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Happily Ever After

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Written for Chrislee's I Will Remember You ficathon.

 

The alley is dim. It's wet. Angel's senses tell him it's morning, but the clouds shadow the streets in a nickled grey. It's quiet except for the gun-rifle sound of raindrops hitting the ground.

Angel lies on the pavement, his legs trapped under a pile of demon corpses. His sword is within reach. He could grab it and hack his way out from under the bodies. Instead he lays his cheek against the asphalt, closes his eyes, and lets the heavy drops pelt against his face. He sleeps, and waits for the sun to come and claim him.

When he wakes it's night. Still quiet. He catches the faint scent of blood in the air and his stomach rumbles. The blood is human, and a day old. It must be Gunn's.

Angel presses his forehead to the ground, trying to hold back the retch churning in the back of his throat.

When the nausea subsides, he reaches for his sword.

He stumbles into the nearest dark street he can find. Steals a car, backs it up to the alley entranceway. Looks for any sign of Illyria, but there's none.

He heaves Gunn's body into the back seat and drives.

Angel buries him at an out-of-the-way beach up the coast. Lights a fire over his grave, and keeps a vigil until it burns to ash. Watches the ashes smolder and blow away on the ocean breeze.

Wishes he had something of Spike left to bury.

 

*

He sleeps in the car with his coat over his head. The leather is cut through in places. He has to turn the coat around three times before he can find enough fabric to shelter his face from the sun. There's demon blood on the hem, and a scorch-mark of dragon's breath on the shoulder.

When night comes, he breaks into a small-town shop and steals some new clothes. Lifts some blood and blankets from a hospital. Drives five hours up the coast, to a place he hasn't been in years but always thinks of as home.

He checks in at the university residence.

"Hi. I'm looking for Connor Reilly."

 

*

Connor introduces Angel to his roommates as his cousin. Angel wants to go for "uncle" because it sounds more paternal, but one of his roomies knows that Connor only has aunts. "Besides," says Connor, "cousin sounds more exotic—like you're the black sheep of the family, living in Asia doing assassination work for the government. 'Uncle' sounds like you should be wearing plaid."

Angel acquiesces. He wouldn't be caught dead in plaid.

He spends two days with Connor, sleeping on the couch. One of Connor's roommates is a blonde history major who flirts with Angel over breakfast and walks around in her underwear. When she invites him to a rave, Angel starts looking for an apartment.

He writes a letter to Buffy in Rome. Lets her know where he is, and that he's okay. Tells her about Wes and Cordy. Doesn't bother to tell her about Spike. He's not sure if she even knew Spike was back.

He doesn't mention Fred or Gunn. Buffy never even met them.

Buffy writes back, saying she's glad he's okay. Says she's sorry to hear about Wesley and Cordelia. Gives him the name of the new Slayer in town, in case he wants someone to help out in the fight. Says he's welcome to come to Rome, if he needs a place to stay.

Angel balls up the letter and tosses it in the trash.

 

*

He rents an apartment close to campus, within walking distance of Connor's dorm. He patrols at night. Connor helps whenever he gets a break from studying. Angel tries to dissuade him, but is always secretly pleased when he insists on tagging along.

One night, they take on a tribe of Chi'nuk Tuk demons together, and Angel barely has to lift his sword. He watches as Connor spins, kicking the head off one, punching through the skull of another. He's lithe and whip-fast and grits his teeth every time he swings. When the last one drops to the ground, he turns and gives Angel the biggest smile he's ever seen.

"See how I took that last one out? Pretty cool, huh Dad?"

It's the first time Connor has called him "Dad" since before the mind wipe. Angel feels giddy in his chest and fears for his soul.

 

*

Time passes. Buffy writes again. She's not in Rome anymore. Dawn's been accepted at Cambridge, so they've moved to England. She's glad, she says, because it means they're closer to Giles. She's not seeing the Immortal anymore. And can Angel please get an e-mail address, because it's so much easier than letter writing and "your handwriting makes mine look like chicken scratch."

"Why don't you call her?" Connor asks one day over lunch.

Angel just shakes his head. "I wouldn't know what to say."

"You know," Connor takes a sip of coffee, "I've been kind of seeing someone."

Angel looks up. "Really?"

"Yeah. Her name's Diana."

Angel grins. "Diana? Like Wonder Woman?"

Connor laughs. "No. She's not an Amazon. She's pretty tall, though. And you should see her fight."

"She's not a Slayer, is she?" Angel's face scrunches up as he stuffs a cookie into his mouth. Hanging out with Connor has given him a taste for human food.

"No. She's studying psychology. But she does kick boxing in her spare time."

"I think I'd like to meet this young lady." Angel pretends to be stern.

A few weeks later, the three of them go to a movie together. "Because my cousin's kind of a freak and he doesn't have any friends," Connor tells Diana. She sympathizes and agrees to let Angel tag along.

Angel approves, more or less. Likes the fact that she's a redhead. Likes that she likes Jackie Chan movies. Isn't crazy about the fact that she's seven years older than Connor, but he can't ask for miracles. He's used up his quota of those.

 

*

Angel decides to reopen the agency. He buys a small piece of property downtown, with a storefront office and an apartment up above. The agency has three rooms—a waiting area, an office for Angel, and a spare office for Connor to use whenever he's free.

The sign on the window reads, "Angel & Son."

Connor tells the Reillys that he's working part-time at Angel's office. Connor's mother asks who the "son" is on the letterhead.

