Epilogue: Lazy Sunday with the Fang Gang

Epilogue: Lazy Sunday with the Fang Gang

Sunday morning dawned bright, with no indication of the violence that had taken place earlier. Dawn awoke to the odd sensation (for her) of sleeping in the same bed as someone else. But it wasn't so odd.

After the resurrection spell debacle, she and Buffy had cried together for over an hour, holding each other, apologizing, and reassuring each other that they'd be okay. Eventually, exhausted, they'd gone upstairs, cleaned up the remains of the spell paraphernalia, and gotten ready for bed. As one, it seemed, they'd headed for their mother's room. Neither had been in it since she'd died. Dawn had climbed into her mother's bed, the sheets of which hadn't been changed since Joyce's death, and Buffy had climbed in with her. There, surrounded by her mother's scent and her sister's powerful arms, Dawn had fallen into the deepest sleep of her life. She and Buffy had slept for a good nine hours and awakened refreshed for the first time in far too long.

The teen sighed, looking across at Cordelia's face. The pain wasn't going away, but slowly, she was learning to live with it.

Cordelia drew in a deep breath and opened her own eyes. She smiled.

"Sleep well?" she asked Dawn.

"Mm-hmm." Dawn stretched.

"Hold it right there, tall, dark, and lurksome," Cordelia suddenly ordered, pointing at the doorway.

Dawn looked. Angel was there. She'd never even noticed him—a six foot plus, heavily built vampire, and she'd never noticed he was there.

He smiled fondly. "Just checking on you two. Sounds like you had a good night."

"How'd things go on your end?" asked Cordelia.

Angel shrugged. "We had a few uninvited visitors, but it wasn't a problem holding them off. No one was hurt except a few Kaliff demons."

"That's good," said Dawn.

"Oh, by the way, Dawn, Buffy called earlier. She said things went pretty well for an apocalypse. No one got hurt badly, just some scrapes and bruises. She sounded pretty exhausted, so I told her you'd be okay here until she got some rest. She and Xander will be by around four this afternoon to get you. Is that okay?"

"Sounds good." In truth, Dawn was perfectly happy to stay at the Hyperion for another day. She decided she'd needed a change of scenery.

"Come on downstairs. I've got breakfast ready, and since Gunn already ate his five helpings, you won't have to compete with him for food." With that, he left.

Dawn stretched again and threw back her covers. "Angel can't eat, right?"

"Oh, he can," said Cordelia. "He gets the urge for something crunchy once in awhile, and while he was at my apartment, I couldn't keep popcorn around for anything. It's just that food doesn't nourish him, and he doesn't taste it right."

"So why does he cook?"

"Just part of being Angel. He likes to make food for us, and he's good at it. I'm not complaining." Cordelia stretched and yawned hugely, then got out of bed.

Breakfast was fun and relaxing as Dawn, Cordelia, Angel, and Wesley talked and ate scrambled eggs, sausages, toast, and orange juice. Afterward, Dawn showered, then wandered back downstairs. Angel was in the office fussing with something.

"What'cha doing?" she asked.

"I found an antique silver frame," he said. "I'm polishing it up, and then I'm going to put your portrait in it."

Dawn took a look at the frame. It was a simple design, but very elegant. She approved. Sitting on the desk was not only her own portrait, but Angel's sketchpad. She picked it up. Angel, surprisingly, reached over and took it from her. All he did, however, was flip to the latest picture he'd done.

Drawn in dark, dark brown oil crayon was the face of a girl about Dawn's age. It was a strikingly familiar face, but Dawn couldn't place her.

"This was my sister, Kathy," Angel told her. "I did it this morning."

Now Dawn realized she bore a strong resemblance to Angel—very similar eyes and mouth, in particular. "She was pretty."

"Very," agreed Angel, and there was pain in his voice. Dawn thought it both wonderful and sad that he still remembered her so vividly after so long. She flipped back to the front of the pad. The first drawing was the face of what Dawn though to be a perfectly delicious young man with dark hair. The portrait was black and white—except his eyes, colored a bright blue-green.

