Chapter 5

"A Butterfly Flaps Its Wings"
 
 

"Buffy, would you please come here?  I need your opinion," Giles called toward the Slayer who was lounging on the couch with a book over her head.

"No way."

"Buffy, really, we're talking about weapons," Angel chimed in, trying to curry favor.

"Would you two shut up before I die of boredom?" Buffy groaned.

Angel and Giles, deciding she would not be swayed, ignored her, continuing with their debate.  On the surface, it appeared to be a serious dispute, but Buffy was able to recognize it for what it was, some disturbing male nerd bonding experience.  In spite of the whole tall, dark and handsome thing, Angel was quite the geek. He and Giles had been arguing for the last hour over which dead guy's translation of some stupid ancient text was more accurate.

It was excruciatingly dull, even when they were yelling.

Buffy was fairly sure that she had never seen either of them quite so talkative.  They were both so quiet most of the time, but when they got together, they would "debate" one boring subject or another for hours.  She would have gotten really annoyed if they didn't seem to enjoy it so much.

Considering how much time she had to spend with both of them, she would rather they be happy and arguing, than quiet and withdrawn.  Still, it could get seriously annoying.

This scene really doesn't serve much purpose aside from showing that Buffy is willing to humor both Giles and Angel.  And that Angel and Giles get along.

*****

The lobby of the Hyperion was crowded with DHSTs and down and out humans.  It was payday and ration day in The City, which meant that everyone was figuring out how to best blow the money and sustenance they recently acquired.

Willy was arguing over back rent with a particularly nasty looking human who worked down at the docks.  The heavily muscled man was bald and missing a few teeth, his clothes stained and tattered, but Willy didn't seem intimidated.  He argued his point and threatened eviction until the dockworker relented, stripped a few bills off of his recently acquired wad of cash, and paid the manager.

Glancing up quickly from counting the bills, Willy said, "Be wit' ya in a sec, Angel."

The vampire nodded and idly thumbed a rip in his shirt that he acquired the previous night while sneaking around a few of Nabbit Industries' labs.  Unhappily, he resigned himself to the fact that he was going to have to spend some of his meager, hard earned cash on a new shirt.  He was hoping to spend the money on a few art supplies, but that apparently wasn't in the cards.

"You're the one that helps the Slayer, right?"

Angel turned abruptly towards the voice and found himself staring at a vampire of dubious age.  He appeared to be young, turned before he was quite fully a man, but looks were deceptive with his kind.  However, from his lax attitude and posture, Angel wouldn't have been shocked to learn he was a fledgling.

We never get Xander's history or how exactly fledgling vampires could be created within the wall of The City.  That is remedied in the sequel.

"Who wants to know?" Angel growled, his voice thick with warning.

Angel had to stop himself from smiling.  His voice was indeed a fearsome tool once again, thanks to Buffy's loosening of his collar.  He was fairly sure it would have undermined his authority if he cringed in the middle of being menacing.  Of course, as far as Angel could tell, he was the only DHST with that problem.  Almost all of the other tagged vampires, this newest fledgling included, seemed to have little trouble speaking.  Undoubtedly, they did not find it comfortable to speak while collared.  Idle chitchat was not something in which most DHSTs engaged, but they did not seem to have the same pronounced reaction he had.  Of course, none of them were anywhere near Angel's age.  After nearly three centuries, learning a different way to speak was not easy.

"Whoa there," the boy said, holding his hands up in surrender.  "I didn't mean to step on any toes.  My name's Xander.  I just thought you might have a little information."

Angel nodded in greeting, but ignored the outstretched hand.  "What kind of information do you want, Xander?" he asked pointedly.

The boy blushed, a decidedly rare feat for a vampire.  Oh, he had to be young.  Angel determined Xander wasn't a threat, merely an annoyance, and turned away.  As he did so, Willy caught his gaze and pulled a cooler out from under the counter.

"I don't know what you did, but I gotta give ya credit, I didn't think it was possible to get this kinda payday," he said with a clearly envious note in his voice.  Willy credited himself on being able to get anything, but he failed Angel.  The vampire was forced to find another - and more successful - route.

Angel nodded, but remained silent.  He wasn't about to tell Willy where his new suppliers had come from.  Efficiently, he popped open the lid on the cooler and made sure the contents were as they were supposed to be.

"Wow."

Angel turned and found Xander staring over his shoulder, nearly salivating at the sight of his rations.  Quickly, he snapped the lid shut.  Angel wasn't an idiot.  He knew his rations were at least four times the size that most DHSTs were allotted, and much more potent to boot.  He didn't want to make any enemies.  "Why don't you come with me," he said quietly to Xander, the threat clear in his voice.

The boy swallowed harshly and nodded.

