|Primary Characters:||Angel, Spike|
|Description:||Angel gets a chance to go back and do things differently. So does Jenny. But what is the right choice? Will gets up to a little adventure, and in a way, his loyalties are tested.|
Only one more to go. Angel braced himself for the last slaying. Soon he could be on his way home, to Jenny – and Sean. Tonight hadn’t been one of the busier nights and he’d told Jenny she didn’t need to come. She had some techno-pagan business. Sean had followed another vampire in the opposite direction, and Angel had told him that once that one was taken care of, the boy could return home as well.
Odd. He’d been down in this sewer system so many times, but he didn’t think he knew this particular tunnel. And he’d had no idea it was so far. His sense of direction told him he was heading outside of the city, at least if the tunnel continued further. But here, the vampire turned and faced him.
The moves were so familiar, it seemed to Angel he could do them in his sleep. But was this what he had been reduced to? A killing machine? If so, it was no more than he deserved, he reminded himself as he drove the stake in. The vampire turned to dust, which drifted away in the slight draught. There. All done.
Suddenly, a vague movement crossed his field of vision. Angel’s keen vampire hearing caught the rustling of some fabric. It sounded like silk. Down here? He had to be imagining things. But there it was again. Something seemed familiar about the figure that streaked across the tunnel and made a turning into a smaller branch that he hadn’t even seen until now.
A worried frown on his pale face, Angel decided to follow. Most likely, he was just imagining things. He was extremely tired after tonight’s slaying.
Silently, he walked closer, hoping he would find he’d been wrong, so he could return to Jenny. Assuming she was back. In any case, Sean would be there.
Again, he caught a sight of a dress swishing just barely beyond reach. Something about the female figure seemed vaguely familiar, but Angel couldn’t quite place her. After all, there had been so many women in his life. Women, men, vampires – Maybe one day he’d even learn to see the humor in that.
He turned one corner and suddenly found himself facing a wall. There was a door that looked nothing like the usual exits from the sewer system. Now there was no sign of the female he had been following.
Nothing. Not even his vampire senses could feel a trace of her. But there was something about that door that made Angel feel uneasy. When he looked closer he thought he could make out writing on the rough surface of the door. Writing that looked oddly familiar. Irish.
Old Irish writing, not the modern English alphabet. Angel couldn’t read it, he’d only seen the inscriptions on ancient ruins and tombstones too many times not to recognize it. He hadn’t learned how to read until a long time after he’d left Ireland, not in any language.
As in a dream, he reached a hand to open to door, though his mind recoiled from seeing what was on the other side. Despite his misgivings, he couldn’t stop himself from placing his hand on the door and pushing.
Sharp sunlight burned into his eyes, forcing him to shrink back, his hands covering his face. His back hit a wall, where none should be. He whirled around, to find himself facing the wall of a low wooden building. Outdoors. In broad daylight. Gone was Los Angeles. Gone – if he was not mistaken – the US. He was back in Ireland, or –
Confused, Angel looked around. His eyes didn’t hurt, after all. There was a feeling of unreality about it all, that made him remember a protracted dream he had had not so long ago. In it he was back in Ireland, when he was young and human. He looked down at himself, and found that was he was wearing the kind of clothes he had back then. For some reason, he was back.
It was early morning, and not many people appeared to be about. He had to think, so he retreated behind the low building to avoid being seen.
A stench assaulted his nostrils. So this was the dung heap. He’d forgotten the smell. Los Angeles in modern times might smell of smog and other not so pleasant things, but old Ireland had its share of stink as well. Taking care not to step in anything, he walked further away.
How was this possible? He hadn’t been asleep. The slaying hadn’t resulted in any injuries so he wasn’t unconscious either. It had only taken him a moment to step from the sewers into broad daylight in the Ireland of his youth.
The surroundings didn’t seem familiar, though in one way, it was all too familiar. He’d seen dwellings like this one far too many times to ever forget. But where were the people? At this hour, they should be out and beginning the work of the day.
Struck by a sudden insight, he inched closer to the side wall, where he’d seen what passed for windows in those days. Cautiously, he looked inside. It took his eyes a while to adapt to the gloom in there, but when they did, he could see no one.
