Promises and Lies




She made coffee and left a cup sitting on the counter for him when he came back downstairs. Then she took hers out onto the verandah, and sat down to look at the moonlit sea.

It was so beautiful, she thought, and so simple: sky, clouds, moonlight, and saltwater. Nothing like her life. Nothing like this night. Possibly the most embarrassing and confusing one of her life. She heard him come downstairs, felt him standing behind her and turned her head. He had the cup in one hand and his customary unreadable expression on his face. It felt so strange to see him, after all this time. That classically handsome face exactly as she remembered it, unchanged. That moment of shock when she'd looked up into her rescuer's face and recognized him.

She'd needed rescuing in the first place because she'd done something really, really, stupid. She'd gone to a bar alone again since Clara, her roommate had other plans, and when the noise and smoke and trolling got too much for her, she made the brilliant decision to walk back along the beach because it wasn't far and maybe the night air would help clear her head. Excellent plan. Something she'd never thought about doing back home in California, but here in beautiful Negril, Jamaica in the midst of tropical paradise she'd abandoned her common sense. She'd made it about half-way when three of the local hoodlums had jumped her. One of them had a knife but probably they'd just meant to rob her. She'd never know because a bare moment after they grabbed her something had come out of the dark, fast and deadly. She barely noticed the sting of pain as the shape snapped the wrist of the one holding the knife to her throat and knocked him flying into the darkness. She gaped as a second thug went down with two brutal punches. When it moved towards her the man holding her shoved her at it and ran. Off-balance, she collided with flesh hard and unmoving as a tree, and as she was steadied by strong hands looked up into his face.

"Beautiful," she said as Angel sat down.

"Yes," he said.

It had been five years since he'd seen Joyce, but she looked almost the same. She was older of course, a few strands of grey in her hair, the smile lines bracketing her mouth a little deeper. But she still filled out the tight sundress she had on in interesting ways, and her eyes still sparkled, even after she'd nearly been robbed and/or raped.

Buffy would have changed too, he knew, she was older now, in the full bloom of womanhood; a mother in her own turn now. Year by year she would come to resemble Joyce more and more. And year by year Riley would be there, aging with her, growing closer to her, merging, like the very old couples he'd seen who were so close they were almost one person, till time wore them away entirely. Till death do them part.

Tonight, in that moment when she'd been thrown into his arms, he had found himself nearly overwhelmed by the smell of blood coming from a scratch on her throat, the feel of her warm flesh, and confused by the intense sense of deja vu; the certainty that this had happened before.

All those years ago: Darla, her demon grinning in triumph over the bloodstained throat of Buffy's mother. "I just had a little, there's plenty more. Aren't you hungry for something warm after all this time? Come on, Angel. Just say 'Yes'!"

She'd thrown the unconscious Joyce into his arms and left him alone, struggling with the enticing smell of her blood, the feel of her soft and utterly helpless in his arms; his demon begging for a taste. He still wasn't sure what might have happened if Buffy hadn't arrived, torn her mother away from him, and tossed him through the window.

"Joyce," he said then.


They stared at each other on the moonlit beach. Angel feeling her heartbeat hammering against his silent chest, the focused heat of her, so different from the diffuse warmth of the air, tasting the warmth of her breath, heavily tainted with alcohol...

Joyce was intensely aware of how lonely the beach was, and of the strength in the hands still holding her.

She staggered a little when he let her go, turned away from him and went to the edge of the water, where she was sick. He followed her down and handed her his handkerchief when she was done. Face red with embarrassment, she'd thanked him and he'd walked her the rest of the way back to her bungalow. Unfortunately, when they got there it was obvious from the moans and the grunts coming from the other side of the door, that the room was, er, occupied.

"Roommate?" Angel asked.

Joyce had nodded. "Clara Bowden, I know her from my book club. I think the guy is Nigel, or Colin? Or maybe she's got a new one. She's definitely been getting her money's worth this vacation. Do you mind walking me back to the bar? The deal is she's not supposed to let him sleep over. I promise to call a taxi this time when I leave." He could see by the sag of her shoulders just how little she was looking forward to going back there.

Angel managed to talk her into coming back to his place instead. He showed her to the kitchen and the bathroom then excused himself and went upstairs and microwaved two units of human blood. Once he'd drunk it he felt some of the tension he'd been feeling in her proximity ease. He went back downstairs, ready to face her.

"God. Angel. It's been awhile," she said, starting the conversation. She took another sip of coffee. Even this late at night the heat pressed against her like a second skin. Funny how good a hot drink tasted in the sweltering heat.

