The Ghosts Of Vices Past
By Maquis Leader
Author’s note: Before Surprise
“You’ve got dirt in your nose.”
“Huh?” The vamp wiped at his nose.
“And a stake in your heart.” Buffy grinned as the surprised vamp exploded into dust. “Got mine, Angel.”
There was a snarl and a roar behind her. Turning, she saw Angel wrestling with the other vamp. “Ha! I win! I slayed first! Mochas are on you!”
The vamp flipped Angel onto his back and jumped on him, sinking his fangs deep into Angel’s shoulder. Angel cried out and went limp.
“Oh, no! Angel!” Buffy sprinted over to where the vamp was gnawing on Angel’s shoulder and jerked his head back. Blood dripped from his mouth onto Angel’s chest. “Nobody bites my boyfriend!” She punched her stake through his back and into his heart. “But me!”
The vamp exploded and Buffy fell through the ashes to land on Angel. She rolled off and sat up next to him. “Angel?”
He moaned and lifted a hand to his shoulder.
“Lay still.” She moved his hand away from the wound. The vamp’s fangs had torn through the leather and into Angel’s flesh. Blood oozed out, soaking his shirt. “Eww, nasty.”
“Maybe if you hadn’t jerked his fangs out of me.” Angel pushed her hands away and sat up.
“I’m sorry.” It hadn’t occurred to her at the time that she might be hurting Angel by pulling the vamp free. “I didn’t – “
“And ‘nobody bites my boyfriend’? What the hell is that?” He stood up and brushed the vamp dust off his clothes.
“Well, you are – “
“And screaming it out in a graveyard?” He glared at her. “Are you trying to make me look like some big, helpless poof?”
Standing, she tried to take his hand, but he jerked away. “No, I – “
“Hey! It’s Angel! Buffy's boyfriend!” Angel growled. “The big poof!”
“I didn’t think – “
“So how is that new?” He snorted. “Do you ever think?”
“Angel…” Blinking back tears, Buffy held her hands out helplessly. He’d been irritable for the last few nights, grouching and grumbling. But he hadn’t been mean. “I – I’m sorry.”
Her bottom lip was quivering, and the hazel eyes were full of tears. “Oh, Jesus… Don’t pout.”
“I’m not pouting.” She sucked her bottom lip in.
Angel sighed, and the anger drained out of him. It wasn’t Buffy's fault he hadn’t been sleeping well. Or at all. He was tired and cranky, his shoulder throbbed, and worst of all, he’d gotten a sexual rush from the bite. God damned nasty side effect if you ask me! “Come on, let’s get out of here.”
Angel stalked off, leaving her standing. Kicking at the vamp dust on the ground, she followed him out of the graveyard
“Sit still.” Buffy dabbed at Angel’s wound with disinfectant.
“It stings.” He gritted his teeth together. “It’s not like I can get an infection.”
“Let’s not take chances.” Satisfied that the bite was clean, she picked up a gauze pad and tore open the wrapper. Angel shifted as she positioned it over the wound. “This would be easier if you didn’t squirm.”
“Just hurry up.” He snapped.
“Fine. Done.” Picking up the tape, gauze, and disinfectant, Buffy stuffed it in the first aid kit. Getting up, she walked into Angel’s small kitchen and threw it in the drawer. Leaning on the counter, she wiped at the tears on her cheeks.
“Jesus.” Angel muttered. Following her into the kitchen, he slid her arms around her waist and pulled her back against him. Rubbing his face in her hair, he breathed in her soft vanilla scent. It was clouded with sadness and fear, and the sharp scent made his heart ache. “I’m sorry, Buffy.”
“I don’t know what I’ve done wrong.” The tears fell faster. Was Angel dumping her? “Just tell me, and I’ll fix it. I’m sorry.”
“Shh…” He hugged her tighter. “You haven’t done anything. It’s me.”
Turning, she wrapped her arms around his waist and laid her cheek on his cool chest. “I won’t call you my boyfriend anymore.”
“No – Buffy – “ He sighed again. Tipping her face up, he kissed her wet cheeks. “I like it. I’m just – I haven’t been sleeping well.”
“Is something wrong?” She sniffled and wiped at her eyes. “Something I – “
“No.” He tucked her head under his chin, amazed as always at how perfectly she fit. “I’ve been having bad dreams.”
“Bad dreams? Like the kind where you’re naked in public?”
“Not exactly. It’s not unusal – I have nightmares.” He confessed. “Sometimes bad, sometimes not.”
Buffy realized his nightmares were probably memories, and she splayed her hands across his back, holding him tighter.
“I’ve been trying not to sleep, but I have to.”
“I wondered if vamps needed to sleep or if it’s just a way to kill time during the day.”
“Newborns need to sleep during the day, but as you get older you can stay awake longer.” He told her. “I don’t need as much sleep as a human, but I do get tired.”
“So you’ve been trying not to sleep, then you wind up crashing and sleeping more and getting less rest.”
“How do you know?”
“Slayer and student doesn’t leave much time for quality sleepage.” She reminded him. “How long since you’ve slept?”
“A few days.”
“A few – “ She looked up at him, her eyes wide. “Days?”
“Maybe three or four. I lost track.” Angel looked away. “The dreams are – bad – “
“Tell me.” She ordered.
“They’re the worst they’ve ever been. Worse even than when I first got my soul back.” He turned back to her. “I feel like – like I’m in danger. Like they can hurt me.”
“Oh.” His victims. “Come on.” Taking his hand, she led him to the bed. “Get in.”
“Buffy, I really don’t want to go to sleep.” He shook his head. “I’m too keyed up.”
“Tell you what, you go take a shower. A nice hot shower always makes me feel better.” She looked at the wound on his shoulder. “Just don’t get soap in that.”
“I’ve had worse.” Buffy's concern made him feel better, and he gave her a small smile. “Why don’t you go on home? I’ll be fine.”
“Nope.” She turned him and pushed him toward the bathroom. “Go. Shower. Relax.”
“Buffy – “
“No ‘Buffy’, just go.”
“Can I get a pair of sweatpants? Or do you want me to come out naked?”
“Uh…” She grinned impishly at that thought. “Do I have to answer that?”
“It’d be safer if you didn’t.” He pulled open a dresser drawer and took out a pair of black sweatpants.
“Probably.” The thought of a deliciously wet Angel made her lick her lips.
Dipping his head down, he nipped at her lower lip. “Soon.” With a wink, he went into the bathroom and closed the door.
For a moment, Buffy considered stripping her clothes off and joining Angel in the shower. She tried to imagine what it would be like to be pressed against the cool tile, hot water pouring over her while Angel lifted her up and – she shivered and turned her back on temptation.
When Angel came out of the bathroom, toweling his hair dry, Buffy had shut off all the lights and lit the fat candle sitting on the bedside table. She was frowning at his books.
“Books in English would be nice.”
“Here.” He plucked a volume from the shelf. “You’ll like this one.”
“Okay.” Looking over the leather cover, she arched an eyebrow. “Revising standards to ‘and also from this century’.”
“It’s The Three Musketeers.”
“Oh, like the movie!” Buffy flipped open the cover. “I really liked Charlie Sheen.”
“He was a good Aramis, but Oliver Reed was a better Athos.” Angel watched her flip through the thick book. “You really should go on home, I’ll be fine.”
“Too late, I already called Mom and told her I was staying at Willow’s, and I called Willow and told her to cover.” She pointed at the bed. “So, go.”
“Buffy – “
“Angel sleepy. Angel cranky.” She put her hands on his shoulders, turned him and pushed in the direction of the bed. “Angel goes to bed. Go nighty night.”
Chuckling, he let her push him to the bed. Lying down, he pulled the covers up under his chin. “Happy now?”
“Scoot over.” Buffy sat on the bed next to him. “Now I’m happy.”
He reached up to touch her face, and Buffy laid her cheek in the palm of his hand. “You’re too good to me. I don’t deserve you.”
“True – very true.” She slid her hand down his arm and squeezed his shoulder. His skin was warm. “How do you feel?”
“With my fingers.”
“Don’t quit your day job, Angel.” She frowned, her nose crinkling up. “Or would that be night job in your case? Anyway, you feel… just funny.”
“I absorbed the heat from the water.” He sighed as her hand slid under the comforter to caress his bare chest. “Doesn’t it feel better? My being warm?”
“No, I like cool.” Leaning down, she pressed a soft kiss to his lips. “I like it a lot.”
Picking up her book, Buffy leaned back against the headboard. “Now, close your eyes and go to sleep.”
Angel obediently closed his eyes and rolled onto his side facing her. He started to doze almost immediately and jerked awake. Maybe he could just lie still –
“You’re still breathing.”
“What?” Opening his eyes again, he saw her frowning down at him. “Breathing?”
“Sides moving? Air going in and out. Ring a bell?” She smoothed down the thick, soft hair. “Go to sleep, you’re safe. Nobody gets past the Slayer.”
A smile tugged at the corner of his mouth. “My bodyguard?”
“Kind of wacky, a Slayer guarding a vamp, huh?”
“As opposed to staking.”
“Generally the rule.” Stroking his hair, she smiled down at him. “Sleep. You’re safe.”
