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01 September 2008 @ 06:38 pm
Fic ~ The Hard Choices (1/1)  

Note to flist: My LJ cuts are fucked up. This is pissing me off a great deal. I am posting from a computer I usually don't use. It's possible the font and format of the story might be slightly different than normal. Apologies.

Title: The Hard Choices

Author: ClawofCat
Timing: Season 5, Forever
Rating: PG
Characters: Buffy, Angel, Joyce
Summary: Angel reflects on his relationship with Joyce as he drives to Sunnydale to visit her gravesite in Forever.   

A/N: Written for fantas_magoria’s episode prompt for “Angel.” After watching the episode over again, it occurred to me that this is the first time Angel meets Joyce. I’ve never seen a fic that addresses Angel’s feelings about her, so this is my attempt at rectifying that.  Beta’d by the magnificent eowyn_315. Now with better punctuation! 

Disclaimer: The characters are the property of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. No profit is gained from my writerly endeavors and no copyright infringement is intended. 
 

*******  

His private line rings and he picks up on the third, cradling the receiver against his ear.  

“Angel Investigations.”   

He’s met with silence. Listening intently, he can just hear the quiet wisp of breathing on the other end.  
 

“Hello?” 
 

“Hi.” There’s a pause, some hesitation in her voice. “It’s – it’s me.”  

“Buffy.”   

It’d be an understatement to say that he wasn’t expecting this, whatever this is. Buffy’s not one to pay social calls. A dart of concern licks through him. He steels himself.   

“How are you? It’s been a while.”  

“Yeah. Yeah, it has. I’ve always been bad with that. The keeping in touch thing.”  

“I know the feeling,” Angel admits.   

“I’ve wanted to get away. Just for a weekend even. Maybe come to LA. But, you know, there’s always the sacred duty to think about. It doesn’t leave a lot of time for anything else. Yay, heroics,” she glumly confides.   

“Things have been busy here, too. It’s probably best you haven’t dropped by. I’ve had my hands full.” He leaves out the part about Darla and Dru. There are some things that just don’t bear repeating.   

“Any good kills?” she asks, veering off onto a different trajectory. “Me, I’ve got this one hell bitch that just won’t die no matter what I throw at her.” She laughs heartlessly. Angel frowns. She seems… off.    

“Is everything all right?”  

She sighs heavily, like she’s been caught out. All at once, her cheerful banter is gone and she just sounds tired.   

“No. No, it’s really not. It’s my mom.”  

Joyce?  

“Did something happen to her?” Angel leans forward in his chair, one hand coming up to hold the phone to his mouth.   

“She’s gone,” Buffy whispers, and yet, the words come out like a door slamming shut. Startling.   

“Oh, Buffy…” He wants to hold her. God, he wants to hold her. “I’m so sorry.”  

“It was really sudden. She’d been sick, but… it was sudden. It’s been so crazy the last few days between making arrangements and sending out the announcement – I only just got the chance to call.”  

“What can I do?” He’s at a loss for words. He wants to do something. Turn back time, resurrect the dead, anything to wipe the sound of sorrowful defeat from her voice. Of all people, she should never have to sound that way.   

“The funeral’s this afternoon. Could you come?”  

“I’ll be there. I’ll leave as soon as the sun sets.”  

“Good. Good… because I don’t think I can do this by – ”  

“I know.” She shouldn’t have to.   

“Okay,” she murmurs with relief. “There are some last minute things I have to take care of. I can’t really talk, but...”   

He can hear her shuffling through her closet on the other end, pushing hangers back and forth in search of the perfect outfit to wear for an occasion she’d much rather not have to attend. He rushes to reassure her, to absolve her.  

“Of course. Go. Get ready. Don’t let me keep you.”  

“Thank you, Angel. I’ll see you soon.”   

As she starts to draw the phone away from her ear, he calls her back.   

“Buffy?”  

“Yeah?”  

He has to know. “Was it a vampire?”  

“Oh, no. Nothing like that. It was an aneurism.”  

She hangs up before she can hear his sigh of relief.  
 

********  

On the drive down he thinks about getting flowers. Flowers go with funerals. But then… he doesn’t want to remind Buffy of her loss, not when the grave is still fresh, the earth still soft. Instead, his thoughts drift to Joyce while he continues to stare into the dark, as the interstate’s orange lights occasionally send flashes of neon haze across the road.   

