Title: he kindly stopped for me

Author: uskohakuchan

Warnings: heavy!angst

Summary: Angel comes on the twenty-sixth day. Set Season 6, post "Bargaining". Goes way AU after that.

Author's Note: I'm so, so sorry I haven't written anything in so long. I've had so many RL issues (schoolwork, computer crashes, more schoolwork). I promise, promise, promise the next thing I'm doing will be adding the next chapter of YNMS (that would've been first, but the computer crash stole my chapter). Anyways, this fic is really different for me. I have no idea where I got the idea from, but the style was inspired by trixen's lovely Buffy/Angel fic "for him, while dreaming". I hope you like it.

Dedicated to angel'sblueeyedgirl (Jen) who's been doing such a lovely job beta'ing her own fics recently (and I shall be reviewing asap to tell you how much I love them!)

And one last thing!! On livejournal, there is a jossverse big bang currently on going and buffyverse big bang in the works. I'm so excited by this, I don't think you guys understand. What's a big bang you ask? Why, its a challenge where writers get together and write fics usually 15,000 words or more. So, if anyone's interested in fics of this sort (i.e. reading or writing them) please head over there because it isn't fair that all the other fandoms get big bang love except for 's a link in my profile if you want to read more.

Okay, on with the fic.



She tells her friends on the first day.

She stares into their pale faces and tightens her face into the semblance of a smile, says it's nothing to worry about – "It's not the end of the world" – and goes upstairs to take a shower. She smells like ammonia and fried chicken and the lingering stench of death.

She doubts a shower could wash that scent away.

-

They have an intervention on the third day.

They corner her in the living room, after she gets home from work. It's Xander, Willow, Tara, and Dawn. She notices a distinct lack of Anya and wonders if it was deliberate, wonders if they told her to stay away, wonders why they kept Dawn instead. She stands in the doorway by the window. Her back is sore, and she has a headache but she knows she can't leave. They'd follow her upstairs, and the second floor hallway is too narrow for a confrontation.

"Buffy, you have to see a doctor. You have to start getting treatments," Willow says, her face set into hard lines of worry and fear. Fear that she would lose Buffy, her friend, her protector, her savior. Tara stands behind her and nods, apprehensive – always apprehensive – as if she's afraid to speak, afraid to agree.

"Yeah, Buffster. Remember your mom. We don't want to lose you, too. What would we do without you?" Xander adds. He's sitting on the arm of the couch, one leg bouncing on the floor. She can see the imprint in the rug under his shoe, can tell he's been doing it for awhile.

It's Dawn's turn then. She's pale and there are tears already in her eyes. Buffy wants to walk over to her and wipe them away before they start, but she stays still and waits until she speaks.

"Buffy, I can't – I can't lose you again. I just – I can't – " and her voice breaks and the tears fall, staining the carpet.

She looks from one face to other. She wants to shout at them that it doesn't matter because she doesn't care, wants to ask them how they expect her to pay for hospital bills and treatment plans when she hasn't even paid off her mother's hospital bills – they still sit under a pile of others like them, hidden in the collection of red numbers and finely-printed threats. She wants to ask them why they don't get it, she should be dead, deserves it, death is her gift after all, and she's getting tired of waiting for it to come (secretly she wonders if it'll come wrapped up in silver wrapping paper and a shiny red bow, but then she remembers falling and light and knows that it's not like that, it's nothing like that). She wants to throw her hands in the air and crush the walls with her fists, reopening the cuts on her fingers that had healed like they were never there to begin with (like she had never crawled out of the grave, like she was still lost and suffocating and wondering where the light had gone).

But mostly she just wants to sleep.

So instead she replies, "Its okay, you guys. You don't have to worry about me. I'll go see the doctor tomorrow, start discussing treatment options. Don't worry, I'm like a cat. I've got nine lives."

She goes to comfort Dawn and doesn't mention that her nine lives are almost up. By the looks on their faces, she doesn't think she has to.

-

Xander finds her passed out on the floor on the eighth day. Or so they tell her.

From the looks on their faces and the distinct absence of Dawn, she doubts that it's the truth.

Willow tells her that they're going to make her an appointment for the doctor's, admonishes her for not doing so on her own, for not keeping her promise.

Buffy nods. She has a headache and she just wants them to leave. They say a few other things, but the words are lost on her.

