Summary: Post Chosen (ignoring Ats S5) Buffy deals (or not) with the events of Empty Places until her world comes apart.
Disclaimer: Not mine, never mine. They belong to Joss, Mutant Enemy and a bunch of other people, all not me! *pout*
A/N: Written for Jade in the BA angstathon. Requests/requirements at the end. Thanks so much to Maren and Ashley for the wonderful beta work they did. This story would not be half the story it is without them.
I walk into the kitchen and sigh. The sink is full of dishes, again. Gina, one of the new slayers, is supposed to do them everyday. I’ve done them four times this week. I sigh and start filling one side of the double sinks up with hot soapy water. I let the steaming water run over my hands and close my eyes. I wonder if this is what Willow brought me back for, to slay, to kill, to teach, to watch, to pay bills, to work and to hurt until it’s all so much I just want to die all over and I don’t even care where I go this time. Sometimes I think Willow didn’t bring me back because I’m her best friend. Sometimes I think Willow brought me back because she found out she couldn’t quite fill my shoes..
I finish the dishes and dry my hands. The large house is dark and quiet this time of night. It is a peaceful respite from the noise and activity that occupies the daylight and early evening hours. I glance at the clock, three a.m. I should be thinking about going to bed but I’m not. I slip on my long jacket and snatch a couple of stakes out of the weapons trunk. I slide out the door and into the cool, misty night.
We’re in England, London to be precise, rebuilding the Watcher’s Council and all that entails. I don’t even know what it entails anymore, not sure I ever did. I just came along for the ride because I’m the Slayer, yeah I know not the only one anymore, but what else was I supposed to do? It’s not as if they asked me if I wanted to come along. Willow, Xander, Giles they just all assumed I’d come along, because that’s what I do. Only they forgot they threw me out of my own house, *my house*. That’s all water over the bridge, under the bridge. I don’t know it’s got bridges and water. But it’s not, not to me. I mean yeah I’ve tried to let it be because Yay forgiveness and yet it’s still there like a sour thing in the bottom of my stomach.
And so I paste on my Happy Slayer smile like I’ve done for God, how many years? Four, almost five. My face hurts from the happy slayer smile and yet I keep it up because the truth of the whole matter is it doesn’t work without me. I’m not being egotistical or a megalomaniac. It’s just the simple truth-- for whatever reason in this little group I hold things together. You’d think that honor belonged to the watcher and Giles tries. Here’s what I figure, I’m the common factor. Willow and Xander wouldn’t have a reason to hang with Giles and be a “Scooby” if it weren’t for me. Without me things fall apart, slayers get blown up. Sometimes I wonder how much better their lives might have been without me in them, or maybe they’d be dead. In any case, I can’t walk away and know what I’m leaving them to. I wish I could. My life would be so much simpler if I could walk away from it all.
Dawn, not my sister, is just cresting the horizon when I slip in through the front door. I shut it carefully and listen to the house. It’s all silent. I let out the breath I was holding and hang my coat up in the hall closet. I tread lightly on the stairs, avoiding the tenth one up, it squeaks something horribly. My room is up on the fourth floor of this massive hulk of a building Giles found. I don’t share it with anyone. That was the one place I put my foot down. Giles wanted Dawn and me to share a room. Dawn can share with one of the potentials. I’m not giving up my sanctuary. The potentials, not really potentials anymore but the name sticks, aren’t allowed in here either, no matter what.
I slip into my yummy sushi pajamas and pad out onto the balcony barefoot. I look longingly at the skyline. My hands dig into the railing around the balcony so hard the knuckles turn white. I bite my bottom lip and take a deep breath, closing my eyes. My throat has that raw ache from holding back tears. I shove myself away from the balcony edge hard and walk back into my room. I slip under the blankets and pull them over my head. I just want to shut the world out.
I pry my eyes open because I have to. I have to go to work. Thank God they don’t have a Double Meat Palace here. I think I would take a flying leap from the top of a very tall building if that was the case. I’m a tour guide in the Tower of London. Giles filled me in on all the history stuff and I applied. Turns out they liked the idea of “perky American” their words not mine, giving tours. Too bad their “perky American” has bags under her eyes so big you could pack them, not that they really care. I’d just like to not look like I need to sleep for a week. That’d be nice.
I throw on a sweater and a pair of black pants that look like they’re clean. You can never really be sure in this house. I mean Kennedy is supposed to do laundry. She’s usually too busy making sure everyone else is doing their job to do hers. I scrape my hair back into a knot at the nape of my neck and use some concealer to try and mask the bags. It seems to take more makeup these days to make me look like I actually put effort into it. And then some days I really just don’t care. I don’t like those days because it tends to bleed into everything else and let’s be honest, my life sucks enough without me letting apathy take hold.
Downstairs the kitchen is already buzzing with activity. The girls are fighting over breakfast. I shove my way between a pair of them to get to the coffee machine. Willow is standing at the stove making omelets.
“Morning, Buffy” she chirps.
I grunt out something that sounds vaguely like morning and pour my coffee. I snatch a piece of toast out of the toaster against Rona’s protests that that was her toast. I growl and arch an eyebrow at her. She crosses her arms over her chest and goes into the corner to mutter under her breath. When the hell did I start growling at people? Hell if I know, but it gets the desired result so who cares.
I wave my piece of toast and raise my commuter’s mug of coffee to Giles as I walk out the door. I’ve had exactly three hours of sleep and high ho high ho it’s off to work I go.
Eight hours later I’m back at the casa. Thank God, Giles has the potentials out on some kind of trip, probably a history lesson or maybe a training thing. I don’t know and I don’t care. It means I get some quality quiet time, quiet time in which I have to figure out how to pay the bills on this monstrosity.
Giles would do it if I asked him to but he’d resent it. I’m a big girl now and I have to take care of all the real life stuff. Giles is so busy with rebuilding the Watcher’s Council and finding new potentials (so I can figure out I’m going to feed one more person) that he doesn’t have time to mess with bills.
I sit down at the bar in the kitchen. Mom always did bills in the kitchen. God I miss her so much. So yeah, that’s why I do bills in the kitchen. I lay out all the ones that are due, electricity, water, phone, televison, gas and rent. Rent has to be paid. The landlord here won’t give any at all in that area so I place it over the left near the checkbook. Next comes electricity. I didn’t pay last month because I paid television and phone so it has to be paid this month or we won’t have power. Gas is a no brainer, gas equals heat. It’s too cold in England to be without heat.
I sigh and look at the piles in front of me. That leaves water, phone and television. I grab my calculator, check book and bank statement. After some quick calculations (and I thought I’d never use math) I have exactly 200 pounds left over for a month’s worth of groceries and the water, phone and television bill. I bury my head in my hands. 200 pounds won’t buy substantial groceries for these girls for a month. I take a deep breath and paste on the happy slayer smile, really I wouldn’t know how to do this without it. I’ll figure out something but if the television and phone get cut off, the girls will just have to live with it. Maybe I can pick up some extra tours at work.
