AUTHOR: Nikki Harrington
FANDOM: Buffy The Vampire Slayer
PAIRING: Buffy Anne Summers/Angel
SUMMARY: Angel left Buffy because he loved her. Now more than two decades later he's back, but why?
WORD COUNT: 2,975
AUTHOR'S NOTE: sharpiesgal, as I'm sure you will know, this was a result of the brothers getting together! You may remember I mentioned a B/A story shortly after Five arrived - well this is it!
DISCLAIMER: I don't own these characters, nor am I making any money from them. I merely borrow them from time to time.
"How is she?" Are the first words he says as Willow opens the door to him. He stares down at her; down at the girl - woman - he hasn't seen in nearly two decades. She's dressed in a mixture of greens and somehow the color calms him, gives him hope.
She gives him a partial smile. "Hello, Angel," she says, reaching up and pulling his head down so she can kiss his cheek. "You haven't changed," she says, taking his hand and trying to lead him into the house. But he can't go in; the barrier stops him. "Oh," she says, blushing slightly. "I'm sorry, it's been so long. Please, do come in, Angel."
He follows her into the hall; like Willow it has been decorated in an array of muted greens. Again he feels a sense of calm and peace; he hasn't felt either feeling since Willow called him to tell him the news about Buffy. "How are you?" he asks, as he pulls off his coat.
She shrugs as she takes it from him and hangs it up. "Some days I'm too tired to know; other days I'm too tried to care."
"How about," he searches though his mind for the name of the girl he knew Willow had been with. "Kennedy?"
Willow gives him a dismissive look. "Alive somewhere, I presume. I haven't seen or heard from her for more than fifteen years."
She shrugs again. "How are -" She breaks off and he watches her eyes fill with tears which begin to fall down her cheeks. "Damn," she murmurs as she tries to wipe them away.
Without really thinking about it, he takes a step towards her and gathers her into his arms and holds her. She's so small, so slim, just like Buffy; she fits so well into his arms, he could easily pick her up; just like Buffy.
"I'm sorry," she says after several minutes of silently crying against him. "Sometimes it just gets too much." She pulls out a handkerchief and dries her eyes. "Would you like a cup of tea?"
He nods. He doesn't really, but he senses she needs something to do. "Thanks," he says, following her as she leads the way to the kitchen; like the hall it too is decorated in greens. "Doesn't anyone help you?"
"Xander comes when he can, but he's so busy. Dawn has her own life; she calls; she sends money - not that we need money, but I think it makes her feel as if she's doing something."
"What about Giles?"
"He's still in England. She forbade me from calling him. Just as she forbade me from calling you."
"But you did."
She sighs. "Yes, and I am going to call Giles. He has a right to know. She was like a daughter to him; he'd want to know."
"How long has she got?"
"A week or two or three; a month or two or three; a year? Who knows - certainly not the doctors." She puts the kettle on and gets two mugs out of the cupboard. "They don't even know what it is; they just know she is dying bit by bit, day by day and there's nothing they can do to stop it." To his amazement she reaches into the cupboard, pulls out a packet of cigarettes and lights one.
"What? Oh, this. It helps."
He reaches and takes the cigarette from her fingers, holds it under the faucet and then drops it into the trash. "I'm here now," he says. "You can rest."
She sighs. "If she'll let you stay."
"Well," she says, pouring hot-water onto the teabags. "You're certainly stronger than her now. Oh, Angel," she whispers and suddenly once more she's crying. Again he gathers her into his arms and holds her, he hopes he's giving her some comfort.
"I'm sorry," she says, when she pulls away. "I don't usually cry like this. I think it's seeing you, knowing that there is someone else to help."
"I'll do whatever I can, Willow."
She sighs, wipes her eyes one more time and takes a step backwards away from him and then another and another and another. He frowns as he watches her. "Angel, would you give your life to save her?" Suddenly there's a crossbow in her hand and it's pointing at him.
"Willow?" He says her name softly as he mentally calculates the chances of covering the distance between them and disarming her before she can loosen the bolt.
"Would you, Angel?" she says softly.
"Yes, of course I would but -" He stops speaking as she smiles and puts the crossbow back down on the counter.
"You may have to. You see, I have this theory that what's killing Buffy has something to do with her days as a Slayer. I think it's the venom from some monster or demon or something that has lain inside her for all these years and has now somehow become active. I've been doing some research, when Buffy's asleep I have a lot of time on my hands, and there is something from centuries ago, a disease, an illness, that is so similar to Buffy's. The cure is the blood of a vampire, but that vampire must have tasted the blood of the person who has the disease. So there's very little chance of a cure under the circumstances, there's no evidence of anyone recovering, well it wasn't easy to find a vampire who'd drunk the blood of a human and allowed that human to live. But you drank Buffy's blood because you needed the blood of a Slayer to save you; you drank her blood and nearly killed her. Now she needs yours."
