"Whenever I Breathe Out"

Summary: The nightmares are the easy part.
Spoilers: Through "The Gift" and the end of "Angel" season 2
Rating: PG-13, I guess. It's chock full of angst.
Disclaimer: The characters aren't mine, but we knew that already. "Whenever I Breathe Out, You Breathe In (Positive Negative)" belongs to Modest Mouse. They like long titles.
Distribution: My site at , Land of Denial, anyone else can have it, just let me know where it is.
Notes: You might want to read "Fallen" first--it's archived on my website. There is a pretty specific reference to it. Thanks so much to everyone who sent me feedback for "Fallen," by the way. I really appreciate it :)
Feedback: How about yes?

Hey, haven't seen you around in a while
I didn't go to work for a month
I didn't leave my bed for eight days straight
I haven't hung out with anyone
'Cos if I did, I'd have nothing to say
I didn't feel angry or depressed
I didn't feel anything at all
I didn't want to go to bed
And I didn't want to stay up late
When you're living your life, well, that's the price you pay
Whenever I breathe out, you're breathing in
Whenever I breathe out, you're breathing in

"Angel," she says, her voice like a feather stroking my cold skin, "Angel I'm here, don't cry, it'll be all right..."

Her hair is so soft, I bury my face in it and drown in vanilla and the sweet velvet skin of her neck "God, Buffy, I thought you were gone, I thought you left me I was so afraid, I was so alone."

"I never left." She pulls away and I watch her glowing face decay into moldy sinew and bones and she says,

"I'll never leave."


I am broken.

I haven't moved in three days. Haven't eaten in six. The less I eat, the more my capacities deteriorate. The more I hallucinate.

If I ate I would stop seeing her. Even nightmare visions are better than the cold reality that she is *gone.*

Death is too familiar. I am intimate with it. For more than a century, I caused it. Rejoiced in it.

Now the putrid stench of death has overwhelmed the only person that ever brought me joy.

Willow sat with her head in her hands and in that moment, I knew what had happened with more certainty than I had ever possessed.

Wesley vomited.

Cordy tried to comfort Willow. Tried to comfort me with the big brown eyes I love so dearly, but they weren't the eyes I needed to see. I needed to see Buffy's mossy green eyes clouded with the specter of death, I needed to see her body lying still on the ground. I felt her absence but I wouldn't let myself believe it.

I never saw her body.

Willow left and I wandered half-blind to my room. The answering machine flickered in the darkness.

The machine crackled and an angel spoke.

"Angel. It's me...it's Buffy. I have to go soon, but I wanted to tell you...I just wanted to tell you. I love you. And I guess that's all. There's more but I don't think it matters now. I love you. No matter what.

"I have to go."

My heart exploded. I was wrong. Buffy was still alive, a dead woman can't use a telephone, she's alive and she's fine and if I can call her everything will be perfect and I'll never leave her again.

I turned and ran for the door, and Cordy appeared to block my way. "Angel, she left that message hours ago."


She spoke more gently. "Before she died, Angel. She's gone."


It's the funeral I didn't go to, couldn't go to, because no one should have to attend their own funeral, and that's exactly what it is.

The sky is empty. No sun, no clouds, no color. An endless expanse of ash. It looks like rain, but that would be more relief than I deserve.

Her face looks so calm, devoid of any spark of life. This cold rubber thing isn't human and she isn't here. It isn't Buffy lying in that padded box, it's a monster wearing her sweet face. She isn't here.

She steps up behind me. "I don't want you to think of me like this."

But it's what you are now, it's what you'll always be.

"No. I'll be whatever you remember me as. You'll live forever and I will too, but you have to remember me alive, remember me when we were together and you loved me."

I'll always love you.

"Then don't forget who I am."

Buffy...if I could breathe life into your cold dead body I would do it. If I could exhale and fill your quiet lungs with oxygen, I would do it. We would move together like we did once, so long ago. Breathe in, breathe out.

But I don't breathe, and you never will again.

The grey sky presses down on me as I kneel next to the coffin.

"Don't touch it," she says, pleading. "That isn't me, Angel, it isn't me."

I have to know.

I reach out and touch the blank face. Skin like ice. I shudder. She feels like...

Like me. Dead and empty. How could she stand to touch me?

"Because I love you, Angel. You're all I ever wanted. I didn't care what you looked like. I didn't care if your skin was cold, because I knew I could keep you warm."

You did, Buffy. You did, but now you're gone. Now I'm frozen again.

She pulls me away from the body, and I melt into her eyes. "I'll never be gone, Angel. I'll never leave." She stretches up to me and touches her lips to mine. My mind easily supplies the way she once felt pressed against me, how flushed and warm her face would get, how soft her skin felt. She's so real, here in my arms, and I want it to last forever.

The kiss fades into black, as it always does, and I am lying here alone.

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