He showed up the morning of the funeral with a blanket thrown over his head, shielding him from any sun rays that happened to peek through the thick layer of clouds.
He brought Cordelia, Wesley, and a black man he introduced as Gunn with him.
He made sandwiches with the others and reminded her they needed soda.
He stood behind her at the funeral with his arms wrapped around her waist.
He followed her like a shadow as she put the finishing touches on the food and arranged and rearranged the flowers.
He was her shadow as she silently greeted people and smiled hollowly at their condolences.
He held her hand as she sat on the couch -- the same couch where she'd found her mother's body.
He helped her clean up the messes people had left behind.
He watched her out of the corner of his eye while he bid his friends farewell, promising to join them at Giles' in the morning.
He helped her tuck Dawn in after they'd given the younger girl a sleeping pill to make her rest.
And all the while he watched her with those eyes that pierced her soul, as though he was waiting for something...what was he waiting for? Her to break down? For that to happen she would have to crack and for *that* to happen she would have to let something in through the wall of ice that had mysteriously appeared around her heart.
She had not spoken to him since he had arrived. Not a hello, not a "What the hell are you doing here?", not a "You're not part of my life anymore, leave now." He hadn't been expecting anything other than a hello, followed by the usual awkward pleasantries exes exchanged as though it was a rite of passage. But when that never came, he got worried.
She wasn't ignoring him, either, she just wasn't speaking. To anyone.
Not her friends, not her Watcher, not her mother's friends. The only one she'd talked to was Dawn. Buffy had protected her little sister the entire day, never being more than five feet from her at any time. At the funeral they had stood, heads bowed, arms linked, silent tears streaming down their faces to mix with the rain that fell as though it was mocking their pain. Joyce hadn't been her real mother, but she had been the only mother Dawn had ever known and the pain of her loss was raw and festered deep inside her.
Angel had watched over both of them as though it was his duty, his purpose. His responsibility.
Her silence was disturbing, to say the least. Friends gave up when they got no response and moved away, disenchanted. Tara squeezed her hand and said she hadn't spoken for seven days after her mother's death.
Buffy's eyes had focused on the other girl at that, and for a moment it seemed as though maybe the witch's words had gotten through to her. Here was someone who knew the pain, the emptiness, the rawness. Someone who understood, someone who was just like her. And then it passed and she was stone once more.
Finally the somber party (what right did they have to call it a party when her mother was dead?) broke up and the guests drifted off into the night. Her friends stayed until the house was tidy and the leftovers had been covered in Saran Wrap and put away. Filing past her, they each kissed her on the cheek, hoping for the sparkle that was missing from her hazel eyes to shine on them just once.
It never came.
They were alone, finally, in a quiet house that felt too big. It was cold...empty. The way it should be because its heart and soul, its caretaker, its beloved owner ((her mother)) had been ripped out of it and it was left behind, left alone. But that's what Death did, it took mothers and friends and lovers and brothers and uncles and cats and *everything* and there was no point in trying to fight it because it was always there and it couldn't be stopped.
She was the Slayer, and she could not stop Death. And it had stolen her mother and left her an orphan, a girl, barely twenty, with a house and a mortgage and a little sister to take care of.
Her mother hadn't even seen the sun before she was put under the ground. It had been a dark, dreary day, the kind they always showed during movies. It had started to drizzle and then it had started to pour, and Buffy hadn't even noticed because Dawn was breaking the skin of her arm with her pink nails and Angel was holding her and her mother was being lowered into the ground.
Her mommy...who wore the black dress with the flowers that she had worn on her last date and the earrings Buffy had taken and worn one night on patrol because she thought Angel might like them and one of Buffy's crosses and Dawn's favorite lipstick. Worms and dirt would cover her and eat away at her until she was just another part of the earth, just like the flowers and the trees and the grass.
((ashes to ashes, dust to dust))
"Buffy? Are you going to come in?"
His voice didn't penetrate the haze surrounding her brain. The tender hand he placed on her shoulder made her shudder -- she hadn't even known he was behind her. Was she even there? It didn't feel like she was. Something was missing. Her heart, maybe. Her soul.
