Disclaimer - they're not mine
Rating - like the show
Spoilers - I guess general B/A, season finals (BtVS&AtS) and stuff.......it's basically placed three years after Buffy's death.
Summary - I don't think it has one. Just read.
AN1 - I actually dreamt (yeah, I know it's weird) about this idea last night, and I just HAD to write it down, so here it is before you.
AN2 - Joyce isn't dead.
AN3 - it's not the true amount of angst I'm capable to, but it is angsty enough, so beware. It's my first (and only!) fic of that kind. Basically, it kinda lacks a beginning AND an ending, it just stands on it's own. I can't think of another way to describe it. Just read and you'll figure out what I mean.
Feedback - is a HUGE must and is begged for!
Distribution - ask me first
Joyce Summers stood in the entrance to the bedroom, leaning her shoulder against the doorframe. She sighed quietly, her eyes roaming all over the room. It'd been three years since then, a very long time, she had to admit, and she still wasn't able to clean her room from all of her things. It hadn't remained the way it was when she left it the very final time, it couldn't, obviously, but Joyce tried to keep it as close to it as she could. It added a strange atmosphere to the Summers' house, made it seem as if she were still there. And of course, she wasn't. She hadn't been, for three years.
"Mom?" Dawn came up behind her, putting a hand on her mother's shoulder. As much as she tried, she couldn't not look into that room. She clearly recalled how many nights she had spent on that bed after she had died, crying herself to sleep, inwardly longing for her sister, and at the same time knowing she would never come back. It'd been such a long time, and it abruptly seemed like yesterday. "I miss her," she whispered.
Joyce turned to her, and took her in her arms. "Me too, honey."
Dawn pulled back, carefully eyeing her mother. "Are you sure you're ready to do that?"
Joyce nodded. "It's time," she offered a weak smile. "I...well, I think Buffy wouldn't want us to live in the past forever. She would have wanted us to move forward. That was what she died for, after all. So we could have a future."
"She died for me," Dawn said quietly, traces of guilt and pain in her voice.
Joyce smiled, lifting her younger, now only daughter's chin with her index finger. "I would die for you too."
"I can't believe she's really ready to do that," Willow voiced, while she and the rest of the gang, which now were only Giles, Xander and Anya, were driving in Xander's car towards the Summers' residence. Joyce had called them all earlier that day, and had shared her decision with them. She hadn't explained her reasons, she hadn't seen the need. All she had said was that she was going to do it, and that she wanted them there too. They had been Buffy's closest friends for years, and Joyce was sure her late daughter would want them to be present. They deserved to be there, after all they had been through together, and it wasn't only for Buffy that she wanted their company, it was for herself as well. Clearly, having Dawn by her side was priceless, but nothing could ever replace having Buffy's best friend there as well. There was one more person Joyce wished could attend, but she also knew it was no way. And though she couldn't believe these thoughts were actually going through HER mind, but she was sorry it couldn't be done. HE had to be there more than anyone else.
"It's time, Will," Xander sighed, trying his best to focus on the road ahead of him. His eyes glazed with still tears he knew he would never shed. None of them had cried for a very long time. Or perhaps, they had, only never with each other. Neither one of them wanted to impose his or her pain on the rest, because neither one of them wanted the other's pain to surface too. His six months pregnant wife gently squeezed his hand that wasn't holding the wheel, and he was more grateful to her that very moment than he would ever be able to let her know. He flashed Anya a brief, melancholic smile, and his eyes fixed on the road again.
"I cannot believe it has been three years," Giles spoke, taking his glasses off and cleaning them with a handkerchief, then replacing them on the bridge of his nose.
"I doubt any of us can," Willow said, looking out of the car's window. "It feels so strange, coming back here..." she mused, as they drove past the 'Welcome to Sunnydale' sign.
They all knew what she was referring to. They all had left Sunnydale after Buffy's death. In a year, it was the first time they were all back to the now closed Hellmouth. At first, they had been coming there frequently, sometimes more than twice a week, to visit Buffy's grave, but then, in some point, the pain initiated by merely seeing that cold gray tombstone became too much to take. It was the only way they could be with her, and they had realized that in the long run...they couldn't have it that way. They might as well not have it at all, because coping the torture of talking to a stone and pretending it's their best friend, that her tanned beautiful face, and her exuberant beam weren't buried six feet under ground, hadn't been something they could carry on for long.
They didn't even know, if they would be able to visit her grave now that they were back to that town. Would they? Or would it be too agonizing? They didn't know. They strove to push these thoughts as far from their minds as they could.
Xander pulled the car to a stop in front of the Summers' house, and lay both of his hands on the wheel, inhaling a deep breath. He came out of it the moment Anya suddenly grabbed his arm forcefully. "What is it?" he demanded instantly, seeing she was holding on to her abdomen.
"Nothing," she assured him with a smile. "She's just kicked again."
