Persistence of Memory

Persistence of Memory

By tkp
Author's Notes

When Spike’s blood mixed with another Mohra demon’s, Spike said later, quietly, “I know you wanted this. The shan-shizzle thing.”

“That’s not the Sanshu,” Angel said. He was sitting at his desk in their Private Investigations office.

“Shoe polish, whatever,” Spike said. “Point is, listen, I’m trying to be heroic here, I know you wanted it, and I’m so—”

“You being human,” Angel clarified. “It’s not the Shanshu.”

Spike scowled, because apparently now that he didn’t have it, he wasn’t sorry at all. “If you cut me, do I not bloody bleed? You should try this circulation thing; it does wonders for your skin.”

Angel proceeded to explain that Mohra demons were freak circumstances, not rewards for services rendered by the Powers That Be. It was all accidental, and did not mean his duty, nor his penance, was complete.

Spike was staring at Angel as though he’d grown another head. “You mean this happened before—and you didn’t go to her?”

Angel didn’t bother to explain that one. He adjusted the clock on his desk.

Spike looked as though someone had hit him. In his new living, human body, it made him look strangely vulnerable, rather than much better, which was how Angel usually thought Spike looked when he got hit. “You’re a piece of work, aren’t you,” Spike breathed.

“Get going,” Angel said, because he already knew Spike would sure as hell go to her, even though he hadn’t.

“No, I thought it was bad when you made them take away your son,” Spike was saying, because of course he knew about Connor; he was so impossible to keep things from. “You’re saying you let them take your humanity?”

“I asked them to.”

“You asked them to take Connor, too.”

“He has a better life now.”

“Being brain-washed is so much better.” Spike was angry, now. It usually meant broken furniture. They had to replace the windows a lot here, but Angel Investigations hadn’t been that different. Angel was ready, and didn’t have to move a muscle. “You know what,” Spike said. “You’re not even worth it.. You push it all away so hard, I don’t even understand why I’ve stayed this long. Good riddance, Angel. Have a nice unlife.”

Spike didn’t know the half of it. He didn’t know what Angel had had that forgotten day with Buffy. He didn’t know Angel had made her forget it, just as he had made Connor forget him.

Connor remembered Angel now, of course, after the incident with Vale. Spike was the only one who knew who Connor was, besides Connor himself and Angel. Sometimes Connor would help in their investigations, the patrols, some of the hardcore demon hunting. Connor missed Spike when he left, but understood. Shrugged, smiled that pink smile, and said, “It’s about a girl.”

It helped that Connor remembered. Cordelia helped him understand not only about Spike, but other things, his normal, every day, real life things. The nightmares made him stronger, and of course the remembered instincts helped him fight.

But for the most part, he forgot.

When Connor talked to Angel, Dad was Laurence Reilly. Mom was Colleen Reilly; he had a sister, and family, and the worst thing that had happened to him was a car accident once when he was twelve. Having lived two lives, it was easy for Connor to pretend one didn’t exist, to only access that Connor when he needed to. The mind could only take so much, and anyway, this was what Angel had bought and paid for—for Connor to forget.

Spike didn’t understand. Angel had given up his own humanity. For Connor’s.

This was Angel’s Shanshu, this life he had given Connor, these memories that had been created, this chance for Connor to be normal. It was what he had tried to give to Buffy, too. He had asked the Powers That Be to take back that day, so that he wouldn’t be human—so that Buffy could be.

It was the reason he had left her. He didn’t think, being the Slayer, she would have much opportunity to get married or have the career she would have chosen, have a family or travel ‘round the world. He didn’t think, stalking graveyards by night, she’d have much chance to have picnics in the park, and long walks by beaches at sunset. But he wanted her to have those choices, those options, and she couldn’t with him.

He had made her forget what they could have had, just as he had given Connor the opportunity to forget, just as he had made everyone forget. They would not remember, but he would. He would toil in the shadows, fight in darkness, so that they could walk in light. He would be dead so that they could live.

Three months later, Spike was dead.

“What else is new?” Buffy said at one point. “He was only human, just like everyone else I love.”

