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Journey's End

 

Project Paranormal

Author: Ares

Season 2

Part 2

 

**

 

Summary:  Is it the beginning of the end or the end of a beginning for Angel? He is running from himself and all he holds dear in the aftermath of that dreadful night.

 

This is for Dark Star and Jo who had faith in me and put up with endless questions.

A special thanks to Jo for the beta.

 

**

 

 

Journey’s End

 

 

Of all the people they least expect to see, it is this Angel fellow, the one that had been sent by Rupert Giles along with a Buffy Summers all those months ago. They literally step into his path after exiting a small but well recommended restaurant here in Cardiff. Alexander Powell and his fiancée Lorraine stare at the dark haired man.

 

“Hello? Angel isn’t it?” Alexander asks after an awkward silence.

 

Powell feels Lorraine give his hand a squeeze.

 

The man Angel averts his gaze to look beyond the couple.

 

“Alexander and…Lorraine,” he manages to say in way of a greeting as his eyes slide back.

 

“This is a turn up for the books. Are you here on a case? Is that nice young woman Buffy with you?” Powell tries to look over the vampire’s shoulder for some sign of the girl.

 

Angel ducks his head and curses inwardly. “I’m sorry, I have to go.” He steps around the pair, wondering if they have delayed him too long.

 

“Are you all right, Angel?” Lorraine asks, sensing something amiss. Angel’s body language is tense.

 

“I’m sorry,” he repeats before hurrying away.

 

The couple watches his broad back disappear into the night.

 

“How odd,” Alexander observes.

 

 

Angel had turned the corner on the small Welsh street following the scent of something familiar; stale blood and not too far ahead when he literally runs into the courting couple.

Unsure and unable to hold any sort of conversation he virtually flees the scene before more awkwardness ensues.

 

Out of sight of the humans he sags against a wall for a brief moment trying to regain his equilibrium. He can’t deal with, let alone talk to, anyone right now: his thoughts are scattered fragments, fragile threads that need to knit together to make any sense. Purpose keeps him moving, keeps him focused and what better than the protection of the innocent? He tells himself this as he hurries on.

 

Angel moves fast until he catches again the faint scent of his prey. The narrow streets with even narrower alleys offer good cover for vamps on the prowl, there are twists and turns that baffle even the locals here. This vampire has been following a young man. Angel sniffs the air and he smells the cologne the boy had splashed on earlier in the evening. Ducking into the alley Angel sees the struggling pair and he leaps the distance a stake ready to strike. The vampire releases his meal when Angel’s solid body smashes into them flinging them all onto the cobbled road. The lad is still alive; his hands skinned and bleeding and his is the only heartbeat hammering as Angel attacks the vampire with such fury that he is dust before the pain registers behind the demon’s eyes.

 

“What? Wh….” the young man groans.

 

Angel moves away until he is back on the street putting distance between him and the tantalizing aroma of sweet hot blood.

 

“Wait!” the young man calls as he gets to his feet but the vampire doesn’t wait. He has saved his life; there is nothing more to do and he is gone.

 

 

Angel feels the battle lust cool as he walks the streets, his shoulders in a familiar hunch. He avoids the eyes of the few humans he passes, not wanting them to see. The vampire this night hadn’t been much of a challenge, the demons he had dispatched the night before had made him work for the kill. He found that more to his liking. The fight and the kill, the pleasure and the pain were his companions now. Nothing much has changed he despairs, he is still Angelus all be it with a soul, and the soul hadn’t exactly been the paragon of virtue lately.  

 

Angel begins making his way back to his temporary abode. Days of roughing it had sent him in search of a hot shower and bed and there were plenty to be had here in Cardiff. Angel has chosen a tired motel, it is safe and it is cheap and the residents avoid each other but now it is time he moved on. Running into Powell and his fiancée was unfortunate; they would in all likelihood be in contact with Rupert Giles at some point and he couldn’t deal with him or her right now.

 

The hunger in his belly gnaws at him as he throws together his meager possessions. It has been several days since the deer in the woods and then he had barely been able to swallow a mouthful before his stomach rebelled. His body craves other nourishment, forbidden nourishment too recent to be just a memory; he treads on the guilty pleasure, kicking it below the surface where all his other dark pleasures lay.

 

Angel leaves the room bare and unlived in and, dropping the key into the box by the office window, he heads for the tracks that lead out of town. A forlorn whistle sounds as he picks his way over steel, the yard almost deserted at this late hour. The vampire decides on the spur of the moment to hop a freight train moving west, grateful the night is clear and not the usual dismal damp of Wales. Angel does not bother to find shelter, it is near to midnight and he figures only an hour till Swansea so instead he settles his bag under his head and stares up at the stars.

