Hemorrhage

by Kristi

from that moment my soul became all feeling, all memory

~ Confessions of a Fair Saint by J.W van Goethe

Summary: Post NFA Some things can’t be given away and some things can’t ever be gotten back.

Pairing: Buffy/Angel Dawn/Connor


            He groaned and turned over. His eyes felt gritty, dry. He resisted opening them. He’d just lay here and with any luck go back to sleep, hopefully with better dreams.

            “Good, you’re awake.”

            He grumbled and threw his arm over his eyes. “No, really. I’m not.”

            “We’ve been waiting for you.”

            It was then that he realized he didn’t recognize the gentle southern accented voice speaking to him. He opened his eyes slowly, taking in his surroundings. His first instinct was to hide. He threw his hands up over his face and started scrambling, trying to find cover. A soft laugh that was compatible with the voice filled the air.

            “Relax. You have no fear from anything here.”

            He lowered his hands, got to his feet and glanced around. He looked to the woman wearing white. She was sitting beneath a shade tree in a chaise lounge. There was an empty one beside her. She smiled at him.

            “You might as well come sit down. I’ve got a lot of things to tell you about.”

            He crept closer, his feet making no sound in the high grass.  The woman laughed.

            “It’s alright. This isn’t a trick or a joke. It’s an honest offer.”

            He squinted and sat down in the chair. He stared openly at the woman. She smiled, allowing him to stare. “Aren’t you…I mean you look an awful lot like….I spent a lot time in movie houses in the thirties and forties.”

            She laughed again. “It’s not important. We’ve been waiting for you. That’s what’s important. You know there were betting sheets on you. We’ve been waiting for you for years now, some of us decades. That was quite a production that took you out.”

            “So I’m…” he trailed off.

            “As a doornail. You know, I’ve never really understood that phrase.”

            He grinned.  “I used to know somebody that you’d like.”

            The woman furrowed her brow, confusion clouding her blue eyes. “I remember her, but you shouldn’t. Up here…well people don’t remember after they’ve…you know. I hate that word. It’s so indelicate. In any case, memories aren’t retained in the way station, but she was here once, you know. Funny thing, now that I think about it. She remembered you too.”

            “Wait…I’m…”

            The woman shook her head. “No, not there. This is a way station of sorts. Think of it as the VIP room of an airport. A very special VIP room and I realize that’s redundant but appropriate.”

            “A way station…purgatory?” He could still recall most of his Catholic upbringing.

            She laughed again. “No, no. You’re not being held here for punishment. I guess I should get to the point, perhaps that would clear things up.”

            “Perhaps.”

            “You were owed a reward. You’ve been brought here to receive it.” The woman paused, giving him an opportunity to absorb what she’d said.

            He shook his head. “No…I signed that away. I’m not supposed to get…”

            “Go ahead and say what you mean. You don’t think you deserve it.”

            He shook his head. “No, I don’t. The people I hurt, the people whose lives I…that can’t be repaid. Ever.”

            “You’re right. You sent a lot of people my way. Good people.” She stood up and walked a few paces away from him, paused a moment before shaking her head. She turned around and smiled at him before sitting back down.

            “So this is a way station, but not for-” he started.

            “It’s precisely what I said it was and you’re here for the precise reason I said you were,” she interrupted him.

            “No, that was part of the deal in the end. I signed any hope of reward away.”

            The woman laughed until the tears ran down her face. She held her side as she caught her breath and then wiped the tears away from her face.  “Thank you. I haven’t had such a good laugh in a long time.” She took a deep breath. “I forget how disillusioned and short sighted mortals can be.” She chuckled, amused by his confused expression. “Yes, obviously you are counted as a mortal.”

            “I don’t know what you mean,” he said still confused by the woman’s words and the situation he found himself in.

            “Do you honestly think something so very mortal has –any- ability to take away a gift from The Powers That Be?”

            His brow furrowed and the look he gave her was part confusion, part disbelief. “Then…”

            She smiled and nodded. “Now you’re getting it.” She glanced at her left wrist, which was noticeably missing a watch, and frowned. “It seems I’m running out of time, quite impatient for immortal beings, you know.” She directed this last to the sky. “In any case, I have a couple more things to tell you. This gift is two part.  The curse you were burdened with left you with some memories, guilt, burdens you find difficult to let go, as evidenced by your statement of not deserving this gift.”

            He nodded, more to encourage her to continue rather than in understanding. She laid a soft hand on his arm.

            “They’ve decided to take those memories, give you a clean start, fresh slate. I think perhaps I’ve mixed those up…”

*

            He woke up with his heart pounding in his chest. He sat up in bed and flipped on the lamp. It bathed the room in amber light. He blinked several times. His eyes were dry and gritty. He furrowed his brow and sat up in bed. The room was stacked with boxes. He got out of bed, grabbing a tee shirt off the foot of the bed and pulling it over his head. He realized he was sore all over, immediately assuming it was from the recent move he’d obviously made.

            He shuffled across the floor, stifling a yawn. The living room was cluttered with boxes and furniture. He continued into the kitchen, pulled open the fridge and grabbed the carton of orange juice. He drank some of it out of the carton, placed it back inside and started to walk back to the bedroom. He stubbed his toe on the deep red couch and cursed in Gaelic. It was then that he realized he didn’t remember that couch, or the apartment or moving.

            He sat down on the couch, trying to determine the last thing he did remember and he couldn’t recall a single event. He knew he was twenty seven years old, his name was Angel Connelly and his birthday was November fourteenth. He knew he spoke six languages fluently plus a smattering of several others. He couldn’t recall a single person he knew, loved or cared about.

            Why? Everyone knew people, cared about someone. He couldn’t remember anyone, not even the gas station attendant or mailman. He tried to bring to mind anyone’s face, but he couldn’t, not even his own. At that thought he went into the bathroom, flipping on the light and stared into the mirror. Sleep rumpled, dark brown hair, dark brown eyes, average enough, he supposed as he raked his hands through his hair, trying to make it lie down.  When it refused to behave, even after several minutes of working with it, he decided it was useless and walked out of the bathroom.

            He started going through boxes, opening things, pulling things out. He found books, a lot of books, most of them classics. He could remember these books, the things contained between the pages, but he didn’t remember reading them.  There were no pictures, no personal items of any sort. He found a file folder with a few bits of personal information, bank account numbers, credit cards and drivers’ license. There was a rental receipt for an apartment in Galway, Ireland, this apartment he assumed, but there was nothing that provided any details to his past at all.

            Angel sat down on the floor, surrounded by the items he’d pulled out of boxes, and tried to come up with one memory, one face, one detail that might indicate he had a past at all.

 Chapter Two

            The bells on the door chimed, making Angel glance up. He smiled at the pretty strawberry-blonde walking through the door.

            “Cathleen, I didn’t expect to see you today.”

            She shrugged and smiled brightly at him. “I finished running my errands early, thought I’d stop by and make sure you weren’t running my shop into the ground.”

            Angel laughed. “It’s been a struggle, but I’ve managed to keep it afloat.”

            She grinned and stepped behind the counter with him. She looked at the sales receipts with a genuine smile. “You’ve been busy this afternoon.”

            “A group of tourists from Spain came in. They were relieved to find someone who spoke fluent Spanish. The guide kept calling me chico precioso,” Angel explained.

            Cathleen kissed his cheek. “Hiring you has got to be the best thing I’ve done since taking over this place.”

            Angel chuckled. “I was nice to them. They were interested in books. My job was easy.”

            “You speak a thousand different languages and you really love the books. Not to mention, you’re the sexiest shop clerk on the street.”

            Angel ducked his head, trying not to blush.  He glanced at his watch. “I’ve got half an hour left before the wicked witch that runs this place lets me shut down. Maybe you’d like to have dinner with me afterwards?”

            Cathleen laughed. “Wicked witch? How awful for you!”

            Angel put his hand over his heart dramatically. “It’s horrible. Console me by allowing me in the pleasure of your company this evening.”

            “Who am I to turn down the sexiest shop clerk in Galway?”

            He grinned. “Oh? I’ve jumped from the sexiest shop clerk on the street to in Galway?”

            “I was trying not to flatter your ego too much the first time,” Cathleen teased.

            Angel leaned over and kissed her on the mouth. “Where do you want to eat tonight?”

            Cathleen twined her arms around his neck. “I know this great little place. It’s quiet, intimate, fantastic food. It’s called Chez Angel.”

            Angel laughed. One of the things he’d discovered in the last two months was that he was an excellent cook.  He dug his keys out of his pocket and handed them to her. “If you’ll run by the market, get everything you want me to make tonight and take it to my apartment, I’ll meet you there as soon as I get things closed up here.”

            Cathleen gleefully took his apartment keys. She tiptoed and kissed him on the cheek. “I’ll see you there then.”

            He watched her slim form slip through the front door and down the street. A grin spread across his face. They’d been dating for a month and a half.  She knew about his amnesia, which was a relief. He had someone to talk to about how frustrating it was, how hard and lonely.

            Angel pushed the broodiness he seemed to tend to do toward the back of his mind and started closing out the register. He locked the shop up at exactly 6:00 and walked down the street toward his apartment.

            Cathleen already had candles lit and the table set. She met him at the door with a kiss. “Everything locked up tight?” She wrapped her arms around his waist.

            Angel laughed. “Yes, your precious bookstore is safe and sound. I tucked her in like a baby.”

            Cathleen grinned. “See that’s one thing I like about you. You ‘get’ the bookstore.”

            “One thing? You mean there’s more?”

            “Your arse, but I’m not counting that,” she grinned and squeezed his ass teasingly.

            Angel jumped a little and laughed. “And here I thought the bookstore and my domestic skills were the big draw.” He pulled away from Cathleen and walked over to the kitchen counter where she’d set the cloth grocery sacks and started sorting through them.

            Cathleen snuck up behind him and wrapped her arms around his waist, laying her cheek against his back. “They were. Your arse is just a bonus.”

            “Alright woman, leave me alone so I can cook,” Angel directed teasingly.

            “Yes, Sir. I never argue with a man who’s cooking for me,” Cathleen busied herself looking through Angel’s books. “Call of the Wild? You have a first edition Call of the Wild and you didn’t tell me this?”

            Angel stirred sauce and glanced over at Cathleen seated on the floor. She was pretty, eyes the color of the sky over the ocean, strawberry blonde hair, classic peaches and cream Irish complexion. He shrugged. “I guess I didn’t remember it was a first edition.”

            Cathleen got to her feet, laying the book on a table. “How’s the memory thing going? Any luck with…remembering?”

            He shook his head. “Nope. It’s odd. I know the story of Call of The Wild. I know it was written by Jack London. I can even quote passages of it. ‘Faithfulness and devotion, things born of fire and roof were his yet he retained his wildness and wiliness.’ I can’t remember where I grew up or even who my parents were.”

            Cathleen smiled softly at him. “You’ll remember. I’ve been reading about amnesia. Yours is a little different than text book, but I’m confident you’ll start remembering, maybe through dreams at first, but slowly you’ll remember.”

            “Yeah, have patience. That’s what the psychologist tells me,” Angel sighed.

