TITLE: Aeternum Vale
AUTHOR: Abhainn Realta
RATING: PG-13. (cheeky words, ref to rape)
SUMMARY: It's got Angel in it, but that's as far as I'm prepared to go. Feel free to think of one for me.
DISTRIBUTION: Hahahahahah, you fools. If you want it, ask and I shall be indescribably chuffed.
IMPROV: #7 (silver, hollow, wander, fitting)
DISCLAIMER: Buffy, Spike, Cordy, Angel and Wes are not mine. Neither is LA. I don't think I want any of them after what I've done to them here.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: To vampire lovers everywhere, for whom infinite apologies and gifts of chocolate would not excuse me. To Donna and Avarice for scrummy feedback. To Elle for numerous beta duties, including correcting my atrocious spelling and not hitting me over the head
with a frying pan.
He has been sitting for hours.
A pot of tea rests on the sideboard, and it is cold. He has not drunk a drop. She left hours ago, but he is still staring at the chair where she sat, her scent
possibly the only thing tethering him to reality, though the thread is frayed and so hopelessly delicate.
Vanilla scent, he thinks, as though it is supposed to mean something. But then again, perhaps it does, because it serves a purpose, stops him thinking about *that*, stops him thinking about the fact that...that...
A tic in the cheek and it's back to vanilla scent, a thousand emotions bubbling under the well-sealed lid of his consciousness, and he will not let them in, will not invite sensation, because then wouldn't the floodgates open, and then wouldn't he kill, and wouldn't he surrender, because feeling is cognisance and he cannot handle that.
It would give him an excuse and goddamnit he's sick of hiding.
Cordelia came down about ten minutes ago. Took one look at his face and posture and left Old Cordy at the door, thank the Lord, because in this state he'd probably have snapped Old Cordy's neck. She fussed for a moment, gentle slurs on Buffy's name, supportive friendship bullshit that probably worked for her high-school friends, possibly even for Wesley, for mortals, for anyone who hasn't been alive long enough to know that pain on both sides might balance the scales, but it also makes them a bitch to carry.
No movement from him, no indication that he lived and now she has started to panic, and is screaming at him, yelling,
Please Angel! I need you Angel! Speak! Move! Fucking anything!
and nothing gets through. Her tears are clear and he wants to taste them, but he doesn't know why. Salt tears, no blood, just the fruit of her pain and they probably symbolise something but he'll be damned if he knows what it is. Wonders if maybe he should ask her, but she's elsewhere now, not in the vicinity of the chair, and he's not allowed to look away from the chair because the chair is Distraction, the chair is Buffy and that means it isn't...
Jesus, Wesley, he's fucking *rocking*! Back and forward, like a crazy guy!
She must be on the phone, she's obviously given up, because they all do. He'll wrong them once too often and they'll walk away; they have the right but he'll grudge them it like the bastard he is, and...ah, self-flagellation. That's good, he can deal with that. That is a Safe topic. This he can think about.
Just get here now! I don't know what she said but I'm fucking well going to kill her when I do...
She? Buffy, that's right. Buffy was here. Vanilla scent.
A memory of Buffy at the threshold, asking to be let in, refusing to enter without an invitation. She probably thought it was polite. He remembers thinking it was a particularly sick irony, and wanting to laugh till he choked.
Months since the Riley incident, longer since Faith, though with all the so-called excitement in his life, it seemed longer. Standing there on the doorstep he didn't know what to do. He wanted to hit her, he wanted to hold her, he wanted to kiss her until she couldn't breathe, suck all that oxygen into his own dead lungs and live on it, but he didn't, simply held open the door and led her to the table, offered biscuits she didn't touch and tea that never got
She was the same as ever; brilliant, blond, Aega of the sun, and her radiance was all-consuming, but he found himself detached from it, removed; remembered what it was like to be in her flames, and for the first time in forever he felt free in the shadows. So they sat and said nothing. Nothing with their mouths and less with their eyes. Motionless for long moments, the only movement the rhythmic rise and fall of her chest, a chasm between them occupied only by abstractions, Time Apart and Things Unsaid, and he wondered briefly how they ever filled the silence.
Close to an hour before she broke her own control, words cutting through the calm like a knife, stumbling over sentences and talking, talking and talking. Her voice washed over him like the sea, and it had been so long since he'd heard her simply say anything, tears and screams and harsh epithets the only things he could recall.
He listened to her wander confusedly through the tangled topics of her life, listened to her, uninterrupted, for time unchecked. Listened to her speak about demons and nightmares, evil and salvation, Watchers and Slayers and children, and something about destroying her initiative, but the words refused to register in the part of his brain that dealt with language, instead rolling uselessly around in the area reserved for dealing with Gunn and Drusilla and all those wretched stupid lawyers. Funny how he isn't appalled to have lumped Buffy with his crazy Childe and his one-handed nemesis, how it doesn't even seem to bother him.
