We Meet Again
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Weíre six months into what some people like to call a new Millennium. Thatís not true. The actual Millennium starts in 2001, but who can blame people for making a big deal out of nothing. Mortals are like that.
I am sitting inside a fancy restaurant waiting patiently for Cordelia to get here so she can introduce me to her latest beau. He is an executive who happens to be about twenty years older than she is. She asked me if I thought that was too old and I simply stared at her, wondering if she realized that I was two hundred and twenty years older than Buffy. Give or take a few. Iím not exactly in a position to present an unbiased opinion about the matter.
Preparing for Cordelia and her Ďdatesí always means that I have to drink my edge away. Sheís made it pretty clear by now that I am to arrive at the restaurant at least an hour early and drink. Steadily. So, thatís how I happen to be here when Buffy walks in. Iím about three sheets to the wind and I hear her laughter, tinkling like china, as some boy opens a door for her. She steps in and wraps an arm around his waist and I swallow hard.
This canít be good.
An older man steps in behind them and I figure itís her father. I can hear him say that they have a reservation for Summers and then some anxious waiter leads them to a table. I can see the way the waiter eyes Buffy up and down and Iím tempted to stick out my foot to trip him. I lift a menu as she sails past me and the same perfume she always wore lingers on the air, threatening to take me back to a place and time I could never be drunk enough to survive again. At the table, the waiter, her father and the boy all reach to pull her chair out and she giggles a little before she takes a seat. And of course, it still effects me to no end.
She looks good. Her hair is all put up and sheís wearing a long dress with thin straps that reminds me of the shirt she wore the first time we made love. From where I am sitting, I can hear their conversation and just make out her profile since she almost has her back to me. The boy orders wine, her father orders scotch on the rocks and Buffy asks for a coke. Sheís polite and sheís very aware of the waiterís gaze on her. So it her date, who keeps an eye on the boy until he turns and walks away.
I smile when she makes a big deal about the fact that she actually has a license now. Sheís animated when she talks, her hands flutter all over the place and sheís still just as beautiful as a dream. There are candles lit all over the place and her skin is a deep tan color. Summer has been kind to her. I watch her run her fingers over her hair and excuse herself and I quickly pull the menu back up to hide my face.
Thereís her perfume again. She walks right past me and I have to fight myself to keep from reaching out and taking her hand. When I know sheís gone, I glance back at the table and listen to what the men are talking about.
"So, Riley," Mr. Summers leans across the table and watches the boy intently. "Buffy tells me that youíre a grad student at the University and youíre majoring in psychology?"
"Yes, sir." Riley, what kind of name is that, grins at him and nods. "Psychology has always been interesting to me and UC-Sunnydale has an impressive course."
"So, you want to what? Be a doctor?"
"I want to be a child psychologist. Iíve always wanted to work with children and make a difference in their lives." The boy changes his position in his chair and stands up. I realize that Buffy is coming back and look the other way until she gets past me. Then I glance back and see that this guy apparently has good manners because he doesnít sit until she does and he has guided her chair back under the table.
Mr. Summers turns his attention toward Buffy and says, "How are you enjoying your break from school?"
"Iím not taking a break." She replies, putting her napkin in her lap. "I want to get a head start on credits and knock out a couple of the harder classes so I wonít have to tackle those next semester."
"I didnít know that." Her dad shakes his head and takes his drink from the waiter, who is now asking what they want for dinner.
They say theyíre waiting for someone else before they order and then start talking again. The subjects roam from school to vehicles and then back to the boy, who says he is from Iowa. Heís teaching a summer class so he stayed in Sunnydale. Iím sure thatís not the only reason. From where Iím sitting I can see Buffy pat his leg reassuringly and he laces his fingers through hers under the table.
I order another drink.
The man tells Riley to call him Hank and then tells a few stories about Buffyís childhood and they laugh. Buffy blushes prettily and denies almost everything her father tells about her. It takes me a second to realize that Iím watching something that I often dreamed of participating in. I wanted to be the man next to her, listening to her parents dote on her, laughing at the tales, and most of all, have her next to me through it all.
