A New Knight In The City Of Angels

Disclaimer:  Characters and Premise are borrowed from the show "Buffy, 
the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel".

Author's Notes: After the first season of "Angel" and the last season
of "Forever Knight".


LaCroix looked over the glittering lights of his newest hunting ground.
This frantically busy city lay in the outskirts of territory forbidden
to his kind.

The Slayer, the eternal hunter claimed territory near here. The girl
herself was no more than any other hunter, the first had been a hunter,
but her essence had been bound to something ancient, bound to this
plain of existence. The organization which supported her preserved her
knowledge from one incarnation to the next, increasing the danger which
she represented. Killing her would not be sufficient to eliminate the
threat of her existence. So the Community simply avoided her.

The Slayer believed she knew of vampires. She ruthlessly hunted down
and destroyed the Failed and their children, believing that they were
the sum and total of his race. The Community was happy to leave her to
her chosen amusement.

And while the Community hid itself from her, the others, the Failed
flocked to her. Drawn by a survival instinct that they didn't begin to
comprehend they gathered en-mass in the no man's land between the
Slayer and the Community.

LaCroix came here to loose himself in the thrill of the hunt, to forget
grief and guilt in carnage. The Failed were the only fair game left.
They were unprotected by the mortal world and condemned to death by the

In hunting them LaCroix could open himself to his darkest impulses and
wash away the memory of Toronto and the unmarked grave that held his
most difficult but most beloved child and Nicholas' mortal love whom he
had followed into death.

Los Angeles was exactly what he needed to escape the all too human
grief that Nicholas' death had infected him with.


"So how goes the studying?" Cordelia asked cheerfully.

Angel snarled in reply.

"Having an actual investigator's license isn't complete a bad thing,"
Wesley offered. "The knowledge it represents may prove useful and the
less documentation that Willow forges for you, the better."

"This is all Kate's fault," Angel growled.

"Yep, she's a bitch," Cordelia said happily.

"Detective Lockley has been something of a nuisance lately," Wesley

"She tried to have me deported!" Angel exclaimed. "Not to mention her
sudden problem with my lack of an investigator's license."

"Yes, well Willow was most helpful in those matters. Although I do
believe that Mr. Giles was somewhat disconcerted by the illegal nature
of her assistance."

"Giles always protests when we do something illegal in the name of
Slaying," Cordy remarked. "It doesn't really mean he objects, it's just
observing propriety or something like that."

"The point of the matter isn't that we got the documentation," Angel
argued. "It's that I have better things to do with my time than jumping
through Kate's hoops."

"Like what? At the moment we have no clients and no office. Besides
that, I haven't had a vision in weeks. Now is as good of time as any
for getting all the formalities taken care of. I mean, sure Kate's a
pain, but at least she doesn't have the resources Wolfram and Hart do.
If they'd been the ones to think of the mundane ways to get rid of you,
you'd have been on a plane back to Ireland, but now, thanks to Kate
that angle is covered," Cordy said.


"But you don't like studying for the exam, heck you didn't even like
studying for your driver's license, which should have been way easy
since you've been around longer than cars have," Cordy replied. "Well
Angel, get used to it. Buffy, Willow, and I got through years and years
of tests, I'm sure you can too. Even Xander managed it, sort of, you'll

"I'd rather face a demon," Angel growled.

"Well it's only an hour till sunset," Cordy commented. "Use the time to
study, then go find some nasty demon to kill, I'm sure it'll make you
feel better. After that we'll all team up to go looking for new


LaCroix dropped from the sky to confront the blood-spattered parody of
what a vampire should be.

He grabbed the creature by its throat and lifted it off the ground,
smashing it against the dirty brick wall of the ally.

"It seems you've been finding trouble," LaCroix commented, taking in
the battered condition of the Failed. "Did your prey fight back? Let us
see this fearsome mortal that could put a vampire, a shadow of the
vampire in any case, to heel."

LaCroix scraped a bit of blood from his prisoner's hand and tasted it,
only to freeze in shock as the much to familiar wash of emotion filled
him. The blood was a vampire's, but not this creature's. The blood told
of guilt and remorse, of longing for redemption, tangled and confused
with longing for the sun until the two were inseparable, until they
weren't even regarded as separate desires. A vampire's innate darkness
and the brightness of a kind soul coexisting in a single body.

"Nicholas," LaCroix breathed. "How can this be?"

A second taste of the fading blood brought bitter answers. The emotions
in the blood might have been familiar, but the details were not. This
creature hadn't encounter LaCroix's lost son, the blood lacked the
richness of time, the other vampire was little more than a fledgling,
younger even than the irresponsible Spaniard. Not Nicholas, just a
child who shared his dreams and delusions as well as the heavy weight
of guilt that came with them.

LaCroix glared at the creature that dared to offer him hope, only to
snatch it away again. Ice blue eyes caught fire as his captive
struggled, becoming golden as the vampire surfaced. LaCroix tightened
his grip on the unfortunate vampire's throat, ripping it away. The
creature fell too the ground, stunned but still clinging to its
existence. Disdainfully LaCroix brought his heel down on the spinal
column gleaming through the torn flesh of the creature's neck. As the
bone crumbled under the pressure and the spinal cord snapped the body
of the creature crumbed into ash. Still angry that he could so easily
be tricked into embracing hope, LaCroix lifted into the night, looking
for others to take his ire out on.


"You're sure you haven't had any visions?" Angel asked.

"Oh yeah. right. I had a migraine with gross-out pictures and it
somehow slipped my mind until just now. Not!" Cordelia said rolling her

"I'm sorry Cordelia. Of course you wouldn't forget a vision. It's just
that I've been hearing rumors of some new power around town. One that's
got most of the locals scared."

"So? This thing's scaring demons, that's a good right? I mean they're
bad so. enemy of my enemy and everything?"

"No, it generally means something bigger and worse moved into the
neighborhood," Angel replied.

"And I think you're just assuming the worst case. Angel do you even
know the meaning of optimism?"

"In my experience it's often synonymous for self-deluded." Angel said.

"Ha-ha. You just want an excuse to get out of taking your test

"Cordelia, I'm not anywhere near as worried about that test as you
think I am," Angel protested. "I'm trying to evaluate a potential


LaCroix stood outside the burned out building that had once held the
offices of Angel Investigations.

He knew that the child who reminded him of Nicholas had once considered
this place home. Obviously that was no longer the case.

Since tasting the young one's blood LaCroix had been unable to forget
him. He wanted to see this child who was so reminiscent of his
Nicholas. LaCroix couldn't say why he was so drawn to the other
vampire; he wasn't Nicholas, he simply shared Nicholas' most
exasperating characteristics. LaCroix could see no reason why he would
wish to involve himself with yet another troublesome, doomed
individual, and this one wasn't even family. Hadn't Nicholas caused him
enough pain? If he had any sense left he'd want nothing to do with the
young vampire. And yet here he was, outside the place which had been a
home to the other.

Only it was a dead-end. "Well that's really for the best," LaCroix told
himself. Of course his son could have identified a person with much
less to go on than this. If Nicholas could manage it, he could hardly
do less.

LaCroix stalked into the condemned building. If his quarry were as
similar to Nicholas as he suspected the blast had undoubtedly
originated in his home.

However, determining ground zero required a knowledge of explosives,
which LaCroix lacked. Well, Nicholas had always relied on experts such
as the good Doctor in his investigation, LaCroix reasoned turning to
the blood-memories he'd obtained. The blood hadn't been fresh the
memories were little more than impressions and a certain feel of
familiarity which had led him to the building.

Still his quarry had come home to this place hundreds of times. It was
a simple thing to allow the memories to guide him to an underground
apartment. The place was black with char; many of the furnishings had
been shattered in the blast. Nothing whole had been left behind.

LaCroix picked through what had been left. A few broken dishes, still
too many for a vampire, perhaps it was evidence of a mortal pet.
LaCroix made a note to deal gently with mortal when he found what he
sought. He had been cavalier in his regard of Nicholas' mortals, had
believed that the Doctor's death would sever Nicholas' ties to the life
he'd created in Toronto, rather it had ended Nicholas' interest in life

When Nicholas had asked LaCroix for his help it had been given. The
bond between himself and his child told LaCroix that Nicholas would
leave him to follow his Doctor, to follow Natalie, one way or another.
LaCroix had always said that Nicholas didn't know what he wanted, but
in the end, he wanted to with Natalie, and between Nicholas' beliefs
and Natalie's time frame and LaCroix's own interference, Death had been
the only place they could be together. Given the option to go back,
LaCroix would not have left Nicholas with so few options.

"There is no way back," LaCroix reminded himself angrily. "What's done
is done and can only be lived with. I will not fall into Nicholas' trap
of guilt and endless morning for that which is lost."

Decisively the ancient vampire turned his attention back to the charred
apartment and the task at hand.

A more diligent search turned up only one other object of interest, a
half burnt, badly water-stained address book. The tattered book yielded
only a few names and telephone numbers, two of which were useless for
LaCroix; the entries for Giles and Buffy had mailing addresses in
Sunnydale, the current Slayer's base of operations. The other entries
were more helpful, Doyle, Cordelia Chase, Wesley Wyndom-Price and Kate
Lockley all possessed Los Angeles numbers.

LaCroix found the first two numbers disconnected and no one answered at
the third, but Kate Lockley answered promptly with a curt, "Detective
Lockley here."

LaCroix smiled dryly, it didn't surprise him in the slightest that the
younger vampire had ties with the local police department. "Still the
police had such a habit of unnecessarily complicating matters," LaCroix
thought as he hung up without speaking.


Prank calls, Kate Lockley thought with a scowl turning back to the
individual who'd been waiting at her desk when she'd arrived for her

She'd originally thought he was Angel, the look the officer manning the
front desk had given her when he mentioned that someone was waiting for
her was the same one that she encountered when certain colleges made
comments about how maybe they should become PI's with only one name if
they wanted a favor from her.

Once those comments had caused her to blush and her snarls had only
covered her embarrassment. Once, back when she'd believed Angel was
just a handsome man as awkward in social situations as she was. Kate
had thought that maybe he was the one. Gorgeous, painfully sincere in
his desire to help people, and best of all he didn't seem to expect her
to be some helpless damsel in distress.

But it was all a mask. Angel wasn't her type. Hell, he wasn't even a
member of her species, and if the legends she'd found about Angelus
contained even a kernel of truth, he was a serial killer without equal.
At least not in the human world, she had yet to determine the scope of
his atrocities in his world's scale.

He said he'd changed, and Kate knew it was the truth. Angel wasn't the
psychotic killer she'd read about, but he was a part of that other
reality. The reality that had killed her father. A reality that
included creatures that made a mockery of the laws she was sworn to up-
hold. They blended with her society when they choose then shattered it
with their violence whenever the mood struck. Even Angel, with all the
changes he was so proud of, could cast every trace of humanity when it
suited him.

Angel killed that thing on the train without a second thought, and then
had the nerve to come tell her, "Oops, that one wasn't evil after all."
He didn't even feel guilt about it.

That told Kate more than she needed to know about demons, about their
reality. The only law they lived by was the last one standing is right.

She'd wanted to believe Angel was different, but she knew better. The
night that her father died Kate had abandoned her reality for Angel's.
She walked into that warehouse with every intention of taking her
vengeance their way, making them pay with her gun and the stakes she'd

Kate had killed a person in the line of duty before. After weeks of
second guessing herself IA had cleared her of any wrongdoing. Sometimes
she still wondered if it had had to end with a man dead by her hand.
Kate couldn't have imagined that a time would come when she'd kill for
vengeance, but she had.

Afterwards, as she sat in the ruins of her self-image, Angel had
resumed the cloak of normality and offered condolences for her father's
death. He could step between her world and his without pause. Behead a
demon one minute and play the part of a concerned friend in the next.
She couldn't do that. Once she stepped into Angel's world there was no
way back for her. The shadows were full of monsters now and Kate had
originally believed that nothing could change that.

Now she had hope though. Her visitor of the night had given her that

Corin had spent almost two hours talking around the subject before he
came to his point. He was a demon hunter. Specifically a vampire
hunter, he believed that the reality Kate had been forced into could be
washed from existence.

He had more experience with demons than Kate had. Corin had been bitten
by a vampire and had lived to tell about it. Had been changed by it in
a way that was much more personal than what Angel had done to Kate.
Corin had gained an intimate knowledge of vampires from that bite, he
knew their weakness and could sense their presence. He had even gained
a part of their strength and speed. He had the ability to destroy them
where they hid, and he wasn't alone. Kate wasn't alone any more; she
wasn't the only human in a sea of horror story monsters. They had
allies and a cause: to rid their reality of those creatures which had
no place under the sun.

"Your Angel won't be alone," Corin was saying. "Vampires don't work
that way. They need their Community, their contacts. It's how they
blend in, how they cover their kills. They all kill Detective; don't
delude yourself on that point. They may be able to obtain sustenance in
other ways in this day and age, but they're still predators. They need
the kill as much as the blood.

"You don't have to convince me of that," Kate replied.

"You're lucky then," Corin said, fingering the jagged scar on the side
of his neck. "It took this to convince me. Marissa and I had been a
couple for five years when she did this to me. I thought she loved me,
but in the end I was just prey. I got lucky, Marissa was injured when
she attacked me, I managed to break free of her and got the curtains of
the apartment we shared open before she could finish the job."

"I'm sorry. I can't imagine how I'd have felt if I'd been in your
place." Kate said. "What can I do to help you?"

"We find your friend Angel, he's our key to the Community."


LaCroix's hunt had been much more satisfying that night.

He had found Wyndom-Price at the address listed and followed him to
Miss Chase's new residence, a distinct step up from the multi-level
hovel that he had been referred to. Both were mortal, but Miss Chase's
other guest was distinctly not.

LaCroix had known that this was the one he sought from his first
glimpse of the young vampire. The light that he had only previously
associated with his Nicholas was an integral part of the other vampire,
a fact that surprised LaCroix to no end. He had always believed it was
Nicholas' coloring; curly sun-gold hair and clear blue eyes like a
summer sky, that had caused his favorite child to become linked to
LaCroix's fading memories of the day. But this young one, dark of hair
and eyes, glowed with that same light.

LaCroix kept his presence carefully cloaked from the younger vampire as
he neared the window of the apartment.

The two males sat at the kitchen table, searching intently through a
stack of antique tomes, occasionally referring a question to the girl
who was slumped on a nearby couch, a damp rag on her forehead and a
bottle of aspirin clutched in her hand.

Sneaking a quick look at her thoroughly busy companions, the girl
quickly opened the aspirin bottle.

"Cordelia." The vampire objected. "You're not supposed to take anymore
for another twenty-four hours."

"Angel," the girl whined. "I swear my head's going to literally
explode. Just one more, please?"

"I'm sorry Cordelia," Angel said softly regret filling his dark eyes.
"It's not safe."

"Perhaps you should schedule an appointment with a doctor. Ever since
Vocah's attack the pain accompanying your visions has been worse. There
might have been some lingering damage done," Wyndom-Price suggested.

LaCroix easily deciphered the look of guilt that settled on Angel's
face. Such a destructive emotion, LaCroix thought. Nicholas had invited
such misery into his life through his endless fascination with claiming
responsibility for everything that went wrong. Such a pointless waste
of time and energy. Even when the fault truly belonged to Nicholas
nothing was changed by his guilt. More often the fault lay elsewhere
but Nicholas still choose to suffer the guilt.


"Patterson, you're the one proctoring the PI licensing exam right?"
Kate asked.

"That's right Detective, is there a problem?" the officer asked.

"No," Kate laughed nervously. "It's just that a friend of mine is
taking the test. We've been planning a surprise birthday party for him,
but we couldn't think of a way to get him there without making him
suspicious and I was thinking, you could tell him that the test had
been rescheduled."

"I don't know Detective."

"The party's two days before he's scheduled to take the test. It won't
cause any problems," Kate pushed. "I'd owe you."

"Well. Maybe."

"I'd forget the identity to the person who broke the Captain's special
coffee mug, the one his daughter gave him."

Patterson blanched. "How'd you? . What's your friend's name?"

"You remember Angel? He escorted me to my Dad's retirement party."


"Well, that was quite invigorating," said Wesley shakily as Angel
helped the battered Watcher back to his feet.

"Invigorating?" Angel asked examining the notch the demon's scaly hide
had taken out of his axe blade.

Wesley retrieved his glasses from his pocket, briefly glanced at the
twisted bit of metal and glass then sadly tossed them into a nearby
dumpster. "Destructive?" he offered.

"I'd throw in painful and exhausting," Angel said rubbing his badly
bruised shoulder.

"It could have been worse. Cordelia did an amazing job of describing
the demon, if we hadn't been able to identify it, hadn't known about
that spot on the Raknid's spine, we never would have managed to kill
it." Wesley said.

"Uh. Wes, things just got worse," Angel said.


Angel nodded toward a clawed hand reaching around the corner in front
of them. "Looks like it had a friend."

"Oh dear."

The second Raknid, an ugly conglomeration of fur, feathers and scales
built roughly along the same lines as Raptor, with a crocodile's snout
and a long prehensile tail with a bony knob on the end stalked into

Wesley and Angel moved apart, faces grim, weapons raised.