I get the checks in envelopes and stuff them in my coat pocket. I grab a protein bar, nasty things really but easy, out of the cabinet and take off out the door. I know I should stick around more, spend more time with my friends, the potentials, my sister but every single time I look at them I hear Dawnie saying I need to get out. I see Willow’s resolve face. I see Xander turning away from me, Kennedy’s self satisfied smirk. It’s easier if I just keep plodding away. It’s not like anyone would notice anyway.
The vampires still come. I haven’t exactly figured out why. There’s a slayer school here. How dumb does a vampire have to be to stick around? And yet there is never a shortage of them. At one time I would have been glad about that. I would have had rage and anger at my situation but now there’s just still a lot of pain. I try to distance myself from it. They were always supposed to be there, my friends, especially Willow. I mean Xander I could handle his total lack of support. It’s not like I haven’t dealt with it before, hello my entire relationship with Angel, but Willow was always there, no matter what, until she joined the coalition to kick me out of my own house. Somehow that betrayal hurts worse then any of them.
I swing by the Tower of London. There always tend to be some vamps down there. I curse under my breath. They’re doing midnight tours. I should have volunteered to give one. Midnight tours pay time and a half. I wave a little to my boss and paste on a happy slayer smile. I jog up the steps, past the groups and go to the very top.
I open a window and lean out over the city of London. I close my eyes and bite my lip to keep the tears from coming. I white knuckle the window sill and God help me but I want to jump so bad it hurts.
I walk into the house utterly exhausted. I’ve been on my feet working for twelve hours straight, remember those extra shifts I was going to pick up? All the girls are in the living room watching something blaringly loud on the TV. There is a chorus of “hi Buffy” as I walk through the room. I wave in answer, too tired to be bothered to do anything else.
I just want to grab something semi hot to eat and go up to my room and die for a little while until it’s time to patrol again. I throw open the fridge and am not surprised when it is as empty as tomb, okay so as empty as a tomb not in Sunnydale. Although, I guess all the tombs in Sunnydale are empty now since we cratered it. Anyway there’s no fresh food. I spy a carton of OJ in the very back and reach for it. I growl in disgust when I tip the container to my mouth and only a dribble comes out.
“Who the hell put the empty OJ carton back in the fridge?” I shout.
Another chorus of “Not me!” comes from the living room. Of course it wasn’t any of them. It had to be that thief I’ve been hearing about that comes around steals all your food and leaves empty OJ cartons in its place. Okay so I’m drinking water.
I get a glass, mostly clean, out of the cabinet and hold it under the faucet. The problem is when I turn the faucet on, no water. If I wasn’t so tired I’d curse and throw the glass across the room. Instead I bend over the sink and stifle sobs into a dish rag.
“Buffy?” Willow’s quiet voice says.
I suck it up and swipe at my eyes with the dishtowel. I toss it in the sink and whirl around, automatically pasting happy slayer smile on my face.
“Hey, Will” I say with fake cheerfulness.
“Buffy, were you crying?” She asks.
“Oh no, I mean a little. Work was bad” I say remembering to keep that smile pasted on my face. I’ve learned a smile like this holds back the rampage of rage and words you want to let loose better then any brick wall. It’s like a dam and a river.
Concern creases Willow’s face. I want to scream the words that have been threatening to rush out of my mouth every time she’s given me that look in the past several months-- where was that concern when you kicked me out of my house? Where was that concern when you decided you could no longer trust me to lead you into the next apocalypse like I have done a dozen times before? I don’t scream the words though because if I ever start I’ll just keep screaming until I break like so much shattered glass.
“Are you sure? Because bad day at work usually means you growl and grimace and pace. You don’t cry over bad days at work” Willow says.
“Yeah, I-did anyone buy groceries?” I ask, wanting to entirely change the subject.
“No, we thought you were going to do it” Willow says.
My jaw drops and I feel it rushing up out of the pit of my stomach and flying out of my mouth before I can stop.
“When was I going to shop, Willow? Between the 12 hours I worked today and patrol? Maybe that’s when I was going to get the water turned back on. Did anyone even notice it was turned off?”
“One of the girls mentioned it earlier” Willow starts.
“Let me guess, you said Buffy will handle it when she gets home. Guess what Will I’m not handling it! I’m not handling any of this. I’m working myself to another death trying to keep everyone here in house and food and I’m getting no help! No one here even knows how to do dishes, or laundry or food shopping! God I’m not Superwoman, Will. I’m just Buffy and I’m so tired of being her that-“ I stop myself before I say something I really regret but I long to finish the sentence. I long to tell Willow that every day at work when I give the tour of the top floor of the Tower of London I want to open the window and dive out into the nothingness.
Willow swallows hard and looks away. I want to slap her and shake her until her teeth rattle and scream at her to say something, anything. I close my eyes and white knuckle the counter edge. I ease up when I hear a cracking sound. God I wish they’d kick me out now. I wish they’d throw me to the wolves.
“Why didn’t you say anything, Buffy?” Willow finally asks.
“I didn’t think I had to. I’ve been working twelve hour days, coming home, grabbing dinner and then running back out the door to patrol or train slayers. Do you think I am working that hard because I want to? Did you think I was going to somehow get the Powers to give little old me extra hours in the day? Where do you think I was going to get money from anyway? And didn’t you ever wonder when the water went off, or how about the two times the power went off? Did you think I thought candlelight and a dozen teenage girls would be romantic?” I say. I’m on a roll now I couldn’t stop even if I wanted to.
“I thought maybe-I don’t know I thought maybe Angel was giving you money. I mean with the big law firm and all and he did give you the amulet” Willow offers.
“No, Willow, Angel isn’t helping me. I haven’t spoken to Angel since he gave me that amulet and do you know why? Do you even care why? Because it hurts to talk to Angel, it makes this ache in my bones unbearable” I say.
“Buffy-“ Willow starts.
“Just save it. I’m going to patrol” I say and run out of the kitchen barely taking time to grab a stake. I forget my jacket all together.
Willow finds me hours later at Hyde Park, which is technically closed at this time of night. It’s also a hot spot for vampires. I stand in front of the pond rubbing my hands over my arms. I don’t know why I bother. It’s not like I’ll ever be warm again.
“Buffy, I’m sorry” Willow says.
“Sorry for what, Willow? Sorry because we had a fight? I need more substantial apologies than that” I bite.
“I’m sorry I didn’t notice before how thin you were stretching. I should have realized you weren’t eating, you aren’t sleeping and you’re working too hard. I should have helped” she says.
“Yes, you should have” I say.
Willow falls silent.
“You all should be helping. I know the slayer training is a full time job, but it’d be nice if you engaged in a full time job that paid. It’s hard but you could juggle it. I manage to juggle 3 full time jobs and I still can’t provide all the money it takes to keep that house running. It’d be a lot easier if you and Xander contributed something” I say.
“I’ll mention it to Xander tomorrow” Willow says.
I just nod. There’s so much more going on here, more then I want to delve into tonight.
“The water is back on” Willow says.
“How’d you manage that?” I ask.
“Uhm, we-I called and paid it with Kennedy’s parent’s American Express card” Willow says.
“Tell Kennedy we’ll pay her parents back as soon as we get on our feet” I say.
“There’s really no need, Buffy. They’ve got money and Kennedy wants to contribute” Willow says.
“Just like she contributed to throwing me out in Sunnydale” I say before I can stop myself. Dammit I hadn’t meant to say that. Open mouth insert foot.