But itís not that way. For a while, I fooled myself into believing it was destined, but it isnít and it never can be.
So, I find my gaze wondering to the young man who is living my dream. Heís big. His shoulders are broad, his arms look strong and he does not seem intimidated by Hank Summers. His hair is light. Itís not as light as hers but it has been sun kissed, something that makes me suddenly picture them picnicking in a park someplace, the sun shining warmly on their lunch. He speaks about topics such as politics and overseas trade with insight, which makes me think he pays attention to the world around him. Iím impressed and I can see that Hank Summers is as well, because he says something about finally meeting a young man of Buffyís with his head on straight.
I canít help the surge of jealousy that rushes through me at the implication that he has met other boys that Buffy has dated. And that this Riley Finn is Ďher young man.í I know I have no right. I left her for this. I left her for this normalcy, this dinner with her father with a man who can taste the food. I have no right, but I do it. I cringe when she touches him. I stiffen when I see his hand on her knee and I twist and turn inside when she brushes his hair off his forehead and kisses his cheek.
I canít do this. Iíd rather survive a thousand years in Hell again than this. I move out of my seat and walk around a large flower arrangement, heading for the door. Iím in the process of paying my bill when Cordelia walks in and grabs my arm. I try so hard to mumble something that resembles a feasible excuse, but she grips me in a massive hug and tells me how good it is to have me there. I hug her a little and pat her back, eyeing Buffyís table cautiously.
Cordy loops her arm through mine and says, "Iíve told him that you are my boss and best friend, so it isnít a stretch. He thinks you are twenty-eight and from a long line of detectives. He doesnít need to know that if that were true, the line would be dead with your generation since you killed everyone."
Iím used to her ability to say the most inappropriate thing possible, but with Buffy only a few feet from me, itís hard to take. "I donít think I should stay. I forgot that I haveó"
"Angel, you have to stay." She squeezes my arms and her eyes grow round. "He has family members meeting him here and I canít face that alone. I have no other family except you."
Dammit. That hits me in the gut and I canít help but smile at her and give in. If Buffy sees me, she sees me. I canít let Cordy down when she has given so much of herself to me in the past few months. I swallow, wishing I could have had more to drink and follow her to the podium to request a table.
Cordy clears her throat and smiles sweetly at the hostess. "Hello. My party had reservations. Summers. Howard Summers."
My stomach suddenly twists and my knees feel weak. Howard ĎHankí Summers is the man that she wants me to meet. And in doing so, I will have to meet Buffy and her boyfriend face to face. I have two options. Run or run faster. I turn to go, but Cordyís hand latches onto me and she begins walking rapidly.
I find myself pulled along and my eyes fix on Buffyís back. It feels like my vision has tunneled onto nothing but her. As we draw closer, I see her profile and watch her sit her glass on the table slowly. She swallows and exhales a little and I know that she is aware of my approach. Iím actually surprised that she didnít pick out the vampire in the room right off the bat. I see her eyes close briefly and she lowers her head like sheís saying a prayer and then her gaze finds me, her eyes lock on mine and I want to stake myself.
The look she gives me screams how unwelcome I am.
Hank Summers stands and embraces Cordelia and Buffy looks away from me at the woman her father is greeting. Then Hank turns Cordelia to face Buffy and both girls look like mirror images, one dark, one light, but both too stunned to control their jaw muscles. Mouths agape, they both point and say, "You!"
Buffy is able to form a complete sentence first and she stands. "Cordelia Chase, what in the hell do you think you are doing with my father?"
"Oh, eww! Your father? Do you think I would date anyone who possesses genes to create a Sla-- er Ö slut?"
"Stop that!" Hank looks from one to the other and intervenes as Buffy starts toward Cordelia with clenched fists. "I take it you two know one another?"
"Know her?" Buffy sneers. "I went to school with her where she made me miserable on a daily basis.""
"You were Buffyís teacher?" Hank asks, searching Cordyís face.
"Teacher?" Buffy exclaims, putting a hand over her mouth. "Sheís my age, dad. She was my peer. Only, not mentally."
Now itís Hankís turn to look perplexed and he stares at Cordelia. "You told me you were twenty-six."