"Yes," he took a cautious sip of his own drink. She was looking out at the sea again.

"So, Jamaica. I thought you were in L.A.?" she said.

"I'm on my post-Armageddon vacation. Since the end of the War and the destruction of the Hellmouths I haven't had much to do." He was surprised when Joyce's face clouded over with memory. "Joyce?"

"Buffy -- and Giles for that matter -- wouldn't talk to me about the War," she told him quietly. "I think they thought they were protecting me. But I found a translation of the prophecy on his hard-drive. 'The stars will fade, night is all, over man woman child, the end of all.' I used to go out and stare up at the stars, wondering if I'd even know if you all failed, or if everything would simply end, like a black wave rolling over us before we could react. Gone in an instant."

"But we didn't fail. We won," he reminded her, desperate to erase the haunted look in her eyes. "For at least the next couple of millennia anyway." She nodded, and with a visible effort shook off her mood.

"So, Angel, what do you do? During the day I mean?" she asked brightly. This was the Joyce he remembered, blithe, happy. A creature of the sun the way Buffy had been before she was called to fight the darkness.

"Read. Brood. Pretty much what I'd be doing back in L.A., but with better scenery," he admitted.

"And nights, you walk the beaches, rescuing idiot tourists," she teased.

"Sometimes I go sailing," he corrected her.

"Sailing?" She tried to visualize him in sailing whites and a yachting cap and couldn't quite manage it. While he'd been forced to modify his wardrobe to his new environment he was still fairly funereal: the short-sleeved shirt was a charcoal pattern on pearl grey, the shorts, and shoes were black.

"Yes. I was a Galway boyo. Grew up around boats."

"Sailing at night," she said, trying out the concept. Imagining leaning into the wind, the world reduced to air and water and the starry sky overhead. His hands on her waist, holding her steady...whoops, bad brain, naughty brain. "Sounds nice."

"Would you like to go out tomorrow night? On the boat." he asked, surprising her. She looked at him, he looked sincere, and almost...lonely. Right, that makes sense Joycey, look at him. Christ, if she were younger, and her daughter wasn't his ex-girlfriend...dammit, more bad thoughts.

"Yes, I would," she said astonishing herself.

"Great." He smiled. She didn't remember him smiling much, if at all, back in Sunnydale. God he was good-looking.

"So how is Giles?" He asked, blessedly breaking her mood.

Joyce shrugged. "History. We didn't work out...It was good for awhile, but, I don't think we were ever really compatible. I think it always had as much to do with Buffy as with the two of us."

Buffy. Her name lay there like a loaded gun, demanding some kind of response.

"How is she?" Angel asked, finally taking the plunge.

"Still in Iowa, with the kids," she told him. He smiled inwardly. It wasn't the most subtle reminder of the main thing he could never give her daughter but he couldn't hold it against her. "Riley's moved to Atlanta, they're separated," she added, reluctantly honest.

He was aware of her eyes on him, waiting for his reaction. He was surprised at how little he felt at the news. Buffy was his true love, his great romance; but their time had passed. It had taken him years to accept it, years of despair and anger and agony and eventually, healing. It was History, as Joyce had put it.

He shook his head. "That's too bad," he said sincerely. "Though I never did like Riley, I thought... You don't have to worry about me dropping by. It's over. It's been over for years."

Joyce studied his face, and finally nodded, relieved, wanting to believe him.

"Good." She yawned. "Sorry."

It occurred to him that Joyce was probably tired. She needed sleep, he reluctantly realized.

"It's late," he said.

Angel showed her to the guest room. It was as nice as the rest of the house, she had a canopy bed all to herself, and a balcony looking out over the sea. He showed her some clothes in the closet she could use, then retreated to the corridor.

"I'm in the master bedroom, right down the hall," he said. Joyce was aware of the sheer size of him, the hallway suddenly seemed much smaller. "There's a maid, she'll be in the morning and she'll be glad to get you anything you want for breakfast. I don't keep much food around. I'll call you in the afternoon."

"Thanks. Again." She reached out to shake his hand, then rethought. The air between them was thick with something on the edge of gelling. She took a step backwards. "Good night."

"Good night." She closed the door on him and retreated to her bed.

He went to his room and made sure the heavy wooden blinds were shut against the sun. It was the only thing he disliked about this house: the lack of a nice windowless cellar for his day's rest. Satisfied, he stripped and lay down in the bed. Joyce had brought all the old memories of Sunnydale back full-force. That brief, golden period of innocence when he'd believed that he could love, could be almost human, have friends, love. Before it all fell apart, before he went to Hell, was returned, and fled to L.A.

