“Tacos?” The tall thin worrier from before was standing nearly too close as she babbled on about the offering of food between them. According to Angelus this woman had also been sentenced to years in a hellish dimension that was not her home world, so at his suggestion the two of them had begun to talk about the important things of this dimension that may be different from the one she came from while he and the others were in the corner having a private conversation.
“Yes! Tacos are the most important thing in this universe. Okay, maybe not the most important but they definitely rank right up there with oxygen, clothes, money, and particle physics. Except with tacos they also taste yummy. Would you like to try one?” At the end of her little ramble the tiny little woman held out a silver lump towards her as though it were the most valued of her possessions, not wanting to offend the woman and risk losing access to the information she was coming to understand she desperately needed she took it gingerly.
Looking into the large eyes in the overly expressive face still far too close to her own for comfort she voiced her question meekly, trying not to appear ungrateful of the offering. She had asked for food and apparently that request had been fulfilled, if unexpectedly.
“This is food?” The question made the girls’ already expressive eyes light up with wonder.
“Oh, yes, it’s the best food there is. Well other than peanut butter. Or ice cream. Or most foods really, it’s all just so good.” Looking down at it once more she shrugged, she had asked for food and if this was truly the best this world had to offer her for sustenance then she would make do and eventually adapt as she always had before. There were always ways to supplement a diet when necessary and she would find a few to consider if this taco turned out to be as bland as it looked.
Bringing the unappetizing looking mass towards her mouth she was about to bite down when a hand shot out and stopped her.
“Oh, no honey, you see what Fred here has apparently forgotten to mention is that it’s in a wrapper. You have to peel the silver part off first and then you can eat it. Trust me it tastes much better without the paper coating.” Cordelia was something of an enigma, she appeared to be actual friends with her birth father, something she had been told was an impossibility and had been nothing but friendly to her since her arrival. She wasn’t sure if she trusted the act just yet, she was still leery of them all but she was determined to give them a chance, for now at least.
“Sorry! I am so sorry! I just assumed and I shouldn’t have. Since I had grown up here … or rather in this dimension since I grew up in Texas and not California, so when I came back from Pylea even though it was all a bit different I still remembered most of the basics like wrappers and things. I shoulda remembered to tell you about that part since you know you ain’t been here since you were a ba-by.” For some reason the last part of her fast paced chatter caused her to look away in guilt and self-recrimination. She also noticed that Cordelia shot her a look of concern, almost as though they both thought that the mention of her old life, the one she should have lived, would put her in a foul mood.
She wasn’t sure why they would think that, it was impossible to miss something you had no true memory of or to long for a life you could not even imagine. She was just about to correct them as she continued to unfold her “food”, she was still not certain about this so-called “taco”, when her father finally returned with the final remaining member of his clan. The large warrior who she had yet to see without a weapon of some kind tightly gripped at his side. That she could respect.
“Destiny… or would you prefer Anna?” She had nearly forgotten that he had heard Steven call her name, she was startled to hear it from his lips so casually spoken. Then she remembered her earlier decision to take a new name for a new world. Though this name would technically be an old one, it would still be hers.
“Destiny’s fine.” Preferable even. It was somehow lighter than the name she had heard screamed so often in the past and it was clear that it was the name they preferred or at least the one they were most used to so they may as well use it now. She had no more attachment to her former name than she did to her former life.
“Well, Destiny, these are my friends. You’ve already met Fred and Cordelia, and this is Gunn. There’s another member of our group Lorne, you will be able to meet him later.” She nodded as she took her first bite of the “taco” and froze when the flavors invaded her senses. The meat was of a strange texture and far more tender than she was used too, the spices and other bits and pieces mixed with it were in turn cold or warm and seemed to not be able to choose a flavor to be, each section having a unique taste all its own and the skin which encased it all was crunchy as though it were bone only it tasted even stranger than the rest and gave way far too easily to truly be a part of a carcass.
“Didn’t I tell you tacos were the best?” Not wanting to hurt the woman’s feelings by spitting out the meal she had been given and risking banishment from the premises she forced herself to swallow and answer as honestly as she could.
“They are certainly different.”
Angel watched his daughter take her first bite of food and had to fight not to laugh. It was obvious that the different spices and flavors of Mexican food had taken her by surprise. He personally would have chosen something slightly more bland as a first meal before slowly working in the different spices but he wasn’t going to complain if she wasn’t. When Fred seemed satisfied with the vague answer she got in response to her statement about the god-like quality of her favorite food he moved on to why they were here.
“Destiny, you said before that you had questions about our world.” He hoped if he could keep her talking and eating he would be able to learn a bit more about her. He already knew that she hated Holtz and seemed to have a bit or a contentious relationship with her brother. Her willingness to take on another name so quickly also pointed towards some issues with her upbringing they might have to deal with sooner or later. Demons from childhood often controlled you as you got older and he wanted something better for his children. He didn’t want either of them to be haunted by things they couldn’t change.
