Song Choice: Elsewhere & The Path of Thorns by Sarah McLachlan, the first is from her CD Fumbling Toward Ecstasy, and the second is from Mirrorball; This Woman's Work by Kate Bush; Here Comes the Flood by Peter Gabriel, and How by Lisa Loeb.
I know this love
Is passing time
Passing through like liquid, and I...
I'm drunk on my desire.
But I love the way you smile at me
I love the way your hands reach out and
hold me near.
This is Heaven to no one else but me.
And I'll defend it as long as I can be
Left here to linger here, in silence
If I choose to, would you
Try to understand?
I can't take my eyes off of him. A really corny thing to think, I know, but it wasn't my fault. It was brought to my mind by a 2X4 smashing into the side of my head because I wasn't paying attention.
I was watching him move... like an enormous, two-legged cat. Graceful... ferocious...
It's a lot more dramatic and romantic than it sounds...
It's the dull "thwuck!" of the board hitting my head, more than the actual pain, that brings me back to reality. My response?
It seems to elicit the appropriate action from Angel. He looks up and sets his yellow eyes on me and snarls loudly in protest against my treatment. He makes short work of his current opponent, snapping its neck and paralyzing it so he can come back and dispose of it properly later.
Before I can even struggle for another breath, he sets upon my attacker with the ferocity of the big cat I mentioned earlier. But with less mercy...
There's a splattering crunch as Angel's fist makes contact with the vampire's face. It scrambles backward, screaming in pain, for about four seconds, until he drives a stake into it and turns the thing to a convenient Dirt Devil sized mess.
He stands up, panting, and looks at me. I'm quaking so hard, I can hardly stand up. The adrenaline pumps through me, and it seems I'm surrounded by a blurry haze. I'm terrified. And I'm so turned on, I think I'm blushing.
"Are you okay?" He asks, morphing back to his peacetime face.
"Yuh... uh..." I grunt.
He almost smiles. "Is that a yes?"
I nod helpfully and double over, still trying to regain both my breath and my composure. I think I'm getting too old for this crap. But, it's worth the occasional skull bashing, to be able to see him move like that.
His face is concerned as he places a hand on each of my arms and helps me stand up.
"Buffy..." he says, but he's really repeating the same question from earlier.
"I'm fine." I manage, but just barely.
In a moment, he's scooped me up into his arms, and he's carrying me back toward his apartment. I lean into him, and smell his cool, clean scent, just relaxing into this rare moment of absolute love and safety.
Of course, some demon could jump out of the bushes and kill us before Angel could even put me down, so... take that for what it's worth.
This is what it's all about. This is why I had to go through all of the things I did -- to be able to understand and appreciate the simple beauty of this moment for exactly what it is...
I settle back, deep in the cushions of his overstuffed couch, and let the flickering warmth of the fire heat my aching bones.
"Are you dizzy?" he asks sweetly, as he places a steaming hot cup of peppermint tea in my hand. He reaches up and lays his palm, and then the back of his hand, against my forehead.
"That depends on who you ask." I joke, "Hey, does that work if your basal body temperature is 62.3?"
He looks at me evenly. "I know how warm you are usually. If you're a lot warmer now, that's bad."
"Ah." I say. I hate when he explains things to me like I'm a stupid child. "I was joking." I inform him.
He smiles. "I know." He says, and turns to stoke the fire.
Truth? I love when he explains things to me like I'm a stupid child.
Angel leans easily against the hearth and shuffles the poker around in the hot coals. I'm struck dumb by shher breadth of his muscular body, and the giant shadow it throws across the floor. He is so incredibly beautiful...
When he turns fully toward me again, and I see his crooked grin, I realize for the billionth time how lucky I am.
He sits down on the couch next to me and goes to work rubbing my stiff shoulders. He kneads my flesh with his strong, gentle hands, and I think to myself, "This is what it's all about."
I think it again when he brushes aside my hair and softly kisses the back of my neck... in that tender spot at the top of my spine that he knows drives me crazy...His lips are like rose petals... cool, soft, and smooth. A little shiver runs down my back.
I'm unable to stifle a joyful giggle.
Things are different for us, now. For both of us, as individuals, and the two of us, together. I can only speak for myself (but I'm sure Angel would probably agree), when I say that I feel more fully like...me, than I ever have before in my life. I feel contented. Fulfilled. I am whole in ways I never imagined possible.
"This is a dream..." I whisper.
His head suddenly shoots up, and his posture becomes tense and rigid.
