Feedback : Pretty please, whatever you thought of it. It will feed my muse
for the next story – honestly.
Disclaimer: None of these characters are mine. If they were, I’d look after
them better. No money will ever be made from this fic.
Spoilers: Post Not Fade Away
Summary: Why wasn’t Buffy there to help Angel with the Apocalypse? And did
I was here when it happened. Here, in this hospital bed in Rome, instead of
with Angel, for his Apocalypse. I’d sent him away from mine, to keep him
safe, to keep him there, as humanity’s champion, just in case I
failed. And I really thought I would. If not for him bringing that amulet,
the world we know would, I’m sure, have gone to Hell.
When it was his turn, though, there were plenty of experienced Slayers left
if I should be killed helping him. The world could spare me, and I ought to
have been with him. Fate, though, decreed otherwise. Fate, in the shape of
I’d been seeing the Immortal. He was the one who knew what was going down;
there was no one else willing or able to tell me about Angel, and his stint
at Wolfram and Hart. No one. I knew the guy had worked a glamour on me after
that first night so, before she went on her search for enlightenment, I had
Will do some mojo to give me a defence. It wasn’t perfect, but it was good
enough, and then I did what I had to with the Immortal, to find out what I
needed to know.
I never knew that Angel had been here, not until a couple of weeks later.
Angel and Spike. I should have done; I should have trusted my senses, because
I came home one night and I could feel him on my skin, in a way that was
never true with Spike. I thought it was just wishful thinking, but my heart
Andrew is too full of himself and his own stupid fantasies to keep it a
secret forever. I was a mess that night. I’d come back from my latest
wrestling match with the Immortal, who’d told me that Angel seemed to be
turning to the dark side, that Angelus was winning, and that someone in Hell
was very, very pleased. I knew what I had to do. I’d already started packing
– you know the sort of thing: underwear, spare pair of shoes, jeans and tee
shirts, sword, nice sharp stakes. Just the normal stuff. Andrew wandered into
my room with his usual complete disregard for privacy and saw what I was
“Where are we off to now? Lisbon? Venice? Paris? Ah, gay Paree! I shall be
your guide, mam’selle, and protect you against all those louche Frenchies.”
There’s no point in trying to bring him back to this planet.
“Not us. Me. Angel’s in trouble.” Serious trouble. I might have to kill him
That’s when he told me that they had visited, and he had already sent them
away. I remember I had the sword under the palm of my hand at the time, and I
swear I have no idea why I didn’t use it. I packed, he argued, he threatened
to call Giles, and in the end I simply decked him. That felt good, but he’d
made me late for the flight, and I was in too much of a hurry to remember
that everyone in Italy drives like a maniac, usually on the wrong side of the
road. It was a lorry that hit me, as I ran for a taxi.
And so, I was in hospital when the Apocalypse hit Los Angeles. Andrew told me
about it and, listening to him, I couldn’t tell fact from fiction. Then
Willow came back, well and truly enlightened on the Los Angeles debacle,
although because of her hasty departure, not so much enlightened on anything
else. He’d stopped the Apocalypse, but Angel, alive and kicking, or as alive
as he’s been for two hundred and fifty years, had been carried down to Hell
by a dragon, and everyone else was dead. For the second time, I knew what I
had to do. He got out of Hell before, and I was going to make damned sure
that he got out of there again.
Willow said she would help, but not until I was more…mended. I’m lying here
with a smashed hip, shattered thigh, arm broken in four places, seven broken
ribs, a punctured lung and some deep internal bruising. Oh, and my neck
hurts, but I’ve refused to wear one of those collars. It will all mend. I
know it will all mend, because I’m still the Slayer, and I can already feel
things knitting together. I can’t stay here much longer, or the doctors will
find out how well I’m doing, and that would be very bad indeed. I reckon I’ve
got less than a week to find a way out of here. Then Willow can finish the
mending process for me, and I can go to find Angel.
There’s not much to do in a hospital bed, with my range of injuries, except
think or sleep. Thinking takes me into too many no go areas, and so I’m
trying to get some sleep when a nurse bustles in. She’s carrying a basket.
When she puts it on the side table, I can see that it is a shallow, round
basket, beautifully woven in glossy green whatever-they-are-you-make-baskets-with,
edged with deep blackish-purple. It has something in it, but it’s generously
wrapped in cellophane, with a large red bow, and the light reflecting off the
cellophane stops me from seeing the contents. There’s a card. I ask a
question, in my broken Italian, and the nurse carefully unwraps the
cellophane, putting the bow on one side and giving the card to me. I still
have one working hand, at least, to scuffle open the envelope.
Lying in the basket are three fat, ripe golden-yellow pears. She looks at
them disapprovingly, and says I mustn’t eat them until the doctor says I may.
