MEMORY OF A LOST PARADISE

By D.M. Evans

Disclaimer - The only one I own is Sorcha. All else belongs firmly in the hands of Mr. Whedon.

Rating - R for violence

Pairing - Buffy/Angel, Spike/Cordy, mentions Dawn/Connor, Willow/Xander

Spoilers - Set almost 5 years after Chosen, no actual spoilers for Angel S5

Feedback - Oh yes please, make my day.

Summary - Buffy is determined to bring Angel back into the family.

Author's Note # 1 Sequel to Walk a Mile With Sorrow - It makes more sense if you read that first

Author's Note #2 - This is an AR. Cordelia didn't die but all memories after her return from Pylea are gone. Buffy and her friends have rebuilt the Watcher's Council in London. Fred did become Illyria and died. Wes has started up a branch of the Council in L.A. Lindsey went to hell and returned and Eve still works for Wolfram and Hart.

Author's Note #3 - Thanks to Leni and Chris for editing this monster and thanks to Esmerelda for turning me onto a British kiddie show, The Tweenies

Author's Note #4 - This is a birthday prezzie for SJ Smith who's also editing this for the final version. Enjoy.

He's haunted by the memory of a lost paradise
In his youth or a dream he can't be precise
He's chained forever to a world that's departed
It's not enough it's not enough

Sorrow - Pink Floyd

CHAPTER ONE

Buffy didn't like big magic. It always had bad ripples. Willow and Giles assured her it took a lot of energy for this spell but it was safe, not so much a big magic as just complicated. Buffy liked her alternatives less, hours upon hours trapped on a plane from London to L.A. so she let Willow teleport their group to the City of Angels. Now if she only knew if she were ready to confront one Angel in particular.

The teleportation spell, requiring one of the covens that worked with the Watchers Council in London, had left her disorientated, setting off blips of memory, one by one, as if plucked from the ether she had just recorporealized from and arranged for her in a Viewmaster Reel

Blip, memory one sparked by the shock at seeing a brief glimpse of white-haired Willow, the one Kennedy used to call 'her goddess' until one of the witches took exception to the perceived insult to her religion.

Blip, memory two: Kennedy boarding the plane to Canada, working on a Hellmouth up in the permafrost. Willow hadn't been too traumatized at the growing apart of lovers. Buffy hated feeling grateful to see her go but she had never forgiven Kennedy for the mutiny.

Blip, memory three: Willow, more comfortable with her bi-sexuality, kissing her original love, Xander and he kissing her back. It was true; you never forgot your first love or at least, it was that way for Buffy.

Beside her, Connor gave out a low groan beside her, dragging her out of the memory reel. She looked at him. He rubbed his head like he had a migraine. He looked too young to have eyes older than pyramids. She worried about him, had been worrying for three years now, ever since he had come to London with her and her friends.

"You okay, Connor?" She put her free hand on his bony shoulder, as she shifted her burden against her hip with the other.

"That felt like knives in my brain."

"Tell me about it," Willow groaned.

"Aunt Buffy, my tummy hurts."

Buffy hiked up the three year old she held on her hip, smiling as she looked into the bright blue eyes of her niece. She ruffled Sorcha's long, soft, light brown curls. "Aunt Willow said it'll be okay real fast. If not you tell me, sweetie."

"Okay." Sorcha tucked her cheek against Buffy's shoulder.

Uncomfortable, Buffy's eyes flicked towards Connor. He fought hard not to show his pain at not being the one Sorcha turned to. It hurt Buffy's heart. Connor was the reasons they were all back in L.A. The last three years had been devastating for everyone, particularly Connor.

Buffy stared at the large Queen Anne-styled home that was the centerpiece of the L.A. Watchers' complex where Wes headed the division. Wes and Angel left Wolfram and Hart when Fred died, after Illyria was vanquished. Angel had already wanted out after the spell with Connor had gone awry and his son's mind had come back to itself. What happened to Fred had been the last straw. Gunn and Lorne stayed with the law firm, an uneasy truce between them and the Watchers.

Standing in front of Wes and Angel's home kicked off the memories again. Buffy wondered if her companions had been effected by the spell the same way since no one was moving.

