Beyond the Storm
It's all Joss and David and Marti (grrr) and Tim and their little
companies of evil devil badness. Although, I don't hate Joss as
much as I used to, since I'm working on a theory that Marti Noxon
uses a hypnosis spell on him to force him to conform to the
network's crappy ideas, and her even crappier ideas...and that's
not very disclaimer-y. So, in summary - not mine, no money has
been earned by this random act of pure denial.
Temperature has never really made a difference to me. The rare nights when the weather turns brisk in LA, I hardly ever notice. I've spent most of my life in the cold, and unless it's really sub-zero out, I won't be affected.
It's cold out here now, though. The kind of cold I *shouldn't* feel, but I do. I feel it all the way down to my bones. And the rain isn't helping much...but the reason for this ache isn't the rain. It's the fact that I'm standing here, looking up at your window and being able to just...feel you, feel your presence, know you're inside, and at the same time, know that I shouldn't be here. I don't belong here anymore, because I gave up that right the night I turned and walked away from you. And that knowledge freezes me like nothing ever has in my life.
But I can remember warmth, and I do, so well. Warmth is you. Warmth is wrapping you up in my arms and holding you tightly when you curl against me, nestling into my body. Warmth is your breath, steady and even on my neck. Warmth is your heartbeat, strong and reassuring against my chest. Warmth is the scent of your skin, sweet, fragrant vanilla, and the softness of your lips against my own. Warmth is everything about you that I remember, everything that kept me alive and hoping, everything I'll never have again.
Do you know how much I still love you? How the tiniest details about you are still such a large part of my soul?
So many nights after I came to LA, I'd wake up, still half asleep in the middle of the night, and reach for you. I'd murmur your name and wait for you to roll into my outstretched arms and sleepily protest that we had a few more hours. I'd wait to feel your body against mine, wait for your scent to surround me, wait for the smile you always brought to my face to begin to grow.
But time would pass, too much time. Then I would open my eyes fully, blurry, confused, and realize you weren't there. You'd never be there again, and I'd spend the rest of my days in a cold, empty bed. Do you know I always sleep on the right side of the bed, because the left belongs to you?
I'd wake up those nights and lay there, just trying to keep from expiring for need of you. But part of me was comforted in at least knowing, that even if I couldn't see you, you were out there, alive, in the sun where you belong. Nothing in this world could be that bad if you were in it. And as much as my soul wept for you, and my body begged me to spend days finding comfort in your arms, as many hours as I spent recalling the way you would look at me when you said you loved me, and how your eyebrows would knit together when you were concentrating, or the way you would sometimes murmur my name in your sleep the nights we spent chaste in each other's arms...if you were happy in the life I had left you to find, then it was worth it.
And eventually, I thought I'd moved on. I thought I had finally reached a point in my life when I could remember you, and it wouldn't kill me to think of you. I still loved you, and I'm not trying to say any part of that faded...it more drifted into the background. There were people in the city who needed my help more than I needed to sit and brood (a habit I *am* trying to overcome). I found friends - friends who are family - and I have a job that I honestly love, where I feel like I'm making a difference.
Someday, I thought that when I achieved my shanshu...if I achieved it, we'd have another chance. We could start over and I could give you everything you deserved. I didn't think about it as much as I did those first few months after I heard the prophecy, but it was a favorite dream, one I'd play in my head every night before drifting to sleep. Making love to you outside, under the sun. Marrying you. Having a family with you. Growing old with you. Experiencing a million different, new, sweet heavens every day at your side.
It never once occurred to me that you would die before we got that chance. I never even thought it was a possibility, maybe because I would never allow myself to think it could be.
God, Buffy, I'm such a fool. Because when Willow told me you died, I fell apart. The instant I saw her, sitting in the lobby, I knew. Irrefutable, down deep knowledge. And when the words spilled out of her mouth, those dark, horrible words I never thought I'd hear...I remembered in a flood how much I loved you, and that now, I would never get a chance to make sure you knew that. I wouldn't get a chance to tell you one last time, hold you, kiss you.
And now I understand that I didn't move on. I let myself forget because it was easier that way, because the way I feel about you isn't just something to get over. I realized everything too late when I remembered again, that I loved you and I would never stop, in the moment I heard you were gone. You weren't just in Sunnydale, going about your daily routine and living your life. You were in the ground, with six feet of heavy earth on top of you, and you wouldn't ever come out.
I threw up when Willow told us. I excused myself very calmly from the room after she'd explained everything in excruciating detail, walked to the bathroom, and spent an hour heaving into the toilet. Then I spent two weeks in my room, sitting on the ground, not moving, not crying, not doing anything. When I came out, I had a suitcase and a ticket on a cargo ship bound for Tibet. I said goodbye to my friends, told them I didn't know when I'd be back, and left.
