When Angel arrived back at his apartment
the next evening, he was less than surprised, but more than annoyed,
to find that Whistler had waited for him while he was gone. His
living room looked like a gang of drunken frat brothers had taken
up residence there -- the floor and tables were littered with
empty beer and liquor bottles (a few of them from what little
had been in his own cabinet), and the remnants of several take-out
Angel kicked a Jim Beam bottle out of the way, waking the demon, who slept on the couch, a young raven-haired beauty in his arms. Whistler stirred, waking the girl, who looked up at Angel, startled.
"Woops!" She said, and disappeared into thin air. At least Angel had thought she was a girl...
Whistler scowled up at him, "Boy, you sure do know how to ruin a guy's fun..."
"Get up, Whistler, and clean this mess. We have work to do," he kicked more garbage out of his path as he headed for the shower.
"Where's your Slayer?" Whistler called to him as if asking after a favorite pet.
"She won't be coming," Angel answered, "We're going to take care of the Damned ourselves."
Whistler was disappointed. Battling evil was always more fun with the spunky Slayer around. Not to mention less dangerous...
"Oh," he said, and with a wave of his hand, made the garbage disappear.
They spent that night and the next day scoping out the Damned and learning all they could about their power. Which turned out to be less formidable than any of them thought.
"...although magickal, if one was protected by basic wards, your everyday anti-vampire techniques will kill them, if you can get close" Giles had told him, "Of course, using counter-magick is always the most effective means..."
But the problem was, Angel had no one at hand who possessed the magick battling these creatures required. The issue, then, was in numbers, and it was clear to Angel that they would need more bodies. He sent Whistler to call on his supernatural connections to help out.
What he got as back-up was a little disappointing, "They're not, um... terribly... ah... sturdy..." Whistler told him. The only volunteers he'd been able to conjure up had been a pack of very earnest, but very non-threatening looking, ghosts.
"Well, if the Damned scare easily, we'll be in luck." Angel quipped.
The messenger insisted on bowing to her, which she hated.
"Yes, what is it?" she snapped at the poor creature. She'd been so edgy, lately.
"Your honor, it's the Double Damned."
"Pardon me, your honor. The Double Damned. A gang of demon assassins. They hunt... well... demon hunters, ma'am."
The idea piqued Dana's interest.
"And?" she encouraged, "What about them?"
"There is talk that they were hired to hunt Angelus. And that he is getting ready to do battle with them."
"Is the Slayer with him?" She asked, half from personal jealousy and half from concern for Angel's safety.
"No, ma'am. The Slayer remains on the Hellmouth."
Dana frowned. This piece of news was unexpected. She hadn't thought fully about the implications of Angel's existence and rise to the society being widely known, or how the Prophecies, barely understood and greatly misinterpreted, would spread throughout he vampire grapevine like wildfire. This would only be the first danger Angel would have to face, and some part of Dana worried that the Slayer wasn't by his side...
Some other part of her rejoiced.
"I see. Thank you." She dismissed the messenger. Something would have to be done about this, and quickly.
It wasn't hard to find out where seventeen giant vampire demons hell-bent on murdering Angelus, the legendary lover of the Slayer and fabled Chosen One, were hiding out. Everyone seemed to know.
Including the rats, Angel noticed, who were conspicuous by their utter absence from the area. Whether they had flown in fear or been consumed was anybody's guess. He approached the high window of the warehouse with as much stealth as he could muster. He had nixed Whistler's Ghost Army idea, and the demon had abandoned him in a huff. Now Angel wished he'd been nicer... any assistance would have been helpful.
He focused on the pile of garbage in the corner of the cavernous room below. It was nice to know the demons were predictably sloppy -- he'd been counting on it. He rested the crossbow he carried against the wall beside him, and took a Molotov cocktail out of his duffel bag.
`Glassy Flaming Death!' Buffy called them. He did not shake away the thought of her, this time, but tried to draw from her strength, across the miles. Using the memory of, and his feelings for, her as a shield against the fear that always threatened to freeze him before a fight.
Angel lit the fuse and tossed the gasoline filled bottle in the window into the garbage pile, and felt a small pang of victory as it immediately burst into flames. The demons assembled jumped up from their doings to put out the mess, opening themselves up to three neatly sprung crossbow shots in a row. Each took out a demon, which turned to convenient vampire-style dust.
Angel leapt into the chaos, fists and feet flying. He immediately staked one demon, and fell to battling the rest with whatever was available. He was badly outnumbered, and was quickly being overwhelmed. He continued fighting with all his might -- the thought of Buffy being their next target driving him on.
