Author's Note: This time, I owe my inspiration my own heritage. I never really considered writing something involving Arab/African culture, but I figured it would make a really great Angel/BtVS crossover fic. And all the times my mother tried to teach me Arabic are finally coming in handy. :-)
Anyway, my version of "Arabia" is slightly old-fashioned, as I think that would be more interesting than the modernized version of Arabic culture. The line between Arabic and Indian tradition is thin, and hopefully I'll be able to walk along that line without stepping over it.
As usual, the storylines and season events are a little messed up, but it shouldn't be enough to get anyone too confused.
Anyway, the pairings are going to be quite interesting, but I'm not revealing them just yet. You'll just have to read and see, people.
And as always, reviews are very welcome but not demanded. I'll write more of this whether anyone else approves or not – at least until my inspiration runs out. But I really do love opinions, so fire at will.
Of Capture and Holidays
Eastern Arabia: Midnight
The sand dunes rolled alongside and behind and beyond each other, rippling on in endless waves of sand rarely stirred by wind or movement. They looked glassy through the heat haze that pervaded the desert even during the night, their golden monotonousness broken only by the occasional shriveled bush or dead twig.
Spike hated the sand. He hated the heat as well, but he hated the sand even more. Such a bloody endless dullness, he though vindictively, glaring at the sand dunes as if he were waiting for them to burst into flames. This was probably what Hell was like, he had reflected on more than one occasion. Insufferable, choking heat, coarse sand everywhere and not a single living being in sight: heck, all it needed was a few small red demons with pointy tails, and he'd have the real thing.
Spike had to struggle to keep himself going through the sand. He had been wandering for days now, taking shelter from the sun where he could, getting hold of whatever little animal he could find and draining it so that he could survive. The animals' blood was usually sour and weak, but Spike didn't have much of a choice – and even if he had been able to find a living human to feed off, he would never have been able to drain it in peace.
Spike didn't know very much about souls. He had lost his own a long, long time ago, and hadn't exactly missed it - especially when being a soulless, vicious demon was oh so much more fun.
But he knew now that something very strange, very alien and very unwelcome had found its way into his being. It made him feel guilty every time he even thought of drinking from a human, and somehow it tried to block out all his memories of his time as a vampire with Angelus, Darla and Drusilla.
Spike knew that somehow, he had acquired a conscience.
And with it, a soul.
He had been furious about it the first few days, but finally the weariness had settled in and he had grown too tired and hungry to care. Soul or no soul, I'd drain anything I could get my bloomin' hands on right now. But the thought wasn't a very optimistic one: nor did Spike have any real hope that he'd be able to get hold of anything to drink from. He had wandered too far into the desert, and he was convinced he wasn't getting back out. There wasn't even anything in sight for him to hide under, which meant he would have no protection from the sun when it rose. In other words, I'll be fried in a few hours.
But for the moment, the sky was still a velvety ink blue, smatter faintly with stars and crowned with a silver crescent moon, glowing against the deep darkness of the sky. Spike was still relatively safe from the threat of sunlight, but far too weary to drag his boots through the sand any longer. Soon, even his undead body grew too tired to move and he sank to the sand, giving in to the powerful feeling of hopelessness that suddenly washed over him.
I'm never getting out of this damned desert… He thought bitterly. Never getting out… Never…
Spike was asleep before he knew it, stretched out on the sand that had been warmed by the sun.
He slept so deeply, indeed, that he failed to see the trail of mounted camels making their way towards him: and in doing so, he failed to notice himself being borne away by the riders of the camels.
Spike never noticed himself being kidnapped.
~ ¤ ~
Shajrah Abdul Muntaz stared at the captive lying immobile on the carpet-covered marble floor, and a pleasant smile lifted the corners of her mouth. "An undead. How fitting."
The nearest guard salaamed with an incline of his dark turbaned head. "We found him in the desert, sahiba," he rasped. "He would have wasted in the sun had we come an hour or two later."
Shajrah gestured at them graciously. "Yes, well, that will be all." The guards salaamed and shuffled out of the room, and Shajrah was left alone with four young girls: formerly her nieces, and now her handmaidens and apprentices in the magickal arts. They all wore the same silk robes and veils, one in dark violet, one in golden yellow, one in deep crimson and one in forest-green.
