Hell and Back Again
Part 1

Timeline: More or less current...

Buffy had to set the cooler on the ground to pry open the cellar window. A pain to have to go in and out this way, but it was the only truly hidden entrance. She'd boarded up all the others. She leaped into the dark space, landing lightly. She held her breath, listening. Nothing.

She took the stairs two at a time, made short work of the first floor, then bolted up the stairs to the West end of the mansion. She set her packages softly on the hallway floor and crept into the bedroom she'd left him in. He wasn't in the bed. Her heart stopped in mid-beat. She padded to the closet and pulled the door aside; he was there, curled on the floor, still shaking. Tears sprung to her eyes. She shook herself.

"Angel?' she kneeled beside him gently.

He didn't acknowledge her. She put her hand on his arm. He jumped, crying out.

She went to the hallway and pulled a stolen bag of blood out of the cooler. She brought it to him, kneeling again and opening it so he could smell it.

"Angel, you need to eat. Angel?"

He seemed to see her for the first time.

"Who are you?" he said darkly.

"Eat, OK?" Buffy left the bag in his hands and went down the hall to the bathroom, fighting back tears. She took a bundle with her, laying out towels, soap, clean clothes. She started the shower; the floor of the shower was dirty but she didn't have time to deal with that now. Thank goodness the mansion still had hot water.

He had only eaten half of it when she returned to the bedroom.

"Angel, you need to try, OK? You need to get your strength back,"

"What do you want?"

A sob half-escaped her, "I want you to be all right again. It's going to be OK."

He stared at her. "What's it going to be this time?"

"Shower," she said brightly, and tugged on his arm, pulling him off the floor. He followed her slowly, hesitantly, as though he were awaiting some horrible surprise.

Buffy pulled him inot the bathroom and got him as far as the shower; he jerked away from her.

"Angel, you'll feel so much better. You love hot showers. Remember?"

He gave a short, sarcastic laugh, eyeing her.

"All right," she undressed quickly, draping her clothes over the sink. She stepped under the hot water and let it run over her. She pulled away from the water and held her hand out to him. He looked at her with tears in his eyes.

"Angel, what is it?"

"I'm sick of it," he said, "I'm sick of the lies,"

Buffy bowed her head in despair and wept, leaning back against the tiled wall. Did he hate her now? She felt sick. There had to be some way to fix it; or maybe there wasn't. Maybe he would hate her now forever. She couldn't blame him. She sobbed.

"Don't lie to me anymore. Buffy is not here and Buffy would never be here," he said.

Buffy's head snapped up.


His eyes were sharp with resentment.

"No more tricks,"

Buffy held her hand under the water, gathering a little in the cup of her hand. She tilted her hand over his arm, letting him feel the water.

"It's water, Angel," she said.

His body relaxed suddenly; he bowed foreword, staring at the floor. He followed her lead easily this time as she pulled him in with her.

She rubbed the water on his arms first, so the temperature wouldn't shock him.

"Is it too hot?" she asked.

He continued to stare downward. She pushed him half under the water and watched him carefully. He didn't jump; he seemed to relax even more. She splashed the water over his body and unwrapped the bar of Ivory soap. She rubbed the soap in her hands to make a lather and stroked it down his arms. His head came up a little. He looked at her, an inquiring look. She smiled at him.

"It's one of your favorites, remember?"

He seemed to grow confused, but also more alert. He leaned toward her; he pressed his cheek against hers, brushing gently. He gave a small, sharp sob.

Buffy's tears came up again.

"It's OK now," she said softly, "OK now, it's all right,"

"Buffy," he whispered, but he was staring into space.

Buffy rubbed the soap in her hands again and stroked the lather over his shoulders. She leaned against him, reaching high to bring the soap along his shoulders and then down over his chest. A part of her was absorbed completely in his body, but her heart ached bitterly. Her hands glided over him, down over his narrow hips, down along the long columns of his legs. She stood again. Tears were flowing freely down his cheeks. She threw her arms around him, holding him tight. He leaned against her.

"I don't care," he said suddenly, "I don't care if it's not real!" he wrapped his arms around her, mashing her to his chest. They stood under the water, soap dripping between them, Buffy aching so badly she thought she might loose consciousness, Angel clinging to her desperately.

