Summary: Rain's life is pretty ordinary... until she sees a stranger lurking in the crowd watching her. Her view of the world, of time itself, will never be the same.
Notes: The year is around 2250, in an unknown city, maybe L.A. I chose not to get all future-shock-y about this -- no Star Trek universe, for me. Too much to keep track of. The future in this world is more or less like the present, any fancy new technologies or what have you are irrelevant to the story.
It was a night like any other...
How many corny stories start out like that, do you think? Well, maybe my story is corny...hokey... use whatever word you like. But it's true, and it changed everything for me...
It was a night like any other... My girlfriends and I were at El Fresco, our favorite retro club downtown, celebrating the end of another school year. I was 21, almost a college graduate, ready... no, itching... to take over the world. We'd already danced most of the night way, dressed to the nines, flirting wildly... it was 2 am. Time to head for home. We waited under the awning outside while the doorman hailed us a cab. I let my eyes wander over the departing crowds, waving to people I knew, checking out the clothes, the scene...
Then I noticed him. Just beyond the throng. I was pretty sure I didn't know him, but his face was so familiar, I was almost not surprised to see him watching me.
"Oh, my *GOD*, Rain! That *babe* is checking you out!"
Our eyes met... I was frozen on the spot, and time seemed to stop -- it was a scene just like all those cliché romance movies you see... He wasn't smiling, exactly, but also kind of was... he wore a look I couldn't quite identify, but the word beatitude kept springing to mind. His eyes were deep set, dark and brooding, his skin pale and smooth. He wore black... jeans and a velvet duster... he stood there, apart from the others, but commanding all the space, the light and the shadows around him.
I felt like I was seeing my dearest friend for the first time in a long while...
Then he was gone.
I stared after him for a long time after he'd disappeared... the squealing and tittering of my friends sounded a million miles away, and I ignored their tugging and questions.
"Who was *that*?" finally registered in my brain.
I shook my head to bring myself back. I tried to shrug nonchalantly.
"I dunno." I said... and I didn't.
The cab came then and took us away.
Two weeks later, I was coming out of the library close to 2 a.m.... it was too late for a bus, and nary a cab would stop for an overdressed, tiny blonde girl standing alone on a street corner in the middle of the night...
It was a short walk to my apartment, but I cursed it anyway. You never could tell... I tried one more time to wave down a passing taxi. True to form, the driver ignored me.
Suddenly a shrill whistle came from behind me to my left. A cab immediately stopped and I swung around to see who my savior was.
It was him. I could barely make him out in the shadows, but I could see him enough to know...
*This* time he was smiling...
"Thank you." I said, my usual witty remark far from my lips.
He was beautiful... he gave a little bow, said, "You're welcome," turned, and walked away down the street. I got into the cab automatically, not kicking myself until later for not following him.
Months went by... the summer passed, my life went on, but I felt different, somehow... altered... awake. I thought of the Mystery Man often, finding myself looking for him everywhere in the shadows... but I never saw him. As young girls often do, I forgot about him, more or less. And by the fall I had other things on my mind. My boyfriend, Jerry and I, broke up -- okay, I broke up with him, and he was constantly at me -- calling me, showing up in weird places, distinctly uninvited. I guess you could conceivably say he was stalking me.
One night, he caught up with me outside the club, and I knew this time he wasn't going to back down. He was going to get his closure, no matter what it took.
I rolled my eyes at him to hide my growing fear. "It is SO OVER, Jerry... Please!"
He cut off my exit, " Who do you think you are, you snotty little bitch?! I gave you everything, and you blow me off like this?"
"Jerry, get over it." I snapped. Suddenly, he had me by the shoulders and slammed me up against the wall. I was scared, now, by the crazy look that was growing in his eyes...
I pushed him. He pushed back.
"Get the fuck OFF me, Jerry!" I screeched at him, feeling my adrenaline pumping.
He slapped me, hard, and gripped my shoulder enough to make me cry out.
"You're going to get back some of the pain you've given me..." He snarled.
"I don't think so." Came a voice from the shadows, and a huge fist surgically separated Jerry from me by smashing his face. He dropped like a stone without a sound.
I watched my ex-boyfriend, a rather large man, crumple like a pile of dirty laundry at my feet. "Oh my god! Is he dead?"
Mystery Guy stepped from the shadows (how did he *DO* that?) To stand beside me, also looking down at Jerry.
I do believe I gaped at him, and possibly gasped aloud.
"He'll be fine." Said Mystery Guy, "But none too happy when he wakes up. Why don't you let me walk you home?"
Then he looked up and for the second time, our gazes locked. Again I had that feeling like I was standing in a tunnel, and everything was gone but he and I... and again I had that feeling that I knew this man better than anyone in the world. I could follow him everywhere, and I would always be safe by his side.
"Okay." I said without hesitation.
We started strolling toward my house, in silence. Magick literally crackled in the air around us. I couldn't stop staring at him, trying with all my might to place his face... he looked to be in his mid-twenties, but something in his proud bearing made him seem centuries older than that, even. It was funny, even his gait seemed familiar, as did the way he was dressed, the way he fidgeted with his hands, the particular curl of his hair...
