Summary: Angel delivers sad news to Anne.

Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters portrayed here, they remain the property of their respective owners/creators.

Rating: PG-13, for themes and language.

Time Frame: Two weeks after the events of "The Gift." (spoiler warning).

Archiving: Be my guest, but e-mail me (eilandesq@aol.com) to let me know. . .I like to know where stuff I write ends up and I might want to see what else you've got.



ROLE MODEL


Anne reached for the Exacto knife and cut the tape on the boxes, revealing new blankets. It had taken months to fully repair the damage to the shelter caused by the zombie cops, including the time it took to convince her charges that the place was not a death trap. Of course, the contents of the safe deposit box in the bank downtown could have at least speeded the process up if used to full effect, but she knew full well that such an action would doom her and the shelter as surely as if the zombies had succeeded. In spite of the unwillingness of the authorities to admit what had actually occurred, there had been a fair amount of attention focused on the shelter due to the "riots" that had so badly damaged the building, and a sudden infusion of cash with no apparent source would have been noticed.

Fortunately, the attention had drawn some genuine donations, and she had carefully augmented them with some cash from the safe deposit box, allowing the repairs to be made. Anne sighed: it would be nice not to have to worry about such things, but her cynicism about most of the world had only deepened in recent months with the revelation of Wolfram & Hart's treachery, and the horrible assault of the zombies. Still. . .there was a certain group of three people who gave her hope for the future. . .and another one she wasn't quite sure about.

As if her thought had been heard, Anne felt a familiar sense of being watched, and she turned to see Angel standing there, looking at her with a sad expression on his face. Anne raised an eyebrow and commented, "I didn't expect to see you again any time soon."

The vampire managed to look embarrassed, then replied, "I'm sorry. . .I know you would rather not have seen me."

Anne tried to glare at him, then remembered the new boxes of blankets and the repairs to the shelter. She shook her head in annoyance, then commented, "You know, you certainly don't make it easy for people to like you. . .but the last few months would have been impossible without your assistance, not to mention the help that Cordelia, Gunn, and Wesley have been. I hear you are hanging out together again: do yourself a favor and stick with them from now on. I'm grateful to you, but I care about them."

Angel was silent for a moment, then replied, "I know you do, and I will."

Anne looked at Angel, noticing the worn look, the rather disheveled state of his wardrobe, and other signs that all was not right. She adopted a more gentle tone and asked, "What's wrong, Angel? You look worse than you did when you were running around without your friends on your revenge trip."

Angel looked at her and swallowed hard, then began, "Something has happened, but there's something I need to tell you first."

Anne shook her head in bewilderment and commented, "The last time you started a sentence like that, it turned out that you had been stalking me. . .what is it?"

Angel beckoned to a nearby couch, and they sat down, only to have Angel fall silent until Anne began looking visibly impatient. Angel sighed, then looked at Anne and stated flatly, "We've met before. . .before I ran into you in the street a few months back. I met you in Sunnydale three years ago, when you were calling yourself Chantarelle."

Anne stared at Angel, then chuckled for a moment before replying, "I'd think I would remember that. . .remember how I told you that I thought vampires were cool back then? I would have been totally into you. Where did--?" She stopped in mid-sentence and closed her eyes as a long forgotten exchange between herself and a handsome dark-haired stranger leapt into her conscious mind:

"But they who walk with the night are not interested in harming anyone. They are creatures
above us. Exalted!"

"You're a fool."

"You don't have to be so confrontational about it. Other viewpoints than yours may be valid, you know."


Anne buried her face in her hands and started to laugh: the sound was not pleasant. After a moment, she looked up at him and elaborated, "I remember now." She shook her head with disgust and continued, "I nearly ended up as a cheap meal for some bleached blonde vampire with an English accent until Buffy-" She stopped short and looked guiltily at Angel for a moment before she remembered what he was and blinked in surprise. She stared at him and whispered, "You told her what was going on at the club. . .that's how she knew where to be."

