Comfort on the Edge of Reason
By: Lesera128 & dharmamonkey
Disclaimer: Here we posit our normal rigmarole. No, we don't own anything from Bones or Angel... or anything else. Yes, we're wreaking what havoc we can with these characters that we don't own to create an awesome story. But, since it's only for the purposes of creative enjoyment and amusing distraction, we think we're okay. Are there any other questions? No? ::blinks:: Good. Then, moving on―
Summary: Chicago. Halloween 1923. The witch Temperance Brennan encounters Angel for the first time since he'd been ensouled. Bones/Angel crossover. Very, very AU. Sequel to "Toe to Toe," "Barging In" and "Making Him Beg." Complete.
A/N: Here it is ladies and gents! This is the epic conclusion to our Day of Comfort posting. We hope you enjoy the final part of this story. So, when last we left our fearless duo, Brennan was about to confess something to Angel. What was that again...?
UNF ALERT! Sorry. This is part 3 of a 42k monster that's been posted in a single 24-hour period. We don't have anything else witty to say (see previous parts for more creative disclaimers about the impending hints of unfness). The usual terms and conditions apply. If this isn't your thing, or you aren't legal, why are you even here? In a word, just don't. Thanks.
Part III: A Triumph Over Reason
She shot him a look as she tried to tell him that she was as unhappy about the delay in their extracurricular activities as he, but it didn't seem to convince him as she rolled away from him, hoping that by putting a modicum of distance between them, it would help make things easier. Clutching the cream-colored flannel sheet to her chest, she attempted to straighten out her back as much as she was able to do so. She watched him for a moment, as his dark eyes smoldered in the dim light afforded the room when it was lit only by the flickering candle and the quivering fire in the hearth. She could tell that he was studying her, and for the space of a beat, she enjoyed the sensation before she took a breath and began to speak.
"I don't believe in coincidences," she told him, repeating word-for-word the litany that she'd just pieced together in her head. "For our paths to cross on this night...of all nights during the year, when we haven't seen each other in twenty-five years? Well, I don't think that was a random chance or occurrence. I-I...I think there was a greater purpose to that even if neither one of us might not know what that purpose is or why it's happened."
Angel was quiet for a moment and then he tilted his head at her before he spoke. "I never saw you as one who believed in destiny or fate, Bren," he said.
"If you want to define destiny or fate as the events of this world happening because there is a purpose or pattern to them—for better or worse, for good or ill...then I suppose, yes, I'd have to admit that I do support that assertion," she said with a nod. "I think it might be ludicrous to deny that there are things out there that are greater than either one of us. I mean, think about it. Just between you and I, we've seen more things of a mystical or supernatural nature to fill several lifetimes—"
"Setting aside the finer point that both of us are of the supernatural?" he said, interrupting her as he reached out and wrapped one of his fingers around the long lock of soft auburn hair that fell across her chest. He twirled the shiny lock of hair around his index finger before he looked back up at her and gave her a toothy grin. "Right?"
"Well," Brennan nodded slowly. "I do think that might be a slight understatement, but yes."
He swallowed and blinked, then looked into her deep blue eyes. "So you...you think that there's some, well, bigger reason that our paths have crossed this night, in this place?"
Brennan was quiet for a moment and then said, "I don't know. But, I can tell you that with you being here with me now...in this way, in this time, in this place...it's not without its...certain ironic significance. I mean, this is the one time of year...the three days, really, that I'm both at my most powerful and my most vulnerable here."
"I don't know what any of that means, Bren," he said, narrowing his dark eyes and raking his hands through his hair. He thought for a moment, then shrugged with a heavy sigh. "I-I just...look, I don't know what any of this means, or why it's happening either," he said with a shake of his head. "But, I can't help but feel like you're trying to tell me something." He paused, licked his lips, then looked into her eyes again. "Are you?"
"Yes," she said, her voice tight as she spoke. "But, I'm not sure how to tell you. Because...well, I'm scared, Angel. I'm scared that I'll tell you and then you'll run away from me, and I'll never see you again. And, I'm not certain why...at least, not completely, but I can tell you that I get a sick feeling in my stomach every time I think about you walking out the door."
"Whatever it is, you can tell me," he said, his voice calm and soothing to her growing sense of anxiety. He had never, in sixty-odd years, ever heard her utter a word indicating she was afraid of anything, and the revelation took him completely by surprise. He felt an ache in his chest at hearing her fear, and he wanted nothing more than to protect her from it.. "I promise, Bren. If you're willing to let me stay, even if just for the next couple of nights, I'll stay. I want to stay...here...with you. I-I...don't want to go back out there. I don't want to hurt you, or cause you any pain or..." He stopped and then added in what may have been the most most tender voice Brennan had ever heard him use with her. "I don't want to leave you. I want...I-I want to stay. Here. With you. That is...if you want me to want to stay here with you?"
She again felt a knot tightening in her stomach as she realized how much trust he'd put in her to let him see her when he was at what seemed to be his most vulnerable. "Of course," she nodded at him. "Of course, I want you to stay here, with me. I want it more than anything in the world. You're welcome to stay as long as you like...I-I just...I wanted you to know what I knew, which—given, the current moment, isn't much, but...well, yeah—" Her voice trailed off before she shook her head, realizing that she was rambling and not telling him what she needed him to know. Taking a breath, she tried again. "Maybe I should start at the beginning," she mused.
"Okay," he nodded. "Then what's the beginning?"
