"Love is a demon and you’re the one he’s coming for…" Could I Be Your Girl- Jann Arden
The subway station smelled like piss. It didn’t matter which city she was in, Rome or New York or, now, London the same smell of urine always accompanied the unwelcome rush of hot, stagnant air that preceded the arrival of the train.
She shifted her weight from one hip to the next and slipped through the parted train doors, scanning the length of the train before she settled on the nearest seat. The woman on the next seat over clutched her purse to her chest and slid a dark, wary look over at her.
It was weird to get these sideways glances. To be made to feel like a criminal after so many years of saving people. Buffy stared down at her knotted fingers and sighed.
The train jerked forward and Buffy tilted her head back against the window behind her. She’d been in London for several days now and it hadn’t stopped raining. It was a bit of a let down after Rome.
The train was packed with commuters, tourists and school children heading back home after a day at the museum. At least that is who Buffy imagined these people were. She picked people randomly and then imagined a life for them; a back story that suited their dour faces or stiff spines or shining eyes.
Across the aisle, a mother blew her naked lips against the bare belly of a toddler and Buffy imagined that they were going home to a neat little garden flat. A tiny calico kitten would be curled up on a pillow just beside the back door. The mother would collect the mail and make tea and the toddler would eat biscuits and wait for her daddy.
Buffy closed her eyes just as the train pulled into Leicester Square. Two more stops and she’d be home, well, at Willow’s. Giles was coming for dinner. They’d have wine and they’d make vague references to life in Sunnydale, but they’d ignore other subjects in much the same way as a freshman might ignore calculus homework.
Buffy exited with a small crowd and headed for the stairs. She stepped out onto the crowded street and stopped to drop a few pence into the upturned hat of the vagrant who was almost always sitting at the top of the stairs. Buffy felt sorry for him, his mournful eyes and liver-spotted forehead.
“Thanks, love,” he whispered.
Buffy smiled. She crossed the street and headed towards Willow’s flat, which was on Cosmo Place, a street filled with straight, narrow Victorian brownstones. Willow had lucked into the place through her connections at the University of London, where she was currently doing research for the newly reformed Watcher’s Council.
Buffy ducked into the nearest off-license and grabbed a couple bottles of Australian Merlot. The thought of soaking in the tub for a long time appealed to her. She suddenly felt tired, as if she hadn’t quite shaken jet lag.
The rain had let up and street lights glowed dimly along the wet street. Bloomsbury would soon be alive with diners heading off to a show in the West End. It was strange to be here with Willow and Giles after so many weeks alone. Well, not alone. She’d had Dawn. And, for a time, the Immortal.
Buffy headed up the narrow stairs to Willow’s third floor flat. She inserted the key into the lock and shoved the door shut behind her.
“I’m back!” she called. The apartment was silent.
Buffy went into the kitchen and unwrapped the wine. She searched through the catch-all drawer for a cork screw and deftly opened a bottle, pouring a healthy measure into one of Willow’s many mismatched glasses. She drifted through the house to the bathroom and plugged the drain of the tub, turned on and adjusted the taps, added bath oil.
When the old fashioned slope-sided tub was half-way full, Buffy shed her clothes and sank down into the hot water.
She took a small sip of her wine and savored the richness on her tongue. She let her eyes drift down through the oily water to examine her breasts, her puckered nipples, the thatch of pubic hair below her belly, her legs and pink-painted toenails.
The one and only time she’d had sex with the Immortal had been…unusual. Up until the actual moment they’d joined their flesh, Buffy couldn’t think of anything she’d ever wanted more. But afterwards, she was overcome with such guilt and shame that, despite the Immortal’s considerable prowess, she was never able to succumb to his sexual charms again.
It was ridiculous, of course, to think that at 24 she’d come to the end of her sex life. Buffy floated a hand on top of the water and then reached for her wine glass.
“In here, Will,” Buffy called.
There was a small knock on the bathroom door and then Willow’s pale face pushed through.
“Have a good day?”
“It was great, thanks.”
“Great. Good. Piccadilly Circus?”
“Yeah. It was kinda like Times Square, only not.”
“I hadn’t ever thought of it before.”
“You’ve never been to New York before.” Buffy smiled.
“Well, there’s that.” Willow smiled back.
“What time is Giles coming?”
“Sevenish. I should go start the food.”
“I’ll help. Just give me five,” Buffy said.
“Take your time. Nothing fancy.” Willow shut the door softly and Buffy heard her pad down the hall. Distantly, music played.
Buffy reached for her glass and took another swallow of wine. The pit of her belly felt warm; the place between her legs throbbed.
She stood suddenly, water sluicing off her body, the cool air prickling her skin. She reached for a towel and wrapped it around herself. Rubbing the steam off the mirror over the sink, Buffy regarded herself solemnly.
“Thoughts like that are bad,” she whispered. “Cease and desist already.”
Buffy left the bathroom and headed for the small alcove that served as her room. Her suitcase lay open on a small table; the daybed was unmade; the window looking out onto the street was up and a muggy breeze lifted the lace curtain sluggishly.
