Title: Life After Death (17th in the 'Death' series)

Author: Goldy

Email: thegoldoneb_a@hotmail.com

Disclaimer: Joss is the big owner. I own nothing that has to do with this show. Believe me when I say *NOTHING*. Don't sue. And the awesome song is by Shania Twain (Canadian!) from her new album.

Synopsis: Buffy and Angel think of the future. Angst and fluff ensues.

Author's note: I had to disallow anonymous reviews again thanks to my own little flamer. I swear, B/Sers, giving hundreds of annoying reviews really doesn't make me like Spuffy any better.

A/N 2: Last Death Story ever. Really! It is! I'm ready to move on. I've been working on this freakin' thing for more than 18 months. Time to move to something else.

Dedication: To Laura. For making me laugh, for the beta, and for her story Second Chance. Also to Sarah Michelle Geller because she always knows exactly what to say about B/A. Not to mention that SMILE in 'End of Days'. I love that smile!

Rating: R

Somewhere a clock is ticking.

Tick, tick, tick.

It's the kind of tick that usually drones comfortably in the background. Now it's the kind of tick that makes silences stretch out into infinity. It's the kind of tick that makes teeth grind together when the room is silent.

It's hard… facing the rest of the gang, being forced into watching Angel try to say something—anything to make it better. And all the while knowing that there's nothing that he *can* say. Angelus will change things forever.

I vaguely consider yelling. Anything to stop the unbearable silence—broken only by the ticking of the clock. Time is always moving.

They say that time cures even the deepest of wounds. Break up with someone, move on in time. Oh? You're mother died and you have to look after your sister? Give it some time, you'll get used to it. What? You came back from the dead? From heaven? Give it enough time, you'll get used to living in hell.

He's talking to them now, saying some meaningless apologies. Flashing them his hurt look, that look he gives when he's done something terrible and he knows he can't ever make it better, but please give him another chance. I should know, I've seen that look more than anyone else.

I suppose that time does heal some of the deepest wounds. Yet, it can't ever heal all of them. We're doomed to live on, repeating our mistakes and holding on to a past that can never be true again.

"There's the future," I mutter aloud. They all turn to look at me.  "Maybe… maybe we have a real chance now."

Angel stares at me, understanding my words perfectly. *We* have a chance now. We have a future. And that's… that's something that I had never allowed myself to think about.

I can almost sense him relax. It's going to be okay. Cordelia bitches about Fred, funeral arrangements—like that will make the situation any better. Gunn makes some more snotty comments about Angel killing people and having sex to make it all better. Dawn cries some and Wesley interjects every once in a while that we must all be calm and not let our personal feelings get in the way.

It's so familiar it's almost comforting. I'm almost facing the scooby gang in Sunnydale. Like the time that they all found out Angel was back. It was almost the same, Xander lashing out, Willow trying to be soothing, and Giles trying to calm everyone down.

Either way, I can tell that it will be okay. After all, they did do the spell to bind his soul. Partly, I suspect, because they were afraid I wasn't strong enough to kill him. I Hope, they'll never know how close it was.

Ethan Rayne is gone.

I'm not even surprised. I don't know what I'd do if he were here. Smack him for putting the whammy on me? Kiss him for helping Angel? Gunn seems marginally embarrassed, but I can't find the will to care.

Then comes the big hugging scene. After the yelling is over and the tears have finished, they all seem to melt together. Even Dawn manages to find herself in the middle of it

I stand to the side, watching them. I still feel like an outsider, watching him with his gang. I'd do anything for any of them—even Cordelia. But I'm not really one of them. I don't think I ever can be.

I make my way to the gardens, shooting the big grandfather clock in the lobby a dirty look. The Hyperion has really beautiful gardens. I remember nights coming to sit out here when it got too difficult to sleep in the same bed as Angel.

The night is chilly and I rub the goosebumps on my arms. A lump gathers in my throat. He'll be okay. I can see how much he's hurting, and I'll never accuse any of his friends of being particularly forgiving. But I can see it—the tightening of the bond as they manage to defeat the forces of evil once again. Doesn't matter that the evil was wearing a familiar face.

The night air is sweet and cleansing in my lungs. I like looking at the city in the night, the twinkling of the lights in the distance, the stars in the sky, and the soft outline of the flowers. I can make out the faint purple of a lilac tree in the distance.

It's good for me, I think. To see how beautiful the world can be. It's not just a loud and lonely place, there can be beauty and friendship. Love and kindness.

