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 Angel's Secrets

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Shadows of the Heart

By Erana Zeitler
Erana5128(at)aol.com

Page 1 of 7
Summary: Buffy tries to get over Angel, but she just can't let go.
Disclaimer: Characters used in this story don't belong to me. Shocking, huh? They belong instead to Joss Whedon. Sad, but true.
Author's Notes: This story takes place after 'Passion' but before 'Becoming' and goes off into a time-line all its own, completely unrelated to anything that's happened in the 3rd or 4th season. I'm in denial over them both. *sniff* PLEASE send feedback! I need encouragement! :) Also, PLEASE don't archive elsewhere without asking me first.

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Chapter 1

He closed his eyes tightly against a wave of pain, brought on by the torture inflicted by his captors. Even the simplest movement of shutting his eyes increased the pain to levels he'd never knew existed. Opening his eyes once more, he looked around the small room as though seeing it for the first time. It was a mansion, if he remembered correctly from two years ago, before this room had become his permanent residance. A shudder went through him at the thought, when he'd been with his captors, one of them.

The memory made him feel physically ill, and it took a supreme effort of will to keep himself from throwing up at the thought. He knew if he did he'd have to live with the stench until one of the lackey's working under his captor's thumbs came around, and he didn't have the stomach for that any more. Lifting his head, he stared up almost thoughtfully at the chains that held his arms tightly above him, making any escape an impossibility. He'd long since given up on trying to free himself, the chains would just dig tighter into his wrist, causing them to bleed. He knew from experience that when blood became involved Drusilla lost all control, he shuddered once more at the memory of the many times she would drink from him, it reminded him so much of when he'd once drunk from her, turning her into what she was, but not before destroying her mind.

A whimper escaped his lips before he could help it, and caused his throat to hurt. Screaming in agony had made even whispering painful in the aftermath, and he swallowed, enjoying the moments relief from that particular pain, anyway.

It wasn't as though he didn't deserve it, it wasn't as if he were an innocent victim. It was that which kept him from trying to end his life, or refusing the necessities of living, he knew it was the only fate worthy of him. He had to smile at the thought, as he wondered if Buffy knew he was alive... more alive than he'd been in two hundred and twenty years. She'd often fantasized about his becoming mortal, at least, before the night they'd succumbed to their passions. And he'd secretly shared her fantasies, the thought of being with her in the sunlight... impossible dreams, or so he'd thought at the time. Amazing how things worked out sometimes, he mused. At the time neither he nor Buffy would ever have imagined what would become after one night... one act of love. That one night had shattered every dream and fantasy either one of them had ever had. That one night made his becoming human not something to celebrate, but something to mourn. He didn't deserve humanity, not after the two years he'd spent tormenting her at every turn, ruining and destroying the fragile, sweet spirit he'd so loved. But it did make things easier on his captors, it was so much easier to make a human being suffer than it was to make a vampire suffer. Vampires healed quickly, wounds inflicted on a human stayed for months at a time, depending upon the damage.

He heard the rain outside, pounding down on the mansion. His cracked lips turned upwards in something vaguely resembling a grin, and he slowly closed his eyes, listening to the steady pounding rhythm outside and allowing his mind to drift off into a less than peaceful sleep.

.

Buffy Summers looked up at Ryan and smiled weakly at his joke, trying to shake off the feelings of disgust growing inside of her at his lame antics. Willow Rosenberg, always one to interfere when she thought she might be able to help a friend, had been setting her up on blind dates for months now, and always she'd be frustrated with the results. Buffy could still remember the passionate fight she'd had with her roommate two days ago, and she frowned as she vividly heard Willow's words echo in her mind -- 'It's time to move on, Buffy. He's dead. Nothing's going to bring him back'.

A half sob escaped her lips before she could help it and Ryan looked up at her in startled surprise. "You okay?" he asked, her cry having interrupted yet another one of his dumb jokes.

"No. I mean, yeah, I'm fine," Buffy stammered out. "I can't do this." She stood suddenly, then pushed her chair under the table and stalked towards the exit.

Ryan followed quickly, after throwing some money down on the table to pay for their dinner. He grabbed her arm, turning her around to face him. "Buffy, I don't understand. Was it something I said... I... ?"

Buffy shook off his grasp. "I'm sorry, Ryan," she said hurriedly. "It's not you. It's me." She wiped at her eyes, desperate to keep herself from sobbing in a crowded restaurant with disapproving eyes staring at them. "I need to go." She hurried outside, and shivered in the pouring rain, then waited, knowing Ryan would follow her out.

"Buffy... " he started, "I really like you. I don't understand why... I mean, I don't get it. What's wrong?"

"You won't get it, Ryan," Buffy replied quietly, glad that the rain was hiding the tears that continued to leak from her eyes. "It really has nothing to do with you. I'm just, it's a long story... I... " She wiped at her eyes, the sobs beginning to overcome her.

"Look, I, I really like you," Ryan confessed, "Can't we just go back inside, finish dinner, and try to talk?"