He never doubted that Cordelia, Wesley, Gunn, Nabbit, and Faith cared for him, but he could never allow them to get too close; the shadow of his curse had always been there blighting any attempt. The War had taken Faith. Then, after the war, after he'd been rewarded by having his soul made permanent, the survivors had fled to normality, not surprisingly sick of shadows and night creatures, himself included though they'd never admit it. Cordelia was married, wealthily, and had moved to Massachusetts. Wesley had returned to Britain. Gunn married and moved up to Oregon. After Nabbit got out of the hospital he'd cut himself off from them and married a nice mousy engineer from one of his companies.

Leaving Angel alone with his triumph.

Joyce undressed, got into bed, and lay there listening to the soft murmur of the ocean. Despite the late hour, and the alcohol, she couldn't sleep. Also, she needed to pee. She got up and put on an oversized dressing gown, there was more than enough moonlight coming through the windows for her to find her way to the bathroom. Business completed, she headed back to her room, and as she passed noticed that Angel's door was slightly ajar.

Acting on a sudden, better left unexamined impulse, she eased the door open. The narrow beam of filtered moonlight illuminated Angel, lying on his back, arms crossed like a marble crusader on his bier. He was covered from the waist down by a sheet -- a black sheet, silk she'd bet. His eyes were closed, black lashes against flawless skin, dark, tousled hair blending into the dark pillows. She shivered when she noticed that his bare, perfect chest was unmoving, but still found herself fascinated by the monochrome display, of white, white, skin, and deep shadow. Felt a trickle of warmth between her legs as she imagined straddling that muscled torso and kissing that wide mouth. Imagined feeling his arms around her his cool hands on her heated skin...

Her lips drew back in a self-mocking grimace. Well, that settled it: she was definitely going to hell. She'd never paid much attention to his looks back in Sunnydale. That is, she'd noticed that he was good-looking, but at the time she'd been a little too busy being pissed off at him for various reasons like: his sleeping with her underage daughter; and being an undead monster; and trying to murder her; and last but not least the whole "let's suck the whole world into hell" thing. She hadn't really been inclined toward thinking "wow, what a hottie." "next week on Springer: I want my daughter's undead ex..." She snorted. Time to go. She closed the door and went back to her room.

Angel heard the door shut, and listened to Joyce's soft retreat down the hall. He was acutely aware of the lingering scent of her arousal. It was almost as distracting as the memory of her in his arms. He could still smell her on his hands. He wondered what she would do if he accepted her unspoken invitation and went to her. Would she laugh, or scream, or welcome him in? The ocean sighed mindlessly outside his window, and slowly he became aware of another soft and undeniably human sound: crying. He lay there, praying for it to stop.

Why the hell was she crying? This vacation was meant to cheer her up. 10 days of Jamaican sun, sea, and rum and if she wanted, there were plenty of accommodating local hunks more than willing to sweep her off her beach towel and pound her into her mattress. 3 days in and there was no doubt it was working just fine for Clara, but not for her.

Here she was, on the downhill side of forty, a grandmother. Self-employed, still in decent shape...and she was so fucking lonely she could barely stand it. She had a daughter who lived halfway across the country; they talked twice a month, carefully avoiding subjects that were likely to lead to a fight. She couldn't even kid herself that they'd be closer if the distance was less. She dated once or twice a month, never more than twice for any of them. She'd missed her prime dating years being married to Hank, or at least she hoped so, it couldn't possibly be this awful for younger women or the species would have died out long since. Clara had fine things to say about Zoloft and she was seriously considering talking her doctor into a prescription. Artificial joy maybe, but she'd take what she could get.

The moon was well down in the sky when he crept into her room. She had fallen asleep, her face wet with tears. He knelt by the bed, feeling the heat coming from her skin, warmer than the tropical air. Listens to the lulling beat of her heart, slow and steady in sleep. He knows he shouldn't be here, but can't bring himself to go.

"Joyce," he breathes. Giving into temptation, he bends down and licks the tears from her face. Hears her heartbeat quicken as she wakes. Her eyes open, he can see her perfectly despite the darkness. The look of loss, the yearning in her eyes, still shining with sorrow.

"Angel," she says, sensing him more than seeing him, looming over her, a darker silhouette in the unlit room. She reaches out, and he descends. She flinches at the chill of his lips on hers, the slightly odd flavor of his mouth, but the feel of his arms around her, of being held is just right, and she moves into the kiss, opens her mouth and kisses him long and deep.

