Of Demons and Angels

Stomach finally full, the burning in his veins quiet once more, Archer licked his pale lips clean of blood, running a tongue over his fangs. A rather cruel, satisfied smile spread across his face as he threw the body to the side, careful to draw a knife across the man's throat to cover up the distinctive markings made by his teeth. Bloodless, the body was pale underneath the stars, the moon. Archer knew that, when the police found him, they'd explain away the lack of blood by saying that he had clearly been killed somewhere else; the missing blood must be at the original crime scene.

The vampire chuckled darkly at that, surprised at the stupidity humans were so often capable of.

With his business taken care of and the sun close to rising, Archer took off at a brisk walk, his feet padding softly against the rain-damp cement. As he walked, though, he became increasingly aware of a set of footsteps shadowing him. He hadn't noticed at first because they were so soft- almost as soft as his own. Frowning, he paused, listening intently. The other pair of footsteps had stopped as well.

Scowling as threateningly as possible, he spun on his heel, ready to fight and ready- as always- to kill if it became necessary. Except…there was no one there. The anger in his expression turned into confusion. Until, that is, a soft mew drew his attention downward.

It was a cat. A small, white cat with a spot of black on its chin. Green eyes stared up at him expectantly as the cat mewed again.

He blinked, staring at the creature. It mewed again and pawed at his foot- it had gotten surprisingly close. "Shoo," he ordered it, shaking his foot at it. The animal ducked the foot, but did not move otherwise. It just stared up at him with those green eyes.

"Mew?"

He glared at it. "Shoo!" he growled, waving his arms, hoping to scare the creature. The cat didn't even flinch. Frustrated now, the vampire bent down and grabbed the cat by the scruff of the neck and hefted it up to eyelevel. "I said 'shoo'," he told it quite seriously. It only hung there limply, staring at him. Always staring at him.

He growled, thinking, perhaps, to throw it. But then he noticed how light it was, how small and dirty. The white fur- made grey in some places by grime and dirt- was wet and matted down. The small creature shook violently with cold, and when Archer ran his other hand down its side, he was startled to feel the animal's ribs. Reluctantly, he released its scruff and instead held it in the palm of one hand. It was really very small.

"Why are you following me?" he demanded of it, but the cat didn't even offer a meow in response. It just sat in his palm, shivering. Though he never would have admitted it, something in him seemed to soften in response, and he asked- voice still gruff-, "Are you cold? Is that it?" The cat's shivering served as confirmation. Again, he touched his other hand to the animal's sides and back, feeling the creature's vertebrates and ribs. In a softer voice, he asked, "Are you hungry?" This time, the animal offered a weak mew in reply.

Archer sighed; hunger was something he knew far too well. Though, in his case, 'thirst' would be a better way to describe it.

Knowing that he was going to regret this, the vampire pulled the creature close and tucked it under his jacket, finding that it fit nicely in the spot just above his heart. As he began walking, though, he realized that, through the thin material of his t-shirt, he could feel the little cat's heart beating quickly.

And, eyes widening, he was surprised to find that he could also feel it purring.

******

He honestly couldn't believe he was doing this.

"You're going to want some kitten food…"

He was a vampire! A creature of the night! One of the damned, for Christ's sake!

"…and some dishes for food and water…"

He was not adopting a kitten!

"…and the little guy-" the saleswoman paused to examine the kitten. "I'm sorry. The little girl will probably want some toys too. Oh, and you'll need a litter box and some cat litter. Don't worry about training her; cats naturally seek out sand to do their business in."

He could feel his left eye starting to twitch. Before it could start, though, Archer took a deep breath and closed his eyes. When he opened them, he saw that the saleswoman had taken the little ball of fluff and was currently cradling it against her neck. The creature was still dirty but no longer wet or cold- probably because it had spent the last half hour curled up next to his chest. Contrary to popular belief, vampires weren't actually cold. At least, not if they fed regularly.

"Oh, what a cutie you are!" the woman gushed, and Archer could feel that twitch coming on again. "Aren't you so lucky that the nice man decided to take you in?" She beamed at Archer. He, however, had to force himself to return the expression, which he was sure looked more like a grimace than a smile. Nice? Nice?! She thought he was nice?

"Well," he said through gritted teeth, "if you want her, I'd be more than happy to let you take her off my hands."

For a moment, the woman looked surprised. Then, though, a smile spread itself across her face once more as she pressed her cheek against the cat's filthy, yet still soft hide. "Oh," she gushed, "I'd love to take this little sweetie home with me…" Archer felt the beginnings of a smile tug at his lips; maybe he could actually get rid of the fur ball! "…but I live in a no-pets apartment complex." Perhaps seeing the look on his face, she nodded. "Yeah. I know. It sucks."

Before he could try to persuade her to take the tiny creature regardless of whatever rules governed her apartment building, the woman shifted tactics. "Well, I'm going to go gather all the stuff you'll need for little-" She frowned. "What's her name anyway?"

