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Who Wants to Live Forever?

By Carla Kozak

Summary: Whistler offers Angel a deal.
Part of The View Series
Disclaimer: All the characters from BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER are owned by Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, 20th Century Fox Television, and the WB television network. I am merely a BTVS enthusiast who has woven these characters into a story of my own. For this story's title, I offer thanks to Brian May and the song from which I borrowed it. It could serve well as Angel's theme song.
Author's Notes: The reference to the character Siobhan will make no sense unless one reads my story, A View From Below.


Angel was hallucinating.

He gazed at a slim, red-haired young woman, dressed in filmy white, who seemed to hover in the air just above him, a tender expression on her lovely face. "Siobhan," he whispered. "You've come back to me."

Then he remembered he was in Hell, and Siobhan--dead for more than 240 years--was surely not there. And with some embarrassment, he wondered if it was even Siobhan he had imagined, or a red-headed image of the actress Jessica Lange, playing the angel of death in the movie "All That Jazz." He'd hung out in the shadows of many a theater during his years as a homeless, guilt-ridden vampire on the streets of New York. Matinee showings are lifesavers for those who must avoid sunlight.

Angel realized that he'd been drifting in and out of conscious reality for some time, and during his out times, he had visions of longing. Sometimes he would be with Buffy, reliving their few hours of passion. He would undress her, caress her soft skin, cover her with kisses. Other times, history changed, and he was in a Galway graveyard with Siobhan, denying her order not to interfere and helping her defeat the Master.

These visions should have provided him with comfort, but not in Hell. He would always awaken to reality. He'd let himself be lured away from Siobhan, and the Master had killed her. And the joy of being with Buffy had overtaken him so completely that he had forgotten he was a monster, and thus he became one again. Now he was stuck in an inferno which, in kindly allowing him visual access to the living, showed him Buffy whenever she was lost and lonely. He saw her often. And all he could do was metaphorically rattle his chains.

"Yeah, you really are a loser. What did you expect? A 'Get out of jail free' card?"

Whistler. In the flesh, so to speak. Who knew what Whistler really was made of? Angel had seen only visions and hallucinations since landing in Hell. Whistler was a harbinger of change. Angel felt a flash of hope. With a sad smile, he turned to the man with the annoying voice and impossibly tacky clothes.

"That's some hall pass you've got, buddy. Is there anyplace you can't go?" Angel asked.

"I go where I'm needed. You know that. I do what I gotta do," Whistler said.

"I failed at that," said Angel. "I don't suppose you have any info on what, if anything, I've got to do now?"

"What makes you think you're that important?" Whistler asked.

There were a few moments of silence.

"Nothing," Angel said softly. "I know I'm less than nothing. I was just hoping, you know. I deserve to be here, I brought it on myself. But Buffy doesn't deserve what's she's going through."

"Hurts to see her living on the streets, don't it?" Whistler said. "Sticking to the shadows, fending off perverts and scavengers. Of course, she has the physical strength for that. Emotionally, I'd guess it's taking a toll on her."

"Yes. It hurts like hell." Angel said.

"Good choice of words," Whistler gave him a few ironic hand claps. "I gotta admit, you have a genius for meriting punishment. Of course, whoever is doling it out has some evil genius, too. Here, all you want to do is protect that girl, and all you can do is watch her suffer."

Angel looked at Whistler through hooded eyes. "I take it this visit is part of my punishment?"

"Buddy! You're wounding me." Whistler pulled up a chair (Where did that come from? Angel wondered) and made himself comfortable. "I come to see how you're doing, and that's the thanks I get?"

"Whistler, did I ever mention you remind me of Willie the Snitch?" Angel asked.

Whistler laughed. "Accusations, *and* insults. Man, I caught you in a rotten mood."

"Yeah, well. This place kind of wears a guy down." Angel shrugged.

"All the more reason you should appreciate my coming here," Whistler sat leaning on his spine, one ankle resting on the other knee. He tipped his hat over his eyes and crossed his arms behind his head. "So what've you been doing in this Hell-hole, other than your usual brooding?"

"I haven't figured out anything else I could do down here," Angel said. "Except pray."

"Who do you figure is listening to you?" Whistler asked.

"You're the one who showed up, Whistler. Maybe you're the answer to my prayers."

"A second ago I was Willie the Snitch, and now I'm Clarence the angel? Make up your mind, pal. Who do you want me to be?"

"Whistler," Angel said, his voice tired, "I've never figured out just who or what you are. But you showed me the way once. I know, I screwed up--no pun intended. I didn't know the curse had a contingency clause. If this is my punishment, I'll take it. But if I can still be of use, if I can do some good...well, I just hope I'll get another chance."