“Yes, but before we get to the questions about this world in general I have a few about you personally if that is alright with you.” He knew she would and that they would probably be both brutal and centered around his past but he couldn’t bring himself to care. Not only did he have his children back, even if one of them wasn’t currently with them but he was basking in the adorable actions of his little girl. With every word she spoke she slowly shifted the taco farther away from herself and closer to Fred who was running through her own personal pile of the street food. She was like a child hiding broccoli under the mashed potatoes and hoping everyone would assume they had already eaten them.
“Of course, you can ask me anything.”
“Why didn’t you kill Steven when you had the chance? I was here when the two of you fought and you had a clear path to his jugular, why didn’t you take it? Everything I know about you says that you are a cold-blooded monster who kills anyone and everyone indiscriminately, why did you spare him?” Angel saw his friends stiffen in surprise at her blunt question, but he had expected it. They had been raised by his enemy after all, and from what Connor had said about him he doubted there had ever been any mention of his good deeds over the past century or so, she had every right to be curious. She had grown up on stories of the great and horrible Angelus only to one day meet Angel, confusion was to be expected.
“Well, that is a fairly long story, but I’ll do my best to answer you as honestly and completely as I can. I guess I should start by telling you that my name is not Angelus, at least not anymore, these days I go by Angel. About a hundred years ago in 1898, in the days when I was still the monster I’m sure you’ve heard about, I attacked and killed a Gypsy girl, she was far from the first but she was the favored daughter of her clan. When her people learned about what I had done to her, and what I had done to so many before her, they cursed me. They restored my soul, gave me back my conscience and my guilt, all the emotions I had lost as a demon were forced back into me. I no longer kill humans, and it takes a good reason for me to even kill demons, I am for lack of a better word reformed.” Angel simply stood there in silence waiting for his daughter to either believe him or reject him.
He barely heard his friends all chiming in with their own assurances that he was now a force for good, some with stories and others with only earnest honesty and the weight of their word behind the statement. He knew it would take more than just his word that he had changed to un-do so many years of conditioning, she had been taught from birth to hate him. For the moment it would look like he had only changed his name and nothing else, but at least he was able to say his peace. He watched her absorb everything she was being told and waited for her to make the next move, no matter what she decided to do he would not rush her, not now, not ever. She would come to accept him on her own terms, and hopefully so would Connor.
Destiny didn’t know if she really believed everything these people told her, Angelus as a force for good and protector of innocents was a little hard to wrap her mind around after all, but she decided to give them the benefit of the doubt for the time being. She wouldn’t let her guard down around them just yet, but she would trust that they were being truthful with her or at least telling her the truth they believed and proceed as though everything they told her so far was at least plausible.
Angelus – Angel had admitted to his past of violence and death without hesitation so maybe what he said about his life now was true as well. Holtz himself had admitted to being encased in stone for well over a hundred years, missing the changes made in the intervening time it was possible he had missed this development as well. Missed or disregarded, honestly with Holtz it could go either way. If he simply hadn’t known about the curse, or more likely if he had neglected to tell them about it in all his twisted stories that left one question. Did the curse change things? Having a soul didn’t create a good man and being able to feel guilt didn’t mean you did. She wasn’t sure how much weight to give to this revelation, but it was something to think about.
“Okay, I believe you, for now. That’s enough about the past for the moment, time to move on to the present. Main concern first then we can move on to other questions. What is money and how do I get some? Everywhere I went today people were talking about it or asking for it and I don’t seem to have any.” Everyone around her began to chuckle and she recognized it for the relief that it was. They hadn’t thought she would take their word for her fathers character and were relieved that she had. She supposed though, that a man so surrounded by so many good hearted people had to at least have some good in him somewhere.
“Money is currency and for the moment I can provide you with some to get you started in this new life. It’s normally earned through labor or some form of trade but we can table that until you’re a bit more used to how life works here. You exchange money in verifying amounts for food, shelter, clothing, entertainment, anything and everything in all honesty.” That made sense. Holtz had touched on currency lightly when he was preparing them to come here but he hadn’t dwelled on it like he had many other aspects of life here. Family, duty, and honor were the building blocks of his lectures. The importance of avoiding temptation and sin were another favorite topic but practical living advice never seemed to appear.
After nearly an hour of back and forth conversations on different topics about how to survive in this bright and crowded world she decided it was time to go. While they all offered again and again to let her stay under this roof with them she wasn’t comfortable enough around them yet to fall asleep. She needed a place to hunker down and think, every plan she had going in had been blown apart and she needed to regroup and try again. She needed to think about Holtz, Angelus, Steven, all of them separately and together. She needed space.
