Belonging by WesLess

Disclaimer: The concept of 'Angel', its episodes and its associated characters are not mine, and I make no profit from this.

Setting: Season 2 stand-alone, set specifically around the episodes Redefinition and Epiphany and with spoilers for all Darla episodes throughout the season.

Summary: A brief examination of Angel's dual personality and complex psyche, and a possible reason for his epiphany. Features Angel(us)/Darla, Cordelia, Wesley, Gunn and Virginia.

Warnings: Character death, blood and much darkness.

Awards: Winner of the The Dark Awards 'Best Vampire' category, and Runner-up 'Best Dark Fic' in it's first year.

Feedback: All reviews are highly valued and treasured forever, so please make me happy. The epilogue is added after multiple requests two years after the story was originally posted. Thanks go to all who have reviewed thus far, including Freed Kyes, Kay, FerretGirl1, Eloise, lonely Brit, Tariq, Freakazoid, The Burninator Named Trogdor, Imzadi, MutantJediBauer and cursedgirl. The epilogue is dedicated to you.

Author's notes: This is the result of a seriously twisted dream I had that demanded to be written down. Hence the weirdness and the putting off of other fics in progress. Sorry. Hope it doesn't scare you as much as I scared myself writing it.

…………………………..

Darla and Dru are dead.

He's not sure exactly how that happened, apart from the fact that that vampires and fire don't mix well. He guesses that what's left over is fitting and quite literal in a biblical sense… from ashes to ashes and dust to dust… and now he's babbling, trying to distract himself from what he has just done.

They're dead.

Except that they were dead to begin with, and that's the point. As for Darla, how many times has she died now? Human to vampire, vampire to dust, dust to human again, human to vampire, and now vampire to ashes. He wonders if she'll have nine unlives and if he'll always be destined to end every single one.

He shudders.

No vampire is ever meant to kill their sire. But killing her twice… well, that must be some big cosmic joke to whatever the hell is up there pulling his strings.

He realises he's mixed up. He can't remember whether he is supposed to be good or evil, black or white, demon or ensouled. It seems he has been playing both sides at once for a while now. Flirting with death personified, fuelling unhealthy obsession and indulging in centuries old lust, only to do the world a favour by ridding it of his family in the very next instance.

And they were his. But now they're dead.

For some reason, it hurts. He wants to silence the voice that keeps reminding him of what he's just done because he loved her dammit and she was his world for longer that he cares to remember and now she's gone and it's all been for nothing.

She was snatched away. Dangled before him with the promise of peace for them both and then taken again. Taken by another of his own. No one should be expected to deal with that rationally. So this was necessary, the only solution to a mixed up problem because he doesn't think he could have taken something like that again and remained sane enough to tell the tale.

And again, the question is, which side is he on? Did he just do this because he couldn't bear the thought of Dru changing the rules? Did he hate her because she stepped out of rank and took what was his, ruining it for them all? Or did he do it because they were evil and he is not and they were killing people and it's his job to stop them and this was his plan all along? He honestly doesn't know. He guesses he just acted on instinct.

So now he's just going to walk. He's going to put it out of his mind because that's all in the past now, what's done is done. It was for the best. At least that's what he tells the annoying little voice in his head.

They were on his turf and not doing things his way, so they had to go. Isn't that how vampires operate? Angelus screams at him in protest, so Angel decides that he must still be good, no matter how close along the line he has walked. The lawyers were evil after all; they got what was coming to them. His soul is still here and he didn't join the rampage his girls started, so that means it's back to the light side to repent his sins. He'll just have a few more bodies to add to the brood list, that's all.

He wishes it were that simple.

He knows his inner demon is straining for release, and his will is weakening against it. Walking in the dark does much for temptation, and the wall he has built between Angelus and himself has thinned. In fact, he is willing to bet that he'd look for the nearest bit of perfect happiness if he thought it would work, anything to free him from this miserable existence.

Not only would that be the cowards way out, but the very fact that he wants rid of his soul to stop the hurting contradicts the idea of a happiness clause anyway.

He's stuck then. Time to move on and continue punishing himself.