Buffy sat on the edge of the bed and stared down at her toes. The polish was chipped on the big toe of her left foot.
“You forgot your wine,” Willow said, appearing at the foot of the bed. “In the bathroom.”
“Whatcha thinkin’ about?”
Buffy took the wine glass and set it on the table next to her suitcase.
“I mean, look at my life, Will. I’m crashing on your couch, living out of a suitcase. Give me an eye patch and call me Xander.”
Willow sat next to her friend and wrapped an arm around her shoulder.
“You are not crashing, Buffy,” she said. “And I can give you closet space. I love having you here. So does Giles.”
“I know; I mean, I love being with you guys, I just feel…”
“Is it?” Buffy asked. “Is it really okay to be 20-something and not to have a clue about where you’re going?”
“It’s more than okay, Buffy,” Willow said reassuringly. “Just the fact that you are twenty-something is an accomplishment.”
Buffy chuckled. “I hadn’t thought of it like that.”
“Well, there then.”
“I’m going to get dressed. Giles’ll be here on time.”
“Punctual. That’s one thing you can always count on with Giles.”
“Yep. Punctuality and tweed.”
Willow laughed and headed back down the hall to the kitchen.
“Well, the meal was just lovely,” Giles said, pushing his plate back and sighing contentedly.
“He’s right, Willow. It was yummy.”
“Turns out, I like to cook,” she said, filling everyone’s glass with the remaining Merlot.
“Turns out, I like to eat.” Buffy laughed.
“I would have expected you to come back from Rome all roly-poly,” Giles said. “You’re too thin, Buffy.”
Buffy reached for her glass. She was pleasantly drunk and she wanted to maintain the buzz. She didn’t want to hear comments about her weight. “I never felt like eating much. It was too hot.”
“Well, you’re making up for it now,” Willow said positively. “That’s the main thing.”
There was a comfortable silence and then Giles said: “I’ve had news from Los Angeles.”
Buffy jerked her hand back from her glass, accidentally knocking it over. She watched the dark red stain seep into the tablecloth Willow had laid on the table to hide the scarred wood.
“It’s okay,” Willow said, twisting the top off the salt shaker and spilling the salt onto the stain. “Salt,” she added redundantly.
“I’m sorry,” Giles said. “I’ve known for several days now, but it never seemed like the time to bring it up. I didn’t want to tell you while you were still in Rome and then you landed here and there never seemed to be the right…moment.”
Buffy held up her hand. “It’s okay. I’m okay.”
“Shall I tell you then?”
Buffy looked down at the tablecloth. It was impossible that salt would remove the stain. Buffy would have to replace the cloth.
She lifted her head and met Giles’s eyes. “Tell me.”
“They survived. Both of them,” Giles said quietly. “Illyria, too. Gunn was not so lucky, it would seem. And you already knew about Wesley.”
Buffy swallowed. “I knew.”
“The battle was horrific, as you might imagine. When it was over, they went underground to heal and wait to see what would happen. My sources dried up for several weeks and then, out of the blue, I had a call. From Spike.”
Buffy bit the inside of her cheek, hard.
“That was almost three weeks ago,” Giles said. “I haven’t heard anything since then. I haven’t spoken to-Angel.” Giles said the name as though it caused him great personal distress.
Buffy turned to Willow. “Did you know? All this time?”
Willow nodded. “I’m sorry.”
Buffy shook her head. “It’s okay. I can see why you didn’t want to tell me. I mean, who knew what my reaction would be? I could have totally lost it or something.”
“Or something,” Willow echoed.
“The most important thing is that they’re okay,” Giles said.
“Yes,” Buffy said uncertainly. “Will you excuse me for a minute?”
She pushed herself back from the table and left the room, heading for her alcove. The moon was visible through her window, a sharp crescent of luminous light. She sat on her bed, drawing her knees up under her chin and stared out the window.
This was the news she hadn’t even known she was waiting for. She should be feeling elated, relieved, grateful. Instead, she felt miserable and-angry. Buffy dropped her face, let her knees rest against the hollows of her eyes. She wouldn’t cry. She couldn’t.
But she did.
“Bloody London,” Spike muttered, dropping his cigarette to the ground where it sputtered in the gutter.
Angel stood a few feet away staring at a map, which he had unfolded and then refolded incorrectly. “Everything’s different,” he said.
“Stupid git,” Spike said, snatching the map away from Angel. “You’ve got it upside down.”
Angel grabbed the map back and stepped off the curb, heading for the small park across the street. “Why are you here again?” he said under his breath.
“I heard that,” Spike said, sidestepping a car before he rejoined Angel on the other side of the street. “And I am here for the same reason you are.”
Angel shook his head. “Gower Street is over there,” he said, pointing across Bedford Square.
“You’re suddenly quite sure of yourself,” Spike said, patting his jacket for his smokes.
“I’m sure,” Angel said, his tone dark.
“Hmmm. Well, let’s go then. Sun’ll be up soon and I don’t fancy being a crispy critter at this point.”
They crossed the dark park and found themselves suddenly at the foot of Gower Street.