            “Then you decided to go see her?” Cathleen asked. She had recommended a friend of a friend a couple of weeks ago. She wasn’t aware Angel had gone as he’d been against it at first, but she was relieved he’d decided to go. The complete lack of memories worried her.

            Angel nodded. “Our first session was the day before yesterday. I just-I want to remember and obviously it’s not going to happen without some help. She laid out a plan, some things she wants to try. She’s confident I’ll get at least a part of my memory back. I’m supposed to go for a CAT scan tomorrow, make sure a boggled brain isn’t the reason for the memory loss.”

            “That’s a good idea and I’m proud of you. I know it’s something you had to t’ink about for a long time.”

            Angel spooned sauce and pasta onto plates and carried them to the table. “I did, but I’m tired of talking about me and my problems. Let’s discuss something more pleasant.”

            Cathleen sat down at the table with a smile. She’d been waiting for the right time to discuss this with Angel all day. She took a deep breath. “There’s a rare book auction in Dublin in three weeks. Granddad is getting a little old to go. I thought maybe you could come with me. We’d shut the shop up for a few days, make it a mini vacation.”

            Angel paused, mulling over Cathleen’s suggestion. A trip together was a big step in their relationship. So far she had yet to stay the night. She always gathered up her things after they’d had sex and went to her own place. He glanced up at Cathleen. He was fairly sure he was beginning to fall in love with the woman. “Alright, it’ll be interesting. I’ve never been to a rare book auction that I can remember.”

            The smile on Cathleen’s face betrayed the cool calm of her voice. “I’ll make travel arrangements for us then.”

*

            He watched her dance on the beach. The sun gilded her with gold and he knew Venus herself couldn’t have been lovelier; in fact Venus was probably quite jealous. She shoved her long, honeyed hair out of her eyes and smiled at him. Her smile lit up the entire beach. It changed her from beautiful to divine. She laughed. It shivered along his spine and called to something deep inside of him.

            “Come play with me, Silly. You’ve been sitting under the shade so long I’m afraid you’re going to get stuck like that.”

            He grinned and shook his head. “I can’t come out there in the light. I’ll burn.”

            “And it’ll give me an excuse to cover you with aloe vera gel,” she laughed, waited a moment and then jogged closer to him. She leaned down, circling his wrists with her fingers and pulling him from the lounge chair with surprising strength. Her skin was tan, almost bronzed next to his own pale complexion. He noticed her eyes were changeable, chameleon like the ocean and right now they were the blue green of the water lapping at the beach.

            He squinted in the bright light and cringed as if he expected to catch fire at any moment. She tugged him closer to the water, letting it wash over his feet. “See it’s warm. I wouldn’t make you jump in cold water.”

            “Now there’s jumping involved?”

            She smiled and kissed him. “I love you, but there’s jumping involved. You’ve got to take that one last leap.”

*

            He woke with a start, his hand going to his chest. The hard, fast pounding of his heart seemed out of place. He took a deep breath that rattled in his lungs like a ghost in a house that didn’t belong.  Angel scrubbed his hands over his face, not surprised to find himself drenched in a cold sweat. He was alone in bed. He assumed Cathleen had gone home after he’d fallen asleep. He closed his eyes, recalling the details about the woman in his dream. He had never seen her before, at least not that he could remember, but he knew her better than he would ever know himself. He loved her, more than anything he had ever thought possible and he didn’t have a clue what her name was, or even if she was real.

            He got up and walked into the bathroom, splashing his face with cold water. He regarded his reflection carefully. The dream spurred new desire to find out who he’d been in the past. Who was the girl in his dream? His wife, girlfriend? Was she alive or dead? He didn’t even have a name to go with her face.

            “You’re crazy. That’s why you have no memories. You went insane, probably slaughtered a nunnery and to deal with it you’ve blacked it all out,” Angel mumbled.

            It made as much sense as waking up one morning not remembering anything, or dreaming of a girl he’d never known.

 Chapter Three

            Dawn watched her through the glass French doors. “I’m worried about her. It’s been two months since you told her. She should have come out of this by now.”

            Connor  wrapped his arms around Dawn’s waist. He’d come here to tell Buffy about Angel’s death, he hadn’t expected to fall in love with someone his father had never dated. He’d stayed partly because of Dawn and partly because it was easier to deal with the things his father had done for him and with his father’s death here than it was in LA. Suspended reality, or something to that effect. “She seems to be doing okay, kind of distant at times, but that’s understandable.”

            Dawn pulled out of Connor’s embrace and turned to face him. “No, that’s entirely the point. You don’t understand Buffy. The smile, the cheer, the brave face, that’s all it is, a brave face. The other day I wore her favorite white cashmere sweater and purposely spilled strawberry gelato all over it. She didn’t get upset, just smiled and said it was okay.”

            “You spilled ice cream on her shirt on purpose?”

            “That’s not the point. The point is that she didn’t get angry. She didn’t get anything, just gave me that too bright smile and that cheery, chipper voice. If she was really okay she would have yelled the moment I put the sweater on,” Dawn explained.

            “Okay, not that I really understand what you’re saying, but what do you suggest we do?” Connor asked.

            Dawn considered the question for a moment. “We need to get her out of the house for something fun. She hasn’t gone out for anything besides slaying since she found out. It’s not healthy.”

            “There’s a silent movie festival at the Villa Celimontana. We could take her there. It should be fun,” Connor suggested.

            “Ooo, that’s a great idea! You don’t mind? Dragging my sister along, I mean. I know it’s not the most romantic thing in the world.”

            Connor grinned and nibbled at Dawn’s neck. “There’ll be time for romance later. I’m not going anywhere.”

            “Except in the fall, when you’ll be going back to UCLA.”

            Connor grew somber. “You could go back to UCLA with me.”

            Dawn shook her head. “I can’t leave Buffy here alone, especially now.”

            Connor chewed his bottom lip and sighed. “Let’s talk about it later. I’ve got a few more weeks until I have to go back to school.”

            Dawn nodded. “Yeah, we have a movie festival to go to and a slayer to drag. You think you can knock her on the head and carry her there if need be?”

            Connor laughed. “Probably, but it’s going to look kind of suspicious if we do it that way.”

            “True. I’ll go talk to her,” Dawn said as she opened the glass doors and slipped out onto the balcony. Buffy was leaning against the railing, looking down. Dawn leaned next to her.

            “Cobblestones are fascinating,” Dawn commented.

            Buffy grunted in response.

            “Connor and I are going to a silent movie festival. You’re going to come with us.”

            Buffy sighed and turned her back to the railing, leaning against it. “Dawn, I really don’t want to. I’ve got patrol later.”

            “And we can patrol after the festival. It’ll be fun. You haven’t done anything fun in two months, since…” she trailed off.

            “Since Connor came to tell me that Angel died in Los Angeles,” Buffy whispered, her voice laden with guilt and regret. She withdrew further away from Dawn, keeping her focus on the cobblestones below.

            “Buffy, it’s not your fault. You’re not the one who died,” Dawn protested.

            Buffy glanced up at her and then back down at her feet. “No, but I should have kept in touch with him more. I could have helped him. I have a whole army of slayers now and I can’t even save the man I lo-Angel with them.”

            “Help is a two way street, Buffy. He never called to let you know he was in trouble.”

            “Because he thought we didn’t trust him!” Buffy wailed.

            “He worked for an evil law firm. We kinda didn’t,” Dawn hedged.

            “An evil law firm that he helped bring to its knees,” Buffy reminded her. The roman branch of Wolfram and Hart had been abandoned days after the battle.

            “Buffy, we can’t change any of that now. It happened and moping in this apartment isn’t going to make any of it better. Do you think Angel would want you to lock yourself up in your apartment like this? He wanted you to have a normal life, a happy life. Going out for patrol and patrol only is neither of those.”

            Buffy sighed. Dawn was right. She knew it, that didn’t make it any easier to will her heart to beat or her lungs to breathe. She pushed herself off the railing and went through the doors into the living room where Connor was half reclining on the couch.

            “I’ll go, but if I have to watch you macking on my sister all night I will beat you,” Buffy growled.

*

            The movie festival was crowded. Connor managed to find a place for them to spread out a blanket. They ate gelato, drank Italian sodas and watched silent movies.

            “Buster Keaton just isn’t the same in Italy. The gelato is great, but real movies require popcorn,” Connor commented.

            Buffy smiled. “No, he’s not. I went to a Silent Movie festival in Sunnydale once. They played some of his movies.” Her heart lurched. She had gone with Scott Hope and it had been just before Angel had come back from Hell. “Connor, do you still have that box of Angel’s things? The one I didn’t…I wouldn’t –I mean I’d like to go through them.”

            “Yeah, they’re in the guest closet on the top shelf.”

            Buffy stood up and the world tilted for a second. “I’ve got to go look-I need to go.” She started shoving her way through the crowd.

            “Don’t worry, we’ll get patrol,” Connor called out sarcastically. He looked at Dawn. “Is the weird behavior part of her dealing with Angel dying?”

            “Buffy dealing with anything Angel related involves weird behavior,” Dawn admitted.

            Back at her apartment, Buffy grabbed the box from the shelf and set it on the guest bed, tearing through it. There were books of Angel’s, a photo of him, Wes and Cordelia, a few pictures of Connor as a baby, including one of Cordelia holding him that hurt Buffy to look at, reminding her that Cordy had been there with Angel and his son while she hadn’t.

            In the very bottom of the box she found what she was looking for, Angel’s claddagh ring along with the pendent he’d worn in Sunnydale. The necklace went over her head and the ring was clasped tightly in the palm of her hand. She called the airlines, arranged to be on the first flight from Rome to Los Angeles.

            She was waiting in the living room when Connor and Dawn finally got back from the festival. She latched onto Connor with a feverish zeal. “Do you know where Angel died? Exactly where he died?”

            Connor stared at her. He shook his head. “I-yeah-by the time I got there the battle was already over, but it was obvious it had ended there.”

            “Did you see…I mean did you find any ashes?”

            Connor looked at Dawn as if to ask if this bout of insanity was normal or not. He looked back down at Buffy. “It was raining, everything was mud and blood…I don’t know where he-I didn’t-once I saw the carnage…found Illyria and Gunn dead-I stopped looking. He wouldn’t let their bodies be. I knew he had to be gone.” His voice ended up a hoarse whisper. It was harder to re-visit the death of his father than he had thought it would be.

            Buffy paced the living room floor. “I don’t know if it will work if I don’t know exactly where he died. Last time it was my ring and I knew…I killed him so I knew.”

            Dawn stepped in front of Buffy, grabbed her by the wrists. “Buffy, slow down. What are you talking about?”

            Buffy looked up at her little sister and smiled. She tucked a piece of Dawn’s hair behind her ear. “I’m going to bring him back, Dawnie.”

            Dawn sighed. “No, Buffy. This isn’t like last time.” Her eyes cut over to Connor. “He might be-you don’t know where Angel is. Maybe he was redeemed. He could be…what if he’s in Heaven?”

            Buffy’s throat closed.  She nodded after a moment and seemed to wilt. Dawn was right. Angel had to be in Heaven. There’s no other place they could send him this time. She wouldn’t pull him out of there, no matter how much she missed him.

