Title: Full Circle
Summary: He was there at the beginning, it's only right he's there at the end.
Rated: PG-13 really but very angsty
He picked up the invitation again, eyes searching through words he'd already memorized. He tucked it in his pocket, even though he knew the address by heart. He hadn't seen her in three years and he wondered if she'd look different. The image he had of her in his head had remained the same all these years. Every time he saw her, he thought that it would change, that last image of her would be the one he carried, but it never was. She was always his girl sitting on the steps, drenched in sunlight, unaware that her entire life was about to change.
The drive in front of the house was crowded with cars. He sat inside his for several moments, unable to bring himself to walk into the house. He knew it belonged to Giles. He'd even been here a time or two for various apocalypses. It was different this time. She was inside this time. It was amazing the things that took courage. Demons, dragons and end of the world battles were common place, and therefore required very little bravery. Seeing her…that was a different story entirely.
"Okay…uhm, so I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do up here. I'm not great at the public speaking thing. Most of you already know that I'm retiring. Some of you don't know why. I've decided to give up the exciting life of a slayer and try marriage and a fam…"
She knew the moment he walked in. Her heart forced its way up into her throat, her lungs stopped working for a moment and electricity shot up her spine. Her eyes found his without effort. She didn't know how long she stood there, staring at him. Heath pried the microphone out of her hands.
"Delayed stage fright," he joked. "In case you missed it, I've asked Buffy to marry me and she's accepted."
Buffy knew people were clapping. The only thing she could hear was her blood pounding in her ears. She stood up there for a moment longer, before pulling her hand out of Heath's. Unconsciously, the crowd seemed to part for them and she was standing in front of him. He glanced up at the gazebo where Giles and the blond man still stood. He took her by the elbow without a word. She wasn't aware they'd walked so far until they stopped underneath an oak tree. She glanced back at the party lights, only a golden haze now.
He soaked in the way she said his name. It was a promise, a wish, a dream.
A smile touched her lips and she nodded slightly, than laughed. "Like it's sacred," she whispered.
He nodded. It was.
They stood under the tree in silence. Buffy was trying to remember how to breathe around him. Angel was trying to remember that she didn't belong to him anymore. She hadn't in a long time.
"So…I didn't think you'd come," she finally gained the breath to say.
He shrugged. "I started not to."
"I'm glad you did. I wanted you here. It…full circle you know? You were there at the beginning. It's only right you're here at the end."
He paused, choosing his words carefully. "Buffy, you're a slayer. You'll always be a slayer, just because-"
She held up her palm to silence him. "I know. I'm not that sixteen year old girl who rebelled against her destiny anymore. Spare me the lecture."
He shook his head. He didn't want this meeting to be like that. "No, I didn't mean to lecture. I know you're not sixteen…you're…God, you grew up beautiful." He ducked his head. He hadn't meant to say that out loud.
She flushed pink and mumbled thanks. She stared at her toes, painted candy apple red for the party. "I'm sorry-I didn't think about…I mean I didn't bring you here to rub it in your face."
"What? That you're getting married?"
She swallowed hard and nodded. "I didn't know there was going to be a speech, but Giles…he had this gold watch for me…you know, retirement and gold watches…anyway, he had this watch and he made a speech and he wanted me to say something…"
"Buffy, its fine. When we decided…I knew you'd get married one of these days." It still felt like he'd been sucker punched by a wrecking ball.
"I know, but…" she trailed off. Somehow, saying she was getting married to someone else in front of Angel felt like betrayal. It was silly; they hadn't been a couple for eight years. They'd agreed three years ago that love just wasn't enough, not in their case, not when vampires and slayers, immortality and mortality were involved.
He reached out and brushed his fingertips against her bare shoulder. She reached up and placed her hand on top of his, pinning it there against her skin.
"I know," he said. "Do you love him?"
Buffy smiled. "Heath is…he's good to me. He loves me. He wants the house in the suburbs, the mini van and the 2.5 kids."
Angel chuckled bitterly. "Do you love him?"
Buffy sighed. "Yes…in the watching movies on a Friday night, popcorn, late Sunday morning breakfast way." Not in the star crossed lover, need you to breathe, to live, would die for your touch way, she thought. She didn't say it though. That fell under the 'things Angel and Buffy don't talk about' category.
