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Faded Photographs


by
Sabre Shadowkitten





Part One




"Angel, come look at this," Cordelia said.

"Look at what?" Angel asked, looking up from the caricature of Wesley he was doodling on a legal pad.

It was a quiet afternoon at the offices of Angel Investigations. The sun was shining behind the blinds, the secretary was complaining and the coffee was horrid. For once, there were no files to put in the filing cabinets, no weapons to be cleaned and no headache-inducing visions that signaled the start of another case.

Angel was bored out of his mind.

"This article in today's Times," Cordelia replied. "It all but screams demon handiwork."

The dark-haired vampire quickly stood, rounded her desk and looked over her shoulder at the computer screen. "You didn't have a vision, did you?"

"Would I not complain if I did?" she asked him blithely.

"True," Angel agreed, giving her a half-smile. He skimmed the information on the screen and had to stop himself from dancing a jig. "You're right, it does sound like a demon. Plug in some of the key words into that Demons, Demons, Demons site you found and see what you pull up."

"Got it," Cordelia said.

Angel set his doodles aside and walked over to the coat hooks. "Give Wesley a call and let him know what you find. I'll go see if Kate can give me the information not published so we can narrow the parameters even-"

The door to the office opened and Angel stopped speaking abruptly. He froze with his coat half-on and stared at the man standing cautiously in the doorway, not believing his eyes. Brown hair?

"Pardon me, guv, I was wonderin' if you could 'elp me? I seem to be a-a bit lost," a familiar British voice quietly said.

"Spike!"

Bright blue eyes shot up at Cordelia's exclamation, but the well-known features were etched in confusion and embarrassment. "P-Pardon?"

Two things hit Angel's senses simultaneously and both were coming from the person nervously standing just inside the doorway. An odd feeling rolled through his system at the sound of a second heartbeat and the unmistakable scent of fear. "Cordelia, call Sunnydale and ask them if Spike is there."

"Um, hello blind-boy, Spike's standing right in front of us," Cordelia said.

"Only if he found a Mohra demon," Angel said, not taking his eyes from the man. "Because this person is human."

Cordelia blinked several times in shock before she turned and hurried into the inner office. "I'll go call."

"You can come in," Angel said to the mortal who looked identical to Spike, save for the sable-colored hair and clothing.

In fact, when Angel took a second note of the man's clothes, the hairs on the back of his neck raised. The clothing the human was wearing looked to be circa the late nineteenth century.

"Th-thanks," the man stuttered, dropping his chin.

Angel felt as though a two-by-four had been slammed through his body when he realized he knew exactly who was in front of him. The way the man shyly ducked his head, the flush that stole over his chiseled face and the redness to the tops of his ears revealed more than a full background check.

The person standing in front of him was Spike...

"By the way, my name is Angel," Angel said.

"I'm Tanner," the sable-haired man said, raising his blue eyes for a moment before dropping them again. "Er, that is, William J. Tanner, the third."

... before Spike had been turned.



*****



London, 1872



It was his shyness that caught the dark-haired vampire's attention.

Angelus watched from the corner of the small dress shop as the young man blushed and stammered. His head was cast down and he refused to look at the shop girl standing on the opposite side of the counter. Angelus noticed his lean body was dressed in trousers and a jacket of good quality, indicating that he was a member of a middle class family. His sable-colored hair was longer than the current men's style and it was wavy almost to the point of curling.

Drusilla danced out of the fitting room in a blood-red frock, laughing lightly. "How about this one, my Angel?" she asked.

The vampiress' emergence from the fitting room caused the shop girl and the young man to look in their direction, and Angelus sucked in an unnecessary breath. Eyes as blue as the center of a flame met his and he felt as if he were being burned. High, sharp cheekbones slashed the young man's face, drawing Angelus' attention away from the slightly weak chin and directing it to the pale pink lips that were slightly parted as the mortal breathed.

A delectable flush crept up the young man's neck and face, turning the tips of his ears bright red. He dropped his eyes and Angelus felt as though a plug had been pulled. The vampire watched as the young man twisted the material of his jacket, pulling the edges closed, but not before Angelus caught sight of the effect eye-contact had made on him.

"Angel, my dress." Drusilla's voice held a pout. "You haven't told me that you like it."

"It's beautiful, Dru," Angelus said, not sparing a glance at her. He kept his eyes on the young man as the shop girl redrew the brunette's attention. "Just like you are."

Drusilla clucked her tongue and ran her hand up Angelus' arm as she headed back to the fitting room. "Someone's thinking naughty," she teased before disappearing again.

The young man accepted a package from the shop girl and glanced back over at Angelus before hurrying out the door of the dress shop. Angelus didn't hesitate in following, not caring that he was leaving Drusilla alone in the shop. He knew the vampiress would continue to try on frocks and eventually kill the shop girl before returning home with whatever dress she wanted to keep.

The area of London they were in wasn't as wretched as some of the other parts of the city. The streets were still dirty and the buildings a bit rundown, but the people walking from place to place were of a higher class. Uniformed police helped to keep the street vendors and thieves under control, and they kept the area somewhat clear of the homeless drunks that plagued the other areas.

Angelus was able to track the sable-haired mortal easily. The young man walked with his head down and his arms close to his sides, as if he were trying to make himself as unnoticeable as possible. His steps were quick and he hugged the walls of the buildings, keeping an obvious distance between himself and the others on the sidewalks.

A rather boisterous group of men suddenly exited one of the pubs in front of the young man and he froze as if terrified. Interesting, Angelus thought, as he stopped close enough to hear without being obtrusive.

"Oi, look who we got here," one of the men said. "It's the cock-sucker!"

"Bend over for anyone interestin' lately, shirtlifter?" a second inquired cruelly.

The young man backed up, holding the package in front of him like a shield. "Leave m-me alone, y-y-you wankers."

"Ooh, name-callin'," a third said. "The sod's grown some knackers."

The first guy grabbed the package from the young man's hands. "Wonder what the little arsebandit's got?"

"Oi, give it 'ere!" The young man tried to take it back, but two of the five men shoved him hard, sending him sprawling to the ground.

"What's in it, Jeffrey?" the third asked the first.

The man named Jeffrey tore open the brown wrapping then laughed loudly. "It's a bunch of ladies knickers!"

The other men roared in laughter as Jeffrey pulled women's undergarments out of the package and tossed them in the air like confetti. Sheer stockings and garters rained down on the obnoxious group, a few of the men catching the garments and teasing each other in falsetto voices.

"So this is what little Willy Cock-lover wears under his trousers," Jeffrey said. "Why am I not surprised?"

"Them's me sister's, you soddin' fuck!" The young man had scrambled back to his feet and was standing with his arms up, his hands clenched into fists. Angelus noticed from where he was still observing that the brunette's wrists were turned too much, putting the backs of his hands towards his opponents, rather than holding his fists in the proper fighting form.

"Look at this, the queerboy thinks 'e's gonna fight us," a fourth member of the group announced with a chortle.

"Well, let's give the poof what he wants," the second said. His companions stopped laughing and stared at him. "I meant a beatin', not our pricks up his hole."

"You'll do nothing of the sort!"

Angelus watched with interest as a young woman rushed up to the group. He noticed that she was holding her fists in the proper manner as she stepped in front of the young man he'd followed from the shop.

"You pillocks leave him alone before you have to deal with me!"

"And it's Anna to the rescue again!" Jeffrey mocked, dropping the opened package to the ground. "Come on, mates. Me mum taught me never to hit a lady -- an' we got two of 'em here!"

Laughing again, the group of men turned and headed in the opposite direction, tossing any undergarments they still held over their shoulders as they left.

"Are you alright, Tanner?" Anna asked as she stepped out of her fighting stance. She was equal in height and had the same coloring as the young man, but when she turned to face him, Angelus saw the resemblance ended there.

"Why did you do that, Anna?!" the young man, Tanner, exclaimed. "I could of handled 'em meself!"

"Like you 'handled' them before?" Anna countered with a lift of her dark brow.

"Sod off," Tanner said with a scowl.

"Ducks, you know your sister would have had an eppy if you went home bloodied again," Anna said, bending down to gather the scattered undergarments. "She wouldn't let you out of the flat for a fortnight last time you got in trouble with Jeffrey and his chums."

"Beth did nothing of the sort," Tanner protested, sticking the garments she gave him back into the ripped package.

"Right."

"She didn't!" Tanner glared at Anna. "I was watchin' Mellie after work so Beth could finish mending the bastard's clothing."

"It's not polite to call your father that, luv," Anna scolded.

"I'm twenty-four years old, I can call the bloody prick whatever I want," Tanner told her.

"Not while you're living under his roof still," Anna said.

"I could if I wanted to," Tanner grumbled.

"You're shyer than a church mouse, Tanner," Anna said, squatting down in front of the young man. "If I wasn't your best mate, you'd never of stepped foot out of your flat, let alone even think of telling your father off."

"I'm not shy," Tanner said. "I just don't like people."

"Huh-uh," Anna said. "You can't lie to me, William Jacob Tanner, I know you too well."

"Do not." Tanner scowled at her as he straightened, refilled package in his hands.

"Do so," Anna countered. "You're five-ten, have a thirty-three inch waist and are super-shy unless you get super-mad."

"Very impressive," Tanner mocked.

"You love chocolate-covered cherries and hate wearing knickers," Anna continued, tapping the package with her finger.

Tanner blushed. "Anna..."

"You hate your father, love your sister and Mellie, tolerate your employment and wish you could meet a handsome gent who'll sweep you off your size ten feet and love you forever," Anna said.

"Tell the whole bloody world, why don't you." Tanner ducked his chin and shifted from foot to foot in embarrassment.

"Well, at least I didn't announce that you're technically still untouched," Anna said with a wicked smile.

"I've had... relations," Tanner said, staring firmly at the ground.

"Yeah, but only with me," Anna said. "An' you never actually penetrated-"

"Oi, don't talk like that!" Tanner interrupted, his face flaming. "It's not fittin' for a lady!"

"Pet, I've not been a lady my whole life," Anna said. "Which is why you prolly wanted to shag me to begin with."

"Which, as you ever-so-nicely pointed out, I didn't really do," Tanner said wryly.

She threw her arm around his shoulder and they started walking away. "Don't worry, Tanner. Someday you'll find a bloke who'll give you a right good seein' to and, when you do, I'll buy you a pint and we'll celebrate you loosin' your purity."

"Anna, tell me again why I put up with you?"

Angelus didn't hear Anna's response as the two humans walked out of earshot. He watched until they disappeared around a corner, then stood where he was for several long minutes, thinking about what he'd seen and heard. There was something about the young man that intrigued him, and he hadn't been this intrigued for at least a year.