Shifting until his head lay in her lap, Angel closed his eyes again, listened to Buffy's heart, and counted the strong, steady beats. Slowly, he began to relax.
Buffy was getting into D’artagnan’s journey to Paris on his yellow horse when Angel stopped breathing. She set down the book and ran her fingers through his hair. It wasn't odd that he didn’t breathe while he slept. Pretend to breathe, Buffy! Angel doesn’t need air! It was just part of Angel being Angel, and somehow seemed right. The way it was so right that his skin was cool to the touch. She had always assumed vamps were ice cold, but instead, Angel was pleasantly cool. Like cool sheets on a warm night.
Angel looked relaxed and peaceful, without the sadness that was always a part of him. Oh, God, he’s so beautiful… The strong cheekbones and full sensuous mouth drew her attention, and she gave into the guilty pleasure of looking at him. Vaguely guilty anyway.
The velvet comforter had slipped down to expose his bare shoulders, and the gryphon peeked from under the edge of the blood red material. Darn! Why couldn’t the blanket be down just a little lower?
As much as she wanted to run her hands over his pale, soft skin, Buffy kept one hand on the book and one hand resting on his dark hair. Angel needed his sleep. Behave, Buffy! It’s Vampire Slayer, not vampire rapist! Though it wouldn’t really be rape… active participation… whatever!
To keep from touching him, Buffy contented herself with one of her favorite fantasies. Not the favorite, because that might lead to touching Angel, but one that was way up in the top ten.
Angel was beautiful in his tux, smiling at her as she walked down the aisle to him in her absolutely-perfect-one-of-a-kind Vera Wang wedding dress with the white lacy bodice and itty-bitty pearls all over said bodice. Pink pearls – pale baby pink pearls.
They were outside, under a beautiful full moon – which would attract monsters – so – a crescent moon. Candles were lit everywhere, and little twinkly lights were strung through the trees.
Her father walked her down the aisle – oh, Giles – Giles walked her – Dad and Giles walked her down the aisle! Her mother, looking tasteful and beautiful in a pale violet gown, was smiling and crying with happiness. Dad’s girlfriend, in her way too short and skanky discount store dress, was pouting because he had ignored her and spent all his time with Mom.
Xander was standing by Angel’s side, having decided that Angel was a wonderful person and he was honored to have him as a friend, also looking handsome in his tux. He smiled at Willow, who was walking behind her wearing a pale pink gown that matched the pearls on her dress and the pink roses scattered every where and that somehow went perfectly with her red hair. Willow smiled back and waved with the hand wearing the engagement ring Xander had given her after finally realizing he was madly in love with the girl who’d been his best friend since preschool.
Her father – Giles – somebody put her hand in Angel’s. His fingers were cool and strong, and he smiled at her. “I love you.” He said and everyone sighed. Even the priest – preacher – some non-denominational no cross or bible person person smiled and said this was the most romantic wedding he had ever seen.
In the back, Cordy, having a bad hair day, a zit on her nose, a run in her hose, after having spilled wine – red wine! – on her dress – an obvious designer off the rack knock off – sobbed as she realized she couldn’t have Angel and would probably die an old maid anyway.
She gazed into the deep soulful beautiful love filled chocolate eyes…
Angel woke up suddenly, images of a blood covered man chasing him through the fog forcing him from sleep. Buffy's heart had slowed slightly, and her blood whispered sleepily to him. Opening his eyes, he saw that she’d fallen asleep, her head lolling forward at what had to be an uncomfortable angle. Some bodyguard.
Taking the book from her slack fingers, he laid it on the bedside table next to her glass of melting ice water and with a quick lick to his fingertips, pinched out the candle. Sitting up, he carefully slid her down until her head was on the pillows.
Resting on an elbow, Angel brushed the honey blonde hair back from her face and ran a fingertip over her cheekbones, down her nose and along her lips. She’s so beautiful. Buffy smiled in her sleep and snuggled closer.
Lying down, he took her into his arms and pulled the covers up over them. Buffy pressed her face into his throat and sighed his name. He wanted to kiss her awake, pull her clothes off, and make love to her. Inside his mind, Angelus made a much cruder suggestion. Behave, Angel! You’re a vampire not a rapist. Though it wouldn’t really be rape… coercion… begging?
To keep from touching her, Angel contented himself with one of his favorite fantasies. Not the favorite because that would lead to touching Buffy, but one that was still one of the top ten. Angelus tried to force in a fantasy of his own, but a mental verse of Copacabana shut the demon up.
Buffy was beautiful in the red velvet – blood red velvet dress, smiling at him as she walked across the dance floor toward him. The dress was short, barely to the tops of her thighs in their black silk hose – bare golden thighs – and every male in the Bronze turned to watch her.
She stalked up to him, a predator – a dainty feminine predator, his mate. Sultry green eyes saw only him; no other male existed as she pressed her body against his.
Xander was crying into his coffee as he realized Buffy would never be his. Didn’t know his name – couldn’t remember he existed.
Willow smiled and waved at them from where she sat in a booth with her new boyfriend who was nice and in love with her and everything she deserved. She had finally seen Xander for the big dope he was and moved on.
Buffy's hands slid over his chest and up into his hair to pull his head down for a kiss. The music pulsed and throbbed around them as her warm tongue pushed into his mouth. She rubbed and molded her body to his as they moved in an erotic dance.
He put his hand on her waist – on her back – one hand splayed across her back and the other hand cupped her firm, soft, just right sized ass and pulled her even tighter against him.
“I love you, Angel.” She whispered as she nipped at his throat. Every woman in the Bronze sighed and whispered that it was the most romantic thing they’d ever seen.
Cordelia, having a bad hair day, with a run in her hose, and after having spilled soda on her typically trashy looking dress – sobbed as she realized – finally! – that he belonged to Buffy and she would never be with him and would probably die an old maid.
Buffy's hand slid down his back to squeeze his ass as she rubbed herself against him – against his hard, aching cock – hard aching throbbing ready to explode cock.
Buffy's teeth nipped at his throat, bit hard until he growled. Tangling a hand in her long honey blonde hair, he pulled her head back and slid his fangs into her exposed – graceful delicate golden throat, and suckled her blood in lazy swallows as they swayed to the music.
Lifting his head, he gazed into the deep soulful beautiful love filled green eyes…
“You murdered her!”
“What?” He lifted his head from Buffy's throat. Where had the voice come from? Buffy was clutching him to her, the red velvet dress pulled down to expose her pert breasts. Shaking his head, he lowered his mouth to a pink nipple.
“You’re an animal! A killer!”
He glanced up again; the convertible’s windows were fogged over, and he couldn’t see anyone.
“Don’t listen to him.” Buffy licked her kiss swollen lips as she pulled at the buttons of his pants.
“I won’t.” Pushing her thighs apart, he settled himself between them, pressing her down into the black leather. “I love you, Buffy.”
“Make love to me, Angel.” She moaned softly. “Now…”
Ignoring the voice, he rubbed himself against her warmth.
“Animal! You killed them all!”
There was someone out there. He tried to get up, but Buffy locked her legs around him. “Let me up.”
“Stay, make love to me, Angel.” She squeezed him until his bones creaked.
“Buffy – “ The car rocked as something hit it. “Buffy, something’s out there!”
“Ignore them…” She jerked his head down and kissed him hard.
The car began rocking violently as something outside pounded on it. Then there was a loud tearing sound. The cloth top was being sliced open.
“Buffy! Let go!” He struggled with her but couldn’t break free from her grip.
“They’re not real, ignore them…”
The top of the convertible peeled back, and a man stood there. He was holding a woman in his arms. She was gray with death, her throat ripped out, and dried blood stained her clothes. “You killed her! You killed us all!” He threw the woman’s body into the car on top of Angel.
“No! It wasn’t me!” He looked down to see that Buffy had changed. He was looking at Darla. She smiled and sank her fangs into his throat.
“Angel… dear boy… come to hell with me…”
Buffy woke up suddenly, a strange sound forcing her from sleep. Beside her, Angel twisted and moved in his sleep. He moaned, and fear contorted his face. “Angel, wake up.” She put a hand on his shoulder and shook him gently.
His face morphed and Angel bolted up, snarling and snapping. He grabbed her shoulders and shoved her away, sending Buffy tumbling to the floor to land with a thump. “Ow!”
“Buffy!” He kicked free of the blankets and rolled out of bed to kneel next to her. “I’m sorry – I’m sorry – “
“It’s okay.” Wrapping her arms around him, she held him tightly. “A little bruised pride is all.” Note to self: let sleeping vamps lie.
“It’s not okay.” He pushed her back and stood up.
Buffy got up from the floor and rubbed a hand on her sore butt. Relighting the candle, she watched as Angel began pacing around the small apartment. He was clearly agitated, still in game face, which her rarely let her see.
Carefully, she approached him and laid a hand on his shoulder. His head swung around, and his lips peeled back from the ivory fangs. During her time as the Slayer, Buffy had learned that the redder a vamp’s eyes were, the angrier they were. Angel’s eyes were deep amber. If he were a stoplight, it’d be just like the first time she failed her driver’s test and earned her first ticket.
“Angel, I’ll help you. You’ll be okay. You’re safe here.” She kept her voice low and soothing. Putting her hands on his shoulders, she massaged the knotted muscles. “Relax. There’s nobody here but us.”
