Disclaimer: Nothing here is mine.
Rating: PG 13 for pretty serious angst
Timeline: Takes place at Buffy and Angel's offscreen meeting that took place after Flooded (BtVS season 6) and Carpe Noctem (AtS season 3).
Author's Note: I have wanted to write a piece on the unseen meeting for a long time now, and I finally got around to it. I am very proud of this piece, I put a lot of thought and effort into it. It is very angsty but I think everyone will like it. The song is Everytime We Say Goodbye by Robbie Williams. The seniors at my school sang this for the spring concert last year and I loved it. Huge thanks to Amanda and Kitty for their input on my song selection. Please review, I live for feedback and I'd really love to know what you thought of this.
The sun was starting to set as the taxi pulled to a stop at the side of the road. "Are you sure this is where you want to be dropped off miss?" the driver asked uncertainly. "This is the middle of nowhere."
"I think that what I'm looking for is here," Buffy said quietly. She handed over a few bills. "Thank you."
"Whatever you say," the driver said with a sigh before driving away.
She crossed her arms in front of her to protect herself from the cool wind. Even in California, it got chilly when the sun set. She surveyed her surroundings, coming to a standstill underneath the overpass. Angel had been right: this was the perfect place. Just off the main road, underneath the shelter of the road passing above. It was on top of a hill and when you looked to the side, you could see the sun preparing to vanish from sight. He hadn't described the spot very specifically, he had just told her the general directions and said that she'd "know it when she saw it." And somehow she had, even though she had never been out this way before. Just another one of her mysterious connections with Angel that she had long since stopped trying to explain.
She stood there, facing the sun, covered in the pink glow that the sunset created. Her expression was blank, just running over the brief phone conversation from only a few hours earlier. She was glad that he had called, she had been craving to see him ever since...ever since she had come back, but she would have never worked up the nerve to act on it. She had been feeling a lot more timid these past few days.
She became so absorbed in her own thoughts that she didn't even notice the black convertible come to a gentle stop back on the road, or the black-clad figure that emerged from it, coming to a halt a few steps away from the car, and staring at her. "B-Buffy?" He spoke, awakening her from her daze.
She spun around to face him. Wordlessly they both ran to each other, meeting somewhere in the middle. They wrapped their arms around each other, entwined to the point that they almost appeared as one. "Oh God, Angel," Buffy said, her voice thick with emotion.
He cupped her face in his hands and held her back so he could look at her. "I...I thought I would never see you again."
Buffy stared into her former lover's eyes, the emotion of the past days desperately trying to overcome her. "Kiss me. Please."
Although everything in his mind was screaming at him that this was wrong, his utter joy at seeing her alive again combined with his grief at seeing the emptiness in her eyes could allow him to do nothing but oblige. He pulled her close to him, kissing her passionately, tenderly. She allowed herself to relax completely for the first time since her return, gratefully melting into his arms. They broke apart after several moments, breathing heavily. "Oh God Angel, I feel so lost," she sobbed, the tears spilling free.
He took her in his arms, only a little shocked by the utter pain she seemed to be experiencing. He had known the moment he had heard her voice that something was horribly wrong, and he had a feeling that he knew what it was. "Ssshhh. It's okay. I'm here now."
She stood there in his embrace, letting all of the pain and tears flow freely. They stood there like that for a long time, until the last traces of sunlight had disappeared from the sky and darkness surrounded them. "Come here. It's okay," Angel soothed, leading her over to sit beneath the overpass in the grass. He relaxed against the support, holding her in his arms the same way he had over a year ago when her mother died. By this point she had stopped crying, but she was still clinging onto him for dear life.
"Angel, I don't know what to do. It hurts," she whispered.
He closed his eyes briefly, preparing to ask the question that he was dreading the answer to. "Are you...were you..." he paused, gathering himself. "Were you in a better place?"
She nodded her head ever so slightly. "It was perfect. I was happy there."
His heart broke for her. Part of him wished that Willow or Xander or someone responsible for her current pain was there, so he could punish them for it. But he knew that it hadn't been their intention. Still, that didn't mean her pain was any less. "Do your friends know?"
She shook her head. "I can't tell them. They...they didn't know. They wouldn't be able to deal with it." She thought silently about the one person she had told, but decided that Angel didn't need to know that, at least not right now.
Angel nodded, understanding her reasoning. "I'm sorry I couldn't see you sooner, I just found out today..."
"I think Willow wanted to wait until I was a little adjusted," Buffy said, almost laughing at the thought.
"Yeah...she came to me, when...back when you were gone," he said, remembering seeing the redhead in his hotel lobby and knowing deep down from her expression that his worst fear had come true.