For the first time, I'm glad to be given a second chance. When Willow brought me back, when she forced my eyes open in my coffin, I thought I was being punished. But life is like a clock, given time it can be beautiful. Without my sadness I wouldn't be able to fully appreciate the gift I'd been given when Angel's soul came back to his body.

"Penny for your thoughts?"

Startled, I turn around, relaxing upon seeing Angel's faint outlines in the doorway. I shrug, gazing off into the darkness. I'm slightly embarrassed for not noticing him, it's not usual that something can catch me off guard.

He comes up behind me, rubbing my arms. "You're cold."

I smile fondly at a memory of a place far away, a time gone past. An innocence that can never again be regained for Angel and I. I turn around to gaze at him. "Do I get another jacket out of it?"

His eyes light up as he slides his jacket off his shoulders and places it around mine. "I'm never going to let you be cold again, I promise."

He's so beautiful in the night. The outline of his body always looks more graceful in the dark, like the flex of a cat waiting to pounce. "You're cold blooded."

He gathers me close. "Just the thought of you makes me warm."

I sigh in pleasure, feeling that familiar throbbing between my legs. "You should be in there with them."

"I should be with you," he whispers, tilting my chin up.

"I don't belong in there, Angel. You know that."

His gaze is always penetrating. We can communicate so well by looking into each other's eyes. He can plead with me, burn me until I reveal what's really going on, bore into me hungrily, just with one look. It's uncanny. I place my hand on his dead heart, almost feeling like the touch of my fingers could make it beat.

Angel grasps my hand, his eyes softening. "You're a part of them. They know that."

"They blame me for letting you out, for not rescuing Fred," I confess.

"Gunn doesn't."

That makes me snicker and I lean up to kiss him softly. I love soft kisses and I love knowing that I can kiss him harder, more passionately if I want to. "Gunn has the hots for me," I share quietly.

His hand tangles in my hair and he brings my head up. Our lips meet again, our mouths opening as it becomes deeper. When he pulls away, I know I'm letting out sharp puffs of air on his face. "I'll have to kill him now," he growls.

My heart begins to speed up, I love the territorial side of him, too. I'm *his* and too bad for anyone else. "I don't know… Gunn does have that whole 'angry at the world' thing down pretty well."

He glares at me, obviously not finding my quip very funny. "Are you trying to tell me something?"

I grin devilishly. "Of course… he's never actually gone as far as trying to suck the world into hell."

"Stupid boy," he mutters.

We kiss again. Angel kisses are definitely in my top three favourite things. "Life is beautiful," I say softly when we part.

The look he gives me is so tender it makes my toes curl in wonder. "It is."

I touch his face, tracing his lips with my fingertips. "It's been a long time since I've felt this way."

"It's been a hard few years, love."

"No," I press my fingers down, silencing his words. I stand on my tiptoes, so our lips are just millimetres apart. "No, it's been a long time since I could kiss you—and not feel guilty."

I don't know who closed the rest of the distance, but I'm pressed up against him, mouth crushed against his. I never want to stop. I want to feel his lips against mine, his body crushing mine forever. Nothing ever felt more right, complete, than being with Angel.

I fall to my back and look up at the stars as he enters me. I cry out with the force of our joining and watch as the stars twinkle in the distance. I feel like someone from up there is smiling down on us.

It's about bloody time.

I arch against him, wanting to take him deeper until he splits me in two. Nothing heals the deepest wounds inside me more than being joined with him. Our pace becomes harder, and stars explode behind my eyes.

And when it's over, he collapses on me. I hold him there, rubbing his back gently and breathing hard into his neck. He's heavy, but I like it. It makes me feel secure to have him surround me so completely.

We share a gentle kiss and he cups my face. "You're a part of me, so you're a part of them."

And that is that. I can't argue when faced against such insurmountable words. So we go back inside and I do the hugging and crying with the rest of them. Even Cordelia and I share a tender moment. I'm able to realise how they are Angel's family—and they are my family, too. They'd give their lives for mine.

And they almost had. They had trusted Ethan enough to perform a spell that could have spelled doom for all of us. They did it because they knew I, most of all, couldn't have gone on without him.

Through my tears and my sadness, my love and my sorrow, my heart begins to fill again. Time can heal even the deepest of wounds—time made me love my life again.

***

Fred's funeral.

It's a rainy day, as if symbolising the anguish of Fred's loss to the world. To me it's another friend that I've had to bury too early, another life that I haven't been able to save. To Angel… to Angel it's the epitome of all the fear that he is forced to live with every day.

To the others, it's a friend who's died in the line of duty. And none of us will ever forget Fred—or the fact that she died when it could easily have been any of us.

