Love Me When I’m Gone ~ Chapter 15: The Finale
Buffy jerked away from Angel as he reappeared. “What just happened? Where did you go?”
“So much for you not knowing I was gone. Thanks, Wes.” Angel knelt beside her. “The Powers That Be wanted to talk to me.”
“Great, what did they want?” She snuggled into his embrace. “Some cataclysmic event only you can take care of?”
“Not exactly.” He nuzzled her cheek. How was he going to explain what he’d learned and the decision they were going to have to make? At least this time they’d do it together. He was through with taking on the entire responsibility.
“Buffy – “ He leaned back and looked into her eyes. “If I stay with you, we’ll both die within a few years.”
“So? Dead wasn’t all that bad. It was the being brought back that sucked.”
Hard to disagree with that from what Wes had told him. “We will be together in heaven – forever. And nobody will bring us back.”
“Did you get that in writing?” She raised an eyebrow in suspicion. “Nobody ever seems to stay dead, it’s like a soap opera.”
“I saw it in writing, on a scroll no less. Our destiny together is on the other plane.”
“I don’t like the sound of that – I mean, I do, but… they’re trying to make you forget me again, aren’t they?”
He saw the worry in her eyes and wished he could reassure her. “I told them we’d make the decision together.”
“So there’s a couple of things you need to know first.” Angel drew in a deep breath and blew it out. “Okay, you’re going to be mad, but we don’t have time. We have twenty-four hours to make a decision, and I really don’t want to spend it fighting.”
“How do you know I’ll be mad?”
“Oh… just a hunch.” He laughed nervously. “The day you came to LA and the Mohra demon attacked us – I knew how to kill him because I’d done it before. The day before – only it was the same day.” She frowned, and he rushed on before she could speak. “The first time, I didn’t know how to kill him, I only wounded him and he got away. We tracked him down and his blood got into a cut on my hand – his blood made me human again.”
“What?” Her eyes widened with surprise.
“We spent all day and all night together. Only, I tried to go fight the demon alone and got my ass kicked. You saved me and I felt – worthless. You were so powerful, and I was nothing.”
“I’ve heard that one before.” She muttered. “What is it with men and powerful women?”
He grinned in spite of the situation. “I can’t speak for other men, but I was a very powerful vampire one minute and a ninety pound weakling the next. There was no way I could be anything more than a hindrance to you.”
“That’s not true.”
“I went to the Oracles, and I asked them how I was supposed to help you and they said I wasn’t. They told me you would die before your time because I wasn’t a Champion anymore.”
“That’s crap, and…” Buffy frowned again. “Why don’t I remember any of this?”
“Because I told them I didn’t want to be human if it meant you’d die. So they took the day back, and to keep it from happening all over again, they let me remember. I killed the Mohra demon and you went back to Sunnydale. No one remembered. No one but me.”
“You – you were – “ Buffy got to her feet. “You just decided – again? You just – “
“I know, I know – “ He watched her pace across the room and back. “I made the decision without you, and that was wrong. And then you died anyway, and I spent years kicking myself, thinking it was the wrong decision. It was – but it turns out it was the right decision. It – God, it’s crazy.”
“Crazy? Crazy? My whole life is crazy!”
Grabbing her hand as she passed him, Angel pulled her back down to sit with him on the floor again. “I’m sorry. That’s why I told them I had to have time. I’m not making any more decisions that affect both of us without talking to you. I’m not doing that anymore.”
“Good.” She doubled up her fist and punched him on the shoulder.
Angel fell over, his head bouncing on the carpeted floor. “Ow!”
“That’s for that day, and for you deciding what to do without asking me. No time to be angry – got it – but you deserved that.”
“I do.” He winced as he moved his arm. It hurt like hell, and she’d probably pulled her punch or his arm would be broken. “There’s one more thing – “
“Oh my God, isn’t there always?” Covering her face with her hands, Buffy let out a slightly hysterical giggle.
“If I stay, Booth dies. Friends, family – everyone will think I, he, died. Plus, I won’t remember them or that life.”
“And the bad? ‘Cos there’s always a bad.” She lowered her hands.
“Parker, he’ll grow up without a father.” He could see the same indecisiveness that must’ve been on his own face when Wes had explained it to him.
“That’s not all, that’s not even the bad.” Brushing her hair back out of her face, he stroked a fingertip over her cheek. “Parker is our son.”
“In one day? You said it was just one day.” Buffy didn’t believe this one – she knew how conniving the Powers could be.
“It was. Just one day. One incredibly sex-filled day.” Angel smiled, remembering. “Sex without protection. We didn’t have to worry about it our first time. And…” He shrugged. “We didn’t think about it that day. I’d forgotten it was one of the risks of being human.”
“But… you said they took the day back.”
“They did, but I don’t know, there’s some rule about not unmaking things.”
“I don’t understand.” She shook her head. “I just – I don’t understand.”
“They took the baby we’d made, and put him in Rebecca – into Booth’s life, and he’s our son. He’s ours, Buffy.”
