Another letter arrived.
He wasn’t surprised; they came about every other day since he’d told her where he’d moved, not long after he had. He treasured each one, the scent of her on them, the handwriting. The sheer fact of them. He’d memorized each letter, every word, every emotion, everything she poured out to him…and everything she didn’t say.
My darling Angel,
College isn’t as easy as I thought, but then I suppose each new stage of one’s life requires changes and adjustments. This is just more, I suppose. I’m living with Willow now, I told you about my demonic roommate? She really was a demon. Always listen to the slayer’s instincts.
No one had, they hadn’t listened to her. Angel sighed softly, closing his eyes briefly at the thought. They never listened to her unless she’d already bled for them. They never truly understood her unless she’d already been proven right. How many times, he wondered? How many times would she have to bleed, have to be right before they stopped questioning and started just trusting?
Slaying isn’t bad, same old, same old on that front. But then does that really change? Nothing big yet, but it’s not the right time, haha. I swear the big bads only come during Christmas and May. I wonder why that is…
Spike’s back in town, I don’t know why. Yet. But he’s with Harmony. Remember her? Maybe not. She was one of Cordelia’s sheep friends, tall ,blonde, stupid. The reason blonde jokes never die. Apparently, during the mayor’s ascension, she was turned, and somehow those two crazy kids found their way to each other. Personally, I just think Spike’s slipping. Or desperate since Dru left him. But he’s here for something.
The gang are okay, I’m sure you don’t want to hear about them, but they’re fine. Mom’s in super gallery mode, so I rarely see her, but sometimes, that’s for the best.
Angel’s heart clenched. Joyce had never understood her daughter, the wonderful woman Buffy was, the potential to be so much more than Joyce wanted her to be.
I miss you, my Angel, so much. It’s hard going on without you, without you there to back me up slaying, to listen to me as I rant over my day, to just hold me when I don’t want to be strong anymore. I miss your arms, it was the one place I was always safe, and I miss your kisses.
Come home to me.
All my continued love,
Angel reread the letter, and then read it once again. She was so lonely, so isolated. Not just because she was the slayer, no though that had something to do with it. It was more than that. No one trusted her. Oh, they all looked to her whenever something went wrong, whenever there was a demon to kill, or an apocalypse to advert, but for the every day things…she was useless. They didn’t consider her to actually be the slayer, but their friend with neat powers who could do beyond belief stunts when their lives were on the line.
Maybe he shouldn’t have left her; maybe he shouldn’t have stayed away as long as he had. Maybe.
No, he shouldn’t have. He knew that, hadn’t wanted to, and yet…
“She what?” Cordelia’s voice echoed through the room to his office. Angel didn’t bother to look up at the noise, so used to his…assistant? What did one call her? Whatever she was, he didn’t care what she yelled, and wasn’t surprised that she wasn’t doing work, but was gossiping on the phone. Lucky for him, he had a long-distance plan that didn’t charge per minute.
“No,” Cordelia said in low-voiced horror, then, eagerly but just as low. Probably so he wouldn’t know she wasn’t working. Stupid girl – he was a vampire, he had super-hearing. “And then what happened? Well, did she beat him up? She’s the slayer, all that power or whatever. She can kick his ass.”
And that got his attention. His head jerked up and Angel listened to what Cordelia was saying, trying to hear the person at the other end of the phone, too. It was Willow, he realized, just as Cordelia burst again, before immediately lowering her voice.
“That’s what she gets for sleeping with a frat guy. I’m not surprised, but I am that Bu-that she would stoop to that level.”
Willow was arguing that it wasn’t Buffy’s fault, to which Cordelia apologized in her Cordelia-way, but Angel heard none of that.
Buffy had slept with someone else? She had…someone not him? A frat boy? She’d slept with a frat boy? Something broke within Angel at that news, and he stared blindly at the letter again. Her scent was unchanged at the time of this writing; it was still her, still only his Buffy.
His scent mingled with hers, forever intertwined together. Her blood, even now, from this distance, called to him, and yet…
She’d slept with another.
Not that he hadn’t had hundreds of women over the course of his many lifetimes, but never any since meeting Buffy. Since discovering the light she held, the light she was. Not since he’d been drawn to her world, her essence, and had fallen in love with her at first sight.
The whispered conversation between Cordelia and Willow continued for another moment, but Angel had stopped listening. Buffy had slept with another. Even as she’d professed her love for him, even after sending him letter after letter full of love and hope, she’d slept with another.
The paperweight on his desk caught his attention; the blown glass sun reflected the light, not only from the florescent bulbs, but from the indirect sunlight he tried to fill his office with. The light that reminded him of her.