"I can feel your heart," he said, "I can feel your heart beating against me,"

"Angel, do you know where you are?"

He gripped her to him, not answering. They stood for a while, the steam rising around them; Angel's tears fell onto her shoulder, cool as snowflakes.

"Tell me you love me," he said.

"I love you," she said.

He jerked her back at arm's length, his eyes darting into hers.

"It's so real," he said, marveling, "Kiss me,"

Buffy took his face in her hands and sank her tongue into his mouth.

He groaned and shivered; she could feel his response rising between them. His hands slipped over her tentatively, as though he expected her to transform under his fingers into something else. Oh, God, thought Buffy, is that what they did to him? What would be worse, then that kind of mental torture? Has it made him insane? She pressed the bar of soap into his hand. He held it for several seconds, then moved it against her shoulder. He fell to his knees suddenly; she bent to help him, but he gripped her waist in his hands, holding her still. He pressed his face between her breasts and sighed. He stroked the soap over them, slowly, eyes closed, moving his lips lightly over her nipples as the bubbles ran down. He leaned back on his heels and gazed at her. He moved the soap over her skin again, this time up and downward, over her belly, her breasts, her legs. His hands became more confident, and the touches she remembered returned, the encompassing way his big hands took all of her in, as if they were feeding on her, circling the back of her neck, pushing her lips gently apart with his thumb and touching the tip of her tongue, testing the texture of an earlobe, cupping a breast tenderly, just holding it, gently pinching her fingertips, gliding one fingertip from her belly button to the verge of her mound of curls, pausing, and gliding back upward. Buffy had never made love to another man but she was certain that no one else would ever be able to touch her like this, with so much deliberate worship and so little hurry. She shook under his hands, she bent and mashed her mouth onto his, ravenous.

"I don't care what else you do to me," he whispered.

Buffy took her breath in sharply. "I had to," she said, "You have to know that....Angel, I had to,"

Her back met the tiles with a wet slap; the wind rushed out of her.

"You don't talk that way!" he shouted, "You don't talk about her! You don't know her, you don't know what she went through! You don't know how many times-"

"Angel it's me!" she was shaking him, gripping his arms and shaking him hard, "It's me! You're home! I'll take care of you! It's going to be OK!" she dissolved in tears, pressing her face to his chest. When she looked up he was staring off, crying in the quiet way he did, his eyes a little swollen, tears seeping down, blinking like an injured child.

She pulled him out of the shower and wrapped him in a towel, rubbing him dry. She dressed him in sweatpants and a t-shirt she'd found at his place, and led him back to the bedroom, fluffing up pillows, drawing the blankets over him. She had only a towel on; she turned to go back to the bathroom for her clothes, but he reached out and grabbed the towel, pulling her onto him.

"Don't go, don't go, I don't care if it's not you,"

"You'll be all better soon," she said softly, stroking his cheek, "You will. I know you will. I won't stand for anything less, Angel. I want you back. I'm going to get you back,"

He looked up at her, eyes searching her face.

"Just....just sleep now, OK? It's almost daylight. It's time for you to get some sleep," She indulged in caressing his face, his amazing face, tracing his features again and again, kissing his eyelids. He clutched her tightly. She smoothed her fingers over his cheek. "Sleep, baby, you need to sleep," she whispered over and over, trying to sooth him. He twisted her in his arms, pulling her under the blankets, her back to his chest, and wrapping his arms around her.

"Don't go," he said.

Buffy checked her watch. The irony was awful. All those months without him, and now she had to go to school. One day missing and there would be hell to pay. It was 6:30. Maybe he'd fall asleep and she could make it to her first class by 8:00.

"Promise me you'll go to sleep," she said. He was rocking her. His face was pressed to the back of her neck. "Angel," she said, a little more urgently, "Sleep," Then she wondered what she was thinking; he couldn't seem to understand her at all to begin with, or have any idea of where he was. She wondered if he was still in Hell in his mind, if his mind had been shattered. What would they do then? His hands began tugging at the towel, loosening it; he pulled it out from the covers and tossed it away. His hands moved over her, and Buffy gasped. Fear rose in her. . . What am I thinking, what am I thinking? She raged at herself. She slipped away quickly and stood up, hating the fact that she had to pull away, detesting it. He seemed to fold in on himself, defeated.

