The One With the Angelic Face
by Philip S.
Summary: To protect the newly called Slayer the Powers That Be recruit the services of the Vampire with a soul. Only that Vampire has a tiny little problem with the same curse that restored its soul.
Spoilers: General spoilers for Buffy Season 1 and 2, but basically its AU.
Rating: PG-13 to begin with. Might get worse later
Disclaimer: The characters portrayed herein are not mine, they belong to Joss Whedon and some suit-wearing corporate types. I just borrow them for telling my stories. Deal with it!
NOTE: This is an idea I came up with when watching the Tomb Raider movie. No, it has nothing to do with that movie in any way and thank God. I really hated it.
New York, 1995
The demon's true name could not be pronounced by a human tongue. It sounded like the sound a wounded animal might have made, if said animal was also suffering from a hangover and sore feet. To simplify matters the demon simply called himself Whistler and left it at that.
Unlike most demons running around on the earthly plane, he was not very interested in doing evil things. Killing people didn't give him pleasure, watching others suffer left him indifferent at best, sympathetic at worst. He was working for people whom he considered the good guys, meaning they only required him to murder and torture on their behalf in very few cases.
The mission he was currently undertaking might well fall into that category, he thought. The case of this particular creature had been special enough that he had tried to keep up to date with it. He knew what kind of suffering this poor soul had had to endure these last 97 years. Here he was, feeling sympathetic again.
He was hunting a Vampire. Hunting only in the most general term, as he was not interested in staking it. This was a very special Vampire and staking it would really be a waste of potential, or so his bosses thought. Whistler himself, he was fascinated at the very least.
The Vampire was hiding in misery. Buried in the bottom reaches of human society, sustained by the blood of vermin and the mind-numbing pain that surrounded it day and night. Especially at night, the time it would have used for hunting innocents only a century earlier.
This Vampire no longer hunted. It didn't do much of anything except feeling sorry for itself.
Whistler entered the building where he would find his prey and looked around carefully. Soul or no soul, he was still about to meet with a Vampire and Whistler was quite fond of his blood, demonic or not. He had heard the stories of Angelus and, though this creature here had but the faintest resemblance to that dreaded sadist, it paid to be careful.
He finally found the creature once known as Angelus in the hindmost part of the building, hiding in a filthy boiler room, the carcasses of a few dead rats strewn around the floor. The room stank of death and decay. Whistler knew he was in the right place.
A figure was huddled against the wall on the other side of the room, not breathing, not moving, dressed but in rags and dirt.
„How the mighty have fallen." Whistler whispered to himself.
„Who are you?" Human eyes filled with misery opened to look at him, telling him that his coming had not gone unnoticed.
„A question easily answered, friend. My name is Whistler. I doubt you can give me so short an answer were I to ask you the same question."
„I am no one." The creature simply said, eyes closing once more.
„Proved me wrong." Whistler shrugged. „I am here to talk to you."
„I am not interested in talking."
„Okay, then you will listen."
The eyes opened again, but this time demonic amber stared back at him, a human face twisted by supernatural rage.
„Leave me alone!" The growl echoed through the room.
„Scary." Whistler said. „God help me, a Vampire. But I'm afraid I don't have to be afraid. You won't bite me. Your tortured soul won't let you."
The face morphed back into its human shape and dark brown eyes shimmered with misery and guilt.
„Just leave me alone!" The Vampire whispered.
„Can't do that, sorry. I know who you are. Who you were. Angelus. The Sadist. Scourge of Europe, slaughterer of innocents, favored childe of Darla, the Master's daughter. For a 150 years you murdered, raped, and pillaged your way through the world."
„I know this story." A tired voice told him.
„I figured as much. And I figure you also know the part where Angelus ran afoul of some gypsies, who decided to punish him for his crimes against their clan. Punished him with the return of his soul, lost so long ago. Punished him with a conscience, so he would feel the weight of all his crimes."
Whistler looked at the huddled creature that stank of human misery and shook his head.
„Gotta give'em credit, they succeeded. But oh, I forgot one part, didn't I? The part where they thought that simply returning your soul to you would not suffice as punishment for what you did. You killed their favored daughters, their treasured girls. So they figured they had to put on a really fine topping on your misery cake."
The figure slowly rose to its feet, shoulders slumped, head bowed, face hidden behind a curtain of dirty hair. Behind the rags Whistler could see a body on the point of starvation, ribs protruding against pale and lifeless skin.
„And they succeeded at that as well." Whistler said.
The woman standing in front of him was beautiful, even with all the dirt and misery that surrounded her. Looking into her eyes, taking in her gaunt face, one saw the barest glimmer of the beauty she would possess when clean and happy.
Angelus, the one with the angelic face, had been a very handsome man. In order to suffer the same indignities he had heaped upon women for a 150 years, the Gypsies had made that man into a beautiful woman.
„Why can't you leave me alone?" She asked him.
„I want to show you something. A way for you to maybe get out of this hell you have created for yourself. A way for you to maybe make some amends for all the crimes you committed. A way to maybe be happy again some day."
She looked at him, shaking her head. „Happy? I don't know what that is."
Whistler held out a hand to her. „Maybe you can learn."
After some hesitation the Vampire took the demon's hand.
A party was going on all around her, the loud music and beating rhythms of the Bronze surrounding her like a blanket. On the dance floor Xander was trying to come on to a girl, only to make a hasty retreat when the girl's boyfriend suddenly turned up. Her thoughts were elsewhere, though.
„What's it like where you are?" Willow asked her.
Realizing that her best friend had been talking to her for quite a while, Buffy gave an embarrassed laugh and turned her attention back to the present.
„Sorry, woolgathering. What were you saying?"
„I'm much more interested in what you're thinking about, Buffy. Anyone I know?"
Willow's smile clearly indicated that she was hoping for boy-thoughts. Buffy hated to disappoint her.
„Knowing is too strong a word, I think. Remember that woman in black that turned up a few times these last few weeks?"
