Faded Photographs

by Saber ShadowKitten


Part Six





Los Angeles, Sunday, 28 May, 2000





"Angel!"

Angel's eyes snapped open at the irritated exclamation of his name. He noted several things instantly. First, his face was on his desk in a puddle of drool. Second, he'd been woken up from the middle of a dream about his first time with Tanner -- specifically their second day, when the young man lost his last vestiges of virginity. Third and last, there was an uncomfortable wetness in his pants.

The dark-haired vampire raised his head and blinked his blurry, sleep-filled eyes to clear them. Cordelia was frowning at him from the other side of his desk. "What time is it?" Angel asked.

"Nine," Cordelia replied. She gave him a critical look. "And it looks like you slept at your desk."

"That's because I did sleep at my desk," Angel said. He glanced down at his lap, grimaced and scooted his chair closer to his sleeping surface to hide the dark wet spot.

"Couldn't take being that close to shyboy and not being able to touch him?" Cordelia said.

"No," Angel lied.

"Yeah, whatever," Cordelia said. She pointed to the telephone. "Giles is on the phone for you."

Angel reached for the receiver. "Will you go downstairs and check on Tanner for me?"

"Why? Tanner's up here." Cordelia pointed to the other office. "He said he's been up since six, reading the paper."

As Cordelia walked away, Angel closed his eyes and prayed he hadn't spoken or, worse, moaned in his sleep. He picked up the receiver and put it to his ear. "Hello, Rupert."

"Angel," Giles's voice came clearly over the line. "Good morning."

"I take it that Spike's condition has changed?" Angel asked, knowing that was the only reason the ex-Watcher would be phoning.

"Yes," Giles replied. "He is significantly more translucent than yesterday. He opted to stay here on my couch last night and when I awoke this morning, I almost sat on him."

"Because you didn't see him there," Angel said.

"Correct," Giles said. "He was most put out."

"I can imagine." Angel looked towards the other office and saw Tanner seated on the couch, reading the newspaper with a small furrow between his dark brows. "Can you estimate how long you think it'll be before Spike completely disappears?"

"At the present rate he's, er, vanishing, I'd say he will no longer be in existence by tomorrow afternoon at the latest."

"Damn," Angel sighed and rubbed his eyes. "Only a day to decide."

"Decide?"

"Yeah," Angel said. He quickly explained the situation with Tanner and the conclusions he and his coworkers had drawn. Giles was as equally confused over the Back to the Future reference as Angel had been.

"Well, Angel, I don't envy you and the choice you must make," Giles said when Angel finished.

"What would you do?" Angel asked. "If you had to make the choice that would alter the past, what would you do?"

"A person can have many loves in one lifetime, Angel, but a person will have only one soul."

"Thanks, Rupert," Angel said. He hung up the phone after saying goodbye, turned his chair fully around and stared unhappily at the yellowish wall. Cordelia and Tanner's voices floated to him from the other office, followed by laughter.

A pang hit his heart at the happy, unfettered sound. How could he send Tanner back and destroy that beautiful, untainted laugh?

Angel sat silently contemplating his choices, glad that, for once, no one interrupted him. Spike had about a day left before he would completely disappear, which meant history would be forever changed if Angel didn't cast the spell before then. A box with the spellbook and spell components sat on the filing cabinet across the room, waiting to be used.

"What would happen if history did change?" Angel asked himself quietly. The vampire doubted that he'd suddenly find himself back in Sunnydale. Tanner was right here, which meant here he would stay as the past changed. If Angel or Cordelia or Wesley up and disappeared abruptly, Tanner would be alone. It was unlikely that the Powers That Be or whomever had pulled the sable-haired young man into the future'd had that in mind. No, Angel would bet that the past would still unfold as he knew it, only slightly altered because Spike would no longer be a factor.

Angel stood and looked through the window separating his office from the outer office. Tanner's ears were red and he was smiling bashfully at Cordelia. Wesley walked in at that moment and cheerfully greeted them, and Angel watched as Tanner ducked his chin shyly and mumbled hello.

"Wesley, can I speak to you a second?" Angel called, glad that the wet spot on his pants had dried.

