Title: Descending into Madness

Author: Angel-Buffy17

Disclaimer: I do not own Buffy, the Vampire Slayer or any other characters mentioned in the canon. Those brilliant creations belong to the creative (sometimes evil) Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. The lyrics below are from a song by Sarah McLachlan, "I Will Remember You."

Pairing: Buffy/Angelus, Buffy/Angel

Rating: M

Timeline: Post Tabula Rasa (Btvs); Post Fredless (Angel)

A/N: This story has been on my mind for a while now. It's only recently that I have the time to sit down and get my ideas down. Enjoy! (I don't have a beta, so all mistakes and spelling errors are mine.)

A/N 2: To all of you "Scourge of Europe Love Slaves" fan club members, the club is reactivated. Viva Angelus! Brought to you by the co-founders: Summer (slave2Angelus) and yours truly!

Warning: Contains adult situations and VERY dark themes. Some things may not be suitable for younger readers. Reader discretion is strongly advised.

I'm so tired but I can't sleep

Standing on the edge of something much too deep

Funny how you feel so much but can't say a word,

We are screaming inside but can't be heard

Chapter One: Blank

The house was silent when Buffy returned from her nightly patrol, as it always was this late at night—or early morning. She opened the window, with practiced ease, hefting her weapons bag and dropping it on the floor with a soft thud, aware of the sleeping inhabitants, and swung her legs over the ledge, landing gracefully in her room just as the sun made its daily climb over the horizon.

Mechanically, she unpacked the heavy bag into her weapons chest, carefully arranging the items perfectly by antiquity, size and weight. Swords, axes, and maces gently placed on the bottom. Stakes on the left side, adjacent to the small daggers, pointy ends facing away, then the knives, and so on, until everything was organized and neat.

With one last look over her work, Buffy nodded her approval and replaced the shelf over the collection, hiding the deadly armament from curious eyes. She rose and went to her closet, the sun already high in sky by now, bathing the room in a soft light. She selected a faded pair of jeans and black tank top, carrying them to the bathroom along with toiletries.

Buffy flicked the light switch on and leaned heavily against the wall. Taking a deep, drawn out breath, she forcefully swallowed down a scream that was dangerously close to erupting. The unbearable weight that had branded itself on her shoulders since she was fifteen was getting heavier with every passing day. Another day, another fight. It was an endless battle that she couldn't seem to win, no matter how hard she tried.

She thought once everyone found out about her being in heaven, it would get better, that she wouldn't have to walk around burdened with such a secret, protecting her friends from the truth. As much as it had killed her to see them rejoicing in their "success" at bringing her back, she hadn't the heart to correct them. They reacted just as she thought they would when everything was out in the open. They looked guilty, and even though they rightfully should, it stung to know it was because of her. Everything had gotten worse, terribly worse.

She knew they've been talking about her, she could hear their whispers when they thought she wasn't there and the secret meetings. It made her feel like there really was something wrong with her. She spent most of her hours thinking that somehow she'd lost her mind. The Buffy that came back was just this shell that walked and talked like the old one, but this one didn't feel, didn't react. It was no wonder Spike mistook her for the Buffybot upon her return; she was as lifeless as a crafted piece of metal.

Glancing in the mirror, Buffy felt sick. She was cold inside, dead as a hollow cave that knew her pain, and echoed it back. Worse than dead, for she knew she'd been in heaven; her supposed reward for the sacrifices she made to the world, including her own life. Twice. It was a bone-deep loneliness that gaped like a black hole, sucking everything in, leaving nothing spared.

In a moment of weakness, she had even made a habit of kissing Spike, when just last year she could barely stand him. Twice now she had initiated a kiss with the bleached blonde vampire, and twice some part of her found a sense of cold comfort. At least for a little while, until the realization of what she stooped herself to was like a signal for the cold to come rushing back, making her feel worse than before.

Disregarding the haggard-looking woman in the mirror, Buffy felt like she was centuries old and far wiser to the world than she ever cared to be.

She dragged herself to the shower and turned the water on, carefully adjusting it to a lukewarm setting, mindful of the heating bill. She tried to think back to a time when she had never felt this cold or alone. All that came was grey. Everything she saw was twisted into something ugly and distorted. It was like the world she came back to was no longer the world she left. Where she remembered beauty, now remained grotesque disfigurement. A rose missing the vibrant color of its petals, leaving behind unsightly thorns. Nothing was as it should be, and yet everything is as it was.

