Rating: Oh, say PG-13.
Disclaimer: Not mine, in any way, shape or form. Title adapted from a Neil Gaiman short story.
A/N: What happened when the Harvest began? Starring Angel and Darla, with mention of Spike and Drusilla.
She was supposed to have been there. It was in the prophecy, clear as prophecies ever are: The Master will rise, and the Slayer will fall. And how could that be, if she wasn't in the same town as the Master? In any case, Whistler had said that this was where he needed to come. Well, he'd done as he was told, and she was nowhere to be found.
So Angel waited. And waited, walking the streets of Sunnydale each night, throughout the night, hoping to find her. What else could he do, after all, that wouldn't be suicide? Finally, though, he had to accept that he was on his own. She wasn't there, and wasn't coming, the night of the Harvest was approaching fast, and there was no one but him to face the Master.
He didn't realise that Darla was back at the Master's side until he saw her one night, in the company of another vampire, more recently sired, in the process of taking two captives back to the Master for food. He killed the younger - Thomas, he later discovered - with relative ease, before realising the identity of his companion. In the shock of the moment, he failed to notice that the vampire Luke was behind him, with a large chunk of rock in his hand. The last thing he saw before unconsciousness was the horror on the captives' faces, and when he woke up, they were gone. He memorised those faces - a gangly brown-haired boy and a pretty redhead - by way of penance, and as a vow to avenge them.
Darla came to him three days later, to tell him she'd saved his unlife. Luke, it seemed, had been all for staking him on the spot, had she allowed it.
She claimed she had forbidden it for sentimental reasons, which Angel did not believe for a moment - much more likely, she had wanted the Master's instructions before acting, in case the elder vampire had some use for him. Her next words only confirmed his suspicions.
"I have a deal to offer you, dear boy. The Master is willing to let you live, if you'll just agree not to interfere with his plans. All you have to do is stay away, and you live to fight the good fight another day." Her lip curled with scorn on the words "good fight", and it was clear she would have staked him on the spot, had she been sure of winning.
Angel looked at her steadily. "He really thinks I'm a threat, huh?" He walked up to her so he could look her straight in the eye, hands gripping her shoulders so she couldn't pull away. "Well, Darla, here's what you can tell the Master. I am going to send him, and all the rest of you, straight to Hell. Personally. You are going to leave here now and pass on the message. Clear?"
He didn't give her a chance to answer, before ensuring her departure. Through the mansion window. Well, it only seemed proper.
He didn't see her again until the time came for the Harvest - the only chance he'd get to end it before it was too late. Ironically, it was the Master's own offer that had finally convinced him to go in - if the elder vampire considered him enough of a threat to try dealing with him, it meant he had at least a fighting chance of winning.
The day came, almost the last possible minute, and still no Slayer. And so, before the Master sent out his warriors to feed on his behalf, Angel went to do what he could. Alone.
He saw the redheaded girl again, almost as soon as he'd got past the guards, leaving their dust behind him - but she was all too obviously no longer human. With no time to spare for her until the Master was dead, he simply studied her for a long moment, silently renewing his promise to avenge her, and adding a vow to set her free in the only way he could.
He made steady progress through the church, disposing of guards quickly - most of them were mere fledglings, and offered no challenge. Most didn't even think to come at him more than one at a time. Finally, he drew close to the Master's throne, where the elder vampire was sitting looking down at him, apparently without fear. A voice spoke behind him - Darla's voice - and he spun to look at her.
"Do you really think you can take him out, Angelus?" she asked, smiling. "You think he hasn't kept his best lieutenants in reserve, in case you ignored his offer?" She paused, then just as he was about to turn, pulled his attention back to her with a few simple words. "No, poor Drusilla's more like your mark, isn't she? A little girl, already half-mad from the Sight before you ever got to her. She sends her best wishes, by the way. At least, I think that's what she meant. That brutish paramour of hers was not nearly so complimentary, I'm afraid."
Angel stared at her, almost certain she was lying - she couldn't have seen them, it just wasn't possible - but with an edge of doubt. When he looked away with an effort, it was to see a small army standing between him and his goal - the best lieutenants Darla had mentioned earlier. He knew then that he'd been right - Darla's job had been to provide a distraction, in the last resort, and she had succeeded admirably.
Nevertheless, he had come to do a job, and he still had to try, though his chances had dropped dramatically. Steeling himself, he did the only thing possible - palmed his stake and rushed headlong at the Master's personal guard, hoping to break through and finish it before they caught him.
He didn't make it past the first two before the huge figure of Luke stepped into his path, sneering down at him. An enormous fist grabbed his arm and twisted, snapping it easily, before throwing him aside without apparent effort, hard into the stone wall. Dazed, Angel could barely resist as the vampires converged to haul him upright and hold him.
Darla stepped to the Master's side and listened to his quietly issued instructions before walking over to Angel with a look of pure contempt on her face. She barely spared him a direct glance before relaying her orders to the warriors holding him.
"Put him in the food cage. He's to be allowed to live." Turning, she beckoned to the redheaded girl. "Willow! How would you like a chance to play with our new puppy?"