Author's Note: First of all, I suppose I should explain the character deaths: quite simply, Cordelia and Wesley's murders were necessary to give Angel sufficient lust for revenge, and bring out part of the demon inside him. As the summary states, Connor is kidnapped shortly after Cordelia and Wesley's violent deaths, and Angel sets out to find him and avenge the killings of two of the most important people in his life.
This is not and Angel/Original Character romance, although I can never really be sure where the story might lead, so I want everyone to be clear on that point.
I know that original characters and AU fics tend to be judged beforehand, but hopefully people will actually read the fic before deciding that they don't like it.
Anyway, reviews and opinions are welcome.
Washed In Moonlight
Roses, everywhere, heaped on the graves and by the tombstones. They were piled in deep crimson, dusky gold, snowy white and pale, delicate pink, standing out starkly against the earth of the newly dug graves, so inappropriately colorful and unnecessary, like cheap confetti on the dark ground.
They're dead, and all we have to offer them are roses. The thought made Angel angry, but not sad. Not even the funeral managed to awaken sadness in him; all he could feel was a hollow emptiness, a painful void he could not and would not try to fill. The anger was still raging in his silent, unbeating heart: anger at them for leaving him, anger at the people - the monsters – who took them away from him, and anger at himself for letting them leave him. I let them die. It was my fault. The thoughts echoed in his mind, and he let them linger there, knowing that he deserved the searing guilt they brought with them.
They were all there, standing in the dark, silent graveyard where two of the most important people in Angel's life were laid to rest. The mourners' black clothes were soaked with the heavy rainfall cascading over them and the sky, which had turned a pale, dull gray, rumbled deeply during the funeral ceremony, as if the very heavens themselves shared Angel's anger.
C. Chase and W. Wyndham-Pryce, May They Rest In Peace, was all their tombstones read. It was as if nothing else was necessary, no flowery poetics or heartfelt verses. And, in the end, Angel knew that they would have wanted it like that: simple and unelaborated.
He managed to lift his eyes from the graves once or twice to contemplate the people around him: Gunn, with one arm around Fred's shoulders, staring soberly at the graves; Fred herself, with tears in her eyes and a single crimson rose in her hand; Lindsey, silent and brooding; Lorne, back from Los Vegas to bid the two departed farewell, and a handful of others that Angel recognized but couldn't look at directly, for fear of displaying the pain in his eyes. None of them had spoken once they had entered the graveyard, except to attempt at awkward conversation, and none of them tried to speak now, knowing that whatever they said would sound insipid and unimportant.
Two of their number were dead, and one was missing.
Angel hadn't told them about it, but he hadn't needed to – Fred had informed them over the phone, in a quiet, trembling whisper so unlike her own voice.
Connor had been missing for a week. And at first, Angel had been frantic, scouring every place he could think of to find his son. But then, on the day of the funeral, he had suddenly let go of it – or so it seemed to the rest of them. He refused to talk about it – refused to talk to any of them at all – and they accepted it as some sort of mourning process, a phase he needed to go through before dealing with his son's disappearance and his friends' deaths. But Angel knew better.
At first, he had tried to be strong, tried to deal with it in every possible nonviolent way he could think of. But then Connor had been suddenly and violently snatched away, and something deep inside of him had snapped. They had just been starting to form a bond, getting to know and trust each other a little more each day, and then it had come to an end, without warning or explanation.
Angel had tried - tried so hard - to keep it inside, but when that something had snapped, he knew he couldn't keep it inside any more. So, after the funeral, after the sad goodbyes and choked apologies, after the tears and sighs and grieved looks, he turned away from all of them and walked away with a new purpose, a single ultimate goal in his mind and thoughts.
~ ¤ ~
Two weeks later,
The Golden Boar Inn, CA
The Golden Boar Inn was a small, unnoticeable place, fairly crowded on most nights but not very popular with respectable people. The sound of loud, raucous laughter could often be heard exploding from within it, and most people steered clear of it after dark. It had a reputation for attracting all the lowest creatures of society – humans as well as vampires and demons – and stepping into it at the wrong time of night could get a person into more than just a scuffle.
The Golden Boar Inn was also a good place to pick up information, which was basically the only reason Angel chose to board there. He was one of the few who actually checked in to the place, and somehow it suited him: it was solitary, remote and, although filled with late-night drinking customers, there was a very small chance that he could be found by anyone on the outside, which was exactly what he wanted.
That night he had decided to join the nightly crowd in the warm, fire-lit bar area in the hopes of learning something by listening to the various conversations taking place among the customers. He had chosen a seat at a hidden corner table, half-shrouded in shadow and yet close to the flickering warmth of the fireplace. With his heightened sense of hearing, he could easily pick up anything interesting from the many conversations going on around him.
At some point, he knew he would hear something that would lead him to Connor. All he needed to do was wait.
~ ¤ ~
"Hello." She spoke politely, trying to make her voice light and friendly. Somehow, though, the light and friendly approach wasn't really working, and the plump, curvaceous woman working the bar looked up quickly, suspicion in her eyes.
"I'm here looking for a friend," she continued, dropping the light tone completely, her voice returning to its customary deep smoothness. "I was hoping to find him here."