"Come on, Buffy, you need to come in. You don't want to catch cold, do you?" She heard him that time, faintly, like a little buzz in her ear. No, she couldn't catch cold now. Her mommy wasn't there to bring her Chicken and Stars and read to her and watch soap operas with her anymore. Dimly, she felt Angel pulling her out of the door frame and into the house and the door made a loud click when it was shut.
There were stairs now, but where did they lead? Up to where her baby sister slept because they'd given her a pill so she would get a few short hours of peace? Up to the empty room with its chestnut wardrobe and wrought-iron bed and her mother's perfume ((Clinique Happy because it always brought a smile to her face)) and the comforter that still smelled of her and the dirty laundry that didn't need to be done because there was no one to wear the clothes once they were clean?
"Do you want to take a bath? Maybe it'll help clear your head," Angel suggested as he tugged her towards the bathroom. The light was turned on, making the tiny tiled room seem so barren and open and sterile even though it was soft and inviting, and she was afraid to enter for a moment. Where was she? What was this place with its cold walls and porcelain fixtures and why was her mommy's bathrobe hanging on a hook by the door?
Why was she suddenly so afraid of this tiny room?
"Buffy," Angel beckoned softly and her legs moved on their own volition towards him because he was her protector and he was her strength and he was calling her so how could she not go to him? She was afraid of this little white-tiled room with its fluffy towels and rose-colored bath mat and sheer shower curtain but she was more afraid of being away from him.
He had turned on the water and was kneeling by the tub as she slowly picked up her mother's shampoo and popped the top open. Strawberry Breeze floated through the air because strawberry had been her mom's favorite scent and she had candles and body wash and chapstick that smelled like it.
Buffy lit the single candle that sat on the sink, staring at the flame as though she was mesmerized by it.
((So, what'd you do for your
birthday? Did you have fun?))
It had burned because she was too tired to blow it out, and really, she couldn't have blown it out even if she'd want to because wasn't that scared event supposed to bring some kind of new hope? Another year, a new start. The Slayer didn't get a new start, though, because she'd fucked it all up and the man she'd given herself to -- the man who'd taught her what it was like to be in love and what it was like to want to be with someone so badly that she yearned for him night and day -- had turned evil and it was all her fault and she'd never felt more alone.
And her mommy hadn't asked what was wrong because somehow she just knew with that mother's intuition of hers that Buffy was too deep in her misery to say anything, and it's not like this was anything new because Buffy'd never shared anything about her life anyway. She just slipped her arm around her daughter's shoulders and pulled her close as the lady on TV sang, "Good night, my love, my moment with you now is ending".
"Let's get these clothes off, hmm?" Angel said as he pulled her to him and gently moved to unzip the long black dress she wore. Arms slid out of the sleeves and silk pooled at her feet and it didn't even matter that Angel was undressing her because he was the only one that could. "I added some of the strawberry bubble bath that was under the sink."
It had been her mother's favorite; how had he known?
Underwear was gone now and she was naked before him. But it was just her body, not her soul, because while she could bear herself to him easily (one didn't have much shame when one's mother had just passed away), she couldn't let him see into her soul. She didn't think she even had a soul anymore.
Or was her soul the thing that was screaming?
He was urging her into the scalding water now and it hurt, which was good because at least she was feeling *something*. Her head rested against the soft bath pillow that it her mommy had suctioned to the wall for when her daughter wanted a long bath after a hard night's slay.
Hands were suddenly in her hair, pulling it out of the twist it had been in all day and fluffing the blonde locks out. The tips got wet instantly and the rest followed as she dunked her head beneath the water.
She kept her eyes open so that she could see the ceiling, ignoring the burn.
The water hurt and her body ached and as she rose out of the water her eyes slid shut, droplets from the bath sliding down her cheeks. His hand was caressing her under the water, cleaning her. It wasn't about coping a feel because Angel wouldn't take advantage of her like that. Joyce had never known how amazing Angel was. So giving. So loving. So perfect.
Tenderly he washed her limp body, his shirt long gone. Hands were gentle as they passed over her breasts, her stomach, her legs, her feet. He washed her back and her sex, which he seemed to know more intimately from one night of passion than Riley had known from a thousand. He sat with her as she soaked until the bath water turned cold and she began to shiver.
