Author: Dark Star
Website: Dark Star's Portal
Summary: Who can save the Slayer?
Disclaimer: Joss Whedon is creator and owner of all things Angel
Timeline: Set during Buffy’s Season 3
Rating: PG 13
Angel gestured toward the left hand tunnel. “Down there.”
He led the way through the tunnels, his vampire senses tuned into the trail of blood left by the O’hklas demon. Buffy followed, keeping watch for any indication that they might have missed it.
The tunnel began curving upwards, and Angel started to get an uncomfortable feeling. As he suspected, the tunnel led up to an open patch of daylight, where he paused.
“I can’t go any further, Buffy.” He turned to her. “We’d better get back, tell Giles what we’ve seen.”
“I can go on,” Buffy said. “I’ll meet you back at the mansion.”
She moved past him, and he caught her arm. “Buffy….” she turned back to him. “Don’t go alone.”
She smiled, reaching up to kiss him.
“Don’t worry, Angel. I’ll be okay.”
Angel knew he couldn’t stop her, so he added reluctantly, “Be careful.”
Buffy smiled again, her fingers briefly interlocking with his; then she turned and climbed into the sunshine.
Angel watched her helplessly. He hated that sometimes she had to go on without him, face the danger alone. All he could do now was wait.
* * * *
For endless hours Angel restlessly paced the floor of his mansion; there had been no word from Buffy and he was very worried. The sudden ringing of the phone startled him; he grabbed it, hoping it was Buffy.
“Angel, it’s Giles,” a man’s voice said instantly, and Angel knew something was up. “Buffy’s disappeared.”
As Giles filled Angel in on the story, it appeared that no one had seen her since she’d left him in the tunnels. Giles and the gang had gone looking for her, but found no trace.
“It’ll be dark soon,” Angel told him. “I’ll go and look for her.”
* * * *
Angel started his search at the point that Buffy had left him. He could still smell the demon’s blood, though it was fainter. The trail led him through the woods, when a second blood scent assailed his senses…human…hers.
Her blood led off in one direction and the O’hklas’s in another. No longer interested in the demon, Angel followed the trail of human blood. There was something odd about her blood though, and as he followed, he realised what it was. The scent of the O’hklas’s blood was growing stronger, and it was mixed with hers.
Damn, that meant that she was infected, and Angel grew even more worried. He followed the trail down a bank, she was close, of that Angel was certain. Then he saw her, curled into a tight ball beneath the trees.
Her head snapped up and he was startled by the hatred in her eyes. He took an involuntary step back, just as she hurled herself at him with a shriek. She landed directly on his chest, overbalancing him, her nails clawing for his face. His vampire side surfaced instantly as he grappled with her; trying to restrain but not hurt her.
She had no such restrictions, however. Completely out of control, she was like a snarling animal, trying to sink her teeth and nails into his skin. Her Slayer strength made it hard for Angel to control her; eventually he had no choice and he had to stop her in the only way he could, by hitting her squarely on the jaw. She slid into a heap at his feet.
“Sorry,” he murmured to her unconscious form as he gently picked her up and carried her back to the mansion. It occurred to him that she would probably be pretty mad with him later…
After he’d chained her up securely, he rang Giles and told him what had happened. Giles promised to try and find a cure and Angel returned to Buffy. Her arms were covered with cuts and scratches and he cleaned and dressed them as best he could. She was still unconscious and he went to fetch blankets and pillows to make her more comfortable.
He wanted to keep busy, and then he wouldn’t have to think about what was happening to her. Finally, though, there was nothing left he could do. He placed a gentle kiss on her forehead, and then settled down next to her to wait.
Over the next few hours, Buffy’s condition worsened. She stopped raging and for the most part just lay still; her eyes open but not seeing.
Angel had long since relocated her to his bed, now she was no longer dangerous. He knew she was in pain, and he had no idea how to help her. Every so often the pain flared up and he would hold her, try to soothe her, until the spasm passed.
