Who Am I Now
Chapter 7 – Return of What Was Lost
A/N: This chapter is a bit long (and long in coming); Sorry I lost focus for a while. Angelus' words are in double equals (== ==). Thoughts are in single quotes (' ').
Buffy entered her house and looked around the living room. If what Angel said was true, then everything in this house was either at least fifty years old or had been replace over the years by the residents of Sunnydale. She plopped down onto the sofa. It still felt the same - comfortable and familiar. Then she remembered her weapons chest that Xander had made for her. She ran up the stairs to her bedroom and found the chest right where it was supposed to be.
She approached the weapons chest with apprehension; she didn't know why, but she was almost afraid of what she would find when she lifted the lid. She was relieved to find that everything was there and in place, even the original Mr. Pointy was there. She recalled that, as it had started to get worn from use, she had tried to copy it; she wanted to hold onto it, after all, it was all she had left from Kendra.
Buffy sat on the floor next to the weapons chest removing the items one at a time and trying to remember when she last used each one. At the bottom of the chest, beneath the fake bottom, where she usually kept her sword, the one that she used in her fight with Angelus years ago, she found the sword, but she also found something else, a scythe.
'What on earth is this, and how did it get in my weapons chest?' was her first thought. Her second thought was, 'I can feel the power coming off this thing without touching it; it feels like it belongs to me, and although it feels familiar, I still can't figure out how it got here. I know it wasn't here the last time I looked into this chest.'
She considered calling Angel to ask him about it, but she remembered she hadn't been able to find her cell phone, 'If they still use cell phones today.'
The more Buffy thought about her situation, the more confused she became. Sunnydale may look as though it had been forgotten by time, but what about the rest of the world? What kind of changes have been made in medicine, travel, technology, international affairs? Again she thought of her friends and wondered where they were. In her talk with Angel they had not mentioned the demon population; was there still a slayer in the world?
Buffy felt so out of place, like she didn't belong here anymore, but where did she belong? Her friends would be at least eighty years old by now and Giles, if he was still alive, would probably be over one-hundred years old; and Angel – he had been so distant. Maybe it was from the shock of seeing her after so many years.
'I guess I can understand that, after all he said he had waited for me all these years, still that is a long time to wait. I hope he found a female companion in that time. I hate to think of him alone, waiting for me, not knowing when, or if, I would return. Gods, what am I going to do? What kind of life can I have now? I'll be starting over from scratch, no skills outside slaying; how am I going to support this house?
Buffy replaced the contents of her weapons chest, leaving the scythe out. She had to figure out what it was and why it was there.
"Okay, Summers," she spoke out loud to herself, "enough of this pity party; get up and start planning next steps, starting with …."
Before she could finish the sentence, she heard the doorbell ring. 'I wonder who that is.'
Buffy walked down the stairs carrying the scythe which she quickly placed behind the door to the dining room before turning toward the front door. She opened the door to find a delegation of six people, mostly senior citizens, based on the way they looked. She stared open-mouthed for a few seconds until the man in front of the group spoke.
"Hello, Buffy, it's good to have you back."
Buffy recognized the man as soon as he smiled. "J-Jonathan? Hi."
"May we come in?"
"Oh, I'm sorry; yes, of course; please come in."
As each person walked into the house they re-introduced themselves. Amy Madison-Levinson, now Jonathan's wife, Andrew Wells, Percy West, Oz Osborne.
Before the last person could say anything, Buffy stopped her with a firm hand on her chest.
"Harmony," she blurted out; "you're a vampire. I'm not inviting you in."
"Buf-fyyy," Her whine sounded so much like Dawn.
"It's okay, Buffy," Jonathan told her; "Harmony has her soul. Actually she's the one that has been maintaining your home for you for the past few decades."
"You did?" Buffy looked questioningly at her former classmate who gave her a smile and nodded.
"Okay, well ..." Buffy stepped back and allowed Harmony to enter.
Harmony surprised her by giving her a hug. "I'm so happy to see you, Buffy."
"Uh … thanks." She looked at the rest of her visitors. "Everybody please have a seat."
Jonathan and the others took seats in Buffy's living room. All of the humans looked really good for people who should be about eighty years old
"I would offer you something to drink, but I'm not sure what's in the refrigerator."