Except Angel, but she didn’t need to say it. She’d come all the way to L.A. from the U.K. shortly after his death. Said Spike had said Angel had a good outfit going on down here, if you liked to beat the living shit out of things. “Though it sounded peachy,” Buffy said, and didn’t smile.

“I have super powers,” Connor offered.

Buffy and Connor were a good fit. Years of Spike—with a soul and without one—had gotten Buffy used to fighting with a partner. Connor longed for someone to be beside, and Angel had always worked better alone.

“He sort of reminds me of Spike, you know?” Buffy said once.

Angel thought it was one of the most horrible things she’d ever said to him, but Connor was his, and Spike had had no one but him for a role model the first twenty years of a new existence, and maybe that made him his, too. It was still incredibly offensive, but it made a weird kind of sense. Angel had always been one for taking on responsibility. Now that he wasn’t alive to remind Angel his annoyingness was really all his own, Angel took on him.

Of course, Spike could’ve stood to take some, too. He shouldn’t have gone to Buffy human. He shouldn’t have gone to Buffy at all, and he shouldn’t have been human, either. He should have spared Buffy this pain. Angel had denied himself so much, partly to deny her this. But Spike had never been one for regrets.

She held together. She was Buffy, after all. It was why he loved her. She saved the world a lot.

But he could see the grief in her. She looked worse than she had when he had left her, years ago now. She looked like when her mother died, like Wesley had looked for Fred. Like he had felt when he found out Cordy, that one last time, was a dream, and Connor . . .

Angel went with her, on patrols. Saw how she fought, like Spike used to, down, dirty, no holds bar. Saw how when they hunted a particularly nasty demon, she was focused, one track, the way he himself got—only after a hundred years focusing on nothing in particular. And most of all, saw how when they finally found the demon, Buffy took it down, executioner style.

Like Connor with Jasmine.

Connor stared when she did that, lips parting, a flash of something in those big baby blues. And then he shut it down, because he could, because Angel had given him that. He smiled and said, “Dude, that guy must’ve pissed you off.”

“Not really,” Buffy said, cleaning her scythe. “I just didn’t like his face. And he was impolite, was’n he?”

She was sounding like Spike again, only she couldn’t shut it down. Sometimes Angel thought she was in his arms, crying, “I won’t forget, I won’t forget,” over and over again. Because she was just that stubborn. He and Buffy had only had a day. He didn’t even know what three months would have done to her.

Angel thought about how he had turned it back, how she had forgotten. How she had drawn herself up and moved on.

It was what Spike should have done.

And Spike was his responsibility.

“I’m glad I decided to come to L.A.,” Buffy said, some time later.

“Me too,” Angel said. He was trying to cook for her, the way he sometimes had for his Angel Investigations crew. There was cookie dough fudge mint chip in the freezer.

“I missed you.”

“Missed you too.”

“Angel,” she whined. “Be a just a little original, won’t you?”

“What?” he said. “Peanut-butter is original. Peanut-butter and chocolate is very original.”

“Mmm.” Then she turned accusing. “You don’t even know what it tastes like. And I meant, stop agreeing with every thing I say.”

“Just trying to make you happy.”

Buffy sighed. “You always do.”

“Drink your milk,” Angel said.

“What’s best for me isn’t always best for me, know what I mean?”

“Sure.”

“You’re such a panderer.”

“I try.”

Buffy drank her milk and ate her peanut-butter sandwich. “Not to shatter your pander bubble,” she said after a while, “but sometimes I thought Spike actually could taste things. He couldn’t, but you know, he’d try. He’d’ve totally made a blood peanut-butter milkshake.”

“That’s really gross,” Angel said, and took away her plate.

“Yeah,” Buffy said, slightly wistful. “He was uber disgusting. I’m just saying before that Mohra thing killed him—he was sort of human.”

Angel hand tightened on the dishes. “No, he wasn’t.”

“No,” Buffy agreed, still wistful. “But he was the more human than most.”

Angel started washing the dishes.

