The door to the main house suddenly opened to reveal an angry man recognizable despite his longer hair and period clothing. He slammed the wooden door shut with such force that it shook on its hinges. A stern voice came from the other side. “Get back in here ya young lout. Liam, ye’ll not talk ta me that way.”
Liam was already half way across the yard headed for the stables by the time his father finished his rant. “Who is he ta tell me what ta do? I wilna be stuck here forever.”
Turning the corner of the house, he disappeared from view forcing the group to run after him. Klotho picked up the edges of her robes. “Step carefully now. The horses have been here.”
“Couldn’t you just zap us over there?” questioned Xander as he avoided stepping into a large pile of horse manure. “Eew!”
“This is more fun,” came the Moira’s response as she tiptoed toward the stables. “Do hurry or you’ll miss my grand entrance.”
Cordelia and Buffy were ahead of the rest of them, both determined to learn more about the Fates’ dealings with the man who would eventually become Angelus. Even though Buffy was technically not supposed to care anymore, she asked in irritation, “Did you see the way Klotho looked at Angel?”
“At both of them,” Cordelia complained as her long strides carries her across the yard in swift measure. “She’s supposed to be the Fate of Life, but she’s all cute and dimply. Fate of Sluttiness is more like it.”
Buffy would have commented about Klotho looking ten months pregnant, but the two of them arrived at the stables with the others following close behind. “Oops! We missed the flashy entrance.”
Cordelia commented while focusing in on what she was seeing, “Looks like Miss Divine Being has Liam cornered.”
“Where did ya come from?” Liam looked more than just surprised to find a woman in his family’s stables, especially one so slim and beautiful wearing a diaphanous gown.
“I am Klotho,” she introduced herself. “Know me as one of the three Fates. I possess the key to your future.”
Liam gave the woman a hard stare. “Are ya daft?”
“I speak true, Liam, for I am fashioning a grand and glorious destiny for you should you choose to play the game,” Klotho revealed sashaying a little closer.
A smirk played at the corners of Liam’s mouth as his dark brown gaze traveled over the curvaceous form of the stranger. “What game is that?”
It seemed obvious from his tone that games of a sexual nature came to his mind. Those were games he knew well. “The game itself is beyond your comprehension, but you can be a major player if you so choose. Play or live out the rest of your days on this estate never realizing your true potential.”
“Ya sound like my father,” complained Liam. “Always wanting something. If ya can do what ya say, then you must be a witch.”
“If that is how you can comprehend my existence,” Klotho chose not to deny it. “What say you to my offer?”
Liam figured this was all likely a dream. Hadn’t he been drunk again last night? One of those tavern wenches probably had dark hair. Klotho didn’t look like a tavern wench, he had to admit. “What is it ya want from me?”
Dimples appeared as she smiled at him, drawing him out of his suspicious state back to one where his mind was focused on other matters. Reaching out, Klotho touched his face and ran a finger down to the vee of his shirt where his bare chest showed through. “Just you, Liam. Three times will I appear to you including today. Fulfill my desires and the destiny I revealed will be yours.”
Cordelia didn’t care that these events happened over two centuries before; she didn’t like the fact that Klotho was seducing the human version of her guy. “Hands off, you bimbo.”
Chuckling, Angel reminded Cordelia, “I didn’t know you then. There wasn’t a reason to say no.”
“Pfft!” Glaring at the Moira, Cordelia sent her a harsh stare. Klotho only giggled in response while combing her fingers through her loose ebony hair.
“Oh dear!” Giles pulled away from the stable doorway dragging Buffy back with him. “It appears that Liam accepted Klotho’s offer.”
“What do you have to say about all this?” Cordelia demanded of Angelus.
The vampire shrugged. “That wasn’t me.”
Angelus looked over at the other men in the group. “Would you have said no?”
Giles, Xander and Oz found themselves under severe scrutiny by Buffy, Cordelia and Willow. Even Klotho appeared interested in their response. Simultaneously, they all answered, “Absolutely,” and “Uh-huh,” and “Yep.”
