Awaken

Awaken

By Jo/Canadiangirl_86
Author's Notes

I talk to you as to a friend
I hope that’s what you’ve
come to be
It feels as though we’ve
made amends
Like we found a way
eventually
-- ‘Sway’, by The Perishers

His words were few and far between these days, but she knew her visits eased the loneliness that enveloped him. He always greeted her with a kiss on the forehead and held her hand a little too tightly. He kept her close to him as long as he could, and even managed a smile for her on the better days.

But she couldn’t make his eyes light up the way they used to.

One of her last trips to L.A. was in December, the weather chilly enough to merit wearing a heavy coat. On her way to Angel from LAX, she watched the hustle and bustle of the holiday season from inside her taxi as it all flashed past her in a blur. The red and green lights filled her vision, reflecting in her eyes but not filling her with the same warmth they usually did. She had promised Dawn she’d be back in Rome in time for Christmas, but it made her ache to think of Angel all alone as the world around him celebrated in love and laughter.

She wondered if his last Christmas had been a happy one.

Buffy paid her cab fare and stepped out of the car. The wind whistling past her was almost drowned out by the perpetual car horns of the L.A. streets, but she didn’t hear any of it. Her eyes remained focused on the Hyperion before her as her gaze traveled high up above to Angel’s window. She adjusted the strap of the bag on her shoulder and made her way to the front doors, pushing down the nervousness she always felt as she retraced these steps. She never knew how she would find him on these visits; sometimes his eyes were so dark she would almost lose herself in their abyss and others she would swear she saw hints of her Angel shining through.

The doors shut behind her as she entered the lobby, muffling the sounds outside as her heels clicked against marble, echoing in the hollow darkness and tragic silence that always filled this room. Tangled cobwebs wove in and out amongst the enormous pillars and chandeliers and suddenly she was back there again, on that fateful night when too many had been lost. She could see it all in living color like a horrible movie playing before her, hear the screams and cries, smell and taste the blood. She saw the bodies of the slayers who had been brought to that rainy alley lying broken and bleeding across the floor of the hotel as those less injured scrambled from person to person to cover wounds and align broken bones. Buffy herself had barely been able to see through her reddened vision, but her arms around Angel were strong and sure as she had led him inside and brought him slowly to the ground to rest against a wall. He had whispered the names of his dead loved ones as he drifted into unconsciousness.

Buffy shut her eyes tightly against the images and wrapped her arms around herself. She glanced at the dried and faded blood stains on the sofa as she headed up the stairs and shivered for the first time that night.

Angel had told himself so many times that his love for her was gone, that whatever he had felt for her, no matter how strong, had been slowly weathered away by time and tragedy. It was for the best, after all, to let her slip away; it would only make it easier for him to live the lonely life that was meant for him. But a glimpse of her and his lie was shattered, and she filled him up again, a breath of life that went through his veins, making him alive in the way that only she could.

And he no longer felt alone.

“Hey, you.” Buffy’s voice was hushed as she walked into his room, not wanting to disturb the peaceful look on his face as he stared out the window. She let her bag drop to the floor by the doorway and smiled when he turned around to greet her. After so many days spent alone together over the past 5 months, Buffy felt a comfort in his presence that she had feared lost after the events of last year. She hoped that Angel felt the same as he wrapped her tightly in his warm embrace and rested his chin on the crown of her head.

“I missed you,” was all he said, and Buffy only held him closer.

She’d never tell Angel, but immediately after the battle with Wolfram & Hart she had contacted Giles in England. Her blood had boiled with a fury she couldn’t recall in recent memory, but she found some relief in the knowledge that she was going to do something about it.

“I’m not sure that’s the wisest course of action, Buffy,” he had said, ever the optimist.

“I don’t care if it’s the most idiotic plan in the world, Giles, we’re doing this.” She breathed in deeply. “Look, you told me Angel couldn’t be trusted, and I believed you. I’m not blaming you for what’s happened; I believed you because it was the easiest thing for me to do.”

Despite years of emotional distance, she had known this was the point at which Giles took off his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose. Buffy almost smiled.

“I won’t stand idly by anymore.” She bit the inside of her cheek to fight the tears that were fast approaching. “They’re all dead, and he’s all alone, and I have to do something.”

