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 Angel's Secrets

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Challenging Destiny

By Dreamer

Summary: An alternate ending to "I Will Remember You."
Disclaimer: I don't own them. I'm not a mean, cruel person who gets pleasure from other people's pain. Besides which, I'm not a guy. So there is no way in the world I could be Joss, who is the one who owns them, not me.
Author's Notes: This is sort of a rewrite of the end of "I Will Remember You", sort of a denial fic. It's mostly for my own therapy, so I hope it's not too terrible. I hope you like it and I hope it helps you get through your depression as much as it's helped me.
Feedback: Feedback? Please? I crave feedback. I love feedback, even flames as long as they're constructive. Please, send it to lalaland(at)3n.net.
Special Thanks: Special thanks to my beta-reader Chrissie.

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Doyle quickly scribbled the note on a piece of paper, glancing back over his shoulder. Doyle knew that Angel didn't want Buffy to know what he was doing, but the girl had a right to have a say in her future, and he knew Angel always was being too bloody noble. He just hoped the girl woke up in time. He threw the note on the elevator floor, and ran out after Angel.

.

Buffy stretched languidly, content and happy to every inch of her core. She glanced around wondering where Angel was. She grabbed his robe, putting it on as she walked into the kitchen. It was a ruined mess, but a smile twitched at the corner of her mouth; she would never look at a kitchen the same way again. She decided to go use the coffee pot upstairs instead, and deal with the mess after she was awake.

There was a note on the bottom of the elevator, when it came down. She smiled and picked up the note, but her smile vanished as she opened it. Buffy dropped the note and ran back toward the bedroom to find her clothing.

.

Buffy arrived at the door to the oracles, a small talisman grasped in her hand. Doyle was waiting for her. He had to grab her to keep her from running straight in. "Easy lass, there's a incantation, first."

"Fine, just hurry." Doyle nodded, and threw some more herbs on the fire.

.

"Why are you here lower being?" the male Oracle asked.

"The Mohra demon said that the end of days has begun. That others were coming. I need to know if he was telling the truth." Angel asked.

"As far as such things can be told," he replied.

"What happens to the slayer when these soldiers come?"

"What happens to all mortals being," the female Oracle replied, "albeit sooner, in her case."

"... then she'll die," Angel said, "Then, I'm here to beg for her life."

"It is not our place to grant life and death," the male Oracle replied dismissing him as both turned to go.

"... and ask you to take mine back." Buffy dashed in, stumbling a little on the doorway as Angel continued, not seeing her. "Look I can't protect her or anyone this way. Not as a man."

"Who says I need protecting?" Buffy demanded. Angel turned around, surprised to see her. The female Oracle looked intrigued with this new occurrence, but the male Oracle just looked slightly bored.

"Buffy-" Angel said.

"Who says I need protecting? And who are you to decide?" Buffy challenged him.

"I came to see if what the Mohra demon said was true. If there were more coming. You'll die. I can't let that happen," he said turning back to face the Oracles.

"So you are asking to be what you were? a demon with a soul... because of the slayer?" the female Oracle asked, intrigued by the situation unfolding in front of her.

"Oh this is a matter of love. They even chase after each other... this does not concern us," the male Oracle replied impatiently.

"Yes it does," Angel said, "The Mohra demon came to take a warrior from your cause... and it succeeded. I'm no good to you like this. I know you have it in your power to make this right... please.

"No!!" Buffy said, a sob choking her throat. But her chin took on determined tilt, and she glared at the Oracles. "I am the Slayer, and I have come to ask my questions and to seek their answers. I-"

"You brought a gift?" the male Oracle interrupted.

"Of course," she replied. She held out the talisman and it flew from her hand.

"Ah. Egyptian. A talisman of truth. A symbol of what you are searching for," the female Oracle said, looking up from the piece.

"Is it? Truths can be painful. All lovers look for is love," the Male Oracle countered.

Buffy glared at him, undetered by his comment. "I come to ask why these things must be. I am the Slayer and a warrior. I have fought more vampires than I can count. I have saved the world from destruction numerous times. I died to kill the Master and came back. I am the Prophecy Breaker. I have broken prophecies, and I have broken laws of what will be."

