disclaimer in part 1

Now Juliet ain't nothing new
So I'll play Romeo for you
I'm climbing out your window tonight
cause your daddy don't like those Montagues
Remember how that story ends?
Yes I do so I pretend
that we wind up another way
Wake up and kiss my mouth and save the day.

Pleasing You
-Soul Miner's Daughter

Three Doors
by: Rebecca Carefoot

Part Eight

Angel studied the tousle of blonde hair resting against his shoulder blade. His heart ached, not from the pain of his body or from any sadness, but because he felt too much joy. His emotions too powerful to be contained, they pressed against his body, against his brain, against his heart, straining within him until he hurt from the excess. He was holding what he loved most in the world. The impossible had happened, and he had been granted this, been granted everything. He moved slightly, snuggling against her warmth and tried to swallow past the lump in his throat.

Her beauty was stunning, but her trust, her love was what filled him to overflowing, filled him until he stretched and bruised, his heart matching his battered form and grateful for the honor. The silence folded around him, a strange contrast to the heat and rough movement of their joining. Then there had been no room for thought, now there was too much. She shifted against him, traced her fingers across his abdomen, and he suppressed a whimper. It was too much, almost too much, not enough, he placed his hand over hers and her fingers entwined with his. Too much. He groaned, sitting up slowly.

"What is it?" she asked.

"We can't stay this way forever," he said.

"Why not?" She stretched against the sheets, shifting them with the golden curves of her body.

"For one thing, I'm starving," he said, smiling down at her.

"I haven't eaten in a long time either," she agreed. "I'd forgotten." She sat up slowly, unwillingly, and put her chin on his shoulder. "I love you," she said, tucking her arm around his waist.

"And I love you," he answered, pressing a kiss to her head. He smoothed her hair with his fingers, then pulled away from her embrace and stood up, his abused body creaking with the movement.


Angel edged down the stairs dressed in a pair of Giles' sweat pants, pain jolting him with each step. His bare chest had grown more discolored as the bruises had begun to come into full bloom, but most of the cuts were looking healthier, though still a bit raw. Muscles burned and ached with each movement, but he gritted his teeth and continued until his bare feet landed on the cool tiles of Giles' living room. Sighing softly to himself, he shambled the rest of the distance to the kitchen. Giles looked up as he passed by the sofa.

"Are you all right?" the librarian asked, watching Angel's stiff-legged gait.

"Yeah. I'm just sore and bruised and a couple of these scrapes started bleeding again in the shower. Other than that..." Angel trailed off, opening the refrigerator. "I'm also starving."

"You won't find too much in there," Giles said, returning his gaze to the book in front of him. "I've been meaning to stop by the grocery store." Angel nodded, pulling a plastic container of leftover Chinese food and a loaf of bread from the fridge. He shivered in the cold air, but reached in again to pull out a carton of orange juice and a jar of peanut butter.

"I think I can manage."

"Is Buffy asleep?"

"No, she's in the shower. She'll be down in a moment."

"I'm a bit worried," Giles admitted. "Faith should have been back by now. Or at least checked in."

"You think the other version of me was at the mansion?" Angel asked through a mouthful of cold pepper steak and rice. He stuffed another bite into his mouth, his cheeks swelling with the food.

"The thought had crossed my mind. But knowing Faith, she probably decided to go somewhere after she checked the mansion and didn't bother to inform us."

"Maybe. But knowing Faith, if he was there she might have decided not to stick to the plan and wait for us."

"I don't believe she truly understands how dangerous he can be," Giles agreed, his eyes narrowed with concern.

"Buffy and I should go by the mansion," Angel decided.

"Are you sure you're up to that?" Giles asked skeptically, his brow furrowing.

"Of course," Angel said straightening his stance. "I can do it," he reaffirmed with a wince as his muscles protested the movement.

"You should be taking a few days to heal," Giles argued.

"We don't have a few days," Angel answered. "I know him better than anyone. I was him. I can help."

"I know you can," Giles said. "But perhaps in a less active capacity?"

"I can't just sit by and let him rampage. I can't let Buffy-"

"Can't let Buffy what?" Buffy asked as she came down the stairs. She wore a gauzy grey shirt and a matching ankle length skirt embroidered with small black flowers. Giles felt a small gasp of air hiss from his lungs as he took in the sight of her in those clothes and was reminded of the past. Her wet hair was plastered to her head, and she seemed confident, rejuvenated, herself again though the clothes were purely Jenny. She shot a small, uncertain glance at Giles, and he smiled, the expression coming easier than expected to his lips.

