Yes, the author's notes are always too long. Writers by nature can't shut up, right? *g*
Comments, disclaimers, and blamage: This one's Perri's fault. She's the one who first mentioned that Sarah McLachlan's Possession was the perfect Buffy/Angel song. Of course, Buffy and Angel decided halfway through writing this story that *they*, personally, wanted Hold On instead this time around (both songs on Sarah's Fumbling Towards Ecstasy album, and if any of you don't have it, GO GET IT!) Who am I to argue with a vampire and a vampire slayer?
Buffy and Angel belong, of course, to Joss, Mutant Enemy, 20th Century Fox, etc, etc. I'm not using them for profit, please don't sue.
Molto grazie to the SunS for cooing. Thankfully, I didn't send anyone into insulin shock with this story. *g* Take that as a fair warning. Thanks to Perri and Kiki for dragging me into this &%$#@! fandom to begin with! *grrr, arugh*
Comments, praise, flames, chocolate, and tall, dark, undead angsty guys to firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Hold on,
* Hold on to yourself,
* For this is gonna hurt like hell.
The wind stirred a small pile of dust. It shimmered, faintly otherworldly in the moonlight. Then, drifting lazily along the ground, it thinned into a shadow and disappeared.
Buffy slid down the rough brick wall of the alley. That had been just too close. She hadn't been expecting a second one. To have encountered two in one night... it meant things she didn't want to think about. It would have frightened her if she had the strength to be frightened. Right now, all she could do was watch the blood run out from the gash on her upper arm, black in the moonlight, and wish like a child for her mother. For Giles to find her and patch her up while lecturing her on her duty as a Slayer to protect herself. For Willow to fuss and Xander to vow to go out and avenge her. For help that she wasn't going to get.
The vampires were getting smarter. This one had carried a knife.
Slowly, Buffy got to her feet, pushing herself up the wall like a climber rappelling up a cliff. It took every ounce of her strength and will to do it. On her feet, swaying, she knew her first step away from the support behind her would have her on the ground again. Closing her eyes, she felt the blood seep down her arm, soaking her blouse, and waited for her strength to fail her.
* Hold on,
* Hold on to yourself.
* You know that only time will tell.
Angel really didn't know what had driven him out that night. He'd been holed up in his apartment except for necessary forays into the outside world. He was avoiding the Bronze, knowing that his self-control was unlikely to hold if he tortured himself by seeing her.
So what was he doing in this stinking alley instead of home waiting for the sun to rise and set and rise again?
He caught the scent of blood before he heard her faint moan. Buffy lay in a boneless sprawl, curled on the concrete, her lashes fluttering on sheet-white cheeks, stubbornly clinging to a tattered shred of consciousness. Her eyes opened once as Angel knelt beside her and gathered her body up in his arms. "Oh, good," she murmured with a vague smile.
Without another word she dropped into a dead faint.
She was warm and cozy when she woke up, tucked into a bed with a down comforter over her. The vague memory of a burning pain in her arm was replaced with the gentle throb that lingered there now. Opening her eyes, she blinked for a minute, trying to get her bearings.
It was a large room, white cinderblock walls, black furniture. Buffy supposed that it should look fairly bare, but here and there, scattered, were things that caught the light and the eye, striking against the starkness of the room.
Not very good at sitting still, Buffy threw back the covers and swung her feet to the floor. She nearly ended up on her face when she stood up, and it took a few moments for her head to stop bouncing around the room and return to its accustomed perch on her neck.
There was an arm around her shoulders, a hand at her elbow, keeping her on her feet when she couldn't have managed it herself. Already knowing where she was, she looked up into Angel's worried eyes.
* What is it in me that refuses to believe
* This isn't easier than the real thing?
"Easy. Lie down again."
Buffy shook her head. "No, I'm fine. Um... I'll sit down, though." With his help, she made it to a deep chair and sank down gratefully. Her fingers brushed a bandage on her upper arm, and she realized she was wearing one of his shirts. "Thanks."
