AUTHOR'S NOTES: This was written for the Angel Ficathon, 30th May, 2004. If the timeline isn't apparent, this goes What If? at the Angel Season 4 episode, 'Release' and crosses thereafter into Buffy.
The beach was beautiful at sunset.
Although the creeping purple night came in over the water, the hills behind were touched with flame as the cloud-swept sky ignited with shades of orange and gold and vermilion and purple.
And when the sun faded, and the dozen-strong group of young people settled down to a hard night of drinking and partying, the quartet came walking across the sand; two sets of lovers in the evening, hand in hand, and shoulder under arm.
The blonde-haired woman seemed playful, teasing her companion, a tall, dark man whose good looks and warmly sensual smile turned more than a few heads among the party-goers. She tugged him along, small but perfectly proportioned, and if his hands were any indication, her lover was appreciative of her curves as he tumbled her into the sand and nibbled at her mouth.
They were so involved with each other, that they almost didn't join in when the other two - dark haired and handsome - began a carnage among the revellers.
The stranger appeared outside a liquor shop in Sunnydale. An ordinary passer-by, at least until he opened his mouth.
"Angelus is coming."
Buffy stopped so sharply, a customer leaving the store banged into her shoulder. The man swore at her and muttered as he went down the road. The stranger glanced after him, a half-bewildered, half-amused expression on his face, before he looked back at Buffy, and the amusement vanished like cigarette smoke in a blowing gale.
He was maybe in his mid-thirties and looked human, although Buffy had learned that wasn't always an accurate indicator. He wasn't a vampire, although if clothing was any sign, he should have been. Individually, both shirt and trousers were tasteless. Together, they were a crime against everything good and decent in clothing for the human being.
"How... Who are you?" Starting with his credentials was safe. The beginning was always a good place to start.
"M'name's Whistler," he said, and this time she heard the Irish lilt to his voice. "You've grown up a lot since I saw you last, Miss Summers."
"How do you know me? Who sent you here?"
"Nobody." He took a healthy swig out of the brown paper bag he was holding. "Or, I guess you could say, the Powers That Be sent me." The pale eyes regarded her, "All I know is that I was to find you here and tell you that Angelus is back."
"You said that already. What... How is he back?" Something in her chilled and congealed, freezing still and dead in the question that hovered on her lips. How did it happen?
"It wasn't another woman if that's what you're thinking." Buffy tried not to let her relief show, but she suspected she failed. "Angel's friends saw a need to bring Angelus back, and they used a shaman to take the soul out. More than that, I don't know - the Powers aren't exactly talkative when it comes to this stuff."
They rarely were. And although Buffy pressed for more information, Whistler wasn't able to tell her anymore.
She took him back to the house, sensing nothing evil about him. He could give Giles the rundown, and she needed to be out on patrol. No Potentials tonight - not with Angelus about. As she turned to leave, Giles made the expected protest, "Buffy, perhaps you should consider..."
"...keeping an eye out for Angelus?" She interrupted him. "Already on it."
"Actually, I was going to suggest you stay in," Giles said, adjusting his glasses. "But you already knew that."
"Buffy, you know this is dangerous."
"Giles, I'm quite over him," she said firmly.
"No," he contradicted her bluntly. "In spite of Spike, Angel is still one of your weaknesses. He was your first experience of...of love. You can't dismiss that. If you lived to be as old as he is now, you would still hold some degree of affection for him - and it could cloud your judgement."
"It could," she told him as she pocketed her stakes. "It won't."
Giles looked as though he wanted to say something more, but he restrained it. "Be careful," he told her. "And be grateful that Spike's not in the house right now."
She was very grateful.
"Tell Willow to stay indoors," Buffy advised. "She's the only person alive who's ever put Angel's soul back, he'll come after her." If he doesn't come after me first.
"You do realise..." Giles began.