A few chickens, a cat, but no humans. And no dog barking at him. The place was abandoned. Was this during an outbreak of famine? No. The chickens wouldn’t be alive, and there wouldn’t be fresh pig manure. Could this be an outbreak of the plague?
Strangely, Angel felt a chill go down his spine. He was long dead. Why should he fear infection? But if he wasn’t very much mistaken, for the time being at least, he was a human again. To satisfy himself on this account, he felt the inside of his wrist. Yes. A pulse. He was alive. He was breathing, his blood was flowing in his veins, his heart was beating.
For a moment, he was filled with an exultation so alien to him, it took his breath away. He had to suppress the carefree laughter that threatened to find its way up through his throat. Alive. Breathing.
The sun’s warmth on his face wasn’t a torment anymore, it was a pleasure. If he could have seen his face, he would have seen the rare sight of Angel smiling. No. Kieran smiling. Not the vampire with the false, seductive smile. Kieran, just a man.
He knew the language, wore the right clothes. This was his home. Whatever his being here meant, he would take the time to walk around these old familiar pastures, and enjoy it, like he hadn’t the first time around.
When he passed a pond some distance away, Angel couldn’t help stopping to look at his own reflection. He knew others found his face beautiful, but he had never been able to see it. Despite that, looking at his own features, he experienced a sense of deep contentment. He couldn’t care less if his was a pretty face or not, but he could see it. It looked real and solid, if he allowed for the ripples that constantly broke up the image. Being alive was exhilerating.
Hardly aware of what he was doing, Angel drew in a few deep breaths. He couldn’t resist placing his hand on his chest – the shirt was quite open in front – and he was rewarded. A steady beat could be felt under the skin, which was warm to the touch. Warm. Not cold.
By now, he was out on the dusty country road. He looked up at the sun to determine which direction he was heading. So far, only a few people had passed him by. No one appeared to find his presence remarkable. In fact, he got the impression that they regarded him as somewhat of a gentleman. Not wealthy, but relatively well dressed. Now a cart trudged by, drawn by a very skinny horse.
He stepped aside to avoid the worst of the dust. It stuck to his hair and went down his throat. He’d forgotten how hard it was to stay clean.
More people turned onto the road, and now he realized he was heading into town. And he thought he recognized which town it was. He should have known whoever had sent him here – and he had his suspicions – wouldn’t have put him far from his own familiar turf.
Still, he was alive, and on his own. The last time he’d entered this town he had been in a very different situation. He couldn’t help searching through his pockets. Perhaps – yes – even some money had been provided. He could make his way to an inn and quench his thirst, and wash down the dust from the road.
The Duck and Swan was still where he remembered it would be. And the serving wenches looked vaguely familiar. Not that they would have even deigned to look at a boy like him when he first lived in this town. This time around, the pretty redheaded girl – who reminded him a little of Willow – smiled winningly at him, and he thought he knew what that glint in her eyes meant. Not that he’d seen anything like that in the old days. Not from a pretty girl at an inn.
He ignored the look and merely paid for his ale. Now that he had had time to get his bearings, and ponder his situation, he knew that he wasn’t much wiser now than he’d been this morning. Who had sent him here? More importantly why? And what was he expected to do?
He finished his beer and continued on his way. Outside in what might have been termed a town square a few boys were playing. Lucky boys. No work to do on such a busy day. Women were walking by, apparently intent on making their purchases.
Suddenly, a familiar house came into view. The town house of the man who had employed young Kieran all those years ago. Angel stopped abruptly and was about to turn on his heel and leave. This was the last place he wanted to be. If he were to catch sight of himself –
Too late. The man who had employed him was being helped into a carriage by his footmen. Angel could still remember the strength in those deceptively weak and pasty hands, the sour smell from the man’s mouth, the bulk of him as he –
A chill went down his spine. He knew which day this was. Inside the house, he was about to meet Darla, who would change his life – existence – forever. This couldn’t be a coincidence. He had been brought here for a purpose.