And not once did he force her to speak. Sharing details of the past year of his life was what he focused on and if she had been more aware of what was going on she would have understood that the thing burning inside of her when she heard that he'd slept with Darla was jealousy. He could fuck his sire but he couldn't make love to his soul's only mate. Talk about irony.
There was no shame that filled her as she rose from the tub and stood before him in her naked splendor because this was Angel and he was allowed to look. He tried and failed to hide the lust in his eye and Buffy felt a stirring of something deep in her womb.
Her thighs grew damp and it had nothing to do with the water she'd just been in.
A fluffy towel enveloped her. Shivering, Buffy huddled next to her protector as he combed out her hair. She wasn't even aware that she had slipped her mother's silk robe on because it was so normal to feel the material against her skin and smell the lingering perfume on it. The drain was pulled and the towels were hung before he led her across the hall to her bedroom.
She didn't dare look at the closed door across the hall. That room was empty now, cold and dark and lonely. Like her.
Like clockwork she moved to her dresser and drew out the silky nightgown Riley had given her for Christmas. This was natural, these were her everyday motions. Bath, pajamas, sleep. The nightgown only made it to the floor, though, because she had looked up and seen Angel holding Mr. Gordo again and suddenly it was three years in the past, her mother was down the hall, Dawn was asleep in the next room, and Angel was busted.
"He misses you," she said softly, the first words she'd spoken to him all day. Startled, Angel nearly dropped the over-stuffed pig as he looked up at her. Face pale, dark circles around the sullen eyes, hair slicked back against her head...she looked so lost. Like a little girl who was given too much responsibility too soon and who was so afraid to continue because it meant letting go of the past, something she couldn't ever imagine doing.
"I miss you," Angel said as he put the pig on the windowsill and moved over to her. "It's okay to cry, you know."
"I know." And she did know, but crying meant she had to feel emotions and at the moment she...didn't. Still numb. Still broken. Still lost.
He kicked one of her black boots out of the way, towering over her suddenly. Her body cried out for him but she didn't know what it was saying because she didn't know what she was feeling.
"Do you want to cry?"
"So why don't you?"
A long, pregnant pause. "I don't remember how to."
His hand, gentle on her bare arm. It was electric but she didn't feel it because what right did she have to feel anything when her mommy was being eaten by worms and her sister had to go to school and there were bills to pay and a house to look after?
"Do you want to talk? It can be about anything at all. College, Dawn, Giles, slaying..."
"What are all those things?" she asked, genuinely confused. "Who are you, Angel? Who am I?"
There was cool flesh on her face and she realized his hands had moved up to cup her cheeks. Her skin was wet with something that tasted salty. What was leaking out of her eyes? Would they bring her mother back?
"Where's my mommy, Angel? It's so cold and I can't find her and I'm afraid she's lost. What if she can't find her way home? I'm afraid, Angel, she's supposed to be here by now. Where is she? Why isn't she listening to me? Why doesn't she love me anymore?" The last question was a shout and she heard a crash. Had she thrown that mirror against the wall? Seven years bad luck.
Would she even be alive in seven years?
There was something hard against her cheek now. It was his chest. The world was shaking and someone was screaming -- was that her voice? How could she be screaming when her mouth was closed?
"Angel, Angel, Angel, I miss her so much. What if she's lonely down there with the earthworms and the bugs? What if she starts to cry? How can I get to her?"
"Shh," he whispered, "she's with you right now. She's always with you so she can't be lonely because she can stand in your light and be safe, just like Dawn and your friends."
"You need light," she trembled, her gaze catching his.
"I have light. I have you."
Lips were touching then because how could she not kiss him after the lies he'd just told her? She could not stand the loneliness for a moment longer and he could chase it away. His tongue was cool as it invaded her mouth and she moaned because it had been so long and she could feel his erection pressing against her stomach. His hair was soft when she wove her fingers in it and she wondered if he'd used gel that morning.
And then she was wondering how his belt was supposed to work, until his hands pushed hers away gently and undid it for her. Pants slid off his lean hips as his hands slipped into her mother's robe and her flesh burned when he touched her. That obstacle was gone, then (it wasn't right to be wearing something that had belonged to someone so beautiful and wonderful when she was doing something so sinful), and they were pressing together and moaning and rubbing. It had been so long, and there really was nothing like a tragedy to bring people together.
