Title: Times Two
Rating: PG-13. Nothing you wouldn’t see on the show.
Category: Time Travel
Summary: A sequel to Time Trip Angel gets a glimpse of his future.
Spoilers: Takes place after “Provider” on ANGEL. Also general BtVS
Disclaimer: The characters in the Angelverse were created by Joss Whedon & David Greenwalt. No infringement is intended, no profit is made.
Distribution: Anywhere, just drop me a note so I’ll know where.
Notes: This is the answer to a challenge made to me by Yabyumpan over at the Stranger Things Forum. I didn’t exactly follow the challenge to the letter, but I think this works too.
Angel sat alone in the mansion, in a chair that faced the cold fireplace. A first edition of Les Miserables lay, unopened, in his lap. And, in his mind,the memories were like shadows. Black as night, and sharp enough to cut.
He remembered a young couple, newly married, about to spend their first night alone in their honeymoon cottage. They answered a late-night knock on their door, and were too kind to turn away a hungry, road weary traveler. A bedraggled stranger.
He lingered over the meal they offered, and silently laughed at the young groom’s impatience. The young man was so desperate to be alone with his new bride.
As the hours wore on, as Angelus lingered over every slice of bread or hunk of cheese, asked for one more tankard of mead, the young man’s impatience grew. His civility began to vanish. When his hints fell on seemingly deaf ears, he became openly rude.
Finally, his embarrassed bride pulled him aside.
“What can it hurt to help this poor man?” she asked in a whisper, unaware Angelus could hear every word. “You and I will have the rest of our lives to be alone together.”
And, shamed by his wife’s words, the young man once again became the gracious host.
Angelus started with the bride. He visited one torture after another upon her young body. And her husband of less than 24 hours, gagged and tied to a chair, saw it all…
Angel snapped out of his reverie, screams echoing through his memory. He took a deep, unneeded breath and glanced towards the window.
The sun had set.
The patrols were an excuse.
Angel, who wasn’t good at self-deception, knew it. In fact, it was safe to say everyone knew it. But, still, his feet from carried him towards the Bronze.
Hands in the pockets of his duster, the vampire moved through the shadows, avoiding the glow of the streetlamps more by instinct than design. He didn’t have to think about where he was going. The trek had become very familiar.
Every night, an hour or two after sunset, he met up with Buffy at her home, or the Bronze. Then, the two of them went of patrol.
Never mind that she was the Slayer, stronger than any other human, any vampire, could hope to be. That there wasn’t much she couldn’t handle on her own. That they’d be more effective, cover more ground, if they split up.
It was a little piece of common sense they both chose to ignore. Doing the sensible thing would mean losing the one thing they had left.
They’d both agreed it was unwise to spend too much time together. But, on patrol, they could pretend they were together to hunt. And not just to be together.
Angel turned the corner and saw the Bronze. Its sign blazed like a beacon for every teen in town to see. A steady stream of young, attractive patrons flowed through the door.
Angel walked into the Bronze…and was swamped by sensations. The glow, the hot energy, of youth. The sounds of hearts pumping in a hundred different rhythms, each unique and enticing. The smell of warm blood, teasing the hunger that was always there, just beneath the surface.
Once upon a time—in fact, not so long ago—he’d loved places like this. The dim lights, made mysterious by the haze of smoke. And the people, the smell of their blood getting stronger and sweeter as they danced, and laughed, and flirted. Once upon a time, on a night like this, in a place like this, his mouth would’ve watered as he singled out his prey.
Now, his first instinct was to flee. To get away from the sea of pulsing humanity. The temptation screaming through his veins. To go back to the mansion and sink into the darkness that was so much a part of him. Alone, as he deserved.
But he couldn’t. Because she was there.
She sat at a table, gently swaying to the music, surrounded by her friends. Willow said something that she must not have heard. She leaned forward, so the red-head could whisper in her ear. Then, she threw her head back and laughed.
Mesmerized, Angel drank in the sight of her. The youthful innocence that surrounded her. He’d lost the ability to laugh that way, to smile that way, so long ago. But, watching her, he could almost remember what it felt like…
Just then, Willow spotted him. She offered him a shy wave. Then tapped Buffy on the arm, and she pointed in his direction.
Buffy turned. She saw him. And her eyes sparkled.
If Angel had had a pulse, it would have raced. As it was, the heavy weight that always pressed against his cold, dead heart seemed to lift. A little.
Angel made his way through the crush of bodies. Ignored them. Focused on her.
“Hi, Angel!” Willow said when he reached the table. And he could almost believe she couldn’t remember the feel of his hands around her throat.
“Hey,” Oz said with a quiet nod.
“Angel!” Buffy said, her voice determinedly cheerful. “I didn’t think you were going to show!”
Angel gave her a long, hard stare. He knew that voice. It was her we’ll-be-friends-if-we-can’t-be-more voice.
For his part, Angel doubted they could ever be just friends. They’d moved too far too fast past that moment to try to recapture it now. But if this was the only way they could spend time together without her feeling guilty about it—without her deciding they shouldn’t spend time together at all—he would try to pretend.
