Angel held Dana's hand until there
was nothing left to hold but dust. He wept with equal parts grief and joy.
The sun blazed up over the horizon, burning his tear-stained eyes, so long used to only darkness. As he raised his hand to shield them, he realized suddenly that this sun was no longer his enemy, but the light he needed, as a human being, to live.
He took a long time to watch another gull swoop into the fired-tinged water. He had to remember that, although time was now shorter for him, that its tiny pleasures were no less valuable and worthy of that time. He had to remember never to rush... he would still walk slowly through his life as if he still had forever, never missing a precious detail.
He turned from the cliff and the sunrise, and walked away.
Dana's house was in chaos when he returned, several days later. Of course, the household already knew she was dead -- the seers would have known at least that, despite her glamours to hide her and Angel from prying eyes.
He immediately sought out Erishka. Even if she already knew about her daughter, even if she had been on the Council that had so twisted his life, Angel could at least show the courtesy of a personal announcement -- and offer a shoulder to cry on.
He knocked softly on her chamber door.
"Come in, Angelus," came her weak voice from inside.
He opened the door and stepped into a bedchamber so elegant, it rivaled even Dana's in its opulence. Heavy mahogany furniture and wine colored velvet trimmings dominated the dark room. The ceiling was domed ivory, decorated by a giant oil painting of hundreds of dancing cherubs. The irony was not lost on him.
Then he saw Erishka, draped in formal mourning garb of the deepest black, practically disappearing into her enormous wing-backed chair. She seemed to have shrunk, somehow, her once regal bearing gone, and in its place, the carriage of the ancient woman she truly was.
"It is done," He said gently, formally.
She nodded sadly, looking up at him. "I know," She replied, tears streaming down her ashen cheeks.
Angel crouched down before her. He felt close to this woman, somehow, as if she were his own mother. He wished he could offer her even the smallest comfort, but he knew there was no way to ease this pain... watching the death of everyone you love was the curse of the immortal...
"She didn't suffer," he offered.
Erishka searched his eyes deeply -- looking for something. Although Erishka liked Angelus a great deal -- the boy was sweet and smart, not to mention handsome -- she did not see the greatness that Dana had seen there. She did not see the world-changer or the death-bringer... She did not see the father of a king... she saw only the boy with eyes as dark as night... eyes now full of light and life.
"Yes she did, my son," she lay her cold hand affectionately on Angel's cheek, "She pined for you for two thousand years...she talked about you as if you were her living lover, gone off to war or some such silly thing that men let take them away from their lives..."
Angel squeezed his eyes shut against the pain in his soul. Dana had given her life to ensure his happiness -- she had expended the last of her own soul to bring him his mortality. He drew a long breath in her name, then rose.
"I see that you are alive," Erishka said, matter-of-factly. But inside she was shaking to see that it was possible... if only...
She had known Dana would do this when her death became inevitable. She'd known it since the day, not so many years ago, that Dana had come tearing down the hall in their London home, screaming and laughing that she had finally done it. She had finally found the answer to all her cares... the secret to restoring Angel's mortality.
Dana's guilt over Angel's cruel punishment had always been clear, and Erishka had never doubted that she would eventually use the Incantations on him, if the opportunity arose. And when Dana reported to her mother that she had found Angel, living in LA... this ending was certain from that moment to this.
"I am," Angel confirmed, a mixture of pride and sorrow in his voice.
Erishka gazed on him for a long time. Now he truly was the young, strong man of prophecy. He was the living flesh that would produce the future. It never ceased to amaze her, in all of the centuries she had known it would happen. And it amazed her more, now that it was true.
She rose to stand before him. She was barely over half of his height and a third of his weight. But she held his gaze with the warm ferocity of a person so confident, so powerful, that their size mattered hardly at all.
"You will always have a place in my home, Angel. I look forward to working on the Council with you." She hesitated for a moment, then went on, "Dannan spent her entire life devoted to bringing these days to pass... bringing... this..." she lay her wrinkled hand on his chest, feeling his newborn heart within. It brought tears to her eyes -- it was Dana's heart, that pounded away inside the boy.
