D M Evans
Disclaimer - Not mine, not even close. Mr. Whedon et al own all
Summary - Something is making the art work in LA come to life, something dark from Angel and Spike's past
Pairings - zero, unimportant to this story
Rating - FRT
Time Line - S5 of Angel, Post I Damage /I
Feedback - Oh yes please Author's Note - This was written for the second CYA ficathon. Requirements at the end.
Thanks to SJ for the beta. Thanks to Chris G-D and Silvrethorn for all the help with the Victorian art scene
I It is through Art and through Art only that we can realize our
perfection; through Art and Art only that we can shield ourselves from the
sordid perils of actual existence
Oscar Wilde /I
"This really needs investigating," Wesley said, putting the paperwork on Angel's desk, on the one clear patch he could find.
Angel didn't even look up from the ridiculously large mound of paperwork already on his desk. Who knew there'd be this much tedium in running Wolfram and Hart? He was half tempted to take Spike's advice and embezzle enough to live on for a long long time and just disappear. "What it, Wes? Can't your team handle it?"
"I think you might be interested in this. It seems like something that would appeal to you," Wesley replied.
Angel glanced up as if to say 'what did Wes know about what appealed to him.' "Yes?"
"This sucks," Spike moaned loudly, sauntering in, cutting off anything Wes might have to say. He tossed himself onto a chair. "My hands won't stop bloody tingling and pricking. It's about to drive me barmy. Even the video games I have for rehabbing them isn't helping. I can barely feel anything, that bloody bint."
"I imagine clumsy hands would put a crimp in your social life." Angel made a tossing off gesture.
Wes raised his eyebrows at that. Angel's bad mood was finally sinking in past the ex-Watcher's preoccupation with the matter at hand. Wes also found it rather interesting to watch the antagonistic, almost fraternal, dynamics of Angel and Spike.
"What are you doing here, Spike? I thought you moved out. I was happy you moved out. I threw a little party to celebrate the move." Angel smirked.
Spike put on airs as if he were greatly wounded and Wesley had to choke back a laugh. "I was going to report in, see what was on the block today, you know, ride to the rescue and all that junk. Or are you sitting it out today while you rinse out your tights?"
Wes wisely edged toward the door.
Angel shoved away from his desk. "Spike, no one needs your help."
"Sure you do...all right, all right, I'm bloody bored and helping you is better than what's on TV. Happy?" Spike crossed his arms with a pout.
Angel rolled his eyes. "Rarely when you're involved."
"It might not be a bad thing Spike's here, Angel. We could use him to help with this problem." Wes gestured to the paperwork he'd put on Angel's desk.
Angel sat back down with a look that said he was merely humoring Wes at this point just to shut him up so he'd go away and Angel could start climbing the paperwork mountain. "What is the problem? You haven't said."
Wes came back over to the desk, opening the file for Angel. "There have been several accounts of strange things running amok in the art district. No deaths yet, but it's only a matter of time. There is nothing in common with the descriptions of the creatures except that a few witnesses claim they've seen these creatures before in paintings. One claims to have seen I The Scream /I running around in the park," Wes said, and Spike and Angel exchanged a look. "What? Do you know what this is?"
Before either vampire could answer, Lorne swooped in, obviously in a tizzy. He was almost rumpled. "Angel-hair, you'll never believe what I just saw." Lorne collapsed in a chair. "I've never seen anything like it. I thought half the room was going to faint dead away."
"Lorne, start at the beginning," Angel broke into the demon's histrionics.
"I could use a Sea Breeze. You don't happen to have a mini-bar sequestered away from prying eyes, do you," Lorne asked, looking at Spike meaningfully then scowled catching the look on Angel's face.
"He's in a bad mood," Wes whispered, to the Pylean.
"I am not in a bad mood. I'm very busy," Angel protested.
"He's always in a bad mood," Spike said with a dismissive wave of his numb hands. "Only man I know with PMS."
"Lorne," Angel grated, glaring at Spike. "Please continue."
"I was at the Oscram Gallery today to see Eric England's display. He does outsider art and Wolfram and Hart has given him a grant. I'm not really sure why. The man mixes excrement with his paints. It's really rather disgusting, and he has a lack of talent that's staggering but he's in your face and controversial."
"Lorne," Angel prompted, wondering if his friend would ever get to the actual story.
Lorne pursed his lips at being interrupted. "One of the other artist's paintings came to life, stepped right off the canvas and walked out the door. She looked as real and 3-dimensional as you and I."
"Damn," Angel whispered as Spike's eyes cut over to him.
"You two do know something." Wes's blue eyes sparked. He leaned forward, his interest peaked.
Angel nodded. "Wes, call Gunn and Fred. We need to have a meeting on this. Lorne, talk to whoever in your divisions handing out grants and explain very clearly we're not going to sponsor artists who mix crap into their pigments. For that matter, for the good of this company's image try to steer away from the blatantly pornographic and performance art."
"Angel-cakes, not all performance art is women showing the audience their cervix like Annie Sprinkle," Lorne protested.
"I know. I just don't like performance art. They can shunt the grant money to ballet if there's an excess," Angel said, rolling his shoulders.
Spike wagged his head. "You really are a poof."
Angel got up, drawing himself to his full height but Spike looked closer to laughing than at being intimated. Oh, how times have changed, Angel thought, thinking on times when he could easily quash his grandchild. "We'll all meet here in fifteen minutes."
"Is this going to take long, Angel?" Fred fluttered around the office, her lab coat flapping like wings. "I've got an experiment cooking."
