"Okay, kids, give me ten more minutes to put the remaining ingredients together and we'll have ourselves one life-saving protection spellapalooza throughout the hotel," Lorne informed everyone.
"Many heart-felt, relieving sighs all around," Fred agreed.
"You people just don't get it do you?" Connor spoke as he descended the winding staircase and approached them.
"What don't we get?" Gunn asked, agitated by Connor's aggressive tone.
"Angelus is free out there; free to kill as many people as he wants. We need to kill him now. I don't see why you are wasting your time with these ridiculous spells. As soon as we step outside of the Hotel, he can rip our throats out. We're prisoners here, just like he was in that cage. You're all fools!"
"Connor, we will find a way to stop him and put his soul back," Fred assured him.
"Find a way? What way? None of you have what it takes to stop him. That's why you're all cowering in here. Well, I've had it with waiting and letting him reign free out there. I'm going to kill Angelus, myself."
"If you insist," Angelus's voice rang out through the hotel. Before the gang could turn to face him, he jumped down from the balcony and stood within a few feet of them. "I bet you're all kicking yourselves now, thinking if only you'd stopped squabbling for one second, you'd have had that spell up and running sooner."
"Get out of here," Connor seethed, assuming a fighting stance and stepping in front of the others.
"I'd have to say no," Angelus said. His smirk vanished to be replaced by his vampiric features and the chilling eyes of an experienced killer. Before Connor had the chance to react, Angelus leapt forward, shoved him backwards and then roundhoused him over the desk. Connor reeled on the floor, blood oozing from his mouth.
Within these mere seconds, Gunn reached for an axe that stood upright just behind the Angel Investigations reception desk a few meters from where he currently stood. He didn't even have the chance to reach it as Angelus savagely punched him. He hit the floor hard and was knocked unconscious.
"Charles!" Fred cried out.
She barely had time to turn back to Angelus when he grabbed her from behind. His arms held her so tight that she had to fight to breathe. He could smell the scent of paralyzing fear on her. He could feel her pulse quickening, feel her blood warming. He forced her head to the side and bared his fangs, preparing to sink them into her exposed neck.
Without warning, a sudden, sharp searing pain shot through his arm. His head shot back as he cried out in pain. He turned to look at the arrow sticking out of his arm. He let go of Fred, throwing her roughly to the floor, and spun to face his attacker.
"Honey I'm home," Buffy Summers called from the entrance to the hotel. Wesley stood beside her. He was distraught by how close Angelus had come to biting the woman he cared about.
"Buffy," Angelus seethed as he began to approach her slowly.
Buffy held her crossbow steady, her eyes watching his every step.
"What brings you here? Miss me lover?" Angelus asked. He ripped the arrow out of his arm and clutched it at his side, using it as a makeshift weapon.
"I heard you needed putting down."
"So, you came here to kill me?"
Buffy had to adjust her aim as he moved closer, "I did it once, shouldn't be too hard to do it again."
Angelus laughed, "You killed Angel, not me, sweetheart."
"Enough! Angelus, you're surrounded. Put the weapon down," Wesley ordered.
"Thanks for the advice, Wes, but…uh...NO," Angelus snarled, heatedly.
Silently, Buffy gestured to Wesley to take hold of her crossbow. She withdrew a stake from her inside jacket pocket and gripped it tightly at her side as she slowly descended the hotel entrance steps towards Angelus.
"Come on Angelus. No more games. Let's do this; just you and me."
"Buff, you disappoint me. You still don't know your opponent well enough. This is not about you and me, lover. Never was."
His words had the effect that he had planned. Distracted, Buffy was blindsided for a fraction of a second, which was all he needed to make his move.
He thrust the arrow he held at Wesley and it flawlessly imbedded itself into his side. Instinctively, Buffy turned towards Wesley as he cried out and sunk to his knees. Before she even had the chance to recover from taking her eyes off Angelus he grabbed her shoulders savagely and pulled her to him. He whispered in her ear, "I know you're just dying to make this about you and me, Buff. Ever since you made Angel drink from you, you've been longing for the day when I'd return and satisfy your dark, nasty desires."
"You're sick…. and wrong," Buffy spat.
"Okay, so Wesley calls and you come running? That's not the Slayer I know and hate. C'mon, I know who you are, better than you do. You want someone to hurt you in all the right ways and you want me to be the one to do it." Angelus paused as he leant into her, gripping her tighter and slowly trailed his tongue over the scar on the side of her neck, "And, that's why I'll win," he continued, still at a whisper.
