Angel. “If…nothing we do matters…then all that matters is what we do, ’cause that’s all there is.” -From Angel Season 2 Epiphany.
The sword whistled past his head, so close he felt the air stir in its wake. He straightened from his evasive move and, using his powerful legs, Angel propelled himself up and over the demon with the sword. He stabbed at it with his own weapon. The demon roared, his tusked mouth wide with pain, and Angel’s sword slithered free from the beast’s back as it folded into a dying heap on the floor. Without a backward glance, the vampire kicked out at the demon’s comrade in arms. The demon – reptilian, by the looks - doubled over and wobbled on its good leg, the other knee having shattered with the vampire’s blow. It tried to run him through with its spear. Angel danced away from the wooden shaft. He managed a quick look through the broken doors and out into the bright morning. Buffy was there fighting her own demons. Three against one, the odds weren’t good and, Angel hoped, not for the demons. The slayer was more than capable, but sometimes the unthinkable happened. Angel was worried. Even when, and he thought, when, not if he finished off his opponents, he wouldn’t be able to go to her aid. The sun being the defining factor, he railed against it in his renewed attack.
Buffy was worried. Angel was inside the derelict building, trapped, four against one. The three demons she faced launched into an attack, cutting off her train of thought. She moved, a lethal blur. Her sword severed the head of the nearest and, in her spin, the blade arced into the ribs of the next. She sank into a crouch, and with her large knife lunged at the belly of the third. Before the stream of demon blood splattered her clothes, she was up and away. One down, two to go. Her injured opponents stepped back. Both favoured their wounds. Buffy smiled. This wouldn’t take long.
Inside the disused factory, Angel had had enough. He feinted to the right and, expecting the lunge of the spear, wrapped his hand around the weapon, and tugged. The spearman toppled forward, his shattered knee at last giving out. With one stroke, Angel removed the head and kicked the bloody body into the path of its compatriot. The demon snarled, shoved the mutilated corpse away, only to find that the vampire was no longer there. His rapid turn did not save him, and the point of Angel’s sword pierced his chest. He died, a look of surprise frozen across his face. The vampire did not stay to see the carcass fall. He ran to the doorway and was in time to see Buffy fighting off the last of her demons. A movement in a nearby pile of rubbish caught his attention. And, as Buffy was occupied with finishing off her last demon, another burst through the refuse, hoping to catch her unaware. From his shadowed vantage point, and cursing the morning sun, Angel bent his arm back, and with all his strength threw the spear.
Buffy spun around in time to see the face of the advancing demon explode outward in a gory splatter. A spear emerged from its face, the haft protruding like a bizarre lollipop stick behind the skull. The demon stumbled and fell. She blinked in the morning glare, and when she looked she caught sight of a patch of pale in the dark of the factory door. She lifted a hand.
“Thanks,” she called.
Buffy didn’t spare another glance at the dead. She picked her way through the rubble and made her way to the cool, soothing shade of the building where Angel waited. It was only when she was inside that he moved away from the door. They both ignored the four carcasses on the floor as they stalked by. There was no reason to hide the existence of demons these days. The world, no longer ignorant of monsters and the like, fought its own battles against evil, evil things. Whoever came across the slayer’s kill would think himself lucky that someone had been there before him.
Buffy gave Angel the once over. He was bruised and battered, his beloved coat torn, his temple matted with blood. He was walking, not limping, and Buffy was grateful. She didn’t mention his hurts, it was the way of things. He knew she cared without the words being said.
Angel led the way to a disused office. There they found a desk and a couple of chairs. Buffy sank into one with a weary sigh. Vampire eyes examined her. The cut that ran across her cheek and lip had healed into a scar, and by tomorrow it would be gone. Her jeans had a few tears and her jacket was filthy. Angel couldn’t smell blood that was fresh on her. Buffy was a little the worse for wear, but she hadn’t taken a new injury. They were that good now. Besides, in his current state, Angel didn’t know whether he would be able to control himself if she was bleeding.
He sat down, produced a rag from the bag he had snatched up, and began to clean his sword.
“It was a trap,” she said, needlessly.
They had been tracking two demons through the sewers early on. Their quarry had led them to the abandoned building and then the pair had split up. Buffy had followed the demon out into the dawn, and Angel, of course, had stayed to face the other. It was then that the trap had been sprung.
Angel finished cleaning his weapon and picked up Buffy’s. He worked on the sword until he was satisfied with the blade, and her knife received the same treatment. Angel laid them both on the desk within her reach. He looked through the window that provided a good view of the door.
Buffy grimaced when she stretched out both legs to prop them up on the desk. She noticed his concern.