Archer shrugged. "I don't know: Cat?"

The saleswoman seemed to stare at him in horror. "You can't call her that!" she exclaimed. Before the vampire could demand to know why he couldn't call her that- after all, that's what she was, wasn't it?-, the woman barreled on, "How about…Angel? Doesn't she look like an Angel to you?"

Archer narrowed his eyes. No matter how angelic the damn cat might look, there was no way in hell he was going to call it that. "I don't think-"

"Angel it is, then!" the woman proclaimed proudly. "I'll go get you a collar too, so that everyone will know you've got a home." She touched the kitten's nose, making its eyes blink closed. Still smiling, she looked to Archer. "What's your address?"

With a defeated sigh, he gave it to her.

******

Having returned home from the twenty-four hour pet store- who knew such a thing even existed?- and having laid out food, water, and a sandbox for the damn kitten, Archer made his way around the apartment, closing the curtains. Soon, the few rooms that he called his own were shielded from any stray rays of sunlight that might decide to invade his home. The touch of normalcy was welcome and gave him a chance to ask himself-

"What the hell am I doing?"

-as he stared at the fluff ball. The little cat was currently crouched in front of its two food dishes, drinking water desperately. He stared at it for a long time, wondering why he had bothered to take it home. Why hadn't he just thrown it aside, or- barring that- why hadn't he given it to someone else, someone who might actually want a cat?

To his disappointment, he found that he didn't really know. And now, with the sun already starting to rise, he knew that it was far too late for him to do anything but keep the damn thing- at least for now. "Fine," he told it, "but tomorrow…you're going straight to the animal shelter."

For a moment, it turned from its food dish, staring at him with its penetrating green eyes. "Mew?" it seemed to question mournfully. Archer scowled in reply.

"I am not having a conversation with a cat, dammit! Especially not one named Angel." He shuddered at the name, horrified to see it glimmering at him from the creature's collar. "And I am not so lonely that I need the company of a cat…" he muttered under his breath, pausing when he realized what he had just admitted.

He was lonely.

The thought startled him, frightened him. After all, he had always thought of loneliness as something irrevocably…human. Not something vampires had to deal with at all. And yet…the more he considered it, the more he knew that, yes, he was lonely.

And, perhaps, even the company of a cat- a kitten, really, not even worthy of the title 'cat'- would be welcome.

Bristling at the realization, he hissed at the creature, "Fine! But you aren't sleeping in my room!"

Finished eating, the little cat simply wandered across the old carpeting and rubbed against his leg, purring lightly. She looked up at him and, paws stretching up his calf, said, "Mew." In some back corner of his mind, he could almost imagine that it was a 'thank you'.

Sighing again, he bent down and scooped the little creature into one hand. Angel- ugh, that name!- was still unspeakably, shamefully light, but he knew that, after a few weeks of proper feeding, she would reach a proper weight. The grime obscuring her white coat, however, could be dealt with immediately.

A semi-cruel smile curled his lips as he said, "Bath time, fur ball."

He had expected the cat to growl, to hiss, to bite, to scratch- somehow to defy him. In essence, he expected the damn thing to give him an excuse to get rid of it. But Angel- who seemed determined to live up to her name- only cried plaintively as he poured warm water over her back. She looked so pathetic, so…helpless, that he mercifully lifted her out of the tub after a few minutes- just long enough to wash most of the grime off; she could take care of the rest herself.

Tucked inside a hand towel, she started shivering again, still mewling plaintively. Eventually she was dry enough- and calm enough- to be freed from the towel, and he set her down, watching as the little cat stretched and immediately started cleaning herself. Rolling his eyes, Archer threw the towel in the hamper and muttered, "There. You're clean, you're warm, you've been fed and watered; you don't need me anymore, so leave me alone."

The kitten paused in its task, staring up at him with those bright eyes. Then, it simply blinked and resumed cleaning.

With nothing left to do, Archer retreated into the darkness of his bedroom, sinking into the soft cotton sheets. He had shut the door behind him, feeling somehow triumphant that the kitten would be unable to bother him during the daylight hours as it had during the moonlit ones.

So, it was much to his dismay when- not even twenty minutes after he had laid down- he heard the kitten scratching at the door. It didn't take much effort to decide to ignore the damnable creature, and the tired vampire simply pulled a pillow over his head. Given a vampire's extraordinary hearing, this wasn't particularly helpful, but it made Archer feel better and so the pillow remained.

This proved to be a rather effective strategy against the kitten's insistence that it should be allowed into his room…until Angel decided to add a rather plaintive cry for admittance. Archer was determined to ignore the small creature, but he soon felt himself wearing down. Damn that cat… he growled mentally, rising from his comfortable bed to open the door. He had thought to glare at the small, white bundle of fluff, but as soon as he opened the door, the cat shot past him and jumped up onto the bed, curling into a small ball- on top of his pillow, no less!

