Spoilers: Through "The Zeppo" (mid-season 3)
Disclaimer: I've noticed this theme where I do not write stories where I would have to come up with my own plot. I sort of do in this one, a little, maybe. No, never mind. In "The Zeppo," the Hellmouth opens. In this story, it didn't get shut. So the characters and the backstory are Joss's. Hooray.
Distribution: My site at , Land of Denial, fanfiction.net, and the Slayer Fanfic Archives...um, if you want it, take it, just let me know.
Notes: OK, Hellmouth is open, the Scoobs have been split up. My only excuse for this is that I've been reading too much Vonnegut. I wanted to put the quote about there being nothing intelligent to say about a massacre, but I think that's beside the point of this story. Assuming, of course, that there is a point to this story.
Feedback: Please, please, please, to [email protected]

"The End of the World"
One: Buffy and Angel

"So, this is what the end of the world looks like." Buffy wrinkled her nose. "I always thought it'd be more...fiery."

Angel shrugged. "There are plenty of ways to kill, Buffy," he said softly. "You know that."

"I know." She settled back into his arms. She always loved the way it felt to be held by him: as if for those five seconds she wasn't the Chosen One, like the balance of the world wasn't resting on her shoulders. "I love you," she whispered.

He closed his eyes and nuzzled his face in her hair. "I know."

Buffy snuggled closer. "When you were little, did you ever play that game where you ask yourself impossible questions? Like...'If you were going to die tomorrow'--or stop existing, for you--'what would you do?'"

Angel's voice was low, and his lips moist against her earlobe. "You know what I would do."

She slid around in his arms to face him. "Make love to me, Angel," she said, her voice soft and pleading.

With a groan he pulled away. "Buffy, don't. We have to think about the consequences. We need to be out there, fighting"

"For what?" she cried. "You heard Giles. It's over. We can't even make an impact. If I thought for even a second that I could stop this, don't you think I'd be out there?" Her voice broke. "God, Angel...I've missed you so much. And I..." His resistance was waning. "Angel...We'll have time to worry about the consequences once we're dead."

He pulled her close and held her more tightly than he had ever held anyone; as though his arms could hold the world together. "Buffy. I know I'm not always open with you. It's hard for me to explain what I'm thinking sometimes, even though I've had years to practice." He placed his hands gently on her shoulders and looked into her eyes. "Maybe the reason I was never good at it was that you're the only person who has made me want to try. So many times I have wanted to tell you what I feel every time I see you. How much you tear me up inside. How much I love you. I never did...I still don't know how." Her eyes filled with tears. "Buffy, you are my closest friend, my lover, and my salvation. Whatever happens after this, remember that. Even if I never see you again."

Buffy kissed him desperately, tangling her fingers in his thick hair. "I'll find you, Angel," she said. "I'll always find you."

He swallowed, and for a moment he sounded like the child he hadn't been in centuries. "I'm afraid, Buffy. I don't want to go back to that place...I don't ever want to go back there."

She took his head between her hands. "Look at me, Angel. I will find you. In this world or any other. If they send you to Hell, I will find you and I will do whatever I have to do to get you out. I can't have Heaven without you, Angel...and I deserve Paradise after everything I've done. So do you. And we'll have it."

And he believed her.

Angel motioned towards the Hellmouth. "Now what do we do?"

Buffy smiled as salty tears streaked down her face. "Just kiss me."