“How bloody pretentious is living in a place called Gower Mews Mansions?” Spike said.
“There it is,” Angel said, ignoring Spike’s question. “Come on.”
The two headed for the rather plain looking building that called itself, rather ostentatiously, a mansion. Inside the foyer, a quick look at the buzzers on the wall indicated which flat belonged to Rupert Giles. Angel pressed the button and waited. It was just passed 5 a.m. and unlikely that Giles would be up, but just as Angel was about to buzz the apartment again, Giles’s bleary voice came over the speaker.
“It’s me. Angel.”
The speaker crackled.
“And me,” added Spike as if knowing that he was with Angel would make a difference to Giles.
Angel pressed the buzzer again.
“Alright. You’d better come up,” Giles said flatly.
Giles was dressed, but rumpled looking, when he opened the door. He surveyed the two vampires cautiously. Angel looked more dangerous, less like Angel, than Giles had ever seen him. Spike was unchanged.
“Well,” Giles said. “To what do I owe this rather dubious pleasure?”
“Can we at least come in?” Spike said.
Giles seemed to consider the question carefully. “Yes, I suppose.”
“Gonna need more than that,” Spike said.
“Of course. Spike, Angel, please come in despite the ungodly hour and your obvious lack of any social graces.”
“I feel all warm and fuzzy,” Spike said, brushing past Giles and into the flat.
“Are you coming?” Giles asked Angel.
“Yes.” Angel slipped past Giles and stood uneasily in the Watcher’s small vestibule.
Giles closed the door behind him and started down the hall toward the tiny kitchen. “I’ll just make tea.”
Angel moved into the sitting room where Spike had already made himself comfortable on the settee, black boots propped up on a pile of books on the floor in front of him.
“Tea. How bloody original,” Spike scoffed.
Angel sat on the armchair and closed his eyes. Now that he was actually here, he wasn’t sure why he’d come. After the battle in LA he and Spike and Illyria had made themselves scarce while the human authorities fought to set the city to rights again. It had taken forever, or so it had seemed to him, stuck in tunnels with Spike and the blue demon who reminded him so much of yet another person he had loved and lost.
They had been badly hurt and in the days that followed the battle he and Spike had taken turns hunting for food. Once, Illyria had offered her wrist to him, but her blood had been bitter bile and he had refused further gifts. Spike had offered other things. Dark things; things Angel wouldn’t have considered before he’d lost everything.
The first time Angel had eaten rat he’d had a rather vivid flashback. Whistler, crumpled hat pushed back on his forehead, greasy pretzel in his hand, suddenly appeared before him, his face a mask of disappointment. Even Angel had to admit that his life seemed to have come full circle.
A vampire with a soul eating vermin.
Giles entered the sitting room with a small tray on which was stacked three rather plain mugs, a white teapot decorated with small yellow pansies and a jug of milk.
“Sorry. I wasn’t expecting you. I’ve no blood.”
“Tea’s good,” Angel said.
“We just ate anyway,” Spike added.
“I see,” Giles said, pouring.
“Not people,” Angel said quickly, as if wanting Giles to know.
Giles nodded and handed Angel his mug.
Spike reached across and took his own off the tray. “Haven’t you any biscuits?”
“Look, Giles, I’m sorry we arrived unannounced. We were in Italy…”
Giles settled back into his chair and took a sip of his tea. “So, this is about Buffy?”
Spike snorted. “You say that as if you’re surprised.”
Giles allowed himself a small smile. “I shouldn’t be, I know.”
“Does she know?” Angel asked.
“Yes. I just told her a couple nights ago.”
Spike cocked a scarred eyebrow. “I called you more than a fortnight ago, mate.”
“Yes, and two weeks ago Buffy was still in Rome, I thought, trying to get on with her life. It didn’t seem like the time to mention-you,” Giles said. “She’s been through rather a lot.”
“Well, we weren’t having a picnic either, as it turns out,” Spike said. “As a matter of fact-”
“Spike,” Angel said.
Angel leaned forward, and Giles was suddenly struck by the size of his hands. They swallowed the tea mug and made it look like a child’s plaything.
“Will she see me?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” Giles answered honestly.
“She’ll bloody well see me,” Spike said.
“Perhaps,” Giles said calmly. “It’s difficult to gauge her state of mind.”
“She’s alright?” Angel asked.
“She seems to be, yes. But as I’ve said, these last few months have been an adjustment,” Giles said.
“She didn’t have any trouble adjusting to the Immortal,” Spike muttered.
“The Immortal. You know, poncy demon in Rome.”
Giles looked at Spike and then at Angel. He set his mug carefully on the tray and resisted the urge to polish his glasses, although he dearly wanted to.
“What’s this about?” he asked, directing the question at Angel.
“No,” Giles said, standing, “you look. If you and your sidekick here have made your way to London to muck up the works, you’ll get no help from me. Buffy is…”
“He’s not my sidekick,” Angel said.
“I’m not his sidekick,” Spike echoed.
“Right,” Giles said. “I’m going back to bed.”
“What about us?” Spike asked.
Giles turned back. “What about you?”
