Summary: There are five stages of grief. Post NFA.
Word Count: 6432
Disclaimer: Not mine - they all belong to Joss.
A/N: I love the IWRY marathon, and I’ve wanted to submit a
story for years. Thanks to Dark Star for keeping this afloat & all
the wonderful authors for their fantastic stories. Unbeta-ed. All errors are my own.
It takes Buffy six days to find Angel. Most of
the inhabitants in LA are either dead or have been evacuated and those left are
wary of divulging information to a Slayer. But eventually someone talks
and she finds herself in the basement of a now abandoned department store.
The blue demon (woman? creature?) scoffs at her fighting stance and
informs her that she has grown weary of fighting mortals. A witty retort
dies on her lips, the cemeteries of Sunnydale and evening patrols-cum-dates and
a certainty that things would be in order at sunrise so distant that she
sometimes wonders if the monks made that up, too.
“Do you know where Angel is?” Buffy has been
doing this dance for a week now and she’s tired. Tired of pummeling
demons and shelling out cash and chasing down false leads.
The blue woman cocks her head and points to a dark
corner of the room. “Angel is there. He is weak, but he will
recover.” She bends and takes her sword. “I have fulfilled my
obligations here.” And she’s gone.
It takes Angel two weeks to regain consciousness. Buffy
dresses his wounds and makes him a bed from a Martha Stewart comforter found
upstairs, his blood blossoming alongside the purple and blue flowers. The
blood she scavenges from the hospital lasts three days, and she’s surprised at how
easy it is to slice her own wrist. His teeth scrape her skin and she can
feel the wetness between her legs.
Slowly, he heals.
During the day she sleeps and scavenges. Food is scarce and
so is her appetite, but she still forces herself to eat the cold canned beans
and tuna fish she finds. The department store has largely been ransacked
but Buffy finds books that have been left behind and figures Angel would
appreciate the irony of True Blood.
At night she does recon. Los Angeles is nothing like she
remembers and that makes her sad in way she hadn’t anticipated. She finds
herself wandering through her old neighborhood and wonders if anyone had a
chance to leave before the houses were leveled. When a tear escapes from
her eye, she convinces herself it’s the smog that makes her eyes water.
After that, she sticks closer to the department
store. She doesn’t patrol, or at least not in the way she patrolled in
Sunnydale. There she had been the only Slayer, and she executed her role with
an arrogance that here will get her killed. She’s not looking to protect
or dominate or fix anything. Buffy is one Slayer of many and she’s
trying to stay alive.
Angel wakes up as Buffy returns from patrol, just as
the sun is cresting the horizon. He opens his eyes, lets her name escape
a dry throat and cracked lips.
The rush of anger that surges through her catches her
A week later he’s patrolling with her. Buffy
urges him to rest, he insists on going. It’s the same song and dance
they’ve done before and she wonders if he notices that she’s going through the
motions. He needs to heal more, but she finds satisfaction that he will
experience the destruction that’s outside, the destruction that she can’t help
but hold him partly responsible for.
Their patrols exhaust her. Angel fights to fix
his city and Buffy expends most of her energy watching his back. He’s not
fully healed but refuses to feed off her any more and it makes him more of a
liability than she’s used to. They’re running out of bandages and she’s
running out of patience.
In the morning, they argue. She tries to
convince him that there’s nothing left here to save and that his efforts would
be better served somewhere else, and he argues that this city is still his
responsibility and still worth saving. They patrol together and they
share a sleeping space and yet Buffy has never felt so distant from Angel.
The night that her leg is almost shredded by a
Kravlok demon, she cannot pretend that his arguments make sense.
“There is nothing left, Angel. Nothing.”
Her words hinge on desperation and she can feel tears in her eyes.
When he asks her why she doesn’t just leave, she
But she stays.
The military deploys troops to Los Angeles a month after the battle,
or as the media calls it, the “natural disaster”.
(That’s how she hears about it, in Italy. But she’s seen
enough apocalypses to know that while it was most certainly a disaster, there
was nothing natural about it. Buffy is on the next plane to the United
Rolling thunder wakes them in the middle of the day,
and when they get to the front of the building they discover that it’s US
military tanks. They are heavily armored and so are the men riding in the
humvees. It doesn’t surprise her that they’re there, and it surprises her
less that they’ve come prepared for war. Whatever hope Angel has been
clinging to has evaporated, and there’s a part of her that’s relieved that they
can finally move on.
