DISCLAIMER: Angel the Series/Buffy the Vampire Slayer characters belong to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy etc. Elizabeth Blaine and attendant characters belong to Wes Craven etc. I'm just playing. If, herein, other characters bear a certain resemblance to familiar faces, it's intentional and they, of course, belong to their various creators as well.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: 1. I write femslash. Therefore, there be f/f lovin' ahead. If you don't like it, find another 'ship. 2. Vampires and blood and stakes, oh my! This story is dark in places. Not all the time, and not forever, but there will be some points where things aren't pretty. If you are bothered by graphic descriptions of the evil that men do, you may wish to find something fluffy. 3. Some knowledge of the show, Angel and the movies Dracula II and III (Ascension and Legacy) are quite probably necessary, though not entirely so.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Clouds crept over the airplane's wings. Like dove gray pillows, they smothered the equally gray skin of the 727 as it cut through the sky. Above the cloud line a scattering of stars slowly vanished behind the pink haze of dawn. Below, as the clouds parted, puzzle-shaped cutouts marked the land. Houses, parks, and freeways were all slowly revealed as pieces of an endless landscape.
Closing her eyes, Kate Lockley leaned her head against the window and wished for the sleep that had eluded her for the last three days.
A moment later, a tiny "Bing" let the passengers know that it was time to fasten their seatbelts and stow their tray tables. Kate just shifted in her seat. Since she had never actually moved after take off, it didn't seem necessary to redo what was already done.
Beside her, the elderly woman who had crocheted her way through three pairs of baby booties put up her craft supplies and settled back against the chair with a beatific smile.
"I always like this part," she said softly. Throughout the flight, she had tried to engage her seatmate in conversation, but the young woman seemed curiously reluctant to talk. "It's the most like flying."
Kate barely acknowledged her. Somewhere in her past, she might have felt guilty for being such a rude bitch, but right now, on the other side of a life gone completely ass up, she just didn't care.
"I'm going to see my granddaughter, you know. I've saved for five years just so I could see her one more time."
Moved to speak, Kate said, "Are you ill?"
"Oh good gracious no!" The woman seemed startled by Kate's voice. "No, I'm as healthy as a horse for a woman of ninety-five, anyway." She smiled at the shocked look on the younger woman's face. "Yes, I know. I aged well. I think it's in my genes. We Blaine women tend to cling to our youth with tenacious ferocity."
"How nice." Kate was nearing the end of her ability to communicate.
"Helen Blaine," the woman said, holding out a wrinkled, gnarled hand that was otherwise unbowed by age.
"Lockley. Kate Lockley," Kate grunted. Limply, she shook the woman's hand and then wrapped her arms about herself. It was time to return to the cellar of her mind.
"Nice to meet you, Miss Lockley. What do you do for a living?" Helen couldn't seem to take a hint.
In answer, Kate handed the older woman a card.
The woman peered at it intently for several long minutes before saying, "You're a private eye? How exciting!" In a whisper, she added, "Are you on a case right now?"
"Oh. Then it's pleasure that brings you to this part of the country?"
"Not exactly." God, why wouldn't she just shut up already?
Perhaps sensing something of her seatmate's burgeoning hostility, Helen pursed her lips and said, "Well, be sure to visit " Whatever she was about to say was lost as the plane lurched hard to the right.
A few scattered screams echoed around the cabin. Just as quickly as it happened, the plane righted itself, and then lurched left. More screams filled the plane.
Helen grabbed hold of Kate's arm and began to pray, loudly.
Closing her eyes, Kate prayed too. Only what she prayed for had nothing to do with what the old woman wanted.
Kate prayed for death to be quick.
Someone's prayers were answered, but it wasn't Kate's. Either it was turbulence or the captain was a hell of a pilot because they landed safely. Well, actually, the plane skidded to a spectacular stop that left the vehicle rather useless but everyone on board alive and without major injury.