The creature's eyes, glowing like molten lava, moved from one man to
the other, evaluating which represented the greater threat. With a
high-pitched scream the Raknid threw itself at Angel.

The souled vampire smashed the flat of his axe into the demon's bony
snout, briefly stunning it. Seeing an opening Wesley lunged for the
kill spot on the Raknid's back. The demon's tail snapped like a whip,
the heavy end catching the ex-Watcher squarely in the chest.

Wesley fell back with a moan, his sword dropping to the ground as he
gasped for air.

"Wes!" Angel yelled, ice forming in his stomach at the sound of bones
cracking. However long he did this Angel didn't think that he'd ever
get used to the terror he felt at the possibility of loosing one of his
mortal friends. He never used to think about it, not really. Before
Doyle had died he had believed that somehow his friends would always be
saved. Like a teenager he'd believed that they were invulnerable. Buffy
had been dead, but Xander brought her back. He'd been sent to Hell but
he came back only a little worse for wear. They'd faced the Master and
the Mayor's ascension without casualties. The only people he'd ever
lost had been lost to the demon that shared his body, and Angel had
come to believe that the only thing he really needed to fear was
himself. As long as he took precautions to ensure that his soul stayed
firmly in control everything would work out okay. and then the Scourge
had come and taken Doyle from him.

Still clutching his chest and struggling to breathe Wesley forced
himself to meet Angel's eyes then nodded toward the demon.

"Right," Angel said softly allowing the change to over-take him. An
angry rumble filled the air as Angel focused on the creature, now in
full demon mode himself. "First take care of the threat, then you can
get Wesley to the hospital." He thought glaring at the Raknid with
glowing yellow eyes.

Angel feinted forward then ducked under the Raknid's tail. As it swept
past him Angel snapped his axe into place. The force of the creature's
own momentum drove Angel's blade through its flesh. The bony weight
that had done so much damage to Wesley fell to the ground as the Raknid
shrieked in pain and outrage.

The Raknid swiveled quickly on its powerful hind legs, grabbing Angel's
arm in its jaws then jerking its head away.

Angel was pulled off balance, as he fell the Raknid's teeth tore
through his heavy coat and the flesh beneath. The dark haired vampire
rolled back to his feet, out of range of the demon. Painfully Angel
transferred his axe to his good hand, trying to ignore the slow
dripping of blood from the jagged wounds in his arm.

Both injured and more cautious now Angel and the Raknid circled each
other, looking for an opening. The Raknid's high screams punctuated
Angel's continuous low snarling.

In the background Wesley shakily reclaimed his sword and staggered to
his feet, leaning his weight against the wall, cradling his cracked
ribs with his free arm.

The Raknid lunged at Angel, who dodged to the side, completely
forgetting the demon's shortened tail in his haste to avoid its teeth
and claws. The forgotten tail cracked against the side of Angel's knee

Angel's fangs bit through his bottom lip as he felt something tear in
his knee.

The Raknid followed up its latest attack with another lung, trying to
catch the vampire in its jaws. Angel jumped back, his injured leg
collapsing under him as he landed.

Grimly Angel got back to his feet, preparing for the next attack.

"You appear to be in need a assistance," a smooth, deep voice

All three combatants turned to stare at the new comer. He was a tall,
painfully pale man wearing a black suit and shirt. His close-cropped
hair was stark white, only a shade lighter than his skin, pale blue
eyes, cold as ice surveyed the scene.

He took in Angel's fangs, glowing eyes and demonically twisted features
with a hint of surprised confusion apparent in his eyes before turning
his attention to the Raknid, this creature he regarded with simple

"And I believed that the Slayer was the only reason to avoid
Hellmouths," the stranger sighed.

The Raknid attacked its newest opponent only to find its teeth clacking
together on empty air as the stranger moved out of its way faster than
the eye could follow. Confused the creature looked around for its
missing enemy.

While it was distracted Wesley drove his sword into the creature's
flank. Infuriated the Raknid turned on him, only to have Wesley
snatched out of its reach by the pale-skinned man.

The demon screamed a challenged at this new enemy and to Wesley and
Angel's shock the man responded with a threatening snarl. His pale blue
eyes caught fire and his teeth elongated into fangs.

As the stranger changed Angel was suddenly filled with the sense of
another vampire, one which was ancient, much older than the two-hundred
and fifty year old vampire had believed was possible, even for a member
of his species.

The Ancient grabbed the sword Wesley has left embedded in the Raknid's
side, dragging it down through the creature's body as he tore it free.
He smiled around his fangs as he raised the gore-covered sword to the

As the creature turned to face the other vampire Angel threw his axe,
it twirled, end over end, twice before sinking cleanly into the
Raknid's back, perfectly centered between the creature's shoulder
blades, severing it's spinal cord.

With a last, sickly whimper the creature sank to the ground.

Limping heavily Angel placed himself between Wesley and the older

"I have no intention of harming your pet," the ancient vampire said,
tossing Angel the gore-encrusted sword he'd taken from the Raknid's

"Who are you?" Angel asked, allowing his features to shift to their
normal, human seeming.

"Lucien LaCroix," the older vampire replied. "And you are Angel,

Angel nodded. "What do want?"

"We will speak more later," stated LaCroix. "For the moment tend to
your injuries and those of your mortal friend." With that the ancient
took flight, rapidly disappearing from Wesley and Angel's startled


"What exactly was the boy," LaCroix wondered. He was so like Nicholas
and yet his true countenance showed the taint of one of the Failed. In
LaCroix's experience the Failed were twisted, evil beings, completely
consumed by blood lust to the exclusion of all else. To compare
Nicholas to one of those creatures bordered on the sacrilegious, and
yet Angel, despite his appearance, was not what LaCroix had come to
expect from one of the Failed.

Angel possessed the same basic goodness and innocence that had been
central to Nicholas despite his eight centuries of darkness.

But Angel was undeniably Failed. His speed was only a fraction of a
true vampire's and his presence was much weaker than LaCroix had
expected, Angel's blood tasted of centuries but a twenty-year-old
fledgling could have presented a stronger front.


"I can't understand it. LaCroix feels older than time, but his demon
form is less corrupted than a newly risen vampire," Angel said.
"Cordelia, you've seen the Master, he was only six hundred."

"He was in major need of a facial. Can you say eeew? I wonder if his
face got stuck that way, cause if I were him I would have covered it
up," Cordelia commented factiously.

Angel repressed a snort of laughter, "I asked him that very thing the
first time I saw him."

"LaCroix was amazingly helpful and friendly for a vampire," Wesley
said, steering the conversation back on track. "Also he flew, I didn't
think vampires could fly."

Angel shrugged. "It's not a common ability, a few of us can. Penn and I
could both jump farther than our strength could account for. A few
others like Dru and Master have mesmeric powers. I've seen stories
where all sorts of powers are attributed to vampire, but the reality is
none of us have all those things, a very few of us have one of those
abilities, but that's it. I wish I knew what LaCroix wants with us."

"If he's as old as you think he is there should be some mention of him
in the Watcher's Diaries," Wesley said. "I'll have to ask Giles to
check them for us."

"Well, in the meantime, Angel your test's been moved up," Cordelia
commented. "It's at 9:00 tomorrow morning at 6775 NE Clover Dr. Office

"Did they say why?" Angel asked.

"Nope, they just called and gave the new info," Cordelia replied.

"That's after sunrise," Wesley said. "And Clover's far enough in to the
suburbs that tunnel access isn't likely."

"What do you want to bet Kate's involved somehow," Angel remarked.
"She's completely dedicated herself to making my life miserable."

"She needs more hobbies," Cordelia said.


"Alright, I got the last of the Holy Water unloaded," Kate said. "Why
do we need so much?"

"He won't give us the information willingly," Corin said.

"Can't we just threaten to lock him in a sunny room?" Kate asked.

"Vampires understand what it means to fall into the hands of a Hunter.
Death isn't a threat in that situation, it is simply the inevitable
conclusion of the proceedings," Corin replied.

"Okay." Kate said a bit uncertainly.

"Despite his outward appearance, Angel is a monster, remember that,"
Corin instructed.

"What else needs to be done?" Kate asked, steeling her resolve.

"We're ready," Corin said. "As soon as the vampire is captured we can


"We're here," Wesley said. "It doesn't look like much, are you sure
this is the right address?"

"Of course it's right, I took the message," Cordelia said. "Now Angel
do you want us to come in with you?"

Huddled under a blanket in the back of the car Angel rolled his eyes.
"That won't be necessary Cordelia, but thank you for asking. Wesley, I
think the test lasts three hours. Which side of the car is closer to
the building?"

"Mine, it's the red brick one right across from us," Wesley answered
getting out of the car and leaning the seat forward.

Angel pulled his coat over his head and dashed across the sunlit
sidewalk into the welcome shelter of the building.

"Good luck!" Cordelia yelled.

Angel paused just inside the doorway to straighten his cloths to make
an entrance like a normal person rather than a vampire fleeing the
sun's light.

The office building looked deserted, not to mention being just a few
steps away from being condemned.

"Strange place for a test," Angel commented. "Maybe the city's trying
to save money. The rent on this place has got to be cheap."

Angel climbed to the top floor office where the test had been
scheduled. The room was empty except for a few tables and one other
person, a man with dark, curly hair and serious storm gray eyes wide-
set in a lightly freckled, triangular face.

"I thought there were a group of us taking the exam," Angel said. "This
is where the PI licensing exam is being held?"

"You're in the right place Angel," the man replied. "Please come in."

"How do you know my name?" Angel demanded suspiciously.

"Hello Angel," Kate said from the doorway behind him. Angel turned to
see her leveling a crossbow at his chest.

Behind him Corin pulled a cord and the drapes fell away from the room's
numerous windows, forcing Angel into the one shadowed corner left.

"Kate? What are you doing?" he asked.

"You told me I should try having you as an enemy. So tell me Angel how
am I doing so far?" Kate said coldly.

Angel glanced back at the other man who was also holding a crossbow
now. "Who's your friend?" he asked.

"Corin? He's a professional, just full of fun facts about the modern

Corin cautiously set a glass at the edge of the pool of shadows Angel
stood in. "Drink it," He ordered.

Angel picked up the glass, examined it briefly, "What is it?"

"Not important," Corin replied.

"Not thirty," Angel said casually tossing the glass across the room.

Corin fired his crossbow and reloaded in one easy motion. Angel
snatched the bolt out of the air a hand's breathe from his shoulder.

"Good reflexes," Corin remarked. "I haven't seen that too often. Can
you handle two at once?"

Corin and Kate fired simultaneously. Angel caught Kate's bolt, which
would have passed through his heart, but could do nothing about Corin's
except wince in pain as it embedded in his thigh.

"What did you think you were doing?" Corin yelled at Kate. "We can't
kill him yet!"

"I missed," Kate replied, sounding chastened. "It was an accident."

Angel could feel numbness replacing the pain in his leg, an area of
deadened nerves spreading out from the arrow. He fell to his knees as
his leg gave out. A few seconds later he toppled helplessly to the

Corin pulled a heavy set of manacles from the bag behind his desk as he
said. "Kate, get the body bag."

"What's wrong with him?" Kate asked.

"The bolts were coated in curare, it acts as a highly effective
paralyzing agent on vampires."

"He's still conscious?" Kate asked staring at Angel's crumpled form.

"Yes, but he won't even be able to blink his eyes for at least two
hours," Corin explained.

"Then why all the precautions?" Kate asked gesturing to the manacles.

"In case I'm wrong."


"Thank you Aristotle," LaCroix said. "Your help has been appreciated."

"I was glad to be of assistance General. I was sorry to hear about
Nicholas, he was a good friend. A bit odd, but still a good friend."

"Nicholas should have listened to me," LaCroix said harshly. "There was
no other way his infatuation with mortals and guilt could have ended.
Thank you for your time and goodbye." LaCroix firmly terminated the
phone call, then turned on his computer to retrieve the files Aristotle
had sent him.

LaCroix quickly read the summary on the vampire Angel or Angelus,
commenting softly to himself as he read.

"Romantically involved with the current Slayer, really Angelus. Gypsy
curses? Perhaps some of Nicholas' more obscure cures shouldn't have
been dismissed quite so casually. Aw yes, origins; Angelus, child of
Darla, child of Joseph Heinlich Nest, failed child of Richard of Kent.
Richard always was the careless sort. Nest and Darla both reported
dead, the work of the current Slayer."

"Angelus, born in Galway; Ireland, 1727 AD; called Liam Roark; turned
1753 AD. Cursed with a soul,1898, a soul, how quaint. Still it seems
the Romany did him a favor, the boy is more than half-way to becoming a
true vampire despite his linage."

"If he'd gone on as he began the Enforcers would have undoubtedly taken

Finishing the summary, LaCroix settled in to read the rather extensive
files detailing the history of his newest interest.


"Nothing?" Wesley asked sounding stunned. "How can the Watchers have no
information on a vampire as ancient as this LaCroix seems to be?"

Giles sighed. "The fact remains there are no records of this individual
as a Vampire. However, Willow's friend Tara used to listen to a late
night radio persona who called himself the Nightcrawler. She remembered
that his true name was Lucien LaCroix. Willow was able to download
transcripts of a number of his shows from the Internet. It seems he had
a fairly enthusiastic following."

"He broadcasted out of Toronto, Ontario for a few years as well as
owning a nightclub there, the "Raven". A headless body was found at the
club shortly before it closed, the Nightcrawler program was abruptly
discontinued and your Mr. LaCroix disappeared from Toronto."

"Could he have killed the victim?" Wesley asked.

"He was cleared by the police, however; both investigating officers as
well as the Medical Examiner assigned to the case all died or
disappeared shortly after the incident," Giles said. "This LaCroix
seems very integrated into society for a vampire. Angel is the only
vampire I've ever heard of who could begin to compare," Giles

"That's not quite accurate," Wesley said. "Angel's first case here in
LA involved a vampire industrialist."

"In any case, LaCroix seems like a most dangerous individual, you
should be cautious in your dealings with him despite any seeming
benevolence on his part."

"Thank you, and please thank Willow and Tara for their assistance. I'll
ask Cordelia to retrieve those files from the dread machine," Wesley


"Yes, she's become quite skilled in researching via the web."

"Miraculous, just a few years ago Jenny was despairing of the day that
it would be feasible to expect Cordelia to complete even basic
assignments without a catastrophe occurring," Giles said.

"Speaking of Cordelia, I really must be going. I need to pick her up
from her audition before collecting Angel from his exam," Wesley


"Why?" Angel asked as soon as he was able.

Kate and Corin had relocated him to what looked like a larger storage
unit. They had chained him to a heavy metal table that reminded Angel
uncomfortably of a dissection table and cut away his clothes. Then they
left him there while the curare wore off.

Now they'd returned.

"Good, you can speak. Now we can begin," Corin said, taking the lead
again. Kate stood in the background looking like she wished she were
anywhere else.

"Why?" Angel repeated.

"Where does the LA Community congregate?" Corin asked.

"What?" Angel replied in confusion.

Corin nodded to himself. "Your co-operation wasn't actually expected."
To Kate he said, "Vampires fiercely protect their anonymity."

"Where'd you dig this guy up Kate?" Angel asked. "I doubt he's ever
seen a real vampire before. Probably just rented out all the vampire
flicks at the local video store."

Corin dumped a pitcher of water into a hollow sphere suspended on a
chain above Angel. "This is a version of Chinese water torture," he
explained releasing the sphere.

A drop of water from the device sizzled as it struck Angel's skin.

"The holy water is what makes it unique," Corin continued. "Come along
Kate, it will take a half hour for the water to run out."


"He's not there!" Cordelia announced running back to the car. "No one's

"What?" Wesley demanded.

"The whole building's empty and the room were Angel's test was supposed
to be had skylights and way more windows that any room needs!" Cordelia

"Oh dear. I'll park then join you in seeking clues."


Four hours. Eight pitchers of holy water raining down on his
unprotected flesh. Innumerable tiny annoying burns, which were
beginning to overlap and deepen into more serious injuries as his
overtaxed system ceased to heal his injuries. Time broken only by
Corin's inane questions and periodic refillings of the torture device.

Three pitchers ago Angel had tried explaining that vampires simply
didn't have the sort of orderly civilized society that Corin was
seeking. At most they had hunting packs maintained by a particularly
vicious or powerful leader, but the packs were autonomous, each
guarding its territory with all the jealous of rival gangs.

Corin refused to believe him, and the pointless torment continued.

Angel tried to distract himself from the pain by thinking about other
things; unsolved cases, setting up a new office and apartment, the
mystery that was Lucien LaCroix; however, it turned out that the holy
water was much more effective at distracting him from his thoughts than
his thoughts were at distracting him from the holy water. Eventually he
gave them up in favor of counting swings of the sphere and trying to
guess where the next drop would land so he could brace himself against
the pain.


"What if he really doesn't know?" Kate asked.

"They all know," Corin said calmly.

"Angel's killed every other vampire I've ever seen around him. He even
tried to kill that Penn guy and Angel was the one who made him. I don't
thing Angel socializes much with other vampires," Kate argued.