The bond made in his creation is broken, along with a few unspoken rules that demons are supposed to stick to when it comes to this sort of thing. Vampire protocol is a tricky thing, and not something he's ever really gotten a handle on.

Nice try Wolfram and Hart, but you should know better than to mess with ancient societies you know nothing about. Surely even they could not predict this outcome when even Angel himself barely understands the events. They had no comprehension of how his family worked.

He makes a mental note to deal with the good company to make sure this doesn't happen again. They brought her back once, they could do it again, and although they failed miserably at their attempt to bring him over to their side, Angel dreads the thought of history repeating itself. Once is quite enough, thank you very much.

He moves, vowing to avoid this place and the memories it will always hold, even though he knows it will haunt his dreams for years to come. Vampires are like that; they don't let go of what is theirs lightly.

He finds himself automatically choosing a familiar route and wonders if this line of thought is causing it. Instinct is always there, after all, and where one set of bonds of shredded, it would be only natural for his priorities to shift.

Something in the back of his brain tells him this is a bad thing during such a dark mood, but he ignores it, latching onto everything his demon is telling him. He hurts because he has lost something, so it is time to take back what else he knows is his. He feels the pull and goes with it, unable to resist something that just seems so right.

No longer dominated by his sire, the demon demands that he step up and slip into the role. And as he makes up his mind, it feels like a weight is lifted from his heart. He has a purpose now, and he seizes the opportunity to forget.

After all, Darla and Dru are gone.

………………………………

He finds them in a deserted parking lot, exactly where his newly tuned sense of smell told him they would be. It seems that along with his priority shift, anything that reminds him of them has been heightened in his mind. He'd never realised just how closely connected he must have been to his girls.

He feels a surge of something he can't quite articulate when he sees them. Pride? Protectiveness? Want? Need? Love? Whatever it is, he realises that this is where he belongs; this is what he has been looking for.

He stalks in the shadows and wonders if they are more aware of him now as he is of them. He doubts it. He continues to watch them closely, noting how every breath, sound and movement is amplified in his head.

And still, he does not worry at the change in attitude, does not heed the brief thoughts that suggest he should be scared by the way his demon is making him behave. He just flows with it, feeling more at one with his surroundings than he has allowed himself to be in a long time, reveling in the chance just to be a vampire again. It's what he is, after all, so why try to deny it?

And it's only now that he sees what is going on, having been so caught up in the sensations that feel so new.

He realises that something is wrong, and it sparks a growl from some part of him that he didn't even know was there.

They are fighting.

But it's not this fact that has his vampire hackles raised. Something is trying to hurt them. This thing dares to touch something that is his.

(This isn't you, it's the demon, a voice whispers, and he drowns it out thoroughly.)

He and he alone has the right to decide what happens to those that belong to him, and it pisses him off to think that anyone or anything should take liberties. Maybe concern isn't the right way to explain what he is feeling, but territorial rage certainly comes close.

He will stake his claim and announce once and for all just who owns the rights in these parts.

Something clatters on the tarmac and Angel focuses his attention on the business at hand. Bright white light coats the surface of the lot in wet splashes, reflecting off of puddles of the newly fallen rain.

Scanning his eyes around the scuffle, he hones in on a fallen bundle that disturbs the shiny pattern of the water. His eyes spark yellow and he loses what little control he was clinging to.

Cordelia is down.

Springing from the sidelines in a split second, he lands on the enemy with all the force he can muster. As he begins to tear, he registers two surprised yelps as Gunn and Wesley jump back, shocked by his entrance.

Swinging round in the process of the fight, Angel sees the fear in their faces. Not of the enemy, but of him. Either his very presence worries them, or it's the intensity of his attack. A fuzzy part of his mind tells him he is near frenzy, game-face on and thrashing like a rabid animal. But he doesn't care. He is lost in the battle, energy pumping through his system like the adrenaline he's not sure he's capable of producing.

Perhaps accepting his help for the moment, they both plunge back into the fight, launching an attack from all sides.

The demon struggling beneath Angel's grip does not seem fazed by the turn of events, but continues to pound and scratch with the same fury as before. Reaching up with clawed hands, it manages to throw Angel off of its back and onto the floor.

