The Last Goodbye
Summary: Soulmates are supposed to be together forever. They are one half of the same soul. Thatís why they are called soulmates. But sometimes things donít work out the way they are supposed to and one half has to let the other half go. This was one of those times.
Author Notes: Thank you to Cordy69 for the beta. All remaining mistakes are my own. And thank you to Dark Star and the rest of the IWRY team for helping to keep the B/A love alive!
"I need your help, Wesley."
At the tone of Angel's voice, Wesley closed the book he had been reading, looked up and gave his full attention to his friend. "What can I do for you?"
Without beating around the bush, Angel got straight to the point. "I want to get married."
"Why, Angel, I don't know what to say. This all just so sudden!" Wesley couldn't help but tease. But apparently, if the look on his face was anything to go by, Angel didn't find the humor in the situation.
"You know who I mean."
With a nod of his head, Wesley stood up from his chair, walked in front of Angel, grabbed his hand and began pumping it furiously. "Congratulations! I know you two are going to be veryÖ." He let his sentence trail off as he got a good look at Angel's face. This was not the expression of a man deliriously happy. Of course this was Angel so who could be sure? "Generally when one has decided to ask a woman to marry him it's usually a cause for a celebration." And then it dawned on Wesley, Angel had said he wanted to get married not that he had asked her.† "So what's stopping you?"
Ah, I should have known. "It's only natural Buffy would cross your mind at a time like this. It's something the two of you were denied by, in Fred's words, the Powers that screw you. However..."
Angel quickly interrupted. Once Wesley got wound up about the Powers there was no stopping him and right now he didn't have the time nor the patience. "I need to talk to her, Wesley."
"Who?" Surely, Angel didn't mean who he thought he meant.
"Who do you think?"
"I'm afraid that's impossible, Angel. You of all people should know that. Once someone is dead all normal avenues of communication are lost. And the ones that arenít should be."
"There has to be a way. Iíll take anything."
As Wesley shook his head, Angel hung his head as his shoulders slumped. He had been so sure Wesley would be able to help, would know how but he was obviously wrong.
At the look of pain on his friend's face, the ex-watcher began to speak, "There might be a way. There's no guarantee; you understand?"
Angel's head had snapped up at Wesley's words. "I'm willing to take the risk."
"You have to understand, Angel. They could just as easily say no or in the worst case scenario kill you. I'm not sure it's wise to...."
"I get it, Wesley. Just tell me how."
Wesley took off his glasses, laid them on the table. He had serious misgivings about this whole thing but he had been the one who had brought it up. "Only the Oracles can help you."
The Oracles? Angel felt all of his hopes come crashing down around him. If that were true then he would never be able to talk to Buffy again. "That's impossible, Wesley. The Oracles are dead. Vocah killed them. I saw their bodies."
A small smile crossed Wesley's face as he stared at Angel's dejected form. "You saw what they wanted you to see."
"I believe the Oracles are still alive."
"How can you think that?"
Wesley walked around to the shelf behind his desk, pulled out one of the oldest books and laid it on the desk before he picked up his glasses. As he pushed them up the bridge of his nose he quickly thumbed through the pages. "Here." His finger pointed to the passage as Angel leaned down and began to follow along as he read aloud. "The vampire with a soul will be tested almost beyond his endurance. All that he relies on will be taken away from him one by one until he has nothing left. He must prove his allegiance to the side of good without help. Once he proves himself beyond a shadow of doubt only then will all help be restored."
"Does this mean...?"
"No." Wesley quickly interrupted before Angel could even ask. "This has nothing to do with her. But everything to do with your, oh let's call it your beige period, shall we?"
"But that was over four years ago. What about all of the years in between then and now? Why didn't I know the Oracles were alive since then?" Angel couldn't quite keep the anger out of his voice.
"You didn't need them."
Angel stared at Wesley in disbelief. Apparently his meaning of the word need and Wesley's varied greatly. There had been a lot of times over the course of the years when he had definitely needed the help. Any help. The whole Black Thorn incident was the first to rush to his mind. If there was ever a time when he had needed help it had been then.
"I know what you're thinking, Angel. And the Oracles wouldn't have helped you during the time when you turned your back on us or during the time with the Black Thorn. Those were things you had to face by yourself."
"Why? I don't understand. Why couldn't they have helped? Fred and Gunn both lost their lives in that stupid battle. And do you remember what happened to Spike? I don't know if he'll ever be the same again. If I could've only known... If the Oracles had told me..."
Wesley quickly interrupted, "Yes, I remember." It's not like he could ever forget. "But would you have listened if the Oracles had offered you guidance?"