At first glance, his question seemed incredibly simple. However, as she thought about it, she took a deep breath as she realized that if she was going to start at the beginning, she needed to start at the true beginning...her beginning and her past. And, in that moment, she realized that she not only needed to tell him, to make him understand, but that she wanted to do it. She wanted to trust him and wanted to have him know the truth of her. Emboldened by the thought and feelings he evoked in her, she told him, "I suppose...well, the best place to start would be...well, it's Halloween, Angel," she began with a hesitant nod. "It's the witches' sabbath, and for the next three days...it's a very...important time for a creature like me. And—" She paused shaking her head and then said, "What I'm trying to tell you is that all of it...our paths crossing, the blue light whenever we have sex...well, that's not normal for me. It only happens with you. And, given the fact that we're here together during the one time of year when I'm at my most powerful...and my most vulnerable...well, that's what I'm not doing a very good job telling you about. I just don't know how," she repeated. "I want to, and perhaps...I think, maybe, if I start by telling you what...who I really am, maybe that would be the best way to do it."
"Try," he pleaded with her. "I want to know you, Bren, who you are. You know I won't leave. I won't run. I'll stay here...with you. I promise. I won't leave you. You can tell me anything, Bren. I swear—"
She stopped and then reached out to him. She let the back of her hand rest lightly on his shoulder. She touched him for a moment and then tilted her head as she said, "You've changed." One of his eyebrows lifted in an unspoken question. "I mean, I know...obviously, that you've changed. Getting a soul back after having been without it for more than a century probably takes more than a bit of getting used to, I'm sure. It's just...in all the time I knew you as Angelus, I don't think I've ever seen you this...genuine, or this...heartfelt."
"Getting my soul back was meant to be a curse," he said after a long moment's pause. "And I'd be lying if I said it wasn't hell at first. Pure and unadulterated living hell, Bren, having to deal with the flood of feelings and emotions I felt when they were paired with the memories of what I'd done. But...I think, today, for the first time since it happened, I can honestly say that maybe...as far as curses go? Maybe it wasn't all bad if it means I can finally...feel something...for you." He placed his hand on her arm, tracing his fingertips over the line from her elbow to her palm, then clasped her hand in his. He tilted his head to one side and smiled sweetly as he stroked his thumb over hers. "Like I do right now."
Brennan stared at him for a long time, trying to see the truth of what he was saying in his brown eyes, and the more she stared at them, the more she realized the depth of emotion he was now capable of feeling. After a bit, she swallowed heavily and said, "You've suffered greatly since last we met."
"Yes," he said simply, his voice heavy as he answered what was really more of a statement than a question. "Immensely. And...that's because that's what they wanted me to...them, that's what they wanted from me. My suffering. And I did suffer. For the last twenty-five years, I've spent almost every waking moment suffering. But...right now, Bren? Here? With you? That doesn't matter. The only thing that matters to me is that right now you're the one that's hurting. And I'd very much like it if you'd let me try to see if there was something I could do about that."
"Angel," she began, the way she phrased his name making it clear that she wanted to ask him something, but once again was hesitant.
"Bren," he pleaded. "Please. Let me...let me help you."
When he silently encouraged her with his eyes, she slowly nodded and said, "You know I'm a very powerful witch."
"Yes," he responded simply. "I do."
"And...earlier...when I said I could smell the Romani magic of the Gypsies on you, I wasn't lying," she told him. "I knew...well, part of what I need to tell you. It has to do with that."
Angel gave her a confused look. "Bren, I don't...I don't understand. What do you mean? What could you possibly have to tell me that has to do with my curse?"
She took a deep breath and then explained, "Magic is an incredibly personal thing...and it's almost impossible for one witch or warlock to undo the spells of another." She paused and then leveled a look at him as she asked in a quiet voice, "But, if...somehow, someway, I could figure out a way to unburden you with the curse they've thrust upon you...would you want me to try to do it? Would you want me to help you in that way? Would you want me to try to use my powers in such a way even if it would...bind us? Would connect us in the fact that I'd somehow touched you with my powers?"
He studied her again as he felt a flash of excitement at the idea of being unburdened after nearly a quarter century of bearing the crushing weight of guilt. He licked his lips and blinked, the gesture the only sign he was a bit nervous before he looked up at her and asked, "Are you asking me if you could, would I want you to remove the Kalderash curse so that I no longer had a soul?"
Slowly, Brennan nodded. "I'm not even saying such a thing is possible. Their magic...well, it's not the same as my own. It's incredibly tricky. But, if in some way, I could try to help you in that way, knowing we'd be connected forever, would you want me to? Would you want me to do that?"
Angel thought about it for a minute and then slowly shook his head. "No," he told her. "I mean, what I feel tonight for you, after being with you...I am indebted to you forever for saving me tonight, for showing me the kindness you have. I would not mind being bound to you—in a way, I feel like we've been bound this way for a long time, really...but, well...if it means I would lose my soul, then I don't think I can...I want to keep it. I don't want to lose it, even if it's caused me pain..."
He looked down, breaking eye contact with her as he thought of how to explain himself. He covered his eyes with his hand and sighed, then raised his head and began to speak again.
"With a soul, Bren," he began, "well, at least, with it...having it...there's some balance to me now, you know? I know that there's a great pit of evil tied up inside me. Angelus, he's still in there, somewhere, but...well, it's hard to explain, but it's balanced...the demon is balanced by the humanity of my soul. I don't...I-I don't want to lose that. I don't know what I'd do if I did because I can never go back to the monster that I was. To be Angelus again, unchecked, uncontrolled? I don't know...knowing what I do, how I could stand it. So, no, Bren. I can't tell you how much it means to me that you'd even think about trying to help me in that way, but I couldn't let you do something like that. I just..."