"Hello, Angel," Wesley said as he entered the inner office. "What can I do for you?"

"I'm not sending Tanner back," Angel said without preamble.

"I see." Wesley looked through the open inner office door. "And have you informed Tanner of your decision?"

"Not yet," Angel said. He lifted a hand and rubbed his eyes. "I will later today."

"You've made the right decision, Angel," Wesley told him.

Angel sighed. "I know."

"But..." Wesley prompted.

"But I'm going to miss him," Angel admitted.

"I've pondered the dilemma and have come to the conclusion that not much shall change in terms of what we have experienced," Wesley said. "Plus, those of us who have knowledge of Tanner's presence will remember who he is, but the memories of Spike will eventually fade."

"And I'll eventually forget what it was like to love him," Angel said.

"Yes," Wesley said. "However, I think that watching that young man in the other room live a full life will make that transition easier."

"I never wanted Tanner to become a vampire, you know," Angel said, moving to the shaded window. He carefully pulled back the shade slightly and looked out. "When he... died, a part of me died with him."

Wesley leaned against Angel's desk. "I take it your feelings for Tanner didn't transfer to the vampire he became."

"No, they did," Angel said, his voice dropping as a past full of blood and sex and violence crept through his mind. "But I almost had to relearn how to love him. William had the same humor, intelligence and passion, but he didn't have Tanner's shyness. He didn't blush every time I suggested we adjourn to the bedroom. He didn't have the same innocent smile."

Angel dropped the shade, his vision focused inward, and a wicked smile curving up his lips. "Although loving another vampire had its pluses, too. There are some things that can only be shared-"

"You needn't go into detail," Wesley interrupted.

Angel shook off the memories and turned to his coworker. "Needless to say, I did love William, too, in a different, very vampiric way," he said as he walked back to the window between the offices. "We were together for twenty extremely interesting years. Drusilla wasn't a problem between us, and neither was Darla when we met up with her in Romania in the 1890's."

Angel paused and once again glanced into the inner office, watching Tanner as he neatly folded the portion of the newspaper he was reading, set it on the couch beside him on the pile already there, and took the next section. Angel smiled tenderly at the young man's actions, tears forming in his eyes as he continued.

"But my demon's love for Tanner was that once-in-a-lifetime type of true love that ended when his life ended," Angel said, his throat tightening from emotion. "Saying goodbye to him is going to be like having him die all over again."

"But Tanner is not going anywhere," Wesley said in confusion.

Angel gave Wesley a sad smile. "He's leaving my heart."



*****



London, Wednesday, 29 June, 1873





The Drummond Street pub was bustling for a Wednesday night. Angelus had a hard time getting any sort of service, which normally would've pissed him off, but he was in a decidedly cheerful mood. Drusilla was, for once, behaving quite nicely and not like the insane vampiress she really was. Tanner was laughing and blushing like an adorable little boy, while Anna told raucous tales about the patrons filling the pub.

Angelus covered Tanner's hand with his, smiling tenderly at the sable-haired man, who returned the smile with a devastating one of his own. The vampire's heart swelled, and the feeling didn't bother him a bit because he had found the one thing that was better than blood and sex and violence.

Love.

The great and mighty Scourge of Europe was completely and thoroughly in love with a human. A handsome, shy, passionate, caring, wonderful human, who blushed and stammered and could do the most wicked things with his tongue. A human who was full of life, who could light a burning desire within Angelus with a single look and could make his heart feel like it was beating with a simple smile.

It was a disgustingly good feeling, love. It put a bounce in the vampire's step, an extra sting in his bite and made him whistle while he was torturing someone. He'd even once found himself singing a love ballad as he carved out a newlywed couple's hearts from their bodies.

Everything around Angelus seemed brighter; his senses were sharper and his mind was clearer. His plans went off without any hitches. His tolerance of Drusilla and Tanner's friend, Anna, was limitless. Even his luck at the card tables was without boundaries. And it was all because of his feelings for a bashful young man whose kisses made the vampire's lips tingle and whose laugh made his toes curl.

