Long afternoon shadows were stretching across the quiet lawns by
the time Giles got to the house. At first, he was pleased to see her
car parked in the driveway, but then he noticed that the mailbox was
tightly packed with at least a week's worth of junk mail. He rang
the doorbell three times; no one answered. Finally he used his old
key to let himself in.
He wondered, as he stepped inside, if she remembered that he still
had a key. Probably better not to examine too closely the reasons
why he still had it. Best to let useless regrets lie.
"Hello?" he said, and heard his voice disappear into the
empty house. Inside it was slightly warm, dust motes sifting through
the afternoon sunbeams. Everything was very neat, there was no sign
of any violence but there was a thin layer of dust on the furniture,
on every flat surface.
On his way over he'd driven past Joyce’s gallery. It was closed,
permanently. He stared in confusion at the For Lease signs posted
in the whitewashed windows. When the hell had this happened? He couldn’t
remember the last time he'd gone to one of the openings she faithfully
sent him invitations to. Most disturbing was the fact that Buffy obviously
Buffy had called Giles at 8:30 a.m. that morning, catching him in
the midst of running late for his 10:00 tutorial. She was worried.
She'd been trying unsuccessfully to reach her mother for four days.
She kept getting the machine at home and the gallery phone had been
disconnected. PacBell was, surprise, surprise, no help at all.
Falling back into old habits he'd reassured her that it was probably
nothing, just some stupid mix-up. He promised to go over and check
things out. And truthfully, he hadn't really been concerned. Sunnydale
no longer had a Hellmouth, and Julie Ng the new slayer, was doing
an excellent job of dealing with those demons who hadn't got the word.
Her Watcher, Mr. Coulis, had told him that she complained constantly
about being bored; she wanted to go to Santa Barbara, or LA where
there was a little more demonic action. Not a problem he’d ever
faced as Buffy’s Watcher, but he tried to be sympathetic.
In the kitchen the red eye of the answering machine blinked furiously.
He pressed the replay button and listened to Buffy's voice, her tone
growing progressively more concerned as the days passed and her mother
didn't call back.
He opened the refrigerator to find it empty except for a few condiments
and a bottle of water. Which was, he told himself, somewhat comforting,
as it was hard to imagine kidnappers cleaning out the refrigerator
and taking out the garbage on their way out. It strongly suggested
that Joyce had left under her own power, and meant to be gone for
Which begged the question, namely, where was she? And why hadn't
she told anyone that she was going? It wasn't like Joyce, not at all.
For the sake of being thorough he checked upstairs. He merely glanced
into Buffy's former bedroom, long since converted to auxiliary storage
for the gallery. He couldn't tell if there were more boxes stacked
there than the last time he'd seen it.
As he opened the door to Joyce's room, he suddenly wondered how many
years it had been since he'd been there. It looked familiar, and utterly
normal. Bed made neatly, clothes put away. Everything seemed to be
in place. Not that he would know. Pictures of Buffy, of Joyce's parents,
of Hank and a ten-year old Buffy sat slightly blurred by dust on the
dresser top. There was nothing useful here, he thought, and went back
Anywhere else he might consider notifying the authorities, but here
in Sunnydale, that would be, at best, a quixotic gesture. The Sunnydale
Police Department had years of practice at ignoring mysterious disappearances.
The mayor's death and the closing of the Hellmouth hadn't really changed
anything in that regard.
He needed help, and he could think of only one person in Sunnydale
to ask for it. He couldn't ask for help from Coulis or the Slayer
without some evidence of supernatural involvement. Except for Xander
the surviving Scoobies had all moved away from town, and Xander had
made it very clear that he had had more than enough of playing lethal
games in the dark. These days he sold cars at his uncle's DaeWoo dealership,
and stayed as far away from Giles as possible. It was funny, he thought
as he shut the door behind him and walked back to his car, absolutely
*hilarious* that Angel was the one who he had to go to for help. That
in a way they had become… not friends, but at least trusted
Giles took out his cell and dialed Angel's number. He could hear
the phone ringing, but there was no answer. Giles hung up and thought.
It was still a good hour before sunset, quite possibly Angel was still
asleep. Giles decided to go over to the mansion, and see if he was
The mansion looked the same as always, Art-Deco gothic set well back
from the street and its neighbors. It had been built in the 1920's
by a fan of Alistair Crowley. That particular would-be practitioner
of the Dark Arts hadn't lasted long on the Hellmouth. As he walked
across the courtyard to the front door Giles wondered, not for the
first time, just how the place had come into Angel's possession. He
noticed that although the sycamore in the courtyard was turning colors,
shedding its leaves for winter, there were only a few dead leaves
scattered across the paving. The image of Angel pushing a broom at
midnight wandered inanely through his head as he rang the bell, listened
to it echo inside.
No answer. The thought occurred that Angel might be out of town,
that he might not even still live here. They hadn’t really kept
in touch. But as he stood there listening to the silence, he felt
an odd certainty that, unlike the Summers house, this one was occupied.