"She's gonna be a fighter," Xander said, his eyes focused on the place where his little unborn daughter lay, already named after a fallen heroine, "just like Buff." With that he unfastened his seatbelt, and stepped out of the car. They were there.
It was strange, being in her room all over again. They stood in silence, eyes wandering about the so familiar, and yet so forgotten place. It was hard, for every one of them in his or her own way, because each of them missed her differently. Everything looked so peaceful in there, they could see her lying on her bed, laughing from their jokes, or sneaking in through the window, after a night of patrol, chatting over the phone, rolling her eyes at her mother's constant nagging to clean her room, yelling at Dawn after she messed with her stuff AGAIN, crying on Willow's lap after HE had left her...
"Maybe...maybe we should start," Joyce tried to break the ice gently. "Taking the time will only make it harder."
They all nodded, but no one moved.
Finally, Willow made the first step, and opened Buffy's closet, taking her clothes out, one by one, and cautiously, as if they were made of porcelain, reposed each item on the bed.
There were skirts, shirts, slacks, jackets...so many clothes no one would ever wear again. She grinned inwardly, recalling how once she had teased Buffy, telling her the only person who had more clothes than her was Cordelia, and with a melancholic expression, she also remembered exactly how that subject came up. And then she descried it.
"Is it Buffy's?" Joyce inquired, taking the black leather jacket from Willow, and examining it. "I don't think I've ever seen it before."
"It's Angel's," Willow explained. "He gave it to her...a long time ago."
"This is ridiculous!" Anya threw her hands in the air, and received immediate attention from everyone in that room. "He should be here!"
They all remained quiet, and everyone's eyes for some reason met the floor.
"Don't act like you have no idea what I'm talking about. Has it ever crossed ANY of your minds that you have NO RIGHT to do this without him?! For years I've been hearing stories about Buffy and Angel, and right, I wasn't there in person, but...I know how much they loved each other. Some of these things, some of what you're going to throw away like some trash, it has to go to him! It's HIS! Like this jacket, and I'm sure there are many other things in this room that have EVERYTHING to do with him, just like they had once everything to do with her! These are THEIR things, you can't just take them away from him. He has to know..." her voice broke and her husband took her in his arms, letting her cry her tears into his shirt while he was stroking her hair.
A tear rolled down Willow's cheek, and Dawn stormed out of the room, sobbing, and Giles followed to comfort her.
"We don't know where he is," Joyce said, her voice tight with tears she was fighting against with all her might. No, she wouldn't cry. She couldn't. If she started crying now, she would never stop.
And what hurt the most was that she was right. They really didn't know where he was. He wasn't seen at the funeral all those years ago. Cordelia came, with her was Wesley, and another man they didn't know, who introduced himself as Gunn, but there was no Angel. When they had asked the LA group why he didn't come, they said he hadn't come out of his room ever since Willow had told him about the news.
But he came that night. He was there. Even though neither of them saw him, they all knew he was there. They could blame it on an inner feeling, or on the single white rose they found the following morning lying next to the tombstone.
But in any rate, that time was the last time either of them had heard from Angel. He had disappeared. One day, he was just gone, and no one knew where and why. Willow still insisted she saw him, when they were all fighting the last battle a year ago, with the new Slayer, who now too was long dead. But even she started to doubt it as time flew by. He simply disappeared. Vanished from their lives, and they knew he would never come back, because the white roses ceased from reappearing at her grave several months after the burial. Angel was gone, and no one knew where.
"Maybe," Willow sniffled, blinking away some tears, "maybe we should make a box or something, of all the things that were her and Angel's. He might...he might come back one day," she suggested.
"Here," Dawn suddenly stood before her, with a large carton box in her hands. The girl's eyes were red from crying, but her gaze was strangely determined.
The redhead grinned thankfully, and took the box from Dawn, immediately folding the leather jacket, and putting it in.
"Her diary should go there too," Dawn said, retrieving the book from under the pillows, and handing it to Willow. For the next part, she looked down. "I...I read it, after she had died. I know it was wrong, but I just couldn't...I thought...maybe I'd feel closer to her that way, if I get to know her better...than I used to know her in life. There are some really beautiful," she gulped, "memories...in...there. I know she wanted Angel to have it."
"How do you know?" Joyce asked.
Dawn took a deep breath, and opened the last page in the diary.
I'm not gonna bore you with details about my glorious day, cuz there's really not much to tell. Well, nothing, to be honest. I'm writing to you now, cuz it's probably...wait, it IS the last time I'm gonna be writing anything. I have this feeling inside...call it a Slayer's premonition, but I just know. I know this is the last time.
You know, I wonder how dying's gonna be like. Do you know? How it's like, I mean. No, I guess you can't.
You think it'll hurt? Boy, I feel like sixteen all over again. But you know what? I'm twenty now, and I...I'm not sure I don't wanna die this time.
You know what he told me then? He said, 'do you think I want anything to happen to you? Do you think I could stand it?'
I remember his exact words, could you believe? After all these years...funny.
