Disclaimer: Not mine. This is just for fun.

Feedback: Yes please. vampgirl@ntlworld.com

Description: A/U from Reprise (season 2) onwards. Angel gets an epiphany of another sort altogether.

Rating: NC17 ish. Slashiness, bloodplay, character death.

Genre: Angst

Pairing: A/other

 

Author’s note:  OK, I admit to reading Anne Rice….

 

 

Raphael

 

It was pitch dark in the tunnels, and Angel leant wearily against one of the leaking walls, careless of the wet that was soaking through his clothes.

 

He had walked and walked, having no idea where he was going, his mind crumbling around the truth that Holland Manners had finally shown to him. Now he wandered helplessly. His mission – a pointless joke. His redemption – another pointless joke. His attempts to walk the path of good – the biggest joke of all.

 

As he smelled the sunrise, Angel had automatically dropped down into the sewers. He continued to wander their murky depths.

 

The vampire had struggled for months against the mental anguish that had been visited upon him following Darla’s resurrection. His emotional stability, fragile at the best of times, had collapsed completely after he had locked the lawyers in the cellar with Darla and Drusilla. Spiralling ever downwards, he could no longer bear the sight of the accusing gazes of his human colleagues. They had gone now, and Angel had struggled on alone, still trying to help even though he was awash with ever encroaching darkness.

 

But now he had been shown the truth. He couldn’t win this fight. Evil was there, in everyone, all the time. Hell was here, on earth, existing inside every human being in some form or another. Angel slid down the wall of the sewer, his legs giving out on him. Lying in the filth and stench of the sewer floor, Angel finally accepted defeat, and closed his eyes.

 

He lay, unmoving for days that stretched into weeks. The rats scuttled over him, taking exploratory bites. But the vampire’s flesh repelled them. Angel’s own hunger had left him, and now there was no incentive for the vampire to rouse himself. He cried out only once, when he was suddenly overtaken with a sharp and terrible wave of vampiric loss. Then he sank ever deeper into hopelessness. They had won. He had lost. It was finished.

 

-0-

 

Angel never even felt the strong hands that reached down to him, and turned him over. He was oblivious to the powerful arms that scooped him up as if he were nothing at all, and which carried him from his stinking resting place. He felt nothing as he was stripped, bathed and dropped into a soft, clean bed. But when the blood was dripped into his mouth, he registered the hot, sweet taste, and drank. As he fed, Angel swam back towards consciousness, until he opened his eyes and saw the blurry figure of a tall man bending over him.

 

Angel blinked, trying to make the world come into focus once more.

 

“W-who…w-where…..”

 

“Ssssh. Don’t try to speak yet.”

 

The voice was rich, almost succulent in its deep timbre. It resonated with power. Even though it was unfamiliar to Angel, something in its tone reassured him, gentled him. He relaxed back onto the soft pillows and allowed his eyes to fall shut once more.

 

Angel woke up feeling strangely rested. He sensed that he was alone, and struggled into a sitting position, feeling less weak than he should have done. The room was heavily curtained, with thick velvet drapes hanging over every window. The whole décor was sumptuous, plush silks, opulent tapestries and rugs. The bed he was in was furnished with sheets of the finest cotton, overlaid with a soft Indian style quilt. The door at the far side of the room opened, and a man entered.

 

“You’re awake, good. Welcome to my home.”

 

Angel realised that he was in the presence of another vampire, and also sensed that this vampire was ancient, far older than himself. Yet not too ancient, it seemed, to have lost the ability to look human. The vampire was an elegant looking creature, strongly built, and appeared to have been made when he had been in his early middle years as a human. There were one or two flecks of grey in his light brown hair, and the tiniest of wrinkles around his startlingly blue eyes.

 

“You have questions, I know. They’ll be answered, I promise.  But now, let me savour this moment. Angelus….Angel. The vampire with a soul. How I’ve longed to meet you.” The older vampire turned his lustrous eyes on Angel. Angel gazed back, transfixed at the power that radiated from those eyes. He remained silent, waiting to hear what the ancient vampire had to say to him.

 

“I’ve been trying to find you for a long time, Angel.  I was disappointed, but not surprised when Darla cast you off once your soul had been awakened. You deserved a far more understanding sire. One that could have helped you come to terms with your feelings. But Darla….never one for sympathy or concern, neither as a human or as a vampire, unfortunately. You deserved much better than her.” The vampire placed a gentle finger against Angel’s lips as Angel made as if to speak.

 

“Hush. There will be all the time in eternity for us to talk. Now I mean to explain why you’re here. You are unique. But naturally, you already know this. You are also unclaimed. After all, Darla abandoned you, and then….you killed her. And now you think you have to kill her all over again. No wonder it’s disturbed the balance of your mind. I’m here to tell you, Angel, you won’t have to kill her again.” The elder vampire smiled gently at Angel, his fine features softening into an expression full of kindness. “I have done it for you. Darla is no more. She’s dead. You are again unclaimed, an orphan vampire.”

 

Despite himself, Angel felt his dead heart twist inside of him, and remembered the sudden clawing loss he had felt while he was lying in the sewers.  No human could ever understand the bond between Sire and Childe, and Angel suspected that much of his confusion and mental instability had not just been because of his ensoulment, but also because of Darla’s vicious abandonment of him. Now she was dead….again, and by this vampire’s hand. It occurred to him that the vampire must be even more powerful than he had first thought. Darla would not have been easy prey. The ancient vampire spoke again.

 

“I want you, Angel. I’ve waited for you for over a hundred years. You deserve to be with someone who’ll nurture you, protect you from those who wish to destroy you. I’m going to be that someone.”

 

Before he realised what was going to happen, Angel was suddenly pinned to the bed by the body of the other vampire. He struggled frantically, shocked at the other’s power and strength. Despite every effort Angel could not release himself from the elder vampire’s grip. He felt his head being pulled to one side, exposing the full length of his throat to the ancient one’s fangs. And then Angel felt those fangs sliding into his veins. He stopped struggling immediately, and a moan of pleasure was forced from him. He hadn’t been possessed like this for hundreds of years, not since he was Darla’s fledgling.

 

Angel gave himself up to the bliss of having his blood drawn steadily and gently from his body. He shuddered as he climaxed, even though he could feel that this wasn’t just a tasting, instead he was being completely emptied.

 

The ancient vampire drank until there was no more blood to be drained, and then he slowly released his fangs from Angel’s white neck. Angel had been drained dry, and although in itself draining couldn’t kill him, he was well past the point where he could recover or heal on his own. However, this wasn’t the vampire’s plan for Angel. Slashing his fangs across his own wrist, the ancient one fed Angel from his own veins, letting his powerful blood drip into Angel’s slack mouth. When he had finished feeding him, the vampire bent down and placed a soft kiss on Angel’s forehead.

 

“Sleep now. For soon you will awaken again, and everything will be different.”

 

-0-

 

The sound of a heartbeat and the tantalising scent of hot, human blood roused Angel from his sleep of death. Acting on his deepest vampiric instincts, Angel forced weak and aching limbs to move towards the enticing smell. Hunger roared within him. He opened his eyes to see the ancient vampire holding the unconscious, but still living figure of a girl in his arms.

 

“Angel, let me make this an easy feeding for you. The girl isn’t dead. Neither shall she die if we don’t wish it. I’ve drained some of her blood into that glass. Drink.”

Angel took the proffered glass of dark red blood with shaking hands, and drank it quickly under the approving gaze of the elder vampire.

 

“I’ve fed fully, and now it’s your turn. Come Angel, drink.” Angel saw the other vampire put down the girl, and lean towards him, exposing his throat. With a growl, Angel sank his fangs into the other’s neck, feeling strong arms wrapping around him as he nursed greedily on the powerful blood.

 

“Enough.” The ancient vampire eventually disengaged himself from Angel’s hungry mouth. Startlingly blue eyes looked down at him.

 

“Feeling better?”

 

Angel nodded. “Yes….it feels strange….”

 

The older vampire laughed softly. “Of course it’s strange. But no more so, I think, than when you were birthed for the first time? The strangeness is perhaps more because you are not a new born, but a master vampire in your own right. You’ve forgotten the feelings that fledglings have, that’s all. And yes. I do know you are far from being a fledgling. But indulge yourself. Allow yourself to enjoy this moment, be my fledgling for a little while.”

 

Angel sighed and lay back on the pillows, his dark eyes heavy with arousal.

“Now Angel. My name is Raphael. It means God heals. I mean to heal you my darling boy, heal you of your grievous wounds and torments. But first, I am going to claim you as mine.”

