Title: The Master of the Ring

Author: ashes at midnight

Wordcount: 4,095

Pairings: Buffy/Angel, Darla/Angelus and mentions of Spike/Dru

Rating: M

Prompt: Angel takes Buffy to a circus/fair, flashing back to a time when the fanged four visited a circus/fair.

Disclaimer: Joss owns the characters, I own the plot.

A/N: Written for the 'Choose Your Own Author Ficathon' over at livejournal. Set in season 2, between "What's my line pt. 2" and "Surprise", and including pre-series flashbacks. Thankyou to Boo's Boy's on FF,net for the wonderful beta! Enjoy!

"The attraction of the virtuoso for the public is very like that of the circus for the crowd. There is always the hope that something dangerous will happen."
- Claude Debussy

The Master of the Ring

Sunnydale, California, USA
December 1997

Buffy Summers; current Vampire Slayer, failing math's student, and beautiful friend, pulled the sharpened wooden stake out of the waistband of her pants and smiled. Her bright, hazel eyes fixed unblinkingly on the lone vampire standing in front of her.

The vampire was young, Buffy guessed. No older then a couple of decades at the most; its outdated clothing was the perfect giveaway to Buffy's trained eye.

The old vampires knew how to blend in.

This vampire, with its mullet, flannel shirt, and stone-washed jeans was severely passed it's used by date.

Seeing the stake in her hand, the vampire paused, its golden eyes turned curious. "Hey, girl…what ya got there?" he asked, tilting his head to the side.

Buffy raised her eyebrows. "Are you serious?" she asked in disbelief. "You haven't seen one of these before?" She twirled the stake in her hand.

Buffy laughed as the vampire nodded. "Oh….well now… how about I introduce you?" she grinned evilly, darted forward and plunged the stake straight through the vampire's heart. "This is Mr. Pointy," she said as the vampire crumpled to dust.

She stepped back, put the stake in her jeans and brushed of her clothes. Then, she turned and walked away, her ponytail bouncing.

It was still early, not even eight o'clock yet, so Buffy turned around and, instead of heading for home like she normally did after patrol, she headed towards the center of town.

She wanted to go and see Angel.

It had been a couple of weeks since Kendra had turned up. Angel was now completely healed; not even a scar was left to show what he had been through.

Spike and Drusilla had disappeared; for all they knew, the two vampires were dust. Buffy didn't hold up much hope though. After two years she knew the evil that Hellmouth was capable of, and the surprises it had in store for her and the rest of the Scooby gang.

Turning a corner, she started walking down a laneway towards the center of town, and Angel's small, industrial apartment block. Suddenly, she heard music, and frowned; it wasn't the type of music that you could dance or sing to. It wasn't coming from the Bronze, or the Coffee Spot she'd just past; this was jaunty, cheerful, theme park music.

On loop.

The laneway ended, and her eyes widened. In the park across the road from the cinema and the coffee shop, was a circus.

Her mouth opened in shock. A circus, in Sunnydale? Were the owners mad?

On the outside Sunnydale might seem like the idyllic coastal town, small and close-knit, with all the basics without the hustle and bustle of the city. But it hid a powerful and evil source; the Hellmouth. A place where demons were attracted to.

Still, despite the danger, Buffy couldn't help the thrill of excitement that passed through her. She had never been to the circus before, and thought it could be fun.

A few minutes later she was walking down the street towards Angel's apartment. She took the stairs down to the basement level, before she knocked on the first door on the left and waited. A few seconds later, the door creaked open, and Angel appeared. He smiled when he saw her, and pulled the door opened further, letting her slip past him and into his apartment before closing the door behind her.

They both sat down on the couch, knees touching as they faced each other. "Hey," he said quietly.

"Hey yourself," she said.

"How was patrol?"

She sighed. "I saw a vampire who didn't even know what a stake was."

Angel raised his eyebrows in disbelief and Buffy nodded at his expression. "I know, it's crazy," she said. "Nobody has any respect for the job I do."

"Buffy, Giles and the others wouldn't be alive now if it wasn't for you," Angel told her earnestly. "I'm sure I probably wouldn't be either."

