When You Come Back To Me Again

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When I was a young man, the most important things to me were liquor, women and fun. By the time I was twenty-three, the townspeople had dubbed me a drunken layabout and I had successfully deflowered three parishionerís daughters and slept with every whore for a twenty mile radius. I mocked God, unless someone in the taverns had a reason to make a toast to him, and who was I to turn down free ale? I respected no one, least of all myself, and I would do whatever I had to in order to shirk my responsibilities. Family never came first to me. The only friends I made were the ones who were outcasts, and I didnít care whether I lived or died most of the time.

So, Iím sure you can understand the irony of the fact that I am here now -- over two-hundred years laterĖ a warrior for the good of mankindówhen I was never really a man or good.

There's a ship out on the ocean
At the mercy of the sea
It's been tossed about, lost and broken
Wandering aimlessly
And God somehow you know that ship is me

I invited evil into my heart from the time I could talk. I would steal peeks at half naked women, lying on my stomach so I could watch them in the creek, where they would frolic and bathe. I would run, bare legged and bare foot, a constant embarrassment to my mother, through the streets of my town, telling lies about demons and devils I had seen in the woods. I would steal pies from windowsills, and then I would hide beneath porches to devour my treasure. I would sneak into the Mercantile, taking what I wanted, normally candy, anything to feed my gluttony. I sat through my classes at school with little interest, always looking for new and exciting ways to disrupt the day.

I stopped going to school when I became big enough to stand up to my father. I didnít need to be able to read. I knew how to take what I wanted, whether it be food, drink, or a woman, and in that day and age, no one could have stopped me. No one even tried. I think the fact that I did what I wanted and didnít stand down from any challenge made women throw themselves at me. My mother used to tell me that I was far too handsome to be so vile. I would tell her that my handsome face was a gift from hell and even God envied me. I felt the sting of her hand several times, and always, I would chuckle, catch her wrist, and tell her not to waste her energy trying to correct my flaws.

She told me I had the devil in my veins.

And one fateful night in an alley, when I was twenty-eight, and a laughingstock by any manís standards, I literally did take the devil into my veins. I ran into a beautiful woman, blonde, baring so much flesh that even I was scandalized. She offered to show me her world, and the first glimpse of it I had were her fangs, long and white, sliding into my throat. She drained me, almost to the point of death, drinking in my blood and not spilling a drop. Then, she drew her nails across her creamy white flesh, right above her breasts, and held my head there. The dying human in me was incapable of stopping her, but there was another part of me, a part that was full of devilment, that began to lap at her blood, ignoring the revulsion I was feeling.

She tasted like rosebuds smell, sweet like honeysuckle, and as cold as if I had pressed my face against the icehouse wall. I was a corpse before I ever hit the ground, and on the next night, I woke. My nails had grown longer, pointy, and it took me several minutes to realize that I was in a coffin, a solid pine box, buried away. The newly born demon inside of me knew what to do, it could feel her up there, beckoning me, and it began to claw. I was pulled from the bowels of the earth and stood before her, awash in confusion. She only smiled at me, her perfect mouth exposing the fangs that had been my death, and it wasnít fear I felt. It was a longing to be just like her.

I killed my entire family, reveling in their fear, dancing in their blood, and offering them no glimpse of the man they had loved, despite my flaws. My mother died with my name on her lips, and my sister, my beautiful and innocent sister, thought I was an Angel that had come from Heaven. I was not an Angel, I was as far from being and Angel as I could get, but I kept that name Ė to tempt fate, to tempt Godís fury, to tempt myself. Darla, my sire, called me Angelus, the demon with an Angelís face.

She showed me what I was, taught me of the strength I possessed and for the first time in my entire existence, I was no longer inferior to anyone. She gave me the finest clothes, took me to the finest parties, and I embraced each new experience, matching her insatiable need to cause pain with a need of my own. I destroyed anything that came into my path. I learned to stall my hunger, let it build until it almost consumed me, and then I would play with my food even longer, knowing that when I did begin to feed, the joy would be euphoric. Just as I had done in life, I tempted death. I would barely beat the sunrise, feel it scalding the back of my neck as I finally ducked into shelter for the day. I would go into churches, sit in the confessional and listen to weary souls confessing their sins.