"He's your normal guy."
Buffy winced at the palatable hurt in Angel's voice and nodded.
"It's okay. I understand. I've always wanted that for you," he said. He sounded like he meant it, like he'd accepted it and maybe he had.
"I should-it's rude for me to…" Buffy trailed off because she didn't want to go back to the party. She wanted to stand here with Angel's hand on her shoulder until time forgot that they existed.
They walked back to the party hand in hand. They cleaved as they approached the crowds, Buffy going one way, Angel the other. She knew the moment he left. Angel leaving her always felt like dying. She'd done that a couple of times. She knew exactly what it felt like.
"Who was that?" Heath asked as Buffy walked up beside him.
Buffy smiled slightly and shook her head, remembering lifetimes ago in Los Angeles. "Nobody."
Headlights raced across her face, making her squint in their light. The light rock station played just below the hum of the car. She'd gotten a later start then she'd intended. She and Heath had argued. He'd wanted to come with her. There was no way she was taking her fiancée to see Him.
Heath hadn't understood of course. Then again, she hadn't been able to explain. He'd called two days ago and asked her to come. She'd agreed without hesitation. When Heath asked why, she'd hedged, trying to find the words that would explain the complexities. What she'd come up with was something that seemed perfectly reasonable to her.
Heath hadn't seen that as a reason to go spend a weekend in Los Angeles. She hadn't cared, after all it –was- Angel. In the end, Heath had relented and here she was, fifteen minutes away from the address she'd laboriously committed to memory. It occurred to her as she pulled her car up to the curb that Angel hadn't really specified why he'd wanted her to come to Los Angeles. He'd just said come and she'd asked when.
The address belonged to an old hotel. It overflowed with secrets, stories and history. It reminded her of Angel. She pushed open the door and thought Angel had finally found a place with a soul as damaged as his. It was gorgeous.
He was waiting to take her bag. She followed him up the curved staircase silently.
"I-I can book you a room in a public hotel if you like, but I've got the room here…so I thought…" he trailed off.
Buffy shook her head. "This is perfect. Where did you find this place?"
Angel grinned slightly. "I stayed here in the fifties. I found out the lease was up on it and bought it."
She smiled. "Got enough space?"
He shrugged and looked around. "Yeah…for now."
The awkwardness rose up between them again. She stopped and started, taking a deep breath. "I…I need to call Heath, let him know I got here safely. He wasn't happy about this."
Angel nodded. "I'll leave you alone to unpack then. I've got tea downstairs when you're finished."
She nodded and waited until he left the room, closing the door behind him with a soft click. She called Heath on her cell phone, not wanting to use Angel's phone for some reason. He was short, curt, letting her know he still didn't agree with her decision to go to LA without him. She promised herself she'd try to explain Angel more succinctly when she got home.
True to his word, Angel had tea waiting for her in the kitchen. He was also making omelets. "I thought maybe you'd be hungry."
She nodded. "Yeah, I sort of left without dinner."
He placed a plate full of eggs in front of her and then sat down at her left elbow.
"So, you gonna tell me why I'm here?" She asked.
He gave her that half grin that she knew she could claim as her own. "Yeah, I guess…I probably should have told you to begin with."
"I knew it wasn't world in peril stuff because you didn't tell me to bring weapons."
"And besides, you've retired from that, remember?" He reminded her.
"Yeah, but if you need-"
He stopped her. "I know." He paused. "It's not world in peril. It's Connor, he's okay. He's leaving to go to Africa to study with Doyle's ex-wife, Harry. She's a demonologist. I wanted him to meet you, know a little bit about you before he left."
Buffy nodded. She knew about Connor. Angel had told her during the disastrous meeting they'd had in Rome three years ago. "He's-you must be proud."
Angel nodded. "I am. He's come a long way, overcome a lot of things. I wanted you to meet him…in case…I don't know. I wanted you to meet him. I wanted him to know you were real."
He made her ache with the look of longing in his eyes. It was a longing for things they both knew could never be, not in a thousand lifetimes, not in a thousand different worlds. The Powers would always make sure of that.
"That's…thank you. I've…what if he doesn't like me?"