The mattress was soft against her back as she fell onto it. Angel was pushing her comforter to the floor and the white fitted sheet was all that was left -- did the bed look like a sacrificial alter? If she died on it, would her mother come back?
She was cold and naked, but it was okay because Angel's hands were all over her body and it felt like she was covered and at least that was a start. She felt safe. In her sworn enemy's arms, the thing she was destined to kill...she felt secure.
Did she have the right to feel that way with her mother six feet under?
But that didn't matter now because Angel's mouth was around her nipple and he was sucking and nibbling at it like a baby and the pleasure was building. Her thighs were sticky, her womb empty. He switched to its twin because it was a sin to leave it neglected, and he laved it properly until it was glistening with his saliva.
His lips moved lower, over the indentations left by her ribs and the smooth skin of her belly. She smelled something musky and realized it was *her*, so she reached down to pull him away (why would anyone want to do something so disgusting?) but he had beaten her there and was already licking her clit in short spurts when her hands reached his head.
It felt so good and she couldn't do anything but moan and grind her hips against his face, pulling him closer to her.
Angel's tongue was exploring her every crevice and he was eating her like there was no tomorrow. If the curse was still there and he got happy, there wouldn't be. That thought was foreign to her mind now because, really, how could anything that felt this heavenly be forbidden? Surely the Powers had gotten it wrong.
"Oh God, Angel, up more -- right there, yeah, harder -- oh, please..." Was that her? Was she whimpering all those dirty words, begging him for release? Buffy Summers didn't beg. She took. Want, take have. No, wait, that was Faith...
There was something he was bringing her to, a place where there was nothing but birds chirping and the sun shining and a pleasure she'd never felt before. He was lapping at her juices, greedy for more, and when he locked his lips around her clit to suckle it she exploded.
Light, light was everywhere and she was flying and falling and spinning all at the same time. Every limb, every nerve, every cell was on fire and the only way to release it was to scream his name. By the time she was conscious enough to realize what had happened he was already looming above her again.
Her lips were desperate for his skin and she kissed every place she could: his eyelids, his cheeks, his forehead, the little patch of skin behind his ear that made him shake. It became too much to kiss him and feel him all around her...too much...and she thought she might let go again, just from touching him. Shaking, sobbing, she clung to him because he was her anchor, her savior, her beloved Angel.
He knew what she wanted when she didn't even know herself.
"Buffy," he purred as her hot, tiny little hands found his enormous cock and she wondered if he had said Darla's name in that way when he'd fucked her. He grew under her fingertips until she didn't think he could get any bigger, at which point he surprised her by expanding more. She trailed her hands up and down his rigid length, reacquainting herself with him.
"Help me, Angel, I can't feel anything anymore," Buffy pleaded in a choked whisper. "Make me feel. Make me forget."
He knew better than to tell her that forgetting would not make this easier because who was he to tell her what was good for her? Who was he to deny her the thing he craved as well? Why torment themselves any longer? A thousand objections raced through his mind.
((Her mother just died, you idiot, how can you take advantage of her?))
((She was grieving, she wasn't thinking clearly.))
((Surely she didn't want this like I do...))
But she obviously did because she was moaning and rubbing and groping at him, her hands like fire on his bare skin. He hooked his arms underneath her thighs and spread them apart, giving him room to rest his pelvis firmly on hers, unable to stand not being inside of her.
His sex touched hers with a gentle probe and she arched up against him, wanting more, needing more. Her legs locked around his hips and she was open to him, open and vulnerable and dripping because he'd touched her, because he'd *looked* at her in that way that always made her knees weak.
And then like magic everything was okay because she was beneath him and he was above her, and the world made sense again because *they* made sense.
"Buffy...what about the curse?" She tasted his fear as she licked the sweat off his skin.
"Tell Angelus he's not invited. Fight him, Angel. You own your soul and you want it inside your body so keep it there," she told him. It was the first -- the only -- wise thing she had said in days, although she felt like she'd picked up more wisdom in those brief hours than she had in twenty years of life. What she said made sense in that weird way things that aren't supposed to do and he was soothed by her words.
"I love you," he whispered hoarsely, his forehead pressed against hers, his sex poised to enter her for the first time in three years.
"I miss you," she murmured.
