Doors and Windows
Los Angeles 2005
The knock on the door was heavy and solemn. Angel glanced at the outer office, hoping that Cordelia would get it, and watched her file her nails and glance right back at him.
He sighed. Six damn years, and she still wouldn't answer the door. Hell, she still couldn't make the coffee, either.
Rising gracefully from his chair, he crossed the floor with a pointed glare at Cordelia, who merely raised a fine black brow at him in return. Pasting his best "what can I do for you" smile on, he opened the door.
Ten minutes later, Angel closed the door again and took several unsteady steps toward his office. He staggered, catching his fall by putting his hand down hard on the edge of Cordelia's desk and knocking over her small bottle of water.
"Hey," she began to protest. "Watch what you're -- Angel!" With a small cry of alarm, she leaped from her chair to steady him. He just stood in her tight hold, trembling, making no move to support himself. If it was possible for him to be paler than usual, he was. "Angel. What is it? Angel?" Cordelia began to panic as Angel did not respond, and instead began to slide slowly toward the floor. She was unable to support his weight and they both sank to the wooden floor together, Cordelia clutching him tightly.
For a long time, Angel sat mutely on the floor, staring at nothing, trembling. Cordelia could do nothing but sit there with him, wide-eyed and afraid, and wait for him to speak. After nearly twenty minutes of silence, he did.
"Buffy. She's dead."
The funeral was three days later, in Sunnydale. It was at night, which was fitting. Only a select few attended. Giles, naturally. He looked just as haggard and lost now as he had three days ago, when he had come to the door, Angel thought distantly.
Xander was there, red-eyed and solemn. Silenced, for once.
Willow could not be found. She had left Sunnydale two years prior, determined to find Oz. She had never returned, and the post cards were few and far between.
Buffy's mother, weeping quietly into a tissue, clutched one of Buffy's old t-shirts and refused to let go of it. Giles had said that she had not put it down in three days. Joyce looked thin and old, as parents whom have lost a child tend to do.
It was all a dim, far away scene. Everything was hazy and moved in slow motion, as if he were watching a very old home movie that had been slowed down. Cordelia sat dutifully by his side in the cemetery, not even pretending to cry, and for that Angel was grateful. He knew that Cordelia had not been fond of Buffy, and she did not pretend to be overly saddened by her death. If nothing else, Angel appreciated her candor.
There was one other who stood at the grave of the Slayer. Lean and panther-like, he watched with a furrowed brow as the slim white coffin was lowered into the ground. His hands were clasped behind his back and he stood quietly next to Giles, and occasionally he would send a furtive glance in Angel's direction.
Angel deliberately did not glance back.
If he looked at his childe, standing up in honor of the death of the Slayer, Angel would not be able to keep back the river of grief that was threatening to break through. The dam would burst and Angel would find himself howling out his anguish like a dog. The sight of Spike, so solemn in the face of death, was too intense for Angel, and he avoided his eyes.
Instead, he watched the body of his heart's love being laid to rest in the cold earth, and he clenched his fists tightly.
After the simple service, Angel had no desire to stand around as the other mourners were doing, looking lost. The soft sobbing of Buffy's mother was making his stomach hurt, and the confused, bewildered look on Giles' face was like a vise around his heart. He could not stay at the graveside, and told Cordelia as much. "Go back to the city," he said brusquely, handing over his car keys. "I'll be back tomorrow."
She opened her mouth to question his motives, and quickly shut it again. The bleakness in his eyes frightened her. Cordelia nodded once, and quietly left the cemetery. Angel noted that she did not even so much as glance in Xander's direction.
He would spend one last night in Sunnydale, saying a private goodbye to Buffy, and then he could leave the town behind forever.
Ignoring Giles' pleading look, he turned toward the mansion on Crawford Street.
The knock on the door came only an hour after Angel had entered the mansion. He had prowled the empty rooms, bits and pieces of memories flitting through his mind like tiny moths. The dust was thick and undisturbed, and Angel had felt an odd sense of relief that no one had been here since he had left it. Buffy had shared these rooms with him, and the empty stillness now belonged to her.