He dusted several more before four of them overcame him, wrestling him to the floor. So this was it, he thought, a sudden calm falling over his soul. He was sorry he would not be able to help Buffy... again. No prophecy would save them, now. The furious leader of the demons approached , grinning his drooling, fanged grin, his scaly face a horrible vampire/lizard mask, and Angel prepared to die at last.
"You made it so easy..." the creature hissed at him, a particularly nasty stake in his hand. Angel noticed with bitter humor that it literally had his name on it -- carved in delicate letters into the wood. Craftsmen, these monsters...
As the demon raised it's arm to end Angel's life, it burst into flames. The others let Angel go in their surprise, running hither and yon to pinpoint their new foe. Angel re-gathered his strength and began the fight again, barely caring where the assistance had come from.
But when Dana stepped into the light, Angel didn't think he had ever seen anything more glorious. She was dressed in black, allowing her to better blend with he shadows. None of the chaos seemed to touch her as she calmly walked through the fire, leaving only piles of demon ashes in her wake. He heard her calling incantations, each one causing an enemy to burst into flame or sometimes explode in a gory spray. When most of the gang had been reduced to refuse, the final three turned to flee. They almost made it to the fire exit, but Dana's magick reached them first. They began to bubble and steam, melting together into a disgusting pile of red slime on the concrete floor.
Dana turned casually and blew on the quickly spreading blaze. It disappeared. She turned back and grinned at him.
"That was fun!" she exclaimed.
Angel was hurt. Badly. He numbered his broken ribs at at least three, and he was covered with welts and bruises the likes of which Dana hadn't seen since the Inquisition. Despite knowing he would heal quickly, the sight disturbed her greatly.
They walked the mile or so to her downtown apartment -- a ritzy affair in a snappy new building complete with a doorman. A doorman who was clearly a vampire, and who bowed deeply to them as they passed, eyeing Angel nervously.
Dana let them into the apartment, which immediately came alive with soft light. She headed to the kitchen for supplies, offering him a desperately needed seat on the plush couch in the living room.
He sat, examining a nasty gash on his arm. He wished he'd had Dana along on more of his hunts -- he'd end up a lot less dented that way.
"Is your work always like that?" she asked when she reappeared, arms full of fresh herbs and hand-labeled bottles, as well as a basket full of rags and bandages.
"Do you deal with a lot of critically wounded people?" he asked, eyeing her portable holistic hospital.
She shot him a look, "You'd be surprised what I deal with. Take off your clothes."
He looked at her.
"Just do it," she insisted, mocking his modesty. He complied, stripping to the waist. Dana couldn't help but admire his fine physique.
"Nice Tattoo," she observed.
"Thanks. All the girls love it," he shot back.
"I'll just bet they do," Dana chuckled, cleaning the gash on his other shoulder.
"OUCH!" he shouted, flinching.
"Hold still. Don't be such a baby."
He relaxed under her experienced healer's touch. She chanted some words in a language he didn't recognize, and he was surprised to find that the pain had all but stopped.
"Thanks," he said, accepting the glass of blood she offered him.
"They weren't nearly as tough as I'd heard," Dana said, gathering her things and leaving the room once again.
"Maybe not for *you*," he replied, remembering the murderous look on the head demon's face, and the feeling of watching his long life flash before his eyes still clear in his mind.
Dana returned, dressed now in a long, casual skirt and a strappy tank top reminiscent of Buffy and her friends. Her thick red hair tumbled over her creamy shoulders, and Angel had to look twice to take her in. She walked to the stereo and put on a soft jazz CD, then moved to the couch and slid easily in beside him. She poured herself a glass of the blood wine and sipped it, a look of divine pleasure on her fine features.
"I can't remember ever feeling so... exhilarated," she told him excitedly.
"You were pretty amazing. I wish I had you around more often -- your talent would come in pretty handy. Thank you, by the way, for saving my life."
"Oh, I've no doubt you would have prevailed somehow, Angel. Besides, that was the most fun I've had in centuries!"
They were quiet for a time, Dana remembering the battle fondly, and Angel thinking thankfully how easily the danger had passed. Perhaps too easily?
"I missed you," Dana said, "How was Sunnydale?"
He looked at her, surprised. "How did you know?"
"Oh, not much you do goes without comment anymore, Angel."
"So?" she urged.
Angel shrugged. "It was fine."
Dana gave him a look that told him she knew full well that wasn't the case.
