And Life Was One Long Fight Again
Summary: After NFA Angel wakes up somewhere extremely
unexpected, with some unusual obstacles to getting back home.
AN: Written to fit in at the end of Angel series 5 and
to tie in with Buffy Season 8 Comics (as we know it so far so with some
guesswork!) although only small non-plot based comic references included,
beware of inadvertent spoilers all the same!
She was not there the first
time he woke, but he could smell her – and her lover – and other
oxymoronically comforting things.
The next time he wakes, she’s
right in front of him. One hundred percent blonde Slayer goodness and he
warms in her pleased gaze. She looks better, less thin than when he last
saw her. But her smile is a little guarded and after her initial happiness
she seems cautious, uncertain. She holds out a chunky yellow mug of blood
with a straw. He hurts all over.
He remembers the dragon. Gunn
hollow eyed behind him. He doesn’t hurt as much as he should.
He doesn’t breathe either.
That seems as it should be too. “Angel.” His name is a caress on her lips,
and she pushes the straw closer to his dry mouth. Reminds him to drink. Her
finger brushes his softly as he sucks gently. Tries to be discrete. The
sun beats fiercely down, and it’s too hot to be outside really, but it’s
too tempting. The dark haired man slopes along side squinting in pale
shorts and a wife beater, the jerky swirls of his sprawling tattoos peeking
out from underneath. They look like snippets of numbers, runes. Lindsey?
The blood’s good. It’s hers.
the third occasion Angel manages to revive himself from his slumber he has
healed a lot more. He croaks at the empty room until his vocal chords start
working again. “Buffy.” It’s more of a plea that anything else. He can’t
seem to build up the energy to call for her. He wonders as he says her
name, fills his senses with information about her previous visits.
She must have just been here.
There was blood on the side, still just about warm enough. He struggles
until he can pull himself up enough to lean against the wall beside the
bed, half sitting half slumped within reach of the mug. It’s not hers this
time. But it’s otter and needed, and he can feel the strength returning to
his limbs. He should check his wounds, but he doesn’t. Being wounded
doesn’t mean anything.
Instead Angel concentrates on
her smell, it’s everywhere. She’s been here a lot, he can tell. He can
almost taste her blood, sweet and spicy like nectar. More recent than the
time he saw her, mixed with dirt and antiseptic wipes. She must’ve patched
herself up here after a fight. He smells sex and arousal too. The want… it
must be for her lover. He hasn’t been in here, though she has
carried his trace with her. Whoever the boy is they are familiar though
Angel can’t place them precisely.
He tries not to be jealous
but he was and would always be. Buffy was his. If it’s Spike clutching his
Sanshu he’ll beat his ass. Again.
He smells his friends, but it
must be from his clothes; because they are all dead.
Instead of a long timeless
gap Angel woke normally the next night and as he opened his eyes he was
pleased to have largely healed. That the rest has bought him back to
normal. Though normal seemed blank to him now. Empty space with no clear
direction to go forward.
Buffy was on the other side
of the door, and already he couldn’t help but cling to the soft muffled
sound of her voice. Angel sat as deftly as possible, raising aching arms to
check his hair. After God knows how long unconscious he would have sold his
soul for a mirror and a reflection, but the room was almost bare bar the
bed, chair and dresser. He noted automatically the two doors and window –
though he wasn’t looking to escape from Buffy.
The door opened and Buffy was
there, stifling the smile that graced her lips as she tried to remain
professional and cautious. She was dapperly dressed in a midlength skirt
and blouse, the kind of thing Fred used to wear to the lab, it seemed
strangely formal for the situation. “Look who’s back from the dead.” Buffy
grins wryly as she steps inside, before pausing as worry dances across her
face. “Well, sort of.”
Suddenly Buffy seems shy and
nervous. Instead of sitting in the chair by the bed she hangs back hovering
and fluttering around the room. “I can’t believe you’re here.” For a moment
she can’t help but stare at him intently and her eyes seem so much softer than
the last time he saw them.
“Can’t say I was expecting to
see you either.” His voice is cracking from underuse. He rubs his neck and
the action pulls him back. That dragon digging it’s claws in his neck
probably hadn’t helped either. “Were you there for the fight? Are Spike and
Illyria-” He can’t bring himself to finish.
Buffy tilts her head
curiously at him. “Angel…” She doesn’t want to give too much away, he can
tell. She perches on the chair and leans closer to him. He wishes she’d
come closer still. “Do you know how you got here?”
“Got where?” Angel looks
around properly for the first time. “Is this the Hyperion?” It looks odd.
Everything is pale and plain. White walls with a blue stripe near the
ceiling, like the wooden picture rails that came in and out of fashion. The
furniture a functional polished steel but curved at the edges. There are
soft throws and cushions in pale shades of blue. He doesn’t remember a room
Buffy smiles lightly, a
little relieved at his recognition. “Yes.” She runs her hands along her
thighs in her familiar nervous reflex. “And you remember me?”
Angel frowns. “Buffy – of
course I remember you. If I were blind I would know you.” Angel bites out.
His thoughts fly chaotically around his head. Something isn’t right, but he
can’t work out what it is when every blink, every second his eyes are
closed brings cold and dark and rain and noise of steel on flesh as demons
– he stumbles to his feet, tries to shy away from Buffy. Buffy is a
“What’s wrong?” He demands.
Keeps his eyes firmly open, locked on her as she rises and follows that
much more gracefully than his own panicked movements to the center of the
room. She stands in front of him careful not to touch. Her skirt is white
with pale blue flowers. It matches the room’s minimalist décor. He doesn’t
remember a room like this. He doesn’t remember her like this.
“Where are the others?” Angel
demands again, and Buffy comes closer fills his vision. He can hear her
pulse in her throat, a little faster than usual. She doesn’t stop his
rambling, doesn’t touch him still. Just stays so close the rhythm of her
body breathing and beating and hurting for him is a balm.
