October 9, 2010

The knock jarred him out of his thoughts, which needed jarring. He withdrew the pen from his mouth and set it on the desk, sliding the chair back and pushing to his feet. He knew whom to expect, though there was no particular reason for his clairvoyance. It could have been anyone and should've been no one; that's what one expects when one keeps company with dusty books.

"You're back," he said, holding the door open.

"I didn't know how much time to give you…I know you have no reason to help me."

He sat on the couch and motioned his guest to the chair opposite, but the man did not sit. "I have no reason not to. You've done the worst you can do to me." He winced at his own words. "You've helped without reason yourself."

"You know my reasons as well as anyone. Better."

"Yes, well, all pleasantries aside, I have information," he said, still unable to look his companion in the eye. "I'm not sure I'll be able to answer all your questions. You know it's written in several different languages—"

"Fourteen. I didn't expect miracles."

"After everything…" he began, with a hundred endings to choose from, "you should." He removed his glasses, rubbed them on his sweater, and set them on his knee. He rubbed the bridge of his nose, replaced the glasses on his face. "Now then, the prophecy. What I was able to make out was, at first, only more of what you'd already had translated. As you know, it didn't mention you by name, and there was the matter of whether it was actually referring to you, or…"

"Right. But you found something else?"

"I believe I did," he answered slowly. How much should he tell this man—this man who had so much power to hurt, but had demonstrated such vehemence against it? "It mentions a girl—a young woman; her exact age at the time of her involvement is indeterminate. But it speaks to the timeframe of the prophecy, because I believe…" He held back, knowing the value of the information, the path he would put this girl on just by speaking her name.

"Yes?" he asked, for the first time looking into his host's eyes. His pain was evident, his efforts to hide his hope obvious.

"I believe I can identify her. And even though her age as it pertains to the event isn't specified, it would narrow down the timeline considerably." He rose and walked over to the table, spread the books and papers so that they could both see them. "This section here—" He pointed to a page he'd read a hundred times. "It speaks of her, of one who will assist in the fulfillment of the prophecy. I'm sorry, but it's nonspecific as to context. Just that she will complete the work that…well, I'm getting ahead of myself." He shuffled the papers with growing enthusiasm, producing a legal pad from beneath the scrolls and books. "I've made some notes here—forgive their jumbled nature, but again, there are several languages to keep track of."

"Not a problem. Look, I don't want to seem impatient, but it sounds like you've got something more than we were able to decipher before—"

"Yes, yes. Of course. You see this passage here?" He pointed to a stanza in the thick book to his right. "It is the first mention of this person who will assist you in fulfilling the prophecy."

"How?"

"I'm afraid it doesn't say. But what's more important than 'how' is 'who.'"

"We tried to work that out before, but what we thought…it couldn't be right." He dipped his head with the memory of all their hours of work—for nothing.

"Loosely translated, it says, 'She will complete the work of her mother. She alone will succeed, and she will be his Haven.' What stuck out to me was that last word."

"Why? Is it unusual in the context? I suppose it could be interpreted as 'sanctuary' or 'shelter.' What language was it originally?"

"That's just it. While the rest of the passage is in Sumerian, that word…that word already was in English."

"How did we not notice that before?"

"You may not have gotten that far. You said you'd had a lead on the girl's identity, but found yourselves mistaken. What led you to that conclusion?" He angled the book toward his companion. "The previous passage…here. It says—"

"It says she's the daughter of the seer. We assumed Cordelia…" He closed his eyes tightly and snapped his head down. "But that isn't possible. Jasmine—"

"Had nothing to do with the prophecy," he interrupted. "You were correct about that. But the translation of 'seer' wasn't strictly accurate. It specifically reads—"

"The one who sees. But that's just semantics," he said impatiently.

"I'm afraid in this case, there is no 'just' about the semantics. Given the use of the one word of English in the next passage, it's clear to me that the writers of this prophecy took great care to make themselves understood literally."

The frustration was apparent on his face as he growled, "That's great, but how does this lead us to the girl? There is no 'one who sees.'"

"Actually, there is," he replied with more calm than he felt. "And you know him."

->->->->->->


"Willow and Xander? Together, as in a couple? Wow." He sighed the last word heavily, incredulous over the news. "I never saw that one coming. There was a while there when they were in high school that I thought maybe…but now? It's just…wow."

"Yes, it was something of a shock to everyone. Well, at the outset anyway. It seems to make sense now, especially in light of…their daughter and her part in the prophecy." He hoped he'd hidden the flagging of his courage just then, his hesitancy to conceive this strange collaboration, but the hardened expression that met him when he raised his eyes said otherwise.

"Giles, I can never allow the prophecy to be fulfilled."