"I dunno," Connor replies. "I think he's a silent partner. I never see him around." Connor's mother finds this a bit odd. His father replies that everything about Angel is a bit odd. Connor laughs, and they don't ask any more questions.

Connor sets up Internet and a new web site. Angel e-mails Buffy to let her know she can reach him online. A few days later, there's a message in his inbox from her. There's a picture of her, Dawn, Giles and a Beefeater at the Tower of London. Angel remembers when the guards wore their dress uniforms all the time. That was in 1857.

Connor's head pokes around the corner. "If you're gonna sit in your office and mope all evening, can I take your sword? I wanna go kill stuff."

Angel gets up out of his chair and follows his son out the door.

 

*

Connor graduates. He decides to stay on with Angel full-time. He tells Diana about Angel, and about what they do for a living. Diana think's it's "really freaking cool." She comes on board as a counselor for traumatized clients. Angel has to renovate to put in another office for her.

Buffy e-mails him every month or so. One day, she says she's coming to visit. She has something to tell him. Angel is glad, because he has something to tell her, too.

When she sees the lettering on the office window, she turns a little pale.

Angel introduces her to Connor, then takes her upstairs to his apartment. He's kind of embarrassed at how small it is, but Buffy doesn't seem to notice.

"Soooo..." She sits on the couch, a little unsteady. "You're Angel, so that guy must be..."

"My son." Angel sits next to her. "He's my son."

"How... when... how did this happen?" Buffy slumps against the couch, runs a hand over her forehead. She still gets that adorable little wrinkle there when she's confused. She has new lines around her eyes. She's still the most beautiful thing he's ever seen.

Angel shrugs one shoulder. "Mystical pregnancy, hell dimension, forgetting spells. It was a thing."

Buffy nods. "His mother? It's not..." Her hands twist in her lap. "You said Cordelia was killed by a mystical pregnancy."

Angel shakes his head. "It was someone you didn't know. She's dead now."

"I'm sorry," Buffy says, and when she looks at him with those big eyes, Angel believes her.

"Wow, this is the irony of ironies," she says, looking at the wall. "I find out you have a son, and here I came all this way to tell you..." She trails off, looking at her hands. Her nails are long again, the way she kept them back in high school. She isn't wearing nail polish.

"You're pregnant," Angel finishes for her.

She looks up at him, and her forehead crinkles again. "How did you..." He taps the side of his nose.

She stands up. "Oh, ick! You can smell that?" She smoothes her hands down over her abdomen, flattening her blouse against her skin. Four months, Angel guesses, maybe five. "Here I am worrying about my belly starting to show, and you..." She wrinkles her nose at him. "You are gross."

Angel smiles without teeth. Doesn't mention that her scent makes him want to rip into her with his fangs and drink from her womb.

"So," he asks. "Gonna tell me about it?"

Buffy sits back down next to him. "I've been seeing someone," she says. "His name's Charles," and she smiles, flushed and fluttery.

Angel snorts. "Charles. What is he, the Prince of Wales or something?"

"He's a paramedic. He patched me up one day when I got wounded in a fight."

"Hitting on a patient?" Angel raises an eyebrow. Huffs. "That's pretty low."

Buffy rolls her eyes.

"Does he know about you? Being the Slayer?"

"He knows everything. And Dawn loves him." She smiles again, and Angel bites back a growl. "And he makes me laugh."

"What does he look like?"

"Tall. Dark. Not as handsome as you, obviously."

"Obviously," Angel nods. Her eyes sparkle.

"Here," she says. "I have a picture." She digs into her purse and hands him a photograph. They're standing arm in arm at Stonehenge. Angel has never seen Stonehenge during the day. The sun is glinting off Buffy's hair. She comes up to the guy's shoulder. His head is close-shaven, and he looks like the actor from that show Connor watches—the one about the guy trying to break his brother out of prison.

"I don't like him," Angel says.

Buffy smiles. "Thank you." She puts the photo back in her purse. "We're, um... getting married in a few weeks."

"Buffy, you don't have to marry this guy just because..."

"I'm not," she says, and her voice has that note of authority that tells him not to argue with her. "I'm happy, Angel. Really happy, for the first time since..." She takes his hand in hers. Her skin is soft and warm, and he caresses her fingers. "But I wanted you to know, that I'll always..." Her voice breaks.

Angel nods. "I know," he says. "Buffy, I wouldn't have any of this if it wasn't for you. You taught me what it means to love, and that's..." His voice is soft. "It's everything."

She touches his face, and her eyes are wet. When she kisses him, Angel can almost feel his heart beat.

He walks her downstairs. Shows her to the door, his hand on the small of her back. Connor is in his office, pretending not to watch.

"So," Angel says, trying to sound casual. "Am I gonna get a wedding invitation?"

"We're having it outdoors. In the afternoon."

The tension spills out of his shoulders. "Oh, thank Christ."

Buffy laughs right to her fingertips. She puts her arms around him, and Angel's eyes blink shut.

"Always?" he whispers, holding her close. He can feel her heart beating against his chest, warm and strong.

"Always." Then she pulls away from him and is gone.

Connor comes out of his office. Puts his hand on Angel's shoulder. "Tough break, Dad," he says.

Angel nods. "All the king's horses," he says. He stands at the window, tracing the backwards lettering with his fingertips. Then he turns to Connor. "You know, that Diana's a really nice girl. You two ever think about having kids?"

Connor huffs. "Only if you give me a raise and promise to baby-sit."

Angel smiles, wider than the night sky. "It's a deal."