A Rare Sound
Disclaimer: Characters and Premise are borrowed from the show "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer."
I woke at mid-day, her name on my lips and dread in my heart.
My hands shook as I hurriedly dressed. That I couldn't go out never occurred to me until I had stepped out my front door into the direct light of the sun.
Searing agony washed over me, forcing me back into the apartment, cursing the sun and my nature which held me prisoner here.
The afternoon was endless, I paced my apartment like a caged animal. She needed me, I was as certain of that as I'd ever been of anything in my life.
By dusk the feeling of urgency and helplessness had driven me to destroy most of the furnishings of my barren apartment.
The instant I was free, I raced to her room, climbing to her window with the easy of many nights practice.
It was empty, but I could hear familiar voices drifting up from the living room below.
Normally I would have gone back through the window then knocked at the front door like any regular guest, but tonight something was wrong.
I walked out of her room, and down the stairs. They were all there, in the living room, all of them except her. I must had made a sound, something, because they looked up at me.
My eyes went from one face to another, in every one I saw the same thing. Slowly I backed away from them.
When my heel hit the bottom stair I tripped falling backward. For a few seconds everything just stopped. The Giles was standing over me, the sound of screaming faded into silence. My face stung from where he had hit me and my throat was raw.
"No," I said, "Buffy can't be..." I couldn't finish.
Giles looked tired and much older than he had last night. "Buffy is dead," he said.
I grabbed him by the shoulders lifting him effortlessly off the floor. "You're lying," I yelled, shaking him.
"Angel! Angel!" Willow was clutching my arm tearing at my fingers.
"I'm sorry," I said, setting Giles down, I knew my grip had left bruises, I was just thankful it hadn't broken bones. I backed away from him repeating, "I'm sorry." And tripped over that damned stair again.
I fell heavily, there wasn't any air in the room, I couldn't breath. My chest hurt so badly. Distantly it occurred to me that I didn't normally breath. It didn't matter, right then I needed air and couldn't get any and my lungs were burning with pain.
"Where? Where is she?" I begged.
"Her body is at the morgue," Giles said gently. "I'll drive you there."
I nodded biting down on my lip, I knew if I tried to speak I'd start screaming again.
Giles helped me to my feet, then I followed him to his car. The others stayed with Buffy's mother. I should say something to her. What could I say? Nothing would make this better, I couldn't even believe it was real.
It was just a nightmare, not real. It couldn't be real. By the time Giles and I had reached the morgue I was certain that this wasn't happening. It just couldn't be true, it was too horrible.
It hit me as soon as I entered the building, the smell of her hair and skin, almost overwhelmed by the blood scent. For the first time since I'd been changed the smell of blood didn't bring the hunger, only despair.
I walked through the building in a daze, following the scent without conscious choice. All too soon I was standing over a sheet draped body. In several places blood had soaked through the sheet making it cling to her... to the...
The form beneath the sheet was wrong. I stood there looking down at it, trying to figure out what was wrong with it.
At my side Giles took my arm trying to get my attention, "You don't have to do this," he said. He wasn't looking at the thing on the table, he hadn't since we got here.
Slowly I reached for the sheet, carefully I pulled it back from her face. Buffy's left temple was crushed. Her beautiful eyes were open. The left one had filled with blood turning it a deep red, but the other one was fine, it stared into mine, empty of everything that made her Buffy.
I had to get out of there away from the emptiness, the scent of her. Away to someplace safe, anyplace else. Why couldn't I run? This was killing me. It hurt so much I knew I had to be dying.
In horror, I watched my hand stretch out to her. I didn't want to do this but I couldn't stop. My palm cradled her cheek. To a human her skin would have felt cold, simply because it was cooler than their own skin, for me it's different.
It's funny how the mind perceives temperature, it relates everything to body temperature. Vampirism really confuses it. Humans are supposed to have a fairly constant body temperature. A few degrees too hot or too cold and you die. Your mind depends on that when it tells you whether something is warm or cool.
A vampire's body doesn't generate heat, whatever room temperature is that's what my body temperature is. For the first few hours after the change it drove me crazy, them my mind gave up. That's why vampires don't get cold or hot for that matter, I'm comfortable at any temperature that doesn't actually damage my body.
Still, touching a dead body is different for a vampire. I can still remember what it felt like when I touched my sister's body after she died. She was the only member of my family that I didn't kill, a riding accident claimed her several years before I was changed. I found her, lying where she had fallen, I took her arm, meaning to shake her awake, the instant my skin touched her's I knew. The cool, stiff, alien feel of her arm changed her from my spirited, mischievous, beloved little sister to a cold dead thing.