...and the ring he wore... a crowned heart held between two hands... It rang some alarm deep in my memory that I could in no way identify, but it shook me to my foundation.
He occasionally flicked his gaze to me out of the corner of his eye, but avoided making eye contact with me again.
"You've been following me." I suggested. It wasn't nearly the accusation it probably should have been. I found myself remembering a conversation I'd had with my friend Jasmine about stalkers. How nauseatingly hypocritical it was, that if a cute guy follows you around, he was being terribly romantic, but an ugly one doing the same was a stalker and could get a jail term... walking beside this familiar stranger, I began to understand the difference.
Mystery Guy finally met my gaze, but said nothing.
"How do I know I'm any safer with you than with Jerry?" I continued.
He stopped in his tracks and stared at me, brow furrowed, obviously hurt, for a moment.
"I suppose you don't know." He said, his voice heavy, "But you are... you have my word."
Somehow I knew in my soul that that was good enough. We resumed walking in silence, and we were soon at my front door.
I stopped. What should I say? I found I felt like I was under big pressure to do something, *NOW*, to stop this man from walking away again. But I could think of nothing momentous, cool, or even a tiny bit clever.
"Thanks." Was all I came up with, "Again."
He raised his eyes once more to mine and smiled that beautiful smile..."You're welcome. Again." He turned to walk away.
"Hey, wait!" I called after him, "Can you at least tell me your name?"
Mystery Guy turned and regarded me for a long moment with those intense eyes, as if he were surprised by my question.
"It's Angel." He said, and once again disappeared back into the shadows.
Huh. Somehow, that made sense.
It was a Thursday. The knock on my door came at 10 am. The hour would have been downright rude, had I been sleeping, but I hadn't had a good day's rest in months, so I was sitting on my couch, passing the hours by reading.
The second knock was louder. Considerably louder... supernaturally louder, sounding like the door was six inches from me rather than 20 feet away. Annoyed, I rose to answer it.
It was The Whistler, which made me immediately nervous -- his appearances were always a portent of something serious about to happen.
"Hey, Angel," he said in that painfully cliche Brooklyn accent of his.
"Hey." I said.
"Long time no see, eh? What's it been, 200 years?"
"Give or take..."
"Yeah. Say, can I buy you a drink?" He gestured to the exit door behind him.
"It's ten in the morning," I said, despite realizing he already knew that.
He grinned. "Oops. Oh yeah... sensitive skin," he drawled.
I was unamused. I doubted it was terribly easy for Whistler to get around in the day, either. Demons were less likely to turn to dust, but they were still night-walkers, and standing in the light too long was extremely uncomfortable.
Something big must be up...
"What do you want?" I decided to cut to the chase.
"I got a surprise for ya. Can I come in?"
I let him in -- what else could I do? The little demon made a beeline for the kitchen and helped himself to a shot of whiskey from the cabinet.
"When'd you hit the sauce?" He asked, wiggling the bottle at me.
"None of your business." Actually, I hardly ever drank..."Whistler, why are you here? I'm going to guess it isn't to catch a buzz."
He nodded, gulping down another shot and making a satisfied smacking noise as he regarded the bottom of the glass.
"Actually, I'm always game to catch a buzz," he corrected me, "But... I thought I ought to let you know, a new Slayer is going to be called in the next few months... I got it on good authority..."
I didn't let him finish..." I'm not interested in the Slayer. I've had my lifetime's quota."
"Oh, you'll want to see this one." He chuckled.
"And why, exactly, is that?"
I wanted to smack the grin right off his ratty little face. Maybe I did technically owe him my life. Maybe I did technically owe him for the only love I ever knew... but I also technically owed him something much less pleasant for getting me sent to Hell, and spending the last two centuries in double the pain that I would have experienced had I remained alone...
It was a close call.
"You'll see." He said with a smirk, "Oh, *wait* until you see. Be outside the El Fresco dance club tomorrow night at closing time. Man, are you in for a treat!"
When the Whistler left, I was more than a little uneasy. What could a new Slayer possibly offer me except yet more pain and possibly death?
But, as it was, I didn't have anything to do the following night, and I was now consumed by my curiosity, so I headed to the trendy dance club on 23rd street. I decided my best course of action was to cast a little glamour on myself, helping me to blend with he shadows, then add the protection of not getting too close to any patrons, but remain in everyone's peripheral vision...
A vampire learned a lot of invisibility tricks over the centuries.
I arrived at just about 2 am, wondering what Whistler's game was. A new Slayer? I hadn't set eyes on a Slayer for close to 200 years, since the day that Buffy had died, an old woman, in my arms...
I didn't want anything to do with any Slayer... not ever again. I remember running over the 50 or so years that Buffy and I spent more or less together, and I felt tears burn my eyes... two centuries after her death, I still missed her... I still dreamt of her. I still talked to her ghost like a senile old man...
No sooner did I have that thought, then I saw her... the soon-to-be Slayer Whistler had sent me to look at...
