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I Pray for Half an Hour

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“Willow, she told me to tell you… ” Xander hesitated before continuing. “She said, kick his ass!”

The words hit Buffy like a punch to the gut. Did nobody understand what she was going through? Were these her friends? Were they going to gleefully cheer her on as she turned her boyfriend into ash and dust? Buffy bit her lip and walked away from Xander. Her body was tense. Every muscle flexed. She gripped the sword so hard it hurt. Her knuckles slowly turned white.

When she reached the mansion, she kicked the front door off its hinges without checking whether it was locked or not. A cloud of dust rose from the splinters. Buffy stepped out of the sunlight and crossed the threshold into the candlelit interior. The place reeked of decay and perversity. Horrible deeds had taken place there. Her boyfriend had committed horrible deeds there. No, not her boyfriend. Only the beast who possessed him now.

Buffy heard voices from behind a curtain. She walked over to it and peered into the hall on the other side. Angel stood in front of the large demonic statue of Acathla. Beside him was the frail shape of Kendra’s killer. Drusilla cradled a dead puppy in her arm and stroked it tenderly as if it was alive.

A pair of vampire goons stood guard. Buffy snuck up behind the closest one and decapitated him with a deft swing of her sword.

“Hello, lover,” Buffy said to Angel, as his lackey’s smouldering head crashed against the ground.

“I don’t have time for you,” Angel sneered.

“Wrong,” Buffy said. “I am all you have time for.”

Angel grinned. “You’re coming on a little strong here, baby. Do you really think ..?”

His words were cut off. Spike had risen from his wheelchair and was now pounding his grandsire with an iron bar. The attack took Angel completely by surprise. Spike was finally able to vent his oedipal rage. The battle could have been over quickly if it had not been for Drusilla. She was clearly unamused by her paramour’s betrayal. Her waiflike body pounced upon Spike and pushed him away from Angel. The slayer killers went on each other like rabid animals.

One of Angels’s henchmen pushed Buffy against a wall. Xander came charging into the room. The vampire turned to face him, giving Buffy the chance to stake it. Buffy and Xander exchanged quick looks, before Xander headed into the other room to rescue Giles.

Buffy heard Angel laugh triumphantly behind her. While she had been distracted, he had walked up to the statue. His bleeding hand withdrew the sword from its stony chest. A magical current of blue lightning passed from the statue to Angel’s body, possibly infusing him with some of the demon’s power.

“You almost made it, Buff!”

Buffy spat. “Neither of us is getting what we wanted,” she said.

Angel laughed. “My boy Acathla here is about to wake up. You’re going to Hell!”

Buffy looked him dead in the eye and tried her best to remain calm. “Save me a seat,” she said. Her hand shook.

Buffy charged forward. Her sword cut through the air. Her blade clashed with Angel’s. Sparks flew. She was not fighting with all she had. She knew she advertised her moves, because she could not bear the idea of letting her sword hit its mark and let it rend the flesh of … It was too painful to even think of. Angel expertly feinted all her thrusts, and she allowed it. It could not last. Angel became confident. She aimed too low. He stepped on her blade and gave her an elbow punch to her face. It sent her flying backwards, until she hit the wall hard.

Angel laughed. “Now that’s everything, huh?” he teased. “No weapons... No friends... No hope. Take all that away and what’s left?”

Buffy watched Angel lift his sword. Something started to build up inside her. Rage. The unfairness of everything she had gone through had become too much. She was putting her foot down. She would accept no further indignities. It was over. Angel’s blade shot towards her. Buffy closed her eyes and caught it between her hands. The friction burned her palms, but it stopped.

“Me,” she said. “I’m still here.”

She pushed the sword back towards Angel, hitting him in the face with the pommel. Angel toppled backwards. Buffy pounced upon his chest and started pounding him with her fists.

“Come back,” she yelled. “Come back from there!”

Angel’s hideously contorted face just laughed at her. His fangs gleamed. She hit him harder. He only grinned. She felt his hands on her. They tried to drag her down towards him. He would kill her unless she killed him. It was now or never. It was too late to wait for a miracle.

