ACQUAINTED WITH THE NIGHT We read that we ought to forgive our enemies; but we do not read that we ought to forgive our friends Francis Bacon - Apothegms. No 206

By D M Evans Disclaimer - I own neither Buffy nor Angel. You already know that. We all know they belong to Joss. I don't own any of the poetry quoted within. They belong to whoever's noted with the quote. Feedback-ripewickedplum2@Yahoo.com Rating - R Spoilers - Post - Chosen so all of S 7 of Buffy and all of S 3 of Angel (yes, 3 not 4, you'll see why) Summary - Buffy and her friends head to L.A. after beating the First to rest and recover and to thank their friends there for their help only they find things are seriously wrong in the City of Angels. Author's Note- One of my readers, Shahid, sent me a challenge and it was rather intriguing so I agreed to give it a try. I'm not going to reveal all the challenge points now as that would ruin a lot of the story plot points. I will say three important challenge points were Tara did not die but otherwise the Buffy time line is relatively the same (Willow's rampage will be explained in the story), several character that died in Chosen will not have died here and vice versa, you'll see soon enough and thirdly, none of S4 of Angel happened. Angel was not rescued; Cordelia is still on a higher plane; there is no Jasmine and other alliances have taken place in the space of that year. Dedication - Shahid, this one is for you. It won't be quick to be finished but hopefully it will be good.

CHAPTER ONE I have been one acquainted with the night. I have walked out in rain - and back in rain. I have outwalked the furthest city light. Acquainted with the Night - Robert Frost

Wes watched the night sky through his living room windows; crystalline, serene, it was easy to get lost in. He wished he felt as peaceful as the star-dotted sky appeared. He couldn't sleep. Even vigorous, nigh rough, sex with Lilah hadn't been enough to take the edge off of him.

Things were too out of control, too raw. His place in the world hadn't been this confused and uncertain since leaving Sunnydale in disgrace. Gunn had made it perfectly clear Wes wasn't welcome at the Hyperion and Fred was standing by her man. Wes squeezed his eyes shut against the memory of Winifred Burkel.

How had he managed to make such a mess of things? Why couldn't he tell her how he felt? He wasn't the same bumbling idiot he'd been in Sunnydale. His time with Virginia and Lilah had proven that. For a while, Lilah had been dressing as Fred for him. A sick game and he never understood why Lilah came up with it. Certainly it had to be demeaning to her to pretend to be someone else in order to arouse him.

He eventually tired of the game but not of Lilah. He didn't know what he felt for her, not love but it was something. He had divested himself of his feelings for Fred and why shouldn't he? The one time Fred had called him for help months ago thinking she had a lead on Angel's whereabouts, she hadn't actually wanted it, not really. She never called again, not even when he called to offer a suggestion, leaving it on the answering machine.

A year had gone by with no signs of Angel or Cordelia. He didn't even know if they had disappeared together or individually, no one did. Wes had decided to do his own leg work to find his missing friends. It wasn't even to prove himself to his one-time companions, not any more. He was doing it for himself. It was pure dumb luck that had brought him his new crew to help him. Though he had heard Angel grumbling about the man, Wes had never met Riley Finn until four months ago. With the power shifts in the government, there had been military restructuring. Fresh from losing his wife, Riley was now a free agent with three companions, Hawkins, Graham and Diana. They were more than willing to join him as a band of demon hunters since they were more than a little experienced. Riley was less than thrilled to be helping to find Angel, however.

Wes was content to let Riley and his friends concentrate on locating Cordelia while he took on the task of finding Angel. He had help from a very secretive source. If Wolfram and Hart had any idea that Lindsey MacDonald was back in Los Angeles, Wesley dreaded what they might do but so far the young lawyer was flying under their radar, working with Anne's runaway shelter. Wolfram and Hart had milked that place for all it was worth and tossed it aside. They had no clue that Lindsey had returned to ease his conscience by working to bring them down.

Unfortunately, no one in Wes' crew, nor Gunn and Fred's, had made any headway. The best clue Wesley had, and had not shared with his one-time friends, was that Justine was involved. Wes desperately wanted to get his hands on Justine. He had a lot of pay back he wanted to glean from her but she was slippery prey.

Lilah was supposed to be helping him capture Justine but he was beginning to suspect Wolfram and Hart to be merely getting in his way. After all, if they couldn't have Angelus, it suited them just as well to have Angel out of the picture entirely. Lindsey confirmed that.

