disclaimer in part one

See you and me we
Lay down look see
She and he
By my lover's side
Together share this smile
Each other's tears to cry
Together share this smile
Lover lay down

Lover Lay Down
- Dave Matthews Band

Buried Alive

by: Rebecca Carefoot

Part Four

As Buffy sat tiredly, her back slumped and her head drooping with exhaustion, Angel inched forward. She looked up when she heard his chain rattling against the stone floor. He was moving slowly, smoothly, as he crawled toward her, putting weight on the balls of his feet and the knuckles of his hands. He reached the end of the chain and stopped.

There was that look again. The look she couldn't quite figure out. But she was sure of one thing. It was filled with naked longing, longing which echoed the emotions in her own heart and pulled her to her feet. She stepped toward him, her arm outstretched, her fingertips yearning for contact. She wanted to be near him, hold him, touch him in any way she could. It seemed as if he could only be real if she touched him, assured herself of the solid comforting bulk of his nearness. He watched her with dark eyes that hid a mind she no longer knew, his chain pulled tight because his body strained to reach her.

She realized with a start what she was doing and drew back, spinning to face away from him. Her body vibrated with denied need for him, for contact. She reminded herself that he was changed. As if the low whine she heard him utter was not reminder enough. She began to pace, her strides quick and distracted. The restless movement served the dual purposes of keeping her awake, and allowing her to avoid meeting his gaze with eyes she knew echoed his longing. She could feel him following her every move like a tickling sensation between her shoulder blades. Uncomfortably, she shrugged. She felt a whimper build in the back of her throat and began to wonder if he was rubbing off on her. And if he could rub off on her, could she do the same for him? If she spoke would he begin to relearn the words he had lost?

"Angel," she whispered, still facing away from him. The chain jingled softly as he shifted his weight from one leg to the other and moved his hands nervously in response to the name. "Angel," she said more strongly, savoring the taste of the name in her mouth. A soft hum escaped his throat, and Buffy fought the temptation to turn around.

"I'm sorry," she blurted. "I know you probably don't understand me." She hesitated. "So it's probably a cop-out to say this stuff I'm going to say now. But I guess it's better than not saying it at all." She bit her lower lip nervously, then braced herself and turned to face the vampire.

Immediately he captured her with his eyes. For a moment she forgot what she had been saying; she wasn't sure how long the moment lasted. And then her voice returned to her, and she pulled in a deep breath, exhaling slowly.

She began to speak, her words tumbling from her lips. "I'm sorry I chose saving the world over you." She frowned thoughtfully. "That sounds stupid or sarcastic. But it's not. It doesn't really sound right to say one person could be equal to the fate of the world. But that's what you are to me. The world." She stumbled over the words, then began again. "I've killed you three times, Angel. When you lost your soul. When I stabbed you. And when I made you into this animal. It's all my fault." She brushed impatiently at the tears beginning to spill out of her eyes. "I can't ever find the words to explain how much I wish I could take away the pain I've caused you. And I hope you understood a little of that at least."

She shuddered to a stop. This was ridiculous. She forced herself to really look at him. He wasn't even a man anymore. He couldn't speak, and he had to be chained up to keep him from hurting someone. He didn't even stand like a man. He was broken. He was hurt deep inside. Not physically, but somewhere deep in his soul he had been beaten and kicked until he was broken. She knew that he was damaged, possibly irreversibly.

And it didn't matter. The knowledge shocked through her.

"I love you," she whispered. Her mouth fell open as she realized she had said the words out loud. Stupid, stupid, her mind muttered. But the words were true. Broken as he was, she loved him. Unable to speak. Not human. It didn't matter. She loved him no less than she had the first time she had said those words to him. *I love you, but I don't know if I trust you.* She loved him even more than she had then. And now she trusted him. Despite the things his demon had done, despite the pain and betrayal which surrounded them and filled their past. She trusted him more than she trusted herself or anyone else in the world. He was not her Angel. She knew that. But she also knew he would never hurt her. And it didn't matter that he was changed, because he had once been her Angel, and he would be again. She knew he would because she loved him so completely it made her soul shudder with something so deep rooted in her she couldn't even fully comprehend it.