“I don’t know.” She is
quietly resigned. “We’re not totally sure what’s happened. But Angel…”
She’s in front of him and he can feel her but he can’t seem to see her.
Doesn’t want to know what she might say about the others. About Spike and
Illyria, the only ones with even the smallest chance.
“Angel this isn’t your
For a second there is only
her caught breath, her nerves as she waits for his reaction. Everything is
confusion. Then. “Oh.” The air rushes back into her lungs and Angel steps
away again, desperate not to be so attuned to her while he thinks her words
through. She catches his eye. We fight alone. “Like Pylea?”
She’s relieved at his calm. “You’ve been there too?”
He doesn’t reply, just nods
mutely as she leads him back to the bed and settles with him there. She’s
so small perched next to him. He always forgets how tiny and fragile
looking she seems. Can’t forget her strength though; he loves it too much.
“We need to talk about how you got here and about exactly which world
you’re from so we can, ah, send you back.”
“Back?” Fire and cracked
black tar oozing like molten lava under his feet. “Not sure there is a
back.” Angel knew he had wanted a better LA but when he fell… he’d left it
burning. “Or if anyone would be glad to see me.”
Her hands cradled his face,
forced him to look down at her and those searching eyes. “I think I’m right
in saying other Buffy would have something to say about that.”
“Maybe. There’s a cookie
Buffy laughs and it’s not
desperate or jaded, but joyous to him. “You’re not the same as her.”
She shakes her head,
thoughtfully, regretfully. “No.” That wicked grin flashes by again. “Big
fan of cookie dough ice cream though.” She brushes her hand through his
hair again and everywhere she touches feels warm and glowing after so long
without her. He wants to pick her up and slide her under him. That kiss,
the way the cold caught at her cheeks and nose and blushed them red while
her hot breath puffed out in little curls of vapour. He wanted to hide his
face. She didn’t even notice.
“Sometimes I miss you like
this.” She breathes and she is ethereal to him, sliding her fingers over
his forehead where his brow furrows in darker moments. He knows exactly
what she means.
“You kissed me like that.” He
whispers back. “After the Order of Taraka came after us at the ice rink.”
Buffy pulls her hands away
somehow chastised by his words and she fidgets as she delivers her message.
“Wesley’s outside; he wants to fact check with you. Try and get this whole
sliding door realigned.”
There’s a beat where she
should move and doesn’t, where he’s not thinking about what she said but
that he has to leave her, then his Slayer is gone and Wesley walks in.
“Angel?” Wesley. Tired and
stubbly but alive and… struggling for breath a bit. Angel looks down and realises
he’s got his best friend wrapped in a suffocating hug. Slowly he lets go,
but can’t quite abandon him totally, keeps hold of his arm and spends an
age drinking in every detail the wonder of Wesley Wyndham Pryce. “Are you
Wesley’s dead. It smacks him
in the gut like so much ammo. This is other Wesley. He has to think of them
like that. Light Happy Other Buffy. Not Dead Other Wesley. Are there others
here? Cordelia? “Yes. I’m fine.” Angel steps away and motions to the chair.
“Shall we start?”
smiles faintly a little confused and uncomfortable but takes the seat. “Did
Buffy tell you about our research?”
There’s a window, Angel
notices properly for the first time. It’s dark outside but he knows the
view - it’s the side of the hotel that overlooks the alley; and he knows
when he saw it last that the closest block had been destroyed. But not
here. Still standing Angel can see there are cars, street lights and
flickering neon signs that light up the sky in a permanent orange glow.
“Not the specifics. But this
is not the LA I left.” He tears himself away from the window. “I need to go
“Of course.” Wesley flicks
open his yellow legal pad full of copious notes. “As far as we can tell,
this is not a prophesised event. If you could give us some details of what
happened before you arrived here…” He moves to a clean page and looks up
sympathetically. “You were very injured when we found you. You’ve been
unconscious for several months, was there a battle?”
“Apocalypse, I guess.” Angel
goes back to the bed and slumps down in the dirty sheets. “I was CEO for
Wolfram and Hart with you, Gunn, Fred, Lorne and Spike.”
Wes looked surprised.
“He was good. In his own way.
Bitched like hell about it.”
“He had a soul?”
“I had one first!”
Wes laughed and it was even
worse than hearing Buffy do the same earlier. What had happened in his own
world to destroy everyone around him so deeply? “You say that here too.”
“There’s Other Me?” It was
confusing to think about. “Am I here?”
“You’ve been away for a
while, it seemed best. Willow mentioned something to do with imploding
universes if you met. I’m not entirely sure she was joking.”
“Willow…” It had been a long
time since the red head had helped him. Angel’s universe was getting very
small very fast.
Wesley seemed to know what he
was thinking. “Most of Buffy’s friend’s pop in from time to time, when
they’re not busy with the Slayers. We help too, sometimes, but largely
Wolfram and Hart, along with AI’s business concerns keep us occupied full
Wes cleared his throat.
“That’s quite similar. Wolfram and Hart offered us all jobs. It was only
Fred and Spike that took them though… Spike has had a soul for two years I
believe. Had a part in Buffy destroying the hellmouth. Is this all sounding
“Yes.” Fred… “What happened
Grief pooled in Wesley’s eyes
and Angel closed his own in response. It was easy not to want to see his
friend voice something that had hurt them all so much, and Wesley
especially deeply. “She died earlier this year. It was-”
“Illyria.” Apparently this
wasn’t the only dimension Angel has saved Fred just to fatally let her down
later. He hoped there was a world she had never gone to the law firm. Had
never met Knox. Again he felt the dull hollow rightness in the lesser mans
death. “And Spike, is he?”
“He’s fine.” Angel felt a
knot unclench inside him and carefully didn’t examine his relief. “But
you’re not really friends here.”