The cold grew inside her and feeling slightly desperate to stop the awful darkness from surrounding her, she quickly shed her blood-stained clothes and stepped inside the shower, wishing she could change the temperature onto a hotter setting, the heat would've been a welcome escape from the chill that usually greeted her.

Scrubbing her hair, Buffy moaned. It was delightful to get rid of the grime. More than three months in the ground could do that to a person. She'd become a clean freak, always picking things up, keeping things neat and tidy. Clean, it was a marvelous word. She sighed and turned around to let the hot spray hit her back, neck, shoulders, and hair. The water rolled off in little tiny streams. Individual paths were cut in her skin by the water, as the droplets streamed to her feet and down to the drain.

Buffy reached for the shampoo and poured more onto her hair. It felt like straw through her fingers as she worked the soap through, decayed and moldy straw. She was sure that it had not been that way before she was placed inside her body again, but she still couldn't shake that image away. Four showers a day for the past month and she didn't feel any better than before the first. One hundred and twenty-some showers and the invisible grime were still there, under her skin and unreachable, no matter how many times she scrubbed herself raw.

The water was quickly cooling, and she regretfully turned it off, grabbing her towel. In ten minutes flat, Buffy composed herself, physically and mentally, and exited the bathroom with a deep breath, preparing to face another day.

She decided against the hair dryer, choosing to towel dry instead, less noise that way. Buffy brushed her long, blonde hair, leaving it to fall loosely over her shoulders. She glanced at the clock, mentally calculating when the rest of the house would wake and expect breakfast.

She went down to the kitchen and opened the refrigerator, shivering when the cool air hit her face. Looking inside, it was pathetically bare, save for a half-empty bucket of last night's take-out chicken, a gallon of lumpy milk and a few slices of cheese that looked a little too green for her liking. Yum. Closing the door, Buffy sighed and checked the cupboards, finding much the same result.

Right, she snorted, food is bought with money. Something I seem to be lacking.

With a final sigh, Buffy went to get the mail and sat on the couch in the living room. She shifted through them, setting aside the advertisements and catalogues. She cringed when she saw the bills that seemed to be never ending. She hesitated, then opened up the electric bill and written in big bold letters was something every person hoped to never see: FINAL NOTICE.

Groaning, Buffy rubbed her tired eyes and slumped back into the couch. She'd been expecting this, but the harsh reality of her situation felt like a splash of ice water. Last time she checked, her bank balance was a discouraging zero dollars, not showing any signs of changing. She needed to get a job before they landed in the streets.

All the money her mother had left behind had been swallowed up by mountains of bills and mortgage payments. She had to make do with the little she had to pay for the water, electricity, and the essentials like food. Not to mention the numerous hospital visits during her mother's illness were adding their own burden to the pile.

There's a story to put in the Watcher's Journals, she thought wryly, Buffy Anne Summers. Slayer by night, Hobo by day.

The ceiling boards creaked and she could hear the harsh spray of the shower. She could practically feel the steam of the hot water and it reminded her of the water bill in front of her, daring to be opened.

Willow was most likely awake now, since Dawn preferred to sleep until the last possible second before getting ready for school, driving Buffy crazy. She made a note to call Xander before he left for work, and ask him to stop by with donuts. She doubted fuzzy cheese and lumpy milk were part of a healthy, balanced breakfast.

Fighting the supernatural and averting the occasional apocalypse didn't exactly bring home the proverbial bacon, nor did it provide much help in the "real world", where adults had bills to pay and other figurative demons to fight. Giles was gone, left two weeks ago to good ole England, so she couldn't depend on him to take care of things anymore. That ugly burden was hers alone to carry. Her mother was dead, Dawn was still too young to take on these worries, and her friends had other responsibilities and their own problems to deal with. That left no one else.

Buffy's eyes snapped open, as a thought struck her. Her Father! It had been years since she last saw the careless bastard, but she was out of options. If it was only her she had to worry about, she would have rather starved than asked her absentee father for a dime, but, once again, there were other people depending on her.

