If I Know What Love Is
Beta by a2zmom
If I know what love is,
it is because of you.
~ Herman Hesse ~
Angel watched her. He would drive up the coast from LA as soon as the sun would set and leave Sunnydale in the grey, cool hours before dawn. He went once or twice a month and then sometimes not for six weeks. There was not a rhythm, nor a schedule to his nocturnal road trips.
He watched her with Riley, he watched her patrol, he watched as Spike became part of the Scoobies and he watched another vampire fall in love with The Slayer.
If anyone had asked, he would deny it. He was careful and paranoid. He always stayed in the shadows and faded back into the safety of his car and the anonymity of LA when Spike’s head would rise in a graveyard, when he’d look down an alley, Spike’s sharp, blue eyes searching for something he thought he smelled/felt/had seen.
But he couldn’t stop.
Angel never left when his team was in the middle of a case. He never drove up the highway in the dark when Cordelia had a vision and there was work to be done. He could, sometimes, ignore the addiction of tracking Buffy’s footsteps through a park or standing outside her mother’s house, her dorm-room window, the magic store, outside of her life.
Every argument they had, every discussion they shared, every time he held her when she cried and every kiss, every touch would play in his mind when he would drive away from the city. Angel could forget who he was, he could forget his mission, his redemption, his pain on those random nights and he could, once again, become what he was before … what?
That was the answer that constantly eluded Angel. What was he doing? Why? Who did he want to be, when all was said and done and finished? Did he want to return to being Buffy’s love, her lover? Did he want to go back even before that, before he knew her, to that moment when Whistler had pointed out the window of the car, into the bright sunshine where Angel could not ever go and showed him this girl as she became her destiny?
The memory seared in his mind, the very second he saw through all of her contemporary trappings, her seemingly perfect life and the casual courage of false invincibility that came with her age. When he witnessed her, in that one, endless, shining minute take the weight of the world on her shoulders. When she didn’t sag or shrug or weep with the injustice of it all, with the absolute loss of her youth and her innocence and Angel fell in love with the spirit inside the woman before he knew her name. He fell in love for the first time in his life.
Or was he simply torturing himself with all that he could never have again?
Angel would follow her, moving quickly along rooftops, dropped down into alleys when he had to. He staked the random vampire that stumbled across him without pausing, without stopping. The perfectly weighted, smooth wood held lightly in his hand, his coat billowing around his knees as he turned. The vampire would be gone before the first syllable of his name left their lips and Angel was twenty feet away as dust still fell from bones.
He watched while she kissed Spike, and even though his immediate visceral reaction was rage and jealousy, on these nights he found he was able to look beneath that. After all, he had kissed Spike first. Angel could sift, in his mind, through the memories that were coated yellow with age and covered in guilt that kept them as sharp and clear as if he’d lived it all yesterday. He remembered the time when Spike’s hair was longer, when it was a softer shade of blond and his name was William. Drusilla’s fledge, still so human that even with fangs he seemed warm and alive. Family, in their own twisted way.
Spike’s kisses had been as soft, as hesitant as Buffy’s in the beginning and they had a matching passion in the end. Buffy’s grew more sensual and Spike’s changed to split Angel’s lips with desire. Spike’s hands had torn at his skin, while Buffy had stroked him, touched him carefully, reverentially. Her fingers had always appeared so tiny in his palm, on his shoulder, even though he could always feel the strength flowing through her body, so much stronger than Darla, than Spike, than himself.
Angel remembered the sound of her breath in his ear, the warmth of her body under him. The tenderness she brought out in him like nothing … any one in his life before. When he was Liam, he fucked for the fun of it. When he was Angelus, he fucked for the power it gave him, for the thrill, and he had to wait until now, here, at this point in his too-long life to meet someone who had taught him how to be in love, how to make love.
But only once and then never again.
Angel remembered Hell. It was endless nights of raping Buffy, of taking her, hurting her. Tasting her tears and her blood and listening to her scream and he couldn’t stop himself, he had no control and the expression on her face, the hate in her eyes for him before, during and after, broke him over and over and over.
He watched Spike touch her, run his fingers through her hair and Angel coveted that moment and their connection. He melted into the opaque shadows, back to his car, back to LA, back to his life. He wouldn’t go again, he told himself as he drove down the highway. Tears slid down his cheeks, unnoticed. They dropped to his shirt and his cell phone flickered in the passenger seat. Another job, another person to help where before he would’ve killed them, ignored them. Cordelia’s voice was in his ear, Wesley spoke behind her and Angel knew Gunn was there, watching them both, amused and anxious. Probably making practice swings with his homemade ax in the lobby and wondering where the hell Angel was.
He wouldn’t go again. He was done. Time to make the break and leave her alone, completely alone. Time to let Buffy find happiness while she could, without him watching, wishing, remembering in the dark. Time to stop wallowing in this pain, in this love, his first. His only.
He wouldn’t go again.
But he said that every single time.
*squishes you with love*