Angel nodded and replied quietly, "We suspected that Ford was lying to Buffy, and did some checking on him that led us to the club. Buffy had made some discoveries on her own, and she figured out what was going on."

Anne smiled and commented, "That sounds like Buffy." She smiled and asked, "Have you seen Buffy lately? I owe her a lot. . .I'd like to know how she's doing."

Angel paused, and Anne could not identify the emotion that briefly flashed in the vampire's dark eyes before he replied, "I saw her last a couple of months back, after her mother's funeral."

Anne's expression turned sad as she asked, "Buffy's mom died? That's awful." She shook her head and continued, "I've been meaning to get in touch with her for a long time. . .I'd like her to know what I've been doing here, maybe even have her talk to some of the people here who know what the score is and could use--" She saw Angel's face contort, and she stopped in mid-sentence, asking, "Angel, what is it?" Angel remained silent, but Anne could read the emotion in his eyes: she had seen it far too many times in the eyes and on the faces of the people she dealt with on a daily basis. She shook her head in what she already knew to be futile denial as she whispered: "No."

Angel swallowed hard, then nodded once. Anne leaned forward and silently cradled her face in her hands for several seconds. When she looked up, there were tears in her eyes, but her voice was calm and quiet as she asked simply: "How?"

Angel told her an abridged version of the truth, leaving out any mention of Dawn's Keyhood and some of the other less pleasant events connected with Buffy's death. When he finished, Anne remained silent, and Angel nodded again and rose, commenting, "I thought you'd want to know. . .I'll leave now."

Angel turned away and walked towards the door, only to stop in his tracks as Anne asked quietly, "Angel. . .you were in love with her, weren't you?"

Angel felt a brief flash of anger at the personal question, then turned to see the compassionate expression on Anne's face. He met her eyes, then nodded once and sat down again before replying, "We were together for a short period of time around when you met her. It ended badly because of unexpected developments, and I ended up hurting her more badly then anyone should ever have had to endure." He paused, and his face twisted in shame as he continued, "By the time matters were resolved, I had managed to drive Buffy out of Sunnydale. . .she didn't return for months. She returned to Sunnydale for her senior year of high school, but it was never the same between us. On the night she graduated, I came here to stay and try to move on without her, to let her go on with her life. I thought I was doing the right thing, but now. . .it feels like it was all for nothing." He turned away from Anne and whispered, "I'm sorry. . .I have no right to add to your pain with mine."

Angel started to rise again, but Anne called out again, "Angel." Angel turned back to Anne, who was looking at him with determination as she continued, "Angel, you came to me tonight because you knew that Buffy had helped me once, and you knew that I would care enough to want to know what had happened to her." Angel nodded again, and Anne continued, "Thank you for that, but there's something you don't know." Angel frowned, puzzled, and Anne concluded, "I've seen Buffy since that night in the vampire club. . .not two miles from where we're sitting."

Angel's eyes widened in surprise, and Anne nodded and elaborated, "Yes. . .when Buffy ran from Sunnydale she came to L.A., and I was here too." She smiled self-deprecatingly and continued, "I was calling myself 'Lily' and living on the streets with a guy named Rickie." She rolled up a sleeve and displayed a faded tattoo of a half heart with the name "Rickie" inscribed on it, then shook her head sadly as she continued, "Looking back, he wasn't much in a lot of ways. . .out on parole, not much in the way of ambition or gifts in life, but he took care of me, and I loved him."

Angel nodded, and Anne continued, "We went into a diner one day with just enough change to buy a slice of pie, and the waitress came over. . .it was Buffy. It wasn't until after we left that I realized it was her. . .she was dressed a lot differently and calling herself 'Anne', but I stopped her on the street later, and it was her." She paused, shaking her head, then added, "She was trying to hide from the world, Angel, but when a homeless man walked out into traffic in front of us she threw herself into harm's way to save him without even thinking about it."

