Series – Is It Really So – Epilogue
Pairings: B/A eventually
Feedback: Please. Constructive criticism is always appreciated.
Disclaimer: I do not own anything associated with BtVS and AtS. (Characters, plots, and dialogue from the shows are borrowed with no infringement intent whatsoever.)
Distribution: Please ask and let me know where it's going.
Summary: It takes a lot to change the mind of a hurt and angry slayer.
A/N1: Starts immediately after 'Series – Is It Really So - Part 3 of 3'.
A/N2: Thoughts are in single quotes ('').
Dawn pulled into the driveway of the Summers' house on Revello Drive and parked the car. She opened the driver's door and got out. Angel didn't move. "Come on; get out."
Angel got out of the car and waited for Dawn to come around to the other side. He followed her up the steps to the front door. When Dawn unlocked the door and stepped inside, he remained on the porch. "No sense in getting cold feet now. You came here for a reason; you might as well come on in and face the music."
Angel stepped into the living room and was immediately transported back to a much simpler time, to a time when he had never broken Buffy's heart, to a time when she still loved him. Little had changed in the house from what he could see. There were new pieces of furniture here and there and more recent pictures of members of the Summers family, but essentially the room was the same, neat and clean, warm and inviting. It felt like a home. The delicious aroma of food cooking in the kitchen hit his senses and he wondered briefly why Joyce would be home this time of day instead of at her art gallery. Without saying another word to Angel, Dawn walked through the dining room to the kitchen where Buffy was preparing dinner.
"Hey," Buffy greeted her sister, "I got your note, thanks. Where did you go in such a hurry?"
"I had something important to take care of – last big item on my To Do List before the wedding. I'll be upstairs in my room if you need me. I'm going to take a nap before dinner. By the way, there's someone in the living room who wants to see you."
Dawn didn't reply. She turned and left the kitchen without saying anything else to Buffy. As she passed through the living room on her way to the upstairs she told Angel, "You're on your own." His only reply was a long drawn out sigh. Dawn thought he looked like a condemned prisoner facing his execution.
Angel was nervous, apprehensive. All the way from LA he had rehearsed what he would say to Buffy, but he could find no words when she walked into the living room. She was dressed in faded blue jeans, a white short-sleeved tee shirt and what was obviously her mother's apron; strands of her blond hair had escaped the messy pony tail she had her hair done in and made soft curls about her face. Standing there with a wooden spoon in one hand and a kitchen towel in the other, she was still the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. She was obviously surprised when she saw him, but her surprised expression quickly gave way to something quite different, quite deadly. Her sweet face, that was usually so expressive, was unreadable; her beautiful hazel green eyes, that usually spoke volumes when she looked at him, were empty; her body language, however, was threatening and he realized for the first time since he met her that he was looking into the eyes of the slayer. It gave him a moment's pause and he unconsciously took a step back. He knew that Buffy wouldn't harm him … much … he hoped …, but for a brief moment, he wasn't sure that coming to Sunnydale was the wisest thing he could have done.
"What are you doing here?" Buffy asked in a quiet emotionless voice.
Words came flying out of Angel's mouth and he didn't know, nor could he stop, what he was saying. "I needed to see you; could we sit down, please? I need to talk to you. Buffy I love you so m..."
Without warning and faster than Angel could see Buffy was across the room and in his face; she hit him with her fist so hard that he fell backward, crashed into the coffee table and landed in a heap on the floor. When he came to, he was still lying on the floor; he didn't know how long he had been out. The overturned coffee table lay nearby. He slowly and painfully sat up on the floor holding the side of his face. 'I think she broke my jaw; it hurts like hell. I really can't complain though, I deserve much worse.' He looked up and saw Buffy sitting in a chair on the opposite side of the room, the same cold expression on her face. Neither of them spoke. Dawn, who had come running down the stairs when she heard the noise, came into the living room and walked over to Angel carrying an ice pack.
"Gunn warned you," she whispered with an 'I told you so' look as she handed the ice pack to Angel and left the room.
"Are you going to just sit there or are you going to tell me why you are here, without stalling?"
