Dana spent the following day in seclusion,
turning even Angel away. Now was her last chance to think, to
plan, to mourn. After today, she would have to be fully occupied
with all that needed to be done. There would be no more time for
Her attack on Maella the previous night had been a final stinging reminder of what was to come. And, to be certain, there was no longer any hope of convincing her sister of the righteousness of her action -- no hope for enlisting her help, or even insuring her silence. Dana was now more than certain that Maella would approach the Council, and tell them what she knew.
`At least I didn't kill her.' Dana thought, `I couldn't bear that. Even if it made things easier for Angel..."
Time was up. All her chances were gone. The moments were numbered until she could no longer take any action at all but to kill like an animal, without conscience -- and to summarily be hunted down and destroyed.
`Not that they will do any differently as things stand now...' she thought.
For the Council would surely call for their immediate execution... hers and Angel's.
She buzzed her secretary.
"Yes, your honor?" There was fear in the man's voice.
Word must be getting around...
"Joseph, please tell Angel that I must see him as soon as possible. It is extremely urgent."
Maella had never testified in front of the Council, before. She had sat behind Dana, observing, contributing when it seemed helpful. But now, all eyes were upon her... eyes of hundreds of her kindred.
"And you are certain Dana has translated the rituals," one councilwoman said to her.
She nodded. "Yes. And I am also certain she intends to use them."
The Council hall buzzed. The assembled Councilors spoke quietly amongst themselves, debating the matter soundly before putting it to a vote.
Erishka glared from beside her. "How can you do this?" she hissed, "How can you sentence your sister to such a dishonorable death?"
Maella looked away, ashamed. But deep inside, she knew this was the right thing to do. Dana couldn't see straight for her love of Angel. Maella might not be able to save her from his influence, but she could at least move to save her people from it.
Toloshan stood. "Before us, we have a matter of great import and urgency. According to our laws, a vote of this magnitude, which requires immediate action, may be decided by the Council only, without a popular vote.
"The decision before us is this: do we allow Angelus to be restored to the position we have previously denied him, allow our prelate, Dannan, to assist him with her magick..."
The throng hummed.
"Or do we follow the letter of the law regarding this matter and put the two to death?"
He looked to the first Council member. "Please cast your vote: death, or leniency
"Death," said the first.
"Death," the second.
"Death," the third.
Nineteen echoes of "Death" filled the chamber. Erishka
and Toloshan abstained in deference to their close relationships
Erishka cried blood tears in silence, wishing a painful death on Maella.
"Then by order of the Council of Anam, the Prelate, Dannan, and the Hunter, Angelus, are to be put to death on the dawn of the final day of this week. In six days' time, they will be brought before the Council for testimony, and thereafter, the sentence will be carried out."
"Six days!" several vampires on the Council objected.
"Six days is the law," Erishka said, from beneath her tears. The law had long ago been made to allow for cooler heads to prevail in matters of justice. Just killing one another summarily was the territory of their soulless brethren... they must prove themselves to be different.
Erishka knew six days would be more than enough time for Dana to escape, to accomplish what she had spent her entire life preparing for. Then, no punishment could reach her... or her Angelus.
Angel walked to the house from the stables in nervous, contemplative silence. Dana had sent a messenger to fetch him, insisting he come immediately. Something was very wrong -- he could smell the terror on the messenger boy, and the way the lad bolted when done with his task made Angel all the more fearful of what awaited him.
It was a rude awakening from the evening he'd spent in such peace, riding and going over the past few months in his mind.
He had thought long and hard about the possibilities before him. About Dana and the Council... about the chance to make a difference in a world to which he had brought so much pain.
Some part of him had remained anchored to Buffy through this time... to the strength of his conviction that his destiny truly lay with her, somehow... He remembered the thrill of fighting by her side... the peace of talking with her by the fire... the joy of kissing her and holding her hand... he recalled what her beautiful face looked like when she laughed... when she cried. He thought of all that she had given him -- had given up for him. He knew their souls were tied together for eternity.
`Be happy,' he'd told him. He wished the same for her, in his heart. And although he would miss her and watch out for her every day of his life, he finally knew it was time to move on, time to accept his new role in this place... with Dana...
