TITLE: Reflections Revealed
AUTHOR: Mike Dewar
RATING: PG-13?
LENGTH: 17,500 words/109kb.
FEEDBACK: to aamdewar@iafrica.com
SPOILERS: The Wish, Doppelgangland
SUMMARY: Angel finds himself transported into the realm of the Wishverse by an unknown force, leaving him fighting for his life in the much darker reflection of his world. Meanwhile, Wesley and Cordelia, with the help of an old friend, try to fend off a new enemy, who's hungry for revenge and about to strike at a weakened A.I...
DISCLAIMER:Angel and all its characters, concepts etc. belong to Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. I only own the plot. But the plot's mine, ya hear?


Reflections Revealed

The vampire watched the men playing pool, a hungry smile sliding across her face. Anyone looking at her as she sat deep in the shadows of the small bar, would have seen nothing more than a pretty blonde girl, admiring the men. Of course, the desire flickering in her eyes seemed to them something entirely more wholesome than her true intentions.

One of the men caught her fancy especially. Slightly on the skinny side, his leather jacket in shiny contrast to his civilized face, he was clearly very drunk. Easy pickings. She watched as he bent over his snooker cue, frowning with concentration. He leaned back from the table, adjusting his spectacles and seeming to consider the shot. Then he bent over again, sliding the cue back and forth in preparation. The other semi-drunk player watched with some amusement as he shot the cue forward in a sharp movement, causing the white ball to hop upwards. With a soft thud, it landed barely an inch to the side of the cue. The vampire smiled again. No co-ordination, not thinking straight...it would be almost too easy to make him her supper. However, she decided to let him finish his game first. It was only polite, after all.

A few minutes later, as the black ball slid into the hole, she rose to her feet. Her supper, cursing his luck, handed over a few dollars to his grinning opponent and staggered to the bar.

"'Nother one," he slurred to the bartender, as she made her way to his side.

"It's on me," she told the bartender, sliding onto a seat beside Supper.

"That's very genra - gener - nice," Supper said.

She smiled. "I'm a nice girl."

Supper returned her smile, as the bartender placed the drink before him. " Whatcha called, nice girl?

"Calina."

"Funny name," he giggled. " What kinda name is Carbina?"

She rolled her eyes, wondering if he'd be able to stand, much less make it to a suitable eating venue. "Calina. My name is Calina."

"That'sh what I said," he said, sounding slightly offended.

"Sure you did, honey," she soothed. "Sure you did."

"So whatza nice girl like you doing in a dump like this?"

She smirked. He really was far gone if was trying a line like that. "Maybe I'm lonely."

Supper frowned. "It's not nice being lonely. No fun."

"Maybe we could have some fun together, you and me," she hinted, brushing back her hair. When she was alive, her petite, weak frame and fragile features had inspired nothing but derision from more strong-willed women. In undeath, however, it was a blessing. No one, looking at her, would guess that those delicate hands could dent steel, that her soft features could become terrifying, that her red lips would part to reveal fangs. "Whatddya think?" she asked him.

Supper grinned. "That would be fun."

"Uh-huh. What's your name, Supp - handsome?"

"Wesley."


Calina allowed herself a smile of relief as they left the bar. It had taken her a surprisingly long time to convince him to go someplace more private with her, mainly because he kept on missing her not-too-subtle hints. That was the problem with drunk meals; it was always so hard to get your opinion across. She glanced around her as they entered an empty alley, between a butcher and a newsagent's. Perfect feeding ground.

"Wesley?" she asked him, slowing her pace.

Wesley turned to face her, a drunken smile plastered to his features. "Yes?"

She felt her face shift and change. "You can scream now." The man's eyes widened in horror, as adrenalin shot through him, doing the work of several pints of black coffee. "Aren't you going to scream?" she asked him teasingly, vicelike hands closing over his shoulders. "It's more fun if you scream." Then she dragged him close, fangs hovering over the thick jugular vein in his neck.

"I think you're eating a friend of mine," a new voice said. Lifting her head from Wesley's neck, Calina looked over her shoulder. Standing barely three meters away, a dark-haired man adjusted his black leather duster. "I'd like you to stop."

She sniffed the air, picking up the cool scent of undeath coming from him. "Get your own meal, buddy."

"I don't think I'm making myself understood," he told her, pulling a sharp stake from beneath his coat. "Let me drive the point home."

"Listen, pal, I don't know what your problem is," Calina spat, dragging Wesley in front of her. "But you want me, you'll have to throw that stick through Chuckles here." Her forearm clamped tight across Wesley's throat, applying pressure. "And wouldn't that be a shame?"


His stake held uselessly high, Angel felt an icy trickle of uncertainty slide into the back of his skull. "A shame," he echoed, hand tightening on the stake. It was bad situation. Things weren't going according to the plan. No way to stake her before she could snap Wesley's neck, or tear out his throat, or shatter his spine... Angel was very familiar with all the methods with which a vampire could kill, from personal experience more than anything else.

Calina grinned wickedly, tightening the throat lock, as Wesley choked and gagged. Angel couldn't conceal a wince. "Concerned for the human? What kind of a vampire *are* you?" she asked incredulously, scraping her fangs teasingly along Wesley's neck. "We don't care for them! We kill them, feed off them!"

Angel shrugged. "Then I guess I'm going to have to teach you not to play with your food." His hand was steady as it flipped the stake over and threw. The wooden missile spun over Wesley's shoulder, plunging into Calina's throat. She hissed, shoving Wesley aside with one hand, ripping the stake from her throat with the other.

