One Life

One Life

At first you are not sure it is him, this familiar stranger ambling up the beach, ratty tennis shoes dangling from his fingers. The wind blows his shirt tails loose from his jeans, his hair back from his forehead.

You stand too fast, hot tea sloshing over the lip of your cup, burning your fingers.

You can see now that it is him. He lifts a hand to shade his eyes and when you are sure that he sees you, you raise a hand in salute. He returns a similar gesture and continues towards you.

You push a stray strand of hair from your face and run your tongue over the surface of your teeth. None of it matters: your hairteethlipsfacepoundingheart.

He has arrived at the foot of your stairs and he drops his shoes and says your name: Buffy. It comes out like a sigh and it takes every ounce of discipline you have left not to propel yourself down the steps and into his arms.

He has a tan. His hair is longer and shot through with honey hilights. There are little creases around his eyes and they turn up when he smiles, which he does now; a full-blown smile that makes you gasp. A smile from him is a rare event; you can’t remember having ever seen one quite like this.

You should say something, but you don’t want to undermine this moment. You don’t want anything to break this spell. So you hold out your hand, only belatedly noticing that you’re still holding your tea cup.

He takes the stairs two at a time, pries the cup from your fingers, sets it on the railing and then turns back to you.

“I hope I’m not catching you at a bad time,” he says, his mouth quirking.

You shake your head because you still do not trust your own voice.

“Because I can come back,” he says. “Tomorrow or whenever.”

“Don’t you dare leave,” you say.

He takes your hand and lifts it up to his chest, slips it between the folds of his shirt and rests it against his heart. His skin is warm and beneath your hand you can feel it: proof.

The elation you feel is a living thing and the reason you know this is because until this moment you’ve been dead.

*

You lead him into your house. The whole place is awash in light and it doesn’t matter, not anymore. You stand in the living room, on the bare plank floors, and you take off your clothes.

It isn’t words you need. Words aren’t going to make the past disappear; words aren’t going to bring the dead back; words aren’t going to heal you.

He looks amazed by your display of bravery. It does feel brave; you’re not a girl anymore and you have the body to prove it. And, here, in the light, you feel exposed. But that’s good you think: let him see.

It’s different now. Everything is different. And the same.

“Buffy,” he whispers.

You stand as still as you can and you resist the urge to look away from his intense eyes. He has always had this way of looking at you, of seeing through you, your false bravado and sarcasm. Even when you were just a kid, he looked at you as though you were important, had value. That you weren’t alone. Made you believe it, too.

He steps closer and you feel that first wave of erotic desire. It’s a relief because it’s been such a long time since you have wanted another person. You weren’t even sure you ever would again.

You sense his hesitation. You understand it, even. It’s not as though anything has lead up to this moment, as if there has been a logical sequence of events. You waited; he came. That is all.

You turn your face up to his, waiting for his kiss, but even then you are not prepared for it.

His last kiss has sustained you all these years. There in the Crypt, the Preacher broken at your feet, he’d reached for you and kissed you and something had unfurled inside you as it had not since you’d come back from the grave: hope.

You understood, then, that you loved him and that you would always love him. But more than that, you understood that he loved you. You also knew, and this was a blindingly clear revelation, that now was not your time. But it would come.

And here it is. And you are not going to squander it.

So, when he kisses you, you kiss him back. You part your lips and beckon to his tongue. You reach your hands into his hair, twist the silky length of it through your fingers, arch into him, let your nipples graze his shirt.

The kiss wipes the slate clean. Riley, Parker, Scott, even Spike; they’re just names on a list. It’s the same sort of list that almost every woman over the age of thirty probably has and you don’t need to apologize for it.

His hands are in your hair, on your shoulders, pressing into the small of your back.

“Where’s your bedroom?” he mumbles into your ear.

You can’t remember; it’s too far away. You find the zipper on his jeans and coax it down over the bulge. You sneak a hand inside and feel his cock stir. You drop to your knees and pull his jeans down, kiss each knee before moving back up and hooking your fingers in his briefs, pulling them down, too.

“Buffy,” he groans as you breathe against his stomach, lowering your mouth to swallow his swollen cock.

Whoever thinks this isn’t a position of power is wrong.

