Breathe

Written for the seventh lyric wheel. Thanks to Dana for great lyrics!

Disclaimer: Do I really have to say it? Is there currently a 2 hour weekly Buffy and Angel show? Is Buffy living in LA instead of Rome? Has Angel hung up his hat and left Wolfram and Hart for a little Roman holiday? Ok, then you have your answer.

Feedback: Yes Please

Rating: G

Spoilers: After Revelations (season 3 Btvs)

-Angel-

I walk around the mansion, cleaning up the mess made from Gwendolyn Post's visit. I set a table upright and the pedestal used for the brazier of living flame. There are coals and ash scattered all over the floor. I go to the closet and get out a broom. The mundane tasks of cleaning are good. It keeps my mind off of things like Hell and Buffy. Not that the two are intertwined, no more then Heaven and Hell anyway.

I can't get used to being back. I should be there now, suffering for an eternity. Instead I'm here, with Buffy. Only not with Buffy because she's something I can never have, one night of perfect bliss, that's all we'll ever be allowed and maybe I should drop to my knees and thank the powers above for that. Some people live their entire lives and don't know perfect bliss. I'm 243 years old. I have never known a moment of perfect bliss until the night I made love to Buffy. It's a rare and amazing thing. The whole memory is marred a bit since Hell, literal and figurative, followed so closely on the heels of Heaven. Was it worth it? Being allowed to breathe the same air as Buffy is worth the literal Hell. I'd go back for the torture and the excruciating pain all over again just to feel her kiss. When we start talking about figurative, it gets muddy. I would take back every moment of contentment and every thread of happiness I ever had or ever will have to wipe away the pain I caused Buffy.

I sweep the ashes and coal into a dust bin and carry it out to the courtyard. The scent of blood teases my nose. It's Buffy's blood. I close my eyes and sniff the air, relying on my nose to tell me where it is, rather then my eyes. There's a small smudge of it on the stone paving of the courtyard. I kneel beside it. It's dry already. She was hurt. I should have walked her home. I know fighting a slayer isn't like fighting vampires. It hurts more when they hit. She would have been weaker after the fight. She could have run into a group of vamps. She could have gotten hurt.

I break into a jog on the way to her house. The jog turns into a run. All of the sudden I'm afraid for her. I jump onto the roof outside of her window lightly, like a cat. Her window is open. I'm just going to take a peek at her, make sure she's okay. I perch just outside the window. This is the only part I can have in her life now, on the outside looking in. Once I dreamed of being a part of her life, being her life like she is mine. These dreams they pass me by now. I bow my head and take a deep breath. I turn to go when I hear her say my name.

"Angel,"

I turn back and she's sitting up in bed. Her hair is sleep tousled and her eyes are heavy with sleep. She's a vision, even in black and white cow print pajamas. I can't leave her. It's a mistake to go in, a mistake to take her in my arms. And it's a mistake to feel the comfort only she can give me. It's a mistake I've made time and again. It's a mistake I won't ever get past.

"I thought you were going to leave without saying hello to me." She says. Her voice has that little girl pout quality to it that I love.

"I didn't want to disturb you." I run my fingers through her golden hair.

"Shouldn't you be resting? You did get into a fight with Faith. She hits hard, I know I'm feeling it now and you're still not 100%" Buffy says looking up at me. The concern in her eyes moves me to near tears. She's the only person in over 240 years to be truly concerned about me. It's a heady thing.

"I'm okay. I found some of your blood when I was cleaning up around the mansion. I wanted to make sure you were safe."

"I'm only safe in your arms." She sighs. "I'm sorry; I shouldn't say things like that. I don't know how to do this, Angel. I can't just wake up one morning and not love you, especially when you're finally back from Hell. Do you know how many times I prayed for that, I prayed for you? My friends are all wigging out because Xander has turned into Super Sleuth and saw us kissing earlier. And I'm supposed to just move on like we never happened, like I don't love you. My whole life since you left, this life, is a farce. I put on a mask every morning of happy Buffy and I smile and I laugh and it's all so fake and it's killing me! I can't breathe through this mask. I can't breathe, Angel."

I pull her into me and wrap my entire being around her. She cries into my chest and I search for some way to make it better. I stroke her back. Her breathing is hitched with tears. "Just breathe, in and out." I mimic breathing. She falls in rhythm with me. "That's it, that's my girl."

"Your girl?" She asks looking up at me, her cheek still pressed to my chest.

"Always. A trip to Hell can't change that, neither can a Gypsy curse." I wipe the tears from her cheek with my thumb.

She snuggles back down into me. We sit there in silence, soaking up each other. Storing it for the time we know will come, the time neither of us are ready to accept. She yawns.

"You should sleep, Buffy. You have school in the morning." I can hear the regret in my voice even as I say the words.

"Don't wanna. I want to stay awake so this can keep happening." She's almost half asleep already.

I smile and pick her up. I tuck her into bed and place a kiss on her forehead.

She looks up at me, all limpid eyes and pouty lips. "Stay with me, just until dawn."

I slip my shoes off and slide in bed next to her. She tucks her body into mine. I pull my legs up and bow my head, curling around her. I listen as her heartbeat slows and her breathing becomes regular and deep. I match my breathing to her own, just to feel more a part of her.

Breathe on.

It's a Fire" by Portishead It's a fire

These dreams they pass me by

This salvation I desire

Keeps getting me down

Cos we need to

Recognise mistakes

For time and again

So let it be known for what we believe in

I can see no reason for it to fail.... ...

Cos this life is a farce

I can't breathe through this mask

Like a fool

So breathe on, sister breathe on

From this oneself

Testify or tell

Its fooling us now

So let it be known for what we believe in

I can see no reason for it to fail...

Cos this life is a farce

I can't breathe through this mask

Like a fool

So breathe on, little sister, breathe on

Ohh so breathe on, little sister, like a fool