By: Anne Olsen and Michele Bumbarger

Chapter Nine

Angel stood in the hallway outside of Ami's dorm room and stared at the closed wood door. Shifting his weight from foot to foot, he burrowed his hands further into the depths of his coat pockets and forced a very human sigh from between his lips, wondering the entire time why he had ever listened to Doyle.

After the blow-up with Adam, Angel had taken refuge in his apartment. He truly felt bad about the things he said to Adam, and it worried him that he could become so unfocused and without center that the demon could push through so unexpectedly. And it had been the demon pushing up to the surface that caused Angel's caustic words, that caused the vampire to flee before he said - or did - something that he would regret later. The demon that close to the surface, that close to ripping free of the control he always had over it scared Angel more than he would ever let on. It had been a long, long time, not since his return from hell, that he hovered so close to losing control.

Adam's words had been spoken out of concern; and, no small amount of distrust towards the vampire that Angel could not blame the Tomorrow Person for feeling… Angel, no not him, not the conscious part of him that held his soul, but the demon, had felt threatened. Threatened, however illogical, by a person who could not kill. Yet, talking to Adam felt like more of a threat than the business end of Buffy's stake.

It hadn't made sense, not until Angel calmed down and talked to Doyle. The demon reacted because Angel reacted and according to his half-demon seer, whether Angel wanted to admit it or not, Angel harbored more than a small amount of guilt about the bond he shared with Ami. It wasn't such a leap to think the demon and Angel's darkness could taint Ami. And, Doyle suggested, maybe that was what the dreams were all about.

Doyle didn't know the half of it about the dreams and Angel chose not to offer him further enlightenment. However, whatever Angel felt, it didn't explain why Ami seemed to be the only person immune to these dreams. And, for whatever bizarre reasoning that was Doyle's and Doyle's only, he felt that the vampire would have more luck talking to the Tomorrow Person.

Which was why Angel found himself once again on campus, surrounded by the stares of female co-eds that made him distinctly uncomfortable and the glares of the male students that made him bristle. He had never been to Ami's dorm before . . . just the thought of coming here made him feel like an intruder.

He gave a very human sigh again, then reluctantly lifted his hand to knock.

Knocking, however, was unnecessary as the door swung inward to reveal a less than surprised and very curious set of languid dark eyes.

"Ami. Hey." Angel forced a smile, making a fist out the hand that still hung awkwardly poised to knock before shoving it into his pocket. "Hi, I mean. Hi."

"Angel. Hi." Her head tilted thoughtfully, and Angel wondered why people did that. Did tilting the head make conversation any easier, or did it make the thoughts settle faster? Or was there simply something in human culture that taught babies from the early stages of communication that a slight tilt to the head would convey -

"Is there something you wanted?" Ami's words cut off his rambling, trailing thoughts and pulled Angel back to the present.

"I . . . um . . . wanted . . . to talk to you." The vampire paused, suddenly feeling like a towering giant as he looked down at the petite young woman. Buffy had been smaller, more petite than Ami, but Buffy was a Slayer, and Buffy had a strength that was not belied by her small size. Ami, on the other hand -

Focus, Angel reminded himself. He could still feel eyes boring into him as students passed behind him in the hall.

"Were you going somewhere?" He blurted, loudly. Maybe a little too loudly. A quick glance around revealed that on one else seemed to be paying him an extraordinary amount of attention.

"Pardon?" Confusion intensified.

"Well . . . it's just that … you know, you were um .. . opening the door . . . so, I thought - "

"Angel, I knew you were out here."

Right. Of course she did. She could sense him just as well as he could sense her. She knew that he was on the other side of the door, the way he knew that she sat in her dorm room. That was part of the bond they shared - a constant awareness of where the other was and what the other was doing. Sometimes, Angel found himself almost enjoying it, almost basking in the complete and total comfort that provided - and then he would remember the reason behind it, he would remember that it was a mistake, a fluke of fate that created this thing, and as guilt reared its ugly head, he would withdraw from its lightness and seal himself off again.

Angel wondered how much of that Ami detected, if any of it all. Obviously some of it was seeping through, into the dreams that she denied having, some of his darkness spilling over to touch her.

"Right. You did," Angel shuffled his weight from foot to foot again. "So, um -"

"Did you want to come in?" Her mouth twisted in a half-smile, as she stepped to the side allowing him to enter. "You can, you know."

Angel nodded and stepped into the - small - dorm room. He wasn't claustrophobic, had never ever experienced a sense of claustrophobia in his life or unlife, but for a heartbeat when that door closed behind him, Angel felt momentarily trapped. He couldn't put a reason to the feeling of entrapment, he just simply felt like the four walls around him were holding him there, closing in on him, weighing him down with a lethargy and the intense need to be elsewhere. It didn't matter where, anywhere else would be a pleasant change from the confinement of these four walls.

"You get used to it," Ami's words pulled him from his thoughts, banishing the claustrophobic feelings as well.


