In Tenebris, Veritas

Angel: "I'm the good guy. No, wait, I'm the bad guy."

Leaning against the wall, Angel realizes that some things never change. It's unimportant that the wall he's leaning against is concrete block instead of stone, or that the traffic on the nearby street is made up of cars not carriages. In the end, this alley is as dank, dark and fouled by piss and garbage as any other he has had acquaintance of in his 240-odd years. He likes to think that *he* has changed, though he still hates the waiting as much now as he ever did.

It's warm for January, even for Los Angeles. The winter storms are at least a month late. The weatherman promised "a chance of showers" and the sky has clouded over, but there's no actual rain yet. He hears the scuttle of rats in the shadows and grimaces; the population has exploded, encouraged by the unusual weather. He hates rats; he never did get used to the taste. He folds his arms, settles himself a little more comfortably, and lets his mind drift a little.

He admires the way Kate stands her ground when he comes at her. She's an excellent shot, he feels the sting of the bullets, one, two, three, four, good hits, all nicely centered in his chest. They're not enough, not nearly enough to stop him. Good thing for both of them that she'd never been trained as a Slayer or she'd have known to go for a headshot.

It's just like riding a bike: you never forget how. Grabs the gun arm and forces it up, and takes hold of her, small blond woman with no Slayer strength to save her as he jerks her forward into his embrace, feeling her heart pound rabbit-fast as he sinks his teeth into Kate's neck. The blood seems to leap into his mouth, making it hard to remember who he is supposed to be right then as he holds her tight and drank her. Paralyzed by the shock and pain, helpless, her eyes staring up at him as his hands gripped her hard. Holding her, needing her…

The ache and loss when he had to let her go.

Someone laughed, a passerby on the lighted street and Angel shook off his reverie and returns his attention to the tedium of here and now. Still nothing. Maybe he should try somewhere else. He can hear the traffic and the crowds of shoppers only a few blocks away on Melrose. It bugs him a little. All those helpless humans blithely exposing themselves to the perils of night. Don't they read the paper? Watch the news? "Massacre in Bel-Air." "2 More Bodies Found." "LAPD reports another victim of the Twin Killers has been found, details tonight on News at Ten." Guess not. Of course, most of them are very young. They don't believe that death has anything to do with them. He knows that Liam must have felt that way once upon a time, but he's lost the memory.

An insubstantial drizzle has started, just enough to liberate the stink from the filthy asphalt. He checks his watch. 11 p.m. He hopes at least that his people are inside, safe in bed. Out of harm's way. They've got no business in this fight. This is war, no place for civilians. They never understood that. Kate knows, she's a cop; she understands the importance of protecting the innocent, the essential people from the darkness that would destroy them.

He's sure in his heart that the hope of their safety was worth the way they'd looked at him.

Cordelia, shocked and hurt in a way that tore a bleeding gash in his own heart. There had been more than the pain of friendship betrayed in her eyes, and he hadn't known.

Wesley - wounded, shoulders slumped, but under that almost relieved that the sword had finally fallen. Because he'd always known, after all, that anything he tried would fail. He'd been the second to leave that night, right after Gunn.

Gunn. Angel had seen the disappointed betrayal in his eyes, when he realized it wasn't a joke. He just left, disappeared, went back to his other family. He's left no messages, hasn't come back. That bothers Angel: that Gunn, of all of them didn't understand that he was doing it for them, taking responsibility.

They hate him now, and that's just fine. For the best. Cordelia hasn't left him a message for a week now, and Wesley hasn't been back since he changed the locks.

He'd done what had to be done. Been the grown-up.

He sighs, and finds himself thinking about the last time he'd seen Kate.


Hustled out of the lawyers' offices by a mob of nervous security guards, and handed over to the cops. Cuffed and shoved into the back of the patrol car. Most of his attention taken up by fighting the urge to rip off the cuffs and introduce the cop's head to the car's roof, when he'd been distracted by a familiar scent. He turned in surprise to see Kate.

"Oh, great," he snapped. Regretting it instantly. She simply looked at him with her pale eyes in her too-pale face. Her hair gleaming in the light, the fatal hue. Her expression isn't exactly friendly, more neutral, and that is far more than he'd expected, so much more than he deserved and the shock makes him splutter out some stupidity. She still doesn't get angry.

"Two people were just murdered in a clothing store at Fifth and Hill. Preliminary reports say that two women were spotted leaving the scene. One of them matches the description of your pal Darla. - They're not done, are they?"