"Oops? I thought you knew." Cordy smiles weakly.
Riley clears his throat and gets to his feet, putting a hand on Buffyís shoulder. I watch him reach around her and extend a hand toward Cordelia. "Hello, Iím Riley Finn."
Cordy takes it and nods. "Cordelia Chase and this is my boss, Angel."
The boy turns to me and smiles, then his smile fades and he pulls his hand away before I can shake it. He takes a step back and Buffy looks at me again, telling me what I already know with her eyes. Riley knows all about her vampire lover. He knows all about the man named Angel who promised her he would never leave her and did. My gaze travels back to him and I take in the firm set of his jaw and his glare tells me that he also knows that I am responsible for the scar on Buffyís neck, the one she is massaging right now.
It takes me several seconds to notice Hankís hand in front of me and I shake it firmly, forcing myself to tell him how nice it is to meet him. He looks as bad as I feel and motions us to sit down. "Well, this is certainly not the way I had planned this. Letís all just have a seat."
"Thatís what happens when you rob the cradle." Buffy announces, her tone sharp and she drops into her chair. Riley moves to sit beside her, smoothing his tie as he does so.
"You should talk." Cordelia growls, crossing her arms over her chest. "You wrote the book on older men."
Hank stares at Buffy. "Older men?"
Buffy shakes her head and looks away, clearly not about to engage in that topic. Her attention turns to her boyfriend and she says something about leaving. Riley nods and pulls her chair out for her, but Hank points his finger at her, telling her to stay put. I tune them out and stare at Riley, who is watching me with a look on his face that makes me think of that old saying, Ďif looks could killí. I donít have to imagine whatís going on in his head.
I should probably look away, but thereís a part of me that wants to let him know loud and clear that he doesnít intimidate me. Sure, he has her now, but that doesnít erase what we had. He cocks one of his eyebrows and I cock mine. Iím baiting him. I know thatís what Iím doing. Even as I feel the right side of my mouth draw up in a smirk, I know that Iím doing it deliberately. Buffy is preoccupied with informing his father that Cordelia is a gold digger and she doesnít notice. I lick my lips and let my eyes wash over Buffy, lingering on her chest, knowing that heís watching my everyone move.
The boy blinks and lays his hand on Buffyís shoulder, telling her to calm down when her voice rises. I tell myself that he had to break the eye contact, not that heís concerned about her demeanor. I should be ashamed of myself for enjoying his discomfort. I know I should be. I left her for this and itís my fault that heís here, but damn, seeing him grind his jaw and look ready to leap up and hit me is so refreshing. Thatís the only word I can think of. Refreshing. He may be able to go into the sun and he may be able to make love to h Ö okay, now I donít feel guilty anymore. Bastard.
Buffyís soft sobbing suddenly breaks through my resolve to annoy him and I instinctively lean toward her and take her hand, "Buffy, donít."
Cordelia jumps up and storms away and Hank follows her, oblivious to his daughterís pain, but I feel it enough for them both. I almost expect Buffy to shove me away, but she reaches her arms around my neck and clings to me. So help me, I smile at what is supposed to be my replacement over her shoulder, and I wink.
To his credit, he doesnít yank her out of my arms and he doesnít scream at her. He tosses his napkin on the table and stands. "Buffy?"
She sniffles against me and leans back, her eyes finding mine. She pales and jerks away like she has been burned, almost knocking her chair over as she jumps to her feet. I watch her as she covers her mouth and glances up at Riley. "Oh, god, Riley, I-I thoughtóI didnító"
He says nothing, simply grabs her jacket and holds it up to her. With him towering over her, I get nervous. I am afraid he will take out his anger at me on her. I stand as well and glance down at her. "Are you okay?"
She doesnít meet my eyes and nods quickly. "Could you tell my dad that we left. And tell him not to call me. Ever again."
Itís Rileyís turn to smile at me. As Buffy stalks toward the door, he pauses beside me and stares me up and down. Heís maybe and inch taller than me and I straighten my shoulders, not about to be intimidated. He opens his mouth, like he wants to say something, then he shakes his head and follows her, glancing back at me as he wraps her in a tight embrace. He winks at me this time and then theyíre gone.
