La Belle et Le Bete by Ligeia

Each evening Angelus and Eliza walked down by the river that ran though the grounds of the abandoned chateau to make love among the tangled blooms of the rose garden gone wild. Why he had stolen this changeling child from her father, Angelus did not know, only that he needed to look into those eyes, as blue as the sky he thought he had long forgotten, and see trust rather than suspicion, love instead of fear.

'For the rose is the lightning of beauty that strikes through the bowers on pale lovers who sit in the glow unaware!'

Angelus turned sharply, pulling Eliza close as Robin stepped out of the shadows of the old oak against which he had been leaning, watching quietly as the lovers strolled in the moonlight.

'What a charming scene,' he grinned mirthlessly, 'to be seen by the Seine.' He reached to touch Eliza's smooth cheek but she shrank back, chilled by the bleakness she saw in his winter-grey eyes. He dropped his hand, and his smile.

'I told you we'd meet again, my lovely.' Robin turned his sharp gaze to Angelus. 'Come along, brother,' he said. 'You've had your bit of fun; it's time to go home.'

'This is my home now,' Angelus replied. 'If you and the others are ready to move on, go without me. I'm staying here.' He gave Eliza a little push towards the path back to the chateau. 'Go on, Eliza. Wait for me back at the house.'

The girl, shivering now, hesitated a moment then began to run. But Robin was too quick. He seized her by the arm and swung her, whimpering, into his pitiless embrace. Angelus lunged forward but stopped as Robin cruelly tightened his grip on Eliza. She began to cry.

'Don't be a fool, Angelus! There's no future in this. What do you think will happen when she finds out what you really are?' Robin had one bloodless hand over Eliza's mouth. Her eyes grew wide with fear as he tilted her chin, stretching the tendons in her neck until they were taut as bowstrings. 'Either kill her or turn her, but do it now!'

Angelus approached them slowly, running his hand along the tight flesh of the girl's exposed throat. Robin released his hold on her, smiled and stepped away.

'I knew you'd come to your senses, old chap.'

Eliza moaned as Angelus laid his lips against the soft whiteness of her neck. Brushing his cheek against hers, he whispered, 'Don't be afraid, my love,' and pushed her sharply away.

Robin was taken by surprise as Angelus swung around and landed a blow squarely on his jaw. He lurched backwards, more surprised than injured, then lunged at the older vampire. As they fought, Robin continued to taunt Angelus, laughing as they struggled.

'Come on, old man!' he sneered, ducking punches. 'She's not worth it! Kill her and be done!' Angelus had not fed since he left Paris and Robin could tell he was tiring quickly. Pressing the advantage, the younger man shoved his opponent hard up against the rough trunk of the oak, slamming his head hard into the wood. Anger broke over Angelus like a wave and, reverting to his 'true' face, he leapt again at the other vampire.

Eliza, unnoticed now, sank to the ground beside the river and sobbed.

Suddenly, Robin broke from the scuffle. Holding up his hands in mock defeat, he shook his blond head.

'I fold, old chap,' he declared, backing away. 'If you want her that much then take her, and good luck to you!'

Not taking his eyes off the smirking Robin, Angelus bent down to help Eliza to her feet but she shrank from his touch. Still seated on the damp ground, she brushed the back of a small hand across her tear-stained face.

'I thought you were my prince,' she said miserably, 'but you're still the beast inside!'

'No, Eliza,' Angelus began, not knowing how to comfort her when he was the source of her pain. As he reached out a hand to touch the golden silk of her bowed head, he did not hear Robin approach from behind.

Angelus groaned as consciousness returned, the back of his head bloodied but already healing as he lurched to his feet. The oak branch Robin had struck him with lay broken in two a few feet away.

By the river bank Eliza and Robin stood locked in each other's embrace.

Only they were not embracing. Even from several metres away Angelus could see the thick line of blood that trailed from the place where Robin's lips met Eliza's ivory throat. As Angelus staggered towards them he saw the dual trickles of blood from her wounds, at first pulsing in time to her rapidly beating heart, slow and stop.