He thinks that she's looking at him the way he remembered her doing once upon a time, before it all fell apart: as though he were a person and not an *evil*, evil thing.

"No." She flinches a little at the confirmation of her fears. "Why are you telling me this?"

"Because I don't think I can stop them. Maybe you can." And he is lost. Ah Katie: strong, and honest, and true. Willing to deal with the Devil if that's what it took to save the innocent. She'd searched his eyes and if he only knew what it was she was looking for, he'd have given it to her. He'd felt cheated when she turned away and ordered the driver to pull over. She'd unlocked his cuffs. He'd looked at her for a long moment, then reluctantly got out. Stood there watching the car until it was out of sight, but she never turned her head.

He's done his best, his very best to live up to her expectations. He's searched for Darla and Dru every night, but he's come up empty. He can feel them, he knows they're still here, still in his city, but apparently Darla's in no hurry for her goodbye kiss. They're hiding from him, but he will find them, in time. He will fulfil his charge by killing them both again. Prove himself to Kate.

The LAPD are having no luck either. They circulate the duo's descriptions and clear away the corpses. The "Twin Killers" designation was the invention of a local newsmen. He gets to talk to Kate almost daily on the phone. She treats him with strict professionalism. It's all so civilized, just as if he'd never had his teeth in her neck, her blood in his mouth, as though he didn't still have a few Kate corpuscles wandering through his body.

Just as if he didn't spend hours mooning over her picture.

Kate doesn't know that he's fired his staff. She believes that he knows nothing about the massacre at the Manners' house, and he's been careful not to disillusion her. He'd asked her if Lindsay had been there, and managed to cover his surprise when she said no, "he skipped the party, lucky guy." So he guesses he knows who Darla's new fuck-toy is. And in his idle moments, inquiring minds want to know: how long McDonald will last, breathing or otherwise; does Darla still like to share with Dru; and whether Lindsay regrets any of his choices now.

Wolfram and Hart seems to have recovered remarkably quickly from the blow of losing so many lawyers. McDonald has been promoted. Angel tried tailing him, hoping he might lead him to the girls, but the new Partner's comings and goings are better shielded than the President's. No joy there.

The sounds of a scuffle nearby jerks him back fully into the here and now. Finally, he thinks and follows the sounds deeper into the dark maze of alleys, to the back of a restaurant where two humans are struggling with a third on the dirty ground. Angel swoops in and grabs the bigger attacker and tosses him away into a heap of empty boxes. The second man stares up at him as he hauls him up by his grimy denim jacket and slams him headfirst into the wall. The man groans and goes limp.

The woman they'd been trying to put down gapes up at him. She's worn-out, crackhead thin, her no-color hair hanging in greasy strands over her face. A long scratch across her exposed chest seeps red.

"Go," he tells her. She's smarter than she looks; she scrambles to her feet and goes.

The one he'd tossed away is back on his feet, and he has a knife that he weaves back and forth, indecisively. There's more fear than aggression on his narrow face. "You too," Angel says letting his true face show. The wannabe rapist does a quick recalculation of the odds and then he's gone as well.

"Alone at last," Angel tells the unconscious man. He lifts him and holds him against the wall with one hand, rips open his collar with the other, and leans in. This one hasn't had a bath for awhile, but the stink of unwashed flesh is swamped by the delicious aroma of blood. Fresh, warm, human, blood.

No need to be delicate with this one. Just open wide and take a big bite, teeth slicing through the grubby skin to the treasure underneath. Angels grunts as the blood fills his mouth and pours down his throat. Really hits the spot: salty with adrenaline, laced with alcohol and the merest soupcon of cocaine, it washes away all his weariness.

And hasn't he earned it? He busts his ass for the PTB, risks his existence night after night and he's sick of doing it on butcher's blood and expired plasma. He needs this, deserves it. And it's not like he's preying on the innocent. He wouldn't do that, will never need to do that here in the big city. There are more than enough little sharks for the big shark to feed on.

He drinks till he's feeling comfortably full, then pulls his fangs out, and lets his victim drop bonelessly to the ground. He looks down at him dispassionately; the man's heartbeat is steady, and he'll wake up an hour or four from now feeling like shit, but he won't die of this. Maybe he'll rethink the whole life of crime thing. Angel wipes his mouth and his hands with a handkerchief, and drops it onto the man's chest.

It's starting to rain in earnest now, big fat raindrops splatting down on the ground, the unaware man. Tapping on his shoulders as he heads back toward the light.