„Oh, you mean Angela?"
Buffy nodded. Angela. At least that was the name the woman had given her. Judging by the hesitation she had shown before giving that name, though, Buffy suspected that it wasn't here real name.
Her thoughts drifted back to their first meeting, not far from here, in a back alley behind the Bronze.
„Is there a problem, deary?" The woman asked the girl, who was pinning her to the ground with a foot on her chest.
„Why are you following me?" Buffy asked.
„I know what you're thinking. Don't worry! I don't bite."
The woman was giving Buffy a strange feeling, a bit like when her Slayer sense announced the presence of a Vampire nearby, yet different. Something was strange about this woman. Something was off.
She was very beautiful, Buffy had to admit. Looked to be in her late twenties, dark brown hair framing a pale face with equally dark brown eyes. The woman was dressed in black, all black. Black pants, black shirt, black leather jacket. Buffy took her foot away.
„Somehow I imagined you to be taller." The woman said, slowly getting back to her feet. „More muscles and such. Yet you do know how to hit, I give you that."
„What do you want?" Buffy asked, getting impatient with this stranger.
„The same thing you want, girl. To kill them. To kill them all."
„Sorry, wrong answer. Won't get a consolation price for that one either. The only thing I want is to be left alone."
With that she walked away from her stalker.
„You really think that is an option anymore?" The woman asked.
It hadn't been an option, of course. The following few days had been anything but normal. Vampires, the Harvest, new friends finding out what she did at night, getting grounded by her mother, preventing the end of the world. Thoughts not in order of priorities here, Buffy observed.
The silver cross Angela had given her had saved Buffy's live, she knew that. Luke would have killed her in that crypt if not for the cross. That hadn't been the end of it, of course. Angela had turned up a few times after that, always offering cryptic advice, then disappearing into the shadows once more.
Buffy was burning with curiosity. Who was this woman?
„Where do you think she always gets the inside scoop on all the badness around here?" Willow asked, bringing Buffy back to the present once more.
„I wish I knew. I know Giles let play a few of his contacts trying to find out who she is, but no go. Mystery woman remains mysterious."
„Oh, don't you just love a riddle?" Willow said, smiling.
Buffy wondered about the way she was intrigued with Angela. Was it just the challenge of finding out about her? Or was it more than that?
Some days Buffy was only too keenly aware of how lonely she often was. She had exactly three people in whom she could confide, all others had to be kept at a distance. Even her mother. Willow and Xander were good friends, Giles was a great teacher and mentor, but she was missing something.
She just wondered what that was and how exactly Angela played into all this.
„I think I'm gonna go home." Buffy announced finally. „I'm too winded to have fun anyway."
„Don't go yet, Buffy!" Xander said, having joined them at the table. „I mean ... we could dance."
Buffy missed the silent plead in Xander's eyes, shaking her head.
„Rain check, okay? I'm gonna go."
Minutes later she was out on the dark streets, making tracks towards her home.
She watched Buffy from the shadows, shaking her head. This was a mistake and she knew it. She was here strictly to help the blonde Slayer, keep her apprised of the latest evils around Sunnydale, and otherwise stay away from her.
Angela, she chuckled. She'd had to come up with that name on a moment's notice. She hadn't really thought about it before, what name she would go under now. She had managed a hundred years without a name. No name needed for someone who considered herself to be no one.
She could hardly call herself Angelus anymore, even had she wanted to. And Liam wasn't a name that fit her anymore, either. Some days she would get confused. Thoughts would mesh and she had no clue whether to think of herself as a 'he' or a 'she'. On those days she missed seeing her image in a mirror. It might have provided her with some sense of self-definition.
Liam, the Irish lad, he was long dead. Died on a cold night in 1753 in the embrace of a blonde angel of death. Reborn as Angelus, the monster, the sadist. But that monster was dead as well, destroyed the moment his form was filled with the golden light of a soul.
And now? She had had a hundred years to get used to the fact that she was now a woman, would always be a woman. Some days it was easier than on others. For the Vampire the gender had never really made that much of a difference. Angelus had been a lover - and killer - of men and women both. The old Irish Catholic inside of her, though, he had a lot more problems with her current state of being.
Angela. Her name now. A bittersweet mesh of all she had been in the past. Her ... his sister had called him an angel when he had come back to his home after being buried in the ground. Angelus, the one with the angelic face, the monster that had killed Liam's family. And now Angela. Somehow it fit. A woman now, for better or worse, no matter the thoughts and longings the man inside of her still carried along.
Longings. Male longings.
She shook her head. No sense brooding about things that could never be. Concentrate on the task! Whistler had given her a mission in life, or unlife, and she had nothing else, so she clung to it. It was her job to keep this Slayer safe, help her fulfill her destiny, and that she would do. No matter what.
A muffled outcry wrenched Angela's attention back to the present and she saw three large Vampires attack the Slayer.
She sprang into action without shedding another thought.
Buffy slammed the door shut once she and Angela were inside the house, a large body impacting against it from outside. Amber demon eyes glared at her through the small windows, but the Vampires made no attempt to break it open.
„Don't worry!" Angela said from behind her. „No Vampire can enter a house unless he's invited."
„I heard about that." Buffy said, out of breath. „Never put it to the test, though."
A final look at the Vampires outside assured her that the danger was past for the moment and she turned to look at her companion. Angela was leaning against the wall near the stairs, clutching her belly. Buffy could see some blood seeping into her shirt. First time she ever saw Angela in a white shirt and then this.
„Let's get you patched up." Buffy said, walking toward the kitchen where her mom had stored the first aid kit. „Take off your jacket and shirt!"
She didn't see Angela tense behind her for a moment before she followed her into the kitchen, quickly disposing of her clothes.
By the time Buffy had found the kit Angela was leaning against the kitchen counter, naked from the waist up except for a simple bra. Black, of course. A pang of envy went through Buffy, seeing the other woman's ample chest, but she quickly concentrated on the wound. She didn't notice Angela biting on her bottom lip as the Slayer's fingers trailed across her flesh.
