IN A DIFFERENT LIGHT
TITLE: In A Different Light
AUTHOR: Dee Bradfield
SUMMARY: Angel travels to the Pylean dimension to save Cordelia, as per the series, but it's all twisted to suit my purposes - evil me! This time Buffy and Spike are along for the ride.
TIMELINE: AU (Alternate Universe). Picks up during the Angel episode "Over the Rainbow", and follows my Buffy/Spike fic "Shades of Grey". If you haven't read it or seen the show then you'll be kinda lost.
DISCLAIMER: They aren't mine, blah blah blah, Mutant Enemy, yada yada yada... You know the drill. Special mention to Shawn Ryan, Mere Smith, Tim Minear and David Greenwalt for the Pylean story-arc. I've borrowed quite heavily from the shooting scripts in places (see Psyche's site) - but remember imitation is a form of flattery.
DEDICATION: To David Patrick Boreanaz for giving new meaning to the word 'soulful'.
To the Angel-mobile, away...
"Oh sod off."
Spike rolled onto his stomach and pulled a pillow over his head.
Ignoring his irritated request, the phone continued to ring. And ring.
"What time is it?" Buffy groaned at his side.
Spike lifted his head and peered at the illuminated digits on the bedside table clock. "Four in the bloody AM. We got in from patrol not one hour ago." He tossed the pillow at the phone, knocking the handset onto the floor. The ringing stopped. "Thank you," he sighed, slumping back against the mattress.
Buffy giggled and threw an arm across his back. She nibbled at his shoulder. "So," she coaxed, running a finger down his spine, "Now that we're awake..."
Spike shivered at her touch, an animalistic purr rumbling in his throat, but then reluctantly shrugged her off and pushed himself up into a sitting position. He stared fixedly at the phone, his brows drawing together in a frown.
Buffy knew immediately that he could hear who was on the other end of the line. They hadn't been disconnected in the fall. She reached around her distracted other half to snap on a shaded lamp, a subtle yellow-tinted light filtering through the room.
"Angel," she said.
It wasn't a question. She and Spike had been linked for a month now, and picking up each other's perceptions was becoming old hat. If she concentrated hard enough she could almost hear it herself.
Spike just growled before moving to pick up the receiver.
"What?" he snapped impatiently. The last thing he wanted was to hear from his Sire, especially at this hour.
"Spike, I need you and Buffy to come to LA." There was a meaningful pause, then, "It's important."
The bleached blonde vampire let out a disbelieving snort. "It had want to be bleedin' important. Missin' valuable kip-time here, mate." His tongue curled behind his teeth as he leered at Buffy. "Among other things..."
There was a broody silence for almost a minute before Angel spoke again. There was no mistaking the fear in his voice.
"Cheerleader?" Spike was instantly serious. Buffy sat up, wrapping the sheet demurely around her body.
"She's been... " Angel seemed to be searching for the right words. "She was sucked into another dimension."
"She what?" Spike held the phone away and shook his head at it as though the device itself was causing the problem. He rapped it against the dresser a couple of times before speaking again. "Hello? Earth to Peach-fuzz? Have you completely flipped your lid?"
Buffy snatched it from his hand. "Angel, it's me." She listened intently, scowling at Spike all the while.
He tipped his head and quirked his scarred eyebrow at her. She could never stay mad at him when he did that. Unless, of course, she was mad at him because he was doing that.
In response to the familiar action, Buffy's eyes softened and she sent him a gentle smile.
Well, there you go then, all forgiven. Spike puffed out his chest in a self-satisfied manner and dropped to sit on the edge of the bed, bouncing a little. He could pick up some of what was being said, and that his Slayer was becoming increasingly worried. He rested his hand on her knee in a supportive gesture.
Typical of Angel to deliver bad news, Though he suspected midnight calls and happy tidings were seldom compatible.
When Buffy hung up, she continued to stare at the phone.
"Pack a bag," she said.
Spike waited for an explanation. After another moment, she turned to look at him.
"We're going to LA."
He stopped to glance up at the clock on the wall, frowned, and then paced again. It was the afternoon already. This was taking too long. He needed to be doing something - anything.
"You're going to wear a groove in the carpet," Wesley Wyndham-Pryce commented softly, not looking up from the text he was currently engrossed in. He sat on the stairs, various volumes piled randomly around him.
Angel inspected the floor. "We don't have carpet."
"I was speaking figuratively."
"Oh." Angel folded his arms, the fabric of the tan-colored shirt he wore stretching taut against his muscular shoulders. "It's been twelve hours, Wes," he said after a moment. "Anything could've happened to her."
