Author: Dark Star
Illustration by Dark Star
Website: Dark Star's Portal.
Summary: It's a lovely sunny day…
Disclaimer: Joss Whedon is creator and owner of all things Angel and Buffy
Rating: PG 13
Distribution: Just ask, please
Written for: The Summer Challenge at Blood Roses Forum. (You had to include: A Sunny Day)
Notes: Sorry for the sweetness, folks…
Buffy watched as the incoming tide lapped over her naked toes before scampering back into the ocean. Her toes tingled from the waters’ caress and she squelched them into the waterlogged sand. Tearing her gaze away from her feet, she looked up, sweeping across the shimmering water and out toward the horizon.
The morning sunshine felt good against her skin, and she closed her eyes and turned her face upwards so that she could fully embrace its warmth. The strapless summer dress she wore allowed the sun access to her arms, and she smiled as the heat penetrated her skin, making her feel comfortable and content.
Strong arms slowly enclosed her waist, and she leant back against his chest.
“How did you find me here?”
Gentle lips traced slowly across her neck. “If I was blind, I would see you.”
Buffy sighed, the gentleness of his voice soft and soothing. But for some reason she began to feel a little ill at ease, and a small frown fluttered into place. She opened her eyes, turning in his arms until she faced him.
“Is… everything okay?” she asked uncertainly.
The conviction in his reply calmed her, but she couldn’t shake the feeling that something just wasn’t right.
“Angel,” she began, but she couldn’t think of anything to say that wouldn’t sound stupid, and she fell silent.
Angel quirked a smile at her, and took her hand; together they strolled along the waters’ edge before crossing the sand and heading toward a wooden cabin that stood back from the reach of the waves.
“Who lives here?” Buffy asked, stepping onto the timber veranda and passing by the old-fashioned rocking chair before entering the cabin through the white wooden door.
“We do,” Angel grinned at her, and she stared at him in confusion.
“We do?” she repeated. “Angel… I don’t remember.” Confused, she looked up at him. “Why don’t I remember?”
“What do you remember?” he asked.
Buffy opened her mouth to answer him, but was appalled when she couldn’t recall anything at all.
“Nothing,” she whispered, and Angel heard the fear in her voice. “I know who I am, and who you are, but how I got here – or even where here is – is blank. Where are we?”
Angel gave a small shrug. “I have no idea if this place has a name. There’s nothing here to hurt you Buffy, and I will explain everything. But right now, I think that you should rest. And later, we’ll talk.”
Buffy was about to protest, but Angel was right, she was very tired. She took a quick look around the comfortable cabin, noting the wooden furniture and soft colours of the furnishings. She allowed Angel to settle her on the bed, and smiled when he pulled a sheet up round her. He leant forward to kiss her brow, and then sat himself on the edge of the bed, her hand held securely in his; and, feeling protected and contented in Angel’s presence, she drifted off into sleep.
Shadows in the darkness…twisted evil shapes and strange features…familiar faces and friendship … sunshine and laughter…
Buffy’s eyes slowly opened, the fleeting pictures of her dream already fading away. She tried to capture them before they faded completely, but the fragile images were insubstantial and tenuous.
The dream was somehow important, but it was frustrating that the images eluded her attempts to grasp them. Buffy sat up, and took a sip of the water that Angel had left there for her. His thoughtfulness was touching, and Buffy knew that she was very lucky to have somebody care for her so much. As she swung her legs out of bed and stood up, she told herself she was being silly; it was just a dream, after all.
She padded barefoot to the door and stepped outside into the summer sunshine. It was a lovely sunny day, and the view over the sea was beautiful; she watched enchanted as graceful seabirds circled overhead, a savage elegance in their movements as they swooped down low over the glittering sea.
A movement behind her made her turn, and Angel came round the side of the cabin, his arms full of driftwood. His delighted smile on seeing her made her glow inside, and he said, “You’re up. How are you feeling?”
“Good,” she replied, but Angel must have seen something in her expression because he dropped the driftwood and came toward her.
“I…” she began as Angel wrapped her in his arms, and Buffy realised that she was being silly. Angel would never allow anything to hurt her; her uneasiness must be unfounded, and she snuggled against his shoulder. “It’s nothing,” she breathed, drawing his head down into a tender kiss.
Buffy found the gentle rocking of the chair very soothing, and she smiled as she observed Angel standing down by the waters’ edge, his fishing rod dipped hopefully into the sea.
Buffy found herself transfixed by the sunlight reflecting on his skin, and she had the oddest feeling that she had never seen him in the sunshine before. But that was ridiculous, wasn’t it? Angel turned and grinned at her, and Buffy waved back as he returned his attention back to his occupation.
