Chapter 1: Chapter One
Tires squealed as Angel hurriedly pulled his GXT convertible up to the warehouse that Cordelia saw in her vision. He jumped out of the car as soon as he had it shut off, not even bothering with the door. He rushed inside; he didn’t have much time before it happened. He just hoped he got there before it did.
When he reached the top of the second story, the scene was playing out just like Cordelia had described to him between her clenched teeth. A group of policemen dressed in SWAT attire were being attacked by a horde of vampires, the occasional ‘pop, pop, pop’ of gunfire echoing through the old wooden building.
The authorities had caught wind of a drug deal, and proceeded accordingly, planning a raid as soon as possible.
What they hadn’t known was that the deal was taking place between two vampire nests, and the product wasn’t drugs; it was a mystical orb that Wolfram & Hart were interested in. If he didn’t interfere, there would be a lot of dead cops in here in less than 5 minutes.
Angel placed his fingers near his mouth and whistled as loud as he could, catching the attention of the eleven vampires. They started in recognition; even though he hadn’t been here that long, Angel was widely known throughout Los Angeles as a killer of his own kind and those with ill intent. Almost half of them ran right then and there. The remaining six decided to try their chances. Disregarding the policemen present, they charged at the party crasher. Angel could tell just by their tactically faulty attack and lacking strength that none of these vampires was a day over 40 years old.
They didn’t attack as one, instead attacking in a line one-by-one, which he proceeded to dispatch with relative ease.
The first swung at him wildly, and he quickly sidestepped the telegraphed attack, using his position to come in behind the fledgling with his stake, quickly punching it through his attacker’s heart before turning to the next.
Angel automatically ducked as bullets flew overhead. He spun around in the direction in which they had come from. There, the SWAT team had strategically lined themselves up using crates as cover. They had then begun to open fire on the hostiles. He had hoped that they would try to run as soon as he had the vampires distracted, but apparently luck was not on his side tonight. This was going to cause some problems.
Angel turned his attention back to the fight as one of the five remaining baddies tried to punch him in the face. Though the boys in blue were hitting their marks, the vampires didn’t stay down for long. Originally they were helping, but now Angel was having to avoid the metal projectiles as well. Within minutes, there was one vampire left. As soon as Angel dusted him, he was hit in the chest with a spray of automatic gunfire.
Belatedly he realized that he had shifted into his game face sometime during the fight, painting himself as a target to the stressed cops. He stumbled backwards, landing on an area of weak floorboards. The wood creaked and gave way, depositing Angel back to the ground floor. He lay there stunned for a few seconds. He regained his senses after he heard footsteps pounding down the stairs. He tried to stand, but had to stop at the sharp lancing pain in his leg; he looked down to find it twisted at an unnatural angle, broken. Vampires may heal fast, but it still took time.
He dragged himself to the door, hoisting himself up with help from the wall. He tried to take a step in the direction of his car, but fell forward when he let go of the support the doorway had provided. He spied a sewer entrance not far from where he lay. He made his way over to it as quickly as he could and lifted the tunnel cover. He shoved it over just enough where he could get through, then maneuvered himself into the opening.
As soon as he had gotten himself in and pulled the cover over, he slipped off of the step he was standing on, bringing him crashing to the dank floor below.
Chapter 2: Chapter Two
“Cordelia, have you heard from Angel yet?” Wesley inquired as he paced nervously. It had been over 3 hours since they had last spoken to their employer, and it was nearing dawn.
“Nothing.” Cordelia was just as anxious as Wesley. It never really took Angel this long to solve a situation, and the sun was due to come up in about an hour and a half. They both jumped as Cordelia’s house phone rang. Wesley lept to answer it, Cordelia a second behind.
“Angel?” Wesley asked straight away.
“Wes,” Angel groaned.
“Oh thank God. We were worried about you. It’s been hours, and it’s nearing dawn. Are you alright?” Wesley questioned.
“I’m in a sewer entrance not far from the warehouse. I don’t think I can make it back before sunrise. I’ll have to wait here until tonight.”
“What if we came to get you?”
“Would you?” Angel didn’t want to endanger Wes and Cordy, but it would be safer for all of them if he was back at Cordelia’s apartment instead of stuck in a sewer tunnel.
“Say no more, we’ll be there shortly.” Wesley hung up the phone and went to collect his jacket, then turned to an expectant Cordelia. “We’re going to pick up Angel. It seems that he’s been injured and can’t get himself here in time.”
“Lead the way.” Cordelia locked the door behind Wesley and herself as they headed for his bike, their only source of transportation.
Angel flipped his cellphone shut after Wes ended the call. He closed his eyes and leaned his head back against the wall, contemplating. He’d heard the cops leave, so Wes and Cordy should be OK, barring any new complications. He took another look down at his leg. It was better than it was earlier, but he’d have to set it before it healed wrong. He leaned forward, wincing at the burning pain of the bullets buried in his chest. Those needed to be removed too, but that would have to wait until he got to Cordy’s.
He smiled slightly as he remembered the conversation he, Cordy, and Wes had had about his injuries.
“I don’t care that they aren’t fatal! That’s not the point. You still need to tell us when you’re hurt, so we can take care of it.” Cordelia was on a roll. She had started up the conversation when she and Wes found out that Angel had yet another wound that he tried to tend to himself. It used to be easy for Angel to hide away until he could take care of it. But now that they were all living in Cordy’s apartment, it was quite easy for Cordy or Wes to stumble onto him trying take care of it by his lonesome. Just like now. “You have us now Angel, we’re family, and family takes care of each other. And besides, how were you planning to reach that stab wound in your back? You weren’t were you? You were gonna just pull out the knife and leave it as is.”
Angel looked down as Cordelia guessed exactly what he was planning on doing. He tensed as Cordy took scissors from his hands and finished cutting his shirt. Wesley moved to help as Cordelia forcefully, but gently, steered Angel to the kitchen chair. As soon as Angel’s shirt was out of the way, Wesley carefully gripped the handle of the knife, which was buried to the hilt in Angel’s back near his shoulder. He pulled it out swiftly, murmuring a soft “sorry” as Angel curled quietly into himself.
Cordelia washed the blood off his back with a warm washcloth, then proceeded to apply gauze as Wesley got out the tape. When they had him bandaged up, Wesley went to go fetch one of Angel’s shirts while Cordelia went to the fridge and pulled out a container of pigs blood she kept around. She put about half of it into a mug, then put it into the microwave. He still could hardly believe that she served him blood with the same attitude as she would serve Wesley tea.
She took a seat on the opposite side of the table, then slid the mug into his hands. She was silent for a moment, then spoke what was on her mind. “Angel, I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again; you’re important to us, and we are here to help you. I know that it’s a new concept for you, but when you need help, ask us! None of this macho crap, you hear me?” Though the words were harsh, her tone was light. She really had changed after Voca.
“I hear you. And...thanks. I can’t promise that I’ll follow that advice all the time, but I’ll do my best. Deal?”
“ I’ll take what I can get.” Cordelia got up to leave the room just as Wesley entered with the shirt. Wesley sighed as he cleared the table of medical supplies.
“She is right you know. Though I haven’t been in your employ long, I feel as though we’ve become quite close, the three of us. We need you just as you need us. We will never refuse you help Angel, all you have to do is let us give it.”
He pulled himself into the present, refocusing on his injured leg. He reached forward, and yanked it into place with a harsh exhale. He looked up as the manhole lid moved.
“Angel?” Wesley called from above.
“Over here, Wes.” Wesley quickly climbed down the ladder steps, nearly tripping on the last one in his haste.
“Let’s get you out of here, shall we?” Angel made his way to a standing position with Wesley’s assistance.
“Did you get him?” Cordelia asked as she poked her head down.
“Yes.” Wesley replied. “Oh!” He exclaimed as and Angel made their way up the ladder. “Cordelia and I arrived here on my bike, which means that she’ll have to drive you home.” Angel stopped short at this.
“Cordelia’s gonna have to drive my car?” Angel stated more than asked. “Maybe I can still drive.”
“With a broken leg? How would you manage that? And I thought we trusted each other?” Wesley questioned.
“I do! You’ve just never been in a vehicle with Cordelia in the driver seat.”
“Hey! My driving is fine thank you very much!” Cordelia sounded affronted.
“The car is a classic, Cordy. And you drive like you don’t know how.”
“I promise, I’ll be extra careful. I’ll even go under the speed limit!” Angel never let anyone drive his car, except that one time when Wesley had to. And he wasn’t wrong to be worried, Cordelia thought. It was a beautiful car, and she did have a history of being a less than attentive driver. “Please?” She pleaded as Angel and Wesley climbed out of the manhole. Angel looked at her hopeful face.
