Disclaimer: I own nothing. Characters from Buffyverse all belong to Josh Whedon. Just writing this for my own amusement.
HEY EVERYONE! After an extremely long posting hiatus, I'M BACK!
So, first things first. If you have not read "The Butterfly Effect", it would be really beneficial for you to read that first, otherwise you might not understand some of the backstory. It's not a long story. (Only six chapters!) So go read that first if you haven't already, or if you just need a refresher, because hey, it was two years ago, and then come back to this.
Okay, now, to the matter of this story…I'm so excited to be posting this! I've been working on this story on and off for quite a long time now. When I first came up with the idea of "The Butterfly Effect", I hadn't planned on writing a sequel, but as I wrote more of Cleveland Buffy and Wishverse Angel, I decided that I really wanted to see where their relationship would go. Then I got this great idea…
Also, a quick note about the timeline. I looked back on the airdates and "The Wish" aired sometime in early December, so even though "Dopplegangland" aired in February, I will be going with the December timeline since technically, that's what month it should be in this universe. Plus, the timeline is real important to the plot. You'll see why…
One more thing. I've decided to post this story as a "season", meaning that there will be 22 "episodes" building up to a finale, and the episodes are much longer than the normal chapters I post. Most of the episodes average around 9,000 words. If you are a slow reader, like me, reading this might take a while, so get comfy. And this story is complete. Updates will be posted weekly! Just like a regular season…new episodes every week. ;)
Okay, I think I am done with my many author's notes. Enjoy!
You are now entering Wishverse. Everything is different because of one thing: Buffy came to Sunnydale two years later.
"Welcome to the (Cleveland) Hellmouth"
The door creaked as the teenage boy entered the old house, dodging the spider web in the doorway.
"Hello?" he yelled out. "Anyone home? Old Lady McGarrity?"
He laughed as his voice echoed throughout the empty house. No one was home. Not that he expected to find anyone here, but he'd heard the stories about strange things happening at this house.
A cold wind blew in from the hole in the front window, and he rubbed his hands together and blew hot air on them in an attempt to keep warm. Maybe he'd start a fire. He then laughed. No need to. As soon as the gang got here, especially Kristin, he was sure they'd be generating their own heat in here.
A squeaking sound startled him. He relaxed when he realized it was only a little mouse. Hopefully it would be gone before the girls and Dustin got here. He could see the girls freaking out about that.
He checked his watch, and while he waited for his friends, he explored around. Not much to see, just a bunch of junk and trash. The place looked to be in pretty bad shape. He wondered why they didn't just tear this place down, then thought maybe it was a good thing they hadn't. It made for a great place to hang.
As he continued to explore, he heard a creaking sound from somewhere inside the house, and the boy moved toward the direction of the sound. "Dustin? That you?"
"Yo, Dustin! In here, man!"
He heard the creaking sound again, as if someone was walking on old, wooden floorboards. As he approached the far room, the sound was getting louder.
A loud, crashing sound was heard, as if someone had thrown a very heavy object.
"Hey! Who's there?" He ran down a long hallway and to another room, trying to find where the sound had come from. It was hard to tell what could have possibly made the sound. There were a lot of heavy looking objects strewn about this place.
He heard the creaking sound again, somewhere from behind him this time, and he backtracked.
"Okay, you guys, very funny. Ha, ha. You can come out now. You're not scaring me." But the truth was, he was a little scared. He heart quickened its pace as he made his way to another part of the house.
He thought he heard a growling sound. An animal maybe? Yes, he thought, breathing a sigh of relief. Just an animal. What else could it have been?
As he turned around to go back into the main room, he saw the hulking figure standing in the doorway, blocking his way out. He took one look at its snarling teeth, bulging eyes, and razor-sharp claws, then screamed…
The windshield wipers of the taxi squeaked intermittently as the driver pulled up to the curb. Angel looked out the window, seeing the darkened window of a bookstore in front of them.
"Here we are," the driver announced. He looked toward the back, and Buffy handed him a wad of folded bills.
"Thanks. Keep the change."
The driver nodded, and Buffy opened the door and hopped out of the backseat. Angel slid across the seat, following her, pausing momentarily to collect his duffel bag. He had been relieved to find that most of his belongings at his old apartment were still there. He was especially glad to be reunited with his leather jacket again. And feeling the cold wind whip across his face, he had a feeling he was going to need it. They definitely weren't in California anymore. California never got this cold…
They'd been lucky to get here so early in the morning, all flights amazingly on time. Even luckier was the fact that it was an overcast, rainy morning, buying Angel some time to get to Buffy's place before the sun burned him to a crisp.
"Come on, we better get inside," Buffy said, nodding toward the building. "Out of the rain, and you know, before the sun and all."
"You live in a bookstore?" Angel asked, confused as they seemed to be walking in that direction and seeing nothing but businesses on this street.
"No, in the back. There's an apartment upstairs. My watcher runs the store."
Angel followed Buffy around back where there were stairs leading up to a door. Buffy raced up the steps and dug into her pocket for a key. Seconds later, she was inside. She shucked off her jacket and hung it by the door.
"Well, this is my place." Buffy glanced behind her, seeing Angel still standing outside on the landing. "Are you going to keep standing out there in the rain or are you coming inside?"
"You have to invite me in first."
"Oh! Right, sorry! Forgot. Come in!"
Angel walked through the threshold, glad to be out of the cold rain, and closed the door behind him. He wiped his feet on the floor mat, realizing seconds later that it probably didn't matter. There appeared to be dirt on the floor anyway.
"Sorry this place is a mess," Buffy apologized. "I wasn't exactly expecting any visitors when I left."
"So, want the grand tour?"
Angel glanced around at the small studio apartment, wondering what she could possibly show him that he hadn't just seen for himself. "Grand tour?"
Buffy nodded. "Living room slash bedroom slash kitchen slash dining. All one room. The bathroom's right over there, next to a very tiny closet, and…" Buffy opened an accordion-style door. "Stackable washer/dryer. Comes in handy when there's a lot of blood on my clothes."
"It's a nice place."
Buffy rolled her eyes. "Oh please, you don't honestly believe that, do you?"
"Well, it is a little small," Angel admitted.
"Small doesn't even cut it. Cramped is more like it. But it's rent free, so I can't really complain."
"Your watcher pays the rent?"
"Yeah. Or the Watchers Council does. I don't know…someone, just not me. Wes used to live here but then he moved out and let me stay here." Buffy stared at Angel, realizing he still stood by the door with his duffel and leather jacket.
"You can put your stuff wherever. There's some hooks by the door and hangers in the closet."
"I'm going to take a shower if you don't mind. That TV there on top of the dresser gets cable. There's stuff in the fridge but I guess that doesn't matter to you actually. Sorry, fresh out of blood. You could sleep on the couch. Just make yourself at home. And…oh, you might want to keep those curtains closed. It faces east and it can get pretty bright in the mornings. So…will you be alright?"
Angel gave her a smile. "I'll be just fine."
Buffy quickly grabbed some clean clothes from the chair that she hadn't put away yet, and disappeared behind the bathroom door. Once enclosed in the small room, she leaned against the door, laughing at the fact that she was now living with a guy. Well, not that anything romantic would be happening between them, and he was vampire on top of that, but still. Her mother was probably rolling over in her grave.
She wondered how Wesley would react.
After her shower, Buffy felt much better. She was glad to be home after several hours stuck in a plane thousands of feet up in the air.
