Angel was the only one at the desk. Cordelia had a date and Wesley had already gone home. The door opened. He looked up expecting one of them had forgotten something. Instead there was a woman standing in the door way.
"Is this Angel Investigations?" She looked down at the card in her hand.
"I am," He said awkwardly "It is. I'm Angel." He sent her his brightest smile.
She crossed the distance of the lobby and stood face to face looking at him in wonder. Her eyes softening. "It's really true. I mean I know that she said it was but I didn't actually believe her. You actually exist. I thought that maybe she was just losing her mind. She talked about you all the time." Her eyes clouded a bit at the painfulness of the memories. "She forgot all our names but she still remembers yours."
"I'm sorry." He said automatically.
"If it wasn't for you she wouldn't have lived to remember them." She reached into her purse and pulled out a small journal. She handed it to him. "Look inside."
He opened it to the first page and found his own image. He flipped the page. Over and over again. The yellowed pages carried his resemblance in a hundred different places always the same even as the world was changing around him. In the middle of the book was a stack of photos pressed carefully between the pages. He looked at them one at a time caught up in the memories they brought back. The girl he'd saved from Darla and watched grow up. He'd kept her with him as long as he could. Until the smell of her grew to tempting. Then sent her somewhere she'd be safe. Apparently it had worked. The last picture was a weird combination of emotions buried in his heart. An old woman with lines around her eyes and a soft smile. Her white hair hanging around her face in loose curls a butterfly barrette held it out of her face. Her weathered hand held the book against her chest like a prayer. He flipped over the picture looking for the date. "'96?" He looked up hopefully "Is she still?" He asked softly afraid to hope.
She smiled and asked "You remember her?"
He nodded, "I remember everyone. Everyone I saved, and everyone I...didn't."
"She is but she doesn't remember anyone now." She put her hand over his. "Angel, She's old, she's tired. Her last wish was that we found you so she could say goodbye."
"Where is she, I can go now." He put the photos back in the book and handed it to her.
"Home." She said taking the offered book and placing it back in her purse. "It's not far from here."
"Just give me a minute." He grabbed a pen and the memo pad and jotted a note to Cordelia and Wes in case one of them came by the office. He followed her until she pulled into a small driveway of an old house hidden behind a fence. He parked outside and hesitated not sure what to say to her.
"Don't worry. She won't bite." The woman said smiling back at him unlocking the door.
He nodded and followed her. Stopping at the door. She didn't look back "Come in Angel. You're always welcome in this house."
He stepped through the door still have expecting to hit a barrer. There wasn't one there. The house was spotless and smelled like Lemons and Apple Pies. "This way." She said and led him into the living room. There was a woman sitting on the couch with a man he was assuming was her husband sitting next to her sipping coffee nervously. Their eyes widened when they saw him but they didn't say anything. She led him down a short hallway to a bedroom. The lights were dim only a small lamp in the corner provided all the light for the room. The curtains were pulled tightly closed, and the room was full of flower prints. Flowers on the bed, on the rug, on the curtains. A frail woman was sleeping in the bed, her breathing labored gasping with each inhale seeming as though it could stop at any time. The woman moved around the bed, picking up pillows that had fallen onto the floor tucking the blankets more firmly around the sleeping form. Satisfied the room was presentable she picked up the mostly full glass of water off the nightstand beside the bed. "She should be asleep for about another hour or so then It'll be time for her morning medicines. If you want to wait in the living room until she wakes up." She saw to look on his face "Or you could stay here." She gestured to the couch pressed up to the wall.
"I'll stay." He whispered softly "I think I want to be here when she wakes up."
"Do you want something? A book or magazine," She hit her hand in a moment of realization. "I should have remembered this." She walked over to the closet and pulled down a leather binder. Dusty and time worn. She put it in his hand and for a second he just stared at it. He sat down on the couch throughly caught up in his own thoughts. He didn't even notice when she placed a set of artists pencils next to him and walked out the door. He looked at his own drawings of Darla and Spike and Drusilla from a hundred years before. When the pain of missing them was fresh enough to occasionally overpower the constant ache in his soul. He wondered how she had taken the book with him without him noticing. Even now he couldn't remember the last time he'd seen it. He found the first drawing he'd done of her. That first night when he'd ran as far as he could before the sun started rising. Content they weren't following him he slipped into an abandoned house with the child who'd fallen asleep in his arms. He laid her onto a bed as carefully as he could and caught up in a moment of hope he drew her as she looked then. Tiny, fragile and full of promise. He'd promised himself that he'd protect this one child with his life if he had to that she would be his only reason for existing for the rest of her life. She was the only reason he didn't meet the sun those first few years though sometimes it was more tempting than he would ever admit.
