Disclaimer: Usual stuff…
Written for pleasure, no profit.
Rating: If you’re old enough to watch the show, you’re old
enough to read this. Violence is
involved, so get your armour on.
Written for the wonderful IWRY Fic Marathon, 2012. Thanks for hosting this, Dark Star, and for
keeping the event so alive.
Setting: Sometime in
Summary: Angel is fixated on dreams of Swan Lake, and on his latest mission.
He watches the dancer intently, the brass balcony rail cool
against his palms. He wonders whether
he is leaving fingerprints deep in the metal, but he can’t tear his gaze away
from the girl on stage. Her silken
slippers whisper over the wooden boards, unheard except by a creature with
senses as good as his, and her long, gauzy skirts float with the motion of the
dance, so like the swansdown in which she is supposed to be clad. Her body embraces the depths of sorrow that
she is suffering and he can feel her
He grips the rail more tightly as Odette’s false double, the
black swan Odile, dances a taunting, vaunting dance, and as the sorcerer mocks
the suffering girl he has made into the Swan Queen.
It is January 1895.
Much to the disgust of Darla, and the amusement of Drusilla, Angelus has
brought his family out of Rome, away from the territory of the vampire that
calls himself The Immortal. Spike,
always ready to rub salt into his grandsire’s wounds, said that he was running
away with his tail between his legs, but then so was Spike, and Angelus let the
He was less worried about where they were running to, being
more concerned with the ‘from’, and was almost surprised to find himself back
in the cultured elegance of St Petersburg.
He isn’t unhappy with that turn of events, though. He likes it here, even in the depths of the
Russian winter. And now he and Darla
have some time to themselves. They’ve
come to the ballet.
That was something else that surprised him. Five years ago, he saw his first ballet. Giselle. Beauty and Evil often go hand in hand, but
on that night he learned that Evil can be moved by Beauty, the beauty of music,
the beauty of dance, and the heart-searing beauty of a tragedy well-told. Giselle
moved him to tears. Later, much later,
he wondered whether that was the moment that brought him to the attention of
the Powers-That-Be, with everything that was dragged in on the coat-tails of
that twist of Fate.
Notwithstanding that as yet unknown Apocalypse-shaking
future, he enjoyed Giselle so much
that he’s chosen to come to the ballet again.
They are in the Mariinsky Theatre, in their own box, and Darla is happy
with that. Not that she especially
likes the ballet, but in this city, the ballet is the place to be seen.
Darla likes to be seen, to be admired, to wave to attractive young men,
and some equally attractive young women, between the Acts and to slip out
occasionally to arrange secret assignations for when the ballet has ended. Angelus is happy with that, too, because he
will take his fill of the meals that Darla has procured.
But now he is engrossed in this new ballet. He feels those unfamiliar emotions swelling
in his chest again, as Odette learns that her Prince, the Prince who should
have rescued her from the curse of becoming a swan with the dawning of each
day, has been tricked into pledging himself to Odile instead of fulfilling his
vow of love to her. Now she is doomed
to be a swan forever, day and night, winter and summer, with no possibility of
ever walking the Earth as a human again, for as long as she lives.
In a few shockingly graceful steps, she pre-empts this
terrible culmination of her curse, and she throws herself into the Lake of
Tears, unwilling to give up what is left of her humanity. The Lake is no colder than the silvery tear
that now glides down Angelus’ cheek. He
hears a tiny, disdainful sound close by, and Darla presses her handkerchief
into his pocket.
“Use that, dear boy.
It’s a good thing that William isn’t here to see you.”
But Angelus doesn’t care, rapt as he is in what is happening
in front of him. Prince Siegfried,
unable to face a future without Odette, or perhaps unable to face a future in
which he knows that he could have broken Odette’s curse, and will always know
that he failed, makes his own leap into the storm-tossed Lake of Tears, to
drown with the innocent woman that he loves.
Their moment of sacrifice and death breaks the magic of the
sorcerer, destroying him, and allowing the souls of the lovers to ascend
together, the two dancers clinging tightly to each other. The applause is thunderous, from this
famously hard-to-please audience, and Angelus claps his hands as long and as
loudly as anyone else.
“Come along,” Darla whispers. “We have dinner waiting.”