She was surprised to find Angel wasn't sleeping, or even watching TV for that matter. Instead, he was sitting on the couch reading. He looked up when he noticed her and smiled.
"Maybe you and Wes will get along after all."
"Nothing. Just that Wes likes to read a lot too."
"I figured I'd better brush up on my demons," Angel said, closing the book but marking his place. "From all the stories you told me about Cleveland on the plane, sounds like we could run into just about anything around here. Good thing I brought this book from my collection."
"There's more books downstairs. I could show you later."
"If you want to take a shower, it's all yours. I promise I didn't use all the hot water."
"That would be great actually."
Buffy watched as he gathered a few items and headed into the bathroom, secretly hoping she hadn't left anything embarrassing out in the open. The sound of someone coming up the steps though interrupted her thoughts.
Buffy looked through the peephole, seeing Wesley standing outside, and opened the door.
"Good morning," he said, wiping the wetness from his loafers onto the mat before stepping inside.
"Wes. What brings you by so early in the morning?"
"I called the airport and heard your flight had already landed. I figured you'd be home by now. Were you able to help Mr. Giles?"
Buffy nodded. "Yeah. Took care of a master vamp for him."
Wesley's eyes grew wide. "A master vampire? I thought he needed help with a demon!"
"Yeah, that was the least of his problems."
"Very well then. Good job. Now, I've come—" The sound of the shower turning on interrupted Wesley's train of thought. He hadn't realized Buffy had company, but now that he took a look around the apartment, he saw there were obviously a few additional items lying around: a duffel bag, a leather jacket, a pair of shoes obviously not Buffy's size by the door.
"You have company. Male company evidently."
"He's…just a friend."
"Do you really think now is a good time to have friends over?" Wesley asked in a hushed tone.
"Don't worry, he's cool. He knows I'm a slayer so you don't have to whisper. So what were you saying?"
"Ah, yes." Wesley pulled out a folded newspaper from his pocket and handed it to Buffy. "Take a look at this."
Buffy glanced at the picture on the front page and read the headline. "'Missing Teenage Boy'." She thought he looked familiar. Probably someone she'd seen at school before.
"This is the fourth teenager that's gone missing in a month. That young man has been missing for several days now."
Buffy rolled her eyes, handing the paper back to him. "Wes, sometimes teenagers run away."
"Yes, and sometimes, demonic forces are involved."
"You always think demonic forces are involved."
"When you live on a hellmouth, yes, most of the time, they are. Now, take a look at this." Wesley handed her a photograph depicting a large, dilapidated house. "There's an abandoned house on Wood Forest Drive. I overheard some of the local teenagers that frequent the shop whispering about it. From what I gathered, all four of the missing teenagers went to this house at some point."
"Wes, just about every teenager I went to high school with has been to this house, myself included. It's just a place to hang."
"You've been there before?"
"When I first came here, yeah. I wanted to fit in, and some girls invited me to a party there. Of course, some vampires had to ruin it…"
"Did you notice anything out of the ordinary about the place?"
"Other than the vampires? No, not particularly. Just a few smashed windows and some graffiti. But that's pretty typical in an abandoned place, right?"
"Well, nevertheless, I think it warrants an investigation. I want you to go there and see if you can find anything suspicious."
"Wes, can't we just leave this to the cops? I'm a slayer, not a detective."
"Part of being a good slayer is realizing when something is amiss. I expect a full report when I get back."
"Get back? You going somewhere?"
"Cincinnati. I must drive down there to retrieve a much needed book for my collection."
"Just can't wait to read it, huh?" Buffy quipped.
"I should be back sometime this afternoon or evening," Wesley said, ignoring her comment. "Will your…friend still be around?"
"Yeah, I'll introduce you."
Angel stepped out of the bathroom with a fog of steam billowing out from behind him. Buffy felt her heart quicken its pace as he buttoned his shirt. His hair was still damp from his shower, and it was, quite honestly, a good look on him.
Buffy silently chided herself. What was she thinking? Yes, he was attractive, but thinking of Angel in that way was pointless. Nothing would be happening between them, at least not in this reality. So why couldn't she stop thinking about him?
The corner of Angel's lip lifted in a smile. "You didn't hear me?"
"I'm sorry. Just lost in my thoughts." Or distracted.
"I was just wondering where to put this?" He held up the wet towel in his hand.
"Oh, there's a hamper by the closet. You can just toss it in there. You missed Wes by the way."
Angel tossed his towel in the hamper, turning his attention to Buffy. "Did you tell him about me?"
"Not exactly. I'll introduce you later. He's going to be out of town today so he won't be around to bother us."
The phone rang, and Buffy walked over to the nightstand, moving an empty bag of chips to find the phone. "Hello?"
While Buffy talked on the phone, Angel went about opening his duffel bag, deciding he should at some point take his clothes out or they would get wrinkled. He hadn't brought everything…only what would fit in his bag. Perhaps he'd have to get a few more shirts later. He had just been opening the closet door when Buffy slammed the phone down.
"Is everything alright?" he asked her.
"I totally forgot I have work today!" Buffy moved in front of Angel, grabbing a uniform out of the closet, and headed straight to the bathroom. She left the door cracked, talking to Angel as she hurriedly changed her clothes. "That was Mandy. She's another waitress at the diner I work at. She said if Joe finds out I'm late again I can kiss my job goodbye."
Buffy came out of the bathroom a few moments later, transformed into a waitress uniform, which consisted of a short dress, a white apron, and a name tag on the front. She grabbed a ponytail holder from the nightstand and proceeded to pull her damp hair back when she saw Angel staring at her.
"Don't laugh," she warned him.
"I wasn't going to." He smiled though.
"Look, I'm sorry, but I've got to run."
Buffy ran to the dresser, grabbing a purse and throwing her wallet, pager, and keys into it. "So just make yourself at home. I'll be back when my shift is over…whenever that is." Buffy grabbed her coat from the wall hook and threw it over her arm, then raced out the door, slamming it behind her.
The apartment was quiet with Buffy gone, the hum of the refrigerator the only sound. Peeking out the curtains, the sun was just starting to break through the clouds, and Angel pulled the curtains together a little closer.
His curiosity got the better of him as he walked around Buffy's small apartment. You could tell a lot about a person by the things they had.
Jewelry was scattered on the dresser in a haphazard manner. Necklaces were tangled and spilling out of the jewelry box. Earrings were missing their backs. Rings were tossed in a pile. Among the varied jewelry were several stakes, some broken, and a fierce looking knife along with a lone crossbow arrow.
In the small dinette area, a soiled paper plate lay on the table next to an empty soda can. A few balled up candy wrappers were on the floor, having not quite made it to the trash can they were sitting next to.
On the floor next to the bed, a stuffed pig was half-hiding under a bed sheet, which was half on the bed, half off. Angel picked the stuffed animal up, smiling at the fact that a tough girl like Buffy still slept with a stuffed animal, then placed the pig on the bed next to the pillow.
Then, on the nightstand, he saw a framed photograph. He picked it up, seeing a younger Buffy next to a woman with a warm smile. He remembered this was her mother. He'd seen her a few times in L.A. when he had secretly been watching Buffy, but he had never spoken to her. It was obvious from the picture that she and Buffy had a close relationship, and Angel knew that losing her must have been difficult.
