Disclaimer: Joss Whedon owns everything worth owning. I have nothing, or very little anyway.
Sunnydale, California 1998
Too Late. Willow must have performed the curse. It worked. He was back. She stared into his eyes and saw the lover she thought she had lost forever. She stared and she cried, and she did all she could to block out the swirling luminescence of the air behind him, the portal to Hell that threatened to swallow them all. He was back, but it was too late.
She leaned in and pressed her lips to his trying to relive every moment, every touch. She kissed him like it was the first time, knowing full well that it would likely be the last. "I love you."
Tears were in his eyes now as well. "I love you."
"Close your eyes." She couldn't stand for him to watch, see her drive the blade through him and into the demonic statue at his back. It had to be done. He would understand. Everyone would understand. The sword cut into him and the swirling of the air stopped. There was light, there was pain, and then there was nothing. He was back, now he was gone.
New York City, New York – 18 months later
"Gibb?! Gibb! You are never gonna believe what happened at school!" Tessa Sullivan hurriedly entered the cramped apartment and searched for a place to set her backpack amongst the piles of books. The apartment, which she had called home for nearly the last six years, belonged to Anthony Gibb, librarian extraordinaire at PS-119 and guardian to the precocious 12-year-old now hopping over papers and open faced books to try and find him.
"Gibb?" She stopped at the end of the hall, the end of the little apartment, and stood confused. "Where are you?" She glanced around. The door to the bathroom was open; no one inside. The bedroom door was open as well, jammed up against the wall by a pile of schoolbooks and a basket of laundry, both of which were put there several days before in the hope that she would take them into the room and put them away. Gibb was not much of a housekeeper, nor was Tessa, so their home sweet home often looked more like a ransacked library. Her guardian had a passion for books, first edition novels from the 17th and 18th centuries, most vary rare, were his prized personal possessions and so remained safely tucked away in the corner bookcase. Other books, however, ones he had collected for his "work" lay in somewhat organized piles. Theories on dimensional shifts, time travel, wormholes, and portals, basically anything relying on physics and mathematics, sat along the far wall of the main room. Ghosts, spirits, poltergeist, and doppelgangers were to the right of the front door stacked nearly to the ceiling. Basic fundamental religious beliefs and phenomena were piled to the left of the door, and texts on various demons ran the length of the hallway. Only the kitchen was left relatively uncluttered so as to serve as a workspace. But today Gibb was not leaning over his copy of the Maleus Malefacarem, or any other book. He was not searching for borrowed texts in Tessa's room, nor was he hanging out in the bathroom. He wasn't taking a bit of tea out on the fire escape. And Tessa had already checked the library before leaving school, he wasn't there either.
She walked over to her bed and sat on the edge contemplating her options. She couldn't call him because he doesn't believe in cell phones and therefore refuses to own one. She could head down the coffee shop at the corner and see if he's there, but being almost 5 o'clock in the dead of winter it was nearly dark already and Gibb didn't want her out after dark. She could call the school, but they probably hadn't seen him either. Too much thinking only left one option. She turned on the TV and just decided to wait.
London, England – the next day
"What is the rush, Geoffrey? It had better be important, I was preparing to leave on holiday."
The old wood floor creaked under the weight of the husky Englishman who rose from his desk to greet his old friend. "It is terribly important I'm afraid," he said and gestured for the other man to have a seat. "There has been a terrible tragedy."
"Again? Well, it hardly seems as though the council gets together anymore unless 'terrible tragedies' occur. And who is it this time?"
"So I had gathered. My God, it isn't Rupert is it? I know he has been coming up against quite a lot since Angelus' return."
Geoffrey paused, gazing at the floor. Without looking up he utters almost to himself, "It's your brother."
At that the man sunk into the crushed velvet couch, but his face betrayed nothing, no pain, no sadness, nothing. "What about the girl?"
"She is 'in the system' as they say. Foster care. I spoke with the New York authorities only briefly, but they say that they can not release into anyone's custody without some sort of court procedure unless they are a blood relative."