She dressed and brought the cooler in next to the bed.

"Angel, it's right here, OK? Please try to eat. You'll be safe here. Just rest and get better. I'll be back in a few hours. I'll be back. Eat, OK?"

Buffy walked numbly through the hallway at school. What if he never comes back? She thought, what if he's helpless forever, I can take care of him, but what about when I'm gone, what would he do then?

She sensed someone next to her and glanced; Willow had been there for some time, she realized.

"So, what's it like there?" said Willow, "Looks pretty miserable,"

"Oh, it's-I'm-"

"Thinking about Angel. You've got that missing-Angel face on,"

"I was just thinking, you know, what if he came back-"

"Would you break up with Scott?"

"Well.....well, yeah, of course,"

"But what if he came back and he was-you know, really messed up? I mean, time in Hell can be disconcerting,"

"Yeah, I'm sure...." Buffy stared at Willow. This witch stuff was beginning to give her the wiggins. Willow was becoming more intuitive every day.

"What if there was nothing you could do for him? I mean, there'd be no way you could just nurse him his whole life, or just lock him in a cage and feed him,"

"You do it with Oz,"

"That's just a few days out of the month. Plus, built-in revenge, because, you know, then there's my time of the month," Willow was blushing.

"Well, then let me ask you this....scenario: Oz is a werewolf all the time, because you finally.....you know.....do it. What do you do?"

Willow turned her enormous eyes on Buffy.

"I don't know. I mean, he'd get shot out in the world by himself, and I know his family would have a really hard time accepting it, they might even put him away or something. And zoos...that would be all wrong.....I guess I'd really have to look at the big picture. What would be the best for him, in the long run?"

"But you wouldn't just give up on him?"

"No, of course not, but-" Willow's mood changed. "I had an uncle who had Alzheimer's. He just hung on forever. And he wasn't happy, and nobody else was happy. It was the worst thing I've ever seen. I just know that if I knew I was going to be like that, I'd rather not BE,"

Buffy was chilled.

Buffy sat on the floor of the mansion bedroom, watching Angel sleep. She held a stake limply in her hand. It wasn't for him; she was about to head out for an early patrol, but she needed to think about reality. There would be no way she'd ever have the will power, she knew it. God, he was beautiful. She was sick of crying, but she did anyway. What would he want? We really should have talked about these things, she thought, but who could have known? She was nowhere near ready to give up, but she needed to think. She gazed at him, tears running down her face, and leaned back against the wall. She tossed the stake away.

Buffy dreamed of his hands on her, on her face. She was suddenly weightless; he was carrying her.

He was undressing her tenderly. His big hands floated over her body, pulling away her blouse, her pants, her bra and panties carefully. Buffy couldn't see in the dream; it was dark, she could only feel his hands on her, and smell him, the faint Ivory soap smell, and underneath that, the cool, masculine smell. His lips brushed her cheek, her ear, her throat, his fingers stroked her hair, very gently pulling the barettes out of it. She sighed deeply, slipping her arms around his neck. It was one of her Angel dreams; Buffy was going to stay with it as long as possible.

He was kissing her shoulders; his mouth moved over her, tasting her skin everywhere, the crooks of her elbows, her palms, he cupped her breasts and kissed them without touching her nipples the way he always did at first, building heat. His fingers trailed over her thighs as his kisses crept down her belly. Buffy shuddered. She was beginning to breathe harder, she could feel her heart speeding up. This was a great dream, she'd only had few this good. One of his hands slid up her back and into her hair, the other was tracing circles around her nipples, his mouth trailed slow, wet kisses from her belly button down. Buffy made a crooning sound. Her legs were trembling, she was praying for this not to end, she prayed not to wake up. His mouth was teasing the tender flesh just above the nest of curls between her legs, teasing her with slow, lingering kisses, stroking her with his tongue as his fingers slid up her inner thighs. She felt her moisture begin. He knew, because he moaned. He always knew. He dipped his mouth lower and gently rubbed his lips over the outer folds of her sex, sipping the moisture up. Buffy made a high, trembling sound. He was gliding a finger along the lips of her sex, which parted easily; his finger moved deeper, stroking the next layer of her; she was releasing more wetness, and he revelled in it, making low sounds of pleasure in his throat. He raised his head. His fingers continued to slip back and forth between her legs as he took a nipple in his mouth. He tickled her nipple meticulously, slowly, and Buffy arched under his caresses, her chest heaving, a light dew of persperaton forming on her upper lip. With every stroke along her sex his finger circled the tip of her clitoris. Pleasure crawled over Buffy like electricity. She held back, because the minute she climaxed she would wake up. His mouth found her other nipple. Buffy sobbed with excitement. His fingertips gave her clitoris a little more attention now, making feather-light circles. Buffy hung on, panting. She was trembling uncontrollably and couldn't last much longer. His hands took her breasts; his thumbs continued to stroke them, and he took her clitoris in his mouth. He began to nurse on it tenderly. Buffy's body contorted and she screeched, crying out his name, bucking against his mouth. She took his head in her hands and ground against him. She felt herself lifting dizzily through space...she was about to wake up.....

