Title: Even Death

Author: Goldy

Email: thegoldoneb_a@hotmail.com

Disclaimer: *snort*

Spoilers: Nothing major. The first couple of episodes of S6.

Summary: I couldn't quite wait until Tuesday. Here's the way the meeting should go. Plus it *includes* the crossover.

Rating: PG or PG-13. It's kinda heavy on the angst. Although, it does have a happy ending. If you're a B/Aer anyway…

Dedication: Anyone who believes in that Angel would really be the best one to comfort Buffy on her whole coming back from the death problem.

It's been over six months since my mom died. It's been about that long since I've last been to this place. I remember that day so clearly, even though so many other things are muddled. Finding her on the couch—telling Dawn. Of all the things that I wish I could forget, that day is definitely in the top three.

I didn't come out here that day, or the next, or even the next. But it was *soon* after she died that I decided that I needed to go to LA.

Of course, halfway there I had suddenly remembered just why that probably wasn't the best idea. So, instead, I had stopped at a bar right between Sunnydale and LA. It was one of those grunge places that no one in their right minds would bother to go to. Run-down, dark, dusty, a haven for all things that go bump in the night. It had fit my mood perfectly.

The weirdest part was that he had known somehow, and had been there that night. Maybe it had been fates way of helping me. It might have even been their way of helping him, from what he had told me that day things hadn't been exactly easy. I don't recall very much about that what was said between the two of us then, I think I had drunk even too much for my slayer senses to handle, but he had shown up for mom's funeral the next week so we must have talked about something.

When Angel called me, I have to admit that I had been surprised. I probably shouldn't have been, but I had pretty much forgotten about him in the last couple of days that I've been alive. He was always there close to the surface. Something that I wanted to think about but couldn't. Because to think about it would have made everything that much harder. It would have made everything that I had lost all that much harder.

I had to say hello three times before I had gotten any kind of a reply. Even then I could barely hear it, but it had sparked something deep inside me, something that I had thought died with me when I jumped off of that tower.

 "Buffy?" he had said to softly and so confused that I had almost started crying right there and then.

 Suddenly I had been transported back in time to another place when things had been easy and simple. When my biggest worry was finding time to study for a math test in between slaying and trying to keep up a normal life.

"Angel?" I had whispered over the phone. It was always a question, Angel are you there? Are you real? Do you love me?

 "I… I need to see you," he had fumbled, sounding like he might break down any minute.

had stood there in shock for a while, feeling guilty for not talking to him sooner. For not thinking of him sooner.

"Buffy?" he asked when I didn't make a reply.

       

"I'm here," I said shaking my head, trying to focus. But sometimes it could be so hard.

"You know where to meet me," Angel said and hung up.

I did know where to meet him. Here, at this run-down bar that fits my mood perfectly. Again. At least, I hope this is what he meant, but I don't know where else we could meet. I'm staring at the scotch in front of me, but I haven't taken a sip yet. It's crazy because I haven't even turned 21, but I don't get carded whenever I want alcohol. I think it's because I look so old. I'm 20 going on 70.

I can feel him. Those little hairs on the back of my neck stand up that absolutely scream vampire. But when he's around it also screams stuff like lover, and mate. I can feel his eyes on me, but I don't bother to turn around. He can come over to me when he wants, and the more time I get is fine. I don't even know what I'm supposed to say.

"Hi Angel! Guess what? My best friends brought me back from heaven and my life has never been worse, not even when you left me. How are you?"

Ha. Somehow I don't think that will work too well. It's strange, though, because I'm half-afraid that I may say exactly that. When it comes to Angel, he always manages to get me to say things that no one else can. I've told him stuff that no one else can even dream off. Sometimes that has gotten me in trouble and I'd end up hurting him because I'm the one who is hurting.

I can feel him getting closer and I can hear a sharp intake of breath behind me, but I still don't bother to move. I'm frozen. He also has that effect on me.

"Buffy?" he mutters behind me in disbelief and there's that question again. I can practically hear him thinking, 'are you real?' And this time I desperately want to answer him. I want to jump in his arms and sob against him and assure him that I'm here and I'm real even though I don't want to be. Except I can't, because I'm frozen.

