Timeline: Shortly after Buffy smashes the Masterís bones in, When She Was Bad.
So, itís over. I know this part of it is over. In my lifetime there wonít be another Master. There are some of them that are so fun to kill that you almost wish you could do it again. Not this time. Some other Slayer will meet him again, and THAT is too damn soon. I wish I could stop that. If I could I would. Thereís no hatred like it, the whole thing is like Mom describes a wretched hangover or something, with the smell of what you drank permeating you, even after youíve barfed. Heís hard to shake off. I have to re-run the whole thing in my head to remind myself itís really over, that I really beat him. He got to me, he was in me somehow, and I can still smell him a little, and itís the most disgusting smell in the world. I need to stop hating him because I donít have to anymore, and it drains me, and I hate him for draining me even after heís dead. It really made it hard with Angel, sometimes I looked at him and even though I knew he was helping me and that I needed him.....all I could see was vampire, just a greedy, life-stealing, child-stalking, night-prowling pest. Once youíre initiated you know in your bones what needs to happen, and it can be hard to turn off. I would never kill Angel but there were moments when I really hated him, just because of what he is. I know it hurt him and I couldnít help it at all. Iím starting to feel better, itís going to take a couple of days. And what am I going to say to Willow and Xander? I canít even think about that now, but Iím so sick of my whole life being ruined by this thing. Canít I have just one friend?
Well, I do, actually. He walked me home.
He stayed close to me and I was so grateful for him next to me, I was so grateful for all that heís put up with and all the fighting he did for me. I let him come into my room with me, it made me feel better just to have him there.
"Thanks. For everything. For not-for not doing what I would have done," I was so drained, I sat on the edge of my bed and he sat beside me.
"What do you mean?" he said.
"Well, I think if somebody treated me the way Iíve been to you lately..I think I would have bolted and left them to handle it themselves,"
"You handle plenty by yourself,"
"Well...thank you. For not bolting,"
"You never have to thank me,"
I hadnít really looked at him directly for the whole walk home, but I did now. "Why not?"
"Iím where I want to be,"
It was good to have him there beside me, but it just wasnít enough.
"I want to be-somewhere else," I said.
"Where?" he frowned a little.
I crawled sideways into his arms. "Iíd really like to be here, right now," I said. I climbed right into his lap.
He closed his eyes and enfolded me snugly. "You did great," he said softly, "You were amazing,"
I sighed, thinking about the whole thing, "I was stupid,"
"You made a bad decision. Everyone makes them. But you won the war. You beat him anyway,"
"I risked the lives of my friends,"
"You saved their lives,"
"I treated you awful,"
"You were taonan,"
"I was whaa?"
"Taonan. Itís a Chinese word...thereís really no word for it in English. Itís a state of mind, itís like death panic, people are taonan when bombs are falling and they suddenly realize that death is running loose, it means terrible danger is coming and if youíre running out in the street even your friends and family would trample you, because the fear is so intense, most of the time in a war everybody will be taonan. Itís a survival mechanism. You needed to think only of yourself, and with good reason, because no one else could save you. You were hung out like bait on a hook, the only thing you could do was get into that state of mind, to survive. Itís a thing that happens in war. Youíre a warrior. Youíre friends donít live in a human wartime, so they donít understand you, but you needed to be that way. And you did survive. And you saved their lives, too. Cut yourself a little slack,"
I squeezed myself closer to him. I felt my eyes start to sting again. I was shaking.
"I donít think Iíll ever be able to talk about it," I said.
"You donít have to,"
"But YOU know," then I lost it, I was crying again, and he held me tight, "I need that, I need you knowing,"
"I always will,"
He smelled so good. I buried my face in his neck, but I was sorry because I was crying all over him, I was sniffing and my face was soaked, his collar was getting damp.
"I hope the dreams donít come back," my voice was shaking, and it sounded so cowardly to me, when I said it.