 

Angel knew what that meant, and arched up towards Raphael, revelling in the cool touch of his long fingers as they stroked down his naked form. Raphael smiled down at the younger vampire, and then kissed him. Angel’s mouth opened willingly, and he made a small sound at the back of his throat as Raphael’s tongue tangled with his.

Angel had never experienced this feeling of submissive desire for another male, but now he found himself wanting it, craving this master’s touch on him.

 

“Please….”

 

“Yes”.

 

Angel trembled under Raphael’s caresses, panting with need. Raphael was gentle and patient, claiming him as if Angel were the most precious of his possessions. As Raphael felt his climax approaching, he once again leant down and sank his fangs into the hollow of Angel’s neck and shoulder, at the same time pushing Angel’s mouth onto his own neck. The two vampires drank, sharing their blood, moaning and gasping as they both reached their release.

 

Afterwards, Angel lay with his head nestled in the crook of Raphael’s arm.  Raphael’s arms were wrapped around the younger vampire possessively, while he dropped baby kisses onto Angel’s head.

 

“You’re quiet. What are you thinking?” Raphael’s voice was loving.

 

Angel snuggled even closer to this wonderful creature. “I was thinking … remembering… it wasn’t like this before…with Darla.”

 

“I suspected as much. But tell me anyway, how’s this different?”

 

Angel frowned, remembering. “She watched me feed from the gravedigger, and then she took me to her rooms. She beat me. Stripped me and flayed the flesh from my back with a whip. She dominated me completely….she told me that this was the vampire way. But you…are you going to beat me?”

 

“No, darling boy. I am going to cherish you. Darla was lying to you, Angel. It was only her way. And I know that she taught it to you such that you believed it completely. She had a black heart. It tainted you, and you passed that taint on to your own childer. She should never have been turned in the first place, but Aurelius was obsessed with her, much as she was obsessed by you. Unfortunately obsession runs like a poison through our bloodline, it has often been our downfall, including yours,

Angel.”

 

Angel lifted his head and stared questioningly at Raphael. “Our bloodline? Are we related? Why don’t I sense that? You knew the master?”

 

Raphael chuckled deep in his chest. “One question at a time. Yes, Angel, we are of the same blood. You don’t sense it because I fed you while you were lying insensible after your weeks in the sewers, so my blood was already in your veins when I claimed you. Much though I think you are the most beautiful creature it has ever been my pleasure to see, I wouldn’t have claimed you if you hadn’t already been of my blood. I wouldn’t dilute our bloodline. As for Aurelius, he was always grandiose. The Master indeed.” Raphael snorted amusedly. “ I understand he gave his name to our order too. He was always a wicked childe.”

 

Angel sat up in surprise. “The Master….a wicked childe? Are you saying you’re older than him? But, surely, that’s not possible…I mean, you still have your human face.”

 

Raphael laughed softly at Angel’s confusion. “Aurelius was not of my making. He was, I suppose, my nephew. My sire had two childer, myself and my sibling Violetta. She sired Aurelius. But as for my human face, it’s true that those very few that reach a great age sometimes lose the ability to wear both faces. However, I’ve chosen to wear my human face in preference to my true face for thousands of years. I like the upper world of man, and choose to live among them as far as it’s possible for a vampire to do so. Aurelius only ever saw humans as food or potential minions. He lived entirely in the world below, and like many of our kind, wore his vampire visage constantly. As a result, his ability to change atrophied. You, my Angel, will never have to lose that beautiful human face, I think the fact of your soul and your love of the world above and those who inhabit it, will see to that.” Raphael reached up and cupped Angel’s cheek. Angel nuzzled into Raphael’s hand, and lay back down once more, sliding his arm across the elder vampire’s broad chest.

 

He marvelled at how secure he felt, and how protected. Once again he contrasted this loving ownership with his tempestuous relationship with Darla. A small sigh of contentment escaped him. Angel had not known it to be possible for a vampire to be claimed like this – almost a re-siring. As if reading his mind, Raphael spoke again.

 

“It’s a combination of your beauty and your uniqueness that fuelled my obsession to have ownership of you, Angel. I lost track of you for nearly a century, after you were cursed. I learnt that Darla had been killed, by your own hand no less, but by the time I caught up with you, well, you had experienced human love and suffered its consequences. I thought you were lost to me for ever….but you were returned, soul awake. This time, seeing your utter despair, feeling your final acceptance of defeat….I wasn’t going to lose you again. So I found Darla and killed her. You had to be an orphan before I could claim you for my own.  And here you are, in my arms. Safe.”

 

Angel suddenly tensed in Raphael’s embrace. The ancient vampire looked down at him, concern etched onto his features. “Angel? What’s the matter?”

 

“The curse…my feelings for you….”

 

“Hush. Your curse was triggered because of your moment of perfect human happiness, with a Slayer, no less,  and also because you were ignorant of the clause. I hope you’ll experience perfect happiness with me, Angel, but it will be the love that two vampires share, your soul will remain awake.”

 

Angel allowed himself to relax once more, turning over Raphael’s words in his mind.

“Raphael? Why do you say that my soul is awake?”

 

Raphael kissed the top of Angel’s head. “Because it is. There are many things you still need to learn, despite your own mature years. One of which is the fact that all creatures, be they demon, human or other animals, have souls. There is no such thing as a ‘soulless’ creature.” Raphael felt Angel beginning to protest, and hushed him. “Contrary to popular belief, souls are not things that can be taken or replaced almost on a whim. Haven’t you wondered why some humans are as apparently evil as any demon? Or that some demons behave with compassion and care? I know that you have…it’s part of what confuses you so. When a vampire is birthed, the soul ceases to function. All sense of  human conscience disappears. The soul is effectively asleep. To all intents and purposes the vampire is soulless in its behaviour. Most of our kind stay that way for their entire existence. But the old ones – vampires that have walked the earth for a millennium or longer, we owe our longevity to more than cunning or luck. It’s our ability to feel…to walk in the living world…to delight in its complexity and constant progress…to respect life, that provides us with the strength to endure eternity. Our souls seem to gradually re-awaken. What makes you unique is that your soul, through the gypsy curse, was forced suddenly awake, while still in the body of a young vampire.  It was that trauma that has haunted you for over a century”.

 

Angel shook his head. “This goes against everything I know to be true…everything I know”.

 

“Not everything that is known is necessarily correct, Angel. When you were a human boy you were taught many things that were regarded as the truth in the early eighteenth century, and that you’ve since learned were far from the actuality. Even today, the existence of vampires is largely accepted as myth in the educated world. Do I seem like a soulless creature to you? When you gaze into my eyes, do you see the flat blankness that indicates an absence of, shall we say, a soul?”

 

Angel stared into the luminous depths of Raphael’s soft eyes, and shook his head. “No. I see great wisdom…and love.”

 

Raphael smiled. “We reflect each other. My wisdom has had more time to increase, I’m far more ancient than you. But those brown pools of soulfulness…so much love…and still so much pain. I promise to lessen your pain, my beautiful boy.” He gently pushed Angel onto his back. “Starting right now…”

 

 

-0-

 

Over the next days and weeks, Raphael made good on his promise. Angel had never experienced such care and nurturing in his entire existence. For the first time, he understood how belonging to another vampire could be the ultimate in fulfilment. They spent nearly every second together. The only time they spent apart was when Raphael went to hunt. Angel had been surprised and grateful that his new master seemed to have no inclination to persuade him to hunt, and instead ensured that Angel was kept supplied with the pig’s blood that he was used to drinking.

 

“I’ve don’t want to upset you by asking you to hunt with me. When the time’s right, we’ll talk about why I still feed from the living, and why you don’t. In the meantime, anything that lessens your pain is to be encouraged.”

 

As an extremely ancient vampire, Raphael’s need to feed was negligible in comparison with Angel’s, and Angel knew that he was far less driven than newborns or other younger vampires. This meant that Raphael’s disappearances would only be very infrequent, but even so, Angel found himself fretting and anxious in his absence. This surprised him. Angel had been so used to being alone that he usually found it hard to endure company for any length of time. Wesley, Cordelia and Gunn had become accustomed to Angel slipping away from them, needing time on his own.