 

The wind plays with his hair and caresses his brow with cool fingers as he lies atop the gently rocking carriage. He does not feel the chill; it is all the same to him, air, snow, rain and heat. His unnatural body adapts just as he would adapt to this new….old life. He is alone because he is a monster, a mass murderer only this time one with a soul. An image of Buffy’s face rises unbidden; the look of horror and disgust etched across her face mirrors his own.

 

His mind can’t escape the last act he committed upon the slayers. Girls who were called to protect and save the world, girls who were called by great majicks, girls who could not save themselves from one vampire: the vampire known as Angel could well have been Angelus. He doesn’t feel the pain of nails piercing his palms or feel the blood ooze between his fingers, the only thing he is aware of is the overwhelming despair of self loathing and rage. He stares up into the abyss between the stars wishing he hadn’t fallen that far. The tatters of his soul are stretched so thin he can feel himself fading, disappearing into the ether above.

 

He has been used, once again a tool not of his choosing but a tool none the less. Whether he believed Ella in that he had been an instrument of the PTB or a weapon the Coven had wielded. It didn’t matter, good people, innocent people are dead. He is supposed to be a champion who helps the helpless; not a champion who kills good people to save the world. Not that he hasn’t done that before…..the knot in his chest squeezes tight, a fist of despair drags him back into hell where he belongs. A sob forms in his throat and he swallows it down and down and down to bury it beneath along with all his other hurts and failures. A hysterical bark erupts from his throat, beneath is getting rather crowded these days. He is sure that he will start to leak soon, all his cares and woes seeping out into the world. He gulps in air and holds it, lying perfectly still: perhaps if he acts like the corpse he is then someone will find his body and dispose of it. Again slightly manic, he laughs. A calm of sorts flows through him, unexpected, warm as heated oil, a liquid balm that soothes his tortured soul; his hands uncurl as he lets go to wander the sky above, his heart shattered below against the jagged anathema of happiness.

 

The slowing of the train rouses him from his trance and he glances at the sky once more before resting his eyes on the town below. Angel casually steps off the moving train and vanishes into the hills that surround Swansea. The vampire moves westward towards the coast. Ireland lies across Saint George’s Channel and something inside urges him on, moves him until he stands once more upon its emerald shores. Until now Angel has had no intention of ever crossing that wet divide. Eire holds the ghosts of his past. Hell, most of Europe does. Maybe, just maybe, confronting those ghosts will help him reconcile the new ones he has accumulated lately.

 

The echoes of a farm dog barking marks his journey as Angel glides through the countryside but he pays it no mind. The farmer when he comes will find his fields empty. He climbs stones walls and crosses dips and hollows avoiding the sheep that startle when he draws near. Hours later, Angel gives in to his renewed hunger and leaves the carcasses of two rabbits behind for others of the night. Angel finds his rest in an abandoned barn, he ensures that the roof is whole and the stone walls can offer ample shelter before settling down. He lies unable to sleep; instead he watches the light play across stone as dawn breaks. Minutes tick by, he is tired and yet awake still, and tense. He can feel the demon coiled waiting to rise again; he wants to rage, to tear, to kill, to do….anything to stop this feeling he has inside.

 

Then

 

Feeling inside……he is…..it is indescribable. Angel is sure his skin is peeling back unable to hold in the power that is setting his veins on fire. He is invincible, a God! He is burning, glowing as he staggers down the road, his bag a forgotten weight in his hand. While reason is still possible Angel leaves the road, and Westbury, and sets off across the countryside. He makes for the woods and beyond. The henbane is kicking in now and soon he will be a danger to all, and it is best that he is far from anyone or anything. He hears a giggle and turns about trying to see who is near. The turn sets his head spinning and his foot slips, sending him staggering about, eyes wide when he realises it is he that is giggling. Angel plants his feet determinedly, searching the dark landscape while clamping his lips together, his free hand covering his mouth.

 

The trees ahead beckon and he sprints that way, surprised when he slams into something solid. Dazed he shakes his head and blinks at the tree trunk mere inches from his face. He smells blood and sets his fingers to the bark. Without thinking his fingers are in his mouth sucking the sweet ambrosia of slayer. The jolt of ecstasy sends him reeling, flying through the forest, the trees snatching at him with green bony fingers begging him to stay. Nothing can stop him, he is magnificent, a creature of fire and magic. He laughs and runs faster, his heart begins to beat. Angel is sure he can feel it, thumping through him as the world turns. A dragon roars overhead and he ducks away running through gorse and brush, undergrowth and woodland. He bursts out into open country wishing he had his sword. What was he thinking, leaving without his sword?