"You might want to call the lab, Fred. Once Nancy Boy puts on his story-telling cap, we'll be here all day," Spike retorted, rubbing his still-healing arms.
"Oh, okay. Just let me call Knox." Fred moved for the phone as Gunn ran in, his tie a little askew.
"Sorry. Kelly's meeting ran long," Gunn said.
Angel shot him a look to suggest the meeting might not be what he would have termed what Kelly and Gunn were up to but said, "No problem. Wes, bring everyone up to speed."
"We've had numerous reports about paintings coming to life," Wes said. "And this phenomenon was witnessed this afternoon by Lorne. We've reports of destruction but no deaths."
"It's only a matter of time before something bad happens. Trust me, that thing that walked off the canvas...I don't know that it would be a Big Bad but the painting I saw come to live had been of a lovely young lady. What if it had been a Dali-esque horror?" Lorne asked.
"That had to be something to see," Fred said, a typical curious glint in her eyes.
"I could live without seeing it," Gunn muttered, straightening his tie.
"And I believe Spike and Angel have something to add to the report," Wes cut in, glancing at Angel.
"It's more your story, Peaches," Spike said.
Angel sat back, choosing his words. "It started soon after Dru turned Spike."
"You'll love Emma," William assured Angelus as they walked up the gas-lit street, their women on their arms.
"He had best not love her too much," Darla said sweetly but the look in her eyes was anything but.
Angelus just showed her his teeth. "I'm here for the art, my love."
"The moon says otherwise, Daddy," Dru said, running a hand over the fine black wool of his coat sleeve.
Darla's look became even hotter as they walked up to the Turner household.
"If ever a woman could have lured me away from Cicely, it would have been Emma. Not," William kissed Dru's cheek. "That either of them could compare to you, my dark rose."
Darla rolled her eyes at him but Dru positively glowed from the attention. She preened her dark curls.
They were greeted at the door of the townhouse by a scarecrow of a man. He looked at the quartet seemingly confused or irritated. Angelus picked up the scent of port from the man.
"Emma's brother," William whispered. "Paul."
"William, when I got your letter I thought it was a crass joke. I saw the obituary for you." Paul's washed-out grey eyes fixated on the vampire.
"It was a tragic thing, really. My poor mother's mind went at the end. She placed the obituary, even buried an empty casket," William said, prepared for this conversation. "When I was in Blackpool for a spell."
"How positively morbid." Paul stepped back form the door. "Please come in. When we got the letter requesting a chance to see Emma's artwork at night, we couldn't resist a studio party. I warn you though Emma is still rather miffed that anyone will be seeing her art by gaslight instead of full daylight. Really, I don't see the difference but I'm sure Father would have been just as appalled. Queen Victoria herself had a piece commissioned by him, you know."
"Yes," William said curtly, having heard the story a hundred times. He could hear the sounds of many voices coming from inside.
"Please, introduce me to your companions, William," Paul said, his eyes lingering on Dru and Darla. "I don't believe I've ever met this lovely creature on your arms before. I'll confess, I didn't expect you to come accompanied."
William smiled coldly. He had never liked Paul. "This is Drusilla, the love of my life."
Paul blinked rapidly as if William had lapsed into German or some other language. He assuredly knew about William's crush on Cicely, having laughed about it with others in their social circle.
"And this is Liam O'Hara and his wife, Darla," William said, ignoring Angelus' scowl. He could tell his grandsire didn't like being married off. "Don't let his Irish blood put you off. I understand his countryman, Mr. Wilde, can be quite entertaining."
"A bit vulgar," Paul objected but led them into the house with ill-humor at being beset by the Irish, and perhaps irritated at not being able to make William the butt of a joke or two in regards to Cicely whom William knew would not be coming to this party or any other for that matter.
"O'Hara?" Angelus hissed after Paul introduced them to the party-goer's. They moved into the crowded room, not needing to elbow their way through. The other party-goers split before them as if knowing there was some hidden danger to the otherwise well-dressed and innocent-looking quartet.
William shrugged him off. "Had to tell him something and I don't bloody well know your last name."
"Did you have to marry me off?" Angelus grumbled, and Darla whacked his wrist with her fan.
"It was for your own good." William smirked, seeing Angelus' wounded look. "Come along, luv. You'll like the pretty paintings," he said to Dru.
Angelus and Darla separated just a bit from William and Dru to study the paintings. Angelus spent the most time looking at the artwork, having a good appreciation of art. Emma's paintings were of the popular style of the day, delicate, romantic and yet mournful, speaking of forbidden passions. Angelus was all for those. He could easily see how the poetic remnants in William could be captivated by the work. Darla and Dru, however, were bored and had moved off to talk to the other ladies. Hopefully Darla had Dru under a very watchful eye or the night would be all kinds of interesting.
"You like it," William said.
Angelus nodded. "She has a wonderful eye for color."
"I wonder where...oh, wait, there she is finally." William pointed to a thin, ghost-pale young lady who entered the room slowly, almost demanding all eyes turn to her.
Her golden hair was piled high with ribbons and pearls decorating the coiffeur. Her deep blue gown only accentuated her paleness and the greenness of her eyes. Those eyes, big and innocent like a doe's, were ringed with dark circles. She kept pressing a handkerchief to the pink slash of her mouth, coughing discreetly. Several men flocked to her at once.
"She's consumptive?" Angelus guessed.
"Yes. Isn't she beautiful?" William's eyes took on a mooning quality.