Abruptly, Buffy snapped out of her frozen state and used all her slayer-strength to throw him off of her and across the other side of the room. She looked at him with utter disgust, "You know nothing, Angelus. Enough talking, more hand-to-hand," she yelled as she assumed a fighting stance.
"All in good time, Buff," he replied. And then he spun on his heel and bolted for the exit. Within an instant Buffy was behind him following him. He burst through the hotel's heavy doors into the courtyard and she was right behind him still. She knew if she couldn't stop him before he reached the end of the courtyard he would vanish into the darkened chaos-stricken street.
And she was right.
Later that Day – The Hotel
"Buffy, we need to wait for everyone to be up to their full strength again, before we go after Angelus, half-cocked," Wesley insisted.
Buffy physically heard Wesley's words of caution, but mentally she wasn't taking any of it in. She was determined and Wesley's words were just falling on deaf ears.
Wesley watched her as she hurriedly, yet, strategically armed herself with her choice of weapons from Angel's weapons cabinet. Wesley's leg was still throbbing from the earlier arrow injury so he sat on a stool behind the Angel Investigations reception counter. He knew the more he took the opportunity to rest, the quicker he would heal.
"Buffy, listen to me," he urged her, raising his voice.
Buffy was jolted from her concentration and spun to face him, "Wesley, I came here to take down Angelus and that's what I'm preparing to do. I missed my chance earlier and I'm not going to miss a second opportunity. I made the mistake of waiting too long to act against him once before."
"That's what I've been saying for days," Connor exclaimed as he came into the room. He studied the weapons cabinet and then Buffy, interested in her choice of arms.
"Buffy, I've studied Angelus for years; his behavioural patterns, his mental state, killing patterns, you name it. I'm telling you now; this is exactly what he wants to happen. Whatever he said to you worked. He wants you to do something rash and impetuous. It will work in his favour," Wesley insisted.
"Okay, so what are you saying? We sit back and wait for him to kill us all in our sleep? I can't protect everyone if I don't know an attack is coming Wesley. I have to take the fight to him."
"And we will, but with a plan!" Wesley yelled, finally losing his temper.
"No, Wesley, Buffy is right" Connor pressed.
Wesley and Connor began to argue and within seconds the intensity in the room was unbearable.
"Okay, that's enough!" Buffy bellowed, slamming down the broadsword that she held in her hand. It made an unpleasant screeching sound as it connected with the tiled floor and took a few pieces of tile with it. She stepped towards Connor, "Let's get one thing straight; we are not going for the kill. The goal is to capture Angelus. I need you to cool down a few degrees. For now, I want someone out there patrolling the streets. There are demons everywhere. We can't stop all, but we can reduce some damage. As soon as they see someone slaying demons word will get around and fewer will hit the streets. Trust me."
"What are you going to do?" Connor asked, not at all happy about his assignment.
"Prepare to move against Angelus," Wesley answered for her.
Buffy nodded. She looked at Connor and sensed that he was preparing to argue with her and dismiss the orders she had just given him. She decided not to give him the chance, "What are you waiting for? You're either with me or against me. What's it gonna be, Connor?"
Connor didn't respond, but he was impressed with Buffy's general-like attitude towards him. Power always impressed him. Well, when the power was held in the hands of good people. He detested power than emanated from evil beings. Angelus was the personification of that hatred. A few moments passed and then he snapped into action, grabbed a Byzantine battle-axe that was lying on the reception counter along with numerous other weapons and headed out the door.
Streets of Los Angeles
Angelus sauntered through the streets that were now cloaked in permanent mid-night. He had truly struck gold this time around. Those fools at Angel Investigations had summoned him at just the right time. Although, like with most things in life; there was a drawback. It was just too easy. It was a human buffet out there. There was no challenge involved. And if there was one thing that Angelus valued it was the thrill of the chase. Without that it was just a cheap kill. As these thoughts and the disappointment of it all plagued him he began to think about the Slayer. Perhaps all was not lost in the way of excitement for him. Killing Buffy would be a great achievement to add to his resume. It would be especially pleasing and satisfying because he hated her with every fibre of his being. He had never hated any of his victims before. The hatred would make the taste of the kill that much better. He would be able to savour it for a long while.