When I returned, they thought it meant I was okay. That I'd gotten over losing you. And I wanted to let them believe that. I even fooled Cordelia, and she can spot an untruth a mile away, especially when it comes from me. They were lies I had to spin to keep the world we'd built revolving. I didn't want my friends to know that I wasn't okay, that I never would be again. That part of me was dead, the part you had brought back to life with your spirit and fire and love. I existed. I didn't live. But it was easier to just keep my grief inside, because that's really what I do. I learn to deal with things on my own. And losing you wasn't something I could ever really, fully share with anyone else.
My friends have been keeping all my time filled with cases and demons and other group activities, and I suppose I'm grateful that they try and keep my mind off you. They don't understand what this is like, and I don't expect them to. What I need is something that nobody but you can give me. So I've tried to be okay. For them.
But I fell apart tonight.
I woke up, in the middle of the night, like I have a thousand times before. And it was raining.
My insides clenched and the room started spinning. Because with that soft, gentle sound against the window, I was suddenly back to that night, our night four years ago, in a different apartment, in a different bed. The night I made love to you, the night I tasted pure happiness in your softness and your warmth and your love. The night I haven't let myself think about in so long, because it's one of two memories that has the power to make me dissolve if I spend too much time remembering it. The other memory being our day together, that in the end, never happened.
I could feel you there, with me. I could hear you whispering in my ear, listen to every moan, every sigh, every murmured 'I love you'. I remembered the exact instant I entered you, how *right* it felt. The moment you keened my name and I felt you climax beneath me, sending me spiraling into waves of bliss shortly after. The way you looked up at me afterwards, how I nestled into your neck and prayed to any gods I hadn't already annihilated that I could stay here forever, in this Paradise, where it was warm and soft and safe and I was truly loved.
And I started to cry. For the first time since Willow came to my home and told me you were gone forever, I let myself bawl and beg and scream and promise that I would do *anything* if I could just have one. More. Second. To hold you and hear your voice and see your smile.
I stumbled out of bed drunkenly, and let myself lose control. Smashing vases. Ripping curtains. Sobbing and cursing and pleading as I destroyed everything in my path. It's a good thing Fred's a sound sleeper.
And when my tears spent themselves, when I collapsed facedown onto the bed and thought that this was it, this was the night I couldn't take it anymore, thought that today would be the day I would pull the curtains open and take my chances in Hell, because whatever torment they came out with, nothing would be worse than having to spend eternity in a world where you didn't exist...the phone rang.
I thought about not answering it, because if it was Wesley paging me or Cordelia calling about a vision...but something told me to pick up the phone. So I did.
Spike's cockney greeted me, his own voice taut and stretched to the breaking point.
"That you, Soul Boy?" he asked roughly, trying to mask whatever he was feeling. "Can't really tell, the phone connection's awful in my lovely little hole."
"It's me." I stayed silent after that, not knowing why in the Hell Spike would have *any* reason to call me.
"Always were a bloody fabulous conversationalist." He paused, then went on. "Listen, I got a piece of information I think you might be interested in hearin'."
"And what would that be?"
"She's alive, Angel." Not Angelus. Not 'peaches' or 'poufter', of any one of his other incredibly annoying, carefully selected monikers for me.
I took a deep, unnecessary breath, and felt a deep, terrible rage swell inside of me. How dare he make jokes about this? How dare he turn my grief into something for him to play with? "Listen, you disrespectful little fucker, I don't know what kind of game you're trying to play with my head, but - "
"I'm not tryin' to play a goddamn game! Witchy little Willow got up to some of her fun Wicca tricks and raised her from the bloody *grave*. She had to claw her way out of her goddamned *coffin*, and when the kid brought her home, her hands were fucking scraped up and bleeding! She's alive, she's living and breathing and she's been walking around, completely shell shocked for the past four days, and I thought you'd bloody well want to know about it!"
I sat up then, and if I'd had a pulse, it would have been racing. It had to be a delusion, he couldn't be right, even if it was possible, Willow wouldn't have done such a thing. "Spike..."
"I swear to God, I'm not lyin'!" he yells. "Jesus H. Christ, I wouldn't joke about a thing like this, not when I saw it happen, not when I had to live through watchin' her die! I wouldn't joke about her dyin' when it nearly killed me!"
I got up then, the phone pressed to my ear like a sudden lifeline, and I clung to it as I began to get dressed. "Why are you calling me?" And I can't believe I asked such an inane question.
He turns quiet then, the anger in his voice burning out as quickly as it ignited. "Because she needs you," he says, in a low, measured voice. "Because she's Buffy, but she ain't herself. And I think you're the one who can do that for her. You're the one who can get her back to where she used to be."
"Why didn't...one of the others..."
He lets out a derisive snort. "Watcher headed back to England. The rest of them are far too busy gettin' in her face and tryin' to force her to be the girl they thought they were bringin' back. And of course, we can't forget Red, who's nearly broken her arm pattin' herself on the back by now, thinkin' she's the big bad superwitch." He pauses again. "I...I care about the girl, Buffy, I mean, and I can't stand to see her goin' like this. Just get into Sunnyhell as fast as you can, if she ever meant anything at all to you. And if you still think I'm lyin'...when you get here, you can drive a stake through my heart yourself."