He knew that she was losing her fight, and was growing weaker. Eventually there came a point when she didn’t react to him, didn’t seem to feel anything, not even pain. Her eyes, usually so vibrant, held nothing at all.
Angel rang Giles to break the news. He could sense that she didn’t have very long left and if Giles had any kind of a plan, they would have to use it now.
* * * *
Giles and Willow swiftly arrived at Angel’s mansion. The expression on their faces told Angel that the news wasn’t good.
“There are very few references to this kind of infection, Angel. In every case the outcome has been the same,” Giles said, gravely.
“And that is?”
“The victim died.”
“So what do you have in mind?” Angel asked. “You’ve brought Willow, so I’m guessing there’s a spell of some kind?”
“Perhaps,” Giles replied cautiously. “We think that she’s lost somewhere on the astral plane. We want to send someone in after her.”
“I wanted to go, best friend and all that. But her best chance lies with a blood relative or a lo…well, you know, someone who loves her,” Willow finished, embarrassed
“What do I have to do?” Angel asked, relieved to finally have something to do.
The spell was simple, but powerful. Angel laid Buffy gently on the floor and sat down next to her, holding her hand. Willow sat next to him, she was to be his anchor to this world, and Giles sat between her and Buffy, completing the circle
Giles instructed them to link hands, to strengthen the magic of the circle. “Are you ready, Angel?”
“Yes.” He was impatient to start; worried that Buffy was facing danger or that she would die if they left it too long.
Giles began the chant, and they could all feel the energy flowing through the circle.
Angel tried to calm himself, to open up to the power of the magic; ‘Hang on, Buffy,’ he thought to himself. One thing he was sure of, though. He wasn’t coming back without her.
The power of the spell grew. Angel closed his eyes as dizziness swept over him; when he opened them, he was standing in a cold swirling mist. He took a tentative step forward, straight into the sunlight.
Panicking, he cast around for shelter, for any kind of cover; but there was none. Finally, it filtered through his terror that if the sun was going to destroy him, he would already be toast and he forced himself to calm down.
‘This isn’t real,’ he told himself, looking around.
He stood on a beautiful beach. The air felt warm and the sea looked impossibly blue. He could feel the heat of the golden sand; frowning, he wriggled his toes and felt the sand flow between them. Where the hell were his shoes?
He scanned the area, there was nothing but the sand, sea, and…
“Buffy,” he whispered, already moving toward her.
She sat on the sand, staring out over the vast expanse of ocean. She hadn’t seen him and he knew she couldn’t hear his soft footsteps across the sand. But she looked up as he drew close, her face breaking into such a radiant smile at seeing him, that it warmed his cold heart.
She jumped up, racing toward him, and he caught her in a welcoming embrace.
“Is it really you?” she said, in wonder. “Are you really here?”
“I’m here,” he said, proving it to her by pulling her closer and planting a gentle kiss on her lips. He thought there was something he should tell her, but he couldn’t remember what it was.
“Walk with me?” Buffy asked breathlessly, when Angel released her.
Linking hands, they walked slowly along the beach. Angel found he couldn’t take his eyes off the vision beside him. He’d always thought she was beautiful, but here, with the sun making her hair glint like gold, she looked….well, she glowed.
“What?” she grinned, under his intense scrutiny.
“I love you.”
Her smile was genuine. “I love you.”
He gathered Buffy into his arms, and she responded eagerly to his kisses, allowing him to ease her down onto the warm sand. Angel had no thought in his head except to love her, lose himself in the warmth that she offered him.
* * * *
Back at the mansion, Willow frowned, looking at Angel’s still form. Giles gave her a questioning glance, without breaking the rhythm of his chant.
“Something’s wrong, Giles. We’re losing him.”
Giles had been afraid of that. He indicated to Willow that she take up the chant with him, hoping it would increase the power. He could almost hear Buffy calling it a ‘Double Whammy’.
* * * *
Buffy laughed as she paddled in the warm sea, her skirt hitched up to keep it dry.