Red blood sprayed from her wound as she growled, an unpleasant sucking sound accompanying the noise. "You're dust, buddy," she bit out.

"Didn't anyone tell you it's not nice to spit?" Angel asked innocently. She howled with fury as charged him, the stake raised with lethal intent. But she underestimated her opponent. As she approached, Angel hurled himself into her, driving her backwards and tangling her limbs with his.

Hours of sparring with Buffy had taught Angel that the easiest way to avoid being staked was to get in close, making it harder for the enemy to get in a shot to the heart or a good punch. Of course, a skilled fighter could use other options.

Angel slammed his head forward, crunching his forehead into Calina's nose. Her long nails tore across his cheek, the pain driving his vampire face to the surface as he drove both his clenched fists into her belly. As she doubled over, he stabbed an elbow down hard into the small of her back. She swayed, nearly falling, but then pain lanced through him as she thrust the stake home. Not into his heart, but into his leg. With a roar of agony, he grabbed her shoulders and flung her backwards, yanking the stake from his flesh. For the second time that night the stake whirled through the air, and this time it plunged directly into her heart

As Calina vanished in a cloud of dust and ash, Angel prodded gingerly at his bleeding wound. "So much for that pair of trousers," he observed. Rubbing his leg, he walked over to where Wesley's unmoving form lay, slumped against a dumpster. "Okay, Wesley, time to go home."

Wesley muttered something and rolled over, snuggling into the trash scattered around the dumpster.

"Wes?"


Three words strike fear into the hearts of all heavy drinkers. The morning after.

Wesley Wyndham-Price was becoming painfully aware of this phenomenon as he staggered into the office of Angel Investigations, shielding his eyes.

"You look unhappy," Cordelia noted with a complete lack of sympathy.

"Let us merely say that I currently feel much the same way about sunlight as Angel does," Wesley told the brunette sitting behind her desk. He groaned. "Though, actually, the idea of *no* light is becoming more attractive with every second. If I thought I could actually manage to read with this pounding pain in my head, I would be researching an eclipse spell right now."

"Correct me if I'm wrong," Cordelia asked dryly, "but wasn't the point of last night's little operation for you to just *pretend* that you were drunk, so vamp-lady would come try to kill you? Then Angel could do his whole Batman thing and poof! No more 300-year-old vampire psycho. Now either you *really* got into your part, or someone's been drinking on the job," she chided.

Wesley rubbed his aching temples. "Actually, I believe someone fiddled with my drink as some kind of joke. Either that, or the bartender thought that the words, 'scotch and soda' actually mean, 'Extra scotch.' Add to that being half-choked by an angry vampire and then thrown into a wall, and my condition is easily explained."

Cordelia rolled her eyes. "Sure."

"It's the truth!" Wesley protested vainly.

The creaking of the lift interrupted their conversation. "It doesn't really matter," Angel said, shoving the grate aside. "Vampire's dead. Wesley still has a throat. Case closed." He raised an eyebrow." Although, Wesley, I happen to know you get tipsy on one glass of wine."

"I do not!"

"Oh, really?" Angel countered. "Remember the Pearson case? The dinner party? You passed out on the table, after singing 'Anarchy in the UK' to a Quoshi demon."

"Well, it didn't look like a Quoshi demon to me," Wesley muttered.

"Wes, at the time you thought I looked like Ronald Reagan."

"In a certain light, there is quite a likeness..." Wesley said defensively. Angel looked at him. "After a few drinks," he confessed.


Another place...another time....

The Bronze seemed empty, deserted. If Sunnydale seemed a ghost town, the Bronze was a ghost club. But the dead in the club were a lot less ethereal...

The man groaned, shifting in his sleep. The chain wrapped around his worn shirt clinked with the movement, as he started awake, staring nervously into the darkness. Seeing nothing, he let his eyes close again.

"Here, Puppy, Puppy, Puppy..." Angel's eyes flicked open, as a figure detached itself from the shadows, smiling at him through the bars of his cell. "What were you dreaming about, Puppy?"

"Nothing," he whispered.

The cell door slid open and she stepped inside. "Is that true? It's naughty to lie..."

"T-true," he said, voice harsh from lack of use.

She bent down close, putting her head near his. "You were dreaming about her, weren't you, Puppy? Your pretty little Slayer, the one who you thought was going to come and save the whole wide world, right, Puppy?"

Angel trembled at her nearness. He could have struck out, forced her away, but he knew from experience that that would only bring more pain. "Yes."

Willow ran a single white finger over his lips. "But don't you get it, Puppy? I'm the only girl in your life now. Just me." She drove her nail into the fleshy part of his lip, watching as his face tightened with pain. "Isn't that nice, Puppy?"


Wesley poked uncertainly at the calculator. "Er...according to this, our profits stand at several million US dollars. I think I might have pushed multiply instead of divide."

Cordelia snatched the calculator out of his hand. "Wesley, it's not so hard! Just add up the pretty columns in the book, and we find out how much money we've made," she told him sarcastically, punching numbers into the calculator. She stared at the total. The very, very small total. "I think I preferred your version."

" Cordelia, can I put these down now?" Angel asked, struggling with the weight of several large accounting advice books.

"Oh, yeah, sure," she said airily. "And then we might as well close down the business."

"Excuse me?"

Cordelia stormed over to him and waved the calculator in front of his nose. "We're broke. Again! God, I try so hard to balance our books and it's just wasted effort - "

Angel looked down. "And yet you're wearing new shoes."

"They were on sale," she answered. "It was a business expense."

"Uh-huh," Angel agreed, glancing over at the sheets of paper laid out of Cordelia's desk. "Just like the mini-skirt, the tank top and the gold-plated Parker pen."