Wes felt hands on his shoulders and he looked up at Lilah. She smiled at him. "Penny for your thoughts."

"I should have gone to Sunnydale instead of Riley," he grumbled. "You entrusted that amulet to me."

"To give to Finn." Lilah leaned against his back, her satin-covered nipples pressing into him.

"Meaning you don't expect him to survive," Wes growled, shrugging out of her grip.

Lilah's jaw set firmly. "You need to grow up, Wes. You're playing with the big boys now. You have to be able to send people to their deaths."

"You make it sound so easy, Lilah. And you forget, neither I nor Riley's people work for Wolfram and Hart," Wes said and her look said, 'it's only a matter of time.' Wes thought about Lorne's vision, the one Angel had interrupted, and wondered what the Pylean had seen that made Lorne think Wolfram and Hart had been interested in a washed up ex-Watcher. He might be able to ask but that would mean a trip to Vegas and he hardly had time for that.

"You did what you had to, Wes, and you can't change who you sent now," Lilah said, stroking his hair.

Wes leaned into her caress. "Perhaps not but I do have to wonder why you cared enough about whether or not Buffy survives her battle with the First Evil."

"Put it this way, if the First wins, things will be really bad for Wolfram and Hart." Lilah kissed the crown of his head. "And helping Buffy was important to you. I wish you'd let me send some operatives after Faith. I've been...afraid for your safety ever since she busted out of jail."

Wes shook his head. "There's no need for concern. If Faith intended to come here to harm me, she already would have. Angel said she's changed. The fact that she's gone to Sunnydale to assist Buffy suggests he was right."

Lilah's eyes narrowed. "Or she's gone there to assist the First."

Wes waved her off. "I don't think so. I'm not concerned with Faith."

Lilah ran a finger over his bristly cheek. "Come back to bed, then."

"I'll be there momentarily," he said, then gave her a sharp look to send her on her way. She went back to the bedroom with a disgruntled expression. Wes returned to staring out the window. So, what did Wolfram and Hart have planned that the First would interfere with or was it simple survival? Either way, he knew better than to look a gift horse in the mouth.

Riley would have beaten him senseless if he hadn't turned over the amulet once the young man learned it could turn the tide in Sunnydale. Wes just wished he knew what was happening. His thoughts were enough to take his mind off the task Lindsey was performing. When the lawyer had learned Connor was Darla's son, something rekindled in him or maybe it hadn't ever died. Wes didn't know much about how Lindsey had felt about Darla but it was obvious he had been fond of her and since Darla had spared Lindsey more than once, Wesley assumed it went both ways. Lindsey had gone out of his way to meet Connor and failed since he could hardly walk into the Hyperion, any more than Wesley could.

Then one night, Ann's teen center had come under attack and Connor had been there to bash the gang of vampires who had thought the kids were easy pickings. Lindsey managed to strike up a covert friendship with the boy and it seemed to suit Connor, too. Lindsey reported that Connor did not get along well with Gunn, who obviously had set himself as a stern older brother. Connor wasn't into having siblings. He slipped away when he could to visit with Lindsey who let him indulge his bad habits, including killing any demon who crossed his path, and fed him all the junk food the boy could eat. Lindsey seemed to enjoy spoiling Connor.

In their time together, Lindsey managed to catch sight of Connor with Justine but the boy had denied any knowledge of the woman when Lindsey tried to hint around about it. Tonight, he was trying to follow Connor to Justine's hideout. Wesley should have had him put it off. There was enough to worry about with the nightmare in Sunnydale but it was too late for that. He was powerless to help Lindsey or Riley. Resigning himself to that, Wesley dragged back to bed. Maybe more sex would dispel the demons of worry.

*

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*

The salt water curled around her bare toes. Dru giggled and danced through the waves, her pearly skin gleaming in the moonlight. The hem of her red gown clung wetly to her narrow ankles. She had come a long way to be here but the voices in her head had never steered her wrong before. She was alone and Dru hated it. Being alone was scary. Miss Edith barely spoke to her any more so she left her tucked away in their new home. Dru needed her boys back with her.

Dru paused, her big blue eyes brimming with tears. Her boys didn't want her any more; the naughty, naughty, Slayer had stolen them both, the greedy girl. However, the Slayer had lost one of them, this Dru knew. The voices riding the night winds told her so.

