Before I Wake…
By Maquis Leader
Author’s note: This is set a few years after
Home Time Bomb. I was Jossed after this was written...
“Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. It’s been two hundred and sixty years since my last confession.”
“My son, all – “ The priest hesitated. “Did you say two hundred and sixty years?”
“Give or take a few.” Angel frowned. “I was… fifteen, I believe. Or thereabouts.”
“Ah, so not so long ago then.” The priest smiled and leaned back once again. “Please continue, my child.”
“When I was sixteen, I lay with a woman outside the bonds of marriage – she was a lovely young thing of only twenty years. Her husband neglected her terribly.” Angel stopped. “Should I cover only the larger sins, Father?”
“The larger sins? My son, all sins, both venial and mortal should be confessed and – “
“Well, it’s quite the list. By my twenties, I was drinking and carousing on a nightly basis. Doing my best to shame my father.” His father’s stern face came to him momentarily. “But when I was twenty six, I walked straight into the arms of evil.”
Outside the confessional, Wes waited. After an hour, he was sure he’d heard the priest’s bible hit the floor at least three times, and there had been several exclamations to God that he didn’t believe were prayers.
Sighing, he shifted on the wooden pew. He’d told Angel that confession wasn’t really necessary, given the circumstances, but Angel had insisted. Considering his age, he could be in there a very long time. Wes patted his pocket. At least they couldn’t start the bachelor party without him, what with him bringing the groom. He’d gotten a nice supply of singles to tuck into the stripper’s garter.
Angel came out at long last, a rueful smile on his lips. The priest, pale and obviously shaken, came out of his side of the confessional and made a hasty sign of the cross before fleeing the chapel.
“Aren’t they supposed to wait or… something?” Wes watched the door close behind the priest.
“I left out Angelus’ sins.” Angel bit back a laugh. “Figured mine were enough for the poor man to handle.”
“I thought Angelus’ memories were gone.” Turning back to him, Wes frowned.
“They’re fading.” He admitted. “They weren’t really mine to begin with.”
“I can’t imagine what things you could have – “
“Oh.” The single word was enough to remind Wes that not all of Angel’s sins could be blamed on Angelus. “What matters is that you feel better. Ah… you do, don’t you?”
“I guess.” Angel walked up to the altar and looked over the small, flickering candles there. Carefully he lit three candles, and then after a moment, lit one more. “He didn’t give me a penance.”
“I thought you had already settled on one.” Wes watched Angel light another candle.
“That’s not a penance.” He lit a fresh match and held it over another candle. “What was your mother’s name?”
“My mother? Emma.” He watched Angel dip the match down to catch the wick. “Why – what exactly – “
“It’s just a prayer, Wes.” He flicked out the match and dropped it into the can provided.
“Thank you.” The gesture touched him. Angel’s sensitivity never failed to catch him off guard even after years of knowing him.
“You always smile when you talk about your mother.”
“Well, yes…” His mother had been a sweet and gentle person. How she had come to marry such an overbearing tyrant was something he had never understood. “She would have liked you.”
“Everybody’s mother liked me.” Angel smiled and laughed softly. “I’ve got a laundry list of sins in that area alone.”
“Angel, I know you have reasons to feel like you deserve a punishment. But don’t you see that you have served your penance?” Wes said earnestly. “The Powers That Be gave you your humanity back.”
“And I’m grateful. But that doesn’t change the things I’ve done.”
“The Powers That Be – the powers that that man – “ Wes pointed in the direction of the vanished priest. “That he believes in – they rewarded you for all the good that you’ve done.”
“A reward isn’t the same as penance.”
“Now you’re just being stubborn.”
“Wes, I’m starting a new life tomorrow.” Angel looked up at the ornate crucifix over the altar. “I want to start with a clean slate. No sin.”
The stripper knelt and ran her hands up Angel’s legs. When her hands hit his thighs, he caught them and gently pushed her back. “No.”