It struck him that he might change the course of history. If he were to enter the house on some pretext – he was dressed as a gentleman – the staff would let him in without difficult questions – yes, what then? Could he somehow distract his younger self or bribe one of the servants to send young Kieran – though he was not called by that name in this house – somewhere. To the inn. It didn’t matter where. The house catered to men like himself, with the means to prey on young boys. He could do it. He knew what to say, how to put his message across.
This might very well be the reason for his presence in this town, on this day. He was given a chance to avoid his destiny. In one simple action he could wipe out all the years of misery, of guilt, of pain. If he did this right, none of that would need to happen.
Lydia would still be alive, and waiting for him in the clearing in the woods. He would never make Drusilla or Will or Sean vampires. They would be allowed to live out their lives as they had been intended to. Drusilla in her convent. Will in the streets of London and Sean – Yes. This was the right thing to do.
None of the suffering he’d caused over the years would ever take place. The people he had played with, tormented, fed on, killed – they would all be allowed to live out their short lives in peace. Jenny –
That was the hardest part. Would he really be able to make the choice of not ever meeting and falling in love with her. But was his own loss reason enough to put her through all the suffering he had? Angelus had killed her. She had become a vampire and like himself, she was now doomed to walk the earth, trying to fight the evil that was a part of herself, or had been, if only briefly.
On the other hand – he had a job to do, unpleasant and thankless as it was. Was it fair to turn his back on that? It was his duty, not only as a punishment, but because he was one of the few creatures who could do what he did.
Painfully aware of how the seconds were ticking away. The sun wasn’t at it highest yet. It was only shortly after noon that he would run into Darla and be smitten by her evil charm. He still had time, but soon it would be too late. If he was going to try and change his past, it would have to be now.
For the time being, he decided to ignore the obvious problem of what he would say to himself, once he met him at the inn. If he decided to go at all, he would worry about that later. No punishment would come to him merely for not being asked to perform. But would this be enough? Wouldn’t it be necessary to have the boy that was to become Angel sent away, far away? Darla would be staying for weeks, before she moved on after grooming her latest childe.
He might have Lydia’s people take the boy away. Young Kieran would have no objection to that, if he was made to realize the danger he and his love were in should the mysterious, alluring lady be able to sink her fangs into him.
Once again, he cursed his own weakness for a pretty face and a tempting figure. If he hadn’t been intrigued by the lovely lady, he would have continued to serve perverts from Dublin and London and once he had made enough money, he would have taken Lydia away. Perhaps to England, perhaps further afield, to the former colonies.
Still, he hesitated. Not out of fear of the consequences so much as in doubt whether this was after all the right thing to do. Avoid his responsibility. Never to see Jenny again.
But on the other hand, no centuries of guilt and pain. Lydia and the unborn child.
Torn, and undecisive, Angel remained standing in the street for so long passersby began to take notice.
Eventually, he came to a decision, and though it felt like a physical pain tearing through him, he knew he couldn’t run from his destiny. For some reason, he was being tested, but he wasn’t going to fail this time. If his fate was suffering and years of servitude, so be it.
With tears in eyes, hot, real, liquid tears, he turned abruptly and left. As he was walking, he felt the houses on each side of the street desolidify and turn transparent, then waver and vanish. He was once again in the sewers underneath Los Angeles.
The pain didn’t dull and he fell to his knees, pressing his hands to his face, as if he wanted to stop the tears from falling. But no tears stung his vampire’s eyes. A thin, hoarse wailing escaped his lips and he felt his mind retreat inside him.
Jenny was gazing into the crystal. Her techno-pagan friends had left some time earlier, but she hardly paid attention. This spell her friend Otto had found promised to be more potent than most spells that had come her way in the last year. And if she was right about its potential use, she was facing monumental consequences.
For a long time, she kept staring into the crystal, weighing the possibilities against the potential risks involved in casting the powerful spell. She also knew the energy drain would be considerable. Was she strong enough to cast this spell without further preparations? On the other hand, she was eager to try it.
At the moment, she was merely excited about the actual spell, not the ramifications if she succeeded. How beautiful, how perfect. She wanted to know who had once deviced the spell. This was something she might have mastered ten, twenty, thirty years from now, had her life been allowed to continue unchanged. As it was, she hadn’t been in such a hurry to evolve her witch’s talents. There was time. A vampire had nothing but time.