*****

"Looks like working for the Slayer really paid off," Xander said nervously, pacing around Angel's suite.

"How do you know I work for the Slayer?" Angel asked.

His assignment was known within the Council and he was regularly out in public with Buffy, but Angel hadn't realized that his employment was common knowledge to his peers.

"I saw you," Xander said plainly.

"Where?"

"At Holtz's house," Xander replied and then quickly caught himself.

It was too late.  Angel advanced, pinning the boy to the wall and vamping out.  He growled loudly as Xander cowered.  "Why are you watching the Slayer?" Angel ground out, enraged at the idea of anyone keeping tabs on Buffy.

"I'm not! I'm not!" Xander yelped.

"Then what are you doing?"

"I follow Anya sometimes," Xander explained quickly.

Angel released his grip and stepped back.  "Anya?" he asked, confused.

Xander nodded, straightening his shirt.  "Anya Emmerson, Holtz's secretary," he explained.

"Why are you keeping tabs on Holtz's secretary?"

"Because I ... like her," Xander admitted.

Angel's scowl slowly melted away into a grin and he laughed.  Xander wasn't a spy, he was some lovesick kid who happened to be hot after Holtz's money-minded secretary.  "Xander," he said, "I'm afraid you don't have enough cash to date her."

The boy looked dejected.  "I know," he said.

Angel opened the cooler and threw Xander a bag.  "Maybe that'll take some of the pain away," he said with a smile.

*****

This scene was also one of the very first scenes I wrote.  Incidental details were revised as the story matured, but for the most part what I wrote the first time is what ended up in the final version.

Angel walked several steps behind Buffy.  Being considerably taller, he could follow her at his normal pace while she was stomping as fast as she could, muttering to herself under her breath.  In the month he had worked with the Slayer, he came to know several things about her, foremost being that she hated wasting time.  She was convinced that their mission for the evening, given to them by Holtz, was a waste of time.  Consequently, she was very unhappy.

"This is total *bullshit*," she grumbled, as she stalked down the street.

Yes, Buffy is cursing.  Is this out of character?  Maybe.  Personally, I curse like a sailor, so my characters tend to do the same.  It's a flaw, but I'm not particularly concerned with it.  Also, my fic doesn't have to air on network TV.  We don't know how these characters would really speak if they didn't have to get by censors.

"What exactly are we doing?" he asked, half wondering if he should have just stayed silent.

She stopped walking and turned to look at him.  "Busy work," she groused.  "We're doing busy work."  Cocking an eyebrow, Angel waited for the real answer.  Sighing heavily, Buffy said, "We're going over to Mercy hospital to back up Animal Control."

Mercy hospital is also seen in my Anita Blake fanfiction piece.  I don't remember which one I wrote first.  Probably Dom.

Angel's confusion was clear.  "Excuse me?"

"There's a Pet problem at Mercy.  We need to go over and make sure that none of the Animal Control guys get hurt trying to get rid of it."

Again with the conspicuous use of capitals.  Proper noun Pet.  Still don't know if it works or not.

Angel frowned.  "Someone took a pet to the hospital?"

"It happens every now and then," Buffy said, resuming walking, albeit at a more leisurely pace.  "Pets aren't that common.  It takes a hell of a lot to get a license for one.  Most people wouldn't bother."

I needed a convincing reason why people wouldn't just take a vampire as a lover.  Let's face it, if humans and vamps were in those close of quarters, there would be some fraternization.  I needed a compelling reason why it wouldn't be more common.  Yes, it is possible, but it's still a big societal taboo, plus, it's legally difficult and financially draining.

Comprehension dawned, and this time it was Angel who stopped walking.  Noticing he wasn't following, Buffy stopped and turned to look at him.  "Do you mean a vampire?" he asked incredulously.

"Well ... yeah.  What else would I be talking about?" she asked, feeling oddly embarrassed by the chastising expression on Angel's face and not understanding exactly why.

He glared at her.  "I thought you were talking about a dog," he bit out.

Buffy shrugged.  She opened her mouth, and then stopped.  She was about to say 'they're both animals', but she halted the words.  Angel was a vampire, and as such, he probably wasn't of the same opinion. I wanted Buffy to relapse.  Yes, she works with Angel.  Yes, she gets along with him.  They're starting to become friends, but ultimately, she still sees vampires as animals.  She's beginning to change her view of Angel personally, but not of his species.  She closed her mouth.  She had never personally known a member of the undead before and while she still viewed the species on the whole as animals, she would not categorize Angel as a beast.  "Order are orders," she said blandly.  "The Pet is causing a problem at Mercy.  We have to get him out of there without hurting anyone."

Angel looked away from her, as if he couldn't stand the sight of her, and continued down the road towards the hospital.  Buffy stared at his back unhappily.  She tried to shake off the unwanted emotions.  Why should she care what Angel thought?  He was one of them.  Of course, not even she believed her words.  Sullenly, she hurried after him.