“Ah, come on, Angel.” Gunn lifted a beer. “Live it up, tomorrow you’ll be shackled to just one woman for the rest of your life.”
“Luckily it’s now a short life.” Spike smirked.
The stripper pouted at Angel and stood up, leaning over to push her dental floss covered, bonus sized breasts in his face. He was the handsomest thing she’d seen in some time, all dark eyes and sexy smile. Giving him the full show wouldn’t even count as work. “Don’t you want one last ride before you tie yourself down, baby?”
“Charming as the offer is – “ He leaned back. “No, thank you, darlin’.”
She pouted and licked her lips; lifting a foot, she set the stiletto heel down between his thighs. Running a hand down her belly and under the waistband of her g-string, she reached out to take his hand. “Don’t you want to play just a little bit?”
“Buffy’d rip his balls off.” Spike laughed. “Jealous little thing, she is.”
“I think that you’d be much happier – “ Angel stood up and turned the stripper around, propelling her towards the blonde. “With William here. He’s more your type.”
“Just sit right down, lovey, and we’ll have ourselves a chat.” Spike pulled the woman onto his lap. “Tell me the truth. Are thongs as uncomfortable as they look? Not that you don’t look just… lovely… wearing one.”
“Well this is exciting.” Xander took a sip of his beer. “I knew Dead Boy wouldn’t go for the lick the whipped crème off the stripper type of party.”
“Sadly, Angel’s just not that type of guy.” Lorne swirled the ice in his drink. “Though I’d say plenty of people wish he was. And a few demons too.”
“Ladies of all persuasions go for that broody look.”
“Not just the ladies, sugar lips.” Signaling the bartender for a fresh drink, Lorne pushed his empty glass aside. “And you do know he’s not dead anymore, right?”
“Yeah, but old habits are hard to break.”
“Not all of them, I hope.” Lorne tipped the bartender and took a sip of his Seabreeze.
“You’re thinking that I’m going to give Angel a rough time. You’re worried I’ll rag on him and try to bust up him and Buffy.” Xander grinned. “Stop me if I’m wrong.”
“I know you and Angel have a – history, let’s just say.” He leaned back in his chair. “I know that you had a crush on a certain petite blonde. And I know that you were president of the I Hate Angel’s Guts Club back in good old Sunnydale.”
“Secretary and treasurer, too.” Xander raised his beer. “By a landslide of votes.”
Studying him for a moment, Lorne wished he could get Xander to sing, or at least hum a few bars. Oh well, take a leap here, gorgeous. “But now you’re willing to let bygones be bygones? Bury the stake, so to speak?”
“Don’t get me wrong.” Xander held up a hand. “I still don’t like him. Angel and I are never going to take long walks on the beach together. The simple truth is, I love Buffy – in a protective brother kind of way. Not the hot and drooling way I used to. And Dead Boy makes her happy.” He smiled sadly, too many memories going by. “She deserves happy.”
“I don’t know Buffy like you do. But I know Angel, and he loves that girl. Truly, madly, deeply, as they say. He loves her like – “ Lorne laughed. “Hell, I can’t even think of anything big enough to compare.”
“What’s that song?” Snapping his fingers, Xander searched his memory for the elusive lyric. “Like a fat kid loves cake!”
“Yes!” He laughed again. “I really hate that song.”
“I know what it’s like to love someone and lose them.” Staring down at the water rings on the table, Xander rubbed at them with his fingers. “I don’t want – I just want Buffy to be happy.”
“And she will be, sweet cheeks. Talking about his Slayerkins was the only time Angel strung together more than two sentences in a row.” Looking around the room, Lorne frowned. “Now where’d he sneak off to?”
Xander sat back and looked around the room, paying special attention to the dark corners. Except for Spike and Gunn, who were deeply involved in watching the stripper dancing, there was no one else there. “That’s one habit he’s got to break.”
