Disclaimer: see chapter 1

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"You know," the Slayer said conversationally to her Watcher, as they strolled through a cemetery, "sometimes I get this feeling someone's following me."

The Watcher turned around and stared into the darkness, and Angel, fifty yards behind them, stopped in the shelter of a tree.

"You should always act on your feelings, Miss Summers," the Watcher said gravely. "A Slayer has senses normal humans do not."

"Hmm." She twirled a stake. "What do I do, shout 'anyone there?' behind me?"

The Watcher raised his eyebrows. "Certainly not. You should maintain a low profile when on patrol so as not to alert vampires of your presence."

"Well, I guess I'll leave it, then," she said. "If my stalker ever shows his face, I'll ask him why he's following me. Duck!"

The Watcher ducked and the Slayer glided into action, dusting the vampire in under a minute. Angel smiled, watching her fluid movements with pleasure, noting the way her blonde hair floated in the air and caught the orange light from the streetlamp. He turned away as she dusted herself off and helped up her Watcher, and began to head back towards Whistler's in the other direction.

* * *

"News from the PTB," Whistler said, throwing a newspaper down on the coffee table. "The Slayer'll be off to Sunnydale in the fall. Something big's goin' down here in LA and then Fate is sending her …"

"… to the Hellmouth," finished Angel, sitting up from the couch and pushing off the blanket covering him.

"You know it's the Hellmouth?"

"Everyone knows where the Hellmouths are," Angel said, standing up and stretching before going into a sequence of exercises. "Tibet. Peru. One in the mountains in southern Poland. An abandoned volcanic island in the Pacific. And Sunnydale, California; the only Hellmouth to be populated by humans and therefore the most popular of the lot."

Whistler shrugged off his coat but left on his hat and went across to the kitchen to make coffee. "Well, ya do surprise me, Ang. Mr Knowledgeable."

"Used to spend a lot of time reading," Angel admitted. "I had a collection on demonology. And convents."

"For a vamp, that's disturbing."

"I guess." Angel crossed to the kitchen and joined Whistler, pulling a bag of blood out of the fridge and pouring it into a mug. "Just one more thing to come to terms with. So when exactly is the Slayer going to Sunnydale?"

"End of October," Whistler said, blowing steam off his coffee. "They wouldn't give me the details. But I do know that the Council's been informed and are arranging for a Watcher to be sent out there."

"She already has a Watcher," objected Angel. "An old guy. He's staid, but good. Merrick, they call him."

"Someone's been doing his homework," said Whistler, approvingly.

"I've been following her," Angel said, drinking half his blood in one go. "She doesn't like Merrick and she doesn't really like Slaying, but she's good. Very good. She'll be okay."

Whistler sat down on the sofa. "I've gotta move you to Sunnydale to do preliminary work. Find you a place to live. You can get talking to the underworld." He grinned. "Looks like you've made it out of Whistler School, Angel. Congrats."

They clinked mugs and drank deeply.

* * *

"It gets little light," the agent said, switching on the lights, "but it's warm and spacious. No problems with damp."

Angel looked around the apartment, noting the open spaces of the lounge and the neat way the kitchen and the bedroom all linked on to the main living area. He hung back at the door as the agent showed him a small bathroom, and eyed the windows high up near the ceiling.

"How much?" he asked. "And when could I move in?"

"As you see it's empty now," the agent said. "So whenever you like, really."

"I'll take it," Angel decided. The agent beamed.

"Do you want to sign the papers now? Have you got your identity and credit details?"

Angel fished out the folder of forged documents Whistler had procured for him and found the papers the agent required; signed a lot of other papers and ended up fifteen minutes later with a set of keys and an empty apartment.

He moved in a few days later, coming up from Los Angeles in a removal van full of carefully selected belongings he could not bear to part from. The new curtains he had ordered were already up, and it took the combined strength of Angel and the removal men only an hour to move his furniture into the apartment. He paid them off and sent them home and began to arrange the things, standing back every now and again to survey the effect. By the time he had the sculptures arranged to his liking and the paintings hung in the right places, it was dark outside, and he headed out to explore the town.

Sunnydale proved to be a pretty place. The low, Mediterranean-style architecture of most of the buildings was attractive, and Angel found it hard to believe that he was standing on a Hellmouth. Yet he passed three cemeteries on his way into the centre of the place and as he grew nearer to the main street the sense of evil emanating from the Hellmouth itself was tangible.

Whistler had given him the address for a demon bar in the town centre, a place called Willy's, and Angel went there first. Pushing open the door he discovered he was in a cellar; a rather dingy bar decorated in red with neon lights. Most of the clientele seemed to be overtly demon, and Angel counted three vampires in game face and five in human face to add to the total. In the corners, keeping themselves to themselves, were a few humans, and the thin, weasely-looking man serving drinks behind the bar was clearly human too. Angel crossed the room to him and sat down on one of the empty stools.

"A pint of …" he eyed the bottle of blood behind the counter, "whatever that is, please."

