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Title: 25 Days to Sri Lanka
Author: Tania
Rating: PG
Summary: Angel tries to find peace. Set between The Gift/There's no Place Like Plrtz Glrb and Heartthrob.
Feedback: tania@fangedfour.com
Thanks: To Josey and my mom (who is way to hip to be a mama) for the betas.
Disclaimer: Joss owns Angel but not Sri Lanka.
Distribution: Please ask first.

Dead.

That's the first thought that hits you.

Dead.

It washes over you as you hold the child in your arms and try to embrace her tight enough to stop the shaking. As she wails and red hair falls over your arm you try to form words of comfort, but there is only one word in your mind.

Dead.

The word rolls in your mouth even as you roll over the waves for twenty-five days. Twenty-five days from the port of Los Angeles in a cold cargo hold. The tangy smell of salt water and grease filled crates sickens you. The only food available is the scurrying rats, but even their blood is not sufficient to wash the word from your mouth or soothe your roiling stomach. The crew races over your head, conversing in broken English mixed with Sinhala. As a wave jolts your body and the rupees in your pocket jingle you wonder what the word would be in Sinhalese.

Dead.

The thought comes in waves as you trek from the ocean to the mountains. The cool summer winds ring in your ears as you ascend into the hills by foot, your only companions the bright red helaconias that run beneath your fingers as you make your way through the muggy jungle. There is clarity to the air here that is a welcome relief after twenty-five days of stagnant, mildew covered walls and constant movement. The calls of birds around you and the lingering memory of Pylean war cries behind you try to block out the word, but they cannot.

Dead.

You think it again as you lift the heavy stone knocker on the monastery door and say a quick word of thanks when you are welcomed in. You whisper it to the smiling man who greets you like it is the answer to any question he might pose. You cry it into his bony shoulder as if he will understand all that it means. You cower in the corner of a sparse room while many hands wash you with natural soaps that leave a sticky sheen on you even after they have been rinsed. You try to find the words to tell them it is not necessary, but still only one word runs through your mind.

Dead.

You pray to a god that you are not sure you believe in anymore that the word will pass out of your mind. You pray that Sri Lanka is far enough from the world you left behind. You pray that dreams of blonde hair being sucked into air and landing on cement, matted with blood, will not follow you to this place. You pray that hours of meditation and chanting will be enough to silence the word from your lips, and after several weeks it is. You are clean and still. The sensation of rocking and trembling finally passes. There is now only one thought in your mind.

Nothing.

I have become nothing. I can travel the world and never call one place home. Never fight, never sleep, never cry, and the world keeps on turning. I have no place in it without her as a counterpart.

Nothing.

You think you have found a balance. You finally lay your head down on a simple bed of straw, which is not the worst bed you've lay in by far, and your dreams are hollow. You awake with a serenity that has been missing and you go to pray one last time before making the trek back down the mountain, because nothing is okay. You can live with nothing. You open the door to the grand meditation room, so ornately decorated with Buddha and inlaid wood that you barely register that the men here are no longer the men who have helped you. They are demons. They are after your soul, which they cannot have, because god help you there is a new thought piercing your mind.

Alive.

You are still alive, even if she is not. You fight them off with stick and blade, feeling the gashes they rend into you. You feel them trying to pull the soul from within your chest. You see the talismans they wave and you race to crush them. You grab at smooth banisters of rich wood and swing around to deflect an oncoming jab. You knock the men far to the ground below, but not before a jolt hits your side. You revel in the pain because it can mean only one thing.

Alive.

You dive from one end of the hall to the other, batting them down. You take the very swords they sought to employ when carving your soul from your body and drive them back, beat them down. You end them, yet you live, and you are glad for it. When the massive doors finally open on the nightfall and you say your goodbyes to the men who helped you the pain is less. Still there, she is still there, even dead. But you are not. You take your few belongings, trek back down the mountain, steeling yourself against the onslaught of motion that will soon greet you. You pick up a few trinkets here and there to remind you that this place was not a dream, and you find the ship. The saline covered ship that will take you back to Los Angeles, back to smog and artificial scents and friends you now know you cannot live without.

Alive.

Twenty-five days on a ship from Sri Lanka. The air colder now as autumn makes its presence known, the rats' blood still too thin to wash the word from your mouth. The journey seems shorter this time. It is still twenty-five days, it is still half a world away, but this time her death does not roll through your mind every minute. You have thoughts of duty and a mission and four people who are glad you are alive. There are other thoughts there now and you welcome them.