Together Again, Together Forever

Picture from Raelyn.

Faith watched the group warily. 

She wasn’t used to so many strangers under her roof, Angel’s – Angelus’ – roof, whatever, and it was a little disconcerting. Okay, a lot. Especially when they all, and she meant all of them, set off her slayer instincts. Her insides were screaming at her to do something, to slay something. It’d taken a while to lay those instincts to rest regarding Angel – Angelus – but this, this was just crazy. 

Queenie over there looked about as tough as Willow when Faith first met her red-haired friend. Then again, Willow still preferred to stay along the sidelines, as far away from the actual danger as she could. Oh, the girl was fairly good at several spells, but nothing more than smoke and mirrors. Well, that Eternal Flame Spell was pretty wicked, Faith thought, but they never really saw it at work as that wacko Watcher–lady burnt herself to a crisp instead. 

Still, Faith wasn’t sure the queen – Lord, she was Angelus’ wife. His wife, and wasn’t that a kick in the ass. She’d known the vampire for several years now and in all that time the thought that he was married never crossed her mind. Oh, she’d heard Willow speculate on it, what with the ring he wore, and he’d never dated. But still…wife? 

Given the way everyone reacted, however, the slayer wasn’t sure she could blame him for keeping it a secret. Angel was a private man; he never spoke unless he had to and certainly never over shared. He rarely shared. Faith couldn’t help the slight twinge of hurt at the fact that he never trusted her with that tidbit, even if it looked as if Doyle, the closest to Angelus there was in their group, hadn’t known either. 

What did she make of this wife? Faith wondered as the commotion from her dad’s announcement died down. Well, apparently she wasn’t a vampire. Cross species breeding, Faith snickered, interesting. Her clothes clearly showed an interest in the leather aspects of life, not that Faith, dressed in her own tight leather clothing, could complain. Actually, those boots looked great and the slayer wondered if she could get a pair. 

But she was so small, shorter than Faith, slender, with all that hair. Then again, hello slayer. Could she, of all people, really judge by something such as looks? Queenie carried that sword as if it were an extension of herself, something Faith recognized as only a fellow warrior could. And she commanded respect, that was for sure, every word she uttered her group listened as if she were the messiah. 

The looks shared between her and Angel…us were something, too. Faith heard some of the guards talking earlier, about how it was nice to see their Ancient back where he belonged and that his first day reunited with the queen was something to celebrate. Ariana and Andre told her about the situation, but it was a little too unreal. Now, with everything that happened within the last 24 hours, Faith reevaluated that. 

The guards clearly thought that this reunion was just a matter of time, yet Angelus made no plans, so far as Faith knew, to leave them here. They also thought that the fact that king and queen sleeping together was only natural and it seemed it never crossed their minds that they, Buffy and Angelus, wouldn’t. Again, Faith wondered at that. Unless Angelus kept a whole helluva lot more secret from them, then just what stories had Queenie spread? 

Ariana said that her mom maintained the story of harmful magicks, and Faith supposed that, to a being as powerful as Angelus supposedly was, that a soul could be considered harmful. But then why had they gone into Angelus’ room together? And then it hit her and Faith almost laughed aloud. 

Appearances. Oh, it was real enough, she was sure. They both sported closing bite marks on their necks, a fact that, as the slayer, Faith noticed immediately, both when she’d first met Angelus and had seen the bite scar on his neck, and when Buffy first arrived on the scene. So was this reunion all an act? Put on for the benefit of their kingdom? 

No, Faith didn’t think so as Rupert there tried to explain about elves. He sounded, Faith thought with a snicker, rather condescending to Wes as he berated the Watcher for not realizing the differences sooner. Faith eyed the other elf, the blonde quiet one as she eyed Willow. What was that all about? 

So this reunion, Faith wondered as she turned her attention to Angelus and Buffy. They stood close enough together to show consolidarity, but far enough apart not to touch. Neat trick, that. His eyes strayed to her, often, but his stance never wavered. He was, Faith decided, a true leader. Buffy’s eyes also drifted to her husband, but she was, Faith noted, trying to act as if she was simply scouting the room. Slick, Queenie, Faith applauded, but I can tell. The slayer wondered how it was no one else could. 

“And why are you here?” This was from Wes who looked as if he were caught between finding the Watcher’s Holy Grail and animosity at the being (beings) before him for their attitude. 

“We’re here,” Rupert sneered, “For reasons of our own.” He was not about to tell this Watcher the real reason for their visit. Turning his back on Wesley, he smiled at Ariana. “Child, it’s been too long.”