Angel smiled, and finally
there was a spark of real pleasure in it beyond the mechanics. “Not there
either.” The smile died as quickly as it arrived. “The battle I was in… it
was with the Senior Partners after we killed off the Black Thorn. The
Senior Partners tore open the entrance to several hell dimensions to
“Well.” Wes coughed again
into his hankie and Angel wondered if he was sick or if he looked closely
amongst the stubble there would be a scar here too. “From what I understand
of what happened with Glory it may well be that a rift was opened into this
world at the same time… at any rate since we know the same major players
it’s likely that our worlds diverge a little earlier than the your last
altercation.” He made a few notes before continuing, and the scratch of the
same pen on paper was achingly familiar to Angel. “Can you tell me when you
arrived in Los Angeles?”
“Late ’99. After the major’s
ascension in Sunnydale.” After he left Buffy.
“You came here alone?”
Wes ticked something off his
list. “Prior to this you were in Sunnydale, helping Buffy?”
“Yes.” He’d never really
talked about Buffy much with Wesley. “We were together there, but the
curse… it was too dangerous.”
“Our Angel, he did the same.”
Wes seemed sympathetic. “Started working with Cordelia and Doyle soon
“Are they here?” Angel
Wes took off his glasses and
fiddled with the arms absently. “I’m sorry. Doyle died slightly before I
arrived here. Cordelia last year… it was the strain of the visions. She’d
already been in a coma for six months when-” His voice cracked, it was
still too raw to talk about all this death. Especially those people they
had loved and needed so much. They’d been lucky for so long. Not lately.
“It wasn’t because of Connor
Wesley shook his head slowly.
“No. I don’t know those names, I’m sorry.” No Connor. “Let’s get back to
your arrival in Los Angeles. Our Angel has quoted the arrival of the Mohra
demon as the next significant event.”
“The Mohra?” It wasn’t a day
he was going to forget certainly, but it also wasn’t one he was prone to
sharing, ever. Doyle had been the only person he’d even mentioned the
basics too and he’d been gone for many years. “I killed it.” It hadn’t been
very significant in the end anyway, life had gone on much as before.
Wesley frowned, pouring over
his notes for some detail. “At a salt factory in Redondo?”
But that… “In my office.
Buffy had just arrived.” The second time.
“And you weren’t wounded? Our
Angel, his blood mixed with the Mohra’s.”
Then he got it. “Your Angel
“It happened that way the
first time.” He made his voice dead, casual, though questions were
screaming in his head. He was briefly glad that Buffy wasn’t here. She
might not be his Buffy but he was pretty sure she would still take violent
exception to his decision. “I had the oracles take back the day. They said
Buffy would die if they didn’t.”
“Really? I- I mean, I wasn’t
here at the time, but I was under the impression that the opposite was
true. The oracles refused to help Angel, they told him…” He read off his
notes. “‘Together you are powerful, alone you are dead’?”
“Did she live?” Angel
“Of course-” Wesley
flustered. “You just saw her, she’s here.” If he’d stayed human, chosen
Buffy, could he have saved her? Not left her to go through the torment of
being brought back. It didn’t make any sense. “If in one world you are a
vampire-with-a-soul and the other human that seems the obvious place for
the worlds to have seperated.”
They talked for a while the
pair of them about all the things that changed because of that forgotten
day. How Buffy’s mother had died at the same time in both worlds, but here
Dawn had been lost too shortly after when Buffy had been too late to save
her from Glory. He grieved for this Buffy, the way he couldn’t imagine he
would when he saw her careless smile earlier. Darla had never returned
apparently, and Angel was sad for that too, that his sire had never had the
chance to redeem herself. More than that he wanted to cry for the lack of
Other Angel had compensated
for his lack of strength with a heavy reliance on magic and Fred’s
inventions. She’d been tempted away to Wolfram and Hart intending to act as
a spy when Illyria found her. Currently they were searching for Gunn;
missing for several months after never returning from patrolling in his old
On both sides the death toll
was too much. But here, a human Angel had just scraped by and managed to
save more than he with his enhanced strength. It wasn’t making Angel feel
good about any of the decisions he had made. The way he had approached
things. Eventually when Wesley was sure he had enough to pin point Angel’s
world precisely he left Angel alone with his thoughts and a change of
clothes. There were things Angel hadn’t shared and he thought about them as
he stripped down to wash. Telling Wesley he was the one to have
mistranslated the prophecy regarding Connor had been too much. It had been
hard enough to watch him realise before when the spell had broken in his
world. Telling this other Wesley everyone was dead was enough to bear for
The bathroom was as sparsely
decorated as the rest of the place, decked out in an icy blue but somehow
still more homely than the one at his penthouse. Not being paid for by evil
probably a key factor there. Inside the booth, the spray of water was hard
and warming against his cool skin and he stared mutely at the white tile
walls as he stood immobile and naked, water dripping off his flesh. Beyond
him, the world he’d left behind was broken. Dead and cold as him. As he’d
expected to truly finally be. Here, everything was soft and gently alive
beyond the basics. Buffy was here, a Buffy that loved him resolutely -
albeit in a different hotter skin. A world where he concentrated on Buffy,
focused on making the world better for her, not for unspecified goals and
vendettas was whole and functional. Would it be possible? To go back to his
world and make it better? Could anyone? Was there nothing left but to tear
down that dysfunctional canvas and start again? He would go back, of course
he would. For Connor and for his Buffy - the one who had never quite come
back to life. But would he do anything different when he got there?
The next night Buffy came to
ask him to patrol. She was kitted out more practically than he’d seen her
last. Snug jeans and a checked button up shirt, half hidden under the camel
coat he knew from experience was specially adapted with extra pockets by
Briefly, Angel thought about
being cautious. About what Other human him might think of his spending time
with his girlfriend. He thought about imploding worlds and just how
desperate he was to get out of his increasingly cell like suite with it’s
uniform whites and blues and greys. “Am I allowed to leave the hotel?
