Everywhere We Have Been
Summary: This thing they have can't be shut off like some kind of machine.
Notes: This is my first time writing B/A.
There are distances between Angel and Buffy, thick spaces that separate
their bodies and seep into the gaps around them in their beds. There are holes
between them, emptiness, like a long pause in a conversation youíre having with
yourself, and when Angel looks far away into the direction where she is, he can
feel the distance between that place and the place where she should be. He has
measured this distance in miles and kilometers and feet and inches and
centimeters. On a state map, the distance between his fingertip and first
knuckle is fifty miles. Sometimes the distance to Buffy is two fingers.
Sometimes she is only a knuckle away. Sometimes Angel is a red star on a map
under a hard plastic cover at a rest stop, and Buffy is a dot somewhere six
hundred miles west of You Are Here, and this distance between them is a length
of crooked purple line cracking the land into pieces. He is here and she is
there. He traces his fingertips over the lines to make sense of where he is.
He used to come to her some nights, show up just when she was getting home from patrol or clubbing with friends, and they would talk for hours or else say nothing at all, falling asleep together in a place where the sun couldnít reach them in the morning. It didnít matter where in the world she was. He would stay for one night or two weeks or however long it took for her to say she wasnít ready yet, and before he left again he would go and kill the last thing that thought about hurting her. She never asked him how he was always able to find her. Even when she moved, he always came.
He came to her one night in Belfast after a battle. The fight had been long, excruciating, almost like the end of the world, and they healed each other in a thousand tiny ways that only left them more broken in the end. A year later, she married a man from Kentucky and told Angel she didnít have any energy left for his kind of obsession, and then she fell out of his life like the trapdoor under a man condemned to hang. He was lost in the world after that; he couldnít say where he was, only where he had been waiting for her when she disappeared.
He found Buffy in a hospital in Venezuela eleven years later. Her coma lasted eight months and an apocalypse and took up all the space around Angel the same way a massive singularity takes up the light from a star. He left the world to be with her, and when she finally awoke, Faith had died in battle and Spike had become human. The souled vampire who played a major role in the apocalypse had been rewarded while Angel picked out fuzzy slippers to bring to his unconscious, married ex-girlfriend in the hospital, who may never know that he guarded her at night for the whole eight months, lurking silently around hospital corridors and constantly startling the nurses. The man from Kentucky wept as he welcomed her back and Angel slipped away unnoticed, like a thing that was never there, like the distance had never been closed, not even when sheíd squeezed his hand in her sleep.
He doesnít say I love you much, not to anyone. Itís a thing that means something, and he feels nothing meaningful but this space all around him, these roads that connect or separate or just mark out the vast emptiness between two points. In a city known for the blues, he rents an apartment above a bakery and wakes every day to the smell of fresh bread and cinnamon rolls and her name on his lips. He says it out loud in that halfway place between sleep and clarity because he smells something like her, something that makes her his for one moment each morning. He thinks, I miss you, over and over, and itís almost shocking that he still feels it, still feels anything at all, so clearly and so defiantly after so long and in the face of such distance. He always shocks himself when he thinks of her, when he touches her dot on his atlas and realizes, I could be there so quickly.
He makes a home in this empty space in this bluesy town above the bakery, and he exorcises spirits from old houses that creak underfoot and have small yards with giant mossy trees and graves grown over beneath them. He kills mean things and nasty things and ugly things that have one eye and smell like burnt rubber. And sometimes every part of him is there, but oftentimes one small part of him is wherever she is, and he is saving those words for a day when he can say them to her and she can understand what it is that he is saying. What he is saying is no matter what. What he is saying is forever. What he is saying is this is not going to end just because there are distances between us, years and miles and people and things that canít be forgotten or unsaid.
Every year on her birthday, he writes her a long letter about everything he can think of. He signs it Yours, and he doesnít send it because he doesnít want to make things complicated for her. He sends her cards instead, short and sweet, with a picture of a cat or a cartoon lady with crazy hair making a joke about shopping. Heís not even sure what she likes anymore, what she would find funny or interesting or clever. He goes years without seeing her, and when his cards find her across the distance, he thinks of all the things he didnít write in them. Sometimes he gets a Christmas card with a photo of her family in it, but he doesnít know if itís specifically for him or if he is just one name on her Christmas card list. Sometimes, randomly, he will get a long letter from her, as though she is writing to him everything she can think of, but when he writes her back after this, his letters are returned unopened. She writes on the back that she loves her husband. She writes that she is too old to be confused about who she is or where she belongs. She writes that she is not the same girl that she used to be. But she writes him again and again.
This thing they have canít be shut off like some kind of machine. It doesnít stop if you put it away while you live your other life but secretly pull it out every few months to hold it again. If you can bury it and walk away then it will eventually shrink underground, but if you keep it close by it will wander into your room at night and slip naked into your bed. He knows this and she knows this, but neither one of them buries it. They keep it in boxes at the back of their closets like ancient loveletters that are too beautiful to throw away, even if you hardly ever read them. What this means is that Angel will always be traveling toward her, and Buffy will always be wanting him to come. Through miles and fights and knuckles and spirits, and every time the world almost ends, they will each be loving the other one in the part of the heart where you do things in secret, alone. The distances donít matter. This can be done anywhere in the world.
One day when Buffy is an old woman, Angel imagines that she will call for him and he will close the distance between them as simply as shutting a book about loneliness. They will touch each other the way lovers touch in the morning. They will dance to an old song. She will understand that what he has been saying all of these years is this: if we move the things that are in the way, we will always be able to reach each other. Like cities on a map, we are connected in more ways than can ever be drawn with lines. Everywhere we have been, we have been separately, but where I go from here, I will not go without you. We will be able to point to some place on a map and say, We are here.