Title: View From The Top Author: Sami Email: Summary: Angel, Wes, and Faith have a rough night that never happened.
Notes: Written for the Shades of Grey Buffy ficathon. Much thanks to my beta and the people of GAFF.

Angel shrugged off his coat as he walked through his bedroom door. It was his old one from Sunnydale. Wolfram & Hart was wearing on him. He needed something no matter how little to help him get a sense of who he was, what he fought, and why he was here. The coat didn't help in anyway but reminding him that he led his friends into hell. His hand hit the left pocket and paper crackled. He pulled out the paper and using his right hand he hung his coat up. The lights were dim in the room and he made no move to the light switch. He was brooding and it's not as if he needed any illumination.

As he flopped unto his chair, he hoped that Spike will leave him in peace. He took a deep breath. He slouched his shoulders forward in a half circle over the paper. He sew himself in his mind like that; a crooked, demented object from a Picasso. He smoothed out the paper on his thighs while wishing that his brooding and self hate/pity wasn't so distracting; he has had lost hours just brooding on one girl or another; tall brunettes or petite blondes.

The words on the page are in a scrawl that takes time to decipher. Its Faith's handwriting and from the first lines it appears to be a page from her dream journal. He remembered that this was written during that dark period when Darla ruled his mind. Wesley had her write it once in prison to see if she would have prophetic Slayer dreams. Visiting Faith had always made him brood on the fact that he couldn't save her. Every visit made him realize what an amazing woman she was and how no one would really see that. Reading her dream journal never helped either. To read her hopes and dreams that they both knew would never come true, felt like a hot poker in his side. And he literally knew how that felt.

The paper's wrinkles and Faith's chicken scratch almost makes a picture; a farm. But once he got a hang of her writing it's only the words that pop out. Faith has a way of writing that is almost puritan. Vivid images are written in the plainest English. No flourishes yet Angel can see her whole dream in his head as if he was there. The words on the page were creating images as clear as the horrible art deco painting over the mantle.

-----

Cordelia screamed, one arm flailing, the other gripping her temple. She tumbled onto the round sofa, her long ponytail coming undone as she spasmed in pain. Angel rushed to her with Gunn in tow.

Faith asked as she was whittled a stake," Vision?"

Cordelia yelled,"Duh!" She still had a hand at her temple with the other smoothing down her dress. Continuing with a grimace of pain on her face she said,"Vampires, around ten or twenty. I'm not sure. They're at an apartment complex. It looks like Melrose Place. It's only around nightfall." She paused, her face screwed up in deep concentration, or pain. "I think a sign says Blair or Rowan Wood. The signs areā€¦ It's the street or complex, I don'tknow. They're burning it."

While Cordelia was recounting the vision Gunn and Faith were arming up.

Gunn passed an axe to Angel and asked, "You need backup? I can get my crew."

Wesley had ducked behind the counter and now popped up with a map of LA. Running his finger down the index and he asked, "Upscale, you say?"

"No, Melrose Place," Cordelia said wearily.

"I think she means yes," Angel said, walking over to Wesley. "Blair or Rowan Wood."

Cordelia was getting a cup of water and Tylenol from Gunn. She said, "It might be by the ocean."

"Wes, find it yet?" Faith asked as she tucked extra stakes into her pocket.

"Yes, I believe we have it. Gunn, could you come over here?"

He tentatively patted Cordelia's shoulder before making his way to the corner. He leaned over the map and, "Yeah, I know where that it. I'll get my crew." He paused. "Something must be up if vamps are leaving Venice for rich folks."

"The Beach?" Angel asked.

Gunn nodded. "Yeah, the place is crawling with them." He grabbed the phone and dialed.

"Why don't people tell me these things?"

Wesley looked up from a notepad, where he was writing directions, "You didn't know that?"

Angel didn't get to answer as chaos broke out. Cordelia accidentally dropped an axe on Faith's foot, then Gunn as he put the phone down knocked over a glass. The shattering glass and Faith's curse made everyone grimace.

"Sorry!" Cordelia yelled as she picked up the axe and held it out for Faith.

"Watch the weapons!" Angel yelled, rolling his eyes toward heaven.

"Gunn, the water-- my notes!" Wesley yelled, picking up a wet paper and wringing it out.

All three yelled at the same time, which led to confusion.

Faith muttered and, taking the axe, hopped over to the circular couch. Wesley began to scribble new notes and Gunn rooted behind the counter for a broom.

"You did that on purpose," Faith said to Cordelia and started up a furious argument.

