So Much and So Little
Disclaimer: Not mine. All characters, and lines of dialogue lifted from IWRY, are owned by Joss Whedon and company, I'm just borrowing them to play with for a little while, so my muse will leave me alone to write my other stories.
Spoilers: IWRY (Season 1, episode 8 of AtS)
Author's Note: While finishing up 'Silhouette Lies' (the ginormous story I've just begun posting on here if anyone wants to check it out), I was struck with a bout of writers block (or possibly a bout of 'procrastination' like I always get when getting close to finishing a project), and this popped into my head. I felt like it wouldn't be very long, so I decided to bang it out so that it will be out of my head and I can focus on more important things. After taking an extremely long break from watching either BtVS or Angel, I recently watched 'I Will Remember You' (for the millionth time in my life), and this started brewing in my head afterward. It's been floating around on my computer for a couple of months now, so I figured I'd post it as a little Christmas treat (or just an everyday treat if you don't celebrate).
I always wondered how injured Angel managed to sneak away from Buffy to see the Oracles...
It was early morning, and he'd thought she was still asleep, as he slid ever so slowly and quietly out from underneath her arm, and pushed himself shakily off the bed. Her first instinct was to jump up, ask him if he was okay, if he needed help with anything, but she knew it would only add insult to injury. He had tried so valiantly to prove that he could still be her equal in battle, and failed miserably. Fear gripped at her heart as she thought of what might have happened to him had Cordelia actually been able to keep her mouth shut.
Buffy shivered slightly, and shook away the thought as she sat up in his bed, after he'd silently dressed and padded out of the room. She listened carefully to his movements; she wasn't about to coddle him, but that didn't mean she wasn't concerned. She figured he was simply heading to the bathroom, to get something to help with the pain, but was puzzled when instead she heard him stop in the living room and pick up the phone. There was silence as he dialed, and she fell back into the pillows as she waited.
"Doyle?" came his voice from the other room, "Did I wake you? I know it's early... Sorry... listen, I need you to come over, it's important... As quickly as you can... Thanks, I'll see you soon." he placed the receiver back in the cradle, and there was silence once more.
Buffy frowned, what did he need to speak to Doyle about so urgently? She didn't end up having time to ponder it any further, as she suddenly heard Angel's footsteps growing louder as he approached the bedroom. She closed her eyes, she figured he didn't want her to know about the phone call, and didn't want him to think she'd been eavesdropping – though she clearly had been. She could feel his eyes on her as paused in the doorway and sighed heavily before crossing back towards the bed. He sat gingerly on the edge, and Buffy heard him hiss slightly in pain, before he finally settled. He didn't lie down, and Buffy could tell he was still watching her. His hand reached out, gently caressing her cheek, and he sighed again. These were not sighs of contentment, Buffy noted. She was not accustomed to hearing Angel sigh, normally he didn't breathe, he had no need to, but she knew him well enough to know that he must be brooding. Still, she didn't dare open her eyes and ask what was wrong, it seemed that with his lack of vampire senses, she was fooling him into believing she was actually asleep, and she planned on keeping it that way until she knew what exactly he needed to speak to Doyle about. If he was planning on sneaking out to attempt to fight another demon, she would kill him – if the demon didn't beat her to it.
He stayed by her side, watching her sleep and occasionally stroking her hair softly, until Buffy heard the sound of boots thumping down the stairs.
"Angel?" came an Irish brogue once the footsteps stopped.
The mattress shifted as Angel leaned over to kiss her gently on the forehead, then he rose, and quickly exited the bedroom.
"I'm here," he whispered as he entered the living room, "Quiet, Buffy's still sleeping."
"Oh, sorry," Doyle whispered, "So what's happening?"
There was a pause.
"I need you to take me back to The Oracles," Angel finally explained.
"Sure, but why?" Doyle asked.
Another pause, this time it was long and pregnant, Buffy felt a shift of energy in the room.