But he doesn’t follow her when she moves away from
the entrance. She turns, exasperated, but is stopped at the look of
despair that’s frozen on his face.
“Angel?” Her voice is a whisper. She wants to
keep their presence hidden, doesn’t want to startle him.
“They’re not here to save us, are they?” His
voice is strangled, bordering on hysteria.
“No.” She slowly reaches for his arm and can
feel him tremble beneath his touch.
When they finally make it back downstairs, he doesn’t
get up for a week.
The military moves with a deadly efficiency born of
elite training. While Angel borders on catatonia Buffy spends the days
tracking their progress. The time for finding survivors has passed and
instead they level buildings and kill anyone they come across. There is no hope
of Los Angeles returning to what it was. Their department store is downtown and
at the pace they’re going she calculates that they have two weeks at most
before they’re leveled, too.
She returns when the sun sets, unwilling to get caught
after dark by a floodlight or a demon. The night she finds Angel sitting
up is the same night she watched a soldier gun down a family of Tr’acti demons,
a peaceful group that looked human unless threatened. It takes all her
willpower not to intervene but she knows it would do no good; she’d be a body
on the ground next to the little boy.
“This was all my fault.” Angel’s eyes plead her to save him
and maybe any other night she could have.
“Yes.” His shoulders slump and his eyes fall under the force
of one word and the anger leaves her body. They’re good guys but they
make mistakes. Buffy knows she’s not one to throw stones and the anger
that’s been holding her hostage since before her plane landed finally releases
She lowers herself beside him on their nest of blankets and takes
his cool hand in her own. “I didn’t kill Willow when I had the chance.
I let her live because all I could see was Willow. I
couldn’t see the power or the danger until it was too late and then I had to
kill her anyway.”
Angel looks to her, tilts his head and she gets lost in the depth
of the pain in his eyes. “She killed 30 people, Buffy.” The number
sears her and she remembers finding the children’s bodies, tucked below their
parents, eyes wide with fear. Willow had been unable to stop using magic
and the blowback from a spell had been more than she could handle. By the
time Buffy had reached her it was too late - the community center had been
leveled and she had been forced to kill her best friend.
“31.” Her voice is hoarse.
“31 doesn’t compare to 30,000, or 300,000.” He
takes his hand from hers and stands up, running a hand through his hair.
“This isn’t the pain Olympics, Angel.” She
stands too, angry now that he is so dismissive of Willow’s destruction and her
role in it. “We fight the best way we know how and sometimes we make
mistakes. You did what you thought was best and yeah, it didn’t go as
planned. But neither has half the stuff I’ve attempted in the last seven
“You’ve been outside. You’ve seen the same
things I have. How can you even compare this to anything you’ve done?”
The guilt in his voice hangs heavy in their small space and she thinks
that if she isn’t careful, she could suffocate.
“You made a choice that you thought was best.
You didn’t call in reinforcements, you didn’t think beyond an outcome
where you would win. I’ve been there, and I’ve done that.” Buffy
pushes the memory of jumping off the scaffolding out of her head, shudders at
the feeling of wood and dirt under her nails.
“The easy part is winning, Angel.” She closes
the distance between them, takes his chin in her palm and forces him to meet
her eyes. “But if you give up now, if you let this consume you, then
that’s when they will declare victory. Because you’re still standing, and
you’re still fighting, and that means that they’ve lost.”
His lips crush hers and she responds before she can think, pulling
his neck until the coolness of his lips is the only way she can tell for sure where
she stops and he begins. His hands move under her shirt and she shivers,
the wetness between her legs blossoming as his thumbs caress her nipples.
She hears a groan and it takes a moment before she realizes its coming
"Angel," she whispers but can't commit to
"Please, Buffy. Please." The rawness in his
voice is more than she can stand and she silences his pleas with her lips.
His hands are cold and she shivers as they roam her body under her
shirt, everywhere and not enough. They've only been here once and she had been
young and inexperienced, but she's older and wiser and not interested in going
slow. Without breaking the kiss she takes off his pants, letting a groan escape
as she takes his hardness into her hand. Blunt teeth scrape her neck and she
firms up her grip, emboldened by his response.
"Buffy." Her name is a whispered prayer.
She sinks to her knees and swallows him whole and without warning,
gripping his thighs as his knees give out. Fingers grip her shoulders and
she turns her attention to the sensitive flesh of his inner thighs, his growl
igniting a fire between her legs. Her lips glide up and down his shaft
and she sucks the salty fluid at the tip.
