"A break!" Angel swept the legs out from under the vampire he was fighting and crouched over him, stake held at the ready. "She said she needs a break," he continued conversationally. "Why?!" when the vampire didn't answer, Angel shrugged and smoothly staked him in the heart. The dark, handsome vampire stood and searched the area with his enhanced senses, hoping for more vampires he could take his anger and pain out on.
Rationally, Angel knew that Buffy had unresolved issues and some very real fears regarding his time as Angelus, and that the deception they had played on Faith was likely to bring those fears to the surface. On some level he had feared a reaction like this. Emotionally, however, Angel was deeply hurt on several levels. Why couldn't she come to him for help? Buffy had come to him for comfort and a sounding board before his curse had broken, and it hurt that she felt she couldn't do that regarding some of her worst nightmares. It hurt that she wanted to be away from him at all, for any reason. And it hurt that Buffy hadn't realized that he had been frightened by the part he'd played as well. Angel's own worst nightmares were memories of hurting Buffy and her friends, and fears of it happening again. He had needed Buffy to reassure him that she was still there for him, that she still loved him, and she had left him instead.
Frustrated that his mind had turned back down that depressing vein, onr of the reasons he had escaped the mansion to go hunting, Angel scanned the area again. The park was quiet, no signs of other vampires. Indeed, Angel had the feeling that some vampire had seen him hunting and gone back to warn the remnants of Trick's and Spike's minions that Angelus was hunting tonight. Most of the vampires thought one Slayer in the world was bad enough; that there were two Slayers in Sunnydale made the smart ones extra cautious. But when Angelus, the former scourge of Europe and, more recently, of Sunnydale, hunted with a purpose, all vampires with sense decided that hunting wasn't really that necessary. Angel decided to head towards the cemeteries. There were generally a few vampires he could dust as they rose, though they wouldn't provide the physical challenge he needed to distract himself.
Moments later a slight tickle at the back of his neck and the soft whistle of air was his only warning. Angel cursed himself for not concentrating on his surroundings as he quickly ducked and rolled forward, quickly regaining his feet and turning to face his attacker. Faith stood there, rage in her eyes, a stake at the ready.
"Don't do this Faith," he warned, keeping his eyes on her warily as he struggled to calm himself and focus on her, yet still keep some of his senses open to his surroundings. The demon inside him howled for him to kill her. The strength in her slayer blood a past delicacy was just a bonus as the demon played to Angel's own anger and pain, and the desire to hurt this girl that had so hurt his Buffy. He managed to avoid Faith's first attack, grabbing her arms and swinging her away from him and into a tombstone, but Angel was still distracted by the struggle within him. A soft sound, off in the distance, further distracted him and Faith got the upper hand, tackling him to the ground.
"Come on Deadboy," she sneered. "I thought you'd at least be a challenge, but I guess you're so used to Buffy doing all the work you've gone soft. The great Angelus isn't so tough after all." She straddled him, stake held over his heart as Angel closed his eyes in pain. He had only a moment to decide what to do; kill the renegade slayer, thus saving himself and eliminating a huge problem, or allowing her to kill him, removing once and for all any chance of him hurting Buffy again. Again his soul struggled with the demon, desperate to find away out without doing either. Angel tensed as Faith rose her stake to dive it into his heart, preparing to get her away at any cost, when she was tackled from the side and driven off of him.
"Don't EVER come at Angel with a stake again, or I will kill you." Angel rolled to his feet in shock, the tone in Buffy's voice chilling him. His concern for her built as he watched her face the renegade slayer, balanced firmly in her fighting stance. Buffy was deeply into slayer mode, all of her attention focused on Faith.
"Yeah, right B," Faith scoffed as she too dropped into her fighting stance. "You couldn't take me the first time we fought, when I went after him and you stopped me. We were evenly matched. I've got the advantage this time."
"We'll just see about that," Buffy responded, her pride a little stung. She didn't want to hurt Faith, then or now; there was still a chance they could save the other slayer from herself.
The battle began as the two slayers clashed. They moved around the graveyard, trading blows quickly. One gained the advantage, only to have the other turn the tables. Faith tripped Buffy up, only to have her tuck into a roll and tackle Faith about the knees. It seemed that no one had an advantage, as they paused, eying each other warily as they caught their breath and tried to regroup.
