Deciding it was safer to ignore Dawn’s announcement for the moment, Angel made his way to his desk. The whole day had been a bitch. Nothing had gone the way it was supposed to go. The meeting with the Alonsmi clan was a disaster resulting in no contract. His failure to negotiate a peace treaty only pissed off the Senior Partners, who sent Eve scurrying to his office with a reprimand. Of course, the disaster with Buffy kept replaying in his mind and interrupting everything he did. Memories of her eyes filled with hurt and confusion only made him feel like a louse. The one thing he didn’t need was Dawn throwing some idle threats his way.
“I know, Angel.” Dawn repeated, stepping closer so she could loom over his desk where he’d dropped into his chair.
Rubbing his forehead, he leaned his head back. The girl wasn’t going to go away just because he didn’t say anything. This was Dawn. She’d start screeching if she didn’t get what she wanted. That was definitely not what he wanted, so he gave up. Laughing because it seemed the only logical response, Angel threw his arms out into a wide arc. “So, tell me Dawnie, exactly which of my deep dark evil secrets are you privy to about me? And how exactly do you plan to blackmail me with it?”
“I’m not bluffing, you know?” She thrust her chin out with arms crossed across her middle.
“I know.” He sighed before leaning forward to rest his chin on folded hands. “But, please, do explain what you know? After I know what it is, I’ll be able to decide what its worth to me to keep it between us.”
“You really are a bastard.”
“You’re just figuring that out? Come on, little sister, you can come up with nastier names for me after all I’ve done.”
It seemed she lost a little of her bluster as she sank into Spike’s chair. The one he always chose to sit in when he came in to pester Angel. Already, the days of it being just the two vampires seemed to be centuries ago. Angel missed it. Spike could handle his sire without any pretence or games. After all, Spike knew the worst of Angelus, but had also lived with him. Except for the one secret that tore him apart in the deepest part of his soul. It was for the best, but it just didn’t seem right.
Now, Dawn sat there staring at him with confusion and pain in her young eyes. For someone who knew the truth of the world, she was still innocent in so many ways. Angel supposed until she’d lived through some intimate heartbreak of her own then she would still believe in happy endings. He didn’t, and couldn’t remember if he ever had.
“I guess I could.” Dawn looked away as if looking at him anymore would bring her pain. “It wouldn’t matter, because you already know how low you can sink, and in some perverse way you are very proud of it.” She leaned forward with her elbows on her thighs while she pointedly stared at him. “Answer me one question…why do you tell Buffy that you love her if you don’t? She wants to believe in you so much, and love you, but you’re tearing her apart.”
A sarcastic retort was dancing on his lips, because he already knew how much he was hurting Buffy. It was killing him to cause her pain, but he’d made his choices that were in the best interest of everyone. Wasn’t that what he was supposed to do? Take care of everyone, make the hard decisions and in the end be alone.
Finally, he just said, “I do love her. Not that I think it’s any of your business.”
“Yes, it is.” Dawn protested. Her stare turned deadly as she pinned him to his seat with it. “If she doesn’t suit you or do what you want, are you going to make another deal with the devil to make her disappear from your life?”
It was said. Angel supposed that he should squirm or act horrified that Dawn knew about his son, but somehow it almost made sense. They were both children born or created from something mystical and not of humans. Was there some sort of connection between them? Was there a destiny for the teens that no one knew of yet? A none too subtle harrumph let him know that she was waiting for a reaction, but despite his ponderings, he wasn’t in the mood to discuss it.
“Only if it was in everyone’s best interests.”
“You mother fucker,” Dawn snarled, standing and throwing the small bronze statue from the corner of his desk with deadly accuracy. This left Angel thanking his vampire speed as he barely managed to get out of the way. “That’s it. I’ll stake you myself.”
Angel stood, leaning toward her as he slipped into his demon visage. He even managed a menacing growl that made her step back.
“Oh, you can scare me, Angel, but you won’t always have the advantage.”
“Don’t become my enemy, Dawn…you won’t like being on that side of me. Your sister made a deal to be with me, under my roof and to abide by my rules, so you have no right to try to make deals or blackmail me into doing things your way.” Sighing at the sight of tears in Dawn’s eyes, Angel returned to human guise. “I know you’re trying to protect her. I admire that. You’ve got courage, but you won’t win in a war against me. Do you understand?”
“So, what am I supposed to do? Stand by while you tear my sister’s heart into pieces? That’s not me. I don’t understand why you made Connor disappear and everything’s that’s happened here.” She shrugged. “Maybe there was a good reason that you’ll tell me one day, but I won’t allow Buffy to be hurt anymore.”
