Wow, this is officially the longest Buffy fanfic I've ever written. It's almost done, but I do plan on writing a sequel to this, considering the ending that I have planned. So never fear, the story will be continued after this one is finished. :D
As usual, enjoy!
Disclaimer: I do not own Buffy or any of the other Buffyverse characters. They belong to Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. The WB and UPN also have rights involving the show, and I thank them for airing the show all those years ago.
As he flicked the light switch, the apartment was instantly cleansed of the shadows that had long taken hold over the room. Looking around, Angel was pleasantly surprised to see that vandals or the homeless hadn't broken into the place and taken anything. Instead, everything was exactly where it had been left, the same night and morning after he had lost his soul, and the entire nightmare had begun. It was almost like a ghost, haunting them with a scene that they had already played through before.
"Buffy?" He asked, aware that she had barely said a single word to him since her soul's return at the mansion. Shaking her head slightly, she kept her back to him, her arms wrapped around her body as if she were cold.
"What?" She finally replied, her eyes refusing to meet his as she walked further into the apartment.
"I'm not going to pretend like you're ok, but you need to get some rest. We're going to deal with everything, but it won't do either of us any good if you aren't at full strength."
"That's the problem, isn't it? I'm just a thing to be dealt with, a problem that just needs to be swept under the rug."
"Buffy." He said, making his way over to her and making her turn around to face him. "This isn't your fault. If it's anyone's, it's mine. I was the one who made you like this."
"Not you, Angelus." She answered, keeping her eyes on the floor beneath her feet. No matter what she told herself, she couldn't bring herself to meet his eyes, no matter how much warmth or love they had behind them. She didn't deserve any of it, after all that she had done.
"We're the same thing, Buffy. He's always there, taunting and edging me on. I should have told you earlier, maybe then it could have all been stopped."
"I couldn't have killed you." She said, finally looking up at him, but her gaze stopping just short of his chin. "I tried so hard to convince myself otherwise, but I couldn't do it." His hands still resting on her shoulders, he pulled her towards him, wrapping his arms around her body in a hug as he saw that she was only moments away from starting to cry once more.
"It's alright, it's in the past." He said, holding the back of her head in his hand, his fingers gently stroking her blonde hair. A few times her body trembled underneath him, but she refused to let anymore tears fall down her still wet cheeks. They stood there, their bodies refusing to move for a few moments before she looked up at him.
"It's never going to go away, is it?" She asked, silently referring to the grief that had taken hold of her still heart. As he looked down into her glassy eyes, Angel shook his head slightly.
"I'm still waiting for the day that it does." Looking away, Buffy wiped her eyes using the back of her sleeve. The bed in the corner of the apartment still had the same sheets that had been there for close to three or four months now, but they still seemed surprisingly clean. Considering the condition that the rest of the apartment was currently in, Angel saw no reason to doubt that there was anything on them besides a thin layer of dust.
Catching where his eyes had laid their gaze, Buffy slowly started to walk towards it, her steps slow and full of thought. Angel made no move to stop her, and instead shadowed her, unsure of what to say. As she sat down onto the red-sheets, she slipped out of her shoes and pulled her knees to her chest, laying her head down on top of them in the process. Continuing to watch her for a few short moments, Angel headed towards the bathroom, again finding everything exactly where it had last been left.
"He hates us. He hides it so well, but it's there, hidden so low beneath the surface."
"No, he doesn't." She said, her voice escaping as nothing more than a barely audible whisper.
"You can deny it all you want. In time, he will remember what he made us into, and he will leave you, just as he has done to women throughout the centuries."
"Buffy." As she heard him say her name, she looked up, her mind shaken out of what the demon inside her had been saying.
"What?" The word had no emotion behind it as she spoke, her eyes seemingly having taken on a lifeless quality to them.
"You're still bleeding." Gesturing to the numerous wounds that covered the upper half of her body, Angel held up the wet wash-cloth he had in his hand. "Just thought I'd save you the effort, and get the blood off of you."
"I'm fine." Even as the word left her lips, she moved down slightly in order to let him sit down beside her.
"Just let me help you. Most of my wounds have already healed." Simply nodding her response, she pulled her sweater up in order to let him properly see the rest of her wounds. Part of her knew that the wounds should have healed by themselves, but considering that she hadn't fed on anything for almost an entire day, she wondered if she still even had her Slayer powers, considering that she was, for all intents and purposes, dead. Since it had been longer than the short minute that she had been dead before, it was possible that whatever magick that had bestowed them upon her had taken them back.