"They shouldnít. Slayer dreams are more literal than other peopleís dreams. And the Master is gone,"
"It stinks," I said. "I hate those dreams,"
"I can imagine," he said gently.
I pulled back so I could look at him.
"How do you know me so well?"
He looked uncomfortable. "I like you," he said, lamely.
"Yeah, but...you know so much about me, about how I feel,"
"It helps to be old," he smiled. When he smiles his face transforms, it plumps up somehow, and then he does look like an angel, like the paintings of Gabriel or St. Michael, a really beautiful face. That face must have done some serious damage a couple of centuries ago. Who could resist him? It was too easy to imagine him breaking hearts and ripping throats out. The thought sent cold into me. I thought about him now, how he was so willing to earn every little bit of trust, how he walked what he talked, how he seemed to pull knowledge out of thin air. Thereís nobody else like him anywhere. Well, obviously, thereís never a sale on vampires with restored souls, but also in other ways. Heís an extraordinary person.
I was starting to feel tired. The shaking was going away. He read my mind again.
"Can you get some sleep?"
"I think so," I felt around inside myself and thought, no, I donít think Iíll get any more of those dreams. At least not tonight.
He turned away toward the window and I changed. When I said OK he turned around and his eyes moved over me so tightly that I could almost feel it, they were fixed on me, and then he caught himself and looked me in the eye. It was a feeling like heíd touched me all over with that look, I was warm. It is a great nightgown, itís mostly lace. White lace, and really short. I started to take down my hair.
"May I?" he asked, and I shuddered a little, I really wanted him to. I stood in front of the mirror and he carefully pulled the elastic out. He reached past me to the dresser and picked up my brush and started brushing my hair, so gently. I shut my eyes, because I just wasnít in the mood to not see him behind me in the mirror. It was a wonderful release, though, the sensation of him lifting sections of my hair and running the brush through them in long, slow strokes, raking the bristles against my scalp lightly, it left me feeling clear and so much more relaxed. He brushed one side up and away, and then back, and then brushed the other side, and when my hair was away from my neck he leaned close and just barely put his lips on my ear, then down the back of my neck. Goosebumps came up on my arms. He kissed my throat, a little more wetly, a little more firmly, and a thrill shot up from somewhere just below my belly button and all the way up. He kissed the line of my jaw, behind my ear, down the back of my neck again, and down further, little kisses down my spine almost to the middle of my back. He dropped the brush on the dresser. I started to turn around, but he took my shoulders in his hands and stopped me. He kissed along my shoulders and ran his hands smoothly over my arms, slipped his fingers up the back of my neck into my hair, and he held my hair in one hand while he kissed every inch of my neck. I felt soft all over, I whispered his name, it was wonderful, so wonderful. His arm went around me and I leaned back against him, I craned my face up for a kiss, and he slid his tongue between my lips and then deeper. I was dizzy, I leaned strongly on him and he picked me up. He held me there for a minute, I was completely off the floor and he held me up to continue that long kiss. A small breeze came through the window and floated over me and right then I would have done anything, anything in the world he asked me to.
He carried me to my bed and laid me on it. "Get some sleep," he said.
I wanted to whine for him to stay but I didnít. He pulled the covers over me and bent over me, smiling. He stroked my cheek, and he kissed me again.
"No bad dreams tonight," he said.
"Maybe some with warning labels, though,"
He laughed in a small snort.
"You won the war, Buffy. You can sleep now," he snapped off the light. I saw his shadow by the window.
"See you...soon?" I said, I couldnít help it.
"Count on it," and he was gone.
I didnít have dreams last night but I did think about war, and what war really is. I always thought of it as bombs, but thereís all kinds of wars and they all cost the people in them so much...too much. I wondered how many wars Angel had seen, heís been around long enough for two world wars, anyway. Wars are convenient for vampires, sort of like a happy hour, but what about if you had a soul? And where did he learn Chinese? And how did he know so much about me all the time? And what would all of this have been like without him?