Love Me When I’m Gone ~ Chapter 11
Booth pulled the car into the parking lot at the back of the hotel. The hotel looked the same as it had on his earlier visits, and yet somehow very different.
He had an odd sense of déjà vu. This parking lot had been for employees and for trucks to use when making deliveries. It had also been used for discreet exits and entrances by people who didn’t want to be seen using the front entrance.
Prostitutes, lovers, criminals, and private dicks. Hollywood stars and starlets and nearly stars and used to be stars and wannabe stars. Managers, studio spies, disaster control. They’d all slid in and out of the back doors, taking their secrets with them.
He walked carefully around the edges of the lot, studying everything. Without the usual tools of his trade, Booth visualized a grid laid out over the parking lot and began to methodically search each section.
Clouds blotted out the sun, bringing sudden darkness. Thunder rumbled, and again the sense of having been here before washed over him.
Around him, he could see hazy, faded figures. Dozens of monstrous figures ran and fought around him. Monsters he could recognize, and almost name, but the memories slipped away.
Shaking away the visions, Booth narrowed his search to the most damaged area of the hotel. Logically, if anyone had died, this was where it would have happened.
There were faint markings left where a body had been found, and he focused his attention there.
Again, he seemed to see ghostly images. A black man, bald, but young – Booth recognized him from the Angel Inc. photos – bleeding from a mortal wound, fighting with a modified axe until the loss of blood weakened him and he collapsed. A pang of loss hit him, and he reached for a memory that slipped away.
Booth turned to the next section of the grid and paused. He knew instinctively that there was nothing else to be found there and moved on. Passing through the faded fighters, he found himself at the collapsed corner of the hotel.
The stones here were black, some appearing to have melted into each other under the intense heat of the explosion.
No… not an explosion. The scorch marks radiated out in a different type of pattern than an explosion would have made. He was no expert on burn patterns, but he’d seen enough explosions to be a well-educated amateur.
An explosion would have burned from the bottom up, flames and debris thrown out from the flashpoint. These looked more like they’d come down from another source toward the building – almost like a flamethrower. A very large flamethrower.
Booth noted the distance from the gas meter to the center of the damage. The meter was nothing more than pieces of pipe sticking up out of the charred asphalt. But… he did a quick calculation – it was too far away to have caused the damage. A more reasonable scenario was that the meter had gone up after the initial explosion.
Granted, it was possible that a gas pipe along the wall had gone up, but why plant explosives away from the meter? It was possible that someone could have thrown an incendiary device that had exploded and triggered a chain reaction, but again, the scorch patterns weren’t right. Shaking his head, Booth refused to accept the explanation that this was an accident.
He moved away from the damaged area, using the distance to gain a new perspective of the scene. The scorch marks reached as high as the fourth floor, flaring from a point at the base of the building.
He frowned. The burn pattern appeared to center not on the building, but on the ground in front of it. The focal point was actually several feet away from the building. Had something in the parking lot been the target, rather than the hotel itself?
Backing against the fence on the far side of the parking lot, Booth tried to envision the size and type of flamethrower that could do this much damage. He’d seen tank-mounted flamethrowers do an incredible amount of damage to buildings – and people – but this was way beyond what even they could do. As far as he knew, no manmade flamethrower was capable of this.
“You’d need a freaking dragon or something to do this much damage.” He muttered to himself.
As if he’d called it into being, a shadowy shape swooped down from the sky. Booth fell back against the fence, mouth agape, as the dragon hovered over the parking lot. Demonic figures brushed past him, rushing under its wings toward the battle.
Rain beat down on the figures moving around him. Next to the hotel, a few feet from the dead man – his friend? – was a strong figure holding a sword. His leather coat swirled around him as he fought the hoard of monsters.
Raindrops slid down Booth’s face and into his eyes as he watched the battle. The man looked up, meeting his gaze for a moment. Booth saw his own face on the man – recognized Angel – before it shifted to the fangs and ridged forehead he knew were those of a vampire. Amber eyes glittered through the pouring rain.
The man – the vampire – lifted his sword and roared a challenge to the dragon.
