Exaggeration and Blank Verse
Tainted Love
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Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel the Series

“I do these things because I love you,” he tells her, over and over again. “You must see that, you must know that, it’s because I care for you so deeply. I couldn’t bear to see anything happen to you.”

She nods and tries to smile, flinches when he puts his hand on her cheek.

“You have such a beautiful smile,” he murmurs. “When you show just a hint of teeth, it’s so cunning and coy...”

His thumb digs into the corner of her mouth until she yields and opens her lips a fraction wider, showing a bit of her teeth.

“So beautiful,” he sighs.
***
He does these things because he loves me, she thinks to herself when he buys her new clothes and throws away the old ones. They’re all schoolgirl clothes, the things he buys- pleated skirts and sweater sets and ribbons for her hair.

He does it because he loves me.

She doesn’t leave the apartment without him anymore. They drive to work together in the mornings, silent in the car. They eat lunch together in his office. Lunch is ordered in. She is not to go out.

“It’s such an ugly and dangerous world, Fred,” he tells her, holding her arms. “I don’t want it to damage your purity, your innocence, the things I love about you.”

She spent five years as a slave in Pylea. She borrowed weapons from him to kill her professor.

“That’s all in the past, Fred,” he tells her, stroking her hair like her father used to when he’d tell her a story. “You’ve been purged, cleansed. You’re an innocent.”

She closes her eyes.

“I don’t know what we are here, anymore…you’re the only thing that still makes sense to me, don’t you see? You are our purity...you are perfection...”
***
It must be easy to be a saint in paradise. But she doesn’t live in paradise; she lives in LA.

“Winifred, how is it you’ve lived this long without learning to make decent coffee?”

“There are still creases. Iron it again.”

“That was a perfectly vulgar joke. Why are you laughing?”

“You spend entirely too much time with that Knox person. Perhaps you shouldn’t go in to work anymore...after all, once the first baby comes you’ll have to get used to staying home anyway.”

She can feel the walls closing in.
***
Charles and Angel and Lorne take her out to lunch on her last day. A last-minute client keeps Wesley back at the office, much to his dismay. She can feel his eyes on her back as they walk out of the lobby, Lorne’s arm thrown comfortably around her waist.

Over steaks and potatoes they laugh and chat and toast her and she sits in miserable tense silence, wanting to ask them to ask Wesley to let her stay. She has no idea what she’ll do all day, wandering around the apartment all alone.

Charles is smiling at her, and she gives a wan smile back, remembering his skin under her hands and his mouth on hers. She remembers nights in their room at the Hyperion and afternoons in his truck bed at the beach. Passion and fire, lust and sweat.

Wesley doesn’t like to have sex with her like a man and a woman, not very often anymore. He likes her to sit on his lap and read aloud to him; he likes her submissive and on her knees in the dark. She is purity and innocence; she is clean and chaste; surely she isn’t sullied by desire for the pleasures of the flesh. That’s for him, the sinner, seeking redemption in her light.

A tear runs down her cheek.

“Fred?” Charles is surprised. “Are you all right?”

“I’m going to miss you all so much,” she says, wiping her eyes with her napkin.

“Oh, Freddikins, you’ll see us all the time,” Lorne breezes. Charles agrees with him and makes another silly toast. The waiter rolls up the dessert cart.

Angel sits quietly, looking at her with dark eyes she can’t read.

She feels a sudden chill, and for some reason thinks that he might know something about the darkness within Wesley too.
***
They gave her books and a necklace. Wesley is furious.

“They shouldn’t be giving you things,” he fumes, glaring out over the balcony at the LA lights. “If there’s something you need, I’ll get it.”

“What if there’s just something that I want?” she blurts.

The look he throws over his shoulder at her freezes all the way to her stomach. She shudders.

“Go to your room,” he says.
***
More new clothes. Ankle-length skirts, blouses with long sleeves and high collars.

“We live in Los Angeles,” she tells him. “These are too hot.”

“Modesty’s a virtue,” he tells her, heading out the door to go to work. She wants to shove past him and run out that door. “In our line of work we need all the virtues we can get, to keep us out of Hell.”

“Can I come with you?” she asks desperately, impulsively. “Just to see everyone?”

His eyes flash. “You want to see Knox? And Gunn?”

“And Angel and Lorne and everybody,” she says. “Even Harmony. It’s kind of lonely here all day...”

“I see. You miss having eyes on you. Men’s eyes. You miss being admired.” He takes a step towards her. The door swings closed.

“That’s not what I-”

“My love isn’t enough for you?” She stares at him, open-mouthed in shock and silence. “Vanity and greed, Winifred...dangerous steps down the primrose path...”

Wesley has a cage in his closet.
***
Time passes and she tries to learn to be good, to be pure and innocent and sweet and chaste.

Sometimes at night he’ll fuck her and she lies still and silent on her back in the sheets; she mustn’t move and moan like a whore.

All her science books have gone away because her mind should be on higher things.

She wants to scream and curse and shatter things in the apartment when she’s alone during the days, but the walls have ears and eyes and he’d know when he got home.
***
She’s killed for eight years; five on Pylea and three on Earth. She knows how it’s done.

She isn’t sure she can take a human life; Charles had made it so she never found out.

But for some reason, and she doesn’t know why, the idea of being alone in the apartment with a baby terrifies her more than just being alone.

There’s no hope of finding a sanctuary. Wesley as a tracker is relentless, unstoppable. He will find her.

She was a slave in Pylea. She planned to kill Seidel. But she doesn’t think she can hurt Wesley, not even now.

He loves her. It’s all because he loves her, everything he does. He’s walking into darkness and trying to keep her safe. He has the best of intentions. She remembers an old saying about those.

Only one thing to do.

She looks into her own eyes in the mirror. Yes. She can do this. But she has to leave a message, a warning for the others left behind.

She calls the office and leaves a message with Harmony. Could Angel please stop by the apartment later this afternoon?

She opens a marker and leaves her wishes on Wesley’s stark clean white walls.

She affixes the rope to the light fixture and takes a deep breath.

If she’s done well, the words will frame her.

“Don’t let him bring me back. I know he loves me.”

And on the other side, a quote, scrawled as fast as she can with shaking hands. A warning, to her handsome man who once saved her. With her last act, she can return the favor.

“He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.”

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