Meet Me In The Graveyard
Summary: Their reunion is far from romantic, but their relationship has always been more complicated than that. Angel, Buffy, and the missing meeting.
A/N: I know this has probably been done to death already, but I just finished the series and there was no way I could let it go without trying my hand at it. This is how I deal with feeling gypped.
The halfway point between Sunnydale and Los Angeles is a small city, the kind that one tends to pass through without noticing. They discuss its name on the phone, voices cracking as they agree to meet there, but only its name is spoken. The specific where in the city to meet goes unmentioned.
For whatever reason, this doesn't strike either of them as strange.
When she reaches this new city after a couple hours and a nearly reckless amount of speeding, she isn't surprised that the first thing she sees is the cemetery. She is even less surprised when she pulls over and parks. There's a car here and it's his. She knows this with certainty, though how she knows is anyone's guess. He's not in the vehicle, so she figures that he must already be among the headstones.
She walks through the entrance gate, and it's impossibly fitting, she thinks, that they should meet here of all places. So much of their relationship had been fighting alongside each other, stealing moments of happiness between scenes of danger and death. The graveyard was like a second home to them, and now that they've both been lost to it, it's even more appropriate.
She walks among the granite and flowers; surely he heard her car?
"Angel?" She means to call his name, but it comes out as little more than a whisper.
Something moves from her right, and he appears suddenly, almost unnaturally. A wry smile twists her features. He still knows how to pop up unexpectedly, like a phantom. She never did forget that sometimes exciting, mostly annoying, habit of his.
"Buffy." His voice is steady and he doesn't know how he manages that particular feat.
And she promised herself she wouldn't do it, promised herself she wouldn't run into his arms like the needy school girl she used to be, but it's Angel, and self-respect be damned.
He's ready for her as she reaches him, and his arms enfold her completely. She smells just as he remembers, and she's so warm and this is real. Their eyes meet and there is no helping it: they kiss and are thrown into a whirlwind of memories of love and heartache. In this moment it means everything, but they both know that tomorrow, it won't.
They aren't here to get back together.
They both know it, and yet, they kiss.
They break apart after what feels like an eternity, but his hand takes hers. "Come on," he tells her. He pulls her to a nearby tree and they settle down against its trunk. She leans into him, unable to stay away from his warmth. They both remember the last time he comforted her in this fashion, just after her mother's funeral. Now he's here to comfort her again, after she died.
She'd been expecting the tears long before now, but only now do they form and spill over. "Angel."
Her voice is so soft, breaking, needy. The last time he heard her this way, she was pleading with him for more time, time he couldn't give her. She doesn't even remember it now, thanks to him.
And there are so many things he wishes for, but right now, he must settle for being her comfort. For now, he knows exactly what to say. "Tell me everything."
She hasn't talked to anyone about the pain inside her, not about all of it, and somehow he knows it. And he also knows that she needs to talk about it.
Buffy doesn't ask what he means by everything. She doesn't have to, and she opens up to him far easier than she thought possible. All her walls crumble at the sound of his voice, giving her such a simple request.
And so the words begin to flow, unstoppable. Everything spirals to the surface, and she can't remember what happened in what order, but it hardly matters. Buffy talks about Dawn and Glory, and how she misses her mother so much more than ever, and how she jumped to save them all. Angel simply sits and listens. He's always been a pretty good listener, and he doesn't even interrupt when she talks about Riley and all the regret she feels and all the regret she doesn't feel.
"And everything seems so wrong now, Angel." she tells him. "Since I've come back, I just don't feel like I belong with anyone or anything. Here with you is the closest I've come to being okay, to feeling right. But even this, after where I've been..."
A knowing, sympathetic smile graces his features. He closes his eyes and leans his head back against the tree. "So do me a favor and tell the demon who might never get there...how was Heaven?"
She gasps. She hadn't told him about her time while dead, and had instead focused on the pains of her life that he had missed out on, both before and after she came back.
"H-how did you know?"
He turns his head to look at her with soft, reassuring eyes. He brushes a strand of hair out of her face. "Buffy Summers, sent to hell? Don't kid a kidder, Buffy. It was one of the few things that sustained me while you were gone. I just knew you were too good for a hell dimension, knew that at the very end, Paradise would claim you."
She gives him an incredulous stare, but decides not to challenge it. Instead, she gets right to the heart of the matter, the truest source of her pain. "Angel, I don't know if it was Heaven. But it was beautiful. Peaceful. I felt complete, and warm, and happy. Loved. And there was no pain or fear, and now..."