She spends the rest of the day in bed, staring out the window. The sun is too bright, but she doesn't close the shades.

-

She has her appointment on the tenth day, but she doesn't go.

Instead she spends the day walking through graveyards. She reads a couple of headstones and places flowers (pulled out of gardens she passed; they wouldn't miss one or two) at a couple of graves, but mostly she just walks around, breathing in the still air. She feels closer to home – not home, but peace, quiet, light – there and when she walks by a grave, she can almost imagine she's one of those silent skeletons buried deep beneath the layers of dirt and grass.

She passes by Spike's crypt, but she doesn't stay to chat.

She stops at her grave, but she doesn't linger long.

-

She stops going to work on the thirteenth day.

She leaves her room once, in the morning, to get a glass of water and walks into Dawn. Her sister – blood, key – trembles and stammers out a "good morning, Buffy" before running out the kitchen. After she's washed her glass (she's glad the water is working, at least her check – two-hundred and thirteen dollars from the Doublemeat Palace – was good for something), she walks out the kitchen to go upstairs, and Dawn is waiting.

"Dawnie" she begins to ask, but Dawn cuts her off with a hug. She's grown taller since the last time Buffy saw her, or maybe it's Buffy who's grown shorter.

"I missed you. Please don't leave me," she says, hugging Buffy tighter.

Buffy doesn't say anything, doesn't make any promises she knows she can't keep.

-

Giles comes back on the nineteenth day.

She bets they called him as soon as she was revived. Resurrected. Reanimated. She bets that he had listened in disbelief, rubbing his glasses with his shirt the whole time. She bets that he drank a glass of whiskey, or two, or three, before he started to get his affairs in order.

She wonders why it took him so long to get here.

"Buffy…I didn't believe. I didn't think. Oh, Buffy." He hugs her and he smells like tweed, books, and dust. He smells like memories and so long ago, and she wants to be able to forget herself in that scent.

He talks to her about treatment options, tells her that he'll pay for everything. She nods and smiles, the constant headache thrumming in her ears.

Halfway through the conversation, she throws up on his shoes. The room smells like sickness and death, and the sight of the red, the blood, on the carpet makes her dizzy.

-

Angel comes on the twenty-sixth day.

She feels him before she sees him and thinks about brushing her hair. It's a long and tangled mess and Dawn had wanted to cut it, but she had stopped her. She needed it to tell her how much time had passed.

It's night and the moon is full in the sky. She watches him get out his car from her perch by the window. She supposes that he was their last option. If nobody else can…than he'll have to do.

When he walks into her room, he shuts the door behind him.

"Buffy," he says in the same tone he always does – like her name is love, hope, a prayer – though, there's a touch of anguish to it – like her name is love, hope, a curse.

"Angel," she says back and her chest aches with the word. Angel, and it echoes throughout her core, reverberating off her soul and moving outwards.

She doesn't know what to say after that and neither does he, so they stare at one another. She always felt that he looked at her with hungry eyes, and she knows this time for sure that he's drinking her in, feasting on her image. It makes her feel good in the way that nothing else has since she's come back, and she drinks him in too, studying the new lines on his face, the darkness under his eyes, the tightness in his shoulders.

"I know why you came to see me," she says finally, breaking the silence, "and I know they've told you they already tried. I want you to know that it's okay, though. I'm okay. I'll be okay."

She turns away from him and stares out the window. The wind is blowing now, but her skin feels hot and sticky.

She feels him sit on the bed beside her, can feel him even though he's not touching her. She wants to kiss him, wants to tell him that she loves him so much that it hurts, but she says nothing and watches the moon in the sky.

The quiet passes like a lifetime of silent goodbyes.

"Buffy," he starts, and Buffy turns back. His shoulders are hunched, and he's staring down into his hands. She doesn't know what he's seeing, but the look on his face tells her that it isn't pretty. He looks so fragile, like if she touched him he'd break – or turn to dust and fly away on the night breeze.

"I want – " She wraps her arms around him then and presses her fingers into his back, digging in, drawing blood. The air hangs with a thickness of a million unspoken words – promises of love, accusations, apologies. He shudders beneath her, and she hugs him tighter, the tears spilling down her cheeks and into the curve of his neck where she's pressed her face.

"I know," she says into his skin.

Angel comes on the twenty-sixth day, and Buffy's world ends.