That was where I found Drusilla. Oh, she was a beauty. Raven haired and as innocent as the driven snow. She came to the church to tell the father that the visions that she had were making her mad, causing her mother to fret. I began to stalk her from that day forward, waiting for a chance to make her mine. How I scared her. I lurked behind her, letting her see my leer when her paranoia began to consume her. One night, in an alley, she told me that she had seen me in a vision and begged me to do her no harm. I stepped from the shadows, my demon face at the forefront, and she fainted, dead away. I took her into an old building and tormented her for hours, then, instead of killing her, I let her go, knowing that the biggest thrill would be in the hunt. The next day, I watched her pack her things and bid her family farewell. She was going to a convent, where she would become a nun. Whatever safe haven she thought she would find there was shattered. That night, as she kneeled beside her bed to pray, I came through her window, bent her to my will, and then I turned her. My first born.

Darla was livid. She despised Drusilla and the way that I doted on her. Darla was used to being my only source of pleasure and she had always held me in tight reins. When I went against her and turned a woman without her permission, she distanced herself. She searched relentlessly for her next childe, always sizing up men, thinking she would replace me. After a few years, she began to coddle Drusilla, the same way she had done with me in the beginning. They would go out together to hunt, leaving me behind and promising me a treat. I hated being left alone, but I hated incurring Darlaís wraith more. One night, they came back with a handsome young man. His hair was long, curling around his shoulders, and his eyes were the clearest cerulean blue I had ever seen. He had a thick English accent, didnít have much in the way of decent clothing, but his attitude was feisty, much like my own had been when I was a mortal.

He didnít seem bothered by my presence there. I stood, watching as Dru and Darla both showered him with affection. Even then he, William, seemed to be focused solely on Drusilla. Before long, Darla left them to their business and came to me. I felt good, being back in her favor, but our enjoyment was hastened by Drusillaís cries of pain and we abandoned my bed to see about her. William lay at her feet, his body prone, his skin pale. His neck was bleeding from where Drusilla had bitten him, but she was taking no pleasure from her kill. Instead, she threw herself at my feet, begging me to bring him back. Of course, I refused, but the two women wouldnít hear of it. Darla insisted that I turn him immediately and Drusilla never once let go of my leg. I literally had to drag her along with me as I made my way toward the young manís body.

I had created my second offspring, much to my own chagrin, and he was both my adversary and my closest companion from that day forward. Darla had planned it all along. She had decided that she would not seek to replace me. Instead she would bring someone into our fold for Drusilla. She was nothing if not smart, for her plan worked and Drusilla began spending all of her time with "Spike", her precious kitten.

It was frustration over that, anger and frustration over my dark goddess replacing me, which led me into the gypsy camp. I strolled along, peering at the various tents and elder people, and then I saw her. Her dark hair, so much like Drusillaís, and I took her. It was easy enough. She was heading toward a creek with a pail in her arms. When we were out of earshot, I shoved her to the ground, muffled her screams with my hand, and then I simply drained her. No sexual play, no real torture, I simply killed her. As she took her last breath, one of the men from the camp came over a clearing and he screamed, a sound of pain, anguish, and I stood, wiping her blood from my face and mocking his pain.

He tempted me by coming closer and I got it into my head that I would kill him as well, but something happened, something in his eyes, and he began to chant. I turned and ran, rushing through the woods, ignoring the limbs that were raking my flesh. I donít know how it happened exactly, but I dropped to my knees and he appeared before me again, almost like an apparition. The pain in my body was unbearable, and then something I never dreamed possible happened. I heard the cries of the people I had murdered, saw my own family dead at my feet, and my heart felt like it had been shattered into a million pieces. I felt remorse, sadness, pain, guilt, and most of all, self loathing. The gypsies had returned my soul to me, unscathed, but tarnished with the memories of my deeds. I cried, kneeling before the elder, and he turned and walked away, leaving me alone.

I needed help. I went back to Darla, begging her to save me, but she took one look at my face, saw the pain in my eyes, and she could smell my soul. She drew back a broom handle, intent on killing me, but she stopped, simply telling me to get out. I ran as fast and as far as I could, then stood waiting for the sun to rise and kill me. In all of the books that have been written, I could never find the words to describe what it felt like to be me that day. I couldnít stop the voices in my head, couldnít stifle the pleas for life, and couldnít stop the faces that kept filtering through my head. It was almost like my soul was pulling them out of a file and showing me the damage I had caused on a movie screen. I replayed every single death over and over.