A part of her wanted to know Connor; a part of her already loved him just because he belonged to Angel. She loved Connor for the same reason, she loved Angelus. Buffy didn't know how to love Angel halfway. It was full on, pedal to the metal, blood screaming love.
Angel's voice was broken when he finally spoke. "How can he not?"
She pushed away from the table and ran upstairs before she dissolved into tears. He followed and stood outside her door, his body pressed against it, his own tears streaking his face and she knew because she felt it.
They both watched as she walked toward the bar to refill drinks. Connor looked back at Angel.
"You're in love with her."
"Since the day I was born," Angel answered.
"And she's marrying another guy why?"
"I'm immortal, she's not. You're the only miracle child I'm ever going to have. Since the day I met Buffy she's wanted normal."
Connor nodded. "And you're the guy obsessed with giving supernatural people normal."
"I haven't done any spells or made any deals with devil to give Buffy normal. She found it all on her own," Angel said.
Buffy's return to the table interrupted any further conversation.
"So, Dad says you've known him for ages. Tell me dorky stories," Connor grinned.
"Oooo, this one time…"
He hadn't wanted to come, he couldn't stop himself. Dawn had sent the invitation. She'd warned him that Buffy had told her not to.
"I knew you'd want to be there," she had offered as an excuse.
He wasn't sure want was the right word, but he needed to be here. He considered sitting in the back of the church and never actually talking to her. He dismissed the idea because she would know he was there and it would throw her. This was her perfect day; he didn't want to ruin that.
He knocked on the door of the bridal room, unsurprised when Willow answered it. She smiled brightly at him and opened the door all the way, letting him inside.
"She's in the other room. She's dressed and everything. I'll just-I'm gonna go check on Xander. Stay as long as you like," Willow said.
He stood in the empty room for several minutes, working up the courage to see her. He'd dreamed of Buffy in a wedding dress more times than he wanted to admit. He'd always been the groom though. In the end, she was the one with all the courage. She walked into the room he was waiting in. His knees buckled. She caught him.
"Angel." Her eyes carried all the concern that she didn't voice.
He shook his head, unable to say anything for a moment. "You…there aren't words for how beautiful you are."
She didn't blush like she might have years ago back in Sunnydale. Tears filled her eyes and the saddest smile graced her lips. "I would think with your love of poetry, you could come up with something."
"Nothing that wouldn't pale in comparison," he promised. He knew from that moment on, his wedding dreams of Buffy would be in black and white.
There was a soft knock on the door and Willow poked her head inside. "Buffy, they're ready."
Buffy nodded. "Give me just a minute, Will?"
The redhead nodded and shut the door. Buffy sighed and turned to Angel. She reached for his hand, fingers threading with his as though they were pieces of a whole rejoining. There were so many things to say, but no way to say any of them. It didn't matter. She and Angel were more then words. They stood in that room, absorbing each other, storing everything they could up for the days that would come.
"Don't be a stranger…please," she pleaded.
"I can't…you will always be a part of me, Angel. That's never gonna change. You're like my heart, take it out and I'm dead."
He raised their hands to his lips, kissed her knuckles and gently wiped the tears from her cheeks. "Be happy. It's the only thing I've ever wanted in my entire existence."
She nodded. "Walk me out there?"
In the end, he stayed in the foyer of the church. He could accept that Buffy was married to someone else. He couldn't watch it happen.
She knew he was still here. It was like that low grade tingle after touching an electric fence. He was lurking, staying out of sight, but she felt his eyes on her while she danced with Heath and Giles. She knew he watched while she cut the cake and shoved it in Heath's face. She was still surprised to feel his cool hand on her bare shoulder in the middle of the dance floor. Tears pricked her eyes and her hands fell away from Heath when she heard the first notes of the song.
"Dance with me?"
She nodded and ignored the hurt look in her new husband's eyes.
I know I dreamed you a sin and a lie
I have my freedom but I don't have much time
Faith has been broken, tears must be cried
Let's do some living after we die
Couldn't drag me away
We'll ride them someday
They danced after the chords of the song faded away. Eventually he realized everyone was watching them. Angel pulled away first and Buffy watched him go. Somehow that song was as close as either of them got to saying goodbye to each other.
