Faded Photographs

by Saber ShadowKitten




Part Three


Los Angeles, 2000



Angel was unable to stop himself from burying his nose in Tanner's hair and inhaling as he carried the unconscious man to the couch. Tanner smelled of old London, which wasn't all too pleasant, but underneath Angel smelled tailor's chalk and honeysuckle and pure human maleness.

The dark-haired vampire laid Tanner down on the couch, knelt beside him and unconsciously nuzzled the soft area behind his ear. A low purr rumbled from Angel's chest as he inhaled a second time. No one but Tanner had ever smelled of honeysuckle soap, which was handmade by the mortal's sister. Angel remembered how strong the scent was the night he and Tanner-

"Angel, what are you doing?"

Angel shoved back from the couch in surprise and skidded several feet across the tile floor on his backside. The vampire looked up at Wesley with wide-eyes. "Wesley! I didn't hear you come in."

"If you don't mind my asking," Wesley began. He glanced at Tanner then looked back at Angel. "Where's Cordelia?"

"Other office," Angel said, pointing over his shoulder.

Wesley nodded and headed in that direction. "Well, carry on."

"Don't you want to know who he is?" Angel asked, climbing to his feet.

"I am certain Cordelia will fill me in," Wesley said.

Angel stared in confusion as the ex-Watcher entered the inner office and shut the door behind him. If Angel had caught Wesley with his face near another man's neck...

The dark-haired vampire silently cursed. Wesley was going to see if there was need to get the stakes out. On the one hand, it was a smart thing to do. On the other, it cut Angel deeply. Damn Rebecca and her stupid pills.

Angel crossed to the mini-refrigerator to get some water for Tanner, shoving the guilt and hurt feelings aside. He had a human in his office that belonged in another place and time. A human who, at one time, he'd touched and held and loved.

Angel shut the refrigerator door and leaned against it, his eyes immediately going to the still form on the couch as he tried to gather his thoughts. Everything was muddled, especially his emotions. A part of him wanted to walk over to the couch, wrap his arms around Tanner and never let go. The other part wanted to call Buffy.

The word confusion couldn't come close to describing what Angel was feeling. He was Angelus, but he wasn't. The demon he resided within him may have been the one in control when he first met and loved Tanner, but Angel was the one recalling all of the memories. It was still with these eyes that he had once watched Tanner for hours. He had listened to the young man with these ears and had laughed with this voice at the human's wry jokes. These hands had touched Tanner. These lips had tingled after their first kiss. These insides had melted each time Tanner smiled shyly at him.

Tanner stirred and Angel headed over to him, formulating a plan of action in his mind that didn't involve soft sheets and candlelight. The ensouled vampire's first priority was to find out why Tanner had stepped through time and into his office. Angel wouldn't believe that it was just by accident. The second step was to figure out what to do with that information.

Angel stopped at the bottom corner of the couch near Tanner's boot-clad feet, not wanting to loom over the sable-haired mortal as he rejoined the future world. Angel watched as Tanner's eyes fluttered open and the cerulean orbs focused on him. He heard the human's heartbeat speed up and he extended the bottle of water in what he hoped was a non-threatening gesture.

"It wasn't a soddin' dream, was it?" Tanner said.

Angel shook his head. "No. I'm sorry, but you're really in the future."

"Me father's going to kill me," Tanner muttered under his breath. "And Anna's going to kill me for not bringin' 'er along."

The mention of Tanner's friend's name made Angel's lips curl back in a sneer before he could stop them. Luckily, Tanner had looked away as he sat up. Angel didn't want to scare Tanner any more than the young man already was.

If Angel couldn't control his reactions whenever Anna's name was spoken he was going to be in big trouble, because Anna had been the extremely shy young man's only friend and the two had been very close. Tanner had no idea what was going to occur between him and his friend after he was turned into a vampire. Tanner didn't even know that, if he had still been in his own time, that very night he would have met the man he'd been waiting for to sweep him off his size ten feet.

"Here," Angel said, slightly shaking the water bottle in his hand. "It's water."