She's starting to learn, but it's slow.  She knows she disappointed Angel and that upsets her, but she still isn't re-examining her views yet.

*****

"So why is this one a Pet?" Angel asked, breaking the silence for the first time, as he and Buffy entered the stairwell.  When they arrived at Mercy, it was in security lockdown because of the unruly vamp.  The elevators were out of commission as a precaution, and consequently, the pair had to climb ten flights of stairs.

"His owner wanted it that way," Buffy explained.  "99% of the vamps in the city are classified as DHSTs.  Like you, they have work assignments.  They're monitored closely, registered living quarters, weekly check-ins with case workers and such."

"I don't have check-ins," Angel said.

"Your job assignment is to the head of the Watchers' Council and the Slayer.  I think they figure you're monitored closely enough," she said wryly.

"So what's the difference with a Pet?" Angel asked, getting back on topic.

"Exactly what it sounds like," Buffy said.  "They live with their owners as members of the household.  They aren't checked up on other than a yearly physical exam.  They don't have to wear tags unless they're taken out in public.  But it's a lot of trouble to get a Pet license.  They're *very* expensive and ... "

"And? " Angel prompted.

"It's frowned upon."

There is also supposed to be the implication that keeping a Pet can actually be rather dangerous for a human.  Dangerous because of retribution from other humans, not because of the vampire.  I don't think that comes across too well.

Angel laughed deprecatingly.  "Society doesn't like the idea of a vampire being part of the family?" he asked.

"They're not part of the family," Buffy said, "at least no more than the family cat or dog.  They're possessions."

At this point, there's doubt and she's trying to convince herself more than Angel.  She doesn't particularly want to have her world turned upside down.

"Whatever you say," Angel replied dryly.

*****

"What's the sitch?" Buffy asked the Animal Control officer, a man by the name of Bates.

No, not Norman Bates, but thanks.  I must have gotten a dozen emails snickering about that.

Bates nodded, glad to see the Slayer had finally arrived.  "He's in there," he said, pointing to the lone closed door on the wing.

The officer automatically handed Buffy a write up on the Pet.  Given the Council's love for documentation, the registration was several pages long.  Buffy quickly scanned them, then folded them up and placed them in her back pocket.  "Is he armed?" she asked, eyeing the door.

The officer nodded.  "Tazer.  He already zapped two of my guys."

That's overdone.  The vamp is using non-lethal force when he could have just popped their heads off.  In retrospect, I think it would have played better if the scene had been more gray.  It's pretty black and white.  Poor vamp vs bad humans.

"Guess that makes it easier for us," Buffy said.

"What makes it easier?" Angel asked.

Turning, the Animal Control officer noticed Angel for the first time and jumped slightly.  Buffy shook her head in dismissal, knowing full well that if Angel had meant the man any harm that he would have already been dead.

"It's a kill situation," Buffy said.  "The Pet attacked two officers.  It's broken Domestication laws and must be destroyed."

Angel was stunned by the coldness in her voice.

*****

Stealthily Buffy toed open the door with Angel close on her heels.  The overhead light in the room was off, but a small lamp on a table beside the bed was lit.  In the bed, a very elderly woman, clearly dying, was cradling the head of a distraught vampire in her lap.  Unaware that he was being watched, the vamp was sobbing openly as the woman gently stroked his hair, rubbing his face against her abdomen.

There was another whole subplot about smell here.  The vamp was supposed to be marking this woman.  Ultimately, it just got too confusing, so I dropped it.  The only time we see it in the fic is later with Buffy and Angel in the corridor outside Caritas.

Buffy must have made some noise, because suddenly the vamp's head shot up.  His expression was one of abject misery, but when he focused on the intruders, his eyes immediately turned golden and he sank into game face, growling loudly at the Slayer.  Buffy's body went rigid, preparing for a fight.  She jumped slightly as Angel's hand closed around her wrist, dragging her back out of the room and closing the door as the vamp continued to growl.

That's another moment that I think should have been punched up quite a bit.  We have Buffy responding on an instinctual level to Angel as Angel rather than as a vampire.  If a vampire grabbed her when she was focused on something else, she would have staked first and asked questions later.  But she didn't.  She knew it was Angel.  I think that point gets lost.

"What the hell are you doing?" Buffy demanding, twisting to confront the vampire as she wrenched her wrist free of his grasp.

Angel looked over his shoulder at Bates and his cronies who were intently listening to their conversation.  "Can I have a word alone?" he asked tersely.

With a grumble, Buffy walked into one of the other rooms which had been emptied when the conflict started.  Sitting on the bed, she glared at the vampire expectantly.

"Leave him," Angel said succinctly.