Ariana hugged her grandfather, whispering the same back to him. She’d visited the Elfin Lands often, but once trouble broke out in the Continuum, her duties required her to be elsewhere. 

“Daughter,” he turned to Buffy, nodding respectfully, she was Queen in her own right and deserved nothing else in front of these…heathens. “May we speak with you…and your husband?” 

Buffy nodded, locking eyes with Angelus for the first time since venturing down the stairs. Why was this so difficult? It was simply a part, another of the many roles she’d played over the years. Just because she was nowhere near ready to forgive Angelus for all he’d done to her, just because they’d had mind-blowing sex several hours ago, and Buffy had the best night’s sleep she’d had in a while, didn’t mean she couldn’t put on a front. 

She had, after all, done so for the better part of forty years. 

“This way, Father,” Angelus said with a bow to Rupert. 

The elf hated him, Angelus knew, and couldn’t quite blame him for that. Not after what he’d put Buffy through, not after leaving her, not after abandoning her and their daughter. Rupert probably didn’t know about the reasons, the beating, the accusations, but it was enough that Angelus left Rupert’s only daughter. But appearances must be maintained, and if there was one thing Angelus knew, it was how to hide his feelings. 

Walking back up the stairs, Rupert, Tara, Ariana, and Andre, following him, Angelus wondered at the looks the elfin healer gave to Willow. What interest could either have not only in this realm, but in the redhead? 

Faith watched them go and turned to the remaining occupants. “So, anyone want to tell me who’s what?” 

William looked over the slayer in appreciation. He always loved strong women. But then Dru hissed at him and he turned his smile to her. But he loved his woman. “About what, slayer?” 

“Well, since we’ve obviously been under the mistaken impression that you were all vamps, and,” she sneered, “No one tried to correct that, wanna tell me the difference?” 

“Elves mostly have a deep bronzed skin tone,” William said, glancing at Darla who was watching that Riley character with narrowed eyes. What was going on with Muscle-Boy? William’s eyes followed Riley’s line of sight and he snorted. If Muscle-Boy wasn’t careful, Angelus’ have his eyes for breakfast. “There are a lot of differences, but mainly they kick ass in the magicks department.” 

“Gotcha,” Faith nodded absently, her gaze on Wes as the Watcher moved back into his office. What was going on there? Time to find out, she thought and pushed off the wall, following her Watcher into the room and closing the door. Vamp hearing notwithstanding, it was the most privacy they’d get. 

“What’s up, Wes?” 

“I believe I know who this Rupert is,” he said and began pulling thick volumes off his shelves, almost frantically. “More, I believe I know this Buffy as well.”

Faith snickered, “Don’t let those overprotective guards hear you call her that.” Wes ignored her, so Faith watched in silence for a few moments. “What’re you looking for?” 

“There’s a book on mythical places,” he said with a triumphant yelp as he obviously found the book in question. “It’s said that the King of Elves sired a daughter with a human woman whose people were deeply rooted in the ancient magicks. That daughter is believed to possess all the magicks of both the Elfin People and the lost magicks of humans. She’s even more powerful than her father, who commands all of the magicks in his land.” 

Faith watched in silence as Wes flipped through the pages of the ancient tome, her agile mind wondering just what her Watcher had in mind. She was sure she wasn’t going to like it.
“Buffy,” Rupert said with a smile, his arms wrapping around his daughter in a tight hug. He turned to Ariana and repeated the process with his granddaughter, even after their shared affection downstairs. Rupert despised audiences. 

“What are you doing here, grandpapa?” Ariana asked as she made herself comfortable in her father’s room. Through the door she could see the rumpled bed and smirked. There was only the one chair, so she differed that to Rupert, or even Tara, and leaned against the far wall, Andre next to her. 

“Tara, actually,” Rupert said as he looked at the healer, his eyes studiously avoiding Angelus. “She had a vision.” 

Surprised, the four occupants of the room jerked to attention. It was Angelus, though he felt extremely left out of the dynamics of the situation, who spoke. These were people who spent the last two-hundred years – forty of their years – together, while he’d been an outcast everywhere. Still, he had an idea on what this was about. Just not why. 

“It’s about Willow, isn’t it?” 