For a moment, the vampire just stared. Then he released a slow breath, muttering, "God-damn cat," under his breath as he pushed the creature off his pillow so that he could climb back into bed. The kitten looked perturbed- for a moment. Then, she simply yawned and curled up on top of his chest, underneath the covers.

Archer thought about pushing her off, but eventually decided to let her be; she would only climb back on top of him, after all.

Then, kitten and vampire drifted off to sleep.

******

The following days proceeded very similarly. When Archer returned home from his midnight hunts, preparing for sunrise, he would shut the door of his bedroom obstinately behind him. Only minutes or sometimes, even just a few seconds later, though, Angel would start scratching at the door, then crying to be let in. Eventually, Archer would relent and allow the kitten access; the two would sleep peacefully together for the rest of the day.

One day, though, after a particularly long night, Archer staggered in through the door, his breathing labored. Just barely remembering to lock the door behind him, he made his way around the house, closing the curtains. Then, he grabbed a towel from the bathroom and stumbled into bed, pressing the towel against his side, where the knife had slipped through his ribs and punctured his lung. Archer could see that the left side of his chest seemed sunken, deflated. And the pain-! God, even after two hundred years, it wasn't any easier to bear the pain.

Slowly, he closed his eyes and found himself wondering, Would it really be so bad to die? Hand pressed against the wound, towel quickly becoming soaked with his blood, the vampire rolled the idea around in his mind. It would be so easy to push aside the curtains, to let the sunlight dry his blood, to let it destroy his immortal body. On nights like this, it was hard to imagine that the Hell that surely awaited him in the afterlife might be worse than the human world.

Another shuddering breath passed through him. The knowledge that the wound wouldn't- couldn't- kill him was no comfort. If anything, it made his suffering more unbearable. On nights like this, he could not help but wonder- what was the point in continuing? Why prolong the inevitable? One of these nights, the knife- or the stake or some other sharp implement- wouldn't miss. One of these days, he'd forget to close the curtains, or he wouldn't make it back to his den before dawn.

He was immortal in principle, certainly, but in practice, he knew it was simply a matter of time.

So, why continue? His family was long dead, and whatever descendents he might have were of no interest to him. His friends were dead as well. His sire was a bastard whom he had no intention of ever talking to again, if it could be helped. And for all these many years, love had eluded him. So, what was the point? He had no fledglings of his own, nothing to tie him to this Godforsaken rock- why was he still here, dammit!

Weakly, he reached out with one bloodstained hand, stretching for the cord that would open the curtains and leave him exposed to the sun's cleansing rays. Before he could even touch the rope, though, a soft body pressed itself against his cheek.

Archer frowned. The hell-? He had forgotten all about the little cat, the little angel in his household. He had also, in his distracted state, forgotten to close his bedroom door. But Angel, it would seem, had not forgotten him. She rubbed her cheek against his once more, and Archer could hear her purring quietly. He could smell the light musk of her fur, the slightly oily scent that was somehow very pleasant, very calming. To his surprise, he then felt a warm, rough tongue on his cheek. All the while, the little cat continued to purr.

Closing his eyes again, Archer allowed his hand to drop back to his side. The pain was still there, and it was still difficult to breath, but he found that if he focused on the tiny animal's ministrations, it was not so consuming. Eventually, Angel curled up by his ear- warm body pressed as closely against him as possible-, purring all the while. Archer quickly fell asleep to the quiet thrumming.

When Archer rose the following night, his wound was healed completely; a day's rest was the cure for almost any injury. And the next morning, he left the bedroom door open without a fuss: a silent offering of thanks.

******

Archer, again, clamped his mouth shut, trying to keep his temper in check. But the damnable child wouldn't leave him alone.

"Hey- mister!"

Shooting a glare the child's way, he ground out, "Yes?"

"What's in the box?"

Again, he grit his teeth and looked down at the cat carrier in his lap. "A demon from Hell," he replied dryly, casting another glare at the child- whose eyes seemed to widen with fear. From within, though, Angel seemed to take offense at the remark and let out a soft mew, relaxing the child.

"That's not a demon!" he shrieked, "It's a cat!"

Archer closed his eyes, reminding himself that it would not be appropriate to tear the brat's head from his body- there were too many witnesses at the moment. Suddenly, though, the child was practically in his lap, grubby hands reaching for the cat carrier. "Let me see!" he ordered.

Archer couldn't help it; as soon as the child's pink hand touched the cat carrier, he leaned forward, so that his face was only inches from the child's face and hissed, low and deep. A flash of fang and blood-red eyes were enough to send the child scrambling backwards, crying for his mother. Settling back in his seat, Archer was well aware of the appalled looks many of the others seated sent his way, but he didn't particularly care. He was simply happy to have some peace once more.

From within the cat carrier, Angel offered a quiet, "Meow." Archer felt a small frown tug at his lips as he inserted a finger through the bars, stroking the cat as best he could.

"It's for your own good," he replied gruffly, softly. The angel only mewed plaintively once more in reply.

