Disclaimer: the characters in this story do not belong to me but are being used for amusement only and all rights remain with Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, the writers of the original episodes, and the TV and production companies responsible for the original television shows. BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER ©2002 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. ANGEL ©2001 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved. The ANGEL trademark is used without express permission from Fox. All Rights Reserved. The Buffy the Vampire Slayer trademark is used without express permission from Fox. Some dialogue is taken from the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 5 episode ‘Fool For Love’ written by Douglas Petrie.Chapter One
William sat on a bale of straw and tore up the sheets of paper bearing his poetry. He broke off from his self-appointed task when he realised that a young woman, curvaceous of figure and pretty of face, had entered the stable. He brushed at his eyes with his sleeve. It was not fitting that a woman should observe him crying in such unmanly a fashion.
“And I wonder,” the beautiful stranger addressed him, “what possible catastrophe came crashing down from heaven and brought this dashing stranger to tears?” Her accent was that of the labouring classes but her vocabulary and phrasing suggested an education. A perplexing incongruity.
“Nothing,” William insisted. “I wish to be alone.”
“Oh, I see you,” the woman told him. “A man surrounded by fools who cannot see his strength, his vision, his glory.”
This was a pleasing contrast to the abuse and mockery that he had suffered at the party, and the heartbreaking contempt from Cecily, and William couldn’t help but smile.
“That, and burning baby fish swimming all around your head,” the woman went on.
William’s smile vanished. The woman appeared to be suffering from some mental disorder. He rose from the straw bale and backed away. “That’s quite close enough,” he warned her. “I’ve heard tales of London pickpockets. You’ll not be getting my purse, I tell you.”
“Don’t need a purse,” she said with a smile. “Your wealth lies here,” she pointed to his heart, “and here.” Her finger lifted to indicate his head. “In the spirit and imagination. You walk in worlds the others can’t begin to imagine.”
William smiled despite himself. That was exactly his own perception. There was no fault with his poetry. How could there be when he had laboured so hard over every word? George, Algernon, even Cecily, were simply incapable of understanding. “Oh, yes,” he agreed.
The stranger came closer. An enigmatic smile on her lips seemed to hint at impossible delights. A finger toyed with the buttons of her bodice. William gulped. He had read of such things in an issue of ‘The Pearl’ that George had loaned to him but it had never occurred to him that he would ever have any opportunity to experience the pleasures of the flesh for himself. Not outside of wedlock, certainly, at least not with a beautiful woman. Desire warred with his natural shyness. “I mean no,” he said, as shyness won out. “I mean, Mother is expecting me.”
The woman reached out. Her fingers touched the neck of his shirt, unfastened the studs, and opened his collar to expose his throat. “I see what you want,” she murmured. “Something glowing and glistening. Something… effulgent.”
“Effulgent,” William echoed.
“Do you want it?” she asked.
William gulped again. This was no raddled harlot, no soiled dove, but a beautiful and even elegant woman. His bruised soul cried out for comfort. The thought of carnal pleasures was an irresistible temptation. “Oh, yes,” he admitted. He tentatively reached out and touched her in the – gulp – chest area. “Oh God, yes.”
Suddenly the woman was no longer beautiful. Her face changed, distorted, and became an ugly demonic mask. Fangs gleamed in her mouth behind her ruby lips. Terror filled William and he tried to pull back but she seized him in a grip of iron. Her fangs descended towards his neck, pierced his throat, and sent incandescent agony flowing through him. Yet there was an oddly erotic pleasure there too. His senses blurred. His vision dimmed. He felt himself grow weak.
The fangs were withdrawn. He found that his head had been pushed against her chest, and his lips were pressed against a wound. Blood flowed into his mouth. Some deep instinct compelled him to drink. Everything went black.- - - - -
William raised his head. He was lying on the ground and it was raining. How much time had passed? What had the strange woman done to him? He lifted a hand to his neck and pulled it away again. Had he dreamt the entire affair? There was no wound.
