Time had passed by so quickly. When you were immortal, the years didn't seem so important. So time consuming, pun intended. There was no rush, no driving need to resolve things. There was plenty of time. Unless your friends were mortal. It was something he forgot, time after time. His family wasn't immortal. The opposite. Too mortal. Far too easily killed, damaged.
And when they weren't damaged, the years still weighed heavy on their bodies. Crippling and aging them dramatically. While he remained as he was. Static, change-proof. It was the hardest thing he'd had to bear since his soul had been reunited with his body. Watching his friends and family die, slowly, quickly, peacefully and violently. He'd stood by, fighting when he could, and watched them all die, one by one.
Gunn had been the last. An old, withered black man. Still bald, his eyes glistening with remembrance. Sitting there beside his bed was the hardest thing Angel had ever done. Not letting Charles see what he saw. An old man, dying. His body twisted and arthritic. It was pitiful. But Gunn, in his last few moments only saw friendship and love. All he'd ever seen from the vampire. All he'd ever needed to see. There were no children, no brothers or sisters. No grandchildren. There was no family. Just Angel and Gunn, at the end. Then when Gunn was gone, just Angel. Always Angel.
The ancient vampire shook his head, tossing away the memories. A lot of years had passed since then, and he'd grown used to his solitude. Relished and coveted it. He stared out at the cars screaming past his apartment, their solar-powered engines whining as they worked. It was hard to believe that the turn of the next Millenia had past him by. 3000ad. It was a scary thought to a boy that had been brought up in the early 1800's. The changes to the planet in that time had been catastrophic. But humanity had managed to pull their planet back from the edge of extinction, and now it prospered, green and lush with plant life. Inter-galactic travel was the best thing that had ever happened since the invention of electricity.
He rested his elbows on the sill, looking out over LA Forest. Gone was the concrete, the smog and millions of people. Now there was another jungle in it's place. Lush and full of plants and animals. Behind him stood the new LA, bursting with colour and life. He stood in the middle, behind his house the old, in front the new. Three hours to the south was a valley full of rain-forest, which was once the Hellmouth's entrance onto this plane. Closed and locked over 800 years ago. His last good deed. His biggest good deed. The one that had destroyed what was left of his heart. His eyes closed, forcing away the remembered pain. He hadn't thought about that part of his life in too long now. He turned back to see the woman waiting patiently.
"Sir?" She asked quietly.
"The closing of the hell mouth meant that I would never be able to get home. Never be able to rid myself of the beast, and Shanshu." The woman hesitated, then nodded, her recorder whirring almost silently beside her ear.
"How did you do it?"
"Close the Hellmouth? With great difficulty. It had been opened, at least partially, for over two hundred years by this point. The New Slayer had just been appointed, and she was so young an innocent."
'She was Catherine, yes?"
"That's right. Catherine Harris. She'd been chosen years before, but had never truly been called until that point."
"She was the Great-granddaughter of Alexander J Harris, a close friend of Buffy Anne Summers, the Slayer from."
"1996 until 2015. The oldest and longest server slayer to have ever lived. Yes, Catherine was a relative of Xanders'."
"You called him Xander."
"Yes. Catherine's watcher had discovered a prophesy that detailed the ultimate opening of the door between Hell and Earth. He'd contacted me a few weeks earlier, telling me what he knew. The Watchers kept and eye on me, always fearful of me going rogue. So he knew where I was. He asked me to come and assist the new slayer. I did."
"What happened?" Angel looked at the biographer for a long time, then sat with his back to the wall, his legs stretched out, eyes shut.
"I returned to Sunnydale over 100 years after I'd left it for good. Not much had changed. Advancements during the first Century of this millennia were mostly in the medical and scientific arena's, rather than technological. So it looked remarkably like I'd left it. I went to the Watchers house, so much like...... We studied the Prima Code, and could tell that this was the last one, the last pitch from their side. So we prepared. Spells, weapons, wards. The whole kit. Since.....Buffy, the Watchers Council realised that a Slayer with ties, friendship, love was much more formidable than any Slayer alone. So they supported and encouraged emotional bonds. Within days, we had every spell and ward we could think of to hold the mouth closed. Finally, Catherine found a reference in an obscure little book that her watcher didn't pay much credence to." He stopped, a frown forming over his forehead.
"What did it say?" The biographer whispered quietly.
"Only after he who has life after giving it remains will the tear be repaired. Angel or demon?"
"They meant you?"
"Who else. I had a life to give. Shanshu. To give it would not kill me, for I was already the living dead. And I am Angel and demon on one."