"I'm going to ask them to change me back."
"I'm sorry, come again? I think I misheard you." Doyle sputtered incredulously.
"I'm going to ask them to change me back into a vampire." Angel clarified, his tone was reluctant, full of despair.
Angel sighed again, it seemed like he'd found something that went well with his brooding, "You saw what happened last night..."
"Yeah, so what? The Slayer saved the day, and you just need to practice a little harder now, no big deal." Doyle replied.
"I put her in danger."
"She's a Slayer, isn't she always in danger?"
Buffy could've sworn she heard Angel growl.
"Not because of me, she isn't." he answered hotly, "The Mohra said the End of Days is coming... how can I help her fight... how can I help her win if I'm like this?"
"Angel, pal, I think you're just a little discouraged that you got your arse whooped so bad last night. Think seriously about what you're sayin' here, you're about to-"
"I have thought seriously." Angel interrupted, "I can't be with her like this."
There was another long pause, and this time Doyle was the one to sigh, "Alright, when do you want to go?" he asked.
"Now, before she wakes up."
There was some shuffling, as Angel got his coat and shoes, and then the sound of footsteps fading away as the two men climbed the steps to the office above.
Buffy lay in bed with her eyes open wide in shock, her body as stiff as a board. She tried to convince herself that she was dreaming, but no amount of willpower seemed to make her wake from this nightmare. The room suddenly felt like it was spinning, and she could feel her insides knotting painfully, something was strangling her heart, she couldn't breathe, she could barely think.
She had to think.
She had to stop him.
She lunged out of bed, and threw on whatever clothes she could find. Carrying her shoes in her hand, she tore up the stairs into the office, pausing only at the door to slip on her shoes before she took off down the street, praying they hadn't gotten too much of a head start for her to tail them.
Doyle held the lighter over the urn, staring at its contents morosely, he couldn't believe what he was about to help his friend do. It seemed absurd. Angel had the only thing he'd wanted since regaining his soul, and he was about to throw it all away.
"Are you sure you want to do this?" he asked his solemn friend, "Really sure?"
"Just light the bowl, Doyle," Angel sighed.
"She loves you, you can work something out..." he offered weakly, though he hadn't known Angel very long, he knew that when he made up his mind, there was no changing it.
"Light the bowl," Angel repeated quietly.
Doyle sighed, "Alright. 'We beseech access to the knowing ones...'" he sparked the lighter, and lowered it to the herbs. With a flash, the gateway was open, and Angel disappeared into the light without even another glance behind him. As the doorway sealed itself, Doyle deflated. Cordelia had regaled him with stories of the tragic romance between Angel and Buffy, and now he felt like he was contributing to it. He didn't have time to dwell on this thought for very long, as a voice interrupted his thoughts.
"So the Powers That Be hide under the Post Office? Go figure."
It was Buffy, and she looked pissed.
"Buffy! What brings you here?" he stammered.
Buffy descended the rest of the steps, and stood on the other side of the urn, across from Doyle. Her arms were crossed menacingly over her chest, and her gaze was narrowed, "Open it again." she said.
"I really don't think that would be a good idea, Darling, The Oracles are finicky."
"Doyle." Buffy warned.
"Buffy. Angel will kill me if I let you in there."
"I'm the one with the superhuman strength, if there's anyone you have to worry about killing you, it would be me." Buffy glowered.
Doyle rubbed a hand over his face nervously, then reached into his pocket, pulling out the lighter once more, "Why do I get into these messes?"
"Then I ask you to take mine back."
Was the first thing Buffy heard echoing in her ears as the light dissipated and she found herself standing at the edge of a large white marble room.
"Don't!" the words tumbled from her lips before she even knew it. Angel had turned around to face her as the light had flashed, and the two gold beings that stood before him studied her expectantly.
"Buffy?" Angel asked.
