Secrets & Lies, Part X

Author’s Notes: Future-ish fic. Angel broods, Buffy dreams, and Angel and Cordelia have a showdown… Angelus gets kinda chatty here, so brace yourself. *g*My muse went on strike this week, and would only work when I finally agreed that I would find a way for Whordelia, oops – I mean Cordelia – to bleed.

Harri – I’m sure you’ll see something to add to your list of clues here. *g*
Sonia – the dream sequence here is for you. *g*
Rehatha – as always, thanks for the help!

Again, this is for all the usual suspects that send me feedback! Thank you guys sooo much. *smack*

Flashbacks or memories are denoted between /* and */. Thoughts are in italics.

Rating: Adult; explicit sex

Disclaimer: Own nothing. All belongs to Joss, ME, Fox, et.al.

Pairing: Ultimately B/A. Has C/A and mentions of B/S.

Distribution: My site, EverySixSeconds; sites currently with permission to host my fics; all others please ask.

Originally Posted: Mar 25, 2003

Angel parked the car and cut the engine, staring for a moment at the waves of the ocean as they lapped at the shore. The normally deep blue-green water appeared black in the nearly moonless night, a low mist of fog resting just above the surface.

Exiting the car, he walked slowly toward the beach. He wasn’t sure where he was going when he left Magos Exousia but almost without thinking he had ended up here. As he crossed the Santa Monica pier, he adjusted his coat collar and tucked his hands in his pockets. It was habit rather than necessity that made him automatically cling to the shadows and lurk in the dark; a habit of years of vampiric existence that remained unbroken.

Despite the usually mild temperatures of southern California, on this January night there was a chill in the air and a steadily increasing wind. Angel paused briefly to scan the nearly deserted pier, the late hour and the inclement weather forcing most of those who that would be out and about to seek the warmth and comfort of the indoors.

He continued his walk down the pier, slowing as he approached the one place that he knew he would never forget should he live only 2 more years or another 200. He stopped in the exact spot and stood still for a moment, letting the memories wash over him along with the sound of the waves lapping at the shore. He closed his eyes.

The memory of her standing there in sunlight was crystal clear, vivid and arresting. She hadn’t been at all truthful with him when she had said that she didn’t look that good in direct light. She was even more beautiful than he had ever allowed himself to imagine, the bright rays of the sun reflecting off her creamy skin, her rich golden hair. She appeared almost ethereal, a goddess. His goddess.

He hadn’t been able to stop himself from sweeping her into his arms and kissing her with love and passion too long denied. She was as soft and warm as he remembered; more so perhaps, since he had been without the sight and taste of her for so long. Or more so perhaps because he had been human.

He opened his eyes and stared out across the sand into the dark void that was the ocean, his mind drifting over that day in lazy perusal.  What had started so awkwardly had ended so wonderfully. that is, until he ripped it asunder.

/* When he had finally lifted his head so they both could catch a breath, he looked down into her eyes and smiled, savoring the look of joy and confusion on her face.

Her hand slid down his chest over his heart and she watched it tentatively, as if unable to trust her senses. After a few moments of feeling the steady thump of his heartbeat under her palm, she giggled joyously and looked up at his face. He swung her around in his arms and they both laughed with giddy delight.

On the way back to the hotel, the giddy delight began to fade and reservations and doubts crept in. Buffy listened quietly as he explained what had happened with the Mohra demon and about his visit with the Oracles. By the time they reached the hotel, they were both quiet, lost in contemplative thought.

Angel was unable to believe that everything he had wanted was now within his grasp. He felt somehow that he had just cheated at some test and any minute he would be caught, the prize he wanted so desperately ripped from him. Or perhaps this chain of events simply wasn’t real – one of those things that were just too good to be believed and so would be proved false on further inspection. Or perhaps it was simply a dream; a dream that he had so often, that it began to bleed into his mind becoming indistinguishable from true memories.

Sitting at the table across from her, all he could think about was the feel of her, the taste of her. He wanted her so much, but it was unfair to assume that he could just come crashing back into her life now, months after he had left her alone in Sunnydale. She had moved on.

He made tea, not because he wanted it but because he needed something to do, something to occupy his hands and his mind, something to keep him from getting carried away again and pulling her into his arms. For a long awhile, they sat there sipping the tea quietly, both uncertain. When he finally drummed up the courage to speak, it wasn’t about how much he loved her, how incredibly ecstatic he was to have a chance to be with her, nor was it a plea to allow him back into her life. No, it wasn’t any of the things he really wanted to say. Instead he had asked about the damned tea.

“Would you like some more?”

“No, thank you.”   */

The conversion fumbled awkwardly from there as neither of them said what they really wanted to say, what they really meant.

He and Buffy had a nice history of miscommunication, and certainly on that particular day they continued the familiar pattern. Maybe they had both been too afraid to admit to feelings long denied, maybe it had been because they were both reluctant to believe that something they had longed for but never thought to have was within reach, or maybe they were both too afraid to risk the pain of rejection from the other. Their feelings simply ran too deep.

They’d have to change that going forward. Miscommunication or even lack of communication often led to lack of trust and that, of course, could lead straight to heartbreak.  Something neither of them could afford to risk once the spell was broken.

/*  “I’m really sorry I kissed you like that.”

“You are?”

“Well, not for the kiss itself…”

“Good.  I mean, ’cause – as far as kisses go I thought it was well above average.”

“It was incredible.  I just  – I-I think, maybe we’d be asking for trouble rushing back into things. Not that I don’t want to – rush.  Believe me, I do.”  */

He grimaced at the reminder, wishing even now that he could take back those words. Again, it hadn’t been what he wanted to say and the expression on her face – the hurt that she quickly masked, the disappointment.

His intention had been to put her interests first, but like so many other things he had done with regards to Buffy, it hadn’t come out as he had hoped or intended.

/* “Right.  You spoke to the Oracles and they said you were cured for good.  But how do we know that they really speak for the Powers?  I mean they could be – pranksters.”

“Or there could be another loophole.”

“Exactly.  And then the two of us would be in even deeper and it’s ‘grr’ all over again.”

“It would be smart to wait a while.  See if this mortal thing takes.”

“Exactly.  And even if it does, it’s still complicated.”

“You’re still the Slayer.  And I’m not sure what I am now.  I don’t know what my purpose is.  I can’t just wedge myself into your life back in Sunnydale.  It wouldn’t be good for either of us.  Not to mention the fact that you just started college.  And what about slaying.  I mean, if you had me to worry about, you might not be as focused.”

“Are you going to pull out a pie chart on me now?  Because I get it, it’s not necessary.”

“I’m not saying I don’t want you.  You know how much…  I’m just saying it’s worth the wait to be sure this is right.  I need to be sure you won’t get hurt again.”  */

And now, as things often do, they had come full circle. He was awash in all the same feelings again – hesitation, wanting only what was best for Buffy; love, wanting nothing more than to be with her and love her to distraction; doubt and fear, wanting some sort of assurance that whatever path they go down that she wasn’t going to get hurt.  It was complicated and it was frightening, even for a man that feared little else in life.

The way he looked at it, he was facing a monumental decision about their life, about her life and he wanted to make sure that he made the right choice. It was even more critical now that he do so, given the possible side effects of the spell.