Angel's voice fell away as he stared at one spot on the far wall that seemed to have become quite interesting for him. He frowned, turning away from the wall and closing his eyes with a sigh.
After another moment or two of silence he opened his eyes again and said, "I-I...I just want to find a way to live with the memories, the pain of knowing what I did, and the guilt. It's the guilt that's the worst. If I could find some way to balance that, I think I'd, eventually, be able to live some type of life. But, going back to my life as Angelus? No. No. Knowing what I did and the pain I caused when I lived as him, well...I'd rather be in pain and suffer than cause pain and suffering for others. It's...it's as it was meant to be. And, some way...I'll find a way to cope. I'm just not sure how. And until I find it, I just...I'm trying to take things one night at a time, you know?"
Brennan didn't respond to his question. When she left it unanswered, Angel couldn't help but ask, "Bren?"
She drew a long breath, and then said in a strange voice that he didn't think that he'd ever heard before, in what appeared to be a night full of first for the pair, "What if I told you that I can offer you a way to cope?"
"Without losing my soul?" Angel questioned her.
"Yes," Brennan nodded. "What if I told you there was a way...there was something that I could give you that would make it different than it is now? What if I told you that...in a way, I've already given you a taste of what it could be like if you agreed to an offer that I could make you?"
"What do you mean?" Angel asked, the confusion clearly writ on his furrowed brow. "Bren, I don't understand."
"There's more to the Gypsy curse than just you being given your soul back, Angel," Brennan said, reminding him of a fact of which he knew only all too well. "You know that."
"Yes," he said. "At least, I mean it's not like they gave me a book of frequently asked questions when they cursed me. But...wait." He paused and then questioned her, "Do you mean all the pain and suffering that came about because of me having my soul back?"
"No," Brennan said with a small shake of her head. She stopped for a moment and made a face as she struggled to sense the finer threads of the curse that the Gypsy had bound to Angel. At last, she stopped and sighed in frustration.
"What is it?" he asked.
"There's something there," she told him. "I can't tell what it is, but there's something there that my powers have started to bind to..."
"What?" he blinked at her in complete surprise.
"I'm not certain how to explain this, but, well...our connection, Angel? It's already started to tentatively fuse. I...as I said, I can offer you something that will help you to bear the burden of that guilt you feel...the remorse? But, only if you accept it. It must be freely given on my part and freely accepted by you. However, in anticipation of us finalizing that giving and acceptance... my magic? It's already started...well, it's hard to say how, but it seems that it's already started to protect you from the full effects of the curse taking hold. It's acting as some guard against the evil they wanted to inflict on you, but it's tricky. And, even I know that even with my extensive powers, it can only go so far. I can only offer you so much protection, but—"
"Bren," he said, raising his hand as he interrupted her. "What are you trying to tell me?"
Swallowing in a very pronounced way, Brennan said, "Earlier? When you said after we bedded that you hadn't felt like that before? The reason why you felt that way was because of me, Angel. I don't know how or why that I know that, but I do. I know it to be the truth. It was happiness that you felt, because you're feeling what I'm feeling. It's...it's because we've started to become intertwined. And, I can stop that process from happening now, if...that is, if you want me to. But, it means...once I do? You won't be able to come near me again. Ever. I can...only once. I don't think I'll ever be able to have the strength or skill to stop it more than once. So, whatever your choice, from this point forward...it will change things between us. Forever."
"I've already lost you once, Bren," he said, shaking his head. "I don't want to lose you again. And I...well...you're saying that you know a way that I can somehow, you know, endure the memories of what I've done and see myself through the other side so I can live with...with it all?" He fell silent and his eyes blinked as he stared at the bedsheets for several long moments, deep in thought. "You're saying that you can give me something so that I don't have to lose you, and maybe can find myself again? And manage the guilt...the pain?"
"To understand what I'm offering you," she began, her voice soft so that Angel knew he'd have trouble hearing her if he was a human. "You have to understand what I am...how I came to be what I am."
"Okay," he replied, blinking as he thought that this woman whom he had known, in a sense, so intimately, so many times, was really a mystery to him, even after sixty-odd years. She knew so much about him, and his history, but he knew so little about her. "So tell me."
"You know that I was born in March of 1533, in London. My mother, Christine, she was a midwife. That much was commonly known. She came from a long line of healers, her family lineage dating back to Celtic blood of people who ruled Albion long before the conquests of the Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Danes, and Normans made England into what it's become today."
"Aye, now the truth comes out," he said with a smile. "English though you've always claimed to be—at heart, you're a Celt like me. No wonder we have always enjoyed a natural affinity, mmm?"
"Hmmm," Brennan said. "I never thought of it like that, but you're right."
"Heh," Angel smiled softly. "I love it when you say that."
Shaking her head lightly, Brennan continued, "My mother liked it when my father told her she was right. I suppose it's something in your Celtic blood, hmm?"
Nodding, he admitted, "Perhaps. The Irish have always loved to argue, probably because we always want to be right. Maybe the Celts of Britain are the same." He shrugged, then urged her to continue with a jerk of his chin. "But..that's not important right now. What is important is that you stop this soddin' Irishman from runnin' off at the tongue and distractin' us from what's really important here." She laughed lightly at his self-deprecating jibe. "Your mother. You were saying something about your mother. Tell me about her," he coaxed her.
"Well," she continued, "while, like many of their kind, mother's people adopted Christianity when it came to Britain's shores, they still retained the beliefs in the Old Ways that didn't conflict with the teachings of the Catholic Church. My mother revered nature and the power of worlds known and unknown."