The silence crawls over us. When Willow finally speaks it seems so loud that it almost echoes.
“Is that what this is about?” Willow asks.
I close my eyes and open my mouth to lie but I can’t force the words past my lips. I bite my lips and opt for staying silent.
“Buffy, we never talked about it. We just assumed that you were over it” Willow says.
Oh yeah I’m going to get over a betrayal from everyone that’s supposed to love me in a matter of hours. Again I opt for silence.
“We-I-things were just going so badly and potentials were dying and it seemed like we were losing ground” Willow says.
“Yeah and we’ve never been there before. Oh wait! We have, at least once a year, every year since you’ve known me, usually in May” I snap. So much for the silence routine.
Now it’s Willow’s turn to go the silent route.
“You better get back, Willow. You’ve been gone fifteen minutes, Kennedy will be jerking your chain pretty soon” I say and take off at a run.
I’m acting selfishly and childish. I know that but I don’t much care. I’m tired of being selfless. I’ve been selfless since I was sixteen. Selfless sucks.
I walk through the alleys of London with my hands shoved in my pockets. I can almost imagine what it was like when Angel, or Angelus, must have been here. I wonder if he walked along these alleys. Did he hunt here? Did another slayer stalk him here? I guess it’s the equivalent of looking up at the stars and thinking these are the same stars he’s looking at. I can’t see the stars here, the fog is too thick. And he probably can’t see the stars in LA because of the smog.
The cold finally drives me back to the house. I sneeze as I walk in the house, great that’s all I need right now, a cold. I don’t usually get sick, slayer healing and all but there have been a couple of times, okay one, when pushing myself too hard, not eating enough, getting too little sleep and stress all combined with a cold actually landed me in the hospital. Hmm, conditions sound a bit familiar don’t they?
Willow is asleep on the couch when I walk in, obviously waiting for me to get home. I leave her there. I know what I said was bitchy. I’m really beyond caring at the moment. I plod up the stairs and climb into bed with only a longing look at the window. I’m getting better I think, really. Okay, so not but denial is a good place to be.
I squeeze my eyes shut tight and turn over, pulling the pillow with me. There’s a pounding in my head and it takes me a minute to realize it’s not Vi playing her music *way* too loud. I crack open an eye and glance at the clock.
“Shit,” I mutter and roll up out of bed. The pounding in my head is still there. Joyful, I’m way late for work and I’ve got a headache. I throw on some clothes and pull my hair back tightly. I toss on a minimum of makeup because it’s all I have time for and dash down the stairs. The house is oddly quiet.
Dawn is sitting at the bar in the kitchen eating a bowl of cereal. I smile at her and it’s almost a real smile, not the forced happy slayer one I’m so used to. I’ve been so busy I haven’t seen more then a glimpse of her in several days. I pour a cup of coffee and rummage through the cabinets looking for anything to eat.
“Hey, is it alright if Gina and I go out with some boys from school tonight?” Dawn asks.
I furrow my brow and take a sip of coffee. “Older boys?” I ask.
“Well, a couple of years. They’re seniors, or whatever they call them here. I forget” Dawn says.
“What are you going to go do?” I ask.
Dawn shrugs. “Go see a movie probably. I promise we’ll be good” she says.
“You’ve seen these guys in the daylight, right?” I ask, ever cautious. I grew up on a Hellmouth. There is no such thing as overprotective.
“Yup, they’re all human-y and stuff” Dawn says.
Dawn must really want to go out with them. She’s not arguing with me or whining about the overprotectiveness.
“I guess it’d be okay. Now I’ve got to get to work, I’m already late” I say and dash out the door.
“Thanks, Buffy!” Dawn yells after me.
There’s a tour waiting for me when I show up at work. I apologize profusely and get started right away. My mind is only half on my job. The other half is on the way my throat itches and how my nose is stuffy and head, still pounding. It’s a good thing I’ve given this tour so often over the past four months that I could do it in my sleep.
By the time I get home, long after dark, Dawn and Gina are already gone on their “date”. I really wish I’d been here. I like to do the big sister thing and meet the boys my sister goes out with. The house is quiet. Most of the slayers are out patrolling. Willow and Xander are sitting on the couch watching The Princess Bride and eating popcorn.
“Hey, Buffmiester, come partake of the popcorn and watch of the classics with us” Xander says.
I start to plead patrol but then change my mind. I can always patrol afterwards. I slip off my jacket and go slump in the chair. I’m not really ready to buddy up enough to them to sit on the couch between them like I would have done before the tossing of the Buff. It still hurts that they think things can be this normal again, but hey forgiveness has to start somewhere and tonight it’s starting with an old movie and some popcorn.
In typical Xander and Willow fashion they make a game out of who can say the lines before the actor the fastest. Xander, as usual, is winning. At one time I would have laughed and participated, knowing I couldn’t actually keep up. Now I watch them with a small smile on my face. My oldest friends in the world, it’d be nice to have them back. It’d be nice to push past all this pain, let something inside begin to heal and have my old friends back. I wonder if it can ever really happen or will the scar tissue be so thick that it never fades?
The movie ends and I reluctantly get to my feet. I sway slightly, catching myself on the arm of the chair.
“You okay, Buff?” Xander asks.
“Yeah, I think I’m coming down with a cold” I say.
“Why don’t you get some sleep? The girls are out patrolling and I went to the store today. We have extra OJ” Willow says.
I wrinkle my nose and consider it. Really not feeling up to my slayer best. I shrug.
“I guess it wouldn’t hurt for one night” I say.
Willow nods enthusiastically. I know she’s trying to make up for everything that’s happened in the last six months or so. I smile wryly. It’s going to take a bit more then one night but hell, at least she’s trying.
I go up to my room and slip into Pj’s. Willow brings me a glass of orange juice and I curl up to spend my first night in bed in a long time.
The next thing I know Willow is shaking me awake. I blink slowly and sit up.
“Huh?” I know I’m not really coherent when I first wake up.
“Buffy, you need to wake up and come downstairs” she says. Her voice sounds funny and it automatically snaps me into wakefulness.
“Will, what’s wrong? Did something happen to one of the slayers?” I ask. It’s a fact of my life, occasionally we lose one. I can’t help but notice she’s crying. Her entire body trembles with it.
Willow shakes her head. “No, Buffy, could you-you need to come downstairs.”
I furrow my brow and get out of bed. A glance at the clock tells me it’s 1 in the morning. I pad down the stairs behind Willow and my heart starts hammering in my chest. There are two somber looking police men standing in my living room. They both glance up at me as I walk into the room.
“Miss Summers?” The older of the two asks.
“Y-yes” I manage to choke out. My mind is whirling with so many possibilities I can’t focus on one.
“Are you the legal guardian of Dawn Summers?” He asks.
Oh God, I’m going to kill Dawn. If she got tossed in jail for drinking or stealing she is grounded for the rest of her life, or my life at least, which with my track record could be a very short time.
“Yes” I say.
“Miss Summers, I’m terribly sorry but there was an accident on Maddox Street. The young man driving was going entirely too fast. I’m afraid there were no survivors” he says.
Oh God, no survivors.