Anyone who said love was a weakness was just jealous of those who found it. Angelus could not find a single detriment to being in love. In fact, if he'd known how much stronger and clever love would make him, he would have tried to find it a century ago. With the power of love behind him, he could have destroyed the old masters and made himself Supreme Master Vampire of Europe.

Angelus felt the familiar desire to show Tanner how much he was loved stirring in his loins. The boy was staying with him for a few nights, over Tanner's protests about propriety, because

Drusilla'd had a vision earlier that day about an unbearable pain and darkness that was coming. Whatever it was, it would lead to a change that had the vampiress laughing wickedly and dancing around the flat. Until Angelus knew what the vision meant, he wanted to keep Tanner within arms' reach at night.



Angelus leaned closer to Tanner, who was sitting beside him at the table, to speak privately to the lad. "'Tis time t' leave, Tanner," he said quietly. "I've plans for you this eve that involve me lips and your bare skin."

Tanner blushed and ducked his head, a flustered smile of happiness tugging at his lips. "Alright," he said softly.

Angelus nodded in satisfaction, rose to his feet and spoke to the two females at the table. "Ladies, 'tis time t' leave."

"Tanner's gettin' sha-agged, Tanner's gettin' sha-agged," Anna sang, none-too-softly, as she stood. "Tanner's gettin' sha-agged."

"Anna!" Tanner stood quickly, his face bright red as he tried to put his hand over Anna's mouth.

Anna smiled mischievously at him, threw her arm around his shoulder and led the way towards the door of the pub. "Tanner, I've been wonderin' if you've ever tried this position I've read about..."

Angelus arched his brow as Anna's voice was swallowed up by the noise within the pub. He'd have to ask Tanner -- or, better yet, get a demonstration -- of what position Anna was speaking about.

The vampire took Drusilla's arm and followed the two friends. "You've been a good girl, Drusilla," Angelus said. "I think you're t' get a reward for that."

Drusilla smiled wickedly. "Is my daddy going to play with me?"

"Aye," Angelus replied with a wicked smile of his own. "After Tanner goes off t' work on the morrow, I'll play wit' you until you beg me t' stop."

Drusilla snapped her teeth at him and Angelus chuckled.

"You'll have to tell me if it works or not," Anna was saying as the two vampires caught up with the two mortals as they exited the pub.

"Tell you if what works?" Angelus asked as he released Drusilla's arm in order to walk beside Tanner. Tanner's red face, quick breathing and flustered squeak of "nothing" made Angelus resolve to get that demonstration.

Anna laughed as they started up the street. "Perhaps I should tell him..."

"No!" Tanner exclaimed.

Angelus was about to tease Tanner further when he heard the loud retort of a gun being fired. He started to turn to try and locate the source when Tanner jerked and stumbled into him. Angelus caught Tanner by the arms to steady him. "Tanner, are you- Tanner!"

Tanner's body weight carried a shocked Angelus down to his knees. The scent of fresh blood sent a wave of panic through the vampire.

"Angelus?" Tanner said in a shaky voice, his face a ghostly pale.

"No...," Angelus's eyes focused on the dark red spot blooming on Tanner's clothing, "no..."

"I'll get help," Anna said before she took off running.

Angelus couldn't move. He could only watch as the spot on Tanner's shirt grew larger and the scent of blood grew stronger. There was a roaring sound in his ears, as if he was standing on the ocean's shore as the waves crashed down.

"An-Angelus, I'm c-cold," Tanner's weak voice cut through to him. "Very c-c-cold."

The vampire mechanically removed his coat and covered Tanner with it. His focus slowly shifted to Tanner's pale face. "Tanner..."

Tanner met Angelus's gaze for a brief moment before his eyes glazed over and his body went limp.

"TANNER!" Pain exploded in Angelus, a thick, black, all-encompassing pain that washed over his body and made him shake uncontrollably. His heart felt as though it had been torn from his chest, leaving a gaping cavity of darkness.

The infamous and powerful Scourge of Europe was unable to do anything but fall forward, his arms going around Tanner's still form as he pressed his face to the young man's stomach. The scent of fresh blood was overpowering, sending a lancing bolt of anguish to Angelus's heart. He began to plead with Tanner, his voice broken and full of raw agony, his brogue thick and barely understandable.