He rang the bell again, knocked. No answer. Damn.
He should simply go away and come back after dark. But he knew that
if he spoke to Buffy again with nothing more to tell her than he had
now, there would be nothing he or any power on earth could do to keep
her from rushing across the continent and tearing Sunnydale apart
looking for her mother.
Old skills and bad habits die hard. Giles was almost disappointed
at how easy it was to pick the lock. He tucked his tools back into
his wallet and pushed the door open. His second B & E of the day,
which was a record, even for Ripper back in the bad old days.
"Hello?" he called into the cool darkness. If Angel was
home, sleeping away from the light, the last thing he wanted to do
was startle him. Silence. He took a deep breath and stepped inside.
It was obvious that someone was in residence. The patterned floor
had been vacuumed, and the painfully modern furnishings were free
of dust. A neat pile of mail sat on the table next to the door. He
resisted the urge to pry and moved into the house.
"Hello?" a little louder this time. He moved toward the
fireplace, and looked in surprise at the finely carved African sculpture
of a stalking lion keeping guard over the fireplace tools. He recognized
it, it, or an identical piece used to sit in front of Joyce's fireplace.
He wondered when Joyce had given it to Angel. A Christmas present?
It would be like her, though he hadn't thought she'd kept in contact
with Buffy's ex. They’d never seemed to have much to say to
each other. Standing there he could smell woodsmoke: someone had had
a fire in the fireplace quite recently.
Joyce came back to herself with a start. She was in bed, nestled
in the rumpled sheets that smelled reassuringly like Angel. The angle
of the shaft of sunlight that she’d been staring into, enraptured,
had changed. Damn, what time was it? She sat up to look at the bedside
clock. 4:10 p.m. Oh hell, more than an hour gone.
She wanted Angel to come home. She hated being alone; with only herself
here it was difficult to stay focused. Angel told her not to worry
about it, that it was, funny word, *normal*, for a fledgling vampire
to get lost that way. Easy for him to say, a couple of centuries distant
from his own rebirth. She hated it, the ease with which she could
be caught up and rolled over by ephemera: the whisper of wind moving
around and through the house, the individual notes of a cricket's
song, dust motes dancing in a sunbeam.
It was all too much for her to cope with on her own. She'd died,
and been reborn: some changes were to be expected. But she'd never
expected the whole world to be transformed. Everything was in sharp
focus, every sound and scent overwhelming. Sometimes she was afraid
of cutting herself on the razor edges of this new world.
Her own body had become alien to her. She felt like the pilot of
those giant Japanese robots; she controlled it, but there was no feeling
of connection. It was silent, strong, tireless, and utterly unnatural.
There were no odd pains, no fatigue, no back aches, no odd twinges.
No heartbeat, no breath. She could be hurt, but never scarred.
Vampires could be videotaped, so she knew that she still looked like
herself, only better. She hadn’t grown younger, or suddenly
sprouted double-D's but all the transitory imperfections, the bad
hair days, the bags under her eyes after a bad night…were gone.
She was the ideal Joyce Summers. Preserved for eternity.
There were other good things. She liked being strong, almost as strong
as Angel. So long as she was in control, she enjoyed her new senses.
Her eyes could penetrate any darkness. She could hear a whisper from
the other side of a stone wall.
And, oh yes, the sex. The sex was very good. Her whole body burned
gloriously at Angel's touch and now she could meet him as an equal,
match him, body to body. No need for him to hold back for fear of
her mortal fragility.
And right now, she was hungry. A word that definitely didn't carry
the meaning that it used to. It wasn't the vague anxiousness it had
meant once upon a time, but a consuming ache that could only be satisfied
by one thing. Her mind focused on the plump bags waiting for her in
the refrigerator and she was down the hallway, at the head of the
stairs… And stopped dead.
Someone was inside the house. Looking for Angel. She moved from the
landing, and hid in the shadows. She listened until she was certain
there was only one man. He was making no effort to conceal his presence,
so probably not a would-be vampire killer. Alone, so likewise probably
not from the Council: they always traveled in packs. She dropped to
her knees and eased herself forward so that she could see through
She froze in shock when she saw who it was. Rupert. Oh hell. If not
the last, definitely the next to last person she wanted to see right
now. The demon mewled its desire to get closer, to *touch* as faint
traces of his scent rose to meet her: the leather of his shoes, the
wool of his coat, and the blood, his blood…
He was poking around in the fireplace. He was thinner, grayer, than
she remembered him. She hoped he was eating right, and not drinking
again. Looking down at him she had a good view of his bald spot. She
used to tease him about it, back when it was only a slight clearing;
remembered the way it felt under her hand, the vulnerability of the
bare skin, the baby-soft hair…
She hadn't touched a single living being since her death. Not so
much as a cat. Angel took her out at least once a week, on training
jaunts to the bookstore, museum, and even the movies once. She spoke
to people, walked among them, passed for human. But he always made
very sure that she was well fed before she went out. It had been,
it still was a shock to find herself thinking of people as food, to
have to struggle to resist the enticement of blood whispering to her,
just under the skin. It never got easy, Angel promised her, but it
would get better.