"...that she'll want to perform the restoration," she completed. "Yes, I know. But if she has to get an Orb of Thessula, then she can send Anya out for one - Angelus doesn't know Anya so well, he won't think of going for her quite as fast as he'll target Will or Xander. And Willow must stay indoors."
As she walked down the sidewalk towards the town, she tried to think of where Angelus would go upon arrival. He might try her house, but everyone in there knew better than to invite him in - especially after Whistler's warning.
The carnage would begin shortly after as he terrorised Sunnydale with one purpose in mind; getting hold of the Slayer.
And Giles was right. Angel was still a weakness for her. She loved Spike, but Angel had been her first love and nothing would ever change that. The seventeen-year-old she'd been still remembered the blend of tenderness and passion with which he'd wooed her, the way he'd tasted, and the cold of his skin against hers.
She prowled the cemetary, staking several vampires in the process, but seeing no sign of Angelus.
She passed Spike's empty crypt, and was in the courtyard of Angel's old place - now sitting dully empty - when the shadows rustled.
He emerged from them like a man rising from his bed, casual and unconcerned.
There was something about him, something about the way he walked when he was Angelus. Angel stalked, moving in shadows. They were his place and there he would stay. Angelus sauntered, giving the impression that he could move out into the sunlight, he just chose not to.
"Hello, Buffy," he said, as he emerged from the night. "How nice to see you again."
"Wish I could say the same to you," she retorted, as cool as she could make her voice.
"Gee, that's no way to greet an old friend. I'm hurt." He wandered around her, keeping his distance, but forcing her to turn and face him. She didn't dare let him vanish from her peripheral vision, and she couldn't sense anyone else - or anything else - nearby.
"You'll live," she retorted.
"Actually, no," he murmured, "I won't." The teeth bared in a feral grin and mischief gleamed in the eyes, "But that's okay. Being dead is more fun than you can imagine, Buffy.
"Why did you come here, Angel?"
"Buffy, Buffy, Buffy, the name's Angelus - as you well know. And can't a man - well, vampire - just long to see the face of his ex-squeeze? Haven't seen you in LA for...oh...quite some time. Missed you."
"I'm sure," Buffy retorted. "Look, can we get this over and done with?"
"Get what over and done with?"
"The whole posturing thing. Why you're here, grand plan of evil, yadda yadda yadda..."
He laughed, the sound ringing out in broad amusement that echoed through the courtyard. "Straight to the point, eh, Buffy? No niceties?" The voice took on a deeper note, of indulgent sensuality. "No kiss?"
She remembered Angel's first kisses - soft and sweet and tender against her mouth. Uncertain, as though he hadn't known if she would accept or reject him. Then, later in their relationship, when time and familiarity rested comfortably upon them, his mouth in hers, hungry and open, demanding and sensual.
And Angelus, damn his eyes, knew what she was remembering.
"What do you want, Angelus?"
He threw his head back and laughed again, and the stone walls rang with it, a cacophony of laughter. "Only what I've always wanted, Buffy." He said her name like he was savouring some particularly sweet blood. "You."
"So come and get me," she told him, flipping a stake out of her pocket.
He sauntered away a little, as cavalier as if she wasn't a Slayer holding a stake. His nonchalance stung her, and she flung the stake at him, aiming for the heart.
Yes, she still loved Angel, but Angelus was a different matter. The length of wood spun through the air, and was caught in his hand as he turned, fast as thought. "Oh, I don't think so," he said, lightly. "Not yet. I wouldn't want to spoil the fun after all."
She heard the shot before she realised what it meant. A soft buzz of sound, then a stab of pain in her arm, and a sudden dizziness.
Beneath her knees, the courtyard was cold. So, too, were the hands that prised the stake from her nerveless fingers. But there was nothing cold about the smile Angelus gave her as he knelt down beside her and brushed strands of hair from her face.