Next stop, Wolfram and Hart. Angel parks a few blocks away, out of sight of their external surveillance cameras, slipped in through the parking garage and took the elevator. He'd found Dru's 'tag' when he went back to search the greenhouse where Darla had been reborn; a handy little amulet that keeps the seer-demons from setting off the alarm when a vampire enters the premises.

Lindsay has a nice new office. Two floors up from his old one with a stunning view of LA's sparkly lights. A huge desk commands a sea of gray carpet. He's shocked but not surprised to see a picture of Darla next to the phone. Evidence that the late unlamented Holland Manners had been even further out of the loop than he'd thought. It's not out of the realm of possibility that the "Special Projects" group had always been slated for sacrifice. He picks up the photo and studies it, for clues. He thinks it's probably undead Darla: the skin seems a little too perfect, and the eyes are a bit too bright for humanity, but he can't be sure.

He puts it down gently and gets down to searching the desk, the file cabinets. He doesn't bother trying the computer, everything the lawyers do digitally is securely guarded by password and spells. Comes up with nothing. Feeling frustrated, he went over to the window and stood staring out at the spectacular view, unmarred by his reflection. He knows there must be a safe around here somewhere.

He hears a soft click, and in the window watches as a demon steps out of the wall. Angel doesn't recognize the species. It's toweringly bipedal, big vaguely horselike head, lots of teeth, with dangerous looking spikes all over its slimy whip-thin body there are no weapons in its great big clawed hands. Considering its size it's remarkably silent as it sneaks up behind him.

It freezes when Angel turns around and smiles. "Hey, I was wondering when you'd get here." Brief look of uncertainty in the yellow goat eyes, then it attacks.

Angel lets it come, still smiling, moving at the last instant to sidestep the reaching claws and take hold of its elbow, wrenching hard, using the demon's own momentum to send it flying across the room. It lands in a confusion of limbs, but it's up on its feet in an instant. His hands are tingling, the damned slime must be corrosive. He wipes them clean on his jacket, glad that he no longer has to answer to Cordelia for his clothing bill and picks up a big Ficus, fancy Mesoamerican pot and all, lifts it over his head and slams it into the demon's head when it rushes him again. The pot cracks and dirt showers onto the carpet as it goes down again. Angel feels a sharp pain and realizes that he's been slashed across the chest. Fuck. It hurts, and he liked this shirt. He snaps off the stem of the plant and drives the makeshift spear into the demon's chest. It takes several tries before he hits something essential and the demon goes limp.

He leaves its head on top of Lindsay's desk, oozing ruinously over the expensive wood. Takes Darla's picture, and tosses a chair through the wall of glass for good measure. Alarms start to blare as he leaves via the secret passage, which leads to the basement. There are a couple of guards waiting at the exit, but they weren't expecting him, they're no problem at all.

He emerges into the night again. The rain's stopped. The sky is beginning to clear. He grins up at the stars gleaming high above the office towers. Dru's probably out there somewhere, talking to them. He remembers Darla's pained tolerance of her babbling. He's feeling pretty good despite his wounds. He'd enjoyed that, fighting, killing: it's what he's best at, why the PTB chose him to be the Warrior, the dark killer for the powers of light. As he jogs the couple of blocks back to where he left his car it occurs to him that the demon had been playing for keeps. Apparently, Wolfram and Hart no longer want him dark, dead will do. Whatever.

He jumps into the car and starts the engine. He wonders how Darla feels about wasting so many weeks of her second chance crawling into his bed at Wolfram and Hart's behest, wriggling and whispering obscenities into his ear, jerking him off in his sleep. Does vampire Darla think it's funny? One thing for certain, he's sure she wishes she'd been a little more persuasive. Having Dru as a sire is no walk in the park, and he's not around this time to play nursemaid.

Maybe Spike could give her some pointers? He's sure he'll be pleased to hear that his grandsire's back in action. Angel smiles at the thought as he pulls away from the curb. Like hell, Spike never liked Darla and vice versa. The only person Spike liked less than Darla was the Master, it was one of the few things he and Angelus agreed on. If he's smart, he'll stay far away from LA. Angel has no serious objection to killing him, chip or no chip.

He doesn't like Spike being in Sunnydale. Doesn't trust the posing little monster, much less the U.S. govt. issue tech currently holding him in check. He's expressed his opinion to Buffy and been told, very clearly, to mind his own business. So he has. Trusting The Slayer to take care of the situation if the necessity arises.