“We better not get into an accident, Cordy, or I swear…” Angel permitted reluctantly.
“Cross my heart, I won’t get us into an accident, unless it’s accidentally.” Angel looked entirely unenthusiastic about the prospect of Cordelia driving, especially after her last statement. Even Wesley looked a little unsure now.
“I didn’t get the orb. It’s still out there somewhere.” Angel changed the subject as they covered the short distance to the convertible.
“We’ll find it, sooner or later.” Wesley replied confidently as he helped settle Angel into the back seat. “I’ll see you at the house.” Wesley gave a small smile and wave as he mounted his bike.
“Ready?” Cordelia called as she buckled her seatbelt. Angel nodded hesitantly. “Then let’s get you home.”
Chapter 3: Chapter Three
Angel sighed in relief when they pulled into the driveway. His torso hurt every time he moved or tensed, and he did a lot of it during the drive.
“You good?” Cordelia looked back and asked with concern. She took note of her friend’s clenched jaw and fists. She tried her best to drive smoothly, but this was L.A., and its traffic was notoriously bad, even at night. Sure, Angel was a vampire and he would heal, but she didn’t want to be the one to cause him unnecessary pain. Something had been off with him lately. He slept more than usual, and he took longer to heal than normal. Her and Wesley were both worried. Even Angel, though he tried not to let it show, was a little anxious about the new developments.
“Just fine.” Angel grunted. Cordelia rolled her eyes good naturedly. Some things would never change. Wesley pulled up behind them and dismounted. Angel climbed out of the vehicle without help, but hesitated in putting weight on his injured limb. He would be able to walk with only a slight limp by tomorrow, but for now, trying to walk to the door by himself seemed like a good way to faceplant.
Wesley immediately stepped up beside him, slipping an arm under his and around his shoulders providing support. They haltingly made their way to the front door. Phantom Dennis already had the door unlocked and opened.
“Thanks, Dennis.” Cordelia called as they entered. The lights flickered once in response. Wesley settled Angel on the couch, then gingerly propped his broken leg with some cushions that Cordelia had lying around. When Wesley turned around, Dennis was already gathering the medical supplies on the coffee table, anticipating their needs. “Ok, what’s the damage?” Cordelia inquired as she peeled Angel’s jacket off his broad frame.
“Just a few gunshot wounds, and a broken leg.”
“Right, I guess that means I’m bullet hunting. Where’d I put my tweezers?” Cordelia had, at one time been squeamish at the sight of blood, but that was before joining Buffy’s little ‘Scooby Gang’, and taking care of Angel and Wesley after jobs had become commonplace. The aforementioned tweezers floated near her, courtesy of her invisible roommate. “Oh! Thanks.” She helped Angel slip off his shirt, then took up the forceps. “Don’t worry, this shouldn’t take too long.”
“This is taking too long. How many times can one guy get shot, geez!” It had been just over an hour since Cordelia and Wesley had started on patching up Angel. Wesley had taken care of binding Angel’s leg, while Cordelia had the responsibility of finding the bullets buried in his chest. “Sorry!” Cordelia exclaimed when Angel groaned as she tried to remove the fifth bullet from his chest with her tweezers.
She had to give him credit, he hadn’t hardly made a sound during the removal of the first four.
“S’okay, Cordy. Don’t worry about finesse, just get them out of me please.” Angel tried to keep the pleading tone out of his voice, but Wesley caught the tremor that was apparent in his voice, and the subtle shaking of his hands.
“She’s almost done Angel. Only two more left, then Cordelia can stop digging, and you can rest in peace.” Wesley said soothingly. Or at least that’s what he hoped it was. Angel looked a little relieved, so he took it as a success. Angel’s expression turned pained once again, as Cordelia continued.
“Got it! One more to go.” Cordy exclaimed. Her face screwed up in concentration as she went after the last bullet.
Chapter 4: Chapter Four
Angel laid length ways on the couch, trying to get a little sleep while the sun was up. After Cordy was finished digging all seven metal projectiles out of her boss, she set him up on the living room couch and then went to go catch some shuteye herself. Angel cringed as he saw that Wesley had fallen asleep on the arm chair. His back would not be too grateful when he woke up.
He sighed as he thought about the orb. He didn’t know exactly what it did, just that it was powerful, and that Wolfram & Hart really wanted it. And if Wolfram & Hart wanted it, then he was going to do his best to keep it from them.
Angel was brought out of his musings as Wes started to stir. A fond smile found its way to his lips as he murmured something about the absurdity of unicorns before nearly falling off the chair. He abruptly jumped up, and Angel couldn’t help but laugh a little, bringing him to Wesley’s attention. “Oh, Angel! I hope you slept well.” He stopped and winced as he stretched his back. “At least better than I did.”
“I slept fine Wes, though I’ve been up for a while. Cordy’s still sleeping though.”
“No large surprise there.” Wesley teased. “Well, we can let her sleep a while longer. I’ll wake her after I’ve checked and changed your bandages.”
Angel brought himself further up on the couch as Wesley sat on the coffee table. He reached over and unbound the dressings on Angel’s torso after moving his unbuttoned shirt out of the way. Wesley’s face adopted a troubled look as he took in the state of Angel’s injuries.
“What’s wrong?” Angel asked, tilting his head.
“Angel…” Wes began. “They should be further along in the healing process than this. They barely look any better than earlier this morning.”
“I don’t know what the hell’s going on with me lately. My healing is slower than normal, I’m more exhausted too.” Angel spoke, uncharacteristically open about how he truly felt. This unnerved Wesley slightly. If Angel was this worried, then it was definitely time to panic.
“Well, I’m going to devote time to looking into this. Something’s definitely wrong. But don’t worry, we’ll get you sorted out, and you’ll be back to your regular vigor in no time at all.” Wesley tried to assure. “Now, let’s take a look at your leg.” Hopefully it’s healed better than the gunshot wounds, Wesley internally wished. He wasn’t disappointed, as the bone showed marked improvement from when he’d last inspected it. “You should be able to walk on it today, I’d wager. Though, it’ll still probably be extremely sore.” Wesley diagnosed.
“Thanks,” Angel replied as Wesley proceeded to redo the bandages around the gunshot wounds. “You’re a good friend, Wes.” Wesley froze. Such declarations of fondness between Angel and he usually stayed at a minimum. He found he rather liked this new, more unreserved side of his usually elusive employer.
“Thank you, Angel.” Wesley replied, touched. “I hope you know I highly value your friendship as well.”
“What am I missing? I heard voices,” Cordelia walked into the living room, hair askew. “Sounded like you guys were having a heart to heart in here.”
“Oh, I was just finishing up changing Angel’s bandages.”
“Ooh, OK. How they lookin’ Doc?” Cordelia asked as she sat down on the opposite end of the couch from Angel.
“Well, his leg should be fine by tomorrow. But the gunshot wounds will take some more time.” Cordelia nodded knowingly as Wesley talked.
“I just hope I don’t have any visions until he-” As if by cruel irony, Cordelia was interrupted by the searing pain of another vision. Wesley moved quickly to her side as Angel moved to get up.
“Are you alright?” Angel questioned.
“I’ll survive,” Cordy replied, winded.
“What’ve we got?” Wesley moved to his books sitting on the coffee table.
“A nasty looking demon, didn’t recognize it. It killed this homeless woman.”
“Nasty...demon...unknown origin.” Wes mumbled as he wrote down Cordelia’s identifiers.
“Awful lot of that in this town. I’m sure he’ll feel right at home.” Angel mused.
Chapter 5: Chapter Five
In order to fit the story better, I have changed the order of some events in order to keep them incorporated in the story even though the main plot is different and events have been added/taken/changed. However, some of the scenes/dialogue are lifted from canon.
I don't own Angel or any of the characters in it. If I did, I would have given the characters what they deserve. I love Joss, but he does his characters dirty sometimes...
Lilah stalked down the halls of Wolfram & Hart dressed in her usual business attire, but with a deep scowl adorning her face as she addressed the person on the other end of her cellphone.
“You have every right to review the contract. I encourage it. We'll talk on Monday. - Of course if you don't sign we'll sue your ass off and kill your children. - Just kidding, Donald. No one wants a lawsuit." She snapped her phone shut as she entered Lindsey’s office, where she found him struggling to open a CD case with his new prosthetic hand. “You’re not handicapped, you’re handi-capable.”
“Hello to you too, Lilah.” Lindsey greeted, dropping the CD case with a frown.
“Oh don’t look so down, Lindsey. I found that psychic I told you about. He should be able to do it in a few short months.”
“And he’ll be able to help us get Billy out of Hell?” Lindsey asked.