He barely knew her, really. Buffy’s mom. Joyce Summers. A passing acquaintance at best. That was all she was to him. Except that wasn’t it at all. She had been influential in changing his life; she’d asked him to be strong enough to make the hard decisions. And here he was, driving to Sunnydale to see the daughter that Joyce had asked him to leave. To see the daughter – daughters – that she had left now, too.   

He couldn’t say that she liked him; it was fairly obvious she didn’t. Threatening, older, dead – yeah, those were all valid reasons to worry about her sixteen-year-old daughter. That first night at the house, she had been weary, apprehensive, scrutinizing. In retrospect, he wishes he could have said something, been more personable. The second time they met, holding her in his arms, blood drained from her neck… not really a good impression, either.  

Whatever reservations she may have had about him, Angelus did plenty to substantiate all her doubts. He remembers the gratifying look of shock that crossed her face the night that he told her he had deflowered her sweet little girl. Slinking up close to her as she struggled with her groceries and keys, he could smell her fear. The things he would have done to her – the thought of it now nearly makes him feel ill. That it could have been him. That it could have been a vampire… nearly twice.   

There were other times, too, when Joyce was forefront in his mind. Sitting at her windowsill in the dead of night, he had crept in to the draw her pretty face. Between strokes, his cock became hard as the memory of her blood, the way it had smelled, tickled his senses. Darla had left the puncture marks oozing. He remembers, even now, how easy it would have been to sink his teeth in and bite. He’s still not sure what stopped him.   

The specter of the bite-that-never-was taunted him every time they had exchanged words or a look. His eyes had immediately dropped to her neck the day she had come to him in May two years ago, interested in discussing Buffy’s future with a forceful maternal air. Her mouth moved. He heard the words. But it was her elegant throat that spoke of the past damnation it had held. Angel wonders if she ever questioned where the smudge of charcoal left on her cheek had come from the night he sketched her.   

He reflects on the first time and the last – how it was never easy for them. How she had always forced him to make the hard choices. Drink or let live. Leave or stay. To think… he could have had both Summers women. To think he had nearly murdered them both.   

Pulling into the cemetery’s drive, it occurs to him that by all rights Joyce should have been burying Buffy, a Slayer set to expire at any given moment. If Xander hadn’t revived her, it would have been Buffy’s grave he stood over. It would have been Buffy he mourned.   

She’s there facing the grave as he quietly approaches, the sole sentry to guard her mother’s memory. When he reaches her side, her hand slips into his and he thinks, for better or worse, at least it’s not her.  

 
 
 
ellan_vannin on September 1st, 2008 11:22 pm (UTC)
Love this, btw, but am commenting re: lj-cut.

If you cut & paste from word processor and let lj "clean" it for you, you're screwed. Something about the code is getting lost in translation. You've probably already figured that part out, but the important thing is to NOT switch between RTF and HTML after you get your cut to work. I emailed lj support again, but despair of a response. They seem to feel like they've helped me out already and any more would be sparing the rod or something. *snarls*
ClawofCat: buffy poutclawofcat on September 2nd, 2008 12:31 am (UTC)
I did briefly get the cut to work yesterday, but when I tried it again today it when caphlooey. It's an incredible inconvenience and I'll continue to fiddle with it until I can (hopefully) get it to work. Luckily, I have more than one computer at my disposal. So, if things still are craptastic on my laptop, I can jump onto the communal PC and post from that.

Let's cross our fingers that the genuises at LJ command central can fix the problem soon. I'm getting testy. *flicks tail anxiously*
slaymesoftlyslaymesoftly on September 1st, 2008 11:51 pm (UTC)
Very powerful, sweetie. Your usual in-depth take on the emotions and layers that exist in these characters.
ClawofCat: angel stareclawofcat on September 2nd, 2008 12:54 am (UTC)
Thanks. I was grasping at straws a bit with this one, since there really isn't very much to go by given how limited Angel and Joyce interact on the show. Of course, it was Spike's unique relationship with Joyce that made me consider what Angel may have thought of her, too :)

Your usual in-depth take on the emotions and layers that exist in these characters.
I know. I know. Doing the same old schtick. I need to get a new angel. Perhaps more fluff is in my future? *noooooo*
hello_spikeyhello_spikey on September 2nd, 2008 12:47 pm (UTC)
aaaaaaaaaaaaw

*pats the broodpire*

*sniffle* Joyce was awesome. A highly under-rated character.
ClawofCat: joyce smileclawofcat on September 2nd, 2008 01:26 pm (UTC)
LOL. He is totally a broodpire. Guilt guilt guilt. I can just see him flogging himself the entire drive to Sunnydale.

