Disclaimer: I own absolutely nothing, the characters belong to Joss Whedon and, I’m guessing Andrew Lloyd Webber? Meh.
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By this time the other three had noticed and rushed over. Angel kept his focus on the Phantom. Holding him for a moment longer, he released him and took a step back. “I’m sorry but I had to know if I was right.”
The Phantom sagged and covered his masked face with his hands while Cordy and Gunn glanced from him to Angel and back again.
Wesley was gaping in shock and awe. “Good Lord…she was telling the truth…”
The Phantom’s head shot up and his dark-eyed gaze speared Wesley. “She? You know her? Where is she?” He made to step forward but forced himself not to at a warning growl from Angel. His body radiated tension and he didn’t look like he’d stay still for long.
“We don’t know, exactly. We…sorta lost her.” Cordy spoke up and almost regretted it when he turned his attention to her. Her thoughts regarding him before had evaporated. Now he scared her. And in true Cordelia fashion she turned her fear to anger. “And why do you want to know anyway? The way we heard it, you two weren’t together anymore. Typical guy. Break a girl’s heart and then come back and expect an apology to make everything all better. Well, listen up: a re-bar through the torso might heal but there’s still gonna be scars!”
Gunn coughed and pulled Cordelia off to the side, muttering, “Project much…”
The Phantom stiffened. “That is none of your concern. All you need to know is that I have to find her. I have been searching this godforsaken city for over a month and this is where her scent was most recent. It was mere chance that the proprietor has talents I could use.”
“And I’ll tell you the same thing I told her, O.G: stick with Angel and the troops. They’ll lead you to your little lovebird. And if I’m not mistaken, Angel’s almost figured it out.”
Angel was deep in thought, frowning. So was Wesley, but in confusion. “O.G…?”
“Opera Ghost”, Lorne winked.
A flash of something passed over Angel’s face. “You said you’d been here a month?” O.G nodded. “You found some leads? Got violent when you didn’t get what you wanted? Maybe even killed?” The Phantom looked suspicious and hesitated before slowly nodding.
Angel looked pissed. “I know who Christine’s with. His name’s…
“…Tarquin, please. I’ll be good, I won’t run away, I’m sorry! Please…please stop!”
The tears rolling down Christine’s cheeks stung the raw holy water burns on the left side of her face but she couldn’t stop them. Her wrists cut deeper into the manacles hanging from the ceiling which held her arms painfully above her as he nonchalantly splashed her torso again. Her agonised scream filled the lavishly decorated room and brought a smile to the demon’s face.
Tarquin held the jug over her again and she struggled to try and arch her body away from it. He tipped it up and she yelped in anticipation of the pain, but only a single drop fell, sizzling as it landed between her breasts. She hissed.
He tilted the jug so he could peer into it. “My, we are getting through it quickly, aren’t we? Time to refill again, I think. Until I’m absolutely positive I’ll be able to let you out again without a replay of last night.” He turned his back on her while he placed the jug on a nearby table and picked up something else. “But we can’t have you getting too comfortable while we’re waiting for Nelson to bring up the next batch.” When he turned back she saw he was holding a long knife. He stepped toward her. And the screaming started again.
It was still going strong when the Angel squad burst into the building armed to the teeth and flew into motion. Unfortunately the room had been soundproofed and the would-be rescuers heard nothing.
Both Angel and the Phantom had vamped out and were cutting a swath through the demons swarming from all parts of the building towards them. Both were armed with swords- a broadsword and a rapier, respectively. Gunn was making slower but still impressive progress with his customised axe, while Cordelia and Wesley, each with an array of blades, were double-teaming anything that came their way.
O.G shook off a slice to his arm but found it much harder to ignore the spear rammed into his stomach. He roared with pain, slashed wildly at the offending demon and wrenched at the spear. Blood poured out in a rush before his enhanced healing kicked in and slowed the flow. Rather than weakening him it seemed only to fuel his rage and he resumed fighting with greater intensity, surprising the next couple of demons who fell at his blade.
With the demons’ main focus on this crazed killing machine, Angel was able to create a path to the stairway at the far end of the room and, after beheading the last creature blocking his way, tore up the stairs two at a time.
There were fewer demons on the upper floor, most of them having surged downstairs to face the intruders, and even with so many rooms to choose from he knew exactly where to go: the one with the guards outside.
The two guards barely had a chance to move before Angel dealt with one, then threw the other one through the closed door where he kept going until he hit the wall and passed out. For such scary looking demons they didn’t seem to have much stamina.
It was then that Angel took in Tarquin standing over a burnt and bloody Christine with a jug in his hand. He didn’t have to guess what was in it. He moved just before Tarquin chucked the contents over him and avoided the worst of it, but he still growled as he felt droplets eating away at his flesh.