When the lights came back on, Kate had been too interested in getting off the plane to worry about any of the other passengers, but afterward, when milling around in the airport and waiting to be allowed to leave, she looked around for the kindly old lady who had shared her aisle. Strangely, she seemed to have vanished. Even odder no one else had seen her.
Having had enough of the wild and wacky world of the weird in Los Angeles, Kate chose to ignore the clench in her gut and leave the airport.
The crowd at O'Hare was horrible. Kate pushed her way through people, reporters and personnel with equal indifference. She just wanted to get the hell out of there and into a taxi. She had no baggage. Everything she needed was in the backpack she had carried onto the plane. This she clutched tightly. It would not do to lose her only other pair of underwear to some idiot pickpocket.
"Miss! Miss wait! Excuse me, miss!" A querulous voice became attached to a hand that fastened itself to Kate's arm.
Spinning in place, the detective grabbed hold of the hand and body it was attached to and was about ready to toss the person into a crowded bank of seats when she realized that it was just a flunky in a business suit.
Pale as a ghost, the man quickly let go of the woman he had been sent to detain and swallowed heavily.
"What do you want?"
"Sorry ma'am, but you didn't fill out a report. We need it for the investigation. It's to protect both you and us in case of a lawsuit "
"I don't intend to sue, so why does it matter?"
Blinking at her dumbly, the man said, "The NTSB "
Official alphabet soup always made Kate's teeth hurt. "Oh just give me the damn paper." Kate snatched the sheaf of documents from his hands, scanned them quickly and sighed. From her jacket she took out a pen, scrawled a few things down and then signed everywhere she could. Before the man could say anything else, she thrust them back at him. "There? Happy now? May I go? I'm tired and I'd like to find some place to stay before everything fills up."
"The airline would be happy to provide you with accommodations for the entirety of your stay, Miss," he glanced down at the paperwork, "Lockley." He puffed up self importantly. "In fact, I've been authorized to give you this," he pulled a coupon booklet from his jacket. "As a way of apologizing for any troubles you may have experienced on your flight."
Suspiciously, Kate eyed the booklet. "I don't want to talk to any reporters."
"Of course not."
"I mean it. Not one. I will not speak to one to complain about or to laud your airline in any fashion. I prefer anonymity."
Lady, you are something else. Pretty, but crazier than a hopped up meth head. However, the bosses will love it. "Not a problem." He proffered the book, and she took it. "Enjoy your stay in Chicago."
The booklet had a voucher for a cab ride to some place called the Black Lake Inn. There was an advertisement and another voucher for the hotel's restaurant as well. At least she would get a meal out of it.
Kate didn't plan on staying anywhere that anyone could find her. One night at this Black Lake place and then she would check into some skeezy dive and see what her little nest egg would purchase.
"Go get far enough away from here that you can look behind you and not see the demons hiding in the shadows. This is my city now, Kate. You're free."
Stupid damned Angel. Didn't he know she'd never be free? That she'd never stop seeing demons in every shade of gray?
"I can't Angel. I won't turn my back-"
"I'm not asking you to do that, Kate. I'm just offering you a choice."
She looked at him and smiled sadly. "You know as well as I do that the choice was made for me."
Conflicting emotions warred with the haphazard grin that twitched on the vampire's lips. "Yeah, well aren't you gonna invite me in?"
Kate's smile vanished. "Not a chance. Fluke or not, I don't play with your fire, Angel." Once, not long ago, the vampire had crossed her threshold uninvited. Saved her life. Kate was not a believer in miracles, but clearly, some Power had intervened. It didn't mean that she would throw caution to the wind.
"I kinda thought you'd see it that way. Look. I've well, I know you're heading East just call me. I can always use eyes and ears. I'll pay well. You know it."
Yeah. She knew. He had the seemingly limitless coffers of Wolfram and Hart to draw upon, and that was one of the reasons why she didn't trust him.
However, she would need to eat She sighed. "Fine. I'll call you."
"Good." He turned to go, then looked over his shoulder and said, "Kate have a safe trip."
