Loose Thy Tongue
Disclaimer: Not mine. Wouldn't even want, the way Joss and David have wrecked the characters and cast list. I'm so incredibly pissed about Tara!
Summary: When alcohol's loosens Angel's tongue, he releases a secret of immense proportions. B/A, set early BtVS S6/AtS S2, pre-Conner.
Rating: Don't know yet. G for now.
Buffy's gaze fell to the floor, not quite sure what to say. How the hell were she and Angel married? Slowly, she voiced that thought. "H-how, Angel?"
Angel reached into his pocket and pulled something out, keeping his eyes from hers the whole time, clearly sheepish about something. He reached out and placed something she hadn't seen in a long time in her hands: his claddagh ring. Buffy looked at it, not quite sure what he was trying to say.
"It's a bonding ring, Buffy. Not quite the same as marriage, but held in almost as high a regard during my time in Ireland. Couples wearing claddagh rings were treated as though they were married, except that the girl wasn't allowed to leave her father's house until they actually were."
Buffy shrugged. "So, it's a bonding ring. How did that turn into marriage?"
Angel looked back down at the floor. "We made it into a marriage, Buffy. We exchanged vows of love and... consummated our marriage that night. That made it into a marriage, at least in the eyes of 1770's Ireland."
Buffy nodded. "But 1770's Ireland doesn't have a lot to do with the real world, Angel."
He nodded, and smiled awkwardly. "But it's always meant a lot to me." He met her eyes quickly, as if afraid of her reaction. "There's more."
Buffy sighed, not quite sure how to react. Sure, she was upset that he hadn't told her the significance of the claddagh ring to him, but would it really have mattered? And if it had mattered, wouldn't it have just muddied the works even more? It was probably better this way. But more? "What?"
He reached out and touched her neck simply, running his fingers gently over the scar on her neck. The simple action made her shiver, but she tried to conceal it from his sight. He caught it anyway, and smiled down at her. "It's a mark, Buffy."
She looked at him, not quite sure what he meant, sure that it was more than that simple fact. "What do you mean?"
"Your other scars fade, Buffy. This one never has... and never will."
"I noticed that it didn't fade. I always figured it was because I was so weak when it happened."
Angel shook his head, the pain in his eyes evidence of what that day had taken out of them both. "You were fine pretty quickly, Buffy. When that bite was less than a day old, your healing capacities were up to their usual strength."
Buffy didn't tell him that she'd always figured the bite hadn't healed because she hadn't been up to strength- but it didn't have anything to do with Angel's bite. She'd always secretly believed that it hadn't healed over because she was grieving too hard. She knew that mental health had an effect on physical health, and she figured that was what happened. But she just looked up at Angel, and said "Why, then?"
"It's a long story."
Buffy put her hands on her hips and looked up at him, telling him through body language that he better not even be thinking about not telling her, and he sighed and continued.
"Vampires secrete three kinds of saliva: a thin saliva that is around every day in our mouths and a semi-anticoagulant, a thick, pasty saliva that closes wounds on both vampires and humans almost instantly, and a third, a 'marking paste'.
"Marking paste is made of our blood and saliva, and it's forcibly pushed into an open wound when the vampire is finished feeding. It's most commonly used on minions and human slaves, to keep other master vampires from stealing them. But it's also used on mates, in which case it translates into the closest thing vampires have to marriage. I marked you." He stopped talking and just waited for this to sink in.
Buffy just stood there for a noticeable period of silence, and Angel was starting to get nervous when she finally spoke up again. "So, you're telling me that we're married, in pretty much both the Irish and the vampire worlds?"
Angel just nodded, noticing her quiet calm and waiting for her real reaction.
"And you didn't feel the need to tell me?"
The vampire winced. This was not going in a good direction. "When I marked you... I wasn't in my right mind. And then I left right afterwards. It would have only caused more heartache."
Buffy looked at him and nodded again, still strangely calm. Angel, unaware of what he was doing, stood at the ready on the balls of his feet, his weight balanced in a classic fighters stance with his feet apart. Nervously, he awaited her next question.
Instead of asking anything else, she snickered. Softly at first, and the vampire wasn't quite sure if he'd heard right, but then harder, again and again until she was doubled over laughing. Angel just waited, an awkward smile spread across his face, not quite sure what was going on.
When Buffy finally got it together, she stood up and faced him, wiping the tears of laughter from her eyes. "You... you..." She gasped.
Angel's awkward smile widened a little. "I'm glad I'm sure a source of amusement."
"No... not that... it's just that... you look like you're going to battle, and all we're trying to do is have a conversation!"
Angel's smile turned sheepish at that, and he readjusted his stance. "Sorry about that. I was just afraid you were going to be so mad and throw me out of your life..."
Buffy turned serious as she heard his fears. "I could never do that, Angel," She told him softly, her eyes full of her love, the same love that his eyes always held and neither of them could do anything about. Then her expression hardened a little, and she shook a finger playfully at him. "But that doesn't mean I'm not mad at you!"
Angel nodded sagely. "What kind of punishment do you think I deserve, oh Slayer of my heart?"
Buffy gazed up at him, rather amazed he'd pulled that off with a straight face, and then caught his eye and it was all over, the playfulness down the drain in a split second. "Angel..."
He'd caught up with her quickly, and understood that they were no longer playing. "Buffy, I'm so sorry. There just never seemed a right time to tell you..."
