TITLE: The Darker Side
DISTRIBUTION: My site, TNS, anyone else who has my stuff. All others, please ask.
TIME FRAME: Early S4 of BtVS. Post-Parker but pre-GI Schmoe (tm).
SYNOPSIS: Buffy runs into another gang of vampires on campus, but this time she's not so lucky. A timely intervention by her ex-lover saves her life, but what follows makes her wonder if death would have been the less painful choice.
DISCLAIMER: All BtVS and AtS characters, concepts, etc. are copyright FOX, The WB, Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy Productions, and Kuzui Entertainment. This work is not-for-profit fanfiction, and no infringement is intended.
SPECIAL THANKS: To Sara, for spending a prime chunk of IRC time hashing and rehashing and rehashing yet again; to sen, whom I adore just for being her; and to the rest of the Junior Bondage Enthusiasts for their neverending support.
DEDICATION: This is the first fic I've finished in a very long time, and the fact that it *is* done is mostly due to the efforts of an incredible woman named Chelle Storey. It's no secret that I've been very unhappy with S4, and that deep unhappiness affected me to the point where I could not even string two words together, let alone form a sentence. I had actually decided to retire from writing in this fandom completely when Chelle caught wind of my plan and dedicated herself, with a single-minded intensity, to stopping me. She reminded me of what I had so loved to do, once upon a time. She quoted my work back at me. She pleaded. She cried. She wrote surreal fic (with Tinkerbell, who also deserves her own share of the thanks) that featured Buffy, Angel, and myself. After a while, I started to think about maybe writing just a little bit again, to see if I still could. Here's the result. It's a little heavy on the angst, but this is me, remember?
Too bad she hadn't realized that Sunday's gang was not the only vampire gang on campus, Buffy Summers mused as she looked around into the unforgiving faces of the demons that surrounded her.
She had been on a simple patrol when she had spotted several vampires lurking about, quietly snacking on the populace. She couldn't have that, so she followed them...only to be very stupidly led into a trap. She was off her game. There was no other explanation for it. It was embarrassing. And deadly, couldn't forget deadly.
There were a lot of them, she noted, stake sliding into her hand. Maybe too many to fight. She counted quickly as they stalked her. Twenty slavering vampires intent on making a snack of the Slayer.
Not good at all.
With a small sigh, Buffy squared her shoulders. "Didn't you guys hear what I did to the LAST vampire gang on campus?"
Their leader grinned. "Sunday was a fool. You have my deepest gratitude for ridding us of her. Of course, I'm still going to kill you, but you should feel better, having my gratitude."
"Oh, I do. Really. Makes me feel all snuggly inside." They were smarter than the average vampire, all advancing at once. She thought about backing up and making a run for it, then decided against it. She was the greatest Slayer to ever live, and she wouldn't die a coward.
And she would take as many with her as possible.
Surprising them, she lunged forward, stake outstretched, taking out one shocked demon before the rest could react to the sight of their fallen comrade. With an angry bellow, the leader leapt at her, taking her to the ground.
Buffy managed to work her knees between their bodies, and with a quick shove of her legs, she sent him flying into several of his minions. She rebounded instantly, fists and feet flying as she defended herself against the relentless tide of undead. Most of them were relatively new dead, she realized, intelligent for sure, but not too skilled in hand to hand combat. She counted as she staked, "Two...ooof-three...four, five...ow, damn it, that hurt...six..."
Unfortunately for her, a handful of the vampires, including their master, had been around for a while. At their master's signal, they circled her once more, all diving for her at the same time. She managed to take another one out before she hit the ground, but the rest merely clamped on to her arms and legs, effectively immobilizing her.
This was it. She wasn't going to escape this time.
With a nearly inhuman scream of rage, Buffy surged up against the arms holding her down. They held firm. The leader, blood from the fight coating his face, leaned over her.
She closed her eyes for a second as she mentally prepared herself. //Mom. Will...Xand...Oz...Cordy. Giles. I'm going to miss you all so much.// And then her heart broke apart in her breast as she thought of *him*. Her lover, her beloved. The knowledge that she was dead would destroy him. "I'm sorry, Angel," she whispered as the vampire's blood dripped onto her forehead.
"Calling for Angelus, eh? Not very helpful, I'm afraid. I was going to make it quick, Slayer. Now it's going to be long, and painful and uh--" he looked down at his chest, befuddled to see a stake protruding from his heart.
Seconds later, he was dust.
Buffy looked up.
Angel was standing above her, a stake held in each hand. "Need help?" His face was blank, but barely controlled rage stormed in his eyes.
