Joy Heralded
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 the author's.

Season Two Historical Note: The action in this story takes place shortly after "There's No Place Like Plrtz Glrb".

Author's Note: "Angel", Season Two, ended on a dismal note. Angel wouldn't be the only one affected by Buffy's death. This is an entry in Wesley's journal.

I title this in homage to Ebonbird's "Joy Unspeakable". Sometimes we most profoundly express our emotions without words. e.c. 26 May 01




"Silence is the perfectest herald of joy." Shakespeare

JOY HERALDED
by Evan Como




22 May, 2001

With Angel in the lead, we bounded up the courtyard steps and piled into the hotel lobby. If I've said it once, I'll restate it an infinite number of times that when Angel is happy --

My association with Angel has always been a study in contrasts, though. So I shouldn't have been surprised watching him traverse the distance between the height of exhilaration and the pit of despair in an instant.

"It's Buffy," Angel had guessed. Cordelia, perhaps empathically knowing, had immediately begun sobbing.

"... died saving the world..." was the gist of Willow's message.

Buffy is dead, yes. My own heart wrenched so severely, I momentarily thought I'd left this earthly realm, as well. The hotel was silent save for Cordelia's audible sorrow being muffled by Gunn's chest.

"Who's Buffy?" Fred innocently questioned.

Willow took a deep and personal breath. "Buffy was my best friend," she explained.

With impassive acceptance, Fred followed up with, "Did Buffy like tacos?"

Everything about Fred is an exaggeration -- from her speech to her movements -- so when Gunn gently tapped her shoulder, she overtly twisted around and threw back her head to look up at him. Her already huge brown eyes opened wider. She nodded quite sincerely, however, as Gunn hushed, "at a time like this, Fred, whether Buffy was a taco aficionado or not doesn't really matter."

I expected Angel to flee up the staircase. I expected a flaring of Angel's rage and a savage display of his demon. If he had charged Willow and begun strangling her, I wouldn't have been surprised. I envisioned Angel to, like Samson, reach for the columns at either side and pull them together, bringing the ceiling crashing down upon our heads.

Instead, Angel took one solemn step after another down into the lobby.

"I'm -- I'm so sorry to bring you the news. But it's better -- Seriously, it's so much better that I came and told you in person," Willow stammered as she ascended the staircase. "And I'd stay but -- But, I've -- I should really get back."

Cordelia hugged Willow goodbye. Somewhere in between their sorrowful commiseration, there were pleasantries regarding how much their hairstyles had changed. Willow made no like comments about me, however.

Although, it could have been the numb expression on my face that prevented her from noticing how much I'd changed, too.

23 May, 2001

In the past 24 hours, there have been innumerable silences. They are less the absence of sound and more the emphasis of our incredulousness. How does one grieve, we without closure? We weren't witnesses to Buffy's final minute, nor were we present to sprinkle petals and shower dirt onto her lowering casket. As a young man without personal familiarity with The Slayer, Gunn cannot fathom what we feel, but neither can we console one another.

We can only hold our breaths and mime inadequate responses.

Cordelia, by attempting to explain to Gunn who Buffy was, has been able to garner some degree of resolution. At the sound of his -- and then her wistful laughter, I wish we were still on Pylea where Cordelia could regale The Warrior Buffy's accomplishments in front of a bonfire. Too often having borne the scars of Buffy's independence, I'd never been able to fully appreciate her unique intuitive skills. She and Cordelia hadn't been the bitter rivals I'd always assumed that they were. They were fierce competitors, yes; but respectful in the way that only teenage girls can be.

In a way I cannot relate.

Our business has also gone into mourning. None of our cases are pressing. Wolfram & Hart has yet to trample the threshold.

Angel is bleary-eyed. Gunn, who has also been here all night, is fatigued. Fair Cordelia has loved and lost in less than a day and may be enduring the consequences of actions that seemed noble at the moment of her decisions. Affairs of the heart -- something else that I cannot relate to. Even so, I was tempted to ring Virginia.

Instead I called Rupert.