"I didn't want to hurt you, Buffy, so I brought reinforcements," Angelus said, gently, as though he were talking to a child, but with an unmistakeable menace to his words. Over his shoulder, a pale face appeared, the handsome lines of it barely recognisable in the passing of years.
Buffy stared and squinted as the sight of him wavered, blurred...
She woke up in darkness, with someone gently slapping her awake.
"Come on, B!" Another stinging blow landed on her cheek. "Get those Slayer senses up and working! I can't be expected to do all the heavy labour!"
Her brain was confused, but her instincts weren't. She lashed out.
Faith ducked, and Buffy hit nothing but air. "Whoa! Easy there, B. You've been out for several hours since they brought you in..."
"They...?" The harmonics of her voice echoed oddly through the room.
"Angel and Wes."
Wesley Wyndham-Pryce. She suddenly had a name for the face she'd seen over Angelus' shoulder. A man who'd looked somehow familiar and yet...not. "Wesley?"
"Angel turned him," Faith murmured, and there was a note of guilt-anger-anguish-regret in her voice.
Buffy frowned and turned her head. She hoped it was just the lingering effects of whatever drug they'd shot into her to knock her out, but she had to be sure...
One hand reached out and touched warm flesh. "You're still human," she said, feeling as though she were stating the obvious, but knowing it was somehow important that she say it.
"Yeah," the other girl sounded tired. "I'm the food."
Buffy shivered. "They feed from you?"
"They feed me, then they feed from me," Faith said, and there was a rustle of something nearby. Buffy squinted and made out the paler oval of the other Slayer's face framed by the long hair. Even in the darkness, Faith looked like shit. "Even if I don't eat, they still feed from me."
"Have you tried to get out?"
Faith snorted. "You've obviously forgotten who you're talking to, B."
"You've been in jail the last few years," Buffy retorted. "As far as I know you're supposed to still be in there." Her last memory of Faith was in the LAPD office, walking past her towards the cells, accompanied by a burly policeman who wouldn't have been able to lay a finger on the girl if she hadn't permitted it. That was as far as Buffy's memories of Faith went and that had been as far as she ever wanted it to go.
No such luck.
"I was until two weeks ago. Wes broke me out."
"Wes broke you out?" Buffy was staggered a moment, before she realised. "He wanted you to hunt down Angelus." For a moment, she felt furious that the ex-Watcher hadn't thought to ask her. Then sanity asserted itself. She'd had a Hellmouth on which to keep an eye, and Faith had been sitting around in prison...
"Still got the bright spark thing happening, B," Faith said, a thread of her usual lazy jauntiness coming through her voice. "As you can tell, it backfired somewhere along the way."
"No kidding," Buffy said. She climbed to her feet, wincing at the faint ache of lying on the cold floor. "When was Wesley turned?"
"About a week ago," the other Slayer sounded exhausted, but the even, husky tones didn't waver. "God, I'm tired."
"I'm not God, but you look like shit."
"I'm surprised you didn't say I am shit," Faith said, and there was the edge to her voice that Buffy was more accustomed to.
She nearly snapped back, but decided against it. They were in this together. They only way they'd get out of the clutches of Angelus and Wesley was to act in concert, and Faith hadn't exactly been living it up lately. "I didn't because you're not," she said, lowering her voice a little.
Then, out of the darkness, "Thanks. I think."
Faith had been a bitch the last time they'd met, but Buffy had a feeling she'd done some things to contribute to that. Since then, she'd died, and Faith had spent three years in the pen. And if they didn't get out of here, they'd end up permanent snacks for Angelus and his chylde. She could deal. She'd have to if she wanted to get out of here alive.
"So, you know how things work around here," she began. "Any suggestions? Two Slayers beat two vamps hands-down any day."
Faith seemed about to say something.
The door unlocked, and Faith scrambled to her feet. Buffy saw the pale oval of the other girl's face turn to her and nod once, and as the door opened, they leaped in concert.