 

Angel is disorientated. He runs like a demon possessed - he is the demon possessed- as growls and footfalls fills the air. He can’t afford to fight here, the sun is about to rise and he can’t die just yet. He has to stay intact until all that blood, all that power, all that life is absorbed by the walking corpse he is. Why hadn’t he thought to ask how long he has to remain alive?

 

Angel tries to ignore the howls behind him as he surveys the open ground before him. His eyes make out a familiar shape in the distance. Pushing himself to his limits he runs fast, leaping over obstacles until he stands before one of the many barrows that dot the landscape. Britain is full of Bronze Age Burial mounds. It isn’t ideal but it will have to do. He needs to get inside away from the burning sun and away from the demons following. Angel circles the large barrow looking for an entrance and finds none open. He ignores the upright stones, desperate now to get inside. Angel drops his bag and begins to burrow. Like a rabid dog Angel digs away at turf and stone, his super human strength making short work of the centuries of packed earth. Soon there is a hole just big enough for him to squeeze through and he does, pulling his bag in behind him. Retreating and turning, dark head sticking through the hole, Angel pulls at the stones and replaces them as best he can. Inside he sloppily packs soil back against the rocks and granite before crawling deeper into the barrow. The interior is large and airless; a few rotten pieces of wood litter the floor as does sharpened stone. Millennia ago people believed that weapons could help the dead in the after life but there is nothing left to help him now. Shards of bones are scattered loosely on the earth and the vampire crawls through these without noticing. There is something lurking here and he growls. The demons pounce and Angel retaliates, fanged and yellow eyed. Below the earth, where only the dead can hear, Angel screams.

 

Now

 

Angel blinks awake in his Welsh barn. He recalls rising from the grave of the ancients battered, bloody, bruised and halfway sane. His usual sense of day lost with some of his reason, Angel had been fortunate that it had been night when he had broken out in to the fresh Somerset air. He had no idea how long he had been entombed. He remembers days spent hiding from the sun and walking all night: avoiding people until his mind returned to some form of coherency, to where he could once again be considered safe. Now there was a word he wouldn’t use to describe what he is. If ever he was.

 

The blush of the setting sun still lingers when Angel breaks cover and tramps down to the seaside town of Pembroke. He hasn’t slept well and has chafed at the slowness of the day, his temper not improved. Pembroke’s massive castle watches him impassively as he passes. He regards it back with a baleful glare. It is impossible to miss; the castle dominates the town, guarding Wales and Britain for over a thousand years from all invaders. The two inlets are tidal and it is there that Angel heads, hoping to find a night ferry bound for Eire.

 

He is in luck. When Angel arrives the Irish Ferry is already boarded and it is the last trip of the day. As the boat slips its moorings Angel leaps up onto the rear deck and slides quietly into the shadows. The doors open, spilling desperate smokers onto the deck, the reek of humanity billowing after as the doors close. Angel stands still, becomes one with his surrounds and it is no surprise that the humans don’t notice he is there. He turns his gaze to the churning waves that take him further away from his love and closer to his past.

 

The woman sitting alone raises her eyes to discern the young man standing in the shadows. She had been sitting waiting for the boat to depart when he surprised her by landing gracefully on the deck before stepping away. She adjusts her knitted cap tucking back graying hair before zipping up her windbreaker. She isn’t one for interfering in other’s business: she will not be notifying the crew of the interloper. She folds her gloved hands beneath the blanket that covers her knees and forgets that he is there.

 

Angel would have tired of the continuous opening of the doors if he had cared. He leans against the rail soaking up the soft burr of Irish, interspersed with Welsh and English. An American voice sounds, harsh to his ears. Does he sound like that? From his vantage point he watches two lovers entwined, oblivious to others in their passion. Regret deepens as he thinks of what he has left behind, of Buffy and their love for one another, lost now in mutual disgust.

 

The doors open again to disgorge two tired but still boisterous children. The boys are no more than ten or eleven, racing around the deck in an effort to avoid sleep, causing passengers to step out of their way. Shrieking with delight the red haired lad scrambles away from his playmate and up onto the rail. The boy’s mother bursts out of the lounge to scold the boy for taking such a risk when the lad’s foot slips.

 

Angel is out of his coat and over the side before the mother’s wail of fear echoes her son’s terror as he falls. His hand closes over the boy’s jumper as they both hit the water, Angel trying to buffer the lad’s fall. Angel can tell the water is too cold for the boy, it feels cool to his skin. The boy is flailing about in terror and Angel tries to calm him with soothing words, he needs to get the boy out of the water quickly. Terrified eyes stare at him as the Angel rolls onto his back. Angel can hear the cries of the people aboard the ferry and feels the trip hammer of the boy’s heart against his chest.

 

“What’s your name lad?” he asks the stricken boy.