"You see?" taunted Faith. "I told you! You don't have it in you. You're weak, you can't follow through when it counts. Why does everyone think you're all that?" Faith paused and ran her eyes over Angel's body suggestively. "Still, I can kind of see why you don't want him dead; after all his is a great kisser. It's just to bad I didn't have the time for anything more." Faith had been trying to provoke Buffy into a rage so she would attack recklessly. She got something much worse instead.
"You asked for this Faith, don't forget that," Buffy said quietly before lashing out with a vicious kick. The battle began anew. Blows were harder, faces more serious, but it was just as before. It seemed that they were still evenly matched. But, moments later, it soon became apparent who had the upper hand.
The first time they had fought, when everyone discovered that Angel was not in Hell after all, both had been pulling their punches. Such was not the case any longer, and one of them quickly had the other pinned against a headstone, hands firmly around her sister slayer's neck as she pounded her head into the marble stone behind her.
Angel's heart lurched at the pain in Buffy's eyes and the cold resolve on her face. He'd seen the look before, just before being sucked into hell. "Buffy stop," he whispered, coming up behind her quietly, and laying his hand on her arm. Faith was slumped against the headstone, unconscious, blood running from her nose and a split lip and smeared on the stone behind her. Bruises were already forming on her check and around her neck as Angel gently pulled Buffy away from the fallen slayer.
Buffy stared in horror at Faith. "What am I doing?" she gasped, tears welling. Buffy knew she was angry with the slayer that had turned against everything Buffy was fighting for, and that she was hurt that Faith wanted so badly to hurt her. Still, she was shocked at the deep well of rage Faith had tapped. Buffy had almost killed her, but not because of Faith's decision to join the Mayor in his quest for dominance. Buffy had beaten her former sister in arms to a bloody pulp for daring to touch her Angel, for trying to take him away from her again. Sudden clarity burst through her, and her own actions finally made sense. Shudders racked her body as she started to sob, overwhelmed by her emotions.
All the hurt and anger Angel had been fighting all night was swept away by the concern he now felt for his slayer. He gathered her small, shaking body to him, needing to comfort her. As Buffy's sobs started to wane, Angel stepped away from her, not wanting to push; Buffy had said she needed a break, and he would give one to her, no matter how much it hurt. He turned to check on Faith, when Buffy caught his arm and brought it around her shoulders, burying her face in his chest. "Please don't leave," she whispered, sliding her arms around his waist and clinging to him. "I'm so, so sorry Angel. I'm sorry. Just don't let me go."
Buffy's voice caught on the last word as she tried to stop the tears from returning. Angel's heart lifted. She really was still his girl, just as she had told him last week. Things were off kilter, and they really needed to talk, but he was reassured that she did still love him. He wrapped his arms around her and brought her closer, hushing her tears. "I'm not going anywhere Buffy," he whispered into her hair. "I'm always here for you."
"I know," Buffy whispered, tilting her head up to look into his eyes. The guilt in her eyes made him gasp a breath he didn't need. "You're always here for me when I need you Angel, but I'm not always there for you, am I?" A shudder of pain worked it's way through her body when his eyes flickered away from hers, proving her words true. "I am sorry Angel," she stressed reaching up to turn him back to face her. "I truly didn't mean to hurt you again, to let you down. I want, no need, you to be able to come to me when you're hurting. I guess I just got so wrapped up in my fears that I forgot they were your fears too."
Angel just looked at her for several moments, relieved that she'd figured this out on her own. He hadn't wanted to confront her about her actions; a Buffy in denial could be very mean. A movement of to the side drew his attention. Faith stirred again, starting to come around. "And maybe, just a little, you wanted to hurt me for touching Faith?" Angel added softly, turning back to Buffy. Buffy stood there, shocked to the core, but afraid there might be some truth to his words. He saw her eyes go distant as she started to focus inwards, examining her motives, but another movement from Faith made Angel tug on Buffy's hand, bringing her focus back to him. "Come on," he said tugging her down the path towards the mansion. "We need to talk, and this isn't the place."