Gradually, slowly, Angel began to calm. The taut muscles relaxed under her fingers, and his eyes shifted slowly to gold before turning to brown as his game face faded away.
“Let’s sit down.” She led him to the bed and sat down next to him. “Tell me what you dreamed about.”
“It was normal at first – then I kept hearing voices.” He rubbed his hands over his face.
“Calling me a killer and murderer. And what was I going to say? I’m not? Because I am.” He frowned. “But I did say it. You told me to ignore them.”
“Of course I did.” She rubbed a hand up and down his back. Good job, Dream Buffy!
“I tried – but I could hear them – but the car windows were steamed up – I couldn’t see them.”
“Um, hello? Car windows steamed up?” The honey blonde brows arched way up. “What were we doing?”
“Uh… talking. Just… talking.” He gave Angelus a mental slap when the demon snickered.
“Yeah. Clothes on talking or clothes off talking?”
“Well, uh… “ He looked away, glad he couldn’t blush. “Sort of clothed… mostly.”
Dream Buffy, you’re a slut! Lucky you! “Hopefully that wasn’t the scary part.” She joked. “What about the rest?”
“The car started rocking – “
“Angel!” Her cheeks got hot as she imagined why the car would have started rocking.
“No, no – not from that!” He assured her. Though that would’ve been nicer. “Someone was outside, hitting it.”
“Oh, whew, good.” I think.
“Then they ripped the top open – and you were holding me down – then he threw her dead body – and you were Darla – “
“Wait – wait, slow down.” Angel was becoming agitated again; his eyes flickered gold, and his forehead became ridged for a moment. “He who? Her dead body who?”
“A man – a ghost I think. He had a woman – her throat torn out – “
“And he threw her at you? That sounds icky.” She shivered. “And I turned into Darla?” Please tell me I wasn’t in that crappy little school girl outfit.
“I looked down at you, and you’d changed.” He raised a shaky hand to his throat. “She bit me – tore my throat out.”
“We’ll talk about the steamy windows and you looking down at me later.” She pushed Angel back on the bed.
“I don’t want to go back to sleep.”
“You’re not. You’re going to talk to me.” She kissed him gently, letting her tongue slide over his lips. His tongue touched hers, cool and wet, playing lazily with hers.
“I like this kind of talking.” He nibbled at her lips before she pulled away.
“Me too.” Moving up to lie with her head on the pillows, she patted the mattress next to her. “Come here.”
Crawling up to lie beside her, Angel rested his head on her breasts. “I don’t want to go to sleep, Buffy.”
“I know.” She wrapped her arms around him and kissed the top of his head. “How about if I read to you? And you can explain some of this stuff to me. It’s all going right over my head.”
“Okay, that’s good.” Anything to not sleep. And there were worse things than listening to Buffy's voice.
Picking up the book, she leafed through it. “Let’s see, I was here.” She found her spot and began reading. “’Chapter four. The Shoulder of Athos, the Baldric of Porthos, and the Handkerchief of Aramis.’”
Angel shifted, getting comfortable against her body. Luckily, he had a copy of the book in English as well as in the original French. He liked to compare translated text to pass the time. Back when he had less to do and all the time in the world to do it.
“’D’Artagnan, in a state of fury, crossed the ante-chamber at three bounds, and was darting towards the stairs, which he reckoned upon descending four at a time, when, in his heedless course, he ran head foremost against a musketeer who was coming out of one of M. de Treville’s private rooms, and striking his shoulder violently, making him utter a cry, or rather a howl.’” Buffy frowned. “Didn’t this guy hear about periods?”
“It adds to the sense of urgency in D’Artagnan’s chasing down the Comte de Rochefort.” At her blank look, he added. “The Man from Meung.”
“Oh, the letter thief, gotcha.” She started reading again. “’“Excuse me,” said D’Artagnan, endeavoring to resume his course, – “excuse me, but I am in a hurry.”’ Ah, lookee you were right.”
Angel fought sleep back, listening carefully as she read. Buffy wasn’t the dumb airhead she pretended to be. He corrected her pronunciation occasionally and answered her questions about things that were common during Dumas’ time but a bit obscure in 1990’s California, but she understood perfectly what she was reading, and she read at a good steady pace. Someday maybe he’d understand the Buffy logic of acting dumb.
Eventually, exhaustion won out, and Angel fell asleep before Treville could meet with the king to explain the musketeer’s side of the battle with the Cardinal’s guards. Buffy continued to read after Angel fell asleep and his body stilled, pausing only to pull the comforter up over him. She hoped her voice would help soothe him while he slept.
For a while it seemed to work; he slept quietly, a slight smile on his lips. Then he began to moan and move restlessly against her. Setting the book aside, Buffy held him to her, rubbing his back and comforting him as best she could.
He whimpered and cried out, his body jerking and twitching as the nightmares tormented him. Angel didn’t wake, obviously too exhausted to resist the demands of his body for rest.
Brushing a kiss across his forehead, Buffy whispered to him. “I love you, Angel. Hear me, listen to me, you’re safe and I love you.”
It was late in the day when Angel was finally able to force himself awake. Buffy's arms were wrapped around him and one leg was up over his hip, effectively locking him to her. Her body was mashed against his from breast to hip, and there was a delicate feminine snoring against his throat. All of which would have been much nicer if he felt better.
Peeling himself free from her embrace, Angel covered her back up before going into the bathroom. Splashing cold water on his face, he looked up at the mirror. “All things considered, I look pretty good.” The smiley face he’d painted on the mirror smiled at him and didn’t answer. “Shut up.”
Closing the bathroom door, Angel stepped into the shower and turned on the water, standing under the hot spray until his skin threatened to peel off. Getting out, he toweled off and pulled the sweatpants back on.
Buffy was still asleep, curled up in the red velvet until just the top of her blond head was visible. The image was a nice one, and he smiled despite his overall tired and cranky feelings. Waking to Buffy in his bed every day would be wonderful. Looking at her, he considered getting back into bed with her and making love to her. Unfortunately, that wasn’t something she was ready for. Inside of him Angelus prodded for him to do it anyway. He sidestepped the demon’s urges and went back into the kitchen.
Taking a couple of blood bags from the small refrigerator, he poured them into a mug, microwaved it, and gulped it down quickly, hoping all the while she wouldn’t wake. Rinsing out the mug, he set it in the sink, rinsing his mouth out for good measure so he wouldn’t feel guilty when he kissed her later.
Opening the refrigerator again, he took a quick inventory. Eggs, milk, butter, cheese, mushrooms, and sausage. He kept a small supply of fresh food for when Buffy might be here and be hungry. This was the first chance he’d had to cook for her. A slight smile curved his lips. Buffy had no idea he could cook, and it was one of the few memories he’d be willing to share with her. One of the few good ones.
Angel was adding thin slivers of cheese to the mushrooms and sausage already in the omelet when he heard Buffy's heartbeat as she came into the kitchen. Warm arms wrapped around his waist. “Good morning.”
“Good morning.” She kissed his back, making sure to give the shy gryphon a kiss. “This is nice.”
“Except for the night before, I’d have to agree.” Carefully he folded the omelet over.
“I didn’t know you could cook. That looks good.”
“I worked at a diner once – night cook, of course.” He grinned over his shoulder at her. “It was a good time – for a while.”
“What happened?” She nuzzled the soft skin of his shoulder and gave the gryphon another kiss.
“Same thing that always happens.” With a shrug, Angel flipped the omelet onto a plate. “They found out what I am.”
“Oh.” She said softly.
“Yeah. Here, eat.” Turning, he dropped a kiss on her forehead and handed her a fork.
“This is good.” She dug into the omelet.
Angel watched her eat, smiling a little at her voracious appetite. She caught him looking and set her plate down on the counter, laying the fork on it. “Sorry, Angel. I’m such a pig.”
“There’s nothing wrong with a healthy appetite. I don’t exactly have room to criticize, considering my feeding habits.” He picked the fork up and handed it to her. “And besides, it adds to that image I have of you.”
“I can imagine.” She pushed a mushroom around on the plate before stabbing it viciously. “I’m sure Cordelia eats like a lady.”
“Who cares about Cordelia?” He moved around behind her and wrapped his arms around her. Splaying one hand over her mound and the other over her breasts, Angel pulled her to him.
Buffy shivered as he nuzzled along her neck. Putting her hands on the counter, she pushed back against him, rubbing against his hardon. This was something new they'd been indulging in lately, and she liked the feel of it pressing into her.
“You’re a predator, Buffy.” He breathed against her skin.
Yelping as his teeth bit down hard, she shivered again at the desire that ripped through her. Angel’s fingers pressed up between her legs, massaging the sensitive bundle of nerves through her pants. With his other hand, he rolled and pinched her nipples, making them throb and ache.
“A beautiful, dainty – “ He bucked his hips against her and nipped at her cheek. “Very feminine predator.”
Moaning as he let go, Buffy turned and caught his arm. Pulling him to her, she stood up on tiptoe to kiss him, tugging impatiently at his hair until he lowered his mouth to hers.
Her hot little tongue darted into his mouth, and Angel growled softly. When her hands slid down his back and under the waistband of his sweatpants, he growled again, deeper this time, and pushed her against the counter to grind his body into hers.