"My hero," she sighed as she broke the hold of the now confused vampires, catching the stake Angel threw at her. She sprung to her feet and attacked. With her lover backing her up, they fought the remaining dozen. One after another fell to their stakes until finally, all that remained of the gang was dust floating on the fall breeze.
As soon as the last demon exploded, Angel was grabbing her by the arms, yanking her towards him. His face was heavily ridged, his eyes glowing yellow. "What the hell were you THINKING!" he growled at her, anger and terror riding him roughly. "Taking on that many vampires at once! If I hadn't been here, you would have DIED." He shook her violently, uncaring that he was hurting her. "You would have been DEAD," he roared, the thought freezing him to the core. He had no words to describe the panic that had overtaken him at the sight of her defenseless, at the mercy of her attackers.
"I know," she whispered, her eyes welling.
Her quiet response was not what he had expected, and with a helpless groan, Angel crushed his lips to hers. She moaned softly and melted instantly into his arms, her hands sliding through the hair at the back of his neck to pull him closer. The taste of her, after all those months of deprivation, was like cool, fresh water to a man dying of thirst, and he ate at her lips, trying to drink as much of her as possible. Adrenaline and testosterone from the fight slammed through him, making him high, blinding him to everything else on earth except the feel of her warm, lithe body in his arms. The separation had gnawed at him, creating a wound that would never heal so long as they were apart, and the pain from it eroded his control little by little, day by day. The terror of seeing her nearly killed by the gang of vampires rid him of the rest of his iron restraint.
Blindly, Angel sank to the ground, his beloved clutched in his arms. His hands roved over her body, needing to confirm that she was truly unhurt, alive, safe. "If I lost you," he muttered against her lips, "I would go mad."
Buffy sobbed harshly as the memories of what it had been like to live -- no, exist -- without him flooded her. So much of her world had been built around him, and when he had left, she had been cast adrift, without her touchstone, without her lover, without her love. But he was with her once more, touching her, loving her; her body was dry, parched, and it soaked up his attentions greedily in an attempt to sate the aching need that never left her.
Not allowing their bodies to lose contact, he stretched out on top of her, his weight pinning her to the dirt beneath them. It was a welcome pressure, familiar, and her thighs came up cradle his hips. He was hard against her, rubbing against her, the fury of his need sparking her own. But it was that blunt pressure that dragged her forcefully back into reality, where she realized what was happening, and what the outcome would be.
Bitter, gagging frustration rose in her as she thought of the curse that controlled their lives. All this misery, all because the Gypsies were so big on a vengeance kick they ignored the possibility of what could happen in the future. For one second, Buffy allowed herself to hate the woman who had fashioned the curse with a violent passion, wishing that long-dead woman an eternity of torment to equal the one Buffy herself was living through. To be so close to the only man she would ever love...but never touch him, kiss him, love him like she was dying to do? It was beyond unnatural. She needed him, and he needed her. But they couldn't be together, ever.
Desperately, she tried to shove him off her. "Angel, no! We can't! You have to stop!"
He was unconcerned with her protests, consumed with the animal need to be inside his mate, to prove that they had once again cheated death. His desire for her was urgent, primal, instinctive. He tore at her leggings, ripping a hole wide enough for him to touch her delicate flesh, which despite her protests was hot and slick around his questing fingers.
Buffy gasped as two of his fingers slid into her, and she involuntarily clenched around them. "Angel," she sobbed, beating at his shoulders, "Angel, you need to stop! The curse, remember the curse Angel please..."
Part of Angel's mind registered the need to tell her the truth, but it was small and dim, and his body had other concerns. With a snarl, he seized her lips once more, his tongue invading her mouth. She wailed into his mouth as another finger joined the two already thrusting away in her sheath. She was tight and wet and scalding to his touch. Her mind wanted to deny him, but her body knew the truth, knew that she had ached for this very moment, where the choice would be taken from her, and she could succumb to the yawning need that encompassed her whenever he touched her.
He was on top of her, pressing her into the dirt, dominating her. He was choosing for her, for them.
With a whimper of acquiesence, she felt the battle tension drain from her, leaving her limp beneath his marauding hands. It was what they both wanted, and she no longer had the strength to fight against it. Her arms slid around his back, running underneath his black shirt, glorying in the feel of his skin beneath her fingertips once more. It was such a simple pleasure, and one that she had been denied for far too long.
Angel was frantic with need for her as he tugged at the waist of his leather pants, struggling to get them past his hips so that he could plunge so deeply inside of her that they could never again be parted. She felt his struggle and aided him, shoving the confining leather away. He couldn't even take the time to remove her pants; instead, he merely widened the hole in the soft cotton, baring as much of her as he could.