"You truly have done much during your short time, this cannot be argued," the female Oracle replied.

"Although I know of no laws of what will be that you have broken," the male Oracle said.

"I have broken the law that says that for every generation there is one slayer. I died and came back, so now there are two, and there will never again be one."

"True," the female Oracle noted, seemingly pleased by Buffy's determination.

"But what does this have to do with your question?" the male Oracle asked, clearly annoyed at being proven wrong.

"Everyday people are happy, yet I have done all this and you ask that I must be unhappy, that I must suffer or risk dying. Why?" Buffy asked, tears were running down her face. Angel stepped up beside her and wrapped his arms around her.

"Buffy-"

"Why?" she demanded again, not allowing herself to be comforted, not wanting to lose.

"Destiny," the male Oracle replied haughtily.

"Then I challenge destiny," Buffy whispered.

"Buffy, there's no other way," Angel whispered.

"No! I challenge destiny!" Buffy said again, facing the Oracles defiantly and taking a step forward.

"You cannot challenge destiny," the male Oracle said, fascinated and appalled that she would even suggest it and taking a step forward.

"Why not?" Buffy demanded. "If there is some form of destiny I can fight, let it step forward and I'll fight it."

"And would you stand with her in battle, even in a battle such as this one?" the female Oracle asked Angel. They all turned to look at him. Angel looked into Buffy's eye, shining with tears and defiance and hope.

"I would. As a Warrior, there is no greater honor than to fight beside her... I would give my life for hers... she already has my heart," Angel said, speaking as much to Buffy, as to the oracles.

"And you?" she asked addressing Buffy. "If you were in his position, would you give your happiness for his life."

"I would give my happiness, my life, everything for him. My world is nothing without him," she replied, her voice filled with the love she felt.

"And what would you give, you two, give for happiness together? Would you risk yourselves? Would you risk the world?"

Buffy's lip trembled and she dropped her head. She stepped back a pace, feeling loss and defeat descend upon her shoulders. "I would give my life, anything I owned to be happy with him... but... I can't risk others. I won't give other's lives."

Angel stepped forward and wrapped his arms around her. She turned around to sob into Angel's chest. "I'm sorry."

He smoothed her hair and held her close, his head bowed. "I know. I know," he whispered, "Neither of us could. We're meant to save people. Shhh."

"True warriors to the core," the female Oracle murmured.

The male Oracle looked agitated and whispered, "What is done cannot be undone."

"What is not yet done can be avoided and what has been done can be put off for another day," she replied

"Temporal folds are not to indulge the whims of lower beings," he replied.

"You are wrong. This one is willing to sacrifice every drop of human happiness he's ever known and love for another... he is not a lower being."

"She has challenged destiny."

"But proven herself a true warrior... There are great battles ahead," the female Oracle reminded him.

"The final battles... Great warriors will be needed," he murmured, looking Buffy up and down.

Buffy and Angel watched the Oracles fearfully. Buffy clung to Angel, tears running down her face, but she was silent, watching them. The female Oracle wore a small triumphant smile, as the male Oracle looked at them measuringly.

"There is a way, but it is not to be undertaken lightly. The price will be high."

"We will swallow this day... as though it never happened. Twenty-four hours from the moment the demon first attacked you. We take it back," the female Oracle told them.

"Then none of this happened... Buffy and I. What... what will stop us from doing the exact same thing?" Angel asked.

"You. You alone will carry the memory of this day. Can you carry this burden?" the female Oracle asked.

"I won't remember?" Buffy asked.

"No," the male Oracle replied.

"How does that help us?" she asked. The Oracles did not answer, but looked to Angel.

"That's the price?" Angel asked.

"Part of it," the male oracle replied. "The prophecies say there are great battles ahead. Great warriors will be needed in the battles to come. You would be bound to us be a warrior and to help others by your debt, and would remain in that state of demon with a soul until the time when the warrior told of in prophecy is born, your replacement, then you will become human once more. Do you accept this price?"

"I... I would be human again someday?" Angel asked.

"Yes," the female Oracle replied.

"What about the curse?" Buffy asked, "How will you be sure he is a warrior for you, if the curse can be broken?"

