Author's Note: This is an angsty little Valentine's ficlet inspired partially by Angel: Old Friends and partially by the season eight comic previews. I own none of it.

Cave

The little cabin is glossed over with ice, weighed down by so much snow she wonders that the roof has yet to cave in. It sags a little lower every year, the boards just the slightest bit blacker in the dreary snow-day sunlight. Every year, she notices just a little bit more, and cares just a little bit less.

"You came," he says as he opens the door, not needing to hear her knock. The scuttle of snow sliding from the roof nearly drowns out the sound of his voice. An icicle falls, jiggled loose by the unfamiliar movement. It hits her shoulder hard enough to send a little stab of pain all the way to her skin, and she sniffs a bitter half-laugh at the irony of the image.

"Right on schedule." In the years before, she would have had a witty comeback at the ready, enough zing for several rounds of banter. But that takes energy, a luxury she doesn't currently have. So she sticks to facts, statements, the truth. It isn't her problem if nobody bothers to ask.

"They won't miss you?" His voice is filled with the guilty concern of a cheating lover, hungry eyes masked by uncertainty. And they are being unfaithful, but there is so much more at stake. Loyalties worth more than their lives; perhaps, indirectly, the wellbeing of every living thing on the planet.

"They won't miss me." She is certain. The others know her well by now. Know to expect the blank stare which creeps over her face when she isn't engaged directly, the lack of vigor in her work. They know that she can't be trusted with any mission that matters, or any secret with the potential to destroy her. They know that she will inevitably disappear for the week around her birthday, though no one has ever found out where she goes.

"You shouldn't be here." It's their tradition, his telling her to leave. It helps assuage the guilt, knowing that he's tried. But they are inexorable, forever tangled up in each other's destruction.

"Let me in, Angel." They both wonder if she's talking about more than the cabin, and think that it's a distinct possibility. He steps aside, and more snow cascades down to form a little heap on the stoop as she closes the door behind them. The roof groans.

It's no warmer inside, but four walls and a ceiling add to the air of secrecy. He has no furniture but a table and a chair, the fireplace filled with the same black ashes that have laid there for years. The rest of the cabin is cold and bare, a torment he has invented for himself. She's never asked where he sleeps or how he manages to survive. She doesn't want to know anymore.

"I don't have any firewood," he says forlornly. He never has any firewood. "I'm sorry."

"I'll live." Sometimes, when she says this, she wonders if it's true. And whether she wants it to be. She's stopped telling him that she can't feel the cold, that temperature doesn't matter. She's stopped expecting him to say the right words to make it okay again, because nothing can do that now.

"Buffy…" He trails off, because they've reached the point where they run out of words.

Wordlessly she steps forward and runs her hands down the arms he's crossed over his chest. He shudders under her touch but does not resist, a familiar look of defeat drifting over him. They both know why she's come. Why she comes every year on her birthday. There is no sense in prolonging the inevitable.

With another step she closes the gap between them and presses cold lips to his. He utters a low, desperate moan into her mouth, his hands going to her waist. She's wearing the long jacket that ties in front, the same one as always. It's a little more stained this year, a little more tattered. It doesn't matter as his fingers find the knot and tug, as the jacket falls to the floor with a quiet thud.

His shirt is black silk, and so threadbare she can practically see through it. The buttons slip apart in her fingers, though her hands are so numb she can't feel them. She wonders what it must be like for him, having blood so cold it's nearly frozen. She thinks she might already know. He pulls her sweater up over her head, and her arms rise to help him almost of their own accord. She's not wearing anything under it, but he hardly pauses to notice before running calloused palms over her breasts.

There's a storm coming; she can hear it rumbling just off the horizon outside. She bites her lip as she tugs at his belt buckle, little goosebumps standing up over every inch of her exposed skin. He tugs her jeans and underwear to the floor in one rough motion, his belt buckle snapping open at the same moment. She lets it drop, and his pants practically fall from his gaunt frame.

Her lips find his again as he backs her up against the table, her hand slipping down to brush the length of him. She doesn't bother to ask anymore, and he no longer hesitates as he lays her out before him, trapping her between the cold hardness of the table and his body. They are inevitable, irrevocable, utterly beyond hope. Nothing will ever be right again, not right enough to matter.

The wind picks up outside, gusting around the cabin so loud she can't tell which voice it is howling as she opens her legs to take him in. The table groans as they move, the decayed wood of the floorboards underneath cracking. They break it a little more, every year. Above, the roof creaks under the weight of still more snow.

She presses her lips together as she comes, as he goes still beneath her. It occurs to her suddenly that she has lost track of her birthdays, of the years. It does not matter. It was the same last year; it will be the same again. She thinks that she ought to feel better, or at least a little bit warm. But there is only the storm.

The weight of the snow and time bears down. Soon, it will be too much. The deluge will come.