Buffy shook her head. "No. No, Ryan. I'm sorry, I had a really great time, but I can't do this, I'm not ready. I doubt I ever will be." She stared at him a moment longer then walked purposefully towards her car, opening the door and sliding inside before slamming the door shut. She leaned back in her seat, allowing the tears to spill down her cheeks rapidly. Blinking to clear her blurry vision she forced the sobs to retreat as she reached into her pocket for her keys. Taking a deep breath, she started the car then drove off into the night, heading towards the apartment she shared with Willow.

Not surprisingly, Willow was waiting outside for her when she pulled her car into the driveway. Buffy stepped out of the car and let the rain wash over her for a moment before heading towards the porch where Willow was staring at her, safe from the rain. "Buffy... " Willow began, tightly.

"Not now, Will," Buffy said forcefully as she opened the door to their apartment and stepped inside. Willow followed her and slammed the door shut, watching as the Slayer headed straight towards her bedroom. The hacker followed.

"What happened this time?" Willow asked, determined to not let the subject drop. "He was too short, too tall, too thin, too fat? Or was it his hair? Not done to perfection?"

"Willow, please," Buffy pleaded, looking up at her friend with tears spilling down her cheeks once more.

Willow sighed and walked towards her, sitting down on the bed next to the Slayer. "I'm sorry," Willow apologized, "but Buffy, it's been two years. Four, actually. You have to move on. You have to."

"I... " Buffy stopped, hiccoping on another sob, "I can't!" she shouted, standing to move away from the comfort Willow was offering. "I just can't! I'm sorry... I'm sorry I'm not recovering, I'm sorry I'm not dealing, or whatever, but I just CAN'T!" With a curse Buffy punched the wall with her fist, absorbing the pain, letting it take over the inner torment in her mind.

"Buffy... " Willow's voice held heavy sympathy, "Isn't four years enough time? You need to... Buffy, you need to start living again."

Buffy swallowed tightly, holding her hand up to her lips. "I've tried it your way, Will. For the past three months I've gone out with every single guy you wanted me to, I'm sorry, it doesn't work."

"You need to give it some time," Willow retorted. "You can't tell if someone's going to be good in a relationship after one dinner. I know... " She bit her lip, debating whether or not she should say it, then decided to, "I know none of them are him," she finally stated. "I'm not saying you could ever find someone to replace him, I know you never could, I know what you two had was beyond love... but... Buffy, he's dead. He died four years ago."

"Two," Buffy corrected.

"Four," Willow hissed in return. "Four years, Buffy. He didn't even experience one full minute of life before Spike and Drusilla killed him. And you haven't experienced even that in four years. You really think this is what he would want for you? For you to spend all of your time thinking of him?"

"I don't want to have this conversation again," Buffy replied tightly. "Look, I appreciate that you stayed in Sunnydale, God knows you certainly could have gone to Yale or Harvard or some other stuffy college, you didn't have to go to Sunnydale Community, but... Will, you can't change the way I feel. If that's the only reason you stayed you might as well start sending out applications and leave." Willow looked hurt, and Buffy hastened to add, "You know I love you like a sister, Will. But I'm not ready to move on. I probably never will be."

"I just hate to see you doing this to yourself," Willow said quietly. "We all do. Just because his life is over doesn't mean yours should be."

"Willow, I have tried," Buffy replied. "I've tried to move on, I can't. No one compares to him, no one. Angel may have died four years ago, but he took my heart with him. Now I'm sorry, I really do appreciate you trying to fix me up and everything else, but it's never going to work. There was only one person in this whole world that I could love in that way... and he's dead. No one measures up, no one ever will. Okay?"

Willow sighed. "Fine," she answered softly, blinking back a tear at the thought of her best friend alone for the rest of her life. She gave a half smile before leaving the room, shutting the door behind her.

As soon as Willow left Buffy took out a lighter from her pocket and lit a candle next to her bed, then shut off her lamp. For a long while the Slayer stared at the small flickering light, her thoughts on Angel, and the way things used to be.

.

"Hi, Oz," Willow said softly into the telephone later on that night, after Buffy had long since fallen asleep.

"Hey, Will," Oz replied enthusiastically, happy to hear her voice after a long day at the studio. "How'd things go with Ryan?"

"Bad," Willow answered flatly. "She's never going to move on. I think it's time I just threw in the towel and called it a day. I mean, nothing I do ever changes things. He's still the only thing she thinks about, he always will be."

"I told you, Will," Oz said quietly in reply, "it's not your problem. It's hers. Her problem. You shouldn't get involved."

"I know," Willow said with a sigh. "I just hate to see her suffering so much."

"I know you do, Will," Oz replied. "But it's her life."

"Yeah," Willow murmured. "So, how'd things go at the studio?" she asked, changing the subject.

"Good. Really good. Excellent, even. I think this might be our big thing, ya know? Our big breakthrough into the world of record deals, tour buses and the like."

"That's great, Oz," Willow said, grinning in spite of her sadness. "Well, I gotta go, just wanted to call and check in. I miss you."

"Yeah, I miss you, too. We have to get together some time next week, deal?" he queried.