It was still dark. He could see little. He realised that he no longer wore his spectacles and groped around him but could not find them. The surface of the ground felt strange. No cobbles. A hard and very flat surface, but rougher than stone flags. Where was he? This was not the alleyway that had led to the stable in which he had met the beautiful stranger.
He clambered to his feet. What had happened? His very clothes felt strange. He looked down and felt his eyebrows shooting up in surprise. He wore a coat that he had never seen before. It seemed to be made of leather. Heavy boots were upon his feet. His body was clad in some dark garment, tight fitting but collarless. Was he wearing nothing over his union suit other than the unfamiliar coat? Had the woman stolen his clothing?
He looked around him and his mouth dropped open. The woman who stood nearby was stranger than the one who had attacked him by orders of magnitude. She wore a garment of some glossy material, perhaps leather, that clung to her form in most immodest fashion. Her legs were trousered rather than decently concealed by a long skirt. She had no bustle whatsoever. And her hair, unless it was a trick of the light, was blue!
The exotic creature opened her mouth and spoke. “You survived. That pleases me. I have lost too much already. I feared that you had also perished.”
“Also perished?” William echoed. He had no idea what she was talking about. Had someone died?
“Charles succumbed to his injuries,” the woman said. “I shall mourn him. The grief of Wesley’s passing fills me. To have more grief is almost beyond bearing. I am thankful that you were not slain, my pet.”
“Pet?” The woman appeared to know him, but why would she call him ‘pet’? He peered at her. She was far enough away that he would have been able to see her plainly if the light were better, even though he was without his spectacles, but the darkness and the rain was obscuring his vision. “Do I know you?”
“What are you on about, Spike?” A male voice spoke from out of the darkness. “Hey, we won. I can hardly believe it. Hundreds of them and we won.”
William turned towards the speaker. It was a tall man, with dark hair, who wore a coat not dissimilar to the one that William had found himself to be wearing. His shirt was dark, as was William’s, but it did have a collar. “I beg your pardon?” William addressed the stranger. “I do not believe that we have met. Has there been some conflict? Or a sporting event? No, if someone has died, it must indeed have been a conflict. A riot? I do not understand. Was I, perhaps, struck upon the head and deprived of my senses?”
The man raised his face towards the heavens and frowned into the driving rain. “This is not the time to act like an idiot, Spike. Let’s get out of here. I don’t think that Wolfram and Hart will be throwing anything else at us for a while but it would still be best to move. Out of this rain for a start. Come on, let’s go inside.”
“I do not understand,” William said. “I appreciate that taking shelter from the rain would be advisable, but I do not know where I am, nor what has taken place here.” He frowned. “Your accent is unusual. Are you a Colonial? An Australian, perhaps?”
“Quit playing stupid games, Spike,” the man growled. “I’m not in the mood.”
The blue-haired woman tilted her head to one side. “This is not Spike. I detect a heartbeat.”
William’s mouth gaped open. Her words were so incomprehensible that he was temporarily deprived of the power of speech.
“What the hell?” The man’s head lowered and he stared at William. “My God. You’re right. He’s alive. He got the Shanshu.”
“Your prophesied reward?” the woman enquired. “I believe that you are correct. His body temperature is within human parameters, taking into account the weather conditions. He is a living human and not a half-breed.”
“That’s not fair!” the man complained. “Yeah, I signed it away, but I never thought that Spike would get it. You took my Shanshu. Damn you!”
“I beg your pardon?” William managed to say. “I do not believe that I have any of your possessions, but I must confess that I do not recollect how I came to be wearing these garments. If I am indeed in possession of your shoes I should be only too pleased to return them.” He looked up and down the tall figure. “Yet surely any footwear of yours would be far too large for me. I think there must be some mistake.”
“What are you…?” The man started to speak with anger in his tone that faded away as his lofty brow began to furrow. “William? Is that you?”
“You know me, then? You have the advantage of me, I fear.”
“William? You don’t remember me?” The man clapped a hand to his forehead. “You must have been restored to the very instant of your death. What’s the last thing that you remember? Before you woke up here, that is.”
