Chapter One - A Castle in Ohio
Author's Note: Like I said in the Prologue, I never saw most episodes ofAnge, so I have no idea what the Hyperion's layout is. Just go with it, okay? :) Chapter One – A Castle in Ohio
When she heard the door start to open, Cordelia hastily shoved her nail file in a drawer. “Ang—“ she started, before choking in appalled horror as the man stepped inside and she caught sight of his outfit.
Plaid pants. Polyester jacket that was striped orange and brown (as if polyester alone wasn’t bad enough), and that hair—well. Buffy might have had a bad dye job, and the Lord knew Angel had some sort of mousse fetish, but at least they knew how to use a comb. So much wrong, so much to comment on…. For possibly the first time in her life, Cordelia was speechless.
Eyes twinkling in amusement at her plight, the man took pity on her. “Good afternoon, my dear,” he said amiably. Cordelia thought he might be smiling, but who could tell under that beard? “I am Albus Dumbledore, and I wish to speak with Angel, if he is available.”
Cordelia blinked, then cleared her throat. “Just a moment.” She headed into Angel’s office, not even letting the door close completely before she started talking. “Angel, some really old guy is here to see you, and you would not
believe what he is wearing!”
Angel cringed. “Cordelia, the door… Never mind.” At least she didn’t say it to the man’s face; Angel decided to call that progress. “Did he tell you his name?”
Ignoring his first comment, Cordelia frowned in concentration. “Something really weird. Weirder than a white guy named Angel, even,” she added sweetly. “Uh, Al Bumbledore? Fumblemore?”
“Dumbledore,” Angel cut in before she could offer more guesses. “Is it really?” He’d known wizards lived longer than normal humans, but… damn. The man had to be older than Spike.
Not waiting for a reply, he pushed past Cordelia into the lobby, breaking into a smile at seeing someone he had not expected to meet again. “Albus!” He strode over and shook the man’s hand.
Albus beamed at him. “Angel, a pleasure to see you again.” His smile twisted slyly. “I’d say you haven’t changed a bit, but you actually look a fair sight better than when last we met.”
Angel winced. “Yeah, well, a few years ago I got a, uh, wake-up call, I guess you could say.”
“So I see, so I see,” Albus murmured, gazing around the hotel. “Angel Investigations… You’ve done well.” He fixed Angel with a gaze that, as always, seemed to pierce right through him. “You’re well on your way to redemption, my boy.”
“Excuse me!” Angel jumped at the sound of Cordelia’s voice; he’d forgotten she was there. “Who is this guy and why have you never taught him any fashion sense?”
Angel cast an apologetic look at Albus, but needn’t have bothered—Albus was already chuckling, clearly unoffended. “I’m afraid I’m not quite accustomed to this style of clothing,” he said, not mentioning that it wouldn’t make much difference if he was. “The styles where I am from are rather… different than here.”
Seeing Cordelia’s mouth open with another question, Angel put a hand on Albus’s shoulder and steered him toward the office. “We’re going in here now,” he exclaimed, hurrying them both inside. “If anyone calls, tell them I’m in a meeting.”
Cordelia scowled at the now-closed door. “And he calls me rude,” she huffed. “As if anyone important ever calls anyway…”
Feeling the unusual happiness fading to a more normal sense of brooding unease, Angel perched on the edge of his desk and waved Albus to a chair before speaking. “Any chance you’ve tracked me down after fifty years just to catch up?”
Albus shook his head, smiling sympathetically. He reached into a pocket on the inside of his suit coat and withdrew a photograph. “Do you know this man?”
Angel had forgotten how irritating it was when Albus answered questions with questions. With a single, sharp jerk of his hand, the vampire grabbed the photo and peered at it.
Wizarding photographs moved, he remembered, but the single person in the shot, lying in a hospital bed, was so still that the only discernable movement was the slight rise and fall of his chest. Angel’s brow furrowed as he catalogued the man’s injuries, starting with the bandaged leg, moving past the torso slathered with burn paste, finally reaching the face—and the hand clutching the picture dropped to his side as he turned to Albus in shock.
“What happened to Xander? What do you want with him?” Unbeknownst to him he started to growl.
“Oh, our mediwitch assures me he will be well soon enough.” Satisfied by Angel’s reaction, Albus placidly leaned back in his chair, steepling his fingers in front of his nose, and thought for a long moment before he continued. “Are you aware of the current situation in our world?”
“You had some sort of resurrected dark lord,” he said impatiently, “but I heard a kid offed him years ago.” Angel scowled and stood, towering over the seated wizard. “Damnit, Albus, what’s going on? How did Xander Harris, of all people, end up with you?”
Again, Albus ignored the question. “Yes, the dark lord Voldemort. He was killed just over two years ago, but recently, we’ve been experiencing trouble with some of his followers.” Studying his hands, he asked, “Were you aware that there is more to Alexander than is immediately obvious?”
Confusion temporarily overshadowing his worry, Angel slowly sat. “He… Demons like him; he attracts them by the truckload.” Angelus liked him, but Angel kept that to himself. “Other than that, I don’t know. He never had any talent for magic, he left that to Willow.”
“Ah,” Albus gently interrupted. “Does he, in fact, have no talent, or did he simply never have the opportunity to try?”
