Although the Great Smoky Mountain National Park in proximity had plenty to keep him occupied in the form of a few Brothers of Appalachians -- aka redneck werewolves -- Angel couldn’t deny this place had its...charm? Yeah, charm.
It hadn’t been this establishment’s gaudy flashing sign that had attracted his attention (hell they all had them!) and if asked he would mention the fondness the local packs had for a certain Tennessee-based country singer’s theme park but in truth it was the haunting strains of a tone deaf man and woman intensely into their rendition of “Islands in the Stream,” originally sung by Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers.
The moment the woman had belted out Dolly’s lines it had conjured the image of a certain scaly bar owner’s charming smile. Angel had always thought Lorne could have sold a cross to a vampire with that winning grin. Needless to say he’d decided to wait for Fred’s update (who had sent him on this wild-goose chase across the country for hillbilly shape-shifters) at the second-favorite roost for the werewolf in question, a rustic-looking old-western-saloon-type karaoke bar.
Being in Tennessee, hunting for a werewolf that frequents the Dollywood theme park? That was Fred’s idea. Becoming the patron of a karaoke bar called Chasing Rainbows? Totally Lorne’s fault.
As he moved through the front door he felt the spell. He paused a moment as it broke over him, it was small, probably not powerful enough to do more than cover Chasing Rainbows itself but it was enough like Lorne’s bar that he felt a stab of nostalgia for Caritas. There wasn’t any difference in the wood of the doorjamb, but it didn’t stop him from pressing his fingertips to the dark-stained wood.
Homesick Angel? Angel scoffed as he continued into the bar. He bought an overpriced bottle of water to occupy his hands and lounged at a tiny table in the back of the bar, his body obscured from most sides by a decorative wooden partition. Obviously he couldn’t see auras like Lorne, but after unwillingly volunteering to watch so many crooners just to get information from the demon, Angel had learned there were things anyone could see if they actually observed.
The couple responsible for the siren’s song that had drawn Angel in from the people-choked thoroughfare, were very enthusiastic karaoke singers and Angel found himself -- like he too often did -- cursing his heightened senses.
Over a mere fifteen minutes Angel found out it was “Duet Night” and that people that sang well, didn’t sing near enough. Or Ms. Parton and Mr. Rogers sang far too much, Angel couldn’t tell anymore. He was seconds from flashing his fang face at the woman as she stepped up with her beau for what had to have been their eighth song, when a waitress approached his table.
A cowboy-hat-shaped name tag stated her name was Tandy, very blond with bright blue eyes to match and dressed in what appeared to be standard uniform -- cowgirl slut Cordelia would have said -- a tiny tray balanced on the palm of her hand. “Compliments’a th’ house sweetie,” Came thick with drawl.
“Compliments...?” Angel’s eyes darted to the small wine glass perched on her tray and for half a second he thought it was blood. His eyes scanned the bar before Tandy plunked the delicate glass down in front of him and his nostrils caught the woodsy alcoholic scent of a good red wine.
Before he could utter another word Tandy turned to leave, but just as quickly found her wrist captured by his fingers. She turned, her blue eyes so wide they showed far too much white and Angel quickly released her, not wanting to fake a reaction to mace or pepper spray.
“Excuse me. Compliments of whom?”
“Dunno, got it from the temp,” Tandy shrugged, smile a bit more forced. “I think her name’s Abigail.” She gave a vague wave of her hand toward the bar that ran along the entire west wall of the large theater-seated room. “She’s the one juggling the bottle over there.”
Angel was scanning the bar as Tandy finally made her escape to the back room. It should have been obvious what drew his eyes -- c’mon a girl juggling a bottle -- but it turned out to be the top arm of what Angel was pretty damn sure was the tattoo of a filigreed cross.
The young woman then turned to show that indeed she was tossing a whisky bottle end-to-end in one hand and balancing two shot glasses stacked in the palm of her other hand. She gave the bottle a slightly harder toss -- sending it above the line of the bar -- to give herself enough time to get a shot glass in each hand, then to put each shot glass down onto the bar before she did a twirl so she could catch the falling bottle behind her, hand in the small of her back.
The handful of patrons gathered around her area of the bar clapped as she poured the shots. Angel watched them leave for a table before sitting at the bar a few stools down in the other bartender’s section.
The male bartending the other side of the bar seemed to be subjected to the western style dress code, patterned button-up flannel shirt, blue jeans and cowboy boots.
Temp Bartender/Juggler Abigail was definitely rocking the 1800’s in what looked like an authentic vintage corset. He was a man who recognized authentic when he saw it, and in this case it was a black affair with a brilliant red ribbon cinching it closed along her spine. The startling shade had been what had drawn his eye and led it up to the square-cut neckline of the black chemise she wore under it and the top of her filigreed cross tattoo. She wore overly baggy pants, also black (but for the dozens and dozens of silver zippers) and black-painted toes peeked out from the billowing hems of each leg. Bare feet.
Angel grinned and lowered his gaze as sharp green eyes turned his way. The wine was untouched on the bar in front of him so it was no surprise she was smart enough to put the clues together.
In a moment or two he would realize just how many clues the pig-tailed gothic woman in the vintage 1800’s corset had put together since he’d walked past her and into the saloon.