Taking a breath, Kate exited the cab and headed for the check-in counter. She schooled her face to impassivity as she handed the corpulent night clerk the voucher. It was accepted, stamped, perforated and shoved into an envelope.
"Room twenty-six. No smoking, no loud parties and absolutely no pets. You have one week. Thank you for choosing Black Lake Inn." She handed over a key ring that had one key and a large, neon pink plastic tag in the shape of Lake Michigan attached to it.
Kate pocketed the key and headed for the restaurant. Blackie's was ill lit, sparsely populated and covered in a haze of age that made it quite clear that the diner, if it had ever been popular, had long gone out of fashion.
A gum chewing waitress leaned against the counter reading a dog eared paperback while in the back, the cook cleaned the kitchen. The scent of grease and vinyl combined to create a nostalgic flavor that put a tiny smile on Kate's face.
Reminds me of that little mom and pop that Daddy and I used to get breakfast at
"Sit anywhere, hon. Menu's on the table."
Choosing a booth near the back of the restaurant, Kate slid into place and lifted the menu and perused it. It was the usual fare, for which she was grateful. She didn't think she could handle esoteric at six a.m. Closing the menu, she looked up and gave the waitress a smile.
"What'll you have, honey?" Chew, pop, chew-chew, pop.
"The sunrise special, over medium, bacon, hash browns, and an English muffin."
"Tony! One sunrise special on deck," the waitress called out as she sauntered away from Kate's table. She tore off the ticket, hung it on a circular rack and spun it around so the cook could see it. With a skill borne of years in her job, the waitress filled a cup of coffee and had it on Kate's table in less than a minute.
The meal was filling, the coffee hot, thick and filled with enough caffeine to keep an elephant awake for ten days and the waitress was perfect she completely ignored Kate.
After eating, the detective left a coupon and a couple of bucks on the table and then headed out for her room. Sleep might not be on her agenda, but it never hurt to give her brain the benefit of the doubt. Besides, her back hurt and it would be nice to just lie down and be still for a while.
Of course, the room was upstairs and of course, there wasn't an elevator, just a rickety set of steps that had been painted sometime around the middle of the last century. The lighting in the area was even older, which led Kate to reach into her pocket and pull out one of the few things she was never without her torchlight. Flicking the pencil thin beam on, she used it to scan every shadow before she climbed the stairs.
Living with demons had taught her to be wary, even when she thought she was safe. The silver cross against her heart, the holy water in her hip flask and the wooden stake hidden in the bottom of her backpack were other, darker reminders of the lessons she had learned.
Gotta get to the post office later. Gunn said he'd come through and I trust him, at least. A yawn stole over her jaw, forcing it open with a loud crack.
Charles Gunn: associate at Angel Investigations, former street punk and vampire hunter, now a hot shot attorney working at the Angel branch of Wolfram and Hart. If anyone could figure out a way to ship Kate's gun and a shit load of silver, wooden and blessed bullets, it would be him.
Until that time, however, Kate felt decidedly naked without her sidearm. Of course, she would also have to apply for the permit to carry the weapon, but being a former police officer, she didn't think that she would have too much difficulty getting the paperwork vetted.
At the top of the stairs she paused and flashed her light around again to locate the door to her room. With her key in one hand and the flashlight in the other, she slowly approached the entry. She would have to pass two other doors before she reached the one marked with the two and the six.
Behind door number twenty-two, she heard the sounds of loud television and even louder snoring. Door number twenty-four masked but did not bar the evidence of rough sex. Making a face, Kate blessed the fact that she had brought a pair of earplugs with her.
The key slid into the lock and the knob turned. As she pushed the door open, she was hit by the overwhelmingly chemical smell of disinfectant, deodorizer and someone's cheap perfume. Immediately, she flicked on the light, but there was no one in the room.
Heart hammering steadily, she took a deep breath. Had to be the maid. She slipped inside, let the door close and began a systematic search of the room. Once she was satisfied that she was completely alone, she tossed the key onto the table, threw her backpack into a chair and locked the door.