Angel’s mouth came down hard on hers, his tongue pushing in to taste her, plunging in and out as if he were making love to her mouth. Buffy sucked at his tongue, trying to catch and hold it. His chest and belly vibrated against hers as he growled against her mouth.
Pulling up her shirt, Angel squeezed and played with her nipples, pinching them until Buffy was moaning and squirming against him as he rubbed his aching cock into her mound. Pushing her pants and panties down with one hand, he untied the string of his sweatpants with the other. His cock brushed the soft curls and he moaned into her mouth.
His cock slid between her thighs and rubbed along the wet lips of her pussy, but Angel snarled in frustration when he wasn’t able to push himself inside of her. Buffy's pants were tangled around her lower legs, and he couldn’t get her thighs spread open enough to get the right angle. It didn’t help that she was moving and rubbing against him, obviously enjoying the sensations.
Stepping back, he spun Buffy around and pushed her over the counter. For a moment, he admired the tanned, perfect ass before he pressed against her, searching with his cock for the tight opening.
He found it and Angel closed his eyes in anticipation. In a moment, his body would be joined with Buffy's, they would be one. He heard her gasp out his name, once, then again. “Buffy…” He leaned forward to sink his fangs into her throat – to drain and turn her – to claim her as his mate.
Buffy's heart was pounding, and the scent of her fear washed over him. Angel’s eyes snapped open. Buffy was trembling and crying, her hands curled into fists on the counter.
“Buffy – oh God – Buffy.” Stepping back, he turned her into his arms. Within him, Angelus snarled and growled, ordering him to take her. Angel pushed him back down. “I’m sorry. I – “
“S’okay.” She locked her arms around his waist. “I didn’t mean to be – I’m just not – not ready, you know?”
“I know.” How could he explain the hold he had over Angelus? And the hold the demon had over him. He settled for tucking her head under his chin and rubbing her back in what he hoped was a soothing manner. “I didn’t mean for this to happen. Not this way.”
In the early days of his curse, he had to fight the demon for control on a daily basis. Too many times to count, he’d found himself with his fangs to someone’s throat and had to battle both Angelus’ desires and his own vampiric needs. He’d learned to keep Angelus locked down, and rare were the times the demon managed to wrestle control from him.
They stood for a few minutes, pressed together intimately, his softening cock resting against her soft belly. Then Angel moved back and pulled his sweat pants up. Tying the string in a firm knot, he knelt and pulled Buffy's panties and pants back up, brushing a kiss across the dark blond curls as he did so.
“Come here.” He led her into the small living room, and sitting down, pulled her onto his lap. “Buffy, I’m going to tell you something about me – about Angelus – and after I do – if you don’t want to see me again – I’ll understand.”
“Angel, I know about Angelus.” She raised her hand to his cheek. “He’s not you.”
“But he’s inside of me. I suppress the urges to kill, to torment, to rape. But they’re still in me, trying to get out. When I’m weak, he can – “ He hesitated and gave Angelus a mental kick. “He has some control. The urges get harder to fight.”
“So when you’re tired…” Buffy nodded slowly. “That explains why you’ve been Mr. Cranky Britches.”
“I would never be so rough with you. It’s unforgivable.” He leaned his forehead against hers. “The moment overwhelmed me – but that’s no excuse.”
Buffy was quiet, stroking his face and hair, and breathing in his musky, earthy scent. “It’s not, but I’ll take it.” She laughed suddenly. “You put up with my PMS and I’ll put up with the occasional vampy crankiness.”
“Deal.” He brushed a kiss across her forehead. “This must be – “ Something flickered at the edge of his vision. “A – “
“I – it – “ Angel turned his head, but there was nothing there. “A– it’s a – “ Another flicker of movement caught his attention.
“Is this some kind of code?” She looked puzzled. “’Cos I’m not getting it.”
“No.” He shook his head. “A phase.”
“Everybody goes through moods. I suppose you’re not any different.” She frowned at him. “What are you looking at?”
“I thought I saw something.”
Buffy rolled off his lap, instantly at Full Slayer Alert. “I don’t see anything.”
“It was just at the edge of my vision.” Angel stood up and looked around the small apartment. “A flicker.”
“Maybe it’s because you’re tired?” Rubbing a hand on his bare back, Buffy watched as he turned his head one way and then the other. “I wonder if sleeping pills would help?”
“Before I was the Slayer – or before I knew I was the Slayer anyway – I started having these dreams.” She shuddered at the memory. “Nightmares, you know? And so they gave me sleeping pills. Knocked me so far out I didn’t have any dreams.”
“I don’t know if that would work for me.” Angel jerked his head around again. It seemed as if something was dancing just out of his range of vision. “Drugs – some work like they do on humans – some – “
“Might be worth a shot.” She grinned. “No pun.”
“What?” Angel spun around.
“I said no pun.” Buffy pouted. “It wasn’t that bad.”
“Buffy – Buffy – did you hear that?” He grabbed her arm. “Tell me you heard that!”
“I didn’t hear anything.” She listened as hard as she could, but there was no sound except her own breathing. “Angel?”
“Filthy, murdering beast!”
The voice was louder now, not the faint whisper that it had been. It was full of hate and rage. The flickers of movement were coming more often, faint shapes moving around him. “Am I asleep?” What if this was all still a nightmare?
Before Buffy could answer, he grabbed her arms again. Angel turned her and pointed across the room. “Angel, what – “
“Do you see him? Do you?”
“I don’t see anything.”
“There’s a man there!” He insisted. “His throat’s torn out! Do you see him?”
“No.” She took his face in her hands and forced him to look at her. “Angel, I don’t see anything. There’s nothing there. Nothing.”
“But – “ He looked again. The man was gone. “He’s – he’s not there now.”
“He’s not real.”
“No, he’s not.” Closing his eyes, he took a deep, shaky breath in an attempt to calm himself. “He’s not real. He’s not real.”
“Monster! You killed my children!”
The woman’s voice was close, as if she were standing next to him. Angel opened his eyes and stepped back. Before him stood a naked woman, cuts and blood smeared over her body. “No – no!”
“I hope you burn in hell!” The ghost rushed at him, hands raised and fingers curled into claws. Angel jumped back and the ghost passed through him.
“Angel?” Buffy watched as Angel backed up until his back was pressed against a wall. His face had changed, and his fangs gleamed in the dim light. “Angel, has this ever happened before? Have you ever seen things before?”
“No – no – never – “ Inside his mind, the demon laughed at his panic. “I’m still asleep, aren’t I? I can’t wake up!”
“Calm down.” Cautiously, Buffy approached him. Angel reminded her of the dog her mother had accidentally hit with her car one day. The dog had snapped at her mother when she had tried to pick it up, too crazed with pain to realize she only wanted to help. Right now, Angel reminded her of that wounded animal, and his fangs were much, much sharper. “Angel, you’re awake. We’re going to have to go see Giles, okay?”
“Buffy, I can see them!” Angel covered his ears. “I can hear them!”
“I know.” She laid a hand on his arm. “I want you to ignore them and get dressed. Can you do that for me?”
“Y – yes, I think so.” He nodded.
Buffy pulled on her shoes and socks while Angel dressed. She resisted the temptation to watch, even when she heard him snarl and growl a time or two at whatever he was seeing.
They traveled through the sewers to the school, coming up through the basement. Angel was nervous, shaking his head and jumping at things she couldn’t see or hear.
Giles, Willow, and Xander were waiting for them in the library. Buffy had called them from Angel’s apartment while he dressed and explained the situation as best she could. They were already neck deep in books, except for Xander, who was sorting through the junk food piled on the table.
“Buffy, Angel.” Giles looked up as they came in.
“Hey, Giles.” Buffy guided Angel to a chair and made him sit. “He’s seeing them pretty constantly now. We’ve got to figure out what’s going on.”
“We will, Buffy.” Her Watcher assured her. “Angel, can you tell me about these manifestations?”
“They’re ghosts.” Angel hunched down in the chair, keeping his face away from them.
“Ghosts?” He looked thoughtful. “As in – “
“Victims. As in victims.” Angel snapped at him. “Is it really that hard to figure out?”
That explained Angel’s agitation. Angelus had been vicious, even for a vampire; the number of victims could well be staggering. “Buffy tells me you can hear them as well?”
“Are they saying anything that – “ Giles stopped as Angel lifted his head up and glared at him. The ridged forehead and amber eyes were unnerving.
“Besides ‘murderer’? ‘Killer’?” The vampire snarled. “’Burn in hell’? Anything besides that, you mean?”
“I’m sorry, Angel.” He turned back to the book he’d been looking through before Buffy and Angel had arrived. “If you can think of anything that would help, please tell us.”
“Nothing.” He turned away. “They’re angry and cursing. They try to attack me, but they can’t touch me.”
“Attack you?” Buffy looked alarmed. “You didn’t tell me that.”
“They can’t touch me.” He repeated, touching the hand she had resting on his shoulder. “The crazy thing is, the ghosts aren’t bothering Angelus. He’s taunting them – only, I don’t think they can hear him.”
“Hear him? Hear Angelus?” Giles put down his book. “You can hear him?”
“Yes.” Angel looked up, saw everyone staring at him, and looked away. “The demon didn’t leave just because I got my soul back.” He said defensively.