Wes blinked. He’d nodded off again. Checking his watch, he saw that it was almost six in the morning. Thank God. Angel had said that he would be finished at sunrise.
Right now, Angel was still kneeling before the altar, his hands clasped together on the railing, and the dark head bowed. He had left his bachelor party and returned to the church to spend the night in prayer and contemplation.
A clean slate. Wes smiled slightly. No doubt one hundred years or so of brooding had prepared Angel for a mental cleansing of his soul.
Was this something Irish? Catholic? Irish Catholic? He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. Or perhaps some pagan ritual Angel had discovered during his long lifetime?
On the drive over, Angel had told him that there had been a time when a man would spend the night before his wedding kneeling in prayer. He would recite a list of his sins, going through his life and acknowledging the things he’d done wrong and asking forgiveness, so that he could go to his bride clean and pure.
It was remarkably similar to the ancient Anglo-Saxon tradition of the man about to be knighted spending the night before in prayer so that he received his spurs as a pure man. Dear Lord, I am boring.
Angel had insisted that he didn’t need to come along, but Wes had stood firm. He was the best man after all. And there had been a time when the best man had the responsibility of guarding the groom’s back during the wedding. Though it was unlikely that Buffy had angry men folk that would storm the church to rescue her – he was taking no chances. He was taking his role as best man with the utmost seriousness.
Wes had settled into a pew a few rows behind where Angel knelt. The night had passed quietly, with only the soft murmur of the other man’s voice. Occasionally the former Watcher had wished he had a notebook when Angel covered a few of his more colorful sins, including a quite descriptive passage of the carnal knowledge he had learned, used, bought, sold, and taught from, with, and to various women and female demons. Singly, in pairs, and of course, the trio of witches.
Somewhere during his musings on what it would be like to have two hundred plus years of sexual experiences, Wes had drifted to sleep. Now, he pulled his glasses off and rubbed at his eyes. Hopefully, a night spent kneeling on the hard stone floor had given Angel the comfort he was seeking.
Since becoming human, Angel had laid out a careful plan for starting a new life with Buffy. In a way, he was seeking redemption even more seriously than he had as a souled vampire. The only flaw in his plan so far was that he had not been given a penance after his confession.
Shifting on the hard pew again, Wes sighed. If only Angel could see –
“I saw a monster as a boy.”
Wes yelped and bolted up. Turning, he found the priest standing behind him. “A bit of warning, Father.” Some rogue demon hunter I am.
Ignoring him, the priest moved past him toward where Angel was still kneeling, his head bowed in prayer. “I was fifteen and, on a dare, went with my friends to a graveyard. It was dark and frightening, but exciting to a young man.”
Leaning forward, Wes rested his hands on the back of the pew in front of him. It seemed Angel wasn’t the only one making confessions.
“We turned over headstones and other foolish pranks. And then – then – “ The man ran a shaking hand over his face. “Someone was crawling on the ground. At first I thought it was one of my friends playing a joke on us. Then I realized it was coming out of the grave – clawing at the dirt.”
“The eyes were yellow – and the face – hideous – we ran – “ He moved to stand over Angel, who still hadn’t moved. “I tripped and fell – it was growling and snarling like a rabid animal – I crawled away, up against a tombstone.”
“It reached for me and then stopped – it raised its hands to its face – then it turned and ran. Above me – on the tombstone – there was a cross – “ The priest pulled a crucifix from his pocket and held it out. “It couldn’t bear the sight of it.”
Wes tensed as the priest raised the crucifix as if it were a weapon. He was too far away to help if the man decided to attack Angel. And some best man you are as well! He eased out of the pew and into the aisle. He did have a knife in his jacket that he could throw. Did you automatically go to hell if you killed a priest? Even a homicidal one?
“The evil was turned aside by good.” The priest thrust the crucifix down toward the bowed head.
“Angel!” Wes rushed forward, pulling the knife out of his pocket, but he knew he’d never get there in time. He raised his hand to throw the knife.