More determined than ever, Angel snarls and rises, just in time to see the demon lurch forward and grab Wesley by the arms, lifting him off of his feet. There is a sickening rip and Wesley cries out before being tossed to the side like a discarded toy, disappearing from sight behind a stack of empty boxes.

Grinning menacingly, the thing turns to Gunn, waiting for his reaction. Angel watches stunned as Gunn roars, charging at the demon with his axe held high. The fire in his eyes dispels any thought Angel had of pushing him away from the danger, so he does the only thing he has time to do.

Angel jumps to take the demon down before Gunn can reach it, but it seems that the demon had anticipated the move. It throws a rounded kick to Angel's chest, knocking him back, and thrusts out its arm to meet Gunn's attack.

Clawed fingers meet the soft flesh of Gunn's exposed stomach and pierce through, stopping him in his tracks. He winces, the weapon tumbling from his grip as his muscles go slack. Without so much as a groan, he falls to the ground.

This is not what Angel had meant to happen. He can't quite believe what he is seeing. If possible, the demons grin has spread even wider as it turns to him, spreading out its arms in a gesture of invitation.

Something seizes behind Angel's ribs and he feels his entire body flush. Pure gut instinct takes over and he is blinded to his actions, the movements of his limbs by-passing his brain. Not doubt he moved faster than the demon expected, for by the time he realises what he is doing, the creature is flat on the ground with Angel beating ferociously at its lifeless body.

He sits up straight, straddling the lump of muscle and bone beneath him. Almost as quickly as it descended, the raw aggression recedes and Angel can think again. The clarity is like a slap. He immediately regrets the absence of the mind-numbing battle euphoria as the wrongness of the situation sinks sweetly in.

Vaulting away from the demon, he scrambles to Gunn's side, panic seeping into his very being. Clutching desperately at Gunn's clothing, Angel stills, listening brokenly for a sign of life. A breath, a heartbeat, anything.

But there is nothing, not a sound. Gunn is dead. His empty eyes stare back at Angel's vampire features, unseeing.

And all Angel can do is stand and stare back, a chilling calmness falling over him. He leaves his anger smouldering out of sight. Revenge is for later. Now is the time for actions and clear thinking, and he knows immediately what he has to do if he wants to avoid yet more loss. And he does, more than anything. He has only just realised what he has, he is not going to let it go now, and certainly not by someone else's hand.

He turns from Gunn's body and approaches Cordelia's huddled form where she lies face down on the cold floor. He kneels and rolls her over into his lap, gently pushing her rain soaked hair from her face.

She feels so cold. He realises with concern that her poor broken body has long given up on shivering and is barely clinging to life, her heartbeat slow and faint in her chest. In fact, he is not sure if he can feel even the slightest whisper of breath from her mouth.

He cradles her, despair threatening to well up where he had long insisted he felt nothing. Whether his newfound attachments are responsible for this emotion or whether he had simply been in denial, he does not know. But he feels a little of his old self returning despite the resistance put up by the darker side of his nature.

And now that he comes to it, he finds himself hesitating. Cordelia can little afford even a moments waiting, but he simply cannot go straight ahead. This is the point of no returning, and he has to be sure for all of their sakes. It's do or die, for her at least.

The little voice is back, or was this Angelus? He can't quite tell, but he's really in no state to argue. He listens regardless, holding his prize ever closer to himself.

The voice speaks as the embodiment of his own thoughts, strengthening his resolve. She is going to die. No one can get here in time to save her. Think of how beautiful she is and how that is all going to end in ugly death. There is no other choice. Do it. Do it now.

Angel is sure there must have been an audible crack as he gave in to the reasoning, his mind irreversibly made up.

Stroking her cheek lightly with the back of his hand, he shifts her further upright and leans her against his chest. With one final look at the darkened sky, he bends his head down and sinks his fangs into her neck.

He thinks maybe he can hear laughing.