"Pig. Fresh today," the barman said.

"That's fine." Angel watched as he poured the blood and pushed the glass across to him.

"Five bucks."

Angel took the money out and pushed it across to the barman. "You Willy, by any chance?"

"Might be," the barman returned, cautiously. "You new in town?"

"I might be," Angel replied. "A friend of mine passed on your name to me. I was wanting to know who else is here."

Willy laughed shortly. "In Sunnydale? Everyone."

"I doubt that," Angel said. "Twenty dollars. Just the names of the big players."

"Why?"

"I might want to pay them a visit. I might want to avoid them. I'm not paying you to think, Willy."

The barman shrugged. "Been a few new arrivals recently."

Angel drank some of the pig's blood. "Go on."

"Okay, but you didn't hear this from me, right? Vamp called Luke. Big fella. Comes from out Georgia way or some such place. Some of his cronies."

"Why?"

Willy frowned. "Twenty bucks ain't getting you more than that."

Angel nodded. "All right, that'll do for starters." He drained the glass of blood and stood up. "Any more information, Willy, just let it be known that Angelus is asking." He smiled, letting a hint of demon show through, and left.

Outside in the cool air he stopped for a moment and let out unneeded breath. He remembered hearing about Luke, years ago in London, when he and Darla were discussing returning to Vienna to find the rest of their order. The plan had been dropped for more amusing pursuits, but Darla had spoken of her sire, the Master's latest favourite; a German vampire named Luke and nicknamed der Grausam, the Terrible. The Master had been lost years before, and now Luke's presence on the Hellmouth was a presage of something bad happening. Angel frowned to himself and set off towards one of the cemeteries he had passed on the way to find something to kill.

His nights began to take on a routine. He had sourced a friendly butcher happy to sell him blood, and he would head out and stock up, returning briefly to the apartment to put the blood in the fridge and pick up a weapon, and then he spent the nights patrolling Sunnydale's cemeteries. He had discovered that the town had twelve burial grounds, and every night he would patrol them, staking new fledglings and tracking older vampires. Other demons were rarer, and Angel killed only five in his first fortnight in Sunnydale.

A month into the routine, Whistler called to see him. Looking identical in his porkpie hat and loud clothes, the half-demon seemed impressed with Angel's apartment and even more impressed with his kill rate. "Tidy the place up for the Slayer. Nice job. Got news for ya from them up there," he gestured vaguely. "Watcher arrives next week. Going to be workin' at the high school. Librarian."

"But what happened to the other Watcher, the one in LA?" Angel asked, cradling a glass of whisky. They were in one of the town's regular bars, in a corner booth.

"Died. Got himself killed off by Lothos. Ever heard of Lothos?"

Angel nodded. "Big reputation. I never met him."

"You never will now," Whistler said with satisfaction. "Your Slayer toasted him and a whole crowd of his minions. Burnt down her school gym and got herself expelled. She'll be here in a few weeks. So, new Watcher." He pulled out photos. "Contact in London got me these."

Angel picked up the pictures and looked down at the image of a not quite middle-aged man in a tweed jacket and corduroy trousers, glasses and a patterned tie.

"Rupert Giles," Whistler said. "Aged 39. Curator at the British Museum, also Watcher from hereditary stock. Father, grandfather and great-grandmother were all Watchers and his father had an active Slayer too. Apparently a little staid and they expect him to fail."

"He won't fail. She's not going to fail." Angel passed the pictures back.

"What've you heard?" Whistler asked.

"Something's being planned," Angel said, wearily. "They're siring more. I've heard Luke der Grausam is in town, and last I heard of him, he was hanging around the Master."

"The Master?" Whistler said, frowning. "What, THE Master?"

"As in my wrinkled, bat-faced grandsire, yes," Angel said. "I thought he was buried and dusted years back. But I think they could raise him, if they wanted to. A Harvest, or something. I've been reading up."

"Wait." Whistler had his hand held up. "The Master, that Nest guy, he's your grandsire?"

"Yes."

"They left that one out of the books," the half-demon said. "Lots about Darla, yadda yadda, little about her origins. Nice. So you reckon Harvest?"

"Possibly."

"And can you stop it?"

Angel shrugged. "Not alone. I can't let myself be seen by Nest. We didn't get on. But … the Slayer … she might be able to stop it, when she comes."

Whistler picked up his beer and drank deeply, putting the glass down with a sigh and wiping the liquid off his chin. "You have t' tell her, Ang. Be honest with the gal when she arrives. Okay?" He pushed his chair back and stood up. "Good luck. You've done it, though, man. You've changed."

Angel watched him go.

He kept patrolling. One night he came across a vampire nearing a century in age and managed, before he staked the hapless creature, to extract from it the information that Luke was indeed intending to raise the Master and then Harvest the inhabitants of Sunnydale to restore him to full strength. Angel sent the news to Los Angeles and heard back that the Slayer would arrive within a week.