Angelus grunted his agreement. Emma was in fact lovely and it didn't surprise him William was captivated by her. The English tended to romanticize the poor waifs and their killer disease. Emma would no doubt have admirers right up until tuberculosis put her in the ground. William wisely let the crowd around her disperse a bit before approaching her. Emma already looked ready to retire to the women's parlor and sit. She smiled faintly upon seeing William.
"William, it's very nice to see you. My brother told me the ghastly story about your mother. I am so sorry," she said.
"Thank you." William smiled. "Emma, this is Liam. He's an artist himself and he wanted very much to meet you."
Emma smiled at Angelus, her green eyes softening as she took a less than shy appraisal of the grand figure Angelus cut in his expensive attire. "I am pleased to meet you, good sir."
"The pleasure is all mine." Angelus smirked at being called good. He caught her gloved hand and dropped a kiss on the back of it. "You are exceptionally talented."
"Thank you." She blushed. "Would I have seen your work, Liam?" She hesitated at calling a strange man by his first name but just for a moment. Artists never were ones for formalities.
"Sadly, I am not known outside of my homeland," Angelus said, and William noticed he was really laying on the Irish tonight, his voice thick with brogue. "But perhaps I could be convinced to have a studio party of my own."
She pouted a bit. "Yes, while parties are fun, they force you to view my work under the appalling yellow gas light. I am so sorry you could not see it in the light of day."
"Our work doesn't allow for that any longer, I'm afraid, my dear," William said, trying to drag her attention back to him. "We're kept busy all day and even after the setting of the sun, lamentably."
"William, I think Drusilla must be missing you at this point. Perhaps you should go see how she fares," Angelus said. William started to open his mouth but a glare from Angelus shut it.
"He's quite right. My apologies, Emma." William took her gloved hand and mimicked his grandsire's chaste, yet fired, gesture.
"Drusilla? Do you have someone special in your life now, William?" Emma's eyes glowed with the prospect. Whether she was simply a romantic or looking for gossip, William didn't know.
"I do. Later, I should like you to meet her," William replied, realizing Angelus had just ensured Emma wouldn't be considering him as a suitor any longer.
After William left, Angelus put a hand on Emma's waist, guiding her back to her work. "Tell me about your art."
Angelus listened intently as she told about studying with her father, her relationships with other artists, how she came up with her subjects and her preferred mediums. All the talking seemed to be exhausting her. She was leaning more heavily on his arm by the end.
"I think your work is remarkable," he said at last.
"Thank you. My biggest patron, Jonathan Coles, has even gone so far as to commission special oils for me to work with."
"What's special about them?" Angelus asked, still monopolizing her as he led Emma to the parlor so she could rest. He was aware of angry looks being shot his way by other men.
"I'm not sure. He assures me they are special though." A little frown kissed her lips. "He insists they must be used alla prima but that's not my usual style."
Angelus nodded, familiar with the idea of doing the painting in one complete sitting. He usually worked with pencils and didn't have that concern. "Is there any reason he should want to change your style?"
She shook her head. "I do not know. He wants me to paint a self-portrait, quite insistent on it. I never truly thought about doing one but..."
"I couldn't think of a more beautiful subject," he said, tipping up her chin, even though he saw Darla's hot gaze falling on him as they entered the parlor.
She blushed prettily. "Oh, there's Jonathan now, going into the Paul's gaming room. I'm sure he'd love to talk to you about his ideas for my art over a game of snooker."
Angelus stared down the hall, trading glances with the man and realized he knew him. The distinguished-looking man's brow knit and Angelus knew he couldn't risk Coles remembering him. "I've monopolized enough of your time, dear Emma. I apologize for taking you away from your guests."
"Nonsense." Her hand tightened on his arm. "I enjoyed talking with you, Liam."
"Even so, it was rude of me. And I must collect William and go. We've some early morning business but I would like to return and talk with you some more," he said, kissing her hand once more.
"I should like that."
Angelus left her at the side of another man who had been trying to get her notice for some time and made his way towards Darla, Dru, and William. Coles was heading their way. Angelus took Darla's hand and Dru's. "We must leave. Now."
"What's wrong?" Darla asked, sensing the change in her lover.
Angelus nodded back at Coles. "A Watcher's here."
Darla's lip curled and Dru made a distressed little sound.
"A what?" William asked, confused by his elders' concerns.
"Later. Is there a back way out?" Angelus asked.
"Through the gardens. This way." William led them out into the gardens then through the gate. He had questions but held them, seeing the anxiety in the other vampire's face.
Angelus led them into town, looping about crazily, tracking into the sewers for a short time then back up to the surface before taking another wild circuit through the city. Finally he left them home.
"So, care to tell me now what's going on? Why did we light out of there as if we were on fire?" William tossed himself into a chair, pulling Dru onto his lap.
"It was a naughty Watcher." She stroked his cheek.
He looked past Dru to Angelus. "What does that mean?"
"William, how well do you know Coles?" Angelus asked, settling on the settee. Darla poured them all some scotch.
"Oh, him," William spat the word in disgust. "Coles would like to marry Emma and he's just wealthy enough to pull it off."
"He's a Watcher. I recognized him from a time Darla and I stole something from their compound. I believe he recognized me as well," Angelus said in disgust.
"That's not good," Darla said, handing him the amber liquor.
"No, it's not." Angelus loosened his cravat.
"I still don't understand," William said, frustration etching into his face.
"Put it this way, William. Watchers are dedicated to eradicating our kind," Angelus said.
William snorted. "So? They're just humans. It's not like we couldn't make a meal of him before he knew we were there."
"Don't underestimate the Watchers," Darla said. "They have magic and other...weapons at their disposal. They're very good at their job."