"Extraordinary," She said to him, smiled sadly, then turned back to the fireplace, dismissing him.
Angel obeyed her silent command, and left.
He wandered the grounds throughout the day, reveling in the sun. Not reveling, exactly, because of his sadness and quickly growing sunburn...
...and because every tree, every flower, made him think of Dana. He remembered all their months together fondly... her brilliant smile, her shining red hair, her particular flourish for the dramatic. The scenes spilled through his mind: their first dance at the ball, the demon hunt, the nights on the town, the days at the piano and the chess board, the midnight snacks.
The ritual... Dana's pain... their lovemaking... her kind blue eyes, shining with love in his first sunrise -- her last thought had been of him...
He wiped the tears away from his sunburned cheek, remembering her last words to him:
"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..."
Buffy. When Dana had first told him his mortality was a possibility,
he had not had time to fully digest the ramifications. He thought
of Buffy's sweet smile, and her encouraging words the last time
he had seen her.
Could it have been a year ago? He had been so lost, so confused... and still dead. The barrier of that and their shared history had stood like a living creature between them, choking their voices... preventing any words of love...
The history remained, but the barriers had been removed. Their shared destiny awaited... their son. But what could he possibly say to her? How could he explain?
What if she turned him away?
It took Angel barely an hour to pack what things he had at the Heathers. He asked the servants to run errands for him -- make arrangements. He felt like a walking irony, mourning for one lover even while he made his way to spend eternity (albeit, now, only a metaphorical one) in the arms of another.
Dana had been his greatest friend, his most loyal ally. She had made all of this possible for him... but Buffy was his destiny. His fate was to be a reluctant ancestor to the next race of men...
He barreled down the hall... he couldn't wait another day. Wouldn't waste any more time contemplating or brooding or mourning. Life -- he smiled at the thought -- was short.
He saw Maella standing in the doorway to her rooms. He paused, began to move toward her -- to offer her some modicum of comfort, despite all she had done to he and Dana. But she grimaced at him, growling softly, before turning and slamming the door behind her.
He didn't have time to think about it now. He had a plane to catch.
The night passed quickly on the plane. Of course, Angel was nowhere near sleep... instead, he read the incredibly boring in-flight magazine and contemplated the fact that he would be needing to eat the disgusting "meal" the flight attendant placed in front of him. Then, when most of the lights went out and the majority of the passengers slept, Angel thought about life...
His second sunrise set the sky outside the plane on fire. It was glorious, the way the clouds turned bloody red, then burning yellow, then searing white. Angel found himself glad to be alive.
Alive, at last.
When the plane touched down, the sun was in its noontime glory. Angel stepped off the plane onto the Sunnydale Airport runway, putting on the thick, dark shades he bought, knowing he would need them for awhile until his eyes readjusted.
He smiled at the heat on his skin, despite the pain the sunburn caused. Its touched flowed over him languidly, like honey, and he rejoiced in the sweet pain of its heat.
The walk through Sunnydale was bittersweet. The cozy, peaceful streets were quiet during the day, belying what they became past dark.
He knew going down past the High School and Buffy's old house on Rubello drive were the long way around, but he needed more time to get straight in his head what he was going to say to her... or to her friends, for that matter. How was he ever going to explain all that had happened in the past year, or all that was about to happen in their future?
How was he going to explain that he was alive?
He had a lot to think about. But he couldn't stop walking, giving himself less than ½ hour to decide.
"Go Fish!" Willow cried triumphantly.
Oz smiled at her. Willow always won. And he was never entirely certain if it was by luck, or by magick.
Willow grinned at him. This was the life, sitting in the living room of her and Buffy's snappy new apartment, whiling away the afternoon playing a good, hearty game of Go Fish with her now green-haired sometimes-werewolf, boyfriend. She had it pretty damned good. She only wished she could give even a speck of her joy to Buffy, who still pined away for her lost Angel...
There was a knock at the door. Willow jumped up.
"Victor does door duty," Oz fake-scowled at her. She stuck her tongue out at him, and skipped down the hall.