The Watcher, the Englishman Rupert Giles, moved into a small but attractive house set in a block near the school. Angel hung around outside and watched him move in one evening. Giles turned out to be taller and better built in real life than he had appeared from the photographs, and the owner of an astonishing number of boxes of books.

Later that week, after he had watched Rupert Giles collapse in an armchair with a cup of tea and a leather-bound tome marked "Vampyres", Angel went to the Bronze. He had already marked out Sunnydale's club for teenagers as prime hunting territory, the dark alleys behind the building ideal for a quick kill or worse.

Tonight, the Bronze was busy. Angel marked out the leading pack of teenagers, led by a tall, beautiful brunette in figure-hugging clothes and wearing a broad smile, and his gaze flicked from them around the room. He looked for the misfits and those who stood out in any way, knowing they would be the ones to be targeted. Over in a corner there was a trio of young people about the same age as the Slayer - a pair of gangly young men and a pretty redhead in a pink jumper. By the stairs, a short, embarrassed boy trying to join in a conversation. By the bar, another boy, blond and skinny, chatting to a girl in a miniskirt and high boots. Close to the band … Angel's attention turned abruptly back to the couple by the bar, and he slid backwards into the shadows.

Darla. There was no doubting it. Though the hair had been shortened and straightened and was no longer piled on top of her head in elegant curls; though the skirt had been chopped by a third and the makeup altered to make her look younger, it was Darla. Angel slipped through the crowds and outside before she could turn and see him.

Outside he stopped and considered his next move. He knew that if Darla set eyes on him, then all the vampires in Sunnydale would be after him. He leant back against a wall and closed his eyes, remembering the fury in her face as he had run from her, all those years before in a different land.

From his hiding place he watched Darla come out of the club, an arm around the waist of her victim, smiling brightly and happily. Angel longed to follow her; torn between wanting to plunge a stake into her heart and tell her it was for abandoning him, 96 years before, and begging her to take him back. Instead, he stayed and watched as Darla and the boy disappeared off, laughing together over something, and then went in the other direction.

Angel had been thinking over how to approach the Slayer. He had seen her, he knew her moves, he had memorised her face and heard her voice. But were he to appear from nowhere and tell her that the Harvest was coming, would she believe him? Now, as he was walking along the main street, hands in pockets and an eye out for vampires, something sparkling in a shop window caught his attention.

He crossed the street and examined the window: a jeweller's, with attractive modern pieces, and hanging in the centre, a plain silver cross. It was the cross, with the light from a streetlamp above his head reflecting off it, that had caught Angel's eye. He clenched his fist and examined it, and then squared his shoulders and went into the shop.

That day his dreams were full of pretty blondes - Darla's well-known face merging and blending with the big grey eyes of the Slayer into one bloody, erotic hallucination that woke him with a start sometime in the middle of the day. He climbed out of bed and went to the fridge for a packet of blood which he drank straight down, cold, before getting back in and drifting off to sleep again.

He dreamt he was in a park, a sunny, green park on a beautiful day. Above his head the birds were singing and the light drifted down through green leaves in a dappled pattern. He was sitting under the tree with a comfortable weight against his shoulder, and when he glanced down he saw the silky blonde tresses of the Slayer.

"This is nice," she said, softly.

"Mmm," he found himself agreeing, squeezing the hand he held in his. Looking down he saw that she was wearing a claddagh ring too, the twin of his own. "This is perfect," he said.

"Too perfect," the Slayer returned, breaking from his grasp and standing up. Her features twisted and contorted into the bald, wrinkled ones of the Master. "Angelus, well met!" the other vampire snarled. He screamed, and stood up too, and began to run from his grandsire. But the older vampire was gaining, gaining …

Angel sat up again with a start, coming awake and realising that the scream was his own. This time he padded over to the shower and stood underneath the water for ten minutes before pulling on a pair of loose pants and going through some t'ai chi exercises. Outside it was getting dark.

He was walking towards the Bronze, his senses on alert for Darla, when he felt quite another tingle down his spine. Turning, he saw on the other side of the street a figure he had followed already, back in Los Angeles, blonde hair shining and boots tapping on the pavement. The Slayer had arrived in Sunnydale.

He crossed the street and fell into step behind her. She paused, once, and turned to look into the darkness, and Angel held himself still and unmoving until she began to walk again. She walked quicker now, and he lengthened his pace to keep up with her. Glancing over her shoulder, she disappeared down an alleyway, and Angel followed.

She was nowhere to be seen. It was as if she had disappeared into thin air, and for a split second he thought he had been dreaming the whole long affair from first seeing Whistler, and that he would wake up cold and hungry and filthy in that alleyway in Manhattan. Then he felt the tingle down his spine again, and advanced into the alleyway.

The blow sent any residual, stale air whistling out of Angel's body, and he landed flat on his back on the ground with an angry Slayer above him. At closer quarters, he could see she really was stunningly beautiful, and even more so when angry. He swallowed, and met her blazing eyes, and spoke.

The End (of the Beginning)