It took Dana a day to prepare... to
set up the temple room, to gather the ingredients, fresh from
the hills (and some from obscure, unknown sources), to read over
her notes and meditate on the task before her.
There was nothing for Angel to do, so he lay, flat on his back, staring at the beamed ceiling above his head. He hadn't set foot in Ireland since Darla had turned him, almost 250 years ago. It certainly had changed... or maybe it was him who had changed. As a mortal young man, his homeland had seemed drab and boring, as grey as the mist that settled heavily over the town each dawn...
But now? Now it was a land of magick... of promise.
He was terrified and exhilarated. Sad and confused. His soul felt triply tortured this day, as he waited for his life to be restored to him. He knew that, even as a living man again, he would still be haunted by the ghosts of his past.
What if the spells didn't work? What would happen to him, to Dana, to Buffy? Would the Prophecies still come to pass?
He thought about his son, yet to be born. He thought of his family, long dead by his own hand. What would they think of him, now? He could picture his fathers' stern disapproval at the wastrel his son was, and his mother's sad disappointment. If they knew of the rest of his life, would they feel differently? If he had not slaughtered them and drank their blood, would they have been proud of him, at the last? What would they think of the world he had built around himself? Would they have loved Buffy as much as he did?
It was a stupid line of thought, of course, even in pretending.
If he had never become Angelus, he never would have met Buffy...
he would have been dead 200 years before she was born. And his
family would never even understand the world he lived in today...
Dana was standing in the doorway, dressed in glorious blood red velvet, her hair tied back, a look of quiet, distant reflection on her beautiful face. She took Angel's breath away... metaphorically. He almost chuckled, thinking how ironic it was that she had come to give him his breath.
"It's time," she told him.
He rose, taking her hand, walking resolutely down the hall, ignoring the laughter of his demon, echoing in his mind... off to face his destiny.
Angel found it almost impossible to open his eyes. He was *so* tired... his limbs felt as if they were made of putty, his heartbeat was labored... pounding...
His heart was beating.
His eyes snapped open at the realization. He still lay on the altar, with Dana kneeling in meditation nearby within the circle, keeping vigil. She rose when she saw he was awake, and stood over him, smiling gently.
"Hello," she said simply.
Angel couldn't respond. It was all he could do just to lie there and breathe. *BREATHE*... he could feel his blood pumping in his living veins... he could listen to his heart beating... he could feel the breath rush in and out of his lungs.
"I'm alive," he said. He'd completely forgotten what it felt like.
"You are," Dana agreed, offering him a hand up.
"How long have I been asleep?" he asked groggily.
"The required time. Three days." She held his hand as he experimented with his living body, moving his limbs, changing the pace and depth of his breath. She thrilled that his touch was so warm, and that ruddy color was filling his cheeks.
"I'm ALIVE!" He exclaimed, twirling her in a joyous dance of celebration. "I'M ALIVE!!!" He called to her, as he raced around the room, then checked his pulse. He stopped when he saw the mirror on the wall near the door. He approached it slowly, cautiously, as if he feared he might scare it away, or it might hurt him. He looked into his reflection for the first time in 250 years. He examined his eyes, his hair, his skin. He still looked pale, but now it was a tired pale, with faint circles under his eyes...
"I look awful," he told his reflection, and laughed heartily.
Dana had never heard him laugh like that before. She couldn't remember ever feeling so much joy. She watched her beloved Angel celebrate -- twice as beautiful alive as he had been dead. She felt a sense of relief and accomplishment, watching him. She had succeeded. She had fulfilled her destiny.
Suddenly, her vision became fuzzy and the floor dipped beneath her. She reached out for anything to help her keep her balance, but there was nothing nearby, and she fell. Angel was beside her in a moment. He took her in his arms and helped her to the couch outside the Circle. She sat, leaning on him, catching her breath.
"You're getting worse," he observed.
Dana smiled sadly at him, still holding his warm hand.
"There is no more worse, love. We are out of time. The end is here, for me. I have a day at most until the curse comes to bear."
Angel shook his head. "No. There must be something..."
Dana looked into his sad brown eyes, now brimming with living tears. "There is nothing to be done, Angel. I have fulfilled my destiny... my time has passed. Now is your time."