After an enduring silence, Giles mentioned, "As secondary executor of Joyce's will, I've been quite busy tying up loose ends and getting Dawn situated before I return to England."

"England?" Wesley echoed absently. He was lost to the perpetual motion of scribbling one circle after another in the notebook beneath his hand, with his subconscious vexed by a song from a play he'd seen with Virginia.

"Um..." The sound of papers being inspected rustled through the receiver, meaning that Giles' preoccupation with setting things in order couldn't even be contained for the length of an uncomfortable phone call. "At least for a while, I"ll be returning to Council."

The pen slid from out of Wesley's grasp as he listened to Giles' glib elaboration, "... after Quentin Travers reinstated me..."

Jealously disconnected my hearing. I tossed my glasses across Angel's desk, gnashed my teeth and rent my clothing. In real life I nodded, hardly surprised. After all, Rupert Giles had only disobeyed orders, not shaken Council's faith in his loyalty. In the end, he'd brought The Slayer back, even if they still had no real control over her. Rupert Giles had never grasped for employment with a vampire, had never assisted a rogue Slayer's elusion of capture.

With his eyes sealed, Wesley's fingernails scraped against his hairline. "So good to hear that you're back with Council," he lied, swallowing curses. In between a variety of interminable pauses, the two men gallantly conceded their resentments. After all, in Buffy's honor, it was the most British thing to do.

I help the hopeless, but I can't help myself. What inhuman part of me would feel vindication that his Slayer was dead? For a long while after hanging up, I stared out the office window at Angel. What right did Buffy have to take Angel's Pylean victory away?

My Slayer was dead now, too.

With Angel entranced on the lobby sofa, Fred kept vigil on the sofa opposite. If not for her anchoring, perhaps he would have fled to the sewers or holed himself in his apartment. Cordy, Gunn, and I do nothing more than skirt the perimeter of his personal space. This is Angel, bared, and we are defeated by our inexperience with this secretive creature. For over a year, Cordelia and I had been trying to lure him into our world, to share his experiences and his feelings with us. His confession on Pylea -- that for months he had been succumbing to darkness without our knowledge -- was a major breakthrough. That he'd shut us out of his life for our protection was endearing.

It took a dimensional journey for us all to come to terms with, to embrace Angel's demon.

With his eyes unfocused and his personality vaulted away, Angel grieves on his own. And I am painfully aware that I know not how to react towards this man.

24 May 2001

Cordelia spent yesterday at her place, "asleep as soon as Dennis opened the door," she reported. She looked wonderful. Refreshed and alive. And wonderfully normal in jeans and a fruit-striped blouse.

At some point during my own journey home, Fred had gotten Angel to change positions and shirts. When I walked in this morning, he was sitting on the staircase landing. Seated next to him, Fred drove a cold slice of pizza into her mouth between bursts of a one-sided conversation. Lifting a pepperoni round from the cheese, she fed it to Angel and he gobbled it as if he were a baby bird. Chased it with a gulp from his plasma container.

She drawled, "So, all's I'm saying is that when you're on the bottom of the heap, there's no where to climb but up, you know. But you have to watch that you don't get crud under your fingernails because that's always the hardest to clean out. You have to be 'specially careful with taking something sharp so you can scrape under them good without breaking the skin. That'll lead to infection quicker than anything. OH! But, I forgot there're antibiotics back here on earth!"

She smiled during a bite, then frowned as she chewed. "There are still antibiotics, right?"

She perked up and waved Wesley nearer. "HEY! There's still another slice here from last night if you haven't had breakfast yet! Leave it to me to be back in fast-food heaven after a couple days, but this beats groats and grits any day of the week."

As Wesley approached he politely waved off the proposal.

"TOLIETS!" Fred shouted abruptly. She slapped the pizza slice on Angel's kneecap and flew off the staircase, running towards and swerving past the elevators.

"How are you?" Wesley inquired. To his astonishment, Angel left the pizza teetering.