"The dormitory rooms. You get used to it," the Tomorrow Person explained. She appeared to be as equally uneasy around him as he was around her, fidgeting with the glass and plastic items on her dresser that even after two hundred plus years Angel could not identify as more than secret and sacred beauty aids only understood and used by women. "It's really much more pleasant when Celia isn't here. It's quiet. And calm. And there is nothing quiet and calm about Celia. But when she's not here, it's nice. I can study and focus on things - that aren't Celia going on and on and on about the next party or her new boyfriend."

Angel blinked at the back of her head, his mind shuffling to latch onto and make sense of her words. She was babbling, if there was one thing Angel was particularly good at identifying, it was nervous babble. Ami didn't have quite the penchant for it that Willow did, but she was starting up along a good clip.

Celia was her roommate, an overly effusive bubbly blonde if Angel remembered correctly. He'd seen her on only a few occasions - those few occasions when he stopped by campus and watched Ami from a distance, just to make sure she was all right. It was not stalking, nothing remotely resembling stalking, no matter what Cordelia said. Ami was his friend - sort of - and it was his duty to make sure that nothing happened to her. He was doing his job. Protecting her.

Which brought him back to the reason that he was here. He needed to talk to her. About the dreams, that she claimed she wasn't having. That quite possibly maybe she wasn't having, but Adam didn't believe that. And for reasons that he couldn't fully explain, Angel didn't believe that either.

His thoughts trained back into Ami's words and he realized that the young woman had not stopped her rambling yet. Only now, she was re-arranging the items on her desk, mostly putting the pen holder in several different spots as if she couldn't decide which spot was the right one - and did he really make her that nervous?

"I scare you," Angel said the words quickly, cutting into Ami's rambling that having lost the thread of, he could not longer make sense of anyway.

The pens in the holder stopped rattling. Ami glanced at him from over her shoulder, and shook her head, "No, you don't scare me."

"I bother you, though. I make you nervous."

With a sigh, Ami pulled out her desk chair and dropped into it. "It's just that - I don't know how to deal with you, Angel. You're . . . you're . . . big on the avoidance . . . and now, you show up here and - this is very weird, you know?"

Big on the avoidance. That did not sound like the formal clip that Angel expected to fall from Ami's lips. No, that definitely sounded more like Cordelia. Too much like Cordelia.

"I just, you know, thought that you needed some space. Distance. From me."

"It's a bit hard to have that when you're up here," Ami pointed at her head.

"I know," Angel said simply. He shifted again, lapsing into silence and leaned against her dresser. Or rather tried to, instead, his elbow slipped, knocking over several of those unidentified bottles which rolled and chimed and bopped against one another. He immediately went to right them, only succeeding in knocking over a few more, and was a bit surprised when Ami's hands joined his, fixing the mess that he was quickly making.

"I don't get it," Angel complained, retrieving a round compact from the floor. He knew the name of the beast, he just didn't understand it's purpose. "I mean, why do women need all that stuff? Cordelia has a different nail polish every week and expects me to notice how it compliments her dress, and every time she wears a different perfume I'm supposed to comment on that too. Why don't you just have one nail polish and one perfume and - " Angel held out a tube of lipstick to her, "one lipstick?"

With a smile, this one lacking in some of her earlier nervousness, Ami took the lipstick. "It's a process that men are not meant to understand."

"I believe -" Angel stopped, his eyes trailing to the inside of the drawer that Ami was dumping some of the contents of her dresser into, possibly so that he wouldn't inflict anymore damage. He stopped, not because of the sudden sight of silk-like and cotton things that he really didn't need to be seeing, but because of the rather long, and sharpened piece of wood that was stuck in with the silk-like and cotton things that he really didn't need to be seeing. "A stake?"

"Cordelia," Ami shrugged, then reached in the drawer and grabbed it. "I had to put it somewhere so Celia didn't see it, but it's not like it's going to do me a whole lot of good anyway." She dropped the stake on the dresser and closed the door, "I'm sure you have more use for it than I would."

"Cordelia gave you a stake?"

"She thought I should have it for safety's sake." Ami shook her head, her smile widening, "Some girls only have to worry about muggings and rapes. I get to worry about muggings, rapes and vampires. Present company excluded."

"You don't have to worry," Angel said. "About you know, muggings and rapes. I . . . wouldn't let anything happen to you. I mean, I keep an eye on you."

"I know."

"Right," Angel nodded again, grateful that he couldn't blush. Of course, she knew. It didn't matter how stealthy he was, she would know that he was there, somewhere close by. "Does that bother you?"

"No." Ami didn't even hesitate before answering and Angel managed a half smile.

Maybe he was doing something right after all.

"So, why are you here, Angel? You don't strike me as the small talk chit-chat type."

Back to square one.

All right. Okay. He could do this.

"I wanted to talk to you about something."


Angel hesitated before replying. “I wanted to talk to you about the dreams, the dreams I’ve been having and you say you haven’t.” He easily ignored the look on Ami's face that said he was treading on ground where his feet should not dare to tread. It wasn't easy for him to ignore the way she blanched, or the subtle change in her posture but he did it because he had to. Because he had to talk to her, to quiet Adam's constantly repeating words in the back of his mind; he had to talk to her to put his own nagging unease to rest. “Adam came to see me, he and Megabyte have been dreaming too.”

