Touch of Evil
Part 19 ** Daylight licked me into shape I must have been asleep for days And moving lips to breathe her name I opened up my eyes And found myself alone alone Alone above a raging sea That stole the only girl I loved And drowned her deep inside of me** **"Just Like Heaven"- The Cure** A thin shaft of artificial orange light penetrated the oppressive darkness surrounding Angel. As quickly as it came, it was gone, and the darkness enfolded Angel once again with its velvet wings. A sound like a dull thump accompanied the brief appearance and disappearance of the light. He thought it might be a door closing but he couldn't be sure. Over the past few days his hearing had been off, as if his body was submerged under water and every sound had to be filtered through the viscous liquid to reach his ears. He was sure if he survived this he'd be left with permanent hearing loss. Though the sounds were diffused, he could sense another presence in the room. Cursing internally, he braced himself for the figures of either Buffy or Angelus. Inside, he felt like crying. He'd only been alone for… well he wasn't quite sure how long it was exactly. Time had begun to lose all meaning during his captivity. It could be anywhere from 15 minutes to 15 hours. All he knew was his body hadn't recovered yet from their last visit. He could still feel the blood leaking from his numerous wounds. If they picked up the torture again, he knew with certainty he wouldn't make it through the night. But it wasn't Buffy or Angelus that filled his field of vision. With the flip of a switch, cold artificial light flooded the room, chasing away the darkness. When his eyes had adjusted to the sudden brightness, he found himself staring at the red haired beauty that dominated his every waking and sleeping thoughts. She stood before him staring, words dying in her throat as she took in the broken remains of his body. Angel hadn't looked in a mirror for over a week so he could only imagine what he looked like. Pretty bad, judging by the horror in her eyes. She, in contrast, looked amazing. It was probably the best he had seen her look, but his perception was probably tainted by the fatalistic slant to his thoughts. Her hair hung down her back, in intricate plaits, framing the sides of her face. Her makeup and the lush pale green of the Victorian dress she sported highlighted her natural coloring, making her eyes appear even brighter. Even her usual gilt and porcelain complexion seemed brighter; as if aglow with some emotion he didn't want to contemplate. Happiness, most probably. Angel lowered his eyes against the raiment of her beauty; sure this vision was just another hallucination. He'd taken to having them since he'd last seen her. Whenever he was alone she'd appear. Sometimes she'd merely sit on the bed, watching him with sad, faraway eyes. Sometimes she'd scream at him, pounding his chest, making the blood splatter, as she berated him for lying to her, blaming him for all that had happened to them. Other times he'd envision her walking in while Angelus was there. Her entire aura would exude a cold detachment as she'd stop Angelus from his torture and pull him to the bed. He would be helpless to stop the vision, unable to look away as she fucked him right in front of him. Once or twice he'd dream of her forgiveness, of her coming to him as she was now, and cradling him in her arms. She'd call him Angel and whisper over and over how much she loved and forgave him. Those hallucinations didn't come too often, and for that he was grateful. It always made reality all the more painful when it came crashing back in. She was speaking now, and he wondered which vision this one would be. "Angel," she whispered tentatively, her anguish evident in both her face and her voice, "Angel, please answer me. Goddess, please don't let me be too late." Her hand lightly caressed his forehead, pushing damp strands of hair away from his eyes so she could stare into them, probing for signs of intelligence. Angel felt himself relaxing at her touch. Despite the fact that every inch of his body felt like it was on fire, his skin as sensitive to touch as raw nerve endings, her hands managed to soothe him like those of a mystical healer. It was as if her hands were a direct conduit for the love she felt for him, the depth of her emotions acting as a balm to both his physical and emotional wounds. He tried to lift his head further, tried to speak but couldn't. To her the only visible movement was the occasional blinking of his eyelids and the faint rise and fall of his chest. He could sense the panic welling up inside of her as he continued to remain silent, unable to speak no matter how hard he tried. He knew she was on the verge of hysteria and there was nothing he could do to reassure her. It hurt too much to even try. Even though she was just another hallucination, he didn't want anything he did to hurt her. She was crying now. He couldn't see because the muscles in his neck had given out, his head slumping like a broken flower stem. But he felt her tears as she fell to her knees before him, cradling his body against hers, her chin resting lightly on the top of his head. Even though all he wanted was to hold and be held by her, he wished he could push her away. He hated the idea of his blood staining her skin and dress, tainting her innocent beauty. Willow didn't seem to mind. She kept