Angel sat on the roof of the Hyperion Hotel, the magical fire blazing brightly before him. He looked up from the flames and scanned the night sky. Even in the middle of the City of Angels, he could see that dawn wasn’t far off, a couple of hours at the most. He nodded to himself and picked up the envelopes and one package that were next to him. Each one was addressed to those who meant the most to him. Sometimes working at Wolfram & Hart had its advantages. The writing implements and parchment he’d used, as well as the fire, were all charmed by the mail department. Each one would find its recipient regardless of what realm they now resided in.
Angel took the first envelope and stared at the name he’d written on the front. Bittersweet memories raced through his mind as he gently set it ablaze. He continued the ritual until the last envelope was gone. Then he gently set the package in the fire. Contentment settled across his features as he leaned back against the wall. All of his loose ends had been tied up. Now all he had to do was wait.
Buffy stirred restlessly, unable to relax. The pool and the sunlight weren’t doing their job. Usually, she could lounge by the Immortal’s pool and lose herself in its tranquility, but not today. She leaned back with a sigh and closed her eyes, only to jerk back up as she felt something flutter onto her lap. She opened wary hazel eyes and looked at the heavy envelope that had her name scrawled across the front.
The penmanship was fine, elegant in an old-fashioned way, and vaguely familiar. Curious, she opened it and frowned at the sheaf of parchment that fell out. The stock was heavy and an uneven gold color. A feeling of unease took hold of her as she recognized the paper. With shaking hands, she unfolded the first one and read:
I hope this finds you well and that you’re finally living the life you always wanted. I just wanted to say that I’m sorry for all the pain I caused you. Still, you did your fair share of damage to me as well. It’s not a contest, but I think we’re even. Looking back on it, we should never have fallen in love in the first place. Romeo and Juliet had nothing on us in the doomed-from-the-start game.
I won’t ask for forgiveness. I know I cannot be redeemed. I just hope that someday you can let go of the pain and know that I have done the same.
I’ve enclosed some drawings that I hope you’ll like. I’ve always been better at expressing myself with art than with words. Maybe these will replace some of those bad memories you have of us.
You taught me what it meant to live and for that I will always love you. Take care of yourself and Dawnie.
Buffy blinked rapidly and quickly shuffled through the stack of drawings. She smiled as she looked through the depictions of her, Xander, and Willow. The three of them were laughing in some, sound asleep in the library after a long research session in others. Some also included Oz, Cordelia, and Giles. All of them reminded her of the happier times the Scoobies had had.
Her breath caught at the last drawing. The others had been done in charcoal, but this one was in full color and was as detailed as a photograph. It was of her and Angel walking on the beach, hand in hand, in broad daylight. She was wearing a yellow tank top and long white skirt, and he was wearing jeans with the legs rolled up and a blue button-down shirt. The waves lapped gently at their bare feet and in the distance she could make out the Santa Monica Pier. She and Angel were looking at each other and smiling softly. At the bottom he’d written “Only in our dreams”.
Buffy lightly traced his face and closed her eyes at the sudden sting of tears. She didn’t know what had brought this on, but she appreciated the gesture. As much as she loved Angel, there was too much between them for them to even be considered friends, but maybe someday. She reread the letter and her eyes lingered over the phrase, “I know I cannot be redeemed.” She frowned and her sense of uneasiness increased. She reached for the phone and started dialing.
Doyle started as the envelope appeared in midair and landed lightly on the table in front of him. He excused himself from the game and went outside to read it. He bit his lip as he opened it, wondering how Angel had managed to get him a message in the afterlife. It was against the rules to keep tabs on those still living, well un-living in Angel’s case, but Doyle had tried over the years. He hadn’t had much luck. As he read the long letter, he understood why.
I hope this finds you. I have some things I needed to say to you that I never got the opportunity to say before.
You son of a bitch, there was no reason for you to sacrifice yourself in my place! The device would have killed anyone with human blood in his or her body. I had none, remember? I would have survived and you would still be around to wear Cordelia down. Maybe a lot of what’s happened wouldn’t have if you’d still been around. I wonder if you’re together now. It would serve you both right if you were. That being said, thank you for what you did. It was foolish and brave and everything I knew you had inside you.