"Well, Mr. William Jacob Tanner, perhaps we'll meet again," Angelus said. His ominous chuckle drifted from the shadows as he disappeared into them. "Aye, and perhaps soon."





Part Two



Los Angeles, 2000



Tanner.

The name curled through Angel's entire body, snaked right past his defenses and into his heart before the last syllable rolled off the sable-haired man's lips. The demon that shared his body went still and silent, making it seem as though he wasn't even there.

Tanner fiddled with the hem of his jacket and looked at Angel through the fringes of his dark lashes. Longing filled the dark-haired vampire swiftly, his nostrils flaring as he inhaled sharply in reaction. He'd forgotten how the simplest of actions made him want to sweep Tanner up into his arms and cart the man to the nearest bed.

No, not him, not Angel -- Angelus.

It was Angelus's emotions Angel was feeling. It was Angelus's memories Angel was recalling. It was Angelus who was frozen in shock inside the body Angel shared with him.

To Angel, Tanner was only another human being... from the late nineteenth century.

That last thought managed to snap Angel out of his daze. He cleared his throat and gestured to the chairs in front of Cordelia's desk. "Please, um, Tanner, have a seat."

"That's all right, s-sir," Tanner said, his eyes firmly fixed on the floor. "If you'd just point me in the direction of Regent's Park, I'll be on me way."

"I'm afraid it's not going to be that simple," Angel said.

Tanner raised his head and met the vampire's eyes, a frown scrunching his dark brow. "Pardon?"

It was at that very moment, while Angel held Tanner's blue gaze, that Angel realized he didn't feel the current of electricity Angelus had felt long ago. In fact, Tanner wasn't even reacting in the same way he did when he'd first seen the dark-haired vampire in the dress shop. Yes, he was still shy, but, with a quick glance at Tanner's trousers, Angel could see no evidence of a physical reaction.

Interesting, Angel thought. He would have to puzzle out why that was at a later time. Right then, he had a mortal standing in his office who, for all intents and purposes, should be a cocky, bleached-blond, moronic vampire living in Sunnydale, California.

"Tanner, please, sit," Angel repeated.

Tanner lifted a shoulder in a half-shrug and walked over to the chairs. He sat as Angel moved to lean against Cordelia's desk, hands unconsciously curling around the edge of the surface. "What were you doing before you came in here?" Angel asked.

"Walking home for supper," Tanner replied, staring past Angel at the back of the computer on the desk. "I was walking along, mindin' me own business, when the pavement changed under me feet."

"Then what?" Angel prompted.

"I looked up and almost pissed me trousers," Tanner said, then blushed heavily and dropped his eyes to his lap. "Er, p-pardon me language, guv."

"That's okay, I've heard worse," Angel said, trying to keep the amusement out of his voice. "Just go on."

"Right. Um..." Tanner twisted the hem of his jacket in a nervous gesture. "I looked up and didn't recognize anything, so-so I came inside the first place with doors, which was here." He cleared his throat and shifted on his seat. "Er, I saw these... carriages, I think..."

"They're called cars," Angel supplied. "Carriages with motors."

Tanner looked up at him in surprise. "Those were motors? They didn't look like the one I saw in the papers."

"They're... advanced motors," Angel hedged. While he was certain that the man sitting in front of him really was the mortal Spike, he knew he'd better wait for confirmation from Sunnydale that the vampire was there before telling Tanner what had possibly befallen him.

Tanner tilted his head slightly to one side, studying Angel. "Do I know you?"

Angel started. "You recognize me?"

The tips of Tanner's ears turned bright red and he dropped his chin. "I could be mistaken," he mumbled.

"No," Angel said. "Tell me where you think you've seen me. Please."

"Wilson's dress shop, a-a few nights back," Tanner said. "Only you-you had longer 'air an' you were with a chi- er, l-lady, in a red frock."

He shifted in his seat again, pulling the edges of his jacked closed over his lap, but not before Angel caught glimpse of a telltale bulge beneath the tan-colored trousers. The mortal glanced up at him, then quickly away. "Never mind," Tanner said. "'Twasn't you."

"How can you be sure?" Angel asked.

The dark-haired vampire hadn't remember how red-faced Tanner could become when greatly embarrassed. The young mortal was as red as a stoplight, his blush going from his dark hair all the way down to disappear beneath the collar of his shirt.

"I-I-I just know," Tanner stammered.

He didn't feel it either, Angel thought with amazement. Tanner didn't feel that instant connection he'd had with Angelus all those years ago. The revelation was mind-boggling.

The phone rang once and Tanner jumped in his seat. Angel glanced towards his office and saw that Cordelia had gotten the phone. "Tanner, this is going to sound strange, but will you tell me what date and year it is?" the dark-haired vampire said.

"It's the, uh, Wednesday, the tw-twenty-fifth of May," Tanner answered. "In the year of-of our Lord Eighteen hundred and seventy-two."

"That night," Angel said quietly to himself, staring down at the top of the sable-haired man's head as the memories washed over him. It was on that very night that Angelus had properly met Tanner. It was on that very night that Angelus had started down the path that would forever change both the vampire and the mortal sitting in front of Angel.

It was on that very night that Angelus had started to fall in love.

*****

~London, Wednesday, 25 May, 1872
7:43 p.m~

Angelus smiled as politely as he could at the dark-haired woman standing in the doorway to the modest two-storey flat. "'Tis o' the utmost importance I speak with Mr. Tanner this night."

"If you don't mind me not standin' on ceremony, I reckon you and your..."

"Sister," Angelus supplied, laying his hand in the center of Drusilla's back. "Drusilla."

"Right, well, you and your sister can come in and wait," the blue-eyed thirty-year-old woman said, stepping back from the doorway.

"Thank you, Miss..."

"Missus Bradford," she corrected, as Angelus and Drusilla entered the house. "Beth Bradford."

"Aye, Mrs. Bradford," Angelus said. "Again, 'tis with many thanks."

Beth closed the door behind the two brunettes and shrugged. "It's your wait," she said. "Either you can do it here alone or you can follow me back to the kitchen and I'll make you a cuppa."

Angelus chuckled at her lack of propriety. "A cuppa sounds delightful, milady."

"Can we eat her?" Drusilla asked softly as she and Angelus followed Beth.

"No, Dru," Angelus replied quietly. "We're not here for that, remember?"

Drusilla gave him a wicked smile. "We're here to see Daddy's new pet."

"Aye," Angelus returned her smile, "that we are, my sweet."

Angelus had spent the past four nights learning everything he could about the sable-haired mortal from the dress shop. William Jacob Tanner, the third, was the only son of William Jacob Tanner, the second, a businessman of great respect and standing, and Elizabeth Tanner, who died while birthing a stillborn child. He was brother to Beth Bradford, whose husband had died from influenza three years prior; uncle to Beth's daughter, Melissa, or 'Mellie' for short; and he had a closest -- and possibly his only -- friend, Anna Edleton, who at one time lived next door to the Tanners.

The young man, an extremely shy twenty-four year old who went by the name of 'Tanner' so as not to be confused with his father, worked six days a week as a tailor at Crittendon's Tailor and Haberdasher. Angelus was able to find out that Tanner worked for not-too-bad of a wage from seven in the morning until six in the evening, doing the alterations and precise stitching in the backroom of the shop because he was too shy to wait on the customers. Mr. Crittendon had been finger-to-the-nose about the other reason why he had Tanner working only in the back.

It seemed that the bashful, handsome youth preferred the company of men to women.

That little tidbit of news worked quite to Angelus's favor. He'd already formulated an excellent plan, worked out to the very last detail, as was his way. He'd seduce the human -- whom he knew from listening that first night to be a tasty morsel of virgin flesh -- at the same time as he played off the young man's undoubtable insecurities about his sexuality. Then, after Angelus bedded the lad to his satisfaction, he'd publicly humiliate Tanner and, a week or so later, make it look like the sable-haired mortal committed suicide, thus shaming his family.

After that, of course, Angelus would let Drusilla gorge herself on the remaining Tanners of London. It was a wonderful plan. Even Dru was excited about it.

"I apologize about the mess, sir," Beth said as the three of them entered the homey kitchen. Trays of uncooked pastries littered the center table and counters, as did other baking supplies. It was curiously cool in the room, however, and there were no racks of just-baked pastries waiting to be sampled. "You caught me in the middle of making pastries for me father's luncheon guests tomorrow."

"'Tis all right, Mrs. Bradford," Angelus said. "'Tis gracious o' you t' allow us t' wait for your father at all. Besides..." He gave her a seductive smile as he ran his finger along the edge of a mixing bowl, then held the batter-covered digit up. "...this is the best part o' the pastry in my book."

Angelus sucked his finger into his mouth and watched as Beth's high cheekbones colored prettily before the brunette turned away. "If you say so, Mr. Angelus," she quickly said.

"What pretty pictures," Drusilla commented, standing beside a chalkboard easel in the corner of the kitchen. White chalk daisies covered the board, with tiny white field mice peering out between the stems like mischievous children. "Angel, what type of flowers are these?"

"Those are daisies," Beth answered for Angelus as she filled a kettle with water and set it on the stove. "My younger brother, Tanner, drew them for me daughter."

"I like daisies," Drusilla said. She gave Angel an imploring look. "May I have some?"

"We'll plant some when we get home, Drusilla," Angelus said to the vampiress. He turned his attention back to Beth. "Your brother does beautiful work, Mrs. Bradford. Is he here?"

"Yes, he's here," Beth replied, a scowl appearing on her face. "He went up top to check the flue forever ago so I could bake me pastries."

"Aye, well, mayhaps he fell down the chimney," Angelus said with a wink.

Beth laughed. "Perhaps. It wouldn't be the first time."

A door slammed and quick footsteps echoed on the hardwood floors in the room adjacent to the back of the kitchen. "Speak of the devil," Beth said with a smile.

"Beth, it's a good thing you didn't start your baking until I checked the flue," said a cheerful, male voice that grew louder as the man Angelus had really come to see entered the kitchen. "'Else you would have-"

Tanner stopped speaking and walking abruptly when his eyes met Angelus's across the room. The brunette's blackened hands were cupped one over the other in front of him, and his chiseled face was streaked with soot. His casual clothing was equally as dirty and there was a small rip in the collar of the shirt he was wearing.

Angelus had never seen anyone more handsome in his one hundred plus years.

The dark-haired vampire couldn't move or speak. He felt as though lightning had struck him and the electricity was still humming in his veins. The blue eyes that held his crackled with a fire that he wanted to be burned by. The distance between him and the other man seemed to shrink to nothing and, at the same time, they seemed to be a thousand miles apart.

