I've been away for such a long time, and missed so much of the stuff you've been up to.... Sorry... *Hangs head*. Forgive me?
Still, I wanted to give support to the new project dreamed up by Chrislee and Dark Star. So, here's my first offering for Phantasmagoria. I'm also going to try and link this to a post there. I may not succeed. Stop laughing at me - it's wicked to watch a grown girl cry! :~))
'Welcome to the Hellmouth' is a short story ( a very, very short story for me) of about 1600 words. It's for you, Chris and DS...
Author : Jo
Feedback : Pretty please. At LJ or to email@example.com
Rating : General
Summary : How does Angel feel about his welcome to the Hellmouth?
WELCOME TO THE HELLMOUTH
He wants to live. Everything wants to live, to evade for as long as possible that final individual extinction. No matter whether it believes in hell and retribution, as he does, or in complete cessation of being, as he might pray for, if he thought he would be heard, or whether it has insufficient brain power to understand any of these concepts, every creature under the sun strives to maximise its time among the living, to put off that inevitable day when it will be seized by the unknown. It’s an instinct engrained into every cell of every being, and it leads to dreams of eternal life.
He shakes the water from his hair and steps out of the shower. As he reaches for the towels, he understands that, in this at least, he’s no different to every living thing. Why else would he have survived all those years since the gypsies? Why else has he survived through that terrible century of desolation and remorse and hopelessness? All those sweat-soaked, tear-streaked, tooth-sharpening nightmares? He’s often been one for the grand gesture, but he still wants to live. In his blood and sinew and bone, he wants to live, even in his own obscene version of life.
He’s not sure he’s going to do that, now. Not now that he understands what’s happening at the Hellmouth.
He puts aside the used towels and walks to the armoire, relishing the silken slide of air on damp, naked skin. His basement room is cool, but he savours the chill of the sensation.
There isn’t much in the armoire, and it doesn’t take long to make his choice of what to wear, but by the time he does, he’s quite dry. As he sorts out his clothes, his mind circles back to life and death.
Whistler showed him the gateway to a whole new life, and something that used to be Angelus walked into it. Something that might become Angel had walked out the other side. They’d given him money, although not much, and they’d given him hope, although not much of that either, because with his record, how much hope could there be? It was better than he’d had before, though. And they’d given him her; they’d shown him something worth becoming someone for, something worth protecting.
What they hadn’t done was to tell him what he’d be protecting her from.
He’d assumed vampires, and he’s good with that. He’d guessed demons, and he’s good with that, too. He’s had a hundred years of those nightmares, remembrances of his blood lust, and he’s all too ready to try and earn a little untroubled sleep through vengeful action.
And he needs something to put into the cosmic balance against a hundred and fifty years of inventive murder and damnation. When they’d shown him this new life, they’d surely known that there can be nothing as implacable as a truly reformed sinner, and he’d discovered that his lethal urges and his lust for death could be sated almost as much by slaughtering his own kind as they had been by slaughtering humans.
All that is fine with him, as he cautiously picks his way into this new life.
One thing they had told him about was the Hellmouth. He knows that it’s been drawing vampires for years, but only now has the real influx begun. Something’s afoot. It’s been enough to panic Whistler and his Powers into recruiting help, and that little girl really, really needs all the help she can get. It’s a pity, then, that Whistler could find nothing better to offer her than him, a broken soul. And he’s a broken soul who might not be able to stand up to what’s out there.
Because now he knows.
He was given the key to his apartment, small and cheap, but better than he’s had in decades. He’d hunted out some minimal furniture and brought some of his own mementoes of a life not well lived. But, no sooner had he moved in than he’d found out who else was here, and realised that this was why he’d been offered his chance.
The evil here is his own heritage, and the Powers clearly expect him to help clean up the shit that’s part of the fabric of his being. It’s part of his blood. It’s probably not a fair initiation, but then nothing about life and death is fair.
He’s never had much truck with the rest of the family, not since that time at the beginning when being a vampire was still new and exciting. It was the night when the Master had scared him almost witless with the sight of that appalling batnose, and then had slapped him around, before watching him take Darla out of that place of hidden waiting, and up into the night. He hates the Master with a passion, and he’d welcome the death of that monster. But Darla...
At least Spike and Drusilla aren’t here. He’s not sure he could stake either of them. He’s damned sure, though, that he can’t stake Darla, so now he’s no idea at all what use he’s going to be to the newly-arrived Slayer.
He’s attuned to Darla in such a way that he can feel her moving around underground in the day time, and emerging after sunset from this new place of waiting. He never thought she’d forsake her life of stolen luxuries, and give herself back to the tunnels and sewers and crypts, but here she is. Over the few nights since he arrived, she’s proved that she’s still attuned to him. She knew that he was following silently in her wake as she hunted; she knew that he went down into the Master’s lair when he hoped they would all be lethargic or asleep; and she allowed a trap to be set for him. He doesn’t want to think that she set the trap herself. Only good fortune and a strong right fist got him away with his unwelcome but carefully hoarded life.
They all know he’s here now. They’ll be watching for him. If he goes too close to the Slayer, they’re likely to come after her even before they know what she is, for no better reason than his association with her.
There are some old and strong vampires in Sunnydale, not counting the currently-helpless Master, and they have some seriously dangerous plans. He thinks that Darla alone is too strong for a single girl, even a Slayer. Far from bringing Buffy help, he might have only brought her death. Nothing new there, then. Still, it means he’s had to change his plans, resolve to stay away from her as much as possible, even though he badly needs to be part of what she’s doing. To be near her.
He knows that she doesn’t want the job. She isn’t ready for it. He heard her today, in the Library. He’d been lurking way back in the stacks, behind the other eavesdropper, the boy called Xander. She’d been arguing with her Watcher, unwilling to accept what she was.
She’d said, “...First of all, I'm a Vampire Slayer. And secondly, I'm retired.”
The boy in the stacks had almost dropped the book he was holding, and then stood rigid, not comprehending what was happening but desperate to hear more. Angel, behind him, had shrunk deeper into the shadows, and remembered how he had watched the girl’s baptism of power in Los Angeles.
He remembers it now, as he buttons up his shirt. He thinks of her face, as he watched through her window; he remembers her inner loneliness. He has the same choice now that he had then. He can run, or he can stay. He’s not going to run, even though he knows what’s here.
He tries to stop the feelings that the memory has invoked, because they will make him weak, and he can’t afford that. It’s going to be hard enough as it is. He has to stay dispassionate, and he has to stay away from her, except for the few brief minutes of business when he has information that she must hear.
He shrugs into his jacket, and then he picks up the black velvet jeweller’s box that’s lying on his desk. Slowly, he opens it, and stares at the silver cross, gleaming malevolently against the silk lining. As though attracted by the promise of pain, his forefinger reaches out to it, but he pulls back before he touches it. She’ll need this, if she isn’t to be part of the Master’s Harvest.
He slips the box into his pocket. He’ll meet her for the first time tonight, and give her this. And then he’ll slip away. She’ll never know that he’s spied on her before, that he saw the moment of her nascence. When he finds her, he hopes she doesn’t stake him first and ask questions later, although he thinks he can get through that part safely. In and out, and nobody gets hurt, he tells himself. It’s the rest that he’s worried about.
As he lets himself out, he can feel Darla, stirring from the lair. And he can feel the pull of the Slayer, silvery sharp in the duller ache of the Hellmouth.
Like every other creature, he wants to live, and he has more reason than most to hope for a reprieve, for a longevity that might bring forgiveness. But the Slayer has brought him here, into the jaws of family, and he’s sure that she’ll be the death of him.
Hope you enjoyed it.