Now was probably not a good time to test her control. She eased herself
backwards, carefully. Got to her feet…and a board creaked under
A sound. Giles's head went up, his eyes iron hard behind his glasses
as he searched the concealing shadows for the source of the sound,
and saw a flash of white, a face, gone before it fully registered.
"Who's there?" he called. He barely hesitated before going
up the stairs, taking the poker with him.
Joyce hurried down the hallway. Sunlight rimmed every window she
passed -- no escape there. She needed to hide until he went away,
but where? Inside, the demon was awake, and afraid, it recognized
Rupert Giles as the Watcher, a sorcerer, a demon-killer in his own
right. Its fear began to infect her, even as she tried to think.
He'd never been upstairs before, never had the need; it felt a little
like a violation, being in Angel's private quarters. It was as neat
up here as down. Expensively, if spartanly furnished. Landscapes and
still lives on the walls, no portraits, no abstracts. No mirrors.
The first two rooms he checked were empty, afternoon sunlight making
the drawn blinds glow a deep yellow. He was slightly surprised to
see a computer center set up in one. He opened the third door and
stepped into what was obviously the master bedroom. Heavy dark drapes
hiding the windows. Unmirrored bureau. He glanced at the enormous
and unmade bed with the black satin sheets, definitely Angel.
Except for the woman's nightgown, peeking out from underneath a pillow.
There were two doors on either side of the bed. Poker at the ready,
Giles opened the one on the right: a bathroom, with the one window
carefully blacked out, marble floor, mosaic tile walls, enormous sunken
tub, big enough for Angel to stretch out in. There were two sets of
towels, he noticed, and a scent of something distinctly not-Angel
in the air. A hairbrush and comb and hairspray on the shelf above
the sink. Deodorant.
Confirming his suspicions that Angel had a lover, a mortal lover.
Bugger. He shuddered at the thought. On the other hand, was it really
any of his business? Perhaps he ought to just leave. He left the bathroom,
and hesitated, looking at the other door. Not hard to imagine a woman
being seduced by Angel, but would he have informed her of all the
consequences? As a Watcher, even a former Watcher, could he just walk
away without being sure? He stepped forwards and yanked it open, and
stared in shock at the woman trying to hide herself in the clothes
at the back of the closet.
"Joyce?" he said tentatively but as she moved forward
into the light, he realized that he was wrong. This wasn't Joyce,
for all it had her body, her eyes, her voice. But he knew better.
This wasn't Joyce, this pale and perfect simulacrum, not her, never
Joyce flinched inside when she saw that expression of disgust and
horror on the face she'd kissed, watched relaxed in sleep, contorted
with rage, sagging with exhaustion.
It hurt to smell the fear as he stepped back, his knuckles white,
gripping the poker.
"Oh, no. God help us all," he said softly.
He sounded so desolate that she couldn't help moving towards him,
to comfort him. He flinched, and brought up the poker.
"Stay away," he warned.
"Rupert," she said, making herself stand very still.
"Angel." He said, the name a condemnation in his mouth.
"He did this."
She felt fear as well as pain now. She knew that look of iron determination,
and she suddenly realized that the demon was right: that her existence
and Angel's were in very real danger. She knew him well enough not
to underestimate him.
"Rupert," she said. "It's me. Joyce. Really."
Giles shook his head in quick denial. Her mouth quirked, more grimace
than smile. "This is Angel we're talking about Rupert. I have
my soul, he saw to it." She stood very still, giving him time
to think about it. To decide her fate.
It was nearly sundown and the hotel bar was nearly empty. Other than
a probable hooker resting her feet at the bar and a couple of business
travelers grabbing a drink before running to catch their flights Angel
had the place to himself. He shifted uneasily in the booth, glancing
for the nth time at the door. His contact was late, and he was tired
of sitting here, nursing a glass of white wine. Every time a jet rumbled
overhead he thought of dragons and couldn't help flinching. This entire
trip had been something of a comedy of missed connections and petty
frustrations that had stretched out his absence from Joyce from one
day to nearly a week. He became uneasier with every day, every hour,
every minute that he was away from her. He'd called her every night.
But speaking to her was only a partial cure for what ailed him. He
wanted her in his arms; he wanted to be inside her, he wanted her
teeth in his neck...
He checked his watch. 5:15. He sighed and picked up his drink...and
froze as the powerful intimation swept through him that something
was terribly wrong. Joyce, he thought. He'd swum too long in the seas
of prophecy and premonition to ignore it. He fumbled out his cell
and called her. Panic started inching coldly down his spine as the
phone rang, again and again. Imagining all the things that could have
happened. He tried her other number, got the machine.
She was so young, a baby, nearly helpless; he should never have left
her alone. There was a reason the world was not overrun by vampires.
