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This story is No. 7 in the series "Understanding". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: "I am the dispassion," Thomas growled against her skin, sending ripples down her soul. "I am the love," Angel whispered, a smile then blooming within her.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
NCIS > Buffy-CenteredAngelfirenzeFR1813,418192,08820 Feb 1020 Feb 10Yes
By Angelfirenze

Disclaimer: Mutant Enemy and all involved are the geniuses behind these characters. I just borrow them at times to manipulate them much like action figures before returning them slightly abused but generally in good shape.

Summary: "I am the dispassion," Thomas growled against her skin, sending ripples down her soul.

"I am the love," Angel whispered, a smile then blooming within her.

Notes: It seems that somewhere it was said (though I found it at Wikipedia) that the Senior Partners were weak by demon standards, but made themselves major players after the Fall of the Old Ones by manipulating everyone from multiple dimensions. Yeah, I'm tossing that out the window. This universe loves to contradict itself anyway.




Buffy closed her eyes against Angel's shirt as they flew into the fiery void, the part of her that wasn't scared out of her mind wondering why everything was so...quiet. Chancing opening her eyes a fraction, Buffy found them flying open when she realized what she was looking at.

A circular chamber or something of infinite depth filled with hundreds of thousands of coffins, all moving slowly on what seemed to be river currents. She looked straight down and found that she and Angel were floating in midair in the center of the...

"The Deeper Well," Angel sighed, his hand running through her hair, and she gripped his chest more tightly. "My birthplace."

"What?" Buffy asked, now confused. "I thought you were Irish?"

She looked up at Angel and found him staring wistfully down at her, a small smile on his face. "I'm so many things. I've never remembered until -- I started to remember when I bit Marcus and then when my head was cracked open during the battle I lost it again, but now..."

Buffy looked around, even more confused. "Um, not to put on the dunce cap and sit in the corner, but if you were born here, does that mean you came out of one of those coffin-things?"

Angel shook his head. "I...I remember being a guardian here. Before Drogyn -- " Angel's face became infinitely sad and Buffy felt an untenable weight around her shoulders, suddenly. But then it lifted as Angel's face became set and he seemed to force himself to go on with whatever he was trying to tell her, seemingly uncaring that they were still suspended in mid-air.

"There are three of us. Marcus, the first of us, the Wolf, the Ram, and the Hart created before myself, he is now entombed here, I believe. I don't know what happened after I killed him -- Eve came after me. It wasn't until I left the -- here, because I was bored and tired of babysitting my elder siblings in these coffins -- and Marcus and Eve each followed for different reasons that Drogyn was made Guardian of the Deeper Well.

"You -- we should probably consider me in dereliction of duty, but since I have no intention of ever returning to the Deeper Well -- the real one, I mean. This is just my memory of it -- then I guess I'm another deserter.

"Maybe it was the Wolf, the Hart, and the Ram who arranged for me to be consigned by the Demon Research Initiative. A little poetic justice..."

"Angel," Buffy cut in, frowning up at him and he sighed, chuckling a little.

"Sorry. I'm getting ahead of myself. What exactly do you want to know -- maybe if we do it that way, I can stay on track."

Buffy stared at him, peering into his eyes, trying to see whatever was apparently supposed to be there that would tie him to these coffins.

"Are you an Old One? Is Angelus?"

Angel sighed again, unable to help himself. "Well, that wasn't long at all. Um, in the simplest terms, yes, I am. Though not in the way any of the demons in these sarcophagi are. I didn't exist until Earth was given over to Man. Still, yes, I am of the Oldest. It was my job to make sure that none of these demons were able to resurrect themselves."

Angel visibly bit back another sigh, "It does mean that it's my fault, indirectly, that Illyria again walks the Earth because if I hadn't left, she wouldn't have been able to use her Acolytes or her Qwa'Ha Xan to kill Fred and take over her body. What's happening to my body right now -- I can feel it, faintly -- I'm feverish, and have lost consciousness several times -- it's sort of a reverse. Fred's viscera were liquefied and her skin hardened into a rock-solid skin and, even then, it couldn't hold everything Illyria is."

"You're still being with the vague, Angel," Buffy frowned, raising an eyebrow at him. "We've talked about the vagueness and how irritating on so many levels it is."

Angel laughed, then, and resisted both the urge to let go of Buffy or to sigh, given that he knew he was the only thing keeping her from falling into the depths, imaginary though they may have been. "Ask something else. Maybe more yes or no questions."