She heard his sigh on the other end and knew he was with her. It was then that they agreed to devote a large portion of the Council’s resources into combating Wolfram & Hart.

It wouldn’t bring Angel’s family back, but she would do everything in her power to continue on with their fight.

When they weren’t patrolling together like old times, they spent many nights in his room, not saying a word for hours on end, enjoying companionable silence. Buffy found that she didn’t mind it nearly as much as she used to, understanding for the first time the serenity of being alone with her thoughts. She had been shocked to discover that she had more thoughts than she realized.

“How is everyone doing? Keeping busy?” His sudden desire to speak made Buffy look up from her book and smile at him, but her expression quickly changed when she realized she had to answer his questions.

Buffy cleared her throat. “Dawn’s doing great. She’s in her element in Italy, and definitely taking advantage of the drinking age over there.” The corners of Angel’s lips quirked at that. “And Giles was good last time I spoke to him.” She noticed his eyes darken slightly at the mention of the Watcher’s name. “He’s really been working hard, training slayers and rebuilding the Council from the ground up. Literally.” She lifted her book up again and feigned reading, praying he would drop the subject.

“And Willow and Xander?”

Busted.

“They’re, um...they’re good.” Angel raised his eyebrow at her succinct answer, and she sighed in response. “Honestly, I don’t really know how they’re doing. I haven’t spoken to them in ages.”

“Why not?”

Buffy frowned. “I don’t know. A lot happened those last few years in Sunnydale, and we just...drifted apart, the way friends sometimes do.” She swallowed harshly, looking down. “You can’t always fix that stuff.”

Angel considered her for a moment, his sad eyes meeting hers. “You can try,” he said simply in reply, and returned his gaze to the window.

Another night was upon them, and Angel suggested they go for a walk. Buffy happily agreed, going rather stir-crazy in the hotel regardless of the fact that it was, as she had adorably told Angel, “ginormous”.

They walked for what seemed like hours, their conversations short and trivial but somehow always full of meaning. Over the course of the evening, their hands naturally found their way to each other, fingers twining together like pieces of a puzzle that fit just right.

As the night wore on, she noticed that Angel had become quieter than usual, and knew why as they stopped in front of a set of large black gates. Engraved in the stone tablet beside them were the words Evergreen Cemetery, and Angel pushed through and entered the beautiful grounds with Buffy by his side. They didn’t have to walk far before they reached their destination, a modest grave with fresh roses carefully laid over it. Buffy’s eyes filled as she read the words of the tombstone:

CORDELIA CHASE
1981-2004
BELOVED FRIEND

Buffy glanced at Angel, touched that he had brought her here but not knowing what to say. Angel carelessly rubbed the back of his hand across his eyes to remove traces of moisture, but the brightness of the moon above highlighted the paths of tears he hadn't cleared. She squeezed his hand as they contemplated the grave before them, this moment reminiscent of one so long ago. They stood there side by side for a long while, until Angel offered a few words – pieces of his heart that he was still terrified of sharing.

“She’s the only one that-” He paused for a moment, tried again. “She’s the only one that I could lay to rest. Everyone else...there was nothing to bury.”

Buffy looked at him sternly. “What happened wasn’t your fault.” He looked away, clearly reconsidering this discussion. “Angel, they fought for what they believed in. They believed in you.”

“Yeah, and look where that got them,” he laughed without humor, and Buffy shook her head.

“You so don’t get it,” she said, her voice shaking with emotion. “You gave them a purpose – all of them. They died trying to make the world a better place, and it is a better place because of them. Their lives weren’t lost in vain, I promise you that.”

He said nothing for a long time and just looked at her, amazed by her, by the strength she showed after enduring so much. He smelled the sunrise was slowly approaching and after a few moments longer softly tugged at her hand to lead her out of the cemetery.

Buffy gave one last backward glance to the gravesite of Cordelia Chase, and for the first time noticed the incredible delicately carved stone angel that stood atop a mausoleum. It seemed to glow ethereally in the moonlight, and some of Buffy’s sadness melted away.

She knew her old friend would be watched over well.