So much has happened since you left. I don’t know if you’re aware of all that’s gone down or not. Somehow I suspect not, because if you were I’m pretty sure you’d have found a way to help.
I’ve lost everything. Yes, I know that sounds melodramatic, but it’s the truth. My links to the Powers That Be have been severed, my connections to the world are pretty much non-existent. I finally figured out that I was never meant to find redemption. It was just a lure to get me to play a game I don’t know the rules of.
This all started with Whistler and Buffy, but you are the one the really put me on the path of redemption. I have to believe that you didn’t know how all of this was going to play out, because if you did, then I’m a first class fool. I don’t think you knew. Because even though I gave you hell, you stuck by me, Doyle. You were my first real friend in a long time and I still treasure our friendship.
I need to tell somebody about what’s gone on, and if you don’t already know, well maybe after I tell you, you’ll understand why I’ve done what I’ve done.
After you died...
Doyle read on, catching up on the last four years and change, his disbelief and anger growing with every page. He was heartsick at what he’d unwittingly been a part of. Sure, they’d gotten off to a rocky start, but Angel had been one of his best friends towards the end. He’d always known the PTB were manipulative bastards, but this whole mess really took the cake. They were about to lose one of their greatest champions and there was nothing he could do about it.
Doyle stood up straight and clutched the letter in his hand. The hell with the rules, he wasn’t gonna let his friend go out like that.
Cordelia felt something soft brush against her hand and she looked down. An envelope with her name scrawled across the front of it sat innocuously beside her.
She muttered, “Mail in Heaven. Who knew?” She opened it and pulled out the stack of parchment. She frowned as she fingered the heavy paper, then unfolded the top sheet. Familiar handwriting greeted her, and she smiled unconsciously as she started to read.
I hope this finds you well. Actually, I hope this finds you at all. The guy in the mail department assured me that it would, but he does work for an evil law firm, so I don’t exactly trust him.
Cordelia giggled as she continued, her smile fading as she read on.
I wanted to say thank you. Thank you for your honesty, your friendship, and your love. You were always the one to tell it like it was and I appreciated that. You couldn’t file for shit, but you were a good friend. I know we drove each other crazy, but it was worth it, don’t you think?
You grew into such an amazing person and you helped me more than you’ll ever know. I’ve enclosed some drawings I thought you might like. I don’t know if they’ll last wherever you are, but you should at least get to look at them before they disappear if that winds up being the case.
I don’t know if we’ll ever see each other again, my gut tells me ‘no’. But if we do, well, if you find out what I’ve done and don’t agree, you can slap me silly.
Just know that what I’m doing, I’m doing with a clear conscience. I’m at peace with my decisions. Others may think I’ve taken the coward’s way out, but this is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
Be happy, Cordy. Wherever you are.
Cordelia slowly went through the drawings, alternately smiling and scowling at the pictures. There were a couple of her and Xander in high school and she smiled in fond memory. They’d made their peace with each other at the senior prom. There was a portrait of Groo and one of Doyle that made her want to cry. God, but she’d been horrible to him. And he’d kept coming back for more. Tears filled her eyes and she brushed them away firmly. She choked back a sob at the one of her holding baby Connor.
She picked up the letter and reread it. Something was wrong. This was a mood she’d never seen from Angel in all the time she’d known him. Her duty to the PTB was done, but her loyalty to Angel was eternal. She started trying to find out what was going on.
Connor jerked awake and stared blearily at his desk. He’d fallen asleep researching for an English paper. He rubbed his hands over his face and rolled his head on his shoulders. When he looked down again, he saw an envelope with his name on it that hadn’t been there before. Curiously, he opened it and pulled out the two sheets of parchment.
His eyes widened as he read:
I’m not sure if you’ll even read this, but I needed to write it. I know you have your memories of your previous life back. I’m not going to interfere or try to persuade you to have anything to do with me. That’s not my purpose in sending you this letter. I just wanted to tell you some things I never had a chance to before.
I love you. You’re my son, and no matter what has gone on between us, that fact has never changed. You were and are a miracle and my salvation. As long as you’re around, I’ll know that I did at least one thing right.
I don’t know how to make you understand that the creature Holtz hated is not me. Angelus is a part of me, and one that will be with me always, but that is not who I am. I never really had a chance to show you.