He shoved her knees apart, coming over her, bracing his arms on either side of her head. She whimpered as he thrust inside; it had been a very long time since he had last touched her, and she was small and narrow. But the pain was a tiny thing in comparison to the utter joy of having him with her once more.
"I don't want to hurt you," he muttered as he came back to himself enough to realize her pain. He rested his forehead against hers, fighting back the urge to slam into her until they both passed out.
"You only hurt me when you leave me," she said thickly.
Her words maddened him, and he attacked her lips with his own. She was already swollen from his earlier kisses, and his descending fangs cut her as their mouths meshed. Buffy didn't seem to notice his face changing as she wrapped herself around him, her legs encircling his hips, clutching him tightly.
Their mating was not aesthetically pleasing, but it was a thing of beauty nonetheless. Two lovers, too long denied, caught up in the forbidden desires of the flesh, bodies twining and thrusting and fucking madly. Angel was like a man possessed, growling as he lunged into her as far as he could go, seeking her molten depths. He needed to be completely immersed within her, held safe within the haven of her body.
"Deeper," he rasped, "I need to be deeper inside you." He watched as the insane desire played across her face, then he reared back slightly, pulling her legs from his hips, catching the backs of her knees with his forearms. He leaned over her once more, her flexible body bending easily into position. She struggled up against him, and suddenly, he was embedded to the root. The added fullness made her gasp and arch, her head tossing, her hair streaming about her shoulders.
Buffy cried out his name as he set up a fierce rhythm, the force of his pounding thrusts rocking their bodies. He tried to slow down, to make sure she was ready, but he found that slowing while she was whimpering and gasping in his arms was an impossible feat. Her nails raked up his back, and the exquisite pain of that dragged a growl from his throat.
He tried to focus on their bodies surging together, but the demon was out, and wanted blood. Her blood. The sight of his mark on her neck sent him over the edge. Snarling, he burrowed his head into the curve of her neck, biting almost savagely into the scented flesh. Her blood hit him with the force of a stunning blow; not even in his most fevered memories did she taste this good.
The rough suction caught her up in its grip, the eroticism of the act tossing her headfirst into the chasm. She tried to scream, but she only had the breath to whisper his name as she came violently, shuddering and trembling and arching beneath his heavy form.
Her inner tremors clutched at him, the wet clinging pressure intensifying until it was all he could do to stay conscious. The taste of her orgasm, combined with the tight milking of her core, caused him to slam into her as far as he could, needing in some primal way to get his seed as far into her as possible. He came in her arms, bucking and growling, latched on to her neck.
Boneless, unable to move, he slumped over her, feeling her blood race through his system. She clung to him tightly, the complete upheaval of her body leaving her shaken and vulnerable. Tears welled in her eyes, and she pressed a kiss to the side of his head. It wouldn't be long now before her world shattered and Angelus returned, and so she held him, futilely trying to ward off fate.
Eventually, his face morphed back to its smooth planes, and his fangs slid from her flesh and retracted. He was silent in her embrace, and she spoke first.
"How could you have left me?" she whispered. "I missed you so much I thought I would die from it."
He was quiet for a long time, wondering what to say next. "The clause is gone." He hadn't meant to say that, and he closed his eyes and cursed his uncontrollable tongue.
The breath stopped up in her lungs, and her heart ached so badly she thought it was about to explode from the pain. "G-gone? But...how?"
"The Powers That Be."
She closed her eyes. "How long have you known?" Somehow, she knew what the answer to her question was going to be, just as she knew that answer would kill her.
"Since last April."
April. Before the prom. Before he had broken up with her. Before he had left her. The whole time, he had known. And he did it anyway. Ice filled the spot where her heart used to be.
"I-I wanted to tell you."
"And that's supposed to make it all better? What, you saved the world a few times and the Powers restored your soul with no conditions? Good for them." Her postcoital bliss was gone, only to be replaced with a deep bitterness.
He shifted suddenly, and she mewled as he withdrew from her. Every single cell in her body cried out for him, and she closed her eyes, trying desperately to resist the temptation to throw herself back into his arms.
"This shouldn't have happened," he said gruffly, pulling up his pants and righting his shirt.
"No, of course not," she agreed numbly. It was happening again, he was leaving her again. She could never survive it a third time. She sat up and tugged her shirt down to cover her torn leggings, trying to ignore his wetness seeping from her.
"Do you, uh, want me to walk back with you?"