The ground rushes up at me and then stops abruptly. I glance over gratefully at Xander for catching me. I swallow hard and take a great gasp of breath. I glance at the police men. They’re saying something else to Xander and it takes a moment before the words penetrate the fog.
“Are there any relatives that can identify the bodies?”
Somewhere inside, like a schizophrenic, the Slayer pushes Buffy aside and steps forward. I shove myself away from Xander.
“No, I’ll do it” the Slayer says.
“Miss Summers it will be easier on you if-“ the policeman starts.
“I said I’ll do it” the Slayer says.
“We’ll all go. I’ll drive” Xander says.
I nod and mutely let Willow help me put on my coat. The policemen wait for us to walk out to the car. I sit in the backseat and watch the lights go by.
“I’m still wearing my pajamas” the Slayer says.
“Its okay, Buffy” Willow says.
I nod. “I forgot to bring a stake” the Slayer says.
“They weren’t vampire attacks” Xander says and glances at me in the rearview mirror.
“Oh,” the Slayer says.
I listen to them talking in the front seat and it has that distance, like when someone is watching a movie in the other room. Willow is still crying and Xander is doing the manly thing and holding tears at bay.
“Oh, God. We forgot to call Giles” Willow shrieks.
Xander swallows hard. “We’ll call him when we get back. Right now we need to-“ he stops and casts a glance back at me.
Apparently that glance means something to Willow because she nods and goes back to crying, sniffling into her tissues.
I’m quiet the rest of the trip and I’m thankful the Slayer has taken over because inside, shoved into my little corner I’m screaming and sobbing. I’m beating useless fists against a wall until the blood runs. My voice is gone, my hands are a mess and the Slayer whispers at me and tells me she’ll take care of everything. I whisper thank you back.
“What was that, Buffy?” Xander asks.
“Oh, nothing” the Slayer says. She gives me a sharp look.
If I’m in control you have to let me do all the talking
I’m sorry. I forgot
Don’t forget again. Children are meant to be seen and not heard
I nod. I won’t forget again. If I forget she might leave and make me handle this.
I’m always struck by how silent the morgue is. Even when there are people present, which there aren’t at this hour, everything is silent and echoey, like a cavernous church or something. We’re led into this viewing room and I’m reminded of when Mom died. The Slayer orders me to go back in my corner and keep my back turned. There’s no need for me to see this.
The policeman, Officer Simmons I think he said, pulls back the sheet and I squeeze Xander’s hand so tightly that I hear him wince but to his credit he doesn’t cry out.
Dawnie is sleeping. I smile slightly and brush the hair back from her forehead. She’s so cold. That sheet is much too thin. She looks as if I could shake her and she’d wake up. I’ve seen enough bodies that I know that’s not true, no matter how much I want it to be.
Willow is still seeping tears and blowing her nose softly on tissues gone soggy. Xander is blinking furiously to keep his own tears at bay. At one point he breaks down and then quickly catches himself. The Slayer is dry eyed.
“Is it her?” Officer Simmons asks.
I nod mutely. Even the Slayer has been rendered speechless. Dawnie is her little sister too, hers to protect, hers to love.
The next body is Gina. The Slayer sways on her feet a little. I think we both forgot about the new slayer. Officer Simmons makes sure to only uncover Gina’s face, making sure the rest of her body is covered. Modesty I guess, but Gina is dead. Would she really care about modesty? Maybe it’s a last dignity sort of thing.
“Did they keep the sheet covering me up when you identified my body?” I ask Xander.
Xander stares at me, his throat works a moment before words actually emerge, or maybe the delay is my brain and not his words. Xander glances at the policeman. “Crazy talk, stress and everything” he says.
Officer Simmons nods understandingly.
I sign forms numbly, the Slayer still firmly in control. It seems like we’re at the morgue a long time but then its funny how time moves when the Slayer has control and not me. Sometimes it’s much too quickly, other times it’s very slowly.
“I-I think we can go home now” Willow says quietly.
I nod and I notice that Willow’s cheeks are wet with fresh tears. When did she start crying again? I don’t remember. It must have been sometime when I went away and let the Slayer have total control.
Xander has to stop three times on the way home so I can throw up on the side of the road. We get cursed at by one man in a car. Willow actually flips him off. I giggle and the Slayer snarls at me to shut up.
Giggling is inappropriate
Sorry, it just-Willow doesn’t flip people off.
Would you go back to your corner and let me handle this? You know you don’t want me to go away.
Sorry, shutting up now.
Xander makes tea. My nose is still stuffy and my throat is still itchy. The tea feels good. Oh God, Dawn’s dead.
The beam of bright light cuts across the velvet darkness of the room and I throw my arm up over my eyes. I cringe back into the pillows and hitch the blankets higher toward my chin.
“Buffy,” Willow says to the darkness. She closes the door and flips on the small lamp on the dresser. The amber light washes over me and even in its dimness, it’s too bright for my eyes.
I don’t respond and Willow comes and sits on the bed next to me. She strokes my hair back softly. I turn my face away. I don’t want to see the pity in her eyes.
“Buffy, you need to eat something. I’ve got chicken and stars soup” she says.
“Mom used to make that for me when I was sick. Am I sick, Will?” I ask.
“No, Buffy. You’re just grieving” Willow says softly.
I nod. Everything is just this pit of darkness. I can’t remember. I can’t feel.
“Dawnie’s funeral-“ I start.
“Is the day after tomorrow” Willow says.
I nod. “Did you and Xander make the arrangements?” I ask.
“No, honey. You did. You insisted on doing it yourself. Remember, we went to the funeral home and you picked out that cemetery that reminded you of Restfield where your mom was buried” Willow says.
“Oh, I remember now” I say even though I don’t but crazy people forget things like that and I don’t want Willow putting me in an institution for crazy people. It must have been the Slayer that did that. It’s something she would want to do.
“Why don’t you eat something? I can bring it up here if you like” Willow says.
I shake my head. “Thanks, Will but I’m just going to go to sleep” I say.
Willow smoothes the hair off my forehead one more time and stands up. She pauses at the door and looks back at me and then leaves, flipping the light off as she goes.
I wake up and it’s dark outside. There’s really no way to know if I’ve slept days or merely hours. Maybe I’ve been walking and talking and shopping and I don’t remember. I glance down at my pajamas. I think they are the same ones I had on yesterday, pale blue and satiny. I lift the shirt to my nose and sniff. It smells musty like salt and sweat. I must have been crying. I don’t remember crying, but maybe I did.
I get up and pad across the floor to the balcony doors. I open them and slip outside to stand with my hands wrapped around the coolness of the railing. The fog tickles my skin with chilly, wet fingers. I glance down at the ground I can hardly see. My balcony looks out onto the street, hard cobblestones. I ache to feel the cold, slick railing beneath my bare feet and I wonder if I dived headfirst into the cobblestones below would it kill me or would I land on my feet, a cat with nine lives. Dawnie didn’t have nine lives. It’s not fair I’ve died twice and Dawnie, Dawnie it only took once.