I stare at my scotch and feel hot tears well behind my eyes. It isn't fair! The one thing that would make my existence in this world that much more bearable is forbidden to me.

Angel stands behind me, breathing heavily and not doing anything. I begin to wonder if he could get mad at me for not saying anything. Or maybe he'd get mad because I didn't call him earlier. Or maybe he's just like me, and he doesn't know what to say because he might say too much.

I hear him move and I know that he is standing beside me, waiting for me to say something that would confirm that it was me and I'm okay. But I can't because I'm not even sure if it is me or if I'm okay.

I feel his fingers under my chin and he gently forces my head to turn to meet his eyes. I feel the tears come closer to the surface. God, looking at him makes me feel a lot weaker, like I'm a little girl again. With Angel I don't have to pretend to be something I'm not. I don't have to be careful how I act just so I won't worry him.

He looks bad. Like he hasn't slept in a while. Or maybe like he barreled his way over here, breaking all speed limits in the process. I wouldn't be surprised if he had. It just seems like something he would do.

I can see the worry in his eyes as he looks me over. I know that if he looks bad, I must look awful. I can see it in his eyes. The way that they wash over me, taking note of the dark smudges around my eyes, and the way I can't seem to stop trembling slightly. He pauses when he gets to the dark cuts and bruises in my knuckles and realization dawns in his eyes. I feel my breath catch because he doesn't even need to say anything. I can feel his heart breaking for me.

"I'm okay," I finally manage to say in a hoarse voice. I know that he won't believe that for a second, but I can't help it. I suddenly don't want him to worry about me. And then it hits me like a truck barreling down the highway at a hundred miles per hour. I may have died, but my love for this man beside me certainly hasn't.

Angel doesn't say anything and the worry in his eyes doesn't diminish at all. He traces the counters of my face with his finger as if trying to reassure himself that I'm really here. I close my eyes and feel myself relax a little. I can feel the hesitation in his touch. I want him so badly to cradle me in his arms and hold me. I want the comfort that only he could provide. The only heaven in this hell.

"Angel," I whimper quietly. And there it is in those words. All the pain that I have been going through since I have been brought back. I know that he can't have any idea what has really happened, but I know that he understands and that's all that matters.

He sinks down to his knees and pulls me against him. I fall into his arms like a drowning man would grab on to a lifesaver. Here in this dank place, where no one knows us and no one cares about us, I can sob because I can't hold it in anymore. And he holds me and rocks me and whispers words of comfort in my ear.

It was good because it was Angel.

Finally, when there isn't anything left in me, I just lie against him hiccupping. His hands move up and down my back and through my hair and I hold him, making a decision to never let go. Life is too short.

"What did they do to you?" he mumbles in my ear, his voice sounding angry and oddly comforting at the same time.

It made me cry again because he cares so much, and he's the only one that doesn't expect anything from me. He doesn't expect me to go out and slay, or play mommy, or get a job, or say thank you.

I can feel him stiffen against me and I know that he thought that he had said something wrong to make me cry again. But he had said everything right. So I just hold him tighter because I don't think that I'm capable of speech.

When I had cried myself out for the second time I pull back a little. I know that Angel wants answers, but he would never push me to tell him anything. But he would expect me to tell him when I was ready. And I know that I will tell him everything when it's time for it. It's always been that way—Angel is the one I could share my problems with when there is no one else.

He wipes the last of my tears away with his thumb and I manage to give him a slight smile.

"I got you all wet," I sniffle.

Angel looks at me in surprise, "I don't mind."

I take a deep shaky breath, "I know."

He gave me the worst imitation of a smile that I have ever seen and my heart breaks all over again. I wonder how he handled my being gone. I know that if he ever left this world before me, I wouldn't be able to go on.

"You're really here," he said incredulously.

This time I nod, and I know that it is my time to comfort him. I'm right. Angel gathers me in his arms again and starts weeping quietly against me. This time I'm the one who rubs his back, reassuring him that I'm real.