"The Parker pen was Wesley's," she said defensively.

"Only because you told me we had, and I quote,' Enough money to start buying Angel gold-plated stakes,'" Wesley countered.

Cordelia shifted from foot to foot. "Maybe I was exaggerating just a little."

Angel rushed to head the budding argument off. "Guys, I thought the whole idea was to help people, not make money. If we can't afford gold-plated pens, or very short skirts, what does it matter?"

Cordelia looked at him as if he had sprouted a second head." You have a very strange 'whole idea'."

"I have to admit, Angel does have a point," Wesley broke in, a note of guilt entering his voice. "We're supposed to fight the forces of darkness for the sake of humanity, for the good of all, not to afford expensive knick-knacks."

Cordelia threw her hands up in exasperation. "But who says that the sake of humanity can't be combined with the sake of trying-to-stay-in-the-same-decade-as-the-rest-of-the-fashion-world?"

Wesley snorted dismissively. "We shouldn't be concerned with such shallow gains." "Okay," Cordelia agreed. "Let's sell your pen so we can buy some new weapons."

"There's no need to go to extremes," Wesley objected.

Angel coughed. " Ew, germs!" Cordelia yelped, stepping away from him. "Don't get them on me!"

"I was trying to interrupt politely," the vampire explained. "I don't get sick."

Cordelia's face cleared. "Oh right. Well, at least we save on doctor's bills."

Angel decided to ignore that. "All we need to do is cut down the spending a little. Cordelia, no new shoes." Cordelia crossed her arms sulkily. "And Wesley, no more gold pens or 3D Word Puzzles." Wesley gave a heartfelt sigh. "Okay, everyone happy?"

"No."

"No."

Angel shrugged. " Who said life was fair?"

"I do note one flaw in your suggestion," Wesley said, polishing his glasses thoughtfully. "If we try to cut back spending, that will of course mean that we cut back spending on all things. Shoes, pens...and research material. We might have a little problem identifying demons if the demon-identifying books are sitting in Rick's Friendly Pawn Shop."

"So give me another option," Angel said grimly.

"Buy lots of lottery tickets?" Cordelia suggested.

"I'll keep that in mind."

Wesley sighed. "Barring Cordelia's lottery tickets, what other options can we take? It's not like a huge pile of arcane texts is just going to walk through the door!"

The office door opened. And a pile of arcane texts walked inside.

"Not bad, Wes," Cordelia commented. "You getting visions too now, huh?"

More specifically, the books were in someone's arms. The someone staggered forward vaguely, books swaying precariously before it. Unfortunately, with the books obscuring its view, it didn't notice the desk in front of it.

"Ow!" a female voice yelped, as the tower of books collapsed around it.

Angel moved to its side, steadying the figure. "Are you okay?"

"Uh-huh, I'm fine," the girl said, staring dejectedly at the books lying around her. "Oops."

But Angel only stared. Stared at the familiar red hair, the gentle eyes, and delicate face. "Willow?"

"Willow?" Cordelia asked incredulously.

Wesley shielded his eyes from the open doorway. "Could someone please close the door? My eyes are hurting something dreadful."


Willow shifted nervously in her seat. "Nice place, Angel. Very...detective-like."

Angel closed the door to his office and sat down opposite her. "It's okay."

"Yup," she agreed.

"So." Angel stared at her, studying her movements. Her face bought back floods of memories, of times both good and bad. Her smile, as he watched her chatting with Buffy and Xander at the Bronze...a studious expression as she researched demonic perils alongside Giles...her surprising force of will, brow-beating him and Giles into forgetting their differences to rescue Buffy and Cordelia from some demon-worshipping college students...the tautness of fear in her limbs, as he pinned her tightly against him the night his soul was lost, taunting Buffy...

Willow coughed. "I know you like the whole silent, brooding thing, Angel, but it's kinda disconcerting. Maybe you could, you know, talk?"

"Uh...nice weather today," Angel offered.

"Yeah," Willow agreed quickly. "Nice."

" So."

Willow smiled. "Do you get the feeling we're in a conversational rut?"

Angel nodded thankfully. "Good point. Any suggestions?"

"Well...Buffy says hi," Willow said cheerfully.

Angel seemed to grow even more silent.

"And...so does Giles," she added awkwardly. "And Xander...Xander probably says something nasty with 'Deadboy' in it, so I guess I'll skip him."

Angel smiled slightly. "So you're good. All of you."

Willow nodded. "That's right."

"Good." Angel paused. "How's Oz?"

Willow looked away, her hair forming a protective curtain. "Oz...isn't around anymore. In the sense of being anywhere near me, that is."

"I'm sorry," Angel said sincerely. "He was a good guy."

"The best," Willow said, smiling sadly.

"What happened?"

"There was some...werewolf stuff," she answered slowly. "It wasn't working out."

"Oh." Angel noticed the slight tightening of her throat muscles and decided it was time to change to subject, and also time to stop staring at her throat. Even Willow might take that the wrong way. "So, why are you here?"

"Well, there's the computer course running at UCLA," Willow explained, her awkwardness melting away as she entered the safe realm of knowledge. "It's really neat, all the latest programs and equipment. My parents got me in, since it's only a three-day course. And so I was, you know, in the area...so I dropped in to say hi."

Angel picked up one of the books that she had dropped when she entered. " Dropped in with a copy of 'The Third Ring of the Abyss - Collector's Edition'?"