Buffy nodded, she had assumed as much. "I'm sorry, you must have been in so much pain...if you ever...I wouldn't be able to continue living."
"My pain is nothing compared to yours," he insisted. "Have you...is it getting any easier?"
She lied her head on his shoulder. "I don't know if I know what easy is anymore. It seems like now everything is twice as hard. Just getting out of bed in the morning take twice as much strength. And they don't understand. They don't know how hard it is. They all think I was in some hell dimension," she said sadly.
"I'm so sorry," Angel said slowly. "You shouldn't have to be in pain."
She shook her head. "It seems like it's a pattern with me." He cringed inwardly, knowing that he had caused much of the pain she spoke of. "But I'm Buffy. I'm strong, I can always put my pain aside and do what's right. Except I can't anymore. I don't know Angel, I feel like when I came back, a part of me got left behind there, and I don't think I'm ever going to get it back," she said, as a few more tears fell.
He kissed the top of her head. "I'm here. I'm going to help you."
There was a brief silence before she spoke again. "Did Willow tell you what happened? When I..." her voice trailed off.
He nodded. "It was an amazing thing that you did."
She smiled a little. "I don't think I could explain it to you...but when I was on top of that tower, with Dawn, when I realized what I had to do...it was like my entire life had led up to that moment. When I realized what I had to do this..incredible feeling of peace just washed over me. I thought I had finally found my purpose in the world. I thought, okay, this is right. This is what you were meant to do. You found your destiny. No more fighting. And I thought that the entire time I was up there. I think that's why I was so happy." She took a breath before continuing. "But now I'm here again, and I feel more lost than I ever have. The only moment that I haven't been in pain was when you kissed me back there."
"It must be so hard," he whispered.
"The hardest part is pretending that I'm glad to be here. I have to keep acting like it's all okay. You don't know how exhausting it is."
He hugged her tightly. "I feel so selfish...because I can't help being glad that you're alive."
She closed her eyes. "I am just so confused. I thought I had found my destiny, but I guess I was wrong."
"Maybe this is part of it," Angel reasoned. "Maybe you will work through all of this pain and everything will be all right."
She smiled sadly. "You make it sound so hopeful." She hesitated. "You know, it's true, what they say." She turned around slightly to look at him. "That when you die, your whole life flashes before your eyes."
He watched her intently. God she was so beautiful. "What did you see?"
She managed a small smile. "Mostly you." She relaxed against him again. "I saw everyone else too. But mostly you." She ran her fingers up and down his arm. "The first time we kissed...the first time we made love."
He closed his eyes and remembered the night of her seventeenth birthday, the happiest night of his life. It was easy to forget, with all the pain that had come afterwards, but he remembered every detail of that night. That one, perfect night.
"You felt so good," she said, absorbed in the memory.
"You too," he said in response.
She shook her head slightly. "Up on that tower, everything was just so clear. I would give anything to feel that kind of peace again."
"Buffy, you have to believe that you're back for a reason," he said. "Dawn needs you. You're all she has left."
"I know. And that's why I feel so guilty! I know that she needs me, I know that I'm wanted here, but I'm the selfish one, because a big part of me doesn't want to be here," she confessed.
His heart was breaking for her. He pulled her as close to him as humanly possible. "It's not wrong to feel that way. What you are going through...it's hard to even imagine. What you need to do is just try to focus on the positive things. Like your sister."
"It's just so hard. You see, here, tonight, with you, this is the only time I've been allowed to just let go. Once I get back there, I have to put a smile on my face and try to pretend that everything is peachy. On top of that I have to fight evil, and raise my sister...oh and you know what the icing on the cake is?" Buffy said grimly. "I'm broke."
Angel couldn't help but feel the corners of his mouth start to twitch. Before he knew it they were both laughing. "It's good to see that," he said with a smile.
"What?" she groaned.
"You smiling," he said, lightly touching her lips.
"It's a rare occasion lately," she said sadly, still facing him. She sighed loudly. "God I wish I could just stay here forever, with you."
"Me too," he said. He paused, debating over whether he should voice the thought in his mind. "If you want, I can come back with you. Stay nearby for a while, just in case you need to talk."
She looked directly into his eyes, the smile gone. "I think we both know I'm too vulnerable right now. I...I don't have the energy to be strong, not about us. It would only end badly."
He nodded, knowing that she was right. "I just wanted to make the offer."
"And I appreciate it. So much." She stared off into space. "You don't know how much better I feel, just being able to get all of that off my chest." She looked at him again. "To feel you holding me."
"I don't want you to go," he whispered, the pain heavy in his chest.
"Believe me, I don't want to. But I have a life that I need to try and put back together." She tried to tell herself to stand up, move away from him, but she couldn't bring herself to.
