After the Rains
Lady Starlight - October 19 2001
Spike thought he’d make a swing around the bus station before heading home. He shook out his shoulders as he walked. Hadn’t been busy lately, thank goodness. Ever since Buffy... He didn’t want to finish that thought. What’s that? He headed in the direction of the noise. As he rounded the corner, he saw a slim, dark-haired girl beating up a phone booth with the receiver. He got closer and heard her grunted words.
“No room. No room anywhere! Where am I going to sleep tonight? Under the trees? Nobody cares!”
He tapped on the glass. “Nice form, but you’d probably get more satisfaction using a baseball bat. Trust me, I know.”
She gasped and swung around to face him. He smiled and said “Don’t mean to pry, but, you need some help?”
“You want to help me? Why?”
“You know, I couldn’t really say.” He lit a cigarette and looked at her thoughtfully. “You remind me of someone, let’s just leave it at that. But at least I can offer you a place for tonight. I’m house-sitting for a— friend. I can talk to her about a longer stay later... if you want.”
“All right.” She took a long look at him then, like she was looking through him. “Besides, I’ve got no where else to go.” She motioned at his cigarettes. “Can I have one?”
He lit it for her. “Should tell you though, I’m a...”
“Vampire. I know. Different than any other one I’ve seen, though.”
Not much shocked him, living on the Hellmouth and all. That statement did. “How? Why aren’t you? What the hell?”
She grinned at him for a minute. “My mother was, um, turned when I was 6. Ever since then, I can just tell. And since you haven’t tried to snack on me yet, unless you’ve got etchings to show me, you must not be planning to.”
“No, nor etchings either.” He grinned back at her. I like her, he thought. Don’t know why, but I like her.
He stuck out his hand. “Spike. And you are?”
As she took it, a chill ran through him. He barely heard her say “Lyssa. Which way to your place?” She let go, and the chill stopped. He shook his head and pointed over his shoulder. “That way, about 5 blocks from here.” He looked sourly at the large trunk. “I suppose that’s yours.”
“Yup. And you can carry for me, being a big strong vampire and all.” He picked up the trunk, got it balanced and headed down the street. She kept pace with him easily, even carrying a suitcase. “So, what brings you to Sunnydale? Father using you for a punching bag? Or a bedwarmer?”
She shot him a quick glance and he explained that he’d heard what she said when she was beating up the phone booth.
“N-no, nothing like that. I just got tired of being the babysitter. My stepmom’s managed to have 6 kids in 12 years.”
“Nothing wrong with that. I hear big families are making a comeback. Read it in Good Housekeeping just the other day.”
“Problem is, she only likes them when they’re little. After that, they become my responsibility.” She invested the last word with a lot of sarcasm, and he guessed that she’d heard a lot of lectures about it. She moved her backpack to a more comfortable position and went on. “The last straw was when I heard them talking. She didn’t want me to go to college because they’d be able to save money by firing the housekeeper, and she’s pregnant again. My dad agreed with her, so I closed out my bank account, packed some stuff and left. I figure I’ll be able to find a job somewhere.”
They walked up the steps of the house. She got the door for him. He put down her trunk and they stared at each other.
So. Now what? he thought. “D’you want some tea, or something?”
She put her backpack beside her suitcase and looked around. “Um, tea would be nice. Thank you.”
She followed him into the kitchen and watched him as he made the tea. When he put it down in front of her, he thought he saw tears in her eyes. “Thank you. That’s very nice.”
He hitched himself onto the counter and picked up his own mug. “So. Tell me all about yourself.”
She took a sip of her tea. “The first thing I remember is my mom & dad fighting. That went on for a long time. Then, just after my 6th birthday, she didn’t come home from going to the store. When she did, my dad wouldn’t let her in the house.”
“How’d he know? I mean, most people would be happy to see the wandering spouse.”
“He’d paid some other vampire off to turn her. He made her sign divorce papers giving him full custody that night. He let her visit me a couple of times, and then she just, stopped coming.”
He saw the old pain in her eyes and looked into his mug for a minute. Why do I feel guilty?
She cleared her throat and kept going. “He married my stepmother about 3 months later and I got my first brother 2 months after that. Some of the other moms on the block used to slip me some money when they dropped their kids off, so I saved that up, and now I’m here.” She hid a yawn behind her mug, or tried to, and he hopped off the counter.
“I can see you’re tired. I’ll get a blanket for you. Couch OK?”
“It’s fine. Thank you.” He was getting the feeling that she usually did for others, given that a cup of tea made her cry.
She curled up on the couch and he started up the stairs. “Um, Spike?”
“Thank you again. I hope I’m not interfering with your plans.”
Right, the big looking at pictures of Buffy and crying in my beer plan. “Not at all. Sleep tight, now.”
He’d stayed up late, or early, watching some revolting movie in the hopes that it would finally get better. It didn’t. He rolled over in bed and waited for the grief to hit him, as it did every morning. It wasn’t as bad today. Maybe having someone else around would be a good thing.
He wandered down the stairs. Something wasn’t right. It smelled, it smelled... clean! Lyssa was just pouring a cup of coffee when he walked into the kitchen. “Morning, er afternoon, I guess.”
“H-hello.” He pushed his pack over to her. She took one and rather awkwardly lit it. “You know, you didn’t have to clean the house, but thank you. Bleach makes me sneeze.” He winked at her and poured a cup for himself.
She looked at his hair and giggled. “S’ok. I woke up early this morning and didn’t have anything else to do. I made some calls about jobs I saw in yesterday’s paper.”
“Good. D’ja hear anything yet?”
“I’m supposed to call the manager of the University coffee shop back in” she checked her watch. “Right now!”
He pushed the phone over to her. She took a deep breath and dialed.
“Can I speak to Richard, please. Hi, Richard, it’s Lyssa calling you back. Did you... Monday’s fine! Yes, thank you very much!” She put the phone down and just stood there.
“So I can assume that you got the job?” His question was lacking his usual sarcasm.
“I got it!”
“Good for you!” He checked the time and figured Dawn would be finished school. He dialed the Magic Box. “Giles, it’s Spike. Dawn there? Hi, Little Bit. How was school today?” He listened as she babbled about some school dance. “Right, right. Listen, I’ve got a favour to ask you. I seem to have picked up a stray. No, no, think back to when you found out about the Key thing. Well, she’s not quite that bad off, but she needs a place to stay. Would you mind? She cleans house really well and I really want to keep her.”
Lyssa giggled at that. “Meet her? Sure, I’ll bring her over to the shop once it’s dark. Right, see you then.”
They walked to the shop in a comfortable silence. He had filled in the time before leaving by telling her some of the events of the past few months. She had sympathized with him, saying only, “You must have loved her a lot. I’m sorry.” He pushed open the door and pulled her in. “Dawn, meet Lyssa. Lyssa, meet Dawn.” They smiled shyly at each other and started talking. He hooked a foot over a chair rung, dragged it over to him and sat down. Lyssa rather timidly sat down beside him as he started the rest of the introductions. “This is Willow and Tara.”
“How long have you been practicing witches?” They looked at Spike. He shrugged his shoulders. “Hey, she knew I was a vampire.” Tara got up and started to whisper urgently to Giles. They walked over to the shelves and pulled out a slim volume.
“And this is Xander.”
“And Anya.” Lyssa shrank against Spike’s side for a minute. “S’ok. She doesn’t practice anymore.” He gave her a reassuring squeeze.
“Do you want to stay here while I patrol?” She shook her head.
Dawn spoke up. “We could give her a ride back. Xander’s giving me driving lessons.”
“A-all right. If it’s not a bother.”
They walked out of the store together. “See you later, pet.”
Willow waited until they were gone. “Spill it, you two. What’s up?”
Giles cleared his throat. “Tara was just showing me an old prophecy.”
Willow made a questioning face. He read it to her: “When the Dead One and the Truthsayer join together, their way will be long and perilous. But if they stay the course, then he shall be a Force for Light and shall fight at the Slayer’s side at the Last Apocalypse.”
“Well, the Dead One thing is pretty obvious. Why do you think she’s the Truthsayer?”
“Sweetie, think about it. She knew about Spike, us, and Anya without being told.”
“Oohh. What should we do? Should we tell them?”