„Nice tattoo!" Buffy said, seeing the image adorning one of Angela's shoulder blades. It was some kind of winged animal, twisted around the letter A. Angela said nothing about it.
„I was lucky you came along." Buffy continued as she dressed the wound. „I was starting to think that was it for me."
„My pleasure." Angela said, wincing a little when Buffy touched the wound with the antiseptic.
„So, not to look a gift horse in the mouth, but how come you were there?"
„Out for a walk. I live nearby."
„Oh. So you weren't following me."
„Why should I do that?" Angela asked with a smile that sent a funny feeling down Buffy's back.
„You tell me! You're the mystery woman that always turns up out of nowhere. Not that I'm not grateful for it tonight, but, you know, if you're hanging around for the long haul, I would like to know why."
A sad look crossed Angela's face and Buffy chided herself. Obviously she had brought up something very painful here.
„I want to help you." Angela just said after a moment.
„Help me?" Buffy asked, waiting for more information. Then she heard the sound of the key in the front door. „Oh no!"
Joyce Summers had barely opened the door when she found herself being pulled inside by her daughter, who slammed the door behind her and peered out through the window with a worried expression on her face.
„Buffy, what ...?" Joyce began.
„I ... I saw some strange guys hanging around outside. Just, just feeling better with you safe and sound inside."
Joyce gave her a smile and then started moving in the direction of the kitchen. Stifling a curse Buffy quickly positioned herself between the kitchen door and her mother.
„You must be beat." She said with her best 'nice-daughter' face.
„Oh, I sure am." Joyce said, rubbing her forehead. „There was so much work at the gallery today ..."
„Then why don't you go upstairs and let me fix you some dinner?" Buffy smiled.
„That would be nice." Joyce smiled back with a twinkle in her eyes. „What did you do?"
„Me?" Buffy asked. „Can't a daughter just be nice to her mother?"
Joyce looked past her suddenly and Buffy whirled around to see Angela standing in the kitchen door. She had put on her shirt and jacket again, zipping up the latter to hide the bloody gash in the former.
„Ah, yes." Buffy said. „Mom, this is Angela. Angela, this is my mom."
„Pleased to meet you, Mrs. Summers." Angela said, the slightest smile on her lips.
„Yes, likewise." Joyce said, a little confused over the presence of this strange woman. „May I ask where you know my daughter from?"
„From school!" Buffy said very quickly. „She is a ... I mean ..."
„Teaching assistant." Angela supplied.
„Yes, right. She, ah, she helps me with my history. You know I've been toiling there."
Joyce gave her daughter a funny look, but inside she was relieved. She had already started to imagine some things when Buffy behaved so strangely, but this woman didn't look like she spelled trouble. Thank god Buffy hadn't invited a boy to teach her history.
„Okay, I'll go to bed then." Joyce said. „Maybe you should do the same."
„I will." Buffy said, again very quickly. „I'll just say good night to Angela and hop into bed."
After a show of wishing Angela good night and shutting the door, the two of them went up to Buffy's room.
„I don't want to get you into trouble with your mother." Angela said, leaning against the wall.
„And I don't want to get you dead. Those creeps could still be out there." Buffy took a look out the window, but saw no ominous shadows sneaking through her front yard. Satisfied she turned around to face Angela again.
The shadows produced by the room's twilight seemed to hug Angela's body like a lover and something about the image made Buffy's heart beat a little faster. Angela was looking at her in a way Buffy could not quite figure out. Almost as if ... nah!
„Okay, let's lie down then." Buffy said and started undressing.
Angela bit down hard on her lower lip to keep from crying out when Buffy just slipped off her blouse right in front of her, Vampire night vision showing it to her clear as day. The girl obviously had no problems with undressing in front of what she thought to be another woman.
'You ARE a woman, remember?' A mocking voice inside Angela's head said.
Buffy had barely dressed for the night, wearing but very short shorts and a workout top, when she slipped into bed and scooted to one side. The bed was big enough for two people, if they didn't mind sleeping close together. To Angela's utter horror Buffy seemed to expect her to just hop in with her.
„Are you all right?" Buffy said when Angela made no move toward the bed.
„I ... I'll just sleep on the floor if you don't mind." Angela said, taking off her jacket. „I ... I don't sleep well with others. I tend to thrash around during sleep."
It was the quickest explanation she could come up with and Buffy seemed to buy it. Thank God.
„Oh. In that case you should take the bed. You're injured."
„The floor is fine, Buffy. Believe me, I've slept in much worse places."
Buffy finally relented and Angela breathed a silent sigh of relief. After producing a camping mattress from her walk-in closet, as well as a huge, fluffy comforter, Buffy snuggled back into her bed. Angela lied down on the floor, refusing to take off any more clothes, and closed her eyes.
„Angela?" Buffy asked.
„Yes?" Angela asked back, the darkness around them giving the entire situation a feeling of intimacy that drove shivers down her spine.
„Do you snore?"
The question was so girlish and innocent that Angela couldn't help but laugh.
„I don't know." She said after a moment. „It's been a while since anyone has been in a position to let me know."
„I firmly believe that only boys snore, actually." Buffy said. „I mean, not that I've ever been in the position to know, but ..."
„Just sleep, Buffy!" Angela said, definitely not ready to talk about boys with Buffy. Especially not in a dark bedroom with the Slayer wearing so little clothes.
„Yeah, right. Sleep." Buffy replied. After a moment she added, „I'm glad you came by when you did, Angela."
A few minutes later Angela listened to Buffy's slow and even breathing, acutely aware of the warmth trailing off the girl's body, of her scent which permeated this room.
This was going to be a long, long night.
Buffy returned to her house shortly after sundown. She had told Giles about the three Vampires attacking her and Angela. In response Giles had stepped up her weapons' training and she had spent the entire afternoon at the library, beating the shit out of him for the most part. Giles was a great trainer, but not the best sparring partner in the world.