“If you mean the redhead,” Tara nodded to the vampire, a speculative look in her eye, “Then yes. You…” and this was trickier. She knew of Angelus’ soul, knew of the pain and heartache he’d put Buffy through and wasn’t sure she could forgive him for that. Or maybe it was she could, Tara thought, she could forgive him, but never, ever forget. Buffy was her sister, her closest confidant next to Kynan. Her hurt was Tara’s. 

“What do you know of her?” 

Moving his shoulders restlessly, Angelus said, “She’s young, even by human standards, and works with the seer here.” He could honestly say she didn’t work with him, as Angelus did his very best not to actually work with any of these people. He wasn’t sure, still, what he was doing here, but he knew he didn’t belong, no matter how welcome or not the group made him. 

“There’s some power in her, I can feel it,” he continued, “But it’s limited. She’s preformed, that I know of, only rudimentary spells and mostly they go…awry.” 

“That’s all?” Angelus nodded, and Tara frowned. “In my vision there was a being of great power, one who called to my own, who complemented it. She was important to our Land…to all the Lands.” 

Angelus said noting for a moment, but then nodded. “She’s got potential,” he admitted, “But I’ve never seen her use it past the most basic of charms. In this group, the Watcher pretends to be the leader,” though privately Angelus thought that the women led, Cordelia and Faith certainly seemed to have a better grasp on many more things than anyone else in their group. “He is wary of either magick or Willow, but he rarely allows its use.” 

Tara nodded, her eyes closing briefly. “Do you think she’ll speak with me?” 

Angelus nodded and stood. Opening the door he had Gunn order one of the other guards to bring Willow into the room. Closing the door, he returned Tara’s look. She knew, the vampire thought, she knew of his soul. And probably all the reasons Buffy and he were no longer…together. Then she smiled at him and he relaxed, nodding in return. She knew, but maybe she understood as well. 

Moments later a terrified Willow entered the room, the whelp, Xander glaring behind the elfin guard. “What do you want with her?” He demanded in a loud voice that wouldn’t make up for the fact it was slightly less than firm if it weren’t for the advanced senses of the beings present. 

“We only wish to speak with her,” Tara soothed with a smile. Yet she didn’t wait for a reply, and nodded to the guards to close the door. There was a darkness in the boy’s soul, a slick oily substance that lashed out and threatened to overwhelm her in its envy and hatred. 

“Willow, yes?” Tara asked and smiled again when Willow nodded. “Angelus says you’re a witch, this is true?” 

“Oh, n-n-no, no, I’m not. Oh,” she said, eyes darting around the group, feeling quite surrounded, “I can do a couple of spells, nothing big. Mostly just small things like calling the wind or that flock of crows last year when we were surrounded by…but you probably don’t want to hear about that.” Swallowing, she looked at Angel…Angelus, and realized that no help was coming from that quarter. His eyes were firmly locked on his pretty wife. 

If you liked blondes. 

“So, um, wh-what do you want?” 

Tara was silent for a moment before asking, “Will you consent to do a spell with me?” 

Willow nodded before realizing what she was agreeing to. There was something about this woman that called to her. Oh, not in the attraction way, though the vamp, no, no, the elf was beautiful, but in some other way. Her voice was soft, kind, gentle, her mannerism, while regal, were never overbearing, they were always soft and docile. Willow felt…safe with the woman. 

“It’s a simple spell,” Tara said with a glance at the rest of the occupants of the room. Everyone was standing, so Tara decided on something small. “We’ll move the chair to the opposite side, yes?” 

Willow nodded her eyes wide. She’d never moved anything before, let alone across a room. If it broke, she had a feeling Angelus would kill her. “Alright.” 

Closing the few paces between them Tara took Willow’s hand in hers and smiled that genteel smile once more. “Relax,” she intoned, “Think of the chair, concentrate on it, and on me. Feel the power rush through you,” Tara’s eyes drifted closed. “Good, good, now calm that power, force it to do your bidding, ease the flow, harness it.” She felt the change in Willow at the exact instant the chair floated up about two feet and drifted towards them. 

“Easy, take your time; the chair only goes where you tell it to.” 

It wobbled a little, the chair, before gently setting on the floor. Willow opened her eyes, which were a strange midnight blue, and looked at Tara. “Wow,” she said. 

“Yes,” Tara agreed, shocked by the experience as well, “Wow indeed.”
Outside Xander paced angrily, shooting looks at the guards ever time he passed them. 

They still wouldn’t let him in, hell, they didn’t even speak! The silence allowed him time to think, and in thinking Xander realized two things. One was that whatever it was Willow was doing, he was sure, absolutely, positively sure that it was bad for her. She didn’t need that kind of influence in her life; nothing good could come of it. The second had nothing to do with Willow; Buffy was not a vamp. She was some elf, not a blood-sucking fiend.

