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You always try to find what's holding him away from you [...]
Tell the world that he's breaking your heart [...]
Why are you surprised to see he's breakable?




She hears him first.

A weak moan, a mumbled sentence. Fragmented exposition; her heart tears.

"... always finds me, no matter what. She's--she's coming. Yes, yes--she's coming I tell you, coming to find me..."

Always, she thinks absently, feet picking a careful, soundless path. Her arms ache, the weight of her weapon--the weight of the world?--now making itself known. She's been ready--walking, searching, running, believing--for hours now. Feet sore, arms aching; resolve still firm. Sleep when you die, hurt when it's over.

Is it ever over?

"... she's gonna be so mad at you, you know? She liked this shirt, said it brought out... and now you've ruined it and boy is she gonna be..."

That's it. Keep talking. The sewers have never seemed more endless, more frustrating. All day--or has it been all night?--she's searched and searched. Only now, only finally, has she made real progress. The blood on a wall, the cracked pillar, the rented piece of fabric. Clues A, B and C. Catalogued, itemised, processed and filed as she'd followed their path. Insubstantial promises that she was narrowing in, circling down, and now that she's heard him--

"... and it's never good when she's mad. Never good. Got a temper, you know? I don't like it when she's mad..."

--it's substantial. It's real. He's here. She's here. Soon they'll be together. Unbroken. A few more steps forward, a turn to the right. Down and down and down--follow the rats, follow the blood, follow the sound of his voice. His voice. A beautiful sound.

"... you can't break me. No one but her can. She's the only one with that power. Big, strong, powerful power she has. She's strong, she'll find me..."

She will. She always does. She made a promise, once--once upon a time--to be with him for as long--always and forever--as it would take for him to exit the tunnel. It's why she's here now. Partly. Tunnel, sewer--there's a difference?

"... always finds me. Doesn't matter where I am, or who's got me, she still finds me. Like when Spike..."

She remembers Spike. Remembers the bullet holes in the ceiling, the pokers through flesh, the chains and cuts and scratches and blood. But she found him. Saved him. Always.

"... and after Darla..."

She remembers Darla. Remembers the dreams and the holy water and the dying, the anguished expressions, the resolve for vengeance, the aftermath and the rain and the baby and how he got so lost with Darla. She found him though. Saved him. Always.

"... and every other time--can't remember them all--but I remember that she saved me. Always saving me. Finding me..."

Always, she echoes in her thoughts. Always. He'll never break, she's vowed to herself, not while she's around. Not when she's here. She'll always find him, save him, keep him whole. It's a desperately frightening burden but one she's grateful to shoulder because without HIM, she's fragmented; splintered and shattered. Only together are they unbroken.

"... don't know why..."

She does. Never says it--not really--but she does know. Knows it in her heart, in her mind, in her soul. It's the whisper that flows through her veins, the echo that pounds in her chest, the language spoken by the whorls in her fingertips. Ingrained, innate, inveterate. Simple truth. She knows that she loves him. Knows that she'll do anything for him. Everything with him. Save him, find him, love him--always.

"... love her. Not because she saves me, or because she finds me. Not even because she's gonna be so mad at you. But because she's..."

Almost there. Anticipation and expectation. She grips her sword a little more tightly; ignores the metal splinters. Breathing quiet, heartbeat racing, feet tiptoeing as she eases around the corner.

"... and she'll save me..."

He's the first thing she sees, the first thing she ignores. Concentration steeled, form ready, she attacks from their blind side. Quips run rampant, spilling from her lips unconsciously as she forces them back, forces them down. One-sided banter as she seeks retribution--do they KNOW how much it'll cost to get this sewer-stained jacket dry-cleaned?--for causing all this pain.

"... she always finds me..."

The pride in his voice is even more pleasing than the dust on her sword, the gore splatters near her shoes. No fancy tricks this time, no mystical levitation, just her and her sword and she's done it. She's saved him.

"Always."

And now she can focus on him. Her chest heaving from exhaustion, body sore and screaming, and her mind blanking out the cuts on his chest and the dried flakes of blood in his hair. Brain censoring the chains around his wrists as soon as she's found the key and released him from their grip.

"Hey."

She grins at the simple greeting, responding in kind, helping him to stand. His arms wrap around her waist, head burying into space between her shoulder and neck.

"I knew you'd find me," he whispers, lips tracing carbon copies of the words across her collarbone.

Her hands smooth across his back, careful of the gashes, and she hugs him tightly. "Always, Angel," she promises. "I'll always find you."

"I know you will--"

She nods slightly--emotions that were previously rent from fear becoming whole once more--still smiling. She's saved him. Again. Cordy Chase--Angel's finder.

"--Buffy."

She breaks.



The End