"That was Doyle," Angel said. "He was the Seer before Cordelia. She encouraged me to draw him . . . and then promptly told me I'd made him look too much like a saint in this picture." Angel chuckled. "Doyle was certainly no saint. A hero, yes, but no saint."

The next picture was of Cordelia, in full color. Her hair was still long in it. After that, there was a page full of Buffys. Buffy in almost every mood Dawn could think of, with and without weapons, her face, her hands, her figure, every aspect of the Slayer, it seemed.

"Do you still love my sister?" asked Dawn.

"Always," answered Angel simply.

"Do you hope the two of you can get back together someday?"

That soft, sad smile again. "Hope is too strong a word. It's a dream, one I don't think will ever come true, but I can't give it up."

That was sad, Dawn decided. She flipped another page and found a surprise.

Spike. It was Spike, drawn in a striking and eerily beautiful way. The entire page had been colored black, and Spike's face, as if emerging from darkness into strong light, was present only in the absence of that blackness.

"Wow," was all she said.

"Drawing sometimes helps me exorcise my personal demons. Spike's one of them. Besides, he's got great features for drawing, not that he'd ever sit for me," Angel said.

Dawn suddenly realized a page had been torn out of the sketchpad. There was just a little bit of paper left at the top. She touched it and looked at Angel questioningly. His face had gone sober and a little bleak, and he just shook his head. Dawn knew she couldn't ask whose portrait had been torn out.

She returned to the portrait of Spike. "What's a sire?"

"Well, if you're a vampire, your sire is the one who turned you."

"Spike said you were his sire." Dawn looked at Angel. "I thought Drusilla turned him."

"She did. But I turned her, so Spike is in my line of descent. Furthermore, I was there from the start, and I taught him all about being a vampire, so he's always considered me his sire." Angel looked uncomfortable. "Dawn, where did you hear all this about Spike?"

"He told me," she answered automatically, and from the look on Angel's face, that wasn't what he wanted to hear. Dawn decided he wanted to hear about Spike's thing for Buffy even less. "It's okay, he's got that chip."

"I just don't want you getting comfortable with him," said Angel. "Spike is still dangerous. That chip only prevents him from physically harming humans. There are other ways for him to make trouble, and believe me when I say he will."

"You sound like Buffy," Dawn grumbled.

"You should listen to her. I know Spike; I was there the night he rose as a vampire, and for twenty years afterward. I know he can be charming, but he's no friend to humans."

Dawn felt her ears starting to burn. A tight knot of anger welled up within her. "He's always been nice to me. He said he liked my mother."

Angel was silent for a moment, and then his next words caught her completely by surprise. "I wouldn't be surprised if he did." Dawn looked at him. "But that doesn't mean he's human. It doesn't mean what he feels for you or your mother is what a human means by friendship."

"I don't get that."

Angel sighed. "Okay. How to explain this." He paused. "Spike's not human. He has what was at one time a human body and what used to be a human mind—or what's left of one after 120 years of vampirism. The fact is, when he looks at a human, he sees food. It's been like that ever since his siring. He doesn't see a being he has a connection with. Humans look a bit like him, but that's it. That doesn't mean he can't become fond of specific ones, but in general, he doesn't see them as being on his level."

"I still don't get it."

Another sigh. "Forgive this illustration, but I'm Irish. Think of a farmer with a flock of sheep. The farmer eats their meat and uses their wool and sometimes sells them at market. Now, he's grown fond of a particular lamb and keeps it as a pet. He wouldn't kill that one, but that doesn't mean he won't treat the rest of them like commodities. It doesn't mean he thinks even that lamb is on his level. Sheep are still the prey, and he's still the predator. That's what vampires are: predators. Humans are our prey."

Dawn didn't like what he was saying. "You're different. You've got a soul. Spike's got a chip. Doesn't that make him different, too?"