“I knew it! You’re a port drinker,” Her cheerful husky voice surprised him enough that he looked up and when he did she was standing right in front of him, behind the bar with her arms crossed over her chest covering the beautiful embroidery hinted all along the top of her corset in black silk thread. The exuberance reminded him instantly of Fred.
Meaning to deliver only an ironic glance at her jugular -- too fast for her to notice -- Angel’s eyes got stuck at the stretch of spider web over her throat. So it isn’t just the cross on her back—Cross on her back, good one Angel…He couldn’t contain the damnable grin that curled his lips at the thought. “I don’t drink alcohol.”
“Hellno,” Angel quickly objected but just as quickly realized he was in a karaoke bar and the look that crossed his face must have been something because she laughed. “I people watch.”
She pointed at him with a knowing grin and scooped the wine off the bar. “Thought so. Though you look more a Barry Manilow than a Dolly Parton. Shirley Temple?”
“Um, no. Water here?” He said holding up the bottle and purposefully ignoring the Barry Manilow crack.
“It’s almost full,” She washed the small wine glass and set it with the other drying on a towel on the back part of the bar.
“Are you going to kick me out ma’am?” Angel asked as she looked over at the approaching male bartender, cowboy nametag “Ed.”
“I got this, thanks Abby,” Ed murmured.
“No it’s okay Ed, I know him,” Abby gave the guy a one-armed hug and he actually blushed and nodded.
“I’m goin’ on my break then; a’fore Helen Keller ruins my appetite—ow!”
Angel watched as Abby leaned away enough to move the arm that was around Ed to swat the bartender right in the back of his head. “She’s brave and beautiful.”
“Sorry, Abby,” Ed mumbled after wincing at the chastising blow. “Yew got the bar?”
“Sure!” Abby crowed with that exuberance of before. “Can I do tricks?”
“Yew ‘member what Bobby said,” The look on his face told Angel the Bobby he spoke of did not want bartending tricks to distract from Duet Night.
“Yeah, yeah,” Abby let Ed disappear into the same door Tandy the waitress had.
Although Angel had ignored the karaoke king and queen since moving to the bar, the applause that roared when they finished was loud and raucous. Angel looked up to see them bowing from their tenth number.
While he watched Abby threw her hands up in the air and shook them as if trying to get someone’s attention from across the saloon. At her odd behavior he realized some of the audience members did the same along with stomping their feet.
“Scoot a seat over,” Abby called as she lowered her arms, the applause dying down. “So you’re squatting doesn’t interfere with Ed’s tips,” She said pointing above her to indicate a cleverly concealed surveillance camera.
“I don’t mean to be rude—refusing your drinks --”
“You don’t drink!” Abby smiled showing pearly whites behind black-painted lips. “I get it, we can’t all consume fluids.”
At first Angel thought she might be hinting that she knew he was a vampire. It wasn’t like he was hiding, but this was a through-and-through werewolf territory and although this place was protected, one didn’t live as long as he had being obvious (well outside of a few “naturally” occurring massacres Angelus had helped along).
“My waitress said you were a temp…But I saw that trick with the whiskey earlier,” Angel reached into his pocket and glanced down at his phone display. No alerts.
“I’m on vacation,” She murmured enthusiastically as she polished a few glasses. “I asked Ed for an Alabama Riot and he gave me the hundred-yard stare. I showed him and the manager Bobby asked me if I could cover for their ‘latest no call, no show flake,’ which were his words not mine.” She quickly defended. “Can you believe it? Not knowing how to make an Alabama Riot?”
“I’ll admit you’ve got me curious,” Angel slipped his phone away after making sure it had full reception along with full volume.
“Well the original recipe calls for fruit punch, lime juice, vodka, peppermint schnapps and southern comfort, but I like it with coconut rum instead of the schnapps,” She smacked her lips together like she could taste it just thinking about it. “Like an alcoholic non-caffeinated Caf-Pow,” Abby seemed blissful thinking about both drinks and Angel laughed softly. “I’m working on what to name it, but I’m the only one that drinks it so far. I bartended at my uncle’s bar in Louisiana and just kind of took to it.”
Angel started to comment when a few seats down someone sat in Ed’s section.
“What can I get ya?” Abby called, pointing at the customer.
“Two of what’er ya got on tap Sugar,” The older gentleman answered with a wink.
“Aw, no more tequila shooters Harry?” Abby asked as she retrieved two frosty large mugs from somewhere below the counter and turned to the multitude of taps on the back counter to fill them with a foaming dark-amber liquid.
“I think you’ve done enough damage distractin’ us from how much we’re spendin’,” He laughed. “Too bad ya don’t got the okay fer yer show.”
“Aw, thank you Harry.” Abby gave him a brilliant smile as she placed two mugs down and the man handed her a ten for the drinks.
“Now this here’s fer yew Sugar, not that gruffy feller,” He said slapping another ten dollar bill on the bar.
As he left Abby discreetly—but not discreetly enough for the camera to miss—put the money in a small coffee canister with Ed’s name on it. As she turned away from him Angel’s eyes fell to the tattoo showing on her back, like a victim to the barrel of a gun.
“Um,” Abby’s voice easily carried to Angel’s sensitive ears and she turned to face him. “Where were we?”
“I was just about to ask why a...lady like yourself would come here for vacation?” Angel watched her accept a drink order from a waitress.