“No. He’ll help Angel get Billy out of Hell.” Lilah replied with a smirk.
“The eyes are a little further apart.” Cordelia corrected Angel’s sketch. While Wesley was busy with the books, Angel asked Cordelia to describe the demon so that he could draw it, as per usual. “They look right through you. I-I don’t think this guy is afraid of much.” Angel hummed at Cordelia’s descriptors.
“Wes, I’m thinking northern Pakistan, Hindu Kush…” Angel hypothesized.
“Right. Or maybe the Tien Shenin in Kazakhstan. Which means I need Suleman’s Compendium.” Wesley started walking towards the bookshelf but released a surprised screech when the book he wanted flew up and hit him in the face.
“Don’t yell like that!” Cordelia admonished. “You’ll scare him.”
“Scare him?” Wesley squinted.
“Dennis is very sensitive. He’s just trying to help! He’s more a person than a G-H-O-S-T.” Wesley pinned her with an incredulous look when she spelled it out, then turned to Angel.
“We have to get an office.” He pleaded.
“I know. I’ve just got to find time to look for one.” Angel looked positively apologetic. He didn’t like living with other people any more than Wes did. Hell, he liked it even less as he was very much used to his own space. Wesley continued to flip through the pages as he and Angel conversed.
“AHH!!” Cordelia screamed, scaring Wes into screaming as well. He was about to scold her when she pointed adamantly at a picture in Wes’s book.
“Ah, the Prio Motu demon. It’s a killer.” Wesley adjusted his glasses and looked closer at the text.
“Ancient Ofga-beast, bred to maim and massacre.” Angel nodded, remembering.
“Oh, goody. A pit bull.” Cordy chipped in.
“Okay. Now we know what we’re dealing with.” Angel stood up to pace.
“Prio Motu.” Wesley repeated.
“Now we need to find it. We’ve got to narrow it down to somewhere.” Angel leaned up against the wall, crossing his arms.
“I may be able to help us with that. I’ve been broadcasting our contact base. Reaching out to the underlife. I may have someone who can help.” Wesley volunteered, looking up from the book.
“A parasite demon named Merle.” Wesley obliged.
“Maybe it’s time we pay your stoolie a little visit. Make with the chin-music-” Cordy raised her fist, “-until he canaries.” Angel and Wesley both look at her curiously. “I’ve been watching a little noir festival on Bravo.” She explained.
“There is a place he hangs out,” Wesley continued after shaking his head slightly at Cordy’s antics. “A safe haven for demons. I’ve been meaning to take you there. I think it may be of use to us, but…”
“But what?” Angel prodded.
“It’s a little outside the box.” Wesley admitted.
Angel looked a little skeptical when Wesley brought them to a karaoke bar, in which a demon was butchering a rendition of I’m So Excited. When they entered, Angel noticed a sign reading ‘No Violence or Weapons’.
“Your stool pigeon feels safe in a Karaoke bar?” Cordy questioned, doubtful.
“In this one he does. It’s a sanctuary.” Wesley explained. When the song mercifully ended, a green demon stepped up to the stage.
“Well, move over Pointer Sisters! That was cooking! I’m about to lose control and I think I like it. Well, I’m gonna have a word with Liz here. Don’t go anywhere! Coming right up, Mordar the Bentback will be callin’ the tune with a personal favorite of mine. Make him feel welcome!” The crowd cheered as a furry, horned creature took the mic and started singing while the green demon led Liz over to a side table. “Well, I can see someone is feeling pretty zippy. Liz, I know it’s hatching time and you’re looking forward to that. But there is more to life than eating your young! Now let me tell you what I see in your aura…”
“Hello, Merle.” Wesley greeted a bald, grayish green demon sitting at a table. No answer came from Merle, however, as he was staring straight at Angel.
“Cat got your tongue, Merle?” Cordy asked, still in a 50’s mood.
“I don’t have a tongue.” Merle finally looked away from Angel and towards Cordy and Wes on his other side.
“Oh.” Cordy said. Angel leaned down on the counter, and Merle visibly tensed.
“And, uh, keep the bloodsucker away from me.”
“He can’t hurt you in here.” Wesley assured.
“I know his rep, ok? He battles his own kind. Beating on demons wherever he finds em’.” Merle replied, clearly worked up.
“Especially when they waste my time.” Angel finally spoke as Wesley slid an envelope with money towards Merle.
"We're looking for the Prio Motu."
“Woah, now! You’ve obviously never seen one up close. I mean Prios are stone cold killers. They’ve got these teeth that’ll….Anyways, you gotta sweeten this - a whole lot.” Wesley rolled his eyes, but put more money on the table. “This Prio you’re looking for, he don’t like it above ground. So he’ll be traveling in one of those sub-tunnels of the Redondo line. Prios are nasty. Not some big mosquito like you, turns to dust whenever you stake it. Best of luck though.” Angel nodded and turned to leave, Cordy and Wes just a step behind. He nearly ran into the green demon from earlier, but his preternatural reflexes allowed him to stop in time.
“Love the coat,” the demon greeted. “It’s all about the coat. Welcome to Caritas. You know what that means?” The demon paused.
“It’s Latin for mercy.” Angel answered. The demon looked pleasantly surprised.
“Smart and cute. How about gracing us with a number, handsome?”
“I don’t sing.” Angel replied, looking slightly uncomfortable. The demon just laughed.
“Neither does Mordar the Bentback! That cat’s a foghorn on two legs.”
“Who‘s this guy?” Cordelia questioned, curious.
“He’s anagogic.” Wesley replied.
“Really? He looks like he’s eating enough.” Cordy squinted her eyes in confusion while Wesley shook his head.
“Psychic,” he corrected. “He’s connected to the mystic. When you sing you bare your soul. He sees into it. He’s called the Host.” Wesley finished, and Cordelia nodded in understanding.
“This isn’t about your pipes, bro. It’s about your spirit. I can’t read you unless you sing!” The Host implored.
“I don’t sing.” Angel repeated.
“Come on, Angel. I wanna hear you sing.” Cordy begged.
“No.” Angel spoke with finality.
“It would be for a good cause. We might learn something.” Wesley spoke excitedly, intrigued by what could be discovered.
“Who’s the boss here?” Angel questioned, getting a tad irritated. “There are three things I don’t do; Tan, date - and sing in public!” When he finished, he walked out of the bar.
“See you around!” The Host called out. “How fabulous would I look in that coat?” He asked Cordelia and Wesley.
Angel stalked silently through the tunnels, hoping for a lead. After his disastrous night and painful morning, he just wanted a break. Was that so much to ask for? Apparently so, Angel though bitterly. He didn’t know what the hell was up with him lately, and it was driving him crazy. He hadn’t been starving himself since Wes found out and started making him eat. He exercised regularly, ate when he should, and he hadn’t been poisoned, or at least, he didn’t think so. So what is the problem?
Before he could think over it anymore, he heard a high pitched scream up ahead of him. He bolted down the tunnel, limping only slightly due to adrenaline. A middle aged woman ran straight into him, stopping him in his tracks. She gasped and backed away.
“Hey, it’s ok. I won’t hurt you. Are you alright?” Angel tried to calm the distraught woman, his palms raised in front of him.
“There’s a-a monster!” She stuttered, pointing behind her. Angel looked, and his eyes widened.
“Look out!” Angel shoved her to the side as the Prio from Cordy’s vision came charging out of the shadows. It smashed right into him, sending him flying several feet. Angel kipped up, sending an uppercut to the advancing Prio’s jaw. He followed it immediately by a body shot, but it didn’t seem fazed. The Prio blocked and tried to knee Angel in the torso. Angel managed to stop it, but his opponent retaliated by picking him up and throwing him into a concrete wall.
Angel moaned in pain as he rolled, trying to get up. This was not doing his abused torso any favors. He was just a tad too slow in moving, as the Prio kicked him in the stomach. Angel released a pained shout, but recovered quicker this time, jumping up and shooting a straight punch.
Unfortunately, the Prio anticipated this and avoided it, throwing a low arm bar that caught Angel right where he was shot. Angel dropped low, and the Prio followed by elbowing him in the back, bringing Angel to the floor. The Prio tried to finish him off with a hit to the face when Angel shot up and grabbed his arm, twisting it so that the demon was flipped to the ground with his own momentum.
Angel groaned internally. He needed to finish this now, or he wouldn’t have the energy to.
When the Prio came at him next, he grabbed the incoming attack and blocked a knee. He hit it across the face, then came up behind it, locking it in a choke hold. Angel tightened his grip when it tried to lift him off the ground. Come on, Angel pleaded. Just go down already.
After a bit more struggling, he managed to snap its neck. He nearly slunk to the ground in relief, but kept his bearing as there was a civilian present.