Everything in time though. And, of course, he had an eternity at his disposal.
First, he wanted to have some fun with her. As he began imagining the things he would do to her he suddenly picked up the scent of someone familiar. Connor. He followed the scent and as he got nearer he heard the unmistakable sounds of a big battle in full swing. Interesting. The Slayer had sent the boy out to do her dirty work. It begged the question; what was she doing that kept her from patrolling the streets?
She was coming for him.
He rounded a corner into a dilapidated alleyway and there he was. His son. Connor. He was battling for his life. Angelus watched him fight and was taken aback by the similarity in fighting styles between them. It was uncanny. Like father like son. He flattened his back against the wall of the alley as Connor turned in his direction. He had sensed his presence and was alarmed by it. His alarm won him a fist in his ribs and he hunched over as three more vampires rushed at him.
This is getting boring. Angelus turned to leave. As he did, he suddenly smelled something delicious. Fear. A woman ran past the entrance to the alleyway. Things are about to get interesting.
As Angelus sunk his fangs into the beautiful blonde he held in his grasp he smiled maliciously. You can't save them all, son. Good had its limitations, yet evil did not.
The bar was packed. To Angelus' annoyance some clichéd heavy metal song was blasting from the speakers as he walked in. What was it with demons and heavy metal music? It was one cliché he wouldn't mind torturing to death. He wasn't oblivious to the fact that all eyes turned to him as soon as he entered the bar. He stopped, completely still, scanning his surroundings. He waited. And then it came, right on cue. A round of applause. Word had spread that the Champion was gone and that Angelus, the Scourge of Europe, was back in the driving seat.
Angelus held up both his hands in mock gratitude, "Shucks, guys…and gals. Much appreciated. Now, let's get down to business. I got a Slayer to take care of, but to get to her; I need some people taken care of first. To put it bluntly folks, I need the best of you lowlifes to kill a bunch of humans for me. Comprende?"
No one in the bar made a move. Angelus realized that most of them were dumber than even he realized. He needed to simplify the plan. How disappointing. No wonder demons had obtained such a bad rep. Each time he returned after being out of action for a few years it seemed to get ever worse. No matter. They didn't need brains to do the job for him. Braun would suffice. Braun and numbers, to be exact.
"Well, step on up if you're interested in taking a break from this dive and getting some real action for once," Angelus challenged.
Within moments, three quarters of the patrons of the bar stepped forward. Angelus smiled.
Buffy kept hitting, punching, kicking, but it was still no use. She'd knocked the punching bag across the room a few times while trying to clear her head. Still, she couldn't keep her emotions out of the mix when it came to Angelus and what he'd said to her. She hadn't had the displeasure of his company for years and she hadn't been prepared. As soon as she'd seen him yesterday all the wounds from five years ago were brutally re-opened. She'd let him get under her skin immediately. And she knew he saw it. It gave him an edge over her.
Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of the basement door creaking open.
"Buffy?" a voice called from atop the stairs.
"What's up? Is something wrong?" she asked, concerned.
Wesley descended the stairs, "I need to talk to you."
"Talk about what?" Buffy asked with disinterest as she began to resume her kickboxing workout.
"Angelus doesn't know you as well as he thinks. But, there is something between the two of you. And, I do mean Angelus, not Angel."
Buffy stopped working out and froze. She didn't turn to look at him. She couldn't.
"He was wrong."
"I don't think he was. But it doesn't matter."
"It's not the part of Angel in him that he was talking about. It was the darkness," Buffy confessed.
"We all have darkness in us, Buffy. You know already that a Slayer's power is in part rooted in darkness. But, just because we have it in us doesn't mean we become it. That's why we are ensouled. Angelus wants you to question yourself and he knows that as soon as you do that he holds power over you. Everyone up there needs their leader back. What matters is getting Angel back. That's all."
"I know that," Buffy said, realizing that Wesley still saw her as the school girl that she was four years ago. Well, she was a far cry from that girl now. For one thing, dying and then being resurrected by the darkest of magicks took a toll on a person. It sure as hell had changed her and she knew it was the predominant reason that she now found comfort in darkness, in the arms of a soulless demon. Spike. But, even though she was different, one thing would never change – she was the Slayer. She killed vampires. That was her job.
"That's why I'm going alone to stop Angelus."
Before Wesley could fathom a protest, Buffy headed upstairs into the Hotel lobby.