Brennan paused to smile as she thought of her mother, memories that she didn't often indulge in because they often brought her to a time and place in her long life that she knew she was better off not remembering lest she endure the pain such memories eventually evoked in her.
"All the women in my family, you see, we've always been somewhat more...well, attuned to the various powers in this world. You might even say I come from a long line of wise women who were practicing their craft long before the term 'witch' was ever applied to them."
Angel nodded his head slowly, indicating her that she should continue.
"Before I was born," Brennan explained. "My parents, that is...my mother had fallen in love with a boy from a local farming family. Love matches were rare in that time, but becoming more common. I think my mother sensed a certain power that my father had in him even before he knew it. She was attracted to that at first, and other things later. So, they married, and she taught him how to harness his natural talents...and, for a time, they were two people who were very much in love and very happy. The only sadness they had was that, no matter how much they tried, how many spells my mother wrought, they remained childless."
Brennan's voice tightened as she paused for breath, her blue eyes sparkling as she struggled to explain to him how she came to be.
"Eventually, desperate for a child, my mother choose to invoke a power that was shunned by our people because it was seen as too dark, too uncontrollable, too random and chaotic. But, she knew, or at least she thought she knew, that she was skilled enough and smart enough to control it. So, with the help of my father, they summoned The One. And, a deal was struck. Nine months to the day, I was born at my parents home near St. Mary-le-Bow's Church in Cheapside. For a time, I had a normal childhood. We were a family, a happy family. It was clear from the time I could walk and talk that I'd inherited the gifts of my mother's family. In fact, she always said I'd be better than ever she was because my father had added his own powers to my lineage. She trained me, taught me what she knew, and initiated me in the rites of our heritage on the Samhain of my thirteenth year. That's the night she gave me her silver dagger, the one I'm sure you remember." Brennan asked with a slightly crooked smile.
Nodding, Angel laughed softly and said, "As if I could forget."
"Yes," she said with a slight shrug. "Well, it was mine from that point forward. It's a family heirloom that's always been handed down from eldest daughter to eldest daughter," Brennan said. "And, it was also on that night that the true extent of the deal my parents had made the night I was conceived came to light. My mother gave her life for mine. He wanted me, you see, The One? He knew what I had the potential to be, what I could do and might become. What my mother didn't anticipate is the wording of the deal she struck was that my life would be given to her...but only for a time. After I came of age, it would then be her life for mine. And, so, that's why on the morning of All Soul's Day, the night after she'd initiated me in the Samhain ritual, and I became aware of my powers? That was the day He came to claim her. She died so that her powers could be transferred to me. And, that was how I started on the path to becoming what I am today. Because, when I lost her, I didn't know how to deal...how to cope with the loss of her. I loved her so much, Angel. She was everything to me and then, suddenly, she was gone. She left me. And, I didn't know what to do."
Angel reached for her and touched her arm gently as he listened to her. He opened his mouth to speak, but closed it again, choosing to remain silent but to let his fingertips press gently into her silky skin to acknowledge her words and encourage her to continue.
"I sunk into a deep depression," she said quietly. "You see, after my father explained what had happened, I couldn't bear the guilt that I'd, in essence, killed my mother. So, to survive that...I did what I had to do. I summoned Him, and tried to see if I could strike a new bargain that might bring my mother back. Might let her live again. When He told me that was beyond even His power, but that He might have something else He could tempt me with, well—that was the day I struck what would become the first of many bargains. For a price, I'd have everything I ever wanted...power, wealth, immortality...anything I wanted, except for the resurrection of my mother. And, so, knowing that I made my bargain. And He was only too happy to make it. Because, He thought He'd outsmarted me, like He'd done my mother. He thought He'd only have to bide His time and then He could have what He'd craved since the night my mother and father first summoned Him."
Angel swallowed, stroking his thumb over the top of her hand. He watched the muscles of her face twitch ever so slightly as her expressions shifted, belying the steadiness with which she had been telling her tale. His mouth gaped open slightly as the realization dawned on him. She's never told anyone this before, he thought. This story she's telling me is one she's held inside of her for almost four hundred years. He closed his hand around hers and felt the living warmth of her skin and the gentle throb of the pulse in her thumb. She trusts me, he told himself. She really does. I'm not sure why or how...but she does. I know she does. This woman who trusts very few people—maybe none, to be perfectly honest—trusts me enough to open herself up and tell me this. He felt a flutter of warmth in his belly at the thought of it. She's changed somehow. It's not just me. We've both changed, haven't we? What this is, whatever we have between us now—it's different than what we had before because we are not, either of us, who we were before.
He leaned his head to the side, pursed his lips and smiled. "What did he want, Bren?" he finally asked her.
"My soul," she said softly. "But, I was smarter than Him. For, the terms of the contract, you see...I found a way to ensure that I had a chance to make it so that He wouldn't get my soul. I safeguarded it by protecting it until I found the right person to act as its custodian so that He'd never be able to take it away from me. And, I think...that maybe, the person that I've been waiting for all this time might be...well, I think it might be you, Angel. Somehow, some way, I think it's you."
Angel raised his eyebrows, his forehead crinkling as he struggled to take in everything he'd heard. He sat up straight and rubbed his brow, shaking his head as he tried to make sense of her words in his own mind. He watched her eyes, glittering as they did in the warm flickering light of the fire and the half-burned candles, and he felt lightheaded, something which he hadn't felt in a very long time. Me? he felt a swirling sensation in his gut. She actually thinks I'm the one to protect her—and her immortal soul—from being seized by The One? Angel felt a tightness in his chest and his eyes darted around the room, as if the clarity he sought was tucked away in one of the dark corners of the room. She thinks I'm the right person to do this? After everything I've done? After all the time I've been gone? She actually trusts me enough to...to put her very soul in my care? He stared at the flame that licked and danced in the fireplace, then looked back up at her.