His imagination falls silent when he feels the velvety smooth blood hit his tongue. Thick and strong, it flows down his throat in a long forgotten sensation that springs back fresh in his mind. His demon is screaming in ecstasy at the taste even as the tears roll down his cheeks and suddenly, he thinks he knows what absolute sorrow must feel like.

Cordelia's life begins to ebb and fade away, slipping through his fingers even as he holds her there. He draws back and kisses the wound clean with nothing short of reverence, pulling back his jacket sleeve and baring his arm.

Without so much as a blink, he is ripping at his wrist with his own teeth, clenching his fist to increase what little flow there is. Dead blood in a dead body. And none of it is even his. The languid trickle barely even looks worthy when he thinks of the vibrant tang of the real thing.

Regardless, he offers it to her.

At first, he thinks she will not take it, that perhaps she is too pure to ever be tainted, even by the likes of him. In fact, he finds himself hoping it. She does not move even as Angel's blood dribbles into her mouth, and he almost sighs with… relief?

But then she is drinking, and his illusions are shattered. They always drink. No one can resist. Perhaps once he would have been disgusted by the sight, but now he simply sits, unfeeling, watching as his new childe suckles hungrily at his arm. The pull isn't strong, not when he thinks back to his own death some two hundred years ago. And as she slows, he wonders if she too will remember this moment, and if she will hate him for it.

He lowers her dead form back to the ground and stands, examining what used to be his first human friend in Los Angeles. But there is no time to regret, and he turns his eyes away.

He has to snap his mind to the next task at hand mechanically, chasing away the potential for emotion. There would be time for that later. He wipes the blood from his mouth with the back of his sleeve and sniffs the air, zeroing in on a pile of boxes stacked near the wall surrounding part of the parking lot.

What he can smell does not seem promising, there's so much blood, so he wastes no time in his approach. His face set to grim, he strides with purpose, realising with no small amount of horror that this elicits a frightened cry from his destination.

The closer he nears, the more apparent the blood becomes, mixing readily with the dirty puddles and light. He rounds the corner and has to suppress a wince at the sight of Wesley, ripped and bleeding where he lies.

Breathing erratically and still conscious, his eyes widen with terror as Angel approaches further and kneels by his side. His face pinched, he looks delirious with pain and blood loss, the agony preventing him from moving an inch.

Looking up almost reluctantly, Angel finds the small gap between the boxes through which Wesley had watched everything, and another mocking voice laughs at him in his head as he realises his stupidity. But there is no backing out now, and he keeps his face straight. He turns pitying eyes back to Wesley's glazed ones and holds them.

"P-please, Angel…" Wesley begs.

"Shh," Angel replies simply, reaching down to move him the same as he had done Cordelia.

"No, don't…"

Wesley's weak protests are cut off with a groan as Angel lifts him upright and he screws up his eyes, grimacing against the pain. The crushing feeling of a sob wanting to break free clutches at Angel's chest, but he finds himself unable to pay it any heed. He is removed from himself, somehow.

There's no other way, Angel's voice whispers again, he'll die right here anyway.

And Angel knows the voice is right, but it doesn't make it any easier. He continues to ignore Wesley's pleas; sure that he is doing the best thing. Something whispers have mercy in his ear, but his demon urges him on, so again he ignores it.

"I'm so sorry", is all he can manage, but the darkness is already descending, and Wesley can no longer reply.

He is too weak to struggle as Angel lowers his head, and only manages a quiet whimper as teeth breaks the skin.

………………….

The pain is searing as she struggles and writhes, rolling hard onto the floor and gasping for air she doesn't need. Everything hurts. The sounds are too loud, the smells are too strong, and she doesn't even want to think about opening her eyes just yet.

It is at this point that Cordelia Chase wishes she had never agreed to go out on the stupid demon expedition in the first place.

Everything feels different somehow, and as the pain starts to subside, a desperate, gnawing hunger takes its place in the forefront of her mind.

Her eyes fly open and she finds herself on the floor of the hotel basement, next to the hastily erected bed she has just rolled out of. A few feet in front of her are the objects of her desire and she launches for them with a growl.