Her eyes dropped to the floor, her face red. She felt foolish for trying to speak to him. He didn't understand her. Her words meant nothing to him.

"I wish you could just say something," she muttered. "I wish I knew what you're thinking..."

"Buffy," he said, his voice rough and low, unused to forming words. Her head snapped up, her eyes wide. She stared for a moment, and then she began to cry silent tears which streamed down her cheeks. Her body tensed, her muscles taut with the tension of keeping herself from running to him. She stood between him and the rational part of her brain which insisted that she should distance herself from who he had become, from who he had been and ever would be. When she felt his hand on her back, she was suddenly aware that she had hurled herself into his arms. She hadn't made the decision consciously. But once she was in his arms, she knew she could not pull away.

They had fallen over, his body cushioning her from the hard floor. She lay on top of him, her body pressed close to his. She felt his skin under her hands, slick with sweat, grainy with dirt; and it was the most beautiful thing she had ever felt. She rested her cheek against his chest, skin meeting skin, salty with tears and sweat, touching. "Slayer," he whispered into her ear, and she cried harder. She couldn't have explained her tears. Maybe they were tears of joy, or relief, or fear. She didn't care. Nothing mattered but his skin, and his voice, speaking words for her.

He pushed his head against hers, rubbing his cheek along the top of her head, shifting the golden strands of hair. The sounds he uttered were no longer words. He growled softly as his arms tightened around her, and his hands gently roamed her back, tracing her spine. She reached up to tangle her hands in his hair, guiding his head until his nose was only inches from hers. His eyes were so close, and so dark. She stared at him, feeling his touch and his gaze burn through her, wondering if her gaze burned him. She recognized her own hunger in his eyes, and her lips met his. Crushing together at first, urgent, desperate and hungry. Devouring. His teeth nipped at her lips, not quite hard enough to draw blood, but hard enough to claim her. Her fingernails scored his chest, leaving red trails where they scraped the flesh, marking him as his teeth marked her.

And then their kisses became more gentle, as if they realized that they had time to share, to savor the moments. As if they knew that this time they would not be torn apart. Their lips met for a long moment, their bodies pressed together, their tongues touching. Every part of them strained for closeness. And then their lips parted. Buffy shifted slightly in Angel's arms and pressed her forehead against his. They lay still. Words were unnecessary. Kissing was unnecessary. The closeness was enough.

Buffy felt the metal of Angel's manacle catch on her shirt. It scraped her skin, reminding her of the fact that things were not fixed just because they had kissed. Everything had not magically become perfect when he had wrapped her in his grasp. He was still something she could not control. He was still something she could not understand. She sighed, shifting again so that her head no longer rested against his. A soft rumble of protest escaped his throat, the wordless sound reminding her that he was not human. She hesitated. She couldn't unchain him. She couldn't pretend that he wasn't dangerous. But she knew with utter certainty that she was safe with him. He would not hurt her. It was as sure as the fact that the sun would eventually set that night.

She idly traced the curve of his collarbone, studying the movement of her fingers while she thought. No, things had not magically solved themselves. But here in his arms it was as close to perfect as she was likely to get. Being with him, feeling him with her rather than just seeing him, was something she wasn't willing to give up.

Buffy moved cautiously, settling herself next to Angel on the floor. He adjusted his grip on her, but did not loosen it. She nestled her head against his chest and smiled to herself. She would stay here until she had to leave his embrace. The problems would be there when she left his arms. But right now, they didn't matter.

He lay on his side, his body bent around hers. He rested his head against her hair, inhaling her scent. Once he realized she was not planning to leave his arms, he loosened his grip. One arm remained wrapped around her body and the other stroked her skin. His fingertips ran over her arm, her neck, her waist, her hair, her hand, her waist again. She closed her eyes, allowing him to hold her, to touch her. She smiled again and whispered his name.

As she fell asleep she thought she heard him speak one more word.