This had always been the case with him, even when he was with Darla. There had been times that she had driven him almost demented with irritation, and their absences from each other could sometimes be measured in months rather than hours. But it was different with Raphael. Angel was never bored with the elder vampire’s companionship, never felt constricted or constrained in any way. Physically, Angel was obsessed with him, and their sex was the most intense that he had ever experienced, even - Angel was forced to admit –  compared with his one night with

Buffy. He had been relieved beyond measure to realise that Raphael had been right  about the safety of his soul as, although Angel was experiencing a level of happiness and contentment that he had thought forever beyond him, he now knew his soul was not going to be ripped from him.

 

He heard  Raphael’s step in the hallway outside the lavishly appointed drawing room. Angel jumped to his feet, blood quickening at Raphael’s return. The elder vampire entered, smiling at Angel’s obvious pleasure at seeing him.

 

“Angel, my love. Come kiss me.”

 

Angel walked into Raphael’s waiting arms, burrowing into his possessive embrace.

 

“I missed you.”

 

“And I missed having you with me.”

 

Angel’s vampire instincts thrilled at Raphael’s radiant warmth, and without thought, he purred and nuzzled at the hollow of Raphael’s rosy throat, eliciting an answering purr from the other vampire. Responding to Angel’s instinctive request, Raphael offered his neck for Angel to feed. But as Angel sank his fangs into Raphael’s proffered throat, and felt the first gush of hot blood on his tongue, a sudden, shocking realisation flowed over him. With a whimper of distress, Angel abruptly pulled away.

“No, No….I can’t….mustn’t….”

 

Raphael pressed a hand against the torn flesh on his throat, caused by Angel’s hasty release. He stifled his growl of annoyance when he saw how upset Angel was, he was trembling, head hanging, a picture of anguish and shame.

 

“What is it, what’s the matter?”

 

“I can’t…the blood…”

 

Understanding flooded Raphael.  “This is because I’ve just fed from a living person, isn’t it.”

 

Angel wasn’t able to meet  Raphael’s eye. “I’m s-sorry.”

 

“Ssssh. Come here Angel. Sit down. It’s time for us to talk about this. Don’t be frightened my darling boy, I’m not angry.” Raphael led Angel over to the big couch, and sat down, pulling Angel with him, so that the younger vampire was nestled against him, head tucked under the other’s chin.

 

“You know I could order you to feed from me, and you’d have to obey me, wouldn’t you?” Raphael stroked Angel’s face, tracing his finger gently across his wet eyelashes. He could feel Angel tense throughout every fibre of his body.

 

“But you’ve been forced for far too long into doing things, both right and wrong. I love you, Angel. Nothing matters more to me than your happiness, and if I thought that you would be happy if you never fed from me again, I wouldn’t press this. But we both know that you’d be utterly bereft if you tried to deny your deepest instinct – to feed from me – and so we need to deal with this.”

 

Angel lifted his head, and gazed wonderingly at Raphael. Raphael smiled back, his own dead heart melting at the expression in Angel’s dark eyes. He kissed Angel’s forehead, tightening his embrace around this amazing, unique creature.

 

“Do you love me any the less because I feed from the living? Or, no. Let me put it another way. Do you think you would love me more if I drank only donated blood, or blood from pigs? Answer truthfully – from your heart.”

 

Angel frowned, giving real consideration to his answer. His head told him that of course he would love Raphael more if the vampire did not kill humans, but to his surprise, his heart denied it.

 

“No. I couldn’t love you more than I do now.”

 

“But you think it’s wrong of me to feed off people? After all, Angel, you’ve made it your mission to destroy vampires that harm humans.”

 

“I know….It wasn’t always so…even after I got my soul back – I mean, when my soul was re-awakened” Angel corrected himself, earning a soft kiss from Raphael. “I wandered throughout the world, seeing other vampires feeding. It never occurred to me that they should be prevented from doing what came naturally to them. It just felt wrong for me to do it. After all, I caused so much pain and suffering, for over 150 years…” he paused, looking wretched.

 

“Go on” Raphael prompted gently, stroking Angel’s hair. Calmed, Angel continued.

“It was only after I was sent to Sunnydale, to help Buffy…that I started to kill vampires and other demons that preyed on humans.”

 

Raphael kept stroking Angel. “You were sent to help the Slayer with her mission. Isn’t that right?”

 

“Yes. But then her mission became mine also. I wanted to help her, protect her.”

“Because you loved her.”

 

Angel nodded.

 

“And you spent time with humans when you were in Sunnydale. Buffy, her Watcher, her friends….when you weren’t alone with your thoughts, that is.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“You must have been so very lonely, my darling Angel. Rejected by your own blood, no possibility of a connection outside the blood, it isn’t in our vampire nature, after all….no wonder your abandoned soul sought family….love….elsewhere. What you felt for the Slayer, can you begin to describe it?”

 

“She was so beautiful…and so strong. Buffy has such purpose. She made me feel…less worthless. She accepted me. I would have done anything for her…”

 

Raphael smiled down at Angel once more. “Like a Childe with its Sire?”

 

Angel felt comprehension beginning to dawn. “Like I feel with you, Raphael…not like I ever felt with Darla.”

 

“Ah yes, Darla. But as you and I have already discussed, Darla was not the most shining example of how vampires should behave towards those they make. I think you are beginning to understand a little more about how things can be between us now, mmm? Perhaps it was only to be expected that you should attach yourself so fervently to the one human on the planet who could, if she had pleased, do with you what she wanted? And that you would try to become as human as you possibly could in order to keep her love?”

 

A maelstrom of conflicted emotions sent a tremor through Angel as he recognised the truth in what Raphael was saying. “But what about the Powers? My own mission once I left Sunnydale…when they sent Doyle to me?”

 

“Darling boy. I don’t have all the answers. Perhaps these Powers saw their opportunity…you’re one of a kind, and the Slayer and her friends had already given you their purpose to use as your own…All I do know is that you seem to have unwittingly have created another family, albeit human, with yourself as patriarch. But they too have abandoned you, it seems this time for the sin of being a vampire, just as your sire abandoned you for the sin of humanity.”

 

Raphael gently lifted Angel’s chin with his finger, staring into Angel’s deep, dark eyes, seeing their pain. “But it took an evil man to show you another kind of truth. Holland Manners…how can you fight to save humanity, when so much of that humanity fights to destroy itself? How will killing vampires – who after all feed from humans much as lions feed from wildebeest – actually lessen the evil that lives inside all of us, human and vampire alike? Unless you find a way to awaken the conscience that sleeps within so many, in the same way that it slept within you for over 150 years.”

 

“And that can’t be done” Angel whispered despairingly.

 

“No, Angel. All I do know is that when I hunt, I usually select my prey with care. Sometimes I choose someone who has caused nothing but grief and misery to others. There are others, sunk in despair and loneliness –perhaps already killing themselves through drink or drugs, abandoned and friendless. Their death is contained in a moment of sheer bliss for them. There have been those who sought me….choosing to end their lives sweetly and pleasurably, rather than suffer the awful pain and indignity that a terminal illness presents to them. I don’t pretend that I can change the world, or even that I should. And I’ll admit, sometimes the prey is just too attractive to pass up. But in the overall scheme of things….I probably do no more harm than good.”

 

Angel shook his head. “And tonight? Your kill?”

 

“An old, old man. No family, no friends. Sitting alone in his tenement block, not able to pay for the electricity to heat it, or to cook from. He had forgotten what physical pleasure could feel like. He got one last reminder as I fed from him.”

 

Raphael watched Angel struggle to come to terms with what he was hearing. He felt an overwhelming rush of love for the younger vampire, knowing that it was Angel’s vulnerability as far as his emotions were concerned that made him feel so protective over him. He felt no need to remind Angel that successful vampires usually chose prey that wouldn’t be missed, and Raphael was a very successful vampire.  He resumed his gentle stroking, sliding his hands down Angel’s back. Raphael felt the tension begin to ease from Angel. He slowly began to undress him, until the dark vampire lay naked on the couch. Raphael continued to caress him, watching Angel become aroused. Undressing himself, Raphael covered Angel’s splendid body with his own. Angel closed his eyes and moaned, arching upward to meet Raphael. The ticking of the clock, and the moans and sighs of the  mating vampires were the only sounds that disturbed the quiet house. As Angel neared his climax, Raphael bent his head down towards him, panting.

 

“Angel….will you feed from me? Will you have me?”

 

“Oh yes. Please….yes. Now…please……”

 

Raphael bared his throat, groaning in pleasure as Angel bit deeply, feeding greedily from his veins. With a great cry, Raphael came. Angel’s own release followed swiftly, his orgasm only muffled by the fact that he was still fastened hard to Raphael’s throat.

 

-0-

 

The next time Raphael went hunting, Angel went with him.