Buffy came up behind him, touched his arm. Pulled him around, because she was still stronger than him. “He was more normal than you are. You’re—I’ve fought gods, I’ve died, I defeated the origin of evil. I still think you’re the most bizarre, because you’re everything I’m fighting, and you’re fighting it too, and you’re everything I want. Listen to me, Angel, because you should know, even when we’re apart. You’re the strangest, most un-normal thing I have. And you still make the most sense to me.”

“Buffy,” Angel said, and held her.

“The way I feel for you—it’s simple, and beyond reason. It will always be a part of me.”

She didn’t have dual memories like Connor. Just the one set. But Angel thought, if she could have this, something to retreat to, something to make her forget, it was enough.

She was happier now, and she smiled more.

She and Connor got along better than ever, which was . . . complicated for Angel. They were the two best things in his existence. They were bright points in his darkness, the humanity he would never have.

But they spent so much time together.

It wasn’t that Angel was jealous. He was used to being left out; he should be left out. If there was ever anything . . . romantic between them, he would not be angry. Of course, it might be uncomfortable considering their relationships with both of them, but Buffy deserved someone warm and good, innocent and alive, and Connor deserved the very absolute best the world had to offer. So they suited.

But Connor still did have that second set of memories, and more and more often Angel thought he could see a blink of memory in Connor’s eyes. He looked like he had when Buffy had executed that demon, and instead of moving past it, sometimes Connor looked like he was . . . moving through it. As if he was having to deal with these memories, with his horrible past, with all he had done and become, because here he was watching Buffy live the sort of life Angel had shifted the world so that Connor wouldn’t have to live.

Because Buffy was different too. She had gone to something like Heaven, which was nothing life Quor’Toth, but she’d been ripped back from it just the same. Her return had been the same reality check, same period of adjustment.

And then there was the Calling of all the Slayers, which had changed Buffy in so many unpredictable ways. She felt responsible for them all, but in control of them too, so many lives at her disposal, and so many deaths on her hands.

And there was always the killing she had to do, every night, of demons and monsters and things that went bump in the night. Of course, you wouldn’t ever catch her strapping explosives to people in a shopping mall. But Angel no longer counted on her and her alone to be the medium of his redemption. Nor did he count on Connor.

They were not to save him. They were to be saved.

In the end, that was what concerned him. Angel had killed Connor at the shopping mall that day to save him from himself, yes, but also from everything else. It wasn’t that he thought they couldn’t fight. One thing he’d always loved about Buffy was that she was a match for anyone, and with Connor, the two were nearly invincible.

The fought like a well-oiled machine, in concert, smooth and flawless, except living, breathing bleeding. Maybe it was more like something alien, like something rarely seen on this earth for their grace, their fluid movements. They were molten, golden, fierce and full of light.

And they would always have to fight, Angel knew, because such as they, bright as they were, would always have enemies. But their being together made it worse. Connor had had cults worship him before he was born; he’d had gods and demons playing games over him. And as the Slayer, the first Slayer, the true Slayer, as they called her, Buffy would always have monks dropping off false sisters at her door, have the root of Evil gunning to defeat her.

Angel might have convinced him to walk away from that shopping mall. In a static world, he might have even been able to help him heal from all the hurt he’d suffered. But the problem was, even if Connor could go back to the beginning, the rest of the world would still come after him. They would still hunt him, worship, and hate him for who he was. The rest of the world would have to forget.

Of course, he could not make the rest of the world forget the Slayer. That was part of who she was; it was not his to meddle with.

Only Connor was his. His responsibility.

“Was it something I did?” Connor joked.

“I just meant I wanted you to study, more,” Angel said. He and Connor were in Angel’s office. Connor had come asking to do a patrol with him. Angel didn’t know how to say no. “Do your architecture stuff, date girls, eat that horrible pasta stuff.”

“What? And not see you?” Connor’s large hand was clenched on the baggy cargo pants covering his thigh. His voice was still going for casual, like he didn’t really care. “Good thing you’re not my real dad, isn’t it, or I’d have some kind of desertion complex.”

“I’m not leaving you Connor,” Angel said, fervent. “Not ever. Even when you didn’t remember, I never left you.”

“About that.”

