Eastern Europe, 1899

            Angelus was drunk.  Again.  Drunk and unconscious, and he smelled of whisky and rats.  Darla prodded him with a toe.  He remained unmoving.  Spike snorted in disgust.

            "He's bloody revolting."   He poked Angelus with his foot, as well, hard enough to spill him over from his stomach to his back.  "Stake the great sot now and put us all out of our misery."

            Under Spike's protective arm, Drusilla regarded her sire with more sympathy.  "Daddy's all gone."  She looked at Darla, her eyes big and half-empty.  "He won't be coming back.  Not soon."

            "I'm going out," Spike declared.   "You coming with, luv?"  This was directed to Drusilla, who looked up at him in adoration.

            "Of course.  I want to see the stars."

            Darla watched them go.   She should go with them, prowl the streets, try to find some happiness again in the thrill of the hunt and the taste of live blood, but tonight she could summon only sadness.

            She'd held out some hope for Angelus, for a time, but he'd only deceived her, pretending to be what he had once been but in reality remaining a sniveling, soul-infested shadow of himself.   The gypsies had destroyed him.  The most magnificent beast she had ever created, fallen at the hands of human vengeance.  It made her sick to think about it.

            It made her sick to look at him, sprawled on the floor of the house their little clan had appropriated.   He was dirty and he reeked.  She sat down next to him and brushed his long hair out of his face.   There were those who said vampires were incapable of love.   They were wrong.  She had loved him past sanity, and now all they'd had was gone.

            He would be leaving soon.   She knew that.  Either he would leave or she would drive him out.  She wasn't sure how much longer she could stand to have him near her, reminding her of the taste of his skin, the taste of his blood, the joyously brutal way they had been together.  He was already gone; it was only a matter of time before he actually left.

            But he would always be hers.   And she would make sure he never forgot that.


            "This one."  Darla laid the open sketchbook down in front of Romanov.   She'd met the vampire two nights ago, plying his needles on a trio of vampires in a back alley.  They'd wanted matching tattoos, to show their allegiance to each other.   She'd found him again tonight in the same alley, and had brought him back here.

            Predictably, Angelus had once again drunken himself into a stupor.  Darla pulled his once-white shirt off him and rolled him over, exposing his bare back to Romanov.   "Put it there."  She drew a circle with her finger, halfway down his right shoulder blade and down onto his back.  "You'll probably want to wash him first."

            "But if we put it on his back, he won't be able to see it."

            Darla's smile was wicked.   "Yes.  It's perfect, isn't it?"

            Romanov shrugged, peered at the sketchbook, and set to work.

            Darla watched.  The sketchbook reminded her of better days.   Angelus had given it to her after a rampage through an Irish monastery.   They'd pillaged the place, snacking happily on monks, and afterwards Angelus had disappeared into the scriptorium.   He'd come back hours later with a sketchbook full of copies of illuminations from the books, and singed hands from turning the pages in the Bibles.   He'd given her the book as a gift, along with a lone monk he'd found cowering under the tables.

            Those had been the days.   Gone now, forever.

            The gryphon he'd drawn had always been her favorite.   She wasn't sure why.  Now she watched as it appeared, bit by bit, on his skin.   He lay dead to the world, full of whisky and rat's blood.   Her dear boy was gone.  It was time she admitted that to herself.

            "And an 'A' in the claws," she said to Romanov some time later.  "So that no matter how hard he tries to hide, the humans will always know who he was."


            Angelus woke just as Romanov finished.   He moaned, barely conscious.  Darla brushed her hand over his hair, soothing him.   With the other hand she shooed Romanov away.

            "It's late, darling," she said to Angelus.   "We should go hunt."

            "No," he mumbled.  A hundred-plus years had ironed most of the Irish out of his voice, but it came back when he was drunk.  "I'm too tired.  Too tired."  

            "Then get up."  Anger flared and she knew it was time to end this.   "Get up and get out."

            He sat up, squinting at her.   "Darla?  Darla, mo chroi, what's wrong?"

            He was really drunk, she thought, if he was spouting Gaelic at her.  He'd called her that before but she still didn't know what the hell it meant.   "You're wrong," she said, her voice thin.   "You're ruined.  You disgust me.  Get out, and until you can act like a man again, don't bother coming back."

            His eyes had cleared a bit.   "Like a demon, you're meaning."  He pushed himself to his knees, wincing.   "God, my back . . ."

            "Someone beat the hell out of you while you were drunk."   She picked up his shirt and threw it at him.   "Get out, Angelus.  Next time I see you, if you're still like this, I'll kill you."

            He stared at her.  He looked like a whipped puppy, his dark eyes hurt and his hair hanging down into his face.  Slowly, grimacing with the pain in his freshly-marked shoulder, he pulled on his shirt and came to his feet.


            "Go.  Now."

            He went, staggering, head down.   On the back of his shirt, the gryphon appeared, picked out in blood, then disappeared in a smear of red.


            A hundred years, or nearly so.   Lurking and hiding, staying furtively underground.   Avoiding humans because, no matter how hard he tried to forget, the taste of their blood remained a vivid memory in the back of his throat.   From time to time he tried to live among them, but he always ended up back in the sewers, afraid the smell of fresh human blood would drive him insane.  Or drive him back to what he had been.

            Then that crazy demon in the funky clothes had set him on a new path.  The day he saw the Slayer, he buried Angelus for good.

            And now, today, he was haunted by a question.   Well, maybe haunted was too strong a word.   In any case, the question had been bothering him for some time, and he'd finally worked up the nerve to look for an answer.

            He startled Giles, as he always did.   He really needed to learn to make a little more noise when he came into a room.  The librarian tried to regain his composure, but too late to hide the fact he'd just knocked half the books off the table.

            "Sorry," said Angel.

            "Is there something I can do for you?"

            "Yeah.  I need a book."

            "A book?  What book?"

            "Watcher diaries, maybe."   He crossed his arms and looked away, more than a little uncomfortable.   "Something with . . . stuff about me--"   He broke off.  "Buffy said I have a tattoo.  Do I have a tattoo?"

            Giles couldn't hold back a smile.   "You didn't know?"

            "I don't remember getting it.   And if it's on my back . . .well, I can't exactly see it."

            "Ah."  Giles bent and sorted through the books he'd knocked on the floor, picked one from the pile.  "There's a picture in here.   It's how I identified you."  He paged through the book, then handed it to Angel.   "Here."

            Angel took the book, stared at the black line drawing.   He recognized the gryphon.  He remembered drawing it, remembered the monastery.   He swallowed, forcing back images of kneeling monks begging for mercy, of his own hands jerking their heads back.   Of the hot blood in his mouth.

            Darla.  He'd given the pictures to Darla.  She had done this to him.  A farewell gift, he suspected.  And now another memory--of her disintegrating into dust, dead at his own hand.

            He closed his eyes a moment, collecting himself.   Suddenly he realized his hand was shaking.   He laid the book back down.

            "Angel, are you all right?"   Giles had taken off his glasses and was eyeing him with some concern.

            "Yeah.  Yeah, I'm good.  Thanks."

            He took his time going home.   Even his apartment had memories of her now, because she'd been there.   He couldn't get away from her.  Even now, after killing her himself, he couldn't get away.

            It was a nasty thing he'd discovered about the past.   It never stopped coming back.


This story was written for the "Inking Angelus" Summer Contest series at City of Angel.  According to their rules, the story belongs to them.  But they didn't give it any prizes, so here it is so you can read it.  Snerk.  :-)