Looking Up 

Angel:

Looking up at the stars, it’s easy to forget all the crap that’s happened in the past, oh, seventy-two hours. And God, do I want to.

Bright, twinkly. Just like the poem says.

My hotel stands empty now, ghostly quiet except for the creaking of the pipes and various goede slaappillen rodents moving around in the walls. It is old, after all.

Kinda like me.

Well, except for the rodents part, of course.

looking up

My brain isn’t quite right these days. It seems to want to be, but any time I try to process anything more than, take one step and put your foot down, it clams up on me. Fade to black, as they say in this town.

Walking up and down the streets in front of the hotel at night, each person or couple I pass gives me a strange look, then walks quickly onward, trying to avoid the crazy guy wearing the leather coat in June. Not exactly feeling the weather when your blood is room temperature.

Jasmine. Cordy. Connor. Spike. Buffy.

The names circle in my head like buzzards looking for carrion. Does any one of them mean more to me than the other? They all had something to do with molding me into the man I am now. Man? Well, close enough.

Their faces pass in slow, bright ovals behind my eyes when I chance to close them. Walking does help. But it’ll be light soon, and I can’t walk forever.

Or can’t I?

Why can’t I greet the sun, like I’ve wanted to deep down since I left the little coastal town that’s always in the background of my thoughts, no matter what’s going on, not matter who’s hurt, who’s in trouble, or who needs me.

Because I’m not finished yet. I’m still cookie dough myself.

I laugh suddenly, because at the time I had thought the analogy was very strange. Although after spending some time away from her, it actually makes sense. Having your destiny, your responsibility suddenly split between so many people could confuse you, disorient you. What do you do now? Where do you go? How do you go on? Why do you go on?

It’s amazing, and terrible at the same time.

So many slayers, so little demons. Although that’s probably not true.

I really wish she’d come to see me.

Hmm, that’s interesting. I hadn’t thought of it that simplistically before. I hadn’t really thought about it much at all, really. I heard what happened of course, who didn’t? L.A. is definitely a news town. ‘City destroyed, smoking crater all that was left, a schoolbus full of children and one principal all that escaped.’

I know she’s alright too.

Faith’s already called, to let us know what the deal is, as she put it.

They’re heading for Cleveland, to help the few watchers that are left to control the remaining demon population, and with newfound power, try to close that hellmouth as well.

They are stopping in L.A. to see the Summers girls’ father first, who I know for a fact lives not five miles from here.

So I’m pacing outside, knowing that they should be in town by now, why haven’t they called, why haven’t they driven by, they should know I’d be up, or at least around.

Why hasn’t she come?

Oh, man.

It’s always the same. No matter what I do, how much I try to change, no matter how much stuff seems to fall in my lap and force me to change, I know that one thing will always be fundamental for me.

And it’s her.

Her presence, her scent, her laughter, her eyes, her hair, her strength, her tears, her voice shouting my name in unbearable pain or with unbreakable longing, her small hands in mine…

There are a thousand things I could mention, and I still wouldn’t cover it all.

She’s my ‘it.’

No matter what, that’s the one thing in my life, in my long life, that will never die. If I live to be a thousand years old, I’ll still love her the same way I did the first moment I saw her in the dark alley back when she was sixteen and oh so innocent. Yet not so, at least not as much as I had hoped. Whistler had told me she was gonna have it tough, but I had so hoped that he had been exaggerating. Being a slayer was hard enough. She didn’t need added pain in her possibly short but violent life.

I so didn’t want to be the cause of that pain.

But imagine falling in love with something so amazing, so beautiful that you thanked your lucky stars that you didn’t have to breathe because if you did have to you don’t think you could. And imagine further that this miracle loved you back. Had the same feelings you did. You couldn’t fathom a world without each other in it. And the one chance, the one time you were allowed to share your love, the beautiful part of it was ripped away from you, as if the expression itself had been a sin.

Tell me what kind of world you want to live in that allows this to happen. And then wonder again why I still entertain thoughts of greeting the sun?

I have loved others, tried to give my life meaning and purpose without her in it. And I truly did love the others. One who is currently slipping away silently from me, her eyes closed forever, her sharp tongue and fierce wit silenced, with no way I can fathom to wake her from her death sleep. And the other, well, that’s a whole ‘nother kettle of fish, as they say.

