Review Replies: (In order of time of reviews, from oldest to most recent.) I'm putting these in the beginning of the chapter because putting them at the end can make things very confusing; for those of you who don't want to read the replies, you can skip straight to the story.
Ned: I'm glad you like the fic, and I'm definitely going to be writing more.
FerretGirl: Although I couldn't slide Wesley into the first chapter, he'll probably be in Sunnydale soon; and don't worry, I'll make sure he makes a very memorable impression on the Sunnydale crew.
Donna: Thank you; I was thinking along those lines myself. I don't want the pairings to be set in stone until the last few chapters, and until then I'd rather just explore the characters' feelings and the different relationship options available. And yes, Wesley will be a valuable addition to the group, and he'll definitely enhance the dark tone I want to give the next few chapters.
Spike's girl: Wesley and Cordelia are already on their way, but I'm still debating about other (and original) characters; I don't want to crowd the group until the storyline really gets going.
Imzadi: I've considered bringing Lindsey in, but somehow I never liked Kate much and although Lily (a.k.a. "Chantarelle") could bring in an interesting twist to the character setup, I don't think she has much to contribute to the story itself. As for Lilah… we'll see.
Valhalla: You know, I think my ego has inflated more than is good for me since I read your review (which, by the way, my ego and I thank you for). Seriously, though, it's nice to have a few fic-related compliments come my way once in a while – after all, an artist is only as good as her latest work. But anyway, (all ranting aside now) Cordelia will be coming along, but I want her to come to Sunnydale at just the right moment to cause a little dramatic stir. And, unfortunately, Doyle probably won't be coming back; I'm a writer, not a miracle worker.
Evie: I like that you like the story (that was, by the way, meant to be repetitive) and I'm already juggling a few original character ideas. And I can never end a chapter without a cliffhanger; it's just one of those deep-rooted habits that I can't shake off.
Eledwhen: Thanks for stopping by and reviewing; Wesley had to be excluded from the first chapter, but he's in now. And, by the way, I've read your latest; very impressive so far. Personally, I love sequels, but I've unfortunately never been able to write them.
Tariq: Hi; nice to see you stop by again. This is probably the tenth time I write this, but Wesley is coming into the story – and how could you even think I was missing out Spike? It's just not possible to write a good crossover fic without Spike in it. As for the B/A, I'm going to keep the relationships pending for a while, so you never know.
Haley: Cordelia's already on my list of people to bring into the story – she's coming in about the same time Wesley is. As for where they are… that's a secret.
Author's Note: First of all, I'd like to give a huge thanks to everyone who took the time to review; I really appreciated your comments, which is why I put up the review replies. On popular demand, I will return Wesley, and I had already planned to bring in Spike, Faith and Cordelia; they'll all be coming to Sunnydale soon, and this chapter pretty much focuses on all of them but Faith (she's not going to be in for a while).
And I would like to state clearly that this is an Alternate Universe, meaning basically that it doesn't follow the exact plans of the Angel and Buffy TV shows, especially since events in both shows are moving at such a fast pace now that they're finally coming to an end. (It almost hurts to realize it, but it's true… *sigh*.) This also means that, unlike what I said in the first chapter, Cordy hasn't gone missing; what actually happens to her is explained in the following chapter.
And since Chapter I was only an introductory chapter, I kept the toning pretty light; from this chapter onwards I want to really start the story; full detail, full action, as dark as I can make it without turning it into a horror fic.
From now on, there are also three extra features in every chapter; the review question, review replies, and either a few song lyrics, a quote, or part of a poem to enhance whatever mood I'm trying to create for the chapter. It might get a little crowded, but hopefully it won't discourage people from reading the actual story. Sidebar: I've decided to write thoughts in italics ('abc') instead of just in quotation marks ('abc'), since I feel more comfortable that way.
I think that covers just about everything. All right, then, here it goes…I can't find rhyme in all my reason//
I've lost sense of time and all seasons//
I feel I've been beaten down//
By the words of men who have no grounds//
I can't sleep beneath the trees of wisdom//
When your axe has cut the roots that feed them//
Forked tongues in bitter mouths//
Can drive a man to bleed from inside out//
- Creed, "What If"
Chapter II: Whispers In The Dark
There was so… much… pain.
His muscles ached, and every moment made him feel as though they were being ripped from his body, slowly and torturously; his skin was cut and bleeding in several places, and dirt and grime that had already forced its way into the cuts was already starting to infect them, making him flinch whenever something came in contact with them. His left arm was broken, hanging uselessly by his side at a strange, twisted angle, and it gave him excruciating pain to have it moved in even the slightest way.
He had been running, running for days, and his legs were more than sore – they had passed into a sort of painful numbing, as though someone was running over them with a hot poking iron from the inside. He was sweaty and dirty, his tattered clothes barely clinging to his now weakened body, and he could barely breathe because every gasp of air tore his lungs apart.