 

Raphael had not raised the matter again after that evening, leaving Angel to work through his thoughts in his own time. Angel had been very quiet – Raphael smiled wryly, it wasn’t as though Angel was a chatterbox at the best of times – but had sought out his embraces, burrowing into Raphael almost as if he was trying to climb right inside of him. Raphael was happy to wrap himself around Angel whenever the dark vampire crawled over to him, understanding that over a hundred years of neediness was now coming to the surface. Raphael thought it touching in the extreme that Angel – a master vampire after all – would sleep like the newest born fledgling, face buried in the hollow of Raphael’s throat, clinging to him throughout the day, until they woke as the sun dipped below the horizon.

 

Raphael had made his preparations for his hunting trip with his usual care, not making an issue out of the fact that this time, Angel was waiting for him by the front door, his trademark duster slung casually over his shoulders. Instead, with a soft smile, Raphael took his hand, and led him out onto the dark street of their wealthy neighbourhood.

 

They travelled as only vampires can, moving silently in the shadows, and gaining the rooftops of LA’s buildings as they headed towards the still teeming centre of the city. Passing unnoticed through the thronging crowds of people out to enjoy a busy Saturday night, they continued on, moving further into the more decrepit neighbourhoods of the city. Soon they were in the heart of the badlands, where gangs of youths preyed on each other in the filthy, graffiti smeared streets. Angel recognised the area as being one which he had fought in several times in the past, evil was not confined to its human inhabitants.

 

Raphael settled himself down to wait. Angel followed his example, slipping easily into the patient stance of the predator. They watched the sordid transactions of the neighbourhood as they stood, unnoticed, only feet from the little scenes that were played out in front of them. Streetwalkers plying their trade, pimps checking up on their girls, casual drug deals, scuffles and threats. After a couple of hours, a blacked-out Hummer cruised down the litter strewn street, turning into a side alley a few yards from the two vampires. Immediately the atmosphere tensed, with some of the street deals melting away as if into thin air, and other kids shifting nervously on their patches. The driver’s door opened on the Hummer, and a small, Hispanic looking man climbed out. He didn’t even bother to conceal the gun he was carrying. His companion, a huge man of indeterminate origin followed, obviously the muscle.  Raphael nodded towards the big man. “Santorino. Hit man. Would kill his own mother for $20. I’ve watched him dismember four young men in the past. The more money he’s paid, the slower the death. No wife or girlfriend, just rapes the streetgirls when he wants to satisfy his sexual urges. His employer” Raphael indicated the little Hispanic guy “is another delightful human creation, but tonight Santorino belongs to us.”

 

Two pairs of darkly gleaming eyes followed the men’s progress. The one Raphael had called Santorino was obviously escorting the smaller man into a private club, and only when he was sure that his employer was safely ensconced inside, did he turn back towards the Hummer. He pulled open the driver’s door, and fiddled around with the seating position, moving it back nearly a foot to accommodate his much larger frame. When he was finally satisfied he slammed the door shut, and went to start the car. A pale hand shot out of the darkness from the seat behind, and wrapped itself with inhuman strength and speed around Santorino’s mouth, another hand grabbed his hair and yanked his head to one side, exposing his bull neck. The hitman’s frantic struggles were hidden from the outside street by the black tinted windows, and so strong was the hand that clamped down on his mouth, that Santorino could barely breathe, let alone cry out. Raphael hauled the huge man backwards so that he was wedged between the two front seats, his back scraping on the automatic transmission. Then he sank razor-sharp fangs into the thick neck, drinking deeply. The hitman squirmed and writhed in silent agony as his blood was drawn out of him with frightening speed, his veins and arteries on fire as the blood was pulled in the opposite direction from its normal flow. As the human began to weaken and struggle more feebly, Raphael lifted his handsome head and gazed across to the other seat in the back of the Hummer, where Angel was sitting. Angel was panting, eyes glittering gold in the darkness as he watched his master feeding. Raphael pushed the quietly moaning human towards him. “You don’t have to…”

 

Angel reached for the groaning human, but at the very last second, hesitated.

 

“I-I can’t”.

 

Raphael felt a flicker of anger at Angel’s stubbornness, but forced it down. Instead, he took Santorino back and returned to feeding.

 

It was over. Santorino, bringer of ugly death to so many others,  was now himself a lifeless corpse sprawled across the seats of the Hummer. Raphael lifted his handsome head, mouth stained with blood and quite deliberately reached over to Angel. Pulling him across the corpse, Raphael kissed the younger vampire passionately. Angel couldn’t help himself, he licked hungrily at Raphael’s mouth and lips, tasting the blood.

 

Raphael gently let Angel go. “Not tonight then. But soon….”

 

Shoving the corpse into the footwell of the Hummer, Raphael opened the door and stepped out. Angel followed uncertainly, lost in a whirlwind of emotions. The ancient vampire slipped his arm around Angel’s waist, and led him back into the shadows.

 

They wandered for a little while without aim or purpose. Then, as they turned yet another corner, Angel stopped, scenting. Raphael looked at him questioningly.

“Angel?”

 

“That scent…it’s one that Cordelia uses.” Angel looked around him, suddenly realising that he and Raphael had wandered into the street where his friends had set up their new offices after they had left him. He sidled over towards the office entrance, surprised to see lights still on inside at this late hour on a Saturday. Peering through the blinds Angel could see Cordelia, Wesley and Gunn sitting around a tattered looking desk, sharing a bottle of wine while they pored over some of the research books that they had taken with them when they had left the hotel. The sounds of animated conversation and laughter reached his sensitive ears.

 

Raphael stood a little distance away, observing. He saw the way Angel’s shoulders hunched together as he jammed his hands deep into the pockets of his coat. Raphael also noticed the little crease that had re-appeared on Angel’s fine brow after an absence of many weeks. He moved over to Angel’s side, and put a light hand on his shoulder.

 

“Leave them.”

 

“How can I? The last time I saw them, I threatened Cordelia – frightened her -  so that I could take one of their damned books….”

 

“Their books?” Raphael let the comment hang in the air. Both of them knew that the books lining one of the walls of the office had all been Angel’s.

 

“I just want to know they’re OK.”

 

Raphael shrugged. “Go on then. I’ll see you back at home.” He stroked Angel’s cheek. “And if for some reason, the visit doesn’t go well, remember, you have me now.” He smiled reassuringly.

 

 “I know.”

 

A parting kiss, and then Raphael melted away into the darkness.

 

Squaring his shoulders, Angel knocked on the door.

 

-0-

 

Wesley and his two friends looked up in surprise when they heard the tap on their office door. He got up to investigate. “Who could be calling at this hour?”

 

He heard Cordelia and Gunn’s chairs scraping backwards as they all saw who was framed in the doorway.

 

“Angel.”

 

Wesley couldn’t hide the shock he felt. They had heard nothing from Angel for weeks and weeks, and the rumours were thick on the ground that the vampire was dead.

“Wes…Hi.”

 

Cordelia and Gunn were now standing behind him.

“What do you want now. More of our books?” Cordelia snapped.

 

Wesley saw Angel’s shoulders sag slightly, and realised what it had cost him to come to see them. He shot a look at Cordelia.

 

“Sorry…come in.” Wesley held the door open, knowing that Angel didn’t actually need an invitation to enter their offices, but issuing one in any case. Angel gave him a grateful nod and stepped inside, his presence as ever making everything around him look toy-sized. Wesley wondered briefly how he did that. Even Gunn, who was even taller than Angel, and big with it, never filled a room the way Angel did.

 

“So…not dead then. No, got that wrong. Still dead then.” Gunn sounded casual, but Wesley could see a tiny muscle flickering in his jaw.

 

Angel looked at them from under lowered brows. He shifted awkwardly. “So, how are things…you….everything going OK for you?”

 

“We’re just fine and dandy. Thanks for asking.” Cordelia said, the sharpness still slicing through her words.

 

“We’re managing fine” Gunn’s unspoken without you dangled between them.

 

“We’re good. Angel, how are you? You look well.” Wesley eyed Angel. Looking well was an understatement of the first order. Angel looked…incredible. An alarm bell tinkled in the back of the former watcher’s mind. “In fact, Angel, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you looking so…. healthy.”

 

“Yeah…for a dead person” Cordelia cut in. But then she too had a good look at Angel. “But Wes is right. Whatever’s gone on in your life, it’s suiting you.”

 

Gunn voiced Wesley’s fears. “Don’ think pig’s blood given you that rosy glow. You huntin’? ‘Cos if you are, then there’s a stake here with your name on it, vampire.”