I did prove it. I do love him. And he knows no pain now, no remorse, no emptiness. Just love. Pure and simple with his plain, human family. The impossible child of two monsters never existed. In his place is left a fleeting memory of baby smells, sweet laughter, and a contentment I never thought to feel again without her. His presence had helped to fill that hole she had left over my unbeating heart. And now it’s even bigger than before.

And so I walk, and look at the stars, and wait for my… other half? Friend? Lover? My reason for going on in the world. The only reason I have left – to show up, and tell me she’s done baking, and that she’ll never leave me, and that it doesn’t matter that I am once again a dead thing that walks around in the shell of the man I used to be.

Buffy:

The stars shine brightly over head, which considering this is L.A., that’s a little weird. Whatever. I’ll take it. I’ll take any kind of soothing heavenly phenomena that I can get. Keeps me from having to think about… well, everything.

The dark one.

The blonde.

Who saved me? Who saved us all? Did I lie when I said I loved him? Gah. Can’t tell now. Can’t do anything now except listen to Dawn and my dad prattle on about new places to shop and where to go to school in the fall.

He has asked me if Dawn can stay here awhile with him and his new wife. It’s a new day that sees Hank Summers ask his daughter for permission to do anything. I stared in shock at him a while before answering, ‘Sure, whatever Dawn wants.’ Dawn just needs stability I think. At least for a little while.

Kennedy has taken the bus with the other girls on to Cleveland. I can catch up in a few days.

Trouble is, do I want to? Or do I want to tie up loose ends here?

And are there loose ends to tie up?

I’m really confused. That’s the simplest way to put it.

I’m pretty sure I did love him in my way. He filled the niche that I needed filling at the time. And he did love me. But I didn’t want to be his ‘one’ either. I already am someone’s ‘one.’ Or at least I think so.

Willow filled me in on the stuff that went down when she made that emergency trip to L.A. a few weeks ago. I had seen on the news about the sun doing that weird eclip-sie thing, and thought nothing of it really, knew that someone was there to clean up that mess. Didn’t even think to call him. I should have.

Angelus. What the hell was Wesley thinking?

I mean I know what he was thinking, they needed the info and all that, but God. There should have been an easier way to get it. And Faith, tripping in his head, getting under his skin once again. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful she was there to help. But it makes my own skin crawl to think of her there with him like that.

She knows things about him I don’t. And that really bugs me.

But what about the other? Again I think about Spike and honestly don’t know what to believe.

His face swims before me in the night, and I sigh to see it. I know what he did, what he sacrificed. Over the past two years all the crap that he and I did to each other, all the horrible things I let him do… well, told him to do to me, all the fights, the hate, and, let’s face it, general attraction that was there filled that hole I hadn’t realized was so big.

During the suckfest of 2002, as I so fondly like to think on it, he did play his part. He did make me feel again. And the more I think on it, the more I realize he did have a very important role in my growing up. And that role has now been played out.

He’s gotten his redemption. At least I hope so. And who am I to take that reward away? I did love him, yes, but I wasn’t in love with him.

My head jerks up at the sky again at this thought, and the first smile in days plasters itself on my mouth. It’s nice to be sure about something. He did love me. And he did what he did because he was a good man, in the end. Not because a soul was forced on him, but because he accepted what he was given and walked the right path. And that’s what made me love him.

I walk back inside my dad’s house, and find Dawn and him sitting on the couch, getting into some good old fashioned TV zombie land.

‘Guys,’ I tell them, and they swivel their heads around, giving me the half attention everybody does while trying to watch the tube and do something else at the same time, ‘I have somewhere I need to go.

Can you stay here for a while with Dad, Dawn?’

‘Yeah, sure Buffy, whatever,’ she tells me, already getting back into the cartoon network.

I turn and stride toward the front door, grabbing my jacket as I pass it. My dad follows me outside.

‘You okay, honey? Do you need a ride somewhere?’ he puts a hand on my shoulder, concerned. Which is a little strange, considering how not around he’s been lately. I guess trying to make up for it now is better than nothing.

‘No, it’s a short walk. I’ll be back as soon as I can.’ I smile reassuringly at him, then hit the street, walking as fast as I can toward the hotel and the other one I love. The one who’s left. The one who needs me now, hopefully as much as I need him. The one who I always thought of as my future. Does he feel the same way?