"Come in," Buffy whispered, never taking her eyes off the bundle in her arms. It wasn't until he sat down beside the bed that she noticed exactly who had come in. She blushed and caught his eye. "Sorry."
Angel shook his head, a full-blown smile on his face. "No, you're a little preoccupied. I don't blame you." He leaned over, trying to get a closer look at the bundle in her arms.
"Kiley Joyce Timmons. You wanna hold her?" She asked, extending the bundle toward him.
"You sure?" He looked doubtfully at Buffy and then the baby.
"Absolutely." She passed the baby over to Angel, reveling at the look on his face. She'd never seen anything that close to pure joy in his eyes. It was a memory she'd hold onto for the rest of her life.
"She's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen."
Buffy nodded, tears spilling over. "Yeah, she kinda is. I didn't know I could love anyone this much."
It didn't escape Buffy's notice that he was looking at her, not Kiley, when he said it. Kiley seemed perfectly happy in Angel's arms. She snuggled up into his chest and went to sleep. Buffy took a picture, despite Angel's protests.
"What? I want a picture of Kiley and her angel," Buffy said.
Angel shook his head and chuckled softly. "How do you know I'll be her angel?"
A gentle, sad look crossed Buffy's face. "Because you're still mine."
Angel closed his eyes a moment. He buried his nose in the crown of Kiley's head and then nodded. "Always."
Someone cleared their throat, Buffy and Angel's heads snapped up. Heath was standing in the doorway. Angel stood up slowly and handed Kiley back to Buffy.
"I-Dawn called me. I wanted to see Buffy's-your baby."
"Hi, Angel. It's…we've never officially met. I'm Heath, Buffy's husband."
Angel nodded. "I know. It's nice to meet you though…officially." He looked uncomfortably at Heath and then Buffy. "She's beautiful."
Heath's jaw tightened. He didn't miss that Angel was looking at Buffy, not Kiley, when he said it. "Yes, she is. I think it's time for you to go, Angel."
Angel nodded and started out of the room.
"Angel, no, you don't have to go anywhere," Buffy said.
Angel paused and turned around. He gave Buffy one her smiles. "Yeah, I do. I've over stayed my welcome. I'm sorry." He walked out the door into the hallway, but he heard every word that was said.
"Heath, that was rude."
"He came here to see you. I'm tired of this, Buffy. You're my wife. That's my daughter. He comes into town and I cease to exist until he leaves town."
Buffy didn't try to deny it. Her voice dropped an octave and Angel could hear the tears she was holding back. "It's Angel."
"And that's been your excuse since the moment he showed up at your retirement party almost two years ago. It's Angel, its Angel. Yeah, I get that. How would you feel if I dropped everything the moment an ex girlfriend walked into town?"
"Angel isn't an ex boyfriend…" Buffy trailed off.
"Yeah, let me guess, he's Angel."
Kiley was almost two years old the next time Buffy saw Angel and he was standing in the sunlight. He called and asked her to meet him at the hotel in Los Angeles. She carried Kiley through the lobby.
"Angel?" Her voice echoed in the cavernous hotel.
She assumed he meant he was out there under the arbor or an awning. He was standing in the middle of the courtyard, bathed in sunlight. The tears were instant and hot.
"Momma, angel!" She pointed to Angel glowing in the light.
Buffy just nodded and set Kiley on her feet. It was a full ten minutes before she could move, breathe, think. It was longer before she could talk. Angel understood. He played with Kiley in the sunlight and let Buffy watch. After an hour or so, the little girl got tired. Angel carried her inside, rocked her and told her a story. She fell asleep in his arms. He laid her down on the couch.
"Can we…" Buffy trailed off and pointed to the courtyard. It was the first thing she'd said to him since seeing him in the light.
Angel nodded. They sat down on a bench in the courtyard. Buffy could see Kiley asleep on the couch from there.
"She acts like she's always been around you."
Angel shrugged. "Kids know when they're loved."
Buffy laid her hand on Angel's chest and bit her bottom lip. Her green eyes filled up with tears again. She bit back the sobs. "When?"