“I could stay home tonight,” Willow said.
Buffy was curled up on the couch, a glass of wine on the table next to the sofa, a book splayed open next to her feet.
“No. You should go. I want you to go.”
Willow folded her arms and put on her ‘resolve’ face. “It’s just a stupid lecture on the place of fanfiction in modern literature. I mean, honestly, how relevant can it be?”
“Go, Will, honest. The down time will do me good. I have my wine and I have my book and if I get really bored, I’ll watch Father Ted reruns or something,” Buffy said.
“Oh, I love that show. Father Dugal is so cute.”
Willow giggled. “But in a totally adorable way.”
“Go. You’ll be late.”
Willow bent down and kissed Buffy’s head and then swept out of the room in a flurry of red hair and colourful scarf.
Buffy picked up the book. She’d been reading the same page over and over for a week. She couldn’t seem to concentrate, but she felt lost without the book by her side. If she didn’t want to talk or if she wanted to ignore Willow’s or Giles’s worried glances, she could just pretend to read. The words blurred in front of her eyes.
Since Giles had revealed that Angel and Spike were alive, Buffy had found herself frozen with fear. It was almost as though knowing was worse than not knowing and Buffy realized that that made absolutely no sense whatsoever.
She’d said her goodbyes to Spike when he’d put on the amulet and sacrificed himself. She’d said her goodbyes to Angel. There was nothing unusual there. What was strange was how she was feeling now that she knew that they were both alive after the battle in LA.
Buffy put the book to one side and slid down on the sofa, reaching for the plaid fleece blanket Willow had thrown over the back. She pulled the soft material up over her shoulders and closed her eyes. She never seemed to be able to get enough sleep.
“So, how do you want to play this?” Spike asked.
“I don’t,” Angel said.
“You don’t want to go up?”
“I don’t want to play anything.”
“Figure of speech, Peaches.”
Angel shook his head and headed up the narrow steps outside of Willow’s building. He pushed open the outside door and headed up the interior stairs. He checked Willow’s flat number against the one Giles had given him.
“You think she’ll be home?”
Angel tossed Spike a dark look before rapping sharply on the door. The two men stood there, staring at Willow’s door as if it might be the portal to a new world. Angel knocked again.
“Bugger this,” Spike said, just as the door opened to reveal Buffy.
There was dead silence in the hall. Buffy stood, hair disheveled from her sleep on the couch. She touched her fingers to her lips to suppress a moan and then stepped back.
She shook her head, a warning.
“Aren’t you going to invite us in, then?” Spike said quietly.
Buffy shook her head again. “What are you doing here?” she said, her voice barely a whisper.
“We can explain,” Spike said, “only not like this.” Spike looked over at Angel who hadn’t made a sound, but who hadn’t taken his eyes off Buffy.
“I can’t do this,” Buffy said. “Not now.”
“Please, Buffy,” Spike cajoled.
Buffy closed her eyes. This was a dream. It wasn’t possible that they were actually standing in front of her, Spike wearing a ridiculously benevolent smile, Angel’s face an unreadable mask, his eyes dark.
Buffy took a step forward and stretched out her arm towards the door. She had to make them disappear.
Then Angel said her name.
They sat, the three of them, in Willow’s sitting room. For almost twenty minutes no one had said a word, but it was obvious that Spike was not going to be able to hold his tongue forever.
Buffy had brought the bottle of wine into the room and set out two more glasses, but no one had touched the liquor. It had started to rain again and the sound was reassuring. If it was raining, the world must still be spinning, even though it felt as though it had tipped precariously off its axis.
“I can’t bloody well stand it,” Spike said suddenly, standing up and shrugging off his leather jacket. He reached for the bottle of wine and peered at its label before pouring a healthy measure into one of the empty glasses. “Cheers,” he said before he drank it down.
“You must want to say something, ask something, pet,” he said to Buffy when he was finished.
She looked up at him with cautious eyes. Her fingers tingled, the backs of her knees, her throat. He was too close. They were both too close.
“Say something, then,” Spike said, although he was directing his comment towards Angel.
“What?” Angel replied flatly.
“I dunno. Something.”
“I can’t think of anything to say that will make any of this any easier,” Angel said almost to himself.
“What’s so hard about it?” Spike said. “We’re alive. We came to see a friend.”
Angel shook his head, a tiny admonishment. Spike was sometimes, Angel thought, the world’s biggest asshole.
“We’ll go,” Angel said. “Alright?” He looked across the room at Buffy, who was curled up on the couch, waif-like.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I just…this wasn’t how I imagined…seeing either of you…I mean, I guess I must have imagined it a million times…but not like this.” Buffy pressed her lips together, as if that would prevent any further confessions.
Spike sat on the couch next to Buffy, but not too close.
“How did you imagine it?” he asked.
“I don’t know. Separate. Somewhere far away, when I was older and you weren’t so…”
“So much still a part of me,” she whispered.
“Me?” Spike said.
Buffy turned her head to look at Spike, his face smooth and unchanged in all the years she had known him; he was so beautiful she wanted to cry.
“It’s more complicated than that,” she said.