"Hmmm. Good speech. But I gotta ask you--what if it's not your little Slayer you'd be helping? Would you still be so anxious to be back amongst the living?" Whistler fished a toothpick out of his pocket and proceeded to chew on it.

"Would you care to elaborate? Are you saying there's some life-threatening task on Earth, and I'm the one who can accomplish it? Or that I can be released, and kept busy doing a good deed here or there? And in either case, it will only happen as long as I never see Buffy again--even while knowing she's in danger?"

Whistler spit out the toothpick. "Say it's Door Number One. We need you, it's a crisis, but it don't involve your girl."

"I'd do what I had to do, as quickly as possible. And then I'd hasten to her side, so to speak," Angel said.

"And if it's Door Number Two?"

"I'd still be in hell, and so would Buffy," Angel answered. "Only difference I can see is I'd be able to get a decent cup of coffee. That's not enough of an incentive."

Whistler eyed him in mock disbelief. "You won't accept a Buffy-less scenario, even if it means blowing this pop stand?"

"Whistler, you know this isn't a pleasant place to spend eternity. But neither was Earth until I saw her. I can't believe you didn't know what my answer to your proposed scenario would be," Angel sat on his heels and looked at Whistler. "That makes me wonder why you even had to ask."

"Yeah, I figured you'd be the type to choose endless love or nothing." Whistler said. "Which brings up the real question: What did you do to deserve Heaven on Earth?"

"You're missing the point here, Whistler." Angel hung his head for a minute, choosing his words. "I'm not thinking of my blue heaven. I'm thinking of Buffy. I don't know my destiny, but I know hers is all fouled up because of me. As far as I can tell, the only sensible reason to spring my locks is so I can help get her on track again. Or am I the only one who sees this?"

Whistler raised his eyebrows. "Let's say I do see that. Trouble is, some other folks don't like that what helps her also gives you your heart's desire. It just doesn't strike them as fair, given your record, and they like things to be all equalized. So they're wondering--what are you willing to give up?"

"What have I got, Whistler? I don't see much. And please don't tell me this is some kind of Faustian bargain, because it seems like that would defeat the purpose," Angel said.

Whistler laughed. "Yeah, the irony of that hit them kind of hard, too. Gotta admit it was amusing to see their reaction to your Angelus reversion. Stupid clause on the curse. I know the Gypsies wanted you to suffer, but talk about being hoist with their own petard. Somebody didn't think that one through very well."

"No, somebody sure didn't," Angel said softly.

Conversation ceased for a few minutes. Then Angel spoke again.

"It's strange," he said. "With my soul restored, I have remorse for everything I did without it. But without it, did I have the choice of good or evil? It doesn't seem as if I did. I was just reactive. And yet I was choosing to do certain things. I chose to hurt Buffy, I chose take Drusilla from Spike, I chose to kill--those were all easy choices. Alternatives never occurred to me. Vampire minds are pretty much one track, you know.

"You asked what I could give up, and I suppose that means what do I hold dear. The easy answer is Buffy, and no, whether it's for her good or mine, I'm not prepared to live without her--that's assuming she'll even want to be around me again. Oddly enough, other than Buffy and that crazy, motley crew of hers, the only other beings I truly care about are Drusilla and Spike, because I made them. So I'm responsible for them, I guess. I'd kill them if I had too, especially if they were threatening any of the others, but don't think it wouldn't break my heart. So I guess that leaves me."

"Touché, mon ami," said Whistler. "What have you got to give?"

Angel gave him a twisted grin. "My good looks, my health, and my immortality."

"Not bad. Let's see if we can work out a deal," Whistler said, and was gone.

Time had no meaning in Hell. Angel didn't know how long he'd been there, or if what felt to him like years was only days or even hours on Earth. The isolation had given him a taste of madness, which seemed all the more acrid after Whistler's visit. He had no idea if his strange friend would return, let alone what deal he was trying to bargain for, on Angel's behalf--if indeed it was, ultimately, for Angel.

Lost again in the void, Angel pondered his immortality.

Its benefits hadn't occurred to him at first, as he'd been changed at an age when he was supremely confident in both his good looks, and in his body's ability to respond just as it should to any physical challenge. He'd learned quickly that he was skilled at seduction in all of its infinite forms, and as time passed, he'd taken for granted that those skills would only improve. It was strange, in a sense, because he couldn't see how he looked. He had only the fading memory of his image, but that was bolstered every time someone looked at him. He attracted people with very little effort on his part.

It had been a sublime game, played out amidst the dark, exciting pulse of the night. And he had been a prince, always looked up to, always getting what he wanted. Until he'd been slapped with a Gypsy curse through which he saw himself all too clearly.

