Standard disclaimer: Angel, Joyce, Kate, and the rest belong to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Fox, etc. This work is unauthorized and not for profit. Timeframe: The last day of "Epiphany", the day of "The Body"
The Hyperion seemed to mirror the state of his mind. As they had brought the team together under its roof, it had been bright, cheery, molded around the people who fought evil within its walls. Then the break had come, and as he'd become more wrapped in his obsession, the place had begun to deteriorate. Nothing overt - unless you took into account the destruction wrought early the night before, between the moments of despondent passion.
Now Angel looked out at the shambles he'd created through depressed indifference, and it screamed out at him to fix it.
First, the clothing. He grabbed a pile of wrinkled pants, shirts, and sundries, dug for a dusty box of detergent, and was halfway to the door to the laundry room when he happened to take a sniff.
Okay, laundry second. First, shower.
Turn the taps. Okay, they hadn't cut off the water. Adjust the temperature; all right, the boiler still worked. Soap? Check. Shampoo? Still got some. Lather, rinse, repeat; lather, rinse, and out. Towels. Still a couple of clean ones. Hair gel? Oops.
He had to shop. Actually, he had to do a lot of things.
He couldn't go back to the way things had been. "You don't," the Host had said. "You go to the new place." But to do that, Angel had to at least close some doors, make things right.
And he had to do it without ripping open every wound in his soul.
He walked over to the phone, absently noted the blinking message light. He pushed "play" and the voice that came out was almost enough to shatter his resolve right there.
"You did it, didn't you, you bastard?"
Crunch. It felt like that time Buffy had run the sword through his heart. No, actually, this was worse; this time, he knew exactly what he had done, had known going in, and hadn't cared.
Now he cared. And it was too late to go back.
"...And you'll feel all bad, or you won't care, but--"
Angel slammed his hand down on the ERASE button, cutting off Kate's slurred, despondent voice. The past was dead.
But Kate wasn't. She'd been lucid enough to order him out of her home after he'd managed to get her to throw up the pills.
The past was dead, but the present was still alive.
So what to do?
He thought. Obviously, the team was still together. He'd fired them; they'd re-created themselves without him. Maybe ... it sounded absurd when he thought of it. Maybe they'd take him back. Hire him back to the team he'd founded.
It was worth a try. He grabbed his coat, headed for the door--
--only to realize that barring an exceptionally long solar eclipse, or a thunderstorm sweeping in out of nowhere, he wasn't going anywhere. Not in the blazing afternoon sun, he wasn't.
Okay, so he'd wait.
In the meantime, the phone kept calling to him on a level he didn't understand. He walked over, picked it up, and was dialing before he even knew what he was doing.
The phone had already started to ring before he realized he'd dialed Buffy's number.
At the second ring he remembered: Buffy would be at her dorm. College. Or with Riley.
The phone rang a third time as he finally realized who was going to pick up the--
A moment of silence, then: "Angel? Is everything all right?"
"Yeah. No ... actually, I guess yeah."
"I'm afraid Buffy isn't around at the moment. She had a little situation."
"It's okay, Joyce." Angel sighed. "Actually, it feels better to talk to you than Buffy, anyway. Too much awkwardness there."
"What with Riley." And there it was, the reason he hadn't even tried to get in touch for most of the past year. All he could do was mess things up.
Gee, that sounded familiar.
"Actually ... Riley left."
"Oh ... er ... sorry to hear ... I'm sorry. Is Buffy okay?"
"She's dealing. It's not as bad as..." Joyce's voice tailed off.
as when you told me I had to decide whether to leave your daughter
"...I'm sorry. That was tactless," Joyce said.
"No, it's ... you were right. You realize that."
"Angel, are you all right? You sound like you've been through hell."
He sighed, then laughed ruefully. "It wasn't quite that bad. Not this time around. Just a bunch of things I've got to work through. Ah ... how are things there? How's Dawn?"
Joyce laughed. "She's Dawn. She's just becoming a teenager. A lot like Buffy, except without all the Slayer baggage. It's ... it's been good to have her around, especially after the whole tumor thing."
Angel's cold dead heart froze. "Tumor?"