"What is Illyria?"

"One of the oldest, most powerful Old Ones. She was murdered by rivals and originally her sarcophagus resided here."

"Until she killed your friend."

Angel's face flashed with a bitter expression but then he simply said "Yes," his voice then an emotionless fa├žade. "Until that moment, I had nothing against her. But now, even with the knowledge that Fred is not completely destroyed, that Illyria shares Fred's body -- I still would like to see Illyria pay for the pain it caused the true love of Wesley, whom I hold a brother. It -- though, I suppose it is now most appropriate to call it a 'she'...murdered his spirit in cold blood. For that, I would see her die a thousand deaths."

Buffy stared at Angel for a moment before slowly asking, "Who am I speaking to?"

The emotionless tone continued and Angel or...whoever lifted her hand to stare at it, transfixed. "Thomas. I was an original Keeper of the Well. I find it difficult to empathize with Illyria, her method of taking a host I find barbaric and cruel."

Then Angel's face, now with silver eyes shining out where brown had been previously, frowned for the first time. "I left not only because I find it suffocating beyond endurance -- you and those more human would say boring -- to be here, but because the toxicity of the souls around me had begun to infect me where before I had would call it 'unbiased'. I could feel it and I sought to escape it."

Thomas then turned away from her and Buffy couldn't help but look away from his back and down at the endless depths beneath her, which she currently hung above with, evidently only Thomas' will keeping her from falling, presumably forever.

"I failed," he whispered, the self-incrimination echoing off the walls around them, regardless. It sounded so familiar to Buffy both in voice and in effort that her heart broke yet again.

"I know not whose soul bled into mine, who stained my hand and that of but a human man of no unforgivable previous sin with such blood. I care not. I know not even they who loosed my tainted being onto the plane of the masses to decimate and destroy.

"My larger humanity knows only of the boredom of the Deeper Well, I dare not allow him to remember the poison that had seeped into his veins alongside my baser humanity beforehand. Illyria's only mercy has been to separate Fred from the depravity she revels in. Separate her parents by ignorance of her death."

Buffy shivered, tears coming to her eyes even as she said, "But he does remember. He remembers every second of it and it's driven you both mad -- " Buffy paused, shaking her head to let Thomas' terminology not leak into her own sense of self. "Crazy, having to be around each other -- I guess I should say Angelus and Angel, since you seem to be perfectly fine. But Angel...he told me not long after we met. 'You have no idea what it's like to have done the things I've done...and to care.'"

Angel -- Thomas turned back around then, a desperate, horrified expression coming to his eyes for the first time. ", I have locked those away."

Buffy sneered now, absolutely appalled. "Well, your little plan worked like gangbusters, jackass, let me tell you -- because Angel's tried to kill himself out of the guilt he feels for whatever -- " she gestured at the sarcophagi circling unerringly. "Did all that! And no matter how many times I tried to tell him he was just the tool in their hands, he still blamed himself -- he still does, he always will.

"God, do you -- do you even know who you possessed? His father spent his life blaming him for everything the bastard could think of! Why would he think he was innocent in the face of all that!"

Thomas' expression was bitter now, his eyes flickering back and forth rapidly, seemingly filing through Angel's memories, ignoring everything she had just said.

He said something in some foreign language before halting altogether and looking upward into the nothing above them. "They are pulling me out of his body. The Wolf, the Ram, and the Hart are removing me -- removing the poison, but removing me. I can feel it. They are bringing me back to the Well -- the real one."

Thomas' eyes met Buffy's again, impassive once more. "He will die."

Buffy's eyes widened and she tried to move, to pound on -- Thomas' chest, to force him to do something, but she couldn't move. He wouldn't let her.

"No -- NO! You have to -- "

"He has to choose," Thomas said quietly, reaching out once more and taking Buffy's hand before she could hit him with it. "He will decay and -- "

"No," Buffy snapped once more, gripping Thomas' hand until he glanced downward then at her face, seemingly unperturbed by the pain of a Slayer's grip. "What do I need to do?"

"Not you," Thomas said quietly. "It must be his choice. They've sought equivalence, the Powers, the Wolf, the Ram, and the Hart -- the Superiors, they've all sought equivalence and will get it without his choice.

"Like my elders, he is not meant to still walk the Earth, though time is merely his reason. None of them are. You are but a reason he might -- you cannot force him. No one can force anything, not here."