Giles took off his glasses. “No, I don’t think so. From the prophecy, Spike’s going to continue to be helpful to us.”
Spike and Lyssa had been living together for a couple of months now. Dawn had let Lyssa move into her old room. She and Lyssa were becoming good friends. Lyssa was completely accepting of Tara and Willow, although she was still a bit nervous around Anya. Spike and Lyssa were getting used to each other’s quirks and were getting along quite well. He thought it was cute when she would turn up a classic rock station and sing & dance as she did housework. He tried to pitch in as much as he could; not wanting her to start feeling like she’d never left home. After seeing how much she loved music, he started giving her dance lessons, swing, jitterbugging, and even the waltz. He’d started to teach her a rudimentary tango, but cut that lesson short when some uncomfortable feelings started to surface.
She thought it was funny when he would critique TV shows and make up alternate dialogue. They talked a lot and a mutual respect had grown. She had even stood up to him one night. He had been in his cups a little and started rambling on about Angel and Dru. After about an hour, she slapped a pen and pad of paper in front of him and practically ordered him to write it all down and send it to Angel. “Look, if it bothers you that much, TELL HIM! If nothing else, maybe you’ll feel better. I’m going to bed now. Make up your mind.” He stared at the paper for a long time, then pulled it towards him and began to write.
Spike had forgotten what being human was like. He found that his demon instincts were coming out less and less, and his human side was gradually taking over. He talked with Giles about it, and after doing some research, Giles concluded that non-consumption of human blood coupled with exposure to humanity was the cause. Since there was really nothing he could do about it (and, if truth be told, he rather liked it), he let it happen. Life was starting to feel good again.
Then Buffy returned.
No one could ever completely explain it to Spike’s satisfaction, but the end result was that she was just as cranky as always. When Dawn told her about Spike and Lyssa staying in the house, she exploded.
“Spike!” She yelled out his name after straight-arming the door open.
“Ah, hello there, Slayer. Nice to see you back.” Luckily Dawn had phoned to warn him, so he was somewhat prepared.
“Shut up, sit down and listen! You and whatever-her-name-is have two hours to pack and leave. This is my house, not some hostel for the undead. Got it?”
They looked at each other. She had a point; actually, she had about five of them that they could see. They nodded and she slammed out of the house.
“Would it have made a difference if we told her that I’m not a vampire?”
“Don’t think so, love.” He let out a defeated sigh. “Let’s pack up. We can stay in my old crypt for a while till we figure out something else.”
They were loading their stuff into the back of Spike’s car when Dawn ran up to them. “You’re not leaving, are you? Buffy’ll get over this.”
Lyssa heaved her suitcase in and walked over to Dawn. “No, we’re not leaving. We’re just going to stay at Spike’s crypt for a little bit. You can still come and visit, right Spike?”
“You bet, Niblet. Just be sure to bring good movies, alright?” The girls shared a giggle. They had put up with much bitching about choices on Movie Night. They gave Dawn a ride back to Xander’s and drove to the crypt. He made Lyssa stay in the car with the doors locked while he checked it out. Luckily, nothing had moved in during his absence. Even his telly was still there. “It won’t be so bad. Look, I’ve got a line on a bartending job. If that comes through, we’ll try to find an apartment.” Splitting up was something neither of them even considered. He made a rough bed for her on the floor and she was soon asleep.
The next morning, a new tradition was born. Since there was no shower, she decided to brush and re-braid her hair for work. He watched her struggle for a minute, then walked over and took the brush from her hand. “Sit down. I’ll do this for you.” He made a quick, neat job of it. She touched it with tentative fingers. “Thank you. That helps. Oh, I almost forgot, Dawn gave me this last night.” She handed him a letter addressed to him care of the Magic Box, kissed him quickly on the cheek and left for work. She still wasn’t used to having people help her out and it showed.
Spike, I’m sorry for taking Drusilla from you. I know you loved her very much. I used to watch the two of you together, you taking such good care of her, and wonder whether Darla would ever do that for me...
They muddled along for a couple of weeks like that. He was worried about her. She wasn’t as happy as she had been and he soon found out the cause. He heard the door slam shut and climbed up the ladder. Lyssa was leaning against the door, hugging herself. “Hello, love. You’re home early, aren’t you? Where’s your stuff?” She had taken to showering on campus after work, and carried a gym bag back and forth with her.
She jumped at the sound of his voice and couldn’t look at him. He slowly walked towards her. “Lys? Love, tell me what’s wrong? Did something happen at work?”
She burst into tears and covered her face with her hands. As he started to put his arm around her, he noticed bruises on her upper arms and a red mark on her face. He led her to the chair and got her to sit down. Squatting in front of her, he managed to get her calmed down enough to tell him what had happened. When she finally told him that her boss had tried to force himself on her, he was filled with an icy rage. “I’ll kill him. I’ll fucking kill him.”
“Why? Why is what he did to me any different than what you did for all those years?” she screamed at him.
He punched the wall in frustration. “BECAUSE I’M SORRY!” The words fell into silence. They looked at each other for a long minute. “I really am. For everything I’ve done. And because I love you. I didn’t realize it until now, but I do. I love you, Lyssa. If someone hurts you, they hurt me.” She started crying again, but they were healing tears. He cradled her on his lap and let her cry. Through her tears, she confessed that she loved him too, had for a long time.
They set out for the coffee shop. Lyssa was quite nervous. “What are you going to do?” She wasn’t sure she wanted to know the answer. “Trust me, love. I’m going to put the fear of Spike in him.”
He flung the door open. “Which one is he?” She pointed him out. Spike walked over to him, yanked him from his chair and said, “We’re going to have a little talk. Get your stuff, pet, this won’t take long.” He pushed Richard into a small storeroom and left the door open. He wanted everyone to hear this. He pushed Richard up against the shelves and turned his game face on. “Look, you sodding little bastard. If you EVER try that again with Lyssa or ANYONE else, I’ll fucking kill you.”
Richard turned a ghastly white. “It was just a joke. I wouldn’t really have...”
Spike cut him off. “I Don’t Care. Now, I think she deserves a week off with pay, for the trauma, don’t you?”
He nodded frantically. Spike let him go, looked at him for a minute, then kicked him viciously in the balls. As Richard crumpled moaning to the floor, Spike walked out of the storeroom, fighting to not show the pain that was trying to take the top of his skull off. He caught Lyssa’s hand and they walked out the door. Neither of them had noticed Buffy, Willow, Tara and Dawn sitting by the window. He managed to get around the corner before he fell. Lyssa grabbed him before he hit the sidewalk and pulled his head onto her lap. He writhed around on the ground for a while, then recovered enough to sit up. “Was it worth it?” she asked.
“Exceedingly.” He pulled out his cigarettes and passed her one. They smoked in silence, waiting for him to be able to walk. Finally, he rose to his feet and they started for home. They’d just made it to the cemetery when she put a timid hand on his arm. “No one ever stood up for me like that. Thank you.” He cupped a hand to her cheek and whispered “I really want to kiss you now.”
He felt her blush in the palm of his hand as she stammered “I’ve never... Nobody ever...”
He put a finger to her lips and asked her if she trusted him. When she nodded, he lowered his lips to hers, holding her close to him. He fought the sudden rush of passion, telling himself over and over how innocent she was. He broke the kiss and cuddled her close, while he calmed down. When he thought he could walk again, they headed home.
“Well?” Dawn wanted to know what happened.
“There was Spike kissage involved, and now I guess they’re going back to the crypt.” Buffy said.
“That’s so romantic!” Dawn sighed. “First he defends her honour, and then he kisses her in the moonlight.” Buffy rolled her eyes at Tara and Willow and dragged Dawn home. Tara said, “I think she’s right. It is pretty romantic.” Willow laughed and they followed Buffy back to her place.
Giles had just finished packing up the study when he decided to take a break. He’d just poured himself a glass of scotch when he heard a noise at the door. As he walked downstairs, he decided it sounded irresistibly like someone kicking it. He peered through the glass, then flung the door open. “Spike! What’s wrong?”