Grimacing when the knock came, he debated not answering. It would only be Giles, looking for comfort, or perhaps Joyce or, God forbid, Xander. But his conscience spoke softly to him, reminding him that others were in pain as well, and he opened the heavy door.
The possibility that Spike would be standing on the other side had not even entered his mind. But that was whom he found, shifting uncomfortably from foot to foot, darting quick glances at Angel's face and then away again.
"Well, childe of mine," Angel said bitterly. "You must be rejoicing. You've lived through yet another Slayer."
"I didn't like the chit, that's the truth," Spike replied solemnly. "But she's been my partner for the last five years. She fights right good."
Angel recalled learning that Spike had been coerced into fighting with Buffy against the never-ending slime that oozed from the Hellmouth. "Got yourself castrated, did you?" Angel said meanly, then regretted it.
The instant of hurt that flashed on Spike's handsome features was gone before either man realized it. "Don't confuse me with you," he spat back, and made to leave.
"Wait," Angel said, surprising himself, but Spike continued down the walk. "Will, wait."
At the sound of his given name, Spike paused and turned. "Yes?"
Angel leaned a shoulder against the doorframe. "Why did you come?"
"I don't know, Angelus. I sure as hell don't know, and that's the truth."
The request startled them both, and Spike shoved his hands into his jean pockets and hunched his shoulders. Squinting up at Angel, framed in the doorway by the moonlight, he said, "I'm not who you used to know."
"I don't want to know who you are, Spike."
"That was always the problem."
Angel sighed, and ran a tired hand through his hair. At an impasse again. It seemed to always be that way with Spike. Everything was an argument that couldn't be won. Well, he was tired, and heartsore, and hungry. Not in the mood to argue.
"Are you coming in, or not?"
Spike's answer was to casually walk back up the path to the door and brush past Angel, crossing the living room to the couch and dropping into it with a bored sigh. "I'm in."
Angel joined him on the couch, sinking into the dusty cushions and passing a weary hand over his eyes. He pinched the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger, and remained that way, not caring about making conversation.
He was curiously grateful for Spike's surly presence.
And then he was crying, the pink-tinged tears rolling down his cheeks, startling him. Buffy was gone, another Slayer was already on her way to replace her. It was as if she had never lived, had never loved him, had never given her life's blood to save his unworthy hide. The world would go on, and Sunnydale would continue to battle the Hellmouth, and he himself would live forever without her. It was too much to think of, and it all crashed in at once, and the tears continued silently. Angel sat in the heavy silence and cried for her.
The hand on the back of his neck was tentative at first, then strong. Angel felt Spike offer the gesture of comfort, and in his misery, he took it. Turning to his left, he leaned his forehead against Spike's shoulder and fisted his hand in Spike's soft black t-shirt. The hated tears continued, faster now, as the reality of the situation set in. Angel gasped, trying to keep back the sobs, but when he felt Spike's arm tighten around his shoulders, he was suddenly choking and whimpering like an infant.
For a long time, the only sound Angel could hear was the sound of his own crying, the grief pouring out in waves. When he began to quiet, his delicate hearing picked up another sound, one that he hadn't heard in over a hundred years.
There was a very soft rumbling coming from Spike, a sound so low that a human would have had to strain to hear it. It was deep in his chest, sounding almost like a small motor, and it was smooth and continuous. When Angel finally recognized it for what it was, the tears almost began again and he had to blink furiously to keep them away.
His childe was purring for him, the age-old vampire sound of contentment or comfort. It was similar to what mother cats did for their kittens when they were frightened or alarmed, a sound meant to calm and soothe.
Spike was trying to soothe him. Consciously or not, Angel wasn't sure, but the soft sound was relaxing enough for Angel to close his red eyes and loosen his death grip on Spike's shirt. He felt suddenly, overwhelmingly tired.
Mere moments before falling asleep, Angel heard Spike murmur, "When a door closes, a window opens."