I sit back down and stare at the empty chairs. Part of me wants to go after her, to tell her that I love her and to scream at her for even thinking about moving on. Iím selfish. I am selfish and I am a coward because I stay in my seat. I donít think I could survive it if she told me off in front of him.
I order another drink, a double shot of whiskey and then I just buy the whole bottle.
And I go home.
I avoid my kitchen when I walk down into my apartment. Way too many memories there and I also avoid the bedroom. The liquor has got me feeling a little woozy and, as I stagger toward my sofa, I bump into the punching bag that hangs from the ceiling. I shove it away from me and it comes back. Suddenly itís him. Itís Riley Finn with his piercing blue eyes and tight jaw that begs to be broken. Itís Riley Finn with his light, untamed hair and broad shoulders.
I throw my bottle of Jack Daniels against the wall and I hit the bag. I hit Riley and in my mindís eye, I can hear him begging me to stop. Begging me not to kill him. I play out this conversation where I tell him that he has no right to touch whatís mine and he comes back by telling me that I left her. Itís my fault. Then itís not Riley that I am warring with. Itís my conscience and my soul and the pain. I kick the bag as hard as I can and punch until my knuckles bleed.
How dare it hurt this much!
I hear her voice scream at me. I hear it, but I assume itís just another cruel joke at my expense. I hit the bag again, driving my fist through the thick fabric and it shatters, spilling the bean filling all over the floor and peeling the skin away from my hand. "Dammit!"
"Angel, are you okay?" I hear heels clacking and turn to see Buffy coming down the stairs into my apartment. He hair is down now, curling around her shoulders and curving over the swells of her breasts. She pauses, drops her purse and rushes to me, gathering my hand in hers. "What did you do?"
I canít seem to remember what I did. I stare at her face, watch her cringe when she applies pressure to the gash, and I canít remember anything except the taste of her lips. She glances up at me, her eyes swollen from crying, and reality hits me. "What are you doing here?"
She shakes her head and says, "Whereís your bathroom? We need to get this cleaned up."
I pull my hand away and glance at it. It does look bad. I pull off my shirt and wrap it around it instead of letting her tend to it though. I donít think I can take that. "Itís fine. What are you doing here?"
She sighs, glances at the blood on her hands and turns to go into the kitchen. I wonder if she realizes how good it is to see her here again. No, she canít realize that. She doesnít know. I follow her and hand her a towel when she has finished washing my blood off her hands. She takes it and scrubs at her hands, a little too vigorously. "Buffy?"
Her silence is very unnerving and the way she is studying her hands is even worse. Finally, she lays the towel aside, but she keeps staring at her hands. "Your blood washed off of me, Angel. But no matter what I do, no matter how I try, I canít wash you out of me. Iíve tried to cry you out and youíre always there." Buffy looks up at me and I get to see how red and angry her face is. "You donít have a right to still be there!"
"I know." My voice is barely above a whisper and I nod at her and repeat it. "I know."
"If you know then make me hate you! Make me hate you so I can leave you!" Her lips tremble and I take a step toward her.
"Is that what you need? You need me to lie to you, hurt you?"
"Youíve hurt me enough. You brought me to life and killed me so many times that I do hate you!" She yells it at me and then her eyes widen and she gasps. "I donít mean that."
"Itís okay. Get it out, Buffy. Scream at me if thatís what you need."
"What I need? I need you." She flings herself into my arms and buries her face against my bare chest. "I canít hate you. I never could. Even when it hurt so bad I couldnít breath, I never stopped needing you."
"Shh." I donít know what to say. I canít say anything at all. The feel of her body pressed flush against mine is too powerful. Itís speaking for us so the silence is not uncomfortable. I cling to her, burying my face in the top of her hair. Itís soft, just like she is, just like she always has been.
I hear her sniffling and grab a paper towel. As she takes it, I step back and lean against the sink, crossing my arms. If I donít do something with them, theyíll go around her again and I wonít be able to stop myself. Iíll lift her up, take her to bed, and wash away every ounce of her pain with our sweat. And I could too. She doesnít know that my soul is permanent. She doesnít know that the Oracles thought so much of my character that they didnít curse me, they simply returned my soul forever when they changed me back into a vampire.