She shook her head. "No... I mean, I'm still upset and all, but this isn't about that. You thought you did what was right."
Angel still thought he'd done what was right. But he wasn't about to tell her that. If she thought he'd discovered the error of his ways now and was sorry for keeping it from her, let her think that. There was enough to be upset about right now, without him throwing the fact that he would have kept this a secret until one of them met their grave for real into the works.
"What is it, then?" He asked gently.
Buffy shook her head a little, looking slightly dazed and more than a little confused. "I think... I need to think about this for a little while," She told him. "I'm just going to go back to my hotel... I'll come by in the morning."
Angel gestured towards the stairs. "You could stay here if you want. This place used to be a hotel, there's about a hundred rooms. Fifteen or twenty have working bathrooms and stuff."
Buffy looked at him, and smiled. "Thanks, Angel. But I think I better go back to the hotel... the one that's still a hotel," She clarified.
He nodded. "Alright. I'll see you in the morning?"
She stepped into the doorway, and nodded back. "See you then."
When Buffy arrived the next morning, Cordy was waiting. Clearly excited by something, she pointed Buffy up the stairs and to the left with more than her usual enthusiasm. As the Slayer cleared the top step, though, the Seer called out to her. "Oh, Buffy?"
She stopped, and turned to face her former friend and foe. "Yeah?"
"He's asleep. He said to show you in when you got here, though, he wants to see you."
Buffy nodded, a little confused. "Thanks... Cordelia." Then, muttering under her breath, she continued the sentence. "I think."
Working with mixed feelings about this, Buffy knocked on Angel's door and waited. Within a minute came the sleepy reply. "Come in!"
Turned the knob, Buffy slipped into the room without a sound. Angel sat in bed, wearing black boxers and a black t-shirt, barefoot and rubbing his eyes, his hair sticking up in all directions. She smiled at him, the sight bringing back memories, some pleasant and some... not so pleasant. She shook her head to clear it, and met his eyes. "Good morning. Sorry I woke you up."
He shook his head. "I wanted to see you. It's just been busy lately... I thought I'd catch a nap while I could." He stood, and motioned to the door. "Want to go get something to eat?"
Buffy shook her head, standing firmly where she had when she'd entered the room. Angel finally caught up on her vibe, and returned to the bed, patting a spot next to him in an invitation for her to join him. She did, but not where he'd gestured. The Slayer sat a half a foot farther down, keeping a large space between the ex-lovers, and didn't look at him.
"Buffy... I just have to say again, I'm sorry I didn't tell you. There just never seemed to be a time, and then we were trying so hard to get on with our lives, and it seemed wrong to throw a wrench into the works, even if you deserved to know the truth..."
Buffy held up a hand, and, surprised, the vampire stopped. "I know all that, Angel."
He nodded slowly, and looked at her. "Well... not to infer the wrong thing, I love your company," they shared a sad smile at that, "but what did you come here to talk about, then?"
Buffy twisted her hands a little in her lap, avoiding his eyes again. "I didn't. I came here to say good-bye."
Angel's face showed his surprise. "You're not staying?"
She shook her head. "This is all really confusing, Angel, and I need to figure out what it means to me... but it's not going to change anything, is it?" She looked up at him, a pleading look on her face, as though asking for him to fix it, make it change something. He shook his head sadly.
"Then it's all really in my head. And I can work those out at home, where I can take care of Dawn and stay active about slaying."
The vampire nodded slowly. "I'm sorry... I'm sorry that you have to go," he told her. "I know it's hard for us to be together... but I miss you. Come and visit me sometime?"
She looked at him sadly. "Maybe. I don't think so, though."
He nodded. "I understand."
Standing in the doorway, she gave him a long look, filled with emotion, and stepped into the hallway. Holding herself carefully together, she said good-bye to Cordy, waved to Gunn, and left the old hotel.
Sunnydale welcomed her home, and Buffy returned to slaying as quickly as she could, satisfied that everything had taken care of itself at least reasonably well in her absence. Sitting on her sister about school proved to be a full-time job, but at least Dawn was passing all her classes again. Willow was doing better, if not looking better, and Tara kept stopping by to get Dawn and take her places, so Buffy was fairly sure that the spat they'd had about Tara moving out was over.
Spike only showed up once, and Buffy let him into to talk to Dawn, but didn't allow him to ask for anything more. He looked a little disappointed, but had whispered something about 'waiting forever' in her ear as he left. For a split second, she felt incredibly sorry for him, knowing that she would, that she could, never love him. But she'd told him again and again, it wasn't her fault if he didn't get it.
Though maybe you aren't helping by leading him on, a little voice in the back of her head mentioned. She grimaced at the thought of that ill-fated kiss after the damn singing demon played his little trick, and wished she could take it back. She took treating Spike cruelly for granted, he was a demon, but she really didn't have any desire to mess with his feelings any more than she apparently already was.
She told no one about her little visit with Angel, but they noticed something was off, anyway. She was distracted while slaying, in 'brood' mode more often than usual according to Willow, and, Dawn told her, 'just plain kinda sulky.' Still, she just brushed them off for as long as possible. After all, this thing between her and Angel, it was just that. Between her and Angel. As much as her friends wanted to help, they really couldn't, and she didn't want any more opinions messing up her already tangled thoughts.
So, when Willow called Angel Investigations one day to see if Wesley could help her with some research, she got a rather shocking surprise.
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