Spike rushed into the living room with a blanket-wrapped bundle in his arms. He turned to face Giles. “She’s sick, Giles. Really sick. Those wankers at the hospital said she’s got pneumonia. They gave her some drugs for it and told me to keep her warm and dry. How the bloody hell can I do that in a leaky crypt?” He looked down at Lyssa’s white face, then looked at Giles again. “Help her, please?”
“Of course, Spike.” Giles spoke gently, recognizing the state Spike was in. “Take her upstairs. You can put her in my room while we figure something out.” As Spike mounted the stairs, Giles picked up the phone and called Tara and Willow.
Tara knocked softly on the door and poked her head around it. Spike looked up and waved her in. “Giles called us. He thought that maybe there was a healing spell or something we could do. How’s she doing?”
“How the hell should I know?” He looked at Tara’s stricken face and sighed. Running a hand through his already rumpled hair, he said, “I’m sorry. I’m just really worried about her. She’s... special, you know?”
Tara tentatively touched his shoulder and said, “I know. Look, this probably isn’t the best time, but Buffy’s downstairs and I think you two need to talk. I’ll stay with Lyssa.”
Spike was outside on the small porch having a cigarette when Buffy stomped out the door, slamming it behind her. “Willow thinks that we need to talk, but she doesn’t want us disturbing what’s-her-face, so let’s go.”
“Her name is Lyssa. It’s not hard to remember. Try it sometime.”
They did a quick patrol, not saying a word to each other. The tension grew between them. Finally Spike grabbed her arm and made her look at him. “What’s wrong, Slayer? What the bloody hell did I do this time?”
“Nothing! You did nothing, as usual.” She wrenched her arm out of his grasp and turned her back on him. He watched her for a minute, then a flash of insight hit him. He walked in front of her and said, “You were dead, Buffy. I saw you die. And I was devastated.”
“You were so devastated that you shacked up with the first warm body you could find. Tell me, is that how Oprah now advocates getting over a loss!”
“What the bleeding hell did you want me to do? Spend my nights draped over your grave, reciting bad poetry about how much I loved you and drinking too much? And by the way, why aren’t you out yelling at Peaches? I hear he hasn’t been playing the shattered lover too much lately. ”
“You leave him out of this! It’s not about him!”
The volume level had grown progressively louder until they were both yelling. Two vamps had been planning on using the park as a shortcut when they identified the voices. They hurriedly changed their minds. No one wanted to tangle with a cranky Slayer and a pissed-off Spike.
Finally, after much yelling on both sides the truth finally came out. “You said you loved me, that you were drowning in me, but when I came back, you were living with someone else.”
He sat down on the grass, pulling her down with him. “Buffy, for starters, I wasn’t shacked up with Lys. We were like roommates. Ask Dawn, she’ll tell you the truth. Let me restate though, you were dead. And as far as we knew, you weren’t coming back. I guess that I just started to... get over it. I will always love you. You mean a lot to me. But Lyssa’s different.” He looked down at the grass he was playing with. “I love her.” He looked at Buffy then. “And she loves me.” The look of wonder on his face made Buffy tear up a little.
“I’m sorry, Spike. It’s just... It felt like no time had passed—and then I came back and everyone had moved on.”
He put an arm around her then and let her cry for what might have been. She pulled away from him after a few minutes and swiped at her face with her hand. She stood up and held out her hand to him. “You’d better get back to her. Giles told me how sick she was.”
He took her hand and said, “We’d better get back. You’re in no shape to patrol tonight.”
Everybody looked up when the door opened. Tara said, “She’s awake now, Spike. She wants to see you.” He bounded up the stairs without a second thought. Willow walked over to Buffy, noticing the tear tracks. “How’d it go?”
Buffy slumped onto the couch. “Oh, fine. He really loves her, doesn’t he?”
Giles cleared his throat. “Buffy, we have something to tell you. I would ask you not to tell Spike or Lyssa just yet.” He explained the prophecy fragment Tara had found to her. “So, in a sense, this was foreordained.”
Buffy rubbed her forehead. “Why does that make me feel better?” She answered her own question. “I guess because it means that I wasn’t dumped yet again.”
Spike came downstairs, grinning from ear to ear. Buffy looked at him. “Well, we’re certainly all chipper, aren’t we?” He jumped over the back of the couch and plopped down beside her. “She’s sleeping now. Said she felt better before she nodded off.”
Giles leaned forward. “Spike, the two of you cannot stay in your crypt any longer. You’re welcome to stay here until Lyssa’s well again, but have you any thoughts about where you can go?”
Spike sighed. “No, not really. I’m still waiting to hear about a possible job, but until I find out for sure, anything we can afford isn’t much better than the crypt.”
“I thought so.” Giles got up from his chair and picked up his car keys. “Come on, I’ve got a proposition for you.”
“Why Giles, I didn’t know you cared.”
“Get. In. The. Car. Spike!”
After fighting about the radio dials the whole way, they finally pulled up at the Magic Box. Giles unlocked the door and led Spike through the shop to the back entrance. He unlocked that door and led Spike up a staircase. “There’s a small apartment up here. I had thought about offering it to Xander and Anya, but they secured their own accommodations. It’s not much, but it’s better than your crypt.” He unlocked the door and showed Spike in. It was small; a combined living room-kitchen, bathroom, bedroom and small storage room with a stacked washer/dryer, but it was clean, warm and dry. Giles waited while Spike wandered through it. When he came back into the living room, Giles said, “You and Lyssa could have it rent-free in exchange for keeping an eye on the shop at night. Sort of like a security guard. Anya worries so about the money.”
Spike cleared his throat. “Ah, yes she would, wouldn’t she? Are you sure, I mean, we’ll do a good job, but...”
“I’m sure. In fact, you’d be doing me a favour. The Watcher’s Council has asked that I return to England, and I’m going. I’ll be leaving in a couple of weeks and I’d like to wrap up any loose ends before I go. Anya will manage the shop for me, but I was a little worried about security. Tara and Willow have been very good about renewing the wards but I think they’re getting a little tired of doing it. This way, everyone’s happy.”
“Thank you, Giles. This means a lot to me, to US.”
They drove back to Giles’ in silence. Spike decided to nap on the floor beside Lyssa, and Giles took the spare room bed. “Liam, Liam, where are you? NOOOO!” He woke with Lyssa’s screams in his ears. “Ssh, ssh, it’s all right. I’m here, love. Wake up, sweetheart.” She clutched at his shoulders. “Liam, you didn’t leave me!”
Once she had calmed down from her nightmare, he asked her why she was calling him Liam. Through her blushes, she explained. “Well, I didn’t really like Spike, it just sounded too hard. I never liked the name William, so I just kind of, shortened it to Liam, it sounded better in my head. If you don’t like it, I’ll stop.”
He looked away from her. Angel. It always comes back to bloody Angel. Damnit, why can’t he just stay away from the women I love. A wave of comprehension hit him. She doesn’t know Angel. She’s never met Angel. The only things she knows about Angel are what I’ve told her. She just likes the name.
Old, old memories welled up inside him. Sunshine on his face, coming back from watching the groom feed the horses. “‘Liam, come play with me. Papa said we could play croquet if we were careful. You can set the wickets up. I’ll even let you have the blue ball, ‘cos it’s your favorite.”
“’Liam, let’s go and float boats in the river. Cook showed me how to make them.”
“Do you want me to read to you now, ‘Liam?”
Sticky kisses on his cheeks and whispered words in his ear. “’Liam, you’re my favorite brother.”
He cleared his throat and pulled her into his arms. “Actually, my sister used to call me Liam. I just remembered that. It’s fine, love. A new name for a new ‘man’. Oh, by the way, Giles offered us a place to live. He took me over there tonight, and I told him we’d take it.”
“Really? Is it nice? Where is it?”
“Um, it’s not dirty, if that’s what you mean. It’s above the Magic Box, and we’d act as security guards for the place.”
She stifled a yawn then. “But we’ll talk about that tomorrow. You need your sleep now.” He tucked her in again and went to curl up in the blanket on the floor, but she stopped him.
“Stay with me, please?” He stretched out beside her, pleased that she’d asked. He hadn’t pressed her for physical intimacy, letting her set the pace and well content with snogging sessions in his chair. This was the first time they’d shared a bed. He waited until he was sure she was asleep, then carefully got out of bed and found pen and paper.