Buffy shrugged. "Maybe," she said. "I guess, I'm just so used to vampires knowing who I am, that's all." She frowned. "Don't you ever get annoyed when another vampire doesn't recognize you?" she asked curiously.

He looked away. "I used to. Before I got my soul I made sure everyone knew who I was." He paused. "Now I wish they didn't."

Silence settled around them; Angel stared at his feet, brooding. Buffy didn't know what to say to break the uncomfortable silence. She knew Angel was thinking of his past, and she hated when he got like this. He wasn't responsible for the things the demon did for all those years. But he took it all on his shoulders.

"Why does every conversation we have always turn depressing?" she muttered.

Angel glanced up at her, a shocked look on his face. When he noticed the smile on her face, and realized she was teasing, he managed a smile.

"It is a little depressing," he admitted.

Suddenly she brightened. "So, lets do something fun. It's still early!"

Angel blinked and turned his head, a whole mass of emotions running over his face. "Like a date?" he asked.

The last date that had gone on hadn't ended very well. A trip to the ice skating rink that ended in a bloodbath, and the arrival of the Order of Taraka.

She shrugged no-committedly. "If you want it to be," she said hopefully.

Angel looked at her closely. "I'd like that," he a said, a small smile appearing on his face.

Buffy jumped up from the couch, taking his arm and hauling him to his feet. "I know exactly what we can do," she said to him. "Come on." She turned and headed out the door, pulling Angel along behind her.

A little while later, they were standing on a street corner. "This is going to be so much fun!" she announced, smiling up at him.

Angel stared at the big tents, his expression unreadable.

"You've been to a Circus before, right?" Buffy asked, curious.

"Once," he said.

She raised an eyebrow. "Wow, that's not a happy face. What happened?"

Angel winced. "You really don't want to know," he muttered.


Dobrich, Bulgaria,
August 1897

The town of Dobrich was bustling with activity. The warm summer night was ideal for hunting. The oil-lit street lamps provided the perfect balance between light and shadow.

It was just light enough that the humans felt safe, but dark enough that the vampires could hide in the shadows, and wait for the perfect opportunity to strike.

"All the kings' horses and all the kings' men…." Drusilla whispered quietly, as she walked beside her sire, Angelus.

Darla walked on his other side, her arm linked with his, while Spike trailed along behind them.

Angelus turned his head and glanced down at Drusilla, an amused look in his eyes. He reached out and touched her cheek lightly; it could have been called lovingly, if the look in his eyes wasn't so cruel and calculating.

"What do you see Dru?" he asked her, as he took her arm in his.

Drusilla was silent for a few moments, humming to herself quietly before tilting her head and leaning her head on Angelus' shoulder. "Cats and claws, and little trinkets of fancy!" She giggled quietly to herself.

Darla made an annoyed sound in the back of her throat, and rolled her eyes at Drusilla's antics. Her moments of lucidity were few and far between. A mad vampire was a danger to herself, and a real risk of exposure. More than once, it was only some quick thinking by herself or Angelus that had prevented Drusilla from getting killed.

Since Spike had been turned it was even harder to keep a low profile. He was foolhardy and reckless, rarely thinking anything through before throwing himself into the kill.

Spike was a walking hazard; Darla and Angelus had lost count of the number of times they had had to flee before they were burned, or staked.

The four of them had been travelling across Europe for about a decade now. They moved from town to town, every couple of months or so, never staying in any place for too long.

Whispers followed them. Angelus loved the attention; he reveled in the fear his true face revealed.

Darla was greatly amused at the difference between the reactions to his human face, and to his vampire one. It was one of the reasons she had turned him in the first place. It would have been a crying shame to see a face so achingly handsome weather and fade as he aged.

Drusilla giggled again, shaking Darla out of her revelry. "So many pretty colors," she whispered.

Angelus laughed heartily, and wrapped his arm around Drusilla's bony shoulders. "I love it when she does that!"

Darla rolled her eyes again and continued walking. The center of town fell behind them as they walked down a side street and headed towards the outskirts of the small town.

A circus was set up in the fields behind the town.

In the middle of the grassy field stood a large, free-standing tent; a mass of people were gathered around it. The vampires walked forward curiously, as an elephant let out a loud call.