“It’s her choice to be here.”
Angel still didn’t want a pissing contest with the defiant child in front of him. Yet, the maturity she was displaying impressed him, and a part of him knew that one day he would tell her about Connor just so she knew Angel’s decision was for the best.
“There really wasn’t a choice about her coming to
It wasn’t a conscious choice. Somehow, Angel found himself on the other side of the desk, and taking the petite teen into his arms. He wasn’t even sure who the man was that made the gesture, but knew it was needed.
“I’m sorry for doubting her, and being so prideful.” He kissed Dawn’s cheek. “I promise I’ll take good care of her.”
“That’s all I ask,” Dawn whispered, before giving him a bear hug that would have hurt a mortal.
“Just please don’t tell her about Connor. I’ll explain…later after this battle is done.”
Angel nodded. The time for secrets was over. It was time to try a little trust and honesty. Taking a deep breath, he headed down the hallway to where he could feel his lovers were sleeping. He didn’t even question why they were in an old unused room; he just opened the door and slipped inside.
Transfixed he stood just inside the doorway, staring at couple on the bed. They looked so at ease, so natural pressed together with their arms and legs entwined around the other. Breathtaking was the only word his mind could conjure to describe the scene before him. He committed every angle, every lush curve, and their intimate expressions to memory so that he could commit them to paper later.
Despite the love that vibrated through, there was also a
thread of fear coursing through him. For
the first time since they’d started their affair, he didn’t feel in control of
the relationship with Spike. There had
never been any worries about losing his childe again while his relationship
with Buffy was different. A part of him
knew that he would lose her again…eventually.
After all, she was human. It was that worry that was partially
responsible for his cruelty toward her since she’d shown up in
Unsure of his own emotions he waited by the entrance. He closed his eyes as he took a deep breath, letting his barely used lungs expand with oxygen. It burned as it coursed through his system just as it did when Gwen had kissed him. It was life…something he could never have again.
“Angel?” Spike asked, barely raising his head as he held onto Buffy who was still sleeping. “Are you all right?”
He shrugged as a shudder of grief wound through him. This was too hard. He would lose them, too. He would lose Spike…Buffy had once. He was wrong. His childe wasn’t invincible. What had he done? What had made him think that he could find happiness? He was supposed to walk through this redemption trip alone. To go without help, but he was weak. Even if he didn’t know how to do this relationship thing, he still craved it with an overwhelming need. To give companionship, love, and to feel it given back to him.
“Spike, what’s wrong?” Buffy rubbed her sleepy eyes with a yawn chasing her words away. She looked around, spotting Angel in the doorway. “Oh…hi, Angel.” Although she tried to sound nonchalant, he could still hear the hurt lurking behind her words.
“Hello.” He could barely get the words out around the lump in his throat. Thrusting his hands deep into his pockets, he turned soulful eyes to the floor. It was humble time. “Buffy, I…I was wrong to hurt you the way I did. I took it beyond what was needed to get the point across to Harmony.”
“Are you? Or is this another attempt to get your way? To make me vulnerable for your next attack?”
Buffy rolled away from Spike and off the bed so that she could stand before him. Angel almost smiled at the indignation that lit her features with a fire that made him proud of her strength.
“No, it’s not. I’ve been acting like a jackass since you’ve gotten here, and it was all because I was afraid to let you get too close to me.”
Buffy shook her head as if she didn’t believe what she was hearing. He turned his gaze to Spike who was, for once, surprisingly quiet. It seemed he was on his own here. He moved closer to his girl, taking her hands into his, finally leaning his forehead against hers before he whispered, “Forgive me?”
“Only if you promise never to treat me like that again.” Buffy stepped back so that she could look up at him. “I love you, but I’m not that little girl anymore. I understand the need for the act, but not the cruelty that you were showing toward me. Do you understand?”
“Yes, I understand.”
Angel took her into his arms, pulling her close against his body. She surprised him though by stepping back and pulling him into the bed. Somehow he knew it wasn’t for sex, but Buffy’s need to be comforted. He could give her that. She slid into the middle of the bed, and he followed so that she was cuddled between the two vampires.
Forcing himself to relax, concentrating on the love in his heart for these two creatures, Angel let his body mold to theirs until they were as one. Just as Buffy and Spike had been when he’d entered the room. Buffy’s contented sigh let him know that he was reaching her and it made him feel like he truly belonged.
Something he hadn’t truly allowed himself to feel in a long time.
to be continued…