“Ma’am, are you alright?” He tried to cover the tiredness in his voice as he spoke. The woman just nodded, still obviously in shock. “Alright, I’m gonna get you out of here, OK?” Angel asked permission to lead the way.
“T-thank you. I thought...I thought I was going to die down here.” She released a humorless laugh, and moved closer to her rescuer. Angel could tell by her state of dress that she was homeless, so he didn’t ask why she was down here.
“C’mon, the end of the tunnel is over here. What’s your name?” Angel made conversation as he led the woman out.
“Well Ellen, you’re safe now.”
After he led Ellen to safety, he turned back towards the tunnels. The demon had to have been nesting somewhere, and they were known for keeping victims in their lair. He followed his nose, the distinctive stench of demon guiding the way. He stopped when he came to what appeared to be the door. He honed his ears, listening for any signs of life, and perked up when he heard a fast heartbeat. No, two, he corrected. He opened the door slowly, hoping not to startle the clearly terrified occupant.
Inside he found an obviously pregnant woman chained to the wall. She shrieked and shrunk against the wall when she caught sight of Angel in the doorway.
“Oh, woah. It’s ok. I’m not gonna hurt you, I’m here to get you out of here. Ok?” He paused, but continued when there was no answer. “Are you alright?” Angel asked.
“Who are you?” The woman asked in lieu of answering.
“My name’s Angel.”
“Are you here to kill me, Angel?” She inquired sadly. Angel was shocked.
“No.” He answered, shaking his head emphatically. “I’m here to save you.” The woman huffed.
“Save me? Where did that monster go? He could be back any minute. And you don’t look tough enough to take him.”
“I’m tougher than I look.” Angel smirked slightly. “And that monster won’t be coming back. He’s dead.” The woman stilled.
“You’re sure?” She asked hesitantly.
“I’m the one that killed him, so I’m pretty sure.” To Angel’s surprise, the woman started to tear up.
“Now we’re doomed, they’re going to kill us. Me and my baby, we’re both dead. God, I hate this town!” A tear slipped down her cheek. Angel moved closer to break her chains. “He was a monster, but he was the only thing protecting me.”
“Protecting you from what?” Angel questioned, confused.
“Things you couldn’t handle.” She replied, still in doubt as to his abilities.
“Like the Tribunal.”
“It’s not your problem.” The woman turned her head away, crossing her arms over her chest in a protective manner. Angel could see that he wasn’t going to get anymore out of her than that, but he was going to at least try.
“What’s your name?” For a minute, Angel didn’t think she was going to answer. Then she spoke.
“Jo, I can help you. You just need to tell me what you need help with.”
“I don’t need your help. I don’t need anybody’s help. Everybody just keeps dying!” Jo spoke hysterically, then ran out the door.
“Jo, wait!” Angel called as he followed her through the tunnels. He put on a burst of speed when he heard Jo yell. When he caught up with her, she was being accosted by a group of vampires. Angel ran at the one closest to Jo, grabbing it by the neck and throwing it away from the pregnant woman. He spun around to take care of the next one, when another vampire jumped on his back, trying to get their arm around his neck.
Angel leaned down, flipping his attacker to the ground, then released his wrist stake, plunging it into the vampire’s chest. He stood up, and quickly dispatched the other three. When he was done, he brushed the dust off of his coat and looked around.
“Shit.” Angel muttered. In the scuffle, he’d lost Jo. She must’ve ran when he was preoccupied. “Damn it!” Angel yelled, slamming his fist into the tunnel wall.
After gathering himself, Angel walked back to the Prio’s den to try and find any clues as to what this ‘Tribunal’ was that Jo referred to. After a little digging, he found a bronze disc with some sort of markings covering it. He’d have to get it to Wesley somehow, but he also needed to look for Jo immediately. He brightened when he came up with an idea.
Joe sighed. Another late night at the office. Stephanie’s going to kill me, he thought glumly. He’d missed another one of Claire’s recitals. Though his little girl was only nine, she was really into singing. Oh well, he figured. I’m just gonna have to make it up to her. He smiled as a plan formed in his mind.
His thought train ended though, when he caught sight of four young men walking around the corner coming right towards him, two of them wearing hoodies. He looked to the men, then looked to his expensive car. Oh God, I’m about to be robbed. He made a split second decision. He threw the keys and ran "Just take the car!" He screamed behind him.
The four men gave chase instead.
"Hey, look out!" One of the men called. Joe looked back, surprised. As he turned back around he ran right into what felt like a brick wall. Joe let out a very unmanly shriek when the face of the man he’d run into contorted into a nightmare.The vampire is about to bite him, when the man who had spoken the warning pushed back his hoodie and pulled out a stake. He knocked the vampire off of Joe and quickly staked him. Joe was in shock, pointing to where his would be murderer had just crumpled to dust and stuttered, unable to form any coherent words.
"You should probably go home now." Joe just looked at the guy who had saved him. The black man motioned with his eyes back to where his car was parked. Unable to say anything Joe took off like a cheetah, running back to his car. "Ah, you're welcome?" The black man called, a tad annoyed.
"People nowadays. Would it kill him to say thank you?" The man put the stake away and addressed the person who had just appeared out of the shadows.
"Angel!" he called with genuine enthusiasm.
"Gunn. Been a while. You well?"
"Picture of health and harmony. - Look at you, dog! You haven't aged a bit!"
"I got a situation."
"So much for the small talk.” He shook his head, a smile pulling at his lips. He turned to his crew. “Sweep Olympic up to Broadway and I'll hook up with y'all back at the crib." Gunn walked beside Angel, heading down the street as they talked.
"Where's home nowadays?" Angel asked, turning his head to look at Gunn.
"Friendly landlord off eighth. We keep the block safe for democracy, he hooks us up with the rent."
"You ever hear of a Prio Motu?"
"Is that like a '62 Chevy with the big cam?” Gunn joked. Angel just looked at him. “Alright. I could have just said no." Gunn allowed.
"It's a warrior demon. He was living down here."
“Well, isn't that nice? I thought all we had to dodge was roaches and vampires! What is this demon up to?"
"Not much. He's dead. He was living around here, though. He had a pregnant woman chained in his place, she said he was protecting her from something.”
“Protecting her from what?” Gunn turned, interested.
“That’s what I need to find out. I was looking through his place, and I found this.” Angel held out the disc he’d found. “I don’t know what it’s for, but Wes could probably figure it out. Might help us know what we’re up against. I hate to ask..."
"Night's still young. What you need?" Gunn asked.
Angel pulled out his business card.
"I work with a couple people at this address. The one on the back." Gunn took the card and the disc. "I need them to see this right away. Tell them it might have something to do with something called the Tribunal."
"The Tribunal. Got it." Gunn nodded.
"Tell them to let me know if they find anything."
"Will do." Gunn patted Angel's shoulder as they parted ways.
Chapter 6: Chapter Six
“Oh, no. Not you again. I told you what you wanted, didn't I?” Merle asked, exasperated.
“I think you know more than you were saying, Merle. You know anything about the woman he had in his possession?” Angel moved forward threateningly.
“There’s a price on her.” Merle answered as he backed away.
“The woman or the baby?” Angel questioned.
“Yeah, the kid. A daughter. She's supposed to be some powerful, benevolent... I don't know! The dark ones, they want her out of the picture. So it's two for one with the mom! The local brokers, they're offering hard cash. But no one can get close enough with that Prio around. You know, now that he is out of the picture you and I could..." Angel smashed Merle into the chain linked fence that stood behind him.
“Where is she?” Angel growled.
“If I knew, would I be hanging around here, getting strangled by you?" Merle sounded incredulous.
"Put the word out. No one touches the woman." Angel instructed.
"It's a little too late for that. You know how many beasts are out there after her by now?" In response, Angel slammed the chain fence right next to Merle’s head.
“Alright! Alright! I’ll let em’ know.”
“Good.” Angel dropped Merle and started walking.
Angel morosely trudged down the sidewalk. He should never have let the woman out of his sight. Now she was running around L.A. with a price on her unborn child’s head. He froze when he caught Jo’s scent. He picked up his pace and tracked the smell back to its owner. He was relieved to find her unharmed, but a little troubled at finding her down a dark, deserted alley.
“Jo!” Angel shouted. Jo spun around at hearing her name.
“You again. Why don’t you leave me alone? It’s not your problem, I can do this on my own. I don’t need anyone else’s help.” Jo turned back around and continued walking sullenly.
“You sure about that? Because from where I’m standing, you’re not in any state to be defending yourself or your baby from anyone that tries to attack you.” Angel tried to reason with the woman. She finally stopped.