They never talked about it. After Vale, Connor had just wanted to forget it. When Wolfram and Hart was imploding, they hadn’t had time. And after that, when Connor came back to the ruins of L.A. and found the Private Investigators office Angel and Spike had opened, it was as though they’d moved beyond all that. But now, Connor seemed to think the conversation necessary.

“You realize they went inside my brain?” Connor was saying. “You know, when it says, ‘nothing outside you can defile you’ they’re not really taking into account mind control.”

“I was trying to give you a chance,” he told Connor.

“I know. I’m glad.” Connor’s hand loosened a fraction on his khakis. “What you gave me makes me able to see how messed up it is. I wouldn’t have seen it before, you know. I didn’t see it.”

“That’s not the same thing,” Angel snapped.

“Isn’t it?”

“Connor.” Angel got his voice back under control. “Son, I didn’t mean I didn’t want to see you. I do. I love you. But I want you to try to have a normal life. The best you can make it, and to keep this—all this—” he made a vague gesture around the office, “separate.”

“I know that,” Connor said, more gentle, too. He was standing now. “But you can’t expect me not to fight when people are getting hurt.”

“I don’t.” Angel stood too. Tossed Connor one of the stakes on his desk, which his son caught effortlessly. “I know it’s part of who you are, and I can’t take that away.” Same with Buffy. “I just want you to know that is all there is. You can have more.”

“Yeah.” Connor pocketed the stake in those large pants, which made it disappear completely. “I know. You made it that way.” He started walking away, but stopped. “Look, I said I was glad. I meant it. But I’m not sure that means I have to like it.”

“You don’t,” Angel told him.

Connor gave a rueful laugh. “Thanks, Dad.”

As he was walking out the door, Buffy was just about to walk in. “Uh,” Connor said. “Hi.”

“Hey,” Buffy said, sizing him up. “Is Angel around? Big guy, Neanderthal brow, hair sticks up?”

Connor laughed. “You forgot his metrosexual clothes. He’s all yours,” he told Buffy, then turned to Angel to say, “I get it.” As Buffy came in the door, Connor backed out behind her, mouthing at the vampire, “It’s about a girl.” He raced out the door before Angel could respond.

“Who was that?” Buffy asked.

Angel shook his head. “No one.”

Connor had only been in the room about five seconds before he’d left, but Buffy was frowning slightly, nose adorably wrinkled. “You know,” she said. “He sort of reminded me of Spike.”

Buffy talked about Spike a lot. Angel thought that she only could have come to really care for him during that three months he’d been human, but apparently that wasn’t the case. She missed him, and Angel hated that she’d lost another person she’d cared for. Even if it was Spike.

“I miss him,” Buffy said. They had got back from a patrol and Buffy was talking about Spike again, and Angel hadn’t been able to help responding. “But probably not in the ways you think.”

“I know I said things when I came to give you that amulet.” Angel cleaned his sword and put it away. “They were wrong. I don’t know . . . what he meant to you. I’m not . . . going to judge you.”

“I don’t know what he meant either.” Buffy put her scythe down in the closet, next to his sword. “Sometimes when I look back on how we were before he got his soul, I hate myself. And I hate him. But I needed him.”

“I understand,” Angel said. He rubbed off some dirt on her cheek. They were still filthy from the patrol. “I wasn’t there.”

“Um.” Buffy caught his hand. “You weren’t. But it wasn’t really about you.”

“I just meant . . . when we can have this, things are easier. For me, anyway.”

Buffy’s eyes softened. She leaned into Angel, her arms slowly rising to lock around his waist. Just as slowly, his arms wrapped around her back, burying in her hair. Her face was against his chest. He could feel her heartbeat quicken. “We had a lot of sex,” she blurted.

“He might have mentioned that.” Angel’s voice was dry, his voice a tepid puff of air onto the top of her head.

“Right. He would. Sometimes I wish everything was as easy as it always is with you,” she said, and kissed him.

“We can’t,” he said, but could not push her away, only pulled her tighter to him.

“I’m pretty sure we can.” She kissed him again.

