Lost Souls
A Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan fic
by Constance Eilonwy
During "I Only Have Eyes For You"

Note: I wrote this after seeing Becoming, Part I, and before seeing Becoming,
Part II.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the property of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy.

This one's for Julia, who wanted to read it.
-----

She watched him, as she did so many nights. Not even a shadow, not even a
scent, barely even a presence. But she watched over him. Sometimes she was
in the room with him, other nights she was Something at the window, visible
only if the eye happened to catch the mirror reflection of the room within--and
thus whatever lay beyond the reflection, as well.

It still hurt. Not just the residual pain from the last moment of her mortal life--
although there was that--but more, the pain of saying good-bye. Of being right
in the same room, even touching him, and receiving no response.

He sighed, removed his glasses, rubbed his eyes to rest them. A desk lamp
created a halo of light around the reader and his stacks of musty books. She'd
always liked computerized information more--so clean, so uncomplicated. But
he'd convinced her, eventually, that there was value in the dusty hard copies as
well, things computers couldn't tell you. Tentatively, she reached out and
brushed back his hair--brown hair, with hardly any gray hairs. He stirred at her
touch, flapping his hand distractedly as if a fly had buzzed by. She "sat" in the
chair opposite his--she needed no physical seat, but pretending helped the
loneliness. As she watched him turn back to the books, she smiled to herself; it
was almost like the old days, the two of them hunting down some obscure fact
or piece of information, face-to-face across a library table. She reached out and
traced the line of his jaw with her finger. He only moved his head, as if feeling
a breeze.

A warning hum, like a jolt of electricity, ran through her. She gasped, looked
up, although there was nothing to see in the quiet library. It was here, in the
school, and it was angry, unsettled. She'd tried to convince them to go away,
to leave the school in peace, but neither tortured soul listened, too wrapped up
in their own pain. That happened, sometimes, when a soul had no ties left to
any mortal. So she'd been extra vigilant the last few nights, watching him and
the other mortals close to him--who had once been close to her--just in case.

Her unearthly senses reached out and saw, down the hall, on the landing of the
stairwell. Her second favorite mortal, the one so like her, had set down the
candle and was ready to play her part in the banishment of the lost souls. But
it was coming--she was in danger.

:Oh--: but there was no deity she could swear by here. She could confront the
soul, convince it...not to do...? All she knew was that it meant incredible
malevolence towards the girl, towards all of them. It would not be silenced, it
would not be given peace. Convincing it would take time, though, and there
wasn't any time left.

:Go! She needs help: she yelled at him, but he couldn't hear. She had to reach
him--he was so wrapped up in his reading he hadn't yet heard the girl scream,
although he might in a moment; her hearing was tuned higher than his now,
and she'd heard the scream even though it hadn't started yet. Any moment
now, the girl would notice that the floor had opened up and wanted to drag her
down. :You dusty book-worm, move it! Go:

Frantic, she remembered something about how to get a mortal's attention. The
movies, apparently, got some things right about the supernatural, on occasion.
Concentrating very hard, she leaned forward, lifted a finger, and knocked the
glasses off of his face.

"Oh, curse it!" he muttered, and leaned down from his chair to retrieve them
from the linoleum floor. It had worked. He was distracted, away from the
book--receptive.

The audible scream reached him--a young woman in terror. It was faint, but he
had heard it in time.

"Willow?" he said softly. Then, like a shot, he had grabbed up his glasses and
was out of the chair, all in one motion. He was putting on his glasses even as
he ran, slamming out through the double swinging doors of the library.

She let out a sigh of relief. This was the only way she could keep helping.
Always in the back of her mind was the thought that if she bided her time long
enough, she might get them in the right position so that a pencil, given just the
right push, could lead the way to the floppy disk that had fallen between her
old computer table and her desk. That was the greatest favor she could think of
to do for them.

-----

Leaving the library, she moved through the empty, half-lit halls of the high
school, drawn towards the source of trouble. She followed them as they went
home, discussed what to do next.

She was with Buffy in the kitchen when she got the flyer for a dance half a
century old.

:No, don't go:

But of course, the blond girl couldn't hear her.

She flickered back to the living room and hovered around Giles. :Giles, she's
in trouble--quickly, please...: He talked on, oblivious. She tried knocking
books to the floor, stirring the curtains, knocking off his glasses again.
Nothing. She loved him, but sometimes he was a bit thick.

Then Willow, without any urging, wondered where her friend was, and
wandered out to the kitchen. :Atta girl:

"Oh, God...Giles!"

He ran into the kitchen.

"Buffy's gone."

-----

:Wild night, huh:

The words, coming out of the shadows by the locker bank, made her start.

