Title: La Belle et Le Bete
Series: Angel, a Darker Prometheus
Sub-Series: La Belle Epoque
Rating: NC –13
Disclaimer: All hail to the might Joss! Eliza and Robin are mine.
Notes: This was my first entry in the Buffyverse Lyric Wheel and broke a long spell of writer's block. Thanks to Chuck for the lyrics which appear at the end of part three.
Summary: Can the beauty of innocence redeem the beast?
[Paris 1899] True love is like a rose, gentle, soft, yet willing to draw blood in its own defence. - Anon. Angelus raced along the Rue de Martyrs dashing through tiny islands of light beneath the gas lamps with Robin laughing wildly at his side. The mob wasn't far behind. At the Rue D'Orsel Angelus turned east while Robin headed west along the Rue des Abbesses. They would meet an hour before dawn at Sacre Coeur and make their way back to the Ritz Hotel where their Sire, Darla was waiting.
Leaping over a high wall Angelus landed in the garden behind a semi- detached two-storey house. Leaning against the rough bricks he listened to the pounding footfalls of the few hardy pursuers who had almost managed to keep pace with the two vampires on their flight from Pigalle. Damn, it was close this time! Robin's penchant for taking chances was going to get them both killed!
The recent murders of several whores had the city up in arms, much to Robin's amusement. He had become a liability as far as Angelus was concerned; leaving a 'calling card' at each of his kills, bringing unnecessary attention to the deaths of a few prostitutes which might otherwise have gone unnoticed or at least unremarked. Robin left a rose petal in the mouth of each victim and, with his usual disregard for safety, wore a rosebud in his buttonhole when they went out to feed. Angelus half- hoped the vigilantes would catch up with his erstwhile companion and put an end to his dangerous games. As the sounds of pursuit receded Angelus prepared to scale the wall again.
'He's not here you know.'
Startled, Angelus spun around. A young woman stood a few metres away. Dressed in diaphanous white, she seemed to float in the circle of flickering light cast by the candle she held in one hand. In the other she held a small leather-bound book.
'Who's not here?'
'The man you're looking for. The one everybody is out looking for.' She smiled a little uncertainly. 'The bad man.'
'Oh.' Angelus looked around for another way out of the walled garden. 'Well, that's a comfort.'
'Did Papa send you? To see that I was all right?'
'Something like that.' Distracted, Angelus turned back to face her. How odd, he thought, she doesn't seem afraid at all.
'I thought so,' the girl continued, 'seeing you're English too.' Angelus didn't know what to make of this and said nothing. 'Do you work at the Embassy with my Papa?'
'Umm ... '
'My Papa's a very important man.' She paused, pouting a little. 'That's why he's away so much, I expect.' She brightened. 'He's the Ambassador.' She grinned sheepishly. 'Silly me! You already know that!' Her mercurial moods and ingenuous chatter reminded Angelus of Drusilla. This childlike young woman, he sensed, was also a little 'touched'. Back in Galway, he mused, they would call her 'fey'.
'What are you doing out here in the garden all alone?' he asked. 'It's well past midnight.'
'Reading of course!' She said it like it was the most natural thing in the world. She pointed to a patch of grass behind a thick hedge where she had been lying. It was littered with volumes of fairy tales – Hans Anderson, Aesop, Perrault - all in their original languages.
'I come out here, sometimes, late at night and read by candlelight. Tottie doesn't know I do it,' she giggled. 'If I lay down behind the hedge she can't see me. The stories all seem so much more real by candle light.'
'Miss Trotter. She's my nanny. When I was little I couldn't say her name properly so I called her Tottie. That's funny don't you think?'
Her slightly husky voice was a fascinating contrast to her child-like manner. Angelus smiled. Indicating the volume in her grasp, Angelus held out his hand.
'May I see what you're reading?'
The girl handed over a well-thumbed book. It was an illustrated copy, in French, of Madame de Villeneuve's 'La Belle et Le Bete'. Opening it, Angelus saw an inscription inside. 'To my Wild Rambling Rose on the Occasion of her Sixteenth Birthday from your Loving Papa, 1896.' It was signed Sir Edwin Day.
'It's my favourite,' she said. 'Because of the rose.'
She took the little book from his hand and opened it to an illustration of an old man plucking a pink rose from a vine trailing over the doorway of a decaying castle.
'You know the tale,' she prompted. 'Belle's father goes on a journey. Her sisters ask him to bring them back fine clothes and jewels but all Belle wants him to bring her is a single rose.' Her pale hands hugged the book to the ruffled bodice of her nightgown. 'Papa calls me his wild rose. Why he calls me it I do not know, for my name is Eliza Day.'
