a note: I'm conveniently ignoring the fact that Angel arrived in The States in 1902. Hope you don't mind my bending of Angel's history. (so, pretty much, pretend the episode "Orpheus" either didn't happen or the dates were shifted.) Long live alternate universes and mangled time lines!
In which self-loathing steps aside for one man's inner champion and protector.
1900, Chicago, IL
He cocked his head as sounds of a scuffle filtered into the alley from its mouth. From what he could see through the rain, a girl--a young woman, really--was being bodily dragged from the street into the alley. In the back of his mind, he critiqued the method of nabbing--the man barely had a grip on the girl's wrists, hadn't covered her mouth to keep her from screaming, and she looked to be doing some damage to his shins. Sloppy, his demon whispered. He closed his eyes and turned his head from the sight. He wasn't like that any more. He could barely bring himself to kill rats when he needed to feed.
Angel convinced himself he didn't care when the man succeeded in slamming the much smaller woman against the wall of the alley and put his hand over her mouth, stifling her cries. He kept himself from reacting when the man told the girl exactly what he had planned for her in that alley. He pretended not to hear her muted sobs or smell her blood when he hit her.
Suddenly, unaccountably angry, Angel surged to his feet from where he'd been slouched against the stained brick wall of the alley, from where he'd drained a particularly large and foul-tasting rat of its life blood, and ripped the older man from the crying woman. She was young, closer to eighteen than twenty, a tiny thing in a rain-soaked dress, with big green eyes and flaming red hair that reminded him of a home long abandoned. Her cries had woken him from his stupor. Too many times, he'd been the predator of such young women, before the gypsy's curse. So much blood was on his hands.
The man hurting the girl stood no chance. Even in his pathetic and weakened state, the vampire who'd once terrified Europe was unstoppable for a human. Catching the other man by his collar, Angel picked him up and threw him against the opposite wall, and the primal part of him relished the sound of crunching bone and gasps of pain. He knew, from long centuries of experience, that the man, though still alive, would not be getting back up.
Angel turned to the girl, then, to see how much damage the man had been able to do. Her hair was plastered to her head, some stuck to her cheeks, clinging to her neck and shoulders over the washed out print on her dress, which might as well have been a second skin with how the now pounding rain pressed it against her body. The bruises already blooming across her jaw and cheekbones, along her wrists and hands, spoke to what she'd suffered. He finished his assessment, and then noticed her eyes.
Angel had never been the rescuer, not as Liam, not when he had taken the name Angelus. Always he had used or ignored. Not since he'd stopped assisting his mother with chores had he helped. He had never seen a woman look at him in gratitude before this moment.
His world tipped on its axis, and his perspective changed.
"Thank you, sir." The girl gasped out. She'd wrapped her arms around her torso in a vain effort of warmth, protection, or perhaps modesty. The rain falling so steadily from the sky ensured that all she succeeded in doing was making herself look smaller, more vulnerable.
Moving to take off his own sodden coat, he stopped when he had it off and extended out to her, seeing for the first time how ragged and filthy it was. "It's not much," he said quietly, no longer used to speaking to others, "but it might help you stay a little warmer until we can get you home."
He saw her assessing his offer, saw her assessing him. Angel read her face as she realized that he lived on the street, and that he truly was offering her all he could. A ghost of a smile flitted across her face before she met his eyes. She came to a decision, nodding her head and shyly reaching for the meager protection he was holding.
"Thank you," she said again, this time her voice stronger. "I live just a few streets over, with my husband. I won't have your coat for long." She cautiously came up to him. She was, he noted, tiny; she didn't even clear his shoulder, the top of her head instead coming only to the center of his chest. "I'm Elizabeth Masen."
"Best get you home, Mrs. Masen. Your husband will be worried."
Disclaimer: If you recognize it, I don't own it. Angel belongs to Joss Whedon. Mrs. Masen belongs to Stephanie Meyer.
...and yes, I seem to have a hang up on the image of a decrepit and morose Angel in an alley. "Becoming," both parts, stuck with me.