Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Summary: A few days before Halloween, Angel and Joyce share a glass of wine.
Notes: Set before the episode, 'Halloween', in the second season of Buffy. This was written for Velvetwhip and it was beta read by Stars and Pixie Dust. Thanks guys!
Angel walked down Revello Drive, his footsteps were quiet, and his passing did little to disturb the lull of the deceptively sleepy street. He had found out about a nest of vampires downtown in an abandoned theater and decided it was a job for two. Buffy had said she would be home around half past six after training with Giles so he picked off a few of the vampires before setting off for her house.
Autumn had finally come to southern California and the trees lining the subdivision were changing colors. Although the red and yellow of the leaves were muted in the twilight, he could remember the bright colors from his human days. Grinning jack o' lanterns peered at him from every porch or windowsill. The usual vague scent of fear permeated the town as the locals realized that their greatest ally had left them for another night of denial and uncertainty. Not all were unprepared for the what crept in the darkness. While cardboard ghouls, cloth witches, and plastic skeletons dotted the yards of the neighborhood, there were also garlic wreathes, amulets, and crosses nailed to doors and windows. Even the underground was hushed as Samhain drew closer. It was still a couple of days off, but the barriers between worlds were already thinning as ghosts from the past, literally and figuratively, came back to haunt the earth.
There were days when he felt every moment of his existence as the weight of time crushed him. Nothing in Sunnydale should have reminded him of his Galway, but tonight he couldn't stop the snippets of memories from rising. In his mind, he was strolling through the thin, cobblestone streets in his part of Galway. Turnips, carved and shrunken from decay, perched by doors. Only the temperate California climate ruined the daydream. As he came closer to 1630 Revello Drive, Angel saw the outside light turn on and Joyce Summers step outside holding a candle. She had wrapped a white shawl around her shoulders. Maybe it was the moonlight or his nostalgia, but she reminded him of someone he had cared about long ago when he was human. He decided it was the curve of Joyce's neck and her graceful profile that brought to mind Alice Byrne.
He had been a scoundrel of twenty-five when he first saw Alice at her inn. She had been tending to the giant hearth with her back to him, clad in a lively blue dress and a matching cap, without a shawl on. Blonde curls escaped their bindings to cascade down her neck. Angel learned more about the innkeeper over many cups of ale; he had decided to seduce the merry widow that night.
Angel turned onto the Summers' sidewalk and greeted the woman arranging pumpkins on the stoop steps. “Hello.”
Joyce straightened and smiled. “Angel, how are you?”
“I'm looking for Buffy.” He paused, briefly remembering his guise as a history student at the local community college, before explaining. “We were supposed to study at the SCC library, but I think she might have forgotten.” He smiled wanly. “I figure since she already paid me the ten dollars for the hour, I might as well check up on her.”
“That’s my Buffy,” Joyce shook her head in amusement. “At least she is getting help with her Western Civilization class.” She lit the candle. “She called from the school saying she was working on a chemistry project with Willow, but would be home in fifteen minutes if you wanted to wait. Could I get you something to drink?”
“Sure.” Angel watched Joyce open the top of a pumpkin and put the candle inside. The flickering light reflected off her face and silky blue blouse. It made him miss the pleasant aspects of candle lit evenings of the past when he would dine with silk-clad nobility and spend the night engaged in cultured conversation and dance. He tried not to dwell on the end of many of those dinner parties when screams replaced chamber music and blood replaced wine. “That would be fine.”
“Is Western Civilization your specialty or are you interested in another branch of history?” Joyce asked.
“Pardon?” He said, surprised by her interest in his life, before replying. “No, I'm more focused on the Industrial Revolution, but I've taken a lot of Irish history classes.”
“You might be interested in one of the new exhibits at the gallery then. It’s an interpretation of the Book of Kells. I usually don't show contemporary art, but the paintings are striking.” Joyce turned the pumpkin towards him. “What do you think?”
“Very spooky.” He found that he enjoyed talking to Joyce, she set him at ease, and a real grin formed on his face. Alice had the same easy-going air. “What do you usually show at your gallery?” He asked as he followed her inside.
Alice had given him a good chase for a fortnight as he tried to strike up conversations. He made his best jokes, got into two spectacular fights over her honor, and even helped her stable boy bring in firewood. She had barely graced him with more than a smile and kind words. It was early on a Friday when he arrived at the inn with the intention of paying his compliments to Alice and gambling some silver away in hopes that this would be the night that she would put him out of his lust-lorn misery. He hadn't even put his hat on the rack when Alice pulled him aside into the empty kitchen pantry.
“Tom O'Malley is coming after ye, Liam. He wants to mar that fine face of yours for dallying with his daughter. ” Alice said in an urgent whisper.
“Does he now?” Angel took her hand and kissed it without letting it go. “Would that make you sad to see me ruined?”