Chapter Four

            “Angel,” Cathleen said with an exasperated sigh.

            “Huh?” He looked up from his book.

            “What are you reading? I said your name four or five times.”

            He shook his head and closed the book. It was Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnets from the Portuguese. “I used to have a copy of this. I’m almost certain of it, but I can’t find mine anywhere.”

            “Oh! Angel, that’s wonderful. You’re remembering something.” Cathleen’s voice was pitched high with hopefulness.

            Angel shook his head. “No, I don’t remember having it or where I lost it, but it’s this feeling…like I know I had it and I think maybe I gave it away to someone.”

            “Do you remember who?”

            “No. I don’t even remember giving it away, but…it’s ridiculous. I think I’m just fishing for something,” Angel sighed.

            “It’s not ridiculous. Why don’t you take that copy home with you? It’s not that rare and I’m sure we’ve got another copy of it somewhere around here. Maybe it will help you remember if you see it with the rest of your books,” Cathleen suggested.

            “Maybe.”

            “You’ve been awfully distracted lately. Anything you want to talk about?” Cathleen picked up her cup of tea and sat down in a wingback chair behind the counter.

            Angel sighed. He thought about telling her about the dreams. They’d been going on for two weeks now. He’d had a dream almost every single night about the blonde. They were always different, but it was always apparent that she was someone he loved and she had loved him in return. He made up fantastic stories about what had happened to her; a horrible car wreck that had involved her and his parents; a horrible massacre that he had come home to find. All of the scenarios involved her being taken from him. Somehow he knew she never would have left him.

            “No. I just haven’t been sleeping well.”

            “You just need a vacation. We go to Dublin next week,” Cathleen reminded him.

            Angel hesitated a moment before nodding. He was having second thoughts about the trip, mainly due to the dreams about his blonde. He tried telling himself it was foolish to even consider putting his life on hold because of a dream girl, but somehow it didn’t seem foolish.  “I think I just need to get some more sleep.”

            Cathleen nodded. “Why don’t I come over? I’ll cook you something for dinner, we’ll have a nice quiet night in.”

            “I really just need to be alone.”

            The hurt look on Cathleen’s face made him feel guilty, but he couldn’t deny that the only thing he wanted to do was go back to his place alone so he could go to bed and try to dream of his blonde. He’d started thinking of her as his from the first moment he dreamed her. He’d tried naming her a dozen different names but none of them seemed right to him. He’d settled for just calling her his.

*

            “Tell me what you’re doing in these dreams.”

            Angel sighed and settled deeper into the corner of the beige couch.  He’d made the decision to tell his psychologist about his dreams hoping she could help him remember who the girl was. “A lot of them are set at the beach, but not all of them. I’m usually in the shade. She’s always in the sun and she usually drags me into the sun.”

            “What do you think that symbolizes?” Dr. Kelley asked. She crossed her legs and leaned toward him.

            He growled. If he was capable of analyzing his own dreams, he wouldn’t be here telling her about them. “I don’t know. I need to get more sun.”

            “Do you think finding out who this woman is will open other memories?” She asked as she scribbled notes on her legal pad.

            “Maybe,” Angel admitted. It was what he hoped for. He wanted to remember the woman, but he also wanted to remember the rest of his life.

            “You’re sure this isn’t a woman you’ve seen on TV or in a magazine ad?”

            “No. I don’t own a TV and I don’t read magazines, besides I feel like I know this woman,” he hesitated. “It feels like…like I love her.” It was something he had yet to say out loud. “I know it’s crazy, loving someone you’ve never met or that you don’t even know their name, but I do.”

            “I don’t like using that word. And perhaps you do know her. You just can’t remember her yet.”

            Angel paused, glancing around the comfortable office, his gaze finally landed on the pretty, middle aged doctor. “Do you think I will? Honestly?” He asked the same question every session. He desperately needed to hear from someone besides himself that he would remember his life.

            “I think you can get partial memory back at least. Next session I’d like to try some hypnotherapy.” Her voice was soft, barely accented with Irish and warm.

            Angel sighed. It was something he’d been avoiding because he wasn’t sure how much he believed in it. “If you think it will help.”

            “I don’t think it can hurt.” She stood up, which was Angel’s signal that their session was over.

            “I’ll see you day after tomorrow, same time.” Angel stood up, stepped around the low coffee table and walked toward the door.

            “Same place,” she answered in response.

*

            Fear.

            He was drowning in it. It came off the woman he held in his arms in waves, almost knocking him back with its power. He looked down at the whimpering form of the female. Her eyes were wide with terror, the pupils so dilated that he could hardly see what color her eyes were. He cradled her gently to his chest. She was warm, tiny and vulnerable. That vulnerability excited him.

            “Shhh, it’s alright Lass,” he crooned and softly stroked her face, tucking an errant strand of hair behind her ear. “Such a lovely lass ye are.”

            “Pl-please don’t hurt me,” she sobbed.

            He rocked her gently, making soothing shushing noises, waiting until she had calmed down, her sobs had ceased. “There ye go lass. Now Daddy’s going to make everything alright.”

            He pulled back so he could see the lean, long line of her pearl white throat. He stroked the line, his fingers coming to a rest on the pulse point that still throbbed with a quick, staccato beat. He dipped his head, lips softly caressing her skin. He took a deep breath, letting his face morph to that of a monster. “Shhh, Daddy’s going to make everything alright.”

            The night went red with blood as he ripped her throat out.

*

            Angel woke with a scream trapped in his throat. His heart sounded loud in his ears as he stumbled out of bed, making a dash for the bathroom. He fell to his knees, retching into the toilet and then lay back against the cool tile. His harsh, gasping breaths echoed in the small room.

            “It was just a nightmare, just a nightmare, just a nightmare,” he gasped over and over again, trying to convince himself that he couldn’t taste the metallic, warm blood in his mouth, that he wasn’t incredibly excited by that taste and by the woman’s fear.

            At least he knew why he didn’t remember. He didn’t want to remember that he was a mass murdering psychopath.

Chapter Five

He dipped his finger in the pool of blood at his feet and crouched over the naked form of the woman with her feet and arms bound on the floor. A malicious grin spread across his face. He started drawing on the woman’s flat abdomen. Her pearl white skin made an ideal canvas for his painting.

            “I just love finger painting. There’s something so primal and erotic about it.”

            The girl shook her head and tried to peddle backwards out of the pool of her own blood. Her green eyes were wide with fear. “Please, Sir, just let me go.”

            He licked the remains of the blood off his fingers. “Oh, I don’t think so. We’re just getting started you see. I’ve got a theory. I believe I can cover your body with a mural painted in your blood and still have enough left for dinner. Now if you’d just hold still. It’s hard to create a masterpiece when the canvas is wiggling about so. I’m sure Picasso never had such difficulties.”

            “Probably not.”

            He whirled at the sound of a new, masculine voice. His eyes narrowed at the sight of the skinny, short kid in front of him. The kid had a mess of fine, brown hair and blue eyes that looked through him.  He’d been so involved in his work he hadn’t heard anyone come in. “You look a tough for dessert, but you might make just the right appetizer.”

            The boy smirked and leveled a stake launcher at him. “Nice to see you again, Dad.”

            Angel bolted into alertness. He tore the sheets and blankets from his body in an effort to get to his feet. He nearly fell as he careened wildly toward the bathroom to stand before the mirror, splashing cold water on his face. His entire body trembled. He closed his eyes, trying to recall the image of the boy who’d called him dad. It seemed real and true, but he’d remember a son? Wouldn’t he? And he was 27 years old. There was no way he could possibly have a son that appeared to be 17 or 18 years old.

            And the rest of the dream? Angel swallowed hard as the images flashed in front of him. The worst part hadn’t been the girl’s fear, or the things he’d done to her. The worst thing about it was that somewhere, on some level Angel enjoyed what he was doing. He enjoyed the dreams he was having.  He picked up the phone and dialed his psychologist’s number.

            “The dreams are getting worse. I need to talk to someone now.”

            The receptionist scheduled a time for him. He got in the shower and tried to wash the blood out of his memory. There was no way. There was too much of it and he had a feeling that was only the beginning.

*

            “And these dreams feel real to you in the way the dreams of the blonde woman feel real?”

            Angel nodded. He felt calmer inside the haven of beige, blue and ivory that made up his psychologist’s office.  “I don’t know why but they seem more like memories than dreams.” He paused. “I’m worried. What if I hurt someone? What if I hurt the blonde or my son?”

            “You mentioned that the boy was 17 or 18 years old. You’re 27, Angel. That’s virtually impossible. Perhaps he’s a brother instead? Or a close friend?”

            “Then why would he call me dad and why would he point a stake launcher at me?” Angel volleyed back, growing steadily more impatient with the doctor as every second passed.

            Dr. Kelley paused. “I’m not even quite sure what a stake launcher is.”

            “It’s a device rigged to propel wooden stakes a certain distance,” he answered without thought. “And don’t ask me why I know that.” He took a deep breath and tried to relax.

            The doctor smiled. “I had no idea. Why would you want to propel a wooden stake? It hardly seems the most efficient weapon to use when trying to stop a man.”

            Angel’s brow furrowed. The answer was hidden somewhere in his old life, the one he couldn’t remember. “I don’t know, but somehow I think used to.”

            “Is it possible that this was just a nightmare? A product of story you read somewhere?”

            “I’d love to believe so. I’ve had dreams like this before, but this is the first one that the boy showed up in.” He wasn’t ready to tell anyone that he enjoyed the dreams or that he knew how that woman’s blood would taste tinged with fear and that he craved it.

            The doctor made some notes on Angel’s file. If things continued this way she would be recommending more aggressive therapy, perhaps a period of observation. She stuck her pencil behind her ear, tangling it in her dark hair. “In these other dreams, what are they like?”

            Angel shook his head, not wanting to put voice to the dreams but knowing he needed to. “Lots of blood, always a lot of blood. Usually torture, always death. I’m afraid. I’m afraid I can’t remember anything because I killed my family. I’m afraid I killed my wife, my son, maybe even my parents.”

            “The blonde and the boy are very much alive in all these dreams, correct? And you’ve never had a dream of killing them directly?”

            “No. I mean-- no I haven’t killed them in the dreams. It’s always an anonymous woman, occasionally a man. And yes, they’re always alive in the other dreams. It doesn’t make it any better if I killed anonymous women as opposed to one I knew.”

            “Most of the time dreams are symbolic, representations of our feelings, our subconscious. Very rarely are dreams literal.” Dr. Kelley assured him with a soft smile.

            “So it’s not likely I’ve killed anyone?” Angel asked needing positive confirmation.

            “Not likely. I’ve got another appointment, but I’ll see you tomorrow for your regular session.” She got to her feet, her low heels sinking into the deep ivory carpet and escorted Angel to the door.

*

            “We will be landing in Galway, Ireland in thirty minutes. The weather there is a balmy 68 degrees Fahrenheit with clear skies.”

            Buffy put her seat back in an upright position and glanced across the aisle at Connor and Dawn. Connor had insisted on coming with her, saying it might be the only chance he’d get to see Ireland.  He’d also added that he could help train the new slayer, take some of the responsibility off Buffy and give her a chance to be a tourist. Buffy had countered his argument, knowing that the Reilly’s would spring for Connor a trip to Ireland if he asked.