Blip, memory four: Spike pairing up with Angel and Wes, turning into something just shy of being a full blown Watcher. He occasionally seemed embarrassed to be a vampire on the side of good.

Blip, memory five: Spike moving in with Cordy. He had a penchant for finding domineering women. Buffy knew from experience he liked that and it seemed to be working for them.

Blip, memory six: She remembered the last time she had spent in L.A., nearly five years past, back when Connor first remembered who he was after the spell had been broken by the big bad magic from that battle she and Willow had been involved in. They had been in Wales when the battle's side effects had undone spells all over the world. Dawn had been asked to help Connor learn to be a regular teen and it turned into a fateful flirtation, the deep headlong rush into love. One night of failed birth control had left Dawn a scared seventeen year old with a baby growing inside her.

Blip, memory seven: Feeling her fury again over when Giles brought Dawn to London to tell her. Given what happened with Connor's first child, Buffy had wanted Dawn to have an abortion. Dawn had considered it long and hard but finally decided their mother would have been disappointed if she did. Dawn knew her extended family would help raise her child and in the face of such stubbornness Buffy had relented.

Blip, memory eight: Taking Dawn to London to help set up the new Watchers' Council. Dawn agreed eagerly. She a wanted to be a Watcher and study magic. Buffy gave, knowing Giles and Willow would back Dawn up. Connor joined them, still unable to forgive his father for tampering with his memories, no matter the good intentions Angel had. Connor seemed to deal better with Angel at a distance. With a whole continent and an ocean between them, they emailed daily rebuilding a relationship that didn't involve screaming and flying fists.

Blip, memory nine: Her shock at how attentive Connor was to Dawn. He could be a pain in the ass to everyone else on occasion but he was at Dawn's beck and call. Most teenaged boys would have run off, scared to death to be an expectant father. Connor fell into the role as if his life depended on it. Buffy knew Dawn would have someone standing beside her the whole way and that had been a comfort.

Blip, memory ten: fast forward six months when Buffy came back from a job in Iceland - who knew demons would be in the hot springs in Reykjavik - to learn Dawn had a condition called partial placenta previa. The placenta was covering her cervix, life-threatening to her and her unborn daughter. They put her on bed rest in the Watcher's Infirmary waiting until the fetus was old enough to be taken by C-section. Buffy had been proud of Dawn who refused to have a partial birth abortion in order to be assured she, herself, wouldn't die. They monitored the baby for congenital anomalies, which could happen in previa but the baby looked fine. They wouldn't know if she suffered any brain damage from having a partially pinched off placenta until after her birth.

Blip, memory eleven: Connor doting on Dawn in the hospital every day for nearly three months. She told Angel daily in emails how proud he could be of his son.

Blip, memory twelve: She, Faith and Kennedy needing Connor to help battle back the latest big bad. Too late they learned it was a diversion for a group of mages led by Ethan, who wanted something from inside the Watcher's Complex, something that Wolfram and Hart wanted and had contracted Ethan to get.

Blip, memory thirteen: Pulling Giles from the rubble of the Watchers' library, his ribs, hip and leg fractured, almost watching him die, watching him limp as he would until the day he died. Seeing Robin in that same rubble, his head dashed open, seeing Faith's heart breaking. Being told at the hospital that Dawn had been taken hostage to insure the Slayers wouldn't attack Ethan and his cronies as they fled.

Blip, memory fourteen: Imagining the horror Dawn lived through on the run with those bastards. Imagining Dawn pleading for her life and the life of her unborn child. In her heart, Buffy could hear Dawn telling Ethan that her baby would die if it came naturally, begging to be dropped at the nearest hospital, promising no one would stop him. Buffy dreamed it at least once a week.

Blip, memory fifteen: Hating Ethan more than she had ever hated anything before because he didn't let Dawn go, not until he was safely away. He called the Council and told them where to find her.

Blip, memory sixteen: She, Willow and Connor finding Dawn and taking her to the hospital, seeing no fear in Dawn's eyes as if Connor had gobbled that emotion up, hoarding it inside him as his trembling hand cupped Dawn's.

