Title: For One Night Only
Season: Post NFA
Summary: When Drusilla finds a way to resurrect Darla, Angel and Buffy enter a race against time to save Connor from his own mother.
Disclaimer: If I could make money from this I would. Oh and they don't belong to me :P
Author's Notes: Just another foray into the Angel world, inspired by the excellent Monolith by John Passarella.
"You won't let me hurt it, will you? You'll protect it, right? From me, I mean." – Darla, Lullaby
"Well wasn't that a great show folks, you've all been a fabulous audience, and I'm sure you'll all be just as fabulous tippers on your way out."
The smooth, congenial tones drifted easily through the microphone, rewarded by a spattering of applause from the club's patrons, some already shifting in their seats as they settled tabs, stubbed cigarettes and reached for jackets.
"But before you say your goodnights and begin that long, long journey homewards bound to soft beds and sleepy loved ones," the host continued, a sly glint in his ruby red eyes as his audience hesitated, "I have one last tale to regale all you good people with." He waited until they had resettled, casually taking a sip from a glass of water, knowing that once piqued curiosity was a hard thing to put down. But he specialised in satisfying that particular cat killer.
"For me, it began in a bar not unlike this one," he began, gazing through tendrils of blue smoke, not meeting any eyes, neither the kind that came in twos or, in the case of the il-kak demon at the back, fours.
Instead the host was looking back, to a time when a beautiful, doomed blonde had walked through his doors and sang sweet and sad, just like an angel…
"Well not the Angel," he told his audience, with a slight grimace. "Our hero in shining leather was many things, tone deaf being one of them. But our harlot turned starlet had soul…right up until it was plucked out by our very own Mary Ann Cotton, Drusilla. Now Drusilla, as we all know, put the whack in wacko, never big on the whole sanity thing that one. But she was big on family. After all, mom and pops were the ones who turned her in the first place…right after killing everyone and everything she ever loved of course. And as that age old saying goes, we really can't choose our parents."
Or dismember, decapitate, defile, decimate, the host added silently, wistfully, thinking of his home.
"Even if they are spawned from the depths of hell itself," he said, then lightly with a wry smile, "But enough about my own mother."
It earned him a few knowing chuckles at that and he sipped his water.
"But for Drusilla none of that mattered. The girl loved her family…well as much as a psychopathic, homicidal, insane, undead demon could. So when a little bird let slip a little secret to our Little Miss Maniac - one our champion of champions Angel had paid dearly to keep - Dru realised there was a way to bring her little family back together." The green host shook his head. "And as far as reunions went, this one promised to make the Mansons look like Little House on the Prairie…"
Pretty patterns, swirling, twirling, like the red ribbons her mummy had once put in her hair. The thought, or rather what passed for sane thinking, gave Drusilla pause and she smiled dreamily as she gazed at the crimson streaked carcass at her feet. The man had put up a fight but the blows from the chair, the paperweight, and finally his fists had only made Drusilla giggle and laugh, harder and harder until she stopped short, literally breathless.
Forgetting that particular condition was part of her nature, fright took over and she hadn't liked that at all. Not one little bit. The man had been very naughty to do that to her, she'd told him so as she cut him to pieces. She told his eyes last, his bad staring eyes, before putting them out.
And now he resembled red ribbons, pretty red ribbons just like her mummy had once braided into her hair. She was wondering if she should put his ribbons into her hair when a noise from the backroom startled her out of her daydreaming and she crossed quickly to the door, scenting the human woman inside with glee.
"To bed, to bed says sleepy head," she cooed softly, opening the door, creeping inside on little cat feet. The air was staler here, here where they'd hidden their secrets. Secrets were rude. Secrets and trickery had kept her family from her. But she had tricks of her own, the man in the moon had taught her she remembered.
A whimper to her left whipped her head that way and Drusilla grinned, eyes large and dark and fathomless. "Put on the pan says greedy Nan," she continued to singsong, approaching the terrified woman, who was cradling some of her secrets to her chest.
One in particular caught Drusilla's eye. I must be a crow, she thought, dizzy for a moment, to take the pretty parcel back to my nest.
Hooking her fingers, Drusilla made pecking motions at the woman, who simply closed her eyes before the final verse of the nursery rhyme was sung.
"We'll sup before we go."
"You hungry? I was thinking we could take in some dinner, a movie, midnight stroll along the…oh boy."
He fell silent as a long, slender leg slid over his thigh until her whole weight was resting in his lap, her hands upon his shoulders, blonde hair tumbling down and tickling his face.
"I was thinking we could maybe order in," she replied, a mischievous glint in her eyes, a lascivious smirk about her mouth.