Before Archer could offer any more words of 'encouragement', a young woman dressed in pink scrubs emerged from the hallway, "A. Fletcher?" she asked.

Straightening- careful not to jostle the cat carrier too much-, Archer stood. She looked to him and smiled gently. "Right this way," she said, walking from the waiting room and into the interior of the vet's office.

Archer followed in silence, trying not to choke on the various scents flooding his nose. From within her carrier, Angel cried out once more, apparently as disturbed by the place as Archer himself. He hushed her again, not liking the way her plaintive cries seemed to set him on edge- as if his body was preparing for a fight. Finally, the woman led him into a small exam room that smelled heavily of disinfectant. "Wait right here," she told him, "The doctor will be with you shortly."

He nodded, wordless, and took a seat in an available chair. Again, Angel meowed mournfully, earning the aide's attention. "You can let her out of the carrier," she said before flashing him a bright smile- which he did not return- and leaving.

As soon as the door shut behind her, he grunted and opened the cat carrier, pulling the small kitten from the box. As he lifted her, Archer could not help but smile. A few weeks had passed since he had rescued her, and the kitten had put on an appropriate amount of weight; she was now a happy, healthy little cat. Her fur was a pristine white, soft as silk to the touch and scented with a light muskiness that was rather pleasant. Only that small black spot on her chin served to mar the purity of her white coat. And, as always, her green eyes were bright in her pale face.

"Hello," he greeted her, holding the kitten in two large hands, "Glad to be out of that box, aren't you?"

She mewed what sounded like an affirmative. A smirk touched his lips and he set the kitten in his lap, cat carrier resting on the floor at his side. Apparently much more comfortable now that she was out in the open, Angel hopped daintily to the floor and proceeded to bat at dust motes floating through the air. Archer, however, couldn't help but note that she never strayed more than three feet from him.

Unable to stop himself, the vampire felt a smile curl his lips as he monitored the kitten from a few feet away. He was loath to admit it…but the damn thing was starting to grow on him. It was…pleasant to have someone to come home to after his nighttime antics- even if that someone was a cat. Especially if that someone was a cat- after all, cats were predators by nature.

His grin widened as Archer remembered returning home one night to find his little angel playing with a mouse. The little creature had been huddled in a corner of the room, curled in on itself as it tried to withstand the cat's harsh blows. Angel had just been playing, of course, but regardless, the mouse had eventually died- its little heart had probably exploded with fear.

Again, Archer grinned at the thought. Angelic though she was, the kitten was still a predator- something Archer could certainly appreciate and relate to.

His smirk faded, however, as he heard a set of footsteps approaching. Turning toward the door, he waited until the veterinarian entered. She was tall and slim- a pair of rimless spectacles framing her blue eyes quite nicely. Young and beautiful; immediately, Archer felt his fangs lengthen, reminding him that he needed to feed.

Ignoring the instinct, he turned and scooped the white kitten up into his arms- while trying to maintain both his dignity and the intimidating air that generally followed a vampire wherever he went. A particularly difficult task when holding a small, white kitten named 'Angel'.

And it would appear that the kitten's presence canceled out any intimidation the vet might have felt. She looked instantly to the kitten held loosely- but securely- in his hands, a smile already painting her features when she looked upward to meet his eyes. "Hello, I'm Dr. Cook. And this is…?" She again looked to the kitten.

"Angel," Archer grumbled reluctantly, trying not to wince when her smile widened.

"Angel," the vet mused, "A good name for this little one." She reached out and trailed a hand down the kitten's back, eliciting a pleased mew. "Why don't you put her on the exam table?" The doctor held out a slender hand, gesturing for him to do just that.

Wordless, Archer complied, setting Angel on the metal table. He watched her carefully- wanting to be sure that she would not tumble off or jump. The damn cat had a tendency to do that, and it always made Archer think she was going to break something because she looked so goddamned fragile! The cat was always fine though, and whenever she did it, she would always look to him and mew easily- as if to ask, 'What are you so worried about? I know what I'm doing.' Which, of course, only made him scowl.

"So," the vet began, examining Angel, "What are we here for? First shots?"

"Yes," Archer said tersely.

The vet gave a pleased smile. "Good. And you'll be wanted to get her spayed too- of course." The way she narrowed his eyes at him made Archer feel as if she was testing him- or as if she was threatening him.

The thought almost made him laugh. As if this wisp of a woman was any threat to him- or as if he cared at all what she thought of him.

Still, he nodded. "Yes."

The calculating look left her eyes. "Oh, good," she purred, stroking the cat, "Then you can set a date with the receptionist in the main office. How old is she?"

The vampire frowned. "I think she's two months old."

The vet examined the cat. "A little small for two months, but otherwise, I'd agree. So, sometime in the next six months would probably be just fine. So, we'll give her a FVRCP shot and then…." The vet continued, detailing all the different shots that should be done within the next few months. Archer, bored, just nodded, though he did pay attention- after all, this was important.