That was when it happened. Angel’s eyes flashed. His fangs vanished and his face smoothened. The smirk was gone, replaced by a look of confusion.

“Buffy?”

“Angel?”

“What’s happening?” Angel’s expression was full of pain, but he tried to smile. “It feels like I haven’t seen you in months.”

Buffy flung her arms around him and pulled him close. Her body shook against his. She was too tense to cry freely, so all she did was softly sob. The air around them began to whirl. Buffy felt her hair lift. Something pulled at her. Buffy opened her eyes and saw a twirling vortex growing in front of the statue. Eldritch screams emerged from within.

“Buffy!”

Buffy turned around. Giles stood behind her, supported by Xander. His body bore the marks of the torture he had endured.

“Buffy, you have to do it,” Giles said.

“I won’t,” Buffy said through clenched teeth.

“Look at what they’ve done to me,” Giles yelled. “Worse than this will happen to everyone on Earth if that portal is allowed to open.”

Buffy looked away. She knelt down and picked up Angel’s sword. It felt heavy, clumsy, unbalanced. Her hand could barely swing it.

“What are you doing?” Angel asked.

“Shush,” Buffy cooed. “Don’t worry.” She pulled him in for a kiss. Their faces were wet with tears. She felt that Angel was awakening to the fact of what she was about to do, but he did not fight her. “Close your eyes,” she begged him.

Angel did as he was told. His lids fell shut, but when Buffy drove her sword into his heart, they sprang up again. His face twisted into an expression of pained confusion. There was no reproach. He just wanted to know why. Spiderlike arms stretched out from the statues mouth and dug into Angel’s skin. They pulled and clawed at him, dragging him towards the opening portal. He stretched his hand out, perhaps hoping against hope that she would save him.

Buffy felt a hand on her shoulder. “Avert your eyes, Buffy,” Giles said to her. “You should not have to look.”

Buffy stood silent as stone. Her mind was numb. Then she laughed. She could not explain why she laughed. Maybe because she had made a choice and making it felt good. She grabbed Angel’s outstretched hand and held on. The vortex span ever faster. The arachnid arms tugged at Angel. Buffy heard Giles call out to her, but his words were lost. A wind blew into her face. The vortex enveloped her. She tried to look at Angel, but her eyes were watering. Everything was blurry. The room vanished. The wind trashed her around in a whirl. All she could do was hold on to Angel’s cold hand.

****

Liam opened his eyes slowly, before hiding his face beneath his pillow. He was not ready to meet the sunlight that crept through the rafters yet. A numbing headache crippled his brain. He remembered nothing from the night before. Not that it mattered. It had likely been a night like any other night. The turmoil in his stomach told him he had been drinking … a lot. Keeping it all contained was a struggle.

There was a tankard on his nightstand. He must have brought it with him from the tavern. He needed some hair of the dog to set his mind straight. He sat up and took a deep swill. It tasted like hot piss. He knew it would be warm and that it would taste flat, but he had not expected it to be quite so revolting. It almost made him puke.

There was a loud knock on the door.

“I am not coming out,” Liam yelled. “I don’t feel well.”

“And I know the reason why!” The door swung open and his father stormed in. “Up again all night, is it? Drinking and whoring!”

Liam glared at him. “And a good morning to you, father.”

His father spat on the floor. “You’re a disgrace.”

Liam shrugged. “If you say so, father.”

“Oh, I do. I do say so,” his father sneered. “I am ashamed to call you my son. You’re a lay-about and a scoundrel and you’ll never amount to anything more than that.”

The words tore into Liam’s gut and gnawed at him from the inside. He felt an urge to explain himself or to promise he would do better, but he knew it was in vain. There was nothing he could do to save this.

“If that is how you feel, father,” Liam mumbled. “Then why don’t you throw me out?”

His father pointed a shaky finger at him. “I will…”

“Too late,” Liam laughed. “I am already on my way.”

He hoisted up yesterday’s trousers and rebuttoned the shirt he was still wearing. Why had he said that? Was he still drunk? It felt as though he had little control over his actions, as if he was merely following a script or acting in a familiar pattern. He pushed his father away from the door and stumbled past him.