Blip, memory seventeen: Standing there helplessly in blue paper footies, her hair caught up under a blue paper hat, holding Dawn's hand as the doctor and his team were powerless to stop the natural birth that had started long before Ethan made his call. The baby ripped through the placenta, coming into the world kicking and screaming. The doctor's told them this was the best sign. The blood poured out of Dawn, hitting the cold OR floor. The nurse put the baby on Dawn's chest as the doctor worked frantically behind the blue curtain spanning the young girl's waist. Buffy saw the love in Dawn's eyes just before they dimmed.

Blip, memory eighteen: Being unable to breathe, unable to think until she heard the terrible cry that tore out of Connor. In that brief moment as life left Dawn, his sanity shredded. Buffy didn't have time to say goodbye to her sister or welcome her niece. She had to restrain the anguished boy, realizing only then just how much he truly loved her sister. Later the decision was made, if they crossed paths with Ethan again, he wouldn't be walking away.

Blip, memory nineteen: Connor leaving the hospital only to enter the Watcher's psych ward, an old place, not destroyed by the explosion nearly six years before. Buffy hated the asylum, all cold grey stone and the ghosts of hundreds of years of torment echoing through the halls. She didn't know how Connor could be expected to ever get well there. She understood why he broke. People had cracked for far less than what he had gone through in the three short years he had been on earth. Losing the man he saw as his father, losing his first love in the spell that removed all memory of him from Cordy's mind, losing himself to Jasmine and killing her, losing everything when Angel rewrote his history, losing that good life thanks to more magic, losing Fred whom he cared about even though she had been angry at him for what he had done to Angel. She had helped him to learn about this world and took care of him in those first scary months and he mourned her death and now, Dawn. For a long time he didn't do more than sit and stare and occasionally answer questions as if he were removed from the world and didn't care about his answers.

Blip, memory twenty: Naming Dawn's daughter Sorcha. Buffy knew Angel and Connor would have liked her to have an Irish name. Buffy wanted to name the baby after Dawn but couldn't find a Celtic goddess of dawn, something she thought Dawn might have wanted given her bourgeoning interest in Wicca. Sorcha meant radiant and bright and Buffy thought that was a suitable tribute to her sister. Buffy didn't know what she would have done without Giles, Willow and Xander and even Faith. They all pitched in to raise Sorcha to the chirpy little three year old she was today.

Blip, present time, thinking on her family and struggling not to get sick after a bumpy ride: Buffy wished she could see nothing but roses and kittens in Sorcha's future but she knew better. Willow and Giles' divinations suggested Sorcha would be a Slayer when she grew up or at the very least something as strong as one, if not actually connected into the Slayer power. Buffy suspected that before the little girl was even born. Her mother was an interdimensional key made flesh and her father a human-demon hybrid. Sorcha didn't have a prayer of being normal but she was, at least healthy and not brain damaged in the least. She was a bright little girl who loved her aunts and uncles.

She loved her daddy, too, but she only knew him through supervised visits at first. Buffy was always encouraged by how just being around his baby would perk Connor up, break him out of his fugue a little. It had taken three years and a lot of therapy but he was back to almost normal. He had been released from the psych ward and for the last month had been living with Buffy, getting back out there fighting the good fight with them.

Suddenly, Connor developed a desperate desire to go see his father. Buffy didn't blame him and Willow leapt right in with a teleportation spell so they wouldn't have to make Sorcha endure hours of flight time and lay overs. It was why she was standing now in front of Angel's new home, dredging up all the old sorrows her heart could hold.

Angel blamed himself for not knowing what Wolfram and Hart was up to. He blamed himself for Dawn's death, that his granddaughter had torn her way out of her mother. He blamed himself for not being there to help. Buffy kept telling him it wasn't his fault but in the back of her mind she blamed him, too, but only for the not being there. He had only ever seen his granddaughter in pictures. Buffy never knew why he felt so unwelcome in London, why he never came to see her and the baby or came to see his son but she had her suspicions. Every email she got from him, and they grew less and less all the time, told her what she really needed to know.

Angel had given up. The fight was gone from him. He didn't care if Spike shanshued instead of him. He didn't care that most of his friends were gone. He couldn't even muster up enough positive emotion to try and bridge the gap between him and his family. He was locked up here in this house with Wesley, who still mourned Fred and Lilah, both of them trapped in their misery, lost in their memories of better days. Even Spike and Cordelia had moved to another bungalow on Council grounds, just to get away from the constant gloom.