Air rushed past him, suddenly pulling him against the fence and knocking monsters over like they were leaves in the winter wind, as the dragon sucked in the killing breath. The dragon’s maw opened and flame –
Booth blinked. It was sunny again. No rain, no dragon, no ghostly battling man or monsters. “Wait! What happened?
“Damn it!” He jogged quickly to the place he’d seen the other man – himself – Angel. At the center of the explosion.
Dropping to his knees, Booth searched for something, anything, out of the ordinary. Lumps in the asphalt caught his attention.
The asphalt of the parking lot was warped and pitted, looking eerily like a lava flow. The theory given by the fire department was that the explosion had burned so hot that it melted the asphalt as well as the stone of the building.
In his experience, outside of a war zone, it wasn’t likely that a gas explosion would burn this hot in one spot and one spot only. Not naturally.
One of the lumps sticking up from the asphalt vaguely resembled a handle. Or, considering what he’d just seen or imagined, the hilt of a sword.
The lump of lava was hard, resisting his efforts to break it free. Nursing a torn fingernail, Booth looked around for something to hit it with.
The loose blocks were too big and he might damage what he was trying to salvage. The rental car should have a jack handle or a lug wrench in the trunk that he could use.
He hurried to it, opening the trunk and lifting up the panel to expose the tiny spare tire and jack. “Bingo!”
Gripping the jack handle in a proper major league manner, he swung it at the odd shaped lump. The metal bar bounced, rattling his teeth, but he persisted, hitting it from the other side with equal force.
His arms were tingling and his shoulders ached before he saw cracks appear in the lava. Carefully, he worked his way around it, chipping at it like the shell of a hardboiled egg.
The lava began to chip and fall away, chunks falling free to expose metal beneath. Booth grinned and pumped a fist into the air. It was the hilt of a sword. Silver, solid, and real. “I’m not crazy after all!”
He brushed the dirt and ash away, exposing tiny, ornate Celtic runes in the metal. He knew without knowing why that the design was partly aesthetic, partly religious, and that it wouldn’t interfere with a swordsman’s grip.
“Now what?” The hilt was roughly eight to ten inches above the rest of the asphalt. If the rest of the sword was buried below, there was no way – short of a jackhammer – he was going to get it out.
Booth crouched on his haunches to rest for a minute, his mind working on the problem. He could get a jackhammer, but that’d draw more attention than he wanted. As it was, he was lucky the police hadn’t shown up to ask what the fuck he was doing.
Then again… he stood up and looked around. There didn’t seem to be any neighbors, and the sun was once again blanketed with clouds, giving him some cover under the stunted remains of the trees.
He bent and pushed the sword hilt back and forth. There was some give – maybe he’d be able to work it loose and pull it out. It was worth a shot, and it was the only real option he had. Booth brushed more of the ash away from the hilt and gripped it with both hands.
There was a spark, a pop of something like static electricity, and he yelped. “Ow! Damn!” He sucked on his fingertips. “Okay… a little static, no big deal, nothing spooky.”
Carefully, he touched his fingertips to the hilt once again. Nothing happened, and he grinned. “No big.” He began working the sword hilt back and forth and, as it began to move more freely, from side to side and in a rough circular motion.
When he felt that it was fairly loosened from its lava grave, he wrapped both hands firmly around the hilt, braced his legs, and pulled. It didn’t move, and he spread his feet farther apart, crouching slightly to get his thigh muscles into the pull. “One, two, heave – “
Abruptly, Booth found himself falling backward. His ass hit the pavement hard enough to force a cry of pain from him and his hands instinctively flew back to catch himself. The sword clattered to the ground at his side.
“Damn!” He hissed in a breath as he examined the heels of his hands. They were scraped, and stung painfully, but they weren’t bleeding.
Picking up the sword hilt, he glared at it. Instead of the four foot blade he’d been expecting, there was only a hands-length piece of steel left. As he examined it, Booth noticed the steel wasn’t broken off – it appeared to have been melted. “Well… hot enough to melt pavement, guess that means it’s hot enough for metal, too.”
Getting to his feet, he peered into the hole left by the sword’s removal. Maybe part of the blade was in there.
He carefully put his hand inside, feeling through the fine ash, sifting for any pieces that might have survived. His fingers brushed something hard and metallic, and he dug deeper into the dirt and ash in an effort to get a hold of it.