Daddy was under the sea. Standing here, the sand trickling out from under her toes as the sea water sucked out into the depths, Dru imagined she could see him. "How do I get to you, Daddy?" She closed her eyes, tilting her head back, staring at the moon. Angel was trapped in a metal box with nothing but fishies to keep him company. Down, down deep beyond her reach. She needed a way to pluck him from his watery grave.

As she stood in the surf, trying to wrap her mind around that puzzle, Dru suddenly screamed. With white-hot intensity a vision overcame her. Dru collapsed boneless into the water, the waves beating her around before finally spitting her out on the sand. Dru lolled, the abrasive ground tearing at her dead flesh. "Oh, no, my dear Spike, don't put that pretty bauble on. It'll destroy you."

Dru sobbed until the tears turned to laughter.

*

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*

Buffy felt numb. She wanted to make Giles give up the driver's seat and do it herself but she was too exhausted. She could barely pick her head up off Dawn's shoulders. Besides, she sucked at driving a car, let alone a school bus. She knew she should just be thankful that she was alive, that most of her friends, no her family, had survived. She did manage to lift her head, her eyes raking over the bus as she tried not to breathe in too deep. The reek of blood and sweat permeated the bus. She wasn't sure Robin was going to survive until they hit L.A. despite the fact Giles actually had a lead foot on the accelerator. They should have stopped at one of the smaller towns but they had no confidence in a small hospital's ER or Robin's chance of surviving long enough for Lifeflight to get there, not with all that had happened in Sunnydale. She could just imagine how many outside resources were being sent to the gaping crater that had once been her home.

She watched as Faith did her best to doctor him. Xander held Anya, in part because he was afraid to let her go and in part because he was holding the makeshift dressings to her back as if he were the little Dutch boy with his finger holding back the water. Buffy knew that Anya's wounds had stopped bleeding but it was serious.

Buffy ran a hand over her gut, still amazed at how that potentially fatal wound had healed nearly instantly when that amulet started glowing. Buffy looked over at Willow who huddled with Tara on the seat. Neither witch was hurt but Willow seemed particularly shocked. Buffy suspected it had more to do with Kennedy than it did with the fact her parents' house had disappeared into the giant crater along with all the rest of their homes.

Kennedy, since the moment she had arrived in Sunnydale, had tried to woo Willow away from Tara without success. In one last vain attempt to impress Willow, Kennedy had wrested the amulet away from Spike. She wanted the glory of being the super powered girl to use it. It was successful but the girl died, dissolving into brilliant sunlight that washed over the Tuork- Han and the First, cleansing the Hellmouth. Buffy was sure that this wasn't the end Kennedy had imagined and Willow was hurt by how obsession could lead to this.

Buffy wondered though, if Kennedy hadn't done it, would the ending have turned out different? Moments after Kennedy robbed Spike of the amulet, he went down under three Turok-Han. They tore open his chest, leaving it like a ruined bird cage but they didn't get the heart. Spike was still alive, or at least undead, hidden under blankets on the floor of the back of the bus because it would be dawn soon enough. Buffy knew it'd be more merciful to just dust the vampire. She had no idea how long it would take him to heal, if he even could, despite the fact she had pressed his ribs back down into a more normal configuration. She hadn't been thinking about that when she hauled him out of the school, tossing him into the bus before running back inside to make sure everyone was out. She couldn't just leave him there to die.

Buffy didn't think that she'd ever forget her mad run through Sunnydale, barely keeping ahead of the crater opening up, like some kind of nightmare. Later, she knew it would sink in that she was homeless with only the tattered, bloody clothing on her back, penniless but now she was too numb for it to register. She barely had the strength to prepare for what awaited her in L.A.

As irrational as it was, she had been disappointed when Riley had arrived to give her the amulet. She had been hoping for Angel. She knew Spike was aware of it. She suspected that played a role in him telling her he didn't believe her declaration of love for him. Spike had been wise in that. She had said it because she wanted to die knowing that someone loved her and she him; only they both knew it was a lie.

Seeing Riley again had been hard. Even worse, he had told her Sam had been killed. She felt more pity than she would have bargained for then she went and really tore the bottom out from under herself by asking why Angel hadn't brought the amulet. Buffy couldn't imagine Angel not wanting to be with her, knowing what she faced. He had beaten the First with her help once. She knew he'd want to tell her all he knew about the entity.