Angel placed the photograph back, feeling pain for the loss and suffering that Buffy had endured when he wasn't around. She was no longer that innocent and timid teenage girl. She was a warrior, hardened by the events that shaped her life here.
Buffy's shift ended later than she wanted it to, and when she finally got off from work, she was starving. She hadn't had breakfast that morning, and for lunch, she scarfed down a hamburger on her break. Buffy picked up some food from a fast food joint on her way home. It was only a little after six-thirty, but with the time change, it was darker and felt much later.
As the bookstore came into view, she noticed it was still closed and realized that Wesley must not be back yet. Buffy made her way around to the back and plodded up the stairs. She wondered if Angel was bored out of his mind, having had to be cooped up in her tiny apartment all day.
When she opened the door, she found Angel exactly where he had been earlier: on the couch and engrossed in a book. Angel closed the book and looked up, smiling at her. "You're home."
"Oh my god. This place looks…clean." Buffy surveyed her tiny apartment, amazed that she could actually see her furniture. She knew her place had been a disaster when she left it with piles of laundry, trash, and junk everywhere. But now, everything was neat and orderly. The bed was made. The trash had been taken out. The dishes were clean. The carpet had been vacuumed. Even her clothes had been put away, and she was willing to bet everything was folded in her drawers instead of crammed in there like she normally did.
"I did a little cleaning," Angel admitted, smiling at her. "You've been so nice letting me stay here. I thought I'd help out a little."
"You must think I'm such a slob."
"No, I just think you're busy and don't have time to clean."
"You didn't have to do this…but thank you."
Buffy placed her food and drink on the table and headed to the refrigerator.
"Oh I…" Angel watched as Buffy stood in front of the open refrigerator, staring at the contents inside. "…went to the butcher's. Sorry about that."
Buffy grabbed the bottle of ketchup and waved it off. "It's okay. I just…was surprised to see it is all."
"I tried to put it in the back so it would be out of the way, but I can put it on a lower shelf if you want me to."
"Angel, it's okay. The sight of blood doesn't bother me. I'm sort of used to it, you know?" At least, it didn't bother her most of the time…
The phone rang, and Buffy, grateful to have an excuse to end this awkward moment, grabbed it from the nightstand. "Hello?"
"Buffy, it's Wesley."
"I know it's you, Wes. Your British accent is kind of a dead giveaway."
"I'm going to have to stay in Cincinnati overnight I'm afraid. The weather's deteriorating a little sooner than I had hoped. The roads are far too dangerous to drive. I won't be able to make it back to Cleveland until sometime tomorrow."
"Did you check out that abandoned house yet?"
"No, Wes, I haven't checked out the house yet. I had this thing today. It's called a job. Kind of haven't gotten around to it yet."
"Oh, very well then. You can check it out when you go for patrol tonight."
"Was planning on it."
"Alright then. I will see you sometime tomorrow."
"Okay…bye." Buffy hung up the phone and looked at Angel. "Wes is stuck in Cincinnati. Bad weather."
"What was that about a house?"
"Oh, that? Just my latest assignment. Funny, I'm not in school anymore and yet, I still feel like I have homework." Buffy sat down at the table and began taking out the contents of the fast food bag. "There's this abandoned, run-down house in the city, and there's been a rash of local teenagers gone missing. Wes thinks there's a connection. He wants me to check it out. You interested in going to check it out with me?"
Angel smiled. "It's what I'm here for."
"So, where do vampires hang out in Cleveland?" Angel asked as they walked side by side down the street.
"Oh, you know, the usual places vampires usually hang: graveyards, sewers, abandoned warehouses. They usually avoid the touristy places. Too many people. But the bad parts of the city are crawling with them."
A few blocks away, they came to an intersection. Buffy crossed the street and turned right. "I usually patrol around this neighborhood."
Angel looked at the houses on this street, all of them old and most in bad or poor condition. "Well it certainly looks pretty bad here. It wouldn't surprise me to find a few unsavory types around here."
"Did you know that Cleveland is one of the most dangerous cities in America?"
Angel shook his head.
"Of course, most of the violence comes from vampires, but the newspapers don't say that. Cleveland's dirty little secret." Buffy cut through a yard. "Let's go this way. I know a shortcut."
Angel followed her, passing a fenced-in backyard with a dog. He barked when he saw them, but no neighbors stuck their heads outside to see what the commotion was.
Behind the house and just beyond a few trees, a graveyard came into view.
"I thought we were going to a house."
"We are." Buffy made her way through the maze of headstones. "This is on the way though. And usually it's pretty active here. In fact, see that crypt over there?"
"Let's go check it out."
Angel followed Buffy to the crypt. They stopped just outside, and Buffy reached for the door, opening it to a crack. Angel could hear a small group of vampires inside, and felt impressed at Buffy's assumption that there would be action here.
Buffy reached for the stake in her back pocket and flashed Angel a smile. Then, she charged in.
"Okay boys! And…girl," she added when she saw the lone female vampire. "I'm finally here. Did I miss anything?"
"What's the slayer doing here?" one of them asked.
"Just ruining everything, as usual," replied the female.
"That's right." Buffy ran to her, launching herself into a fight.
Angel followed suit, throwing his fist into another vampire's face.
Buffy grabbed the female vampire's hair, making her shriek seconds before burying the stake into her chest. Her work, however, wasn't done, as two male vampires set their sights on her.
"Oh, I'm sorry, was that your girlfriend? I'm not sorry for killing her. I'm just sorry because you could have done so much better."
Angel stole a glance at Buffy as she hit one vampire with her elbow and kicked the other one with the heel of her boot. She took on the two of them as if they were nothing. She was an impressive fighter. He turned his attention back to his own opponent, slamming the vampire against the wall. He had a stake handy in his pocket, and while the vampire struggled to free himself, Angel reached for it and buried it in his chest.
Meanwhile, Buffy kicked one of her attackers, sending him flying across the crypt. When he landed to the floor with a thud, Buffy ran over to him and held him down with her boot. "Any last words?"
The vampire snarled at her, and Buffy simply dusted him.
Another vampire happened to arrive at that moment, having not expected to see fighting going on here. He charged at Angel in full game face while Buffy took on her second opponent.
Buffy slammed her vampire against a tombstone and stunned him several times with her fist. He shunned away at her cross necklace, which dangled dangerously close to his face. "Had enough? No, want more?" She picked him up and proceeded to throw him down on the floor, then reached for another stake in her pocket. He was soon dust as well.
Angel continued to fight the last vampire. He ducked as the vampire threw a punch at him. Angel returned the gesture by hitting him in the jaw.
While they fought, Buffy crept up behind the vampire, plunging her stake in his back with enough force to reach his heart, and the vampire exploded into dust before Angel.
"And another bites the dust," she quipped.
"You're a good fighter," Angel said.
"Do you always do that when you fight?"
"Taunt your victims and make jokes?"
"Oh, that?" Buffy laughed. "Yeah, I like to pun. Come on, let's get out of here. The house is this way."
After leaving the graveyard, they passed a few more seedy neighborhoods before approaching the street. "This is it," Buffy said, pointing to the sign. "Wood Forest Drive."
"I don't see the house."
"The house is in a wooded area, sort of out of view. Private. Probably why everyone at school loved it. It's just up ahead, past that funny-shaped tree."
They walked about thirty yards, arriving at a clearing, and finally, the grand house came into view. The white paint was chipped, the exterior worn from years of neglect. Most of the windows in view were smashed, or at least cracked. Graffiti marred the house's majestic image more, initials of those who had been here, or sometimes, gang markings.