“I’ve got something for you,” Buffy said a few days later as she began laying her clothes in her bag on Angel’s bed. She had to be at the airport in a few hours and she knew it was during these last moments of their time together that Angel’s melancholy was at its worst. She couldn’t say that she felt any different.

He walked to her and sank down onto the bed, his shoulders slumping slightly to accentuate his unhappiness. Buffy reached into her bag and pulled out a box, handing it to him and then plopping down next to him, bringing her legs onto the bed and crossing them in front of her.

Angel examined the box, shifting it between his hands and frowning. Red wrapping paper with little candy canes pictured on it covered the gift chaotically, tape stuck on all sides in all different ways, with a green bow tied around it for good measure. It was the most horribly wrapped gift he had ever seen in his 250 years on earth.

And for the first time in months, Angel laughed. Not just a chuckle, or a snicker – but the kind of laugh that makes ribs ache and brings tears of happiness to someone’s eyes. Buffy stared at him in shocked amazement, a little insulted, and a little unsure of what was going on, but Angel only smiled at her adoringly.

He placed the gift beside him and reached up to frame her face with his hands as he kissed her soundly on the lips, resting his forehead against hers. Buffy smiled lovingly back at him despite herself and gripped his wrists.

“Okay, okay. Martha Stewart, I ain’t. Do you have to rub it in?” She said as she punched his arm playfully and tossed the gift back to him. His apology wasn’t anywhere near genuine, but how could she mind when his eyes were that bright?

He quickly tore the paper apart and lifted the top off the box. The horror of what he revealed surpassed that of the wrapping, and he looked up to see Buffy’s smug expression. He reached into the box and lifted up a pair of bright green socks, covered with fat and jolly Santas, a strip of white where Angel’s toes would fit nicely.

“Merry Christmas,” she said sweetly, mussing up his hair, and Angel merely grinned.

“Thank you,” he said sincerely. “For everything.” It didn’t take long before they both sobered, and simultaneously they reached for one other, Buffy’s arms wrapping around his neck as he held her securely around her waist. They held each other for a long time.

Angel walked Buffy down to the lobby with her bag in hand, and they stood together where sunlight couldn’t reach them. Buffy sighed and turned to face him, her smile now sad but hopeful.

“When am I going to see you?”

Angel’s brow furrowed at her question, not quite knowing the answer himself. “I’m not sure. I’m thinking of getting out of L.A. for a while. There’s...some things I’d like to do.” She prodded him for more details, and he told her of his plans to visit the birthplaces of his friends who had never had a proper funeral. He said he felt like he was finally ready to say goodbye. Buffy was proud of him, and told him as much.

“When you get to England…will you tell Spike that I’ll visit him soon?” Angel nodded somberly. When she heard of Spike’s death she had wept in a way that she hadn’t after the destruction of Sunnydale. She wasn’t sure why. Perhaps losing him more than once was more than she could handle. Perhaps it was the ever-present sting of missed opportunity. Either way, it was time for her to lay her old companion to rest as well.

She kissed Angel goodbye, and made him promise to find her in Italy when he had done what he needed to do.

Buffy’s flight touched down in Rome at 3:30am, and by the time she reached her apartment the sun was beginning to peek on the horizon. She tossed her keys on the kitchen counter and read a note Dawn had left on the refrigerator, welcoming her sister home and letting her know that she would be out “very late-ish” that night.

Buffy sighed and decided she needed to have a little chat with her tomorrow, reminding her of the definition of “curfew”. As she headed for her bedroom her eyes quickly danced over the phone, and she stopped in her tracks suddenly. She paused there for a few moments, then purposefully made her way over to the cordless, lifting it up and dialing a number she had memorized but hadn’t used in ages. She tapped her manicured nails on the countertop in nervousness, wondering about the time in Kenya and then realizing it didn’t matter.

A familiar voice answered, and Buffy smiled.

“Hey, Xand. It’s me.”

The End

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Author's Notes:
Rating:PG-13
Summary: Angel’s mourning is Buffy’s epiphany.
Spoilers: Post-NFA
Disclaimer: Clearly I’m not smart enough to have created these characters.
Author's notes: Thanks goes to Chrislee for setting up the wonderful ficathon this year, and also to Karla for the beta and the great ideas, and for forcing me to write an angsty piece.

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