"What did you say?" He asks.
"Uh..." I stutter, "What?"
Angel slides around me so we are almost face to face.
"What did you just say?" He repeats.
"I... I said... This is a dream?" The way he was reacting, I was almost embarrassed to repeat it.
"Oh. What made you... why did you say that?"
I am really confused. "I don't... know... I just did."
He seems to slowly regain his cool, and he's soon wearing his together face again. He leans back against the couch.
"What is wrong with you?" I ask him.
"I don't know. Nothing. I'm sorry...It's not important. Deja Vu, that's all."
Wiggy. For a cold-blooded, mass-murdering creature-of-the-night, Angel certainly hasn't mastered the fine art of lying...
"Okay." But I let it go. His brooding thoughts are his business. And, he does seem perfectly happy again.
That's all that really matters to me, now.
Angel smiles a lot, these days... That was the first thing I noticed that was different about him, when he came back. A good look at his straight, strong teeth was a rarity, in the old days... Now he seems to smile at just about everything.
He's been like that ever since he'd returned to Sunnydale, not seven months before. He showed up on my doorstep two seconds after the sun set, and some part of me just knew that he had been sitting, hunched down in his car, all afternoon, waiting.
My heart literally jumped into my throat.
I stood there like a statue, and Angel waited, patiently, forbidden from entry... The sweet smile in his eyes matched the one on his lips.
"C-come in." I stammered.
He blinked twice, then he was through the door, standing six inches away from, and a foot above, me. I'm pretty sure I was gaping at him. "Why..." I squeaked, then cleared my throat and tried again, "What, uh... how are you? Is everything okay?"
Angel was very graceful... gentle... patient, with me. "I'm fine." he said, "Everything is fine. I just wanted to... I have something I wanted to talk to you about..."
He wasn't really doing any better at this than I was. That made me feel better about the whole thing, and I could finally, genuinely return his smile, and allow myself to be glad to see him.
He talked for hours, never letting go of my hand even once. He told me about being called before the First Ones to stand judgment for his crimes.
"Buffy, they said... The Oracles said it before, and I was just too thick... In too much pain, to hear: 'Together, You were powerful. Alone, you are dead." he said dramatically.
I looked at him, completely at a loss. This mood, this elation, seemed something closely resembling a manic state, on someone as low-key as Angel. "I thought you gave up cryptic with coffee..." I teased him.
But he picked the ball right up, "Yeah, well, I took up coffee again, too."
He might as well have kicked me in the head, I was so shocked at his levity.
"What... when... The... Who?" I was so confused, I don't even think I was understanding the meaning of his words anymore.
"Don't you see? It was there, right in front of me, the whole time! I thought... I always believed that it had to be all or nothing, with us. And when... When I thought your life might be in danger because of my presence... I thought you would be stronger, safer, without me."
I said nothing. I never had any lines in my fantasies of this moment, either.
"But they sent the message through HIM. The Morah. That's what confused me. They meant, literally, what they said! It is written, "Together, you are powerful. Alone, you are DEAD." Do you understand?"
"No..." I said.
It's taken me a long time to understand. I'm still not sure that I do, fully. I remember a little more every day. Still bits and pieces of things... little pictures that don't seem to belong anywhere else...But I know, deep inside me, that they happened, in some other universe... that they are moments that are part of us, whether I understand them or not.
But the more I relax into falling in love with him, again, the more I know that this is where we belong. This is where we are strongest-- together. That much, I understand.
A vampire's hours are my hours... mostly because I hunt them.
But the one that stirs groggily beside me at the shrilling cry of the alarm, is the exception.
It's hard to get out of bed, I know. His sheets are those expensive, high-stitch-count, linen kind... the kind that make you feel like you're sleeping on a bed of clouds...Anything and everything that forces you to leave their soft embrace instantly becomes a hated enemy.
I've been awake for an hour, already, watching him sleep. It's my ritual, every evening when I rise, to take the time to memorize every detail of his face, again. His serious jaw, his high, broad cheekbones; his graceful, Roman nose; his strong, smooth brow, and the cool, pale luster of his skin.
It's like breakfast, for me. Breakfast of Champions.
Waking beside Angel each afternoon, and watching the shadows move across his form with the setting of the sun... It's like getting a reward, just for waking to another day. He's like a silver star at the top of my life.
Before he even opens his eyes, he smiles. He knows I watch him like this...and I know this smile is just for me... a private smile. Another little ritual we share...