Angelus allows himself to be pulled from the theatre, but it
is with regret. He would much rather be
Angel awakens with a start.
He can still feel the coolness of the brass rail under his hands, feel
the swell of emotion from the tragedy of the cursed Odette and the hapless
Siegfried. He’s been dreaming about
Swan Lake a lot recently. Those dreams
are infinitely preferable to the other dreams that he has.
But for now, it’s time to rise, and to go about his
business. He splashes some cold water
over his face – a catlick of a wash, his mother would have said. He spends a lot more time picking over his
stash of weapons, choosing ones that will give him the best results for what he
has in mind. When he leaves, he locks
the door, but only because of the weapons.
He abandons his car on the periphery of his hunting
area. The streets that he walks through
are dank and hostile, the towering buildings on either side never allowing the
sun to cleanse the flagstones. Gangs of
knife-wielding adolescent outcasts contribute their quotient of hostility, but
they don’t bother him, any more than do the drifts of wind-sifted rubbish. He’s looking for something, and he’s not
exactly sure where that something is, but his nose tells him that it isn’t far.
At length, he finds a faded red door, the paint cracked and
peeling to show the silvery-grey wood underneath. It looks as old as he feels.
The feral scent of musk is strong here.
Silently he moves down the row of identical houses. Once, they might have been distinguished by
the colour of their doors, but now, like cats, they are all grey in the dark.
The one at the end is empty. He slips round the corner to the end gable, masked by a weedy
sycamore growing through the rotting fence.
The cast iron drainpipe is rotting, too, but it is still firmly
anchored, and he climbs quickly up onto the slate roof. It takes only moments to remove a few
slates, enough for him to drop through into the space beneath. It stinks of age and dereliction and
urine. As he suspected, the loft spaces
are not fully separated, and he negotiates his way back to the house with the
red door in full hunting stealth mode.
Once there, he listens attentively, triangulating the sounds from
beneath, his hearing as effective as echo location. He draws his weapons, a short sword and a heavy mace, with two
long knives still inside his coat, and then he allows his final weapon to
appear – the demon. It shows his
monstrosity, and it is appropriate to what will happen this night. Then he steps forward and falls through the
fragile trapdoor in a swirl of dust and wood fragments and darkness.
The Kharash demons living here don’t run from him, as he
knew they wouldn’t. They are battle
demons, muscular but mainly human, and there are a dozen or more of them. They don’t fear a lone vampire. But that is their mistake. They aren’t driven by the adrenalin of his
rage and pain. He cuts down the first
two with his sword and crushes the skull of a third with his mace. He marks the fourth by the long scar on its
cheek, very recognisable, and he brings his mace up under the demon’s jaw,
sweeping it off its feet to crash into the wall behind, where it lies
motionless. He moves on towards the
stairs, and that is when the brutal savagery really begins.
When he is finished, the place is like an abattoir. He’s barely been touched, except by their
blood, which turns out to be as red as the door, and he’s liberally covered in
that. He heads back upstairs to find
the one with the scar. The demon is
still unconscious. Satisfied that he
will live, Angel hoists him onto his shoulder and carries him down back alleys
and over rooftops to his car. He
bundles the body into the trunk, shackling it with chains so that it will be
immobilised, then sets off to where he’s been bivouacked to collect his
gear. He has a long journey in front of
him, and he won’t complete it tonight, but he can make a start.
He finds an abandoned and ruinous brick-making factory for
the day. He’s slept in worse, but not
that many. The doors are wide enough to
allow him to drive his car in. He
leaves the demon in the trunk and finds a shadowy corner. He’s so tired that he falls asleep straight
away. He would have preferred not
to. His dreams contain... horrors.
Tonight, his sub-conscious mind has chosen the ballet
again. It is less benign than it may
He’s seen different versions of Swan Lake. He’s seen happy endings, where Prince
Seigfreid fights the sorcerer, breaks the curse on Odette, and lives happily
ever after with her. Once upon a time,
in his waking hours, he had dared to dream that such a miracle might be his,
his and Buffy’s, but his own particular sorcerer is still full of malicious,
Today he’s back again at the Mariinsky Theatre, watching the
deaths of the lovers in the Lake of Tears and the destruction of the sorcerer
on its banks; watching Seigfreid and Odette’s reunion in the ever-after. Even
that would be a victory, but he doesn’t believe that his ever-after holds any
promise for him, other than darkness and pain.
