Triptych Part 1 A Moment of Pure Joy by Kirayoshi

Disclaimers; Joss Whedon owns them and charts their destinies. I'm just having a little sport with them.
Author's note; This is the first of three short pieces that will set up and advance subplots that I've started in my increasingly sprawling epic "Somewhere I Have Never Travelled". Now that Buffy's back from Hell in my fic, I can sit back and see how the supporting cast is doing. Buffy and Willow will figure in the background, and once I start SIHNT Book 2, we'll have a more solid foundation to work on. I hope.
Rating; PG. Once I get back to the main story, it may go to R.
Spoilers; "To Shansu In L.A.", 'Angel' Season finale
Summary; How is Buffy doing, now that she's out of Hell? And what happened to change Angel forever when he helped rescue Buffy?

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TRIPTYCH
by Kirayoshi
part one;

A Moment Of Pure Joy

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The following transcript is taken from the personal records of Rupert Giles; conversation with Buffy Summers, June 29, 2001;

Giles; Well now, Buffy, it is good to see you out of the hospital.

Buffy; You got that right, Giles.

Giles; And I for one am glad that you are well. We've all missed you when you were gone.

Buffy; Thanks. But it'd help if I could remember what happened. According to Mom, I've been gone for over a year, and I don't remember what happened to me. All I remember was being with the gang, it was important, that much I remember, but what we actually doing, I dunno. It's frustrating, y'know?

Giles; I can understand that perfectly. In fact that is why I wish to talk to you now. I want to ask you some simple questions, nothing too personal, and show you some pictures.

Buffy; Oh, you mean ink blots or something? "It looks like two bunnies sharing a carrot." And you decide the carrot is some sort of male substitute, some form of penis envy--

Giles(flushed); Please, Buffy, nothing so dramatic. Simply some photographs of people you know, to determine the extent of your amnesia. I suspect that it's only partial, concerning certain facts and memories your subconscious mind may wish to suppress. I'm sure that you'll regain full memory in time.

Buffy; Okay, Freud. I'm game. Ask away.

Giles; Oh, do you mind if I record this session on video tape? I assure you that this will be strictly confidential.

Buffy; Sure, but if it lands on Playboy, I get fifty percent of the residuals.

Giles(after a pause); Fair enough. First, I'm going to say some words at random. I want you to say the first thing that you think of when you hear each word. First, relax. This isn't a test, there are no wrong answers. Are you comfortable?

Buffy; Hey, bug in a rug here.

Giles; Good. Now then. Sunnydale.

Buffy; A one-Starbuck's town in California. Home sweet home.

Giles; Anything else comes to mind?

Buffy; Uh, U. C. Sunnydale, my college. The Bronze, the closest thing Sunnydale has to

a decent hang-out joint?

Giles; Good enough for now. Okay, the next word; Watcher.

Buffy(thinking for a few seconds); Uh, someone who watches something?

Giles; What specifically do you think a watcher watches?

Buffy(immediately); Well, they'd better not be watching me, I'll give them a piece of my mind here. Hmph! Voyeurs.

Giles; Very well. Moving on; Slayer.

Buffy(brightly); A heavy metal band!

Giles; Adam.

Buffy; Hooked up with Eve at the Garden of Eden?

Giles(somewhat exasperated); Angel.

Buffy(after a second); Old boyfriend.

Giles; You remember Angel?

Buffy; Sure. I was in love with him once. At least I thought I was. The one time we made love, he changed though. He became darker, more--Ohh! Man, this is frustrating. I remember our breaking up, and I know now it was right, but the exact moment--Geez, I just can't remember!

Giles; Don't try to force it, Buffy. You suffered no head injury, no physical trauma, your memory should recover itself with time. Just give it time to occur naturally. It will be fine. Are you ready to try some photographs?

Buffy; Sure.

Giles(holding the first photograph); Do you recognize this person?

Buffy; Willow(she grins broadly). Willow Rosenberg.

Giles; You remember Willow. Would you define your relationship with her?