He stared at the drawings for a little while. When he made it to the last picture in the book he put it down. And looked around the room. She was still sleeping and he somehow found the changes in her saddening. Remembering how full of life she had been as a child so many years ago. He spotted the pencils and pulled one out of the cup. Checking the tip he started sketching her.
He was just finishing the drawing when she started waking up. The rattle of her cough pulled him from his thoughts. He put down the book and moved closer to the bed so he would be the first thing she saw. Her eyes were slow to clear but her slowly recognition crossed her face. "Angel" She whispered. Tears forming at the edge of her lashes. "Are you really here?"
"I am" He whispered kneeling down to be on her level and taking her hand in his. It felt like he could count the bones through her paper thin skin.
"I dreamed you'd come to take me home." She smiled at him. "I imagined that I'd died and found you waiting for me at the gates."
He gave her a sad smile "You know that isn't possible."
"It was a nice dream though." She smiled at him lovingly "It was good to see you happy. I'd never seen that before."
"I didn't have much to be happy about."
Her eyes clouded for a second "I don't have much time. I just wanted to tell you thank you. If it weren't for you I would have missed out on so much. Thank you."
"How did you know I'd be here?"
"Where else would you go to find a lost Angel?"
He couldn't think of an answer so instead he asked "Did you have a good life?"
"I did." She smiled at him " I had the love of a good man, three beautiful children, and I had you. How many people can say that?" She looked at him for a seemingly impossible length of time "What about you my Angel? Did you find love?"
"Yes," He smiled at her but she heard the ache behind it.
"I almost killed her." He whispered.
"But you didn't." She whispered just as quietly. "Angel. Some things are worth the risk."
"Not this time." He said. "It's okay, She's better off without me."
"Like I would have been?" She asked.
"You would have been better off if we'd never met." He said. "If it wasn't for me Darla wouldn't have went after your family."
"Don't hand me your second hand lies." She glared at him. "I've been around awhile now. People are going to do what they want no matter what you do. You can blame yourself all you want, but it was her choice not yours."
He stared at her. "You should rest."
"No." She glared at him. "I'll have plenty of time to rest when I'm gone." She pulled on his hand and he leaned closer to her. She put her cold hand on his cheek "There is so much I wanted to say to you. SO much I wanted to share with you. I would have spent my entire life by your side if you'd let me, but you pushed me away, because you didn't want to hurt me."
"I did what I thought was best."
"Angel, I'm still dying." She whispered. "and it has nothing to do with you. Is this what you want for her? To go visit her on her death bed to say good bye?"
"That wont happen." He said "She's a slayer, She'll die and I'll find out after it happens. If they even bother to tell me"
"You're ok with that?" The voice came from behind him. He turned to see the woman who'd come to the office standing in the doorway.
"I don't have a choice." He shrugged, "I'm needed here."
The haze descended on her eyes and she moved her hand to her forehead. "Angel, it's slipping. I can't remember..." She looked at her granddaughter. "I love you." She jerked her hand out of Angels "What are you doing. Don't touch me."
"Grandma?" She asked softly "Are you ready for your medicine."
"Who are you?" She asked growing steadily more upset.
"Angel." The girl said "Maybe you should go."
"I'd rather stay."
"Alright." She moved next to the bed carrying a fresh glass of water. "Grandma, it's time for your medicine." She handed her a small handful of pills. And the old woman swallowed them obediently. Her eyes cleared for a second as she swallowed the water.
"I'm sorry." She looked at Angel her eyes tearing up. "I may not come back again. I love you. If this girl makes you happy hold onto her. It's so hard to find someone able to love like that."
"I know." He whispered. "It took over two hundred years."
"You're willing to let her go?"
"I don't have a choice."
She smiled at him brightly "There's always a choice. But you're young. You still have time to make it work. Just don't wait too long or she may get old on you."
Angel walked into the hotel to see Wes and Cordelia at the desk talking. "I'm going upstairs."
"Did we get a new client?"
"No, just saw an old friend." He looked between them. "I'm going upstairs"
"Okay." Cordelia turned back to Wes who was watching Angel walk up the stairs.
"Did he seem off?"
"A little but not end of the world off. Let's just leave him alone if he's still weird tomorrow I'll say something."