The cattleprod caught Buffy on the shoulder. It interrupted her flight, and bruised muscle and bone. Electricity tore through her body, spreading cancerous pain from her shoulder, down her arm, into her breast. Her synapses overloaded and she jerked, screaming. Faith's yelp of agony came in counterpoint to her shriek, and beneath that, she heard the laughter of the vampires and cursed.
Angelus had her in manacles before she could recover from the spasm; she felt the rough, cold steel of them against her wrists as her chest struggled to rise and fall and her head only wanted the world to stop spinning. He picked her up in his arms, a parody of a lover, and his teeth grazed her jaw, then hesitated over the jugular.
Buffy jerked herself away, struggling in his grip. Suddenly she hit the wall, and found herself pressed between it and a cold-eyed, cold-bodied killer. "Shouldn't have done that, Buffy..." Like a snake, he struck, fangs slipping into her throat as his body pressed the length of hers. She felt the sudden dizziness as he drank her blood. Her body responded accordingly, her heart pumping harder, her breathing becoming shorter... Oh, God. His cock was pressed into her belly, fully erect and her body could feel him and her body wanted him...
He snapped his head around and snarled at Wesley. Across the room, Faith struggled in the manacles the other vampire had set upon her.
"Don't take that tone of voice with me," the vampirised Watcher said briskly, unafraid of Angelus' fury. "Time for that later. Help me with Faith."
He turned back to her, returning to his usual handsome human features and smiling. She felt the trace of his fingers from her temple to her throat, as gentle as a lover, and her blood still scented his breath as he spoke. "Temporary reprieve, Buffy," Angelus said and his finger traced her lip, but jerked back when she tried to bite it.
He was within arms reach of her - if she'd only had the reach of her arms. As it was, she kicked out, but first the electric shock and then the feeding had screwed up her responses and he dodged it easily, leaping up and away with the same predatory grace she'd admired in Angel. "Oho! Close, but no jugular." Again, the mocking grin. "Not yet." He jerked his head over to the other side of the room where Wesley was hauling Faith up.
Like Buffy, the other girl was chained, hand and foot, to stop her from retaliating. Unlike Buffy, her manacles were bare inches from each other, almost completely limiting her movement. Her expression was one of helpless rage, underpinned by terror.
Faith was afraid.
A moment later, Buffy realised why.
Angelus took Faith's shoulder in his hands from behind. Even from two yards away, Buffy could see the way Faith whitened along with Angelus' knuckles. The grip enabled Wesley to cease holding the Slayer and allowing him to move freely before her.
Buffy watched in horror.
Angelus, she knew. He'd been the Scourge of Europe, a feared and hated creature, dangerous and vicious.
But this man who stripped his shirt off with all the confident sexuality of a male stripper... This was Wesley, who'd been about as much use as a soggy biscuit in a fight, as considerate as a cornered animal, and who screamed like a girl.
Now, he moved like a man who knew his skin and body inside out. His jaw seemed squarer, and the blue eyes were piercing and hard.
How much of it was the vampire and how much the man?
Buffy didn't know and never would.
Faith was watching Wesley with a grim expression on her face as the ex-Watcher regarded her with all the emotion of a man surveying property. Then he smiled. It could have been a charming smile, but for the cruelty that shone through it.
One hand reached out to stroke throat. "Do you remember when you tortured me, Faith?" The velvety voice inquired, dragging the tip of his index finger down the throat and over the dirty singlet top Faith had been wearing for the last few days. The other girl went rigid as his hands drifted over her breasts, light caresses that drifted lower. "You said I always thought you were hot."
Buffy saw Faith flinch slightly as Wesley's fingers curled around the swell of her breast, the thumb brushing lightly over the nipple.
"You were right, you know," Wesley said in that same, reflective voice. "I did find you hot." He rubbed his fingers over the material again, and Faith shut her eyes and bit her lip. Wesley leaned in, over her shoulder, and although his words were soft, Buffy heard them. "I still do."