Angel smiled involuntarily, and Anne echoed his smile as she continued, "Rickie disappeared a couple of days later, and I was frantic. . .all I could think to do was to find Buffy and get her to help. She wasn't exactly enthusiastic, but she helped me look. . .and she found him in an alley, dead from drinking drain cleaner, and aged sixty years in the space of a single day." She shook her head in disgust and elaborated, "I didn't want to believe it. . .I even accused her of helping to cause the problem. I ran out and right into the hands of the one responsible for Rickie's death. . .a demon using a shelter as a cover for recruiting cheap, disposable labor from people who no one would miss when they were gone."

Angel's eyes narrowed in anger, and his jaw tightened as Anne continued, "Buffy made the right connections on her own and showed up at the shelter just as I was being shoved into the portal to some weird demon dimension. . .I thought I had been sent to hell. . .where I thought I deserved to be." She was silent again for a moment, and Angel composed himself enough to give her a supportive look before Anne blinked and continued, "We were both captured, and the demon told us what the deal was: we would be worked until we were too old and weak to continue, then we would be abandoned to our fate. Buffy waited for the right moment, then started fighting and urging all of us to get ready to get out. She was seriously whaling on the demons. . .until the head demon captured me and threatened to kill me unless she stopped. . .she did. The demon was getting ready to kill her, and had released me, and I had just had enough. I shoved him off of the ledge he was on, and Buffy broke away and led us all to safety-she killed that bastard who dragged us all there just to top it all off. It was the most amazing thing I've ever seen. . .she saved us that night, Angel, not to mention all of the other kids that demon had already talked to and would have taken to that place if she hadn't stopped him."

Angel was silent, processing what Anne had just told him, and Anne smiled at him as she added, "I went to her apartment again the next morning: she had packed her things to go back to Sunnydale. She left me the apartment she was living in, and had set it up so I could take her place in the waitress job. Before she left, I asked her for one more thing." She reached under her blouse and pulled out a light gold chain, from which dangled a cheap white plastic name tag, reading simply in black capital letters: "ANNE."

Angel reached out and brushed the letters with a finger without thinking about it, then withdrew with an apologetic look on his face. Anne smiled at him again, then continued, "I worked at that waitress job for six months, saving what I could and using my off time to help the people who were still on the streets. A woman who ran a shelter nearby saw me one day and offered me a job and a place to stay. I took the job, and helped her run the shelter. She moved the shelter to this building about eight months later. . .then she died in a car accident. Her life insurance paid off the mortgage, and her will left the building to me. You know the rest." She reached out and clasped Angel's hand as she looked at him and concluded, "Angel, I'm proud of what I've managed to accomplish here, but none of it would have been possible without Buffy: what she did for me, and what she showed me was possible."

Angel looked away sadly, and Anne added, "I still see most of the people Buffy saved that night on a regular basis, Angel. They're all off the streets, and they're doing a lot better. . .I know one of them is planning to go to medical school. I'll let them all know what happened. . .maybe we can get together and talk about her or something." She sighed, then concluded, "She mattered, Angel: even in the times of her life when she really didn't want to, she mattered. I'm sure she knew that you were trying to help her deal, even if it hurt her when you did it."

Angel nodded again, then stood up and turned to leave. Anne watched silently as the vampire walked towards the door, then blinked as he turned back to her and quietly asked, "Anne, if you have that meeting with the survivors. . .could you let me know when so I could be there too?"

Anne looked at Angel solemnly, then nodded once. Angel whispered, "Thank you," then left the room without another word.

Anne looked at the empty doorway for several moments, then reached up with a hand and brushed the letters on the nametag with a finger as Angel had before sighing and standing up, mechanically reaching for the blankets and folding them to distract her from the grief that was causing tears to silently flow down her cheeks. She stopped and took a deep breath: Buffy was gone, but those she had protected still needed help. Setting her jaw, she started folding the blankets again as she mentally reviewed the phone numbers of the people she would be calling with the news about Buffy: another task in a list far too long for any one day, but one she would make sure she completed before the end of the day.


As before, comments are welcome and desired.