“What the hell are you doing here? I’m paying you to find out who’s taking out my guys, not storm my place!” Tarquin was livid, but Angel was beyond that and the demon was going to find that out very soon.
“You did and I did so the job’s over. This is about what’s right.”
A rumbling growl poured from Tarquin’s lips and his face seemed to ripple. Then, like a veil falling, his human countenance was replaced with a purple-skinned nightmare which charged Angel. Who dodged. And slashed. And then it was over.
The manacles holding Christine- held with magic- opened with his death and she dropped face-first on to the stained carpet, not moving. Concerned, Angel crouched beside her and stretched out a hand which was caught in a tight grip. He could see one eye open, regarding him with a mixture of emotion.
“You said you found him…my…is he still…alive?”
Relief washed over her. Her eye closed and she smiled beatifically. “Good.”
“And he’s downstairs.”
“What?!” Her eyes shot open and she started to push herself up, wincing as she did so. But she plowed on, given strength at the thought of seeing her beloved after so long.
Angel helped her pull a robe from the ensuite bathroom over her tattered clothing and then gave her a hand making it down the hallway to the stairs. She refused to be carried down, holding the robe tightly closed as she slowly descended and biting her lip to stop herself crying out more than once. But she was determined and nothing would stop her, waving Angel away when he tried to help.
The lower floor was littered with body parts and the walls had been repainted Horny Demon Blood Blue. The last two remaining demons were being dealt with as Angel and Chris reached the last step and she took the opportunity to watch her Phantom without his knowledge as he smoothly decapitated his foe. His cloak billowed in a theatrical manner as he span and she allowed herself a small smile. He was living theatre.
With the dispatching of the final enemies- the other nearly sliced in half by a nifty swing from Gunn’s axe- they turned their attention to the stairs and O.G froze. There was a long moment where no one spoke and Christine smiled hesitantly. The Phantom’s jaw tightened and, to the surprise of all, he turned on his heel and raced out of the building. Christine’s face fell.
It took a second for Angel to realise why the Phantom had fled. Christine’s bathrobe was so tight it concealed the remains of her clothing too completely and her hair fell over the left side of her face, obscuring the damage. She looked like she’d been caught in a very compromising situation and hadn’t had time to dress. She didn’t seemed to realize this and, regardless of her full-body pain, followed after him with surprising speed, finding only a half-open man hole to the sewer which she immediately began to climb down.
Christine’s feet splashed the thin layer of water that lined the bottom of the dark sewer tunnel, desperately trying to catch up to her beloved. It struck her as ironic that they had spent much time in tunnels like this in the old days, only back then it was him chasing after her. Pity that she couldn’t really enjoy that thought.
She raced around the next corner and hit a solid chest she knew well. Her Phantom. She would have sighed in relief if not for the harsh stare he was giving her. It was puzzling. Why reason did her have to be angry with her? He was the one who drove them apart with his unreasonable jealousy. She’d done nothing but love him and he was angry?! Of all the nerve…“What’s wrong with you?”
“You dare to ask me this? When you’re dallying with another?”
“You’re the one who left me, remember?” A frown creased her forehead. “Hang on, dallying? You think…me and Tarquin?” She began laughing hysterically and his jaw clenched.
He turned sharply on his heel to storm off but she reined herself in and grabbed him, forcing him to face her. “I was a captive, not a courtesan.”
She moved one hand to caress his cheek, tilting her head as she studied his features, comparing them to the memory she’d held at the forefront of her mind since they’d parted ways. He froze and said nothing.
With her free hand she untied the robe, then brushed her hair from her face to reveal the burns along the left side- the same side as his own disfigurement. “You see? Now we’re a matching pair.” Her smile as she stared at him was fond but tinged with sadness.
“Believe me, my darling, there’s been no one else. There never will be.” Her finger traced his mouth. “Your unfounded suspicions drove us apart the first time, don’t let it happen again. I love you, Eric. My Phantom.” She leaned towards him, rising up on her tip toes so that the front of her body pressed against the length of his and her mouth hovered millimetres from his. “I’ve missed you,” she purred, as she closed the distance.
Back at what used to be Tarquin’s place, the gang, after staring at the entrance in wonder, wearily made their way outside to the car.
“I’m going to need a pay rise. At this rate I’ll be lucky if I have any clothes left by the end of the week. You know nothing gets icky demon blood out,” Cordelia moaned as she made half-hearted effort to wipe her shirt clean, then gave up and collapsed in the front passenger seat, leaving the boys to clamber into the back.
“Do you think everything will turn out okay for them?” A sudden change of subject from Cordelia who, from her tone, was getting into Christine and the Phantom’s story as much as Wesley.
Angel’s sharp hearing caught the sound of moaning rising from the open sewer entrance before he started the car and pulled away. “Oh, I think they’ll be alright.”