"What?" Buffy asked, incredulous.

"Leave him," Angel repeated.

"He's a wild animal.  He's a danger to everyone in this building," she shot back.

"He's a grieving lover," Angel clarified evenly.

Buffy was shocked into silence.  She gaped at him for several moments.  "W-what did you say?" she asked.

Angel took a deep breath and looked at his reason for living.  Her world was so rigid, so full of rules, that she was blind to the obvious.  "You have his registration," Angel said.  "How long has he been with her?"

Buffy reluctantly pulled the papers out of her pocket, quickly skimming through the data.  "Sixty years."

"Was she ever married?  Ever have kids?"

"No," Buffy replied, having some idea of where he was heading.  "She was never married, never had children.  She lived alone."

I really like the naievite implied in her statement there.

"I assure you," he said, "she may not have had a human companion, but she did not live alone.  And she did not sleep alone either."

And I really like Angel bursting her bubble.

Buffy swallowed harshly.

"Whether you and society approve or not," Angel said, "they were lovers, most likely for her entire adult life.  Now she's dying."

Buffy remained silent.

"I don't think he wants to hurt anyone," Angel explained seriously.  "But he won't let them take her away from him, and he won't leave her side."

Buffy stared at her hands, still clasping the print up on Miss Gillian Miles and her Pet, John. "We have orders," she said quietly, unable to meet his gaze.

"She's dying," he replied just as quietly.  "She won't last the night and neither will he."

Meeting his eyes, Buffy gave him a quizzical glance.

"The room has an eastern exposure, Buffy."

She swallowed again and nodded.  She hadn't missed the fact that the blinds had been pulled up.  John would die with the sunrise.  "I'll talk to them," Buffy said.  "Sunrise is only a couple of hours away.  We can secure the room until then."

So here we have Buffy's real turning point.  It's not just Angel that has a soul, has purpose, has a heart.  It's other vampires as well.

*****

Buffy ran her fingers across the blanket that had until very recently covered Gillian Miles.  She turned her hand over and looked at it, the tips of her fingers were coated with ash.  Angel watched her silently.

"How did you know?" she asked without looking at him.

"I just did," he answered.  "Relationships like this are not too out of the ordinary in the Wastelands."

She turned her head, meeting his gaze.  "Did you ever have a human lover?" she asked, shocked by her own bluntness.

I don't know if it works to have Buffy shocked by her own words.  I just wanted to get across that these emotions she's voicing are ones that she hasn't even allowed herself to think.  It's been a really long night for her and she's very off balance.

The silence hung in the air for nearly a minute before he spoke.  "John and Gillian were more than lovers," he said.  "They were mates.  Bound for life, dedicated to one another."

Angel was supposed to have known that from the marking.  Trust me, it was confusing.  The story is better without it.

Buffy continued to hold his gaze.  "You didn't answer my question."

"I've never had a mate," he replied evasively, turning away from her to face the window, which was once again covered by blinds to block out the sun.

"Did you have a lover?"

"I had lots of lovers," he said dryly, neither ashamed nor proud of his actions, merely stating them for what they were.  He took no satisfaction from his past, but he knew better than to deny it existed.  He had learned from his mistakes and that was something to cherish.

Buffy flinched.  She didn't know what she expected his answer to be, but his brutal honesty caused a twinge of jealousy.  She didn't like the idea of Angel having lovers.  "Were any of them human?" she asked.

Reluctantly, he met her gaze again.  "Some," he replied evenly.

She recoiled and turned her attention back to her hand, rubbing the ash between her fingers.  "But you didn't die for any of them," she mused.

"As I said," he replied, "they were lovers.  I've never had a mate, human or otherwise."

"What about now?" she asked, shocked by the catty quality of her voice.  "Do you have any lovers at the moment?"

He watched her for several drawn out moments and slowly a smile crept over his features.  Buffy was upset by the idea of him having a lover.  "You're the only woman I spend any time with, Buffy," he replied firmly.

This exchange, or something very like it crops up in a lot of my fics.  I like them saying things without actually saying anything.

She glared at him, well aware that she betrayed herself with the last question.  She couldn't deal with this, not right now.  Abruptly, she headed for the door.  "Call Giles," she called over her shoulder.  "He can give you a ride home."

[End Chapter 5]
 
 

Chapter 6

"That Which Does Not Kill Us"
 

Angel yelped as the beam of sunlight singed his hand, pulling it back under the safety of the stiflingly warm blanket.  There was a reason vampires stayed in during the day, he noted grouchily to himself.

"Are you all right?" Giles asked over his shoulder.

"Fine," Angel grumbled.  Buffy was clearly upset by their conversation and left the hospital, intent on walking home alone.  Given that it was daylight out, Angel had no choice but to watch her go and then call Giles for a ride.