on holding him, oblivious to the blood though trying to be careful around his wounds. She didn't want to end up hurting him by reopening wounds that weren't totally healed. Hoping he could hear her, Willow began to unburden her soul, offering up explanations she felt he needed to know. "Angel, I'm sorry, this is all my fault. I know that. I just… I couldn't think of any other way out of this mess. I had to trick Angelus into trusting me enough that he wouldn't hesitate to leave me alone in the house with you; only it took a week for him and Buffy to leave at the same time. That's why I couldn't come to you before today. And now it's too late… please, please, please don't be too late. Please say something Angel." Willow paused, waiting in vain for a sign she knew wasn't coming. She could feel his body moving with each labored breath. Each exhalation sounded as if it was his last- as if his life force was being pushed out of his throat on a breathe of air. Fearful, Willow rushed on. "I'm sorry if I hurt you with the whole catatonic/amnesia act. When Angelus was going on about who you really were it was the only plan I could think of. I needed to get him to let his guard down so that I'd have a chance to rescue you." Willow began to cry harder, as if realizing how futile her rescue attempt had become. "Please don't leave me, Angel… not so soon; not when we've just found each other. Goddess, it's not fair. I love you, Angel. I love you." As Willow sobbed, desperately clutching his broken body to hers as if she could mend him with the strength of her body and will, Angel felt his own desperation slip away. He knew now that this was no hallucination, no feverish last attempt by his brain to cling to some vestiges of sanity. His body had been holding on, waiting for this moment so that his heart and soul could hear what it needed to before being able to move on. As she confessed her love for him- not for Adrian, but for Angel- he felt his entire being, weary from its harsh journey, begin to shrug off its mortal coil. He had held on for so long, hoping for this moment and now he could finally slip the surly bonds of earth and move on. With a last rallying of strength, Angel managed to whisper, "I love you too, Willow. Always." Willow pulled back, desperate hope at his words washing over her, banishing her tears. She searched his face, her own crumpling once again as she took in the peaceful expression on his face. She swept his now motionless body in her arms, holding him to her for dear life because she knew the moment she let go- accepting his death- she would cease to exist.
Part 20 **Hey you out there in the cold Getting naked, getting old can you feel me? Hey you, standing in the aisles With itchy feet and fading smiles can you feel me? Hey you, don't help them to bury the light Don't give in without a fight** **"Hey You"- Pink Floyd** Los Angeles Two Weeks Later Willow had always loved Los Angeles in the summertime. Sometimes, when she was younger, her father had let her accompany him on business trips to LA. She remembered how awed she would be by the huge, fancy hotels and the crowded beaches with their never-ending stretches of golden sand and the glistening jewel of the ocean. But things were different now. Willow was grown up, and the city no longer held any mythical beauty for her. As she walked the streets, shopping for new clothes on Angelus' dime, all Willow felt was the crushing weight of despair. Like an automaton, she went through the motions of life without really experiencing anything. Sometimes it amazed her that she was even able to carry on the masquerade. Perhaps it was because she no longer felt alive. In essence, her soul had fled her body the second Angel's had, leaving her a pale husk of the woman she had been. Only survival instinct and the burning desire to avenge Angel's death had kept her from remaining by the side of her dead lover's body. Angelus had never suspected a thing, and so her cover had not been blown. She'd even managed to somehow act happy when Angelus told her the news of Angel's demise. They'd left the next day for Los Angeles and had been staying there while Angelus took care of some business or another. Willow wasn't quite sure and didn't really care. It infuriated her how life went on around her as if nothing had changed- as if the only man she could ever loved wasn't dead, as if she wasn't dead inside. She remained with Angelus, under the guise of her amnesiac state, barely tolerating his attempts to woo her into giving up her virginity to him. She knew he was losing patience with her pleas for more time to get used to him again, and it wouldn't be long before he forced the issue. Time was running out and if she wanted to get her revenge, however she decided to do that, she would have to act soon. Willow stopped in front of a trendy boutique, starring with unseeing eyes at the mannequins in the window as her heart and mind tried to work up the courage it would take for her to complete the one thing that kept her alive. It wasn't that she didn't hate Angelus enough to actually kill him- it was that she couldn't imagine looking at the face of the man she loved and watch it disintegrate into dust. True, the face of the man she had fallen in love with had been that of Adrian's, but she couldn't help but associate her lost love with the body he had inhabited for two and a half centuries. She wasn't