"The curse will be no more. The spell cannot be broken until his debt is paid," the female Oracle replied. Buffy gave a cry of joy and hugged Angel, an uncertain smile spread across his face.

"I accept," Angel said.

"And you, great Slayer and challenger of destiny, you have a debt to pay too," the male Oracle replied.

"You shall be given the chance to challenge destiny by achieving happiness, but shall be bound by destiny to provide a great warrior and to train the new warriors that will come for the battles ahead. Do you accept this obligation?" the female Oracle asked.

"What do you mean provide a warrior?" Buffy asked.

"In the generation to come, after the great battle, shall come the battle which could mark the turn to the end. You are a Warrior of great strength, bravery and skill. That will be needed in the warriors of the next generation who will fight in that battle and those traits must be passed on."

"I don't understand," Buffy said.

"They're saying your children will be great warriors," Angel whispered, his face dropping slightly, as he looked on the petite woman in his arms with love. "They're saying you must have children," Angel whispered sadly, his hand gently caressing her cheek.

"There's more than one way to have children," she whispered back. Angel looked confused for a moment, but Buffy turned her head to look at the Oracles.

"If I am allowed to challenge destiny and achieve happiness, and all I must provide is this, than I accept," she said squaring her chin.

.

Buffy and Angel arrived back at his apartment, they were both deathly quiet. Buffy walked into the room, and looked upon the disaster area, that was still the kitchen. She let out what was half a laugh and half a sob as she looked upon it. Angel came up behind her, placing a hand on her shoulder. She spun around, and flung her around his neck, she pressed her lips against his, soft and passionate. She pulled back for air, and they looked into each others eyes.

"I love you," he whispered, running his hand across her check.

"I love you too," she whispered, "But don't ever do that again!" She slapped his shoulder and tried to glare at him, but a smile kept twitching about the corners of her mouth. He laughed and pulled her closer.

"I'm sorry," he whispered.

"I came so close to losing you. Again," her eyes brimmed with tears, and all the turbulent emotions she felt as she looked up at him.

"But it's alright now. You won't lose me. We'll be happy," he murmured soothingly. She placed her head on his chest letting him brush her hair. "Only you would have the audacity to challenge destiny."

"Yeah, well fate is mean," she grumbled.

"Destiny," Angel said.

"Yeah, well them too." Angel chuckled and she laughed. "God, I don't know whether to laugh or cry," she said, "You won't be human. I won't remember any of this."

"I'll be human someday," he whispered, "We're just putting it off... to save you."

"Why did you have to leave anyway? Why couldn't we have had this, just a little longer? Why did you have to go off without me?"

"I know... it's just... I knew, I couldn't tell you. I wasn't sure I could do it if I woke up with you one more morning."

Buffy nodded her head, tears flowing down her face. "I understand... but we will have happiness right?" she asked looking up into his face.

"I promise."

"I - I won't remember any of this. I don't even know how much time we have."

"One minute," Angel said, his voice quiet with grief, glancing at the clock.

"A minute? NO! No... it's not enough time. What if something goes wrong"

"We don't have a choice; it's done."

"But... now I won't have hope. How am I supposed to know my debt? Know we can be happy."

"You won't... no one will know but me,"

"Everything we did... "

"It never happened."

Buffy shook her head, tears falling down her face, "It did! It did! I know it did!" Buffy reached out to touch his chest and looked up into his eyes. "I felt your heartbeat... Angel... Promise! Promise me we'll be happy... "

"Buffy... "

"Promise me!" He couldn't go on, but nodded and he leaned down and kissed her; she pulled him close, desperately holding on to him. They broke away, and looked at the clock, ticking down the last seconds.

"No! Oh god. Angel... I'm scared." She trembled in this arms, holding on to him tightly. Fearing what would happen, what might happen, or what might not.

"Shh... We'll be happy," Angel tried to reassure her, but tears were forming in his eyes and he looked as scared as she, scared that it would all be gone. She saw his fear in his eyes, and she tried to hold up a sob, and looked down at his chest. He put his finger under her chin, and made her look up at him. "I promise," he vowed, tears trickling out of the corners of his eyes, "We'll be happy; I promise."

"But what if-?"

"Please. please," Angel said, tears flowing down his checks.