"We're here," the Watcher said as he pulled the car to a stop.

Angel threw off the blanket and sat up, thankful that his boarding house had an underground garage and entrance for just such an occasion.  He ran a hand through his hair, trying to calm some of the unruly locks.  It was a futile attempt.  Though he couldn't see himself in the rearview mirror, he knew his hair was sticking up everywhere.  He sighed heavily.

"I have coffee upstairs if you're interested," Angel said.

Giles twisted around in the seat, watching the vampire.  "Sure," he said, killing the car's engine.

*****

"Thank you," Giles said as Angel handed him a steaming cup of coffee.

Angel's home was small, but neat, if conspicuously lacking in natural light.  Luckily, Angel had a multitude of lamps throughout the space.  Rising from his seat, the Watcher ventured around the room, paying special attention to a table stacked with books.  "Interesting," he said, flipping through the titles.

"Pardon?" Angel asked, then realized to what Giles was referring.  "Yeah," he said, "I've added a few titles to the collection recently.  Willy's pretty good at finding just about anything."

The Watcher nodded appreciatively.

"Was she all right?" Angel asked abruptly.

"Buffy?"

"Yes."

Giles nodded, once again taking a seat near the vampire.  "She was ... distracted," Giles said truthfully, "but apparently unharmed."

Angel nodded.  "She isn't too happy with me."

"What happened?"  Giles asked seriously.

To his own shock, Angel related the night's events to the Watcher with brutal honestly, omitting only the conversation he and Buffy shared over John's ashes.

He watched Giles' face for some clue as to what he was thinking, but he was his usual, unreadable self.  "Does it sicken you?" Angel asked.

"The idea of a human and a vampire together?" Giles asked.

Angel nodded.

Solemnly, Giles shook his head.  "I think that happiness should be sought out wherever it can be found," he said with a wry smile.

Again, I'm not sure that Giles would push for a relationship between Buffy and Angel.  But he did it in early Season 2, so I'm running with it.  I think it works especially given how short and brutal Giles knows Buffy's life has to be.

Releasing a breath he hadn't realized he was holding, Angel sank back in his chair.   "It upset her," he said, staring off into space.

And I like Angel missing the point here.

"I doubt that," Giles responded.

Angel looked at him in question.

"Buffy had a very regimented upbringing," Giles explained.  "She was taught to see the world in black and white.  Knowing you is causing her to question a number of long held beliefs.  I'm sure it is not comfortable for her, but Buffy has a gentle soul.  If anything, I'm sure it was the vampire's grief that affected her.  Not being close to anyone, Buffy has never before lost someone she cares for.  She is well acquainted with misery, but grief is somewhat of an unknown."

Buffy knows misery but not grief, I like the distinction between the two.

Angel was watching Giles carefully, noting how the man's face seemed to soften when he spoke of the Slayer.  He had never seen such an expression on Holtz's face.  "Were you ever married, Rupert?" Angel asked.

Swallowing heavily, Giles answered, "Yes, I was, once."

"What happened?" Angel prodded.

Giles smiled sadly.  "My wife di- ... " he stopped, taking a deep breath.  "After we lost our little girl, I don't think Joyce saw much point in going on.  She learned to dull her pain in a multitude of ways.  I wasn't much help to her in the intervening years.  I could have supported her, worked through it, but it was simply too painful for me to deal with.  I buried myself in my work.  I was gone for several weeks, doing field work with Holtz.  I was completely without any means of communication.  When I returned home, I was informed that she had gone missing.  Several people saw her near the Wasteland gates.  It was too unthinkable to me that she would ever hurt herself.  And then one day she was simply gone.  They never found her body."

Misdirection to be sure, but not a contradiction of later events.

It was Angel's turn to swallow harshly.  Swallow harshly.  People in my fics are constantly swallowing harshly.  They're a bunch of scratchy throated motherfuckers.  "I'm sorry," he said.

Giles shrugged.  "As I said before, I now believe that one should find happiness where one is able."

"Are you happy now?"

The Watcher sat in contemplative silence for several moments before answering.  "For a long time after my wife's disappearance, after our little girl was taken, I never thought I would be happy again. But then a year passed, and another year, and so on.  I resumed my position with the Council.  I never thought it possible, but yes, I am happy now."

Angel watched him intently.  "What was your daughter's name?" he asked.

"Buffy," Giles replied, with a smile, "but I assume you already discerned as much."

Angel nodded.  "Does she know?" he asked.

"No," Giles said firmly.  "It would only make things more difficult if she knew.  This is the way it has been done for centuries.  At least I can spend time with her.  Most parents are not even allowed that much when their daughters become Slayers."

"I'll make sure she's safe," Angel pledged.

Giles smiled.  "I'm counting on it," he said.