“Good answer,” Cordelia figured they were lying through their teeth. Trying to ignore the sounds emanating from the stable, she turned back to Klotho. “So you seduced Liam into agreeing to your grand plan. What was that? To let Darla turn him into a vampire? Was that your glorious destiny?”
“Liam never saw Klotho again,” Angel informed her, glancing back over his shoulder having been watching the show. “In fact, after this day, he forgot all about her.”
Angelus nodded in agreement with his brother. “Until Darla arrived and caught his eye. That’s when he realized his only destiny was going to be death.”
Klotho walked over to him. “Do you have any idea how interesting a vampire is to the Moirae? We who deal in birth and life and death normally see existence in linear fashion. But you are different. You live and die only to become something new until your final destiny comes as it does to all who exist.”
“Get on with this, Klotho,” he took her arm in his hand. For a moment, she looked at it as if considering some punishment, but the Fate only winked in response.
“You don’t want to stay until this scene plays out?” She seemed surprised. “Things are about to come to a climax.”
Giles cleared his throat. “I’m certain that they are, but it is unnecessary for us to remain.”
“Pooh! You’re no fun at all,” Klotho pouted. “Not like you used to be.”
The Englishman frowned. These Moirae were a little too omniscient for his liking. “Shall we continue?”
“No,” Angelus had another idea. “Why don’t I just summarize. Faster that way.”
Letting out a deep sigh, Klotho rolled her eyes. “Very well, Angelus, but let’s add some atmosphere.”
With the snap of her fingers, their party was swept away from Galway to another part of the world at a more dangerous time. The gloom of night was brightened only by a series of flickering street lights.
“This is London,” Angelus explained even as he soaked up the sights, sounds and smells surrounding them. “I forget the year. Sometime before I turned Dru.”
“Before 1860,” Giles put in recalling the date.
Angelus nodded. “The date isn’t really important. Darla was off at her dressmaker and I was planning a little trip to St. Catherine’s.”
“Is that a convent?” Buffy questioned as she subconsciously fingered the stake tucked in her belt. She knew Angelus had done some evil things in his day, but she certainly hoped that Klotho wasn’t about to lead them all to a bird’s eye view.
“I had a thing for convents,” Angelus shrugged apologetically.
Cordelia slapped him on the arm. “So what happened on the way to the convent?”
“I ran into her,” Angelus nodded in Klotho’s direction. “Somehow, I recognized her even after a hundred years. She claimed to be there to follow up on my promise to her.”
Getting impatient, Klotho complained, “Angelus doesn’t want you to see what happened, but he’s hedging on telling you the truth. The Moirae do not deal in lies, vampire. I will show them and you may deal with the consequences as you will.”
A low growl emerged from Angelus’ throat.
“Turn your eyes to the convent,” Klotho pointed a finger and as their eyes followed its course they suddenly appeared along the outer wall. “That is where you will find the vampire.”
Angelus roughly pinned the woman against the convent wall. “You again. How is this possible, witch?”
“I am no witch, but one of the Moirae,” Klotho shrieked as he held her down. In this form she was no more vulnerable than any other, but it was fun to play the game. Only rarely did she or her sisters venture out of their protected hall to interact with those mortals whom they held interest. “It is time for you to fulfill the next part of your bargain. Only then will you take the next step toward your destiny.”
“My destiny?” Angelus laughed coldly. “I am a vampire. You think I need you to create some glorious future for me? If I want it, I’ll make my own.”
“Believe that if you will, vampire, but the Moirae are not finished with you yet.” Klotho told him as Angelus buried his face in the crook of her neck.
He seemed confused by what he sensed. “You smell human. Your heart pumps. Blood courses through your veins.”
“It is illusion,” the Fate informed him. “Partake of me if you will, vampire, but only if you give me what I need.”
“Omigod!” Buffy gasped as Angelus buried his fangs in Klotho’s bare throat.
