Disclaimer: The characters featured here, some who appear in name only, Doyle, Cordelia Chase, Angel, Rupert Giles, Ami Jackson, Adam Newman, and Megabyte Damon do not belong to me. They are the property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Fox Productions, Roger Damon Price, Thames Television, Tetra Television, ITV, and Nickelodeon respectively. They are used here without permission, but not for profit.
Author's Notes: This story is a sequel to my story, "A Union of Souls." You might want to read that one before reading this installment. This story may be downloaded for personal use, but please contact me if you wish to archive this story elsewhere. Please do not distribute this story without my permission
by Michele Mason Bumbarger
Ami Jackson didn't like history. As she lifted her head from her Western Civilization text and rubbed her temples, she made a decision: she was not going to be a history major. No, that wasn't necessarily true, she did enjoy history class — she was just having a bit of difficulty concentrating on anything the past few days. Her mind tended to wander at the most inexplicable of times, and she would suddenly realize that the thoughts she was having, or the memories she was processing weren't even hers at all. Or, worse, sometimes they were some odd combination of both hers and Angel's.
She still wasn't quite sure what to make of the bond. For not the first time, she wished that Whistler hadn't left town so quickly. She wondered if the demon knew more than he had told — she wondered if he could have talked her through all of this. Most of all, she wondered if this what her grandmother meant when she told a frightened, wide-eyed nine-year-old that she was marked by the Loa. Was this what she was marked for? A soul-bond to a vampire?
It was getting easier, though. Ami thanked her time as a Tomorrow Person that she could handle the onslaught of thoughts and emotions from Angel. She was getting better at identifying lapses and gaps in her shields that resulted in having contact with the vampire's mind. She could sense through their odd link that she handled the random moments of contact far better than the vampire did. But then again, he didn't have years of experience sharing thoughts with others behind him. That, and he tried his hardest to screen his thoughts from her because . . . he didn't want to punish her.
He was a funny one, Angel was. Ami wondered if anyone who knew him understood him at all.
The soft, insistent rapping on her dorm room door was just the distraction that she needed. Laying her text book aside, she swung her feet to the floor and padded to the door. As if it wasn't enough that she had to work to get Celia to go out tonight without her — even the idea of seeing Pete wasn't enough to pry Ami from the dorm room — she now fully expected to have to send one of Celia's many admirers along their way.
She swung the door open and stared in surprise.
"Hello," Doyle greeted her with a smile.
"Hi Ami," Cordelia chirped brightly.
"Doyle. Cordelia. What are you doing here?"
"We brought you something," the Irishman explained, holding up a small potted cactus. "It's a cactus. It's a good house warmin' gift. Supposed to be good luck and all that . . . but I guess you don't exactly need a house warmin' gift, do you?"
"No," Ami smiled at him and accepted the cactus, "But it's sweet."
"See, she thinks it's sweet," Doyle directed his words at Cordelia who rolled her eyes in response. "I told you, you can't go wrong with a plant."
It's a cactus," Cordelia corrected him.
Consider it a dorm warmin' gift," Doyle continued, returning his attention to Ami. "You know, to brighten up the place a bit."
"Thank you . . . but?"
"Angel made us come," Cordelia informed her, tossing a chestnut lock over one shoulder. Her eyes widened slightly and she hurriedly continued, "Not that like we didn't want to know how you're doing with the whole mind meld thing and everything, and why he couldn't come himself, I don't know, but — can we not stand in the hallway? If I get ogled one more time by some cretin, I'm going to have shower for a week."
With a sheepish smile, Ami stepped aside, permitting them entry to her dorm. "I'm sorry. I was just so surprised to see you, I didn't even think to in—"
"Uh-uh-uh," Doyle crossed the threshold quickly, cutting her off by holding a finger to his lips. "Don't say it. You never know who you might be invitin' in and you can never be too safe."
Cordelia followed the Irishman, her eyes darting around the small, cramped space that Ami had called home since the beginning of the semester and would call home until classes were done in May. "It's . . . small."
"It's a dorm, Princess."
"I know that, but it's so . . . small." Cordelia turned curiously to Ami, "Isn't it small to you?"
"Well," Ami placed the cactus on her desk, still smiling at the sweet — if somewhat odd — gesture from two people that she barely knew, "it's about the same size as my bedroom back home. Except that I didn't share my bedroom back home with someone."