"Totally a deal," Willow agreed, exchanging a goodbye with him before hanging up the phone. She stared at it for a moment, then picked it up and dialed another number. "Xander?"

"Hey, Will," Xander greeted her. Willow heard the sound of someone yelling in the background and questioned him about it. "Cordy," he explained, "She's on the other line talking to her agent."

"Oh," Willow replied, smiling at the thought. Cordelia was determined to break into the movie business, and her agent spent very little time working on getting her a job. "I just called to tell you that the thing with Ryan didn't work out."

Xander groaned slightly. "I can't say I'm surprised," he muttered. "Things with John didn't work out, or Mark, or Daniel, or Steven, or Jake... " he trailed off and sighed. "I'd just give up if I were you."

"I am," Willow agreed. "I've done everything I can think of, nothing ever works. Next semester... I think I'm going to leave. I thought if I stayed I'd be able to help her, but she doesn't want my help. So... ya know. I think I'm going."

Xander was silent for a long moment. "I guess that's the best thing to do," he said finally. "But we're all gonna miss you."

"Yeah. I've been thinking about it for awhile, and... well, there's just no reason for me to be here. I haven't told Oz yet, I'm sure he won't like it, but... well... except for him, there's just nothing here for me."

Xander exhaled a breath of air as he digested her words. Finally he said, "We're here," very quietly.

Willow smiled. "I know, Xand," she replied. "But... well, we can't always be the Slayerettes. And anyway, next semester is still two months away, so who knows, things might change, but... as of right now, I'm going to start contacting all those schools that wanted me, see if I can still get in to any of them."

Xander swallowed tightly at the thought of his best friend leaving the state. "I'm sure they will. Well, uh, I gotta go, so... I'll see you at school tomorrow."

"Bye, Xand," Willow answered, then hung up the phone and headed towards her bedroom.

.

Rupert Giles, Watcher and Librarian, did a double take of surprise when Buffy walked into the library of Sunnydale Community at four in the morning, looking exhausted, with dark shadows under her eyes. "Buffy? What are you doing here? I gave you the night off."

"Yeah, well, I went home, slept a few hours, then got up, slayed some, and figured I'd come visit for awhile," Buffy explained. "Everyone else is asleep, but you're always wide-awake and here recently, so... " she trailed off and sat down in a chair, looking around at the wide, open library where so many students spent their days researching. She truly did miss the library of Sunnydale High sometimes.

"Oh. I was under the impression that you had a date," Giles subtly mentioned as he returned his attention to the stacks in front of him, searching for a particular volume.

Buffy groaned. "Yup, another great match made by Willow the match-maker." The Slayer rolled her eyes and placed her feet upon the table as she absently took out a pack of cigarettes from her pocket and lit one.

"Buffy... " Giles frowned at her in distaste for the habit she'd picked up a year ago. "Those things can kill you."

"Yeah, so can vampires," Buffy pointed out. "It's not like I have a whole lot of life left anyway, after all, what's the life expectancy of a slayer again?" When there was no answer she smirked. "I knew that's what you were going to say."

Giles stared at her in disapproval for another moment, then once more looked back at the books. "Yes, well, if they don't, those certainly will." He paused a minute, then changed the topic. "I take it things didn't go well with your... um... date?"

Buffy sighed. "Nope, not at all," she answered. "I think I made Willow mad," she added with a half smile.

"Yes, well, we'd all like to see you get back into the swing of things," Giles commented, and Buffy groaned loudly.

"God, what is this, harp on Buffy day or something?" Buffy asked bitterly. "Look, it's my life. And whatever happened to that rule, 'The Slayer shalt not have a social life?'"

Giles nodded slightly, conceding that she did have a point. "It's just... " He shook his head, deciding not to repeat a conversation he'd had numerous times with his slayer.

"So... " Buffy said casually, looking at him curiously, "why exactly are you here at the library every night all night, anyway? Some prophecy or something?"

"I'm not sure yet," Giles admitted, forgetting all about the conversation they'd been involved in just moments before. "All the signs seem to point to something big that's about to happen, but I'm having a difficult time translating some of these texts."

Buffy took a final drag of her cigarette before putting it out and standing to join him by the bookshelf. "Why?" she wondered.

"A lot of them are hand-written," he explained, "and therefore it's beyond straight translation, first I must decipher the hand-writing, and several times some of the words are either spelled wrong or unrecognizable, jargon of the day and the like." He stopped babbling and frowned. "Why do you care?"

Buffy bit her lip. "I had a dream," she confessed.

Giles nodded, suddenly understanding why she was there. "What was it about?" he asked her.

Buffy looked down, then stood and stalked back towards the chair where she lit another cigarette, her hand shaking as she remembered the dream she'd had not long ago. "You'll think I'm crazy," she murmured.

"I would never think that, Buffy," Giles reassured her, deciding not to comment on her smoking when she was so obviously upset, "What is it?"

"In my dream I saw... " Her eyes filled with tears and she abruptly stood and began to pace. "I saw... " Another long moment, and she finally confessed, "I saw Angel."

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