He stares at the girl he once knew, the shy, quiet, brilliant Willow who in many ways had had even more courage than Buffy - because she hadn't had a choice in hunting down vampires and demons, and yet she'd done it. "How sure are you?"
"That's the main problem; I'm not sure at all. It's so obscure, Angel. And even if I was sure it doesn't say how much blood or how it's ingested. But it's the only hope we have."
"Let me have a look at the book."
She nods and reaches into the drawer he now realizes the crossbow had come from and pulls out an ancient, dark green and gold book with tattered pages and binding that barely seems capable of holding a single page; carefully she hands it over to him.
"I have to go and see Buffy." She starts to go, but he catches her arm.
"Willow. I will do whatever I have to do, even if it means my life."
She smiles and tears again shine in her eyes. "Assuming Buffy will let you." She pauses and looks up at him. "She still loves you," she says simply. "She never stopped loving you. Of course she hates you as well. But I think love is always stronger than hate, which is why if it comes to it, I will kill you myself, well not immediately, that would be pointless. But the bolt in the crossbow contained enough serum to knock you and out keep you unconscious for long enough for me to drain your blood, which I'd do and then I'd force her to drink it. Of course she'll then hate me, but at least she'll be alive."
With that, she turns and walks away, her head slightly down. And as he watches her, he knows she speaks the truth. She would kill him; she would force-feed Buffy; she could do both; she really is the strongest of them all.
He starts to read the book, it's not just from centuries ago, it's written in obscure English and it's been a long time since he read anything like it. Slowly he works his way through the text and the illustrations and he can see where Willow got the idea from.
He doesn't know how long he'd been pouring over the book before Willow comes back into the kitchen. "Buffy wants to see you."
"You told her I was here?"
She shakes her head. "No. She just knew. Angel, she's . . . Well, she's not very rationale. If she had the strength, I'm sure she'd throw something - but she doesn't."
He follows Willow out of the kitchen, along the hallway and into another room. It, like Willow, the hall and the kitchen, is green. He looks at her, "Why so much green?"
She looks around her as if seeing it for the first time. "Oh, green, nature, life. I tried white magic first; that failed. So I thought I'd try black magic."
She shrugs. "That failed too. Everything failed. Everything, Angel. I tried everything I knew. I delved into magic I promised Giles I would never again touch. All we have left is the book. Now, try not to be too shocked when you see her."
But he is. He stops in the doorway and stares at her. She's nothing but skin and bone; her skin is grey as it stretches over her bones and he can count them. Her hair is closely-cropped, her eyes are dull, her lips cracked and he can smell an odor coming from her that is definitely not human. "Buffy," he whispers, forcing himself to walk towards the bed she's lying on, she isn't even making a dent in it.
"Why have you come back, Angel?" Her voice is strange. "And why did you leave?"
He sits down on the chair by the bed and automatically takes her hand. She doesn't pull away, but he nearly drops it when he feels how cold, how slimy it is. Closer to her now, her scent is almost making him gag. He wonders how Willow stands it.
"I left because I loved you," he says. "I left because you needed to have a life and I couldn't give you that life."
"You left because you were scared. Scared that you'd end up resenting me, being disgusted by me, just like Mayor Wilkins said you would."
He stares at her. "I . . ."
"Deny it." She hisses the words at him and his notices her eyes have changed color.
"I . . . You deserved a life, Buffy. A life with someone who didn't have to fear turning into a monster simply because he loved you. I wanted you to live; to be happy; to . . ."
"That worked out well, didn't it?"
"So why have you come back?"
"Because I never stopped loving you. Because you always were and always will be my girl."
She laughs; at least he assumes it was meant to be laughter. "'Girl'? I stopped being that longer ago than I know. I'm not sure I ever was a girl."
"You were my girl, Buffy. You still are."
She shrugs. "So you've come here to die? Oh, I know all about Willow's theory that only you can save me. How only you can restore me to health."
"Stronger together than apart," he murmurs, as the words he once heard come back into his mind.
"What?" she's looking at him, but he's not certain she sees him.
"It's what The Powers That Be said about us. Do you remember? Buffy, I can save you. Willow's right. I can restore you to health."