"Ah," Doyle nodded in understanding. "Roommate. Where is she? Are we going to get to meet her?"
"You just hope she's cute," Cordelia accused, taking a seat in the papasan chair. She landed with a soft 'oophm,' frowning at the unexpected depth and softness of the chair. Ami watched the brunette wiggle around to a more comfortable position, never stopping her chastisement of Doyle while she did so, "Oh, wait. You just want her to have a pulse."
"I'm sure she can't hold a light to you, Princess."
"Celia is out. At a party," Ami explained.
"And why you aren't you out with her, lass? It's a Friday night and from what I can tell this campus is really rockin'. You should be out havin' a good time. Meetin' boys and breakin' hearts. Not sittin' around your dorm room — well, doin' whatever it was that you were doin' before we showed up."
"Studying," Ami supplied. She took an involuntary step backwards as two pairs of equally chagrined eyes, one brown and one blue, fell on her. "What?"
Cordelia looked as though she had just sucked on a lemon. "On a Friday night? Do you have any idea of how positively lame that makes you look?"
Tucking her hands behind her back, Ami shook her head and leaned against the desk. "No, it's not that way. I wanted to stay in tonight. I'm not feeling very social and I just kind of wanted some time to myself."
"That's it! He's infecting her!" Cordelia attempted to launch herself out of the chair, but failed miserably. As she flopped backwards again, she rolled her eyes and folded her arms across her chest. "I told you this would happen. It's seeping over or something. Mr. Broody is turning her into Mrs. Broody."
"Cordelia has a running theory that Angel's tendency to brood might be contagious," Doyle gave Ami the explanation and translation to Cordelia's words. "I'm sort of hopin' that you'll prove her wrong here."
"I'm not *brooding* Cordelia, I just really needed some quiet time. I have quite a bit to deal with right now, and the fewer people the better."
"How are you holdin' up, Lass?" The friendly affection with which Doyle said the words made Ami look up at him and stop fidgeting from foot to foot. His pale blue eyes shown with sympathy and an offer of friendship, if she were willing to take it. With a few words, the half-demon managed to shift the entire atmosphere of the room, opening a door that Ami hadn't realized that she desperately needed opened.
Her fellow Tomorrow People were supportive — sometimes, it seemed too supportive. In fact, since waking up at Angel's and discovering herself soul-bond to him, it seemed to her that she couldn't go ten yards without Adam or Megabyte looking over her shoulder, ready to offer her a hand to hold or a shoulder to cry on. The thing was, the thing that they couldn't quite seem to understand, not a single one of them, was that she didn't need someone to hold her hand. She didn't need someone to offer her a shoulder. She simply needed someone to talk to. Someone who would say nothing and only listen. Someone who wasn't horrified by what had happened.
And as much as she loved her friends and fellow Tomorrow People, they were not that someone. Although they tried to hide it, Ami knew that they thought she might have gotten the bad end of a deal, that she had been handed a fate worse than death. Just as Angel thought the bond was a punishment to her, Adam thought that it was a curse she needed to be rescued from. But she didn't feel that way at all.
No, it wasn't a choice she would have made had she been asked. She didn't think that there was a person alive who would volunteer to be soul-bond to anyone or anything. But from the moment she had awakened — or rather, the moment she had reached clarity and coherence — she had no anger, no fear and no regrets. Ami did not feel that something had been taken from her. Certainly it was confusing; it was an emotional roller-coaster ride, but it was the hand she had been dealt.
She believed that everything happened for a purpose, and her belief had not changed. Now, it was simply a matter of finding out what that purpose was — and waiting to see if Rupert Giles found a way to reverse the spell. And if he didn't . . . well, she would cross that bridge when she came to it.
Doyle accepted what had happened, with no questions asked. He accepted it the way he accepted that the sun would rise in the morning and set in the evening. Ami saw it in the openness of his eyes, heard it in the warmth in his voice. Cordelia radiated simple acceptance as well, sitting silently in the chair, watching Ami and waiting for some response — any response that would tell them whether or not to be worried about her.
And they didn't even know her. She was bond to them through Angel. Yet, although Angel might have sent them here tonight, she knew that they now spoke to her and regarded her with genuine compassion.
It touched her in ways she couldn't explain.
"It's weird," Ami gave Doyle the first words that came to mind, raising a hand to wipe away the single tear that fell down her cheek. "You know, I've spent five years with people inside of my head, sharing my thoughts and my dreams and what I'm feeling. And this is so much the same — and so much different."