The writing was clear enough, even after close to five hundred years. That meant there was a minor spell involved to keep the parchment and the writing clear and legible after all the centuries gone by. Impressive all the same. Neat and tidy.
Whoever had created the spell had to be a skillful practitioner, presumably a female, though Jenny didn’t rule out the possibility of a male. Among her techno-pagan friends, there was at least one man who had the potential of becoming a successful witch, should he be prepared for the hard work and study it would take in the years to come.
Bending time. Time travel. Her mind could hardly take in the concept. If this worked, she could – make sure she never became a vampire. She could go back in time, and tell her family that she refused to spy on Angel and the Slayer. She could change her own life around. The question was – should she? She had a job to do. There were people she loved. Loyalties she owed, not the gypsies but to her new tribe.
What was she doing? Undermining her discovery even before she’d tried the spell out? Impossible. She ought ot at least try before she gave up. Still, deep down, Jenny began to feel guilty. For a long time, she’d felt badly treated by her family, by fate, by life in general. She was young, she could have had a life. Even as a mortal, she could have done some good. Then when her feelings for Angel took over, she’d learned to accept being dead, and facing eternity with her lover by her side was not as daunting as she’d imagined.
On the other hand, being cold and dead, with no heart beating in her chest was unpleasant. At one point, she would have done anything to have her life back, even if she’d been forced to run from the gypsies. Now – she wasn’t sure. Would she want to return to the time before she’d been sent to take up the position as computer teacher at Sunnydale High? Life without Angel would be empty.
Suddenly, she felt tired. She put down the crystal on the desk in front of her, with a finality that caused an echo in her soul. It sounded like a scream. But she knew she was doing the right thing. Her work was here. No matter what might be waiting for her in the past, she’d play the hand she’d been dealt in the here and now. With Angel. With Sean. With her new friend Joyce. And Will. Poor Will. He might not need her now, but in a way, they all needed each other. Being a vampire with a soul had to be the loneliest existence ever imagined.
With a sigh, Jenny put the crystal back into her shoulder bag and decided to return home. Sean and Angel would be waiting for her. If they were back from the night’s slaying. Maybe Willow, Oz and Doyle would drop by. Living in the present had many rewards, and most of the time, she could focus on that.
Outside their house, she stopped and strained her vampire senses to detect any potential threat. So far, no enemy had sought them out at home, but the wariness ran deep. Drusilla was still out there somewhere, and who knew how many others. Her own family might still be a threat. But she could detect nothing wrong.
Inside, she found Sean, dripping wet from the shower, still wearing only a towel wrapped around his waist. The way his face lit up as he caught sight of her, reminded Jenny of what she might have lost, if she had selfishly used the spell.
“How did it go?”
“Fine. Angel and I had to split up, but I got my bad guy. Only it was a woman.”
Jenny glanced at the red marks across Sean’s cheek. Yes, that explained the scratch marks. A female vampire. The shallow scratches were already healing, though there was still a faint smell of blood. She inched closer and nuzzled against his face, letting her tongue flicker across his skin. The faint taste of blood excited her. Without losing contact with his face, she let her hands trail down to remove the towel. A shiver running through his body told her he felt the same way.
Without waiting for Angel, they retreated into the bedroom. Just as well that Willow and the others hadn’t picked tonight for their visit.
The night club was exactly in Will’s style. Joyce was a bit surprised to find something like that in London. It was more something you’d expect from back home – or Vegas. But the music was excellent, far more to her taste than anything her daughter and her friends had been listening to, and the drinks helped too.
As for the entertainment – well, Joyce wasn’t in the mood for any stage entertainment. This was her honeymoon after all. Wouldn’t Will get tired of this place soon? Joyce didn’t need to glance at her watch to know that dawn would still be some hours away. But who said vampires couldn’t go to bed early?
What was her husband staring at anyway? That woman in a red dress who was dancing so provocatively all by herself? No. It seemed he was looking at a young man who was sitting at a table near the opposite wall. The young man was slender, elegant and had a strikingly handsome face, with lines not unlike Will’s own. Not another descendant surely? At times, there were disadvantages to being involved with a man with a past. And such a past. But the looks Will and the young man were exchanging weren’t paternal and filial at all.
