Exaggeration and Blank Verse

Blinded

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel the Series

Just an old friend coming over now to visit you and
That’s what I’ve become
I let myself in though I know I’m not supposed to but
I never know when I’m done
And I see you fogging up the mirror
Vapor around your body glistens in the shower
And I wanna stay right here
And go down on you for an hour
Or stay and let the day just fade away
In a wild dedication, take the moment of hope
And let it run
Never look back at all the damage we have done now
To each other, to each other, to each other…

~"Blinded" (Third Eye Blind)


I’ve been sitting here for an hour in his big fancy apartment, as many square feet as the whole house I grew up in, perched on the couch looking through the open bedroom door to the open bathroom door where clouds of steam pour out and settle near the floor like fog. It’s that fucking cold in here- I guess he doesn’t bring visitors up here very often, since the temperature is definitely set for the relative comfort of the dead.

I looked for a thermostat but couldn’t find one; whoever did the interior design on this place had a major dislike for the functional. So I’m sitting on a leather couch that I think might be giving me frostbite, rubbing my arms to keep warm, waiting for him to finish scrubbing away whatever it is he wants to see swirl down the drain. He’s been in there so damn long I’m guessing it must be some fresh juicy sin. I bet it’s a doozy, something that’s just twisting up his guts and breaking his shriveled-up ancient heart. I hope so, because I came all the way from Africa to make sure he’s hurting and it makes my job easier if he has a head start.

It’s just him and me up here tonight. I watched his friends walk out of the lobby to go to some bar and drink a toast to Cordelia’s memory; I smiled and shook their hands and said good-bye as they walked out. Not until they gave me the code to his apartment, of course. Hey, I’m an old friend from Sunnydale dropping by for a visit. Why wouldn’t he want to see me?

Other than the fact that he ought not to want to see anybody from Sunnydale right now, and if they’d been thinking straight at all they would’ve remembered that. But I’m a charmer, always have been. It’s a gift of mine.

They walked out of the lobby and I took the elevator up thirty floors, and he’s got no one to pawn me off on tonight. I’d even managed to convince Harmony to leave without chatting about the good old days, mostly by reminding her that there weren’t any.

Just me and Angel, thirty floors above the city lights. Me and the thing- the man- that more than anyone else I can think of taught me how to do what a man has to do: keep his chin up and walk away from love.

Andrew told me to bring a stake. Willow told me not to go at all. Giles slipped holy water into my jacket pocket when he thought I wasn’t looking. Nobody even told Buffy, but I’m pretty sure her advice would’ve involved blunt objects. Angel’s not her favorite subject right now, and probably won’t be until Crazy Slayer stops breaking the arms of everyone they send in to talk to her.

I poured the holy water down the sink in the airport bathroom; there isn’t so much as a pencil on my person; and in defiance of my best friend’s advice, here I am. Ready to face down Angel with nothing more than words. Hey, why not? They’re my weapons of choice, have been ever since I joined this crazy and probably hopeless fight that we for some reason refuse to lose. I bluffed bomb-building dropout zombies with words. I saved the world from a grieving superwitch with words. I also lost my eye for being a little too quick with words, but we’ll set that aside for now. They’re my swords and daggers, my crossbows and stakes, and tonight I’m fully armed. I’ve even got the nukes in reserve- Andrew’s description of Angel’s face when he heard that none of the Scoobies trusted him anymore was my own personal mushroom cloud over the Nevada desert. I walked into this little sub Arctic palace on top of the world holding all the cards.

So it must be some kind of illusion that as the water stops and the shower door swings open, as he steps out into the steam-filled bathroom and runs his hands through his hair, as vapor swirls around his body and glistens in the light, as his nostrils flare slightly and he catches my scent and he turns to look through the open doors and his jaw drops in shock…yeah, it’s just a hallucination that my heart stops in my chest. Delayed reaction to airline food, or something. Because there’s no way that the sight of Angel standing there fresh from the shower could overload my nervous system this way. Right? Right.

Only I’m wrong.

Years and betrayals and the beloved dead that stand between us, jealousies and resentments and petty little pains, they’re all gone, vanished like they never were and all I can think about is what that smooth wet skin would feel like pressed against me, and what kind of rainbows would form in the water droplets caught in his hair if I looked up through them at the light.

I’ve obviously spent too much time with Willow in the past few years, some part of my brain gibbers as I order my one good eye to quit staring and it commits rampant insubordination.

He’s still standing there, mouth open, brow furrowed like he’s searching for a question, and probably only a heartbeat has passed but it feels like forever. I swallow hard and say the first thing that’s in my mind, the clever cutting insult I’d been planning while I sat and shivered on his couch for an hour.

“I can’t wait to tell Buffy. She’s gonna be mortified that she ever dated you.”