Abby looked at the decent sized list for a large party in the opposite corner of the room. “You mean a forensic scientist?”
The question hit Angel like a sucker punch to the gut. “Forensic scientist?” He repeated with a slow nod. “I meant the Goth look but that works just as well.”
“Well if it was a matter of clothes I might ask you the same question,” Abby lifted a brow as she returned the slip of paper to the girl to take the kitchen.
“Looking for some guys,” Angel answered, knowing he couldn’t pretend his clothes didn’t indicated he was perhaps from a little farther west than Dollywood patrons usually originated. “Information was bunk, waiting for phone call.”
The girl didn’t look surprised or concerned in the least, at least not about Angel himself. “Are they a public danger?”
Good question. When confronted with a vampire sometimes his query swung first and asked questions later. “They’re...capable, but nobody’s in any danger here.”
“Oh I know that!” Abby gave a husky laugh. “Bobby’s meemaw is a witchdoctor,” Abby’s grin was almost infectious and Angel struggled with the corners of his lips as he watched her start to collect different types of glasses in the space between them, on her side of the bar.
“A witch doctor?”
“I know! My meemaw just rigged dog and cock fights,” At her own words Abby winced and muttered a fierce apology to her grandmother. “And did a quick ass hundred meter breast stroke.”
Angel could only nod at her, a forensic scientist, honestly? You know you can’t judge, he reminded himself, recalling his first impression of Fred, and then his second. “Did she put up voodoo dolls or something?”
“What? Thaumaturgy? No! Hey! I though you were from Cali, they know all the New Age stuff there,” Abby chuckled as she began to mix drinks with various different bottles using precise dips and shakes. There were numerous silver accoutrements behind the bar to measure exact jigs of alcohol but Abby left them untouched. “She made a deal with the park manager to make this bar safe, so the rougher crowd could be protected and be protected from…Son gets to run the establishment and keep a hefty cut.”
Rougher crowd huh? Angel hadn’t felt any otherness about the young woman; aside from being an interesting contradiction not only to the surroundings but also one herself, of light and dark. “Werewolves love their Dolly Parton,” Angel remembered and watched the black finger-nailed hand drop a bottle of tequila.
With a step back to lift her foot Abby caught the bottle along the curve between her leg and the top of her foot. “Good, I didn’t know if it was a secret or not.” She murmured as if she wasn’t balancing a tequila bottle on one foot.
“I wouldn’t announce it on the news…Although pack animals they are antisocial by necessity,” Angel wondered why he felt the need to match her seeming random intellect.
“That’s so cool…I’m Abby Scuito,” She tossed the bottle with a gentle kick, caught it and put it back on the bar without really paying any of her motions any attention. “I usually work at NCIS in Norfolk…NCIS is --”
“Naval Criminal Investigative Service,” Angel interrupted with a nod. “Spike…” He paused and watched her finish the last of the drinks and slap two small round trays on the counter to collect them. “A friend of mine made me watch the Mystery Channel.”
“People are getting into that stuff more and more these days. It makes me all warm and fuzzy…” Abby retrieved three mugs for beer.
“How’d you deduce California?”
“Um,” Abby laughed soft and low, arranging the glasses this time trying to focus on them instead of Angel. The blush that painted her cheeks was prettier than any of the body art he’d seen on her so far. “Credit card for the water. Are you Mr. Wolfham or Hart?”
“Shit, neither,” Angel scoffed. “This is very much a business trip however so I’ve been told everything has to be on plastic. So they can know where I’ve gone.”
“Hell. No liquids should help keep you off their grid,” Abby teased, cheeks still pink as she rearranged the drinks on the trays. “How fond are you of solids?”
“Never much of a fan,” Angel admitted. “Is that enough clues?”
“For what?” Abby said with a teasing grin her eyes moving meaningfully to someone over his shoulder and a moment later a waitress returned to manage the trays. Abby helped by holding them, the drinks arranged so the trays were perfectly balanced in the girl’s hands. “Careful.”
Angel watched her go and as soon as he met Abby’s eyes she gave him a brilliant smile. “Everybody that can sense the spell on this place paused at the door and touches the threshold.”
“It’s weird,” Angel said, of the Sanctuary spell.
“Definitely,” Abby nodded. “The werewolves have already eaten the entire chicken wing supply,” She indicated the large table the waitress of before was currently taking the two trays of drinks.
“One of those drinks was bright pink,” Angel commented as the rough cowboy-types cheered on the petite waitress until she blushed.
“There’s a girl over there, today’s her twenty-first birthday. I had to card her, she looks twelve,” She muttered the last part.
Angel glanced over his shoulder again to see the table. Any of them could be the wolf he was looking for, or they could be nobodies. “I’d ask you if they came here often but --”
“Ed says they all have season passes,” Abby offered.
“Thanks,” Angel was surprised to meet her eyes (she was brave not a lot of people did) then again she probably hadn’t figured out what he was yet. “Anything else you’ve deduced about me Miss Scuito?”
“You don’t look like the tattoo type, or the anti-tattoo type those are really the only people that really stare and it’s just a coincidence one is a cross and the other is on my neck, except…”
“I don’t believe in coincidences,” Abby gave him a look that said he should know better.
“So what does that mean?”
“It means that you’re a vampire, like a real one, not a wannabe,” Abby gave him a wink and left to go help a customer sitting down at the other end of the bar.