"There's nothing but," he finishes.
She nestles her head against his neck, searching for a comfort only he can provide. "Yeah," she whispers. Her warm breath hits his cold skin, and he's certain it's the closest thing to heaven he'll ever experience.
"Buffy, look at me."
She shifts her weight and so does he, and both his hands take her own. Something in his dark eyes draws her in. "I've been around a long time, Buffy." he says. "I'm not going to pretend that it makes me wise or knowledgeable. God knows I'm as confused as I've ever been about the way things work. But I've seen enough to know with certainty that things happen for a reason."
"Willow – "
"You're not here because of Willow. It may seem like it, but something beyond Willow let you come back. Something made sure that the spell worked. You're here because you belong. Your time isn't spent. There's more for you to do here, more life for you to live."
She lets the words roll over her, but nothing is ever so simple. "This still feels like hell, Angel." she whispers. "Why fight it?"
He lifts his hand and rests it against her cheek, and she knows that his touch is the most loving thing she's ever felt. His thumb brushes over her face, wiping the tears away. His voice is soft and sincere. "You know, someone smart once told me that fighting is hard. It's painful, and it's everyday, she said. But she promised me it was worth it."
And God, she remembers. She remembers the fear of that night, remembers the rush to save Angel from himself and the morning light. And now, he's saving her from herself and the darkness.
He's pulling her up from the empty, and it seems that only from him will she accept the help. She lets the moment linger and pass, and then she breathes in and manages a watery smile. "Using my own words against me? That's a shot below the belt."
Angel offers her a smile in return. "What can I say? I don't play fair."
She nestles in even closer to him. "You know, I think I've worn my voice out. It's your turn."
"Tell me everything," she say with the ghost of a grin.
And she's been so honest with him that he does it without question. Angel tells her that he's trying to do good in LA, he tells her about Cordelia, tells her about how Wesley is proving to be a better man and fighter than what his stint in Sunnydale seemed to foretell. He even tells her about the way he slipped, the way he did evil even with a soul, the way he let the dark take him under.
Only to be pulled back out again.
"And you weren't there, Buffy, but you helped bring me back." he says. "If you saw me that way, well, I knew you'd be...disappointed. And then I knew you'd have staked me on the spot, and you would have been right to."
Buffy plays her fingers along his chest, over his unmoving heart, and lets her hand rest there. "Staked you?" she questions, as if she's never heard of such a thing. "I don't think I ever could."
"Now, don't take this as a criticism, Buffy, but...you stabbed me into a hell dimension."
"Yeah, but for nothing less than the fate of the world." she reasons idly.
He chuckles. "That's good to know."
"So is that everything?"
He looks around, taking stock of their surroundings. The dark is getting lighter now, the sky turning to gray. "Just about." he replies finally. "You know, I think we only have another half hour or so before I have to find some shelter...how would you like to spend it?"
Her voice, so soft. "Just hold me. Hold me and say you'll love me for the rest of the morning?"
The request is so unexpected, but he's ready with his answer. "I'll love you for the rest of forever, Buffy. But I'm not dumb enough to try and keep you for myself."
"I love you too, Angel. Please don't forget that I always will."
"Couldn't if I tried," he smiles, and once again, they lose themselves to a kiss. It's deep and passionate with the knowledge that their time left together is limited. Minutes fade in a haze, and they just allow themselves to feel it. They hang onto the kissing, the touching, the loving. Each desperate second counts, so much so that he lets it last til an almost critical juncture. It almost seems worth burning for, but that's not the glorious goodbye he wants to give her.
Angel finally forces himself to break away from her kiss, her pull, her gravity.
"Come on," he tells her.
Hand in hand, they walk among the dead. And together, they leave them behind.
At their cars, they say their farewells.
He nods at her, fending off the wave of sadness and resisting the urge to follow her home. "Promise me you'll keep fighting?"
"Yes. Always. And same goes for you?"
"I will. Goodbye, Buffy."
One last smile, one last hug, one last long kiss. And then he turns, gets into his car, and drives away.
She watches the car disappear and tries to hold onto the moment. She promised to fight. She isn't sure she'll be able to do it when he's miles and miles away, but if she can just remember this, remember feeling for the first time since being back, maybe.
Maybe there's hope for her yet.
A/N: Of course, then she kind of goes off the deep end and gives into Spike, but whatever. Reviews are gold in my book. :)