            In the end he’d won out simply because Buffy didn’t have the energy to fight with him. Once Connor had declared he was coming, Dawn’s declaration hadn’t been far behind. Buffy had expected it honestly. The two were attached at the hips, or thereabouts. Buffy made a face. She refused to think about the thereabouts.  Dawn was her baby sister. She didn’t have sex and absolutely not with Angel’s son. It was just all too weird.

            Customs turned out to be a nightmare. They tagged Buffy’s bag for inspection and found the stakes she’d put in there. Once she’d finally been allowed through the clear skies had turned to what the Irish called a mist. In Southern California it was classified as a downpour.

            The one good point of the day was the townhouse.  It had three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a spacious living area. It was decorated with plenty of Celtic inspired art. The kitchen was stocked with food, an extra consideration on Giles’ part. It was close to downtown and there was a message on the answering machine from Willow giving her the exact address for Etain Kinsley, the slayer they were there to train.

            Buffy lugged her bags up to her room, the one right next to Dawn’s, and unpacked.  It was only early evening, still plenty of time to visit the new slayer just after dinner.

            “Like the Jehovah’s Witnesses,” she grumbled to the empty room and flopped down on her bed. She took a deep breath and turned on her side to look out the window. It looked over a cobblestone street teeming with cars and people. Buffy sighed, not really prepared to change someone’s entire existence at the moment. There’d be time tomorrow to go tell a girl that all of the sudden she had a destiny. Right now she needed a drink and according to Connor, drinking was supposed to be a national pass time in Ireland. 

            Buffy got up and knocked on Dawn’s door and then Connor’s. Both doors opened to the hallway and the teens stepped out.

            “Who’s up for foamy beer goodness? I’ve heard there’s not a drinking age in Ireland.”

**

            Buffy turned over with a groan and squeezed her eyes shut, trying to block out the meager light that came through the blinds. She cradled her aching head in her hands. Last night was a blur. She remembered a pub and Guinness, which she hated but Connor insisted had to be drunk, then he had bought her a Black Tartan. She remembered three of those and then nothing at all.

            There was a soft knock on the door. Buffy threw a pillow at it.

            “Go away,” she grumbled.

            The door whined impossibly loud on its hinges as Connor opened it. She cracked open one eye to see he was holding a glass of something red and vile looking.

            “I hate you,” she growled and pulled her remaining pillow over her head.

            Connor grinned and set the glass down on her nightstand. “Drink that. You’ll feel better. I’m making breakfast downstairs.”

            “Hate, did I mention lots and lots of hate?” Buffy snarled peeking out from beneath her pillow.

            “A time or two last night on the way home while you were throwing up in the streets,” Connor smirked enjoying Buffy’s pain immensely.

            “Oh God, I threw up in the street?”

            “Three or four times. I finally threw you over my shoulder once I was convinced you’d emptied your stomach and carried you home,” Connor reported as the smile on his face grew.

            “Please, you’re a twig. You’re lying, just trying to embarrass me,” Buffy pouted hoping she was right.

            Connor grinned. “Son of two vampires and you weigh a hundred nothing. Ask Dawn. She was mortified.”

            Buffy responded by pulling the blankets over her head. Connor laughed.

            “Drink that glass. Its beer, tomato juice, a raw egg and some aspirin, but it’ll help the hangover. Trust me. I rushed for a frat last year.”

            Buffy waited until she heard the door shut behind Connor before peeking out from under the covers at the vile concoction he’d left on the nightstand.  The yolk of the egg stared at her from the bottom of the glass like an eye. Her stomach lurched and she just made it to the bathroom. Once she’d finished throwing up she eyed the glass of liquid from her spot lying down on the tile floor. She’d try anything to get rid of this nauseous, headache-y-ness. She didn’t trust legs to work without protest from her stomach though, so Buffy crawled across the Berber carpet to the night stand. The glass felt lukewarm in her hand. She sat back against the bed, pinched her nose and downed the glass exactly the way Xander Harris had shown her how to guzzle an entire gallon of Gatorade one very slow evening on the Hellmouth.

            Once she’d drained the glass, she set it back on the nightstand, closed her eyes, took deep breaths and willed her stomach not to revolt. After several minutes she felt steady enough to crawl back to the bathroom and into the shower.  Surprisingly she felt much better after the shower and the drink had had time to take effect. Buffy got dressed and padded downstairs barefoot to the smell of eggs and bacon.

            Dawn was sitting at the breakfast bar already shoveling eggs in her mouth. Connor was at the stove cooking.

            “I don’t ever want to have to guzzle that nasty drink again, but I have to admit it seems to have helped,” Buffy announced. She sat down next to Dawn and glanced over at her. “Why aren’t you hung over?”

            Dawn got that deer in the headlights look. She stammered and looked to Connor for help. He just shook his head, grinned and went back to cooking. “Uhm…well-uh…see…we…well I took it easy on the beer and…uhm…the Black Tartans I was drinking weren’t…uhm…see I’ve never been a big drinker and well…they weren’t real Black Tartans.”

            “What were they?” Buffy asked in careful, measured words.

            “Something a bit like chocolate milk with a tiny bit of Kaluha in them for flavor,” Connor admitted.

            “So what? The mission last night was to get ME drunk while leaving the two of you sober? And I don’t even want to know why you wanted to be sober.” Buffy looked at Connor and Dawn with disbelief and confusion etched on her face.

            “Well…you’ve been so uptight and we just wanted-we wanted you to relax and have fun,” Dawn squeaked.

            Buffy shook her head and slowly bent to rest her forehead against the white tile counter. “I hate you both,” she directed at the counter top.

            “Breakfast is up,” Connor said before he slid a plate of eggs and bacon in front of her.  He sat down next to Dawn with his own plate. “So are you going to see the new slayer today or are Dawn and I?”

            Buffy raised her head and speared some eggs with her fork. “I’ll go break the news to her. You two can meet her later. Did we ever find out if she lives with her parents or not?”

            “She doesn’t. She’s got a room mate. To make things even easier, her parents are dead. They died when she was just barely seventeen in a bombing I think,” Dawn said. “I googled her name,” she shrugged in response to the look Buffy shot her.

            “Okay, well sucks for her, but it makes my job easier if I don’t have to explain to anyone’s parents who I am or how I know their little girl. She’s what nineteen? I think that’s what the information Giles had on her said.”

            Dawn nodded and answered around a mouthful of eggs. “Yup. I saw a picture of her on the web. She’s pretty.”

            “Slayers are always hot,” Connor commented. Dawn smacked him hard enough on the arm to make him rub it. “Not as hot as ex-key’s though,” he amended.

            Buffy grinned. “He’s got train-ability, unlike Angel…” the words died on her lips.

            “Yeah, he’s a smart one,” Dawn replied to try and cover Buffy’s obvious discomfort.

            “Dawn and I are going to sight see this afternoon then. Maybe we can meet you back at that pub. You’ve got to try some real Irish food, maybe some Dublin Coddle or Irish stew,” Connor said as he shoveled the remains of his breakfast away.

            “Only if you promise not to make it your mission to get me drunk again. I think the streets of Galway have seen enough of my insides,” Buffy warned.

            Connor grinned, got up and rinsed his plate at the sink. “I’m sure those streets have seen plenty of other things. They won’t be surprised by you, but I promise. We’ll stick to Guinness tonight.”

            Buffy wrinkled her nose. “I was kinda leaning toward girly drinks.”

            Connor scoffed. “You’re in Ireland. You do not have girly drinks unless it’s Irish coffee, but nothing fruity or that comes with an umbrella.”

            Buffy smirked. “Fine, coffee it is.” She glanced up at the clock on the wall, handed her plate to Connor who grumbled but rinsed it and gathered up the files she had on Etain Kinsley. “I’ll see you two later on this evening. Be good. If my baby sister gets hurt I will make you sorry you ever saw the Emerald Isle.”

            “I’m Irish, Buffy. I’d be happy to die here,” Connor teased.

            “Good, then you can die here very slowly,” she smiled and walked out the door.

 Chapter six

The street bustled around her, moving faster then she wanted to. This was her lazy day, the first she’d had since they’d arrived here a week ago. She paused to look in the window of a jewelry store and rolled her shoulders. She’d made a misstep the day before and Etain had caught her across the shoulders with a quarterstaff.

She’d been feeling funky the whole time they’d been in Ireland. At first she’d chalked it up to Connor’s amazing ability to get her thoroughly drunk. Once she’d sworn off drinking with the boy she’d had to admit it was something else.

Her gaze landed on a silver claddagh ring in the display window of the jewelry shop and she turned away quickly, knowing what had her feeling on edge. It was this place, wondering if he’d walked these streets as a young human named Liam, wondering if he’d drank in The King’s Head Tavern, Connor’s favorite hang out. Giles was right, she had to say goodbye, but there was nothing concrete for her to say goodbye to. She wanted a grave or a church…anything that she could say this is Angel and he’s gone. She’d contact Willow. If anyone could find out where Liam would have been buried and if it still existed it would be the redhead.

            “Speaking of friends, I’ve got to get things to take back to them,” Buffy muttered to herself, earning a look from one of the men passing her on the street. “Like you don’t talk to yourself,” she snarled at him.

Willow was an easy fit. She chose a silver Celtic knot pendent. For Xander she’d decided on a drinking stein. She had both stores mail the gifts straight to them along with a Wish you were here, miss you type of note. It was easier then trying to haul things on an airplane.

            “Now I just need something for Giles, who is next to impossible to buy for,” she grumbled just as she spotted a rare book store. A smile spread over her face. “One English Watcher practically bought for. If it’s old and can be read, he’ll adore it.”

*

He was in the office when he heard the chimes over the door. He finished boxing up the order due out that day and stepped from the office to the register area. He scanned the front of the shop, not seeing anyone. Maybe he’d imagined the chimes, or someone had opened the door and stepped back out deciding this wasn’t the bookstore for them. His brow furrowed and he stepped further into the book store, still seeing no one.

He caught a glimpse of her disappearing into the stacks, a glimmer of gold in the dimness of the store. His stomach dropped out and gave him no option except follow.  He rounded a corner and jerked to a halt. She stood there, pursuing a book as if it were natural, as if she were not an illusion, a dream born to life.

She turned; book held aloft, a smile painted on her face. Her eyes went wide, registering shock and the smile faded. He watched, transfixed, as her eyes filled with tears and her hand flew to her mouth. The sound that came out of her mouth was that of a wounded bird. She shook her head and the book tumbled from her fingers. The crack it made when it hit the floor was inordinately loud. She spun, running from him and he chased.

            “Wait! Please!” He pleaded with her.

She stopped and turned to him again, then took several backwards steps. “You can’t…you’re…” she trailed off, her face shining with tears she wasn’t aware she was shedding. “Angel?” Her voice cracked, colored with disbelief, pain and underneath it all, hope.

            He nodded, unable to form words.

She flew to him, arms clasping around his neck, her lips seeking his, devouring him. He relaxed into her embrace, giving himself up to be devoured. Finally her lips broke from his, but her fingers tangled in his hair, unwilling to release him. Her body pressed against his, unwilling to separate.