"How did that make you feel?" Angel suddenly burst out laughing. She looked on, bemused.
"You're kidding, right?" He asked, still chuckling. He didn't sound amused. "I had to give up my one chance of becoming human again, of dying and hopefully entering Heaven, where my family and friends waited for me. I was to remain here, on earth, forever. No hope of happy ever after. No hope of anything but remaining on this rock, alone. Forever. And you ask how that made me feel? What do you think!"
"Oh. ..... I guess we never thought of it. You always seemed so contained."
"Trust me, I wasn't. We contacted the Powers, who gave us the ritual to break my life away from my soul, and thrust it into the Hellmouth. Don't ask me how. I have no idea. It was Martin's territory.
"And all demons and the like were sucked back into their dimension."
"Which made the need for a Slayer defunct. So Catherine retired in glory. And I came back to LA." There was a long moment's silence.
"Angel.... My department has a few more questions. Is it true that you're now the strongest vampire to have ever lived?" She stepped back quickly, her eyes going wide as the seemingly normal man infront of her growled, his face blossoming into the demon's visage. There was a tense silence, then he shook his head, shaking off his 'game' face.
"That's enough. Leave." He snarled. The terrified woman nodded quickly, darting towards the door. He watched her go, a detached part of himself regretting terrifying her to such an extent she forgot her notes. But to remind him that he was over 1000 years old, and had reached a level of power where not even the sun could threaten him was the height of rudeness. And to a 1000 year old vampire, that was all he had left. Manners and memories.
In the past 20 years, a vampire cult had ballooned out of control on the fringes of society. It reminded him of the cults in the later part of the 20th Century. Desperate for any kind of answer. Something tangible to cling to. He could hear them begging him to change them. Bring them across. For years, he had pitied them for their naivete and innocence. But after 18 years of it, he was just getting plain annoyed at them. And as he was the last vampire to walk the earth. The last demon, the cults focused their whole attention on to him.
"Give the people some slack, Angel. They don't know any better." He heard Buffy say inside his head. Four weeks ago, he'd started hearing her voice, making comments and smart observations as he walked through one of the older sky-malls. It was one of his favourites. Decorated to look like a mall from the 1900's. Unfortunately for this generation, a lot had happened during that century, so there was a mixture of Hippie clothing, horse-drawn carriages and Jive music. Add in the simulated 'net', showing how they used to communicate back 'in the day', and Angel would walk around, laughing. It was almost guaranteed to cheer his spirits up. She'd made some smartalek comment about the hair-style of one of the serving girls and Angel had been convinced he was finally going mad.
"They can see history docco's, can't they?" He said in reply. He'd started replying a few days after her first visit, curious as to how his brain would deal with that. It dealt fine, with Buffy replying instantly. Now he enjoyed his symptoms of ....whatever it was he had. Senility? At his age, he figured he was well past that.
"But they don't know the difference between loading down a docco from 2130, and a video from 2003. As far as they know, vampires are like that movie.....vampire in Brooklyn, wasn't it?"
"Can't I just kill a few, to show them what we're really like?" He asked plaintively.
"No. Bad Angel. Turn on the info, will you? We want to see if the fleet's gotten to Connell yet."
"Info." He said to his holographic news cast. Immediately a picture, in full 3d animation appeared in front of him, showing the fleet's progress to Connell, the third new world to be connollized.
"With three solar days to go, the fleet is preparing to slow down their acceleration to light speed, allowing the inhabitants of the fleet to wake up and accustom themselves to the new surroundings." The voice droned from the speakers hidden in the walls. "The fifth planet from Suron, was named Connell only days before the fleet headed out. After a significant and extensive search for an appropriate name, the name Connell was decided upon, honouring the celebrations and recognition of all that He has done for us, in his time on earth. In 10 solar days, Angel's sacrifice will have guaranteed our survival and well-being for over 1000 years. It is fitting that our third planet be named after such a man. Liam Connell. Angel." Angel groaned in annoyance. They weren't letting him be. He'd asked, in the vain hope, that he be left alone. No such luck. The news man started the cycle again.
"Five weeks into the flight, and all seems well with the Fleet. With three solar days to go, the fleet."
"Well. Isn't that nice? I'll just have to tell the others that you have a PLANET named after you."
"Shut up, Buffy."
"But it's such good news. Cordy will just love it. But I won't tell Wesley just now. I think he's jealous enough as it is." He could feel her smile, deep inside his head.
"Wesley." He said flatly. "Cordelia. Is my mother and father in there with you?" Buffy just laughed evilly, then went silent.
"Going stark raving mad." He muttered.