Faith opened her eyes and looked directly at Buffy. In her gaze was an apology - although for what, Buffy couldn't say.
Swiftly, Wesley vamped and dug his fangs into the soft flesh over Faith's jugular, drinking her lifeblood. Behind them, Angelus moved, grinning as he drew his nail down over Wesley's bare shoulder, tearing skin, smearing scarlet down, over the flesh.
Faith tried to spit as the bloodied digit was thrust in her mouth, but her strength was ebbing as Wesley drained her. Her eyes widened momentarily, and she cried out, a brief, gurgle that died as her heart stuttered into stillness, never to beat again.
And Angelus laughed and bit down into the other side of the Slayer's throat, greedily sucking up the remnants of Faith's blood. As she went limp he relinquished his grip on her to Wesley, who caught her easily.
Buffy felt her Slayer sense surge, momentarily, the bond that had lain between the two girls pulling taut, then snapping free.
Faith was dead.
In less than an hour, when the sun set and night settled in, she would become undead.
Buffy began to shake.
The former Watcher picked up Faith's limp body and gently laid her out on the slab, waiting for her to rise. Buffy wasn't sure if the tenderness was more terrifying than the change in the man she'd known long ago.
Buffy remembered Spike telling her about the 'unholy quartet' once, long ago. Long before she kissed him, before she fucked him, before he went looking for a soul, using her as an anchor.
There'd been Darla, technically the oldest, the wisest, sweetly vicious, delighting in pain and suffering. Drusilla had been the crazy one, the star-touched, the insane, and her prattlings had driven them all wild, sometimes with frustration, sometimes with desire. Spike had been the rebellious one, the wild-chylde, liable to run off and do his own thing, prove himself to the rest.
And Angelus had been the self-appointed leader, the protector. Son to Darla, father to Drusilla, looking after Spike in his own way even as he mocked and taunted him. Angelus was the pivot of the quartet, the one around whom they all spun. Without Angelus, Spike and Drusilla had drifted away from Darla and Darla had gone back to her first love – the Master.
Angelus was back, and he had a chylde and a grandchylde already...
She could see where this was going, even as Angelus knelt down beside her and licked her throat across the jugular. "It'll only hurt a little while, Buffster," he murmured. "Then it'll all be over..."
"Aren't we waiting for Faith to rise?"
He didn't move away from his contemplation of Buffy. "I think a change of plan is in order, Wes."
And with that he vamped.
She struggled a little as she felt the pointed incisors slip into her flesh again
The day she was Chosen as a Slayer, Buffy had been without a care in the world. Then the stranger had approached her and shown her the world outside the one she'd always known, and suddenly she no longer belonged in the world of her friends. Her world became filled with vampires, demons, Watchers, witches, and all manner of strange and bizarre people.
She'd found friends in this new world, yes. She'd made friends and enemies and found love and lost it, and lived and died twice in this world... But for all that, it would have been nice to have a normal life.
...would have been nice...
The last thing she remembered was the tang of blood across her tongue, and the spiralling, whirling, tugging feel of the darkness seeping into her veins.
At 1630 Revello Drive, the house stands empty. For a while, it hummed with activity, young people of all ages and kinds moving in and out of its doors, but they died one by one or vanished without a trace.
The young girl and her guardian were the last ones left, and they departed the town in broad daylight, overseeing the removal and leaving the house in a taxi. The gentleman said they were bound for England, and his accent was English so that made sense.
Four people were observed looking around the house prior to its sale, and one of them looked like the girl whose mother had died.
"They went to England," she concluded.
"We could follow," one man suggested, tall and dark-haired and broad-shouldered.
"I want to go somewhere warm." The dark-haired girl said, a little petulantly.
The quartet stood and argued a while, then left.
Whether they went to England or 'somewhere warm' was never known. They were never seen again.