"Two nights ago. I called you as soon as it happened. It was a minor apocalypse, or it could have been if I hadn't stopped it. It was amazing, Buffy. There was this light and it shot through me. My heart started pounding in my chest. I had to breathe, not because I wanted to fit in, because I had to breathe. I got to keep the strength, the healing. It-I called you as soon as I got back here."
Buffy nodded and swiped at her tears. "Can I?" She glanced at his chest.
"I was afraid…it wouldn't feel right if you didn't"
She laid her head on his chest and silent sobs racked her body. She had waited for this for so long, dreamed of this so many times. Angel wrapped his arms around her, lowered his lips to the crown of her head and cried into her hair. If he never saw Buffy again, this one moment was worth being human.
Kiley played on the floor while they sat at the kitchen table and had tea.
"I-Kiley loves her daddy," Buffy said glancing at the little girl playing on the floor. "And he loves her. Heath is good to me, Angel. I can't-"
Angel shook his head. "I'm not asking you to. Our time is past, Buffy. I know that. I just…I know how much you wanted this, for me as much as for us. I thought you would want to know."
"I would have hunted you down if you hadn't. Thank you." She reached across the table and rested her hand on top of his.
"There's no one else I'd rather share this with, even if it is just this moment."
"I guess it's someone's idea of a funny joke. All we ever get are moments," Buffy said.
"Yeah, but they're perfect moments and how many people can say that."
Buffy nodded, tears clouding her vision. She smiled and wiped them away. "I'd rather have half an hour of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special, and no matter what, Angel, you're my wonderful." She looked away from him. "I've got to go home…if I don't…" she didn't finish her sentence.
"I know," Angel breathed and he did. He knew if she didn't walk out right that moment she'd never leave. He watched as she gathered Kiley up. He waved to the little girl, kissed Buffy on the forehead and watched her drive away.
She was numb when he saw her again. Kiley had just turned three. He sat in the back of the church; she sat in the front where they sat family. He waited until they were at the cemetery to approach her. Heath gave him a dirty look, which he promptly ignored.
"Buffy." His eyes held their own apology.
"Angel." She flew into his arms. "I'm so glad you came. He-I knew he was sick, but its Giles…he was never gonna die."
Angel tucked her into his body, ignoring the whispers and looks that surrounded them. He smiled when he heard Kiley say "Daddy, look. It's Momma's angel."
Heath scowled. "Yeah, I know. Come on, baby. I want you to go home with Aunt Willow."
"I wanna stay with Momma and the angel."
"Sweetie, Momma's upset over Grandpa Giles. You go on with Aunt Willow and I'll bring Momma back in a little while."
Buffy cried herself dry in Angel's arms and he reluctantly passed her over to Heath.
"Buffy, if you need me…"
Buffy nodded. "Thank you. It means so much that you came. You-you always show up for the important things in my life."
"I always will. I promise." He hated watching her drive away, but he stayed until the taillights on her car disappeared.
"Who invited him?"
"Angel knew Giles longer then you did. He had every right to be there," Buffy glared at her husband.
"He didn't have any right to hold my wife. For God's sake, Buffy, people were talking about it," Heath's voice rose steadily.
"Quiet. Kiley is sleeping. And if you want to blame someone for that, blame me. I'm the one who went to Angel. And you know what else, I don't give a damn what people talk about."
"Yeah, because he's Angel. God, I'm so sick and tired of always taking a backseat to him." Heath's voice was curdled with disgust.
Buffy laughed. "Angel is human now, if it was a backseat you were taking, I'd be his wife now, not yours."
"Is that what you want?"
"I never said that. You knew when you married me that Angel would always be a part of my life. He's…he's part of the whole Buffy package."
"I didn't realize that he'd get privileges I don't," Heath said.
"Are you accusing me of cheating on you? I've never-"
"You never cry in front of me. Today was the first time I have ever seen you really cry and you did it in his arms, not mine." He almost sounded like he was pleading with her.
Buffy shook her head. "That's what this is about? I'm not a crier, Heath. I don't cry I haven't for a very long time. It's part of being a slayer."
"And yet you sobbed in his arms…"
"I can't help where and when I break down. It's…God, I can't deal with this right now. Giles just died and you're attacking me because I can cry in front of Angel and I can't cry in front of you." Buffy sat down; her back bowed and she buried her head in her hands.