And still, he had remained in his prime. Even when he'd lost the desire to fight for his wretched life, and was filthy and starving, Angel held onto his ageless, favorable core. When Whistler presented him with a reason to go on and a chance to be, perhaps, something more than a monster, it hadn't taken him long to learn how to survive in a way his conscience would allow. And after that, he'd cleaned up good and fast.

Even when his soul was killing him, Angel's body had been his friend.

"You got it, pal. Your endless youth, in exchange for a one-way ticket back. At least, I hope it's one-way." Whistler had returned.

Angel was trembling. Although it seemed like he'd been in Hell for an eternity, this was going too fast. For some reason he started to think of captive dolphins who were set loose into the vast beauty of the ocean, but who kept returning to the security of the pen. "Don't let me be like that," he prayed silently.

"Am I going to age over 200 years right away? Because that might be a major shock to the system," he stated.

"Yeah, and you wouldn't be much good to anyone, either," Whistler said. "Nope--you lucked out. You've been linked to Buffy. You're gonna age at the normal rate, as long as she stays alive. Which might not add up to much, considering a slayer's usual life span. But she's an unusual slayer, so maybe you'll be saying hello to gray hair, wrinkles and the forces of gravity."

"If I'm lucky," Angel said.

Whistler quirked an eyebrow and echoed, "Lucky?"

Angel's voice was sincere. "My body has been a mockery for a while now. You know I'm ancient inside. I'd consider it a blessing to grow old with the one I love."

"And on the up side," Whistler added, "you won't get the chance to ponder your looks. You're still a vampire, pal. No reflection, no dietary changes, no chance to work on your tan, and the usual methods of destruction still apply."

"I wasn't expecting total absolution. I can live with the rest. Matter of fact, I'm kind of experienced at doing just that."

Whistler eyed him, sizing him up. "Angel, don't think this is gonna be easy," he said. "When your gut starts to sag, and you get your first gray hair--or worse, major loss of same--you're not gonna like it. And it's all tied to Blondie. She dies--the process stops. You could end up being middle-aged forever."

"No, Whistler," Angel said. "If Buffy dies, I'm going to catch me some rays."

"That's kind of a selfish attitude. You may still be needed," Whistler reproved.

"That's part of my incentive to keep her alive," Angel answered. "I'm not taking this for granted. I understand what I'm being given."

Whistler smiled then. "Yeah, I know you do. You've been at the mercy of some cruel fates."

"You don't know how many times I've wondered why..." Angel mused.

Whistler was quick to interrupt. "Actually, I do. Unfortunately, I've been privy to some of your thoughts. And don't think that hasn't been tedious."

Angel's laugh was rueful. "Sorry, buddy. If I'd known, I'd have given you more variety." He paused briefly, then said, "So, as I asked before, do you have any answers?"

"No. It's just fate, man. That's why they call it that," Whistler said. "Okay. It's time to go."

Angel was startled. "I just...go?"

Whistler pushed him slightly. "Yeah. Find your girl friend. See how you adjust to each other. Whatever demons you've got to fight will present themselves before you know it."

And there he was, standing on an unfamiliar street, in the dark. Angel was confused, but he felt an odd lightness. Freedom. He was not without restrictions, but he was free.

Free to figure out where he was. Free to find and help Buffy, free to work at regaining her trust. It was a heady feeling.

But beyond the buoyancy, Angel wondered, did he feel any difference? Was there an ache, as though his bones and tendons didn't mesh quite right? Was his skin tight where it should be supple, or slightly loose where it had been firm?

It was too soon for any of that, of course. Angel realized he was experiencing the first seeds of doubt, discovering that his body was no longer the reliable friend it had been.

He raised his arms, stretching. He'd been confined for so long. There was a scaffolding around a building just down the street. Angel flexed a few muscles, tested the resilience of his knees, and ran for it, jumping to grab at a crossbar. He chinned himself once, twice, three times. His body still worked. So he'd have to sweat a little to keep it in good condition, and one day, maybe he'd notice things weren't in such perfect shape. Big deal.

"Who wants to live forever?" Angel asked aloud, startling a drunk who'd been sleeping in a doorway. And then he went in search of a street sign to get his bearings, and find his way.

Whistler watched from the shadows. "Everyone," he answered softly. "Of course, not everyone gets the chance to try it out."

He walked off in the opposite direction, but he glanced back over his shoulder just once.

"Don't forget, Angel," Whistler grinned to himself. "That which is dying often desires to replace itself."

Whistler stopped, pondering what he'd just said. "'That which is dying'? Man, I gotta get out of this place."

The End

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