Sunset. Not nearly as beautiful as what he recalled of sunrise, but still it held a magic and beauty of its own. The perfect moment, when the sun sank beneath the horizon, when Angel could actually stand and gaze on the after image of its light. Standing on the roof of the building, Angel leaned forward, resting his arms comfortably on the ledge. Another night was falling in the city of angels, another soul somewhere would be hurting and in need of aid. As for the two souls bond together, Angel still hadn’t decided whether it was deliverance or punishment.
He still wrestled with the question of ‘what if.’ If he had known then what he knew now, would he have crushed the orb? Would he have tried to escape with it instead and allow Giles to work his magick? Deep down inside, he knew the answer; he would have acted as he had because it was the only way to keep Ami truly free of Cordovan and Giselle. Unfortunately, unless Giles’ research turned up something, the Tomorrow Person would never be free of the vampire.
Thinking of Ami as he was, his mind could not help but attune itself to her. He hadn’t seen her for nearly a week – not that he could blame her. Sharing your soul and being bonded with a vampire couldn’t be high on her list of things she wanted to do before she died. In a way, he was glad to not have seen her – it meant that he didn’t have to feel guilt over what had happened – even if Giles and Doyle had repeatedly reminded him that he had nothing to feel guilty for. How wrong they were. He had two hundred years to feel guilty for; and if he’d been able to protect Ami, this would never have happened to begin with.
So much for Doyle’s warning visions.
She was very, very close now. That surprised Angel the moment his mind locked onto the knowledge. After a week of avoidance, a week when she only spoke to Doyle or Cordelia, she was here. She was climbing the stairs to the rooftop.
She was looking for him.
He listened as the door to the roof swung open, listened as she padded softly up to his side. He felt her approach, felt the lightness of her soul and instinctively, he closed his eyes, savoring that light. The demon stirred, but did not rattle the bars of its cage. It was a part of the bond that he could not deny that he enjoyed. She seemed to lift some of the darkness -- and she was able to quell the demon.
Ami mimicked his stance, leaning forward against the cement ledge to look at the city sprawled beneath them. He couldn’t tell what she was thinking, they had made certain of that in the early days of this bond. She was used to holding her mental shields, used to filtering the thoughts of others away from her own. Angel had discovered that it was not so difficult to damp down the link between their minds. As Whistler had said, they would learn to compensate. And they were learning.
"Doyle told me that I would find you up here," Ami said simply, her clipped accent floating across the stillness of falling night.
"Dusk. It’s my time."
"I like this part of sunset," Ami mused. "Right before it’s perfectly dark. When the sky turns purple and the sun disappears, and day meets night."
Angel shot her a glance out of the corner of his eye. He wondered if she was trying to apply some subtle metaphor to describe their current situation. If she was, she said nothing more. The young woman never even turned her head in his direction, continuing to stare across the cityscape.
They stood like that, side by side until full night rose, without a single hint of purple in the sky, darkness cloaking them. It was hardly a comfortable silence of camaraderie, but Angel had to admit that something about it felt right. Having her there felt right . . . if a bit awkward. After all, what did one say and how did one interact with the person whom The Powers That Be had chosen as your soul-mate? How did you interact with someone who was, for lack of a better word, an intimate stranger?
"I was thinking," she surprised him by speaking again, but still not looking at him, "I want to help out. I want to work with you. And Doyle and Cordelia."
That was unexpected. Angel turned to look at her, noting that she purposely avoided his eyes, drawing invisible patterns on the ledge. He said nothing, watching her and waiting. Somehow he knew that she wasn’t quite done yet . . . that she hadn’t said all that she wanted to say.
Her head rose slowly, her dark eyes meeting his. The effect of achieving eye contact was still there, linking them immediately and completely. But this time it wasn't nearly as unexpected, or as invasive. She held a tight rein on her mental shields, holding her thoughts inside and keeping his out. Yes, he still felt a wash of emotion, and the pressing awareness and knowledge of her, that never changed. But he was grateful for her telepathic abilities and her previously learned ability to shield. It protected them both until they were ready to be that intimate with one another. If they ever would be. "I came to Los Angeles just to get away from home and spread my wings. I guess I've done that -- and then some. But something has always been missing and I think this is it.
"I like what you're doing, helping people and fighting evil and I want to be a part of that . . . whatever way I can. I want to help people. I want to help you." She lowered her eyes again as she said the last, her voice dropping to a barely audible whisper. Had it not been for his preternatural hearing, he would not have heard her next words, "If you don’t mind, that is."