Angel lifted his head, looking past the descending crucifix and into the priest’s frightened eyes. His hand shot up and he caught the crucifix, wrapping his fingers around the cool metal.
“It doesn’t burn – “ Relinquishing the crucifix, the priest lowered himself to his knees. He reached out a trembling hand and touched Angel’s face. “You’re warm – alive. How?”
“It’s complicated.” He handed the crucifix back to the priest.
Wes’ knees wobbled a bit as he settled onto the pew behind Angel, discreetly putting the knife away. “Angel’s human now. He… well, you see there was… it is rather complicated.”
“What do you want from me?” The priest took hold of the railing to pull himself back up. “Why come to me?”
“I didn’t mean to frighten you, Father.” Angel stood and helped him to his feet. “I only wanted a penance. A chance to cleanse my soul. I’m to be married today.”
“Were you here all night?”
“Yes. It’s an old custom.” A small smile curved his lips. “Very old.”
“I would think that hours spent kneeling on a stone floor would be penance enough.” The other man smiled. “However, I can see that it’s not.”
“He’s dreadfully stubborn.” Wes told him.
“Once a Catholic, always a Catholic.” Angel shrugged. “And I’m not stubborn.”
“Well then, I do need some work done at the community center. Painting and such.” The priest winked. “After the honeymoon, of course.”
“Of course. Anything you need done.” Angel told him.
“Do you have a picture of your bride, son?”
Wes snickered, and Angel shot him a dirty look. “Here, Father.” He pulled out his wallet and handed it to the priest.
Looking through the pictures, the man smiled. “I can see why you love her. She’s quite beautiful.” He handed Angel back his wallet.
“She is, isn’t she?” He pointed out his favorite picture. “See how her nose crinkles up when she grins? Like a little imp, she is sometimes.”
“Does she know? About your past?” The priest looked thoughtful. “It’s not good to have secrets from your wife.”
“She does.” He smiled as he put his wallet away. “She’s the Slayer – the vampire Slayer.”
“Ah, well that’s a tangled tale, no doubt.”
“You could say that.” Angel shot Wes another dirty look when he laughed again. “I’ll be back in two weeks, and I’ll do whatever you need done, Father.”
“One moment before you go.” The priest went to the altar. “You should take communion before your wedding.”
Angel had turned to leave. He stopped, and his heart thudded painfully in his chest. It was a sensation he hadn’t gotten used to yet.
Wes watched as Angel knelt before the altar once again. Though his tone stayed solemn and reverent, the priest had a slight smile on his face as he blessed the wafer.
The consecrated Host was offered, and Angel trembled. Rationally, he knew it could no longer hurt him. Irrationally, he expected his tongue to burn as the wafer was laid on it. It dissolved slowly, and he savored every moment. It was dry and tasteless and better than the finest thing he’d ever tasted.
There was such joy in the chocolate eyes that the priest felt his own eyes tear up. “Go now, my son, you don’t want to disappoint your bride.”
“Thank you, Father.” Angel clasped the man’s hands and raised them to his lips. “Thank you.”
On their way out of the chapel, Angel dipped his fingers into the font of holy water, carefully touching his wet fingertips to his forehead to form the initial point of the cross for the first time in over two hundred and sixty years.
“All right then, we have just enough time for a quick nap and breakfast before we have to have you at the church.” Wes opened the passenger door of the car. “Luckily, you don’t have to spend as much time dressing as the bride does.”
Sliding into the Plymouth, he waited for Angel to get in. After a few moments, he looked back to see Angel standing on the church steps, watching the rising sun. “Or we could just sit here for awhile.”
“You’re tying it too tight.”
“It’s supposed to be snug or it’ll slip down.”
“Snug and cutting off my circulation are two different things.” Angel tugged at the cummerbund.
“You’re just wanting to brag that you have circulation.” Lorne snorted. “And baby, if I had your waist, I’d want to show it off. Nice and trim, mmm… hmm!”