They sat, looking into one another's eyes for a long while. Dana finally broke the pained silence.
"You have a whole life ahead of you, now... I don't want to think of my death any more tonight. We need to celebrate!"
After Angel went to his rooms to dress, a servant led him down the hall to a formal dining room he'd never seen before. It was dark and dramatic, all of mahogany wood and burgundy trimmings... Dana had had the servants prepare the dining room while Angel slept. A feast of excessive proportions had been prepared -- a massive buffet table covered with delicacies he had forgotten existed: roast beef dripping with juice, roast turkey and fresh ham, vegetables of every imaginable variety, fresh breads and fine wines were arranged neatly -- enough for a hundred people. Candles lit the room, and a fire in the hearth chased away the ocean chill.
Angel realized he *was* chilly... and his stomach growled fiercely at the scene before him. Dana stood beside him, taking in the sight herself.
"My..." she said, "Smells good, doesn't it?" She grinned at the audible grumbling of Angel's belly.
He rested his hand where the noise had been. "You can't even
imagine..." he said.
They sat down to eat, each at the opposite end of the massive table. It took only minutes for Angel to have eaten so much, he thought he might be sick. And the wine -- he felt lightheaded from the wine. And he needed to use the bathroom...
When he returned, Dana was leaning heavily on the mantel, staring into the fire. Angel put a CD into the stereo, and approached her from behind. He didn't need to ask what she was thinking about, and he knew she didn't want him to anyway. What she wanted to do was be with him, her living love, one last night before she went to her rest.
Angel was a walking paradox, as usual. The joy he felt at being alive was only barely out-shadowed by Dana's impending death. He though of the sacrifice she'd made for him, and a rush of love washed over him like he'd never felt before.
The irony of the whole situation hit him like a brick. Dana loved him... she'd made that much clear time and again. But she was dying, and knew he was fated to always love another... and still she had given up what remained of her time so that he might live the life he was fated to lead... so that he might share his time with his life's love. Only now... right at this moment, his memories of, and feelings for, Buffy, seemed a million miles and years away, and all he could see before him was this woman -- his savior. His closest friend.
He realized in that moment that he really did love her, and that he didn't want her to die.
He took her hand and led her to the open part of the dining room floor by the fireplace. Angel took Dana into his arms and they began swaying to the soft music.
Dana was overwhelmed by him. Now that he was alive, his presence seemed to overshadow all the other energies she could usually sense in any room. She could smell the warmth of his skin, the spicy fragrance of his clean hair... and she could smell the living blood in his veins...
She tensed for a moment, struggling to control the bloodlust that came upon her. It was only one night -- the only night she had left. She could not... WOULD not... let the demon overtake her now! The urge passed, and Dana relaxed once again. The spells were coming dangerously close... she had to hold on...
Angel pulled away from her a little bit so he could look into her face.
"Are you okay?" he asked softly.
She smiled, a small smile, and only nodded before leaning into him once again. She couldn't remember the last time she'd held such a big, warm being in her arms. The few lovers and friends she'd had over the years had all been vampires... She could hear his heart pumping, and some part of her rejoiced at having made it so.
It was well worth the price.
Angel held her tightly, as if holding her would keep her from slipping away from him. He knew that he was moving swiftly toward a great life -- a destiny 2000 years in the making. But tonight... tonight he was just a man, a man holding a beautiful woman who he cared about deeply in his arms. A woman who would soon leave him...
As the music played on and they continued to dance, Angel thought over the year he and Dana had spent together. To think of her being gone frightened him more than he expected. Now that she had given him this miraculous gift, it seemed too much in comparison to what she was giving up.
He didn't know how he would face the future without her. How he would stand before the Council who hated and feared him, and take any part at all, without her guidance. How he would fill his role as peacemaker and diplomat, father of Kings, without her strong belief in him to boost him up...
It was Dana who pulled away this time. She stopped moving and hesitantly stepped back from him.
"This isn't right," She said sadly, "However much I might like this to be... for us to be... we both know it can't. You are the dearest thing in the world to me, and now..."
She took a deep breath.
"And now you are about to step into a future which does not in any way include me. You are fated for another life... another love."
Angel tipped her face up to his, and without comment, kissed her softly. Dana forgot what she had been objecting about. All she knew was that the man she had loved for 2000 lonely years was holding her -- kissing her. She felt all of her passion, admiration, and adoration rise in her like a flood. She had one chance -- this one and only chance -- to love him.