He had her backed against the weapons closet. Her thighs were tight and strong around his hips, and her lips were so soft and warm against his own. They fit in every way, despite the fact they shouldn’t have—he so much taller, and older, a vampire and a murderer and everything else he hated and she had to fight against. But she tasted so damn good, and her hands were ripping off his shirt.

When he brought her to the bed, it was like spreading butter, so soft and golden she was, so warm and wet. Her thighs opened like a song, and they cradled him so easily. When he was inside her again it was as though not any time had passed, she was that tight, her sounds that innocent and desperate, his cock that hard inside her.

The difference was in her. There was sorrow, there, a life lived without him. There were moments of ecstasy, when she arched her back in such a way, when she had to look away, that he knew she was thinking of someone else. There was what had happened last time they did this, and he had turned into a monster, and became again everything he hated, everything he wished he could wipe away, the life she had made him think he could forget.

All of that, he could see in her, which was why he wouldn’t find his perfect happiness.

For himself, he was the same; he knew he would always be the same. He loved her just as much, needed her that much, wanted to save her and thought he could as much as he ever had. If he were anyone else, it would have made him feel like a god. Because of who he was, it made him feel like a man. He was someone who could love her, who made her happy, someone whose sins could be forgiven by her.

She could forgive him the shiftless idiot he’d been before he’d been turned, the mastermind of murder and torture he became after. She could forgive what he’d been afterward his, so warped by his own despair, he could never put what he had to any good. She could forgive him Drusilla, whose mind he twisted. He had made Drusilla remember things that never happened, believe in people who were never there. Believe that she was all he had, until she couldn’t exist without him. Buffy could forgive him that.

She could forgive him Spike.

“Sometimes I miss old school Sunnydale,” Buffy said one night. They’d been fighting demons at a diner, and afterwards the cook and a waitress bawled them out for not coming sooner. “It’s like they had a rat infestation, or something. Like we’re exterminators.”

“Like the governor?” Angel said.

“That’s a Terminator. I liked the government better back in those days, too.”

“Mayor Wilkins.” Angel put his sword away across his back. “Barrel of laughs.”

“He had this fluff on the sides of his head,” Buffy said, skipping beside him, “but was sort of bald on top. Like a koala.”

They walked for a while. The stars weren’t visible, but the night air was cool. The grass was wet, and it felt good to walk with Buffy. “You really miss it?”

“Well . . . the way everyone was willfully oblivious was sort of . . . endearing, after a while. No matter what I did, it was a freak accident, and I was the freak girl with the freaky . . . freaks always freakily attacking her, and freaky things happening to her freaky self, and all around, it was just . . .”

“Freakishness?”

“I was going to say a trunk full of monkeys, but okay. Now it’s just . . .” Buffy swished her scythe. “Everyone knows who I am. They know what demons are, and they know . . .”

“That darkness.”

“I was supposed to protect them,” Buffy went on, brow furrowed. “And sometimes, I thought it was good that they were . . . so blind. That they didn’t know. I thought it was easier to save them if they were ignorant. Know what I mean?”

“Yeah,” Angel said. “I get it.”

“It was hard, being all alone.” Angel’s hand slipped down to the small of her back. “But in some ways it was better. I didn’t choose it, but it was my job. I had to be the one to save them. Even if it was from themselves. No one took it into their own hands. It was all me, and that . . . was easier.”

“You’re talking about the other Slayers.”

Buffy sighed. “Partly. I still don’t know how to handle that. What we did.” She brightened, but her expression had sharp edges. “Plus, you know, I miss the way the villains organized themselves into a yearly schedule. With Glory and Adam and Koala Mayor and everything. And let’s not forget where I first met you and your lovely, well-traveled family.”

“Maybe you had better,” Angel said, smiling grimly.

“Aw, not the Master. Mayor Wilkins had nothing on him as far as animal resemblances go. The Master was a naked mole-rat.”

Angel shuddered. “Please don’t tell me you saw him naked.”

“Ew. Disgusting, much? And then there was that chick Darla, and let’s not forget your whack-job Dru. I should have commissioned a portrait. Great grandpa and Grandma, Father-dearest and his screwed up ward. The perfect little family of four.”