Shajrah gestured at the violet-clad female: "Miriam, take the captive to be bathed. I have prepared the ceremonial robes he is to wear, and I leave it to the four of you to have him decently clad by noon tomorrow." She reached into her own richly brocaded robes and brought out a small phial of clear, glittering liquid. "Give him this. It will render him unconscious while the preparations are being made."
The one she had called Miriam gracefully clasped her hands in respect to her mistress before taking the phial from Shajrah in her delicate fingers and calling on the guards to carry their charge into the bathing chambers.
The bathing chambers were built of spotless, luxurious white marble, with deep, large pools carved into platforms, serving as bathtubs. Surrounding the bathing pools were several bottles of richly fragranced perfumed oils and creams: only Shajrah and her chosen ever used the extravagant bathing chambers, as all others were banned from them.
But, despite this, the handmaidens did not envy those who Shajrah allowed to use the bathing chambers. For they were, as all knew, only sacrifices for the next great ritual – and in this case, an undead was going to be sacrificed, indicating a more important ritual than usual.
The handmaidens worked carefully, soaping and brushing and rubbing in cream gently with their fingertips – as the closest servants to Shajrah, they often prepared the captives, and now did it automatically, not even stopping to survey the one they bathed so meticulously.
When their task was completed, the ceremonial robes were brought forth and draped on the unsuspecting - and unconscious – sacrifice, and he was taken to what was called the Chamber of Awakening. It was here the sacrifices awoke after their initial slumber, and it was here they spent their last three days of life before the day of the ritual they were to take part in.
And, ultimately, the ritual they were to die in.
~ ¤ ~
Rosetta Apartment Buildings,
Los Angeles, CA: Noon
"No," Angel said, flatly and without a moment's hesitation.
"But the evidence is right here, Angel." Wesley tapped the large, faded tome on the table, and little wisps of dust rose from the cover.
"How many times, Wesley? How many times have we stumbled on some prophecy or other and found it to be a complete hoax?" Angel asked, getting irritated. "I'm tired of being tricked by fake stories and legends."
Wesley knew he was referring to the prophecy about Connor, and he was glad the boy wasn't in the room to hear the conversation. "But it isn't a fake."
"And how do you know that?"
Wesley drew out a couple of loose sheets from inside the tome, and, unlike the yellowed pages of the old book, the sheets he drew out where crisp white A4 printing papers. He held them out to Angel, who took them reluctantly. On the papers were printed photographs of an elaborately carved scepter. The photographs were dim, but Angel could just make out a round sphere-like structure – a gem or stone of some kind – worked into the carvings of the scepter. He looked up to find Wesley watching him expectantly, but he all he could do was shrug. "So?"
Now it was Wesley's turn to get irritated. "That," he said, pointing at the papers, "is the Scepter of Osiris." Obviously he expected some kind of reaction, but Angel continued to watch him blankly. "Yes, and…?"
Wesley gave an irritated sigh. "The Scepter of Osiris grants a wish to anybody who holds it," he explained patiently. "It can bend the very fabric of reality to do its master's bidding, making the holder of the Scepter almost all-powerful. It is only activated once every -" Wesley glanced at the papers "- six hundred and seventy six years, and -"
"Let me guess. It's about to be activated this year, very soon – say, in a week - by some lucky chance of fate?" Angel's voice was loaded with sarcasm. "And of course, we just found this out today, which is yet another lucky coincidence…"
"Actually, no," Wesley said, sounding faintly amused. "I've been keeping track of the Scepter for about seven years now."
Angel didn't really have anything to say to that. "Oh. So, if it's so all-powerful, why don't you just use the scepter for yourself?" He made it sound like a casual suggestion, not an accusation.
Wesley shook his head. "First of all, it doesn't accept mortal masters, and second of all, quite frankly, I think you need it more than I do. We've been trying to anchor your soul for a long time now, and this could be the solution to the curse."
Angel nodded pensively. "And it only gives one wish? No wishing for more wishes?"