 

“T-T-Terry.” The boy’s teeth are chattering.

 

“Can you put your arms around my neck Terry, and I’ll get us safely to the boat?” Angel holds onto the boy, anxious that the ferry is not stopping as fast as he would have liked.

 

Terry nods and Angel helps him do just that before turning over, the boy now riding his back.

 

“You hang on and I’ll try to catch the boat.”

 

The swell is light as Angel swims with superhuman strength for the ferry. Large boats such as these do not stop quickly, although it is slowing by the time Angel draws near. The crew let down a rescue craft and into that Angel falls, the boy still fastened to his back. Gently he coaxes the lad to let go so the crewmen can tend to him all the while insisting he is fine.

 

Once on board, the parents, crew and passengers fuss over the boy, allowing Angel to slip quietly by. He is back at his discarded coat and bag, dripping sea water when a soft County Cork voice speaks.

 

“Here, use this.”

 

He turns to see a middle aged woman holding up a plaid blanket. She flinches when he looks at her causing him to put a hand to his face. Has he changed unaware? His fingers encounter smooth skin.

 

Maeve O’Brien is startled at the intensity of the young man’s gaze. His face is grim and pale, no small wonder after having been in the cold waters of the Channel. The eyes though, make her pause a moment, before she sees bewilderment there.

 

“Take it young man. You must be freezing standing in wet clothes.”

 

He speaks and it isn’t the voice she is expecting.

 

“Thank you.” He reaches for her blanket and wraps it about his large shoulders.

 

She sees him glance about. “No one knows, be assured.” She watches as the sea drips off his face. He is handsome and she wishes she is twenty years younger.

 

“It was a grand thing you did for the lad.” And he surprises her again. He ducks his head, he is shy.

 

“I’m Maeve O’Brien and what do I call you, young man?” Maeve has never been called shy. She holds out a hand.

 

She doesn’t think he is going to take it but he does and she can feel through her glove that he is cold. “You’re cold.”

 

“Angel.” He releases her hand quickly.

 

Maeve frowns slightly. “Not a name we hear in these parts.”

 

He makes to give the blanket back but she holds up her hands. “No keep it, it’ll keep you warm, you’re welcome to it.”

 

His smile makes her heart melt. “Thank you.”

 

“You’re not from around here are you?”

 

“I was… a long time ago.” His voice now hints at a familiar lilt.

 

The door opens emitting light and Angel moves back to his corner. The deck is empty of people; everyone has headed inside to care for the boy and his parents. A few passengers have begun to ask after the lad’s saviour and a couple of men have initiated a search.

 

Maeve moves out to the light and assures the gentleman that she hasn’t seen the person he is looking for. When she looks back Angel is gone, his bag and coat with him. Her sodden blanket lies neatly on the deck.

 

Angel spends the next hour high above the deck. He finds a sheltered nook that is inaccessible to most and strips out of his wet shirt and dons his last remaining sweater. His pants and shoes are uncomfortably soggy; he hates being wet, though his coat gives him a small semblance of warmth as he waits for journey’s end.

 

Angel has no trouble mingling with the disembarking passengers at Rosslare. He is soon on his way through Wexford and Waterford courtesy of an unsuspecting lorry driver. Angel’s luck is holding as the truck continues on its way through Limerick and he is content to ride until the new day threatens. When the sky purples he jumps off and leaves the road, running with long strides into green woodland. The forest is old, offering good shade, but he does not rest until he finds the deepest and darkest thicket, burrowing into it until he is sure he will be safe.

 

The next night Angel ventures out to stumble across a small enchanted glade. In the centre of the clearing sits a deep dark pool which is fed by a slow moving stream. Angel cranes his neck to see a break in the trees above and he wishes he could see the glade by day; the filtered sunlight would enhance its beauty tenfold. Angel has always been drawn to beauty. The turn of a phrase in poetry, the curve of a face in sculpture, the texture of fine material and the way paint mixes to produce wondrous forms and colours. The artist in him stands and stares for a long moment.

 

He squats and peers into the pool and after scooping up water to clean his face Angel recoils, for when the ripples still there is a face staring up at him.

 

“What?” He puts out a hand to touch the image; it cannot be a reflection, besides on closer inspection the face has a feminine cast to it.

 

The face floats back and a hand beckons beneath the surface. Angel shakes his head before plunging his hand under the water.

 

“I’m already dead, you don’t want me,” he says to the creature before him. “Besides I’ve already visited the realm of the faerie.”

 

He feels long fingers touch his before being jerked away. The water faerie blinks its strange eyes and disappears. The faerie was after a mortal life, the vampire did not qualify so he is left kneeling at the pool.