:Do you always have to sneak up on me like that:

:I wasn't sneaking up on you. I'm here for the same reasons you are.:

She shrugged. It made her uncomfortable to talk to him. With good reason.

:I did help them: she said, a bit proudly. :It wasn't much, but I gave them one
or two seconds that may have saved Willow's life.:

:Frustrating, isn't it:

:What:

:Always watching, there but not there. Wanting to protect and not being able
to, except by nudging things the right direction.:

:You watch her: It surprised her. She had only encountered him in this
twilight world once or twice; and that subject had never come up. The first
encounter she'd been too terrified and furious to listent to anything he said.
The second, he'd slowly convinced her it hadn't been him who had killed
her. He'd tossed off some pointers about how to negotiate this new world, but
kept to himself.

:Can't help it.:

She got the impression of a wry, pained smile.

:Yeah: she agreed, subdued.

Then he walked right by them in the hall, cocky, almost swaggering. The soul
waiting with her flinched away, with a huddling-up-with-pain feeling. It
unsettled her, too--you just weren't supposed to encounter a soul and its
material counterpart at the same time. Not living--that wasn't the word. Nor
was mortal. But Angelus was solid enough, as she had reason to remember.
While Angel was in the same fix she was.

:Gotta go: he whispered, and Angel followed Angelus down the hall.

She hurried off to go back out and help Giles find a way past the barrier
surrounding the school--a barrier that kept mortals out, but not her kind.
-----

He only had a few seconds. The other two souls were still in their borrowed
bodies. A song played on an old turntable-- "I Only Have Eyes For You," he
thought the title was.

But as the souls left--as they would in a moment--the channel might be open
wide enough that he could gain entry of his own. It was funny, really--he felt
like a sneak-thief, but all he was really doing was taking back what belonged
to him anyway. Even though that body stood empty inside much of the time,
he couldn't get in. This stranger had succeeded in temporarily taking over, to
play out his own angst and tragedies, put them to rest only because the magics
were right, and he was bound to this Place. It wasn't something Angel could
do--he couldn't just break down the figurative door, so to speak. He also
wasn't exactly like other souls. Maybe someday...if the magics were right for
him...but for now, he'd have to be satisfied with a kind of spiritual
hitchhiking.

The souls were leaving while the bodies kissed. Light surrounded her and him,
blinding, swirling in the darkened classroom. He saw her soul, an extremely
pouty, quite put-out soul, shove back to the forefront as the interloper
departed, and it made him smile.

Now.

He stepped into the light like someone stepping under a shower. The last
vestiges of the stranger--a female--were just fading, not quite gone. She
seemed surprised to see him there, but he ignored her.

The horrible emptiness was around him--it was like stepping into an empty
hanger or army base. The interloper and himself were the only things in there,
save for the tiny, dark, pocket of shadow where a tiny piece of Angel
remained--no soul-removal was ever total. It was like the dregs at the bottom
of a mug of ale--there were always a few drops left, even if you drained the
draught. But because the pocket was so small, the negative emotions tended to
dominate like snarling, jealous children.

He could feel her, now, her mouth against his, her body moving slightly
beneath his fingers, beneath the leather jacket she wore. A feeling of
completeness came over him--and with the completeness, the knowledge that
this wasn't his to keep again. Not just yet. But for those precious seconds, he
was aware, he had mortal senses again. He could touch her.

The interloper left, streaming upwards to the next level, its business done, all
ties to the mortal world gone. Now he was the only one in that vast, dark
space.

YOU HAVE NO RIGHT. YOU HAVE TO LEAVE, the Voices told him.

:One more second. The whole world for one more second. Please.:

But The Voices were implacable. IT IS TIME TO GO.

:Please...no...:

The kiss ended. She looked up into his face, leaning against him, confused
wonderment in her eyes.

"Angel?"

He started to answer her back, to speak with his material voice.

A tug as strong as the tide of the ocean sucked at him, pulling him away. He
had violated the rules, he had no right to be there. For a second, he looked
back into her eyes, as himself, before the tide took him over, beyond his
control.

He was outside his material form once again, drained, helpless. He saw
Angelus come to the forefront again, shove her away, looking at her with
something like horror. He saw the lingering hope in her face fade, and it was
agony worse than a wooden stake through his chest.

:If he hurts her...: There were no deities to swear by here, no curses. But he
thought it, he felt it.

Then Angelus stumbled back, turned, and ran. The dark pocket was confused.

Buffy slumped against the desk, her face blank with stunned shock.

:I'm sorry...: he told her, moving close. :I'm so sorry...: he touched her hair,
trying to comfort, wanting to hold her.

There was no comfort for the bleakness he saw in her face.

:I want to go home: he thought, pleadingly, lost, like a child.

Life went on.

THE END