Tanner gave the bottle a funny look before taking it from Angel's hand. "Thanks."

The inner office door opened and Wesley and Cordelia stepped through the doorway. "Angel," Cordelia said, rubbing her temples. "You remember that article we were looking at on the computer before the blast from your past came in? You need to go do something about it."

"Where?" Angel asked.

"Somewhere in Bel Air," Cordelia said as she walked over to her desk and retrieved her purse. "I'll recognize the place when I see it."

"I'll stay here," Wesley said. He nodded towards Tanner. "Cordelia has filled me in on the... situation. I'll see what I can find out while you're gone."

"Right." Angel turned to Tanner. "Tanner, I need to go and, um, work. This is Wesley, my associate. He's going to stay with you, okay?"

Tanner glanced at Wesley, looked up at Angel, then dropped his chin and nodded. Angel could see him nibble nervously on his lower lip and the dark-haired vampire suddenly wanted to nibble it for him.

Definitely time to leave, Angel thought, purposely moving away from Tanner. "We'll be back as soon as we can. Let's go, Cordelia."

*****

A kick, punch and sickening crunch later, the demon was dead and the sun had set in the sky. Angel ran a weary hand over the back of his neck, grimacing when it felt sticky. He had muddy- yellow demon innards and blood spattered all over him, and he smelled worse than a landfill in August. Cordelia had almost made him walk home, but then he reminded her that it was his car and she relented... only because the car was a convertible and the sun had gone down.

The dark-haired vampire started in surprise when he found Wesley and Tanner in his kitchen upon entering his apartment. They were both chatting amicably, although Tanner's head was cast down, and eating what Angel assumed was dinner.

Angel took a step in their direction then stopped, remembering he smelled like he went swimming in the fountain of puke. He cleared his throat and raised a hand in greeting. "Hi. I'm back."

Tanner glanced at him, blushed and dropped his eyes again. "Hel-hello," he greeted softly.

"My word, Angel, I hope that's not all yours," Wesley said, rising from his seat. Angel waved him back down. "No, I'm fine. The, uh, child at the... er, mud races... has been...uh, helped." Yeah, that wasn't a bad lie, he thought derisively.

"Ah, good," Wesley said. "Tanner and I were having a bit of dinner. I hope that's all right with you that we invaded your kitchen?"

"Yes," Angel replied. "Keep eating. I'm going to take a shower."

Tanner began to cough suddenly and Angel started for the young man without hesitation. "Tanner, are you okay?"

Tanner nodded rapidly, his eyes firmly focused on his plate. "Fine," he gasped between coughs. "I'm fine."

Angel pulled up short of reaching the sable-haired human when he recognized the telltale flush of arousal staining Tanner's skin. Instantly, the vampire pivoted on his heel and headed back towards his bedroom.

"Clean. Me. Now getting," he said over his shoulder, his mind too focused on getting as far away from Tanner as he could before he took the lad right then and there to speak intelligently.

Angel closed the bathroom door, locked it and leaned back against it as he reigned in his control. He thumped his head on the wood of the door several times, repeating with each hit: "bad, bad, bad, bad, bad..."

There might not have been that intense connection between him and Tanner that there'd been between Angelus and the human, but that didn't mean the sable-haired youth didn't find him attractive. Tanner was a young, healthy, sexy-as-hell homosexual. Why shouldn't he get aroused at the word picture Angel had painted? Heck, if Tanner said he was going to take a shower, Angel would have had to bite his tongue in order not to volunteer to wash those hard-to-reach places.

"Horny old pervert," Angel muttered to himself. He forced himself away from the door after a final bang of his head and began to strip out of his demon-soiled clothing. "Tanner is off-limits, curse or not. You love Buffy. You desire Buffy. You fantasize about Buffy whenever you get free time to act like a horny old pervert. Although, there were those few about Doyle..."

Angel twisted the shower knob with more force than necessary after he stepped into the shower. "No, not Doyle either," he grumbled. "No men. No women. No friends. No enemies. Not even sheep. Okay, now I'm scaring myself. And talking to myself. Oh god, I'm *babbling* to myself. I've channeled my inner-Willow."