Buffy clung to Angel, burying her head in his shoulder and whispering in his ear. "I'll never forget... Damn destiny... Don't let me forget... I'll never forget... I'll never forget... I'll Never Forget... "

They closed their eyes tightly and the minute came to an end in a bright flash of light.

"So... " Buffy stopped for a second in a moment of disorientation, but continued. "Let's just stick to the plan," Buffy said, her voice sad, but determined. "We'll keep our distance 'til some time has passed. Given enough time, we should be able to--"

"Forget?" Angel asked his voice sad, with the memories still fresh in his brain. He could still almost her whispering in his ear.

"No!" she replied instantly, surprising even herself. Angel's head snapped up at the difference from last time and the venom in her voice.

"I mean," Buffy said a little flustered and confused, "I won't forget. I'll never forget. But, we'll heal and move on." Angel stared at her for a moment, was she remembering, but her face showed only confusion.

"So... I'm gonna go," she said, turning to leave. Her words rang in Angel's ear, *Damn destiny... Don't let me forget*

"Buffy," Angel said. She stopped and turned to look at him. "What if-"

Just then the Mohra demon crashed through the window. Angel picked up the clock off his desk. The monster took a swipe at Angel, but he blocked it and crashed the clock into the demon's jewel on it's forehead.

"Wow," Buffy said, taking a step toward where the demon had once been, "How did you know how to kill it?"

"It was a Mohra demon," Angel replied. Buffy looked at him expectantly, waiting for him to elaborate. "I've been doing a lot of reading," he finished lamely. Buffy nodded. There was a moment of awkward silence, before Buffy turned to go.

"I guess I'll go then."

Her words rang out in Angel's mind, *Promise me!*

"Wait!" Angel said. Buffy turned to look at him, pain and sadness in her eyes. "Do you... I mean... If there wasn't a curse-"

"But there is," Buffy interrupted a little angry, fresh tears in her eyes.

"But what if there wasn't... "

"Angel, what are talking about?"

"I've been doing some reading and looking into some things. I wasn't sure until last night after I got back," Angel lied, "But I think... as far as I can tell... the curse- the spell is permanent."

"What?" Buffy asked, shocked and turning back to him.

"It's permanent. No happiness clause."

"Are you sure? I mean- how?" Buffy asked, her face spreading into a smile, taking a step towards him.

"I'm sure. There are some... people in town that helped me," Angel said, a smile spreading across his face as he saw the hope and love in her eyes. Buffy's face lit up, when he smiled, it was all she needed to convince her that it was real. She closed the gap between them in two quick steps and he welcomed her with open arms. Their lips melded together with a need, and urgency and disbelief. He picked her up and spun her around, and she laughed, looking into his face and loving what she saw there, reveling in the feel of being in his arms. Remembering the feeling as if it were only yesterday when she was last there. She leaned down, intent on another more passionate kiss, but as their lips touched a cry was heard from outside. Both turned to look at the door, and Angel set her down.

"Angel!" Cordelia cried from the hallway.

They rushed out into the front room and the hallway beyond. Doyle was crouching on the floor his head in his hands and Cordelia was leaning over him. "He's getting another one of the headache vision things."

"Doyle," Angel called.

Visions of books flashed before Doyle's eyes, and a cover of a dusty, heavy volume. The pages flew open and words of battle and prophecy flashed before his eyes. The door to the Oracles appeared and Angel surrounded by white light facing the oracles. Then vague far-off visions of blood, and pain, and nearer ones of happiness. Doyle looked up at Angel, Buffy and Cordelia.

"What's wrong?" Buffy asked.

"He's having one of his visions," Cordy told her.

"What did you see?" Angel asked, his tone tinged with worry.

"A book, something about a prophecy. Then the images were all jumbled and vague like they were all far off."

"A prophecy?" Buffy asked, a weird feeling of déjà vu washing over her.

"Do you know where the book is?"

"Yeah, can I get something for this headache first though?" Doyle asked.

"I've got it," Cordy said resignedly, going back into the office to get Doyle a glass of whiskey.

"What else?" Angel asked.

"You were there. Talking to the Oracles," Doyle said.

"What Oracles?" Buffy asked.

"I've already been to the Oracles," Angel said.