"One of us should knock on the door," Willow said.

Buffy tried to move but couldn't. She wasn't sure she could face Angel now that she was actually here. Sorcha squirmed and Buffy set her down. Stepping out from the ring of luggage around them, Connor went up the stone steps, cracked with weeds pushing through the weakened areas. He knocked and Buffy felt better when Wes opened it, but, of course, he would since it was daylight. The Watcher looked nearly as old as Giles but his blue eyes sparked seeing them. He smiled warmly.

"You made it. Please, come in. I don't know if he could contain his excitement much longer," Wes said then smiled down at Sorcha, touching the top of her head. "Hello, little one."

As Sorcha clung to her shyly, Buffy found herself thinking 'He's excited?' Maybe this had been the right thing, after all. Buffy didn't know how she walked inside. Maybe it was the strength she took from the little girl holding her hand. Sorcha didn't know to be afraid. She might sense her family's apprehension but she couldn't understand why. She was just excited to be someplace new and to finally meet her grandfather she only knew from stories.

Willow walked ahead with Wesley. Connor hung back for a moment. Buffy reached back and took his hand, feeling how cool and damp it was. She smiled fragilely, drawing him forward and slipped his hand into Sorcha's. The girl beamed up at her father as she walked between them.

Angel was in the library, light pouring through the windows. Buffy still wasn't used to seeing him like that but she was thankful that Gunn and Angel were at least civil to one another and Gunn had Wolfram and Hart give necro-tempered glass for Wes and Angel's duplex and for the main Council headquarters in L.A. Buffy saw the apprehension in Angel's eyes and she felt better for it. She didn't feel like an island of grief any longer. He slowly came toward them, his face mobile with the struggle to rein in his emotions.

"Connor," he said softly. "Buffy, Willow. I'm so...glad to see you." He knew it sounded lame, almost pathetic. Buffy could see that in his dark, constricted eyes.

Connor broke away from them and went to stand in front of his father. Buffy felt a racing ache shudder through her body, wondering if it was too soon, if they were wrong about Connor's mental state. Maybe he was too fragile for this.

The young man surprised all of them by tossing his arms around Angel's shoulders, hugging his father tight. Angel froze. Buffy saw confusion and joy warring inside him. Joy won as he crushed Connor to him. Neither man said anything. Buffy wanted to slink out of the room to give them privacy and from the looks on her companions' faces she knew they felt the same. Finally Angel let go of his son, patting him on the back. Both men had red, wet eyes they were trying to hide.

Connor came back over to her with Angel right behind him. The vampire wouldn't meet her eyes and she knew it wasn't because of the little girl holding her hand as Angel wasn't looking at Sorcha either. Connor squatted down beside Sorcha, straightening the little bow on the dressy dress she hadn't wanted to wear. Buffy hadn't blamed her. Sorcha was a tom boy and the idea of being in purple velvet with a floral sage green skirt hadn't sat well with the child. She had promised her niece a quick return to her usual jeans and T-shirts once they got where they were going but she had wanted Angel's first time seeing his granddaughter to have an air of formality. Connor had agreed but it had fallen to Buffy to enforce the edict. "Sorcha, this is my dad, your grandad, Liam." Connor gestured up at Angel and Buffy blinked at the name. She hadn't given much thought to what name they'd tell Sorcha to call her grandfather by. When she bought gifts for Sorcha and pretended they were from Angel she always just signed them 'granddad.' Her own father was so far out of her life that she didn't even tell Sorcha about him. If he couldn't be bothered to show up for his own daughter's funeral, he didn't need to be part of his grandchild's life. Occasionally it struck her odd that she cut Angel more slack than her own dad but Angel had been there more for her than Hank Summers ever had.

Angel knelt down, still towering over his son and granddaughter but the girl's eyes fastened on him without fear even when he reach out and cupped her little chin. "Hello, Sorcha. I've been waiting a long time to see you."

