Echoes And Angels
A Witchblade fanfiction by Talismaniactress

Author's Note: After a delay of a year and a half, here FINALLY is the last chapter and the epilogue. It's dedicated to magicks, who saw where this fic was going from the very beginning. I hope you all enjoy it.

"I will not tell you, 'Do not weep,' for not all tears are an evil." –Gandalf, The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

Chapter Eighteen: Not All Tears

It took Sara less than thirty minutes to get from her loft to Gabriel's apartment after Lyanka left. She banged loudly on the door several times before it occurred to her to try the handle, and to her amazement it was actually unlocked. "Gabriel?" she called hesitantly as she stepped into his living room.

The curtains were pulled shut and the lamps were turned off, throwing the room into a deep gloom. It took Sara a few moments to locate her young friend; he sat in his armchair, facing a dead computer screen, turning something over and over in his hand and staring blankly into space.

"Gabriel?" she said again, softer, and took another step toward him.

"She's gone."

"What?" Sara stopped, startled.

"Lyanka. She's gone."

"I—how did you know?"

"She was here a moment ago." His voice sounded utterly monotone and lifeless.

"She was here? But she couldn't have been, she was—" Sara stopped again, realizing that she had just said that a fifteen-hundred-year-old vampire couldn't move faster than she herself could. "What happened?" she asked instead.

"I assume you know everything?" he asked. When Sara nodded, he snorted bitterly and went on, "I realized who she was this afternoon. She gave me this," and he held up the thing he'd been turning about; it was Lyanka's wedding ring, "but I didn't really look at it until after she'd left. And then I realized where I'd heard the name Angharad of Avalon recently." He tossed the ring into the air, and Sara's hand shot out almost automatically and caught it. "It's inscribed on the band," Gabriel told her.

Sara had to squint hard to make out the tiny script in the dark room, but there it was – Angharad of Avalon.

"I was so hurt and afraid that when she knocked on my door this evening, I didn't even give her a chance to say anything. I just went off on her, about how could she lie to me and what the hell was she and what did she want from me because of course she must want something. Heaven forbid that a vampire should fall in love." He sighed bitterly. "She just stood there and looked at me until I was done ranting at her. For a second, I—I almost thought she was going to cry. But she just said, 'I'm sorry,' and kissed me on the cheek and… and left. Something told me I wasn't going to see her again. I'm not, am I?"

"No," Sara admitted. She sighed and pulled a chair up beside him. "Look, Gabriel, I'm sorry—"

"Don't apologize," Gabriel said, launching himself suddenly out of his chair and going to the window. "It wasn't your fault."

Sara followed him and laid a gentle hand on his shoulder. "I know it wasn't, kiddo, but—"

"AND WOULD YOU STOP CALLING ME KIDDO!" Gabriel bellowed suddenly, whirling to face Sara with a furious expression on his face.

Sara, taken completely aback by the uncharacteristic outburst, gaped at him.

"I am NOT a child," he went on heatedly, "so for God's sake will you stop treating me like one?!"

"…sorry," she said meekly, still staring.

To her shock, tears began sliding down his cheeks. "I'm so fucking confused." The plaintive words tore from his throat in a near growl; Sara's heart twisted in sympathy and she had to work to keep herself from putting her arms around him and trying to comfort him. She told herself sternly that he'd only take it as another childish gesture, and besides, what on Earth could she say? By the way, sorry the love of your life just ditched you? She thought about how she'd have reacted if someone had said that to her after Daniel had died, and found it suddenly less difficult to bite the words back.

"I don't—I don't know what to say," she said instead, looking out the window without seeing the view. "You know I've never been much for all this emotion crap. But…" She swallowed, hard, and continued. "I've lost people, Gabriel. People I loved. A lot. And it hurts, and maybe you want someone to blame and take your anger out on, or maybe you want someone to run to who will make the hurt all better – but life's too damn contrary for that." Turning back to face him, she finished quietly, "In the end, the healing's gotta come from inside. Not from anywhere else." With a relief she'd never have admitted to, she saw the corner of his mouth tug sideways in the beginnings of a smile.

"You're pretty smart sometimes, you know that?" he sighed, scrubbing the dried tears from his face and running his hands through his hair. "But only sometimes," he added, his smile widening.

"Oh, well, how big of you to admit it." Sara rolled her eyes, but couldn't help grinning in response.

"Yeah, I know." This time Gabriel's smile even reached his eyes. "So what are you doing here, anyway? I'm assuming you didn't come by just to flaunt your superior intellect – although come to think of it, it sounds like something you would do… ow!" he squeaked as her leather-gloved fist hit his shoulder.

She glared at him, all her will concentrated on keeping her mouth from twitching into a smile. "Jerk."

"Only when I wanna be."

His smug expression made Sara's eyes narrow. "Men," she muttered, as if it were a curse word.

"So you're finally admitting I'm a man and not a kid?"