"Buffy." His growl is possessive and strong hands guide
her to the bed, sliding her pants over her hips.
She gasps when his tongue finds her clit, her hips moving in
rhythm with his mouth and when his fingers slip inside her, she comes
She has only a moment to breathe before she's tasting herself on
his lips, his need urgent. She gasps and arches when he moves inside her. His
eyes are dark with need and she thrusts against him, feeling her own climax
building again. Blunt teeth scrape her neck and she pulls him into her until
they're moving as one person.
They finish and she basks in his borrowed warmth. The first time
she had slept soundly, a teenager in love, and utterly unaware of the chaos and
destruction about to be unleashed in her world. There was never a next
time, only platonic sleepovers wrought with sexual tension. There was a
time when she had naively thought that there was only making love and basking
in the afterglow and perfect happiness, but it’s hard to remember that all,
now. She’s gotten older, and wiser, and spent time in bed with a man she
tried to convince herself was the one, learning that even basking could
be faked. Spike taught her how to fuck, how to use her body as a weapon
against herself. There was never any basking, only efficiency and
Buffy’s experienced enough to know that is different still;
there’s no threat of Angelus when she can taste despair. When he finally
moves it’s away from her, and she has never felt so alone.
She finds she’s still surprised that she can still experience
Angel goes out on his own at night, and Buffy doesn’t ask where.
She figures they’re both entitled to their secrets and uses the time to
write letters to Giles and Dawn and Xander. They don’t get sent, of
course, but it gives her comfort to know there’s a record of what they’re
What she does know is that he’s looking for something. On
the nights he’s found good news, he’s tender, and takes his time. There’s
no risk of perfect happiness, not anymore, so she enjoys everything he gives
her. Other nights he takes out his frustration at what she assumes is a
dead end and she responds with her own, until she’s sweaty and out of breath.
On the really bad nights things get broken and they get bloody but it’s a
release for her, too. She’s waiting until he finds what he’s looking for
and they can move on.
They sleep in the same bed but she never wakes in his arms.
He comes back every morning just as the sun is rising, until one
day he doesn’t. The military moves in the day so she stays inside, pacing
as she thinks of every possible scenario. All of them leave her nauseous
and as soon as the sun sets she’s on the move.
Her patrol is fruitless, and the few inhabitants left don’t know
anything. She goes back to their hideout at daybreak, exhausted and
Angel is sitting on the edge of their mattress, his head in his
“Where the hell have you been?” Her relief is hidden behind anger,
but she can’t help it. Logically she knew he was likely dust and it’s only
now as she sees him again that she realizes how unprepared for that she truly
“They wouldn’t fix it. I tried, I tried everything, but they
wouldn’t fix it.”
“What are you talking about, Angel?” Unease replaces anger,
his hollow eyes creating a pit in her stomach. She’s seen too much destruction
brought about by changing what’s already been done.
“I went to the Oracles, asked them to turn it all back. To
give me another chance to make this right. And they wouldn’t.” His head
drops back into his hands and his shoulders slump.
“I don’t understand.” Or, she’s starting to, and hopes
desperately she’s wrong.
“They did it once before, when I was human. They fixed it
and you lived. Said that was my one chance.”
Her brow furrows. “You were human?”
“A mohra demon, around Thanksgiving years ago. Its blood
turned me human and they took it back.” The air leaves her lungs and
“Did I know?”
His eyes reflect the pain in her own. “We spent a day
together. But I couldn’t tell you until the decision had been made.
Otherwise I would never have been strong enough.”
Her hand flies to her mouth and she feels tears
spring to her eyes. “How could you do that, Angel? We could be on a
beach somewhere instead of in this hellhole. We could be happy! We
could be - “
“Dead. We’d be dead.” The beach is replaced by a
funeral, and she sinks down next to him.
“You never told me.”
“It wasn’t your burden. And I didn’t think you’d forgive
me.” He’s staring at his hands and she takes one in her own.
“I wouldn’t have then.” A pause. “You thought the
Oracles would erase all this.”
He pulls his hand back, laughs dryly. “They laughed at me.
Told me that his was beyond their reach.” He stands up and
tilts his chin up, his back to her. “They’re the messengers for the
Powers and even they can’t fix what I’ve done.”