"Tanner, you're all sooty," Beth scolded, yanking the two men out of their daze.

Tanner blushed three shades of red and dropped his chin, causing Angelus to stumble backwards a step as eye-contact was broken. The vampire swore silently and fluently, trying to stop himself from panting like a bitch in heat. He tugged on the hem of his coat for the first time in a century, hoping to cover the raging erection attempting to burst the seams of his trousers.

"Sorry, B-Beth," Tanner said. "I-I didn't know we 'ad company."

"Oi, me manners must've went the same way as Tanner's cleanliness," Beth said. "Tanner, this is Mr. Angelus and his sister, Miss Drusilla."

"Hello," Tanner mumbled, not moving or raising his chin.

Beth tisked. "That's not a proper way to greet a guest and you know it."

Angelus couldn't help but smile at Beth's refreshing bluntness. Most of the middle-class families he and Drusilla had feasted upon were so proper, he had wondered if they were born with sticks up their collective derrieres.

The color of the tops of Tanner's ears reminded Angelus of ripe strawberries as the young man crossed the kitchen, his eyes still firmly fixed on the floor. The vampire took the time to look the sable-haired mortal over from head-to-toe, and his erection swelled further when his gaze landed on an equally obvious bulge in the front of Tanner's soot-streaked trousers.

"It's, er, a-a pleasure to meet you, guv'ner," Tanner said quietly after he came to a stop in front of Angelus. He looked up under his lashes at the vampire. "Welcome to our home."

Angelus held out his hand for a handshake, wanting an excuse to touch the shy youth. Although, what he really wanted to do was throw Tanner onto the pastry-covered table, smother the human's body in pastry-jam and lick him clean. However, the vampire couldn't see that going over too well with Beth and it wasn't a part of his plan.

And it was a very good plan.

"'Tis also a pleasure, Tanner," Angelus said in a purposely seductive tone.

Tanner abruptly thrust his right hand forward towards Angelus's outstretched hand, then, just as suddenly, muttered under his breath, "Fuck."

Angelus stared down at Tanner's hand. A baby bird stared back up at him.

"Cheep, cheep."

"There's a bird in your hand," Angelus said with amusement. "Is it for me?"

The vampire watched unbelievingly as Tanner turned an even deeper shade of red, the blush going down past the torn collar of his shirt. "Um, s-sorry," the sable-haired young man stammered. "She was in the flue. I was going to show 'er to Mel- er, me niece."

Tanner switched the bird to his other hand as he extended his right hand properly. "Many apologies, sir."

Angelus smiled and clasped his hand firmly. "'Tis all... right...," the vampire trailed off as something squished between their palms.

"Oh bugger," Tanner muttered.

"My Angel has a little bird mess on his hand," Drusilla sang softly.

"Tanner, you daft boy, you're supposed to wipe your bloody hands off first!" Beth scolded, throwing a towel at him.

Tanner lifted his head briefly and gave Angelus a lopsided, sheepish smile. "Er... sorry?"

Angelus threw back his head and laughed as his insides tingled from the boy's smile.

Fuck the plan.

"Cheep, cheep."

*****

~Los Angeles, Thursday, May 25, 2000
3:31 p.m.~

Tanner scrambled to his feet as Cordelia came back into the room, speaking a mile a minute. "Well, Giles said Spike's still there, bitching that people keep disturbing his nappy time and trying to convince everyone he's still the mean and evil dork he once was, which we all know is a load of crap."

Angel wondered if there were classes on tact that he could enroll Cordelia in. "Um, Cordelia," he said, gesturing to Tanner, who was staring at the secretary in shock. "We have a guest."

Cordelia snorted. "Don't you mean a 'ghost'?"

"Tanner," Angel said with a sigh. "This is Cordelia, my secretary. Cordelia, Tanner. And yes, he is who you think he is."

Tanner put his hand out politely and Cordelia gave it a good shake. "Well, he definitely feels human," she commented. She grabbed his wrist with her other hand, positioning her fingers on the inside. "And he has a pulse that's racing." She looked at Tanner critically. "I hope you're eating right, because with a ticker that quick, look out, heart attack city."

"Cor, she's just like Anna," Tanner said in wonder.

Angel felt a growl erupt from the back of his throat and he clasped a hand over his mouth in surprise. Cordelia shot him a puzzled glance and Tanner looked at him with an equally confused expression. "Um, excuse me. I had a soda at, uh, lunch," Angel explained lamely.

"Right," Cordelia said. "Because you Do the Dew all the time."

"I do the what?" Angel said.

Cordelia ignored him and sat, her grip on Tanner pulling him down with her. He quickly took the seat across from her. "So, you're the human Spike. Tell me all about yourself."

"Er..."

"Cordelia, I didn't tell him about... his situation," Angel said.

"Why not? I heard what year he thinks it is." Cordelia leaned towards Tanner, not giving Angel time to answer, and said slowly, "Tanner, you're in the future. Few-cherrr. It's not 18- whatever-you-said. God, can you imagine if it was? Those clothes were so ugly and, yuck, no toilets."

Tanner looked up at Angel. "Is your bird always this..."

"Yes," Angel replied with a firm nod of his head. "Always."

"Hey, I'm not a bird!" Cordelia exclaimed. "Do you hear me going 'cheep cheep'?"

Angel's mouth dropped open at the brunette's chosen words. The demon inside of him started to stir again.

"Okay, listen to me, Tanner," Cordelia went on. "It's the year 2000. The big Y2K. The second millennium, yada, yada, ho-hum. Got it?"

"Right," Tanner said warily. "The year 2000." He pulled his hand back from Cordelia, stood and backed towards the door. "I'd, er, best be going. Long trek home and all."

"You're, like, a million miles and a couple hundred years away from home, buddy," Cordelia said. "I doubt you'll get very far."

"Cordelia, out," Angel said abruptly. "Now."

Cordelia huffed, stood and headed back into the other office. "Fine. I was just trying to break it to him that he's boldly gone where no man has gone before..."

Angel moved quickly and shut the door behind her. He turned and faced Tanner, who was still inching towards the main door. "Tanner, as much as it pains me to say this, Cordelia was right."

"Uh-huh." Tanner nodded in agreement, and Angel could tell it was out of fear. "She's was right. I believe 'er."

"It's the truth, although I wasn't going to break it to you quite like she did," Angel said. He spotted yesterday's newspaper in the recycle box, walked over and quickly grabbed it. "Here. This is yesterday's 'Times.' The date is printed across the top."

Tanner froze as Angel headed to him, his once red-in-embarrassment skin turning white with fear. Angel stopped moving immediately and held the paper out towards Tanner, extending his arm as far as possible. The sable-haired man stared at him for a very long time before he reached out a shaky hand to take it. Angel continued to keep silent as Tanner lowered his eyes to scan the header.

The newspaper hit the floor an instant before Tanner did.





Part Three





Los Angeles, 2000



Angel was unable to stop himself from burying his nose in Tanner's hair and inhaling as he carried the unconscious man to the couch. Tanner smelled of old London, which wasn't all too pleasant, but underneath Angel smelled tailor's chalk and honeysuckle and pure human maleness.

The dark-haired vampire laid Tanner down on the couch, knelt beside him and unconsciously nuzzled the soft area behind his ear. A low purr rumbled from Angel's chest as he inhaled a second time. No one but Tanner had ever smelled of honeysuckle soap, which was handmade by the mortal's sister. Angel remembered how strong the scent was the night he and Tanner-

"Angel, what are you doing?"

Angel shoved back from the couch in surprise and skidded several feet across the tile floor on his backside. The vampire looked up at Wesley with wide-eyes. "Wesley! I didn't hear you come in."

"If you don't mind my asking," Wesley began. He glanced at Tanner then looked back at Angel. "Where's Cordelia?"

"Other office," Angel said, pointing over his shoulder.

Wesley nodded and headed in that direction. "Well, carry on."

"Don't you want to know who he is?" Angel asked, climbing to his feet.

"I am certain Cordelia will fill me in," Wesley said.

Angel stared in confusion as the ex-Watcher entered the inner office and shut the door behind him. If Angel had caught Wesley with his face near another man's neck...

The dark-haired vampire silently cursed. Wesley was going to see if there was need to get the stakes out. On the one hand, it was a smart thing to do. On the other, it cut Angel deeply. Damn Rebecca and her stupid pills.

Angel crossed to the mini-refrigerator to get some water for Tanner, shoving the guilt and hurt feelings aside. He had a human in his office that belonged in another place and time. A human who, at one time, he'd touched and held and loved.

Angel shut the refrigerator door and leaned against it, his eyes immediately going to the still form on the couch as he tried to gather his thoughts. Everything was muddled, especially his emotions. A part of him wanted to walk over to the couch, wrap his arms around Tanner and never let go. The other part wanted to call Buffy.

The word confusion couldn't come close to describing what Angel was feeling. He was Angelus, but he wasn't. The demon he resided within him may have been the one in control when he first met and loved Tanner, but Angel was the one recalling all of the memories. It was still with these eyes that he had once watched Tanner for hours. He had listened to the young man with these ears and had laughed with this voice at the human's wry jokes. These hands had touched Tanner. These lips had tingled after their first kiss. These insides had melted each time Tanner smiled shyly at him.

Tanner stirred and Angel headed over to him, formulating a plan of action in his mind that didn't involve soft sheets and candlelight. The ensouled vampire's first priority was to find out why Tanner had stepped through time and into his office. Angel wouldn't believe that it was just by accident. The second step was to figure out what to do with that information.

Angel stopped at the bottom corner of the couch near Tanner's boot-clad feet, not wanting to loom over the sable-haired mortal as he rejoined the future world. Angel watched as Tanner's eyes fluttered open and the cerulean orbs focused on him. He heard the human's heartbeat speed up and he extended the bottle of water in what he hoped was a non-threatening gesture.

"It wasn't a soddin' dream, was it?" Tanner said.

Angel shook his head. "No. I'm sorry, but you're really in the future."

"Me father's going to kill me," Tanner muttered under his breath. "And Anna's going to kill me for not bringin' 'er along."

The mention of Tanner's friend's name made Angel's lips curl back in a sneer before he could stop them. Luckily, Tanner had looked away as he sat up. Angel didn't want to scare Tanner any more than the young man already was.

If Angel couldn't control his reactions whenever Anna's name was spoken he was going to be in big trouble, because Anna had been the extremely shy young man's only friend and the two had been very close. Tanner had no idea what was going to occur between him and his friend after he was turned into a vampire. Tanner didn't even know that, if he had still been in his own time, that very night he would have met the man he'd been waiting for to sweep him off his size ten feet.

