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Disclaimer: I do not own anything associated with BtVS and AtS. (Characters, plots, and dialogue from the shows are borrowed with no infringement intent whatsoever.)
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Summary: AU. No demons or slayers. All characters are human. Angel meets Buffy in high school and the attraction is immediate. Love doesn't necessarily mean faithfulness or a long and happy life together.
Warning: Not a happy story.
A/N1: I recently discovered YouTube; there are some wonderful songs by a wide variety of artists there. I came across a song called 'Gone' sung by Brook Benton. It is an old song but I had never heard it before; that's what gave me the idea for this story.
A/N2: Story is told from Angel's perspective.
A/N3: Thoughts are in single quotes ('').
I don't know why I did it. To this day I don't know why I cheated on my wife. It wasn't because I didn't love her – I did, I still do, with all my heart and soul. It wasn't because she didn't love me – she did, and she showed it every day, in so many sweet and loving ways. She was an angel and from the very beginning I knew that I would never be worthy of her, of her trust, of her love.
I've always known that, since the first time I saw Buffy when she was fifteen years old and a new student at Sunnydale High. I was a junior. I saw her walking with friends in front of the school. There was a glow about her, she radiated sweetness and purity and light. I knew that I should stay away from her, not infect her with the grief that permeated my life, but I couldn't; I just couldn't stay away.
My mother died when I was eight years old and since then my life took a downward spiral. My sister Kathy was four at the time and was sent to live with Aunt Caitlyn, my mother's sister; at least she was safe from our abusive father who turned to alcohol after my mother's death and took his pain and frustrations out on me. I could understand the pain of his loss because I felt it too. What I didn't understand was that he blamed me for my mother's death because she was on her way to pick me up from school when the car she was driving was hit by a drunk driver.
My grades in school plummeted, I got into fights all the time and I was close to being kicked out of school when I first saw Buffy. I had a mutual friend introduce us one night at the Bronz, the local club for teenagers; we danced with only each other for the rest of the night. A slow tune came on she started to leave the dance floor; I stopped her and asked what was wrong and she said that she had never danced a slow dance with a boy before. I was floored; how could a 15 year old girl be so innocent? "Dance with me," I told her; "I will never disrespect you or hurt you in any way, I promise you." We danced and she felt so good in my arms and she fit me so perfectly I knew that I had found the girl that was made just for me and I would love her always.
At times she seemed much more mature than 15; at other times, when she was hanging out with her friends, she was like a little girl playing dress-up in mommy's clothes. In either case all she had to do was smile at me and I was lost. I would avoid her, sometimes for days at a time, but I always went back. A month after I met her I asked her to be my girlfriend. I really wanted to protect her from other guys. I knew that she was a virgin and I wanted to make sure that she stayed that way, pure and sweet and innocent.
I turned my life around because of her; I wanted to be someone that she could be proud of and in the second half of my junior year and my senior year of high school I was an honor student. My teachers were so impressed that they helped me get a partial scholarship for college; my father didn't say much about it, but he paid for the rest of my college education.
On one of the rare occasions when Kathy was allowed to visit, I brought Buffy home to meet her. My father was home and fortunately he was sober. They loved my girlfriend, especially Kathy; they got along so well that she and Buffy exchanged e-mail addresses so they could stay in touch with each other. Over the following years they became best friends. Buffy impressed my father as well because the next day he told me, "That is a nice girl and she obviously cares for you. You had better take good care of her and never hurt her." I recognized the underlying threat in his voice. Maybe it is my imagination, but after meeting Buffy my father didn't seem to drink as much. I think she must have reminded him of my mother.
Our first real kiss happened when I took her home after my senior prom. Tasting her mouth was like tasting pure liquid sugar, she was so sweet. As she grew up, matured, she was even more beautiful than she had been at fifteen, but her personality never changed; she was still as kind and loving and giving as the day I met her. The night before I left for college she told me that she would always be my girl and that she would wait for me. I didn't know what to say; I couldn't ask her to put her life on hold for me. Who knows what would happen while we were apart. She insisted that she would wait for me and she did. We were always together when I came home for holidays and during the summer.
While I was away at college she would often stop by to visit my father. He eventually stopped drinking and resumed control of his company; I attributed all of that to Buffy's presence in his life.
Once she went off to college things were not the same and I didn't see her anymore. I think her parents were trying to get her away from me. Looking back on it, they were right; I just wish they had succeeded. I heard through Kathy that she graduated from college in three years and got her masters' degree in one year. I eventually got my law degree and was hired by a firm in Los Angeles. The next thing I knew she was working for a rival law firm from the one where I worked in LA and making quite a reputation for herself. Three years after I started working at the law firm she and I ended up on the same case on opposite sides. She won, handily.