A text distracted him from watching her make a Long Island Ice Tea; it seemed she couldn’t keep herself from doing small tricks when she could. The text was from Fred with a photo of the human face of his query and an apology for not having more. He typed her a thank you and put his phone away as Abby walked past him and popped her head in through the door to the break room in the back.
Angel watched her as she walked toward him. “You’re not just any forensic scientist,” He said once she was within earshot.
“You’re right. I’m the best.”
With a soft chuckle Angel shook his head and opened his cell phone to show Abby the image Fred had sent. “Here’s the guy I’m looking for.”
“Oh!” Abby looked at the photo and shoot her head. “That—that’s Bubba! Robert David. He’s the sweetest galute I’ve ever met! He’s not dangerous.”
“He is,” Abby’s eyes drifted to the table of the lycanthropes. “Gimmie a minute to ask the other people that work here about Bubba?”
“I’m only looking for information.”
“From Bubba?” Although his moniker should have indicated some possibility for a slow individual Abby’s question drove the idea home.
“My source is sure.”
“Just…wait?” Abby’s hand reached across the bar and covered his momentarily. A familiar jolt came at her warm touch; arousal, only made worse by the slight scent of fear and the pleading in her eyes as she murmured, “Please?”
“Sure, as long as he stays where I can see him,” Angel moved his eyes away from hers, not surprised but still taken unawares of the less than human stirrings (along with very manly stirrings) at this stranger’s touch. As he avoided the strange connection she had made with those startling eyes he saw the large man shown in the photo easily at the raucous table, right next to the tiniest woman he’d seen. Maybe it was the drastic contrast in size to Bubba that made her looks smaller.
“Thank you,” She moved to poke her head through the door into the back and as soon as her hand left his Angel’s eyes followed her as she continued through the door, Ed exiting to replace her.
Angel met the bartender’s eye and lifted his water so he knew he’d been taken care of already. He swiveled in his seat as if to watch the new, couple dueting, but Bubba’s large frame was his focus as he furiously fought worrying at the sensation of her hand on his.
Abby was only gone one duet, four minutes on Angel’s internal cock. She surprised Ed, who laughed and moved to the far end of his section of the bar.
“Good news?” Angel asked as he saw the frown on her face.
“What are you asking Bubba?”
“I…It’s a long story…” He frowned too but kept his eye on Bubba. “He was under contract – very temporarily -- with Wolfham and Hart and somehow he knows about a prophecy about stopping the end of the world.”
“Huh.” Abby nodded and a small smile curled her lips. “Bubba?”
“Bubba? That guy,” Abby pointed and Angel noticed Bubba had somehow gotten a cherry stuck in his nose.
“Well let me ask him. I’ve studied the best interrogator in the universe…excluding torture…” Her eyes went wide (apparently at the idea of her mentor using torture in interrogations). “He’d be unstoppable,” She whispered.
“Gibbs,” Abby held up a finger to pause their conversation before putting a plastic crate on the floor so she could use it to climb over the bar. “Leroy --”
Angel surprised her by catching her around her corseted middle and lowering her to the ground. He was surprised to find her almost as tall as him, even without shoes. He didn’t move his hands away, wasn’t really thinking, his eyes stuck on hers again. “Did I mention you’re rockin’that corset?”
“Thanks,” Came out a little breathy but just as calm, a smile curving dark lips. “Vintage.”
“Thought so,” Angel made himself let go and Abby stepped back a little. “Leroy?”
“Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs.”
“You’re not even a local,” Angel reminded her as she started turning to cross the room.
“Neither are you,” Abby didn’t turn but still backed up a few steps. “After meeting you I feel like I’m here for a reason… not vacation, or to pour drinks at a karaoke bar.”
“Trust me. It’s better if we do it my way Angel,” Abby said (though he hadn’t given his name) gave him an impish grin and turned away to start across the bar to the lycanthrope table.
“Oh…” Angel moved back to the barstool and leaned back on the bar, not bothering to keep his observing covert. “She’s good.”
Bubba’s face practically lit up with a smile as he saw Abby approach. As Angel watched Abby rounded the table and unfortunately her position made the werewolf turn around so that all he could see was the back of his brunette head. After a moment of intense perusal of Bubba’s face Abby took something from one of the many zippers on her pants.
Pondering her interrogation tactics and just what the hell she was doing over there Angel watched the audience of lycanthropes around her. None of them looked upset, or on guard and maybe that was part of her technique. It seemed unintentional.
The karaoke was on a break so the sudden cheering of several of the table’s occupants was surprising. Abby held something up and after a moment of even more cheering Angel realized she had a cherry firmly captured in a set of tweezers.
Even as Angel chuckled, Bubba treated the girl to a bear-hug and for a moment the vampire was on his feet to cross the floor, before the werewolf released her with a boisterous laugh.
“Better?” Abby’s new spot further over toward the small female werewolf made Bubba turn just enough for Angel to catch some audio and watch his lips move.
“Sure is Missy,” Bubba smiled and nodded. “I was just gonna leave it there.”
“No!” Abby made an “ew” face and Bubba laughed and deposited the cherry on a napkin on the table between the werewolves. “I’m glad I could help.”
“The drinks were good,” The female suddenly said and Abby smiled.
“Thank you Annemarie,” Abby clapped her hands and gave a small bow of her head her teeth showing in her smile again. “Lemme know if you need another.”
