A/N These stories are written as a prequel to my 'Doyle Lives' season by season rewrites of Angel the Series and will follow the two characters all the way up until the point my season one rewrite starts up. However it can also be read as a standalone fic in its own right.
The digits on the alarm clock rolled around to 6:30 am. 'No more I love yous, the language is leaving me.' Annie Lennox's voice drifted through the dark room, as the clock radio told the slumbering inhabitants it was time to get up through the medium of this week's Billboard Hot 100. 'No more I love yous. Changes are shifting outside the words...'
Francis raised a lazy arm and fumbled around for the off switch. 'The lover speaks about monsters, I used to have demons in my room at night. Desire, despair, desire, so many monsters…' He smacked it a few times, clumsily, without even opening his eyes to look, and finally pressed the right button. Annie was silenced, and he breathed a sigh of relief, as quiet reigned through his room once more.
Then he pried one eye open and smiled down at the curly head of his wife, resting on his chest. He planted a quick kiss in her curls and tickled her arm. 'It's time to get up,' he murmured.
She stirred, and smiled up at him with sleepy eyes - still wrapped up in his arms. 'Happy birthday Mr. President of the P.T.A,' she said, leaning up to give him a kiss. 'What would you like for breakfast, birthday boy?'
He kissed her back, his eyes growing mischievous. 'Mmm - couldn't we skip breakfast and … you know…' he waggled his eyebrows at her suggestively, 'get fleshy with one another instead?'
But she shook her head, vehemently, her curls bouncing around her face as she laughed. 'No way! I only make pancakes on special occasions - and I'm not missing out because you woke up on the frisky side of the bed this morning.'
'Then I guess I want pancakes, darlin'.'
'Excellent choice.' She gave him another quick kiss and then slid out of the bed, wrapping her robe around herself. Francis lay back against the pillows, his hands resting behind his head, and enjoyed the view as his wife's smooth skin disappeared inside her silky robe.
She padded away through the door and out into the living area of their tiny apartment. From inside the bedroom he heard the sounds of her clattering around with pots and pans, cracking eggs and the hiss of the gas being switched on and then the crackle as the oil began to heat up. 'You know if you don't get up soon then I'm making pancakes for one - and you can go to work hungry,' she yelled through to him.
'On my birthday? You're inhuman, woman,' he yelled back to her. He heard her laugh. 'Well the batter's in the pan, you'd better hurry,' she called.
'Yeah, yeah,' he muttered, throwing back the covers. He paused. He could feel a sneeze building - the pressure building up inside his nose, tickling and itching and refusing to come out. He blinked, squeezing his eyes shut to try and force it. It was infuriating.
'You coming?' he heard Harri call for him again, but he didn't answer - he was too busy concentrating on expelling the sneeze. His fingers curled up with the tension and his breathing became shallow… nearly … nearly … he blinked again and willed himself to …
It was explosive, and Harri's peals of laughter could be heard from the other room. 'Bless you!' She shouted through to him, 'now get in here before your pancakes burn.'
But Francis wasn't listening to her, in fact her voice sounded distant - like it was coming from underwater - and all he could hear was the pounding of his heart and the thrumming of his blood in his own ears. Because something was wrong.
He had brought his hands up to cover his nose and mouth as he sneezed - naturally. But when he did, he suddenly felt something pricking into his skin - sharp and painful, like a hundred tiny needle points. He yanked his hands away from his face, not understanding what had happened, and that's when he had seen his skin. It was green. Bright Green. All of it. From his nails to his … his eyes tracked down his hand, to his wrist, up to his arm. That was green too. He could see the thick, black hairs standing out against the emerald. He glanced down, his chest was green too.
Slowly, his hands trembling, he brought them back up to his face … and tried to run them across his skin. But once more, he felt those sharp pinpricks stabbing into him. More gingerly this time, he patted at his face: at his forehead, his cheeks, his chin, even his nose. There were little spikes growing all over them. Growing all over his face.
Holding his breath, and so terribly afraid of what he was about to see, he kneeled up on the bed so he could peer across the room into the mirror on Harri's dressing table. A … monster ... stared back at him. Like him, it's skin was green and it had little prickles all over it's face. Blue prickles. And it's eyes - it's eyes were as red as the eyes of the demons from hell that Father Murphy had preached about from his pulpit every Sunday. The sort of demons that Francis had stopped believing in when he was still only a little boy. But now there was one of them in his mirror, sitting on his bed.
Francis raised his hand to his face again - in the mirror, the monster did likewise. Francis leaned closer to the mirror to get a better look. The monster did likewise. Francis brought his hands up to his head, gripping onto his scalp, his fingers sliding through his hair - making it stand up all tufty. The monster in the mirror did exactly the same. Even down to the tufty hair. He … was the monster in the mirror.
Fear gripped his heart, making it feel like a lump of ice lodged in his chest. His breathing was shallow and it was only the suddenness of it, the disbelief and the shock, that was stopping him from screaming. Or crying. He closed his eyes and willed himself to go back to normal. To be pink again - with green eyes. But when he opened his eyes again he was still monstrous.
He closed his eyes one more time - putting every nerve and sinew, every fibre of his being into willing himself to change back. If he just counted to ten and wished really hard… but once his eyes were closed he heard Harri's footsteps headed back his way. 'Francis, where are you?'
His eyes flew open in alarm, long before he reached ten, and locked gazes with the red eyed demon in the mirror. She would be here any moment - there was no place for him to hide. No way she wouldn't see him like…
'Francis, what…?' She came to a stop in the doorway. And though he wanted to crawl under the covers - or right under the bed - to try and hide his monstrosity from his wife, he found himself frozen in place. His body unwilling to move, only his head turning towards her, to give her a facefull of his hideousness. The sweat was pouring off him, he was trembling and his heart hammered so fast he thought it was going to explode. He looked into her eyes …
And she screamed. The spatula she was holding dropped to the floor with a clatter, as she brought her hands up to her mouth, still screaming - one long, loud note of horror. And her eyes were terrified. Terrified of the thing in the bed. The monster. Terrified of him.
And then the sound of the smoke alarm mingled with her screams. His birthday pancakes were burning.