Cast Fortune to the Winds
"Dawn!" Cole exclaimed upon spotting the Summers sisters.
Angel and Buffy watched uncomfortably as the younger pair hugged enthusiastically. "Well, I guess you found your missing person too," Buffy said.
"It was Darla and Dru," Angel reported. "Glory wasn't involved. I'm sorry my problems spilled over on to you. I swear I'll deal with Darla and Wolfram and Hart, they won't bother you again."
"Angel…" Buffy began, fiddling with the hem of her jacket. "I'm sorry about earlier. I didn't mean you…"
"Don't. I don't want to talk about it. Tell Anna that Cole is safe and I'll get him back to her shortly. He came all this way… The two of us should talk before anything else," Angel requested.
Buffy shot Cole a slightly resentful glance then sighed. "Sure, I'll tell her, but afterwards we need to talk too. Really talk. You know, without the screaming accusations at each other part. Come on Dawn, Mom doesn't know you're safe yet."
They'd talked about the weather. They'd talked about Cole going to school. They'd talked about how Angel Investigations got started. They'd talked about Dru and Darla's kidnapping of Cole and Dawn. Talking wasn't getting any less awkward.
"So… um… what do you like?" Angel asked tentatively. He was trying not to stare at Cole. That the boy was his son was beyond all comprehension. Angel thought he had managed to grasp the concept, but now that Cole was sitting beside him, he felt even more off balance than he had when Anna first told him.
"Dawn," Cole blurted out, then blushed. He hadn't stopped watching Angel since he'd first seen the vampire in the buried church, he could barely keep himself from touching his father just to make sure that Angel was really there and that they were really talking.
Angel smiled at Cole's response, "Maybe her mother will forgive you for being related to me. Anything else you like?"
"I'm figuring it out," Cole said. "I mean all my life I had this big destiny and I lived for that. Preparing to be the Power's warrior, everyone around me telling me about my scared duty. It was just all so serious I never really had much time for fun. Then one day all that responsibility was just gone. I didn't know what to do. I mean it was nice, getting to be a kid, having the freedom to figure out just who Cole was, but I didn't know how to start."
"Then I came here and I met Dawn and started doing things with other kids. I'm beginning to work things out now, and it's good... Do you think maybe I could stay with you? I really like your plane of existence. The Sidhe are great and all, but really, really long lived which means not many kids."
"Cole," Angel protested. "This is too much too soon, okay? You don't even know me yet. You might not want to stay with me. I don't know the first thing about being a parent. And now isn't a good time, I've already endangered you."
"It's okay," Cole replied. "Of course I'll like you, you're my Dad. I'm not a little kid so I don't really need a lot of parenting." Cole chose to ignore Angel's skeptical look. "And I've been trained to fight. I can protect myself, don't worry."
Angel reached out and tapped a finger against the manacle still fastened around Cole's leg. The souled vampire had managed to break the chain off but it would take tools and time to deal with that last thing.
"Yeah… well I wasn't prepared," Cole admitted. "It won't happen again. My weapon's master would hide me for the other night. I let myself get caught unarmed, how many times has she told me I have to be prepared for anything? They were only vampires and they treated me like a kid!" Cole exclaimed. "Sorry about the vampire crack."
Angel laughed softly. "Forgiven. You're right about the minions not being too hard to kill… Not that I think you should patrol or get anywhere near one! But Dru and Darla are both full vampires. Even Buffy would be in trouble if she had to fight both at once. You stayed alive and so did Dawn. You did a good job. But if you were with me, you'd be in danger. I don't want you to get hurt."
"So, in other words, no" Cole said looking disappointed.
"Not right now," Angel corrected, wanting more than anything to not let his son down. "I have to finish things with Wolfram and Hart. This thing, it put you and Dawn in danger, it's hurting the people I care about. I'll find a way to end it. I'll fix this. Then we could spend some time getting to know each other. And later, if you still wanted to, if Anna thinks it's okay, maybe then you could some stay with me occasionally."
