I know my past, you were there; everything I’ve done, you are the one. -Five Days in May by Blue Rodeo
She takes her tea out onto the porch and curls up under the scratchy wool blanket she left there last night. It’s crisp out; the sun won’t warm the air until at least lunch time. Buffy looks out at the lake- mist curls off it Hollywood-perfect.
Her tea cools forgotten on the peeling arm of the Adirondack. She should paint it; she thinks there’s a can of red in the shed out back. She closes her eyes. Maybe later.
She must have slept because when she opens her eyes the sun has burnt away the mist and the blanket is in a heap on the floor in front of her chair. Somewhere behind her, the phone is ringing. She’d forgotten to bring her cell onto the porch with her and she doesn’t bother to get up to answer it. Even if the phone had been right beside her, she probably would have let it ring. It’s only ever Giles who calls and she has nothing to say to him.
She pushes her hands through her hair, encounters a knot and works at combing it out. When was the last time she brushed it? She can’t remember. When was the last time she ate something? She can’t remember that either.
She does understand that this is just the sort of behaviour that would, in someone else, make her cross. Buffy would shake that person and tell them to Snap out of it! She pulls her knees up under her chin and looks out at the water. Maybe she should go for a walk. That seems suspiciously like work. She should eat something, though. She thinks she might have some bread or a can of soup.
What time is it?
Her cell rings again.
Buffy finds peace when the world is asleep.
She wonders if this is because she understands the dark, is a creature of the night herself. She thinks of all the graveyards and sewer tunnels, the caves and lairs, the crypts and secret places that she has walked through, fought or fucked in.
She feels as though she is at her best in the dark. That Buffy is pure: bloody, righteous, powerful, alive.
The day-Buffy is a shadow. Everything is wrong in the light: the glittering world, the people going about their business, the children laughing, the cars and endless movement. It all happens without anyone really understanding how. Or why.
Buffy knows. There isn’t any reason for any of it.
It’s all meaningless filler.
She washes her hair and sits on the edge of her bed brushing it, feeling the unexpected pleasure that comes from the simple task.
The sky outside her window is disappearing into the lake. Just where it meets the water on the other side, Nature has drawn a dark pink line, but it’s fading, too.
It all fades. That’s what all this is about.
Buffy realizes now that everything stops.
It horrifies her, that knowledge. It’s like witnessing a car crash, something you are powerless to prevent. You stand on the side of the road and watch as one car speeds towards the other, purposefully; but you can’t move. You can’t even lower your gaze.
Buffy is in one car. Death is in the other.
She pulls on an old sweater and heads downstairs. There’s wine left she thinks, silty at the bottom and barely drinkable even when she first opened the bottle, but it’ll do.
She searches in the cupboard for a glass; the last clean one is a juice glass. She uncorks the Merlot and tips the bottle, splashing a little onto the counter.
He’s waiting. She sits beside him and doesn’t say a word. He looks good in the moonlight- he always has.
“What did you do today?” he asks, finally breaking the silence.
“Buffy.” There is no recrimination in his voice, but she can tell that he is disappointed.
There. That’s out of the way.
A loon cries out and Buffy sips her wine.
“I came as soon as it was dark,” he says.
She nods. This isn’t new information or even particularly interesting. It’s when he always comes.
He came to her bedroom after dark. He came to her mother’s graveside after dark. He came to her rescue after dark.
She takes another drink and narrows her eyes at the water.
The wine is unknotting the tangle of nerves in her belly. What she feels now is the familiar sensation of having him close. She rests her fingers on his wrist, beautiful pulse-less skin, cool.
“I was thinking that I could stay here longer. I mean, no one would mind.”
“Have you talked to Giles?”
“He doesn’t come out here anymore.”
“That’s not what I asked,” Angel says gently.
Buffy risks a sideways glance. Angel is looking at her, his brow creased with concern.
“I haven’t spoken to him, no.”
“Don’t you think you should?”
“Kiss me,” Buffy says suddenly, leaning forward.
“Don’t argue with me, just kiss me.”
His mouth is so pretty. And every time he kisses her, Buffy has a thrill of memory: his mouth pressed against hers and his hand against her cheek. Her heart’s careening rhythm and the knowledge that he must hear it; he must know how it feels for her.
She moves forward again and presses her lips against his. It isn’t like kissing her hand, which she did the whole summer she was eleven; it isn’t like the one and only time Billy Fordham kissed her, his fingers grubby from playing on the monkey bars; it isn’t like kissing Riley, the heat of his chest pressing like a wall against her, his mouth a warm cave.