Wanna know something? The truth is that I don't wanna die. I don't, because I know he won't be able to stand it.
I wish he were here now. I wish he would wrap his arms around me, and I wish he would tell me everything's gonna be okay. And I know that if he did that, I'd believe him, even though I would know it was a lie. He's a good liar. After all, he did tell me he'd never leave me...and I believed him.
Okay, just forget about everything I've told you just now. I only want him to hold me. No more lies, no more pain, and no more heartbreak, I just want him to hold me. I can't die without being in his arms one last time.
I know I would miss them. I would miss all of them. Mom, Dawn, Giles, Willow, and I'll miss Anya, and I'll even miss Spike. But I'll miss HIM the most. My Angel...I miss him already, do you know? I just hope he's gonna be okay after I'm gone. I hope he's not gonna do something stupid and give everything up. He has so much to live for, so much to fight for. He deserves his redemption. I only hope that he'll be happy...someday. He deserves to be. I need him to. When I'll get there, if it's gonna be Heaven, I'll ask them to make me his guardian angel. That way, I'll never leave him. Not really.
Well, I'll be going now. I guess I said everything I had to say. I'm leaving you to him. It's okay, right? Don't worry, you'll be in the best hands. He'll take a good care of you.
Now, I'll just...I'll write down one last thing. It's for him, actually, I hope one day he'll get to read it, cuz I need him to know.
I still love you, my Angel. I think I've loved you all my life.
Always your girl,
They all stood in complete silence.
"I think it's the most beautiful thing I've ever heard," Joyce finally spoke.
"Then you should have listened to the way she spoke about him face to face," Willow smiled knowingly, ruefully, and put the diary in the box.
Xander opened Buffy's jewelry box, and took out a smaller box, of black velvet, opening it and revealing the silver cross inside.
"She hadn't been wearing it for so long, I thought she'd lost it," Willow observed, tracing the shiny metal with delicate fingers.
"Did HE give it to her?" Joyce asked.
"Yes," Giles answered, "I think he gave it to her on their first encounter. She wore this cross when she went to face the Master."
"Then she should have worn it then too," Xander muttered under his breath. "Then maybe she wouldn't have died." He closed the small box in his hand and it locked with a click. Then he put it together with the jacket and the diary.
Joyce's gaze was fixed on Xander for a few moments, and he either disregarded that, or pretended he did. "If I hadn't made him leave...my baby would have been alive today..." she whispered, and only after having uttered the words, realized it was out loud.
"Joyce, it was not your fault," Giles put his hands on her shoulders.
"It was nobody's fault, Mrs. Summers," Willow corrected him. "Nobody could know..."
"Since when has it become an everyday's routine for parents to bury their children?" The redhead and the ex-Watcher received a rueful look from the obviously still grieving mother. "He would have kept her safe. He would have given his own life to keep her safe."
And they all knew he really would have.
"A ring," Joyce remembered abruptly. "She had a ring, I...I don't remember what it was called. She told me once he gave it to her on her seventeenth birthday. Where is it?" she started moving to where the still open jewelry box was standing.
"It was a Claddagh ring," Willow said. "We buried her with it, remember?"
"We should have buried her with the cross too," Mrs. Summers commented.
"Perhaps we should have," Giles agreed.
"Wait!" Joyce drew everyone's attention, and for a second they all thought she would suggest to dig up the body, but her gaze was focused on Buffy's bed, where some of her stuffed animals lay. Something was missing there, and she couldn't believe how she hadn't noticed it before. It abruptly seemed to her it had been gone for years. "She had that pig...Mr. Gordo, she'd had it ever since she'd been a little girl. It's missing." She didn't really know why that stuffed pig was suddenly so significant. It just was.
Willow frowned. "You're right. I think she was more attached to that pig than to anything else I can think of. It's strange it's missing."
"Sweetie, are you sure Buffy didn't give it to you?"
Dawn shook her head. "Mom, Buffy would never give me any of her stuff, unless I stole it first," she pointed matter-of-factly, suddenly realizing it was the first time she had spoken so lightly of her sister since the day she died.
"It's strange," Joyce murmured. "I don't even know why it gets to me so much, but I just feel it must be here."
Somewhere else in the world, in a small apartment, a man lay in his bed, the black comforter gracefully covering half of his perfectly built body. His eyes stared at a framed picture next to the bed, watching as the last sunbeams of that day somehow managed to penetrate into the dusky room through the heavy dark curtains, and dance across the thin layer of dust that coated the upper frame.
He hadn't kept the window draped because he needed to avoid the sun. He had no reason to fear the sun anymore. He had had no reason for a year. In fact, he would welcome the sunlight...if he had someone to share it with...
Angel peered at the picture one final time, and turned his face towards the opposite wall. He wouldn't cry. He didn't cry anymore. He hadn't had enough tears left in him.
He sighed, and closed his eyes to a yet another dreamless sleep, his strong arms cradling a small and pink stuffed pig to his chest.
And an angel kissed him goodnight.