Lonely hearts still beat the same It’s not romantic It’s automatic I can’t tell the difference
London, England 2010
She dreams in riddles; in metaphors. A vivid array of colors steeped in a world of grey. Images she doesn’t understand until she does, and then it’s too late and the world is splitting open again. She bites back the sour taste in her mouth, and grabs the pad – ever present – beside her bed and begins to write. As fast as she can; as much as she can before the vividness of the nightmare fades and she’s too late.
She rips the page from the book and slips it under the door. The next round starts in a few minutes and the orderly will make sure that someone takes care of the problem.
She wanders back to bed, bare feet shuffling on the linoleum floor in attempt to make as little movement as possible.
Reaching for the glass beside her bed, she chugs the vodka, grimacing as it burns down her throat.
Anything to chase the terror from her mind, for the slim chance that she’ll sleep again tonight.
Two years since the Slayer dreams consumed her; one year six months since she came to this place, hoping to gain some semblance of control back.
Four weeks she’s been dreaming about him.
Prophecies that don’t make sense, graveyard dirt and a river of blood; the first time she had the dream she clawed her arms and chest in a futile attempt to make her skin stop humming with the feeling of him. She knows he’s miles away, but every night she dreams and he’s right there with her, touching her soul.
She hasn’t seen him in years, since right before the barrier between worlds fell and she was crushed in the onslaught of dreams.
He was passing through Scotland on the way back to Rome. They share a meal, more than a few beers, and pass stories back and forth through the night.
“There was a dragon.”
“A dragon, seriously?” Her eyes are wide, her skin flush with excitement, and she leans closer in an eager attempt to catch all the juicy details.
“Seriously. Angry bastard, it took me all night to kill him, ran him through with a broadsword just before dawn.”
She can feel the warmth of the liquor on her breath, the world has fuzzy edges and she knows that he can’t be faring much better. He raises his eyes to the bar and signals for another round.
“Sunnydale is gone?”
“Yeah, as far as we can tell the Hellmouth swallowed it as it collapsed inward.”
“But you all got out okay.” It was a statement more than a question, but she can’t stop herself from answering.
“There were some pretty heavy casualties, the Turok-Han noticed us before Willow finished the spell.”
She omits the part where Spike became a roman candle to save the world and he doesn’t bring it up. They both know he’s alive, or as alive as you could call a vampire with a soul.
Her breath hitches and she bites back tears. Despite the false starts, and initial impressions, Wesley had really pulled it out before leaving Sunnydale. She knows that Giles keeps in touch, and wonders if he knows why his letters and phone calls are never answered.
“They’re all dead.” His voice is hard, cold around the edges and when she looks at him she can see the grief burning in his eyes.
“Angel, I’m so sorry.”
She doesn’t remember who initiated the kiss, but remembers the all consuming fire burning in her belly as he takes her into his arms. His lips are cool and soft, his hands gentle as he pulled her closer, cupping the back of her head to change the angle of their kiss.
Her hands fist in his hair painfully, and when they break the seal of their mouths, she’s breathing hard, her eyes sparkle brightly with lust.
“I miss you.”
She knows he can feel the blood thrumming in her veins; hear her heart beating so wildly she’s afraid that it might burst out of her chest. His hands are tracing an intricate pattern on her bare forearms and electric tingles shoot through to the tips of her fingers. She swallows hard and takes a deep breath before grabbing the hem of her tank top, pulling it over her head.
He is still, though his eyes are appreciative, as she slowly unfastens the buttons on his shirt, as she pushes the fabric over his shoulders, down his arms until she throws the garment to join hers on the floor.
She leans in to him, shudders as he cups her breast and lowers his mouth to nibble and suck gently at her neck, at his mark. Her muscles cord and her back arches strongly as he bites down hard. She digs her fingertips so deeply into his biceps that she breaks the skin and blood wells to the surface.
“Please. I need you.”
He sweeps her off the couch and carries her bridegroom style across her apartment and into her bedroom, setting her reverently on her unmade bed. He’s unbuttoning her shorts, sliding them down her legs and all she wants is for him to kiss her again.
But then he’s sliding into her, so slowly, and she doesn’t care. Long and hard and slow, and she doesn’t care because nothing ever feels as right as this. He groans her name and she trembles when he’s finally, blissfully seated inside her.
The ward is quiet, nearly empty and the orderly’s footsteps echo as he begins to search the floor for any sign of mischief. His flashlight beam sweeps across her window, and she can hear the shuffling of his uniform as he bends down to pick up her message. She knows he’ll make sure that the Council pays attention to it, that’s she’s not as far gone as they like to think.
She’s the only patient on this floor, probably the only one in this ward that isn’t completely barking mad. There’s a doctor here that Giles said might be able to help her learn to control the dreams, to help them fade into the background so that she can go back to active duty. The emptiness of her nights is slowly starting to wear on her nerves.