Entering her house, Buffy wondered if Angela would still be there. The older woman had still been asleep when Buffy had to leave for school and she hadn't wanted to wake her. Might not have been the smartest idea in the world, seeing as her mother had the odd compulsion to clean up Buffy's room now and then. What kind of cover story could possibly explain that?
Odds were Angela had simply taken off after waking up. Why should she spend an entire day waiting in a girl's room? They would certainly meet again soon enough, when Angela turned up to deliver the latest in cryptic warnings or maybe to save Buffy's life once more.
Buffy went directly upstairs.
„Angela? You here?"
A movement drew her eyes and she saw Angela sitting on her bed, her legs tucked beneath her. Buffy put down her bag and sat on the bed as well. Angela edged away from her. What was that all about?
„Hello, Buffy." She said, looking solemn.
„I really didn't expect you to hang around all day." Buffy said. „Seeing as you always disappear so fast."
Angela closed her eyes, softly shaking her head.
„Buffy, I ... I waited for you because ... I spent a lot of time thinking today. Thinking about ... about you and me."
Buffy looked at the other woman, not really knowing what to expect now. She knew so little about Angela, yet somehow felt comfortable in her presence. There was so much sadness in Angela's dark eyes, as if she had seen so much more than she should have in her brief lifetime. That was something Buffy could certainly emphasize with.
Was that it? A kindred spirit? Someone who could understand what it felt like?
„I shouldn't be around you." Angela said, which caused Buffy to start.
„What? Why? I thought ... okay, I don't really know you, but I thought you wanted to help me."
„I do, but ..." Angela said, but stopped.
„Then tell me about you." Buffy said, trying to keep the conversation alive, trying to keep Angela from leaving. „Where do you come from? Why are you out fighting Vampires? I mean, with me it's sacred duty and stuff, but why are you doing it? What does your family think of your career choice?"
Buffy realized she was babbling and stopped when she saw the pain flash in Angela's eyes.
„My family ... they're all dead." She said after a moment.
„Vampires?" Buffy asked.
Buffy reached out to grasp Angela's hand in her own, but the older woman quickly withdrew her hand.
„So this is some kind of vengeance gig for you?" Buffy continued, wondering why Angela was so uncomfortable in her presence. Had she done something wrong?
„I should go." Angela said, getting off the bed.
„You waited here all day and now you want to go without another word?" Buffy asked, getting up as well. „What is wrong, Angela? Look, you've helped me a dozen times over now. You saved my life. I ... I want to help you as well, if I can."
„No one can help me!" Angela said, turning towards the window.
„Why not?" Buffy asked, approaching Angela, putting a hand on her shoulder.
It was too much. Having her so close, being in the same room with her, it was too much. Why couldn't she have awoken before dawn? Why couldn't Buffy have come back a little after dusk? She had to get out of here.
When Buffy's hand touched hers she could feel the heartbeat under her skin. She could feel the blood pumping just below that silky skin. The longings of the man inside of her made the body of the woman she had become react. Both Angelus and Liam had had more than their share of women, so she was more than familiar with the signs. Hardening nipples, dampness between her legs. Buffy was arousing her. But she was a woman, damn it, no longer a man. More than that, a monster. It wasn't right, she had no right ... She had to get out of here.
She turned away, but the Slayer was stubborn. Angela heard her footsteps on the carpet, felt the air shift as she raised her hand. The hand fell on her shoulder, warm fingers, she felt them through the thin fabric of her shirt.
There was so much sympathy in Buffy's voice. Her words, her tone. Buffy liked Angela. She could feel it, smell it. Somehow Buffy seemed to have gotten the idea that she could be friends with the mystery woman. Angela had gotten too close and now Buffy wanted to know more, wanted to get to know this potential friend she already liked.
It was the wrong kind of like, though. Not what Angela felt inside herself. Himself. The man inside of her wanted this young girl. Liam wanted her flesh, wanted to pound her tiny form into the mattress like he had done with so many barmaids and servant girls.
Angelus wanted her as well, wanted her blood, her warmth, wanted to wrap it around himself and drink it up, but only after making her scream, making her beg for her life. He wanted to drink in her warmth and despair along with the blood and then kill her.
She wasn't Liam. She wasn't Angelus. Everything was wrong. She shouldn't feel this way. She felt the demon rising inside of her. It didn't care whether she was woman or man. She had starved it for so long, a century of rats and vermin, cold pig's blood, not taking it like it should be taken. This young, warm flesh, it was so close. She hungered for it. No matter what else, she was still a Vampire and wanted to sink her fangs into that warm, living neck.
Control slipped, anger and frustration breaking free, and she felt her face shifting into its true form.
„This is why!" Angela growled and spun around, swatting Buffy's hand away. The girl saw her true face, the hunger in the monster's eyes, and she screamed.
The scream brought her back. God, what had she done?
Angela quickly turned away and jumped out of the window, sliding down the roof and tumbling onto the front lawn. Away. She had to get away from here. Away from this girl that confused her so. All this was a mistake, one big mistake. She should never have listened to Whistler.
Buffy watched as Angela's dark shape disappeared into the night, the scream dying on her lips. Her mother came into the room, touching her, asking her what was wrong. It was a distant sensation, though. She mumbled something about being frightened by a shadow, but her thoughts were elsewhere.
Angela was a Vampire.
Giles. She needed to talk to Giles.
"Angela is a Vampire?" Willow asked for what had to be the hundredth time.
"I still can't believe it." Buffy mumbled to herself. "One minute we were talking, I was coaxing info out of her ... It was almost like we had this great female bonding stuff going and the next minute she grows all angry and ..."
She broke off and looked at Giles.
"Can a Vampire be a good person? Isn't it possible?"
"A Vampire is not a person at all, Buffy. It may give a good pretence, thanks to the human form and memories it has stolen, but it will never be anything but a demon."