“What the hell does it matter?” Angel snapped, running a hand through his hair. The thought that one of the Scoobies had some extraordinary trait that had escaped his notice was a bit embarrassing. Finally, the shock began to fade, and he said, “Wait. Why are you asking me, not him? I’m guessing he’s still unconscious, or you’d have all the information you need.” If they could cull it from the babble, that was. Angel shook his head. “Why are you here, Dumbledore? Why did you think I
would know him? What aren’t you telling me?”
Albus’s voice was deceptively mild as he replied. “He calls your name in his sleep, Angel.”
Angel stared. “He. My
--? Wait, what-- You heard—“ He paused, took a deep breath, and tried again. “I’m not the only person named Angel in the world,” he pointed out. “And, you know, there are actual
angels…” He cleared his throat at Albus’s look. “Some people think there are!”
An emotion flitted across Albus’s face so quickly Angel couldn’t quite place it. “And yet, you know the boy after all, so I appear to have made a valid choice.” He paused. “Would you like to see him? I imagine he will be rather alarmed to find himself among strangers when he wakes.”
Angel had the strong feeling he was being manipulated, but nodded his agreement anyway. “The Powers will understand if I leave for a couple days.”
At the flash of triumph in the other man’s eyes, Angel had to wonder if he was making the right decision.
Holy powerful headache, Batman, what the fuck happened to me?
Xander carefully opened his eye and nearly screamed to find a strange woman bent over his torso, waving a stick at him. “Uh… The hell?” he rasped, his hands automatically covering his crotch when her stick pointed in a dangerous area. He tried to swallow, but his throat was too dry. “I mean, um, hi?”
“Hush,” the woman scolded, her stick fluttering about, emitting an occasional flash of light that she greeted with a pleased look. “Don’t try to speak until Dobby comes with your water.” She bustled away.
Dobby? What was a Dobby? Xander blinked, finally looking around the room. Where the hell was
he? Stone walls, candle lit sconces—was he in a freaking castle
? Did they have castles in Ohio?
Xander was about to start demanding some answers, dry throat be damned, when he heard an odd popping noise and a little troll appeared at his bedside. “Holy shit!” Xander screamed, scrambling away and falling off the other side of the bed.
“Are you another troll? You’re a lot littler than Olaf, not to say that’s bad or anything, I’ve got a pal who’s short and she can kick my ass any day of the week, you know? But you don’t really look like Olaf, even without the hammer, so maybe you’re something else, and—oh crap, are you crying?”
The troll was sobbing, great big tears flooding out of his huge eyes, his ears drooped sadly. Xander finally shut up and could hear the little thing stammering apologies. “Dobby is sorry! Dobby is not meaning to frighten Mr. Stranger, sir! Dobby just wanted to give Mr. Stranger his water like Poppy asked so his throat wouldn’t hurt.” The troll—apparently this
was a Dobby—streaked over to the wall and started slamming his head into it.
“is punishing himself” --thud
-- “for scaring—“
Xander managed to regain the power of speech. “Hey! Um, Dobby! Stop that!” Xander was awkwardly levering himself back into the bed when he suddenly floated in. “Great Peter Pan’s ghost, am I flying?” he gasped.
“No,” Dobby replied, finally ceasing his banging. He stared at Xander, unblinking. “Poppy is putting you in bed.”
“Didn’t I tell you to be silent until you drank your water?” the lady from before chided, waving her stick—the stick, Xander realized, that had just sent him flying into bed. She shoved a glass at him, and Xander drank, more out of self-defense than anything else. “You’ve given us quite a fright, young man. You were a mess when Albus brought you in.”
“Who’s Albus?” Xander automatically asked. “Hey, and who are you? And also, am I still in Ohio, because I don’t remember seeing any castles there, but if this is the inside of a normal house you must have one hell of an interior decorator.”
Blinking her bemusement, Poppy opened her mouth to reply when the door to the hospital wing burst open, and the oldest-looking dude Xander had ever seen walked in. “I see I’ve arrived just in time,” he said jovially. “How are you feeling, Mr. Harris?”
“How do you know my name?” The longer he was awake, the more Xander became aware of the many aches and pains coursing through his body. He was cold, tired, confused, and hurting, and he really wanted to go home. As if summoned by his thoughts, the door opened again, and a familiar face appeared. Sweet dancing Jehovah, someone he knew
“Angel,” he gasped, traitorous tears of relief prickling his eye. He swung himself out of bed. What he was intending to do, he didn’t know—hug Deadboy, take that woman’s stick, run away screaming—but it didn’t really matter, since the moment he tried to take a step his legs cramped painfully and gave out.
Squinching his face in preparation for a painful landing, he felt himself falling, but instead of hitting the floor, he found himself cradled in someone’s arms. And just like that, his world calmed. Safe, he was safe, and everything would be fine. His fear and adrenaline vanished so quickly he felt dizzy.
Knowing who held him, Xander looked up, into Angel’s eyes, seeing the same look he got in his dreams. “I’m sorry, I wasn’t ready,” he whispered tearfully, forcing his recalcitrant arm muscles to reach up and touch the vampire’s cheek. “I tried to run, but you weren’t there.” His voice sounded lost, bewildered. “Why weren’t you there? You’re always there.”
Angel looked confused, which wasn’t right. In his dreams he always looked sure, confident. Xander tried to tell him so, but all that emerged was a babble of nonsense syllables as he slid smoothly back into an utterly exhausted sleep.