disclaimer in part one
Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage
Then someone will say what is lost can never be saved
Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage
Now I'm naked, nothing but an animal
Bullet with Butterfly Wings
by: Rebecca Carefoot
Buffy trudged up to her front porch. She was so tired she could barely see straight. Now that she was away from the mansion, away from Angel and the desperate need to keep her eyes open, her body was collapsing. She told herself it was only a few steps more, just into the house, up the stairs and then her bed would be welcoming her with the promise of sleep.
She entered the house and immediately headed up the stairs. She had only managed to climb two of the steps when her mother's voice stopped her.
"Buffy?" she called. "Is that you?"
"Yeah, mom," Buffy answered with a muffled groan. "I'm going to bed." She climbed another stair before her mother reached the foyer and kept her from continuing.
"I need to talk to you," Joyce said firmly.
"Okay, but can it wait until later?" Buffy begged. "I'm so tired right now. I'm pretty sure if I don't keep moving I'm going to fall asleep right here." Joyce thought for a moment, then compromised.
"I'll go up to your room with you," she said, her tone insisting that she would not be swayed.
"Fine." Buffy gave in, knowing an attempt to argue with her mother would just draw out the conversation they were obviously going to have. The only way to avoid it would have been to run upstairs and lock the door.
She climbed the stairs slowly and entered her room with her mother close behind. Then she flopped down on the bed, too tired to change into her sleepwear. Joyce settled herself on the edge of the bed.
"I'll let you get to sleep soon," she promised. Buffy nodded, her eyes already drifting closed. She tried to widen them, but it was a losing battle.
"Where were you last night and all day today?" Joyce asked.
"Didn't the others tell you I had Slayer stuff?" Buffy asked, snuggling the back of her head against the pillow.
"Yes, Buffy they did." Joyce answered sharply. "But slayer stuff could refer to anything. Most of it life-threatening. I want to know what's happening."
"It really doesn't concern you," Buffy said, trying to avoid the issue.
"You're my daughter. It concerns me," Joyce countered.
"But there's nothing you can do. And it's sort of personal."
"Look," Joyce began. "I know you're the Slayer. I know I have to let you go out there and kill demons and avert the apocalypse. I've accepted that. I understand that. But I will not let you shut me out. You owe it to me to tell me what's going on." Buffy opened her mouth to mumble a protest, but Joyce cut her off. "No, if I have to let you put your life in danger, the least you can do is keep me informed." The Slayer resigned herself to defeat and tried to figure out the fastest way to explain things so she could stop fighting with her eyelids.
"Do you remember Angel?" Buffy finally asked.
"Your psychotic ex-boyfriend?" Joyce asked. "He was a vampire, wasn't he?"
"Yes, he was, is, a vampire," Buffy confirmed. She finished the rest of her explanation quickly, as if saying the words faster made them lose their ability to sting her. "He was psychotic because he lost his soul. Willow restored it, but I had to send him to Hell to save the world." Joyce nodded slowly as the backstory sunk in. Some of it sounded familiar, but no one had really explained the situation to her. Once Angel was in Hell, there hadn't really seemed to be a need to tell her much about him. "Right, well he's back," Buffy finished. She turned on her side and curled her body slightly, closing her eyes for a long moment.
"What?" Joyce asked blankly. "He's back from Hell? As in THE Hell?"
"Yeah," she mumbled. "I don't know how either, but he is and he needs my help and I'm going to give it to him." Buffy gritted her teeth, squeezing her eyes shut tighter. She was getting tired of having to defend her actions regarding Angel.
"He doesn't seem like a very nice boy," Joyce said doubtfully.
"He's not a boy," Buffy said absently.
"That's the other problem."
"It's my business, and my decision."
"What about that Scott boy you were seeing? He seems normal." Buffy muffled a groan and began to massage her temples. She had forgotten about Scott. She would have to dump him when she saw him at school the next day. Not fun. Not fun at all. Her brain whirled sluggishly.
"Scott," she said blankly. Then she deserted that line of reasoning and clung to the point she was determined to make. "I'm helping Angel."
"I just don't think it's a very good idea," her mother continued. "This Angel person hurt you so badly before."