The dark-haired vampire closed his eyes and started to laugh. He stuck his gunked-up head under the shower spray. He hadn't thought of his one-time redheaded friend since he saw her last November. He wondered how she was doing. Maybe he'd drop her a letter "just to say hey," as Cordelia would put it. She'd probably be intrigued by the presence of Tanner.

"You managed to not think about him for five whole seconds," Angel sighed as he grabbed the soap. "This is going to be a long night."

He concentrated on getting the muddy-yellow demon guts off his body and not thinking about the human who was once the most important thing in his undead world.

Angel's brow furrowed slightly as that thought came to him. Tanner, the shy, handsome *human*, was the most important thing in his soulless self's unlife at one time. Angelus had loved Tanner fiercely and would have done anything, including taking a walk out into the sunlight, just to see Tanner's smile.

Angel had told Buffy that he'd only loved one person, and that person was her. He hadn't lied to her. With his soul, both as a vampire and as a mortal named Liam, he had only loved one person.

But, residing within his body and keeping him 'alive', was a demon whose thoughts and desires intermingled so much with his own it was hard to tell where he ended and the demon began. It was one of the reasons why he didn't usually delineate between himself and the demon. In this instance, though, the difference between Angel and the demon was great, because the demon had also only loved one person in his entire existence -- the human named Tanner.

Stepping back under the spray, Angel rinsed the soap from his body as he continued to think. Angelus had told Drusilla and Spike that he hated Buffy because she made him feel human, but that wasn't the entire truth. Angelus hated Buffy because she had made him have feelings similar to the ones he'd once had for Tanner a century prior to Angelus being freed again. To the demon's mind it made what Angelus had with Tanner cheap somehow, and that was something he'd never admit in front of the vampire Tanner had become.

With another sigh, Angel turned off the shower, toweled himself off and left the bathroom to dress. He could hear the soft tones of Tanner's voice as the young man spoke with Wesley. He moved closer to the bedroom doorway to listen.

One of his greatest pleasures had been sitting and listening to Tanner speak, because he didn't hold conversations with just anyone. Wesley was lucky to be able to get a single word out of the super-shy mortal. It had taken Angel quite a bit to get Tanner to even look at him the first time they went out together. But when Tanner had finally met his eyes straight on, as they sat across the table from each other in the pub, all the frustration he'd felt had been worth it.

*****



~London, Friday, 27 May, 1872~



Angelus felt an odd flip-flop in his stomach as he rang the bell to the Tanner's home. If it wasn't such a ridiculous notion, he'd think that he was nervous.

"Mr. Angelus," Beth greeted upon opening the door. "Back so soon?"

"Aye," Angelus replied. "Is Tanner in, please?"

"No, me father is out for the eve-"

"Nay, not your father," Angelus interrupted. "Your brother."

Beth arched her brow. "You want to see me brother?"

Angelus nodded. "I wanted t' see if he'd like t' go get a pint with me."

The expression of amazement that crossed Beth's face surprised Angelus. He knew that Tanner wasn't the social bug, but the lad had to have been asked to get a drink before.

"Come in, Mr. Angelus," Beth said, stepping back from the doorway.

"Many thanks, Mrs. Bradford," Angelus said politely, entering the Tanner household for the second time.

Beth closed the door behind him. "I'll get Tanner."

As she walked away, Angelus patted his black overcoat, checking to make sure he still had the money he'd stolen from his dinner the prior night. He was dressed casually for an evening of going to a pub, rather than his usual finery; simple white shirt, black trousers, his worn black riding boots. He put a hand to his hair, hoping the slight May breeze didn't make the dark, six-inch, brushed-back tresses stick up all over.

"H-Hello," Tanner greeted softly as he entered the foyer. His head was downcast and the tips of his ears were red. "Beth said you wanted to-to see me?"

Angelus's body hardened at the sight of the young man and he felt a strange pang in the center of his chest. "Ay-e." His voice cracked on the word and he cleared his throat before trying again. "Aye, 'tis correct."

