"Well, don't keep me in suspense," Nina commented with an upraised eyebrow. "Where?"
"I think its time we returned to see the Oracle."
"She, he, or maybe it, said you would once you knew which pathway you were going to follow. Have you decided?"
"I believe so," stated Angel firmly. He looked at the blonde woman. "What about you? Do you know what you want to do?"
"Oh for heaven's sake Angel," Nina rolled her eyes. "Buffy told me that sometimes you're a bit slow. Haven't you figured it out? I'm doing exactly what I want to right now. I'm with the man I love and miracles of miracles I'm having his baby. I'm making a difference in the world. 'Help the helpless' was your motto and now it's mine too."
Angel marveled at the passion in Nina's voice and the determination on her face. He opened his mouth to say any number of things but to his surprise what popped out was "You discussed me with Buffy?"
"Well, duhhhh," the blonde woman fixed Angel with a look that conveyed how silly she found the question. "Women always discuss lovers, even ex ones. Especially ex ones." She shook her head. "Men."
Darkness fell and the pair made their way to the passage under the Post Office. Nina clutched Angel's hand.
"A bit," the blonde confessed. "You never know what's going to happen with supernatural powers and stuff. What if she, it, they..."
"What if they try to separate us? " When Nina nodded Angel smiled and squeezed her hand. "Not going to happen," he told her firmly. "You're the woman I love and I'm keeping you with me come what may." The vampire with a soul performed the quick ritual and the pair was transported into the inner room.
This time the figure was waiting for them. The voice was musical; the smile on the creature's face was warm and inviting.
"Greetings Liam and Nina. The time has come and you have returned."
"Once again," whispered Nina in spite of her awe, "Who the HECK is Liam?"
"MY real name. My human name."
The apparition smiled even broader than before. "Yes, Liam O'Neill and Nina Ash. That is who you are and who you will be. Tell me Liam, you have decided which path to walk have you not?"
"I have, but I'm not sure how I can walk it. I want to be human again. I want to see the sun. I want to hold my children in the light. At the same time I have reservations because I know what evil is out there." He looked at Nina and smiled himself. "Someone very important to me once told me I was her hero. I want to find some way to remain that hero because they seem to be in short supply."
"And you fear that becoming human again will put you in the same position it did during the day no one remembers."
"The day no one remembers?" Nina had promised herself that she would stop interrupting but the question slipped out anyway.
"I became human again when I was exposed to the blood of a demon with regenerative powers," Angel explained. "But I found I couldn't help..."
"Buffy," supplied Nina serenely. "It's okay Angel, err, Liam I mean. I was worried about her for a long time but I'm not anymore."
"God, you're a wonder," marveled Angel.
"You better believe it buster," returned the blonde woman.
A gentle laugh filled the room. The pair hastily switched their attention back to the third figure.
"Oh my, you two. I can see I will enjoy watching over you in the years to come." The tone turned serious. "Liam, do you wish to continue the fight?"
"I do," he replied simply.
Angel's eyes opened in shock. He grabbed his chest and fell to his knees. Nina cried out and rushed to his side, wrapping him up in her arms.
"What is it? What's wrong with him?" she demanded.
"Nothing." The answer came from the man she was holding. Trembling in every limb, he took her hand in his and laid it on his chest. "Feel," he directed. Her eyes widened.
"Your heart. It's beating!"
"Liam you have earned your desire. Your life is restored but your strength and agility remain as they were." The figure chuckled. "However no more breathing poison gas in elevators. You need oxygen to live."
"And food?" questioned Angel, suddenly having a mouth watering image of Mint Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream.
"No more blood for you."
Nina helped Angel stand up. As she did the figure turned its attention to her.
"And you Nina Ash? What pathway do you feel called to follow?"
"I have already chosen," the girl werewolf replied. She looked up at the face of the tall man her arms still were wrapped around. "It's been said before but I can't improve on the words. '⌠Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you. Where you go, I will go. Where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people and your God my God'."
Angel had no words to reply to Nina's declaration. He simply bent his head and gently kissed her on the lips. His eyes spoke all he needed to say.
"Nina you will retain your abilities too. Your strength and speed will be that of your werewolf side but you will not need to change to call upon them." The figure paused. "I sense that you feel you need nothing more, but that you have questions."
"I do wonder about two things," admitted the young woman, who's relief at not having to change forms anymore was obvious.
"What are those?"
"First is her heritage of vampire father and werewolf mother going to cause any problems for our daughter?"
"No. Not for this child; not for those who will follow."
"Those who will follow?" Two voices were raised as one.
"The future is not fixed. But I see the probability of more children."
"How many?" Nina started before cutting herself off. "Never mind. Let it be a surprise." She touched her stomach, still firm and flat but with just a hint of the beginning of a bulge under her fingertips. "This one certainly was."
"Your second question?"
"This is certainly out of line and possibly impertinent." Nina hesitated and then plunged on. "With all that you can do, why do you allow the world to be in the shape it is in? Couldn't you stop Wolfram and Hart and all the other evil throughout the world? SO much pain and suffering by so many people that shouldn't have to happen."
"Child I understand what you are asking but we can't intervene. It's forbidden. Mankind has to make its own decisions. Free will is your gift and it is not to be overruled and directed by any power, not by my fellows and I, not even by the one who is above us all. Look what happened when that rule is broken."
"You mean Jasmine." Angel stated quietly.
"Yes. Her motives were the noblest. But noble motives do not justify what she did. In order to enact her dream of a world at peace she found it necessary to extend her control over everyone and all of their daily actions. Mankind would have become nothing but robots dedicated to praising her. Eventually her pride would have led her to make the same challenge that the very head of the Senior Partners made ages ago and with the same results. And the human race would have been so crippled by unthinking obedience that it would never reach its full potential."
The figure stopped for a moment as though pondering its next words. "The best way to sum it up is to tell you that when Man no longer allows Evil to flourish then that will be the day the true world peace arrives. In the meantime it is allowed to work its seductions on humanity. Only by freely refusing to accept those seductions can it be brought to an end. So until then we rely on heroes like you two to battle the darkness."
"Wait a minute," protested Nina. "I'm not a hero. Angel is the hero."
"Nonsense sweetheart," declared Angel. "You are every bit a hero yourself. Besides," his eyes twinkled happily for the first time that Nina could ever remember, "I can't give up a sidekick whom I both need and love."
The pair, hand in hand, turned their attention back to the mysterious figure as it raised a hand. "Blessing upon you both. I will be closing this portal to the higher realms when you leave."
"So we won't see you again? Ever?"
"One day we will meet again. But that day is far in future." The figure shimmered and disappeared. Moments later they were staring at the brick wall. Silently they left the basement area and drove home.
"So, not to repeat myself, but what happens next?"
Angel took Nina's hand. "Next? I'm not sure but since I can go out in the daylight now I would like to catch a nap and then see LA by the light of the sun. And I need to talk to your sister."
"Jill? What for?"
"I realize that I am way out of date on this stuff, but I think it only proper to ask your sister's blessing on our marriage. Do you mind if we have a Catholic ceremony? I was that once and now that crosses should no longer bother me I think I'd like to return to my roots."
Nina's only answer was to wrap him up in her arms and kiss him again and again.
This day was, of course, not the end of the story. Liam and Nina O'Neill battled evil demons and helped the helpless for many years after that. Eventually their children, aided by Connor, grew up to take over the fight and then THEIR children and children's children followed in their ancestors' footsteps. Perhaps that story will be told one day. But the pair here lived happily to the end of their days and when they left this world they left it together.