And Now I Never Will

I open my door. I use all of my vampire strength to do it. It seems to weigh a ton. Even the littlest things seem to sap all my energy now.

I walk down the steps. The heavy blackout curtains are drawn across the windows. I wonder briefly what would happen if I simply left them open one day. If I simply stopped trying, stopped going through the motions of living. Would anyone really care?

Stupid question. Of course they would. Their names slide off my tongue like water, devoid of substance.

Fred. Gunn. Buffy. Willow, I always liked her. Spike, even Wesley maybe. Connor and Lilah and Justine, all wanting me to bend to their will, all wanting to control my fate.

All failing miserably.

I answer to no one anymore. No one I care for is left on this earth, so why bother?

Their names are heavier, thicker. More bruising.

Connor. Cordelia. Buffy.

None of them are dead. All of them are gone. The love we shared is not gone, but lost somewhere in the empty space between us.

I loved them all. I lost them all. I got them all back. I lost them again. I died when they left.

But that's not really fair.

I left Buffy. Connor was stolen from me. Cordelia was taken by the Powers. It doesn't matter.

Once upon a time, it would have. Mattered, I mean. Once upon a time I would have clung to that, putting all my energy into false hopes and useless rescue plans to get them back. Once upon a time, I would have expected them to come back eventually.

None of them ever did.

Connor's the one that really hammered the nail in the coffin. I loved that little boy, so much it nearly killed me. I would have died for him. And then he was gone, stolen away by my worst enemy. And then he was back. But different.

My son, the little boy I held in my arms, hated me with a hatred that ate at my heart like acid. He could not be convinced that I had a heart, that I could love. Holtz's influence was too strong. Connor-no, Stephen-was his son. I was just the sperm donor.

Buffy was my world for so long. The very person-er, vampire-I was was tied up in her, in the way I felt about her. I felt lost without her. And then I didn't. That hurt even worse. The space previously filled up with my love for her was now empty, and I missed her. I had to learn who I was all over again, to learn to redefine myself without her.

Cordelia was the light of my life. I don't care how corny that sounds. Her smile was the only sunshine I could have without exploding into cinder. The fact that I had loved her before I was ever in love with her only made my love stronger. She was my world, my everything. Losing her was like losing an arm, or maybe more like an upper torso. A dozen times a day you reach for it, wanting to do something, and realizing it's gone. And never coming back. For a while I was illusioned enough to think she was actually coming back. That our love was stronger than any mission, that the Powers would grant me this because we had worked so long for them, and blah, blah, blah. I tried everything to get her back. Spells, Dark magick, sticking things into myself, threatening suicide. It didn't work. Lorne, finding me one day crying over her favorite dress, finally told me the truth-she wasn't coming back. The Powers That Be apparently decided that they needed us too much as warriors to actually allow me to be happy. It was the last part of a test, he told me, to trust them and destiny enough to do this. I listened to him with a closed face and rapidly drying eyes. I listened without tears as my life was officially proclaimed over.

I miss her every day. I wake up sometimes with a smile, tremendously happy from a dream of her, wholly expecting to find her beside me. There's always the moment of realization when I realize she's not there, nor will she ever be. It's just fantasies and ghosts and empty wishes. I will never see her roll her eyes at me, never smell her vanilla shampoo and light perfume I have memorized, never hear her call me "dork" in the same tolerant, long-suffering tone again. I will never hold her, never touch her, never feel her hand in mine, never get a chance to tell her how much I love her. She will laugh, and cry, and smile, and frown, and none of it will be for me. That moment never gets easier.

Then there are the other days. Those are the times I wake up panting, with tears streaming down my face from the twisted images haunting my sleep. Images I have of Cordy, my Cordy, hurt, upset, bruised, crying out for me, and me not able to get to her. Those times I wake up quickly and sharply. I sit there in the dark for hours and watch the people go by outside while I think about all those things I will never have, never get to do, never be able to say. And I sob for all of them.

The house in Aspen. Dinner by the fire, a warm bed. A warm body in my arms. Soft lips on mine, my son in the other end of the house. And sunlight. There is so much of it. All around us, gliding over our faces like liquid fire. Going out in it to play with my son and laugh with my wife. Looking into eyes the color of the hot chocolate we drink in the wintertime and seeing love gleaming back at me.

I can't stand to look at Fred and Gunn and see the pity reflected there. I can't stand to watch the concerned looks flit across their faces as they check the refridgerator and note that the cow's blood they got me a few weeks ago is still full. I haven't had a single cup of the stuff in a month. How can I? It is the stuff that flows through the bodies of all my friends, the stuff I need to survive, the stuff that comes from something living. I always accepted that.

But now there is no Cordelia to stir in a stick of cinnamon, to sneak in a flask of blood to fancy restaurants so I can have something I actually need. There is no husky voice that raises and lowers with her moods to tell me it is okay to be who I am, that none of it matters because "I have the biggest heart around." Because it is not okay. It will never be okay again.

Connor wants to kill me. I know this, though I don't want to. He believes I killed Holtz, a suspicion furthered by Justine, and is out for the bloody vengeance his father foresaw, I am sure. Holtz realized what it took me so long to-Love is stronger than hate and much more deadly. Feelings are far more easily manipulated than bodies, and it is far more satisfying to destroy somebody's heart than their life. We are all born to die, and death is only a weapon when not used directly on someone. Going after the person someone loves is far worse than going after them, because instead of suffering for a few short seconds-or even months-they have to suffer for the rest of their miserable life.

In that way only, I am glad Cordelia is gone for this. Sooner or later, I must face my son. I've come to terms with that fact. I understand. I accept it. But I'm not sure if she could. She loved that little boy as much as I did, considered herself his mother. He considered her his mother. I'm not sure if she could stand it if either of us lived at the expense of the other. The only reason I am able to accept it is because I was warned. When I came back to life after my vampiric death, I was warned that I would have to pay a high price to stay that way. I was warned that my mission was to protect people, and that would be my life. And that would be all my life.

Even if I do one day Shansu, what then? I still won't have Cordelia, or Connor, or Wesley. Buffy and everyone else I've ever cared about will probably be dead or have forgotten who I am. It will be as if I never existed. "I can walk like a human but I'm not one." But what happens when I am one? Will all that was Angel simply fade out? Does it even matter?

No. I am now truly the walking dead. I see it in their faces, and I see it in the space where my reflection should be. I am fading out of life, fading out of this world. Cordelia was my anchor to this world, and now she's gone, and I'm slipping. It's slow, so slow you'd barely even notice it, but it's still there. It's there in the search for the right facial expression, it's there for the way I have not had a single smile reach my eyes since she left. It is there. And it is growing.

So smile, Connor-Stephen. My time draws near. Your mother is gone. I wish you could have known her better, for she is an extraordinary woman. We will face off soon. It will be the last battle I ever fight.

"I lived. You just existed." He was wrong. A blonde sprite named Buffy taught me how to love, and a beautiful woman named Cordelia taught me how to live. I loved. I had, in my life, at least one person for which my love transcends time and space. I miss her. My soul belongs to her, and where she goes, it goes. I go. I loved her and never got a chance to tell her. And now I never will.