When Giles looked in on them in the morning, they were curled up around each other, looking completely at peace with the world.
Liam looked at the store window, gathering his courage. Right, mate. You’ve done harder things. Just get your butt in gear and do it. He pushed open the door and walked in. He was soon involved with browsing through the merchandise. So involved, in fact, that when the owner walked up to him and cleared her throat, he almost went through the roof.
“Can I help you with something?” Robin didn’t know what to make of the blonde man. First of all, he looked like a biker, with his leather duster and Doc Martins. Second, she didn’t get many single men in her shop.
He looked around the store wildly for a minute. “Ah, yes. Yes, you can. I’m looking for some new linens. You see, my girlfriend,” His face lit up for a second. “My girlfriend and I just got a place together and seeing as how it’s like a fresh start for us, and her sodding parents never bought her anything new, and it’s also her first time...” His heavy emphasis on first gave her another clue to his motives, but his last sentence confirmed it. He was clearly embarrassed, but managed to choke it out “And I just thought it’d be nice if I could find some clean, some better, SOME NEW SHEETS.”
Robin softened towards him. “I think I have just the thing. Ah, what price range are we looking at, sir?” He dug out some crumpled bills from his front jeans pocket. “Lessee here, $20, $40, $55 and $60. Can I get something nice with $60, d’ya think?”
His slight accent was really starting to charm her. “Well, we are having a 50% off sale today. Is your girlfriend the floral or stripes type?”
“Um, probably floral.”
She walked over to the sale rack. “What size is your bed? I’ve got a nice set that includes a comforter here for a queen size.”
He looked at the set and then looked at Robin. “Ya, that’ll do. I think she’ll like it.”
She picked up the set and walked to the cash register and checked the price while taking the tag off. She’d take a real bath on this one, but his motives were so charming. She hoped his girlfriend recognized what a sweetie she had. She rang up a price of $25 on the register saying “Let’s see, it was $50 regular, so at 50% off, that’s $25, sir. Would your girlfriend like a complimentary bath basket?”
“That’d be great, thanks.” She quickly stripped the price tag off the basket he pointed to and added it to the bag. As he walked out of the store, she started wondering how she’d explain a $275 loss to her accountant. Maybe the IRS would let her use it as a charitable deduction.
Liam whistled to himself as he walked up the stairs. He’d get the bed made up and then drive over to Giles’ and get Lyssa. She was finally over the pneumonia and ready to come home. He’d done his best to get it fixed up for her, but he knew she’d start putting her own twist on things. There, he thought. Hope she likes it. Looks nice, kind of like a magazine photo. He put the bath stuff on the small kitchen table they’d found in a thrift store a few days ago.
He made sure to turn the heater on as he drove over. Don’t want her catching a chill, now. She was waiting impatiently for him. He gave her a long hug as she asked him what took him so long. “Secrets, love. But good secrets.” She made a face at him and he tapped her on the nose. “None of that, now.” He turned to Giles and shook his hand. “I guess this is goodbye, then. Don’t let the Watcher’s Council push you around.” Lyssa hugged Giles and planted a shy kiss on his cheek. “Thank you, Mr. Giles. Have fun in England. Maybe we can come visit sometime.”
Giles watched them drive off and hoped the future would be kind to them. He’d grown quite close to Lyssa during her stay and though he’d never admit it, actually liked Liam now. He shook his head. Such a simple thing, a name, and yet when she’d changed it, she seemed to change Sp-Liam as well.
They pulled up in back of the Magic Box. He helped Lyssa out of the car and grabbed her bag from the back seat. They walked up the stairs together, holding hands. He made her close her eyes before he unlocked the door and steered her into the tiny living room. “Now you can open them, love.” She looked around the small apartment. “Liam, it’s wonderful.” Her eyes fell on the bath basket. “Where did you get this?” she asked as she fingered the colourful cellophane. He put a hand to the small of her back and gently steered her into the bedroom. “The same place I got this.” With that, he flicked on the light.
“Oh my.” She walked over and stroked the comforter. With its creamy background dotted with peachy cabbage roses, it was exactly what she’d have picked, given the chance. She flung her arms around his neck and kissed him enthusiastically. “Thank you. It’s beautiful and I love it. But not as much as I love you.” He kissed her back and they stood locked together for a while. She pulled away slightly then, and said “I know we’ve talked about this, and I know you’re willing to wait. But I really think I’m ready.”
He rested his chin on the top of her head. “Lys, you know how I feel. You can stop me at any time, you know.”
“I know. But lately, I don’t want to stop.” She pulled his head down to hers. He lifted her into his arms and dropped her gently on the bed. He stretched out beside her and pulled her into his arms. No matter what she said, he knew she was scared of this next step. He could hear her frantic pulse and taste the fear coming from her pores. He rubbed her back and crooned wordlessly to her until her heartbeat slowed and he could no longer taste her fear.
He kissed her gently, and then with more passion. Her hands tentatively tugged at his shirt, and he stripped it off quickly. Their hands began exploring each other’s bodies while the kisses grew more and more heated. He wanted to love every inch of her.
After kissing and caressing every part of her until she was breathless with need, he knelt between her legs. She raised herself up on one elbow. “Liam?” she breathed. He looked up at her, eyes dark with desire. “Trust me.” he whispered. She dropped back onto the pillows, giving herself up to him. His hands and mouth started doing wonderfully wicked things to her until she was begging for something she couldn’t put a name to. The pleasure built and built until she thought she’d explode. As she sobbed out his name again and again, he lifted himself over her. Bracing himself on his forearms, he entered her with one decisive stroke.
He stopped then, waiting for her to adjust, and brushed the hair away from her face. He’d wanted to make this as painless as possible for her. She opened her eyes and gazed into his. “All right?” “All right.” She smiled at the concern written on his face. He moved gently at first, then when she caught the rhythm, a little faster. This time she knew what she was begging for, and he gave it gladly.
A long timeless while later, she curled against his side and asked “Is it always like that?” He laughed as he drew the covers over them. “That’s the plan, love.” He turned onto his side and slid an arm around her. He’d never felt this contented in his life.
The next few weeks were the happiest that Liam had been for a long time. They went to Xander and Anya’s wedding, to movies and stayed in a lot. He was still patrolling with Buffy, and after his patrols, checked on Lyssa before going on to his bartending job. The pay wasn’t great, as he was working under the table, but the manager looked the other way on using the master key to the cigarette machine. Best of all, after 1 AM, he got control of the CD player.
Anya is driving me bloody crazy about the sound level on my telly...
Do you remember anything about the Ritual of Cerutian? There’s a bunch of wackos running around here trying to finish the Ritual. They’re not very good at it, none of them can get beyond slaying the goat and doing the fish dance. They’re good for entertainment value anyway...
“Liam? Anya said a package came for you today. She signed for it too. Something from Angel?”
Liam ran out of the bedroom and took the package from her. He put it gently on the kitchen counter and slit the packing tape with a knife. Lyssa looked over his shoulder as he removed the packaging.
“Oh! It’s my doll! How did you manage it?” She was trying to hug both him and the doll at the same time. He blushed a little and mumbled “Wrote Angel and he and Cordy helped out.”
She put the doll down carefully and kissed him properly while leading him towards the bedroom. “Thank you, thank you.”
Lyssa’s boss hasn’t given her anymore trouble. She told me that he’d tried his little games with all the rest of the waitresses there. Since my ’visit’ he hasn’t dared to touch any of them. She says that the other waitresses want to nominate me for sainthood. Or at least give me a medal or something...
Walking home from patrolling one night, he passed the pawnshop. Something made him stop and look in the window. On a piece of black velvet sat an amethyst ring. An idea crystallized in his head as he gazed at it. He opened the door and waited for the owner to buzz him through the security cage.
“Evenin’ mate. Could I take a look at the amethyst in the window?”
The owner got it out for him and he took a closer look at it. The stone was heart-shaped and set in an old- fashioned filigree setting. As he turned it in his hands, he caught sight of the worn inscription inside the band: L & L Forever. That clinched the deal for him, though he kept his excitement out of his face. He checked the price, and mentally counted the cash he had in his pocket. Luckily, he’d been paid the night before. He put it back down on the counter and said, “I’ll give you $85 for it.” They dickered back and forth and finally settled on $105.