The woman behind the counter gestured at the crowded tavern. "Honey, I don't keep track of the customers, I just give 'em their drinks. You could try askin' around, though." Rosa, the tavern hostess and owner of the Golden Boar Inn, was used to helping out people who walked into the inn, and usually did it willingly; but something about the unusual woman standing on the other side of the counter made her suspicious. The woman was tall and regal, her features half-shrouded by the thick velvet cloak and hood she wore. She wasn't what Rose would call beautiful, but she was certainly unusual: platinum silvery hair cascaded fluidly around her face, cut short and contrasting starkly with the smooth chocolate color of her skin. And then there was the way her eyes moved: darting quickly from face to face, searching steadily for something, like the eyes of a restless hawk.
Rosa met the woman's brilliant blue eyes squarely, and she tossed her mass of dyed red curls nonchalantly. "If there's anythin' else I can help you with, don't hesitate to ask." But there was a tight strictness in her voice that contradicted her helpful words, and the woman turned away without another word.
After leaving Rosa, the woman moved through the crowd quickly, and several of the male patrons of the tavern tried to touch her as she passed. By the time she reached the far end of the tavern she had left three broken fingers, a sprained claw and two twisted wrists in her wake.
Finally, she found who she was looking for. The demon cringed when she reached him, and then tried to act as if he hadn't seen her coming. The woman smiled grimly, contemplating the small, scaly green humanoid demon in front of her, whose long fingers had suddenly gripped his glass so hard that it was in danger of shattering.
"Terazzi." Her voice, clipped and frosty, matched the smile on her face. "How have you been all these years?"
"What – what are you doing here, Raven? I heard you were in Greece, enjoying the s-sunshine." His voice was a would-be drawl, but the stuttering belied his casual approach.
Raven raised an eyebrow lightly. "Really? And all this time, I thought you were hiding from me."
Terazzi shook his head, laughing nervously. "H-hiding from y-you? Why would I do that?"
"Oh, maybe because the last time we met, I swore to remove at least three of your fingers. Or was it five?" Raven's face was the image of stony calm. "Keeping track of threats has never really been my strong point."
"You don't say," Terazzi muttered. He glanced up at the dark-skinned woman quickly, real fear in his eyes now. "Look, Raven, I don't know anything, I swear."
"Oh?" Raven didn't look convinced. "And why do I not believe you? I didn't come here to play games, Terazzi. Tell me what I need to know, and you walk free. Refuse to answer my questions, and that'll probably be the last drink you'll ever have."
Terazzi sighed, giving in. When he spoke his voice was quiet and cautious, his eyes darting around warily. "He killed again. Some couple in LA – a man and a woman, don't know their names. The man used to be in the Watcher's Council, and that's all I know about them."
"He killed them? Personally?" Raven asked sharply. Terrazi shook his head, his large peaked green ears flapping. "No – you know he never does it personally. He got a couple of Lurnachi demons to do it for him this time; and for quite a tidy sum, too."
"They must have been important, then," Raven commented thoughtfully.
"And he's got someone kidnapped – a teenage kid. All I know is who his father is: some vampire in LA they call Angel. From what I hear, he has a soul."
Raven raised her eyebrows. "Vampires – souls or no souls - don't have children."
Terazzi shrugged. "You're telling me."
When Raven looked at him expectantly, he continued, "There's this guy I know – a contact in London - who might be able to tell you more."
"And you've told me all you know?"
Terazzi raised his hands defensively. "Hey, would I lie to you?" He no longer sounded afraid, and Raven took his word for it, knowing that the relief on the small demon's face signified truthfulness.
"Yes, you would. But this time, I actually believe you." Raven drew her hood further across her forehead, noticing the curious stares she and Terrazzi were getting. As far as anyone else could see, she was human, and human-demon interactions were rare enough to draw attention, which was definitely not something she wanted just then. After taking the address of Terazzi's "contact" she turned and walked briskly out of the inn, much to the relief of Rosa, who had been watching her tensely.
Raven drew a deep breath when she left the inn, clenching her leather-gloved hands into fists. Although Terrazzi had proved useful, he hadn't been able to tell her everything she needed to know. Which left only two choices – she could either discontinue her search, or she could travel to England and try to get hold of the contact Terrazi had recommended.
Raven wasn't fond of traveling, but she had been doing it for almost three hundred years and knew how to get from place to place: although not, as one might suppose, by any ordinary means of transportation. Raven was one of the few beings on Earth who could travel by the Ghost Roads; no mortals were allowed entrance into the Ghost Roads, but anything spirit, demon, or gifted with the supernatural could travel them safely, as long as they did not disturb the ghosts that wandered there. The spirits of the Ghost Roads had grown familiar with Raven and did not bother her, knowing that she wouldn't bother them.
Raven raised her hand, preparing to open a doorway into the Ghost Roads, when a sudden movement to her left caught her eye. Turning with an almost superhuman speed to her movements, she came face to face with a complete stranger, a dark-haired, dark-eyed man who she almost vaguely recognized from the Golden Boar Inn. She didn't speak, instinctively taking a defensive stance and drawing her head further back into her hood so as to keep her face from view.
The stranger stood there, calmly and coldly, with a face that might as well have been carved into solid marble. "I know where you're going," he stated grimly. "And I'm coming with you."
Raven tilted her head ever so slightly, almost amused. "And if I don't want the company?"
It happened in a heartbeat, and Raven almost didn't see it coming. But then it struck her, the way his features contorted and changed, his brow ridging, eyes radiating a feral yellow glow. Washed in moonlight, his vampiric features and long, dangerous fangs were even more pronounced.
He tilted his head, mimicking her movements and shocked face. Then he grinned, a horrific parody of a fierce smile. "Trust me. You will want the company."
~ ¤ ~