The room's color scheme was right out of the Fifties. Olive green, burnt orange and brown were the dominant shades, with dainty additions of robin's egg blue blotches and tarnished gold flakes for variety. There was a window air conditioner, a closet sized bathroom with a miniature tub and shower as well as a sink and mirror.
The towels were hardly bigger than napkins and there was one tiny bottle of shampoo, one tiny bar of soap and one roll of toilet paper.
"I'm glad I'm alone," Kate muttered. She brushed her teeth, washed her face, stripped out of her jeans and slid between the sheets. Before closing her eyes, she reached over, snagged her backpack and removed the stake from the false bottom. Sliding it under her pillow, she curled into a fetal position and closed her eyes.
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, may I sleep for an hour today?
A cacophony of whispered sound rushed by, out of which came starkly featured words.
"Take her into the sun."
"Come on, you can do this."
"It's too late."
The voices shifted, changed. Some were familiar, others not. Some owned, others lost? Forgotten?
"You came all this way to save me."
"And you will."
"No, there's got to be another way."
The plea was not enough. It would never be enough.
"Please. Let me die."
Oblivion, blessed, black, and burning like the fires of Hell. Welcome relief.
Floating. Nothing, only the thick sable of night. Surprise and fear. Wasn't there supposed to be more? Where was the tunnel? The light hell, where was the flames and the devils come to flay the soul?
Regret. Guilt. A voiceless wish. A half-thought prayer.
Warmth. Understanding. Offer of solace. Would it be accepted?
Hope mixed with fear. There was risk and a price. There was always a price.
A nudge accept and the opportunity to seek atonement was within grasp.
Was that enough? Was reparation worth the pain?
Darkness blared to brilliant light.
She came awake drenched in a puddle of sweat. Groaning, she rolled over and rubbed at her eyes until the world stopped blurring. Her head ached like she had gone on a three month tequila bender.
"God, I gotta remember not to drink so much." One pale hand pushed her hair from her eyes. Moonlight etched the shapes of the area around her in silvery relief. Standing, she looked around in confusion. "What the hell?"
Nothing was as it should be.
How was it supposed to be?
"Where am I?" Dawning horror crept over her, forcing a stream of panic to trickle, ice like, through her gut. "Who am I?"
She looked down at her hands. Pale, ghostly flesh covered fine boned, delicate appendages. Pinching herself, she gasped at the sharpness of the sensation.
"I'm not dreaming. Okay " She shook her head again and closed her eyes. "All right, think. Last thing I remember is " Is
As she concentrated, images formed in her mind. Hazy threads became thoughts that coalesced and constructed a vivid account of happenings so horrific, they had to be nightmares.
"No. No, it's not true," she whispered, falling back against the wall and sliding to the ground.
Her hair snagged on a brick and she hissed in pain. When she ground her teeth together, something utterly terrifying happened. A quick, piercing sensation was followed by a hot, grinding slide that sent a pulse of sexual desire creeping over every inch of her flesh.
Oh no. It was real. All of it was real. Five plus years of death, pain and fear hammered into her brain. The sharp points of teeth pressing into her lips turned from a grimace of horror to a snarl.
"Then why am I not dead?" God, even her voice was different. "Is this Hell?"
She remembered now. Oh yes. All of it. Elizabeth Blaine dragged herself to her feet and clenched her hands into fists. Every last second was as clear as a bell, playing over and over in a mental movie that only reinforced the horrific truth. Vampires were real, and she was one of them.
Her stomach turned. Nausea overwhelmed her and she pitched forward, vomiting uncontrollably. Blood and bile spattered the concrete. The smell only made her guts clench and heave even more.
She crawled, dragging herself away from her mess and further into the shadow of the wall. Collapsing, she rolled over and stared up at the full moon. The silence of the area mocked her.
"Why didn't you let me stay dead?" she whispered, as tears began to slide down her face.
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