Sorry it's been so long since the last update on this one. And to readers of my other fics, I haven't abandoned them, I'm just kind of overwhelmed with all my homework and my job. Also, there's a chance I might have landed a job as an editor as well, which, while awesome, would make it even harder to find time to write. Luckily, my advanced fiction professor doesn't check what we write in our writing journals (which we have to write three pages in daily), so I've been using that to outline and draft my fanfiction. I plan to update "The Slayer and His Vampire", then "Truth", then "Season 9". The IWRY marathon is coming up soon, though, so my normal updates might be put on hold a little longer so I can get my submissions for that finished.
Anyway, this chapter commences my AU version of "Fear, Itself", now with 50% more Angel.
The strangest part of being with Buffy for Angel was how he was occasionally part of a package deal. Usually, she would clear her schedule on their weekends together and it would be just the two of them, but sometimes, as had been the case the weekend of the frat party, he got sucked into her social life, where he was never quite sure what to do with himself.
"Vampires stay in on Halloween," he reminded her.
"And you can!" she said. "The party is tomorrow night, which is the thirtieth."
He tried a different approach. "You really want to go to a scary house? You fight the real thing every night."
"Oh, I know the scary house will be totally lame, but that's how you get to the party, where there will be food and fun."
He sighed in defeat. "I'm not wearing a costume," he said before she could get any ideas.
"No problem," said Xander, causing both of them to jump and look around. They'd almost forgotten that they were in Xander's basement, that Xander, Willow, and Oz were all still present, and that all three were staring at them in mild amusement over the tops of half-finished Jack-o-lanterns. "All you have to do is go in vampface," Xander was saying. He snapped his fingers. "Instant costume."
"Just as long as none of the more hammered partiers tries to take off the mask," said Oz.
"Fine," said Buffy, still talking to Angel, "you don't have to wear a costume." She looked sideways at him. "This year."
Angel grimaced, but chose to focus on his own Jack-o-lantern rather than reply.
"What kind of face does yours have?" asked Willow, craning around to see Buffy's pumpkin. Buffy obligingly spun it around. "It looks afraid," Willow observed, eyebrows raised.
Buffy shrugged. "After angry, that's the expression I remember best from demons."
"Yours is a demon pumpkin?" said Willow. "Mine is friendly. See?" She turned hers around to face Buffy. "No fangs—uh, no offense, Angel—"
"And it has happy eyes and a nice smile," Willow went on. "I figure we deal with enough demons."
Xander looked from one Jack-o-lantern to the other, then turned a rueful eye on his own attempt. "I was going for ferocious, scary, but it's coming out more dryly sardonic."
Willow leaned over to look. "It does appear to be mocking you with its eye holes."
"Yet the nose hole seems sad and full of self-loathing," said Oz thoughtfully.
"What's yours, Oz?" said Willow.
Xander looked skeptically at the pumpkin in question, which merely had a large triangle cut out of one side. "Uh, you sure about that? It looks more like a guitar pick."
"It's minimalist," said Oz. He considered for a moment. "And abstract."
Everyone turned and looked expectantly at Angel, who hadn't so much as glanced up from his pumpkin carving for the entirety of this conversation. It took him at least ten seconds to feel all their eyes on him. He looked up briefly. "What?" he said, already back at work.
"Well, we all showed ours," said Willow.
"Yeah, come on, what did you do for yours?" said Xander.
"I'm not done."
"So? You can show us and then finish it. Buffy, help us out here."
Buffy shook her head, trying not to laugh. "Come on, guys, you know you can't rush an artist."
Xander rolled his eyes but offered no further argument.
"Okay…there," said Angel about a minute later, and turned the pumpkin around. Willow's and Xander's mouths fell open in amazement, Buffy let out a gasp of delight, and Oz was so impressed that he actually raised his eyebrows.
"It's beautiful, Angel," said Buffy, scooting closer so she could snuggle up to him.
"It's for you," he said. She kissed him to show her thanks.
"Hey hey, get a room, you two," said Xander, "a room that isn't my room."
"Okay!" said Buffy brightly, jumping up and pulling Angel after her by a handful of the front of his button-up shirt. "See you guys later. We'll be at the apartment if you need us." She froze and looked back at them. "Try not to need us, though."
"I knew this would happen," said Xander grumpily, once they had left and he was sure Angel was out of earshot. "I can't believe I invited him into my house."
Willow was still staring at Angel's Jack-o-lantern. He had carved a blooming rose surrounded by vines twisted in the shapes of Celtic knotting. "It's just not fair," she said, pouting. "That was his first Jack-o-lantern? I mean, how did he even get that good at making art with knives, anyway?"