His sister looked at him with sad eyes. Liam knelt down before her and stroked her chin. “Sweet Kathy. No tears. We’ll meet again,” he whispered and kissed her forehead.

His father came running after him. “If you leave now, don’t ever expect to come back.”

Liam rose to his feet and rolled his eyes. “As you wish, father. Always, just as you wish.”

“It’s a son I wished for … a man. Instead, God gave me you! A terrible disappointment.”

Liam laughed. “Disappointment? A more dutiful son you couldn’t have asked for. My whole life you’ve told me in word, in glance, what it is you required of me, and I’ve lived down to your every expectations, now haven’t I?”

“That’s madness!”

“No. The madness is that I couldn’t fail enough for you. But we’ll fix that now, won’t we?”

His father backed away. “I fear for you, lad.”

“And is that the only thing you can find in your heart for me now, father?”

“Who’ll take you in, huh? Who beside your family would ever love you? No one!”

“I’ll not lack for a place to sleep, I can tell you that.”

Liam left the house and stumbled down the cobble path. On his way, he glimpsed his father’s maid. She smiled hopefully at him. The sight of her blushing cheeks sent a shiver of pain through Liam. Who was he to play with the hopes of a young girl struggling desperately to get by? Could he not limit himself to those women whose reputation was already ruined? He ran. He could not bear to look at her.

The setting sun burned into his neck. It felt as though its searing light was judging him. He felt uncomfortable and exposed. Daytime gave him no place to hide. He yearned for shadows and dark corners.

The path brought him to the tavern. He had not planned to go there, but his legs had probably become accustomed to the journey. The inside of the building reeked. The air was filled with smoke. The floor smelled of piss, puke and spilled ale. His friends lifted their tankards to him in greetings. Their ugly grins frightened him. The remaining teeth they had were rotted and discoloured.

The women begun swarming around them. Their hair fell in greasy tangles over their faces, as they leant forward to offer Liam a good view of their bosoms. They knew he had money and that he was generous with it. Behind their girly smiles, Liam thought he glimpsed womanly contempt. They hated him. Unmarried women had few options for supporting themselves. Liam tried to look away, but he found that he could not. He found their appearance revolting and their situation pitiable, though worst was the knowledge of how he had exploited their desperation.

The tavern kept filling up. The men and women seemed to be circling around Liam. Everyone wanted a piece of him. His friends brought him drinks he could not keep himself from drinking. They laughed at their own jokes. Their filthy beards scratched his chin as they hugged him. A woman pushed a grape into Liam’s mouth. A hand clawed at his chest. Someone groped the inside of his thigh. Everywhere he turned, ugly faces grinned back at him, shouting for him to enjoy himself. He could not. He wanted to run. His body wanted to puke.

Just as the monastic atmosphere was about to overpower him, an inexplicable sting of trepidation pricked Liam’s senses. Someone was studying him from afar. He did not know how he knew. He just felt it. A woman sat in the corner, asking questions about him, making plans for his future. Her sweet face was a mask for the demon underneath. Liam felt two pins prick against his neck. It was just a memory, but in his feverish confusion, he could not distinguish memory from reality.

“I need to go,” he mumbled to his friends and darted out the door.

The woman followed him. Her white dress trailed over the muddy cobblestone street. Liam wanted to run, but his legs were stiff and heavy. She gained on him. What would happen was inevitable. It had happened before and now it would again. Her teeth would rip his neck and bleed his humanity, force him to even greater lengths of depravity. Kathy … he was going to kill Kathy. He fell forward and hit his knees against the hard stone. The woman was right behind him. Her shadow fell across the ground beneath him.

“Please, Darla,” Angled begged. “Not this time … not again. I cannot go through it all again.”

“Hello, lover.”

The words jolted Liam’s memory. He had heard those words recently, spoken from the same lips, though in a harsher tone than now. Now they sounded soft. Now they sounded inviting. He looked up and saw a radiant beauty looking down upon him.

“Buffy?”

Angel watched Buffy take his hand and kiss it. “I came for you,” she said.

“Why?”

Buffy squatted down so their eyes were on level with each other. She held both his hands now. Her lower lip shook. “Because,” she started. Then she swallowed. “Because I could not let you go, knowing I would be the only one who knew what a man you were.” She sniffed. “I would be the loneliest girl in the world.”