Your mother and I were both pawns in a greater game and you paid the price. Holtz took you from me, whether you believe me or not, that’s the truth. Your childhood was stolen and I can’t even begin to imagine the horrors you grew up with. I tried to get you back, Connor. Only the thought of seeing you again kept me going. When you did return, you hated me and there was no way for me to change your mind.
When I made the deal to give you a new life, my only thought was for you. I wanted you to have the life you should have had, to live as a normal boy. I had no idea it would turn out this way.
I’m not asking for forgiveness. What’s done is done. If you ever want to know what happened, call Wes. He’ll have the whole history and I promise you it will be the truth.
Just live your life as best you can and make your parents proud.
Connor’s breath whooshed out of him as he sat back in his chair. His memories had been coming in fits and starts and the life he’d apparently led was like some bizarre TV show. Part of him wanted to hate Angel, but the bigger part of him wanted to understand who the man was that had given up his son.
He slowly unfolded the second piece of parchment and stared at the portrait. It was of Angel holding a baby. The look of love and happiness on Angel’s face as he looked down at the little boy cradled in his arms was unmistakable. Beside him was a woman that Connor recognized as Cordelia. He shied away from the memories of her. They were just too weird for him to deal with right now.
Below the portrait was written the word “Family”. Connor sighed and stared at the picture for a long time. He had no idea what to do.
Wes stirred restlessly in his bed then awoke with a start. He’d been dreaming of Fred again. Angrily, he scrubbed his hands through his hair and sat up. Maybe a drink would help. As he reached over to turn on the bedside lamp, his fingers brushed against paper. He fumbled to turn on the light then stared at the package that was sitting on the table. He hesitantly picked it up and was surprised by its weight. His name was written across the front and he wondered how Angel had gotten into his room without waking him.
Wes unwrapped it and warily lifted the top of the box. It was filled with small leather-bound journals. On top was a folded piece of parchment. With a sense of foreboding, Wesley unfolded it and started to read.
What a long strange trip it’s been, eh? You’ve come a long way from the bumbling, self-righteous prick you were. You’ve become a fair and strong leader.
We have an unlikely friendship, don’t we? It’s strong in many ways, but weak in one of the most important. Trust. You don’t trust me. Every time it’s come down to you trusting me to do the right thing, you don’t. That lack of trust cost me my son. If you had come to me, things might have turned out differently.
Shit, it’s not my intent to attack you, Wes. I just think I need to get this stuff off my chest. Honesty is so rare these days. You’re a good man, Wesley Wyndham-Pryce. And lack of trust or not, you’re a good friend as well.
Enclosed you’ll find my journals. Yes, I keep journals, what of it? They are an accounting of both my life as Angelus and as Angel. As great a find as these are, I don’t want them to fall into Giles’ hands; I’m trusting you to take care of them. Should Connor ever want to know about me, let him read these. The most recent are on top. You might want to take a look at them.
You, Gunn, and Lorne should be free of Wolfram & Hart after tomorrow. Spike has been free to go since he turned into a real vampire again. I think I know why he stayed, but with Spike you can never tell. Our deal is null and void with the firm. No repercussions should follow you. If there are, there will be hell to pay. Illyria won’t be a problem anymore either. Don’t ask. You really don’t want to know.
The Hyperion belongs to the four of you. I know, I know, you think I only leased it. Actually, I bought it after the first three months. In the envelope at the bottom of the box, you’ll find all the necessary paperwork and accounts and such. Do with it what you will.
Guess this is good-bye, then. Take care of each other. Take care of yourself, Wes.
Wes read the letter twice more, the dread within him growing. What the hell was Angel on about? He looked at the clock and saw that it was five-thirty in the morning. He grabbed his phone and started dialing.
Spike swatted at whatever was tickling his nose and hit paper. He opened his eyes and blinked at the darkness. He’d only leaned his head back for a minute. He sat up and an envelope that had been on his face fell into his lap. He scowled at it then looked around to see if whoever had put it there was still around. He couldn’t sense anyone. Spike shrugged and opened the envelope. Several sheets of parchment fell out. He picked up the first and unfolded it.
What can I say? We have got to have one of the strangest, most dysfunctional, fucked-up relationships in the history of the world. Father and son, brothers, lovers, rivals, enemies…oh yeah, we’re messed up all right.