When you are a vampire, you can feel the sunrise long before it comes. It begins with a sense of dread in the pit of your stomach. You get anxious, scared, and angry at whatever force it is that pulls the sun from oblivion and forces you into hiding. Your hands tingle, your feet tingle, and a heavy pounding begins behind your eyes as light filters into the sky. I stood on the shoreline, watching it begin to peek over the horizon, and the physical pain was unbearable. I suddenly lost my nerve, and the coward that I had become sent me diving into an open crate bound for the Americas.

For over a week, I didnít feed once. Then the scurry of mice sent me into a frenzy and I couldnít stand it any longer. I slipped out of the crate and ate rats. I spent my time hiding behind crates, inside of crates, and under tarps, and when the coast was clear, I would chase the rats and try to sate the hunger inside of me. The demon didnít understand, it wouldnít be silent, but my soul, my cursed soul, made me feel remorse even for the rats and I found myself wrapping their bodies in scraps of paper and tossing them overboard. I was a broken creature, starved and miserable, and slowly being driven insane.

By the time the boat docked on the coast of New York, I was able to trap vermin easily and I was able to push the thoughts out of my head for longer periods of time when their blood made me stronger. I became a vagabond. My clothes were in tatters, my appearance was unkempt, and my only reason for leaving the security of the crypts I called home was to feed. Any type of animal that I could get my hands on became my supper and always, always, I was swift, not causing any unneeded pain or suffering for the creatures. I took magazines and books from trash bins, using a small candle during the day to sound the words out, trying desperately to remember how to read. I developed a fondness for picture books and would spent my time drawing the images. Soon, I was drawing my family, Darla, Drusilla, anything I could pull from my memory.

Time moved swiftly. It was in New York that I saw the first automobiles, and watched as the city became a land of lights, music, people, and sin. I watched as womenís attire went from modest and stylish, to short and leather. I watched hair go from cascading curls to teased out tresses that surrounded faces with too much make-up and too much pain. I stood in front of store windows, watching people on television sets, wondering how on earth they fit in there, and then I listened to stories of men on the moon and satellites and every home having electricity, running water, and heat.

I finally taught myself to read and found a newsstand full of magazines and newspapers. I would stand all night, reading about things that no one ever dreamed possible. I never had a penny to my name, no way to buy better clothing or take home fancy books, but I was never an imposing figure and people left me alone, allowing me to read until I would feel the sunrise coming. I would find clothing in dumpsters, or hanging on clothes lines, and I would take only what I felt I needed, and only when what I had was no longer serviceable.

I existed from one moment to the next, lost in books, lost in watching the world change, and then suddenly, it was almost a new millennium and I had been a vampire for over two hundred and forty years. I had not changed with the time. My home had no amenities, I had no car, no computer, nothing, and my appearance was still the same, but inside, I was constantly changing, constantly trying to find my place in it all. It so happened that someone else out there was trying to find my place in it all too. I was hunting for dinner one night, failing miserably by all accounts, when someone approached me in the alley. His name was Whistler and he told me that I didnít have to live the way I was. He told me that I could have a purpose, a mission, and a better life.

He took me across the country, to a place called California, and showed me my destiny.

'Cause there's a lighthouse, in the harbor
Shining faithfully
Pouring its light out, across the water
For this sinking soul to see
That someone out there still believes in me

She was breathtaking. She had a sucker in her mouth, holding it with her long pink tipped fingers, and her conflicting appearance, this half woman, half child blew me away. She looked so young, so fresh and innocent, but at the same time, I could see the woman she was on the verge of becoming. Her hair was a pale blond that hung almost to her waist, and she had the top pushed away from her face, allowing me the perfect chance to drink in her features. So delicate, but at the same time, so strong. Her green eyes took in the world around her, not really lingering on any one thing, until a man in a dark suit stepped before her and began to talk to her.

I couldnít hear their conversation, but I could tell by her demeanor that she didnít really understand what he was telling her. I already knew. She was being called as the Chosen One. The vampire Slayer. I had seen several, even fought a couple, but this one was different somehow. I watched her fight in the cemetery that night, then followed her home. As I watched her through her bedroom window, I realized what was different about her. She felt things. Other Slayers before her had been methodical, desensitized, but I watched her soul bleed that night and my own soul went out to hers. I took the job that Whistler offered me Ė keeping my eye on her, helping to guide her if she needed that, and situating myself into her life, without overstepping my bounds. I was told that there was a Hellmouth just north of us that she would be assigned to, and I was to go there.