“I’d feel better if you took your hands off my waist when you said that.” He frowned over his shoulder at his friend. Buffy had made a similar comment when he’d been trying on tuxes, and they’d wound up groping in the dressing room.
“Relax, Angelcakes, your virtue’s safe with me.” He handed Angel the black tux jacket. “I prefer my privates where they are, thank you. I’m thinking they’d be less fun in Buffy's purse.”
“And it might be crowded in there once she rips Angel’s off so she can carry them around.” Gunn shook his head, instantly regretting it as his hangover took advantage of the movement. “Man, why do you want to rope yourself to one woman?”
“Someday you’ll meet someone and you’ll understand.” Angel ignored Gunn’s dramatic sigh. “Even without a ring and ceremony – my heart’s chained to Buffy's.”
“Chained being the operative word.” Gunn muttered.
“Pay him no mind, sweet potato.” Lorne tucked a pink rose into the lapel of Angel’s tux jacket. “He wouldn’t know true love if it bit him on the butt cheek.”
“Hey, I understand – “ Gunn stopped. “No I don’t.”
“I can’t explain it, Gunn.” Angel ignored the comb Lorne held out and ran his hands through his hair. “The first moment I saw her – I was lost. I spent a lot of time trying to fight it before I let myself admit that Buffy's my mate.”
“Your mate?” The younger man looked surprised. “Thought you were done with that vampire stuff.”
“Maybe I am.” Angel turned and let a slow smirk curl his lips. “And maybe I’m not.”
“Damn, man – “ Gunn shivered. “Don’t even be doing that Angelus shit!”
“Is she here?”
“Buffy's here. Just as she was two minutes ago. And two minutes before that.” Wes yawned. “And the other fifty times you asked. Relax, Angel.”
“I love her, but she’s a little – “ Angel groped for the right word.
“Squirrelly?” Gunn offered.
“Flighty?” Spike countered.
“Scatterbrained?” Lorne proposed.
“Irrational?” Wes suggested. “Capricious might suit her better.”
“High strung.” Angel glowered at them. “She’s got a very delicate temperament.”
“Yeah, sure she does.” Spike guffawed. “She was quite the delicate little thing the last time she punched me in the mouth, as I recall.”
“She’s like a fine young mare – “ Angel defended her. “Fiery, and she has to have a gentle hand to guide her.”
“Oh… I can’t wait… to see how she delicately reacts to that.” The pale blue eyes lit up with glee. “Fiery indeed.”
“Why did they bring you back?” Wes took the box with the rings away from Spike. “You were perfectly fine dead.”
“I’ve got work to do.” The blonde vampire puffed his chest out. “Doing good deeds and such.”
“The world is surely doomed.” He slid the box into his inside jacket pocket. “Spike, doer of good deeds. Boggles the mind.”
There was a knock at the door and Xander stuck his head inside. “You about ready?” He held his hand up as Angel started to answer. “Please, no ‘I’ve been ready since I met her’ or other mushiness.”
“Just smile and nod.” Spike advised. “Have a bit of dignity on your way to the gallows.”
“Tell her I’m here.” Angel ignored his grand chylde. “Tell her I love her.”
“I’ll tell her you’re here.” Xander made a blech face. “But no mushy stuff.”
“I’ll tell her.” Spike stood up. “Give her a big, sloppy kiss for you.”
“Sit. Down.” There was enough growl in Angel’s voice to impress Spike into sitting down quickly. “Tell me again why you’re here?”
“Like it or not, Peaches, I’m family.” He leaned back on the sofa and smirked at Angel. “And there’s that part of the ceremony when they ask if anyone objects – wouldn’t miss that moment for the world.”
“I will drag you to the altar and pour holy water down your throat, you Billy Idol reject.” Lorne threatened.
“You know, there’s not many on Buffy's side of the church.” Spike said softly.