Angel's opened his mouth to speak but quickly shut it. Wesley had a fair point. He had been so desperate to prove to Wolfram and Hart he wasn't their man. That good could triumph over evil if only for a moment. He couldn't say in all honesty he would have done anything differently. "Where are the Oracles now?"
"The same place they have always been." Wesley ducked his head to hide the grin that threatened to appear at the way Angel had dodged his question.
He didn't need to hear anymore. Without another word, Angel turned on his heel and walked out of Wesley's office.
Angel looked around, even though it had been years since he had been there, nothing had changed. The last time, he had thought the Oracles were dead. But according to Wesley's information The Powers That Be hadn't let them stay that way. Angel just hoped Wesley was right or he was going to look pretty stupid standing beneath the post office in supplication to something that wasn't there anymore.
The flame burned bright as he tossed the powder on to it. "I come before the Oracles for guidance and direction..." His sentence trailed off as another voice finished the supplication out of nowhere.
We beseech access to the knowing ones. The familiar voice echoed through the room but before Angel could do more than start at the sound the doorway to the inner sanctum opened up.
As Angel walked into the room, the male Oracle in all of his golden glory began to speak. "What do you want lower being?"
"I need to talk to Buffy. I was told you were the only ones who could help." Angel tossed the priceless vase towards the Oracle as he spoke.
The female caught it in her hand as she stared at the man before her in fascination. It had been a long time since they had laid eyes on him in person. She had kept watch over him since they had agreed to swallow that day so long ago. At first she had wanted to make sure a soldier for their side wasn't tempted to go astray. She had been pleasantly surprised to witness no matter the temptation Angel had proven himself. Of course there had been near misses, instances where she had thought he was a lost cause; the whole feeding the lawyers in the cellar to vampires sprang quickly to mind. But Angel had managed to get it back together. And now he stood before her asking to talk to his dead ex girlfriend.
She hadn't realized she had said the last part aloud until Angel answered. "Buffy isn't just my ex. She's the love of my life. My soulmate."
The male's eyes darkened, his lips thinned in anger as he spoke, "You dare come before us and ask for us to interfere with matters of such unimportance? How dare..."
Before he could finish his tirade, the female interrupted. "You call her the love of your life. Your soulmate. Why then do you wish to talk to her of another?"
Angel ran his hand through his hair. This was something he hadn't planned on. He hadn't thought he would have to explain his reasons to them.
Before Angel could begin to speak the male raised his arm, pointed a finger and yelled, "Begone from our sight, lower being!"
With a jerk of her arm, the female Oracle quickly interrupted. "Stop! As I've said before this is no lower being. Do you not remember all that he has sacrificed as a warrior of good?"
The male shrugged his shoulders, his disdain for the conversation written plainly on his face. "That is of no consequence. He should be proud of the honor that has been bestowed upon him and want nothing further."
Her eyes narrowed in anger as she stared at her brother. "That is the nature of human beings to want." She quickly turned her head to face Angel once more. "Again I ask you, Why do you wish to talk to her of another?"
At the look on the brother's face, Angel realized he didn't have any choice. If he wanted their help he was going to have to explain why he wanted to see Buffy. With a deep sigh Angel began to speak. "It's been over four years since Buffy passed away. Four years of trying to understand how someone like her, a soldier for the good, could be taken when I'm still here. It didn't help that a friend of hers thought Buffy was in hell or a demon dimension and tried to bring her back. I..."
The female couldn't help but interrupt. Her face alight with shock. "There was a resurrection attempt?"
"No. Not really. Buffy's Watcher found out about it in time. He was able to put a stop to it before anything drastic could happen. He said Buffy was in Heaven and the last thing she would have wanted was to be brought back."
The male stood with his arms folded across his chest still clearly unimpressed. "Go on."
"Since Buffy's death one person has been steadily by my side. She's never turned me away no matter how many times I've need to talk about Buffy. And if you knew her you would know that couldn't have been easy for her. But she did it for me.
"And this is the other?"
Angel nodded his head. "Yes."
"What of this other?" The brother unfolded his arms as he stared at Angel. "What are your plans for her?"
It was all Angel could do to keep from baring his fangs at the Oracle. As it was he settled for glaring at him. He really didn't care for the guy at all. "She doesn't know how I feel. She doesn't even know I'm here."
"Ah." The female Oracle nodded her head in understanding. "You wish to tell Buffy. You want her blessing."
Once more Angel nodded his head.
"But what if she is unable or unwilling to give you what you seek?"
"Then I don't I get it." Angel turned to look at the sister willing her to understand. "I will never do anything to hurt Buffy. Not ever again. If she can't or won't give me her blessing then I'll live out the rest of my existence alone."
"We have heard your reasons. Give us a moment to reach our decision."
Without bothering to look in Angel's direction or lower his voice, the male began to speak. "I see no reason for us to get involved. Why should we honor his request?"
"And I see no reason not to honor it. If it gives him peace of mind then how can we not?"
The brother's mouth opened in shock, he lowered his voice as he leaned forward to whisper harshly. "You care for him."
"Only as far as I'm capable of doing so. He is a warrior on the side of good. It will not hurt us to do as he requests."
"I see there is no reasoning with you in this matter so for just this once, we will do as he asks."
She thought she should be congratulated for keeping the smile of victory off of her face as she turned to face the warrior standing in front of her. "It is not possible for you to go where she is. Your kind are not welcomed into the Kingdom of Heaven.
"Then what?" Angel felt his hopes being dashed once again."
She held up a placating hand as she ignored the interruption, "Therefore we will create a portal, a place between places for you and your Buffy to meet." With another wave of her hand a portal stood where before only a wall had been. "You have two hours from the time you enter the portal to get that which you seek. Or it will be forever lost to you."
With a nod of gratitude and understanding, Angel stepped carefully through the portal. For a brief moment everything was pitch black until suddenly he stood in the entrance way of a beautiful but dark garden. The only light that shone surrounded Buffy. She was so beautiful; he couldn't stop himself from whispering her name. "Buffy."
Slowly she turned her head, her eyes widened in disbelief as she saw him standing there. "Angel?" She closed the distance between them and threw herself in his arms. She rained kisses on his cheeks and lips as she began to speak, "It is so good to see you! What are you doing here? How did you get here?" A look of horror crept across her face as tears filled her eyes. "You're not dead!" She slid down the length of his body. "Please tell me you didn't die."
"Technically, I'm already dead."
Buffy slapped his chest. "You know what I mean."
"Yes. I do." A small smile pulled at the corners of his mouth. "No, I'm still existing."
Her forehead wrinkled. "Then I don't understand. How? Why?"
"Buffy, I came because I..." Angel let his sentence trail off as the words died in his constricted throat.
"What is it, Angel? You know you can tell me anything." She knew whatever he had to say must be something of great importance for him to figure out a way to see her.
Angel ran his hands down the length of her arms, it was so good to touch her again, before he turned and began pacing. "I just didn't think it was going to be this hard."
Okay, now she was worried. "Come on, Angel. Stop with the cryptic and out with it."
He couldn't see any other way to tell her. Angel stopped pacing and turned to stare at the woman he loved. "I've fallen in love, Buffy."
Of all the things she could have expected him to say that definitely wasn't it. "What? How? Who?" Buffy fired the questions off in quick succession.
"Does it matter?"
"Not really. But the agony of not knowing would be worse."
Something told Angel if he supplied her with a name this wouldn't end well. Besides a name would just hurt Buffy more. "You're wrong, Buffy. A name isn't something you need. It'll only hurt you."
"And you think this isn't hurting me?" Her tone was incredulous.
Angel quickly interrupted. "I know it is. And I'm sorry. I wish there was something I could do to make this easier for you. I need you to understand this wasn't something I planned on happening. I didn't think I would ever fall in love again. Hell, I was two hundred and some odd years old when I first fell in love with you. With you it was instant. I loved you from the first moment I saw you. With her it was different. My feelings for her have been coming for a long time now and I have fought against them because I didn't want to betray you. But my love for her grows stronger every day. It's not what we had, what we will always have. But it's there and it isn't going away." He had to tell her the rest of the reasons why he was there to see her. It was now or never.† "I want to marry her, Buffy."
At his words, complete silence fell as pain like she had never felt raced through her body. Not even when she had jumped through the portal had she felt pain like this. She felt as if her heart was being dragged from her body and slowly ripped to shreds in front of her.
The silence lingered on, deafening until Buffy spoke. "Why couldn't it be me, Angel? Why? Wasn't I good enough?"
What? Did she really think..? It had never occurred to him Buffy would think that way. "This has nothing to do with it and you know it. You will always be one of the best things that has ever happened to me. Don't ever doubt that."
Her voice was small, shaken. "I'm sorry. I don't want to lose you."
"You won't. You never will." Angel pulled her into his arms. "This doesn't change the way I felt about you. The way I will always feel about you."
"How can it not? You've found someone else. She gets to hold you, to love you. When you are all I have ever wanted. I..." Her voice broke as tears slid down her face.
Answering tears gathered in Angel's eyes. "I never meant to hurt you. I just wanted you to know from me."
"Why? What did you expect me to say, Angel?" Unable to stop herself, her tone was harsh with hurt and anger. "Did you expect me to congratulate you? To wish you a perfect life, one we never got to share because that wasn't in the cards! Oh, no not me. I don't get the happily ever after. I get to have a vampire boyfriend, kill him, get him back, loose him, get back together, loose him, die and then loose him all over again." She knew she was being hard on him. But she couldn't seem to stop herself. Pain and jealousy were clawing at her until her insides felt as if they were on fire.
Angel closed his eyes against the pain and guilt coursing through him. "Tell me what you want me to do. Just say the word and I'll do it."
What? He couldn't give her that much power over him.
Angel took an unneeded breath before he continued. It was one of the hardest things he ever had to say but if it was what Buffy needed to hear then that was what he would do.† "Do you want me to walk away and never see her again. Is that what you want me to do?"
Of course that's what she wanted him to do. She never wanted another woman to touch him. She wanted him to be hers forever just like she was his. She wanted him to love her always. The thought of him with another was too much to bear. Jealousy rose its ugly head, demanding she hurt him as badly as he was hurting her. But at the look on his face she knew she couldn't do it. There was no way she could ever hurt him no matter how much pain he caused her.
Buffy brushed the tears from her cheeks before she raised her head and looked him in the eyes. "No. I don't want you to be alone."
"Then what do you want me to do?"
"I..uh.." Buffy twisted her hands together. This was so hard. There should be some kind of manual. How to Let Your Vampire Ex Boyfriend Go and Get On With His Life Once You're Dead. For a brief moment she actually looked around as if searching for said book. But no such luck. She was on her own.
Angel placed his hands on top of hers to stop her from the nervous habit. "What are you worried about, Buffy?"
She dropped her head. "Idon'twantyoutoforgetme." The words were spoken so fast they blended together to form one word. And she spoke so quietly it took Angel a moment to realize what she had said.
He placed his fingers underneath her chin and gently lifted until she was once again looking him in the eyes. "I will never forget you. No matter where I go or who I'm with, you will always be a part of me. Nothing will ever change that. I promise." Angel slid his arms around her waist, pulled her close to him and kissed her gently on the lips.
Buffy closed her eyes as Angel's lips touched hers. This was where she belonged. Not safe away from the world and all it's ugliness, her battle over and done, but here wrapped in Angel's arms. His love surrounding her like a cocoon. Why oh why couldn't things have worked out between them. She thought soulmates were supposed to be together forever, because they were one half of the same soul. That's why they were called soul mates. But sometimes things don't work out the way they were supposed to and one half has to let the other half go. She knew this was one of those times.
With an inner strength she didn't know she had she pulled away from Angel. "I don't want you to be alone. If she..." Buffy quickly stomped down the jealousy that arose inside of her. "If she makes you happy then I want you to marry her." Her inner seventeen-year-old screamed in agony but Buffy ignored her and continued, "I don't want to think of you as lonely. That's something I can't bear to think about."
Angel was stunned. He hadn't quite believed Buffy would give her blessing, and
he knew it must have cost her more than he could ever guess. "Are you sure?"
NO! Tell him you lied! Tell him he belongs to me forever! The hurt teenager, the one who gave her heart to Angel so long ago and never once got it back, screamed inside of her. Once again Buffy ignored her. "Yes, Angel. I'm sure.† Just be happy."
He had no words to express the gratitude and love he felt for this woman standing in front of him. Without a sound, he pulled her back into his arms.
"How long can you stay?"
"For a little while longer." He placed his hand on her head and cuddled her close to his chest.
They stood silently wrapped in each other's arms for what seemed like forever. But in truth not even forever would be long enough. All too soon the portal in front of them began to glow as the garden began to fade. Their time was up.
"I have to go."
"I know." She wanted to snuggle into him closer, to keep him with her forever. But he couldn't stay.
She quickly interrupted before he could say anything else. "It's okay, Angel. I understand."
Sadness gripped him as he dropped his hands from her body. "Goodbye, Buffy. I will always love you." Angel gently kissed her lips once more before he turned and walked away.
Her heart broke as she whispered softly, "I'll always love you, too." Tears fell silently down her cheeks as she watched the only man she would ever love leave to begin a new life without her.
Her inner seventeen-year-old couldn't let him go. Not without knowing at least a part of him still belonged to her. "Angel?"
At the entrance way Angel stopped and glanced back at Buffy one last time.
"Are you still my Angel?"
A smile spread slowly across his face as the words he had said to her so long ago were asked of him. "Always." He repeated the same one word answer she had given him on that same day before he turned and disappeared through the portal.