Sometimes is something, he had said. It is. And the sometime has become the now-time.

Things are somewhat clearer for me now, but they’ll be clearer soon.

I just hope he’s there.

Briskly walking through the Los Angeles streets, I stop at a traffic light, and bounce impatiently on my heels, waiting for the signal to change. Every second counts now, and I dash across the street as soon as the green man appears on the sign, the universal symbol for ‘hurry up before you get smeared all over the pavement.’

I can see the edge of the hotel tower now, and pay no heed to the few people wandering the streets at two in the morning, who gape at the small blonde girl apparently risking her neck, and her purse, to get somewhere so late. Or is it early?

I like seeing you first thing in the morning.

It’s bedtime for me.

Well, then I like seeing you at bedtime.

Boy had that been awkward. All things Angel were not always of the good. He always had such an uncanny knack for making me feel like the biggest dope sometimes. Still does. I think it’s the look in his dark eyes that makes me trip over my words sometimes.

It’s been a while, though. I’ve changed. A lot. I’ve done things, said things that I’m not proud of. Things I wish I could take back, or undo altogether. But I know he’s not perfect either. Hah! Far from it.

Angel:

I still pace, watching the stars and counting the seconds as they slowly tick by. Why the hell would I think she would come to see me? She’s not done ‘baking’ as she put it. And then there’s Spike.

A snort of furious laughter escapes my lips, and I sink down to the bench I happen to be passing at that moment.

Jesus. Spike. I know he’s had his moments, but… a soul? What the hell was he thinking? Did he know, hadn’t he seen the pain it can cause you? Didn’t he understand the injustice, the loneliness, the plain hurt evidenced in my situation?

Can’t be close, can’t have a relationship, whoops, don’t touch.

God forbid you should have any peace for one second for one minute of any day at all no rest no time for yourself always on call to help the helpless no peace…

I shudder at the way my monkey mind always seems to be able to remind me of what I am and what I can’t have.

All the pain, all the separateness, all the years, aeons of aloofness don’t matter if I can just have one thing. And it’s such a little thing, really.

If I could just see her, just hold her once more, before she heads to Cleveland and out of my life again.

Buffy:

You know, considering what an expert Angel is at leaving me, I don’t really know why I’m in such a hurry to see him. As a matter of fact, what am I doing?

Why am I torturing myself? Am I really sure of what I want? Can I leave Spike behind? After what he did for me? For all of us?

Sighing, I plop down on a bench next to a bus stop a few blocks from the hotel and the supposed love of my life. If he is that, why is he so good at hurting me? Why is he still so good at it?

And damn it, why do I let him?

I want my life to be with you.

I don’t.

I hang my head as this most definitely unwelcome memory rises from the dark corner where I had buried it.

Spike never left you. Spike was always there for you. He got a soul for you. And you’re so eager to forget him and run to Angel just like you always do. What a bitch.

Okay, maybe I am a bitch. But Spike was not always there for me, not in the ways that counted. And what about the whole soul getting escapade in the first place? He left to have the chip removed, not to get a soul. Not for some noble ideal, not to fit in or find his place in the world, but to be able to kill me. He just got lucky that’s not what the shaman saw inside of him. In his heart of hearts. God! Why does this have to be so hard?

I love Angel. I always have. And I have a feeling now that I always will, no matter if we never saw each other again. I don’t want to run to some man’s arms just because I’m lonely or need comforting after the really ass kicking suck-athon that this year has been. I have my family, my sister, my friends.

So why does it feel like half my soul is empty without his next to it?

I do understand, I think.

I need to see him.

Angel:

I feel a surge of anger rise unbidden at the unfairness of all this.

I have never been one to wonder at my fate, to suffer in silence for the way my life must go. Well, not too much anyway. Honing the brooding skills over a hundred years or so makes a man very adept at hiding the way he truly feels.

I rise off the bench, and make my way home to the Hyperion. Or home for now. There are plenty of extra suites in Wolfram and Hart, I mean Angel Investigation’s new home. I just can’t bring myself to leave just yet.

I enter through the back way, and softly close the garden doors behind me.

The lobby is eerily silent, and only a few lights flicker in corners, making giant pools of shadow in between their feeble attempts at illumination.