Watching himself with the willing Fate, Angelus knew all too well what was coming next and he demanded that Klotho take them away from the scene. He didn’t want Cordelia to have any more reminders about his past. “Don’t look,” Angelus cupped her face turning it away from the scene. “Baby, I don’t want you to see that.”
Tears glistened in her eyes as she heard the material of Klotho’s gauzy dress rip away and the voice of her mate tell the other woman that he wanted to hear her scream.
Whipping around to face the Moirae guide, Cordelia demanded to know what was going on. “Why was this necessary?”
“I am creating a champion for the Powers that Be,” Klotho gave her a gentle smile. “My methods may appear strange to you, but they exist as such only because you comprehend it to be this way. The Moirae are not corporeal entities, but we are if you believe us to be such.”
Cordelia watched Klotho’s hand circle around her hugely pregnant belly. “Creating a champion with Angelus’ help? He’s a vampire. They don’t—”
“There is much you do not understand, daughter,” Klotho’s smile was empathetic. “Be patient. When this night is through, you will understand the fullness of my meaning.”
Focusing on anything except the screaming in the background, Willow pointed out, “I’m sensing a pattern. First Liam. Then Angelus. Is the third visit to Angel?”
Klotho made an elegant gesture with her hand and London fell into a fog behind them to be replaced by more familiar surroundings. A city with tall buildings and old-fashioned cars. “Los Angeles circa 1952. That large building across the street is the Hyperion Hotel.”
“Never heard of it,” Cordelia commented. “Not exactly the Regent Beverly Wilshire or the Ritz Carlton, I take it.”
“Not exactly,” Angel found himself frowning at the sight of the hotel.
Cordelia started to walk across the street, “Let’s go.”
Angel latched onto her arm pulling her back to the sidewalk. “We don’t need to go in.”
“Why not? If Klotho made me watch Angelus getting bitey and groiny with her, I’m sure she’s not planning to let you off for good behavior.”
“I’m not at the hotel when she comes to me,” Angel explained and realized that there was no real reason why Klotho had to bring them to this spot other than to make him look at the Hyperion again. “Why are we here?”
Klotho arched a dark eyebrow at the question. “Does it have to mean something? Perhaps I am putting things into context for your companions.”
“Doubtful.” Angel wasn’t feeling excessively patient at the moment. “I’ve had enough of your games, Klotho. Take us to the planetarium.”
“There’s nothing going on over there. The hotel is more interesting,” she pointed out. He growled at her causing the Moira to huff in response to his temper. “Very well, vampire.”
Klotho brought them up close and personal. The Angel of 1952 was only a few feet away staring out at the Los Angeles skyline and the glittering stars shining overhead. The city’s famed planetarium was behind him bathed in light and making the white stone of its structure gleam. Angel was not here for the show that night, but the view was a different story.
The sound of footsteps behind him caused him to throw his cigarette to the ground as he whirled around, “I told you to go inside—”
It wasn’t the tearful Judy who had seen him standing there and come over to talk about the suicide at the hotel or to thank him for her interference with the man she claimed was her boyfriend. Klotho stood before him, her long hair and gauzy lilac gown blowing in the breeze. The people who had been milling about the outside of the planetarium had all vanished, either by her power or the simple reason of going in to watch the show.
“It is time, vampire,” Klotho extended her hand. “Share of your essence and you will find your heart’s desire. Destiny will be yours to claim.”
Angel took hold of her arms, his hands gripping the woman more tightly than necessary. “I thought you were done with your games. What destiny? I am a vampire cursed with a soul. You’ve interfered long enough.”
“Longer than you know,” Klotho told him. “From the moment of your conception have I spun the thread of your existence and when Atropos snipped your life away, I spliced it together again.”
Shaking her by the shoulders, Angel barely contained his anger. “Get away from me. You have no right to use me as your pawn.”
“You gave me the right,” Klotho reminded him, “with your promise and by accepting my terms to three visits.”
“This visit is over.”