"And what if I don't want to be 'restored'? What if I've had enough of living?"
She shrugs and turns away from him. "I'm forty, Angel. You're - how ever old you are. But I look forty; you still look as you always did. You'll restore me for what? So I can watch you walk way again?"
She shrugs again. "Maybe not today or tomorrow but you will - everyone does. And that's assuming you live after restoring me. No, Angel. I won't let you. Just say goodbye to me and -"
"No!" He looks up and there's Willow once again holding the crossbow, but this time she's pointing it at Buffy. He leaps to his feet, but she swivels it and now it's on him. "Don't try, Angel. You won't get to me before I can fire. I've had plenty of practice, you see. Please," she adds and slowly he sits back down. "Right. Now, Buffy, you will listen to me. You are going to drink Angel's blood; how you do that is up to you. But believe me I will force you to if I have to. And. Angel, you will give her whatever she needs, even if," for a second her hands tremble and Angel half-rises, but then the shaking goes and the crossbow is once again held securely. "No one is walking away, except me if this fails or maybe even if it works, I guess it all depends. Here," she balances the crossbow in one hand, pulls out a knife from her pocket and throws it to Angel. "Try not to cut an artery," she says.
"Willow, you're crazy."
Willow looks at Buffy. "Maybe I am. But we are going to try this because this is all we, all I, have left. So are you going to drink the blood or do I have to get Angel to hold you down and I'll force you to drink it?"
Buffy stares at her. "Angel," she whispers. "Stop her."
He looks at her. "No, Buffy," he says.
"But you could die."
"Yes." And he draws the knife across his wrist, taking care, as Willow told him to, not to cut the artery.
He doesn't know how much time he has left; his strength is all but drained; he can barely keep his eyes open; his hand shakes and he can't lift it on his own. He's given too much blood; he's sure of that; he can't survive; he knows it; Willow knows it; but he'll go on giving until he hasn't a drop left to give; he'll go on giving until he's dead because it is working. The awful odor has faded, her skin is no longer grey, she can sit up on her own, her eyes are once again her own color. She's still weak, but it's working. Willow was right.
As soon as Buffy had started to show a hint of improvement and a sign that she was regaining her strength, Willow had handcuffed her to the bed with her hands behind her and had resorted to holding the beaker of blood while she made Buffy drink. But Willow's at the end of her endurance, he can see that, the tears have been steaming unchecked down for her face for the last hour or so. For a moment he fears all three of them will die.
He forces his head to turn so he can look at Buffy one last time before he dies; at least he has saved her. He smiles as he sees her looking so healthy again and lets his eyes close.
His head is thumping, his mouth tastes of blood, he has trouble opening an eyelid and keeping it open, but by some miracle he's alive. He forces one eye open and then the other and tries to focus. He's on the floor, his head on a cushion and rigged up next to him is a blood drip. He turns his head and his gaze comes to rest on Willow and Buffy curled up together in a chair; he can barely tell where one of them ends and the other begins, they are holding one another so tightly.
He blinks hard and tries to focus and sees Willow's neck has a bandage on it; and then an image of her pulling him upright, quite where she got the strength from he doesn't know, and forcing his fangs onto her neck and making him drink from her; giving enough to keep him alive in order for his naturally superior vampire strength to kick in.
Quite where she got the blood drip from or whose blood it is, he doesn't know, but he isn't surprised; she is after all Willow. She's saved Buffy; she's saved him; she's saved herself; because he knows had Buffy died, Willow would have ceased to live.
Suddenly Buffy opens her eyes and they come to rest on him. She's smiling, she looks tired, still paler than she was when he last saw her, but she's restored. He has restored her. He stares at her wondering if he's restored her in order for her to make him walk away again. Knowing that if that's what happens; that's what happens. He was willing to die for her; now he's willing to live for her - even if that means not being by her side.
Stronger together than apart. He hears the words in his mind; he doesn't just remember them. He hears them. And they are together; they are part of one another; he drank her blood; she drank his - the only human to have been drunk from and to have drunk a vampire's blood and not become a vampire. Stronger together than apart. He hears the words again and sees her start and look around her; she heard them too.
"You still my girl?" he manages.
She looks at him and her smile increases. "Always," she says simply, and puts her head back down on Willow's shoulder and closes her eyes.
Sleep; it's what they all need. As he lets his eyes close again he notices the heavy green drapes have been carefully and completely closed; no sunlight will penetrate them when the sun rises. With a smile on his lips, he closes his eyes again and lets his vampire strength mixed with Willow's blood continue to heal him.