But when you live in Sunnydale, you get used to it. I learned after Kevin died. I learned because I had to, because nothing ever hurts so much as the first time you really, *really* have to deal.
I've thought about Kevin a lot in the last year or so. Ever since Doyle died. Ever since he sacrificed himself. Damn hero. With everything that's happened to me over the last few years, the memory of Kevin's body falling at my feet remains razor-sharp. And the pain. Every breath a pain that only tears can possibly ease.
So, I cried. All over Gunn and Wesley. As I cuddled in Wesley's arms I had the stray, random, so-wrong-for-the-sitch thought that I never would have imagined how much he could mean to me as something other than an Older Man with a Great Accent.
He's steady. Which should be boring, but isn't. Virginia's an idiot, but oh, well.
Gunn's not steady. He's... God help me, he's like Xander. Jumping off the handle, charging where there is evil and injustice, Super Homeboy. Gunn's got us to keep him from dying in some damn heroic -- there's that word again -- quest, but I'm afraid that we're not enough, that he'll lose himself in his crusades.
At least Xander has Buffy to keep him grounded. Had. Oh, God, here come the tears again. I don't know why I'm crying so much. Buffy and I...jarred. Maybe we just never understood each other. Maybe we were too much alike. I don't know.
But there's a hole in my life now that she's gone that I don't understand, don't want to understand. I don't want to analyze or dissect it. It just is.
Sitting up made me dizzy. From dehydration, probably. Willow was asleep in one of the rooms. I remembered helping her in there before I would let myself collapse. I put one hand to my pounding head; from tears this time, not from a vision, at least. Just a few hours ago I'd been a princess. Now I was in grey sweats with grey reality bearing down.
Wesley supported me as I got to my feet. I looked at him and my heart just turned over. I remembered waiting in the hospital, waiting to find out how bad the gunshot wound was, waiting. Our hands were linked, and I tightened my fingers in order to express the flood that I couldn't say out loud.
"Where's --" My voice cracked. I cleared it and tried again. "Where's Angel?"
Gunn jerked his chin. "Office." I nodded acknowledgement, understanding that Wes and Gunn had stayed out here with me because they knew what to do with me. What do you say to a guy when the love of his immortal life has died?
I'd better come up with it fast, because the guys were leaving it to me. You know, women, sensitive, compassionate, right? Um, hello. We are talking about me here, Queen Bitch of Sunnydale.
That's what I was, at least.
It was dark and quiet. Another time I would have teased him about being broody boy in the dark, or just blithely carried on with whatever I wanted to do until he stopped ignoring me. I can be oblivious, and I can also use that to my advantage. But not tonight.
It had taken him weeks to mourn Doyle the way he needed to. To deal with the grief and the guilt and the, yes, the anger. Anger for taking the easy way out. The way Buffy had.
Oh, yeah, I was angry too all of a sudden. Buffy couldn't deal with what she had to do, couldn't handle it, so she'd jumped off a high platform and done a swan dive into infinity. Oh, I know she'd done it for Dawn, for the little sister who'd turned out to be so much more. But I'd never been a part of the, "Whatever Buffy says or does is right," crowd. It was just wonderful for those of us who had to clean up the aftermath, those of us who had to live with the pain of what she had done...
Those of us who couldn't take the easy way out, had to deal.
"Angel?" I asked quietly. He was a black lump by the black-grey window, a darker shade of darkness. My eyes tried to adjust, focus in, find a recognizable body part, but I couldn't.
He didn't say anything. I didn't expect him to. I opened and closed my mouth a couple of times, trying to find words. Too early for anything I could say, too early to say, let it out, scream, shout.
So I did the only thing I could think to. I moved to that sullen shadow in the corner and wrapped my arms around him.
Angel reacted so fast that I almost fell on my butt. My arms stung as he pushed them away, pushed me away. I stumbled back, banging my ankle on the edge of one of the desk chairs.
And I knew. Completely. God, when had Angel become as familiar to me as myself? A year and a half ago, we were familiar strangers, knowing of each other more than knowing. And now... I felt like I lived in his head, in his heart. Just like over the last few weeks he'd proven he lived in mine.
"It's not your fault that she's dead, Angel." My voice was clear and cold. Maybe it did take the Bitch Queen to do this. "She made up her mind to die. There's nothing you could have done."
The shadow had collapsed in on itself, angling in the space between the wall and the floor. I crouched down to approximately eye-level, waiting for him to actually face me.
"I should have been there." It was a low rumble of sound.
"So what?" I snapped back. "So you could have watched?"
"I should have done something!" Struck a nerve. Good, Cordy, now don't stop.
"What could you have done? No one knew until it was too late. Every single one of them would have given their lives for her. Why would one more life being offered matter?"
Nothing. No response. This wasn't how it was supposed to be. I was supposed to get him mad at me, so he'd scream and shout and bleed it out. But he kept huddling in on himself.
Which meant there was more, more I didn't know.
"The oracles..." His voice died.
Mine softened. "What about the oracles, Angel?"
He was speaking in fragments. "...be here, or she'll..."
I knelt beside him, close enough to feel the warmth of his body if his body had any warmth. "She'll what?"
He took a deep breath, something he'd explained was a human reflex. Old habits dying hard. "She'll die. She died."
"I know, Angel."
"No," he said fiercely. And it was like he'd snapped back to reality. My reality. Our reality. "You don't understand. They told me. They explained. If I stayed human, she'd die. If I wasn't here, wasn't a vampire, wasn't fighting the darkness, she'd die."
Oh, God. I remembered now. Something Doyle had said the day before he died. Something about a day the oracles had taken back, a happily-ever-after lost in a blink of a god-like eye.
I focused on the here and now. "You were fighting, Angel."
"But. Not. HERE. I left this dimension. And she died. Oh, God, Cordy, she died."
That's when he began to cry, sobs that shook his body in my arms. I held on, because it was all I could do. And I understood.
He'd left this dimension. For me. To save me. He'd left our world behind, not knowing if we'd ever be able to make it back. He left Buffy behind. Doyle had been dead a year and a half. Angel had known about this for a long time. He'd known for a long time that he had to be...around, somehow, to help Buffy. To save Buffy. And he'd left. For me.
In the middle of all the pain, and all the anger, and all the guilt, there was just this little bit of happiness floating in my heart. That I meant that much to someone. Anyone. Xander certainly had never put me above Buffy. My parents? Please. No one had ever meant more to them than themselves.
I remembered something asked and not answered in Pylea, and tightened my arms around Angel. "I love you," I told him. "You know that, right? I really love you."
He didn't answer, didn't respond in any way, but I knew he heard me. Because I knew him that well.
There were plans to be made. We'd have to go to Sunnydale, see this through. See things to the end. And then we'd have to move on, leaving the world where Buffy was the Slayer behind and move into a new one.
But none of that needed to be done right now. So I just held on, until outside the covered windows the sun rose on a new day.
The Darkest Dawn
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