Giles true reasons for helping to foster Buffy and Angel's releationship.  He'll make a deal with the devil if it will keep his little girl safe.

*****

It was shortly after dusk, the time which the Buffy and Angel generally set aside for taking care of routine, menial tasks.  They were seated at one of the large, wooden tables that were the centerpieces of Holtz's library, in companionable silence, each of them intent on their task.

"Angel?" Buffy asked, not looking up from the ancient sword she was cleaning, mindless of the fact that the task was leaving her with dirty hands and clothes.  The battered, gray sweatshirt she wore was smudged with a plethora of grime and dirt as were her black cargo pants, though they camouflaged it better.

"Yeah," he replied, equally distracted as he reassembled a battle axe, on which he recently replaced the handle.

"When you were ... " she began, looking up from her task to watch him across the table, "when you became a vampire, was it during the plagues?"

Angel set down the ax  why it's axe earlier and ax here, I don't knowhe was working on and gave his full attention to the Slayer.  "Yes," he replied evenly, "I was turned in the plague's first wave."

Buffy nodded and then meekly asked, "What was it like?"

Angel felt something inside him that had been tightly coiled begin to loosen with her timid question.  Buffy had definitely been upset by their conversation about his past, and he had feared that she would go to significant lengths to distance herself from him.  Her question was a sure sign that she wished to continue the somewhat personal turn their relationship had taken.

"How much do you know about the plagues?" he asked.

Buffy shrugged.  "Not much," she said.  "The instructors only touched on them in history class.  I know that some particularly nasty vamp came up with the plagues as a way of increasing demon numbers.  I know that those infected were driven out of human society."

Angel nodded. "That much is true, but it leaves out a lot of the specifics," he said quietly.  "A demon named Varkesh engineered the plagues.  Through a series of spells, he and a cluster of warlocks were able to create a sickness that preyed on the human population.  It worked like a cold, airborne and highly contagious."

Buffy frowned, "People caught it without reason?"

"Yes," Angel replied.  "It attacked indiscriminately.  Entire pockets of human population were wiped out.  But the plague had problems.  It was designed to take a normal healthy human and turn them into a vampire."

"I thought that's what it did?" Buffy asked, confused.

"Not always.  Sometimes the sickness would kill the victim, other times the conversion to vampirism wasn't completely successful.  A human soul would be left in a vampiric body."

Buffy looked at him closely.  "That's what happened to you, isn't it?" she asked, knowing that all DHSTs admitted to The City had to have a soul.

"Yes," he replied.  "I have always had a human soul.  But it didn't matter to those in power at the time.  Medical science had no way of combating the plagues and the Watchers' Council wasn't powerful enough, at the time, to fight it with magic.  In the interest of self-preservation, humanity isolated itself.  All those infected were driven out of society and into the Wastelands.  It was a crude method, but effective.  It eliminated the outbreaks.  Those in charge of preserving society had no way of knowing that the plagues were only contagious for a matter of months."

An appalled expression crossed Buffy's face.  "But you weren't dangerous," she said.

"No," he mused, "I wasn't.  Or at the very least, I wasn't malicious.  I suppose I would have been a danger to some extent.  My vampiric status came with a lot of physical attributes I didn't possess as a human.  It took some time to adjust to my new strength.  But lack of malice didn't matter to those in charge.  I was driven away from my home and my family.  At the time, I only wanted to die."

"You didn't," she noted.

"Obviously."

"I'm glad," she said and turned her attention back to the sword.

And Buffy starts to melt.

*****

Just over a week later, Holtz unceremoniously dropped a garment bag on the library table in front of Angel.  Cautiously, the vampire looked up and met his gaze.  "Sir?"

I know I had a big go-round with my betas over that garment bag, though at the moment, I can't remember why.

"There is a social engagement this evening.  It's being held at Council Headquarters and will be rather large.  I hadn't intended for you to attend, but I was just informed that Maggie Walsh will be there.  It should be a very good opportunity for us to see if you're everything Whistler assured us you would be," Holtz said, smiling mirthlessly down at the DHST.

Angel nodded curtly.  Holtz's suspicions were understandable.  Whistler had "sold" I don't know why that's in quotes. the leader of the Watchers' Council on Angel's merits, claiming that he would make a valuable and virtually undetectable spy within the ranks of Walsh's DHSTs.  So far, though, Angel had done little more than tag along behind Buffy and help Giles with research.  The party would be the perfect chance for him to prove that he was worth the risk that Holtz was taking on him.

"Inside the bag is a suit.  All black, of course," Holtz added.  "You will attend with Buffy.  Do you know how to drive?"

The question took Angel somewhat by surprise but he nodded.

"Good," Holtz said dryly, "Buffy has a car she never drives.  You can be responsible for getting the two of you there in time."

