The last apocalypse split the world.
She sleeps during the day and wakes at night now. It's the closest she can get to him. She walks down to the lake, sits there for hours. He used to come here. They used to come here together. She reaches out her hand and she can almost feel him reaching back.
The last apocalypse split the world into two like worlds.
He reaches out his hand and can almost feel her reaching back. He opens his eyes to prove to himself that she's not actually there. He feels her presence so strongly, but there's never anyone there.
They both fought in the last apocalypse, side by side, but nothing was to be done. To save every living soul on the planet, the only solution was to split the world into two, right in the spot where they stood.
She steps a little closer to the spot where she feels him so strongly. He steps a little closer too. Both stand in the same exact spot, looking at the same sky, worlds apart. “I am not alone,” she breathes. He thinks he can almost hear her voice.
The world doubled everywhere but that spot. No one else felt the difference. There's a Giles on his world and one on hers too, both living the same life in all but one respect, neither knowing that it could be any other way. She had lunch with Willow on Wednesday; he had coffee with Willow on Tuesday. His Willow mourns her; her Willow comforts her in her loss.
She comes to the same spot most nights.
So does he.
One night she leaves a letter she wrote to him, hoping somehow it will transcend time, space and dimensions and he'll find it.
He leaves her half a dozen roses.
Everyone living two lives and not knowing, everyone existing on both worlds, parallel. There's only one difference – there's only Angel on one, there's only Buffy on the other. Both of them wonder if they're on the original or the one they created. When they go to that spot by the lake, are they really going to the same spot where they met together so many times, or did it not even exist then? Is it all make believe? Were they ever one at all?
One night she comes to the lake and finds a rosebush that wasn't there before. There's a smell of him on the air, a stronger presence than usual and she thinks, maybe...
He finds a worn piece of paper tucked under his favorite rock, their favorite rock – the one that she always claimed was shaped like a heart, teasing him for not having the imagination to see it. The writing on the paper is faded and smudged to the point of unreadable, and he wonders. He keeps it.
She breaks off half a dozen roses from the bush, takes them home with her and places them in a vase on her night stand.
He places the paper in his dresser drawer. They live in the same apartment. “I am not alone,” he whispers.
Anyone who knew him believes him dead in her world. In his, he spoke at her funeral. They are the only two who know the truth. They were the only two there at the last apocalypse.
There's still evil in both worlds – they couldn't stop that. There won't ever be another apocalypse like the last, but they haven't stopped the demons. They both still have to fight. Some nights she kills the same demons he does. Tonight, they both saved the same girl.
They split the world into two – they're both surprised to find that they can't find a single other living soul that can feel the weight of it.
One star falls, and another just like it, worlds apart. They both make the same wish at the same time, and neither believes it could ever come true.
After months have passed, she finally confides in her friends. Willow wonders if there's a way to open the gap between the worlds, Giles thinks it would create a catastrophic tear in a thousand known universes, and Xander just thinks it's good that they made the divide in the first place, the sacrifice worth it to save them all. He doesn't think about the other Xander, who no longer has a Buffy.
Angel doesn't have anyone he feels he can confide in, but he opens the same books they do anyway.
They find something. It can join them for a day, open a door. It only works once.
“But it only works if there is someone performing the same ritual on the other side, at the exact same time, in the exact same spot,” Giles argues, thinking it futile.
Buffy is more confident. “He will.”
They wonder where. “I know where.”
In another world, he closes his eyes, feeling her presence, trusting that she'll be there too.
He could always feel her, no matter the distance between them. He's not surprised that the divide between their dimensions didn't change that at all.
That night, they both stand in the same spot – by the lake, by her rosebush, by their rock where he found her letter...
... in the place where they split the world...
... where they recite the same words, spread the same potions and powders, and open the same door.
Suddenly, they're not standing on the same spot, worlds apart, but face to face. She opens her eyes and lets out a short, amazed laugh. They step towards each other without a word, hands touching faces to assure each other that they're real, and then they step into each others' arms. She breathes against his neck and he can feel the tears on her cheeks.
“You look the same,” she murmurs as they pull back slightly.
He smiles. “So do you. Just like I remember.”
“Not much. Not yet.”
Her eyes widen suddenly. “How much time do we have?”
“Not enough. Less than a day.” He pulls her closer.
She squeezes his hand. “Let's go home.”
They're both constantly surprised at how much the world feels the same, except for that one difference.
Sometimes they wish they could just forget, like everyone else.
They stand in the hallway leading to their bedroom, and they're very still. They're staring intensely at each other, knowing this is all they get and they should be enjoying it, but they just want to make sure they remember. Make sure they know every detail, every crevice of each others' faces, because they know, this time, it's the last time.
Finally, she continues down the hall. “I guess there's not really any chance of perfect happiness tonight.”
He follows, passes her in the doorway, and pauses to run a finger down her cheek. “No, I don't think there is.”
She closes the door.
It was the rosebush that first made her really start to wonder.
The hours pass too quickly. They're filled with intimate touches and whispers, kisses, occasionally tears, and ice cream that he pretends he can taste. It's as perfect as it could be, but it's not enough. It could never be enough, and they can't forget that it's going to be over quicker than they can stand.
She's curled up in the blankets in a moment between kissing and staring, memorizing, and she looks at the ceiling, relaxed but wondering. “We have to be at the door's opening when it closes again. What if we just... don't go? Can't you stay here? Or – can't I stay here? Which world are we on now, anyway? This looks like my room.”
He runs a hand through her hair and smiles sadly. “This looks like my room.” Neither of them opens the drawers and closets to see who's right. “But, Buffy, we can't. My world needs me. It's still in danger. It needs me to be the one to fight, because... it doesn't have you. And you need to stay and fight in your world, because–”
“...we don't have you.” She nods, acknowledging the truth, then squeezes her eyes shut for a moment as if to block it out.
They enjoy the few hours they have left as best as they can, but it's harder knowing the final hour is coming, and then it comes.
They make their way back to where this all began.
It starts happening instantly, too quickly. They're being surrounded by light and she looks to him in a panic, reaching out for his hand, just a little too late. She blinks once and she's alone.
It might has well have been but a dream.
He blinks once and he's alone. He feels the same as he did yesterday. He looks up at the sky and wishes. He wishes he were somewhere else. No, not somewhere else – here, exactly here, just... different. He turns to leave and sees a rosebush that he doesn't remember being there before. He picks a single rose, slices his finger a little on a thorn, and it shines red. He leaves it on their rock, the one that looks a little like a heart if he tilts his head, squints his eyes, and takes her word for it. He's hoping she'll find it there.
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Summary: They'd break down the barriers between time, space and dimensions to have just one more day together.
Notes: Big thanks to southernbangel for the beta!