"I understand your concern, but surely after all you've done, all you've fought for—"

"Not if it means she could be hurt helping me. For all we know, she could be hurt by me." He turned, stalked across the room, his arms folded across his chest tightly.

Giles's expression softened slightly, but he stayed his course. "This is your chance to make certain you'll never hurt anyone again. How can you not take it?"

"I will not risk compromising her life for the possibility that I could live and die a human. I had my chance. I lived. I died." His hands ran through his hair, dug his fingers into the back of his neck. His eyes were cast down. "And I keep dying. They all keep dying. Nothing can stop that. A heartbeat can't stop it. Blood and breath, a reflection—nothing human can override what I've done, because there was nothing human in it."

"Do you really think humans so innocent? You've lived over two hundred years. In all that time—"

"For most of that time, I've been a killer."

"And have you always been such a fool? Damn it, you have saved countless lives! Are you really refusing to save yourself?" He felt a sudden empathy for the man before him: this demon with a hero's soul, this monster with a man's conscience. "Angel." He met the eyes of this man who had murdered hundreds—who had killed the woman he loved—and could not hate him.

"I can't, Giles. She restored my soul. Twice. I can't risk her daughter's safety. What kind of sick payment would that be for her friendship? She didn't have to…she never hesitated to believe the best of me."

Giles inclined his head and smiled with memories of the girl. "She's Willow. That's what she does."

Angel sighed. "Yes, she does. But don't forget, there's something Xander does equally well: he hates me. Always has, always will, and scamming humanity off his daughter is not going to improve his opinion of me." He shook his head. "It's just not possible, Giles. I appreciate everything you've done, all the work you put into translating the prophecy, but I just…I can't. I can't do that to them. After all they've been through, they deserve a chance at normalcy."

"They will never have that, Angel. They're special—they're as much a part of this prophecy as you are." He paused, retrieved the legal pad with his notes from the scattered books on his table. "There's something else you must know. They may…" He raised his eyes to Angel's, his expression serious. "They may lose her without you."

"Their daughter? I don't understand."

"Nor do I, completely, but it is clear to me, as it will be to you when you've read my notes and considered the prophecy's possible meanings, that she would not have the power to restore your humanity if she were not in some way bound to you. As I said, the scrolls do not specify her actions in the event, but the relationship between you and your restorer is clearly a very important one."

Angel turned his head away, closing his eyes. "No. Not…no, Giles. I'll admit to 'robbing the cradle' in the past—to the tune of two hundred plus years—but this is incomprehensible. I would never—"

"I didn't say you would," Giles interrupted impatiently. "I tell you, I don't know the nature of the relationship between you and Haven. For God's sake, at present she's just a child. What I'm trying to tell you is that the connection is…well, just that. It is a reciprocal relationship. She will, at some point in her life, need you, Angel. She shows signs of becoming a very powerful witch. You know what that can mean, what it almost did to Willow…it could be dangerous to dismiss the prophecy out of hand for fear of hurting her." His expression became steely. "It could cost her life."

Angel raised his eyes, defeated. "What do I do?"

"If you truly have no concern for yourself, there is still her life to consider. If you care for Willow," he said gruffly, "protect her child. Xander may or may not hate you now, Angel, but whether he likes it or not, there will come a day when you are the only one who can save his daughter." His voice leveled, low and severe. "Heaven help you if you don't."

"Heaven has very little to do with me," Angel said flatly. He sighed heavily, resigned. "Do you have an address?"

->->->->->->


November 18, 2010

It was overcast, close to rain, and that was how he'd come to be there before nightfall. He parked the car and sat for a few moments, running through the possible outcomes in his mind. He was sworn to protect this child—a child he had never met, but whose parents he had once known. He'd known their kindness and their fear, their solidarity and their anger. What emotions would he invoke in them now?

He stepped from the car and surveyed the house: its neat, fenced yard and its new siding. It was surreal in its normalcy. This was a home in which two kids who'd grown up together now raised their own child. Would Haven form a friendship that strong with a boy she'd someday love, and lose, and regain?

He stood on the porch and ached to leave unnoticed, to walk back to his car and drive back to his life, to be nothing but a shadow with a curse. Instead, he rang the bell.

->->->


A/N: I apologize to any Angel-haters out there who've been enjoying this story up until now. You can take the rest of the story without the epilogue and it'll still make sense, so just forget you read this part. Heck, that's what I do with parts of the series I don't agree with--hence the writing of fics like this. I wanted to pull Angel into this because it would accomplish two things: 1) giving Haven a protector (and, I can't help it, but I've always wanted Xander and Angel to get along, and what better way than by Angel protecting Xander's daughter?), and 2) letting me believe that Angel survived the "big war" at the end of the Angel series. And that's all I have to say about that.