"It was difficult," he admitted, "And mostly fruitless."
"The Watcher had nothing to tell you, then?"
"Nothing I didn't already know. But he did say that the King of Prophecy wasn't me."
"Oh?" Dana leaned in closer, suddenly very interested in what he had to say.
"The King is said to be mortal, according to what he found. And I am most decidedly not that."
"Mm. Good point." Dana agreed vaguely, "You're not that."
"Is that all you have to say? I mean, doesn't that kind of contradict your theory that my actions will lead the Council to a New Era or something?"
Dana smiled mysteriously at him, "Prophecy is rarely what we think it is." She paused for a moment, examining her glass. "So, how is Buffy?"
Angel reeled slightly at the sudden change of subject, and was immediately uncomfortable at the mention of the Slayer.
"She's fine. She's the same. Her life is getting better."
"You miss her still." Dana looked at him with sympathy in her eyes.
"Every minute," he said without drama, stating a simple fact which felt more like a searing pain, inside.
"What does she think of all that's happened?"
He shrugged, "She's scared for me... and glad."
"I find that surprising."
"Why? She loves me. She wants me to be happy. She thinks living here will do that for me."
Dana chuckled bitterly, "Maybe so. If that's the truth, then I afford her the highest credit. I wouldn't be so quick to bless my lover's whole new life if it was without me."
"Well, Buffy is a special person."
Dana winced at the love and admiration in his voice.
"I imagine she is," she said apologetically, "Perhaps I am just jealous of the place she holds in your heart."
Angel considered her for a long time, then smiled sadly. "You have your own place there, you know. No matter how confused I am about all this right now, I still have you to thank for bringing me into your world."
"No thanks are necessary, Angel. It is my calling."
"But I know how strongly the Council opposes you on this. I know they don't look kindly on your helping me."
`If only he knew what an understatement that was...' Dana thought.
"Well, my sweet," she answered, "There was little else I could do, but ride the tides of fate to your door. I've always known that my destiny was bound up with yours... that my duty was to help you. I believe in what you are going to do, Angel. I believe in the world you are going to help to create. I would give my life, without hesitation, if it meant the future of my people... of you, who will be so important to them..."
Angel was speechless. Again, more talk of his importance. And now, Dana offering her life to help him. She was so breathtaking in the soft light of the room... her pale features were flushed with the blood she drank, and her eyes sparkled prettily. She looked for all the world like a sophisticated woman, spending a casual evening at home with her lover.
Her eyes widened as he suddenly, slowly, leaned in to kiss her. A shock swept through her as his soft lips met hers, and if she could have died at that moment, she never would have been happier.
Then it was over. He pulled abruptly away.
"I'm sorry. I just..." he mumbled, but did not break their eye contact. She blushed under his intense gaze... how she wanted to kiss him again! But no, that was not her purpose, here. She had to try to keep as much control as possible.
"It's alright." She rose and smiled down at him, "It was nice. Why don't you stay here, today? There is a guestroom down that hallway I think you'll like. Tomorrow night there is a fair in town -- now that you've saved the Slayer and the world once again, perhaps you'd like a little fun!" She turned and was gone, not waiting for his reply.
Angel sat, watching her retreating form. The kiss was clearly a mistake, and yet it was something he had very badly wanted to do.
`You really care about her...' he heard Buffy say. He remembered the hurt in her eyes. He had denied it, mostly, but he knew it was true. He did care for Dana. She was a beautiful, fascinating woman who had helped him in more ways than he could name. But he also knew that what he had told Buffy was also true -- his heart would always belong to her, and could never truly be given to another. He would be with Buffy, or he would be alone.
What had happened with Dana tonight couldn't happen again...
Dana shut her bedroom door behind her and braced herself against the wall beside it.
"Get a grip!" she chastised herself. She was fired up beyond words. The battle, Angel's kiss... she absently brushed her lips with her fingertips... these had driven her to a point of excitement she couldn't remember feeling, before. This was getting out of hand. If she lost control, who knew what might happen? If she let what had almost transpired between them tonight continue, everything would be put at risk. She had to keep her distance, at least emotionally, from Angel.
But his draw was so powerful... she remembered his eyes, his lips on hers... imagined his strong hands touching her...
She shook her head. No. Time was short and there was still much to be done...Dana had to help Angel fulfill his destiny. And that destiny did not include her. His heart belonged to his fated love. His heart, and his future, belonged to the Slayer.
Story and Mangled Graphics by Ducks, ©1999. Email the author at email@example.com