She punctures the bags with her teeth and sucks the contents dry, not stopping until every one is empty. The significance of this action filters into her brain and she reaches a hand up to her face, shocking herself when she realises that there is no longer silky smooth skin on her forehead.

She squeals.

"Oh God, what's happened to my face!"

"It's a vast improvement if you ask me," someone with Wesley's voice replies, although she's sure it couldn't be him, because he would never use that tone.

She whirls round faster than is humanly possible and sees him shackled to the wall and scowling at her. She growls for no reason she can think of other than because she can, decides that she really doesn't care about her face after all and that all she really wants to do is to kill something.

She bares her teeth at Wesley, deciding that he'd be a good start, and then stops to sniff the air.

"You smell different," she announces, not exactly sure how she knows what he smelt like before.

"Better than you I hope," he snarls back, "and are you going to sit there all day or are you going to get these things off of me?"

"I really think you should stay where you are for the time being."

Cordelia leaps to her feet as Angel comes down the stairs, bristling and ready to run. But something stops her from moving and she finds herself transfixed by Angel's almost hypnotic voice.

Sire.

"Willow will be here soon," he tells her, "and I need you both down here when she arrives. Please, Cordelia, don't make me tie you up too."

Protests and insults are ready to stream from her tongue when she sees Angel shake his fist, dropping two bags on the floor in front of her.

She licks her lips and dives.

………………………………..

Angel can't believe he did it. He should have known better than to leave his back turned for more than a second. He doesn't know what he was thinking.

Males are naturally rebellious against male sires, testing their elder's authority and dominancy. Spike was the same. Besides which, he and Wesley were hardly on the best of terms anyway, and he guesses Wes had taken over the leadership role in his stead. Now that Angel thinks about it, he shouldn't have expected anything less from his Watcher.

Having escaped relatively easily, it occurs to Angel that perhaps he isn't as scared as he ought to be, considering he has just loosed a very significant threat onto the streets of Los Angeles. Wesley is going to make one hell of a vampire, and it's worrying to think what he's going to find. And that's if he gets there in time.

Angel tracks Wesley's scent to the house of Virginia Bryce and sprints towards the open front door. He's too late; surely he hasn't gotten here in time. There is no security left to speak of, the aroma of death about the place betraying the reason.

But he still cannot enter. The barrier is there, as strong as ever, and he realises he never has been invited in. Unlike certain acquaintances of his.

Frustrated, he kicks the doorframe and growls, calling Wesley out from where he knows he is hiding.

And sure enough, Wesley answers the call, approaching the other side of the door and dragging a battered and bruised Virginia along with him.

He smirks.

"Very predictable of me, I know, Angel. But she just has to die, you see."

There's a sly little glint in his eyes that says he's got Angel by the balls and he knows it. He stands still, waiting for Angel's reply.

But there's nothing Angel can do. There's nothing he can say that will change what's going to happen, so he just raises his chin and meets that scrutiny, daring Wesley to come out in the open.

"Oh, that's right. You don't have an invitation, do you, Angel?"

His mock innocence look is again replaced by a grin, and Angel has to look away. He focuses instead on Virginia's terrified face; shock clearly written over her features. Her body is slack in Wesley's arms, either from fear or injury, and he knows she will die no matter what. He doubts she will understand what he has to do, but he will plead with her anyway.

"Invite me in, Virginia," he urges, noting the look of amused disbelief that crosses Wesley's face.

Her eyes forever watching something that isn't there, she simply sobs a little harder, knowing that the instant she utters the words, she'll have her neck snapped.

Wesley tsks.

"Better luck next time," he whispers as his face morphs, flashing teeth and demonic eyes for the sake of his onlooker.

Virginia screams as fangs crunch into her neck and Angel lunges again and again, desperate for the very instant her soul leaves her body. Finally, the barrier snaps, and Wesley drops his meal to the ground.

"Brings a whole new meaning to the words 'being dumped', doesn't it?"

It occurs to Angel as he jumps through the air that Wesley had been waiting for him before doing this, and that he had purposefully gone to the very place Angel had expected for this confrontation.