He finally managed to curl his fingers around it and pull. It resisted for a moment, then tugged free. “Aha!”
He held it up. “Aha? Ah… what the hell?”
Booth carefully examined his find. It was a long, twisted clump of metal that must have melted in the fire and reformed as it cooled. At one time it might have been a necklace or a pendant, but now it was just a melted string of silver with a lump in the middle.
“Not what I was expecting.” He slid the piece through his fingers, the rough metal snagging on his skin. One section was larger and bulky, as if it had been some type of decoration. “What kind of necklace would a sword carrying vampire wear? Maybe a little lucky charm? Or his secret undead club decoder ring?”
Chuckling, Booth lifted it up to look more closely at it. Whatever design that had existed was melted away. The center held only faint lines.
“What is that?” He peered at the incomplete design. “A heart? Was he a lovesick vampire? God, what a stereotype.” He ran his fingers over the remnants of the design.
A shock jolted his body, and he cried out in pain. His legs quivered and buckled, dropping him to his knees. Collapsing, he struck his head painfully on the asphalt, his body jerking and twitching as if he were being electrocuted.
Images began to flood his mind. Images Booth knew were memories.
Unhappy son of an Irish merchant brawling and drinking his life away following Darla into an alley murdered dying in agonyecstasy
Reborn and crawling from his grave Kathy his father feeding and killing sex and violence tormenting Drusilla turning Drusilla resenting the newly turned William teaching William the art of violence the Gypsy girl Gypsies pain rebirth confusion and guilt tormenting his soul spurned by Darla struggling with Angelus for control fleeing his sire fleeing his past for the New World mixing with and being cast out of humanity again and again Barry Manilow concerts the man in the donut shop alleys and rats a black and white cat Whistler Buffy
Sunnydale the Master kissing Buffy revealing himself to Buffy killing Darla to save Buffy
Buffy seeing his true face kissing him hot tongue around his fangs loving the monster Buffy
Buffy loving her needing her trying to stay away unable to leave her making love to her death freedom anger and vengeance Angelus lovehatelove for Buffy
Buffy Acathla Angelus lovehatelove fighting bleeding Acathla chained imprisoned
Rebirth confusion “close your eyes” Hell endless pain and torment freedom confusion Buffy
Sanity returning slowly Buffy guiding him normal girl normal life leaving Sunnydale leaving Buffy
Heartache loneliness Doyle Cordy helping the helpless Wolfram and Hart one day with Buffy
Doyle’s sacrifice Wesley’s return Gunn Darla’s resurrection and death the promise of Shanshu Lorne Pylean sunshine Fred and the Angel Beast Buffy’s death Buffy reborn
Connor’s birth Wesley’s betrayal Connor’s hate trapped underwater Cordy’s rebirth the Beast from beneath Cordy’s betrayal Jasmine Skip’s betrayal Cordy’s loss the deal with the devil to save Connor the medallion warning Buffy
Buffy kisses and cookie dough promises Buffy
Wolfram and Hart from the inside Spike Gunn’s betrayal Cordy’s warning Cordy’s loss Fred’s loss Illyria signing away his redemption bringing down the senior partners Wesley’s loss
Standing in the rain and facing an army of demons “I want to slay the dragon” Gunn dropping from his wounds Illyria vanishing into a portal and abandoning them to their fate Spike dissolving into a spray of dust turned to mud in the rain roaring a challenge to the dragon fire the world was on fire pain Buffy’s name on his lips her face in his mind Buffy
Ashes death darkness
Light white room voices saying he’d done well and was being rewarded confusion being told prophecy and destiny couldn’t be signed away being Seeley Booth.
He opened his eyes, let the images solidify into memories and settle into place.
Getting up, Angel went to find Buffy.
The hotel was pricier than he would have expected from her, but the new Council could afford it. Finding Buffy had been surprisingly easy. One phone call, and her credit card records were his for the taking. It was against FBI rules, but he didn’t care. He wasn’t Booth – not anymore.
Angel hesitated outside her door. That Buffy still loved him and missed him he had no doubt, he’d seen it in her face at the gun show – but how would he explain what had happened to him? She’d already written him off, probably thinking Booth was some distant descendant of his. Or worse, an imposter.