“Was it complicated with the Immortal?” Spike said.
“Spike. Don’t,” Angel said.
“Why the hell not?” Spike said, his temper flaring. “You saw her; she looked happy.”
“You saw me? In Rome?”
Spike leaned back in the couch and crossed his arms.
“We saw you,” Angel said.
“But you didn’t…” Buffy said. “Well that’s typical for you Angel, isn’t it? Lurking around, trying to decide what’s best for me.”
“I wasn’t trying…look, Spike and I have had dealings with the Immortal before. We thought you might be in trouble. We went to rescue you.”
Buffy couldn’t help it. A snort of mirthless laughter escaped her mouth.
“Rescue me? From the Immortal? Since when do I need you to rescue me? Either of you?”
“Well, technically you don’t,” Angel said.
“We may be creatures of the night, but we still have testosterone,” Spike added glumly. “The Immortal’s a wanker.”
“So, was this about fearing for my life or jealousy?”
Angel and Spike traded a look.
“I can’t believe it!” Buffy said. “No. Actually I can believe it. It’s absolutely typical of you two. If you’re not jealous of me with someone else, you’re jealous of each other.”
“I’m not jealous of Peaches,” Spike said.
Angel said nothing.
“He can’t hold a candle to me,” Spike added.
“It’s not about candles or comparisons,” Buffy said. “It’s about…well, something else.”
“This was a mistake,” Angel said. He stood.
“I want to hear what it’s about. I’ve waited long enough,” Spike said, his voice resolute.
“The explanation won’t satisfy you,” Buffy said. “Or you,” she added looking up at Angel.
Angel sat back down and reached over to pour himself a glass of wine. Might as well.
“I could be with the Immortal because he didn’t mean anything to me,” Buffy said. “He was…filler. I’d left everything behind, everything, and I had to go forward. I had to. I knew what was going on in LA. Giles would give me information, but never too much. I couldn’t know that you were in danger because then I would want to go…and I couldn’t. But, it was impossible not to hear about the big battle, the Circle of the Black Thorn. I mean, even if a person wasn’t connected to the underworld, it would have been hard to miss.”
Buffy paused and reached for her wine. She took a small sip to steady her nerves and then said, “I put distance between me and you because I had no choice. I love you and when I say that, I mean I love you both. There is no either or; no one more than the other. I love you differently, but I do love you. When I heard that you were alive I had to start thinking about what that meant to me, what it meant for me. And the truth is, I don’t know. I don’t know how to be in this world without you, but I can’t honestly say that I know how to be here with you, either.”
Silence seeped into the room.
And then the front door open and they heard Willow call, “Buffy, I’m home!” There was a rustling: coat slipped off, keys dropped into the small dish on the table by the door, and then Willow appeared in the sitting room.
“Hello, Red,” Spike said as if it should come as no surprise to Willow to see them all sitting around sharing a glass of wine.
There was a long pause and then Willow said, “I’d better get more wine.”
Buffy got the invitation two days later. It came in the mail, a vellum envelope addressed in Angel’s remarkably beautiful handwriting.
She read it and then passed the note across the table to Willow.
“Are you going to go?”
Buffy took another bite of her toast. “I don’t know. I shouldn’t.”
“Why shouldn’t you?” Willow asked, pouring more tea into their mugs.
“I said everything I needed to say,” she said. She took a sip of her tea and added thoughtfully, “I think.”
“It’s just dinner and maybe if you go do something really normal with them, it will take away some of that vampire mystique,” Willow said. “Or not.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of. The ‘or not’ part.” Buffy chewed her last mouthful of toast. “I just feel as though no one is going to be satisfied with the outcome and that if I spend any more time with them, it’ll just get messy. And doesn’t Angel seem way broodier to you than normal?”
“I dunno,” Willow said, “it’s a look that seems to work for him.”
Buffy smiled. “It does. Oh, Willow, I don’t know what to do. It’s just easier to have neither of them in my life.”
“And you can’t choose?”
“How can I?”
In the end, Buffy went. She wore a simple black dress and heels, the silver cross Angel had given her so many years ago.
She couldn’t help but think that she was making a huge mistake; that being alone with Angel and Spike would only lead to anger and recrimination. Of the other possibilities, she dare not think.
“Are you visiting London?” the cab driver asked from the front seat.
“Yes,” Buffy replied. She didn’t want to enter into a protracted discussion about why she was in London, in this car speeding towards-disaster.
“You’ve been to the Tower, I expect,” he said. “And the Palace?”
“No, actually, I haven’t done much sightseeing,” Buffy said. “Well, I went to Piccadilly Circus. Oh, and Covent Garden.”
The driver nodded, obviously too polite to pass judgment on Buffy’s tour of the city.
The car was silent until it rolled to a stop.
“Here you go, luv,” the driver said, pulling up in front of a dark and looming building. He stared out of the window and turned around in his seat. “Are you sure this is the place?”
Buffy consulted the address on the card Angel had sent and confirmed that the address was correct.
“Alright then,” the driver said. He hopped out of the car and came around to open her door.
Buffy dug through her purse looking for a twenty pound note.
