She'd told him to go, but as Spike hurried away with their daughter, Buffy had to fight the urge to call him back. She wanted to kiss him, to wash away the lingering feel of Angel's lips against her own. She wanted to hold him close, cuddling and petting as she explained exactly what had happened and soothed away the hurt. She also kind of wanted to punch him in the nose for not having more faith in her, but she understood it had more to do with his history with Angel than with her. There wasn't time for any of that, though, and she had the horrible feeling something bad was going to happen and she'd never get the chance for it.
"What happened to you?" Fred's voice suddenly asked, accompanied by what sounded like a herd of elephants thundering up from the basement. It was almost enough to drown out the sound of the damn alarm.
Buffy turned towards Angel's team just in time to see Wesley flip a switch. In the resulting silence, Angel mumbled something about falling down the stairs. She stared at him incredulously. He was claiming he fell down the damn stairs? He'd forced a kiss on her, mild sexual assault at the very least, and he was trying to use a common excuse given by battered women to explain the injuries he damn well deserved?
He probably thinks he's the victim in all of this, she thought in disgust. Poor, noble Angel, just trying to save the silly little woman from her mistakes. The – what was it Spike liked to call him sometimes? – gormless tit was lucky that a bunch of heavily armed commandos burst into the lobby at that moment, because "the stairs" were more than ready for a second round.
"Where's Darla?" the man apparently in charge demanded, pointing a nasty looking gun at Angel. It wouldn't kill him or anything, but the same couldn't be said of the other guns pointed at the rest of them.
"I, too, would like the answer to that question," a man said, coming in behind the commandos with a sword in hand.
He was dressed in a seriously ancient style, but he didn't set off Buffy's vampire tinglies. She thought he must be with the commando types, but the leader half-turned at the sound of his voice, scowling.
"Who are you?" he barked, gesturing at some of his men. They immediately turned their guns on the newcomer while the others kept theirs solidly aimed at her and Angel's team.
"Holtz?" Angel whispered in stunned disbelief.
"I'm here for Angelus and Darla," the Holtz guy said, fearlessly walking through the group of armed men.
Instead of answering right away, the guy in charge frowned slightly and put one hand up to his earpiece. "Understood," he said into the little microphone dealy connected to it. Then he aimed his gun at the old fashioned guy.
Before he could fire, the man moved, somehow, impossibly, slicing the gun – and the one pointing it – in half.
Angel stared at the ghost from his past in stunned disbelief as Holtz cut a swath of death with some kind of magically enhanced blade. It was able to both cut through guns and easily deflect bullets fired from assault rifles, things Holtz shouldn't have been able to do with a normal sword, no matter how well crafted. Unable to fully processes everything just yet, Angel's mind focused on the weapon, wondering where he could get one like it for his collection.
Sudden pain exploded through his chest, shredding the strange, surreal quality of the battle. There was noise and chaos as everything happened at once, and, while they were mainly focused on Holtz, bullets were flying fast and free. A quick look around showed that his people were diving for cover, but Buffy had idiotically jumped into the fray, ducking and dodging in an almost preternatural display of situational awareness.
She was the Slayer, a mystical warrior with a sacred duty to fight things far scarier than guns. Angel had the sudden feeling that the full implications of that had never quite fully clicked, that they were circling around and around, almost…. He shook it off with a low growl as he vamped and forced his battered, gunshot body to move. Slayer or not, she was still just a mortal girl with no protection from bullets.
She turned at his call, then winced and spat out a random British swear as a bullet clipped her arm. It wasn't like in the movies or TV. Even a graze was a violent assault on the body of a human that was likely to send it into shock. Buffy, though, with a glare like it was somehow all his fault, seemed to shrug it off and go right back to bending gun barrels and bashing heads.
"Abort mission! Abort!" someone was shouting, and the gunfire ceased as the commandos who could still get away did so.
Holtz watched them for a moment, then turned away, his gaze fixed solidly on Angel. "Angelus," he hissed, taking a step forward.
Then Holtz's eyes rolled up into the back of his head and he fell to the floor as Buffy hit him in the head.
"He shouldn't be here," Angel said, sounding oddly numb and distant. He and Buffy were watching over their prisoner while Fred and Wesley worked on research in the office and Cordy and Gunn searched for cleaning supplies. "He's from my past. Far in my past. Before the soul…."