“It’s just reflected light,” Buffy had told him when she’d given it to him months ago. Before he’d let insecurities weigh him down, before he grew too scared of his demon – and what his demon wanted to do with Buffy – that he left. Before he listened to people who really didn’t have his love’s best interested at heart.
“It’s just reflected light. Moonlight is reflected sunlight, just less intense; so for all intents and purposes, you already take me into the light.”
By the time he’d dealt with everything – Spike, the Gem of Amarra, Marcus and his so-called torture – there were two letters waiting for him.
Sitting on his bed, Angel carefully opened the first, slowly savoring the ritual of doing so. Looking at the neat handwriting that spelled out simply, A. 2137 Kings Road Apt. 1 Los Angeles, CA 90048. The return address in the upper left hand corner, B. Room 214 Stevenson Hall University of California- Sunnydale , CA 94085. Turning it over to see a small phrase in Gaelic on the back, this one neatly printed to read, ‘I love you’.
Hesitating for a moment, Angel eased his legs before him, the pulling of newly healed muscles making him shift uncomfortably for a moment. Marcus knew nothing about torture, nothing. Oh, he knew how to use music to its full advantage, that was for sure, but other than listening to Mozart’s Symphony 41 for several unending hours, he hadn’t done anything to Angel. Not really.
Even the demon hunter, Holtz had been much more inventive in his time than Marcus could ever hope to be.
With a repertoire as extensive as his – Angelus’ – it was difficult to find anything that either he hadn’t already done, or had been subjected to. Besides, after living with a soul for over a hundred years, a soul that was in pain over everything he’d done the previous hundred and fifty years, what could physical torture do that he hadn’t already done to himself?
And nothing, nothing, could compare with the torture of staying away from Buffy. Nothing.
“What do you want if not the ring?”
My darling Angel,
Do you ever wonder how it is that some of the things that seem so right at the time, are really the worst possible things for you?
Oh, God, she was writing to tell him that it was over. That she didn’t love him anymore, that that Parker guy was the one she wanted, that…wait. But then why the letter? Wouldn’t she just stop writing? And why write the I love you on the back? Taking a deep unnecessary breath, Angel continued reading.
I thought that it was fine, that by doing it it’d be one more step into this shiny new life here, but I was wrong. It wasn’t the step I needed. In fact, the more I think on it, the more I think that it wasn’t even me who wanted to take this step, but everyone else. They wanted me to move forward when all I ever think about is the past.
You and I in the past.
But that’s not true, either. I think about the future, too. I think about our future, the one where we’re together, and where we walk through the moonlight, where I come home to you after class, and where you hold me as I sleep. I made a huge mistake, Angel, and I don’t know how to take it back. I feel like I’ve betrayed you, and isn’t that strange?
You’re the one who left. You’re the one who walked away. You’re the one who broke up with me. And yet here I am, writing you like some stupid child who can’t take a hint.
Well, I get it now, I really do. You don’t want me, fine. You don’t want the future we could have had, fine. You don’t want to hold me as I sleep or walk in the moonlight. I guess it really is just reflected light, isn’t it?
She didn’t sign it.
The letter ended abruptly, with her harsh words leaping off the page at him. He’d done this to her, he’d been the one to break her, to force her to this. God, what had he done? What had he done to her, to them? How was their being apart going to help either of them? It was destroying him, just as surely as it was her. The words she wrote showed him that.
Or the words she didn’t write. There were no words of love in this, other than those on the envelope. There was no closing affection; she didn’t even sign it. Nothing more, as if they meant nothing more to each other than a quickly written letter saying that she was still alive, and with no help from him.
No help from him.
Looking at the second letter, Angel carefully opened it, fingertips caressing the back of the envelope where the Gaelic words for ‘I’m sorry’ were written.
Her tears stained this letter, the scent of her sorrow covered it as surely as the passion of her love. He looked blindly at the words for a long moment, but all he could see was her face.
Her face as they exchanged claddagh rings at the pier. Her face as they vowed their love, as they sealed it in the ancient traditions. Her face as they made love, as they were bound to each other in the most primal of ways. Her face through Angelus’ eyes, beautiful in her heartbreak, steadfast in her devotion. Even now, even though Angelus had tried to destroy her because of the love he felt for her, the love he couldn’t understand, Angel did.
You tried to destroy change; you tried to make it into something you understood so that you could continue on with your ways.
Her face when she thrust that sword through him to save the world, the heartbreak and the agony. Her face when he returned, and he and Angelus were closer than ever before. And still, she loved him. Them. She stayed with them, nursing them through the nightmares, through the vicious urges to rend and tear and rip apart.
Her face when he pretended to want Faith to discover Wilkins’s plan. Her face afterwards, when they still, still didn’t talk about it. When she still didn't understand his love for her, when she still didn’t understand Angelus’ need.