“My death?” William shook his head. “How can I have died?”
“Please, William, just answer the question.”
“Very well. I remember that I had suffered an unpleasant rebuff and left the Underwoods’ residence in haste. I walked out into the street and sought a place where none could stare upon me.” William’s brow furrowed. “I saw you. We collided in the street, did we not? I took little notice, being somewhat distraught, but I remember now. You were with two ladies. One of them was… her. The woman who approached me in the alleyway.”
He gave a little nervous laugh. “I had the strangest of fancies. I must have slept, and dreamed, for I believed that she turned into a monster and bit me upon the neck. Am I to understand that we have become acquainted since that collision? Were we caught up in some street affray? A riot, perhaps, like those that regrettably occurred at Rotherham prior to the election? I must have been struck upon the head, for I have no recollection of any such events, nor of our having exchanged names.”
“Uh, William, I, uh, this is hard,” the man said, dithering. “Oh, hell, come into the hotel out of the rain. This is going to take a long time to explain. Oh, and my name is Angel.”
“Very well,” William agreed. He didn’t feel that he had much choice, and the rain was indeed unpleasant. “Lead on, then, Mr Angel.”- - - - -
Mr Angel led William to a door, unlocked it, and stepped inside. He put his hand to a tiny lever that was fitted into the wall and flicked it. A brilliant light suddenly sprang up and illuminated the room. It also revealed that Mr Angel was dishevelled, soaked to the skin, and smeared with blood from a dozen small wounds and cuts.
“Come on in,” Mr Angel urged. William advanced slowly into the room. It appeared to be a public building, perhaps a hotel, rather than a private residence. It was deserted and a film of dust covered most of the furniture and fittings. It was, however, dry.
William stared in utter amazement at the source of the brilliant light. “Heavens!” he exclaimed. “Are those electric incandescent filament lights? Wonder of wonders! I have read of such, of course, but I have never seen them.”
“Oh, God,” Mr Angel said, in a voice that seemed to carry a note of anguish. “I can’t do this.”
“There is no Wesley to serve as Qwa’ha Xahn,” the strangely garbed woman spoke from behind William. “If my former pet needs instruction it can only come from you.”
William turned to ask the woman what she meant by this incomprehensible speech. He gasped in horror as he saw that she held a body in her arms. Dead, indubitably, gashed and bloody with eyes open and staring sightlessly at nothing. The corpse had the dark skin of an African. A Zulu, perhaps, for William somehow sensed that the man had been a warrior in life. He took two steps backwards to put some distance between him and the dreadful sight.
The woman turned her eyes upon him. He noticed that her hair was indeed blue, as were her eyes, and that the skin of her forehead bore a blue mottling. Her leather apparel was gashed in more than one place but she did not appear to be wounded. “We must inter Charles with suitable honour,” she said. “You have forgotten him? He was your comrade. Your friend. He fell at your side. To recoil from him insults his memory.”
“I am sorry,” William said. “If such is the case I have indeed forgotten. I most sincerely regret this and I did not intend discourtesy.” He felt an odd glow inside, an unfamiliar feeling that might have been pride, at the idea that someone with the unmistakable air of a warrior had been a comrade who had fallen bravely in battle at his side. Preposterous, of course. No such events could have taken place. Even so he raised his hand to his head to remove his hat as a gesture of respect. His hand encountered only hair. He wore no hat.
The woman laid the dead body down upon a chaise-lounge. “We shall inter him later. First you must give Spike the information that will enable him to function.” She tipped her head first to one side and then to the other. “I lack the necessary knowledge without calling upon the resources of the shell. I sense that you would not wish me to do that.”
“Damn right,” Mr Angel said to the woman. “Okay, okay, I’ll fill him in.” He waved a hand in the direction of a chair. “You might want to sit down for this, William. It’s going to be a lot to take in.”
William sat down and looked at Mr Angel with some trepidation. “Your manner disturbs me. I sense that you are going to give me some bad news. Is it…?” William swallowed hard. “Has something happened to my mother?”