Summary: Our heroes take on a simple case of slaying.
One thing leads to another.
Giles looked on, spoon halfway to his lips, as Buffy
helped herself to some of Martha's chicken soup. He had already warmed the pot
for himself and, expecting her, had set an extra place at the kitchen table. It
was a bleak winter's day, the rain drummed against the kitchen windows,
forestalling any thoughts of venturing down to the village. Days like today, he
missed the climate of California. He also missed Buffy's idle chatter, hard as
it was for him to admit, which is why he was pleased to have her company today.
Things had been, to say the least, tense lately. He concentrated on the bowl of
soup before him, not wanting her to notice his scrutiny.
Buffy sat without preamble, her liquid lunch unable to
escape the rim of her plate, try as it might in an adventurous surge to its
Giles cleared his throat, spooned a mouthful of soup
and, in swallowing, declared it one of Martha's finest.
Buffy buttered a large slab of locally made bread
before tasting the broth.
"Mmm, you're right, Giles. Needs a bit of pepper
though," and she shook a liberal amount of the black spice over her meal.
He didn't agree but he kept it to himself.
Buffy continued, after a mouthful of the bread, "I
can't say the same for the bread, though. It's a bit doughy." She peered at the
unbuttered slices on the plate. "Is it even cooked properly?" An unfortunate
piece felt the sharp end of her knife. "It looks moist." She found something
else to complain about. "There's a hole in this one."
"Perhaps it's Holy bread," Giles said. Buffy chuckled
at that. Giles smiled at her around his spoon.
"It's a pity the other baker in the village isn't up
to the standard of old Badger's," he added.
Old Mr Brockbank, or Badger, as he was called, had
died in his bed, and his superb loaves were sorely missed by the locals. Giles
and Martha included. The sad state of
the bread, however, did not stop Buffy from dunking it in her soup and eating
the dripping slice.
Knowing he was treading on a sensitive subject, Giles
asked, "Is Angel joining us?"
Without a glance his way, Buffy said, "I don't know.
Last I saw of him, he was asleep, with Aristotle snuggled up against his leg."
"Do I detect a hint of jealousy?"
Now, did Buffy look his way. The smile she gave him was
one of contrition. "I'm sorry, Giles. We're good. I promise. It's just
He nodded, not daring to say anymore. He was relieved
at her admission. He knew that Buffy and Angel were good, as Buffy put it. This
argument was but a fly in their otherwise happy ointment. He had been witness
to the spat, and had walked on virtual eggshells around Buffy ever since.
Outwardly, it appeared as if the vampire had dismissed the matter in his own
quiet way. Whether that was true or not, Giles was sure that Angel cared deeply
for Buffy's feelings, even at the expense of his own.
Enjoying the warmth of the central heating, Buffy had
been tucked up in an armchair in the lounge, reading all morning. The
television, offering nothing in the way of entertainment, had been dismissed.
It wasn't as if she had been avoiding Angel, he was sleeping after all. They
had had words. And now they weren't...speaking, but they were. It was all so
confusing. Angel could be monosyllabic for no reason other than being who he
was. It seemed to Buffy that he had become more so since their tiff, or was it
just her guilty conscience? They talked about everything else except the thing
they weren't talking about. It made her head spin just thinking on it. He
wasn't ignoring her. They slept in the same bed, made small talk; big talk when
it was necessary, and yet she felt as if he had withdrawn and it was all her
stupid fault. Not that she didn't feel as if she had just cause to be a little
She went back to drinking her soup, happy that she had
said something to alleviate Giles' concern. Even she could feel Giles' worry.
She wasn't a teen anymore. She was mature Buffy now. She sighed. Sometimes it
sucked being all grown up.
Buffy ate her
soup in the ensuing silence.
"Afternoon, Angel," Giles called suddenly.
Buffy didn't need Giles' lifting of his head to detect
that Angel had entered the room. His tread was silent, but she knew he was
there before Giles had. It warmed her heart when he bent his head and gave her
a kiss on the cheek. Feeling thoroughly remorseful, she turned her head and
presented her lips.
"Chicken soup?" he asked after another kiss, a teasing
gleam in his eye. He added, "Good morning, Giles."
Pleased, less tense than she had been in hours, she
replied, "Do you want some? It is delicious."
"No thanks, I'll stick to something more to my
He headed for the refrigerator and pulled out a
container of blood.
Buffy slurped more of her soup, while watching his
shoulders and the way he moved as he warmed up his own meal. Giles was
noticeably quiet, watching the both of them.
"I thought your taste buds were dead, and yet you
could taste it was chicken soup?"
"Smell," he explained, and sat with his mug of warmed
blood. When he swallowed a mouthful, Buffy scrunched up her nose.
"Euw! That is why your buds are dead," she dared.
"Anything alive would be chucking up at the first drop."
Giles pushed his bowl aside and sat back with a smile.
Things were back to normal.
Angel ignored her gentle jibe, and asked the Watcher,
"Anything interesting in the mail?"
"There was. We have a case."
Buffy narrowed her eyes, pushed aside her plate and
got to her feet to make a cup of coffee.
"You didn't think to tell me?" she complained.
Giles coughed, a nervous habit he had developed around
the young folk at Sunnydale High. To his dismay, the habit had stayed.
"I was waiting for Angel. No need to say a thing
twice, even though a certain slayer I know continues to defy that simple rule."
Buffy relented with a rueful grin. She had been known
to need telling twice. Research and facts were boring to her.
"Where's the big bad?"
"Didn't we do that already?" she asked. "The big
house, lots of stone, haunts, and some ghost sucking demon?"
"That was Woodchester, Buffy. Chester is further north, up by the Welsh
border. It's a lovely town."
"A bit cold if it's that close to the Arctic, isn't
it? Does it snow?" Buffy really didn't like the cold.
"Sometimes, not often. You'll be fine, just wear lots
of warm clothes and your coat."
"Two coats," she grumbled, and then on another
thought, "You said you. You're not coming?"
"It's a simple job. I'm sure that you and Angel will
Buffy didn't like the way Giles was getting out of
going into the cold. "We'd love you to come along, wouldn't we, Angel?" She
glared at the vampire. Say yes, her look said.
He complied. "Yes, Giles. Please come."
He received another glare for his lack of effort.
Giles declined. "I have other things to attend to,
Buffy pounced. "What things?"
"I've had a letter informing me an old friend has
died. I need to write a few words of condolence, and there are a few things
that need my attention."
"Oh, I'm sorry, Giles. What was it?" she asked,
"Oh, nothing suspicious I assure you. David
Hetherington was an older man. It was his heart I hear. I haven't seen him in
an age. Still, he will be missed."
Angel wondered how much older than Giles was his
friend. It pained him to think of people growing old, dying, and leaving behind
loved ones. It reminded him of their mortality: a mortality that robbed him, an
immortal, of their company when the Grim Reaper came a-knocking. The usual
platitudes were useless when he
uttered them. He felt like it was throwing his long life in their faces. So he
kept his silence.
Giles continued, "Back to the business at hand."
Giles had not been persuaded by Buffy to make the trip
to Chester with them. The fact that Chester was ancient and held mysteries
beyond compare, let alone wonderful museums and libraries, did little towards
the Watcher's resolve. The vampire did
not show his lack of disappointment. It
wasn't because he didn't want the Englishman to accompany them. Giles was always a welcome addition to any case.
It was because Angel preferred to drive his own sleek Carrera on the long drive
to Chester and if they were three, then the Discovery would be used.
Angel was in his element with winter's shorter days
and drawn-out nights. By the time Buffy had packed too many clothes, the
evening had arrived. She grumbled about the cold when she settled into the car.
Angel turned on the heater for her benefit and set his sights to the north. The
simple case was one of vampires. A slayer was needed, and fortunately Project
Paranormal had such a one on their payroll.
Giles had made a booking at a bed and breakfast within the city walls.
He didn't expect them to be away for more than a couple of nights, and that
suited Buffy just fine.
Buffy woke to the clicking of the car's indicators.
When she blinked at the windows and stared through them into the night, she saw
that they had arrived in Chester, if the castle on the right of them was
anything to go by. Angel passed it by, turned right at a roundabout, and headed
down a much quieter road. It wasn't
long before he stopped outside a quaint white building that was to be their accommodation.
The Falcon was a family run business, and Buffy fairly gasped when she saw the
four-poster bed in their room. Unfortunately, a look is all she had time for as
they dumped her bags, and Angel's lonely one, before leaving the premises.
The evening was a cold one, and most people were indoors
when they began their hunt. Buffy was getting used to ancient city walls and
cobblestones of Old Britain, and yet she couldn't help but be amazed at the
city of Chester. It was old. When
Buffy asked about the walls rising behind them Angel explained that the Walls
could be walked, and were, by locals and tourists alike. The Walls had been a
favourite promenade back in the day, he told her. He was about to say that he
would be glad to give her a tour, when they came to a busy intersection. They
left Lower Bridge Road to cross Pepper
Street. It ran off Grosvenor, the road Angel had followed into Chester,
although Buffy had no idea where they were. When they entered Bridge Street,
Buffy gaped in awe at the sight before her.
"What's this?" she cried, and ran towards the object
of her scrutiny.
Angel sighed. Buffy had discovered the Rows.
"Is this the shopping district?" she called out as she
peered into tempting windows.
"It's called the Rows," he said, as he came up beside
her. "I don't suppose you'd like to check them out tomorrow when they're open?"