“I have to go,” Angel says when she pulls away, breathless.
“You just got here.”
He slants his eyes towards the water. Buffy twists her head. Is that the sun?
She nods and curls her fingers around his.
“You could stay,” she says.
“You know I can’t.”
“Do you, Buffy?”
“I do. Nothing gold can stay.”
“Quoting poetry now?”
“Not poetry. Pony-boy.”
“I think Frost actually wrote it first.”
“Whatever,” Buffy shrugs.
The sun is spilling into the water now and Angel stands to slip into the last of the night shadows.
“I’ll see you soon.”
Buffy manages to sleep.
Her dreams are peopled with the faces from her past. There is Willow- white haired and black-eyed. There is Xander- black-haired and eyeless. There is Spike, shooting flames from his eyes.
It’s all about the eyes.
Her days and nights are seamless. Without the dependable sun, Buffy wouldn’t know which was which because she doesn’t have a clock that works.
Now she toasts the last of the bread and makes a pot of tea, determined to eat. Last night’s wine is a stone of discontent in her stomach. She can still taste Angel on her lips.
She ignores the ringing phone.
Later, she goes for a walk along the shore. The lake is mostly deserted; people with cottages have packed them up and gone back to the city. Sometimes Buffy hears a gun shot- hunters looking for fowl or rabbit. She doesn’t know if there is larger game in the woods.
Are there vampires?
Buffy doesn’t sense any, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t out there- lurking.
The air near the lake is crisp and smells strongly of rock and moss. Buffy looks up and down the shore and then slips out of her clothes and steps into the water. Her nipples pucker instantly. She wades out past the pebbles and small, sharp rocks until she hits coarse sand and then she dives. It’s cold and it feels amazing.
She swims until her muscles ache, until she is so cold she feels numb. There is nothing in her that wants to go back to the house, so she finds a low, flat rock and stretches out- naked, lifting her body to the high, hot sun.
She is shivering when she wakes. Night has fallen, but only just: crickets sing in the distance. He is beside her on the rock.
“You should have woken me,” she says.
“And ruin the view,” he says. And then he smiles and adds: “Or the silence.”
Buffy runs her fingers over her collarbone, into the hollow of her throat, down the valley between her breasts, pausing just above the triangle of hair covering her sex.
“Buffy,” Angel says. His voice sounds strangled.
“I know,” she says.
She smiles. She presses two fingers into the moist slit of flesh between her legs and closes her eyes.
“God,” he says.
“You don’t believe in God,” she whispers, and begins a slow rhythm. She moves one hand up to her breast and tugs at her nipple. It almost hurts because her body isn’t warm; her nerve endings are on fire. She twists at the pale, wrinkled areola, digs her fingers deeper into her cunt and arches off the rock when she comes.
“I do a little right now,” Angel says quietly. His expression is rapt.
Buffy lets the feeling of her orgasm fade before she opens her eyes. She isn’t surprised that Angel is gone.
The next day, Buffy goes into town for supplies. She needs more wine, obviously- but also toilet paper and toothpaste and bread.
“Haven’t seen you around in a while,” Erv, the shopkeeper, remarks.
“Haven’t needed anything,” Buffy says, adding a half dozen eggs to her basket.
“Them there apple’s local,” Erv says, pointing to the bushel of apples near the front.
Buffy moves closer and the smell of the fruit drifts up- sharp and clean. She picks out four and adds them to her other items.
Buffy nods. “Yep. Guess so.”
“Anyone ever tell you that you eat like a bird?”
“My wife’s got a big stew on the stove out back. Howsa ‘bout you join us for some lunch?”
Buffy considers the invitation and Erv’s kind face.
“I’m sorry,” Buffy says. “I’m expecting company.”
Erv nods. “Boyfriend?”
“Something like that.”
“Why did you do it?” Buffy asks Angel. It is raining and they are sitting on the porch because he won’t come in the house.
“You know why, Buffy.”
Angel settles back on his chair and folds his hands into his lap.
“It’s why we do anything- because we have to. Something compels us. Instinct or lust or fear or some other emotion we might not be able to name, but which we understand on some level.”
“Do you regret it?”
It’s not the answer she wants to hear, but she understands that he’s being truthful.
“I’d lived a long time, Buffy. There is nothing to be gained with regrets.”
“I have lots of regrets.”
“You’re young,” he says.
“Young is a relative term,” she says, “and youth is not an excuse.”