"I guess that means no." Willow said sadly. She had seen how fond Buffy had become of the mystery woman in the short time she had known her. Or not known her, it seemed.
"But I don't get it." Buffy continued, desperate for an explanation. "She could have killed me, Giles. She had a dozen opportunities. She could have let the Three kill me, could have killed me while I slept. Damn, she could have killed me tonight. I was pretty much frozen in shock when she showed me her vamp face. Why didn't she?"
"She ... I guess she has to be following some plan." Giles said. "Maybe she wanted to become your friend first, so ..."
"No, Giles. She didn't have to reveal herself to me. And even before that she pretty much did everything to keep me at a distance. Heck, she showed me her vamp face and told me to get away from her. Something strange is going on here."
Xander sat down beside Buffy, touching her shoulder.
"Buffy, I know this Angela helped you, but let's face the facts. She's a Vampire. You're a Vampire Slayer. That doesn't leave a lot of room, right?"
"It is the Slayer's duty to ..."
"I just don't know." Buffy interrupted Giles. "Giles, please do some research. I have to know more about her before ... before I can do anything."
Her Watcher just nodded and Buffy looked into the distance again, trying to figure out the confused feelings she had for the mystery woman that was a Vampire.
Angela entered her apartment and slammed the door behind her, leaning against it. What had she been thinking? Why had she revealed herself to this girl? She had never had such problems controlling herself before. What was going on?
Someone was in her apartment. Someone who smelled familiar.
"Who's there?" She called out, almost hoping for a fight, though she knew she was in no shape for it.
Angela's blood froze when she saw Darla stepping out of the shadows. Darla. The Master's daughter. The Vampire who had killed Liam and remade him into Angelus.
The only Vampire in existence who knew that Angelus had been cursed and remade into a woman.
"Get out of here, Darla!" Angela growled.
"What? No words of greeting to your long-lost Sire? I thought you'd be happy to see me again."
"The last time I saw you, you wanted to stake me. What were your words again? Oh yes. A disgusting human soul, wasn't that it?"
"That was a hundred years ago." Darla said, smiling, coming closer. "I admit, I reacted badly. What can I say? Having my lover suddenly turn into a soul-filled female took me unprepared."
Darla walked around the apartment, looking at the few possessions Angela had taken with her to Sunnydale.
"I like the decoration." Darla said. "Very human, I think. But guess what, honey, you're not one of them."
Without warning Darla was upon her, one hand grabbing her by the throat, pressing her against the wall. Angela vamped out, growled, but couldn't get free of Darla's grip. As Angelus she had been stronger, had been the dominant one, but a hundred years of neglect had eroded that advantage.
"I'm not one of you, either!" Angela snarled at Darla, there being nothing else she could do.
Darla finally let go of her and walked away, Angela resisting the impulse to massage her aching throat. Darla walked over to the refrigerator and opened it.
"It appears you don't mind the food, though." She laughed, taking in the blood bags hanging inside. "No matter what you tell yourself, you will never be one of them."
She came closer again.
"I watched you, you know? You and the little Slayer. No matter what face you wear, Angelus, I know you, even better than you know yourself. I know what you think. What you want."
She leaned in close, Angela could feel her cold, dead breath on her face.
"You want the girl, don't you? You want her like a man would want her. The man you still are, deep inside. The man you'll always be."
"No!" Angela whispered, closing her eyes.
"You can't lie to me, you know that." A hand trailed down Angela's face and on to her neck, fingers stroking the cold skin almost tenderly. "You also know that I do not particularly care about genders, don't you?"
Angela couldn't help but shiver, remembering everything that Darla had done with - and to - her, back in the bad old days. No, that hadn't been her. Angelus. Angelus was dead and whoever she was now, she wasn't him.
No matter the feelings she still carried inside.
"But maybe I'm wrong." Darla said, finally withdrawing her hand and taking a step back. "Maybe the little Slayer will understand. Tell her! Tell her about the curse! Tell her who and what you really are inside that smooth, female flesh!"
Still smiling Darla walked toward the door.
"And if things don't work out, you know where to find me!"
With that she was gone and Angela slumped to the floor, trying to make sense of this nightmare her life had become.
"I'm afraid I found no mention of a Vampire called Angela anywhere." Giles said resignedly. "The closest name I came up with was Angelus, a vicious Vampire during the 18th and 19th century, but Angelus was a man, so ..." He spread his hands.
Buffy nodded, not sure whether she was relieved or disappointed. One hand she had wanted to know more about Angela since the moment they first met, yet she had also feared that hearing about the slaughters Angela might have committed in the past would make this whole nightmare more ... real.
"Maybe she's a young Vampire then." Willow offered. "Turned just recently. Maybe even after you first met her, Buffy."
"No." Buffy just said. "She was always a Vampire. I ... I always had this feeling that there was something very strange about her, just not ... Giles, she doesn't feel like other Vampires. There is something very different about her."
Her Watcher rubbed his nose under his glasses, looking tired and frustrated with not finding out anything.
"I would imagine that the Watcher diaries would contain something about her if she was in any way special. Since she is not mentioned I fear it means she is just ... well, a pretty normal Vampire."
"A normal Vampire who didn't kill me when she had the chance." Buffy interjected. "Maybe ... maybe she isn't mentioned in your books because ... I don't know, because she never killed anyone. The Council wouldn't really be interested in a Vampire that isn't evil, would they?"
"Buffy, stop this!" Giles said, more forcefully than he intended. "She is a Vampire. All Vampires kill, they have to in order to survive. She is a demon. No matter what plan she might have in mind, it doesn't change that."
Buffy shook her head and walked out of the room. Everyone looked after her, then Willow got to her feet and ran after her best friend.
"Buffy, wait!" Willow called after her, finally catching up near the school exit.
"I'm not really in a talking mood, Will!" Buffy mumbled.