He touched her cheek gently. "If you ever feel like you just can't take it anymore...please call me. I'll be there as fast as I can."
She nodded. "I know. And it means a lot for me to know that."
They stayed there silently for a few more moments, sitting so close that they touched, neither wanting to break the contact. "It's late. Dawn's expecting me," she said very quietly.
Using all of the will power he had, Angel managed to stand up, helping her up as well. "So I guess this is it. For now."
She nodded. "Angel, while I was...wherever I was, I had a lot of time to think about...everything. And I just want you to know that I don't blame you. For leaving me. I've accepted that it was what had to be done, I was just not strong enough to admit it."
"Buffy, you don't have to-"
"No, I really do. I have enough to deal with. You just need to know that..." she took a step closer to him. "I love you Angel. I know that I'll never stop."
He felt himself being pulled closer to her. "I love you too." Soon their faces were only inches apart. "Buffy..."
She reached out and put her arms around his neck. "Please. I need to remember what it's like to feel something," she begged.
He allowed himself to stop holding back, and kissed her hungrily. After a very long time, they broke apart, the intensity of the kiss still lingering between them. "I should probably go now," Buffy said, a lone tear trickling down her cheek. "Except...I don't have a car." She chuckled softly.
He smiled, blinking back the own tears in his eyes. "Right. I'll call you one," he said, taking his cell phone out of his pocket.
"Wow, check out 20th century Angel," Buffy tried to joke, frantically wiping at her eyes.
"Cordelia made me get it...for the business." She stood slightly off to the side, composing herself as he made the call. In a couple of hours she would be back home, back to everyday life. Although spending time with Angel had made her feel better, she could already feel the dread and fatigue setting in, knowing that she would have to continue her 'everything's fine' charade upon returning home.
"Your cab should be here in about ten minutes," Angel said, putting his phone away. "I'll wait with you until it comes."
She blinked, snapping back to reality. "Actually, I think I'd like a few minutes. Alone. I just need to think things through before I, you know, go back."
Angel frowned slightly. "I don't feel right leaving you out here alone."
Buffy gave him a look. "You should know by now that I can take care of myself."
Angel nodded. "You're right." He stood there for a moment, knowing he should be leaving but not wanting to. "Buffy, it's okay to feel emotions," he blurted out suddenly. "You don't have to be strong all the time."
She smiled sadly. "But if I'm not, then who is going to be?" She looked down. "You should go."
He nodded. "Just...remember that I'm here. Don't hesitate, if you ever need to talk, just to escape...you know where to find me."
She smiled slightly at him. "Thank you. Goodbye Angel," she tried to hold back the tears that seemed to be building up.
He started to speak, but decided against it. Instead he just smiled at her and then turned away and began the slow walk to his car.
"Angel," she called out after him, running a few steps.
He spun around. "Yeah?"
"Why did you want to meet me here? What is this place?" she asked curiously.
He had been wondering when she'd ask. "I...I stopped here, after I left Sunnydale, after your graduation. I just needed to think, to sort through everything, and I ended up here. Peaceful, isn't it?"
She nodded. "It's perfect." She hesitated. "Goodbye."
"Goodbye," he replied. He only waited a moment before turning around and walking to his car. He climbed in and closed his eyes for a minute. He hadn't known that it would be this hard, seeing her. Especially in so much pain. He forced himself to start the ignition, and then he turned back onto the road, only looking back once, to see her standing there, staring off into the abyss, her back to him.
Everytime we say goodbye
I die a little
Everytime we say goodbye
I wonder why a little
Why the gods above me
Who must be in the know
Think so little of me
They allow you to go
She listened until she could no longer hear his car. Silence and darkness surrounded her. She sat down on the dewy grass, just enjoying the calm. She wished more than anything that Angel could be with her all the time, then she might be able to get back to her old self. She knew that it had helped, just venting about her whole ordeal to someone had helped more than she ever would have thought. But the fact was that she still had a long struggle ahead of her. A small smile crossed her lips as she identified the new feeling she had amidst the dread, sadness, and exhaustion. Hope.
When you're near
There's such an air
Of spring about it
I can hear a lark somewhere
Begin to sing about it
There's no love song finer
But how strange the change
From major to minor
Everytime we say goodbye
She didn't know how long she sat there before she heard the cab pull off to the side of the road. She slowly stood up, taking in her surroundings once more. It was strange, but this place made her feel almost content.
She brushed herself off as she walked to the cab. She was surprised to see that it was the same driver from before. "Hello again," he said, as she sat down in the backseat. He peered at her in the rear view mirror. "So, did you find what you were looking for?"
A small smile spread across her lips. "Yes. I think I did."