“It wasn’t for you.”
“My situation is different. I was an asshole and then I was a vampire- and I was still sorta an asshole.”
“I was kind of hoping you would, at least about the second asshole part.” Angel twists a little in his chair. “I do have one regret, Buffy.”
“I regret leaving you.”
Even though she’s waited her whole adult life to hear him say it, the words hold no comfort. She understands now that he was right to go.
“It’s silly to regret something you can’t change, but there you have it.”
“I regret sending you to hell.”
“Don’t. You did the right thing.”
“I bet hell wasn’t any worse than living without you was,” Buffy says.
“So we’re even?”
“Maybe a little.” She is quiet for a moment and then she says: “I don’t think I can be without you again, Angel.”
He remains silent.
It rains for a week. Buffy makes a fire to banish the chill, but when Angel comes she lets the embers die. She brings an extra blanket out onto the porch and she sits close to him, not because he has body heat- she just likes the constant press of his thigh against hers.
“We should talk about this arrangement,” he says.
“Is that what we’re calling it? An arrangement?”
Angel wraps a long arm around Buffy’s narrow shoulders and pulls her close.
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“You can’t stay here forever.”
“I can do what I want,” she argues. “Who’s going to stop me?” She looks over at Angel’s profile. “Are you?”
“You know I can’t,” he says without meeting her eyes. “And there’s nothing I want more than to stay here with you forever--”
“Then shut up,” she says.
“But you can’t, Buffy.”
“I can,” she says, shrugging out of his embrace and crossing the porch to the steps. She walks down off the porch into the rain. It feels like needles against her skin and she lifts her face to the troubled sky.
“Buffy,” Angel says.
“Afraid you’ll melt?” she calls.
He smiles a little. “Vampires don’t melt.”
She crooks a finger at him and he steps off the porch.
The rain obscures her tears when he kisses her.
“I did this after you died the second time,” Angel says later that week. “Self-imposed exile. A bit dramatic, even for me.”
“You think I’m being dramatic?”
Angel crosses his arms, slipping his hands under her biceps. His cheeks are hollowed out under the harsh light of the moon. His eyes are kind.
“I appreciate the gesture,” he says.
“I’m not, you know,” she says.
“I’m probably not helping,” he says.
“I don’t need help. I need you.”
Buffy walks to him and lays her head against his chest. It’s solid, unmovable and the safest place she can think of. She feels his hands loosen and then slide through her hair, cradling the back of her neck. She has to concentrate really hard to keep from moving and spoiling the moment.
“It’ll be okay,” he whispers.
But she doesn’t believe him.
The dream is so real.
He presses his lips against her temple, lingers because her pulse beats there and it’s like an aphrodisiac. His cock is hard against her hip and her fingers ache to touch him, to warm the cool flesh with her breath and her throat. He doesn’t say anything; she doesn’t need him to.
He has night-time eyes, hooded and black. He sees straight through her. She stretches on the bed, twists her head towards him and parts her lips in invitation.
He smiles his peculiar smile and it shoots a bolt of pure electricity to her cunt. Even in the dark, she knows what he is thinking: he would like to eat her whole. She spreads her legs a little, and the mossy heat of her drifts up. He puts his hand there, cupping her, pressing against her.
When he kisses her, his mouth tastes of sky. His skin, where it slides against hers, is solid and silky. His tongue is luxurious against hers.
She moans a little when he abandons her lips; kissing him is more than enough, but he has other plans for his mouth and she forgives him when his teeth nibble against the peak of her breast.
He gathers her breasts in two strong hands, squeezing to make them hard and then bending his head to suck at her nipples. Every nerve ending is popping, and she feels as though she could fly off the bed if his hands weren’t anchoring her to it.
He is sliding down between her legs, pushing her thighs wider with his shoulders, settling in and it’s more than she can bear.
When he parts her flesh, exposing her red fruit to his mouth, she could weep. And she does, when he pushes his tongue into her, curling up and out, over her clit and back again. He holds her open and drowns in her- let’s her come around his tongue.
Then he’s up, elbows beside her head, eyes locked on hers, cock waiting for her signal.
“Please,” she murmurs.
And he’s in her, one sure thrust and he’s in tight.
“Angel,” she says.
“Buffy,” he says.
For as long as the acknowledgement takes, he is still. But then he moves and she moves with him. She tilts her pelvis, and he goes deeper. He holds her when she cries out her orgasm and holds her tighter when she simply cries.