I decide to go ahead and empty the weapons closet, which is pretty much the last thing to go. Opening the doors, I see that most of the larger pieces have already been packed, only a few small daggers and one of my favorite maces remain. As I look around for a bag to put them in, I notice a small duffle, covered in dust, in the far corner of the closet. That will do. I pull it out, and turn it upside down to shake out the remaining dust bunnies. A small piece of paper tumbles out with them.

I pick it up off the floor with suddenly trembling fingers, and turn it over.

A sixteen year old Buffy Summers smiles up at me, flanked by her boon companions Willow Rosenberg and Xander Harris.

God. Were they ever that innocent? And young. Buffy must have slipped this into one of my books a thousand years ago. And here it is now, a physical reminder of all the things I loved most dear, and all the things I had to leave behind.

I sink to the floor, weapons cabinet hanging open, packing forgotten. I gaze at the picture of my beloved and her friends, as silent tears of… regret? begin to fall from my eyes. I hastily swipe my hand across my face in shame, not willing to feel so much so soon after the emotional roller coaster I have been on the past few days.

A creaking sound reaches my ears through my haze of pain, and I leap to my feet, mace in hand, and approach the door, ready for anything, pleading silently for any kind of baddie to cross the threshold so I can take out my swirling anger and sadness on it’s evil head.

Buffy:

I find the Hotel exactly as I had expected. Tall and imposing, yet cheerfully painted, it feels like a place he should live. I approach the door, still not sure I’m doing the right thing. The hinges creak when I push the monstrous thing open.

Light falls on his face from the street lamps, and I gape in shock at the sight of a bedraggled fallen Angel, tear tracks staining his beautiful face, as he hefts a very large and sharp mace right towards me.

‘Angel! It’s me!’ I shriek right before he can land the killer blow.

His arm halts with difficulty in mid air, and he rights the mace, laying it over his shoulder, as he takes his turn staring. He blinks his eyes slowly, as if he’s trying to clear his vision.

‘Buffy?’ he whispers, and my name has never sounded more precious.

Angel:

As I swing the mace, fully intent on beheading the thing that has dared disturb my grief, her voice reaches my ears finally.

‘Angel! It’s me!’

I halt my swing, stopping my killing blow a few inches from her wide green eyes, now staring at me in utter bewilderment. I sling the weapon over my right shoulder, and whisper ‘Buffy?’ to her, not really sure if my want and sorrow have conjured her there out of thin air, or if it’s the real thing standing there in a white tee shirt and jeans in front of me, looking for all the world just like that young girl in the picture I had been holding moments earlier.

I back away from the door, and she follows, jumping as the door crashes shut behind her.

‘I hope, um, I hope I’m not bothering you,’ she says hesitantly. I burst into laughter, making her jump again.

‘Angel, what’s wrong?’ she murmurs, concern etching her features.

I drop the mace to the ground with a clatter, and sit on the round couch that is luckily right below my butt. She crouches next to me on her knees, eyes desperately searching mine for some sign of sanity.

‘Angel, has something attacked you? Are you all right? What can I do?’ She stands suddenly, in a fighters stance, fists by her chest, ready to defend me. I can only smile at this, and deep in the small part of my dead heart that reserves space for memories of her a small beacon of hope awakens.

Buffy:

He sinks to the couch, and at the look in his eyes I jump up, ever at the ready for some new threat. Living on the hellmouth for seven years has made my instincts really honed. Almost too honed, if you ask me.

When I gaze down at him again finally, he’s smiling as though he hasn’t had a thing to smile about his whole life. It was always a rare gift to see this type of expression on his normally dour face.

‘What are you smiling about?’ I ask him, and sit down beside him.

‘It’s funny, you know, that you’re here, now,’ he tells me.

‘Why? Were you expecting someone else?’ I reply.

‘No, not really. I just, well, was just thinking about you, and then there you were.’

I smile at him now in turn. ‘I hope it wasn’t a bad thought.’ I wipe a lingering tear off his cheek with my finger. He shuts his eyes, and places his hand over mine, holding it to his face.

‘Angel, there’s a couple of things I need to tell you. I know our last conversation wasn’t exactly, well, the best one we’ve ever had, and I feel like I need to clarify some things,’ I start, and he kisses my palm, shutting me up immediately. Shivers break on my bare arms, and I wonder feebly were the hell I left my jacket.