“Bruises,” she said.
He nodded, and the tension eased from his shoulders. His feet joined hers.
“You have to eat,” he said, not willing to move but would if she asked.
“I will when you do,” she muttered under her breath, her eyes never leaving the window.
Angel looked over at her. She was whip-cord thin, lean, all muscle. Years of slaying had honed her, death and resurrection had hardened her. He was sure he had a hand in her metamorphosis. It wasn’t something he was proud of. He stopped breathing on that thought. They were in this mess because of his stupidity, his foolish hope to undo the year belonging to Wolfram and Hart. The world was in chaos because he tried to avert the Apocalypse. Was this any better? He had to believe it was.
His lungs inflated enough to ask, “What?”
“I didn’t sigh.”
“Yes you did. I heard you.”
He stared at her in disbelief. “You didn’t.”
Refusing to look his way, she said, “You stopped breathing, ergo, you sighed.”
“I don’t breathe.”
“But you do. I mean, sometimes you do. Like now when you’re talking, and sometimes when you fight. And sometimes, you just do.” Now, she turned her head his way. She smiled at him, and suddenly it was all worthwhile.
With the raise of a brow, he asked, “Ergo?”
She chuckled. “Blame it on Giles.”
“There’s candy in the bag,” he tried to tempt her, “and juice.”
“Later. When you’re sleeping. I’ll stand watch.”
Angel knew she wouldn’t eat. She could be stubborn that way. He didn’t argue, he was tired. Instead he leaned back in the chair, it wasn’t the most comfortable he had sat in, and closed his eyes. He drifted away more exhausted than he had realised.
Buffy waited a moment, sure he was asleep when his chest stilled, and very quietly, she got up to prowl the factory. Buffy kept back from what windows there were, and the doors. She didn’t want to invite trouble be it demon or human. The washroom wasn’t far from the office and she needed to pee. Human needs taken care of, Buffy washed the grime off her hands and face. She wanted a hot shower but knew that it would have to wait. They could leave at the risk of Angel being flambéed, but the sewer held no appeal. Buffy had had enough tramping through refuse and goodness knows what to last her a lifetime. Cupping her hands, she drank water that tasted a little of rust. At least the pipes were still intact. On her way past the office she looked in to see him still in his chair. Buffy paused, and considered him. He looked exhausted, as tired as a vampire could look anyway. She knew he had lost weight, and wondered at that. Weren’t vampires supposed to be eternal, never changing? Silently she stepped away and continued her patrol.
Buffy climbed the stairs to the gangway above. The gantry ran the length of the factory, and a machine, all gears and chains, sat forlorn on a large beam suspended from the ceiling. She walked its length, and peered through grubby windows before returning downstairs. Buffy stood inside the door and peeped out at the ruins of the nearby buildings. The buildings stared back with sightless eyes, dark and empty, as lifeless as the demons in the sun.
The slayer withdrew and found somewhere to sit. This was their life now. This moving from one place to another, killing demons, protecting mankind. It had been twelve months since Angel, and what was left of his crew, faced down the demon hordes in the alley. Eleven months and ten days since she joined him in his fight against the evil of Wolfram and Hart. His fight was her fight, and she had forgotten that. The world had changed. The horde, diminished in numbers by Angel in the alley, still had enough soldiers to spread its army out into the real world. Its evil, its ugliness, spilled across the land and beyond. The Senior Partners hadn’t been lying. The apocalypse to end all apocalypses had arrived, and nowhere on earth was safe. The military responded in its usual way, uncaring of civilian casualties. Demons were no match against explosives and steel, and in those attacks many parts of the city were decimated. Not a few cities suffered the same fate.
The Senior Partners’ army refused to lie down, their presence was felt here and there, and it was those that Buffy and Angel sought. All over the world newly called slayers were doing the same, seeking out evil, destroying evil before it could wreak more havoc on the world. The trouble was, demons who inhabited the underbelly of the world were also being targeted, by the military, and, the man in the street. Buffy was sorry about those, many had been peaceable, no threat at all. Ordinary folk were attempting to slay vampires, and many of them had died trying. She has cautioned Angel to be extra careful. With the Senior Partners after him, and the wannabe slayers, it wasn’t a good time to be a demon. Vigilantes were rife, gung-ho with guns, shooting to kill whatever moved. And they weren’t too worried whether it be friend or foe.
Life had returned to a semblance of normal for many. Humans were safer away from the cities, and many had relocated. The safe zones were now expanding, the threat diminishing, and there was a trickle of people returning to the cities. She didn’t know what people did for fresh food in places. Canned and processed were all that could be scavenged, nobody caring to check the use-by dates. Still, there was hope for the future. Sometimes Buffy despaired, she didn’t know if she or Angel could survive that long.