A long time since he'd had this, he thinks, kissing her, holding her. Not sex. He has had his fill of sex with women, with men, living and unliving during the more than two years since his soul became permanent. But this desperate clinging, mouth on mouth, tongues intertwined as if trying somehow to merge, to understand -- that he hasn't had. Then she pulls away, and he almost doesn't let her go.

She looks into his eyes, worried. "Angel, isn't this a bit risky?" It took him a moment, then he got it.

"No. My soul is permanent. My reward from the Powers that Be." She took it in, then smiled.


He lowers his head hungrily to hers again, and moves onto the bed. Ice cream kisses down her neck, trailing down her chest. He cups her breasts in his huge, gentle hands and kisses them so delicately, playing his tongue around the aureole, takes each nipples into his mouth and suckling gently till they're hard and hot. She whimpers, it feels so good. So what if it's wrong? She's on vacation.

It's been a long drought for Joyce, and Angel is the deluge. His size, his strength, his skill roll over her, unstoppable. His cool hands setting her on fire as they move over her body, covering every inch of her, reaching between her legs and finding her clit with uncanny ease. Making her blind and deaf with sensation. He's silent throughout, and she realizes that there are no grunts of effort as he moves around her and over her. When he lifts her up into his lap it's as though she were made of thistledown, it's like floating.

Angel held her for awhile, trying to fix every detail of her body, her scent, her being, permanently in his mind. Knowing that this moment is as tenuous, as evanescent, as Joyce herself. He'd lied to her of course: it is risky. Human flesh is frightening fragile. With every touch of her heated skin he is reminded of her fragility, it would be so easy to bruise that smooth skin, to free the blood he can feel sliding seductively underneath. He has to be so careful.

He gasps as she reaches between them and takes hold of his cock, rock hard, and cool against her belly, she grips it firmly, it feels silken and huge in her hand. She wishes she could see it. Taste it. She moves her hand up and down, slides it to the tip, finding something unfamiliar there: a foreskin she realizes, she grins wickedly at his groan when she moves it back and forth across the sensitive head. She laughs.

Angel growls and puts her down on the bed, lifts her legs over his shoulders and engulfs her pussy with his wide mouth. He probes her with his tongue, his fingers, puts all 200-odd years of practice to work until she's gasping, begging him to stop, don't stop, Angel! She arches her back, and shouts out his name as she comes, and it feels like drowning.

He looks at her, panting in the tangled sheets, covered in sweat, her hair tangled, beautiful. His. He can't wait any longer. She sighs and smiles up at him as he carefully moves her legs apart. He puts the tip of himself inside her and the feeling of her warm folds almost undoes him. He feels the demon rising, his eyes going yellow. Feels the desire to grind her into the mattress, make her scream in agony, but he will be the master here and he forces the demon down as he grasps her hips, and sinks into her, slowly, wanting to feel every detail of her lips, her tight, slickened channel.

It's driving her mad, the sensation of being filled by his unnaturally coolness with excruciating slowness. She grabs at his hips, trying to pull him in, to hurry him, but he refuses to let her move, his hands holding her immobile until he's fully sheathed in her flesh, almost painfully filling her; then slowly, very slowly, he withdraws until only the tip of him is inside her again, she moans as he moves forward again, repeating the torture. If it didn't feel so good she might resent it, might be a little frightened by his total control.

"Pleeese," she begs, but he's merciless.

The feel of her flesh closing around him warm and slick and ready, is almost too intense. Inside her, he can sense her heartbeat through her slick wall, the entrancing beat pounding into his cock and invading his brain. Blood, so close, tempting him. He moves forward, control slipping, pressing her into the mattress with the weight of him...

...and for a long moment she can't catch her breath...

...before he pulls back, remembers and resumes his excruciatingly slow rhythm.

In----------Out--------------In------------. Just when she doesn't think she can stand it anymore; when she's about to start swearing at him he begins to rub her clit and at the same time begins to pump in earnest, faster, and faster, each thrust moving her whole body, his finger keeping up the delicious friction.

She came, saying his name, her walls clenched down on him and he came in a bright torrent, an explosion of ecstasy. Joyce jerked, as he spilled inside her, like a tiny splash of ice water. She looked up into his face and found him looking at her, his face relaxed, his eyes seeming to search hers for something. Then he moved off her, conscious of his weight and lay down beside her. She's out of breath, and deeply grateful to have his body shielding her from the heat.

"So are we still going sailing tomorrow?" she asks a little while later, when her heartbeat is back to normal.

Angel laughed and it transformed his face, turning him from a statue of a young man, to the young man himself. "Sure," he said drawing her closer. She fell asleep smiling, in the circle of his arms.


END Part 1

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