"Here," Angel said, slightly shaking the water bottle in his hand. "It's water."

Tanner gave the bottle a funny look before taking it from Angel's hand. "Thanks."

The inner office door opened and Wesley and Cordelia stepped through the doorway. "Angel," Cordelia said, rubbing her temples. "You remember that article we were looking at on the computer before the blast from your past came in? You need to go do something about it."

"Where?" Angel asked.

"Somewhere in Bel Air," Cordelia said as she walked over to her desk and retrieved her purse. "I'll recognize the place when I see it."

"I'll stay here," Wesley said. He nodded towards Tanner. "Cordelia has filled me in on the... situation. I'll see what I can find out while you're gone."

"Right." Angel turned to Tanner. "Tanner, I need to go and, um, work. This is Wesley, my associate. He's going to stay with you, okay?"

Tanner glanced at Wesley, looked up at Angel, then dropped his chin and nodded. Angel could see him nibble nervously on his lower lip and the dark-haired vampire suddenly wanted to nibble it for him.

Definitely time to leave, Angel thought, purposely moving away from Tanner. "We'll be back as soon as we can. Let's go, Cordelia."

*****

A kick, punch and sickening crunch later, the demon was dead and the sun had set in the sky. Angel ran a weary hand over the back of his neck, grimacing when it felt sticky. He had muddy- yellow demon innards and blood spattered all over him, and he smelled worse than a landfill in August. Cordelia had almost made him walk home, but then he reminded her that it was his car and she relented... only because the car was a convertible and the sun had gone down.

The dark-haired vampire started in surprise when he found Wesley and Tanner in his kitchen upon entering his apartment. They were both chatting amicably, although Tanner's head was cast down, and eating what Angel assumed was dinner.

Angel took a step in their direction then stopped, remembering he smelled like he went swimming in the fountain of puke. He cleared his throat and raised a hand in greeting. "Hi. I'm back."

Tanner glanced at him, blushed and dropped his eyes again. "Hel-hello," he greeted softly.

"My word, Angel, I hope that's not all yours," Wesley said, rising from his seat. Angel waved him back down. "No, I'm fine. The, uh, child at the... er, mud races... has been...uh, helped." Yeah, that wasn't a bad lie, he thought derisively.

"Ah, good," Wesley said. "Tanner and I were having a bit of dinner. I hope that's all right with you that we invaded your kitchen?"

"Yes," Angel replied. "Keep eating. I'm going to take a shower."

Tanner began to cough suddenly and Angel started for the young man without hesitation. "Tanner, are you okay?"

Tanner nodded rapidly, his eyes firmly focused on his plate. "Fine," he gasped between coughs. "I'm fine."

Angel pulled up short of reaching the sable-haired human when he recognized the telltale flush of arousal staining Tanner's skin. Instantly, the vampire pivoted on his heel and headed back towards his bedroom.

"Clean. Me. Now getting," he said over his shoulder, his mind too focused on getting as far away from Tanner as he could before he took the lad right then and there to speak intelligently.

Angel closed the bathroom door, locked it and leaned back against it as he reigned in his control. He thumped his head on the wood of the door several times, repeating with each hit: "bad, bad, bad, bad, bad..."

There might not have been that intense connection between him and Tanner that there'd been between Angelus and the human, but that didn't mean the sable-haired youth didn't find him attractive. Tanner was a young, healthy, sexy-as-hell homosexual. Why shouldn't he get aroused at the word picture Angel had painted? Heck, if Tanner said he was going to take a shower, Angel would have had to bite his tongue in order not to volunteer to wash those hard-to-reach places.

"Horny old pervert," Angel muttered to himself. He forced himself away from the door after a final bang of his head and began to strip out of his demon-soiled clothing. "Tanner is off-limits, curse or not. You love Buffy. You desire Buffy. You fantasize about Buffy whenever you get free time to act like a horny old pervert. Although, there were those few about Doyle..."

Angel twisted the shower knob with more force than necessary after he stepped into the shower. "No, not Doyle either," he grumbled. "No men. No women. No friends. No enemies. Not even sheep. Okay, now I'm scaring myself. And talking to myself. Oh god, I'm *babbling* to myself. I've channeled my inner-Willow."

The dark-haired vampire closed his eyes and started to laugh. He stuck his gunked-up head under the shower spray. He hadn't thought of his one-time redheaded friend since he saw her last November. He wondered how she was doing. Maybe he'd drop her a letter "just to say hey," as Cordelia would put it. She'd probably be intrigued by the presence of Tanner.

"You managed to not think about him for five whole seconds," Angel sighed as he grabbed the soap. "This is going to be a long night."

He concentrated on getting the muddy-yellow demon guts off his body and not thinking about the human who was once the most important thing in his undead world.

Angel's brow furrowed slightly as that thought came to him. Tanner, the shy, handsome *human*, was the most important thing in his soulless self's unlife at one time. Angelus had loved Tanner fiercely and would have done anything, including taking a walk out into the sunlight, just to see Tanner's smile.

Angel had told Buffy that he'd only loved one person, and that person was her. He hadn't lied to her. With his soul, both as a vampire and as a mortal named Liam, he had only loved one person.

But, residing within his body and keeping him 'alive', was a demon whose thoughts and desires intermingled so much with his own it was hard to tell where he ended and the demon began. It was one of the reasons why he didn't usually delineate between himself and the demon. In this instance, though, the difference between Angel and the demon was great, because the demon had also only loved one person in his entire existence -- the human named Tanner.

Stepping back under the spray, Angel rinsed the soap from his body as he continued to think. Angelus had told Drusilla and Spike that he hated Buffy because she made him feel human, but that wasn't the entire truth. Angelus hated Buffy because she had made him have feelings similar to the ones he'd once had for Tanner a century prior to Angelus being freed again. To the demon's mind it made what Angelus had with Tanner cheap somehow, and that was something he'd never admit in front of the vampire Tanner had become.

With another sigh, Angel turned off the shower, toweled himself off and left the bathroom to dress. He could hear the soft tones of Tanner's voice as the young man spoke with Wesley. He moved closer to the bedroom doorway to listen.

One of his greatest pleasures had been sitting and listening to Tanner speak, because he didn't hold conversations with just anyone. Wesley was lucky to be able to get a single word out of the super-shy mortal. It had taken Angel quite a bit to get Tanner to even look at him the first time they went out together. But when Tanner had finally met his eyes straight on, as they sat across the table from each other in the pub, all the frustration he'd felt had been worth it.

*****



~London, Friday, 27 May, 1872~



Angelus felt an odd flip-flop in his stomach as he rang the bell to the Tanner's home. If it wasn't such a ridiculous notion, he'd think that he was nervous.

"Mr. Angelus," Beth greeted upon opening the door. "Back so soon?"

"Aye," Angelus replied. "Is Tanner in, please?"

"No, me father is out for the eve-"

"Nay, not your father," Angelus interrupted. "Your brother."

Beth arched her brow. "You want to see me brother?"

Angelus nodded. "I wanted t' see if he'd like t' go get a pint with me."

The expression of amazement that crossed Beth's face surprised Angelus. He knew that Tanner wasn't the social bug, but the lad had to have been asked to get a drink before.

"Come in, Mr. Angelus," Beth said, stepping back from the doorway.

"Many thanks, Mrs. Bradford," Angelus said politely, entering the Tanner household for the second time.

Beth closed the door behind him. "I'll get Tanner."

As she walked away, Angelus patted his black overcoat, checking to make sure he still had the money he'd stolen from his dinner the prior night. He was dressed casually for an evening of going to a pub, rather than his usual finery; simple white shirt, black trousers, his worn black riding boots. He put a hand to his hair, hoping the slight May breeze didn't make the dark, six-inch, brushed-back tresses stick up all over.

"H-Hello," Tanner greeted softly as he entered the foyer. His head was downcast and the tips of his ears were red. "Beth said you wanted to-to see me?"

Angelus's body hardened at the sight of the young man and he felt a strange pang in the center of his chest. "Ay-e." His voice cracked on the word and he cleared his throat before trying again. "Aye, 'tis correct."

Tanner looked up at Angelus, but his gaze quickly skittered away. He nervously played with a the button on his off-white shirt just above the waistband of his dark brown trousers. "Oh... er..."

"I was hopin' you'd come out t' the pub with me," Angelus said.

"Why?"

Angelus was surprised by the extreme wariness in Tanner's tone. The lie he'd prepared felt awkward when he said it and his brogue deepened because of it. "I be new t' London an' ye seemed like a nice enough lad close t' me age that me thought mayhaps ye'd be willin' t' get a pint wit' me."

Tanner nibbled on his lower lip and studied Angelus under his lashes. "I-I can't."

"What?" Angelus said incredulously. The beginnings of anger replaced his surprise. "Ye mind tellin' me why ye canna? The truth, lad. I've no patience fer lies."

"You-you-you said you're new to L-London," Tanner stammered, staring down at his feet. "If you're seen with me, you-you'll make no other m-mates. You'll b-be labeled a-a-a qu-queer."

"Yer point?"

Tanner's head snapped up and he stared at Angelus, wide-eyed. "What do you mean?"

Angelus felt fire seep into his veins when his eyes locked with Tanner's and he knew right then that he had to be honest if he wanted to have the young man willingly come to his bed. And he very much wanted Tanner willingly in his bed.

"I lied t' you, Tanner," he said, his thick brogue slipping away into his more cultured, Irish-lilted speech as his anger vanished. "I'm not new t' London. I want you t' come out with me because I want t' get t' know you. And if you fear what others will say, don't bother," he winked at Tanner, "because 'twill be the truth."

The dark-haired vampire watched as a red flush slowly crept over the young man's skin. Tanner broke eye-contact and put his hands one over the other in front of the growing bulge in his trousers. The scent of arousal assailed Angelus's senses and it took all his willpower not to pounce on Tanner right there in the foyer. Despite the sable-haired youth's obvious desire for him, Angelus knew Tanner's shyness would make him flee if the vampire made that sort of sexual overture.

"Well, will you be comin' then?" Angelus asked, tongue-in-cheek.

Tanner's flush grew so deep in color, he looked like he smeared cranberry jam all over his face. "I-i-i-if y-you wish m-me to," he stuttered, extremely flustered.

Angelus chuckled. "Grab your coat, lad. 'Tis a bit nippy out this night."

"Right." Tanner turned on his heels and practically bolted from the foyer.

Less than three seconds later, Beth strode purposely up to him, a hard look to her face. "Now you bloody well listen here, Mr. Angelus," she said in a harsh whisper. "You'd best not be messing with Tanner or I'll get me father's cane and tan your soddin' hide, no matter how big you think you are. I've bandaged him enough and watched him close himself off too many bleedin' times because he'd been hurt by other pillocks who've said they wanted to be chums, only to turn around and beat him because he's different.