Harmony jumped up. "I keep a plentiful supply of soft drinks on hand. Is that okay with everybody?"
After getting everyone's request, Harmony left the room and returned very quickly with a tray of beverages.
Not knowing that she had visited Angel earlier in the day, the visitors proceeded to bring Buffy up to date on the happenings in Sunnydale over the past fifty years. As Angel had told her, every effort had been made to keep the city the way it looked when she lived there. Of course some things had to be kept up to code as time marched on and progress was made. Buffy's house contained up-to-date plumbing, heating and cooling systems as well as computer and communication systems. Basic comforts such as furnishings and food supplies were kept as close to the originals as possible.
"I know that some people think that I told them to keep things ready for me because I would return and I appreciate that you did, but I don't remember saying any such thing to anyone. I don't even remember where I've been. I don't understand any of this. Why haven't I aged?"
"I wouldn't worry about it, Buffy," Amy told her; "I'm sure your memories will return once you get re-acquainted with your surroundings. I'm also sure that the Powers had a hand in this."
"Maybe you're right. I'm probably worrying for nothing," Buffy replied, but in her heart she wasn't so sure.
After the mayor and his 'Welcome Back Buffy' delegation left, Buffy stood in the middle of her living room more baffled than she could ever remember being. This was all just too surreal.
"No, actually, this is more like a nightmare than a dream." Buffy spoke her thoughts out loud to the empty room. She retrieved the scythe from behind the dining room door.
"I wonder what stories you have to tell me," she asked the weapon as she turned it over and examined it.
"Maybe I can help; mind if I come in?"
She spun around quickly, startled by the familiar voice that had come from behind her.
"You have got to be kidding me; what are you doing here? What have you done?" Her green eyes blazed with anger as she faced the balance demon standing in front of her. "I should have known that it would be you.
"What...have...you...done?" She demanded as she approached Whistler threateningly.
"Take it easy, slayer; remember, I'm just the messenger.
"Here," he said as he reached out to touch her left temple; "you'd better sit down."
Buffy knees gave way and she dropped the scythe as she was caught by Whistler. He helped her to the sofa behind her as memories started to assault her mind.
She screamed, moaned and sobbed as she experienced the events of her life in vivid detail – from the time she left Angel at the Sunnydale city line and was escorted to Sunnydale High School by six magically cloaked vampires from Clan Aurelius, through her epic fight with and final victory over Ristard. She saw herself, triumphant, but badly beaten and barely standing, as she heard what sounded like a siren and the next thing she knew she was being transported through what looked like a long bright tunnel to end up in a hall of mirrors. She stood there, whole and healthy; all signs of her fight with Ristard had disappeared and she felt stronger than ever.
Before her stood nine beings, seven of which seemed to glow with an unearthly light and two others that seemed to be of lesser importance. 'The Powers That Be, I'm thinking,' Buffy thought to herself.
"You are correct, slayer" a voice from the middle Power answered her thoughts. "This day Clan Aurelius has caused a severe disturbance in the balance that existed among earth's dimensions. Portals to hell have been opened in dimensions where none existed before; demons will have free access to environments whose inhabitants are totally unprepared to defend themselves."
The middle Power nodded briefly to the two lesser beings and the two of them disappeared. The Power pointed a finger at one of the mirrors and said, "Observe."
Buffy saw the two lessor beings, Oracles, appear before Angel and Spike. The female Oracle spoke:
"Because of the actions of the Order of Aurelius, you two are the last surviving members of your clan. All other members of the Order of Aurelius have been eliminated. From this day forward there will be no other."
Angel knew that the Oracles were justified in their decision, but he could not accept that all of the Aurelian childer would be terminated. "Drusilla, Penn, Gretchen...all of the childer..." he stammered.
"They tried to destroy the human inhabitants of earth by unleashing hell; they succeeded in destroying much of Sunnydale, including your mate, and yet you grieve for them. Why?"
"I was sire or grand-sire to many of them, I was responsible for them; no matter where they were in the world, they always knew that they could come to me."
"The Powers have decided. There will never again be Aurelians other than yourselves."
