Author: Dark Star
Website: Dark Star's Portal
Summary: Buffy finds that she doesn't have to cope alone.
Disclaimer: Joss Whedon is creator and owner of all things Angel
Timeline: BtVS Season 5. Takes place during Listening To Fear.
Notes: This was written for the 2nd IWRY Anniversary, run by Chrislee.
Comments: Thanks to buffyworld.com for the piece of transcript used.
RILEY: (to Buffy) Are you okay?
Buffy frowns at him, then rushes to the stairs.
SPIKE: (to Riley) You just missed a real nice time.
Riley looks down and sees the Queller lying dead with the knife in its back.
Buffy bursts into
Buffy could hear the soldier boys clomping around the house, and Riley came upstairs to tell her they were removing the alien creature from the hall. He gave her a quick kiss and said he would see her tomorrow, and he left with the others. It took a long time to soothe her mother after everyone had gone, and when she could finally leave her to rest she felt physically drained. Dawn was afraid to go to bed straight away, so Buffy let her stay up, letting her relieve her anxieties about her mother's illness and talked to her until the early hours. It was gone one o'clock when the girl eventually went to bed. Buffy couldn't allow herself to think about what might happen, and she decided to use the time to catch up on the chores she hadn't had time for.
She was just putting the clean crockery away when the phone rang, and she sighed. Not now, she thought, unable to stand the idea of more hassle tonight, so she ignored it.
The phone continued to ring, and eventually she crossed through the kitchen and picked up the receiver.
“How’s your mom?”
Oh, thank god.
“She’s not good, Angel. The hospital allowed her to go home, before her surgery, and this thing followed us back and tried to get at her.”
“Did it hurt her?”
“No… I killed it; but it didn’t make her feel any better.”
“But you took care of it,” the soft voice purred in her ear, and she could feel her tense shoulders relaxing. “I’m sure she feels better having you to look after her. When’s her surgery?”
“The day after tomorrow.”
The phone was silent for a few seconds, and then Angel asked quietly, “How are you?”
Great. Coping well, looking after mom and Dawn; I’ve got this good routine with all the cooking and washing and cleaning and the slaying is going really well. She opened her mouth to relate all this efficiency, and instead found herself saying, “I’m tired, Angel. So very tired.”
“Are you sure you don’t want me to stay?”
Buffy shook her head, and gave her boyfriend what she hoped was a winning smile. “I should be with my mom tonight, Riley. You do understand, don’t you?”
Riley blinked, and managed to look offended. “Of course I don’t mind, Buffy. I just… think I should be here with you, that’s all.”
Buffy sighed. Why couldn’t he understand? “I’ll be fine, I promise. But mom is going in for her operation tomorrow, and I want to be here to take care of her.”
“Who’s going to take care of you?” Riley said softly, pulling her close to his chest.
“When this is over,” Buffy said calmly as she pulled from his embrace and opened the front door, “You can. You can take lots of Buffy-care. Just, not tonight.”
Admitting defeat, Riley kissed her warmly and went out to his car. Buffy stood out on the porch, waving as he drove away. Her stomach was doing cartwheels – was it just nerves about her mom’s operation? On impulse, Buffy went down the steps and round the side of the house. Everything was dark and still, but she wasn’t totally surprised when the dark shape moved smoothly out of the shadows and came toward her.
“What are you doing here?” she snapped.
He looked a little uncomfortable. “You sounded so low on the phone last night that came to see if you’re all right.”
“Great.” She responded defensively. “I’m doing great.” Agitated, she gestured at herself. “Look – this is me coping just fine.”
She glared at him, but the dark gaze didn’t waver. She started to feel a little silly; she might be able to fool Riley, but this was Angel – and that tactic just wasn’t going to work.
Buffy sighed. “You’d better come in, Angel.”
In the kitchen, Buffy made two drinks and set them on the table. “Mom’s with Dawn right now. I want to spend time with her later. You know, if… something might…”
“Everything will be fine, Buffy. Your mom is in good hands.”
“Will it?” At that moment she looked so vulnerable, Angel wanted to take her in his arms and comfort her. But he forced himself to sit still and sip his coffee in a civilized manner. She wasn’t his, she had somebody to comfort her. So where was the boy when she needed him?
“Yes,” he forced himself to say. “Medicine has made huge leaps in the last couple of hundred years. They’ll know what to do.”
“I guess.” Buffy studied her drink before admitting, “It’s hard, Angel. I try to keep everything running but it’s hard without mom, and there’s so much to do.”
“If you want me to go, just say,” Angel murmured. “I don’t want to make things harder. But if there’s anything I can do…?”
Buffy froze. She looked down at her drink and tried to will her hand to stop shaking. She hoped Angel hadn’t noticed.
“Yes, actually there is.” She looked up again. “I should be out patrolling tonight, but with my mom…” she swallowed, and continued, “I really want to stay with her. I… I could ask Riley, but…he’s… human and I worry.”
She winced when she realised how that must have sounded, and Angel studied her carefully before answering. Was she telling him that Riley was more important to her, or that she trusted him more than Riley?