"Grandmummy is right. It wouldn't do if you were turned to ash." Dru whimpered, licking his cheek.
"Never happen," William assured her.
"Let's make sure of it. Avoid Emma and Coles," Angelus said. "That's not a suggestion, William. We worked too hard to achieve what we have. I'll not lose it if you get the Watchers on our trail."
William scowled and Dru tugged his face to her chest. "I'll make sure he behaves, Daddy."
"See that you do, Dru." Angelus rubbed his chin, taking a sip of the scotch. "Now, if I only knew why Coles is interfering with Emma's art."
"The servants will talk if you keep coming when my brother is at his gentlemen's club," Emma said, stroking Angelus bare shoulders as he moved on top of her.
"Let them," he grumbled, then sealed his mouth over hers as they made love.
Afterwards, Emma thoroughly spent and beginning to cough again, lay on the bed while Angelus pulled on his clothing. He glanced at the wall furthest from the window where three covered paintings rest on the bedroom floor
"What are they?" He gestured to them.
"I've been experimenting with Jonathan's oils." Emma sighed. "I started them before my brother told me he wants me to accept Jonathan's marriage proposal last night. He just doesn't understand that as much as I like Jonathan, I have my eye on another."
Angelus said nothing. He had only claimed Emma because he had seen how much William had wanted her and he made sure the little vampire knew it. William was fuming but unfortunately so was Darla. She didn't mind if he raped before the kill but if he kept them alive, sleeping with them, toying with them, encouraging the things he liked about them like their art, then Darla grew jealous. Still, it was worth it to see the look on William's face. "Why are they covered?"
"Jonathan said it was necessary for the oils that they be covered for three days. I did one of Moppet," Emma said, and Angelus tried not to curl his lip where she could see. He hated that little dog. "A still life and my self portrait."
"May I peek?"
"No. I don't want to ruin the special oils," she said, stretching lazily.
A movement caught Angelus' eyes. The cover of the smallest of the paintings was moving. "Emma?"
She followed his pointing finger and gasped. "Rats?"
Angelus went over and pulled off the cover. The fluffy white dog she had painting was wiggling its way off the canvas, becoming three-dimensional as it went. As the painted Moppet bounced on the bed with a perky bark, Emma shrieked.
"Guess we know what's special about the oils." Angelus smirked. He had to have some of those oils. His mind was already soaring, thinking on what he could do with them. "Where do you keep them, Emma?"
She was too shaken to answer but he followed her gaze right to where she had them in a box. He picked it up and came back over to her, hearing someone pounding up the steps. His nostrils flared, drinking in an approaching scent, then he scowled.
"The servants must have heard me," she whispered, gathering the bedclothes around her.
"No. Coles," Angelus said just as the bedroom door kicked in.
Coles stood there, cross bow in one hand and a bottle that no doubt contained holy water in the other. He looked at Emma said. "Emma, love, I'm sorry Stillsworth didn't get word to me sooner about your nocturnal visitor. I thought you had ran off that first night, demon."
Angelus laughed. "Strategic retreat. Nice bit of magic." He pointed to the oil dog.
Coles grinned, something lacking sanity glinting in his eyes. "Yes, it is. It's quite a wonderful thing, isn't it?'
"Jonathan...what have you done?" Emma breathed, her body trembling.
"It's for you, Emma, love," he assured her, shooting at Angelus. Angelus caught the bolt and flung it back, winging Coles in the leg. Emma cried out again. The man grunted and hurled the bottle's contents.
Angelus whirled the bed sheets up like an umbrella. Only a few drops hit him. He put his hand out to Emma. "Come with me, girl. He means to kill us both."
"Emma, no!" Coles shrieked.
She put her hand in Angelus'. He made sure he had a good hold on her and on the box of oils and jumped out the window. They ran down the streets but Emma quickly tired, nearly collapsing.
"Liam, what is going on? I can't...I can't do this," she sobbed.
He caught her face. "Are you tired of being this ill, Emma? Would you like to be healthy again?"
"More than anything, but what does that have to do..." her sentence ended in a shriek as Angelus' fangs buried in her neck.
She was feeding from him when Coles caught up to them. Seeing them, his cross bow drooped.
"You lost," Angelus said. "But if you hurry back, you'll still have that painting. She'll come to life in what? A day or two? That was your plan anyhow. You knew Emma wasn't long for this world. If you go now, I'll let you escape."
Coles shot him a puzzled look. "Why?"
"Because it amuses me," Angelus admitted, sweeping the now dead Emma up in his arms. He turned his back on Coles and headed back for his home, knowing Darla would not be amused.
"So it was a Watcher who first had the magic oils?" Wes asked, shocked.
"Yeah and leave it to, Angelus to bunge it all up," Spike said, shooting a dark look at his grandsire.
"I did not. Darla did," Angel snapped back.
"I'm still a little lost," Gunn said. "You killed the artist and let the Magic Paint Man escape."
"With the painting. She did come to life, didn't she?" Fred asked.
Angel nodded. "I sired Emma. She was with the family briefly before heading off on her own. She did not get on with Darla. Coles escaped with the painted golem or whatever you care to call it, of Emma. I never did learn what happened to him but I know he had to run for his life. Darla informed the Watchers about the dark magic Coles was dabbling in because it amused her that one of their own was tinkering with something like. They went after him and as far as I knew the spell Coles used to make the paints was locked up in the Watchers' headquarters."
"That might explain why I know the name. Mostly Watchers just do their jobs and are usually forgotten unless they're assigned to the active Slayer, made a major break through or..." Wes said, contemplatively.
"Make a huge cock up of things," Spike interrupted, and Wes gave him the gimlet eye.