She ignored him and stepped towards the golden man and woman, "Whatever he's asking, you can't do it."
"Chosen One," the male being greeted, "What a surprise."
"What are you doing here Buffy?" Angel pressed, grabbing her by the arm and turning her towards him.
"Keeping you from doing something stupid!" she growled, "What did he ask you?" she asked the Oracles again.
"What have you brought us?" the female being replied.
"You can't expect us to answer your questions, Chosen One, without a gift."
Buffy's shoulders slumped. She had nothing on her, she had rushed out of Angel's apartment in such a hurry... she raised her hand to touch her earlobe, she was wearing a small pair of diamond earrings. They had been her grandmother's, her mother had given them to her for her last birthday. With a twinge of guilt, she unfastened them, and held them out in her palm. The female extended her hand, and the earrings slowly floated towards her.
"They're antiques," Buffy said, then paused with her brow furrowed, "Well, maybe not to you."
The woman studied the tiny earrings in her palm, and smiled approvingly, "What is your question, Warrior?"
Buffy bit her lip, "It's less of a question, and more of a request."
"Trivialities, get on with it," The male sighed.
"That you don't let Angel give back this gift that was given to him."
"Buffy, what are you doing?" Angel pleaded.
"I heard you talking to Doyle!" she cried.
"Then you understand why something has to change." Angel snapped.
Buffy could feel the tears pricking the corners of her eyes, she blinked them away. She wouldn't let him see her cry again, she was angry. "What? You just took a whole twenty-four hours to weigh the ups and downs of being a regular Joe and decided it was more fun being a superhero?" Buffy spat.
"Nothing has to change Angel! You're just too intent on punishing yourself to appreciate what was given to you!" she shouted.
"If I stay like this, you'll die!" he shouted back, "I can't let that happen," he added a bit more softly.
"I'll die anyway! I'm a Slayer, it's in the job description!" she retorted.
"Oh, this is a matter of love. It does not concern us." the male Oracle yawned, and turned away.
"Yes it does!" Angel exclaimed, stepping closer to the Oracles and pushing Buffy behind him, "The Mohra demon came to take a warrior from your cause – and it succeeded. I'm no good to you like this, I know you have the power to make this right. Please." he begged.
The Oracles studied the two warrior's in front of them, they seemed to be considering Angel's words very seriously.
"Angel, no," Buffy whispered.
"You heard what the Mohra said; others will come,"
"They always come. And they always will. But that's my problem now, not yours, remember?"
"You know I won't sit idly by and let you fight, maybe die, alone," Angel answered sadly, "I'm a liability to you like this Buffy, I can't protect you or anyone else, not as a man." Angel answered.
He was making sense, and it was crushing her.
"But you deserve this, you deserve a second chance!" she whimpered, it was becoming increasingly difficult for her to hold back her tears.
"Not at the cost of your life, or the lives of others." he said tearfully. This was why he hadn't wanted Buffy to know, seeing her standing in front of him, unshed tears shining in her eyes; it was breaking his newly beating heart. He thought back to the last twenty-four hours with her, it had been magical; but he didn't want it if he would just end up living out the rest of his human days without her. "There are people who depend on us Buffy, we have an entire world to protect, we can't afford to be selfish."
Buffy squeezed her eyes shut tightly. A single tear managed to escape down her cheek, and she hastily brushed it away. Angel was too wise, it was one of the many things she loved about him, but right now she hated it. He was right. She thought of her friends and family back in Sunnydale; if she died, and Angel couldn't fight, who would she rely on to protect them? Taking a deep breath, she turned back to The Oracles, who had been silently watching their exchange.
"You can undo this?" she asked them quietly.
The male being simply looked irritated, "What is done cannot be undone." he huffed.
"What is not yet done can be avoided," the female replied, glancing sideways to the male, "There is one way," she divulged.
The male turned to the female, his eyes widened, "Temporal Folds are not to indulge at – the whims of lower beings." he scolded.