When his tear ducts are empty, I know that it is time for answers. He looks at me and we communicate silently like we have always managed to do. I grab his hand and help him to his feet. I'm actually surprised that no one in this bar noticed us, but I think that they are too busy dealing with their own pain to pay attention to ours. That's just the kind of place this is.

We don't go far. Across the street to a motel that is just as dark and run- down as the bar we were just in. But that doesn't matter. Nothing much seems to matter when I'm with him. It's like we're the only two people in the world and all the pain and suffering that we've been through takes a back seat.

The paying for the room would be another matter.

"Angel, I… I don't have any money."

He looked at me oddly. "I wouldn't have expected you to bring any money out here."

I sigh. And blink away fresh tears. " No I mean, I don't have any money," I whimper. "Nothing. I'm broke. I can't pay for the repairs to my house. I can't set up a college fund for Dawn. I can barely even afford to put food on the table every night."

I see something go through his eye; a hard flash of anger that passed and then goes. I can't help but hold on to that flash, it made me feel whole again. Angel was looking out for me. Maybe this wasn't hell, after all.

"It's okay, I'll pay."

I nod. I figure that he probably would've anyway. "What are we doing?" I ask because I know what this sounds like and we both know *that* can never happen.

Angel looks at me with so much sadness that it makes me wonder just how bad I look. "I want you to get some rest," he says leaving no room for discussion.

I don't bother to point out that my bed isn't all that far away, or that it is free, or that it would probably be a lot more comfortable and cleaner than anything we are going to find at this motel. I know there is no point in bringing up those arguments because Angel knows that I can't sleep in my bed. He knows that I'll only be able to sleep far away from any memories that might assault my confused brain. And I feel a little lighter knowing that someone is going to be taking care of me. Finally.

The price for the room is cheap, but the room is even cheaper. It's like everything else where we were: dark and dank. It's like me. But it's perfect because it isn't Sunnydale and it isn't a group of people that are all fawning over me like I'm going to break any minute.

Angel nods towards the bed that looks like it hasn't been cleaned in weeks, but still it's okay. Suddenly I'm exhausted and since I pretty much haven't slept in a week, I think I have good reason to be. Angel looks at me and I can read the question in his eyes. It thrills me to know that even after all this time we can still communicate wordlessly. I take his hand and pull him down next to me. I curl my body up against his big strong one and let him rock me. For the first time since coming back I feel peaceful and I think that maybe, just maybe, life isn't so bad.

I can feel my eyelids grow heavy, but I'm so afraid of sleep. When I close my eyes and surrender to the darkness, the nightmares come, and I'm back in my coffin, running out of air, wondering how to get out. I feel a tremble go through me and Angel holds me tighter until I relax.

"I'm afraid," I admit.

He doesn't bother to ask me what I'm afraid of. I'm pretty sure that he knows. Someone who has done as much as he has in his lifetime must get some nightmares.

"Sleep," he says simply.

I bury against him, as if that could take away the nightmares. I know that he understands, and I also know that he is right. I need to sleep. But there were other things I'm afraid of.

"Stay," I state firmly.

I feel him stiffen, and I know that I'm going somewhere he doesn't want to go. But I won't let him leave me again. I did that once, and it made me weaker. I need him to go on, I need my strength.

"I'll stay as long as you need me," he answers after a pause.

I close my eyes and feel those tears again. I remember the last time he had said that, and he hadn't stayed as long as I needed him then. I had needed him forever, but he had left me and I had died. I went to heaven. Or at least I think I did. The more I try to remember the further away it gets. But I know that my friends were there and they were happy, and he was there, and we were happy. I was happy, for the first time in my life I had been truly happy. And that's what I remember.

"I need you forever," I say bitterly. "Angel, I could leave again at any time. I'm the slayer and my life is short. And it sucks. But you make it suck a little less."

"Sleep, we'll talk in the morning," Angel repeats.

I felt him withdrawing from me but I hold on. "No, not until you promise."

He is quiet for a really long time, and I'm starting to wonder if I said the wrong thing. "Angel, please," I beg feeling the tears come again.