A smile curved his lips, and he raised a hand to knock on the door.
The door opened and Buffy looked up at him. “Ang – “
“Okay, I don’t know how you found me, but you need to forget it.” She frowned. It was bad enough the guy looked like Angel, now he was following in his stalking footsteps.” Following me home is a good way to get your ass kicked. Go away.”
He caught the door before it could shut in his face. “Buffy – no, it’s Angel. I am Angel.“
“I said, go away.” She pushed the door toward him.
The pressure on the door was more than he could handle, and Angel reached for the only weapon he had. “We ran through the rain. We were scared that Spike and Dru would be right behind us, and we thought we were going to die.” The door stopped moving. “I told you I loved you for the first time.”
Buffy was shaking. The chocolate eyes were locked on hers, begging her to believe in him. She knew those eyes, that look. “This can’t be – you can’t be real.” She whispered.
“We made love.” He reached out and wiped away the tear that trickled down her cheek. “We made love again, and we went to sleep in each other’s arms. And when you woke up, I was gone. Angelus was loose. We never made love again.”
He pulled her into his arms, lowering his lips to hers, putting everything he had into the kiss. Gentle and tender, with fierce passion and love, with the desperation they’d always had between them.
Buffy’s hands curled around his shoulders, and she held him close, tasting the new warmth and old taste of him. This was Angel.
“How?” She asked when they gasped for air.
“Shanshu.” He panted. “I didn’t know who I was until now.”
“I don’t know.” Angel moved her inside and shut the door behind them. “To protect me. There was some concern about me surviving to enjoy my reward.”
“What? How – “ She put a hand to her head, it was suddenly pounding. “I’m lost – “
She was confused, and he couldn’t blame her. This had happened to him and he had no idea why. How could he explain it to her? Angel led her to the couch and sat down, pulling her down beside him.
“I died, and then I was in this white – room I guess, someplace and there were voices saying I’d earned my reward and others saying that I’d be killed – they argued and then suddenly I was someone else. Only no memories. Well, memories that aren’t mine. I have memories of… Oh my God… “ His eyes widened. “My mother isn’t my mother.”
Buffy wiped at the tears on her face. “Why didn’t they let me know? All this time I thought you were dead and… maybe in Hell again.”
“Why – oh, because you didn’t know that I’d Shanshued?”
“And you didn’t, you know…” She looked at him, a question in the gray eyes. “Come for me.”
“I would have.” He stroked her face. “I did – I just did.”
“You did.” She smiled and sniffled. “Oh, God, my face. I’ll be right back.”
“You look fine.” He called after her as she left the room.
“I have raccoon eyes and a red nose.” She called over her shoulder.
Following her, Angel found himself in the bedroom. The lost day they had shared came back to him. The time they’d wasted on being adult and responsible. Only a short time, but in the end, they’d had so little that he’d resented the waste. “I always said if I had it to do over again…”
“What have you been – “Buffy stopped as she came out of the bathroom. Angel had unbuttoned his shirt and was pulling it off. “What are you doing?”
“I don’t know what’s going to happen, and I’m not wasting however much time we have.”
“I thought it wasn’t about the sex.” She kicked her shoes off.
“It wasn’t.” He grinned. “But we should be sure, right?”
“Wow.” The grin caught her off guard. When had she ever seen Angel grin like that? Like never? “We should be. Sure that is. Really sure.”
Angel put his gun on the bedside table, flashing his FBI ID at her when she looked startled. He winked. “I’m the fuzz.” Unbuckling his belt, he thought of something and hesitated. “I don’t have any condoms.”
“I’m on the shot.” Buffy tossed her bra on top of her discarded shirt. “Taking pills only works if you have a regular life. My life, still not so regular. Though no slaying.” She shook her head.
“No slaying?” That was hard to believe. He shucked his pants off and kicked off his shoes.
“Not unless they throw themselves at me. I am officially on strike. Except for a couple of upcoming prophecies which I’d avoid if I could, but you know, world ending and all of that. Plus, prophecies unavoidable.”
They met in the middle of the bed, pausing to look into each other’s eyes. “Not about the sex.” “Never.” Their mouths met.