As soon as Connor saw Buffy his face lit up and a flirtatious grin crept across his face. Finally, Cordelia had graced the team with her presence. She stood, just off to the side, watching Connor's expression.
"Like father, like son" she snapped at Connor.
Connor glanced at her sheepishly and then looked away.
Buffy noticed Cordelia was with the group. "Cordy, nice to see you. It's been a long time."
"Yes it has," Cordelia replied, with a faux smile.
In that moment, Buffy sensed something was not quite right about Cordelia. She shook it off and made a mental note to attend to this insecurity once this whole Angelus fiasco was over with.
"In about ten minutes I'm going off to track Angelus and put him down. Alone," Buffy informed them.
"You're not going alone. You'll need back-up," Connor insisted.
"So I keep hearing," Buffy said, throwing Wesley a look.
"What makes you think you can stop Angelus alone when we couldn't?" Connor demanded.
"Aside from the fact that she's the only living person who has ever stopped Angelus, I don't know…. a lot of praying and a few lucky charms?" a voice came suddenly from the Hotel entrance.
Buffy spun around. She smiled when she saw who it was. Willow.
"Good to see you Will. Your timing is impeccable as per usual," Buffy exclaimed.
"Okay, it's settled. Buffy will hunt Angelus down and bring him back here. Meanwhile, Willow, Fred and I will work on the spell to restore Angelus' soul. And…" Wesley began.
Before he could finish, Buffy cut him off, "Cordy, you and Lorne – when he gets back - get the sanctuary spell up and running. Until then, Connor and Gunn, guard the perimeter for any signs of an attack."
"You think Angelus will avoid you and come for us?" Wesley asked, not believing it in Angelus' character to do this.
"No. I think he will try to have you all killed while he and I are battling it out," Buffy said bluntly. She noticed everyone's silent gasps and wide-eyed expressions of pure fear.
"It's what he did in Sunnydale," Willow explained.
Buffy finished explaining the plan and ensuring everyone understood their roles and then she headed to the weapon's cabinet.
Wesley followed after her, "Buffy-"
Buffy held up her hand to stop him, "Don't Wesley."
"Just watch your back with him. The things he says…. the things he might try to do. Especially to you, because of your history and the fact that you destroyed his opportunity with Acathla. He will want to hurt you more than any victim. You need to be ready."
"I am," Buffy said.
And with that, she walked out of the Hotel.
Wesley watched her go. He wasn't convinced. There was something there, a disturbing look in her eye whenever Angelus was mentioned, that he just couldn't put his finger on.
Wolfram and Hart Offices
There were bodies everywhere. Body parts. it was a massacre. A beautiful massacre crafted by the Beast's own two hands. Angelus couldn't help but be impressed by the masterpiece that the great big rock demon had fashioned. It was intoxicating. The blood. The devastation. But, he had to focus. He had come for information.
He approached Lilah's office. There was rubble where the door had been. He stepped over it effortlessly and headed for the desk. He searched the desk, the bookshelves behind it, everywhere, for a good fifteen minutes. Nothing. Or at least if there was anything he sure as the depths of hell couldn't find it. Frustrated he ripped out the locked desk drawers and threw them across the room. They shattered into pieces from the brutal impact with the walls.
"Dear, dear, are things not going your way?" a voice came from the doorway.
Angelus spun around. A devilish grin crept across his face when he saw who it was, "I was just thinking about you," he said, subtly referring to the desk drawers he had just brutalized.
"How sweet," Buffy shot back.
He dropped the remaining desk drawer that he still had in his hand and took a step towards her, "So, how times have changed since I've been out of the picture. You got the new hairstyle, the big girl clothes and attitude. And that body…. umm…well, I for one wouldn't pass up the chance to give those new muscles of yours a workout," he said, licking his lips, "Oh and let's not forget, you died. And, my boy, Spike. Sure as hell didn't see that one coming, Buff. Guess you're not the good little girl you used to be, eh?" Angelus said, with a laugh.
"Nice. Thanks for the trip down memory lane," Buffy replied stoically.
"Hmm…. so, what's the deal here? You want me to give you what you've been fantasizing about? Come closer and I just might."
"Don't flatter yourself, Angelus. Keep your distance," she ordered, assuming a fighting stance.
"Okay, I guess all there's left to do is fight."