"Youíre pathetic." She tells me suddenly, pulling me from my thoughts. "My soul mate has lived over two hundred years and has had a million life experiences and Iíve only had a handful. That makes it ridiculous that I am the only one with the sense to realize that it can work with us. So, you go ahead and stand there with nothing to say and nothing to do and Iíll walk out on you the same way you did me."
For a second, Iím too stunned by her words to move, then she brushes past me and I catch her around the waist. She struggles against me, trying to break loose, but I slam her into the refrigerator and pin her hands. Iím so angry. Angry with her, angry at fate and angry at Ėhim-. "At least Iím not the one living a lie with a life-size Ken doll."
"You donít know a thing about Riley. Heís the reason Iím here. We fought, Angel, about you and everything he said was true. I am still in love with you." She struggles briefly and then stops and glares up at me. "And I was living the lie that you convinced me I needed."
"Did you sleep with him?" I have no right to ask it, but there it is.
Her eyes widen and then narrow. "Yes. I slept with him! Donít you remember telling me that I needed a man who could make love to me? You made it seem so damned important to a working relationship that I rushed right into it. Isnít that what you wanted? Isnít that normal?"
She struggles again and I lean my lower body against hers, pressing against her groin. "I thought thatís what I wanted until I saw that he was real. When he didnít have a face, it was better."
"And thatís my fault?" Buffy snaps, but relaxes against me.
"Itís no oneís fault." I say and let go of her wrists. I donít move away though, I canít. "Itís just the way it is."
"I donít want it the way it is." Her eyes roam my chest and I feel her run her foot up the outside of my leg. "I want it how it can never be."
Itís the Ďcan never beí part that does me in. I plunge my hands into her hair and kiss her. I taste her lips, her tongue and feel her breath against my face. I want to show her that it can be and beg her to let it be. For her, for me, for our past. My hands go around her waist and I lift her up and she wraps her legs around me. God, sheís so light, so tiny in my arms and yet so much of everything I need. It dawns on me that it happened this same way last time, but I donít lie her back on the table. It would only break again anyway. Iím not a great repairman and I didnít have the heart to throw it away. Instead, I carry her to the bed and sit on the edge, with her in my lap and her legs still around me.
Her hands are in my hair, holding me to her and I feel her tears run over our joined lips. I pull back, tasting the salt and shake my head at her. "Donít. Baby, please donít cry."
She glances at the bed and starts to stand. "We canít, Angel. You shouldnít have brought me in here."
I wonít let her go. I hold her around the waist and kiss her neck. "We can. I canít tell you how or why right now, Buffy. But there is no curse on me anymore. I can make love to you."
"Shh, it doesnít matter."
"How long have you known?"
"Itís not important." I tell her, even though I know that to her, itís probably the most important thing she has ever asked.
"How can you be sure?"
I sigh and look up at her. "Do you honestly think I would risk it if I wasnít?"
She shakes her head no and I move to kiss her again, but she pushes me away and gives me a look. "You promise youíll tell me?"
"Yes." And I will tell her. I will tell her about becoming human and how good it felt to think that I had a chance at a life with her. I will tell her how I gave it all back and clung to her as the clock counted down the final seconds of every dream we had ever shared. But for now, for now, I have to show her.
I silence her with a kiss and slide the zipper on the back of her dress down. The material is smooth, silky, and the softest thing Iíve felt in a long time. Then I slide the straps down, exposing her flesh, and forget about her dress. Sheís softer. I push the straps down, past her elbows, and watch as she pulls her arms free. Her breasts are confined in a strapless bra and I quickly unhinge the front clasp and watch, mesmerized, as it pops open and she spills out of it.
Her breathing has gotten faster now and I can feel her heart thumping against her chest when I lower my head and tug one of her nipples into my mouth. She smells like vanilla and baby powder and her skin is sweet. I work her flesh with my tongue until it is a taut bud and then move to the other.