Eyes bright, she fairly beamed with delight, and
allowed him to catch her hand and lead her back out to the street.
"Look up," he said. She complied and saw what looked like one long building stretching out
before her. In the dark of the night she could just manage to make out white
walls criss-crossed with black.
"What's with the chocolate box look?" she asked him.
He frowned trying to figure out the meaning of her
"The Rows have that look about them, you know...you've
mentioned the style before," she explained.
"Oh, the buildings' façade." He studied the Rows for a
moment. "There's a lot of different styles. Tudor, Elizabethan, I dunno. The
original inhabitants, which would have been the Romans by the way, would not
recognise the place. Mmm, I don't
recall seeing all this glass when I was here back in the day." He shook his
head, "But that wasn't what I was showing you." Angel pointed up to the level
above the ground floor shops. "There's
another layer of stores up there. You can walk your way around those too."
"There is? I can?" Buffy threw her arms around his
neck and gave him a kiss. In a quieter tone, her arms still about him, she
said, "That's the most I've heard from you in, I don't know, forever."
His forehead crinkled in a slight frown. "I'm sorry, I
haven't been talkative of late."
Buffy snorted, and released him. "That's par for the
course." She grabbed a hold of his hand and blessed him with another huge grin.
"I'm not complaining, Angel. God! I talk enough for the both of us. Next time,
just shut me up, will you?"
"Like this?" he asked, before he leaned in for another
She was breathless when their lips parted. "Uh...yes,
like that." She added, "Let's go dust
some vamps and go back to our room. There's a fancy bed I want to try out," she
The patrol continued with hands held. Their walk took
them down Northgate Street. On one side of the road the Town Hall sat,
Victorian, Gothic and imposing. Opposite, a cathedral reared towards the
heavens, tall and magnificent, reaching for its Lord. In the light of day Buffy
supposed the towers of both could be seen above the city's skyline.
"There's always a crypt and a cemetery on the
itinerary, isn't there?" Buffy said when they stopped before the stone archway
that was the Abbey Gateway, at least according to the circular plaque cemented
on the masonry there.
"They're pretty ancient," Angel said, as they slipped
through the gateway, into the inner arch, and then they were out in the square
within the surrounding walls.
Buffy looked about in awe. The grounds seemed endless.
There were houses here. And gardens. The cathedral was more than just a church,
it was a miniature town. They patrolled, looking about for any signs of the
undead. Buffy couldn't sense their presence, nor could the vampire beside her.
They decided not to venture inside the cathedral itself, it was unlikely they
would find a nest of vampires inside such sanctified walls.
"Oh well," she sighed, once they were outside and back
on the street. "I didn't think it would be that easy."
"Giles' source said bodies were turning up drained.
The nest could be anywhere."
"His informant indicated that one of the victims had
been seen in a brawl outside a pub..."
"The Red Lion. It doesn't mean..."
"In this street." Buffy looked back the way they had
"We haven't missed it. It'll be near the wall."
"Will it be open, do you think?" she said, hoping yes,
because they would be out from the cold for a bit.
"It's not that late."
Oh. Buffy had forgotten that pubs, or public houses
were open till the wee hours. The ones
that had a licence for it anyway. Wee. Buffy wondered at her thought. She was
becoming English-sized, or was that Anglo-sized?
"For you maybe. There's a bed with our name on it,
He chuckled. "How can I forget with you by my side?"
They spied the premises in that moment and Buffy
practically dragged Angel along, hustling him up the small flight of steps and
in through the narrow door. Inside were more people than she thought there
could possibly be, and a wonderful cosy fire.
She led the way to the bar and took the stool nearest
the fire. Angel smirked to himself as
he followed her example. There weren't many people who could hustle him along
like Buffy could. Angel eyed the mirror behind the bar. There were bottles
aplenty lining the shelf that ran beneath obscuring the glass. His lack of
reflection wouldn't be noticed.
Angel ordered a whisky for himself and a Baileys for
Buffy. She glanced around at the people sitting around the tables, and
whispered, "Don't people have a home to go home to?"
"Pub culture is a part of life here," he said just as
the barman put Buffy's drink in front of her.
"I noticed. How many did we pass on the walk here?"
"Americans?" the man asked, producing Angel's whisky.
"I am," Buffy said, confusing him. He was sure her
companion sounded American too.
"You here for the tours, then?"
"Yes," Angel answered quickly before Buffy could say
"Yes," she echoed, not knowing what she was saying yes
The man behind the bar was reasonably young. Buffy put
him in his thirties. His ginger hair crowned a pale face that was liberally
splashed with freckles. She liked the way the skin around his eyes crinkled
when he smiled. He moved away to serve two women, giving Buffy the chance to
ask Angel, "What tours?"
"There are tours for everything in Chester."
"You know this, how?"
"I had time to Google while you were packing. Besides,
Chester has always been known for its paranormal activity."
Buffy just looked at him in amazement. To hear the
word Google come out of his mouth, him a vampire Googling, was beyond bizarre.
The spell was broken when he continued, "There were
pamphlets at the Falcon too."
The barman came back, his customers served.
"Tony's the name. Do you want to order something to
eat, only the kitchen is closing in a minute."
Buffy realised she was a little peckish. They had made
a quick stop on the road but that had been hours ago.
"Can I have a ham sandwich?"
"Cheese and pickles?"
"Cheese, no pickles, please."
Angel shook his head and Tony disappeared with her
order. The bar's other server was a woman. She filled a tray with glasses of
wine and beer, and took money from her customer. He carried the tray away to
set it down before his friends. The group sat on the other side of the
fireplace not far from where Buffy was perched on her stool. One of the women
laughed loudly at something said and the whole table burst into merriment.
Under the hum of conversation, Buffy asked, "Tours
like in Disneyland?"
"Chester is reputed to be the most haunted city in
"They have tours of real ghosts and things that go bump
in the night?" Buffy snorted. "Whatever next? Vampire tours? Come and see the
friendly vampires and don't forget to leave a quart of blood at the door!"
Angel chuckled. Buffy realised what she had said. "No
offence," she added, trying hard not to smirk and failing miserably.
Tony came back with her sandwich just then, and caught
her good humour.
Feeling chatty, and as there was a brief lull at the
bar, Tony said, "Have you been on the Ghost Hunter Trail, or seen the
Buffy answered around a mouthful of food, not knowing what he was talking
Tony studied the pair. The man with the blonde handed
her a napkin, and she dabbed at her lips with an amused look at him. She was
pretty, petite, and cheerful, while the man, although good looking, was pale,
dark of hair, and dour. They didn't seem at all suited, and yet here they were.
The man surprised him by asking, "We heard something
about a body turning up a few nights ago. Near here, wasn't it?"
Tony wiped at nonexistent stains on the bar. "You
heard that already? There was a brawl, a fight or something. A couple of blokes
had just left the Odeon and were on their way home and saw a tussle just down
by the Bridge. By the time they got there, a man was dead."
He was startled when the young woman said, "Neck
wounds, drained of blood?"
Frowning at her, he asked, "What are you saying?"
Buffy shook her head. "Nothing, just wondering. This
sandwich is delicious."
"Sighs, was it?"
Tony switched his attention back to the dark-haired
man. He nodded. "You seem well informed?"
Angel saw that Buffy had finished her meal. He got to
his feet and placed the cost of the drinks, the sandwich, and a tip on the bar.
Buffy wiped her hands and rose from her stool too.
"Thank you, Tony. That was lovely."
Tony watched the pair stride out the door. He shook
his head. A strange pair, those two.
Outside, Buffy asked, "Sighs?"
"The Bridge of Sighs is a bridge that spans the
Shropshire Union Canal. It was used by prisoners on their way to be executed."
"You know some fun facts, don't you," Buffy said, as
she allowed him to lead the way.
"It would be a good place for vampires to catch an
"It doesn't mean they're nesting there."
"No, the police would have searched the area by now."
Still, they had to see for themselves and, with
Angel's photographic memory, they navigated the streets just fine.
The canal was deserted. There was no sign of life, or
unlife. Buffy watched as Angel prowled the area. Her slayer vibe told her there
was only one vampire near but maybe Angel could detect something she couldn't.
"Can you smell anything?"
"Yeah." He turned towards her, "Death, blood, beer,
piss, vomit, and...body fluids."
Buffy was tempted to ask what body fluids and then
thought it better not to know. She crinkled her nose all the same.
"Euw! I'm glad
I haven't got your sense of smell."
"Giles said the other body was found near the
University. We'll go that way."
They were heading towards Chichester Street when they
spotted a furtive figure in the shadows. They followed the vampire, both sure
that it was one, and it wasn't long before he turned off and went through the
door of an old workshop. Buffy and Angel followed at a safe distance, silent
and as deadly as their quarry. The slayer's eyebrows rose at the closed door.
There wasn't anybody keeping watch.
Buffy quipped, "What? No welcoming committee?"
Angel melted away in the gloom to find a window. When
he came back, he shook his head. The one window he had found was boarded over
behind the grimy glass.
Buffy pulled her stake from her pocket. Angel had his
ready, and at her nod his booted foot broke down the door.
The surprised demons leapt to their feet, some from
the pits in the floor. Growls rent the air as the demons attacked. Buffy was a
flurry of wool, fur, and cashmere, her hand deadly, as her stake found its mark
time and time again. Angel was as busy, dusting any that got past her. They
worked in tandem, suffering only a few bruises, until Buffy's blood welled from
a slash of talons. Angel's roar filled the room. He renewed his attack, his
slayer's blood tainting the air, urging him on. It was over in minutes.