"Yes. I never knew what Coles did, however," Wes replied.
"And now that the Watchers complex went kaplow, that spell is obviously no longer locked up in a vault somewhere," Lorne said, fussing with his lapels.
"It's obviously here and we need to find out how the spell got here and who has it," Angel said. " I The Scream /I , and some of the other stuff that have been animated might have been just the artist playing with the spell, doing some simple alla prima's to get the feel for it."
"The smart place to start would be with the artist that Lorne saw at the gallery," Fred said.
"And cross reference that artist with other art displays that have come to life," Gunn added.
"And I'll contact Giles, see if he knows anything about this," Wes said. "Angel do you know how to stop these things?"
Angel shrugged. "No clue. I was Angelus at the time and I wasn't interested in stopping them. I don't even know if they're short lived or if they go on indefinitely. Darla threw out my stolen samples in a fit of pique. We'd better get started."
Angel rubbed the sleep from his eyes. They had gotten nowhere last night. The artist whose work had come to life had been found in her studio, dead for at least a day or two. Angel didn't know if that meant she had been a dupe in the process or if her partner had double-crossed her. A quick once over of her place turned up no obvious clues but Gunn was in touch with his police contacts to see if any of her associates had come to light.
He felt like he was dragging and attributed it to coming clean about some of Angelus' antics. Revealing his past inevitably left him tired and humiliated even if his friends said nothing. Spike was just going into Angel's office as the older vampire rounded the corner. He wasn't even unhappy to see Spike. He could be useful. Angel paused in his own doorway. Harmony was nowhere to be seen but that wasn't unusual. What gave him pause was the definite hints of femininity wafting from under the door. He went inside to see Spike standing rather rigidly in the way and Wes there with three young ladies. Angel made the same assumption as Spike; they were Slayers.
Angel moved in front of Spike, his arms crossed. "Wesley?"
"Angel, this is Fang Yin Xiang, Javiera Diaz, and Daisy White," Wes said.
"Daisy...and we thought Buffy was the silliest Slayer name ever," Spike whispered, and Angel resisted the urge to strangle him even though the girl didn't appear to hear.
"Ladies, do you care to have a seat?" Angel moved past them and sat at his desk, hoping it would put them at ease.
Daisy and Fang Yin looked to Javiera and Angel assumed she was the dominant of the trio. She sat down and the other two girls followed suit.
"Mr. Giles called us after talking to Wesley," Javiera said, her dark eyes examining the vampires. "He said we could trust you and Spike."
"In spite of what Andrew said," Daisy put in, giving the vampires a harsh look.
"We simply had a misunderstanding," Angel said, spreading his hands.
"Like hell!" Spike growled. "We tried to help the barmy bint, and she cuts off my hands."
"Spike." Angel gave him a look then turned back to the Slayers. "Spike's still a bit angry about getting tortured. How is Dana doing?"
"She's our concern," Fang Yin said coldly, not even looking at Angel.
"Yes, of course. It's natural we'd want to know, however," Wes said placatingly. "After all, I was a Watcher for a long time, and Angel and Spike have both been helping Buffy and Faith for years. It's misfortunate that Andrew somehow managed to convey that we were not to be trusted."
"You do work here," Javiera said, gesturing at the walls around her.
"And we're using Wolfram and Hart's powers to help people," Angel said. "If Giles, Buffy and Faith thought differently, trust me, they'd be here with a whole army of Slayers to stop us."
Javiera pulled a long face, glancing at her sister Slayers uneasily. "Giles did say something about you working to help people for a while now."
"Angel's been here five years," Wesley said.
"And he's been helping people since your grannies were in diapers," Spike added, finally coming to roost in a chair. "I was trying to help Dana when she got cute with the sharp edges."
"Giles was talking like he wanted us to help you out when we can but I just don't get why we need you," Javiera said, her brown eyes hardening.
"Well, for one, there's always strength in numbers. Never forget that. Secondly, we've dealt with the living paintings before. We're working on a list of who might have the bespelled oils," Angel said.
"And we know how to stop the creations," Wes said, and Angel tried not to look surprised. "Fire, which as you can imagine makes this a risky proposition. We don't want to be setting large hunks of Los Angeles ablaze."
"Yeah, it's not Detroit," Spike said, and when questioning eyes turned to him, he added, "Sorry, Devil's Night flashbacks. They like to torch their city. It's a bloody good time...when you're being evil."
"Spike, you're not helping," Angel said, seeing the disgust in the Slayers' eyes. "Don't worry, ladies. It took even Buffy a while to get used to working with him but he has his good points."
Angel paused, seeing Spike's smirk. "What we'd like to do is break up into teams, me leading one, Spike the other, and if need be Gunn, Wes and Fred can take up any slack. I'm not sure how long this list is going to be."
"I thought you said you had the list," Daisy said, her blue eyes slotting as she shoved her blond hair back.
"I said we're working on it. What we do know is that Lisa Perry's art came to life. One of my people witnessed it," Angel said. "I've already gone to her studio and found her dead. I don't know if whoever has the spell is using artists without them knowing what they had gotten into, or if he or she betrayed their partner, and killed Ms. Perry. I do know that other art that is thought to have come to life wasn't Perry's."
"We also know that the spell was stolen from the Watchers' archives when the main complex was devastated last year," Wesley said. "A few Watchers took an "every man for himself" approach there after. We don't know how many secrets might have been sold."
"So this is really our problem," Fang Yin said, her face taking on a sad cast. "I mean, one of us started it."