Drusilla gasped and clapped her hands in delight; even Angelus and Darla looked on with wide eyes. Neither of them had ever seen an elephant before. They were fascinated.

Drusilla let go of Angelus' arm and bounced forward, going straight up to the elephant and staring at in fascination. She looked up into its large, dark eyes, and it tossed its head, and looked down at her. She smiled and reached out, placing her palm on its truck, and stroking the skin between its eyes.

"You won't forget, will you, little elephant?" she murmured softly.

"Dru, dear, Come away from the elephant," Darla said, as Angelus and Spike started laughing.

Drusilla lowered her arm and took a step away. "But he's all sad because his female has died," she said sadly. "All chopped up into soup."

Darla took Dru's arm and pulled her away. The four vampires turned away from the elephant, and entered the tent. All of them stopped and stared, Spike's mouth even dropped open in shock.

"Meow," Drusilla purred.


Mr. Rozanov, the ringmaster, was tall and very slim, with a long, thin face and black goatee. His smile was cunning as he walked into the middle of the ring and spread his arms wide. "Ladies and Gentlemen," he began, pitching his voice so it carried to the very edges of the crowd.

Every single person watched him in rapt attention, their eyes fixed unblinkingly on him. The four vampires were the only exception.

Darla leaned over and whispered in Angelus's ear, "Something strange is going on. Do you feel it?"

He nodded slowly. "Magic."

Darla's eyes followed the ringmaster as he walked slowly around the edge of the ring. Every human in the audience turned their heads to follow his movements, as if they were puppets, and he was their master. He was a mage. She could see their mouths moving, and they whispered to each other, with fear and disbelief filling her nostrils.

They knew what was happening to them, they could feel their bodies were no longer under their control. Only their mouths were their own, and their eyes, when he chose them to be.

As the ringmaster continued to walk around the ring, the magic in the room grew stronger. It wrapped slowly around the minds of the four vampires; there was nothing they could do against it. Even Darla, at almost 300 years old, was no match for it. He truly was a master of magic.

Mr. Rozanov chuckled softly to himself, as, one by one, he felt every person in the ring come under his control. For a second the presence of the vampires unnerved him. Would they fall under his influence like every other person had? He pushed further, and soon the four vampires sitting up the back were staring at him in rapt attention, just like every other person.

He grinned; it had worked.

Now the circus could really begin.

His performers walked stiffly into the tent; they were under his control just as the audience was. What followed was a dazzling display of aerobatics and skill. Trapeze artists and tightrope walkers displayed daring skills, as they leaped through the air. Clowns made the crowd laugh, and a lion tamer wowed the crowd as the big cat jumped through hoops.

As the last performance ended, the crowd fell silent again. The ringmaster searched the faces in the crowd, searching. He snapped his fingers and pointed.

Faces blank, their eyes frantic, as their bodies moved without their control, five people in the crowd stood up and walked towards him. They stopped in front of him, and he smiled, letting his eyes roam over them appraisingly, calculating their height and weight; strength; age; and gender.

He stepped forward and placed his palm against the cheek of a young girl, caressing her face, before stepping back. He jerked his head. "Get to work," he said, putting his demands into their heads, and watching as all five of them turned automatically and walked stiffly out of the tent.

The ringmaster chuckled darkly. He loved his travelling circus, because truly he was the only one permanently in it—apart from his animals. He would take people from a new town, make them perform as he wished, and when he grew bored he would kill them.

The route of his travels was lined with the fresh graves of his victims.

He looked up and raised a hand curling his fingers into a 'come here' motion. The four vampires stood as one. Angelus' eyes blazed yellow as he struggled to fight against the magic that was binding them to the mage's will. He snarled softly.

They walked down the stairs, and stopped in front of him.

"Come with me," Mr. Rozanov said. Turning his back and walking out of the tent, he lead them across the grassy fields, towards a smaller tent.

It was his personal tent, composing of a sitting room and chambers, and decorated in deep red, gold and dark wood.

He turned and sank easily into a high-backed chair, crossing his legs, and reaching for the pipe on the table next to him. He prepared the pipe and tobacco slowly, easily.

The four vampires stood in front of him, silently, their eyes the only thing moving as they looked around the chambers.

"This is a welcome surprise," he began. "I've never had the pleasure of a vampire in my audience before." He gave a sly smile. "I'm pleased my talents work on the undead."

He looked up. "Sit," he said, pointing at Darla.

The blonde vampire gritted her teeth as she tried to resist him, but it was no use. She sat down in the matching chair next to him.

"I'm wondering, how far I can make this work. Will you obey every command?" He reached out and caressed her arm slowly.

Angelus and Darla both growled softly, the man laughed in amusement, liking their reactions.

He settled back in his chair, relaxing his shoulders, as he made Darla slowly undo the tiny buttons that held her bodice together.

Angelus growled softly as Darla got to her feet and slowly stripped off all her clothes, carefully untying the corset, and taking of her long pantaloons. When she was completely naked in front of him, she bared her teeth in a silent snarl.

Drusilla whimpered sadly, not liking this at all. Spike remained silent, keeping his attention on the mage.

He wiggled his fingers and she walked towards him, settling herself over his lap, and putting her arms on his shoulders.

He placed his palms on her hips, and looked her up and down with admiration. He reaching out and palmed a heavy breast in his hand, rubbing his thumb over the nipple, and watching it harden under his touch.

Darla glared at him, hating how her body reacted to his touch, when her mind was screaming to get away. If she could, she would have ripped his throat out for this—for making her feel so helpless; for taking her control, and making it his own.

His hands continued to roam over her body. She closed her eyes, unwilling to watch as his hands moved between her legs.

It was hard work keeping the four vampires under his control. It was even harder now as his ministrations caused Angelus to growl. His face shifted, and he showed his fangs.

The ringmaster grinned at Angelus, over Darla's shoulder, his hand caressing her intimately.

"You think you can best me?" he snapped. "I can make you do whatever I want." He chuckled and bent his head, closed his mouth over one of Darla's nipples, and sucked deeply, twirling it between his lips.

A soft moan escaped her lips before she had the opportunity to clench her teeth together. Breathing heavily through her nose, she tried to keep herself calm. Her muscles tensed and poised, trying to keep her nerves under her own control, and not his.

Angelus growled again, and the mage laughed, snapping his fingers together he silenced him. Then, he turned his attention back to the vampire that was sitting on his lap. Darla took her hands from his shoulders and started undoing the buttons of his trousers. Reaching under his pants, she caressed the skin she found inside.

A satisfied smirk crossed the Rozanov's features, his breath hitching in his throat as Darla continued to stroke him.

Angelus snarledgrowled angrily, the scent of arousal filling his nostrils and making his anger spike. He focused all of his attention on his muscles, concentrating on making them move the way he wanted. He took a very slow step forward, and then another.

The mages eyes widened and he jumped to his feet; Darla tumbled from his lap and sprawled on the floor in an undignified heap. The evidence of his arousal was peeking out through the opening in his trousers, which he grabbed and fumbled to refasten, as he tucked himself back in.

"Stop," he said, shuffling away from the vampires. "Stop," he repeated. His voice wavered, a spark of fear igniting the vampire's strength.

Angelus snarled again savagely; and Rozanov's breath hitched in his throat. His concentration wavered even further. Angelus took advantage, quickly moving forward, and grabbing him by the lapels of his tailored coat, before he had even realized he had let his concentration slip.

Angelus bared his fangs, and, in a move to quick to see, he reached up and wrenched the ringmaster's head from his body.

Blood spurted everywhere, as the body slumped to the floor, the head bouncing across the room.

Darla scrambled to her feet, a snarl on her lips. Angelus covered the distance between them, grabbed her by the waist and held her to him, kissing her feverishly. Darla grabbed his head in her hand and returned his kisses with fervor, wanting to rid her mind and skin of the touch of the mage.

Angelus pulled his head back, licked her neck and bit her lightly; an affectionate nip, really. Then, he lifted his head again and looked into her eyes.

Darla returned his gaze. "I'm ok," she said into the silence of the tent.

Spike kicked the head across the room. "So, what do we do now?" he asked, sticking his hands in his pockets. "I, for one, could do with a little bit of mass destruction." He smirked. "There's a whole lot of people outside this tent."

Darla pursed her lips together in thought, and raised an eyebrow. Angelus tilted his head to the side as he considered his options.

Drusilla put her hand on Spike's shoulder. "The night is young and the wind is swift. Ride all night and sleep all day."

Angelus looked at her and nodded. "Let's have some fun and leave tonight."

Darla licked her lips in anticipation. "If we leave tonight we can be in Varna before dawn," she said, bending down and pulling her clothes back on.

Angelus smiled, and it was cruel.


Screams filled the air as the vampires stalked through the maze of tents, game faces at the fore. When they saw them, the human's turned and tried to run. Spike started to laugh, and grabbed one of he trapeze artists as she ran past. She screamed loudly as he grabbed her around the waist, before grabbing her hair, pulling her head to the side and exposing her throat. He growled as he sunk his fangs into her neck and started to feed, quickly draining her of her strength and life.

Angelus and Darla quickly picked off the victims, while Angelus more concerned with killing as many as possible.

Darla went right for the strongest; a weightlifter who towered head and shoulders above her. He tried to hit her, but she dodged, grabbed his arm, snapping it savagely. He fell to his knees, where she grabbed his chin roughly and tilted it to the side, ripping into his throat.

The four vampires gorged themselves on the circus performers, and pretty soon, all of them were covered in blood. Even for Angelus, the blood filling the air started taking its toll. He, the most controlled vampire of the group, gave into the bloodlust. Seizing a young woman around the throat, he snapped her neck before sinking his fangs into her throat.

Angelus dropped the girl to the floor and then stalked over to Darla. Grabbing her around the waist, he kissed her passionately.

She moaned quietly, fitting herself to his body, and running her hands down his sides. Hooking her fingers into the waistband of his pants, she pressed herself against him, wiggling her hips and grinding herself slowly against him.

Spike raised an eyebrow, and pursed his lips together, as Drusilla giggled quietly and put her hands to her mouth.

Right out in the open, in the spaces between the tents, Angelus and Darla fumbled with their clothes. Trousers were dropped and skirts lifted as they sat in the dirt and started to fuck. Small moans and grunts could be heard as they moved against one another in a fast and rough display of passion.

Spike and Drusilla watched on.


Sunnydale, California, USA
December 1997

Angel continued to stare at the circus. He didn't tell Buffy what had happened all those years ago, and, after seeing the look on his face, she didn't ask.

Instead, she took his hand and held it. After a few seconds he responded, shaking his head as he threw away the memories, and turned his head to look down at her.

He managed a small smile. "I'm ok," he assured her, quietly.

Together they walked into the tent and found a couple of seats. All around them the crowd was bustling, talking and laughing.

Parents pushed children into seats, weighed down by snacks merchandise. Packs of teenagers sat up the back, talking in hushed groups, and doing their best to appear calm, while hiding a rush of excitement. Other couples were dotted throughout the crowd. They cuddled up against one another, sharing popcorn and drinks, and wrapping their arms around one another.

The lights in the tent dimmed, and the crowd fell silent. The ringmaster walked into the center of the tent and threw his arms out. Looking around at the crowd and smiling, he introduced the first act.

Angel watched him with trepidation, tense and ready, remembering the last time he had been at the circus, and the horror that had followed him there. Even as a soulless demon, it was something he could never forget.

Buffy didn't share his unease at all, as she clapped and cheered.

He sighed and slowly relaxed into the seat, putting his arms around Buffy's shoulder and pulling her close to him. She looked up at his face and smiled, wrapping her arms around his chest.

"This is nice," she murmured, snuggling against him and smiling as a trio of clowns rode into the ring.

"Mmm…" he murmured. "Nice, yeah."

"Angel?" Buffy whispered.

"Yeah?" he asked, turning his head away from the clowns and glancing down at her.

"Do you like the circus?" she asked, snuggling into his chest.

He turned his head and watched one of the clowns throw a pie at the other's face. He chuckled and turned to look at Buffy again. "This time," he said.

A/N: Thanks for reading, if you liked it please leave a review and tell me what you thought.