Angel ran his hand through his hair and sighed as he looked down at the list he had written. There were so many possibilities, but there was something wrong with each one of them. Every last numbered item had a line drawn through it except one.
"And I really, really wanted a chance to use a flamethrower just once," he muttered to himself. Well, there was still number 346.
Stalker mode. He smiled. Yeah. Now that might do nicely. Although technically illegal, the dirty rat wouldn't get hurt physically. Much. Besides, that would have made Angel dangerously happy.
Glancing at the clock, he saw that it was now just after 3:00 a.m. Perfect. He picked up the phone and dialed it almost lazily, allowing his inner demon to stretch its legs a bit.
Ring. Ring. Ring.
The voice on the other end of the line was bleary with sleep. Angel took a moment to let him wake up fully. Then, he spoke one word.
The following night, Angel repeated his performance. At a little after three, he once again dialed the number, heard the male voice answer, and responded with the same monosyllable in a controlled, low voice.
On the third night, his quarry had started to wise up. This time, the man greeted him with a slightly different choice of words.
"Whoever you are, if you don't stop calling, I'm going to find some way to sue you!"
There was a long pause.
By the fourth night, Angel was aware that the man in question would probably be ready for the call. Once again, at just after 3:00, the man's phone rang.
"That's it! Listen, you jerk..." The man's tirade cut off abruptly when he heard the sound of a match striking and was startled to realize that an orange-red flame had appeared not two feet away from him in the darkened room.
Hank Summers let out a very unmanly squeal as he saw the massive, dark shape of the vampire illuminated by the flickering match light. He was sitting in a chair in the bedroom, his face lost in the shadows. Sputtering, the tiny light died abruptly. The human quickly hung up the phone and attempted dialing 911.
Splinters of plastic and metal exploded from the nightstand as Angel's hand connected with the telephone.
"Now, Hank, why would you want to go and interrupt our conversation by calling the police? You know, that could very easily have been your hand that just shattered. Or your head. Or maybe even your pancreas. I always did enjoy that sound."
"Who are you?" the blond man asked in terror.
Angel smiled slowly, his expression lost in the darkness. "What."
"I said who are you!" the man repeated with a slight show of courage.
"I heard you the first time. That wasn't an I-didn't-hear-you what. What I meant is you should be asking me," he paused as he struck another match and held it close enough to his face so the man could see the ridged planes of his vampiric visage, "what are you."
Hank's eyes increased to three times their normal size. "You're n-n-n-not..."
"Human?" Angel responded silkily, blowing the match out as he spoke. "Not anymore, no. But then, who are you to talk? Your heart might be beating, you might be breathing in and out, heck, you might even still have some shriveled up excuse for a soul in there somewhere. But human? You?" Angel let a low, threatening chuckle break over his lips. "I think not."
"Are you going to kill me?"
"That remains to be seen. You, old Hank my boy, have been very naughty."
"What are you talking about?"
Angel had to bite the inside of his mouth until it bled to keep from breaking every bone in the man's body. He shot to his feet and grabbed him by the throat, pulling his face to within inches of his own.
"Gee, let's think. What have you done lately that might get you a visit from," he let the man catch a glimpse of his fangs in the dim room, "the tooth fairy? Or maybe I should be asking you what you haven't done."
With a strangled noise, the man collapsed into a dead faint. Angel grinned.
"I've still got it."
It hadn't taken too much ingenuity to get himself invited into the house. All he'd had to do was put on a brown, express letter carrier uniform and stop by just after sunset. Hank's girlfriend, who reminded him painfully of Harmony, had automatically invited the handsome supposed-delivery man in when he asked for a glass of water on the hot evening. Happily, she hadn't even batted one over-mascared eyelash when she'd opened the envelope to find a single, round-trip ticket to Paris that left in only a couple hours and a note saying she'd won a non-existent sweepstakes. He'd killed two birds with one stone: an invitation, and getting the semi-innocent party out of the way.
It only took him a moment to find the kitchen. He quickly filled a glass with water and carried it back to the bedroom.
"Rise and shine, pumpkin!" he said in a mock-chipper voice as he dumped the cold water over Hank's face. The man awoke with a start.
"This can't be real," he said to himself. "I'm dreaming. This is all just a bad dream."
Angel made an annoying buzzer noise. "Ding dong, you're wrong! Thanks for playing, and don't forget your booby prize on the way out the door!"
A well placed right cross slammed into Hank's jaw, knocking him out of bed and onto the floor. He hadn't used enough force to do any serious damage, but Angel had still enjoyed it tremendously.
"What do you want?"
"Let's see. A permanent soul. An end to world hunger. The disarmament of all nuclear weapons. Socks that don't lose their elasticity in the wash. But, since you don't seem to be able to give me any of those things, I guess I'll have to settle for you acting like a human being for once in your miserable life."
"Are you aware there are sentence constructions that aren't a question? Hank, shut up and listen. You are aware of the fact your former wife is dead, correct?"
He nodded, afraid to answer.
"And you didn't bother to show up for her funeral, or return your daughters' phone calls, or even so much as show that you still exist on this planet. You know, I've been acquainted with some class one evil people in my day, but you? You take the cake, the cannoli, and the crème brulee."
"This is about Dawn and Buffy?"
"Ah, there you go again with that whole pesky question thing! I told you before, keep your trap shut until you're spoken to, got it?" The man nodded again. "Good. Now here's what you're going to do..."
Several hours later, not long before sun up, Hank had complied with all of the vampire's demands.
"There. Now doesn't that feel all better? You'll be keeping your promises now, I know. Don't think about lying to me. I know perfectly well what your resources are, and if you even consider backing out of this..."
"You won't have to worry about that. I'll follow your directions exactly."
"Know what I can't figure out? How those two girls have both turned out as good as they have considering they've got even a speck of your DNA. They deserve a lot better than the likes of you. And if you ever get the desire to weasel out on them again," Angel turned and his golden eyes were visible in the darkness, flashing with an inhuman light, "remember, I'm watching you."
With that, he quietly melted into the shadows and disappeared.
About three days later, an envelope arrived at the Summers's home addressed to Buffy. Inside was a letter from the bank stating that the mortgage on the house had been paid in full. In addition, both she and Dawn would be receiving $1500 a month for the next twenty years due to an anonymous trust fund that had been set up for them. As if this weren't enough, there were also two large deposits of cash that had been made in their names, enough money to cover college tuition for both of them.
"Well, that's weird. Nice weird, which is great as opposed to Hellmouthy weird, but still weird," she murmured as she slowly realized that finances weren't going to be anywhere near as big a problem as she'd feared. "I guess there must be some kind of angel watching over us."
From his vantage point in the bushes under the front window, Angel smiled. He left, quietly whistling a lighthearted tune, knowing that the apology and invitation to join their father for the summer would arrive in tomorrow's mail. He had one more stop to make before he returned to L.A. As a thank you for making the fourth and final phone call, Angel dropped off a videotape of the whole interrogation that had been shot through Hank's window. He was sure his grandchilde would enjoy it.