Joyce found herself getting angrier by the minute. When she’d learned about Will’s mixed taste she hadn’t been unduly concerned. They lived in California, didn’t they? And they’d been so much in love. She’d seen Will give up both Jenny – young and beautiful – and Buffy’s ex, Angel – at least with a young face and body, and such a body – all for her. Surely that meant he loved her? Was he tired of her already, just like she’d feared deep down, from the start?
She let her hands move discreetly underneath the table – all the time fervently hoping her daughter wouldn’t be up to anything similar – to find their way in between Will’s thighs. If all else failed, that would always produce the desired response. In a way, it did. She could tell from Will’s contented smile that he was open to anything she cared to do to him. But he didn’t take his eyes off that young man for more than a second or two.
Joyce was getting even more furious. How dared he treat her like this on her honeymoon? Was that how little he thought of their love – and their vows? At the time, she’d found the thought of two vampires marrying actually touching. Maybe her common sense was reasserting itself. Wedding vows for two dead people? How absurd. How could she ever have been so naive and gullible?
She pushed back her chair, and before Will had time to react – he always tended to be a little slow when he was staring at someone so extremely hot as that guy over there – she stormed out of the club and was gone. Uncertainly, Will got up to follow. What was wrong with her? He found himself being intercepted by the object of his temporary attraction, who deftly caught him by the wrist. The smile flashing at him distracted him, and he forgot about his intention of following his bride back to the hotel.
“Hello. I know another place, one that you’ll like much better.”
Somehow, it felt reassuring to hear his own accent after so many years in the New World.
“Yes. You’ll love it.”
And quickly and unobtrusively the two men left the club, oblivious to anything but each other.
Will had expected another club – one where the sight of two men dancing wouldn’t attract the attention it would have at the one they were leaving. However, his guide was taking him through a maze of unfamiliar streets, backyards and alleys to what had to be his own place.
It was a small, but pleasant looking little flat close to the roof. Exactly the sort of place Will liked – except perhaps a little too modest for his taste. Still, all in all, it looked comfortable enough. As to why this stranger had brought him here – well, he’d be able to disentangle himself before he’d cheated on his lovely wife.
“So this is the place you were talking about earlier?”
“Mm. What did you have in mind?”
His host smiled enigmatically.
“How about some music?”
And he vanished into a corner of the room, clearly to turn on the music. The room filled with the sort of pop music Spike had learned to enjoy in the 1960’s. He smiled absently. Those were the days. The 70’s too. Mm.
Now his host returned, and moved closer, in way that didn’t leave Will wondering about his intentions. For some reason, though, the guy settled for dancing. Closely. The music certainly fitted this type of slow, close dancing. Will had no objections. He felt l a bit light-headed from all the champagne he’d consumed at the other place.
It occurred to him, vaguely, that he didn’t know his host’s name. He decided to ask. It might be nice to know who was so sensuously stroking his thigh, and rubbing so suggestively against his crotch. Whoa. Things were moving a bit fast.
He wasn’t Spike anymore. Now he had a wife to consider. Intending to withdraw slightly, he found movement, other than the slow dancing, somewhat difficult. But this wasn’t right. He had never had any intention of cheating. Why was the guy nuzzling against his throat anyway? Something about the whole situation was suddenly making Will feel suspicious.
“Take it easy. What’s your name, anyway?”
“Don’t you recognize me – Spike?”
Despite his intoxication, Will’s vampire senses sprang to the alert, and he whirled away from his host, a split second before his fangs sank into the throat of his guest.
Recognize him? He hadn’t even noticed that he was a vampire. How stupid of him. Will cursed silently, but didn’t for a moment take his eyes off his adversary. Who was it? Which one of several hundred old enemies could it be? Or maybe he had been sent by one of them? But he must have seen this guy before.
“Who are you?”
“And you’re asking me that? But I suppose you just feed on us then throw aside the remains.”