Hank Summers had always been a rich man, and from what she last heard, still was. She remembered her easygoing life in LA, before the bitter divorce. They'd lived in a big house on the upper east-side, complete with a maid, manicured lawn and snobby neighbors that breathed gossip like the air itself. They hadn't been Forbes magazine material, but they were pretty well off.

He was a single man now, for the most part, if one didn't take into account his on/off relationship with his secretary, Buffy thought, disgusted at the pig her father had become. If he had enough money to splurge on impromptu vacations with his whores, a small loan to his daughter wasn't too much to ask.

Yeah right.

She knew that investing any hope in her father's generosity was like waiting for Santa Claus to show on Christmas Eve. It was unrealistic and disappointing. At one time, maybe, when she was still daddy's little girl, an adored child that he spoiled with a late curfew and a limitless daily allowance. Although, in retrospect, his lenience toward her privileges had more to do with the fact it got her out of his way.

In the harsh reality of today, they were as distant as two strangers walking down the street. She couldn't approach him as a daughter needing help through a rough time, their strained relationship called for cold formality. She was a woman with a business proposition, and he, the loan shark creditor waiting to see her fall. It was really sad at what had become of her relationship with her father, but that was his fault alone. He never took much interest in his daughter's life, so why should she care about his?

Enough with the pity party, she told herself. She needed a fast financial solution, and Hank Summers was her best immediate option. Period.

"Morning," Willow mumbled, breaking her thoughts. She eyed the scattered bills on the coffee table before quickly looking away. "You're up early."

"Yeah," Buffy replied, sorting the mail. She noticed that Willow's eyes were red and blotchy, most likely from a sleepless night of crying. Tara's leaving was still fresh in her mind and she was obviously still feeling the loss. "So…Dawn's awake," The redhead shifted awkwardly, her fingers playing with the belt of her pink fluffy bathrobe. "…thought you should know."

Buffy nodded absently. She collected the papers, shuffling them around. Willow watched as her best friend took out a calculator and punching in numbers, never once glancing up, a set almost disinterested look on her face.

"I have an early class today." She tried again to catch Buffy's attention. "Figured I'd go, if just to get my mind off…" she trailed off before clearing her throat. "…other things."

The blonde stood, staring blankly at the painting over Willow's head, not noticing the frown that had formed on her face.

A still life of a bowl of fruit hung inconspicuously on the wall, covered in a thin layer of dust. It had not been moved or cleaned since her mother had brought it home one night earlier this year. The small painting had not sold at one of her fundraising exhibits, so Joyce felt bad about such a "beautiful work of art" sitting in the dark, dusty basement of the gallery and bought it. When Joyce showed Buffy the painting, gushing over the painter and his talent, she didn't share her mother's enthusiasm and forgotten about it, until now. It was not anything special, just a bowl of fruit. The colors were dim and bland, nothing particularly appealing to catch your eye. It was the last artwork of Joyce left in the house; Buffy had had no choice but to sell the other, more valuable pieces to wealthy buyers in order to get by. Everything that was worth anything had to go. Everything including her mother's jewelry, the good china and fancy silverware, were all sold.

Buffy found herself staring at the plain painting, unable to look away. Perhaps it was the plainness of it that grabbed her attention, she thought, the almost boring simplicity. A bowl of fruit. Nothing more, nothing less. It was a sharp contrast from the chaos and confusion of her world. In Buffy's life, simple had the life span of a fruit fly. It existed in peace one second, disappeared the next, as if it was never there. To Buffy, the canvas represented everything that never was, and never shall be. Nobody demanded anything extraordinary from the painting, it was allowed to just exist and just be.


Buffy blinked. Looking at Willow's irritated face, she nodded. "I'm fine."

Willow shook her head and turned to go into the kitchen. "I give up," she mumbled under her breath, although Buffy's sensitive ears heard.

Buffy watched her leave, and tossed the rest of the mail on the table, making up her mind. Today she needed to make sure everything was taken care of in Sunnydale while she was in LA.

Tomorrow, she resolved.

The large oak doors stood ominously before her in the long, empty hallway. She nervously shifted her feet on the marble floor, the sound of her heels echoing on the marble floor. She stared straight ahead, ignoring the sympathetic looks from those who passed. She had been standing there for a good ten minutes, trying to work up the nerve to perform a simple knock on the door.