Denial had deluded her into thinking that Angel was looking for
something tangible that would help him leave Los Angeles, and she realizes how
how shortsighted she had been.
His shoulders heave and the weight of his guilt buckles his knees,
driving him to the floor. She sinks beside him and cradles him, wondering
if he cried when he gave back his humanity.
The trip out of Los Angeles is complicated. The military has
set up blockades around the city limits and the few exits have heavily guarded
checkpoints, which she starts referring to as Checkpoint Charlie in her mind.
She thinks Willow would have been proud that she retained anything from
their tutoring sessions and then sobers.
Angel agrees to leave with her two days before she calculates
their building will be demolished. She packs a backpack with the few
remaining canned goods she’s found, a gallon of water and the letters she’s
written. They leave when the sun sets.
Their progress is slow. Angel has not been feeding well, and her
own caloric intake has been lacking. They head in the direction of
Pasadena because Buffy remembers a highway there.
There are only a few humans, or demons, along the way. By
unspoken agreement they ignore each other save for the occasional nod or
menacing stare. Her senses are heightened and she bristles at each noise,
overcompensating for the Angel’s inability to do anything except follow her,
and the directions she gives.
There is a barrier of barbed wire and floodlights at the perimeter
of the city, and a two guard towers spaced a mile apart. A month (or had
it been two?) ago entering the city had been a matter of will and physical
ability. Now, she’s not sure if the guards are there to keep people out
or monsters in. Either way the barrier was made in haste; the towers are
too far apart to see the entire stretch of fence clearly, and the lights are
fixed. There is a stretch of fence cloaked in darkness.
They army crawl to the fence and use the wire cutters she’d taken
from a hardware store to cut a hole large enough for the two of them to slip
through. Buffy works slowly, looking at the guard tower more frequently
than is most likely necessary, but she’s unwilling to take any chances.
When all else is stripped away they’re still a Slayer and a souled
vampire and she’s had enough run ins with the military to know that nothing
good could come of that encounter.
She finally creates a hole and they slip through, unnoticed.
They army crawl to the Arroyo Seco and then they run through darkened
residential neighborhoods until the lights of 210 nearly blind them. The
noise of civilization is deafening after their eerily quiet post-apocalyptic
existence and for a moment they stand, dazed, watching the cars whiz by.
It’s only when Angel gently brushes her elbow, and points to the sky,
that she realizes the sun will rise at any moment and they need to get inside.
Later, when she’s well rested and her stomach is full, she’ll
taste hope in the simple truth Angel wasn’t willing to meet the sun.
They find a cheap motel and Buffy has to stifle a giggle at the
normalcy of handing over her credit card and signing her receipt. The
clerk looks annoyed as he hands them their room key and after catching a
glimpse of them in the mirror in the lobby she can understand where he’s coming
Their room has a queen bed and heavy curtains, which she promptly
pulls tight. Angel sits on the bed, folded into himself, and the
temptation to dive below the covers is so consuming that she physically has to
jolt herself to focus.
“Shower?” Angel makes eye contact, nods. They’re
filthy, and it’s a problem with an simple solution.
She runs the shower and they undress, the fog slowly hiding her
gaunt appearance and stringy hair in the mirror. Her cheekbones are
hollow and she notices for the first time that she can slide her pants down
without unbuttoning them.
They step into the shower, the hot spray washing weeks of dirt and
grime down the drain in a black mess. There’s a washcloth that looks
clean enough, and a standard issue bar of soap which she rubs into the cloth
until it’s been replaced by suds. Buffy cleans herself quickly,
motivated by the threat of a limited supply of hot water and the promise of
sleeping in a real bed. Angel has his back to her and without making a
conscious choice starts scrubbing, watching as the dirt falls away to reveal
his tattoo, a constant that makes her feel homesick. Like her, his skin
is stretched tight over his bones and she wonders at how she missed that he’d
gotten so skeletal. Soft flesh is replaced by sharp edges and she makes a
note to find the nearest butcher as soon as morning comes.
The towels are scratchy but she barely feels them, the adrenaline
finally giving way to the exhaustion that’s been lurking at the periphery and
they stumble into the bed.
The sunlight peeking in from the edges of the cheap curtains wake
Buffy ten hours after her head hit the pillow, and she stretches, feeling more
refreshed than she has in weeks. Angel is still sleeping, or pretending
to be, so she’s quiet as she pulls on her filthy clothing and leaves the room.