The tingle tangle at the base of my spine hits me and I know he’s here. I’m torn, half of me wants to fling myself from the balcony and fly into his arms because I know he’d be there. He always caught me when I fell, except when he didn’t and I died. The other half of me wants to cower back in a corner and let the Slayer deal with him. I’ve got so much scar tissue where Angel is concerned it hurts to deal with him. It hurts to see him, to feel him, to know how much I will always love him and yet never, ever have him. Scar tissue.
I know when he comes in the room even though he makes no noise, he turns no lights on. He feels closer and I wonder was his presence always this heavy, this thick, this cloying or maybe it’s just me, maybe it’s just my life and Dawnie’s death and God I can’t breathe.
He doesn’t say anything for a long time but he watches me. His gaze has weight and texture and it’s more real then I am. When he finally speaks he’s still standing a couple of feet away from me.
“Buffy,” he says.
Oh God, oh no, no, no, no I can’t do this.
You don’t have to, Buffy. I can handle him.
Just don’t be mean to him, please.
It’s okay. I still love him too.
“Angel,” the Slayer says.
“Buffy, come away from the railing” he says.
I feel him step toward me and I feel his phantom fingers on my shoulder before his real fingers ever touch me. He turns me around with the slightest pressure and folds me into his arms. I rest there with my cheek against his heart. He nestles his nose in my hair and his fingers dance along between the strands.
“I remember now. This is the only place I could rest” the Slayer whispers and I know she didn’t mean to. She doesn’t like to be that vulnerable but Angel always brings it out in her.
I stiffen and pull away after a moment.
“I’m sorry, Buffy” he says.
“Sorry for what, Angel?”
“Sorry about Dawn” he says.
“I died for her. I died to save her life and do you know how much time my life bought her? 2 years five months and four days. That’s it. It seems like a life should buy more time” the Slayer says.
“I know,” Angel says quietly.
“You know. How do you know, Angel? Have you ever died for someone? No, you’re immortal. You can’t die. You have no way of knowing how much time dying should buy someone. No way!” the Slayer shouts.
Don’t yell at him. Look at what it makes his face do when you yell at him.
Who’s in charge here, Buffy? Me or you?
I know. It’s just you promised.
Angel swallows hard and for a fleeting moment this indescribable look of pain crosses his face then he shuts his mask down and his face is blank.
“No, but I know what it’s like to give up other things in exchange for lives, things you wish you had, things you thought you’d never have. I know what it’s like to give up those things and still not have it be enough time” he says.
He tries to keep the emotion out of his voice. He doesn’t succeed. I can hear the pain in every word, pain cracking bones and breaking things so much deeper than bones. It’s then that the Slayer and Buffy become one again. She steps into me and relinquishes control. She knows it will break me. She knows it will leave scars but she can’t listen to the pain in his voice any more then I can so we brave the pain. We accept the scars.
“I died for her! I died for her and now she’s dead and that’s wrong and she’s my baby sister. She’s supposed to live a happy, normal life. She’s supposed to fall in love and get married and have babies so I can be an aunt to babies I will never have! I couldn’t stop it. I couldn’t protect her. It wasn’t a vamp or a demon it was a car wreck! She wasn’t supposed to die!” I scream.
Angel steps forward to put his arms around me and I hit him with the hardest right hook I can manage. He hits the ground and stays there a moment.
“You didn’t even know her!” I scream at the top of my lungs.
Angel gets up slowly. His lip is split. He swipes at his mouth and watches as I walk back to the balcony.
“She chased me around your house with mirrors, fascinated because I had no reflection. She used to hang out her window and make kissing noises at us. One night I came to pick you up for patrol and she was sitting out on the porch. You two had had a fight over something and she said ‘I don’t know how you can even kiss her she’s so horrible’. There was another night I was lurking in your back yard, watching through the window and you two were jumping rope in the kitchen. Your mom came in and told you to stop and then you all three sat down and had ice cream” he says.
Tears flood my eyes. “I remember that” I whisper.
“So do I” Angel says.
I break. My knees buckle and Angel catches me.
“Always catch me when I fall” I sob.
“Except when it counts” he whispers.
He sweeps me into his arms and carries me to the bed where he sits and holds me while I weep into his chest. I grab fistfuls of his shirt and jacket. They become sodden under my tears. I pound on his chest and I scream into his skin. He makes soft shushing noises and trails his fingers through my hair, down my back and up again.
I don’t know how long I sleep, only that when I wake up he’s gone. It’s still night outside and I wonder if I made him up. Maybe I did, maybe I made him up all those years ago and he was never, ever really there. Angel, Angel, my Angel, what kind of name is that for a vampire? I crawl out of bed and spy his jacket draped over a chair. I smile a little. I didn’t make him up. I’m not crazy and Willow can’t send me to an institution. I wrap myself in his jacket and slip out the door silently. I walk down three flights of stairs without a sound. I pause on the landing. I can just see Angel standing in the living room talking to Willow. Their conversation washes over me and I hear my name. I crouch down, pulling myself into the shadows to listen.
“What did you do to her?” Angel asks.
“We didn’t do anything. She-since her mom died she felt responsible for Dawnie. She’s taking her death…hard” Willow says.
“It’s more then just Dawn’s death, even though I understand how that would break her. When her Mom died, she wasn’t like this. She wasn’t broken” Angel says.
Willow shakes her head. “I don’t know. Dawnie-it’s just harder with Dawnie I guess.”
“Maybe it’s beginning to be too much for her, after all this time it’s too much” Angel says and he turns slightly toward the landing.
I cringe deeper into the shadows.
“She’s Buffy. She’ll be okay. She’s always okay” Willow says.
Once upon a time that was true, Will. Once upon a time.
“Then why does she look at high windows and rooftops like that?” Angel asks.
“Like what?” Willow says.
“Like she used to look at me” Angel says.
I smile very sadly. Angel always did read me better then anyone else. Chapter Five
I wake up and he’s there. I know this before I open my eyes. I can feel him. He feels safe, he feels like escape. He feels like home. Oh God, Dawnie’s dead. Can I just lay here and never ever get out of bed?
It’s almost as if he reads my mind because he crawls into bed with me and envelopes me in his arms. (safe, home, love) I weep quietly into his chest and he shushes all the tears away. There is a knock on the door and I freeze. My heart skips a bit and my breath catches. No, no, no don’t come in. Don’t disturb this sanctuary. Don’t, don’t, don’t.
“We’ll be down in a little while” Angel says, knowing instinctively that I need time to get things together.
His fingers find my chin and he tilts my face up to look at him. He places a chaste kiss on my forehead.
“I’ve got to go down there, don’t I?” I whisper.
He nods. “I’m going with you. I won’t let you face this alone” he says.
“Angel, the daylight” I remind him, as if he doesn’t remember every second of every day that he can’t go out into the light.
“I’ve got a blanket in the car. We’ll go through the back entrance of the church. I’ll have to stay in the car at the cemetery but at least you’ll know I’m there,” he says.
I don’t remember getting here. I mean I don’t remember the car ride. I know there must have been one because the church is a long way from the house, or at least I think it is. No we had to drive. Angel is standing beside me and it’s daylight outside. I think it’s daylight outside. I lean over and whisper to Angel.
“Is it daylight outside?”
He wraps an arm protectively around my waist and whispers in my ear. “Yes. I hid under a blanket on the way over here, remember?”