"I know." Wesley picked up another book, a bulkier one that he had set aside earlier, cross-referencing. "But I believe I'm getting close to a solution now." He tapped a finger on the page. "This is the third reference I've found to metal or steel... I wonder if..."
He stood, depositing the books on his lap in a heap and scurrying across to the reception desk. More books and more cross-referencing.
"Color me ecstatic." The new voice was anything but.
Krevlornswath of the Deathwok Clan, known to all at Angel Investigations as the Host - or preferably to him, Lorne - sashayed into the lobby of the Hyperion clad in a nifty red suit that matched his eyes and brought out the green of his skin. "I've found your little supernatural hot-spot," he announced. "We're good to go, if we're still going. Are we still going?" He wrung his hands nervously, hoping against hope for a negative answer.
"Yeah." Angel closed his eyes for a beat. Finally, something was going right. "As soon as Wes has that 'Eureka' moment."
"Eureka!" Wesley shouted, on cue. He almost dropped the weighty book in his hand as he waved it at them triumphantly. "I know how to get us through!"
"Oh," Angel burst out, his relief palpable. "Thank God."
Lorne focused on the non-vital part of the sentence. He didn't want to hear about the other bit. "You actually say 'Eureka'?"
Wesley started a reply, but then decided to disregard the comment.
Angel shifted on the balls of his feet, fighting the urge to start pacing again. "Now, if Buffy and Spike would just get here, everything'd be set."
"I fail to see why you wanted them here at all," Wesley began stacking a pile of books in readiness to be put away. "This sort of problem doesn't exactly require the presence of a Vampire Slayer. Or her, uh..." He faltered, trying to come up with a suitable description. Spouse? Accomplice? "Partner."
"Hey, I don't get it either," Angel claimed, motioning helplessly. "I just felt... No, it's more than that. I know they're supposed to be here."
"Gotta love the Powers," Lorne remarked. "They give those vague feelings the big push."
Despite his utter reluctance in this whole adventure, he was delighted at the chance to finally meet the renowned Slayer and her equally fascinating vampiric counterpart.
Angel ignored him, tipping his head and narrowing his eyes at the courtyard doors. He growled low in the back of his throat, his teeth grinding together. "About damn time," he groused.
"That's them?" Lorne brushed some invisible lint from the shoulder of his suit. "Do I look okay? It's not everyday you meet the ordained ones."
"Ordained ones?" Wesley was almost struck dumb by the revelation, but not quite. "They're ordained? By the Powers That Be?" He looked at Angel reproachfully. "You never mentioned that."
Angel shrugged. "I didn't want to talk about it."
"There's conversation, and then there's vital information," the former Watcher admonished, tapping the back of one hand against the open palm of the other. "This could be connected to your own destiny..."
"It is." The vampire thrust his own hands into the pockets of his tailored pants. He didn't offer any further explanation, and was saved from what would have been an interrogation by the door bursting open.
"What's all this bloody crap about portals then?"
Spike posed in the doorway, a mocking smirk on his handsome face. His arms were balanced against the frame, his long leather duster billowing artistically around his lean body. He wore combat boots and black denim, looking for all the world like the Big Bad he had once been.
Lorne stared, stunned firstly by seeing a vampire in direct sunlight, secondly by the vamp's severely peroxided hair, and lastly, by it's crude English accent.
"Slap me," he exclaimed. "He's a Brit."
The blonde vampire snorted inelegantly. "Slap me," he mimicked. "I'm a fruit."
Wesley unwittingly duplicated Lorne's gaping expression when Spike lurched to one side with a hand pressed to his forehead, cursing.
Angel actually grinned, startling his companions. "Buffy still meting out chip-whippings I see." In his opinion, it was the best thing to come out of their whole relationship.
Spike scowled at his Sire, then peered back over his shoulder, wincing a little at the movement. "You comin' in or what?" he asked. "You gotta check out the poof's funky friend."
"Funky?" Buffy strolled in toting a nondescript bag that could easily have contained either a change of clothing, or a demon-unfriendly arsenal.
She was dressed almost identically to her partner. Black pants, leather coat and duplicate red T-shirt. Her hair was a much lighter shade than normal, streaked almost as white a blonde as Spike's. It was shorter, too, and pulled up in a messy twist. She studied Lorne with curious green eyes.
"Oh, yeah," she said. "Way funky. Hey, Wes. Still being all Watchery?" She gave Wesley a cursory once-over and then dismissed him, not bothering to wait for an answer.
Lorne beheld the couple with something akin to reverence. Their auras were practically overflowing with love, and that connection between them? Wow! They were perfect, right down to their matching outfits.