"Tanner, dinna do this. Dinna leave me. Ye canna die. I canna be wit' out ye. I love ye, Tanner. Yer e'erthin' t' me. I love ye. Please, heartling, dinna do this t' me. I bloody need ye..."

Angelus was engulfed with a heart-wrenching pain that blocked everything else out. He didn't hear Tanner's thready heartbeat or his slowing breaths. He didn't see Drusilla kneel beside Tanner's head. He didn't witness her lift Tanner's hand and sink her fangs into the younger man's wrist, nor did he see her press her own bleeding wrist over Tanner's mouth. He didn't hear her happy voice as she said, "You will be called William the Bloody, and we will be a family."

The kind, Good Samaritans of London walking down the street steered far around the three, no one offering their assistance. London was a cruel city and the scene was nothing new. Not even the officer of the peace bothered to stop, his job of preventing crime more important than helping a victim that was no doubt deceased.

Pounding footsteps on the pavement preceded Anna's return. "Tanner!" she yelled, dropping down on the sidewalk beside her friend. "Don't you dare die on me!"

Angelus felt a hand on his head and a concerned voice ask, "What happened?"

The vampire lifted his head and saw an elderly gentleman kneeling on the other side of Tanner. "Help him," Angelus said roughly. "Please, ye have t' help him. I need him."

"I'll try," the man said. "But you have to let go."

Anna pulled gently on Angelus, her voice full of tears. "Angelus, we have to give the doctor room."

Angelus sat back on his heels, watching with grief-filled brown eyes as the doctor put two fingers to the side of Tanner's neck. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Drusilla swaying a few feet away, a pleased smile on her face.

"I'm sorry," the doctor said. He closed Tanner's eyes, then pulled the coat up over the young man's face. "He's already gone."

"Oh God, no," Anna gasped.

Angelus stared at the doctor blankly as the words sunk in. When they did, his heart screamed with an anguish so powerful, he felt as though he were being ripped in two.

For the first time ever, Angelus wept.





Part Seven





Los Angeles, 2000





"This is going to be, by far, the stupidest thing you've ever done," Angel muttered to himself as he pulled the sliding door to his apartment shut. He stuck the key in the lock and turned it. "Stupider than drinking from Darla, stupider than eating that gypsy girl, stupider than falling in love with Buffy... although that was a good thing until you lost your soul and did the even stupider thing by trying to suck the world into hell."

Angel tugged once on the door to make certain it was locked. "This is going to beat that Acathla thing by miles," he continued on, moving from the door to the grate that led to the electrical tunnels beneath the city. He bent and pulled on the grate, nodding in satisfaction when the chains wound between it and the second rung of the ladder below held tight. There was no chance he'd be able to get out that way.

"If Cordelia and Wesley knew what you were about to do, they'd see if vampires could fly by throwing you off the top of the building...," Angel dropped the key between the grate slats, "...just as the sun was rising."

Luckily -- or unluckily, depending on the point of view -- Cordelia and Wesley had gone home for the night and wouldn't return to the office until the morning. Angel figured that, by that time, his stupidity should have passed and the three of them could concentrate on getting Tanner accustomed to life in the year 2000.

Tanner. Angel glanced back towards the bedroom on his way into the kitchen. He could hear the shower running and had no trouble picturing the sable-haired man under the streaming water. Angel could also picture himself joining the mortal and soaping down that beautiful body, which did nothing to help get rid of the uncomfortable bulge in his pants.

"Having a hard-on and doing this is even stupider than just doing this," Angel said to himself as he took the small packet of white powder out of its hiding place. He sat down at the kitchen table and stared at the contents of the small, clear packet in his hand. "This idea is so idiotic, you're talking to yourself."

Angel dropped the packet, put his elbows on the table and rested his head in his hands. Guilt warred with common sense in his mind. Since mid-morning, after deciding that Tanner was not going to be returning to his own time, the battle between his thoughts and feelings had been raging.