"And so they did, over a hundred years ago when Spike and I first encountered it," Angel said. "I don't want to keep the spell should we find it, in case you're worrying about that. You're free to give it to Giles for safe keeping."
"Thanks," Javier said begrudgingly. "How do we want to break up into teams?"
"Didn't Spike kill two Slayers?" Daisy shot Spike a nervous look.
"For once having a rep isn't a good thing," Spike said. "That was a long time ago...well almost thirty years. I'm all reformed."
"Send two of you with him if that makes you feel better," Wesley said.
Javiera nodded, running a hand over her almost buzz-cut black hair. "It does. Daisy, Fang Yin?"
"We'll go with him," Daisy said.
"And I'm with you, Angel. But are we ready to go?" Javiera asked.
"Not yet but you will be, loveliness," Lorne said, breezing into the room with a sheaf of papers in his hands. Gunn followed him far more sedately.
Angel saw the Slayers' eyes collectively bug out. "Don't worry, ladies. This is Lorne and he's harmless. He's in charge of our entertainment department."
"Didn't I see you in Vegas?" Daisy asked, brightening. "Well, Mom and Dad did. I'm not old enough to get into the clubs."
Lorne preened, a wide smile forming under the hook of his nose. "That was me, sweetie. I'm something of a seer but that wasn't much help in this case. It was my keen knowledge of the art world."
"Coupled with my police reports," Gunn reminded him tartly.
"We have the common link." Lorne put the papers down in two piles. "All of these are artists. This pile were all found dead yesterday or today. This pile needs to be checked but the police don't know that this list of potential victims exists yet."
"Gunn, Fred, Lorne, and I can check to remaining artists," Wes said, leaning over to grab a few paged off the stack. "Chances are they're all dead."
"Great. A night of crime scenes," Gunn groaned, taking off his tie as if already putting aside the lawyer in lieu of the warrior.
"And the common link?" Angel asked.
"A one Tanisha Jones. She made a mint on modeling as a kid. Has a huge house out in Malibu. She sponsored every artist here." Lorne patted the piles.
"So what's she after?" Daisy asked, looking intently, her qualms about the vampires forgotten.
"Could be more money once she figures out if this actually works," Gunn said.
"Or she wants to stay young and beautiful forever, sort of like Dorian Grey," Angel offered. He was well acquainted with what people would do to stay young forever.
"But these...things won't really be Ms. Jones," Fang Yin protested.
"Doesn't matter. Spike and I really aren't the men we were when we were slain and turned," Angel said, "and even telling mortals that doesn't stop some of them from wanting us to turn them anyhow."
"No kidding," Spike said. "You'd be amazed at the depths people will sink to in order to become immortal. Sometimes the illusion of immortality is enough."
"But that doesn't explain why she would have the artists killed," Wesley said, rubbing his chin. "Unless...what if she had them do with the little experiments, those are what we've seen so far, are prelude to something very big. Once it was done, she couldn't risk being exposed."
"Good point," Angel said. "Murdering all those artists was very risky so she had to have a good reason to do it."
"You mean beyond being loco?" Javiera asked, a smile playing on her full lips.
"Yes." Angel smirked. "And I'm getting some ugly ideas as to what she might be up to."
"Like painting a big demony thing to do her bidding," Spike said, his blue eyes turning a grim stormy grey.
"Something like that," Angel replied.
"But why?" Daisy shuddered.
"I don't know yet but if she was willing to commit mass murder then you can bet whatever she wanted with the ensorcelled paints is not benign," Angel said, his mouth pulling into a thin line.
"Provided it is her. It could be someone working through her, using her money," Wes put in.
"I certainly hope not because if the artists are dead, then there's only a matter of time before whatever it was they painted comes to life. I'd like to stop it before it happens," Angel said. "Lorne, what else do we know about Tanisha and her interests? If we're going to start at her home, then we'll need something that gets me and Spike invited inside."
"We'll have to re-divide up the groups then, too," Javiera said.
Angel nodded. "We'll work out the details on the way there."
"I think I have what you're looking for right here." Lorne smiled broadly and started filling them in.
Angel felt like an idiot standing on the doorstep of Jones' home in his ecology professor outfit. He had no idea why Lorne wanted to suit him and Spike up like refugees from ' I Crocodile Hunter /I ' as part of their cover story to get into Tanisha's house, but if anyone looked stupider in khaki shorts than he did, it was Spike. Legs that pale and scrawny should not be seen by the light of the moon or any other light for that matter At least the camp shirts and shorts had a lot of pockets to hide weapons.
"Notice how many cars are around, Nancy Boy," Spike said as they waited for someone to answer the door.
Angel nodded. "Looks like we hit on a party night."
"What if they're all in on this?" Javiera shifted from foot to foot. "Like a cult or something."
"I wouldn't be surprised," Angel replied.
"What then?" Fang Yin asked, fingering the knife Angel knew she had in her pocket.
"Then we find out how good you are at stopping humans without killing them," Spike said grimly. Fang Yin deflated some and Daisy gnawed her lower lip.
"This sucks," Javiera grumbled as the door opened.
A bored looking middle-aged man stood there. "You're late. You'd best hurry in."
None of them had been expecting that but they didn't hesitate. Angel took point with Javiera pacing him behind the man, whom Angel was assuming was a butler of some sort. He led them into what would have been a ballroom a hundred years ago. Maybe it still was, the vampire wasn't up on that sort of thing. The room was crammed with long banquet tables laden with food and candelabra. One whole wall was covered with a tarp. From somewhere classical music was being piped in and over two dozen people in black tie attire were arranged around the tarp, not really interested in the spread of food behind them.