"I've been inside their heads. Marissa drank from me, I know vampires
in a way that you are incapable of. Those who you knew as Vampires were
probably rogues. He might even be an Enforcer. Marissa warned me that
they hunted down those who broke their code and the mortals who knew of
vampires," Corin said. "He lies. Even now he tries to mislead us to
protect his people from exposure."

"Angel's only friends are human. Corin I've seen them in sunlight.
There is no way I could be wrong. I don't think Angel even likes other
vampires," Kate said.

"It's time for another pitcher," Corin commented.


"Angel didn't leave that building on his own," Wesley said. "There
isn't any access to the sewers for blocks. He couldn't have made it
that far."

"The test wasn't really today," Cordelia said. "Cop Lady had them tell
Angel it had been changed and what am I supposed to do? Tell the police
that I think their detective kidnapped or killed my friend 'cause he's
a vampire?"

"Wesley, Cop Lady couldn't have really killed Angel could she? I mean
she's a human; Angel can protect himself from a normal human right?
Even if she does know about vampires."

"Angel is quite capable," Wesley said. "Still, we should find him,
Detective Lockley has proved that her intentions toward Angel are
anything but friendly and I doubt Angel could bring himself to harm her
despite her recent behavior."

"Oooh," Cordelia moaned.

"I take it Angelus has gotten himself into trouble?" LaCroix said
stepping into Cordelia's living room.

"LaCroix!" Wesley exclaimed.

"You're. you're a vampire," Cordelia stammered. "You can't come in
here, I didn't invite you."

"And what, prey tell, does that have to do with anything?" LaCroix
asked, annoyed. "What has befallen Angelus?"

"Vampires cannot enter an inhabited human dwelling without an
invitation," Wesley explained, feeling slightly ridiculous explaining
vampirism to a vampire.

"Why ever not?" LaCroix asked. "Ah, perhaps it's a "psychosomatic
reaction" as Dr. Lambert would have said. She was quite convinced that
holy symbols were not truly harmful to my kind as well."

"Now, if that is explained to your satisfaction, what has happened?"
LaCroix demanded in a tone that brooked no further delays.

"Quite frankly, Mr. LaCroix, we don't trust you," Wesley said. "We
don't even know that you aren't involved."

LaCroix stared into Wesley's eyes, focused on his heartbeat and in a
deep compelling voice demanded. "Where is Angelus?"

"Missing," Wesley replied in a daze.

"Hey!" Cordelia exclaimed. "What happened to not trusting the creepy

"Tell me what you suspect," LaCroix ordered.

"We thing Detective Lockley abducted him," Wesley answered.

And then LaCroix was gone.

"Wow, even Angel doesn't disappear like that," said Cordelia. "Are we
sure he's a vampire?"

Wesley shook his head slightly as if clearing away cobwebs. "What
happened?" he asked. "I didn't intend to say all that."

"So why did you?" Cordelia asked.

"It just came out, I couldn't not say it. I couldn't hear anything but
his voice and I just couldn't not answer," Wesley stammered.

"Well, we'll just have to find Angel first," Cordelia said
determinedly. "So what do we do now?"

"Detective Lockley is really our only lead. I think we should follow
her," Wesley suggested.

"In that case, it's a good thing cop lady never noticed us, cause she
was always to busy staring or glaring at Angel."


"Where do we find the Community?" Corin asked implacably.

"There is no Community!" Angel exclaimed.

Angel's chest was a collage of red blisters and charred, black patches.
His body's efforts to heal itself had exhausted him. His every cell
screamed for blood with which to restore itself.

"Angel," Kate said, speaking to him for the first time in seventeen
hours. "Please, just tell him, end this."

"How?" Angel asked.

"Tell us what we need to know," Kate encouraged. "You don't have to
hurt anymore."

Angel laughed bitterly. "Nothing to tell," he said. "What he's looking
for doesn't exist."

"Your lies are pointless," Corin said. "I know you know."

Silently, tiredly, Angel rolled his eyes. There was nothing he could
say to the delusional hunter.


This Lockley would not take Angelus from him, LaCroix thought
furiously. He would not loose another to some mortal female, certainly
not this child who bore such a resemblance to Nicholas.

Angelus was to have been his opportunity to correct the mistakes he'd
made with Nicholas. He was to have filled the hole Nicholas' death had
left in LaCroix's life.

For eight hundred year LaCroix had dedicated so much time and effort to
raising Nicholas. Advising, chasing and punishing his most contrary
child, and then Nicholas was gone. After eight centuries he was gone in
a single night. The bond of blood that had stretched between them for
so long touched on only emptiness now.

Emptiness in his mind and in his life. Nicholas was gone and nothing
LaCroix could do had even begun to fill that hollowness.

Then he had found Angelus. When he thought of the young vampire his
pain was dulled.

All the violence, all the destruction had done nothing for his grief,
but LaCroix found solace in planning how he would help his new protégé.

It was not a cure, but it was a start. The boy was not his son.
Nicholas was lost forever, but Angelus was so like him, and he was
still within reach.

Nicholas had been destroyed by his foolish quest for mortality, by his
guilt, by LaCroix's failure to reach him. But he knew better now, he
would not allow Angelus to destroy himself. LaCroix would not let
things get so out of control again. And he would not allow a mortal to
take Angelus from him.


"I don't know," Angel sighed watching Kate pull the globe away from the
table. He waited for her to add more holy water.

He could see the gleaming white of his ribs showing through the charred
remains of his chest.

"It's okay. I know you're telling the truth," Kate said. "I'm sorry,
this is wrong."

Kate laughed hysterically. "Can you imagine what my parents would say
if they were alive to see you? If they knew I was involved in this? I'm
a police officer, police officers don't torture people, we're the good

"Of course police officers aren't supposed to kill people either, but
that's okay, because you're not really a person are you?"

"You're not real are you Angel? When I kill you there won't be a body,
you'll just disappear, like a nightmare. Not real, you aren't supposed
to be real. Monsters aren't supposed to be real. and they're not if you
kill them."

"But this is real," Kate said, brushing her hand across Angel's
scorched arm. He gasped in agony. "At first the burns just went away,
and it was okay, but they don't anymore. This is real, and it's wrong."

"Kate, let me go," Angel pled.

Kate shook her head. "I can't."

Angel watched helplessly as Kate raised a roughly carved stake over his
heart. He couldn't believe he was going to die like this; at the hands
of a deranged friend turned enemy, for no reason.

The stake halted in it's decent a millimeter above Angel's body. Both
Kate and Angel stared at the pale hand gripping the stake below Kate's
hand. Slowly their gaze followed the dark clad arm to the tall harsh
looking vampire who had introduced himself to Angel as Lucien LaCroix.

His icy blue eyes took in the damage Angel had suffered before turning
to Kate. She shrank away from his imposing presence. She'd been a
member of the police force for six years; dealt with all sorts of
violent, dangerous and intimidating people. She'd never backed down
before today, never met anyone who simply radiated evil like this
creature did.

LaCroix cut off her retreat, taking her arm in a vice-like grip. He
traced the line of her jaw with a gentle touch, Kate shivered at the
cool feel of his fingers and at the deadly intent in his eyes.

"How shall I kill you my dear?" he asked.

"Don't," Angel objected weakly.

"Even after this you would argue for her life?" LaCroix demanded in

"Please don't."

LaCroix sighed, "As a favor to you child, she may keep her life, but
this will not be repeated."

LaCroix turned his formidable gaze back to Kate. "Look at me Detective,
listen to me. There are no such things as vampires. Do you understand

"I understand," Kate replied tonelessly.

"The very idea of the supernatural is ludicrous to you," LaCroix
instructed. "Now leave."

Kate turned robotically and walked out.

"What?" Angel asked looking after Kate in confusion.

"Don't concern yourself," LaCroix said.

He examined Angel's bindings briefly with a faint growl tore the hinges
of the manacles apart.

Angel sighed in relief as his over-extended muscles were finally able
to relax. The relief was short lived as the movement shifted badly
burnt flesh.

LaCroix took a knife from his pocket and drew it from Angel's wrist to
his elbow, then repeated the cut on his own arm and pressed the wounds

Angel gasped as he felt his body drawing the offered blood into itself.
As his damaged nerves began to regenerate.

LaCroix knew it was almost impossible to hypnotize another vampire, but
Angel's mind was almost as undefended as a mortal's and LaCroix's blood
ran in his veins. Beyond that, LaCroix was not simply another vampire.

"Look at me Angelus," LaCroix said, reaching for the impossibly slow
heartbeat of a vampire. When he didn't find it, he frowned in
confusion, he could feel Angelus' mind open to him, he should have
sensed the boy's life rhythms. LaCroix forced his will onto the
recalcitrant organ and reluctantly Angel's heart pulsed. LaCroix sighed
in relief as Angel's pulse stabilized.

Returning to his original purpose, LaCroix promised, "There is no pain,
sleep now."

Once Angle's eyes had drifted shut LaCroix released his mind. He
wrapped a blanket around the dark haired vampire ad took to the skies
with his awkward burden.


Wesley and Cordelia both jumped as the door to her apartment swung open
just in time to admit LaCroix carrying Angel's unconscious body.

"Where should I put him?" LaCroix demanded.

Cordelia jumped up to guide LaCroix to her room, "What happened?"

"Holy water burns," LaCroix explained succinctly. "He won't be able to
eat for several days. I will be by to give him blood. Once he has
healed enough to feed I'll arrange for human blood to be delivered. I'm
quite certain Angelus routinely drinks some form of animal swill. That
will not be allowed until he is completely healed. I will hold you
responsible for his recovery." Having had his say LaCroix left as
precipitously as he had arrived.


LaCroix stood on a bluff above Los Angeles looking out across the
lights of the city up into the faint stars.

In the past few years his relationship with Nicholas had been an odd,
strained thing, at times held together only by the timeless bond that
carried Nicholas' concerns and preoccupations to him while modern
technology in the form of radio waves carried LaCroix's voice and words
back to his estranged son.

Tonight he set his words on to the wind, trusting, hoping that somehow
he could still reach his lost child.

"Nicholas, it seems I've adopted another child," he began. "A rather
surprising side-effect of sharing so much blood."

"You would have enjoyed being an older brother to this one. He's so
like you Nicholas. As strange as it may sound to you that is what drew
me to him."

"Perhaps I have learned to appreciate your peculiarities. Too late, of

"Thankfully young Angelus doesn't seek mortality, he merely believes it
will be granted as a boon by his Powers should he accomplish the feats
which they set forth for him. I have never know a god to be so
generous, thus I find it easier to accept his quest than I did yours."

"Also his linage is of the Failed. A Romany spell returned his sanity,
or perhaps cast out the demon infesting him. He claims it returned his
soul, and I find I can no longer argue against the existence of a soul.
Regardless, he is one of us now, a true vampire, my blood completed the
transformation begun with the curse."

"I believe I've learned enough from the mistakes I made with you to not
drive him away as I did you."

"I find I miss you Nicholas. I hope you were correct and are with your
Dr. Lambert as you desired to be."

"Farewell Nicholas, wish me well in my new endeavor."


Angel relaxed as the Quo-Kari demon dropped dead at his feet. It was
his first case since being injured and despite what he'd insisted to
Cordelia and Wesley he was a long ways from feeling normal.

For one thing he had a sense of the ancient vampire LaCroix. Angel knew
he hadn't left the city. He still wondered at the ancient's intentions.
LaCroix was unlike any vampire Angel had ever met before. More powerful
and yet less mindlessly destructive, but still not trustworthy. Angel
had little doubt that the ancient had prevented Kate from executing him
and had healed him for some reason other than the goodness of his

Beyond his connection to the other vampire Angel still felt weak his
lungs and chest ached strangely. When he switched to his demon form it
almost hadn't happened. There had been dizziness and pain, for a moment
he hadn't thought the change would come. It had almost cost him the
battle. But it hadn't, he reminded himself, and given a little more
time he'd finish healing.

Mr. Gordo's Abduction


Buffy walked into her mother's living room to find her younger sister
Dawn watching a recorded episode of "Passions" with Spike.

Dawn lay on her stomach on the couch, casually eating popcorn out of
the bowl Spike held on his lap. The peroxide blond vampire sat on the
floor leaning back against the couch. As Buffy watched he dunked a
piece of popcorn into the mug sitting on the floor next to him. Buffy
gagged as Spike tossed the popcorn kernel, now dripping with blood,
into his mouth.

"Spike you're gross," Buffy announced. "And why are you here? I thought
your TV would be fixed by now."

"The reception's better here," Spike replied absently never looking
away from his soap opera. "'Sides blood tastes better if I heat it on a
stove instead of in the microwave. I haven't figured out how to get a
stove into my crypt."

"Shh!" Dawn hissed glaring at her sister.

Buffy rolled her eyes as she ran upstairs for the clean cloths she was
certain she'd find in her closet. Since the start of the new school
year she'd been dropping off her dirty clothes at home and miraculously
they'd be clean in a few days, without the expenditure of numerous

A few months ago she might have been more disturbed at finding Spike in
her home, but Giles's advanced Slayer training had led to an unexpected
discovery about the neutered vampire.

Ever since Buffy first came to Sunnydale Giles had insisted she learn
to identify vampires by honing her Slayer senses, not her fashion
sense. This year she had finally learned to do just that. Now she
understood why Kendra had declared that Willie was "dirty". At the time
she'd just written it off as more of Kendra's hit first ask question
later attitude, now she knew better. With her newly trained senses she
could feel the tarnish Willie's life style had left on him.

Her Slayer sense wasn't really like Spiderman's Spidey-sense, it wasn't
always on, it required a certain state of mind to access. It was fun to
practice during dull lectures, much better than doodling and with less
potential for embarrassment than napping. Using her special senses her
classmates gained a glittering rainbow feel to them. Buffy had never
thought of colors as having a feel to them before, but they did, most
people felt like a constantly shifting display of color. People like
Willie, who consistently dealt in shady business gained a tarnished
patina. Vampires at least the minions felt black, sometimes with a
hungry, angry red flame caged in the blackness, but always
predominately black. Vampires like Spike and Harmony still had their
full range of colors. In Harmony the colors were still overwhelmed and
caged by the blackness, but they were all there.

Which brought her to Spike. Buffy remembered Spike whining about Dru
breaking-up with him because he "wasn't demon enough for her", when he
came back to Sunnydale on his drunken pity-fest during her senior year
but Buffy hadn't thought much of it. Buffy had just thought Dru was
being mean because she was mad about Spike teaming up with Buffy to
stop Angel from ending the world. Now Buffy was having to admit that
Dru might have meant the comment more literally, because Spike just
didn't look like a normal vampire.

In Spike the blackness was less a cage and more a lattice holding all
the colors in place. He didn't feel human, but he didn't feel like a
proper vampire either. Buffy was starting to theorize that the colors
were a person's soul and the blackness was were it was missing in
vampires, but that meant that vampires didn't loose there whole soul
when they were changed, parts of it were left behind. It explained why
the Judge had been able to burn some vampires but not others; there was
probably some sort of critical soul mass that he needed to burn
someone. When the gypsy curse had broken it had done a more complete
job of removing Angel's soul then being turned did, so the Judge
couldn't burn him, but it also meant he'd been psycho even by vamp
standards. Spike had told her once that the Angelus she had fought was
a completely different creature from the one he'd know before the curse
and that he never wanted to see Angel's curse broken again.

Spike's revelation had given Buffy a whole new dislike for the gypsies
and their breakable curse. Sure they hadn't wanted Angel to be happy,
they were trying to punish him, but turning him into an even worse
monster than he'd been before they cursed him was just so stupid. It
didn't hurt Angelus any, just the world, their moronic clause had given
the demon exactly what it wanted, and the demon was the one they should
have been punishing, not Angel's soul.

Of course the fact that Spike had a lot of his soul left didn't seem to
stop him from being evil, but lacking a nutcase of girlfriend to
impress, he seemed to have lost interested in being the "Big Bad".
Thinking up devious plans certain ranked well below watching his soap
opera in Spike's book. Buffy could think of several ways Spike could
get around the chip and still cause chaos, but ever since his
unsuccessful alliance with Adam Spike had been in major suck-up mode.
He'd even been going out slaying other vampires and demons on a regular
basis. and making sure Buffy knew about his good deeds. All part of his
not-being-staked-through-the-heart campaign.

Which was why Buffy didn't mind having him in the house. Spike had
decided that his best bet for survival lay in remaining on the Slayer's
good side. Buffy wondered if her mother would consider Spike an
acceptable babysitter for Dawn. Plus it was tons of fun to tease Spike
and enjoy his inability to retaliate.

Buffy checked in her closet for her clothes, she found a pile of dirty
laundry. "Mom!" she yelled.

"I'm not a laundry service," Joyce yelled back.


"You can use the machine, but don't just slip your stuff into the
laundry basket and expect me to take care of it, you're not a child
anymore Buffy."

"You did Spike's laundry."

"Because his clothes were filthy and I didn't want him walking around
the house naked. Do you realize he only has that one set of clothes?
I'm thinking about taking him shopping," Joyce explained.

"Spike, in different clothes?" Buffy giggled. "That could be sign of
the apocalypse."