No one comes to see her; she’s the only patient in the mess hall that doesn’t get letters or phone calls from home. Anna, the schizophrenic from the next ward over, gets homemade cookies from her grandmother like clockwork every other week that she shares with her out of some twisted sense of kinship. She shares all the good gossip, which patients are having a ‘bad day’, which doctors and orderlies are sleeping with whom, and what precious little information that was known about the new admissions, not that they had very many these days.
She knows they gossip about her as well. No one knows precisely why the tiny blonde with no obvious problems came to reside here in the middle of the night. She doesn’t go to the daily therapy groups, and even the orderlies are restricted from accessing her file. She wasn’t allowed to dine with the other patients for the first couple of weeks, until they assessed her mental state, and that only further fueled the curiosity.
The only people that don’t seem afraid of her are Anna and Sam, who had been committed by the state because he had burned down a house. She isn’t quite sure on the reasoning behind it, but she knows all about the stigma that destroying a whole building can bring. She doesn’t actively seek them out, she can’t answer their questions, but they appear routinely at her dinner table, and never ask her anything but what she thinks of the latest gossip.
She watches the blue grey tone of midnight slowly give way to morning, and knows she’s facing another sleepless night.
She’s sitting in the mess hall, getting ready to eat some sick version of Salisbury steak that looks more like a piece of refried rubber when she sees Anna and Sam dropping down across from her out of the corner of her eye.
“Buffy. Nana sent me some more cookies, you want?” Anna slides a battered tin of sugary treats towards her, and she winces as a sharp edge screeches against the metal table top.
She pushes the vile tray away, and grabs a handful of cookies. “Thanks.”
“Did you hear about the new orderly? Apparently he’s only been here a week, and he’s already doing the horizontal Mambo with Dr. Sandy.”
Dr. Sandy was a horrific letch, and had a habit of sharing the sordid details of her interoffice affairs with her favorite patients. She was also potentially the person that would help Buffy learn to desensitize herself to the prophetic dreams that plagued her sleep. Both she and Sam see her three times a week to work through their ‘problems’, Anna supposedly has a standing daily appointment though she hardly goes.
“Is Dr. Sandy spreading great tales again, or did someone catch them?” Sam wants to know.
“She told me in session this week. Quid pro quo. I had to tell her that I would show up for a week’s worth of appointments in a row,” Anna replies.
“So what’s the new guy like? Is he total eye candy?” She hasn’t had sex in so long, she’s practically revirginized. Her last relationship had sizzled out with a bang, quite literally. And the last time she’d had sex was almost three years ago. She’ll take her action any way she can.
Anna babbles endlessly about the new Orderly, who sounds cute – if a little geeky with his tortoiseshell glasses and short curly brown hair. She’s sure that her own session with Dr. Sandy this week isn’t going to go as well as hoped. The nightmares aren’t getting worse, nor are they getting better.
She marks her two year anniversary in the hospital with Anna and Sam, who smuggle contraband cupcakes and an unlit candle into her ward after lights out. They gossip until their giggles bring the sweeping light of the night shift’s flashlight and they have to rush back to the quiet of their own beds.
She smiles all morning the next day, finally feeling like she’s getting somewhere.
She’s sitting at lunch with Sam and Anna, pretending to eat a piece of chicken that tastes like burnt plastic, when a shadow falls over their table. She looks up, and upon seeing the cause of the silhouette feels her heart drop into her stomach with an acidy splash.
“Hello Buffy,” he replies, an easy smile lighting his face. Her brain is frantic, when it makes the connection that he shouldn’t be standing here, can’t be standing here in the streaming sunlight.
She’s on her feet and standing in front of him before she even realizes that she’s moving. Her fingertips trail softly over his face, tracing the edges in wonder. “Is this real? Are you really here?”
Everything falls away; she doesn’t hear Anna and Sam’s questions, only the hot rush of blood in her ears and the beating of his heart. She lets her fingers rest momentarily over the throbbing pulse in his neck, before throwing her arms around him and kissing him. He’s momentarily stunned, but wraps his arms around her and returns the kiss deeply. When they break apart, they’re both gasping for air, but they’re smiling.
“Buffy. It’s time to come home,” he says, and sweeps her up in his arms like something out of one of those Harlequin Romance novels she’d filched from her mother when she was younger. She curls into his chest, arms winding around his neck, and he carries her away from the hospital.
She smiles widely, as she realizes that wherever this part of their journey is taking them, they’ll take it together.
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Summary: Journeys are all about how you reach the destination.
Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel are property of Joss Whedon, et all.
Spoilers: Finales of both series, minor spoilers for the Season Eight comics.
Notes: Lyrics and title from “Lonely Hearts Still Beat the Same,” by the Research.