 

Angel went very still. “Sire’s blood….”

 

“Shit. You’re back with Darla?” Wesley was appalled. All three of them backed away from Angel. If he was back with her, it could only mean one thing.

 

“N-no. Darla’s gone. She was killed.” Angel assured them hurriedly.

 

“Then…Angel, you’re not making any sense.”

 

“Uh…something happened. Even I didn’t know it could be done. I’ve sort of been adopted…it’s almost like I have been re-sired.”

 

The three demon hunters were lost for words. Wesley felt his mouth hanging open, and shut it with a click. “Re-sired? I didn’t know it was possible. How? When? Who?” he realised simultaneously that he was gibbering, and also that this was probably an intensely private thing for Angel. “Sorry, Angel. It’s just such a surprise.”

 

For the first time Angel smiled. “It was a surprise for me too, Wes.”

 

Gunn frowned. “So what does this mean, Angel. I mean…how does it affect you, an’ all? You still got your soul?”

 

Angel gazed at his three friends, knowing that trying to explain his relationship with Raphael would be next to impossible. He sighed. “ I still have my soul but I am with Raphael now. He’s an extremely ancient and powerful vampire. Even older than the Master, but he still has his human face and lives in the upper world…this world.”

 

“So he doesn’t have a bat face then?”

 

Angel shot Cordelia a look. “No. As to how it affects me, Gunn…I am claimed once more.”

 

 “Claimed?” Gunn looked puzzled. Wesley groaned inwardly. Sometimes he wondered how Gunn could know so little about vampires when he had killed so many. But then he remembered that the vast majority of vampires in LA, indeed the vast majority of vampires in existence were neither sires nor childer, but merely minions, little more than teeth on legs. He could see Angel was struggling to explain.

 

“It means that Angel belongs to this vampire, like a child belongs to its parent…except that the relationship is…um, well a little more complex….uh….” Wesley tailed off.

 

“And does this Raphael character have a full set of working teeth? Or does he drink boil in the bag blood, like you?” Gunn’s hostility was barely masked.

 

Angel just looked steadily at Gunn, until the other looked away, unable to hold the vampire’s intense gaze.

 

“Guess that answers that then.”

 

“Good to know that we’ve got another really ancient vampire in LA. I mean, really ancient, because, Hey, we’ve had such good experiences with those, haven’t we.” Cordelia glared at Angel. “Perhaps we’d better tell the slayer that the Master mark two has just showed up. Oh, and by the way, her ex-boyfriend is his new lapdog.”

 

Angel couldn’t help it. He growled, an instinctive reaction to the implied threat to Raphael.

 

“OK. That’s it. Now you get to leave, vampire.” Gunn unsheathed a wicked looking stake from his waistband.

 

“I’m going. I just wanted to see you were all OK. You obviously are.” Angel turned on his heel and walked out of the door. Wesley waited a heartbeat, and then went after him, ignoring Cordelia’s shout of protest, and Gunn’s warning one.

 

“Angel…Angel wait. Please.”

 

Angel froze in his tracks, but didn’t turn around. Wesley ran over to him, startled in spite of himself at how far Angel had already got from their office. Another second, and he would have been too late.

 

“Angel…they’re upset, and frightened too. And they don’t understand.”

 

Angel turned his penetrating gaze onto Wesley. “There was no call for that, Wes. Cordelia has no idea what Raphael means to me…to make threats like that….” He stopped, gritting his teeth.

 

“You’re right, Angel. She has no idea. I don’t think any of us do.” Wesley said gently.

 

“No. How could you. Even I had no idea that the relationship between two vampires could be like this….” Angel stopped, reluctant to share his feelings further, but Wesley thought that he would have had to be blind not to see how Angel was consumed with love.

 

“The Hyperion is empty. The lease runs for another 18 months or so, and is all paid up until then. You can use it if you want… I won’t be going back.”

 

Wesley nodded. “I’ll tell them. Thank you.”

 

“I also wanted you to know that I’ll always help you, if you need me too….but I guess that offer wouldn’t be gratefully received.”

 

Wesley smiled. “I’m grateful to receive that offer, Angel.”

 

Angel looked relieved. He handed Wesley a piece of paper with an address and a telephone number written on it in his unmistakeable handwriting. “You can always leave a message for me here. I don’t have a cell phone any more.”

 

Wesley chuckled. “Modern telecommunications were always a bit lost on you.”

 

Angel shrugged, a little half-smile creeping over his face. “I guess.”

 

“Take care of yourself, Angel. And for the record, I’m happy for you.”

 

“Thanks, Wes. Remember, if you need help. Call me.” Wesley blinked, and Angel was gone.

 

-0-

 

“How would you like to travel for a while?” Raphael murmured into Angel’s hair.

 

They were both lying together, Angel nestled against Raphael’s chest. Raphael had already been in bed when Angel had arrived back from his unhappy reunion with the ex-members of Angel Investigations, and his brooding silence had alerted Raphael to

the fact that things had not gone well between Angel and his friends. Raphael had not spoken, merely opened his arms in welcome, but he could have cheerfully have broken all three human necks for causing Angel more pain. Angel had undressed, and crawled into their bed, seeking comfort. Comfort that Raphael was more than happy to give. He had encouraged Angel to feed, and he could immediately feel Angel hardening against him. Raphael reached down to stroke that hardness, making Angel whimper in pleasure. Soon they were stroking each other, thrusting against each other’s hands, their kissing fierce with desire. As Angel came he cried out “I love you….I love you…” the words dissolving into a wordless moan of sheer need.

 

Now they were resting in each other’s arms, and Raphael asked his question.

Angel mumbled sleepily.

 

“Did you hear me, my darling boy?”

 

Angel roused himself enough to lick at Raphael’s chest. “Mmmm. Travel…..Mmmm.”

 

Raphael laughed. “Is that a yes or a no?”

 

Angel smiled lazily. “Sounds wonderful.”

 

Raphael kissed Angel’s hair. “Asia, I think. Japan, Malaysia, Thailand, China.”

 

“Not China.” Angel said.

 

Raphael wondered why Angel didn’t want to go to China, but the sudden tenseness in his body told him that there were more bad memories, probably best left alone. “Not China, then. Not if you don’t want to go.” He felt Angel relax again.

 

“India?”

 

“India sounds good”.

 

“India it will be then.”

 

Once the decision was made, it seemed to take no time at all for the arrangements to be made. Unlike Angel, who had only ever taken what he needed when he needed it, Raphael had garnered considerable wealth over the centuries. Money being no object, they had been able to charter their own ocean-going cruiser, and make forward arrangements to the best hotels across Asia. Angel had watched the organisation of their trip with something approaching awe. He had wandered the world, both with and without his soul, and it had never occurred to him to make other than the most basic of arrangements beforehand, trusting to fortune and his own survival instincts to get from place to place. This was going to be a totally new experience, and one he realised that he was looking forward to.

 

As they shut the door of Raphael’s house behind them for the last time, Angel turned to Raphael, brown eyes gleaming in the moonlight. “I love you, Raphael”.

 

 “And I love you too, my Angel.”

 

 

-0-

 

Fire rained down on Los Angeles, and the glow of many conflagrations turned darkness almost into day. Wesley, Cordelia and Gunn had limped back to the Hyperion, where Lorne had rushed around them, trying his best to patch them up both physically and emotionally. The phone rang incessantly, panicky messages clogging up the answering machine.

 

“It’s unstoppable.” Wesley said, voice flat with exhaustion. He winced as he moved, cracked ribs and torn muscles making any slight movement painful. Lorne grimaced as he tried to stem the bleeding from an ugly head wound that Gunn had sustained when the Beast had hurled him clear across the roof of the nightclub. Cordelia too was hurt, she nursed a broken wrist, and her left eye was swollen and blackened.

 

“Yeah. But somehow we’ve got to do it, otherwise, goodbye sunshine.” Gunn waved Lorne away after taking the pad from him and pressing it to the wound.

 

Lorne looked at his torn and battered colleagues. “Apologies if I’m stating the obvious, cookies, but the three of you are in no condition to face off with el Beasto anytime soon.”

 

Wesley sighed. “But what’s the alternative? We get killed trying to stop this thing, or we get killed once it’s achieved its objective. Not a great choice, you have to admit.”

Lorne pointed to the momentarily silent telephone on the hotel counter. “Or we call the cavalry.”

 

Cordelia spoke for the first time. “No. That door is closed. Not going there.”