"Go to the mansion by yourself," Angel told her. She entered the kitchen and poured herself a glass of orange juice, watching in amazement as Angel finished the Chinese food and started on a stack of three peanut butter sandwiches. She smiled, giving him a gentle hug.

"Has anyone ever told you that you look like a chipmunk?" Angel laughed, touched his swollen cheek, and wrapped his arm around her waist.

"I can't get over the whole solid food thing," he said, shrugging his shoulders sheepishly. "When I was a vampire I couldn't really taste it. I'd forgotten." Buffy grinned, and kissed his shoulder.

"Welcome to the wonderful world of leftovers." Giles shook his head, and smiled slightly to himself at their teasing. "What's the deal with the mansion?" Buffy asked, stealing one of Angel's sandwiches. Angel made a face at her, and she stuck out her tongue.

"Faith hasn't returned, or contacted us," Giles said. Buffy's amusement faded, and she turned her attention away from Angel, nodding.

"Not a good sign."

"But maybe nothing," Angel pointed out. Buffy shook her head, leaving the kitchen and half her sandwich to sit beside Giles.

"Maybe. But I have a bad feeling." She met Giles' eyes, seeing her own worry reflected in his. "True, Angelus equals extra edgy Buffy. But then again, this is Angelus. She could be in serious trouble." She hesitated. "Or worse," she muttered under her breath. "I'll go right away."

"Good," Angel said. "I'm going with you." Buffy looked at his battered body with raised eyebrows.

"You couldn't even put on a shirt because it hurt too much," she said gently. "And I can't be distracted if he's there."

"I don't have illusions about my strength, or lack thereof," Angel said. "I know my limits. But I still think you need someone to back you up. I can take a crossbow, and I'll stay back. It'll be strictly fighting at a distance." Buffy bit her upper lip, wavering.

"Okay, I would like some back-up," she relented. "But you have to be careful and stay out of it. Promise." Angel held up his hand.

"I swear."

"I know you. You say that now, but if we get in trouble you'll go charging in..."

"I won't get in your way," Angel said, his half-smile not quite covering his discomfort with the situation. He wasn't used to his capability being questioned. He understood the need, and the aching of his body reminded him exactly why the doubts of the others were rational. But it was a bitter pill to swallow. Although he wouldn't have admitted it, his ability to fight, to hold his own next to Buffy was something of a point of pride. Buffy closed her eyes, her brow wrinkling.

"That's not what I meant..." she began.

"I know," he said, shaking it away with his hand. "It's just going to take some getting used to." She nodded, bending over to gather her shoes from their place beside the coffee table.

"I'll get the weapons," she said. "And you finish getting dressed." Angel nodded, finishing his glass of orange juice and heading for the stairs. Buffy pulled on her shoes and crossed to Giles' weapons chest. She pulled out a crossbow and an ax. The front door opened with a creak, and she tensed involuntarily, her head whipping toward the entrance to the apartment. Willow and Xander passed through the doorway, and she forced her muscles to relax.

"A fully successful outing," Xander said. "Willow kicked some butt, wicca style."

"I must admit I did," Willow said. "And we dropped by the school to talk to Cordy and Oz about why they can't go out tonight or invite Angel into their homes."

"Needless to say, they were thrilled," Xander said. "And by thrilled, I mean confused. Also mad. And scared."

"And we managed to avoid Snyder long enough to stop by the library and see if Wesley had anything new," Willow added.

"He didn't," Xander finished. "Big British loser." Giles raised an eyebrow. Xander shrugged. "What? I'm not talking about you." Angel walked slowly down the stairs, wearing a loose white t-shirt and his own shoes. "Oh, and since I found some of these in Giles' office, I brought you a present," Xander said. He reached into his pocket and retrieved a name tag, peeled it from its backing, and clapped it to Angel's chest. Angel winced, craning his head downwards to read the tag.

"Hello my name is...HumAngel," Angel read slowly. He looked into Xander's expectant face.

"Get it? Human Angel? So we can tell you apart," the boy explained.

"Clever," Angel said dryly.

"I'd really prefer you didn't poke about in my office," Giles said.

"Oh, yeah like you've got some big secret thing in there..." Xander began.

"Whatever," Buffy interrupted. "We can't stay. We're going to the mansion to check up on Faith. She's AWOL."

"We can come with," Willow offered.

"No," Buffy said. "I want you guys as safe as possible. That means no throwing yourself in the line of fire."

"But he's going?" Xander said, pointing his thumb at Angel, who was peeling off the name tag. "He's even more useless than us now." Angel's jaw jumped in annoyance.