She dropped her head into her knees. "Don't bother," she said, her voice muffled. Her chest was tightening, and she was afraid that she would stop breathing. Fighting back the tears that were forming behind her eyes, Buffy pressed her face into her knees, praying that he would leave quickly and spare her the sight of his back as he walked away.
The leaves crunched underfoot as Angel began to do just that. He swallowed hard, trying to prevent the ragged sobs from sounding. //I'm doing the right thing, I'm doing the right thing,// he repeated to himself, a mantra meant to reassure.
But this time, reassurance was not forthcoming.
A muffled whimper escaped her throat, and he whirled around. She looked broken, sitting in the dirt, curled around herself, her clothes torn, her body bruised and bloody, first from the fight and then from their mutual assault upon each other.
She had never looked more beautiful.
Without thought, he took a few steps back to her. "I never should have told you about the change to the curse. It would have been better--"
One second Buffy was sitting quietly, trying to breathe, and the next she was on her feet, rage shooting from her eyes and pouring from her mouth. "YOU BASTARD," she screamed. "YOU STUPID, MOTHERFUCKING BASTARD!"
Angel was taken aback by the venom in her tone, and he reached out a hand for her. She knocked it out of the way, and slammed her fists into his chest, sending him back a few feet.
"This is the LAST TIME, the absolute LAST TIME that you are going to do this to me. I'm fucking tired of crying, tired of aching, tired of mourning. You turned your back on me, and then you come back and FUCK ME and then walk away again? *So* not going to happen."
"I left so you could have a life."
"I had a life. Now I have nothing."
"I wanted you to be happy."
"You took my happiness with you when you left me. You left me broken, crying my eyes out in a sewer, Angel. How could you?" Her voice broke slightly, her anger tempered by sorrow. "How could you? After everything we went through, after everything we survived, how could you have just left without listening to me? Like I didn't matter. That's how I felt. Like nothing I said or did mattered to you."
His face was awash in misery. "Don't ever think that! Everything about you matters to me! It matters so much that I sacrificed my happiness so that you could have yours."
"You are so stupid. How could you be this stupid? You were never this stupid before. You couldn't have been. I could never have fallen for a man this DUMB."
"I'm not a man," he growled, his left hand grasping her arm and pulling her towards him as his right traced the reopened wound on her neck. "I'm nothing but an animal, and you deserve better."
"I deserve what I want, and that is you. It was always you. It will always be you. Even if you walk away from me now and never come back, that will never change."
"What everyone said about us, they were right. It's not meant to be."
She slapped him. "If it weren't for you, for US, I'd be dead right now. And you know we were meant to be, so whatever line you're handing me right now is just bullshit. I am tired of making everyone else happy. It's time for ME to be happy. And mister, you are a condition of that happiness."
"You need someone mortal. Someone that can walk with you during the day."
She was seized with the sudden need to hurt him as deeply as he had hurt her, and she had the perfect ammunition. "I found that mortal. I found him, and I held him, and I touched him, and I let him fuck me."
Angel flinched, his head automatically turning to the side to avoid her words.
"He laid me down, and he parted my legs, and he thrust inside me--"
"You don't want to hear it, Angel? But that's what you wanted for me, isn't it? To find a NORMAL boy to make love to me? Well, he didn't make love to me, he screwed me, and then dumped me. Like a normal boy."
His lips tightened, and tears shimmered in his eyes. The thought of her being used that way nearly ripped his heart from his chest. For someone to have thrown the most precious gift Angel himself had ever received back in her face...the thought of it left him aching inside.
"You know what? I came when he touched me. I honestly didn't think I could, that I could never respond to someone that was not you. But I did. And it was wrong, wrong on every level that there could possibly be. So I learned my lesson. No more NORMAL boys for Buffy Summers."
The image of her in another man's arms tore him up inside, made him want to scream and cry and rage and kill. His hands fisted instinctively, and his face slipped back into the visage of the demon. "Then he was a fool. But there are other men, men that wouldn't do that--" The words were shaped oddly on his tongue, and he had difficulty forcing them out.
If such a thing were possible, her face got even harder.
"You know what? It's not even worth it. I'm just wasting my breath." She turned her back on him and walked off, heading back to the dorm where she would take a hot shower and scrub him from her body. He was already irrevocably embedded in her heart, but she could at least wash the memory of him from her skin.
Angel dove after her, grabbing her by the upper arm and spinning her around. Her right fist came up in a punch that would have broken his jaw had it landed, but he caught her fist in his hand and held it. "I'm sorry, Buffy. I have nothing else to say, except that. I was wrong, and I'm sorry." His shifted back to his human guise.