Dust was still settling when Angel
caught Buffy in his strong grip.
"You're hurt," he said, his gaze dropping to look for
"It's nothing," she said, and held up her arm to see
that the sleeve of her coat was torn.
Underneath the tear, blood welled.
Angel looked about for a clean rag, decided that it
was a useless exercise, took hold of his undershirt and ripped a piece from the
hem to use for a temporary bandage. Buffy carefully slipped her arm out of her
coat sleeve and rolled her already blood soaked jumper up so that Angel could
tend to her wounds. He did so, being as gentle as he could. When he had
finished he helped her with her coat and led her outside.
"Are you alright?" he asked her when he saw her
"I will be when I buy a new coat tomorrow."
Angel divested himself of his own coat and placed it
about her shoulders.
"Mmm, thank you." Buffy slipped her arms into the
too-big sleeves, grateful for the extra warmth.
"Let's go back to our room," she said, as they made
their way back the way they had come.
He smiled down at her. "Come on, I'll show you the
Wall as we go."
The wind was bitter in places along the wall. Angel
regretted it the minute he felt Buffy shiver beside him, despite wearing his
coat. He offered to take her back the way they had come but she refused, saying
that it was alright, she wanted to "promenade" with him. So they walked, Angel
taking the windward side, sheltering her as best he could. He played tourist
guide and showed her a few things along the way. At least the things Buffy could
see, there wasn't much sense in pointing out the wonders hidden by the gloom of
the night. There was the watch tower at a corner of the wall, the
Bonewaldesthorne's Tower, the Infirmary now apartments, and when they passed
over the Watergate- the only Watergate Buffy remembered was to do with some
President...Nixon, she thought - and among other things, Chester Castle. Buffy
recalled seeing that through the car window when they arrived. This view was
from the other side of the castle. She knew then that they were almost back to
their lodging, and longed for the warm bed.
When Angel took her past Bridgegate, she thought he was lost because she recognised Lower Bridge Street from
before, but he insisted he knew what he was doing. Buffy took one last look at
the River Dee below, she hadn't even realised there was a river, as they
"Not far," he insisted, and he was right.
They passed the Round Tower and walked on. Angel had
his arm about Buffy and she wouldn't have changed a thing for the world. Even
the winter chill. She felt like she was on an ordinary date with her ordinary
boyfriend, the two of them taking a midnight stroll after an evening out. She
said as much.
"Dinner, a show, and a walk with her honey. What more
could a girl ask for?"
Angel stopped them before a flight of stone steps.
"You can ask for anything here."
"These stairs are the Wishing Steps. Tradition has it,
if you run up and down the steps holding your breath, your wish will come
"These steps?" They were hard to see in the dark but
Buffy could make out the oddly spaced treads.
She felt him nod.
"Some say a girl can ask for anything."
She snorted. "Superstition...isn't it?"
Buffy wondered for a moment why he had brought her here.
And then her heart gave an almighty thud when she hazarded a guess. She knew he
must have felt it thump. Angel was such a romantic at heart. He was an
eighteenth century boy after all. She smiled up at him. How much more could she
love this man?
Buffy silenced him with a kiss before stepping out of
"Anything?" she asked again, her eyes alive with
emotion. She shrugged off his coat and handed it to him.
He nodded. She pulled in a large breath and took off
up the steps. Not afraid to use her slayer speed - she wanted the wish to be
granted, oh yes please - and made it to the top and back again easily. She flew into his open arms, laughing as she
breathed out. Angel swept her off her feet, laughing with her, at her joy, and
his. It ended in a kiss, it became two, and before she knew, Buffy was
"Let's go to bed," she insisted, taking the lead and
turning them back towards Bridgegate.
This time Angel was happy to follow.
The bed did not protest, nor did Buffy, as he slid out
of the covers and put his feet onto the wool carpet. Angel quietly slipped into
the bathroom for another shower and, dressed again for the cold morning, he
stood gazing at his girl. He thought she looked beautiful in sleep, he always
had. They had both warmed up with a hot shower on their return to their room
before tumbling into the four-poster bed that Buffy was so taken with. They had
made love more than once, and maybe the bed had magical qualities for they had exhausted themselves, but he didn't think so. Buffy
had been giddy from their walk along the Wall, had been glowing since their
visit to the Wishing Steps. His heart felt as if it beat, he was that happy to
have contributed to her joy. Placing a kiss on her head, he collected his phone
and as quietly as only a vampire can, disappeared out through the door.
Earlier, before sleep claimed her, Angel had whispered to Buffy that he was
going to slip out for another look around. The nights were long and he wanted
to prowl. Buffy was too tired to protest other than a word of warning about how
she would kick his ass if she needed to come rescue him. He assured her he
would be careful and not to worry. He was a big boy now.
Buffy woke to an empty bed. It took her a moment to
remember what Angel had said before he left her. She yawned, stretched and
savoured the pleasant sensation of complete contentment. Last night had been
wonderful. Not the slaying part, although that had its appeal. Slaying always
got her worked up. It stirred her blood and Angel was not immune to the battle
lust. She snagged his pillow and pressed it to her face, smiling at the memory
of their lovemaking. Angel didn't really smell like anything. Predator, she
thought, not thinking that she was one who wore perfume. But then she never
hunted human prey. Angel only wore cologne if he was taking her out, and he
didn't moisturize like a lot of new age men. New age, that made her smile. She
sniffed the pillow again. His hair product was the bland sort that didn't have
a scent. Vampires have a keen sense of smell and Angel kept his personal scent
to a minimum. Yawning again, Buffy reached for her watch. She saw the hands
reading nine. She frowned, trying to remember what time sunrise was. She knew
it was late, after eight o'clock this time of year. At that realisation, her
heart thumping hard with shock, Buffy jumped out of bed and raced to the window
to pull the curtains apart. The sun was out. Where was he? It was a moment
before she gathered her wits. Staring hard at the bed, a fuzzy memory surfaced
about an early morning walk, and if he got caught out late there was a bookshop
he wanted to visit, it being perfectly suited for his needs. Buffy sighed in
relief, and to alleviate the niggling worry that would not go away, she
snatched up her phone and rang his number.
It went to his message bank. Buffy threw her phone
onto the bed in irritation. It was about time Angel learned to answer his phone,
or better yet, turn it on. On that thought Buffy decided a shower, breakfast
and shopping was the order of the day.
It was close to eleven when Buffy headed out the door
of the Falcon. The streets she walked looked different in the grey morning light.
There were people for one, and the landmarks were the same, only not. She knew
the city was old, but in the light of day it looked positively ancient. As she walked, Buffy tried Angel's number
again. No joy there. Buffy refused to worry. And if she kept telling herself
that, she might start believing it.
The Rows were heaven for a California girl who loved
the mall. There were such a plethora of shops, such a variety of goods
displayed, Buffy was soon lost in retail therapy. Buffy traipsed from one shop
to another, enjoying the feel of fabrics, the pinch of leather on toes, the
scent of perfume, and the glitter of jewels. The aroma of coffee and delicious
pastries wafted over her in many places on her journey. She wandered through
the Rows and eventually found herself in Grosvenor Mall on Newgate Street. The
shopping district appeared to run in a square, and the mall was very impressive
to her eye. Everything inside was ornate, airy with its windowed ceiling, and
beautiful in its store fronts. Buffy availed herself of a coffee and tried to
contact her vampire once again. Buffy punched the off button and decided it was
time to start looking for him.
For the life of her, Buffy couldn't remember if Angel
had mentioned the name of the bookshop he had in mind to visit. She felt a
little foolish asking the man who ran the Teddy bear shop if he knew of a
bookshop that was sunless. She promised herself she was going to kill Angel if
she found him head deep in a book. But when the man asked her if she meant the
Booklands bookshop with its underground crypt, all she felt was relief. The
bookshop was back the way she had come, in Bridge Street, and she hadn't
noticed it. She must have walked right past it.
When Buffy found the shop, she realised she had passed
it by earlier. What she thought occupied the ground and upper floor in the Rows
ran to a third and lower floor. Buffy descended the stairs to the crypt below
ground level. The arched stone ceiling was magnificent and the shelves were
brimming with books. Buffy could see that a vampire would be perfectly safe
here reading, and not answering his phone. He was not. She decided to search
the other floors just to be sure. He could have found a dark little corner
somewhere. He hadn't, and now she was more than a little worried.
Buffy spied a pleasant looking man wearing a shirt
that proclaimed his ties to the bookshop. The tag on his pocket said Jack.
"Excuse me, I'm looking for someone. A man, tall," she
held her hand up to where she thought Angel's head would be, "dark hair, dark
eyes, kind of pale, good looking, and about my age."
The Booklands' man frowned at her.
"Was he meeting you here, miss?"
"He said he was meeting me here this afternoon." Buffy
lied, and as if it explained everything, said, "I've been shopping."
"What's his name?"
"Angel. It's Angel," she repeated at his look.
"Wait here, I'll go and ask. He might have been and
"No, he said he would wait here for me."
Not really knowing why the young American was so
concerned about her missing friend, Jack went off to ask the staff at the till.
He passed the message on and before long everyone had been questioned about
this mysterious stranger with the strange name.