“I didn’t realize that – well – “ Giles looked flustered. “That he was able to speak and – can he see as well? Can he see what you see?”
“Can we not talk about this now?” Buffy glared at her Watcher. “Let’s just figure this out and you can play quiz the souled vampire later.”
“For now – “ Buffy stopped midword. “Did anyone else hear that?”
“You heard it?” Angel clutched at her hand. “I’m not crazy?”
“No – I mean yes – “ She shook her head. “Yes, I heard something, and no, you’re not crazy.”
“You came into a holy place, you foul beast!”
Buffy jumped. “Okay, definitely heard that.”
“I’m sorry.” Shame and guilt made him duck his head farther down. It had been bad enough before, but now that Buffy could hear his victims, Angel felt even more ashamed of himself.
“Buffy, you can hear these ghosts now?” Giles looked worried. Being a Slayer, she was more in tune with the spiritual world than the others. “Can you see them?”
“No.” She grimaced. “But they’re not a very nice bunch.”
“Why should they be?” Xander asked around a mouthful of Ho-Ho. “He killed them. They should make nice?”
“Xander!” Willow hissed. “Shut up!”
“What? Oh, I’m sorry, I forgot!” He smacked his forehead. “We’re all supposed to pretend Angel isn’t a mass murderer.”
“Xander, that was completely uncalled for.” Giles said sternly. “Angel is not guilty of Angelus’ crimes.”
“If you don’t want to help, Xander, then go home.” Buffy told him.
“I didn’t say I wouldn’t help.” He bit another Ho-Ho in half. “Just thought I’d state the obvious.”
“Something you’re very good at, by the way.” She said sweetly. Picking up a book, Buffy settled in the chair next to Angel’s. After a few minutes of aimlessly paging through the book, she snapped it shut. The ghosts were loud and obnoxious, and she had no clue what she was looking for anyway.
Beside her, Angel shifted back and forth from his human face to vamp face, moving restlessly in his chair. He too had paged through a book before throwing it down with enough force to make Giles wince.
Laying an arm around his shoulders, she pulled Angel close and rested her forehead against his. “We’ll figure it out, Angel. You’ll be okay.”
Her eyes were gray with concern and worry, and his heart ached that he was the cause. “I’m sorry.”
“Shh…” She laid her fingers across his lips. “Don’t say – oh – oh my…”
“What?” He lifted his head to see her staring over his shoulder.
“There’s a person…” She pointed.
Turning, he saw a woman in a torn and blood stained dress. Her face was twisted in rage as she cursed him. Her invisible fists passed through his head. “You can see her?”
“Uh huh…” Buffy’s eyes were wide.
“Vicious, evil creature…”
Xander suddenly let out a yelp. “Hey! What was that for?”
“You’re not funny, Xander. So shut up.” Willow kicked him under the table again.
“I didn’t say anything!” He rubbed his shin.
“I heard you as well, Xander.” Giles looked up.
“Honest!” Xander shook his head and spread his hands out in a gesture of innocence. “Never said a word!”
“Oh dear.” Setting down his book, Giles looked around the library. “It appears that Angel’s ghosts are gaining in corporeality. Buffy is able to see and hear them – “
“And now we can hear them.” Willow’s hands shook on the keyboard. “So – “
“So you shouldn’t have kicked me.” Xander rubbed his shin again.
“Perhaps we’re going about this all wrong.” Getting up, Giles went to the file cabinet in the book cage and pulled out a pair of fat books. “We’ve been looking for ghosts and manifestations – what if that’s not what we’re dealing with?”
“Hate to bring reality into the picture, Giles.” Buffy pointed at a ghostly woman. “But ghosts and manifestations are what we have.”
“Yes, yes!” He said impatiently. “But these aren’t merely ghosts haunting a place or a person. There are ways to empower a ghost to allow it to seek its vengeance.”
“Oh, a spell!” Willow said excitedly. “Of course! Ghosts can’t just start appearing like – like – like that!” She let out a shriek as she watched a ghostly man appear beside Angel.
“Ignore them.” Giles swallowed hard and resolutely turned away from a young girl with a gaping hole in her chest. “Willow, search for any spells on phantasmal empowerment and cross reference it with vengeance.”
“Someone sicced these things on Angel?” Buffy growled. “All I want to know is who?”
“Pick someone.” Angel laughed bitterly. “It’s not like it’s a short list.”
“For now, let’s focus on the spells.” Giles handed the second book to Xander. “We’ll work on who did this later.”
The group worked with a new sense of urgency. Willow clutched Xander’s hand with one hand while she typed with the other, chanting under her breath that there were no ghosts, no ghosts, no ghosts. Giles kept his head bowed, one hand shielding his eyes from the parade of ghosts. Xander practically had his nose in the book he was reading through, while he clutched Willow’s hand with equal desperation.
Buffy pulled Angel’s head down onto her shoulder, stroking his face and hair, and murmuring softly in his ear. She kept her own eyes closed, not wanting to see the hideous specters, and she laid her cheek against his cool skin for what comfort she could give him.
Angel was calmer, not just from Buffy's soothing, but also from the certainty that he wasn’t losing his mind. He hated for Buffy and the others to see this gruesome gallery of his victims, but it was better than the alternative.
Angelus snarled and snapped as the restraints tightened back down on him. He had been closer to the surface than he had been in decades, and he wasn’t happy to be bound down again. He'd almost had his hands on the petite, virginal Slayer and he might never get another chance.
“There are several spells to empower ghosts.” Giles pulled off his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose. After two hours of searching, they weren’t any farther along than they had been earlier in finding the source of Angel’s torment. “Most require the spell caster be proficient in the black arts.”
“So amateurs need not apply?” Willow pouted.
“Is it my imagination or do the groovy ghoulies look a little more solid than they did?” Xander asked. “Not so much with the see through view?”
“As the spell progresses – “ Giles put his glasses back on and peered at one of the ghosts. It did appear to be almost solid. “The ghosts will – “
Angel jerked his head up. “What – no – please no – “
“Liam? What is this strange place?”
Turning, Angel fell from his chair, landing on his knees before the ghost. “Kathy?” Inside him, the demon stopped his taunting and laughing.
The little girl was in an old fashioned dress almost like the one Buffy had worn for Halloween. Her hair fell in long, dark ringlets over her shoulders, and she appeared to be perhaps ten years old, cheeks still baby fat plump, but with strong cheekbones and full lips showing a hint of the beautiful woman she would become.
Buffy shuddered as she realized this child would never become that woman. Angelus had murdered her.
“Oh my God! You killed children?” Xander blurted out into the sudden silence.
“Shut up, Xander.” Buffy knelt next to Angel. He was sobbing and reaching out, his hands passing through the little girl.
“Am I lost?” The little girl asked. She turned sad brown eyes to Buffy.
“Oh my God… Angel, is this – “
“Kathy.” He gave up trying to touch her and buried his face in his hands. “My sister.”
“You killed your sister?” Xander yelped as Willow kicked him.
“Liam, why did you hurt me?”
“I didn’t, Kathy. I swear I didn’t.” Angel shook his head. “You know I love you.”
“I thought you were an angel.” She said reproachfully. “But you hurt me.”
“I – it wasn’t – “ He couldn’t look at her. Inside, Angelus told him to tell her that he’d been gentle with her. Angel shook his head. The demon growled and ordered him to tell her. “No! I won’t tell her that!”
While Giles, Willow, and Xander watched as Angel argued with himself, Buffy knew that he was actually arguing with Angelus. He’d never spoken aloud to the demon that she knew of, but she knew Angel talked to and argued with Angelus almost constantly. She shuddered again, imagining the horrible demony voice. How can he live with that voice in his head?
“Okay – okay – “ Angel lifted his head; he’d obviously given into the demon’s argument. “Kathy, he did it as gently as he could. He tried to make it – quick.”
“You didn’t do it?” Kathy frowned. “But I saw you.”
“No, there’s – there’s a demon inside of me. He took my body when I died.”
“But you’re still in your body.” She reached out to touch him, her pale fingers passing through his face. “Mama and I washed you and dressed you before Da nailed the lid on your box.”
“I wasn’t, sweet, not then.” Angel touched his chest. “A gypsy cursed me – the demon – put my soul back so that – that – “
“So that the demon couldn’t hurt anyone else.” Buffy laid a hand on his shoulder. She knew Angel didn’t want to tell his sister about how he suffered with guilt for Angelus’ deeds.
“Were you in heaven, Liam?”
“I don’t remember.” He reached out again to touch her. His fingers slid through her as they had before, but now there was a slight resistance as if she were almost there. “Were you in heaven?”
“Oh, yes, and it’s very nice!” She smiled and nodded, making the fat curls bounce on her shoulders. “Mama was there, and Grandda and Whiskey, too!”
“Whiskey?” Buffy felt her mouth drop open. “There’s whiskey in heaven?”
“Heaven’s supposed to be a fun place.” Xander grinned. “You know what they say, if there’s a rock and roll heaven, you know they got a hell of a band.”
The big brown eyes turned to Buffy again. “Whiskey was my kitten. Liam brought her home to me.”
“You killed the cat?” Xander asked. “Jeez, is nothing sacred, Dead Boy?”