            “You-what happened? You never called or wrote. Connor-we all thought you were dead.” Her voice was tattered around the edges. She pressed closer to him.

            “I-you-I don’t know you. I don’t know your name or anything else about you,” his confessed, his hands journeying up and down her back, keeping her close and assuring himself she was real. The intimate contact he maintained with her belied his confession.

Her face fell. Confusion marred her features.

            “But I dream of you every night. In my dreams, you love me,” he continued, his hands fisted the hem of her shirt.

She pulled back slightly, one hand going to his cheek, her thumb gliding over his lips. “Not only in your dreams.”

He turned his face into her palm, his eyes closing as he soaked in her touch. “How do I know you? Who are you?”

Buffy smiled softly. “That’s an epicish story and not to be told hiding in musty old book stacks.”

Angel glanced around and shrugged. “I like the stacks.”

Buffy couldn’t help but laugh. “You so would.”

*

Buffy sat perched on the edge of the couch and watched him make tea.  She’d woken up this morning thinking he was dead…and now she knew he was human. She studied him, thinking with her luck it was an exact human twin born 250 years later, or an evil robot who wanted her to live in his 1950’s style basement apartment. She couldn’t deny it though, in every action, every gesture, he was Angel. She even got that low grade, cold chills tingle at the base of her spine. She pinched the skin on the inside of her elbow hard and twisted, then bit her lip to keep from crying out. Whatever this was, she knew it wasn’t a dream. It felt like a dream, hazy, confused. She expected a man with cheese slices on his head to step into the room at any moment.

He set the tea things on the table, apologizing for only having crackers to go with the tea. Buffy sat down at one end. “I’ve got ice cream and pasta, things for dinner, but nothing to go with the tea.”

            “It’s alright. I like crackers,” she assured him.

He sat down on the opposite end of the table, casting glances at her, unable to believe how accurately some part of him had remembered her. His brow furrowed. She smiled at the gesture.

            “You’ve got “something” face. What’s on your mind?”

He relaxed, not realizing that it was comforting having someone in the apartment that could read him better than he could himself. He and Cathleen were still in that stage where everything was new. He wasn’t sure what her gestures meant, nor her his. He pushed Cathleen to the back of his mind. He needed to know more about his past, who he was, before he could even begin to tell her what he’d found out.  He hesitated, unsure whether he was ready to hear the answer to the question he so desperately wanted to ask. He had to ask, it was the only thing he’d been able to think about once he realized that the woman sitting in front of him had known him in the past.

            “Was I-when you knew me…was I-what kind of man was I?”

Buffy took a deep breath, an involuntary smile creeping across her face. “You were a very good man. You helped people. You were gentle, kind. You cared. You loved. You were loved.” Her hand crept across the small table, seeking his. He placed his hand in hers and she marveled at the warmth of it. Her fingers sought the pulse in his wrist. Her breath caught when she felt it beating there. It made her chest ache.

            “Are you sure? Because I’ve been having these dreams…” he trailed off, unsure he should be telling this woman about his dreams.

Buffy squeezed his hand. She watched as a shudder went through him and he withdrew into himself. “What kind of dreams?” she prodded.

He took a deep breath. When his voice finally came it was quiet, controlled with just an edge of desperate to it. “Dreams where I hurt people, women mostly. I kill them. Over and over, I kill them.”

Buffy closed her eyes. Angelus, he was having dreams of Angelus. She opened them again and shook her head. “You are a good man, Angel. You didn’t hurt people, particularly women.” She knew it wasn’t entirely true, but until he understood the ins and outs of the world he had once lived in, he wouldn’t understand the unvarnished truth.

Angel let out a shaky breath and nodded. “I-you and I…I think I know what we were, but…”

She smiled. “We were…lovers, I guess. I love-loved you and you loved me. We didn’t always get to be together because of circumstances…but that didn’t diminish the size of our love. It just wasn’t our time.”

            “I thought maybe-when I first had the dreams…I thought maybe you were my wife.” It didn’t escape his notice that she’d said love first and then amended it with loved.

Buffy smiled sadly and sighed. “In another lifetime, another place…I might have been.”

            “What kept me away from you?” He asked.

Buffy gnawed on her bottom lip, trying to decide how much to tell him. “We…it’s a long story that I’ll you sometime if you want. You may start remembering, now that you know at least parts of your dreams are true.  Circumstances.”

Angel nodded. It was obvious she didn’t want to get into what had happened to them tonight. He drew his hand from hers and cupped them both around his tea mug. “One more question?”

            “You can ask as many as you like. I’ll answer the ones I can,” she promised and took a sip of her tea, trying to prepare herself for whatever he could come up with next.

            “Do I-I dreamed…do I have a son?”

Chapter Seven

The room was thick with silence. There were nervous noises, coughing, someone jittering their leg, clearing their throat. Angel glanced at Buffy and then Connor…his son.  His gaze lingered on Connor. Both he and Buffy had offered Angel half veiled excuses about how Connor had come to be. He pushed himself up from the table and paced the room, trying to separate what he knew from the dreams he’d had, trying to suss out the half excuses they’d given him. He raked his fingers through his hair and growled, half turning on his heel.

“I know you both think you’re protecting me from something, but I have to know. You can’t pull the curtain back part way, and then close it again. I need to know the whole story.”

Buffy bit her bottom lip. Angel didn’t know what he was asking for, the knowledge of Angelus, what he’d done. She knew there were times that knowledge had driven Angel half crazy with guilt. She didn’t want to see this sweet, innocent side of Angel scarred.  Her eyes found Connor’s. Connor nodded in response.

“I think you should take him with you tonight. I’ll take Etain,” Connor suggested.

Buffy shook her head. “I don’t know if he’s ready for that.”

Angel turned. He slammed the heels of his hands into the table top. “Let me decide what I’m ready for,” he demanded. His face was flushed with anger.

“Angel, you sure? I mean…” Connor trailed off. He glanced at Buffy in askance and then back at Angel. “Do you believe in vampires? Demons? Witches?”

Angel shook his head and gave Connor a confused look. He glanced to Buffy as if to ask is my son insane? “Fairytales, horror stories, things Shelley wrote of.”

“It’s sort of true,” Buffy offered quietly.

Angel cocked an eyebrow at her.

“Well, not Frankenstein…actually maybe. There was that guy in Sunnydale…anyway. They’re all real, vampires, demons and witches. My best friend is a really powerful witch, but she’s like Glenda, the good witch…most of the time.”

Connor nodded. He glanced at Buffy and by silent agreement said nothing about Angel’s previous life.

“You’ve both lost your minds,” Angel gaped at them.

Connor shook his head. “No, Angel. Somehow you’ve lost your memories. You used to know these things were real.”

“You used to fight them.” Buffy pushed herself wearily from the table. “I told you, you were a good man and you were. You saved people. You fought demons and vampires.”

“Angel, heads up,” Connor said quietly.

Angel turned just in time to catch the sword Connor threw at him by the hilt. “What the hell? Are you two trying to drive me insane or kill me?”

“There are certain things about your life that you remember. I’m betting how to fight is one of them,” Connor explained. Without warning, he thrust his own sword at Angel, who blocked it with the flat of his blade. “See.” Connor stepped back, lowering his sword. He glanced at Buffy. “Take him with you tonight. Etain could use the change up in training routine and he’s not going to believe it until he sees it.” He nodded his head at Angel.

Buffy sighed. “Alright.” She looked up at a confused Angel. “I’ll pick you up just after sunset. We’ll patrol the cemeteries. It’ll be like old times.”

Connor studied Angel. He was still wearing the confused, I’ve-fallen-into-the-Twilight-Zone look on his face. He stepped backwards until he ran into the couch and then sat down heavily on it.

“Okay, he’s going into brood mode. I remember brood mode, which is the reason I’m gonna split.”

“Connor, do not go get drunk before taking Etain out. She’s still untrained.”

Connor smirked at Buffy. “I’m going to have a beer, not get drunk.”

Buffy sighed as Connor left the apartment. She flopped down on the couch next to Angel. “Your son loves beer.”

Angel shrugged as if it was perfectly natural. “He’s Irish, nothing wrong with beer. Its proof God loves us.”

Buffy rolled her eyes. “If I had any doubt that he was yours…”

Angel leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. “I could use a whiskey right about now.”

“Save it. You’ll need one later tonight.”

The sound of a key turning in the lock made Buffy and Angel glance up. “Hey, Honey, I brought you some-“ Cathleen trailed off. She held a thermos of something in one hand and a couple of books in the other. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt anything.” Her voice was cautious and defensive at the same time.

Buffy and Angel got to their feet in one, almost synchronized move.  “Cathleen, this is Buffy,” Angel introduced the two women. “Cathleen owns the book store I work in,” he explained to Buffy.

Cathleen laid the books and thermos she carried on the bar. She shot Angel an irritated glare and held out her hand. “I’m Angel’s girlfriend.”

Buffy swallowed hard and shook Cathleen’s hand. “Nice to meet you,” she finally managed. “I’m an old friend of Angel’s.”

Cathleen’s eyes darted to Angel. “You remembered?”

Angel shook his head. “Buffy came in the store today. I-she recognized me.” He hadn’t ever told Cathleen about his dreams of Buffy. “She-she’s going to try and help me remember some things.”

“Oh.” Cathleen paused, looking at both Buffy and Angel. “I brought some stew for you and we got in a couple of new books today I thought you’d be excited about.”

“Okay, I’m gonna go.” Buffy fiddled with the hem of her sweater. She glanced at Angel and wasn’t surprised that the world melted away, even with his current girlfriend in the room. After a long moment she dragged her eyes away from his. “I’ll pick you up here just after sunset.” She started for the door. “It was nice to meet you, Cathleen.”

She barely made it out into the hall. She couldn’t breathe. She wasn’t in danger of breaking down, she told herself. She just couldn’t breathe. She slid down the wall and sat in the hallway outside of Angel’s apartment. Angel was alive.

*

“So, uhm…she’s an old friend?” Cathleen asked as she poured stew into a bowl and put it in the microwave.

Angel nodded. “Apparently. She knew who I was when she saw me.” He was being deliberately vague until he figured things out for himself.

Cathleen nodded, determinedly facing the microwave. “Did you remember her when you saw her?”

“Yes…and no.”

“What does that mean?” Cathleen asked. She grabbed the Windex and a paper towel. She started scrubbing already clean counters.

Angel walked up behind her and covered her hand with his. He took her by the shoulders and turned her around. “It means I recognized her, like the person that looks familiar but you can’t put a name to.”

Cathleen kept her eyes on the floor. She sighed, finally she looked up at him. “Why did you look at her like that?”

Angel drew his eyebrows together and slowly shook his head. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

A sad smile turned up one corner of Cathleen’s mouth. “You look at her the way I want you to look at me.”

*

“Alright, Buffy. Go, before Angel gives up and goes out on a date with his girlfriend,” Dawn groaned. Buffy had been lecturing Connor for twenty minutes about what he needed to teach Etain.

Buffy grumbled at Dawn’s comment. She tugged at the hem of her rose colored sweater.  She was wearing jeans with it. She smoothed her hand over her hair.