"Wow, beautiful house," Angel said. "Or at least, I imagine it used to be."
"Yeah, shame huh?"
"Why would a house like this sit abandoned for so long?"
"Well, if the story I heard is right, it used to belong to this old lady. She was kind of eccentric in her ways. Anyway, she never married, never had any kids, and when she died, she left this place to a nephew in Florida. He doesn't seem to want to give up the place and yet, he never comes to visit either. So for several years now, it's just been…empty."
They made it to the porch, and Buffy warned Angel to watch his step as the wood here was sagging, rotting from termite damage, then walked through the front door, nearly hanging off its hinges.
Inside, the place was a disaster. Empty beer cans and other trash littered the floor, coupled with a few mouse droppings and dead bugs in the corner. The vandalism was prominent throughout. More graffiti was on the walls inside, and just about everything, from the banister railings to the leftover furniture, was in some state of ruin.
"So, this is where the local teenagers go to have fun, huh?" Angel asked.
"No, they go to the movies and the mall when they want to have fun. This is where they go when they're up to no good. You know, drinking, smoking, loud parties…sex."
"And you know that…how exactly?"
Buffy glanced at him, almost sensing a teasing look in his eyes. "I went to a party here once."
"But you didn't do any of those things, right?"
Buffy smiled at him. "No, of course not. I'm squeaky clean." Buffy laughed. "Okay, I may have had a beer…or two. To be honest though, one party here was enough. I never really did fit in with the Cleveland crowd. The girls only wanted to be my friend because they thought I had some kind of inside connection to Hollywood." Buffy caught the look of confusion on Angel's face. "You know, because I'm from L.A.? And the boys just thought because my name was 'Buffy' and because I was a blonde from California that I must be some kind of ditz who was an easy lay. Now they pretty much all just think I'm a freak."
"You're not a freak."
"Says the vampire with a soul."
"They just don't realize how important you are. If they knew, trust me, they'd be thanking you."
"Well, I wouldn't count on it. There's a pretty rough crowd here in Cleveland."
"So, what are we looking for?" Angel asked, walking around the front room and examining the extent of the damage.
"Anything suspicious. Why don't we check out this floor first? How about you take this side of the house and I'll check the other side?"
Angel nodded, and together, they began to search the house for clues.
Buffy searched around in the kitchen and den areas, not finding anything but a huge mess. Wes always did this to her. He always sent her on these wild goose chases and most of the time, it never turned out to be anything other than a few kids up to no good.
As she headed back to the main room though, she stumbled across something that was odd. Buffy picked up the white object on the floor and examined it closely. It looked like a tooth, and not a human one. Maybe Wes had been right. Maybe something was up here.
"Did you find something?" Angel asked, interrupting her thoughts.
Buffy held up the tooth. "Look at this."
Angel reached for the tooth, studying it for a moment. "A tooth."
"Yeah, but not a human one. Dog maybe?"
Angel shook his head. "No, too large for a dog. But definitely not human. There's blood on it."
"Blood? I didn't see any—"
"I can smell it. Probably a trace amount, but it's there."
"Eww." Buffy took the tooth back, a little wigged out about it now. "Human blood?"
"I'll just put this in my pocket and show it to Wes later. Maybe he'll know what it's from. How about you? Did you find anything?"
"Yeah, I did. Come with me. I want to show you something."
In the foyer, a broken statue stood in the center of the room.
"Where's the rest of it?" Buffy asked.
"The torso and head are over there," Angel said, indicating a spot just behind him. He walked over to the rest of the statue, lying on the floor against the wall.
"Okay, so we've got some extreme vandalism. What's suspicious about it?" Buffy asked.
"Two things. Number one, it would have taken a lot of force to break that statue. And number two, this broken piece was thrown across the room."
"How do you figure?"
"There's a dent in the wall here. It would have taken a great deal of force to put a dent that size there, which leads me to believe that it was thrown."
"Okay, so it was thrown. How is that suspicious?"
"Because, this statue is pretty heavy, even for me. Whoever threw this? They couldn't have been human."
When they arrived back to the apartment, Buffy asked if Angel would like a tour of the book shop. Angel had been curious about the books in Wesley's shop and agreed.
Buffy dug the shop's key that she kept out of her pocket and unlocked the door. Once inside, she flipped on the light switch, illuminating the room.
Angel followed her inside, surveying the shop, its little rows of books all neat and orderly. "What kind of bookshop is this?"
"Pretty much of mix of it all. Books on vampires, werewolves, witches, ghosts, that sort of thing. People just go crazy for that type of stuff. You know, the supernatural?"
Angel ran a finger along the spines of a few books. "I imagine you get a lot of use out of having all of these books at your disposal."
Buffy shrugged. "That's Wesley's gig. Let me show you what I like about this place."
Angel followed Buffy to the back of the store where a staircase led to a basement. Buffy flipped on another light switch as she ran down the steps. At the foot of the stairs, she waited for Angel, then stood back as he looked around.
"This is my workout room. And my mini-arsenal," she joked, nodding toward the weapon's cabinet by the wall.
Angel nodded in approval. "Good-sized space."
Angel walked around, noting the various equipment around. There were mats for floor exercises, a few punching bags, some weights, even a pommel horse towards the back.
"I come down here a lot," Buffy said, following Angel around the room. "Mostly just, you know, to blow off steam or whatever."
"This is a nice set-up you have down here."
"Yeah. I was thinking about those training sessions you offered."
Angel turned around to face her, the corner of his lip turning upwards in a smile. "Oh yeah?"
Buffy smiled back at him. "Yeah." She unbuttoned her jacket, tossing it to the side. "Why don't you show me what you got?"
Angel, in turn, took off his jacket as well. "You sure you're up for this now? You've had a long day. You must be tired."
"Are you kidding me? I'm wired. You're not tired, are you?"
"No, of course not."
"Okay then. So let's do this. Oh, and by the way, I'm totally going to kick your ass."
Angel laughed. "Is that so, huh?"
They had moved to the center of the mat, circling each other, daring the other to make the first move. Buffy finally did, throwing a punch, which Angel promptly ducked.
"Too slow," Angel mocked.
"I'm just getting started."
Buffy faked left and threw another punch, which Angel predicted and effectively blocked.
"Damn," Buffy muttered. "You are good."
"But not good enough." Buffy spun around, delivering a roundhouse kick, sending Angel sprawling to the floor. She stood over him, placing the heel of her boot on his chest, and smirked. "I told you I'd kick your ass."
They sparred for over an hour. By then, Buffy really did grow tired, and Angel finally won a match. Announcing that she was dead on her feet and therefore, ready to go to bed, Buffy made sure the shop was locked before she and Angel headed back upstairs to her apartment.
It had grown colder outside, and Buffy shivered as she checked the thermostat, bumping the heat up a couple of degrees. "This place should warm up in a little bit," she said, looking behind her as Angel unfolded a blanket from the couch. "Oh, I have an extra pillow and blanket. Do you want them?"
Angel nodded. "Sure, that would be nice."
Buffy walked over to the closet where the pillow and blanket were on the top shelf. She stood on her tiptoes, reaching for it, but was unsuccessful. She turned back to Angel, giving him a smile. "It's on the top shelf. Can you get it?"
Angel walked over to where she stood and reached for the blanket and pillow with no effort at all. "One of the benefits of being tall." He winked at her.