At the end, the vet smiled and said, "Alright, then. You can talk to Sheila about all of that- she'll set up appointments for you. And an aide will be with you in just a few moments to administer the vaccination, alright? Any questions?"

After a moment, Archer asked, "Yes; is there any possibility of having the surgery done at night? I work during the day and won't be able to get away until sunset."

The woman's smile didn't waver. "Of course. Like I said, you can work all of that out with Sheila. Alright, now, I've got other patients to attend to." She gave him a slight nod in goodbye, before giving Angel a quick pat on the head. And, with that, she was gone.

As promised, an aide was in only moments later, a vial and a syringe in hand. Smiling, she greeted Angel gently before turning to Archer and demanding- almost roughly-, "Hold her."

Raising an eyebrow at her tone- and holding back his first instinct to show her who was superior-, the vampire laid a pair of surprisingly gentle hands on the kitten, holding her in place. She mewed at him curiously, but made no move to escape; she trusted him.

The aide looked over them briefly before giving a grudging nod of approval. Then, with ease, she drew some of the clear liquid into the syringe and, moving so quickly that even Archer was a bit surprised, stuck the needle into the kitten's small body.

Angel shrieked.

Archer immediately flinched, his sensitive ears pained by the kitten's protest. Even after the cry had faded away, after the aide had left entirely, Archer still felt pain. It was different from the physical pain that he had initially experienced, though. This time, the pain he felt was not physical, was not centered around a physical body part. It felt almost as if his soul itself was wounded- if only slightly.

Which was strange because, as far as he knew, he didn't even have a soul. Not anymore, at least.

******

The vampire couldn't help it. He laughed. A hoarse, broken laugh that he had not used since his time as a human. It shook his body, made his stomach hurt, and brought tears to his eyes; he couldn't even remember the last time he had felt like this.

When the laughing fit had finally died down, Archer heaved a sigh of relief and returned his attention to the kitten- nearly a cat, now- which had been the cause of his unseemly outburst.

She sat in the middle of the worn apartment, a stunned expression on her face. A plastic cone encircled her head, making it impossible for her to lick or bite the stitches on her stomach from the spaying. A few moments ago, she had been tearing through the rooms at top speed- trying, Archer assumed, to escape the cone strapped around her neck. Currently, she seemed stunned that it had managed to hold on even after she had expended such a great effort to escape.

The thought brought another raw chuckle to his throat, choking him.

For a few more moments, he watched her- his little angel- as she again began racing through the small apartment, still hoping to dislodge the cone. A small smile- a human smile, devoid of fangs- touched his features and every once in a while, another low chuckle would force its way past his lips. When he finally decided that she had been doing that for long enough, he grabbed one of her toy mice and threw it in her path, smile widening when she immediately dove for it and started gnawing on the catnip-stuffed toy.

Sighing once more, he rose from the couch and moved to check her food and water. He would only be gone for a few hours, but he would never forgive himself if he allowed her to go hungry. Before he stepped out the door, he checked the mirror- as he always did- for any vampirisms. To his surprise, though, he found not a flash of fang or a dot of red in his eyes, but he did find two lines of wetness flowing down his cheeks.

Tears.

He blinked and reached out to touch the mirror- forgetting for a moment that it was his own face reflected there. With a slight, disbelieving shake of his head, he brought his hand back and touched his cheek, surprised to feel the wetness there. Even more so, he was surprised that the liquid wasn't touched by blood, gave no indication of his vampiric taint.

Slowly, he brought his finger to his mouth and ran his tongue over the tip of his finger. Again, he found no hint of his vampiric nature- only a saltiness that was purely human. He stared at his reflection in wonder for a few more minutes, still stunned.

Then, he felt a soft body press against his calf. Looking down, he saw Angel rubbing against his leg- or, at least, as best as she could with the plastic cone around her neck. Careful of her stitches, he picked her up gently and looked in the mirror again. He could hear her purring softly. He shook his head slightly. "You're a bad influence," he muttered and stepped back into the heart of the small apartment.

And there he remained for the rest of the night. After all, he didn't have to feed every night.

******

Twenty years was a long time for a cat. But for a vampire, it was only the blink of an immortal eye. In truth, Archer had been expecting it- his angel had not been herself the past few days. She had looked up at him with old, tired eyes; the once-vibrant green faded to a dusty jade. She had stopped cleaning herself, her fur losing its silken sheen. Yes, he had known, had expected it- had even hoped for it. He had been able to see it in her eyes; she was tired, she was hurting, and she was ready.

He just hadn't expected it to hurt so much.

She was a cat, dammit! he told himself for the fifth time. Or perhaps it was the fiftieth. In any case, it hadn't helped improve his mood any more than the other four- or forty nine- times. Gritting his teeth- fangs fully extended, ready to bite, to cause pain because dammit, he was hurting and he wanted to spread that pain, wanted to make the world see how much it hurt!, he stalked from the room, from the small apartment and slammed the door behind him; he was going to deal with his grief like a vampire.

He was going hunting.