Wesley mentioned imploding worlds?”
“Oh, that’s just if you meet
other Angel, Willow said that might cause all kinds of bad juju, which is a
shame, because I definitely gave that possibility some thought – but, uh –
my Angel’s not here. We should be safe.” She was blushing furiously and
looking away and he couldn’t help but smirk a little. He loved that she
thought about him like that.
The reassurance that Buffy’s
lover was in fact a human version of himself was unendingly strange, when
he’d started to doubt if he was who she would chose in the end – let alone
if their relationship could ever function properly. Looping her arm in his
Buffy led him from his room through the cheerful yellow corridors.
Everything smelt fresh and recently decorated, chemical odours from the
paint lingered in the air.
Buffy gestured toward wet
paint signs on some of the doors. “We’re going to be using some of these
rooms for Slayers when they’re in town on assignment.”
“Plenty of evil to go around
Her smile died a bit. “Yes,
more than before. When the hellmouth closed everything oogly just kind of
They rounded the corner and
stepped onto the sweeping balcony that over looked the lobby of the old
hotel. It had been a favourite place for Angel to stop and take in the
world before. Here in this other near identical place it was even more so.
Wesley was standing near the reception desk and yelling at a sullen dark
haired girl as she chewed gum, supposedly manning the phones but apparently
mostly missing messages. An elderly couple were being led in the huge
double doors by another tall and lithe girl with dark cornrows tight
against her skull. Glancing up she waved at Buffy and himself before double
taking and narrowing her eyes. Another Slayer then. Buffy nodded
reassuringly and motioned for the girl to continue.
He couldn’t believe he’d
spent so long up in the law firm’s tower away from all this. Two more new
girls were pouring over some paperwork and ancient texts at a temporary
desk in another corner. The offices were out of sight but everything he
felt below him buzzed, like standing on a wasp’s nest. There was a lot
going on here that he hadn’t been told about. That was fair, really, when
he was a sort-of stranger to them, but it was unnerving all the same to
have his place so full of women whose natural urge was to stake him. “Where
did you send the other Angel?” He asked pulling at his shirt collar
Buffy frowned more. “He went
to Cleveland. Faith needed a hand with a new group that’s set up there. It
seemed best that he was away with you here, so…”
Angel felt his lips twitching
into a smile. “Still jealous?”
“I’m not jealous!” She pulled
a face. “Much.”
Angel couldn’t help it. He
drew her closer, tugging on Buffy’s sleeve until she fitted in next to him
like she was supposed to and leaned down to capture her lips in a gentle
kiss. It was soft at first like so many tender kisses they’d shared in the
dark, but her heart beat tightly against his chest, the staccato soaring to
new heights in her distraction. There was a wound that hadn’t healed and
she smelt of her blood: viscous and lusciously sweet. He remembered pinning
her on the floor as drugs strangled his veins and poisonous thoughts fought
with his soul. The way she writhed and moaned under him as he lapped up the
sweet elixir of her blood way past the point when he should have stopped and
her pulse began to slow.
“Angel!” She sprang away,
hands covering her mouth locked in a shocked o. “What?”
“Buffy I-” The apology died
on his lips as he spotted the picture behind her. It was just a snapshot on
the beach but he was drawn towards it transfixed. Brushing past Buffy as he
snatched it off the wall and inspected the profiles inside. It was a group
shot – maybe a work day out. Wesley, Gunn and Cordelia were at the front
pulling faces, Cordelia was half turned and her feet were kicking out, like
she had run back from setting the camera’s timer and not quite made it in
time. Behind them Buffy and Fred were hugging a giant stuffed panda. Fred
was pretending to feed it an ice cream cone. It was cute. It was worrying.
Just behind Buffy standing with the slightly awkward artificial pose of
someone born in the 1800s was Angel. He wore pale shorts and a white wife
beater. From underneath sneaked out the edges of huge sprawling tattoos,
like glimpses of numbers or runes. “This is not normal.”
Buffy was staring at him in
utter confusion eyes darting between the photo and himself with ill
disguised mistrust. One hand hovered near her pocket portentously. No
sudden movements then. “Angel. What in the name of all that is moderately
holy is going on?” She shifted uncomfortably. “What did you just do to me?”
Raising his hands in an
innocuous a peace gesture as he could manage Angel inched round. “I’m not
sure exactly. But I’ve got a plan.”
“Great! Okay plan, what plan?
Tell Wes you’re messing with my head?”
“I don’t think it’s just me
that’s doing the messing here, I’ve been seeing crazy things too. Now will
you calm down and listen to me?”
She looked like she was about
to argue, but sighed and gave up. Flicking her palms upwards in a matching
pose. “What are we going to do?”
“I’m going to think of
something that you won’t know about. Something that happened since our
worlds separated. You do the same.”
Deep scepticism was written
across her face. “Okay. I’m thinking of something. What now?”
“Now.” He inched a little
closer. “Hold my hand.” He held his palm out and concentrated on his
memory. It had been hard to pick something out. But in the end, because it
was playing on his mind and Wesley had probably told Buffy anyway he
concentrated on holding Connor. Wrapped in a coat in the pouring rain on
the day he was born. He saw Connor’s pink face screwed up and yelling
unhappily, the little fists balled up by the side of his head. The way he
could have fitted down the length of his forearm and left room spare. He
remembered how everything fell away and he forgot about the chaos around
them and just –
Buffy’s small palm slipped
inside his and the visual assault was instant. It was hard to hold onto to
his memory the rain the cold while everything smelt of new books.
That crisp smell that was less musty these days and more plastic. Soft new
pages that felt like clay. He felt really short, and the books were up very
high. Willow was there but he couldn’t seem to hear exactly what she was
saying. He had to jump up to try and grab the thick text he was looking for
and as he grabbed it, he knocked down the pile and a couple tipped over the
edge smacking resolutely onto the head of a sandy haired boy. He stood up
smiled in a distracted way as he rubbed his head.