"And when the next bad thing comes along?" Cole asked quietly.
"You get clear of me," Angel said. "I won't have you hurt because of me."
"I've just about got it," Giles mumbled, intend on the lock to the manacle around Dawn's leg.
"I still think we should have magiced it," Willow complained. "Picking locks is so juvenile delinquent."
"Thank you ever so much for your input Willow," Giles said dryly as the manacle opened.
"Do you think you could do that again?" Cole asked from the doorway, displaying his own unwanted accessory.
Anna rushed to her son, hugging him tightly before pulling back to inspect him for damage. Her lips pursed as she tilted his head back, closely examining both his bruised cheek and the bite on his throat.
"You'll live," She declared shortly. "Now what did you think you were doing, Collin Patrick O'Neill. Taking off like that, not telling anyone where you were going, you could have been killed. A person would think you were daft. Couldn't you at least have left a letter?"
"Mom," Cole protested.
Anna sighed. "Alright, you wanted to meet your father. I do understand, but it doesn't mean I wasn't scared half out my wits when I realized you were missing."
"Where is Angel?" Gunn asked.
"He had some stuff to take care of," Cole said shifting his weight from one foot to the other. "In LA, with Wolfram and Hart."
"He took the car didn't he?" Cordelia exclaimed. "Angel just left us here with no transportation, better than a hundred miles…"
Cordelia's tirade trailed off as she noticed the keys dangling from Cole's fingers. "He took the train." Cole said.
"Why would he do that?" Cordelia wondered out loud. "It would have been quicker to have all gone back together."
"I think it's rather obvious," Wesley said. "Angel didn't wish to discuss his plans with us. He's going after Wolfram and Hart again, he knows perfectly well that we wouldn't approve so he's not going to give us an opportunity to object."
"Angel said we'd talk before he left," Buffy said her eyes flashing with anger.
"Actually you said that," Cole remark. "Angel never agreed."
"Cole," Anna said warningly.
"So what next?" Gunn asked.
"We go back to LA," Cordelia snapped. "We have a business to run, and if Angel doesn't want to talk to us, that's his loss, we don't need him."
Buffy sat in the empty kitchen. Everyone else had left or gone to bed. She ought to be sleeping herself, it was after four in the morning according to the clock on the microwave. Still sleep wasn't coming easily.
She held her claddagh ring, studying it. Wondering where things were going between herself and Angel, other than to hell in a hand basket.
Despite all their resolves to really get to know each other this time around they hadn't ever gotten to the talking part. They'd been too busy fighting with each other. And despite the curse's new rules they hadn't slept together yet. It just hadn't felt like the right time.
Now there was Anna and Cole. Buffy didn't know how they'd change things. Anna was a part of Angel's past, she knew him in ways Buffy never would. She was part of his life, his non-vampire life. She'd know his friends and family, they had a child. Anna still loved Angel. Buffy could see that. She wasn't so sure how Angel felt about her, but Cole was Angel's child. Buffy had to believe Angel wanted children, how many times had he brought up his inability to have them? Buffy knew she didn't care, so he must to keep making a big deal of it.
And now Angel knew that he and Anna had a child… Who was dating Dawn! "No wonder Cordelia had burst out laughing at that bit of news." Buffy thought. "Her boyfriend's son was dating her little sister. How many people could say that?" And she'd thought that there was no way to further complicate her and Angel's relationship. Just the part where he was a vampire and she was the Slayer should have been more than enough even without curses that broke, but oh no, her little sister had to go and fall for his son too.
Buffy jumped at the soft tapping at the door. "Spike!" she exclaimed.
Spike blinked a few times and looked around as if to verify where he was. "Can I come in?" he asked in a subdued voice.
"I still haven't gotten around to revoking your invite," Buffy replied.
Spike walked in the kitchen slowly, he looked disheveled and his eyes were reddened.