With that the Oracles disappeared.
"Bloody fools," Spike raged; "why did they have to use magic that powerful? Was Ness that important to them? Clan Aurelius was the most powerful and most feared clan on this planet. Now look at us; we're alone."
Angel nodded his head sadly. "We may seem alone now, but one of us will be human some day. The other will then know what it means to be truly alone in the world."
The head Power pointed again and the images in the mirror disappeared.
"Angel. Angelus." Buffy whispered as the Power approached her.
"Your dimension and some others have warriors who are capable of defending its inhabitants, but there are other human dimensions that do not."
"Let me guess. You want me to go and help those that can't defend themselves." Buffy said, certain that she was right.
"Will you go?"
The question was simple, Buffy knew that the task would not be. She turned to look at the mirror that recently opened on her world and whispered in her heart, "Goodbye, my loves."
She then turned back to the Power and answered. "Yes."
Out of the corner of her eye she saw someone approaching and as she turned to see them more clearly, she heard the Power say, "Here is your guide; listen to him."
As the person approaching became clearer, Buffy choked out, "Whistler? You're my guide? Incredible."
She heard a chuckle and turned to see the Powers disappear.
When Whistler reached her, he said simply, "I'm the messenger, kid; trust me." He handed her a weapon – a scythe. "Here, this is yours."
"What is this?"
"Your scythe and new best friend. Now let's get started."
Before they went any further, Buffy had one request. She wanted to be allowed to see her mother; she had to know that her mother was happy and at peace where she was. The Powers must have allowed that because Whistler let her see her mother. To Buffy, Joyce looked as she remembered her when she was a child growing up in Los Angeles – beautiful, smiling, happy, doing something that she had always loved – painting. Buffy was pleased with that.
On and on the memories assaulted her mind with more and more details - through every battle she had fought for the Powers, through every dimension they had sent her to in order to restore the balance caused by the ripple effect of the magic used by Ristard and his followers, magic that had far reaching effects into all of the human dimensions that were touched by the hell that had a portal that opened in Sunnydale.
Buffy lost count of the years that passed as she and Whistler tele-ported among dimensions. 'This must be the fifty years during which Angel thought I was dead.'
Fifty years of memories, of victories, of near-defeats, of injuries that sometimes took weeks to heal even with the upgraded slayer package that Whistler had delivered from the Powers, to waking up in her bed upstairs, all played out in her mind in three dimensions, color and surround sound.
Buffy moaned and screamed, laughed and grieved, suffered and rejoiced as past events replayed in her mind. She saw friends she had made but had to leave, people she had fought beside, and children she had saved. There were also those she had lost, that she had been too late to save.
She had also encountered a few dimensions that were so much like her own that she felt that she could be happy there, that she wished she could live out her life there – but she knew that was impossible; there were always other battles to be fought.
She saw now why the scythe felt so familiar; between the scythe and Whistler, her life had been saved many times over.
The scythe and Whistler had been the only constants through it all.
Every time she was at what seemed to be her lowest point yet, he was by her side; he always provided the encouragement that she needed to continue, to fight another day, to save another life.
The false portals that had been forced open by the Aurelians' magic had to be closed so that life could return to normal. That was where Whistler really showed his true colors; while it's true, he was a good fighter, the magical power that he exhibited was just amazing. Buffy and the natives that supported her efforts could not have been successful without his help.
She was never promised a reward for her efforts, but what he had told her on many occasions was that things would get better, that she would not always have to fight, that there was a peaceful and happy future ahead, just waiting for her.
Buffy always imagined, always hoped, that that happy future included Angel and Angelus. Now, she could not be sure. She could not see a happy future ahead for herself. It was true – she was back home, in her own dimension, her own house, but she was also fifty years behind the times and Angel didn't seem to be the Angel that she remembered and, thanks to him, Angelus was not available to her any more.
"What now, Whistler? Where is that happy future that you promised me?"
"It is right in front of you, kid; all you have to do is reach out and touch it. I told you last night that all you have lost will be returned to you."
"That was you?"
"Yes, and I have returned all of your most precious memories to you."
"Why did you take away my memories in the first place?"