“I'm just trying to protect my baby." She whispered.
"I understand." Angel replied.
"How could you? I don't even understand it! - I mean, six months ago I'm working the register at Costco. I did my time as a stock-girl and I was moving up. I was gonna be able to provide for my baby. Now all I wanna do is make sure she gets born." Jo’s voice broke on the last word.
"Well, I want that too."
"Right. Right. Because she is some seer, or leader or Joan of Arc. Well, you know what she is to me? My daughter. Not someone's holy mission." Frustration leaked into her voice the more she talked.
"It's not exactly that - it's - sort of my job." Angel tried to explain.
"Your job?" Jo questioned dubiously.
"Yeah. Look! I got cards - and an office. Well, the office kind of blew up, but we're working out of this other apartment in Silverlake, temporarily.” Angel took an unnecessary breath. He really should be careful about picking up the mannerisms of people he spent time with. Like Cordelia. I’m rambling, I never ramble . Jo took the card Angel handed to her and looked at it thoughtfully. “Let me help you. Let me help your daughter." There was a pause.
"We need to find the coat of arms.” Jo finally relented. “That monster that was holding me said I needed to present it to the Tribunal and maybe if I do they call this whole thing... What?" Jo stopped and looked at Angel when his face adopted a look of recognition.
"It wouldn't be a round bronze talisman. Oh, say, about this big?"
“Yes. Why?” Jo questioned suspiciously.
“I already found it. I didn’t know what it was at the time, so I sent it with a friend to some people who could figure that out. We just have to go get it from them.” Angel explained.
“Assuming we live that long!” Jo started backing away, and Angel turned to look at what had spooked the woman. He found three large demons closing in from the mouth of the alley.
“Let’s go!” Angel grabbed Jo’s arm and started running. He wasn’t losing her this time.
Wesley and Cordelia were busily looking through the books when they heard a loud knock at the door. Wesley shared a glance with Cordelia, who shook her head. She didn’t know who it was.
"Who is it?" Wesley called suspiciously.
"What was that?" Wesley questioned. He thought he’d heard wrong.
"Something about a gun. What if it's a demon with a gun?" Cordelia whispered quickly with a note of panic in her voice.
“Why would a demon need a gun?” Wes asked incredulously.
“I don’t know! But it’s a possibility.” Cordy shot back. Wesley shook his head and returned his attention to their hidden visitor.
"Listen up, whoever you are, we are well armed and we know how to do battle, so if you know what's good for you..."
"My name is Gunn. Angel sent me." Gunn called through the door. He smirked slightly to himself. He’d heard a little of their conversation, and the few bits he heard he found hysterical.
Cordy mouthed an ‘oh’ to herself and approached the door, swinging it open. "Well, this is a little embarrassing.” She gestured for Gunn to come in, knowing that she shouldn't verbally invite anyone in, even if it was sunny outside. “Wesley, you've heard Angel talk about Gun. He's a great guy with a really fly street tag." Cordelia spoke.
"What's a street tag?" Wesley looked confused.
"It's how they know you on the street, dorko. Gun. It really lets them know you mean business." Cordelia emphasized with a finger gun.
"It's my name. Charles Gunn. Two n’s.'" Gunn held up two fingers. Cordelia blushed in embarrassment.
"Oh, lord, will no one shut me up?" She bit her lip and looked at Wesley.
"Uh, I'm Wesley Wyndam-Pryce and this is Cordelia Chase. It's nice to finally meet." Wesley formally greeted, raising his hand for a handshake.
"I've seen you before." Gunn pointed to Cordelia as he shook Wesley’s hand.
"Really? The Tan'n Screen commercials!" Cordelia beamed.
"I saw you in bed." Gunn corrected.
"What?" Cordy exclaimed.
"Ah, I-I can see this is none of my business..." Wesley started walking towards the kitchen when Gunn called after him.
"Now, just a moment!" Wesley turned around, ready to defend his honor.
"In the hospital - after Angel's building blew? He sent me there to keep an eye on you two." Gunn clarified.
"Right." Cordelia nodded in understanding.
"I'm just messing with y'all. I was hoping for some demon fighting tonight, but I wound up with a delivery job instead.” He handed the talisman to Wesley. “Angel said it might have something to do with something called the tribunal."
"Well, this could be an emblem, or - some sort of protective amulet." Wesley mused.
“Well, whatever it is, Angel’s demon thought it was pretty important.” Gunn voiced.
Angel led the way out of the alley into the sewer tunnels. After running for a while, he stopped and looked around. He recognized this place.
"What?" Jo asked breathlessly.
"This way." Angel directed. They came up through a grate into the basement of a building.
"Where are we?" Jo peered into the darkness, her human eyes not picking up much.
"Come on." Angel didn’t answer, instead walking up the stairs. They entered into what looked like a deserted hotel lobby, the furniture covered with white, dusty sheets.
Jo watched Angel look around, and came to a conclusion based on the recognition in his face.
"You've been here before. Uh! It feels creepy."
"Yeah.” Angel replied absentmindedly. “What's the Tribunal?"
"Some kind of otherworldly court. Supposedly they can save me and my daughter. You-you go before them, you gotta have that charm... I don't know how it works. You know what? Screw this! I'm getting out of town!"
"Try and stop me." Jo challenged. Angel huffed, slightly annoyed. This was getting beyond ridiculous. He couldn’t let Jo try and fight it herself even if he wanted to.
"They'll find you wherever you go. You have to stay with me."
"You? You can't protect me!" Again, with the doubt. What have I done to make her doubt my abilities so much? Angel tried to find a reason, until he came to the conclusion that she didn’t need one. Of course she’s not going to trust a stranger, especially as the last one who pledged to protect the child imprisoned her.
"Yes, I can. We're gonna go to my friend's house. We're gonna get that charm and I'm gonna help you, I promise. There is a gate in the back... “ He paused as he heard a noise from outside. “Go to the address I gave you. Go!" Jo ran as Angel came under attack by the three large, grey demons from earlier.
Cordy and Wes jumped up from the table as Angel walked in the door.
"Angel! Are you all right?” Cordelia immediately asked, taking in his appearance. “What happened?"
"Is she here?" Angel asked, disregarding Cordy’s questions for the moment.
"The pregnant woman? No. Gunn brought us the talisman, but..." Angel looked at Wesley for answers when Cordy trailed off.
"Working on it." Wesley acknowledged as he went back to his books.
"I told her to come here. She doesn't trust me. Why should she?" Angel hit the wall angrily. “I should have kept a better eye on her.” He pinched the bridge of his nose and sat down on the couch. Not for the first time, Cordelia wondered if vampires could get headaches. She took a seat beside her distraught boss and put her hand on his shoulder.
"You can't see everything. You're just a vampire like everyone else... That didn't come out right." Angel glanced at her from the corner of his eye. “What I’m trying to say is, you can’t save everyone, Angel. Nobody can. All you can do is your best. And besides, you seem to be taking this kinda personally.” Cordelia was a little confused. The woman’s attitude wasn’t Angel’s fault, so why was he blaming himself?
Angel just moved his gaze to the floor, opting to remain silent.
“Angel, I know you’re all about redemption, and trying to make amends for all that bad stuff that happened when you were soulless. But the truth is you can’t.” Angel looked up sharply at Cordelia’s words. Even Wesley stopped flipping through pages. “You can’t make amends for something that someone else did. And that. Wasn’t. You.” Cordelia punctuated each word, trying to get her point across. “Angel, you and Angelus are sooo different. You guys are like polar opposites. Nobody pulls a whole switcheroo like that, not even evil people!”
“Cordelia is quite right.” Wesley joined the conversation. “The soul and the demon are two separate entities. You bear no responsibility for Angelus’s actions as they occurred in your absence.” Wesley spoke passionately. Angel was amazed that he had friends, family , he amended, that believed in him so deeply. He just couldn’t do it himself.
“I hear what you’re saying, Wes. But I just can’t see it that way. Not when I see what he saw, felt what he felt. I remember every little thing he did with my hands, my voice. Every vile thought he had, every unholy act he committed, is stuck in my brain.” Angel spoke with despair. “I just can’t get myself to believe that it wasn’t me, that he isn’t me at my worst. Not when I see it all so vividly…” Angel closed his eyes before a tear could leak out. Cordelia and Wesley shared a profound look and came to a silent understanding.
“Well, then I guess that Cordelia and I shall have to keep telling you until you do believe it.” Wesley addressed with a gentle smile.
“It's gonna be a long while until you really believe it yourself, but I know you well enough to know you will. And I'll be with you until you do." Cordelia announced, impassioned.
"What about your inevitable stardom?" Angel asked, teasing slightly.
