Author: Argante ((email@example.com))
Pairings: B/A ((Eventually)), C/C, W/T, X/S/F, Wes/Fred, Oz/Other, Other/Other.
Spoilers: Everything and nothing. I’m fiddling with the timelines on both shows, so pretty much anything can be used. I’m also adding things to the seasons that, obviously, weren’t in the shows. Hey, author’s prerogative.
Rated: R -- for the language, and also implied slash.
Disclaimer: If you recognise it… it ain’t mine. It’s Joss’s. All lyrics from Heather Nova.
Distribution: He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes. He who remains silent is a fool forever. In other words, ask and you shall receive.
tonight my life is moving fast
i sit and watch the demons pass
a world i know but never seen
a fear that ripped the colour from me
It was a quiet neighbourhood, consisting mainly of ancient, crumbling buildings and dirty, dank alleys. Every once in a while, tires would squeal a few streets away or a cat would knock over a garbage can lid, creating a clatter that sounded alien in the silence that fell with the night.
As soon as possible, the streets were emptied of all human life -- it was almost reminiscent of an old Western town, the kind in the black-and-white movies. This particular LA neighbourhood knew a lot about the things that went bump in the night, and they avoided the darkened streets at all costs. So at 2 am, the streets were deserted.
She was running as fast as her tired, weakening legs would let her, and her surroundings flew past in one long, coloured blur. She pushed her body harder, flying at an inhuman pace down the street. She pulled a garbage bin out behind her as she flashed by and let it roll across the street behind her, and was rewarded by a large crash as her pursuer stumbled over it.
Shivering at how close behind her he was, the brunette ran even faster, ducking into a grimy back alley at the very last minute. She fell straight into an easy battle stance in the shadows of the derelict apartment building, waiting. Her advanced senses picked up the heavy footsteps of her attacker as he approached, and at the just the right moment her tightly clenched fist flew straight out, efficiently clothes lining him. She was on him before he had the chance to regain his senses, swinging this way and that. One booted foot swung forward and made solid contact with the side of his head.
While he was still attempting to regain some semblance of awareness, she reached forward and took his green, horned head in her battle-scarred hands, swiftly pulling it to the opposite side. A loud crack resounded through the empty street, and the woman stumbled back, wiping the sweat from her brow. She turned to return down the street, only to run straight into a solid wall of muscle.
“Gah!” She backed up and fell into a fighting stance out of habit, looking up at the man in front of her. Her vision was clouded, but as she gazed up she met deep, dark pools of sadness, wisdom and guilt. They were familiar, those eyes, and her fatigued brain grasped a hold of that feeling and clung to it tightly -- even if they were the wrong colour.
“Alex?” she asked, trying to see through the haze around her. Her voice was tinged with hope and desperation, even to her own tired ears, and it was that sound that snapped her to attention. She blinked hard and shook her head, dispelling the illusion. “No. Not Alex, of course not Alex. It’s never Alex. Hasn’t been, never will be, probably couldn’t even remember…” she babbled, incoherent from both exhaustion and disillusionment.
She made her way around him and back towards the alley, stopping to lean heavily on the brick wall in an effort to regain her equilibrium. She managed to take several more steps on her trembling, unsteady legs before she collapsed, and the entire world went black.~*~
come to moon, floating like a fish
come to first star, who'd have thought it'd come to this
come to stranger, wants to know my name
come tomorrow, i still feel the same
“Angel, are you sure this is a good idea? I mean, we have absolutely no idea who – or what, for that matter – she is, or why she was being chased or anything. I mean, she could be dangerous. The only thing we have to go off is a ‘feeling’ that you know her from somewhere. Newsflash! You’re two and a half centuries old. You’ve met a LOT of people.”
“Cordy, our motto is ‘we help the hopeless’, right? We help. Her.”
“Okay, you’re the boss. It’s your call. I just hope you know what you’re doing. I gotta go, but I’ll be back later okay? And Angel?”
“Just be careful, ok?”
Her muscles felt like jelly and her head was killing her. The muffled conversation drifted in to her and drilled into her head with such force she could hardly make out the words, almost as if she had a major hangover. As she slowly emerged from sleep, she began to notice differences in her environment. She was lying in a large, soft bed, and sun was streaming in from the open windows. It was beautiful, a sensation she wasn’t really used to, considering how her apartment… Her apartment didn’t have windows! Or a bed, when she thought about it. Not really.
She sat bolt upright and flicked her eyes around the unfamiliar room, taking a few seconds to survey the room before propelling herself up from the bed. Her battered denim jacket was lying nearby, and she slid it on easily. All her stakes were there, and so she slipped her boots on quickly. They were laced quickly, her finger flying over the familiar loops and knots, and she was headed for the door seconds after awakening. The door opened soundlessly -- another thing her apartment lacked -- and she was heading down the corridor quickly, not looking anywhere but straight ahead.
