Title: Home For Awhile

Rated: R there's a word

Summary: Post NFA Angel goes to Rome to say goodbye.

Disclaimer: Nope not mine. The poem isn't mine either. It's a Cherokee Indian poem that is just so beautiful.

AN: Written for Aaronlisa's BA challenge. Buffy & Angel meet up after the events of Not Fade Away. A very depressed Angel goes to Rome to say goodbye to Buffy. He feels he can't live anymore after leading his friends (and family) into their deaths. This and everything else of mine can be found archived permenantly at my web site found in author information.

He takes a cargo ship to Rome. It's really the only way he can get across the ocean now that Wolfram and Hart and their jets with necro tempered glass are gone. He eats rats from the cargo hold. Last century or this one; there is never a shortage of rats. He doesn't try to clean up before he sees her. He's here to say goodbye, not to socialize, not to tell her about some fabulous reward from the powers that left him human, not to tell her about a grand victorious battle he won, just to say goodbye.

Rome hasn't changed much in the last century; of course he knew that because he was here with Spike a few weeks ago, Spike, who's now dust in an alley somewhere, just like he should be. It all started in alley; it was supposed to end in one too.

He watches her for a few days. He feels like he's spent his whole life watching her. He will miss that when he's gone but there is nothing left for him now, not her. She was never for him. She was a brief respite in the eternal Hell he's been condemned to. She is the respite (damnation) that will save him from slipping into oblivion once he's in Hell. Her smile will anchor him even as he is tortured. She was once his redemption and when he can't forget her can't let the demon take over, she will be his damnation.

It's just a matter of time before she finds him. He knew she was too much of slayer (soul mate) not to feel him. She's walking home from a coffee shop one night when she slips into an alley (an alley, always an alley). He follows her, expecting to her to knock him on his ass and she does, only figuratively instead of literally this time. She's beautiful; somehow he forgot how beautiful she is.

"Angel," she whispers.

He nods. He wants to wrap his arms around her and sob until all this pain is gone. (Never gone)

She furrows her brow in confusion and worry. She walks to him, places her hand on his cheek and he swears his heart leaps, and then falls and shatters. (He's alive, Cordelia)

"Come on, let's get you home," she says.

Home, home, home, he doesn't think there is such a place anymore. He had a home once; it smelled like vanilla and sunshine (Her). She wraps an arm around his waist, not caring that he smells like rats.

She doesn't ask him what's wrong until he's had a shower. He's wearing clean sweat pants and a tee shirt. He doesn't want to know who they belong to or why they're at Buffy's apartment. He's sitting on her couch listening to her talk on the phone in Italian. She's laughing and trying to charm a local butcher into delivering blood. She's horrendous at Italian. She was always horrendous at French too. They'd spent many evenings together (kissing) under the guise of him teaching her French.

She hangs up the phone and perches on the edge of the couch. She folds her hands in her lap and twines her fingers. He wonders if she still does that because she wants to touch him so badly. (He does)

"What happened?" She finally asks.

"I lead them to their deaths, every single one of them," he says.

She bites her lip and looks down at her hands. "It was a war, that's what happens."

He shakes his head. "No, it was a pointless war. I didn't change anything. I just pissed them off."

"Sometimes I think everything we do is pointless. The evil doesn't go away. It doesn't even get smaller. It comes back bigger and badder but we have to keep fighting," she says.

He shakes his head. "Not me, not anymore."

"You don't get to quit, that's not an option," she says.

"As long as the sun rises, that's an option."

She slaps him hard enough to make him reel. "We've already done this. We don't quit. We don't give up on each other. We never stop fighting."

He looks at her, tears in his eyes "Yes, Buffy, sometimes we do."

Tears well in eyes as she realizes how serious this is. "No, we rest for a little while and then we get back up and do it all over again."

He shakes his head. "I didn't want to fight. I came to say goodbye."

"So that's it? You walk back into my life so you can say goodbye? No, I don't accept that. Goodbye means it's over, goodbye means we're over. It is –never- over, Angel. Not for us, we're for always," she says. Her voice quivers with tears unshed.

"I'm tired, Buffy. I'm so tired," he says, his voice hewn rough with guilt, grief and tears.

She folds him into her arms, his head over her heart. "Just rest for a while."

He watches the line of orange as it eats the black away. He pulls the curtains open and turns his back to the window. As far as last sights go, she's one to behold. She's lying in bed asleep on her stomach, naked and rumpled. Her golden hair fans over the pillows and a small smile graces her face. He's never seen an angel, not a real one, but looking at her, he believes.