“Riley?” He dropped Buffy’s
hand. “You picked a Riley memory?”
“Oh.” She blushed. “I didn’t
know you knew him.”
“Knew him!” He near growled
at her. “If you want to see me beating him up I have some excellent memory
Buffy narrowed her eyes at
him. “Don’t be such a grouch. You were the one that told me to move on.
That was pre-split, you can’t deny it!” She stalked closer and pocked him
in the chest eyes darkening with anger. “And what’s with your memory? You
had a son? How did you not tell me about this?”
“Have I missed something?”
Wesley was hovering at the top of the stairs. Angel could see the curve in
his jacket that he’d tucked a stake inside. Other Wesley. Not very
trusting. Mind you his Wesley wasn’t always either.
Buffy moved to send him away
but Angel grabbed her arm, careful to only touch her sleeve. There was no
need to put each other off with whatever it was that was happening but Wes
might still be able to help.
“I think something went wrong
when I came here.”
“Oh?” Wes’s scholarly face
slipped in, and a rush of sadness nearly tripped Angel up before he could
“Whenever Buffy and I touch.”
“Skin touch.” Buffy
clarified. “I mean – not bad skin touching. Just like handholding. Normal
friendly, ergh, I’m gunna stop now.” She moved a bit further away from
Angel as if to clarify her innocence so that his arm that had clutched at
her swung back uselessly.
“What happens next?” Wesley
“It’s like we can read each
“Perfect snapshot.” Buffy
echoed. “With surround sound. And emotions. And slurpy noises.”
“Slur-” Wes held up one hand.
“I didn’t ask. Just tell me when this started.”
“The first I can think of is
seeing this-” Angel gesticulated to the photo he was still grimly clutching
in one hand. “Not all of you. Just the Other Angel. I remember the tattoos.
The beach. The sun was hurting his eyes.”
“When did you see this, try
and be exact?” He was impatient pulling a little notebook out of his inside
pocket and flicking through it. More notes littered the pages and Angel
tried to remember anything significant.
“I – Buffy was there. I had
some blood. It was the first thing from here I remember properly.”
Wesley wasn’t looking scholarly
anymore. He looked livid. Rage was boiling under the surface as he rounded
“Blood? Buffy – we talked
She threw up her hands and
glared him out. “He was going to die! Do you understand that Wesley. Dead.
Not living. Big pile of dust. He needed blood. I gave it to him. There
isn’t anything else to say.”
“Yes there bloody well is!
This-” He gestured emphatically “-is a major problem. You’ve got tied up in
the huge amounts of magic that sent him here. What if we can’t send him
back? What if trying to hurts you? What do you think your Angel is going to
say about that Buffy?”
“Back off Wesley.” Fangs
slipped out and he growled warningly at the smaller man. “This isn’t going
to help. I know I shouldn’t be here. You all know I shouldn’t be here. This
is probably just some stupid trick the Senior Partners have pulled to try
and keep me away from my world and kicking their sorry asses back to hell.
Now.” He addressed Buffy. “Want to go pummel some bad guys?”
“Please yes.” She almost
crumpled at the kindness of the offer. Turning to Wesley she sighed. “I
didn’t know what to do Wesley. Please don’t tell my Angel.”
Deflated he nodded. “I’ll do
my best to see what we can do. It might be a temporary effect anyway. I’d
suggest you don’t, uh, touch too often though.”
“Absolutely.” Angel nodded
and carefully steered Buffy by the elbow down the stairs and out those epic
double doors that he hadn’t seen in so long. They left a trail of curiosity
in their wake, and at the reach of Angel’s preternatural hearing he could
hear young Slayers whispering about what might have happened. Curse came up
It always seemed to.
Determined to change the
topic Buffy had started chatting casually about the Slayer operation she
now loosely headed. “I’m the puppet.” She moaned. Oddly Xander seemed to be
in charge. She wouldn’t tell him where their headquarters were. Not in
Rome. But it was cold, and she seemed delighted to be able to come back to
Los Angeles visit her boyfriend and get a tan at the same time.
“Not possible with me I’m
“No.” There was wistfulness
in her voice as she shot him a sidelong glance. “There’s a lot of not
possible with you.”
Adding touching to the list
hadn’t exactly done much for Angel’s current status. His skin ached to be
so close to Buffy and not even able to slip his hand around hers, or bury
his head in her hair while they hugged was incredibly frustrating. He
couldn’t have felt more dead if he was six feet under. “There’s always
midnight picnics.” He prompted happy to continue the easy conversation at
“And no end of bickering.”
She replied brightly. He chuckled. “Don’t get me wrong, my Angel and me, or
I, I can never remember which is right there.”
“Angel and I,” she continued,
“we’ve had some epic fights. Until he got his mojo going the ‘lets try and
protect Buffy and get beaten up instead’ fights broke records. Both for
length and volume.”
“We always seem to be
breaking records in that area.”
“Absolutely. Not as many
swords post humanity though.”
He quirked an eyebrow at her.
“You miss swords.”
“It’s silly I know. Most of
those sword incidents were life and death. But the other ones. The hand to
hand we used to do. Mage’s have to hang back, survey the scene. It’s like
fighting with Willow.”
“You – like this - are my
best fighting partner by far.” Angel agreed.
“Me too. Just don’t tell
Giles. On the other hand feel free to tell Spike.” Throwing her hands up in
the air in frustration Buffy turned around a kicked a gravestone. “What is
this? Where are the vampires? A tiny demon? Anything I can kill?”
“I’ve got an idea.”
“Does it involve killing bad
Angel shrugged obliquely.
“Maybe after. If you’re good.”
“Please tell me you’re
“I rang Wesley, he thought it
was a great idea.”
“Seriously, Angel, you are
not selling this to me.”