He was about to ask if she was ready to go when there was a break in the music, which was replaced by the hum of clashing conversations. Two bickering voices cut through the chatter like a well-honed razor.
“Just drop it!” the female voice said.
“Drop it!” the male voice replied. “How can I *drop* it? I’ve been deeply insulted.”
“Well, with 18 years of experience under your belt, I’m sure you’re used to it.”
As another song started, the bickerers appeared out of the crowd. Cordelia Chase glided across the room, head held high…like a princess navigating a sea of peasants. Xander Harris stomped after her, a sullen frown on his face.
“Hi, guys,” Buffy said as they approached. “Trouble in paradise?”
“Xander’s just being a dweeb,” Cordelia said. She gracefully lowered herself into a chair. “You know. The usual.”
“I just can’t believe you,” Xander said. Apparently too angry to notice Angel, he dropped into his seat with much less grace. “Going to a party *I’m* not invited to.”
“Well, yeah,” she said, as if it made perfect sense. “It’s being catered by Le Mason.”
“Oooh!” Willow exclaimed, impressed. Then, she cast a guilty glance towards Xander. “I mean, really?”
“See?” Cordelia exclaimed, triumphant. She tossed her long, lustrous hair over her shoulder. “Even Willow knows it’s a big deal. And it’s not *my* fault there’s an exclusive list of guests that *you’re* not on.”
“Oh, so I’m not *exclusive* enough for you?” Xander demanded, looking like a whipped puppy.
“Pfft!” Cordelia answered.
“Don’t worry, Xand,” Buffy said. “Willow and I will keep you entertained. “We can go to the movies. Or watch videos…”
“I’d never go to a party *you* weren’t invited to,” Xander said to Cordelia.
The former May Queen looked down her nose at him. “You mean like that *thing* you took me to last week? Cold pizza, warm soda, and a room full of dermatologically impaired losers, dancing like they were having a group fit? *Not* being invited to another one of those would be a compliment.”
Turning away from a sulky Xander, she glanced at the Slayer. “Hey, Buffy? Is that a new sweater?”
“Yeah, actually.” Buffy straightened the hem of the black button down. “Just got it today.”
“Wow. You actually look halfway decent for once. I mean, *I* might even buy that. If I was running low on cash.”
As Buffy’s face fell, Angel frowned. Cordelia Chase reminded him of the girls he’d known back in his days as Liam. And as Angelus. Wealthy. Pampered. Shallow and vain. Thoughtlessly cruel, because she didn’t bother to care about other people’s feelings. Preoccupied with her appearance, her social status.
When he first met her, she’d never missed an opportunity to flirt with him. Every attempt she made to get his attention embarrassed him more than the last, and Angel did his uneasy best to pretend not to notice.
Fortunately, that hadn’t lasted. Since she’d learned he was a vampire, and he went on his little evil spree, she’d pretty much ignored him. For which he was extremely thankful.
“Angel.” Buffy turned towards him. “Are you ready to go?”
Seeing him for the first time, Xander frowned towards the shadows in which Angel was partially cloaked.
“Dead Boy,” the teen said. “I didn’t see you skulking there.”
Angel didn’t comment. Instead, he turned towards Buffy. “Let’s go.”
There wasn’t much activity in the Havenhurst Cemetery…as one might expect. After all, it was fast after 10 p.m. Hardly a peak time for visitors.
But this was Sunnydale. Walk through a cemetery in the middle of the night in this town, and you had to expect some action…usually. But, tonight, all was quiet…
Except for the voice of one pissed off high school senior.
“I just can’t believe Snyder!” Buffy exclaimed. Stomping around a headstone, she waved a stake around for emphasis. “That weasel-faced…weasel. He’s determined to catch me doing *something*. And to make my life miserable until he does. And let’s not even talk about Mrs. Grover…”
And she told him all about her day. The pop quiz she knew she failed. Cafeteria food that could barely be classified as food. Her mother’s “let’s send Buffy to a college far away from here” campaign.
Listening to her talk about her life, her normal life, made Angel realize how far removed he was from it. She had an entire existence that didn’t include him. Another life he couldn’t be a part of.
This was why being around her was almost as painful as being separated from her. Getting these little glimpses into her life, and knowing he would always be on the fringes of it.
It was why he treasured every moment they had together. Why every moment they spent apart felt like forever.
Finally, Buffy sighed and looked around. “This place is dead,” she said…then gave Angel a sheepish smile. “Pardon my pun. I think we should call it a night.”
Angel felt disappointed—he’d been hoping they’d spend more time together tonight. But all he said was “Whatever you say.”
And he walked her home.
As they paused outside her front door, preparing to say goodbye, a familiar awkwardness settled over them.
“Well,” Buffy began as she shifted from one foot to the other. “I guess I’ll see you tomorrow night.”
“Yeah,” Angel agreed, hands still buried in his pockets. It was a reminder not to give in to the urge to touch her. Because one touch was too much…and would never be enough. “Tomorrow.”