“You look great, Buffy. Rose is one of your best colors. Now go. Patrol, tell Angel about the things that go bump in the night.” Dawn pushed her toward the door.

“I’m going. I’m going,” Buffy grumbled as she grabbed her Burberry rain coat and started out the door.

She walked to Angel’s apartment, taking her time getting there.  It was the first chance she’d had to really think about the situation. Angel was alive. Human. When she was 16, it had been her most frequent fantasy. The fantasy remained intact when she was 17, but it was bittersweet. She knew she’d never get that. The Powers would never allow it. When she was 18, she stubbornly struggled with the fantasy. It hurt too much to wake up from that dream. She still dreamt it, waking up in tears when she did. By the time she was 21, she didn’t dream anymore. It hurt so much that even her subconscious had stopped wishing for that particular fantasy.

And now it had come true, at least part of it. Angel was human. She growled at herself and pushed the thought out of her mind. He was human and he had a girlfriend. No use fantasizing when it was just going to break her heart again.

*

Buffy stuffed her hands in her pockets and walked in silence. She looked up at the sky. The mist and fog made it impossible to see the stars and the moon was just a ghost among it. She glanced out of the corner of her eye. Angel walked beside her in much the same position. She blew a breath out she hadn’t realized she’d been holding.

“I’m sorry. I should have known things would be awkward.”

Angel quirked an eyebrow at her. “Did we talk a lot before?”

Buffy laughed, her posture relaxing a little. Angel couldn’t help the smile that played around his lips. She was pretty when she laughed.

“No. In fact you’ve never been Talks-A lot guy. That was me. I rambled. You listened and thought deep thoughts,” Buffy confessed with a smile.

“Then I haven’t changed, have I?” Angel cast her a side ways glance and that half grin that made her stomach flip flop.

Buffy regarded him carefully. He looked exactly the way he’d looked when she first met him. He had the same smile, the same walk; somehow even the same haunted, beautiful eyes. “No. You haven’t changed,” she whispered. She cast her gaze back down to the ground. It hurt too much to see him and know he hadn’t changed, but now he would. He’d begin to age. He’d get gray hair and wrinkles and have to work out to keep the abs.  And she wouldn’t share any of it with him.

She was so deep in thought she didn’t see the vampire that attacked her from atop one of the ornate crypts. She rolled with the tackle coming to her feet. Angel dove at the vampire, throwing a hard roundhouse punch. The only thing it did was bring to attention his presence.

“You know, you really should pay attention to the one here who can kill you,” Buffy spouted as fired a side kick into the small of the vampire’s back. He stumbled and fell but regained his footing quickly. “I need you to stay back, Angel. This is what I do. Trust me,”

“Heard there was a new slayer in town.”

“Too bad for you, you got the old one,” Buffy said dancing out of the way of a punch. Another one caught her in the face and she went down to her back. She caught the vamp in the chin with a kick up and then a spinning hook kick. Stake in, stake out and he was dust. Angel was left standing with his mouth open.

“He-he turned to dust.”

Buffy shrugged and tucked her stake back into the waistband of her jeans. “Vampires do that when you put a wooden stake through their heart. Also when you behead them, expose them to sunlight or light them on fire.”

Angel shook his head in disbelief, staring at the space where something that looked like a man had stood. “And his face?” he finally managed.

“Game face…that’s what yo-a friend of mine used to call it,” Buffy said, catching her slip. She wasn’t sure when or if she was ever going to tell Angel about what he had once been. He’d forgotten for a reason and some things were better left that way.

“And you-you were amazing. How did you do that?” He finally asked, giving her a look of admiration and awe.

“Come on, let’s walk,” she beckoned and started to walk through the cemetery again. “I’m a slayer. Chosen one, extra speed, strength, healing abilities so that I can fight things like vampires and demons. We’re always girls, don’t ask me why. Something about misogynistic Powers that Be.”

“How did you become a slayer?” Angel asked.

Buffy shrugged. “I don’t exactly know. I asked Giles, my watcher, i.e. book guy who helps me research, and he went into a long, confusing explanation that basically ended up being no one really knows. Around 15 or 16 poof you become one if you are one. I found out on my sixteenth birthday.” She didn’t bother to explain that at that time it had been one girl and not a hundred. “That’s what I’m doing here, training a new slayer. She’s 16, almost 17.” She walked with her arms crossed over her chest as they talked.

“So you don’t feel pain?” Angel asked. “I mean you took a pretty hard punch back there, but you’re not bleeding and it doesn’t look like you’re gonna bruise.”

Buffy laughed. It came out a bitter bark. “Trust me, I feel pain.” She sighed. “That didn’t hurt that much though. I don’t break as easily as a regular girl and I can take a lot more pain than your average blonde.”

They walked a little further in silence. Buffy was surprised when Angel broke the silence first.

“We used to do this a lot?”

“When we lived in the same town, yeah. We patrolled. You used to help me slay.”

Angel glanced at her, considering what she was saying. It felt right, rang true. He could somehow see himself fighting beside this beautiful blonde warrior every night. “We were a team.”

And so much more, Buffy ached to say. Instead she wrapped her arms around herself and nodded.  Her skin shivered when Angel reached out and touched her on the shoulder. “You aren’t telling me everything, Buffy. I can’t remember if you don’t tell me.”

Buffy sighed and turned to face Angel. “Maybe there’s a reason you don’t remember. Sometimes we forget things because we need to forget them. Sometimes it hurts too much to remember. There are memories I wish I didn’t have. Parts of my life I’d love to forget.”

Angel was quiet for a moment. He concentrated on the grass at his feet, finally looking up at her. “Do any of them have me in it?”

Buffy’s eyes filled with tears when she found she didn’t know the answer to that.

Chapter Eight

“So did you tell him?” Connor asked as he put a plate of eggs in front of Buffy. She sipped at her coffee and looked down at her omelet.

“Well about vampires, slayers and things that go bump in the night…yeah,” she hedged.

“And about his past in that?” Connor prodded, sitting down at the bar with his own plate.

“I told him he used to help me slay.”

“Chicken shit,” Connor muttered with his mouth full of eggs.

“You’re one to talk. You ran off to drink and entertain the new slayer last night while I was left with the telling,” Buffy volleyed back.

“Most of the Angel history I know is actually Angelus history. If you’d like for him to slit his wrists, I’ll tell him about it.” He grinned at her as he shoveled food in his mouth.

“Oh, God. No. I’ll take care of it,” Buffy said, pushing her eggs around on her plate. “You could be there though, moral support and all. He’s going to want to ask you questions anyway about where you grew up and how and things like that.”

Connor grumbled. “If he’s not ready to jump out of a twenty story building you mean.”

Buffy smacked him on the arm. “Don’t say things like that. He’s human now. It’d kill him.”

“And that would be the point,” Connor smirked and took his empty plate to the sink.

“You’re not amusing,” Buffy scowled.

Connor shrugged. “So you want to call him or you want me too?”

*

Angel stared down at the table top. Connor got up and got the whiskey bottle from the cabinet along with a glass. He sat both in front of Angel, who gratefully poured a glassful and drained it. He put both palms flat on the table and slowly looked up at Buffy and Connor.

“I used to be a vampire…with a soul? Are you sure you didn’t find this in a bad Anne Rice novel and think it would be fun to screw with the guy with amnesia?” He glanced at Buffy and then Connor, doubt painting his features.

Buffy walked over to Angel and tilted her head to the side, revealing the scar on her neck. “You bit me because it was the only thing that would save your life, slayer blood.”

Angel reached out, fingers gliding across the mark there.  It hadn’t been made by human teeth or even canine teeth. It was a perfect bite mark, four canines and inner incisors. “I did that with a soul?” He paused. “Then the dreams I’ve been having…”

“Are probably Angelus,” Connor said as he reached across the table and grabbed the whiskey bottle, pouring his own glass. “And before you ask, that’s the soulless vampire you were.”

“Yeah, it’s wonky. You get two names.” Buffy gave Connor a sour look and rolled her eyes. He had a way of complicating everything.

“Three actually if you count Liam,” Connor pointed out.

“Liam?” Angel asked. His voice sounded lost and horribly confused.

“The human you were before you were turned,” Connor explained.

Buffy shot Connor a look. “Don’t worry about that right now. Let’s just focus on vampire with a soul you.”

Angel swallowed hard and looked at Buffy with bloodshot eyes. “You told me I was a good man, but all those people…I murdered them. I ripped them to pieces and I enjoyed it.”

Buffy took Angel’s face in her hands and made him look at her. “No. You didn’t do that. Your soul encompasses everything you are and your soul was not in residence when you did those things.”

Connor kept quiet. His ideas on souled and unsouled were a little different from Buffy’s.

Angel shook his head, slowly withdrawing. “You don’t understand. The dreams are vivid…brilliant colors and sounds, even feelings.” He took a sharp breath. “Even now, part of me likes those dreams.”

Buffy bit her lip. Tears rushed to her eyes. “It was a part of you for 250 years. That doesn’t go away.” She stepped closer to Angel. He flinched at her touch, but she pulled him into her arms.

Connor gave them both a disgusted look, snatched the whiskey bottle up and stalked out of the house. “Because you’re both sick,” he muttered as he left the room.

Buffy struggled to control her anger. She was going to beat Connor with in an inch of his life for that.

“He thinks I’m a monster. He’s right, Buffy. That’s all I ever was and apparently that’s all I’ll ever be. Human. Vampire, it doesn’t matter. I’m a monster inside.” Angel struggled briefly against her and then finally relaxed.

Buffy sighed. Forget beating him within an inch of his life. She was beating Connor dead. “No, you aren’t a monster. Your soul never was. Right now you’re just dreaming the bad things. When you start dreaming the good things, you’ll realize that yes you did some bad, but in the end you redeemed yourself. Obviously I’m not the only one that thinks so. I mean, you’re human now. The Powers don’t hand out those sort of rewards lightly.”

Angel shook his head and pulled away from Buffy. “The only good thing I ever dream about is you. What if that’s the only good thing I ever dream? What if I don’t ever remember the good things you say I’ve done?  I’ve been human for nearly three months now and I don’t remember anything except some dreams I’ve had that I’ve come to find out are closer to real events then I want to admit.”

Buffy moved to the chair closest to Angel and sat down. She gnawed on her lower lip and then sighed, obviously pondering something. “I’ve got a friend, the witch I mentioned…she might be able to give you back your memories, but I’m honestly not sure you want them. Remember when I said there were things best forgotten? The memories you’ll have will make your dreams look like a 1930’s horror movie. Sterile, odorless, silent and black and white.”

Angel took a deep breath, his eyes fixed on the table top in front of him. “I’ll have memories of my son.” He looked up, meeting Buffy’s eyes. “I’ll have memories of us.”

She nodded. “All of them, even the ones that hurt.”

“And the ones that don’t?”

“Those too,” Buffy whispered.

*

“For the record, screwing with people’s memories sucks,” Connor commented. “I know from personal experience.”

“I’m not screwing with his memories. I’m giving them back to him,” Willow sighed. She’d gone over this with Connor before.