"Tanner is a soft soul, Mr. Angelus," Beth continued. "He's always been shy, but his shyness has steadily grown more pronounced since he became a man some nine years ago. If you want to be his mate, good, because a person should have more than one chum. If you want to be more than his mate, that's good, too, as long as you don't hurt him. If you're just here to get a bloody cheap laugh, you can turn around and march out that door straight to hell."

She's like a mother hen with her feather's ruffled, Angelus thought, keeping the smirk from his face. "I've not designs t' hurt the lad, milady," he told her. "I just be wantin' t' get t' know him."

Beth nodded. "Right then. I'll leave you to him. But remember my warning."

She started to walk away the same time that Tanner returned, wearing a calf-length black overcoat. "I'm going out, Beth," the sable-haired man told his sister.

"I know, luv," Beth said. "Enjoy yourself. I'll see you on the morn."

Tanner gave her a small smile, which she returned before continuing back to the kitchen. He glanced at Angelus and ducked his head. "I'm ready, guv."

"Call me Angelus, Tanner," Angelus instructed as he reached for the door. "And stick close t' me. There be all sorts o' nasty things out this time o' night."

"Right... Angelus."

Angelus never realized the sound of his own name could cause his toes to curl.



*****





Angelus held the door open and allowed his companion to proceed him into the pub on Drummond Street. The pub was fairly crowded and the scent of unwashed bodies, ale and smoke was heavy in the air. The furnishings were worn, a testament to the longstanding establishment. Boisterous voices carried across the room, from the long bar to the tables to the dart boards, as friends greeted friends, fights were picked and settled, and complaints were emphatically made about work and women.

"Try t' find us a table, lad, and I'll get us our pints," Angelus instructed, leaning closer to Tanner to speak near the young man's ear. He smelled the faint scent of honeysuckle coming from Tanner's hair and skin and it sent a sliver of arousal to his groin.

"Right," Tanner agreed, moving further into the pub.

Angelus made his way to the bar and quickly ordered two drinks. His gaze slowly traveled around the room as he waited for the bartender to fill his order, his eyes noting possible hazards and the exits. He took in the general mood of the patrons. He didn't want his first outing with Tanner to be tainted with violence.

Ah, Tanner, Angelus thought, his gaze easily landing on where the sable-haired man had claimed a table. There was something about the youth that pulled on him in ways he hadn't felt before. Yes, the sexual attraction was high between them, but Angelus had the insane desire to want to see Tanner simply smile at him, and he didn't know why.

Picking up the matching tankards, Angelus headed towards the saved table. Tanner looked up when Angelus was partway across the room and he inhaled sharply when his eyes locked with the other man's. There was no question, Angelus had to have this human.

"I see you've found us a good one, Tanner," Angelus said, placing the amber liquid on the table before sitting down across from the young man.

"Got l-lucky," Tanner said, his long fingers curling around the tankard before him as he dropped his gaze.

"Aye, you did," Angelus said. "There seems t' be a bit o' a crowd this night. Is it always like this?"

Tanner shrugged, his gaze focused on the alcohol.

"Tanner, I'm goin' t' warn you only once. You are t' answer me when I speak t' you," Angelus said with irritation. "If I wanted t' have a conversation with meself, I would've brought Drusilla out instead o' you."

"S-s-s-sorry," Tanner stuttered. "I c-can't... I don't..." He stopped, swallowed, darted an uncomfortable glance around at the other patrons, then went on. "...I'm not good w-with people."

"Dinna worry about them, focus on me," Angelus said. "I know you're shy, lad, but I'm not goin' t' bite you right at this very moment."

"So, are y-you planning on doing it l-later, then?" Tanner ventured with a heavy blush and a hesitant half-smile, glancing up at the vampire from under his long lashes.

"Aye, Tanner, I just might," Angelus replied with a chuckle. He leaned forward and added devilishly, "But you'll never guess where."

"At Euston Station?" Tanner joked shyly, his words almost running together as he said them.

Angelus laughed loudly, drawing the nearby patrons' attention to him. "Mayhaps at Euston Station, aye."

Tanner raised his head and gave Angelus a bashfully happy smile, his eyes crinkling in the corners. Angelus was extremely glad he was seated because the world shifted under his feet. It was the first time Tanner had fully smiled and the effects were devastating. Angelus didn't know whether to laugh in joy, puff up with pride for causing the smile or throw the boy down onto the floor and make mad passionate love with him.

Angelus chose the second option, straightened in his chair and gave Tanner a rapscallious grin in return. "'Tis a good sense o' humor you have there, lad. I'd best be on me toes, lest you out-jest me."

Tanner colored with pleasure, the tips of his ears taking on a rosy hue. He dropped his chin and fiddled with the tankard on the table.

"So, Tanner, tell me what do you do t' earn your keep," Angelus said, even though he already knew, before taking a draught from his drink. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed one burly patron sitting a few tables away had taken an interest in them.

"I'm a tailor," Tanner said, his voice soft, but mostly stutter-free. "I work for Mr. Crittendon o-over in Euston Square."

"Do you enjoy it?" Angelus asked, glad that the sable-haired mortal had taken heed of his warning and also seemed to be relaxing a bit.

"It's all right," Tanner replied with a shrug. He traced his finger down the side of the tankard, creating a clear path through the moisture. "I get to work alone, which is a good thing," his lips curled up in a smile, "and I get to make eyes at who comes in without being seen..."

He abruptly blushed a brilliant shade of magenta. "Pre-pretend y-you didn't 'ear that l-last bit."

Angelus chuckled. "Nay, dinna worry, Tanner. 'Tis something I do meself and quite often, as well."

"Well, well, what 'ave we 'ere? Looks like good ol' Willy's got 'imself a new mate."

Tanner blanched and seemed to curl into himself when the man Angelus had been keeping an eye on came up to their table. Angelus frowned at Tanner, then swept his irritated gaze up to the large man standing beside them. The vampire recognized him as being one of the people who'd bothered Tanner a week prior.

"Go a-a-away, M-Mick," Tanner stammered in a small voice.

Mick ignored Tanner and focused on Angelus. "I thought I'd come over and give warnin'. It bein' as how I've not seen you round 'ere before, I figured you must be a newcomer to the north end."

Angelus didn't reply to the subtle prompt as to his newness in the city, he only arched his brow and waited.

"Right then," Mick said. "Just thought I'd tell you Willy 'ere is a great steamin' poof, so you'd best get far away before you're bloody well labeled that yourself."

Before Angelus could tell the man off, Tanner spoke up angrily, surprising the vampire. "Don't call m-me that, y-you effin' ponce."

"I'm tremblin' in me boots," Mick said. "What're you goin' to do, nancyboy, tell your mummy?"

"I'm goin' to break your bloody jaw, that's what," Tanner said, rising to his feet.

The shy one had backbone, Angelus thought with a touch of pride. He'd seen it briefly the week before, but he didn't know he'd get to see it again so soon. And it was nice that Tanner did have some balls to stand up for himself. Intriguing shyness aside, there was such a thing as being too pathetically weak, and that was something Angelus couldn't stomach more than a few days. One Drusilla was enough.

Mick laughed mockingly as he took a step closer to Tanner. The other man towered over Tanner by close to a foot and had at least a hundred pounds on the youth. "Go ahead," Mick leaned forward and pointed to his chin, "give 'er your best shot."

Tanner's hands were clenched into trembling fists at his sides and Angelus could hear the boy's heart pounding loudly despite the noise in the pub. The vampire could tell Tanner was scared, both of getting a beating and of losing face in front of him. Angelus knew he could help -- Mick was no threat to him at all -- but that would end up making things awkward between him and the sable-haired mortal.

Angelus folded his hands behind his head and relaxed back in his chair. If things got too out of hand, he'd help, but, until then, he'd allow Tanner to fight his own battle. And, much later, he'd kill Mick for interrupting his night out with the handsome youth.

"Just leave us alone," Tanner said, glaring up at Mick.

Mick snorted and straightened. "Right. Like I'm goin' to listen to your soddin' demands."

"Who do you think will listen when I start spreadin' the word about how good you are in the sack?" Tanner asked him, his voice low and angry. "Or about how I loved feelin' your hand wrapped around me prick, wankin' me off? Or how you begged me to suck you and use me fingers to-"

Mick's fist flew out and smashed into Tanner's eye. Tanner staggered a step back, caught his knees on the chair and sat down hard as he lost his balance. The bigger man snagged Tanner by his off-white shirt, lifted him back out of the chair and right off his feet.

"You an' me are goin' outside," Mick growled, practically nose-to-nose with Tanner.

"Anxious to bugger me, lover?" Tanner said in soft falsetto.

Mick's face turned purple and his arms began to shake from withholding his fury. "I'm goin' to break you in 'alf an' make you suck your own cock, you fucking nonce."

"Me cock's long enough that I can do that without the pain...," Tanner winked at him, "...but you already knew that, didn't you, pet?"

Oh hell, how Angelus wanted the boy. He was very glad he chose not to interfere, because he'd never have gotten to see the fire within the handsome man. That friend of Tanner's, Anna, had said something about the mortal being shy unless he was mad, and she hadn't lied one bit.

Mick sputtered in rage and Tanner used the opportunity of the brute's speechlessness to wrap his hands partially around Mick's biceps, close the distance between their faces, and give Mick a short kiss right on the lips.

Angelus hooted in laughter at the same time Mick threw Tanner away from him. Tanner crashed back into the chair, taking it over with him as he toppled to the floor. Patrons cleared out of the way and several yelled bets back and forth as the bigger man stomped over to Tanner and kicked him in the ribs.

The vampire decided he'd better step in before his soon-to-be bedmate was too injured to participate. Without any trouble, Angelus grabbed Mick's shoulder, spun the man around and coldcocked him. Mick's eyes rolled up and he dropped bonelessly to the floor... right on top of Tanner.

"Oi, get this pillock off me," Tanner grunted.

Angelus effortlessly moved Mick aside and offered a hand to Tanner. "You okay, boy?" the vampire asked as he helped Tanner to his feet.

Tanner hissed and pressed his right arm close to his side. "Yeah, I'm peachy."

Angelus shook his head in amusement, threw his arm around Tanner's shoulder and led the young man out of the pub. "That was quite the interetin' fight, Tanner," the vampire commented once they were out on the street.

"I don't n-normally do that," Tanner said.

"Well, what do you normally do?" Angelus asked.

"Get the tar beat out of me," Tanner replied, giving the vampire a quick grin.