"Too bad, because I am." Willow replied. "What is the matter, Buffy? I mean, yeah, I know you were getting kinda fond of this woman, but I don't understand what is going on here. Why are you so desperate to make her ... a good person or something."
Buffy had her arms wrapped around herself, trying to figure out her own thoughts.
"I'm not really sure, Willow. I ... Whenever Angela was around I had this feeling, like ... like I wasn't alone." Willow looked at her with wide eyes. "Willow, I don't mean it in the way that I am alone. You're my best friend, but ... but it just isn't the same. With Angela I really felt like she ... like she understood me. Understood what it means to carry this kind of responsibility. To know that you are the one responsible for stopping the monsters."
Buffy looked at the dark street they were walking down.
"It was like ... like she was part of it all. You know, it's like I have two lives, one in the day, one in the night. You, Xander, Giles, my mom, you are all part of my day life, really good parts, but in the night ... all the people I know in the night are the monsters I have to kill. And it ... it felt so good that there was at least one person in my nightlife that was on my side. That wasn't a monster."
She sighed deeply. "Am I making any sense here?"
"I think I understand." Willow said. "Kind of."
"I just ... I feel so betrayed, Willow. I mean, I barely knew her, but I considered her ... an ally, I guess. Maybe even someone that could have become a friend. And then ..."
She threw her hands up in frustration. "I just can't kill her, Willow. She never did anything to me. I don't know that she ever did anything to anyone. She helped me, she saved my life. I can't just ... I can't do it, Will."
Willow just nodded, trying not to feel put upon. She knew she was Buffy's best friend and yet ... yet somehow that Angela woman had gotten as close, or maybe even closer, to her with those few, short meetings they had had than Willow had managed this last half year.
"So you're just gonna let her be?" Willow asked as they approached Buffy's house.
"I don't know." Buffy said, unlocking the door. "I mean, if she actually does something I guess I'll have to ..."
Buffy stopped, looking past Willow toward the kitchen. Willow followed her gaze and froze as well, unable to even utter a sound of horror.
There was Angela. The demon clearly showing on her face, lips drawn back to reveal glistening fangs.
Buffy's mother was cradled in her arms, two bleeding puncture wounds on her neck.
Angela had come to Buffy's house, not really knowing why. Maybe to explain things. Maybe to seek death at the end of the Slayer's stake. For a hundred years the monster Angelus had been imprisoned inside her. She hadn't killed a single soul in all that time. Maybe ... maybe Buffy actually would understand.
Of course things didn't go as planned.
Darla. Every bit as cruel and cunning as before. Angela had no doubt that she had known exactly what she was doing. Attacking Buffy's mother, yet not killing her. Offering her bleeding neck to Angela, whom she had to know was starved for real human blood after a hundred years of living off vermin and pigs.
Thrusting Joyce's limp body into Angela's arms, the tempting blood so close, just moments before Buffy came home. Yes, Angela was sure that Darla had known exactly what she was doing. It was the kind of sick and cruel playing that Angelus would have loved thoroughly.
It didn't change the fact that it had worked.
Angela wanted to say something, but what could it possibly be? This isn't what it looks like? No, disregard the fact that I'm here, a demon with a lust for blood that's clearly visible in my eyes, holding your dying mother. Angela looked into Buffy's eyes and knew that the time for words was now past.
The next thing she knew she was flying through the backdoor and landed on the lawn with a painful thud. Her jaw was aching like crazy, but the pain completely failed to register as she looked at Buffy's face.
The Slayer was standing in the open kitchen door, glaring at her with a rage Angela wouldn't have believed her capable of.
"Run while you can!" Buffy growled. "You're no longer welcome here. The next time I see you I will kill you!"
Angela slowly rose to her feet, never taking her eyes off Buffy. She nodded. This was it then. Some part of her had always known it would come down to that. A Vampire and a Slayer, how could there be anything between them other than violence?
Angela slipped back into her human face and disappeared into the night.
"She will kill you now." Darla said.
"Leave me alone!" Angela growled from where she sat on the floor, leaning against the wall.
"She's out hunting you as we speak." Darla continued. "What? Did you think that she would understand? That she would return your feelings, maybe? You are a bigger fool than I ever thought, Angelus."
She was right, of course, Angela knew as much. Even if there had been a way to make Buffy understand what she was and why she did what she did, there would never be anything between them. Angela was a woman, would always be a woman, no matter the feelings she had. And all that was moot now anyway.
She only had two choices, really. Leave Sunnydale. Or confront the Slayer.
Darla squatted down beside her.
"My beautiful Angelus." She crooned as one of her hands moved a lock of dark brown hair out of Angela's face. "Even as a woman you are beautiful to me. Human face or demon face, it will always be angelic to me."
Angela shuddered under Darla's touch.
"Don't let her destroy you, Angelus! The last hundred years will be forgotten if only you embrace your true nature. You will regain your peace if only you stop denying what you really are. Drink! Feed! Live!"
Angela exploded to her feet and shoved Darla away. When Darla looked up she saw the demon in ascendance on that deceptively feminine face and couldn't help but smile.
"It's enough!" Angela snarled.
"What do you want then?" Darla asked her.
"I want it finished."
And she would have it finished tonight, she promised herself. Only not quite in the way that Darla thought.
A hundred years earlier, when the Gypsy curse had taken her, Angela had awakened without any memory of what she was and what she had done these last 150 years. Then realization had struck and the first thing on her mind had been to end it all. Kill herself - or himself, as she still thought of herself back then - and be done with it.
Something had held her back. Somehow ending it all right then and there would have been too easy. She deserved punishment, deserved it more than any other creature on the face of the Earth, and so she had decided to stay alive.
Now, a hundred years later, she was prepared to end it.
In the dark interior of the Bronze she stood face to face with the Slayer. Buffy had only taken the time to get her mother to the hospital before she had gone on the hunt. Angela hadn't given her much of one. She wanted to be found. She wanted to be hunted down and killed tonight. It would be the fitting end for one of her kind. Death at the hands of the Slayer.