Angel finally separated them, which left the lobby quiet except for the sounds of Gunn sweeping. The girl's glaring at each other from across the room had the men keeping their eyes lowered. Wesley fumbled a bit with his crossbow and a large cross as he walked, causing the girls to follow him with angry eyes. He sped up.When Gunn put away the broom, Angel clapped his hands together and asked, "So, we ready to go?"

-----

The girls started arguing again over Cordelia's apology when the gang split into two groups. Cordelia and Gunn hopped into Gunn's truck. Faith jumped into the back of Angel's convertible while the two men got into the front. She lay down in the back with the boots propped up on the top of Wesley's seat.

He knocked them down, "Must you be sprawled all over the seat?"

"Jeez, Wes, if you took that bug out of your ass you'd be a hellava lot more comfortable and you wouldn't sit like that." She sat up and leaned her elbow on his seat. She grinned when she heard his answer.

"Faith, it's called good posture."

She shook her hair, which tickled his "It's called, 'gee-I-just-got-a-prostate-exam-and-the-doctor-was-very-vigorous.'"

"You used big words and made a complete sentence. It must be a red letter day."

She just laughed.

"Children, I will turn this car around." Angel said.

"Is Angel smiling?" Faith asked Wesley. "I think he-"

She was interrupted by a scream. The mood in the car did a one-eighty; grimaces replaced smiles and Faith's back was now ramrod straight.

As they pulled up to the complex, Faith jumped out of the car. She walked over to the gate, and after finding that it was locked, round-kicked it open

"Nice move," Angel murmured as he walked through the gate with Wesley in tow. She followed and they slowly moved into a v-formation.

The Englishman looked at the apartment walls with distaste, "I hate stucco."

The sounds of vampires yelling to each other and people screaming covered the sound of the trio running into the complex courtyard. A large pool dominated the yard and several palm trees and benches were dotted here and there. There were at least ten vampires having trouble attempting to light the apartment walls on fire with torches.

Angel staked a hopping vampire in the back but unfortunately he missed. The vampire screamed as the wood was yanked out of his back and then into his heart. The sound rang out and bounced off the stucco walls.

Faith staked a vamp and went into a defensive position. Seeing the Slayer staking one of their fellows sent the vampires running toward her. They dropped their torches which luckily sputtered out. Faith pushed her weight on her hands and launched herself feet first into a vampire. She gracefully landed on his chest and quickly crouched to jam a stake into it.

Seeing Wesley fighting two vamps, she raced to help her Watcher. A fast right hook to the temple of the nearest vampire sent it falling into a bench. Wesley hit the remaining vampire upside the head with a large cross. He quickly dispatched the screaming vampire with the sharpened edge of the cross. Faith was wheezing on the ground struggling to stake the other vampire. Wesley stabbed the cross into its back. He helped his coughing Slayer up.

She was gasping. "Kicked in stomach, inhaled dust. Thanks." He swung the cross at an approaching vamp and Faith side- kicked another.

"How many are there?" he asked as he slammed the cross into a vampire's neck and yanked it to the side, decapitating it.

Faith was punching one as it pulled her hair when she answered, "We got eight. Angel has three now." Police sirens could be heard in the background. "We gotta get this over with." She jammed a stake into the vampire. Wesley nodded and they ran toward Angel, who was fighting near the pool.

"Faith, did you bring any holy water?" he asked as he staked a vampire from behind.

She nodded and said, "Catch." Guessing his plan, she knocked Angel away from the pool before taking a flask out of her back pocket and throwing it to Wesley. He pushed a vampire in the water with his shoulders as he struggled to take the cap off the flask. Faith distracted the other two and in a neat low kick, she sent them falling into the pool just as Wesley dumped the holy water into it. The effect was instantaneous and the vampires disintegrated.

"We have to get out of here," Faith said. The men nodded and the group hauled ass to the car. Faith wasn't the only one to jump into the car this time. Angel jammed the key into the ignition and stepped down hard on the gas. Wesley only just shut the car door when they started to speed out. Faith looked back as they turned the corner and saw the flashing police lights. She leaned back in the seat with a groan.

-----

The cell phone rang, causing Angel to jump and swerve.

"Damn it, Angel!" Faith said, rubbing her temple where it collided with the side of the car.

"Wes! Get it!" Angel said. Wes ducked and started turning out the vampire's pockets carefully.

"He said to find the cell, not feel him up," Faith said, her temple forgotten as she grinned at Wesley's red face.

