AUTHOR: Yseult deBreton
DATE OF COMPLETION: 4 January 2003
DISCLAIMER: Not mine. Never were. Just renting.
AUTHOR’S NOTES: Angel’s thoughts are in italics.
The soft trilling of the cell phone pulled Angel from the balcony. He fumbled with the keypad before he found the right button and turned it on.
“It’s snowing.” Her voice floated out of the ether and surrounded him. Angel relaxed instinctively as his mind summoned her name. Buffy.
“It’s snowing?” he repeated.
“Uh-huh. Big fluffy flakes of snow.” Her voice was filled with wonder. Angel could picture her staring at the snowflakes as they drifted lazily from the sky. He walked back to the balcony and gazed at the smog-filled sky.
“It’s a snowstorm! There’s so much snow, they’re probably gonna cancel school tomorrow,” she continued in the same amazed tone.
“There’s a snowstorm in Sunnydale?” It was his turn to sound awestruck. The last time it had snowed on the Hellmouth, the First Evil had gone bowling with his mind. And it would’ve won too if it wasn’t for the snow.
“No, Angel. It’s snowing in Iowa.” Her giggle sent shivers skipping over his skin.
What? Angel stared at his phone in confusion. “Buffy, why are you in Iowa?” Her midwinter break had already passed. As far as he knew, she had no reason to visit Iowa unless she’s back with Riley? Isn’t he supposed to be in some South American jungle? Angel unconsciously emitted a low warning growl.
Another giggle erupted from the phone. “Stop that. I’m not in Iowa. I’m in Sunnydale. Don’t you have caller id? You really need to move into the twenty-first century, Angel. What’s the point of having a phone if you don’t know who’s calling?” But I always know when you call.
Angel felt a familiar fogginess at the sudden turn in conversation. It was going to be one of those phone calls. The kind where, by the time he figured out what Buffy was talking about, she’d already moved on to something else. On a good day, he could usually keep up with Buffy’s schizophrenic changes in topic. Today had not been a good day. He tiredly massaged the bridge of his nose. Then he leaned his elbows on the balcony and looked at the street below him. May as well start.
“Buffy, why are we talking about a snowstorm in Iowa?” Whatever she told him would just be an illusion to hide the real reason for this call.
“Because the snow reminds me of you.” Her softly spoken words made his soul bleed.
Angel heard the unshed tears. “I thought that was rain,” he joked lamely. All this time and it still hurts so damn much.
“Snow. Rain. Tears. Whatever gets the job done.” She didn’t sound bitter, just incredibly sad.
He offered her the only solace he could: “I’m sorry.” There was the usual silence. Sometimes this happened when she called. There would be bursts of painful sounds interspersed with tortuous silences as they searched in the darkness for the fragments of their love. Occasionally they were able to fit most of the pieces together. They had never made it whole since that unreal Thanksgiving.
Eventually Buffy spoke again. “Spike once told me all slayers have a death wish.” I guess we’re talking about death again. “I don’t,” she continued. “Does that make me smarter or am I just fooling myself?” Angel heard a rattle and the sound of running water. She was washing dishes. It was always like this when she called: she would do chores, he would concentrate completely on her.
Angel pondered Buffy’s question. What was she really asking? A slayer’s life was obviously filled with death. Someone or something always wanted to kill a slayer. Every day. Every single day. A slayer was a human being, a girl really. Could a girl experience so much violence, cause so much death, and not want it to end?
What Buffy wanted now was assurance, not a philosophical discussion. Pay attention.
Angel asked Buffy the question she would not ask aloud. “Do you still want to be the Slayer?”
They had been dancing around this question for several weeks. When her mother had died, Buffy had become obsessed with the concept of death. Her vision quest had supplied some crucial information that had been gleefully ignored then horribly misinterpreted.
“It’s who I am,” she replied automatically.
“Is it who you are?” This was another area of recent intense discussion. Buffy was bouncing between two extreme definitions of a Slayer: Slaying is a noble calling (Kendra) and Slayers are superior and have a justification for amoral behaviour (Faith).
“Of course. It’s right there in the title: Vampire Slayer.” The clanking of dishes suddenly increased. Guess she didn’t like that question.
“Buffy, it’s okay to say ‘no’ or ‘I’m more than that’. You are, you know.” He tried to soothe her so she could think about this and not just react. Angel had recognized that Buffy was struggling with her self-identity. It was a normal part of young adulthood. But knowing it and living it was not the same thing. For all of Buffy’s comments about wanting a “normal life”, she had little patience with the mechanics of normalcy.