The sun has been down for two hours now, and Angel’s up on
the rooftops, his favourite vantage point.
He likes it here for the same reasons that an eagle likes an eyrie. It is out of the way of other
predators. It lets him see far across
the landscape, to survey his prey. And
it feels so damned good to be almost up in the sky, with the wind pressing
against him, even if he has no wings to spread. He turns his face upwards, fancying that he can feel Buffy
looking down on him with love, waiting for him, like the Blessed Damozel. But it’s all fancy. Truth is starker.
Then the wind whips around him bringing something that he’s
been waiting for, and his focus on that fleeting message is complete. He’s suddenly the absolute predator. His prey is a nest of Morad demons. He has caught the scent of them returning
from whatever business they’ve been on.
The wind gives him direction.
They are coming from the south, from the direction of the moon, so he
need not fear being silhouetted by its diamond brightness. He stands on the very edge of the man-made
precipice until he sees a dark blue van pull up at a fire-damaged store. A
handful of crouched figures run from the vehicle. The door swings open so that they can run straight in, and closes
swiftly behind them.
Angel smiles grimly.
He is amused that they might imagine the stench of burned wood and
plastic could mask their distinctive odour from him. Utter folly. He strolls
back down through the building and makes his way to the store. The windows are boarded up, but the door is
boarded up from the inside. They are
definitely expecting him. So they
Silently he draws his weapons. He has chosen a mace again.
That served him well with the Kharash.
Two long knives hang from his waist.
His sword is new, though, especially chosen for this battle. It is a broad and heavy seax, rather than a
true sword, a wickedly-sharp twenty-inch fighting knife with a distinctive
broken back shape that gives it a needle sharp point. The ancient weapon is ideal for close-quarter fighting, and has
been brought up to date with brass knuckles fixed to the wooden hilt.
The door is no obstacle at all, cracking open at his first
powerful kick. The store is dark and
empty. For one brief moment, he thinks
that the Morad have fooled him, and left by a back door. Or worse, that this is an ambush. But then he hears the murmur of muted
voices. In the back of the store, he
finds the trapdoor to the basement.
“He’s in. We should
have left tonight instead of waiting for daylight.”
“He would still have found us.”
“You’re running from a single vampire. We can take him.”
“He’s overcome all the rest of us.”
“Silence! You all
know what to do. There are ten of
us. We will have the upper hand.”
Thanks, he thinks.
Ten. They are battle demons,
very strong, very powerful. But on the
cellar stairs, they can only come at him one at a time. That will be his initial battleground. He rips the trapdoor off its lock and out of
its hinges. The cellar is in darkness,
but that doesn’t bother him, and he swings the mace and thrusts with the seax
as a demon lashes a blade across his legs.
He feels the first gush of hot blood across his hand. He kicks the body away from him as he moves
to a lower step and waits for the next opponent.
The third one to come at him is the one he’s been
particularly looking for. This demon
has a long sword, but Angel simply crashes the mace down onto his hand so that
the sword falls from his nerveless fingers.
A blow to the demon’s temple and the fight goes out of him.
The seven remaining demons decide that they’ll do better to
wait for him to come to them. They
stand in a semicircle, hefting their own weapons. He smiles a smile full of teeth, and obliges.
He sits on the blood-smeared stairs and surveys the carnage
on the floor below him. His fist is
still clenched around the handle of the seax, his bruised fingers jammed into
the brass knuckles. The mace lies at
his side. He had a mission, and now
that it is complete, he feels emptied out.
One of the figures on the floor stirs. The others will never stir again, not this
side of Hell. It’s too close to morning
to get to where he needs to go, but he’s sick of the stench of that bane of
vampires, fire; and the demon blood, red like human but stinking of garlic and
rotten fish is turning his stomach.
Stiffly, Angel gets to his feet.
He throttles the live demon back into unconsciousness, slings the body
over his shoulder, gathers up the mace and leaves. His fist is still clenched around the seax, as though welded
He finds an abandoned building of uncertain purpose, as
uncertain as he now is. Parking the car
in a corner that is free from rubbish, he leaves the demon bundled in the trunk
and finds a dark shadow to huddle into.
He doesn’t think he’ll be able to sleep, but he does.