Buffy scooted off for another look of her own but knew
that it was no use. She couldn't feel that tingle she got when her vampire was
near. She knew what Jack would say before he said it. What she didn't expect
him to say was, "Does your friend like antiques? My brother James has the shop
next door. Ruins. Try there."
Thanking him, Buffy left the smell of books behind and
ventured into the shop next door. Angel would have liked the store, and Giles,
she was sure. There were all manner of strange and wonderful objects to draw
the eye. Paintings, statues, old pieces of furniture, carpets, china, the place
was brimming with merchandise. Looking at the price tag on an oddly curved
chair, Buffy wondered who would be mad enough to buy it? There was no one
about, at least she couldn't see anyone. Buffy saw a flight of stairs at the
back of the shop and wending her way through expensive bric-a-brac, climbed the
narrow steps to the floor above.
Her phone jingled and she grabbed at it with relief.
It was Giles.
"Buffy, where are you? Did you manage to find the nest
She kept moving. There were several items hidden from
view, dust covers draped in odd shapes, and she peeked under some as she
"Yes, Giles, the vamps are dusted." She sneezed as the
dust from the covers assailed her nose.
"I'm in an antique store, Ruins, you'd love it. It's
in this amazing place called the Rows."
"So Angel let you out to shop," Giles chuckled.
"He went out early this morning and didn't come home.
I wasn't worried at first, you know how he can be. He said he would probably
spend the day at Booklands..."
"The haunted bookshop?"
"It's haunted? Figures! Anyway, there's no sign of
him, I can't get him on his phone, and I'm worried. Giles, am I..."
Buffy stood before a tall, wide crate and she could
see it was padlocked. A bit of an over-kill, she thought and without thinking
twice, phone tucked against cheek and ear and still talking to Giles, she
tugged the lock hard. It broke open. It seemed to her the right thing to do.
She could see cardboard packing covering the object inside.
"Hang on a moment, Giles. There's something not
Giles still connected, Buffy put the phone in her
pocket. She slayer-handled the object out of the case, and when she ripped the
paper apart there was cloth wrapped around the thing inside. She lifted the cloth and pulled the cover
away. It was a mirror. She heard a voice behind her calling out something but
she paid it no mind. She was mesmerized. Lifting a hand, she touched the glass.
Fingers wrapped themselves about her arm. She thought she cried out.
Giles shouted into the phone. It was no use. Buffy had
gone, and with a cry. There was only an impersonal voice advising him the phone
was out of range when he redialled her
number. Giles rushed about, threw a bag together with a few essentials and
headed for his car. He took a moment and dialled Angel's number just in case he
got lucky. He didn't, but he left a message all the same. It would take him the
rest of the afternoon to get to Chester.
Night had fallen when he arrived in the haunted city.
He left his car outside the Falcon after checking the car park to find the
Carrera still in residence, and made his way to the Rows. The bookshop was
closed but next door there was a light showing in the antique shop. He opened
the door. Manoeuvring past wonderful pieces of Britain's past, Giles found a
younger man sitting at a desk, a cup in his hand.
"Excuse me, sir," he said. "I'm sorry to barge in but
I'm looking for a friend of mine..."
"And I'm waiting for my brother. He's disappeared,"
the young man said.
Giles' raised his eyebrows. "When did this happen?"
"I don't know. I came across to see about..." he paused
and squinted at Giles. "Just who are you, sir?"
Giles stuck out his hand. "Rupert Giles. I'm here
looking for a young woman, a friend of mine. Her name..."
The man got to his feet and shook Giles' hand.
"Blonde, petite, pretty, and American?"
"You've seen her?"
"She came by earlier looking for some one." The man
added, "I'm Jack by the way, Jack Jones. I own the book shop next door, and
this is my brother James' passion."
Giles tried not to sound too impatient with the man.
"You saw Buffy here?"
"I sent her
here. She came into my shop looking for her friend. Not you, obviously, a much
"Angel. Have you seen him?"
"Yes, that's what she called him. Angel. And she's
Buffy? What strange names. Is he American too?"
"No. Was he here?" Giles wanted to snap at Jack. How
long did it take one to get answers from the man?
"I haven't seen him. I suggested your friend try here.
She said he was going to meet her in my shop but he hadn't shown."
"What time was this?"
"After one o'clock, I think."
Giles nodded. It was about the time he had rung Buffy.
"You say your brother is missing?"
"I managed to get a break around four and I was
curious about your friend. The door was not locked and of my brother there was
"Is that unusual?"
"You don't know James. Anyway, would you leave all
this unattended?" Jack's gesture encompassed all goods on display. "I stayed on
and was hoping he was going to show."
Giles didn't want to alarm the man unduly, so he
asked, "Do you mind if I look around? There are some wonderful items here."
A frown wrinkled Jack's otherwise smooth forehead.
"I thought you were looking for your friends? Is
something going on? Is my brother involved?"
"I am looking for Buffy, for both of them. She was
here, I spoke to her on the phone. I haven't heard from her since, but I'm sure
she's fine. And I'm sure your brother is just out on an errand and forgot to
Jack didn't look convinced. "He never does that unless
he has Brian here to look after things. But go ahead, look all you want."
Giles left Jack at his desk although he could feel the
man's eyes on him as he moved around the floor. There was a wealth of beautiful
items to see but Giles was looking for anything that might lead him to Buffy's
whereabouts. He found the staircase at the end of the showroom and ventured up
the steps. Like Buffy, he found another floor full of beautiful pieces and he
explored the area thoroughly. Ignoring the empty crate standing open behind it,
Giles found a beautifully carved frame housing a full-length mirror. He thought
the craftsmanship amazing and he stepped over the cardboard and cloth for a
Angel opened his eyes and knew that the sun had gone
for the day. It was safe for him to move now. He had been prowling the city in
the predawn hours, not looking for a fight but ready for one all the same.
Chester brought back a lot of memories of days gone by. Truth be told, most of
Britain did, and Europe, for that matter. The streets and alleyways of Chester
reminded him that his feet had trodden a very different path all those years
ago. He and Darla had been unstoppable in their evil rampage. He had surpassed
his sire in that regard and had managed to raise a terrible reputation on his
own. He moved about lost in memory. A beggar taken here, a child by the river,
a merchant there. His hand caressed ancient stone and fingered engravings on
his way. It was all so terrible the damage he had done. Guilt weighed heavily
on his soul but thanks to Buffy, and friends past and present, he didn't let it
paralyse him as it once had. He felt sorrow and regret, guilt too, and was able
to move on. Was he callous in that? Perhaps.
In his wanderings he recognised the furtive shadow of
a Grappler slipping down a narrow alley. Grapplers were never up to any good in
his experience, so he followed the demon. In the next street he saw it approach
a house and venture inside. Angel stopped outside. He stared at the stone walls
and the scaffolding that protruded like some giant creature scaling the house.
The house was in the process of a major overhaul. He didn't know, or care. What
he did know was the house was no longer lived in. He could enter. Agile as a
cat, he picked his way across the debris left by the builders and slipped
through the gap that was once the door. There were gaps through the floorboards
above, wide enough for him to see parts of the rooms above. He wasn't
interested in the upper floor. The demon hadn't gone that way. He heard
movement down the hall.
In the old kitchen he found a cupboard had been ripped
away from its place on the floor. It didn't seem out of place with the rest of
the room and its sad and ill-repaired fittings. A trap door stood open, and
when Angel examined it, he saw that it had no handle. The door was hinged
somewhat oddly, swinging upwards when a body pressed down on it. He guessed
there was a pressure point somewhere in the room allowing access. Angel stared
into the opening. The dark awaited him and he climbed down into its maw.
The steps were narrow and few. He found he couldn't
quite stand his full height when he reached the bottom. He had forgotten how
small these hidden passage ways could be. He stared about, his vampire sight
taxed to its limit in the stygian gloom. He discerned shapes of varying sizes
and by feel discovered barrels and boxes, paper and pottery. Moving silently,
he slid his hand along the wall. It was times like this he wished he had a
flashlight, and just on that thought, a light did bloom. The Grappler had one
and only now decided to use it. Angel
released the knife he had strapped to his ankle and, unseen, watched the
Grappler winkle a stone from the wall. In the cavity behind, it found small
cloth bag. It opened the bag and shook the objects there into its large paw.
Angel could see a gold bracelet, a pendant of some sort and earrings glittering
in the light of the torch.
The Grappler's grunt of surprise told Angel all he
needed to know. This was someone's stash of stolen goods and the demon had
discovered it by nefarious means, or it had lain forgotten for years until by
chance it was rediscovered, and Angel didn't think it had been by the Grappler.
Angel remembered a gentleman he had killed back in the
day. The wife and daughter had been sport for an hour or two. The woman's ruby
necklace he had ripped from her neck before killing her. The man hadn't been
very gentlemanly at the end. He had squealed like a pig. He recalled an earring
lost in a tussle with the daughter. He hadn't stopped to look for it. Angelus
didn't paw the ground like a dog. He wondered if anyone had come across any of
the spoils he had secreted away?
Angel watched as the Grappler poured the contents back
into the bag and placed it in his pocket. Carefully, it replaced the stone and,
hunched over to protect its head, started back towards the stairs. Angel backed
away quietly, not wanting a confrontation in such a confined space. He waited
till the demon was half-way through the trap door when he attacked. He lunged
at it with his knife. Slow-witted it might be, but it was fast when it came to
a fight. Sensing the attack, the Grappler lifted an arm in time deflecting the
blade. It roared in pain as the knife sliced through its leathery flesh
spilling blood. Lashing out with the other arm, it grabbed the vampire by a leg
and pulled him down. Angel's fall gave the demon enough time to climb out.