"There's a blender in the cabinet above the refrigerator if you ever feel like reaching for that as well. I never use it."
"Good to know."
Buffy watched as Angel walked back over to the couch and began to get ready for bed. "Are you sure don't mind sleeping on the couch?"
"The couch is just fine."
"I'm sorry I don't have a guest room or anything like that."
As Angel set up the couch, Buffy slipped into the bathroom to get ready for bed as well. After putting on her pajamas, Buffy brushed her teeth. She noticed for the first time that Angel's red toothbrush occupied the other slot in the holder. It seemed strange and yet, comfortable too.
When she finished up in the bathroom, Buffy noticed that Angel was already settled on the couch. She quietly, so as not to disturb him, climbed into bed, grabbed Mr. Gordo, and switched off the lamp.
"Do you—never mind."
"No, what is it?"
"I was just going to ask if you snored, but then I realized you probably don't. You know, since you don't need to breathe and all."
Angel laughed softly. "No, I don't snore."
"Angel?" she said again.
Buffy yawned, then settled into her bed, one hand under her pillow, the other around her stuffed pig, and fell asleep within minutes.
Buffy woke up late the next morning. She squinted at the time on her digital clock, and was grateful she didn't have to go into work today. She had double-checked the schedule before she left last night.
She sat up, remembering she had a roommate now, but was surprised when she didn't see him. The blankets on the couch were folded neatly on the cushion, the pillow sitting atop them. She had been about to assume that Angel was in the bathroom, but the door was wide open.
There was no response, and the apartment was quiet save for the hum of the refrigerator and the sound of warm air blowing from the vent above.
"Where did he go?" Buffy asked herself aloud. Deciding that maybe he went out in the night, as he was a vampire after all, Buffy got up from bed and headed to the bathroom. Perhaps Angel had gone out, maybe got lost in the city, or maybe just lost track of time, and was now stuck somewhere until the sun went down.
Just as she flipped on the light in the bathroom, she saw the sticky note on the mirror.
Went downstairs to work out. Didn't want to wake you.
Satisfied that Angel wasn't stuck in some sewer bored out of his mind, Buffy went about her daily morning routine. When she finished in the bathroom, she noticed the red light on her answering machine was blinking. Buffy vaguely remembered the phone ringing but had been in such a deep sleep that she had somehow ignored it. As she grabbed a bowl from the cabinet, she listened to the message, hoping it wasn't the diner telling her to come in today.
"Buffy, it's Wesley. I doubt you'll pick up the phone at this hour but I wanted to let you know that the roads are still a bit icy. I'll wait a few hours before making the drive back to Cleveland. Stop by the shop before you go out on patrol tonight. I'm anxious to hear if you came across anything at that house. I'll see you later."
Buffy rolled her eyes. Wesley's obsession with the house was already getting a little annoying.
After eating a bowl of dry cereal, having discovered she was out of milk, Buffy pulled her hair back, threw on some clothes, and stepped outside. It was a cold, overcast morning, or almost afternoon maybe, and the wind whipped around her, making her shiver. She raced down the stairs and hurriedly made it into the warmth of the shop.
She made her way downstairs to her training room, pausing at the foot for a moment as she watched Angel unnoticed. He stood in the center of the room and made slow, graceful movements through the air. Through the thin material of his shirt, she could see the bulging of his muscles, and chided herself once more for thinking those kinds of thoughts about him. She really had to stop that.
Angel glanced her way, smiling at her as he continued his movements.
"I didn't know you know you were a tai chi expert. Is there anything you can't do?"
Angel reached for his towel and wiped the trace amount of sweat from his face. "Well…I'm not much of a dancer."
"I could remedy that. I'm a very good dancer."
"I hope you don't mind…I let myself in."
"No, I don't mind. You can come here anytime you want. I usually come down here in the mornings to work out too."
"Do you know tai chi?"
Buffy shook her head. "No, not really."
"Would you like to learn?"
Buffy smiled, then nodded. "Okay."
She walked over to the mat and stood beside Angel. He in turn, moved to stand behind her, then took hold of her arms and guided them in a position. "Tai chi is about balance and harmony. Take a deep breath, relax your body, relax your mind, let go of all of the stress and tension."
He guided her arms through the air, raising them up, then bringing them back to the center and slowly bringing them down.
"I didn't know I was going to get a tai chi lesson this morning," she said with a giggle. "You do this often?"
"I haven't in a while, but I'd like to start back. Now, watch me, and do what I do."
Standing side by side, Angel shifted his body, moving his arms and body into another position, then slowly moving his hands back and forth.
"Make your movements slower," Angel instructed. "Like this." He showed her the move again, and Buffy mimicked his movements, slower this time. "Good. I think you're getting the hang of it."
Buffy laughed. "I'm getting the hang of it? You've only shown me like, two moves."
"Yeah, but something tells me you'll be a natural at it."
Later that afternoon, Angel browsed through Wesley's collection of books as Buffy sat at the table, sharping her collection of stakes.
"So, I suppose Wesley will be here soon?" Angel asked.
Buffy shook her head. "Nah, it'll be a while longer. Wesley's a very slow and cautious driver."
"Right, because of the road conditions."
"No, because he's from England. He's used to driving on the left side of the road. He has to make a conscious effort to drive on the right. He's been here for over two years and he still struggles with that."
Angel sat down at the table beside Buffy, placing several volumes of books beside her piles of stakes. Buffy watched with curiosity as he opened one of the books and browsed the table of contents.
"What are you doing?"
"Just curious if anything in Wesley's books can give us a clue at what's going on over at that abandoned house."
"Oh don't tell me you're obsessed with that too."
"Don't you want to know?"
"I don't doubt the trashed house is the work of a demon. But I'm just not so sure it ties in with the missing teens."
"Maybe it does, maybe it doesn't, but until we find out what exactly we're dealing with, we won't know for sure."
"Well whatever it is, think a stake will kill it?" Buffy held up the stake she was working on, the tip sharpened to a fine point.
"I don't think it's a vampire."
Buffy shrugged. "Yeah, well, you'd be surprised at what this thing can kill."
Wesley, his arms laden with several bags of books, unlocked the bookstore and stepped inside from out of the cold. He placed the books on the table and took off his jacket, throwing it over the back of one of the chairs. He was very excited to browse through his new books.
As he took them out of the bags and laid them in piles on the table, he could see Buffy's reaction in his mind already. Yes, perhaps he had gone a bit overboard. Or a lot overboard, but he hadn't been able to resist. He had been an avid reader since he was a boy, and ever since he became a watcher, keeping up to date on the latest in the demon and vampire world was part of his job.
Wesley had been so engrossed in his books that he hadn't realized it was dinner time until his stomach growled. He got up and went to his office in the back, rummaging his desk drawers until he found a granola bar. It would hold him over until he was able to get something more substantial.
When he returned to the table, he saw Buffy standing over the various books he'd brought back. "Are there any books left in Cincinnati?"
"These are all pertinent books, I assure you." Wesley sat back down at the table, closing the book had been reading.
"Sure. The only question now is…where are you gonna put them?" Buffy gazed up to the loft where Wesley kept his "special collection". The shelves were jammed packed with books and not an inch to spare.
"I'll make do."
"Or you'll have to give some away."
Wesley had no intentions on giving up any of his books, though storage was becoming a problem. "So…how are you?"
Buffy shrugged. "Okay I guess."