Oz heard her whistling, heard the various deadbolts being thrown, then, silence.
`Not comfortable with the silence...' he thought.
The silence was broken by Willow screaming. Oz was on his feet before the echo died.
Willow was so damned happy she could hardly stand it as she threw the deadbolts (all four, installed at Buffy's insistence...) and swung open the door.
Her jaw dropped. Through the screen, she was looking at...
She shook her head and rubbed her eyes. Hellmouth... gotta be the Hellmouth...
...Angel, his handsome face framed in the afternoon sun behind him.
She started screaming. Angel shifted from foot to foot, looking terribly uncomfortable. Which he was, in a happy way... it'd been a long walk, and it was hot. And plus, there was Willow screaming.
Suddenly, Oz was there, joining the Witch in what had turned into a mouth-open gaping exercise. Willow's arms hung limply at her side. Oz stood defensively, obviously taken aback, but still mostly unruffled. As usual.
"Hi," Angel said. "Uh... is Buffy home?"
Willow couldn't seem to move of her own accord, so she followed Oz dumbly down the hall. She had so many questions, she found she couldn't say anything at all.
She tried: "You... it's... here... you...day... I...but..."
Oz had collected himself a great deal more than she. He put his arm around Willow's shoulders, partly in support, and partly to allow him to reach around to close her jaw for her. It seemed to be stuck.
He nodded coolly at Angel. "It's good to see you, man. Daylight. Wow." The two men stared at each other for a moment, then Oz gestured out the porch door, "Buffy's out back in the garden. Study-napping, probably."
Angel had to restrain himself from sprinting out as fast as he could. He smiled his thanks at Oz, and reached out a reassuring hand to pat Willow's shoulder. "I promise, I'll explain everything," he said, then turned and walked out onto the deck and down the path to the yard.
The gardens were surrounded with seven foot privacy shrubs, trimmed and molded to form a labyrinth, of sorts, but not a difficult one, as it took Angel less than a minute to reach the center.
And the treasure awaiting him there...
Buffy was more beautiful in the sunlight than he remembered. Her hair shone with its light, her tanned skin glistening with a thin layer of sweat. She wore sunglasses not unlike his own pitch- black wraparounds; and a textbook -- Victorian Literature -- lay open upside down on her chest. The heavy volume rose and fell slowly, deeply with her sleeping breath.
Angel felt his heart throb for the first time... the first time his love for her had actually caused a physiological reaction in him... he was on fire for her, down to his mortal cells. He felt warm, salty tears spring to his eyes, and he removed his sunglasses to wipe them away and to see this moment more clearly.
"Buffy..." he said softly, crouching beside the marble bench where she lay.
She stirred a little, turning her head, opening her eyes, and regarding him groggily.
"Hi," She said, her voice heavy with the confusion of the newly wakened, "I haven't seen you in a while. How've you been?"
Angel realized she thought she was dreaming. He reached out slowly, tentatively, to touch her soft cheek.
She flinched, and was instantly up, on her feet on top of the bench, in a defensive stance.
"What the hell?" She growled menacingly at him, "What's this supposed to be? Who the hell are you?"
He smiled, "It's me, Buffy."
She regarded him with obvious mistrust and more than a little fear. She did not change her stance, nor let down her guard.
Angel held no fear of her, and so he approached, slowly, as if trying to pet a wild animal.
"Buffy. I swear, it's me."
Buffy scowled. "But it's broad daylight." she said suspiciously, "And you don't look anything like a pile of dust, which is what you should be. If you were Angel. Which you obviously aren't."
He stood directly in front of her, now. With her heels and the height of the bench, they stood eye- to-eye. He held her gaze, telling her silently, assuring her, promising her that it was true...
"It's really me. It's me. Angel." He said again.
Her eyes softened, her arms relaxed. "Angel?" she said softly.
In a moment, she had leapt into his arms, and for the first time, Angel lost his breath in the crushing embrace of the Slayer.
Story and Mangled Graphics by Ducks, 1999. Email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com