 

“Honeybun. This is just so not the time for stubborn pride. Take a look outside, Apocalypse Nowish or what? This Beast critter has got us all beat, admit it. We need Angel.”

 

“Yeah. Right. Fire coming from the sky, harbingers and portents. Don’t you think that Angel would have shown by now if he was going to help us? Do you see him, because I don’t.” Cordelia sounded suspiciously close to tears.

 

“Sweetheart, I’m sorry. I know it looks bad, but could it really hurt just to call him?” Lorne pleaded. “After all, he did give Wesley his number”.

 

Wesley winced again. “I have a confession.” He could feel his friends’ stares burning into him. “I already called him. Twice. Left messages on the machine. He’s not answering.”

 

Gunn snorted. “Huh. He’s probably partying with the rest of the demons. Permanent darkness, him and that master of his will be dinin’ out 24/7, I reckon. Angel, help us? Don’t think so. More like help the Beast.”

 

The four friends stared at each other gloomily, and the phone rang again. None of them made a move to pick it up and it clicked over once more to the answering machine.

 

“Wesley? Are you there? It’s Angel….”

 

-0-

 

Angel put down the phone and stared bleakly at the two day old newspaper that had reported the strange weather phenomenon that had overtaken the city of Los Angeles in the United States.

 

“What did your friend say?” Raphael had come up behind Angel, and had slipped his arms around him, nuzzling his neck at the same time.

 

“That it’s really bad…that they can’t stop it.” Angel was tense in Raphael’s embrace. “This demon, it’s called the Beast. Sounds like it’s the real deal, huge, made out of rock, cloven hooves, horns, the whole shebang. It was the one that caused the firestorm, and any second now it’s going to do something that will plunge the city into permanent darkness.” Angel pulled away from Raphael and turned to face him. “I have to help them.”

 

But Raphael shook his head. “No. This is not your fight.”

 

Angel was taken aback at this firm refusal, being used to Raphael indulging his every whim.

 

“They need me. This Beast…there’s no way they can fight this thing.”

 

Raphael had walked to the other side of their luxury suite, where he now stood, fingering one of the lavish wall hangings that decorated the room.

 

“Angel, I know this Beast. It is not the first time it has risen into the world from below. Many centuries ago, it appeared, in a place that you now only know in legend. Atlantis.

 

Angel’s eyes widened in surprise. “You were in Atlantis?”

 

Raphael smiled at Angel’s incredulity. “I am even older than you suspect. Yes, I was visiting the city, drawn by its reputation for the arts and culture…and some of its less salubrious aspects. I was very young then, younger than you are now. This Beast that you describe raised itself in the heart of Atlantis. It created such a firestorm as has happened in Los Angeles, and shortly after the city and its environs were plunged into permanent night. What followed was awful….unless of course one was a demon. We feasted and gorged ourselves upon Atlantis’s hapless population. I saw the Beast. It killed indiscriminately, humans and demons alike, and those of us who had enough sense, realised that abandoning the city might ensure a longer survival. I and many others left, and only learned second hand about the final and total destruction of the city. It was as though some great hand ripped the land upon which Atlantis stood from the rest of the mainland. It sank without trace.” Raphael saw Angel’s distressed expression and stroked his cheek. “Los Angeles seems to be today’s Atlantis. Angel, you can’t stop this thing, neither can your friends.”

 

“But why? Why destroy cities like this, and millions of innocent lives?”

Raphael shrugged. “Who knows? What I do know is that those of us who are immortal survive because we don’t interfere with power that is greater than ours. If this Beast is called to wreak havoc on humanity, then it’s safer for the rest of us to be far away.”

 

“I can’t just stand by and let this happen…my friends….all those people in LA….I have to do something”. Angel made as if to leave, and yelped as his arm was caught in a vice-like grip.

 

“You will not interfere. I will not allow it. You will stay here, with me, until this is over.” Raphael had not raised his voice, but its steely authority was unmistakeable. Angel trembled, every instinct inside him compelling him to bow to his master’s command, but he could not shake the vision of his friends battling on, even though they knew they must surely die.

 

“Please….they need me….”

 

“No.”

 

“Raphael, please….let me go to them….”

 

“Angel. No more. You will not leave. That is my final word on the subject. Don’t risk my temper by insisting further.” Raphael’s grip tightened more, letting Angel know that the elder vampire was more than capable of hurting him. Angel stared angrily into the other’s cold blue eyes, but when Raphael growled, he dropped his gaze and tilted his head to one side, exposing his throat submissively.

 

Immediately, Raphael loosened his grip, and licked at Angel’s throat, accepting his submission. He gathered the younger vampire to him, feeling how Angel’s entire body was trembling.

 

“Sssshh, Angel. This is only because I love you and want to protect you.” Raphael stroked Angel’s face. “This is a moment in eternity. It will pass into history, and the memories will fade.” Raphael kissed Angel, confident that the subject was now closed.

 

Angel had indeed submitted to Raphael’s will, but in doing so, he fell into a black depression, unable to forget the quiet desperation in Wesley’s voice when they had spoken. And even worse, that thread of hope he had heard creeping in, when he had promised to help them. Now he had been forbidden to go to his friends, and it was eating steadily at him.

 

Raphael’s own mood swung between anger at Angel’s listlessness, and anxiety for his emotional health. It had been a shock to him to realise that he was not, after all, Angel’s entire world, and that Angel still felt such a pull towards those humans who had previously made it so clear that they were better off without him. He had tried distracting Angel with new and exciting experiences, and when they didn’t work, he had switched to cajoling, threatening, and even pleading with him. Nothing worked. Finally, overcome with frustration, Raphael had lashed out, flinging Angel across the entire deck of their chartered cruiser. Angel had crashed through the railings and fallen into the night time sea. The cruiser had been stopped, and Raphael had waited by the broken railings for Angel to clamber back up the side of the yacht. Wet, bruised and cut, Angel hadn’t even looked at him, simply left him and returned below decks to their cabin. Which was where Raphael had found him half an hour later, sitting on the side of the bathtub, having not even changed out of his still wet clothes. Angel looked so miserable that it tore the heart out of the elder vampire.

 

“Oh, Angel. My darling, darling boy. I am so sorry.”

 

Angel didn’t even look up, he was so sunk in the depths of despair.

Raphael came over to Angel, and squatted on his heels, peering up into Angel’s beautiful, unhappy face.

 

“I’ve given the crew instructions to put into the nearest port with an international airport close by. When we get there, I shall charter a jet, which will fly us back to the United States. We can’t go direct to Los Angeles, as the airport is closed, but rest assured, we will be back with your friends in the next two days.”

 

Although Raphael knew that this was probably the most dangerous, and certainly the most foolish decision he had ever made in his inconceivably long life, it was almost worth it to witness the look of gratitude that swept over Angel’s features.

 

Travelling by plane, especially long haul, was usually never an option for vampires. The possibility of accidental exposure to the sun was always too great, if the plane was delayed, or diverted. Raphael’s money had bought the necessary security, and the plane they travelled in usually carried only cargo, so had no windows other than at the partitioned off cabin area. Raphael had left strict instructions that they were not to be disturbed throughout the flight, and that after landing the hold was only to be opened once night had fallen, no matter what time they may have arrived during the day. Left to their own devices, Angel and Raphael spent much of the flight making up, not caring that the noise of their lovemaking was not always drowned out by the roar of the jet engines.

 

-0-

 

It was a nervous group that finished recounting the events that had taken place over the past few days in LA. Angel had arrived, as he had promised, but with him was the  vampire that had claimed him. Angel’s friends had been introduced to the tall, elegant Raphael, each feeling a thrill of primal fear as they had looked into the mesmerising eyes of the ancient creature. Instinctively they had huddled closer together, even Lorne, whose blood would have been of no interest to the vampire, had felt a nameless dread creeping over him when Raphael had turned his lustrous gaze in his direction. Angel had either not noticed their nervousness, or had chosen to ignore it. In any case, he was fully occupied in trying to take in everything that Wesley was telling him.

 

LA was now in permanent darkness, and the demons that usually kept to the shadows were having a field day. The LA police, fire and hospital services were all breaking down under the strain, and civil disobedience was rife.

 

Once Wesley and the others had finished their explanations, it was Angel’s turn to give them more bad news. He had asked Raphael to tell his friends what he had seen the first time that the Beast had risen. Raphael had again related his experiences as a young vampire in the city of Atlantis. There had been a stunned silence at the end of his story, but whether it was because of the fate that awaited LA, or the fact that a being stood before them that was so ancient that he had walked the streets of a legendary lost city, Angel could not be sure.