Fledglings were incredibly fragile. It didn't really take a Slayer
to kill them, anyone with a sharp stick and reasonable aim could do
it. Very few of them made it even a year into their theoretically
eternal lives. Even in a town without a Slayer, he thought as he rose
to his feet.
He used the phone to call a taxi to meet him in the underground parking
structure. He called Cordelia from the terminal and told her he was
sorry, but he had to go home. She didn't ask any questions, and his
tone kept her from complaining, much, about him letting her down.
He caught the 5:45 flight to Sunnydale, staring out into the night,
willing the damned metal bird to fly faster. Trying not to think about
Joyce, out in the night. Innocently enjoying the moonlight. Meeting
the Slayer. Not even knowing enough to run. Julie knew about him,
but she didn't know about Joyce, had never met her. She would see
her as only another of the monsters she'd been called to kill, and
do her duty. He growled, completely unaware of his seatmate sitting
stiffly terrified beside him. It was a long 45 minutes for both of
He called again as soon as they landed. The unanswered rings seemed
to mock him. He drove through the darkened streets in a near panic.
Joyce. Wishing there was someone to pray to, some God he still believed
in, that he could bargain with for her life. He couldn't lose her;
she was all he had left.
He stepped into his home and knew that someone had been there. One
person, a man, not the Slayer. Then the penny dropped. The scent was
familiar...it brought the guilty memory of blood in his mouth, of
trembling flesh cringing under his hands, screaming... "Giles,"
"Joyce?" He called. There was no answer. He rushed upstairs
to their bedroom. The room was empty, undisturbed by any sign of a
struggle. But Giles' fear and anger hung in the air along with traces
of Joyce's fear.
No, Angel begged the cruel Powers. Please no.
His face shifted instinctively, demon eyes and demon senses better
suited to find the trail, to track the faint hint of Joyce, of Giles,
out of the room, down the hallway, and back down the stairs. Where,
to his infinite relief, they separated. Giles' trail leading out the
door again, while Joyce's led deeper into the house. Beginning to
hope, he tracks it through the kitchen and down the enclosed walkway
to the pool.
The shades have been drawn back from the glass to reveal the night
sky, the crescent moon a ghostly flicker on the dark water. The tension
in Angel evaporates as he sees a pale shape moving back and forth
along the length of the pool. Joyce. Unharmed, here, safe. Angel squats
by the robe and towel she’s left folded there, giddy with relief
and watches her slice through the water, pale and graceful as a shark.
He'd never used the pool himself, but he'd had it fixed it up when
she saw it and told him how much she enjoyed swimming laps. She swam
every day now. It helped her concentrate, she said, helped her focus.
It was convenient, but still odd, to not have to breathe, and to
know that she could do this for hours. Swimming back and forth, like
a goldfish on crank. Trying to obliterate the loss and pain of the
past hour in the mindless rhythm. She felt Angel's arrival, the weight
of his gaze pressing on her even through the sheltering water. She
completed two more laps, and then surfaced, shooting out of the water,
splashing him deliberately. She took hold of his proffered arm and
let him pull her up into the air. He wraps his arms around her, careless
of his leather and she found herself clinging to him, feeling that
undeniable shock of pleasure, the connection between childe and maker
that isn't love, but something deeper.
He kissed her desperately long and deep; his embrace would have cracked
ribs if she were still alive. She responds guiltily. Under the joy,
she can taste the fear still clinging underneath. She'd heard the
phone ringing, she regrets frightening him now. But busy fighting
the urge to go after Giles, to find him. To make him look into her
eyes and say her name like it still belonged to her.
She trembles in his arms, cool and wet; her skin is slightly wrinkled,
reeking of chlorine. She's been in the water a long time. She pressed
herself closer to him, cold lips trembling against his cheek, and
he notices how pale she is. He realizes that she's hungry. He smiles,
unbuttons open his shirt, and offers her his throat.
No hesitation. Her face remains human, but suddenly sharp teeth slice
through his skin into the vein, he gasps, not in pain, as she growls
and begins to drink.
And it’s so good, filling her mouth like brandy cooled in snow,
chilling and warming her as it flows down her throat. It’s like
honey, like sugary fire, satisfying, perfect. She’s tried to
think of something it compares to, but nothing even comes close. It’s
better than chocolate, better than sex, better than any drug she’d
ever tried in the ‘70’s. So much better than the half-dead
stuff, warm courtesy of the microwave. Angel’s sweet, thick
blood is the elixir of life. Every time she drinks she feels reborn,
remade. It’s more than enough to keep her tied to him, and she’s
sure he knows it. But right now, she doesn’t care. All that
matters is the blood.
And she wonders for a moment what it tastes like fresh, alive.
Angel groans at the exquisite agony of her teeth opening him up,
the relentless suction as she pulls him into herself. He runs his
hands down her naked back, tracing the delicate architecture of her
spine, feeling each swallow through his fingertips. Her shudders of
pleasure merging with his as she drinks and drinks. The demon screams
in outrage as Angel allows her to drain him, retreating in disgust
to the back of his brain. Angelus seldom, if ever, fed his offspring
after he sired them. Unwilling to trade his strength for anything,
even this ecstasy. More fool him.