 

Angel continues to make his way north. After a while he realises he is crossing someone’s lawns, the grounds are immaculate with mowed grass and pruned trees. He comes across a magnificent copper beech, its base guarded by an iron fence. Squinting at the small plaque there he reads about the Autograph Tree. Angel realises he is near Gort on the property of Lady Gregory. This is Coole Park; the tree is famous for the many authors who have carved their initials here. He reaches through the railing and runs his fingers across carvings that are no older than he. It is strange, this feeling he has of Ireland. The old country is steeped in legend and majicks; there is power here and something else. He can’t put a name to it yet but he will. He hadn’t felt it on the truck, but now out here on the land connected to nature, to the earth, he can feel it.

 

Angel follows the Galway to Ennis Road enjoying the physical strain the run puts on his body hoping that the exertion will help him sleep, until at last he comes to the slopes of the Corrib River.  He is surprised at the bustle of the city spread out before him. Galway had been a lifeless little town or village as he prefers to think of it. In the seventeenth century Galway’s fortune changed from prosperous to ruin. A new English King was on the throne and properties were confiscated, the town sacked and Catholicism outlawed. He recalls it hadn’t stopped the practice behind closed doors. It was a dark time with many hangings, and ghosts of the dead could be seen about the town. The shanty town of Claddagh across the river contained many displaced Irish from previous times and it had eventually turned into a slum. Galway became no better with pigs running the streets and offal rotting in the gutters.

 

This city is not the place he remembers. It prospers. Angel walks the busy streets hearing Gaelic spoken and there are young people everywhere. The restaurants and pubs overflow; the smell of salmon and shellfish fills his nostrils along with the tang of ale. The footpaths are packed with revelers; music and song ring out cheerfully. He is moving past Garvey’s Inn on Eyre Square when four women stagger out a little worse for wear and run smack into him.

 

“Oops…sorry,” they giggle as they sway, trying not to fall.

 

Angel tries to side step them but they clutch at him pressing against him.

 

“Why hello there,” the dark haired one slurs seductively, running a hand up his arm.

 

“What’s your name handsome? Do you want to come to a party?” Ginger asks, her green eyes slightly crossed, her other friend hangs onto her, snorting at something she finds funny.

 

“It’s a birthday party,” the blonde one says, “and everyone is invited.”

 

Angel gently disengages the roaming hands and steps away.

 

Pouting, the women yell, “What’s the matter? We don’t bite!”

 

No they don’t but someone else does. Whilst the women had accosted Angel he had noticed a man and woman pass by. The woman had turned and nodded at him before crossing over to the train station, her escort oblivious to all but the beautiful woman on his arm. Angel follows discreetly, allowing the couple to get inside. Once there he has no trouble finding the secluded corner the man and woman have chosen. The woman has her hand inside the man’s pants and her lips at his throat. Angel’s stake whispers into her heart, she doesn’t have time to wonder why the vampire she had nodded to earlier has killed her. The man opens his eyes at the sudden absence of fingers and chokes on falling dust. Where has his date gone? He looks about but there is no one there.

 

Angel continues his tour of Galway, glad to have rid the city of at least one vampire. Some part of him wishes that someone had staked *him* all those years ago. He vows to dispose of a few more before the night is out. Angel walks Chapel Lane to catch sight of The Druid Theatre Company; there he dusts two vampires lurking about hoping to catch a meal. The maze of streets brings him past Kenney’s Bookstore and Gallery, and O’Maille’s store that sells Aran sweaters and Donegal Tweed. Angel shakes his head in amazement. From death has come life and for a time his heart lifts at the wonder of it all.

 

The vampire stops at St Nicholas Collegiate Church, the gargoyles look down mischievously and as he looks up he feels as if he were a boy again, the façade still eerily familiar. The doors are open inviting him in and as he slides inside his heart would have been thudding if it beat. The vaulted ceilings and coloured glass windows are there to impress the common folk and glorify the magnificence of God. Angel feels the walls closing in and the oppressive weight of sanctity pierces his very being. Angel’s eyes are drawn as always to the Altar Tomb displaying Christ and his five wounds; his vampire senses tell him to flee. Cautiously he moves about not wanting to disturb the priest or fellow penitents by keeping to the shadows. Angel wonders what the priest would make of a creature such as he.  Hell, the priest would probably curse him and drench him with Holy water for being a phantom, a demon daring to breach this holy place.

 

The vampire stands motionless before one of the plaques that adorn the walls commemorating the lives of many. This one is for a young lad of eleven, a James Kearney who passed away on February 22, 1837.

 

Fairest flower of nature's garden blessed
Permitted just to bloom to bud, but plucked in haste.
Angels beheld him ripe for future joys to come
And called by God's command a brother home.