Angel rolled away and got to his feet just as a heavy object slammed into him,
knocking the knife from his hand, and threw him against a wall of cupboards.
The wood splintered with the impact and Angel barely had time to get out of the
way from another attack. Another growl sounded, and the stench of unwashed
demon reached his nose.
Angel vamped and let out a growl of his own. He lashed
out with a fist sending the Grappler staggering back. He launched himself at
the demon and they both went crashing against shelving and doors. Angel took a
few hard knocks of his own and he answered back in kind. They were both bloody,
the kitchen was more of a wreck than when he arrived, when Angel said, "I don't
think they belong to you."
Chest heaving, the Grappler snarled back at him.
"They're mine. Payment for services rendered."
The vampire heaved in a breath of his own. "Must have
been some service. Stolen goods, I take it?"
"It doesn't matter. The owners are a couple of
centuries dead, which you'll be when I'm finished with you."
The Grappler sprang from his crouch trying to get at
the vampire's head. His two enormous paws grasped air. Angel was behind the
beast in a heartbeat. He smashed the Grappler into the wall, and leaned into
its back, his ridged-face up close to the demon's.
"I'm already dead, moron, and I don't take kindly to
people trying to dust me."
With an almighty heave from the wall the Grappler
forced Angel back and the battle was joined again.
They fought back and forth, the walls taking more
damage than the combatants. Angel remembered falling back, the Grappler on top
of him when something hit him on the head. He didn't remember blacking out, but
he must have. He came to unable to move. A mountain of flesh covered him and
when he tried to push it off it wouldn't move. His legs were trapped and he
knew with a certainty part of the house had fallen. He and the dead demon were
beneath the rubble. He couldn't see or feel the sun's rays, but as a vampire he
knew the sun was up. Chester had been built upon itself, century after century.
Tiers of streets, alleys, walls and buildings could be found. There were untold
layers of civilizations beneath one's feet. A weakness in the foundations must
have opened up taking stone and them with it. He ceased his struggle, and
decided he would not breathe for the duration of the day. The Grappler was
already beginning to stink. He couldn't risk opening up a gap with the sun up.
He was trapped until nightfall. He only hoped the builders wouldn't be clearing
the rubble any time soon.
Angel was battered and bruised when he emerged from
the wreckage. And filthy. He had lain unable to move for hours. It was just as
well he didn't have a circulation to worry about. And talking about worry, he
had better ring Buffy. His phone had rung several times and he hadn't been able
to move his arms to reach it. He knew
she would be searching for him by now. His mobile told him he had several missed
calls, and when he rang Buffy he was unable to reach her. He noticed he had
Voice Mail, and after fumbling with the buttons, he managed to retrieve it. His
sense of accomplishment disappeared when he heard the message. It was Giles telling him that he, Angel, was
missing, and when he found himself and heard this message, he was to hurry -
Angel heard Giles' unspoken, get his arse - over to the Rows because Buffy was
also missing. He listened to the rest of Giles' message and began to run.
Jack climbed to the top of the stairs and looked
around the top floor of his brother's shop. The man called Giles hadn't come
down. He had been up here for quite some time and Jack had left him to it.
Curiosity finally got the better of him though, and now it appeared the man had
left without a word. There was no sign of life, and Jack took a step forward. A
voice called out a greeting down below. Jack retreated back to the lower level.
There was a tall man wandering about the display. His coat was filthy and on a
closer look, the wearer was also battered. Under the dirt, Jack could see dark
hair and good looking, if pale, features.
The newcomer looked over to him and before he was
aware, the man was practically in his face. Jack blinked. How had he managed
He shivered at the intensity of the man's gaze. The
stranger's voice was demanding when he asked, "I'm looking for some one. Buffy
Summers, have you seen her?"
"You're Angel, right? The young lady was looking for
Angel took a step back. "You've seen her?"
"She came to my book shop, it's next door."
Jack nodded and proceeded to tell him all he knew.
When he finished Angel told him to wait there. He would check the upper floor
The vampire knew that it was no coincidence that
Buffy, and now Giles, had disappeared, and it looked as if the owner had
vanished as well. He climbed the stairs, and sniffed the air to catch Buffy's
scent. It was faint but it was there. He didn't see Jack who had trailed after
him, watching from the top step, he was all about finding Buffy and Giles. He
followed the faint trace of her scent and found it ended before a large mirror.
Angel kicked aside the mess of cardboard and cloth that was heaped on the
floor, and stared at the mirror. Something about it bothered him. He could
sense a strangeness, something was out of kilter. There was majick here, a
feeling of the mystical. Spells and majicks affected him, and he didn't know if
it was because he was a vampire, or a warrior for the Powers, or both. He ran
his fingers over the ornate frame but it told him nothing. He stared into the
mirror knowing he had to do something.
Jack moved from the step and crept over to get a
better view. He stood behind an armoire and peered around it to see. He watched
the man called Angel stand and stare into the mirror. He wasn't close enough
that he could be seen by Angel but Jack saw something astonishing. Actually,
the amazing thing is what he didn't see. Angel didn't have a reflection. Jack
snapped his mouth shut after a moment or two. What manner of man was this? And
the other two? Who were they, and what did they have to do with his brother?
The man at the mirror startled him when he spoke.
"Stay back, don't let it see you. And don't come any
It see me? Confused, Jack backed up a step.
Angel made a decision and he hoped it was the right
one. Raising his fist, he jabbed it at the mirror striking through it and the
board behind. Glass shattered, showering him, cutting him as it fell. A mist
coalesced inside the frame and three
indistinct figures formed. Angel reached in and grabbed at one and pulled it
through. Giles stumbled away, coughing, and Angel reached again. A stranger appeared
this time, James, no doubt. Angel gave him a gentle push to clear the area.
Angel's hand found Buffy and he pulled her through. As she stumbled into him in
obvious relief, his arm went in again even though there was no sign of anyone
else. He wanted to be sure. Angel felt Buffy shivering against his chest and he
wrapped his arms around her.
"Ohhhh." Her teeth were chattering. "T-t-thank God,
Angel. It was so c-c-cold there."
He rubbed her arms trying to warm her up. Jack's voice
sounded behind him.
"James? James? What's happening here?"
Angel heard the brother mumble something about needing
a stiff drink, he was in dire need of one. Giles appeared at their side, his
arms wrapped about his chest in an effort to warm up.
The Watcher managed to keep his teeth from chattering when
he said, "Thank you, Angel. Good to see you didn't succumb. Is there a reason
Giles had the grace to look chagrined. The experience
was all a blur. It had happened so fast.
The vampire shook his head and Giles swallowed
"You broke the mirror without knowing?"
Angel shrugged which made Buffy notice the state of
his clothes. She pulled away and before she could speak James wobbled over to
them on unsteady legs, Jack a steadying arm behind. James grabbed Angel by the
"T-t-thank you, s-s-i-r. Jack tells me you are
responsible for our rescue. Come, I have a bottle of Scotch downstairs. I think
we all need one, and you can tell us what the hell just happened."
While Jack helped his brother down the stairs, the
others lingered a moment.
Buffy touched Angel on the cheek. He looked like a
truck had run him over. Maybe it had.
"Where were you? I was worried."
"A building fell on me."
Giles and Buffy stared at him.
"It had help." He shrugged as if it was of no account.
"I couldn't dig my way out until the sun had set. Sorry it took me so long."
Giles stared a moment longer and then shook his head.
He chuckled as he followed the two brothers' path downstairs. Buffy scrutinized
her vampire for serious damage before rushing back into his arms.
"Don't be silly. I'm just glad you're safe. And you
got to save us all."
Angel shrugged that off too. "Nothing you haven't
Buffy stepped away, leading him by the hand. "Come on,
we've got to swap stories."
Downstairs, James had the bottle of Scotch out, and
the kettle on the boil. Over a glass or two, and tea for Buffy, they exchanged
tales. Buffy told how when she looked into the mirror, she felt a pulling
sensation. She felt the temperature drop, and it looked like she was stuck
inside a room. The room lacked a door and there didn't appear to be a way in or
out. She also found that she was unable to move. She hadn't a clue where she
was or how she got there, and she was afraid that she would be stuck there for
James informed them that the mirror had been put there
in temporary storage for a deceased estate. It was not to be opened on any
account. Buffy shrank guiltily into her seat on hearing that.
Noticing that she did so, Angel reassured her. "It's
just as well you did, Buffy. The mirror was dangerous."
James had come up behind her to stop her, grabbed her
arm and before he knew it he was somewhere else. Giles' story was pretty much
the same. He hadn't really looked into the mirror, he guessed that his
reflection was all it needed, he had bent to examine the frame and found
himself in a strange room, alone, and unable to move. Angel did not recount his
earlier adventure. In his usual taciturn way he said he broke the mirror, and
here they all were. Out of the corner of his eye Angel caught Jack's puzzled
glances directed towards him.
Before James could ask how Angel had managed to avoid
the trap, Giles said, "Well it's a good thing Angel knows about these things.
Our business is all about the strange and paranormal."
He delved into a pocket and pulled out a card.
