Buffy wasn't sure how to handle another exercise in greater futility. She was used to destiny being against her: you have to kill demons, you have to die, you have to die again. She was used to loss and pain.
She was not used to going to the future and see no mention of anything she'd ever done to save the world. No mention of the new Slayers. Of the line – the Slayer line that she had made sure would never end – the line that, in the future, was eradicated.
Melaka Fray had shown Buffy the world, and Buffy had seen just how thoroughly she'd failed the world.
That wasn't how it was supposed to work.
She was hardly surprised when she was battling a nest of demons in Wales and Whistler showed up. It had been so long, but he was unmistakable; she could never forget the night that brought him to her life – she would never forget the lessons. I alone. Only she was the weapon to defeat the beast (no friends, just the kill) and had she been ready for what was required of her?
Buffy sometimes thought, despite the sacrifices she'd made, she still wasn't ready to make them. Six years on, and she still wasn't ready to kill Angel in her heart of hearts. One year on and she wasn't ready for Spike to give himself up. Two years ago, she hadn't been ready to fight Willow. And she hadn't been ready to say goodbye to her Mom, and she hadn't been ready to turn away from Giles, and she hadn't been ready to lose Xander's eye and accept her parents' divorce and mistrust Faith.
But it was the job.
And when she saw Whistler walk into her vision, sauntering with his stupid little hat back into her life, she wasn't ready for that, either. She was the longest-living Slayer in history, she was the Slayer that changed the lineage – more than once – and she was tired, and jaded, and news from Los Angeles just didn't come any more.
“Whistler,” she said, her tone so weary she thought one day she might bury herself in fatigue, “Let me guess. End of the world?”
“Not exactly,” he told her, and Buffy noticed that his smile was... bittersweet.
“Don't tell me there's too much good in the world and you have to do your balance thing the other way, because I can think of a few good examples of evil in the world. Really.”
“It's not that, either.”
Whistler looked serious, which, Buffy thought with those clothes like that was kind of an achievement. She glanced around her solitary space: moonlight at their temporary base, under the trees and alone. Buffy felt safest in the dark. She felt most comfortable alone. She rested her hands on her hips, a pure power stance, and waited for more cryptic comments and riddles.
“He helped you once,” Whistler said, and that's not what Buffy had expected. “Guided you. You need to help him.”
Just for a minute, the world stops.
Buffy had been so sure that Angel was dead. It had been too long without word, without outside reports.
She’d said she didn’t want to know. She told Xander they didn’t need the distraction. She let everyone think she’d cordoned off Los Angeles in her mind as a fortress; they could not enter. It was too dangerous, too big, too painful. Spike was there. Spike was there, and Angel was there and he was battling for his damned soul and the life of his people.
Buffy had kept her distance.
But Whistler was right; Angel had been there from the first step. Knowing Angel, he’d been there long before that. There was something about his presence that screamed to Buffy intimacy; he’d been able to break through to her because it felt like he had always been there. Buffy suspected that might be the same for Angel, too.
The night was balmy and clear but far from calm; Buffy didn’t even have to try and find demonic activity. Everything in the city, her once-held home, was wrong. If she weren’t the Slayer, she wouldn’t feel safe here anymore. She wouldn’t be able to walk along the Santa Monica pier – like she was right now – with her face upturned to the breeze, lost in the sensory drowning that was Los Angeles. She needed a moment.
She needed more than a moment, but that wasn’t an option. No matter what had happened between she and Angel – or she and anyone else – if he needed her, truly needed her, she would be there.
She just needed a moment.
She got maybe thirty seconds. Buffy wasn’t a werewolf, wasn’t Oz, she couldn’t identify by scent. But she could identify by feeling and memory and awareness, and Buffy’s skin sang and shivered with the mere presence of Angel. Even when his steps were soundless and he was silent, she knew.
She had always known.
“I’m supposed to help you,” she said, without turning around. “I pictured more danger than this. I thought it’d be tougher, you know, life-changing battle, indefeatable demons… or is it undefeatable? God, where’s Google when you need it?”
“Buffy,” was Angel’s reply, soft and disbelieving and confused and god, suddenly Buffy could even try for lightness, because she remembered a tone that, okay, wasn’t all that similar but broke her hear (close your eyes), and this moment, right here? It was breaking her heart. Because it was Angel, and he was right there, and they broke and patched and suffered and thrived all in a single breath, or in the absence of breath.
Buffy turned to face him, trying to will the softness out of her eyes. “But… here you are.”
“God, Buffy, I…”
Buffy studied Angel’s face. He looked tired. Exhausted, actually. He was stooped and clearly a little injured. Neither of these things were the ones she noticed most – no, Buffy noticed Angel’s eyes. And she saw how full of pain they were, how full of loss and anguish and confusion.
And, as always, that hint of something she always recognized. It was indefinable, but it was the same something that lurked on her own gaze whenever it set upon Angel.
Suddenly Buffy was ready to ignore all the history books in the world. She had a calling, a purpose – but right now (and once again) she would trade it all to make sure that Angel was all right. She hadn’t realized his hands still gripped her heart with such intensity, but there they were, alone on the Santa Monica Pier at three plus change in the morning with a breeze in their hair and a silence that spoke volumes.
Forget history. She had to work in the now.
“We can do this,” Buffy says, and she steps forward, steps close to Angel, and rests her small hand against his arm. She’s pale, but her skin is still a flash of color against his; she was always the color to his silhouette.
“Do what?” Angel asks, and he is staring at her hand. It’s their first closeness in a long time; it’s difficult for Buffy not to stare, too.
“What I want to do here. It’s the same thing that you want.”
“What do I want?” Angel asks quietly.
“To kill them,” she says simply, straightening her back and looking up at Angel, her jaw and steel in her eyes. Steel, and nostalgia. “To kill them all.”
Her hand slips from Angel’s arm – down – and his fingers catch hers; they lace together with a fit that’s too perfect to be coincidental. She can tell from his expression that she remembers, and she’s pleased, because she could never, ever forget.
She’s even wearing the cross.
“I’m ready,” Angel says, after a long moment, and Buffy nods. Together, they turn away from the water and towards the city. Together, they could save it.
They could change the future.
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Summary: Whistler brings the big moments and the big decisions. Buffy is surprised to see him.
Disclaimer:Not mine, no gain, don’t sue please.
Timeline/Spoilers: Post Chosen/Not Fade Away – very vague references to the Buffy S8 comic (Fray!)
A/N: 1,300ish words. Written for the IWRY ficathon. Title is from Yevtushenko’s “The Break Up”: True kindness in love means staying quite sober, weighing each link of the chain you must bear.
Don't promise her heaven – suggest half an acre; not "unto death," but at least to next year.