"I don't know if I can; I think you broke my jaw."
"You wouldn't be able to speak as clearly with a broken jaw; now get on with it." Buffy spoke with a voice as cold as the expression on her face.
"I know I don't deserve it, but I'm begging you, Buffy, please forgive me …"
Anger flared within her overriding the pain in her heart. "What do I have to forgive you for? Hmm let's see, well, I found out about you and Darla and the birth of your son from Willie, about your marriage to Cordelia from a vampire who taunted me with the information just before I staked him, and about the Shanshu prophecy from Spike." Her voice was angry, menacing.
"I felt what I thought was your death and I called Angel Investigations to find out what had happened; imagine my surprise, it wasn't you that I felt die calling my name, was it? No, it wasn't; it was Angelus calling my name as he died. At least he was consistent; his feelings for me never changed. He may not have been able to love me, but whatever he felt for me lasted until his death. I'm sure that you heard him cry out my name because it was the last word he spoke. You, on the other hand, didn't give a damn until you saw that your carefully erected house of dreams for the future was tumbling down around your ears. Now all of a sudden you love me? Get out. And stay out." Buffy got up from the chair and walked back into the kitchen.
Angel stood slowly; he returned the coffee table to its proper position and after glancing toward the kitchen one last time, he left the house. 'You have not heard the last from me, love; I will never give up on us again.' After walking a couple of blocks he realized that he would not make it to the mansion before sundown and he knew that there might be vampires still in Sunnydale even if he was no longer one of them. Fortunately he had his cell phone. He called a cab to take him to the bus station. He was heading back to LA; he had a lot of work to do.
Angel returned to LA more determined than ever to win Buffy's affections, 'and her hand in marriage' he thought hopefully. 'I don't care how long it takes; there is no way I am ever giving up.'
He met with his attorney, Jefferson Beachard Kaufman (Jeff as the attorney asked Angel to call him), and had documents drawn up that made Cordelia the sole owner of Angel Investigations with one stipulation. When he was packed and ready to leave Los Angeles, he called Cordelia into his office to meet with him and his attorney. His declaration of departure was simple: "I am leaving. Whatever I plan to take with me is already packed and in my car. You may keep everything associated with Angel Investigations except the name and my personal belongings which are listed in this document. If you agree with this, all you have to do is sign both copies of the agreement."
Thinking that Angel owned the Hyperion Hotel Cordelia quickly reached for the papers to sign. The attorney stopped her and asked, "Don't you want to read the documents first?"
"No. I'm sure that everything is all right with the papers. I'm ready to sign." She left the office with a big smile on her face, but paused when she saw Gunn coming down the stairs with a large duffle bag in one hand and his fighting weapon in the other.
"Gunn, where are you going?"
"I'm leaving. I just joined Angel Investigations to work with Angel and since he is leaving, so am I," he replied without stopping as he headed for the door.
"That applies to us as well," Wesley said as he and Fred followed Gunn.
"You mean all of you are leaving the company?"
Their reply was a collective "Yes!"
"Fine, I don't need any of you. The hotel is still mine; I was going to sell the place anyway."
At that moment Angel and his attorney came out of the office heading for the door. "You don't own the hotel, Cordelia. I leased the Hyperion; I did not buy it and the current lease is up for renewal in two weeks. I have told the realtor that I will not be renewing the lease; that means that you have two weeks to either vacate the premises or sign your own agreement with the realtor. Goodbye, Cordelia."
"You bastard. You no good, conniving son …"
Angel slammed the door before he and the attorney could hear the rest of Cordelia's words.
"I must say, Angel," Jeff Kaufman told him with a sly smile, "I do believe that your ex-wife doesn't appreciate it when the tables are turned on her."
Angel chuckled; a broad unrepentant smile spread over his face as he headed for his car. His friends' automobiles were already packed and ready to go. They drove away from the Hyperion without a backward glance.