Whistler set me up in an apartment, my first real home in far too many years, and saw to it that I had books, magazines, drawing paper and cash. I had a nice wardrobe and could finally hold my head up again when I went into a shopping mall for something that I needed. By the time the Slayer arrived in Sunnydale, I was confident that she would find me charming and be happy to accept my help. I was wrong. The first night I spoke to her, she knocked me flat on my back. Up close, I was stunned at how small she actually was. There was no way she could be more than five foot three and a hundred pounds soaking wet. Time had changed her appearance too. It had been about seven months since I had seen her called, and now she stood before me with hair a little darker and harder features than I had remembered. She was still breathtaking, but she looked sad, hollow, and so help me, I made up my mind right then and there that she would not become like all the other Slayers. I wouldnít let her lose that light in her soul that I had seen the first night.

Looking back, I donít think I would ever say that Iím sorry for falling in love with her. Iím sorry for the pain my love has caused her. Iím sorry for the tears she cried because of me and Iím sorry that I am the very thing that she is supposed to hate, but Iím not sorry that I love her. It happened slowly. I would come around her, tell her of some impending danger and she would insult me or pretend like I was a nuisance. I knew she was interested. When I walked away, I could look back and she would be watching me leave. I gave her my jacket and she wore it faithfully, along with the cross I had given her on our first encounter. I struggled with it, oh it was such a living hell trying to distance myself from her, but finding a million reasons to go to her. I successfully avoided her for a few days when I happened to come across her being attacked by three men in an alley. I helped her and we ran to her house. She took care of the wounds on my chest, and I came so close to kissing her that night that it scared me.

Her mother interrupted us and pretty much told me to leave, but Buffy was having none of that. She pretended to see me out and then took me to her room. Once again, she baffled me. Her room was soft and fluffy, covered with stuffed animals, butterflies, and so many girlish comforts that I almost forgot how powerful she was. I almost forgot what I was and who she was. She insisted that I stay, still not realizing that I was a vampire, and she let me lie beside her bed. I waited until I was sure that she was sleeping soundly. Then I sat up, peeked over the edge, and watched her intently. Her hair was fanned out, and I can remember it like it was yesterday, the little moans and gasps that would escape through her parted lips. Her eyes would flutter, rapidly moving back and forth, but she didnít seem to be lost in a nightmare. If anything, she seemed to be content, and more than once her lips would curl into a smile.

I made up my mind right then to end it. I lay back down, clutching the pillow she had given me in my arms, and for the briefest moment, it was her. I could imagine a different time, meeting her in a different life, and loving her so completely that she never felt anything but treasured Ė but this was not that lifetime and I was not that man. I pretended to be asleep when she left for school. She seemed to linger longer than I expected, as if she was waiting for me to wake up. I heard her sigh and then heard her scribbling on a notepad and I opened one eye, gazing at her. The image of her rounded bottom, pretty hair, and strong firm legs lasted me all day. Her note told me to stay there until she got back, but to hide if her mother came home. I did have to hide. I stashed myself away in her closet, inhaling the scent that I would come to realize was purely Buffy: soft vanilla, an underlying scent of musk, and the smell of her blood. Her dirty laundry was in there, and when the coast was clear, I stepped out and looked at it, wondering how her mother could be so oblivious to the small patches of blood that covered all of her clothing. And again, I found my heart going out to hers. My kind was the cause of her bleeding, my kind was the reason her life was so abnormal, and I could no longer do this job. I would quit.

The sun had already fallen, surrendering its place to the moon, when she finally came back. I had heard her downstairs, talking with her mother, but I hadnít made a move to leave. I was compelled to see her one last time. She came into her room carrying a bag of food, human food, and I wanted to sit down, take nourishment from it, and forget what I was, but I couldnít. My veins were singing, needing blood and I knew the hunger would soon be upon me, causing my face to change. I told her I couldnít do it, I couldnít be in her life, but we both fell into each otherís eyes and I found myself moving toward her. Her kiss was like fire, so warm and so painful. I knew the second my lips touched hers that I was tempting the devil again, and the devil betrayed me. I broke away and turned when I felt myself lose control. She grabbed me and spun me to face her and the second she saw my face, my real face, she screamed. And her scream was finally what drowned out the other screams in my head, because her pain, her fear, cut me to the bone. I leaped from her window and ran like the hounds of hell were after me.

