Author's Note: First of all: I'm back, and I couldn't be happier about it. I'm going to be really stressed over the next year – with my IGCSEs coming up, it's a miracle I've found time to write at all – but hopefully I'll be able to update every week at the very least.

For those of you who didn't see it, I recently posted a sequel to "Road Trip". When I realized that the storyline wasn't going anywhere, though, I decided to put in on hold and start something else instead; the idea for this fic has been hovering in my mind for some time now, and I think I've developed it enough to make a full-length fic out of.

As always, I tend to be a little over-detailed in my writing, but I think it takes a lot of description to set just the right mood for something… And this fic is going to have a lot of moods, trust me.

Mainly, though, it might be a little darker than my usual work – which, I know, isn't neccessarily a bad thing. I think the entire BtVS and "Angel" concepts have been twisted out of proportion far too many times, and I want to give them back their original quality in this fic.

Just in case: this fic should be read in Verdana point size 8 (I find it gives the best effect) and although the first chapter focuses on my new characters, the second one will involve the Buffy/Angel cast.

I think that's all for now.

And so, ladies and gentlemen, it begins…

Chapter I: Droplets

Rain lashed against the glass of a window that covered almost an entire wall, blurring the striking panoramic view of the city below. It was far past sundown, and the velvety darkness of the night was pierced by the millions of brilliant electric lights scattered across the city, like tightly-knit clusters of stars. Hovercraft milled over the streets below, drifting just off the ground, and high above them aeromotons patrolled the skies, the spotlights fixed to their bases sweeping through the rain in slow, purposeful succession.

The young woman leaning against the cool glass window knew what they were searching for, and knew that they searched in vain.

Night after night, hundreds of people disappeared from the streets of the city, never to be seen or heard from again... unless, of course, their attackers had the courtesy to leave their mangled carcasses where the City Watch could find them.

And it was steadily getting worse. People were no longer safe in their own homes, no matter how hard they tried to convince themselves otherwise. They fixed numerous locks and chains to their doors, bought complicated security systems, hid weapons under their beds or amongst sofa cushions, and considered themselves safe.

But the invisible attackers who tormented the city would not be kept at bay by doors they could rip off the hinges and weapons they could easily snap in two.

Out of the millions of citizens struggling to survive, only a handful had a clear idea of what was really happening to them.

And one of those few people stood there now, gazing through droplet-encrusted glass at the vast metropolitan city which had been her home for almost eighteen years.

She ran her fingers gently over the outlines of a droplet, her face deceptively calm and expressionless. Inside her, a passionate fury was raging: but years of experience and suffering had taught her the value of curbing her emotions and keeping them hidden from the eyes of others.

She heard movement behind her - and suddenly her entire being was tense, her senses sharpening as she carefully shifted her position to a wary, alert stance from which she could easily spring into combat.

But she was disarmed by the familiar sensation of someone's strong, lean arms wrapping around her waist, pulling her into an embrace that was as well-known to her as her own reflection.

She turned her head to welcome her companion with a gentle brush of her lips against his, and then turned back to the scene that had absorbed her attention for the past few hours.

He brushed away a curl of hair from her neck, his fingers warm on her skin, and spoke with a voice that was almost designed to soothe her, it was so rich and warm and calm.

"Brooding will never do you any good," he admonished gently. "You should be resting."

She almost laughed. "Resting? Now? At a time like this, nothing could be more impossible."

"Autumn…" she had always loved the way he said her name. So softly. "If you have to do this, at least do it right."

"You make it sound as though I had a choice," she said, tensing ever so slightly in his arms.

He sighed. "You know how I feel about the whole idea. It's not safe."

"Nothing is ever risk-free," she pointed out, gently disengaging his arms from around her waist. She turned and looked up at him, every beloved detail of his face clear in her mind. "I have to do this, Alec."

"I know. I just wish you didn't." And as they kissed, Autumn realized how strongly he felt about it, and knew there was nothing she could do to ease his fear for her.

"I'll be back before you even have time to miss me," she promised, surprised to find herself whispering.

"Who said I was going to miss you?" he whispered back, a smile passing across his lips.

Autumn clung to him one last time, breathing in the light, musky scent that exclusively belonged to him and fervently hoping that she would soon be able to enjoy that scent again.

And then she turned away and walked across the room, feeling his gaze fixed on her all the while. He watched her, immobile and oblivious to anything else, as she left and he heard the lock click softly behind her.

It took him a long time to turn his gaze away from the door that the one thing he loved above all else had just disappeared through.

To Be Continued.

Author's Note: Reviews, replies and opinions are all very welcome.