As Moonlight Unto Sunlight
(A Tale of the Vampyres)
Copyright August 2012
Disclaimer: Characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel: the Series are property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Kuzui Enterprises, Sandollar Television, the WB, and UPN.
No, despite the subtitle, this story will feature neither the presence nor the observations of Andrew Wells. A shame, really, for the events and insights soon to be recounted would thrill him to the depths of his geekish soul. True love, tragic loss, terrible sins deeply regretted but never to be completely absolved. Courage and sacrifice and anguish and … well, sex is in there, too. Not a central feature (and be assured, reader, there will be no bird's-eye view or anatomically detailed description of the proceedings),but it does keep cropping up. The Vampyre With a Soul, the cursed creature with the face of an angel and a past steeped in torment and sadism and shame, simply cannot feature in any story without sex jumping in there somewhere.
Good sex. Bad sex. Perverse (and perverted) sex. It'll be there, bloody and wistful and tender and savage and heartbreaking … Yeah. Like I said already, we won't actually show any of that. But it'll be there, by jiminy!
We know how it begins, of course, and how that infamous name was first heard. Galway, Ireland, 1753. A young man, newly dead (only not exactly) returns to the home he had vowed to leave behind him forever. He can't enter without an invitation … but he is invited. His young sister welcomes him, innocently rejoicing, believing him to be an angel —
Hence the name. A source, in the centuries to come, of awful irony and demonic laughter … and, long afterward, of ceaseless terrible self-flagellation.
~ – ~ – ~
In retrospect, it really should have surprised no one.
Giles could still recall Buffy's peevish initial report on the inscrutable newcomer who had sought her out. 'Annoying' had featured heavily (and frequently) in that report, along with 'cryptic' and 'broody'. Still, the oblique warning had signally contributed to forestalling the Harvest, and Angel's more direct aid — in dealing with Natalie French, the transformed Andrew Borba at the Sunnydale Funeral Home, even the brief savage melee against the Three — had accustomed them to thinking of this new acquaintance as an occasional (albeit mysterious) ally.
Really, they should have known better. After all, who walked unafraid in Sunnydale at night? Only the blithely clueless, the Slayer herself … and the creatures she hunted.
The last of which, it would now seem, included Angel.
That should have resolved the matter in short order, if not necessarily to the satisfaction of all. Slayer here, vampire there … in the enduring paradigm, unless one of them promptly and successfully fled, one of them would immediately and brutally die. That might be a grim equation, but it was … clean. Straightforward.
Trust this Slayer to pop up with an inconvenient exception.
A soul? A vampire with a soul? The very concept was nonsensical, even oxymoronic. Yet there was a certain plausibility to the story Buffy had repeated from Angel. Passion, vengeance, disregard for the dangerous ramifications of certain magics … those were, indeed, hallmarks of the Rom, and even more so for their forebears over a century ago. And how better to punish a demon than by chaining it to a human soul? Furthermore, the tale corresponded to events and locations already recorded in the Watchers' Diaries …
… which, along with confirmation of identity, had provided some extremely disturbing historical detail.
"You must remember," Giles had cautioned his Slayer, "that while it is true that 'the one with the angelic face' dropped out of sight after 1898, the record before then was even more appalling than for other vampires —"
"Let me guess," Buffy interrupted. "A vicious, violent animal, right?"
"To the contrary," came the grave but emphatic rebuttal. "No animal ever took such intense, avid delight in inflicting terror and torment."
But then, Angel had not actually been the only vampire contributing to that bloody reputation, the implications (and culmination) of which had brought them to their current situation.
Giles could hear Buffy, Xander and Willow out in the main library area, speaking in what they may have imagined were hushed tones. Response to the most recent events (accusations, recriminations, revelations, gunfire at the Bronze, the attempt by Angel's spurned progenitor to kill the Slayer, only to die instead at Angel's reluctant hand) required certain readjustments in attitude and perspective … and, apparently, 'talking it out' — Americans! — was a vital part of the process.
"— I'm just saying, killing your … what d'they call it, 'sire'? … that shows serious commitment."
"Yeah, well, I seriously wasn't sure which way it would go for a while there. If you could have seen how they were toward each other …"
"Oh. You … you mean … you think they used to have …?"