And they were.

Darla was waiting for me when I arrived at my apartment. She told me to kill the Slayer, kill Buffy, and redeem myself in her eyes and the eyes of the Master. Seeing her again brought back so much. My demon came alive again, reaching out to her in a way that I was almost powerless to resist. Things happened that were out of my control: Darla attacked Buffyís mother, making it look as though I had done it, and then Buffy and I squared off. I wanted to die by her hand. I wanted her face to be the last thing I ever saw, but it didnít happen that way. I told her the truth about my past and instead of killing me, she laid her weapon down and bared her throat to me.

She believed in me.

And that was enough.

I killed Darla, my sire, to keep Buffy safe and later, when the wounds that I had received in the battle had healed, I went to the Slayer again. She walked toward me, through a sea of dancing bodies at the Bronze, and she paused, looking up at me. I searched her face, trying to find any way, any way at all of rationalizing how we could make it work. Instead, we said goodbye, but the goodbye kiss we shared proved to us that it was only the beginning. I tried to stay away, I needed to, but I knew that weíd find a way back to one another. Our lives had become two circles, entwined together, and she would come back. Or I would go to her. Always.

On a prayer, in a song
I hear your voice and it keeps me hanging on
Raining down, against the wind
I'm reaching out 'til we reach the circle's end
When you come back to me again

To say that we were able to keep our distance from one another would be a lie. Her Watcher discovered that she was fated to die at the Masterís hands and more than ever, I wanted to ignore my conscience and find a way to be with her. I wanted to take her away from the Hellmouth, pretend that she never had been called, and run with her until she was too old and gray to ever run again. But, I knew that I couldnít do that. And she did die. But, Buffy has never been one to let others dictate her life, so when her friend Xander performed CPR, she came back stronger and madder than ever. She destroyed the Master and the world went back to the way it had been before the Hellmouth had opened and he had come forth.

I watched her stand there, dressed for a party that she never got to go to, and I let myself go. I would never, ever fight what my heart was telling me again. I told her how beautiful she looked and held out my hand. She took it and that night, I held her against me and danced with her. She laid her head against my chest, but didnít seem bothered by the lack of a heartbeat. I didnít kiss her again that summer. She went to visit her father, and when she came back, that hollow look had returned to her face and she shunned me again. I couldnít understand why she was pushing me away, couldnít grasp what had happened over the summer to make her doubt us, but she was quick to point out that there was no "us", and said things that cut me to the core. I wanted so badly to take her in my arms, shelter her from whatever was causing her pain, but she was letting no one get close enough to touch her. I was terrified. I couldnít eat, I couldnít sleep, and all I could do was keep finding her, trying to get her to let me in.

I finally realized that her "death" had taken its toll on her both emotionally and physically. After she had died, she realized how fragile she was. She had all this enhanced strength, but really, sheís just as fallible as any mortal, but her mistakes can cost her her life. I was there for her when she finally broke down and cried. She poured her emotions out, clinging to me, telling me her greatest fears, her strongest weaknesses, and when I walked her home that night, I did kiss her, briefly and quickly. From then on, we were together almost daily. She talked to me about things that most girls would choose to keep private. She kept nothing from me, laying her life and her heart out on the line, and the fact that she trusted me with it only made me love her more. She believed in me, even though I had never spoken my love for her, she trusted me completely. Sure, she made me jealous a time or two and I got so mad at her a couple of times I couldnít see straight, but all in all, it was wonderful.

The arrival of Spike and Drusilla almost cost us both of our lives several times. Drusilla had become even more deranged than I remembered, and Spike blamed me for all of it. He tried to destroy the Slayer so many times, and Drusilla, without even trying, almost caused Buffy to walk out of my life for good. It was so hard for me to tell Buffy the things I had done to Drusilla. I donít know if it was Buffyís blind love for me or the fact that she fully comprehended the evil creature I once was, but whatever it was, she accepted that Spike and Dru were there and chose to stay by my side. We thwarted their attempts at destroying us, but then I was kidnapped by Spike, tortured by Dru, and used in a ritual that restored her to her full power. Buffy saved me, nursed me back to health, and we thought that Spike and Dru had both died in a fire.

We couldnít have been more wrong.