/*  “You know it’s a good thing I didn’t fantasize about you turning human only about 10 zillion times, because today would have been a real let down.  –  So how does the mature plan go?  You call me?  I call you?  What?”

“We stay in touch – just not..”

“Literally. – Funny.  Okay, I’d better…”

“Right.  Remove the temptation.”

“So, we’ll – talk soon.”

Buffy tentatively touched his hand where he it rested on the counter. He stared at it dumbly for a minute before he could no longer control his base impulses. He pulled her into his arms, his lips descending on hers in a kiss. He hadn’t intended to do it, but any rein he had been holding over his control vanished with that simple touch. */

They had made love on the table until the table broke, then they made love on the floor. Afterwards, he had carried her to the bedroom and they made love there again and again, later sharing food and kisses. His heart beat as Buffy lapped ice cream off his chest.

The memories that he carried with him of that day were simply incredible. Even through the last few years in which they had been locked away, Angel not allowing them to be recalled, they survived intact, vibrant and clear.  Of course, with all those images he also carried one that broke his heart. her tear stained face when he had told her of his decision to give it all back was burned into his brain with searing luminosity.

It was a day that he would never forget. And that Buffy would never remember.

Hunching his shoulders slightly, he walked slowly down the pier toward the beach. Despite the long life he had, there were so few moments that he remembered with such clarity; that had given him such joy as that day. Thinking back on it now, he was surprised that he had had been able to give it up.

He chuckled bitterly, the sound lost in the dull wail of the wind. And for what? She had died a mere 18 months later and he hadn’t been there for her like he had once said he would always be.  /* “Hey, I won’t let anything happen to you if I can help it. No matter what, I’ll always be with you.  I’ll love you even if you’re covered with slime.” */

Sighing slightly, he sat heavily down on a bench. With the veiled promise that it would extend Buffy’s life as well as the risk that his mortality would bring her, giving up his chance at life as mortal had been the only decision that he could have made. He regretted now that it had only bought her a short 18 more months, but he would never have been able to live with himself had he been the cause for her death. As it was, he had to live with himself for not being there to prevent her death when he had once told her otherwise.

He had failed her too often. He was weak and he’d always been weak. He’d even said as much to her once. She had no reason to trust him, to believe in him, let alone love him. Those were privileges that he had to earn again.

He stared out into the dark vastness of the ocean with unseeing eyes. But how, if she closed herself off emotionally, would he be able to do that?

Of course he wanted to reclaim her as his mate. That wasn’t even a question. If it were up to him, he’d rush back to Sunnydale tonight, this very moment and do just that.  But he had to think of Buffy and what was best for her.

Should he tell her about the consequences of the spell?

All too often he’d made all of the decisions about their relationship himself, thinking that he knew more or better than she did what would make her happy. What she needed. His intentions were good, but as the saying went. the road to hell was paved with those. He’d certainly found that to be true, given where he had ended up – literally and figuratively.

Given such an outstanding track record in making bad decisions for them then, should he tell her and let her choose what she wanted?  After several long minutes of contemplation he sighed disagreeably. Probably not. The spell was slowly killing her. It had to be broken. Nikkos had said as much. Without love, she would die.  If he told her that, however, she’d probably just tell him that she didn’t care, that she’d die some day anyway. Slayers always did, what did he expect, and so on and so forth.

Seeing no other choice, he vowed that this would be the last decision that he would make for *them*, for their relationship on his own.  From here on out, he would work very hard to ensure that their relationship was a partnership, not an authoritarian dictatorship. He smiled slightly at the thought, thinking it sounded very much like something Buffy might say.

With that decision firmly in hand, his attention shifted to the next possible consequence. What happens when the spell is broken? Even though she knew about his past affairs with Darla and with Cordelia – would that hurt her without the protection of magic? Would it break her heart? Could he take that risk?

And what about Giles? She knew now about his illness but hadn’t been particularly concerned, feeling the sting of his betrayal instead. But without the spell – would either of those things hurt her enough to break her heart?

Angel shifted uncomfortably on the bench. He’d have to call Nikkos and find out.

Thoughts of Giles brought to mind the conversation that he had had with the former Watcher earlier in the day. Although the news was too late to do any good, Giles had been so intrigued by the mysterious crimson lilies that he had seen in the lobby of the Hyperion that he had researched them upon returning to England, and so he had tried to call and warn Angel that he thought they were a portent of a spell that Buffy might have done to break their bond.

It was ironic really. No one from AI had bothered to research them, but within days Buffy’s former Watcher had figured it out. If only he had gotten those messages from Giles days before. Of course, it wouldn’t have helped since the spell had already been done and the flowers had already been destroyed.

And there was the little matter of Giles’s missing journal. that was actually more the reason for the repeated calls. The former Watcher was nearly frantic to recover one of his journals that he had brought with him to LA. He didn’t believe he had brought it along with him to the Hyperion when he had visited there, but he asked about it just the same on the off chance that his memory was failing along with his body. The hotel that he had stayed in hadn’t turned up anything, so the possibility that the journal might have been left at the Hyperion was Giles’s last far-reaching hope of recovering it.

Of course, Angel hadn’t seen the journal but suspected that it might in fact be in the hotel – although not because Giles had left it but because Connor had stolen it. Angel declined to mention that part not wanting to alarm Giles or get his hopes up just yet, but said that he would have a look around the Hyperion just the same.

A couple down the beach laughed, the sound carrying in the wind, and Angel glanced down at them. The man raced to catch his companion’s hat that was swiftly blowing along the shore while she laughed heartily. He caught it, waving it triumphantly overhead before jogging back to where she sat. She opened the blanket she was wrapped in and he joined her, their voices dropping to low indistinguishable sounds as they cuddled together.

Pulling the wand Nikkos had tossed at him out of his pocket, Angel stared down at it thoughtfully, slightly mesmerized by the slowly drifting hearts and stars that floated around gracefully inside the thick glass. Why the silly thing had drawn his attention in the first place, he didn’t know. And why Nikkos had thought he would need it – he didn’t have the slightest clue.

As he twirled it around, his thoughts turned back to Buffy. He remembered his first sight of her, how young, how innocent, how vulnerable she had appeared to him. From that moment he wanted nothing more than to protect her, to help her; she had given him a purpose and made him want to be more than what he had been – all without saying a single word.

More than that though, she had become a part of him.

He would have liked to say it was a gradual thing, but that would have been a lie. She had taken his heart and soul from that very first glance.

How much he had enjoyed even the simple pleasure of being with her; their sweeps through the cemeteries before he would walk her home. The chaste kisses on her porch that gradually grew into longer kisses and wandering hands, farther and farther from her house.  He enjoyed fighting along side her, watching her lithe, graceful moves. Of course, he’d often felt the need to step in and help her – even when she didn’t need or want his help. It was a masculine, age-old protectiveness that he’d not been able to easily control – and something she insisted on teasing him about time and again. He smiled in memory.

His mind winged back to her 17th birthday. That day had changed them both, in more than just the obvious ways. Not only had she gifted him with her innocence and her heart that night, but something more significant had changed within her that night, something so profound that even her scent had altered, marking her as his even before he actually did take her as his mate. It wasn’t just his scent commingled with hers, but something more pronounced, something that was a combination of them both.