Wiping sweaty palms on her black pencil skirt, she took a deep, reassuring breath and raised her hand to knock softly on the door. She tugged on her matching jacket, trying to cover the small coffee stain on her white blouse. She mentally cursed herself for not wearing the brown blouse instead, even if it did clash with her strawberry red hair.

After a moment, an irritated female voice answered.

"Come in."

Carey Andrews stepped into the large office, quietly shutting the door behind her. She slowly walked toward the large mahogany desk in the center of the room, her eyes on the impeccably dressed woman who sat behind it. She still hadn't looked up at her, but from the scowl she wore, Carey could tell her boss was not pleased.

The redhead plastered a smile, hoping it looked friendly. Best to get on her good side. Today was her first day and she didn't want it to be over before it even began.

"You're not paid to be my statute, Lisa", the brunette said curtly, her harsh tone wiping the smile of the woman's face.

She blushed and cleared her throat. "Ca…Carey," she corrected hesitantly, "I'm…Li… Lisa's replacement."

Lilah Morgan finally lifted her head and acknowledged the timid redhead, taking in her bland choice in clothing. Carey fidgeted under the intense scrutiny, feeling like a bug under a microscope. "Hmm…well let's hope you last longer than the last one."

Carey ignored the little voice in her head telling her to back out now and quit. Her boss obviously didn't like her and she didn't know why. She hadn't even done anything yet!

With false bravado she stepped forward. "Mr. Animus Paciscor has arrived upon your request, Ms. Morgan." She mentally patted herself on the back for pronouncing it right and not stuttering.

The Soul Dealer, Lilah thought with a smirk. Wonderful. "Send him in."

Carey nodded and turned to leave. "Oh. And Carey..." Lilah called, halting the girl mid-step. "The next time you come in here, I expect a more polished dress. Or the next stain on your blouse will be not as innocent as coffee. Are we clear?"

"Yes...yes ma'am." The red head couldn't have bolted out of there fast enough. She happy to be away from her viper of a boss. The cold brunette had an unsettling look in her eyes that just screamed evil, with a capital E. The new secretary didn't even want to know what put it there.

Lilah Morgan sat back in her plush leather chair, the smirk tightly glued to her face. In a few hours, the annoying thorn Angel will be forever removed from her side.

It had taken a while for her to say the words aloud, but eventually she was able to admit that the carefully constructed Darla plan she'd spent months working on was a complete and total failure. But, that didn't mean she was giving up. She didn't make Junior Partner by rolling over when she was faced with a challenge. In fact, it was her ruthless determination that got her in the position she was in today.

And Angel was indeed a challenge. Annoying, yes, always showing up at the most inopportune places, ruining her plans, but the ensouled vampire was just as hard-headed as she was, she'd give him that. She had overestimated the affect Darla would have on Angel. Obviously the sudden reappearance of his Sire was not enough to break him. She should have known, though, soul or not, he was the Master of torture and one had to have a pretty strong resilience to break a person. Just look at his childe, Drusilla, perfectly molded as a crazy loon. Lilah hadn't met the daft vampiress herself, but even without the resources of Wolfram and Hart at her fingertips, Angelus' mental masterpiece was notorious among the demon community.

She researched Angelus' past thoroughly, the countries he'd pillaged, the havoc he'd reeked across the Continent, earning him the appropriate crown of The Scourge of Europe. His torture techniques and preferences, even his short-lived obsessions, nothing was left untouched. So when the idea came to her to bring back his Sire, she thought it was perfect. Angelus had been with Darla for over a hundred years, it was only logical that she would be the perfect tool to use to release his soul and bring out the vicious demon within.

Darla had driven him a bit crazy, and although any misery of Angel's was a friend of Lilah, it had not been enough to push him over the edge. She was not even able to take out her anger on the blonde bitch for the failure; she had disappeared four months ago without a trace. How very convenient.

But that was in the past. Removing Angel's soul the old fashioned way proved to be too time-consuming and she wanted that do-gooder pest gone. That was where Animus Pacisor came in.

He was a powerful witch doctor that dealt with the case of souls. The ancient man was human, kept alive by the power of his own magic. Finding him wasn't exactly as easy as leafing through a Supernatural Catalogue, but Lilah was anything if not persistent.

"Nice digs," said a male voice, followed by a low whistle. "Think I could score me an office like this?"