"I'm not dating him anymore, mom," Buffy said, smothering a yawn. "But I hurt him too, and he's still hurting. I need to make things right."
"Well, I suppose..." Joyce began. She admitted to herself that much as she hated it there was nothing she could do to stop her daughter from helping the vampire. And once he was better, Buffy could move on to another boy, a boy who was nice and normal. She hoped. She turned to remind her daughter to be careful and saw that Buffy had fallen asleep. She stroked her hand along her daughter's forehead, tracing Buffy's eyebrow with her thumb.
"She looks so young when she's sleeping," she whispered to herself. "How can she be the Slayer?" She gently pressed her lips to her daughter's head and left the room, pausing in the doorway to take one last, lingering look at the girl, peaceful in sleep. Then she closed the door softly behind her and went downstairs to make sure they had some of Buffy's favorite ice cream in the freezer.
* * * * * * * * * *
Giles removed his glasses and massaged the bridge of his nose with his fingers. He was alone in the mansion with Angel, Faith had left almost an hour ago for patrol. Xander was coming by later, but right now Giles was alone. He closed his eyes for a moment, then returned his attention to the pages of the book in front of him. He shifted uncomfortably in the chair he had dragged in from the next room, then snapped the book shut impatiently.
Finally allowing himself to do what his reading was not distraction enough to avoid, he lifted his gaze to study Angel. His eyes drank in the face of the man who had killed the woman he loved, who had tortured him for hours. No, he realized he was wrong on two counts; this was not the same person who had killed Jenny. This person, if you could call it a person, had a soul. And this person, thing, vampire was most certainly not a man. Angel swiped at his ear with the back of his hand then scratched his cheek, growling softly to himself.
This pathetic creature shared little with the vampire who had taunted him and laughed at his pain. He could still see Angelus laughing at him. He could still see Jenny's eyes staring sightlessly from where her body lay limp on his bed. It was all there, right behind his eyelids. All he had to do was close his eyes, and he could see it all again and again.
He felt a sudden surge of anger at the vampire who snuffled over bent knees, chained and helpless and not human. Anger that he did not remember what he had done. Anger that he could not speak. Anger that he did not feel incapacitated by guilt every time he looked into Giles' face. Giles clenched his teeth, shaking for a moment as fury swept through him. He wanted more than anything to punch the face that had caused his pain, to beat it with his fists until it was unrecognizable. He screamed soundlessly within his mind, choking on the sound to keep it from escaping his mouth.
He drew in a shaky breath and forced himself to be calm. Then he turned cold, dispassionate eyes on the face that still haunted his dreams. He traced the lines and curves of his form, relearning them. For the first time the vampire returned his gaze. Their eyes met and were caught. Angel stared, locked in place, and Giles felt as if he would never move again. Buffy would come the next day and find them both still sitting there, entranced. Giles tried to read the vampire's gaze. Fear was there, wariness as well; animal instinct that led Angel to fear the seated figure he did not know. Then Angel's eyes flickered with some form of recognition, Giles was sure of it; and he jerked back physically, dragging chains. He lowered his gaze to the floor and shivered, though Giles knew he could not possibly be cold.
He heard the vampire muttering, and though he wasn't sure, he could have sworn he was speaking words. Or one word again and again. Giles strained his ears, leaning forward in his chair.
There, that was it, he was almost sure that was the word. A sense of triumph filled him with the realization that Angel could remember, perhaps not the details of what he had done, but at least the fact that he had wronged the Watcher. The rest he would remember in time and that was enough for Giles.
Giles stared at the vampire, who was hunched at the end of his chain, shooting small, wary glances at the Watcher, and wondered if he would ever be able to look into that face, into those eyes, without hate. He hoped for Buffy's sake he would.
He hoped for his own sake he would.
And looking at the fear in Angel's eyes, the pain as he struggled to remember how he knew the man that watched him, he thought one day there would be no hate; one day he would be able to forgive. This was not the demon who had killed Jenny. The demon was in there, but the person was hurting perhaps as badly as Giles himself did.
Somehow both satisfied and sorry, Giles returned to his book.