When she’s bustled off again, I take the card out of the envelope. I don’t
recognise the handwriting, but I guess it belongs to someone in the shop
where this was bought. It could have been sent by anybody. It’s a riddle.
My first is in PEAR but never in PREY.
Pear = Affection
(From: Collier's Cyclopedia of Commercial and Social Information and Treasury
of Useful and Entertaining Knowledge, compiled by Nugent Robinson. P.F.
Collier’s Cyclopedia 1882? My heart starts beating a little too fast.
I know how to do a riddle. This is easy. A. My first is A. Oh dear god, has
he found a way back? Then another thought occurs. If this is Andrew, I really
will kill him. Slowly.
The doctor tells me I can eat one of my pears, provided I peel it, but I
don’t know if I can do that. Eat it, I mean. It might be from him.
The next day, Andrew denies all knowledge of the fruit basket, but I’m not
sure I believe him. I’m not sure whether I want to believe him, or
not. I’m in the no go areas of thought when the nurse bustles in again,
carrying a brightly wrapped box. She opens it for me, and inside are three
oranges, and a card. The card’s envelope carries my name and the message ‘For
your fruit basket’.
When she’s gone, I shuffle open the envelope as quickly as I can, to reach
the card inside.
My second is in ORANGE and also in DEMON
Orange = Generosity
Well, this is harder. E, O or N. AE, AO or AN. It has to be AN, surely. It
could still be Andrew. Will there be one tomorrow? The oranges shine out of
the basket, next to my pears. I did eat one of the pears, and it was sweet,
and juicy and perfect. Angelic.
I’m pretty sure I’m recovering sufficiently well not to be hallucinating when
I wake up the next morning and see my fruit basket, and the cards lying next
to it, with the red bow. I am in a frenzy of impatience, but I daren’t get my
hopes up. It could be Andrew.
It’s mid-afternoon before the next little parcel arrives. The nurse seems to
have entered the spirit of the mystery, and opens the wrapping quickly for
me. Today, it’s grapes. Huge black ones with the purple bloom still
untouched. The tiny stem at the top is decorated with a thin and elegant red
My third is in GRAPES but never in VAMPIRE
Grapes = Charity
G or S. Not D. Not Andrew. Thank god, not Andrew.
AES or AEG, or AOS or AOG, or ANS or ANG. Please. Please. I’m getting better.
I need to be out of here soon. If I leave, would he (please let it be he)
find me again? Would I know where to start looking for him (please, please
let it be him…)?
It’s as if the next day will never pass. The doctor is pleased with my
progress, although he really doesn’t know how good it is. I’m pretending to
be in even more pain that I actually am. He tells me I can eat whatever I
want from the fruit basket. The grapes are sweet and juicy, with a perfumed
flavour that I haven’t tasted before. After lunch, the nurse peels an orange
for me, and it’s sparkling honey in my mouth.
It’s almost evening when the next parcel arrives. I knew there would be
another. Why is he teasing me this way? Can he not come himself? Is he hurt?
If he is, he won’t be in a hospital, like me, but maybe he’s too badly hurt
to come just yet. After all, dragons and Hell…?
They are hazel nuts. I don’t recognise them at first, because all I can see
is a box full of pale green leafy husks. The husks each contain a large brown
nut, and when the nurse cracks one for me – using a bit of nursing equipment
for an entirely inappropriate purpose – the meat of the nut is sweet and
My fourth is in FILBERT but never in SOUL
Filbert = Reconciliation
Too many possible letters. It has to be E. It simply has to be E. He wants a
reconciliation. Oh, yes, my love. I don’t care that you walked away from me
and broke my heart. I don’t even care about the curse. Willow will find a way
to fix that, but I don’t care if she doesn’t. You aren’t dead, and you aren’t
in Hell, and I’ve never, ever stopped loving you, no matter how I’ve tried.
And I have tried so hard to stop. None of it matters now, just the fact that
you must be alive.
On the fifth day, it’s nuts again. Almonds this time, still in their green
plush overcoats that make them look like fleshless peaches. They are very
fresh and their taste is a balm on the tongue.
My fifth is in ALMOND and also in HELL
Almond = Hope
L. It’s L. ANGEL. Oh, my poor, poor love. I’ll make you forget whatever
you’ve been through. I promise. As I look at the one remaining pear, the
orange, the half-eaten bunch of grapes and the fat brown and green nuts, a
harvest of perfection, I swear to myself that, when I have Angel in my arms,
I will never again let him go. Never.
I look at the card again, to reassure myself that the letter is L. Shouldn’t
there be something that says ‘My whole is….’? Isn’t that how riddles work?