She can't grow warm, not from him, but he feels her revival, a prickle
of energy where skin meets skin. When she pulls away at last, he's
a little bit dizzy, but he still has to resist the urge to press her
back, to beg her to drink more. He would feed her forever if he could.
She remains nestled against him, and that is not like her. He finds
the towel, one-handed and wraps it around her shoulders.
"Joyce?" he says softly. "What happened?" She
sighs, and presses her head to his chest.
"Something went wrong with the call forwarding. Buffy’s
been calling me since Monday - Riley's mother died - she'd been sick
for awhile, but still... anyway she was worried when she couldn't
reach me." Angel swore softly. "Giles went to the house,
then came here to ask for your help. He found me instead." She
felt the shock of the news strike him.
"He didn't hurt you?" he asked, stroking her head gently.
He didn’t mean her body.
"No," she reassured him. "We… talked."
"Talked?" Angel questioned. Joyce hid her face in his
Rupert had finally decided to let her out of the closet, watching
her stone-faced as she sat down on the edge of the bed, knees together,
hands folded neatly in her lap. He remained on his feet, alert. It
seemed to make him more comfortable to have the advantage of height.
He wouldn't look her in the eye. But at least he hadn't run, pulled
a stake or a cross on her, or called in the new Slayer. But she'd
seen stone statues with more expression. Even his eyes seemed dead.
"Tell me what happened," he said finally.
So she told him. It took awhile. As she explained she felt the day
fading outside, the burden of daylight had been lifted entirely by
the time she had finished carefully and reluctantly explaining about
Jamaica and its consequences. She watched Rupert pacing, too angry
to stand still. This wasn't a new thing, she realized watching the
slow emergence of emotion to his face, from horror to sorrow to rage.
He'd hated Angel for a long time. All those years they'd fought side-by-side,
she'd been aware that there wasn’t much warmth between them,
but she'd never had a clue about how much he loathed Angel.
All the time they were talking, she couldn't stop thinking of how
soothing the familiar sound of his heartbeat was. How tempting the
smell of human blood was, Rupert's blood. She wanted to touch him,
to hold his hand, to let him know it was all right. To feel his breath,
warm in her mouth, his hands cradling her breasts... She pulled her
mind away from forbidden thoughts. Dragged herself back to the here
and now. To Angel, cradling her gently in his arms, his blood sweet
in her mouth.
"He knows everything then," Angel said.
"Yes. I think I convinced him not to tell Buffy," Joyce
told Angel. She felt the tiny flinch at her daughter’s name.
"I need to go see him," Angel said.
She looked at him doubtfully, she understood his reasons, but...
"I really don't think that's a good idea."
"I have to be sure," he said, brushing a strand of wet
hair back from her forehead.
"He hates you," she warned him.
"Yeah. I know."
He’d given up drinking again, so before going home he had to
stop off at Beverages etc. for supplies. Selected his own poison from
the long aisles of bottles and cans and joined the queue with his
two fifths of Black Bush, behind with an old lady with two jugs of
plain wrap vodka and three probably not quite legal college students
hoping to purchase several cases of beer. Déjà vu, all
over again. He wondered idly about the name change. The decor hadn't
changed, and in his opinion Liquor Barn at least had the advantage
of honesty. Certainly it hadn't been for their customer's benefit.
They didn’t care what the store was called, so long as they
could get what they needed.
He thought he recognized the clerk as well, but if she recognized
him she had the decency not to let on.
By the time he got home, night had finished swallowing the world.
He half-hoped that some obliging monster would emerge from the deep
shadows of his hedge, and relieve him of the burden of his thoughts,
but none did.
He locked the door behind him. Got a glass from the cupboard and
sat down on the couch with the first bottle. Poured an inch full and
studied the golden fluid. Inhaled the sharp fumes with their undertone
of sweetness. Blessed be the Irish, he thought, as he lifted the glass
and took his first swallow, feeling it sting his tongue, the back
of his throat, the fumes kissing the roof of his mouth gently, before
sliding sublimely down his throat. As the warmth rose to coat his
brain in soothing layers he wondered why had he ever given it up.
The loss of control. The looks of betrayal from those who loved and
trusted him. The blackouts. Crashing the car…
…All of which had seemed more than enough cause at the time,
but in the face of this disaster seemed quite trivial. How was he
going to tell Buffy? What was he supposed to say to her? "Sorry
Buffy, your mum's been turned by your old boyfriend. Not to worry
though, she's a good vampire." The whole concept of "good
vampire", having proved itself to be the oxymoron he'd always
known it to be. The thought of those accusing hazel eyes looking at
him threatened to shatter the whiskey's protective haze. Pour, lift,
and swallow: there, that was much better.
It maddened him to think of all those times in the thick of battle
when he so easily could have killed Angel, simply by hesitating at
a critical moment. And God knows he'd considered it. But no, he'd
gritted his teeth, pretended to forget if not forgive Angelus' little
trespasses: the murder, the torture, the rape.
