Warning: This is a completely unredeemable piece of sap, inspired somehow by the end of Enemies. You might want to have a tissue handy, if you're inclined to cry. Feedback is welcome, unless you want to complain how sappy it is. Because I know that. Deal. :-)
This is set sometime after the 3rd season of Buffy with absolutely no knowledge of how it ends or what's to come on either it or Angel in the future. All characters belong to that Evil Evil Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy and Fox etc. etc. etc. I'm just playing with them. No money. Please don't sue.
It had been a long, hard trip. Angel had pushed himself and his beat up car to the limit. He prayed he'd made it in time. He practically threw himself through the front door of Rupert Giles' house--the place that had become the Slayer's headquarters and her home away from home ever since high school. He found them there. All of them. And he knew.
He knew he was too late.
"Angel," Willow started toward him, reaching out. For what? Comfort? Her eyes were red-rimmed; her hair a mess. Xander wouldn't look at him. Joyce sat stone-faced on the sofa, staring at her hands. Giles, however, stared at him. Lost. Devastated.
"Where is she?" He shrugged Willow away and stared at Giles, the only other man in the room he believed could help him--could stop the truth from shattering him from the inside out. "Where?" His voice cracked. He refused to lose control.
Xander was the one who spoke, through clenched jaw. "We don't know." He turned to look at Angel. Xander's face was the picture of grief, his eyes like those of an innocent child refusing to accept grim reality for the first time. "She left early last night. She wasn't ..." He paused. "She wasn't supposed to go alone. But she didn't want us in the line of fire."
Willow threw the pillow she had been clutching across the room "She wanted to keep us safe. Just like always," she spat. "Why does she always take us for granted. Dammit!" She slumped to the sofa, sobbing quietly.
Angel just stared from one to the other. Then he turned to Giles again, his eyes wet. He fought to keep control of his voice, of his emotions. "We have to find her. She can't d---," he breathed deeply. "She can't be alone now."
Giles finally spoke, his voice soft and resigned to failure. "Angel, she's ...."
"No. She's not. Not yet. I'd know it." Angel swallowed hard several times before finally choking out, "I can't let her die alone."
He wandered aimlessly through the streets of Sunnydale. He'd known something was horribly wrong. He was supposed to have been here. Giles had called him for help defeating the Resurrected Master, but he'd been delayed in Los Angeles by a gang of rogue vampires. He knew now it had been a diversion.
He had missed his window of opportunity to make it to Sunnydale before sunrise and had decided to stay in L.A. and recoup his strength before heading out. He'd been resting that afternoon when he'd gotten the call from Giles. Buffy had gone out on her own the night before.
She hadn't come back.
They'd tried to tell him that they'd checked everywhere, including the place they'd finally identified as the Master's lair. There was no sign of either of them. In fact, there were no signs of vampire activity of any kind. Willy the Snitch had disappeared. Something had happened. Something big enough to scare them all into hiding.
The gang was sure she was dead. Or that the Master had done something unspeakable to her. No one wanted to face that possibility.
But he knew she was out there somewhere. He could feel it. Call it a psychic or a spiritual connection. Call it hokey, he didn't care. He shared a bond with Buffy Summers--the only woman he'd ever loved. She was a part of him. And that part was still out there. Alive, barely. And alone.
They'd promised each other when he'd left that they'd be there for each other whenever necessary, that neither would die alone. He refused to break that promise.
His wandering took him to the edge of town. He tried to think like Buffy, to figure out how she'd confront the Master in a duel to the death. She'd do it on her terms if possible. In some place she felt safe.
He stared up at the sky, pleading to some higher power for help. And as his gaze drifted back to Earth, it rested on the hilltop overlooking the town.
It was their place. She'd saved his life there--or something had. They'd said good-bye there. And she'd want to die there.
He'd run the entire way through the woods and up the path. But as he approached the hilltop, he slowed--unwilling to face what he'd find there, but unable to stop.
And as the clearing opened before him and he saw her, he stopped short.
It couldn't be her. Not that small, broken heap curled on the ground. Not his Slayer. Not Buffy. Please, not Buffy.
He could smell her blood.
Something snapped inside him and he ran to her. She was alive; he could sense that. But her breathing was shallow and ragged. He knelt beside her. Her clothes were dirty and shredded in places. Her face was a mess. One arm was bent awkwardly.
She'd put up a hell of a fight. Good for her.
As he scooped her up and cradled her gently in his arms, Angel examined the surroundings. Several piles of dust were scattered about, including one of snow-white ash. The Resurrection Amulet lay amongst those ashes. She'd won.
He smiled to himself. Of course she had.
She was cold. She'd been exposed to the elements, injured, for almost 24 hours. That she was alive at all was a miracle. Buffy moaned, and he shushed her, brushing some hairs away from her eyes and wiping some blood away. She opened her eyes slightly, her lids heavy with fatigues and something more, whispered, her voice cracking, her mouth dry, "I'm dreaming."
"Shhhhh. You're not. I'm here." He fought to maintain control. He wouldn't let her see him cry. "Angel? Really?"
"Yes, Buffy. I'm here. Can you tell me where you hurt? Can you move at all? Can you feel....."
"I dreamed you'd come." She interrupted him. He didn't think she even knew he'd been talking. "Just like you promised." She smiled slightly, as if she knew some kind of secret.
"Quiet, Buffy. I have to get you to a hospital." His heart refused to listen to his mind, refused to believe that it was too late. He wouldn't give up on her. Not ever. He tried to move her, checking her injuries. She cried out. Her face was pale, her pulse thready. He felt panic rising in his chest. He couldn't move her, but he had to move her. He did not want to lose her. Not now. Not yet.
She sighed as the pain ebbed slightly. "Did I win?" She asked softly, wincing. She coughed lightly. Some blood appeared on her lips and a small red fleck fell on her pale white cheek. Angel stared at that one tiny mark on her nearly flawless skin. As he stared, it almost seemed to grow and swallow her whole right there in his arms. He blinked the image away and looked again upon the tiny, frail figure in his arms. She was a mere shadow of the powerful Slayer he'd known for so long, more like the young, scared girl he'd first fallen in love with.
Angel sighed and gave in. A tear escaped down his cheek. He settled to the ground, holding Buffy as tightly as he dared.
"You won, my love," he whispered. "You beat them all."
She smiled and closed her eyes.
And he held her. And he talked to her.... about what he didn't really know or care. Anything to keep her there with him. To make it last.
Finally, she opened her eyes again. She smiled at him again. And she whispered, "You talk too much."
He laughed through his tears. Ever the comeback, ever the wit. She'd always kept him on his toes.
He sniffled and swiped at his eyes with his coat sleeve. And he looked her at her. She was staring at him, her eyes shining. "I love you, Buffy."
"I love you, too," she whispered as her eyes drifted shut. And she slipped away. He felt her go. Felt the cold creep over his soul. Felt the hole in his heart.
He held her--for how long he wasn't sure--until he could smell the sunrise approaching. He thought about holding her through it. About joining her. He already felt lost without her. He'd become who he was thanks to her. When Darla had changed him, he'd asked her to show him her world. But it had been Buffy who had opened his eyes, who'd shown him the world around him and the people who needed him. They'd saved each other so many times. But he'd never be able to repay her for what she'd given him. She'd given him life. And he would never take that gift for granted.
He pulled her close one last time, kissing her forehead and then whispering into her hair, "Always."
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