Riley told her both Angel and Cordelia had been missing for a year and no one knew if they had disappeared together or not. It took all her strength to push out thoughts about how she didn't know Angel was gone from her mind so she could concentrate on the First. She should have known he had vanished but she hadn't. He wasn't dead. She knew that. The First would have used that against her, or would it? Hadn't the First used Dru's shape against Spike? Vampires were technically dead humans. Why hadn't the First come to her as Angel? It might have undone her. She guessed that didn't matter. What did was, Angel was gone and she hadn't even known it. That thought was now free to haunt her all the way to Los Angeles.

* *
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The smells of the pub tickled Angel's nose, the earthy scent of Guinness, rich tobacco, the press of humanity, the tangy aroma of potato and leek soup. He couldn't believe he hadn't thought of this earlier. He looked over at Connor who was suspiciously looking at his Guinness as if he expected it to bite him. At least the boy had polished off the soup. He needed some meat on his bones.

Angel clamped a hand on his son's bony shoulder. "Drink up, boy. It won't bite you. Guinness is good."

Connor grinned and took a deep draught. He set the pint glass down, a foam mustache riding on his lip, as close to facial hair as his son was likely to get. "You're right, Dad."

"Finish up. There's so much of Galway I want to show you." Angel beamed. His plan to reach his child by taking him home to Ireland was working. Here, he was free of the worries as to what the Powers That Be wanted him to do, free of the pressures that his friends, well meaning as they were, put on him and Connor to get along, free to just be a man on vacation with his kid.

It was working better than he could have prayed for. Connor seemed happy to be there and less sad over Holtz's death, less confused about this world but only just. There was so much his son didn't know and one of the first things Angel wanted him to learn was that there was more to it than the urban blight that was L.A.

He wanted Connor to know there were green growing places where people didn't kill each other for no good reason. All right, Ireland wasn't so good at that last bit but it was his homeland. It was beautiful. Angel was proud of his heritage. He couldn't be prouder, well okay maybe he could be. He should finally shed the silly name Darla had given him. After all, he was now so much more than Angelus or even Angel. Did Liam fit any more? Maybe he should chose another name and start anew.

He liked that idea. The all new man teaching his kid the ways of the world. Of course, he had lived apart from the world a little too long. He was realizing Buffy, Cordy and Xander had been right about that. He was pop culture deprived. He tried to think of the things he enjoyed at Connor's age, reasoning some might still apply to this age.

Of course, at Connor's age what he liked was boozing and womanizing. He didn't think either were appropriate things for Connor to be doing. Still, a beer wouldn't hurt and maybe that sex talk he promised Cordelia he'd have with the kid. No, Angel corrected himself, his son wasn't a kid any more. He was a young adult.

"Ready," Connor said, setting down his empty pint.

Angel led the way into the cool breeze blowing off Galway Bay. He wondered what to show Connor next. "Do you like it here, Connor? We can stay if you do."

"We won't be going to Rome next?" Connor sounded utterly disappointed.

"No, I'll still take you there. Everyone should see Rome. I meant, we don't have to go back to L.A. We could live here if you wanted to."

Connor smiled. "I'd like that."

Angel felt like giving in to his Irishness and breaking into song but knew that would scare everyone. He headed for the water's edge. The bay by moonlight could be lovely. Connor needed to see beauty. They didn't make it that far. A half dozen vampires swarmed them. Angel recognized the lead one, a fellow Irishman who had had a thing for Darla. Darla's response had set up several lifetimes of animosity.

"Well, well, look who it is, lads. Angelus, and he's brought us a little snack," Delaney said.

"I'm nobody's snack," Connor said defiantly.

Angel felt absurdly proud of his son. He didn't have to tell Connor what to do. They attacked the vampires in what looked like a well choreographed dance. Dust flew. Angel had Delaney in hand, twisting his head off when he heard Connor scream. Through Delaney's dust, he saw the vampires taking Connor to ground, tearing out his throat.

"No!"

The scream echoed around the metal box as the scene faded away. Angel could barely fix his eyes on the fish swimming past his coffin. Hunger tore at him. He thought he could taste his son's blood on his tongue then everything went black.