Buffy's eyes widened, tears falling again, and she grasped Thomas' shoulders, incomprehensibly bothered when he didn't so much as flinch. "You can't leave him. He'll die -- you can't just leave him to die like that."

Thomas simply stared back at her, this time a slight sadness coming over his features, which Buffy supposed was something. "It it never that simple."

Buffy looked away and ground her teeth, clenching her fists before reaching out and clenching Angel's shirt that Thomas was wearing. "Then make it simple. Explain."

Thomas breathed inward, leaning into Buffy and sealing his mouth over hers.

Instantly, she saw scene after scene after scene -- some guy in a suit fighting with Angel, beating him to death, Angel biting the guy and feeding -- memories Angel hadn't previously had and many he already knew flooding back...of Angelus, of Thomas, of Eve and -- Marcus...guarding this Well...Illyria's power destroying half the planet because of her sheer strength...her power depleted, but still strong...

Angel's son Connor fighting Marcus and being pummeled, Angel's other son, Leroy, shooting at a man from atop a roof in quick succession, four sure hits, almost as well as she could -- Angel holding his hand at a funeral, Leroy crying but never realizing it...Angel falling into dust at Illyria's hands and thousands of the souls murdered at Angelus' hands allowed to pass onward to Heaven, some to Hell, not for the first time, but second.

Samuel Lawson, or was it Elijah David -- Benjamin Weinstein? Sam gazing pleadingly into Angel's eyes...Angel staking him...Sam, Ari, Ziva, Talia, Leroy, Shannon, Kelly, Lawrence, Colleen, Connor, Kaitlin...the children, the guardians, and their children -- all inextricably tied to Angel...

Her Slayer dreams right before Angel had left Wolfram and Hart had already shown her The Day that Wasn't and Angel's deal with The Oracles, but not to this extent. Angel hadn't been aware of the suspension of the souls of those Angelus killed, then, but Thomas had and he was showing Angel...the Powers and the Senior Partners -- Marcus, Thomas, and Eve's 'parents' -- following each other's footsteps, righting and wronging one another's actions...if Angel wanted to allow those souls to again achieve rest but not die, himself, he'd have to choose to keep all sides of himself together.

Angelus being forcibly ripped from him, as his soul was equally inserted, offset the balance that was meant to exist between the worlds. The balance had been further offset when Sah'Jahn ripped open reality to gain access to Quor'Toth and took Connor with him -- Connor's own soul's slow destruction within that Hell.

To make everything right again, to truly restore everything, Angel was going to have to choose to be all that he was, rather than have it all forced upon him again and again.

But did he have to suffer to do so? Yes, it seemed. He always would. Thomas, however, could just sit on the sidelines, going 'rah rah' when he felt like it, his head otherwise buried in some metaphorical book. It wasn't really his problem, after all.

Buffy never wanted to punch anything more than she wanted to punch this thing wearing Angel's face. She hated him more than Angelus, she could see that now. This thing washed its hands of everything so easily -- nothing and no one mattered.

For once, though, Thomas now looked absolutely enraged, "Nothing matters? We are One and the Same, he and I, immovably melded, he feels, I feel! Even the same is said for Angelus, who would have you in a heartbeat -- would end the world to have you, he needs you so much!

"He may hate you, Slayer, but his love for you is as strong, if not stronger! He would die without you and would have, did you not stop him! Ask the witch, she will tell you! Ask your sister Slayer! We have met, each of us both!"

An earth-shattering growl echoed, then, through the Well as Thomas grabbed Buffy by the wrist and proceeded to fly upward until she was dangling beneath him, with him directly adjacent to her above. "Tell me nothing matters, that nothing you are or have been matters, and I will drop you into the abyss you seem to crave."

"I was talking about you when I said that!" Buffy screamed, but Thomas didn't react, causing Buffy to let out a guttural yell of her own and use her Slayer abilities to literally crawl up his body. "I matter, you matter, everything matters, you -- "

It was then that Thomas sealed his lips over hers and Angel came back to...share in plundering her mouth, his hands digging into her sides so hard, she knew she'd have bruises if this was at all real.

It's as real as we need it to be, Angel's voice spoke in her head and Buffy wrapped her legs around his waist, wanting so badly to climb inside and simply be along with them.

"I am the dispassion," Thomas growled against her skin, sending ripples down her soul.

"I am the love," Angel whispered, a smile then blooming within her.

