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When Light Turns to Dark

Chapter One

The darkness clung to every surface. Oozing in patches like spilled ink, the blackness spread like a thing alive. It caressed like a lover's hand, but was colder than ice. Yes, the darkness was an old friend to the vampire lurking in the alley. He waited, watching as the lengthening shadows slowly cloaked the city in its shroud of darkness. He felt the sun slip below the horizon. At last he was free to move through the crowded streets alongside the unsuspecting mortals who busily went about their way oblivious to the predator who walked among them.

No one noticed this devil with the face of an angel as he wended his way through the crowd. He headed towards the alley of the Bronze, his body setting its course before his mind could balk. As he rounded the corner, he slowed as if being held back by an invisible hand. He knew he should stay away, but he couldn't. Like a moth to the flame, he was drawn to the only sunlight that had brightened his existence in many years.

"Buffy," he whispered to the darkness.

Angel closed his eyes as a sharp pain ripped through his newly regained soul. That blissful moment of union was still fresh in his mind, his heart. Together they had built a passionate fire, yet each was burned and consumed in a way neither could foretell. In his most honest moments, he admitted to himself that he would have changed no event leading up to that fateful night, even had the outcome been known. Angel shook his head to dispel the memories. That phase of their relationship was over. Two choices remained: either he moved on or he moved ahead. Buffy had his heart. He wasn't going anywhere.

Silently he slipped into the Bronze through the alley entrance. Instantly his senses were accosted by the sights and sounds of Sunnydale's most popular hangout. On stage Oz's band belted out a song that had dozens of couples mindlessly gyrating upon the crowded dance floor. Angel quickly spotted Buffy sitting with Willow and Xander at their usual table. Carefully avoiding the occasional flailing limb of a crazed dancer he picked his way through the crowd. Just as he was about to approach Buffy's table he found his way suddenly blocked.

"Ahem, er, um, er excuse me..."

Angel was face to face with his least favorite person in the world, Wesley. The Watcher council made a horrible mistake in firing Giles and replacing him with Wesley . He was obviously incompetent and holding him against such a fine example of a commendable watcher like Giles made it all the more obvious. Wesley, or Weasly, as Buffy called him. The beginnings of a smile tinged Angel's face as he recalled the faces she made whenever she spoke of him. He was quickly pulled back into reality by the man that was staring boldly at him and violently clearing his throat.

"Ahem, well...ah yes...Mr...ah...Mr..."

"Angel. It's just Angel."

"Ah, well, yes. All right. Angel. Have you seen Buffy? I cannot seem to locate her despite several admonishments for her to leave me a number as to where I might be able to find her in case of emergency so I do not have to continuously chase after her as if I were..."

Angel cut Wesley off in mid-sentence. "She's hiding in plain sight," he ground out and gestured towards the table where the Slayer and her trusty sidekicks sat.

Wesley turned in the direction Angel pointed to. "Why thank," Wesley trailed off, as he turned and realized he was speaking to no one.

With vampiric speed, Angel moved to the farthest shadows of the Bronze to wait for his chance to be with Buffy alone. He waited this long, a little longer couldn't hurt. After all, time was on his side. Or at least, that's what Angel had always thought. Lately it seemed that time was an enemy. Buffy's eighteenth birthday had come and gone. She was growing older before his unchanging eyes. He shook his head again. Where were all these gloomy thoughts coming from? Angel had come looking for Buffy to ease some of his terrible loneliness. Even Xander's bad jokes were preferable to sitting in that drafty mansion, listening to the clock strike one hour after the next.

Oz's band, Dingoes Ate My Baby, was performing, and Angel found himself tapping a toe to the beat of an uptempo song. He watched as Wesley tried to ingratiate himself into Buffy's cadre of friends. Buffy had a bored look on her face, and she was examining her newest coat of nail polish rather than give her Watcher the attention he obviously required. Willow was gazing up at Oz raptly, drumming her fingers on the table top. Xander was just full of energy, and though Angel could see his lips move in a sardonic smile, the music drowned out all but the closest sounds. It seemed that Wesley received no satisfaction to any of his queries or latest admonishments, for when he turned Angel could see the affronted cast to his features. Angel took Wesley's place at the table, but a moment passed before the trio of friends realized the Watcher had been replaced.

"Angel!" Buffy exclaimed upon looking up.

"Hey," he returned casually, including Willow and Xander in his greeting.

Willow smiled and waved. "Hi, Angel."

Xander was feeling especially brave. "Well, if it isn't Dead Man Walking."

Angel refused to be baited. "Xander," he returned, with just the slightest warning tone.

He turned his attention to Buffy, like a flower turns to the sun. This is why he had come out. The band began a slow song, so Angel took Buffy's hand in his and gave it a little tug. "Dance?" he asked softly, his eyes smoldering with a banked passion. Buffy slid off the stool in response and moved to the dance floor with Angel, her fingers entwined in his. Once on the dance floor Angel pulled Buffy close and took a deep breath, filling his senses with her scent. He felt the tension slowly flow from his body as he buried his face in her hair.

"Ugh, Angel." Buffy placed her hands on his chest and pushed against him. "Too tight."

"Oh, sorry," he apologized, loosening his hold somewhat.

"It's okay." She smiled at him. "Rough night?"

"No, I mean, it's just hard, not being able to see as much of you as before." Stammering, Angel quickly tried to correct himself, "I mean time-wise, not seeing you as much."

"I know what you mean, I think." Buffy gave him a soft smile. "I miss you, too. So, don't tell me we've broken our infamous pattern here. A social visit, rather than a business one?"

"Oh, ugh, no sorry. I just had a strange feeling. I don't know. Nothing tangible. I wanted to know if you'd heard anything, if Giles or Wesley had mentioned anything out of the ordinary?"

"No. No demons running amuck lately. Actually it's been rather quiet. Anything I should be worried about, something Hellmouthy?" Buffy tried to ignore the fact that Angel was holding her so close, that he smelled of musk and the crisp night air.

"Buffy..." Angel closed his eyes, trying to get a grip on his rampant emotions. Taking a deep breath he pushed her back, unable to muster the strength to speak, much less think while she was in his arms. "Can you come by later? So we can talk. I'll even walk you home afterward."

"Okay. But you know, I can't stay long. Mom gets mental if I'm out too long."

"I understand. I'll see you later, then?" Reluctantly he stepped back.

"Yeah, later." Buffy flashed him a reassuring smile before returning to her friends.

"Anything wrong?" Willow asked as Buffy sat beside her.

"I don't know. Angel seems a little uptight. Wants me to come by later. He seems restless, like he's worried about something." Buffy took a sip from her drink. "Guess I'll find out soon enough."

Angel silently made his way down the alley behind The Bronze, his brow wrinkled with worry. He stopped to listen for a moment, certain he'd heard someone following him. Shaking his head, he chalked it up to overwrought emotions. Ever since his return from Hell he'd been jumpy, overly cautious. Something bad was going to happen, he could feel it. The hair along the back of his neck stood up and a growl rumbled low in his throat. Anxious for the safety of the old mansion, he turned and quickly disappeared into the sheltering shadows of the alley.

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