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Author's Note: Some dialogue borrowed from Offspring. Enjoy.

Absent Enemies.

"Okay. Last time we were working on not pulling your punches and your kicks. Right?"

Buffy and Cordelia nodded, while Fred looked at him dubiously. "Are you sure this is wise now, Angel? You weren't human the last time."

"I may be human, but I'm still equipped with demonic strength. So come on. Who's first?" He turned to his lover. "Buffy?"

The slayer obliged and sent a punch to his face. Angel stumbled, bending over, then rapidly straightened, trying to pretend that it did not hurt.

"Sorry, honey," Buffy remarked immediately. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine, just alittle out of practise."

"You're off your game," Cordelia observed. "It's because of the prophecy Wes and Gunn are trying to get their hands on. You think the end is coming."

Angel picked up one of the swords in the foyer, silently gesturing for the others to follow suit. "The end is not coming. Someone is always uncovering some ancient scroll, and they're always saying the same thing: that something terrible is coming. Do you know how many of these things I've seen in my very long life?"

"Four?" Cordy guessed.

"Three," Angel answered. "But there's nothing to worry about."

"Then why are Gunn and Wesley breaking and entering right now?" Fred asked.

"Breaking and entering is such a negative term. They are simply retrieving some missing pieces from the Nyazian Scroll. Just to make sure..."

"That the end is coming," Cordelia finished. "Well, all we can do is live each moment to the fullest and be grateful that we didn't throw too much money at the NASDAQ."

 


Meanwhile, in one of the rich neighbourhoods of Los Angeles, a large house was sitting pretty, having no idea that two defenders for the good fight were about retrieve a particular document from it's interior. Without anyone noticing, if they could help it.

Wesley Wyndam-Pryce crouched quietly near one of the large windows. Silently he gestured for Charles Gunn to join him. "Step one: Dobermans are happily gnawing on the steak. Alarm and vid lines are disabled," he trailed off to glance at the scanner in his hand, "and no infrared. Caught a break there. Step two: we cut a hole in the glass, snake in the mini-cam and scan the interior."

Gunn had been checking the window at this point, and as Wes placed a suction cap on it, he moved to the door. "If it's all clear, we disable the locks and bolts on the side door thus completing..." he trailed off as Gunn merely opened the door, "step three."

The two men entered the house. A cursory look around the room caused them to come to a halt, stare and whistle in appreciation.

"Can you believe this?" Wesley queried.

"Some guys collect old cars, some guys collect..." Gunn trailed off as he took a closer look at one of the demon heads in the collection. "It's like - the eye follows you wherever you go."

"Alright," Wes remarked eventually. "If you were the priceless remnants of the lost Nyazian Scroll, where would you be?"

"If I was priceless - I'd be in the vault," Gunn answered.

"The vault?" Wes repeated, turning to him in astonishment. "Your snitch never said anything about a vault!"

"I got a bad feeling about this," Gunn muttered.

"We'll figure something out. It's just a vault."

"Actually my bad feeling is more about the man standing behind you with the large revolver."

Wes turned to see the guy standing at the door. "Move and I'll kill you." He moved to pick up the telephone, gun still pointing at them.

"I hope you're calling the police," Wes remarked in a calm tone.

"You bet I am," the man replied.

"Good. You can explain to them why you keep so much GHB on hand." The ex-watcher moved to pick up a bottle he had taken a sniff of earlier. "You know, Rohypnol, the date rape drug."

"What?"

"Muslok Trancing Amalgam. Under the microscope it's virtually indistinguishable from GHB."

The man put down the receiver. "Alright. I won't call the police."

"I'm glad we understand each other."

"Until after I kill you."

"Oh."

Gunn meanwhile turned and picked up four glass red balls. "Hey, these worth a lot?"

"Yes. They're Cyopian conjuring spheres," the man replied.

"How much? Four figures each? Five? More?" He started juggling them.

The man looked concerned now. "Stop that!"

"Put the weapon down," Gunn countered. He waited a beat, then dropped one of the spheres. A large crash sounded. "Kind of delicate. Look, we're not thieves, we're investigators. Now, we need to look at your Nyazian Scrolls. Put the weapon down, because I'm getting kind of tired here."

The man finally yielded. "Alright!"

 


"Ow. That doesn't feel right," Cordelia was heard to remark as Wes and Gunn returned to the Hyperion with the document.

"Just relax. You have to bend."

"I don't bend there. - Okay. Now that's downright unnatural."

Buffy smiled at Cordelia's comments as Angel tried to help her position. "I know it feels strange, but if an attacker comes at you from behind, you wanna be able to shift all your weight immediately to your other foot so you can spin and kick. Here, you try it," She explained to others.

"Okay. That's probably enough for today."

"I'll say, or I have to ice every bone in my body," Cordelia remarked as she put her sword away and moved to sit in the nearest chair. Fred walked up to the computer, while Angel turned to his soulmate. "You ready?"

Buffy raised her sword to her face in classic duelist salute. "Bring it on."

Gunn moved to see what Fred was doing at the laptop. "What are you doing there?"

"Trying to narrow down a date. Oh, it's a simple equation. The ancient Roman calendar has fourteen hundred and sixty-four days in a four-year cycle. The Etruscan, Sumerian, and Druidian each have their own cycles. You work forward from the presumed day of the prophecy under each calendar, factoring in our own three hundred and sixty-five day calendar and accounting for a three day discrepancy for every four years and..." she trailed off as the first result came up. "Oh. That can't be right. Unless the world ended last March."

"So, are we talking Armageddon - or bad house number?" Gunn asked, throwing another glance to the sparring match. "Is it a bad event - or a bad guy?"