He unlocked the door. “Lys? Hey, Lyssa.” She came out of the storage room. “Bought you something tonight, love.”
“What is it? Tell me!”
“Ah, ah, ah.” He shook his finger at her and made her sit down on the couch. “Close your eyes, love.” He knelt in front of her and marshaled his courage. He took her hand in his and slid the ring on. Her eyes popped open as he whispered, “Marry me, Lyssa.”
“Yes, oh yes.” She flung her arms around him and they toppled to the floor. They were laughing and crying at the same time. Finally they managed to get control of themselves and started talking about what kind of a ceremony they wanted.
“There’s a very old vampire ceremony. It’s very rarely performed, we don’t usually see the need for it, but I’d like for it to be part of the ceremony. I think Angel would be willing to do it, and seeing as how he’s my grand-sire, he kind of has to.”
“Why does he have to?” Lyssa was curious about vampire society.
“The ritual rules call for the sire or grand-sire of one of the vamps to perform the ceremony. I’m assuming that you’d rather have Angel do it than Dru.”
“Good point.” She thought for a minute. “Since I’m not really religious, what about asking Tara and Willow to do a Wiccan ceremony for us also? That sort of includes everybody. We could ask Anya if we could use the practice room.”
“Anything you want, love,” he said, picking her up and spinning her around until she was laughing so hard she couldn’t breathe.
“Angel Investigations, we hope the helpless... oh bugger!”
Liam smiled at the mangling of the motto. “Hullo Wesley, Angel around?”
“Just a minute, Liam. He’s right here.”
“Angel, are you sitting down? I’ve got some great news for you!”
“So, spill already.” Angel leaned back in his chair.
“Lyssa and I are getting married!” Angel fell out of the chair. He waved Wesley, Cordelia and Gunn off and got up himself.
“That’s wonderful, Liam! Congratulations!”
Liam’s voice turned shy. “Would you like to, I mean would you perform the Nymahr Feyr for us?”
Angel’s eyes suddenly teared up. His voice was gruff, but sincere when he answered. “I’d be honoured. Let me do some research to make sure everything will go smoothly. Do you have a date yet?”
“Not yet. I’ll let you know.”
“I’ll be there. And, Liam, I’m very happy for you.”
Angel hung up the phone and turned to Wesley. “Liam’s getting married. They want me to perform the Nymahr Feyr for them.”
Wesley’s eyes bugged out and he sat down hard. “The Nymahr Feyr? That’s the least described ritual the Council knows about. And we have Watcher’s Diaries for almost as far back as there was writing. Of course, the Sumerian era is rather sparsely represented, clay tablets being terribly fragile and all...”
Cordelia cut him off. “Babble-boy’s ramblings aside, what’s the Nymer whosits?”
Angel started pacing around the office as he explained. “The Nymahr Feyr is a vampire marriage ritual. I saw it performed in, oh, 1831 or thereabouts. It’s pretty benign, actually, the only thing that concerns me is that Lyssa would have to, uh, sample some of Liam’s blood.”
“But not the whole ‘suck you dry’ thing first, right?”
“No, no, it’s more like a taste. Some Wiccans use the same type of ritual for their marriages.” He turned back to Wesley. “Can you contact the Council and find out if it’s likely to hurt her?”
“I’ll get right on it.” Wesley picked up the phone and started dialing. Gunn nudged Angel and said, “If he’s getting married, he’ll need a bachelor party, right? That’s my department.”
Angel grinned at him. “Sounds interesting.”
Liam heard Dawn and Lyssa’s laughter before they even opened the door. “Close your eyes, Liam.” He heard rustlings and footsteps before Lyssa said he could open them. “What do you think? Dawn and I had to look through every second-hand store in town for it.” Shoulders shaking with giggles, she was holding up the most hideous dress he had ever seen. Fuschia lace dotted with lime green bows overlaid a rather simple under-dress of cream something. The shoulders were a ghastly shade of purple, and the same purple lace was used for a huge bow on the bum.
“Ah, it’s, ah, very colorful.” He couldn’t think of anything else to say.
She sat down on the couch beside him. “Actually, it’s awful. But,” she held up a finger. “I can fix it.” She flipped the lace back and picked up the under-dress. “This is silk, I’m pretty sure. And while the seamstress who made this should be shot, this lace crap is only tacked down at the shoulders and will come right off. Stay right there, we’ll be right back.”
He turned back to his beloved Manchester United. One benefit of moving out of the crypt, they now had proper cable, including ESPN. They had just won the match when Dawn tapped him on the shoulder. “Are you ready for this?” He nodded, heart in his throat. “OK, Lys, come on down!”
Lyssa stepped out of the bedroom and walked slowly down the hall. The creamy silk clung to her slender torso, flaring out gently around her hips. She did a slow turn in front of him, showing off. “Well, did I fix it?”
Dawn noticed Liam’s expression and quickly gathered up her stuff while saying, “See you tomorrow, Lys, I’ll just let myself out now, OK?”
He got up from the couch and said, “Show me how to get this off of you. I need to practice for the wedding night.” He stopped her laughter with his mouth as he picked her up and carried her to the bedroom.
Lyssa propped herself up on one elbow and looked at him. “You do realize that the wedding is day after tomorrow, right?”
“Right. Got it. Want sleep now, please.”
“And that Angel is coming up here tonight? And will be here in about 2 hours?”
One blue eye opened and looked at her. “Oh bloody hell!” he groaned, flipping the covers over his head. She laughed at him and heard a growled ‘S’not funny, damnit!’ from under the blankets. He tucked the blankets under his arms then, propped the pillows behind his back and watched her get dressed. She noticed the apprehensive look on his face and sat down beside him. “Look, sweetie. You invited him up early, he accepted. I think it’ll be good for the two of you to sit down and have a talk. I know you’ve been writing letters for a while, but there’s things that you probably need to say in person.”
He swung his legs over the side of the bed, and looked for his pants. “It’s not that.” He straightened up and looked back at her. “It’s...” his voice trailed off and a look of vulnerability came over him.
“Oh.” She got off the bed and wrapped her arms around him. “I love you. I’m marrying you. That’s not going to change just because Angel’s here. I’m not Drusilla. I’m not Buffy. I don’t want anyone else in my life. You can always call him and tell him not to come.”
He felt a little better and shook his head. “No, you’re right. We do need to talk.”
Liam stood in front of the cupboard that had been designated the liquor cabinet, at least for tonight. “Could you have bought more?” Lyssa asked in amazement, counting the bottles mentally. He shut the door and said thoughtfully, “Oh the big guy could always drink anyone under the table. Drained the kegs dry in this one place. Besides, I figure we’ll need it.”
A hesitant knock sounded. Lyssa looked at Liam. “Do you want to do the honours, or shall I?” Seeing as how he seemed to be frozen in place, she walked over and opened the door.
“You must be Angel. Come in, please.” She stepped back so that he could enter. He stepped over the doorsill and put his small bag down. “If you want to put your bag away, we fixed up a bed for you in here.” She led him down to the storage room and opened the door. “It’s not much,” she said apologetically, “but we thought it would be easier if you didn’t have to try and find a place.”
He put the bag down by the head of the rollaway bed they’d borrowed. “It’s fine, really. I’ve slept in worse places. I mean, not that this is bad, it’s pretty good, but...” She cut him off with a smile. “Come on, I’ll get you a drink and then leave you two alone.”
She poured Angel a scotch, kissed Liam on the cheek and said, “Have fun.” She set the bottle down on the coffee table and went into the bedroom and shut the door.
After a long silence, Liam took a drink and said, “So.”
Angel finished his and said the first thing that came to mind. “You’ve stopped bleaching your hair.”
“Yes.” Liam toyed self-consciously with a couple of strands.
“Thanks.” Another long silence passed.
They spoke at the same time. Liam leaned forward and poured them each another drink. Angel swallowed a mouthful and tried again. “Liam, I meant what I said. I am sorry about Dru. About a lot of things. I won’t ask for forgiveness, but can you understand?”
That broke the ice and they talked long into the night.