A dark young man stood in the center of the office, admiring the large and finely decorated space. How did he…? Lilah had not even heard him come in. She carefully masked her surprise behind an amused smile. She leaned back in her chair, her hands folded before her. "Animus Pascisor, I presume."

Though, he looked more like a reckless teenager late for a rock concert. He was wearing ridiculously loose faded jeans that were ripped at the knees and a black AC/DC t-shirt with the sleeves torn off. A spiked choker was around his neck, and his hair was closely shaven, leaving only a thin coarse layer, dyed a bright violet. Even witchdoctors moved with the times, who knew?

She had not been given any details about the boy when she requested his presence, only warned that he only recently inherited the magic of his people upon his father's death. Lilah expected a man in his late twenties, dressed in Armani with a side of arrogance.

"In the flesh." He admonished with an exaggerated bow. "Just Anim. Animus Pascisor was my father's name. It just makes me sound old." His brown eyes twinkled with childish mischief as he strode toward the desk, and plopped down on the cushioned chair. He carelessly threw his Doc Martin clad feet on the edge of the desk, and folded his arms behind his head. "So…" he started. "What can I do for ya Miss.…" he read the silver name plaque, "Lilah Morgan."

The Junior Partner raised an eyebrow. "You could start with removing your dirty feet. Or I will have to…permanently." At least she got the arrogance part right.

Animus shrugged and sat up straight, a boyish smile on his lips. "You know, my family has been doing business with this firm long before your grandparents were born." His smile vanished, and Lilah could feel a surge of dark power pressing against her skin. "We tend to be treated with more respect, otherwise it makes us feel our services are…unappreciated."

Lilah narrowed her eyes. Who did this little boy think he was coming in here making subtle threats? She was Lilah Morgan damn it, Junior Partner of the largest law establishment of the Los Angeles branch, and she wasn't about to be pushed around by the likes of him.

He was right about one thing, she admitted grudgingly. A myriad of witch doctors have worked with Wolfram Hart, the most powerful ones from his lineage. She bit her reply back, and forced a calm smile on her face. This boy was testing her patience. Killing him, she told herself, was not worth losing such a valuable acquaintance. She needed this egotistical brat alive. Her lips lifted slightly. At least until the job was done.

Lilah pressed a button on the intercom. "Carey, have the Angelus file ready for Mr. Pacisor." She then addressed the smiling witch doctor. "Everything you need to know is in there." She paused for a moment, anticipating even the smallest amount of fear to settle in.

"Angelus?" He laughed. "That's what this is about? You givin' me 10G's for some pansyass named Angelus?" He made a show of cracking his fingers. "I take tougher losers in my sleep."

"Pacisor, you'd do well not to underestimate Angelus. He is not your typical run-of-the-mill vampire. A stake to his heart is easier said than 's beaten the best, killed more than a few slayers, and is even rumored to be mated to one. He is---..."

"An over publicized bloodsucker that's all talk and no balls," he finished, cockily. He rolled his eyes and stood up, moving toward the door. "Don't sweat it, old lady. I know the power I posses and just how much damage I'm capable of, so don't go lecturing this 'Angelus' dude. Trust me. I got this in the bag." He put up two fingers, in a peace sign. "Just have my money ready, aight."

Lilah shook her head. This kid was something else entirely. If she was lucky, Angel would just kill the little prick for her, because there was no way he would successfully follow orders. If this failed, which was most likely going to happen, she would just find something else. Either way, Angel would be gone for good.

"I'm gonna kill her!"

Angel ducked, nearly missing the swinging blade, at the same time avoiding another one behind him. He kicked the closest one, knocking it back into its brethren, and went to help Gunn who was busy with the remaining five. "Cordy said she didn't see that many," he explained. "Most L'kar demons head to Mexico this time of year."

Gunn rolled his eyes as he beheaded the green demon before its deadly talons got too close, then took a second to wipe the purple goo off his face. "Thirteen is a hell of a lot more than just a few, man. That girl needs to spend less time filing her nails, and more time learning how to count!"

A figure in the shadows stood unnoticed by the fighters, his black eyes watched them as he began his chant.