“Oh, baby baby how was I
supposed to know…” a blue skinned Cr’Kan warbled tunelessly from the
stage at their left. “…that something wasn’t right, yeah.” Lorne was
already winding his way through the crowds towards them in a typically
vibrant yellow suit. Much like the Hyperion the inside of Caritas was
decorated in a style that seemed halfway familiar to Angel and he couldn’t
help but compare it’s slightly different style and design. A sprawling neon
bar with a couple of attractive barman served up cocktails to a large crowd
of thirsty punters. The décor was red crushed velvet and bronze, a halfway
house between nightclub and bar.
“There are so many people
here.” Angel was noticing that too. Way more than when he’d frequented the
place. “And I use people in the loosest sense of the word.”
“It’ll be fine, sweetness.”
Lorne was in Host mode, all green charm behind his pointy red horns. “With
a face like that, how could your voice not be gorgeous?”
Buffy didn’t look convinced.
Lorne brushed her shoulder gently as he pointed to the song books. “Here
for your post rescue thank you freebie? What took you so long! Just pick a
number and then we’ll talk. And remember, Xena, there’s a no violence rule
here. It applies to everyone including impatient Slayers, got it?”
For a moment Lorne cocked his
head at Angel and then he seemed to brush it away. “Now – I didn’t expect
you. Not from around here are you? Well. Sing and we’ll see what I can do
but no promises. Dimension travel always messes with readings for a while.”
Lorne was gone quickly as he’d arrived, waving at the barman and yelling
for seabreeze as he took aside an extremely small hairy bundle with ears
poking out the top and a fag sticking out halfway through the midst of
mousy brown locks.
“Together or separately?”
“Drunk or sober?”
It was a pertinent question.
“Drunk.” Buffy replied resolutely. “Drinking never ends well for me, and
yet a swirly haze of liquor is the only way I’m going anywhere near that
Angel nodded in agreement and
started slipping through the crowds to the bar. “What would you like?”
“Something strong.” She
yelled after him, before turning back to flick through the catalogue with a
grim look on her face.
It was strange. People
recognised Angel here, but perhaps because of his dark long sleeved shirt
and slacks that kept any tattoos (or in his case the lack of) almost
invisible it was a different kind of fear he felt. Demons and vamps still
skirted around him, not keen to piss him off, but the humans did too. It
was unsettling. Human but magical Angel was not a popular puppy.
Apart from with the barman
apparently, who called Angel quickly to the front of the thrumming crowd
pressed against the bar in the rush to drown fear and sorrows before
heading on stage. The barman was as tall as Lorne, but very lean and almost
vampirically pale. He smelt human, but with a touch of other about him and
as he held out his arm to shake hands Angel noticed the pointed ridges that
ran in three strips down the back of both hands. The half breed demon’s
eyes narrowed slightly as he noticed Angel’s cool palm and his eyes
flickered to the tattoo free skin visible at the v of Angel’s shirt before
he stepped back a little. “Have you talked to Lorne yet?”
Angel nodded. “He seems to
think he might be able to help. If I sing.”
The barman didn’t quite
manage to hide his grimace quickly enough. “Of course. What’s your pleasure
“Straight bourbon, and the
strongest cocktail you’ve got.”
“No problem.” Watching
bartenders is always mesmerising, and the swirls and tricks of the staff
throwing bottles around as they poured out spirits and filled orders always
reminded Angel of bloodier days. When Spike delighted in showing off to Dru
with bottles of drugged blood.
Moments later the half-demon
barman had finished and was garnishing Buffy’s tall cocktail glass with
fruit and sugar. He hadn’t even asked what it was, but the bartender was
that kind of guy. Come back in two hours ask for the same again and he’d
remember you exactly.
When he found Buffy perched
on a stool by a high table he asked her who the barman was. Hunting through
the crowds with her eyes she picked out the man he meant and she smiled and
waved at him. “Oh! That’s Lenny. He’s Angel’s friend.” Other people’s
friends can be tough to hear about when yours are gone, but Buffy was not a
dweller of any kind and she tapped against the song book with one
fingernail. “So who’s your Diva?”
Angel looked alarmed. “Diva?
That sounds bad.”
“Sounds better than Lennon.”
Buffy slurped at her cocktail experimentally, and apparently gave it the
mental thumbs up as she started downing it way faster than is recommended.
“And the whole kum-bah-yah Sunnydale thing.”
“Did I ever tell you how glad
I was to miss that?”
“Oh, please, you’d have loved
it – a little Barry Manilow here, a little retro theme there.” She eyed him
knowingly. “Maybe not the dancing.”
“If Lorne had to read auras
via the medium of dance I’d be dead many times over.” He glanced at Buffy
covertly. “We could sing some Manilow.”
“No!” Buffy yelled so
emphatically a circle or punters around them fell into silence - before
realising who the super powered couple were and studiously ignoring them.
“Frankie?” He teased.
“No.” She paused for a
moment. “Actually maybe. What song?”
“‘A day in the life of a
Buffy frowned. “I’ve never
heard of it.”
“But it’s short.”
She waved another drink over.
“‘New York, New York?’”
Buffy shuddered visibly. “Did
I tell you about the talent show? People say competition is good, High
School talent shows just prove that people talk too much. And also sing.
With very little talent.”
“‘I did it my way?’”
“Reminds me of Spike.” Angel
couldn’t help it. He slid one hand over hers and everything was grief it
rolled over him like waves of solid loss and loneliness. The room was smoky
and over the rumble of conversation and the clicking rhythm of a little
machine kittens meowed pitifully. Buffy snatched her hand away. “What
are you doing, and why are you thinking about Spike laughing a lot?”
“Nothing.” Angel muttered
petulantly. “What about ‘All by myself?’”
Buffy hadn’t let it go, but
played along waving her empty glass at him as a waiter delivered the next
round. “Not drunk enough yet.”