Tanner looked up at Angelus, but his gaze quickly skittered away. He nervously played with a the button on his off-white shirt just above the waistband of his dark brown trousers. "Oh... er..."

"I was hopin' you'd come out t' the pub with me," Angelus said.

"Why?"

Angelus was surprised by the extreme wariness in Tanner's tone. The lie he'd prepared felt awkward when he said it and his brogue deepened because of it. "I be new t' London an' ye seemed like a nice enough lad close t' me age that me thought mayhaps ye'd be willin' t' get a pint wit' me."

Tanner nibbled on his lower lip and studied Angelus under his lashes. "I-I can't."

"What?" Angelus said incredulously. The beginnings of anger replaced his surprise. "Ye mind tellin' me why ye canna? The truth, lad. I've no patience fer lies."

"You-you-you said you're new to L-London," Tanner stammered, staring down at his feet. "If you're seen with me, you-you'll make no other m-mates. You'll b-be labeled a-a-a qu-queer."

"Yer point?"

Tanner's head snapped up and he stared at Angelus, wide-eyed. "What do you mean?"

Angelus felt fire seep into his veins when his eyes locked with Tanner's and he knew right then that he had to be honest if he wanted to have the young man willingly come to his bed. And he very much wanted Tanner willingly in his bed.

"I lied t' you, Tanner," he said, his thick brogue slipping away into his more cultured, Irish-lilted speech as his anger vanished. "I'm not new t' London. I want you t' come out with me because I want t' get t' know you. And if you fear what others will say, don't bother," he winked at Tanner, "because 'twill be the truth."

The dark-haired vampire watched as a red flush slowly crept over the young man's skin. Tanner broke eye-contact and put his hands one over the other in front of the growing bulge in his trousers. The scent of arousal assailed Angelus's senses and it took all his willpower not to pounce on Tanner right there in the foyer. Despite the sable-haired youth's obvious desire for him, Angelus knew Tanner's shyness would make him flee if the vampire made that sort of sexual overture.

"Well, will you be comin' then?" Angelus asked, tongue-in-cheek.

Tanner's flush grew so deep in color, he looked like he smeared cranberry jam all over his face. "I-i-i-if y-you wish m-me to," he stuttered, extremely flustered.

Angelus chuckled. "Grab your coat, lad. 'Tis a bit nippy out this night."

"Right." Tanner turned on his heels and practically bolted from the foyer.

Less than three seconds later, Beth strode purposely up to him, a hard look to her face. "Now you bloody well listen here, Mr. Angelus," she said in a harsh whisper. "You'd best not be messing with Tanner or I'll get me father's cane and tan your soddin' hide, no matter how big you think you are. I've bandaged him enough and watched him close himself off too many bleedin' times because he'd been hurt by other pillocks who've said they wanted to be chums, only to turn around and beat him because he's different.

"Tanner is a soft soul, Mr. Angelus," Beth continued. "He's always been shy, but his shyness has steadily grown more pronounced since he became a man some nine years ago. If you want to be his mate, good, because a person should have more than one chum. If you want to be more than his mate, that's good, too, as long as you don't hurt him. If you're just here to get a bloody cheap laugh, you can turn around and march out that door straight to hell."

She's like a mother hen with her feather's ruffled, Angelus thought, keeping the smirk from his face. "I've not designs t' hurt the lad, milady," he told her. "I just be wantin' t' get t' know him."

Beth nodded. "Right then. I'll leave you to him. But remember my warning."

She started to walk away the same time that Tanner returned, wearing a calf-length black overcoat. "I'm going out, Beth," the sable-haired man told his sister.

"I know, luv," Beth said. "Enjoy yourself. I'll see you on the morn."

Tanner gave her a small smile, which she returned before continuing back to the kitchen. He glanced at Angelus and ducked his head. "I'm ready, guv."

"Call me Angelus, Tanner," Angelus instructed as he reached for the door. "And stick close t' me. There be all sorts o' nasty things out this time o' night."

"Right... Angelus."

Angelus never realized the sound of his own name could cause his toes to curl.