"You mean...you're saying that you can keep your soul from being taken by The One if your soul has a custodian, and, umm, I'm that custodian?" He felt a shiver run down his spine as he watched her dark-rimmed pale eyes flicker back at him. "Of course, I want to help you, Bren," he said. "I don't know what this means, but...I feel like, well—no, I know that I'd do anything for you." He paused and clasped her hand between his. "Tell me more," he pleaded. "I-I...whatever you need. Tell me so that I can do this thing for you, Bren. But I need to know more. How does it work? What can I do? Just...tell me. I need to know everything." He pressed his lips together in firm line, then nodded. "Tell me everything, Bren."
"Alright," Brennan nodded. "When we struck our deal, He had his goals, and I had mine. The agreement was made that after five hundred years, if I couldn't find a suitable custodian of my soul, He'd get to choose one for me since I'd specified that He couldn't take direct control of it Himself. So, He countered by stipulating that the custodian had to be an immortal with evil in his heart."
Angel blinked, his eyebrows furrowing hard over his dark eyes. "Evil in his heart?" he gulped. He felt a clenching in his chest, where his heart lay still and unbeating, and he heard the voice of his soulless appetites—the dark spirit of Angelus lived on inside of him, constrained only by the soul he'd been cursed with twenty-five years before—murmuring in the back of his mind. His jaw tensed and his nostrils flared as he tried to silence the now caged Angelus. "I don't understand," he said. "Why?"
"I suppose He did that with the idea being that I'd never find an evil immortal to whom I'd willing entrust my soul—or, at least the witch's third that I would have to give away since my soul was partitioned into three parts when I struck the deal—because...well, you know that if one has control of a witch's soul, it gives the keeper the power of compulsion over the witch. And, usually, the more powerful the witch, in the past, the quicker an immortal has been to try to find a way to destroy the witch so that her powers might be added to the guardian's." She gazed into Angel's deep brown eyes to gauge his response. "So, such bindings in the past have rarely occurred, and if they did, they didn't last very long," Brennan explained.
"What does this mean, Bren?" Angel asked. "I mean, are you sure?" He caressed her hand, letting his fingertips skim over the faint purple veins that shone through her pale, almost translucent skin. "How can you be sure that...well...that I'm the one?"
"I knew from a spell I cast," Brennan said, "that I'd know the immortal in whom I could trust by the fact that not only would my powers become amplified in his presence, since that denoted our compatibility, but also because there would be a physical sign that acted as proof when we came into close contact with one another."
"The blue sparks?" Angel guessed. "The flashes of electricity?"
Brennan nodded slowly, then gave him a knowing look before she continued. "That's how I knew, potentially, what you might be, because of the physical manifestation of my powers actually corporealizing, but I pushed it aside because while I had many feelings for you when you were Angelus..." Brennan laughed. "Well, sweetness, trust was never one of them."
"I can't really blame you there," he shrugged, cringing slightly at the memory of the man he used to be when they were last together. "But...tonight? Something's changed, I think. Something's different, isn't it?"
"You are," Brennan whispered. "As I said, I don't know how or why, but my magic...my powers...the core of my very essence has already started to bind itself to you. So...if you're willing to take on this burden...I will freely give myself to you, Angel—what I am—the very core of everything I am. I'd give it freely into your keeping...if you're willing to accept my offer."
Angel stared at her for a long moment, then reached out, and grabbed her hand, holding it between his. Stroking it slowly, he asked. "Bren," he whispered. "After all I've done, all these years, and all the time we've been apart, are you sure?" He hesitated, holding the inside of his lip between his teeth as he blinked away the memory of the bodies he'd left in his wake one night as he'd made his way from the terraced house where he lived with Darla to Brennan's home in Cheapside. "You know what I was, Bren," he said with a grimness in his voice. "And you know—you know that the darkness never went away, right? It's still inside of me. I know you know that. If you do this thing, and bind yourself to me for all of eternity, you'll be bound to all of me."
Brennan pulled her hand away from his grasp and reached up to cup his jaw. She smiled as she drew her thumb over the smooth, cool skin of his cheekbone. "Yes," she said. "I know what you are, Angel. I've always known. I couldn't...if that darkness weren't inside you, I wouldn't even be able to make you this offer that is probably less a gift and more a burden than it would at first seem. And, well, after tonight, Angel—you know what I am." She fell quiet for a moment, then added, "I like who you are now. Very much. And, I'd like to think that maybe you like who I am. So, yes. That's my answer to your question. I do want this—if you really want it. If you're willing to do this thing for me?"
"Yes," he said, turning his head and pressing his cheek against her hand, closing his eyes as he savored the warmth of her touch. "I want to do this for you. Tell me what I must do. How's it done?"
Brennan felt a flash of warmth blossom in her chest. Her hand fell away from his face as she asked warily, "Are you certain? Because...the ritual is simple enough, but I can't...it can only be done once, Angel. I can't undo it. Once it's completed, we'll be linked. Forever."
"Bren," he said quietly, placing his hand on her bare knee. "We're already linked." He looked down at the way his darker, olive skin contrasted against her pale, porcelain skin. "We've been linked, I think, for a long time. I didn't spent the last twenty-five years thinking about you just because of the way we enjoyed each others' bodies all those years ago. It was more than that, wasn't it? More than just the fucking, as good as the sex was." He watched as a faint smile flashed across her face, then fade away again. "And tonight? The way you found me out there? And what it felt like when you did? And what it felt like when we came together tonight, at last, after all these years?" He glanced over at a candle flickering on her nightstand, then brought his gaze back to hers. "I think you've been a part of me for a long time, Bren. Long before tonight, and long before I realized it. I'm not sure how or why, but I believe that to be the truth of things." His fingers curled up and he began to draw gentle circles on her knee. "I'd like to think the same is true for you, Bren." He hesitated for a moment, but before she could answer, he spoke again. "So, tell me...what do we have to do?"