After an uneasy pause, Buffy darted forward and kissed him on the lips. Ending it before he could truly capture it. Then, almost like the hounds of hell were on her heels, she ran into the house.
Sighing, Angel walked away, melted into the shadows. Already, he was thinking of the long, empty hours that would pass until he saw her again. And the memories that would eat away at him. Reminding him he didn’t deserve to even look at her, let alone love her.
As he cut across the cemetery towards the mansion, he heard it. A low, tortured moan. A garbled, strangled sound.
Without a second thought, he ran towards the commotion.
What he saw was a demon. A demon with leathery gray skin, leaning over a boy maybe a year or two older than Buffy and her friends.
The demon had one three-clawed hand on either side of the boy’s head. And a long, tentacle-like tongue extended from the creature’s mouth and into the boy’s. Angel could see the muscles in the teens throat work as the…*thing* worked its way down.
Wondering if he was too late, Angel ran towards the horrifying tableau. He tackled the demon, knocked the creature away from its victim. As the boy collapsed to the ground, Angel slammed his fist against the demon’s temple. The thing staggered back, it’s tongue whipping wildly from side to side. A high pitched, keening squeal issued from its throat.
Glancing at the boy—who was either unconscious or dead—the vampire pulled out a dagger. Except for several stakes, it was the only weapon he carried.
He saw that, at the end of the demon’s tongue, there was another mouth. With razor-sharp teeth that snapped at the air. Angel could only imagine what it had done to the victim’s mouth and throat.
Orange eyes glowing with rage, the thing charged.
Angel parried the clumsy attack, stepping back and to the side. With a flick of the dagger, he severed the snapping tongue.
Clutching at its mouth, the thing fell to the ground.
Now, the demon’s howl was so high pitched, it was almost beyond the range of human hearing. The sound clawed at Angel’s enhanced, vampire senses, making his teeth itch.
Losing an appendage would be enough to slow most beings down. Or at least tell them this was a fight it didn’t want to be in. But, even as Angel took several steps back, the demon was trying to get up.
Watching, Angel noticed something. The demon’s entire body was covered with that leathery gray skin. It was mottled, rubbery, and looked as thick as armor.
Except for on its forehead. The skin over the area mystics identified as the third eye was a smooth as a human’s.
Making a split-second decision, Angel cocked his arm back and threw the dagger.
The knife struck with pinpoint accuracy, piercing that patch of vulnerable skin.
And a wave sickly green light exploded from it.
The light was like a tangible thing. A flood that covered the entire area.
Angel felt as if his eyes were being bathed in slime. The light seemed to sink into his eyes, penetrating his mind, seeping into the rest of his body.
The vampire squeezed his eyes shut. Dizzy, nauseous, he fell to his knees.
He felt like he was spinning through a void. With no up. No down. No smell or sound. Just that sickly green light.
Finally, the light started to fade. Eyes squeezed tight, Angel waited for the dizziness and nausea to pass.
Taking a deep, unnecessary breath, he opened his eyes…
…And found himself in a place he’d never seen before.
Standing, Angel studied his surroundings. He was in a large, windowless room.
“A training room,” he realized, taking note of the mats on the floor, the punching bag hanging from the ceiling. The weapons adorning the wall.
Pausing when he saw the vases of plastic flowers placed here and there.
He was about to explore a little more when he heard a door open.
Frowning, he turned…and saw a woman bounding down a flight of stairs. She was tall and lithe. And chin-length, brunette hair bounced with every step she took.
When she got to the bottom of the stairs, she turned towards him…and let out a startled shriek.
“Geez, Angel!” she exclaimed, pressing one hand to her chest. “How in the world did you beat me down here? I thought Connor would keep you busy for at least another ten, fifteen minutes.”
Eyes narrowed, he stepped forward. “Cordelia?”
“What?” she asked. Looking him up and down, she put her hands on her hips. “Why are you dressed like that? Those are going out clothes. Not training clothes.”
Angel didn’t answer. Instead, he studied the young woman.
It *was* Cordelia. And yet…it wasn’t. Not the Cordelia he’d seen just a few hours before.
Her hair was shorter, cut into a style that enhanced her striking features.
And her clothes. Angel had known Cordelia to go demon hunting dressed in a white suede skirt and high heeled pumps. He’d never seen her dressed this casually. Sweat pants, the waist rolled down to ride low on her hips. And a short-sleeved t-shirt that left her midriff bare.
When several moments passed and he still hadn’t spoken, Cordelia frowned.
“Angel,” she said. Hazel eyes filled with concern, she took a step forward. “Are you okay?”
Before he could answer—or even think of a way *too* answer—the door opened once again. And a man came down the stairs.
“Okay, Cordy,” he said. “You ready to get”—and he looked at the occupants of the room—“started?”
Cordelia’s mouth dropped open. Eyes wide with disbelief, she stared at one. “Angel?” Then, her head swung around to face the other. “Angel?”
A heavy silence fell over the room. The two men stared at each other. Identical expressions of shock on their identical faces.