He finally pulled out the phone and putting it to his ear said," Hello? Cordelia?" He paused and his face turned grave. "Angel, I think you should hear this."

"Wesley, you know the whole phone thing-" Angel started to say before looking at the other man. He took the phone and asked Cordelia what was wrong.

Faith hung on to the back of Angel's seat and silently motioned to Wesley; trying to get him to tell her what was wrong. He shrugged and screwed up his face in confusion. Faith mimed talking on the phone. Wesley shook his head. She sighed, furrowed her brow, and stuck out her jaw while miming being on the phone. He shrugged and raised his eyebrows. Faith pointed to Angel as she made that face and pretended to talk on the phone. He nodded and smiled. He then acted like his nails were long and wet and pursed his lips like he was an angry girl.

Angel said goodbye and looked over at Wesley. "What are doing?" he asked the other man who was still in the middle of his Cordelia impression. "Never mind . Cordy says that Gunn shook some info from some vamps they found on the way to that apartment complex. A master vampire got staked by Wolfram & Hart tonight."

"So, they called mischief night?" Faith asked.

"Yes, I think. And by the way Cordy described it, Gunn's crew is already spread thin. According to her they throw them out of the car window every few feet."

"Are we now going to do what; drive around looking for trouble?" Faith asked.

"No, she had another vision and didn't seem very happy about it."

"Where are we going?" she asked.

"Venice beach."

---------

Venice beach was empty. Faith was behind Angel and Wesley as they walked past shops and booths. Angel's axe and Wesley's crossbow glinted in the moonlight and reflected off the sidewalk.

"There aren't any bums," Faith whispered as she caught up with the men. "This is freaky."

"She's right. This is quite odd." Wesley said, looking around and peering intently at Muscle Beach.

Angel nodded. "I know, but Cordy wasn't very forthcoming."

They stepped on to the sand as a fire flared up, illuminating a figure in a cloak. Faintly they heard the figure chanting. The robes of the chanter hid him completely and with him waving his arms deducing his species was damn near impossible.

"Wes?"

"Sounds like an Etruscan death ritual. I'm not sure of the age or..." Wesley said, alarm evident in his voice before he trailed off.

"Purpose?" Angel suggested.

"Oh, no, the purposes for them are quite known."

"That means?" Faith asked.

"You know that horrid zombie film that you made me see? Evil Dead."

"Yeah"

"Enough said really." Wesley said faintly. The trio started to run to the fire.

"How do we stop it?" Angel asked.

"Kill the summoner, I think."

"You think?" Faith asked Wesley before dropping just in time to miss a fireball.

She spit out sand as she rolled out of the way of a second one. Her mind reflected for a moment cut how pretty the beach looked. They were on a little section that was clear of rotting seaweed, no doubt thanks to the chanting figure, and the ocean was black under the full moon. The fire was crackling and seemed like one surfers in a movie might gather around after hitting the waves. Her moment of reflection was over when she had to crab walk to get out of a fireball's path.

While the chanter was busy with Faith, Angel sprinted toward him, snarling in game face and his axe in hand. The chanter threw another' instead fireball before lifting a heavily robed arm that sent Angel flying.

His chanting continued and the ground shook. In the distance, glowing skulls popped began to rise out of the now choppy ocean. Dark clouds began to fill the sky in a way that was clearly unnatural. Lightening started to hit the waves and the thunder was becoming deafening.

The chanter's last fireball incinerated one of Wesley's crossbow bolts. He shot again and the arrow again missed. He was then thrown back onto the unnaturally hot sand. He quickly got up and blew on his hands. Face was filled with fear as he looked around at the landscape. Wesley threw his arms up and started to chant.

Faith was no closer to the chanter and had to jump around to keep her skin whole. Angel wasn't any better off' and kept being knocked away. The right side of his face was becoming red from hitting the burning sand.

The skulls in the ocean had moved steadily toward shore and now rib cages were above water. They echoed the Chanter's words in dull, dry booming voices. The sounds of the sea skeletons and the thunder was blocking everything out; even Wesley's chanting and the crackling of the vivid pink globe now in his palm.

The skeleton's kneecaps were visible as they walked out of the water. The lightening kept hitting the swirling, choppy, black ocean sending waves that hit the shore violently. The skeletons appeared indifferent as they kept bellowing out their chant.

Angel and Faith rushed the chanter as Wesley hurled the globe. The vampire and Slayer flew in opposite directions, leaving a clear path for the pink globe. The fire around the chanter flared as the globe slammed into his robed figure. The following explosion towered high overhead before it burst outward over the sea destroying the skeletons, who let out a might roar. The beach was dark and silent without the glowing skeletons, fire, thunder and chanting. All their eyes took a moment to refocus.