She smiled the most lovely smile she'd ever smiled at him and then said, "As I said earlier, I don't think it's coincidence we found each other tonight, Angel. Because...the ritual that would bind us? I can only convey it when I'm at my most powerful...during the three days of the sabbath because that's the traditional time of the year that the shields between the realms of the world of the living and the world of the dead are thinnest. That's why I'm simultaneously at my strongest and at my weakest because these three days are when the witch is most powerful because of the thinning of the realms. Magic from both sides flows freely, and so this is the only time of year when I could give a part of my soul into your keeping."
"And, by accepting this...this part of you, you're saying that by me accepting this, that I'd have the power to destroy you?" Angel asked, though he knew the answer the moment he asked.
Slowly, Brennan nodded. "If you accept what I'm willing to give you, then I've bound myself to you, Angel. You'll be able to use that to compel me to do what you want, when you want, how you want. I'm, in effect, making you a guardian whereby you'll always have a piece of me that will fasten us together. It...since I've never done it before, I can't say for certain what will happen if you accept it and don't use it against me. But, it will join us in a symbiotic relationship. Forever...or, at least as long as you choose not to use it to break me."
"Bren," he said, his voice low and heavy with feeling even as he smiled back at her. "You know I'd never do anything to hurt you, don't you?"
"Yes, but," she responded quietly. "The temptation's great, I know. I wouldn't blame you if you did. But, it's a risk I'm willing to take because I'd rather be bent, domesticated, and broken at your hands than at His. At least this way...I still have a choice."
Angel was silent for a minute and then said thoughtfully, "We don't have to do this now. You said yourself...you have until the 500th anniversary. That means you still have a century to make a suitable choice. One that you can trust. One that you won't regret."
"No," she told him with a firm shake of his head. "Don't you understand, Angel? I've already made my choice. That is, if you'll accept it. If you'll have me...if you'll take up the burden I freely offer you? It's you. Just you, Angel. I choose you...if you're willing."
"I am," he said, nodding slowly. "I want to. And, I promise you—you'll never regret doing this, Bren. You'll never regret trusting me. I'll never betray you. I'll never use this against you. I'll never hurt you, I swear. I'll do whatever I have to do to safeguard that which you've given into my keeping."
"A part of my soul," Brennan said softly, even as the familiar electric blue energy began to crackle around them. "The witch's third. I entrust you with the witch's third of my soul. You, and only you, Angel. Tonight, on this night, I freely give it."
"And, I freely accept it," he said solemnly. "I do."
Squeezing his fingers, Brennan nodded. Angel blinked as he felt a surge of power jump from her to him. When it was said and done, she slumped forward slightly towards him, and he sat up, coming towards her a bit straighter, a bit more confident than he'd been just a minute before.
For a moment, Angel would have sworn that his dead heart had started beating again, the way his chest seemed to swell with warmth and feeling as the energy that had surged into him took root, weaving its threads into the sinews of his limbs and the ropy folds of his mind. At first, it seemed like a flash of hyperawareness as everything he laid his eyes on—her face, her eyes, the bedsheets they sat on, the dancing flames of the candles in the room, the warm waves of heat rolling off the fire in the hearth—but it became clear that it was not just a matter of visual or sensory acuity. He felt a steadiness, as if the shifting sands beneath his feet had suddenly hardened into stone. The feeling of being lost which he'd known for more than two decades seemed to dim and flicker, and after a few minutes, go away entirely.
"Bren?" he asked, worry clear in his voice as he saw her body when it started to shake a bit.
"I'm...I'm okay," she said, squeezing her eyes shut as she took a deep breath of air followed by another and then another. Eventually, she murmured, "I'm just a bit dizzy. That's all."
"Breathe," he told her, cupping his palm around the crown of her head as he stroked her hair with the pads of his fingers. "Deep breaths. In and out."
"I am," she said wearily as the world spun around her, her heart rate increasing as she tried to steady herself. "Or...at least, I'm trying."
"It'll pass," he whispered, smiling adoringly at her as he felt an energy pulsing inside of him. "I'm sure it will pass fairly soon."
"I know," she whispered. "The hard part...the hard part is...it's done now."
After a minute, when she'd stopped shaking and was still once more, he reached out and began to rub the flat of his palm across her naked shoulder in what he hoped was a soothing and comforting gesture of reassurance. "So, what else do we have to do?" he asked when he saw her open her eyes and look at him with gratitude clearly visible in her blue eyes. "What else can I do?"
"Stay," she said simply. "Just stay."
"That's it?" he asked, uncertain that she needed more from him, but was afraid to ask. "Because if it's not, you needn't worry. Just tell me...whatever you need. It's yours. I'll do it. Just tell me."
Brennan smiled at him weakly and then said, "You must stay with me until the sabbath ends on All Soul's Day so that the bond we've knit can have time to set. That's all."
He considered her words for a minute, then nodded with a grin and said, "I think I can do that."
Her response, this time, was a simple but radiant smile that made Angel as happy as he could remember having felt in sometime. Leaning forward, he pulled her to him and sealed their bargain with a gentle kiss that held all the promise of what was to come...and what would be between the pair.
