Sleep found Angel easily -- he was
exhausted from all the excitement, coupled with the utter *lack*
of rest he'd had since Dana entered his life. He dreamed of being
back in Sunnydale, warm, loving arms around him -- hot lips stinging
his cold skin... a soft voice whispering his name. He was making love to her, nibbling
her sweetly, stroking her with aching reverence. He knew full
well he was dreaming, but it was far, far better than nothing.
Within the dream, a hard, heavy object smashed the back of his head, breaking the peace of the blissful, intimate moment. He went full-out vamp, grabbed the sword hanging on the wall above his head, and swung.
Buffy's head separated from her shoulders, silently mouthing his name as it flew across the room. He screamed and jumped to his feet, only then looking to see who lay beneath him...
It was Dana in Vampire Face, smiling so that her fangs glistened in the reflected light of the sword.
Angel woke and sat up with a start. A soft knocking came on the thick mahogany door of the guest suite bedroom where he rested. He grabbed his pants and slid them on as he walked to the door. Pausing to collect himself for a moment, he opened it.
It was Dana -- in her beautiful human face, the only one he had ever seen in reality. She was smiling, and he found himself angry with her.
"What do you want?" he snapped.
She looked hurt for a split second, then immediately recovered, her face becoming a defensive mask of mocking amusement.
"I came to see if everything was alright... you cried out in your sleep."
Angel stared down at his feet, embarrassed. "I'm sorry... I'm fine... I... I have trouble sleeping."
Dana knew how his dreams haunted him... it was written. She wanted to smile at his sheepishness. It made him seem truly the boy he appeared to be. She refrained, knowing how much it would hurt his already wounded feelings.
"Ah. Care to talk about it?" she offered.
His attitude softened a little, and he met her gaze.
"No. Really. I'm fine. Thank you... Dana." He hesitated. "I... I have a lot to think about...to get past. I'll be alright."
She placed her hand on his arm. It was a warm, familiar gesture, and both of them felt the magick that passed between them where their skin made contact.
Angel moved aside to let Dana in, and shut the door behind them as she passed.
Maella slammed her own bedroom door in disgust. She couldn't take all of this poor behavior and poorer judgment on Dana's part when it came to Angelus! She knew full well how deeply Dana thought she felt for this vampire, but couldn't she at least keep her head on straight? When dealing with events of prophecy this strong and this important, it was imperative that Dana keep her eyes open and her thoughts clear!
Watching all this simpering going on made Maella fear that Dana's recent translation of the Spells of Incarnation could be a disaster indeed. If the Prelate lost all judgment, she could make a mistake fatal to all of them.
Dana's reasoning eluded her... Angelus was handsome enough, charming and not completely without wit... but witty/pretty boys were a dime a dozen... there were a thousand men panting at Dana's feet every night, most of them much more suitable, and less dangerous, for Dana than Angelus. So why the obsession with this pouty boy, destined to ruin all they held dear? She shook her head, bewildered. She hated to see Dana go all soft and doe-eyed over this monster... although she had watched her behavior after reading the Angelus Prophecies over the centuries... the tears in Dana's eyes after a night of reading, the turning of her voice to downy velvet when she mentioned his name... to see it directed toward an actual *person*... it was sickening.
And Maella felt distinctly threatened. It was one thing when Angelus was just a bunch of words in a crumbling book... it hardly mattered then what Dana thought of him. Maella was still the real one, the one by Dana's side through all the lonely days... but now? Now Angelus was word made flesh... now Dana had set the events of prophecy in motion by bringing the legend into their midst... now it was only a matter of time before Maella lost her sister, her closest friend, and her dearest beloved.
And after all the incredible lengths the Council had gone to -- for a thousand years, no less -- to keep Angelus away from his destiny; away from true happiness and contentment; way from the Slayer he was fated to love beyond time, and most of all, away from the Society of Souled Ones! Dana was obviously blinded by some misguided sense of duty toward the boy... walking a path that would ultimately destroy her -- destroy them all.
