I had a dream of you running. You were weaving in and out of light under streetlamps, your feet touching the ground lightly, your arms moving joyously; you like to run. I could smell you, the fresh perspiration rising from your pores, your breath pounding out. Your breath filled my ears, throbbed in them. Then I saw a large shadow ahead of you. I woke up with a groan, shaking. The phone was ringing. I bolted down the stairs.
"Angel," Giles. I froze. "She's...she's had a bit of an adventure,"
Fear jolted through me. "What do you mean? Where is she? I thought you got her out-"
"She was cautioned to stay in her room,"
I closed my eyes. "Who thought THAT would work?"
"I'm afraid Xander-"
I bit my lip.
"At any rate," he continued, "She defeated the Dal Riada single-handed. The final five,"
"By herself?" I was outraged that you had been allowed to fight them alone, but I steeled myself. No sense in overreacting now. Also, if you decided to fight no one in the world would be able to stop you.
"Yes. That old a cadre has never fallen to a Slayer before. It will be the first on record. Quite a magnificent show of strategy and ability, not to mention strength,"
"That's one way to put it," I said.
He laughed. It was a good sound to hear. You were truly safe now, it was in his voice.
"Oh...and here's the number, of her room," I wrote it down. I looked at the number.
"Giles, I've done a lot of thinking about this,"
"It might be better if I stay here. Every time I get involved in her life things go wrong, and-"
"You've more thinking to do," he said, and he hung up.
I had an errand to run. I wandered through the hills to the patch of trees where I had met her and waited. I unwrapped the cauldron and held it like an offering. There was a rustling from the branches in the tree above me and then she fluttered down. It's always disorienting to look at a shapeshifter; it's not only the visual image that is constantly changing. They create a kind of flux in the air like heat, transformation surrounds them, an uncertainty in the feeling of the earth. It's almost like motion-sickness. She purred, an alarmingly deep sound, it made the world shiver.
"You bring honor to your family. Your ancestors are dancing," her grin was the grin of a grandmother on the birth of her first grandchild, joyful and profound. I found myself looking at the ground. It was humbling.
"Give me the cauldron, son of Fionn,"
I handed it to her. A paw lashed out and ripped my shirt open; she swiped a claw down my chest, from heart to groin, with invisible speed. It was a clean cut but it was deep, and I shouted. She smeared my blood in the bottom of the cauldron and began humming over it. The blood blackened and sizzled. She wiped her paw through the silver bowl and smeared the inky mess down over the wound she had made. A deep ripple of sadness mixed with erotic pleasure swooped through me, and was gone. Thunder rumbled above us. Every hair on my body was standing up. It began to rain. She held the cauldron up and caught rain in it; it made a musical, silvery sound.
"Are you ready to let the wound close?"
"What?" I blinked at her through the falling drops.
She glared at me with cat eyes. "Search your heart. You know what must be released. Let go the old pain, let it go now," I felt something loosening, a taut fiber in me unwinding, and a soothing rush. She handed the cauldron to me, "Drink, to bind the wound. It has been healed and made whole. Your manhood is whole again," I drank. An incredibly pleasurable itch crept up through the wound she had given me, and even without looking I knew it had healed. I felt taller suddenly, more upright. The pain in my wounds from Ailil was completely gone. A feeling of strength surged through me, energy, the kind humans feel when they eat after a fast or vampires feel when they feed on the living, a flush of vitality, but there was no guilt in it. She smiled at me tenderly.
"When the Slayer gave you her heart's blood out of love, she created a change in you,"
"She saved my life. She made me stonger,"
She snickered. "More than that. In ways she could not know of, in ways that have never been done before, she changed you,"
"I don't understand,"
"I have removed this geis," she said, "This Egyptian trickery. But the other gift is yours from her,"
I was becoming exasperated.
"I don't-" I began.
"Your nights of walking alone are numbered," she said, "Go home to her. Take her as your own. There is much to be done," it looked as if she actually winked at me, "And not all of it fighting," she was grinning with lion teeth.
I hesitated. "If she'll have me,"
Birog laughed. "You will give her what you thought you could not, but it is a gift from her,"
I was beginning to understand the frustration you used to have with me, being cryptic. Then she told me.
"Daughters, three," she said, "All day walkers, mortals like their mother, but with your strength and hers. They will be needed. The youngest will be your greatest challenge, and the most like you. Many years from now you will bring her to me. But that time is far off," she purred, "Shame has been your hiding place, your sanctuary, and your excuse. You will no longer indulge it. You will trade your selfish shame for much heavier burdens. Those burdens will also be your greatest joy and comfort. They will complete you. You will set aside shame, for love. Love, you will have," she stopped to wheeze with laughter, "All you can handle. Go home, son of Fionn. Go home and be the man of the house,"
She kissed me on the forehead, then she rose, flapping gigantic wings. She turned and was suddenly gone, as if she'd slipped through a fold in the air.
I stood rooted to the spot for hours, perhaps. Trying to absorb it. The impossible had happened, but I wasn't joyous. I thought it over and over again, worrying at it with my mind's teeth. The children I'd dreamt of. You...I could have you...
There it is. All of the things I thought we could never have...and I feel more afraid than I ever have. Will it matter, now? Is it too late? Would you ever want me again? And even if you do, how will it all sound when I tell you? Is it too late, for us?
Should I come home?
I only know one thing, the only thing I've ever really known. I love you, and I always will.