*****





Angelus held the door open and allowed his companion to proceed him into the pub on Drummond Street. The pub was fairly crowded and the scent of unwashed bodies, ale and smoke was heavy in the air. The furnishings were worn, a testament to the longstanding establishment. Boisterous voices carried across the room, from the long bar to the tables to the dart boards, as friends greeted friends, fights were picked and settled, and complaints were emphatically made about work and women.

"Try t' find us a table, lad, and I'll get us our pints," Angelus instructed, leaning closer to Tanner to speak near the young man's ear. He smelled the faint scent of honeysuckle coming from Tanner's hair and skin and it sent a sliver of arousal to his groin.

"Right," Tanner agreed, moving further into the pub.

Angelus made his way to the bar and quickly ordered two drinks. His gaze slowly traveled around the room as he waited for the bartender to fill his order, his eyes noting possible hazards and the exits. He took in the general mood of the patrons. He didn't want his first outing with Tanner to be tainted with violence.

Ah, Tanner, Angelus thought, his gaze easily landing on where the sable-haired man had claimed a table. There was something about the youth that pulled on him in ways he hadn't felt before. Yes, the sexual attraction was high between them, but Angelus had the insane desire to want to see Tanner simply smile at him, and he didn't know why.

Picking up the matching tankards, Angelus headed towards the saved table. Tanner looked up when Angelus was partway across the room and he inhaled sharply when his eyes locked with the other man's. There was no question, Angelus had to have this human.

"I see you've found us a good one, Tanner," Angelus said, placing the amber liquid on the table before sitting down across from the young man.

"Got l-lucky," Tanner said, his long fingers curling around the tankard before him as he dropped his gaze.

"Aye, you did," Angelus said. "There seems t' be a bit o' a crowd this night. Is it always like this?"

Tanner shrugged, his gaze focused on the alcohol.

"Tanner, I'm goin' t' warn you only once. You are t' answer me when I speak t' you," Angelus said with irritation. "If I wanted t' have a conversation with meself, I would've brought Drusilla out instead o' you."

"S-s-s-sorry," Tanner stuttered. "I c-can't... I don't..." He stopped, swallowed, darted an uncomfortable glance around at the other patrons, then went on. "...I'm not good w-with people."

"Dinna worry about them, focus on me," Angelus said. "I know you're shy, lad, but I'm not goin' t' bite you right at this very moment."

"So, are y-you planning on doing it l-later, then?" Tanner ventured with a heavy blush and a hesitant half-smile, glancing up at the vampire from under his long lashes.

"Aye, Tanner, I just might," Angelus replied with a chuckle. He leaned forward and added devilishly, "But you'll never guess where."

"At Euston Station?" Tanner joked shyly, his words almost running together as he said them.

Angelus laughed loudly, drawing the nearby patrons' attention to him. "Mayhaps at Euston Station, aye."

Tanner raised his head and gave Angelus a bashfully happy smile, his eyes crinkling in the corners. Angelus was extremely glad he was seated because the world shifted under his feet. It was the first time Tanner had fully smiled and the effects were devastating. Angelus didn't know whether to laugh in joy, puff up with pride for causing the smile or throw the boy down onto the floor and make mad passionate love with him.

Angelus chose the second option, straightened in his chair and gave Tanner a rapscallious grin in return. "'Tis a good sense o' humor you have there, lad. I'd best be on me toes, lest you out-jest me."

Tanner colored with pleasure, the tips of his ears taking on a rosy hue. He dropped his chin and fiddled with the tankard on the table.

"So, Tanner, tell me what do you do t' earn your keep," Angelus said, even though he already knew, before taking a draught from his drink. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed one burly patron sitting a few tables away had taken an interest in them.

"I'm a tailor," Tanner said, his voice soft, but mostly stutter-free. "I work for Mr. Crittendon o-over in Euston Square."

"Do you enjoy it?" Angelus asked, glad that the sable-haired mortal had taken heed of his warning and also seemed to be relaxing a bit.

"It's all right," Tanner replied with a shrug. He traced his finger down the side of the tankard, creating a clear path through the moisture. "I get to work alone, which is a good thing," his lips curled up in a smile, "and I get to make eyes at who comes in without being seen..."