Angelus chuckled. "Aye, well, if it be any consolation, you were about t' have that happen."

"Thanks, mate," Tanner said sarcastically.

The short walk back to Tanner's flat, on Hampstead Road, was made in companionable silence. Angelus warned off a vampire with a flash of his golden eyes when the fledgling made to attack from an alley, but the rest of the trip was without mishap.

There was a gas lamplight directly in front of the Tanner residence, which cast a cheery, flickering glow on the sidewalk and against the front facade of the home. Angelus made mental note to make certain the lamplight was always lit, thus creating less of a temptation for other creatures of the night to attack Tanner as he fumbled for his key. Not that he planned on allowing another night to pass without being at the mortal's side.

"Right, well, th-this is m-me," Tanner said, his shy stutter returning. He turned to face Angelus as he pocketed his key after unlocking the door.

"Aye," Angelus said. "You'd best put somethin' cold on that eye o' yours. 'Tis already turnin' an attractive shade o' bishop's blue."

"Al-alright," Tanner said, twisting the edges of his overcoat, his dark head downcast. "I, er, g-guess I'll see you s-sometime."

"On the morrow, eight o'clock," Angelus said. "And, if I'm a lucky man, our second courtin' eve will be as entertainin' as this one."

Tanner's head shot up, in what was becoming a familiar manner to Angelus, and the young man's eyes were huge as he met the vampire's steady gaze. "Courting?"

"Aye, 'tis what I'm doin'...," Angelus gave him a dry smile, "...'less I'm doin' it wrong."

Tanner's voice squeaked as he replied, "No."

"No, I'm doin' it wrong, or no, I'm doin' it right?" Angelus teased.

"I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-"

"Breathe, lad," Angelus interrupted. "Lest you swoon like a woman." The dark-haired vampire struck a thoughtful pose. "Hmm, on second thought, swoon away. I'd be happy t' catch you in me arms."

Tanner sucked in a large breath of air and backed up until he hit the front door to his home. His heart was hammering so loudly, Angelus was afraid it was going to come right out of the boy's chest. The vampire decided he'd better stop playing with Tanner before he scared the shy man into not wanting to go out with him the following night. Plus, he had an interfering mortal named Mick he wanted to hunt and kill.

"Go ahead inside, Tanner," Angelus told the sable-haired lad softly. "I'll see you on the morrow."

Tanner nodded rapidly, his hand searching for the door handle without looking. One corner of Angelus's mouth curled up at the young man's actions and he took a single step back when Tanner finally got the door open.

"Goodnight," Angelus said with a polite dip of his head.

"'N-n-night," Tanner stammered in a higher-than-normal tone of voice.

Angelus started away and chuckled to himself when his enhanced hearing picked up Tanner's softly-spoken, amazed words before the human shut the door.

"Cor, I'm being courted."





Part Four





Los Angeles, Saturday, 27 May, 2000





Two days had passed since Tanner had appeared back in Angel's life. Two days of researching and sleeplessness and bittersweet memories. Two days filled with daydreams and nightmares of times long past, invoked by the sable-haired human who had no idea what he'd meant to the vampire.

Angel couldn't stop the memories that kept overwhelming him over the past two days. The remembrances weren't in any particular order, just random snippets from a time when he, as a true demon, had been completely and undeniably happy.

It was that happiness that was causing Angel's nightmares, though. His mind brought forth images of the horrendous tortures he'd inflicted on the London populace after each of his dates with Tanner. The mortal had made the vampire feel all tender and sweet and had turned his insides to mush, feelings which he had abhorred an hour after parting from the young man.

Drusilla was another unpleasant memory that kept popping up in Angel's mind. The female vampiress had been jealous the time he spent with Tanner after that first week, and she'd set about making her unhappiness known. The vileness of her gifts to him as she had tried to bring his attention back to her turned Angel's stomach even now, over a century later. Angel remembered that he had finally given Dru a quest to find a mortal homosexual female, with true red hair and brown eyes, in order to get her out of his sight and allow him freedom to pursue his obsession with the handsome boy, Tanner.

Not all the remembrances were unpleasant. Quite the contrary -- Angel was having a very hard time keeping his hands off of Tanner because of them. He had been moments away from giving up his control and passionately attacking the mortal when Cordelia had unintentionally come to his aid by whisking Tanner away to show him the marvels of the just-starting twenty-first century... beginning with the shopping mall.

And, of course, Cordelia had taken Angel's money with her.

Angel dropped his head onto the backrest of his chair and shut his eyes. Wesley had left for the library roughly three hours before to research the local conditions in London at the time Tanner had stepped into the future. Normally, his associate would simply use the computer in the main office to do such research, but Angel knew there was a certain blond divorcee who worked at the library and whom Wesley felt would give him the assistance he needed for his arduous task.

A smile tugged at the corners of Angel's lips. Love was in the air, and it made both humans and demons alike do funny things.

Angel remembered the night over a hundred-odd years ago that Tanner had invited him to a dinner party the mortal's father was hosting. The vampire recognized the signs of love now as he thought back, but at the time he hadn't known he had fallen for the sable-haired youth.

The dinner party had been like any other dinner party the vampire had attended when he'd been on the hunt, with mortals dressed in their middle-class finery, sipping sherry and smoking cigars. The food itself had been delicious, according to Tanner, but since his sister had made the meal he'd been hard-pressed to be impartial.

Angel remembered that it was after the meal had been served, when the men had retired to the study and the women to the parlor, that the soulless vampire he once was had almost lost his precious control. At the meal, Tanner and he had sat at the opposite end of the table from the mortal's father. He'd engaged in light conversation with William Tanner II's attorney friend and the attorney's wife. Tanner had sat across from the vampire, as was custom, and his shy, softly spoken additions to the conversation had shown his intelligence and had endeared the human even more to the dark-haired vampire's heart.

After dinner, in the study, Angel remembered that Tanner had offered to pour him a glass of sherry. The vampire had accepted and watched with hungry eyes as the sable-haired young man walked away. The finery Tanner had been dressed in had made the vampire want to rip every last stitch of the fine clothes to pieces. The boy's crisp white shirt was in great contrast to his sharply pressed burgundy waistcoat and matching burgundy cravat. It had been while he'd been fantasizing on what he'd do once the moral was fully nude that he'd inadvertently overheard Tanner's father.

And it had taken all his willpower, plus some, not to jab the cigar cutter that'd been in his hand into William J. Tanner, the second's, throat.

The recollection of the cruel things Tanner's father had said about the youth incensed Angel even now. It reminded him of the way his own father had treated him, but at least the human named 'Liam' had deserved much of the insults and dressing down of his character. The mortal Angel had once been had been a lazy, self-serving, whoring, drunken fool, who refused to work only because his father had wanted him to.

Tanner, on the other hand, had a beautiful soul, had done what he'd been told, had helped his sister, had earned his keep, and had tried never to make waves with those around him. And yet, his father had spoke of his only son -- with Tanner in the room, no less! -- as if Tanner was a leper, a boy to be avoided at all costs lest his shyness or his homosexuality rub off on anyone.

Angel knew now, logically, that Tanner's father had been lashing out because of his disappointment that the Tanner name wouldn't be continued. But, back then, the vampire had wanted to tear the elder Tanner's tongue out and eat it before the man's very eyes.

Angel took a purposeful breath in order to calm himself. It wouldn't do him any good to get upset over something that happened a very long time ago, even though, to Tanner, the event hadn't even occurred yet.

That thought pulled Angel back to the task at hand : finding out how Tanner came to be in the present and why. Over the past two days, with the help of his co-workers, he'd found a complex spell that would send Tanner back to his own place and time, without memories of the unexpected visit to the future, but they'd found no answers as to Tanner's appearance to begin with.

Was the human a part of a prophecy they'd yet to uncover? Was his appearance to remind Angel that not everything that had happened before he'd gained his soul was bleak and horrid? Or was it a reminder of another life he had destroyed?

Angel sighed unhappily. When his thoughts weren't in the past, they were going round and round over the question as to why Tanner was in the year 2000. There had to be a clue somewhere.

The phone rang and Angel picked it up, grimacing when he remembered the last time he answered the phone a telemarketer had about talked his ear off. "Hello?" he said tentatively.

"Angel? It's Rupert. Rupert Giles," Giles's voice said clearly across the line.

Angel relaxed back in his seat, glad it wasn't a dreaded operator, then straightened immediately when the name clicked in his mind. "Rupert, what's wrong? Is it Buffy? Is she okay?"

"What? Oh, yes, yes, Buffy is fine," Giles reassured him. "Everyone is fine here."

Angel thought he heard a "Hey!" shouted in the background over the phone. "That's good. Um, so..." He let the prompt dangle, waiting for the ex-Watcher to go on. When the other man didn't, he hid a sigh and said, "Rupert, why are you calling?"

"Right, er, my apologies," Giles said. "Spike is making a nuisance of himself, as usual."

The dark-haired vampire's brows went up. "What is Spike doing there?"

"He's... well, disappearing," Giles replied.

"He's what?"

"Dis-disappearing," Giles repeated. "As in, becoming more translucent. I can see through him and he isn't too thrilled with that fact."

Angel frowned in thought. "Is he a ghost?"

"No," Giles said. "I can touch him readily enough, and he is able to pick up and move objects on his own. No walking through walls and such."

"Do you think maybe he had an invisibility spell cast on him?"

"To what purpose?" Giles asked in return. "Willow and Tara have both denied casting any such spells, Spike is adamant about not wanting to be invisible and-and we can think of no one else who would want to bother with casting such a spell on him."

Angel heard Spike in the background, undoubtably telling Giles off for the subtle insult he'd spoken. Only Spike would have the balls to tell off the person who was trying to help him.

"How long has he been like he is?" Angel asked.

"It seems to be a gradual dissipation of his solidity," Giles replied. "According to Spike, on Thursday afternoon, when Xander had gone to see if he was in Sunnydale, as Cordelia -- a-and I presume, you -- had requested, he said he awoke feeling odd. On Friday morning, he noticed he could see the bright light from the television shining through his hand. By that night, he said he was able to see the dull glow of a burning out street light and the blurry outline of the lightpost through his hand. Now, today, I can see through him myself, but not, er, perfectly clear."

Angel's hand had frozen in the midst of reaching for a pencil at the words "on Thursday afternoon," and the rest of what Giles had said barely seeped into his mind.

Thursday afternoon was when Tanner had appeared in the office of Angel Investigations.

Thursday afternoon was when Spike woke up feeling odd.

Tanner had been in the year 2000 for two days.

Spike had been slowly disappearing over the past two days.