I start to say yes, to comply but I don’t have to. This is Angel. He wouldn’t lock me up in a mental institution and he wouldn’t let anyone else do it either. He kept Drusilla around for a century or so and she was much crazier then I am, or at least I think she was. I furrow my brow and I start to ask Angel if I’m crazy but the pastor steps up on the stage in front of the coffin. I don’t remember picking out the coffin but according to Willow, I did. There are a lot of flowers, daisies. Dawn loved daisies. She said they looked happy. They’re wrong for her funeral. Why did I pick daisies? They shouldn’t be happy, not today. I bite my bottom lip and taste blood. The pain feels good and it gets my mind off the happy daisies and the pastor that’s starting to talk.
“Good afternoon and I’d like to thank you on behalf of the Summers family and friends for your support on this difficult day. Today we mourn the passing of a life much too young, the life of Dawn Joyce Summers,” the pastor begins.
The Summers family, I guess that’s me now since Mom is gone and Dawn is gone and Dad…I wonder if we called Dad. It’s not like he’s been father of the year or that I’ve even talked to him but his daughter is dead. Does he remember Dawn? Angel remembers Dawn. I would think the monks would make sure Dad remembered Dawn too. I hope he remembers Dawn. She deserves to be remembered.
I guess I did that thing where I let the Slayer take complete control again during the pastor’s speech ‘cause the next thing I know Angel is taking me by the upper arm and kind of guiding me out of the pew and up the aisle. I swallow hard. They’ve got Dawn’s casket open. I take a deep, shaky breath.
You don’t have to do this. Let me do this.
No. I have to say goodbye to Dawnie.
It’s going to be too hard.
It doesn’t matter. She deserves it and if I don’t…
Alright but you know it’s going to hurt.
I nod very slightly, agreeing with the Slayer and let Angel lead me up the short, so very short it should be longer I need longer to get it together so I can do this, aisle. I’m leaning so heavily on him he might as well be carrying me. Willow, Xander and Giles are behind us. I get closer to the coffin and my knees buckle. Angel catches me around the waist. I take another deep breath. I can do this. I’ve seen a lot of dead bodies. I can do this. I’m so close to the coffin now I could reach out and touch her and I want to. I want to shake her and tell her it’s time to wake up now Dawnie. Only I know, I know if I touch her she’ll be cold and hard and she won’t wake up, no matter how much I shake her. I remember how Mom’s skin felt cold under my fingers and I don’t want to remember that about Dawnie. A strangled sound echoes through the church and it’s not until Angel picks me up in his arms that I realize the strangled sound is me.
He carries me to the back of the church into this little room. Giles goes to get the car.
“I don’t remember the last time I hugged her or told her I loved her. We-since- things were strained because she kicked me out of the house and since then-I know I’ve hugged her since then and I know I’ve told her I loved her since then but I was still so hurt and so angry and Oh God what if Willow and Xander and Giles die today? I have to go I have to tell them-“I jerk away from Angel and rush out into the bright day. I whirl around unsteady on my heels or maybe it’s just unsteady on my feet, looking for Giles or Xander or Willow and I can’t remember where they went or why they aren’t here. My heart is pounding in my chest and a scream is right there at the edge of my throat just waiting to be ripped out when Giles pulls up in Angel’s rental car.
“Buffy, are you alright?” He asks with odd urgency as he gets out of the car and rushes to me.
I throw my arms around him and bury my face in his tweed jacket, always tweed. He smells like a father, like Old Spice and soap and something else that only daddy’s have and that’s odd because he’s nobody’s daddy and yet he is mine. He’s here and my real dad isn’t and I think he sent flowers but I don’t know. After a long, hesitant moment I feel Giles arms go around me and he’s shushing me in an entirely different way from the way Angel does it. He’s shushing me the way a daddy does.
“I love you, Giles and I’m sorry I didn’t say it before or hug you before but I was so mad and so hurt over what happened in Sunnydale and I don’t want to talk about it now because I think I’ll shatter into pieces and float away if we do but you have to know that and please don’t die, please don’t get in a car wreck or have a heart attack or let a demon kill you. Please,” I plead with him.
Tears glisten in his eyes and I think I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen Giles on the brink of tears. Xander and Willow rush out of the church and I can see Angel’s silhouette in the shadows, hiding from the sun and sometimes I wonder why he does it. I catch Willow and Xander in a hug and give them the same speech I gave Giles with different words and different ramblings because it’s all so smushed together in my head right now but the sentiment is the same and we’re all crying and I don’t know who’s tears are whose and it doesn’t really matter. I don’t know if it ever did.
“Come on, Buffy. Let’s get Angel in the car and drive to the cemetery,” Giles says.
I nod and slip into the backseat.
“I’ll sit in back if you want, Buff” Xander says.
I shake my head. “No, I want to sit with Angel,” I say.
Giles opens the back door of the car and Angel makes a mad dash from the church. I cover him quickly with the thick, wool blanket on the seat. The car starts to pull away and I slip under the blanket and lie in the floorboard on top of Angel. He feels cool even though the blanket is stifling. He smells like Angel, like leather and outdoors and clean and right now a little bit smoky but it’s a good smell like when you come home from a long trip and you crawl into bed and everything just smells like home. Angel smells like home. I think he always has. His hands roam over my back in gentle, soothing strokes and the tears begin to seep out of my eyes. It’s almost like he’s wringing them out of me, like he knows they’ll never come if he doesn’t.
“Why is the sun shining, Angel? I mean its Dawnie’s funeral. Shouldn’t it be raining? It’s always raining in London. It should be raining so why isn’t it?” I ask in whispers.
“I don’t know, Buffy. It’s okay though. It’s okay that the sun is shining,” he says.
“No, no it’s not. They should be crying. Is it because she wasn’t real? Oh, God does that mean she doesn’t get to go to Heaven? I remember Heaven, Angel. She has to go to Heaven. Mom is waiting for her there,” I say.
“Shhh, no Dawn might have been created by monks but she’s real and she has a soul and she gets to go to Heaven, just like you did,” he whispers.
He sounds sure. I wonder if he is sure or if he’s just telling me that. Would he just tell me that? I don’t know. I can’t remember if Angel used to tell me things just to comfort me or not and it seems like I should remember that. I don’t have time to worry about it anymore because Giles is pulling the car up to the cemetery.
“I’m pulling underneath a large oak tree, Angel, but I don’t believe it will be enough protection for you,” Giles says.
“It’s alright. I’ll just wait here,” Angel says.
No, no, no I need you. I need you there. Who’s going to catch me when I fall, Angel? I ask myself. He can’t be there though. He can’t and even if he could maybe he couldn’t catch me. No that’s wrong, Angel always catches me, except when he doesn’t. I shake my head and try to get my thoughts straight. Everything is turning in circles in my head. Angel lays his hand on my cheek. He glides his thumb over my lips and I can see how badly he wants to kiss me. I want him to. I want him to stop the world and make this awful day go away and I know he can. All he has to do is kiss me, and never ever stop.
“Hey, you’re going to be fine. I’ll be right here waiting for you,” he says.
“You promise?” I manage to choke out.
“I promise,” he says.
And it’s high ho it’s off to work I go. I wish the sun wasn’t shining.