sure she'd be able to actually kill him when it came down to the crunch. One look into those eyes and she feared she'd crumble under her regret. If only she'd known who he was earlier, if only they had found each other sooner, if only she'd gotten to him a few days earlier. If only, if only, if only- her heart was bruised from them. It would have to be tonight- if she waited any longer she would risk her entire charade blowing up in her face. Angelus would fully claim her as his and she didn't think she could maintain her façade if things went too far. Already she was fighting her body's revulsion at his touch, trying hard to keep her inner feelings from taking on an externality. Tonight Buffy's prophecy would come true- one way or another it would all be over soon. Startled out of her thoughts by the sound of someone rather obnoxiously clearing their throat, Willow turned to find a short, badly dressed man standing beside her. It was evident from the way his hands fidgeted with the brass buttons of his jungle print shirt that he'd been there for awhile, waiting for her to notice him. With cold, disinterested eyes, which she hoped conveyed how much she wanted to be left alone with her misery, Willow gave him a once over. Besides the fact that he was inappropriately dressed for the typical mid-80's California summer day, complete with a checkered wool jacket and clashing black hat, Willow was surprised to see that he was watching her with warm, friendly eyes. Not only was there recognition in the depths of his eyes, but also a touch of sadness and sympathy. They gave her the sense that he knew everything about her and her losses and was mourning them with her. He waited for her to finish her once over before speaking. It also gave him the time to completely absorb the vast emptiness he saw in her eyes. It wasn't as if he'd never seen it before; many humans had experienced losses such as hers, killing off all semblance of life within them before their natural deaths. However, seeing what had become of this young witch was especially hard, especially since he shared in her loss. Pushing aside his own emotions with an ease born of long practice, he introduced himself. "I'm Whistler." The name was vaguely familiar to Willow, and she found herself trying to place it. She thought perhaps Angel had mentioned something about a friend named Whistler but she couldn't remember specifics. Of course, Angel had often shied away from going into detail with a lot of his stories. When Willow had thought it was Adrian, the cryptic nature of his personality had always annoyed her. Now that she knew the man she had fallen in love with had been Angel, it all fit: Angel was the King of Cryptic Guys. Add to that his Clark Kent/Superman like duality and his preference of minimalist conversation techniques made perfect sense, though no less annoying. Of course, it also made Willow wonder just how much she actually knew about the man she loved. "I see from your lack of recognition over my name that Angel still hasn't lost that cheeky mystique those who know him love to hate," Whistler added wryly. Willow surprised herself by actually giving a small smile of acknowledgement. There was something about his blunt honesty that appealed to her, and she found herself warming to the man, her entire demeanor softening and becoming less guarded. "Not that I like speaking ill of the dead, though in this case since he's not really dead I suppose I can get away with it, huh. Which brings me around to my reason for being here, though I don't think a crowded daytime LA street is really the place for this conversation. How about you let me buy you a drink. I know a great bar right off Sunset- not too far from here. The bartenders a cousin of Willie's so maybe you won't be too homesick there- but don't worry." He added at the panicked look on her face. "He doesn't tolerate the sunlight intolerant clientele, if you catch my drift. Only demons, which is why it's one of my favorite hideouts." To his delight, Willow nodded her agreement without any protestations. He couldn't help but wonder if she was always this agreeable or if it was a side effect of her grief. Whatever it was, it was gonna make his mission a lot easier if she took everything he said with minimal disagreements. They walked to the bar in silence, but it wasn't an uncomfortable one. There seemed to be an unspoken agreement between them to refrain from conversation till they arrived at their destination. Willow chose a corner booth in the darkened bar as Whistler ordered them some drinks from the bartender- something tropical he had promised. The only other clientele were a pair of red faced, multi-horned demons sitting at the bar. Willow might have feared them if she'd come across them in some darkened alley in the dead of night, but their present conversation was anything but scary. Ironically, they were in the middle of a heated debate over the next presidential election, arguing the merits and demerits of each respective candidate. They had even raised their glasses to her in cheers as she first entered the bar. Bewildered, Willow turned her attention away from the pair as Whistler joined her, two glasses of what looked to Willow like frozen strawberry margaritas, complete with baby umbrellas, in his hand. Amused, Willow watched as Whistler sipped the frothy liquid through the tiny red straw, her own drink