Angel twitched at that…in more places than one, even as his arms cradled her. "We could…do that," he replied, with some difficulty now as her hands slid down his bared chest. "Alfresco dining in this town is highly overrated. Or so I've heard."
In the background, the flickering light from the television played against the wall, the muted sound leaving the lovers cocooned from the outside world.
He would never forget the moment she had arrived back in his life, Heavensent or rather Willowsent when the powerful witch had sensed the brewing storm. A back alley in the pouring rain, the demonic forces of Wolfram and Hart bearing down upon him, Spike, Illyria and the injured Charles Gunn. He knew it was over the moment he saw the frenzied army, but he'd always fancied the blaze of glory notion and with wings beating somewhere furiously above, an almost manic obsession had washed over him to slay the dragon before he was torn apart.
But the battle hadn't even engaged when he realised they were no longer alone. He caught her scent first, then a glimpse of hair and almost wept when he saw she'd brought him an army of her own. Girls, some young, some old enough to be entering womanhood climbed the fence, dropped down from fire escapes and rooftops.
"Guess the cavalry's here," Gunn had said, grinning through bloody, rain-drenched features.
And then the battle had begun in earnest, no time for hellos, no be carefuls or words of gratitude for saving their collective butts. Angel swung his axe until his arms were little more than dead weights, the infusion of mystical blood he'd drained from Hamilton no longer sustaining him, until the ground beneath his feet was mired in gore and filth. But he'd slain his dragon. And Buffy was there after, holding him so tight.
Spike left that night, no Shanshu for either of them and no Buffy either. He'd left taking Gunn and Illyria with him, going after the only surviving member of the Black thorn, Cyvus Vail.
The last puzzling piece after they're defeat of Wolfram and Hart. Illyria had been furious when she discovered she had been duped, but Vail was a master of deception. Whatever illusion he had performed, both his supposedly headless body and that of Wesley Wyndham-Pryce had vanished without trace.
Angel couldn't afford to let himself hope Wesley was somehow still alive, the first bout of grief had almost torn his heart, even with Buffy at his side. But the others had found some promising leads and if the last phone call from Gunn was anything to go by, they were closing in on their quarry. They'd discover the truth soon enough.
"What are you thinking?" Her nail traced a fine line down the side of his face, raising the fine hairs on his arms at the simple pleasure of her touch.
He smiled, easily. "I was thinking how lucky I am to have you. To have us. How close it came…"
"Sssh," she breathed, echoing his smile. "I had to come back. The timer on my oven had dinged. I was ready."
More than ready.
She'd spoken to Spike first, alone, but minutes later the blond vampire had stormed out, grabbing his coat, almost jauntily announcing that he was buggering off to go find out if that pansy Wes had come a cropper after all. Illyria had been quick to demand participation. Angel learned later they'd swung by the hospital after and sprung Gunn, still healing from his wounds.
Alone with Buffy, half-elated, half-afraid, Angel had listened with a sinking heart as she told him whatever they once had, it was over. High school crush, first time love yadda yadda. So consumed by grief, the knowledge he'd lost her, he almost missed her next words.
"So, now that this cookie is baked, think maybe we could start afresh?"
The high school romance was dead, the flare of that passion dying out over the years. But she was willing to discover if something new, something more meaningful and stable could come of them.
It hadn't happened right away. His love affair with Nina had gradually died, Buffy had taken Dawn to England to visit Giles who was helping to rebuild the Watcher's Council. But the night she came back there had been nothing hesitant, nothing shy or awkward when she revealed the charm that would make him exempt from losing his soul when they finally got around to rediscovering each other, reclaiming something that both had needed for so long.
"And I'm always ready," Buffy continued, tracing the shell of his ear with her tongue. "Kinda like the energiser bunny."
It drove him insane when she did that and she knew it, took delight in his torment, but never his pain. And he knew it was real between them, something he'd dreamed of for so long. The Shanshu prophecy might be gone, but in almost every way they were partners, equals, whole and he was content with his lot.
"Buffy, don't," he moaned, squirming slightly, but she was strong, held him fast. Then softer, "Buffy…"
"Mmmmm," she echoed, sounding for all the world as if she was savouring her favourite chocolate ice cream. "…Giles!"
Disjointed at hearing the name of her former Watcher, Angel blinked open eyes that had drifted closed and sat up straight, wondering if his vampire hearing had misfired.
"Giles?" he repeated, bewildered, and the image that came into his mind wilted his passion, among other things, instantly. "Giles?" Of all the names, with the exception of Spike, that she might moan in the heat of passion…
Seeing his shocked look, realising what she had said, Buffy laughed and turned his head towards the television. "He's on the news," she explained, sliding off his lap to grab the remote.