After setting the empty container on the step to his left, Angel wrapped his arms across his stomach and shrugged. "Guess we couldn't have enjoyed that happy ending for another five minutes?" resembled a cynical opening for conversation, bewildering Wesley so much he couldn't respond.

"Does it feel like Buffy's gone? Because it doesn't feel like she's gone," Angel continued, thumbing the network of veins cording the back of his left hand.

Fred rushed back, picking up her pizza before she plopped back down. "I used to get allergies, too, all the time!" she chomped.

Wesley regarded her crossly and snapped, "Don't you ever shut up?" Fred dropped her chin as instantly as he'd felt remorse for his cruelty. "Look, Fred. I'm sorry -- "

She didn't look up from rearranging mushrooms nearer the crust. "No. No. You don't have to be sorry, Wesley, OK? Because if I'm overstepping my boundaries, I gotta know. Right? I haven't been here for a while and because it's so nice to have people to talk to-- But I do talk a lot. A whole lot. Way, way too much --"

Angel propped an index finger across her lips, tilting up her face. His most genuine smile blossomed and, somehow, that was all that needed to be said.

25 May 2001

Being covered in Duple slime made Gunn's domed head glow. Fascinated, Angel drew a squiggle in the shine.

"A question mark?" Wesley wondered aloud.

"Like The Riddler." Finally realizing he'd taken liberties, Angel shot one wary eye Gunn's direction.

Gunn palmed the mark and the substance off his forehead and flung it, splotching it across Angel's chin. In the middle of drawing a breath to say something, Gunn was reduced to inhaling in very short huffs instead. "UGH!" he croaked, waving his hand in front of his nose.

"When you smeared the Duple blood, it must have broken a few capillaries and set off a chain reaction." The acrid scent walloped Wesley's olfactory senses. "Dear God!" he exclaimed.

Angel and Gunn pounced. Laughing maniacally, they squashed handfuls of demonic globulin in Wesley's hair and across his jacket.

"The Three Musty-teers!" Gunn whooped, corralling his teammates with two enthusiastic arms. "All for uno -- "

"And uno for all!" Wesley and Angel bellowed in unison.

"C'mon, English. Not, 'uhn-Owe; 'Ooh-no'. T'ain't hard to say."

"When you win South America back from me, then feel free to ridicule my EspaƱol," Wesley snickered.

Angel fell silent and shivered. Breaking the clench, he staggered back against the alley wall for support. "Do you think... I mean... She was saving the world and all, not dispatching an ordinary two-headed thingy-ma-bob. But, do you think Buffy..."

He daubed at his chin before looking up. "Buffy didn't feel alone, do you think?"

Gunn slipped his arm from my shoulder and jammed his hands into his sweatshirt's front pocket. Of course, liquid degrades Duple blood even worse than abrasion and I had a disgusting mess trailing down my face. For two glorious, creature-conquering hours, my life had been Buffy-free. These were MY friends and MY situation that was completely under MY control and --

Damn her and her heroics. And damn her for being so selfless.

As if he'd heard Wesley's thoughts, Gunn leaned over and said more softly than he'd ever spoken, "You try not to anyone killed... English, simple as that."

But the inflammation was caused by Buffy knowing instinctually what it had taken years of military study to drum into my head. So additionally, damn her for being an instinctive strategist.

And for not surviving twenty.

Wesley sighed. "From what Willow related, Buffy was settled, Angel. And no, I don't think she felt alone."

Angel rushed Gunn and Wesley and huddled them close.

I wondered, if she were in the exact situation, "What would Fred do?" Wreathed by the malodorous atmosphere, we clung onto something in that quiet, something that would have been diminished by the utterance of one more word except for a Cordelian-appropriate interjection of "ew!" Angel had sought and received the only answer he required -- an affirmation that a Warrior's final campaign needn't be forlorn.

I, who in the past, have always dwelled on the negative connotations of wordlessness -- ostracism, ineloquence, death -- am finally understanding.

Silence should never be considered daunting when its most precious distinction is peace.

-0-

evancomo@netscape.net
Angel's Journal