"Aren't they the cutest?" he gushed. "I could just eat them up. If I ate carbon-based life forms, that is. I don't, by the way, so you can lay off with the death-ray eyes, Billy-boy."
"Ha!" Buffy chortled. "I love that! Billy-boy!"
"You start calling me that," Spike warned, "And I'll..." His voice trailed off, but he raised his brows suggestively and the Slayer's grin vanished.
"You wouldn't..." she began, then reconsidered. "Yeah, you would."
"Count on it, pet." Spike gave her a wink and then turned back to their astounded audience. "So, back to the original question then... No, hang on, more important, who's the prancing lightweight in the cherry-red wrapper?"
"Is he always so-?" Lorne flapped his hands at Spike, words escaping him.
"Irritating?" Angel supplied. "Pain-in-the-ass annoying?"
"Phenomenally gorgeous?" Spike grinned wickedly. "All the above, mate, all the time."
Buffy gave him a shove as she passed by and he staggered sideways. "Shut up, honey," she said, though it was uttered more out of habit than in actual reprimand.
Spike did the snorting thing again and lit a cigarette.
Buffy walked up to Angel and gave him a comforting hug. "How are you holding up?"
Angel let out a deep, unnecessary breath at the contact, his shoulders slumping. The wall he'd built up over the past few hours crumbled, his dark eyes misting over with telltale moisture. God, he was so scared.
"I can't lose her, Buffy," he murmured quietly, his voice choking up just the slightest bit. It was almost a whimper of pain. "I can't. Not again."
His emotional reaction exposed for the first time just how very upset he was, how deep his feelings went. There was much more to his attachment to Cordelia than any of them had suspected.
Buffy began to tear up in sympathy. "You won't."
"Here, no chance of that," Spike quickly declared around the end of his cigarette. He didn't want his Slayer crying. That'd start him off and weeping like a baby-man was not good for the image. "Buck up, Hairboy. This rescue party's just about to bloody start."
"Such colorful language," Lorne said aside to Wesley. "From a Childe of Angel's no less." He made an appreciative noise. "And those cheekbones!"
"Astonishing," Wesley agreed. "That last part not inclusive."
He was rather mistrustful of this so-called Childe, having read of his exploits during his time as a Watcher, but was intrigued nonetheless. Vampires were not supposed to act as this one did.
"How are you able to walk in the sun?" he blurted, his curiosity finally getting the better of him.
Spike blew out a cloud of smoke and frowned. "What?"
"You are a vampire, yes? Yet you came inside from direct sunlight and show no signs of skin damage. There are no burns or, or..."
The vampire pinned him with intense blue eyes and Wesley stuttered to a halt, finding himself somewhat startled by the sharpness he saw there, the intelligence. He had the feeling he was being sized-up and suddenly wished that he'd had the foresight to research this infamous demon more thoroughly.
"Uh-huh. And taciturn guy strikes again," Spike said finally, his lips twisting with a wry humor. He wandered further into the lobby to plop down onto the round ottoman-seat. He searched briefly for an ashtray, then stubbed out his half-smoked cigarette on the sole of his boot and tucked the butt into his pocket. He indicated Angel with a jerk of his head. "Has tall, dark and silent explained anythin' about what went on last month?"
"Nary a word," Wesley was taken aback by Spike's openness. "Would you be willing to-?"
"Wes, we've got more important things to worry about right now," Angel interrupted. He was frowning with much more severity than usual, his walls firmly back in place. He hated himself for breaking down like that.
"Of course." Wesley backed off, forgetting for the moment that he was supposed to be the one in charge.
Spike rolled his eyes at Buffy. "Got Giles Junior under his sodding thumb," he noted through the link.
"I think Wes has Daddy issues," she sent back.
Spike looked back and forth between his Sire and the former Watcher and then broke into a fit of laughter.
"Buffy..." Angel protested. He didn't need this.
She blinked at him, the very picture of innocence. "Yeah?"
"What did you say?"
"None of your business," she told him pertly, flashing a beatific smile that made Spike laugh even harder.
The Slayer moved to sit by him, dropping the mysterious bag at their identically booted feet. It settled with a distinctly metallic thud. She took the vampire's hand and lifted it to brush a kiss across his knuckles. Their eyes met and held, Spike's laughter dying as he dipped in to rest his forehead against hers. They immediately became lost in each other, ignoring the others entirely.
Wesley was fascinated. "They're telepathically linked!"
"Ah, hello? Ordained?" Lorne huffed. "Don't you know anything? I thought you were supposed to be the brains of this outfit."
Angel grimaced. Did he really have to explain this?