“Enjoy your evening,” the driver said, accepting the money with a small nod.
Buffy turned towards the building Angel had directed her to. It was tall and thin, with ornate wrought iron brackets over the windows. A small sign over the door read Milestone Hotel.
Buffy felt the nerves leapfrog along her spine. The street was empty although it wasn’t yet dark. She walked up the stairs and pushed the door open. The lobby was austere and dimly lit. The man at the reception desk looked up as she came in and nodded. Buffy made her way across the lobby to the elevator.
She stepped into the elevator and consulted Angel’s card once more.
“To the top, I expect,” the bellman in the elevator said.
Buffy looked over at him curiously.
The bellman smiled. “Recognized the stationary. Plus, you’re the Slayer.”
“Ex Slayer,” she corrected. Was she wearing a sign? Something across her forehead that blinked “Slayer”?
He shrugged. “Po-tay-toe. Po-tah-toe.”
Buffy stared at her reflection in the polished elevator doors. She’d left her hair loose and it tickled the exposed skin of her shoulders. Her face had a peculiar gold cast, probably from the weird light in the elevator. She licked her lips.
“Top floor,” the bellman announced.
The doors slid open with a small ding and Buffy stepped out into a gloomy hall.
“Just around the corner,” the bellman said.
She stood for a moment in front of the door, but before she could knock it swung open. Angel stood there and the sight of him stole Buffy’s breath. Why did he have to be so beautiful? And he was. His hair was longer than she remembered; it curled over the collar of his black shirt, which was unbuttoned to reveal the tiny links of a long silver chain. He wore black jeans and was barefoot. Buffy felt, suddenly, overdressed.
“You made it,” he said, pulling the door wider to allow her access.
“I made it,” she echoed.
“Great. Good. Dinner will be up in a few minutes. I hope you’re hungry.”
“Starving,” Buffy said, although she didn’t mean it. She stepped into the room, dropping her bag on a table that was already adorned with the biggest bouquet of flowers Buffy had ever seen.
“This place is kinda glum, though,” Buffy said. “It’s so dark.”
“It was a compromise.”
Angel shrugged. “There’s a view.”
Buffy walked over to the bank of windows and looked out into the fading light. There was a patch of green across the road and beyond that, water.
“Can I offer you a drink?” Angel said from behind her.
“Wine or something stronger?”
“White wine would be nice,” Buffy said.
Angel disappeared behind a small bar and extracted a bottle of wine from the mini fridge. “It’s Chardonnay. Is that okay?”
She watched as he expertly extracted the cork and then reached for a goblet-shaped glass. The wine was a rich yellow color. Buffy walked across the room to accept the glass. Angel’s fingers brushed against hers and she jerked her hand back, spilling some of the wine onto the carpet.
“It doesn’t matter.”
“It does, Angel. That’s the problem. It does matter.”
“We’re not talking about the wine anymore, are we?”
“I guess not,” she sighed.
“Let’s sit,” he said, gesturing to the couch. It occurred to Buffy that the bed wasn’t in this room.
“Look. I didn’t ask you here because I want to complicate your life,” Angel said. “And I understand that just by virtue of me being here I am making life difficult and confusing for you.”
“You really are,” Buffy murmured.
“I can’t speak for Spike,” Angel continued. “I can only say that when I survived the battle in LA, when I knew that I was going to live, I knew that I had to see you. It’s selfish; I know that, too.”
“I am so glad to see you, Angel, you have no idea,” Buffy said sincerely.
“Actually, I do have an idea,” Angel said. “You were how I got through the days in LA. When everything turned to shit, and it often did, I just remembered everything you’d had to give up. It made all of it-a little easier to bear.”
“Well, I guess we’re all in the same boat,” Angel said. “I know that nothing has changed…”
“No, you’re wrong, Angel. Everything has changed. I thought you were dead and every single minute that I thought that I thought about how we’d squandered our chance for…whatever. And Spike, I mean, I let him die and he loved me.”
“And you loved him.”
Buffy turned to face Angel. “Yes.”
Angel nodded, his mouth an unexpressive line.
“Sunnydale seems like a long time ago, doesn’t it?” Buffy asked.
“Relative to what?”
“Sorry. I forget sometimes.”
“And I can’t…” Angel said.
A knock on the door announced the arrival of dinner. Angel walked over to let in the same bellman from the elevator pushing a cart laden with silver-domed platters. Angel tipped the man and shut the door behind him.
“We should eat,” he said, lifting the first dome and revealing a small roasted chicken. The smell wafted through the room and Buffy’s mouth watered.
“Shouldn’t we wait for Spike?” Buffy asked.
Angel lowered the cover back onto the chicken.
“I don’t know where he is.”
“I’m sorry if that disappoints you,” Angel said.
“I’m not disappointed, Angel.” Buffy stood up and went back to the window; the sky was bruised and the lights of London were spread in a twinkling blanket in front of her. She turned back to look at Angel. “I’m just trying to find some solid ground. I don’t know what you want. I don’t know what I want.”
Angel was suddenly in front of her; Buffy had forgotten how quickly he could move.
“You still have this,” he said, placing a fingertip on the centre of her silver cross.
Buffy dropped her gaze, unable to meet the look in Angel’s eyes.
He reached up and pulled the silver chain out from under his shirt. Dangling on the end were two claddagh rings.
“Oh, God,” Buffy whispered.
“Buffy,” Angel said. “Look at me.”
Buffy felt his fingers under her chin, tilting her head up, and she had only a second to acknowledge the determination in his eyes before he kissed her.
Angel’s mouth was cool; she’d forgotten. His hands framed her face and he kissed her like he had that very first time; something of the demon in him struggling to break free. When he stepped away, Buffy felt sick with desire.
“I’m sorry,” he said.
Buffy leaned back against the window, the glass refreshing against her back.
“I won’t hurt you,” he said unnecessarily. He reached out and turned her around, so she faced the window. Buffy felt his fingers at the tiny hook and eye at the top of her dress and then heard the rasp of the zipper tracing the curve of her spine. She couldn’t make a sound; she felt, suddenly, inexperienced, vulnerable.
She felt his fingers travel the path of exposed skin bared by the zipper. She couldn’t remember the last time someone had touched her with such reverence. Her heart hammered in her throat; he would surely see it pulsing there, would be drawn to it.
But when he turned her back around his face was remarkably calm. He offered his hand. She stepped out of the puddle of her dress and followed him across the room to another door and through that door into the bedroom. A huge bed dominated the room, the bedspread was turned back to reveal clean, white sheets.
Buffy almost expected him to sweep her off her feet. Instead he let go of her hand and moved to the bed, pulling all the covers off and dropping them to the floor.
“What are we doing?” she asked.
He unclasped her bra, slid her underpants down her legs, did it all silently. He left her shoes on.
Buffy felt her stomach curl into a fist and then uncurl, releasing fingers of desire through her naked body. Her nipples knotted painfully; a nerve twitched in the arch of her foot. She felt, at once, vulnerable and powerful; this moment seemed inevitable.
Then Angel surprised her again.
He crossed the room and opened the door to what Buffy presumed was the bathroom. When he came back to her, Spike was trailing behind.
Buffy resisted the urge to cover her breasts, her crotch. To be naked in front of both of them was…
“Hello, pet,” Spike said. He moved to stand slightly in front of Angel. He was bare chested, his pants slung low on his hips.
Buffy shot a look past Spike’s shoulder. You said you didn’t know where Spike was, she said to Angel with her eyes.
Angel’s face revealed nothing. Instead, he put his hands on Spike’s shoulders and pushed him down. On his knees his head was at Buffy’s belly button. She felt his cool, artificial breath against her skin. Angel’s hand slipped through Spike’s hair, pushing him lower and Buffy gasped when she felt Spike’s mouth against her, there.
Buffy groaned, low in her throat. Spike’s tongue was already reacquainting itself with the hills and valleys of her cunt and she closed her eyes.
“Look at me.” Angel’s voice cut through the silence.
Buffy lifted her lashes. Angel’s eyes were dark, black with lust. And Buffy only had the briefest moment to contemplate how that was even possible before her knees buckled and she came.
She was only vaguely aware that someone had moved her to the bed. She wanted to ask what had happened, but she was afraid the whole experience would be revealed as a dream. It had to be a dream because there was no way that Spike had just gone down on her while Angel watched.
Once she’d had a dream about the three of them. She hadn’t actually slept with Spike yet, but he had appeared in her dream like an erotic, but somehow malevolent guest star. He hadn’t been chipped or ensouled, but his sexual hunger for her had almost eclipsed Angel’s tender caresses. She’d woken up to the pulse in her crotch, her scalp soaked with sweat.
Someone had turned off all the lights in the room, except for one small table lamp beside the bed. The sky outside was inky black. In a gloomy corner of the room, Buffy heard a sound, and then Angel emerged from the corner, still dressed. Buffy lay perfectly still, waiting to see what would happen.
“Buffy.” A voice to her left. She turned her head and there was Spike beside the bed. He was naked, his cock stiff.
Spike knelt on the bed and used one hand to part her thighs. She could feel her readiness, knew that both Spike and Angel would be able to smell her.
“Are you real?” she whispered.
Spike smiled, slid forward and Buffy felt his cock nudging her entrance. It was like a siren call and she couldn’t refuse it. She could see Angel’s pale face over Spike’s shoulder. He was no longer wearing a shirt. The necklace glinted against his broad, white chest. Then the bed shifted and Angel loomed above Spike. Spike shifted, drawing his knees up without losing contact with her. He locked his arms on either side of her head and met her eyes.
A long moment passed. Buffy’s crotch throbbed around him while she waited for him to move and then, Angel was there, draped across Spike’s back and Spike’s eyes were glazed over with something Buffy could only describe as desire. Angel’s weight propelled Spike forward; Angel’s hands snuck between Spike and Buffy, skittering over Buffy’s nipples and she couldn’t think, she couldn’t think. She was drowning beneath them, her mind only half accepting that Spike was in her and Angel was in Spike and then it didn’t matter.
