Fic by Author Era Pairing Rating Title
Author: S J Smith
Disclaimer: Joss never writes, he never calls. I'm thinking the relationship is over. But until he asks, I'm gonna keep playing with his toys in a purely not-for-profit sort of way.
Spoilers: "Home", "Chosen"
A.N.: These lyrics were given to me as part of the BtVS/AtS lyric wheel challenge. I didn't use ´em the first time out but I thought they really suited this song.
A.N.2: Thanks to DME for all the readin'...and to Yseult, for comments and hot tea.
There were no happy endings.
If there was one thing he'd learned the hard way, it was that particular lesson. He remembered telling her that once, or something like it, early on in their relationship. Then it didn't matter. It was like fate; something bigger than both of them. Or maybe, a suspicious part of his mind said, maybe it was just hormones. Which, considering he was a vampire, shouldn't have mattered. Still, he'd said it and they'd gone on to live the whole twisted thing; him becoming a monster, her sending him to hell, his return to, and subsequent leaving of, her.
Leaving brought him to the big city. Brought him to demons and law firms and something that he could almost call a family. Brought him friendships and joy and really, truly, brought him life. Leaving gave him something to believe in - himself, not just other's impressions of him. It brought him peace and if there was some niggling part of him that wondered about her, how she was doing, if she had actually taken his advice and found that man to take her out into the sun, he knew he could go back and look.
He wasn't sure why he'd expected anything other than the results he'd gotten with those particular journeys. The first, well, he'd thought it had gone all right. He'd managed to see her, been there to help her out without her notice; had watched her flirt with a man. That last had hurt, almost more than being able to see her without being able to see her. It was good, though; she was getting along in her life. She was moving on. The fact that she was doing it without him, well, that was all for the best, wasn't it? His life, or what passed for it, was static. Hers was fluid. She was like a butterfly; her existence would be so much shorter than his.
Then she'd shown up in his town for the first time and he'd had a chance at true happiness.
He'd given it away.
He'd had his reasons. Mostly, he wouldn't see her die because he couldn't protect himself or her, even though he'd rarely managed to protect her anyway, not even from himself.
He still dreamt about it sometimes, not consciously; not day dreams but dreams that came when he finally slept; the sound of his heartbeat, doubled as she lay across him; the taste of her mouth, so much more delicate and immediate now that he was alive. When he woke from these dreams, he felt an incredible sense of loss and tried hard not to take it out on those around him.
She'd come to him two other times. After the first time, he turned around and followed her back to her home, trying to reach some sort of accord with her. It...worked. Sort of. He'd offered his help, she'd turned him down. He'd gone to her three times more; the first, after her mother died. They'd sat together in a cemetery, watching over Joyce's grave and she'd asked him to stay. Sometimes he wondered if she'd meant it, what might have happened if he hadn't left that time. They'd already changed...they had both changed so much. One thing hadn't changed; the shape of her lips; the way she kissed him as if there could be nothing else in the world. He tasted her tears and her fears and the fact that she really, truly didn't want him to leave; that she needed him. But she'd sent him away and he'd obeyed, returning to the city, putting her from his mind though the memory of her bittersweet mouth lingered on his for weeks afterwards.
They'd met again after her second resurrection; a strange meeting that still seemed like a dream. He couldn't describe it to his friends if he'd wanted to and it was one thing he never would tell them. How surreal it had seemed, meeting her, finding her again; realizing again that nothing had changed between them and everything had; that he'd mourned her but never gotten over her; he wasn't sure he ever could but that the gap between them was so much deeper and wider now. She'd pushed him away, the smell of grave dirt lingering somehow on her skin, though something like lightning glittered in her eyes; something he couldn't quite meet and she wouldn't confirm nor deny. She'd been elsewhere, some place like home; safe and warm and now she was back.
In the end, it didn't matter; she couldn't do anything but hurt him; he couldn't do anything to help her no matter what he said and they stared at each other across the Grand Canyon of their realities; their desires and hopes and dreams weren't enough to bridge the chasm. So they'd left each other, promises unspoken littering the very air between them.
After that, he'd thrown himself into something; his work, his family and actually, for a short time, was graced with a true family; a sweet scrap of humanity; a son. He'd indulged himself in a fantasy of a happy life with the girl at his side, both of them and the rest of the gang raising the boy to become...something wonderful; something grand but reality turned on him again and took son and brother and girl all from him. He didn't like to remember what happened next, still kept that time locked deep within him; the triple betrayals of brother, son and girl; the sweet scent of jasmine that forever reminded him of a peace he knew he'd never come across again; the split second decision that sent his family careening towards complete destruction.