Maella scowled. Certainly, she was jealous... perhaps irrationally
so. But she felt justified. She and Dana had been companions for
more years than she could count any longer, since the night Dana
had found her tied to a stake, saving her from the Witch hunters... all those
years, they had shared together, and never once, even when Dana
had told she and Erishka that she had found *the* Angelus living
right there in LA... even then, Maella had never imagined he
would just step into their lives. She never imagined she would
feel so much rage toward him... or so much possessiveness toward
Maybe Dana felt she was doing the right thing -- correcting some great wrong -- but Maella knew better. Angelus, if allowed to have his way, would destroy everything.
Worst of all, he would be the death of Dana herself. Maella knew the prophecies well, ... and not just the popularly known ones, or the wild rumours and tales based on them. She knew the truth of Dana's curse, her role in Angel's fate, her death... something had to be done, and soon. Maella hardened her resolve... whatever happened, she had to make Dana see the beast that Angelus truly was, behind the angel's mask...
Angel poured his heart out to Dana. As it was, she was already familiar with all of the events and feelings he described... Be'lheran wrote of Angel as if he *were* the poor boy... but to hear Angel's honeyed voice tell her, sometimes laughing, sometimes dissolving into tears, touched Dana like she had never imagined it could.
She watched him... the easy way he moved his body... his compulsive habit of running his fingers through his tousled hair. She found herself in tears watching the emotions play across his handsome features when he spoke of Buffy... alternately smiling sweetly, then shadowing over in anger, then tears... Dana found that there were more layers to Angel than even she had imagined, studying him through the centuries.
She almost felt as though she were passing through a dream world. As if Angel were sitting here, reading her life's work aloud... adding a depth she never imagined. Now she knew.
She knew why she had taken this boy's fate into her hands, and an idea was born in her mind. Not a new idea... it had passed quickly through her imagination many times before... but now, it seemed the only gift she could give this boy, who she had loved since the beginning of time, and now loved more than that, having known him...
Her time was growing short. She offered him a tissue from the nightstand, which he accepted. He smiled sadly at her...
"That's it. I think that's the end..." he sniffled. His beautiful mahogany eyes were red and shone with salt tears. He even cried like a human.
She wished she could tell him... this was only the beginning.
When the sun set that evening, the household gathered in the enormous dining room for dinner. It was a pleasant meal, with Dana, Erishka, Maella, and several other houseguests. They chatted and ate or drank, as was their pleasure.
Maella watched Angel and Dana carefully... they smiled warmly at one another across the table, and there was a decidedly new intimacy between them... she only hoped that didn't mean what she was imagining.
The gathered guests conversed casually about the Ball and about the budding Spring. They gossiped about Council happenings, romantic pairings, business doings and mortal world events. The charade made Maella want to gag. She knew what they all were thinking... she knew what they all wanted to know... this polite silence simply wasn't to be bourne.
"So, Angelus," she began.
"Angel, please," he replied sweetly, with a boyish smile. Maella tried not to flinch.
"*Angel*, then. How long will you be staying here at the Heathers?" It was a simple enough question, and a valid one, she thought.
Dana looked at her warily, her spoon suspended in mid-movement. Angel was clearly surprised to be addressed so curtly. He regarded Maella's obviously false smile with a sudden wariness of his own.
"I... hadn't thought about it..." he managed.
"Angel is welcome to stay as long as he likes." Dana growled, despite her polite smile, placing her hand reassuringly over his.
Maella stared at him, waiting...
"I don't know," he elaborated, "We'll have to see."
"Ah. Well. It certainly is an event, having you here. Dana has been predicting your coming since... well, for a very long time..."
Angel nodded, "I know, she told me."
Maella smiled a cruel smile. So, he did know, then. But certainly not all
of it... not even nearly enough, if he could sit there, eating Dana's food and
accepting Dana's comfort, sweet as you please, while he pushed her headlong into
"Will you be taking a seat at Council then?"
"Maella!" Dana barked.
"No, Dana, it's okay," Angel gave her a glance to reassure her, then turned back to address Maella, "I don't think so. Not now..."
"Then perhaps a place in Dana's bed will suffice..."
Dana was immediately out of her seat. Angel blinked, shocked.
"MAELLA. May I speak to you, please?" Dana didn't wait for an answer before storming out of the room. Maella calmly wiped her mouth and placed the napkin on her place setting.
"Excuse me," she said politely to the gaping group, and followed.
Angel sat. Great. Just what he needed, to walk into the claimed territory of some jealous girl.