“No, this is just too weird.”
“Look – “ He pulled out his wallet and showed her the picture of Parker. “Look at his eyes and his nose – they’re yours. I think he’s got my shoulders though, gonna be a big man.”
Buffy took the picture. He did look a lot like the pictures she’d seen of her father when he was a boy. “Wait, you said he’s not the right age.”
“They held him and put him into this life they were making for me. That’s my Shanshu, life as Seeley Booth.”
“They don’t want us to be together? Why, Angel?” She looked up at him, tears welling up in the hazel eyes. “Why?”
“It’s not that.” I hope. “It’s that you’ll die before this big battle that’s coming up.” He wiped away a tear that threatened to roll down her cheek. “They don’t want to lose their big gun.”
“They’re never going to let me die, Angel. There’s always another fight.”
“No. Wes showed me when you die.” Should he tell her? Maybe not, but why not? “Five years from now.”
“Five years?” A smile curved her lips.
The relief in Buffy’s eyes saddened him. “There’s two battles coming up where they’re hoping you’ll be involved. After that, you die and go to heaven and wait for me to get there.”
“How long? How long do I wait?” Heaven hadn’t been a bad place, she remembered it sometimes, and waiting there wouldn’t be that bad.
“About fifty years.”
“Wow. One of us is getting screwed.”
“Both of us are. If I stay, we’ll both die in two years.”
“And we’ll both go to heaven? Same time right then?” When he nodded, she smiled and gave him a quick kiss. “No decision there. Stay.”
“Buffy – Parker will grow up without me, without his father.”
“No, we’ll – we’ll – “ She bit her lip. “Be dead.”
“Yeah. And Parker’s life will suck. No kids, divorced – dead-end life. With me there – “ Angel tipped his hands up and down, like scales. “He gets married, has kids, has a great career – a great life.”
They sat quietly for a few minutes, Angel watching the emotions break and settle over Buffy’s face as she went over and over everything he’d told her. He could see when she reached her decision – the firming of her jaw, the squaring of her shoulders. The same decision he’d already made. The only one they could make.
“We can’t let him grow up without you, Angel.”
“He needs a good father – his father – to be there for him.”
“I am a good father.” There was a rush of love for Parker that made him smile. “I really am, Buffy. I work hard at it, you know? Being tough on him when I have to, and making sure he knows it’s because I love him. And I do make sure he knows how much I love him.” His voice caught unexpectedly.
“When my dad left us, he changed.” She said softly. “He was like this guy I saw every weekend. Then every other weekend, then sometimes, then never. He just forgot about me. And I missed him – I missed him so much.”
“Maybe that was because of Dawn – the monks’ tampering, I mean.” Angel wanted to reassure her that her father did love her, and wasn’t the bastard he appeared to be. “Less to explain without him around.”
Buffy shook her head. She appreciated the effort, but she knew better. “I don’t think so. I needed him, Angel, and he wasn’t there. And your father, he wasn’t a good father either, was he?”
“I can’t say that. I think… he was a good man but he wasn’t the father I needed, and – “ He shrugged. “How much of that was because of what was going to happen to me?”
“Five years, huh?”
“Yeah, and nobody will bring you back. Or me, once I’m with you.” Angel smiled. “Think you can stand eternity with me?”
“I’ll deal.” Leaning closer, she kissed him. Softly, gently, as if he were a dream that would burst.
When she sat back, he pressed his fingers to his lips, wanting to hold the feeling forever. A vibration from his pocket startled him, and Angel fumbled for his phone.
The ringtone told him it was Parker before he answered. “Hey, buddy, what’s up?”
Buffy leaned close as Angel listened to his son – their son. He was rambling about a squirrel and a dog and a video game. She wasn’t sure how it all connected.
“Molly’s getting a little old for you to be letting her chase squirrels, and you have to share with your cousin even if she’s a girl.” Angel replied. “You know I didn’t mean the squirrel – I mean the video game.”
He grinned at Buffy. “He babbles – don’t know where he gets it.” Her eyes narrowed, and he leaned back out of her range.
An idea came to him and he put the phone on speaker. With her hearing, she didn’t need him to, but his way was easier. He put the phone on his palm, offering it to her.
Buffy cradled the phone, staring at the image of Angel’s son – her son – their son – on the screen and listening to him talk excitedly with Angel. I love you! I wish I knew you – I wish you knew me!
The pain and sadness of losing Angel again began to lift. They would be together in Parker, and Angel would take care of him until he was grown and could take care of himself. Angel would be the father they’d both needed and never had.
When the call ended, she handed the phone back to Angel. “Thank you.”
“He’s your son, too. It’s not fair – “
“Shh…” She put her fingers over his lips. “It’s okay. Let’s go somewhere away from everybody, just you and me, okay?”