But it wasn't Angelus who'd killed Joyce. This time Angel would have
to answer for his actions.
Joyce. Dead, since April. Her hair shining in the dim room like old
gold as she spoke softly, every word chipping away another bit of
his illusions. She sounded exactly like his Joyce. He couldn't take
his eyes off her, it wouldn't be safe to take his eyes away from her,
but he refused to make eye contact. She looked like the idealized
version of Joyce, the wet-dream that still occasionally visited his
sleep. But there were telltale signs, the way she forgot to blink.
The inhuman silence of her when she wasn’t speaking. The way
her nostrils flared when he moved and the air carried his scent to
Joyce/not Joyce, he'd wondered, standing there in the long shadows
of the dying day. How could one tell? God help him, over the years
he’d had plenty of contact with vampires, but never with someone
he’d known...before. Soul or no soul, could this possibly really
be Joyce, who he’d loved, fucked, fought with, and abandoned?
When she was done, she sat there in the dim room, watching him, her
face blurred in the darkness while he’d cursed Angel with quiet
venom. It was soothing in a way to be spared the details. Until it
occurred to him that she could see him quite clearly. He stepped over
to the light switch and turned it on. She flinched at the flare of
light, and when he moved towards her. He was startled to realize that
she was afraid of him.
"Please don't tell Buffy," she'd begged him. "It
will only hurt her."
He'd stared in disbelief. "How can I keep something like this
"It's been four months, she doesn't know. We talk once a week.
I know it can't go on forever, but please, please don't take away
what time we have left."
"What happens when she comes to visit?" Giles demanded.
Joyce had thought about that. She planned to stage her own death:
in a car crash, electrical fire, gas explosion, boat accident. Some
way that wouldn't leave a corpse. "But not yet. Please, Rupert.
She's my daughter, I don't want to lose her before I have to."
"I should have let Faith kill him," Giles said bitterly.
He'd left her there at last, sitting in her bedroom, their bedroom.
Half-hoping all the way back through the dark hallways that he would
hear a furtive step behind him, feel a cold breath on the back of
his neck, and turn to see her coming for him. The pretense of humanity
dropped, giving him something he could fight, win or lose. But she
never came. He stepped out into the night free, and lost.
Half the bottle gone, more than half the night left, and the pain
was still there. The grating agony of his complete and utter failure.
He'd failed Joyce. Failed Buffy. And there was nothing he could do
to make anything any better.
He must have dozed off. Someone was ringing his doorbell. Over and
over again. Didn't they know that visiting hours were over? The bell
kept ringing, and finally he got up to answer it.
He stared in outraged surprise at the tall shape in front of him.
"You bastard," Giles snarled. "Get the hell away
from me!" His rage was only increased when Angel stepped forward,
his calm in the face of his righteous anger.
"We need to talk," he said.
"About what? You slimy, unspeakable bastard. You’ve got
it all over Angelus. He was never much of an actor, never half as
devious as you with your poor tortured soul act you goddamned snake!"
Angel took the words without flinching, and nodded.
"You're probably right," Angel said. "But we still
need to talk."
He looked surprised when Giles lunged for him, and whacked the jug
he’d been holding down onto his head. He staggered under the
first blow, and the second shattered the heavy glass and slashed his
scalp. Angel dropped to his knees, bleeding and dazed.
A red haze seemed to shroud Giles thoughts as he unhesitatingly followed
up on his advantage, kicking him as hard as he could, anywhere he
could reach. He picked up a chair and brought it down hard on the
huddled form of the thing who’d haunted his life for so many
All those years of repressing the urge to kill Angel because he was
an indispensable ally, a peerless fighter in the battle against evil;
and besides, it wasn’t Angel who snapped Jenny's neck and left
her on his bed. Not Angel who'd burned neat circles down his chest
with a cigarette, and bent three of the fingers on his left hand back
till they broke. Not Angel, laughing, his teeth smeared with Giles
blood after he'd bitten off his nipple as a preliminary. Not Angel
who’d bent him over a table and invaded his body with his huge,
icy cock, and as he came, sank his fangs so deeply into his shoulder
that they grated against the bone. Oh no that was *Angelus*, the demon
of course, Angel was *good*, Angel was blameless. Angel groaned as
Giles drove his boot into the back of his head and went still. Well
that excuse wouldn’t cover this, not this time. Even Buffy would
have to see, at last, what Angel really was. Giles caught a brief
glimpse of his reflection in the hall mirror as he hurried past, leaving
left the vampire moaning and temporarily helpless for a moment while
he rummaged through the closet. Where the hell -- ah, here it was.
Angel groaned. No matter how many times it happened, having the shit
kicked out of him still hurt. He was weak, his own damn fault for
not taking time to feed before he left the house, he thought as he
struggled to get onto his knees. He looked up, Giles was back, leveling
a crossbow from three feet away. He was smiling and Angel could smell
the joy, the anticipation of vengeance.
