The Space Between

Written by Nyxie for wickedprincess3
LJ Faithfic-a-thon July 2003
Challenge - Faith/Angel (suggested angst)
Rating: Light R
Continuity: N/A. Takes place post BtVS Season 7
Notes: This story has a different flow than most. It's much more wispy than I'd intended, but I really love the way it turned out.

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We're strange allies
With warring hearts
What a wild eyed beast you be

The space between
The wicked lies we tell that hope to keep us safe from the pain

            ~The Space Between, The Dave Matthews Band

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It's not love.

When he looks at her that certain way, or when his fingers tremble as he touches her, sometimes, she thinks "maybe" ...but it isn't. Doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out where his mind goes when those big, dark puppy dog eyes turn distant and far away. After all, Faith has her own ghosts that haunt her. But every now and then, his eyes focus on her and she can tell that he really sees her, and she knows that buried underneath that brooding, expressionless face, somewhere, there exists the possibility for something more. Something beyond the bruises and wounds they both bear on their hearts; something that could bind together the shattered pieces of all their dreams. When his body shudders against hers, tentative and sweet like butterfly wings, she can almost feel it. When he presses his lips to her neck, she can almost hear him whisper it.

Sometimes, she thinks he wants to say it. Those times are the worst.

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"Do you ever regret it? Us, I mean?" he asks her, and she laughs and tosses her long dark hair. The twinkle in her eyes says he should know by now that she never regrets--live for the moment, that's Faith. But she doesn't answer him. She never does.

And if the face of his regret shows up wearing long blond hair and designer shoes, he never says anything.

He doesn't say much of anything at all.

Sometimes he's terrified that she'll be taken from him, too. He couldn't save Cordelia, or Connor, or even Buffy, in the end. His heart still aches for the loss of each of them. Their memories remain like fingerprints across his aching soul, wisps of melancholy that he hopes time will help dull. But he knows that he'll never have back the pieces they took with them when they went. Sometimes he feels like that's all he is; a man made out of broken pieces who isn't really much of a man at all.

But with each passing day it seems that Faith lays claim to yet another piece of him. Her crooked grin, the slant of her shoulders when she's pissed, the fire in her eyes when they make love. They are inseparable now, a perfect combination, the ultimate dynamic duo; Slayer and vampire against the world. They move together in a beautiful dance of death, weaving and twining together like old partners, each step and spin and kill perfectly orchestrated. The rest of the team doesn't even question it anymore.

But Angel does. He questions it every day.

*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *         

"No matter what I want, I can't be with you," he tells her. How reserved he is, giving away nothing of what he feels and hating himself for it. "No matter how I feel, you deserve more than I can ever offer you."

And she grins, despite the way he knows she must feel, shrugs her shoulders and says, "I'm not asking you to marry me, Angel. This Slayer gig? Pretty much a short-term deal. I'm just looking to have as much fun as I can while I'm still here." She walks up to him, swaying her hips, dark, glossy lips close to his. "So. Wanna live a little?"

Her breath is warm and sweet, and her mouth is so close and he's been denying the electricity between them for months. He feels the invisible barriers he's put up begin to disintegrate, and he shakes his head slightly, more afraid of giving in than he's been of almost anything in his life. But he wants to. Oh God, he wants to.

As if she can read what he feels in his eyes, Faith tilts her head at him. "You don't love me." She says it without emotion, without blame, but he thinks he can see the faint hurt in her eyes all the same.

He shakes his head slowly, closes his eyes. Not yet, he answers silently, though sometimes it feels like a damned near thing.

"Good," she says, almost fiercely. He feels her embrace him suddenly, all soft curves and sleek, hard muscle, and his eyes snap open with surprise.

She grins at him, and there is a hard edge to it. "But you want me."

He tries to speak, swallows, nods. "I do, but--"

She shakes her head and the hard edge fades slightly. "No 'buts'. No love means no true happiness, right?" He thinks he can see something fragile in the set of her eyes, determined and tough though they are, and for an instant he is in terrible peril of falling in love with her then and there.

"Now shut up," she says, and kisses him.

He does.

*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *         

They lay, still naked and tangled together after the first time, her heart pounding in her chest, cries of pleasure still echoing in his ears. Dark eyes meet dark and there is a moment of almost palpable silence between them when she ceases to breathe. It's as if they have crossed some sort of threshold now, and everything has changed.

They hadn't come together originally as lovers. It was grief that had brought them together and strengthened the bonds of friendship between them. It was time that had made it into something more passionate. And still, for all that they've shared, there is so much more they haven't. They mourned Buffy together, and Buffy has never really gone away. Her ghost still hangs between them, silent and sad, green eyes accusing them both.

"Do you feel guilty?" he asks with an awkward sideways glance.

Caught off guard, she thinks about it for a second then shrugs. "Not really." Pause. "A little..." she tilts her head and then shrugs again. "Nothing I couldn't get over." For you, she doesn't add, but he thinks he can hear it just the same.

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It's not love.

He tells himself that often on the nights she sleeps at his side. The even sound of her breathing lulls him, and he wants so badly to hold her, to feel her heartbeat and share her warmth. But he never does.

She could love him, he knows that. Part of her might already love him, despite the barriers and distance between them. He knows the ghosts could be laid to rest, the demons of doubt banished. He may have only pieces, but he thinks together they could build them into something real, make him into something--someone worth loving. There are pieces of him that will always belong to others, but at times like these he realizes how much he still has left to give, how much he wants to give. Falling in love with her would be like waking up with the sunset; the most natural thing in his unnatural world.

But he can't. He doesn't dare.

In the back of his mind, Angelus laughs and bides his time.

*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *         

She can have his body but not his heart. Buffy'd had his heart, but not his body. Sometimes, when she and Angel are on a mission, or together in bed, or even just talking, she wonders which one of them got the better deal; her, or Buffy. But deep in the night, when they lay together, still sweating but not touching, she knows the answer.

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It's times like these that Angel is in the most danger of losing himself. Her hands on him, surrounded by her scent, feeling the spill of her hair, feeling the blood rush and pound beneath her heated skin, sheathed in warmth and owned by yearning rhythm. It's almost what he imagines heaven must be like, this pleasure; a transcendence beyond skin. For a precious moment he remembers what it is to breathe, what it means to be alive, and he almost lets himself go.

Caught in the moment, he kisses her, lips barely touching hers. It's a moment of instinct, completely without thought, and it's tender, bittersweet, filled with longing. She freezes for an instant, and then she kisses him back, hands coming up to clasp his face and pull him in deeper, as if she can't get enough of him, her mouth hungry, desperate, but soft, so soft. She kisses him with a passion and need her occasional moments of vulnerability only hint at, and he is blown away by it. She's like a hurricane of emotion, beautiful and terrifying all at once, and in that moment, he knows how much he could love her. If he let himself.

She breaks the kiss and pulls away, drawing a deep shaky breath as she stares at him, surprised and scared by her own intensity.

"Faith... I..." He doesn't know where to begin, what to say, but everything he feels is reflected in his eyes, and they speak volumes.

She shakes her head once, violently, then tears away from him, tangling herself in the sheets as she goes.

"I--I have somewhere I have to, uh, be," she stutters out harshly, pulling on her clothes.

And he lets her go, because it's not love, and it never will be. She has her wounds, and he has his curse.

It's not love. But it's better than nothing.

Isn't it?