 

Gunn recovered enough to give a long, low whistle. “Jeez…looks like we were luckier than we thought to live through our last encounter with that damned Beast.”

 

“Well” Cordelia said with a brightness that she was far from feeling. “Let’s look on the positive side. At least we’ve got two scary vampires in to bat now.” She flashed a smile at Angel, and a nervous glance at his companion.

 

Angel shook his head. “No. This is nothing to do with Raphael. He only allowed me to come back here because he could see it was killing me not being able to do anything to try to help you. This is not his fight.”

 

The fact that Angel was only with them because of the other vampire’s permission, was not lost on the three humans, they shifted uncomfortably under Raphael’s unblinking gaze.

 

“Oh. Yes, sure…” Cordelia said, suddenly embarrassed.

 

“Angel, I think it would be best if I went back to our home for a while…leave you to talk some more with your…friends” Raphael’s glance raked over the demon hunters, leaving them in no doubt that as far as he was concerned, they were no more than a snack. He walked over to the main doors of the Hyperion, and Angel followed him out as he left the hotel.

 

There was a communal sigh, as if they had all been collectively holding their breath for the last half hour.

 

“Dear God, I’m not sure whether to be more scared of the Beast or that vampire.” Wesley breathed. “That was one of the more unnerving experiences of my entire life”.

 

“Damn straight. I thought I was just gonna burn up looking into those unholy eyes. Don’t mind admittin’ I nearly wet my pants when Angel walked in with that….thing”. Gunn shuddered at the memory.

 

“Yeah. Raphael may be much prettier, but I’d rather face the Master anytime, bat face and all. That is one very scary vamp”. Cordelia shivered.

 

“I’m with you all on this one” Lorne said quietly, “but did you see the way they looked at each other? To say they have the hots for one another…well the Grand Canyon is a small ditch…I mean, understatement?”

 

Wesley agreed. “However Raphael makes us feel, we will have to all remember that he did give his permission for Angel to return here, and that Angel is very much in love with him. So it’s best if we say nothing untoward, not even jokingly.” He fixed Cordelia with a look.

 

“OK, OK. I won’t say a word. Sheesh, anyone would think I lacked tact.”

 

“Nobody could ever think that, Cordelia.”

 

Everyone jumped at the sound of Angel’s soft voice. The vampire had returned unnoticed, as was his habit, and was now standing alongside the lobby counter. The four colleagues glanced at each other, wondering how much Angel had overheard, but even if he had, it seemed that he was not going to pass comment. Instead he sifted through the mass of papers that littered the counter.

 

“I guess you’ve already tried to find a way of killing the Beast with magick or something similar?”

 

Wesley nodded “It looks like beheading the Beast would in fact destroy it. Problem is, getting close enough, and having enough strength to do the job. Even knowing how strong and fast you are Angel…well, I’m not sure you can do it.”

 

“But we’ll still have to try, right? After all, what other choice do we have?”

 

“None at all, it would seem. None at all.” Wesley reached a tentative hand out to touch Angel’s arm. “But I think I speak for us all when I say that I’m very glad you’re here.”

 

“So am I”.

 

There was a terrible, shattering crash as the Beast walked straight through the heavy entrance doors to the Hyperion.

 

 

-0-

 

It was Angel’s first sight of the horrifying demon that was wreaking such carnage and destruction in his city, and none of the descriptions of the creature began to do justice to its aura of evil power. And it was huge.

 

Cordelia screamed and ran to the weapons cabinet, where Gunn was already throwing weapons to Wesley and Lorne.

 

“Broadsword!” He yelled as Angel’s favourite weapon came cartwheeling towards him. Angel grabbed it easily and fell into a fighting stance.

 

The Beast laughed. “Ho, Little vampire, it seems your friends have much faith in you. I, however, have none.”

 

Angel just growled in reply, allowing the change to sweep over him, feeling the surge and roar of the demon as he released it from deep inside himself. Out of the corner of his eye he could see his companions positioning themselves for attack.

“Stay away” he snarled at them. “I can’t fight this and protect you too…stay back”.

 

“Shut up, Angel. Just concentrate on killing the bastard, and let us worry about our own backs”. Gunn was already swinging a two headed axe above his head.

 

The Beast roared and grabbed the axe from Gunn, faster than he would have believed was possible for a demon made entirely from rock. His last thought as the axe came scything down on him was “Shit…shoulda listened to the vampire..” Then the force of the blow split his body clean in two.

 

Angel flung himself at the demon, rage at Gunn’s death fuelling his charge, but the Beast was ready for him, and turned the broadsword’s killing blow aside with one mighty thrust of his arm. Metal shrieked against rock and sparks flew from the blade, but the tempered steel didn’t break. Undaunted, Angel spun and unleashed a devastating roundhouse kick, that would have taken the head from any human and most demons, but which barely caused the Beast to flinch. Angel, on the other hand, felt that he had just kicked a mountain, and wondered for an instant whether he had broken his leg. Falling and rolling, the vampire only just avoided a blow from the demon that would surely have snapped every rib in his body. A crossbow bolt whistled past him, and bounced off the Beast’s rocky hide, and another flashed perilously close to Angel as he returned to the attack. The crack of a high powered rifle sounded behind the Beast, and Angel caught a brief glimpse of Wesley grimly emptying the magazine of the weapon into the Beast’s back. The Beast ignored the bullets completely. Slowly, Angel was driven ever further back, until he and the Beast spilled out of the hotel and into the pretty gardens at the back of the Hyperion. They soon lost their prettiness, as vampire and Beast fought each other. The fountain in the centre of the garden was smashed into a thousand pieces as the Beast hurled Angel straight at it, the sheer force of  his body hitting it sending shards of the fountain in every direction for yards around. The turf of the lawn was torn up by huge cloven feet, and the plants were ripped up and flattened. Wesley, Cordelia and Lorne could only watch helplessly as the two demons battled, but it was clear that Angel was tiring, and blood flowed freely from the many wounds he had already sustained. The Beast seemed untouched and unhurt.

 

Angel lunged forward once more, putting every last ounce of strength into his sword arm, trying desperately to find a weak spot, but the Beast grabbed the sword, and pulled it out of the vampire’s grasp, flinging it to the far corner of the garden. Angel was now weaponless. Reaching upwards, the demon grasped a great branch of the ash tree that grew tall in the garden, lending shade on sunny days. With a shrieking crack, the branch was torn off the tree, and flicking it round in his hands, the branch suddenly became a ten foot stake. The Beast thrust the stake at Angel, forcing him to edge backwards, until he could go no further, as he was backed hard against the wall of the garden. Then, with a savage roar, the Beast whipped forward and swept Angel’s legs out from underneath him, leaving the bleeding and beaten vampire sprawling at his feet.

 

“Now you die, little vampire”. The Beast raised the stake above his head, and drove it down towards Angel’s chest.

 

“YOU WON’T TOUCH MY CHILDE!”

 

Raphael’s roar was deafening. The ancient vampire was suddenly between the Beast and Angel, hefting the sword that had been torn from Angel’s weakened grip. With all the immense power that was contained in his three thousand year old being, Raphael swung the huge broadsword in a sweeping arc, slicing through the Beast’s neck with one massive blow. The demon’s head rolled away, and there was an upward explosion of light as the body disintegrated. Angel, lying flat on the ground, was protected from the surge of sunlight, but Raphael, only inches away from the decapitated demon, was caught in the full glare of the sun’s released rays as they raced skywards.

 

Raphael’s great age meant that even when bathed in the concentrated force of the escaping sunlight, he didn’t explode into flames. Instead, his skin blackened and burned, and he fell in a smoking heap among the rocky remains of the slain Beast.

It was five in the morning and for the first time in many days, the dawn began to lighten the sky in the east, enough light for the humans to see what had happened, but not yet sunrise. The death of the Beast had restored the day to Los Angeles once more.

 

But this miracle went unnoticed in the gardens of the Hyperion. Angel crawled over to where Raphael, was lying, his eyes still open, and a startling blue in the charred face. Angel gently picked up and cradled Raphael in his arms, struck dumb with horror at what had happened to him. With agonising slowness, Raphael lifted one smoking hand, and stroked Angel’s face.

 

“My Childe. My beautiful, beautiful Childe.”

 

His eyes closed, and for one moment Angel was left holding the body of his beloved mate, before it crumbled away into ashes.