"Tell me one reason why I shouldn't kill you," he asked,
almost playfully. Angel looked him in the eye.
"Because it wouldn't change anything," he said simply.
Giles’ lip curled and his finger tightened dangerously on the
"No, but it would do me a world of good." Angel wondered
if he had ever understood just how much Giles hated him. It was almost
funny that Giles’ had accused him of being an actor, when he
was obviously in the presence of a master.
"Joyce." Giles went very still at as he heard her name.
"If you kill me, what happens to her? She’s not ready to
be on her own. Are you going to take care of her… or are you
planning to kill her too?"
The thought of Joyce dissolving into dust, gone forever, her eyes
accusing him of both her deaths. Of Buffy, her eyes blaming him for
not taking care of her mother, not knowing… Giles heart froze
at the thought. He looked into Angel’s dark eyes, hoping for
a flash of triumph as he lowered the crossbow, for anything that would
have given him leave to pull the trigger, but he could read nothing
"You complete and utter bastard," he said. Angel didn’t
answer as he painfully got to his feet. Still no anger in his face
despite his obvious pain as he straightened up.
"You can’t tell her," Angel said.
"What? Concerned about your reputation?"
"It would destroy her. You know that." And Giles knew
he was right. Buffy was a grown woman now, and long separated from
Angel but this would destroy her.
"Get out. I never want to see either of you again," he
said deadly soft, "Leave Sunnydale, and don’t ever let
me know where you’ve gone."
Angel nodded and left without another word, Giles enjoyed watching
him limping out the door, then sat down at the counter and dropped
his head into his hands.
The phone rang. He knew who it was and let it ring two more times
before he could make himself answer it.
"Hello," he said.
"Hi Giles. I just wanted to thank you," Buffy's voice,
happy, the strain he'd heard last time they'd spoken gone like a bad
"Mom called. Explained about the big screw-up with the phones."
Joyce had called, he thought. But...
"Yeah, and she's really sorry she couldn't make the funeral,"
Buffy said. "Riley's holding up OK I guess. I mean, he kinda
knew it was coming, but she was his Mom, after all."
Giles opened his mouth, to say...what? He could imagine her, smiling,
happy. She hadn't been happy very often in her life. So much trouble,
in such a short life. He felt utterly empty, a hollow gourd. God,
he knew what he should do, knew his duty…but he couldn't do
"Good, I'm glad she reached you, stupid really," Giles
was proud at least, that he could still lie well, and without slurring.
"I'm really sorry for panicking like that. Thanks Giles."
"Yes, of course. I'm just glad it turned out to be something
so minor," Giles told her.
Sitting under the window, eavesdropping Angel sagged with relief.
Angel could hear the self-loathing in Giles' voice as he continued
chatting with Buffy, playing out the sad little charade. "Yes,
she is looking well these days…". He listened to the end
of the conversation, then feeling every bruise, cut, and broken bone,
got to his feet carefully and crept away from the house. He closed
the door very softly, and drove away.
The pain grew steadily worse during the drive home. His body screamed
for blood, he felt like a mummy, dry and hollow by the time he got
home. Tunnel vision focused on the refrigerator and the blood inside
it as he entered the house. He ripped open a bag with his teeth and
gulped it down cold. It tasted awful, but it did the job. By the time
he'd finished the second bag he could feel the healing start. The
tingling itch as bruises began to fade, and lacerations began to close.
It took another 2 units before he felt the deeper twinge as various
bones started to realign and knit themselves back together. He hoped
that Giles had enjoyed his violent catharsis, because it wouldn't
He found her curled up on the bed. Wearing her nightgown and surrounded
by pictures of her daughter and her grandsons. He could smell tears
in the air. He looked at each photograph as he carefully picked them
up and put them away. A recent picture of Buffy, her hair cut short
and straight, smiling and still beautiful, but the photograph showed
a deep worry crease between her eyes and lines at the corners of her
eyes that he'd never seen, or would see in person. The boys took after
their mother. They looked like good boys. Joyce had made two trips
to Atlanta in the past year, once she realized just how limited her
time was. She talked to them once a week. He knew they were going
to miss her almost as much as she would them. He put the photo album
on the bedside table and pulled the sheet up over her body. Kissed
her gently and then went quietly into the bathroom.
He undressed slowly and carefully. He sighed at the condition of
his clothes; the shirt was definitely beyond repair. He showered,
sitting down like the old man he'd never be. Dried himself and put
on his pajamas and slipped carefully in beside her.
He lay there awhile, content just to be there. He felt her wake.
"Angel?" she said, rolling over to face him.
He kisses her, and she feels heat blossom between her legs, another
little gift of her condition: it takes little or nothing to get her
going nowadays. She responds in kind, their tongues intimate as mating
snakes. But when she wraps her arms around him to pull him closer
Angel winces as bone grates on bone.
