Chapter 2 pt.2


"You're *sure* the Slayer's got a weakness? Any idea what it is?"

Two figures were taking a brief respite from the light December rain in a dark doorway before continuing on their way. The slim, shorter figure answered his taller companion, "Hey, all I'm telling ya is what I hear. Someone out of the East coast says they've found a weak spot, and some clan out there is gearing up to exploit it. Finally. It'll be a relief to get rid of this one." A soft growl from his companion startled him, and he peered up at the tall, broad shouldered man, trying to make out his features. "What's it to you anyway? A grudge against her? The head honchos back there won't like it if you try to steal their thunder. And they aren't the kind to mess with, if you know what I mean."

"Oh, I wouldn't worry about that," the soft voice drawled, a hint of arrogance obvious in his voice. A break in the rain prompted him to step out of the sheltered doorway, and a security light from above briefly caught his face, revealing the pale handsome face and penetrating brown eyes that had lured thousands to their deaths. The smaller demon drew back in alarm when recognition dawned, and started to move stealthily out of reach. "After all, I can handle myself. And I've got friends in high places," Angel smirked at the little demon as he snaked his long arm out and caught the other's arm.

"So it's true?" The smaller demon asked, resigned to his fate. "Angelus fights for the Slayer? There were a few rumors, but I dismissed them. I mean, this was *Angelus*, and I figured Spike was just popping off because Druscilla left him."

"Don't call me Angelus." Angel frowned, uncomfortable with the idea that there were rumors about his current situation. It could jeopardize what he was trying to do if that really got around; no demon would talk to someone that was helping rather than hunting the Slayer. "Thanks for the information, but you're turning out to be very irritating. I hate bad news." A wicked looking silver knife quickly slashed out, killing with quick efficiency. Angel turned to face the neighborhood and concentrated briefly, searching out any supernatural beings that may have witnessed what had just happened. Fifteen minutes later he had hunted down and staked the three vampires hunting in the area, managing to keep the news that Angelus was hunting his own out of circulation for another night.

Angel took a deep breath that he didn't need, and decided to forego returning to the agency he had been working at for the last five years. The detective agency was a cover for dealing with supernatural events, and Angel felt that he was actually accomplishing things there, at least in the immediate area. But what he really did was pick up and pass along information on activities in various parts of the country, particularly regarding threats to the Slayer. It was his way of trying to keep Buffy safe, despite not knowing where she was. Tonight's information was important, and needed to be passed on, but it could wait a bit longer. The news, along with other clues and signs, disturbed Angel on a deep level.

The screech of tires from a car careening around a corner a block away brought Angel out of his dark mood, at least momentarily. This wasn't the safest of neighborhoods to be caught woolgathering in, even for vampires. More than gang members walked the night in the area, and Angel had no desire to get into another fight this night. If he ran into a demon that was one thing. But, dawn was only a few hours away, and he had some deep thinking to do.

Angel moved cautiously through the night, avoiding detection by large groups or demons he wasn't prepared to deal with, staking the odd vampire he ran into. Eventually, he reached the warehouse he and Whistler had renovated for his use a few years earlier. Angel climbed the stairs and entered the expansive apartment, but soon found himself bypassing the shower and meal he'd been planning on, and climbed the narrow stairway to the roof. The rain had finally cleared up, and Angel found himself leaning against the wall in his 'garden,' next to some potted trees. He smiled to himself a little, remembering how generously Cordelia had spent his money when she'd learned that he did some of his best brooding on the roof. She'd said that just because his mood was dark and depressing, didn't mean his surroundings needed to be. He'd figured out that she wanted to keep him grounded in the world he was trying to make amends to, but still giving him the isolation he sometimes needed to wrestle with his past.

It was the recent past that disturbed Angel this evening. Rumors had been flying for the last month or so of a cadre that had dedicated itself to tracking the Slayer to determine her weaknesses, and thereby learn how to eliminate the threat she posed. Though a new Slayer would be called in Buffy's place, the new girl would be young and inexperienced. For similar reasons, most demons ignored the second line of Slayers, as they tended to die in a normal time frame. It was Buffy that posed the real problem; the longer she survived, the stronger and more dangerous she became. Now, rumors were flying that the undefeated Slayer *did* have a weakness, and it was only a matter of time until they found a way to use that against her. Against *his* Slayer, Buffy.

A shiver of fear snaked through Angel. He hadn't heard from Buffy for nearly three months. Something was wrong, and he didn't know what he could do. Angel recalled the fear and hurt that had controlled his life for the first six months after Buffy left town. For the first time, Angel had experienced first hand the tearing pain of not knowing where his love was, who she was with, or if she were even still alive. Looking back, Angel's respect for Buffy's inner strength grew, because he didn't think he'd have been able to survive her leaving him the way he'd left her years ago. He had still been seriously questioning his presence back on Earth at the time, and another rejection from Buffy might have killed him. And, when he'd left, Angel had had the advantage as, despite their separation, he had always known where Buffy was, and how to contact her.

Angel and Buffy had cleared the air a little about his departure from Sunnydale that spring before her disappearance, and he had thought that things were better. Angel had hoped that she'd be able to call on him if she was in trouble, but instead she'd simply left town with Giles, leaving a brief note that didn't explain much. Angel had been nearly frantic with worry. He knew that she hadn't touched any of the money he'd put in trust for her and Giles when he left Sunnydale, and while he knew that Giles would take care of her, Angel still worried about them facing a lack of funds, that they'd manage to get into trouble and not be able to call for help. He'd thrown himself into his work, helping others and gathering any information about movements in the supernatural world, trying to forget his concerns, while simultaneously hoping for some word on the girl that still owned his heart.

Then six months later, Angel had received a postcard from Buffy, telling him she was all right but not explaining anything else. Ever since he had heard from Buffy fairly regularly; she usually sent postcards of where she'd been the day she moved on, though he had received a dozen long letters that addressed some of the problems they'd faced. Angel had thought that things were getting better; Buffy had even accessed part of the assets he'd left her. She said it was for medical fees, assuring him that she was fully healed, and telling him not to worry. Angel had allowed a small corner of his heart to hope that maybe, someday, he and Buffy could work things out completely. Not necessarily so they could be a couple again, but so they could actually talk about things the way they used to, before everything went wrong. After all, she had signed everything 'with love.'

Now, Buffy was in danger, and Angel still had no idea where she was. He prayed to whatever deity might listen to a vampire that she was still safe. Because he'd had some very disturbing dreams of late, where Buffy had needed him desperately, but he had failed to help her. It was too remenicent of the times he hadn't been here to protect her when Angelus was taunting her, or hadn't been able to ease the dreams that had haunted her after she sent him to Hell. 'And,' Angel asked himself silently, 'who knows how many times since I left her?' Angel really didn't know what he would do if someone actually managed to kill her; he thought it would finally destroy him. "Easy." Angel murmured to himself. "She's the best there is. Giles makes sure she's careful. And if something does happen, she's got the resources to get help." He stood and stared at the sky, finding one star peaking through the cloud cover, smiling slightly at the memories of Buffy laughingly making wishes when they'd patrolled together years ago. So, he too made a wish, for Buffy's health, and when she was ready, her safe return.