"Here, if you need our help, or hear of anybody that
does, give us a call."
James put the card on his desk.
"Thank you, Mr Giles." The man chuckled. " I'm sure
that Chester has a need for your expertise. I know that you will be hearing
Giles got to his feet, prompting Buffy to do so. Angel
leaned over and whispered in her ear. Giving him an inquiring look, she and
Giles said their goodbyes. Buffy, apologising for putting them all in danger,
was waved off with very kind smiles from the Jones brothers, and they departed
leaving Angel there. The vampire moved over to peruse the glass case that
contained a few pieces of antique jewellery.
"Is there something I can help you with, Mr Angel?"
He didn't see Jack nudge his brother and nod towards
the case. Before their unusual guests had joined them for a drink downstairs, Jack
had informed James of the things he had seen upstairs. James' whispered words
about the little blonde breaking the padlock with uncommon ease made them
realise that strange as these people were, there was also something
supernatural about them.
James came over to where the vampire stood, and Angel
could see a hint of the man's reflection in the glass. He did, however, hear
the man's heart race, and he smelt the faint tang of fear. His lack of
reflection was no longer a secret. He was very aware of Jack sitting back in
his chair and put him out of his mind. The man trusted him, he could trust
Bringing out the velvet bag, he said, "I want to know
how much these are worth." He handed the bag over to James and followed him
back to his counter. Jack stood beside his brother when James tipped the
contents onto a velvet cloth he had retrieved from a drawer. The men gasped
when the jewellery spilled onto the cloth.
Both men looked up at him in trepidation.
James swallowed loudly. "Please tell me they're not
stolen," he said, as he straightened out the pieces with a reverent hand.
Angel considered his answer. "Not in this, or the
"I'm not a jeweller, but I do sell the odd piece that
comes my way. I know something of their worth. A few heirlooms end up here.
Usually the heirs, or the executives, go to a dealer. Some prefer to get rid of
job lots. On a couple of occasions there have been hidden compartments
containing money and jewels."
Jack picked up the pendant. "This is beautiful." He
turned it over in his hand. The light caught the blue of the sapphire.
James brought out his jeweller's eye-piece and
examined the diamond earrings.
"These are genuine, and I'd say from the setting,
eighteenth century." He replaced the earrings with the bracelet. "This is a
fine example of seventeenth century workmanship." He put them down. "I suggest
you take these to a dealer. They will be able to help you get a fair price."
"Could you do that for me? With a commission, of
James wouldn't hear of it. The man had saved him from
a fate of who knew what, from some magical mirror that ate people, and Angel
wanted to pay him for helping him out?
Angel was adamant. James was as stubborn. Eventually, a deal was struck.
James kept the bracelet and the rest of the jewellery to sell on Angel's
behalf, and would take a commission only if Angel accepted a gift from him. He
asked the vampire to select anything he liked from the goods he had been
admiring in the cabinet. Angel did so, only asking that the cheque be sent to
Project Paranormal before he departed. He left them with a dazzling smile. It
seemed he was to join his friends at dinner.
Buffy woke and stretched like a cat. Her arm brushed against
fur and when she looked, it was Zillah. If the black cat was curled up beside
her, Aristotle mustn't be far away. Yes, sure enough when she lifted her head,
the cat was watching her from atop the dresser. She turned her head and another
pair of eyes were also watching her.
"Good morning," she smiled.
"It's three in the afternoon."
"Is it?" She hadn't realised it was so late. "But for
you vamps it's morning."
"Not quite, but I get your meaning."
His hand brushed against her breast. She kissed him
before pulling back the covers.
"No time for that. We have a very important
appointment to keep."
"You didn't say that last night," he teased, dropping
Buffy clambered over his body, minx that she was,
kissed him again and skipped away to a hot shower. She knew that it took him
time to adjust to the daylight hours so she always bagged the bathroom first.
It was her excuse and she was sticking to it. He was still abed when she
emerged, and looking every inch the sexy vampire. Buffy almost wished he had
joined her in the shower. She sighed. She was her own worst enemy.
"Giles must be home by now. I'll go see what's up. See
With Buffy out of the flat, Angel rose and padded to
the dresser. He gave Aristotle a pat before kneeling down to rummage inside a
drawer. Hidden in the back he found what he was looking for. Inside a small box
a hint of gold and the glint of silver showed. Angel plucked the silver up and,
his mind on painful memories, absently massaged them between thumb and fingers.
Getting to his feet, the box went into one of his coat pockets, and he headed
for the bathroom.
Martha made a pot of tea, and already had buttered hot
scones waiting for her and Giles when she appeared in the kitchen. Buffy found
Giles in his study. He had stayed on in Chester, taking their room for the
night while Buffy and Angel headed back to Westbury. He had followed them home
that morning. Buffy set the tea tray down on his cluttered desk before
snatching up a plate, and piling it high with scones. She was eating before she
Giles played Mother and filled the cups with tea.
She decided not to talk with her mouth full. She
Giles pushed aside the letter he was reading and settled
back with his plate.
Companionable silence passed. It was pleasant, he
thought, having Buffy here. And Angel. His family, and thinking it, realised it
was true. Not just friends and colleagues, although that too. Family. Who would
have thought? A slayer, a vampire and a watcher. Perhaps it wasn't as bizarre
as it sounds, he mused.
Buffy finished her second scone, drank some of her
tea, before asking, "I suppose you've been researching the scary mirror?"
He spotted Angel at the door.
"Ah, good. Hello, Angel, you're in time to..."
Buffy interrupted him. "Giles has been researching the
mirror thing, you're just in time to hear the fascinating facts."
The vampire sat in his chair away from the window.
"Quite." Giles glared at Buffy. But they both knew he
didn't mean it.
"You've heard of the Looking-Glass?"
"As in Alice in Wonderland? Down the rabbit hole?"
"Not quite. Through
the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, is the sequel. Lewis Carroll
wrote about a world behind a mirror. Time ran differently. Backwards as it
"But it's just a story."
"Hansel and Gretel ring any bells?"
Oh. Buffy remembered the two children who were found dead
in the park in Sunnydale. Except they weren't dead, nor were they children. Her
mother had tried to burn her and Willow at the stake. Not something she wanted
"Many children's tales have a basis in the
Buffy leaned forward. "So what were we? Food for some
horrible monster? Rats in a maze?"
"Who knows, Buffy? The owners of the mirror are dead,
and now thanks to Angel it is no longer a threat to anyone."
"Why would anyone have such a thing, and how could
they use it when they risk getting sucked into mirror-land?"
"Maybe the family were demons."
Angel said, "Pretty handy device for getting rid of
"I wonder if they used vampires to set the trap?"
Buffy had an idea. "There was a cloth covering the mirror
and then there was a layer of cardboard. You could drape the mirror from behind
and then wrap it up."
"Well, someone knew what they were doing. Perhaps we
need to look into this more closely."
"You do that, Giles. Angel and I are going out when
it's dark." She looked at her watch. "Thank goodness for early sunsets."
"Oh? Where are you going?"
Buffy smiled conspiratorially at Angel. "Need to know
Angel decided he needed to bring the conversation back
to the mirror.
"Did your books suggest anything about the mirror?"
Giles sighed at Buffy's comment and turned his
attention back to the matter at hand.
"There was mention of a Veidrodis. It's rather
obscure, and there really wasn't anything more than to avoid looking into its
face. Evil shall befall one."
Buffy snorted. "This we knew, Giles. I wonder how many
people got sucked in?"
"I put my hand in after dragging Buffy out. There
wasn't anyone else."
"Maybe evil already befell them." Buffy shuddered. "It
gives me the wiggins just thinking about it."
Angel changed the subject. "Buffy and I are heading
off to Bath this evening."
Buffy briefly wondered at the weird look on Giles'
face, before she said, "Don't worry Giles, we'll be back next week, if not
before. You know we're only a phone call away."
Giles picked up the letter he had pushed aside.
Angel's comment had brought it back to mind.
"I've had a
letter from New Zealand."
"Who do you know there? Isn't that a part of
Giles looked pointedly at her over the top of his
"I know you had a better education than that, Buffy.
Gerald Firth had the flat in Bath before you did. He's now living in
"Christchurch? Isn't that in England?"
"You remember that Christchurch is in Dorset and yet
you don't know where New Zealand is? Christchurch is also a city in the South
Island of New Zealand..."
Buffy mimed a yawn, prompting Giles to stop his
Smug as all get out, Buffy said, "And who thought we had
to go to Melbourne in Australia when we
were hunting for the Devil's picture that time when Angel was missing? Speaking
of," she turned to the vampire who had been quietly watching them, "a habit you
must get rid of."
In return, Angel said, "You and Giles were missing
Buffy wasn't to be deterred. "You were first."
Angel rose from his seat. "Time to pack."
Buffy shot out of her chair and, with a yip of
delight, left the room.
Giles looked at the vampire with envy. "I wish I could
do that," he said.
Angel's lips quirked. "All set?"
Giles nodded. "Just about. Call us, will you?"
Buffy was quite nervous. She sat beside Angel trying
to explain to the woman on the other side of the desk exactly what she had in
mind. She had gazed at some very pretty things in this small but quaint
establishment. None of them appealed. She wanted something special, something
that said it belonged only to Buffy. All smooth, and sexy, and hers. Like
Angel. And, she wanted something strong, solid, and beautiful. Just like Angel.
