disclaimer in part 1
By Rebecca Carefoot
Part Two: Wake
Wake lady wake
the hills are in flood
and the road we must take
is a river of blood
and the wind in the wires
and your heart like a cup
and I'm down in the war
and you've got to get up
for mercy's sake
wake lady wake
The Wind in the Wires
- The Waterboys
Angel fell from a sunlit sky and landed on his back with a thump and a startled grunt. The vortex closed in on itself and disappeared in a flash of light that was swallowed by the sun. He stared at the empty, cloudless sky. Passage through the portal seemed to have stripped the alcohol from his system, leaving him cold sober. He rolled over onto his side, then stood up and stared at the hand he held out in front of him. The cuts had closed, leaving his palm unblemished white. He was also completely dry. He craned his neck, his senses on overload. Hyper-aware, the colors of the trees, and grass and growing things that surrounded him, the soft swish of the wind against the leaves, it seemed to prickle in his eyes and ears. All of it sharp, almost brittle in its clarity.
And at the same time, he felt oddly disconnected. Like stabbing himself in the eyes with splinters of glass and feeling nothing.
He wasn't sure where this was, or why he'd been sent here. He felt a vague anger at the Powers for cheating him once again, not allowing him his revenge, his death. But it was buried in layers of numbness. That disconnected feeling. He knew he was angry, but he couldn't quite seem to feel it. He pushed through a screen of branches and found himself just a few steps away from the edge of a ravine. The trees grew all the way to the edge of the sheer-drop off. On the other side of the ravine, there was a similiar wall of trees, brilliant, sparkling green in the wash of sunlight. He looked down into roaring, churning waters that coursed hundreds of feet below. The rushing river looked like a silver ribbon from this height. He took a step back.
There was a bridge stretched between the two sides, swooping from it's hanging U like an escalator or a ray of light lancing through a cloud. It soared up from the dip in its middle, wooden, solid, bridgelike, and somehow more than that. He took a step onto the first wooden slat, holding the hand rail on either side. It swayed slightly beneath him, and he looked again at the water below. He couldn't have explained why he was crossing the bridge. There was no real reason to assume what he was looking for was on the other side. He wasn't even sure what he was looking for in the first place. But whatever it was could just as easily be on this side. He took another step. The railing was cold against his hand, unwarmed by the sun. He walked faster, the bridge shifting briskly with the movement. There was something on the other side.
He wasn't sure where he was. He felt certain the Powers had brought him here, but he was less sure of why. Perhaps only to keep him alive in a place where he could not use the sun to end his life, until they needed him to fulfill their prophecies. Perhaps he'd dreamed the rain, and he was already dead. This place felt different from Pylea, and it was nothing like the demon dimension where he'd spent an eternity. He reached the other side and pushed through the trees.
He walked for a while in the cool shade the trees provided. He was not sure how long. The air was sweet, and felt good against his face. Dim light and shadow surrounded him, greens and browns and warm yellows. He was somehow soothed, feeling himself filled with a sort of peace. The closest thing to peace he'd felt since the night he'd lost his soul.
He stopped, stumbled. He closed his eyes against the memory of silk and skin, and began to walk again. The pain was less here, he realized. Hidden as his anger had been, behind that feeling of separateness.
The light began to grow brighter, the trees to thin, and he found himself at the edge of the forest. He passed through a line of tree trunks and faced the gentle slope of a large green hill, the long grasses that blanketed its side shifting like rippling waves under the slight breeze that touched his cheek. At the top was a single tree, a spot of white beneath it in the shade. He broke into a run before he'd consciously decided which way to go. His body moved without him, and he rode it, trusting it to take him where he needed to be. He felt excitement, niggling at his guts, hope trying to sprout. It worked at the wall inside him, at whatever it was that had blocked him off, disconnected him from the world. He wasn't sure why he hoped. He was too frightened to think it, certain if he named it, pictured it, it would not be true. He only ran faster, and allowed the anticipation in him to worm its way a little deeper.
He was close now. Near the top. Beneath tall, swaying grass, the ground was hard-packed and smooth, perfect for running. The slope not steep enough to slow him. He could tell now that the speck of white was a body. It lay under the tree, curled slightly on its side. A woman's body swathed in flowing white fabric. He saw the glint of blonde hair, but still did not let himself form the thought. Still he feared he would chase it away with wanting. He did not dare to name the hope that tried to expode. Not until he saw her face, and then he was on his knees beside her. Naming her again and again, each Buffy that fell from his lips a sob. Whatever had screened him, disconnected him, obliterated.
He reached out a hand, his eyes streaming tears he did not bother to wipe away. He hesitated, afraid to touch her. Afraid again that it wasn't real. That she wasn't real. But his hand descended on flesh, not air or illusion, fell on her arm, brushed against her cheek. He settled his hand against the curve of her hip, and his tears blinded him. His other hand stroked her hair, slow, soft.
Her eyes stayed closed. Fear tickled him, and he shook her lightly. She lay still, her face peaceful, sleeping. Why wasn't she waking up?
He shook her again, and leaned against her, pressing his forehead to her cheek. His tears streaked her face, but she did not blink them away or smile through a yawn or stretch. His hand tightened, clutching at her hip, sliding in the slick fabric that bound her body like a shroud. He shook her, and begged.
"Please," he said. "Please please please." His teeth were gritted, his lips curled back in a pained grimace. "Please wake up wake up Buffy. Please, God." He shook her so hard her head lolled with the movement. She lay on her back. He pressed his head to her stomach. Muttering against her, whispering, pleading. "Please please please." He ground his cheek against her chest. Soaking every part of her he touched with tears. No heartbeat. No. "Don't leave me come back please please don't leave me Buffy." His mouth gaped, the sobs tearing his chest, his throat. Silent chokes at first, then raw bursts of sound, ripping the air with pain. "Please please wake up. Please, God, please. I love you. Don't leave me." He mouthed the words, breathed them through the sobs. "Please. Get up get up get up."
He covered his eyes, rubbing at them, his hands slipping in the wet. He stared into the darkness of closed eyes, and cried.
Her body shifted weakly under his hand. He sat up, confused, and dashed at his eyes to clear them. Her hand twitched. He grabbed it in his own, squeezing it. Her eyelids fluttered, and he laughed out loud, the sound wet and thick. Her mouth moved, and he leaned closer, his eyes bright, his ears straining to hear her.
"Tired," she muttered.
"You've got to wake up," he said. "Keep waking up."
Her eyelids fluttered all the way open, and he met her clear green eyes with a gasp of wonder. "Angel," she said.