Exhaustion hit, she closed her eyes for a moment, and opened them to find herself surrounded by Angel.
His voice rumbled against her ear. “Hey.”
Chagrined, she realised she must have slept, and on duty too.
“Sorry.” She yawned hugely, not caring to be lady-like. “What time is it?”
“Midday,” he said.
Which meant that Angel must have been awake for some hours keeping watch on her watch. Dammit! Regretfully, she raised her head from his chest and blinked at her surroundings. She saw that he had moved them to a far corner, still with a view of the outer doors. They lay upon a tarp Angel had scavenged from somewhere. She turned her head and saw their bag, a pillow for his dark head. Her stomach growled. He grinned at her. Leaning across her body, Angel produced a bottle of fruit juice and a chocolate bar. He held it out to her, insistent, and she gave in. Although Buffy had promised not to eat unless he did, she couldn’t hold out as long as he. She was starving.
Angel hadn’t fed for over a week and he was famished. Hunger had always been a part of his life, at least since the soul. As Angelus he fed frequently, the demon never going hungry. It wasn’t his choice to starve himself, there were so few places to obtain blood these days, and the banks in what hospitals there were, were sorely depleted. His appetite was voracious, his craving all consuming at times, and yet over the years he had learned to deny himself. It was different when it was your choice. He recalled the horror of a locked box in a watery prison. Three months of deprivation had driven him mad. He grimaced at his next thought. He could resort to eating rats, would’ve, in a heartbeat, beneath the ocean. He deliberated. He wasn’t that hungry, yet.
Angel looked on as Buffy devoured the candy. He eyed her lips as she chewed, and when she swallowed, her neck begged for his attention. A different appetite blossomed. He licked his lips. Buffy noticed and offered her neck. She looked him in the eye and saw refusal there. Oh, it wasn’t her blood he wanted, although she knew he craved that too.
Buffy swallowed her last mouthful and, tease that she was, slowly sipped the last of her juice, her eyes downcast, a coy smile shaping her lips. His gaze never left her mouth, and when the last drop disappeared his lips replaced that of the bottle’s. Buffy met his attack with her own and soon they pulling at clothing. Hands large and small fumbled with buttons and belts, desperate for the feel of skin. Angel’s mouth devoured hers, and his hands found her breasts. She moaned, and tugged at his jeans. She felt him drag her pants down and soon they were coupling furiously, frantic in their need. Buffy met his thrusts with abandon, her slayer strength matching his. She didn’t cry out as she came, nor did he. They were careful even in their mating. It was usually like this, their love making, desperate and needy. In the quiet of day when they found themselves a comfortable billet, their love making leant to tenderness, gentle motion, slick bodies moving in unison after the first furious onslaught. Then, tears fell, cool, and warm, mingling together, running in rivulets down bodies entwined.
Angel lay beside his love, and somewhat foolishly wished he could achieve perfect happiness. Because then the world would be as it once was, and there would be no need for this life, this version of Hell. He stared at Buffy. She was looking at him. He kissed her and smiled at her. She grinned back.
“We’re animals, you know that?” she teased.
“I didn’t hear any complaints,” he countered, trying not to sound smug.
He got a slap against his chest for it. She sat up and got to her feet, her pants held in one hand.
“I need the bathroom,” she said, and scurried off in that direction.
Angel tidied himself and cleared away their rubbish. It ended up in a half-filled drum. He didn’t know why he bothered, the dead demons were starting to rot where they lay. When Buffy returned he made use of the facilities. He stripped down and did the best he could in washing himself. The rotting demons were beginning to stink, and he didn’t want to think he smelled like them.
Voices, deep and male, drifted into the washroom. Angel quickly pulled clothes on over damp skin. Cautiously he ventured out and stood against the wall, eavesdropping. The tone was aggressive and the vampire did not like what he was hearing. Using his preternatural speed, he moved unseen in the shadows and leaped high to the gantry above. His boots never made a sound when he landed. Angel crouched low and watched the scene unfolding below.
Buffy stood, shoulders back, spine straight, chin high. Three men confronted her not knowing it was they who should be afraid. Two of the men carried rifles, one was pointed Buffy’s way, and Angel could see handguns protruding from waistbands and belts. One of the men gestured to the demon corpses. Angel thought that in the very least, they might get a clue as to what they were facing.
“What happened here?” The man asking had on a cap that covered his eyes. Angel couldn’t see his face.
