Disclaimer: the author does
not claim ownership to the characters or plot development mentioned from
"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" or "Angel". These properties expressly belong
to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Greenwolf Corporation, 20th Century Fox Television,
WB Network, etc. Any other characters contained in the original story are
Season One Historical Note:
The action in this story takes place after "To Shanshu In L.A."
Author's note: Wiseblood,
who's been stealthily co-reading, provided extra-tremendous help with this
ON THE ROAD TOWARDS RECONCILIATION
by Evan Como
Etrix March squinted through
her kitchen window into the bright July morning and remembered. She remembered
how, the instant she and Roland had first stepped into this room, they
knew they'd found their home. It had been a typically unsunny Seattle winter
day then, but the gloominess hadn't clouded over the possibilities they
both felt in their hearts. They had held one another in front of the windowed
wall, gleefully shivering as arctic air blustered in through the broken
She'd wept and he'd kissed
her tears. They'd laughed themselves delirious.
Trixie chuckled to herself.
At the time, the Queen Anne-styled house had been in such derelict condition
that she and Roland practically moved in for free. Her late husband had
been good with his hands and even better at making friends. Although it
had taken nearly a decade, with the aid of his fellow weekend handymen
at the Postal Service, everything wrong eventually got righted. By June
of 1962 their home had become a showpiece.
A vast, empty showpiece.
"I guess we really don't
*need* a six-bedroom mansion just for the two of us," Trixie admitted aloud
one afternoon to Roland while he picked apples in the backyard.
Resting his arm in front
of him, he lowered a branch just enough to peer over.
Nature helped picture her
recollection. Filtering through the leaves, September daylight intensified
the blue of Roland's eyes and the straw blonde of his crew cut. It dappled
his cheeks -- the color of the Spartans in her bushel -- and glimmered
the shallow smile concealing the depths of his aplomb.
"Then I guess we'll just
have to start filling it, Trix," he replied. And, as collectedly as he'd
accepted her otherworldliness, Roland began filling five of those bedrooms
with children. Mining the Emerald City of its waifs, by one-at-a-time or
by three-, Roland assembled their family. That the children were only under
their temporary custody didn't matter; they extended their arms -- their
hearts -- with boundless devotion.
Anticipating a child returning
to his or her natural caregiver didn't make the separation any less painful,
however, no matter how often it occurred. Etrix still mourned a departure
as deeply as she'd celebrated an arrival. "Gretchen will be just fine,"
Roland had murmured against her cheek, barely brave enough to avoid falling
"But it's like a little piece
of me breaks off every time we lose one," she'd sobbed against the chest
of his tear-soaked shirt.
He'd clipped her nose with
the crook of his little finger. "Imagine that, Trixie! No matter where
you end up or how old you get, to be able to reach inside and find a morsel
of someone's love!" He cradled her even more tightly. "I think that's just
She lifted her head just
enough for him to bend over to nuzzle her nose. "Like you're inside of
me?" she sniffled.
Roland's lips were warm on
her forehead. "Like we've always been inside of each other..."
Seated on a boulder by the
Quinault River with his hiking clothes in tatters and his arms dripping
blood, Roland had said to Etrix and her Warrior, "Life is certainly full
of interesting experiences." From that very first day until the final one
when his unselfish heart wore out, Roland made sure there were splendid
experiences a-plenty for the people he loved.
Her blink nipped a tear in
its duct. Suspending her attention from Tibo seated in the back yard and
engrossed in his trembling meditations, Etrix searched the singular presence
of her mind. Even after half a century, she was still achingly aware of
her separation from the Gift. She had accepted the perpetual silence in
much the same way she had resigned herself to imposed infertility -- that
no matter the cost, she'd made the right decision to leave the forest,
to walk away forever beside the man who had claimed her heart.
But, oh... The caress of
a child's first breath, to account for miniature fingers and toes, to place
her lips against a downy newborn head...
She stared at Tibo, entranced.
He was her natural nephew. And, surrounding her were two Warriors, another
Messenger, and a young man formerly of Council. A month prior, when a gruff
little male -- his obtrusive demeanor set off by a sporty hat and an imitation
leather coat -- rang her doorbell and introduced himself, Trixie's breath
had caught in her throat.
Fifty years without so much
as a visitor from The Powers That Be and suddenly she didn't have enough
room for them all!
A voice behind her shrieked
"MINE!" bringing Trixie's attention back to the room and to her nine hungry
wards. She turned and rejoined the activity in her big, bright, wonderful
"Bong," Trixie admonished
while calmly driving two Hot Wheels off the oak tabletop and into a pocket
of her apron, "no toys while you're eating." The 10 year-old narrowed his
almond-shaped eyes and opened his mouth but after Trixie tossed "Anyone
else got toys?" into the air with a juggler's flair, he fell silent.