Steven made his way towards the waterfront where his father had told him to go on the second night after arriving in the hellish place. He hated it here, everything was confusing and far too loud and he wasn’t allowed to kill the things that annoyed him. If Anna had stayed by his side he knew he would have been in a better mood about things, but as his father had always warned him, Anna’s bad blood had won out. She had chosen to side with Angelus.
He just didn’t understand it! No matter how bad things had gotten with her problems in the past he had always been certain that she would have his back when he needed her, now not even a full day after meeting that monster and that foundation was rocked and he was truly alone for the first time in his life. Father had told him ever since he could remember that Anna would one day fall into temptation and sin, that when it happened he should not blame her since it was in her nature but he also could not hesitate to act.
He wasn’t sure he could, while he knew she was sinking into the mire he couldn’t help but think he could save her. They had been together since the beginning and even the thought of being without her made his heart ache.
No! He would not allow it! He would find a way to help his sister fight the darkness in her soul, that part of her that was so connected with Angelus, and they would be together again. He loved his family too much to see it so fractured, he would not allow Angelus to win, he would see them all made whole again. Hearing the popping sound of a portal opening behind him he rose and moved to greet his father and to tell him the sad news about his dear sister Anna.
Destiny moved through the streets of downtown Los Angeles and thought of everything she had learned from Angelus and his friends. When it became clear that she would not be staying within the confines of his home Angelus had given her all the money he had on hand and told her to be careful, that their doors were always open to her if she needed them for anything. At first she had been sure he would try to stop her, but he hadn’t. If anything he had been the one to reign in his friends and assert her freedom to make her own choices.
This more than the stories told to her had made her pause to think that maybe this curse business truly had changed things for her father.
He had stressed that the money would likely only last her the night and told her that if she needed more she only needed to drop by the hotel and talk to him about it. Right now all she needed though was food, she was starving. She had managed to choke down two of those tacos but that had only fed her hunger a little, now that she had the time and space she could feed the rest on her own.
She walked for a while wanting to be well outside of Angelus’ territory before she slowed down. Once she was sure there was no way she would be running into anyone from the hotel without it being intentional she started to look for a place to hunt. She found a place with thumping music and a line down the block and considered her options, looking up at the sign over the club Trapt, not really a name she would have gone for but the name wasn’t really what mattered she guessed. She could either enter and find her prey within under the cover of the crush of bodies and loud music or she could remain outside and pick off any who wandered her way. Either had its pits and positives, but neither was truly ideal.
While many were entering, few were leaving and the ones that did seemed not only alert at this hour but they also all moved in groups. It would be harder to get someone alone until later in the evening if at all. Mind made up she hunched her shoulders against the cool night air and made her way towards the doors.
Getting in was the easy part, it was finding what she needed that really put her on edge, she had never done this here before, she only hoped that everything worked the same in this dimension. Slowly circling the room just beyond the dance floor she watched all the people swaying and grinding to the beat of the music and tried to decide who to choose, male or female? Did it really matter? Much like the name of the club, the gender of the person she chose was really more of an insignificant detail than a truly deciding factor. Spotting a girl standing alone in the corner, looking very much lost and out of place, she knew she had her volunteer.
Striking up a conversation with her was easy, the girl was beyond happy to have someone, hell anyone, to talk to. Apparently coming to this club had been a friend’s idea, and she had only tagged along to be supportive of her friend’s “alternative life choice”. It was even easier getting the girl to agree to move even deeper into the shadows away from prying eyes, she simply had to suggest that they move back to find somewhere that they didn’t have to shout to be heard over the steady thump of the music. Now it was time for the true test of her abilities, if everything worked the same here as it did in the other world then everything would go smoothly and no one would be hurt at all. Looking deeply into the other girl’s eyes she felt her own begin to dilate as she captured the girl’s attention fully.
“You’re going to be alright, you aren’t going to make a sound, this won’t hurt you at all.” She waited a moment for the girl to parrot the suggestions back to her signaling that it had worked.
“I’m going to be alright, I won’t make a sound, this won’t hurt at all.” Good.
Fully in control she felt her face begin to change as her fangs became more prominent and the veins beneath her eyes began to pulse and throb in time with her hunger. She leaned in towards the girl’s neck, finally going to be free of this hunger that had consumed her since first setting foot in this new world. Food could only do so much, what she really needed was blood. The feel of her teeth sliding through skin was euphoric as the warm rush of fresh blood flooded her mouth and slid down her throat.
The sound of someone clearing their throat behind her made her whirl around, her “game face” fully on display and the girl’s blood dripping down her chin.