“’I’m more than a Slayer?’ Angel, I know that. I’m a friend, a sister, a student. I took psych, remember?” How could I forget when Riley was your TA? “But just because death is my gift, doesn’t mean I have a death wish.” Pause. “Does it?” She asked the question in a lost voice.
Angel had a sudden urge to wring the First Slayer’s neck. Why can’t prophecies and dreams be straightforward? The sun will turn blue on Tuesday. The end of the world is tomorrow and will commence with flying bananas. He began to pace on the balcony.
“We already talked about this,” Angel said quietly. “Giving death and causing death are different actions that come from different motives. You slay vampires because they are evil and kill humans.” And if you didn’t, some other Slayer would.
“I didn’t slay you,” she whispered into the phone. No, you just sent me to Hell. The words lay unspoken between them. Angel chose to ignore them. Time for a different tactic.
“What were you thinking when you jumped off that tower?” And please tell me that you were thinking about saving the world. They had never talked about this before. In the months that followed the battle with Glory, their conversations had roamed over many subjects. Buffy had steadfastly refused to discuss those final minutes, and Angel had never pushed her.
The silence stretched on. The longer she took to answer, the more certain he became that he was not going to like her response.
She finally spoke. “When I jumped, I thought… ‘I’ll never have to die again.’ I was… relieved. It was so hard to be here. I think I was even kind of… happy.” She choked on the last word. She was happy?
Angel was speechless. He had imagined several probable things she could have said. “Happy” never even entered his mind. He swallowed, but the lump in his throat would not disappear. Was the world so horrible that you were happy to leave it? Then he had a more terrifying thought. You couldn’t tell me any of this. Angel was stunned. He fell to his knees and rested his forehead on the cool tiles.
He cast his mind over those months before she had jumped. He had been deep in his own madness, but he had emerged from it with a clearer vision of his mission. The night of Joyce’s funeral, he had told Buffy everything. Until now, he thought she had been equally honest with him. They had talked about her “sister”, Glory, Riley, Darla, Drusilla. She had expressed her rage, fear, disappointment, and grief. They had shared a kiss and renewed their love. He had called her before he left for Pylea. He had never guessed that her world was so bleak.
“Angel?” He couldn’t answer.
How could she… why didn’t she… I would have done anything ANYTHING to change that night.
“I didn’t know, Buffy. I didn’t know.” His voice was robotic even to his hearing. He couldn’t stop repeating the words. “I’m so sorry, Buffy. I didn’t know. I didn’t know.”
“No one knew, Angel. I never told anyone.” Her words were matter-of-fact reasonable. They were meant to reassure him. Instead Angel felt a chill. You couldn’t tell me?
“Buffy, why didn’t you tell me?” I would have done ANYTHING…
“Because you would have taken my place, and I couldn’t watch you die again. It would’ve killed me.” But you killed me anyway. He detected the tremble in her voice. Hard for me to hear, hard for you to tell.
“You don’t know that,” Angel tried to argue.
“Yes, I do. You know it too.” Her voice was a little stronger, a little more secure.
“Does that mean I can never make you happy?” Am I still a big part of your unhappiness? And why do I need to know the answer right now?
She laughed outright. “Well, it’s safe to say that I can never make you happy. Unless something’s changed and you haven’t told me,” she added coyly. Angel was confused again. What? Then he realized she was talking about the infamous clause.
“I meant… That’s not what I meant.” He was stammering. But it is what I mean. Except we still can’t. I think I need a drink.
Angel rolled onto his back and looked up at the sky that was now crisscrossed with searchlights. “Can I make you happy?” he asked again. “Happy enough so that you stay in this world?” Always?
He heard her breathe into the phone. “I’m here now, Angel. I don’t plan to leave for awhile.” It wasn’t quite the answer he was looking for, but it would do for tonight.
“So,” he said, stretching his body. “Back to your original question… I’m guessing that’s a ‘No, you don’t have a death wish’ and ‘Yes, you’re smarter than Spike’.” He unsuccessfully stifled a yawn.
She giggled again. “Go to sleep, Angel. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.” Angel could suddenly hear the weather report for Iowa. “They’re gonna get another 12 inches of snow tonight. You should see the snowbanks!” The awe had crept back into her voice.
“Good night, Buffy. Don’t stay up too late.” She mumbled a good night and hung up the phone.
Angel stripped, showered, and climbed into bed twenty minutes later. When he awoke, snow was falling. He pulled on his coat and walked out into the cold night. He looked up. Big fluffy snowflakes drifted out of the sky just like in Iowa. Except this was Nepal. And Buffy had jumped from the tower twenty-three days, five hours, fourteen minutes, and twenty-two seconds ago. I would have done anything.
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