Angel released her and turned back to stare out at the view. Only the woman did not leave as he hoped. She stepped up behind him to say, “Fate will find you, vampire. Wander where you will, brood and glower in the darkness of your own existence, but know that one day I shall have my way.”
He ignored her in favor of watching the moving lights of the cars along a boulevard, but Klotho’s words still sounded in his ears. Placing something in his pants pocket, she told him, “This charm is yours. Safeguard it for it will call you to the hall of the Moirae when you are ready. I desire completion of my mission, vampire. Come to me and I will assure your request is fulfilled.”
After a moment or two of silence, Angel asked, “What request?”
Spinning around, he realized that Klotho had vanished.
Cordelia stalked forward before Angelus could stop her and was now standing directly in front of the 1952 Angel who was staring at the charm he had removed from his pocket. In an instant, his expression returned to that blank stare that Cordelia used to associate with Angel’s deepest brooding sessions.
“You’re so sad,” Cordelia reached out to touch Angel only to find that her hand passed directly through as if she was completely intangible. “So lonely.”
Joining her, Klotho reminded her that this was only illusion. Then looking back at Angel, she added, “It is a broken man who stands before you. A vampire cursed with his human soul. One who cannot separate himself from the pain and anguish he has caused time and time again.”
“You did this,” Cordelia accused as she turned on Klotho unable to stay silent. “Fates or Moirae or whatever you are. You arranged it all to suit your own plan. Darla. The gypsies and their curse. They’re all part of some big picture.”
“They are part of the tapestry of the vampire’s existence,” Klotho admitted. “Just as you and your companions have your own life threads, so too does the vampire. It is the eternal task of the Moirae to maintain the balance between Order and Chaos, Good and Evil.”
Buffy had been silent for a long time, unable to find her voice after the shock of seeing the soulless version of her former boyfriend in action during his heyday. Now things had finally started to gel together as she put all of it into the context of her own circumstances and existence. “Are you saying that he was Chosen?”
“In a way.”
“Chosen for what?” asked Angelus.
Angel sounded out a dark laugh as the question drew a look of surprise from the others. “You’ve been watching what happened. Why would you think we know any more than you do? Poor Liam never stood a chance. Some seductive witch comes along, promises him a grand future and all she wants in return is a roll in the hay and two more liaisons.”
Giles had the decency to blush as he admitted, “No doubt difficult to turn down.”
“Pfft!” Cordelia rolled her eyes. “From what I’ve been told, Liam would’ve been looking for the second and third hay rolls right away.”
“Cordy!” gasped Willow.
The brunette shrugged matter-of-factly. “It’s true. Just ask Angelus.”
Green eyes darted in the vampire’s direction. She wondered what stories he had told his mate about his human years and his days as the Scourge of Europe.
Klotho interrupted them, deciding that it was time to move on. “Discuss these pittances at another time. It is time to return to the Great Hall and rejoin my sisters.”
Just as before, the scene faded to a white haze only to be replaced by a new location as the fog cleared. Lakhesis and Atropos greeted their sister upon her return with a silence that seemed full of questions.
“It is as I feared,” Klotho revealed. “They have seen all, but know nothing. These lower beings are so difficult to reach.”
“You reached my vampires easily enough,” Cordelia muttered.
Lakhesis held up a hand to beacon them forward. “Come, my children. Gather before us and I shall impart to you the knowledge you seek.”
“Why don’t I ask the questions,” Giles suggested to the rest of the group.
Cordelia glared at him for suggesting it, but saw no reason not to let him give it a whirl. That wouldn’t stop her from jumping in if necessary. Flashing him a grin, “Go ahead.”
Angel and Angelus were of a similar mind. Let the Watcher talk, gather information and step in if they weren’t getting the answers they needed. “Fine” and “Fine” were their responses. Seeing no reason to disagree, Buffy, Xander, Willow and Oz nodded their consent.
“You have shown us images of the past,” Giles began after a nervous tug on his collar. “Klotho has revealed that Angel and Angelus are part of some long-term scheme to create a champion.”