"Oh. That," Willow said, as if a text used for the binding of Archdemons was a mere paperback. "Just some stuff Giles wanted me to drop off. Since we blew up the library, he kinda ran out of space for some of his books. He wanted to make sure they went to a good cause, so here they are for Good Cause Angel."

Angel examined the pile of tomes with new respect. Several were very old but lovingly preserved, from Giles's personal collection he was sure. "I don't know what to say."

"You could always do the broody silence thing again," Willow suggested with a small smile. "That seemed to work." Angel chuckled in response. Willow's eyes widened. "Are you sure you're not evil or possessed or something? 'Cause you didn't use to laugh. Or smile. Or wear anything that wasn't black."

"I am wearing black," Angel pointed out.

"So at least one thing hasn't changed," Willow shot back.

Angel chuckled again. "I guess I've just let my sphere of experience broaden a bit."

"Cordelia," Willow said wisely.

"Excuse me?"

"She's like an unstoppable force of nature," Willow explained. "In high heels. I guess it must just be hard to brood with her around. Not that I'm particularly prone to brooding myself, or anything."

"I didn't think as much," Angel said, eyeing her smiley-face T-shirt.

"Uh, Angel?" Willow asked, her face wrinkling with confusion. "Why is Cordelia spying on us through your office window?" There was a flurry of movement from the window, and the sound of a pot plant overturning.

Angel chuckled.


Cordelia pulled Wesley down beneath the desk. "Do you think they saw us?" she hissed.

"Judging from the fact that Willow was looking right at you, yes," Wesley replied dryly. "And remind me exactly why it is we're spying on Willow and Angel through windows?"

"Because Willow's bad," Cordelia snapped. "Pay attention."

Wesley frowned with confusion. "Willow? Why is Willow bad? She's a lovely, sweet girl..."

"...who comes from Sunnydale," Cordelia finished in dire tones.

"So?"

Cordelia sighed with exasperation at Wesley's inability to see the plainly obvious. "When Angel thinks about Sunnydale, he thinks about Buffy. Then he goes off and sulks."

"I'm not sure it's quite that simple," Wesley objected. "And I can't exactly see Angel sulking..."

"Sulk. Brood. Whatever. Anyway, he gets all mopey and acts like a character in an Anne Rice novel. And considering our current cash-flow problem, we need Superhero Angel, out there saving people and getting paid for it, not wimpy Buffy-whipped Angel, all angst-filled and reading love poems to the rats."

"I see," Wesley said. "So, Willow is bad, because Willow reminds him of Sunnydale, which reminds him of Buffy, which makes him retreat into a depressive state."

Cordelia smiled proudly. Wesley really wasn't that stupid, you just had to guide him right. Pretty soon she'd have him totally trained in Vampire-Management. "That's right."

"One query, though."

Cordelia rolled her eyes. After all her patient explanations... "Yes?"

"Don't we remind Angel of Sunnydale, too?"

Cordelia paused. Wesley actually had a point. "Yes," she said finally, "but we remind him of Sunnydale in a good way, a Non-Buffy way. Get with the program, Wes!"

"Ah," Wesley said slowly. He frowned. "Maybe it's the remnants of my hangover, but that still makes absolutely no sense whatsoever."

Cordelia tried to resist the urge to strangle the gangly Englishman. "Just focus on one thing. Willow here means Grumpy Angel. And that's bad."

"He didn't seem grumpy," Wesley noted, "when we were spying on them, that is."

Cordelia started to look for a blunt instrument.


Perhaps half-an-hour later, Angel's door swung open. "Cordelia? Wesley?" the vampire called. "Willow's about to go...I thought you might like to say goodbye...guys?"

Willow peered over his shoulder. "Maybe they went to get coffee?" she suggested.

"Probably, but I wish they could have said something - oh. Hey, guys."

Cordelia and Wesley stepped out from behind a filing cabinet. Cordelia's expression was stony. Wesley's expression...Wesley's expression was somewhere between mild pain, confusion, with just a tinge of embarrassment.

Cordelia nodded. "Hey."

"You're being grim," Angel observed.

Wesley laughed awkwardly. "Grim? Us? Perish the thought!"

Willow looked nervously from Angel to Cordelia's stone-face. "Is something wrong?"

Cordelia seemed to jerk herself from a trance. "Nope. We're just peachy. Aren't we, Wesley?"

The Englishman frowned. "Aren't we what?"

"Peachy."

"What does fruit have to do with - oh, I *see*. Yes, peachy indeed!" Wesley smiled brightly.

Cordelia rolled her eyes. "Excuse him - his brain cells were pickled in alcohol last night and I think the shock of drinking anything other than tea might have pushed him over the edge."

Angel forced a pleasant smile. "So, Willow's leaving now - "

"Great," Cordelia said without a trace of irony.

The vampire shot a surprised glance at her. "Cordelia..."

"Stop it!" Willow burst out suddenly. Everyone turned to look at her, surprised by the uncharacteristic outburst. "Just stop it. I don't know why, but everyone's behaving like I descended from the moon or something, and that's okay. But this cold silence stuff has go to stop. Cordelia, I don't know what I did wrong, but whatever it is - "

Cordelia's harsh sigh cut her off. "It's not you, Willow." She paused. "Well, actually it is you. But not because of anything you did. It's just...you know, you."

"You're bad Sunnydale," Wesley said helpfully.

"Excuse me?" Willow said, confusion scribbling its way across her face. "I'm totally lost. What are you talking abou - "

And that was when Angel collapsed.


Angel groaned as Willow drove her red-painted nails into the flesh of his chest. Similar welts and marks covered all of his upper torso. She lifted a slender hand, ethereal in its delicacy, and sent it across his face in a sharp, brutal slap. Angel's head lolled to one side, his vision blurring as consciousness slipped away.