If she'd been better with the "emotional crap" as she called it, Sara might have picked up on the undertones to the question and thought harder about her answer to it. As it was, her flippant, "Not on your life!" did not get the reaction she'd expected.

Stepping forward, Gabriel caught her around the waist and, in one swift movement, kissed her. Quite thoroughly. A lot more thoroughly than she could ever remember being kissed before, in fact. Whoa, part of her brain put in dimly. Apparently Lyanka hadn't been kidding when she'd said Gabriel loved her. Someone forgot to deliver a memo somewhere… This was not at all where she'd wanted this conversation to go.

Or was it? Another part of her brain, the very, very small part that was not currently occupied with missing memos or Gabriel's mouth and hands, said snidely, Why did you think you were so jealous of Lyanka? But that was ridiculous, of course. She hadn't been jealous of Lyanka. She'd been suspicious of her because of the Witchblade vision, sure, and because she'd been trying to protect Gabriel, and because of Ian's warning, and… Don't be stupid, Sara. You were jealous and you know it. You admitted it to yourself, remember? Jealous that once upon a time, Gabriel would have dropped everything to help you, but when Lyanka came along you were shunted back to second place in his life. Ever stop to think about why that made you so angry?

It was a rhetorical question; she hadn't thought about it at all. Why should she have? He was seven years her junior, he was just a kid, it was instinctive to protect him— Ahhh, but that's the key, isn't it? That notion that he's "just a kid." He isn't, and you know it. You don't call him kiddo because you think he's a child, you call him kiddo to remind yourself to think of him as a child! You've always been attracted to him, you've always trusted him instinctively – you've always loved him.

It was that thought that finally brought her up short. She pulled away from him, more than slightly breathless, and stared at him in amazement. "Okay," she said, chest still heaving, "now I'M confused."

"Really?" He grinned. "I thought that was pretty straight-forward."

Sara glared and swatted ineffectually at the arms still encircling her waist. "I didn't mean that. I meant… I mean…" She stammered to a stop, paused, and looked him right in the eye. "I thought you loved Lyanka."

Gabriel's playful mood evaporated in an instant. "I did," he said quietly. "I do."

"You do? Meaning you still do love her?" This line of questioning was not making things any clearer.

"Yes," he sighed, "I do. And I always will." He caught her gaze and held it, continuing, "I don't give my heart lightly, Sara. I do love Lyanka – somehow, and I suspect you know more about this than I do, I know that she and I were meant to be together; in the same way I know that, I also know that we weren't meant to be together forever. Whatever she and I had is over. I'm never going to see her again, and that's okay." Sara's eyes narrowed, unwilling to believe his words, but there was nothing but flat honesty in his face. "Because I love you too, Sara. And that was not fate or destiny or God's will or anything else you might want to call it. Anything you and I have is our own, and nothing more. I don't care that you're the Wielder, I don't care that you have a higher calling, I don't even care anymore that I'm of this world and you're not. I love you, Sara Pezzini."

And she found that, hard as she tried, she couldn't even argue with him.

Epilogue:

She was never sure, afterward, just what it was that woke her that morning – it was too early for sunlight, and too silent for it to have been the birdcalls and small-town noises of a summer morning in upstate New York. Sara Pezzini yawned, stretched, and turned over to find the other half of her bed unexpectedly empty. She sat up with a start, looking around in a mild panic until she spotted her lover standing by the kitchenette and staring out the window.

Pulling the light sheet with her, she slid out of the bed and padded across the attic apartment toward him, wrapping him in the sheet as well when she reached his side. Without a word he took her hand, twining his fingers into hers. She leaned her head on his shoulder and watched the predawn light grow stronger.

"What's up?" she asked softly after a long quiet pause.

"She's dead."

Even though it had been five years since either of them had mentioned her name, Sara knew in an instant that he meant Lyanka Ladaei. She started to ask if he was sure, and then stopped – there had been absolutely nothing in his voice to suggest he wasn't. "How do you know?" she asked instead.

He half shrugged, dislodging her head briefly from his shoulder. "I just… know," he said quietly.

And she could understand that; often he would "just know" things about her, too, like when to call her at work with the information she needed for a case, or when to surprise her with things like this vacation weekend, or once, when she was sick and didn't realize it – he'd insisted she go to the hospital for a bad cough, and it had turned out to be pneumonia. She might have died without his loving (albeit infuriatingly stubborn) intervention.

So Lyanka was dead, was she? The last vampire, finally finding peace and fading out of the world's memory… there was both irony and poetry to it, and Sara didn't care for either one. Still, she couldn't help feeling sad as, together with Gabriel, she watched the sun rise.

After another long pause, she spoke up again. "What happens now?" she asked quietly.

When he looked down at her, she was startled to see a tear slip down his cheek, though the smile he gave her was genuine. "I don't know," he told her honestly. "I guess this is the end of the past and the real beginning of the future."

Our future. Hugging herself tightly against his side, Sara decided she could live with that much poetry.