There was no denial by the Moirae. Lakhesis merely continued to give the Watcher her full attention.
Glancing over at Klotho’s huge belly, Giles commented, “By the looks of things, I’d say your plan seems to have worked.”
Again, there was no confirmation or denial. The three Fates were now seated on their stools again in the same positions as when they first arrived. Noting that neither one seemed to be responding, Angelus leaned over to the Watcher. “They’re waiting for an actual question.”
“Oh!” Giles realized he hadn’t actually asked one. “Angel obviously used the charm given him to contact Klotho again. He asked for your help in securing his soul and to separate him from Angelus’ influence. You warned him of the dangers ahead and now we are seeing sequelae in the form of psychological manifestations.”
Cordelia grabbed the sleeve of his tweed coat, “Questions. Ask them. Now.”
“What did you do, why is this happening and can you fix it?” Giles blurted.
“Sheesh! I could’ve asked that myself,” Xander grumbled having expected a tough inquiry from the Watcher.
The Fates were smiling, even toothless Atropos. Speaking for her sisters, Lakhesis told them, “Your questions are not unexpected nor are they unworthy of answers. The vampire appeared in our halls and made his plea. As was the understanding, his arrival came with a price which he paid.”
“Wait a second,” Buffy strode forward and whirled Angel around to face her. “Is she saying what I think she’s saying?”
“Back off, Slayer,” Angel growled removing his arm from her powerful grip. Cordelia immediately stepped over to try to keep him calm. Buffy’s presence wasn’t exactly one to help maintain his cool these days. “You heard Klotho’s terms. I did what I had to do. It got you what you wanted.”
Buffy’s lower lip trembled under the weight of his stare. “Until you went wacko on me.”
“All is as we designed it to be,” Lakhesis revealed. “Before his human birth, this entity drew our attention. Through Liam’s human life and death we watched and observed. As a vampire, Angelus made a name and built a reputation amongst his kind like few before him. Until the interference of a gypsy curse waylaid him.”
“It always comes back to the curse,” Xander pointed out as he sat down on the ground.
Lakhesis looked at him with disdain. “That is hardly showing respect for superiors. Be seated properly if you must.”
Xander suddenly found himself in a large leather recliner with his feet propped up. Giles was next to him in what looked like the chair from his living room. In a similar chair, Oz and Willow were sitting together with the witch on his lap. Buffy was stretched out on a chaise lounge while Cordelia sat between the two vampires on a small sofa.
“Comfy?” Lakhesis asked Xander.
Nodding, he gave her a show of thumbs up while silently vowing to keep his mouth shut for a while. “This is great.”
Returning to her oration, Lakhesis described the events leading up to the curse. Cordelia suddenly found herself confused as to which vampire she was supposed to feel sorry for. Was it Angelus who was cursed or Angel who had to live with the results? The past was past, but this discussion couldn’t be pleasant for either one of them.
Cordelia leaned over to kiss Angelus. Giving her an encouraging smile, he took her hand into his. “It’ll be okay, baby. We’ll get through this together.”
“All of us?” The questions came as a whisper from her lips still overtly conscious of the fact that she had no opportunity to talk to her mate about Angel.
“We’re still a family,” Angelus answered only to find as he lifted his head that Atropos was staring in his direction catching him talking no doubt.
Swiftly, Angelus turned his attention back to Lakhesis. She was much easier on the eyes than the old crone who appeared to be waggling her eyebrows in his direction. “The curse not only returned the human soul to the vampire, but it did so in a way that created two primary personalities, one that was pure Angelus and the other who was forced to endure the existence of the first.”
Giles turned to Angel, asking, “You were aware of this? That Angelus existed separately from your own personality.”
“When I asked for the Moirae to remove Angelus’ influence,” Angel told the Watcher, “I wasn’t asking them to take away my past. I wanted him out of my head.”
Angelus pointed out, “I had to put up with you, too.”
“The curse caused disparity and imbalance where none existed before.” Lakhesis sighed, “The vampire proves my point.”