But she… she was worse. There were bruises on her face and cheeks and a deep gash above her left eye; her lower lip was bleeding profusely from a cut, making it painful for her to even form a word, and vivid, ugly scars covered her legs and back – some made by sharp talons, others by the cruel strokes of a whip. She could barely move, she was so weakened; her hair had been ruthlessly hacked short and was in a wild, dirty tangle, and she had turned pasty and pale, from illness and pain and fear.
But despite all this, despite the fact that they could barely stay alive and it hurt them unbelievably to move, they kept going, forcing their bloodied and beaten bodies to carry them forward, glancing around every now and then with the wild, hunted expressions they had become accustomed to wearing.
And then, suddenly, they heard it.
It was barely a sound, and yet it made them both tremble; it was distant now, but they knew it would be coming closer. It was the sound of something moving over the ground, so swiftly that it could barely be heard; in fact, it could only be heard in complete silence.
The sounds were closer now, and it was like the swift, whispering sound of the wind. But they knew it wasn't the wind.
This was far, far worse.
"They're… coming…" she whispered, the words slurred by her bloody lip. A tear forced its way out of her left eye and slowly traced a path down her grimy, swollen cheek. She was afraid, terrified; a cold, paralyzing sense of despair washed over her, overcoming her broken spirit. "It's… all… over…"
"No," he rasped, reaching out to take her hand. "Don't give up. Just keep going."
She shook her head slowly, and then she sank to her knees on the barren, rocky ground, shuddering violently. She murmured something and then a glazed look came over her face, the glassy, blank look of a person who has given up all hope of living.
"No!" He took her arm and pulled her to her feet. He forced her to look at him, holding her face in his hands. "If you give up, you die," he said fiercely, trying to keep the panic out of his hoarse, choked voice. "We have to keep going."
She nodded, ever so slightly, ever so slowly – and then her eyelids began to flutter and close. The sounds were louder now, and they could already see the dark forms moving towards them; towering, armor-clad, robed forms, gripping swords in their steel gauntlets.
She was slipping away, slipping out of consciousness, and somewhere in the dark recesses of her mind she vaguely wondered what death would be like. And then she remembered someone… a face. The face that had kept her going, kept her breathing all this time. And she was filled with sorrow, because she knew she would never see him again, never hear his voice or feel his touch; he was gone, and he would never know what had happened to her.
Even in her weakened state, hovering between life and death, she managed to whisper his name: "Angel…"
"No! No, don't give up! You have to keep going… you have to keep going, Cordelia!" Wesley's tone really was panicked now, as he fought to overcome the terror that gripped him.
But it was too late. The forms were already there, coming closer, cruel intent glittering in their crimson eyes, the only distinguishable part of their hooded faces. And Wesley knew they were no longer coming to capture them.
They were coming to kill.
And then, suddenly, Angel woke up.
His eyes flew open and he sat up with a quick jolt, the sudden movement of someone shocked out of deep sleep. If he had still been alive, he knew his heart would be thundering and his breathing would come fast and heavy; instead, his skin was clammy with cold sweat and it took him a moment to remember where he was as his eyes flew around his darkened bedroom, where heavy drapes shut out the sunlight.
He had been dreaming… But it hadn't been a dream - it was a complete and total nightmare, so vivid that he still felt shaken by it. It was slipping from his memory now, as he began to calm down; but he remembered seeing Cordelia, and Wesley… they were running from something, and…
Now it was gone, slipping away from him; and although he tried to remember it, it was like trying to keep water from running through his outstretched fingers. All he could remember was Cordelia's voice, whispering his name in a tone so full of sorrow and despair that it made him ache to think about it.
'Is that what's happened to her?' he wondered. 'When she said she wanted to spend some time alone, visit her family, travel… She told me not to worry about her. Said she'd be back in a few months, that she needed to get away from LA…' he could still remember it, every word of the conversation they'd had six months ago.
'I knew it was more than that. She wanted to get away from what her life had become, away from the demons and the turmoil and – away from me. She didn't have to say it. When she and Wesley boarded that plane, they were going separate ways…'
And then an unwelcome thought, one that he'd had several times before, crept into his mind. 'But what if they're still together out there, somewhere? And what if they're not coming back?'
Angel shook the thought away, knowing that he was being paranoid. Cordelia and Wesley were good friends and nothing else; and even if they were more than friends, he wouldn't be able to do anything about it. 'When Cordelia left… She wanted me to say something. Tell her to stay, or that I would miss her too much to see her go.' She hadn't said that either, but Angel had known it by the soft, expectant expression on her face. But he hadn't been able to say anything; just a simple 'goodbye'. And then she had turned away, and he had lost his chance to tell her anything of importance.
But he hadn't lost his chance forever. Because they would be coming to Sunnydale, soon. 'And then I can tell her… tell her everything.' What he would say, Angel wasn't really sure. But he knew whatever it was, it had to be said. 'Soon.'
And then he lay down, and eventually fell back into sleep. And again, he dreamed; but this time, he didn't dream of Cordelia or Wesley: this time, he dreamed of a face… the face of the beautiful young woman known to the world as the Slayer.
When the full moon finally rose that night, its light was unusually and piercingly bright, setting the night ablaze in silvery brilliance.