Now when I touched Buffy's dead body it was life touching my own skin.
Involuntarily my finger traced the upsweep of her cheek bone, following the lines of her face up past her empty, empty eyes to her undamaged right temple, then tangling themselves in her silky hair. The golden strands slid through my fingers releasing waves of the infinitely familiar scent of her shampoo.
NO! I screamed into the silence of my mind. This couldn't be happening. I had to be in hell. Oh please God, let me be in hell. This can't be real. I couldn't stand it if this were real, if she were dead. Anything would be better than this.
I felt a real scream building in my throat again, and bit down, trying to keep it in. If I started screaming again I didn't think I'd ever be able to quit. I felt my teeth break through my lip and cold, salty blood filled my mouth, I swallowed reflexively.
Whatever Giles saw in my face convinced him I'd seen enough. Gently he disentangled my fingers from her hair. There were tears in his eyes as he rearranged the sheet over her face. Why couldn't I cry?
"How?" I managed to ask, it was so hard, forcing a single word past the screams in my throat.
"A demon," Giles said, removing his glasses to wipe at his eyes. "The fight carried them into the street, no one even noticed the truck until it was too late. It killed them both."
The frail surge of life I felt flickered and died. I wanted something to kill for this. I would have hunted the demon to hell itself. I needed something to fill the emptiness her death brought, vengeance would have brought some sense of purpose, but even that was gone.
Giles walked slowly toward the door, I watched him dully not moving from her side. He turned back toward me, "Angel?" he asked.
I stared blankly at him, I felt detached from the world, empty, lost in a grey ugly plane. My eyes saw, my ears heard, but it was like watching television from another room. Nothing could effect or reach me, there was no reason for me to respond.
Giles came back to me, he took my arm and led me out to the car.
Willow met us at Buffy's door. "How is Joyce?" Giles asked softly.
Willow looked away from us. "No worse," she answered. "Cordelia called Buffy's dad. He'll be here in a few hours."
"Her father," Giles whispered, stunned. "I should have thought... should have called him immediately."
"It's okay," Willow said. "You're in shock too."
"How are you holding up?" Giles asked.
"I can't fall apart," Willow replied. "Joyce, Xander, they need me. Cordy's trying to help, she really is, but she's not much good at comfort."
For the first time I noticed Willow's eyes were puffy and tear reddened, every now and then her hands would start trembling. Willow, Buffy's best friend, she wasn't much more than a child, but she was holding up, taking care of things. I should help her, at the very least I shouldn't add to her burden.
I honestly tried to go back, to be an adult for once in my incredibly long and mostly regrettable life, but then I was back in the morgue, with the feel of her lifeless flesh under my hand and the scent of her hair, her skin... and her blood filling the air. Shaking I retreated back into the emptiness.
"Angel, are you okay?" Willow asked taking my hand.
Giles looked down at the floor, "I thought it would help him," he said. "I never should have taken him there, but I thought see her would help him accept it. Now..." he shook his head slightly. "If he were human I'd take him to the hospital, but with Angel I just don't know what to do."
I watched Willow squeeze my hand, stared blankly into her saddened eyes as she tried to comfort me, tried to draw me back to them.
She didn't look like a teenager any more, this was aging her even as I watched, stealing her innocence and youth. Just as Buffy's had been stolen.
Why wasn't Oz helping her, I wondered with a flash of anger. Because Oz came later, some fragment of memory whispered. After you changed sides.
Through that pin prick memories flowed like water. Buffy's hand in mine as I slid the claddagh ring on her finger. The taste of the streetwalker's blood in my mouth. The last point of resistance before Jenny Calender's neck snapped, her body falling limply to the floor at my feet.
Then Buffy's voice, "Close your eyes." She sounded so sad, as if her heart were breaking. Then pain, and shock as the steel blade of her sword slid into my heart.
I'd been so naive then, to consider that painful, what cam after truly taught me what it meant to hurt.
Angel opened his eyes, the Summer's entry hall was gone, in its place was a burning desolation.
Agony filled every fiber of his being, and he welcomed it. Since that night at the mansion he'd learned that physical pain couldn't break him.
But the hallucinations would. They were getting better. Someday they would find one he'd believe, body and soul, and on that day his heart would break and his will would shatter. Nothing would be left but the demon possessed shell of his body.
But not today, today he'd won. He had seen through their lie. Buffy was alive and well. She'd beaten everything the darkness could throw at her, even him.
Laughter bubbled up, breaking free to fill the emptiness with joy and triumph.
"True, it was not today," Came the silent passionless reply. "But soon."