When Light Turns to Dark
Angel entered the mansion and felt the cold emanating from within. He'd never really noticed it before. Too cold for Buffy, he thought as he moved to the fireplace, preparing it for the blaze to come. Once the fire was going, he crouched beside it and continued to tend it. Watching the flames dance, he thought of how very much like the fire Buffy was. Beautiful, deadly and untouchable. Angel sighed. That was the thing about Buffy. She was untouchable for him. He shouldn't love her, but he couldn't stop. And something was going to happen and he had no way to protect her. Life, or in his case, undeath, was so unfair.
Angel stared back into the fire allowing himself to be drawn into its hypnotic rhythm, momentarily forgetting his thoughts . The hair on the back of Angel's neck stood up at the same time he felt the hand on his right shoulder. With his game face on, he turned and spiraled upward, left fist speeding toward the unseen intruder...blocked punch, punctuated by a familiar voice...
"Whoa, Angel, chill. Slayer...good guy."
"In the flesh."
"Sorry, I didn't mean...," Angel trailed off, not knowing how to explain his jumpiness to Buffy.
"S'ok. So what's up? Or did you just invite me over for a 'Welcome to my Wiggins' party?"
Wordlessly, Angel enclosed Buffy in an embrace, almost as tight as the one in The Bronze. She felt a slight tremor wrack his body. "Again with the hugging. Angel, please tell me what's the matter," Buffy said, returning Angel's hug with the same intensity.
"Something is very wrong, Buffy. I can't explain what it is...it's just the feeling of being watched, like prey."
"Which explains the psycho vamp routine."
"Well," Buffy said, "I called you three times and you didn't answer, so I walked over to you to shake you and...bingo...psycho vamp."
"Sorry, I was about a million miles away."
"Yeah, noticed." Buffy backed out of Angel's embrace, grabbed his hand and moved them toward the pillowy seat near the fire. Buffy glanced toward the wall near the fireplace and saw the chains she had used to hold Angel after his return from Hell. "Why don't you get rid of those things?" Buffy asked.
"Might come in handy," Angel replied, waggling his eyebrows at the same time.
"Dirty old man," retorted Buffy as she mock punched his arm. "Seriously though, about this dread feeling you've been having, maybe we should go to Giles."
"Not just yet. Let's just stay here for a bit...and...," Angel fumbled for the right words.
"And talk?" Buffy prompted.
"Umm, something like that..."
Buffy raised an eyebrow and just stared at this vampire she couldn't stop loving. His eyes darted away nervously, unable to remain calm and focused under such steady scrutiny. She gripped his hand a little tighter and leaned around to catch his gaze. "Angel, seriously, I'm in worry mode here. What's the what?"
His lips formed a silent response as Angel swiftly bent forward to place a tentative kiss on her soft, pink mouth. With a small groan of longing, Buffy parted her lips, accepting his cool tongue inside. Climbing onto his lap without breaking the kiss took some flexibility, but she wasn't the Slayer for nothing. Angel wrapped his arms tightly around her back, one hand migrating up to tangle in her loose blond hair. Her scent rose into his nostrils, and he had to work to keep the demon at bay. But he had made a promise to himself that Buffy would never be in danger from him, and that promise would be kept even if he meant his own death. Angel beat back the demon, and the hunger for blood subsided. The kiss turned deeper then, more sensual, more demanding. Angel lost himself in her arms, in the feel of her silky hair, the warmth of her mouth, the sound of her heartbeat. The little warning voice in the depths of his mind was all but ignored. Buffy was his world.
Buffy felt as if she had come home after a long, tiring journey. There was no place she would rather be than in Angel's arms. She answered his passion with her own, her hands seeking out his hair, the smooth nape of his neck, the hard planes of his shoulders, the sharp angle of his back where it narrowed into his waist. Buffy's hands knew this territory well, although lately it had become the forbidden zone. With some irritation, she hushed that small voice that niggled at her conscience. Angel became the universe.
The moon was brilliant white in an inky blue sky. Only the barest wisps of high clouds occluded its light, deepening the patches of darkness that clung to the bushes. A figure, draped in black clothing, moved silently, all but one with the shadows. There was menace inherent in the way the figure stalked the mansion, and even the nocturnal animals gave it a wide berth. Grass and flowers withered where it passed, and a faint miasma of death followed in its wake. Angel started violently, breaking the kiss and abruptly dumping Buffy on the floor.
He was on his feet in a blur of motion, the demon upon him once again; a low growl emanated from deep in his throat. "Did you feel that?"
"You mean my butt hitting the floor?" Buffy asked sarcastically.