"Only in effect," Angel argued gently. "That chip only prevents one specific type of behavior. He can't kill a living being—and note that the chip doesn't discriminate between a rat and a human in that. The chip can't give him a moral center. I have a human soul, yes. It gives me a connection to humanity, a sense that in some way, I'm one of you. I know it would be wrong of me to hurt you or another human. I feel that. Spike just doesn't. He has no idea of why it would be wrong for him to kill a human, any more than a lion would feel guilty about bringing down a gazelle. You could explain it until your face went blue, but he wouldn't ever feel it. It's not his fault; it's just what he is."

At that, Dawn remembered the stories Spike had told her. He certainly hadn't felt guilty about any of the things he'd done. It suddenly hit her: all the people he'd talked about killing had been real. It wasn't just campfire stories. Real people had died, killed by Spike. She shivered. Angel's hand rested gently on her shoulder.

"That's what a soul does. It tells you what's wrong and what's right. You wouldn't kill anyone, even if you could get away with it, would you?"

"Of course not!"

"See?" Angel smiled. "That's your soul talking."

A sudden, horrid thought struck Dawn. "Do you think I really have one? A soul?"

Angel froze just a little, then relaxed. "I know you do. Vampiric demons have a certain reaction to souled beings, which is why I can't hang around with vampires much, even if I wanted to. My demon feels your soul. It's there."

She relaxed a little at that. Then another thought occurred to her. "Angel—what happens when you die? I mean, you died, and your soul went somewhere, and then you got it back. Do you know where your soul went?"

Angel sat beside her on the desk, putting an arm around her. "I'm sorry, Dawn. My soul was conjured out of time, from the moment it left my body. It didn't really go anywhere." He stroked her hair gently as she leaned on him, craving comfort. "But I believe there are places souls go after death, and the Powers That Be aren't so badly organized that they'd let your mother go anywhere bad."

That was all Dawn had wanted to hear. She rested in his arms again, more tears coming, but tears of comfort this time.

***

Outside the office, Kate leaned against the wall, a tear of her own running down her face as an old, old wound finally closed.

***

Less than an hour later, Cordelia was in the lobby with Angel as he matted and framed Dawn's portrait.

"Hey. Where's Dawn?"

"Gardening with Kate."

"Is that Kate's voice I'm hearing?"

"Yep."

"Wow. She can sing. I mean, she can really sing!"

"I think so."

"I mean, really sing. Who knew?"

"I didn't."

"The Host would go crazy over that voice."

"Probably."

"You know, you should take Kate to Caritas. The Host could give her some direction for her life, y'know? That would be of the Good."

"Kate in a karaoke bar full of demons. That'd do wonders for her state of mind."

"Okay, bad idea."

"Yep."

"But funny mental picture."

"Eh."

"Anyway, I was just asking because I thought Dawn and I could do a manicure before Buffy gets here. Guess I'll do my own nails. You mind the smell of nail polish?"

"I don't breathe."

"Right. Forgot. Dawn and I can do the makeover thing whenever they run out of flowers."

"Could be awhile. What do you think of Dawn's portrait?"

"You did a gorgeous job. She'll love it."

"Thanks."

"Think she'll be okay?"

"I hope so. I really do."

"Yeah. Me, too."

***

Two stone pots of flowers, one manicure, hairset, and makeup job, and a long lunch later, Dawn was seated on the couch with Cordelia, listening to more of Gunn's stories. He was wildly embellishing a vampire attack from last summer. Cordelia was keeping up a running commentary, although she hadn't been there for the attack itself.

Kate was gone for the day, having left Dawn with the last four marigolds "to chase away bugs and the blues." Dawn noted that Kate didn't seem especially comfortable with the Fang Gang (as Dawn had christened them). That seemed strange to her, as Kate was definitely Good People in Dawn's estimation. But then, at one time, Dawn hadn't liked Cordelia. Of course, that was mostly because Cordelia had been dating Xander . . .