Any other man in this situation, a comment like that would lead to a flush and quick glance downward, followed by a lunge for something to cover himself. Angel’s got all the confidence and shame of a stud horse, his eyes never flicker, and I so badly want to hate him for that. But the fact is that I can see the source of that confidence perfectly well, and that part of me I still don’t quite recognize as self wants him to walk over here and show me if he’s got the moves to back up the advertising.

“Mortified in general, or about anything in particular?”

As always, there’s a beat of silence before he speaks, and as always, I wonder if it’s because he’s as dumb as a rock or if because after all those years of only talking to himself inside his own head it takes him a minute to remember that everyone else can’t hear him thinking.

I swallow and look away, gesturing at the shelf of DVDs over his spectacular entertainment system. “You, um, own the complete works of Adam Sandler.” I’d spent an hour lovingly crafting these words to wound, and now they’re turning to dust in my mouth. “And you TiVo South Park. I checked.”

He shrugs, looking away as he grabs a towel. Some air comes back to my lungs once his eyes are off me and he’s covered up, but the funny little twist in my stomach makes it clear that all is not back to the way it was five years ago. We’re not in Sunnydale anymore.

“Insightful cultural comedy,” he says finally, looking over at me and shrugging again. I’m staring at his chest, mesmerized, because I’ve seen swords and beams and rebars go through that flesh, and heard about dozens more, but there isn’t a single scar. The skin’s smooth and perfect and softly clean in the dim light, and that part of me that I’m trying hard to ignore is certain it smells and tastes like expensive soap.

“You probably don’t understand half the jokes.” The jab is mechanical and without heart, and he’s looking at me all puzzled because he knows I can do better, but a bead of water is running from his chest down over his stomach and vanishing into the towel around his waist and suddenly it’s hard to breathe again.

“Gunn helps me out.” He sits down on the coffee table and stares at me, cocking his head to the side in that way that makes him look like a more massive and sane version of my uncle Rory’s pet Rottweiler. “And if you’re trying to make me squirm…well, Spike did it better.”

“Funny, Buffy’s made that same comparison between you and Prince Peroxide,” I shoot back, and now the ground’s more stable beneath my feet because in this area I know I have the upper hand. “But she wasn’t talking about your scathing wit.”

He takes the hit without flinching. “I’m trying to imagine a situation where Buffy would actually have that conversation with you,” he says dryly. “Without you turning into Judgmental Man and sending her running for the hills.”

I smile and settle back into the couch cushions. “Ah, but my broody friend, you’ve forgotten that I’m a Harris. It’s built right into the DNA that we can drink anybody into a confessional stupor. In fact, if we ever used our powers for anything besides destroying our own young, we could’ve stopped the Mayor’s ascension with a bottle of Wild Turkey and a case of Bud.”

He looks at me unblinkingly. “I thought your dad drank Keystone Light. It’s cheaper.”

Sucker-punched right to the gut. “How- ”

If I’d said something that got that reaction, I’d be grinning like the cat that ate the canary, but he just looks tired. “You kids patrolled like you were in Nam or something, but there were still a lot of hours left in the night after you went home when I could still get some lurking in.” He runs his fingers through his hair and I watch a few more droplets fall away, abstractedly following their paths to the floor so I don’t have to focus on what he’s saying. “I wanted to be close to Buffy so badly,” he says, so soft I can hardly hear him. “And being close to things that were close to her…that was almost good enough.”

“You spied on us,” I say flatly, still staring at the drops of water sinking into the carpet.

“Especially that first summer, when she was with her dad in LA.” I force myself to look at his face, at the weary, confessional look in his eyes. “Being close to you and Willow and Giles was the next best thing to being close to her. But Rupert’s whole reason for being was to watch, and it’s just not polite to stare into a high school girl’s bedroom all night…”

“So you spent a lot of time at my house.” I think back to that summer, try to recall anything in particular that happened for good or bad.

“I really wanted to be able to come into that house uninvited,” he says, an edge of midnight and steel coming into his voice that makes me shiver and think of Angelus. “I barely even knew you, really didn’t like you, but nobody should treat their child that way.”

I tried to speak, but my mouth was too dry.

“I think that was the first summer you’d really begun to fill out,” he says, relentless in his little trip down memory lane, gaze fixed on the wall above my head. “The first time you really tried to challenge him back, you know?”

“I’d killed vampires,” I said, finally getting words past the block in my throat. “I’d faced down demons. I still don’t know why I couldn’t stand up to him.”

He looks at me now, right into my eyes, and the exhaustion and compassion in his are almost too much for me. “Because he was your father. That’s always gonna mean something to a son. You become a man and you tell yourself you don’t care…but the little boy deep down inside always does.”

The oldest struggle in the world, between fathers and sons. I have his secret in the palm of my hand- there’s no way a witch as powerful as Willow wouldn’t notice when a spell was cast to change her memories. I can say the word “Connor” right now and break him in half like a twig. That’s why I came here, isn’t it? To say “Cordelia” and “Connor” and make him writhe at my feet?