The familiar brass rail is beneath his fingers, and the swan
dancers glide across the stage in a cloud of tulle and feathers. But then the cool metal of the rail
disappears, the dancers flow together and re-emerge in more modern
costumes. It is a different city, a
different continent, a different world.
Paris. Siegfried is as brave as
Odette knew him to be, and he fights the sorcerer. It is an unfair contest that leaves the Prince dead, and Odette
to become the absolute possession, the plaything, of the evil sorcerer, von
Rothbart. She will spend her life
fulfilling his every desire, yearning for her freedom or her death.
Like a kaleidoscope, space shifts into a new pattern of
light and colour. Northern
England. The Prince, determined that
von Rothbart should not have Odette, drags the sorcerer into the Lake of Tears
where they both drown, leaving Odette now human, but bereft and alone.
The figures shift and merge into a new dance. New York.
Darla is no longer with him, and he is not in a luxurious
box. He’s in the cheap seats now, his
hands clenched on his knees as he watches the doll-sized figures. But the music sweeps him along with the
story, and there is that tear again, as the Prince’s promise to wed another
woman, even though he was tricked, leaves the innocent Odette in swan form
forever, mourning her lost love and her lost humanity.
He tries to recapture one of the happier endings. But it is all too painful, and his body,
normally so still in sleep, as still and silent as death, thrashes in
remembered agony. The dream shifts and
changes. It is the same continent, but
just as he fled New York all those years ago – ‘to’, this time, rather than
‘from’ – so he flees New York now. He
had a guide, then. He has only his
punishing memories now, as he goes from bad to so very much worse.
These are the dreams that he dreads. Yet, he cannot escape them. He cannot force himself to wake up from
them. He has to bear it, from beginning
to bitter end.
They stayed away from each other for so long, he and
Buffy. Perhaps emotionally bankrupted
by the constant tirade from her friends to stay away from that damned vampire,
she accepted an offer of marriage from another man – no, a man – and even his dream skates over those terrible days that
followed. But then she begins to
understand how she has been mistaken, and she comes to find Angel. We’ll work it out, she says. If there’s a way, we’ll find it
together. Even if I have to make a
eunuch of you. He laughs at that, and
if there is a brittleness to the laughter, he hides it well.
She takes out an earring, and pricks her finger with
it. In his dream, that tiny bead of
blood swells, perfusing all his senses, until it dominates his world. Red.
Copper. Hot. Sweet.
Salt. Throbbing. Silky.
It engulfs him, an ocean of Slayerhood, a roaring cataract of
Buffy. In the real world she had
offered her finger to him, a pledge of her faith, and he had meekly licked it. The dream knows him better, though.
That night, after she has gone home, he walks into the local
Catholic church, the faith of his childhood, and he bows his head to the deity
there, giving thanks for the mercy shown to him. He kneels in supplication, even as the radiant power of the cross
threatens to flay the flesh from his body, and as the weight of disapproving
ritual and harsh faith tries to expel the abomination from this holy
place. He doesn’t belong here, but it
is part of Christian history that sin is purified by pain, and he welcomes it,
doesn’t try to fight it, except to remain stoically in his place. And yet, in the soul-searing ordeal, he
feels something else. Something not of
him and not of this place.
Real physical pain.
It is pain beyond bearing, but it isn’t his. He is used to the pain that he carries, to the pain of being the
abomination. This is different. This is about Buffy. This is
Buffy. He runs from the church, so fast
that no one ever suspects his passage.
He is, of course, too late.
He’s always too late. He travels
further and faster than even he thought possible, the demon’s powers increasing
logarithmically in his moment of uttermost need. When he reaches her, there are no last words, no final farewells,
only her bleeding body still heated from battle.
And a coalition of demons, an alliance to take down the last
Slayer. They are leaving as he arrives,
helping their wounded, but arrogant with victory. He has the choice of staying with her, or of taking his vengeance. His mind is scythe-sharp when he decides to
stay with her. Grief has sliced him
open and emptied him out, but like a man wounded in battle, he hasn’t felt it
yet. For now, he knows very well that
revenge is a dish best served cold, and he intends to exact revenge in full
measure. For now, then, he marks the
demons, by species and by each individual.
He would know them anywhere. If
he has to go to Hell to find them, he will.