"Gilbert, none of us can go and petition for custody, we are not American citizens. But I still think you need to be there, if for no other reason than to bring you brother back home."
"Yes, yes, I should." Gilbert Gibb exhaled slowly and glanced around the room as though trying to get his bearings. "What exactly happened?"
"He was shot. During a robbery. At a coffee shop." The sound of a rich hearty laugh causes Geoffrey to look up. "Gilbert?"
"What I the world was he doing at a coffee shop?" By now the man on the couch can barely contain himself as his laughter echoes off the stark walls. "He never drank coffee a day in his life!"
"I know it seems odd. Shot to death in a robbery after surviving all he's been through."
"My God, he slew a Phisia Demon once, single-handedly!"
"A coffee shop?!"
"Gilbert you must get control of yourself."
"Oh please, Geoffrey, my brother is dead, at least allow me a few moment of inappropriately insane laughter." Neither said a word as the laughter began to die down. Eventually silence filled the room once again.
"He was an excellent watcher.'
"His slayer died years ago. He hasn't been a watcher in six years. A librarian. He was an excellent librarian."
"Yes, yes, quite."
"Well, I suppose I should cancel my trip to Rome. Off to New York then. New York. I always did despise that place."
New York City, New York – 2 weeks later
"Yes, I understand that I'm not a citizen, but you can't just send her to live with strangers."
"Mr. Gibb," began the tired looking woman behind the desk, "are you a blood relative?"
"No, I've already said that. But my brother was her guardian for six years. He'd been with her for her whole life. For all intents and purposes, she was his daughter, at the very least a dear niece."
"But she's not his daughter, or his niece, or yours for that matter. He never formally adopted her. Really, since he only had residential status he shouldn't have gotten her at all, but the system is so flooded with children..."
"And it still is, which is why you should allow me to take her."
Slurp. Slurp. The woman obviously did not know how to drink tea or coffee or whatever it was she so obnoxiously slurped down. This was just one of many reasons Gilbert wanted nothing more than to return to his private overly privileged lifestyle back in London. To go home where strange woman in mismatched socks don't slurp their drink in offices reeking of rat poison. Where he didn't have to walk amongst people on the street lined up and pushing on like cattle to the slaughter. Where the bed doesn't sting from starched sheets too many times bleached and the carpet doesn't feel like Astroturf under bare feet. How he hated hotels. How he hated New York. How he hated America. "Would you be willing to relocate here?"
"Here?" How could someone even think such a thing? "You want me to move here?"
"Well, Theresa is part of the US foster system now. We can't just let her leave, or be taken to another country."
"I don't see why not. One less little ruffian for you to worry about."
"She is a very important child. Special." The social worker gives him an odd stare. "Special and important to my brother that is. And therefore to me."
She turns toward her desk, seemingly unfazed, certainly unimpressed by Gilbert's pleas, and begins to shuffle around some papers. "Were you close to the child's mother?"
"Never met her. Why, what are you implying?" he asks slyly.
"I wasn't implying anything, Mr. Gibb."
"Right, of course."
"But that proves you know nothing of her wishes."
"She wished my brother would care for her child."
"But beyond that..."
"Well, Ms. Williams..."
"I don't think she really ever thought that Anthony would be killed in a coffee shop before the girl was grown. A coffee shop!"
"I understand, Mr. Gibb."
"No, I don't believe you do. He never drank coffee."
Again the strange stare comes over the woman's face as she quickly attempts to move on. "There's no record of the child's father, do you know who he was."
So complicated, he thought to himself. Of course he knew. Everyone at the council knew. A select few others knew as well, like Natalie, Gibb's slayer and Tessa's "mother". And her friend, if you could call him that....of course! "Her father? Well, yes I know who he is. Don't know how you'll find him though. He was in California last I heard."
"Does he have a name?"
"Of course he has a name. Angel."