"Holy shit," Angel swore.

"I-I beg your pardon?" Giles said over the line.

"Oh, sorry, Rupert," Angel said, cringing at his crass words. "I just realized what may be happening to Spike."

"And it caused you to speak an obscenity?" Giles sighed. "Now, why do I get the feeling I'm not going to want to pass the information on to Spike?"

"You're not," Angel answered simply. "And I'm not going to tell you what's happening, either. At least, not yet."

"And why, pray tell, is that?" Giles asked.

"Because I'm not sure if I'm correct or not," Angel said. "Just keep an eye on Spike. If he asks, tell him I'm working on the answer."

"Very well," Giles agreed. "Please call as soon as you can."

"I will," Angel said. "And call me if there's a notable difference in his translucence."

Angel hung up after saying his goodbyes and stared blankly across the office. Spike was disappearing. That in and of itself wasn't such a heartache. The blond bastard had tortured him, had gone after those he cared for and loved, and had helped to send him to hell.

No, not him -- Angelus.

Spike had aligned with Buffy against Angelus, something that was almost unheard of for the younger vampire to do. Granted, opening the demon dimension wasn't one of Angel's soulless counterpart's brightest ideas, but he still hadn't expected Spike to turn against him. In fact, he would have picked anyone out of a trillion vampires who'd turn against him over Spike. Even Drusilla.

But, Spike had done it; Angel, with his soul intact, had gone to hell; and the world had turned on. And later, Spike had returned to Sunnydale, spouted nonsense about love and hatred, and then left again only to return and torture the dark-haired vampire for a piece of jewelry. Then again, Spike always was a sucker for a pretty gem.

Angel stood and walked into the main part of the office to pour himself a cup of what Cordelia claimed to be coffee. Coffee made him jittery, but, right then, he needed something to jolt him out of his shock.

Because, if what he thought was true, Tanner's presence in the future was altering history.

Angel swallowed a sip of the bitter brew, made a face, then tossed back the rest as his mind turned over the new piece to the puzzle he'd been given by Giles. If Tanner's being in the future was changing the past, would it also mean that Angel's memories would start to fade, as well? Would the events that occurred as a direct result of Spike being a vampire never have happened? Would Spike have ever existed to begin with?

Angel knew immediately that the answer to his last question was a firm 'no.' Spike, the vampire, would never have existed if the mortal hadn't met Angelus. Tanner would have lived out his human life, never learning of the viciousness and atrocity of vampirism. He never would have lost his pure soul and adorable shyness. He never would have stopped blushing every time sex was referred to, despite being made love to every night for nine months before he was turned.

The little devil inside Angel's conscious spoke up, adding to his list. Tanner also may have never known what it felt like to be truly loved for who he was. He may have never known the touch of another man. He may have died from any number of things before he'd even received a simple kiss from someone who desired him.

Angel leaned his back against the doorframe to the inner office and stared bleakly at the chipped wood across from him. The first kiss that he'd shared with Tanner was one of the most wonderful experiences in his long life. In fact, every experience that he'd had with Tanner rivaled those he cherished having with Buffy. Or rather, Angelus had.

"Damn, I'm getting a headache," Angel muttered, banging the back of his head lightly against the doorframe. Angel, Angelus; Angelus, Angel. Same body, same memories, same knowledge of what true love felt like, same knowledge of losing that love.

"What I wouldn't give for a simple case," Angel sighed, moving back over to his desk to continue researching. "Like a six-ton, elephant-like Percius demon that breathes fire and is virtually unkillable."

But, instead of a Percius demon, Angel's mind conjured up memories of two-ton elephants and first kisses on a quiet night in June.





*****





London, Thursday, 16 June, 1872





Angelus and Tanner strolled through the Regent's Park Zoo, the bright full moon providing all the light they needed. They were the only two people there, the zoo having closed at sunset. Angelus had wanted to do something different with Tanner and, while waiting for Tanner to finish helping Beth so they could go out, the human's niece, Mellie, had been extolling the virtues of the trip to the zoo she'd made that day.

The animals were noisy in their cages, the night bringing the predators out of their daytime slumber. Angelus smiled each time Tanner jumped, startled by an animal's call. The vampire briefly wondered what would happen if he were to roar himself in true demon fashion. More than likely, Tanner would faint like a silly woman.

Hmm, Angelus thought. If Tanner fainted, he'd have an excuse to loosen the human's clothing. Perhaps fawn over the boy a bit. A wicked smile curved the vampire's lips.

"I don't think I l-like that smile," Tanner commented. Three weeks of going out with Angelus every night had managed to displace most of the young man's shy stutter. He was more comfortable in Angelus's company, allowing their nights out to be more enjoyable. More companionable.

Angelus both loved and hated it.

He desperately wanted to kiss Tanner. He wanted to drink the mortal's shy smile, sip the intelligence of his speech and lightly bite his witty tongue. Angelus wanted to feel the warmth of the human as he held the lad pressed against him. He wanted to hear Tanner's soft moans and breathy gasps of excitement that he had caused with his lips and teeth and tongue.

Three weeks of waiting for the right time to kiss Tanner. Three weeks of Tanner's intense blue gaze, his honeysuckle scent and watching his kissable lips move as he spoke. Three weeks of leaving Tanner's company in painful arousal and having to fuck his prey before brutally killing them.

There was something about Tanner, though, that prevented Angelus from simply taking what he wanted. Every time the vampire came close to pouncing, Tanner would turn and smile bashfully at him, or blush a new shade of red, or make a quiet joke that would have him laughing loudly.

Even worse, he felt incredibly happy from just being in Tanner's company. It was sickening, but he couldn't seem to change it. He truly liked Tanner as an individual, not as a new pet or as a meal.

"What's wrong with me smile?" Angelus asked as they paused outside of another animal exhibit.

"It matches his," Tanner replied, pointing at the golden lion pacing in the back of the cage.

"Mayhaps 'tis because I'm a hungry predator, as well," Angelus teased.

Tanner's defined cheekbones colored as he jokingly asked, "And wh-what's your prey?"

"Blue-eyed lads with dark hair," Angelus answered with a wink.

"Angelus." Tanner blushed even darker.

Angelus chuckled. He pointed to the elephants across the path between the cages and they headed over to them. "Your niece said these great beasts were her favorite," he commented.

"Prolly because she got to feed 'em," Tanner said.

Angelus turned away from the elephants and leaned back against the cage. "Have you ever been t' India, lad?"

"I haven't even been to the bloody Wax Museum," Tanner replied with a small bite in his voice.

Angelus knew to steer clear of topics surrounding Tanner's bastard of a father, for they could easily ruin a good night out. If, in the long run, it wouldn't hurt the boy, the vampire would break the man's neck in an instant. However, Tanner cared deeply for Beth and Mellie and, without their father to support them, they'd end up on the streets... or worse.

"Not t' worry, Tanner. India isna that wonderful a place," Angelus told him. "But, in the land o' the dark-skinned, the people ride elephants like horses. 'Tis a very smelly way t' get from one place t' another."

"You rode on an elephant?" Tanner asked in amazement.

"Aye," Angelus replied. "And on camels, as well. I'd recommend the elephants, though. They be a much friendlier animal."

It was at that very moment one of the elephants in the zoo chose to show her species' friendliness by snaking her trunk through the cage bars and snuffling Angelus's hair.

Tanner burst out laughing, the sound echoing in the zoo, causing the animals to hoot and holler. Angelus scowled, shoved the elephant's trunk away from him and grimaced when he felt a slimy substance in his hair. Tanner clutched his stomach and laughed even harder at the expression of disgust on Angelus's face.

"Are you laughin' at me, boy?" Angelus asked in an angry tone.

"Yes," Tanner chortled.

"An' do you think that be wise?" Angelus said, taking a menacing step closer to the laughing man.

"No," Tanner gasped between laughs as he backed away from Angelus, stopping when the giraffe cage was at his back.

"Well, then, dinna you think you should stop?" Angelus said, pinning Tanner to the cage with one hand on either side of the young man, gripping the black bars tightly.

"No," Tanner sniggered.

Angelus arched an imperious brow. "This be your last warnin', lad. Stop your laughin' at me or pay the consequences."

"Maybe I want to pay the consequences," Tanner said, a husky teasing note in his voice as his laughter died away.

Angelus's nostrils flared as he inhaled sharply, the scent of honeysuckle overpowering the dirty scent of the zoo. The moonlight shown down upon Tanner's flushed face, the white light creating small diamonds in the sable-haired mortal's blue eyes. Angelus could hear Tanner's heartbeat pick up and the younger man started to breathe faster as the current of electricity that seemed to flow between them sparked.

With aching slowness, Angelus leaned closer to Tanner. He watched as the younger man's eyes fell shut and heard the mortal's breath catch in anticipation. Angelus wet his lips, closed his eyes, and pressed his mouth to Tanner's.

The world exploded into light behind Angelus's closed eyelids. His mouth began to tingle and he could not prevent the quick inhale of unneeded breath. The vampire's heart felt like it had started again and the sound of it pounding in his ears drowned out the sounds of the animals.

Angelus brushed his lips back and forth over Tanner's until the younger man's mouth parted. He felt Tanner grasp the front of his shirt as he angled his head and deepened the kiss. Angelus groaned in the back of his throat when he felt the tentative brush of Tanner's tongue on his lower lip.

Angelus took the invitation and plunged his tongue into Tanner's open mouth, sweeping the inside of the warm cavern without hesitation. Tanner's body radiated heat that Angelus could feel through their clothing as he pressed himself closer to the other man. He heard Tanner moan softly and the vampire almost came in his trousers at the sound he'd been longing to hear.

The dark-haired vampire broke the kiss abruptly, leaving them both panting heavily. His half-lidded gaze hungrily drank in Tanner's darkly flushed face and moist, swollen lips. Tanner's blue eyes were wide and full of swirling emotions -- desire, wonder, happiness and confusion.

With another groan, Angelus bent and captured Tanner's mouth again in a short, possessive kiss. The tingling in the vampire's lips spread throughout his body like wildfire. He pulled away with a gasp and shut his eyes tightly as he tried to regain his control before he took Tanner hard against the cage.

"Crikey," Tanner breathed, a light break in his voice.

Angelus chuckled softly and opened his eyes. "Aye, 'tis 'crikey' indeed," he agreed. He forced his hand to let go of the cage bar and brushed his thumb across Tanner's warm cheek. "I've been wantin' t' do that fer weeks."

"Why'd you wait?" Tanner asked, then turned a deeper shade of pink.

"I dinna know, lad," Angelus replied truthfully. He gave Tanner a devilish smile. "But now that I know that you liked me kissin', I'll be doin' it all the bloody time."