"Hey," Doyle took her hands gently in his, all humor and mirth gone from his voice now. She felt sympathy, she felt compassion, she felt friendship in that touch. "You're not alone in this, all right, Lass? You may be stuck with a vampire as your soul-mate, but you've got friends you can count on. You've got me, and you've got Cordelia. We know that Angel's no picnic, but you don't have to deal with him alone. We know him, and we understand him, and we're here for you."
Ami looked down at their hands, tears welling up in her eyes and spilling down her cheeks. "He doesn't like it."
"Angel doesn't like a lot of things, but trust me on this one, it's not you he doesn't like. He really did send us here tonight because he's worried. He wanted to see how you're holdin' up, but he can't see you just yet, you understand?" Doyle gave her hands a squeeze, "It's not you he doesn't like. He just doesn't think that you deserve what happened to you, he sees it as his own failure. He was supposed to protect you, and he didn't."
"But he did," Ami whispered through her tears.
"Not in his mind. In his mind, this is a punishment. It's a curse for you. You have to understand, he's been sufferin' for so long alone that he thinks that's what he's supposed to do. But, I think, that's why you're here."
"Morbid much?" Cordelia spoke up for the first time since Doyle had started to speak to Ami. "You think this happened so she could wallow in misery with him? Remind me to never put you on a suicide hotline."
Ami actually gave a slight smile and giggle at Cordelia's words.
"She has a way of puttin' things into perspective, doesn't she?" Doyle asked softly.
"Because I point out that you're morbid? Well, you are."
"What I'm tryin' to say here, Ami," Doyle hooked her chin with his finger, forcing her face up so that she looked into those honest blue eyes of his, "is that I think the Powers That Be put you here as part of his redemption. They tried to link Angel with something good and pure to show him that he's on the right track. I think that you might be just the friend he needs . . . but you're gonna have to give him some time to accept that friendship, understand?"
"Idiot," Cordelia shoved herself out of the chair and marched over to them. "So, are you dense because you're male or are you dense because you're Doyle?"
"Cordelia, now isn't exactly the time to argue with me."
"I'm so not arguing with you. I'm just pointing out that you're dense and you're blind as a bat," Cordelia folded her arms across her chest and glared at the Irishman. "Hello! He's already accepted her. Why else would he have sent us here? He's just too chicken to come himself because he's too busy playing broody-boy. And the only way he's going to get over himself on that is if she talks to him." She softened her voice, turning to Ami. "He has to hear it from you, all right? You have to tell him that he didn't do anything wrong and that you don't blame him for what happened, and that you're more than willing to give the mind-meld thing a go.
"And please do it soon, because he is absolutely no fun to work for when he's broody like this."
Ami smiled through her tears. "I like you, Cordelia."
The brunette flinched, startled. Her eyes went wide and all the color drained from her face. Ami sensed a flash of embarrassment and watched as pink splotches colored the young woman's cheeks. However, she recovered quickly, making a show of smoothing her hair. "You better. You're kind of stuck with us by default because you're kind of stuck with Angel, so you better like us — a lot."
"I do." Ami wiped at her eyes again, looking from one face to another. "Thank you. Both of you. I really needed to hear what you said tonight."
"Anytime you want to talk, Lass, I've an open ear. And an open apartment."
"Oh, yeah, like she would ever be that desperate for company. Especially when she can come to my place. Which is much nicer."
"Phantom Dennis is the perfect roommate, and unlike some people who are alive and in body, he's also the perfect gentleman."
"He's a ghost, Cordelia."
"He's a great housekeeper."
Doyle shook his head and returned his attention to the Tomorrow Person who stared back and forth between them in complete confusion. "So, what do you say, Ami? It's Friday night, and I say we go down to the pub and celebrate."
"Oh, didn't see that one coming," Cordelia quipped. Then leaning close to Ami, she whispered, "He'll celebrate anything down at the pub."
"What are we celebrating?" Ami asked.
"Friendship," Doyle rocked on his heels, a half-smile on his lips. "And new beginnings."
"I like the sound of that."
"Then what are we waiting for?" Doyle clapped his hands and headed towards the door. "There's an ale with my name on it."
Cordelia rolled her eyes, turning to follow on the Irishman's heels. "There's also a hangover with his name on it."
With a smile, Ami hurried after them. A celebration of new beginnings was a celebration that she didn’t want to miss.
~ End ~