 

Angel considers the words, a bitter taste in his mouth; poignant words that describes everyone surely in the end, everyone but a vampire with a soul. Eventually he moves forward making out the medieval carving on the dripstone above the belfry. It depicts a hound of heaven chasing the hare of the soul across the bridge of eternity. The back of his knees meet a pew and the vampire sits to contemplate this almost forgotten scene. He remembers looking at it as a boy, not really believing in souls and all that it entailed. He should have paid better attention to his lessons and his father, and cringes at the memory of how he had treated him thinking he knew better. That has always been his failing; Angel has always done things his way and others pay the price. After all he has done, he doesn’t hold out much hope that he will ever find redemption.  He is surely damned. Running a hand through salt incrusted hair he tilts his head back to look up at the Lepers Gallery knowing that he can be counted amongst those shunned few.

 

A shuffle of feet and a small cough behind rouses Angel from his reverie, he won’t call it prayer. Angel rises and quietly walks past the moving woman and the old man asleep on the back pew, his Bible resting in his worn hands.

 

Angel leaves the church and heads away through to an older part of the town, finding the street proving difficult as the town has grown since last he set foot here. The house he is looking for is barely recognisable. It is nestled amongst others vying for the space that it once had, new and old additions ugly to his eyes. He lingers for a long while, his hands in his pockets, his shoulders hunched before releasing a sigh; he could never go in even if he wanted to. He turns with a heavy heart and with determined steps leaves the bright lights until he is silhouetted on a hill, finding his journey’s end at last. Without drawing breath he stands tense, hands clenched to steady himself. He can do this. He forces himself to relax and he does, letting out the breath he has been holding since he got here; his shoulders slump, his head follows until his tall frame gives under pressure and his knees give way to thud against uneven earth. The minutes tick by heedless as memory takes him kneeling there, a lone dark figure of legend and fairytale. Finally self preservation bids him slink away, the sun is on the rise and the creature that he is, scuttles to the nearest shelter, to curl up amid dead leaves and lichen.

 

 

 

“This is like looking for a needle in a haystack!” Buffy whines although she would never give up the search. It was just so frustrating to know that *he* had been here and they hadn’t been told for a day and a half. Buffy cups her chin in her hand. God, she is tired. Tired of searching, tired of feeling like this and tired of not having Angel’s arms around her. She blinks back her tears.

 

Giles feels badly for his slayer. She had been desperate to reach Cardiff, sure that she could *feel* her vampire and be in his arms in no time. He envies her in a way; at least Angel is still *alive* while he is forever denied the comfort of Ella’s loving embrace. He straightens and pushes his grief aside for the moment in his concern for his slayer. 

 

Giles and Buffy had split the city into sections and had traversed the streets looking for Angel. They both knew that if the vampire did not want to be found then the search would be fruitless although Giles keeps his silence for Buffy’s sake.

 

All he can offer is, “We need to get some sleep. The sun’s coming up so he won’t be on the move.” Giles pushes away from his seat. “Go to bed Buffy, we’ll resume the search tomorrow night.” He puts a kindly hand on her shoulder and squeezes gently. “We’ll find him.”

 

Buffy looks up at her friend and watcher, the smile she gives doesn’t fool him. “Yeah, okay. I’m pooped anyway.”

 

Giles releases her and goes to the door of her room. “We’ll meet for lunch?”

 

Buffy just waves a hand at him and Giles takes his leave. He doesn’t know what he’ll do if Angel can’t be found. More importantly he doesn’t know what Buffy will do. After all she has endured so much; can she endure this?

 

They meet for lunch at a small café recommended by the B&B they are staying at. Giles has tea with his eggs and Buffy has coffee and a sandwich. Neither are hungry but needs must and they force themselves to eat. Buffy is despondent, her food tastes like cardboard and only with sweet coffee does it go down. It is then that Giles notices the discarded paper at the next table. A headline catches his attention.

 

‘Boy Overboard Saved By Mysterious Stranger’

 

He leans over.

 

“What?” Buffy lifts her eyes from her plate. She had cried herself to sleep and her eyes are puffy.

 

Giles has the paper. He holds a hand up as he skims the article. Buffy watches as a smile spreads his lips.

 

“What?” she cries, voice and hope rising for the first time in days.

 

Giles hands the paper across and points to the news item.

 

“Oh!” Her eyes widens as she reads of a young boy by name of Terry O’Flaherty who had slipped overboard whilst on his way to Rosslare, Ireland.

 

“Oh!” Buffy reads on. A tall dark haired young man had jumped after the boy and had kept him afloat until a rescue boat had been lowered. The man had disappeared amongst the passengers, his name unknown. The boy’s parents would like to thank the man…..Buffy looks up to meet Giles’ smile.