Shaking his head, Angel murmured, “I really don’t understand your nostalgia.” Her voice was actually sort of warm.

“You know the weirdest thing about Sunnydale going pop, right off the map like that?” Buffy said.

“No.” Angel was just glad to be off the subject of those who had turned him, and those he himself had turned.

“Was that in the end, it was so easy. The First was supposed to be the badass-est, right?”

Angel didn’t say anything about the word ‘badass-est’, though he wanted to. He knew what was coming.

“I thought I was going to die. I thought at least one of us would have to stay behind, and of course it would have to be me. It was just weird that amulet you gave me worked all by itself.”

“Yeah,” Angel said, feeling like the word came to slow. He must not drag his feet.

“I’m glad you didn’t stay and burn up,” Buffy said, her hand slipping into Angel’s, tugging him forward. “I’m glad no one had to. I know you wanted to.”

“I wanted to,” Angel said. “For you.”

She stood on tippy-toe and pulled him down to kiss him. “And the world. You take way too much on, Angel. That’s why I love you.”

“I love you too,” he said, and they walked on.

“Just what do you think you’re doing?”

Angel turned with his fists half-raised before he placed the voice.

Willow was standing in his dark office, shimmery and white.

“Thought you were off the astral map,” Angel said.

“I drop in once in a while. Puppies need saving, Xander gets a super-Nietzche-complex over that yellow crayon stuff, people brainwash my friends. You know. Whatever’s happenin’.”

“Really?” Angel asked flatly. “I never notice Buffy thinking she can ask you for help.”

“Buffy, thinking? Don’t be a moron, Angel. Dolls don’t think. They’re heads are full of sawdust.”

Angel didn’t have to listen to this. Buffy was waiting for him at home. He turned to leave, and Willow was there in front of him again. “Bet that gets old,” he told her.

“Materializing out of the ether?” Willow said, smug. “Not really. How are you even doing it to her? It’s a crazy-lotta power. I know once you asked some oracle whosits. Another time it was a very shady deal with the Wolf, Ram, Hart baddies. What’ve you been using lately? Vengeance demons? Torchwood Retcon? Owies on the head?”

“You’re the one appearing from thin air,” Angel said. “You figure it out.”

“Doesn’t work like that.”

“Tough.”

“You can’t do this, Angel,” Willow went on. “What, you thought people wouldn’t notice? Oh, right, you did. No one can remember you did any of it. Because you Silly Putty-sculpt their brains.”

Willow was beautiful. She was ethereal, almost not-quite there, with an aura of light about her. She looked like Angel had often dreamed of Cordy looking, when she ascended to a higher plane. Cordy, of course, had been his, so that image of her touched him in a different way, but it was the same other-worldliness, the holiness. Cordy had had it when she’d touched Connor’s cheek at the Hyperion, made him able to move past the ugly nightmares of his hellish past, made the whole place light up with white light. That had been the moment Connor fell for her.

And the moment he should have known it wasn’t real, Angel thought. Because Cordelia had never ascended, and that power working through her, working through the Beast and through Connor, had been Jasmine. But Angel hadn’t realized it, none of them had realized it, for the beauty. Cordelia had been so precious to them, and Jasmine so divine. When Jasmine came forth, they were all so willing to believe the peace she claimed she brought. The peace she did bring, in a way.

“Gonna try to guilt trip me?” Angel asked Willow. “You, who fucked with all those little girls?”

“I didn’t,” Willow began, and the waves of white around her swayed like lilies in the wind.

“You know what the First Slayer was,” Angel said. “You know what Buffy is, that it was her darkness that was Called. That she had to be something she never should have.”

“What she should have been isn’t up to us.”

“It isn’t,” Angel snapped. “And what those girls are now shouldn’t have been up to you, either.”

Willow’s mouth turned down, pink and fragile and sad, the only thing except her big eyes that did not glow slightly with brightness. “This isn’t about me.”

“You come here,” Angel said. “You come to my city; you materialize in my office; you tell me what to do—”

“With my friend!”

Angel didn’t speak for a moment, because he didn’t need to. He let the silence say that Buffy didn’t belong to either one of them. “You come in here,” he repeated quietly, “to protect her. To save her from me, from the monsters out to get her. Where are you when she needs you? Her friend would be by her side.”