Angel moved his investigations firm to Sunnydale; Wesley, Fred and Gunn moved with him. The four of them occupied the mansion on Crawford Street until Angel could renovate the apartment building that he owned (the building where he had an apartment when he lived in Sunnydale). The second and third floors of the three story apartment building were each converted into an apartment. Gunn moved into the third floor apartment; Wesley and Fred moved in together into the second floor apartment and the first floor became the new home for Angel Investigations.
It took six months of groveling before Buffy would consent to have lunch with him. It had taken coaxing and pleading from her family members and friends (including Giles and Xander) and his friends (Gunn, Wesley and Fred) to get her to consent for lunch. It did not go as Angel had hoped. As soon as they were seated and before the waiter came to the table Buffy spoke. "Listen to me, Angel; I am here for one reason and one reason only and that is to tell you this: I want you to leave me alone. I will not allow you to finagle your way back into my life by using my family and friends or your friends or anybody else. I don't know what your true feelings for me are, but I do know this – I do not trust you, so I want you to back off. Will you do that?"
Angel could see in her eyes the truth of her words. He could also see the hurt that she carried and hid so well. 'I did this to her. How could I do this to a sweet loving person like Buffy?' She was as beautiful as ever, but her spirit, the fire that defined her, that made her different from every other woman he had ever met, was gone, leaving behind a mere shadow of the person that he once knew. He resolved then to never again hurt her, to treasure her as he should have all along.
"I will do as you ask. There is just one thing; I have created a document that I would like to have delivered to you. You don't have to read it. I just thought that you should have it. After that I promise not to bother you again."
"All right, I'll accept your document." She rose to leave. "Goodbye, Angel."
"Take good care of yourself, Buffy." Just as years before when he was the one walking away, Angel could not bring himself to say goodbye. His heart ached more now than it did then. The difference this time was that he knew that he had run out of chances with Buffy. He watched her until she was out of sight, then he rose, left a tip for the waiter that they didn't use and left the restaurant.
The document that Angel had created contained a detailed record of everything that had happened to him since he left Sunnydale: Doyle, the forgotten day, Connor, how he ended up marrying Cordelia, Shanshu, everything. He hadn't wanted to leave out any details; he hadn't wanted to keep secrets from her anymore. He kept his word and did not try to contact her; instead he had it delivered to her in a certified letter that required her signature. That way, he knew that she received it; whether or not she read it was something else. After two weeks and he had not received it back, he assumed, hoped, that she had read it.
'I can be patient,' he kept telling himself. 'I have to believe that deep down in her heart she still loves me.'
Buffy read the document that Angel sent. She smiled over parts, wept over parts and got angry over parts; in the end she knew that she had to get away, away from Angel. A new Watchers' Council had been formed with one of the surviving watchers as its head and Giles as advisor. Realizing that Buffy was approaching thirty years old, the Council head came to her with a proposal: Since there was little to no demon activity in Sunnydale now that the hell mouth was closed, if she would commit to two years as counselor to the slayers in training, she could retire with full status at the end of the two years. He declined to say what full status meant. Buffy didn't care. This would give her an opportunity to get away from Sunnydale. She took the offer. Angel found out that she was leaving Sunnydale about a week before she'd planned to leave. He sent her a brief note wishing her success in her new venture (even though he didn't know where she was going or when she would be back). The note ended with, "Be happy, Buffy."
The new AI was thriving. Gunn got permission from Angel to convert the basement of the apartment building into a workout room. While he was cleaning out the basement he found drawers full of Angel's paintings. He showed the paintings to Wesley and Fred who agreed with him that they were quite good. Fred thought they were exceptional. "Why would he leave such beautiful work down here in the basement? They should be on display in a gallery or some museum."
"I assume it is because either he does not want the publicity or he does not consider them good enough for public viewing," was Wesley's view.
"He's probably forgotten they were down here. He said I could keep anything I found that I wanted and throw out everything else. That makes these paintings mine and I say we let an expert decide how good they are."
Wesley and Fred couldn't find fault with Gunn's ownership logic, but they drew the line at going public with Angel's art without getting his permission. The next day Gunn went to the Sunnydale Art Gallery to speak with Joyce Summers. He told her how he came by the paintings and asked Joyce to look at them and to give her assessment of the work.