"Hey Spike," Buffy called. "What's with your one outfit look? I thought
that went out with the "Dukes of Hazard". Even Dru the nutcase had
three outfits. Buffy grinned as Spike's aura flared predictably at the
mention of Dru's name.

"I like these clothes, besides the crypt doesn't have closets," Spike

"Yeah, most corpses aren't up to changing clothes," Dawn remarked.

"And apparently some of their more lively brethren can't manage it
either," Buffy added. "Not unless someone's mom points out that they
need to."

Spike just glared.

"Now my mom's going to take you shopping, like a little kid."

"I didn't say I'd go," Spike protested.

"Oh and you watch TV with my baby sister."

"Hey," Dawn protested as Spike said. "Watch it Missy, your Watcher
likes this show."

"Oh and lets not forget those little marshmallows that you need for
your hot chocolate."

"We were trying to watch the telly Slayer," Spike snapped.

"Ooh the big bad. well formerly big bad vampire can't take a little

"You're one to talk Slayer, at least I don't sleep with a stuffed
animal. I think I'll tell the boys down at Willie's about the pig.
Course they won't believe without proof."

"You leave Mr. Gordo out of this," Buffy warned.

"It has a name? This gets better and better," Spike said with a grin.
"I have to show this to the local demons."

"You wouldn't!"

"Try and stop me," Spike challenged sprinting for the stairs. Buffy
took off after him before the last of the popcorn hit the floor.


Cordelia dropped the files she was holding as Buffy stormed into the
new offices of Angel Investigations.

"Where is he?" the Slayer demanded.

"Angel?" Cordelia asked.

"No, his moronic grandchild!"


"Spike! Where is Spike? I know he's in LA, he left a ransom note!"
Buffy shouted.

"Ransom note?" Cordelia asked in alarm. "Spike kidnapped someone? I
thought he was on our side now!"

"He took Mr. Gordo!"


Angel walked out of his office a confused look on his face, "Buffy, why
would Spike take your stuffed animal?"

"Because he's a evil!"

"I thought Spike was helping you lately?" Angel asked.

"Buffy shifted her weight uncomfortably. "He's still evil."

"And stealing stuffed animals seems a bit innocuous, given Spike's
history," Angel continued.

"Huh?" Buffy and Cordelia asked.

Angel grimaced. "Harmless, stealing toys seems like a harmless prank,
especially when you consider that we're talking about a person who got
his nickname by torturing a guy to death with a railroad spike."

"He's being an immature brat!" Buffy exclaimed. "He's gonna show Mr.
Gordo to all the demons he can find and none of them will take me
seriously again!"

"Trust me, if they can take someone named Buffy seriously they can deal
with the Slayer having a stuffed toy," Cordelia commented.

"There is nothing wrong with my name," Buffy hissed.

Cordelia repressed a snort of laughter.

"Okay, slow down," Angel instructed. "Buffy why are you here?"

"I thought Spike might have come here."

"To me?" Angel asked, confused. "The last time I saw Spike he tortured
me, we're not exactly on the best of terms."

"You could find him, couldn't you?" Buffy asked.

"So you can get your toy back?"

"After I stake him."

"You're not going to stake him over a toy," Angel said.

"Why not, he's evil."

"He's been helping you."


"Find him yourself Buffy, we have real work here and this is just

"Angel please, I promise I won't stake him," Buffy pled, staring at her
ex-boyfriend with wide hopeful eyes.


"Please, it would mean a lot to me."

"Fine," Angel conceded after a few moments. "This is insane, but I'll


"Willow, have you seen Buffy?" Riley asked.

"She didn't tell you?" Willow squeaked.

"Didn't tell me what?"

"She went to LA."

"To LA? To Angel!" Riley demanded.

"She didn't say Angel," Willow said.

"What did she say?"

"That it was an emergency," Willow said. "That was all."

"I'm going after her," Riley said.

"Wait, what if it were a family emergency?" Willow asked. "Her dad does
live in LA too."

"Her mother would have know if it were a family emergency," Riley said
darkly. "She went back to help him and she didn't even bother to tell

"I'm sure it's not like that!" Willow yelled at Riley's retreating


"So what do we do now?" Buffy asked.

"You sit," Angel instructed. "Cordelia is going to go to a couple of
the local demon hang-out, she'll ask about Spike."

"Why can't I go? What are you going to do?" Buffy demanded petulantly.

"You're not going because I might want to use these people as sources
again, and your not being even vaguely rational about this," Angel

"Well what are you going to do?"

"I'm going to be working on a real case. You shouldn't come, it's not a
demon thing; if there's any violence it'll be guns. You could get
hurt," Angel explained.

"So I'm just supposed to sit here and wait?" Buffy asked.

"You finish my filing for me," Cordelia offered.


"Does something in your past haunt you my children? Won't your ghosts
stay in the grave?" LaCroix asked in his Nighcrawler persona. Since
establishing himself in LA he'd purchased another radio station and
renewed his Nightwatch program.

Wesley had quickly become a fan, shortly after that Angel had forbid
Wesley from to listen to the program within his hearing. He still
didn't know what to make of the elder vampire and preferred not to
think about him.

LaCroix made that difficult enough without Angel having to listen to
his voice every night. The ancient stopped by at least once a week and
Angel couldn't exactly kick out the person who'd saved his life only a
month ago, no matter how much Angel distrusted him.

"How does your past come to you my children? Does it fill your
nightmares or is it more corporeal? Are your ghosts of flesh and blood?
Reminders of what once was or what might have been? Tell me my
children. Share the skeletons in your closet with your friend the


"Well, one could say we struck it lucky," Cordelia said.

"You found him?" Buffy asked.

"Not exactly, but he's been showing your pig in half the demon bars in
the city."

Buffy groaned. "Oh God, this is awful."

"No it's not. All we have to do is stake out one of the places he
hasn't been to yet," said Cordelia. "Spike's sure to show sooner or
later. Didn't Angel say he was thorough?"

"I'm going to be the laughing stock of the demon world," Buffy

"Well Spike and Angel have both been in your shoes, and I'm sure you'll
handle it exactly like they did," Cordelia offered.

"How's that?"

"Kill a bunch of them, it seems to garner respect," Cordelia said. "Did
you know Angel can chase off whole packs of vampires by just mentioning
that he's Angelus? And from what I hear, Spike's getting a worse rep
since this whole chip thing. See he kills things when he's in a bad
mood and since the chip keeps him from killing humans he's always in a
bad mood, hence demon corpses tend to pile up in his vicinity."

"Okay, I'm good at killing demons, that could work," Buffy said. "But
first where do you think Spike'll show up next?"

"We should wait for Angel," Cordelia objected.

"While we're waiting, Spike's out doing who knows. Riley?!" Buffy
exclaimed. "Why are you here?"

"Riley stood in the doorway of Angel Investigation's new office looking
anxious and awkward. "You said it was an emergency, I thought I could
help," he said.

Cordelia looked Riley over critically. "So this is Riley, he looks.
wholesome," she commented.

"And you are?" Riley asked.

"Her ex's best friend," Cordelia answered.

"Riley, this is Cordelia Chase. Cordy, this is Riley Finn," Buffy said
hurriedly. "Cordy went to high school with the gang and I."

"So you were part of the Scooby Gang?" Riley asked.

"You haven't ditched that stupid name yet?" Cordelia asked Buffy.

"Yeah she was," Buffy answered Riley. "In a round-about way, she and
Xander used to date."

"Please, just bring up my momentary insanity," Cordelia exclaimed.

"Before Xander and Anya got together?" Riley asked.

"Xander's still with demon-girl?" Cordelia asked incredulously.

"Anya's a demon?" Riley asked.

"Ex-demon, it's a long story," Buffy answered. "And yes, they're still
together. So how about you Cordy, is there any up and coming movie star
type on your social calendar?"

Buffy saw a flash of sadness before Cordelia dawned a bright false
smile. "I don't like to kiss and tell," she said. "Unlike some people,
or would that be kiss and show, and everyone says I'm the tactless

"I didn't bring him here," Buffy protested.

"You don't want me here?" Riley said.

"It's not like that," Buffy objected. "It's just. awkward."

"Well duh," Cordelia said.

"What is it like? You come running at his beck and call. You don't even
tell me you're leaving."

"What do you mean she comes." Cordelia began only to be silenced by a
quick jab from Buffy's elbow.

"I didn't want you to get up-set," Buffy said.

"How am I supposed to feel with you here?" Riley demanded.

"You're supposed to trust me," Buffy snapped. "Remember?"

Riley glanced at Cordelia's rapt expression then said. "Look, I don't
want to get into this here. Where are you staying? We can talk there."

Buffy stared at her feet. "I'm staying here," she mumbled.

"What!?" Riley yelled.

"It's a hotel building, there were lots of empty rooms," Buffy defended

"Then I'm staying too," Riley said.

"We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone," Cordelia said,

"Cordelia!" Buffy hissed.

"What! Even you admit he doesn't belong here. Send him home, we deal
with your problem, then you go home and our lives go back to normal.
Hopefully without Angel getting all depressed like he did every other
time you visited."

"Why are you being so hostile?" Riley asked.

"What part of 'I'm Angel's friend' didn't you understand?" Cordelia

"He broke up with Buffy," Riley protested.

"And if you think that means he does still love her you're even dumber
than you look, which I didn't think was possible."

"Hey!" Buffy and Riley both exclaimed.

"Look, Angel still thinks she walks on water, so even if you were Brad
Pitt, I wouldn't like you," Cordelia stated.

"Alright," Riley sighed. "I won't expect even basic good manners from
you, happy? Buffy I'll go find someplace else to stay. I'll reserve a
room for you as well, at least think about using it."

"Sure," Buffy said absently, still staring at Cordelia.

"So you're leaving now," Cordelia said escorting Riley through the
door. "Good. Oops, that's supposed to be goodbye. Don't come again."


Buffy quickly packed her bag, her thoughts racing a mile a minute after
Cordelia's confrontation with Riley.

Angel stopped in the doorway of her room. "You're leaving?" he asked.

"Riley followed me, things are bad enough between us without me staying
here," Buffy replied.

"What happened?"

Buffy gave a small sad laugh. "Not enough, he thinks I don't love him.
We're trying to work things out."

"Do you love him?"

"Maybe, I thought I did. He's what everyone wanted for me, even you.
Riley's nice. He's normal but not so normal that he can't handle my
world. I can introduce him to my parents without them freaking. He tans
well. That's what you wanted for me remember? According to everyone
we're the perfect cute couple, like Willow and Oz used to be. You heard
how that turned out haven't you? Riley fits all the requirements for
being the prefect Buffy-boyfriend." Buffy sighed, "Do I love him
though, that's harder, and hardly your business. We're ex's remember.
Riley and I aren't that, not yet anyway. Do you want me asking what's
with you and Queen C? The two of you seem pretty tight theses days. She
seems to know you better than I ever did. Why can you be with her but
not me?"

"I'm not 'with her'," Angel said. "There are times I don't know what
I'd have done without her, and I love her, but I'm not in love with
her. Don't worry Buffy, you're still the only one."

"Angel. I didn't mean it like that."

"Then why did you ask?"

"I shouldn't have. She just seemed so sure of what you think, how you
feel. I never felt that sure, not even when we were together," Buffy
said. "Let's just forget I ever asked. We aren't together; it's not my
place. But Angel, Riley and I aren't broken beyond repair yet, and
maybe I do love him. I can't tell him I came here because of Mr. Gordo;
he'd never believe it. He assumed you called me because of some
emergency, could we please keep it that way?" Buffy asked.

"You can't tell him the truth?"

"Not right now."

"If this is what you really want Buffy," Angel said. "I'll play it any
way you want."

"Do you have any big prophecies pending?"


"Angel this is really quite ludicrous," Wesley announced.

"I know that," Angel replied.

"We've taken turns staking out this bar for days, and all we've found
are rumors of Spike at other locales."

"We have."

"Meanwhile we're all looking for some major catastrophe which might
truly justify Buffy's "emergency in LA" message to the detriment of our
legitimate business."

"You're not wrong."

"One has to wonder why we're doing this."

"Because Buffy asked me to."

"Angel, that's not a reason."

"It's close enough."

"It's unfortunate that you can't simply whammie Riley into believing
there was a crisis," Wesley said.

"I don't want to do that," Angel snapped. "It's too dangerous. Besides
I just don't like the idea of playing around with people's minds, it
seems. evil."

"It's a tool Angel, not evil unless you use it for evil," Wesley

"Did LaCroix brainwash you into believing that?" Angel asked. "You
don't think it's wrong to rearrange Riley's mind because it would save
us a little trouble?"

"We're already lying to him, I fail to see the difference."

"Then you aren't looking hard enough," Angel said. "At the moment I'm
not taking away his free will."

"Alright Angel, perhaps this isn't an occasion which calls for that. I
still wish you'd learn to use that ability. If you'd had it when
Detective Lockley and her cohort tortured you, you could have persuaded
them to release you," Wesley said.

"And if I loose my soul again? Do you really want me to have the
ability to rearrange people's minds at will?"

"And maybe you should cripple yourself because you would be a lesser
threat on the off chance that the curse breaks. Of course that would
severely limit your ability to help people now."

"Let it go Wesley," Angel said. "I'm not learning that's final. Go help
Buffy keep Riley amused. I'll watch for Spike."


"Spike, I hear you've been following in your Sire's footsteps, wearing
the Slayer's leash and all," A horned demon laughed, as he saw the
bleached blond vampire heading for the bar.

"Well, I got tired of hunting humans, not enough challenge anymore.
After you've got two Slayers to your name it gets old hat you know,"
Spike replied.

"And you're not just scared of this current one?"

"How many Slayers have you killed? And I'm not afraid of any Slayer who
sleeps with a stuffed animal," Spike said.

"How could you know what she sleeps with unless you really are
following Angelus' example?"

"Angelus is a wanker, but I can't fault his taste in women," Spike
said, grinning. "Have you seen the current Slayer Mate? And if you
don't believe me about her little friend, well I've got a hostage with
me tonight." So saying, Spike drew a well-loved plush pig from a bag at
his side. "Isn't it cute?"

"Spike if you've got the Slayer wrapped around your." The other demon
fell silent, noticing someone standing in the shadows of the bar they'd
just entered.

"Let's just say she's been less than accommodating ." Spikes' voice
choked off as a hand clamped around his throat. He suddenly found
himself dangling several inches off the floor.

"I think everyone's tired of your stories," Angel growled.

Spike kicked wildly, trying to wriggle free of Angel's hold. Angel's
eyes burned golden for a second, then he dropped Spike clutching the
back of a chair to keep his balance as the room spun out of focus.
Spike got up from the floor, frowning in confusion. "What's a matter
with you?" He asked.

Angel focused on his errant descendant's voice and threw off the last
of his disorientation. He snatched Mr. Gordo from the other vampire and
turned to stalk off. At the door he turned and glared back at Spike.
"She was going to stake you, you know. Don't you think that's carrying
a joke a little too far?"

"Give her the lecture, not me," Spike sulked.


"I found something!" Wesley exclaimed.

"Yes!" Cordelia exclaimed. "I can't believe this, Buffy is such a bad
influence, I'm cheering about finding trouble, non-paying trouble

"Oh. no, this won't work," Wesley continued. "The caprace demon won't
rise for another century."


Buffy. and Riley," Angel said. "Buffy you forgot this."

Buffy took Mr. Gordo, "Oh. um, Angel thanks. Dawn will really
appreciate getting this back." She looked at Riley then added. "Dawn
left it at Dad's last time she was down."

"Buffy, I ran into a mutual acquaintance of ours. He's headed back to
Sunnydale, might pay you a visit. I know you're upset with him, but
he's promised better behavior from now on. if you quit teasing him,"
Angel said.

Buffy slowly turned a dark shade of red. "Maybe I was a bit out of

"It's not easy for him Buffy. This goes against everything he's learned
for a long, long time," Angel said. "He sees this as the only way to
survive, and he is helping you. You might try cutting him a little
slack, or at least not rubbing his nose in how much he's had to

"Who? What's he talking about Buffy?" Riley demanded.

"You remember Spike?" Buffy asked.

"Hostile 17? You still haven't gotten rid of him," Riley accused.

"His name is Spike," Angel said. "He's not an experiment."

"Whatever, he's a vampire. I thought you guys had an emergency?" Riley
asked angrily.

Angel glanced at Buffy; she smiled back hopefully, pleadingly. "It
hasn't materialized quite as quickly as we anticipated," he said
without enthusiasm. "Cordelia and Wesley are checking into the whys."

"Don't you think maybe you jumped the gun a little in calling Buffy?
She has a life of her own you know," Riley accused.

"Riley, in theses cases it's better to be safe than sorry," Buffy said.

"Right," Riley snapped.

"Look, I'd better check on Wesley and Cordelia, I'll just be going."
Angel said as he turned and walked out of the hotel room.

"He shouldn't have called you," Riley said to Buffy once Angel had

"Come on Riley, it was business, world in peril stuff. Angel didn't do
anything wrong," Buffy objected.

"Open your eyes Buffy. Nothing happened, nothing is going to happen.
Angel just wanted you here, with him."