Sorcha played with the hem of her dress then lifted it up over her head as little girls were wont to do when they got shy. Buffy was on her before Connor could even move out of his squat. She tapped her niece's hands, settling her skirt back down over her Pull-Ups. Buffy was never so glad as to have nappie-time over and done with. Nappie? She really had been in England too long. Diapers were still occasionally needed but potty training was almost a done deal. She tried to tell herself it was smooth sailing from here on out, raising a child, but she knew it was a lie.

"Good girls don't do that, Sorcha," she said, remembering her mom telling that to Dawnie, even though she knew Dawn had never been a little girl. "Sorry, Angel."

He smiled up at her, looking almost at ease now. "It's all right. But it's better this way," he said smoothing Sorcha's hair, "because we can see your pretty little face."

Sorcha's fingers went into her mouth as she turned to Connor, putting her arms around him. He kissed her head. "No need to be shy, sweetie." He stood, picking her up. "She usually isn't shy in the least. Think you can say hello to your grandfather?"

"Hi." She held out her arms and Angel stood up, taking the child from Connor.

Buffy watched as he held her close like he was drinking her in. Sorcha put her arms around Angel's neck, giving him a sloppy kiss. Buffy could see him melting.

"I hope you didn't mind what I told her." Connor shrugged. "Grandfather Angel just sounded...dumb."

"It's fine," Angel said, his eyes not leaving Sorcha's blue ones. "You're such a beautiful young woman." He smoothed her skirt down where it had flipped up. "It's a pretty dress you have on."

Sorcha's nose wrinkled. "Dresses suck."

"I told Faith not to say that word around her." Buffy crossed her arms.

"You'll be lucky that's the only word Faith taught her," Willow said, rolling her eyes.

"I bet you're tired from traveling," Angel said to his granddaughter then looked at the adults, "All of you. Willow, you look dead on you feet."

Willow nodded. "That spell took a lot out of me."

"We have guest rooms made up here and at the Council headquarters," Wes said, shooting a nervous look Angel's way. "We weren't sure where you'd be more comfortable."

"Here is just fine," Buffy said, glancing at Connor to be sure it was all right with him. He stared blankly at her. She didn't like that look. She knew it could mean an 'episode' was coming on. "Connor, you should get some rest, too, or do you want to talk to your father?"

"No." His attention snapped back to Angel and Buffy hoped they weren't about to see one of Connor's mood swings. "We can talk later. I'm...tired."

Buffy didn't know if she believed that but didn't doubt for a second Connor needed time to pull himself back together. The hard part was over and the harder part was about to begin. "Willow, can you put Sorcha down? It's time for your nap, young lady."

Sorcha didn't fuss as Angel set her down. Buffy took that as a sign the girl was exhausted because she usually fought nap time.

"No problem. Wes, where were you planning on putting Sorcha?" Willow picked up Sorcha.

"One of the spare bedrooms only has a twin bed. We put a rollaway in there, too. We figured that would be best for one of you to stay with Sorcha."

"I'll take that room for now," Willow said and Buffy knew that was for the best. Sorcha still wasn't entirely comfortable around her dad since he had been out of her life for most of it.

"We were planning to meet Spike and Cordy for dinner later but if you think you'll be too tired, we can order in," Wes said.

"We can play it by ear," Buffy said.

"Okay, follow me. Leave the luggage. I'll bring it up later," Wes said.

"You guys go ahead. Angel, you and I need to talk," Buffy said, forcing him to meet her gaze. She wasn't going to let him out of this.

"Come with me," he said and she heard the lack of enthusiasm. This was going to hurt.

Buffy followed Angel to his part of the home and realized it wasn't really a duplex, more like a house with a small apartment added on. Compared to the sprawling old time luxuries of Wes' side of the house, Angel's apartment was what a real estate agent would call 'cozy.' The living room was open to the 'galley' kitchen. Worse, there were no signs Angel lived in it. The place could have been ready for viewing by potential renters. The Angel she knew liked eclectic things, Asian art and leather furniture. Spike's crypt had more homey touches than this. Dingy white walls, furniture from the Good Will, no knick knacks, no books, no art.

Horror poured through her veins like liquid fire. She realized now how far Angel had sunk, how broken he was, almost as fragile as his son. Why hadn't anyone told her it was this bad? Wes should have called her or Cordy or even Spike.