'And Sir Edwin's your father?' The girl nodded. Sir Edwin Day was the British Ambassador in Paris. As the murders of the Parisian prostitutes were being blamed on an Englishman, the Embassy made a show of assisting the French police in tracking down the murderer, naturally to no avail - no one ever suspected the truth. Disbelief was, Angelus knew, the vampire's best refuge. Sir Edwin was out now, called from his bed following Robin's predations of that evening. But his home would not be deserted.
'Where's your mother, Eliza?'
'Mama's dead,' she replied. 'She died when I was born. I took such a long time to come into the world, you see. And she was tired out.' Eliza absent- mindedly twirled a lock of pale blonde hair. 'Sometimes I think I'm like the girls in my stories. Lots of them don't have mothers either, you know. Cinderella didn't have a mother, nor Snow White.' She paused then turned her big blue eyes towards Angelus, frowning a little. 'You don't suppose it was my fault do you? Papa says it wasn't my fault. Do you suppose he says that just to make me feel better?'
Angelus felt a sudden stab of pity, an uncomfortable new emotion now that his soul, and his conscience, had been restored.
'No, Eliza, I'm sure it's true. Your papa wouldn't lie to you, would he?'
She shook her head. 'But sometimes I think that's why he's away so much. Because he's angry with me. I get so lonely sometimes.' Eliza looked back at the pile of books on the grass. 'At least I have my books. The people in them are my friends. They never leave me.'
Unused to voicing his newly rediscovered compassion, Angelus was at a loss to offer any words of sympathy.
'Papa has been so very busy trying to find the bad man,' Eliza said. 'The French say it's an Englishman but I don't believe it. Neither does Tottie. She says no Englishman could do such terrible things.'
A voice calling from the other side of the garden surprised them both.
'Angelus! Let's go!'
It was Robin, sitting atop of the far wall banging his heels against the bricks. Noticing the girl, he slipped down from his perch and ran over to where she and Angelus stood, never once taking his hungry eyes from Eliza. As Robin approached Angelus turned to leave but the slim, blond vampire, grinning widely, threw an arm around his shoulder, mumbling, 'On the other hand, there's no rush, is there brother?' Glancing down at the volumes of fairy tales scattered about, Robin turned his pale grey gaze back to the girl.
'Who have we here?' He reached out and fondled her long blonde ringlets. 'Goldilocks, perhaps?' Eliza giggled prettily. Fascinated, Robin gave Angelus a lascivious wink. 'What's your name, then, pretty thing?'
'Eliza. What's yours?'
'Maybe I'm the Big Bad Wolf?'
Eliza shook her head. 'You don't look like a wolf.'
'Well, looks can be deceiving, especially in fairy tales.' He paused, ignoring Angelus's gare, dark and dangerous. 'I'm Robin.'
'Robin? Like Robin Goodfellow!' Eliza clapped her hands. 'How jolly!'
Robin bowed, low and courtly, much to Eliza's delight. 'Sweet Eliza, thou speakest aright. I am that merry wanderer of the night!'
'You were supposed to wait for me at Sacre Coeur,' Angelus reminded him stiffly.
'Well, I got bored and came looking for you, brother.' Robin noticed with glee how Angelus's jaw tightened; he hated it when Robin called him that. 'With all the evil abroad these nights, there's no telling what trouble you might have gotten into,' Robin chuckled, adding quietly, 'and who'd have thought those fat drunken Frenchies would have such stamina! What a fuss over a few Pigalle sluts!'
'We have to go. Now!' Angelus took the other vampire by the arm and began to drag him away. Robin shrugged off the restraining hand, doffed an imaginary hat to Eliza, bowed again and skipped away.
'Well met by moonlight, pretty Eliza! Perhaps we'll meet again some other night!'
Enchanted, Eliza's blue eyes shone with pleasure.
'Go back inside now, Eliza.' Angelus was reluctant to leave but wanted Robin away from the girl as soon as possible. 'It's cold out here.'
'You will, won't you, Angelus?' she called after them. 'Come and visit me again, I mean?'
'Of course I will, Eliza' he called over his shoulder, not willing to look back at her, a lonely figure standing in the guttering candlelight. 'Of course I will.'
Not meaning it at all.
[end part 1 of 3]
Please read and review. Thanks to everyone who reviewed to say that they enjoyed the last story 'Coming to America'. A couple of you commented on Robin, so here he is, making a nuisance of himself again! Let me know what you think of this one...