It wasn’t all bad, though, was it, William? You and I had some pretty good times together. Some pretty hot times as well. No one ever made me feel the way you did.
I’m sorry I left the way I did. My mind was so messed up, Darla had thrown me out; I didn’t know what else to do. I should have talked to you. I know that now. You always did know what to say to me, whether it was to wind me up or calm me down. When I saw you again in China, you had changed so much. I guess Darla had finally succeeded in beating the last of the gentleness out of you. Or did I accomplish that when I left? Guess it doesn’t really matter. It’s done.
I missed you, my boy. When I saw you in Sunnydale, I wanted nothing more than to take you in my arms, but I couldn’t. Our paths were so different. So many chances to make amends and neither one of us took them. Stubborn male pride is tough to overcome.
I can’t even begin to apologize for the way I treated you when you were in the wheelchair. I’m not asking for forgiveness. I know I cannot be redeemed.
All this shit with Wolfram & Hart will soon be over. I won’t ask you to stay, but if you’re of the mind, you have a place at the Hyperion. I’ve left it to you, Wes, Gunn, and Lorne. It’s up to the four of you what you do with it.
The other sheets are some drawings of some happier memories. I’ve also included information on my various accounts. No more living in warehouses for you, William.
Take care of yourself, my boy.
Spike inhaled sharply and quickly unfolded the other sheets of parchment. His vision blurred and he cursed softly as he wiped the moisture away.
“You stupid bloody sod, what the fuck have you done?”
Gunn turned over in his sleep and knocked the envelope that was next to him off the bed. He stirred restlessly for a moment, then sank back into a deep sleep.
Lorne looked at the envelope in his hand. He didn’t need to open it, but he would. As he poured himself a drink, he said softly, “Oh, Angelcakes, you’ve really done it this time, haven’t you?”
Fred looked down on the solitary figure sitting in front of the fire. She’d read Angel’s letter and his apologies and felt despair fill her. Angel was broken and there was no one left to fix him. The PTB had gone too far. In order for someone to be a Champion, he or she had to have something worth fighting for. In the last five years, Angel had lost hope. The lure of one day becoming human meant nothing if he had no one to share it with, and Jasmine had made sure that he was left alone. Her whole gambit to walk the earth again had thrown everything into chaos. She’d been dealt with, but the cost was too high and the Powers were too self-absorbed to realize their mistake.
Well, they’d know soon enough that they were on their own. Angel had fixed things but good. Fred still wasn’t sure how he’d managed it, but Angel had set things up in just such a way that the Black Thorn would fall and what was left of his family would be safe from any type of retribution. If one of them were hurt, hell would look like Disneyland in comparison to what would befall the Senior Partners.
Fred settled out of Angel’s sight and watched as the sky started to lighten. She was startled when he spoke.
“I’ve heard that on a clear day you can see forever.”
She stepped out from behind the wall. “That’s what they say.”
A small half-smile quirked Angel’s lips, “Come to try to talk me out of this?”
Fred leaned on the half-wall next to him and shook her head. “Nah, just didn’t want you to be alone.”
“How did you find me?”
“Well, I’ve kinda been keepin’ an eye on y’all. What you did to Illyria was really disturbing.”
“She took you away from us.”
There was nothing Fred could say to that.
After a few moments of silence, Angel asked, “Am I doing the right thing?”
She huffed out a sigh, “I think you’re doing the only thing you think you can do. I don’t know how you managed it, Angel, but this will fix it all.”
“Someone owed me a favor.”
Fred glared at him. “If that were the case then this wouldn’t have been necessary. You’re paying quite a price.”
Angel shrugged. “Not really. I’m tired Fred. I don’t know where I’ll wind up, but at least I’ll rest easy knowing that they’re safe. That’s all I ever really wanted, to keep those I care about safe. I know I failed more often than not, but I tried.”
“Oh, Angel, you did fine. What happened to us was out of your hands.”
“If I’d made different choices…”
Fred shook her head, “If wishes were horses-”
Angel smiled that half-smile again, “Then beggars would ride.”
The sky grew lighter, changing from midnight blue to purple streaked with pinks and oranges, and despite being ready for it, Angel tensed. Fred saw it and placed a comforting hand on his back.
“I miss you, Fred.”
“I’m always with you, Angel.”
“Do me a favor if you can?”