"I had to, kid. The Powers ordered it. There were some things that you encountered that would have left you mentally scarred for life, submersed in a dungeon of mental agony from which you would have never returned. The Powers would not allow that.
"Now, how can I help you find the life that should have been yours?"
"There are two things that I want, Whistler. One - I want the spell removed that was cast on Angelus to silence him and two – I am sure that he will outlive me, so at the end of his life, I want him to join me, no matter where I am."
Whistler did not answer her at first and Buffy knew that he was listening to instructions from his bosses. When at last he spoke, his voice was subdued.
"Your first request has been granted. Visit the mansion tomorrow; when you see Angelus, speak to him directly and say his name. The sound of his name from your lips will trigger the end of the silencing spell.
"Your second request is not so simple. The Powers will not just allow a demon to enter heaven. Angelus must seek his own redemption and he must do it without prompting from you or anyone else. He must voluntarily seek redemption, after all, it is not Angel that needs redeeming.
"When it comes to you, the two of them are the same and you love them equally, both have to atone, one far more than the other.
"Angel will be given his humanity and separated from Angelus. At that time the Powers will determine whether or not Angelus is sincere about wanting to redeem himself. It is only with that redemption will he be allowed to join you. He will not know what his reward will be.
"When Angel dies, his soul will go on to its reward; if the demon has not yet atoned then he will have to do so on his own. Then, at the end of his life, the Powers will make their decision.
"You have earned my respect and admiration many times over. Until we meet again, goodbye slayer."
Whistler kissed Buffy on the cheek and disappeared from her living room as quickly as he had appeared hours earlier.
"Goodbye, Whistler," Buffy spoke softly. She was going to miss the balance demon; he had meant so much to her over the last fifty years. "Thank you." She whispered the words, but she knew that he could hear her.
Angel awoke early the next morning. He didn't understand; it felt like he had just gone to bed. He rolled over and hit someone else in bed with him.
"What the …? Angelus?"
Angelus was sitting up on the other side of the bed. He looked at Angel and pointed to his own chest questioningly. Angel slowly brought his hand to his chest and a big smile spread across his face. He had a heartbeat.
Without thinking, he reached over and hugged Angelus. The vampire didn't move. Angel pulled away and the two of them stared at each other.
"I don't know how this happened. Buffy must have done this, but how could she?"
Angelus shook his head and opened his hand, palm up, indicating that he was as clueless as Angel was.
"You still can't speak," Angel stated and Angelus shook his head sadly.
The morning after her visit from Whistler Buffy got up early, had breakfast and headed for the mansion; she had to see Angel and Angelus. She expected that Angel would be sleeping during the day but she couldn't wait until evening to have Angelus' voice returned to him.
Buffy arrived at the mansion before seven o'clock in the morning and Gunn, who was always an early riser, answered when she rang the door bell. She recognized him right away.
"Gunn!" she exclaimed, "good morning; nice to see you again."
"Hey, girl, come on in; Angel told me that you were back."
Buffy stepped inside; it didn't even look like the dwelling she remembered. It had been beautifully redone, but she was so anxious to see Angelus, she barely noticed.
"He's sleeping right now, but I'll get him for you," Gunn continued as he headed for Angel's bedroom. He returned quickly.
"He's not there. Where could he be this time of day?"
They heard a noise coming from the garden and hurried that way.
Buffy saw Angel first, in sunlight; she approached him. "Angel, you're human?" She couldn't believe it.
"It is pretty incredible. It happened sometime after I fell asleep before daybreak this morning."
Tears came to her eyes as she whispered, "Angelus?"
Angel pointed toward the west side of the garden. She turned and saw Angelus; he was standing in the shadows. She approached him and spoke his name. Instantly, his voice returned.
He grabbed her and held her so close. He then kissed her passionately. When he eased out of the kiss to allow her to breathe, he still held onto her, peppering kisses on her face and her neck as he whispered words of love and devotion.
She snuggled closer to him as she nuzzled against the side of his neck. "Okay who are you and what have you done with my Angelus?"
At those words he lifted her up and spun around with her, both laughing and shedding tears of joy.
"Heyyy", Angel interrupted, "you weren't that happy to see me."
