Paying the Price
Word count: 1820
Thank you, Jo, for the fine beta.
AN: Follows on from my IWRY fic Justice but is a standalone story.
Justice can be found here.
Summary: At rock bottom, is there any hope for Angel?
Paying the Price
Retracting his fangs, he let the body fall, its warmth already fading; Death stealing it away along with its soul. Infused with stolen life, with the purloined warmth of the living, the vampire felt almost alive. Dead man walking, looking human, colour in his cheeks, heat in his hands: Beware!
It would not last. It never did. Blood lust was addictive and hard to resist. Angel felt the cold wind of guilt blow across his soul. Determined not to be under guilt’s thumb, he pushed it away, down deep. He was the avenging angel. And angels weren’t the fluffy, winged cherubs mankind depicted them to be on cards and trinkets. Angels of the Lord were fierce and unrelenting. They did what was required of them. Not that he could ever be likened to one; he was at the other end of the scale. He was demonkind.
Licking the last few drops of blood off his lips, he looked down at the body at his feet. The man had been an ‘evil doer’ as Darla had been wont to say. He had come at him with a gun. A 9mm. Angel rubbed his chest. The bullets were still inside. They stung. He could have overcome the man, knocked him out and left him to the police. But he hadn’t. The punk would have been back out on the streets in no time, no doubt a well-paid lawyer working his case for him. He had seen the handiwork of the dealer who also had a stable of prostitutes. Angel had noticed some of his women working the streets with bruises and a drugged vacant stare. Sometimes one of his whores was found dead in an alley. Young boys, too, were in his employ. If the man had encountered the vampire a few years previous he would have been granted mercy. Angel no longer dealt in such things.
In the distance he heard the wail of a siren. The police were on their way. It was time to leave. Taking a last look at his work, he scaled the walls of the nearest building and was on the roof running across its surface.
Detective Inspector Jensen’s knees creaked as he straightened up. The body on the ground had its throat torn out. This was the third victim in as many weeks. Although, this time it looked like the victim had managed to get off several shots. He stepped back carefully. Forensics was scouring the ground for blood splatter. Any found would be analysed. If fortune favoured them tonight some of the blood may belong to the perpetrator. Jensen didn’t hold out much hope. The perpetrator never left a clue. It was as if he had vanished into thin air.
Angel sat on the roof of a building, his legs dangling over the lip of the wall. He was brooding. His thoughts of late were dark. If he could be bothered, he could call up a memory of a meeting with his first Messenger. Doyle, who had once told him that going it solo could lead him to viewing people as food, had only been partly right. People were food to the likes of him. But the vampire’s mind was elsewhere now. He was tired, so very tired. And he had eternity to look forward to. His future spread out before him like an event horizon, a never ending battle against the forces of darkness. That darkness was swallowing him whole. His shoulders slumped. There was another option open to him. He could die in battle, turning to ash, his soul bound for Hell. Been there, and done that, Angel wasn’t keen to revisit. He wondered if that was what ants felt, if ants could feel? He was between a rock and a hard place and no way out.
He brought his mind back to the task at hand. He had chosen the building for a reason. His gaze was intent on the building across the street. There was a window there that had his attention. Behind the pane of glass lived a monster.
Takes one to catch one.
Angel got to his feet. There was work to do.
Inspector Jensen was sure that he had seen it all until now. He was standing in a room that resembled a crime scene. The absence of a body was the first thing of note. A viscous fluid covered the walls. Judging by the spatter, it could be blood, if blood was green. That was the second thing. The officers who had been called to the apartment building had been responding to a neighbour’s 911 call. There were screams coming from apartment 405. Could they hurry? The room was a demolition site. The furniture was in pieces, shards of glass decorated practically every surface, and there were gouge marks on the floor and walls. On closer examination, and Jensen was sure forensics would concur, it looked like talons or claws had been used.
What manner of man were they dealing with, he wondered. Or beast. He supressed a shudder.
It was Christmas Day and it was snowing elsewhere in the world. In Southern California the sun shone. Vampires and other creatures of the night were safe underground, or huddled inside, away from the sun’s deadly rays. Besides, vampires didn’t celebrate Christmas. Their kind came from another place.
