Author: Dark Star
Summary: All things come to those who wait.
Disclaimer: Joss Whedon is creator and owner of all things Angel
Angel stands on top of the hill, looking down over the valley. There are no signs of life anywhere.
He finds a gnarled log resting alongside a brittle and battered tree and sits down. The sky is in strange shades of red; parts of it look like blood, and other parts are purple-grey. He pulls his ragged coat around his thin frame and looks up. It's cold here; there is a frost on the wood but he hasn't the inclination to move. He thinks, ironically, that sitting on something so cold will be bad for his health.
There is a crackling sound in the heavens, a bit like lightning, but much, much, fiercer, and there is no rain. He has seen no rain for months, and the ground is dry and powdery. He watches as the not-lightning flashes overhead, and ignores the trembling in the ground. He almost hopes that the lightning will strike him down, or that the earth will split apart and devour him, but he doubts that he will be that lucky. The earth has not been solid for years, and so far he has managed to avoid every tantrum it throws at him.
He shivers, and pulls the coat tighter still, and he stares up at the orchestra over his head. He is reminded of Judy, the girl he tried to help back in the 1950's, and wonders if she would have found this light show as impressive as the one she had wanted to show him, all those years ago.
He pulls his gaze away from the sky, and back down to the valley. He can't remember when he last saw another living creature; even those vile mutated rodents he is forced to eat have been incredibly scarce and hunger gnaws constantly in his gut. Sometimes on his travels he finds something dead and rotting, and he can't help but watch with morbid fascination as the maggots infest the corpse, swarming around the tasty morsel until there is nothing but bones left to give away the final resting place of its futile life.
Angel leans gently back against the tree and lets his mind wander backwards. It was all he did now. He remembers his life, or his unlife, and he wonders if his very long life has had any real meaning at all. He remembers when the world started to change. Global warming, they said. Oh, if only it had been that simple. His fingers brush at the frost under his fingertips and he yearns to be warm again. How long has it been since he has felt any kind of warmth? He used to go and gather wood and huddle over the pitiful heat, but it was never enough. His vampire body amalgamated with the outside temperature, and since it never warmed up, neither did he.
How long ago has it been since he's had human company? A hundred years? Two? Five? He has no way of knowing, and it has been so long since he heard another voice that he sometimes wonders if there ever were any in the first place.
Sometimes he craves the sound of a voice so much he talks to himself. He does this now - he opens his mouth and recites the Lord's Prayer. He's not certain if he's doing it in the hope of eternal peace or if there's another motive, but it feels right. It's strange to hear somebody talking, even himself, and when he finishes, he misses the sound and he recites William Blake's 'The Tyger' from memory. Then he starts on some of those stupid songs the Scooby gang used to listen to, and more poems until in the end he has to stop because his throat is so dry. He has no option then but to remember, and really, that's the last thing he wants to do.
He remembers when the freak weather conditions started. The media tried to explain it all away with their scientific theories, but he knew. He'd lived through enough apocalyptic scenarios to know that something was very wrong, and when Giles sought him out, he knew that it was very serious indeed.
'The World', Giles had said, was falling apart. The balance of the world had become unstable, and the Earth was doomed. He said that there was something he had to do, and he had asked Angel to take care of Buffy for him. He hadn't known then what Giles was planning to do. Giles, while trying to access information from the underworld to stop the deterioration, had failed - and paid with his life.
They buried him on a cold November afternoon, and Angel had arrived at the cemetery at dusk to find Buffy standing numbly at the graveside, waiting for him. She said that Giles had been too frail, too human, to survive the journey down below, and Angel, believing that Giles would not have attempted it if he hadn't thought it important, took on the mission himself. He suspected that had been Giles' real motive for contacting him in the first place.
It had been tough, even for him. No wonder Giles had not survived. But he discovered the cause of the world's distress. The Guardians of Truth had shown him images of where things had gone wrong - and there had been quite a catalogue of them. Some of the images made no sense to him, but some - were painfully clear.
Cordelia, with some kind of necklace and Buffy with a scarred face and a long braid in her hair.
The Oracles, erasing his perfect day.
Monks, busily working with a pulsating beautiful light, and the pretty girl that they created out of it.
Willow, creating the spell that hauled Buffy out of Heaven.
Cordelia, apparently a talented actress, and a Wesley with one arm.
Willow, her hair and eyes black and with spidery veins threading through her skin.