It takes her two hours to find a butcher that won’t ask too many
questions and some clothes for them that won’t break the bank and it’s almost
noon when she gets back to their room. The bed is neatly made and their
belongings are organized on the bed, and Angel is sitting at the small table in
“Here, you need to eat,” she offers, setting the bag on the table.
Small talk has never been their strong suit and she’s afraid to start
now. (How are you? Oh, you’re coming to terms with the fact you
destroyed an entire city? Hey, at least the weather’s nice!)
“So do you.”
“I did.” A protein bar and an iced tea but she’s not
The silence is heavy as he drinks the blood in front of him, not
bothering to turn away from her. She’s not sure if it’s because he’s
gotten comfortable with her, or he’s that hungry, or it’s because he’s trying
to repulse her but she finds she could not care less. They’ve been
through hell and back, literally, for each other and with each other and she
thinks that now is the time she loves him more than she ever has.
“I thought we’d head out today. There’s a rental car agency
up the road and if we drive all night we’ll make it to Phoenix before the sun
rises.” He doesn’t respond so she continues. “I looked at flights
and we should be able to get one without much planning. I’m not sure
about getting you on the plane, though, so you’re going to have to give me some
guidance there…” Her voice trails off as he begins to shake his head.
“I’m not going.” Angel won’t make eye contact with her, and
she notices that their belongings are not on the bed together, they’re divided
into two neat piles. His and hers, staying and leaving, past and present.
“Why not?” It’s barely a whisper, all she can manage over the lump
in her throat.
“I’m not going to run away from this.”
“Running away? You think that’s what I’m doing?” The tears
are hot in her eyes and she blinks them away. She’d just assumed this was
a stop over before continuing on together, that he felt as much as she did that
this was a new, undiscovered road that they were going to explore together.
Angel looks up from his hands, clenched on the table,
and his eyes are pools of guilt. “What? No. This wasn’t your doing.
Wasn’t your fault. I have to stay.” He looks back down at his
hands, furrows his brows slightly. “Make it right.”
It’s too much and she can’t prevent the tear that trickles down
her cheek. She takes the chair across from him, gently takes his hands in
her own. “You can’t fix this, Angel. This is done, and we
have to move on. If you stay here, you’re going to get killed.
Going to get us killed.”
He shakes his head. “I’m not asking you to stay here,
“I know. But I’m not leaving you, not again.” He looks
up, and she continues, tries to answer the questions his eyes ask. “I was
so angry when I got on the plane, Angel. I was angry that you took on
Wolfram and Hart without me, that you never told me what was going on, that you
never called for help."
"I did. I was told you wouldn't help." His arms cross
over his chest, defensively.
"What?" Her voice is a whisper, devastated.
"I don't blame you, not anymore. You were smart to stay
"I didn't know." Who knew? Who had talked to Angel? She wants
to ask but the words get lodged in her throat.
"If you'd come you would have died. Like Wes, and Gunn, and
Cordelia." His eyes close and memories slash pain across his features.
Unchanged, she thinks. Always unchanged.
"They died fighting with you."
"Died because of me. And if you had been there you would have
The silence is interrupted only by the hum of the mini fridge.
"Willow cast a spell, and it made all of the potentials into
Slayers." Angel looks at her, confused and maybe a little irritated at the
change in conversation. "They fight, and they die. They're fighting my
fight and they're dying. I used to learn their names, say a prayer. Now there's
too many. They're just numbers." She looks at Angel, forces eye contact.
"That's how this works, Angel. We have to make decisions and live with
"It should have been me, Buffy. Not them."
"But it wasn't. You survived. And you need to fight."
"I can't, not anymore. Everything I touch falls apart and I
can't do it anymore."
She takes his cold hands in her own and squeezes, the surprised
that she can still be delighted that he absorbs her warmth.
"You're alive for a reason, Angel. I saw the destruction in
LA and there's no way your survival was an accident. Something up there knows
that you're not done."
They sit in silence for long moment, until finally he looks at
her, intense and desperate and lost.
"Show me how?"
They rent a sedan and make it to Phoenix in what she imagines is
record time. A few phone calls and they have a death certificate and a coffin,
which Buffy has an extraordinarily difficult time closing Angel into.
He tries to smile but can't quite manage, and she is trying to
convince him as much as herself when she brushes a kids over his lips and tells
him she'll see him in 12 hours.