Without saying another word, he carefully wrung the wash-cloth out into the small bowl he had brought with him. As the water from the cloth splashed into the bowl, the sound of it echoed throughout the entire apartment.
"It's because I need to feed, isn't it?" She finally asked, hissing as the cold cloth met the first unclosed wound on her back. Pausing in order to make sure that he wouldn't hurt her anymore, he continued to clean the wound once he saw her body return to its normal posture.
"I have blood here, or I should. If not, I can get someone to go get some."
"You can go get it, I'll be fine here by myself." She answered, twisting her neck in order to look at him.
"No, I don't want to leave you." Hearing his response, she smiled, the gesture almost instantly replaced with pain as the wash-cloth made its way over another unclosed wound.
"What does it feel like? To feed on a bag?" She asked, already regretting the question before it was even fully off of her tongue. "I already know what it's like to feed on a human."
"Was…was it true that you felt everything the Demon did?" She nodded, any other thoughts about the matter remaining locked inside her head. As he continued to clean her wounds, he didn't press the subject any further. The emotions that she was trying to keep inside her were almost pouring out of her in waves, with Angel being able to pick up on them through pure instinct.
"That should be it." He finally said, dropping the wash-cloth into the bowl. As she pulled the sweater completely off of her body, Buffy kept her back turned to her sire.
"Can I have one of your shirts? Mine's pretty much ruined." She said, knowing that he was staring at the way her blonde hair was flowing down her shoulders and the upper portion of her back. It wasn't particularly washed, and she knew that eventually she'd have to use the shower that lay almost entirely unused in the bathroom.
"Yeah…sure." He said, getting up off of the bed and opening the dresser that lay in the far corner of the room. As he pulled out one of his black-shirts, again, a thin layer of dust covering it, he came back to her and handed the article of clothing to her.
"Sorry I don't have anything else here. I'll have to get Giles or someone else to bring the rest of your things over."
"Ok." She quietly replied, wrapping the shirt around her frame, the black color effectively overtaking her skin. Looking down at her, Angel couldn't help but think of her as the same seventeen year old girl he had known since her arrival in Sunnydale. But inside, he knew that she was anything but the same person.
"You should probably get some sleep. After everything, you could use it." He said, his gaze never once flinching even as she looked up at him.
"I…You…Could you just hold me?" She asked, looking up at him with eyes that held a familiar amount of hurt, one that he was sure she had seen from him on a number of occasions. Again, he could tell that she was only moments away from crying, the grief from what the demon had done still hitting her in full-force. Simply nodding his response, Angel laid down on the bed beside her, and as she laid her head against the pillow, he wrapped his arm around her.
Closing her eyes, Buffy tried to push all the memories of what had happened out of her mind, and tried her best to ignore the voice still sounding out inside her head.
"Can you even consider what will happen when I get back in control?"
The almost boiling hot water continued to pour out of the shower head, the sensation of actually feeling warmth, if only for a fleeting moment, made her feel like a normal human being again. Her eyes closed, and her back pressed against the wall behind her, Buffy could still hear every single sound that made its way through the apartment, from Angel's boots scuffing against the floor to the sound of the microwave beeping at its completion. So when the knock on the door came softly echoing through the room, she was instantly aware of it.
"Giles." Angel's voice picked up where the knocking had left off. Opening her eyes, Buffy's gaze turned towards the slightly ajar door to the bathroom, her ears still picking up on the sound of the conversation going on outside.
"How is she?" Past the sound of the running water, she heard Giles voice making its way through the air, the sound of his voice unmistakable.
"What do you think? She's pretty shaken up, but she'll get through it."
"She is indeed stronger than she would appear."
"You don't have to tell me."
"I, um, I brought over the things you requested. Tara and Xander are over at the house boxing up the rest of her things. I'll need…her signature to sign over the house to us." As her former Watcher finished speaking, the sound of a box being handed over to someone else accompanied the end of his sentence.
"Thanks, I would have gone and gotten them myself, but I…" Accepting the box, the vampire's words trailed off.