"You don't have the right to say that," Buffy snapped. "You don't know
the first thing about Angel."

"I know he still loves you, his 'best friend' said as much. I know you
let him further into your heart than you've ever let me."

Buffy bit her lip. "It's not like that. Angel's in my past and he's
going to stay there. Neither of us wants a repeat of last time. In high
school I thought we could work around the curse, but Angel's right,
Spike's right; we'd destroy each other. But we're in the same business;
we can't exactly cut all ties. This is why I didn't want to get
involved with you Mr. Initiative Soldier, for fear we'd have a messy,
painful break-up but still have to work together in a crisis. You know
there's a reason why office romances are a bad idea."

"That would all be great. if there had been a crisis. There wasn't
Buffy. How can you move on if he keeps calling you back?" Riley asked.

"Drop it Riley, please. Angel wouldn't call me if he didn't think he
had a good reason. Maybe he didn't need me this time, everyone makes
mistakes, but I know Angel, he didn't have any ulterior motives, case


"What are we going to tell him?" Angel asked.

"There's always the novel concept of telling the truth," Wesley

"I promised Buffy I wouldn't," Angel said. "That goes for you two as

"So she won't have relationship issues with Mr. Personality?" Cordelia
asked skeptically. "I'd think you'd be happy that they're not working
out. Why don't you tell Buffy about the prophecy, about you becoming
human? I'll bet she drops him like a hot potato."

"I told her to move on, how can I take that back now? Besides, she
shouldn't waste time waiting for me."

"Well, whatever you're going to tell Riley, you'd better decide quick,"
Cordelia said staring out the window. "'Cause he's coming."

Both Angel and Wesley stepped back as Riley barged through the door;
Cordelia stepped forward to confront him.

Riley sidestepped Cordelia in order to march up to Angel. "I know what
you're doing," he accused.

"Trying to run a business?" Cordelia asked hurrying to impose herself
between Angel and Riley again.

"Cordelia," Angel said softly as he gently nudged her to one side.

"You're trying to take her back," Riley continued obliviously. "You
gave her up. Buffy's my girlfriend. I'm better for her than you. You
can't have her back."

"She's not a possession," Angel said mildly. "She makes her own

"You're the one trying to make choices for her, not me," Riley said.
"You're the one spinning her head. First you dump her, then you tell
her you still love her. You keep popping back into her life every time
she starts to figure out what she really needs, then you duck out
again. You keep her in constant turmoil. Buffy trusts you, she can't
see what you do to her, but I do. I won't let you wreck her life
anymore than you already have. If I have to kill you to get you out of
her life I will."

"Mr. Finn, I believe you're operating under a false perception," Wesley
said. "I was the one who called Buffy. I found a prophecy about a
carpace demon rising in downtown LA; I believed that the Slayer's
presence would be vital in preventing civilian casualties. It was only
a few moments ago that I became aware that I had miscalculated the date
of this event. We were just about to call Buffy and let her know about
this mix-up. You really shouldn't blame Angel for what happened. It was
my mistake."

"The last thing I'd ever want to do is hurt Buffy," Angel said. "Riley
I'm doing my best to deal with this relationship so as to minimize her
pain, but I will always be there for her if she needs me. I know this
is awkward, and maybe I've made mistakes, I'm not good with people, but
don't ever think I'm trying to hurt her."

"Trying or not you do," Riley said glaring at all three of them before
turning to leave.


"Tragic love, it makes for excellent fiction," LaCroix said asperically
"But what is it to live it? Romeo and Juliet lie moldering in the
grave. Princes claim their unattainable maidens but did they truly live
'happily ever after' or is that just a convention of the storytellers."

"Tonight's callers have been sorely lacking in happy endings. Take heed
gentle listeners, forbidden love is forbidden for a reason. Listen to
those who have been there my children. Listen to your elders whose eyes
are not blinded by love."

"The path you walk is strewn with shards of broken glass and the prize
you seek is a poisoned apple."

"Take joy in what you may have and ignore the lure of the impossible
dream, it will only bring you pain."


"So you saw Angel?" Willow asked her tone making clear that by saw she
was referring to Buffy's Slayer-sense, not the conventional saw.

"I almost didn't check," Buffy replied. "I don't know what to think,
his aura's all weird. I think the blackness in vampire's must be the
actual demon, cause Angel's got it too, but it looks like something's
trying to pull it out of him."

"That would be good right?" Willow asked. "No more Angelus."

"It looks painful," Buffy replied. "It's part of him and his soul's
getting all ripped up in the process. I think something's wrong. I'm
going to ask Giles to start talking to Wesley to keep tabs on him. If
Angel's being hurt some way, I need to know about it. I'll fix it."

"What about Riley, he won't like this," Willow said. "Remember what you
told me about making sure Oz knew he came first? I think you need to do
that for Riley. Angel can take care of himself plus he's got Wesley and
Cordelia looking out for him. He doesn't need you and you'll really
hurt Riley."

Buffy looked down at her hands. "I can't not look out for Angel. I'd
like to put Riley first, but Angel is Angel, he'll always be the one I
love," she said. "I'm not honest with Riley. I want to love him, but it
isn't the same. Five minutes with Angel and I can't pretend something's
not missing in Riley and I's relationship. How do I get in these messes

Typhoid Marty


Willie glanced nervously at the new face. The guy was drinking red, in
here that didn't refer to wine, and raving, never a good combination.

Willie set the bottle on the table and started backing away. The
vampire grabbed his arm. "I'm cursed," He exclaimed. "Everywhere I go
it follows me, insanity, absolute insanity. The Enforcers think it's my
fault, they're after me. But they won't come here," he giggled. "They
can't come here, she's here. I'd rather face her than them."


"So how was patrol?" Giles asked as Buffy and Xander slumped tiredly
into a pair of armchairs.

"It's totally crazy out there," Buffy said.

"The vamps are acting like wrestlers the week after the season ends,"
Xander said.

"In English please," Giles replied.

"They're eating everything in sight," Buffy explained. "It's not
normal, if vampires normally ate like that there wouldn't be anyone
left in Sunnydale by the end of the month."

"Could you have run into a group of fledglings? You know newly risen
vampires tend gore themselves. That why it's always essential to get to
them before they make it out of the cemetery," Giles said.

"These weren't newbies, Spike recognized the one that bit him," Xander

"A vampire bit Spike?" Giles asked incredulously.

"We told you they were eating everyone in sight," Buffy said. "If it
makes you feel any better, Spike couldn't believe it either."

"We'll start researching," Willow said. "There's got to be a reason for

"Great. Meanwhile I'd better go back to patrolling, the way things are
out there it's just scary."


Buffy watched the sun sinking with a groan. "It's going to start
again," she said. "And people are going to die, I just can't be

"You won't have to be," Riley said. "I called the Initiative, they'll
be patrolling too."

"Oh dear," Giles said. "I asked Angel to come."

Looking even more tired, Buffy dropped her head into her hands. "Can
everyone say disaster in the making?" She asked. "I don't suppose you
can tell the Initiative to go home?"

"Why don't you send Angel back to L.A.?" Riley demanded.

"Because I trust him more than the organization that made Adam and
secretly drugged it's own subordinates," Buffy replied. "Okay, if last
night was any indication I'll probably need all the help I can get.
This can work. Riley, tell the Initiative to stay away from Angel and
Spike. If either of them turn up missing, they'll have to answer to me.
I'll tell Angel to be on his best behavior if he runs into any soldier-
types, so there's no chance of misunderstandings. When is Angel getting
here Giles?"

"He promised he'd be here by sunset. Angel said he'd bring
reinforcements as well," Giles replied.

"Alright, I sent Xander to collect Spike. They should be here a few
minutes after that. We'll coordinate patrols then. We need to be sure
we cover the whole town, plus with the Initiative around Spike and
Angel can't do solitary patrols."


"Spike! Rise and shine!" Xander yelled barging into the crypt the blond
vampire called home.

When no one responded, Xander walked further into the crypt, peering
through the gloom. Suddenly he was yanked back against a cool, powerful
body. Xander's knees buckled as he was pulled down to comfortable
biting height by the shorter vampire, he felt fangs graze his neck then
the vampire pushed him away with a yelp of pain.

Xander rolled to his feet, pulling a stake from his coat then relaxing
as he saw Spike clutching his head in agony. "Serves you right
Fangless, you could have given me a heart attack. I thought you were
someone who's actually dangerous."

"Too bad.. I didn't," Spike panted. "I could drain you if you were

"Not funny Spike. Now come on, Buffy needs help patrolling tonight,"
Xander said.

"Tell. the Slayer. to sod off," Spike replied brokenly. "Not gonna.
torture myself. hanging around. blood I can't eat."

"I don't have time for this," Xander said, grabbing the blond by the
arm and hauling him toward the door.

A second later they sprung a part, Xander in shock, Spike reeling in
renewed pain, the result of a second failed attempt to bite the mortal.

"Have you gone mental?" Xander demanded.

"I'm hungry!" Spike snapped.

"Then eat something! You remember where the butchers is," Xander

Spike laughed bitterly, "I've already fed more in the last twelve hours
than I'd normally need in a month. It doesn't do a bloody thing for me.
I feel like I've got bleeding black hole in my gut."

"Giles and Willow need to know about this," Xander said.

"I won't be their lab rat!" Spike growled.


"You're sure she's this Slayer chick," Gunn commented upon being
introduced to Buffy. He looked her over with an obvious appreciation
that set both Angel and Riley's teeth on edge. "Shouldn't she be

Buffy glared irritably at Angel's new friend/ally or whatever.

"Considering the supernatural source of a Slayer's power, their
physical size is quite irrelevant." Wesley lectured. "Although
historically they do tend to be fairly petite. Some have hypothesized
that it gives them an added shock value."

"In other words, if you make another crack about my size, I'll break
you in half," Buffy threatened pleasantly. "Why do people always say
I'm little?"

"Maybe we should get to business," Angel said, hiding a grin as he
looked down at the 5'4", just over a hundred pounds Slayer.

"Right. Isn't Cordy coming?" Buffy said.

"She had a doctor's appointment," Angel replied, Buffy frowned at the
sudden surge of guilt in his voice.

"Okay, well I already had Riley tell the Initiative units to cover
campus and the northern residential area. Gunn take your group and
cover down town, also could you have a guy or two go with Angel and
Wesley. Angel you've got the docks. Riley, you, Graham and I are taking
the eastern residential area. When Xander and Spike show, tell them to
watch the crowd at the bronze. Everybody else, keep researching."

"Let's get moving then," Gunn said.


"Giles, I think I found something," Willow said. "This has happened
before. The police reports don't say vampire attacks, but that's what
was happening. Two weeks ago in Twin Falls, Idaho. A month ago in Fort
Collins, Colorado. Three weeks before that in Hannibal, Mississippi. I
keep finding more of them. There's a rash of vampires attacks killings,
dozens of them in some of the bigger cities, presumably with matching
larger vampire populations. Then, after a week or so, they stop."

"Just like that? No cause, no reason?" Giles asked.

"No one knows why it starts, no one knows why it stops," Willow
replied. "It certainly wasn't because of anything the police did.
They're all unsolved cases."

"Well keep looking, there have to be some clues, somewhere," Giles
sighed. "At least now we know that it can be ended."

"Hey guys," Xander said walking through the door. "Whatever it is
that's making the vamps so hungry, it's contagious. Spike's got it,
says he started feeling it less than an hour after getting bit. He's
coming in the back way; he didn't want to walk into a whole roomful of
people, cause he keeps forgetting about the chip whenever he smells
blood. I'm going to go chain him up, in case it gets bad enough that
the chip stops being a deterrent."

"Contagious?" Willow said. "Like some sort of disease."

"A disease that effects vampires, and I called Angel for help," Giles
said. "Xander come with me, we've got to tell Angel to return to L.A.
Willow, take care of Spike."


"It's fortunate that they're all hunting singly," Wesley commented.

"If they were in a pack we could set up an ambush," Jared, the guy Gunn
had sent with them, disagreed. "Get this over with quick."

"Guys we've got one," Angel said, head cocked listening to something
only he could hear. All three men turned and raced toward the screams
Angel had heard.

They found a vampire trying to force his way into a small opening
beneath the pier. At their arrival the vampire turned away from the
crevice to stare at them like they were the main course at a banquet.

Wading into the ankle deep water beneath the pier Wesley and Jared
separated from Angel, moving to flank the other vampire.

"Angel, you should have stayed gone," the vampire said glaring
threateningly, but his attention strayed to Angel's human companions
and the promise of food that they represented.

"You're going to do something about me being here?" Angel asked
sarcastically, drawing the other vampire's attention back to himself.

The vampire launched himself at Angel without another word. Almost
casually Angel tossed him into the pilings. The other vampire grabbed a
loading hook as he rose. The long heavy pole, capped with a sharpen
hook made a formidable weapon.

Angel ducked the first swing then jumped back to avoid the recovery.
The long pole was also holding Wesley and Jared at bay.

After a few moments' stalemate, Jared lost patience with the situation.
Recklessly he dove under the pole and tackled the vampire. Confronted
with a warm human body, the vampire forgot everything but its hunger.

Angel hurriedly joined the fray, yanking the snarling vampire away from
Jared's throat.

Infuriated, the vampire clawed Angel across the face.

Reacting automatically to the sudden pain Angel called on his demon. A
second later Angel found himself kneeling in the murky water as the
world spun wildly around him.

The other vampire kicked Angel in the side of the head, then turned
back to his meal. As the vampire jerked Jared's head to the side
Wesley, completely forgotten by the other combatants, drove a stake
through his heart.

"Are you unharmed?" Wesley asked Jared.

"I'm good. Nice timing man," Jared replied.

"Happy to be of assistance. Now if you could check on what ever had
captured the attention of our departed playmate? I'll check on Angel,"
Wesley replied.

Wesley knelt in the water beside Angel and pulled the dark haired
vampire to a sitting position. "Angel?" he asked.

Disconcerting yellow eyes attempted to meet Wesley's, but couldn't seem
to focus. Wesley frowned, certain that the change in Angel's features
was less pronounced than usual. "Angel?" he repeated.

"Wha. Where am I?" Angel asked, disoriented.

"The middle of Sunnydale's harbor," Wesley said.

"Oh," Angel said, standing shakily. "That would explain the water.
Weren't we fighting a vampire?"

"It's been taken care of," Wesley replied.

"That's good. Would you please stand still? Watching you is making me
dizzy." Angel requested.

"Angel, I'm not moving," Wesley replied. "I didn't think he kicked you
that hard."

"Hey Fangs, you'd better change back," Jared said, returning with a six
or seven year old child clinging to his neck.

"Huh?" Angel asked.

"You're still "grrrr" as Cordy would say," Wesley explained.

"Oh," Angel said, gradually the demon melted away to show Angel's human

As they started back to the shore Angel stumbled. Wesley managed to
catch him before he fell back in the water.

"I think we'd better call it a night," Wesley said pulling Angel's arm
over his shoulder.


"So you're comfortable?" Willow asked uncomfortably.

Spike glared up at her from the nest of blankets she'd made for him on
the floor of the training room. He wondered what he'd been thinking
when he agreed to be chained up. Oh, right he'd been thinking he was
out of money and at least they'd have to feed him. He'd dealt with
being trussed up before, no big, but this being fussed over was going
to drive him insane.

"What I want is for you and every other human I can't eat. Can't you
let me be miserable in peace?" he snapped.

"Well if you're going to be like that, I'm not going to feel guilty
about chaining you up anymore," Willow huffed.

"Fine! I don't care, just scram," Spike growled, curling around his
aching stomach.

Willow's eyes softened. "Okay Spike, yell if you need anything," She
said turning off the lights and quietly shutting the door behind her.

"How is he?" Tara asked looking up from the map she was working on.
She'd been transferring all the incidents to it in hopes that they'd
see a pattern.

"Cranky," Willow said. "Still he's sick, I should make allowances."

"It's a new experience for him," Tara said. "He's probably frightened.
Vampires aren't supposed to get sick."

"Do you think we could catch it too?" Anya asked, peering over Tara's
shoulder at the map. "I got the flu last month. It was unpleasant. I'm
opposed to getting sick again. Everyone incubating germs should be
quarantined, like they used to do."

"Like that worked so well," Willow said rolling her eyes. "Someone
always panicked, decided they weren't sick, even if they'd been exposed
and ran."

"A...also, there were cases l.like Typhoid Mary, people who carried the
disease but didn't show the symptoms," Tara added.

"She should have been killed," Anya said callously. "She endangered
everyone else."


Giles' shoulders slumped as he took in the approaching group.

Angel's movements were halting and uncertain, even with Wesley's
support he was barely on his feet. Blood dripped down his cheek from
three parallel wounds.

"You already encountered some of the infected vampires," Giles said

"Three of them," Wesley replied.

"That's probably more than enough," Giles said.

Xander went to help Wesley support Angel. "Come on, we'd better get him
back to the shop before he decides to start biting people."

Angel raised his head to glare blearily at Xander.

"What? The chip isn't stopping Spike from trying, why would your soul
stop you?" Xander asked.