The tub was huge. She climbed in, boneless, and sank back against the slanted side. Angel appeared with a tray of lit candles which he sat on the vanity before joining Buffy in the water. Spike followed.
Buffy watched them watching her. Her fingers found her inner thigh and she pinched herself, hard. This wasn’t possible. She had fallen through the rabbit hole. She was in hell. Or heaven.
“You must have questions,” said Angel.
Did she? Could anything explain what had transpired in these rooms between the three of them?
“I don’t know,” she said. “I guess I’m sort of…shocked.”
“Good shocked or disgusted shocked?” Spike said, his fingers skimming the top of the water to brush against her arm.
“Why?” she said.
Angel and Spike exchanged a look.
“When we came here I think we thought we could make you choose,” Spike said honestly.
“What makes you think I can’t,” she said.
“Can you?” Angel asked, his eyes veiled.
“I never really thought it was a choice I’d have to make,” Buffy said.
Angel stood, the water running down his powerful body. He stepped out of the tub and knotted a towel around his waist. He left the bathroom.
Spike moved closer to Buffy, reaching for her through the water, hands closing on her breasts. He spun them around so that he was leaning against the tub and she was straddling his legs; she could feel the long, hard length of him against her belly.
“I can’t,” she whispered.
Spike’s eyes glittered in the flickering light. He slid his hands under her arms and lifted her up. She was weightless in the water and he positioned her over him, let himself slide into her with one thick thrust.
Without Angel’s eyes on her, without the fear that she would disappoint him, Buffy ground herself against Spike, her knees sliding against the slippery bottom of the tub, her hands digging into his muscled shoulders.
“There’s my girl,” he said, hooking a finger in her mouth and pulling her forward, exchanging his finger for his tongue, drinking her down.
Afterwards, she found Angel in the main room.
His head was back, his eyes closed, the fringe of his lashes dark against the hollow beneath his eyes and Buffy felt her heart leap.
She knelt beside him on the couch and traced her finger along the slope of his cheek, the vulnerable curve of his lower lip, the strong column of his neck.
His eyes opened, found hers and he sighed. He reached up, cupped her cheek in his hand and drew her forward, finding her mouth with his own, kissing her. So different from Spike, so similar.
She parted her lips, reached for him with her tongue, felt the electric jolt when he met her tongue with his. And then she was under him, her robe spread open, her skin scrubbed clean of all traces of Spike.
He traced his fingers along the surface of her skin and her body responded, half memory half longing. Knuckles along her side, fingertips around the plumped nipples, palms down her thighs, pressed against her mound. She trapped a moan deep in her throat.
His skilled fingers curled up inside her; his thumb circling the slick kernel of flesh at the top of her slit and she arched into his touch. Then his cool mouth was on her breast; her nipple straining for more.
“You won’t break me,” she said.
And she watched as the angel disappeared and the demon took his place.
There was blood on Buffy’s breast, a small puncture wound near her areola. Angel had wound his arms around her and she looked tiny. Spike, when given the opportunity to actually compare her to someone else, was amazed by how fragile she actually looked.
Squatting down beside the sleeping pair, Spike contemplated the future. Vampires were territorial, it was true, but they were also family oriented. Angel had lost his family when he had lost Cordy and Fred and Wesley. Even Spike understood Angel’s transparent motivations.
He leaned forward and licked the splatter of blood from Buffy’s breast. Her skin was warm; she smelled alive. She stirred, opening sleepy eyes to look at him.
“You okay, then?” he asked.
Angel’s arms tightened around her, his fingers finding her wounded nipple, stroking it to life.
Spike’s face lost focus; her crotch pulsed insistently. Dazed, she wondered how this was even possible, to feel so full of lust, to want so much, to never want to leave this room.
Angel shifted, pulled Buffy’s leg over his thighs, exposing her weeping center to Spike’s eyes. Buffy felt no shame as Angel shifted again and slid smoothly into her from behind. He was huge; without even moving, he filled her up. And then Spike’s mouth was against her clit, tonguing and licking, biting and sucking. When she came, Buffy wasn’t sure who had tipped the scales.
She slept and when she woke, she was alone in the bed.
She stretched languidly, peering through the darkness at the numbers on the bedside clock. Almost 4:30. It would soon be light.
Reaching for the robe at the foot of the bed, Buffy made her way to the front room. Maybe there would be food; she was starving.
The cart was exactly where the bellman had left it and Buffy reached for a grape, a piece of cheese. She cracked open a bottle of water and drank greedily.
“Are you alright?”
Angel’s voice startled her.
“I thought you were gone,” she said.
“I was. I’m back.”
“Are you?” He asked again. “Alright?”
She nodded again and moved to join him. He was sitting near the window; the curtains were parted to reveal the sky. Faintly, next to the horizon, dusk had begun its slow crawl towards them.
She sat on the edge of his chair and rested her hand in his hair. He smelled of soap. Of clean grass and wood. The world seemed, suddenly, safe.
“Is this what you want?” she asked.
For a long moment he said nothing and then he replied: “This is what I can have.”
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