"Holy Mother of God," Angel said as he touched the already healing burns on his face. The others nodded. The group wearily stumbled across the sand to Angel's car.

------

'Rag-tag' would be the best way to describe how the gang was looking. Angel was all but slumped over the steering wheel, Wesley was leaning against the dash board, and Faith was in her usual sprawled position in the back. 'Washed out' was also a good one, with their pale faces. 'Sorry lot' would work as well.

When the cell phone rang, Wesley sat up and absently began to pat Angel down for it. Faith lifted her hand off her eyes before she said, "Wes, stop copping a feel. The cell is in your pocket."

Wesley's hand shot out of Angel's pocket. "Oh, very sorry, I didn't realize. I-Hello?" Wesley said into the phone.

"Yo, Wes!" Gunn yelled loud enough for the next car to hear. "Cordy had another vision. A 'shroom thing is sacrificing a girl behind 'The Best of Rome' restaurant." The sounds of fighting; grunts, fists meeting flesh, and yelling were audible. "Cordy says it's next to a corner store near Venice. Oh, man, I gotta go. Vamps are trying to bust George's head in."

"Anyone have any idea where this place is?" Angel asked as he turned the car around. Wesley pulled out a map from his pocket which was folded to show Venice Beach.

"Is that one of those Tourist maps?" Faith asked, leaning over his seat.

He nodded and pointed at a street. Angel spun the steering wheel, leaving half the tires rubber behind on the street, like action stars love to do in movies. Faith hit the side of the car and said, "Angel, this ain't Lethal Weapon."

"That's why we wear seat belts." Angel replied as he pulled into the 'Best of Rome's' small parking lot.

The parking lot was overgrown with weeds and the restaurant itself looked like it had seen better decades. They stumbled out of the car.

An odd squishy thump sound grew in volume as they walked toward the back of the restaurant. A shadow could be seen hopping against a red fence. An odd grey circle of light dominated the parking lot. As they walk continued into the back the 'source of light was revealed to be a pentagram with a prone Mexican girl in the middle of it. The hopping shadow was a squat mushroom shaped creature which with its every leap caused a sharp whistling to fill the air. The creature looked as if it wore dark green camouflage.

When Angel stepped into the light the pentagram shot up sparks which flowed over to him. The sparks solidified into a man shape.

"Miss me, Angel?" A familiar lilting voice asked. A face emerged; twinkling blue eyes, good natured mouth, pale skin which was followed by a dark coat, jeans, and blue shirt appearing on the body.

"Doyle?" Angel asked shakily.

"Yeah, it's me. Not so much alive as when you last saw me. I really got to tell you what a rough deal it was when you let me die."

"Angel, don't listen to him!" Wesley yelled from outside the circle. "He isn't real!"

Angel croaked out the Irishman's name again.

"No wonder I died. You've never been the brain man, have you? And I used to think that you were the hero. But now I know better," Doyle pushed Angel against the edge of the circle. The circle was now a solid wall behind him. "You know how it feels to be cooked alive? Of course not! You're the big hero. I was the poor bleedin' bastard who died" Doyle grabbed Angel by the hair and punched him in the temple.

"Angel, man, snap out of it!" Faith yelled. Wesley ran into the circle and tried to pull Angel away. He groaned when solid air stopped his progress. "Wes! You retard!"

"Is that my replacement?" Doyle asked casually before backhanding the Englishman away. "You picked English to replace me? What kind of Irishmen are you?" He shifted into his demon visage and head butted Angel's face. "Broodin', depressin', and deserving every minute of it. That is you, my old boy. You think that just because of that little soul you aren't the same sadistic, evil, bastard of old? You're the same vampire. They don't get that. Do they? Your new crew thinks of you like you're a saint. St. Angelus, how about that, has a ring, don't you think?"

"Giles?" Faith asked in disbelief as the older Watcher appeared in front of Wesley.

Giles waved to her before he took his glasses off and began to clean them. The new figure looked exactly like Giles, right down to every grey hair. "Wesley, did you really have to rush to the circle? One would hope that, given your previous occupation, you did watch what happened to Angel when he did. But then again you never were much of a Watcher," Giles said in a genial fashion.

Wesley's mouth was agape and he began to stutter.