She knew that she had to put up a fight because Buffy might not be capable of killing her in cold blood. Though you wouldn't know it from the look on her face.
„So you finally decided to fight me face to face?" Buffy asked, her voice trembling with rage. „Getting tired of playing me for a fool?"
„I am a Vampire, deary!" Angela replied. „What did you expect from me?"
The next moment she jumped and the fight was on. Angela ducked into the shadows, Buffy's first crossbow bolt going wide. Before she could readjust her aim Angela was upon her, bringing her down with a kick to the back. Buffy rolled over the floor and was back on her feet in an instant, kicking out at Angela in turn. The kick caught the Vampire in the chest and made her stumble back.
By the time she regained her balance Buffy had recovered the crossbow and aimed it at her heart.
„Come on!" Angela snarled at her. „Don't go soft on me now!"
Something in Angela's voice and movements was off, Buffy realized. She was angry, angry for almost losing her mother, for trusting this creature, but something about Angela's voice snapped her out of the anger. She looked at the Vampire, really looked at her.
Angela just stood there and waited for the bolt to smash her heart into dust.
Buffy fired and the bolt impacted against the wall, several inches from Angela's head.
„You can do better than that!" Angela said.
Buffy carefully lowered the crossbow. „Why? Why did you do this, Angela? Why did you play me like that? Was it all a game? Make me trust you and then ... I've hunted many a Vampire before. I never hated any of them, though."
Angela smiled, taking a step closer. „Feels good, doesn't it? Feels easy."
„I invited you into my home and you attacked my mother!" Buffy spat out.
„Why not?" Angela asked with a smile on her face. „I killed my mother. And my father. I killed their friends. I killed the children of their friends. The night after I rose from the grave I killed nearly all of the inhabitants of my village. And for a 150 years after that I offered ugly death to everyone I met and I did it with a song in my heart."
Buffy listened to the words and it was impossible to miss the undertone of bitterness in Angela's words. Was it possible ...?
„Something changed, though, right?" Buffy asked.
Angela just nodded.
„It was about a hundred years ago. Fed on a girl about your age. Beautiful. Dumb as a post. But she was a favorite among her clan."
„Gypsies. The elders conjured the perfect punishment for me. They restored my soul."
There was more to it than that, of course. Angela looked at Buffy, the Slayer, wondering why she was telling her all of this. Not all of it, though. She simply wasn't ready to tell all of it.
„What? They were all out of boils and blinding torment?"
Angela sighed. She should have expected that the girl wouldn't understand.
„A Vampire doesn't have a soul, Buffy! It disappears in the moment of death. Without a soul there is no conscience. No compassion. No morals. It makes for a very easy existence. When my soul returned ... I started caring again. You can't even imagine, girl, what it feels like to have done the things I have done ... and care."
Angela looked down. „I haven't fed on a human being since that day."
„So you started with my mother?" Buffy asked, about to raise the crossbow again.
„I didn't." Angela simply said.
Buffy believed her. She didn't know why, but she knew that Angela was telling the truth.
„Why didn't you say any..." She began.
„But I wanted to." Angela interrupted her. „I held your mother in my arms, that blood so close, and I wanted to do it. It made me realize something. I can walk like a human, but I'm not one."
She came closer to Buffy and her eyes shimmered demon amber.
„I wanted to kill you tonight." Her voice was hoarse with hunger.
Everything inside Buffy screamed for her to raise the crossbow and put an end to it. Shoot that bolt into Angela's heart and end the existence of this Vampire who had just confessed to a 150 years of bloody murder. The same Vampire who had saved her life. Who had helped her stop the Harvest. Whom she had begun to trust before she had found out what she really was.
It was the hardest thing she had ever done, but Buffy slowly put the crossbow on the floor and, with another step, closed the distance to Angela. The other woman was a good few inches taller than Buffy and the Slayer had to tilt back her head to meet her eyes.
Slowly, very slowly, Buffy bent her head to the side, offering Angela her neck.
„Go ahead then!" She just said, never taking her eyes away.
For a moment she was afraid that Angela would actually do it. The hunger shining in her amber demon eyes was so profound, so fundamental, that Buffy imagined she could already feel the sharp pain of fangs slipping into her flesh.
It didn't happen, though.
„Not that easy, is it?" Buffy asked Angela.
„Sure it is!" A new voice rang out from behind them.
No! Not now! Angela saw Darla stand behind Buffy and her blood froze. She had come here to die. Telling Buffy that she wanted to kill her was nothing but a last-ditch impulse to get the Slayer to do it for her. But then the slightest ember of hope had found its way into her heart once more.
An ember Darla stomped upon through her presence.
„You really are pathetic, 'Angela'!" Darla spoke her adopted name like the joke it was. „Here you have a Slayer offering you her neck and what do you do? I actually entertained hopes you might return to us yet."
Seeing the cruel smile, the wicked twinkling in the demon's eyes, anger welled up inside Angela, the kind of anger she hadn't felt since the days of Angelus. Darla had managed to drive the cruel demon up the wall more times than she could count, no matter that she had come to regret doing it more than once. Now Angela felt Angelus inside her and she welcomed the anger.
„Get out of here, Darla!" Angela snarled. „Or so help me ..."
„What? You'll kill me? Me? Your Sire?"
Angela froze even as Darla's eyes came to rest on Buffy.
„You made her?" Buffy asked.
„Oh, yes, I made 'her'." Darla laughed. „I did much more than that. Or maybe I should say WE did much more than that, isn't that right, 'Angela'?"
Darla left the implications of her words hanging in the air.
„I think it's time to stop talking now!" Angela said, not wanting Darla to say anything else. Especially not the thing she hadn't told Buffy yet.
„Oh, I agree!" Darla said. „Time for the dying part, actually. Not yours, though. Hers. You'll watch her die tonight, my dear."