After I almost died, Buffy and I were closer than we had ever been. She nursed me back to health, kissing away the pain, massaging away the aches, and lifting my spirits with stories of her life and her school days. I knew, deep down, that it would only be a matter of time before we made love. Yes, I was much older than she was and I knew that she had never been with a man, but the heat between us, during those days that she cared for me, was almost palpable. There was a fire between us, a desperate longing to touch a little more deeply, taste a little more completely, and make the love that we felt between us real. She had already told me that she loved me, but I couldnít bring myself to say it back to her. It was a constant battle within me to have her and to push her away. I knew, so help me, I knew that I could hurt her so completely that it could kill her, and it was that knowledge, that held me back.

She began to have dreams, nightmares about Drusilla, and a Slayerís dreams are usually foretelling. Sure enough, Drusilla was alive and on Buffyís seventeenth birthday, we almost died side by side because of her. They had assembled the Judge, a demon that could burn the humanity of people and turn then into ash. He moved forward, ready to burn Buffy and I managed to drop some heavy piping and chains on him. Buffy and I made our escape, clinging to one another as we ran through freezing rain to my house. When we got there, Buffy was shaking so much that she could barely speak. I went to my closet and pulled out some clothing for her, telling her to put it on and climb under my covers. She looked so scared, so much like a little girl, that I was reminded once again of our age difference, even before I was turned. I looked away, giving her ample time to change, but I heard her hiss, taking a sharp breath in pain. I insisted that I look at the cut on her back. I sat down behind her, trailing the pad of my thumb over the already closing wound. Her skin was so soft, so warm and smooth and I was so grateful for her life that I felt a lump begin to form in my throat.

Buffy sobbed out, telling me that she almost lost me. Then she said that I was right, we canít know what the future holds, and I had to tell her, to show her, that my future was with her. I told her I loved her and that I had tried not to. She silenced me with a kiss, whispering that she couldnít help herself either, and then the kiss intensified. I heard her pulse quicken, felt her hands pushing me back toward the bed, and I tried to stop her, but she wouldnít hear of it. With trembling hands, she pushed me back, then lifted her shirt over her head, exposing her body to my gaze. Her face was scarlet as I drank in her firm little breasts with their rosy nipples. She made a move to cover herself, but I caught her hands, pushing her onto her back.

"Youíre beautiful," I whispered, sliding my hand over her stomach and up to capture her breast. Her heart slammed under my hand, and her whole body shook, but I knew that it wasnít the cold. Her body had already warmed under my touch. She was terrified.

"Angel, I- donítóIíve neveró" she told me, then looked away.

I tilted her chin and kissed her softly. "Are you sure you want to do this?"

She met my eyes, unblinking, and nodded. "I want you. Angel, please Ö please."

I couldnít have denied her even if her flesh had burned me. I moved slowly, slower than I ever had, tasting her, preparing her, loving her, and just before I entered her, I professed my love again. I captured her mouth and moved forward, taking away the only barrier that was left between us -- and her moans of pain soon gave way to pleasure as she relaxed. It was the first time I had ever made love. And it was to be the last.

Gypsy people are wise. They know how to inflect the most callous and painful tortures on people, and I wasnít going to be an exception. My life had started off wrong. As a boy, I was always in trouble, as a lad I was even worse, and as a demon I had been the scourge of Europe. In Buffyís arms, I became a real man for the first time in my entire existence, and the gypsy curse shattered that in an instant. One moment of pure contentment, one moment where I completely forgot the torment I had inflicted on others, and felt complete happiness, caused me to lose my soul and revert to form. To Angelus.

Spike and Drusilla welcomed me back with open arms. Buffy was no longer someone that I thought of with love, instead of thought of her with longing; the longing to destroy her, to bring her to her knees. The part of me that belonged to her, my soul, was gone. There wasnít one ounce of humanity left in me, only a drive to torment her. I wanted to make her crazy, make her behave like Drusilla, and then, when I was sure that she couldnít crumble any further, I was going to kill her. I didnít want to turn her, for her very presence reminded me of what she had forced me to think and feel, I simply wanted her dead.

But I wanted to make sure the road leading to her death was a rocky one.

The demon I became, Angelus, knew how hard it would be to kill him, because he still wore the face of the man she loved. He played that, worked it to his benefit, and almost succeeded. But Buffy, my determined Buffy, would not let him best her. He was cruel to her, pushing every button that he knew she had because he held my memories of her. He knew how to hurt her, he knew what would destroy her, but she held strong. It almost ended with her beheading me, but once again, fate stepped in and my curse was restored, my soul redelivered, but by then, it was too late. The things that Angelus had done didnít stop just because he was silenced, it took his blood to open Acathla and it would take my blood to close it. Our blood.