Giles sat up and tugged at the lapels of his jacket upon hearing the information about the curse. “Imbalance was my theory, too, except I didn’t realize that it happened with the curse. I assumed that it was a result of your separation spell.”
“You assume quite a lot, Watcher,” the Moirae speaker pointed out. “Sometimes that is a necessary task. However, now you seek to interfere in a process which has taken centuries to unfold.”
Angel’s eyes narrowed upon Lakhesis with sudden clarity. “You knew this would happen when you agreed to my terms.”
“You are dealing with the Moirae, vampire,” Atropos cut in, “not with some simpleton soothsayers or sorceresses.”
Protesting at the reference, Willow heard herself shout, “Hey!”
The old crone’s piercing violet eyes turned to the redhead. “Do not take offense, witch. We are as far beyond your censure as you are beyond being a simpleton or a sorceress.”
Lakhesis smoothed things over and waited until Atropos resumed her seat. “We Moirae are not all-powerful though our abilities can bend events and situations to our will. It was our desire that the vampire’s request be granted despite the danger to our own plans.”
“Why would it interfere?” Buffy asked, still irritated that Angel had gone to the Fates when she would have told him not to do so. “He already agreed to keep his promise to Klotho. Miss I’m-Creating-A-Champion. This only happened a few months ago, so why does she look like she’s having a baby elephant?”
“Buffy!” Giles gave her a harsh stare. Insults and accusations were not likely to get them the answers they needed. “The pregnancy is metaphorical. Remember what Klotho told us about the Moirae?”
“No,” Buffy admitted blinking in confusion. A metaphorical pregnancy? Huh?
Giles removed his glasses and cleaned them with the end of his tie. “The Moirae are not corporeal beings.”
“Do not concern yourself with such, Chosen One,” Lakhesis suggested. “These matters are no longer within your purview.”
The Slayer followed the Moira’s glance which had settled upon the three occupants of the couch. With slow dawning, Buffy realized she had just been told by Lakhesis to mind her own business.
“Our intention was to restore a balance,” Lakhesis explained to the group. “By separating the form of the vampire, we forced an unnatural polarization of the personalities. Good and evil. Souled and soulless. Conditions were made and assurances given. During the difficult time ahead, we Moirae arranged for the vampire to return to Sunnydale and take up the Good Fight at the side of the Chosen One.”
“Something went wrong,” Cordelia complained explaining to the Moirae that Angel had turned into Psycho Vamp while Angelus seemed to be able to control his demonic urges for the most part.
Lakhesis found the confusion amusing. “Nothing went wrong. All is as we intended. The vampire exists in two forms with layered connections between them, foremost the soul.”
“Angelus has a soul?” Cordelia gaped at the implication.
“He is influenced by it now as I’m certain you have seen, daughter.”
Cordelia glanced up at Angelus with a new understanding. “He loves me.”
“The separation created a temporary balance, but this did not allow the fruition of our plans. For true balance to be achieved it requires each personality to experience that which is unique to the other.” Lakhesis allowed herself a moment to enjoy the starry look in the hazel eyes of the vampire’s mate for it would not long remain.
Lakhesis provided the details with patience. “The demon must experience emotions and love to an extent only those with a soul may possess. The soul must experience the harsh realities of the vampire’s true nature unfiltered by the influence of the other personality and keep those urges in check.”
“Do you see the genius of it all?” Klotho spun around in a circle despite her girth letting out a merry laugh. “Soul and demon. Order and Chaos. Opposites existing together as a tool for Good or Evil. A champion fashioned for the Powers that Be from the purity that was the human Liam and the demon Angelus with the essence of unrealized potential in Angel.”
With a growing sense of dread, Giles rose out of his chair to face Lakhesis. “What is your intent?”
“Our intent should be clear to you, Watcher, just as it should for all of you,” Lakhesis told them. “Destiny’s path remains unchanged as we have described it. Come the dawn the balance shall be restored and only the vampire who is our champion shall remain.”