"You're sorry? YOU'RE SORRY? You rip my heart out of my chest and TAP DANCE on it and YOU'RE SORRY? Sorry doesn't cut it, Angel."
"I know, but it's all I have to say. And it's the truth. I was wrong to do what I did. So wrong. But I wanted what was best for you. That's all I ever wanted."
The tension stretched between them, regret meeting pain. Then suddenly, with no warning, she crumpled visibly.
"You broke my heart."
The words were soft, sorrowful, not venomous and loud. The anger had burnt itself out, leaving only the hurt. That hurt was immeasurable, invading every single crevice of her heart and soul.
Sharp, stinging tears rose to his eyes, and he used her captured fist to draw her into his arms. She froze for a moment, every muscle tense, straining, eager for battle. And then he disarmed her, in a way that only he could. He buried his face in the warm crook of her neck, lips pressed against his brand, and cried.
He sobbed so loudly it scared her.
In her universe, Angel was Protector, guarding her back in battle, soothing her wounds when she hurt, wiping away her tears. To feel him come apart in her arms terrified her on a level that she hadn't known existed.
Buffy wrapped her arms around him, pulling him tightly to her much smaller body. She pressed her face against his head, rocking him slightly back and forth, attempting to comfort him as he had done for her hundreds of times. Beneath all the rage, all the pain, the anger and suffering and sorrow and misery lay the very basic love that she had always held for this man, her mate. Whether he chose to acknowledge that love didn't matter; it existed irregardless.
"I'm so sorry," he wept. "So sorry, Buffy, I didn't mean to...never...hurt you...never wanted to..." He seemed to have lost the power of speech as he trembled so fiercely, she shook as well.
"Shh, I know. I know you didn't. It's okay."
The softly murmured words surprised her. She had been so angry with him, but the anger had just been protecting the hurt. And seeing him racked with his own pain, his own guilt, made her realize something very important. Had she been in his place, had she imagined that she was ruining his life, she would have made the same choice.
Her love for him was beyond anything else, beyond the love she held for her own life and her own happiness. She had proven that beyond a doubt right before dawn that one morning in May, when she had gone against everything she had ever been taught and bared her throat to a demon. She had done it fully expecting to die on that cold stone floor, drained completely by the only man she would ever love. And if those had been the last things she had felt -- his arms around her, crushing her to his body; his hardness nestled against her core; his lips on her throat; and his fangs piercing her vein, drawing the life from her -- she would have died content in the knowledge that she was loved and that he was safe.
Things often had a habit of turning out opposite to her expectations, and they had both survived. The ensuing guilt from that action had pushed him even further from her, confirming his supposition that he was bad for her. The image of his back, shrouded in fog, as he walked away from her, from them, was forever emblazoned on the back of her eyelids.
For the first time, she understood what it had cost him.
He had left, and she had cried so many tears that she felt forever drained. But never, not once, did she imagine that the pain she felt was equaled by the agony he was going through. The agony he was even now sobbing out onto her skin. Unbeknownst to her, her own tears had traced their way down her cheeks to mingle with his.
She took his head in her hands, and pushed him back slightly to meet her eyes. This was one of the most important things she would ever say to him, and he had to see her face when she said it.
"Angel," she said quietly, her voice thick from the tears, "I forgive you."
He shook his head quickly, trying to escape her embrace. "No, you can't, not after what I did to you."
She held him firmly, trapped against her. "I forgive you," she repeated clearly. "You did what you felt was right for me, and although you were WRONG, it was done out of love."
Her lips fell against his, soft and undemanding, a gentle benediction. "I forgive you," she whispered against his mouth. "All of it, Angel. I forgive you all of it."
"I love you. I loved you from the first second I saw you, and I will love you when I am nothing but dust."
"No, don't say that...you're not going to die, not ever," he whimpered. "You can't." His voice had taken on a childish, pleading quality. "You can't ever be gone."
"I'll never leave you, not really. You taught me that."
"I can't live without you. I tried, and I can't--"
Again, their lips met as she calmed him. "Then don't try. Stay with me," she begged. "Stay with me, don't leave me again. Please, Angel, please."
It had taken every single bit of strength he had ever possessed to leave her the last time, and there was no way he could even attempt to do it again. He leaned his forehead against hers. "If you want me to stay, I will."
"Promise?" She peered up at him from wet eyes.
"I do." The words spilled from his tongue, and they both recognized the commitment there.
Buffy smiled then, the relief filling her, combating the last of the anger. She entwined their fingers, palms touching, caressing.
"Then take me home, Angel."
And he did.
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