“I can handle it,” he was saying softly, and Buffy felt as though a weight had been lifted from her shoulders. She could safely hand that duty over to Angel for tonight, and spend time with her mom.
Angel stayed to finish his drink, and then left to cover her patrol. Buffy warned him to be extra careful in case a few of the soldiers had remained in town to study the area where the spacecraft had come down.
Angel didn’t run into any soldiers, but there was plenty of other activity in Sunnydale that night. Perhaps word had gotten out that the Slayer was indisposed, but it was far busier than Angel had been expecting.
Something big and scaly lunged out of the darkness, and Angel's attention was dragged back to the task at hand. His arm rose in instinctive defence, and the scaly thing grabbed him by the front of his coat and spun him into the bushes.
Finally, Buffy managed to get back downstairs. Her mother and Dawn were both sleeping, and she was so tired she felt as though she’d gone ten rounds with a master vamp. She was just about to collapse on the sofa when there was a soft tap at the front door. Sighing, she went to answer it. Angel was standing awkwardly in the doorway.
“I didn’t want to go without…”
“God, Angel… what happened to you?”
Frowning, Angel looked down at himself. Ah. His black coat was marked all over with vampire dust and yellow demon goo, and one arm had blood soaking through the sleeve.
“It’s nothing, Buffy. I’ll just…”
“Get in here, Angel. You can’t go home like that.”
Angel opened his mouth to disagree, but her glare stopped him in his tracks. He dripped across the rug in the hall, and Buffy ushered him through to the kitchen where he peeled off his filthy duster, and Buffy tried to sponge off the worst of the mess.
The errant coat was hung over a chair to dry, and while Angel made coffee, Buffy went upstairs to give her mother another cocktail of her essential medicine and check her vital signs for the hundredth time.
Angel was already seated on the sofa when Buffy returned, and she sat down next to him, being very careful not to accidentally touch him.
Finally, Angel said quietly, "I should go and let you get some sleep."
"No," Buffy responded. "I'd rather you didn't." On Angel's enquiring expression, Buffy explained, "Mom has to have some medicine or other about every two hours, so I can't sleep or I might miss one of them. Could you stay for a while to help keep me awake?"
"Of course." He hesitated. "What do you want to talk about?"
They ended up talking about anything and everything. Buffy's endless visits upstairs were taking their toll, especially as her mother grew increasingly irritable and unpredictable due to her illness and lack of sleep.
As time went on Buffy grew more and more weary, and she found herself unintentionally sitting closer to Angel. It felt good to have his arm round her, protective and supporting, but a little voice niggled at her; she should be with Riley, and yet - it seemed so natural to have Angel there, so right, that she couldn't bring herself to feel bad about it. She told him everything that was worrying her, she told him about her concerns for her mother, and for Dawn. And it really didn't matter; it didn't matter that she was scared, or that she ended up crying because she didn't know how she would cope with everything that was happening. It didn't make her weak or helpless or disorganised because this was Angel; he was there when she needed him the most, he listened and he understood.
He held her, and he soothed her, and it felt good to give up some of the pain she'd buried so damn deep and let somebody else carry a little bit of it for her. She grew so tired that she could barely keep her eyes open. The slayer needs very little sleep, but she does need some. And when Angel finally suggested she should sleep for a while, or be in no shape to care for her mother the next day, she realised that he was right. Angel pulled one of the large sofa cushions onto his lap, and encouraged her to rest her head on it and sleep. She pulled her legs up on the sofa and rapidly fell into a deep slumber, trusting Angel to wake her when she needed to tend to her mother.
Daylight would be breaking soon, and Angel knew he should go home, but there was no way he could leave her alone to cope with her pain. Buffy would not want him to be seen by Dawn in the morning, so he stayed with her for as long as he could. Buffy assured him that the Mansion was still empty, so he retired there for the day and intended to return home the following night - if everything had gone well at the hospital.
He waited for Buffy to come downstairs again; she looked better, tired but not as sluggish as she had been.
"I have to…" he began.
He should be leaving, but he was reluctant to go. Buffy reached the bottom of the stairs and found herself standing in front of him. She couldn’t help it - just one more step and she was in his arms one last time.
"I'm scared, Angel."
"You can do it," he assured her firmly, his fingers in her hair as she pressed her face against his shoulder.
"I… I don't…"
Angel reached down and tilted her face upward. "You can do this." Her lip quivered and he ruthlessly quelled the urge to kiss it. "You have the strength to get through tomorrow. If you need me - you know where I am."
Buffy gulped, and nodded. Angel tried not to notice the tears that were forming in her eyes. He was making it worse for her, prolonging the parting. He opened the door and reluctantly pulled away. It was hard to step outside, and he could feel the chill breeze ruffling against his cheek.
"It helped," Buffy murmured, and he raised a quizzical eyebrow at her. "You being here," she clarified. "It helped."
Angel swallowed, his lips curving into a small smile as he nodded once in acknowledgement. Buffy watched his dignified retreat as he walked along the path and made his way toward his car, parked discreetly down the street. She had no idea what tomorrow was going to hold; the mere thought of losing her mother filled her with an aching dread so deep that it terrified her. Was Angel right? Did she have the strength to get through tomorrow? She took a deep breath and closed the door.
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