"Sex?" Buffy's voice had distinctly hardened. "Nasty, depraved, disgusting, God-will-strike-you-both-dead sex? Count on it. Those two were absolutely churning with history."
"Oh." Pause. "Well, they were evil. And, and one of them still was. Evil, I mean."
"I'm still trying to wrap my brain around all this. It's … so much more disturbing than not."
"If by that you mean the thought makes you want to hurl? you and me both, fella."
They were coming to terms, Giles realized. Despite the intense emotions involved (and the emotional entanglements taking root here were powerful, snarled, and deep), they were working past their first reactions. Reaching an accommodation within themselves and among each other. It might take some time yet, and doubtless would, but the outcome seemed already clear:
Angel would remain, and probably be accepted eventually as a part of the team.
Now, if only Giles himself could decide whether or not that was a good thing …
~ – ~ – ~
They rutted and slaughtered their way across a continent, the handsome demon with laughing eyes and his deceptively demure consort. They changed identities and roles according to need, situation, or whim, with the only constants being love of wickedness for its own sake and delight in the infliction of agony and death.
They were in their element in the royal courts of pre-revolutionary France (though even in that decadent society they could calculate their behavior to produce the desired degree of scandal), and preyed in rapturous excess throughout the Terror following the collapse of the ancien régime. On leaving France behind them (fortunately for Buonaparte's ambitions), they followed war and calamity and unrest whenever they wanted to take advantage of existing misery … or, if more inclined to create it, they scoured like a pestilence through peaceful hamlets and bustling mercantile cities.
For over a century they were inseparable. Sometimes they created others (Penn, James and Elizabeth, later the mad Drusilla and still later William the Bloody) and allowed them to travel along, diverge on their own and reconnect or not according to mood and happenstance. Eventually this ever-shifting coterie — but always with the two of them as its core — acquired a name of its own in the Watchers' annals:
The Scourge of Europe.
~ – ~ – ~
Getting out of the school had been a nightmare, Xander fighting the impulse to hurry — take your time, move soft, stay quiet, watch and listen, can't be caught, have to get through — while likewise terrified by the thought of going too slow, taking too long, returning too late, failing through overcaution rather than recklessness. Then there was the question of what they could do even if he did make it out and find Angel quickly enough; this Spike character had clearly brought along a lot of other vampires for the raid on Parent-Teacher Night, and no matter how impressive Angel might be in a fight, it would still be just the two of them (and Buffy, don't forget Buffy!) against obscenely lopsided odds. But it was something, and Xander would gladly gamble his life on the chance of accomplishing enough to make a difference.
Now he was out, and soft-footing across the grass toward the street, mind leaping ahead to the next problem: where to actually find Angel? Could be anywhere, after dark, and for sure there wasn't time enough to check the entire town (got to see about getting cell phones for everybody, though it might be tricky teaching modern tech to someone who had been lurking around the edges of society for nearly a quarter of a millennium) … then a shadowy figure all but materialized in front of him, and Xander jerked back, heart lurching. Oh, God, another one of them —!
Which, yes it was, technically speaking. Angel stared past Xander, eyes questing through the darkness as if he were inconsequential or even nonexistent. Only one word, more statement than question: "Spike?"
Xander nodded. "Must have decided to start the party early," he said, feeling himself begin to relax just the least bit. "And brought bunches of fun buddies along to play."
"Don't know." Xander shook his head. "The way they seemed to hit everywhere at once, though? I'm thinking at least a dozen."
Angel regarded Xander without expression. "And you'll want us to try and fight them all. Go straight at them, just the two of us."
"Well, not exactly." Xander frowned, trying to think. "We can play it sneaky, right? Infiltrate, take them out a few at a time. That would work, wouldn't it?"
Instead of answering, Angel reached out with casual, impossible quickness, one hand closing on Xander's throat. He jerked, instinctively trying to pull away, but the strength in those cool fingers was irresistible.
Gathering all his control, Xander made himself stop fighting, forced his muscles to relax, and looked to Angel with desperate calm. "I trust you," he said, struggling to believe it.