“Okay, I like your suggestions; maybe you make something else just as good?”
“Missy you should get a job here,” Bubba said before Abby could answer the tiny Annemarie.
“I would but I already have a job that I love, with coworkers that are like a second family.”
“That is a blessing,” Annemarie nodded and smiled softly at those near her at the table.
“Well visit more?” Bubba laughed as he suggested. “You like Dollywood?”
“It’s just like I dreamed it would be,” Abby admitted with an enthusiastic nod.
“Yer nice for a human.”
“Why thank you!” Abby leaned in to whisper. “You’re the nicest homo canis I’ve ever met.”
“Heh,” Bubba leaned in as well. “S’okay, none’a the humans can hear if you whisper.”
“I’ve got someone that wants to talk to you, but I thought you’d rather talk to me,” She murmured and quick-as-a-flash Bubba’s gaze was aimed across the bar at Angel. “He’s sort of with Wolfham and Hart do you mind?”
“Naw,” he turned to Abby with a toothy grin. “He dresses jus’ as funny as you do.”
They shared a laugh and Angel noticed the young female Annemarie was still looking his way. Abby had been right carding her; she looked not a day over fifteen.
Which told Angel she was fifteen like he was in his mid-twenties. There didn’t seem to be any animosity in her sharp green gaze, nor a shred of human emotion.
Just as Abby started to ask her question the girl turned to Bubba and spoke in a language Angel didn’t know, other than its age (which was older than he’d been kicking around). The only word he recognized was his name; or rather “Angelus” and she said it just like he remembered hearing it centuries ago.
Before Angel could begin to worry at the stiff new set of Bubba’s very (very, shit) wide shoulders Abby held up her hands. “Hey, no, no, no,” She caught their attention, plus most of the other werewolves at the table. “That’s why I came over here. No one wants a fight. No one is here to hurt anyone, right Angel?”
That Abby both realized he was eavesdropping from across the room along with aware of the meaning of his old name, stunned Angel quiet a moment as at least nine sets of eyes turned to him. He shook his head, “Just questions.”
“Who are you?” Annemarie asked Abby.
“You can call me Abby,” Abby answered cheekily. “I just wanted to help. Keep everyone happy. You don’t come here for more stress and drama…Well besides Miss Samantha’s acting when she sang, ‘Jolene.’”
“You are so good your aura blinds me,” Was Annemarie’s reply and Abby took it as a compliment. “If you say that Angelus coming to us in the name of Wolfham and Hart is not something to fear, I believe you.”
“D-do you mind if Bubba and I go to the bar? I’ve still got half of Ed’s break to cover and two more hours in my shift,” Abby was quick to see the relationship between the Annemarie and Bubba.
As Angel expected Annemarie’s answer was, “As long as I can go as well.” She continued with, “I think I could help, I’ve never been away from Robert and have a much better memory.”
Angel met Abby’s curious gaze with a nod and she relayed his affirmative to the lycanthropes. “I’m goin’ back to the bar, any free refills?”
That got a chorus of praise and lifted glasses. Abby’s eyes scanned the half-dozen glasses and their liquid remnants recommitting them to memory then proceeded to escort the other two to the bar.
“Need a lift?” Angel asked as he got to his feet. He tried his best not to roll his eyes at his own lame line but Abby must have seen it somewhere on his face because she snickered softly.
“Just a hand if you please,” She held out a hand before using the other to steady herself on the bar as she stepped up onto the barstool.
Angel quickly caught her hand with one of his and her elbow with the other. “You’re not just a forensic scientist are you?” His grip slid the sleeve of her undershirt up to reveal another tattoo, this one a lemniscate shape, the symbol for infinity.
“I have no idea what you mean,” Abby slid over the bar and landed in a partial crouch on the other side a moment before jumping to her feet and turning to face them all at once her pigtails flopping. “You guys want some privacy?”
“No,” Angel objected immediately. “You got them here…Heh…” He turned to the werewolves, and didn’t let Bubba’s hulk-like physique get to him; Angel might not have been built like a Mack truck, but had strength. “Thank you…I’m Angel…You know me?” He looked at Annemarie.
“We haven’t met,” Annemarie answered; her tone indicated that she did know who he was, contrary to her words. “Annemarie, Robert’s my husband.”
Bubba gave a soft guffaw and lifted his wife up onto a barstool before she even tried to get up, thinking tall Annemarie brushed five feet even. “We been married so long, back when we’s got married it was just…’Hey ya wanna get married?’…’Mm-hm’…And then you was married.”
Abby started to collect glasses and she laughed softly, “I didn’t know werewolves lived so long.”
“We’re a long story,” Annemarie whispered and her voice was almost depressed. “Not only because we’ve been around a while, but because it’s complicated.”
“Fred…Didn’t mention Mr. David being married,” Angel confirmed. “There was no record of you at Wolfham and Hart either Mrs. David.”
Annemarie shook her head, soft feathery blond hair lying in waves over her shoulders. “Just Annemarie and Robert if you please Angelus.”
“All right,” Annemarie looked over at Bubba with a fond smile, then back to Angel. “There wouldn’t be anything with my name on it there. In face, Robert was hired so that I could be around and doing what I do best off the record. Although human resources thought he was there to protect a scroll relic, the relic was really just me in a room, doing my thing.”