remaining untouched. She never had been much of a drinker. When he had sucked the entire drink up in one long sip, Whistler sat back with a contented sigh. "Nobody makes 'em quite like Lenny." He nodded towards her drink. "Try it, you don't want to miss out on a taste like this. The fruit explodes in your mouth- you can barely taste the alcohol. Oh it's there, but you'd never know it." He pushed the glass towards Willow and waited for her to take a sip before continuing. "Now, you probably have a few questions, though how I know that, considering how you haven't said word one since I met you, is a mystery even to me. But I can only assume since Angel told you nothing about me. Oh where to start, where to start… I suppose the cliched explanation of who and what exactly I am should come first. In case you're slow and couldn't pick up on the hints I've been throwing out, I'm a demon. I'm not a bad guy though. Considering how you've only been schooled in Watcher Ideology, or as I like to think of it- propaganda- you should know that not all demons are bent on the destruction of all things good and living. Basically, I'm one of the good demons." Willow looked skeptical, so Whistler amended his usual explanation. "This would make more sense to you if you're education in the supernatural hadn't been so one sided. The Watcher's need to keep the good/evil line clearly demarcated for the Slayers so they don't find themselves questioning their duty in the middle of a life or death fight. To them, all the slayer needs to know is that Demon=Bad, and don't even get me started on the whole all vampires are evil thing. We've tried to reason with them over the years, make them realize that their old fashioned ideology was becoming more of a hindrance to the Slayer in the Modern Era, but they're very stubborn. We're hoping they'll come around soon. It's not like we don't have the time to wait them out." Willow couldn't help but interrupt. "Who's we? The Good Demons?" Whistler smirked. "Yeah, sort of. When I say we I'm talking about everyone on the side of Good. That includes the good demons, The Powers That Be, the Oracles, The Council of Elders, and all the other leaders in the wonderful political machine running things. Oh, I'm a member of the Council, by the way, but we don't really have time to get into my rather long list of credentials. I've been trying to get the Council to invest in some badges- it would save a lot of lengthy conversation." Whistler broke off as Willow snorted in her attempt to smother her laughter. Smiling, Whistler gave Willow another once over. "You know, you're pretty sexy when you smile like that. I can see why Angel picked you over the slayer. Not that she's not a cute piece of ass herself, especially now that she's all vampy- black leather is definitely the right look for her. Have you ever considered it- I think it could bring out a whole new side of your personality you've never considered. Or not." Whistler quickly changed directions as Willow glared at him. "Don't get me wrong, I'd choose you over her any day. You've got that timeless, mystical beauty, what with your red hair and all that raw, untapped power. Everyone on the Council agrees- that Angel is one lucky guy." "Has anyone ever told you that you talk to much?" Willow couldn't keep her annoyance out of the quip. "Ouch, you wound me. Angel used to say it all the time but coming from a man of such few words as himself I never took it to heart. Since I'm supposed to be doing the explaining thing, I wouldn't be complaining if I were you. Then there's the fact that you've just spent months not having things explained to you and look where it's gotten you. I'd think you'd be refreshed by the change." "Alright, I see your point, but could we just move on to the part where you tell me why you're here? I kind of have a limit to the amount of time I can spend away from Angelus, or don't you know that?" "Touché. Now where was I? Oh right, so anyway, I'm the man who saved your love Angel from a desolate and lonely life of living on the streets, whining and moping over how cruel fate was to curse him with a soul and a demon. Man, you wouldn't have believed what he looked like when I found him in Manhattan all those years ago- and the smell! You don't even want to know about the smell. Let's just say it wasn't pretty. He was a far far cry from the mysterious, suave loverboy you and the slayer fell in love with. You can thank me for that. I cleaned him up and taught him everything I know." Willow eyed Whistler with a look that could only be described as outright disbelieving. She gave the demon a once over, her eyes lingering on the florescent green tie that clashed horribly with the rest of his outfit. Prickling defensively, Whistler muttered, "What is it with creatures from Earth and their boring taste in fashion. Anyway, I was sent to enlist him as a warrior for the forces of good. We gave him the special job of protecting the slayer. We all saw potential in him- he could become somebody if he had the right help, i.e. me. Besides, he had a lot to make up for as his years as Angelus. True, it wasn't his soul that did any of it, but the taint was still there. So instead of letting him waste away and contribute nothing to the world, we decided he could be of some use. I trained him and sent him on his mission. Can I help it if he had to go and get all head over heels infatuated