Angel leaned to the side and snaked his arm around Brennan's waist, bringing his hand over her hip and spreading his fingers in a fanlike shape over the ivory plane of her belly. Though his heart did not beat, he smiled at the warm, pulsing feeling that oozed through his unbreathing chest at feeling her head tucked in the crook where his arm and shoulder met. She turned her head, pressing her lips to the sweat-damp skin of his chest as she reached over with her left hand and grabbed his right, chuckling softly as she gently forced his fingers apart so that she could intertwine hers with his. Angel looked down at the way his long, thick, dark-skinned fingers dwarfed her smaller, slender, paler ones and pursed his lips. He felt the energy, faint but definitely noticeable, strange and yet not unpleasant, tingle through him as she lay curled up against his side, her head resting against his chest. It pulsed with an even rhythm, like a heartbeat, feeling each time as if it were tickling the underside of his skin.
As he lay there with her, a vague memory from his childhood nudged into the forefront of his consciousness, and he remembered running through the cobblestone streets of Galway with a pair of other boys. He wasn't sure whether they were running towards something or away from it, but as he felt the soles of his shoes slide over the uneven surface of the cobblestones, he felt a hum in his belly that surged out and through his limbs, all the way to the tips of his fingers, making the hair on his arms stand on end. The size and shape of his hands in the memory gave him the impression that he had been perhaps ten or twelve years old in this memory, not yet anywhere near a man but more than a boy. The memory, deeply faded after nearly two centuries, seemed like it had been lived an aeon ago, but the feeling, the buzzing energy, struck him as familiar.
Turning his eyes to the woman in his arms, he knew that the feeling he felt in that memory was not of the kind he felt now, having just enjoyed a vigorous turn between the sheets with his longtime, erstwhile lover and the inevitable release, breaking just moments after he'd felt her shatter around him.
No, he thought, that's not it.
He blinked a couple of times, wondering if the vaguely familiar sensation was one of excitement, but after kneading his lip between his teeth for a minute, that didn't seem right, either. He imagined his boyish feet running over the cobblestones the way only a well-acquainted pair of feet could, each foot falling in front of the other with breathless purpose as he ran through the alleys behind the long, brick warehouses adjacent to the quayside.
A shiver rolled up his spine at the thought.
This, he thought, this is what I didn't have.
He thought of where she'd found him, just a few hours before, in an alley behind another brick warehouse, the cold wind nipping under his coat as he rifled through a pile of ruined wooden pallets, looking for a scrap of the right size and shape to use as a stake to end himself. In that alley, he'd arrived at the conclusion that he was unwanted, worthless and unredeemable, his life too sodden with pain and too bereft of any purpose to be worth living. Then she found him, her blue eyes shimmering in the shadow of the meatpacking warehouse, just out of reach of the flickering electric street light. She'd found him, taken him in, cleaned him up, cared for him, and made him feel wanted, worthy and, perhaps more than anything, capable of some kind of redemption. Then she'd gave him the gift that would redeem him and enable him to find the thing he was missing most sorely...
Angel bent his head a little and pressed a light kiss on her forehead. Brennan's hand, which had been squeezing and unsqueezing his gently as their fingers lay intertwined, finally stilled, and as he felt the warm, soft puffs of her breath on his sticky skin slow to a scarcely-detectable intermittence, he knew that she'd fallen asleep. Even in that sleep, she snuggled closer to him, as if drawn to him for no other reason than what part of herself she'd given into his keeping. He smiled against the skin of her brow and kissed her again, then felt his own eyelids grow heavy, his thoughts lazy as his mind let go of everything except for the thought of how silky her hair felt beneath his stroking fingertips and the sound of her tiny little snores, faint little wisps that might not have been noticed by anyone not gifted as he was with unnaturally keen hearing. A few more minutes passed in such near-silence before Angel, too, fell asleep, his arms wrapped around her slumbering form.
Some hours later—how many, Brennan did not know, nor could she bring her groggy mind to care in the moments after her eyes fluttered open—she woke up and found herself curled up in her bed, comfortable and warm in the down comforter that was wrapped snugly around her shoulders and the warm flannel sheets that caressed her naked body. Her eyes closed again and she murmured something inaudible and inconsequential into the duvet before her eyes opened once more with a start. She looked over and saw the cream-colored sheets next to her slightly creased, as if by sweat, but when her hand slid across the mattress and found the fabric cool to the touch, too cold to have had anyone sleeping on them recently, not even a cool-skinned vampire, her heart began to race.
"Angel?" she called out, her voice hoarse from sleep. She cleared her voice and called out to him again. "Angel?"
After a few moments, the bedroom door creaked open and a dark-headed, clean-shaven face appeared in the doorway.
"You're awake," he said with a smile. He stood there wearing a pair of charcoal-hued wool trousers he'd found folded on the top of her dresser along with a white, tank-style undershirt and suspenders. She glanced down and saw him wiggling his bare toes against the well-burnished hardwood floor at the entrance to her bedroom.
"Yes, obviously," she said, returning his smile as she sat up in bed and propped a pillow behind her back. A hardness formed in her throat as she saw him standing there, a confident grin on his face as he raked his hand through the couple of inches of brown hair she'd left on the top of his head. Her stomach clenched as a wave of nausea washed over her. "You're not...tell me you're not leaving," she said.
He opened the door all the way and slid his hand into the pocket of his trousers as he cocked his head to the side. "No," he said. "I'm not leaving, Bren."
She let out a breath she hadn't, until that moment, even realized she was holding. "Oh, good," she said with a heavy sigh of relief. "That's...that's very good. Not that I was worried or anything." She looked up at him with a bit of a sheepish grin cracking her face. "Because, I wasn't."
