Where’s the justice and where’s the sense? Angel kept asking himself this ever since it happened. Hidden inside an abandoned building waiting for the sunset, the vampire couldn’t shut out the cries from the streets around him. There had been too many of them. His team hadn’t had a prayer. Part of him was grateful when Gunn was finally cut down, ending his suffering. Angel should have sent him away, like he had his son but he knew, like Connor, Gunn would have only gotten a few blocks before turning around. His friend had gone out like he would have wanted, a hero.
What does it matter? You damned his soul Angel tried to drown out his dark thoughts. Wes and Gunn were dead. Fred died weeks before, and he had sold their souls to Wolfram and Hart. No, they had sold themselves willingly. They merely thought they were simply getting what Wolfram and Hart had to offer, never realizing the deal with Cyvus Vail was part and parcel of the transaction. He had sold them all into hell and could only kid himself that Wolfram and Hart was too broken to collect. His shanshu and his friends’ souls had bought what? Armageddon and a measly eleven months and a couple of weeks of peace for his son. Eleven months for Connor at the cost of his service to Wolfram and Hart, and eighteen months for Buffy bartered for the return of his humanity. When would he learn his plans would always go to shit?
Still, Buffy was back…and ignoring him and Spike. No one answered their pleas for help. Apparently she had moved on, taking Faith and the others with her. Connor claimed the memories of Quor-Toth and the year before were like a vague dream. Angel knew his son was lying, telling him what he wanted to hear. Even if he had bought it, Connor showing up to help fight Hamilton was proof of the lie. Eleven months of sanity and love traded in for a bloody end.
He’s not dead. You didn’t see him die. Angel clung to that, ignoring the little voice inside his head that jeered, of course Connor was dead. Angel had been standing right there when the mate to the dragon he had killed had scooped his son up, taking Connor from his side. He had heard his son’s scream of pain as the claws pierced him, felt the hot rain of his blood exciting his senses. Should have drank the little bastard down when you had the chance.
“Shut up,” Angel whispered feebly to himself, to the thing inside him that had reveled at the scent of Connor’s blood, the thing that remembered Connor’s taste and the effect it had on him. The subtle lust for his son’s blood sickened him.
It was a moot point anyhow. The dragon had carried his son away to eat at its leisure. Connor was gone. The wicked part in him hoped that at least the scrawny brat hadn’t disappeared easily down the dragon’s gullet.
Angel sprawled on the bare cement floor, wondering why he had sought shelter. What was there left to live for? Connor was gone. Most of his friends were dead, and those he thought were friends had betrayed him. He had never imagined Giles would have said no. Maybe he hadn’t explained strongly enough just how dire the situation was, how Armageddon was on hand. Maybe this was all his fault. Or maybe it was Buffy and Faith, the two people he trusted not to assume him working for Wolfram and Hart meant he was evil, who were at fault. If they had only talked to him, communicated with him, his ragtag band might have stood a chance with all the new Slayers at their side.
Or maybe it wouldn’t have made a difference. Maybe all the Slayers would have died as well. There was still time for them to do just that. Demons hadn’t hung around just to battle him and his friends. They had spilled into the city, a diluvian outpouring of monsters. Angel had no doubts they would spread as far and fast through the world as they could. Nothing would ever be as it was. There were too many of them for the normal folks to keep rationalizing them. His demon cheered at the thought, and Angel was so tired, deep to the bone that he was tempted to just give in to him.
Angel didn’t even know how the rift the Circle of Black Thorn had torn in the dimensions had been sealed. Just that suddenly with the wet popping noise of a compound fracture - the kind Angelus used to love to inflict - the rift shuttered, clipping a hoard of demons into halves. It didn’t happen fast enough. Too many monsters had slipped through. It would be hell on earth now. Again thoughts of why even take shelter from the sun flittered through his mind.
Was Spike hiding from the sun? Angel had seen his almost-child being led away, bloody and limping, by Illyria. He didn’t stop them or cry out that he was alive, too, so to speak. He just let them go, too numb to move or speak. He didn’t want anything more to do with them, with anyone. He was done with humanity, and with demon-kind, too. He should have made that break years before. If he had just not gotten involved, maybe things wouldn’t have become this bad.
Who says the world’s ending? Looks like playtime to me. Shuttering his heart against his own twisted mind, Angel curled up on the cold floor, giving in to the pain. He couldn’t count his wounds, the broken bones that had grated on one another as he limped like a car-struck dog into his hiding place. He had paused once or twice along the way to shame himself, sucking still warm, still liquid blood from the dead. He was a monster and not even a very good one.