After the case was over, I found her waiting for me outside the court house. She asked if she could buy me dinner and that was it. We were together for two years before I got up the nerve to ask her to marry me. Instead of answering me directly she told me that she was beginning to think that she would have to ask me.
We were so happy that first year. We moved into a lovely little house near the beach and rode to work together every day. I would drop her off at her office building and proceed to my own place of employment and then pick her up on my way home. Her record in the court room was outstanding, while I faltered. She exceeded both our expectations and a year after we were married she was up for partner at her law firm. I felt so inadequate.
It was then that I started hinting at starting a family. I expected her to balk, but she was over-joyed. She was anxious to be a mother and was excited about reducing her work hours even if it meant turning down the offer to become partner. We converted one of the spare bedrooms into a nursery as soon as we found out we were expecting a child. I couldn't believe it; I never expected to have children considering my own painful childhood, but her happiness was infectious and I found myself looking forward to being a father.
My career continued to falter and I was seriously considering giving up law but I didn't want her to be disappointed in me. When I finally talked to her about changing careers, she said that I should work at whatever profession that made me happy and that she was proud of me no matter what occupation I had. My heart overflowed with love for her at that moment.
I decided to start my own investigations firm. I contacted Doyle, a friend of mine from college who was considering changing careers, and asked him to join me. We were an overnight success. With his contacts at the police department and my contacts at my old law firm we had more requests for work than we could handle. We hired a street-wise young twenty-something guy named Charles Gunn, a former college professor, Wesley Wyndam-Price, and Gayle Bullocks, one of Doyle's friends, to serve as receptionist and office administrator.
The receptionist had practically no skills, but she was my partner's friend who was down on her luck. I knew from her first day on the job that hiring her had been a mistake. She flirted openly with every guy in the office, me in particular. My partner insisted that she was harmless and that was just her way of dealing with her problems. Often after work on Fridays the five of us would stop at our favorite bar for a beer before going home. I knew that I should be getting home to my very pregnant wife, but they insisted that I join them and I went along with them without much arm twisting; before I knew what was happening, I was having an affair with Gayle. Buffy questioned me about the late hours and I blamed it on a heavy work load.
Three months leading up to our expected delivery date Buffy took a leave of absence from work because she was put on a reduced activity schedule by her doctor; she was told to take it easy, get plenty of rest and not get overly excited or upset about anything.
Two weeks later Doyle asked me to come with him to his house; there was something that he needed to discuss with me and he couldn't do it at the office. He was quiet during the 25 minute drive, but as soon as we were seated in his living room, he let me have it with both barrels.
"Angel, man, what are you doing having an affair with Gayle? You know how unstable she is, and what about your wife, your very pregnant wife? She would be devastated if she found out what you are doing. You have got to call this off now."
I had never seen Doyle so worked up as he continued to read me the riot act. Of course I knew that he was right and I decided to break things off with Gayle as soon as we got back to the office. As was expected Gayle did not take rejection well at all. It so happened that this was the day that my lies and cheating caught up with me.
Buffy's mother had taken her for her doctor's appointment, but because the doctor was running late Joyce didn't have time to drive back to our house so Buffy had her mom drop her off at my office. I was trying to calm Gayle down in my office when Buffy arrived; Gayle had had one too many beers at lunch and was very vocal when I tried to end our affair. Gunn interrupted us to let me know that we had an important visitor in the waiting room so we could keep the noise down, but instead she got louder; once Gayle started talking, there was no stopping her.
She tried to entice me into having sex with her in my office as we had several times before and when I insisted that we were through she left my office and headed straight for her receptionist's desk where she saw Buffy sitting in the waiting room. Before I could stop her, she proceeded to tell my wife about us. Doyle grabbed her by the arm and tried to pull her into his nearby office but she got away from him and went after Buffy. She leaned over my wife with both hands on her chair and continued her verbal assault. I could see that Buffy was getting upset and I grabbed Gayle by the shoulders and spun her around to get her away from Buffy. She fought me and we ended up falling into my wife and knocking her out of her chair. Gunn helped Buffy up and tried to calm her while Doyle handled Gayle. I will never forget the pain in my wife's eyes when she looked at me. What could I say? Seeing the look on her face I knew that she would never forgive me.
Gayle came running over to me and threw her arms around my neck before I could react, "Tell her, baby; you're just staying with her because she is pregnant. After the kid is born you're leaving her and moving in with me; tell her."
Buffy winced and I could tell she was in physical pain when she said quietly, "Yes, Angel, tell me about your plans." Before I could reply she turned to Gunn and asked softly, "Gunn would you call for an ambulance?" Then more urgently, "Hurry, please."
I don't remember much after that. Buffy was leaning forward with her hand on her belly and moaning softly. I pushed Gayle away and headed toward my wife when she let out a blood curdling scream.