The hardest part is seeing her parents. They cling to each other, but are surprisingly warm to the gang. It's clear that they don't blame any of us for what happened. They believe that Winifred Burkle died doing her duty.

Angel looks like he'll keel over when he talks to them, and I know he wants so badly to confess that he did it. But he's even more petrified of them finding out. For my part, I can't say anything to them. Seeing their faces and obvious relation to Fred cuts me too deep.

It's a closed casket service.

The funeral procession is at night. I don't stand near Angel—I can't bear it. I hold on to Dawn instead. I know everyone else is crying, but I can't let myself. I stare wide-eyed as the coffin is laid into the grave. A chill shakes me and I turn away.

A safe distance away, I let myself dry heave onto the cold of the earth. The rain splashes down around me and I cradle my head in my arms. I remember all too well the pain of awaking in my coffin. The tightness of the walls and the stifling heat that tried to choke me.

And the only thing in Fred's coffin is some ash from the bottom of a warehouse.

I gasp, my lungs sucking in air too fast. Dizzy, I put out a hand to stop the crash of my fall. The ground is wet and damp and dirt clings to the palm of my hand. I get up slowly, closing my eyes.

Fred is dead. She can't feel the oppression of the coffin and the confinement of the earth being thrown on top of her. I press my fingers to my eyes, willing the images to leave. Shakily I climb back to her grave. Only Angel is left. I watch him for a minute, my breath coming out in sharp gasps.

He turns around to look at me, his eyes darkening with realisation when he spies the splashes of dirt on my clothes and the tight quiver of my mouth. He holds out an arm and I go to him.

We look at her grave for a little while longer, our thoughts too deep and complex to be broken by words. The rain drips down and I lean against him gratefully.

She's dead. And I finally let myself cry in grief.

****

The beach.

I love the beach, as Angel rightfully knows. He says that he wanted to bring me someplace where we can just be ourselves. It's always beautiful here, and I love how it makes me feel young and carefree again.

We sit together on the beach, a little picnic spread out before us. The waves crash onto the jagged rocks of the cove and the wind blows through the blonde of my hair. The air is sweet and slightly tangy with the taste of salt.

I smile at him, leaning back to study the planes of his face. "You like bringing me here."

His eyes light up. "I wanted to bring you to a place that meant something." He grasps my hand, "This is where our lives turn. I'm going to make you happy from now on."

"You could always make me happy," I say. And it's true… he could just also make me more miserable than anything else.

{           If I were the moon, I could

 catch your eye – I'm jealous of the moon

            If I were the wind, I would

 make you fly – I'm jealous of that too }

He stands up, pulling me with him. "Will you dance with me?"

"There's no music," I protest, but I slide against him, anyway.

He wraps his arms around me, moving us slowly across the sand. The moonlight bathes us in its glow and I close my eyes in contentment. "We can make our own music," he whispers in my ear.

{           I wish I were the sun shinning

     on your face – caressing like a lover

 I would wrap you up in a warm embrace –

            we'd be holdin' one another

              (I'm jealous of the sun)

               I'm jealous of the sun

            (Jealous of the sun) Oh,

             I'm jealous of the sun                        }

I sigh, breathing him. Angel is always clean, very fresh smelling for a vampire, if I do say so myself. I love the way he smells, like a new bar of Ivory soap that has yet to be opened. It never fails to soothe and comfort me.

His hands trail over my back, wonderingly touching me with each tip and brush of a fingertip. He loves to touch me, hold me, kiss me. It's a gift for him. Every time our lips meet it's a privilege—a reward.

{      Oh, I don't wanna share you with

    nothing else – I gotta have you to myself

      Oh, - I can't help it – I'm so in love –

     I just can't have you close enough, no

     When the sun's on your skin –

               I can't hold it in

        And I know it's a sin –

    But I'm jealous of the sun               }

Our lips meet, the kiss slow and passionate. His hand tangles in my hair, the other lazily creeping down my spine. I open my mouth and our tongues meet and dance. The water crashes against the shore and Angel kisses me. The world could have gone to hell in that moment and I wouldn't have noticed.

He pulls away and rests his forehead against mine. "I could kiss you forever," he murmurs, rocking me gently.

I sigh and lean my head against his chest. I'm so safe in his arms. He's my rock, no matter how bad the storm gets. I know I'll always have him. "I love you."

"And I love you, Ms. Summers."

{I wish I were the rain runnin' down your

   neck – and drippin' from your fingers

 Then I could be the drops rollin' off your

          Back – I'd love to let it linger

             (Jealous of the rain) Oh,

               I'm jealous of the rain         }

The sand sifts between my toes and is cool against the skin of my feet. The only thing around for miles is just the two of us, the water crashing against the shore, the wind in my hair, and the moonlight that bathes us in its glow.