He abruptly blushed a brilliant shade of magenta. "Pre-pretend y-you didn't 'ear that l-last bit."

Angelus chuckled. "Nay, dinna worry, Tanner. 'Tis something I do meself and quite often, as well."

"Well, well, what 'ave we 'ere? Looks like good ol' Willy's got 'imself a new mate."

Tanner blanched and seemed to curl into himself when the man Angelus had been keeping an eye on came up to their table. Angelus frowned at Tanner, then swept his irritated gaze up to the large man standing beside them. The vampire recognized him as being one of the people who'd bothered Tanner a week prior.

"Go a-a-away, M-Mick," Tanner stammered in a small voice.

Mick ignored Tanner and focused on Angelus. "I thought I'd come over and give warnin'. It bein' as how I've not seen you round 'ere before, I figured you must be a newcomer to the north end."

Angelus didn't reply to the subtle prompt as to his newness in the city, he only arched his brow and waited.

"Right then," Mick said. "Just thought I'd tell you Willy 'ere is a great steamin' poof, so you'd best get far away before you're bloody well labeled that yourself."

Before Angelus could tell the man off, Tanner spoke up angrily, surprising the vampire. "Don't call m-me that, y-you effin' ponce."

"I'm tremblin' in me boots," Mick said. "What're you goin' to do, nancyboy, tell your mummy?"

"I'm goin' to break your bloody jaw, that's what," Tanner said, rising to his feet.

The shy one had backbone, Angelus thought with a touch of pride. He'd seen it briefly the week before, but he didn't know he'd get to see it again so soon. And it was nice that Tanner did have some balls to stand up for himself. Intriguing shyness aside, there was such a thing as being too pathetically weak, and that was something Angelus couldn't stomach more than a few days. One Drusilla was enough.

Mick laughed mockingly as he took a step closer to Tanner. The other man towered over Tanner by close to a foot and had at least a hundred pounds on the youth. "Go ahead," Mick leaned forward and pointed to his chin, "give 'er your best shot."

Tanner's hands were clenched into trembling fists at his sides and Angelus could hear the boy's heart pounding loudly despite the noise in the pub. The vampire could tell Tanner was scared, both of getting a beating and of losing face in front of him. Angelus knew he could help -- Mick was no threat to him at all -- but that would end up making things awkward between him and the sable-haired mortal.

Angelus folded his hands behind his head and relaxed back in his chair. If things got too out of hand, he'd help, but, until then, he'd allow Tanner to fight his own battle. And, much later, he'd kill Mick for interrupting his night out with the handsome youth.

"Just leave us alone," Tanner said, glaring up at Mick.

Mick snorted and straightened. "Right. Like I'm goin' to listen to your soddin' demands."

"Who do you think will listen when I start spreadin' the word about how good you are in the sack?" Tanner asked him, his voice low and angry. "Or about how I loved feelin' your hand wrapped around me prick, wankin' me off? Or how you begged me to suck you and use me fingers to-"

Mick's fist flew out and smashed into Tanner's eye. Tanner staggered a step back, caught his knees on the chair and sat down hard as he lost his balance. The bigger man snagged Tanner by his off-white shirt, lifted him back out of the chair and right off his feet.

"You an' me are goin' outside," Mick growled, practically nose-to-nose with Tanner.

"Anxious to bugger me, lover?" Tanner said in soft falsetto.

Mick's face turned purple and his arms began to shake from withholding his fury. "I'm goin' to break you in 'alf an' make you suck your own cock, you fucking nonce."

"Me cock's long enough that I can do that without the pain...," Tanner winked at him, "...but you already knew that, didn't you, pet?"

Oh hell, how Angelus wanted the boy. He was very glad he chose not to interfere, because he'd never have gotten to see the fire within the handsome man. That friend of Tanner's, Anna, had said something about the mortal being shy unless he was mad, and she hadn't lied one bit.

Mick sputtered in rage and Tanner used the opportunity of the brute's speechlessness to wrap his hands partially around Mick's biceps, close the distance between their faces, and give Mick a short kiss right on the lips.