Lyssa woke up slightly and looked at the clock. 5 AM. Well, at least they’ve stopped singing. She got out of bed and pulled her robe on. Yawning, she walked out into the living room. Oh, my goodness. She started to giggle at the sight before her. Angel was staring cross-eyed at the last bottle, apparently trying to force it to pour the last inch into his glass. Liam was passed out on the couch, feet in Angel’s lap, head dangling over the side. She walked over and touched Angel gently on the shoulder. “Hi there.”
He slowly swung his head around to look at her. A beatific smile crossed his face. “Lysha. Hi.” He frowned in concentration for a minute then remembered what he wanted to say. “Liam needs bed.”
She could barely keep a straight face. “So I see. Can you pull him up?”
He nodded frantically. “Yup, yup. I can do that.” He reached out and caught Liam’s hands and pulled him into a sitting position. Lyssa managed to get him standing up and Angel went back to his psychic experiments. She walked Liam slowly down the hall and maneuvered him into the bedroom. “There we go. Not far now. Just a couple more steps.” She gave him a push and he collapsed bonelessly onto the bed. She though briefly about trying to get his jeans off, then figured there was no way.
She sighed and went to get Angel into bed. He was still staring at the bottle. “Angel?” she said softly. “I think you should go to bed too. It’s almost dawn.”
He pouted at her but managed to heave himself off the couch. He swayed a little and she got behind him and pushed gently. “OK, Angel, here we go.” She steered him to the storage room, feeling like one of the tugboats that steered the Queen Mary around. Finally, she got him through the door, turned him around so his back was to the bed, and pushed him over. Just as she thought, he crashed more or less square onto the bed. She flipped a blanket over him, went back out to the living room and closed the curtains. Not that they’ll beat the sun up, but you never know.
She hung her robe up again, and crawled back into bed. She set her alarm for 10 AM, turned over, and yelped in surprise. One slightly bloodshot blue eye was looking at her. He threw an arm around her and pulled her close. “Thought you’d leave me for him. Ever’body always does.” She snuggled into his embrace. “No, Liam. Not everybody.” Her only answer was a soft snore. Her last thought before sleep claimed her was How does a creature that doesn’t breathe, manage to snore?
She dragged herself down to the practice room by noon. As she walked in, Xander turned to look at her. “Well, you’re looking all not-bright-eyed and bushy-tailed this fine day.”
She yawned and said, ‘There are two drunken vampires sleeping it off upstairs. Do you have any idea how many drinking songs the two of them know by now? They were singing by midnight, and I don’t think they stopped until 4:30.”
Willow patted her on the shoulder. “Well, you should go back upstairs and get some more sleep. We’re going Bronzing tonight, remember? Besides, we’re all done here.” A muffled thud from upstairs cut her off. Lyssa groaned and buried her face in her hands. “Oh, Lord. One of them probably fell out of bed.” Buffy walked over to her. “Come on. I’ll loan you some Slayer-muscle if you’re right.”
They walked up the stairs together, Lyssa telling Buffy about the early morning events. Buffy couldn’t stifle her giggles as Lyssa described the way Angel was staring at the bottle. They checked, and sure enough, Angel had fallen out of bed. He lay there, blinking owlishly at them. “Bed moved. Bad bed,” he frowned, trying to swat the bed into submission. “Oh my goodness,” Lyssa whispered to Buffy, “he’s still drunk.”
“Do you think he’ll sober up by tonight?” Buffy asked as they heaved him back up onto the bed. “I, OOFF, hope so. Otherwise, it’s going to be interesting.” Lyssa yawned again as they walked into the living room. “Get some sleep. It’s a big day tomorrow.”
“You’re probably right. Thanks for your help.”
She locked the door behind Buffy and turned to go back to bed. As she walked into the bedroom, she gasped in shock. Liam slid his arms around her from behind and whispered in her ear, “Sleep, love? Or just bed?” She turned in his arms and hit him lightly on the chest. “Don’t DO that! You scared the daylights out of me.”
He walked her towards the bed, stripping her of her clothes between kisses. “Let me repeat the question. Sleep, or bed?”
She slid her arms around his neck and kissed him lingeringly. “How about both?” she breathed into his ear.
The three of them walked into the Bronze. A large sign over the bar proclaimed it to be “Be Your Own DJ Night because Ours Just Quit”.
Everyone else was waiting for them at the large table they’d reserved. Greetings, hugs and handshakes were passed around. The women clustered at one end of the table and started talking excitedly about the decorations, their dresses, the flowers, while the men tried to drown them out with manly talk of football and demon slaying.
Liam walked back from the DJ booth. The sultry strains of Santana’s Oy Como Va floated over the dance floor. He took Lyssa’s hand and kissed it. “Sorry to break up the party, ladies.” he said as he pulled her toward the dance floor and swung her into the modified tango he’d taught her. For the Bronze, this was virtuoso dancing and everyone else cleared the floor. Buffy let out a small sigh as she watched them. Angel slid over to sit beside her. “He really loves her, doesn’t he?”
He covered her hand with his. “Yes, he does.” he confirmed in a low voice. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen him so happy.”
She twined her fingers with his. “I’m happy for them too. Just... not happy for Buffy. You know?”
“I know.” They watched the dancers in silence for a minute. Buffy cleared her throat. “Never really thought about Liam being a dancer before. My money would have been on Dirty Dancing style, but more Dirty, less Dancing.”
Angel accepted the change of topic. He leaned back in the chair and stretched his legs out. “Seems he’s always known how to dance. He couldn’t usually keep Dru on the floor, but he could usually persuade Darla to take a turn or two with him. He’d usually try to cop a feel, though, then she’d slap him and stalk off.”
Liam and Lyssa returned to the table, accepting the praise showered on their heads. Willow coaxed Liam into trying to teach her the tango, but kept getting tangled up over her own feet. That signaled a return to the dance floor for everyone. Sensing a private occasion, a lot of the other patrons cleared out, and they pretty much had the club to themselves.
Angel had laughed himself off the chair watching Xander attempt the two-step with Tara. He was still wiping the tears from his eyes and trying to get back up when Lyssa walked up to him. He’d seen them in whispered consultation but hadn’t thought anything about it. She held out a hand to him and asked him to dance. “Ah, thanks, but really not the dancing type.” She tugged gently on his hand and got him out on the floor. She nodded to Liam and he heard the opening bars of the Blue Danube Waltz. He looked at her in shock. “He told you.”
They began the old-fashioned waltz. He thought absently that it was a good thing the club was almost empty, as the traditional waltz required a lot of space. What little conversation there was died down as everyone watched them. Liam was watching with pride in his face. When the last bars faded, the applause began. Lyssa curtsied gracefully and Angel bowed. He tucked her hand in the crook of his arm and walked her over to Liam. He kissed her cheek and said, “Thank you for the dance.” Needing some release from the tension, he punched Liam gently on the shoulder and said, “You sod. Didn’t think you’d remember that.” Liam just grinned impudently at him.
That seemed to signal the end of the evening. Liam put one last song on the CD player, and he and Lyssa swayed dreamily to Styx’s Lady as everyone else straggled out of the club. Angel toyed with the remnants of his drink as he waited for them. He drove them back to the apartment with the top down. He stopped Liam as he was about to go to bed. “Um, thank you. I had a really nice time tonight.” Liam pulled him into a quick embrace. “Glad you’re here, mate.”
Liam shifted nervously from foot to foot as he waited for Lyssa. Angel sighed and told him for the hundredth time to stop fidgeting. Finally, she appeared in the doorway. She carried no flowers, but wore a wreath in her hair and a radiant smile on her face. She moved to stand beside Liam, who instantly calmed down. As Tara and Willow began casting the blessed circle, they twined their fingers together.
“... Hecate, Isis, Demeter, Diana, Ishtar! Bless this circle and keep from harm all in it. So mote it be.” Tara and Willow stepped back and nodded to Angel. The circle was in place and the ceremony could start.
He cleared his throat and began the ritual. Holding a silver basin in his left hand and a small dagger in his right, he asked Liam and Lyssa to hold out their left hands. He slashed their palms with the dagger as he spoke: “We witness the joining of these two with open hearts. The vows spoken here are binding and may not be undertaken lightly.”
When he judged there was enough blood in the basin, he instructed them to clasp hands. He mixed the blood with his finger and said.