Then his eyelids flutter a little, and millimeter by millimeter, the soft curtains flutter open on the deep mahogany of his eyes, the windows to his beautiful soul...
His smile widens, and he reaches for me, pulls me close, and holds me against his chest.
"You know... every morning, I used to wake up terrified, knowing that once my eyes opened, you wouldn't be there." he says wistfully.
I lean up to look into those chocolate brown pools again.
"And now?" I ask him. I know the answer. This is a familiar game -- one of my favorites.
"And now I can't wait to open my eyes so I can see you again."
I kiss him. I mean, what, exactly, is a girl supposed to say to that?
And now you want to ask me how?
It's like, 'How does your heart beat?'
Or, 'Why do you breathe?'
Sometimes, it's almost unbearable, to touch him. when we walk, Angel always reaches out to take my hand in his, and it sends a shock through me that stuns me, every time.
Our hands have a special relationship with one another. They have taken care of each other for a long time. All those months when we struggled, unsure of whether we really believed we should be together... Whatever the information or advice the PTB had given us, we still had years of history that proved otherwise to get over. Through it all, the only thing that touched between Angel and I was our hands...
Some deep, frightened part of me was sure he'd simply gone crazy. That the stories he told about the Oracles and the Powers were some kind of bizarre vampire dementia... or maybe clever metaphors for some deeper wisdom he was trying to impart on me.
But then They sent for me.
Only the Female met me at the gateway, and she wouldn't allow Angel to accompany me to my audience with her.
"Slayer." She said, regarding me coolly, "What have you brought me?"
I held out a pink angora sweater I hardly ever wore anymore..
The Female's eyes flew open wide, and the sweater flew instantly from my hands to hers. "Delightful!" She exclaimed, examining it carefully.
I looked around the room. "Where's Tweedle Dum?" I asked, "Angel said there were two of you. And some... margaritas, or something."
The Female looked up at me, and smiled.
"Angel." She said, "Your Champion."
I blinked at her. "I... guess..."
She seemed to float across the room, above the ground, toward me.
"The Other feels that I am wasting my time with you. But, your Champion... touches me." She said dreamily.
I kind-of sneered at her, "Yeah, well, he is pretty easy on the eyes." I said. I felt suddenly like I should be in a locker room somewhere...
The Female looked at me curiously, "You mock." She said, as if she hadn't been expecting it, "But his love for you is an extraordinary thing. And the fact that you two, a common pair of foot soldiers among countless throngs exactly like you, have attracted the attention of the First Ones, is nothing to scoff at." She warned.
I immediately felt bad for disrespecting her. "I'm sorry. I'm just a little nervous." I told her.
"Yes. That is as it should be." She said, turning away.
"You called me here..." I reminded her.
She turned back, the cool lights above glinting blue off her metallic skin.
"I do not understand why you no longer listen with your heart..." she said.
"Have you been giving Angel lessons? Because this vague stuff is starting to taste a lot like chicken." I said.
"You no longer believe in your destiny."
I was starting to get a feeling that I knew what she meant.
"I... I'm not sure if I can, anymore. Every time I begin to count on something, it gets destroyed. I can't do that to him." I said.
"The other boy's death was not your doing. That was his destiny." She said.
I looked The Female hard in the eye, "It wouldn't have been, if he hadn't known me. It's my fault Riley died."
The Female smiled again, "There are some things that are meant to be, in all time and space... And beyond." She turned and began to float away once more, "Remember how to see with your heart. He will show you the way. He has learned much, in your absence. Stay true to your love, and it will see you through all that may challenge you. "
I watched her begin to fade into the shadows that seemed to stretch into infinity behind her. She paused, and turned again to look at me.
"And, by the way? It is 'auguries'." She said.
I haven't spent a day away from Angel, since.
Just let me ask of you one small thing,
as we have shared so many tears
with fervor our dreams
we planned a whole life long
now are scattered in the wind
in the terms of endearment
in the terms of the life that you love
in the terms of the years that pass you by,
in the terms of the reasons why...
I love him. That's the simplest way I know to put it. I have truly come to believe that Angel is the spark that gives me life... the reason that I survive through each battle, to be able to be with him another day.
I want to keep the world safe for him, for as long as I am on it. I want it to forever be a haven for us to share, until I die. And I would die, for him...
The particulars don't matter anymore. Our ages, the past, our species... All we know is that the Oracles continue to be right, and the Powers keep smiling on us.
Together, we are powerful.