Something was gnawing at her mind, something that she couldn’t quite remember, and she shivered in spite of the warming sun. She closed her eyes and raised her face toward the heat, hoping that the warmth would pacify her uneasiness. The heat was relaxing, and she began to grow drowsy, her mind drifting, running…
The hardest thing in this world Dawn, is to live in it…
Running, falling, falling, heat, light, fire…
Buffy opened her eyes with a scream, feeling terrible pain searing her body. She thrashed, frightened and disorientated. Then Angel was there, cradling her against his body, and comforting her with his soft words and strong arms.
She pulled away, her eyes wide with fear.
“Where’s Dawn, Angel? Where the hell am I?”
“Dawn isn’t here, Buffy. There’s just us.”
“Where am I?” she demanded.
Angel hesitated, and then said, “What do you remember now?”
“Everything,” she murmured thoughtfully. “The fight with Glory, Willow turning evil, everything.”
“Do you remember the Vira Beast?”
Buffy frowned. “I… remember fighting it. It was really fast, and… and it slashed me across the chest.”
She looked down, but there were no marks on her chest from the vicious claws.
“Am I hallucinating?” she asked nervously.
“No.” Angel replied, and the sadness in his voice ripped straight through her.
“Oh, my god.” She whispered. “I’m dead again, aren’t I?”
“No.” He replied instantly. “Yes…” he added uncertainly. “ I don’t know, Buffy.”
“Angel…” she whimpered in frustration.
Angel sighed, and took a deep breath before attempting his explanation.
“I received a phone call from Willow. She told me about your fight, and asked me to come to Sunnydale. When I got there, you were… out of it. Unconscious, comatose. You didn’t have very long left.”
Buffy took his hand, her earlier fear forgotten. Whatever Angel was trying to tell her was a difficult memory for him. “What happened?” she asked.
“The Vira are soul collectors, Buffy. The injury was designed to incapacitate you, while they arranged for collection.” He shifted uncomfortably; his hand gripping hers a little tighter. “You were dying,” he said sadly. “There was no way to save your body but your friends were determined that the Vira wouldn’t enslave your soul. Willow knew that they were searching for you and she cast a protection spell while they figured out what to do.”
Angel paused, kneeling down on the veranda next to her. “Your friends researched tirelessly for a way to help you. In the end, Willow discovered a way to send your soul on a journey, to another dimension, and to a place where you would be safe.”
“Did something go wrong?”
“The journey would have been unpredictable. There would be no way to ensure that your soul reached safety. You could have ended up anywhere – a hell dimension, perhaps.” Angel attempted to smile, to soften the intensity of the moment, and he went on, “But sometimes, if the soul has a mate, it can be led.”
“Oh!” Buffy exclaimed as realisation dawned. “That’s why Willow called you.”
“Yes, “ Angel agreed. “That’s why Willow called me.”
They sat silently while Buffy tried to absorb everything that Angel had said to her. The sheer scale of the whole thing astonished her. Finally, she said, “How long do you have?”
“How long?” Angel queried.
“You know, before you have to go back.”
Angel gave her an odd look. “Buffy… I can’t go back.”
“The journey here took…” Angel shrugged. “…Hundreds of years. And… Buffy, what happens to my body when my soul isn’t there?”
Buffy’s eyes widened, and she murmured, “Angelus.”
Angel nodded. “Yes. I couldn’t allow him to run amok while I was with you. I…” his words trailed away, and Buffy guessed, “They staked you.”
“Yeah. I wanted to make sure that they didn’t try to restore my soul, when it was already where I wanted it to be.”
He smiled, offering her a hand up from the chair. He wrapped an arm round her shoulders, and they wandered down to the shore. Buffy leant into his embrace as they looked out over the water.
“Thank you.” She said sincerely, feeling a little overwhelmed by Angel’s sacrifice. She was still struggling with the idea that everything she knew was long gone, and that Angel’s body had been reduced to dust. “I can’t believe you weren’t scared.”
“I never said that,” Angel said. “I was. But not about the staking.”
Angel paused, choosing his words. “I was trying to lead you to a good place, Buffy. I wasn’t…” Angel swallowed, before carrying gruffly on, “I wasn’t certain that I would be allowed in with you.”
A little chill prickled at Buffy’s arms when she realised what Angel was admitting to her. The thought that he would risk so much for her, and yet wasn’t even certain of his own salvation, was terrifying.
“But you were,” she said softly, her fingers reaching up to caress his face. “You’re a good man, Angel.” Her eyes met his, and she added seriously, “you know what this means, don’t you?” At his enquiring look, she added with a flourish, “You’ve been forgiven, Angel.”
It was heartbreaking to see the surge of pure joy that crossed his face. He swept her up in his arms and spun her round until she was dizzy. “I love you, Buffy Anne Summers. Stay with me?”
“Forever.” She promised. “That’s the whole point.”
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