Heath sighed and raked his hands through his hair. "We'll talk about this later. You're right. I'm sorry. My timing is rotten, but my argument isn't. We've got to have this discussion sometime."
"Fine, just…not tonight." Buffy stood up and braced her hands on her back. The walls seemed to close in on her and she couldn't breathe. "I'm going to take a walk. I'll be back later."
She ended up at the cemetery, stake in hand, just in case. She was lucky. The only vampire she ran into was former. She was standing next to Giles' grave when he walked up beside her, fingers automatically twining with hers.
"I'm going to miss him so much, Angel." The tears streaked down her face and fell to the ground. He didn't say anything. He didn't promise it would be okay or that one of these days it wouldn't hurt. Above all, he didn't say he was sorry. He was just there, the lighthouse in the dark, harbor in the storm, all those clichés that didn't seem so clichéd when he was standing beside her.
He stayed with her until she was stronger, until she could breathe, then walked her back to her house, leaving her at the door. She stood on the porch between her destiny and the life she'd made. For a single moment, she wanted to jump, to choose destiny over everything else. He made the decision she could not.
"Go inside, Buffy. I'll be there when you need me."
She nodded. He had chosen normal for her a long time ago in the sewers in a little town that no one remembered anymore. He knew that even though he was human, even though she didn't slay anymore, there was too much history for them to ever be normal.
"Angel…" she started, but he was already gone.
"Mommy, my brain hurts."
Buffy smiled at Kiley. "It does?"
The little girl nodded. Buffy ruffled her curly blonde hair. "It must growing. You're gonna be such a big girl."
"Already am," Kiley pouted.
Buffy laughed. "Of course you are, baby. Come on and help Momma get dinner ready so we can eat when Daddy gets home."
Kiley fell asleep on the floor watching cartoons. It was something she did often enough that Buffy didn't worry. She picked her up and tucked her in bed.
Heath woke Buffy up the next morning. "Buffy, where's the thermometer?"
Buffy rubbed her eyes. "I don't know. The ear one is in the bathroom cabinet I think."
"Where's the regular thermometer?"
"I don't know. I can never read the damn thing. Why? What's wrong?"
"Kiley has a fever and I think the ear thermometer is broken."
"It's not broken. She was playing with it last week and it was working fine," Buffy grumbled and rolled out of bed. She shrugged on her pink, terry cloth robe.
"Buffy, I took her temperature. The ear thermometer says it's up to 108. I want the damn regular thermometer."
Time kept jumping from fast forward to slow motion. They got Kiley in a cold tub and called the ambulance. Buffy didn't remember the trip to the hospital, but Heath told her she rode in the ambulance with Kiley.
"Giles, we have to call Giles," Buffy sobbed hysterically in the ICU waiting room.
"Buffy, honey, Giles is dead," Heath tried to calm her down. Buffy slapped him.
"Don't Buffy honey me. Call Giles. He'll know what to do. Giles fixes things. He researches. He'll find out what this is. It's what he does."
The phone wouldn't quit ringing. It was three in the morning. He pulled the pillow over his head and let the machine downstairs get it. When it started ringing again he snatched it up with a growl.
"Angel, its Willow."
Panic took over his senses, providing him with instant alertness. "Buffy…"
"She's…I don't know what to do with her, Angel. None of us do. She's…" Willow broke off.
"Is she at home?"
"For now," Willow said.
"Alright. I'll be there."
An hour and half later, Angel parked his rental car in front of Buffy's house. Willow answered the door, surprised to see him so soon, but grateful.
"I thought you'd be hours."
"Private jet, a client's not mine. What's happening?" Angel asked, glancing around the empty living room.
Willow's eyes were red and puffy from crying. She looked exhausted. "Two days ago, Kiley had a fever. They rushed her to the hospital, but…it was meningitis. She…"
Angel struggled for air. He sat down. Willow kept talking, but he didn't hear her. He didn't need to. He knew why no one knew what to do with Buffy.
"She wouldn't let the body go, Angel. She…she hurt four orderlies before they got her sedated. Even then…she held on, she held on and wouldn't let her go."
"Where is she now?" He finally managed to say.
"Kiley's room. She's sleeping…I think."