Part of him was glad she had asked to see him-- he needed to tell her all of this before he lost his nerve. He ran over what he planned to say to her as he walked to the house. He knew that something plagued Dana, as well. He'd heard talk in the stables that Dana and Maella had fought... come to blows... When Angel had gone to ask Dana what had happened, a guard turned him abruptly away at the door to her rooms.
He'd needed to talk to her so much, and now, it appeared he was going to get his opportunity.
The same guard stood before the office door, regarding Angel's approach with unveiled suspicion. But, under orders, he let the vampire in.
Dana reclined on the couch in her office, staring absently at the fire. Angel watched her quietly, for a moment, the way the flames reflected, flickering in the red sheen of her hair... the way her fine chin rested easily in her hand... she was beautiful.
But clearly troubled.
She looked up, finally noticing his presence in the room. She couldn't believe how fuzzy her instincts had become... she should have smelled him the minute he entered the house.
"Hi," she said with a warm smile, "I didn't hear you come in."
"Obviously," he replied lightly.
"Sit," she urged, swinging her bare feet to the floor and patting the now-empty space beside her. The gesture was exactly the one she had made that first night in his apartment in L.A.... he felt the familiar dread threaten to overcome him again, but collected himself quickly, and this time, accepted her invitation.
They regarded one another for a long moment.
"I have something I need to talk to you about..." both said in unison. Neither laughed. They only sat and stared at one another.
"Go ahead," Dana said glumly. He might not be so eager to talk to her, when she was finished with what she had to say.
"No, please..." Angel insisted.
The silence continued while they stared at each other. Angel could not approach her regarding his own problems when she was clearly so troubled by her own.
"Dana, I... what is it? What's wrong? Is it Maella?" He asked, taking her hand and looking deeply into her eyes. The touch was so intimate, Dana blushed. Angel watched a wave of pain wash over her features, and a single blood tear welled in her eye, pooling there, without falling.
"I have been thinking about my life," Dana began, wiping the tear away, staining her handkerchief crimson, then turning back to the fire, "I have been in existence for a very long time... too long, I think. I have seen entire races, entire cultures, conceived and born and die and turn to dust. I have worn a mantel of the most amazing power, and borne witness to some of the greatest events in human history. I helped a nation rise..."
She turned back to look into his sweet, concerned eyes once again.
"But I have never experienced anything before like what I feel for you. I know I have presented you with more burdens than one being should have to bear, but I swear, my sweet Angel, that I have always done only what I thought was right... for you and for my people.
Now? Things have... changed... since you've been here. My focus has shifted... from what I thought should be -- dreamt would be -- to what is.
I love you, Angel. I love you truly, deeply, and with every cell of my being. I have struggled against it, but I find, for the first time in my considerable life, that I am helpless to fight my emotions."
Angel smiled. This was good. This would make what he had to say so much easier.
Dana felt pangs of both love and regret run through her as she went on.
"My fondest wish would be to spend eternity with you, like this... But that is not to be. There are things about me that you don't know... things about my past and my future that you need to understand... things I have kept from you."
She sat quietly looking at him for a moment.
"Angel, I'm dying," she said finally, without emotion.
He flinched, shocked. "What..." he muttered.
"It is not a surprise, to me," Dana went on, "I have know my end would come since my beginning. But I'm afraid it is coming sooner than I anticipated. And there are still many things that you need to know -- that I have to make you understand -- and I have very little time left."
"I don't... how..." he moaned, his spirits and hopes once again dashed. Was this a part of his own curse -- to always have love right before him, yet always somehow just out of his reach?
"The spell that returned my soul to me was not meant to be an eternal gift. It was meant only to last a finite amount of time, and that time is almost finished. I've been seeing the signs for a while, now -- or rather, feeling them. You see, it is not my body that is dying -- for that is already dead -- but my soul... my humanity. When the magick that binds my soul to me is gone, my essence will be destroyed, and only the demon in my body will be left. Much like what happened to you... as a result of the gypsy curse... only, perhaps, worse."