"Together, we are the whole -- Angelus cannot feel if one of us is missing. He is left insane if the void is made permanent too long. Once we are together, we cannot be apart. We are made insane. Marcus has been without feeling forever, he is without saving. That is his punishment, though he realizes it not."

She took her mouth away from his and bent to nip Angel's neck when Thomas' voice, sounding infinitely relieved, spoke then, "As for nothing mattering...You believed as much not so long ago."

"You -- " Buffy gasped, leaning her head back and letting her eyes slide shut as Thomas, Angel -- she no longer cared which -- returned her favor in kind. "Get ripped out of Heaven and then tell me how -- how you feel afterward. We'll make -- make a session of it. Mutual ther-apy."

One of them snorted and Angel asked, somewhat sardonically, but with plain longing, "Do you really think they'd let either of us into Heaven?"

"M-maybe if you said 'pretty please'..."

It was then that Buffy felt Angel's fangs enter her throat, falling instantly into overwhelming bliss. She could feel his hands moving over her hips and cursed herself for wearing her favorite leather pants for this little endeavor, destroyed though they may be by the rain earlier.

Again, one of them snorted and then a finger was dipping into her pants, sliding them down with an ease that should have been impossible.

"Maybe you can help us get there."

"I doubt God would agree," Buffy admitted, but Angel raised her left hand, kissing the band of her ring.

"Let's not decide for Him, since you insist I'm so salvageable."

"You -- "

But then the world imploded again and she knew nothing else.


Buffy felt the grass beneath her face before she actually knew what it was. She rolled backward, or tried to, but was met with a veritable wall of Angel. She moaned for a moment, enjoying the light rain and Angel's skin on her body before realizing what she'd just done -- what they'd just...

Buffy sat bolt upright, her eyes wide, covering her naked body as best she could with her hands and stared around, relaxing slightly and exhaling when she saw that they were out of the Deeper Well and once again in Angel's memory of Ireland.

Looking around for her clothes, she saw nothing but the green expanse of the countryside and frowned before poking Angel pointedly in his shoulder. Angel...or was it Thomas?...opened his eyes to stare lovingly up at her and suddenly Buffy found it very hard to care at all just where her clothes were, but said anyway, "Angel, where are -- where are our clothes? I know this is your mind and all, but..."

Angel sighed and immediately two neat bundles appeared beside her. Buffy stood and began getting dressed, but Angel looked in no hurry to join her, seemingly quite content to enjoy the show.

"Stop grinning and get your ass up, perv," Buffy commanded, very pointedly ignoring his mischievous grin at being ordered around. She, herself, ignored the fact that she was enjoying it. "We've got to get back to the real world."

"Words I never thought I'd hear you say," Angel admitted lightly, sitting up and making it clear he was only adhering under duress. "Oh, fine, then."

When she, herself, finished dressing, Buffy squatted down next to Angel, reaching out to touch his side as he reached for his shirt, having somehow mastered the art of putting on pants while lying down. It was then that he looked at her again and she gasped.

His eyes were golden outlined with silver.


Xander, amazingly enough, was the first to see Buffy and Angel returning from wherever the hell they'd gone to that, apparently, wasn't Hell.

Gingerly removing his arm from around Faith's shoulder, he began to walk toward them with Willow by his side.

He knew Faith was avoiding him now, knew why, but she had been right. He didn't feel any need to hit her back or exact any retribution. He didn't even hurt anymore. If his arm wasn't useless, he'd be just dandy.

He was the second, however, to notice the change in Angel's eyes. "Whoa," he said, backing up slightly, just after Willow whispered, "Wow."

He didn't expect, anywhere on his list of Things That a Possibly Former Pain in My Ass Might Do For Me, for Angel to glare at Faith, leaving her faltering even further, before laying a hand on Xander's arm without giving him the chance to protest or anything.

Angel didn't say or do anything but, sure enough, Xander could feel the bone, muscle, and skin knitting back together until he had a normal arm again and opened his mouth, intending to say something like a thank you, but Angel simply shook his head.

"Just help them stay safe and we'll call it even," the vampire said seriously, ignoring both Faith and Buffy's glares and protests in response. Somehow Xander knew Angel wasn't referring to just himself with that promise.

Xander glanced back at Willow, who was grinning more widely than he'd ever seen her without caffeine, and then back at Angel before reaching out and clasping Angel's forearm with Xander's own. "Deal."


Prequel to Stained, Novice; Sequel to Invitation, Disagreement, Fodder, Splitting

The End

You have reached the end of "Reconciling". This story is complete.

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