 

There was an eerie silence hanging over the gardens, as though the birds, after days of darkness, had forgotten how to greet the dawn. Wesley, Cordelia and Lorne stayed motionless, overcome by the enormity of the sacrifice they had just witnessed. Then the silence was broken by the sound of Angel keening softly, as the first wave of terrible grief broke over him.

 

Wesley was the first to act, seeing the sky lightening, he hurried over to the stricken vampire.

 

“Angel….you must come inside…you can’t stay here, the sun is rising.”

 

“N-no, can’t leave him….Raphael….”.

 

Cordelia knelt by Angel’s side.

 

“We won’t leave him, Angel.” With great presence of mind, Cordelia had grabbed one of the few terracotta planters that remained unbroken from the fight, and now she quietly scooped the ashes up with her hands, and put them into the pot. Lorne saw what she was doing, and came over to help, and Wesley, realising that Angel would not leave the ashes, also bent to the task, mindful of the fact that they only had a few minutes before the sun rose above the horizon.

 

“Come on now, Angel. The ashes are all here. I’m taking them indoors, and you must come too.” The girl’s firm tone, coupled with her pulling at the vampire’s arm, didn’t give him any room to protest, and to their great relief, Angel stumbled to his feet and allowed himself to be led indoors.

 

“Thank the Powers for that” Lorne muttered to Wesley as they followed inside. “I thought he was going to refuse to move.”

 

Wesley shook his head. “I don’t think he knows what he’s doing at the moment.” He stopped dead as he saw Gunn’s broken body lying in a huge pool of blood in the centre of the lobby.

 

“Oh, Jesus….”

 

-0-

 

Things slowly returned to normal in LA. Shops were re-opened, services restored, and various scientific and reasonable explanations put forward as to the cause of the firestorm, permanent darkness, and countless sightings of monsters and demons. In a few months the supernatural events would have been rationalised out of existence.

 

But for the Angel Investigations team, it seemed that nothing would ever return to normal. They had lost one of their team mates and closest friends, and Cordelia, Wesley and Lorne were all grieving. But they recognised that their sorrow was as nothing in comparison with Angel’s.

 

For the vampire was simply undone with pain and distress.

 

Wesley, the former watcher, had read of how bereaved vampires – particularly childer who had lost their sires – would frequently end themselves by facing the sun. He had taken the precaution of putting Angel into the basement of the hotel, and into the holding cage that Angel had insisted be installed when they had first moved in. He was glad he had been determined that they do this, as for the first few days after Raphael’s death, Angel was demented with grief, and there would have been no way any of the team could have prevented Angel from destroying himself had he been free to do so.

 

Angel’s howling anguish had finally begun to subside, and was replaced instead by an almost catatonic state of deep, deep misery. He refused to feed, turning his head away when they brought the blood to him, and he had not uttered one coherent sentence since they had collected Raphael’s ashes from the garden.

 

He was now back in his old suite. Wesley had taken the adjoining rooms on one side of Angel, and Cordelia had taken the other. Lorne was in the room opposite. They had agreed that Angel should not be left alone too much, and each spent much time just sitting watching the vampire stare unblinkingly at the ceiling. But the worst was when they had gone to bed for the night, and they could hear Angel sobbing heartbrokenly in the darkness.

 

It was just before dawn on the day after another night spent listening to the mourning vampire, that Wesley went into Angel’s suite. He and the others were already deeply concerned about Angel’s refusal to feed. He was now losing weight at an alarming rate, and Wesley was starting to wonder if Angel was heading towards the comatose state that vampires eventually fall into through starvation. Perhaps this was just a way to escape the pain.

 

Angel was lying on his bed, curled up into a ball of desolation. Wesley saw with a pang, that the vampire was clutching the pot that contained Raphael’s ashes.

“Angel. You can’t go on like this. You have to feed.”

 

There was no response. Wesley felt an unexpected swell of anger rising in him.

“Angel! Do you think that Raphael sacrificed himself so that you could lie for the rest of eternity in a starvation induced coma?” Wesley could have bitten his tongue off the moment the words were out of his mouth, but to his surprise the harsh comment seemed to get through to the bereaved vampire. Angel flinched, and uncurled himself, slowly dragging himself into a sitting position, still cradling the ashes. Wesley’s heart went out to Angel. Even in his hollow cheeked, sunken-eyed state, he was still achingly beautiful, and Wesley could more than understand how Raphael had wanted Angel for his own.

 

Wesley sat himself on the edge of the bed, and spoke more gently, the words seeming to pick themselves rather than him choosing them.

 

“He wanted you to live so much, he was prepared to die so that you could survive.”

 

Angel shook his head. “He didn’t want me to come back to LA. We fought over it. It was only because I wanted to be here so much that he gave in…he should never have been here that night, it wasn’t his fight.”

 

“No. But although it was our fight, none of us had the strength to do what Raphael did. None of us could have killed the Beast. It took a being of immense power to free the city from permanent night. Raphael was that being”.

 

“But I killed him….if I hadn’t fought the Beast, he wouldn’t be dead now.”

 

“You might be right. But if you hadn’t have fought the Beast, and Raphael hadn’t killed it, how many innocent lives would now have been lost? By now, the whole city may have been ripped from the ground it stood upon and sunk to the bottom of the ocean. Like Atlantis. Millions of people would have died horribly.”

 

“He wouldn’t have died….he said that immortals only survived because they didn’t interfere with powers greater than themselves. It was my fault.”

 

Wesley suddenly reached out and grabbed Angel by both shoulders. “Angel, don’t you see? You’re right. Raphael would never have helped us to defeat the Beast if you hadn’t been involved. He never tried to do anything to help the people of Atlantis. But you couldn’t just stand by and watch, even though you knew you were probably going to be killed, any more than we could…or Gunn could. Gunn knew it was hopeless – pathetically so – for us to try to defeat that huge, seemingly indestructible demon, but it didn’t stop him trying, even though he died in the attempt.

 

Raphael didn’t care about us, or anyone in Los Angeles, but he did care about you – so much so that he fought and killed the Beast in order to protect you. And in doing so, he saved us all. He was probably the only creature who could have defeated the Beast, and you’re the reason he did it.” Wesley realised he was digging his fingernails into Angel’s shoulders, and unclenched his fists.

 

“Angel, like it or not, the Powers have a plan. And whatever that plan might be, you are central to it. As Gunn would have said, ‘It’s your name on the card’. You are special, Angel, unique. Raphael saw that, and thank the Gods he did. Now you owe it to him, to us, and most of all to yourself, to continue, to live, not to waste away mourning for him.”

 

Wesley sat back, releasing Angel from his grasp. He stared at the vampire, wondering where the words had come from, as they had certainly not been in his head when he had come into the room. Angel raised his head, and looked directly at the slender Englishman. For the first time since Raphael had died, there was a spark in his dark eyes.

 

“I had another second chance, Wesley. I see that now. My whole existence seems made up of second chances. My soul re-awakening, coming back from Hell, coming to LA. I thought Darla was another second chance…but I was wrong…Raphael was my second chance…the chance to really understand what it can be to be loved as a demon, by a demon. I never knew it could be like that, Wes, so perfect…no pain, or hate or fear. He made me happy in my own skin…made me feel glad to be a vampire like him. You’re right. I’m not doing his memory justice by trying to escape the pain.” Angel smiled. It was a little wan, but it was still a smile. Wesley smiled back.

 

“OK. Wesley, you should get the Oscar for greatest speech of all time, and Angel, we re-name you the Second-Chance Kid. Now will you both come down and get something to eat?” Angel and Wesley jumped and looked over at the doorway, where Cordelia and Lorne were peering in.

 

Wesley stood up, smoothing his jeans and looked questioningly at Angel.

 

“I am a bit hungry” Angel said quietly. “I’ll be down in a moment. Cordy…would you heat up some blood for me?”

 

 “Of course I will. In your favourite mug.” Wesley, Cordelia and Lorne disappeared, leaving the door open. Angel pushed himself up from the bed, and went into the shower. He returned a few minutes later, his hair damp, and feeling clean and refreshed for the first time in weeks. He pulled on a clean sweater and pants, but stayed barefoot, as was often his habit when not actually working. Glancing around his suite, he picked up the little terracotta pot that contained the ashes of the ancient vampire who had possessed him so completely. Angel went over to the window that overlooked the hotel gardens. Opening it, he scattered the ashes into the light pre-dawn breeze, and watched them as they floated away on the wind.

 

“Goodbye, Raphael” he whispered. Shutting the window, he left the room and went downstairs to join his three friends.

 

 

 

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