She ran out of steam eventually, somewhere around the tale of the most recent Slaying extravaganza. Just stopped, mid-sentence, last word hanging in the air like the sword about to drop and her eyes shifted down and to the side and he wanted to yell at her...
What Buffy what? What is so terrible? You've broken my heart and trampled on the pieces, what can you possibly have to say that is worse than everything you've ever said?
And her face was terrifying to behold, just for a moment, pale monochrome skin of death-pallor, hollow empty eyes, emotionless, numb. Then she seemed to gather herself and the pain zoomed in, took over her face like a jet aircraft landing in her expression. Pain, he could see, pain for him. For me? Why me? Buffy?
One small hand, perfectly manicured despite nightly bouts with the unspeakable, tiny nails, delicate fingers wrapped desperately tight around a heavy wooden box. And then he had known. Known what had happened, known what she had come here to tell him, what she had breached their interminable separation for, and the tiny spark of light that still inhabited his world was chased away by all the shades of black, disappearing in a heartbeat that he didn't have.
A mistake, she said. A night alone in the wrong part of town. One night, and what's that when you're immortal? But it was enough. A few hours of beer and that loose tongue, that cocky attitude and goddamned pretty face and it was enough.
How many of them? she didn't know, but at least three. There was...sufficient damage, impersonal fucking term, to suggest three. Guys, she said, humans, mortals, damned weak paltry *people* for fuck's sake, and they didn't have that much against him, didn't have much but a couple of well-aimed insults and a tasteless wave of his hand, but that had been excuse enough to do...that.
She said it with eyes closed, some kind of respect for the one she had mocked so often, and he was relieved for it, relieved for this latent deference, even if it was too little too late, and relieved to be rescued from the oblivion of her eyes. She didn't deserve to hurt that much, not for this. She didn't know what she was saying, her only comprehension of the experience from a sideline view of magazine horror stories and human tears. When she spoke of it, eyes still closed, words almost lost in halting stilted phrases, she couldn't see his soul-deep anger, couldn't hear the
demon rattling, yelling, *screaming* at this transgression.
Mine! Mine mine *mine* MINE!
Torn, she'd said, torn skin and blood...everywhere...scarlet testament to the suffering, mingled with...with...and she couldn't say the word, innocent little girl-child, couldn't even say the word. Nineteen years old, for Christ's sake, numerous sexual encounters and she was still too used to sugar-sex to say the word. And he felt like screaming that at her as well: semen, semen, their fucking *come*, is that it?! Polluting the blood, that precious, beautiful blood of the Childe, defiled by the products of their sick human desire, and he wanted to kill them for touching that body, wanted to tear and slice and destroy, wanted to use every trick that Angelus had ever learned just to teach them Thou Shalt Not Covet. No, thou shalt not covet, and thou shalt not steal, and thou shalt not trespass where only He is permitted to go. Body of the Childe, body of the Sire, his property since the Turning, and his for Evermore, and he had loved it and fucked it, touched it and taught it, and worshipped the demon and the man within its corporeal walls.
The demon was crying.
She told him of the beating, of the torture, of the exorcism of their restless human fucking boredom and their Nothing To Do On A Friday Night. She told him of the rape, in that singular child-style of hers, and he could see the truth she was trying to hide, the PG-13 filter she was throwing, and he called her on it, voice so strangely calm, the demon's voice. Acquiescence with a nod and she told him the truth in all its sordid entirity. Hell was the only word that would form in his brain and by God even that wasn't enough. He had been to Hell, and this was worse.
Strong, so strong his boy was, and so intractable, so beautiful in his sedition, so pure in his iniquity, reduced to this, this fucking *sham* of a life, violated by the commandos and their ridiculous perception of justice. And the final desecration, his undoing at the hands of the mortals, the toys, the dead weight that their family once preyed upon with such wanton insatiability, the amoeba of the Earth they ploughed through like so many inconsequential playthings, fear and the kill and the blood and the blood and the blood.
She told him everything that his Childe had told her, lying in her arms in the cemetery that had seen his pain, the cemetery she had found him in, crimson blood bleached roseate and broken body painted silver in the moonlight, and she had wept over him, had cried and pleaded and kissed his eyes, seeing the futility of her own hope but constant to the last, until all that coated her hands was his ash and his life and her own salt-water tears.
And when she could speak no more, when her throat was dry and the sobs that would not come were choking off her air, she pushed the box towards him, but he made no move to take it. He would not open it in her presence. She sensed this, his need to be alone, or perhaps she simply knew that her welcome was outstayed, that the tale was told and her part was done, and she kissed his cheek, held his cold hand in her own warm one and pressed her body to his solid, motionless back, moulding herself around the chair to contact flesh on flesh. He wanted to pull away, to remove himself from her heat, her life, her simple existence, but he did not because he could not move, a sudden immutable stillness that would not break for less than the return of the one who was lost.