It wasn't hard to tell which room was Kiley's. The door was decorated with unicorn and rainbow stickers. Buffy's sorrow rolled over him even before he walked inside the little girl's room.
Buffy was curled up on the narrow toddler bed, clutching a pink teddy bear to her chest.
She didn't answer. He sat down on the edge of the bed.
"They took her, Angel. They took my baby. They stuck needles in me and they took my baby away. They put her somewhere cold. She's scared of the dark, Angel."
Tears coursed down Angel's cheeks. "I know they did, Buffy, but it wasn't really her. Remember when you went to Heaven? That's where Kiley is now and she's not scared, and she's not alone or cold."
"I promise. She's with Giles and Joyce."
"I want her back, Angel. I want my baby back." The tears were beginning to creep into her voice.
Angel picked her up, gathering her into his lap. She curled against him like a child. He threaded his fingers through her hair, stroked his hands along her back. "I know you do."
She grabbed fistfuls of his shirt and cried herself to sleep in his arms. He curled around her, rest his head on top of hers and was almost asleep when he heard yelling downstairs.
"Why the hell did you call him?"
Willow's voice was softer, a murmur through the walls. He couldn't hear what she was saying and for once he envied his vampire hearing.
"My wife! Mine! And Kiley is my baby girl! Not his!"
Willow's voice again, soft, muted and reasonable. Angel heard footsteps on the stairs. He got up and tried to lay Buffy in the little bed. She whimpered and refused to let go of his shirt. He unbuttoned it, slipped it off and tucked the shirt into bed with her. She seemed to calm down then. He was just walking out of Kiley's room when he ran into Heath. The man had been drinking and Angel didn't blame him. He lunged, swinging his fists at Angel.
"You come into my house less then twelve hours after my daughter is dead and take advantage of my wife! I don't care what you are! I'll kill you!"
Angel pinned him up against the wall. "First of all, I didn't take advantage of your wife. She fell asleep holding onto my shirt. I took it off instead of prying it out of her hands. You can go there and look if you like. I'm sorry about your daughter, more so then you can imagine." He stepped back, letting Heath loose. He took the punch thrown at his jaw and shook it off.
"You don't know anything about my daughter! You…you don't know anything about her. She…she was just a baby, my baby! My wife!"
The entire hallway vibrated with his pain. It roiled Angel's stomach and made him feel like he'd been punched in the gut instead of the jaw. "I'm sorry," Angel whispered and sidestepped Heath. He walked downstairs where Willow sat in the living room.
"How'd that go?" The redhead asked.
Angel shook his head. "He's got a pretty good right hook for a human. He's probably up there waking her up right now and she needs her rest."
"I'm sorry. I didn't know what else to do. She-you were always where she broke down. I thought she needed that…she needed you."
"No, I'm glad you called. He can deal with me being here, as long as Buffy wants me here. Yes, I'm sorry he lost his daughter, but my main concern is that Buffy lost hers." Angel buried his head in his hands.
"Did she…did she talk to you at all?"
Angel nodded. "A little bit. She cried a lot. She had a death grip on my shirt, even in her sleep."
"Which would explain the half nakedness and why Heath thought you'd taken advantage of Buffy."
Angel nodded. "It wasn't worth waking her up just to get her to let go."
A glass shattering scream ripped Angel from his spot on the couch. He ran up the stairs two at a time, Willow right behind him. Buffy was standing in the middle of Kiley's room. Her fists were clenched and she was screaming at Heath.
"You took my baby away! You took her away. You put her someplace cold and dark!"
"She's dead, Buffy! Our Kiley is dead! I couldn't let you hold on her body!"
"Shut up, shut up, shut up!" Buffy screamed. It reverbrated through the walls and shook the light fixtures. She put her hands over her ears and let out a howl shattered with pain.
"Willow, call the damn doctor and get some more sedatives up here!" Heath yelled.
"No, don't do that. It's not going to help her. She's got to deal with it and she won't as long as you've got her drugged up." Angel stepped toward Heath.
"She's my wife! I'll do what I want with her!" Heath countered.
"Buffy is not a possession! She's a person and she needs time to deal with this."
"Does she look like she's dealing?" Heath gestured toward Buffy, who was still screaming with her hands over her ears.