Someone he’d fed on. But why hadn’t this poor sod died? As if the handsome young vampire had read his mind, his face was transformed into the vampire mask Will was so familiar with.
“I would have died, if it hadn’t been for Rudy. You do remember Rudy, don’t you?”
Rudy. Rudy. Rudy – Yes. Rudy. One of the few vampires who had stood against Spike in his heyday. Of course. But why would he find the still breathing remains of one of Spike’s meals and turn them into this?
“Yes. I remember Rudy. But I’m not Spike anymore. My soul -“
“I don’t care. You’re still Spike to me. And I’m sure Rudy won’t care either way.”
Trying to stall for time, while he searched the small flat for something sharp he could use to eliminate this threat, Will thought of something to ask his enemy. He felt old and sad.
Though he didn’t tend to brood as much as Angel, there were times when he sorely regretted ever being tempted by Darla and Angel in the first place. He might have been dead these hundred years or more, peacefully resting in the English soil, never having to worry about suddenly running into a reminder of past sins.
“Why would he do that?”
Apparently, he didn’t need to spell out what ‘that’ meant.
“I’m surprised you have to ask. That woman you were with tonight, the one who stormed out after you and I made eye contact – is she your latest childe? And lover?”
“She’s my -“
Will decided not to give the vampire any information he didn’t need.
“Something like that.”
“So it’s women now. You’ve certainly changed a lot. A new soul and a new preference. But you haven’t changed all that much, or I wouldn’t have been able to get you here. I knew you’d like this place. And me. You see, I know far too much about you.”
He could see his adversary was running out of patience and wanted to finish this. Will might not be afraid to die, but he knew this vampire wanted to drink him dry, and that wasn’t the way he wanted to go.
“You still haven’t told me why Rudy decided to keep you around.”
“As if I’d need to spell that out to you.”
Of course. Rudy was as partial to a bit of sex as the next vampire. As simple as that. No great mystery after all. And maybe he didn’t need to wonder why Rudy had sent his minion – or lover – to finish him. There had always been a great deal of hostility between them.
Rudy had fancied himself the king of the vampires of London. Of course he’d resented Spike, who had effortlessly won that honor, leaving Rudy to flee to the Continent, haunting the backstreets of Paris for years, until Spike and Drusilla had left for America. At least that was what he’d heard.
How careless of him to walk straight into Rudy’s territory, never fearing this trap. At least Joyce wasn’t here. She’d get back to California safely. Alone. No. Spike wouldn’t have given up this easily and neither would Will. He made a rush for the door, but was blocked by his enemy. Again, he tried to break free, by making for the window, but once again, he found his way blocked by the other vampire.
There had to be something he could use as a stake. He managed to get past his adversary and into the other room – a tiny kitchen. On the floor, a body was lying, on its back, staring sightlessly towards the ceiling. A telltale trickle of blood stained the neck. The owner of the flat? From behind him, Will heard a mocking laugh.
“He was as partial to a bit of male beauty as you’ve always been. Too bad the night didn’t end as he’d planned. Well, in a way it did. It just didn’t finish there. Well, Spike, I must say I’m disappointed. America must have weakened you. Or maybe it’s the sleeping with women that did it. The mighty Spike would have put up much more of a fight.”
Suddenly, he heard a resounding crash from outside. His enemy whirled around, giving Will a moment to scan the kitchen. Surely in a place like this there would be something sharp he could use? Then he felt a familiar scent. Mm. Joyce. So she’d followed him. Quite a girl, wasn’t she, his bride?
“Joyce, love. In here. Go right in. You’re welcome.”
That should do it. He’d been invited by the temporary host who had to have been invited by the real owner of the flat. Now he’d given her the invitation to step across the threshold. Two against one. That should even the odds a bit, even if they didn’t find anything to stake their enemy with.
His already immense admiration for his wife increased tenfold when he noticed that Joyce had come prepared. In her hands an iron bar was drawing in the light. Yes. It looked sharp enough.
Their enemy hadn’t expected this. The fun seemed to have gone out of the night’s confrontation, and though it might have been Will’s imagination, it looked as if the guy was planning on making a run for it.