"Xander, shut up," Buffy said, pulling lightly on the hem of Angel's borrowed shirt to steer him past the others to the door. She handed him the crossbow and shouldered the ax herself. "At least he can aim a crossbow."

"Ouch," Xander said, clutching his chest in mock pain. Buffy rolled her eyes to Angel, and he broke into a grin as they passed out the door.


Buffy pushed open the front door of the Crawford Mansion, with Angel behind her. The door had been unlocked, and she wasn't sure whether that was a good sign or a bad one. She peered inside as the door swung wide. She scanned the room for movement, straining her senses for a presence in the house. Seeing nothing, she motioned for Angel to stay and took a step inside. Her heels echoed against the stone floors, bouncing off the walls of empty rooms. Her back was tight with anticipation, her fists clenched. Her gaze darted from one corner of the living room to the other, and caught on a huddled body on the floor. Dread shot through her stomach, and she heard the hiss of breath as she gasped.

Forgetting caution, she ran, feeling as if a year had simply disappeared. She was running down the halls of Sunnydale High, her heart racing though her feet seemed slow, much too slow. She was kneeling, skidding on her knees, beside Kendra's body. She was right back where she had been that night, the night she'd sent him to hell. She touched the other Slayer's hand, cradling it in her own, and the past retreated slightly. It was Faith. She lay like Kendra had, still and small, fragile. Her eyes were closed, her neck stained by blood and the mark of teeth. The strength she'd had, the strength only another Slayer could have, was gone. She was dead, and Buffy had failed her.

She felt Angel run up behind her, the crossbow hanging slack from one hand. He bent, putting his hand on her shoulder, and time slipped back into its proper place. Now was not a year ago. Angel was here with her, to help her, to comfort her. It was Faith, not Kendra whose dark hair spread out beneath her head like a swirl of brown. Faith's brash mouth that was closed, quiet. Faith whose shirt was torn, and whose jeans were still unfastened. Buffy shuddered, the shock that excluded everything but the fact of Faith's death turning to horror as she took in the girl's body, as her mind reeled with the possibilities. What had Angelus done to her? How badly had he hurt her? How terrified had she been? Had he turned her? She reached up desperately to grasp Angel's hand, and it was gone. She tore herself from Faith's body, turning to Angel, and saw him back away with panic on his face. He gagged, and spun on his heel, rushing back out of the house into the sunlight.

She turned back to Faith, squeezing her eyes shut against the shame, the defilement, the emptiness. Then she forced herself to look again, to imprint the image in her mind. Faith was dead, she'd been the one to experience the pain, the shame. The least Buffy could do was look. The least she could do was remember. She took it in until she knew the image would be in her memory forever, haunting her, waiting behind her eyelids. Then she hurried after Angel, catching up to him on the walkway to the door. She grabbed his arm, stopping him from continuing his flight away from her, from Faith's body.

"What's going on?" she asked.

"I..." He shuddered, tears in his eyes, his throat convulsing. "I couldn't stand it. I couldn't look at her."

"But you've seen worse," Buffy said, leaving it unspoken that he'd done worse.

"I can't explain," Angel said, his eyes fixed on the treetops as he tried to make sense of it. "It was...the blood. And seeing her lying there." He stopped, turning his gaze reluctantly to Buffy. "I'd only seen one dead person in my life before I was turned, and it was my grandmother who died of disease. This is the first murdered person I've seen without the demon in me." Buffy nodded, encouraging him to continue. "It's...Before it didn't seem to affect me. Except maybe that a part of me liked it. But now, I just feel horror. This horror filling me with ugliness, like a stain."

"I'm sorry," Buffy said. She put her arms around him, and he stroked her hair, the rhythmic motion calming him. "I'm sorry you had to be a part of this, and see what you did. I'm sorry you didn't get to be human for a day, even one day, without being dragged into the things I deal with. The death."

"No, it's not your fault," he said, pulling back to look down at her.

"It is," she said, her hands trembling. "Faith. Oh God, Faith. He did this to her, but it's my fault. We have to find him. He'll keep doing this, keep killing, hurting."

"We will stop him," Angel said.

"No," Buffy answered. "It should be just me. Look what happened to you here. You shouldn't have to deal with it. You won't be able to handle it." She looked up at him, meeting his eyes, wanting with all her heart to beg him to be there for her. To help her be strong. Realizing that for the first time he might not be strong enough to do that. And she couldn't ask him to be part of her world, not now that he had the chance to be normal, to live outside the nightmare.

"I'm not letting you face this alone," he said, his tone unflinching, adamant. She nodded helplessly, knowing she should force him to stay out of it, but not strong enough to keep from clinging to him.