"Anything troubling come up while I was gone?"
"I ran out of milk this morning."
Wesley gave Buffy a look, telling her he was not amused. "Buffy."
"No, Wes, everything's fine. Cleveland's still standing. It can survive a night without you."
Wesley sighed, hating to be the butt of a joke. "So, what did you find—oh, hello." The appearance of a strange man interrupted him. "We're actually closed right now," he told the man. "You can come back tomorrow at nine am."
"Wes, he's not a customer."
Angel walked over to where Buffy stood.
"Wes, this is my friend. Angel. He's going to be…staying with me for a while."
Wesley looked up at Angel, staring at him for a moment. "You look very…familiar." Wesley frowned, trying to figure out where he'd seen him before. "Have we met? Do we know each other?"
"No, but perhaps in another lifetime."
Wesley's continued to stare at Angel, trying to place him. "Yes, perhaps." But he was sure he'd seen him from somewhere…
"Angel, this is my watcher. Wes."
"Oh, where are my manners?" Wesley asked, standing to his feet and offering his hand. "Wesley Wyndam-Pryce."
"Nice to meet you." Angel shook his hand.
"Cold hand you have there," Wesley said with a chuckle. "So how do you and Buffy know each other?"
Buffy looked at Angel for a moment, unsure how to explain, but Angel began to answer without hesitation. "Buffy and I were in L.A. around the same time. We met up in Sunnydale." Technically, that was true.
"Angel was in trouble," Buffy added. "That master vampire I told you about? He was keeping him prisoner."
Wesley's eyes widened in surprise. "And you survived? You are extremely fortunate."
"Anyway, I helped Angel out, and he helped me in return. So then I invited him to Cleveland. Thought maybe he could help us out."
"Well we could certainly use all the help we can get. We do live on a hellmouth."
"Wes? There's something else we should probably tell you. You just have to promise me you won't freak or anything."
Wesley sighed. "Oh dear, every time you start a sentence with telling me not to 'freak', it means I most certainly will."
Buffy glanced at Angel briefly, then turned back to Wesley. "Angel's not exactly…human."
Wesley smiled. "Buffy, you underestimate me. I'm well aware there are many species of demons that are functioning members of society. Not all are evil. Tell me, Angel, which species are you?"
"I'm not a demon. I'm a vampire."
"With a soul!" Buffy quickly added.
Wesley paused for a moment, staring at Angel, then turned around to head to his office. "A vampire with a soul?" he said mostly to himself. Wesley returned seconds later, a crossbow aimed at Angel. "I knew you looked familiar. I've seen your picture before."
"Wes, no! He's good!" Buffy moved in front of Angel, shielding him from the weapon.
"Buffy, you need to move away from him. He's no angel. Do you have any idea who this vampire is? He's Angelus, and he's very dangerous!"
Angel slowly moved Buffy aside and looked to Wesley, holding his hands in surrender. "I don't want to hurt anyone."
"Then I suggest you turn around and get the hell out of here."
Angel moved an inch closer. "I'm not who you think—"
"Stay back, vampire!"
Angel backed off, and Buffy moved over to Wes and tried to grab his weapon. "Put your crossbow down, Wes! He's not going to hurt either of us! He was cursed by gypsies with a soul and he doesn't hurt people anymore. He actually helps them now. He helped me in Sunnydale."
"He's also very good at mind games, aren't you, Angelus? Torturing and tormenting people, luring them into a false sense of security before you attack? I know what game you're playing, and I won't stand for it, nor will I allow Buffy to be a part of it."
"I'm not playing any games."
"You either get the hell out of here, or I'll kill you myself."
Without another word, Angel turned around and headed toward the door.
But Angel ignored Buffy's pleading and walked out.
Buffy turned to Wesley, her face full of anger. "What the hell are you doing?"
"I'm protecting you from making a foolish mistake."
"You're the one that's wrong! He is good!"
"He's lying to you."
"Why don't you let me be the judge of that?"
"Buffy, you don't understand who you are dealing with! Angelus is a very dangerous vampire!"
"You know what, Wes? I was going to tell you what I found at that house. But now? I don't really feel like helping you! Fight your own damn demons!"
With that, Buffy stormed toward the back door.
Buffy ignored him, letting the door slam behind her.
Wesley put his crossbow down and sighed. "That girl never listens to me." He then walked over to the counter and reached for the phone, dialing the number he had memorized by heart. It rang several times before a groggy voice finally picked up on the other end.
"Hello, this is Wesley Wyndam-Pryce…Yes, I'm well aware of what time it is in London, but this is the of the upmost importance! Send me everything you have on Angelus. I have reason to believe he has made a reappearance. Right here in Cleveland."
When Buffy arrived back to her apartment, she found Angel putting his clothes back into his duffel.
"What are you doing?"
He glanced at her briefly before zipping up his bag. "I think I should leave. I don't want to cause any trouble between you and your watcher."
"Angel, you're not causing any trouble for me. Now put your bag down!"
"I don't care what Wes thinks! Look, he'll come around, okay? I didn't exactly believe you were good at first either, but I know the truth now."
"I'm not really all that good."
"You don't kill humans and you fight the good fight. That's good in my book."
"Yeah, well, Wesley's right about one thing. I was once a very dangerous vampire. I hurt a lot of people."
"Once being the operative word. That was in the past."
"But he's still in me, just beneath the surface." And one moment of perfect happiness…
"Angel, you're talking crazy."
"I just think coming here might have been a mistake."
"Buffy, you don't understand. When we were in Sunnydale, the other Sunnydale, I learned some things. About my curse."
"Right, one moment of perfect happiness and you lose it. The other Buffy told me too."
"So you know—"
"Well are you planning to jump my bones anytime soon?"
Her response was so blunt, catching him off guard. He wasn't sure how to react to that.
"Right, exactly," Buffy said, answering his question for him. "As long as we don't get physical, we don't have to worry about your alter ego making an appearance." Buffy moved closer to Angel. "Look, I know we barely know each other, but I still like to think that we could be good friends. I haven't had a friend in a long time. I used to think I liked working alone, but now I remember how nice it is to actually have someone to talk to. Please don't go, Angel."
Angel gave her a smile, putting his bag back on the couch. "Okay, I won't go."
"But what about Wesley?"
"Don't worry about Wesley. I'll talk to him. After I'm done being mad with him, that is."
Buffy ignored Wesley the next day, letting the machine grab her calls and not coming to the door when he knocked.
"Buffy, I know you're home. Please answer the door."
Angel glanced at Buffy across the room, her attention focused on the television instead of the knocking at the door. "Aren't you going to see what he wants?"
"Nah, just let him sweat it out for a bit. When he needs me to be his slayer again, he'll come around. He always does."
Wesley knocked again. "Buffy, I do have a key to this place, you know. If you do not come out, then I'm going to come in."
Buffy sighed and muted the television. She walked the few steps to the door and threw it open. "What? You're interrupting my show."
"Buffy, I'm concerned for your safety."
Buffy rolled her eyes. "I'm fine."
"Are you sure?"
"I'm breathing, aren't I?"
"Please come downstairs. We need to have a talk."
"You still think Angel is bad news?"
"Well of course he's bad news!" Wesley whispered in a hushed tone.
"Then I don't want to talk."
Buffy closed the door in Wesley's face, locking the chain for extra measure.
"I'm just worried about you," Wesley called out.