Joyce was on him too swiftly for him to get very far. Within seconds, the vampire had turned to dust. The last Will saw of him, was a look of undisguised hatred.
“Thanks, pet. Just in time.”
“I wasn’t sure if I was going to do it. After tonight’s performance I was beginning to reconsider our marriage.”
“But love -“
“Not another word. No excuses. Why did you come here?”
“Just for a dance and a bit of flirting. You know me.”
“Unfortunately, I do. Flirting? I see.”
“Don’t take it like that, love. I wasn’t going to do anything more, honest. It’s not like in the old days.”
A trace of a smile moved Joyce’s features.
“So I heard. I guess I’ll forgive you – this time.”
He could tell she was serious. And he wouldn’t give her any other excuse to leave him. As he well knew, he was lucky to have her. Never again would he do anything to jeopardise their relationship.
“That’s my girl.”
Without looking back, they left the flat, and returned to their suite at the hotel. The neighborhoods they passed through changed, and for about twenty minutes they were walking through what Will almost recognized from the old days. Three skimpily dressed girls crossed the street just ahead of them, giggling stupidly. All of them drunk or stoned.
One of the girls caught Joyce’s eyes. She was the spitting image of Buffy. Suddenly, Joyce was gripped by a powerful attack of homesickness.
“I want to go home. To California.”
“But love, we never even got to Paris. Or Venice. You have to see France and Italy.”
“I have seen them. Last summer of college. I want to go home. You’ve been there too, haven’t you?”
“Spike was there. Spike’s been everywhere.”
“That’s what I meant. Now I want to go home.”
“Alright, pet. Whatever you say. Your wish is my command.”
“You’d better remember that. Will, the honeymoon is over.”
“Alright. Fine. Where did you learn to slay like that? I’m impressed.”
“Jenny taught me.”
“I didn’t know Jen was that good at slaying. I thought it was all spells for her.”
“Apparently not. And I don’t have any talent for magic, you know that.”
“You have plenty of talents, love.”
And they abandoned talking in favor of some cuddling. Why wait until they got back? Dawn was still nearly an hour away. They had time.
Jenny and Sean were beginning to worry about Angel. Dawn was getting close and still no sign of him.
“Where did you leave him?”
“Down in the sewers.”
Even if he was delayed, there were ways he could get back without having to brave the light of day. So where was he? Jenny couldn’t help feeling a nagging doubt at the back of her mind.
“I see. What was he chasing after?”
“Just a vampire. Nothing special.”
No ordinary vampire was a threat to Angel, she knew that. Restlessly, she got out of bed and began to pace around.
Sean was looking at her with concern in his lovely eyes. Jenny couldn’t help half-smiling. Since she’d met the vampire boy, she’d come to love him almost as much as she loved Angel. No wonder Angelus had found the boy endearing. Of course, Angelus usually had much more basic reasons for his actions. But the body was terrific too.
A slight noise from the door made both vampires whirl around to face any possible attacker. Most demons needed an invitation to enter. Not all, though. And Jenny knew of at least two that were roaming about California. If one of them –
But it was Angel. A completely changed Angel. For a second, Jenny shrank back, fearing this was Angelus, returned to kill her again, this time permanently. But she recognized the look. It was her Angel alright.
Sean had moved closer, but held back, knowing that Angel would most likely prefer Jenny’s comfort.
It was a long time, before she could get any reply out of her distraught lover. Eventually, though, Angel began to respond to his lovers and their gentle support.
He told them everything. Jenny frowned. This fitted in far too well with her own experience earlier tonight. Something didn’t feel right about all this. Were the powers involved somehow? It looked very much as if they were both being tested. Again. Would it never be enough? As if they weren’t being tested far beyond what any mortal could withstand, time and time again.
While he told his story, Angel had sunk down on the bed, between his anxious lovers, seeking consolation in their proximity.
Without warning, an apparition stood before them on the floor, where seconds earlier there had been nothing to see.
Angel’s already pale features drained of what little color there might still be. Jenny didn’t think she’d seen anyone that pale, not even a very dead body. The young woman seemed eerily familiar from Angel’s past. And her lover’s shocked outburst confirmed her guess.