He needed more blood to heal completely but he’d be damned - more so than he already was - before he went and drank from more victims of Black Thorn’s slaughter. The mere thought repulsed him, reminded him of that time in Texas, another fall from grace. And I’m falling now, fast and hard.
“Want out of here?”
Angel sat bolt upright when the blue-haired woman just popped into view. It took a moment to realize she wasn’t a threat. He knew her vaguely through Lorne. He recognized her as the inter-dimensional expert who helped closed the rift Connor had torn from Quor-Toth to Earth. Angel thought he might know how Black Thorn’s rift had been closed. “Meerna, right?”
“No time for chit-chat.” She winked into a corner. “Smart money is getting out of this dimension. Lorne though you might want out with us.”
“So that’s it, he’s just running,” Angel said, too tired to be truly disgusted. It was probably the intelligent thing to do.
“Just for the time being…maybe forever.” Meerna flashed back over to him and stayed put. She looked horribly exhausted.
“Did you close the rift?” Angel didn’t know why he cared.
“Me, some fellow dimensional experts, a few witches, lots died. More are just getting out while the getting’s good.” Meerna shoved out a hand. “Ready?”
Angel gazed at her sadly. “Pass. I helped create this mess. I need to fix it.”
She gave him a shocked look. “You hero types never make any sense.” She was gone before he could change his mind.
Just as well, he assured himself. At least Meerna and her compatriots had taken the time to close the rift before running away. They could have just as easily fled and let Earth be swamped by the demons. Maybe tomorrow it wouldn’t look like hell on earth. Angel would settle for purgatory and maybe, just maybe, he’d find a spark and work on chaining Gog and Magog back up.
Angel stripped off the bloody tattered coat that still clung to his body, heavy with rainwater and bits of flesh, his and others. He wadded the reeking mass of fabric up and laid his head on it. He wasn’t sure which would win out, his frantic mind keeping him awake or his bone deep exhaustion. It was the latter.
Angel woke, feeling someone familiar in the room. “Connor,” he whispered then remembered his son being carted off by the dragon. Familiar…and feminine, he thought becoming more awake. In the sun percolating through the broken glass of the windows, Angel saw her coming his way, trim, beautiful, golden hair curling to her shoulders. He knew that body, had lusted for it, knew every curve and dimple. The taste of it was heavy on his tongue, awakening old feelings much further south.
“You have to get up, Angel. You have a lot of work to do.”
“It’s daylight, Darla.” Angel shut his eyes. He was dreaming. Darla was gone for over two years now.
“You know what I meant.” Her toe prodded him until he cracked open his eyes. “You can’t just lie here brooding. I know you want to.”
He shut his eyes again. “Go away.”
“I can’t, not until you see the world still needs a…”
“Don’t you dare!” Angel sat up, stabbing a finger at her. “If one more person calls me a champion, I’ll tear off their heads…even if they are already dead.”
Darla’s full lips parted in a wicked smile. “I was going to say selfless fool but it’s true. Your work isn’t done.”
Angel snorted, getting to his feet. “You just hand me that same old refrain, the one Doyle used to sing. Cordelia, Wesley, even Buffy. Well, I’m tired, Darla. Look at what I helped do to this world! I tried to stop it. I signed away everything to circumvent this.” He waved a hand at the window and the world beyond, his fingers trailing smoke as they cut too close to a sunbeam. “Every time I try to help, I make things worse. Why should I dance to the Powers That Be’s music, when I get nothing in return?”
“Nothing?” Her eyebrows raised “Not even that day that wasn’t?”
“Oh yes, my great sacrifice for nothing, so that the woman I loved could have just a few more months of life, to come back…” Angel snapped off his thought, thinking on the things Spike had confided in him about how much Buffy had changed. She would have been better off dead, and she would have preferred it that way, if Spike were to be believed. “I’m not grateful to them for manipulating me like that. I gave them something for nothing. Their so-called gift was broken from the start. I can’t go on, Darla, not when the pain is all on my side of the fence. I did everything the Powers wanted, and they took everything from me. Doyle, Cordelia, my humanity for something they probably knew wouldn’t work…and now our son. He’s gone, Darla. A dragon took him. I tried so hard to keep him safe and now he’s dead.”
“Is he?” Darla’s face lacked all expression, her eyes voluminous.
He got lost in them. Did she know something he didn’t? Was she handing him false hope? “What do you know about him? Darla, is he alive?” Angel reached for her and she trickled through his fingers like smoke through a keyhole.
Angel sat up, shaking from his dream. He looked around the old building but there were no signs of Darla. He lay back down against the hard cold cement that was putting an ache in his bones. It wasn’t a dream but a message from the Powers…only he couldn’t care less. He was done with them. He just wished they wouldn’t have gone for the extra added touch of Darla’s sweet scent.