When he had returned from hell, things between them were initially strained and awkward. They never discussed the time he had spent as Angelus, although it seemed that they both often wanted to. Too often Buffy had seemed as if she had something to tell him but was too reluctant or afraid. To be fair, of course, he had plenty of things he wanted to say to her – but he was too ashamed. An apology for being a demon just didn’t seem to be enough. It soothed him though; those evenings when she would stop by with some worry plaguing her and would sit next to him, as if simply being near to him helped. He would listen to her worries and fears, big or small, and would offer his advice when she seemed to want it or simply his ear or occasionally his shoulder for her to lean on. He would fold her in his arms every so often, careful to keep things circumspect for both their sakes and she would drift off to sleep, her worries forgotten for a few hours.

From the first moment he had seen her, he had seen her heart so clearly that he had been struck by the need to protect it. Now it seemed prophetic really, since that’s what he saw clearly that he needed to do now. More than anything, his mission has become to protect her heart. To keep it from breaking ever again.

He had to believe that they were Fated to be together. She had been the reason Whistler had brought him to LA, and then to Sunnydale. She was his destiny – and he had let that slip right through his fingers.

In retrospect, he realized that his link to humanity had started with Buffy.  Every day since the day he had left her, every day since the day that he had given back, was another day to bury his head in the sand and pretend that everything was all right.  Every day was a deeper slip into complacency, into pretending things were just as they should be when they weren’t anywhere near close.

Why had he let himself live in such a fog?  A fog that had slowly descended over him beginning almost the first year he was in LA, when he had started losing his connection to her. Doyle had prodded him along, kept him from faltering when he wavered but then Doyle had died and things began to fall apart.

Angel sighed heavily. He had thought or maybe he had just convinced himself, that he was doing what he was supposed to do, what the infernal Powers had wanted him to do. Cordelia taking Doyle’s place seemed to be the right thing, but then somewhere that had gone wrong as well.

Listening to Cordelia’s advice and visions, allowing her to guide him. he had somehow thought it was what he had been meant to do.  How was it that he hadn’t seen the evil streak in her that was a mile wide?  Of course, neither Buffy nor Giles had ever seemed particularly fond of Cordelia, for that matter, neither was Willow. Perhaps they had all seen her true personality early on, or perhaps it had simply been instinct. Either way, he regretted now that he hadn’t seen it as well.

He knew that the further he slipped away from Buffy, the more keenly he felt her loss. The more he needed something – love, a connection to humanity, a family – to replace that loss. Now he knew that he’d been wrong to think he could replace her with substitutes.  He just hadn’t realized until now how far he’d got to try to have any semblance of what he really wanted.

Standing, he released a soft sound of disgust. He had grown weak and soft and complacent.

Shaking aside the thought as he began to walk toward his car, the scent of the coming dawn beginning to fill his nostrils, he vowed that he would no longer be the man that he had been these last few years. Instead, he would be the man that Buffy had once believed him to be. He would prove to her and to himself that he could be more than what he had been.

There would be no more half-truths and lies to separate them; the only person he would allow to tell him things about Buffy would be Buffy herself.

When he reached his car, he felt as if he had some sort of epiphany. He knew what he needed to do now to reclaim his mate. He need now what he needed to do to put his life back on track.  He had one thing to deal with in LA before heading back to Sunnydale. Cordelia.

————————————————————-

Buffy walked silently through the streets of Sunnydale, following her usual patrol route as she moved steadily and with purpose. Her eyes scanned left and right as she searched the shadows, as if looking for something or someone. Turning the corner, she made her way down the darkened alley. It briefly passed through her mind that was the same alley where she had first met her Angel. Her Angel? Where had that come from?  When she reached the tall brick building at the end of the alley she slowed her steps, approaching the nondescript door cautiously.

Nowhere in Sunnydale could she recall seeing a structure even remotely like this one, yet it seemed strangely familiar. The surrounding streets were deserted, dimly lit by the blue lights that flickered on either side of the door. Suddenly a chill wind blew, the sound whistling eerily through the nearby trees and shuffling papers and other trash along the sidewalk.

Drawn to the building, Buffy reached out and slowly opened the door. When she stepped into the club, her clothing changed suddenly from the jeans and cotton shirt she had been wearing on patrol to a small, tight pale blue bikini top and matching tiny skirt that hung low on her hips, just covering her behind. Her black boots had been replaced with white knee high ones.

Shrugging slightly, she soothed one hand over her hip and pushed her way into the crowded club. The building’s exterior concealed the vastness of the cavernous interior, and the quiet streets in no way gave any indication of the sheer masses crowded inside.

Buffy glanced around, noticing for the first time that all of the occupants of the club were vampires, demons or other creatures of the night. They all looked at her slyly out of the corner of their eyes as she past by them, walking slowing and taking in the platforms just above her eye level along the sides of the club.

With a confused expression, she studied the women that were dancing erotically inside each of the golden cages as she walked along. Each girl was wearing an outfit similar in style to the one she was also now wearing.

A bald man with glasses stepped up next to her, drawing her attention. In one hand, he held a tray of assorted cheese slices that he waved in front of her. Blandly, he asked, “Do you have time?”  Surprisingly, she could hear him clearly despite the loud pulsing music.

“No.” Buffy replied irritably as she was jostled by the demon on her right.

The bald man nodded sadly, lowering his tray. “I didn’t think so,” he murmured quietly, moving off into the crowd.

Buffy stared at his back curiously as he disappeared into the throng of people, allowing herself to be taken by surprise when two demons suddenly grasped her by each arm and yanked her forward.

She struggled slightly at first, then with increasing strength but was unable to free herself from their steely grip as they dragged her through the club toward the empty, icy blue cage at the far end.

Her head jerked around and she gasped when the past the last occupied cage. Faith.

“I knew they’d get you eventually, B.” Faith said with a malicious smile before turning her attention back to the demons crowded in front of her. The dark-haired slayer writhed against the bars, lifting her arms over her head and dropping her head back in obvious enjoyment of the attention she was receiving.

Buffy struggled harder, frightened now as the demons forced her ever closer to the empty cage. This cage was different from all the others. The base and top appeared to be glass covered with tiny white crystals, sparkling like a pristine snow bank on a sunny winter day. The bars of the cage were clear and thick. On closer inspection, they appeared to be ice. A blue light illuminated the inside. She could feel the icy chill emanating from the cage, even from a several feet away where they had finally come to a stop.

“Hold.” Behind them a voice rang out commandingly, loud and clear over the din of the crowd. The noises of the club seemed to have halted abruptly at the sound of the man’s voice. “Bring her to me.”

The demons turned to face the man calling out to them, yanking on her arms and forcing the diminutive blonde to turn with them.

Buffy inhaled sharply.

Angel sat in a large chair nearby, a burly minion in vamp face standing on each side of him and slightly behind. On a table at his elbow sat an ornate goblet, filled with blood although how she knew that she wasn’t sure, and a blue vase of graceful calla lilies. Power and strength emanated from him despite the casual pose.

The demons on either side of her, still holding her arms, bowed to him deferentially. Dragging her forward, they forced her to her knees as one of them snarled, “Kneel before the master, bitch.”