He hadn't meant for things to get out of control last night. They always get of out control when he touches her (want, need, too much). She is fire that doesn't burn, eternity that he never wants to end. There hadn't been anything like perfect happiness last night, and that wasn't her fault. It was his. He can not close his eyes even for a moment with out seeing the bodies of his friends, without hearing Illyria's scream. Former Gods should not scream like that, they also shouldn't be torn to pieces by demon armies.

She hadn't been perfect despair last night either. She was perfect respite, a perfect rest and a perfect goodbye. He feels the first touch of the sun along his back. He clenches his hands into fists against the pain. He will not close his eyes. (I love you, close your eyes) He wants to see her as long as possible. He wants to carry her image with him into Hell even though he knows it will be his final damnation.

She's a blur of naked skin and golden hair. She hits him hard enough to fling them both against the wall. She gets up and shoves him harder into the ground. She jerks the curtains closed.

"What the fuck do you think you're doing?" She spits.

He swallows hard and looks away.

"No, you don't get to do that. You don't get to waltz in here, make love to me and then burn yourself ash," she says.

"I told you I came to say goodbye," he says.

"And I told you, it's never over," she says.

He sighs. "Buffy, let me be strong."

"Then do it. Be strong. Get your ass up and keep fighting," she says. She crosses her arms over her bare breasts and she looks like some mythical warrior woman.

"I led my friends into a pointless battle and they all died," he says.

"That amulet you gave me, I knew when I gave it to Spike it would kill him. That's why I wouldn't let you wear it," she says.

"They ripped her to pieces," he says.

Buffy sits down on the floor beside him. She cradles him in her arms and lets him tell her. He tells her how Gunn died, how Spike dusted, how Illyria died. He shakes with silent sobs that wring not-so-silent tears out of her.

She watches him sleep in their bed. He's been here for three months. He doesn't try to open the curtains anymore but he doesn't lose his soul when they make love either. She wishes it was because somehow the soul had become bound. She knows it is because he still sees his friends' faces when he sleeps. He has night terrors that leave him thrashing wildly and screaming in his sleep. She wraps her arms around him and holds him tight until he stops thrashing, until he wakes up. He never wants to talk about it, not since the morning he tried to kill himself, and that's okay. Sometimes talking doesn't make it better, it doesn't make the pain go away. Sometimes the pain never goes away.

She talks to Xander about him. She never thought he'd understand but he knows now what it's like to lose someone you love in a war, to lose them and never have a chance to say goodbye. He tells her it took him a long time to say goodbye to Anya. It's harder when there's not a body to bury, a memorial to go to.

She doesn't tell him where they're going. She knows he wouldn't go if she did. It's the middle of the night, too late for vampires, too early for humans. They stand on a bridge over the Fiume Tevere. She fumbles in her bag and pulls out a piece of parchment. The words written on it look old and ancient. She fumbles a bit more and comes up with the silver Zippo lighter that Spike left at her house. For some reason it was among the few things she'd grabbed (claddagh ring, jacket, cross, sonnets, Mr. Gordo) when they left Sunnydale, maybe because she knew it would be all she'd ever have left of Spike.

She hands him the parchment. "Willow sent it to me. She cast a simple spell that Giles taught her when she was in England on it. It's a spell of release. She used it to say goodbye to Tara. Read the poem, burn the parchment and scatter the ashes."

He looks at her. "Why are you doing this?"

"Because I'm not ready to say goodbye, Angel. I've got a book of sonnets at home that promise me always. I want my always," she says.

He opens his mouth to argue with her. The golden warrior woman is back in her eyes. "Buffy-" he starts.

"Don't do this to their memory. They didn't die so you could live life with half a heart," she says.

He chuckles. It's a dry, bitter sound like nails on a chalkboard. "Technically, I don't have a heart at all."

"Technically if I shove a piece of wood in your heart, you dust so I'd say that counts as having a heart. Let them go, Angel. They can't rest until you do. Let them go home for awhile," she says.

He lights the bottom corner of the parchment and holds it over the water. He watches as the words burn and the smoke rises.

Do not stand at my grave and weep, I am not there; I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow; I am the diamond glints on snow.

I am the sunlight on ripened grain; I am the gentle autumn's rain.

When you awaken in the morning's hush, I am the swift uplifting rush.

Of quiet birds in circled flight, I am the soft star that shines at night.

Do not stand at my grave and cry, I am not there; I did not die.

When there is nothing left to burn, he turns to her and takes her hand. She smiles, twining his fingers with hers. He finds a way to smile back. It's time to go home for a while.