It is always darkest just before dawn and that is when he goes to her. He knows that the light is coming, will steal away his freedom, but it’s a risk he is willing to take.
There she is, palm cupping her cheek, even in sleep- as though she were considering some weighty problem. Her hair fans out across the pillow and the sheet, plain white cotton, is draped across the valley between her hip and her ribs. He can see the slight curve of one breast, so much smaller than it was when he first met her. Death does that to you, he thinks, steals the meat off your bones, the stars from your eyes.
He hasn’t seen her since her mother died, since he stood beside her at Joyce’s grave, her small hot hand pressed into his.
“How can you put everything someone was into a box?” She’d asked.
Buffy’s loss had been a living thing, a coiled snake.
She wants him to stay and he wishes he could grant her wish: her mouth against his mouth brings with it a painful rush of memory. But he couldn’t even give her the dawn, had touched her cheek and stepped back into the shadows.
He hasn’t seen her since Willow brought her back from the grave and they met, strangers in a strange place.
I want to feel normal, to understand what happened, but I don’t,” she’d said.
And he’d been silent, had wanted to hold her but been afraid that her death-brittle bones might snap like kindling.
Now he’s here, on her windowsill, as though she is 16 and he doesn’t know better. The night is monochrome, even the leaves have been stripped of their colour. He knows that in this light, dressed in black, his skin translucent as milk glass, he must look like the Angel of Death.
And so that must make Buffy a fairytale princess.
Angel turns away from her and looks back at the sky. He doesn’t have long now.
He climbs over the window ledge and moves silently to the bed. When he sits beside her, her eyes flutter open. She smiles a little. And sighs, “Angel.”
“Go back to sleep.”
“Yeah, baby. You are.”
But he’s the one who’s dreaming.
He tugs at the sheet and reveals the curve of her hip, the tiny rosebud that holds her scrap of underwear together. The smell of her drifts up- lemon and lavender.
“Lie down with me. Please.”
“Just for a minute. There’s time.”
Had we but world enough and time.
He wants to feel her pressed against the length of him. Is that a crime deserving of punishment?
So he toes off his boots and settles in beside her, his eyes darting, just for a second, to the window and the night beyond.
Her hand is on his chest, curled on his breastbone. Her cheek is against his shoulder. Strands of her hair catch in the stubble on his face. His cock thickens. He can not control how he feels and he’s tried. It’s the truth.
But this truth, the truth of her, is more.
“Kiss me,” he whispers to her and she tilts her face up to him. Her mouth is sleepy, unadorned, perfect.
He presses his mouth against hers and feels her press back. He pulls her closer, his hand against the small of her back and feels her warm crotch against his thigh. And as if he were crushing a flower between his fingers, the musky scent of her rises up.
He parts her lips with his tongue and sinks further into the kiss. She is new every time.
He pulls away and murmurs: “God, Buffy.”
“I don’t believe in God,” she says.
It’s wrong to be here, to want her. He risks another glance at the window. Dawn is coming, slinking forward like a big cat after its prey, slunk low-bellied to the earth- pale eyes gleaming.
Angel risks a hand on her breast and she arches up, fitting herself into his palm, her nipple insistent under the thin material of her tank top.
“You were made for me,” he says.
“I know. Me, too.”
He moves his hand, drifts it down to the hem of her top and inches his fingers forward, up under her shirt. Her skin is satin.
The room is taking shape around them. Angel can see Mr. Gordo on the chair, and the cross he’d given her hanging from a T-shaped object on her bureau. If he doesn’t leave now, he’ll be trapped. Maybe, he considers, that wouldn’t be a bad thing.
Just a little longer.
His fingers find her nipple and a thrill shoots through him. If he can just taste her, that will be enough to carry him through the day. So he moves his hand, repositions himself and her shirt, and bends his head to touch his tongue to her puckered skin.
It not enough; it is never enough. He closes his mouth around her, drawing her in, sucking as though he’ll find everlasting life at her breast.
But he does not want everlasting life, he wants a finite life. A life he can share with her.
He bites into her, gently, and she vibrates against him. He rests one hand against her panties, feels the damp fabric and loses all resolve to leave before first light. It would hardly be possible to make a safe escape now; he has no choice but to stay.
He stands up and watches her as he pulls off his clothes. Then he pulls her further down the bed and kneels at the altar of her sex. He leans forward and presses an open-mouthed kiss against the sweet, damp spot in her panties. She quivers.
There is the sun, but to say there is nothing new under it is a grievous error.
He has to get inside her, with his fingers, with his tongue, with his cock. Because she is life. He pulls aside her panties and slides his tongue into the warm crevice. Better than blood, this. Still not enough though. He parts her, like splitting ripe fruit, and begins to eat. She gives up her essence like wine, coating his lips and chin until he is delirious. Her hips tilt skyward and she comes against his mouth. He holds her still until the spasms have faded, small ripples against the shore.
“Buffy,” he says.
“Angel,” she says.
He tugs at her underwear and the rosebud snaps; the tiny garment floats to the floor, petal-like.
He hooks her knees over his forearms and moves forward, cocksure.
“Look at me,” he says.
Her eyes are calm, expectant.
Then he is inside her, deep. She is tight muscle and warm blood and he is at her mercy, though he certainly doesn’t deserve it. He hitches her up and goes deeper. He can because she lets him.
He moves and moves and the road is endless sensation. Beneath him, Buffy is watchful and silent. Even when his fangs descend, her face is benign. She lifts one hand and offers her wrist, its pale skin and spider-web veins a beacon.
His cock tightens, a hard hand in a velvet glove, and he lowers his mouth to her wrist. She holds it steady as he bites.
There is blood in his mouth and sun in the sky and death all around him.
Angel wakes with a start.
He groans as his hand finds his erection. There it is: proof.
He jacks off quickly, his fist a poor facsimile of the memory of her.
They had agreed to keep their distance. He hadn’t been in any position to argue with her; after all, he’d been the one to leave in the first place. And if he hadn’t? Well, he thinks, maybe she wouldn’t have died. Maybe they would have found a way around the curse. Maybe they would have lived happily ever after.
Angel can’t live on might haves though.
There is only this: confirmation of his depravity, sticky on his belly, and a gnawing longing in the pit of his belly. And hope.
He believes in the promise of Shanshu because he has no choice. Hope springs eternal, although for now he guesses, he’s got the eternal thing pretty much covered.
Right now, though, there is work to be done
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