The events of the Trial, the conception of Connor, his abduction to Quortoth and the dangerous deal he made to give his son a normal life.
When the images ended, the Guardians explained that meddling with the forces of the universe and using magics always had consequences, and they showed him the high cost of meddling. As each event unfolded, a substantial rip appeared in the fabric of the universe. The ones involving Quortoth were immense - punching terrible wounds into the already ailing earth. Oddly, Buffy spreading her power to all of the potential slayers helped to heal some of the wounds, but it was only a temporary reprieve. It reminded him of a patchwork quilt where the threads were being slowly unravelled until a piece finally fell out.
Angel returned to Buffy and moved into her grim apartment in New York where he tried to help her through her grief over Giles - the nearest to a proper father she had ever known. There was no sign of her old friends, although she tried to contact them, but they were all scattered around the world. About ten years later, Dawn started to… become loose. Her existence was tied in with the universe, and as it unravelled, so did she. One night, Dawn's slender body was torn apart by the strength of the cosmos and she disintegrated right in front of Buffy's horrified eyes.
Buffy was only 52 when she herself died. Time had not been kind to her, and she looked elderly, like a woman in her eighties or nineties might look, and she theorised that the human body was not designed to be super charged over a long period of time. Slayers were not meant to have long lives, and she had just burnt out earlier than a normal human might have done. He had grieved for her, but in his heart, he knew she had been ready to go. She had seen too much, lost too much, to ever have any peace again.
Angel closed his eyes. Even after all these years, her memory still brought him pleasure and pain. She had been so beautiful; an innocent fresh faced teenager, growing into a beautiful and confidant woman. Even as she aged, as her skin wrinkled and her hair turned grey, she was still - and would always be - beautiful to him.
He took to the road again after Buffy's death. He buried her as close to Giles as he could, and said goodbye to them both, knowing he would never come back this way again. The next few years were strange, avoiding the populace as much as possible. Ironic that he should now crave the very thing he had shunned for years. He supposed that everyone was gone, now. He had seen nobody at all for many years, and if he had felt lonely in the past - it was nothing to how desolate he felt now.
The earth trembles, and he instinctively digs his nails into the log he sits on. Sometimes the ground splits apart in front of him, and he gazes into the yawning fissure it creates with desire. Would he be allowed to rest if he throws himself down? Would Hell be exactly like these last miserable centuries where he has been so alone? He laughs to himself, closing his mouth abruptly when he realises how crazy he sounds. Maybe he had died, again, and this was his Hell after all.
The earth rumbles again, its pain deep and throaty, and he looks up as a shadow falls over him. A blazing ball has appeared in the sky, another meteor. He has seen thousands in the last few years - but this - is immense. Cold fingers clench at his heart and he stands up. This is it - when that monster hits the earth it will take everything out with it. Was this what the dinosaurs had seen? Did God wipe out his first experiment with a massive meteor and was now remedying his second mistake in the same way?
The shaking intensifies, and he staggers as the earth screams. He can't take his eyes away from the death in the heavens, and he watches its rapid descent toward him. He'd always wondered how it would end. Would he have an accident and be left lying broken at the bottom of a crevice for eternity? Would he starve to death? Could he starve? He didn't think so; he'd seen vampires that had starved for years, and although many had gone insane from the constant hunger, he had never seen any die.
Winds pull at his coat and the wailing in the sky is devastatingly loud. He walks to the edge of the hill and spreads his arms wide open. He feels the winds trying to pluck him from the hill but he stands as still as his failing strength will allow. Is he the only living thing left to witness this? Is he really the last man left alive? Or should that be left dead? The thought makes him laugh out loud, and this time he doesn't try to curtail it. What possible difference can it make now? The buffeting winds threaten to hurl him down the hill, and he welcomes the howling elements with open arms. What does he have to lose? There is nothing to hold him here. Without human interaction there has been no point to his existence for centuries. What is there left to see?
The icy fingers clench round his heart as he realises that after this… there will be nobody left. If the Earth survives, and he doubts that it will, there will be nobody to mourn him, or the lost millions, and nobody to pick up the pieces and start again.
The sky darkens and leaves more blood-red streaks across the heavens; the Earth is bleeding. Her wounds are raw and savage, and there is not a bandage in the entire world that can heal her pain this time.
The meteor is plummeting closer, it is massive and it's moving much faster than he is expecting. He has no idea how long he stands still, waiting, but it feels like hours. Just before it hits he feels the heat, and he smiles, embracing the welcome warmth one last time.