He thrust the door shut behind him, panting in frustration. He had no need for breath, that was true, but in all his time on earth, had never gotten rid of the habit.
"Goddamn stupid cultists!" He snarled, pacing the room. The ceremony he had been required to attend was over, allowing him to fade back into the public's mind. He hoped like hell that something interesting came up, to focus attention off himself. He was always uncomfortable with attention. The fleet had landed and disembarked without a hiccup, and the colonists were busy setting up shop on Connell. He sat down on his couch, his mind going back over the advances in the past 1000 years. When he'd been born, electricity hadn't been invented. Now they were travelling across galaxies. The human race had made wrong turns, but were on the right track now, and knew how to relish and adopt to their environment. He was suddenly tired. So much done in his lifetime.
"Why don't you go to sleep, then, lover?" Buffy whispered in his head. He nodded back, curling up on the couch, eyes sliding shut.
He was just so tired. So very tired. He let himself slide away.
Three weeks later, Kerry finally got the door down, having to get Police permission to storm his house. She, and the two police-men with her ran in, then froze, stunned and dismayed at what they saw before them. A husk of a body lay curled up on the couch. They could see the remnants of Angel in the mummified corpse in front of them. Kerry ran forward, her recorder by her ear catching everything and relaying it to a silent audience around the world. She reached forward with a hand and hesitated when the two men behind her whispered a shocked "No." Then her hand touched the body, and it exploded into dust, falling around. There was a dull roar and then silence.
"Godspeed, Angel Liam Connell." She whispered. Her wish was echoed by the audience of billions watching.
"Good morning, Lover." Buffy beamed at him. He looked around in confusion. This was not his apartment. It was Sunnydale, circa 1996. Before him stood Buffy, as she had looked when she was 16. Before all hell had broken loose and Angelus had come out to play. Beside her was her Watcher and Willow. Anya, Xander, Oz. Gunn, Cordelia and Wesley stood to their side, grinning. He was speechless. His family. His second family. He looked at Buffy again, mouth gaping open.
"Angel, you're dead!" Cordelia crowed, clapping her hands. "It's about bloody time."
"Dead..." He repeated. "I can't die."
"Egotistical, much?" Cordelia asked in an aside to Gunn and Wesley, who grinned back.
"I'm immortal. Remember, no Shanshu?" His eyes were a dark brown with confusion. Buffy took pity on him.
"Angel, hush. I'll explain. When the PTB required your Shanshu to close the hellmouth, they kind of forget the qualifier."
"They wanted your Shanshu, but only for as long as a vampire had lived. Umm. Basically, the Master had been the oldest vampire to live on the earth. When Buffy killed him, he was 1358 years old. The PTB needed your Shanshu for that period of time, and after that, the Hellmouth would be sealed permanently, and didn't need your Shanshu anymore."
"So you got it back." Wesley finished.
"Why didn't I become human, then?"
"You did. Retroactively from the time of your sacrifice. Which was why your felt so exhausted so suddenly. Your years were catching up on you. You became human the very instant that you gave up your human life for the rest of the world."
"Angel. Your body is a mummified corpse, lying on your couch in LA." Buffy said gently. She waved a hand and an image appeared before him, and Kerry sitting, stunned. Her hand outstretched towards a shriveled corpse.
"Yup. Join the club, dead-boy." Xander grinned without malice. Angel took a moment to soak up the information.
"My family?" He whispered.
"They're waiting on the other side." Gunn told him. It was good to see him so vital. Alive. He appeared to Angel as he had when he was 35. Full of energy and joy. That was the year he and Cordelia had finally gotten married. Angel dismissed the knowledge that she had died the following year. That was unimportant. Then he processed what Gunn had said.
"They're waiting? For me? They forgive me?" He sounded like a little boy.
"There was nothing for them to forgive." Buffy looked at the others, silently requesting some time alone with him. They moved off, heading towards a long road that led over a hill.
"Angel." Buffy whispered, gazing at him. "We want you to accept what's been given to you. The Powers had two choices. To let you live out your life from today, or to bring you here. To us. They studied your heart and it gave them their answer." She smiled at him. "It wanted it's family back. All of us."
"I know that, Buffy." He smiled at her. His heart was leaping in his chest. It took a long time for him to realise that it was leaping in glee. After 1000 years, he was finally free to be with his family. He grabbed the one woman that had taken his heart so long ago and kept it safe for him, and held her hard. Then, after endless moments, stood back.
"Can we go and see my parents and sister?" He asked her. She grinned and grabbed his hand, hitting the road and a galloping run. He followed her, laughing. The caught up to his family, and he hugged them all. Even Xander.