‘I know, Buffy, I mean… I understand. I get now what you were trying to say. Cookie dough not withstanding, I got your point. And the other thing, well, that’s really your business, and I’m sorry I got possessive. I didn’t mean to interfere,’ he speaks to the floor, apparently not wanting to meet my eyes.

‘I’ve had my own stuff going on too, and we really haven’t been the best of friends lately. I know I’ve been hard to get in touch with, but believe me when I say it’s really for the best you didn’t see me this year.

It hasn’t been… easy,’

he continues, and the familiar mask closes over his eyes again, blocking anyone from trying to get too close.

‘Well, it’s not like I tried, either. I had my own stuff too. You know, little sis, new job, apocalypse, Faith, Spike,’ I rattle on, then realize I said the taboo word. He jerks his head up at the mention of that name.

‘I’ve made my peace with it. It’s your deal. Not mine. I have no right to tell you who to be with, or to judge your choices. I made some bad ones myself over the past year, and it’s really better if no one brings them up again. I can’t undo what I’ve done, Buffy,’ he says, taking both my hands in his now, ‘but I can learn from my mistakes and readjust my behavior so you can still respect me, and so I can just be around you again. You don’t have to trust me. I just want to be with you, be near you, even for a little while.’

I’m speechless.

Angel:

I rise from the couch, and her eyes follow my back as I pace in front of her. ‘I realized a few days ago, after seeing you again, that the things I had believed to be important in my life were not as important as just one thing. And I prayed to whoever would listen that if I could just see you one more time, just hold you in my arms once more that I would be satisfied. All the pain, all the stupid things that I did last year would be worth that one moment with you.

And I would be stronger for it. I could get through the coming year and the years after that with the memory of you and me together, even if just for a few minutes. I can exist without my friends, I can exist within the walls of Wolfram and Hart, hell, I can even exist without my son, but I can’t live at all without seeing you just once more. And here you are. Somebody’s listening to me. And I can’t believe it. I don’t know if I should.

‘Cause what happens if I turn around and you’re not really there?’

I stop my tirade and realize what I’ve spouted to her is true. I didn’t know if I could make it anymore without Cordy, without Connor, having to inhabit that façade of an office, looking at the sun everyday, and not want to greet it every morning.

But just the few seconds I’ve had in her shining presence, her willingness to protect me no matter what, has given my long dead body the will to move on, the will to have no peace for myself and do what’s right for humanity.

To help those who can’t help themselves. And whatever the Powers have in store for me next, I know that I can meet the challenge because this amazing woman is out there also fighting the same fight, and that no matter how much time passes, her soul and mine are melded, and can never be torn apart again.

Buffy:

It’s my turn to cry now.

He turns back to me finally, and I stand shakily, making my way to him. We just look at each other, my whole speech of forgiveness and platitudes forgotten, and as I stare into his dark chocolate eyes, tinged slightly red from tears, I realize myself that I truly am home.

I don’t need Sunnydale. I don’t need Spike. Hell, I never really did.

Here’s the thing right in front of me that I was using Spike to fill in for. My soul’s other half. It’s twin.

No matter how much time passes, no matter if we don’t see each other again for years, I’ll never ever forget his words, or the look of utter joy in his eyes when I finally take his hands in my own and sob out three words.

‘I love you.’

He wraps his arms around me and pulls me to his chest, weeping silently into my hair, all the crap, all the sorrow and damage that has been inflicted on him pouring out of him and into me. My soul will hold his up. Just like his held mine up so many times before.

‘God, Angel.’

He rests his forehead against my own, and we shakily smile at each other through the gloom.

His lips meet mine, gently, and it’s as if I never left his side.

And I never will, as long as he’ll have me.

Angel:

Her strength is my strength now, and I’ll never need anything else.

I kiss her finally, and she sighs into me, running her hands up my back and ending in my hair, tangling in the short strands. I cup her face tenderly with my hands, and deepen the contact, as if I can’t breathe except to breathe through her.

I know we have a whole hell of a lot of obstacles in our way, but I don’t care. I don’t care if hell crashes down around our ears and the world is ripped away to leave nothing in it’s place. All I care about is to kiss this woman, and to have her kissing me.

And this empty shell of a man feels whole again, if only for a little while.