Angel considered her for a long moment, staring thoughtfully at the top of her head. Fate, destiny and The Powers That Be had thrown them together, and if he had learned nothing else from his time in Sunnydale and his few short months in Los Angeles, it was that he really couldn't argue with them. He didn't understand them, or what they did, but if it was a step along the path to his redemption, then he would accept it. And if Ami thought that she fit in with their rag-a-tag group, then who was he to argue with her?
Doyle and Cordelia had already accepted her inevitable presence in his life, and their lives by default, as could be seen by the number of times one, or both, of them had gone down to campus to see her since that first occasion when he sent them. So, perhaps she did belong here, perhaps she did fit in with them.
And if Ami wanted to be here . . . maybe Doyle was right. Maybe she didn't blame him for any of this, maybe she really did want to make the best of things. Maybe she really was a part of his redemption.
Hesitantly Angel reached out a hand, hooking a finger under her chin to force her eyes up to his. Angel felt inexplicably relieved when she didn’t flinch away at his touch. "You know what we do isn’t easy, Ami. It’s dangerous, it’s –"
The vampire stopped as the eyes of the young woman before him widened. He could see the wheels turning in her head, and he sighed as he realized a bit belatedly that if she hadn’t already figured that out she never would. "Well, Cordelia keeps saying that she could use an assistant. And we could probably use another set of eyes. And a typist and someone who can file. . . if you want to do this and be here . . . you're more than welcome."
"But no fighting," the vampire amended quickly. "You don't fight."
Ami smiled, a bright smile that completely touched her eyes. Angel actually felt the relief and elation that rolled off of her. It made his smile widen. "Thank you, Angel."
At that moment, the door swung open again and Cordelia appeared, Doyle fast on her heels.
She nodded a quick hello to Ami before directing her attention at Angel. "I am pleased to say that our – your check – from very rich and very grateful grandma, just cleared the account. So our little venture here is now a good several thousand dollars richer. Therefore, I think we need to talk about that raise now."
"Raise?" Angel was actually taken by surprise.
Doyle straightened up as well. "What makes you think you get a raise?"
"How about to compensate for my broken nails and destroyed wardrobe for starters? And let’s not forget the mental anguish and hazard pay that I’m not getting."
Angel could see that Doyle was prepared to say something else, and he cut in smoothly. "You know, Cordelia, you really are a big help to us, but you’ve been going on for so long about needing an assistant that I kind of hired one for you. Of course, that means we can’t really give you a raise."
The brunette considered it. "You really hired me an assistant?"
Angel shrugged as innocently as he could manage, winking discretely at the Tomorrow Person who was watching him, her mouth tightened in barely restrained laughter. "You said that you needed one because there was so much to be done. Not to mention all those auditions you would be able to go to."
"True," Cordelia nodded. "But how do we know that you didn’t hire someone evil? Or worse? This is LA, you know."
"You be the judge." Angel motioned towards Ami, "Meet your new assistant."
The former cheerleader turned and looked at Ami as if suddenly remembering the other girl’s presence. She blinked, her voice of disbelief. "You?" Her head whipped back towards Angel, "Her?"
The vampire lifted an inquiring eyebrow and Cordelia indignantly defended herself. "Not that it’s a bad thing. I just don’t understand – why? What did Angel do, twist your arm? Go all ‘grr’ on you?"
"I want to help out, Cordelia. I offered."
"You *want* to spend all your free time with Soul-boy and Demon-guy over there? Well, not like you have much of a choice with Soul-boy, but wouldn't you rather do something that will ensure a long life and healthy skin? Like maybe -- frat parties?"
"I think you’re doing a good thing. I want to be a part of it."
"I just want to go on record as saying I think that the whole soul-bond thing has fried your brain. Just so that's on the record, and I can say 'I told you so' later," Cordelia shook her head, but her voice and her eyes were smiling as she linked her arm affectionately through Ami’s and pulled the Tomorrow Person back towards the roof entrance. "Come on, I’ll get you all set up. You can have Doyle’s desk. He doesn’t use it for anything except resting his feet anyway. And he’s never happy with the coffee, so don’t worry about how strong or weak it is. Never let Doyle or Angel near the files because I swear they wouldn’t know the alphabet if it jumped up and bit them on the ass. Are you getting all this? It’s okay if you’re not, because we can go over it again . . ."
The door closed behind them, thankfully cutting off Cordelia’s prattle.
"So, the little lady's going to join forces with us now?" Doyle asked thoughtfully.
Angel nodded, turning back to stare out across the city. "I guess she is."
"You’re all right with that?"
Remembering the light in Ami’s eyes when he agreed to accept her help, Angel felt his own lips turn up into a smile. "Yeah, Doyle, I think I am."~Fin~