A tall woman with beautiful café au lait skin headed their way and Angel didn't have to be told this was the ex-model Tanisha. She shot a haughty look at the servant who had let them in. "Who are these people, Walsh?" she asked.
The man look perplexed. "I assumed they were more of your guests, Ms. Jones."
Her lovely face twisted. "I don't know them."
"Sorry to just barge in like this ma'am," Angel said, stepping forward. He started in on their cover story. "I'm Dr. Connolly and this is Dr. Giles." He pointed at Spike. "And our grad students. We're from UCLA and we came to speak to you about the rare night-blooming sea star which has been found on your neighbor's property and we have every reason to believe will be in your back yard and on the path down to the beach."
Her heavily painted lids slotted across her eyes. "I have no idea what you're talking about."
"It's an endangered plant and given your wonderful record of contributing to conservation causes, we were certain you would be as enthusiastic as we are about the sea star," Spike said. "We were hoping that our grad students could have a peek at the back yard while you talk to Dr. Connolly and myself."
"At night?" Tanisha asked, her guests ignoring what was happening around them.
"It is a night-blooming flower," Angel reminded her.
She shook her head. "I'm sorry. You'll need to make an appointment with my secretary. And I'm in the middle of something very important as you can see." She waved a hand to her guests. "I'll have to ask you to leave."
"You having one of those private art show?" Spike asked, moving past her towards the wall that was covered by a tarp. "I love art. Is this a mural?"
"What it is, is of no concern to you," Tanisha said, heading him off. "Now please leave."
"Angel, the tarp," Javiera hissed, pointing.
"Spike, it's starting," Angel said, taking a running leap across the room.
"What are you...no!" Tanisha shrieked, grabbing Spike's arm. He batted her away, knocking her down. She got to her knees, looking up at her guests "Stop them, don't let them interfere."
The young Slayers found themselves surrounded by Tanisha's people, some of them armed. Others were more than willing to pick up bric a brac to use as weapons. Angel and Spike tore the tarp down in a concerted effort. Angel fell back, feeling gutted by what he saw painted on the canvas. Several of the crab-like things he had encountered in the sewers last year when they were hiding from Jasmine decorated the mural. His hell-goddess grandchild was painted in the center of the canvas and her eyes were beginning to blink.
"When she left us, I knew I was the one to bring her back. The whole time she was with us, I had dreams of Jasmine," Tanisha was screaming. "I even saw her servants in those dreams." She pointed to the crab thing one of which was almost all the way off canvas and trying to catch Spike in its claws. "No one will stop me from rebirthing our goddess. We even anointed the painting in the blood of those sacrifices who rendered her so lovingly."
Angel tried to ignore her, while fishing both of his knives out of the khaki shorts. He had to stop this before it began in earnest. He had no idea what this faux Jasmine could do, if anything, and he wasn't about to find out. It was hard enough to watch his son kill her once and only he remembered it. Oh, everyone remembered the darkened days and Jasmine as a charismatic cult leader who disappeared but no one, not even his best friends knew the truth, just like he had asked.
He was so busy concentrating on the task at hand he didn't even see Tanisha swinging the candelabra off the dining table until Javiera screamed a warning. Tanisha still clipped him hard on the chin with it. Growling, he turned back to her in game-face. She shrieked and dropped her weapon. Angel slammed her into a wall. Before he could turn back to the painting, he saw one of the cult members going for Javiera's back with a knife.
Angel raced over and grabbed the man away, only to discover the man had a knife in the other hand as well. The cult member buried that one in Angel's gut. Grunting, the vampire sent the man in the wall so hard, something cracked and he didn't move. Angel pulled the knife free, blood spraying on Javiera.
She wiped it away. "Thanks."
"No problem." Angel said then a pain filled cry spun him around. Daisy was caught by one of the crab-things and its claw was swinging towards her neck. Fang Yin was hacking at another crab-thing.
Spike leapt on it, grabbing the offending claw with one hand and held his lighter to it with the other. The thing went up like a bonfire. Spike barely had time to get away, dragging Daisy with him. The crab-thing ran around, in flames, chittering madly, setting a chunk of the room ablaze. The cult members were screaming and racing for the exits. Fang Yin raced after them.
"Javiera, try not to let them get away," Angel said as Spike lit up another of the crab-things with Daisy helping.
Angel ignored the demons. His eyes were on Jasmine as he wound a tablecloth around a candelabra. He dunked it in the punch bowl then touched it to a flaming crab-thing. Armed with a blazing torch, he ran up to the thing that would be his granddaughter just as she pulled off the canvas. Before she could utter a word, he thrust his weapon through her chest. The painted thing barely had time to look stunned before it made an all too human scream and started to burn.
"No!" Tanisha screamed, running past him as if she meant to throw herself on her goddess' funeral pyre.
Angel caught her. "It's not real. It's time to let her go."
"Never." Tanisha stepped on his foot so hard, her spiked heel penetrated his shoe and foot.
Startled by the rush of pain, Angel let her go. Tanisha embraced the burning image. The oils and canvas burned too hot for Angel to drag her out so he left her to die. He saw that the Slayers and Spike had some of the cultists tied up and others had obviously escaped judging by the amount of cars that were missing.
"Did you get impaled again?" Spike pointed to Angel's bleeding gut. "What is it with you and getting stuck?"
Angel curled his lip at him. "I'm fine. Tanisha committed suicide."
"What was that painting?" Javiera shuddered, wrapping her arms around herself.
"They were trying to revive a hell-goddess and her minions," Angel said simply, trying to ignore the painful memories that painting had churned up.