“You going somewhere?” came a deep, velvety voice to her left. The voice was soft and rhythmic, and so very familiar that she almost broke down at the sound of it. She knew that voice. In another time and place, she’d known this man. Taking a deep breath and making sure to keep her glamour wrapped around her securely, she turned to face the man who’d rescued her last night.
“Ahh, yeh. Out, actually. As in, y’know, to my apartment. It was good of you and all, taking in a stranger. I’m sure it’s made you feel all warm and fuzzy inside to do someone less fortunate a good deed, but I don’t need your charity. Or your help.”
“Fair enough. I can see how it might look that way. The name’s Angel, by the way.” He thrust his hand towards her, but she just stared at it, crossing her own arms over her chest.
“Lauren,” she replied, still not accepting the proffered hand. Taking the hint, Angel withdrew his hand, but not his searching gaze. He didn’t recognise me, she thought, even when I gave him my name. She wasn’t quite sure if she was disappointed or relieved.
As Angel studied her, he noted objectively that she was actually quite pretty. He hadn’t had the chance to look at her the night before, but he did now. She had shoulder-length jet-black hair and deep auburn-brown eyes. Her skin was pale from lack of sunlight – something Angel knew a lot about – and she was rather short, not to mention skinny. She was so skinny, in fact, that Angel was reminded of Fred after they pulled her from her cave: bordering on emaciated. There were dark circles under her eyes, and she was limping slightly.
“Will you at least let me take a look at your leg before you go?” he asked. Lauren was hesitant, that much was evident, and Angel moved towards her slowly, keeping his movements predictable, careful not to touch her.
“Yeh, ok. Sure.”
He gestured to the stairs and she moved tentatively down them, carefully avoided the arm he offered. She shuffled into the lobby of the Hyperion and sat down, better enabling him to examine her injury. As he rolled the left leg of her jeans up, more and more cut and bruised skin was revealed to his gaze. She hissed in pain when he accidentally bumped a larger bruise, and he was immediately apologetic.
“It’s ok. I only got ‘em yesterday, so they probably won’t heal until tonight.”
Angel frowned. That wasn’t natural healing. In fact, he only knew of two other people who healed that quickly: Buffy and Faith.
Lauren gently straightened her leg, and Angel rolled it up past her knee. When her knee was fully visible, Angel sucked in an unneeded breath at the same time as Lauren gasped in pain. There was a patchwork of colours splashed across it, from purple to yellow to black. It was painful just to look at; he didn’t want to think about how much that must hurt.
“Fuck, that hurts like a bitch. Feels as bad as it looks, for once.” At Angel’s look, she continued to explain.
“It dislocates all the time. All I can do is knock it into place every time it pops out. Hurts like hell and looks even worse for a little while, but the swelling usually goes down with some ice and the bruises fade.”
“And you’ve never considered seeing a doctor about it?”
“Yeh, sure. I’ll just tell him that the reason my knee spends half its time five centimetres out of place is because I kick demon ass on a regular basis. I can see that going down real well. Besides, I could never afford the operation.”
Angel said nothing, rising from his crouch to retrieve the first aid kit behind the counter.
“Y’know, I’m perfectly capable of patching myself up.” Angel ignored her, pulling out a long bandage and binding her knee tightly in place.
“There. That should keep your kneecap in the right place for a while. Until then, I’d suggest that you rest. You’re more than welcome to stay here, if you want. We have plenty of space, and very little visitors – usually.” Lauren stood slowly and flashed him a sad but grateful smile.
“No thanks. I’m dieing to get home and collapse into my own… sofa. How far is the subway from here?” she asked, shifting her weight off of the most injured leg.
“Not far. About a block or so. But I’d be more than happy to drive you, if you’ll just wait until nightfall. Or one of my employees will when they return, which shouldn’t be long.”
“No, I really have inconvenienced you enough already. And like I said, I don’t need your help. I got this far on my own, I think I can manage a walk to the subway station, don’t you?” she mocked half-heartedly. When Angel maintained his stoic silence, her gaze flickered around the lobby with barely concealed nervousness.
“Alright. But at least take this,” he said, reaching into his jeans pocket and pulling out a business card.
“If you ever need anything, anything at all, don’t hesitate to call,” he said sincerely, looking her straight in the eyes.
“Uh-huh, yeh. Sure.”
Her reply sounded hollow, even to her, and Angel knew that he wasn’t going to get anywhere with the young woman in front of him. Not today anyway. Sighing, he closed his eyes for a second, blinking hard, and when he opened them again, Lauren was gone.