Bubba tried to take one of the seats between Angel and Annemarie but the small woman made him move to the other side, still leaving two seats between she and the vampire. “That worked real good cuz I don’t go nowhere without my Annie.”
“You’re a Seer?”
“Why would you say that?” Annemarie asked.
“Well, the scroll was supposed to have a prophecy on it…One that I need…to do…y’know…” Angel shrugged. “What it says. To stop the end of the world.”
A colorful curse rang out only moments after the crash and tinkle of broken glass. Angel’s eyes swiveled toward Abby who was stepping back her gaze scanning the floor. “Sorry…” She called as the other two sets of eyes turned to her. “I feel like I’m eavesdropping.”
“Then ask me a question,” Annemarie’s voice caught her attention as she reached to grab a small hand broom and dustpan from nearby on the back counter.
“Ah,” Abby crouched down and swept up all the bits of the small high-ball glass she’d dropped. “He called you a Seer.”
With a frown Annemarie nodded, “I think that’s a good beginning answer. It’s a more than just Seeing bits of the future.”
“Well you’re not human?” Abby asked. “Do werewolves live as long as vampires?”
“Vampires live until you kill ‘em,” Bubba peered over his wife’s golden head with a smile that was dopy and simple but still held a hint of the malicious intent in the six words he’d just gleefully declared. “Werewolves live longer ‘n’ regular folk, the more power they got the slower they age.”
“I stopped aging the first time I had a vision,” Annemarie explained. “I was barely nineteen.”
“How long ago?” Abby continued as she cleaned up the mess she’d made before returning to the line of drinks she was building piecemeal for the large lycanthrope table. Angel found himself not interrupting, it seemed getting the scroll wouldn’t be as easy as he’d first thought, perhaps knowing something about these two would help.
“Not nearly as long as Angelus – Angel,” Annemarie gave Angel an apologetic smile as she slipped with his name. “But it’s been longer than nineteen years.”
“’Nd since she’s my girl, ‘nd I’m her mem’ry, I stopped not long after we met,” Bubba crossed his arms on the bar and hunched over to rest his chin on them. “That’s how we knew we was meant ta be…foreva…”
“Memory…” Abby’s eyes darted to Angel and she frowned. “Sorry --”
“No! You weren’t lying about being a good interrogator, that would have been my next question,” He complimented and found himself pleased he’d done it when she blushed and murmured thank you.
“Y-you should ask a few questions,” Abby remembered, handing Bubba something in a narrow tall glass, dark brown with fizz to it. “Same Annemarie?”
“I think that will be my ‘usual,’ but if you have anything else like it in your repertoire I would love to take advantage of your time here to discover a few more favorites,” Annemarie’s voice was soft, very fluid, and Angel remember some of the Seers he’d seen in the past. Up until recently (like the last decade or so) most Seers Angel had the chance to meet had been very behind the current times.
It was an odd eccentricity Angel had noticed, a disconnection to any time. Back when he’d first seen girls that were blessed by the Powers that Be sired into vampirism, had thought himself in love with one in fact. Loved her and made her mad.
Angel shook his head and noticed Abby was halfway through her multiple drinks for the werewolf table. As she picked up a bright green bottle and poured it into two separate glasses along a line of them mid-creation across her part of the bar. “I think you’ll both like this one,” Abby said with a suggestive wiggle to both Annemarie and Bubba.
Annemarie’s delicate tiny hand accepted the tall narrow glass and conveyed it closer to Bubba. “I like the colors you make them,” Annemarie confessed to Abby as the ham-handed Bubba daintily sipped the drink, his own frosty drink forgotten in front of him. “What does it taste like?”
“Apples,” Bubba’s voice came out like a child tasting candy and Annemarie laughed softly, the sound intensifying as the large werewolf pushed the drink to his wife urging her to taste it, a large grin on his face. “Here, here girlie.”
Angel let them enjoy the drink, waited until Bubba picked up his drink with a sigh before he decided to ask and Annemarie turned to meet his gaze. “I don’t want to seem callous but…”
“Go on, I understand you wouldn’t say painful truths unless you had to, ask whatever.”
“Robert seems to possess low mental capability…”
“I’m smart where it counts,” Bubba murmured drinking his dark foamy beverage. “Even smartie Ph.d Navy Scienty Lady Abby is dumb some places.”
Abby nodded before Angel even turned to see she was arranging her drinks on a tray she had gotten from somewhere behind the bar. “Even the smartest person has deficiencies,” She agreed and reached up to touch one of the large hands Bubba rested on the bar beside his nearly empty glass. “I need to get these trays to your table, can you help?”
Like both interrogators has expected those dull eyes darted suddenly sharpened to his wife’s, who were still serene if cautious, but Angel couldn’t begrudge her that paranoia, anyone that lived outside death’s grip (i.e. lived longer that a reasonable human lifespan) had to wear such neurosis like armor. The large lycanthrope had be this small thing’s guardian for possibly longer than Angel had been in business, he knew from being older than the Industrial Age in comparison to the human’s he consorted with.
“Don’t be rude Robert,” Annemarie crooned softly and Bubba’s sudden edge of hostility melted away like it had never been there.
“I’s bet I can take ‘em both at the same time,” A grin split his face again and Abby laughed.