"Like n-n-now?" Tanner suggested with a bashfully hopeful look.

"Aye, like now," Angelus agreed, and he pressed his mouth to Tanner's for the third of many kisses to come.





*****





Los Angeles, 2000





Angel quickly rose to his feet when Cordelia led a stunned-looking Tanner past him and into the lift to his apartment. "Tanner... Cordelia, what happened?"

Cordelia gave Angel an innocent look. "We went shopping," she said, pulling the lift gate shut. "Right, Tanner?"

Tanner's glazed eyes stared blankly at the lift wall.

Angel took the stairs and met Cordelia in his apartment, a scowl firmly in place. He put is arm around Tanner's shoulders as soon as the gate opened and led the sable-haired man towards the bedroom.

"Tanner, are you okay?" Angel asked.

Tanner slowly turned his head and blinked owlishly at the vampire. His pale face contrasted greatly against his borrowed dark shirt.

Angel swore silently and helped the mortal sit on the edge of the bed. He quickly divested Tanner of his boots, unbuttoned the top two buttons of the young man's shirt and gently pushed him back on the bed.

"Rest," the vampire instructed, brushing Tanner's slightly-curled hair back from his forehead. Tanner stared up at him dazedly. Angel unconsciously let out a soft purr of comfort and brushed a kiss on Tanner's brow. "You'll be okay, heartling. Just rest."

Angel shut off the night-stand light and headed out of the bedroom. Cordelia was sitting at the kitchen table, a plate of cookies in front of her. He speared her with a furious look as he came to a halt on the opposite side of the table and folded his arms across his chest.

"What?" Cordelia said. "I only took him shopping. Is it my fault that the Spike Clone couldn't handle it?"

"Where did you take him?" Angel asked in a clipped tone.

"The mall," Cordelia answered. She snorted disdainfully. "He made a pig of himself over Cinnabon. It was so embarrassing."

Angel pressed his lips in a thin line and waited.

Cordelia rolled her eyes. "Okay, he acted like a shy little boy who was afraid of his own shadow every time someone got close to us. I had to hold his hand the whole day. Do you know how many potential dates I lost because of that?"

"Why didn't you just come home?" Angel said, irritated.

"There was a sale at Bakers!" Cordelia exclaimed.

"You terrorized Tanner for shoes," Angel growled.

"No, he liked the shoes," Cordelia said, biting into a cookie. "He even found me this really nice light blue strappy pair that'll look so great with my daisy-chain skirt. Why is it that gay men have all the good taste?"

Angel pinched the bridge of his nose. "Cordelia..."

"I mean, look at you," Cordelia said, gesturing at him with her cookie. "You're half-gay-"

"I'm half-gay?" Angel peered at her over his fingers.

"- and you have great clothes," Cordelia continued. "They're all black, but they're still great."

Angel sighed. Why was it he put up with her again?

"Oh, anyway, Tanner was ooh-ahh over the whole mall experience until we went into Spencers."

"You took him to Spencers?!" Angel exclaimed. Doyle had taken him to the specialty gift shop one November evening and it had taken him weeks to scrape his jaw off the floor over what had been available right on the shelf for the public to purchase.

Cordelia nodded. "Tanner turned as red as a Coke can and started hyperventilating. I dragged him out of there and into the next store to ask him what his trauma was when he freaked even more. I thought gay men weren't supposed to get oogy over women's lingerie."

Angel searched his mind for the store that was located next to Spencers in the mall. His eyes bugged. "You took him to Spencers then dragged him into Fredericks of Hollywood?!"

"I didn't do it on purpose!" Cordelia exclaimed. "I wasn't schooled on the dos and don'ts for annoyingly shy homosexuals!"

Angel pulled out the chair in front of him and sat down heavily. Poor Tanner. The sable-haired human couldn't even look at men's undergarments without turning ten shades of red, which was why Tanner never wore any... one of many little somethings the vampire had loved about the boy.

"I take it you brought him home after that?" Angel asked.

"Yeah, I splurged on a cab," Cordelia said. "Not something I ever want to repeat."

Angel groaned and dropped his head down on the table. First, she took Tanner to Spencers and Fredericks of Hollywood. Then, she subjected him to a high speed ride in a California cab. Poor, poor Tanner.

"Hello, all," Wesley greeted cheerfully as he entered the apartment.

Angel grunted.

"Trouble?" Wesley asked.

"Ask her," Angel said, pointing at Cordelia without lifting his head.

"Hey, if you didn't want me to take him shopping, you should have said so," Cordelia said.

"Cordelia took Tanner shopping? Angel, are you certain that was a wise thing to do?" Wesley said.

Angel raised his head and shot Wesley a glare. Wesley held up both his hands. "Never mind," the rogue demon hunter said. He joined them at the table. "I've found the information as requested at the library, Angel."

"Good," Angel said, straightening. "If we decide to send Tanner back, I want to be sure nothing goes wrong."

"If?" Cordelia questioned. "I thought sending Prepubescent Spike back was the main goal?"

"We still don't know why Tanner is here to begin with," Angel said, ignoring her slight. "Until we figure that out, I don't want to chance sending him back to the nineteenth century."

"Have you found any reference to a prophecy as of yet?" Wesley asked.

Angel shook his head. "No, and I'm starting to think we won't," he replied. He went on to fill in his coworkers on his phone call from Giles and what had befallen Spike.

Wesley tapped his chin when Angel finished, his brows furrowed in thought. "And you surmise that having Tanner here, in the future, is altering the past?"

"Yes."

"Wow, this is like a bad re-enactment of Back to the Future," Cordelia said. Both men looked at her in confusion. "Hello? Michael J. Fox? 80's movie? Scary neon vest?"

"Do you know what she's talking about?" Angel asked.

"Not a clue," Wesley replied.

"Ugh! You people have got to get a life!" Cordelia threw up her hands. "Back to the Future was a movie about a kid who went back in time and messed up the history."

"I don't know what-" Angel started to stay.

"I'm not done," Cordelia interrupted. "You see, Marty -- that was the kid's name -- had this picture of his family. Every day that he was in the past changing history, another person disappeared on the picture until Marty was the only one left. Then he started disappearing on the picture and in real life because he'd stopped his parents from getting together."

Cordelia stopped and bit into another cookie. Wesley and Angel waited for her to go on. She didn't.

Wesley and Angel exchanged sighs. "Cordelia, what happened next?" Wesley asked.

"Next?" Cordelia said with a confused frown.

"In the movie?" Angel prompted.

"Oh, well, Marty made it so his parents fell in love, everyone reappeared and they had lots of money," Cordelia said.

"So, what you're saying is..." Wesley frowned. "What are you saying?"

Cordelia sighed dramatically. "The past is being changed because Tanner is here, not back in the dark ages where he belongs. That's why Spike is pulling a vanishing act. Pretty soon, bye-bye blond himbo."

"Blond himbo?" Angel smirked.

"Well, um, colorful descriptive aside, I concur with what Cordelia suggests is happening with Spike," Wesley said.

"That was my conclusion, too," Angel said. He slumped back in his chair and tapped the table with his fingers. "Trouble is, what are we going to do about it?"

"Let the himbo go," Cordelia said promptly. She grinned at her rhyme and ate another cookie.

"It's not that easy," Angel said.

"Why not?" Wesley asked.

Angel frowned. "What do you mean?"

"Tanner is living, breathing human being. Spike is a vicious, evil vampire-"

"With his fangs capped," Cordelia interjected.

"-who destroyed many lives during his reign of terror," Wesley went on. "You have a chance to save all those people as well as that shy young man's soul. What other choice is there?"

Angel glanced back towards the dark bedroom. "Tampering with history is wrong. Everything happens for a reason."

"Yes," Wesley said. "Including Tanner appearing in the future before your soulless persona met him."

"So you think Tanner is here because I'm supposed to save his soul?" Angel asked.

"It's your job," Cordelia pointed out.

Angel traced a heart on the tabletop with his finger. "It's still not that easy."

"Why?" Cordelia said.

The dark-haired vampire's face transformed into its true countenance in an instant and he snarled, "Because it isn't!"

Angel stood abruptly, his chair scraping on the floor, and he stalked to the sink. He gripped the edge of the counter, dropped his chin and closed his golden eyes. He fought for control over his demon.

"Angel?" Wesley said tentatively.

"I... Angelus... he..." Angel took a purposeful breath and blew it out sharply. "Angelus loved Tanner as much as I loved Buffy."

Cordelia gasped and Wesley murmured, "My word."

"Should I take that away from him... from me?" Angel asked, turning to face his friends. His ridges stood out plainly on his brow. "Would I have been able to love Buffy if my unsouled self hadn't learned what love was with Tanner? Would I have made the same choices if I hadn't met him? Would I even have my soul?"

All three of them were silent for a long time, each thinking about what Angel had said. Angel forced his human mask back over his features and swallowed back the lump in his throat. Tanner, and subsequently Spike, was such an intricate part of the twenty years before he regained his soul, he couldn't even picture what unlife would have been like without the dark-haired man.

"You said Mr. Giles would telephone if Spike's condition changed?" Wesley inquired, breaking the silence. Angel nodded. "Then the decision need not be made at this very moment." The ex-Watcher stood. "Come along, Cordelia. Let us go gather the spell components, just in case."

Cordelia rose and gave Angel a consoling look. "It'll all work out, Angel, you'll see. We live in California, a gay man's mecca, next to Miami. Tanner will fit in just fine."

Angel watched as Cordelia and Wesley went up in the lift before he moved. His long strides carried him across the apartment to the bedroom quickly. The light from the living room cast a soft glow in the bedroom, allowing Angel to easily see the sleeping man on his bed.

Tanner was laying on his stomach, both arms under the pillow his head was resting upon. His face was peaceful in sleep, his long lashes like dark half-moons against his skin. His breathing was deep and even, and Angel could hear the slow rhythm of the young man's heart clearly in the silence of the bedroom.

Angel crouched down beside the bed, his brown eyes caressing Tanner's sleeping features. He and the boy had slept together as often as they could before Tanner was turned. As much as the vampire had wished it, Tanner had refused to simply move in with him because they were intimate. It wasn't proper, Tanner had told him over and over again.

"Hearts and flowers and love, that's all you ever wanted," Angel murmured softly, reaching out to twist a lock of Tanner's dark hair around his finger. "Could you find them here in the future?"

With a sigh, Angel released Tanner's hair, straightened and left the bedroom. He had a lot of thinking to do, even though he wanted nothing more than to crawl into the bed with the sable-haired human, cuddle up to his warmth and reminisce about all the nights the vampire spent holding Tanner in his arms.





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