Buffy and cars.  unmixy things.

"Yes, sir," Angel replied dutifully.

Turning on his heel, Holtz left abruptly, leaving Angel staring at the garment bag.  Several minutes later, Buffy walked in and gave him a strange look.  "Going somewhere?" she joked.

"Yes," he replied truthfully, "apparently, I'm your escort for the evening."

Buffy went pale.  "You're going tonight?" she asked incredulously.

This is the first time that we see Buffy truly unnerved.  Up until now she has been very much in her element, very much in charge.  Now we get to see her vulnerability.

He nodded.

"Wonderful," she said dryly, flopping down into a chair next to Angel as she grabbed several case files and began rooting through them in search of distraction.

"Is there a problem with that?" he asked cautiously.

"Not really," she said, without looking at him, "it's just that going to those stupid things is embarrassing enough.  I don't really want any more of an audience than I already have."

Angel frowned.  "Why do you think they're embarrassing?"

Shooting him a withering look, she said, "They're formals."

Angel shrugged, still confused.

"I have to wear a dress," she explained.

"Oh," Angel finally said, still not understanding why that should be such a huge deal.

Angel at times is nothing more than a dumb guy.

*****

Contrary to what Holtz intimated, Buffy picked Angel up for the evening.  He was running late and was still in the bathroom getting dressed when he heard Buffy knock on the door.  He yelled for her to enter and when he heard the door open and close, he knew she had.

Angel checked himself over as well as he could without the aid of a reflection.  The suit was expensive, probably from the same tailor that made Holtz's formal attire.  Every piece of material utilized was black, from the coat to the shirt and tie.  Still, it had obviously been tailored to his body, probably with the aid of the measurements that had been taken while he was tagged several months earlier.  It would have been ordered at the same time as the rest of his clothing, with the assumption that a DHST working for someone as powerful as Holtz would have occasion to need formal wear.

That noted, it was a little snug.  Not uncomfortably so, but still, he could tell that he filled out quite a bit after Buffy upped his rations.  The suit was tailored to fit an emaciated body that he no longer possessed.  Thankfully, he had always been on the lean side, so it wasn't a problem.  His normal DHST uniform was so loose fitting that he hadn't had any problems.  Deciding that it was as good as it was going to get, he opened the door and stepped out into the apartment.

He was only able to take one step before he stopped cold, spellbound.  Buffy was absolutely ravishing.  Angel watched the petite Slayer day in and day out, wearing worn t-shirts and faded cargo pants, all the while thinking she was beautiful.  Buffy in full formal dress, however, was a truly awe-inspiring sight.

She wore a pale pink sheath dress that reached almost to her ankles.  He fixated on that for a moment.  She had fantastic ankles.  He had worked next to her for weeks on end, and this was the first time he had ever seen them.  Forcing his gaze upward again, he noted how flawlessly the dress hugged her curves, which were deliciously evident.  Her long blonde tresses which were customarily braided or in a ponytail, hung loose down her back, reaching almost to her waist.  She was stunning.

We're six chapters in before we get to the blatant physical oogling.  I make you work for it in this story.

"What?" she asked nervously, shifting her weight on the balls of her feet - which were tied into a very sexy pair of strappy high heels.

"You look very ... nice," Angel finally managed to say.

"Oh," she said, somewhat relieved that he wasn't going to laugh at her.  "You too."

"Yeah," he said, "the suit is really nice, but it's a little too small."

She looked him over and frowned.  "Holtz said he it had been custom tailored."

"It was," Angel replied, "but it was custom tailored to the body I had when I finished DHST training.  With my new improved rations, I've put back a lot of the muscle I lost from starvation."

Here Angel pretty much repeats word for word what was already established in the narrative.  One of them really should have been removed.

"I noticed," Buffy said and then stopped herself, mortified that she let the comment slip.  Yes, she definitely had noticed that Angel's body had filled out.  When they sparred, he often did so without a shirt.  He went from thin to very well defined right before her eyes.

"We should probably get going," Angel said, changing the subject to avoid further embarrassing her.

"I thought ... maybe ... first we could," Buffy stuttered, pointing to his neck.

Buffy's peace offering.

Angel had no idea what she was talking about, and then he realized she was looking at the stained skin that still circled his neck.  He took his tags off before hitting the shower, leaving them lying on his night stand.

Nervously, Buffy fumbled for the small purse she carried.  Angel watched as she extracted a small glass jar.  "I thought maybe ..." she said unevenly.

Angel cocked an eyebrow.  "What is it?" he asked warily.

"The taggers use it when they accidentally dye themselves," Buffy replied.  "It should remove all the stains."

"Oh," Angel said, shocked.

An awkward silence descended between them for several long seconds.