with the slayer. It wasn't supposed to happen that way, but that boy's been doing things ass backward since the day he was born. If he'd just recognized you as the one he was supposed to be with from the beginning, so many of this could have been avoided. Now everything's off track and my ass is on the line with the PTB's. I've gotta fix things so they're the way they're supposed to be or else we're gonna have a lot more problems than a renegade Apocalypse loving vampire on our hands." "Wait a minute, wait a minute? Are you saying Angel and I were supposed to fall in love three years ago? That it was fated by the PTB's? Why? And what exactly is off track now? What's gonna happen that a quick stake to the heart wouldn't avoid?" "Yes to the first part, and as for the second part, I can't answer that, yet." Willow opened her mouth to complain but Whistler rushed on, cutting her off. "Look, it's not time for you to know yet. It would make things even more fucked up than they already are. Just take my word for things. Everything will be revealed in due time just as soon as I put things right." Willow grudgingly let the issue drop, but picked up on something else she was curious about. "What exactly are you gonna do to put things back on track. I mean, isn't it a little late for damage control?" Willow began to squirm under Whistler's gaze. The look in his eyes told her he had expected better of her. "If I didn't know better Id wonder about that huge intellect of yours. Don't play the naïve, innocent with me, as if you still had the wool pulled over your eyes and had no idea about the real big bad world out there. You know as well as I do that staking Angelus isn't the only way to get rid of him." "If you're referring to the soul restoration spell then I think we're a few centuries late. Ms. Calender told us the spell was lost even to the gypsies, and they're the ones who did the original curse." Whistler fought to keep the bite out of his answer. "Ms. Calender was telling the truth as far as she knew it. The spell is lost- to humans. But I'm not human, and we're not exactly hindered by a little something such as a dead human language. For us there's no such thing as a dead language- we know them all. Hell, even if that language really was dead, there are a million other restoration spells we could use, and if the PTB's wanted they could restore Angel's soul in a blink of an eye. The point is, Angel's soul can be restored, this time by a non-vengeful friend, and that's exactly what's gonna happen. I don't usually interfere this directly but time is of an issue. I'm going to have to get my hands dirty to accomplish what I want. Willow." Whistler snapped his fingers in front of the shocked witch's face. "Come on, snap out of it. I know it's a lot to absorb but we don't have time for such indulgences." Whistler wondered if maybe he'd pushed the girl too far, too fast with his information. She wasn't moving or saying anything and as the minutes dragged on he began to get worried. Relief washed over him as tears began to run from her eyes, though it quickly turned into sympathy as her face became animated once again, her small body hunching over as sobs racked her. Moving to the other side of the booth, Whistler wrapped an arm around Willow, pulling her against his body so she could pillow her face against his shoulder and cry comfortably. Despite what he'd just said, he couldn't bring himself to stop her from giving in to her tears. With all the girl had been through she deserved the indulgence, and he wasn't going to deny her it. Long after Willow's tears had run dry her body was plagued with dry, heaving sobs. When those finally left her, leaving her body still against Whistler's, Willow lifted her flushed, tear stained cheek off his shoulder and gave him a tentative smile. She hadn't meant to break down so completely in front of the demon but, amazingly, she didn't feel embarrassed, despite the huge wet spot that now stained his shirt, visible evidence of her lack of control. She knew he understood her need for emotional release, and the fact that he'd offered her the silent comfort of a shoulder to cry on endeared the demon to her immensely. Within the short span of an hour she already counted him as one of her cherished friends, and if he really did what he said he had planned, she would love him forever, even offering up her first born in gratitude. Whistler laughed good-naturedly. "Are you always so hyperbolic with your thanks. Don't worry, you'll end up repaying me in the future, and not in some Godfather kind of way, and it definitely won't be anything as severe as that. You'll understand what I mean when the time comes. Although, if you feel the need to do something a little extra, I know a motel not far from here that… Ow." Whistler rubbed the side of his abdomen recently vacated by Willow's elbow. "Jeez, I was only kidding. I'd better apologize for the reading your thoughts thing. I try not to but that last thought was broadcast so loud I couldn't help but catch it. Now, if you're done bruising me for my help, let's get a move on. We've got a lot of work to do before dark; or at least I do- you really only need to sit around and look pretty." Whistler took Willow by the hand and began to lead her out of the bar. She stopped him as they reached the door. "Thank you, Whistler." The depth of emotion evident in her voice made the simple thanks heavy with meaning. Blushing, Whistler ducked his head. "Yeah well, just remember you wanted this the next time Angel gets all broody and cryptic and refuses to tell you something important. I can't be responsible for all his actions." Willow swatted him on the arm playfully. As they made their way through the streets of LA, Willow felt lighter and more alive than she had in weeks. The demon had given her back something she had been positive she'd lost forever- hope.