I heard Doyle call to me, "Angel, pick her up and carry her to the cot in your office."
Buffy became frantic. "No, no don't."
Through her drunken giggles Gayle said, "She doesn't want you to put her on the cot. I told her what we've been doing on it."
I went after her again. "You sot. I'll kill you."
Gunn stopped me. "Angel, take care of your wife; that's what's important here."
As soon as I picked Buffy up I saw the blood; gods, there was so much blood.
The paramedics arrived and as they were putting her into the ambulance the last thing I heard Buffy say to me was, "Stay away from me."
I called Buffy's parents and told them that Buffy was on the way to the hospital and asked them to meet me there. I cringed when her mother's voice came over the line, "Angel, what happened? She was fine when I left her at your office. Why didn't you ride in the ambulance with her? Why did you let her go alone? You know how she feels about hospitals."
"Joyce, just hurry, please," I said and hung up. There was no way I could tell her what had happened to her daughter over the phone.
I threw down the phone and left the office heading for my car. I heard Gunn tell Doyle, "You'd better go with him, Doyle. He shouldn't drive in his state of mind." Doyle broke every speed limit getting to the hospital. When we arrived we were told that Buffy was in surgery and that I would have to speak with her doctor to get information on her condition. I was still waiting when her parents arrived from Sunnydale. They demanded to know what had happened to their daughter and this time I told them everything.
"I already knew about you and that floozy from your office;" Joyce told me accusingly. "Her mother was bragging about her daughter's affair with you the last time I was at the beauty salon. I never told Buffy because I didn't want to upset her in her condition. I had planned to tell her once she got back on her feet after the baby was born."
The doctor came out and told us that Buffy had lost the baby and that Buffy herself was in critical condition. "What happened to her? She was fine when she was in my office earlier today. I just reminded her not to get too upset about anything."
As I explained to the doctor what had happened, leaving out the gory details, I could feel her parents' eyes burning holes in my back.
"I'm sure that you haven't told me all of the details," the doctor told me, "and I am certain that your wife's miscarriage and her current condition are the direct results of the actions at your office. You promised your wife in my office when you brought her to me early in her pregnancy that you would take good care of her; you didn't do that, sir." He turned and walked away.
When the doctor left, Joyce told me in no uncertain terms, "If my daughter dies, I will see to it that you and your harlot pay dearly."
For three days I sat by my wife's bedside while she went in and out of consciousness. I prayed more in those three days than I have ever prayed in my life. On the fourth day she opened her eyes and looked at me and asked, "Why?"
"Buffy, baby, please I …"
She turned her head to face away from me. I didn't know what to say. We had lost our child, I was now losing my wife and I knew that everything was entirely my fault. When Buffy was released from the hospital she went to Sunnydale to stay with her parents while she recuperated and she left strict instruction that she did not want to see me. She wouldn't even talk to me on the phone. I guess I couldn't blame her after what she had been through because of me.
I came home from work one day a few weeks later and found all of Buffy's things missing from the house. Her wedding rings were on the kitchen table next to her set of house keys and an envelope that contained divorce papers. I haven't seen or spoken to her since. I know that she is not in Sunnydale or LA and wherever she is, she is not using her real name.
When my sister, Kathy, got married, Buffy was her maid of honor; I was not invited to the wedding, I didn't know about the wedding until after Kathy and her new husband returned from their honeymoon. They had a layover in LA and he insisted on meeting me. Kathy would tell me nothing about Buffy except that she was well.
After we lost our baby and the near death of my wife, her family, my father and my sister never forgave me. I don't blame them, I never forgave myself. I guess my father was right; I destroy every good thing that I touch. I lost my wife, the one person in the world who gave me a reason to live. After she was gone I no longer had a reason for living, but I kept looking, thinking that perhaps I would find it at the bottom of the next empty bottle.
As I approach the end of my life my only hope is that my sweet Buffy has been able to forgive me and that she has found some peace, some joy in her life. I know from Kathy that she has never remarried; I regret that. She would have been a sweet and loving wife for some deserving man, just as she was for me, and she would have been a wonderful mother.
After all of this time I still do not have an answer to the one word that my wife spoke as I sat beside her bed so many years ago: "Why?"
Below are the words to the song that led me to write this story.
sung by Brook Benton
Since you've gone the moon, the sun, the stars in the sky
Know the reason why I cry
Love divine once was mine
Now you've gone
Since you've gone my heart, my lips, my tear-dimmed eyes
A lonely soul within me cries
I acted smart broke your heart
Now you've gone
Oh Oh Oh Oh what I'd give for the lifetime I've wasted
For the love that I've tasted
I was wrong
Now you've gone
Oh Oh Oh Oh what I'd give for the lifetime I've wasted
The love that I've tasted
I was wrong
Now you've gone