Then again, she was married to one. He’d noticed the healing bite mark on her neck; it was hard to miss it when it was so prominently displayed. Disgusted, Xander took another turn past the guards who didn’t even bother to look at him. Oh, he was sure they noticed him, he was right there, after all, but they didn’t seem to care that he’d been standing there, pacing, for…Xander looked at his watch. 

Thirty-five minutes? No, that couldn’t be right. Scowling, he was about to barge through the guards, all six of them, and into Angel’s room when the door opened. 

Willow walked out beaming. She smiled at him briefly before turning to the woman beside her. Xander scowled harder; what did that elf want with his Willow? Buffy exited after they’d made their way through the crowd of guards, one breaking away from the ranks and following the women. 

“Oz, go with them, please.” 

Oz ignored her and continued to stare straight ahead. Sighing Buffy added, “It’s important, Oz, you know I wouldn’t ask otherwise. You need to be with them now.” 

Oz looked to his right at Gunn. The other First shrugged; he had no idea what was going on. They did, of course, have one or two contingency plans for the slight possibility that Buffy did loose her mind, but this didn’t seem to be the case. It seemed to be a simple matter of Oz needed elsewhere. Nodding to his friend, Gunn faced forward again but said nothing. 

Without a word, Oz followed Willow, Tara, and Tara’s First, Xander trailing after him, scowling even more, if that were possible. Now what, Xander thought, was going on? 

Back in the room, Rupert excused himself, Ariana volunteering to show him his rooms. With a last glance at his daughter, Rupert followed his granddaughter out the hallway, her betrothed beside her, once again, leaving Buffy and Angelus alone.
“Are you sure it’s Oz?” 

“Tara seemed to be,” Buffy said as she tried not to look at her husband. Walking to the window and pulling back the heavy drapes, she looked out into the night sky. It was different here, so very different from the view she was used to. There were people here for one, and the skyline held so many tall buildings, not at all like her kingdom where her (their) castle was the tallest structure around. 

There were things Buffy wanted to ask Angelus, things about this life, about what Willow, what any of them, meant to him, but she couldn’t bring herself to. Nor could she bring herself to ask about them, to talk about the many problems between them. She couldn’t bring herself to ask why he’d beaten her, why he hadn’t believed her, why all their years of marriage was lost in a single action. 

She remained silent on those subjects. 

Instead she said, “I need to leave. I’ve lost too much time as it is, tracking this rogue group. They can’t be allowed to leave this city and regroup with the rest of the Cult.” 

“I’ll go with you.” Angelus said and took a deliberate step towards the door, ignoring the many questions he had for her. Buffy already filled him in on at least some of the reasons why this Cult needed exterminating; the fact that not only did they threaten the order of the Continuum and possibly all the Lands, but also that they were somehow a threat to Ariana. She hadn’t gone into details, seemingly angry with herself for bringing it up in the first place, but Angelus suspected it was more to do with his daughter’s heritage than anything else. 

The knock on the door interrupted their uncomfortable silence as Buffy tried to formulate a denial to his offer. There was no way she wanted him with her, but she knew that was a near impossibility. Aurelius would expect, now that Angelus was back, that their Ancient would lead them with his Eternal. Somehow, when thinking of their meeting, Buffy never really thought of those pesky details. It wasn’t something she’d thought important in those daydreams. Now, however, she wished she’d come up with some kind of plan to deal with her husband. 

Doyle entered the room, looking a little disoriented. “Angelus, I need to speak with ye,” he said, determined to finally tell the vampire his vision. Even when Angel was in Full Brood Mode, as Cordelia called it, he was never this hard to track down and talk with. Shooting a wary look behind him at the sentinels, Doyle added, or this well guarded. 

“What is it, Doyle, we were just on our way out.” 

“Right,” Doyle said as he closed the door. “That’s what I need to speak with ye about. Those vamps you’re looking for. I think I know where they are and what their next move is.” 

Interested, Buffy walked up to the half-human, acutely aware that the move brought her closer to Angelus.  “What about them?” 

“They’re meeting in some abandoned warehouse in Santa Monica, near that famous pier everyone goes to” Doyle said, unsure who to look at and equally unsure what was going on between the couple. His head already hurt, being in this room? Made it pound more. “They’re recruiting.” 