“Wow, scary. Has anyone ever told you how beautiful you are when you feed?” The man said before his own face morphed and his yellow eyes sparkled at her with amusement, “Feel like sharing?”
“Who are you?”
Destiny kept her place between this stranger, vampire, and her ‘meal’ for the night. She knew all about vampires of this world, and knew he would not leave the girl alive if he did begin to feed on her, and she didn’t want that. No matter what else she was, the girl seemed very nice, and she didn’t want her death on her conscience.
He was rather good looking, with his short brown hair and sexy confident smirk. He dressed differently from the others around them, her increased hearing picked up the word ‘retro’ in reference to him many times from the different conversations about him between the couples surrounding them. Many of the surrounding crowd seemed to find him interesting enough to want to take him into their bed for the night, if he were to hunt his own prey he would have no problems finding several willing victims.
She hadn’t been around long enough to place people just by their accent but his was different enough from the others that she knew he wasn’t from here. His eyes were the lightest and warmest brown she had ever seen, and they seemed to be filled with the light of his own amusement. His face was youthful but stern, he had the bearings of a man out of time and the air of authority around him likely drew prey to him in droves.
“Not sharing then? Well, I guess the real question would be who are you? Cause I have to tell you darling I’ve been wandering around this world for a number of years now and I can honestly say I have never met anyone like you before.” As he spoke he moved closer to her before he suddenly jerked to a stop, but stayed within her line of sight and outside of easy reach. He wanted to engage but he didn’t seem to want to fight, yet.
“Is that supposed to be a compliment?” She found herself relaxing slightly when he stayed in his same spot, not moving even an inch towards her.
“Could be, did you want it to be?”
“Who says I wanted anything?” The only thing she really wanted was to be free of this place, she didn’t want to linger in this club surrounded by humans for any longer than she needed to. Not after her feeding had been interrupted when she’d only barely begun. That taste of blood had only increased her hunger and made her ravenous for more.
“Well not to brag or anything but it’s been said that I am kind of irresistible to the average female.” His mouth tilted into a smirk, his eyes roving over her body in a slow appreciative perusal.
“Then I guess it’s a good thing we’ve already established that I’m not average isn’t it.”
Seeing an opportunity to get the girl to safety she took it, even if it would mean talking to this person for a while. Turning back to the girl she captured her gaze once more.
“Everything’s fine, you stepped outside for some air and passed out, when you came to your neck was bleeding so you decided to catch a cab to the nearest hospital, you’ll text your friend once you get there so she doesn’t worry. You won’t remember meeting me or anything that happened after.” She could feel the strain around her eyes as she sent her meal away, she didn’t want to see the girl killed but she was also still starving.
“I won’t remember you.” She watched the girl stagger away for a moment before she was lost in the crowd.
Her mind was racing, what was she going to do now? She had managed to send the girl away but she was still caught in this dance of push and pull. One wrong move could lead to deadly consequences for everyone here.
Turning back to the man she went through all of her options, she could fight, she could run, or she could temporarily surrender. If they fought they would bring more attention to the both of them then either of them wanted. Some vampires wouldn’t care but the way he had quickly shed himself of his vampire face after showing her told her he was trying to blend in. That wouldn’t stop him from fighting dirty though, nothing would do that. If she ran it would make her look weak and while it would have the advantage of forcing him to chase her to a less populated area from what she had seen so far of this city there were not truly empty spaces to run to. That left surrender, though it galled her to admit it.
“Who I am is none of your concern so I suggest you go your way and I’ll go mine, then we can both enjoy the rest of our nights.” It was at least worth a shot, but she didn’t think he would go for it. He seemed far too intrigued by her to just walk away now, but a girl could try. If he did walk away she might be able to get back to her night. Though she would have to make sure he didn’t walk away from her just to walk to the girl she had sent away.
“I don’t think so sweetheart, you see it’s been quite some time since anyone caught my interest quite like you have, hell what am I saying, no one’s ever caught my interest like you before. So here’s my counter offer, how about you and I go find us a table in a dark corner somewhere and talk hmmm. It doesn’t even have to be here, if you prefer it there’s a coffee shop open twenty four seven just down the block, better lighting, not to mention less people. So what do you say?”
“Lead the way.” She wasn’t sure what coffee was but she hoped this coffee shop was truly less crowded than this club. If nothing else less people would lead to more options. Or at least fewer casualties.
“That a girl. What’s your name then? I don’t usually ask, but you’re something of a special circumstance all your own aren’t you.” Arrogant much?
“Destiny, my name is Destiny.”
“Nice to meet you Destiny, my name is Lawson, and I can tell you and I are going to be such good friends already.”
“Yeah, I just bet.” As she followed Lawson out of the club she wondered what the rest of the night would bring, it had already seen so many changes in her life she wouldn’t be surprised if there was at least one more waiting for her.