It was the moonlight that woke Spike that night. He usually awoke as soon as the sun set, but tonight he had slept longer than usual… 'Can't remember why…'
And then he saw that on the pillow of the other side of his bed there lay a note. He flipped it open, read it, and a slow, amused smile formed across his face. 'Ah, yes. Now I remember.' The note was exactly the kind he had expected: "…I'm heading out of here… had enough of this dump… there's a lot more fresh blood down in Vegas… it's been fun… maybe I'll see you around sometime."
'Not very bloody likely,' Spike thought, tossing the note aside. He didn't even remember her name – Alexia, or something. 'Not that it matters anymore.'
For the last five or so months, he had had several casual nightly acquaintances, and only one or two of them had actually been stupid enough to call themselves his girlfriend. Eventually, though, all his vampire beloveds had left, most of them leaving notes similar to the one Alexia had written.
Not that it bothered him. Spike had only cared for three women in his two-hundred-and-something-year long life: first Cecily, then Drusilla, and finally – 'But you can't really count her,' he reminded himself.
But whether he counted her or not, he had almost come to care for Buffy Summers the way he used to care about Drusilla.
'Things change,' Spike thought irritably, getting out of bed and throwing on his black leather duster. 'And life's too short to sit around brooding over the Slayer.'
The night air was cold and crisp, and it revived him somewhat after the musty air of the crypt. He didn't need the oxygen, but he took a deep breath of air anyway. Even knowing that it wouldn't affect him, it gave him the illusion of breathing, and somewhere in his cold, unbeating heart he appreciated it.
'Now then – where to?' He considered stopping at Willy's Alibi Room, the single place in Sunnydale where a vampire could get a drink among human beings and other demons without seeming out of place.
But then he remembered the fight he had gotten into with a group of burly vampires a few nights ago and decided against going back, just in case they were still around. 'Of course, I got most of them last time; but they might have reinforcements, and I don't really fancy getting all my bones broken tonight.'
He almost thought of visiting the mansion – 'Just for the giggles, really' – but then decided it wasn't worth the trouble. 'Besides, Peaches didn't like it when I visited the last time.' Spike smiled, remembering Angel's dark scowl when he had swaggered in a few weeks ago. 'Bloody nearly threw a fit, poor old bloke.'
His thoughts momentarily returned to Buffy, and a scowl of his own formed on his face. Then he relaxed and hunted in the pockets of his black leather pants for his lighter with one hand, while the other drew a cigarette from the inside pocket of his duster with the other.
Lighting the cigarette, Spike drew a deep, soothing, smoke-filled breath and surveyed his dark surroundings out of habit, his eyes scanning the night sky crowned with its blazing full moon and the cemetery grounds where the grass was being rippled by a mild breeze.
And then a stunning explosion rocked the very ground he stood on and threw Spike clear off his feet, sending him crashing to the ground.
It took the vampire a second to regain his senses, but as soon as he did he pushed himself onto his feet despite the jarring pain it caused in his body and wiped the bleeding cut on his forehead, swearing viciously. He turned, only to find the stone crypt completely leveled; the stone rubble left on the ground was smoking and the grass around it was flaming faintly with a few remaining sparks, but otherwise there was nothing left of the building that had served as his version of a home for the last two years.
But his attention was distracted from the destroyed crypt by an even more incredible scene; standing on one side of the crypt was a group of what looked like cloaked figures, their faces and forms completely hidden, making them unidentifiable except for the weapons gripped in their hands. Two of the figures held huge metal flintlock pistols, both still smoking faintly.
Lying on the ground on the other side of the crypt was another figure, who Spike found on closer inspection to be a woman with a cold, heavily sarcastically smile on her face. Climbing to her feet with grass clinging to the tight crimson creation she was wearing, the woman shook back her hair and flashed the group of figures an impressive set of teeth in an even more sarcastic, would-be pleasant smile.
"Now, gentlemen," she said, in a mildly foreign accent, "can't we find some other way to resolve this?"
The armed figures responded by releasing another shot, this one less forceful but still enough to send dirt and grass flying as it impacted on the ground near the woman's feet.
"Well, if you don't want to play nice…" And then, suddenly, the figures shot again while the woman made some sort of movement with her hands. The result was another explosion, this one releasing a thunderous boom and blinding flash of light.
'Oh flippin' hell,' Spike thought, flattening himself onto the ground to avoid the force of the impact while heavy clods of earth and stone went flying over his head. 'And just when I thought it was going to be a quiet night.'
Author's Note: For the review question, I would still like some ideas on Fred's pregnancy – should it be truth or a false alarm? – and any pairing suggestions you have to come with. Also, I'd like any comments on the character I've just introduced – I'm trying to keep her from being too stereotypical or Mary-Sue-like, but if you see any early flaws you can go ahead and mention them. Note, though, that as with all my OFCs, she isn't human, so that should grant her a little imaginative license.
I haven't updated for a while because I just haven't been able to for the past few days, and for a reason: on April 4th, 2003, a very dear friend of mine passed away. I'm going to miss her more than words can express, and I hope that she'll be happy in whatever world or state of being she's been transported to now.