The others were staring at him
"I think I'm done," he announced, and rose from his place, "Please excuse me." He left the room, leaving a wave of titters and low-toned chatter in his wake.
Maella looked at Dana. Her sister's features were clouded with a fury she had never seen in her, before.
"How DARE you!" Dana shouted, "How DARE you treat a GUEST in my home like some common whore off the STREET!?" She fumed, pacing, for a few moments, "HOW DO YOU DARE... after everything we have meant to one another... knowing how I have dedicated my life to this!"
"Yes, I DO know, Dana." Maella finally interjected, "You have dedicated your life to a pile of musty books that say nothing but DOOM, to you and to our people! You have invited a MONSTER into our midst, fawning over him as if he were some lost child you found in an alley. This is *Angelus*, remember? ANGELUS. The Father of the New Age. Your murderer..."
Dana reached out and slapped her. "You will mind your tongue, or I will put you into sunlight before you can even gasp." The cold venom in her voice made Maella cringe.
"Fine. You be as foolish as you will, Dana. But be certain, things will not happen the way you imagine... you may think your last days will be spent in bliss with this little bit of meat you've acquired, but you will see... the pain will be more than you can bear. And rest assured, the Council will know of this. I can't let you break your vow."
Dana regarded her seriously for a moment. "If you go to the Council, *you* will be killing me," she reminded her.
Maella had no response, to that.
Angel could hear Maella and Dana shouting as he passed the study door. He was already awash in confused feelings, and this angry girl only made it clearer to him that he was not doing the right thing by staying. And yet, he knew he had so much to learn here... he was finally on the brink of finding his purpose... of making amends for his crimes. He couldn't let a hysterical girl chase him away.
He walked the cavernous halls of Dana's home, admiring the artwork, the furniture. Dana had luxuriant taste, and enough lifetimes' worth of artifacts to make the collection fascinating.
He sighed, thinking about the day they had spent talking. Dana was a very special person. She had listened to him go on for hours, about everything -- his life, Buffy... Dana had calmly taken it all in contributing only when he asked for her opinion. It was clear that she cared... that she was truly interested. For the first time in a long while, Angel felt some peace settle on his soul. He felt sure that Maella would warm to him in time, once she realized he didn't wish to take Dana away from her.
He worried a little that he still didn't know that much about Dana herself... she was still an enigma to him, despite the long and convoluted story she had told him. He imagined that it would come in time, but he wished he knew more about her... and why she was so involved with his life.
He stopped in his tracks when he came upon an enormous oil portrait of Dana hanging at the end of one of the halls. She wore an Elizabethan gown of shimmering pearl, decked in diamonds and emeralds and gold-laced finery. Her thick red hair was wound about her head in a gold and pearl headdress, and her blood red lips and royal eyes stood out strikingly against her pale skin. She was, indeed, a stunning woman. Angel found he couldn't take his eyes off her.
Here she was, this ancient ancestor, presenting herself and all she represented to him, like a gift. He felt an attraction to her that he hadn't expected... her warmth and honesty, her kindness and obvious concern for him... on top of her grace, wit and beauty, made Angel think perhaps...
Then he though again about Maella's unprovoked, angry attack. What was going on here that he wasn't seeing? He searched the portrait's eyes for a hint of secrets hidden... but the dull matte of the paint told him nothing.
It was hours before he found his way to the far parlor and passed through the glass doors into yet another garden... the smell of night-blooming flowers filled him, and he surprised himself by smiling. A garden was a good place to meditate, to forget your troubles... he'd made a habit of spending time in any garden or park he found near near wherever he was living at the time, for just that sort of peace.
He walked down the path, looking for a quiet, secluded spot. But on a bench not far down the rosebush-lined path, sat Maella. He took a deep breath, steeled himself and approached her. She was writing furiously in what appeared to be a leather-bound journal.
"Hi," he said.
She hesitated in her writing for a moment, obviously annoyed, before she looked up. She glared at him, saying nothing. Her human visage was that of a girl no older than Buffy, pastel toned and blonde also... but this woman looked stark and almost barren in contrast with Buffy's warm, sun-kissed beauty... he let that thought give him strength as he approached the vampire's perch.
"Maella," he began, "I'd like to talk to you, if it's okay."
"It's not." She snapped, and turned back to her book.