He seems to have a thing for angry women. Small, angry, blond women.

The quiet-for-LA streets don't require much of his attention, so he gets back to his hobby, obsessing about her... Ah Kate. Her blond hair gleams like metal wire but felt soft and smooth against his face.

Katie, Katie, Kate. He knows he should give it up, but he's never been very good at that. Now if you want someone to obsess and brood, well then, he's your man.

Does she think of him?

He knows where she lives. Has gone there, a few times, maybe more than a few times, and stood looking at her apartment. Wishing he could simply walk up and knock on her door, and that this time, she'll invite him in.

The memory of her blood haunts him like lost opportunities. It had made it that much harder to resist Darla's plea. Darla would either laugh or cry if she knew just how close he'd been, that night in the alley watching her offer her neck to that idiot vamp. Angel wishes at least that he'd allowed himself more than those few stray drops that night under the water tanks.

As he turns onto his street, a sudden image of Kate in Darla's place shines brightly in his mind's eye. Kate suspended in his grip, her back molded into the pillar as his fangs scrape down the side of her neck. The taste of fear in her blood, not desire. Her voice begging him to stop, not egging him on...

He drank her, but Kate is alive and well. With his mark on her. There are two women now alive in the world that he's tasted. Kate's blood is the most recent, but it's frighteningly easy to close his eyes and summon up the essence of Buffy's life in his mouth.

Both alive, and the thought tempts him.

He could make it so good for her...

Darla had been a good and thorough tutor, he knows how to slip his teeth in slyly, how to slowly draw the blood out, how to make the magic that transforms it from pain to sweet ecstasy so that they die smiling and can be propped neatly in their pew or carriage seat and left there, no-one the wiser.

Home again, home again. The King returned to his huge, dark and empty castle,. He parks in back and takes the freight elevator directly to the 3rd floor. Avoiding the darkened lobby which is thick with the memories of departed friends. He does miss them, but he knows he did the right thing, making them go. They held him back, kept him from doing what needed to be done. Forced him to spend energy pretending that he's something he isn't, slowed and hampered him with their concern.

As soon as the elevator doors open he smells it. Blood.

Kate's blood.

He runs down the hallway to his room, and kicks the door open. Sees the limp figure on the bed, crumpled and pale against the sheets.

The room blurs around him. She's unconscious, lying on her side, her hands cuffed behind her. He bends over her anxiously, his nostrils flaring at the smell that rises from her bruised skin: Darla and Dru are all over her, mixed with the fear and anger and blood. Deep relief floods through him when he finds her heartbeat is steady and strong.

Only then does the rest of it penetrate. Her shirt's been torn to show her breasts and the keys tucked into the valley between them. Her jeans unzipped and tugged down just enough to reveal the lacy top of her white underwear. The final touch is the red satin bow tied prettily around her throat, stained by the slow ooze of blood from the wound underneath.


Like all the other little presents left in so many beds by his doting Sire. He remembers the pleading eyes, the useless struggles, the sweet blood singing with panic as he unwrapped each pretty gift and ran cold hands over warm, soft, helpless flesh. Remembers Darla's approving smile as she sat watching her greedy boy play with his treat before he gobbled them up, every last drop. But not this one. Not this time. There's a twinge of guilt, because he can guess how Darla found her. The present is meant for Angelus, not for him, but same difference in her mind. She's wrong, he hopes.

She smells so good.

He wants so badly to undo the ribbon and paint a line down the smooth skin of her neck with the tip of his tongue to the sweet hollow of her throat. Wants to cover her lips with his, to invade her with his tongue and map every soft ridge of her mouth the smooth surfaces of her blunt human teeth. He wants to press himself along the length of her body so that she can feel him, hard, aching for her. Wants to slide his hand between her legs, to part her hidden lips and push inside. Wants to feel her wet, warm cunt clench around his fingers, as he captures her waking gasp in the cold cavern of his mouth.

The demon whispers to him, to take the gift, begging him to open her up and salve his wounds, his pain, his doubt in her blood and emerge reborn, tempered, a dark arrow aimed at evil's heart.

Kate stirs. She groans, and tries to move her arms, and her half-conscious struggling nearly undoes all of his good intentions. He steps back as she opens her eyes and sees him, her expression swiftly shifting from surprise to wariness, but not panic, not yet.

"Angel?" She pulls against the cuffs. "What's going on?" Eyes challenging him. Demanding that he live up to her trust.

END part 1

Part 2


Oni's place: