So I finally got my muses back to work only to not use a one of my regulars last week. They were bordering on snippy after that. However, Amanda did volunteer for this week's MWC. I was a bit puzzled about that at first--until she told me what I had in mind. That girl . . . but here's the story we came up with, with the assistance of yet another muse.
Loneliness was an unaccustomed emotion for Amanda. She was the sort of woman who constantly had a full entourage of friends and lovers around her precisely to keep herself from getting lonely. And people flocked to her--men and women both, wanting to be touched by her beauty and charm. Being alone was not in Amanda's plans, especially around the holidays. No matter how old she got, Christmas never failed to cheer her.
Except this Christmas.
She stood on top of an office building, looking out across the city and thinking over the past two years. She'd left Paris shortly after bringing Nick into his Immortality. He had wanted nothing to do with her, and she had finally come to the conclusion that all she could do was withdraw and let him go. That conclusion had wounded her more deeply than she had ever imagined it could.
She'd thought of finding Duncan to ease the pain of this strange hollow spot within her, but that had seemed wrong, somehow. Like she'd have been using him.
Which, let's face it, she had in the past, and with no compunctions whatsoever. But this was different.
So, alone for the first time in centuries, she had sought out the biggest, busiest city she could in hopes that the very noise and bustle of the holiday season could ease her loneliness.
It hadn't. If anything, seeing so many others with loved ones and family had made the ache within worse. How long had it been since she'd formed a meaningful relationship with anyone? Liam was in Paris, Lucy was in Torago and not getting any younger, she'd cut herself off from Duncan, Methos was on one of his walkabouts, and none of her other friends were close enough for her to turn to.
Thus, she was alone on Christmas Eve, standing and looking out over Los Angeles and wondering just what she was doing with herself.
Unexpectedly, there was a sound behind her. She whipped around to discover someone stepping out of the roof door. In the ambient light from the city, she could see that he was a tall young man wearing a long, dark coat.
He spotted her and stopped his advance. Then he peered more closely, seemed to do a startled double-take, and then relaxed as if recovering from a bad shock.
"I'm--I'm sorry," he said. "I didn't mean to disturb you." He turned around to leave.
Suddenly, Amanda wanted nothing so much as the company of another person, whether she knew him or not. "Wait!" she called. "You don't have to leave."
The young man hesitated, then turned back around. He eyed her curiously and asked, "What are you doing up here?"
Amanda shrugged airily. "Just seemed like a nice spot." She smiled, hoping to draw him in.
It seemed to work. He took a few steps toward her, coming more into the light.
And my, wasn't he a handsome young man, too?
"I've been known to spend time up here myself," he said in his soft voice. "It's a good spot for brooding."
"I noticed that." Amanda stepped a little to one side, waving a little with one hand to indicate he was welcome to come closer. He took her up on her invitation, stepping up to the ledge. "Do you work here or something?"
"I do." He glanced out at the city, then back to Amanda. "I'm a private detective. My office is in this building."
Amanda took back her original estimate of him being handsome; he was beautiful. His features were unusual, but combined with his dark eyes and frankly sensual mouth, they combined to make a purely striking whole. In that, he reminded her a bit of Methos.
"I've known private detectives from time to time," Amanda said, continuing the conversation. She didn't add that most of the time, they'd been trying to get something back from her. "You weren't expecting anyone else to be up here, I take it."
A ghost of a smile flitted across the young man's features. "No. And when I saw you, I thought for just a second you were someone else--someone I really didn't want to see."
Amanda responded by turning her charm up a notch. "But you don't mind seeing me?"
The ghost of a smile turned into a real one. "Well, you are a lot prettier than he is."
Her response to his smile and the light flirt made Amanda think that this young man could be dangerously charming when he wanted to be. Strangely, he seemed to pull back, as if charming someone was the last thing he wanted to do tonight. Amanda had the feeling that if she didn't do something quickly, he'd withdraw altogether.
"So, what brings you up here on Christmas Eve?" she asked.
He looked down. "I . . . recently lost a friend. I was just remembering him. Thinking things over."
Amanda nodded. "I know that feeling. Losing someone you care about--it makes you re-think your whole life."
"You're not wrong." He gave a short, humorless laugh. "Re-evaluating my life around Christmas seems to be becoming an annual tradition for me. I'm just lucky this one's not as bad as last year."
"What happened?" Amanda asked on impulse. She wasn't sure she should.
He hesitated a moment. "It's a very long story, but the short version is--I tried to kill myself."
Amanda leaned on the ledge. "That's never a practical thing to do."
"Seemed to be at the time," he countered lightly. "I just . . . didn't see why I should stick around. The world didn't seem to benefit from my presence."
Quietly, Amanda looked at him. His eyes were faraway, looking over the city, and she could see some sort of obscure pain in his face. "Things were bad?" she asked softly.
"Did you . . . did you hurt someone you loved?" Amanda forced the question out.
His head whipped around, and the obscure pain blazed to life in his eyes. "How . . ."
Amanda just nodded, feeling the same pain herself. "Been there, done that." She forced a shrug. "My life was going along okay when I suddenly discovered I was causing a lot more harm than I ever suspected, or wanted to cause. Then someone was there who made me feel like maybe I could just start over--make myself better, different." She swallowed hard. "And then I ended up hurting him so bad I don't know if I can ever make it up to him."
The young man's eyes were stricken as he nodded. "That's . . . that's exactly . . . you can't know how much that sounds like the story of my life."
A long silence passed. Amanda looked at his eyes and face, seeing a sorrow and pain that far surpassed anything she'd ever found in a mortal. She suspected there was far more to this young man than met the eye, and wondered what his secret was.
"So what made you decide to stick around?" she finally asked.
He sighed. "I realized that if I were to kill myself without even trying to make amends, all the harm and pain I caused would mean nothing. I've got to at least try for redemption, even if I never find it."
Amanda nodded, her smile returning. "Sounds like a good philosophy." She shook herself suddenly. "Well, it's been lovely sharing a brood with you. You're very good at it, you know. And as I know one of the champion brooders of all time, that's quite the compliment."
That hint of a smile came back to his face. "Had a lot of practice."
Amanda glanced down at her watch. "It's Christmas," she noted simply.
"So it is."
She looked at him contemplatively. "I'm Amanda."
He hesitated only a moment. "I'm Angel."
"Angel." Amanda smiled. "That's very appropriate. Do you live here, Angel?"
He smiled again, very slightly. "For now."
She took a step toward him. "I don't. In fact, I rarely, if ever, visit Los Angeles. That makes the chances of us ever meeting again extremely remote, so . . ."
Amanda reached out, hooking a hand around the back of Angel's neck. He moved forward willingly, and she kissed him with a sudden passion that surprised her. His mouth felt strangely cool, but he responded to her kiss with equal fervor. After a long moment, she released him.
"Goodbye, my Christmas Angel," she whispered.
He looked deep into her dark eyes with his own. "Thank you, Amanda," he murmured.
She withdrew, heading for the roof door. As she reached it, she turned back to find Angel watching her.
"You've got someone, I hope?" she asked.
A real smile crossed his face. "I've got someone who doesn't let me brood if she can stop it."
"Good." With one last smile, Amanda exited the roof.
As she closed the door, she made the decision that she would find Duncan in time for New Year's. No matter what else he was, he was her best friend. She didn't have to be alone anymore.