Angel sat beside her on the bench, anyway.
"You are obviously either not as smart as you are prophesied to be, or you are as deaf as a post. I distinctly remember *not* inviting you to sit down," she said, without looking up at him again.
"Listen," He said, "I'm not here to try to break up anybody's comfortable routine..."
"HA! That's a laugh!" Maella turned toward him at last, "From all that I have heard, your being here will do a little more than `break our routine'."
"What is that supposed to mean? Don't you think you're being a little bit overdramatic? I don't want to hurt anyone, or step on anyone's toes, here... I'm just trying to find out more about who I am..."
His innocent, pleading tone enflamed Maella's anger anew.
"Who you ARE is a KILLER. Period."
Angel blanched visibly.
"And more than that," Maella went on, the edge of venom
growing in her voice, "You come here all sweet and lost and
looking for compassion, when I can see Death riding her pale steed
where your shadow would be, were you a man! She follows you like a jilted lover,
destroying all within your wake... The Council has battled against
your coming since its inception, and in two DAYS you have unraveled
two MILLENNIA worth of work, and blood, and tears! Dana's weakness
toward you is dangerous. And it's disgusting, considering..." she halted,
realizing even through her fury that she had gone too far.
"Considering what?" Angel asked, suddenly afraid.
Maella looked at him with tears of fury in her pale, blue eyes. "Considering you will be the end of existence as we all know it... Since you and your *Slayer*," she spat the word, "will unite to destroy us all!"
She rose to leave, holding him in her angry gaze. "It is disgusting, considering you will bring the death of thousands... of Dana herself!" she cried, and ran off.
Angel raged down the hall toward Dana's study. He flung open the door with a crash, stamped to her desk, and slammed his fist in front of her. Dana looked up, startled, from the parchment she'd been reading.
"I want to hear the prophecy, Dana. All of it. Tell me whatever it is about my destiny that you're hiding!"
Dana was flabbergasted... How? She cursed Maella... now it was a matter of split-second decision. How much did he already know? How much should she tell him? If he knew the entire truth, she would be breaking yet another vow to the Council, and surely it would mean the death of both she and Angel. And worse, even, Angel would most certainly hate her -- and with good reason.
She knew it was the right thing to do, of course. A man needs to know the truth about himself... but what if that truth, knowing how much pain and death would result, made Angel back away from the path set for him by the Fates? How did she know his ignorance would not be equally disastrous? If Be'lheran was to be believed, Angel's actions in the next few years would determine the course of history for both the human and vampire races...
She decided to play dumb, for the moment. "What? I don't know what you mean..." She hoped it might buy her time, give her a clue how much Maella had spilled... she cursed the girl again in her mind.
Before the thought finished forming, Angel was suddenly upon her, his large hand at her fine throat in a crushing grip.
"Don't give me that!" he shouted, "If you don't tell me what the hell is going on, here, I will KILL you."
Dana was too shocked to react. She had been too relaxed, since he had been here... not keeping up her wards as she usually did. She knew she could easily conjure up something to toss the boy like a sack of flour across the room, but she hesitated to hurt him, especially considering the fact that his anger was righteous. She felt the vertebrae in her neck crunch a little. He wasn't threatening to kill her -- only make her immobile and uncomfortable for a good long while.
She looked into his demon's golden eyes. She hadn't been this close to a vampire in the bloodlust for more years than she could remember... it was uncomfortably creepy, especially on the face of her dearest love.
She collected herself. "Nice to see you're still both an impatient, impertinent child AND an untamed beast. You couldn't kill me if you tried," she purred, her hypnotic voice belying her fear and guilt.
Angel's features reverted, and he let her go. She sat calmly back in her chair, and rubbed her neck.
"And, OUCH by the way!" she said, then added, "Those things are not for you to know, Angel. I have told you what I can." Dismissing him, she turned back to her reading.
He stood immobile, staring at her, fuming. "I have a right to know. Maella told me things..."
Dana cut him off, "Maella is a spoiled child. She is jealous of you and your importance to me -- she always has been. Do not pay attention to things she tells you in anger."
Angel leaned over and took her chin in his hand. He raised her face to his... she could barely meet his gaze. If she had breath, she would have lost it.
"Dana," he said quietly, "Maella told me I would kill you. She told me that Buffy and I would destroy all of this. Please, I need to know."
