I. Fury holds her body upright, tugging at her spine and the crown of her head like puppet strings. It is the only thing holding her up right now because she’s soaking in exhaustion. She can feel her blood throbbing through her body, fueled by anger and ignited with worry. Her heels click on the floor as she stalks toward him. He takes a step back but he doesn’t bother dodging the heavy handed, right hook that catches him in the jaw. He starts to pick himself up off the floor and she stops him with one booted foot on his shoulder.
“No. Stay there then I won’t be as tempted to hit you again.” He complies because he knows her well enough not to push her right now. “You didn’t call. You didn’t send an email, a text, leave a voice message or write a memo. There was no letter, no telegraph and no damn pigeon. I thought we were closer than that, Angel. I thought that when the world ended, I would be by your side. Shoulder to shoulder. Isn’t that what you told me? At least I gave you an explanation when I sent you away.”
“Buffy…” he swallows hard, his eyes softening and a smile almost tugging at the corner of his lips. “I couldn’t risk you.”
Had he said anything else, she would have kicked him. Hard. As it is she sighs and steps back, arms wrapping around her waist. The look she gives him reflects all the hurt she feels.
“I let you help me. You’re supposed to let me help you.” Her voice has taken that pouty, broken tremble to it that she doesn’t realize she does with him.
Angel pushes himself to his feet, keeping his distance from her. He shoves his hands in his pockets and makes a short, pacing movement before he pulls up short. “I couldn’t. I’m sorry that hurts you but you should understand that.”
“I do,” she says after a moment then turns and walks away. It’s her turn now.
II. She thought it was a joke but it doesn’t seem so funny when the blonde answers the door. Red blurs her vision and stops her words. The woman has to ask her twice if she can help her. The woman that is wearing Angel’s shirt and obviously nothing else.
“I’m sorry-“ she responds, shaking her head then turning to flee. The woman calls after her but that makes Buffy run faster. She’s got to get out of this building, out of this city. Out. Out. Out.
A giggle bubbles to her lips, bursting when she stops. She sounds like some demented, modern Lady Macbeth. Less with the blood, more with the blonde. Or maybe just the blonde’s blood.
Five dusty, musty, vampires later he finds her. He probably wishes he hadn’t because she takes all that anger out on him. After all, no matter how much of his blood she spills he won’t die and there’s way too much demon in Angel not to fight back. By the time they both quit, they’re covered in blood. His and hers; it’s never really mattered and sometimes he thinks her blood is forever mixed with his because of one fateful night when they both grew up.
His face slips back to human while he watches her panting in a corner, cradling her hand. He’s pretty damn sure she broke it on his face.
“So you met Nina.”
In response she chunks somebody’s old shoe at him. It hits him dead center in the forehead, slicing him open so that blood runs fresh down his skin. He curses in Gaelic and she wants to laugh. It’s ridiculous but it’s also them. She wonders if that makes them ridiculous but decides not to brood about it long because that can’t lead anywhere good.
“Did she have to be blonde?”
“I could talk to her about dying it.”
“She probably does.” Okay so that’s very pot and kettle; not that Buffy cares.
“She’s-“ he pauses, trying to choose words that won’t hurt either of them any more than necessary. “She’s-content with what I can give her.”
“Newsflash, Angel—So was I.” It’s not a shoe but he wishes it had been.
“But you wouldn’t have been. Not always.”
“Yeah. I would have. Always,” Buffy responds as she forces herself to her feet. Walking away this time hurts so much more than anything else he’s ever done to her.
III. He is a shock of ice water and she knows her eyes go wide; she pales and drops the woman’s hand next to her.
“I’ll be right back,” she barely murmurs. Satsu starts to go after her but Willow grabs her hand. The only excuse she gives is a whispered ”That’s Angel.” but it’s the only one that’s needed.
The expression on Angel’s face makes her feel like she staked and diced his favorite puppy.
“I didn’t know_” he stops, lips pursed and brow furrowed like he’s going to say something else but the words never come.
“It’s not-“ she tries to explain, breath held and released as she tugs her bottom lip through her teeth. “We’re-she’s convenient.” As soon as she says the words she regrets them, realizing how the words would have sounded to Satsu. “It’s not that-it’s just-she gets it.”
Not me. Not like he did. Not ever, ever, ever. It. The slaying, the solitude, the oh-god-it’s-never-ever-gonna-end-until-I-die.
“You don’t have to explain, Buffy. You’ve got every right.”
Because he’s moved on and she’s moved on and it still hurts so damn much to see him. He turns on his heel; she would swear he’s walking with a limp as if she’s fatally wounded him. She’s expecting him to pause, to look back and say something but when he actually does, it makes her smile. And she didn’t think she could.
“Still my girl?”
There’s only one answer to that question. There’s only ever been one answer.
VI. She isn't surprised when he shows up in Scotland. He may not allow her to be there when his world falls apart but he never fails to show up when hers does. It kind of makes her hate him a little bit. His hands land on her shoulders; she assumes to pull her into a hug but she resists, tension stringing tight every muscle in her body. She can see the words on his lips; she stops them with a glare. Apparently its overkill because he steps back, hands tucking in his pockets.
She won’t let him give his condolences so the silence chokes all the air out of the area—and she finds that incredibly funny since they’re standing outside staring at the blast site. Buffy and Angel; killing things since 1997—not even trees or small animals are spared.
“Buffy, if I can-“
He sighs and scrubs one hand over his head, his hair standing even more on end. Of all things that makes her choke up, tears flushing her eyes. She takes a deep breath, holding it—holding it—holding it until her chest is so tight that when she finally breaks, breath rushes from her like a balloon loosed and let go.
“I was responsible for them. I needed an army but I didn’t think. I didn’t think about what would happen afterwards-“
He stops her this time, one hand going under her chin, the other covering the scar on her neck. “No. I know you. You thought. You knew exactly what you were leading them into. You’ve lived it, Buffy. Since you were sixteen. You needed an army and there was no other way. You didn’t do this. Someone took advantage of the situation and if you hadn’t made that army, they would all be dead anyway.”
It’s not inspiring or poetic but it is the truth and that’s what she needs to hear right now. He watches as her face falls, as she crumbles, caving into him inch by inch. Angel is always struck by how tiny she is. She curls into him somehow little more than a child—even after all this time. His hand tugs gently through her hair, words superfluous right now. They’ve settled into a contented place that is both foreign and exactly right so he’s surprised when she shoves him away from her violently.
“Don’t follow me. I can’t have forever or always and I don’t want to pretend I can. Not even for a little while.”
V. He waits until that moment in battle when everything is on the cusp of hope or dead. There isn’t time for angry words or accusations but they manage a couple of longing looks before the war explodes. The numbers get sliced down, pared away and whittled until it looks like they really might win this thing. He’s not sure why he ever doubted it; not since she showed up because she always has been hope incarnate.
She sees it first, arcing through the air at an impossibly graceful angle. His name rips from her throat, tearing everything as it comes out but there’s not enough time. Never enough time. Somehow his eyes find hers and his hand reaches out. She shoves demons and warriors alike out of the way, trampling on whoever doesn’t move but she can’t quite get there.
There’s nothing left to bury and nothing behind to mourn. By the time the battle is over his ashes are mixed with blood and bodies; just another causality of the day.
And one time it did…
The pain is so excruciating that it steals her screams, hiding them away somewhere deep inside of her. Everything is white and then black trickles in. She welcomes it because it brings warmth, pushing back the pain until she can breathe. She never realized she’d be so alone but then she should have guessed. The first slayer tried to warn her.
She’s always alone.
“You still my girl?”
She looks up, a smile slipping over her lips and nods. He holds his hand out and she takes it, the warmth in his skin puzzling her.
“You tried to tell me once it was always safe and it was always warm here. You were right.”
She knows where she is. She’d know this feeling anywhere and somehow she’s not surprised that he’s here too. He earned it this time. They both have.
“No slayers, no vampires. No destinies or loopholes. It’s a clean slate this time.”
Finally she can answer his question without pain ripping the words apart.
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Summary: Easy wasn’t in the equation for them. It never had been.
Notes: Some spoilers for Season 8 Buffy Comic Book. Starts at Not Fade Away and goes from there.