==Ignore him, baby, he's just jealous.==
"You guys are gonna drive me batty."
==No way, baby.== Angelus told her. ==We're going to give you all the love you've missed in the last fifty years.==
Angel joined them and Buffy found herself sandwiched between her two very amorous loves.
"Oh gods," Buffy groaned; "I don't know if I can take it."
They all laughed.
==No more going away, Buff.==
"That's right, love; you're staying right here with us from now on."
"No argument from me," Buffy agreed and kissed them both. "I finally know who I am and where I belong."
Surprisingly, Buffy, Angel and Angelus lived happily together. That is not to say that the vampire and the former vampire did not have their disagreements – they did, but more often than not, they settled their differences without letting Buffy know about them.
All three were saddened when Gunn died in his sleep less than ten years after Buffy returned.
Sunnydale was now a nice quiet little town. The hellmouth had been reasonably quiet since the Ristard incidence. As was the custom before Buffy's return, the slayer currently assigned to the hellmouth was accompanied on patrol by either Angel, Spike or Harmony. Now that Buffy was back the current Watchers' Council felt that their slayer could be better used elsewhere and asked Buffy to resume responsibility for Sunnydale; they were never told that it was actually Angelus and not Angel who patrolled with her.
Spike and Harmony were invited to move into the mansion; they happily agreed.
Buffy aged slowly and she and her two loves lived a long and happy life together. Buffy gave birth to two sons and a daughter who were treated as offspring of both Angel and Angelus.
Angel died forty-seven years after Buffy moved into the mansion. She and Angelus were at his side when he breathed his last breath. "I know that you will take good care of her, Angelus," were his last words.
Both Buffy and Angelus grieved their loss. She died three years later and Angelus was inconsolable.
After Buffy's funeral, Spike asked Angelus, "You're free now, what will you do?"
He was surprised when Angelus answered, without hesitating,
==I will continue to protect my family and I will continue the fight that the soul started.==
"Why? You're free; you can do whatever you want."
==I would never abandon my family and I could never go back to being what I was. I don't know, I guess Buff and the soul have changed me more than I ever imagined.==
"Well as long as I'm around, I've got your back, after all, we're still the only two left; we're still family."
==Yeah, we are. Harmony too.==
"You mean that?"
==Of course. She may not've been made by an Aurelian, but she's your mate. That makes her family.==
Many years in the future Angelus died saving Harmony. He took a poisoned dart meant for her.
==Find me, Will, wherever I am, whenever your time comes, find me.==
"I will, sire, I promise you. Wherever you are, I will do my best to find you and your slayer."
Angelus smiled then as he turned to dust.
Spike and Harmony wept bitter tears over the loss of their sire and friend.
"I will keep my promise to him; wherever he goes, I will do all in my power to see that we are a family again – Angelus and Buffy, you and me."
"So will I, Spikey," Harmony told Spike through tears; "so will I."
Spike and Harmony promised each other that if one of them died before the other, then the other would follow their mate.
Eighteen years after the death of Angelus, Harmony was killed defending one of Buffy's descendants, a future slayer.
Spike took the girl to the home of her cousin who was the current slayer; he stayed with her until her cousin came home early the next morning, bid the family goodbye and walked into the sun.
He experienced a little pain and then it was all over. He felt pleasant and warm, but he was reluctant to open his eyes, fearful of what he might find, until he heard a familiar voice say,
==Come on, Will, we can't start your 'welcome to paradise party' without the guest of honor.==
Spike opened his eyes to see the smiling faces of Angelus, Buffy, Angel, Harmony, Faith, Joyce, Giles, Willow, Xander, Oz, Dawn and hoards of others who were there to welcome him. His first words were, "I hope somebody remembered to bring beer."
Harmony greeted him with a hug, offered him a bottle of his favorite brew and told him, "It wouldn't be a party for you without it."
Buffy stood between Angel and Angelus with an arm around their waists. Angel had an arm around her shoulders and Angelus had an arm around her waist. She had endured so much over her lifetime on earth, but now, looking back on her life she acknowledged that it had all been worth it. She had lost so much over the years, but now, as she looked around her, she realized that she would never again have to lose her mates or her family or her friends. Not ever.