She threw her hands up in
frustrated. “Anything from this century Angel? You’re worse than Giles
sometimes - it’s been a while, there must be something you heard on the
radio.” Buffy narrowed her eyes suspiciously. “I bet you like Coldplay.”
Angel feigned innocence.
In the end, they were more
than drunk enough, and Angel half propped Buffy in a chair they dragged on
stage with them as they warbled into the microphone; “when I was young I
never needed anyone…” and Buffy giggled about making love for fun while
Angel tried to remember that the audience would pin the blame for his
atrocity on Other Angel.
thought cheered him immensely as he struggled not to touch not-his-lover’s
skin and keep her upright at the same time.
Maybe this Lorne wasn’t as
consummate a professional as his was, because he didn’t look very pleased
as the pair of them stumbled down to see him before the last chords of the
song had even died and the smattering of half-hearted applause had rung
out. “Sit down munchkins.” He ordered and waved at Lenny for another
“Lorne.” Angel leaned on the
table so he could catch the Pylean demons eye. “You need to think about
trying another drink.” Somehow he slumped into a chair and Buffy flopped
down beside him, shifting her chair closer to snuggle under his arm,
carefully winding herself around Angel so that she didn’t touch his skin.
“That is all.”
“I commend the cocktails.
Night baby.” Buffy mumbled.
“Hey!” Lorne snapped his
fingers at the Slayer. “Eyes open. We have talking to do, and you cookie
dough, need to use your evil fighting ears, not your snoozled ones.”
Buffy blinked wearily, and
sat up a bit more in response. “Listening.”
Lorne flicked through his
pockets, pulled out a small white rectangle and held it out to Buffy “I’m
giving you a card.” He hinted, and she took it. “That’s a great PR guy.
Look, cherry pie, I can’t really tell you anything in this situation. There
are big players involved – plans. All stuff I am not getting involved in. Too
much to do the hokey cokey with and shake out the righteous path, so all
I’m saying is. Ring this guy. You’re going to need him on retainer.”
Mutely Buffy nodded and
slipped the card into her jeans as Lorne turned his attention to Angel.
“I’m betting this was your song choice, honey bun, nice of you to slaughter
a favourite there.” He waved Angel’s protest away. “Wes seems pretty
worried about your little touch sensitivity problem. Don’t fuss about it,
when the blood works it’s way out of your system the effect will wear off.
Two days, maybe sooner, if you keep active. Or you drown it out with
bourbon, totally your choice. Though I recommend something gin based if
that’s the way you’re leaning” Lenny arrived with Lorne’s drink and the
host gulped it down joyously. “You met Lenny?” He nodded at the
half-demon’s retreating back as Angel confirmed that he had. “Great isn’t
he? Such a fantastic seabreeze. And those are hard to find, he’s an empath
though. What would you go for? Great drinks on tap or a night off
occasionally? Anyway-” He cut off Angel’s reply again.
“Your other issue. The pan
dimensional one. It shouldn’t be that hard. It was plain old magic that got
you here. A protective spell and a reversal should cover it. But and this
is important Angel. They’ll need an anchor for this plane. Don’t want to
rip a hole in this universe and not be able to close it. Send someone up to Belleview in the
morning,” Lorne grabbed another business card from his pocket and handed it
over. “I gave this guy, Malik, a call already. He’s put aside some crystals
and ancient bones for the spells. All spell’s contain anchors: blood,
bones, sand but you need old – last week’s chicken leftovers is not going
to cut the mustard.”
“Thanks, Lorne.” Angel
finally managed to edge in.
Lorne smiled resignedly, and
there was a little twinkle in his eye as he gazed at the pair of them. “You
know I’d do anything for that crumpet you’ve got there, and more than
enough for you as well. But Angelcakes, whatever shell you’re in you’ll
always be a conundrum to me - you never seem to quite put two and two
together about anything – let alone that she is yours and you hers. On this
plane and any other. It doesn’t always end well. The universe doesn’t work
like that. But your soul and this Slayer’s are always significant to each
other. That’s not meaningless. And Angel, life is going to get complicated.
You need to be sure of what you’re doing and why in the days ahead. None of
this running in without thinking about it. Greater good is fine – greater
plan is better. Do you hear me?”
“As long as you don’t mention
Kyerumption, Lorne, the future can’t possibly get worse.” Lorne snorted at
the vampire’s reaction and with a few goodbyes hurried off to this next
customer. The Cr’Kan that had been singing when they came in had somehow
made it back on stage again and was happily butchering Lady GaGa with a new
very drunk friend.
“Are we going?” Buffy
mumbled, and Angel realised she had snuggled back in under his arm without
him really noticing. “‘cause my ears are hearing badness, and I’m not
really sure where it’s coming from. That’s über bad right?”
“Sure, my love.” More fluidly
than any drunk person has a right to be Angel got her up and wrapped his
arm around her as he led her out and into the night. Tomorrow he might be
going home. He’d wanted a plan, a direction to go in and Lorne seemed to
agree. The problem was knowing he needed one wasn’t the same as having one
and he had no idea where to start.
“Why do you fight?” Buffy
yawned, stroking her fingers gently against his sleeve where his wrist
curled around her shoulder as he led her down the alley towards home. “Is
it for me?”
Angel frowned. “No. I fight
because it’s the right thing to do. I do it to protect people from things
they don’t even know about. So they don’t have to know about them. Or
something. There were some speeches I said. I think that was the gist. And
you. A bit. Hey,” he laughed, “don’t blame me! You’re a hottie.”
She giggled too. “Well you’re
“Do not call me a puppet.”
Angel warned darkly. “Besides what did I do? Apart from save lots of people
– and I put up with Spike haunting me for a year. I could be a saint just
“Somebody’s got puppet
“I’ll puppet you in a
Buffy quirked an eyebrow at
him. “Where did you get that from?”