Wes, maybe she could forgive. She knew he hadn't recovered from losing Lilah and then within a year, Fred. If it wasn't for rebuilding the Watchers' Council, Buffy didn't think he could find the will to live. Cordelia always seemed to think Buffy made Angel worse each and every time she spoke to him and not telling Buffy was her way of protecting him. Why hadn't she been the one to take the first step and dig deeper than the emails he sent to find out how he really was? Spike still cared about her, having settled into a friendship with him, distance helping to ease the strain of a failed love or maybe he was still too jealous to tell her.

"She's beautiful," Angel said so softly Buffy barely heard him.

"More than you know," she said, trying to figure out how to say what she felt, what she was thinking without sounding like "Bitch Buffy." But there was no way of not being hurtful. Still, she had been subjected to enough interventions to know they were painful and she had never found them to be helpful. She didn't want Angel to feel how she had with Xander and Mom at her throat like she had when she first returned to Sunnydale after running away, or when her friends found out Angel had come back from hell. It hadn't helped her. It only hardened her, made her less likely to share. She didn't want to subject Angel to that.

"I'm sorry, Buffy, for not being there." He sat down on the orange, gold and green flowered couch.

That alone, his giving up dominance, the lack of pacing and posturing told her that there was nothing left in Angel that could fight. He was going through the motions. Buffy knew how that felt, how empty and alone it was. Out of that same darkness, she had reached to Spike. Who did Angel have to turn to? She didn't want to think about it. She sat on the broken down refugee from the 70's couch. "I just wished I understood why you never came to visit us." It was the least provocative thing she could think to say.

"You were better off without me." His eyes remained furtive.

Buffy clenched her fist, wanting to hit him. He was provoking her. He had to know that. He wanted her to scream, to guilt him further. He was living for the shame. She had seen this in him before and damn, if he wasn't making her do what he wanted. "How can you say that? We all needed you. I needed you." Her voice broke and she hated herself for it. She didn't want raw emotion ruling her. "I lost my sister. She was made from me, my blood, a pinch of my soul, maybe and she died. It was like losing part of myself. I needed you there. Why didn't you come?"

Angel propelled himself to his feet and Buffy just watched him pace. At least that was more normal for him. "I couldn't make it."

"Somehow Spike made it across the Atlantic." She pressed her fingers to her lips, wishing she hadn't said that. She didn't need to throw Spike back in Angel's face but it was the truth. Spike was the only one to come from L.A.

Angel gave no signs the barb had hit him. "I wasn't wanted there, Buffy."

She got up, her legs shaking. "What are you talking about?" She knew, deep down, what he meant. Spike had told her how Xander had once barred him from attending Joyce's funeral. She knew how much Xander hated Angel and always had. Angel was in charge of Wolfram and Hart and somehow missed that Eve and her cronies had gone around his back and hired Ethan. He blamed Angel for Dawn's death. Even if he didn't, Xander wouldn't have wanted Angel there. Buffy knew the hatred had its tangled roots in love and jealousy. Xander might be Willow's first love but Buffy was his. Unrequited, dismissed with all the lack of caring and obvious, 'oh my god, no,' a shallow teenager could muster but it didn't matter. It still colored everything between her and Xander. "What did Xander say to you?"

Angel made an abrupt motion with his hand, waving her off. "It wasn't just Xander. I'm used to ignoring him. It was everyone else. How could I face you, Buffy? It was my organization that caused Dawn's death."

Buffy caught hold of him, making him face her. He pushed her away and she grabbed him again, more firmly this time. He wasn't going to run from her. "I know the truth, Angel. You were a pawn. You, for some unfathomable reason, won't admit it. Maybe you feel you need to suffer but I don't. You couldn't possible know everything that was going on. The order didn't even come from the L.A. branch. Eve did it from another dimension entirely just to hide it from you. I don't blame you for what happened to Dawn."

His eyes reminded her of the night on the bluff when he had gone to greet the sun. "You're the only one, then."

"Giles and Willow don't. Anyone who does is an idiot. Xander blames you for everything. I know you don't pay him any mind."

"Spike blames me," Angel broke in. "He loved your sister, you know?" Buffy nodded. "He saw her as the kid sister he never had and apparently wanted."

