It didn't kill him. He lived to fight another day.
Even though she was gone.
He had told Cordelia that he was okay. After three months in Sri Lanka telling himself he could move on, even after the brightest light in his world had gone out, he had believed it himself. He returned to LA and life resumed with their next case. At first, he found that he could do it; he could function in this world when she was gone from it forever.
But he hadn't expected the case to hit so close to home. The appearance of James threw him, and his words cut him deeply.
"This your idea of love, James? It's not real unless it kills you?"
"Yeah, what's yours? 'It's fun as long as it doesn't cost me anything?' You don't know what love is. You think you won because you're still alive? I lived. You just existed."
James had been wrong. He had loved her with his entire being, he still did, and it had cost him everything. Everything to love her, everything to leave her.
If he closed his eyes and let himself go, he could still feel her touch, feel her smile against his lips. His mind went back to the moment he looked into Willow's eyes, saw her broken expression, and he felt it like a gunshot. She was dead. It had been so sudden, so quick, that it couldn't sink in. Not until Willow threw herself into his arms and sobbed. He had been frozen, but somehow he managed to comfort the shaking woman in his arms. Through her tears, Willow told him what had happened, how she went out saving the world.
He had left right after that, he didn't even stay for the funeral. He was gone within a day.
But now he knew that he had to see it for himself. He had to see where she lay in the ground. Wounds that had barely begun to heal had been brutally reopened, bringing with them the realization that he had spent those three months, not mourning, but denying. And now he had to see it for himself. Acceptance is the first step, right?
Sunnydale was one of those places that just never looked different, but this time, he felt it. An emptiness, growing, spreading. No, this was a foreign place now. It was cold, and dark; her light no longer shone here.
How could he even describe the excruciating pain rising inside him with every step that took him closer to her? No torture, nothing in hell could begin to compare to this. Hot pokers, holy water, a million sharp knives couldn't touch the despair, the agony he felt when he saw it; the cold, white marble slab, almost glowing in the moonlight.
Buffy Anne Summers
Beloved Sister Devoted Friend
She Saved The World. A Lot.
A choked laugh left his lips when he read the last two lines. She would have loved them, said she was finally getting the credit she deserved. He could see her now; sparkling hazel eyes, infectious smile, tossing her long blonde hair over her shoulder as she joked or laughed.
The reality that he would never see her again, even from a far, finally crashed down on him in full force and his legs gave out beneath him as he fell to his knees.
"The woman I love …is dead."
His beautiful Slayer was gone.
He could still see her in his mind's eye. Not as the hurting woman that he had held as she cried for her mother and struggled to imagine how she could ever be strong enough, but as the pure 16 year old girl he had fallen in love with so long ago.
If someone asked, he couldn't have explained what it was. After all, it didn't make sense for a 240 year old vampire to love a teenage girl. But then again, nothing with them had ever made sense.
Even as the tears poured freely down his face, he smiled at the memory of her. How she would babble when she got nervous, usually when she was around him. He used to be able to get her so frazzled, and then the next time, charm her in spite of herself with a smile or in one particular case, a worn leather jacket. He remembered how they used to fight. He may have been over two centuries old, but that petite blonde could get to him in ways that no one else could. But she had become the reason he lived, he fought for her. There was nothing he wouldn't do for her. Even after he left her, he knew with certainty that if the chance ever came, he would die for her.
Some things never change, he realized. No matter how much time passed, he would always be hers. His hand drifted to the ring on his finger. He pulled it off slowly, staring at it for a long time.
"The hands stand for friendship, the crown for loyalty, and the heart…well, you know. Wear it with the heart pointing towards you. It means you belong to somebody."
How could she be gone? No. No. Oh God, no. His hands tore at his hair in desperate agony.
"She was the love of your life and she died. And, you weren't there when it happened. You couldn't help her fight. You couldn't save her. You couldn't die with her."
He should have been there. How could he have ever let her fight without him by her side?
"Together you were strong. Alone you are dead."
He should have stayed with her after her mother died. No matter the consequences.
"I can stay in town as long as you want me."
"How's forever? Does forever work for you?"
Angel wouldn't move from his broken position for hours, not until the very last minutes of night were passing away would he drag himself from his beloved's side. And when he finally stood and walked away once again, the ring on his hand would flash in the moonlight, heart pointing in.
He should have taken her up on her offer then.
Because now it was too late.
Forever had ended.
A/N I hope I may have brought at least one tear to your eyes. I know this couple has done that to me on numerous occasions. That's the reason I wrote this in the first place. I had expected more out of Angel when he heard about Buffy's death. I wanted to see some grieving, maybe some tears. I mean, come on, it was a little of a let down. But I digress. I would love feedback on this. Constructive criticism is always welcome.