"Considering his backstory, I'm guessing we're better off not knowing," said Oz.
"I can't believe you thought this was our best option," said Buffy as she side-stepped a puddle of ick on the sewer floor. She and Angel were on their way to her house to pick up her Red Riding Hood costume and spend some time with her mom, but as it was broad daylight without so much as a cloud in sight, they'd taken an alternative route. Angel carried a sword in one hand and had a thick blanket tucked under the other arm for when they emerged onto Revello Drive, and Buffy was idly rotating a stake in her right hand. "We could have just taken your car."
"You don't have a license and I don't want to have to huddle under a blanket in the back seat," said Angel flatly.
"It's not like I'd have been navigating L.A. rush hour traffic," said Buffy. "Sunnydale is pretty comatose on Saturday mornings."
Angel said nothing. Buffy watched him shrewdly. "You don't trust me with your car, do you?" she accused.
"Buffy, the last time you were behind a wheel, you crashed your mom's Jeep."
"How do you know about that?" she said indignantly. "You were still in the Council's dungeon then!"
"Willow mentioned it a while ago."
Buffy huffed. "That wasn't even my fault! A couple of those crazy teenage adults decided to have a race at a stop light and one of them ran into me."
"Fine, but you still have to pass a driving test before you can drive the GTX."
"What about you? You don't even legally exist. Do you have a license?"
"I've been driving since before the Model T came out, and I've never been pulled over. Having a license is pretty much meaningless at this stage."
Buffy pouted in silence for a moment while they kept walking. "Are we getting close to Revello Drive now?" she asked after they turned yet another corner in the maze-like tunnels.
"Yeah," said Angel, but then he suddenly fell back, head turned to the side.
"What is it?"
"There's someone else down here," he said.
"Someone?" Buffy repeated. "Not something?"
"No, I can hear the heartbeats. At least three. And from the footsteps, they sound like they're in combat boots." His brow furrowed in deep concentration while he listened. Then he looked at Buffy, held a finger to his lips, and gestured upward to the tunnel ceiling, along which several large pipes ran. Silently, they both leapt up and braced themselves between the pipes. Buffy had needed to stash her stake down the back of her jeans to free her hands first, but Angel somehow managed it while keeping his hold on his sword and the blanket. Once they were in position, they were completely cloaked in shadow.
A few seconds later, Buffy could hear them too, and then they rounded a corner and walked into her and Angel's tunnel. They were definitely human, and they were dressed in military gear and carrying what looked like rifles. Buffy tried to exchange a baffled glance with Angel, but he was looking at the army guys with narrowed eyes. She looked back at them too. She might have thought that they were just a bunch of frat boy idiots from school playing games, but they moved like real soldiers, and their equipment looked real. In fact, she was pretty sure they were wearing night vision goggles. Luckily, they didn't look up.
When they were directly underneath Buffy and Angel, the one in the middle held up a hand and they all stopped. Buffy tensed, but the middle guy merely clicked on the radio attached to what looked like a bullet-proof vest. "Sector seven looks clear," he said. Buffy frowned. His voice sounded familiar, but she couldn't remember where she'd heard it before. "Should we make another sweep? Over."
"Negative," came the crackly reply. "The squad in sector three needs backup. They found a nest. Over."
"Copy that," said the middle guy before clicking the radio off again.
"I wonder what kind of nest," said the guy on the left.
"Let's find out," said the middle guy. "Move out."
With that, they turned around, shouldered their weapons, and trotted off down the tunnel. Once the sound of their boots faded, Buffy dropped back onto the tunnel floor. Angel landed beside her while she was stretching the kinks out of her muscles. "Who do you think those guys were?" she said quietly.
"Military," said Angel. "Probably working for some covert government operation that deals with demons."
"Those exist?" said Buffy incredulously.
"I had a run-in with one during World War II."
"Really?" said Buffy, intrigued.
"Yeah. They showed up at my place and made me go rescue some soldiers who infiltrated and took over a German sub without realizing it was full of vampires the Germans had captured. One of them was Spike."
Buffy snorted. "Seriously? What, did they trick him into thinking he was going to a free virgin blood party or something?"
She snickered some more about that, then sobered. "So, demon-hunting army guys in Sunnydale," she said, frowning. "I guess I shouldn't really be surprised. It's not the first time I've run into that kind of thing. There were those Secret Service-looking guys who took Marcie away."
"The invisible girl?"
"Yeah. No idea where they took her. I never saw them sneaking around again after that. But it looks like these new guys have really set up shop. Sectors? Squads? This could make patrolling a little tricky."
This chapter was kind of light and silly, but that will all change when they get to the Halloween party. If that spell could almost make Oz transform, what might it do to Angel?