“With magic,” he pointed out in a doubtful tone. “I’m telling you. It never works out the way you think it will. If he,” Connor gestured to Angel, “actually had his memories, he’d tell you that.”

“Well, he doesn’t. When Willow does the spell he will,” Buffy snapped. She was getting tired of the constant sniping. She was exhausted. She hadn’t slept well since the day she’d run into Angel in the bookstore.

“At which point it will be too late for him to tell you this wasn’t a good idea,” Connor said. He walked over to the dining room table and sat down opposite Dawn.

“Oh, God. Shoot me. Please?” Buffy begged.

Angel took everything in with his typical stony silence. He glanced over at the young man with blue hair sitting on the couch. He’d been quiet also.  Angel furrowed his brow. He thought the man’s name was Oz. At that point, Oz got up and came to sit next to Angel.

“You shouldn’t worry. Willow’s good at what she does.”

Angel nodded. “She’s your girlfriend, isn’t she?”

Oz shrugged. “She’s still good at what she does.”

Angel looked at the man a bit longer and then nodded, feeling oddly comforted by his presence.  His brow furrowed. “Did I know you…before?”

Oz nodded. “We shared some monosyllabic moments.”

Angel drew his eyebrows together, trying to recall anything.

“My hair. It’s changed color. It does that, but the redhead was the same,” Oz offered as further explanation.

Cathleen burst through the door. “I’m so sorry I’m late. The girl that took over for me at the shop was late. I could have closed it early but I had customers.”

Buffy turned, looking at the strawberry blonde like she was insane. Her next insanity look was directed at Angel. He stood up and walked over to Cathleen, who soundly kissed him on the mouth in greeting. Buffy was still staring at him.

“She’s been helping with the amnesia since I got here. I thought she should be here,” Angel shrugged.

Buffy’s eyebrows shot up toward her hairline. “You do realize it will be obvious that Willow is doing that thing she does? You know, that Thing.”

A half grin spread across Angel’s face. “Yeah. Magic. Cathleen is Irish. We’re very accepting of magic.”

“Exactly, sprites, faeries, leprechauns. We’re quite steeped in magic here,” Cathleen assured her.

Buffy took a deep breath and counted backwards from ten. She grabbed Angel by the arm and pulled him over to the corner. “Did you tell her about the other things?” she hissed.

“Are you kidding? She’s a friend of my psychologist,” Angel whispered back.

“So magic she’ll buy, vampires and demons no way.” Buffy arched an eyebrow at Angel and looked over his shoulder at Cathleen.

Angel shrugged. “That and it’s a little harder to accept that her human boyfriend used to be a vampire. Admit it; it sounds like padded cell material.”

Buffy sighed. “Alright. Its better you have someone you’re comfortable with to stay with you anyway and I know I still make you nervous.”

“And Connor can’t stand me.” Angel cast a wounded glance in the direction of his son.

Buffy sighed. She glanced at Connor and then looked back to Angel. “It’s not that he can’t-he loves you. He just-we’ll talk about this later. Maybe you’ll understand it once you’ve got all your memories. Speaking of which, last chance…are you sure you want these memories? All of them? Because Will can’t sort through and give you the good ones, leave out the bad.”

Angel cast another glance at his son. “I’m sure.”

Buffy looked up at Willow and nodded. The redhead smiled brightly at her.  Buffy laid her hand on Angel’s arm. “I think Willow is ready for you.”

The witch had made a circle with a blue salt. She instructed Angel to sit inside it. Sweat beaded on his forehead as he sat down. Willow sat opposite him on the outside of the circle. “Don’t worry. It’ll be easy peasy.”

The room went quiet as Willow started chanting in Sumerian. At one point she reached out and took Angel’s hands, bridging the circle.  Buffy got anxious as Willow’s chanting grew louder, more insistent and stretched into fifteen minutes long. Quite suddenly she stopped. Buffy froze, glancing from Angel to Willow. No one said anything. Willow let go of Angel’s hands and started to get up, obviously weakened. Oz helped her to a chair.

“That’s it? No snap, crackle, pop?” Buffy asked.

Willow grinned. “I can probably manage a snap and a crackle, if it will make you feel better. I’m not so sure about a pop.”

Buffy looked at Angel. The broken look on his face killing her sense of humor. She walked toward him. “No…I don’t think we need it,” she half whispered. She took Angel’s face in her hands and made him look up at her. “Angel…” she trailed off, knowing nothing she said was going to help.

Angel stumbled back, pulling out of Buffy’s grasp. “Just go,” he pleaded.

“You don’t need to be alone right now, Angel,” she protested.

“I’ll stay with him,” Cathleen said, stepping toward Angel and laying her hand on his shoulder. He flinched at her touch.

“I don’t need a babysitter. I was the scourge of Europe at one time. I think I can handle a few hours by myself. Besides, I’m going to brood. That’s what I do, isn’t it?” He spat, directing it at Buffy.

Buffy swallowed hard. If she had any doubt that he remembered, he’d cleared that up. “Yeah…that’s what you do.” She glanced at Cathleen and bit her lips. “Why don’t you let Cathleen stay with you? I’d feel better about it. There could be side effects. Right, Will?” Buffy glared at the red head.

Willow jumped from the couch. Her voice went high and nervous the way it always did when she lied. “Yup. Side effects, like nausea and unconsciousness, passing out. Things you need someone here for.”

Connor smirked at them from his spot at the dining room table. Buffy glared at him, knowing he was dying to say I told you so.

Angel closed his eyes and slowly exhaled. “Fine. Cathleen can stay here.”

Buffy scribbled her number down on a piece of paper and handed it to Cathleen, sure the woman would never call her, but wanting her to have the number just in case. “If you need me, or if anything happens that’s…weird. Anything you can’t handle, I’m here indefinitely and Willow is staying for a couple of days.”

Cathleen nodded. “I’m sure we’ll be fine. I’ve been working with Angel for two months to retrieve his memory.” Her tone was crisp and dismissing.

“Whatever. Decide who’s staying with Amnesia Boy, I’m headed to King’s Head,” Connor said. He grabbed Dawn’s hand and took her with him.

Buffy sighed and raked her hands through her hair. Connor had gotten worse about wanting to talk with Angel or even about him.

“We’ll go, too. Not to drink, just to…go,” Willow squeaked. Oz followed the redhead out the door.

Buffy glanced at Angel. “Are you sure you want me to go? I know what you’re remembering. I’ve dealt with it and accepted it. I can stay and help you do the same.”

“Go.”

Buffy winced at the venom in that one word.  Cathleen took a step closer to Angel, her hand firmly closing on his shoulder.

“He’s made it clear that he doesn’t want you to stay. I think it’s time for you to go. I’ll show you the door.”

Buffy shook her head. “No. I can let myself out.” She took one last, lingering look at Angel, who was all but completely withdrawn into himself and walked out the door.

Eight hours later she was ripped out of a deep sleep by the shrilling of the telephone.

 Chapter Ten

There’s a surrealism to hospitals, no matter where they are.  Time ceases to exist inside the walls. Buffy felt it the moment she stepped inside.  The whole world was contained in this building. She glanced behind her at Dawn and Connor who were trailing, holding onto each other.

Buffy burst into the waiting room, a force of nature. She got Angel’s room number from the receptionist at the desk and started for his room when Cathleen reached out and grabbed her arm.

“They aren’t letting anyone see him.”

“It’s Angel. I’m seeing him,” Buffy insisted and pulled away.

“What did he remember that was so awful? Did you know?” Cathleen fired the questions at her.

Buffy sighed. “I knew. I tried to warn him, but you can’t imagine what’s it like to not remember until you’ve experienced it.”

“This is your fault,” Cathleen hissed. Her face was twisted into an ugly mask of hurt and blame.  She remained sitting on the cheap, vinyl loveseat that occupied the waiting room.

Buffy looked defeated for a moment. “Yes. I shouldn’t have left him alone.”

“He wasn’t alone. He was with me,” Cathleen defended, half rising and then sitting back down.

“How did he do this then?” Buffy asked honestly curious.

“I-we-we fell asleep,” Cathleen offered weakly.

Buffy bit her bottom lip and tamped down the urge to scream at the woman.  She fisted her hands and her body went rigid. “I wouldn’t have slept.”

“Are you saying this is my fault?” Cathleen got to her feet. She was taller than Buffy by several inches.

Buffy backed down, forcing herself to stay calm. “In your defense, you didn’t know what you were up against and I’m sure he didn’t tell you. Angel isn’t one to overshare, particularly when it comes to his past. But you’re right, this is my fault. I should have stayed with him no matter what he said. I know how he is. I know how he gets. You just…I should have insisted.” What she wanted to tell Cathleen was that she had no idea how much it hurt Buffy to see her with Angel, to know that he was human and he didn’t love her anymore.

While Buffy and Cathleen were trying not to kill each other, Connor left Dawn in the waiting room and snuck down the hall into Angel’s room.  He stood in the doorway trying to reconcile the broken man in the hospital bed with the vampire he’d sometimes called Dad. He stepped further into the room, not sure if Angel was awake or not.  He was lying on the bed motionless, staring up at the ceiling. A bag of blood dripped into him via an IV in the crook of his elbow.

Angel turned his head slightly, seeing Connor step into the room. He adverted his gaze. Connor grabbed the chair near the bed and sat down. He stared hard at Angel and then let his stare slip down Angel’s chest, his arms, to the swath of white bandages on his wrist. He struggled for something to say. He glanced down at his jeans and picked at a thread. He wondered if Angel had made a vertical cut or a horizontal cut. Probably horizontal. It’s what they did in the movies and the movies always got it wrong.

“You should have made a vertical cut, toward your elbow and you didn’t cut deep enough. It’s a pretty common mistake,” Connor observed.

“Nice to know my son is pulling for me to do the job right next time. Not that I blame you.” Angel’s voice was flat and emotionless.

“You shouldn’t. I don’t blame you anymore,” Connor said. He shrugged. “You did what you thought was best. You screwed it up, but your heart was in the right place. I know that.”

“I still shouldn’t have-” Angel started.

“Yeah, let’s just not revisit everything you shouldn’t have. We both know what they were. Rehashing them doesn’t change anything about them. We deal with it and move on. I have. You should too,” Connor interrupted.

“How can you forgive me?” Angel’s voice sounded lost inside the room.

“I didn’t say I did,” Connor admitted. “But I don’t want you dead. The reason I made the comment about the cuts—I suck at pep talks. I’m not a cheerleading kind of guy.” He stood up and shifted his weight uncomfortably. “I’m gonna go back out. I know Buffy’s wanting to come back here and see you. Dawn’s waiting for me.” He slipped out of the room before Angel could say anything else to him.

Buffy was still in the waiting room arguing with Cathleen when Connor walked in. Her eyes met his. “How is he?”

Connor shrugged. “How should I know? He acts like his normal, guilty, broody self. He’s not trying to hang himself with his air hose if that’s any indication.”

Buffy shrugged. “Well…some I guess.”

“How did you get in to see him?” Cathleen asked.

“Snuck in,” Connor responded on his way to the vending machine.

“Good to know it can be done,” Buffy said as she slipped down the hallway toward Angel’s room, leaving Cathleen protesting in the waiting room.