"I need you," she admitted. "I need you to support me."

"I'll be there for you," he said. She leaned her forehead against his chest, and one sob jerked through her body, then she took a deep breath and looked at the mansion dry eyed.

"I have to go back in," she said. "I'll check to see if he's still there," she said. "But I doubt he is."

"There's sewer access in back of the house," Angel pointed out. "He could get to it during the day if he covered himself with something sturdy." Buffy nodded, her jaw set. She turned back to the house.

"We'll hit Willy's next. Then anywhere else you can think of where he might have gone. We can contact the others from Willy's."

"What about..." Angel's eyes darted to the door, and he swallowed again.

"There's nothing we can do for her besides make sure she won't rise a vampire," Buffy said. Surprise widened Angel's eyes, then he nodded, understanding.

"Do you want me there when you do it?" he asked.

Though Buffy's heart screamed yes, please God, yes. She shook her head, no. "You stay here," she said, squaring her shoulders. She took a deep breath and ducked back inside the house, pulling a stake from her pocket. She approached Faith's body with dread, her sweaty palm clenched around the hard length of the stake. She knelt again beside the body and muttered an apology, focusing on Faith's chest, trying to disassociate the other Slayer from the dead girl before her. She exhaled sharply and drove the stake through the Slayer's heart. She clenched her jaw and stood up, turning away. She would make Angelus pay for this. Every ounce of pain, every drop of humiliation he'd inflicted on Faith she'd bring to him and more.


Angelus climbed the ladder up the side of the sewer tunnel beneath the Willy's bar. A firm push moved the metal cover aside, and he climbed up into the storeroom he remembered being dragged through on the way to being sold to Spike. He bared his teeth. He'd never paid Willy back for that. One day he would. But right now he needed the bartender to provide a bit of information. He took a quick look at his surroundings, the liquor packed onto the shelves, the small windows near the ceiling and the patches of light shining through them, the locked cage where Kendra had trapped him.

The door to the storeroom opened and Willy entered, weighed down by a case of Tamalian Ale. He stopped when he saw the vampire before him, and juggled the case to keep from dropping it on the concrete.

"Angel," he said warily. He eased the case to the floor, taking a step backward. "The Slayer send you? Or maybe you want some pig's blood?" Angelus laughed, allowing his vampiric face to emerge. He took a step forward, flicking his tongue against his fangs.

"Guess again."

"Hey," Willy said, holding up his hands and taking another step backward. "Hey, no need to get scary on me. You just..." He stopped as Angelus abruptly launched himself through the stream of sunlight coming in the window, and pinned Willy to the wall in the shadow. His skin smoking slightly, he sniffed at Willy's neck, enjoying the scent of the man's fear, the pounding of the blood beneath the skin. "Please..." Willy said.

"I need a bit of information," Angelus purred. Willy nodded uneasily. Angelus placed his hand tightly against Willy's throat, and held him to the wall with the pressure. The man's gasping breaths vibrated pleasantly against his palm. "I'm looking for a nest."

"I don't know stuff like that," Willy said. "They don't tell..." Angel increased the pressure against his trachea, and he stopped, struggling to breathe.

"I think you know," Angelus sing-songed quietly into Willy's ear. "You may be thinking to yourself that you know me, that I'm not going to kill you, that I'm the Slayer's lapdog..." He kneed Willy hard in the groin, and the man screamed silently in agony, unable to gain the air to give voice to the pain. "Let me assure you that continuing to think that way will be the last mistake you'll make." He released the pressure on Willy's throat slightly, and again the flow of air rattled against his palm.

"There's no nests," Willy said weakly. "The Slayers took out one a couple weeks ago. That's the only one I knew..." His eyes rolled in fear as the hand began to close. Angelus laughed. With a casual movement he drove his fist deep into Willy's belly. The air whooshed from Willy's lungs, but he was kept from doubling over in pain by the vise grip on his neck.

"Have to do better than that, Willy my boy." Angelus removed his hand without warning, and stepped back. Willy fell to the concrete, curled in on his stomach, gasping to breathe.

"What the hell happened to you, Angel?" he asked.

"Just tell me what I want to know," Angelus answered. He placed his foot on the side of Willy's head, pinning it to the floor. "And don't ever," he increased the pressure against Willy's skull, "ever call me Angel."

"Whatever you want," Willy said. Angelus eased off and knelt down beside the prone bartender, trailing his fingers down the side of Willy's face hard enough to leave a path of bleeding scratches. "What size nest you looking for?" Willy whimpered.