sleep with me? I don’t want to be alone.”
Tears started to pour down her face.
“I need you to hold me Angel. I’m scared and I feel so alone. Please hold me, I don’t want anything else.”
Just looking at her tore me up inside. How could I refuse her? Gathering her into my arms I carried her through and lay her down on the bed. I settled next to her and pulled her against my chest.
“Don’t leave me Angel.”
I stroked her hair gently, “Shush, sleep. I’m not going anywhere Buffy.”
I awoke to find myself enveloped in a tender embrace. My first instinct was to fight against it but then common sense kicked in and I relaxed. I was with Angel, in his apartment. Gently I slipped from his arms, pulled on his shirt and padded into the kitchen.
I went to the fridge, hoping to find something other than blood. I was lucky. Pouring myself a glass of OJ from the carton I sat at the table.
I looked over to the doorway. Angel stood there, sleepily running his hand through his hair.
“Fine. I’m sorry I woke you.”
“You didn’t, I just rolled over and you weren’t there.”
“I haven’t been there for months Angel and you managed to sleep ok then.”
“No I didn’t Buffy. Every night I missed you. It never got better, only worse.”
“Then why didn’t you contact me? You could have stopped this. One call would have been all it took.”
“Because I was stubborn and stupid. Because I thought I was doing the right thing.” **Because you promised not to forget but you did.**
All of a sudden he wasn’t in the room with me. I didn’t know where he had gone but it looked like a painful place to be.
“Sorry. What were we saying?”
“Where did you go? You looked really sad.”
“It doesn’t matter.”
“Hey! I’ve laid myself bare to you here. What? Does it only cut one way? Talk to me Angel. Has it got something to do with my pregnancy?”
“You owe me an explanation. Tell me what’s going on here? Am I having some demon kid? Spawn of the Hellmouth or something? Fess up Angel.”
“The baby is mine.”
I felt my jaw drop, I must have been doing a pretty convincing impression of a goldfish. I suddenly thought of my dreams. Maybe I wasn’t going crazy after all. I decided now was not the time to mention their content.
“Do you feel like explaining that to me?”
“Thanksgiving. You weren’t just here for five minutes. We fought the Mohra demon..”
“Yeah and you killed it before I left.”
“That was the second time. The first time it got away. To cut a long story short, some of its blood mixed with mine and made me mortal..”
“Whoa! Back up a bit there. It did WHAT?”
“It made me mortal. We had twenty-four hours together but then I went to fight it again and nearly got killed. You saved me. I realised that I couldn’t stay mortal and fight so I went to The Oracles and asked them to turn me back.”
“Sorry? I don’t think I heard you correctly. Because I’m sure you just said that you asked The Oracles to turn you from a mortal to a vampire.”
“I did. The Mohra told me that the End of Days was coming and that if I stayed mortal you would die. The Oracles used a temporal fold to erase the day. Only I would carry the memories to prevent us repeating what happened before.”
“And obviously I was being seriously blonde that day because I actually agreed to this?”
“I didn’t discuss it with you. I knew that if I did you would rationalise me out of doing it. Hell, if I hadn’t done it when I did I would have rationalised myself out of it.”
“Ok, putting aside the fact that once AGAIN you decided what was best for me without actually asking what I felt, it seems to me that these Oracles screwed up. They erased the day and yet here I am over three months pregnant.” **And not insane which is a relief!**
“I know. I said last night that I had to go and speak to someone..”
“I want to go with you.”
“Don’t ‘Buffy’ me! This is my life you and them have seen fit to fuck around with. I’m going with you Angel and that’s the end of the matter.”
“Ah, the Warriors. What have you brought us?”
I held out the jewelled brooch for their inspection. It flew from my hand and into that of the female Oracle.
“You have come about the child.”
Buffy looked at me confused
“Have no fear Warrior, your husband speaks the truth. The child was indeed conceived on the day that wasn’t.”
Buffy looked even more confused. “HUSBAND?”
“You did not tell her the significance of the Claddagh?”
“I didn’t see..”
“Never mind! We do not have time to indulge in affairs of the heart. You are with child; and your foolish behaviour has not harmed it. You should also be aware that we have removed the curse. Do not come to us about this matter again.”
Buffy landed on top of me. Gaining my bearings I realised that we were back outside The Gateway of Lost Souls.
“Polite aren’t they? Give us a gift, we’ll give you abuse and then we’ll throw you out. And I called you cryptic! They did however raise some interesting points.”
“I agree. We need to talk.”
“Do you want to go for a coffee?”
Her change of attitude surprised me, but it was a pleasant one.
“That would be nice.”
He sat opposite me, nervously nursing his coffee. He was waiting for me to go postal. He’d have a long wait.
“So, where do you want to go from here?”
“Well, as I understand it, the Cliff Notes version of our little meeting is this. We’re married and expecting a child together, your curse has been removed and we can now be together if both of us want that. Did I leave anything out?”
“Nope, I think you’ve pretty much got it covered.”
“Then that leaves us with the ultimate question, do we want to be together? You first.”
“Thanks! Well, I hope you know how I feel about you..”
“No I don’t, so why don’t you tell me.”
“Buffy?” he looked at me quizzically.
“I don’t know; not for certain. I’ve heard the words but I don’t know if you mean them; if there is any feeling behind them.”
“I love you more than anything Buffy. You are the sunlight that cancels out my darkness. You are the blood in my veins, the beating of my undead heart. You are more necessary to me than the blood I need to exist. When I think about the world without you in it I know that isn’t a world I want to see. You are my other half, my soul mate. I want my unlife to be with you. I want us to live together, raise our child together, love together, cry together, fight together, and even die together. I don’t want to be without you for another second. But what I want means nothing Buffy, not if you don’t want it too.”
I sat silent as I let the words sink in. That was probably one of the longest speeches Angel had ever made. I was in no doubt how he felt.
“I guess it’s my turn now huh? Ok, where to start?”
“From the heart?”
“’k. I love you Angel, I always have and I always will. Nothing you could do to me could change that. Nothing Angelus could do could change that. This child is going to be so lucky. It has two parents who have found a love most people can’t even dream of. I want my life to be with you. I want our child’s life to be with us. I want everything that you want and more, and if that is being greedy then damn it I’ll be greedy. And what I want most of all right now is for you to crush me to you, kiss me until I’m breathless and then take me home to make passionate love.”
“I like a woman who knows what she wants.”
“Oh I know alright. What I want is you.”
“And you can have me on one condition. You have to talk to Giles.”
“I know I do. I’ve treated him and the gang so badly. Do you think they’ll ever forgive me?”
“They love you Buffy. They’ll forgive you.” He stood up and held his hand out to me. “Shall we go?”
I took his hand and stood. He pulled me close to him and wrapped his arms around me. For the first time in months I felt safe. I knew that there would be challenges ahead, but together we would meet them. This was the first day of the rest of my life.