A/N: The poetry Angel quotes is written by Lord Byron and is from Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, Canto iv. Stanza 29. The quote from the play is by Shakespeare and is from Two Gentlemen of Verona.
The days and nights just sort of blend together, I don’t know how long it’s been since we buried Dawnie. I can’t remember. I don’t know if it’s because I let the Slayer take over or if everything is just so overwhelming. Willow and Giles come in with soup, wanting me to eat. Willow left a bowl on the nightstand. Giles came and took it away later. I don’t even turn when Angel walks in the room but I know it’s him. It’s hard to ignore a tingle that hits you in the gut and takes your breath away. He sits down on the edge of the bed.
“Buffy,” he says.
I flick my eyes in his direction.
“You’ve got to eat something,” he says.
“How long since we buried Dawnie?” I ask.
“Four days,” Angel answers.
Four days, four days that she’s been all by herself deep, deep in the ground. Fear sluices through my heart.
“We have to dig her up,”
“Buffy, no, we can’t dig her up,” Angel says.
I sit up and shake my head. “No, you don’t understand. I dug my way out. She’s six feet under ground. I dug my way out. She’s not the slayer. She can’t dig out. We’ve got to dig her out.” My voice sounds high pitched and hysterical. I try to make it sound normal but it doesn’t no matter what I do. I wonder if it ever will.
“Buffy, Dawn is dead. Willow hasn’t done a spell to bring her back. She’s in Heaven with your Mom,” Angel says.
I swallow hard. “Why? Why hasn’t Willow done a spell?”
Angel reaches out and pushes the hair out of my face. “Buffy, Dawn died a natural death. Willow couldn’t bring her back even if she wanted to.”
Tears flood my eyes and everything gets that shiny, halo-y look when your vision is blurry. “I miss her,” I say. My voice sounds raspy and harsh, like I smoked a whole pack of cigarettes.
“You always will but one of these days it won’t hurt so much,” Angel says.
He picks up the hot bowl of soup he brought in and spoons up some. It’s Chicken and Stars, my favorite.
“Now come on, you have to eat. You haven’t in several days,” he says.
I nod. “I can’t. It hurts. It’s not fair she won’t ever eat anything else again. She liked the weirdest food like bananas and peanut butter on flour tortillas,” I say.
Angel puts the spoon back in the bowl and pushes my hair out of my face. The tips of his fingers linger on my skin.
“Parting day/Dies like the Dolphin, whom each pang imbues/With a new color as it gasps away/The last the loveliest til tis gone and all is gray,” Angel whispers.
I furrow my brow at him. If I were feeling better or different or something I’d ask him to explain but now it’s nice to just soak in his pretty words. I close my eyes and languish in his voice, his touch, his nearness.
Angel clears his throat and moves his hand. My skin feels bereft without his touch and then I think what an odd word that is for me to use. It’s a word Angel would use and then the memory comes back to me. Angel is reading old poetry to me in the mansion. We’re curled up by the fire. I don’t remember the poem or the writer but I remember Angel said the word bereft. I went home and looked it up in the dictionary.
“She is mine own/And I as rich for having such a jewel/ As twenty seas, if all their sand were pearl/The water nectar, and the rocks pure gold” Angel whispers. He slips a spoonful of soup in my mouth while he covers me with beautiful words.
And that’s how I ate an entire bowl of soup, with Angel spoon feeding me and quoting dusty old poets who wrote beautiful words.
There is a soft knock on the door.
“Come in,” I say.
Willow walks in and stands awkwardly with her hands behind her.
“Xander went to rent a couple of movies and he’s picking up pizza. We’d like it if you and Angel came down and watched with us,” Willow says.
“Really. Did Xander say he’d like it if Angel and I both watched the movies?” I ask.
“Yup, he even promised to try and keep snarky comments to a minimum,” Willow says with a grin.
“Hey, Will, can we-do you have a second?” I ask.
“Sure,” she says and sits down on the bed.
I sit next to her kind of awkwardly. I wring my hands and try to gather my words, to find the right ones.
“Last year, when everything happened with the First, when you guys kicked me out. It hurt, a lot. It wasn’t that you’d kicked me out so much as it was you didn’t trust me. I was good enough to die for you, to kill for you, to protect you but when I come against something that manages to do some real damage, you don’t trust me. I needed you guys then. I needed my best friend in the whole world to stand up next to me and say Buffy’s right. She’s done this before, let’s trust her. It just hurt that you didn’t and I don’t know when that’s going to go away but I want it to. I want to have my friends back,” I say.
Willow bites her bottom lip and when she looks up at me there are tears in her eyes. “I’m sorry. I don’t know-things were just so-there’s no excuse for it. We were really wrong and I’m sorry. I want my friend back too. I’ve missed you, Buffy,” Willow says.
She throws her arms around me and we both hug. Things aren’t okay yet and it will probably be a long time before its okay but at least we’ve kind of taken the first step.
Xander returned to the house with the movies 40 Days and 40 Nights and A Knight’s Tale. He tried to stay true to his word, really and he did pretty good, except for the comment during 40 Days and 40 Nights.
“40 Days and 40 Nights, HaHa! I mock you Josh Hartnett, that’s nothing. Dead Boy has about a century on you there,” Xander says.
I glare at him but as usual Xander is immune to my glares.
Angel growls at him. “It was never sex, it was Buffy.”
Which is actually really romantic if you’re not me, if you’re me, it just sucks. You spend your life wishing that the man you love didn’t love you quite so much.
It’s been three weeks since Dawn died. Angel is still here and I’m afraid to ask if he’s staying or not. Part of me wants to know if he’s leaving, so I can be ready for it. The other part just wants to enjoy the ignorant bliss while I can. It’s not something I get a lot of, ignorant bliss I mean.
We’re sitting in the big wicker chair I have on the balcony. I’m sitting on his lap, completely wrapped in Angel. There’s not a better feeling in the world and the guilt washes over me. Tears leak from my eyes and roll slowly down my cheeks.
“She wasn’t supposed to die, Angel. I died so that she could have all the things I’m never gonna get like love and kids and the white picket fence. It-it was okay that I’d never have those things as long as she got them because if she got them in some way I got them too,” I say.
Angel wipes the tears from my cheeks. “You can have those things, Buffy. You’re not the only slayer anymore. I know you think you have to be here and you have to help Giles and all the others, but you don’t. You’ve earned the right to take a break. And you already have love. It doesn’t matter if I never see you again, I will love you for the rest of my existence,” he whispers.
And I want to slap him.
“Yeah and that does me so much good, Angel. Do you think Christian Slater is all full of fluffy bunnies and happy smiles because I loved him from afar when I was a freshman in high school?” I shout.
Angel looks at me with so much puzzlement and confusion on his face that this giggle bubbles up and pours out of my mouth. I clamp my hand over my mouth in surprise and my eyes well with fresh tears. It’s the first time I’ve laughed since Dawn died.
The puzzlement is replaced with pain for me. He takes my hand and moves it from my mouth. He holds my hand with the same gentle tenderness you’d hold an injured bird.
“It’s okay to laugh. Dawn wouldn’t want you to spend the rest of your life crying,” he says.
