By: Anne Olsen and Michele Bumbarger
It was cold tonight, even for Los Angeles. As she stood on the rooftop, the wind whipped at her hair and face. The cold wind blew and tugged on the thin material of her nightgown, chilling her to the bone. She shivered slightly, hugging herself in an effort to retain some sort of warmth. Fingertips and hands rubbed up and down her chilled bare arms, her teeth chattering slightly. The rooftop was cold beneath her feet, adding to her chill, but she barely noticed that anymore. To be truthful, she barely noticed anything anymore. Even the cold and the nagging wind were peripheral; the rubbing of her arms and the chattering of her teeth were instinctive.
The cold didn't matter anymore.
She barely noticed the overhead sky, absent of the moon, a few stars glittering and sparkling through the cloud cover. She barely heard the rush and buzz, the hum of the motors of the occasional car that passed by the building on the street several stories below.
She didn't notice because it didn't matter.
Stepping forward, she lowered her hands from her arms. Hands and fingers took a firm grip of the rooftop ledge, pulling her onto it. She moved with ease and a grace that she didn't remember ever having. The climb to the ledge, for once, was effortless. For a moment, she crouched there, the bitter wind tugging at the hundreds of tiny braids in her hair, biting her cheeks and nose. It seemed to be trying to speak to her, trying to push her back from the ledge, but she was no longer listening.
She had stopped listening a long time ago.
Slowly, and carefully she rose to a standing position on the ledge. Her legs quivered ever so slightly, her feet beginning to go numb from the cold air. That was a funny thing, she thought she was used to the cold. Los Angeles cold seldom bothered her, but tonight it was colder than it had ever been. Not that it mattered, because soon she wouldn't feel the cold anymore.
She flexed her toes on the ledge, stretching her arms out to her sides.
The wind battered at her.
She imagined she could hear it howl – or perhaps that was just an animal in the alley.
"Ami!" The voice drew her attention, caused her to pause.
She turned ever so slightly, glancing over her shoulder in the direction of that voice. A sad smile turned up the corners of her lips as she gazed at him – the savior of souls, but he could do nothing to save his own; he could do nothing to save hers. "Angel, you came."
He took a step, paused, his hand outstretched. "Come down from there. Please."
Ami shook her head, wishing that she could make him understand. Tonight, tomorrow night, next year, it didn't matter. She would end up here, at this place. It was really for the better. It was what had to be done. "I can't."
"Yes, you can." He spoke softly; his words carried on the wind. His dark eyes beseeched her, crying out in confusion. "Please, you have to. I know what's happening now. We can fix this."
She shook her head again. "It's too late. Good-bye Angel."
She fell, soaring like a bird, his anguished cry echoing in her ears.
"Ami!" Angel sat bolt upright in bed, fear coursing through his veins. If he had been human, his heart would have been pounding in his chest, and his breath would have come in gasps and pants. Not human, perhaps, but alive enough that he recognized fear, so that he knew that the perspiration that covered his sheets had nothing to do with heat or a change in temperature.
It had been a nightmare, all a bad dream. He knew that upon waking; but it did not erase the nagging fear that clung to him. It did not ease the pins and needles and cold tentacles that worked their way up from his feet to his head. Vivid nightmares he was accustomed to, he had them often enough. It was the plight he suffered and part of his curse: a vampire, cursed with a soul and conscience, destined to remember the face of everyone and everything he ever killed, the memories which came in the form of nightmares were part of his penance. He accepted them as he accepted everything else about his existence, with stoicism and the understanding that this was how it had to be.
At least, he had accepted without argument everything that The Powers That Be threw at him until recently. Until that one fateful night nearly three weeks ago when the interruption of a spell had disastrous effects: he was soul bond to Ami Jackson, a first year student at UCLA and a Tomorrow Person, one of a handful of young adults in the world with incredible psychic abilities such as telepathy and teleportation. And while he was growing accustomed to the constant awareness of the young woman, always hovering in the shadows of his mind, it didn't mean he was happy, and he certainly was not accepting.
Climbing out of bed, the vampire reflected again on how wrong the situation was. No one should be that close to him, share something that intimate with him; no one should have to. He wouldn't even have wished this particular fate of Buffy Summers, the one person he loved with all of his heart and soul. His was a cross to bear alone – unfortunately, it seemed that The Powers That Be didn't really see it that way.
Angel made his way to the kitchen where he retrieved a carton of pig's blood from the refrigerator. Fear and anxiety wore on him and made him hungry, although he didn't know why a dream should affect him so strongly. Yet, he couldn't shake the feeling that it had been more than a dream – almost as if there was something he was missing, a message – maybe Ami's subconscious? Perhaps the Tomorrow Person preferred death to the bond.
But no, the vampire knew that wasn't right. Whatever Whistler had said to Ami before he vanished from the scene, and whatever memories the Tomorrow Person had, she accepted this as her fate. She never blamed him, or even showed any anger towards Angel because of the way things had turned out. He wouldn't say she was jumping for joy, but, as Doyle had reminded Angel often enough, the vampire could learn a thing or two from Ami's stoicism.
And maybe that was just it. Maybe the dream had more to do with Angel's insecurities than anything else did. He still blamed himself for not protecting Ami in the first place. He still felt guilty that things had gotten so out of hand, that they had almost been too late to save the girl from Giselle, a practitioner of black arts.
Guilt, like everything else, was haunting his dreams.
Angel felt his face shift to its natural demonic countenance as he turned the container of blood up to his lips. The blood was stale and cold – he hadn't even given thought to warming it – but it would suffice for his needs. It would never be the rich warmth and sweetness of human blood, but that was the price that he paid.
A flash, across his mind's eye as he drank – Ami throwing herself from the ledge, her body plummeting to the ground below – so real, so sharp, so clear, he could feel the cold of the wind which resisted, he could see the ground rising up to meet her.
The container slipped from his fingers crashing to the floor, pig's blood splattering the counters and coloring his feet.
And halfway across the City of Angels, he felt Ami bolt awake, their minds united in shared terror.
*Go To Chapter Two*
:: Return to WIP Index::