“No!” Angel glared at him. “A horse stepped on her!”
“Liam, is she – “ Kathy pointed at Buffy. “One of those loose women Da says you like?”
“Hey!” Buffy protested.
“No, sweet, Buffy is a lady.” Angel couldn’t hold back a smile. “Ladies dress differently now.”
“What happened to all your fine hair?” Kathy said sadly. “I don’t like it here.”
“I’m sorry – “ Angel reached for her as she faded away. “Kathy!” He fell forward and lay prone on the hardwood floor.
Another ghost appeared. “You mangy cur! I’ll kill you!” He stomped on Angel, seeming not to notice that his feet passed through Angel with no effect.
“Angel.” Buffy pulled him up. “Let’s go take a walk. Get a change of scenery.”
“We’ll keep researching.” Giles said gently. “We will find a way to help, Angel.”
They walked through the dark hallways, ignoring the taunting and screaming ghosts who seemed to increase in number until the halls were as full as if school were in session. Buffy led him to the pool; the room was lit with blue green light reflected from the water.
She sat down on one of the benches, patting the spot next to her. “Your sister is pretty.”
“Yes. She is – was.” Angel sat down and rubbed his eyes. They ached from the lack of sleep. “I loved her. She never judged me, Buffy. Never looked down on me. Never expected anything more from me than just for me to love her.”
“She loved you.” She smiled. “Just because.”
“She did.” He leaned against her side and laid his head on her shoulder. “Even though I was a layabout.”
“A layabout. I drank and caroused all night. Every night. I gambled and – “ He nipped at her shoulder. “And sought the comforts of loose women.”
“You scoundrel.” She grinned impishly and then frowned. “Am I a loose woman?”
“No.” Last night would have been a lot more interesting if you were. “Angelus did take Kathy as gently as he could. The feelings – my feelings were still strong in him then. He held her close, and she never knew what was coming – unlike my father.”
“You hurt him?”
“Yes.” He closed his eyes again as a woman with her throat ripped open lunged at him. He felt Buffy stiffen; whether from the ghost’s useless attack or his words, he didn’t know. “I hadn’t honed my skills at torturing and tormenting people yet.”
“Oh… ‘nuff said.”
“I wondered though – after I killed him – I felt good. Not just good because – but good. Like I’d finally proved to him that I wasn’t worthless.”
“And you wonder what?” Buffy stuck her tongue out at one particularly hateful ghost who was trying to hit Angel.
“Darla said that he had won. That I’d never best him because he was dead.”
“I knew I didn’t like her.”
“It made me crazy, Buffy.” He searched for the words to explain. ”What we are forms the demon – and my insecurity and frustration fueled Angelus’ hatred of people.”
“And so you wonder… what if she hadn’t said it?” She chewed her lip. “Maybe you’d have been a regular vampire instead of – “
“Worthless! You’re worthless as I knew you’d be!”
Angel jumped. Buffy looked up to see a ghost towering over them. He was dressed in old fashioned clothing. She stood up. “Let me guess, this is dear old Dad?”
Standing up as well, Angel nodded and backed away.
“Parading about with loose women!” Angel’s father flung a hand out to point at Buffy.
“Hey!” She protested. “I am not a slut!”
“I always knew you’d come to no good! That you’d shame me – but to consort with demons! To become a monster!”
Angel stopped and stood his ground as the ghost raised a hand to strike him. He was 240 years old, not some stripling boy. “You can’t hurt me anymore, Da.”
“Worthless get!” The ghost swung his fist into Angel’s face.
The blow knocked him back, and Angel stumbled to his knees. He touched a hand to his lips and found blood there. “You hit me.”
“Get up.” Buffy pulled him to his feet. “We better tell Giles.”
“Come back here!” Angel’s father grabbed his arm and swung him around. “Don’t you walk away from me!”
“Sorry, pop.” Buffy shoved him back, and pulled Angel out the door and into the hallway. “Is it the clothes? Too tight?”
“You look fine.” He jumped as a ghostly hand tugged at his hair. “I think we need to hurry.”
Picking up the pace, they ran to the library, bursting through the doors ahead of several ghosts. “Giles!” Buffy ran to him. “They can touch him!”
“I was afraid of that.” He picked up the book he was reading. “I think I’ve found what we need. But we’ll have to go to my apartment, some of the things I need are there.”
There was a growl from Angel, and Buffy turned to see him struggling with several ghosts. “Leave him alone!” She pushed a woman in a long gown away from him.
Snarling, Angel pushed and shoved the ghosts away. They seemed to feel no pain, shrugging off his blows and coming back to grab and hit him. Unfortunately, he was able to feel, and he reeled back as fingernails raked his face and fists pounded his back.
The others rushed to help him, hitting and shoving the now solid ghosts. The ghosts retaliated, striking out at them, as they tried to get to Angel.
“Now you’ll suffer as I did!” Hatred twisted the face of one ghost as he raised a wooden stake over his head. “You’ll serve your time in hell, monster!”
“Angel!” Buffy tackled the ghost, knocking the stake out of its hand. “Angel, run! Head for Giles’!”
Shaking off the clinging specters, Angel bolted out of the library. The ghosts swirled in confusion for a moment before following him, the stake wielder in the lead.
“Let’s go!” Buffy said impatiently. “He can’t outrun them forever!”
In the parking lot, they piled into Giles’ battered Citroen and raced out at top speed. Several blocks from the school, the Watcher spotted Angel and headed for him.
“Get in!” Buffy yelled as the car slowed. She opened her car door, and Angel slid in next to her. “Hit it, Giles!”
“Elbow room!” Giles frantically steered the car away from the curb.
“Sorry.” She lifted up so Angel could sit in the passenger seat and then climbed up on his lap. “And not one word about seatbelts.”
“Willow, when we arrive, get the box of herbs from my desk.” Giles held the gas pedal to the floorboard. “Angel, I want you to go in and be on or close to the sofa. Xander, under the sink is a jug of sea salt. Get it and pour a circle around the sofa – make sure – absolutely sure – that there are no breaks in the line!”
“Aye, aye – aye!” Xander grabbed at the edge of his seat as the Gilesmobile rounded a corner at a greater speed than he’d realized the little car was capable of.
“We’ll cast a protection spell.” Giles told Buffy. “Keep the ghosts away from Angel while we try to figure out who’s behind this and stop them.”
“Only if stop means breaking bones.” Buffy kissed a bruise on Angel’s cheek.
Giles drove his car up the driveway and onto the grass in front of his apartment. They jumped out and ran inside, barely ahead of the screaming and grabbing ghosts.
“Angel, on the sofa!” Giles ordered as he ran for the bookshelf. “Xander, the salt! Now!”
“Looking!” Xander called from the kitchen. “Seeing! Getting!”
Angel and Buffy fought standing back to back, kicking and punching the ghosts back until the sheer numbers began to overwhelm them.
“Giles! Hurry!” Buffy staggered as Angel fell into her.
“Get inside the circle!” He leafed frantically through a book. “Willow – now!”
Willow sorted through the herbs, selecting the ones Giles would need for the spell, tossing them onto the desk within easy reach. “Ready!”
Finishing the thick salt circle, Xander set the jar down and picked up a staff propped against the wall. “Back!” He pushed one of the ghosts pummeling Angel off of him. “Leave Dead Boy alone!”
There were too many clawing and pounding at him, and Angel collapsed under the frenzy. Curling into a tight ball, he covered his head with his arms, protecting his face and eyes as best he could. He could hear Buffy panting and grunting as she fought on above him, hear Giles chanting in a firm and steady voice, but above it all was the gibbering and ranting of the ghosts – his victims – and Angelus’ taunting.
Clawed fingers were digging into his scalp, fists striking his back, feet kicking his ribs. There was a loud snap, and the acidic tang of released magic burnt his nose and made him dizzy.
“Angel!” Buffy pushed a ghost through the red barrier that now surrounded them. “Angel!”
The weight lessened, and Angel pushed himself to his knees. “Get off!” Inside of him, Angelus snarled and roared in rage.
She helped pull bodies off of him, forcing them outside the protective sphere. She stepped back, the sofa hitting her legs, as Angel lunged to his feet with a savage roar.
Grabbing ghosts, he began flinging them outside the barrier. “I said – get – off!” Snatching one of the ghosts, he snarled, baring his fangs. “You were a waste of space when I killed you – and you’re a waste now!” The ghost sailed through the magical barrier with a shriek.
They were alone within the sphere, and Buffy fell back on the sofa with a sigh. Angel was laughing as he paced along the confines of the circle. Outside, the ghosts hammered at the ruby barrier in their way.
“Angel, come here.” She patted the sofa. “Sit down and rest.”
“Buffy.” His head swung around and his game face slid away. “Buffy, Buffy, Buffy.”
“Yes, yes, and yes.” She frowned up at him as he stalked to the sofa to stand over her. “Do you feel okay?”
“I don’t know.” He grabbed her arms and pulled her to her feet. “You tell me.” His mouth came down hard on hers, his hands molding her body to his as he kissed her.
Buffy winced as strong fingers dug into her jaw, forcing her mouth open so his cool tongue could plunge in. Pushing at his chest, she twisted her head to one side. “Angel – “
“So, how do I feel?” He panted in her ear.