He stood outside the door for a few seconds more. Finally, he gave up, and Buffy stood against the door and listened to his footsteps heading back down the stairs.
Angel, concerned, walked over to Buffy. "I feel really bad for coming between you and your watcher."
Buffy smiled. "Don't worry about it. Wes and I always fight. We seem to always have a difference of opinion."
"Well, for what it's worth, thank you for taking my side."
"Buffy said I could trust you, and I do. And I wouldn't lie to myself."
Ever since he and Buffy had visited the abandoned house, Angel had been curious about it. What kind of creature could cause that extent of damage? Who, or what, had that kind of amazing strength? Most demons, Angel knew, were strong by nature, which is why they always made formidable opponents. But something about that house kept nagging at the back of Angel's mind.
The next day, while Buffy continued to ignore Wesley, Angel hit the books, browsing his own collection to see if he could come across anything.
Angel read the description of the Squalor Beast, a demon that often took up residence in houses, warehouses, or any other structure that had been effectively abandoned. The Squalor Beast was quite strong, and it had an appetite for humans, capable of swallowing a human being whole as his mouth was able to expand to the size of its body.
Most of the Squalor Beast's victims were homeless people because they were easy targets, but it wasn't picky. The creature would consume just about anybody as long as it had an appetite. The Squalor Beast would lay low, only emerging when it was hungry. It fed weekly.
Grabbing the latest copy of the newspaper, Angel flipped to the article he had read this morning.
Still No Sign Of Missing Teens
According to the article, the teenagers were all last seen on a Saturday. Going with the theory that the teenagers all went to the house on Saturday, he wondered how likely it was that a Squalor Beast had happened across their path. It wasn't entirely impossible. Suppose the beast came out every Saturday to feed. And that was, unfortunately, one of the most popular times a teenager would go there.
Angel turned the page, intending to bookmark this section for further investigation, when he saw the description of the beast continued. On the top of the page was a drawing of a tooth, actual size, which happened to look very similar to the one Buffy had found at the house. The caption under the picture stated that the Squalor Beast had razor sharp teeth which the demon often would lose during feeding times. However, lost teeth were of no consequence, as its teeth grew back within a week's time.
"You look very...engrossed," Buffy said, interrupting his thoughts.
He looked up at her, seeing her standing in front of him, smiling. "Where's that tooth from the other night?"
Buffy frowned. "I don't know. I can't remember what I did with it. Wait! Yes I do." Buffy opened the hamper and began rummaging around until she found the cargo pants buried at the bottom. "I put it in my pocket. It's probably still there." She dug into the pocket and fished out the tooth. "Here it is."
"Can I see it?"
Buffy walked over to the couch and handed the tooth to Angel. "Why?"
"I want to compare it to the picture in my book." Angel held the tooth next to the illustrated picture in the book. "It's a match. Same tooth. Same size."
Buffy sat down next to Angel, glancing down at the page the book was opened to. "Okay, so what does that mean?"
Angel looked up from his book and met her eyes, frowning. "It means that Wesley was right. There is evil lurking in that house."
"We're going to need weapons. A sword or an axe preferably," Angel said as he made his way down the stairs with Buffy following behind.
"A stake not going to cut it, huh?"
Angel shook his head. "No, not for this demon. It's too strong."
"What makes you so sure this Squalor Beast will attack tonight anyway?"
"It only needs to feed once a week, and according to those newspaper articles, every one of those teenagers that went missing were last seen on a Saturday. And…it's Saturday."
They went through the back door and headed for the weapons cabinet in the basement.
"Will this be alright?" Buffy asked, selecting a sword.
Angel nodded. "That'll be fine." He selected a battle axe for himself. "Come on, let's go."
Angel went up the basement stairs and headed for the back door.
"Wait, maybe I should tell Wes."
Angel paused at the door. "I don't think he's here."
Buffy peered into the office, seeing the familiar sight of open books and scattered papers on the desk. Angel was right…he wasn't here. Buffy shrugged and started to follow Angel, but stopped when she saw Wesley's computer screen.
"Wesley's computer. Look what's on the screen."
Angel looked at the screen, seeing a map accompanied with directions. "Driving directions. To where?"
"That's the address to the abandoned house. Angel, I think that's where Wes might be."
"Of course it has to start raining," Buffy muttered as she and Angel left the bookstore in a hurry.
"Where's your car?"
"Don't have one. Wes says I shouldn't drive."
"He doesn't allow you to have a car?"
"No, I'm just a terrible driver. Look, the house isn't all that far away. We'll just have to walk."
As luck would have it, Angel spotted a cab pulling up to the curb across the street. It stopped, letting the passenger out, and Angel grinned. "Maybe not."
Angel started across the street toward the cab, and Buffy smiled, following him. He tapped on the driver's side glass, and the driver promptly rolled down his window. "Hey, are you on duty?"
"Well actually I—"
"I have cash," Angel said.
"We need you to drive us somewhere. It's not far," Buffy added.
The driver sighed, deciding one more person to drop off wasn't all that bad. "Alright, get in."
Angel grinned. "Thanks." He opened the passenger door for Buffy, allowing her to slide in before getting in himself.
The driver turned his attention to the back. "So where do you kids want me to—" His eyes grew wide as he spotted their weapons. "You two going to battle?"
"These are just props," Buffy said nervously. "Costume party. We're very late. Wood Forest Drive. Can you hurry please?"
Wesley stopped his car when he realized he missed the turn, then backed up. The house was well hidden by trees and therefore, difficult to find. He turned into the narrow driveway, driving a short distance before the grand house came into view. He stopped the car and gazed at the house for a moment, looking eerily like some sort of haunted house at Halloween with a lone streetlight illuminating its shoddy appearance.
Wesley grabbed his flashlight and stepped out of the car. As he made his way to the house, he heard a dog barking somewhere nearby. He then backtracked, going back to the car and grabbing a crossbow from the trunk. Sure, a dog wasn't a vampire, but it never hurt to be prepared. He must have some sort of weapon at his disposal. After all, he wasn't quite sure what he would encounter here.
A light rain began to fall, and Wesley hurriedly made it to the porch before it began to pour, then slowly approached the door. It was nearly falling off its hinges, and it creaked when he opened it. Once inside, he switched on his flashlight, taking in his surroundings.
"Dear lord," he muttered to himself as he surveyed the damage. His flashlight shone on the corner, and a mouse scampered across the floor, making Wesley jump. He knew the rodent was small and was probably more frightened of him than he was of it, but he still did not like it.
Wesley explored around, wandering into the other rooms of the house. The windows had no curtains, and most of the windows were broken as well. Here in one of the side rooms, the streetlight from outside illuminated the room in an orange glow.
He had been about to explore more when he heard a sound. Exiting the room, he passed a staircase he had not noticed before. It led down to a basement, and Wesley shone his flashlight down the stairs out of curiosity. Cautiously, he took one step, then another. When he was halfway down, he heard a distinctive growl.
Yes, there was indeed, something here.
Wesley hurriedly made his way back up the staircase. Whatever was down there, he was certain that going down there, down in the dark, would not only be foolish, but fatal. He turned the corner, realizing in his exploration that he was now turned around and couldn't remember which way led to the exit.
Behind him, he heard footsteps. Someone…or something, was going up the stairs. And whatever it was, it wasn't going at a slow pace either.