And then suddenly she didn't because he was pushing into her, stretching her with his huge cock, filling her with his coolness. He was balm to her burning insides, thread to her torn heart, the mate of her soul.
Nothing in her life made sense anymore...but that was okay, because Angel was inside her again.
Buffy hadn't ever felt anything as wonderful as the head of his sex bumping against her cervix. She wanted him to go deeper, so deep that he'd never be able to leave her again. There was the urge to pull him into her so he would be safe, so she could protect him and have him with her always and never feel empty again. Which was kind of laughable, really, because she couldn't even protect her mother, so how could she expect to protect him?
He pulled back and away and out and she was afraid he would leave her. But then he was moving in again and he wouldn't leave like her mommy because he couldn't be killed by anyone but her because she was the only one who loved him enough to kill him.
Squeezing his cock made him groan and it kept him inside her longer, pulled him deeper, so she did it until her inner muscles burned and then she did it some more because it was making Angel roll his eyes into the back of his head and whimper and that made her feel something. Something good.
Small bursts of breath soothed her burning cheeks as he thrust into her again and again, his movements becoming jerky, losing their finesse. But it was okay because he was filling her faster and faster and it felt so goddamn GOOD that she didn't want him to ever stop.
"Don't stop, please, don't stop, Angelangelangelangelangel," she babbled, their lips meeting blindly because they were only lips, not eyes, and lips don't see. But they felt and they melded and saliva was exchanged as tongues smacked wetly together. It was impossible to tell whose tongue was whose or which hand was clutching which arm.
Where those her feet digging into the small of his back?
Was that him yelling her name?
Nothing mattered anymore because his finger was pinching her clit and the pleasure had built to a high crescendo. Just a few more thrusts, just one more twist...
She didn't even realize she screamed when she climaxed.
Angel was still moving inside her, still creating the friction she had needed to melt the ice around her heart. And melt it did, and she shed it from her tear ducts because she was already sopping wet at the center of their union and there was no way she could leak any more moisture from there. Her thighs were sticky and the hair that covered his balls and the base of his sex was drenched in her juices.
Together they were one huge mass of sweaty, trembling flesh and bundle of nerves, but that's what they were because they were alive (in a manner of speaking) and live people did this kind of thing every day. Enjoy all the pleasure and the sex and the orgasms because you never know when a blood clot is going to kill you and leave your body to be found by your daughter.
He was thrusting faster and faster now, like before, but this was different. Her legs were wrapped so tightly around him and he was so deep inside that they were going to stay like this forever because they were one now, they had been and always would be but now they really *were*.
Buffy was flying again, but this time Angel was flying with her and it was so perfect that it was impossible for them to not scream each other's name in fulfillment. They shared something at that moment, something sacred and beautiful and powerful.
There was no way he could lose his soul this time because it was too perfect, she was too fragile and afraid and scared to be left alone. She needed strength, she needed something to lean on, she needed someone to laugh with and cry with and cry over and forget with. She was too young, too vulnerable to do this alone.
And he knew he wouldn't leave her because he was jerking against her and spilling his seed into her, and his father had always told him that the one you mark was the one you kept. He hadn't understood then...but he understood now, *really* understood, because she was the one he had to keep. She was his (the scar on her neck proved that), he was hers, and that was all.
"Angel," she whispered dreamily as he collapsed on top of her, his sex still buried to the hilt inside her hot core. For that moment she was just a girl and he was just a boy and they had made love, beautiful sweet glorious love, and they would fall asleep and wake up and live their lives together because that's what people in love did.
"I love you."
"I love you, too." A long pause as she caught her breath, nuzzled into his shoulder. "I miss my mommy."
Sobs wracked her frail body then and he hurried to get off of her because this was comfort time, their time to begin her grieving (and healing) process. He turned her around and pulled her to him after yanking the forgotten bedding off the floor. Back melted into chest and their hands clasped together on her stomach as he tapped kisses across her shoulder. She curled herself up into a little ball against him and Angel's legs involuntarily moved up so he created a little shelter around her, cocooning her in his love.
"I know you do, sweetheart. I know."
"I want my mommy!" she wailed, burrowing back against him, hoping he'd be able to bring her back. He couldn't, but he could hold her closer and kiss her hair as the musk of their joining clung to the sheets. "Angel...I want my mommy."
"You have me," he said, and she knew she did.