"You don't have to beg, Buffy," he finally says. "I don't think I could ever leave you again. I just can't… you know that I can't…. love you in that way."

I shrug, "Whatever way you love me is good enough."

He got quiet again and I won't push him. He will talk to me when he's ready.

"Sleep," Angel repeats for the third time. "We'll talk when you wake up."

I close my eyes. He's right. I'm too tired to argue tonight anyway. I'll let him hold me and I'll let myself pretend that I'm in heaven and everything is all right. And then I drift off, somehow knowing that the nightmares can't reach me in Angel's arms.

When I open my eyes I'm greeted with his beautiful face staring at me like I'm an angel. I trace my finger over his lips. "I'm glad that you're here."

Angel immediately moves away from me and I stare at where he used to be, shocked at the sudden loss I feel. And then it hit me.

"You think it's your fault, don't you?"

Angel doesn't say anything, but I can physically feel him tense up.

"Angel, nothing you could have done would have changed what happened to me! I didn't have any choice. Glory was gone, but I still had to save the world. There was *nothing* anyone could have done to stop that."

"I don't care!" he yells and I can't help but jump. I don't remember there being a time where he has ever yelled at me. "You were in hell! Buffy, you didn't deserve that. You deserved a party and a visit from God on his knees! And if there was anything I could have done to prevent that—"

"Shut up!" I cry. I wish that people would stop saying that I was in hell. To hear him say it hurts. I always figured that he would know right away. I thought that he would take one look at me and know that I hadn't been in a demon dimension. I mean, after all, hadn't he taken the trip himself?

"You have no idea what you're talking about!"

Angel looks so shocked at my outburst that it almost made me laugh. It must be the bitter anger in my voice that got to him. Or it could be the hopelessness that doesn't seem so foreign anymore.

"They took away my gift," I say a little softer. I was getting near hysterics—if I didn't start crying I would laugh. "Death was my gift and they took it away from me. My best friends took away my gift."

Now he got it. I can see the realization dawn in his eyes. And then this anger. It seemed to consume him whole, and I was suddenly afraid of him. I was afraid of Angel. That was something that I never thought would be possible. I brought my knees up to my chest and started trembling violently. I don't want to make him mad. I just want to be told that everything is going to be okay.

I flinch a little when I felt his arms come around me, but he was gentle, so gentle when he pulled me against him. And I cried. Again. He rocks me and promises over and over again that he would never leave me alone. I cry until I felt purged. I cry until I'm empty. There is nothing left inside me.

"I love you," Angel whispers so quietly that I'm afraid that those words are just a fragment of my imagination.

But they are real. Angel loves me. Angel loves me. Angel still loves me. I was wrong. There is something left inside me after all, and it took him to bring it out again. My old self, the Buffy that everyone used to love, is down there. I can feel her, and I know that with the help of this man she will get a little closer to the surface everyday.

"I'm going back to Sunnydale with you," Angel growls dangerously.

I shiver a little, but I know that he isn't angry with me. He's angry with Willow and Xander and everyone else who helped bring me back. And that's fine with me. I'm glad that someone can yell at them, since I can't.

"And then we're going to sell the house and move you and Dawn to LA with me. We'll use the money from the house to pay back any debts. You can work with me and set up a college fund for Dawn."

I'm holding on to Angel gratefully. Here he is with a solution to all my problems. Or, at least, the money part. "Someone needs to protect Sunnydale," I argue pitifully. I like his idea. And I think I need it. I need out of Sunnydale. I understand why Giles needed to go to London so badly. I need to get away from the place where I died, and I need to get away from the people I thought were my friends.

"If Willow is so powerful she should be able to handle it," Angel says bitterly.

And I don't argue.

Angel brushes his lips over mine in a way too quick kiss, "Everything is going to be okay."

I thought there was no more tears left in me. I was wrong. Angel could, in fact, make me start crying again. "I love you, too," I sniffle and the look he gave me almost made everything really okay.

And I think everything will be okay. If Angel is with me, I can get through anything.

Even death.

END