“Like a dirty old man!”
“Are they making out in there?” Xander squinted, trying to see through the murky red. “I think they’re making out in there.”
“I seriously doubt that, Xander.” Giles motioned for Xander and Willow to move into the kitchen. So far the ghosts were ignoring them, but there was always the possibility that they could turn their frustrations to new targets.
“They’re down on the couch.” Xander said indignantly. “There’s major smoochies going on in there!”
“Xander!” Willow tugged at his sleeve. “Angel’s exhausted, he’s probably just going to take a nap.”
“Buffy, baby…” Angel nuzzled along her throat, grinding his cock against her mound and running his hands over her body. “Baby, you feel so good… smell so sweet… I could just… eat you!”
What the? “Angel, slow down.” Struggling had only seemed to excite him, and he’d pushed her down on the sofa to lie on top of her. Buffy decided to change tactics before she became item number one on the dinner menu – or worse. “Angel, please. Kissing is good, but you’re hurting my lips.”
“Sorry, baby. I didn’t mean to hurt you.” Angel kissed and lapped at her mouth. One hand stroked her hair, cradling her head, while the other squeezed and kneaded a firm breast. “Well – actually I did. But if you wanna play nice…”
“Oh, I do! I do!” Angel was acting strange and what he said to her at his apartment came back. If Angelus was taking advantage of Angel’s exhaustion and anger, it might be best to play along with him until he calmed down.
Angel moaned into her mouth as her warm tongue teased and played with his. Her hands rubbed up and down his back in a steady, soothing motion. “Umm… nice… my own Slayer fuck toy… just what I always wanted…”
Ooookay, not going there! “Slow, Angel, let’s take it slow.” A triumphant smile crossed her lips as a soft purr tickled her breasts and belly. His mouth moved lazily across her cheek and along her throat, nipping and kissing a cool path. “Feels so good, Angel.”
“You like that?” The chocolate eyes were heavy lidded, and he blinked sleepily at her. A slow, sensuous smile curled Angel’s lips. “You like me biting you, baby?”
“Bite me…” Rolling head to one side, Buffy, pulled his face to her throat. There was a gentle whisper of fangs over her skin, and she shivered, wondering if she’d made a fatal mistake. Then Angel sagged against her, and one last breath tickled her. Stupid, Buffy! What if he’d bitten you and then fell asleep with his fangs in your neck? Thank you, God. I promise to do all my Math homework when I get home!
The mystical magical shield was keeping out most of the sound from Angel’s tormentors, the quiet a relief after hours of ghostly gibbering, and Buffy shifted around until she was comfortable under Angel’s weight. Cradling his head on her shoulder, she drifted off to sleep.
“Giles, have you noticed the angry guy?”
Looking up from his book, Giles smiled faintly. “Willow, they’re all angry.”
“Well, yeah and, you know, I can’t blame them, but that one – “ She pointed. “He’s like the worst.”
The ghost Willow singled out did indeed seem to be angrier and more driven than the others. Some had appeared to tire of trying to get through the protective wards and had faded away, while others milled about aimlessly and only occasionally tested the barrier. Only a few were continuing to howl and mindlessly throw themselves against it.
“Mindlessly…” Giles muttered. “He does seem quite purposeful in his movements.”
“He’s the one that had the stake at the library.” She said. “And he’s got one now.”
“Yes – is that a chair leg?” He frowned. “He’s broken my desk chair. That was an antique!”
“So, he’s da man?” Xander shut the refrigerator door. “And by the way – you have no food.”
“There’s plenty of food, Xander.” Giles arched an eyebrow. “It simply requires cooking.”
“Cooking?” He shrugged. “No comprendo cooking.”
“Xander’s mom is the queen of take out.” Willow told Giles as she studied the one particular ghost. “You know, all the others come and go. Like at Disneyland, you know, when all the characters go by? Mickey and Minnie and Goofy – only not so much fun. I don’t recognize any of the others. Just him.”
“Which really says a lot for Angel’s kill tally.” Xander said as he opened up a box of cereal.
Willow glared at him. “He’s also the most violent.”
“Indeed. Notice how he’s walking around the circle?” Giles pointed out. “Almost as if he’s studying it for weaknesses.”
“Too bad we can’t make him talk. Tie him to a chair.” Xander scooped out a piece of cereal from the box and bit into it.
“Xander, you’ve got to stop watching TV.” Willow rolled her eyes. “Your brain is melting.”
“No, wait.” Giles turned to another section in the book he was reading through. “We can trap him. I’m not sure we can get him to talk, however.”
“Leave that to me. And see there, Ms. TV Cop?” Xander made a face. “And what the heck is this stuff? Box ‘o Straw?”
“Weetabix. They’re very good, actually.” Giles read through the spell to familiarize himself with it. “Not like the sugar coated cardboard bits Americans seem to enjoy so much.”
“As an American, I resent that.” Xander paused. “I think. I’m pretty sure.”
“Shh!” Willow elbowed him as Giles began to recite the spell.
“By my voice, I bind thee!
By my body, I bind thee!
By my spirit, I bind thee!
By my will, I bind thee!”
Giles tossed a handful of thistles and thorns in the ghost’s path as it circled the barrier.
“Thou art now bound to this place!”
There was a bright flash and crack. Light bulbs blew out in the living room and kitchen, smoke curling from the sockets.
“You are so not getting your deposit back.” Willow brushed glass out of her hair.
“Ah, no big.” Xander shrugged. “I can fix it.”
“First, let’s question our angry friend.” Giles put the spell book down. “Later we’ll discuss your carpentry skills.”
The ghost was tugging at his legs, trying to move, but they were stuck to the floor.
“Okay, Casper, who put you up to this?” Xander crossed his arms over his chest. “Spill it!”
“You can’t harm me.” The ghost sneered. “I’m already dead!”
“Yes, and you can spend eternity standing here.” He smirked. “And in a really tacky suit, too. Who dressed you? Your mother?”
“This is a – “ The ghost looked down at his clothing. “Never mind my garments! You can’t hold me here!”
“Oh yeah?” Willow grinned. “Then why are you stuck to the floor?”
“I’ll – get – free – “ He struggled to pull free.
“Not anytime soon, actually.” Giles leaned back against the counter. “You’ll be a great hit at parties, I would think.”
The ghost tugged frantically at the magical bonds. “Help me! Come help me!” The other ghosts in the room ignored him, some fading away while others continued to beat at the sphere protecting Angel and Buffy. “Do you want your vengeance? Help me!”
“Not a lot of love for you there, fella. Maybe you should complain to the union?” Xander laughed. “So, who put you up to this?”
“What kind of people are you? To befriend a monster?”
“Good people. And for the record – Dead Boy’s not my friend.” He told the ghost.
“And Angel’s not a monster.” Willow frowned at Xander. “And stop calling him Dead Boy, you know he hates that.”
“Just tell us who empowered you so that you could harm Angel, and we’ll let you go.” Pulling his glasses off, Giles cleaned them slowly and carefully. “Otherwise, I’m calling everyone I know to come see the ghost in my living room.”
“Oh! We could sell tickets!” Willow said excitedly. “That would pay for the damage!”
“And we could get some of those funky disco lights!” Xander stuck a Travolta pose.
The ghost sagged down to his knees. “All I wanted was peace. To rest.”
“I understand.” Giles put his glasses back on. “And someone offered you this peace?”
“I was walking the Ghost Roads – endlessly – with no rest. There’s nothing there – nothing!” The ghost wailed.
Willow felt sorry for him. She glanced over to where she could barely make out Buffy and Angel lying on the sofa inside the protective sphere. Almost. “Spill your guts, or I sell you to the circus.”
“Wow, Will.” There was pure admiration in Xander’s voice. “Very Cagney of you.”
“Well, if he’s walking on the Ghost Roads, he must not have been a nice person.” She said firmly. “Maybe we can arrange to send him to hell?”
“Ah, yes!” Giles snapped his fingers. “I have just the spell for that, actually!”
“Wait! No!” The ghost pleaded. “He contacted me – told me he could get me off the ghost roads!”
“Who?” Willow asked.
“Ethan – his name is Ethan!”
“Rayne?” Giles ground his teeth together in frustration. Will I never be free of that man? “Why?”
“I don’t know.” The tone of voice suggested the ghost didn’t care. “He gave me the power to come across and to pull in the spirits of Angelus’ other victims.”
“Even those that were in heaven?” The image of Angel crying at his sister’s feet came back to Willow. “Didn’t you – how cruel – wrong – and can we send him to hell now?”
“Where is he?” Giles asked. “Where is he hiding? He has to be nearby for the spell to work.”
“I don’t know.” Shaking his head, the ghost pointed at where Angel lay on the sofa. “I was drawn to Angelus. I’ve no idea where he is.”
“Maybe he’s at the costume shop?” Xander suggested.
“I don’t think Ethan would go back there again. Even he’s not that foolish.” Picking up his spell book, Giles held it up in the ghost’s face. “You tell me where he is or I’ll send you to hell and the devil himself will gnaw on your soul!”
“I don’t know!” The ghost insisted. “I only know where Angelus is!”
They turned to see the ghost of Angel’s sister standing behind them. “Kathy, isn’t it?” Giles asked gently.