Those bleak, empty eyes met his without any answering emotion. "You're a fool," Angel told him flatly. Then a sharp yank, and they were moving together toward the darkened school. "Come on," Angel said, voice even and emotionless. "Let's go show Spike what I caught."
~ – ~ – ~
As the decades passed, and the two of them contested to surpass one another in creative cruelty and atrocity, they developed their own specialties. He enjoyed taking on the dress and mannerisms of the aristocracy to which he had never belonged; she just as thoroughly despised the class, but focused on subverting it from within, mocking it and using its weaknesses as the avenue for destruction. He saw himself as an artist; she, by contrast, was simply relentless. (On one occasion, she responded to a curled lip and a dismissive comment by stretching retribution out over more than seventy years: killing the eldest son in each generation, then returning years later to kill the father and impoverish the remaining family, exulting in each reiteration of this delicious vengeance.)
They took their pleasure in the suffering of others. Then the path of vengeance was reversed, the Kalderash exacted retribution from Angel, and the dynamic forcibly changed. Nearly a century of remorse, of withdrawal and self-punishment and self-degradation, the aching need to atone for the unforgivable …
Then, unexpectedly, relief. Acceptance and new meaning from the most unlikely source; caring and concern from one who had every reason to despise all vampires and unswervingly seek their utter destruction. Hope, and yearning, and a slow, hesitantly growing belief in the possibility of redemption …
Then fulfillment. Passion and trust and ecstasy, joy in the arms of one beloved. Bliss. A moment of perfect happiness —
— and the scourge began anew.
~ – ~ – ~
It was stupid and he knew it, but he couldn't make himself do anything else. From a chair opposite the nurses' station, Xander watched the waiting room, the hall, every point of access leading to Buffy's room. As a protector he was less than useless, but Buffy was still delirious and helpless, Slayer strength no protection against the frigging flu. If she couldn't watch out for herself, he was there to do such watching as he could.
Then he heard it, an airy humming from a voice obscenely light and melodious, and Xander was on his feet as Angel came into view. Carrying a bouquet (why didn't the flowers wither and fall apart in that dead hand?), face set in a demon's good humor. Xander moved to block the hall: no good, he couldn't do any good here, but he would die where he stood before he moved. Angel stopped in front of him, an eyebrow lifting in sardonic amusement, and Xander said harshly, "Visiting hours are over."
The smile. Always the smile. Mocking, tilted with cruel pleasure, making a sick parody of the face that had once belonged to an ally (and, for one of them, so much more). "They'd make an exception for me, surely? I mean, we've all been so close to one another."
"They're pretty strict about the rules here," Xander replied, working to keep his voice even. "You can always try during the day. High noon, I'm thinking."
The smile hadn't shifted, but there was a hard glitter in the dark eyes. "Let's be serious here," Angel said, almost gently. "If I decide to go on into Buffy's room, do you believe for one tiny little second that you could prevent it?"
"I'd give it my best," Xander shot back. "Not that I think it'd do a lot of good, you're right on that. That security guard at the soda machine? He wouldn't accomplish much, either. Or the orderlies. Or those cops over there. None of us could stop you." He leaned forward slightly, lowering his voice. "But all of us? That might be different. That, I wouldn't mind trying." His eyes locked with Angel's. "Any time you're ready, Overbite."
Angel glanced up and down the hall, assessing, unconcerned. Then back to Xander, and something had changed in the smile. "Always the white knight. Do you have any idea how much fun it is to watch you try to play hero?" A shrug, a smirk. "But not nearly as much fun as the thought of you remembering what took us to this point. What it was that brought me out, set me free." Angel leaned in close, voice softening to almost a croon. "It must just eat you up."
If the jab had been intended to fluster him, its effect was the precise opposite. With the ice-cold calm of unalloyed hatred, Xander said quietly, "You're gonna die. And even if there's no way I can do it myself, I'll make sure to be there to see it."
"This is me being terrified," Angel said, and slapped the flowers against Xander's chest with a soft laugh. "Tell her I stopped by. Tell her all about how you protected her. She'll love that."
Then the vampire was gone, and Xander settled back into the waiting room chair before his legs could give out beneath him.
He would never tell Buffy about this … but he would do everything in his power to keep the promise he had just made.