A little over halfway to Sunnydale from Los Angeles was their place. The hidden place neither of them had shared with anyone else. Sometimes, when it got to be too much to bear, one of them would call the other and they’d meet. No explanations necessary, no words needed, just a place to hold each other until they could bear to be alone once more.
Angel gestured to the small house, but Buffy shook her head and led him down to the beach. They made a nest with the sleeping bags they’d brought and sat down, Buffy resting her back against his chest, to watch the waves caress the sand.
They shared every secret that they still held, uncovering every moment of doubt and pain and jealousy.
He told her about his crush on Cordelia, his need for someone to care for – to care for him without her in his life.
She told him about her twisted affair with Spike, and how she’d hated life so much that she felt Spike was what she deserved, and how she’d forced him to abuse her in ways that made her shudder now.
He told her he couldn’t forget feeding from her, and guilt wasn’t always a part of the memory.
She told him she couldn’t forget him feeding from her, and guilt was never a part of the memory. And she wanted him to do it again.
He told her of his guilt at watching his friends die one by one and knowing he couldn’t prevent it.
She told him of Willow’s message the day she’d fought Angelus – of Xander’s betrayal by omission, and how it had been the one thing that had torn apart the friendship the three of them had formed her first day in Sunnydale.
He banished any final doubts about their night together and how good it had been. And how Angelus had fallen in love with her and it had driven the demon crazy.
She confessed that she’d dreamed of Angelus, and was disappointed when he didn’t come to Sunnydale for her when he’d been free.
He told her Angelus had kicked himself over and over for not going to Sunnydale for her when he’d been free, but he’d been expecting her to be ready to trap him.
They both laughed at how the demon had outsmarted himself.
They talked about their heaven, and what they’d make of it.
As the moon rose, they gathered driftwood and built a bonfire to keep warm.
They talked about their one night together, going over each detail and reliving each moment. The fear and joy and love they’d felt.
When they’d exhausted the memory, wringing every second of experience from it, they lay down and began to kiss and touch. Rediscovering each other as if it was all new.
They made love slowly, as if they had all the time in the world, touching each other gently and tenderly. Holding off their climax as long as they could, reaching for the perfect moment together.
As they lay wrapped in each other’s skin, tingling from fulfillment, they realized the sun was rising.
“I was thinking, when you get there, we should just do it all over again.”
“All of it?” Angel frowned against her shoulder.
“All of it, only we make it all good. No angst or guilt – and no soul losing from the perfect moment.”
“So… you want to start in the alley, and go from there? Or later, when we were closer?”
“By closer, you mean when we were trading smoochies?” She smiled. “Nope, from the alley, and just the same. Even our first kiss.”
“You sure you want to go through all that? You freaked out.”
“Well, yeah, but later…” Buffy rolled onto her back to look up at him. “In the Bronze, that’s when I found out about the curse and who you were. And you killed Darla to save me – that’s pretty high up on my list of good memories.”
“That was definitely a defining moment for us.”
“We do it all again, only with happy endings this time – every time.”
“What about…” He met her gaze. “Angelus?”
“We’ll edit those parts. I thought that if I could make him listen, or if we’d made love again – then your soul would come back and it would all be all right again. We could maybe… play with that… you know?”
“That… could be fun.” He grinned down at her. “Because with Angelus, it was all about the sex.”
“Happy endings all around?”
Lowering his lips to hers, Angel kissed her hungrily. When he lifted his head, he gazed into the green eyes. “I don’t want to ever forget this moment.”
“I know.” She ran her fingers over his face, memorizing him in her heart. “Take care of Parker. Be the father we needed. I’ll be there, I’ll be waiting.”
“I will and I’ll tell you everything.”
“I love you.” They said together.
And time was up.
Booth stepped out of his truck and whistled sharply. “Parker! Hey, buddy, your old man’s back!”
“Dad!” Parker sprinted down the steps of his grandparents’ house and into his father’s arms.
“Whoa!” He fell back, pretending to be knocked over by the impact. “Did you get stronger while I was gone?”
“Did you win? Did you win?”
“Well… I didn’t win something…” Parker’s face fell as Booth unzipped the bag he’d brought with him.
“It’s okay, Dad. You did your best, right? You always say that’s what matters.”
“It is. It’s all about how you play the game – do your best and you never lose. But – “ Booth pulled out the trophy he’d won. “Winning everything is pretty good, too!”
“Oh, wow! All Around Marksman!” He grabbed the trophy from his father. “You won All Around? Nobody’s better than you, I knew it! I knew it!”
“I thought of you the whole time.” He cupped Parker’s face, gazing into the hazel eyes that had turned green with happiness. “I want to be the best dad I can be so you’ll always be proud of me.”
“I am, Dad.” Throwing his arms around his father’s broad shoulders, Parker hugged him fiercely. “I’m gonna be like you when I grow up so you’ll be proud of me, too.”
“I love you, buddy, and I’ll always be proud of you. Always.”
In Los Angeles, Buffy woke slowly and thought of Angel, and how happy they’d been in her dream. She smiled as she drifted back to sleep.
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