“Can you get me directions?” Angelus asked as he glanced at Buffy, the same thing going through their minds. 

“Yeah, but, Angel-” 

Without a word both Ancients brushed past Doyle and walked to the door, leaving a perplexed Doyle staring after them. “But I wasn’t finished!” 

They didn’t hear him. 

“Gunn,” Angelus barked to his First, not stopping to see if the vampire followed him. “Get Oz, whatever Tara needs him for can wait. Gather the rest of the warriors; we know the location of the Cult.” 

Gunn nodded but didn’t get Oz himself, sending another guard after the elfin First. He wasn’t about to abandon his post, Ancient order or not. He was, however, gratified to see Angelus taking charge once more. Gunn had no idea what happened between the couple, nor did he think he wanted to know, but he, too, knew the value of appearances. And the couple striding before him still had entirely too many things to work out. 

Maybe they could go see one of those psyche at-trysts. Or whatever they were called. The ones who help a couple through their marriage troubles. He and Oz saw a sign on large metal poles hovering over the main roads these people used to traverse their Land. While the sight of something looking like those signs, and there were quite a few of them, was odd, they both agreed that maybe it was something worth looking into. William just snickered at the message. 

Less than five minutes after Doyle delivered his message, the Warriors of Aurelius and their allies from the Elfin Kingdom were gathered in the hotel lobby. Their auto-mo-biles were already brought around front, with the few vampires who actually spent time in the Mortal Realms driving. Angelus had his own car and the directions Doyle scribbled for him. 

He looked at his wife, wondering if they should discuss this aloud and in front of everyone, or if they should pretend their joining-link was still in full effect and they didn’t need words. Or if they should just retreat to the privacy of an office and talk. Out of time to really choose the best option, but not willing to try their joining-link, remembering what happened the first time it was really, truly, opened, Angelus kept it simple. 

“William, Dru, Ariana, Andre, Nicholaus, and Kalman?” 

“Agreed,” Buffy replied as she nodded to her First. Was Gunn still hers if Angelus was back? Yet one more thing to be sorted…later. Turning to her daughter, the queen instructed, “Go with William and Andre, Ariana, follow us to the location.” 

Ariana looked as if she wanted to protest but didn’t, nodding instead and spinning on her heal to follow William and Dru, Andre beside her and their Firsts behind them. Buffy nodded to the rest of their forces and walked to Angelus’ car, her husband beside her. 

The ride didn’t take long, as Faith insisted, at the last minute, on accompanying them. She had a better sense of direction than Angelus of the area, and got them there without getting lost. Buffy was unsure of her feelings for the slayer, but both she and Angelus insisted Faith was on their side; it’d look more than a little strange if no one from Angelus’ human group accompanied them. 

“There are several warehouses about a mile from the pier Doyle saw,” Faith said in a hushed voice as they climbed out of the car. “If there are as mane as he says, then they shouldn’t be hard to find.”

Angelus nodded, absently placing his hand on Buffy’s back as he guided her through the streets, the rest of their contingent silently following behind them. 
As soon as the lobby was cleared from the massing army, Wes ventured out of his office.  

He’d discovered several things about this so-called queen, Buffy. But that wasn’t what interested him, though he was sure the Council would be more than interested in a half-human, half-elf with so many magicks at her fingertips. It was her daughter. Angel’s daughter, this Ariana.

She was part human, part elf, and part vampire. It was unprecedented; it was, frankly, a miracle. If one could consider a demon child a miracle.  

There were several other references he wanted to check, but to his knowledge never had a vampire sired a child through normal reproduction. He wanted to learn more of the girl, wanted to learn more on her mother, too, before he contacted the Council. Climbing the stairs in the absolute silence of the hotel, he turned down the hallway towards Doyle’s rooms. He had several questions for the seer, and hoped the Irishman was drunk enough to answer them. 

Knocking on the door, Wes waited while Cordelia opened it, gesturing him inside. “Wes, what’s up?” 

“Just some questions for Doyle here,” he said with what he hoped was a genuine and non-threatening smile. “About his vision.” 

Cordelia nodded and went to find her lover, well used to the Watcher’s inquiries into Doyle’s visions. She was often on the fringes of the group, not a fighter, not the seer, not the almost-witch Willow was. She could research, and even learned a little of some of the demon languages they often came across. Strangely enough, she actually befriended both Willow and Faith, and Doyle was the best thing that ever happened to her, Cordelia could admit that. But really, she usually felt left out of their helping the helpless. 