 

“It’s him! It’s Angel.” She clutches the paper to her chest. “He’s alive, Giles.”

 

“It would appear so.”

 

Buffy’s eyes are shining as they gather their things. “He’s going to Ireland.”

 

She waits impatiently as Giles pays for their meal. Outside they hurry back to their rooms and the car.

 

“Why didn’t we think?” Buffy asks as she keeps Giles moving at a fast pace.

 

“He could have gone anywhere Buffy. I wouldn’t have thought that Angel had any desire to go…”

 

“Home?”

 

“Quite. It will be difficult for him.”

 

“And it’s been easy for him here? Has anywhere? Angel doesn’t do easy, Giles, he never has.” They reach the B&B. “Where the hell is Pembroke anyway?”

 

 

A small movement disturbs his rest, a scent both repugnant and familiar. Slit eyed he watches and pounces vampire quick at the small meal that scurries by. Rat blood is nourishment of a sort; Angel makes a face as he throws the drained rodent out into the open.

 

Another night falls bringing with it its comforting gloom. He does not venture far from the jumbled stone; it is at his back when he ventures once more to his allotted task. Angel’s keen eye surveys what is before him; it is time to get to work.  And work he does, his fingers bleed, sometimes smoke curls from his palms, his knuckles bruise, legs straining as Angel bends to the task. The moon is near full, hidden behind a rain cloud which dumps its cold gift before floating away in a rush. The moonlight glistens in the droplets that hang from branches, the leaves shine and his hair drips. Angel discovers a rusty shard that has once been a tool and he works until the coming of the day. Angel slinks away back to his stone retreat. He has nowhere else to be. That feeling he has? It is home.

 

 

It is done; the last of them cared for. Angel sighs knowing that nothing he does here could ever make it right and yet this small gesture lessens the painful grip that guilt has around his heart and he also knows that he doesn’t deserve that lessening.  He is kneeling before the last one, his hands full, when he feels her and the other. Angel tenses; it is time and he is ready. He stays on his knees and keeps his broad back to them.

 

“Angel.” The barest of whispers floats to him on the breeze.

 

He does not move as he waits for the blow. When it does not come he turns his head, his eyes going to her hands, he is surprised that they are empty. Her eyes, when he looks, are not. Angel stumbles to his feet, putting down the bundle in his hands. He notices that Giles hovers back a step, his hands too are empty. Angel knows how he must look, he smells of death and graves and blood.

 

Buffy’s breath hitches, she can feel her heart pounding in her chest. She has found him at last, here in the place she had only hoped he’d be. Buffy’s eyes devour him. He is the most beautiful sight, eyes dark, hair a wild tangle, dirt and mud and goodness knows what else covers him and she doesn’t care. He is here.

 

“I’m sorry,” she blurts not daring but wanting to venture close, to touch, to feel him. It hurts her heart to see that he had offered his back to her stake. Is this how she made him feel?

 

“Angel….” Giles pauses lost for words. His face feels old, haggard, not his own. He has barely been able to come to grips with not only the death of all those young girls, girls that he had murdered but his own sweet Ella has been taken from him in the effort to regain the balance. Giles feels responsible for all of it; because as a Watcher he should have known that there would be consequences for upsetting the balance. Angel of course, Giles knows, shoulders the guilt of drinking them down and Buffy blames her own actions for bringing the girls into slayerhood and thereby to their deaths.

 

The vampire does not move or speak. Giles thinks that he looks….defeated.

 

Buffy finally tears her gaze away from Angel to look around. The clouds above disperse, enabling the full moon to bring forth a myriad of colour. She gasps and Buffy feels Giles move beside her. The cemetery is softly ablaze with the colour of flowers. They stare at the cut grass, a sickle blade rests against a stone. The slabs have been cleaned, the weeds pulled and headstones righted. Even the stones in the form of the cross have been tended to. Buffy resists the urge to look at Angel’s hands; instead she moves to read the legends carved there. 1753….1753….17….some don’t even have names. Buffy stands in shock. All these….her head shoots up to look at Angel. He is watching her, watching her reaction, his face a study in stone. There are so many in this small part of the Galway cemetery. This is one of the oldest and most unkempt areas; there was no one to care about these.

 

She hears Giles’ soft “oh my” and knows that Angel must hear it too. Buffy does not want to turn away but she forces her feet to a grave sitting almost unnoticed. He has not touched this one. Beloved Son 1726 – 1753. Beside it are three graves. Sister, Father and Mother, all buried in 1753. Cold realization floods in. On all the headstones Angel has laid flowers. This one is bare; it is his own. These were his family he had killed; this was the village he had murdered. Although Buffy had followed through on her hunch that Angel would visit his family’s plot, it wasn’t until she sees with her own eyes the reality of Angelus’ first act, the proof of so many lives taken in one fell swoop that she really appreciates the guilt that Angel carries with him. She thought she knew and she had not.