"But you wanted to be with her. Perfectly understandable." There was an awkward silence that followed before Giles sighed, the action no doubt being followed by the man cleaning his glasses. "I…I don't know if I'll ever be completely capable of forgiving your…other shelf, but I…I shall be willing to try."
"You don't have to, I deserve as much hatred as I can receive."
"Because he is always there, isn't he? Constantly at the back of your mind, like some hidden shadow?"
"He's a part of me that just doesn't go away, no matter how much I wish he would. He's always there, taunting, mocking, always looking for a way to take control again." Again, there was an uncomfortable silence before Giles again broke the chain of it.
"I did more research during my…recovery, and discovered more on the accounts of the Slayers who have been turned in the past centuries." If her heart had still been beating, Buffy was sure that it would have stopped completely.
"Most of the accounts end with the termination of said Slayer in order to protect the line."
"Giles…" There was a slight protective tone to Angel's voice as he spoke, showing that he wouldn't accept her…termination.
"I'm not quite finished just yet. All of the Watchers who reported these instances were said to be blindly loyal to the Council, going so far as to blindly throw away their Slayer's life. I'm not that kind of man."
"You're not going to report this to the Council?"
"No, I…I couldn't bring myself to do it. She's too amazing a girl to simply have the Council send its death dealers to extinguish her soul from the face of this Earth." The Watcher answered, the words threatening to bring the tears back to Buffy's already wet eyes.
"We can't stay here, Giles. I can't have her seeing every single shred of pain and destruction that demon caused. It's more than I possibly think she could take."
"And where exactly would you go?"
"I haven't quite figured that out yet."
As she continued to stare at the wall, Buffy felt nothing but the cold inside of her own skin. Tucked up against her back, Angel lay asleep, his arm still wrapped around her stomach just as she had asked him to do the night before. They had been in this position ever since she had left the shower and sorted out the things that Giles had brought her. Her eyes drifted to the night-stand, the bright color of a pink stuffed-animal greeting her. As she looked at the object, she almost smiled, remembering how long she had had Mr. Gordo in her possession. The memories brought her mind images of her mother, and as soon as the first one came to her, she promptly shut down that line of thought and focused on something else.
She had finally managed to swallow some of the blood that her system had so desperately been craving ever since she had regained full control of her body from the Demon. She had almost vomited when the first drop of it had landed on her tongue, but her stomach had almost instantly craved more of it, and after she had finally drank, the pangs that accompanied the hunger had ceased, if only for the time being. They would come again soon, she was sure of that. Angel had had to convince her to drink it, even as every muscle in her system had urged her to take the liquid. The part of her that still had shreds of humanity being utterly repulsed by the idea.
He had offered her some of his own, going so far as to cut open his palm in the process. Unable to stomach taking something from the blood bad he had brought to her, she had taken his palm and fed until the pangs had stopped. Once they had vanished, she had curled back up underneath the red-sheets and tried to get more sleep. It was her way of making the world disappear for a few hours, a way of not having to feel anything. It hurt just to think, because every thought and memory would lead back to what had happened over the short span of a few weeks. It was too painful to even properly think.
The more she thought about it, Sunnydale wasn't a welcome place for her anymore. No matter how many apocalypses she prevented, no matter how many vampires or demons she struck down in order to prevent death and despair, it would never fill the void that the demon had ripped into existence.
"But it was so beautiful done, don't you think?"
"Your words slay me. You can't stop me, no matter how hard you try to push me away, I'll always be in your mind, waiting for that moment when you want to give up control and let me take over. It'll come, and when it does, I'll be ready."
"That'll never happen. I'll die before I let you take control of my body again."
"But you felt so at peace for that single moment when you died, didn't you? It was like going to sleep. All the pain, the fear, the hurt, the responsibility, it was all gone and there was simply happiness. But then you came back, that feeling disappeared, and you willingly gave control to me."
"I didn't…I couldn't."
"Face it, you wanted to have me come out and do some damage. No matter how many times you tried to tell me no, a part of you wanted to say yes."
"Shut up, just shut up."
"Get feisty with me all you want, Slayer, I'm not going anywhere. I'm still here, inside your mind, like a little dirty thought or image you can't bury no matter how hard you try." Closing her eyes, Buffy used all of her mental strength inside of her exhausted body, and almost smiled when she heard the demon's voice began to fade slightly. It was still there, but its volume had dropped off, becoming only a whisper on the edge of hearing.