Two of the large demons attacked Angel at once, forcing him to stumble back. They tried another dual attack, but Angel was prepared this time. He grabbed them both by their bony necks and was about to twist when a bright light blinded his vision, giving the demons the chance to escape. Big, meaty legs kicked out, sending him flying back into the steel wall. Angel pushed up, but was forced back down by a deep pain inside him, tugging at his insides. His face shifted and a deep growl roared from his throat. He tried unsuccessfully to shake the pain away, but couldn't. The only thing he could do was ride it out, and hope the L'kars didn't choose that moment to attack. His fists clenched, sharp talons digging into his palm. He focused on the physical pain of the cuts and breathed slow, unneeded breaths. After what seemed like hours the sharp pull began to recede and he rejoined the fight.

The last L'kar demon fell with a loud thud that echoed in the long sewer tunnel. Gunn leaned forward, his hands on his knees, trying to catch his breath.

"I'm gonna kill her," he repeated, panting.

Angel didn't hear him. What the hell happened? The pain was just like when he had lost his soul, but that couldn't be it. Fighting a dozen demons definitely not perfect happiness. So what was it then?

Thoughts of perfect happiness led him to thinking of his blonde Slayer, like almost everything did, so he desperately pushed the thoughts aside until he was alone and had the time to think on it better. "Come on, let's get these things hidden." He grabbed the nearest body and dragged it toward deeper into the tunnel.

"And I thought you said we were going to meet some Lakers, not some ET looking bastards with major hygiene issues." Gunn followed. At Angel's perplexed look, he rolled his eyes. "You know, like the LA Lakers...the basketball team...never mind." Gunn picked up a gooey green leg, breathing through his mouth from the smell. He covered his mouth with the other arm. "I'm going to kill her."

"Do you have to leave so soon?"

Buffy shoved another pair of jeans into the small duffel bag on her bed. She held the sides together and zipped the overstuffed bag, then looked up at the distraught redhead. "I already told you," she sighed at having to explain herself again. "My dad's only going to be in town for a few days and I need to see him face to face for the loan, instead of some transatlantic phone call to Barcelona or where ever he's jetting off to this week." She grabbed two extra bottles of holy water. Not that he'd answer, anyway, she thought.

She opened her jewelry box, unconsciously grabbing the cross Angel had given her, clasping it around her neck. "I'll be back before you know it." She lifted the false bottom from the box and was relieved to see a wad of emergency cash still there. Pocketing the money, Buffy replaced the shelf. Bus fair, check. What else was she missing?

"But…but what about patrol" Willow stuttered, following the blonde around the room. She didn't want Buffy to leave. She was in a very emotional state and she needed her best friend to be there for her. Not to just up and go, leaving Willow alone to look after Dawn.

"You guys can handle it for a few days, a week tops," Buffy said, she started to lift the heavy bag, before dropping the strap and unzipping the bag, checking to see if she forgot anything. "And if anything big happens you can call my cell. I'll be here as soon as I can, if I'm not… there's always Spike."

"Spike?!" Willow cried. "You expect the safety of the world to depend on a chipped vamp that doesn't give a rat's ass about anything other than himself? You can't be serious!"

Buffy shook her head at Willow's outburst. She put her hand up to stop what would surely be an endless angry tirade. "Look, it's not like this is the first time you have patrolled without me." She turned to lock her window. "When I was dead, you guys were doing just fine. "

She wanted to leave before Dawn got home from school, wanting to avoid the confrontation and yet another explanation. The teenager would whine and demand to tag along, completely disregarding the older girl's authority.

Willow winced at Buffy's casual phrasing of her death. "But Buffy…"

"No Willow." Buffy said calmly, her tone making it clear the conversation was over. Her back was facing Willow, but Buffy was sure if she turned around, two puppy dog eyes would be pleading with her. "I have to go."

"Go where?" Dawn asked. She walked into the room, placed her backpack next to the duffel bag on the bed, and started to undo the zipper. Buffy impatiently slapped her hand away. "Shesh! Rude much?" Buffy walked to the closet and grabbed a jacket, and hefted the bag over her shoulder. "L.A. for business."

"Yay! No math test!" the teenager squealed, bouncing on the bed. "What should I pack?"

"Nothing. You're not coming."

"What? Come one Buff! I know you're going to see dad. I'm not stupid." the Dawn argued, crossing her arms stubbornly. "He's my dad too, you know."

And that's something to be proud of? Buffy mentally rolled her eyes. "Dawn you are not coming and that's final."