Buffy stared up at Angel, hiding her fear and anger. She resented being forced to her knees in front of him, but underlying her resentment the thought invaded her consciousness that somehow he held her destiny in his hands.

“Come.” He held out a commanding hand, curling his fingers slightly. The Claddagh ring that he wore glinted in the dim light. His eyes swept over her with hungry anticipation and she shivered.

Pride straightened her back and she lifted her head high as she rose to her feet and slowly walked toward him, her hips swinging slightly, her hair brushing along the bared skin of her back in a feather light caress. Her breasts thrust forward impudently, her peaking nipples repeatedly drawing his eyes, which were roving over her in unrestrained lust.

Buffy shivered with cold as she approached him, stopping a few inches away from where he sat. She stood still for a few seconds before wrapping her arms around her chest and sliding her hands up her arms to stave off the chill.

“You’re cold.” Angel said as he studied her under his lashes, his pose relaxed yet still projecting an aura of power, of control.

She knew that her nipples could now be seen through the thin material of her top and she self-consciously covered them even as she fought the urge to loosen the center tie and instead beg him to suckle the jewel hard tips.

Mentally shoving aside the lascivious thoughts, she queried playfully, “Are you going to give me another jacket?”  A slight smile curved her lips at the memory. How easy things had been then. How simple in retrospect.

“No.” Angel replied, dropping his eyes from her body to look at the object in his hand. He toyed with it, rolling it around carefully, his thumb brushing over it almost reverently. “I have a better way to warm you.”

Buffy stared at the oval shaped pale blue diamond that he turned over in his fingertips, the beauty of the object stunning in extreme. When he held it out for her to view clearly, she studied it for a moment before her eyes flicked to his face.

She shuddered from either cold or fear or perhaps both, when he pulled her forward to stand between his legs. His eyes wandered over her again, pausing at her breasts, her hips. His fingers brushed across her upper chest just along the line of her top before lightly skimming the obvious points of her nipples as he leaned forward. Tugging on a strand of her hair, he bent her slightly so that his lips could brush her ear. “Trust me.” He whispered huskily, his voice so low that only the two of them could hear.

Buffy hesitated. She didn’t want to admit it but she was frightened. Behind her, she could hear the leers and chants of the demons that surrounded them.

He reached for her hand.

“No.” She whispered, struggling slightly to free her hand from his grasp as he interlaced her fingers with his.

“I would never hurt you.” Angel soothed, tugging her closer.

“No. You did.” Buffy replied, her voice almost a whimper. “You hurt me before. You always hurt me.”

“Shh. Love. I know. I’m sorry.” Angel soothed again, quietly so that his voice wouldn’t carry to the nearby demons watching them with interest.  “I should never have left you, but I did and I’m sorry. I made a mistake. But, Buffy, love, please don’t close me out now.”

Buffy stared at his face, tears in her eyes. She licked her lips nervously, feeling colder than ever. Again, she shivered.

“Forgive me. Let me love you. Let yourself love me again.” His hand brushed across the bare skin of her stomach, his fingers splaying as he rested his palm just below her belly button. She gasped – his touch was warm, almost hot. Her luminescent hazel green eyes met the rich golden brown of his. There was faintly pleading look on his face. “Please, love, you have to trust me.”

Buffy nodded, an almost imperceptible movement, before another shiver traveled along her body. She was trembling again with the cold, hugging her arms around her.

Moving her arms gently to her sides, Angel leaned forward and placed a kiss on her abdomen just under her ribs. Placing the blue diamond in her navel, he kissed her stomach again gently, his hands resting on either side of her waist just above her hips. He looked up at her and smiled slightly before brushing her stomach with one last kiss. His eye met hers, and her murmured softly, seriously.  “I will never betray you again, Buffy, I promise.”

He tore his eyes from hers and looked out at the sea of demon faces watching them. Admiration and desire were written plainly in the face of every male in the crowd.  Angel frowned, his expression dark.

Buffy’s fingertips grazed his cheek, drawing his attention back to her. They were cold. He caught her hand and held it to his lips, his dark gaze locking with her lighter now almost pale green one. Standing suddenly, his face shifting to his demon visage, he spun Buffy around to face the crowd behind her. Clasping her wrist in his hand, he raised it above her head.

The demons cheered loudly at his gesture, as well as the mark of ownership he had placed on her, the diamond winking brightly in the intermittent lights of the club.

Angel began to speak, his voice carrying over the low rumble of the crowd.

Buffy didn’t understand the words he was saying, so she stood silently by his side as he said the words in Gaelic that bound them together in the ancient ritual of hand fasting.

His hands were not gentle when he turned her back to face him and took her lips passionately in a kiss. He bent her forcefully backward demanding her submission to him.

She knew that the kiss was not for her, but for the crowd gathered around them. Angel wanted to show his mastery of her, his ownership. He was proving to them and perhaps to her as well, that she was now – again – his possession. She did not pull away, but instead slid her body sensually against his, her hands creeping up his shoulders to twine around his neck. His tongue plunged into her mouth, tasting her sweetness and ravishing her lips as his mouth grew more demanding, taking everything she would give and asking for more. His kiss made her lose all reason, bringing her close to forgetting everything, even her own name.

The crowd went wild, cheering and clapping.

Angel lifted his head, his dark eyes staring down into her face with a promise of passion. She lay back weakly against his arm, her eyes closed.  When her lashes fluttered and her eyes opened, he leaned down and brushed his lips across her throat before nibbling on the dainty lobe of her ear. “Sweetheart, you know what I need.”

Buffy swallowed and closed her eyes as his tongue traced the outline of her ear and slid back down her throat in an open mouthed kiss. Under her hands, he felt warm and her brow furrowed in confusion. He almost burned, crackling with life and lust.

“I need you to thrive for me, sweet, and this is the only way.”

Buffy drew back slightly in surprise. Had he said to thrive for me or to die for me?

“I know you can do this love.” Angel continued in a low, soothing voice, as if gentling a wild colt. If he sensed her earlier confusion about his words, he showed no sign of it. “You’re not afraid of anything.”

“Angel.” Buffy said softly in reply, his name coming from her lips in a breathy sigh. Her eyes met his for a long moment in a searching glance. The sensations he was evoking inside her were so strong they were almost painful. Again she trembled.

Slowly she nodded, knowing what he wanted from her. She closed her eyes and tilted her head to the side in submission.  She felt the tension in his body as he forcefully clamped down on his impatience. A low growl sounded from deep in his chest, causing his body to vibrate against her and she shivered.

Angel slid his hand into her hair, cradling the back of her head in his large palm. The arm circling her waist drew her more tightly against him, lifting her slightly as his thigh slipped between her parted legs and pressed firmly, further adding to her growing arousal.

Buffy whimpered slightly as his lips nuzzled her neck gently, raising goose bumps along her arms. The tender laving licks of his tongue on her throat elevated her desire. Her pulse beat erratically, the sound seemingly pounding in her ears, as the swirling heat of desire raced through her body. Her senses became saturated with his essence, his overpowering presence.