She hesitated. Angel gaped at her, utterly unable to find any words with which he could respond to this.
"The Council's plan is to execute me when the time comes. The same fate as my sire, but 2000 years delayed. I, however, have never been the helpless puppet of fate, only its willing servant. It is certain I will die, but *I* will choose how, and when..."
She looked deeply into his sweet brown eyes... the eyes of the man she loved more than her life... the man she had loved since the dawn of civilization.
"...and what I accomplish before then." She added, "It is time that you knew the truth."
"The Truth?" he asked. Some part of him had abandoned the idea of learning the truth from Dana, and had accepted that he would learn of his own fate in good time, just like everyone else. But now, it seemed, her dying wish was that she should give it to him, wholesale.
"The entire truth, Angel. And you will certainly be... angry... to hear it. But you must know... I have so struggled with this... but you must be prepared for the time when I am no longer here to help you.
As I told you, we have known of your existence before recorded history. I have also told you that you and the Slayer will play a central role in the changes that come to my people -- our people. But I lied when I told you how... or rather, deliberately misspoke... you see, you will fight in the Dark Wars, by the Slayer's side. And you will lead the Council, during those early days. But it is not these things that make you so important, so legendary..."
There was a sharp intake of breath from Dana, despite her lack of need for it. The room seemed to wait, the air tense as that before a storm.
"You will be the first vampire to have your mortality restored."
Angel's eyes few open wide. No thought gathered in his head, no exclamation came to his lips. Only sheer shock, a sense of falling... a sense of panic.
"And the Watcher was correct. You are not the King of Be'lheran's prophecy. The King will be your son. Yours and the Slayer's."
She paused, letting this beginning sink in, gathering her thoughts and her courage in the face of his obviously growing confusion and anger.
"What..." he said again, "I don't understand..."
Dana looked on him with love and deep sympathy.
"The Council fears the coming war. They are terrified of the changes your son will bring. And so, for a thousand years they have fought against them. They have meddled in your life to prevent your union with the Slayer -- knowing full well that your love for her and desire to share this existence with her would drive you to seek out your mortality. And in time, you would have succeeded. Perhaps, by now, even.
The Elders of the Council devised the magicks for your curse, and passed them on to the Kalderash, in their earliest history. They added the breakline that prevented you from achieving any lasting happiness. And the Gypsy were more than willing to visit such torture on what they regarded as an evil creature.
You see, Angelus, the demon, would be no threat to the Souled, not really. And most importantly, he would be driven to at least attempt todestroy the Slayer, thus doubly obviating the prophecy, and in the Council's estimation, preventing the End Days... the Dark War. The status quo would prevail for all eternity."
Dana could barely look at him. His pain was nearly palpable in the air between them, and she could smell his growing rage. But still she pressed on.
"Of course, anybody with half a brain knows that you can't thwart true destiny. That what is meant to happen will happen, whatever you might try to do to prevent it. It was a childish reaction to an imaginary enemy. They wasted their time, my power, and your life... all for nothing... it will all come to pass, anyway."
Words finally found Angel. "Your people did this to me?" He rose, fury blighting his features, "YOU LAID THIS CURSE ON ME? YOU CAUSED ALL THE PAIN AND DEATH I VISITED ON THOSE I LOVED?!? ON MY FAMILY... ON BUFFY?!?"
Dana felt his pain, felt her own pain, tinged with fear... but she managed to retain control.
"Angel. I know you're angry..."
"YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I AM." He suddenly quieted, "What I could have been..." He leaned heavily against the mantel, crying softly into the fire. Dana rose and stood beside him, wrapping her arms around his heaving back.
"It's not too late..." she whispered, "Not for you, or for Buffy, or for your son."
Angel turned his head to look at her, his features mottled with anguish and tears.
"What do you mean?" he asked, his voice choked.
"I mean that Be'lheran was very thorough in his research and writings. He knew exactly what would happen, and thus, so did I. And he left the magicks in his volumes that would set things right. It took me 500 years to decode, translate, and understand them, but I have... and...
... I have the power to make you human again."
Story and Mangled Graphics by Ducks, ©1999. Email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org