She returned his kiss with the fervor of the damned... the pent up fire that she had walled up inside her since she met him...
They made love long into the night, finally releasing and sharing the electricity that had built between them for months. His hot skin made hers almost warm, but it was his lips that she felt left searing marks on her body where he placed his kisses. His living hands knew every inch of her cold flesh, and with their union came bliss the likes of which Dana had never known.
They whispered words of love to one another in the darkness -- called out to one another across the space created by their passion. When they finished, he slept deeply, and Dana spent her last hours watching her living Angel sleep...
He could still smell the dawn coming. He blinked open his eyes and saw Dana sleeping quietly beside him... a single tear fell from his eye as he softly touched her cheek.
She opened her deep blue eyes in response to his touch, now so familiar, and smiled widely. It was time. She was ready. There was nothing left to say or do -- only the end, and his new beginning.
They rose and dressed silently, touching one another whenever the opportunity arose.
Angel had known this was coming. He had watched the changes in Dana worsen, day by day, always steeling himself for the inevitable end. But now that it was here, he felt as if his newborn heart might break at the thought of losing her. Something inside him felt at home with her, natural, easy, and safe, as if he were a normal man...
Now he was, more or less, a normal man. Now the life that he had dreamed of for so long was within his grasp, and part of him no longer wanted it. How very Zen, to all of a sudden realize that what you want is what you've already got. How very tragic to realize that you can't keep it.
He was unprepared for the sorrow that overtook him, and he began to weep. Dana took him in her arms, caressing him, shushing him gently.
"I love you, my sweet Angel. Please don't cry."
When he raised his eyes, rimmed once again with tears, to her, it almost broke her heart.
"I love you, Dana. After everything you've gone through for me...after everything you've done for me, how can I just watch you die?"
"You are human now, Angel. And that's one of the things humans have to learn to live with -- the inevitability of death. But you can't forget. You can't forget what -- and who -- we've done all this for. I believe that you love me, and I have spent all of my days dreaming of that. Of what passed between us last night, over the past year... But we are merely players in a production much bigger than our two beings. All of what we have done is to lead to something else..."
She lay her hand over the place where his heart now beat, and raised her eyes to meet his.
"Do not mourn overlong, or overmuch for me, my sweet Angel. For there is a whole world that needs you -- an entire future... another living heart..."
He looked into her eyes. For a moment, her face became Buffy's, smiling at him, her eyes alight with love...
He knew it was a glamour Dana was using, to put a face to what she had just said...
Angel remembered. All of this had been for her -- for their son. He closed his eyes. When he looked again, he saw Dana, fearless and strong in the face of her death. He steeled himself and let her go.
"We need to go," she said, "It's time for the sun to rise."
They walked slowly in the pre-dawn grey, through the dew-wet heather to the cliffs overlooking Galway Bay. The smells of the Irish dawn woke memories in Angel that were long-since dormant. Scenes of his boyhood in these hills, his family... what he had been as a living man -- though irresponsible, still full of life, joy, and laughter...
The beautiful creature beside him had already been 2000 years old when he had called Ireland home.
The air was waking around them. Birds were beginning to sing, and the smell of grass and blooming flowers filled the air as they approached the edge of the cliffs. When Angel got a good look at the lighter blue beginning to peak over the horizon, he felt the familiar sense of dread at the coming of the dawn. Then it occurred to him: today, the sun would not turn him to dust, but it would reduce his newfound love to ashes.
Dana smiled from beside him. She began to chant softly, and a drank a potion she pulled from inside her coat.
"This will dull the pain," she assured him. She turned to look out over the bay. There was no fear in her, only a sense of a job well done, of a life well-lived. Angel would be fine, now. He would live out his mortal days with his soul's mate, filling the world with his power and his love. And his son... his son would be a power of a different kind, a living symbol of all his father's pain and passion. In a sense, he would be her son, too. His existence a symbol of her love for Angel, and all they had endured, together.
She watched a gull swoop over the water, heralding the molten gold that began to blaze on the horizon.
Dana took Angel's hand and squeezed.
Story and Mangled Graphics by Ducks, 1999. Email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com