The flight is long but uneventful. No one questions that she's a
grieving widow; she knows she looks the part.
The plane begins its descent into Heathrow and Buffy begins to
second guess her decision not to alert anyone they're coming. She was afraid
he'd say no, and she can't take that chance, not now. Italy no longer feels
like home and even if she can't find the words to explain why, England somehow
It's overcast when they land, and the car she's hired in advance
is waiting for them at the curb.
Onlookers give her sympathetic stares as she walks out next to the
coffin and she has to force herself to wait until they're out of city limits to
ask the driver to pull over.
He doesn't comment as Buffy throws the lid to the coffin open.
He's been paid handsomely not to ask questions, which she knows will be
reflected in her next credit card bill.
"Angel," her voice is breathless but she can't help the
visceral reaction to seeing him so lifeless.
"Buffy." A croak, he clears his throat.
"Buffy." Clearer that time.
He holds her hand the rest of the car ride, and she knows he can
hear her heart racing when the car finally stops.
The walk to the door is long, but the wait between her ringing the
bell and the door opening is even longer. He answers the door himself, in a
sweater and corduroys and holding a cup of tea.
"Hi, Giles. Can we come in?"
One year later.
Buffy's learned to appreciate tea, especially in these early hours
of the morning where the damp will seep into her bones if she's not careful.
This morning it's a ginger lemon, and she inhales deeply as she pours the water
into the teapot and carries it out to the porch. There are two cups and she
fills them both, savoring the first sip that's almost hot enough to scald her
"Mmmm, I like this one the best."
In the chair next to her, Angel smiles. "You said that about
the chai last week, remember?" He sips his own tea, which he drinks for
the temporary warmth it brings him. It makes her sad if she thinks about it too
much, so she forces herself to switch gears.
"It was a good patrol." There's a normalcy to their
lives, now. They train new slayers with Giles during the afternoon and patrol
at night, a routine that is always capped off with a cup of tea before the sun
"It was," Angel agrees as he stares into the lightening
sky. "We should take Morgan tomorrow."
She's 17, from Scotland, and Buffy knows she's ready
but can't stop her stomach from clenching.
"So soon? Are you sure?"
"You can't protect them all, Buffy. You've done all you can
to train them."
"We've done all we can," she corrects absently but he doesn't
answer. Angel is just as active in training the Slayers as she is but won't
take credit. It's par for the course, but she'll correct him every time.
"Thank you," Angel says after a few minutes have passed
and she furrows her brow and he continues, staring down into his tea.
“You didn’t give up on me. You’ve never given up on me.”
She squeezes his hand because platitudes would ring hollow.
From within the house they can hear Giles putting on a pot of tea, as he
does every morning. There’s comfort in their routine, one that she didn’t
expect to find when they showed up at his doorstep a year earlier.
“The sun will rise soon,” he says, breaking the
silence. There’s sadness in his voice; he’s told her about signing away
the Shanshu prophecy. Giles has been researching on the side but has
found no hope. Not yet.
“I’ll meet you upstairs?” He kisses her nose and cuts across the
driveway to the small apartment they share above the garage. Most morning
she’ll go up with him and burrow beneath the blankets, waiting for him to
absorb her warmth, but today she wants to watch the sun rise.
Giles emerges a few minutes later, bringing a blanket to wrap
around her shoulders.
“I do wish you’d put on a few more pounds, Buffy.” He smiles
as he says it but his eyes convey his concern. She hasn’t quite recovered
from the two months in Los Angeles and it shows in the sharp tents of her skin.
“Angel says we should bring Morgan tonight.”
“I’ll let her know over breakfast.”
The sun crests the hill in the front of the property and she
closes her eyes and basks in the weak first light. “I never used to stop
and appreciate the sunrise.”
“Few ever do.”
“It feels like a fresh start, every day. Like the sins of
yesterday are being forgiven.”
Giles chuckles. “I never knew you were so poetic, Buffy.”
She feels her cheeks redden and turns her attention to her tea.
“I’ll blame it on all the poetry Angel reads.”
“Have you spoken to Angel about our conversation last week?” The
Watcher’s Council, under Giles's direction, has purchased a new facility
outside of Boston and wants Buffy and Angel to run it together. Since
their conversation she hasn’t stopped thinking about it, but some part of her
wants to wait until she’s made a decision to bring it up to Angel.
“I will tonight.”