"I'm not saying I won't have a day job." Cordelia replied with a smirk.
The moment was interrupted when Wesley cried, “Aha! I think we got something. It's medieval. A small badge or coat of arms, to be presented when going before the Cahair Binse. Roughly translated that's chair of judgement."
"The Tribunal." Angel figured.
"Right. An ancient court to settle grievances." Wesley agreed.
"You mean- with like lawyers and stuff." Cordelia simplified.
"This is a little more primitive. It's a fight to the death." Wesley corrected.
"That's why she needed a champion. Where would this Tribunal take place?" Angel asked, getting to his feet.
"There is no way to tell. They're mystical events, they could rise up in our reality whenever they please." Wesley explained.
"Look, we got to find her right away - whatever it takes. There's only one way."
“Well if it isn’t the most handsome vampire on the west coast! What brings you by?” The Host greeted Angel. Cordy smirked at Angel’s uncomfortableness, but was elbowed in the ribs by Wesley, who was hiding a grin of his own.
“I need answers, and it seems like you are the only one who can give me the ones I need.”
“So you’ve come to sing?” The Host inquired hopefully.
“I’ve told you, I don’t sing. Believe me when I tell you that you don’t want to hear me try. Is there any other way for you to read me that doesn’t require me to perform vocally?”
The Host peered at Angel thoughtfully.
“Well, you bare your soul when you perform music of any kind. You play any instruments hot stuff?” Angel nodded at The Host’s question.
The Host waited.
“I’m competent with a piano, guitar, or violin.” Angel allowed.
“How did we not know Angel played?” Cordelia turned and asked Wesley.
“Our line of work doesn’t exactly allow for leisure time now does it?” Wesley answered her with a rhetorical question.
“Ooh, it’s been a long time since I’ve heard some decent strings. I have a violin lying around somewhere in the back. We’ll get you set up on stage, and then you can play your big heart out! Now, if it makes you feel better, you won’t be the only instrument playing; I have a psychic orchestra. Whatever music you want to compliment your song choice, just think it and it’ll play. Come on.” The Host beckoned as he strolled towards the back of the bar. “Oh, this is gonna be so much fun!” The Host spoke to himself.
Angel was starting to get a little nervous. His playing ability was fine, but he never liked playing in front of crowds. He remembered playing in front of people back in Ireland, but that was some 200 odd years ago, and he’d changed.
The Host handed him a dark, well crafted violin that seemed just the right size. Angel let out a surprised huff as he handled the instrument.
“How do you just have one of these lying around? This is a Stradivarius!” Angel remarked as he took in the artisan quality to the instrument.
“Well, well. May wonders never cease.” The Host looked anything but surprised.
“All you gotta do is walk up on that stage, and play. I’ll give you your answers after the show, and boy am I ready for a show!” The Host winked and made his way to his seat.
“Well, here goes.” Angel muttered. He walked lightly up the steps, clutching the violin by the neck in his hand.
When Angel got to center stage, there was a wave of whispers from the crowd.
Cordelia and Wesley claimed a table near the front of the stage, looking incredibly eager to hear their boss’s performance.
Angel gulped. He raised the violin to his shoulder, and gently placed his chin in the rest. After getting comfortable, he arranged his fingers on the strings.
( Furious - David Garrett ) - The song Angel’s playing. Look it up and listen to it as you read!
The room filled with the sound of a drum roll, giving way to a fast paced violin. Cordy had figured that Angel would start slow, and maybe build the intensity, but it was right there from the start. The tempo he set was quick and light, with an underlying sense of urgency. Her eyes widened in shock at her friend’s hidden talent. He sounded good. Really good.
She may not be psychic or whatever, but even she could tell what Angel was feeling based on the notes. No wonder music was the key to a person’s aura.
Wesley smiled as he watched Angel lose himself in the music he was projecting. He wasn’t exactly surprised that Angel played musical instruments. He was over 200 years old after all, and very intelligent.
The Host watched, mesmerized. A small tear ran down his face as he listened to the ensouled vampire play. When he heard people play music, he got a peak at their aura, their future, their soul. Angel’s soul was so bright, yet so badly damaged. Every soul sustained some, but this was the worst he’d ever seen. And he’d seen plenty.
There were fractures and rifts all over, and it looked like it had been shattered, then pieced back together. Like cracked glass, or ice. It looked unlike anything he’d ever seen before, entirely unique. Human souls appeared bright orange, demon souls (if they had any) were gray and misty. They appeared neon yellow when mixed.
But Angel’s soul glowed an ethereal blue, its cracks and patches not taking away from its otherworldly grace in the slightest. He peered closely as he spied a nearly invisible wall separating the two halves of it. As the song was coming to a close, The Host shook himself and started looking for Angel’s answers. When he found what he was looking for, the song had ended, and the crowd erupted in claps and cheers.
Angel breathed a sigh of relief. It looked like his performance had gone over quite well. Wesley clapped enthusiastically, and Cordelia was whistling, a grin nearly splitting her face.
“He’s good !” Cordelia exclaimed.
“Extremely!’ Wesley agreed. They both watched as The Host jumped up on the stage and threw an arm around Angel’s broad shoulders. He took the microphone from the stand and addressed the audience.
"Hey, how 'bout that, a performer! Why don't we just call him Angel, the vampire with soul. I'm gonna have a chat with Mr. Tall Dark and Rockin' and meanwhile, Durthock, the child-eater, is gonna open up to y'all. He's searching for the gorrishyn mage that stole his power and he's feeling just a little bit country. So, let's give him a hand." The Host led Angel off the stage over to a private corner booth.
"Well. You're just the hot ticket. One night only, two seats left, partially obstructed view." The Host articulated, his voice smooth.
"What can you tell me?" Angel cut right to the chase.
"I can tell you're all business."
"She's in danger." Angel pressed. He didn’t have the time for idle chit chat just now.
"And you're feeling pretty guilty about that. But Big Guy, lemme tell you, it’s not your fault. You couldn’t have prevented this mess, but you can do your best to help that poor mother and her baby. The Tribunal can guarantee safety for the youngster, the mother too. "
"Tell me where they are."
"The Tribunal will be wherever she is. She can't escape it." The Host told him as he took a sip of his drink.
"Where is she ?"
"My question first. And answer true, because you know I'll know. Where did you learn to play? I gotta say, I wasn’t expecting a professional performance.”
Angel leaned forward in his seat, hesitating only slightly.
“I learned to play when I was still human, back in Ireland. I’ve always been kind of fond of the violin. It was the first instrument I learned, and I-I kind of think it’s pretty.” Angel whispered at the end. The Host nodded at Angel’s answer.
“And it is you big sap! There is not a destroyer of worlds that can argue with the beauty of a brilliant violin and good for you for fessin' up. She'll be at Fourth and Spring. The trial will be there." The Host instructed.
"Trial? How does it work?"
"I can only tell you what I tell you. The rest is up to you."
Angel got up to leave, but stopped and looked at The Host.
"Can I save her?" He implored.
The Host smiled. "Try - and find out."
Jo hurried down the nearly empty street, one hand on her belly ,the other on her back. God, she was tired. I probably should have just gone to the address , she mused as she looked once again at the card Angel had given her. My pride is going to literally be the death of me.
Suddenly three stone thrones occupied by dark robbed figures rose out of the ground behind her.
She whipped around at the shrill sound of a horse whinnying. Its rider was dressed in heavy battle armor, and even from this distance she could tell that he wasn’t human. Oh God, please.. .she prayed silently, panic gripping her heart like a vice.
The knight approached the council, and threw down a bronze disc; his coat of arms.
The Judge in the middle turned to address her.
"Where is your champion?"
"He's-he's dead." Jo stumbled over the words.
"You have no coat of arms and no champion?" Her heart fell at the being’s tone.
"I ask for asylum." She all but begged.
"Asylum is not ours to give. Two are chosen to meet in combat. One can save your life. One can take it. This is the ancient law. Your life is forfeit. You have no champion." The finality in his voice was undeniable. This is where I die , she thought. At least let it be quick .
The knight pulled his sword and advanced towards his prey as she backed away.
Suddenly a bronze disk landed on top of the other one.
"Yes, she does." Angel approached the thrones, seeming to come out of thin air. Jo nearly sobbed in relief.
The Judge nodded, unmoved.
"The trial by combat will begin."
Jo walked beside Angel as he moved towards a horse that came out of nowhere.
"I really appreciate you coming through for us like this. But you sure you can do this?" She’d seen him fight, and he was very skilled. But he’d fought a lot of opponents, and his energy appeared to be waning.
"I grew up around horses." Angel nodded.
"How long has it been since you've ridden one?"