You wish you could see his face and so you reassemble what you remember: smooth brow, intense eyes, the dangerous slant of cheek, full lower lip, strangely vulnerable neck.

He is rocking into your mouth, but you sense that he is holding back. The demon would have fucked your mouth, but he isn’t a demon any more. He is a man and he is being careful.

You cup his balls, squeeze them gently, feel them tighten and pull up before he comes in your mouth. You wait until he is done and swallow the ejaculate and lick him clean and then stand, your knees aching.

He is dazed, disoriented.

You turn and walk out of the living room and down a short hall to your bedroom. When you look back he is still standing there.

“This is the bedroom,” you say.

He hesitates for a minute, like he can’t remember where he is, and then he follows you. You are lying on the bed, hands folded serenely on your belly. He stands in the doorway and starts to unbutton his shirt.

“Whatever you do,” you say, “don’t make love to me.”

“What?” he says. He doesn’t understand and you don’t know how to explain it to him.

You try anyway. “My only memory of you and me together, like this, is from my 17th birthday,” you say and understanding blooms in his eyes. “I can’t…”

He is suddenly beside you on the bed, his fingers pressed against your mouth.

You circle his wrist and pull his hand up, kissing his palm.

“I’m not that girl anymore, Angel,” you say.

He smiles at you. “I’m not the same anymore either.” He leans down and kisses you and when he pulls back his eyes are clear. “No matter how we do this, Buffy, the end result is the same.”

You nod. And then you take his hand and you move it to your breast and you close your eyes.

*

He knows where she is even when she isn’t in California. Stealth, as it turns out, is not the sole domain of Angel the vampire. He doesn’t stalk her and sometimes duty calls, but he knows when she spends weekends with Willow in San Francisco, or visits Xander or is called to help Faith.

He knows she runs every morning, writes in her journal every day after lunch, sometimes composes letters he knows she will never send.

Once she visited Wesley’s grave and he was surprised by her grief and even more amazed as his own resurfaced, a trapped aching knot in his throat. Once Dawn came and they got drunk on margaritas, sitting on Buffy’s front porch watching the sun sink below the water.

His Shanshu takes him by surprise and it is a bitter pill to swallow. Who is left to share it with? He has his car keys in his hand before he talks himself out of going to Carmel. He doesn’t want to second-guess himself, but he suspects that not enough time has passed; Buffy is still revisiting her own pain.

Gradually, though, he sees the light return to her eyes. Her cottage by the sea becomes more of a home and less of a dwelling. She has friends over, plays music, dances in her kitchen. She cries less.

And when she sits, feet propped on her railing, Angel knows she is thinking of him and that it is time.

*

Her nipple is insistent against his palm. She is holding his hand against her breast and her eyes are closed and she is breathing so regularly that Angel is afraid she has gone to sleep.

He squeezes tentatively and then remembers what she has asked of him. He twists her nipple, not viciously, but hard enough and she whimpers. His cock stirs against his leg. Apparently, stamina is not the sole domain of the vampire, either.

He bends down and places a wet kiss on the slope of her breast, licks his way down to the pale pink areola. Her nipple strains against his tongue and teeth and he tugs a little harder. She surges forward, flinging her arms around his neck, burying her face in his shoulder, biting into him. It startles him and he moves back.

“Buffy,” he says.

She lifts her head and looks at him; her eyes are glassy with unshed tears.

“I just want to know that you’re real.”

He nods. He gets that. For a long time after he became mortal he felt clumsy, off-centre. It took several weeks before equilibrium returned, before he stopped cutting himself every time he shaved even though he finally had an image to guide him; before his stomach didn’t recoil every time he tried to eat solid food; before he got used to his body signaling fatigue or the need to relieve itself.

She traces her fingers over the red mark she’s left on his shoulder.

“Buffy.”

She stills her fingers and looks at him.

Don’t cry, he thinks. Jesus, please don’t cry.

She seems to find her resolve, blinks once, and then leans forward to kiss him. She crawls over his legs, straddling him, pressing against his stiff cock. If he shifted her, just there…but then he tastes her tears.

*

Your emotions are betraying you. You knew your body would; it always has when it came to Angel. He was the one who could still your heart with just a look, liquefy your insides, cause a rush of endorphins through your blood. Apparently the passage of time, your life experience, is no match for his considerable effect on you.

He has pulled back, is holding your face in his hands, catching your tears with his thumb. His eyes are remorseful, dark with desire.

“Buffy,” he says. “What is it?”

He asks the question because he thinks you need him to ask, but the truth is he already knows what is wrong.

You are thirty and you have loved him for so long that you can’t remember a life before. But he hasn’t been in your life for almost a decade and you aren’t sure you trust that he is here now. Human or not, the fates have always conspired against you. That is why, you thought, if you could just be with him you would know; the rest would sort itself out.

He wraps his arms around you and leans back on the bed; you stretch your legs out. He feels solid under you, long and hard, his flesh warm.

You want to ask him what it feels like to be human. You want to know what he’s been doing these past years. Did he ever think of you? Did he have other lovers? You secretly want to know how you stack up, even though it’s a ridiculous question. He’s here, isn’t he?

He shifts and suddenly you are face to face and you have no place to look but at him.

“What can I tell you to make you believe that I love you,” he whispers.

You smile a little. “I know you do,” you say. That isn’t the problem.

He’s stroking your arm, his long fingers gliding up and down your skin leaving a trail of sparks in their wake.

“What then?”

You suck in a breath as he dips down over your shoulder and traces your breast, its concave curve, the soft nipple which springs to life at his touch.

His eyes are on you and his face, only beginning to show any signs of being mortal, is still the most beautiful you have ever seen. You reach up to trace his eyebrow, the sharp bone of his cheek, the stubble along his jaw. Years of practice have made his face virtually unreadable, but at this moment you know exactly what he is thinking.

You’ve learned a few tricks over the years, too. You can feign interest and enthusiasm at parties. You can cover your loneliness with a smile. You can lie to Giles to his face and he doesn’t know the difference. You can make yourself come alone in bed, just by conjuring his face.

He is waiting.

*

She seems to be deliberating and he wonders if now isn’t the time for confession. But to what should he confess? All his misadventures and wrong turns, his allegiances and bargains seem distant, inconsequential.

Once, a long time ago, before the last battle, she’d told him she wasn’t ready and he’d taken her at her word. She’d also said that some day, maybe and he’d told her, blithely, that he wasn’t getting any older.

That was no longer true.

She seems to have run out of steam and he isn’t sure what to do. He wants her more than anything, same as always; the only difference is that now the only consequence of their lovemaking will be of their own design.

So he reaches out again, pulls her closer so that she is flush against him, her small breasts flat against his chest, his cock heavy against her thighs. He sees a spark of something in her eyes, remembrance maybe: desire.

He reaches down between them and brushes a finger against her hipbone, pubic bone, the curling hair covering her mons. He is rewarded with her whispered sigh, her hands suddenly at his shoulders, a slight parting of her legs.

This won’t do; he needs in. So he flips her onto her back and slides down the length of her, his fingers coming last, visiting breasts and ribs and belly before joining him at her centre.

“Angel,” she says.

“Shhh.”

He parts her, Moses at the Red Sea, and she is slick, vibrating against his fingers, then his tongue. Nothing has ever tasted this sweet; if there is an essence on earth meant for him, it is her.

He licks her delicately, long slow strokes: careful. He knows she is close and he slides a finger into her, another. Her flesh closes tightly around him, virginal, and he angles his fingers, reaching for that hidden spot. He lifts his eyes so he can see her face, her mouth opened slightly, sweat glistening on her forehead as she both beckons and resists her orgasm.

He nibbles on her swollen clit, strokes harder and is rewarded with the sound of his name, gasped just once, as she comes.

He doesn’t want to wait; he wants to be inside her, buried as deeply as her flesh will allow. He wants to look into her eyes and to say what he has never been able to say to her face, though he has said it every night for the past ten years in his dreams: I’m sorry. I love you and I’m sorry. For wasting time. For hurting you. For leaving you. For doubting this.

Buffy reaches her hand down to him and he moves up, settles between her legs, waits for a sign. Her eyes are opaque and for a second he is transported back to that first night, the night he had taken her innocence and broken her heart. He thinks he understands now what scares her.

He needs to erase that memory and replace it with a new one.

*

You watch him for some sign that he understands and are caught off guard when he stands, pulling you up off the bed.

“Come with me,” he says, guiding you across the room to the door that leads out onto the small deck, your private sanctuary. The sun is early morning bright. You have no idea what time it is, hours may have passed since he first appeared on the beach, days.

There is nothing on the deck but a comfortable chaise, a tatty paperback splayed open beside the glass of lemonade you hadn’t finished and forgotten to bring back into the house. Off the deck, the dune rises up, sheltering this spot from onlookers and the wind.

The sun feels wonderful on your skin and you turn to admire what it is doing to his. He is a thing of beauty and you are suddenly intimidated by his physical presence. After all, what do you really know about this man: your first lover, first love?

He advances and you retreat until you hit the cedar-shingles. They scratch against your back. He is right there, his hands on your arms, and he lifts you as effortlessly as if he was still in possession of super-human strength. You are pinned between the cottage and him and you wrap your legs around his waist because you have no choice.

You don’t want a choice. You choose him. Always.

“Look at me,” he says.

And you do and you don’t look away as he slides his cock, granite hard and massive, into you. The muscles in his shoulders bunch under your hands. He is cupping your ass, shifting you to meet the demands of his body.

You always imagined this coupling, a wild thing, uncontainable.

His face is in your neck, his tongue on the scar, his hands lifting your ass up and down, spearing your heart.

You know as soon as he comes because his knees buckle and he sinks to the ground without losing contact with your body. He lies flat on your deck, panting, and you offer him a weak smile before you shift, sitting up and grinding against him.

He reaches up, brushes his knuckles over your nipples. You throw your head back, provoking him, and he rewards you by pinching your nipples sharply scattering sensation across your skin like spilled marbles.

You can feel the deep throbbing in your womb and you twist, trying to find the perfect spot, trying to reach that peak. His hands on your breasts are making it hard to concentrate.

*

He can feel himself getting hard again. She is writhing above him, riding him, her breasts jutting into his hands. This is nothing like what they’ve ever shared and he has the overwhelming urge to push her further.

So he drops his hands to her hips and stills her, lifts her from him, pushes her down onto her hands and knees and kneels behind her. Resting his hand on her back between her delicate shoulder blades, he pushes and is rewarded with the sight of her creamy white ass lifted into the air.

“God,” he says before he shoves into her. She grunts and he knows that the new position will fill her in a way that the other wouldn’t. He should be careful, but he can’t. He grabs her hips and pistons in and out of her, not quickly, but with force. Each withdrawal is a punishment, each entry, a gift. She is mewling beneath him, drawing breath and releasing it, her fingers trying to find purchase between the boards of the deck.

He slides one hand around her belly, searches and finds her clit, pulling it in time with his thrusts, knows the exact moment she explodes, her ass grinding back against him.

She is liquid heat and he lets go again, spilling into her gratefully. Collapsing, he pulls her close, her back to his belly, still joined. Going nowhere.

*

You finally coax him in off the deck. He loves the sunshine, but he loves you more. Showered, you crawl into bed and you wait for sleep. But he is looking at you, propped up in one arm, his eyes sincere, his fingers twined in your hair.

You risk a small, satisfied smile. You ache all over and have no memory of ever feeling so good.

“What?” you say because words would be okay now you think.

He is smiling his peculiar half-smirk smile and it takes you back. You couldn’t have known how it would all turn out when you fell in love with him. Your life was never your own but it belongs to you now and you aren’t wasting a single moment more.

“Nothing,” he says. “Everything.”

“I know,” you say.

He drops his head into the crook of your shoulder and his breath is warm on your skin. Real breath from a real man and it suddenly occurs to you that you will grow old together and that thought makes you happier than you’ve ever been.

*

He can’t believe it, but he wants her again. She is warm against him and he is almost embarrassed at his erection, that she’ll know.

She snuggles closer, her hand wrapping around him, squeezing just so.

“What?” she says, smiling.

“Nothing,” he says. “Everything.”

“I know.”

He drops his head, rests it against her shoulder, breathes in the smell of her and thinks: one life is not enough.

But, lived like this, it will do.

The End

Story Index
Thoughts