"Do you want me to put it on?" she asked, blushing slightly.

I like this scene.  I think it's innocent and awkward and titilating at the same time.  I actually prefer it to the rather graphic smut later in the story.

"Um ... sure," Angel replied, unable to think straight.  Buffy had actually gone to all the trouble of getting the dye remover.  He had difficulty making his feet move as he walked over to the bed and sat down so she could reach his neck.

Buffy swallowed harshly and moved to kneel on the floor in front of his seated form.  She was determined to finish what she started without making a fool of herself.  She wasn't exactly sure why she was doing this and she was too scared to question it very closely.  For some reason, it bothered her deeply to think of him marked as someone's property, even hers.  And his skin was so beautiful, it was almost a sin to see it marred by the dye.

Her altruistic and selfish desires merge.

Keeping her concentration on her task, she opened the jar, revealing an icy blue cream with a faintly minty smell.  Careful not to get any on her dress, she daubed a bit of the cream on her finger and slowly reached for his left wrist.  She rubbed the cream into the skin carefully, making sure to coat all of the gray areas.

Angel tensed under her gentle contact, but made no effort to pull away, transfixed by the feel of her touch.  The cream tingled slightly, but didn't burn.  She rubbed his flesh slowly, her tiny fingers fuck.  more with the tiny fingers.  obviously my twitchiness over the tininess wasn't full blown yet when I wrote this fic.  unable to span his large wrist, and Angel was extremely thankful that he hadn't fed recently.  A blush would have been very not suave.  However, a second thoughts hit his brain about two seconds after it hit another part of his anatomy.

Frantically, he tried to think about anything other than Buffy's warm little fingers gliding over his skin.

Buffy continued, blissfully unaware and by the time she was working on the second wrist, the first was already showing signs of bleaching back to the normal alabaster white of his flesh.  Taking a deep breath, she rose to her feet.  He didn't move a muscle as she pulled her long skirt up above her knees and knelt on the bed beside him.

With as much care and attention to detail as she had shown his wrists, she started with the back of his neck, rubbing the blue cream into the discolored flesh.  She could see the grooves from where the collar bit into the flesh of his neck and did her best to massage them out with her strong fingers.

She worked for a long time, and was almost finished when she realized that Angel had been absolutely silent the entire time.  Buffy prayed she hadn't embarrassed him with her gesture.  I find her oblivion here very endearingIt wasn't that she thought he looked bad with the stains, far from it.  Still she felt slightly mortified at the thought that she might have offended him.

Buffy chanced a peek at his face, searching for any indication that he was unhappy with her actions.  His jaw was clenched tightly, the rigid muscles standing out prominently.  His eyes were screwed shut, but his nostrils flared as he breathed.  Breathed?  Buffy noticed that he was indeed breathing in ragged gusts.  Was she hurting him?

The entire time she was studying him, her fingers had never stopped their work, industriously smoothing out the grooves and massaging the bleaching cream into his skin.  He was evidently unaware of her perusal, too caught up in some internal monologue.

Buffy took the opportunity to look at the rest of him.  Perhaps there was something else bothering him that she hadn't noticed.  "Oh my gods," she whispered, dragging her gaze up his body with alacrity.

Unfortunately, her little outburst betrayed her assessment of his body and when she brought her eyes up, they locked firmly with Angel's.  Buffy blushed furiously.  She knew that guys got ... well that they could get excited when a girl touched them, but as far as she knew, she never had that effect on one before.

And there most definitely had been an effect.

Angel swiftly grabbed her hands in his, stilling their motion.  They were face to face, mouths mere centimeters apart due to the fact that he had twisted his torso towards her.

Buffy couldn't help herself. Unbidden, her vision once again flicked down to his groin.  The front of his pants were still tented with the obvious force of his arousal.  Slowly, she met his gaze.  He didn't seem to be embarrassed, making no protests at her glances.  On the contrary, he sat perfectly still, his hands clasped tightly around hers.

Slowly, she sat back and he released her hands.  She held the jar of bleaching cream out to him.  "Maybe you should finish the rest of it," she said quickly.

"That's probably a good idea," he replied, his fingers brushing hers as he took the jar.

Angel finished applying the bleach with some difficulty, given that he had no reflection, so he could not use a mirror.  Buffy wandered restlessly around his suite of rooms as he rubbed in the cream, trying to look busy or distracted.  She idly flipped through the stacks of books lying here and there.

Angel felt like such a goon.  Where had his self control gone?  By the time he was finished, he had his body reasonably under control.  Buffy was on the opposite side of the room, avoiding looking in his direction.  Quickly, Angel grabbed his tags and secured them in place, hiding his newly flawless skin.  "You ready?" he asked.

"Sure," Buffy chirped, heading for the door without glancing in his direction.

[End Chapter 6]

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