“Baby?” She called quietly as she went into the darkened bedroom. Contrary to what Wesley believed, Doyle no longer drank as much as he used to when the visions hit him. Oh, he still enjoyed a pint or two, but wasn’t perpetually sloshed, as he used to be. Cordelia took full credit for that, insisting, in her own loving manner, that he either stopped, or she walked.

Hey, she reasoned, it took her ages to admit that she had feelings for the half-demon, and a brief talking to from Faith and Willow who genuinely liked the man, for her to realize she loved Doyle. It was only fair, Cordelia had insisted, that if she changed, then he could as well. That’s what relationships were about, after all. They were about compromise, about sharing. 

Even if that sharing was the darkened room where her lover currently lay on their bed, an ice pack on his forehead and a migraine pounding away at his brain. She was afraid that one day his brain would really be eaten away. It wasn’t a fear she shared with him. He’d had the vision of the warehouse hours ago and Cordelia wasn’t exactly sure those vamps would still be there tonight. But it looked as if these people, Angelus’ people, were way gung-ho on finding these rebels, they hadn’t even stopped to hear the other vision Doyle had. 

“Wesley’s here to speak with you about your vision,” Cordelia said quietly. “I didn’t tell him you had two.” 

Doyle nodded, placing the ice pack on the nightstand and sitting fully up. “Good,” he whispered, his head still aching. But he’d promised his princess ages ago that he’d give up his affair with the bottle for her. It was often hard, and he still enjoyed his Gunnies now and then, but the days of drunkenness were behind him. 

He ambled into the main room, a glass of water in his hand. Not exactly drink from the mother country, but it’d do. Besides, Cordelia wouldn’t let him overdose on migraine medication, either. “What’s up, Wes?” 

“Ah, Doyle, yes. I wanted to ask you about your vision. Record it for future reference and all,” Wes said as he opened his journal as he had numerous times over the years. “I also wanted to get your impressions of Angel’s family, his wife and daughter.” 

What interest, other than the curiosity they all had in the subject, could Wes have? And why did Doyle have the feeling he wasn’t going to like it?
By the time the group arrived at the warehouse, only stragglers remained.  

It didn’t stop Buffy and Angelus from bursting through the doors, Angelus growling that she was to stay back when it was clear Buffy often lead these kinds of attacks. He was uncomfortable with the thought of his sweet wife doing such things, hell; he was downright against it and vowed to have words – and maybe some pounding upon – Gunn and Oz on how they could allow that. Except then he remembered that she was Ancient and if she wasn’t at the forefront of the attack, then all credibility was lost. 

He still didn’t like it. 

Standing in the entrance of the warehouse, her guards backing her up, Buffy smiled at the thirty or so vamps still there. She looked beautiful, Angelus thought, as she raised her sword – his sword, damn but he missed that weapon – and smiled a wicked, vicious smile that promised pain. He suppressed a shiver at that and forced his attention to their prey. 

“In the name of the Aurelius, by the authority of the Continuum, I order you to accompany us back to the Lands to await execution.” 

Their answer was to attack, en masse, the Aurelius guards. Not exactly the brightest move, as the rebels were seriously outnumbered and both Buffy and Angelus had major stress and anger to burn off. But, if one was about to die, it was better, the Vamp Code said, to go out fighting. Of course with this route it also skipped that whole torture stage where the Continuum attempted to discover who the rest of the rebels were and their location. 

Jumping into the fray as if it’d been days rather than years, centuries, Angelus realized that he missed this. His soul wasn’t screaming at him and he wondered if that had as much to do with the fact that even the soul recognized the dredges of vampiric society as with even before he was turned, Angelus was a warrior, used to cutting down his enemy or any who stood in his way.  

His soul did argue that killing his own people was just as bad as killing humans...but not nearly as bad as beating and abandoning his wife. Still, he reasoned, these were dissents that stood for everything he’d believed in, everything he fought to maintain. 

Angelus survived a long time here, in this realm, he discovered things about himself he never thought possible, but one thing that hadn’t changed was the fact that he protected what was his. His wife (it was he who beat her), his daughter (it was he who abandoned her), his kingdom (it was he who neglected them). He was still Angelus, Ancient and King of Aurelius, he was still the Master of his kingdom, never had that changed. The advent of his soul hadn’t turned him into an inhibited creature, though it did make him antisocial in the extreme.  

