disclaimer in part one

Reaching through the madness
To the other side
Where the sun is rising
With her arms held wide

Rock me like a baby
Cradle me in light
You're gonna bathe me in a rainbow
And the sun restore my sight

Hold me, hold me
Breathe the light into me
Hold me, hold me
Mother dawn

I know you're
Gonna love me

Mother Dawn
- Billy Idol

Buried Alive

by: Rebecca Carefoot

Part Eleven: Epilogue

He blinked, trying to get his bearings. There was something he needed to remember, something he should have known. But he couldn't wrap his mind around it. In fact he couldn't seem to remember anything, who he was, how he had come here; it was all a blur. It was as if he were underwater, struggling sluggishly through the murk. He shook his head slowly, bringing his hand up to massage his temple. He felt like he was moving in slow-motion, but an urgency filled him. There was something important happening, or going to happen. Something pressing and immediate and achingly necessary for him to remember. He was sure of that much.

The room came into focus for the first time as he studied it in hopes of gaining some clue to his memory. He knew it was a room. If he were to push himself to describe it, he would have to admit that it didn't look like a room. It was more like the suggestion of a room. There was a tiled floor, Angel realized as the cold, smooth feel of it on his bare feet registered. There was a ceiling, a high, arching ceiling. Somehow he knew that part without having looked up. There were some sort of beams in the corners of the room which he assumed were keeping the ceiling in place. But there were no walls, no doors. Everything was open, wide open. But he was sure it was a room. He turned slowly, then looked down at his bare feet. He realized with odd disconnection that he was naked. He wondered why it didn't make him more uncomfortable.

He forgot about his nakedness as he became aware of a familiar scent, sweet and innocent and clean as the rain. A hand touched his shoulder. It was a touch he knew, a touch branded into his mind. If he could remember nothing else, he would never forget her. Buffy. He knew it before he turned to face her. Her nearness prickled down his spine, making him shiver.

He felt some of his confusion wash away, the urgency quieting as his gaze met hers. She smiled at him, a little sadness in her eyes.

"Buffy?" he said softly, hesitating. She only looked at him, smiling that same sad little smile. "Buffy," he said more firmly. He pulled her into his arms, assuring himself that she was real. His arms tightened around her delicate frame, as if he could make her safe, as if he could keep her there forever. She ran her small hand over his back, nuzzling her head against his chest. He closed his eyes, savoring the feel of her in his embrace. It felt like they had been apart for years, but it was familiar too. He kissed her golden hair, and she drew back.

He watched her, waiting, trusting, knowing she would explain what was going on. Gently, she traced his jawbone with the tips of her fingers.

"Who am I?" he finally asked.

"Are you ready to know?" she responded, idly brushing her lips over his chest. He paused, considering, trying to make his mind work faster, push through the sludge that weighed him down. Her question raised doubt in him, as well as returning the urgency of needing to know. He knew without understanding, that the memories would hold pain of the deepest nature. Yet he felt the tug of necessity, and part of him screamed for the knowledge. But would it complete him, make him whole again? Or would it break him utterly?

He stared into Buffy's hair, and closed his eyes briefly, savoring the feel of his body touching hers. He felt as if his skin became a mass of nerves, electrified by her touch; and he allowed the sensation to take over, determined to hang on to that memory if all else was swept away. Then he opened his eyes.

"I'm ready," he said firmly. She raised her head, her eyes meeting his for the first time. He swallowed convulsively as those eyes, their shade of color somewhere between green and blue, met his own. They were the most beautiful things he had ever seen, and the most painful. He froze, unable to shift his gaze, his muscles suddenly wooden. And like a wave it crashed over him. All of it. The faces of his friends swam before him, their expressions wracked by grief he had caused. Blood, death, love, love betrayed, and love again played out in his mind as the gaps were forcibly removed. He screamed, his throat ripped by the sound as it fell from his lips, raw and bloody.

"Who are you?" she asked, her voice almost harsh in its insistence.

"Angel," he whispered, with the mangled remains of his voice. His whisper both a confirmation of who he was, and an attempt to deny that person.

Then his muscles relaxed, and he crumpled to the floor, curling in on himself. He cried silently, unable to open his eyes, unable to face the truth of who he was, what he had done. And unable to escape it as visions of his actions hid behind his closed eyelids.

Her fingertips grazed his cheek, then his neck, and he found the courage to peek out through half closed eyelids. She knelt beside him, deigning to touch him though he considered himself untouchable. Angel shuddered back, scrambling away from her on all fours, unwilling to let her soil herself with the touch of him; though he craved the comfort of her skin.

She refused to let him pull away, closing in on him again. And then her arms were around him, and her hands circled his waist.

"No," he protested.

"Yes," she answered, and in her voice he heard the voices of others. People like Giles, and Willow, and Xander. People he had no right to even ask for forgiveness.

Then she stood up, and he put his arms around her legs, grasping her close, holding her like a lifeline. She lifted his face to hers, forcing him to confront her.

"I forgive you," she said simply, and in those three words he found the strength to stand.

* * * * * * *

Buffy looked up in relief as Angel's eyes slowly opened. It had been torture for her to watch him thrash and squirm while dreaming. He had screamed at one point, in a voice so full of pain, she had almost run over to wake him up. But something told her not to interrupt, so she had remained where she was.

As soon as he adjusted to the idea of being awake, his eyes turned to her. And she found herself frozen by his gaze, by the pain and sorrow that filled those dark eyes with shadows, and by the love that almost overwhelmed the pain.

She extended a hand to him, and he crawled over to join her where she sat on the floor, curling up beside her. Her hand gently stoked his head, and he buried his face in her lap, allowing her to comfort him.

The moments stretched into hours, but they remained where they were until the others interrupted the quiet companionship from which they both drew comfort, in which they both found healing. As she touched him, Buffy knew the man she held was truly her Angel. Although he had been hurt and dark wildness continued to clutch him, together they would be strong enough to make him whole.

the end

Author's Note: I just want to thank my beta-readers, Amy and Dare again.  As well as thanking everyone who's sent me feedback on any of the parts, or supported me in writing this story.      

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Buffy&Angel // Rebecca Fic