“Buffy, I don’t mean to lecture you or to sound like I’m pushing
you, but I think this would be a fantastic opportunity for the two of you.”
“Then what, Buffy?” There’s a note of frustration in his voice, although
she thinks that if she didn’t know him as well as she does it would be
“I’m scared of change.” Her tone is matter of fact
but she feels anything but. She is the senior Slayer, the one who has
died twice and come back to life as many times. Buffy has saved the world
countless time, some with help and some on her own. She died to save her
sister and killed her best friend to save the world. She sent her lover
to hell and then resurrected him when his personal apocalypse went to hell.
The words sound foolish coming from her lips and she stares into the sun,
lets her irises burn.
“I think you should go, Buffy.” His tone is gentle, his
words firm. And at her core, she’s knows he’s right. “You and Angel
have done all you can here. I’ve not asked anyone else about Boston
because frankly, you’re the only one I trust to do it right.”
“You’d be closer to Dawn, to Connor…” Giles trails off because
they’ve been through this. Dawn is in her sophomore year at BU, Connor
finishing his senior at Columbia. There’s a lot she hasn’t wrapped her
head around, like the fact that Connor and Dawn are close friends, or that
Connor is Angel’s son, but she’s met him once and liked him enough. Angel
would move heaven and hell to protect Connor, which she would have guessed when
she had learned about him but then confirmed when Angel told her what he’d done
to protect him.
Buffy can’t condemn. She once died to protect Dawn.
“I know, Giles.” Another long sip of her tea. “I’ll
miss the tea, though.” This time a smile escapes her lips, the comfort in
having made a decision warming her.
“And how do you think Angel will feel about this?”
“Angel will go where I go.” It’s the truth.
Giles arches an eyebrow. That wasn’t my question.
“I don’t think he’ll be excited about another trip in a coffin.”
She tries to keep her tone light, fails. “I think he’ll logically see is
as the right choice, but…”
“I know.” And he does, which she wouldn’t have predicted a
year ago. But he knows about Angel’s nightmares, his guilt, his pain.
And more than that, he understands and accepts it. Giles and Angel
have forged a partnership, at times even a friendship, and he’s almost more
aware of how close Angel has come to breaking than even she is.
Angel thought that he would be saving the world when he took on
the Black Thorn, Giles had once explained to her. Instead,
he is responsible for the death of tens of thousands of innocent people.
Have you ever considered this as compared to the number he killed as
Angelus? Without his soul? After that, she stops offering words when
he wakes up screaming and just holds him. She's become the strong one,
the anchor to Angel's ship in a perpetual storm.
"When would we leave?"
"Preferably sooner than later. I've stalled the Council up to
this point but they're anxious to get the Boston operation running." Gears
are turning, plans are being made.
"I'll talk to Angel. We don't have much, so we should be able
to move fairly quickly." Buffy steals a look at Giles, aged but far from
old. England has softened him and this year has strengthened their
relationship, subtly transitioning to an adult friendship.
"I'm going to miss you, Giles." He meets her gaze and
"I hear they have things that can help with that. Have you
heard of Skype?"
She doesn't stop smiling for the rest of the day.
Angel agrees to the move more readily than she anticipates.
It occurs to her that this year has been the most difficult in recent
memory, and he's looking forward to a fresh start. The proximity to Connor
doesn't hurt, either, and she laughs when she hears him on the phone an hour
later, desperately trying to hide his enthusiasm under a veneer of quiet cool.
Travel arrangements are made and within a week they’re in their
new house in Plymouth, MA. It’s a grand old Victorian within walking
distance to the beach, and for the first time Buffy appreciates her ties to the
Council. They choose their room, not the largest but with the best views
and heaviest curtains, and are unpacked in less than an hour.
After the sun sets Angel suggests a walk to the beach. It’s
chilly, and nearly deserted, and they watch the waves break on the shore in comfortable
silence. Angel’s arms are wrapped around her waist and she pulls him
closer, relishing in the way her body folds into his.
“I don’t think I ever thanked you for coming to Los Angeles.”
“You would have done the same.”
When Angel was in hell she dreamt that they stood like this on a
beach. Since then they’ve lived more than most do in two lifetimes, and
yet she still has a hard time believing that they’re standing here now, and she
won’t wake up in a panic.
“You’re still my girl.” His voice is tinged with wonder, and
she thinks it must be something about the ocean air that brings epiphanies.
“Forever. That’s the whole point.”