"It's been a while.” Jo glanced at him sharply. Angel smiled slightly and attempted to reassure her. “Don't worry. It's not something you forget. I can do this."
Jo walked over to the side as Angel stepped up close to the black horse.
"Nice horse.” Angel stroked its neck and nose. He brought its head down slightly so he could look the beast in the eye. “Try not to make me look stupid out there, okay?” The horse nodded its mighty head, almost as if it understood.
Angel grinned. He hadn’t lost his touch. “Alright." Angel mounted the horse and took up the shield and lance.
The middle judge dropped a red cloth and the knight charged.
"I guess that means go." Angel continued to speak to the animal, who replied with a neigh.
He kicked his new friend’s flanks, urging the horse onward. He raised the long lance, aiming it at the approaching horsemen. They both were at full speed when they clashed, Angel’s aim true as his lance hit his opponent’s head, nearly knocking him off his mount.
When they each got to their opposite sides, they turned and charged at each other again. Angel was tired, his exhaustion causing him to drop his lance slightly.
This presented an opportunity to the black knight, one which he took full advantage of. He pulled his arm back, and thrust it forward again.
The lance hit Angel in his unprotected chest, knocking him off the horse. He landed flat on his back, but rolled to his feet with a wince as he heard the clatter of hooves. His enemy was coming back.
Thank God I don’t have to breathe , or else I’d have had it knocked out of me right about now.
He hurried to his horse, which hadn’t strayed, thankfully. He quickly grabbed his sword and mace while the other knight threw his lance to the side, instead opting for his sword. With the steel in his hand, he rode at Angel.
Angel readied himself, dropping his body lower and raising his sword high. He intercepted the swing, knocking the knight out of the saddle with one blow.
The knight rolled, bringing up his mace to block Angel’s overhanded slice.
He swung the handle downward, smashing into Angel’s gut.
Angel gasped, but brought up his weapon as the knight came at him, roaring furiously. They continued to exchange blows with Jo watching worriedly from the sidelines. She could tell that Angel had more skill, but the demon knight was strong, putting them on nearly equal footing.
After some fast and furious exchanges that she couldn’t seem to follow with her human eyes, the demon knight turned Angel's sword, stabbing him through the gut in a lucky move.
Jo gasped, bringing her hands to her mouth as Angel dropped down onto his knees in shock and in pain. He clutched the unforgiving steel of his sword, one hand on the pavement to stop his descent.
The demon knight turned towards the Tribunal, a victorious smirk visible from beneath his helmet.
Angel breathed haltingly as blood dribbled from his lips. I am not letting her die , he resolved.
"The champion is defeated. She and all her issue are yours." Jo looked despairingly at the Judge who so callously condemned her to death.
The knight drew a knife and moved to slit Jo’s throat. Angel moved to his feet, groaning as he pulled the sword from his body.
"I move to appeal that ruling." He beheaded the demon with one clean sweep of his sword. The job done, he dropped the sword, swaying precariously on his feet and panting harshly. "She's safe now, right?" He demanded.
"You have won.” The Judge agreed. Angel closed his eyes in relief and bent over in an attempt to relieve the burning sensation that often accompanied stab wounds. “She is under our protection, as is her daughter until she comes of age." With that the Tribunal vanished as if it had never been.
Jo gazed at the once occupied space in astonishment, but was brought back to the present when she heard a moan of pain from her rescuer. She looked over to see him bent at the waist, eyes closed.
"You okay?" She asked, touching his shoulder gently.
Angel opened his eyes and straightened up from his crouched position, still panting, and limped off the street.
"Yeah." He stumbled, clearly refuting his earlier claim. Jo quickly steadied him, grabbing his arm and putting it over her shoulders.
Angel hummed in thanks.
"You sure seem to bleed a lot."
"It's part of the job." Angel spoke with an acceptance that she admired.
“Well, let’s get you home then, huh?”
“Yeah. Yeah, that’d be nice.” Angel nodded.
Wesley bit his lip. After Angel had left, he and Cordelia had been stuck with the unbearable job of waiting. It wasn’t helping matters that Cordelia was pacing back and forth like some wild cat.
“Will you please sit down!” Wesley nearly begged.
“What if he didn’t find her in time? What if she’s dead? Or what if he did find her, but he got himself dusted?! He wasn’t looking too good when he left.” She worried incessantly. Wesley caught her gaze.
“Angel will be fine, Cordelia. He’s nearly never lost a fight, and I’m sure he will emerge victorious.” He tried to be reassuring, but he was just as worried as Cordelia.
“I know. I’m just worried, Wesley. You and Angel are family now, and I don’t know what I’d do if anything happens to him.”
Wesley couldn’t bring himself to say anything in response. He felt the same way, and this wait was killing him.
He jumped off the couch when he heard a knock on the door. With wild abandon, Cordelia swung the door open, not even bothering to ask who was there.
“Oh my God, Angel!” Cordelia cried. Wesley scanned Angel’s figure, categorizing any wounds that they would have to take care of. Almost in afterthought, he noticed that Angel was not alone.
So this must be the client, Wesley concluded.
“Bring him inside,” Cordelia gestured with her hand, urging both of them indoors. “Are you OK?”
“He was stabbed in the middle with a sword, I think he’s a little far from OK.” Jo finally spoke.
Without prompting, Phantom Dennis started gathering first aid supplies.
“Here, set him down on the couch.” Wesley directed. “How are you feeling, Angel?”
“Like I’ve been run through.” Angel forced himself to keep his eyes open. “The Tribunal’s guaranteed Jo’s safety. Her and the kid’ll be just fine.”
“I-I can’t thank you enough.” Jo expressed her gratitude. “Especially after how distrustful I was of you. I’m sorry I’ve caused you so much trouble.” Jo’s eyes had dropped, and now she was staring at the floor. Angel tried to shift, but stopped with a grimace.
“Jo, you were scared, and you didn’t know me. Your reaction was understandable.” Angel comforted. She gave him a small smile.
“Thank you. For everything.” She started to move towards the door. “I’m gonna get going though.”
“Where will you go?” Angel questioned.
“I’m going to head back home, now that it’s safe. I can get back to my life now, thanks to you.”
“It’s what we do.” Angel answered.
“I’ve even picked out a name for the baby!” She told him excitedly.
“How does Angelica sound?” Angel froze at her revelation.
“Angelica, huh? Pretty name.” Cordelia input, beaming at Angel.
“I figured that she should be named after our Champion.” Jo explained at the shocked look on Angel’s face.
“I’m honored.” Angel was floored. Someone actually wanted to name a kid after him.
Wesley grinned internally. Maybe this is exactly what Angel needed to reaffirm his belief in himself.
“Well, I’m going to head out now. I just wanted to make sure you got home OK. Thanks again.” Jo waived as she walked out the door, a smile on her face and a slight bounce in her step.
“OK, what’s the damage mister?” Cordelia turned her attention back to her ailing boss.
Angel was about to explain, but inhaled sharply as Wesley prodded the wound.
“Sorry!” Wes apologized.
“It’s OK Wes, just wasn’t expecting it is all.”
“Well? Don’t keep us in suspense here, what happened?” Cordy pushed.
“Well, I dueled a knight.”
“Oh, the trial then, it was a duel?” Wesley pushed his glasses further onto his nose.
“Complete with armor, a horse, and a lance.”
“I was getting kind of tired, after the night I’ve had. I made a sloppy move and ended up paying for it; I got stabbed.” Wesley peeled back Angel’s shredded shirt, being more careful this time as to how hard he pressed.
“The bullet wounds from earlier seem to have healed over, but this injury appears to have gone most of the way through.” Wesley evaluated. “Has your leg given you much trouble?”
“No, it’s pretty much all healed up.” Angel replied.
“Oh, good. Alright then, we’ll just bandage you up. Cordelia, would you get him something to eat? He feels colder than usual.” Wesley had noticed that whenever Angel was not eating enough, his temperature plummeted. Angel thought he didn’t notice when he skipped feedings, but Wesley was more observant than most people thought, courtesy of his rather abusive upbringing.
“Right. One cup of hot blood coming right up!” Cordelia announced as she made her way to the kitchen.
Angel leaned further back on the couch, the burn in his gut lessening slightly with the motion.
After drinking the blood that Cordelia provided, his eyes began to droop.
“Alright, I’m all finished.” Wesley stood up and wiped his hands on his slacks. “I think we’ve all earned a good night’s sleep.” He took his glasses off his face and rubbed the bridge of his nose.
“Oh, I second that.” Cordelia echoed Wesley’s sentiment.
“Goodnight all.” Angel murmured as he moved sideways on the couch. “Oh, and Wesley,” Angel remembered, “don’t fall asleep on the chair again. Sleep on the cot.”