Angel studied the picture window for a moment longer, and then Buffy's words penetrated the temporary madness. His features returned to their human mold and he reached down a hand to help Buffy to her feet. "I'm sorry. Are you OK?"
"Never mind me. Angel, what's happening? Talk to me."
Out of the corner of his eye, he spied a furtive movement outside. He gripped Buffy's shoulders and spun her around, pointing out the window in the same swift motion. "There!" This time Buffy caught a glimpse of the figure cloaked in black, but its flight was just as swift. She was halfway to the door when Angel jerked her to a halt. "Don't, Buffy, it's not safe."
"Hey, but I'm the Hellmouth's very own welcome wagon." Buffy pulled a stake out of her sleeve. "Look, I baked a cake and everything," she quipped in true Slayer fashion. One look at Angel's face convinced her this was a serious matter. "I guess we've 'talked' enough for tonight. I think we'd better find Giles."
Giles looked up from his book when Buffy and Angel came crashing through the library's swinging doors. He instantly knew that his plans for a quiet evening alone, researching werewolves, had just gone awry. Snapping his book shut he rose to meet them.
"Giles, something weird is creeping around outside Angel's digs, and it's got him all wigged out," Buffy told him. "It's dressed in black, hangs in the shadows and moves quick. It was impossible to get a good look at it."
"You were there, I take it. You saw it," Giles asked, suddenly suspicious.
"Well, yeah, I stopped by to, ah, to..."
"Train," Angel offered.
"To train. Yeah, and we were in the middle of training and Angel sensed it outside the window." Buffy self-consciously rubbed her bruised hip.
"It actually got that close before you realized it was there?" Giles pulled off his glasses and gave Angel a cold stare.
"I--I was preoccupied." Angel glanced at Buffy, his eyes filled with guilt.
"Giles, anything brave enough to stalk a vampire has got to be scary." Buffy gingerly sat on the end of the large conference table where they'd spent countless hours researching.
"Well, yes, I'm sure it must be." Giles absently chewed on the end of his glasses. "This is quite perplexing."
"Look, I can probably handle this myself," Angel put in. "I'll just have to be more alert, until I can get a better look at it."
"Well, I'm certainly going to need more information about this, this, well whatever it is. What you've told me so far is useless, in terms of research. I wouldn't know where to begin." With a sigh Giles sat down and reopened his book. "And, I don't think I need to warn you two how dangerous it is when you 'train' together. I had hoped you'd show more restraint. Especially you, Angel." Giles shot Angel a stern look.
Feeling guilty, Buffy gallantly attempted to rescue Angel from her Watcher's glaring scrutiny. "Since when did you become the smoochie police?" Buffy pouted. Giles turned his glare upon her and she instantly caved. "Never mind, don't answer that."
Angel took a ragged breath. "Giles, this thing is powerful. I don't think Buffy should be out patrolling alone; I think I should stay close."
"You're probably right. Well, we won't make any progress until you have more information. I suggest you take a turn about town AFTER you walk Buffy home." Giles looked pointedly at Angel.
"Good idea," Angel agreed, taking Buffy's hand and pulling her to her feet.
"I'll call Willow and Xander," Buffy offered. "Warn them there's a new bump in the night."
Angel pulled Buffy toward the door. "If I see anything I'll let you know," Angel shot back as he and Buffy hit the swinging doors.
Giles watched his charge leave the library hand-in-hand with a vampire, before moving into the sanctum of his office. He never thought, in all the years he spent training and preparing for his calling, that he would link Slayer and vampire in his mind. The very idea of them together, friends--more than friends--still gave him pause, and when he let himself admit to it, a deep and abasing fear. Buffy was still in the bloom of youth and, though she had seen and experienced so much horror in her short life, she was yet a child. Giles smiled ruefully. Buffy would definitely protest being called a child.
Hearing the library doors swing open, Giles leaned around the door jamb. Wesley stood undecided before the conference table that dominated the available floor space. Giles quickly scanned the large room for any evidence of the latest occurrences, but of course the research had not yet begun on Sunnydale's newest visitor. Stepping out of the office, Giles pulled off his glasses and wiped them clean with a hanky produced from a sweater pocket. He regarded Buffy's Watcher with calm indifference as he placed them back on the bridge of his nose, stuffing the hanky away.
"Oh, Giles, good evening," Wesley greeted absently. "I am looking for Buffy."
Giles swept his hand to indicate the room. It had become something of a game with Buffy and himself, to cause the new Watcher as much harmless grief as possible, while keeping him--for the most part--in the dark about her activities. "As you can see, she is not here," Giles told his replacement. Turning his back to Wesley, Giles began to straighten the piles of books on werewolf lore he had been perusing when he was interrupted by Buffy and Angel.