They'd already done a rough cleanup of the hotel. There were still pools and smears of blood, but the bodies had been unceremoniously dumped down into the sewers, something Buffy hadn't exactly been thrilled about though she knew they hadn't had many other options. They'd even dealt with the dead guy outside near a couple of cages marked "Mama" and "Baby" and had slain the Grapplar demons who had apparently murdered him. The men who had just been knocked out had been tied up and left at the police station. All except for the guy from Angel's past, who was currently tied up on the lobby couch.
"His name is Daniel Holtz. He was a vampire hunter two-hundred years or so ago," Angel continued. "He chased after me and Darla for a while. We eventually slaughtered his family. Even the baby. And his little girl…. We turned her. We, uh," he had to stop to clear his throat, "we thought it would be… funny for him to find her like that and have to stake her."
Buffy looked from him to the unconscious man, feeling sick. God, no wonder he'd done whatever it was that had let him live this long. If Angel had harmed so much as a hair on Thursday's head, she'd have done whatever it took to make him pay, and that was with him having his soul. She felt kind of bad for knocking Holtz out. Yeah, he had just killed a bunch of people, but they hadn't exactly been innocents, and it had sort of been self-defense.
As if he could sense the weight of her stare, Holtz stirred and slowly opened his eyes. Good. Once they got this guy figured out, she could go get Spike and Thursday.
"Angelus," he slurred, immediately struggling in his bonds.
"Hey, hey, it's okay," Buffy said, trying to be soothing. "You've been through a lot, I get that, but this isn't Angelus. Not anymore."
Once, she would have been completely behind that statement, but now it seemed uncomfortably close to hypocrisy. Spike had his soul, but he was still Spike. The evil inside of him – which he had already been keeping tightly leashed because of his love for her and Thursday – had been very much tempered by a soul that she considered innocent of all he'd done after being turned. That's what Angel should have been, too, but he'd disassociated so thoroughly that, other than sharing a lot of basic traits, he and Angelus could almost be considered two separate beings.
"He has a soul now," she explained.
"And why should I believe the words of his latest she-demon?" Holtz asked coldly. He glared past her at Angel. "Where is Darla? Has she cast you aside?"
"Darla's not here, and also, I'm not a demon," Buffy said, trying to get his attention back on her. He didn't seem exactly sane when he was looking at Angel. The look he gave her was clearly disbelieving, which she couldn't really blame him for, considering he'd seen her in action. "Have you ever heard of the Vampire Slayer? One girl in all the world, chosen to fight vampires and things that go ugly in the night? Yada yada?"
The look turned startled. "You? Truly you are the Chosen One?"
In answer, she pulled her cross necklace up out of her shirt and held it in her hand. "No burning."
"A soul, you say?" His gaze drifted back to Angel. "As if such a thing makes up for the evil he has done. Untie me so I may end this monster, if you will not. I demand justice."
"There is no justice," Angel said quietly. "Not for the horrors inflicted on you." He took a sudden deep breath. "Still human. I don't know how you're here, but it can't be because of anything good."
"For two hundred years, I slept." Holtz's eyes blazed as he began to struggle again to get free. "For two hundred years, I dreamt of nothing but the moment I would once more have you and your demon bitch within my reach. And if justice cannot be claimed…."
He surged up to his feet, the ropes falling away and the knife he'd apparently used to cut them in his hand. A stake was fished out of a hiding place by the other hand as he lunged at Angel, knocking him to the ground and pinning him to it with the knife through his shoulder. He held the stake up over Angel's chest.
"… then I shall settle for vengeance!"
"Hey! Back off!" Buffy yelled, grabbing Holtz by the wrist and yanking him to his feet. She was vaguely aware of a phone ringing and Cordy's recorded voice playing on the answering machine, but that so wasn't important at the moment. "I'm a parent too, I know how much what he did to you has to hurt, but he's a good guy now. Kind of a self-centered ass, sometimes, but really, he is."
"Hey, guys, I know you're probably really busy," Lorne's voice said over the answering machine, "but you really need to pick up. Darla's here at the club. It's been a chore getting any kind of sense out of her – she keeps babbling that she can't have this baby, for some reason – but, uh… Spike and Thursday aren't here. Wolfram & Hart have them."
Wolfram & Hart have them. Wolfram & Hart have them…. The words swirled through Buffy's brain, lacking any meaning for one split second. And then it sunk in. Oh god. Wolfram & Hart, Evil Incorporated, had her pregnant boyfriend and their baby. Rage and fear rose up in a tidal wave inside of her, crashing down and wiping everything else away.