Joyce... had her moments. I guess I'm more interested in her as a subject of fanfic (since she's not written about very much) than a character I really got into on the show. My favorite Joyce moments were when she was actively being momish, like "Get the hell away from my daughter!" or hanging out with Spike.
brunettepetbrunettepet on September 3rd, 2008 11:39 pm (UTC)
Angel's take on Joyce is fascinating. She was wary of him from the very beginning, and that tension never left. You make an excellent case for her antipathy here: To think… he could have had both Summers women. To think he had nearly murdered them both. It would have been easy to kill Joyce, but that's not the main reason she disliked Angel. That was all about being a mother.

That last paragraph is haunting.
ClawofCat: angelus smokesclawofcat on September 4th, 2008 02:05 am (UTC)
Angel's take on Joyce is fascinating.
I'm glad you think so. In canon, we have Spike and Joyce, who interact relatively frequently and their relationship has been much explored in fandom. But, as far as I know, we've got nothing on the Angel-Joyce relationship, so I wanted to explore that a bit here. Angel being Angel, I imagine he would have a lot of guilt about his behavior toward her, which was less than stellar.

One canon moment between them that I did not reference in this piece (I think the only one) was from Lover's Walk, in which Joyce is in the kitchen listening to Spike commiserate about Dru when Angel shows up and demands to be let in. She refuses. I think this fic shows that it was certainly for good reason.

that's not the main reason she disliked Angel. That was all about being a mother.
Joyce doesn't get to "mother" a lot on the show given how defiant Buffy is. Her authority is generally rebuked. But all of these scenes between her and Angel are just that - between her and Angel. She really steps up as the mother and I really respect Joyce for that.

That last paragraph is haunting.
Isn't it? I always think Angel must have been crushed when he hears the news of Buffy's death, especialy because in the gravesite scene she asks him to stay, but by mutual agreement he leaves. He must feel a lot of guilt. I've always wanted to write about it.
shawty got flava like a peach lifesaver: btvs: angel reelingonly_passenger on September 21st, 2008 05:40 pm (UTC)
this, this is really stunning. it reflects something i so admire in you as a writer: your thirst to find the buried stories. maybe it's your journalism background, but damn girl, you are a digger. and you're always coming up with treasure. it's amazing.

this small piece is so full. your words are economical. there's not fat to trim, yet it's all as fleshed out as it needs to be, giving the reader just a touch of a margin to let the story bleed into in a personal way, so that we get to leave a fingerprint on it. much of this is raw in an incredible way, the same way the body is raw.

absolutely incredible work.
ClawofCat: Bangel hurtclawofcat on September 21st, 2008 11:46 pm (UTC)
*smiles* I had a feeling you would like this. Taking little nuggets of canon to piece together a story that we never got to see on screen (but we know happened) is one of my favorite things to explore in fic. IMO, it's the closest we get to writing the show. I'm always curious about the secret lives and thoughts of people and objects. Joyce and Angel? Talk about an unexplored relationship.

this small piece is so full. your words are economical.
Thanks. I wanted to try something different with the first part and make it sparse. I'm always doing intense description and in a moment when two people are connecting after a long period of time and a loss like Buffy's, I really wanted the uneasiness and uncomfortableness of their conversation to stick. I think maybe that's what you mean about it being raw, like The Body. There are no words to hide behind here. It's just there. In your face.

Writing this fic also is what prompted me to sign up for the iwry_marathon. It's a B/A ficathon run by chrisleeoctaves. Reading your Bangel all those months ago made me soften a bit toward that pairing and recently I've read some wonderful Bangel fics like For Him, While Dreaming by trixiefirecra. You will die when you read this. Seriously, it's amazing. It reminded me so much of you. One of the best fics I've read in a long time.

As for my own fic, I was thinking I'd write about Buffy and Angel's meeting at the beginning of S6 after her resurrection. Talk about a FITB. I'm pretty sure that E will not want to beta it. Maybe I could call you to chat?
shawty got flava like a peach lifesaveronly_passenger on September 21st, 2008 11:54 pm (UTC)
yes, please hit me up for that story. believe it or not, i have never read a fitb (that comes to mind) from that episode, but have always wanted to read a good one, because it's intriguing to me.

i like b/a. i think i relate to angel a lot, which is why i have such a love/hate relationship with him. i see many things in him that i dislike about myself. this can make it hard for me to examine him too closely, like looking at the sun. but it also makes him interesting to me, specifically how he relates, because i'm constantly like, "oh honey, you fucked that up so terribly, and i understand exactly why".