"Oh. Here in San Francisco?" He opened his arms as she sat down next to him, curled up against his side as they watched the report unfold. "I thought he was in Thailand."
"…two victims of what appears to be a random killing," the male reporter announced grimly. "The police are following up on several leads, but still have no motive. However, new evidence has emerged in the last few hours that the couple owned several items said to be used in pagan worship and voodoo practice, alongside black magic paraphernalia suggesting that these murders may have a more sinister and ritualistic meaning."
Footage taken earlier as the victims were removed by ambulance showed an older, bespectacled man being interviewed by a law officer off to one side.
"Giles," Angel said, watching the hunched, rain-coated figure. "Think these people were friends of his?"
"Yeah. I think I'd better see if I can track him down, make sure he's ok." She sent him an apologetic look as she reached for the phone, knowing they're special evening was about to be postponed yet again.
Angel reached and gently plucked the phone from her hands, swiftly kissing her before dialling out. "Let me handle this," he said. "I've still got contacts in this area, shouldn't be hard to find him."
Her grateful smile was all he needed.
Mild evening gave way to the early night, a time when both vampire and Slayer were restless. For much of his life, undead and otherwise, Angel had spent his time under the veil of darkness, the stars, the moon his constant companions. And Buffy had become as comfortable there with him over her years patrolling as Sunnydale's champion. He was still amazed she'd made it through High School let alone attended college with the little sleep she'd managed to snatch.
Usually by now they'd be patrolling the streets, alert to the dangers that lurked in the underbelly of the city they were visiting, listening for cries of alarm and fear, or snarls and howls of would-be predators. But San Francisco was under the watchful eyes of a pair of slayers, both girls capable and relentless Buffy had told him, a hint of pride in her voice. Already the vamps were losing the battle and moving out to less hostile climes, the more vicious of the local demons following suit.
"I just can't believe they're both gone." Taking off his glasses, Rupert Giles carefully polished each glass lens, an action he had diligently performed eight times now since beginning his tale. "To have survived every apocalypse only to come to this. Hardly seems fair somehow."
Inside the small hotel room, Angel knew it was that, more than the killings, which bothered the former Watcher. He'd felt the same anger and grief himself over Wesley's supposed, pointless death so close to victory. Leaning against the doorframe, he watched as Buffy took her former mentor's hands, stilling his distressed movements.
"We'll find out who did this," she promised, steel in her voice.
Giles patted her hand, hooked his pristine glasses back into place. "I know you will Buffy. It's just the sheer bloody unfairness of it all. Countless slayers are out there now, the tide is turning and two of our own are slaughtered by vampires just days before their 30th wedding anniversary."
So that explained his presence in San Fran, Angel realised. Not much to celebrate now.
"So it was vampires," Buffy was saying, sounding resigned.
"I believe so. I have a friend in the forensic department, the preliminary report suggested bite marks to the throat of one of the victims."
Recalling the earlier news, Angel put in, "The reporter on the news said magical items had been found in the house. Anything in particular the perps might have been after?"
Sighing, Giles shook his head. "Richard and Amelia used to run a store for some of the more obscure arcane artefacts, but that was years ago. The only things they kept in recent times were those of historical value, books, scrolls, trinkets once possessed by the more famous, or rather infamous scions of the demonic world. A personal museum of sorts if you will."
"So maybe some grouchy vamp decided he wanted his nose hair clippers back?" Buffy said, pulling a face.
Graveyard humour had always been something of a given when it came to their line of work, but something she said struck Angel.
"Do you have any idea what they might have had in their possession?" he asked Giles. "Something precious or of sentimental value to their killer?"
"I think they had one of Angelus' shirts," Giles replied, after a moment, catching Angel off guard. "But they didn't exactly keep a stock list. Of course I'd seen a few of the items which they kept on display when I visited their home, but nothing in particular comes to mind at the moment."
Sensing they'd come to the conclusion of Giles' story, Buffy rose, touching the older man's shoulder. "You look tired, get some rest."
He nodded and smiled wryly. "If Willow could come up with spell to eradicate jet lag I would be immensely grateful. Maybe in the morning something will come to me."
"A shirt?" Angel echoed, lagging behind the current conversation. "They kept one of my old shirts? Like a memento kinda thing?"
Buffy smiled at that.
Catching her indulgent look, Angel straightened. "Uh, I mean me and Buffy will start checking leads tonight, see if we can pick up the killer's trail."
"Good," Giles said and he really did look exhausted. "And good hunting, let me know if you find anything."
As they left, Angel paused and turned back. "You didn't happen to notice if it was Italian silk with black buttons and these little…?" before Buffy firmly escorted him out the door.
END OF CHAPTER ONE