The other children took renewed
interest in their plates.
"How come Gale gets to drink
soda for breakfast?" Chandi asked while her discontented nose crinkled
above a plastic glassful of milk.
Gale looked up, wide-eyed
and red-handed. Sweeping past, Trixie snatched the still unopened soda
from her hand and set it back into the refrigerator door. "But, I've been
wanting a Coke since last night when you said I couldn't have one, Trixie,"
After shoving a glass of
milk in the Warrior's hand, Trixie affectionately ticked the tip of Gale's
nose with her bent pinkie finger. "You can have one this afternoon after
the kids are gone."
"Yeah, and I bet you'll probably
figure out some way I can't have one then, either," Gale burbled into the
liquid while dragging her feet and disgruntlement to the window.
"You're taking the kids out?"
asked Angel from the safety of the one spot in the kitchen that was morning-sun
free. He counted to ten; the ten little discs he'd flipped over were golden
brown and identical in size. The same couldn't be said for the children
in the lively room, each of varying heights and personalities but still
sharing one exact trait.
Kevin, age four, wasn't tall
enough to see onto the stove's griddle top, but that technicality didn't
deter his interest. He waited patiently to inspect the latest stack of
pancakes Angel lifted onto the serving plate. "Is that ten?" he inquired.
Angel nodded. His face was
as serious as his diminutive overseer's. Satisfied, Kevin smiled brightly
and gave his best thumb's-up.
While receiving the platter,
Trixie playfully pinched Kevin's pudgy cheek. "The kids are going to the
Discovery Center with a few of my former Foster kids," she said in response
to Angel's question.
"Do you think that's safe?"
Taken aback, Trixie sighted
the vampire, cross-browed. "Safe?"
"You know," Angel dipped
out another 10 pancakes, "sending them off with other people without you
Keeping the tone of her voice
below the sizzle of the batter on the aluminum grill hardly subdued Trixie's
umbrage. "Barring a force majeure, Angel, they'll all be fine. Lynda, Kent
and Gretchen have been adults for years, with good jobs and families of
"Still..." Angel met the
woman's eyes, her brown irises glowing coppery with anger. "You need to
be careful. They're just little kids."
A nod of her head brought
with it, understanding. Her consideration smiled down upon Kevin. "They're
*modern* little kids, Angel. They're smart and they all have instructions
to stay with one another. Even with Lynda, Kent, and Gretchen -- whom I
He glanced over the plate
to the table of children before accepting Trixie's experienced decision.
"How many more pancakes?" he asked, smoothly changing the subject.
Trixie patted his arm with
her free hand and offered a heartening, "We'll know that when they stop
Relieved that the friction
between him and Trixie had been successfully negotiated, Angel regarded
his assistant with a smile. "I bet you're hungry, Kevin," he suggested.
But the child's reply -- two arms tightened above Angel's right knee, soured
the taste of accord. Kevin's unguarded heart laid siege; its gentle meter
volleyed an unwitting pizzicato upon Angel's dormant peroneal artery.
"-- in here!" Cordy shouted,
pushing the kitchen's swinging door open wide.
The door sounded "ooof!"
on its hinges and had nearly closed before Wesley nudged it inward with
his shoulder. While walking his and Cordy's plates to the sink, he coolly
readjusted his glasses.
"Angel! The pancakes are
the bomb and a half!" Cordelia exclaimed. A flick of her wrist banished
several brown curls behind her shoulder. "And it looks like you made a
friend," she added, plucking at Kevin's soft golden locks with her fingers.
After Kevin buried his face
in Angel's thigh, Cordy tugged on his ear. The little boy's blush disappeared
into his collar.
"How come you're looking
like that?" she asked, returning her attention to Angel.
Angel bent his eyes from
the pancakes, down at his clothes. He frowned. "Don't I always look like
Cordy poked his waist and
shook her head. "Like this," she said. Squinting hard, she leveled hazel-eyed
intensity at the cooktop. "How come you're looking at the pancakes like
you're afraid they're gonna run away with the spatula?"
"Hey!" Angel attacked the
griddlecakes, flipping them over with preternatural speed. "You have to
turn them over at the right time or else they get too brown or not brown
enough. I almost ruined these, Cordelia," he griped. Just to make sure
that wasn't the case, he tapped at a few with the tip of his finger.
"Guy, Angel. Just when I
thought I've already seen you at your most anal, you surprise me. Who knew
pancakes? What else you got up your sleeve to obsess about?" she teased,
peeling back his unbuttoned cuff. Her faced conveyed immediate appreciation.
"Check you out! You're finally wearing that silver bracelet I got you.
Who needs art supplies when there's so much fab jewelry in the world?"
After double-checking the
clasp, Cordy twisted the heavy links once around. Angel self-consciously
retrieved his wrist and smoothed his sleeve in place.