"It's hardly the same thing," Wesley said irritably.

"It's contagious," Giles said. "We don't know how badly it will effect
Angel. I never should have called him, I knew vampires were behaving
strangely, but I didn't think. Buffy was being run ragged."

"Don't," Angel said. "What's wrong. it isn't that."

"Then what is it?" Wesley asked. "You can't say this is normal."

"After effects," Angel mumbled.

"From what happened with Kate?" Wesley asked.

"I get dizzy when the demon comes to the surface," Angel admitted. "It
must be because of all the holy water."

"And you just let Cordelia and I think you were ready to go into a
fight again?" Wesley asked angrily. "You could have been killed Angel."

"I'm fine as long as I don't change. I was dealing," Angel argued.
"Tonight I made a mistake. I didn't expect a minion to be able to hurt
me. I got surprised into changing."

"It doesn't matter that this is a pre-existing condition," Giles said.
"You've been exposed, the only safe thing to do is assume that you're
infected, at least until we discover how strong it's effects are."

Angel nodded his agreement, being chained up didn't really sound so bad
as long as he could sit down and close his eyes. It had been almost two
weeks since he'd let his demon even approach the surface of his mind
and if anything the situation was getting worse.

When Angel had first connected the bouts of dizziness with the
emergence of the demon it had only taken him a few seconds
concentration to throw off the effect. Now, even ten minutes after he'd
resumed his human form the world was still revolving around him like a

Giles turned to Jared, noticing the child he was carrying for the first

"Vamp was trying to make a snack of her," Jared explained.

"We'll have to locate her parents immediately, they must be frantic,"
Giles said with concern. "Unless. They weren't?"

"I don't think so," Jared replied. "Didn't see anything to indicate

"Excellent," Giles sighed.

"I'll take care of getting her home," Jared said. "Isn't the first time
we've found lost kids while we were looking for vampires."


Two hours away in LA, LaCroix frowned. He'd felt twinges of discomfort
from Angel before, the result, undoubtly, of a reckless lifestyle.

This time; however, the feeling wasn't dissipating. Additionally there
was an accompanying fear of illness. At that LaCroix felt a ball of ice
form in his stomach.

It can't be that, he thought. All the same it wouldn't hurt to be
prepared when he went to determine what trouble his newest child had
managed to get into this time.


At dawn Buffy trudged into the Magic Box, looking utterly exhausted.
"Xander said Angel was hurt?"

"He and Spike are in the back. Spike has definitely been infected.
Angel, we're not sure, he says it's related to an earlier injury,"
Giles replied.

Buffy nodded as she walked past her Watcher. She found both vampires
curled up in nests of blankets and sleeping bags on opposite sides of
the training room. Spike was sitting against the wall, nursing a
tumbler of blood. Angel lay on his back eyes closed, looking even paler
than usual.

Buffy sank to the floor beside Angel and took his hand.

"Buffy?" he asked without opening his eyes.

"I thought you were sleeping," she said.

"Just tired of watching the room spin. it's unsettling, Spike's blood
doesn't help," Angel explained.

"When I was a little girl I used to spin around in circles to get that
effect," Buffy commented.

"I've never asked about insanity in your family before have I?" Angel

Buffy giggled only to be interrupted by a yawn. "Patrolling all night
is brutal," she commented. "I think I'll blow off classes today. I'm
gonna sleep all day, but I needed to see how you were first."

"I'm okay," Angel said. "This is mostly just precautionary," he added
raising his other hand to display the binder around his wrist. "The
idea of eating makes me want to be sick." He raised his voice slightly
as he added, "I can't imagine being hungry enough to want to bite

"Hey," Spike objected weakly. "Blood's blood, even if the packaging is

"So you're okay," Buffy said, tiredly lying down beside Angel. "That's

Angel smiled softly at the familiar feel of Buffy's warm body curled
against his side, her head pillowed on his shoulder. After a few
minutes though, he remember she was dating someone else and this was
probably a bad idea.

"Buffy?" he said quietly. "You should go home now."

In response Buffy cuddled closer to him.

"Buffy," Angel repeated.

"'m comfy," She protested more than ninety percent asleep.

Angel started to sit up, figuring she'd wake up if he dislodged her but
the slight movement started the room spinning even more violently. "I
guess it can't hurt, post-Slayage naps being traditional," he thought
dropping back with a moan. It wasn't as if he really wanted her to
move. He was quite content to have her stay exactly where she was as
long as she wanted.

Spike rolled his eyes in disgust as the former lovers fell asleep
together. The natural way they fit together was disgustingly cute.

Still the sleeping part didn't sound so bad. Spike set aside his three-
quarters empty mug, trying to be happy about his hunger having finally
receded. Deep down he knew it wasn't a good sign though. He should have
felt satisfied. Bloody hell, he should have felt stuffed to the
bursting point. All he did feel was not-hungry and kind of listless.

Pushing away the very bad feeling he had about this latest turn, Spike
drew a blanket around him and slid into a restless sleep.


"Have you seen Buffy?" Riley asked, stopping by the magic shop after
his morning classes ended.

"She was checking on Angel," Anya said, frowning at him for
interrupting her while she was dealing with paying customers.

"Thanks," Riley said unhappily. He opened the door to the training room
come sick room.

For a few moments Riley just stared at the sleeping couple. Then his
mouth tightened into a grim, miserable line. He shut the door and
returned to the store proper. Once Anya was finished with her customers
he said, "When Buffy wakes up tell her I'll send someone else with
Graham when she patrols tonight."

"Why? Are you going to be busy?" Anya asked.

"I'll be with one of the other units. If she asks why, tell her I'm
tired of being the consolation prize," Riley replied.

"Oh. OH!" Anya said. "I suppose I could give you a spell for getting in
touch with my old counterpart, but Xander would probably get upset."

"Counterpart?" Riley asked in confusion.

"I used to be the patron saint of scorned women," Anya explained, she
tried to avoid the phrase "vengeance demon" around Initiative types,
even supposedly reformed ones.

"Oh," Riley said. "Um. no thank you. I need to go now."


Buffy woke feeling a rightness and security she'd almost forgotten. For
a few blissful seconds all felt perfect in her world.

Then reality crashed in, reminding her that Angel was hurt, that she
was technically dating Riley, that practically every vampire in
Sunnydale was in the middle of a feeding frenzy. Still it had been nice
waking up beside Angel regardless of the circumstances.

Buffy sat up slowly, trying not to disturb Angel. For a moment she
closed her eyes meditating. Maybe her new sense could do more than just
detect vampires; maybe it could provide a clue as to what was wrong
with Angel.

When she looked at Angel again Buffy had to smother a gasp, Angel's
aura looked like it had been ripped to shreds. The demon had been
forced almost complete out of Angel's body, only a single tentacle
tethered it to him, but it had left gaping tears in Angel's essence
where it had been.

To make sure that this wasn't the illness, Buffy looked over at Spike;
the blond looked the same as always, only dimmer. It really didn't look
good, Buffy couldn't help but equate dimming with dying, but what was
happening to Spike was definitely not what was happening to Angel.

Quietly Buffy retreated for the room. She found Wesley looking over
some of Giles' texts on the store's balcony. "I'm sure Angel's right
about not having what Spike has," Buffy said. "We need to start
figuring out what is wrong with him."

"I called Cordelia last night, she's looking into Angel's suspicions.
Don't worry, he's our friend, we won't let anything happen to him,"
Wesley promised.


LaCroix landed outside the Magic Box's back door. It was locked but a
judicious application of forced fixed the problem.

He walked into the darkened training room and stood staring down at
Angel, a mixture of concern and aggravation in his eyes. "Angelus, how
did you manage to be taken captive again?" He asked in exasperation
when he sensed the Angel was awake.

"I'm not a captive, I agreed to it, just in case I have the same thing
Spike does." Angel explained with a grimace. "Don't hurt anyone,
they're my friends."

"I need to know everything about this illness," LaCroix ordered.

When Angel had finished explaining, LaCroix glanced across the room at
Spike, the bleached blond had sunken into a state of semi-
consciousness. "I've seen this before," LaCroix said. "But we dealt
with it, it can't be here." He drew a couple of bags of blood from his
pocket and tossed one to Angel before jarring Spike into full
awareness. "If it's the Fever this blood will cure it."

"What's in it?" Angel asked. Spike stared at LaCroix with suspicion,
obviously awaiting the answer as well.

"The Fever is the result of an engineered virus. It kills us. Blood
infected with the HIV virus kills the Fever virus," LaCroix answered
shortly. "If the Failed has is the Fever this will cure him. Then we
need to learn how it came to be here and destroy it."

Spike shrugged weakly, "Can't hurt," he said using his fangs to
puncture the bag.


Buffy checked the alley, searching the shadows for demons. What she
found was the back door of the Magic Box swinging open, the lock
twisted into a useless lump of metal.

She'd sent the two Initiative soldiers back their unit. She didn't
really need a partner, not with all the vampires hunting solo, and she
the Initiative soldiers gave her the creeps, well, all except Riley.
Who was in a snit about something, Buffy supposed she'd have to ask him
about it, do the whole make up thing, again. But after this was over.
Riley and his problems could just wait until Sunnydale was back to the
normal level of bizarre.

Riley really picked a rotten time for this, she thought irritable as
she snuck through the open door, hoping to surprise whatever nasty had
dared threaten her friends.

She froze for a moment at the sight of a tall, imposing stranger
standing over Angel. The man's pale skin absolutely screamed vampire to
the Slayer, no one human could be that pale.

Without another thought Buffy charged across the room and kicked the
strange vampire away from her boyfriend.ex-boyfriend she amended in her

Distracted by his concern for Angelus, LaCroix failed to notice the new
arrival until he was sitting on the floor in an undignified heap.

As he rose LaCroix knocked Buffy back across the room. Angel could feel
the homicidal rage radiating off LaCroix as he stalked toward Buffy.
Angel lunged off the floor, catching LaCroix in a restraining embrace.

"He's here to help Buffy!" Angel yelled. No longer content with just
spinning the room was now developing patches of black nothingness to
Angel's eyes. He knew he was on the verge of passing out be he
couldn't, not until not yet. "This is a misunderstanding," Angel said
to LaCroix. "She'll apologize."

Feeling waves of dizziness and near panic from Angel's mind, LaCroix
forced himself to relax. "Your Slayer, I take it?" the ancient asked
with a hostile glance at the Slayer.

"Buffy," Angel affirmed, gasping for air. An analytically, detached
portion of his mind wondered just when his body had become so obsessed
with oxygen.

"I will allow this incident to pass without reprisal," LaCroix said,
forcing Angel to sit again. "But this favor is not free."

Angel nodded in understanding and acceptance of LaCroix's terms. This
was just a misunderstanding; there was no reason for anyone to die
tonight. Angel resented LaCroix using Buffy's impetuous attack to put
him in dept to the older vampire, but it still wasn't worth someone's
life, certainly not Buffy's. Buffy was an incredible fighter, but
against LaCroix, with only a stake to defend herself, Angel didn't
think she'd have a chance so he agreed.

Turning to Buffy LaCroix said, "If you can restrain yourself from
attacking me I was attempting to determine what harm Angelus has done
to himself this time."

Bristling both at LaCroix's sarcastic, condescending tone and at the
use of the name she associated with the soulless version of Angel Buffy
began to retort only to be interrupted by a quiet "Buffy, don't," from

"Fine," Buffy snapped.

"Angelus, how did you manage to stop your heart again?" LaCroix
demanded ignoring Buffy.

"I'm a vampire, my heart isn't supposed to beat," Angel replied,
relieved to find the black spots were slowly receding from his vision.

"Mon Fils, one mustn't take that Stoker nonsense seriously," LaCroix
reprimanded Angel with exasperated affection.

At the expression of outraged shock on Angel's face Buffy and Spike,
both of whom had heard more than one of Angel's vampires as represented
in fiction rants, broke into laughter.

"Angelus," LaCroix said, already trying to capture Angel's mind as he
had before. "I have been a vampire for two thousand years, kindly
refrain from arguing with me about what a vampire should and should not
do. Your heart should beat, very slowly by mortal standard, almost
imperceptibly, but it must happen or you will die." LaCroix frowned as
Angel stopped him from entering his mind. That would be the one lesson
Angelus would learn quickly and well, LaCroix thought. "Stop shielding
yourself," he ordered.

"I've been fine without a pulse for over two hundred years," Angel
argued. "And I don't like you in my mind, you know that."

"I have followed your wishes with regards to both the Slayer and that
repulsive police woman. You will obey me in this," LaCroix said
angrily, in his tone was the implicit threat that he might change his
mind about either Buffy or Kate.

Looking unhappy Angel relaxed the barriers to his mind.

Needing to know what was happening Buffy examined the pair with her
Slayer sense. She frowned in confusion; there wasn't any blackness in
LaCroix, he didn't have a demon, just a core of dark red hunger
shimmering behind an icy wall of controlled power. She could see the
beginnings of a similar core in Angel, now that she was looking, and
whatever LaCroix doing, it made Angel's demon curl in on itself,
further reducing it's connection to the souled vampire.

LaCroix stepped back after a few minutes, Angel looked up at him in
surprise. "I feel better," he said.

"Your welfare is always my concern," LaCroix replied.

"I don't understand," Angel continued. "I know my heart isn't supposed
to beat, vampires are dead." Buffy and Spike nodded their agreement.

LaCroix examined Spike for a minute. The peroxide blond was sitting up
looking alert and considerably more healthy than he had when LaCroix
had arrived, but there was still no sense of life in him.

"The demon infested creatures you are familiar with, like that one, are
dead," LaCroix agreed. "You are not. True vampires are not dead."

"What's wrong with being undead?" Spike sounded insulted. "I like it."

Buffy and Angel exchanged a confused glance.

"Now that that had been resolved we need to determine how the Fever
made it's way here," LaCroix continued.

"We've got a map," Buffy said going to get it.

Angel looked thoughtful. "Judging from how Spike was feeling it should
start burning itself out in a few days," he said. "How much of the
population do you think it would have infected?"

"Most," LaCroix said darkly. "Even so small a thing as sharing a glass
can spread the virus."

Buffy returned with Tara and Willow's map. They'd traced the
occurrences back almost a year, to an outbreak Buffalo, New York, not
even a month after the events in Toronto, which Dr. Lambert and
Nicholas had successfully buried.

LaCroix stared at the map and the dates, "It's one of us, a plague
carrier," he muttered before abruptly leaving.


"Angel!" Willie exclaimed in surprise. "Long time no see," nervously
the weasely little bartender backed away from the bar.

"I'm not looking for information," Angel reassured him. "I just want
you to pass on a message for me."

"Sure Angel," Willie replied. "You know me, always eager to help."

"Right," Angel said. "I want you to be on the look out for any vampire
who doesn't act quite normal. Let them know that they're being hunted."

"By you?" Willie asked.

"No, I'm trying to save him or her," Angel replied.

"Try to help another vampire?" Willie asked. "Isn't that sort of out of
character Angel?"

Angel smiled grimly. "This person is killing off vampire much more
effectively then I do."

Willie's eyes strayed to the new arrival and widen with alarm. Angel
turned to face whatever threat had materialized. LaCroix, golden eyed
with anger, caught the younger vampire by the throat and slammed him
against the bar.

"You know, that looks almost as uncomfortable as it feels," Willie
commented cheerfully, only to find himself the new focus of LaCroix's
distinctly unfriendly gaze.

"Leave. Now," LaCroix commanded, his tone included the entire room.

"You can't just." one demon began to argue. LaCroix hissed at the
creature, filling the room with his presence. Seconds later it was
empty of all save LaCroix and Angel.

"I've taken care of our plague rat," LaCroix said conversationally,
still pinning Angel against the counter top.

"Too bad," Angel replied. "I'd never heard of a more useful vampire."

"Kill all the Failed you like," LaCroix said, his tone revealing barely
controlled fury. "I could care less but if you threaten the Community
again you and all your mortals will be destroyed."

Angel twisted free of LaCroix's grasp and stood a few feet from the
older vampire, balanced on the balls of his feet, eyes sparkling, anger
pushing him to the verge of changing. "I won't let you touch them," he
stated flatly.

"You want to protect what is yours," LaCroix said, his own fury cooling
slightly. "Good. Perhaps you can understand that I will do the same. I
will protect my people Angelus, just as you would. I will protect them
even from you Mon Fils. Don't ever press me on this matter again."


"He's even more difficult than you were Nicholas," LaCroix said to the
night. "For all your desire to be mortal again, you never hated us as a
species, but what can I else can I expect of him? The Failed are all he

"He would happily destroy us and never understand what it was he
destroyed. Like the Fever he would have unleashed on us he doesn't
differentiate between true vampires and the Failed."

"He must be made to understand, but how can I bring him into the
Community as he is now? The Enforcers would destroy him within the
first night."

"I wish you were here Nicholas. Just by being yourself you could have
shown him we aren't the thing he so hates and maybe in helping him to
accept us you could have learned to accept yourself.



Kate stared at the vaguely familiar man barreling across the police
station toward her. She couldn't place him and that was frightening. It
was strange how hard it was hitting her; it didn't feel like she'd just
forgotten him, it felt like her mind was somehow failing her.