She sighed, a little sorry to be leaving. It was relaxing, being away from Sunnydale. It would be good to see the Scoobies, though, and she really did miss Buffy.

Cordelia put an arm around her. "I like Dawn," she said. "I want one of my own."

Dawn snorted. "Talk to the monks who made me. They might be taking orders."

***

Xander's car pulled up outside the Hyperion.

"Well, the place is still standing," he noted. "Can't have been too bad."

Buffy wasn't so sure. "Angel said things were fine, but I hope he wasn't just covering. Dawn probably moped all weekend."

"And Angel can throw stones about that? We're talking about the King of Brooding."

"Brooding and moping—not the same thing. Moping is way more annoying. Take it from someone who's done time with both." Buffy steeled her resolve and opened her door. "You want to wait while I get Dawn?"

"Nah. I'll come in and say hi."

They both headed for the front doors. Buffy took a deep breath, bracing herself for the onslaught of Dawn's bad temper, and walked into the lobby.

"There I am in the middle of Wolfram & Hart, Evil People Central, and I go, 'Evil white folks really do have a Mecca!' They didn't think it was as funny as you do. I'm goin' off on them, and then my watch alarm goes off, so I call to my boys. And what do they drag in but Vamp-in-a-Blanket, just exactly when Angel's entering the building. Vamp detectors go off, only they think it's just one vamp, not two. They stake our vamp, think everything's fine, and Angel's prowling around stealing stuff! Cool, huh?"

Buffy blinked at the animated young man telling the story, and then her eyes found her sister. Dawn was on the lobby couch, leaning against Cordelia, obviously enjoying the story. She also appeared to be wearing quite a bit of makeup, her hair had been set with hot rollers—and were those highlights?!

My little sister's been Cordeliad, Buffy realized. Well, as long as she's smiling . . .

"Hey," Buffy said, announcing her presence.

"Hey, Buffy," said Cordelia.

"Hey, Buffy," repeated Dawn.

Buffy descended into the lobby. Story-telling guy walked up. "I'm Gunn. You Buffy, the Vampire Slayer?"

"That would be me," confirmed Buffy.

Gunn looked her over. "Shouldn't you be taller?"

Buffy smiled her best "If you're a vampire or demon, you need to be leaving now" smile. "Well, you know what they say: size doesn't matter."

Gunn guffawed. "You've got an attitude. I like that."

Buffy decided she liked him. "Where's Angel?"

Angel and Wesley chose that moment to emerge from the office. "Hi, Buffy," Angel greeted.

"Hello, Buffy," said Wesley.

Buffy went to talk to them about the weekend. From the couch, Dawn sighed. "Guess I'd better get packed. Hi, Xander."

"Hey, Dawnie," he said. "You know, you suddenly remind me of this girl I used to date in high school."

Dawn giggled, then jumped up. "I'll get my stuff." She ran upstairs.

Xander watched her, then turned back to Cordelia. "How'd she do?"

Cordelia sighed. "You mean other than breaking down and crying in Angel's arms for an hour the first night she was here? And her really simple questions for him, like asking if she was evil, or if she had a soul?"

"Oh, man," murmured Xander.

"I think she's doing pretty well, considering," Cordelia told him. "She's got a heavy load, though, and the worst part is, she doesn't see the end of it anytime soon. The best we could do was to take her mind off it for awhile. That might've helped."

For some reason, Xander hadn't expected such an insightful response from Cordelia. He still had her fixed in his mind as the girl he'd known in high school. Evidently, she'd changed. A great deal.

Cordelia continued in quite a different tone. "Of course, I also think she's got a tiny bit of a crush going with Angel now."

Xander gave an explosive sigh. "What is it with vampires?"

"What?" asked Angel as he, Wesley, and Buffy re-emerged.

"Nothing," muttered Xander, deflated. Being dethroned as Dawn's crush by Spike had been bad enough.

"I really can't thank you guys enough for taking such great care of Dawn," Buffy said to the room in general. "Especially you, Cordy. Angel told me how much time you spent with her."