"Okay, they're linked," he admitted, completely fed up with the whole thing. "They're ordained by the PTB. And yeah, they're really annoying. Well, Spike is, " he amended. "Although Buffy does have her moments..."
Buffy and Spike turned to glare at him.
"Hey!" they protested in unison.
Wesley grinned, utterly captivated by the striking pair. It was going to be an interesting trip indeed.
Cordelia didn't want to be doing the panicky chick thing, but words just kept on blabbering unchecked from her mouth. She wished she could shut the hell up. She shouldn't be apologizing to these guys - they were the freaks who thought she was cursed. And, man, she didn't like the look of this place - it was all dungeony.
She bit off the twentieth "sorry" that was about to erupt. "Hey, you know what? I'm not sorry. I would rather have the visions and be helping people than be out there..." She gestured vaguely toward a window-like hole in the wall, not caring that it didn't even lead outdoors. "All sackcloth slave-girl with the stupid collar and shoveling demon-horse poop. And let me tell you..."
The head robed-guy turned around and her tirade tangled in her throat. It was that Silas guy. He was the worst. He gave her the major wiggins.
"Okay, you know I didn't mean that, right?" she backtracked. "'Cause, I mean, all that curse-talk goes right to your head ... and, and I really didn't mind the shoveling so much..."
"Silence," Silas commanded. He turned to address the other robey priest-types nearby. "We must discover beyond all doubt if the girl is cursed. She will be tested for the sight." He indicated a tabletop laden with rusty-looking utensils.
He was being all commandery now. Not a good sign. And what kind of tests needed those pointy things?
Silas grabbed one of the crude instruments and held it up. It burned crimson at the tip. He leaned in close and she could feel the heat of it.
Cordelia swallowed hard, her blabbery-chick voice re-engaging. "Oh no. I'm sorry! I-I won't do it again! No more visions, I promise. Please, please don't, please..."
They had waited for the sun to go down before heading out to the location of Lorne's hotspot, the five of them crammed into Angel's dinosaur of a convertible.
Angel flexed his hands against the steering wheel to physically restrain him from strangling his Childe. He knew that Buffy was doing her best to keep him in line, but still...
"Is it just me, or has Spike's aggravation factor risen a notch since his demon returned?" he asked.
"It's not you," Buffy said. She shifted forward and rested her arms on the back of his seat. "Everyone at home threatens to stake him at least once a day."
"I'll bet. What does he have to say about that?"
"I say 'bring it on'," Spike reported. He sniffed in disgust. "Wankers don't even realize I can't be staked anymore."
Wesley pivoted in the passenger seat to stare at him questioningly.
"Got a pulse, mate," Spike revealed conspiratorially. "Buffy's pulse. Big Bad's a warm-blooded bloke these days."
Wesley's eyes flicked toward Buffy for confirmation. She just gave him a smile and a nonchalant shrug. "A vampire with a heartbeat," he breathed. "Truly amazing."
"Oh yeah, it's the best thing since water torture," Angel muttered.
Buffy slapped his shoulder. "Can it," she scolded lightly, obviously trying to keep his spirits up. "And that means you too." She didn't bother to turn around but it was clear that her words were directed at her partner.
Spike tried to look innocent. He wasn't very successful.
Lorne was thoroughly entertained by this lively couple. They were even drawing Angel out of his self-imposed shell, something that only Cordelia had previously achieved. He wondered if they'd be willing to sing for him.
"I wonder if you two would..."
"No!" Angel and Wesley cut him off simultaneously.
This time Buffy did glance back at Spike, one brow arched inquiringly. He arched both of his in return and shook his head, as lost as she was.
"Are you guys linked too?" she asked in all seriousness.
"God, no." Angel recoiled at the suggestion.
"The Host is an anagogic demon," Wesley clarified. "He has the ability to read a person's destiny. The catch, though, is that you must sing for him."
Buffy's choice of expletive caused all eyes but Spike's to turn in her direction. He kept his gaze fixed on the green-skinned being sitting nearby, blatantly distrustful.
Lorne smiled at him encouragingly. "You'll have to pop into the club when this is over," he offered. "Try out a tune or two."
Spike just continued to stare at him like he'd sprouted another head.
"Had some bad experiences with horned, green psychic demons," he said after an uncomfortably silent minute.
"Haven't we all?" Lorne commiserated. He leant forward a little, taking in his surroundings. "Hold up right here, Angelcakes. This is it."
Angel pulled over to the sidewalk and peered ahead at the T-junction. The crossroad passed right by a well-known television studio. The same one where Cordy had shot that horrible commercial.