Robin relaxed his grip on the girl, letting her body slip gently to the ground then knelt down beside her. Taking the rose from his lapel he raised the bud towards his mouth, drawing the long sharp thorns across his tongue. Lifting Eliza's head, he kissed her deeply, letting his blood fill her unresponsive mouth.

Angelus caught Robin by the coat collar and roughly hauled him away from Eliza.

But already the transformation had begun. Angelus leaned over her, watching as her skin paled from ivory to marble, her eyes flickering beneath the lids like a restless dreamer. As she opened her eyes, no longer the colour of the sky but sapphire hard, he raised his hand and brought it down hard against her skull, the rock he held smashing through her forehead. She fell back on the grass, a red stain slicking her long golden hair, a lifeless doll broken by some careless, wilful child. The transformation was incomplete; she would not rise. Angelus brushed away a strand of bloodied gold and gently closed his lover's eyes.

Robin sauntered over, picking up her inert hand and letting it drop onto the grass.

'Now look what you've done. You've spoiled the game!'

Angelus rounded on him angrily.

'This is no game! This was a life! An innocent life!'

Robin snorted derisively.

'How did you expect his to end, old fellow? What did you think you were going to do with her?' Robin asked. 'You didn't want to make her one of us.'

Angelus shook his head. He never wanted that.

'What then?' Robin insisted. 'Keep her with you? And when you tired of her, what then?'

'I don't know, Robin. I don't know.'

Angelus realised he had not thought that far ahead, living each of the few short days they had spent together as though there was no future, no past, only the present - like the 'people' in one of Eliza's stories. Had he really hoped to take the sun and sky with him into the night? Or had he only hoped to find some easing of his own pain by taking the girl away. But Robin wasn't finished. Leaning down beside Angelus, he tore some petals from the dark red rose he wore and scattered them over Eliza's serene face.

'If you'd really cared about her you wouldn't have gone back after that first night. You knew what would happen. You can't pluck a rose then expect to be able to put it back on the vine, old thing. Oh, it may bloom for a day or two, but then it must wither and die.'

Painful as it was, Angelus knew he was no better than the soulless demon he had been for so long, taking whatever or whomever he wanted without regard for the object of his selfish desires. Angelus bent to kiss her one last time, tasting blood and roses. It was true. All beauty must die.

Robin rose and dusted the grass and soil from his trousers.

'Come on now old chap, this is all for the best don't you see? What kind of a life would she have had shut up in that garden like a prisoner? This is kindness after all, don't you think? She got to live out her fairy tale. Her dreams came true after all.'

Finis

Where The Wild Roses Grow by Nick Cave

They call me the wild rose
But my name was Eliza Day
Why they call me it I do not know
For my name was Eliza Day

From the first day I saw her I knew she was the one
As she stared in my eyes and smiled
For her lips were the colour of the roses
That grew down the river, all bloody and wild

When he knocked on the door and entered the room
My trembling subsided in his sure embrace
He would be my first man, and with a careful hand
He wiped at the tears that ran down my face

They call me the wild rose
But my name was Eliza Day
Why they call me it I do not know
For my name was Eliza Day

On the second day I brought her a flower
She was more beautiful than any woman I'd seen
I said, 'Do you know where the wild roses grow
So sweet and scarlet and free?'

On the second day he came with a single red rose
Said, 'Will you give me your loss and your sorrow?'
I nodded my head as I lay on the bed
He said, 'If I show you the roses will you follow?'

They call me the wild rose
But my name was Eliza Day
Why they call me it I do not know
For my name was Eliza Day

On the third day he took me to the river
He showed me the roses and we kissed
And the last thing I heard was a muttered word
As he stood smiling above me with a rock in his fist

On the last day I took her to where the wild roses grow
And she lay on the bank, the wind light as a thief
As I kissed her goodbye I said, 'All beauty must die'
And lent down and planted a rose between her teeth

They call me the wild rose
But my name was Eliza Day
Why they call me it I do not know
For my name was Eliza Day


Thanks again to all who have read this story and a special thanks to everyone who has taken the time to review. I still have a few stories that I haven't posted yet, so keep checking weekly for more Angel-goodness! Or perhaps a Spike/Dru fic for a change? Let me know...