******

He wanted beauty- and he found it. He wanted purity- and he found it. He wanted innocence- and he found it. She was perfect. A child of everything good embodied in humankind. Platinum blond hair formed a halo around her sun-touched face. Green eyes flickered behind her eyelids in REM sleep.

Smirking, feeling the tension coiled within his clawed hands, Archer trailed a feather-light finger over her lips, eliciting a small sigh from the child. He thought of her as a child because of his superior age, but in reality, she was a young woman- probably around nineteen or twenty.

Archer had found her a few months ago- stumbled across her, really. At the time, he had not wanted beauty or purity or innocence. He had wanted deformity and corruption and cruelty. Before he had found it, he had found her, and he had left her. Because he could not, at the time, bear to destroy her beauty, her purity, or her innocence.

But now? Oh, God, how he wanted to hurt her, maim her, kill her- to forget, for a moment, how much he hurt and how stupid he felt for feeling so hurt.

She was just a ca-

He cut himself off, fingers starting to tremble. He made a fist to stop the trembling. The woman, unaware of his torment, unaware of the danger only inches from her, sighed in her sleep, enjoying a pleasant dream. Slowly, his lips raised over his teeth in a silent snarl. Oh, yes. He wanted to utterly destroy her. Why? Because she was beautiful and pure and innocent. Because, right now, he wanted to destroy something that had been born of humanity's goodness.

And she was the perfect candidate.

Flexing his hands, upper lip pulled back to expose his lengthy canines, Archer lunged forward, taking hold of her upper arms in a steel grip. If she lived long enough, a ring of bruises would form- but the vampire did not plan for that to happen. Green eyes started to flicker open, but he caught them with his own and ordered, "Sleep."

Her lips parted in a silent exhale as her lids slowly descended over her bright irises.

A smile twisted his lips, tainted by hollow victory. The tips of his fangs pressed insistently against his lower lip, creating two small dimples. He raised her up, iron grip holding her upper body steady. Her head flopped back, exposing a pale throat. Keen eyes could see her pulse beating steadily, easily beneath a patch of skin. He ran a red tongue over his fangs, feeling the ache begin beneath the surface of his skin, seeming to echo with each beat of his heart. He needed to feed.

But first….

Still smirking, he shifted his grip, so that one hand cradled her shoulders, keeping her chest elevated, her head back, and leaving one of his hands free. Again, he touched her lips, gently at first. But then, his hand became suddenly heavy and crushed her mouth, pinched her nostrils shut. At first, she didn't react. But then, still trapped in her dreams, she started to struggle. His fingers tightened around her shoulder, bruising the flesh. She started to shake her head, but he tightened his grip; more bruises.

For a moment, he closed his eyes, listening to the thudding of her struggling heart. The once-peaceful rhythm had turned frantic, manic. Now, though, her struggles were becoming weaker, her heart was slowing dangerously. A low chuckle slipped past his lips as he drew his hand away. Immediately, the sleeping girl started to gulp at the air, her heart settling into a more normal rhythm. "That's right," he confided in her, "Your life is in my hands. From the moment I saw you, you belonged to me. It was because of my mercy that I allowed you to live. And now?" He paused to lean down, whispering into her ear. "Now, it is because of my will that you die."

A shiver of pleasure traveled through him at the words. His. She was his to admire and his to destroy.

Done playing, he lunged, burying his fangs deep in her throat, severing her carotid artery. Withdrawing his fangs, blood spurted into his mouth at even intervals. His eyes closed with ecstasy. She tasted better than anyone he had ever had- her blood was so sweet, so pure. It sent another set of shivers down his spine, his fingertips seeming to tingle with the sensation.

As he drank, he was vividly aware of her heart slowing. The spurts of blood were no longer at even intervals, were no longer as powerful as before. Now, it was slowing to a mere trickle. Still, he did not withdraw. She was his, and he would take everything she had to give him.

At least, that's what he had been planning until a soft, mew? made him stop. His eyes shot open, and he whirled around. "Ang-?" he began, but stopped when he saw the pure black, long-haired cat now sitting on the edge of the woman's bed.

"Meow?" the cat asked again, cocking its head quizzically.

He stared at it for a few moments, unaware or uncaring that the woman continued to bleed, her blood spilling out onto the white sheets, her pillow. He could hear the cat purring loudly. Shaking his head, trying to snap himself out of it, Archer turned back to the woman, staring at her extraordinary pallor and the trail of blood flowing down her throat. Already, an ugly bruise ringed her mouth and nose, another one swiftly developing around the bite.

Unexpectedly, guilt punched him in the stomach. He almost doubled over, suddenly queasy. What had he just done? Death had never really bothered him before; he had never really cared about his donors, his victims, but somehow…he could suddenly see that she didn't deserve this. This was not how she was meant to die.

His cocky words came floating back to him- 'From the moment I saw you, you belonged to me.' Now, though, he shook his head. No, she never belonged to me. I never had the right to-

But it was too late for regret. Archer had killed often enough to recognize the dying beat of her heart. There was nothing he could do for her now; he had taken too much, and she would die. It was as simple as that.