Angel looked at him to see if he was joking. Spike met his eyes squarely. It was a sad fact that he had somehow gained friends even as Buffy lost hers. “Thank you, Spike.”
“Well, don’t go gettin’ all soppy over it.” He shrugged. “Just part of my good deed doing.”
“Let’s get this act on stage.” Lorne straightened the lapels on Angel’s jacket. “You look gorgeous, gorgeous. Buffy's going to drool all over her veil.”
Buffy looked nervous. Why was she nervous? Now he was nervous. Years of brooding had honed Angel’s skills at looking calm no matter the situation, and now those skills came into play. His smile never wavered, and he didn’t shift so much as an inch. Not a single muscle dared to twitch. Inside was another story.
For the first time in months, he missed Angelus’ smart ass remarks. At least it would have kept him occupied during the fifty million years it took Buffy to reach the altar. Was she smiling at Spike? Why would she smile at Spike? Why did she smile at Spike?
Look up, look up! Why was she looking at her feet? Green or gray? She was taking Xander’s hand. Why is she taking Xander’s hand? It’s just Xander, relax. Why was she looking at her feet?
Suddenly she was there next to him, and Giles was proclaiming himself her father and placing Buffy’s small hand in his. There was a warning in the steel blue eyes. Hurt her and die. Angel smiled at the other man and nodded. No need, I’d rip my own heart out first.
Giles backed away, and Buffy handed her bouquet to Willow and turned slowly to face him. Why was she staring at his chest? Green or gray? He had to know.
Slipping his fingers under her chin, he slowly tipped her face up. He felt her swallow as her eyes moved up to meet his. Smokey green. Not gray but… “Second thoughts?” He kept his voice low, knowing her hearing was more sensitive than most.
“I’m afraid.” She said softly.
“What if I wake up?” Her lips trembled. “I’m afraid I’ll wake up.”
He knew the feeling. Part of him was scared that this was only a dream and that he would wake. Alone and with Angelus cackling in his mind.
“I could pinch you if you like.” Wes whispered.
“Dearly beloved.” The priest began. “We are gathered here in the sight of God, and in the face of this company, to join together Buffy and Angel in holy matrimony.”
Angel caressed her cheek softly with his fingertips. “The dream begins here, lass.”
“You don’t think I overdid the Claddagh thing do you?”
“Hmm… Wedding bands, unity candles, napkins, invitations, ice sculpture – “
“Okay, okay, I get it. I’m overdid it girl.” Buffy laid her head on Angel’s chest. “My fake paw.”
“Everything is beautiful.” He kissed the top of her head. “Even Cordy said it was nice.”
“Wow, hope we got that on tape.” Like someone coming out of a coma after a couple of years is up on the current wedding styles anyway. She sighed. “I love listening to your heartbeat.”
“Look at me.”
“What?” She looked up at him. “It’s too late to trade me in.”
“Just checking.” He laughed at the puzzled look in her green eyes. “Green eyes equals happy Buffy.”
“Ah, I see. No actually I don’t.” Grinning, she held up her hand, admiring the gold and platinum wedding band. “I see this though.”
“You’ll get a chance.” Angel pulled her tighter against him as they danced. “Our suite has a Jacuzzi and there’s mirrors on the walls.”
“And that’s going to make me happy?”
“No, lass.” A sensuous smile curled his lips. “That’ll be my doing. But you’ll get to see the efforts of my good work.”
“If you ever have forever in mind… I’ll be here and easy to find…” Lorne smiled as he sang, watching Buffy and Angel kiss as they swayed to the music. “If you ever… have forever… in… mind…”
*Lorne is singing Vince Gill’s If You Ever Have Forever In Mind.
Other stories in the Fluffily Ever After Series.
The companion story to this one, from Buffy's pov: Don't Wake Me
Shanshu and the past: Finding Angel
A fluffily ever after ficlet: Roses
Back to the main page for more B/A fic.