"You are wrong." The female being replied hotly, "These two are willing to sacrifice every drop of human happiness and love they have ever known for each other. They are not lower beings."
The male softened slightly, then turned to Buffy and Angel, "It is not to be undertaken lightly,"
"We swallow this day, as though it had never happened. Twenty-four hours from the moment the demon first attacked you, we take it back." The female continued.
"Then none of this ever happened, and Buffy and I..." Angel murmured, casting a glance to the petite woman at his side, her expression was one of bewilderment.
"What-what'll stop us from doing the exact same thing again?" she asked softly. Her mind was reeling, everything she just experienced with Angel, the perfect moment they finally had after all the years of pain... it would be gone forever.
"One of you will remember, whomever feels they can carry that burden." the female Oracle explained.
"I will." Angel answered without even a moments hesitation.
"What?" Buffy gasped, "No! That's not fair!"
"Buffy, you need to forget about me, you need to move on." Angel argued.
"To what?" she scoffed, fighting another onset of tears, "A normal life? That's funny, cause I have a chance at a normal life standing right in front of me and that isn't working out so well is it?"
Her words cut him deep, he knew she had a point, but even still he needed to keep her safe, "Please Buffy, I can live with this, I just want you to be happy."
"Then let me keep these memories," she whispered, "Let me keep the one perfect moment with you that isn't shadowed by despair." her voice cracked as she spoke. It would be the most painful thing in the world, knowing that she had Angel, and had to give him up, but at least she could find strength in remembering him.
"I can't let you do that," Angel answered, shaking his head.
"You don't need more weight on your shoulders," she cried.
"And I don't want to cause you more pain."
"We're losing our patience, Warriors," the male being called, pulling them out of their bubble.
"I'll remember." Angel said to them firmly.
"No. No deal." Buffy disagreed.
"Buffy..." Angel sighed.
Taking a step towards the Oracles, Buffy hoped she wasn't about to make a huge mistake, "I'll only agree on two conditions."
"We're doing you a favour, Warrior," the male being scolded.
"Just hear me out." Buffy implored.
"Let her speak," the female suggested, she seemed to be intrigued by Buffy's boldness.
With a pointed look from the male, Buffy continued, "First, we both remember."
The Oracles looked up to the ceiling, as though they were waiting on an answer.
"Granted," the female said.
"And second..." Buffy paused, she knew this was risky, "You anchor Angel's soul." she could feel Angel's eyes burning into the back of her skull, but she didn't turn towards him, instead she stood her ground.
"We already told you," the male sighed, "we will not toil in matters of the heart."
"This has nothing to do with love," Buffy countered, "If this End of Days that the Mohra demon spoke of is coming, then do you really want to risk losing one of your Warriors because of a loophole in a gypsy curse?"
The female smirked, and the Oracles looked up to the ceiling again, listening to something neither Buffy or Angel could hear.
"Buffy, this won't change anything, I can't be with you." Angel whispered.
"I'm not asking you to," she answered, "If you don't..." her voice broke, she found it hard to finish her sentence, but she knew she had to stay strong, "If you don't want to be with me, then fine. I'm learning to live with that. But if something big is coming, I'd rather know you'll be fighting with me than against me."
Angel simply studied her, his mind reeling. Where was the young girl he'd left in the sewers? The one who had all but begged him not to leave? He didn't have a chance to answer.
"The Auguries are intrigued by your request," the female being announced, "They will grant it, if you answer this one question;"
Buffy nodded slightly, waiting for her to continue.
The male spoke instead, "If we grant this warrior his soul, and he chooses not to be with you, will you regret this demand?"
Buffy turned back to Angel, he was still staring at her, inner turmoil written all over his face. She felt her tears well up again, as she thought of never again feeling his lips on hers, his hands on her skin... it would be torture. But she needed to do this. "No." she answered, never taking her eyes off Angel, "If you want me to move on, to forget... it's only fair that I give you the chance to do the same."