She was moving through space again, she landed. It was still dark. Buffy raised her head; Angel's mouth took hers. Was it not over? She felt pillows behind her, she felt his body slip over hers, his arms slide under her. His sex, strong and enormous, rested on her belly. He was so hard that he felt like something other than flesh, something like stone. He kissed her for a long time. Buffy felt her arousal rising again like some kind of psychosis, she felt she was going crazy; her entire body cried out for him. He slid downward, still kissing her; he rested his sex at the entrance of hers and stayed there, kissing her face slowly, in no rush at all, seeming, in fact, determined to make her wait. Buffy shifted slightly and felt the outer petals of her sex close over the tip of his hardness, and she called out. That's just what he was doing...if she wanted him, she would have to take him. She drew his tongue into her mouth and moved her hips downward, taking the engorged head of his sex into her. She gasped and moaned, thrashing a little, but keeping a gradual hold on him, not rushing. He was kissing her cheeks languidly. She felt as if she were standing on a cliff above deep water; a safe dive, but she would be encompassed, she would, for a time, disappear under the surface. She moved her hips again, taking him deeper, and giving a long, ragged shout. He moaned into her neck. Goosebumps rose along her skin. Her nipples ached. She was dizzy, and near the edge. She panted, trying to regain herself. Her hands moved over his shoulders and chest, he was exquisite under her hands, he was so beautiful she wanted all of him, she wanted to consume him. She dipped again and the heat rushed over her, obliterating everything; she moved on him ravenously, crazed, her sex throbbing powerfully. He raised himself a little higher then and began to give himself to her with long, slow strokes. Each time he swung into her he whispered her name almost inaudibly, saying, "Buffy...Buffy" like someone in a trance. Pleasure claimed her violently again, she gripped his back, bucking onto him and screaming. He crushed her against him and drove himself into her, pushing her deeper and deeper into the pillows. He shouted, and she felt the cold rush of his pleasure inside her; his arms went around her and he gripped her to him, squeezing the air out of her.

They lay together, shaking, and horror crept over Buffy....Oh, God, what have I done, what have I done...it wasn't a dream....

Buffy leaped out of the bed and scrambled over the floor of the pitch-dark room, groping for her stake.

"Buffy?" his voice wasn't sleepy or hesitant anymore. It was higher in pitch, it was alert...it was...conscious.....

There was a small laugh.

"What are you doing?"

She froze, confused.

"I-I'll be right back," she stammered, and bolted into the hall; she'd left a votive candle in the bathroom, she finally found it on the sink and found the lighter next to it. She crept back into the room and flicked the lighter on, bringing the flame next to the candle. If she'd have to fight him, she'd have to fight, but she had to see his face. Now.

The soft, wavering light fell on his face and he blinked a little.

"Hey," he said, "Are you OK?"

She couldn't speak. She stared at him.

"Where are we?" he asked, sitting up, "I don't remember-"

Buffy set the candle on the floor quickly and threw herself into his arms. He laughed again and enfolded her warmly, not like Angelus could even fake it, Angelus wouldn't be capable of this. He cradled her, pressing his cheek to hers.

"Buffy, what's wrong? Are you all right?" his eyes met hers softly.

It was Angel.

"I love you," she said.

"I love you, too" he took her hands in his, caressing them. "Did you lose the ring already?" he teased gently.

She looked at him and took his face in her hands.

"Angel," she sighed, "It's going to be a long night,"