Wesley ran down a hallway, turning into another room. He had hoped to find a way to the back door, but the hallway only led to another room. He backtracked, feeling as if he were a mouse in a maze, and turned the other corner. A door beckoned down another hallway, and Wesley ran toward it, hearing the sounds of the footsteps getting closer and closer.
Whatever was in that house…it was after him.
He opened the door, finding himself in a grand room filled with many doors. Where they led to, he wasn't sure. He darted across the stained, oriental rug which lay in the center of the floor, and opened a set of double doors. It led out into a main area, and Wesley breathed a sigh of relief. This looked familiar. He could now find his way out.
As he made his way toward the exit, Wesley stopped in his tracks. Emerging from behind the wall, he finally saw what had been down in that basement.
Wesley dropped his flashlight, but didn't need it much anyway. The outside streetlight illuminated the room, shining on the massive beast which stared at Wesley. The beast blocked the exit and snarled at Wesley, drool foaming at his mouth as he bared his teeth.
Taking action, Wesley held up his crossbow. Every watcher was trained how to use the weapon, even if he or she never went out into the field, and for that, Wesley was grateful. He aimed the weapon between the beast's eyes and took his shot.
The arrow hit the beast square in the forehead, but instead of falling dead, he merely plucked the arrow from the folds of his skin and tossed it aside.
And now, he just seemed angry.
"Okay, so much for plan A," Wesley said to himself, then turned to run. Running was plan B.
The beast gave Wesley chase, snapping at his heels as Wesley ran to another room. Wesley threw his crossbow down, realizing the weapon didn't do him much good now. He had to find another way out of this maze of hallways, but each turn brought Wesley further and further into the recesses of the grand house.
As he ran down another hallway, Wesley grabbed a vase from a nearby table. It was heavy, but not too heavy to throw. Wesley threw it at the beast, stunning him momentarily as it hit him in the shoulder. It bought Wesley a few seconds, but the demon was still closing in.
Finally, Wesley made it back to the main room, the front door beckoning him like the light at the end of the tunnel. But before he could get there, the beast suddenly appeared in front of him, blocking the entrance once again.
The beast snarled and growled once more, inching closer to him. Wesley backed up, only to realize to his chagrin, that he was now backed up against a wall. This was it, Wesley realized. If he was lucky, he could duck and escape. But if he couldn't get away, he was sure that he was doomed.
The beast opened its mouth, stretching it to nearly the same size of its body with its jaw on the floor, and Wesley's eyes widened in surprise. This beast wasn't intending on just butchering him. He planned to eat him whole!
Wesley, ashamed to admit it, was terrified, and shrunk back, cringing as he knew what would happen next. And just before the beast was about to attack, a blur of black leather pushed the beast to the floor. The beast's giant mouth returned to normal size, looking up in surprise, and Wesley was stunned to see who his savior was.
As Wesley got his bearings, he watched as the beast and vampire rolled around on the floor, each fighting to get the upper hand. Finally, the beast managed to get to his feet, picking Angel up as if he weighed nothing, then tossed him across the room.
Buffy appeared in the doorway just in time to see Angel hit the wall with a thud. "Angel!"
"I'm okay!" he said, quickly getting back to his feet.
Buffy, with sword in hand, charged toward the beast, and the beast turned his attention to her, realizing there was new blood in the room. He snarled and snapped with his teeth as he dodged the sharp end of her weapon.
"Wow, snarly and hairy. You demons always get the ugly end of the stick, don't you?"
The beast grabbed Buffy's sword, forcefully snatching the weapon out of her grip and snapped the weapon in two. He growled as he threw the remaining pieces across the room.
"Well that was rude," Buffy remarked, then fell back on her standard fighting tactics.
While Buffy provided a distraction, Angel snuck up behind the beast, wielding his axe as he aimed for the back of its head. The beast, however, sensed his presence and whipped around, grabbing the weapon from Angel's grasp and tossing it across the room.
"Sure likes to throw things," Angel muttered.
Buffy kicked the beast, knocking him slightly off balance, and when he turned his head, Angel took the opportunity to slam his fist into his jaw. The fighting ensued for another moment, with both Buffy and Angel keeping the beast occupied.
Finally, while Angel had him distracted, Buffy reached for the axe on the ground. Charging toward the beast, Buffy sliced its head off in one swift movement. The head splattered on the hardwood floor, then rolled for a few feet, leaving a trail of blood and guts behind it.
"Good thing this place is abandoned," Buffy muttered. "I'd hate to have to deal with cleaning up that." She then looked to Wesley, seeing that he still stood against the wall, a bit shell-shocked, but otherwise alright. "You okay, Wes?"
"That…that thing. It would have killed me."
"It's a Squalor Beast," Angel said. "It needs to feed weekly, and the fact that teenagers often come here on the weekend, coinciding with its eating schedule, that's why those kids have gone missing."
"And I would have been its next meal." Wesley stared at the headless beast lying dead on the floor, then looked up at the vampire standing in front him. Wesley shook his head in confusion. "You saved my life. I don't understand. Why would you do such a thing? Especially after how I treated you earlier."
"You're important to Buffy. And anyway, I wasn't about to let anyone else die."
"Angel was the one who figured it out," Buffy said, stepping over the dead Squalor Beast as she made her way over to her watcher. "We found a tooth here the other night when we scouted out this place. And given the amount of destruction here, we figured only something really strong could have done this. Angel researched it a little further, and he found out the tooth belonged to that dead thing over there."
"You research?" Wesley asked, his curiosity piqued.
"Oh, he's researches!" Buffy said proudly. "He practically drooled when he saw your books."
"You do have an impressive collection," Angel admitted.
"I haven't been able to get this one to crack open a book since she arrived here." Wesley glanced at Buffy, then back at Angel. "Perhaps I was wrong about you."
Buffy raised an eyebrow. "Perhaps? Wes, you were way wrong."
"No hard feelings," Angel said, shaking his head. "I understand your concerns. To be honest, if I were in your shoes, I probably would have reacted the same way."
"Well, I do admit, I could certainly use another researcher around here."
Buffy smirked at Wesley. "See, now do you believe me that he's good?"
Wesley smiled, then turned to Angel. "I believe we got off on the wrong foot. May we, perhaps, try again? I'm Wesley Wyndam-Pryce."
Wesley offered his hand, and Angel accepted it.
"Angel. Pleased to meet you."
The next morning, another dreary one, Angel sat across the table from Buffy in the book shop. He watched as she licked chocolate frosting from her fingers.
"So, what's special about Cleveland?" he asked her.
Buffy, who had just picked up another donut, paused when he asked her this. She shrugged. "I don't know. There's a rock and roll museum."
Angel laughed. "No, I meant about Cleveland being on a hellmouth. Why Cleveland?"
"Oh. Well, I don't know that either." She smiled at him from across the table. "Donut?"
In his office, Wesley listened to their banter, then picked up the telephone. He dialed the number, listening to it ring a few times before someone answered.
"Quentin Travers please...Just let me speak to Travers. He'll take my call…Fine then, would you please deliver a message to him? Tell him I was mistaken about Angelus." Wesley looked at Angel across the room, watching as he stood up from the table and walked over to the book shelf. "It's not the same vampire."
A/N: I hope you all liked the first episode! I really like the dynamic between Buffy, Angel, and Wesley, and it's kind of fun to write about familiar characters in a different place (and different reality!). :)
I will post episode 2 next week and will probably update on Sundays from here on out, so until then, thanks for reading! Would love to hear what you all think of it!