"You're hurt! What happened?" Angel shrugged, and wished
"We worked out some issues," he said calmly "I'll
"I should never have let you go over there," Joyce says
"My idea," he reminded her. "He didn't tell her,"
he added. And it was worth every blow, every slowly healing wound
to see her face light up.
"Sssh," she says. "Poor baby, let mama make it all
better for you," she purred.
His mouth relaxed into a half-smile as he let her push him down onto
his back. She gently spreads his legs and kneels between them, bending
forward to gaze down into those dark eyes she can no longer see herself
in. Admires his beautiful, deceptively youthful face. There are only
a few greenish blemishes left, and they're fading before her eyes,
leaving no evidence of what must have been a bad beating. Hard to
imagine Rupert attacking Angel. Harder still to imagine Angel just
taking it. Catholic guilt rides again. She bends down and kisses him,
butterfly soft on forehead, nose, lips. Then insinuates her tongue
into his welcoming mouth. He tastes of copper, of blood.
She pulls away from his mouth and continues the journey. He makes
a little sound of hopeful anticipation as she presses her teeth against
the white column of his throat, she can smell the blood he's just
drunk just under the cool silken skin, its transformation into Angel
*So easy to hold him down, cover his mouth while her teeth slip through
warm skin to the warm blood in her mouth.*
She goes on, kissing and nibbling her way down the side of his neck,
over the collarbone to his chest. She's still in awe of all that beautiful
flesh, that vast expanse of creamy, perfectly hairless skin. Good
enough to eat she thinks as she sucks gently on his sweet pink nipples.
At the same time she reaches down and feels his cock, straining at
his PJ's. She slips her hand inside the fly and it leaps into her
hand. She loves the feel of it, silk-skinned and heavy in her hand.
She strokes him teasingly, then lets go. Takes hold of his pants waist
with her teeth, and slowly pulls them down and off.
Angel growls deep in his chest as she pumps him a few times, brings
him fully erect...then takes her hand away. Leaving him aching as
she works her way down, biting his thighs gently, the inside of his
knees, his ankle, instep, flicks his arch with her tongue, then slowly
moves back up.
It seems to take forever for her to reach his crotch again. He can
feel himself straining toward her, desperate. Finally, she's there
again, her hair brushes across the head and he moans. Craning his
head, he can see her wicked grin as she slowly runs her tongue along
the apparently decorative vein from root to head. It jumps, his back
arches. His cock feels like it's made of stone, he doesn't believe
he could ever lift anything this heavy.
"Joyce," he chokes. His face transformed, eyes tight shut.
He no longer tries to hide the demon from her, and she's not sure
if she's happy or sad about that. He hisses through razor teeth as
she abruptly engulfs him. Feeling her own face shift as he feels his
length strain her jaw, the slick head prodding her uvula. Once again,
the not-breathing thing comes in handy, she thinks.
She-Was-Really-Good-At-This, Angel thought as she pushed forward
until her nose was buried in the black curls of his crotch, then pulled
back, letting his cock slip out of her mouth, then she caught the
head with her lips, and swallowed him down again, and again.
Then she began fucking him with her mouth in earnest, and his brain
went away for awhile. The world shrank down to his cock in her coolly
relentless mouth. The sensation building, intensifying, beyond pleasure
until he's turned inside out and comes, spurting deep in her throat.
He lay gasping, as she swallows and sits up, purring with satisfaction.
She licked her lips clean, and grinned at him while he uncrossed his
"Better?" He answered her by grabbing her, pulling her
down and rolling her under him.
"Much," he said, and proceeded to demonstrate.
He made her come, and fucked her. Made her come again, and fucked
her again, long and hard, long, his injuries apparently forgotten.
Her pussy feels like it's worn paper thin, but it hurts so good. On
the brink of her third orgasm he pulls her close and his teeth rip
into her, and he takes her blood, feeds just enough that she can feel
his need flare in her, and she explodes, and falls into a night filled
And afterwards, when he tells her they have to leave Sunnydale, as
soon as possible, she nods, accepting the inevitable. She drifts off
to sleep, while he lies awake, thinking.
For the first time since he was cursed he can contemplate eternity
with something dangerously like complacency. Joyce is safe, so he
can be almost glad that Giles found out, dangerous as it was. Now
they will have to leave Sunnydale. She will have to cut her ties,
to Buffy, to the grandkids. It would hurt her, and them, but in the
end, it needed to be done. They would go somewhere far away, and start
He knows that whether she is aware of it or not, she wants Giles.
It's the demon in her more than the woman, the call of the blood,
of familiarity is innate. Family blood is sweetest; he knows that
for a fact. It's why the families of those who are turned seldom survive
them long. The quicker he can remove Joyce from temptation, the better.
Even if he were the sharing type Giles would either kill her, or give
in to her, and then he would have to kill Giles. He'd kill anyone
or anything else that tried to take her from him.
He still isn't sure she really loves him. Perhaps that is his penance.
But she needs him, and he can wait for her to love him, he has eternity
after all. He draws her closer and allows himself to slip into sleep.