Wesley cracked a smile. "No, one wish and one wish only, as far as I know." He paused. "Although…"
"Yes?" Angel waited. With Wesley, information just couldn't be hurried. "Well, there are no limitations on how long that wish can be, as far as the legend goes. If you could mesh several wishes into one sentence, maybe it could pass for a whole wish."
"And this scepter – where do we find it?"
"Egypt," Wesley answered promptly. "Or, more specifically, Alexandria."
"I was in Alexandria, once. Summer of eighteen forty-two. Not a pretty picture."
Wesley shrugged. "Times have changed. Now I hear Alexandria is considered a splendid holiday destination."
"I haven't taken a holiday in a long time," Angel commented, for no reason in particular.
"Yes, well, you're not about to, either. The scepter will be extremely hard to locate, and you won't be the only one looking for it."
"So, I'm thinking backup," Angel said. Wesley nodded in agreement. "Exactly what I had in mind. Fred and Gunn will need to be here to look after Connor, and Cordelia…"
But Angel held up a hand. "I know. Still recovering from her return." Cordelia had only recently been brought back to Earth by the Powers That Be, and was still weakened from crossing the lines of time and space. "So, that leaves just you and me."
Wesley cleared his throat, looking slightly embarrassed. "Actually, I'm not… Not very fond of traveling, truth be told." When Angel arched an eyebrow, he explained, "I have rather an extreme fear of heights. Alexandria would not do my health very good."
Angel looked thoughtful. "Didn't you say Buffy was in town?" His tone was as offhand as he could make it, but Wesley wasn't fooled easily.
"Yes – visiting her father, I've heard. Why?" Wesley was feigning ignorance, hiding the amused look on his face by pretending to read the papers.
"No reason," Angel hesitated. "I just thought that maybe…" He trailed off half-wistfully.
"She could accompany you?" Wesley filled in crisply. "That would probably be a good idea – Slayer strength would come in handy on a mission like this."
Angel half-nodded and turned abruptly to the phone. Fishing out a piece of paper from a pocket in his duster, he located "Buffy, LA" from a list of phone numbers and punched in the digits.
"You have the number?" Wesley asked, surprised. "After all this time?"
"I like keeping things like that. They come in handy," Angel replied, listening to the phone ringing against his ear: once, twice –
~ ¤ ~
"Hello?" Dawn reached the phone a second before Buffy did and yanked it up, sticking out her tongue triumphantly at her sister.
"Yes, hello?" Angel didn't recognize the voice on the other end. "Is this Hank Summers' place?"
"Yeah, that's my dad," Dawn informed him. Then she listened more carefully, suddenly recognizing the voice. "Angel! Is that you?"
"Dawn?" Angel sounded relieved. "Can I please speak to Buffy? It's important."
"Bu-ffy," Dawn chimed, "someone wants to speak to you. He says it's important."
"He?" Buffy mouthed, "he who?" But Dawn just shrugged, a secretive glitter in her eyes, and skipped off into the kitchen. Buffy tucked back her honey-blond hair, thoroughly mystified. "Yeah, hello?"
"Buffy. Hi. It's Angel." For a moment or two, all Angel received was silence. Buffy actually caught her breath at the sound of his voice.
"Angel," she muttered finally, in half-disbelief, "hi." She paused. "What's up?"
Explanations were long and tedious, but Angel cut his as short as possible. Buffy listened patiently, taking down notes on a nearby pad. They discussed on and off between them, deciding on a traveling date and making lists of necessary requirements and safety measures – including ensuring that all traveling would be done by night, for the sake of Angel's safety.
When they had formed a solid plan – after a time span of nearly an hour – they were both equally reluctant to hang up, although they didn't let it on to each other.
After Buffy had put down the phone, Dawn sauntered into the room, holding an iced Popsicle. "I got the last one," she told her sister, showing off the deep red raspberry color. She knew raspberry was Buffy's favorite flavor, and she deliberately sucked off a large piece, chewing it loudly.
But, to her surprise, all her older sister did was grin. "Okay, so we're even. You get the last Popsicle, and I get a trip to Egypt."
Dawn just gaped at her. "Huh?"
~ ¤ ~TBC