Willow grabbed his chin in a steely grip and turned his face towards her own. "Don't fall asleep on me, Puppy. That's very rude. I want to stay up and play and it's no fun if you're snoozing."

"Maybe you tired him out, Will," a male voice suggested from the cell entrance.

She glanced at the new visitor, a radiant smile spreading across her face. "Look, Puppy! It's Xander, come to say hi! Say hi to Xander, Puppy." Angel grunted as she drove a short, jagged knife into his stomach. Her face twisted with glee, as she gave the knife a twist. "Would you look at that!" she told Xander over Angel's hoarse scream. "He's saying hello."

"I'm touched," Xander Harris said coolly, stepping into the cell and bending down beside his lover. He ran a casual hand over Angel's wounds, smearing his fingers with the tortured vampire's sticky blood. "You've been busy," he noted.

"Busy as a bee," she confirmed, resting her own hand over his. "We were having lots of fun."

Xander smiled. "I can tell." He slid his bloodstained fingers up the curve of Willow's arm, placing them on her shoulder. From there, the pale digits danced across the skin of her neck and began to stroke her jaw line.

"Isn't he sweet, Puppy?" Willow asked Angel, closing her eyes in response to Xander's cool touch. She lowered red lips to the pale white fingertips and slowly licked the blood off them, the red of the blood matching her dark-red lipstick. Xander's other hand crept possessively around the back of her head, as he leaned in for a kiss.

Bare inches from her lips, he was distracted by a gut-wrenching scream. Xander sighed. "Please, Will. Focus on one thing at a time. You can play with Puppy later."

Willow opened her eyes, frowning. "But I didn't touch him."

As one, the vampires looked down at their victim as he writhed and twisted, untouched by any weapon.


Angel shook on the floor on Angel Investigations, howling incoherently. Sharp, piercing pain transfixed his unbeating heart as he began to curl in himself. His body seemed to be flying away in a thousand different directions, all at once, scattering into white nothingness.

Is this what it's like to be staked? he wondered.


Angel was dimly aware of Willow and Xander being flung away, as white light flared around him. The stabbing pain intensified, becoming unbearable. He yammered nonsense sounds, forced from him by the pain, as his body shook and shivered.

Am I dying? he wondered.

Am I free?


Suddenly it stopped. All the pain, all the light gone, as if someone had flicked a switch. He was lying flat on his back, surrounded by empty blackness. He felt something cold and metal, wrapped around him.

*What the...Cordy? Wes?*

Slowly, Angel opened his eyes. He was lying on the floor of somewhere strangely familiar, yet not. And a steel chain was wrapped around his waist. His clothes were different. No, not different. He owned a shirt exactly like the one he wore now, but it wasn't...torn, ragged and bloodstained?

Angel sat up, grimacing at the throbbing in his muscles. He *did* know this place! The basement of the Bronze, but someone had converted it into a prison cell of sorts, with iron bars separating it from the rest of the club.

"Oww..." someone moaned from a corner in the shadows.

"Willow?" Angel asked, tugging at the chains. "Is that you?"

A dark figure pulled itself to its feet in another corner. "Baby? You all right?"

Angel shifted his gaze, squinting to see. His eyes weren't adjusting well to the darkness, but he could still make out the outline of the figure. And he knew that voice all too well. "Xander? What are you doing here?" he asked incredulously.

The other figure, the one he guessed was Willow, rose to its feet as well. "Xander? My head hurts..."

Xander stepped out of the shadows, ignoring Angel on the floor. "Join the club, Will. I would really kill for an aspirin right now. In fact, I'd kill for a glass of water."

Maybe-Willow giggled. " As if you ever needed a reason for killing."

Xander smirked. "Flatterer." He sniffed the air. "What the hell was that about then, Will? You used to get the high grades, remember? This looks like brain-work, very X-files, with the bright light and all." Angel stared. Xander looked...different. An air of easy confidence surrounded him, and also Angel had never seen Xander wearing a black leather jacket and leather pants. He had to admit he wore them better than Wesley had, though. And there was something else, something his zoned-out senses just couldn't quite pick up...

"What's going on?" Angel asked, a touch of a frustration in his tone. Something was very wrong about this whole setup, but Xander and Willow just kept on talking over his head as if he was something irrelevant, like a piece of furniture or a child. Or a pet.

Maybe-Willow moved into the light. Her face came into view and Angel allowed himself a sigh of relief. It was Willow, and she was unhurt. But then she stepped fully into his sight.

It wasn't Willow. Or maybe it was. A pale Willow, her hair a different shade of red, like crimson blood spilling over her shoulders. A Willow whose slender frame was wrapped tightly in leather, dark red fabric encasing her arms and cupping her breasts. A Willow with a strange smile on her face, one which didn't belong, and a hip-swaying walk more blatantly sensual than shy Willow would even dream of. A Willow who was bending down and straddling his surprised form...a Willow who smelt of death, both old and new.

Angel's senses finally caught his attention. Not what he was hearing, but what he *wasn't*.

No heartbeats. No life, no breath.

Willow's hands smashed into his face, a quick one-two with brutal force. Angel's head snapped to the side and he spat blood. She placed her palms on either side of his face, forcing him to look at her. Angel stared with disbelief into that familiar face, with those horrifyingly different eyes.

For perhaps the first time in his long life, Angel truly understood the terror of vampirism. To see someone you know and care for, to see a friend's face, with a merciless twisted perversion of them living behind it...the look of terror on his father's face, just before the man died, was so much easier to understand... Angel wore a similar expression as Willow smiled at him.