His favorite Scottish claymore in hand, those Highlanders really knew how to make a weapon, the Ancient cut through the rebels with a skill and ease he’d never lost. Eyes always on Buffy and Ariana, Angelus made sure that his family was safe. He hadn’t been there for years, all of Ariana’s life, but he was determined, now, to be there for them. 

He sincerely hoped it wasn’t a matter of too little, too late.  

The question of why he’d stayed away yet was protecting now, was far from simply answered. The reasons he’d stayed away were still valid, he still had his soul, he couldn’t be the leader he once was, he couldn’t be the husband to Buffy he once was. Warrior in a previous life or not, he’d been weak then, strong only when the battle was upon them, but still weak in life. And while his love for her never wavered, he was still too unsure of whom he was to even think about returning.  

His claymore swung through the neck of another vampire, the dust floating in the air as Angelus stepped through it in his quest to find another. There weren’t enough, and they weren’t well trained at all, for all of his emotions to be worked through.  

There was chaos for several seconds after the last rebel was dusted as they searched for any remaining stragglers, before Buffy rounded up the troops and instructed them to return to Angelus’ hotel. The vampire watched his wife, saw the way she gave orders, saw the way both elfin and vampire warriors responded to her, and wondered. Despite her protests to the contrary, despite her years pleading for his return and her vows of love… 

Was she still better off without him?
“So,” Willow said as she and Tara sat in Tara’s guest room, “You knew Angelus?” 

Tara nodded, smiling. “Yes,” she said, unsure how much Willow knew of the situation. The healer doubted Angelus told anyone of the reasons he left, but one never knew. 

“She’s Angelus’ wife, then.” Her voice was colored with jealously, even if Willow always knew her crush on the handsome vampire was fruitless. “He never mentioned her.” 

“I’m not surprised,” the other woman said soothingly, “She’s well known among magickal users, and as such there’s probably a price on her head here.”

Willow nodded, not really appeased. “Still, he could’ve said something. I mean we’ve fought together for years! And he’s always been all broody, true, and never really does much but let us live here and if the demon’s really dangerous he’ll help out. Angel’s never really been all Mr. I’m the Warrior guy, but we’ve been here a long time.” 

Tara looked at the woman, confused. Not only were her words strange, but it seemed as if Angelus was doing something here that would be more than dangerous to him should anyone in the Lands learn of it. Curious, she listened to Willow babble. 

“One minute he’s all ‘I’m not really helping,’ and the next he’s roaring up a storm, rattling windows,” Willow’s hands moved with her speech, gesturing to the windows, “And raining plaster down on us,” she pointed to the ceiling. “And storming out. A couple of days later, there’s his wife. The one,” she repeated, “He hadn’t told us of.” 

Tara nodded. “You knew him well?” She didn’t think so, but the other woman’s jumping sentences were really hard to follow. 

“Oh,” Willow said with a shy smile, as she ducked her head, her long red hair covering her embarrassment. “No, not really. I m-mean we’ve lived here a while, but Angel isn’t really the type to share. If it weren’t for Doyle, I wouldn’t even know Angel was Angelus.” She looked scared for a minute. “OH! I forgot! I’m not supposed to call him that am I?” 

“No,” Tara said, shaking her head. “It’s best you don’t. It’s not really his name, and people might begin to wonder at it.”

“Right, right, his daughter explained it to us. If anyone of you guys knew, he’d be in danger.” 

“You care for him?” At Willow’s nod, Tara again smiled reassuringly at her. “That’s good, Willow, that’s very good.”  

They lapsed into silence for a bit before Tara changed the subject. “Shall we try another spell?”

Willow nodded eagerly, a beautiful smile blossoming on her face. Tara went to the middle of the room and sat on the floor, rearranging her dress around her. “Let’s start with the basics, yes?”

Sitting opposite the elf, Willow nodded.  

“Good, then, take my hand and concentrate.”
He stepped out of the shadows of the warehouse, a look of such intense rage on his face that if anyone should have actually been there to see him, they would’ve cowered in fear. 

Plans set in motion long ago, plans meticulously crafted were unraveling. He was not pleased. The warehouse was littered with dust, dust from his followers, dust from those who pledged their lives to him and his cause. Oh, there weren’t a lot here, no more than twenty-five or so but that was hardly the point. The main force of his followers were still safe from little Buffy, but again, that wasn’t the point. 

No, the point was that she’d found him. Her pathetic weakling of a husband. 