"I'm coming. I'll...I'll leave right now." I didn't know then if I believed him or not, but I had to see. I had to know. Part of me still thought he must be drunk and hallucinating. The rest of me thought *I* was hallucinating, that in my grief induced state, I'd constructed an elaborate fantasy to keep me from going insane.
"Good. She'll be at home. So hurry." Then he hung up, leaving me clutching a humming receiver, brain still trying to process everything.
And now I'm here. I'm on your front lawn, looking up at your bedroom, and I know that Spike wasn't lying, because I *know* you're in there. I know it as sure as I know that it's raining, and I'm soaking wet, and that I'll love you until I die.
I should go in. I should knock on the door and say something...but what should I say? "Hey, I heard you stopped being dead, that's really great"? Should I fall to my knees and tell you I love you and how much I've missed you? Should I just keep standing here, not knowing what else to do?
The decision is taken from of me when I feel something moving behind me. So I turn to face it, almost willing to let whatever it is destroy me so I won't have to live in this agonizing limbo another moment.
But it's you.
Buffy. Your name rises in my throat, and I open my mouth slightly, but no words come out. All I can do is stand there, look at you. Rain soaking your hair. Eyes wide and trapped. Wet nightgown clinging to every curve in your body. I can hear your heartbeat, real and familiar and God, so good. So beautiful.
You're saying something, and I can't make out the words at first, just watching your mouth move, lips open and close, the flash of teeth against the blackness of the sky. And then you ask, "Why are you...you're here? Why are you here?"
I hear it in your voice, then. Hope. Such frightened, tentative hope, and my soul starts to sob in relief and scream with joy at the same time. "It was raining," I tell you. I don't know if that explains anything, and I don't know if you understand, but I hope you do. I hope you know that when I hear the rain, I think of the first time I ever knew love, and that every time I hear the rain after this, I'll think of the first time I believed in miracles.
You touch my face then, and your hand is cold, but I can feel the heat beneath it. Your skin, so soft. You're touching me gently, the way I've dreamed about every day for the past three years, since the last night I held you close to me.
And you laugh, the sweetest, most beautiful sound I've ever heard, and your eyes are your eyes again. They're filling with life and spirit and color as you giggle happily. "Oh, God, Angel, I was just thinking...and you're here. You're here."
Something inside me breaks wide open now, something wonderful. Giddiness and love and everything I've been denied for so long is spilling out of the cracks where it's been hidden, filling me, completing me. And I pull you towards me, allowing a full minute to savor the feeling of your warm, soft body snug against mine.
Then I lift you into the sky and twirl you around, in the rain, like something out of a nineteen fifties movie musical. But I'm so happy, so goddamned *happy* that I could care less. I laugh with you, watching your face, watching the joy spread across it as you throw out your arms and let me spin you in circles.
When I finally lower you down, your face turns serious, but that same smile is still gently curving the edges of your full, sweet lips, still sparkling in your eyes. "So that's all it takes to bring me back to life. I mean, *really* back to life, not just existence," you tease. "A good old fashioned rain dance."
I brush the soaked hair out of your wet, shining face. There's the Buffy I know. The Buffy I love, looking out at me from eyes and a smile I recognize. "I love you," I tell you fervently. "I love you so, so much, Buffy..."
You ring a fingertip up to my mouth, tracing the curve of my lips gently. "I love you, too," you murmur back. Your arms snake around my neck, and before I can even tell what's happening, your lips meet mine in the most perfect, wonderful kiss I've ever known. "So," you say, tilting your head to the side adorably, once the kiss ends. But you never move from my arms. "We've got stuff to talk about. Like, how I'm not dead now, where I was when I *was* dead, what that was like, what you've been doing..."
"We do," I agree, resting my forehead against yours.
"It can wait 'til later though, right?" you ask innocently.
I laugh again, pulling you in for another kiss. "It can wait until later. We've got all the time in the world," I say, leading you towards the house. "For now, I think you need to get warm."
"I *am* warm," you retort, snuggling firmly against my side.
God, my face hurts from smiling so hard. "Dry, then," I counter.
"Dry would be nice," you concede, wrapping your arms around my waist once we reach the kitchen. You look up at me again, and you feel so good against me...that I can't believe this isn't a dream. Because I'm holding you, I'm feeling your heart beat and drinking in your scent. And you're not dead, and I'm here, with you and...
"I'm not leaving," I suddenly say. "I'm staying with you, I'll never leave you again. I need to be here, I need to be with you..."
You look into my eyes for a long minute, then that smile brightens your face again. "You're staying? For...for real this time?"
"For real this time," I confirm. Because living without you isn't a life. It's spending eternity in a never-ending storm of confusion and pain and heartache, and when I left you...that wasn't what I wanted to leave behind or take with me. "For forever this time."
I want you to know that I love you. That I always will, that I'll be by your side until the day I leave this earth. We're moving beyond that storm together.
"It's a second chance. And I'd be a fool not to take it," I whisper.
You grin at me. "Yeah. You really would," you respond, lifting your face to mine for another sweet, lingering kiss.
And I remember warmth, now that I'm in your arms.