He remembered now...a visit to the Bronze...a very different Willow...one who they returned to her home world. Her home world.

"Oh hell," he whispered.

"Puppies mustn't talk." Willow told him, shaking her head disapprovingly. Angel tensed, expecting another blow, but instead, she leaned forward, pressing her lips against his. She shifted her head, her cool tongue gently probing his lips. Her hands squeezed the sides of his face tighter as she slid it into his mouth, moaning slightly. Angel remained motionless, horrified and aroused at the same time. Gently, her tongue swirled around, licking at his bleeding mouth. He felt her face pressed against his change, as ridges formed and teeth lengthened. The kiss became more aggressive, more demanding, as she sunk fangs into his lower lip. Angel gasped in pain, forcing her away.

Willow's demon-twisted face grinned at him, crimson hair hanging in front of her yellow eyes. "You taste yummy, Puppy." She leaned closer again.

With a snarl of revulsion and fury, Angel smashed a fist into her belly. Willow's yellow eyes widened in pain and shock. He lashed out with his other hand, the force of the blow lifting her up and sending her crashing against the cell bars. Willow sagged against the iron bars, giggling. "Puppy, Puppy, Puppy..." she cooed. "You're not allowed to fight back. We discussed this. Xander, I think you'll need to housebreak him again."

Forewarned, Angel began to spin towards Xander, but a blow smashed hard into his jaw, causing him to turn away. A foot drove into his side and the vampire tried desperately to cover up, hindered by the chains.

Xander kicked him again and again, smiling tightly at each grunt and groan.

Angel tried to stay conscious as Xander backed off. Willow, her face normal again, bent down near him.

"Bad dog," she told him. Then her palm hammered into the center of his face and everything went black.


Angel hit the floor with a thud, his head reeling and aching. A new place, new sights, new scents. An unfamiliar woman's voice speaking out.

"Oh my God! Angel, are you okay?"

A man's voice. "Cordelia, calm down! There are no visible wounds, it looked like some kind of fit..."

Angel raised his head from the wooden floor, his muscles protesting. A face came into view, framed by long black hair. "Angel!" it told him firmly. "Snap out of it! Say something!"

Behind it, peering over its shoulder, a concerned bespectacled face. "Angel?"

"I - I..." Angel forced. "I'm Angel."

"What did he say?" the woman asked quickly.

"He said...that he was Angel, I think," the other voice said slowly.

The black-haired woman frowned, her face moving closer to Angel's. "Duh. We know who you are - how do you feel? If you're going to barf, I'm outta here," she warned him. "Wesley can play doctor."

"Give him some air," the man suggested.

"Wesley, vampires don't need to breathe!" the woman flashed back. "What's the point?"

"He looks kinda bad," a new voice said. "As in a beat-up, painful sort of way."

Angel cringed as the speaker moved into his field of view. "W-willow..."

That cruel face moved closer. "What's wrong?" Her hands touched his body and Angel flinched, waiting for the nails to dig in and tear... "What's wrong?" she repeated.

He could stand it no longer. Even though he knew the penalty for lashing out, he couldn't bear this new game anymore. Angel's face became vampiric, eyes turning gold and furious, as a threatening growl escaped his throat. As Willow leaned backwards, Angel's hands closed on her wrists, squeezing hard. A sharp motion sent her flying away, even as he came up from his prone position, leaping away from the inevitable counterattack. But there was no counterattack. Angel landed on a desk, paused to assess the situation and then lunged for a nearby door.

The door crashed open. And stinging sunlight swept in, scorching his forearms and face. Hissing in shock and pain, Angel leapt backwards away from the light. Instinctively, he sought shelter from the brightness, making it across the office with lightning speed and diving down a flight of stairs. He rolled down the steps, each step sending a jolt through his tortured frame. Landing at the bottom of the stairs, he paused in the cool darkness, exhausted by the unfamiliar exertion.

Up in the office above, Cordelia and Wesley stared in shock and disbelief at Willow, lying slumped against a wall, her eyes closed and blood trickling from a cut on her brow.


Angel screamed.

Willow smiled. "What was that, puppy?" She ripped the bloodstained stake from his leg and dropped it casually on the floor. "A little bit sensitive today, are we?" Angel didn't respond, his hand clamping to the wound, trying to stop the blood flow. He'd already learnt that trying to fight back was useless. Xander stood nearby, an tire iron held ready in his hands and if Willow became upset, her boyfriend was more than willing to make Angel pay for disappointing her. The prone vampire fought the pain and fear, as Willow cooed over him like a vicious parody of a caring mother.

Willow sighed softly, tugging at Angel's hand. "Come on. Let me see the sore bit. I'll kiss it better." Her tone sharpened. "Puppy. Let. Go." Angel yelped as she jabbed her nails into his hand. "That's better," she told him sweetly, pushing his hand aside and eyeing the large ragged red hole. She bent over the wounds, her face twisting and revealing her demon side. "Oooh. Such a nasty cut. I'll make it feel better." She sank her fangs into the bloody wound, ignoring Angel's howl. The howl became a muted groan of pain, as Willow drank her fill. Finally, pushing her mouth back from the wound, she smiled that sweet smile again. "Isn't that better?"

"Not really," Angel responded, dark irony hiding the pain in his voice.

Willow laughed, a clear sound, like a bell. "Funny boy." She planted her hands on his chest and shoved him playfully, perching herself on his groin. As she studied the two marks her teeth had left, she noticed something strange. There was a new scar, a wound nearly healed, just below the fresh ones. It looked exactly like the stake wound she had given him. "Hmmm. Where did you get that nasty little scratch? Has someone else been playing with you? Xander?"

"Not me. I like to watch, remember?" Xander replied. "I'm not a hands-on guy."

"Evidently," Angel said, his words rasping and slow. "A real vamp would at least have the guts to get down and dirty with the torture too, instead of letting his girl get all the fun. What's wrong, Xand? You still a wimp, like you were when you were alive?"

Xander's face darkened as the verbal barb hit home. "Will. He's got a point. You have been kind of hogging the scene here. Move over, I want a turn with Puppy."

Pouting, Willow rose to her feet. "No fair."

"Oh, no, Will. Don't do the thing you do with your lips. You know I can't resist the lip thing."

Willow's pout became a wicked smile. "Which lip thing?"

Xander chuckled. "I like them all, baby. Tell you what, you can pour the boiling oil on him. I had it warmed up especially."

She stood on tiptoe to kiss his cheek. "You're so sweet, Xander. You always know just the right thing to say."

"What can I say, I'm a lady-killer. And a man-killer. And a child-killer."

Angel snickered mockingly. "Big mouth. All words, no action. If I was out of these chains, I'd rip you apart."

"Is that so?" Xander asked, his tone dangerous as he bent down next to the other vampire. He poked at Angel's face with the hooked metal of the tire iron. "Well maybe I should stop talking and get torturing. Wouldn't want to get bored, would we?" The tire iron swept back and then down.

But Angel was already moving, getting in close within the swing. His arms wrapped tight around Xander's torso, tangling his attacker in the chains that held him. Xander's tire iron flailed ineffectually against his shoulder, as Angel squeezed his arms together tightly. His teeth gritted, he heard ribs crack and Xander grunt with pain, as Willow screamed Xander's name in shock and fear. Her cry seemed distant as he focused all his strength on the task at hand. Xander groaned as more ribs cracked. Angel's one hand closed on the wooden stake Willow had been using and started to raise it.

In a blur of motion, something tore Xander from his grasp and lifted him up against the wall, claws biting into his throat. Blindly, Angel stabbed down with the stake but the creature batted it from his grasp.

The souled vampire stared into ancient, hideous features, seeming more like a Halloween mask than a true face. "You're dead..." he hissed disbelievingly.

"As are you, Angelus," the Master told him smugly. "And you will shortly be dead and headless if you continue to attack my children."

"Not possible...Buffy killed..."

"Buffy, Buffy, Buffy!" the Master snarled. "I am truly sick of hearing that name. Ever since you began your stay here, you've been mindlessly droning on about your precious little Slayer...on and on, like a babbling idiot." He growled threateningly. "Find a new theme."

"Nice moves, boss," Xander said, leaning against a wall rubbing his side. " He caught me by surprise."

The old vampire leveled a cold stare at the younger one. "You assured me that you could handle him. I wanted someone to take the traitor apart, piece by piece, and you and Willow told me you could do it. Where is your confidence now?" he hissed. "If Angelus had slain you and escaped, then...then my reaction would have been highly unpleasant."

"We're sorry," Willow said meekly, slipping a possessive arm around Xander.

Xander swallowed in the face of that daunting ancient rage. "Yeah. A bit of a miscalculation. Still, no harm done, huh?" He laughed awkwardly.

The Master nodded slowly. "Indeed. But I warn you, don't repeat your mistakes."

"Nope," Xander said quickly. "Learning and moving on. That's us. Besides, we thought we finally had him broken, but it looks like he found some more spunk. Ever since that pretty light show, he's been like a different person."

"Pretty light show?" the Master asked slowly, menace ringing in his tones. "What...light show?"

Xander and Willow exchanged uncomfortable glances. "Just some white light. Around Puppy."

The Master smiled unpleasantly. "And when would you have seen fit to tell me this?"

"We were going to," Willow said, "we just wanted to play a little first. I was bored."

A hiss of exasperation left the old vampire's mouth. "Youth. Always concerned with the pleasures at hand, never with duty. I'm very disappointed in you."

"We're sorry," Willow said for the second time.

"Was it magic?" the Master asked curiously, glancing at Angel as if he were a crawling, disgusting insect which had just happened to wander into his unlife.

Xander shrugged. "Looked like it. Whatever it was didn't work though, just made Puppy glow a bit, and then it went away. I've seen better from David Copperfield."

"Magic," he mused. "Someone using magic on my prisoners. I find that...upsetting. Probably the work of that idiot librarian and his crew of do-gooders."

"Are you sure?" Xander asked dubiously. "That gang isn't exactly what I'd call organized. Or even daring enough to pull a stunt like this."

"Can you think of anyone else with access to magical tomes and a fondness for fighting vampires?" the Master inquired sarcastically. Angel groaned as the old vampire dug his claws tighter into the souled vampire's neck. "And you, Angel. Did you think you were being freed? Did you think I would let those pathetic Whitehats take anything of mine?"

"I'm...not...yours," Angel ground out through the choking pain.

"Yes, you are. Everything in this town in mine. Everything and everyone. Remember that, Angelus. Remember that." As if releasing something repulsive, the Master let him drop to the floor. "Xander. Willow," he said sharply.

"Yes?" the redhead drawled, stroking her lover's neck with a delicate hand.

"I want a group organized to attack that library of theirs. I want them all dead before the factory starts operations, just to avoid any more inconveniences."

"Consider it done," Xander answered easily, waving a hand in a mock-salute.

The old vampire smiled almost tenderly. "Such obedient children. Your loyalty warms my heart." With a graceful, measured tread, he walked out of the cell. At the door, he paused, glancing over his shoulder. "And children?"

"Yes?"

"I think Angel needs to be re-acquainted with certain basic facts of life in Sunnydale. Take him out, show him around. Let him see a few of the dead and dying, and the terror on the streets. We'll soon have him back in a respectful attitude again."

"Did you hear that, Puppy?" Willow asked Angel eagerly. "Walkies!"


Willow grimaced as Cordelia dabbed at the cut above her eyebrow. "Don't be a baby," Cordy said firmly. "It doesn't hurt."

Willow winced at the stinging antiseptic. "That's really a matter of opinion." Cordelia's nursing skills definitely left something to be desired, she decided, leaning back against Angel's desk.

"If I were you, I'd be more worried about how you're going to look in the morning," Cordelia told her. "It's probably going to go all yucky and crusty. Not very attractive."

"Next time someone hits me, I'll be sure to tell them to make sure it's not in an immediately visible place," Willow responded dryly.

Cordelia shrugged, unfolding a band-aid. "Or you could just duck. Now sit still."

Willow fidgeted quietly as Cordelia carefully affixed the small white band-aid to her head. She allowed herself a sigh of relief as her 'nurse' finally backed off. "Thanks, Cor - " Cordelia ripped the band-aid off. "Ow!"

"It was askew," she explained. "Hold still this time!"

"I am being still!" Willow retorted.

Cordelia rolled her eyes. "Then why are you shaking like that?"

"Fear, maybe?" Willow answered.

"Ha, ha, ha," Cordy said flatly. "I think Xander is finally rubbing off on you."

"Thanks!" Willow said, smiling warmly. She paused. "That wasn't really a compliment, was it?"

The budding argument was interrupted by the sound of the door to Angel's office opening. Wesley peered inside. "Are you ladies all right?"

Willow sat up quickly, smiling her healthiest-looking smile. "Yup! Fit as a fiddle!" she said, moving out of range of Cordelia's band-aid-wielding fingers.

"Sit still!" Cordy complained. "Wesley, make her sit still!"

"Cordelia, stop it," Wesley ordered. "Willow's wound hardly merits your torture."

"Torture?" she asked sharply.

"I meant treatment, of course," Wesley said innocently.

Willow broke in on their bickering with the question that was on everyone's mind. "How's Angel?"

Wesley glanced nervously over his shoulder, as if expecting the vampire to loom up behind him and club him to death. "He doesn't seem to be injured, I've heard him moving around quite loudly downstairs. But as to the cause of his behavior, I have no idea."

Cordelia frowned. "Moving around? What's he doing? Normally he just sits and broods," she told Willow, by way of explanation.

Wesley shrugged. "Anyone's guess. But, if I did have to essay a suspicion - "

"You do. Or else," Cordelia interjected.

"- I'd say he's in some kind of highly emotional state, rushing around, banging things, that type of behavior."

"Could he have...you know, lost it?" Willow asked nervously.

"It?"

"It! His soul," Willow explained in lower terms.

"I doubt it," Wesley soothed her. "I've seen no outward signs of Angelus-like behavior - "

"Which are usually *so* easy to miss," Cordelia continued sarcastically. "You know, killing and maiming everyone in sight and all that stuff? Besides which, unless Buffy came to town when we weren't looking, I don't see how that could happen. And he hasn't been having happy pills either."

"So if we assume that Angel is still Angel, soul and all, we need to find a new hypothesis for these events," he suggested.

Cordelia looked at him blankly. "Huh? Wesley, we know you get some sick thrill out of using words no one can understand - "

"He means we've got to find another reason for Angel's weirdness," Willow interrupted.

"Except her," Cordelia said dryly. " Okay, so we're trying to figure out why Mr Broody has suddenly become Mr Weird Psycho Guy. Plan, anyone?"

"It could be magically related," Wesley offered, polishing his glasses. "Some kind of emotion-fogging spell or some such, perhaps?"

"Oh!" Willow squeaked with sudden excitement. "I've got it!"

"What? Share the knowledge," Cordy told her. "And less of the shrill."

"Sorry. In Giles's books, I'm sure I saw a spell to detect hostile magic cast on someone. We could try that."

"Excellent idea, Willow," Wesley congratulated her. Willow glowed.

"So, we have a plan?" Cordelia asked.

"We have a plan," he confirmed.

Cordelia heaved a self-sacrificing sigh. "I'll get the stinky herbs, even though they'll probably totally clash with my perfume and leave me smelling like a rotting rose bush. What do we need?"

Willow's brow wrinkled as she thought back. "Uh...hethbane, rose petals and white sand."

"Surprisingly simple," Wesley remarked cheerfully. "That's a welcome change."

Willow shook her head. "Not really. We also need some bodily fluid from Angel."

"Bodily...fluid?" Wesley asked, dreading the answer.

Willow nodded glumly. "Blood."

"Oh great!" Cordy groaned. "What is it with magic and blood? Why couldn't it be something else?"

"You would prefer another form of bodily fluid?" Wesley asked irritably. "Saliva perhaps? Urine?"

Cordelia grimaced. "Stop sharing your disgusting little thoughts. Blood it is." She turned huffily and headed for the door. "I'll borrow Angel's credit card. I don't think he'll mind."

"Something tells me Angel will be broke long before Cordelia reached the magic shop," Wesley commented to Willow.

Willow nodded in agreement. "Let's just hope she doesn't notice any sales."

"I heard that!" Cordelia yelled from outside.


 

PART 2

 



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