Angel shrugged slightly. "It's nothing. You lost a lot of blood. I would have taken you to the hospital, but--"
~But then we'd have a lot of 'splaining to do,~ Buffy filled in silently. "Good move."
"Do you want me to call anyone?"
"Giles," she whispered. Swallowing, she tried to put more strength in her voice. "Call Giles, tell him I'm okay. With any luck, my mom hasn't figured out that I snuck out of my room. I don't want to worry her."
* My love,
* You know that you're my best friend.
* You know I'd do anything for you.
She fed Angel the library's phone number, then closed her eyes and drifted, listening to the short, one-sided conversation, smiling a little as she imagined Giles' half. When she opened her eyes again, Angel was crouched beside her chair, his gaze dark and intense. His lashes dropped, shielding his eyes almost immediately, but she knew she had seen more than he wanted her to.
"No." She put her hand out to touch him. He evaded her before she could do much more than brush his hair with the tips of her fingers.
Rising, he started to turn away. "Rest. I'll take you home before the sun rises."
"Angel?" Her voice stopped him in his tracks. "Don't go. Please."
* My love,
* Let nothing come between us.
* My love for you is strong and true.
He couldn't face her, couldn't touch her. Couldn't leave her. "I'm not going anywhere," he told her softly.
"I was so scared tonight." Defenses crumbled by worry, pain and fear, she couldn't stop herself. "I saw the knife a split second before it cut me. And I had one crystal-clear moment when I thought, 'I'm going to die.' Just that. There wasn't any life passing before my eyes, just *knowing* it was over."
"But it wasn't. You're alive."
Buffy swallowed, nodded. "Yeah. And *now* I'm getting the whole flashing life bit." She waited, but Angel didn't move, didn't turn back to her. "I guess... I guess I realized a lot of things. What's important. Angel... look at me."
"I can't." The words sounded torn out of him.
"I'm in love with you." Then she took a deep breath, knowing the phrase was cowardly. "I love you."
* Am I in heaven here or am I...
* At the crossroads I am standing.
"Don't do this."
Buffy felt her heart twist inside her at the starkness of his voice. "I can't help it. It's *done*. I know it's dumb, I know we can't be together, but I can't stop it. And I don't want to. I--"
She didn't realize she was crying until Angel finally broke. Turning back around, he knelt by her chair, pulling her close. Her arms wrapped around his neck, his nearly cracked her ribs with the force of his grip. She rested her head on his shoulder, and his face was buried in her hair.
* So now you're sleeping peaceful.
* I lie awake and pray
* That you'll be strong tomorrow, and we'll
* See another day, and we will praise it,
* And love the light that brings a smile
* Across your face.
They stayed that way, clinging to each other, drawing strength from a bond that was destroying them. Finally, Angel pulled back slightly. "It's almost dawn. I'll take you home."
Buffy nodded, let him help her to her feet. When she wavered, he picked her up again. She turned her face into his shoulder and closed her eyes, sighing.
A few minutes later, he set her on her feet on her front porch. Brushing a wisp of hair out of her eyes, he asked, "Are you going to be able to make it up to your room okay? I'd take you up, but..."
Remembering her bitter words that barred him from her house, Buffy started to invite him in again. But reality intruded. Sighing, she said, "Yeah. Although I'm going to suddenly become very sick and stay home today to rest." Her mouth crooked into a smile and she took a step back to her door.
* Oh God, if you're out there,
* Won't you hear me?
* I know that we've never talked before.
* Oh God, the man I love is leaving.
* Won't you take him
* When he comes to your door?
"Good. Buffy, I...."
The smile remained, but turned sad and much older than any smile a girl her age should have. "I know."
"I love you." She deserved the words. They'd have nothing else out of this. They might as well take the scraps they could get.
And he needed to say them. Something was coming... and he'd be truly damned if he let her go without know how he felt. He could match her courage to tell the truth.
After a moment, she nodded, tears in her eyes shining in the waning moonlight but clinging stubbornly, refusing to fall. Without taking her gaze from his, she stepped back over the threshold she had denied him.
* Hold on,
* Hold on to yourself,
* For this is gonna hurt like hell.
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