“It would be a crime to do such a thing.” She looked out into the kitchen, at the clomp of horses coming to a stop outside, before continuing. “The women of this town would weep for days.” She brushed some hair off his forehead with a small smile and sad eyes. “Now, run off home.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Bryne,” He said huskily as he took her other hand and kissed her palm. “Could this hunted rogue receive one sweet kiss before he flees?”
Alice blushed before nodding.
He raised her chin with his fingertips before laying one chaste kiss on her lips.
“You call that a kiss?” she asked before pulling him forward by his coat and kissing him passionately.
“Glad to be corrected.” He smirked.
She shook her head and giggled before shooing him out of the pantry and out the back door. He bowed low before putting on his hat and striding into the gloom of the dingy alley without a look back.
Angel strode into the kitchen and sat down on a stool at the island table. A pot was simmering on the stove releasing a delicious scent. A bottle of red wine and a glass were set out on the counter next to a chopping board. Carrots were laid out by the sink.
“What will it be?” Joyce opened the cupboard as she asked, “Water or juice?” She looked at him, seeing his line of sight, and shook her head in amusement. “Or wine? You're over twenty-one right?”
He nodded. “For many years now.”
“I'd say only three years at most.” She laughed and it was a sound that cheered his undead heart. “It’s not fancy, but it’s probably better than what you'd find at a college party.” She brought out a glass and poured him some before joining him at the table with her own glass.
“I'll savor it then.” He said as they clinked glasses. “You were telling me about your gallery?”
“We'll be showing Pre-Colombian art of Central America from mostly Guatemala and Panama until Thanksgiving.” Joyce frowned. “You probably don't care?”
“No, I'm interested. I do a lot of sketching and I have always been a fan of the arts.” Angel took a sip. He found that he wasn't lying, it was refreshing to discuss art with someone, he hadn't done that in years. “Please go on.” Their conversation continued through two glasses of wine as Angel watched the play of emotions on Joyce's face and enjoyed her passion for her gallery.
It had taken him a month to coax Alice into his bed. That night, he had been helping her close the inn for the night during a heavy snowfall. He had her all to himself as the weather kept travelers and locals alike away. The servants had been dismissed long ago. Alice was drawing the drapes closed over the wide front windows as he stirred the fire with a poker, watching her.
“It’s hard to resist such a handsome man like you Liam” She turned to face him and untied the white shawl around her neck before dropping it on a nearby rough hewn table. “You've been sweet on me since St. Gertrude's day.”
He placed the poker back in the holder with a smirk. “Aye, that be true. You're too beautiful a woman to be languishing in widowhood.” He swaggered over to her.
Alice laughed, her eyes twinkling, before she said, “And, you'll take me before the priest?”
“No, but I will help you wile away the time before a respectable man comes along to whisk you away.” He replied with his most charming smile as he cupped her cheek, brushing his thumb across her lips.
She returned his smirk and kissed his thumb. “As long as we're being honest with one another.”
He picked her up, set her on the table, before kissing her deeply as his hands roamed her satin covered back. Alice broke away from him to take off her frilly cap. His fingers finally felt those curls.
“To be honest, I haven't been to a museum or a gallery in years. ” Angel said as he reached for her glass to pour her more wine. “The last exhibit I saw featured Impressionists. Mostly Camille Pissaro and Alfred Sisley.”
“At MOCA in Los Angeles? Did you see-” Joyce began to ask when the door opened.
“Hey, Mom, sorry about being late, I've been scattered brained all day. I think I left my trapper keeper in my gym locker. ” Buffy said as she bounced into the kitchen with a backpack thrown over her shoulder. “Oh, hey, Angel, what's up?”
“Weren't we going to study at SCC? It’s closed by now, but we could go downtown to a cafe. Isn't there one called the Nest?” Angel asked.
“Nest?” Buffy's eyes widened as she realized his hidden meaning. “Oh, definitely. Sorry to leave you hanging, Angel, I'll just go grab my history stuff.” Her feet pounded on the stairs as she raced up to her room.
“It was good talking with you...” Angel stopped uncertain how to continue as he set down the wine bottle.
“Joyce. Just call me Joyce.” She held out her hand.
“It was nice, Joyce,” He shook her hand, fighting the urge to lay a kiss on the back of it, and smiled. “Maybe I can visit your gallery soon.”
“I'd like that.” She said as she stood up and went to the pot which had begun to bubble over. “Have a good night, Angel. See you, Buffy.”
Buffy returned to the kitchen with a grin. “Bye, Mom.”
“Good bye.” Angel stalked after Buffy with one last look at Joyce. She was turned away from him, her curly blonde hair hid her face, as she tended her stove.
“It wasn't horrible having to make small talk with my mom, right?” Buffy asked as she entwined her fingers with his when they got outside. She looked up at him and leaned in close.
He shook his head.
“Good.” She smiled. “What are you thinking about then?”
The wind had picked up, blowing his coat behind him, as they walked. Dead leaves drifted across the street. A bittersweet feeling overcame him as if he had just glimpsed a road not taken.
“Ghosts from the past.”