Willow’s aura pulsed as her voice went flat, the usual lilt of her distinctive speech fading. “Like you?”

“I’m not the one trying to alleviate my guilt,” Angel went on. “I’m not the one who turned on her, betrayed her, tried to destroy the world.”

“Uh.” Willow raised her hand. “Excuse me?”

Angel’s jaw went tight. “I didn’t have a soul.”

“What, being consumed by black magic doesn’t count for anything? That wasn’t all me, you know. Besides, who was the one who stuffed your soul back in last time it went bye-bye?” She gave a mirthless laugh. “Oh right, me.”

“You changed those children. Those girls,” Angel emphasized. “You played with their minds and bodies.”

“I saved the world.”

“Yeah. You did. Others, more powerful than you, have done it too. I saw it happen.”

“Me too. I’m astral-planey girl; I see things. I see what you’re doing to Buffy. What you did to Connor. I know all about Jasmine, and what I did was nothing like her. And this is about Buffy.”

“You’re damn right it is. You don’t know what it does to her,” Angel said, “having these Slayers she feels responsible for. Knowing they can’t have a normal life, because of her. Knowing their paths were chosen for them.”

“At least I didn’t do it to Buffy!” Willow exploded. “At least I’m not the one manipulating her.”

Angel was silent for a moment. “Connor killed Jasmine. He loved her with everything that was in him, and he killed her, because she brainwashed people. Because she was so strong, no one else could kill her, and because she was misusing that strength. Because she was one astral plane girl who just went too far.”

Willow was going kind of floaty.

“Buffy has already had to hunt you down once,” Angel said. “Don’t think she won’t do it again some day, if it comes to that. She hunted me. She’s that much a Champion.”

“How can you even talk about brainwashing?” Willow said.

“Because Connor saved the world,” Angel said. “But I saved Connor. I can save her too.”

A year later, they were lying in bed. Angel was thinking again of the day, the lost day. They’d spent that one in bed, too. “Buffy,” he said.

“Yeah?” She was snuggled against him, wearing only his black silk shirt.

“Your sister. She was the Key, and they inserted her into your memories.”

Buffy snorted into Angel’s chest. “You’d think I’d remember that, but somehow I’ve forgotten.”

“Sorry. I just meant . . . do you think they were wrong? Giving you those false memories?”

Silent for a while, Buffy traced doodles on his chest. “Do you mean, would I give up Dawn? No. I think I made that kind of obvious when I killed myself.”

Angel caught up Buffy’s hand and kissed it. “Okay. I was just wondering.”

“But if you mean, do I think those monks were wrong to go inside my brain?” Buffy watched Angel’s hand still on her wrist. “They messed with my mind. It’s wrong no matter how you spin it.”

“But it was worth it,” Angel persisted.

“I got Dawn out of it, yeah. I’m glad they did it, in the end.”

Angel nodded. “That’s all I wanted to know.”

Still watching as he kissed her hand some more, her palm, her wrist, Buffy seemed to be thinking of something else. “Tara accidentally did this spell once,” she said. She drew away, looking puzzled. “It was really bizarre, made us forget everything. I named myself Joan.” She smiled briefly, and Angel smiled back.

“Turned out she was just trying to make one of us forget some little fight, like a disagreement,” Buffy went on. “And even though it was just something little, it was a really horrible thing for her to do. You would have thought she’d know better, because she’s the one Glory messed with. You know, I told you about that. Glory reached in her mind to find the Key, and Tara was crazy for a while. But she got better, and then . . . did this.”

“What did Willow say?” Angel asked, because he was not thinking.

Buffy frowned. “Who?”

“Nothing,” Angel said. “I was thinking of something else. You know I love you, right?”

Yawning, Buffy rested her head against Angel’s chest. “Yeah. I’ll always remember that,” she said, “and you.”

The End

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Author's Notes:
Rating: R
Summary: Angel thinks turning back the day he turned human (in the episode “I Will Remember You”) is one of the best things he ever did. These are the other things.

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