I sniffle and nod. He’s right. I know he’s right but that doesn’t really make life any easier.
“Who is Christian Slater and do you still love him?” Angel finally asks.
The time the giggle is a full laugh. I can’t help it. He sounds so worried and hurt.
“Christian Slater is an actor. He was in this movie Bed of Roses and when I was a freshman it was my fondest wish to marry him and run away together,” I confess.
Angel quirks an eyebrow at me. “Do you still harbor these wishes?”
I swallow hard and look down at our entwined hands. The laughter is replaced with longing. “No, Angel, the only person I want to marry, the only person I ever want to marry, is you,” I whisper.
Angel doesn’t say anything. He doesn’t even breathe for a moment. I stop him with my fingers against his mouth when he does start to speak.
“Don’t. I can’t handle it right now. Just let me have my little fantasy about our wedding for a little while. You can’t take it away from me right now. It’s the only thing that’s keeping me breathing,” I whisper.
“I wasn’t going to,” he whispers back.
It takes my brain a moment to kind of process that. I’m so used to Angel telling me we can’t be and reminding me what we can’t have.
“A few months ago Wes was doing some research on a soul sucking demon. He was going through some really obscure books, some that aren’t even printed in this dimension. We were worried that Wolfram and Hart had sent this demon to take my soul, to further their apocalypse. Wes found a spell that would prevent that. It was a soul binding spell, Buffy. I can’t loose my soul, not ever again,” he says.
“What? You can’t what your what? Say that again,” I say.
Angel smiles at me. “There are still a lot of things I can’t give you,” he whispers.
“Your soul is bound. We could-you can’t lose it in a moment of pure happiness,” I say.
Angel shakes his head and takes a deep breath. “There are still a lot of things I can’t give you, Buffy. I need you to think about that but, you’re twenty three years old. You’ve died twice, you’ve saved the world over a dozen times. You’re not a high school girl anymore, you’re not the only slayer anymore. You’re old enough to know what you want, to know what you’d be giving up and to make a decision based on that. “
“I’ve never cared about what I was giving up as long as I got you in the process,” I whisper. I’m afraid to say it to loud. I’m afraid it will shatter this illusion I’ve somehow managed to create and expose it for what it really is, a dream.
Angel nods. “You know I still can’t give you children. I won’t ever grow old with you, no matter how much I want to.”
“I know and I don’t care, even if I manage to die an old woman with my sexy, beautiful, young husband, I don’t care. You’ll be my legacy, long after I’m gone I’ll live on in you,” I whisper.
Angel leans down and kisses me. It tastes like salt and I wonder if it’s my tears or his. The kiss makes me ache, makes me remember moonlit walks in graveyards of a town that no longer exists. It is full of promises and hope and future.
“I want to take you somewhere. Put your shoes on,” Angel says.
I arch an eyebrow at him and slowly stand up. He just told me his soul was bound and he wants to take me somewhere, not like it’d be healthy for us to jump right into bed because we could because it wouldn’t. Angel and I have a lot of things to work out. The curse was only one of our problems but it was the one that always kept pushing itself to the forefront of our relationship. If there’s not a curse anymore, then Angel and I can actually work on our relationship.
“Hurry, we need to get going. We may have to spend the day there at a hotel or something as it is,” he says.
Oooo and that would be a tragedy, I mean in light of the whole Hey Honey my soul is bound news. No, Buffy, don’t go there, working on the relationship, jumping into bed would be bad, remember?
“Okay, you going to tell me where we’re going or is that something I’m not allowed to know?” I ask.
“You’re not allowed to know, but it is outside so dress warm,” he says.
I throw on an extra sweater and my heavy coat. I slip my feet into boots and Angel and I walk down the stairs, trying not to wake anyone. We get in Angel’s car and I fiddle with the radio trying to find something on. I settle for an American eighties rock station and lay across the seats with my head on Angel’s chest. His arm goes around me and I feel safe. I know technically I’m not with the seat belts and everything, but Dawn had a seatbelt and she died anyway.
The dark of the car and the familiar music and the presence of Angel all combine to make me drowsy and sleepy. I fall asleep before we even get out of London. The next thing I know Angel is shaking me awake.
“We’re here,” he says.
I yawn and stretch and get out of the car. A smile comes to my face when I see Stonehenge gilded in moonlight. Angel holds his hand out to me and smiles. We walk down to the massive structure and stand in the middle of the circle. I turn around slowly looking at everything. I’ve lived here almost six months and I’ve never had time, I’ve never taken the time to come here.
“It’s amazing,” I whisper in awe.
“It’s four thousand years old,” he says.
“Wow, I wasn’t sure there was actually anything older then you,” I joke.
“Har dee har har,” he says with a grin. He steps up behind me and wraps his arms around me.
We stand in silence like that. I can almost feel the magic of this place. I close my eyes and breathe it in.
“I wanted you to see this, Buffy. I wanted you to see what you died saving,” Angel whispers.
The tears rush to my eyes and I take a good long look at the structure. I close my eyes and I feel Angel behind me, cool, strong and here.
“It was worth it,” I rasp.
“No, it wasn’t, but you should still know what you saved. I want you to see it, all of it. I’ve talked to Giles and you and I are taking a vacation. I’m going to take you to Greece and Rome and Egypt. We’re going to see the Great Wall of China, the pyramids and Venice, if you’ll go with me,” he says.
“What? You want to take me on vacation?” I ask not really grasping the whole idea of Angel and me going around the world together.
“I want to take you on vacation,” he says.
“One condition,” I say.
“Anything you want,” Angel says.
“You take me to Disney World too.”
“Disney World? I was thinking wonders of the world, Buffy,” Angel says.
“Hey! I like Disney World and I died to save it too,” I pout.
Angel chuckles. “Alright, after we’ve seen Europe, I’ll take you to Disney World.”
Two Months Later:
I’m standing in the window of our hotel room in Venice. I can hear the water hitting the sides of the canals and the gondoliers paddle smoothly through the water. The sun is almost set and I’m dressed for dinner. Angel is taking me to some little Italian place the hotel advertises as the best food in Italy. Afterwards we’re going for a ride down the canal. This is our last night in Venice. We’re headed to Egypt next. The setting sun turns the water a brilliant orange gold and I miss Dawnie all over again.
Angel interrupts my thoughts by walking up behind me. He slips his arms around me and kisses my temple.
“You look so serious. What are you thinking?” He asks.
“I miss Dawn but I’m also thinking about how lucky I am. I have friends who are my friends again. I have Giles who is Giles again and I have a lot of really good memories of my sister. I’m also thinking about how I never thought I’d never get this. I remember crying so many nights in my room because I knew I’d never get to feel you again. I’d never get to make love to you again or spend my life with you,” I whisper.
“But you do and you can,” he says.
I nod. “Yeah and sometimes I think all those tears and fights and pain make this sweeter, but they’re like scars. They never really go away,” I say. I’m trying to explain something so deep inside of me I’m not even sure I understand it.
“Sometimes scars can be beautiful,” he whispers and places a lingering, soft kiss against the scar, his scar, on my neck.
He’s right. Scar tissue doesn’t have to be this ugly, gnarled thing. It can be the imperfections that make the whole perfect.
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