Dana sighed. She would have to tell him something after all. She nodded, and Angel sat down in one of the leather chairs across from her.
"I will tell you as much as I can..."
When she finished fabricating the best story she could, under the circumstances, Angel sat silent, in shock. Again. So many would die in the ensuing battle if he tried to take a seat at Council. After all of her kindness and generosity, Angel hated to think he would once again revert to form, and repay her with death. She assured him that he would not bring that shadow on her.
"Well, that's simply solved," he said resolutely, "I won't take a seat at Council. End of problem."
Dana fixed her stare on him. They both knew that he knew better -- recognized that destiny could not be avoided, outrun, fooled, or halted. The Slayer had shown him that time and again. Prophecies might be wrong or misunderstood, but when fate had clearly spelled out what was to come, there was no escape.
Angel stared morosely at his feet. He didn't raise his eyes, but said softly, "You are certain it won't be you..."
"I am certain I will not die by your hand," she said...and it was the literal truth.
"But the others..." he moaned. Then, he sighed. Again, he was faced with the horror of his deeds -- and these were deeds yet to be done. More death from his hands, which wanted only to help... more torture for his soul. "Why will all of this happen? Why do I need to get involved?"
"I don't know, Angel. You are our Chosen One... the fates have decided, not I, not Be'lheran... he only wrote what the Goddess told him. When you take your rightful place at Council, it is said that dissenters will oppose you. Violently. That there will be a war, of sorts, that has been a long time coming. Some will die. But mostly, your reputation as a murderer comes from a fear that you will bring too much humanity to our world -- that our race will drop its guard and be wiped out because of your actions... eventually, our race will become extinct."
Despite the rather pleasant idea of the ultimate extinction of vampires, Angel shook his head. "I can't do something like this if it will cause so much pain..."
"Angel... what you will bring to our people will be a gift -- a new view of the universe of which we so often forget we are a part. You will be a reminder of why the Council was convened in the first place: to not only *have* our human souls, but to *live* as if we have them. There is a difference, and it too often goes unrecognized. The pain of evolution is often that of death, and vice versa. All things must pass away, whatever the Council might believe... even we Immortals. Your place in our history is to remind us that, despite our differences, we are still tied to humanity by our souls. Without that, we are only the murderous creatures our demon-brethren are... And only by joining together with humanity will our races survive the ravages of the ages... and of Hell."
Angel was silent. Of all the things he had heard and seen, this was the hardest to swallow. He was to be some great leader? A vampire messiah to guide a Society of people he knew nothing about into an era of peaceful existence with human beings who had, for time untold, been their enemies?
"What does any of this have to do with Buffy?" he asked, finally. The ultimate question. The question at the core of his quest.
Dana gave him the tiniest of knowing smiles. "She is the Slayer... and she loves you. She will back up whatever actions you decide to take in your lifetime. She is *your* link to humanity. Knowing and caring about her and her friends have reminded *you* of what it was like to be human -- to be full of fire and passion, but to have too little time and power to accomplish what you desire. After a few centuries, even with a soul, it is very easy to forget that." She watched his face, awash in pain and confusion, even as he tried to maintain a cool facade. Her heart went out to him.
"Angel, listen. We need you at Council. I need you. But there is no hurry. We, of all the races, literally have all the time in the world. You have many things still to simply experience, to learn, before you take on such heady responsibility."
Angel had no idea how to proceed. Not a clue what to say or do in response to all of this.
Dana knew she had told him too much. Not the whole truth, maybe, but enough to frighten him. She would need to backpedal -- quickly -- before Angel became overwhelmed by all of this and fell apart under the pressure. She needed to get him back to a receptive posture, away from the defensive one which he had relied on during all of his years alone. She went on.
"Stay here at the Heathers for as long as you like. Or, return to your home, if that's what you need to do. But do not feel that you need to decide about any of this now."
She stood and came around to his side of the desk, leaning against the edge, looking down at him.
"Hey," she said, her tone light, "Let's stop talking about this, for now. I promise, no death will come to my house by your hand, especially not mine. Why don't you relearn simply to belong, and let the rest go on as it will?"
Angel nodded. What else was there for him to do?
Story and Mangled Graphics by Ducks, 1999. Email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com