Author: Lucinda

rating: pg 13-16

Coffee & Thoughts #11

main character: Angel(us)

also featuring Buffy and Willow.

small warning - there is some B/A content.

disclaimer: I do not own them

distribution: if you have permission for the previous coffee's, yes. Otherwise ask.

spoilers for S2 episodes 'Surprise' and 'Innocence'

note: This is the last of Coffee & Thoughts.

He'd thought more about things between Buffy and himself. If they would be able to get back to where things had been before Dru had arrived, before Buffy had had so many doubts and suspicions. If she could look at him with love and confidence again. If there would come a time when she looked at him with trust. If she would allow him to be there for her, to support her in everything that she did...

But relationships weren't one of his strong points. In need of advice, he'd sought Willow. Again, he'd hoped that the delightful red head could help him figure out how and why things had happened the way they had. If she thought that he could fix things.

Willow had looked a little pained by something, but she'd talked with him. Her comment had been "You can't ever get back to last month, because time changes everything. Maybe you can rebuild trust so that it's strong again, but that would be today's relationship, not last month. Last month is gone, time goes forward. Always forward. But... if the two of you are both willing to try..."

Angel had been a bit surprised that she'd had such a philosophical answer. And it was true. Things would never be the way they were. But... maybe things could get better? Maybe at Buffy's birthday party tonight...

Willow had helped him understand that Buffy's objections to Dru had only partly been because of his past. That one of the reasons was that in the end, Buffy worried a bit. As Willow put it, Angel was a handsome guy, and handsome guys could always find someone else if they wanted. And sometimes, they had girls moving in on them, even if they didn't want. Buffy was somewhere between jealous and nervous, as Willow had explained. It had all made a surprising amount of sense, once she'd explained it.

Angel had felt rather out of place at the Birthday gathering. It wasn't that he had people he'd rather see there, or that he begrudged Buffy her friends, but he couldn't stop himself from feeling awkward, out of place. The cake and various other party snacks only seemed to taunt him with the reminder that he wasn't human, couldn't share everything with them. He even caught himself offering a little prayer – that if God could see fit to give him some excuse to slip out of this mess…

A blue hand reached up from a box, trying to choke Buffy. She gasped and struggled, eventually managing to pull away the… arm. It was just an arm and hand, large, blue, and twitching, as if it was trying to grasp and choke someone else. He just stared at it in horrified shock, a tiny corner of his mind insisting that he should know what that arm belonged to.

"That should teach me to say 'anything to get me out of here' right over the hellmouth." Willow's words were almost too soft for him to catch.

Angel looked over, offering her a tiny grin. "Both of us. It's a nice enough thing, but…" He shrugged, not quite certain how to explain without sounding either too predatory or antisocial.

"Everyone decided that it was too dangerous to go over to Willie's and wouldn't give me a lift, or I would have picked up something for you. I know that it would have been too dangerous for me to go there alone. Sorry about that." Her voice was still soft, and she looked a bit dismayed at what she clearly saw as a failure.

He smiled, feeling glad that someone had at least considered his diet. Had Buffy given that any thought? Had anyone but Willow spared a moment to think about making certain there would be something for him at this party? Since he'd given up eating party-goers? No point in dwelling on that now…

"…the arm of the Judge." Giles was staring at the arm and it's box, his expression grim.

"Maybe I should take it somewhere far away. So that Spike and Dru can't put him together." Angel spoke, certain that this was not a happy birthday for Buffy.

The rest of the night… well, Buffy caught up to him at the docks, upset at the idea that he might be leaving. He tried to explain it, to make her understand that this wasn't the way he wanted things to go, that he would be coming back. He produced the gift that he hadn't had the chance to give her, a Claddagh ring.

But then Spike's minions had attacked them, managing to take the box and throw Buffy into the ocean. He'd gone after Buffy, more worried about her than the arm. Surely they couldn't have all the pieces together?

She'd been shaken, wet and bleeding when he pulled her from the water. Angel had carried Buffy to his apartment, thinking to tend her wounds, help her get warm again… and somehow, they'd ended up sleeping together. Well… there hadn't been much sleep at first. He'd felt like she was trying to lay siege to him, all demanding and aggressive… Almost like a vampire. He'd felt himself responding, almost craving the force she was offering. It had been so long…

How might things have been different if she hadn't pushed him away when he'd nibbled on her neck? If she hadn't rejected that intimacy after permitting… demanding so many others? If she'd been willing to accept all of him? That rejection hurt, stabbing deeply into him, and he felt something inside start to crumble…

He jerked awake, feeling his muscles trembling in the aftermath of his fading dream. Something about fire, and a large figure walking through it? But what…. The Judge. Spike and Dru had been gathering the Judge together… How could his childer be so foolish? The Judge sought to destroy humanity… to destroy humans. What would they eat if there were no more humans? Where would new vampires come from? He had to stop them before everything went to hell.

Wincing, he disentangled himself from Buffy. She refused to accept all of him, trying to deny what he was. She only wanted bits and pieces… the handsome human face, the superior strength and ability to help her patrol… But she wasn't willing to accept all of him, all of his needs and limits. That would never work… why had he persisted in chasing her, chasing her partial acceptance? She might be pretty, but a pretty face wasn't worth that much pain and misery.

Pain stabbed through him, burning agony that flared, starting in his back, his hips. He lurched from the bed, managing to pull on a pair of pants, grabbing a shirt as he staggered from the apartment. His body burned, he felt a chaotic swirling of emotions, sensations… Spike hurt, his childe was in pain… He collapsed to the ground, gasping as something inside him tore, leaving him breathless with pain and hunger.

The next thing he was clear on, he was standing again, a woman's fallen body at his feet. He could still taste her blood in his mouth, the flavor far better than what he'd been drinking, the confusion and fear and despair almost compensating for the flavor of disease that would have killed her. What was it called? Cancer? The woman had already been dying, but…

But he had only the barest memory of killing her. Where was his control? He was Angelus, childe of Darla, not some new risen fledgeling! Wait…. Angelus? After a moment's contemplation, he realized that something inside had changed. The crushing guilt was lifted, a bare shadow of itself, and the confusion and turmoil that had oppressed him was gone. He could think clearly again.

First things first, after all. Prevent Spike and Dru from assembling the Judge. Find out what had happened to Spike and fix it… wait, hadn't he been in a wheelchair? What had happened…. The memory stirred, being dragged out of a collapsing church by Buffy… Feeling his childer still inside. That must have caused it. But he would still have to fix it, Spike was his childe. Avoid Buffy.

The thought of Buffy and her rejection led his thoughts to another mortal girl that he'd been thinking about a lot lately. Willow. A young woman that had not tried to deny what he was, someone that had not tried to have him deny his past. She'd asked him about his childer, not in the way that Giles had, of hoping to understand a threat, but about how he felt. If he still worried about them. She didn't try to deny that he was a vampire.

Oh yes… Willow. The closest that he'd had to a friend in a long, long time. And now that he was himself again, maybe… Maybe things would be a bit different? Hmmm… he could send an arm to the Council of Watchers… maybe it would choke some of them. Once he sorted out a few of his family matters…

He was going to set about fixing a few things here. Including this horrible diet he'd been living on, and the whole… thing with Buffy. Angelus shuddered, wondering if those wretched Gypsies had put in an insanity clause somewhere. Buffy… what had he been thinking, getting involved with her?

End A Fresh Cup.

End Coffee & Thoughts.