It had been Cordelia who'd sparked the idiotic plan that was about to unfold. Wesley had taken Tanner with him to pick up some lunch and Angel had used that time to fill Cordelia in on his decision not to send Tanner back. During their conversation, she had commented that she was glad there wasn't going to be a dramatic "Buffy Goodbye Scene" and the brooding after-effects because Angelus wasn't around to say goodbye. Both the mention of Buffy and saying goodbye to Tanner had ripped a jagged wound in his heart.

It had only been a year since he'd had to say goodbye to Buffy and it still hurt. It didn't matter that it had been the right thing to do; he had loved Buffy with his entire soul. Leaving her had thrown him into a black pit of despair that he had yet to fully climb out of and he doubted that he ever would. It helped that he'd recently had some sort of closure with her and, although he intensely disliked her new boyfriend, the bitterness of their necessary parting had finally been put to rest.

However, with Tanner, he'd never had any sort of closure. The mortal had died unexpectedly by a random bullet, taking the boy away from Angel's unsouled self swiftly and suddenly. The vampire Tanner had become and whom Angel had grown to love was also abruptly severed from Angel's unlife due to the curse. When Angel'd lost his soul and rejoined with Spike and Drusilla, his hatred of Buffy, who had created that type of pure feelings in him that he'd ever only had with Tanner, had clouded what should have been a joyous reunion between himself and Spike.

Spike had also changed during the time they'd been separated by the curse. The younger vampire had loved Drusilla with an intensity that was so similar to what Spike had once with Angelus that it had made the dark-haired vampire jealous, adding to the strain the Slayer had caused. That reunion had ended without any sort of closure when Spike smashed him on the back of the head with something, Angel had regained his soul and was ultimately sent to hell.

Now, Angel was once again face-to-face with the mortal that he had, at one time, loved beyond reason, and he was about to change the course of history. Once he did that, any chance at closure with Tanner -- and Spike, too -- would be beyond reach forever. The man he'd laughed with and made love to would cease to exist, except in his mind, until those memories, too, faded into non-existence.

And all of that would happen without his demon getting a chance to say goodbye.

Angel couldn't do that to what was conceivably himself. The guilt and heartbreak was gnawing a hole in him as it was, because he was keeping Tanner in the future. His soulless self had loved Tanner with a love that had slowly transcended death transferred to William the Bloody. How could he take that sort of love away without a final goodbye?

The answer was, he couldn't, which was why he was planning on doing something so stupid, it redefined what the word "stupid" meant.

Angel was going to free Angelus.

The shower went off and Angel took a purposeful breath. He mentally went over the checklist in his head one last time, knowing that once he tasted the drug, there was no turning back.

First check, the four entries to the apartment were effectively blocked. Angel had disconnected the lift, blockaded the office door with the heavy desk, and dumped a bottle of holy water over the inside surface of that door, chained the grate so it could not be opened from inside the apartment, and locked the sliding door and dropped the only key down into the tunnels. He and Tanner were locked in the apartment until Wesley or Cordelia arrived the next morning and let them out.

Second check, Wesley and Cordelia were gone for the night. He'd told both of them that he didn't want to even hear either of them before tomorrow at nine. Of course, if Cordelia had a vision, she'd call.

Which led to his third check, the small packet of the drug Bliss that he'd acquired earlier that afternoon. He planned to only take the barest amount he thought possible and drop the rest between the slats in the grate. That should ensure only a brief return of his soulless persona.

Fourth and final check, Tanner's safety. It was the easiest one to check-off on his mental list. He knew, without a doubt, that no harm would come to the young man while the demon was in control. Angelus loved the human. It was as simple as that.

"This is still the stupidest idea you've ever had," Angel muttered to himself as he picked up the packet and opened it. He licked his finger, stuck it in the white powder and wondered if there was a mental institution that specialized in moronic ensouled vampires.

Angel heard the bathroom door open and he quickly stuck his finger into his mouth. He sucked the drug off his finger as he stood and crossed to the grate. He closed the packet, dropped it through the slats in the grate, and said a swift prayer to the patron saint of fools.

He didn't recall how long it took for the drug's effects to kick in, because the last time he'd had it, it had been diluted with alcohol. The dealer he'd bought from ensured almost instant ecstasy from a "pure" hit, which Angel'd just had. He hoped it would work soon because waiting for it to take effect was guaranteed to make him a nervous wreck.