What Buffy saw under the cap wasn’t kind. She refused to answer.
The bearded one, asked, “Come on, honey, who killed all the monsters? Did you see what happened?”
His other friend, long-hair tied into a ponytail, walked a circle around Buffy.
“Get a load of the swords,” he said, pointing to the weapons close by.
“Come on! You want us to think you killed those?” Cap sneered.
“Maybe she’s one of those super babes. You know, the slayers!”
“If the rumours are even true,” Cap said.
“Kinda of scrawny for a slayer,” Ponytail observed.
“What? Have you seen one?”
“I think you get to leave now,” Buffy said, her voice calm, her body tense.
“Why? Because your friends are here to make us go?” Cap made a show of looking around, and laughed when it was obvious there was no one coming to her rescue.
Cap suggested they check out the rest of the factory to be sure.
Ponytail and his bearded friend wandered off to peer about the building. Cap remained guarding Buffy, his gun aimed at her all the while. When eyes glanced towards the gantry Angel wasn’t to be found. He was clinging to the roof, high enough in the shadows that he wouldn’t be seen. When scrutiny left off, Angel dropped back to the walkway. The men had regrouped when a fourth member of their team strode through the door, his pistol in his hand.
He noticed the dead demons before he noticed Buffy. “It looks like some serious shit went down in here too.” He kicked the severed head and watched it roll away in a gruesome wobble. “We should be...Who’s she?”
“She hasn’t said. I think she’s a demon hunter, a slayer…or maybe a demon. Take a look at the weapons.” Ponytail picked up Angel’s sword. Buffy’s eyes narrowed and so did the vampire’s above her. No one touched Angel’s sword.
The newcomer’s eyes gave her the once over. “She doesn’t look like a monster to me.”
“May be. It’s hard to tell these days.”
Ponytail swung the sword experimentally. Buffy refrained from rolling her eyes. He would cut himself if he wasn’t careful. She hoped he wasn’t careful. The weapon hit the concrete with a clang. Angel winced. It was his favourite.
“What’s your name, sweetheart?” the newcomer asked. He looked nice enough, clean-cut, tidy. He could lose the sweetheart though. No one other than Angel had the right to endearments. She stood her ground in silence.
“I already asked her that. I don’t think she knows,” Cap replied for her.
“Or maybe she does, but doesn’t want us to know,” Beard put in.
“Of course she doesn’t, dick-wad!” Ponytail’s arm lashed out, and his buddy stumbled with the shove.
“Any one else around?” the new man asked, taking a quick look with a couple of turns of his head.
He was nervous, Angel could tell. This man was the brains of the group. Several demons dead and one live battle-worn woman? Angel could virtually see his mind working.
“We looked, she’s alone.” Beard was quick to say, all the while glaring at his long-haired friend.
“Didn’t your mama tell you it’s dangerous out?” Ponytail sneered at Buffy.
“Mark!” The new guy hushed his friend, but before he could say another word, Cap spoke.
“We kill monsters, that’s what we do. We rid the city of them; babies, old ones, ugly ones, whatever they look like it’s all the same to us. We’re the law around here, you better believe it.”
“So the big question is, are you with us or against?” Mark added, and Buffy did not like the way he licked his lips. Nor did the vampire above.
Cap swiped the hat of his head. Greasy black hair spilled down to his shoulders, and Buffy could see a jagged scar running across his forehead. His eyes glittered black as he leered at her.
“I say we find out whether she’s human.”
His bearded friend wasn’t too sure. “What if she’s a monster, I don’t know if I want to be doing a monster.”
Scar-face snapped back, “Don’t be such a wimp. She looks human, isn’t that enough for you? You didn’t want to fuck those demon whores before we killed them. They weren’t as human-looking as this one, but they were human enough for what we did to them.”
Angel smothered the growl that formed in his throat. He could see that Buffy wasn’t going to be able to talk her way out of this, if she had been talking that is. He waited for her signal.
The fourth man smiled sadly at her. “You see how it is, miss? If you’re one of those slayers,” he looked her over, “and I don’t think you are, then, you have evil in you. We think it’s all nonsense anyway, slayers fighting demons. I think it’s a diversion from the truth. Women with super powers, and how come its only women? Killing demons with demonic powers can only mean one thing.” His gun came level with her head. “If you’re a slayer then you’re a demon, and if you’re not, then you, or some of your friends, are. No one can kill that many monsters with just swords, axes and spears. We use guns, safer that way, and they do more damage.”
“So you kill anyone that challenges your manhood,” Buffy shot back.
Angel winced. Not a way to make friends, Buffy, he thought, and he wished she hadn’t opened her mouth.