She wasn't getting her message across and she felt like she was about to cry
in frustration. Angel came to her
rescue when he asked for the pen and pad that sat on the desk.
"Take your time, Buffy. Describe what you want and I'll
She blinked back her tears and smiled gratefully at
him. What was she, sixteen?
She began again. "Strong," she said, and he drew it.
"Solid," and it was if he could see into her mind, the notion of which had occurred
to Buffy more than once. She continued and not once did he offer an opinion.
This was her choice, her design. Finally it was done. Buffy's smile lit up the
whole room when she looked at his sketch. It was perfect.
"Can we afford this?" she asked, wondering if perhaps
she was being too selfish. Maybe she should just take one of the other...
His smile distracted her from her plunge into her
acceptance of something less. He pulled a small box from his pocket. A box she
hadn't seen before, and Buffy shivered. She had a feeling something special was
about to happen.
His eyes were on her, never leaving her face, when he
asked, "Can you live without platinum? I kind of like the notion of white
He opened the box, and she gave a small cry. Tears shimmered
in her eyes as she put out a hand and picked up the silver objects nesting
there. She hadn't forgotten that both rings had been about Angel's neck when
she and Giles had come for him at Wesley's apartment. But those first long
months had been difficult for them both, and the rings had been put aside, as
they had tried to do with their feelings for each other, back before they knew
that perfect happiness hadn't been forbidden. She didn't know why she had never
brought up the subject of the rings with Angel. Perhaps it was because she
thought it would be too painful a reminder of that eventful night that led to
the release of Angelus, for him, and for her.
They forgot there was a stranger sitting across from
them. Angel's hand closed over hers.
"What do you think, Buffy? Can we use them?"
She looked up at him, saw his concern, his worry,
clear in his eyes.
"Oh yes. I think it will be perfect. If one will do,
can it be mine? I want you to wear yours, Angel."
Buffy watched as a slow smile spread across his lips.
He nodded, and lifting her hand, kissed her knuckles. She turned her hand over
and unfurled the fingers holding the rings. Angel plucked up the larger
claddagh and slipped it on. She sniffed back the promise of more tears. She
A cough from the woman behind the desk reminded them
they had an audience.
Angel's thumb gently smoothed away the wetness
adorning her cheeks. Buffy's hand found his, and quite reluctantly she gave the
other claddagh back to him. He placed it on the desk.
The woman behind the desk wore a lovely
peacock-coloured jumper beneath an elegant suit. It suited her, her hair and
make up were perfect as befitted a professional woman. She said, "You obviously
know white gold requires yellow gold, which is blended with another metal. Once
upon a time zinc was used and today we use silver. I see you wish to use this
ring, and, one will do," she added, having been witness to everything said. She
plucked it up from the desk and examined it closely. "Can we help you with the
Angel held out the other item that had nestled beside
the rings. It was a gold nugget. Angel handed the gold over and watched the
emotions play over the jeweller's face as she turned it over in her hand.
The woman looked up at him in surprise. "We don't
often see gold in its raw form here. If I may be so bold, where did it come
Her eyebrows rose but Angel didn't notice. He was
aware that Buffy squeezed his hand and Angel held on to her as memories of that
fateful summer came rushing in. His recall, usually perfect, was a fractured
one of those days and nights. He would never forget drinking all those young
girls, those new slayers, until he felt as if he was about to crawl out of his
own skin, the heat and the power that surged within made him feel alive and
energized, and at the same time monstrous, vile and wretched. Never mind that
Giles had poisoned them with henbane thinking it was the right thing to do. It
had been his duty, to drink them, to preserve
the order of things, to save the world. How he hated the word champion! The
henbane-induced hallucinations had sent him mad. He had stumbled away to keep
the others safe, unsuccessful in his attempts to escape his self-loathing.
When half-way sane he had travelled the road that led
to Galway, planning to leave Ireland for good when done. Galway had been his
home town, oh so long ago. What he found were the graves of all those he had
killed, an entire village. Strange to say, it brought him some peace, the
cleaning of those sad lonely stones.
And Buffy had come for him, Giles too. It touched him that they had
tended to his own sad resting place; unnamed, as it should be. In the back of
Giles' car Angel had put his hand in his pocket and found the nugget there. He
didn't know where or when or even if, he had placed it there, he had no
recollection of it. He hadn't been up to talking, and just being near
Buffy and Giles had been difficult for
him. So he had sat there, silent, wondering if the gold had originated from
Croagh Patrick, the Holy Mountain. It wasn't that far from Galway. Ninety-odd
miles. It was possible that he had found it in his wanderings. The rain could
have washed the nugget down in one of the streams, but he didn't think so. The
mountain was a place of reverence and mystique. Mystical occurrences and he
were old friends. In his gut he felt the gold was blessed, if that was the word
to use. Croagh Patrick had been the site of ancient Celtic rites, let alone the
miracle that had befallen St Patrick. And Angel believed in miracles. If gold
from Croagh Patrick had been used when forging ancient Celtic artefacts,
imbuing them with mystical qualities, then Patrick gold could be used to forge
this new and wonderful thing.
Buffy's voice brought him out of his musings and he
blinked the room back into focus.
"Will that do?" he asked.
The woman and jeweller, Christine Attwood, nodded. She
was curious but not so rude as to ask where in the Emerald Isle the nugget had
originated. This couple were an interesting pair, she thought.
"I don't suppose you have a diamond or two on you?"
she asked him with a smile. She couldn't but notice how handsome he was. She
might be married but she wasn't blind.
Angel shook his head. "No, I'm all out of those."
Christine Attwood got to her feet, chuckling as she
did so. "I was beginning to think you were going into competition with us. I
have a small selection of stones in the safe. If you would excuse me, please?"
Buffy squeezed his hand again when he turned his eyes
"Are you alright?" she asked, worried about him.
"I'm fine, Buffy. It's just..."
"Ireland," she finished for him.
He stared at her, looked hard into her eyes. Buffy knew
him, sometimes better than he knew himself. She had the key to his heart. He
hoped he had hers. He smiled, hoping that simple act showed her how much he
loved and appreciated her.
He watched her eyes flick to the door the jeweller had
disappeared through before she leaned in to give him a kiss.
"Thank you," she said, and he felt her breath hot
against his mouth.
And then she giggled. "Sorry," she said, her eyes
shining with anticipation. "I'm just so excited."
"And you have every right to be," he grinned, catching
Mrs Attwood returned to her desk with a small tray of
stones. Buffy took great delight in inspecting each and every one before making
her final choice. It wasn't hard really. With what she had in mind, it was
obvious which she would choose.
Christine Attwood placed the precious items in a box
she found handy. "My husband is an excellent craftsman, as you've seen on
display here. He'll not let you down. I assure you, the ring will be perfect."
She opened up a large leather-bound book that was used for customers' details.
She knew who these two were, who didn't in the village, but for appearances'
sake, she asked, "Can we have an address and phone number for when the item is
ready for you?"
Angel gave her the address in Bath and also Giles' at
Summerdown House. Their business concluded, they said goodnight to Mrs Attwood
and made their way out of the Westbury Craft Centre and along to where Angel
had parked his car. Unable to contain her joy any longer Buffy jumped into her
vampire's arms and covered his face in kisses.
"I take it you're happy?" he laughed.
"Oh yeah," she said, her voice low and husky, "how
fast can you drive to Bath, because I want you now?"
Angel's answer was a long deep kiss, a quick deposit
of Buffy in the passenger seat, an "excuse me" as he disappeared back towards
Attwood's Gems, and on his return, tyres squealing as he drove out of town.
Buffy and Angel had been gone a few days when a shadow
detached itself from the dark hollows of the cold night. The sinister form slid
silently through the quiet winter garden of Summerdown House. Upon reaching the
door, it carefully tested the latch. It found it locked, but managed all the
same to overcome the obstacle with barely a sound. The demon slipped inside the
house ever so quietly. It stood for a moment listening for movement and sounds
of alarm. Satisfied it hadn't been discovered, the demon moved down the hall
intent on its destination. Once inside the study the demon carefully rifled
through the papers and clutter on the desk. It opened drawers and with a
glance, dismissed what was inside. The demon considered for a moment and then
with a grim little smile it stepped over to the bookshelves. It found what it
was hunting for among the books. The demon let itself out of the house and
disappeared into the night, the lone occupant fast asleep inside, blissfully
unaware of any intrusion.
Buffy woke up to a bed without Angel. She blinked at his
pillow. The indentation his head had left was still visible but where was he?
Not again, she thought, not today. Day. It was day, wasn't it? Glancing over to
the windows she could see a brightness sneaking a peek beneath the heavy
drapes. Buffy sat up to look at her watch, when the object of her concern
wandered into the bedroom, a tray in his hands.
"Is it morning?" she asked, eyeing up the tray that
was obviously her breakfast. She could see fruit, sliced and diced, toast and a
pot of jam, a bowl of cereal, milk on the side, and a single rose stood in a
sliver of crystal, red as a ruby and heady with scent. She wondered when he had
He leaned over for a kiss before placing the tray on
the small table he had moved to the bedside.
"Coffee coming up."
Buffy watched him as he left the room.
"Mmm," she murmured, not knowing if it was the sight
of his naked back or the scent of the rose that inspired the sentiment. Her
stomach growled. Maybe it was the aroma of the food. For a being who didn't
eat, Angel knew what appealed to her buds.