“Oh, yes. I don’t think my back would forgive me if I abused it further. That chair really is a hazard, Cordy.” Cordelia looked slightly affronted.
“Well don’t fall asleep in it! It’s not meant for that. That’s what the cot’s for.” She motioned to the makeshift bed she had set up for her temporary roommates.
The corner of Angel’s mouth lifted in a smile as he drifted off to sleep to the sound of his newfound family.
For those who don't know, a Stradivarius is an extremely well crafted, expensive violin. They often sell for millions of dollars, and are of the highest quality. :)
Chapter 8: Author's Note
Hey guys, unfortunately this isn't an update, but I am working on the next chapter. However, I would appreciate some comments on what you think is done well, or what needs more work. I am currently working without a beta right now, so I know there's some mistakes in here somewhere. If anyone's interested in being a beta, let me know. Have a great rest of your day/night, and the next chapter should be here shortly! :)
Chapter 9: Chapter Eight
Wesley roused as sunlight hit his face. He was about to turn away from the bright light when it suddenly occurred to him that Angel was asleep on the couch. He shot to his feet, hurrying to close the heavy curtains before the sunlight could touch his sleeping friend. He breathed a sigh of relief as darkness enveloped the room. They had forgotten to close the shades last night.
He turned to watch Angel sleep, his face seeming even younger with his eyes closed, eyes that held centuries worth of pain, guilt, and memories.
He bore such a heavy burden that Wesley was still surprised that Angel had lived as long as he had.
When he came to work for Angel, he took it upon himself to research his boss’s curse as thoroughly as possible. Not only to gain information, but to look for a way to make his soul permanent.
After reading up on the curse and its original purpose, Wesley was appalled.
The curse was originally used to bring deceased criminals back to their bodies to serve their penance.
The curse only lasted for about 30 days, but that was enough as the curse did nothing to stop the decomposition of the body. Wesley shivered. Just thinking about residing in a rotting corpse was enough to send chills of disgust through him. They had inputted the clause into Angel’s curse, and the curse held as the body was magically preserved.
He couldn’t understand how the Romani clan could claim moral superiority when they punished the wrong being. Angel had been absent while Angelus had killed and pillaged, and yet he was being blamed for the demon’s sins.
He was elated that his first translation of the Shanshu prophecy was wrong. Angel would be human! Not dead as he had first feared. He now had something to look forward to, something he wanted. Something to tie him to the world he so staunchly held himself apart from.
He’d gotten better with his and Cordelia’s influence, but he was still detached from life. He could observe, but he couldn’t participate.
He sighed as he thought about Angel’s earlier words. Of course he feels so much guilt. He can’t separate himself and his demon. He feels entirely responsible.
Coupling Angel’s sense of responsibility with his eidetic memory made for intense feelings of culpability. Lesser men would have offed themselves by now.
Wesley was jerked out of his musings as Angel twitched in his sleep, his head moving sharply to the side. Wesley watched closely; he’d let Angel sleep for now, but if his struggles started to increase, then he’d wake him.
After spending so much time together in Cordelia’s very nice, but small, apartment, they were bound to find out new things about each other.
Wesley found that Angel suffered from intense nightmares most nights. Though he was careful to be quiet, something which came from practice, Wesley had heard him when he woke with startled gasps or strangled cries.
He also learned that Angel had a propensity to skip meals, denying himself the substance which he needed to sustain himself. Most times he was just too busy and forgot, other times he purposefully stopped himself from eating when he was hungry. As a consequence, his skin turned colder than usual. He wasn’t the only one who noticed either; Cordelia had picked up on these things as well, and they both had come to an agreement to take care of the man who took care of everyone else but himself.
He and Cordelia had come up with a system to check with small, natural touches. They started making sure Angel ate more regularly, serving him his meals when they ate theirs. It had been working quite well, he must say.
It seemed as if Angel was settling back down, and he relaxed.
“How’s he doing?” Wesley whipped his head over to where Cordelia was peaking out of her bedroom.
“He’s still sleeping. He had a nightmare earlier, but he seems fine now.” He responded.
“Good. Have you found anything to explain why he is how he is right now? I’m tired of seeing him so beat up, he usually doesn’t get hurt this often, or this bad.” Cordelia spoke with uncharacteristic seriousness, worry tainting her tone.
“Sadly, I have not.” He exhaled in frustration. “I’ve never heard of anything that would cause this in a vampire. But Angel isn’t exactly like every other vampire. He has a soul, so I am looking for a needle in a bloody stack of needles. I haven’t found anything!” He started off with a whisper, but his voice raised in volume near the end.
“What?” Wesley flinched guiltily as Angel came out of his slumber.
“I’m sorry, Angel. I didn’t mean to wake you.” He apologized.
“Don’t worry about it Wes, I was waking up anyways.” He yawned and stretched, or at least tried to. He went rigid when he felt the pull of his stab wound. “What time is it?” He asked unnecessarily as he swung his arm around to look at his watch. “Today’s Saturday, right?”
“Yes.” Wesley answered. Angel nodded and slowly got to his feet. He glanced around for one of his intact shirts as he was currently shirtless. His search ended when Cordelia handed him a dark burgundy button up.
“Yeah, no big. Breakfast will be done in a sec.” Cordy called. She walked into the kitchen, and stopped when she saw breakfast already made and waiting. “Aww, Dennis! You are seriously the best roommate ever! Hey guys, scratch what I said, breakfast is ready now.” Cordy called with a grin. Phantom Dennis even had a cup of warm blood waiting for Angel.
Both of the boys came into the kitchen, dressed for the day. She envied their ability to get ready so fast; she still had to pick out her outfit.
Angel looked surprised as he took in the sight. As he sat down, a cup of heated blood floated down to sit right in front of him. Seemed like Cordy and Wes weren’t the only ones who cared. Angel’s eyes crinkled in the corner, a smile but not.
“Thank you, Dennis.” He expressed quietly.
“Oooh, eggs!” Wesley acknowledged with his usual excitedness. He sat down and dug in. Their tradition would continue it seemed. Angel always made eggs after a night on a case. “Cordy, would you pass the toast?”
“Yeah, sure.” She took two slices before passing the plate to the ex-watcher.
After breakfast was finished, Phantom Dennis cleared the dishes away, washing them efficiently and putting them away after he’d dried them.
"Alright, you guys hold the fort. I've somewhere to be." Angel rose to his feet, again taking a look at his watch.
“We shall see you when you return then.” Wesley acknowledged as Angel moved towards the door. The clouds had come out since earlier, and the sky was looking quite overcast, making it safe for the vampire to venture outdoors. Angel swung on his coat and pocketed his keys before exiting, making his way to his car parked on the side of the street. He walked stiffly, still feeling his injury from last night. He hoped they solved this little problem soon, as it was already getting real annoying real fast.
Angel picked up the phone that was placed in the prison visitor booth. A smile graced his face when the person he came to visit took the seat on the other side of the glass with a disbelieving grin.
"Hey." Angel greeted.
"Hey." Faith welcomed in return. She knew that Angel promised her he would visit every Saturday at 11, circumstances permitting, but it was still a shock that he followed through on his word. Every other guy in her life hadn’t, so this was new to her. She supposed she shouldn’t be surprised; it was Angel after all, Mr. Knight-In-Shining-Armor.
"How’re you doing?"
"Pretty good, I guess. I did sign up for this." Faith spoke.
"Regretting the choice?" Angel asked, tilting his jaw.
Faith shook her head.
"Bad day. One of the girls in the yard tried to build a rep by throwing down with me. She had low self esteem, and a home-made knife, so..."
"Oh. Is she, you know, alive?"
"She lives to tell the tale. Took the knife away - and I can't say much for the wrist it came in."
"So you didn't kill her." He clarified.
"I really wanted to. Took a big beating from the guards, too."
"Sorry." Faith just shrugged.
"Earned worse. Guys like us kind of got it coming."
"I had to play a song at a karaoke bar."
Faith’s mouth opened in shocked amusement.
Angel shook his head. "In front of people."
Faith tried not to laugh but was unsuccessful. "And here I am talking about my petty little problems."
Angel nodded his head in agreement. "Just wanted to give you a little perspective."
"Piano?" She guessed.
“Violin. I don't wanna dwell on it."
"The road to redemption is a rocky path." Faith stared at the wall, deep in thought.
"That it is." He agreed.
"You think we might make it?" Angel gazed at her in empathy, hearing the hopeful note she tried to hide with humor.
"We might.” He answered softly. “Food getting any better?"
"You know,” she started, “ it's not that different from what I grew up on. It's a little one note. Eating the same thing every day.”
"I wonder what that's like." Angel smirked.