"Kate, I've got a new lead," he declared when he reached her, his eyes
glittered with a fanatic's intensity. Kate found herself caught in a
storm of conflicting emotions; he was an ally, a source of hope, a
source of disquiet, a vigilante of the worst sort.

"What kind of lead?" Kate asked hoping he'd say something that would
spark a light in the black pit she could almost see in her normally
clear memories.

"I located two more vampires," he said.

Kate couldn't fight the derisive laughter his words brought. "Vampires
don't exist she said.

"They got to you," her visitor replied sadly. "They went into your mind
and took your knowledge from you. I'm surprised they didn't just kill
you... I suppose it's possible that they didn't want to deal with the
death of a police officer. I suppose your life will be easier for not
knowing. Goodbye Kate."

Kate watched the man turn and walk out feeling disturbed; vampires
didn't exist, she was more sure of that fact than she was that the sky
was blue. and yet. what he'd said about her mind, that struck a cord
deep inside her and it rang true.


"Vision!" Cordelia yelled. Angel dropped the book he was reading and
bolted to her side, catching her as her knees began to buckle. For a
few second her body convulsed in his arm then she was still, utterly

Gently Angel set her on the couch.

"Aspirin, right," Wesley said, hurrying to be of assistance.

"No," Cordelia mumbled. "New stuff, prescription."

After she'd downed two of the pills Cordelia began talking, "Parking
garage. North side of town. Fantasy mural on the side. A girl, Mercy,
alone, hunted, terrified. He killed her. I don't know, it's confusing.
Her lover? Her father? Both of them maybe. She's never been alone
before, always taken care of, no one left. So hungry, but she doesn't
know how to get food. Afraid, so afraid. It's not supposed to be like

"We'll help her," Angel promised. "Just rest Cordy." Angel stared at
Cordelia's face and the pain that still heavily marked it. "Wesley,
maybe you should stay with her, she doesn't look too good," he said
softly to the ex-Watcher.

"Of course," Wesley agreed, forgetting that he didn't believe that
Angel was completely healthy as he watched a few tears trickle down
Cordelia's cheeks as the pain of the vision consumed her.


Angel saw a flash of color out of the corner of his eye. "Mercy?" he

When the girl stepped out of the shadows Angel just stared, he'd never
seen a real person who looked quite so much like a china doll before.
The girl was barely five feet tall, with curly pale golden hair cut in
a page boy style that made her look no more than fifteen years old. She
had cornflower blue eyes, wide set in a heart shaped face. Tears tracks
marred the carefully applied blush on her cheeks and her frilly,
impractical dress was torn and dirty.

"Did Gary send you for me?" she asked in a quavering voice. "No. he
couldn't," she continued before Angel could answer. "Gary's dead."

Fresh tears filled the girl's eyes and she began to tremble. Angel
disregarded the strange vibe he was picking up from Mercy and went to
comfort her.

"Shhh, it's alright now," he said slowly reaching out to brush away her
tears, trying not to startle her. "I'll help, I promise."

Just as his fingertips brushed her cheek a shot crack through the air.
Shot gun, Angel thought as a few pellets from the near miss lodged in
his are. He grabbed Mercy's hand and pulled her to a run.

Mercy stumbled awkwardly after Angel. He glanced down to see she was
wearing heels even less practical than her dress. With a sigh Angel
scooped her into his arms and kept running.

Angel climbed up to the next level of the parking garage then stopped
to shove a rock under the door, jamming it shut.

"All right," he said putting Mercy back on her feet. "We've got a few
minutes. Who's after you and why?"

"I don't know," the girl said tearfully. "He just attacked us. Gary
told me to run so I did. Gary fought him; he was trying to protect me.
Gary always takes care of me, but that man killed him. It just doesn't
seem real; Gary can't be dead. What am I supposed to do without him?"

Angel stared down at the girl in dismay. He couldn't help but flash
back to the Halloween when a spell had turned Buffy into some helpless
damsel in distress. He felt confident he could save Mercy from the
shotgun-totting nutcase chasing her, but what exactly was he supposed
to do with her afterwards? He was apparently too late to save her
caretaker, and she didn't seem even vaguely capable of caring for


"I've gotta call the doctor," Cordelia groaned trying to sit up.

"Why?" Wesley asked. "Where's the number, I'll take care of it."

"Purse, outside pocket. They wanted to run some tests on me right after
I'd had a vision. migraine, can't tell the doctor I get visions."

"Oh, of course. I think I found it."

Wesley showed the card to Cordelia then dialed the number. "Hello, is
this Dr. Gerim's office? Cordelia Chase, one of his patients, has just
had a severe migraine. What should I do? The hospital!" Wesley's voice
rose in alarm. "Yes, we're on our way now.

"I have to get you to the hospital," Wesley repeated to Cordelia.

"That's probably where the medical stuff for the test is," Cordelia

"Certainly, you're right. I'm over-reacting. I'll just call a cab and
we'll go. or maybe they could send an ambulance?" Wesley stammered.

"A cab," Cordelia suggested.

"Right, a cab."


"This is a woodchip," Angel said in confusion, examining the pellet
he'd picked out of his arm. "Who loads a shotgun with woodchips. soaked
in garlic juice?" He added feeling a burning in his fingers and
smelling the pungent herb.

Mercy reacted to his statement with a panicked moan.

They'd been trying to find a way past Mercy's pursuer. After five
minutes in her company Angel had decided that the best course of action
was to get her to the relative safety of his car and then go back after
her assailant alone. That way he wouldn't have to worry her fainting,
Angel had reasoned.

Only the other man had turned Angel's trick with the doors against him.
Now every stairwell they'd tried was jammed shut, trapping them on the
sixth story of the parking garage. They were being driven into a dead
end trap.

Another shotgun blast shattered a car window beside Angel.

"Stay down," Angel ordered pushing Mercy toward a narrow gap between a
concrete pillar and a van. "I'm going to end this."

With Mercy safely stashed away, Angel began stalking their hunter. He'd
had enough of pretending to be prey.

A few minutes later Angel spotted the hunter closing in on Mercy's
hiding spot with an uncanny precision. "What's he doing here?" Angel
thought as he recognized the man as Kate's vampire hunting friend,

Seeing the hunter was almost even with Mercy's nitch Angel stepped out
into the open. "I thought you were interested in more dangerous games
than terrifying little girls," Angel said.

Corin spun. "You!" he snarled bringing up the shotgun.

Angel dodged the worst of the blast, but still got caught in the edge
of the hail of wooden pellets it produced. The garlic added a burning
agony to the injuries sending Angel to his hands and knees, fighting
the instinct to change to his normally more powerful demon-form. To
change now might very well render him unconscious and waking to another
of Corin's question and answer sessions wasn't on his to do list.

Seeing Angel go down, Corin turned his attention back to Mercy. The
slight girl hissed at him, golden eyes glowing in the shadows, looking
and sounding more like a frightened kitten than the monster Corin knew
her to be.

As the shotgun leveled on Mercy, Angel lunged off the floor at the
Hunter. He defected the barrel of the gun upward, letting it discharge
harmlessly before ripping it from Corin's hands and sending it flying
into the night. Angel yanked Corin's arms behind his back then turned
to check on Mercy. When he caught sight of the vampiress he froze.

Corin pulled himself free of Angel's loosened grip and fled. Mercy met
Angel's eyes then she began wailing, her human guise returning as she
did so, changing her back into the frail china doll.

"Why me?" Angel asked the heavens glancing between Corin's rapidly
retreating form and the sobbing vampire-girl.


"Now I'm going to have to give you an injection, the medical technician
told Cordelia. "It helps things to show up more clearly in the CAT

Cordelia held out her arm nervously chewing on her bottom lip as she
tried to find somewhere reassuring to look. Not at the big needle
sliding into her arm, certainly not at the machine they were going to
use on her. Wesley had been left in the waiting room. Finally she
settled on the technician's face.

His nametag told her that his name was Kevin; he wasn't that much older
than she was. So flirting wasn't eeew or anything, and it would be
distracting. She could pretend she was back in High School and that
everything was okay.

Putting on her brightest smile Cordelia said. "So Kevin."


"You're going to turn me over to him," Mercy whimpered.

"I'd kill you myself before I'd give you to that sadistic bastard,"
Angel replied, then winced as Mercy let out with an ear shattering
wail. "Not that I'm gong to," he yelled over her racket. "The Powers
that Be want me to save you for some unknown reason, so I'm saving you

Mercy quieted, cringing and sniffling in her protected nitch, wide
childlike blue eyes welling with tears.

Angel sighed, he'd seen Darla do it, he'd seen Dru do it, in fact every
female vampire he'd ever know had done it from time to time, he'd never
been particularly impressed by it. "Mercy, drop the helpless fair
maiden act," he said. "You're stronger than any human and you kill
people for food. In fact, you're the thing I spend most my time
rescuing people from, so this whole damsel in distress thing is pretty

"I never killed anybody," Mercy protested.

"How do you feed?" Angel demanded disbelievingly.

"You think I hunt?" Mercy asked, her delicate face twisting in dismay.
"No one hunts anymore, if we did people would hurt us. Gary buys our
blood. I like the nice stuff with Champaign in it, except Gary never
lets me have much; it makes me tipsy. But that awful mortal killed
Gary. What am I supposed to do without him?"

Tears began spilling over her cheeks again and Angel almost believed
they were caused by genuine grief and fear. He felt like a jerk for
upsetting her, and like a fool for believing her. He still didn't know
what he was going to do with her. Then he remembered her golden eyes
and neat fangs set in an otherwise perfectly human face and smiled. He
knew exactly how he could deal with this confusing, frustrating girl.
"Come on, I know someone who'd be happy to take care of you," he said.
"He's a vampire, just like you."


"They're all done, at least for today," Cordelia said as she joined
Wesley in the waiting room. "Now I go home and take things easy for a
few days while they analyze all the test results. Then they tell me if
there's anything medical science can do about vision headaches. Not
that they had much luck last time I was here. Still I did get
industrial strength painkillers out of it."


Angel rang the bell outside of LaCroix's radio studio then waited for
the elder vampire.

Mercy stood beside him, still sniffling and generally looking pitiful.
During the half-hour drive across the city Angel had come to the
conclusion that Mercy wasn't faking anything, and that he wished that
she were.

Mercy was almost a caricature of everything that he'd always despised
about noble women. She'd spent eighteen years as a human being
sheltered from the world by her parents and the next one hundred and
fifty years as a vampire being sheltered and protected by Gary. In her
entire life she'd never once done a single thing for herself. She was
coddled, helpless, naïve, and agonizingly ignorant of everything.

Sure she was a vampire, but Angel couldn't think of her as evil, not in
comparison to every other vampire he knew. She didn't kill or create
chaos, her only purpose in life seemed to have been hanging off her
boyfriend's arm and looking lovely. Vampires were supposed to be
demonic, soulless, and evil. Mercy didn't even seem terribly predatory.
Angel couldn't help but feel that killing her would just be wrong, even
though she was a vampire and his stated desire was to destroy every
vampire in existence. Angel didn't like to admit it, but he didn't
really want to kill Spike or LaCroix either.

Angel never really wanted to kill vampires he'd turned, it felt wrong.
It felt like making them pay for his mistakes. He'd wrecked their
mortal lives, and no matter how much damage they did ending their
existence as demons felt like he was compounding his original crime.
Spike was Drucilla's; made on Angel's suggestion that she find someone
to entertain her and thus it was Angel's fault that William's mortal
life had been ended when he was barely two decades old. Angel knew the
chip didn't make Spike any less evil, but it provided him with an
excuse for not killing the blond and Angel was happy to have that
excuse, he'd already taken too much from William.

LaCroix had saved his life, more than once; it made it hard to work up
any dislike for the older vampire. Beyond that, Angel found himself
fighting against a desire to let himself reciprocate LaCroix's feelings
of family. The blood ties that had formed between them when LaCroix had
practically remade him showed Angel that LaCroix saw him as a son, and
somehow it felt real. Angel had never looked at Darla as a parent
despite the fact that she had sired him she had always been his lover.
Penn and Dru both saw him as a parent, but he hadn't loved them;
Drucilla had been a project, a challenge to prove just how thoroughly
he could twist and break someone. Penn was proof; proof that he could
be a better father than his father had been, it didn't mean he'd cared
about Penn. Angel had taken Penn and shaped him into exactly what Angel
wanted him to be, something his father had completely failed to do with
him. His father hadn't even been able to explain to him what he wanted
from Liam. Back then, when he'd been alive, he'd wanted so badly to be
whatever his father wanted, but he'd never understand how to win the
approval he sought.

A part of Angel still stung from Darla's long ago revelation that even
without his soul he had still wanted his father's approval. "He'll
never approve of you either, not in this world or any other," she'd
told him so very long ago. It was still true, deep down a part of him
badly wanted his father to have pride in him, to love him, but that
could never happen, he'd seen to that.

It made LaCroix very dangerous, LaCroix promised Angel a chance at
something he'd wanted for a very long time, something that once he'd
have done anything to obtain, but he couldn't trust that his and
LaCroix's beliefs coincided in any shape or form. Still he found
himself considering LaCroix's insistence that there was a difference
between LaCroix and the vampires he'd always known, hoping that it was
true. Angel found himself hoping that LaCroix would like who he was,
and fearing the temptation to become someone else to please the

Angel was so lost in his thoughts that he didn't notice the presence
behind him until he heard the click of a shotgun being cocked, and
there was barely time for him to pull Mercy into the shelter of his
body before the gun went off and he was enveloped in pain.

The woodchips were too light to work as intended, they couldn't provide
the necessary force to penetrate his heart but they burrowed into the
muscles of his back where they burned like phosphorous.

"Don't change, don't change," Angel chanted to himself, wondering if it
even mattered. The world had disappeared in a haze of pain, for all he
knew he'd already passed out. He could feel the change coming, like air
pushed before a tidal wave and then it hit and Angel was swept away in
the torrent.

LaCroix's hand was on the doorknob when the shot was fired. By the time
the door opened he had been transformed by fury.

For the second time that night Corin's gun was ripped away from him,
this time so violently that his finger broke against the trigger guard.
An inconsequently injury, as LaCroix's fangs broke the scarred skin on
Corin's neck a split second later. When the Hunter's heart stopped
LaCroix dropped him to the pavement.

LaCroix glared at Mercy who had just managed to pull herself free of
Angel's dead weight. "Take care of the body," LaCroix ordered.

"I don't know how, I never." Mercy began.

"Then I suggest you learn," LaCroix snarled carefully lifting Angel
from the ground, trying not to touch his torn back.

Mercy nodded, her voice frozen with terror.


Kate stood in the morgue staring down at the body of one Richard Corin,
self-proclaimed vampire hunter.

A person who'd know her, only she couldn't remember him.

He'd died of shock brought on by blood loss. Nearly half of his blood
was missing. All lost through two insignificant puncture wounds neatly
tapping his jugular vein.

He'd said he'd found two vampires, which was impossible because vampire
didn't exist. Twenty-four hours later he was dead and real or not it
certainly looked like he'd been the victim of a vampire attack.

He'd said they taken her knowledge of vampires from her mind, and there
were blank spots in her memories. Ever since he'd said that Kate had
been looking at the things she didn't remember, and she'd found them:
The Pope Killings for example. The case was technically still open, but
she'd filed it as if it were closed. She didn't know why. She was the
one that had found her father's body, but she couldn't remember that.
Angel had been involved with both incidents. It was in her official
notes about the serial killer, he given them a drawing of the suspect.
She didn't know how he'd been involved with her father's death, but she
knew, beyond any doubts, that he had been involved. Every memory she
had of Angel after the Pope Killings was hazy, obscured, wrong.
Whatever had been done to her, Angel was at the heart of it.

Kate knew that somehow she had to find out what had happened to her.

Desparate Measures


LaCroix set the innocuous cardboard box on his desk then sat down
across from it, watching it as one would watch a venomous snake.

He wondered if Pandora's box had looked so mundane from the outside.
Pandora's box had held all the evils in the world. and hope. Most of
the time LaCroix didn't see the distinction. To hope was to invite
despair. and yet, was it possible to truly live without hope? He'd
always believed that he had, even so he'd hoped for the day Nicholas
would give up his foolishness until Nicholas' death, and he hadn't felt
alive again until he'd found Angelus. Now it seemed he would loose
Angelus as well, to some unknown malady, but today he hoped otherwise.

When he'd left Toronto he'd taken the box with him. He should have
destroyed it and everything it contained. There was no ration in his
desire to keep it, but he did. That box represented the summation of
the quest that had killed Nicholas. Twenty-three notebooks and three
computer disks filled with Dr. Natalie Lambert's neat, precise,
scientific notes on the condition of vampirism.

When Diva had offered him this life, he'd believed she'd made him a
god, above morals or mortal concerns, free of humanity and all its
attendant miseries. It had been magic, mysticism, power.

Almost two millennia later a lovely, stubborn coroner had looked at the
same phenomenon and had seen a disease, an addiction, a virus.