There was no mistaking her. She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen, with long, golden blonde hair, huge eyes, a fair bubble gum complexion. Her smile lit up the air around her as she chatted with the girls that clustered around, all dressed in 21st century fashions -- now all the rage as "retro"... She was tiny, barely made average height by her platform shoes. She looked a little old to be Called, 20 at least, but I knew in these dark days, the Council took what they could get. I was dumbfounded, riveted... I know I must have let the glamour slip because now she was staring back at me...
It was Buffy.
I knew it couldn't be -- at least my rational brain knew... but my soul cried out -- my heart, long dormant, literally throbbed at the sight of her. It was all I could do not to bolt through the crowd and grab her, take her into my arms and kiss her with the might of two hundred years of loneliness.
But I held back. She had to be some descendant of Buffy's... We had never had any children, obviously, but I knew she had other family... my mind scrambled to find some explanation for the apparition, but there was none apparent. It was, without a doubt, Buffy. Her friends noticed me, too, and began a thrilled little dance, pointing me out to her.
But she had already seen. And I could tell from the shocked, and yet not shocked, look on her face that some fundamental part of her recognized me, and remembered our time together.
I finally composed myself and re-cast the shadow spell... she continued staring, and I wondered if maybe she could see through the trick...
Then a cab came and took the vision away.
I began following her regularly, much as I had her ancestor 250 years before. The Whistler told me she was Buffy reincarnated. Although he didn't know exactly when or how, he knew there was currently no Slayer, and this girl (whose name turned out to be Rain Summers) was related to the greatest Slayer in history by blood, and thus could be called any day.
To say I was trapped in a whirl of confused feelings would be an epic understatement.
So I watched her, always hidden. I watched her search for me, and longed to reveal myself to her. I did, once, when I knew she was being tracked by the dark forces, who scrambled to kill the next Slayer at the first opportunity. One night she presented the perfect one, leaving the library at the University in the middle of the night and failing to arrange safe transport. I released my camouflage long enough to hail her a taxi, which she nonchalantly thanked me for and then disappeared in the night.
I confronted the Whistler -- begged him to tell me why he had done this to me -- why he had dragged up pain that had almost faded by introducing me to a ghost in a situation he knew I would not be able to resist.
"She needs you." He said simply, "...and you *SURE* as hell need her."
It was an acceptable answer, and true, for my part.
What positive could possibly come of it, I didn't know and barely cared. What a precious opportunity, to share a second life time with one's true love...even if it was only from the shadows...
She stopped looking for me, eventually, making it easier to hide from her, but much more painful, for me. I watched her live her life, fall in and out of love. I began to wonder whether she would be called at all, so many months had gone by.
But the forces that opposed her were constantly vigilant. I spent more time keeping evil from this girl than I ever had with Buffy. But Rain never knew. I fought for her, wanting her to enjoy as much peace, as much ignorance, as possible, before the time I knew it would be stolen from her forever.
Such a battle happened the night we finally met. I lost track of her fending off an particularly nasty demon who was stalking her, trying to earn his bounty by being the one to kill the next Slayer before she was even Called...
When I located her again, she was in a much more mortal sort of danger from a boy she had dated for a few months -- Jerry, I think his name was.
He had Rain backed up against a wall, threatening her with violence, which I knew was a very *real* threat, because I could immediately smell his rage.
I would also smell her terror.
It took nothing at all for me to knock the kid out.
She asked if he was dead before she even saw who had saved her. A woman of compassion, even for those who didn't deserve it, just like her ancestor.
When she did turn to look at me, her face lit up with what I thought might be pleasant surprise, then clouded over with vague, pained recognition. Was it her soul who knew mine? I assured her he was fine and insisted on walking her home. Evil seemed to be gathering around her like a cloud, and I knew she would not have a safe moment again in this lifetime. It was time for me to give up the comfort of hiding, and accept the painful place I knew I had to take by her side as her protector.
As we walked, I found it was too painful to look at her... the way she moved, her uninterrupted consideration of me...and yet I couldn't help but steal glances, recognizing the soft, living glow of her skin, and the shining green of her eyes.
She commented that she knew I'd been following her. Her voice told me she trusted me, for some reason, deep inside, instinctually. But her city-bred caution continued to tell her that this was all wrong.
"How do I know I'm any safer with you than with Jerry?" She asked.
The question shocked and hurt me, catching me off guard for a moment. How could she not know? But I reassured her anyway, seemingly satisfying her. The too-short but too-long walk to her apartment came to an end.
Rain thanked me politely. I told her she was welcome, and began to make my exit before anything more awkward or painful could be said. My heart hurt.
She approached me again as I walked away.
"Can you at least tell me your name?" She asked, her tone pleading a little.
I looked up at her for a long time, caressing her face, so familiar, in my mind, remembering how this stranger's lips tasted, how sweet her breath smelled...
It was like introducing myself to my closest friend.
"It's Angel," I said. I saw something flash in her eyes, and then I dragged myself away.
It had begun.