"Cordelia, sweetheart, would
you mind getting more syrup?" Trixie asked, presenting the empty platter
for the next serving.
"No big!" Cordy consented,
sprightly proceeding to the open pantry.
The hostess offered an encouraging
smile. "One more serving and I think you'll be finished, Angel. It's been
a treat for the kids not to have to eat hot cereal, although --"
"Cordelia?" Angel murmured.
The spatula tumbled from his grip and clattered onto the griddle. "CORDELIA!"
he shouted, whipping around. His impulsive step spilled Kevin into the
flood of the vampire's natural enemy.
Pandemonium manifested. Kevin's
frightened wail was a siren pitched high above Trixie's call for "TIBO!"
and Angel's demand for "WESLEY!"
Snapping to attention, Wesley
heeled away from chatting with Gale at the window to see a panicking Angel
trapped behind the barrier of sunlight. Warrior and Watcher quickly accessed
the situation -- Wesley bolted for the small enclosure off the kitchen
at Angel's direction, Gale yanked the cord on the window shades.
From inside the pantry, came
the thunderous rattle of avalanching boxes and cans. Everything within
the kitchen followed suit -- glasses dropped onto the table, eating utensils
rained down into plates, the bank of blinds clacked shut against the panes,
effectively snuffing out the cheery aura.
Tibo raced in through the
door, throwing it closed behind him and, in nearly the same motion, snatched
Kevin off the floor. Herding the children, he stampeded them into the next
Powdered with sugar down
the side of one leg, Wesley appeared at the pantry alcove with a very disoriented
Cordelia crooked by his arm. Angel met them and took over, catching Cordelia
just as her knees buckled. She lost the last of her wobbly balance before
reaching the table.
Wesley, Gale, Trixie, and
even Angel held their breaths while waiting for Cordelia to recover. Her
entire face wept; perspiration streamed from her pores. Her breathing was
shallow, as if the effort would cause her to burst.
"Cordelia?" Angel whispered
after one eternal minute.
Cordy barely opened her eyes.
She winced. "Any kids?" she choked. The four heads shaking 'no' gave her
the permission she needed to puke.
"Oh, God," Gale petitioned
almost too softly for Angel to hear. Pale, nervous, and cloaking their
mouths with their hands, she and Trixie eerily resembled Cordelia's post-Vision
The door swung open on a
good-natured laugh. "Gretchen and Kent got here just in time, I guess.
All the kids -- " Tibo stopped mid-sentence, finally noticing the stricken
"Vision," said Trixie, crossing
his path on her way for the mop.
Tibo approached quietly.
Avoiding her splatter, he knelt at Cordelia's feet and bowed. He placed
his forehead to her knees. "La'am," he rasped, awestricken. "They Who Speak
have spoken to you."
While Wesley relayed a glass
of juice from Gale, Cordelia seemed oblivious to his intensive scrutiny.
He looked to Angel for an answer, only to find Angel looking to him for
the same. He shrugged and, without thinking, reached for Cordelia's cheek;
but a conscious thought stayed his hand. "Don't try to speak, Cordelia.
Just relax," he soothed.
Cordelia sipped. She scrunched
her nose. "This tastes like a matchbook," she royally complained.
Wesley swallowed his smile,
but his dimples eked out nonetheless. Angel took that as a sign to relax,
further relieved when Cordelia reached for his palm.
And spread it across her
Recovering more slowly than
usual, Cordy leaned with both elbows behind her. "Did I happen to mention
"I believe we all caught
the inference from your prior upheaval," Wesley joked, taking a seat by
her side. Adjusting the notepad on his knee and uncapping a pen, he smiled
to himself, then at Gale.
Angel cleared his throat
and raised his brows, signaling for the presentation to begin.
"So, what's this about a
matchbook?" Wesley prompted, dismissing the indistinct unease he detected
in Gale. The Warrior had refused to glance in his direction, preferring
to stare at Cordelia as if past experience could fathom the Vision from
the depths of the young woman's head.
Cordelia batted her drowsy
lashes. "Like when you light a match?"
"Sulfur," Wesley said, writing
the word simultaneously.
"And she's burning up," Angel
intimated. Despite the circumstances, it felt nice to have Cordelia exchange
his one palm for the other. The chill-depleted hand he covertly balled
into a fist beneath his long shirttail.
Tibo rested back on his heels.
"You *saw* your vision," he hushed, his voice quavering. But his adoration
was curtailed by a pinch that pulled him sideways.
Leaning against Tibo's ear,
Gale sneered, "You ever think that's, maybe, why they're called *visions*
in the first place?"
"Cave," Cordelia interjected.
She stopped short of taking another swig of juice, unwilling to risk intensifying
the flavor on her tongue.