"Get out. If I can't calm her down we'll call a doctor, but get out."
"It's your funeral," Heath muttered and left the room. Willow watched from the hallway while Angel wrapped his fingers around Buffy's wrists, pulling her hands away from her ears. She couldn't hear what he was saying to her, but she could tell he was talking to her. Willow flinched when the first of Buffy's blows hit Angel's cheekbone. The second his jaw. She seemed to lose steam after that. The blows rained more frequently on his chest, but they were ineffectual punches of frustration more then in any attempt to cause actual harm. When Willow finally slipped downstairs, Buffy had quit screaming. Angel had her pinned into his chest and she was crying, occasionally striking out with her fists.
He'd thought the screaming and the hysterics were the worst of it. Buffy's silence and apathy proved him wrong. Once she was past the screaming, striking out phase, Heath could take care of her and he refused to allow Angel in the house at all. Angel refused to leave until Buffy asked him to.
If Willow hadn't told him different, Angel would have sworn Buffy was on some kind of sedative at the funeral. She looked like she hadn't had a shower since Kiley died. She stared blankly ahead, her face almost devoid of emotion.
It was even worse at the graveside services. Angel kept waiting for Buffy to scream, yell, throw herself on the coffin. She did none of that, until everyone was gone and Heath started to lead her away. She shook her head and pulled her hand out of his. Angel watched from a distance as Heath tried to get her to leave again. She pulled away again hard enough that he stumbled backwards.
Angel stepped closer. He wasn't exactly sure what he intended to do.
"Buffy, let's go. We've done everything we can here."
She shook her head. "I'm not leaving her, Heath."
"Buffy, she's not there. It's a coffin in the ground. Our baby girl isn't there."
"I'm still not leaving her. I want to stay with her."
"You're just going to make yourself sick. I don't want to leave you here," Heath pleaded.
"Go home. I'm not letting her spend the night alone. Go home and I'll be there in the morning."
Heath glanced around the cemetery looking for someone who could talk sense into Buffy. His eyes fell on Angel and his expression went hard. Angel took a deep breath. He knew he'd been seen, he might as well make his position known.
"I'll stay with her, make sure she's okay."
"Buffy's guardian angel, always right there when she needs you." Heath's tone was bitter and pained.
"If I'm supposed to apologize for that, it's not going to happen," Angel said.
Heath shook his head. "No, it must be nice though, playing Superman to her Wonderwoman." He glanced at Buffy. "I'll ask you one more time to come home with me."
Buffy looked at Angel and then Heath. "Go home, Heath. Angel will stay with me."
Heath shook his head. "Of course he will." He walked off toward the car.
Buffy's eyes found Angel's and her bottom lip trembled. "I think I just destroyed my marriage, but I couldn't leave my little girl here to spend her first night by herself."
Angel nodded, not sure that there was anything to say to her. Buffy reached out for his hand, found it and squeezed it. She tugged him down to sit back against a tree, much the way they had the night her mother had been buried.
Angel held her tight enough to leave bruises when the earth moving machines came to cover up Kiley's grave and still she closed her eyes and whispered "tighter, tighter."
They spent the night in a haze of tears. Buffy alternated between half hysterical and eerie calm.
"I shouldn't go to so many funerals. I was supposed to die before everyone, before Giles, before Mom, and so long before my little girl. I can't remember how old Kiley was when she took her first step and I'm not sure what her first word was, but the moment she took her first breath and the moment she took her last…Oh God, Angel, sometimes I don't know if I can handle having those memories."
He kissed the top of her head. He knew she probably expected him to have answers, all the people he'd killed, all the ones he'd seen die and he didn't. There was nothing he could say that would ease her pain.
"But you know what scares me more than that?"
"What?" He asked.
"Forgetting those memories."
He shook his head. This was something he did know a little about. "I still remember the first time I held my little sister, Kathy and two hundred and fifty three years ago I killed her. I remember what it felt like when she took her last breath. You won't ever forget, Buffy and you won't ever stop missing her, you just learn how to live with it."
"What if I can't?"
"I'll help you."
She was quiet as they watched the sunrise over the cemetery together. "How long can you stay this time, Angel?"
"How's forever? Does forever work for you?"