The female Oracle smiled, "Then it will be done. You have a minute to say your goodbyes." she called over her shoulder, as she and her companion turned away and slowly disappeared down a long hallway.
"Thank you..." Buffy whispered, unsure of whether or not they heard.
They faced each other. Angel was trembling, he looked dreadful. Shock had drained his face of colour, causing the dark purple of the bruises he'd earned the night before to stand out further.
"Why..." he muttered.
"Because I love you. Because even if you don't love me anymore-"
"But I do, I do. More than ever, that's why I had to do this! So I could protect you." he rambled.
Buffy felt the tears finally spill from her eyes, why were they always saying goodbye? "You can't fight this fight while living completely in the darkness," she explained, "You need to find those tiny moments where you can be happy, be thankful for the good things in the world, otherwise it will kill you... I want that for you."
Angel wondered if The Oracles had already begun to turn back time, because he felt like he was dying. He knew this was the only way to keep her safe, and yet, he felt now like he'd made a horrible mistake. He squeezed his eyes shut, willing his tears to stop, as he heard a tiny sob hitch in Buffy's throat. "Buffy... Buffy I'm so-"
"Don't," she pleaded, "Let's not talk anymore."
Angel complied, his mouth snapped shut, and he simply stood before her, his shoulders slumped in defeat. Buffy took a few steps towards him, and extended her arm. She placed her hand gently on his chest, over his heart, and smiling a watery smile she closed her eyes as she concentrated on the steady thump underneath her palm. Unable to bear it any longer, Angel took her in his arms, and crushed her to his chest. Buffy whimpered, pressed her ear over his heart, and her free hand clawed at his back.
"I love you, no matter what happens after this, never forget that." he stammered.
"I won't." she sobbed, "I'll never forget, I'll never forget..."
There was a flash.
"Given enough time, we should be able to..." Buffy trailed off. What had she been saying?
"Forget...?"Angel replied, sounding as disoriented as she did.
Looking around, she discovered she was standing back in Angel's office. He stood, or leaned rather, on the edge of his desk in front of her, an expression of sheer confusion on his face as he looked around the room. Their eyes finally met, and like a tidal wave, everything came crashing back. They stood there, unmoving, for what seemed like forever. They spoke no words, but the expressions on their faces spoke volumes to each other.
So lost in each others eyes, it almost didn't register as the Mohra demon crashed through the window with a battle cry. Snapping back to reality, Angel swiftly and seamlessly picked up the clock from his desk, and lunging at the demon, smashed it into the red jewel on the Mohra's forehead. With another wail, the demon was gone in a flash, and silence fell in the office once more.
The two gazed down at the broken clock, discarded on the floor, frozen at the exact time their lives should have changed forever. Something about the situation didn't feel so hopeless though, there was an energy in the air, a sense that something big was on the brink of beginning.
"Wow..." Buffy whispered, the whole situation seemed unreal, she felt as though the twenty-four hours she remembered experiencing with Angel had been a dream... but they had been real, and she had really bargained for his soul against The Powers That Be; and she had won.
"Yeah..." Angel answered. The events that had now never really happened were spinning around in his mind, the things he would never again have. Or would he? He realized, then, as words that would never be spoken echoed in his mind;
Together you were strong...
Together. They had to fight together if they wanted to defeat whatever evil was coming, and now without the curse... could they work something out? Had he been a fool thinking Buffy was better off without him?
"So..." He began, looking up from the clock at the woman standing across from him.
Buffy looked up to meet his eyes, she was still in shock, in utter disbelief, but when she gazed into his eyes, she saw something there, something she hadn't seen in over a year; it was hope. She allowed herself to get lost in his eyes, in the questioning expression on his face, and she understood what he was wondering. A small, hesitant smile crept over her lips, one that he returned eagerly.
"What happens now?"