He gave his son away like he'd given her away so long ago and the deal he made with the attorneys was a double-cross. He'd expected their trickery and played one of his own; his son was truly safe and Wolfram and Hart would never track the boy down no matter how hard they hunted. It had taken a sacrifice to set the magic in motion and a sacrifice it had; not his own life; not the Slayer's, but someone's and that was all that had mattered. He'd been willing to give his own life, he'd even met her for the third and final time; tried goad her into letting him wear that charm. There was nothing more for him; he knew how it would end but she wouldn't let him fight beside her. She'd just wanted him gone. So he'd let her shoo him away, left her with cocky words and cocky attitude that hid everything he held inside him and let someone else take his place as the lamb.
He hadn't expected the sacrifice to return to life but he felt, when he found out, that he really shouldn't have been so surprised. The Slayer came back from the dead, he'd come back from the dead, Darla came back from the dead; there was something about them that just invited the laws of nature to run contrary. He could only hope that his son wouldn't have the same sort of experience. His family didn't like this interloper with his brash mouth and brusque attitude and he'd made a call to the Slayer, asking if she wanted her most recent ex-lover back.
Well, that hadn't exactly been how he'd put it but it got her on a jet and across the country and, at the moment, she was hugging her ex and he had to walk away so he didn't have to see the expressions on their faces. He found himself in his office, in the building of the attorneys he didn't trust, the ones who let him live after the double-cross. The dead attorney still fought to find his son, sent out search parties armed with demons and magic, offered rewards beyond all expectations, but he'd covered the boy's tracks and the magic he'd used too well. They watched him with eyes like vultures, hoping for a clue as to where he'd placed his son. If they had a chance, they'd use her as leverage against him. He wasn't sure what he'd do then.
He stared out of windows plated so he could stare out, so the sunlight wouldn't effect him. He watched the dawn become the morning become the noon and finally heard a knock on the door and someone slipped inside.
"You're in the sunlight," she whispered, soft awe in her voice, as she came to his side.
Light treated her like kin; she'd always been his sun and seeing her this way brought back memories he'd rather keep buried. But the tremulous smile as she tugged him around to face her, so she could truly see, it could break him if he let it. Her fingertips trembled as they traced his cheek; steadied to press a little closer, to warm themselves against his flesh. "I've always wanted to know what you'd look like in the sun," she said, wonderingly.
He remembered, of course, what she looked like with the full day's light shining down on her. Still, he wouldn't turn down these new memories, the feel of her palm against his cheek, the way her eyes seemed to glow as she studied him. He suddenly, desperately, wanted something he couldn't have; wanted to kiss her without any repercussions; wanted her heat to thaw him; wanted to bask in her love. Instead, he gently took her hand away, not wanting to provide Lilah with any more fuel for her fire. She couldn't quite douse the hurt in her eyes as she took a step back, sliding her hands in her pockets as if that might stop her from inadvertently touching him again. "I can't stay," she blurted out, as if remembering lines taught to her on her trip to L.A. "And Spike can't come with me." Her body twisted and she paced away from him, her head lowered. Turning back, she raised her chin as if she were expecting a fight. "Dawn...she's just settled in and she doesn't like Spike. Anymore. And Faith, well and let's not go into Xander's feelings."
"What about yours?" The words escaped him before he realized it, hanging there between them like a naked sword.
"Mine are the same as they've always been," she said levelly, staring up and into his eyes. "I'm close, Angel, close to finding out something about myself. I can't take care of Spike and do that." She shrugged, her smile a little wry. "I can't take care of anyone but me."
"You have a right to be selfish," he said and when she laughed in surprise, he added, "You deserve it. Take care of yourself. Be good to yourself. I'll...watch over him."
In the end, she stayed another day and night in L.A.. He told her to do what she wanted; spend time with Spike, shop, whatever. He wasn't surprised she spent her days with Spike but was surprised she sought him out when the sun went down, asking him to take her into the city. He obeyed, playing chauffeur or foot man; he wasn't sure which, driving where she asked, to a nightclub that used to be a coffee house, to a warehouse that had been a nightclub, to a school where he'd once watched her walk down the steps and encounter her destiny. She said, with forced brightness as they sat in the car and stared at the school, "Guess it's true. You can't ever go home again." She asked him to drive on, more trips down memory lane; the house where she'd lived as a girl; the cemetery where she'd first learned to stake a vampire. She pointed it out to him and he said, not thinking, "I know."
She turned in her seat to stare at him, her eyes glittering in the harsh unnatural light. "You know? What, you were following me here?"