Buffy; Yeah, we have incredible sex together.(Waits a beat, then laughs). Sorry, Giles, but the look on your face--I hope the camera caught that. Okay, serious. I love her. She is the light of my life, the beat of my heart, the wind beneath my wings, and every other damn corny song you could name.

Giles; She is important to you then?

Buffy; I love her, Giles. With all my heart. I remember, it was just before Christmas break, '99. We were talking, I don't know about what, she was bummed about Oz taking off for no reason. We started to share stuff we never said to each other, and one thing led to another, and before we knew it, we were pushing our beds together, then pushing our bodies together... Oops, too explicit for the stuffy British librarian.

Giles(stammering); Oh, no, not at all. I want you to be perfectly honest with me. Now then, this one.(holds another photo).

Joyce; Mom.

Giles; Very good. Now this one.

Buffy(looking at the photo for a second); Riley(makes a rude face).

Giles; You don't seem too fond of Riley, do you?

Buffy; He lied to me. He was in some military unit. Didn't tell me when we were dating. And he was just too smug, to cocky. I dunno. I heard from Willow that he was transferred to Alaska to count penguin eggs or something.

Giles(slight smile on his face); That may be difficult, considering that penguins are indigenous to Antarctica, not Alaska.

Buffy; Hey, amnesiac over here. How the heck am I supposed to know that?

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Giles shut off the tape at that point, saying to Angel, "I think that covers it."

Angel sat on Giles' couch as Giles took the easy chair on the right side. Angel whistled softly as he digested the information on the video. "I see your concern, Giles," he admitted. "Her memory is selective, she knows us, she knows that we were in love, that she loves Willow, but she has no memories directly relating to her being the Slayer."

"Yes," Giles murmured. "It's as though she rewrote her memory to explain her relationships with us, without the supernatural connections." He frowned, adding, "You insist that there is something momentous on the horizon, and I have to believe you. We're going to need Buffy back at her full capacity soon."

"I think you're handling this situation as well as can be expected," Angel argued. "If we were to flat-out tell her that she's the Slayer, that she's spent the last four years of her life fighting vampires and other monsters, who knows what effect that would have on her?"

"Yes, I see your meaning," Giles mused. "Especially her having spent the last year of her life in Hell. I suppose you're right. We must allow her memory to resurface on its own."

"And hope it resurfaces soon," Angel agreed. "She'll be okay, though. Willow's taking her home from the hospital, she'll be staying at Willow's apartment."

"And I'm glad of that, Angel. If anyone can reach her, it would be Willow." Giles sipped at his cup of Earl Grey, and regarded Angel with a mix of awe and purely academic curiosity. "Angel," he started hesitantly. "I feel the need to ask you, what was it like? Going to Hell, I mean." Seeing Angel's head turning away, Giles added, "If it makes you uncomfortable, I--"

"No, Giles," Angel answered. "I mean, it was terrible down there. But--I need to get this out, I haven't told anyone about this, I have to tell someone." He faced Giles, his expression of one on the verge of a revelation, an epiphany. "It changed me, Giles. The demon is gone. Angelus is destroyed."

Giles regarded this last statement with alarm. "Destroyed, you say? How is that possible?"

"I don't know how, I just know that it is," Angel struggled with the words, desperately attempting to describe his experience. Just two days after the journey through Hell, and the memories were deserting him, as though a human mind couldn't encompass the experience of being in Hell. It had to let go of the details, or go mad. All he could remember were fleeting impressions, some of his actions, and the strange sense of being cleansed by Buffy's rescue.

"When we found Buffy," he began, "we were suddenly attacked, and hard. Every demon, every vampire, every evil that Buffy fought had gathered around us, and they were on the attack. Willow had discovered that we could channel our innermost selves, and use that strength to empower us, to fight them. I found myself face to face with Angelus. Like he was trapped in Hell, even though I knew that if I ever weakened, and allowed myself to experience a moment of joy again, he would be loosed. At first I thought that it was just an abstraction, not real. But as I fought, Angelus was able to counter every move. And I couldn't outfight it. I couldn't even cheat. I know it sounds crazy, but it was like that part of me that could fight dirty was gone."