Buffy hovered in the door way for a moment. Angel looked vulnerable and young lying in the hospital bed. Her chest contracted and for a moment she couldn’t breathe.

“You can come in,” Angel said without turning to look at her.

Buffy crept in the room and sat down in the chair, moving it closer to the bed. She laced her fingers together and put her hands on her lap. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to kiss him or beat him for doing something so careless with his life.

“You’re angry.” He made it a statement. He could feel her anger coming off her in waves and he wondered how he could have forgotten that all her emotions were filled with this much passion. Buffy didn’t know how to feel anything half way. Her emotions exploded from her whether she wanted them to or not. He lay in the bed and stared up at the ceiling, deliberately not looking at her.

She bit her lip, forcing herself to pick her words carefully. “I’m furious. In fact I’m not sure I’ve ever been more mad in my entire life, that includes all the apocalypses I’ve stopped and all the fights I’ve had with Dawn. “She drew a shaky breath and laced her fingers in her lap. “Do you know how many times I dreamed about you turning human?”

“Only about a zillion,” Angel whispered.

“Huh?” Buffy furrowed her brow at him and then shook her head. “That’s actually pretty accurate. You were a scary stalker weren’t you? Anyway that’s not the point. The point is you being human is…” she fussed with the hem of the bed sheet and struggled to find the right word. “God, there’s not even a word for how precious a gift that is. It’s worth everything I’ve fought for, worth everything I’ve sacrificed, worth everything I’ve dreamed.  It’s your reward, your redemption,” her voice dropped to a whisper, “And maybe it’s mine, too.” She shoved her fingers into the corners of her eyes to stem the flow of tears.

For the first time since he’d picked up the butcher knife, Angel felt guilty. Her tears hurt him almost physically, but Cathleen’s had also. It was that he’d tried to take something from Buffy, something she regarded as her redemption that left him hollow.  He remembered now all of the things she’d given up and he chastised himself for almost taking something else.

“I should kick your ass for doing this,” she finally choked out.

“When I get out of here, I’ll let you,” Angel half whispered. He started to reach out to touch her and caught sight of the fluffy white bandages that so innocently bisected his wrist. He pulled his arm back. Buffy reached over and took his hand in hers. Her fingers danced over the bandages of their own accord. She’d seen enough wounds to know that an ugly snarl of stitches lay underneath that innocent covering.  She also knew he had a matching imperfection on the other arm.

“I used to spend hours touching your skin, marveling that you were two centuries old and there wasn’t a scar or a blemish to marr all that marble perfection. I thought maybe even the powers weren’t that bold,” she whispered.

 Angel’s face crumbled. He stared back up at the ceiling, not wanting to see the pain in her eyes.  He’d caused enough pain, he didn’t need to see anymore of it. “I-I wasn’t thinking. I just…I remembered everything and it was too much. I hurt so many people, people I loved. There was you…Connor. God, I don’t even know how he can look at me. Then there was Angelus….so much pain, so many things…and the blood-”

“Shhhh, we’ll talk about it when you get out of here. I’ll call Giles.  There are psychologists you can talk to. It’s one of the things Giles insisted on when he started with the Watcher’s Council again. They know all about the grrr,” Buffy interrupted. “Besides, start with the crazy talk in here and they’ll assume you’re crazy instead of telling the truth. You’ll probably have to be in here for 72 hours for observation. I think its standard hospital procedure. We’ll talk about what you want to do after that. You don’t have to make any decisions or right any wrongs until then.”

Angel struggled to put the lid on all his emotions. He could almost envision shutting a door with tentacles and other monster parts pushing back against him. He slammed the door shut and nodded.

Buffy smiled sadly. She stood up and kissed his forehead. “I’m going to go. You’ve got a girlfriend out in the waiting room that’s nearly ready to kill me for getting in here before her, but I’ll be just outside if you need me. I’m going to call Giles and get some coffee.”

“Don’t leave me, Buffy.” Angel sounded like a lost little boy.

Tears blurred Buffy’s vision. “I never did, Angel.” She put her hand on her heart. “Not here.”

Chapter Eleven

Angel paced back and forth in front of the window. He rested his hands on his hips, his brow was furrowed in thought.

“Angel, come sit down. There’s an interesting biography on Whitman,” Cathleen patted the couch.

“I don’t want to sit down,” Angel snarled. He’d been in a foul mood since coming home from the hospital the day before.

Cathleen sighed. She laid her book on the couch and stood up. “Angel, I can’t help you if you don’t let me.”

“Cathleen, I want to be left alone. I’ve got things to think about…things to decide…my future is…I don’t know where I’m going what I’m doing anymore. Two weeks ago I was okay with the way my life was going. I can’t say I knew what my future was going to be, but I was comfortable with where it was going.” Angel sat down on the couch, his hands loosely knit between his knees. One leg jiggled nervously.

Cathleen rested her hand on Angel’s knee. “You don’t have to know exactly what your future is going to hold. You’re 27 years old. Most people don’t have things laid out for them. I was lucky. It was nearly destined that I was going to take over my grandfather’s book shop. Most people don’t have their futures laid out for them like that.”

“Maybe I want that. Maybe I want someone to tell me where my life is going. How I’m supposed to live it?” Angel buried his head in his hands.

“You just feel this way now. You’ll get control of your life. Give it some time. You just got your memory back,” Cathleen promised him. She ran her fingers through Angel’s hair. He pulled away from her and stood back up to continue his pacing.  Cathleen sighed and leaned back against the couch.

“Will I?” He turned and asked her plaintively.

Cathleen got up and wrapped her arms around Angel. She cradled him to her. “One of these days you will.”

*

They sat in the King’s Head tavern staring into mugs of Guinness. Connor took a sip of his beer. He kept his eyes cast down so he wouldn’t have to look at the man across from him. A man finally.

“I wouldn’t blame you if you wanted to keep your normal life,” Connor finally spoke.

Angel shook his head. “I don’t know if I can. I know so many things…remember so many things. I’m not sure I can go back to being someone who works in a bookstore and ignores the demons and darkness that plague the world. I’m not sure I can forget I’ve got a son.”

Connor shrugged. “That’s your damage, not mine, but if you decide to live your normal life it doesn’t necessarily mean I never see you. I’ve got summer vacations and spring breaks.  You could always come to LA. Besides, I’ve heard there are good schools in Rome and I’m kind of attached to Italy right now.”

Angel grinned. “She’s pretty.”

Connor blushed. “Yeah…she is. You know, her sister isn’t half bad either.”

Angel shook his head. “That’s over. It has been for a long time.”

Connor smirked and took a swig of his beer. “Does that line of bullshit help you sleep at night? Or is it just what you tell Cathleen, who by the way is quite a babe. I’m not sure why the ladies are attracted to the cave man brow but they seem to be.”

Angel smirked. It faded quickly and he sighed. “Alright, so I’ve got feelings for Buffy. I’ve got feelings for Cathleen, too.  It’s…there’s a part of me that will always belong to Cathleen. Those almost three months that I didn’t remember…no one else can ever have that.”

“And the rest of you?” Connor asked. Angel’s silence provided his answer. “She’s not going to wait forever. She’s a lot like you in that regard now, if she thinks you want normal…she’ll walk away. Let you have it because she loves you that much.” 

*

Buffy opened the roof access door. Angel stood near the edge of the building, looking out onto Galway.  She had to smile at the sight of him.  He was still so much her Angel sometimes.

“Hey,” she said softly.

Angel turned at the sound of her voice. He couldn’t help the grin that raced across his face. He didn’t say anything though, just looked back out at the night sky. “When I was here last…there was no such thing as light pollution. The stars were…breath taking. I never looked up much though. There were bars to go to and wenches to flirt with.”

Buffy stepped up next to Angel. She wrapped her arms around herself against the chill of the night. “Connor said you wanted to see me.”

Angel nodded. Buffy let the silence lie between them, but not for long.  She was never really any good at it. “I’m glad you and Connor are building some kind of relationship. He’s…I know you guys had problems…your death hit him hard though. Harder than he thought it would, I think. He loves you, regardless of how he shows it.”

Angel nodded. “I know and yes, I did want to see you.” He paused and took a deep breath, hands in his pockets and eyes fixed on the stars above. “I made some decisions today.”

Buffy nodded. She shivered, knowing it wasn’t from the cold. “Yeah, me, too. Giles is sending a new watcher for Etain. He’ll be here in a few days. Willow has the address for the next new slayer. She lives in Canada. Not exactly the time of year I want to go. They’re getting snow already, but duty calls and all that.”

Angel finally turned to look at her. “I’ve been thinking about it since the day Willow restored my memory. I’m not a passive person, Buffy. Maybe once upon time when I lived here two centuries ago I was, but I know what the world is really like. I know how people like you and Connor, Willow…I know how you all help, save the world so many times over. I can’t know all of that and close my eyes.”

Buffy took a deep breath, steadying the trembling that ran through her body. “I’m sorry. I told you before the spell that it couldn’t be undone. That might not be necessarily true. If you wanted…we could do some research. With a little time, Willow could probably find something that would make you forget. Return things to exactly the way they were before.”

Angel contemplated what she was offering. “And I’d have no memories of my son…” Finally he turned to look at Buffy. “No memories of you…of us.”

Tears filled Buffy’s eyes. She shrugged. “It’s either all or nothing. She can’t select what to leave and what to take.”

Angel nodded. “That’s why I don’t want Willow to keep looking. I want to keep my memories…the bad with the good. I want to help. I’m not sure what I can do anymore, but the watcher’s council employs humans. Gunn was human and he was one of the few I’d want at my back.”

“Are you sure? It’s something that’s easily doable. Giles…if you wanted to stay with him for a little while, he could give you the rundown on a watcher’s duties, a handbook and the official library. You’re lucky there’s a slayer right here in Galway. You wouldn’t even have to quit the bookstore.”

Angel reached out and folded her hand in his.  “There’s another slayer I had in mind. One who doesn’t need a watcher, but might need me.”

Buffy smiled. “Need is a very strong word,” she teased.

Angel nodded. “It is and I mean it. You can tell me to go away if you want to, Buffy. I know you’ve got a life without me. I know we had problems, but I’d like to work on them. I need you. I need a future with you in it. I can wait, but this time I am getting older.”

“And Cathleen?” Buffy asked. Her voice sounded shaky and uncertain.

Angel waited a moment, drawing strength. His hands curled into fists inside his pockets. “I talked to her today. She doesn’t belong in the world I’ve chosen. Even if she could adapt, it’d put her in danger and I care too much about her to do that. She’ll be okay. She’s got the bookstore and she’s beautiful, young. She’ll meet someone else.”

She nodded, releasing a breath she hadn’t realized she was holding. “You’re right. We do have a lot of things to work out. The kind of problems we have…they’re not going to go away just because you’re human, but you’ve always been all I could see of the future. That hasn’t changed,” Buffy admitted. She let Angel pull her into his arms.

“Until the stars go dim, until the time that time stands still. Until,” Angel whispered.

“I missed this. The poetry, the sound of your voice, the way safe is your arms. Need is a very strong word…I need you, Angel. I always have,” Buffy answered.


END.