“Come on, Angel!”
He smiled back, from his dry spot on the beach. He had no desire to join her in the water, but it pleased him to see her so happy.
Giggling, she splashed back up the beach, hurrying toward Angel as he sat on the sand watching her. She landed on his lap, the sand sticking to her wet legs, and draped her arms round his neck.
Angel’s arms tightened around her. He wanted to kiss her, to touch her, to…take her home. He froze. Where had that thought come from?
“Are you okay?” Buffy asked him, feeling his body tense.
“I…I…think…” Angel seemed to be struggling to get the words out. “I…think we should go back.”
“I like it here,” she said, with a puzzled frown.
“So do I,” he agreed. “But the others, Willow…and…Giles are waiting for us.”
“They’ll be okay,” she answered airily. “I want to stay here.”
“Your mom will be worried,” he tried, hating himself for what he had to do.
“My…mom?” her eyes widened, and her words faltered. She could feel it now, the call to go back.
“We don’t really belong here, Buffy. It isn’t real.”
“It feels real.” She looked up at him, her soft lips formed into a little pout, her big eyes glistening and pleading with him.
‘Oh God,’ he thought, swallowing hard. ‘I have to focus here’.
“It isn’t real, Buffy. We have to go back.”
“I know,” she said, sadly. “It won’t be like this though, will it?”
“Kiss me, Angel. One last time in the sunshine?”
He complied, willingly. Her kiss assailed his senses; her warmth and scent making him dizzy. He closed his eyes, and then reopened them when the pressure on his lips abruptly ceased.
Willow was looking at him with concern. He looked away, his eyes searching for Buffy’s.
“Thank God.” Giles murmured when Buffy opened her eyes. “Are you all right?”
She looked past him, not really seeing. She met Angel’s gaze, and held it.
“I like the sand,” she said, wistfully
* * * *
Much later, after Giles and Willow had gone home, Buffy knelt on some large cushions in front of Angel’s fireplace. She was lost in thought as she stared at the flames.
Behind her, hidden in the shadows of the dark room, Angel stood watching the flickering light as it danced across her face. He was acutely aware that he had almost lost her today.
Buffy stirred, and turned toward him. Even though he knew he couldn’t be seen, she still spoke directly to him.
“How long have you been there?”
“Not long,” he answered, softly moving toward her. In fact, he had no idea how long he’d stood watching her. Quite a while, he suspected.
He joined her on the cushions, sitting cross-legged next to but not touching her.
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah,” she replied, quietly. She was silent for a long time, before adding, “When I was infected, and I didn’t know what I was doing…it’s kind of odd, you know; losing yourself like that.”
“Tell me about it,” Angel agreed, gently.
Buffy looked at him, knowing he understood. She wondered what it must be like for him. He had such a romantic soul, yet he was forced to live forever in the darkness; trapped in a body that only wanted to hurt and destroy.
“It was beautiful, wasn’t it?” she asked Angel.
“Yes, it was,” he agreed, but she knew from the way he was looking at her that he wasn’t talking about the scenery. She felt herself blushing a little. She sighed, shifting her position toward Angel; he moved his legs so that she could rest against his chest. She raised her hand, and slowly caressed his face. His skin felt cool against her exploring fingers.
Angel lowered his head and kissed her, softly. Her lips parted immediately, inviting him in and their kiss was slow and gentle.
“Nice,” Buffy murmured, her eyes shining in the half-light. She felt warm and loved, encircled in Angel’s arms; she smiled as Angel idly traced his fingers along her bare arm, over the little strap of her blouse and came to rest on the pulse at her throat.
He liked to feel the blood pumping through her, and his vampire instincts stirred. But he wasn’t hungry, and the demon in him lay quiet.
Buffy looked up at him, completely unafraid. It never ceased to amaze him that she could still trust him, even after some of the terrible things he’d done to her.
“I love you,” she whispered.
“I love you,” he replied. “Always.”
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