 

Slowly and carefully she bends at the knees until the weeds are within reach. As she tugs at the first clump, Giles sits down opposite and begins to clear away the leaves. Both can feel Angel’s stare.

 

Angel is unable to move because he does not believe his eyes. The two people who should loathe him the most are clearing his grave. He swallows back the emotion that comes rushing up to meet him. His heart unfurls just that little bit more at the kindness of their spirit.

 

“There’s no need,” he manages to croak.

 

Two pairs of eyes look back at him.

 

“It’s empty.” He shrugs but is unable to produce a smile at his feeble joke.

 

Buffy gets to her feet and comes over to catch his hand. Her eyes brimming, she leads him over to his family.

 

“It’s yours,” she whispers and lets him go.

 

Angel watches for a moment before melting away into the night.

 

Buffy sniffs and wipes at her eyes. She glances over at Giles and sees real compassion for Angel for the very first time.

 

He nods ever so slightly at her and keeps his voice low. “One forgets that Angel was human once and a victim.” He jerks his head at the other plots. “So many without names and no one to remember.”

 

Buffy runs her fingers across the old earth; the mound has disappeared; only turf and tangled weeds and an old headstone to show where once an Irish lad had lain. Remembering her own grave and others so recently buried, Buffy says, “He remembers.”

 

Buffy works at the plot, straining her ears for a sign that Angel hasn’t simply vanished when he suddenly reappears with more wild flowers. He offers them silently and Buffy takes them from his trembling hands. Her hands too are shaking as she lays them beneath the upright stone.

 

Buffy breaks the silence after a long moment her voice tremulous. “We want you to come home. I need you Angel…we need you. It wasn’t your fault…what happened…” Buffy forces her eyes to meet his. “It’s mine….” She ignores Giles’ soft cough, “I hope you can forgive me.”

 

Misinterpreting his stare she hurries on, “You shouldn’t have had to do…what you did.” The image of a blood stained chest rises in her mind. She immediately banishes the thought and continues. “You are a good man Angel,” Buffy pauses, her eyes pleading, “and……I love you. I can’t lose you again.”

 

Angel stares at Buffy in disbelief. Buffy is asking *his* forgiveness? She blames herself? He looks at her carefully finally letting his eyes really see her. Buffy has circles under her eyes and there is something about her that is very familiar. Buffy looks up at him through eyes old and filled with guilt.

 

“Please?” She tugs at his fingers, desperation in her voice.

 

Angel is sure he has just climbed the precipice of desolation to stand rescued from the pit of loneliness. With Buffy’s hand in his, Angel feels as if he has another chance of home.

 

Angel nods, unable to speak past her forgiveness as the tears cascade down Buffy’s cheeks. She reluctantly lets him go to retrieve what is left of his possessions. Angel casts his eyes about the ruins of the chapel before stepping out, sure that he will never pass this way again.

 

Soon they are southward bound with Giles at the wheel and Buffy glancing sideways to assure herself that Angel is really there. She allows him his distance although all she wants is his arms around her and his sweet lips upon hers, Buffy can wait. His pain is hers and together she hopes they can heal. Buffy looks over at a quiet Giles and wonders if it is at all possible.

 

Angel sits in the back alone his face pressed to the glass as he watches his country go by. He wants nothing more than to have Buffy close but he keeps his distance because all he can think about is the taste of slayer blood on the back of his tongue.

 

He alone raises a hand to the spectral old man who looks as sad as Angel feels. The ghost smiles his melancholy greeting before fading away.

 

The End.

 

 

A.N. I used the Long Barrow (Orchardleigh Stones) in Somerset as a reference only even though I did not specify the barrow in which Angel burrowed, the information can be found here:

http://webapp1.somerset.gov.uk/her/details.asp?prn=23161

 

Lady’s Gregory Estate is located in Ireland and is an actual place and below is a picture of the Autograph Tree.

http://www.monasette.com/blog/gallery/coolepark/pages/9%20coole.htm

 

The reference to the pool and Water Faerie can be found here.

 http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/ffcc/ffcc390.htm

Testimony of Christianity (section III Chapter X)

Borlase, Dolmens of Ireland, iii. 729

 

St. Nicholas Collegiate Church information can be found here:

http://www.galway1.ie/faq/church.htm

 

The ghost of an old man stands at a place called Maam Cross. Cars pass through him and he reappears to sadly watch the car continue on its way. Maam Cross is north of Galway City but for purposes of this story I only hinted at him and placed him south.

http://theshadowlands.net/places/ireland.htm

Maam Cross Ghost

 

 

 



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