A black paw suddenly reached out and smacked his elbow. Frowning, he looked down at the cat. "What?" he demanded of it, suddenly frustrated at his past actions, at his current helplessness, "What the hell do you want me to do? She's going to die and that's the end of that. I'm no god- I can't raise the dead, dammit!"

He hadn't meant to shout, but the last few words had transformed into just that. Passing a frustrated hand over his face, he reached out with the other hand and ran it over the cat apologetically. His hand stilled on the cat's arched back, though, when he realized that- though he couldn't raise the dead- he was able to do something almost as good. But he would have to act quickly.

Without thinking, he raised his wrist to his mouth and, using his tongue to find a good artery, tore into the flesh, piercing the vessel. A great spurt of blood spattered the ceiling with red, but a heartbeat later, he had her mouth pressed to his wrist, covering the wound. "Swallow," he ordered, hoping she was still within his power- hoping that the last glimmer of life had not yet left her.

For a few seconds, he didn't think she would obey. Her throat was still, and Archer could barely hear her heart. But then, she swallowed the mouthful of vampire blood, a trickle of red liquid spilling between her lips and trailing down her chin. A relieved smile touched his features when she started to suck at his wound hungrily, drawing his blood into her depleted body. She was still weak, her heartbeat was still fading, but she would survive.

Just, not as a human.

******

Archer sat stretched out on the woman's couch, the black cat- 'Captain Jack', according to the collar- was curled in his lap, purring happily as he stroked it. It had been three days now; he was expecting her to wake soon. And if she didn't, then he would just have to accept that he had been too late. In either case, Archer had slowly come to the realization that such a decision was not normally something that should be made in the span of five minutes. Less, if he was being honest with himself.

But he would just have to live with the consequences of his actions.

He had chosen to spend the last few days in her apartment, figuring that it would be better for her to wake in familiar surroundings. And, really, it didn't seem like a good idea to drag what one could very well argue was a dead body into his own apartment. That would raise far too many questions.

He had spent most of that first disastrous night sun-proofing her apartment desperately. He had never been so grateful for twenty-four hour home improvement stores. The second night he had spent cleaning. Though he didn't mind a few drops of blood here and there- or spattered over the ceiling and drenching the ruined bed sheets-, he doubted that she would appreciate the sight when she awoke. Unfortunately, that had only absorbed about three hours of his time. For the rest of the night, he had explored her apartment, going through her stuff- privacy was superfluous in his opinion-, reading through some of her books. She was a fan of Jane Austen, it would appear. She also seemed unreasonably fond of poetry- Emily Dickinson in particular.

At the moment, though, Archer was engrossed by another poet's work. Robert Graves's "A Child's Nightmare".

"Purring in my haunted ear," the vampire murmured, "That same hideous nightmare thing, talking, as he lapped my blood-"

He heard a soft groan from the bedroom and stood, disturbing the cat. Carefully, he set the book of poems to the side and made his way into the bedroom. For a few moments, he stood in the doorway, watching her. A few times before, he had thought he heard such sounds of waking, but he had been proven wrong. This time, though, he saw the lump tucked tightly beneath the blankets shift. Immediately, he was at her side, one hand pressed against her shoulder- to hold her down- and the other gently cupping her cheek.

All movement stopped as a pair of vibrant green eyes stared up at him, wide with fear. Her mouth started working frantically, as if she was trying to speak or scream but couldn't find her voice. Archer only let out a slow sigh and said, "Peace," as he looked straight into her eyes. Immediately, he felt her relax beneath his hand. She closed her mouth, and her eyes were not so wide any more. The vampire gave a satisfied nod and looked over his new fledgling.

She was still beautiful. Perhaps, even more so. Archer did not know if her purity or her innocence had survived the change, but he didn't think that too important. She was a vampire now; in but a few weeks' time, both traits would disappear, shed like snake's skin.

No. Not like snake's skin. Like a child's milk teeth.

Speaking of teeth…. Archer pulled her upper lip back, examining her canines. Once more, he nodded his satisfaction and pulled back from her. Her green eyes followed him. "You are wondering who I am," he said softly as he watched her, "And…very soon, you will be wondering what I am, as well. What you are, now." His words did not alarm her; the suggestion he had planted in her mind did not allow that. "I promise to explain as best I can. But first, tell me your name, child."

When she spoke, her voice was hoarse, but still melodious. Archer could not help but note, subconsciously, that she would make a good vampire. "My-my name," she said softly, "is Angela."

Archer's eyes widened in surprise, his body going rigid- though one stubborn foot took a step away from the prone figure. With difficulty, he swallowed, still staring at her. Then, he looked away and shook his head. "Of course it is," he murmured, before a small bubble of laughter overtook him. He threw his head back and gave vent to his bitter humor. Finally, a few minutes later, he managed to retake control.