She was eating her fruit when he came back bearing the
coffee. He placed her cup in the empty space her bowl had left and joined her
in the bed.
Speaking around a mouthful of fruit, she said, "This
is the life. Breakfast in bed, a half-naked man at my beck and call, and..."
Angel waited for her to finish her sentence and when
she didn't, he said, "What?"
She grinned at him. "I'm trying to think what more
could I want."
"Well?" he said after she had demolished her fruit and
was busy applying jam to her toast.
"I can't think of anything else. I'm complete."
He sipped his coffee. "Are you sure?"
She didn't see the glint in his eye.
"Then you won't want this." He opened his hand.
Buffy dropped the rest of her toast, her strangled
squeal lost in a fit of coughing as breadcrumbs lodged in her windpipe.
His fingers folded over his palm hiding the glittering
object there. Buffy didn't bother to take a sip of coffee to alleviate her
spasms, she pounced on him, still coughing, her movement sending the dishes
crashing to the floor.
He lifted a devilish eyebrow. "Giles won't be
"Gimme!" she cried, and tried to pry his fingers open.
"I thought you said you were complete?"
Buffy laughed. "I didn't know you had this already. We
were going to pick it up on the way to Giles. How did you?" She banged a fisted
hand on his chest. "When did you have time to collect this?"
He chuckled, and opened his hand. Buffy's eyes widened
"Oh, Angel. This is...is perfect." She picked it up to
admire it at close quarters. The centre stone was emerald cut, larger than the
two square-cut diamonds resting on either side.
Angel saw her eyes fill with tears when she read the
engraving on the inside of the band.
"Always," she breathed. A tear escaped and ran down
He plucked it from her fingers, and kissed the tear
away. Her hand trembled as he slid the ring on her finger. The silver of his
claddagh around his finger caught her eye as he did so. She smiled, happy to
see it there, and not be able to help herself, slid her gaze back to her ring.
It was beautiful.
When she raised her eyes, his dark gaze captured her own.
She saw love, dedication and purpose in his eyes. "It's true, you know.
Buffy threw her arms about him. She sniffed back her
tears. "I love you," she cried into his neck.
His hand stroked her hair until she quietened. She
kissed him fiercely, a smile back on her face when she pulled away.
"Those old people knew a thing or two when they made
the Wishing Steps. It helps that an eighteenth century vampire be incredibly
romantic, and that a twentieth century slayer knows what's in his heart."
His lips brushed hers. "It helps she knows her own
Buffy kissed him back before looking him in the eyes.
"Come on, ‘fess up. How did you manage it?"
She frowned and Angel hurried on. "He didn't peek. He
promised. You can show him tonight. It's still a surprise."
Her frown turned sly.
"That's hours away. I wonder what we can do till
then?" she asked coyly.
He chuckled again.
"I thought you were complete?"
"Can't a girl have an appetite these days?"
"Well, I guess I had better see what I can do about
filling you up."
The evening was bitter when Buffy stepped out of the
car. For once she didn't mind. The day had been perfect and she was still
basking in its glow. She had on a new warm winter coat, and beneath that a new
outfit and to die for shoes she had bought one day in Bath while Angel had been
sleeping. Pinned to her coat was an
antique brooch, another gift from Angel. Her fingers caressed the strange and
yet beautiful piece. She had been standing in front of Angel showing off her
new clothes, twirling to and fro to give him the best view, when he had reached
out to pin something to her shoulder. She had put out a hand to stop him,
wanting to see what he had for her.
Buffy hadn't believed her eyes. Where on earth? She
had taken the brooch from his fingers. It was beautiful, and old. When she had
lifted her eyes, he had been smiling.
"I found it in the Ruins."
"You bought it off the Jones brothers?" Buffy had
asked, but her eyes had been back on the brooch.
It was unusual and yet, stunning. Three diamonds were
set in a vertical row against a swirl of gold that fanned out like the petals
of a delicate flower, or a pretty sea shell that coiled about itself, intricate
pearly striations enhancing its beauty.
When she held it out at arm's length, the gold swirl looked rather like
She had looked over at him. "Can we afford this?"
He had shaken his head to allay her worry. "It was a
gift, and it's yours. It looks like an S, doesn't it? S for Summers?"
She had nodded, and had allowed him to pin the brooch
Standing in front of the mirror, she had seen how
beautiful it was, and it complemented her outfit. The most beautiful thing in
the room hadn't been seen in the glass, however. He had been standing right
behind her, a hand on her hip. She had watched with eerie fascination her head
resting against his unseen chest.
"You spoil me," she had murmured, happy that he did
so, worried that she didn't deserve it.
"You give me more than I've ever had. Indulge me," he
had said, and had bent his head and kissed her neck.
Deep in thought, it took Buffy a minute to realise the
house before her was dark and forbidding. Something must have happened to
She said so to the vampire beside her.
"Maybe he had to run an errand," he suggested,
"No, he would have rung us. What if he was working on
a case and something happened to him? Something always happens to us on a
case." She started to run.
Angel caught her arm before she sped away. "He may
have left us a note. Let's find out, shall we?"
Buffy let Angel guide her to the door, not at all
convinced that everything was alright.
She had a feeling in her gut that Giles was hurt or in danger. It was
always this way on this day of days. When Angel opened the door, Buffy knew
there was something amiss. It wasn't locked and Giles never went out without
locking up the house. She pushed past him, calling, "Giles? GILES?"
A hand fell on her shoulder and when Buffy went into
attack mode, Angel's hand prevented her from hitting...the lights came on...Giles?
"Giles?" she yelped, relieved, and it was then she
noticed the room full of people.
"Surprise!" Everyone shouted at once before she could
get back her equilibrium.
"Happy birthday, Buffy." Giles enveloped her in a
The others gathered round and Buffy saw familiar
faces, friendly faces.
"What? How?" She whirled on Angel. "You knew about
He backed away, palms up. Giles came to his rescue.
"Don't blame Angel, Buffy. It was my idea. And I see
you have a surprise of your own." Giles held up her hand to get a look at her
ring. He whistled in appreciation and looked over at the vampire. Was that a
wink she saw Giles give Angel?
And Giles' next words proved her right.
"You got away with it then? I didn't think you would.
Women have a sixth-sense about these things. And, I didn't hear you at all last
night," he added, with a grin.
Buffy narrowed her eyes at the men in her life for their
complicity in deceiving her, but secretly, she was overjoyed.
Lisa moved in for a look at her ring and soon all the
women in the room were vying for a glimpse too. Her new friend Alex grabbed her
hand with an excited "ooh," and over her head she could see Nick Hunt shaking
Angel's hand. The policeman, Ian, was hovering in the background, a place
usually reserved for the vampire. Buffy thought Lisa must have invited him. A
couple of the girls she knew from Lisa's riding school were there as were Martha
and John's beaming faces. And, was that Kevin Langford lurking in the corner?
Lisa hugged her tight, grinning from ear to ear. "What
a lovely engagement ring, Buffy," she said.
Buffy laughed with her, incredibly happy. "No, it's an
Before the ladies dragged her away, Buffy herded Angel
into a corner and hugged him, not caring if she embarrassed him or not.
"This is the best day of my life," she said to him,
her eyes shining.
Angel watched her being led away. There were presents
to open, food and drink to partake of and friends to share it all with. Buffy
was happy, and so was he. If not for the Coven, he knew that at this very
moment he wouldn't have dared to feel this way. Perfectly happy.
First and foremost, a hug to an incredible friend who
took time out to correct my erroneous and forgetful ways, and to help out with
very important parts of this story. There is a note below pertaining to the
most important piece. Thank you, Jo. Hugs. What would I do without your
And a thank you to Lisa who lives near Chester and
helped me with her view of the city.
The surname Brockbank: Brockbank is a river or
hillside that is inhabited by badgers. It is here that the original bearer of
this surname would have worked or lived, probably the latter. Hence Old Mr
Brockbank's nickname of Badger. According to Collins English Dictionary, brock
n, a Brit. Name for badger
The Golden Eagle Bed & Breakfast is what I based
the Falcon B&B on. It can be found on Castle St in Chester. For a look see:
The Rows of Chester are quite famous.
The Wishing Steps do exist and can be found on walking
the Wall. This address takes you right to them and from there you can continue
to scroll through the delights on the walk around the Walls of Chester.
There really is a bookshop called Booklands and it has
a crypt with its own haunt. To see a picture and learn more, go here. I changed
the name of the owner though and there isn't an antique store named The Ruins,
at least I don't think there is, next door.
If you wish to know more about Through the
Looking-Glass, Wikipedia is a good source.
Veidrodis is the Lithuanian word for mirror. It
For more information about Croagh Patrick in Ireland
The antique brooch is one that I found on the web.
Mind you, Angel wouldn't think it antique. It's only 60 years old but according
to the site it is an antique. http://www.the-way-we-were.com/brooches/bryg-3d46t.html
Jo found this ring on this website while we were
deciding the look of Buffy's ring. I had been haunting the jewellery shops, and
a real chore it was too! Anyway, this ring is so Buffy, isn't it? It is an
engagement ring, but for purposes of this story it's an eternity ring. As the
ring was Jo's baby in her story Resurrection Man, I asked her (pleaded) for a
few ideas on the look, and she kindly offered a few clever suggestions
including the claddagh ring and the nugget from Croagh Patrick, which I wove
into the story. Thank you, Jo. You're a
Am I done? I think so. Thank you.