The bus stops and Buffy Anne Summers waits for the other passengers to disembark and then slowly descends the stairs. She is uncertain now that she has reached her destination; her thoughts had been only to get away, and she lets her feet take her away from the depot and into obscurity.
She has walked for hours, trying to decide what she needs to do now. She wants to disappear, doesn't want anyone to find her; she knows that to do that, she must lose Buffy the Slayer and just be Anne, the regular girl. That suits her just fine. Slaying has brought her nothing but grief and she can't, she won't, do it anymore.
She feels numb everywhere, but she has a strong sense of self-preservation. She needs to find a place to stay tonight and to find a job as soon as possible. She has a little money with her, but it won't last very long and she buys a newspaper, takes it into a quiet Starbucks where she buys a coffee and searches the classified ads.
There are five places advertised and she leaves her coffee in search of a pay phone. Two of them are still available and she arranges to view them. The first is hideous - damp and filthy and she can't see herself living there. The second is all right, nothing special, just a room with kitchen but it's cheap, so it'll do.
The landlord is a little surprised that she wants to move in immediately but she explains she's just arrived and doesn't know anyone in LA and he lets her take the room straight away.
She sits on the bed and looks around. She lied to the landlord. She used to live in LA and she does know people; her father lives here and she still has some friends who might put her up but she knows her mother will try them all in an attempt to find her. Her stomach twitches when she thinks of her mother. She hadn't wanted to hurt her but she couldn't bear to let anyone get close to her after what happened. She did something terrible to the man who loved and trusted her and… she gulps, jumping up and pushing those thoughts away. He was gone, and it will do her no good thinking about him.
Anne unpacks her few belongings and lets herself out of her flat. She makes her way to the local all night grocery store and buys a few things to tide herself over for a couple of days. She puts the things away and she feels exhausted after such a stressful day but she is afraid to sleep. Nightmares come with the sleep and she can't, just can't, watch A… him die again. Instead she curls up on the bed with her newspaper and searches the printed columns and looks for work. She marks the ones that could have potential with her pen, and if they amount to nothing she will take to the streets again tomorrow and see if anyone else is hiring. It doesn't matter what - any job will do.
Finally, unable to stay awake a moment longer, the paper slips from her fingers and her eyes flutter shut.
Angel is walking across the floor of the Mansion. She knows, in her dream, that it is Angel and not Angelus and he smiles when he sees her. She runs to him and he pulls her into his arms, hugging her close to his chest. It feels good to be close to him and she kisses him, trying to lose herself in the feel of his body, but… there is something hard against his chest. She tries not to look but she is compelled to look down, even though she dreads what she knows she will see.
There is the hilt of a sword sticking out of his chest, and blood runs down the front of his white shirt. There is reproach in his eyes, and pain written across his handsome face, and he says, "I trusted you. How could you do this to me?"
She steps away, hands spread out imploringly. "I'm sorry," she whimpers, unable to stop the tears flooding down her face. "I had to, Angel. Please, I didn't want to…"
Angel opens his mouth and starts to wail. Buffy can't stand the noise, can't bear to see his anguish again, and she struggles to get away. Angel's wail changes tone and becomes the sound of a siren from outside her bedroom window and she sits up, angrily wiping away the tears from her cheeks. It isn't fair; isn't it enough that she's had to sacrifice a normal life to fight the forces of darkness that she's had to sacrifice Angel as well? Why? Does being a slayer mean she must be forever alone?
Buffy pushes aside the grey sheets and stands up. She doesn't want the job any more. She isn't cut out to be a slayer and the Council will have to find somebody else. Her heart is no longer in her work, and it is that thought that bring the tears again. She has no heart. Sending Angel to Acathla, because she had to, tore a hole in her chest that will never heal.
Buffy finds a non-descript job in a diner in a grim part of downtown LA. They give her a scratchy uniform and provide a way to keep herself alive. Her new existence falls into a dreary routine. She gets up, gets ready for work and spends all day serving meals at Helen's Kitchen. By the end of her shift she is so numb she has no energy for anything except stumbling back home to collapse in front of the television. She stops trying to avoid the dreams. They come every night, whether she tries to resist them or not, and she figures it's her penance for the evil thing she did to the man she loved so much.
Every night, when she falls asleep she sends him spinning back to hell. Every night, she sees the pain and reproach in his eyes, and every night, she wishes she had jumped in after him. Nothing could be worse than the hell she lives in now.
As time passes, she feels a mild shift in the universe. Sometimes, even her dreams get a little easier to bear. For all of her strenuous disregard of her sacred calling, she can't completely shut it out. Something is coming, but it will have to play out without her this time and maybe the world will actually come to end without her interference. She can't find it in her to care.
Buffy walks barefoot across the sand. The beach is calm, and her heart thumps harder when she feels his arms slide round her waist.
'How did you find me here?'
'If I was blind, I would see you.'
Buffy closes her eyes and leans back against him.
'Stay with me.'
'Forever. That's the whole point. I'll never leave.' His voice lowers. ' Not even if you kill me.'
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Summary: What do you do when your heart is broken? Takes place between Becoming (part 2) and Anne.
Notes: Special thanks to Jo for the beta.