He didn't notice her leave, but she must have done so for she is no longer here, vanilla scent all that lingers on the air, sweetness and sugar replaced and infringed by the spice of Cordelia, her manner still anxious, still desperate, still in the dark. He wants her to leave, wants to feel the space of the room closing in on him and crushing his body, wants her to go and allow him his solitude, and eventually she does, muttering something about Wesley and his consummate unreliability.
The box rests, innocent on the table, and he is mesmerised by it. Unaware of his own movement, anaesthetised limbs and deadened nerves, he reaches to the casket, pulling it towards him, gently removing the lid with trembling fingers, contents revealed and skimmed in a minute, blood tears threatening in cold, cold eyes.
Elbow gloves in cream, cloth-wrapped black-bead rosary, leatherbound spellbook, carmine hair ribbon of finest silk, papers, pictures, mementoes and memories, the forgotten yesterdays of their eternity. Old, razor-sharp railroad spike, flecked with blood or rust or both, a chestnut curl, Shakespeare's sonnets and Moore's poetry, the perfectly preserved label from a bottle of Irish whiskey 1804, sketches of himself, paintings of them all, and a single name written in blood.
And under it all, under the collection of two centuries' worth of Sire and love and lover, an envelope that smelled of fire and whose ink was still fresh. And the name on it was the same, though written in black this time, elegant capital and careless script, decorated with a griffin and underscored with a twisted metal spike.
Opening it and letting out breath he didn't have, careful, reverent, not a single piece torn, paper crackling under his fingers and it is finally freed, black spider-scrawl writing in the centre of the page, and it is so familiar...
Angelus. I don't really know what to say, so I won't say much. I don't have the patience to sit here and write a novel anyway, so maybe it's for the best. It's been a while Angelus, just over a century. Bloody hell. A century. That's a long bloody time for mortals, and I think for us as well, no matter what they say about time being of no consequence when you have infinite amounts of it. Let me tell you something about time, Angelus: it's all perception. Time flies and all the rest of that crap. A hundred years is a long time when you're alone, and just a single human heartbeat when you have everything you could ever want. A hundred years is forever when the only thing you think about every day is the way your Sire looked at you once, and the way he took you to his bed, the way he shaped the world and made it bleed, and then offered it all to you. For a century, I missed that. I miss it still, but I'd never say it to your face, because you'd probably hit me. You'd hit me because you think I want you back, or Him if you prefer; I
know how you like to separate the soul from the demon. But you know, it doesn't really make any difference, Angelus, because you *are* him, and before you get your boxers in a twist just let me say that's a *good* thing. At least to me. Angel, Angelus, you're more alike than you know. That big freak who turned up a few years back wasn't you *or* Him, but now you're...I don't know, and I've never been very good with words, but maybe it's something to do with age. Maybe I'm finally growing up. You're my Sire, Angel. You always were, only I couldn't see it. I spent too many years hating you for leaving us, too many years thinking that your soul made you regret everything we'd ever had, everything we'd ever been, but I missed the truth. You Are My Sire, and for that I will always be yours. Eternity and Blood, Angelus; they're both bitches, but they're our bitches and we must make of them what we can. Aeternum vale, Angel. Will.
Reading it twice, reading it aloud, reading it word. by. word. and losing more sanity with every repetition. He had known, he had *known* what was going to happen. Not the specifics, of course not, but he had known he was going to die. Aeternum vale. Farewell forever. He had known.
And a warm something is weaving through his blood, and his Childe calls him, and his demon sings. Gathers the contents of the box from the table and arranges them back in their coffin, a kiss on its lid for the memory, a kiss for the love, and a kiss for the years of pain and blood and forever. Leaves the letter and his own blood-name for them to find. An explanation of a kind.
It seems that at last he can move, at last his limbs feel real, though still more than a little cumbersome, and he moves to the stairs, begins to climb. Each step seems to take a year, and they seem to be steeper than they ever were before, or maybe his feet are just heavier. It could be possible that grief has lent him the weight as a physical manifestation of his pain.
What a sweet emotion.
The roof access doesn't want to be opened; perhaps it knows his intent, and is stalling for time, long enough for Cordelia to get worried, or Wesley to arrive. No matter if they did, and he thinks this with a sigh. They wouldn't be able to stop him now, he is beyond their grasp and most certainly beyond their pleas.
Up on the roof he moves to the wall, same slow tempo, measured steps, meticulously counting out the paces because he cannot seem to see anything that isn't directly ahead anymore, his vision narrowed to a foot-square box of perception. Wall, sky, horizon; there's probably a drop there, but he's not going to fall down it, and it doesn't fit in the box. Irrelevant.
The clouds are dissipating, drifting cotton-wool softness over the washed-red glow of the sky. With a start he realises; the light that spreads above the sea is the same colour as blood. Blood red hue with water-of-tears. Pale pink death. For one of his kind, it's eminently fitting.
As the clouds move east the rain he hadn't even noticed was present disappears with them, and the storm though raging in his heart is abated at least in his setting, leaving a cover of diamond-bright raindrops on the dark concrete that in moments will blaze aflame like thousands of daybreak stars.
The sunrise is going to be spectacular.