Aslan of the kingdom Rezov snarled as his rage consumed him. His fist shot out and slammed into the wall, again, again, until the wall crumbled and his hands were no more than crushed bone. It did nothing to abate the anger still within him. He’d worked too long, planned too much for it to come undone now. Since before that useless ambassador Cuman first came to Garvie, Aslan planned on one day taking over, not only Rezov, but the Continuum as well. 

As second to the throne, Aslan hated his position. He was behind Andre Vladimir in succession, popularity, trust, and he knew, absolutely knew, that once Garvie was dispatched and Andre Vladimir claimed the throne, he, Aslan, had only a matter of hours left to live. The rivalry between he and Andre Vladimir was long and fierce, only the Ancient of Rezov keeping either of them from overtly killing the other. Aslan had several plans for Andre Vladimir, but they were difficult to implement and he needed to be careful who to trust. 

It seemed as if Fate smiled down upon him when Angelus of Aurelius left his kingdom, when he took his sire and went to the Mortal Realms. With him gone, and Buffy an elf in a vampire kingdom, it was only a matter of time before someone challenged her claim. And Aslan intended to control whomever challenged her, eventually taking over the position as King and Ancient. For a while Aslan believed it was William, Angelus’ grandchilde, but the vampire never had the courage to do anything. 

Then the announcement of the Queen’s pregnancy spread through the Lands and Aslan admitted he was stumped. With an heir, and one of Angelus flesh and blood, Buffy’s position was secured. Her kingdom already adored her, and with the revelation of her pregnancy, it was going to be more difficult to incite riots in Aurelius against Buffy and takeover her throne. 

When Cuman proposed the alliance with Aurelius and Garvie’s seers agreed, foretelling a great merging between their kingdoms, Aslan made his move. With major tweaking, it was possible to have everything he wanted. But Garvie didn’t listen to Aslan in regards to the ‘alliance’ between kingdoms. The fool Ancient believed his ambassador when that weakling suggested a peaceful alliance rather than a conquest. 

Still, Aslan admitted that Aurelius was fiercely loyal to both Angelus and Buffy and would do pretty much anything for them. Of course then there was what really happened to Angelus. Aslan didn’t believe an Ancient as renowned as Angelus was merely infected with harmful magicks and couldn’t return home. With someone as adept in the arts as his wife, wouldn’t it simply be a matter of her removing them? No one else asked that question, so he investigated himself. 

Digging further, Aslan discovered the truth; a lone witness survived Buffy’s rampage through the Romanian Woods that night. The human was just returning from gathering supplies when Buffy arrived at the camp. After sufficient torture, Aslan learned what happened, what the gypsy clan did to Angelus and what Buffy did to the clan. The lone surviving clan member hadn’t lived long after that.

Nearly giddy with his findings, he just barely resisted telling the Lands of Angelus’ predicament. But no, the new development was perfect and went a long way to securing his position. With information like this, information he was sure Buffy would give anything to keep secret, Aslan had enough time to properly plan his coup. 

It was Aslan who first put the idea into Garvie’s head that a Rezov should seduce Buffy; with Angelus gone, there was nothing holding any of them back. Plus, with the love Aurelius felt for their queen, it was simply a matter of time before they accepted her lover. Aslan didn’t believe in Eternals, he didn’t believe in love, either, and frankly, wasn’t sure what someone as beautiful and ethereal as Buffy could see in one such as Angelus. 

He wanted her for himself, wanted to fuck her, wanted to control her, wanted to rule her kingdom with her by his side. 

His plan backfired when Garvie sent Andre to Aurelius. Still, with a few well place kernels, Aslan was positive he could incite the kingdom against Andre. His plan or not, Aslan detested playing second to Andre Vladimir, especially when it was his own damn idea. 

He’d long admired Buffy, her strength and beauty, her cunning and mind. She was deceptively fragile but that made Aslan want her all the more. When Andre fell under the spell of both mother and daughter, Aslan put his plans fully into motion. It’d taken years to build up enough support for what he planned, years where he willingly seceded to Andre Vladimir in too many things. 

No longer. With Angelus here, with his plan all but finished, Aslan wasn’t about to lose now. He’d have Buffy, Queen and Ancient of Aurelius as his; he’d have Rupert, King of Elves under his control, as well, with both daughter and granddaughter under his guidance. It would be a simple matter of controlling Andre Vladimir when he kidnapped the daughter, Ariana. And now, now he’d have Angelus too. 

It was simply a matter of bringing in a third party.

Aslan often heard the Watcher’s Council experimented on oddities. He wondered how a vampire with a soul, and one who terrorized this land and eluded capture for ages, would appeal.

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