She continued, “Getting rid of the monsters, as you call them, is a good thing…if they are the right monsters. There’s good and bad in everyone, some demons wouldn’t hurt a fly, and I admit there are many that are pure evil. Those deserve to be slayed. What you’re doing isn’t fighting the good fight. For you it’s all about the kill. You’re no better than the monsters you destroy.”
The men laughed at her.
“Show me a good monster, and I’ll show you a dead one,” the one called Mark, retorted.
“I can do both,” she replied, giving Angel his cue.
Foolishly, one of the men made a grab at her, but she was no longer there. The four men were left confronting someone bigger and, to their eyes, stronger and more intimidating. The man who lunged at the slayer was swatted away. The blast of his rifle thundered as he flew back.
Angel staggered with the force of the bullet hitting his shoulder, but he didn’t go down. Too quick for the human eye, he moved. His fist closed around the fourth man’s gun hand, and he screamed when his fingers broke. The vampire slammed his forehead in his face. The man stumbled and would have fallen if not for the grip on his broken hand. Angel’s fist smacked into his temple and he fell, senseless.
Buffy’s somersault had confused the men surrounding her, and in that confusion she tackled the bearded one. His gun went off, the shot narrowly missing her. Faster than anyone should be, Buffy kicked the pistol away, and punched him in the nose. She felt it break. Her other fist hit him in the stomach, choking off his scream. He collapsed trying to draw breath, but his nose and his ribs weren’t letting in air. The slayer swung about and kicked at Mark. He had dropped his rifle and had his pistol cocked. His aim went wide, and the explosion of gunfire deafened her. Hair flying, he reeled with the force of her blow, and his gun flew from his hand. With more than a little satisfaction, she kicked him in the groin, hard.
“Was it good for you, honey?” she asked.
He doubled over and, royally ticked off, she kicked him in the face. He went down like a slab of meat. She stomped on his hand for good measure and heard the bones break.
His bearded buddy found his breath and began to moan. Quite casually Buffy snapped her foot out and clipped him in the head to shut him up. When she turned, Angel had his teeth in Scar-face’s neck. She sighed in relief. Angel had been starving, his pallor becoming more pronounced by the hour. The man’s arms dangled lifelessly in the vampire’s embrace. The dead man’s head was grotesque. Some of his hair was missing, his skull beneath shot away, and brain matter oozed, along with blood, from the wound. The Buffy stepped away to gather their things. They would have to move before the men came to.
The blood was hot and it slid down his throat so deliciously, so smoothly. The heat was more exquisite than the burn of the finest of whiskeys. The heart wasn’t pumping and he had to suction the life-blood down. It didn’t matter. The taste, the coppery tang so sweet on his tongue, was ambrosia. Pleasure filled him as his body warmed, and for a while he could almost feel human.
He ignored the whispers that echoed inside the vault of his mind, the voices that told him this was wrong, he was unclean, a monster. Over the years he had learned that a man had to do what a man had to do, even if he was a vampire. He had done worse, and in all probability, would do so again. He allowed the hammer blows of revulsion to pound against the armour he had placed about his sensibilities. He drank and was thankful it wasn’t Buffy he was stealing nourishment from. There were times he contemplated drinking the life-force she so freely offered. He wanted to, ached for it so badly at times, he vibrated in need.
He heard her say, “When you’re done, I want that bullet,” and those few words warmed his desolate soul. Buffy still loved him, having seen him at his worst. There was no horror or blame laid at his feet. She still welcomed his embrace, and for that he was eternally grateful. He let the body fall, and slashed the throat to hide his bite.
“It went right through,” he said, wiping his mouth on a sleeve.
“Oh. It’ll need a bandage.”
“It can wait.”
Buffy was ready to go. Angel plucked the tarpaulin up from the ground and threw it over his head.
“I hate this part,” he grumbled, and Buffy smiled.
To think she hadn’t wanted another sewer walk. The smell down there was nothing compared to the stink of these men. Bring it on, she thought, and led the way.
The world wasn’t perfect, nor were they. Who needed perfect happiness anyway? It was one hell of a bitch. They would continue to do what they were good at, fight the good fight and save the world. As long as they were together, the army of darkness could come and tremble at their feet.
Feed Ares Visit Ares
Rating: NC 17
Summary: There are few rewards in this new reality.
Disclaimer: Nope, last time I looked, Joss owned all.
A huge hug and many thanks to my wonderful beta, Jo. The woman is a Goddess.
Everyone who loves Buffy and Angel will have recognised the references to many scenes from those shows. Too many to acknowledge, but they are there.