Joyce suddenly took on a reassuring tone. "Don't worry, the doctors got it all. It was me, not Buffy or Dawn. They're okay."
He almost felt his heart start beating. "Thank God. For you too."
"Yeah. I'm actually starting to live again, it feels. Would you believe I actually had a date last night?"
She sounded ... god, she sounded like Buffy had when talking about him when she thought he couldn't hear him. "Good for you, Joyce. It's way past time."
And the laugh on the other end of the line had as much healing power as any spell Angel had come across. "I know. Hey, nobody lives forever ... ah ..."
"Not even me, Joyce. Not if I'm lucky," Angel said quickly into the silence.
"Prophecy I ran across. Supposedly I'm going to come up against the apocalypse, and if I can beat it, I'll shansu."
"Gezundheit," Joyce said, smothering a giggle. "What's shansu?"
"Die." When there was no answer, Angel added, "Live. The cycle of life and death. Basically, become human. I think. It's not really clear."
"So how will it happen?" Joyce asked.
Angel closed his eyes a moment. "I don't know. And maybe that's the point."
"You lost me."
"It isn't the goal that matters ... or maybe it doesn't matter. If we prevent an apocalypse this year, there'll be another looming somewhere down the line. I dunno. All that matters, I guess -- is that we just try to help."
"Excuse me, would you put Angel back on the phone?" Joyce asked, laughing.
"Well, last night ... someone pointed out to me that if there weren't evil in us, we'd all be angels. Then I realized that if there weren't good in us, we'd all be demons. We're not. There's things worth doing. People worth saving, all the time." He sighed. "But enough about me and my enlightenment - how's the gang there?"
"Well ... they're going on about like you'd expect. They've got some love-obsessed robot out on the town, Buffy's trying to stop it."
"That's what Buffy said. Along with some choice words for some guy named Warren."
"Do I even want to know?" Angel asked, shaking his head.
And Joyce laughed like a bell. "Don't worry. Once it's all shaken out, I'll call, I'll tell you everything."
"I'd ... I'd like that."
"Then it's settled," Joyce said. Then there was a moment of nothing but the buzzing of the phone line, then a sharp breath. "Uhh..."
"It's okay. Just a headache. Still get them on occasion."
"Are you sure? Joyce, you just said--"
"I'm all right, Angel. I'm just gonna lie down a couple minutes, get a bit of rest."
Angel closed his eyes in relief. "I'll let you go then. Take care of yourself, Joyce..."
"Don't worry about me, okay? I'm fine. I'll give Buffy your love, and tell Dawn you said hey, all right?"
"That ... that would be nice."
"And I'll call tomorrow. I promise."
"Take care, Joyce."
"You too," Joyce said, and rang off.
Angel closed his eyes again. Just hearing a friendly voice ... it was almost like magic. Like the blood of the Slayer against that poison Faith had shot into him, only the magic had come just through the sound of her voice.
And suddenly he had the courage he needed to move on. To leave the old place behind, and go on to the new place. To face his people and make amends.
Now all he had to do was wait for the sun to cooperate. And tidy up some of the mess in the meanwhile.
It took an hour to run the laundry and tidy up the broken furniture; by then the sun was crawling down to the horizon. He grabbed his coat, walked into the foyer, grabbed his keys, stalked to the door --
--and ran smack into Kate Lockley.
"Kate. You look ... better."
"Amazing what a coupla donuts can do." She shook her head. "God, that sounded cliche."
"Uh ... come in. I ... uh ... would you like a cup of coffee?"
Kate closed her eyes a moment. "That ... would be nice."
Angel went back to the office kitchen and set up the coffee machine. "It won't be much. I'm not much of a coffee drinker."
"Somehow I'm not surprised." There wasn't any malice behind her voice. "Don't worry. They don't give you a badge unless you can drink bad coffee."
He ran the machine long enough to pump out a cup, and handed it to her. She took it without a word, took a sip. "You're right. This is bad coffee."
His face fell.
"But it's the best coffee I've had in a year and a half." She sat down, cradling the mug.
Angel sat down next to her, wondering how to breach the prickly subject.
She spared him. "I feel like such an idiot," she said softly.
"Lot of that going around," Angel acknowledged, comfort and confession in one.