"Hot chocolate?" Buffy offered.
Spike nodded taking a seat at the counter. He watched in silence as Buffy rattled around, looking for the coca and marshmallows.
"I didn't mean to do it," he said as Buffy set two steaming mugs on the counter. "I was going to save your sister for you, be the hero. Then you'd of had to like me, and if I bolluxed up Dru's games in the process so much the better. It would of served her right for dumping me. She wasn't supposed to get hurt though, not really hurt.
Buffy sat beside Spike, listening sympathetically. He stared out into the night.
"I got so caught up in it. Trying to keep 'em from hurting Dawn, getting her loose, confronting Dru, her knocking me cold, hunting them through the tunnels. Then you were all right there. You looking petrified, Dawn bleeding and Dru going on about her Angel again… I don't remember where I got the stake. Everything happened so fast, then she was gone. My black Princess, gone forever."
Sometime there was no right thing to say, Buffy remembered. Sometimes everything made the hurt worse. Sometime the only thing a person wanted was the right to grieve. She couldn't regret Dru's death, Spike didn't expect her to, but she could empathize with the pain he felt over his lover's death.
Buffy sat beside the blond vampire and silently they watched the cocoa go cold.
Angel found the note taped to the steering wheel of his car.
You've friends and family who care what becomes of you. Don't turn your back on us. This war of yours will destroy you even if it leaves you alive. You won't be able to end it and it won't be long before you'll be unable to walk away from it.
I know you. You are not a failure or a disappointment. Some battle can't be won, some people can't be saved, don't let that destroy you. What happened wasn't your fault; it wasn't that Darla was unworthy of salvation. She died, it's unfair and unfortunate, but it happened. Her life was lost, but are you certain that you didn't save her soul? You did your best for her, despite what she'd done to you. You know you reached her, you know she let go of her bitterness. You saved her Angel. What happened afterwards didn't change that; you must believe that. I saw how she died when I touched your mind to show you Cole, remember what she told you while she still had a soul; She told you that the fact you truly cared about her was all she needed from you, she told you'd done enough.
Darla let go of her anger at the unfairness of the world, isn't it time you did the same? It will only cause more suffering if you cling to it. I know how you have always hated to look at why things hurt and anger you.
Two hundred and forty-seven years ago I left because I couldn't stand to watch as you destroyed yourself by working at failing. Now you set your goals so high that you can't help but fail to achieve them and in failing, die. Can't you see that you're still setting yourself up to fail?
You can and have done real good. You've helped so many people and you'll help more in the future, if you'll only give up this war of destruction.
Please stop hurting yourself, it kills me to watch you.
I love you,
"It wasn't him that was setting himself up to fail," Angel though, crumpling the letter in to a ball and tossing it in the trashcan on the sidewalk.
It had taken Doyle's death to atone for turning his back on a person who came to him for help. The Oracles had said if they saved him it would leave his atonement unfulfilled. The price to repay one selfish choice had been Doyle's life. How could Angel, with so many worse crimes to make amends for, ever hope to succeed?
The answer was he couldn't. There was nothing he could give that would ever make up for what he'd done, and he didn't have the strength to keep fighting forever. Not when he lost so many of the battles.
"Hello?" Dawn said uncertainly, she didn't really want to talk to anyone, but something it was almost like she'd been compelled to pick up the phone.
"Dawn!" Cole greeted her.
"Cole?! I thought your Mom was going to take you back Underhill. I didn't think I'd ever see you again!"
"We're moving. Mom got permission to join elfhame Sun-Descending, it's in LA; they still interact with this world. I'll be able to come and go, which means I can visit you and Angel. It'll be great," Cole explained.
"Oh totally," Dawn enthused. "Buffy's gonna be majorly unhappy about your mom hanging around Angel, but it'll be great for us. I guess we were just destined to be together huh?"
"By Dana, don't say things like that Dawn!" Cole exclaimed. "Are you trying to jinx us?"