Angel returned to the kitchen, sat back down, and listened to Tanner move around in the bedroom as he more than likely got dressed. The vampire groaned as images of Tanner's naked body popped into his mind. Souled or not, he couldn't prevent the attraction he had for the hard, lean form of that man.

Angel closed his eyes and, the moment he did so, he became lightheaded. Bright white spots danced behind his eyelids and he started to unconsciously pant as his stomach turned over. He gripped the edge of the table as the world started to spin out of control. Without warning, it stopped and an unnatural warmth stole through his body.

The bedroom door opened.

Footsteps sounded across the hardwood floor.

The scent of clean, human male drifted through the room.

A heartbeat thumped rhythmically.

The dark-haired vampire opened his eyes, saw Tanner and started to cry.

"Tanner!" Angelus exclaimed. The chair he was sitting on crashed to the floor as he practically leapt at the younger man and, with a yelp of alarm from Tanner, engulfed him in a tight embrace. "Oh hell, Tanner, heartling, I've missed you so goddamn much."

Tanner was stiff in Angelus's arms, his heartbeat pounding out a loud and fast staccato. The thick scent of fear greeted the vampire's senses and he choked back a sob. In his rush at being free and seeing Tanner without soul-clouded vision, he'd forgotten that Tanner hadn't met him yet in the past.

"I'm sorry," Angelus bit out, releasing Tanner and taking a step back. He swiped at his face and growled at himself for being such a crybaby. "I didn't mean to scare you."

"I-I-I didn't th-think I was in the-the WC th-that long," Tanner stammered jokingly.

Angelus half-laughed, half-broke out into tears again. He squeezed his eyes shut and pressed his fingers against them to prevent the tears from flowing.

"Angel, are you all right?" Tanner asked with quiet concern.

Angelus dropped his hand, opened his eyes and met the sable-haired human's gaze. His gasp was echoed by Tanner when, instantly, it felt as though lightning had struck him. The connection that Angelus had always had with Tanner flared between them like a live wire.

Tanner took a startled step back. "I-I know y-y-y-you."

"Yes," Angelus nodded, "you do."

Tanner's blue eyes widened in fear. "But-but-but-"

"Tanner, calm down," Angelus interrupted. "I don't have much time before the drug wears off and the schmuck is back in control."

"Explain please," Tanner squeaked in a high-pitched, panicky voice, his hands twisting the material of his borrowed shirt.

"You know what a vampire is, right?" Angelus said, knowing without a doubt that the boy did. He'd learned shortly after Tanner had become a vampire that Anna had been a Slayer-candidate who was never called. She had been a bitch to kill.

"Anna's sh-sh-sh-shown me pictures," Tanner stuttered. "She told me to-to-to run if I ever saw a-a vampire."

"I'm a vampire," Angelus said bluntly. "It was me in Wilson's dress shop that night."

Tanner turned a ghastly shade of pale. Then, he bolted for the bedroom.

Angelus winced when the bedroom door slammed shut and the lock clicked into place. He'd known it was a possibility Tanner would flee before his souled-self had taken the drug. Angelus also knew he could go and break down the door, but it wouldn't do anything other than increase Tanner's fear.

With a sigh, Angelus moved into the living room and sat down. At least he'd had a chance to hold Tanner again, even if it was for a way-too-brief amount of time. When Wesley or Cordelia showed up in the morning, he'd let them explain the difference between a normal vampire and a souled jackass.

It was funny: in the past, by the time it had been revealed that Angelus was a vampire, Tanner had been so in love with him it didn't matter, and it became their special secret. Tanner had been fascinated, rather than repulsed, by Angelus's ridges and fangs. Angelus remembered an entire evening spent lying still as the young mortal had caressed his face. The dark-haired vampire also remembered that he purred so loudly Drusilla had said she'd heard him at the opposite end of their flat.

But now, it didn't matter how loudly Angelus purred or how happy they'd been together. The Tanner he'd loved more than anything was going to become nothing more than a fading memory by tomorrow afternoon and there was nothing Angelus could do about it. Not even turning Tanner could stop the inevitable. The past would still be changed and the boy cowering in the bedroom wouldn't become the vampire he'd also once loved.