The dream is so real that when she wakes up, her body is trembling and the pillow wedged between her legs is soaked with sweat and come.
She is so groggy that she doesn’t think to sensor herself and when her cell rings, she answers it.
“Buffy? Is that you?”
His voice brings her fully awake.
“Don’t hang up,” he says.
Buffy sighs. Her body aches.
“I’ve been calling for days.”
“I know,” she says.
“We were worried.”
“Well, never mind that. We’ve been waiting for you to come back. There are things that need taking care of.”
“What things?” Buffy asks.
Giles is silent for a moment.
“We’re worried, Buffy. About you. Dawn in particular misses you. Well, we all do, but Dawn especially.”
“She’s okay, right?”
“Yes, of course.”
There is staticky silence on the line and then he says: “Buffy, he’s not…”
“Don’t say it, Giles. If you say it, I’m hanging up.”
“Just tell everyone that I’m okay and that I’ll be home…when I get home.”
“Buffy, Willow is unable to manage much longer.”
Buffy rubs her eyes and looked out the window. Night is coming; she’s slept the day away.
“Alright,” she says. “I have to go.”
“I have to go.”
“Giles called,” she tells him. They are down by the water. Angel is skipping the rocks Buffy finds for him. They skim across the surface of the lake perfectly, eight times, twelve times, leaving little ripples behind.
“How is he?”
“Full of doom and gloom.”
Angel turns to look at her.
“Don’t you start,” she says handing him another stone.
“I wasn’t going to say anything,” he says, wrapping a finger around the edge of the rock and flinging it out across the still water. “Well, I wasn’t going to say anything you don’t already know.”
“I can’t go back,” she says, standing.
“And you can’t stay here.”
“Why?” Her voice is small.
“Because this isn’t real, Buffy,” Angel says.
“It is to me.”
Angel takes a step towards her and holds out his hand. “Let’s walk. We have time.”
“Do we?” She looks up at the sky. The stars are bright, scattered like shiny silver jacks dropped from a child’s hand.
“A little,” Angel says. His hand feels solid in hers. Real.
They walk until the beach butts against the forest and then turn back. By the time they hit the stretch of rocky shore in front of Buffy’s house, the sky is pink.
“You should go,” she says.
“So should you,” he says.
She feels it, time eroding.
She wants to know when she’ll see him for the last time, so she can plan exactly what to say. She wants it to be something more meaningful than a speech about cookies, something more positive than someday.
But there are no guarantees. When he slips from this world back into the beyond, she doesn’t know if he’ll make it to this side again. But that was the deal she’d made with the Powers; the deal brokered with Willow’s help. She knew the rules and she can’t change them now.
She wants more than this. She wants him. It doesn’t seem like it should be too much to ask considering everything she’s lost.
What is twilight?
Buffy remembers asking her father to explain twilight to her when she was six or seven.
Well, it’s the time of day just before night. When the sky isn’t quite black, it’s sort of purple.
Now Buffy thinks of it as the time Angel comes to her. The sky empties itself of the day and pulls on a cloak of startling purple and navy. Out of the light comes the dark and out of the dark comes Angel.
He is the one who tells her of the twilight of the Gods.
“In Norse mythology, the Gods and the world were destroyed during a conflict with the powers of evil,” he says.
“Geesh,” Buffy replies, “those evil powers sure do get around.”
Angel smiles. “Well, I guess it’s lucky we’ve got you on our team.”
“Lucky, my ass. I could have been anyone.”
Angel rests his fingers on Buffy’s chin and turns her head. “Do you think I could have fallen in love with just anyone?”
“I do love you, Buffy,” Angel says.
She leans forward to receive his kiss. His lips brush against hers, the barest whisper.
“Angel,” she says.
He is standing now, off the porch, at the edge of the lawn.
“You can’t come with me,” he says. “And I can’t stay.”
“Oh, God,” she says. This is the time for her speech. This is the moment where she lays bare her soul and begs which ever Powers will hear her to let him come back to her. She doesn’t know how to be in this world without him. “Oh, God,” she says.
“You’ve known, Buffy. You’ve known all along.”
He is off the lawn now, near the lake.
“Angel!” she screams. She tries to move, but finds she can’t.
“I’m right here.” The words are spoken close to her ear and she feels the press of his hand against her breast, over her heart.
For a week, Buffy doesn’t come out of her room.
Then one day, she finds she wants to go for a walk.
She sees him everywhere and knows that he is nowhere and it is a beginning.
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