The ghost began to speak in a language Jenny recognized as Irish, though she didn’t understand the words. Angel’s replies came in the same language.
“Don’t get any closer. I’m not really here. Kieran – I have a message for you.”
She didn’t elaborate from whom the message was, but Sean and Angel could guess.
“You made the right choice. One day, when your work is done, you won’t face the same choice, but the reward will be the same. Mortality. All of you together. Jana. Will. Sean. Joyce. All of you. You will get a second chance at life.”
As he never gave Lydia. The pain tearing through Angel made the pain of being fed on, or even the torments of hell, seem as nothing.
“But I let you die.”
“Angelus killed me. Not you. Try to accept that, Kieran. I never blamed you for it. Kieran – our baby is with me. We are fine. Don’t grieve over us.”
Lydia now switched to – incredibly – romany. So that was it. Her features did remind Jenny of girls she’d grown up with.
“Now I want to talk to Jana. Jana?”
The romany was interrupted by a few words in Irish. Jenny recognized one word. Kieran. And judging by the hand gesture, Lydia was once again imploring her old lover not to approach.
Jenny found herself moving slowly and cautiously across the floor towards their uninvited guest. A step or two away, she paused, wondering what the spirit might have to tell her. In a soft voice, barely audible, the ghost began to talk to her.
“Jana. Your daughter has become a mother. Her child is being put up for adoption. I will tell you where you can find her.”
“Her? The baby?”
“Yes. Another daughter. If you wish to raise the child -“
“The father is – of Kieran’s kin.”
“A descendant of his. This child embodies his blood and yours. Raise her wisely, Jana. Watch over her. She will be a powerful witch. You will need her help.”
“Can I tell Angel about this?”
“Tell him anything you want.”
Lydia’s face appeared to shut her out. Jenny could imagine what it might feel like. Handing over the love of her life to another woman.
The ghost wavered and vanished, without another word.
-What did she tell you?
Wearily, Jenny sank down on the bed again. Filled with concern, Sean put his arms around her, and when Angel calmed down, he did the same.
“I will tell you. Later. Let’s rest.”
Lydia’s information had shaken Jenny. A granddaughter? She – raising a child. A dead woman, a vampire, with a baby. The child would be a powerful witch. There really was no choice. She couldn’t leave the baby to be raised by parents who wouldn’t understand her talents. Angel would understand. Especially after her learned about the child’s unique ancestry.
This changed everything. Their struggle gave her existence meaning. But it didn’t offer her any consolation. Angel’s and Sean’s love did that. Will’s and Joyce’s friendship. But this – the child was her own flesh and blood.
Yes, this really changed everything. She was being given something so unique. Something no vampire had a right to expect. A child of her own blood. Not a childe. She hadn’t made any of those, thanks to Willow’s talent for magic.
Willow. She would ask her favorite student to help raise her grandchild. A witch child needed witches to raise her. She would tell Willow and the others later. For now, she’d focus on finding the child and creating a safe and comfortable environment for her.
Eventually, the three vampires drifted off to the sort of shallow sleep their souls were capable of.
He was back in Ireland. The surroundings seemed familiar, and he recognized the woods where he had gone to meet Lydia. A sense urgency drove him to hurry. He broke into a run, but was halted in mid-stride as he caught sight of a tall menacing silhouette. The moon light outlined the stranger – or was it a stranger – and made him appear unnaturally tall.
Angelus. Something dark stained his mouth and the hands that reached out for him. The demon smiled hungrily.
“You’re too late. Guess who that blood belongs to? She tasted sweeter than any ordinary woman. Kieran – would you like me to teach you what I taught her?”
Angel shrank back, though he knew this was impossible. He couldn’t meet Angelus. They were one and the same, at least in body. He felt a scream make its way across his lips and –
A scream of terror woke Jenny instantly. She could feel Sean stirring behind her. That voice – it was Angel. What was wrong now?
Jenny. Just a dream. He was back again. Safe.
“I just had a bad dream. It’s nothing.”
Jenny held out her arms to him and he accepted the shelter of her arms. He could feel Sean’s fingers ruffle his hair comfortingly. Safe. Loved. How could he fear eternity with his lovers by his side?