Whether it was snowing or not, Americans celebrated the holiday. Angel had no one to celebrate with, if he had wanted to. And he told himself it didn’t really matter. Until the one time it had mattered when snow fell from the sky. He didn’t like to dwell. It hurt too much to think of such things. Dammit. Too late. The memory resurfaced. He blinked at the book he was reading and tried to concentrate on the story.
It was no good. He couldn’t settle. Closing the book carefully, he set it down on the table. Rising from his chair, he started to pace. Inaction was making him antsy. He had to move, to rid himself of the rising need inside of him. Hunt. Kill. Feed. His feet beat a familiar path on the carpet. Back and forth he strode.
Once upon a time he purchased blood from the butcher’s. Pig’s blood. A substitute only. It was nowhere as tasty as human, or as nourishing. But as he feared, if he still cared, drinking O Positive only reinforced his yearning. He had no one to wag their finger at him and admonish him these days. He could do as he liked. He had clarity of purpose. He was Vampire, a creature of the night, a fearsome beast, and not someone to mess with.
Without looking at his watch he knew that it was still daylight out. A couple more hours and he would be free to venture forth.
It had been a slow night for a creature on the prowl. Demons had been noticeably scarce on this special day. It appeared as if criminals too had families and loved ones to stay at home with. Crime was down. Music was the order of the day. Wherever he went he heard carols playing. Music issued from houses and apartments, from iPods and cell phones, and the few carollers there were sung with passion and joy. He thought they looked ridiculous dressed in tee shirts and jeans, singing on street corners, not a flake of snow to be seen. Midwinter snow, with hats and scarves and mittens, now that was the real thing.
He gave a mental shrug. Snow. His thoughts seemed to travel a circular path, leading him back to a long ago miracle created especially for him. Angel gazed at the lights decorating buildings and homes. The lights were pretty. Christmas cheer in a flashing bulb. Progress. He sighed, and turned away.
“What are you doing?” she asked him.
He was dreaming of her again.
“What I must.”
“What’s that? Killing humans now?” Her frown said it all.
“Only the deserving ones.” It seemed he was always on the defensive when talking to her.
“Who appointed you judge, jury and executioner? Those who have no sin and all that…”
“Shall have stones thrown at them,” he finished for her. It wasn’t correct but it was still true.
Her look softened. She understood.
“You’ve suffered a lot.”
He shrugged, at least he thought he had. “No more than I deserve.”
She rolled her eyes at him. It made him smile.
She smiled in return. “You should do that more often.”
His smile died. “You left me.”
“I didn’t. I’m right here.” She touched his chest, where his heart lay. He blinked in surprise. He could feel her. It had never happened in his dreams before. He reached up with a finger, traced it against hers. She was warm. Her hand was hot against his chest. She smiled.
He held on to her. “What’s the point? The things I’ve done? It’s never going to be right.”
“The way you’re going about it, it won’t. So you’ve gotta change what you’re doing.”
“I tried that. Everyone I care about dies.” He stared at her, looked deep into her eyes. Her eyes had never looked so green. They had him mesmerized.
“Pfft. So people die. It’s not so bad…where I am I feel loved.”
A lump formed in his throat. “I’m happy for you, Buffy. I really am.”
She stroked his face, leaned in and kissed him. “I’ll be happier when you get here.”
“I… it’s impossible. Redemption for the likes of me would take an eternity.”
“Time moves differently in Heaven. It’s no time at all. No time. Get it?”
His chest felt tight. “You’d wait for me?”
“No time, Angel. There will be no waiting.”
Tears prickled at the back of his eyes. He kissed her.
Something soft and wet landed against his cheek, waking him from his dream. He looked up at the sky. A rosy glow announced dawn was imminent. He rolled over and clambered to his feet. His clothes were coated with sand. He could feel sand rubbing inside his shoes. He had fallen asleep on the beach. Angel touched his mouth, remembering her lips on his. It had only been a dream. On his hand something wet and soft landed. He stared at it before raising his eyes once more to the sky. It was snowing. In Southern California it was snowing. But it had been a dream, surely? He looked out over the beach. It was white with snow. His heart leapt. Perhaps redemption was possible. It was time he got back to work.
The killings stopped. Inspector Jensen never did discover who the vigilante was. And if he was honest, he was happy to let it be. The case had been weird from day one. Better to let sleeping dogs lie.