No matter how much Iíd like to deny it, or refer to him as someone else, he is inside of me and always will be.

I came back to myself, my mind as confused as a newborn baby. The only thing that I knew for sure was that Buffy was there, she was hurt, and I loved her so much that all I could do was cry and hold onto her. I couldnít understand the sadness on her face, I couldnít remember what had happened to cause her to hesitate before stepping into my arms, and all I could do was cling to her, kiss her, tell her I love her. She cried, her whole body limp in my arms and all I wanted to do was hold her forever, chase away whatever was hurting her. She stepped back, whispered for me to close my eyes, and then she stabbed me through the stomach.

I reached out to her, not even angered, but in shock. Why? Why would Buffy forsaken me after all we had been through. What had I done to her? I watched her take a step back, her eyes huge in her face and then she vanished and I realized that I was in Hell. Quite literally. For what felt like hundreds of years, I relived the things that I had done to her when I lost my soul. I was left alone, with only her voice, her sobs, and her pain. And her pain was so real that I slowly began to go crazy from it all. Just when I thought that I couldnít take another second, I was back on earth. I donít know how, donít know why it happened the way it did, but I was back in Sunnydale. My first cohesive thought is kneeling at her feet, with my arms wrapped around her waist, repeating her name a million times. She didnít stroke me, didnít console me, and I didnít have to wait long to remember why.

There's a moment we all come to
In our own time and our own space
Where all that we've done, we can undo
If our heart's in the right place

Our roles went back to that of patient and nurse. She visited me daily, bringing me food, seeing about my wounds, but there was no laughter like before, no real eye contact. She was thorough and effective when she dressed my cuts and scrapes, saw to it that my clothing was clean and that my house was picked up, but the closeness that we had once shared had been snuffed out completely. I wanted to go down on my knees and beg her forgiveness, beg her to take me back, tell her that I still loved her, but I let her set the tone and kept my distance. Slowly, we began to talk more. What had felt like years to me had only been months of her time, but time had definitely taken its toll on both of us. She told me she had a new boyfriend, and heart shattered. Could that be true? Could she have forgotten all we had?

I was a selfish bastard. Despite everything I had done to her, she took care of me and I was still angry with her. I had put her through hell on earth, but I still had the gall to believe that she had done an injustice to what we had by finding someone else. When she decided that I was well enough, she told me that she wouldnít be coming back to care for me. Being without her was nothing short of miserable. I felt like I had no place in her life anymore, like I was a hindrance, and then the nightmares started. Jenny Calendar, telling me to kill Buffy, to lose my soul in her, to hurt her. And no matter how hard I tried not to be, I was tempted. I wanted to die.

On Christmas morning, I walked to a hill behind my house that looked out over the sleeping city and I waited for sunrise, just as I had done all those years back when my soul had first been restored. I could feel it, the unease in my stomach, the tingling in my hands, and I knew that this time I would be strong. The coward in me was still there, but this time, the man was stronger. The demon in me was there, raging, trying to drive me to shelter, but the man that Buffy had helped me to become was stronger. I stood there, crying, waiting, thinking of her perfect face, her perfect love, and then she was there.

I begged her to let me be strong. I pleaded with her to go inside, to let me burn in peace, and for her to go on with her life. She stood her ground though, ever the same strong spirit. Even when I knocked her to the ground and gripped the collar of her jacket, trying to make her see what I was, she held on. She told me she loved me, that she wanted to wish me dead, but couldnít. I wanted to fall with her to the ground, make love to her, hold onto her like a lifeline, but my mind was made up. The first rays of morning began to dawn and I let her go, turning away. Then, just when I was convinced that she was mad enough at me to leave, it began to snow. It snowed in Southern California. Not just a little dusting over the grass. It snowed so much that the sun didnít peek through the clouds once that day and I got to spend Christmas Day, for the first time in over two-hundred years, outside. With Buffyís hand in mine.