“Let them know what I’ve done. Doyle and Wesley are the only ones who know all of it. I wrote it down in detail in my journal.”
“I’ll find a way.”
The first ray of yellow peeked past the horizon and Angel sighed. It wouldn’t be long now.
Buffy was getting frantic. No one knew where Angel was. Apparently he’d sent similar letters to Wes and Spike and they were searching for him, too. She was too far away, but maybe Willow could help.
Spike had torn Angel’s penthouse apart looking for any clue as to where he might be. Then it dawned on him. The Hyperion. He looked at the clock and swore. It was almost sunrise and he just knew his brooding martyr of a sire was going to meet it. He got on the phone and called Wes.
Doyle raced up the stairs of the Hyperion towards the roof. He’d pissed quite a few of the higher-ups off in his quest to get here, but he couldn’t let this happen. As he rounded a corner, he collided with a soft body.
“Jeez! Watch where you’re going! Get off me, ya great oaf!”
Doyle looked down in astonishment. “Cordelia?”
Cordy shook her head and looked up at the man who’d knocked her over. She couldn’t help but smile as she accepted his hand. “Doyle.”
“Are ya here to-”
“Oh god! Angel!” They took off up the stairs again, hoping against hope that they could save their friend.
Wes pulled into the alley next to the old hotel. The sun was almost up and he really hoped he’d make it. He jumped up and caught the fire escape ladder and pulled it down. He had to get to the roof.
Willow blinked at what the map was showing her. It shouldn’t be possible, but she’d checked the spell twice and it was showing her that Angel was surrounded by, well, angels. They were all waiting for whatever was about to happen. She bit her lip and wondered if she should interfere or not.
Angel heard the door to the roof open and heard pounding footsteps on the fire escape, but he ignored it all. It was too late to stop now and he really didn’t want to. He’d made his decision. Angel closed his eyes against the brightness of the dawn as he felt the first rays hit his body and braced for the pain. But instead of burning him, the sun wrapped him in gentle warmth and he smiled in peace as he disappeared.
Fred watched her friend smile contently as he faded from view and didn’t bother to blink back the tears. Wherever Angel had gone, it was a good place. That made the loss easier to bear.
She heard the cries of, “No!” and looked around in surprise.
Fred met Wes’ confused eyes with a sad smile. “Hello, Wesley.”
“Wes, you look like hell.”
Wes blinked twice and tore his gaze away from his Fred to look at Cordelia, who was leaning against a stunned-looking man. He cleared his throat, “You look ravishing as always, Cordelia.”
“We’re too late, he’s gone,” the man said softly.
Fred and Wes looked at the man curiously and Cordelia said, “I think he’s all right, Doyle. He didn’t burn; he just faded away. He looked happy.”
Fred shook her head, “Not happy, but peaceful. I can’t stay long. Why don’t we go back to Angel’s penthouse? I’ve got a story to tell and I know Gunn, Lorne, Spike, and Buffy will want to hear it.”
Buffy called Willow to let her know that Angel was gone. The witch offered to teleport Buffy to LA and she accepted. It was with a heavy heart that Willow performed the spell. She would always wonder if she’d done the right thing.
Spike stood at the window and watched the sun make its descent. His sire was gone. To save his family, he’d sacrificed himself. Spike shook his head; he couldn’t even be angry with the ponce. He knew precisely why Angel had done it.
He felt Buffy’s presence next to him, but didn’t look at her. She said softly, “It’s a great view.”
“Yeah, on a clear day you can see for miles.”
Angel looked down on his family. They’d accepted what he’d done and moved on. The Black Thorn had fallen as planned, and the Senior Partners hold had been severely weakened. Earth was safe for now.
Fred watched over those still living.
Cordelia and Dolye had returned to their afterlife together. That particular Heaven dimension was never quiet again.
Spike, Wes, Gunn, and Lorne renovated the Hyperion and reopened Angel Investigations. Buffy and Dawn were frequent visitors.
Connor eventually sought out Wes and asked about his father. Wes let him read the journals, then told Connor what had happened to Angel. He just nodded, unable to really comprehend the man who had been his father.
And Angel watched over them all. Where he was, it was peaceful and clear. And ‘They’ were right. On a clear day you really could see forever.
Thanks be to Gabrielle for the beta.