Angel had a sudden flash of her in that skimpy little strip-of-nothing swimsuit and his hands involuntarily tightened, so hard that his knuckles turned white and the steering wheel dented in under his fingers. He wondered briefly if they had time for him to go and kill that director-type guy, then shook himself out of it. Not now, you putz. "Isn't this-?"
Lorne shrugged, unconcerned. "Makes a certain kind of sense if you think about it, no? Actors, directors, creatures from other dimensions - same cloth of adorable little cut-outs."
"Don't see why we have to take the sodding Angel-mobile on this jaunt," Spike grumbled. He'd been sulking about it for a while now.
"'Cause the DeSoto still reeks of that disgusting exorcism potion?" Buffy suggested, shuffling back to take her place between Spike and Lorne. "I had to hold our breath most of the way here."
Wesley caught Angel's eye. "'Our breath'?" he mouthed.
Angel just shook his head, not wanting to explain. "Should I, you know, put the top up?"
"It shouldn't be necessary. As long as we're enclosed by metal on all four sides we should pass through the portal intact. I'm almost positive."
"Almost?" Buffy frowned. She didn't like the sound of that. The Wesley she remembered hadn't exactly been on the ball.
"Ninety-six percent," Wesley nodded. It was as confident as he was willing to get under the circumstances.
"Alright." Angel didn't care how sure Wesley was. He had to get Cordy back and at this point he was going with or without them. "Buckle up."
All but Spike fastened their safety belts. The white-headed vampire merely slouched lower in his seat and lit one of his cigarettes, acting as though inter-dimensional travel were an everyday occurrence, like riding a bus or getting a taxi.
"Quit with the Mr. Cool routine, you moron," Buffy chided, plucking the cigarette from between his lips and expertly flicking it onto the street. Something she had evidently done many times before. "Do you wanna come out the other side with that thing permanently attached to your face?"
Spike blinked at her, his protest dying before he could voice it. He hadn't thought of that. Buffy had saved him from becoming Smokey the Fag-lipped Boy. He leaned in to give her a grateful kiss but was distracted when Wesley began reading a series of consonant-heavy words from the book he carried. He stared at the former Watcher, appalled by the noises coming from his mouth. This was the portally mojo they were so bloody fussed about? He sounded like there was a hairball the size of a poodle caught in his throat.
A bright blue light washed over them, and then there was a loud cracking sound as the portal opened, looking uncannily like an immense wall of water. It shimmered and pulsated, lightning flashing at its core.
"It's like that bloody Stargate thing, innit?" Spike observed.
Angel frowned, finding that the analogy was completely lost on him.
But then, most of what came out of Spike's mouth was lost on him. The younger vamp had always managed to keep up with current trends, fitting into each generation as though he was born to it. Angel knew that kind of adaptation tended to get old after a century or so, and then you kinda settled into your own style. He guessed that was why Spike hadn't really changed his look since the late 70s - it would have been around his hundred-year mark.
He dismissed the inane and pointless direction his thoughts were taking and set his jaw. This was it. This was the moment he'd been waiting for.
Hang on, Cordy, I'm coming!
He floored the gas pedal and the convertible shot forward into the swirling portal. Light bent around the car as though tasting it, and then swallowed it whole with a great whooshing gulp.
The portal vanished as quickly as it had appeared, leaving Wesley's book smoldering in the street where it had been.
Cordelia curled into a ball.
She hurt. She hurt so much she couldn't specifically pinpoint where the pain was coming from. It was the all-over, been-slammed-by-a-semi kinda pain that she associated with real bad stuff. Like that time she'd caught Xander and Willow together and ended up impaled...
Okay, not wanting to think about that now. She needed to think about finding a way out of here. She still had some brains left - if the parts they didn't get all vision-hacker with were still intact that was. She wondered suddenly if her head would explode if she opened her eyes.
She bit her lip and concentrated, prying the lids apart slowly. Nope, no explosions, but ouch much?
It was then that she heard that evil Silas dude.
"The tests are compete," he announced to the gathered priests. "It is the unanimous decision of the Covenant that the girl is afflicted. She carries the curse of the sight."
Cordelia whimpered at the news and they all turned at the tiny sound. Silas stepped forward to peer down at her.
"You screamed a name during the tests," he informed her in his creepy robotic voice. "Do you remember it?"
Cordelia didn't want to remember anything. She stared blankly ahead, refusing to look at him.
"You called for one named Angel," Silas continued. "Your cries echoed incessantly. Who is this person that you believed would rescue you?"
She'd called for Angel? What was up with that?
Silas sighed. "She is unresponsive, but it is of no matter." He straightened and waved a hand. Two other priests grabbed her arms, hauling her upright and moving to drag her from the room. "We will discover his identity soon enough."