Part 21 **Peace is what they tell me Love am I unholy Lies are what they tell me Despise you that control me The peace is dead in my soul I have blamed the reason for my intentions poor Yes I'm the one who the only one who Would carry on this far Torn, I'm filthy Born in my own misery Stole all that you gave me Control you claim you save me** **"Torn"- by Creed** Angelus was worried. He wasn't scared because Angelus didn't get scared. That sort of weakness belonged to his soulful counterpart, and as far as he was concerned, it was best left with him. Once a man, or vampire for that matter, was weakened then he was an easy target for fate to come and kick your ass back down with the rest of the pussys who gave in to weakness. Angelus prided himself in being a pillar of strength, a master of destroying all seeds of potential weakness before they had a chance to take root; any embers were extinguished before their flames could span out of control, becoming an unstoppable blaze that would burn him alive. Kill, main, destroy- whatever it took to remain on top, he would do it. Only now he was beginning to worry, and the feeling was incompatible with his innate cockiness. He wasn't quite sure what to do now that he wasn't completely in control of a situation. This was unfamiliar territory for the Master Vampire, and it was making him feel ineffectual for the first time ever (not including his wimpy soul infested days, but he didn't count that part of his life as himself anyway). He glanced at the digital alarm clock on the nightstand for the tenth time in as many minutes. Cursing under his breath, Angelus resumed his restless pacing. He'd been on his feet trying to burn off his nervous energy for the past hour but it wasn't doing any good. Never before had he been so physically aggravated by his forced captivity during daylight hours, and Buffy's incessant chattering was literally driving him up the wall. As in life, it seemed the only time the bitch shut up was when he was in the midst of slamming himself in to her mouth. That was one thing you couldn't take away from the Slayer. She had a mouth like a vacuum, almost as if she had been born to perform that particular act. Even now, the bitch was trying to get his attention, laying spread eagle on the bed as she ran her hands over her naked flesh, hoping to tantalize him enough to forget the fact that the Witch was over an hour late. The stupid twit didn't seem to realize that he wasn't in the mood. Not for her- especially when he was stuck indoors without any idea where Willow, the only woman he did want, was. Immediately he regretted allowing her to go out by herself during the day. He had figured it was safe enough. At least during the day there was no chance of some idiot Fledging mistaking her for an easy target, especially since he hadn't completely established his dominance in this city yet. Besides, she had shown no signs of being even close to regaining her memories. He figured that if the news of Angel's death hadn't been enough to disrupt her repression then he was safe from losing his new, compliant Willow, for the time being anyway. Plus, not allowing her to go anywhere without his company when he was supposed to be playing the good boyfriend didn't seem like the greatest idea. Now he wished he'd been more strict in keeping her close to him at all times. Before today it hadn't been a problem. Willow had never been more than a minute late in returning home. Now she was an hour and fifteen minutes late and he was stuck here for another half-hour before sundown. Until then he would be unable to do anything but sit here and come up with a million different scenarios for her absence. The three most likely explanations he'd come up with were all equally disturbing, though none were unfixable. First, Willow could have been kidnapped by some unwitting serial killer/rapist who had no clue as to just whose property he was messing with. If that was the case then the unsuspecting bastard was in for quite a surprise. Even if he hadn't touched Willow, he wouldn't live to see another sunrise. Angelus was already reveling in the pleasure he'd receive from making the bone splinter's fly as he beat the life out of the guy. The second possibility was that one of those hapless friends of hers from Sunnydale had somehow tracked them down and made off with his woman while she was safely away from him. If it was anyone then he figured it was that stuttering fool of a Watcher or that hormonal boy who was too dumb to recognize that he was in love with her. He should have killed those two bumbling idiots when he had the chance, but if it turned out they were the ones interfering with his plans then he'd track them down and rectify his previous slight. The third and least frightening possibility (Oh God, did he just think that. Fuck, if he was beginning to get frightened over this then he was really in trouble), was that