Maybe that will be tomorrow’s gift. I’ll put off discharging myself for another
day, then. They can’t stop me going, I know that. Willow will get me home.
I’ll ask Giles for help if I have to.
The lights are never quite turned off in a hospital, are they? In my room,
they are dimmed for the night, but light comes through the glass from the
corridor beyond, making it hard to sleep. And my mind keeps churning with
thoughts of Angel. In fact, I’m so worn out with thinking that I’m
surprisingly in the shadow of sleep when I feel a weight settle onto the bed
next to me, and an arm wrap around me. I’ve fallen asleep with my head turned
towards my fruit basket, and as my focus returns I see there are now plums in
there, those luscious golden ones that simply invite you to bite into them
and feel the juice running down your chin. I’m lying on my back – well, I
have to, with all these injuries – but I try to turn a little to see him.
My neck hurts as I move my head, and I’m so slow at what should be a simple
movement. But I don’t need to see him. I can smell him, the essential
Angelness of him, and feel the slight coolness of his left hand on my
midriff, even through my nightdress. He stops me from trying to turn, though,
and nuzzles his face into my neck. His voice is like honeyed chocolate.
“I’ve missed you so much. I thought I should never see you again.”
My eyes are hot with tears, and there’s just a lump where my throat used to
be. I simply can’t speak. I thread the fingers of my good hand through his,
and I feel a tiny sob work its way past that lump.
I can feel him nuzzle against my pulse point, not biting, not sucking, simply
resting there, feeling the throb of my blood through those most sensitive
tissues of lips and tongue. Then he draws back a little, and I feel his hand
move away. I don’t want that. I want the touch of him, wherever I can get it.
He just pulls something from his pocket, though, and places it on the bed,
then I feel the weight of his arm over my breasts again, and his leg is
thrown over mine. It’s a little uncomfortable – more than a little – with the
casts and all, but I don’t care. He’s come back to me, and that’s what
matters. I can barely move, and I still have that damned lump in my throat.
My sight is blurry from the tears that are just starting to spill onto my
cheeks, but I can see what he has spread on the bed. An apple, deep red, the
colour of old blood. Three cards, in his own handwriting, dark and bold.
My sixth is in PLUM and also in BUFFY
Plum = Fidelity
My seventh is in APPLES and also in SIRE
Apple = Temptation
Know who I am yet, Buff?
I can feel my heart crack. I try and try to move, but I’m so weak and he has
no difficulty in holding me down, his face still pressed into my neck.
Suddenly, the lump moves, and I can speak again, although my mind is so full
of sorrow and fear for my love that I can’t seem to find anything useful to
“You bastard! What have you done with Angel?” That’s the best I can manage.
His voice sounds genuinely surprised.
“Why, nothing. He’s still here. In fact, the Soul is completely bound now.”
I can’t quite comprehend what I’m hearing. Have I misunderstood? Have I
hallucinated this whole thing?
“Angel…? Is that you?”
I feel the scrape of fang.
“No, babe, but you won’t miss him, I promise. He’s here. He’s just not the
one in charge any more. He’s caged. In fact, he’s in Hell, his own private
version, with a ringside view of everything I’m going to do. The Senior
Partners got pissed off with him, and made me a deal.”
The fangs scrape a little deeper, and I look around desperately for anything
within reach that would serve as a stake. Hospitals don’t have much in wood
nowadays – it’s all plastic and steel. There’s nothing. I try to struggle
against him as hard as I’m able, but he’s just too strong. Perhaps it’s
because of my weakness, but it seems that he’s even stronger than he used to
be. Maybe the Senior Partners made him a deal on that, too.
When he’s sure that I can’t fight him, he moves his hand so that he can wipe
away a stray tear with his thumb, and shifts so that he can look at my face.
My senses aren’t much better than human, but all at once I think that I can
smell the stench of Hell rolling off him, mixed with the despair that is MY
Angel locked in that flesh. I want to scream and cry, but I won’t. If Angel
is there, maybe I can reach him, strengthen him enough to take charge once
more. If I survive the night, surely Willow can find a magic that will work.
Surely. He seems to know what I am thinking.
“It’s going down tonight, Buff. You’ll join me, forever. The Senior Partners
and I have a *special* demon picked out for you.”
He reaches into his pocket again and pulls out something that looks like an
Orb of Thesulah.
“Oh, and they’ve agreed to a request of mine. Just to make it all a bit more
amusing, your soul won’t go free. You get to be caged the same way that he
is. You’ll be in Hell, too, and what fun we’ll all have…”
He smiles at my terror, and I try again and again to scream for help, to
shake him off, anything. But he’s too strong. I feel the sting of his fangs,
then, and the suction as he takes my life into himself. The last thing I see,
this side of the vampire, is that damned fruit basket.
16 October 2004