"What?" Doyle asked, "Without me? What you'd go there for?"

"Go where?" Cordy asked, coming back in and handing Doyle a glass of whiskey. Doyle accepted it gratefully and took a long swig.

"I needed to ask them some questions about my curse," Angel lied.

"Are they the ones that helped you?" Buffy asked.

"What do you mean helped him?" Cordy asked.

"Did they fix the curse?" Doyle asked.

"Either it was permanent when I went in or they fixed it. They were pretty vague."

"Well can you be sure? I mean you guys weren't in there that long," Cordelia said.

"Wonderful tact Cordy," Buffy replied dryly.

"It hasn't been tested that way yet, no," Angel said.

"Well, tell me when you decide to so I can make sure I'm in a different county if it goes wrong," Cordy replied.

"If the Oracles said it's permanent, then it is. They don't lie," Doyle said.

"What about the prophecy," Angel asked, "When can you find the book?"

"Right away."

"Good, Cordy-"

"Yeah, yeah, like I actually want to stick around here with you two," Cordy exclaimed.

"Angel, can I talk to you a minute, before we go?" Doyle asked.

Angel looked over at Buffy, who smiled and nodded slightly. "Come on Cordy, why don't you catch me up on everything that's been happening," Buffy said. Cordy and Buffy walked off down the hall, Angel watched their retreating backs, his eyes lingering on Buffy.

"Look, I just wanted to know. Well, the Oracles never do favors and when they do anything at all, they make you pay dearly for it. Are you sure... I mean, are you sure getting this curse thing made permanent is worth their price?" Doyle asked.

Images of Buffy in the sun, of kissing, and ice-cream, and her beautiful face flitted through Angel's memory. The memory of waking up to her sleeping peacefully beside him, unafraid and happy. Angel smiled and looked at Doyle, "Easily."

.

Buffy and Angel lay tangled in the sheets. Buffy's eyes fluttered, as she tried to stay awake. She let out a contented sigh, and breathed in Angel's scent. Angel smoothed her hair and kissed her head. She looked up at him smiling. "I love you," she whispered.

"I love you too," he whispered reaching down, to kiss her gently. She smiled.

"I don't want the day to end." Angel smiled at the echo of her words. "I don't want to deal with tomorrow. I still have to visit my Dad and I'll have to call Giles about that prophecy." There was silence for a moment.

"The challenger of destiny shall be happy, and shall bear a child that will be a warrior in the battle to come," Angel intoned.

"Mm," she agreed, "And the warrior shall replace another, who will revert to what he once was. The destiny that was delayed will be completed. All will come together and two generations shall fight, in the final battle which will mark the beginning of the end of the war. Not bad as far as prophecies go. At least this one seems like the battle will be a ways off, unless the warrior is me. Do you think it's me? I mean, I did replace the slayer before me."

"No. They didn't revert to what they were. They weren't dead before they died," Angel said.

"That's true and there's no way my Mom's the challenger of destiny. If I'm involved at all, which Giles is bound to say I am, it will probably be as the warrior that's replaced."

"Or the challenger of destiny," Angel hinted.

Buffy smiled. That sounded right somehow. "Yeah. I mean, after all, what's more of a challenge to destiny than a slayer and a vampire in love."

"One that's happy," Angel replied.

"And we'll be happy won't we? We can make this work?" she asked looking up at him.

"I promise." Angel smiled, looking down at her. She reached up and kissed him again, her eyes sleepy and contented. He understood the prophecy, even if he could never tell her. She would find out in good time and was already on track. Buffy would have a child that would replace him and he would become human again. He had been worried that the one that would replace him might not come for another two hundred years. But the Oracles kept their promise, they would be happy. He breathed in her sweet scent and closed his eyes, reveling in the feel of this comfort and the feel of her body next to his. The apartment quieted, filled with joy and happiness.

"Wait a minute," Buffy said sitting up slowly, "... if I'm the challenger of destiny... I don't want to have kids!"

Angel laughed and kissed her. "Then challenge *that* destiny or put it off," he told her.

She nodded sleepily. He smiled and they settled back down to go to sleep. Happy with the prospects of their future and willing to put off the prophecy until another day.

The End

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