"I know." Buffy swallowed hard, pain washing over her. "When I was dead, he looked out for her. That was his grief talking, Angel. He wouldn't be here helping you if he still felt that."

"I wouldn't bet on it. Then there's Andrew." Angel shook his head. "I never listen to a word he says but it's there in the background all the time. First his hatred for Connor for 'stealing' Dawn and then her death. I even asked Wes to send him to Cleveland to help the Watchers there but Wes didn't and you know why? Because he blames me and himself not just for Dawn but for everything. For Lilah, for Fred, for Connor."

"So what are you saying? You two are just locked here together in hatred, like Moby Dick and Ahab?" Buffy asked then her face wrinkled as she tried to think if that was the right analogy. "Because if you say yes, I'll believe it. Look at this place, Angel." She waved her hands around. "This is a jail cell, no, worse. Prisoners usually put up a thing or two to let someone know they're alive. This is a tomb and you've buried yourself in it."

He pulled away from her, retreating down the hall into his bedroom. She pressed against the door as he tried to close her out. The flimsy wood shuddered between them then he relented. The bed wasn't made. The sheets and the bedspread looked like they came from the same Good Will as the couch and the walls were as unrelentingly white and unadorned as the living room.

"You can't close me out, Angel. I'm not going to let you. So, some people blamed you for Dawn's death, so what? I didn't. I told you that. I begged you to come and you didn't." Buffy felt her features turning to stone in spite of herself. "Those people didn't keep you away. You've been alive for nearly three centuries. You don't get that old letting other people make up your mind for you. You wanted to stay away so you could be selfish and brood here, taking all the blame because that's what makes you feel alive."

"You think you know me?" he growled, taking a step toward her.

"You have a better explanation? I'd like to hear it." She shoved him back and he put the bed between them. Buffy took a deep breath, trying to regain control. "Okay, forget that for a moment. You didn't come to Dawn's funeral because you didn't want to cause a scene. Fine. What about afterwards? Didn't you think I might have needed help raising your granddaughter? What did I know about raising kids?"

"You had Giles and Willow and Xander. You had all the help in the world," he said, his eyes narrowing.

"They aren't her blood, Angel. They love her, of course, but she needed her real family. I needed help. I'm a Slayer. I could be killed at any moment. I'm out there trying to do my job and I'm thinking, 'who'll take care of Sorcha if I die?' You should have been there to help." Buffy brushed at her eyes, furious with herself. She promised herself she wouldn't use tears as a weapon and in truth she wasn't. She didn't want them to tear out Angel's heart. She wanted them to stop but they wouldn't.

"Look what happened the last time I took care of a baby." His voice was so heavy with self-recrimination Buffy shuddered at hearing it.

"Speaking of your son, don't you think he needed you, Angel? He was so lost."

"On the best of days, I made Connor insane, Buffy. He hates me," Angel said.

"Liar. You've told me how much you loved Connor. You said you knew he understood you truly loved him, at the end. You told me that he was reaching out to you for help before you had that spell cast on him. Well, he needed his father, Angel." She reached out to him and he backed away some more. Her hand dropped, slapping into her thigh. "He needed you for these last three years languishing in that mental hospital. I've been there, too. I know how scary that is. He needed his father and you weren't there."

"I wouldn't be the father he wanted. His father is dead," Angel snarled.

"Really? That's why you emailed about him all the time, asking questions, avoiding suggestions that it would be helpful if you came to England to see him? That's why he greeted you today with a hug, because he hates you. He needed you and you abandoned him. You abandoned us all." Buffy turned, stumbling out of the room. She caught hold of the door jamb. "I'm sorry, Angel. I didn't want it to be this way. I wanted to tell you that it didn't matter, that things could be different now."

"But they do matter," he said.

"Of course they do," she snapped. "But they can be forgiven. I do forgive you, Angel for not being there. Connor does, too, or else we would never have come but I need to understand why you left us and why you still aren't letting us in."

Angel hung his head, turning from her. Buffy sobbed and ran back to the main part of the house then out the door into the back yard. She didn't know what else she was expecting. She had made a horrible mess of things in a matter of minutes. She had failed herself, failed her niece and Connor. She had failed Angel as much as he had failed her.