"Hmmm, yes." Wesley turned a slow circle to assure himself that Buffy wasn't lurking somewhere just out of sight. "Tell me, Giles, how did you manage Buffy's schedule? I cannot seem to find the correct rhythm." He drew himself up short, perhaps realizing that he had asked for assistance with his assignment, a definite sign of weakness before a worthy adversary. Oh, it hadn't started out that way, but Wesley had recently realized he was the interloper, and the group of companions the Slayer had gathered round her put up a formidable barrier. "That is," he hastily corrected himself, "I directed her to wait here for me when I came upon her at the Bronze earlier tonight."
Giles looked over his shoulder at the younger man. "Buffy is a unique Slayer; perhaps your approach should be unique, as well," Giles advised, relenting somewhat.
Wesley walked around the table and took a seat before Giles. "Perhaps," he mused. "I shall take it under advisement."
Hiding his amusement Giles plucked up his tweed jacket and, bidding Wesley good night, headed out the exit. Clicking heels drew his attention down the corridor. Cordelia was loaded for bear, dressed in a tasteful yet provocative sheathe of some midnight blue satin-like material, liberally embroidered with flowers of many hues. She looked to be out of an evening, not taking a stroll down the halls of high school.
"Oh, it's only you," she said tactlessly. "Is Wesley in the library?"
"He is all yours, Cordelia," Giles informed her. He mumbled a farewell, but she was sailing into the library, already oblivious to Giles' presence. He shook his head in mild disbelief and left the two to their own devices.
Wesley sat with his eyes closed, practicing a form of meditation his mentor had assured him would engender inner peace and strength. He needed as much of that as possible; the Slayer was certainly lively. The doors swung open and, thinking Buffy had finally arrived for their meeting, he remained seated, eyes closed, letting her be the one to wait. It was only when he felt hands cover his eyes, and caught the scent of rare botanicals wafting around him, that he realized Buffy had not made a showing after all.
Xander was bored. It was a curse, one that he solved in the past by dropping unannounced by Willow's. He couldn't do that anymore, not since they had illicit smoochies, and the guilt meter was mostly showing red. He had promised, she had promised, and that was all she wrote. So. Bored. Xander glanced at the clock. It was just past eleven. Giles, came the thought. Giles would still be at the library. Maybe he'd just drop by and see what the G-Man was up to. Yeah, that was it. Hopping off the bed, Xander threw on his baseball jacket and headed out the window, missing the ringing phone by just a few seconds.
Wesley jumped up, breaking contact. Opening his eyes, he whirled to face the intruder. His panicked glance took in her appearance all at once. "Cordelia!" he exclaimed. Catching his breath, he stammered, "What-what are you doing here?"
"Looking for you, of course, silly. You're the only reason to stay here in Sunnybail."
Cordelia closed the distance between them, her heels making a rat-a-tat on the hard floor. Wesley was caught between a desire not to hurt her feelings and a truer desire to possess her. Cordelia took the decision out of his hands. Seeming to trip over a chair leg, she fell against him, her body pressing along the length of his. He was forced to support her weight or they would both crash to the ground in what could only be called a compromising position. Not that the position they found themselves in now was any less compromising. He tried delicately to extricate himself from her embrace, but she seemed quite determined to remain in full contact with him. Sweat began to bead his upper lip, and of course, his heart had never quite returned to a normal rhythm. Cordelia leaned forward, her bronzed lips barely touching his. Her floral perfume surrounded them, reminding him of the summers he had spent on the mews as a young lad.
Just as Wesley made the dream touch of the kiss a reality, the mood was shattered by a voice that sarcastically drawled, "Whoa, Cordy, you're all over him like an iron-on transfer."
Wesley hastily pushed Cordelia away, adjusting his suit jacket and trying to regain some semblance of the decorum he had let slip. Putting a bit of distance between himself and the young woman, Wesley retreated into habit. Pulling a linen handkerchief from his vest pocket, he removed his glasses and methodically wiped them clean.
Cordelia whirled angrily with a toss of her hair. Regarding Xander's choice of orange and green color-block shirt with haughty disdain, she delivered a trademark barb. "Gee, Xander, is that a new shirt? It looks so good on...fire."
"Yeah, Cordy, sure does," Xander returned, unfazed, "and you're the one to breathe it."
As Cordelia drew breath, Wesley stepped into the fray, gesturing curtly for silence. "Xander, is there something I can help you with? Any trouble?"
Xander accepted the truce with better grace than Cordelia, who silently seethed. "Nope, just looking for Giles. But I can see he's not here, so I'll be going." Xander headed to the doors, but couldn't pass up tossing one last remark over his shoulder as he was leaving. "By the way, Wes, sunburst bronze is definitely not your shade."
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