Her breath hitched in anticipation at the first scrape of his fangs on her throat, a tingling spark of desire shooting along her spine making her weak with hunger for him. At the first piercing sensation of his bite, her eyes shot open in surprise. A single tear slid down her cheek and she clutched at his back, her nails digging into the black silk of his shirt. Despite the sharp, stinging pain she keened softly and arched against him. Her breasts were crushed into the hard wall of his chest, her mons pressed tightly against the hard pressure of his thigh in an attempt to assuaged the nearly unbearable ache. It was frighteningly intense, yet she craved more.

The demons, the room around them, the sparkling blue cage. it all dropped away as her attention centered entirely on Angel. Without removing his fangs from her neck, he lifted her easily and braced her against a hard wall that suddenly appeared behind them. They were now alone. She opened to him eagerly, thirsting for more of him with every fiber of her being. Seconds later, his hard, thick shaft slid easily into the wet heat between her legs and she wantonly arched against him taking him deeply, closing around him so tightly he could not withdraw.

Desire poured through her, insistent and powerful. She wanted him more than she remembered wanting anything in her life. Her body responded eagerly to the steady pull of his mouth on her neck, reveling in the rough power of his kiss, matching his passion, his excitement, his total possession.

Her orgasmic pulsations quaked against him as he moved only slightly, rocking his hips into hers. He took her beyond pleasure. She knew at that moment that if she gave herself up to him that he would bring her the ultimate in fulfillment. She plunged down as he moved up again, a blissful scream ripped from her throat. The table next to them toppled over and the vase of lilies fell to the ground, the white flowers scattering around Angel’s feet.

She was so hot, she was burning but there was no pain. There was only scalding heat and pure bliss and Angel.

Crying out his name, Buffy awoke with a violent start and sat up in bed. She was covered in a fine sheen of sweat and breathing heavily.  Her hand came up to her neck, feeling the unblemished skin for signs of the mark that used to be there. The mark that he had replaced in her dream. For reasons she did not understand or even attempt to analyze, she was disappointed to find that it was not there.

————————————————————-

Just as the gray light of dawn crept up in the sky, Angel crossed through the doors into the lobby of the Hyperion. It was still and quiet, no signs that anyone was about this early morning.

He made his way up the stairs to his room, halting with his hand on the doorknob when he reached the door. He knew even without opening it that she was in there, waiting for him.

How, since he locked the door when he left was one question. More importantly however, was the fact that this had to be done and there was no better time than the present.

Gripping the knob tightly, he turned it and forcefully opened the door. The thought crossed his mind that facing a demoness of Cordelia’s caliber and viciousness he should perhaps be carrying a weapon, but he reminded himself that there was a sword under his bed that was in close reach and would do quite nicely, should he need it.

“Angel?” The forlorn whisper sounded from across the room.

“Cordelia.” Angel replied coolly, closing the door behind him with a firm shove. He skeptically took in the sad, repentant expression on her face in the dim light before stepping forward into the room. “What are you doing here?”

Inside, Angel could feel his demon stir. Anger, rage, passion – stronger emotions always seemed to draw him out, bringing him close to the surface and making his thoughts more prevalent.

Cordelia stood up from the couch where she had been sitting, waiting for him for the last few hours. Her expression was tearful and repentant as she faced him.

“Angel.” Her voice was high pitched, almost like a little girl’s voice when she spoke. “I’ve really messed up this time.”

“I’d say that’s an understatement.” His voice was cold, emotionless when he spoke, his eyes dangerously dark. The demon inside him spoke up for the first time, the sarcastic voice sounding through Angel’s mind as if echoing his own thoughts. Well, well, this should be good.

“I’m really sorry that I’ve lied to you.” She cried tearfully, extending her hand to him in supplication as she took a small step forward. “I’m sorry that I lied to you about Buffy, about Connor.”

Angel concealed his surprised that she’d taken this approach right off the bat. He was honestly surprised that she would admit to lying about anything. He crossed his arms over his chest, his eyes raking over her angrily, one eyebrow quirked upward skeptically.

“I lied about Buffy at first because I just wanted to protect you. She always hurt you and I-I didn’t like it.” Cordelia continued, dabbing at her eyes with the tissue clutched in her hand. “I knew that you needed to get over her and move on. I just thought – well I thought that I was doing you a favor.”

Oh yeah girl, run that game. Angelus murmured derisively using slang he’d obviously picked up some where in recent years. Angel snorted in agreement with his demon, a rare occurrence.

“And later. well, later I was so in love with you that I just couldn’t think straight. I was so jealous of every woman that you had ever been with, especially Buffy.”  The seer smoothed her short black skirt, stepping around the couch and moving closer to him. “It was silly of me, I know, but I couldn’t help it. I know there’s no reason for me to be jealous of someone like Buffy but I was. I’m sorry.” Gritting her teeth into a small rueful smile, she paused. God, she hated having to say those words, but right now she’d say or do just about anything if it would help her cause.

“Cordelia-” With a murderous rage almost choking him, he stuck his hands in his pockets to keep them from wrapping them around her throat, her words reminding him of the pain that she had caused Buffy; the lies, the returned letters.  There’s every reason for you to be jealous of someone like Buffy, you stupid twit. That’s not silly at all. Quite the contrary. I think that’s the first honest thing to come out of your lying mouth in years.

“Please Angel… let me finish.” She interrupted, pleaded softly, her tone of voice not quite matching the scheming look in her eyes. “Connor… well, Connor was a foolish mistake. I thought that if I got close to him that it would help you – you know, to get close to him too. That it would help you rebuild your relationship with your son. The relationship that I know you want so badly.”

For a moment he stared at her in utter disbelief. How could she possibly expect him to believe anything so outrageous?

“You thought that screwing with my son would help *me* get close to him? That’s a bit of stretch, isn’t it, Cor? Even for you.” Angel questioned incredulously, nearly rolling his eyes from the sheer stupidity of her excuse. His brows drew together in a scowl as his demon howled with laughter.  Ah. Whordelia.. – that was brilliant of Nikkos by the way – you’ve got to be kidding me. What hole did you pull that lame excuse out of? Wait, don’t answer that, I’ll bet it was the yawning pit between your thighs.  Even soul boy, as stupid as he is, isn’t going to fall for that one. 

“I’m sorry, okay. It was a mistake.” The dyed blonde snapped angrily, her hands coming to her hips in an offensive position. “I made a mistake, okay. You make them all the time, so don’t act like you’re Mr. Perfect or something. I wanted to help you and I wanted to help Connor. Excuse me for going about it the wrong way.”

“Uh, Whore-” Angel shook his head, the words of his demon and Nikkos running together in his mind, “Er, Cor, that was more than a *little* mistake.”  Angelus howled with laughter at Angel’s verbal blunder, before adding his own dry comments. And the Barney’s valet then, Whore – I mean Cor, honey? What was he? A practice round?

“Whatever.” She snapped crossly, her eyes shooting daggers at him for the slip-up she had heard. Tampering down her anger, she reminded herself again the importance of why she was here.

“Look Angel. I’m really sorry. Really, really sorry. I know I’ve screwed up but I want to make things right with you.” She implored, taking another step closer and schooling her features into her best apologetic expression.

“You think you can actually make things right with me given everything that you’ve done?” He asked suspiciously, condemning her with his eyes. In his pockets his hands clenched into fists as he worked to control his anger.  Nice one, you moron. Way to give her something to work with, the demon muttered with a snort.

Cordelia’s eyes flashed angrily as she contemptuously replied. “You’ve done horrible things. Terrible things. Murder. Rape. I’ve seen it all. Are you saying you can find redemption and I can’t? That you can make things right, but not me?”  Her finger jabbed in the air at him accusingly.

“It’s not the same thing and you know it.” Angel replied in a deceptively quiet voice, his eyes flashing gold. Hey, soul boy, the answer here is fuck off! followed by the sound of the bitch hitting the floor with a broken neck.

“How is it different?” She demanded with her eyes trained on his face intently, her hands squarely on her hips once again.

“I’m not evil?” Angel questioned mockingly, a muscle in his cheek twitching slightly. No, damn it. Would that you were. The demon whore in front of us would be history and we’d be on our way. Angelus sighed almost wistfully.

“And I am? Just what are you basing that idiotic assumption on?”  Cordelia asked, her tone icy.

“Oh, things like murder; letting children die because a vision that might upset your social calendar. Selling visions to Wolfram & Hart; sending Wesley into a death trap. hiring demons to kill the Slayer. Take your pick.”  He replied, his expression murderous as he glared at her.

She pressed her lips together, thinking rapidly. This was not going as she had hoped or planned, but she still had a few cards yet in her hand to play. Taking a deep breath, she refocused her efforts back on why she was here, what she needed from him. Softly, she pleaded with him again, “Please Angel. I know I’ve done some terrible things. You have to help me. Remember, I became half-demon to help you. To keep you from going mad.”

She saw the flicker of guilt that crossed his face and smiled to herself. She knew Angel would remember the pain of her visions, how she almost died from them until Skip had shown up and made her half demon, saving her life. Of course, no one had questioned the idea that the Powers had intervened for her, Cordelia Chase, when they didn’t seem to care when Buffy died, when Kendra died, when Angel, one of their chosen warriors, was imprisoned in a box at the bottom of the ocean. they hadn’t saved Doyle. But, they saved her, Cordelia, so that meant that she was special, damn it. Angel was an idiot if he didn’t see that too.

Fuck! Now with the guilt. Boy, she is playing you like the really poorly tuned instrument you are and you’re falling for it. You really are an idiot. I hate to say this, but you two may just deserve each other, you desperate imbecile. Angelus chastised him with a growl.

Angel angrily shook away his demon’s assertion along with any lingering touch of guilt, his fingers curling into his palms. Furiously, he retorted. “I don’t know that that’s what would have happened and neither do you.”

“It is. I gave up my destiny for you.” She emphasized softly, a trace of bitterness in her voice as she recalled the alternative future that Skip had shown her, the one where she never bumped into Angel and had became a Hollywood star.

“Really? Would that be your great destiny to become a famous actress?  Or so you said anyway.   You’ve told me so many lies, Cordelia, I don’t think I believe *anything* that you’ve ever said.” Angel murmured condescendingly, his jaw tightly clenched. Would that have been a famous actress in porn, Cor? Because I might actually believe that given your . talents.

Angel choked back the laughter that almost escaped him at his demons commentary, but his lips still curved into a dangerous smile.

“Then if you don’t care about me, what about Groo? He gave up his destiny for you too. If he hadn’t, then he probably wouldn’t have been dethroned.”  The dyed blond slayer crooned softly, sensing perhaps that she had found a way to get through to the tall vampire staring at her menacingly, his eyes more gold than brown now.

“No, Groo gave up his destiny for you.”  Angel growled in reply. He knew that it had been Groo’s destiny to mate with the seer and take away her visions because her body would not long survive having them. For reasons known only to the two of them, Cordelia had kept the visions and sent Groo away. As much as he disagreed with the decision, it hadn’t been his to make.

“Look, Angel.” She snapped in frustration before softening her voice once again. “I really want to be good, but it’s so hard for me. Please. You understand what it’s like. You know how difficult it can be.” She entreated, bending slightly at the waist to show her cleavage to her best advantage, hoping that she might distract him a bit with her feminine charms as she shifted topics to one less likely to show her in a positive light. “That’s why you’re here – to help people. To help people like me. Like the way you helped Faith. Please, Angel. for me.”

“No.” Angel replied, his expression cold as his eyes raked over her face. She’s making me sick. Shut her up already. Angelus muttered, a similar thought running through Angel’s mind.

“Please. I love you.” Her eyes brimming with tears, she dabbed at them again before covering her face as if overcome with emotion.

“Love me? How can you say that?” He asked brusquely, between clenched teeth before stepping past her and pacing across the room with the prowl of a dangerous jungle cat. “You lied to me, you betrayed me over and over. Your deceit has cost countless lives, not to mention the toll that you’ve exacted on my personal relationships with Buffy and with Connor.”  He steeled himself against any shred of guilt he felt, knowing that if Doyle hadn’t died this would have never happened to her. He should never have let her become involved in his life in the first place.

Before you get too soft weepy and soft, soul boy, let me remind you that *she* wouldn’t leave you alone, even when you wanted her too.

Smugly, noting Angel’s conflicted expression, Cordelia turned to him. She shrugged her shoulder,  “Well, it doesn’t matter anyway. You have to stay with me; the Powers have decreed it.”

Angel turned on her, his expression ominous. He spoke with lethal softness, continued to pace a slow circle around her. “Really? I can’t imagine that the Powers condone your behavior, the things that you’ve done. In fact, I’m really surprised that you’ve been able to get away with it for as long as you have. Perhaps we should we visit the Oracles and find out about this decree, hm?”

Aware that he had called her bluff, Cordelia switched her tactic. “You won’t have my visions to help you any more if you send me away.”

“I don’t care.” Angel laughed derisively. And he didn’t. Buffy fought evil without aid from the Powers and now so would he. He was no longer convinced that Cordelia’s visions added any value to his quest, but even more importantly, he knew that he no longer wanted them. While they had been helpful on occasion, they had also been a distraction. “You haven’t been sharing your visions anyway, Cordelia, so it’s not a great loss.”  Bored now. Kill her already and let’s get the hell out of here, the demon muttered wryly, his tone aggrieved.

“If you don’t help me, then- then.” The seer stammered, moving toward him as the first real tears of the evening began to spill from her eyes. Her last words were barely louder than a whisper, her voice quavering. “They’re threatening to send me away. To another dimension. A really, really horrible hell dimension. There are demon brothels there and everything. Please Angel, please, please help me.”

Christ. Now with the wet works. Shit. And you fall for this every fucking time.

“I’m sorry, Cordelia.” Angel replied coldly, unmoved by her plight. You’re sorry?! You’re SORRY! I cannot believe those words just came out of your mouth. You’re so gonna be sorry, you idiot, if I have anything to say about it! The demon inside roared angrily, the words almost reverberating through Angel’s mind. Shut the fuck up. Angel mentally replied to his demon, a hell dimension sounds like a good place for her. Can’t see why you’d disagree.  

“You’ll have to find someone else to help you.” He continued in that same icy tone of voice, a tone that offered no hint of a willingness to compromise.

Fine, that’s better but you’re still a loser, Angelus muttered grudgingly.