“I know where he is.” She pointed to the ghost. “He went there, and we had to follow.”
“Can you tell us where he is?” The resemblance to Angel was amazing, and Xander found himself wishing Kathy were older. And alive.
“It’s a dirty place with funny rooms, and so many doors.” Kathy looked puzzled. “And lamps with no flame.”
“Lots of rooms?” There were only a few places that Giles knew of in Sunnydale that would fit that description. “Do these doors have numbers on them?”
“Yes. His has a 47 on it. And a big pinecone painted on it.” She smiled up at him. “He’s not very nice. He tried to hurt Liam.”
“We’ll stop him.” Giles assured her.
“The Pinecone Hotel is right outside Sunnydale. Mom calls it the ‘no-tell motel’.” Xander chuckled at Willow’s blank look. “A lot of married people go there for fun time.”
“Oh, well, that sounds nice and romantic.” She smiled. “Like a honeymoon.”
“Except that they’re there with other people’s spouses.” He loved dropping the punch line on Willow; her cheeks got all pink and she did the cute stammering thing.
“Oh.” Her green eyes went wide suddenly. “Oh, oh – okay, so – oh – “
Studying the trapped ghost, Giles frowned. “We’ll have to leave him here; we can’t risk warning Ethan.”
“No! You can’t!” The ghost struggled against the magic that held him. “He told me if I helped kill Angelus I’d be free!” The ghost buried his face in hands. “He promised…”
“We’ll have to go ask Ethan to break the spell.”
“Ask?” Xander raised his eyebrows. “So, what? We’re just going to knock on the door and say pretty please?”
There was a hint of Ripper in Giles’ smile. “Something like that.”
Ethan jumped up from bed as his hotel door exploded inward. Angel stood in the doorway, game face on and growling from low in his belly. “Angel, nice of you to drop by. You can’t come in.” He smirked.
Angel stepped casually over the threshold. “Public building, moron.”
Picking up a large plastic bottle from the bedside table, Ethan smiled “Holy water, vampire.” He squeezed the sides, spraying the contents at Angel.
Angel threw his arms up to protect his face and rolled to one side, desperately trying to avoid the stream of holy water that scalded him.
Leaping over Angel, Buffy slapped the bottle from Ethan’s hands and punched him in the mouth. “Right cross, and you’re still a moron.”
“And I have nothing cool to say.” Xander threw his hand up. “Why is that?”
“You have to be first through the door to get the cool lines.” Willow said wisely. “I prefer the cowardly position in line myself. No cool lines but much – Oh my God, Angel!”
Angel was rolling on the floor, snarling and growling in pain as the smoke rolled off his burning skin.
Grabbing the ice bucket sitting on the table, Willow dumped it over him. A portion of the smoke stopped but Angel was still howling in pain. She took hold of his arm. “Angel! Get up! Get up!”
Xander took Angel’s other arm and hauled him to his feet. Buffy abandoned her stand over Ethan to brush Willow aside. “Will, turn the shower on!”
Running into the small bathroom, Willow pulled the dingy shower curtain to one side and turned the shower on full blast. Xander and Buffy helped Angel in, and he sat down under the soothing water.
Ethan shook his head and tried to sit up. A booted foot on his chest made him look up. “Ripper, old man, good to see you.”
“I’ve asked you not to call me that.” Giles put more of his weight onto Ethan’s chest. “The spell, how do you break it?”
“Spell? Why, I’m through with spells. Whatever are you talking about?”
“Somehow you’re less than convincing.” He pressed down until the other man was gasping for air. “Now, let’s try this again, shall we? How do we break the spell?”
“Piss off, Ripper – “ Ethan cried out as Giles delivered a hard kick to his ribs.
“Haven’t we been here before, Ethan?” He kicked him again. “Just Halloween, wasn’t it? I daresay I’ll have to make more of an impression this time.”
“No – no – “ Ethan gasped out. “I’ll tell you.”
“In the drawer – “ He pointed at the beside table. “The stone – smash it.”
Turning to look at the table, Giles saw Ethan trying to get up. He caught him by the hair and punched him in the face. “Do wait while I look, will you, old boy?”
In the drawer was a black stone, pulsing with an eerie light. Gingerly lifting it out, Giles dropped it onto the floor. Pulling a sheet from the rumpled bed, he threw it over the stone and, taking the discarded ice bucket, he smashed it. Black smoke rolled out through the material.
Leaning on Buffy, Angel came back into the main room. The burns were already healing, but he was weakened both from the lack of sleep and the earlier attacks. He grinned when he saw Ethan on the floor, groaning in pain. Serves him right. He blinked as a ghostly figure appeared next to Ethan.
“You’re a horrid man.” Kathy said.
“Kathy.” Angel walked over to her. She held her arms up to him, but she was once again an insubstantial ghost. He felt a stab of pain that he hadn’t had the chance to touch her and hold her.
“I’m going back to heaven now, Liam. Will you come, too?”
“No, sweet. I have things to do here.” He smiled slightly. “I have to – make amends first.”
“I’ll be there. I’ll wait for you.” She smiled at him as she faded away.
“Wow.” Willow said quietly.
“Wow, indeed.” Giles agreed. “She should have faded when the spell ended.”
“She always tried to help me. Got between me and my father. She’d help me sneak in after I’d been out all night.” A sad smile crossed Angel’s lips. “Maybe she thought she could sneak me into heaven.”
Turning back to Ethan, Giles looked down at the other man. “Why this attack on Angel?”
“It wasn’t an attack on him, Ripper.” Ethan laughed.
“What would you call it?” Buffy put her hands on her hips.
“You set ghosts on him. Empowered them so they could hurt him.” Giles shook his head. “And after he saved your life.”
“He saved your life.” Ethan sat up slowly. “As if your gang of moppets would save me.”
“He saved you, Ethan!” He felt nothing but disgust for this man he had once thought was his friend. “For God’s sake, why? Why do this?”
“I knew you’d jump in to protect him.”
“You – “ It made sense suddenly. “And get myself killed in the process?”
“We all have our dreams.”
“Yeah, well, my dream is me and a trio of blondes in bikinis on a tropical island.” Xander quipped. “Which I’m not likely to get either. Okay… that didn’t come out right and now I’m depressed.”
Angel grabbed Ethan by the throat, lifted him up from the floor and shook him. “Tell me why I shouldn’t add you to my victims?”
“You can’t, old boy – “ He croaked. “Your soul and all that.”
“Oh, Angel can still kill you, Ethan.” Giles said. “He’ll just feel guilty about it afterwards.”
“I dunno. I don’t think you’d be any great loss to society.” Angel looked at Buffy's Watcher. “Giles?”
“What?” He paused, as though confused. “Oh, I have to step outside for a breath of air. Willow?”
“Oh, air, yes, definitely. Xander?”
“I don’t need any – ow!” He yelped as Willow grabbed his ear. “Air – going now!”
“We’ll just be outside, Angel, take as long as you like.” Giles called as he walked through the busted doorway.
“So how come Angel doesn’t have the Irishy accent?” Xander asked as Willow led him outside.
Angel lowered Ethan down to eye level and let his true face morph into place. He smiled, baring the sharp ivory fangs. “You know, I’ve been so busy lately, I haven’t had time for a decent meal.”
“Buffy! You can’t let him turn me!” Ethan screamed as the golden eyes bored into his own.
“Oh, I don’t think he’s going to turn you.” Buffy said brightly. “No worries.”
“I can’t stand you as a human being, what makes you think I want you around forever?” Using a handful of Ethan’s hair, Angel pulled the man’s head back, baring his throat. “But you should make a nice snack.”
“Buffy! You’re the Slayer!” Ethan struggled in Angel’s grasp. “Slay him!”
“Let’s see… weasly bad guy or hunky boyfriend? Hmm… “ Buffy put a finger to her lips and screwed her face up as if thinking hard. “Sorry, Ethan, no contest. Besides, he’s hungry. It makes him cranky. And a cranky Angel isn’t any fun. I lo–like happy Angel.”
Lowering his head until his fangs touched Ethan’s throat, Angel snorted in disgust when the man screamed and fainted. Dropping the limp body to the floor, he wiped his mouth as his face changed back to his handsome human features. “I’d never be that hungry. I’d just snap his neck and find a rat to eat. They taste better.”
“Come on, let’s get you some dry clothes.” Buffy stood on tiptoe to kiss him. “And do something about those burns, poor baby.”
Lifting Ethan’s unconscious body off the floor, Angel carried him outside and tossed him into the trunk of Giles’ car before settling into the backseat with Buffy cuddled up next to him. “I don’t know about you.” He yawned. “But I could sleep for a week.”
“Hey, Bert, come check this out.”
“What is it?” Setting his donut down, Bert wiped off the crumbs, and went outside to where his partner stood on the front steps of the Sunnydale Police Department. “What the hell?”
“You got me.”
Ethan cursed them through his gag as the two cops dragged him inside. The ropes cut painfully into his ankles and wrists.
“Hey, look. There’s a note.” Bert pulled off the piece of paper pinned to Ethan’s shirt.
My name is Ethan Rayne. Please arrest me. I’m a bad man.
His partner took the note. “How come nobody ever delivers a blond in a bikini?”
“Just keep dreaming, Ernie.”
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