She moans my name and stands up. I want to protest, but she smiles at me and lets her dress drop around her ankles. Her panties are white and lacy and I can see her dark hair through the front of them. Saying nothing, I hook my fingers on the waistband and slide them over her slim hips and down her toned thighs. I have to lean forward to shove them to the floor, and as I start to sit back up, I find myself at eye level with her sex. I stroke her leg and place a light kiss on her course curls, then slip a hand between her legs, urging her to open them. Buffy complies and I grin up at her before I slip off the bed and kneel in front of her.
I tease her unmercifully, just kissing her enough to make her beg for more, but not enough to do her in. Finally, after a few minutes, she drags me to my feet and unbuckles my belt. I kick off my shoes and find myself shoved backwards on the bed and she is tugging my pants off. Then sheís moving over me and I have to stop her from impaling herself on my cock. I donít want it this way. I flip us and stare down at her face. "Buffy, I love you."
"I know." She kisses me softly and her eyes well with tears again. "I love you too."
I catch the wetness with my thumb and slide into her, slowly burying myself inside of her. For a few seconds, neither of us move and neither of us blink, then she slides her hands over my back and presses her hips up against mine. I pull back and move a hand between us, caressing her as she caresses me and I feel her tighten around me, and her back arches up as she comes. Satisfied, I kiss her neck, her mouth, her nose and make love to her the way I have dreamed about for years.
Sheís so responsive, every thrust, every brush of my hand or nip with my mouth causes her to moan out or hiss my name. And her voice is deeper, huskier than I can remember ever hearing it. I take my time, enjoying her warmth and wetness, not in any hurry to join her in climax yet. Sheís beautiful beneath me, with her hair fanned across the pillow, her forehead shiny with sweat and her skin flushed with passion. I could stay like this forever, never needing anything more.
Buffy sees me watching her and leers at me and I find myself under her before I even have a chance to realize that she tosses me. I am about to tell her that wasnít fair when she impales herself on me and rakes her nails across my chest. If I thought she was beautiful under me, on top of me she is that times ten. Her hair is longer than she has ever worn it and it conceals the swell of her breasts, but I find myself drawn to her nipples since they peek through every time she shifts a certain way.
My fingers skim over her breasts and down her stomach, pausing at her belly button to trace the perfectly round hole. Her eyes meet mine again and I lower my hand, using my thumb to massage her clit like I had done moments before. I watch as she tosses her head back and increase the pressure. She comes fast and stops moving and I take the opportunity to sit up and pull her against me. Weíre still joined and she pulls her legs from behind her and slides them around me again. It drives me deeper and I grip her hips, lifting her and slamming her down on me once, twice, three times and I explode.
Then I cradle her and make a vow to myself never to let her go again.
Buffy is sleeping beside me and I am spooned against her back. My hand, freshly bandaged at her insistence, is on her stomach, rising and falling with her chest. Every time her breathing hitches from her earlier sobs, I kiss her shoulder and pull her closer, mumbling that I love her in her ear. I thought I had seen her cry the hardest when I went back and had the Oracles turn me, but that was nothing compared to the way she cried when I kept my word and explained about the day that time took back.
It was horrible. Worse than the many times I have relived it in my head. She was inconsolable, berating me for making all the choices again. She screamed at me for not telling her afterwards, when she had forgotten our day, that I could make love to her again. I explained it the best I could, told her that I was a fool and that I was sorry and after a while, she let me hold her again.
She let me make love to her over and over, let my own tears wash hers away, and finally, she sleeps. I will be here when she wakes up. I will answer any question she asks and love her when the answers hurt her. It took meeting her again, meeting her under the circumstances that I had pushed onto her, to make me see it clearly.
But I see it now.
I see a future filled with demons, filled with the paranormal and filled with Buffy.
And those three things go together for me and for her. I was wrong to choose for her. I was wrong to leave her and most of all, I was wrong not to follow my heart and believe in what we have. I lied to her when I told her what she needed wasnít me. Iíll never lie to her again. No matter what happens next, I will be there.
We are six months into what some people call the new Millennium and I am one day into what I call forever.