With that, Angelus shot out his fist. She wasn't expecting it and she failed to block it as it connected with her face. She stumbled backwards and fought to clear her vision as blood poured from her nose, the pain forcing tears to her eyes. Angelus didn't give her the chance to recover. He side kicked her into the desk, then clasped his hands together and slammed them into her back.
Buffy clawed at the table to keep from falling to the floor. She turned towards him, but she was too slow and he struck her brutally across the head with a hefty desk lamp. She crumpled to the floor, struggling to recover. There was no time as he savagely kicked her across to the other side of the room. She hit the wall hard and smacked face first onto the hard concrete floor. She was bleeding from a dozen places.
"What's this? The great slayer can't take a beating? Not feeling yourself, Buff?" he said, approaching.
Buffy watched him walk towards her. He lifted his leg to kick her, but she grabbed his foot and pushed it back hard, knocking him off balance. He crashed to the floor.
Within seconds, she was straddling him, stake in hand.
"Wait!" Angelus shouted.
He gripped her wrist, preventing her from bringing the stake down. He held her arm in mid-air.
"Wait for what?"
He pressed his finger to his lips to silence her. He listened intently for a while, then whispered, "He's here." The whisper was barely audible and Buffy had to strain to hear him.
He felt her relax her grip on the stake and he used the opportunity to gently move her off him so as not to make a sound. He crept towards the door. Buffy hurried after him, not prepared to let him escape. There was no way she was going to let that happen. She yelled for him to stop in his tracks. Then, without warning, he grabbed hold of her and slammed her against the wall, holding his hand over her mouth.
"It's the Beast. Stop your struggling. I can't take him alone and neither can you," he hissed.
"You think I'm going to trust your word?" Buffy demanded after ripping his hand from her mouth.
"You don't have a choice, Buff."
"There's no way the two of us can work together on this, Angelus."
"You think I want to work with you? Keep dreaming. I work alone. But, this time it's different. He's stronger than any demon you've ever faced."
"I fought a God," Buffy shot back.
"Yeah and you died," Angelus contended.
"I don't trust you."
"Works both ways, sweetheart. Alliances aren't built on trust, they're built on need. And that's the scenario we're looking at now. You wanna die instead? I could make that happen right now if you want."
Buffy was silent for a moment as she contemplated his offer. Could the two of them really survive better as a team? What kind of alliance could ever be created out of the intense hatred and disgust that they had for each other? Nevertheless, she had heard Wesley's reports on the Beast and how easily he took down Team Angel. She would need more than just her alone to survive a run-in with that hell spawn.
"Okay, you're right, we have no choice. But, get your damned hands off me before I tear them off me."
Angelus smirked and then slowly let go of her.
Since Buffy had left the Hotel to hunt Angelus, Team Angel had dispersed to carry out the orders that the Slayer had given each of them. Connor was out patrolling the streets and Cordelia was sitting tight, waiting for Lorne to return with more ingredients for the sanctuary spell. Fred had returned alone, citing that Lorne had to visit a few demon contacts of his and that living things, namely humans, weren't welcome.
Wesley sat behind the desk in Angel's office as he, Fred and Willow discussed the soul restoration ritual. As they were talking, Cordelia sauntered into the office, "So, Willow, you think you can work the spell again?"
"I have no doubt. The first time I did it I wasn't even a full-fledged Wicca. Should be a piece of cake this time around," Willow replied, distractedly as she gathered the ingredients of the spell.
As Cordelia came further into the room Willow turned sharply in her direction. Wesley noticed her sudden movement.
"What is it Willow?" he asked, concerned.
"It's nothing, I just...uh…I thought I left one of the ingredients for the spell back in Sunnydale, but then I…uh…realized that, in fact, I did not," Willow replied awkwardly.
"Don't worry, Willow. If you did leave anything, we could most probably pick it up here in L.A," Fred assured her.
As Cordelia, Wesley and Fred continued to converse, Willow completely zoned out. She was secretly meditating, trying to determine exactly what she had just sensed in Cordelia. She knew one thing for sure; it was pure evil. She could still feel it. It was intense and powerful. The body of Cordelia stood before her, but inside her was something else all together.
Willow was abruptly forced out of her meditative state by the sound of a phone ringing.
"Hello, Angel Investigations. How may I….what…Buffy? What are you doing there? Angelus is with you?" Wesley's voice quickly rose in intensity and became shriller and more panicked as the conversation wore on.