Joyce was very impressed with the quality of work and she was floored when she discovered that Angel was the artist. There was a variety of paintings in the collection including beautiful landscapes and seascapes, places, monuments and memorable faces that he had seen in his travels; there was what looked like a family portrait and individual paintings of each member of the family. Most striking of all and wrapped in canvas separate from the others was a painting of Buffy in what appeared to be the dress that she was wearing when she was drowned by the master; she looked lovely and Joyce could tell that the painting expressed the deep affection that the artist felt for her daughter. She immediately spoke to Angel about having a showing at her gallery. At first he refused but, after weeks of pleading and prodding from Joyce, he consented under the conditions that the paintings of Buffy and his family were not to be sold and Buffy was not to know that it was his work that was being shown. Of course Joyce agreed.
As the first week of spring approached, Joyce was extremely excited about her first showing of a heretofore unknown artist. Elite from Sunnydale, surrounding towns and a few from LA that Angel had helped, including David Nabbit, came to the opening. The star attraction of the evening was the portrait of Buffy and by the end of the evening all of the paintings that were for sale, had been sold. Patrons were clamoring for more of Angel's work and everyone wanted to know when his next showing would be. Joyce's friend, Clare, from New York, who had attended the showing, offered to sponsor his next showing at her gallery in New York City. She was certain that his work would get an even better reception with a much wider audience. Angel declined the offer saying that he would rather have Joyce do all of his showings. It took Joyce, Clare and all of his friends to convince him to agree. He finally did, with the condition that he could set the date for the showing and that Joyce would approve the paintings to be presented. In the back of his mind was the hope that he could have his next showing when Buffy was back; he had a special group of paintings in the mansion that centered around Buffy and her friends and family that he wanted to include.
Buffy submersed herself in her Council related activities and her two year assignment in London seemed to come all too quickly to an end. At the time Buffy was dating Franklin, a watcher-in-training, who asked to escort her back to Sunnydale; he was anxious to meet Giles. "And besides," he told her, "I want to meet the man who has so captured your heart."
Buffy's retort to him was, "What is this, your way of dumping me?"
"You know better than that, Buffy. We both know that you feel only friendship for me and that your heart lies elsewhere."
Buffy didn't reply to that but she had to admit to herself that this was true; two years away from Angel had in no way diminished her love for him.
In the meantime Angel spent all of his spare time painting, hoping that the occupation would help to keep his mind off Buffy. As he suspected, it didn't work.
Buffy arrived back home just in time to see her mother preparing for a trip to New York. Joyce explained that Clare had attended an event at her gallery and she was returning the favor; besides it would give her an opportunity to do some shopping in New York. As Joyce had hoped Buffy liked the idea and invited herself and Franklin along.
When Buffy stepped into Clare's gallery she was surprised at the number of people there. She recognized Angel's work right away; some of the paintings she had seen at the mansion before Angel left Sunnydale. She looked around but did not see Joyce, Clare or Angel, so she and Franklin viewed the paintings on their own.
As the crowd thinned later in the evening Buffy saw her mother viewing a collection of paintings and as she approached she could not believe what she was seeing. The collection, called 'Friends and Family', included portraits of her friends from Sunnydale, Giles, Willow, Xander, Oz, Tara, Anya, Faith, even Cordelia, her mother Joyce, her sister Dawn and Buffy herself. "I don't believe it," Joyce heard her daughter whisper.
"Wait until you see the last one." Joyce led her around the corner and Buffy came face to face with a portrait of herself that looked so real she wanted to touch it. It was labeled simply 'My Heart'.
Buffy was speechless. She turned her head to see Angel looking at her with a look of longing and love on his face. She walked toward him struggling and failing to fight back the tears.
Angel opened his arms for her and she stepped into his embrace as they both shed tears of forgiveness, reconciliation and love for each other. Oos, ahs and applause surrounded them, but they were oblivious to it all. Angel's only thought was that his heart had come home.
When asked by one of the patrons who the young couple was, a smiling Joyce replied, "That's my daughter and, hopefully, my future son-in-law."
Joyce was right.