Buffy kissed Angel on the forehead. Her moist lips left a wet imprint. Angel felt his heart sink. It was not right. She should not be here. This punishment was his. How was she even here? She wore the same dress as Darla had worn. Her hair was done up in similar curls. Was she a mirage? Had the demons created this apparition to tease him?

“Don’t you dare say you’re not happy to see me,” Buffy warned him. “I came after you willingly.”

“We’re in Hell,” Angel said. “You’ve followed me to my Hell. What have I made you do?”

Buffy smiled. “How does that old Irish saying go?” she mused, before pushing the sleeve of her dress off her shoulder. The opening in her dress widened until just before her right nipple was about to slip out. “Let’s try to have half an hour of fun before the Devil realizes what we are up to.”

“This is not how it should be,” Angel protested.

Buffy laughed. “After all that we have been through,” she said, “I can settle with little.”

“It is all my fault…”

“… and mine.”

****

Buffy pushed Angel onto his back. It did not matter that the dusty ground was wet and muddied. For months, she had fought, wept and done her best to suppress her feelings. Now she was desperate for some human contact. She needed to be loved. She needed to disappear into somebody else.

Buffy peeled her dress off her other shoulder and pulled out her arms. The bodice fell to her waist as she wriggled herself free, making her look like a mermaid. The wind was cold against her skin. This time she would not be as coy as she had been the first time their bodies met. She let him stare at her appearing breasts without blushing. It was good to let her defences down and enjoy Angel’s admiring scrutiny.

She put her hand into his lap and immediately felt something inside his pants respond to her touch. A bulge quickly rose to fill her hand. Buffy felt it hunger for her, begging her to cast off its restraints and let it out. Her fingers made their way underneath the waistline and pulled Angel’s pants down to his boots. She took his towering shaft in her hand and lowered herself onto it. This would take time. She would have to tease herself with the edge of his member until she was ready to receive it in full. Buffy bit her lip as her insides widened to accommodate him.

It was different this time. Angel was like Liam now. He was warm. Heat built up inside her. Angel gripped her hair. He clawed at it, gathering more and more between his fingers. She bent down to kiss him and he sat up to meet her. How hard would she have to bite to bring a scream out of him? Very hard, it seemed.

Her hands made their way underneath his shirt. Her palms stroked across his muscled abdomen, her fingers climbed up his ribcage, until she found her way up to his flexed chest. She tore open his shirt from the inside, exposing his naked body to the rain that suddenly started showering down on them. His flesh was so pale. Shadows danced in the outlines around his muscles. Buffy grabbed Angel’s chest again, digging her nails into him. He responded by cupping both of her breasts.

She stared into his eyes, and was able to make him meet her gaze. “Tell me you’re not happy I came,” she whispered.

“I can’t,” he gasped. The tiniest smile formed on the edge of his mouth.

“Good boy,” she said, as she leant in to kiss him again.

Buffy could sit like this forever, tugging at Angel’s lips, feeling the pressure of his member inside her, just enjoying the anticipation until her mind went crazy. Angel was not so patient. Before too long he started thrusting upwards and Buffy found herself being rocked up and down. Once she got used to the sensation, she wanted more and begun grinding against his lap.

Angel started to groan. His groans turned to moans. They grew fainter and fainter, until he shivered underneath her and Buffy knew it was over. She was sad, because she had been so close to joining him. Then something caused her body to spasm. Angel’s thumb had found its way to a wet and tender spot in her sex. He prodded it gently but insistently. Buffy’s body wanted to scream with joy, but her lungs provided no air for her voice. It felt so good to give in and let her body shake as a wave of ecstasy passed through.

She rolled down from Angel’s limp member and cuddled up in his arm. Their breathing was slow and strong. Everything felt right. All the anger and fear had vanished. The trials of the past months seemed an eternity away.

“I may lose my soul again,” Angel mumbled.

“It doesn’t matter,” Buffy gasped. “I can take you.”

Another spasm shook through Buffy’s legs and her lips let out an embarrassing squeak. Angel laughed.