“Both of you repeat after me. As flesh calls to flesh, and bone to bone,”
As flesh calls to flesh, and bone to bone,
“So blood calls to blood,”
So blood calls to blood.
He placed a smear of blood in their mouths. “My blood in you. Your blood in me,”
My blood in you, Your blood in me.
“Our blood is one. We are one.”
Our blood is one. We are one.
He checked their palms, noting the healed cuts. Putting the dagger and basin down, he lifted their hands and turned them palm out, displaying them to everyone.
“We witness that this is a true bond as shown by the healing of wounds.”
The chorus of “We so witness” from everyone else drowned out the sounds of the room’s back wall shimmering and turning into a pair of huge gates that slowly swung open.
Angel placed his hands on Liam and Lyssa’s heads. “May you never again cause each other pain.”
ABOMINATION! thundered a voice from the gates. Everyone swung around in shock.
HOW DARE YOU PROFANE OUR RITUAL BY BONDING WITH A HUMAN? Tara gasped and put a hand to her forehead. Her eyes rolled briefly back in her head, then she straightened up and squared her shoulders.
YOU WILL BE PUNISHED FOR THIS. A huge scaly arm shot out from the gates, but was stopped by the blessed circle.
HMM, I HAD NOT EXPECTED THIS. the voice mused. COME OUT OF THE CIRCLE, WILLIAM. Lyssa buried her head in Liam’s shoulder and clung desperately to him.
Tara put Willow’s clinging hands away from her and walked in front of the gates. “Do you know me, Guardian?” she asked.
I KNOW YOU.
“Will you bargain with me, then?”
FOR WHAT? A hint of interest laced the voice.
“For him.” Tara gestured over her shoulder.
STATE YOUR TERMS, ISHTAR.
Tara buffed her nails on her dress. “Five hundred demon years in an Outer Circle of Hell. Then he comes back here.”
NOT ACCEPTABLE. FIVE HUNDRED YEARS IN AN INNER CIRCLE. IF HE CAN RESIST TEMPTATION, HE WILL BE ALLOWED TO RETURN.
“Not acceptable. Five hundred DEMON years in an Inner Circle. The woman’s image is forbidden for use, and they will be allowed contact once per demon year.”
AGREED. FIVE HUNDRED DEMON YEARS IN AN INNER CIRCLE. The voice seemed to sigh then. THE WOMAN’S IMAGE WILL NOT BE USED AND THEY WILL BE ALLOWED CONTACT ONCE PER DEMON YEAR. YOU DRIVE A HARD BARGAIN, ISHTAR.
A dawning hope washed over Liam’s face. “Listen hard, Lys. I don’t have time to explain this. You heard the bargaining. I’ve got a chance at beating this. I WILL beat this. I love you. Just remember that, OK?” He kissed her thoroughly and peeled her hands off his jacket. He handed her over to Angel, and said, “Take care of her, mate. Try and explain it to her later.” Angel could only nod. He held Lyssa’s head away from the gates, so she couldn’t watch Liam walk into Hell.
Ishtar and the Guardian were still chatting as Liam walked up beside Tara. She looked at him and said gently, “Step out of the circle, Liam. Have faith and remember that any image of Lyssa you see is a true one. She will not be used in the temptations. Go quickly before your friends are in danger.” Liam stepped across the Circle, taking care not to break it. The arm shot out again and pulled him through the gates. Shimmering light filled the room, and the gates were gone.
Lyssa shrugged out of Angel’s arms and walked over to the wall. She leaned her forehead against it, the fingers of her left hand spread and the palm touching the wall. “Come back to me, my Liam. Please, come back to me.”
She walked out of the room and mounted the stairs to their apartment. Angel trailed after her, uncertain as to what he should do. He stood in the doorway and watched as she trailed aimlessly around the rooms. Finally, just for something to do, he moved into the kitchen and started making tea. She sat down on the couch as Angel brought the tea out to her. He picked up a blanket from the back of the couch and tucked it around her shoulders. She fingered the silky edging and said, “He bought this for me.” Angel made an encouraging noise. “We were coming home from the movies and I saw this in a shop window. He asked me if I liked it and I said I thought it was pretty, but too expensive. He called Willow the next morning and got her to go and buy it.” Tears were running down her face as she talked. “He used all the money he’d saved to buy the complete Sex Pistols collection on CD.” Angel sat down beside her and cradled her in his arms as she cried. When she had exhausted herself, he tucked her gently into bed and called Buffy.
“How’s she doing?” Buffy’s voice was warm with concern.
“She’s sleeping now. I’m going to try and explain it all to her in the morning. I think she needs to rest now.”
“You’re right.” She hesitated for a minute. “Angel, ah, can you tell her that I know what she’s going through. Tell her that we’re all here for her.”
“I will. Goodnight, now.”
Lyssa could never remember fully the first week after Liam’s disappearance. She thought she slept a lot, and she knew that Angel never left her side. She would wake up from dreaming of Liam, seeing him in pain from the torments and Angel would be there. He consulted with Tara and Willow, trying to think of a way to bring her out of it.
They were walking home from patrol one night when they heard a noise. They tracked it behind a tombstone, wary for any demon activity. They saw a rather scrawny Siamese cat with its leg stuck in a crack in the old tombstone.
“Oh, you poor baby!” Willow immediately dropped to her knees beside the cat and started trying to free its leg. She picked it up and tried to soothe it. Tara passed her hand over the cat and said, “Sweetie, I think we should take it to Lyssa.”
“Are you sure? I mean, from what Angel says, she can’t even take care of herself, let alone something else.”
An otherwordly aura hung about Tara for a minute. “I’m sure.”
They knocked softly on the door. Angel opened it and stepped back so they could come in. He lifted an eyebrow at the cat in Willow’s arms. She shrugged and said, “Well, we’ve tried everything else.” He nodded defeatedly. Willow put the cat down and they watched as it walked over to Lyssa. It pawed gently at her knee for a minute, rubbed around her ankles and then jumped into her lap. A rusty purring came from the brown lump. As Lyssa started gently stroking the cat, the volume of purrs increased. She stared at the cat for a minute, then lifted her head and said, “He’s gone, isn’t he?”
Angel perched on the coffee table in front of her. “No, Lyssa. He’s not gone. He’s got a chance to come back to you. He’s just the stubborn sod to do it, too.”
She smiled a bit at that and went back to stroking the cat. Willow and Tara volunteered to go to the all- night supermarket for supplies. Angel pulled out a fifty from his wallet and gave it to them at the door.
Is Cordy still sticking you with her dry cleaning bills? Tell her it could be worse, it could be baby puke. That stuff never comes out, I know...
Lyssa, It was my privilege. I just wish I could have helped more.
Everyone here sends their love.
We had to try and contain an interesting manifestation last night. Apparently, a local coven had been raising a Passion Demon, and it got loose. I’ve got some great blackmail pictures of Cordy and Wesley if I ever need them...
I guess to cheer me up or something, the girls came over and dragged me out last week. We went out for a cup of coffee and just for something to do, I started pointing out all of the non-humans in the coffee shop. Buffy couldn’t believe it!
She grumbled all they way home about how her spidey-sense had failed her. Then she asked me to go out on patrol with her to give her the heads-up on the nasties. I’ve gone out with her a couple of times now. Last night, there was a Murhorch demon wandering around. I wouldn’t let Buffy kill it because they’re defenseless against humans. To prove it to her, I walked up and smacked it on the nose. Willow cast a translation spell and we found out it just wanted to go home, but had lost its pathway back. Once on the pathway, it gave us a present. Which would have been nice, but dead mice? Eeuuwww! How come you get fun stuff like Passion Demons, and we get Dead-Mice-Giving demons?
Have you told Cordy and Wesley about the pictures yet? Tape that, if you can, Liam will like to see it...
Lyssa, Did you know that you can hide a video camera almost anywhere? Gunn found one that fits in a book for me. We’re going to tell them about the pictures tonight. It should be priceless, and maybe I can get my office back.
I’m sending you another case of videotapes. I can get them wholesale because we’re a business. And I know how cranky Liam will be if he misses even one episode of Passions. Remind me to bug him about that...
Lyssa, Halfway through now. How are you holding up? How is work going for you?