All the pain, the death, the terror is gone. I can't help but grin at him, a grin so wide that he can't do anything but smile back. Despite everything we've had to go through, I've seen Angel smile more times since he got his soul back than in six previous years. Every time he smiles it's like he's igniting a flame in my heart.

He loves being allowed to be happy—and I love trying to make him happy.

Our next kiss is sweet and chaste, a slight brush of my lips against his. It's a silent promise of love and devotion. Then we rock together, slow and sensuously. We dance to the tune in our hearts.

 He touches my hair and gazes down at me.  "You look beautiful in the moon."

I tilt my head up, meet his eyes. "So do you," I tell him truthfully.

{ When the moon's in your eyes –

 you seem to light up the skies, yeah

                And I realize –

    I'm even jealous of the moon         }

He rocks us towards the crash of the water, pulling me against him so that we can gaze out at the ocean's expanse. I give an involuntary shiver. "I had a dream about this once."

He's so still behind me that I can hear the pounding of my heart in my ears. "I know."

The memory of that time comes rushing back to me. Of being Anne and trying to live with the guilt of her lover's blood on her hands. "We were at the beach, and you were holding me. You promised to stay with me forever."

His arms tighten around me. " 'Even if you kill me.'"

I blink back the tears of the painful memory. "Angel, we were in the sun. You were standing in direct sunlight."

He slowly turns me around so that I can look him in the eye. "Buffy… there's something that I haven't told you." Some of my instant fear must show on my face because he smiles warmly. "It's good."

I cock my head, "Angel…?"

He takes my hand, directing it so it points to the quiet of the beach. "Imagine," he breathed huskily in my ear, "our children running along that beach."

My heart speeds up and the breath catches in my throat. "Where are we?"

He moves my hand, "Over there. You're trying to get me to wear suntan lotion because I'm so pale. " He pauses, "You're even more beautiful in direct sunlight."

"Angel…"

"I'm serious," he says sharply. "Cordelia and Wesley are there, too. She's hitting him because he forgot the picnic basket on the counter."

I blink back tears that are suddenly threatening my vision. "Angel… you know we can't ever have it."

"We can," he says quietly.

His words catch me off guard, and I turn slowly around to watch him suspiciously. "What haven't you told me?"

He takes my small hand in his, places it upon his heart. "My heart is going to beat one day, Buffy."

My throat is dry and scratchy. Breathing makes it hurt. "Human…"

"There's a prophecy."

"Prophecy?"

"It's my reward, after several impending apocalypses, the vampire with a soul will live after the End of Days. My reward. My shanshu."

"Shanshu…." My head spins, and I lean against him to stop myself from falling over.

He holds me close. "I'm going to be human one day, Buffy."

"Why haven't you told me this before?"

He looks away. "It could be years away. I couldn't trap you in a dream that may never happen."

"Now?"

He presses a kiss to my forehead. "Now that dream seems closer than ever before."

I should probably be angry at him for keeping something this large from me. He probably found out three years ago from a prophecy Wesley thought meant he was going to die or something. Then some of that 18th century guilt got in the way and he figured I was better off not knowing.

It sounds just like him.

I can't be angry with him. He told me, I didn't have to find it out from Cordelia or some other horrible source. For the first time I'm allowed to plan a future for myself with little Buffys and Angels running around. The image makes me half smile/half grimace.

"Just how pale are you?" I tease gently, my eyes lighting up with the image.

He gives me an appreciative look. "Making all those children… we had to be indoors a lot."

I raise an eyebrow. "Really?"

 He smirks. "Gunn becomes quite jealous."

I chuckle. "It sounds too good to be true," I mutter. "With our luck, one of us will end up dead, staked, or evil by the time you actually get rewarded." My eyes widen pleadingly as I search for something in his face to reassure my fears.

"No, we'll get our reward."

"How can you be sure?"

"We got through everything this year, Buffy," he tells me honestly. "Pain, my alter ego, internal battles, yelling, Spike and even…"

"Even death," I finish.

He nods gravely and takes my hand. We slowly walk away from the beach. It's time to start being happy… and planning the future.

{ Oh, I don't wanna share you with nothing

         else – I gotta have you to myself

      Oh – I can't help it – I'm so in love –

      I just can't get you close enough, no           }

The End.

 As in the Very End.

As in it's finally over.

Here endeth my epic story of Buffy and Angel finding each other again.

I hope you've enjoyed.

Leaveth me feedback!