Her face when he broke up with her. Her face when he drank from her. The gift, purely offered. The blood, the life freely given. The uncontrollable lust, the basic need that surged through him as he drank her, the orgasm as she proved – once again – that she belonged to him.
“What have I done? What have I done in betraying all we are, my love? What have I done to us? I’ve betrayed our love, betrayed our vows. I deserted you, abandoned my place by your side. I deserted my wife, my mate, and you don’t blame me. God, Buffy, why don’t you blame me?”
With a roar he upended the table, uncaring when it smashed against the sink and stove. “What have I done?”
Deep within him, Angelus laughed. And Angel knew that the demon laughed at his stupidity. At the realization that now, now when he’d nearly severed all ties with Buffy, that now he was coming to his senses.
Home. He was going home. Home to Buffy. Home to his wife.
The second letter lay on the floor, and Angel bent to carefully pick it up.
I’m sorry for the harsh words I just wrote. God, you don’t know how sorry. But no matter how much I wish I could take them back, I already mailed the letter. It was a heat of the moment thing, and you know how I am with those.
He smiled, clearly remembering just that. Her heat, her passion…
Now that I think about it, I’m not sure I would take them back. They were the truth, poured from my heart, and no matter how much I want to only tell you words of love, the truth needs to be spoken. You hurt me unbearably when you left. Willow thinks I’m falling into a depression and has already suggested a counselor. She doesn’t understand, but that doesn’t surprise me. She may be my best friend, but when it comes to you, she doesn’t see just what we have.
And they say I’m blinded by you. They don’t understand because they’re blinded by hate and prejudice, but that’s for another letter. This one is to say that the pain you caused when you left still aches deep inside me, forcing me to wonder if it’ll ever heal. If I’ll ever heal.
I love you. I know you love me. I know you love me because you can’t hide something like that, not from the one you love. You can’t hide it because I know you so very well. I don’t know what you did when you were human, and I don’t know everything Angelus did. I don’t know how you spent the majority of your time from when the gypsies souled you to when I met you, but I know you.
I Know you.
I know you’re a good person, one who feels deeply, sometimes too deeply. I know you love me because you couldn’t stay away, because you told me, because I felt it whenever you kissed me. When you’d hold me. The one night we had together was magical, and I know you felt it, too.
I know you love me by the way you held me, the way you watched me, the way you said nothing, but told me everything I needed to know.
Oh, I wouldn’t have minded a few more words, maybe some conversation to take the guess work out of it, we never talked about so much that was important to us, but I know.
And I love you too.
Come home to me.
All my love,
It was well past midnight when he arrived, speeding along the highways of California on his way home. Angel waited near the entrance of the cemetery gate. Sooner or later, she was going to come here, it was one of the most used cemeteries in Sunnydale, and one Buffy patrolled at least twice a night. He’d wait all night if he had to, and when the sun threatened, he’d…
Make his way to her dorm room. No more hiding. No more waiting.
He’d rather live in her world, than be without her in his. It was as simple as that.
It was also a song, he vaguely recalled as the tingle that raced along his skin signaled she was close. Straightening away from the gate, he waited. Nerves jangled in his belly, but he ignored them. Doubt plagued him, but he quashed it.
She slowly came into view, cautious, no doubt, because he stood there, vampire to her slayer.
“Buffy,” he said quietly, and watched her freeze. She was caught in the moonlight, ethereal and beautiful.
Stepping forward, he moved towards her still form, watching for any sign that he wasn’t welcome. Despite the letters, the words of love and devotion, the pleas to return, the scent of her love, there was still a chance…
“Angel?” She moved then, a half step forward. “Is that really you?”
“Yes, baby,” he whispered, gathering her into his arms. “I’m back. And I’m not leaving you again.”
She sighed into his embrace, arms tightening around him. Jerking back, she glared. “Not even for sunlight?”
“It’s just reflected light, anyway,” he smiled, that half grin she loved so much. His hands combed through her hair, longer than he remembered it, a golden waterfall in the reflected moonlight.
“Picnics? Walks along the beach? Children I don’t want anyway?” And then, the critical question, “Your soul?”
“We have picnics, remember that time in Restfield? We can go to the beach at night, the moon on the water is beautiful. Children…” he paused, wondering what it’d be like to see her with child, with his child, to watch that miracle grow. “I still can’t give you that, love, but it’s something to talk about. As for my soul.”
He shook his head. “It’s still in danger, every time I’m with you, it’s in danger, but…” he gathered her against him again. “I’m willing to look into ways to anchor it if you’ll have me back.”
With a muffled cry of joy, Buffy leaned up and kissed him. Then she hit him. “I’m still mad at you,” she stated, before leaping into his arms once more.
“I know, darling, I know.” He leaned down to touch his lips to hers. “I love you, Buffy.”
“I love you, too, my Angel.”
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