And then there was Nicholas, who saw curses and eternal damnation.
Nicholas, who found disillusion and disappointment in everything. A
knight of the crusade who lost faith in God. A vampire striving for
light. Nicholas who couldn't understand that what he was didn't define
who he was. Who, despite the example of his own life couldn't believe
that a vampire could also be a good person. Who condemned both himself
and the woman he loved to death rather than accepting himself.

The box contained meticulous descriptions of every misery Nicholas had
endured in the name of finding a cure. It told of willful starvation,
of regiments of exposure to substances that caused him pain, of noxious
substances meant to replace what his body craved and cried for, of
reckless experiments, all in the search of a scientific cure. In those
records were also frustrated accounts of Nicholas' other attempts to
cure himself. It seemed that no matter how she tried Dr. Lambert had
never fully made Nicholas a convert to the faith of science. As he had
ever been, Nicholas had remained a willing and eager believer in every
possibility, no matter how unlikely. From magic to playing pretend,
Nicholas had tried everything. At least Natalie had truly cared for his
son, unlike the various charlatans LaCroix had been forced to rescue
Nicholas from over the years.

But like Pandora's Box, this box also held hope. Without the hope of a
cure would Nicholas have survived as long as he did? LaCroix couldn't
be sure anymore. And now it contained a new hope, hope that all of Dr.
Lambert's tests and measurements and defining of vampirism in
scientific terms might give them some clue as to what was happening to


Wesley looked around at the assembled group, taking one last moment to
gather his thoughts before beginning. "It's been two weeks since Angel
was shot, although his injuries have completely healed, he has yet to
regain consciousness, and despite that he has remained in his demon

Buffy wanted to tell Wesley to forget all the preliminaries and get
right to how they were going to fix Angel, but she knew lecture-mode
was a comfort zone for Watchers and after the last two weeks she
wouldn't begrudge Wesley the right to present their findings as he saw

She doubted he'd slept for more than an hour or two at a setting since
Angel had been injured. He had coordinated everyone else's efforts and
dealt with frayed tempers, as well as doing his own research. He had
cajoled Spike into the roll of a test subject to provide them with data
on what a normal vampire was physically in comparison with LaCroix's
type of vampire. He had spent long hours pursuing LaCroix's
explanations of the how's and what's and why's of his kind of vampire.
More than anything else that last effort had won Wesley Buffy's
respect. She could hardly stand being in the same building with the
ancient vampire.

Willow, who had the strongest science background had been given the
task of deciphering Dr. Lambert's baseline study of vampirism and
performing a similar study on Spike and Angel so they could determine
exactly what Angel was physically.

Buffy and Giles had been trying to determine the meaning behind what
Buffy could see with her Slayer sense.

LaCroix procured outside assistance where needed, found equipment and
arranged for lab work to be done without questions for Willow.

Cordy, who was seriously ill herself, if Buffy was translating some of
Cordy's more cryptic disagreements with Wesley correctly, was taking
care of Angel.

Xander, Anya and Tara were holding the fort in Sunnydale.

Buffy wasn't sure where Riley was. She'd never found time to talk with
him between the Fever dying out in Sunnydale and her rushing to LA upon
hearing that Angel had been injured a few days later.

"When one of LaCroix's type of vampire turns someone there are three
possibilities," Wesley was saying. "After the individual is infected
with the virus that causes vampirism they enter a state of near death
while it adapts their body. During this period the person's soul leaves
the body. The first possibility is that the soul will choose to
continue on and the person will die. The second possibility is that the
soul will return to the body and they will become what LaCroix refers
to as a true vampire. The third possible outcome is that a demon will
find the undefended body and take it, then the body will rise as one of
the Failed, one of the vampires we have all become familiar with."

"When the Failed turn someone there are no options, the soul is ripped
from the body and replaced with a demon, as you all know."

"While the soul is absent from the body the virus sustains it in a
state of suspended animation. There is no breath, no heartbeat, any
externally imposed changes, such as injuries are repaired," Wesley
paused to glance at LaCroix, his eyes deeply troubled.

"Put your mind at ease," LaCroix sighed. "I did not turn someone simply
to obtain that information."

"Thank God," Wesley sighed. He had commented that it would be useful to
have more data on the intermediate phase between human and vampire, a
few days later LaCroix had presented him with exactly what he'd asked
for. Wesley had been afraid to ask how he got it.

Returning to his lecture, Wesley explained. "The Failed are still
physically in the intermediate stage, the final changes don't occur
until after the soul returns. We're not sure if Angel didn't finish
transforming when the gypsies first cursed him because of the demon's
presence, because his soul was returned magically or simply because the
virus had been in the sustaining mode for so long. Several months ago
LaCroix saved Angel's life by giving him massive amounts of blood and
using his mesmeric abilities to convince Angel's heart that it should
beat, somehow this jumpstarted the process. The virus in Angel's
bloodstream is becoming active.

"Where the difficulties come in is Angel's demon is still present.
Buffy and Giles have discovered that the type of demon that creates a
vampire cannot possess a living body. As Angel's body exits the state
of suspended animation that it's been in since he was turned it is
rejecting the demon. Unfortunately the demon isn't leaving without a

"I believe that the best course of action would be for us to remove the
demon before it can do any further damage. The demon's presence isn't
essential to Angel any more; it's actually detrimental to him. There
isn't a single reason not to do this."

Buffy raised her hand tentatively. "How much are we hypothesizing when
you say Angel doesn't need the demon any more?"

"I'm sure Buffy," Willow said. "Physically Angel's way closer to Dr.
Lambert's subject than he is to Spike. Plus he needs a functioning
circulatory system. When the demon manages to stop his heart it doesn't
look like it would if he were human but it's pretty much what's
happening, only slower. Vampires, LaCroix's kind anyway, have a really,
really slow metabolism. As long as Angel doesn't do anything diffusion
can almost suffice, but not quite. That's why he felt dizzy; it was
sort of like he was suffocating and starving because without his heart
to pump blood his cells don't get oxygen or anything else fast enough.
In other words, when the demon starts trying to make itself at home,
Angel starts dying. I think that's pretty strong proof that he doesn't
need it."

"So just to be clear here," Cordelia said. "We're talking exorcism,
like with crosses and holy water. All things which hurt Angel,

"Even so, it will work," LaCroix said. "My son, Nicholas was briefly
possessed, a priest was able to exile the creature in spite of
Nicholas' nature."

"There is one other factor we should consider," Giles said. "You've
thoroughly looked into whether or not we should perform an exorcism,
but have you consider that we may not be able to do it?"

"We did one last spring," Cordelia said. "Okay, Angel did the kicking
the demon out part, but Wes and I helped."

"And how long had the demon possessed it's victim?" Giles asked.

"It would be difficult to determine," Wesley said uncomfortably. "Due
to the circumstances surrounding the case."

"How old was the victim?"


"So you're comparing the removal of a demon which had at maximum of
seven years to establish a foot hold in it's host with one that has
been an integral part of Angel for two and a half centuries?" Giles
asked. "Have you started looking into a plan B yet?"

"The demon is using all its resources to simply retain its connection
to Angel. We'll be providing the added push to remove it completely,"
Wesley replied. "But feel free to start looking for something else
since my plan couldn't possibly work."

"Guys, lets put the profession, or not so professional, differences on
the back burner till Angel's okay, alright?" Cordy asked.

"I'll start preparing for the ceremony," Wesley said sounding subdued.
"I don't need much help, the rest of you could put your efforts into
looking for alternatives."


"Go down stairs, help the other," LaCroix said to Cordelia. "I'll watch
him. I am not a team player."

Cordelia smiled half-heartedly. "Way understatement. Thanks."

When the door closed behind her LaCroix took her chair beside Angel's
bed. He brushed one fingertip over the ridges in Angel's forehead.
"We'll get it out of you," LaCroix promised softly. "One way or
another. The Slayer says I make the demon retreat when I touch your
mind. Shall we try a small experiment?"

LaCroix rearranged the pillows so Angel was semi-upright. Then LaCroix
carefully bit his wrist and pressed the bleeding wound to Angel's lips,
with his free hand he massaged Angel's throat until he felt the younger
vampire swallow. "Good boy," LaCroix said with a faint smile.

When he was certain Angel would continue drinking he brought Angel's
wrist to his mouth, as soon as he tasted Angel's blood LaCroix was
drowning in the battle occurring inside Angel. Change, confusion, fear,
anger, malice, hope, determination. Identity breaking down, separating,

The demon, which had existed in a shifting balance with Angel's soul
for so long was being displaced, forced out by the emergence of a true
vampire's core, the thing that made them predators, human no longer.
That core blended with his soul, becoming a part of him, making the
demon other than him. LaCroix knew that sometimes the predatory core
became dominate, distorting the original personality, as had happened
to Richard Lambert. LaCroix had neglected to tell the others of that
possibility. It didn't happen with proper precautions and given that
Angel had controlled the demon's desires for a century it would hardly
be an issue in this case.

LaCroix wasn't sure if this sharing of blood would help or not, but it
would reaffirm their bond, thus making it easier to monitor Angelus'
well being during the coming trial.


"How far can we trust LaCroix?" Buffy asked Wesley as they prepared for
the exorcism.

"Just as long as our interests coincide," Wesley replied.

"Do they? Why would they?" Buffy asked.

"If you haven't noticed, his feelings toward Angel are distinctly
parental," Wesley explained.

"Come on, Angel's way too old for that," Buffy objected.

"LaCroix is considerably older, in comparison Angel is little more than
a child," Wesley replied. "I don't know how his feelings for Angel
developed so quickly but they did, as long as Angel's life is
endangered we're on the same side."

"And beyond that?" Buffy asked.

"So far he hasn't shown any interest in destroying or ruling the world.
If he saw you dying in the street he wouldn't care. He's not our friend
but he doesn't have to be an enemy. I wouldn't want him for an enemy,"
Wesley said seriously. "So it's best if we don't unduly antagonize


Wesley glanced around the room, making sure everyone was prepared. They
had chained Angel in addition to creating a warding circle around him.
Angelus wasn't someone they looked forward to seeing again. Still, for
the exorcism to work the demon had to manifest.

Seeing Buffy and Cordelia's nods that they were ready and LaCroix's
unflappable stare that said he was never caught unprepared, Wesley
tossed a handful of grayish powder over Angel completing his spell.

After a few moments Angel's golden eyes opened and glared at the
foursome with absolute hatred. "Now why would you call on me?" the
demon asked.

Wesley immediately began reading the Latin ceremony in a firm voice.

"You might want to listen to what I have to say before you do that
Wes," the demon hissed. "You kick me out of this body and I'll make
sure the only thing it's good for afterwards it burial."

"Angel doesn't need you anymore," Wesley said confidently.

"Doesn't matter," the demon replied. A second later blood started
dripping from Angel's ears, nose and eyes.

"Desist," LaCroix ordered.

"Tired of burying your children Lucien?" the demon asked. "You're
little blood sharing game works both ways you know. It's all there in
the blood; how you killed them. Diva, Nicholas, both dead by your
hands. Angel you started killing the moment you touched him. Why is it
that you destroy everything you love Lucien? Have you ever wondered

LaCroix smiled coldly. "You are the one who is loosing demon. However
this night goes you still loose."

"If you want your son alive you'll change him back to what he was," the
demon ordered. Then it redirected its attention to Buffy. "I'd rather
deal with you lover, but we all know how much Angel means to you."

"'What we have is something new. I trust him. I know him,'" the demon
quoted in a mocking parody of Buffy's voice. "You couldn't have hurt
him any more if you'd literally ripped out his heart and stomped on it.
Even if he lives he'll never look at you the same way again now that he
knows what you're capable of."

"We won't set you loose," Buffy said.

The demon laughed. "I don't give a damn, Soul-boy will eventually get
worn down, all this misery he subjects himself to. it won't be worth it
when you're gone Slayer, and we all know how long Slayers last don't
we? All I want is to stay right where I am until Angel's ready to admit
he'd rather be me."

"Are you done yet?" Wesley asked.

"Yes, you and the dethroned princess aren't worth my time," the demon
said. "None of us has much time, I wouldn't want to waste it chatting.
Fix this body or I'll kill it. You have less than a week."


"Please don't say it," Wesley said to Giles as he, Buffy, Cordy and
LaCroix descended the stairs.

Giles could easily see the defeat and pain in Wesley's eyes. "I'm
sorry," he said. "We haven't had any luck either."

"So what do we do now?" Cordelia asked.

"I will not allow that creature to have him," LaCroix declared.

"That isn't even an option," Wesley sighed. "The supernatural is where
our expertise lies not in medical science. Perhaps your Dr. Lambert
could find a way to reverse the progression of the virus, but even with
her help we couldn't do it within the necessary time frame."

"So back to the books," Willow suggested.

Several hours later Wesley angrily shoved the book he was examining
away. "I can find a dozen ways to remove the demon," he exclaimed. "But
not one is fast enough! We need something that works instantaneously so
that the demon can't retaliate."

"Like when Angel turned human?" Cordelia asked with a yawn.

The stack of books Buffy had been carrying crashed loudly to the floor,
the sound echoed in the suddenly dead silent room.

"What?" Cordelia asked realizing everyone was staring at her.

"When was Angel ever human? Why didn't I know about it? And why is he a
vampire now?" Buffy demanded.

"Oops," Cordelia said, realizing that this was a cat no longer in the
bag situation. "Well Angel fought this Mora demon. Their blood mixed.
Angel turned human. As I understood it that was pretty much a now you
see it now you don't moment. Bad stuff happened, Angel had to ask the
PTB to turn him back. End of story."

"What 'bad stuff'?" Buffy asked.

Cordelia squirmed, she was a rotten liar and she knew it. "Highly non-
relevant to the current topic bad stuff."

"The demon that broke into Angel's office last Thanksgiving, he said it
was a Mora demon," Buffy remembered. "He said he knew how to kill it
because he'd read about them. Why would Angel lie to me?"

"So I take it these Mora demons are fairly common," Wesley said.
"That's excellent."

"I will not have Angelus turned into a mortal," LaCroix announced
glaring intimidatingly at the others.

"Not all that common," Cordelia said. "That was the only one we ever
ran into."

"LaCroix, right now Angel's choices are human or dead," Buffy said
staring into the ancient vampire's eyes. "Are you with us or not?"

LaCroix considered Angel's blood memories of the forgotten day and why
he'd asked to be made a vampire again. "When you put it so charmingly
my dear." he said.

"Good. Giles, Wes find me one of those demons so I can make it bleed.
Cordy, lets do the girl talk thing," Buffy stated in a hard voice.


"Now remember, the pentagram will only contain the demon as long as it
remains unbroken," Wesley said.

"How are we supposed to get the Mora's blood without breaking it?"
Buffy asked. "I doubt it'll just give us a cup full."

"You won't," Wesley replied. "I'm just warning you as to what to

"Once you have the blood you must shatter the gem set in the demon's
forehead," Giles instructed. "It will regenerate if you fail to do
this. We will have summoned this demon into our dimension, any harm it
does is our fault."

"But you can't shatter the gem until after you have the blood," Wesley
said. "This spell won't work twice in a century."

"I know all that already," Buffy said. "Lets stop talking and get this

"I shall leave this to you," LaCroix said withdrawing from the group.

"I thought you were helping," Cordelia said.

"Not with the collection of a substance that makes vampires mortal,"
LaCroix stated walking toward the stairs.

"Shut the door behind you," Buffy said.

Willow lit the last candle then nodded to Giles and Wesley, together
the trio began chanting.

A fog filled the pentagram and slowly condensed into the Mora demon.
"That's the mutant Ninja I was looking for," Buffy commented hefting
her ax.

The Mora drew its sword. "Who dares summon me?" it demanded.

"Well you forgot to give during the last blood drive. We wanted to give
you a second chance," Buffy said swinging the ax with all her strength.

The Mora blocked the blow with its sword, cutting the head off of
Buffy's ax. She leaned back and kicked the sword out of its hands then
spun, catching the severed head of her ax as it fell and buried it in
the Mora's chest.

"Glass," Buffy said kneeling over the body.

"That was fast," Cordy commented handing it to her.

"I was motivated," Buffy replied freeing the ax from the wound and
dipping the glass in the demon's blood. Once it was full of the glowing
blue substance Buffy handed the glass back to Cordelia and smashed the
gem in the Mora's forehead. The demon disappeared in a flash of light.
"Let's go."

Buffy reclaimed the glass of demon blood from Cordelia and started up
the stairs, out of the basement. Wesley, Giles Cordelia and Willow
followed her. As they crossed the lobby LaCroix fell in with them.

"Does he die or have you figured out how to keep me around?" Angelus
asked as they entered his rooms.

"We found a way to fix the problem," Buffy said icily.

Wesley stepped forward and turned Angel's hand palm up then cut a deep
slash across it.

Buffy stepped forward and emptied the contents of the glass over the

Angelus' eyes narrowed in fury then he gasped. Seeing his expression
soften and loose the demon's arrogance Buffy sat beside him on the bed.
She pressed her hand to his chest and smiled as she felt his heart
speeding up to a moral pace, she could feel the warmth racing into his
flesh as the Waters of Eternity regenerated him.

"Buffy?" Angel asked.

"You're human," she said leaning over to kiss him passionately.