But we’ve both been burned and we’re both walking around with scars, and he put some of mine on me and I put some of his on him. And suddenly I’m exhausted, tired of being the defiant one who runs ahead to spit in his face and stone him with my words. Buffy takes mature option number one and just stays away, and Willow picks door number two where you forgive and move on, and I’m the heckler on the balcony with two martinis and a big mouth.

I do have one more weapon in my arsenal, one that in a million years he’ll never expect. Just like the day I stood on a hilltop raised by grief, this was a moment no warrior would ever be able to understand. A battle that both sides could win…but only if one surrendered.

“You haven’t asked me why I’m here,” I say, getting up and walking past him to look closer at the gleaming furniture and understated art that fill the room. The company did the decorating; it’s as obvious as the crater where Sunnydale used to be. There’s not a trace of his personality here.

“Figured if you wanted me to know, you’d tell me.” He buries his face in his hands for a moment, and I wonder if it’s possible that he hasn’t slept for all of those 240-some-odd years.

“I heard about Cordelia.” I don’t put any edge behind the words, but he flinches anyway. I take a cautious step towards him, just big enough that the motion makes him look up at me. “Thought maybe you could use a comfortador.”

He’s looking at me, all questioning eyes and furrowed brow, but I’m crossing the room in a few strides and kneeling down beside the coffee table, reaching up to cup his face in my hands and letting my thumbs graze over his cheekbones. His left hand comes up to clench around my arm, then relaxes, and his right hand rises slowly to touch the back of my head and tangle his fingers in my messy grown-out curls.

And I know that in a few hours this is all going to be gone and we’ll fall back down to earth, back to our designated roles in this wild and crazy play called life: vampire with a soul and chief cook and bottle washer for the vampire slayers. “We’re not friends,” I hear myself whisper as he slowly, hesitantly leans down. He freezes just before his lips meet mine.

Half my heart screams with relief and the other half wails with despair, and I think I might explode and wreck his nice carpet if this doesn’t get resolved one way or another. But my words set off some flicker of light in his eyes, and he’s beginning to smile, small and odd, and somehow he’s on his feet and I’m on mine and he’s backing me towards the couch.

“That’s right,” he says, slow and thoughtful, and the leather bumps the back of my knees so I sink down into the overstuffed chilly smoothness. “We’re not friends.”

He's a vampire, he doesn't breathe, so the air against my face stays cool as he moves in close and his hands drift down the length of my torso to settle at my waist. “We’ll never be friends.”

He grazes his lips along my collarbone and I whimper, my eyes darting wildly around the room for something safe to rest on. There’s a fancy Japanese sword on a table by the window, and I try to focus on the clean lines and colors of the scabbard as he makes my pulse race and my palms sweat.

“We’ll fight,” he murmurs into my shoulder, “and we’ll shag, and we’ll hate each other till it makes us quiver…”

I’m already quivering, I’m on fucking fire, and I swallow hard, glance darting against my will down to where the towel is coming unwrapped from his waist and beginning to slip down to the floor.

“But we’ll never be friends,” he whispers into my ear, tongue drifting lightly along the curve of it. His hands drift up and catch my chin, tilting it up for a kiss. “Love isn’t brains…”

My brain isn’t taking any messages now, that’s for sure, not while he’s covering my mouth with his, kissing the breath out of me. My heart’s pounding and I’ve never kissed anyone like this before, never had calloused hands like those caress my jawline or rough chapped lips like these against my own. And I’m suddenly so blindly panicked by the strangeness and how good it feels that my teeth come down and he pulls away with crimson on his lips.

“…it’s blood,” he sighs, licking it away and running his hand down my chest to settle over my heartbeat. “Blood screaming inside you to work its will.”

It takes two or three tries before I can speak and make any sense. “That’s pretty,” I finally manage. “Did you read that somewhere?”

“Heard it from a friend, a long time ago,” he mumbles into my throat, and there isn’t a single good reason why I shouldn’t be terrified to have a vampire’s mouth in that area. But he’s always had the power to blind me, to draw my eyes to him like the sun so I can’t see anything else. With jealousy, admiration, fear, and now desire…oh yeah, Angel’s always been able to blind me.

“I’m gonna go to the graveyard in the morning,” I mumble as coherently as I can considering that I’m being kissed by a guy who’s had two and a half centuries to practice the art. “And we’ve got a lot of other shit to fight about. But I’m willing to…umm…just not see all that stuff. For now. Tonight.”

“I can be blind if you can,” he says softly, and his hand moves down to settle over the low part of my stomach, fingers curling around the waistband of my jeans.

“We’ll go back to hating each other in the morning,” I say, grinding out the words with the last part of my brain that still has higher functions when he’s moving his fingers like that.

“Works for me.” He kisses me again, long and hard and deep, and I wonder if I ever really hated him at all.

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