"Oh, that was like, no problem." Cordelia pulled herself off the couch. "She's fun and she's cute and I think I could get used to having someone to mold in my own image." She gave Buffy her brightest smile. Buffy gave Angel a "She's kidding, right?" look. He grinned.

"Cordelia!" Dawn was running down the stairs, duffel slung over her shoulder and a small bag in her hand. "Can I really keep this?"

It turned out to be a makeup bag, stuffed full.

"Oh, totally," Cordelia said. "Those colors look better on you than me, anyway. I mean, that plum lipstick doesn't even show up on my face." She smiled at Dawn, looking suddenly misty. " 'Bye, sweetie. Take care of yourself."

Dawn dropped her duffel and hugged Cordelia tight. "You'll email, right?"

"You know it. Every day, if I can."

"Hey, Gunn." Dawn got a high-five handclasp from Gunn.

" 'Sup, Squirt? You keep in touch."

Wesley held out his hand. "Dawn, it's been a privilege."

"Thanks for letting me help with the potion." Dawn shook his hand and turned a smug look on her sister. "Wesley let me help with a potion."

"A curative," Wesley added hastily. "No danger whatsoever."

Buffy raised an eyebrow but said nothing.

Angel handed Dawn a frame. "Hope you like it."

Xander got a good look at it: a beautifully-drawn, colored portrait of Dawn, sitting on a desk and looking just a little sad and thoughtful. He put the pieces together pretty quickly, especially when Dawn set the picture down and threw her arms around Angel.

"I love it," she said quietly. "Thanks so much, Angel. Thanks for everything."

Angel hugged her back, kissing the top of her head. "Anything you ever need, just let us know."

Dawn let him go. "Tell Kate thanks, too." The girl gathered up her duffel, stuffed the makeup bag in it, handed Xander four marigolds, and gave Buffy the portrait. "Angel drew me. Isn't it cool?"

"Beautiful," Buffy agreed. "Actually, he showed me in the office."

"Do you like it?"

"I love it." She hugged her sister.

"Good. 'Cause it's yours." Buffy looked startled. "It's like a present, you know?" Dawn immediately busied herself with her duffel.

Buffy's eyes connected with Angel's. They seemed to communicate without words for a moment. "Okay," said Buffy finally. "Thank you."

Dawn re-settled her duffel on her shoulder. "I'm good to go. Ready?"

"Ready." Buffy gave an inward shake of her head over her little sister. No wonder Mom had always had that look on her face . . . "Thanks again, you guys. I swear I'll send you a fruit basket or something."

There was another round of goodbyes to Dawn, and they left. The Fang Gang stood around the lobby for a moment in their wake.

"Did it suddenly get very quiet in here?" Cordelia asked.

"Does seem a bit empty," Wesley agreed. He wandered back into the office. Gunn, never one to stick around one place for long, left, and Angel sat down on the couch with his sketchpad.

Cordelia walked over to look at what he was drawing. Actually, he was coloring again, this time a drawing of Kate and Dawn planting the garden in the courtyard.

Cordelia considered the situation. There were still times when she was so angry at Angel she could hardly stand to be around him, but the side of him she loved was still intact. Whatever had happened, whatever he'd done, hadn't changed that. And he was trying to make things up to her. She needed to meet him halfway.

Casually, she sat down on the couch next to him, watching him color a marigold. She gave it a bit of thought, then rested her cheek against his shoulder, the way Dawn had.

Angel's pencil froze, just for a moment.

"I missed you, Cor," he said, so softly she could only just hear him.

Smiling, she relaxed. "Well, duh."

***

And that's the end, folks. Thanks for sticking with the Amazing Plotless Story. If you liked it, kindly leave a review, and check out my other stuff, while you're at it. Incidentally, Kate's song in Chapter 4 is Sting's "Fields of Gold." To hear the version that inspired my selection, get Eva Cassidy's album "Songbird." 'Bye now!