Archer sighed softly, stepping back to the bedside. He trailed a hand down her cheek, happy when she did not pull away- forgetful of the suggestion that would prevent it. "Well, Angela-" he loved the way her name rolled so easily off his tongue, "-I am Archer. And I am…glad to meet you." The words, he realized, were no lie; he truly was glad to meet her.

She studied him. "That takes care of who you are. So…what are you?"

A bitter smile curled his lips. "A vampire, like you."

The suggestion kept her calm. "A vampire? But…I'm not a vampire."

He shrugged. "You are now."

She cocked her head, visibly confused. Easily, Archer sat on the edge of her bed and explained. He did not mention Angel or why he had come to her that night- just said that he had been feeling 'particularly cruel' and left it at that. The suggestion kept her calm, made sure she accepted his every word rather easily. Archer wondered if she would be so pliant when he freed her from it, though, he very much doubted that.

Finally, when his story was finished, he stood, pulling her up with him. "It's time for you to feed. Come with me; I'll teach you."

The woman- the vampiress- froze. "I won't have to…kill anyone, will I?"

Looking at her curiously, Archer shrugged. "If you don't wish to, then you don't have to."

She looked at him, a touch of fright finally entering her eyes. His suggestion was beginning to wear off. "What…what about you? When was the last time…?"

"I killed?" Archer finished for her, earning an embarrassed nod. He shrugged nonchalantly, about to reply 'a little while ago', but he stopped, truly considering the question. Mentally, he reviewed his recent feeding habits and was stunned to realize that he hadn't killed anyone in almost twenty years- aside from the girl in front of him, of course. Swallowing his surprise, he said, "A few years."

The question seemed to relax her, and she stepped to the closet, pulling various pieces of clothing from their hangers. With a shy look, she pushed him from the room so that she could change. Patiently, Archer waited outside, still slightly stunned at his restraint. When was the last time he had had the urge to kill- ignoring the events three nights ago?

Almost twenty years ago.

Archer struggled with that for a few minutes, wondering what had changed, what had happened. Other than-

Angel. He had adopted Angel twenty years ago. And he had stopped killing for his food very soon afterward.

The realization stunned him. He shook his head. She was just a cat! How could…? Suddenly, though, that answer didn't seem quite as important as the realization. What had Angel done for him? She had cured his loneliness, had made him laugh. She had reminded him what it was to be human and had returned a few pieces of his humanity to him. A few pieces, perhaps, of his soul. Even if she was just a cat…perhaps that was all he had needed at the time.

Smiling slightly, he muttered, "Damn angels…."

"What was that?" Angela asked sweetly when she stepped from the bedroom, "I didn't quite catch it."

Still smiling, he shook his head. "Nothing you need to worry about." She seemed to accept that, though he could see new wariness in her eyes. Yes, his suggestion was wearing off- he would have to free her from it soon. After she's fed, he decided. Then he would discover what she truly thought of him, how she truly felt.

He was looking forward to that.

As they stepped out of her apartment, the vampiress asked, "Archer, why did you laugh when I said my name was Angela?"

Another chuckle escaped his lips at the question, but he just shook his head. "You don't need to worry about that." Still wary, she accepted that answer for the moment.

Archer studied her as they walked from the apartment, down the silent halls. He had almost answered, 'It's not important,' but he had almost immediately rejected that answer. It was untrue; that time was very important, for whatever reason. It didn't make much sense to him- not yet-, but Archer did not doubt that the damn cat had done something to him. Something good.

And he didn't doubt that Angela would complete the process.

Perhaps, he considered, she does not have to lose her milk teeth. At least, not immediately. I'll teach her what it is to be a vampire…and perhaps she can remind me what it is to be human.

His smile widened as they stepped outside, and Angela looked about her with wonder in her eyes. It was almost Christmas, and bright, twinkling lights decorated the street, reflecting off the snow in bright colors. "It's beautiful…" she murmured.

"Your eyes are more sensitive now. You can see color more brilliantly," he said, with a slight smile.

She looked to him and took his hand in a tight grip. "Look!" she said, tugging them toward a particularly colorful display, "Can we-?" She looked back at him, hesitant. He just shrugged.

"Why not?"

A brilliant smile lit her face, and she practically dragged him to the window, small gasps of excitement escaping her at every available opportunity. "Isn't it beautiful?" she asked, nose almost pressed against the window.

"Yes. It is." But Archer wasn't watching the twinkling lights. He was watching Angela, a pleased smile touching his features. She had escaped his suggestion. And she didn't hate him.

It was a start.

Mind unfogged by his suggestion, the new vampiress turned to her sire and asked quietly, "Archer?" He cocked his head inquisitively.

"Yes?"

"If I'm a vampire…do I still have a soul?"

Archer took a few moments to consider that, staring at the twinkling Christmas lights. Finally, after some careful thought, he replied, "…I believe so."

--

AN: Alright, this is possibly the weirdest story I have yet written. I have no idea where it came from or why, but here it is. I hope you enjoyed it despite its weirdness.