Angelus hooted in laughter at the same time Mick threw Tanner away from him. Tanner crashed back into the chair, taking it over with him as he toppled to the floor. Patrons cleared out of the way and several yelled bets back and forth as the bigger man stomped over to Tanner and kicked him in the ribs.

The vampire decided he'd better step in before his soon-to-be bedmate was too injured to participate. Without any trouble, Angelus grabbed Mick's shoulder, spun the man around and coldcocked him. Mick's eyes rolled up and he dropped bonelessly to the floor... right on top of Tanner.

"Oi, get this pillock off me," Tanner grunted.

Angelus effortlessly moved Mick aside and offered a hand to Tanner. "You okay, boy?" the vampire asked as he helped Tanner to his feet.

Tanner hissed and pressed his right arm close to his side. "Yeah, I'm peachy."

Angelus shook his head in amusement, threw his arm around Tanner's shoulder and led the young man out of the pub. "That was quite the interetin' fight, Tanner," the vampire commented once they were out on the street.

"I don't n-normally do that," Tanner said.

"Well, what do you normally do?" Angelus asked.

"Get the tar beat out of me," Tanner replied, giving the vampire a quick grin.

Angelus chuckled. "Aye, well, if it be any consolation, you were about t' have that happen."

"Thanks, mate," Tanner said sarcastically.

The short walk back to Tanner's flat, on Hampstead Road, was made in companionable silence. Angelus warned off a vampire with a flash of his golden eyes when the fledgling made to attack from an alley, but the rest of the trip was without mishap.

There was a gas lamplight directly in front of the Tanner residence, which cast a cheery, flickering glow on the sidewalk and against the front facade of the home. Angelus made mental note to make certain the lamplight was always lit, thus creating less of a temptation for other creatures of the night to attack Tanner as he fumbled for his key. Not that he planned on allowing another night to pass without being at the mortal's side.

"Right, well, th-this is m-me," Tanner said, his shy stutter returning. He turned to face Angelus as he pocketed his key after unlocking the door.

"Aye," Angelus said. "You'd best put somethin' cold on that eye o' yours. 'Tis already turnin' an attractive shade o' bishop's blue."

"Al-alright," Tanner said, twisting the edges of his overcoat, his dark head downcast. "I, er, g-guess I'll see you s-sometime."

"On the morrow, eight o'clock," Angelus said. "And, if I'm a lucky man, our second courtin' eve will be as entertainin' as this one."

Tanner's head shot up, in what was becoming a familiar manner to Angelus, and the young man's eyes were huge as he met the vampire's steady gaze. "Courting?"

"Aye, 'tis what I'm doin'...," Angelus gave him a dry smile, "...'less I'm doin' it wrong."

Tanner's voice squeaked as he replied, "No."

"No, I'm doin' it wrong, or no, I'm doin' it right?" Angelus teased.

"I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-"

"Breathe, lad," Angelus interrupted. "Lest you swoon like a woman." The dark-haired vampire struck a thoughtful pose. "Hmm, on second thought, swoon away. I'd be happy t' catch you in me arms."

Tanner sucked in a large breath of air and backed up until he hit the front door to his home. His heart was hammering so loudly, Angelus was afraid it was going to come right out of the boy's chest. The vampire decided he'd better stop playing with Tanner before he scared the shy man into not wanting to go out with him the following night. Plus, he had an interfering mortal named Mick he wanted to hunt and kill.

"Go ahead inside, Tanner," Angelus told the sable-haired lad softly. "I'll see you on the morrow."

Tanner nodded rapidly, his hand searching for the door handle without looking. One corner of Angelus's mouth curled up at the young man's actions and he took a single step back when Tanner finally got the door open.

"Goodnight," Angelus said with a polite dip of his head.

"'N-n-night," Tanner stammered in a higher-than-normal tone of voice.

Angelus started away and chuckled to himself when his enhanced hearing picked up Tanner's softly-spoken, amazed words before the human shut the door.

"Cor, I'm being courted."

Continued