"Not surprising, Angel," Giles commented as he absently rubbed the lenses of his glasses with a pocket handkerchief. "Angelus held sway over your darker instincts. In all likelihood, while the two of you were separate entities, your capacity for guile resided within him, not you."

Angel had to agree with Giles on that score. In the past, guile and deception had been useful tools for him, although he hardly took pleasure in their use. He recalled the time he fooled Faith into thinking that she had been successful in stealing his soul. And just last year, he was able to sneak into the offices of Wolfram and Hart by smuggling a vampire into their lobby, thus distracting him.

But when he fought his dark mirror, he found himself unable to fight on his level. He had channeled the spirits of the famous heroes of the British Isles, or at least his impressions of them; Arthur, Robin Hood, William Wallace, Rob Roy. He had taken on their nobility with their strength, and could only fight honorably.

"I still have to ask you," Giles interrupted his train of thought, "are you certain that Angelus is gone?"

"I am," Angel replied. "And I'll tell you why; when we emerged from the Hellmouth, I felt a lightness in my soul that I hadn't known in all my life, or unlife. When we saw her awake and alert, holding Willow in her arms, I was happy for her." He leaned forward and enunciated each word for maximum clarity; "I. Was. Completely. Happy."

Giles let the enormity of Angel's words sink in. The curse under which he had labored for much of his vampiric life. If he ever knew a moment of complete joy, he would lose his soul, and the demon Angelus would emerge. Giles had experienced this firsthand; when Buffy and Angel had made love for the first and only time, Angelus came out to play. He had tormented Buffy, attacked Willow, tortured Giles and nearly destroyed the world.

"Are you saying," Giles asked in measured tones, "that the curse that bound your soul to you no longer applies?"

"My soul is mine, Giles," Angel answered. "I'm still a vampire, I still have the same strengths and limitations, but my soul is my own." He spoke with less animation and more awe. Like someone commenting on a spectacular sunset. Giles caught this expression of joy in his voice and knew it to be true. The vile Angelus had been forever destroyed. "Heh," he laughed slightly. "If only Kate hadn't declared herself my enemy before this."

"I am happy for you, my friend," Giles declared. "After all the Hell you've been through, you deserve this."

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The rest of the evening was spent discussing how they were going to handle Buffy's amnesia. They agreed that Buffy shouldn't be pushed into remembering the dark details of her life as the Slayer, and that Willow should look after her. Since Willow had planned for Buffy to move in with her at her townhouse, this would be easy enough.

Angel had agreed to stay in Sunnydale for a while longer, and had contacted Wesley in Los Angeles to put him in charge of the detective firm in his absence. Wesley proved to be a capable detective, and with his help, Angel Investigations had turned in a small profit these last few months. They were probably going to have to hire a new secretary, Angel thought with a smile on his face. He recalled how Cordy had clung to Xander when they returned from Hell. And she had told him that she was considering enrolling at U. C. Sunnydale next fall. He smiled inwardly and wished her luck.

As he left Giles' place that night, he felt more complete than he had in centuries. He was still cursed with vampirism, but he had lived with that for so long he was used to it. He no longer had to be careful about losing his soul. He had fought hard for it, he had won it, it was his. And he didn't have to fear that his one great love, his Buffy, would be unhappy. He had seen the joy in her eyes when she held Willow in the hospital. She was truly blest to know Willow, and he was truly happy for them both.

Happy. An unusual condition for him. One he would have to get used to.

A sudden unearthly breeze whipped the hem of his duster jacket. He glanced around, his hypernatural senses working overtime. He held his arms at his sides, ready for anything.

A voice registered on the wind, dark, sweet, full of both promise and menace; "I'm disappointed in you, my Childe. Consorting with the livestock. They're just food, you know. Nothing more." Then the voice was gone.

Angel's earlier sense of peace was shattered by these words. He recognized who spoke to him.

"Darla," he whispered the name of his Sire. The one who brought him into the darkness so many years ago. So, whatever was going to happen, it had begun.

And for the time being, the world was without a Slayer.

FINIS

Continue to Triptych Part Two
The Essence of Cool

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