by Wolfling

(Rated NC-17


Part 1


There were still times that the ghosts of the past would seem to superimpose themselves over the hell of the present, like a photograph that's been double exposed. It was something that happened far less than it used to, as the World Before became an ever increasingly distant memory and the present seemed intent on eradicating all traces of the past, no matter what the loss.

But it still happened to Angel every now and then; he'd catch sight of a city skyline where distance masked the changes, or he'd come across a building that had somehow miraclously remained largely undamaged, and for a brief moment his memory of what had been would threaten to overwhelm until the harsh reality of the present would shatter the illusion.

The building Angel now stood in front was one such illusion. He'd been sent here specifically because they'd received word that the Los Angeles Central Library was mostly intact, but still.... Even the best kept buildings nowadays showed some signs of damage. But this place... Other than some accumlation of soot from the ever present city fires, it looked pretty much the same as it had the last time he'd been there -- decades before the Burning, in the 1950s. No place could have survived all the panic and chaos and wars among the human and demon factions without receiving some damage. Not unless it had...

Angel put his hand on the door and felt a tingle of powerful magic go up his arm and through his entire body. Oh. Well that answered that mystery. The library was in the condition that it was in because someone or something had cast powerful wards around it, powerful enough to keep the chaos of this new world from spilling through its boundaries.

Angel stood perfectly still with his hand on the door for a slow count of fifty, waiting to see if the wards would also act to keep him out. But when nothing happened, he pushed the door open and stepped inside. There was another sharp tingle of magic that ran through his body, but that was all. Whether it be his species, his soul, or his intent, the wards seemed to deem him worthy of entry.

Utilising his decades' old memory of the place, Angel navigated his way through the empty hallways and corridors, his footsteps echoing weirdly in the silence. It made even Angel a little uneasy, and he had to resist the urge to keep looking behind him, checking for ghosts or scavengers. Either was more than unlikely. The first, if they existed, he doubted would be able to hurt him, given what he was, and the second he doubted would be able to make it past those wards.

Still the unease persisted and Angel did allow himself one quick peek over his shoulder as he rounded a corner.

It didn't take all that long for him to find the section where the books on the retrieval list Doyle had given him should be kept -- if they were still here. As he wandered the bookstacks, Angel felt his unease lessen. He was too busy taking satisfaction that so many books still existed in one place. Libraries in particular and books in general had not fared well since the Burning. There were too many among all the factions, human and demon alike, who feared the knowledge that books might contain, who blamed books and learning for what had happened in the first place. Book burnings had, in many enclaves become a common pasttime -- religious ritual and nightly entertainment all rolled up into one.

But those razings of knowledge hadn't reached this library, probably because of the wards protecting it. Whatever the reason, Angel was grateful to have a chance to wander between stacks and shelves of all kinds of stories and knowledge, any he could obtain just by reaching out and plucking it from the shelf.

He finally gave into the temptation to do just that, picking a volume at random and just holding it in his hands for a moment, feeling its weight.Inhaling an unneeded breath Angel caught the distinctive musty smell that only came from truly old books. Opening the book, he turned the pages carefully, feeling their texture and the slight raise of the ink on the page. Angel closed his eyes to better relish all the sensations involved. He hadn't even glanced at the words yet, that would come next. But before he read it, he wanted just to enjoy the experience of touching and holding a book like this again.


The sound echoed loudly in the silent building, but it was very close by. Angel opened his eyes and spun in the direction of the sound.

What he found was a tall, thin man -- full human, Angel guessed -- with dark hair and dark stubble, cold blue eyes staring at him from behind a pair of glasses. He was dressed in mismatched clothing, but all his garments looked reasonably clean and in good repair. The thing that most held Angel's attention though was the rather large double barreled shot gun the man had pointing at his chest. The click Angel had heard had been the gun being prepared to fire.

In a rough voice that held more than a trace of an English accent, the man said, "You have ten seconds to give me a reason why I shouldn't put a bullet in your heart."



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