Spike shook his head, waving his hands. "Done that once, don't ever want to deal with it again."
"Tell me about it," Angel moaned, trying to forget an entire year and failing miserably.
"You saved my life," Javiera said, looking at the vampire as if seeing him for the first time.
"And you kept me from being brained," he replied.
"Still, thanks. You saved me. Spike saved Daisy. Guess Giles wasn't wrong about you guys," Javiera smiled weakly.
"You might even get to like working with us." Spike grinned, not missing Daisy's moon-eyed look. Him saving her had an obvious effect.
" I Cuando monos vuelven de mi culo /I ," Javiera mumbled.
"Think you can hold those monkeys in your butt because I've had about all I can deal with tonight?" Angel scrubbed a hand over his face wearily.
Javiera's eyes widened. "You speak Spanish?"
He nodded. "Chinese, too." He directed that at Fang Yin who smiled faintly, looking embarrassed that any muttered insults had been understood
"I called the cops," Daisy said, "Using one of the cult members' cell phones. I wasn't sure if we wanted to hang around and I didn't want anything being traced back to us."
"Good thinking," Angel said.
"I think we ought to call the fire department, too," Fang Yin said, looking at the smoking mansion.
"We're gonna get blamed for this," Spike said.
Angel nodded and made a call himself to Gunn. They talked about the legalities for a moment then Angel signed off. "They're sending a sweeper team. It's best we get out of here." Angel headed back to the non-descript van they had taken from the firm to make the trip to Malibu. "How are you girls holding up? Anyone need any medical attention?"
"We'll be fine," Javiera said. "Looks like you're bleeding the worst."
He snorted, fingering the hole in his gut. "So I am."
Spike got in the driver's seat and the girls piled in. Angel stopped Javiera before she could climb inside. He knew a leader of a team when he saw one and there was something he needed to say.
"We really did work well tonight, Javiera. If you and your girls need us, all you have to do is ask," Angel said.
"Why would we?" she asked, not ready to let go of her hostilities.
He pushed up the sleeve of her shirt to reveal the gang tattoo. "Because you know what it's like to have played for the wrong team and have things to make up for."
She rubbed the tattoo. "How'd you know?"
"Guessed...and I saw the one on your back while you were fighting and your shirt hiked up a little. The point is, you could use our help from time to time...and don't be surprised if we ask for your help, too," Angel said.
She looked at him gravely as fire truck sirens cut the night air. "We did work well together but people still died tonight."
"People always will, Javiera. We can't save them all. No one can," Angel replied, trying not to think of Tanisha throwing herself in the faux Jasmine's burning arms. "We can only do our best."
She nodded. "I guess so."
Angel let her get in the van and got in himself. He wasn't sure who taught Spike to drive but they seemed to have left out the fact that cars had brakes as well as accelerators. Angel was surprised to get back to Wolfram and Hart in one piece. "Do you girls want to come in and get cleaned up. We have some guest suites if you want to crash for the night and take advantage of room service."
"Sounds like a plan," Javiera said then stopped in the brightly lit lobby. "Angel, Spike?"
"Yes," Angel said as he and Spike turned to her. Something made a clicking noise.
"Thanks. Giles wants us to make a record of what we do so we've been using our picture phones to help document things." She smiled sweetly.
"Bloody hell," Spike groaned.
Angel felt the same as a soft ' I Cac /I !' slipped back his lips. Now everyone would see him and Spike in shorts. Composing himself, he said, "This way ladies." He turned the Slayers over to someone from the entertainment department and start slogging toward his suite, not even caring Spike was following him.
"Those bints are going to send a picture of us dressed like wankers to Buffy," Spike said.
"I know...but I'm thinking Giles and Xander will get the bigger laugh," Angel said tiredly.
Angel stopped hearing the sudden seriousness in Spike's tone. "What?"
"You recognized that painting instantly. Looked like someone hit you with a truck. Want to fill me in?" Spike asked, looking like he did on those rare occasions when he actually extended the hand of friendship instead of his usual antagonism.
Angel shook his head. "No."
Spike raised an eyebrow. "You sure. You look like you want to talk."
"Maybe someday," Angel replied, sagging against the wall. "But not tonight."
Spike shrugged. "Whatever." He tucked a cigarette between his lips. "Night, Peaches."
"Don't smoke that in here, Spike," he said and the vampire lit up out of spite. Sighing, Angel locked himself in his suite.
He showered, cleaned up the knife wound and climbed into bed. All things considered the night hadn't gone that badly. He might even have new allies in the L.A. Slayers. Angel put the fake Jasmine and the hell goddess' residual hold on some people out of his mind as he leaned over and took a strip of photographs from his nightstand. Every so often, he liked to torture himself with them. They had been in a packet Lilah had prepared for him before getting sucked back to hell or wherever Wolfram and Hart kept its dead-but-still- employed employees. The packet had contained things that magic couldn't just erase, or maybe it could and Lilah just wanted him to have a hair shirt to wear. Angel looked at the strip of pictures probably taken at Venice Beach of Gunn, Fred, and Connor. His son actually looked happy, an expression he never really had seen in person.
He gazed at it for a while until his eyes grew heavy. As Angel carefully tucked it back away and settled in for the night it slowly registered that they had failed to retrieve the spell or any remaining ensorcelled paint. Maybe it could be rectified tomorrow. Maybe it didn't matter. And maybe, just maybe if he could really lucky, it wouldn't come back to bite him in the butt.
Challenge Requirements - Team Angel meets the LA slayers. Probably post-Dana, so they can find some kind of middle ground.