Angelus's head shot up when he heard a loud noise upstairs. Perhaps the night wouldn't be a total loss of soulless freedom, he thought, as he rose to his feet. He heard the door to the office splinter as it was forcefully opened, then an extremely familiar voice cursing up a storm as heavy footsteps sounded on the stairs.

The dark-haired vampire leaned casually against one of the brick support columns in his apartment, with his arms folded over his chest and a smirk pulling up the corners of his lips. This was going to be fun, he thought.

"Bloody hell, you soddin' poof! Why the fuck was the desk pushed up against an effin' locked door?"

The casual stance and smirk disappeared almost instantly when he saw Spike.

Or rather, when he practically couldn't see Spike.

"Spike, you're almost invisible!" Angelus exclaimed, his brown eyes wide with shock.

"No bloody shit, Sherlock," Spike said, stopping on the last step. "Giles already phoned you about me."

"I know," Angelus said, walking over to take a closer look through the peroxide-blond. "But having Giles tell me over the phone and actually... not seeing all of you-"

"Peaches, hate to interrupt, but will you SODDIN' FIX ME!" Spike yelled.

Angelus arched his brow. "You didn't say please."

"What?" Spike stared at him incredulously.

"Well, it's obvious that Rupert let slip that I knew what was happening to you," Angelus said. "But what makes you think that I would do anything to make you better?"

"But... but..."

"'But... but...,'" Angelus mocked. "But what?"

"You can't let me just disappear!" Spike exclaimed. "I'm like one of those harmless wankers that you're supposed to help, soulboy!"

Angelus leaned into Spike's personal space and smiled. "Who said I had a soul?"

Spike's blue eyes grew round as saucers. "Angelus?"

"Currently in control." Angelus bowed.

The blond vampire swallowed and took a step back up the stairs. "H-How?"

"The souled fuck took a drug called Bliss so that I could say my goodbyes to...," Angelus trailed off, his eyes darting to the bedroom then back to Spike.

A second later, Angelus knocked Spike aside and tore up the stairs to the office. "Yes!" he exclaimed when he saw the cardboard box still sitting on the file cabinet. He grabbed it and ran back down the stairs.

"Spike, take this," Angelus shoved the box at the nearly invisible vampire, "and set up."

"I don't-"

"Do it!" Angelus snapped. As Spike did as told, the dark-haired vampire went over to the bedroom door and banged on it. "Unlock this door!"

He heard a cut-off scream of fear from the other side and he growled. He didn't want to scare Tanner, but he also wanted to get going before the drug wore off. "Tanner, unlock this door this instant! If I have to break it down, I'm going to eat your liver while you watch!"

The door clicked a few moments later and Angelus wrenched open the door. His eyes immediately found the cowering sable-haired man in the corner of the bedroom almost hyperventilating in fear. Angelus crossed the room in three strides, grabbed Tanner by his borrowed shirt, hoisted him up and kissed him.

Angelus's lips tingled when he broke the kiss. "I'm sending you home, Tanner," he said roughly. "To do so, I'm going to need you to do what I say without panicking, no matter what you see. Okay?"

Tanner nodded wildly, his blue eyes shining in shock, fear and the barest hint of lust. Angelus groaned and kissed the mortal again, trying desperately to memorize the feeling of the warm mouth against his. He loved this human so much that even now, more than a century later, the feelings he had for the sable-haired mortal hadn't diminished one bit.

"Let's go," Angelus's voice wasn't at all steady as he set Tanner on his feet after the kiss. The dark-haired vampire took two steps away and stopped abruptly at the young man's fearful stammering.

"Why are y-y-y-you s-s-sendin' m-me back? I-I th-th-thought you said y-you weren't."

Angelus closed his eyes against the tears that sprang from nowhere. "I lost you once, Tanner, and it almost killed me," he replied with raw emotion in his voice. "It doesn't matter that you're going to become a vampire as long as I can remember every single night I spent loving you."







NC-17 Version

PG-13 Version