"Of course not," he said with a small smile of his own playing at the corners of his mouth. "How are you doing?"
Her eyes skimmed along the hard, muscular line of his arm from his wrist, up his forearm to the edge of his bicep to the round of his shoulder. He had, indeed, shed a substantial quantity of muscle mass since the last time she'd seen him, noticeable to her after all of the nights she'd spent gazing on the form of his body. Her gaze fell to his belly, concealed by the white ribbed fabric of his undershirt. No sooner had she turned her focus to his stomach than her own seemed to cry out for attention, gurgling its frustrations at her beneath the covers.
"I'm hungry," she grumbled. "I imagine you are, too."
"Yes," he said with a lopsided grin. "What are ya hungry for?" he asked her, a faint reminder of his long-faded Irish brogue ringing through on the edges of his voice. "Let's take care of your hunger and then we'll see about mine." His dark eyes glittered with laughter at his own double entendre.
"Mmmm," Brennan murmured as she reached up and tucked a strand of her sleep-tousled hair behind her ear. "I'd kill for some caffeine...and maybe something sweet?"
"Kill?" he coughed. "Well, you needn't worry about having to do that." Angel turned and looked over his shoulder towards her kitchen, wrinkling his nose as he turned back to face her. "Give me a minute, mmm-kay?" He held up a finger and waggled it gently, then turned and walked away.
Brennan watched him disappear around the corner and after few seconds heard the whistle of a tea kettle. She listened to him pour the water and shuffle around, clanking around a bit in a way that was loud enough and awkward enough to her ears that she couldn't help but smile to think that, for a stealthy, night-stalking creature of darkness, he was making a tremendous racket in the kitchen. Her forehead creased impatiently as she sat in bed and waited for him to return.
A few minutes passed before Angel once again filled the doorway of her bedroom, nudging it open with his elbow as he walked in with a large wooden tray. Brennan sat up in bed, fluffing the pillows and arranging them as a bolster behind her back as she extended her legs beneath the duvet. Angel grinned as he set the tray down, its legs settling into the down on each side of her lap. Glancing up to briefly meet her bright blue eyes before returning his attention to her breakfast tray, he checked the tea to ensure it was steeped as suited her tastes, then picked up a china cup and poured her tea, careful to leave her just enough room for milk. He smiled at a private amusement as he added just a splash of milk, watched it billow in the dark liquid as it rose to the top, then stirred it gently before handing her the cup and saucer.
"Here you go," he said with a grin, watching her with an arched brow as she brought the cup to her lips.
"After almost twenty-five years, you still remember how I take my tea?" she said with a chuckle.
Angel shrugged as he reached over and placed a raisin scone on a small plate, waiting for her to set down her cup and saucer before handing her the crumbly treat. "I haven't forgotten anything, Bren," he said in a low, even voice. "I remember everything about you."
Brennan laughed. "And, I remember you like your tea steeped dark," she said. She took a bite of the cherry scone and made a humming sound as the sweetness hit her tongue.
"Dark, strong, intense and Irish," he said. "Like me." He paused and winked. "Three out of four ain't bad."
"Is this your not-so-subtle way of revealing your plan to charm me into drinking Irish tea?" she asked with eyes narrowed in feigned skepticism as she chewed the bit of scone she'd eaten, swallowed it, and then reached for another bit.
"Rome wasn't built in a day," he quipped. "I'll have you change your ways yet."
"Hmmmph," she replied noncommittally. "We'll have to see about that."
And with that, they raised their cups of tea, Angel tipping his in silent, smiling acknowledgement, and they drank.
After a minute, when the pair set the tea cups down and Angel moved the tray to the the top of her dresser, she gestured for him to join her in bed. He happily complied and when he was seated next to her, he asked in a quiet voice, "Are you really okay, lass?"
She was silent and then nodded at him. "For the first time in a long time, I think—well, yes. I think I'm going to be okay." Tilting her head, she nodded at him and asked, "Are you, Angel? Really and truly?"
He stared at her, daring to reach out once more to touch her face, and leaned forward to kiss her. He stopped just short of her lips, and when brown eyes met blue, he nodded with a soft smile on his face, "You know, for the first time in a long time, I think—well, yeah, Bren. I think I'm going to be okay."
As she looked at him for a moment, her eyes flashed a brighter blue, and she sealed their bargain with one more kiss to start the new day.
A/N2- So, there you have it. We hope you enjoyed this part of our Angel(us)/Brennan arc. To date, this piece was the most difficult to write, and we hope you can now see why. It's very complex, and lots of things are being put into play that will explain why things turn out the way they do later on do the line. As this is a cross-over piece, one thing that both writers have striven to do is stay as true to the canon of both shows as possible. For example, who would've thunk it, but the show does really establish that Angel was trolling the streets of Chicago in the 1920s. Isn't that the weirdest coinkydink ever, huh? Anyway, we will continue to do this in the remaining five of nine pieces that will tell this tale.
Next up, we take a big time jump. It's Los Angeles, 2003. Brennan travels to LA to see Angel on Halloween. For those familiar with Angel canon, that places our storyline in tandem with that show's early season 5. In addition, to those with good memories, you may recall that Angel only had one Halloween-themed episode in its entire five-year run. For us, it wasn't coincidence. We'll give no more hints than that since one of us already thinks we said too much. But, hopefully, your curiosity is piqued and your whistles have been wet. If you'd like to see what comes next...and have enjoyed this behemoth of a posting monstrosity, please...let us know what you think. We sincerely appreciate it many times over in advance and extend to you our thanks.