"Hey, Wes is a great Watcher! Sure, he's kind of a tight ass pansy but that's a Watcher thing and you're no-one to talk!" Faith yelled. She had Wesley's dropped crossbow in her hands and aimed toward the mushroom demon but every time she was ready to pull the trigger Doyle shoved Angel in the way'. "You guys they aren't real!"

Her warning fell on deaf ears as Angel kept getting kicked in the stomach by an increasingly angry Doyle and Wesley became a sshuddering mess under Giles's tirade.

"Goodness, Wesley, your father was one of the more distinguished Watchers and all you can do is blubber." Giles said with obvious relish.

Wesley looked up and narrowed his eyes. "My father? Did he have a Slayer?" Wesley asked as he took a step toward Giles. "Did he do any work in the field?"

Angel was slowly fighting back. Doyle was still taunting him but instead of silence and curling up, he was apologizing even while he pushed back. "Doyle, I'm sorry. Do you know the pain that your death caused? Do you know how I cursed you - cursed myself for not trying harder to make that jump? I'm sorry," Angel said firmly.

"Think sorry cuts it, do you?" Doyle asked as another of his punches was deflected.

"No." Angel's round-kick sent the other man flying into the hopping mushroom.

The sharp whistling stopped so fast that the trio's ears were left ringing. Doyle and Giles melted back into grey sparks and flew back into the pentagram. The circle remained around the girl and demon. The whistling came back but was only audible to Angel. Faith ran toward the men but stopped to pick up Angel's axe.

"Move!" she yelled. The vampire and Watcher dropped to the ground. Inside the circle Buffy had appeared and the whistling was loud again. "Wrong choice," she said as she threw the axe squarely at the mushroom demon.

The large axe split the top of the mushroom and it keeled over. The pentagram sputtered out and Buffy faded.

"Wesley, get the girl." Wesley nodded and picked up the young girl, carrying her over to the others. Faith was looking between the two men before she asked, "Do I look as bad as you two? 'Cause you all look like you've had your asses kicked into Thursday."

Wesley rolled his eyes and as he walked past her asked, "Angel, are we taking her to the police station?"

Angel rubbed his neck as he said, "Yeah, Kate will take care of this."

"I'm serious, guys. Cordy is gonna have a hissy fit." Faith said as she trailed behind. "You think she's going to believe me when I tell her you guys got your butts whupped by a giant mushroom?"

Angel, Wesley, and Faith stumbled into the Hyperion around a half an hour later. Cordy was sitting on the circle couch with her feet in a bowl of steaming water, reading a magazine. Gunn was cleaning off his axe on the other side of the couch.

"You guys look like elephants walked on you," Cordy said.

"Yes, and the goose egg and black eye on your head are the height of fashion," Wesley said dryly.

She put her magazine down with one hand and flipped him off with the other. Angel shook his head and went to sit down next to Gunn. Faith and Wesley followed.

"Wes, you're first to get fixed up." Angel said as Gunn handed him a rag.

"What happened with you two?"

"No one got hurt bad. And surprise, surprise; Angel's lawyer boy was in on the plan to ruin my night." Cordy said as she rubbed ointment into a scrape on Wesley's cheek.

"How'd ya find this out?" Faith asked.

"Gunn played rough with some lawyer who spilled the beans," Cordy said. "You should have seen Lilah's eyes pop when he did. She looked like she, well, the way she did when I threw a little cauldron full of eye of newt or something at her."

"Cordy messed the hell out of Miss Thang's outfit. Dry cleaning ain't going to fix those duds." Gunn said shared a grin with Cordy before continuing, "Lawyer boy and Miss Thang had a pretty good plan to get you guys away; throw demons around to keep you near the beach and away from the Valley where the action was."

"What happened in the Valley?" Angel asked.

"They were raising something," Cordy said wrapping gauze around a deep cut on Wesley's arm. "But thanks to me and Gunn they didn't."

"Well, I guess its three cheers for us then," Wesley said with a tired smile.

-----

Angel put the paper down and stared into the gloom. He wished it would be gloomier.The dream didn't help, only reminded him of what he missed - what he gave up.

The plasma TV, Egyptian cotton sheets, and countless other luxuries jumped out at him. He hoped his soul was worth more than a fancy apartment. Didn't he mock Lindsey for that once? He used to fight evil with no compromises. Faith might have never had a prophetic dream but they always came close to the truth. This whole adventure could have happened then. Him, Wesley, and Gunn, fighting demons, not representing them.

He had lost hours to brooding, melancholy moods and now he was going to lose some more. He was the leader of Evil Inc. and now was everything that he had despised. The view from the top sucked.