This is not simply the act of a freshly risen vampire, out to put an end to the family. After all, Wes has no actual relatives within easy reach with whom to act out bloody vengeance. Angel, Cordelia and Gunn were the closest thing he ever had to family here, and it's Angel that will receive the first blow. Wesley is evil now, after all, and he knows that, soul intact, Angel is not.

Angel realises that perhaps mentioning his intentions for Willow to perform an ensouling was a bad idea, because he now poses a threat to Wesley not only as a sire, but also as an enemy. Then again, Wesley is not stupid. He probably knew what Angel had in store all along.

Cordelia had been much easier to quell with a supply of blood, her naturally selfish tendencies magnified by the demon. Asserting dominance had been easy enough, and he is sure she will still be chained in the basement when he gets back.

Wesley, however, has a whole lifetime of insecurity issues to make up for in his demon form, and it's obvious that the butt of them should lie with Angel himself.

And he is sorry. Sorry it ever came to this.

The fight is hard. Wesley knows Angel's fighting moves intimately, and although he may only just be coming to terms with his new strength and speed, he seems to be adapting quickly.

But Angel's an old hand at this, and he's had enough. He decides to end it, forget about proving a point. None of it will matter afterwards anyway.

He pulls out the gun and fires, and he sees the surprise on Wesley's face. He had been expecting a fight to the death, and he seems disappointed. He knows what will be waiting for him when he wakes up.

As he goes down, Angel releases a sigh and wonders what the hell he is going to say to him now.

……………………………..

Cordelia has vowed never to speak to him again, and she has retreated into herself to mourn for a while. Angel thinks she will get over it and that, in time, she might forgive him.

He saw the look of deep disappointment in Willow's eyes when she left, and he knows he may never be able to face up to what he has done to anyone again, least of all Buffy.

Everything just went so wrong, and as he climbs the stairs to the roof, he admits that this has all been his fault. If only he had been stronger. Maybe this is what Wolfram and Hart had intended all along. Their plan has certainly achieved breaking them all up completely, perhaps even beyond repair.

When he emerges into the crisp air of the night, he sees Wesley standing there, looking at the stars.

A stab of something near his lungs makes Angel's throat tighten, and he realises that anything he came up here to say will never make it past his lips, not tonight.

Wesley turns to him at that moment, and Angel can see the grief. Guilt and self-hatred are written in the tears he has been crying, and he looks at Angel with an expression half of confusion and half of bleak understanding.

"Why, Angel?" he asks, and Angel knows he doesn't have the answer.

To say that Wesley is not taking this well would be an understatement. He looks at Angel with a new frame of reference now, and Angel knows that he no longer separates Angel and Angelus in his mind anymore.

Wesley will not make the excuse of an evil counterpart to explain his behaviour. He believes himself completely responsible, and he will not allow Angel the shield now. He sees everything as one person, and that has brought with it a little fear and a little disgust that won't go away unless Angel can just explain this to him.

But Wesley won't let that happen, even if Angel had the words. It's taken Angel decades to come to what little peace he has with himself now and he doesn't expect Wesley to get that.

"I begged you not to Angel," he hisses, "I begged you!"

And Angel has to look away, because his world is crashing down on him and he just can't cope. It's all so wrong, and he has only himself to blame. But he can't turn back the clock… not again, and he thinks maybe he has deserved this. It is a punishment, but not for them, not for them.

And he doesn't think the Powers That Be have heard him, because Wesley has found something from somewhere, even though Angel is sure he had hidden everything, and with hot tears streaming down his face he is plunging it home, and there's a burst of dust, and Angel is shouting, and he feels like he is suffocating…

………………………..

He sits up and screams, but no sound makes it past his dead lungs.

The pain is excruciating as he rolls away, Darla lying by his side.

He launches himself away onto the balcony and writhes, gasping and groaning as his lover stands over him, whispering sweet nothings to her beloved Angelus.

And it feels like his soul is being ripped from his body again, except he's sure it's still there, because he remembers everything of the dream and it hurts. No one evil would ever feel eternally sorry for something like that.

And when he finally stands, he knows how easily everything could have gone, and he knows what it is he now has to do, so he looks Darla cold in the eye and issues his demands.

END 2004