Buffy quickly kicked up the crossbow again, but Darla was faster. The Vampire had two guns and started firing immediately. The first bullet struck Angela right in the center of her chest.
The crossbow bolt fell from Angela's hand as she stared in disbelief at the ashes in front of her. Darla was gone. Her Sire, her creator, she was gone. 400 years of existence winked out in an instant, time finally taking its toll.
Darla was dead. Dead at her hands.
„Are you ... are you all right?" Buffy asked, carefully approaching the wounded Vampire.
Angela didn't hear her. She continued staring, slowly dropping to her knees. Blood was still flowing from the bullet wound in her chest, but it didn't even register with her. She had killed Darla. Her own Sire. She had killed her.
„Angela?" Buffy called out, gently placing a hand on the other woman's shoulder.
Slowly Angela became aware of Buffy, the Slayer's presence penetrating through the veil of pain that had fallen over her. The connection that every Vampire had with her Sire, it was still there, reaching out to touch something and finding nothing but painfilled emptiness.
Angela finally looked up at Buffy, her amber demon eyes stained with tears that were as crimson as the blood flowing from her wound.
„She was my Sire." Angela just said.
Buffy didn't understand what kind of pain Angela might be going through right now. She knew nothing of the bond between a Sire and her childe. She did know, though, that Angela had saved her life. Darla would have killed her if Angela hadn't driven that crossbow bolt into her back.
Angela had killed her own Sire to save her. Buffy had no idea how much it cost her to do that, but the pain was evident on Angela's face.
So the Slayer, bane of Vampirekind, dropped to her knees as well and took the crying Vampire into her arms, offering whatever comfort could be found there.
And for that moment Angela felt no male longings stirred up by her presence.
„Your mother is all right?" Xander asked.
He, Buffy, and Willow were sitting at their usual table, trying to make sense of the happenings of the last few days.
„Yeah, she's fine." Buffy said, playing with the straw in her drink. „Doctor said she just needs to rest a bit and everything will be all right. She'll recover."
So close. So far Buffy had always managed to keep the Slayer stuff out of her day life. Like she had told Willow, she had two lives. Things from one shouldn't intrude in the other. Of course that was pure wishful thinking on her part. The monsters didn't stay away just because she wanted them to. And her mother had almost paid the price.
„She thinks she fainted and fell on a fork." Buffy said, forcing a smile. „Doesn't suspect a thing."
Xander and Willow just nodded. The lengths the people of this town would go to in order to sustain their happy ignorance didn't much amaze them anymore.
„And Angela?" Xander asked after a minute.
Buffy shook her head. „I have no idea. She just ... disappeared after ... after she stopped crying. I asked Giles about that. He said its completely unheard of for a Vampire to kill her Sire. Just doesn't happen."
„Wow." Willow said. „So I guess she was telling the truth. You know, with the soul stuff and all."
„I guess she did." Buffy said.
„You miss her, don't you?" Willow said after a minute had passed in silence. It still bugged her that Buffy felt so close to this woman, felt like she could share things with her that she couldn't with her best friend. Yet she didn't want to see Buffy this down.
„I do." Buffy said. „But ... somehow I have the feeling that she is still around somewhere. Still watching me."
Xander's lips curved into a smile.
„Yeah. Could be because she's sitting right over there."
Buffy turned around, her gaze following Xander's. At the edge of the dance floor, among the plush seats and couches arranged in the shadows of the stairway, she saw a familiar shape.
„Guys, I ..." She began.
„We'll hold the fort." Xander said.
Buffy rose and walked over. Willow's eyes followed her, as did Xander's. No, Willow realized. Xander's eyes were firmly on Angela.
„Her being a Vampire aside," he said after a moment, „I have to admit, she's ... well ... kinda cool."
Willow groaned. Xander seemed determined to notice every woman, alive or dead, other than her. What was she doing wrong?
Seeing the way Xander looked at the Vampire, seeing Buffy sit down right beside her, Willow got the uncomfortable feeling that Angela was fully in the process of taking not one but both of her friends away from her.
She didn't like that feeling one bit.
„Hey!" Buffy greeted Angela. „How are you feeling?"
Angela was sitting on one of the couches, dressed all in black as usual. Buffy slouched down beside her, looking for any trace of the wound.
„I'll be all right." Angela said, her voice devoid of all feelings. „I'll have to stay out of trouble for a few days, but other than that ..."
When her voice trailed off Buffy saw the flash of pain in her eyes and knew that it wasn't caused by the wound.
„And the other thing?" She asked.
Angela closed her eyes, not wanting Buffy to see what was going on inside of her. That entire night with Darla was like a nightmare, getting more unreal by the moment. She wanted to forget it, forget it ever happened. Forget that she killed her Sire to save the life of the girl sitting beside her.
„I'll be all right." Angela just repeated. „Just need some time."
„Should you need me ..." she said.
„I know where to find you." Angela finished the sentence.
Silence settled over them, or the closest equivalent with the band playing on the stage of the Bronze. Buffy didn't know what else to say and Angela didn't seem much interested in continuing the conversation.
„Angela," Buffy said after some minutes had passed, „I know you think this can't work ..."
Angela looked up sharply. This? What did Buffy mean by 'this'? Darla had died before she could tell her, tell her who Angela really was. Buffy couldn't know, could she? Couldn't know what Angela felt ...
„But I happen to think a Vampire and a Slayer can be friends." Buffy finished.
„Friends." Angela repeated.
„Yes. Look, I won't pretend to understand what you're going through, with the soul thing, with Darla, with everything. I just ... just want you to know that I'm here. You helped me and I want to help you, too."
Buffy rose, starting to walk back to her friends. Then she stopped and looked at Angela once more.
„You do have a friend here, Angela." Buffy said, then turned and left.
Angela remained sitting in the darkness beneath the stairs and watched as Buffy disappeared between the dancing teenagers. She shook her head and let out a humorless chuckle.
„A friend." She laughed. „Just what I always wanted us to be."