And again I see my yesterday's in front of me
Unfolding like a mystery
You're changing all that is and used to be

I should have known by then that nothing is as it ever seems and I canít tempt fate, no matter how much devilment is in my veins. I always get burned. Buffy and I fell back into a routine, one that rivaled the life we had before we made love. I couldnít touch her intimately again, but I came up with a million and one ways to express my love to her, hoping that my actions and words could fill the void of the lack of a physical relationship. For a while, I think it worked. She began to tell me things again, talking to me as a confidante, a best friend, and an equal. We patrolled together, laughing, basking in the miracle that was our love.

I became too complacent, too secure and too caught up in the moment to contemplate her future.

It took the words of the Mayor, a demon who was waiting for his ascension, to bring it all home to me. What I was expecting of Buffy was for her to go through her entire life and not know the touch of a man. She couldnít know my touch, and by keeping her with me, I was denying her the touch of anyone else. I expected her to live the rest of her life with just a memory of how wonderful making love could be. I was expecting that memory to keep her warm when I couldnít, sated when I couldnít, and faithful, when I couldnít. I was denying her the very life she had often expressed a longing for. A normal life. A normal life with movies, phone calls, dates, and most of all, the daylight. I had not forgotten how beautiful she looked the first time I saw her. She was bathed in sunlight and I had to hide behind tinted windows and the visor to keep from being touched by the rays. Who was I to force her into darkness? My love could not possibly allow her to grow, to become the young woman that I saw emerging from the child that day she was called. I could only hold her back, keep her a prisoner of her own fate, and I would not do that to her.

But I didnít want to admit it to myself. I asked for a sign, some kind of Ė indicationóof what I should do.

And her mother knocked on my front door.

And that was that. She told me what I had been too afraid to really admit to myself.

Buffy couldnít make the choices because she was blinded by her love for me. It was up to me to do what was right for her and to walk away. I told her in the sewers, after we had patrolled together. I took the very heart that she had placed in the palm of my hand, and I squeezed it until she accepted what I had to say. I said mean things, hateful things that should never have been said, but I had to make her see. Then, I gave her heart back to her and told her to find someone else.

I couldnít say goodbye to her. Even after she gave me the ultimate sacrifice, her lifeís blood to save my own life, there was no way I could form the words. I helped her one last time, defeating the Mayor, and then I stood back watching her through the smoke. Her high school lay in a crumbled ruin to our left, and the flash of firetrucks and ambulances was almost blinding. Then, like some kind of dream, her eyes found mine and held. I was a few feet away, but I could read her like a book. Her heart tugged at mine, begging me to come to her. I could almost hear her pleading with me, telling me all the reasons I could stay, why I should stay, but I held my ground. I wasnít weak anymore.

I watched her for what seemed like hours, trying to convey what I was feeling. Please be careful without me, Buffy. Watch your back. Take care of yourself. Donít forget to talk to people. Donít keep your feelings inside. I love you, Buffy. Iíll miss you every second, every day. Please, please donít forget me.

When her eyes clouded with tears, I knew that it was then or never.

I took one last look, drinking her in from head to toe, and I turned and walked away.

She may as well have been right beside me for the entire drive to Los Angeles, because I felt her there as strongly as if she had passed away and her spirit was haunting me. So much has happened since that fateful day. Since she graduated, since I left town. It hurts too much to rehash it all. Letís just say I got a taste of what my life could have been like if I was human and she was here with me. I got a taste of that different world that I longed for when I laid beside her bed that night, before she knew I was a vampire. Letís just say, I held her in my arms and my heart beat against hers for what felt like forever, but was actually only a short span of mortal time.

And letís just say that itís the memory of that time, that time when I was human, that keeps me hanging on.

Iíve lost a lot in my time. My life, my soul, my love, my friends, but what I stand to gain is worth the struggle. That Christmas morning when I wanted to die because I didnít know my purpose has come and gone. Now I know my purpose and I know my payoff. I will be human one day. And just like the many times before, the circles of mine and Buffyís lives will reconnect, and this time, we wonít let those circles be broken. I think Iím halfway there, halfway toward finding my place, my peace. And when I reach the end of my circle, and step from this demon world, Iíll take Buffyís hand in mine, look into her eyes, and let her know that the man she created Ö is finally home.

And sheíll come back to me again.

On a prayer, in a song
I hear your voice and it keeps me hanging on
Raining down, against the wind
I'm reaching out 'til we reach the circle's end
When you come back to me again

The End

Read Buffy's piece, 'Whenever I Remember'

Or go back to Buffy/Angel fic