“What?” She mouthed, her eyes wide in disbelief. How was it that this was not yet working? Guilt was a huge motivator for Angel, an almost mindlessly simple way of manipulating the tall vampire that she had exploited plenty of times over the past years. Yet suddenly he was seemingly immune. What the hell had happened?

“Get your things and get out of the hotel.”  Angel stated tersely, once more returning his hands to his pockets. It was the only thing that was keeping him from choking her. Choking is good. I like choking. Hell, I’ll settle for choking at this point.

“You’re kidding right?”  Cordelia asked incredulously, unable to believe that her attempts to at the very least convince Angel to help her had failed.

“No, not in the least.” He replied curtly as he moved toward the door, barely restrained aggression evident in his powerful frame.

“You’d be nothing but a pile of ash without me! I’m your link to the Powers. How in the hell do you think you will manage without my help?” The dyed blonde stomped after him, angrily shouting at his back as he walked away from her.

With his hand on the doorknob, Angel let out a short chilling laugh and opened the door. “Cordy, I’m going to do a hell of a lot better without you than I’ve been doing with you. There’s no doubt in my mind about that.”  Yeah, much, much better. Just not having to see your snoring, drooling face on the pillow next to me has been an enormous improvement already.  

“The Powers are going to be angry with you if you send me away!” She grabbed his arm, attempting to pull him back to face her. “They’re going to punish you! Just you wait!”

Angel stared down coldly at her hand on his arm for a moment before shaking it off roughly, as if disgusted by her touch. “Get out.” You could ripped her arm off and clubbed her with it you know.

“But Angel, I love you! I came back from being a higher being for you. To help you. I’ve given up my life for you. Doesn’t that mean anything at all to you? Are you so heartless that you don’t care about me anymore?” Despite her pleading words, angry sparks flew from her eyes.

“You don’t love me. I don’t even know if you know what love is, outside of your concern for yourself.” His voice was cold, reminiscent of Angelus. She had deceived him long enough. It was time he straightened out the mess of his life. And mine too. You fucked us both up, you spineless idiot.

“But Angellll.” Cordelia whined annoyingly. “How can you do this? We’re perfect together you know that. I’m a seer for the Powers, we’re both warriors for good. And Lorne and Fred – they’ve seen it, how perfect we are for each other. It’s destiny. It’s fate. Kye-rumption! Ask them!”

Silence fell between them as the tall vampire stared at her face, his look one of the blackest contempt. He wondered what he had ever seen in her in the first place to make himself believe that he had been in love with her. He could find nothing inside himself to justify such thoughts; on the contrary he was considering why he didn’t just kill her now. Any other demon that had done what she had done… that would have been their fate. Well, you’re on the right track now but it’s obvious that you need some help here, so here’s what you do.  Just take one small step forward and grab her shoulders with your left arm, that dyed mop she calls hair with your right hand and give it a good, quick twist. Here we go now. Go. Step. C’mon. Just take a step. One little step. Lift your foot.

Encouraged by his silence, she continued her rapid dissertation. “Besides, you’re handsome, I’m beautiful and everyone thinks we should be together. We’re perfect together. Absolutely perfect.”

“It’s over, Cordelia. Get out before I have put you out in a way that you won’t like.”  Angel replied with a deadly quiet voice. He’d give her a chance to save herself, but it would be the last one.  Damn it, no need to be all noble now. Just Move. Your. Ass. We could already be in the car on the way to Sunnydale to indulge in a delicious Slayer aperdeitif and a nice long ride between her beautiful golden thighs. You remember that feeling well, don’t cha?  Thought so. Step. C’mon. Here we go. One foot in front of the other.

“But Angel.” Cordelia started to cry, everything she tried so hard to salvage disappearing in front of her eyes. Everything she needed to salvage in order to save her existence in this dimension.

The pitiful wail stopped him. Despite everything she had done, he still owed her. something.  Though he couldn’t find those feelings now, he had loved her once – not the way that he loved Buffy – and he was sorry that he had used her to take away some of the loneliness, the emptiness in his life. He knew too, that her life would have been vastly different if only she had never become involved with him.  He doubted that she would have become the famous actress that she claimed. but she would have had something closer to a normal life.

Great. Here we go again with the tears. If you’d snap her neck as I have been suggesting, it’d be blissfully quiet in here right now.

“Cordelia, I’m sorry. You know I care about you but I’m not going to help you now.” Angel shook his head sadly, his voice still cold, reserved. “I won’t.”   C’mon, one last little help for poor Whordy. And if not for her, think of all the others that you’ll be helping if you do this. Just snap her neck now and be done with it.  Okay, let’s see some action here.  FUCK! Will you move your ass already?! Rigor mortis could already be setting in on her corpse by now. What’s with the chit-chat?

“I knew it! You do still love me. We can make this work.” The words he said gave her hope and she redoubled her efforts.  “Then stay with me. We had a good thing before. We can have it again. And you can help me. And I’ll- I’ll help you. I won’t hide my visions any more. I’ll fight by your side. I’ll make it right. You’ll see.”

“No, we can’t. We’re over Cordelia. Finished. And I don’t love you – like that. I never did. I’m sorry.”  Angel replied firmly, shadows of gold flickering in his eyes again as he reached into his coat pocket almost absently, drawing out the wand that he had been carrying it. The wand almost appeared to be humming in his hand, sending a strange tingle up his arm and into his shoulder.

“I didn’t want to have to do this but you’re not giving me a choice.”  Reaching into her pocket, Cordelia withdrew a small crystal jar. Before he realized what she was doing, the seer threw it at his feet. The crystal shattered and the contents inside released a deafening pop. A shower of sparks flew out covering Angel in shimmering crystals followed by a deep violet smoke.

Angel coughed slightly and waved his hand to clear the fading, now gray smoke. The wand that he had been holding in his hand hummed and glowed, emitting a faint lavender light. Curiously he looked down at it, circling his hand around it and feeling the heat emanating from it. He could still feel that faint tingling sensation now in his gut.

Cordelia smiled, her eyes perusing the complacent vampire. She smoothed her hair then tugged her skirt down slightly on her hips. With a sultry murmur, she greeted him. “Welcome back, love.” The spell that she had procured in Mexico had been costly, but guaranteed to work at restoring his love for her. One unfortunate side effect that she had been warned about was the possibility that the recipient of the spell might be reduced to a mindless idiot for several hours or several weeks, depending on his or her strength of character. And of course, the results were stronger if physical consummation of their love were to take place immediately following the casting of the spell; for which Cordelia had come fully prepared.

Angel glanced at Cordelia blankly, then looked back at the still glowing wand in his hand. He said nothing, only smiled faintly as he noticed that there appeared to be more metallic hearts floating in the clear wand.

Seeing the faint smile cross his lips, Cordelia walked toward him with seductive gait, a small smiled playing on her lips.

Angel’s eyebrow lifted questioningly when she stopped in front of him. Meeting his eyes, she reached up and toyed with the buttons on her shirt, slowly beginning to unbutton them to reveal a lacy black demi-cup bra.

“Shall we, uh, renew our, er, acquaintance properly?” She asked in a sultry murmur, sliding the shirt down her arms and dropping it to the floor. Glancing up at him again through the seductive veil of her lashes, she fingered the center clasp on her bra teasingly before moving her hands behind her bank and unzipping her skirt. Her black skirt followed her shirt to the floor. Stepping out of it, she reached up to slide her hand up Angel’s chest. “This certainly calls for a celebration of sorts, if you ask me.”