"I wanted to make sure you'd be all right," he said softly. The girl in his memory was softer than the woman who sat in front of him but in his mind's eye, he could see the woman that the girl would become. Forged in the heat of battle, tempered by sorrow, she was beautiful now as she had been then.
The next night she'd asked him to drive her to the ocean, a trip he didn't really want to take but he could refuse her nothing. She'd coaxed him from the car to walk on the beach with her, making him take off his shoes and socks so he could feel the sand between his toes. The waves were black in the night, the foam riding them colored by the moon's light, stars sprinkled the sky above. She drew him down to the water's edge, all but dragging him into the surf with her, the cold water shocking her and making her laugh and only reminding him of being trapped beneath it. She spun, her arms thrown out, head tossed back and crashed into him so he had to catch hold of her to keep her from falling.
She moved into him as easily as if they'd never been seperated, pillowing herself against his torso, her arms sliding beneath his jacket, the scent of her full in his nostrils, blocking out even the salt tang of the ocean. He kissed the top of her head, leaned his cheek against her hair, felt her heartbeat echoing in the hollow place in his chest. The warmth of her scalded him. She pulled back after a few minutes, her eyes sparkling as she reached up, her fingers tracing his brow lightly, the caress moving along his cheek, down to his lips. He opened his mouth and she shook her head. "Just for a minute," she whispered, the wind nearly tearing the words away, "let me pretend." They stared at each other, moonlight spilling from her eyes to her cheeks. He wiped her tears with careful fingers, let her bury her face against him again.
The next day, she insisted he go with her to the airport. He thought she might ask Spike but he'd seen the other vampire stalking away from her, shoulders tensed and head lowered. Her small pile of luggage at her feet, she watched Spike go, dashing away a sparkling fringe of liquid diamonds from her eyelashes. "Some things never quite change, do they?" she asked the air.
He answered, "Never."
They smiled at each other, each stooping to gather her bags, carrying them to the waiting limo. The chauffer was unhappy that they performed such a menial task, whisking away the luggage and ushering them into the back seat. She slid at the same time he moved, their shoulders pressing against one another, their hands entwining with no words being said. The drive to the airport was made in silence, the soft rasp of her cheek against his shoulder, the thunder of her heartbeat in his ears, the whispers of her soft breaths the only sounds within the car.
She pulled him from the limo when it stopped, her face tilting up to point out the overhang that kept the sun at bay. He let her lead him into the terminal, the skycaps making sure her luggage got to the right gate. They walked slowly through the crush of people, stopping so she could get a coffee and a snack to take with her, pausing so she could buy a postcard. A line snaked along a wall of the concourse, people waiting to for their turn at the metal detectors and x-ray machines. They waited in line together, she on the inside of the ropes, he on the outside, moving inexorably closer until finally, there were only four people in front of her.
Her fingers caught the cuff of his sweater, twisting in the fabric. "Come with me. Forget about this. Just come with me. I-I know it's crazy but." Her voice trailed off.
He was tempted. Leave California...but then Connor, Cordelia; they'd have no protection. "It's not crazy."
Her shoulders rose and fell and she stepped close to the rope, leaning her head back so she could meet his eyes. "But you have things to do here. And I..."
"You have things to do, yourself. You'll be fine." He touched her cheek lightly.
She leaned into his touch sweetly but she spoke quiet and fierce. "This isn't over."
"Ma'am?" one of the security guards said, managing to not sound impatient.
"I'll be waiting," he said, feeling her fleeting kiss on his palm before she turned away. She looked over her shoulder a final time as she entered the metal detector. He watched as she disappeared into the airport, the crowds swallowing her up so he couldn't even see the sunlight of her hair. Slowly he made his way out of the converse, heading for the passenger drop off. The closer he got to the exterior, the easier it was to hear the noise. Jets roared overhead, the sound of their engines straining against gravity and he felt that tug, that sharp pull once more.
And then, she was gone.
His driver pulled up to the drop off not two minutes after he arrived, the chauffer popping out of the limo to open the back door for him. "Ms. Summers is away, then, sir?"
He slid inside the car and the driver closed the door, moving quickly around to take his place again in the driver's seat. The heavy car moved out into traffic and he settled back into the seat. Her scent clung to the interior of the car, to his jacket.
"Where might I take you, sir?"
He thought he could almost feel a lingering warmth where she'd been sitting.
If he closed his eyes, he'd hear the echo of her heartbeat.
Angel kept his eyes open for the drive.
...I'm a man
I'm not a child
A man who sees
The shadow behind your eyes
Who's to say where the wind will take you
Who's to say what it is will break you
I don't know
Where the wind will blow
Who's to know when the time has come around
I don't want to see you cry
I know that this is not goodbye....
From U2, "Kite"