"Willow, make sure she does her homework." she said, dismissing the angry teenager.

She walked past the girls, and climbed downstairs. Willow and Dawn close behind her, sputtering protests at the retreating Slayer. Buffy opened the door. "Stay out of trouble." The warning was meant for both of them. Before either girl could respond, she left.

The sewer was quiet and still as the sound of voices faded, until a splash from a puddle, followed by a low groan disturbed it. Rats scurried away in opposite directions, instinct warning them of the danger behind. A tall broad shouldered figure emerged dressed in black and wearing a long black duster. Holding onto the wall for balance as he stood up on shaky legs, shaking his head trying to clear the fog.

"What the hell...?" he wondered out loud. He touched his chest, arms, and face. Good and solid. He was free!

A heavy, rotten stench stung his nose, confirming he was in a sewer and as his vision cleared, he could see the damp and filth around him. Another smell followed, this one more pleasant, making his mouth water. Blood. He took another whiff, and smiled. Human Blood.

It was then that his sensitive ears picked up the distant sound of chanting. He couldn't make out the words, his mind still muddled. Turning slowly, he saw something he didn't expect. "You lost, little boy?" He chuckled evilly. "Cause I gotta tell ya… sewers? Not the safest place to hanging out."

Animus Pasicor took a step forward. "Really? Well, you should take your own advice." He laughed. "Everyone's shakin' in their boots, talking about the big bad Angelus and how evil he is. Ooooo!" he mocked, putting his hands up in fake surrender. "I'm soo scared! Pfft" he scoffed. "If ya ask me, you're nothing but a punk livin' off his past, when all's you has left is your reputation. It's time you step aside, gramps, and let a real big bad show you how it's done."

Angelus' deep laughter echoed in the confined space of the tunnels. Well, well what have we here? His senses revealed the earthy smell of magic. Powerful, ancient magic, he corrected.

He was only free for a minute and already there was some wannabe trying to take his place. It wasn't even a worthy opponent, from the looks of him. Baggy clothes and an uppity attitude, and-- was that purple hair? The boy looked like the KISS tour bus crashed into an ice cream truck, and threw him up. The competition has gotten ugly during his absence, if fools like this guy were lining up to dethrone him. The handsome vampire perused his "opponent"; amused at the oversized bags he called clothes. "Is that right, clown boy? You think you've got the juice to take me?" He chuckled again, shaking his head.

Angelus flexed his muscles as he felt his strength return to him and sauntered forward, his body prepared for any attack. The warlock --or whatever-- appeared harmless, but after years of experience, he knew better than judge first impressions. There were sparks of blue light charging the light of his aura. Shaman, maybe? The dark hue of his skin reminded him of the young witchdoctor he'd captured in Egypt during the early nineteenth century. The African boy had tasted like battery acid, he remembered with a grimace. So, snacking was crossed off the list. Oh, well. There were other ways to have fun. How long had it been since he skinned a man? Hmm…a good hundred years, or so. It was time for a refreshment course.

"I free you're ungrateful ass and you dare mock me?" Animus shouted, his teeth clenched as the dark vampire continued to laugh. "You freed me? With what? Your Houdini starter kit? " The young witchdoctor's fingers twitched by his side and his heartbeat accelerated in time with his rapid breathing. "You, my boy, are nothing but a cockroach trying to fill daddy's shoes . Your old man didn't hug his useless son enough, now you want to make him proud with cheap parlor tricks." Angelus shook his head mockingly. "Now I can understand the affect of bad parenting. My own da was a bastard, always putting me down, calling me a good for nothing waste of birth. It hurt my feelings, least to say. But this," he waved his arm at the red faced boy, "this is just pathetic. I almost feel sorry for you."

"I'll show you real power!" With a roar, Animus advanced, a blue electric sphere shot at the arrogant vampire, deadly sparks of ancient power torpedoed toward him.

Angelus sidestepped the attack, the ball slamming into the steel wall behind him, leaving a black scorched mark. The attack was too rushed and easily anticipated. "Don't tell me you expected a 'thank you' and a box of Metallica CD's?" Angelus quirked an eyebrow, then smirked. Faster than the human eyes could follow, the distance between them compressed to mere centimeters. A large hand clasped his throat in a steel grip, there was still no reaction. He choked as his body was lifted until he suspended in midair, black eyes met a tremulous blend of chocolate brown and bright amber. His attacker leaned in, cool breath chilling his sweaty cheek. His voice was deadly soft. "C'mon, I'm a little more creative than that. My gifts have poetry, meaning. Any idea where to find body bags with big red bows?" Animus'eyes widened as big as saucers, he whimpered. "Didn't think so."