somehow, something had triggered Willow's memory while she was out and she now knew the truth. If that was the case then she had probably headed out of LA as soon as she'd remembered everything. If her memories had returned then he'd be back where he'd started, but that scenario was the most preferable. After all, he loved a challenge. It was just too bad he hadn't fucked her before her escape. Man, he would have loved to watch her eat herself up with guilt at having been deflowered by the man she hated most in the world. There was a fourth possibility- one that he didn't even want to consider, perhaps because the more the thought tugged at the back of his mind, the more likely it seemed to be the correct explanation. His pride couldn't handle believing it. If it was true then it meant the Witch had fooled him and he didn't like to consider the possibility that anyone had pulled one over on Angelus. He was the cunning one, the one who tricked people in to believing that whatever face he showed them was his true face. If the Witch had really pulled off such a deception then he had grossly underestimated her. Of course, he'd be too busy dolling out some punishment to express any admiration over her near impossible accomplishment. Without realizing it, Angelus' pacing was now being accompanied by a growling that emanated from deep within his throat, aural evidence of his growing fury. An hour and thirty minutes late and 15 minutes before he could safely venture outside. If took every ounce of his survival instinct not to tear down the door right that second and hunt down his prey. The closer it got to sundown, the more positive Angelus was his red-haired temptress had been faking the entire time, just waiting for her opportunity to escape. Each step he took as he paced acted as an external barometer for the murderous rage that was gaining strength within him, burning his insides with the heat of a full blown fire. His mind became flooded with pictures of the lessons he would have to teach her. He'd taken it easy on her in the past. He'd allowed her to be insolent, but he'd show her who was Master. So far she'd been protected from the full-blown rage the demon nursed inside him when things didn't go his way. Not even when he'd first returned and been battling with Buffy had he let his demon slip back into the old patterns of utter hatred and destruction it had followed in the past. She might have read about it in those stupid Watcher's Diaries, but she had no idea just how very bad it could be. Now she'd witness it- live, uncensored, and completely up close and personal. She'd learn the hard but oh so fun way. He'd have her begging with her very soul for mercy. Weakness. He could feel it rotting away his strength like a disease, infecting him with the need and desire he felt for her. She had made him weak, but he wasn't going to allow it to continue. If he had to cut himself open to remove her from his system he'd do it. Or maybe he'd just cut into her. Either way she was going to pay. Tonight. He would become her weakness, not the other way around, and then things would be as they should again. The demon would be sated. One minute left. Impatient, Angelus stalked towards the door, ready to fling it open and begin the hunt. He never made it halfway there. Pain exploded behind his eyeballs. Searingly hot, blinding the vampire as he fell to his knees. His vision disappeared in a burst of white light that was inescapable in its brilliance. The pain rushed through his body, travelling the path of veins and musculature with deliberate purpose, feeding into the core of his heart before imploding. Every crevice of his body felt as if it was being torn from the inside out, doubling him over as he lost control of all motor functions. Buffy screamed as her sire began to jerk and twitch uncontrollably, as if a live wire had been placed in direct correspondence with the bundle of nerves in his lower spine. The picture he made was incomparable to the actual raw agony he was in. Nothing earthly could ever be the cause of what he was undergoing. The demon screamed in denial, recognizing with a dreaded familiarity the pain it had experienced only once before. If it could have fought it would have, but there was no fighting this. Before long every rational thought had been emptied from his head. All he could do was feel, and soon enough he stopped doing even that. A power forged from the heavens itself traveled through Angelus' body with immeasurable speed and devastating effects. Golden lightening flashed within the unfathomable depths of his eyes and with a quickness that matched how it had begun, it was over. An eternity that added up to only a minute of human time. As his body lay prone on the floor with a stillness reserved only for the truly dead, Buffy rushed to his side. One look at her sire's face, transformed by an all too human guilt and suffering, told her all she needed to know. Crying out her denial, Buffy turned and ran, unable to deal with the impossible that had suddenly become reality. She left Angel alone, crying out with his very soul as his mind, body, heart and soul became one again. In the wake of the memories, he cried out for the one woman who could share the burden of his pain and lead him down the path of recovery. "Willow! God no! No, please no. Willoooooooooooooooooooooooooooow."
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