Angel shrugged. “Gunn, I
“The point is – that you’re
stupid. You’re here moping, switching between being all Mr Broody in the
dark on your own and getting drunk and not talking about your world. You
left it, you left your friends dead.” Buffy pulled away from Angel to look
at him properly, and whatever slightly drunken wobble there had been
vanished in a moment. “I know what that’s like Angel. I understand the
greater good. And I don’t play that game anymore. I heard what Lorne said,
and I know you’re going to go back and get some master plan in your head
about making everything better. I’m asking you not to Angel. I’m asking you
to ring up Other Me and talk to her. Please?”
“Buffy…” Angel almost reached
for her then changed his mind not wanting to touch her and let her see in.
“The other you. She doesn’t trust me anymore. She wouldn’t help me with
Fred. Wouldn’t even send Willow. After everything that’s happened I think
“Did you talk to her? Buffy
personally?” She demanded hotly, eyes flashing angrily. “Because there have
been communication issues in the past.” Buffy sighed, almost defeated.
“Please Angel, promise me.”
He shook his head slowly. “I
promise to love you. I did that a long time ago and it will be a long time,
if ever, before that changes. But I can’t promise to do what you say just
because you say it Buffy.”
Buffy’d turned round and left
him in the street after their fight in the alley outside Caritas, and when
Angel had finally made it home he’d been through every alley fight they’d
ever had and mentally re-written the endings in his favour.
The next night Wesley was
buzzing with excitement as Angel made his way down the sweeping staircase to
the lobby. Three slayers were busily working there, clearing everything
away from the center of the floor and it reminded Angel instantly of every
spell they had ever done there. Connor bursting through the portal from
Quor’toth. He kept the image of Connor in his mind, not that Connor, but
the newer one with better hair and so much happier as he studied and
battled normal teenage evil at college.
Buffy appeared from somewhere
in the back and studiously ignored him, approaching Wesley instead to ask
about the details for the night. She looked extremely displeased when
Wesley almost immediately waved him over. Not feeling much inclined to
spare her feelings as he might normally Angel quickly crossed the floor. He
could feel the tension in the slayers around him ratchet up as he passed.
Tough to be a vampire in a house of Slayers, it had been hard enough when
it was just Buffy and Faith – he wondered for a moment how Spike had felt
at that final Sunnydale show-down surrounded by newly chosen Slayers. Hungry
“Angel.” Wesley smiled
lightly at Angel and it seemed he had got used to the vampire’s presence
just in time to say goodbye. “Lorne’s contact was invaluable, Caritas was
an excellent idea.”
“We worked together a lot, in
my world.” Angel replied modestly, and Buffy rolled her eyes next to him.
“Please, you just love to
Wesley looked faintly bemused
but carried on, “It’s all surprisingly simple. You need to wear this token
which contains the protective spell – should keep you in one piece – then
we do a reversal spell. Should have you back in your LA in no time.”
“You seem very sure.” Angel
said doubtfully, taking the small smelly bag of herbs, and what felt like
squishy stones. It smelt of viscera and he rolled it around his palm
cautiously. “There’s no amulet in this is there?”
Wesley laughed. “I think
you’re safe. Malik seemed very trustworthy, besides Lorne recommended him.
Just put it in your pocket.”
“He recommended the priest
that tried to kill me too.”
“Really?” Wesley’s face fell.
“We can wait – double check?”
Angel glanced at Buffy “No.
“We just need to be sure the
blood has filtered out of you system then. Hold hands.” Wes ordered matter
It was Buffy who offered her
hand first and Angel appreciated the gesture. Carefully he chose a memory
she might appreciate, dancing with her at her prom and slipped his palm
There was nothing but her
hand. Small and light and perfect in his. His guts lurched at the painful
normality of it.
“Anything?” Wesley inquired.
“Nope.” Buffy tugged at his
hand, not wanting to let go just yet. Drew him a little closer. “All
“Excellent. Well, if you’ll
excuse me I’ll set the spell up.” He was off in an instant, barking orders
and reminding Angel of the great leader he had been.
“If Wesley had been born when
I was,” Angel told Buffy, “he would have made a great Captain.”
“Really?” Buffy frowned.
“Isn’t he kind of chicken for that?”
Angel shook his head. “No.
Not at all. My team here is LA were all fantastic. They were here and they
did amazing things. All our dead friends saved the world as many times as
we did, more probably.”
“I know.” Buffy replied.
“They jump in without power and come out world savers. They save the world
when we can’t, and help us when we can. We all fight every day to keep this
world as safe as possible. There’s no doing it alone.”
“Your speeches have got
There wasn’t much to be said
or done beyond that. Paint and blood was daubed on the floor in a giant
pentagram that bought back rushes of unshared memory. Amulets and giant
bones three feet long from ancient demons marked out the points and a small
Slayer with dyed platinum hair and dark skin moved fluidly between the
talismans scattering sand and earth as she chanted tightly under her
Buffy pulled Angel aside once
more, hugged him tightly. Brushed a kiss against his chest almost
imperceptibly amongst the crowd. She whispered that she loved him just
loudly enough for his preternatural hearing to pick up. It hurt to let go,
to leave her with the Other Angel who got to see her in sunshine. It hurt
that life could have been so different for the sake of his humanity.
Angel was standing at the
center of the controlled magical chaos a few moments later wrapped in his
duster and clutching a blanket just in case it was sunny.
Fifteen latin couplets and
some stinky herbs and he was gone.
The tar was hard and his
skull cracked against it heavily as he dropped down against the molten hub
of rock that had somehow been thrown into the wreckage of the once glorious
hotel. Definitely cursed this place. Dust, ash and mud coated him liberally
as he crashed down through the collapsing floor into the former cellar.
“Fuck.” He muttered. Groaning
he rolled himself off his back and stumbled up onto his feet in one jerky
movement. The duster was ripped and his feet were toasty warm from the
A gnarled fist smacked into
And life was one long fight
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