"It's not clear on that," Wesley answered him, looking up from the scroll. "It predicts the arrival or arising of the Tro-clan, the person or being that brings about the ruination of mankind. And I'm not sure on the translation. Ruination may in fact mean purification."

"Purification?" Gunn queried. "So this Tro-clan is a good thing?"

"I doubt that. But it's purification in Aramaic, ruination in ancient Greek and in the lost Ga-shundi language it means both."

"And you don't want to make the same mistake twice," Cordelia commented.

"No," Wes agreed curtly.

"What mistake?" Fred asked.

"The Shanshu prophecy," Wesley explained. "Originally, I thought the word meant Angel would die, when in fact," he gestured to the now living person in front of them.

"There. That came out better," Fred remarked, looking at second result on the laptop. "Oh. No it didn't. It's still very preliminary, but if these calculations are correct, this bad thing should already be here. Well, I-I guess not right here, but - here in LA. Let me run these numbers again."

Gunn turned to watch the sparring match, then jumped from his seat and walked over to them. "Mind if I join in?"

Angel shook his head and stepped back, handing him the sword. He smiled at his girlfriend. "Go easy on him."

"Hey," Gunn commented. "I'm human too you know."

"Yeah, but you're not a natural born slayer," Buffy commented as she saluted him. "Ready?"

Gunn nodded. "Bring it on."

 


A busy arcade, kids and noise everywhere. A little blond boy stands in the middle of the confusion, looking around.

"Mommy? - Mommy? - Mommy?"

A young looking blond woman walked up to him. "What's wrong, honey? Lost your mommy? Let's go find her together, hm?"

The boy nodded and took her hand. As the two walked off into the distance, the vision faded away.

And the seer practically screamed.

The entire ensemble of Angel investigations stopped at the sound. Gunn and Buffy put an end to their sparring, the former looking grateful for the interruption. Fred looked up from her laptop, Wes from the ancient scroll translation. Angel wandered to her side. "Easy, easy! What did you see?" He asked her.

"Darla," Cordelia replied, grimly. "She's back."

Buffy and Angel scrambled up to grab some stakes and their jackets. "Where?"

 


"Ma'am," the little boy began, "I don't think my mom is back here."

"Are you sure? Did you look?"

The boy looked around. "I don't see anybody." He turned back and screamed as the lady showed her true face.

Suddenly a whistling noise sounded through the air as a wooden tipped arrow headed straight for the blond woman, landing in her chest near her heart. Darla looked up as she received the shot to growl at the shooter as she recognised her. "You again."

Angel left the slayer's side at that moment and ran across the arcade games, tackling Darla against the wall. He had a stake in his hand and thrust it towards her heart. Darla put a hand up and deflected the stake's trajectory, letting it pierce her hand. The boy ran away into his mother's arms as the area rapidly deserted.

Darla pushed Angel away, and he landed on one of the tables nearby. Buffy reloaded her crossbolt.

Her soulmate rose up from the table, throwing a punch on Darla as she came up to him. "You haven't got tired of her yet, Angel?" She asked her old paramour as she easily countered the punch.

"What can I say," Angel countered her remark, "I prefer my own kind."

"Your own kind?" Darla repeated. "You're a vampire."

Buffy fired her shot. Angel heard the whistle and stepped out of the way.

"Not anymore."

Darla only had time to wonder at the phrase before turning into dust for the second time. Angel stood looking at her remains for only a moment. "I hope this time, no one calls you back."

 


"Well!" Cordelia remarked when the two had returned. "Another big fun day at Angel Investigations. What do you say we pour ourselves a good stiff..."

"Uh-oh," Fred remarked suddenly.

"A good, stiff uh-oh?" The seer repeated.

"Remember before when I said I thought that maybe, possibly, perhaps I might have been off in my earlier calculations? And Wes thought if the Tro-clan was prophesied to arise or be born or it could be both? And we all know that the Latin for arrive is arripare, to come to land or possibly in this instance simply to come to, as from a deep sleep? Right. I believe that whatever this thing is, it's arriving right about, three, two, now."

The gang stood silently waiting. The slayer was the first to break it. "Usually, when Giles remarks 'oh dear,' the customary warning of impending doom, it tends to burst in right about now."

"Over here," Gunn remarked, grimly, "it tends to happen at Wolfram and Hart."

 


In a round chamber, lit by fires in the alcoves along the wall, with a pillar supported ceiling and a stone statue forming a triangle with another couple of bowls of fire, a demon came to a halt. The same demon that Lilah Morgan had decided to let out of a urn a few nights ago.

"The weight of time is heavy on the world. And all men born must die. But there are worlds unknown, where dreamers dream and sleepers sleep, and patiently await. As pledged in Caladan by Cod-she," Sahjhan paused to throw some powder at the statue. "One shall awaken in the first year of the final century. That one, who lived before and joined Cod-she in the great sleep. Arise, as was promised and foretold. Arise. Arise!"

Nothing happened. The demon turned away and walked over to one of the fires and lit himself a cigarette. Turning back to watch the statue, he checked his watch and took another drag.

Suddenly the room began to shake and blue lighting flashed. The eyes of the statue turned into two open, human pupils. The statue cracked then crumbled to the ground in a cloud of dust.

Sahjhan put out his cigarette and walked over to the figure huddled in the middle of the remains.

"Welcome to the twenty-first century. Angelus is here. You'll see him soon. You haven't used your muscles in a very long time. It will be a while before you're strong enough to..."

The figured straightened. "Just tell me where he is," Holtz remarked.

The End.
To Be Continued In

Of Past & Future Concern.