“I don’t get alotta free drinks to hand out,” Abby murmured. “I can’t make more.”
“I can do it,” Bubba held up his hands, which had to have been larger than the trays themselves. “No fuckin’ around.”
“Awesome,” Abby handed him the trays and they were rock steady in those huge hands, that somehow didn’t crush everything on the small round trays. “I think I heard Sammy say something about shrimp almost done thawing.”
“Oh, if they got that cocktail sauce Annie love’s big shrimps,” Bubba said in a sotto whisper that he very obviously wanted to get back to the chef behind the wall.
“I’m not really that picky,” Annemarie said softly as she took a more substantial drink of her green beverage. “Unless your chef needs some sort of inspiration.”
“I’ll see,” Abby moved away from them just as Bubba did and Angel resisted shaking his head at the deliberate moves of the forensic scientist.
Annemarie’s laughter came again, like musical bells. Then she was quiet, leaving all but what could only be a mouthful of neon green liquid in the glass. “I already had a lot of really horrible visions in my mind when I met Robert,” Annemarie said with a wrinkle between the eternally young bow. “He wasn’t always…” She looked into her glass quiet again.
Abby returned but Bubba was trying to hand out drinks, causing a squabble with his pack mates. As soon as she stepped close enough she retrieved Annemarie’s glass and made something dark brown/almost black at the bottom and brightest white near the top with a transition of brown shade between.
The new drink was done before Bubba’s return. As Annemarie looked into it without tasting, her eyes focused on other things. “Robert said he noticed the change in his mental capabilities but kept it from me until he didn’t understand the concept of why he shouldn’t let me know.”
“Whatever I am is connected to him,” Annemarie turned in time to put a loving hand on Bubba’s large shoulder as he walked up silently behind her, he had even caught Angel unawares. “He’s got them all in there, the millions of horrible fiery apocalypses and genocides I’ve seen in my existence, and whatever it is that binds us this way made sure the container for such things…” She went off into a whisper as her husband’s large boa constrictor arms cradled her, standing behind her instead of sitting at the refill Abby put down on the bar.
“Not understand what he holds in his head,” Abby looked up from Annemarie’s forlorn gaze, away from their guilt and to the soft confused concern of one that knew something was wrong with his beloved intuitively but couldn’t know at all without being told.
Annemarie nodded and enjoyed her warm tree trunk armed man a moment before she guided him into his bar stool. “I have them, I can keep them…I don’t bother fighting anymore.”
Angel could see that the Seer wished more than anything not know a struggle was futile. Wasted effort. Abby leaned on the bar, completely ignoring the ending of the intermission on Duet Night. For Angel the distraction of the singing – as far as the werewolf table was concerned – was a weight of his shoulders that made him want to sigh at the ease of the burden of the weight of their stares.
“I need to get the complete reiteration of a recent one?”
“Bubba has a photographic memory as far as the visions go,” Annemarie watched Bubba drink his soda with glee. “If you have the date the vision was experienced or the date it foretold...”
“Sometimes I get’s the words garbled,” Bubba said after smacking his lips on his drink. “But if Annie helps ya see’s em like the fanciest movin’ picture ‘hind yer eyelids.”
“It takes concentration, we couldn’t do it here,” Annemarie cautioned and Bubba nodded in total agreement, his drink taking his attention for a moment. “And we can only show one person.”
When her apologetic eyes turned to Abby she gave a vigorous wave of both hands between them to shoo them away. “I don’t need to know anything about this business…I’m sure you want to keep it to as few people as possible…Gibbs has a thing about secrets…”
“They’re hard to keep?” Bubba asked with enthusiasm.
Abby nodded, “The more people that know it.”
“So true,” Annemarie nodded softly. “Just so you know, we don’t keep our abilities a secret.”
“I think the fewer people know about something that might cause panic the better…As long as you’re planning on taking care of business?” The last part she aimed in Angel’s direction and her eyes, brilliant with the girl’s intellect as mentally she went about making educated guesses at the vision she wouldn’t be able to see. “As long as there’s not going to be millions killed and I want all my loved ones to avoid a death by brimstone and lava.”
“I’m working on avoiding that scenario altogether,” Angel admitted and did hesitate to let her see the sincerity in his eyes. Usually he didn’t feel like he had to prove himself around normal humans or anyone that didn’t know who he was, and he suspected Abby had pieced together lots of clues but couldn’t possibly know the terror of Angelus. At his old name she had shown concern, had it been the vibe of their energy changing at mention of him or knowledge gleaned somehow.
Angel kept telling himself that this dark-haired girl wasn’t supernatural in anyway, that she was more like Fred, genius and eccentric. The unnerving intellect in her eyes made him feel like he didn’t need to keep secrets couldn’t even if he wanted to. “There’s supposed to be a hotel room for me at one of the hotels close-by…take care of by Wolfham and Hart.”
“The less people the better,” Bubba said as innocent as can be, he couldn’t help he was a huge beast. Sometimes he spoke and Angel forgot his gentle nature, and he wasn’t sure Bubba was doing it on accident. “There ain’t people waitin’ there?”
“I came alone,” Angel reassured them, not really worrying about anything going awry on the trip. Even now, after seeing Bubba and Annemarie, Angel wasn’t concerned to get on his cell and call a taxi to meet them at the amusement park entrance.