“So that’s it,” commented Ami, a shadow falling over her features. “Adam’s sent you to check up on me because he doesn’t want to come here himself. I told them this morning that I was okay. It’s becoming quite obvious that they didn’t believe me. After all you’re here aren’t you?”

“Ami…” Angel could sense that she was worried, not maybe worried wasn’t quite the right word. Her eyes seemed to almost have a wild look about them, the same look he’d seen before in cornered prey. He knew it because he had often put that look into the features of his victims and -

Don't go there, Angel chided himself. Now was not the time to wallow in the memories of Angelus, not the time to get side tracked. But, another voice asked, isn't Ami's reaction exactly what you've grown to expect? Exactly what you're afraid of?

That was the voice of the demon, whispering softly in the back of his head. Taunting him.

With a firm shake of himself, Angel pushed the demon down. Later, he could deal with that part of himself. Now, he had to deal with Ami. Who was also now a part of himself. Only she was a part that he didn't know how to deal with at all.

"Ami, if something strange is going on, we need to get to the bottom of it. You need to talk." Without realizing it, Angel took a tentative step towards her, only stopping when he saw her back two steps away. He forced himself to still, to ignore the bitter tang of rejection and shoved his hands in his pockets for lack of anything else to do. "You don't have to talk to me. You could talk to Adam."

Ami flinched as though she had been struck. Her entire body went rigid as her eyes slowly narrowed, a slow fire burning there. “Can’t you people just leave me alone? I tell you all until I’m blue in the face that I’m not dreaming. What does it take to get through to you? I’m not dreaming, I’m not!”

Ami’s last sentence came out as almost a scream. As if startled by the loud voice, her head darted back and forth, seeking out something, perhaps the source. The young woman hugged herself, her eyes sliding past him to some fixed point over his shoulder. The vampire took a quick glance behind him, not at all surprised that her eyes should fixate on the mirror. The mirror where he did not reflect.

"Ami -"

“Go.” She spoke quietly, very calmly now, in stark contrast to what Angel had just heard. Her words, seemed to be spoken more to herself, more to the non-reflection in the mirror than to him. “Now. I’m tired, I need to be alone. Can’t you see that?”

“Ami, please, don't shut," Angel stumbled over the right phrase, "don't shut out the people who care about you. Something's happening here. I want to help.”

How can you help her? The demon taunted. You're the cause of this, you know it. You're just trying to make yourself feel better.

The demon was louder, closer to the surface and Angel didn't like that. Normally the creature was quiet, still when Ami was nearby, as though she had some odd calming affect on the demon. But not today; today, the creature hissed and clawed and taunted like it had not done in a very long time.

And worse yet, its words too closely echoed the fear that Angel was feeling.

"You. Can't. Help. Me."

Angel flinched at the coldness of her words. He flinched at the laughter from the demon.

"Ami, I'm sorry, but -"

“Sorry for what?” asked Ami. “Sorry for the bond? Sorry for the fact it’s your fault it exists in the first place? Maybe if you had protected me properly when we first met…” “Calm down? That’s a joke. Get out Angel, get out of my life and leave me alone.” Ami glanced towards her dresser and one of the bottles Angel had been looking at earlier suddenly rose into the air.

Angel felt the bottle strike him in the chest, and then ducked as two more followed in its path. “Ami, calm down. I’ll leave if you want me to, but I’m not sure that’s what I should be doing right now. Do you?”

Wrong thing to say, Angel thought as he saw a hairbrush and a potted plant head towards him through the air. He backed towards the door, intending to come back later when she had calmed down. He could feel the anger radiating from her…

This was not Ami.

But maybe it was. Maybe it was the part of her that couldn't resist the demon, the part of her that had to cope with the darkness he lived with everyday.

If that was the case, he would accept every bit of guilt and punishment for that, but he would not stand by, he could not stand by, and watch her descend to wherever she was descending.

Angel Investigations. We help the hopeless.

With new determination, Angel stalked towards the Tomorrow Person, dodging flying items or blocking them with his forearms. Some hit him on the back of the head, and he was certain he was going to walk away with more than a few cuts, but he had to get through to her.

Then, suddenly, the rain of objects stopped. In one single moment, they all dropped to the floor, crashing around his feet and various parts of the dorm room. Ami stared down at the floor, breathing heavy.

"I'm sorry, Angel. I don't know what happened."

Wincing as something crunched under his foot and the very strong smell of perfume wafted to his nose, Angel stepped towards her. He was relieved when she actually did not back away, allowing him to close the distance between them. Tentatively, he touched her shoulder, drawing her attention towards him. "It's okay. We'll figure it out. Together. All right?"

Her head rose slowly, the veil of braids falling away to reveal her tear-streaked face. The half-smile of comfort Angel felt tugging on the corners of his mouth faded away as he looked into her eyes, not filled with the calm and remorse that he expected, but rather hard and glittering, filled with cold malice.

"Not together." Her mouth quirked, corners turning up inexplicably.

With an unexpected quickness and flurry of motion, she was on him. One hand clawing at his eyes, and the other thrusting upwards into his chest armed with the wooden stake.


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