Lost my office again. Stupid card game. Should’ve insisted we play strip poker like Gunn wanted. Even Cordy beat me. So now I’m back to making coffee for everyone. They’ll regret that though. Never learned how to make coffee properly with a machine. When I was in Montana...
Cordy beat you at poker! Hidden depths to that girl. Challenge them to a rematch on the 21st. You’ll win, I promise. Just don’t humiliate them too much. We went to Montana once before my mom died...
Buffy doesn’t let me go out on patrol very often. She says that she’s trying to have a social life and having me with her makes her work too much. Dawn and I hang out quite a bit. I never got to be an older sister before. I was too busy changing diapers and cleaning house...
Lyssa, One of the things that Liam told me before he passed out was how miserable you were at home. He really wants to make you happy. When he was with Dru, he always had to take care of her. They weren’t partners like you two are...
Everyone had gathered again. It had been 500 days since Liam had been taken to Hell. Lyssa was calmly serene, but the rest of them weren’t so sure.
“He spent 500 years in an Inner Circle, Angel! You only spent 100 years in an Outer Circle and you came back acting like an animal.”
“He chose to go, Buffy. That might make a difference. Let’s just wait and see before we decide anything. OK?” There was grudging assent from the group.
A high-pitched humming filled the room and the portal opened. Liam tumbled out and landed hard on the floor. He was naked, his clothes having been lost centuries ago, terribly thin, and covered with bruises. His voice was harsh, as he screamed, “NO! You promised you wouldn’t use her. YOU PROMISED!”
Lyssa knelt beside him. She swept her hair away from her neck. “Liam. Taste. Believe.”
His head snapped up and he looked at her. He got to his knees and buried his face in her neck. Buffy stepped forward with the crossbow. Angel suddenly put his hand out. “Stop! He’s not draining her. He’s tasting her. It’s the only way to prove to him that it’s finished. That it’s really over.”
Liam pulled away from her neck. They slowly got to their feet, never taking their eyes off of each other. He reached a trembling hand to her face. “Lyssa. It’s over, isn’t it?”
She covered his hand with her own. “Yes, Liam. It’s finally over.”
He pulled her into a fierce embrace. “Can we go home now?” he mumbled into her hair. “Please, Lyssa. I want to go home.”
Tears streamed from her eyes as she whispered, “Yes, Liam. We can go home now.”
She supported him as he limped out of the practice room.
Tara stepped back from the altar. She turned to Liam and Lyssa. As she wound the golden cord around their clasped hands, she said, “Remember. This bond cannot be broken by death. Only lack of love.”
Their lips met lovingly. He brushed a stray bit of hair from her eyes as he whispered. “Then it will never be broken.”
2 years later...
Managed to win my office back again from Wesley. Mental note: quit using the office as a wager when we play poker. Or stop playing poker. Think I could take them at darts? I won 50 pounds off that Welsh guy once...
5 years later...
Gunn beat me at darts a week ago. Damn. Have to think of another game now...
10 years later...
“Angel. It’s almost time. She wants to talk to you.”
“I’ll be there as soon as I can.” He sighed as he put the phone down. He had been expecting this call for a couple of months now, but it was still a shock.
Liam watched the monitor carefully. Satisfied that it was just a minor equipment bobble, he leaned back wearily in his chair.
“How is she?” Buffy quietly slipped into the room.
“Holding her own. I called Angel tonight. It seemed to calm her down a little.”
Buffy rested her hand on Liam’s shoulder. It had been a hard six months for him. Six months from diagnosis... to this. She didn’t know how he coped as well as he did. “I’ll stay with her. Go out and have a smoke break or something.” She gave him a gentle push towards the door.
He looked over his shoulder. “You’ll get me if anything changes.”
He was sitting on the stairs when Angel pulled up. He stood up as Angel walked up to him.
“Has anything changed?”
“No. She’s still with us.”
Angel regarded Liam with worried eyes. He wanted to embrace the younger vampire, but held back. He could sense that Liam was very close to losing it.
Willow stuck her head out of the door. “She’s awake now. She wants to talk to both of you.”
They entered the bedroom. Lyssa turned her head slowly towards them. “Liam, I want to talk to Angel alone for a minute.”
He nodded and backed out. The door snicked softly shut behind him. She patted the bed. “Come here. There’s something I need to ask you.”
He sat down gingerly on the bed and took her hand. “You can ask me anything. You know that.”
She smiled weakly at him. “You have to take care of him for me. He won’t want to let you, but you’ve got to anyway. He’s... needed.”
He squeezed her hand gently. “I promise. Even if I have to tie him up and stuff him in the trunk of my car.”
“Good.” She closed her eyes for a minute. “Will you get him now?”
He opened the door. “Liam, she’s asking for you.”
Angel leaned against the wall, eyes closed. He could sense that Lyssa was very close to death now, very close. Liam was telling her over and over that he loved her, that she could go now. A clear voice came from behind Liam; “She won’t go until you’re given your choice.”
Both vampires growled in surprise, startled into game faces. Whistler grimaced at them. “Oh, put it away, boys. Liam, the Powers That Be have decided to give you a chance. If you keep fighting on the side of the Light, when your task is finished, you’ll be able to join Lyssa in Heaven.”
“And if I don’t?”
Whistler turned his thumb towards the floor.
“Some bloody choice! Of course I’ll do it.”
Lyssa sighed softly then. A slight smile curved her lips as the heart monitor went flat line.
Sunnydale – One week later
Angel looked around the small church. Everyone seemed to be there. He nodded slightly to the priest.
“We are gathered here not in sorrow, but in confusion...”
The priest had finished the service and left the pulpit. Liam stood up from his seat and turned to face everyone. He had to clear his throat a few times before he could speak. “Uh, this is the part where I’m supposed to get up and talk about her. I can’t. I don’t have the words. I’d like to play two songs for you, the first one says everything I feel about Lys, and the second one was her favorite. Mostly because of the chorus.” He sat down abruptly and Gunn slotted a CD into a player.
Tears welled up in everyone’s eyes as the song started.Lady, when you're with me I'm smiling
Give me all your love
Your hands build me up when I'm sinking
Touch me and my troubles all fade
Lady, from the moment I saw you Standing all alone
You gave all the love that I needed
So shy, like a child who has grown
'Cause you're my lady of the morning
Love shines in your eyes
Sparkling, clear, and lovely You're my lady
Lady, turns me on when I'm lonely
Give me all your charm
Evenings when she lays down beside me
She takes me gently into her arms
Lady of the morning Love shines in your eyes
Sparkling, clear, and lovely You're my lady
Lady of the morning Love shines in your eyes
Sparkling, clear, and lovely You're my ... lady
The last notes faded away and the only sound was the whir of the CD player. Angel looked over at Liam. Tears stood in his eyes and he was still mouthing the words of the song. The player clicked slightly and the next song started.
Liam was holding onto his composure with teeth and toenails. As Crosby, Stills and Nash wove their harmonies throughout the church, he could feel that composure slipping. At the line:
But on a midnight watch I realized why twice you ran away
he buried his head in his hands as the tears started to fall. Angel pulled him into a loving embrace and reflected on how eerily appropriate the chorus was, for both Lyssa and Liam.
Think about how many times I have fallen
Three weeks later – Los Angeles
Angel watched Liam walk down the street. He was desperately worried about him. Liam hadn’t spoken a word since they had buried Lyssa. Angel had had to practically order him to eat, and even Cordelia was starting to worry about him. “Where’s he going?” she asked him.
He turned away from the window. “Out for a walk, I guess.”
Liam had just started to cross the street when he heard a shout.
“Hey, hey you!” A heavy-set black vampire jogged up to him and clapped him on the shoulder. “Hey, Spike, my man, how you doin’?”
At Liam’s blank stare, the vamp said, “Hey, Spike, it’s Gregg. We hung out in Brazil for a while. Almost didn’t recognize you with the new ‘do. Man, I haven’t seen you, for what, almost 15 years now! Are you still with that Dru chick? Don’t get me wrong, she was pretty hot, but what a whack job! Whatchoo up to now? I took out a whole school bus last night...”
Faster than though, Liam’s hand whipped a stake from the pocket of his duster and thrust it through the vampire’s chest. As the dust settled, he said, “The name is Liam.”
He turned and walked back to the hotel.
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