“I’mma let the others know we’re gonna leave fer the night,” Bubba chugged his drink and left them again after giving Annemarie a kiss on top of her head.
“You all right?” Angel asked Annemarie as he noticed the young woman worrying her bottom lip with her teeth.
“We just found out there were still living descendants of Robert’s family,” Annemarie watched much hugging and hair tousling over at the werewolf table. “We only just arrived in town.”
“Just get a dollywood season pass and you two will get plenty of time with the family,” Angel suggested.
“You don’t want some of those hugs over there?” Abby took the glasses and replaced them with large bottles of mineral water.
Although Annemarie didn’t answer there came a barely perceptible nod of her head.
“You had better go!” Abby said in a firm voice, one would never be able to tell the blond had centuries on her.
Annemarie’s head snapped to aim a stare at Abby clearly displeased with the temp-bartender. She said nothing but stood and hurried over to get in on the love and happiness as Abby poured a pitcher of beer for someone.
“I’ll come back after I’m done,” Angel promised as Abby put a full pitcher on the bar the others had vacated and started to fill another.
“My shift is over in two hours and I’m back to my hearse,” Abby put the pitcher beside the other.
It must have been the two octaves his voice had climbed with that single word that made Abby gift him with her husky laughter. “I’m beat; I spent the first half of my day walking Dollywood, Mister.”
Before Angel could reply he recognized the older woman that had ordered the two pitchers of beer as the female half of the duet that had drawn him into the bar.
As she pulled a fifty out of her purse, the male of the duo appeared to take both pitchers with a thank you. Focused on her purse the woman didn’t seem to notice until she looked up with the money to see the pitchers gone. She meet Angel’s gaze and before she could suggest he had somehow hammered two pitchers of beer (blood maybe) in five seconds he pointed after her beverage pilferer.
Abby accepted the money with a grin as she watched. To catch the woman’s attention her free hand came up to catch her hand before she could pull it back. “Angel doesn’t drink,” She explained after putting the money in Ed’s tips to free her hands, immediately they flew into what could only be sign language to match her voice.
Angel couldn’t ignore the exuberance that translated through not just her hands but her facial expression as she signed to the woman. He had enough attention to split it, and he lifted his bottle to show her the water he was nursing, since she meant didn’t drink alcohol as opposed to didn’t drink liquids obviously.
Her reply was a nod and a blush, and a quick touch to her lips that might have been a sign as she mouthed, “Thank you.”
“Did you want to hear about the prophecy?” Angel asked as they watched the woman return to her singing partner, her face bright with laughter.
“Only if there’s nothing you can do about it,” Abby admitted. “I’d like to know, I’ve got a significant amount of hugging to do before the end of the world.”
“Hugging huh?” Angel couldn’t keep from chuckling.
“I think I might just hug Timmy right up until the end,” She grinned and her green eyes suddenly gleamed before she blinked and laughed, shaking her head. “You said you were going to make sure it didn’t come true.”
“Heh,” Abby gave a sniff and the smile on her face erased any other sign of maudlin emotion. “I’m starting my drive home before the sun comes up, so some sleep will be required tonight…My ice chest of caf-pow ran out and I didn’t take into consideration that it’s a locally owned franchise…So my caffeine source is now coffee, which makes me…” She realized she was starting to do that thing where she couldn’t shut up. “Have to pee unless I increase my sodium intake…It’s a hard balance to find…”
It happened when the energy around her got intense, she used it when Gibbs was in his usual hurry and those sharp blue eyes only wanted rapid-fire clues and theories. In this instance she was nervous, and it had a lot to do with the cute vampire guy trying to find a reason to see her again. “Anyway…” Abby shook her head covering her eyes with her hand. “Don’t worry about it.”
“Okay,” Angel frowned as he watched her. “Thank you for your help.”
Angel turned and moved toward the exit, eyes sweeping over to see the werewolf love-in going on strong across the bar. He looked back over at Abby and she was trying to focus on drying glasses. “Bye.”
Her green eyes darted up and met his, “Oh…yeah.” She nodded but didn’t give a farewell, just returned to the gleaming glass in her hands.
“Ready Angel?” Annemarie’s voice caught his attention, her voice bubbling with the exuberant send off of her new family, Bubba at her side ecstatic.
“Let’s go,” Angel nodded and led the way out, Bubba and Annemarie close behind.
Before following them out of sight Annemarie turned to throw a smile over her shoulder at Abby, who was watching after them while none of them were looking her way. Abby returned the smile and lifted a hand, fingers curling in a small waved good-bye, that made Annemarie smile wider and wave back. Then she disappeared out the door.
“Awesomest vacation ever,” Abby picked up the next cleaned glass and dried it, telling herself she had been smart not inviting the vampire back to her hearse, the only car she could use in cross-country travel, since she hated hotel beds. Damn her coffin had spoiled her.
“I’m a glutton for punishment.”
Surprised Abby looked up to see Angel standing close, leaning on the bar. “How’s that?” She asked trying not to smile too brilliantly.
“You ever find yourself in a jam,” Angel’s hand delved into his pocket and came out with a small black business card. “Or if you’re ever in Los Angeles.”
Abby took the card and looked at it, silver embossed on a black matte card, just “Angel Investigations” and two phone numbers. “I’ve done work for the NCIS branch there.”
“Maybe I’ll see you then.”
“Only if you save the world.”
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