Frozen in shock, Animus could do nothing but stare into the soulless eyes of pure malice, the depths of which promised pain unimaginable to his limited experience. The file from Wolfram and Hart had specified for him to do spell and leave Angelus unharmed. That was before he was being suffocated, now all bets were off he had to fight to survive. His vision swam, and he was dangerously close to losing consciousness. He frantically tried to summon enough energy for a second attack, but the last one took a lot out of him and his body needed time to recuperate. Too bad time was the one thing he didn't have.

He should have listened to the elder Pascisor about pacing himself, and diffusing a little at a time. Too confident in his abilities, that he leaped before he looked.

"Now," Angelus said playfully. "We're going to play a little game I like to call 'Show and Tell'. Here's how it goes. Tell me what I want to know and I'll make your death quick. Tell me the wrong answer…" he squeezed the boy's throat to emphasize his point. "…and I'll show you just how good I am at Boy Scout knots with your intestines."

"Who hired you?" Aniumus' head was getting light, and his eyes drooped. Angelus shook him like a rag doll, his patience on edge. "Who hired you?!"

He knew the boy was just a pawn in a larger game. Angelus couldn't think of anything the amateur shaman would gain from freeing him, so the million dollar question was who was pulling the strings?

With the last of his energy, Animus spat at the vampire's face, spittle slowly dripping down his cheek. "Fuck you!" Angelus calmly wiped it away. He sighed dramatically, as if it were a great burden. He was not going to get anything out of him, at least not anytime soon, and Angelus had better things to do with his time than play "Talk or Die" with the beady eyed mute. "Pride before the fall, boy." With a flick of his wrist, he snapped his neck as if it were a toothpick and let the body drop to the floor, stepping over the corpse. "Unless, of course, you're me."

He supposed he could have forced the information out of the shaman, but he had places to be and people to torture. It was better to just kill Voodoo, the Boy Wonder before he reversed whatever he did. And that was simply out of the question.

Sooner or later, the man behind this lucrative operation would make his or her self known. By then, Angelus would be ready for them. But for now, he was going to shake the world up and wreak a little havoc—or a lot.

Angelus didn't know how he got here exactly and he didn't care. This was his chance to finally be free of the soul and to rein evil down on everyone!

He was sick and tired of the soul's pitiful excuse for an existence. Saving people when they should be drained and discarded. Least to say, it was shameful what the Scourge of Europe has become. A guardian Angel to the weak and desperate, avenging pathetic humans as if he was one. But he wasn't. That was the chief difference between demon and soul. Angelus knew who he was and what he capable of, fully taking advantage of his abilities. Whereas Angel hid behind friends who trusted him about as much as a mouse would a cat, always keeping an eye on him, suspicious of his every move. It was pathetic to watch, and even worse to know he couldn't change the channel like he would a bad soap opera.

Well that's all going to change, Angel thought with deep certainty, a plan already formulating in his head. He was going to restore his notorious reputation and resume his place on top once and for all.

Speaking of being on top, well…his little blonde spitfire. Now she needed a lesson or two in obedience. Slayer or not, Buffy needed to learn her place, and that was a lesson he would thoroughly enjoy teaching. Repeatedly.

She will fight it at first, he expected nothing less from such a passionate creature, but inevitably she will realize she needs him and no one and nothing else but him, her mate. By force or free will, was the only choice he will allow her, but ultimately, Buffy Summers will be his.

He thought of his little darling, in his bed, in his life, his for the taking. Angelus adjusted his rock hard member and looked down at his clothes with disdain. Black slacks and a grey charcoal sweater, he rolled his eyes. How very modest. Note to self, he thought as he made his way out of the retched sewers, must burn outfit and change. Silk and leather. A carnal smile graced his handsome features. After all, he thought, he had to look the very best for his mate.

A/N: Nice and long! I always loved Courtney's (frosty600) LONG chapters, so I will try to do the same. Please R&R! Fire up my muse people!