So. Buffy. I am still new to this show (midway through season 3, though thoroughly, inadvertently spoiled by years of hearing about it for a lot of what is to come), and I know, Spike and Buffy are kind of The Thing? Yes? I dunno. Right now, I am all about some Buffy/Angel, you guys. But anyway. This particular story is kind of a test drive. It does not really have A Point, but I enjoyed writing it, so there you go.
Set during Angel's time in the hell dimension (*sob*), between Becoming: Part 2 and Anne, mostly, with a touch of his return. Thanks for reading!
I know everything that you did, because you did it to me.
She is ethereal in his nightmares; painted hollow by the frailty of memory.
In his nightmares she is in his bed, or in his arms, or they are tangled up in the shadow of sunset and she is kissing him slow and sweet like all the world isn't wedged into the spaces between them. And her hands are soft and warm against his jaw, tilting his face down to hers, and as the skies go dark she whispers to his mouth that she loves him.
He traces the warm line of her hipbone with the span of his thumb, fits his hands against the sloping small of her back, shapes her against him. And this is the world: this right here, her. Slow and sweet and perfect and all the happiness he does not deserve and all the happiness that cost him his soul.
This is not the nightmare, his lips marking a path down her jawline, her neck, to the soft place where it meets her shoulder, as he murmurs against her skin: I love you.
The nightmare starts when the sword pierces his stomach all over again, or when his soul abandons him and his teeth sink into her neck, or when a flourish of his hands snaps Jenny Calendar's neck, and he wakes gasping to hell even worse.
Angel is not sure, right when it starts, what is worse: when he didn't know why she sent him here, or when he did.
He didn't know, when she first pushed him into hell. In that moment he was trapped on that rainy street in the dark months and worlds away, clutching at wet asphalt and crying her name into the storm, begging her to help him, save him. And then she did, somehow, some way; he woke up from the rainy street to the floor of a room he didn't recognize, with her sword at his throat.
As he struggled to put together the pieces, she kissed him, gentle, with tears in her eyes, and ran him through.
But it all came back, in time.
Every word, every twisted act; the animalistic pleasure he took from destroying her, slowly, taking a piece here and a piece there in a torturous dismantling of all that she was. And most of all, he remembers the sharp crack of a broken neck meant to break the only person he has ever let himself love.
And that person shoved him into the mouth of hell. But Angel thinks, privately, it is worse knowing that he belongs here.
He lives several dozen years before he starts to really feel the slip.
It is a subtle thing, a shifting. He can't see shapes of things he knew quite right anymore; can't picture his written name, or how to form the letters that spell it. And then he can't remember his name at all. But still, she sticks in his mind like bits of broken glass, pressing in just when he thinks everything is gone.
(he gave her his jacket, he thinks)
The pain of this place should get easier with time, but it doesn't. It intensifies, deepens, wraps itself around his heart. There is no space to miss her in waking, and this is a place of eternal torment so there is no such thing as adjusting. There is only perpetual suffering that will not end because it cannot and will not get easier because he does not deserve it.
(the first time he kissed her he was lost)
There are teeth at his spine in the shape of resignation. He thinks, maybe, if he gives in to it, dies to self, he'll stop hurting so much.
(the last thing of their night he keeps hold of is the way she buried her face in his neck, whispered over and over how she loved him, so much)
He talks to her in his dreams.
Sometimes they are in the Bronze, when it's empty and there is just them and she is a warm weight against him and laden with memories he thought he'd lost.
"Remember the ice rink?" she asks, cradled against his chest as he holds her from behind, his hands lacing over her stomach. His mouth grazes her neck and she shivers, but he only kisses her there, nudging her hair out of the way with a brush of his nose.
"Always," Angel says softly. And he does. Cold air and slick ice under his boots, and watching her skate, elegant and light. And kissing her under the slanted lights with her fingers still chilled and her breath like frost.
"Always," she echoes; but she is frail in his hands, and spectral, fading.
"Stay with me," he pleads, dropping his forehead to rest on her shoulder, but she just touches his jaw and sighs long and deep.
"I wasn't the one who left."
Other times, she stands over Jenny's body in the dark.
"You killed her."
"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."
(it is a pointless exchange turned over and over; there is no atonement to be found in words, Angel learned long ago)
(Jenny's neck breaks louder in the memory of it and sometimes he claws at his ears until he draws blood but it never goes away)
"I loved you," she breathes, and the cold circle of metal that is the ring her gave her brands his palm as she drops it back into his hand.
No matter how many times she stabs him in memory, it always hurts.
He wonders where she is. What she's doing. If she's safe. If she's hurting, or healing, or living, or going on like nothing happened.
He wonders this when he goes to sleep with her memory nestled at the edge of consciousness, and when he wakes up clutching the long-healed place where the sword pierced him, and in the spaces between everything in waking that is his eternal damnation.
She is place that never quite leaves him. In time he comes to question whether this is a blessing or a curse, and resentment brews in the part of him that just wants to let go.
Angel loses himself to the dark, as he thinks he always knew he would.
It takes a hundred years, but they break him. They wear down his armor and they wear down what's underneath, and they prod and scrape and claw until there is nothing left of him but the scraps of his soul and the animal it sheltered.
And even when he tumbles out of hell, shivering, broken, he doesn't leave that place. The torment rages on in the confines of his mind. It tangles in every inch of his being and makes every touch, sound, sensation hurt like the brands of the place he left and he goes crazy with it. It is the familiarity that cuts him, down to muscle and bone, because he can't figure why any of it is familiar.
He curls his toes against a cold floor, shaking, and the shackles binding him break the skin of his wrists as he twists against them, but he has to fight because there is nothing in him but survival instinct and what once constituted a man.
And the dreams.
He cries in his sleep for things he no longer knows and every time she looks at him he hates her for it.
Angel does not leave hell until he remembers.
This is when it ends:
When he looks at Buffy, framed in light and regret, and knows her face. When the anger melts off like ice and leaves him shaking and sore and loving her.
And everything around him just falls away.
He sinks to his knees and holds her, holds her.
Don't worry about it. I love you. Close your eyes.
Reviews are very much loved, and thanks for reading.