His eyes flicked over her disdainfully, taking in the scanty outfit that at one time he might have considered appealing and sexy. Grasping her arm, he forcefully removed her hand from his chest and shoved her back a step as if repulsed by her touch. “Hardly.”

“What?” Codelia’s eyes opened wide in surprise and she wrenched her arm from his grasp.

“Nice try, with the spell.” Angel gazed thoughtfully at the wand again, wondering how Nikkos knew – whatever it was that he knew.

“What do you mean?” Cordelia looked up at the tall vampire defensively, crossing her arms over her chest.

Angel bent down and retrieved Cordelia’s clothing, shoving it into her hand forcefully before striding past her. “I mean your little love spell. Did I stutter?”

“But-” Cordelia whirled around, still clutching her clothes to her chest. Her eyes narrowed suspiciously at the object in his hand. Had that somehow protected him from the spell? And where the hell did he get it? Bitterly she asked, “How did you know?”

Angel shrugged out of his coat and dropped it on the back of the couch. “It doesn’t matter. Get dressed and get out. I want you out of the hotel by noon. No, make that 10.”

Cordelia muttered angrily as she tugged her skirt up over her hips. “Damn it. I drove all the way to Mexico for that yesterday. That stupid ass swore to me that it would work. I’ll scatter his demon parts to the four corners of the earth.”

Angel looked at her sharply, his preternatural hearing easily picking up her words. So that’s where she had been. Better there than wreaking havoc in Sunnydale. Of course, if he had to lay odds he had no doubt that his golden girl would be able to kick Cordelia’s demon ass to hell. His lips quirked up in a smile at the thought.  Yeah. Or you could do that now and save her energy for more interesting diversions.

“Damn it, Angel-”

“Really, Cordelia. After all you’ve done – you honestly think I’d be interested in fucking you?”  He scoffed at her, leaning against the couch, his posture one of casual dismissal.

“A *vampire* like you can’t do better than me anyway! Besides, who else but demon whores like Darla and Dru or skanky bitches like Lilah and Buffy would be interested in you?” Angry and embarrassed by his cold rejection, she tugged on the rest of her clothes. Hatefully, she spat, “You’re nothing but a vampire! A disgustingly cold to the touch blood-sucking fiend. Even demon-brothels don’t serve your kind.”

“You would know, I suppose.” Angel laughed mockingly at her hypocritical double standard. Stepping forward, his gaze menacing and his tone soft, Angel taunted, “You know why they don’t serve vampires, don’t you? Because unleashed vampire stamina and hunger typically damages the whore. She’s no good for weeks after that, if ever. But I guess you’ll find out the truth of that soon enough.”

“That’s a lie! You never once hurt me!” She smugly retored, twisting her lips into a sneer.

“You think I ever truly showed you passion? Real, unleashed vampire passion?” Angel laughed cruelly, “You would have run scared.”

“God damn you!”  Cordelia stepped forward, her arm raised to slap him across the face. He caught her wrist easily as she swung forward, shoving her backward. She stumbled slightly then found her footing before starting toward him again. This time she tripped on the corner of the sofa, plunging toward the floor. Her forehead slammed hard into the edge of the coffee table, breaking the skin. She moaned slightly, holding her hand to her the now bleeding cut on her head. At the feel of the blood, her eyes shot nervously over to where Angel stood watching her. Would the blood incite him? Would he attack her?

Wrinkling his nose in disgust, Angel regarded her disinterestedly. He couldn’t however, resist a small jibe, deriding her coldly. “Don’t worry, Cor. I’ve already fed. Besides, your blood? Not particularly palatable.” Not like a delicious, rich, golden Slayer cocktail… truly the nectar of the gods. Angelus muttered distractedly with a decided purr.

“What now, Angel?” Cordelia spat angrily, a glare on her face as she struggled to her feet. “You find out your soul is permanent so you run to Sunnydale to screw Buffy? Did she welcome you with open legs – the little slut?”

“None of your business.” He replied, his voice touched with a renewed spark of anger.

“Christ, she did, the little slut. You fucked her already.”  She maliciously retorted, her voice low. Grabbing her bag she reached inside to pull out a leather book. Wiping the blood off her head, her eyes glowing angrily she turned to face him. “I should have known.”

“Get out.” Angel demanded, each word pronounced with lethal softness. Just kill her and be done with this, you imbecile. We’ve got things to do. Mates to reclaim.

“Yeah? Well your perfect little Buffy isn’t so perfect.” Holding the book out in front of her like a prize, Cordelia smiled malevolently.

Angel recognized the book almost immediately. It was similar to the Watcher’s journal of Wesley’s that he had been looking at the other night; similar to all of the journals that Giles’s had in his collection back in Sunnydale all those years ago.

Warily, Angel’s eyes returned to Cordelia’s face. Well, now he knows where Giles’s missing journal is. Connor must have stolen it and either given it to Cordelia or she had taken it; either was entirely possible.

“Before you go panting after your little whore, begging her to take you back you might want to ask her about Liam.” Cordelia’s voice was venomous as she spat the words. “Poor Little Liam Angelus Summers.”

Triumphantly the seer waved the journal at him, as she continued with a gleeful cry. “Find out why she aborted your child.”  She had been honestly surprised to find out about Buffy’s pregnancy when she had perused the journal almost disinterestedly. It had made the time spent browsing the boring, stuffy Watcher’s journal worthwhile. It was even more interesting when she realized that Buffy’s pregnancy had ended with the very same Shaqti demons that she had a vision about.  She hadn’t bothered to tell anyone about those visions –  the whole thing was so icky it made her sick and besides, they were just poor unwed drug addict mothers anyways…

Angel eyes widened. He was unable to contain his surprise. Was this another of Cordelia’s lies?  What the hell..the Slayer had been…  Pregnant? But you… we… can’t.

Angrily shaking away the thought, he reiterated with a growl. His eyes were completely gold now and he was just short of shifting into his game face. “Get out.”  He vowed that he would not believe any more of Cordelia’s lies. He’d go to Buffy for the truth about this one.

“You son of a bitch! No one dumps Cordelia Chase and gets a second chance.”  Cordelia shrieked, her face now red with rage. “You’re going to regret this.”  She spun around on her heel and headed for the door, unwilling to stick around when he was in vamp face.

Before she reached the door he moved with preternatural speed and swiped the book out of her hand.

She screeched at him, reaching for it and trying to get it back. “Give it to me – it’s mine!”

“I somehow doubt that Giles entrusted it to your keeping.” A contemptuous sneer on his face, Angel stepped toward her. Reacting purely on instinct, he backhanded her hard across the face and she fell ungracefully to the floor, landing hard on her ass.

“Get the hell out of here before I kill you.”  Angel growled, each word pronounced with lethal softness, his jaw clenching as he forced himself to calm. He couldn’t kill her right now, as much as he wanted to. Bout time, but I still would’ve killed the lying demon bitch.

Cordelia scrambled to her feet and bolted from the room like a frightened rabbit.

On to Part XI