So, he holds the body of the woman he loves, watches the
back-slapping victors disappear into what is left of the night, and waits for
the numbness to fade so that the pain can forge a different Angel.
He drives the car up a stony mountain trail, so little used
that he has to clear away a landslip from the recent rains. He makes just enough space to get the car
through and drives on until even the ghost of a trail cannot take him any
further. He drags the Morad demon out
of the trunk. It is shackled and
gagged, but it struggles to get free.
He has a long hike, so he punches it back into unconsciousness again.
When he reaches the cave, the iron gates are still securely
locked. Once he is inside, he pushes
aside a boulder that he’s used to block the tunnel. A little further on, a spacious water-worn chamber opens
out. Water still trickles down the
walls, but whichever underground river spewed through here, it is gone
now. Here, though, is a selection of
demons shackled to the walls. Their hostility
is palpable, but they remain silent, helplessly watchful. He chains up his latest captive at the end
of the arc of prisoners.
There are now eleven of them, and this has been his
mission. These are the eleven that
assassinated the Slayer. His Slayer. And they are the last of their kind. He’s made sure of that.
This vengeance has been years in the making, and he is serving it very
cold indeed. As cold as the blood of a
He pulls one of the knives from his waist. It is the smaller of the two, but it is
exceedingly sharp. The Kharash demon
“Why are you going to kill us now?”
“Oh, I’m not going to kill you. Each of you is the only one of your kind that I’ve left
alive. You’re going to continue to
exist as something unique and uniquely alone.
If you don’t, it will be your choice.
I’d rather leave you to suffer.”
“Why? Why are you
“You killed her.”
“That was just business.
We were told to take her out.”
The demon looks bitter. “We were
told she was the last of her kind, too.
What’s your interest in this?”
“Whatever she was, she was mine. That makes it my
The Morad is conscious again, and yanks at the chains, but
Angel knows they will hold. It spits at
him but misses.
“Don’t you know who it is that has hunted down all your
people?” it asks the Kharash.
“A madman. An agent
of the Watchers’ Council. No, we never
“He’s Angelus. He
had a thing with the Slayer.” It
exaggerates the word ‘thing’.
“Angelus has nothing to do with this,” Angel says mildly.
“You think?” The
Morad is full of contempt.
Angel shrugs, and chooses the Morad as the first victim for
the gelding knife. The Morad screams
during the castration, and sobs afterwards, curled up in pain. When he’s finished with all eleven, his
hands are covered in a rainbow of blood.
He looks at the agonised demons.
Why should they not suffer a little as he has suffered? After he lost his soul to Buffy, when he
knew how completely the Kalderash had exacted their own revenge, he might just
as well have been castrated for all the pleasure he ever had afterwards. Now each of them really is the last of their
line, and a good thing too.
He digs into his pocket and pulls out a key, tossing it down
to the floor.
“I’m sure one of you can reach that. If you can, you’re free to go. I’m done with you.” Let them spend the years alone and
suffering, as he has. It will be just a
taste of his own pain, but he knows that it will be much worse than death. Death can be so simple.
Outside the cave, he can smell the approaching dawn. Not long now. Further around the mountain is a small, fast-flowing stream
tumbling through a landscape of bare rock.
He rinses his hands in that, then finds a stream-side boulder, where he
makes himself comfortable. There is no
Lake of Tears here, and this stream will have to suffice.
Buffy, his Prince Seigfreid, the lover who might have saved
him from his curse, is dead. He is
tired of the fight. If he is to be like
Odette, trapped in this cursed shell forever, he wants no more of it. He has rid the world of some of the worst of
its demons, but that was his last act for humanity, his swan song.
He will wait here for the sun, and find out whether there
can be an apotheosis with the soul of his lover, or whether there is only the
Lake of Tears for him. He’s afraid that
he knows the answer to that.
An unwelcome thought comes to him. He has brought so much misery to so many people. Perhaps he isn’t Odette/Odile. Perhaps he’s the evil sorcerer and the world
would always have been better off without his baleful presence. But he has no time to brood on that. A bright line of white light breaches the
greying horizon. A flock of swans wing overhead,
calling musically to each other as they pass, and he draws in a deep breath,
steeling himself for the last act.
If you are hazy on the story of Swan Lake, go here: