Deal with a Demon


DEAL WITH A DEMON
AUTHOR: FICBITCH82 (aka Christie)
SUMMARY: When Cordy’s father was a teenager he made a deal with a demon. In exchange for financial success and power, he’d hand over his firstborn daughter to be the demons mate. Several years have past and now Cordelia’s 21, the demon’s called to collect…
RATING:
POSTED:
CATEGORY:Minor angst, humour and a couple of revelations of the C/A kind.
CONTENT/PAIRING: C/A – Everything up to Disharmony, S2
WARNINGS: None Listed
FICPIC CREDIT: N/A
AUTHOR NOTES:
1) Based on a challenge issued by Luckylyn . Basically a chance for me to leap back into the fandom with a fic. Hopefully it’ll work out.
2) Cordelia turned 21 this year instead of her 20. Sue me, I’m playing with fandom. Also, I’ve used Groo as my own character in this. It’s not really the Groo we know and *ahem* love. But he is here and… Whether Cordelia comshuks with him, remains to be seen. *G*
3) I’ve put this in the standalone section, simply because I’m posting it all in one go. It is four chapters (and long) so if it needs moved then that’s fine with me.
4) Dedication: To Califi, my darling beta-lady. Because she betas my shizz so tirelessly. 😉


Chapter 1

“What time is it?”

Cordelia’s brow furrowed, “Eight forty-two, Angel. And officially two minutes and 17 seconds since the last time you asked me. Can’t you find someone else to annoy?”

He glanced up over the top of his newspaper and gave her a look that would have a normal girl simpering around him like an idiot. Cordelia was no normal girl, however, and Angel officially had seven days, five hours, thirteen minutes and counting to go on the whole ‘make it up to Cordelia for going semi-evil and giving away her clothes’ thing so she wasn’t cracking. At all. At least not for a while yet.

She admitted fully that the clothes he’d bought on his little guilt trip were nice. The guy had really outdone himself, thinking about something that wasn’t blonde skanky and, oh, dead for five minutes. It showed he was really thinking about what he’d done, the gravity of the situation… And yet it still wasn’t enough.

Cordelia, of course, had taken them with both hands. Who turned down clothes like that when your own closet was suffering the aftermath of too much demon goo and not enough dry cleaning? Cordelia, that was who… But it sort of pissed her off that Angel just thought he could buy her clothes and that would be it – hurt over with, forget about the whole feeling like crap because she’d thought her best friend had gone evil again.

“Any visions brewing?” He asked hopefully, receiving the death glare for his troubles.

“I get that you’re bored,” Cordelia scowled, “Really. But if you ask me that one more time…” She left the rest of the threat hanging and watched as he slumped further in his seat, pretending to read the same page of the paper again.

It’d been like this since the minute she’d walked in here tonight. Wesley was translating some prophecy or other down at the local voodoo store, Gunn was out hacking and slashing some demon…and Cordelia had been left to deal with an extremely bored Angel, who clearly wasn’t accustomed to having a night off since he’d got back.

Cordelia, she was glad for it. There was a little too much noise in her head these days and she was welcoming the chance of nothing happening… Until the phone rang. Angel got there before Cordelia’d even got out of her seat and she scowled again at him as he fudged up their snazzy slogan.

“Angel Investigations,” he said, a little too eagerly, “We hope you’re helpless!”

“Help the hopeless, dumbass,” she reprimanded, coming up behind him and swatting him over the head with the notepad he’d neglected to collect in his haste to answer the phone. What good was he answering the phones if he forgot, like, the simplest of things?

“Oh…” Angel’s shoulders sagged, “That’s okay. Well if you ever–”

Even Cordelia heard the dead-tone. “What was that?”

“Wrong number,” he huffed, replacing the receiver in its cradle and rubbing the back of his head. For just one second, Cordelia felt marginally sorry for him. He really did look bored and kind of pathetic standing there and—No! She reminded herself firmly. Angel was in the doghouse – a place he most definitely deserved to be after the last few weeks. It wasn’t her fault he couldn’t amuse himself.

“Y’know, you were much easier to deal with when you used to brood all the time,” she pointed out huffily, crossing the room to sit at her desk again, “Now you’re just high maintenance.”

The irony that this sentence came from Cordelia wasn’t lost on Angel, but he said nothing. Trying to hold the tatters of their friendship together was hard enough, pissing Cordelia off would just make him lose his grip even further. “Uhm… Sorry?”

Cordelia wasn’t listening. In the split second it’d taken her to get from one end of the room to the other, she was clutching her head and going down like a ton of bricks. A week after Angel had got back from his little insano-period ala Darla and she still wasn’t used to not hitting the floor, so that when Angel caught her Cordelia had something else to concentrate on.

Screaming.
*****
“I don’t know, Wesley,” she said tersely, nursing the glass of ice chips against her forehead like it’d just zap the headache away, “All I got was a spiny-headed looking demon, chasing some girl down a street.”

“You don’t know what street it was? Any familiar markings?”

“No,” Cordelia snapped, “And geez, don’t you think I would, I don’t know, tell you? It’s not like I enjoy having these headaches for God’s sake…”

Angel, playing mediator between the two, stepped forward, “Look, guys… Stop, okay? We’ll figure something out.”

Cordelia honestly didn’t see how. The vision had been thirty seconds of vague at most – how the hell they were going to get anything from that? She could tell Angel was skirting around the issue, trying to please both her and Wesley at the same time, to not push his luck on either scale and to be perfectly frank? It was pissing her off. She was tired of grovelly Angel.

Okay so she hadn’t been completely against it at first. An Angel who brought her coffee on any level was just kind of nice but… Maybe she was just tired. She felt sore and headachy, her eyes hurt from the light and her body felt like the Powers had zapped all the energy away. And the guys just kept talking…

“I don’t get it,” she said after a moment, when they’d both been waiting for her to supply something helpful, “I really don’t. There was no time-frame, nothing… Just some girl – in totally the wrong shoes, by the way – running away from Spiny-Headed Guy. What’s the point of the visions if they give me nothing to go on?”

She knew the guys shared her frustration, really she did… But they absolutely did not share the headaches and those, really, were the hardest thing to bear. They were getting worse, Cordelia knew. Every time she visited her doctor he started going on about hot and cold spots and how they really really needed an explanation to this ‘condition’ of hers.

“We’ll figure something out, Cordelia,” Angel repeated.

Cordelia wanted to slug him. She hauled her ass out of the seat, knowing she had to go home before she did something about that impulse and nodded at Angel, “If you could do it while I’m young? I’d be grateful. I’m going home.”

“You want me to drive you?” He asked immediately.

“I still have enough basic motor functions left in me to walk, Angel,” said Cordelia, rolling her eyes as she shrugged on her jacket, “You work with Brainiac here on that yellow spiny-headed looking thing. I’ll be in tomorrow.”

He looked a little miffed as she walked up the stairs but Angel could stow it. She was tired, she kind of felt like she could hurl a little…and every time they talked it felt like little bombs were going off inside her already ache-y head. Not of the pleasant. Besides, she figured she could do with the fresh air.

Cordelia knew she should have taken the ride from Angel when she’d taken a short cut those last couple of blocks to her apartment and that noise sounded behind her – like two giant boulders scraping together – and holy crap, Cordelia knew now why those shoes in her vision had seemed vaguely familiar in the whole inability to run in them aspect. She was damn well wearing them!

Cordelia took off, risking a glance behind her to confirm exactly what she already knew. Spiny-headed guy was loping after her, one arm outstretched and growling, its fangs dripping spittle and something Cordelia didn’t intend to get close enough to find out. She yanked her phone out of her pocket, hitting the little green button for the last number called and grabbed her pepper spray with her other hand. All of a sudden the demon was there, pushing her up against a wall and holy God, it stunk… Cordelia’s heart leapt in her chest as it leaned closer and she sprayed it full force in the face, causing it to scream and fall backwards.

She took that as her cue, dropping under its arm and running again, her phone finally connecting with the Hyperion and cutting Wesley off as he started butchering their slogan too, “Wesley, help!” She breathed out heavily, shooting a look over her shoulder to make sure she was still gaining distance on the thing, “I found the demon, and it was me it was chasing!”

She was absolutely, 100% not cut out for this, post vision. Wesley asked where she was, assured her they’d be there in a minute and Cordelia was a whisker away from her apartment – literally – when an arm snaked around her waist and yanked her backwards. Cordelia screamed all of once, before a sharp pressure against the back of her neck started to make her view of the world go a little wonky.

She whimpered, still struggling against the grip of the thing as it growled behind her– And felt its body arch as something was shoved into it from behind. Something sharp, she hoped, as she pushed herself away – the demon giving out one last mighty roar as it fell to its knees and then she was faced with Gunn, holding her up as her legs threatened to give way on her.

“Damn Barbie,” he frowned, watching it dissolve into a whole mess of ick outside her apartment once he’d yanked his axe out of the thing, “I’ve been trackin’ that thing all night. If I’d known all it would take was for you to play bait…” He stopped abruptly. Girl sure didn’t look like she was in the mood to play tonight. “You okay there?”

“Peachy,” Cordelia informed him, batting his hands away, “With a side of keen.” Something was… Off about this. She looked at the puddle of goo that was steadily disappearing, and then back up at Gunn.

Funny, she hadn’t felt danger in her vision… And aside from the entire spittle thing which was gross on a level Cordelia didn’t even want to think about, she hadn’t felt danger then either – just a burning desire not to get slimed or something.

Angel and Wesley pulled up in the car just as Cordelia was opening her door. They both hopped out to get the cliff notes version from Gunn and headed towards the apartment where Cordelia was popping a couple of pills and trying to stop her damn hands shaking so much. “Well that was bracing,” she murmured from her counter as Angel came to stand next to her.

He let his eyes sweep over her, placed a hand on her shoulder and brought her gaze up to his, “Are you alright?”

Usually, the question would have pissed her off – are you okay, Cordelia? Can we get you something, Cordelia? Do you need anything, Cordelia? – right now, Cordelia was just glad the thing hadn’t caught up with her. “I’m okay, Angel. It just… Caught me off guard a little, that’s all.”

“Thank God you had a vision,” Wesley supplied from the other side of the room.

“Uh, hey? Kudos to the guy who swooped in with the big shiny axe?”

Angel spared Wes and an almost petulant Gunn a glance, before turning back to Cordelia, his gaze worried, “What is it?”

Cordelia frowned, “I just… I didn’t feel any danger in my vision. I-I don’t think it was there to hurt me.”

“Sure looked like it was gonna hurt you when it had its hands round your neck like that,” said Gunn, shaking his head, “Trust me, Cordelia. Thing’s better off dead.”

She wasn’t convinced. Despite the headache and the fact that she really needed sleep, Cordelia was wired now, determined to find out what the hell was going on. The Powers That Be, while she was sure they didn’t want to lose one of their most valuable employees – her, of course – weren’t exactly prone to giving visions that would help her like that.

So something else had to be going on. Something big.

“I agree with Cordelia,” said Wesley, once he’d considered their options, “Perhaps we should be exploring this a little further.”

“You should stay at the hotel tonight,” Angel told Cordelia.

She gave him a ‘huh?’ look, then scoffed, “What? Why? Because icky-spiny thing decided he’d play Chase the Cheerleader? Angel, I have Phantom Dennis here, I’m fi–”

“You’re not fine, Cordelia. If Gunn hadn’t been here, who knows what would have happened,” he pointed out, clearly irked by her attempted brush off, “Now either you come home with me or I stay here so I can protect you.”

Cordelia frowned, “Okay, fine. Stay here. But don’t blame me if Dennis gets all pissy with you for being hoggy-manpire of the couch.”

****

It took a good hour and a half for Wesley to find anything. He’d headed back to the hotel, looked through a multitude of books and when he’d called Angel back, Cordelia was taking a ‘long hot soak in the bath and if anyone interrupts me, so help them God…’

“How is she?” Wesley asked, the slight waver in his voice showing his true concern for the brunette.

“Still pretty shaken up,” said Angel, “But she’ll be okay.”

“Of course.” He nodded. She was made up of strong stuff, Cordelia. “I-I found something, Angel.”

“What is it?”

“You’re not going to like it.”

Angel frowned, “What is it?”

“I looked up Cordelia’s demon. I’ve only ever come across one of these before while in employ for the Watcher’s Council, back in England. There was a demon, you see–”

“Wesley, the point?” Angel pressed.

“Right.” Wesley sighed, “Have you ever heard of a Belzor demon, Angel?”

He thought for a moment. The name vaguely rung a bell but he couldn’t recall entirely.

“They’re henchmen,” Wesley pressed on, once Angel hadn’t spoken again, “Mostly a peaceful race, but they’re employed by other demons to do their bidding. Collections of sorts, I suppose you’d call it…”

“Collections?” A knot was forming in Angel’s stomach. “What kind of collection?”

“I, ah, I’m not sure,” said Wesley honestly, “But from the looks of things, the reason that this thing was pursuing Cordelia was to settle an old deal.” He could practically hear the muscle in Angel’s jaw tensing on the other side of the line, “And that’s not all, Angel. Belzor demons, they don’t go away. They just send one after another until the debt is paid…”
****
She emerged from the bathroom in a cloud of steam, hair wrapped up in a towel, body in her robe and fluffy slippers, her skin pink and flushed. She looked refreshed, Angel had to admit, but the dark circles under her eyes still remained. Guilt twinged at him, like it did so often these days, but he tampered it down with a clench of his jaw, watching from the shadows of her kitchen as she took a seat on her couch, closing her eyes for a moment.

Belzor demons, they don’t go away. They just send one after another until the debt is paid…

Angel didn’t understand. Even as he watched Cordelia, thought about everything he’d known about her these last five years, he couldn’t come up with one reason as to why she’d make a deal like this.

He watched her a while longer until her face changed, the corners of her mouth twitched upwards and she opened her eyes to fix him with an amused glance, “Y’know, I know you said you were going to protect me? But I didn’t think you meant giving in to your whole voyeuristic tendencies and actually watching me all night. What’s going on?”

Okay, she’d called him on it. He stepped out of the shadows and came to sit opposite her, trying to keep a tight reign on his anger. How could you have been so stupid? “I know about the deal, Cordelia. What was it?”

A puzzled look passed across her face. “Uh, what?”

“Don’t play games with me,” he told her sharply, “If I’m to fix it, I need to know what it is.”

It was the wrong tone to take with an already pissed off Cordelia. Her gaze narrowed and she stared at him for a long moment, the air between them growing icy, “Don’t play games with you? Oh, that’s rich, Mr. I’ll Go Evil for a While and Not Let My Friends in to Help. One, I have no idea what deal you’re talking about. Two, the tone? Can it. Not appreciating it.”

Angel flinched, but only a little. “You’re telling me you didn’t make a deal with a demon a few years ago?”

Cordelia’s surprise was palpable, “Are you kidding me? I grew up on Hellmouth Central, Angel. I might have acted a little bit ditzy at times but suicidal, I’m not. What’s this about?”

Angel was officially puzzled. Cordelia had somehow managed to turn the tables on him – quite effortlessly, too – and both insult him and make him feel guilty again in the process. “Wesley called,” he murmured, palming the back of his neck uncomfortably, “That demon of yours… It was a Belzor demon.”

He paused for a moment – dramatic effect, eat your heart out – and Cordelia frowned, “Right, Belzor demon. Got that. Did it affect you somehow ’cause at least that’d explain while you’re acting all insane right now…”

“They’re collection demons, Cordelia. They work for other demons. Demons who’ve made deals with people…”

“So what, you just automatically assume that I went nutso x-amount of years ago and made some kind of deal with the devil?” She asked, highly miffed that he thought she was capable of that, “Do you even know me at all?”

“Well I wasn’t… I mean, I’m not sure…” Angel sighed. There was no way he was getting out of this one unscathed. “With everything you had…” He finished, lamely.

“You mean money,” said Cordelia, flatly. The disappointment in her voice sounded like a dead weight. Yes, she’d had money. Correction, her father’d had money until Mr. IRS had got all huffy about him not paying his taxes in the last ever. “Don’t you think that if I’d wished we’d been rich all our natural life, I’d have included some kind of… I don’t know, foolproof?” She asked, coldly, “Do you really think that I’d have willingly come to live here if I didn’t have to?”

Okay, cheap shot, but the fact that Angel shared the view of almost everyone who’d ever met her back in high school…well, that stung a little. Best friends were supposed to know you better than anyone. Best friends weren’t supposed to jump to conclusions – especially not conclusions on this grandiose a scale.

“You just automatically assumed that because I had things other people didn’t, I’d struck up a deal with the devil to get it?”

Angel was stumped. What was he supposed to say to that?

“Because, y’know, Angel… I didn’t have important things,” she continued, clearly pissed at him and his logical leap that seemed like a whole trip around the moon right now, “I had credit cards and cars and clothes coming out my ears but you know what I didn’t have? I didn’t have friends,” she frowned, “I didn’t have family. So, maybe you wanna rethink your outsiders view and start looking elsewhere for your deal-maker ’cause honestly? Not me.” She got up off the seat and headed towards her bedroom, giving off serious ‘leave me the hell alone’ vibes.

He tried to come up with something – anything – to say. Mostly because he’d fucked up and hurt Cordelia but also because he was tired of seeing her back like that – when her shoulders were all scrunched and she was pissed at him. But Angel could come up with nothing and her parting shot, right before she slammed her bedroom door, cut deeper than he’d imagined.

“And even if I had struck up a deal with the devil asking for those things I’d been missing… Right now? I’d be seriously thinking about asking for a refund ’cause it’s like you don’t even know me, Angel. It’s like you don’t even know me at all.”

*****
Well, that was smooth, Angel thought to himself later, when Cordelia had been gone from the living room an hour and a half and the sound of her muffled breathing had filtered through the bedroom, letting him know she was asleep.

Angel had paced the floor all of twice until Dennis – clearly pissed at him too for upsetting his roommate – had tipped a couple of vases in his direction and Angel had just managed barely to catch them, thankful ’cause he didn’t want to apologize for smashing up her apartment as well as hurting her feelings.

He felt like a world class ass. He’d just jumped to conclusions, thought that because Cordelia’d had everything she’d wanted… God, he was dense. And now she was pissed at him and everything he’d tried to do over the last two weeks had just gone up in smoke and she’d made it quite clear that no amount of clothes would ever make up for this hurt.

“World. Class. Ass.” He muttered to himself under his breath, keeping one eye on her door as he sipped his blood. When she’d started restocking her fridge he wasn’t sure, but when he’d gone into her kitchen to get something to eat and found his cup there on the bench like she hadn’t hurled it in the trash when he’d went all, well, evil… His dead heart had threatened to burst.

Angel had fucked up. Royally. Again.

There weren’t words for some of the things he’d done as Angelus. The emotions he’d toyed with, the people he’d killed, tortured, maimed and just plain hurt… It always seemed so much worse when he was doing the hurting as Angel. He hadn’t cared for a long time when Darla had been brought back by Wolfram and Hart. He’d been obsessed, he knew, pushed his friends away… But he had no excuse for this.

It was all his own doing. Stupid jumping to conclusions and making rash decisions and being so goddamn worried about Cordelia and wanting to fix this, no matter what, because he’d already lost her once and he wasn’t willing to do it again.

Angel sighed, taking a sip out of his glass and wondering if the faint twang of cinnamon was just his imagination.
“I-uhm-I think it’s gone bad…” He said quietly, gazing at the dark liquid in the glass, “It’s starting to coagulate…”
“Huh?” Cordelia picked up the glass, looking puzzled. Her blood had so not gone bad. She’d got it fresh that morning and– Oh. “No, that’s cinnamon,” she told him, handing it back with a bright smile, “What? I can’t try something?”
Cinnamon in blood. Angel’d been polite for a while (not wanting to incur the wrath that may or may not have been lying dormant) until he’d drank some blood with ginger and the taste had stuck to the roof of his mouth for weeks. Cordelia had stopped experimenting after that. Or maybe it was after the peppermint experiment, he wasn’t entirely sure.

He’d called Wesley three times since his argument with Cordelia. Not that Angel was bored this time – he had something new to brood about and dissect like it’d actually make a difference – he was worried, that was all. Only Wesley was cranky and trying to cross reference this demon with something he’d read in a prophecy and– Basically, Wes was a whole lot of nowhere with Angel hot on his heels in Nowheresville.

And Angel was tired.

He rubbed a hand over his face and folded his arms over his chest, shooting one look at the window to make sure the drapes and blinds were closed. Cordelia might be pissed at him but he wasn’t sure she’d welcome waking up to him and a Melba toast experience. She’d have nobody to yell at…


Chapter 2

Angel hadn’t slept well. He’d slept in a variety of positions over the years – a variety of dumpsters and other not-so-pleasant places that he didn’t even want to remember – and Cordelia’s sofa was definitely one of the more comfortable of those, except Angel couldn’t shake the feeling that something was really going on. Something he should really be worried about.

Wesley hadn’t called back last night. Angel had given up waiting on him after a couple of hours, thinking that he’d probably fallen asleep at his desk and that he really shouldn’t bother him unless it was something important… So Angel hadn’t slept. He’d tossed and turned and worried and when he’d finally dozed off somewhere in the vicinity of 6am, he could feel the heat of the sun through Cordelia’s drapes – not enough to burn him but enough to let him know it was still there and Angel couldn’t sleep anyway.

He’d started brewing coffee at seven. Kind of his apology in the making, he supposed, and when Cordelia appeared at the door to her kitchen looking kind of sleep-ruffled, she shot him a puzzled look. “Angel, what are you–” Realization flitted across her features and her tousled morning look slid into a frown, “You’re still here?”

“Cordelia, about last night–”

“Not interested,” she held up her hand and went to her coffee pot, fairly nudging him out of the way.

Fine, he guessed he deserved that. He’d jumped to conclusions – the wrong conclusions and now he was paying for it. “Cordy–”

“Y’know, you of all people, I expect to know me,” she said, her shoulders still scrunched as she adjusted the blinds a little. Sunlight streamed onto her face and from the shadows, Angel felt a twinge. That was where Cordelia belonged, in sunlight, and she spent so much of her life in darkness because of him.

Sorry just wasn’t enough sometimes. “I know you’ve had a few weeks off, what with Darla and everything… But did you really think that I’d done that? That I was stupid enough to do that?”

Angel sighed. He had thought that. The demon coming after her the way it had and what Wesley had said–

“I can see you’re having trouble answering that,” said Cordelia icily, “So maybe I should answer it for you. Yeah, you did. Which isn’t that much of a shocker when I really set my mind to it, given that you barely know yourself these days, never mind me…”

Again, at a loss for words. Angel had tried to say sorry every way he could think of – coffee, actual saying of the words, hell even clothes – and he hadn’t even close to made up to what he’d put her through.

“But despite all that, and the fact that I like watching you squirm, I think my earlier assessment was right,” said Cordelia, making a grand gesture of her very own. She was willing to forgive and forget – for now – if only they could solve this case and get those damn demons off her back. “There must be a wire crossed somewhere in their wacky little system ’cause I didn’t make a deal. With anyone. Which means that someone else did and offered me as down payment.”

Angel’s nostrils flared, the very notion that something could take Cordelia away again not something he’d entertain, “Which means we have to find out who.”

“Right and right again,” Cordelia nodded, “Preferably before those demons get their hands on me.”
****
“Ah-ha!”

“Good ‘ah-ha’ or bad ‘ah-ha?” Cordelia asked, impatiently, “Because you’ve had fifteen ah-ha’s and counting in the last hour alone and not one of them have been remotely what we needed.”

Wesley glared at her over the rim of his glasses and scowled, “I’ve been trying to translate both Latin and Sumerian, Cordelia, both of which are a task in and of themselves. Putting them together is like asking Angel to sort through your shoes and tell you which are designer and which aren’t.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” She asked, erring on the side of snippy at the blatant insult.

“What it means, Cordelia,” he said, in his best snooty English voice, “Is that there are some words to which I don’t have a bloody clue. And then there are others which are only throwing me off the scent a lot. So far, I’ve been able to translate a total of six words from this spell and I speak both languages fluently so if you don’t mind…”

“Geez, Wesley,” Cordelia frowned, “Way to have a cow. I was only asking if you’d happened to figure something out in the last hour. Forgive me.”

Duly chastised, Wesley stepped back and sat down heavily at his desk again, muttering under his breath about strong-willed brunettes and how if they’d just leave him to his own devices this would go a lot quicker.

“What do we need this spell for anyway?” She asked Angel huffily, once Wesley was out of earshot, “Can’t we just ask the demons what they want me for and be done?”

Angel shook his head, “They’re not exactly big on conversation.”

Cordelia rolled her eyes, “Who is these days?” She asked, watching her insult aim right for the heart with Angel and totally miss. The guy was already super-brooding; it wasn’t like she could give him something else to feel guilty over.

“Ahh… I definitely think I have something,” Wesley called from his office, before Angel could put his foot in it with Cordelia any more than he had these past few weeks.

“What is it?” They both asked, Cordelia casting a half-bemused, half-pissed off look at how they’d just sort of fallen into step with the conversing again. She was still a little mad at Angel.

Wesley chewed on the end of his writing pencil, “There’s a chance this spell won’t work at all,” he said after a beat, not glancing up, “I’ve been trying to work out the Latin in relation to the Sumerian but its like–”

“In English please?” Cordelia prompted.

He looked irked but continued nonetheless, “I’m not sure I can summon one, Cordelia. The magicks it involves… And even after that, I’m not honestly sure that we can communicate with it.”

“So what are you saying?” She asked, “I’m screwed until one of these things decides to grab hold of me again and drags me off to its Master’s lair or whatever?”

“Well…”

“No,” said Angel immediately, knowing exactly where Wesley was heading with this whole conversation, “No way, Wes. Not gonna happen.”

“It could be our only option,” said Wesley quietly, ducking his glance to avoid Cordelia’s questioning gaze and shuffling his feet.

Angel shook his head, “We’re not using Cordelia as bait.”

“Bait?!” Cordelia gawped, having a complete flashback to the days of Sunnydale and the vast amount of neck cleavage she’d put on show, “You want to use me as bait?”

“I don’t think you understand the gravity of the situation here,” Wesley pointed out, “Unless we find out what’s hiring these goons to go after you, we’re fighting in the dark. You were lucky you got that vision.”

“Oh, I feel real lucky,” said Cordelia dryly, “What with the Powers setting up shop in my headspace on a regular basis and all. Do the visions look like they tickle, Wesley? ‘Cause I gotta tell you, they really don’t, so don’t try and tell me how grave this all is. I know, okay?”

He looked deflated then. “I didn’t mean to suggest… I’m sorry.”

Cordelia sighed, “I know, Wes. I’m just cranky. I mean, for all I know I could be being stalked by some evil thing that wants to eat my innards or something equally disgusting and all I have to go on is the epitome of vague in the form of a vision. Such a big help from the PTB, huh?” She asked, rolling her eyes skyward.

Was her destructing video tape really such a bad idea? She didn’t think so. And it’d stop that doctor waffling on about hot and cold spots that weren’t of the touristy variety.

“I just… It’s frustrating,” she pointed out, “Especially when I have to admit that maybe you’re right about the bait thing.” She held up a hand to silence any argument from Angel, frowned, “I’m not happy about it, Angel, but what choice do I have? It’s not like the big freaky whatever that wants to collect on his deal is going to walk right into the hotel, is it?”

“Actually, that’s precisely what the big freaky whatever is going to do,” said a voice from behind them.

Cordelia turned and was met with the bluest pair of eyes she’d ever seen.


Chapter 3
“You have GOT to be kidding me,” said Cordelia, glancing over the contract again, “My father… My father signed this thing and now I have to–”

“Comshuk,” supplied Wesley, his eyes wide, “With a-a Groosalugg. It’s all there in the small print.”

Cordelia almost slung the contract at his head. There it was alright, all sealed with blood and other things that Cordelia didn’t want to even know about. She was furious. Forget the fact that she’d been signed over to be some demon’s bitch because of the man who’d quite literally given her life. There wasn’t even a way to get out of this, and God knows she’d tried.

Angel had killed the demon. Twice. Run it through with a sword and snapped its neck. Twice it had got up, dusted down its suit and levelled its blue eyes on Cordelia and told her that wasn’t the most polite of ways to handle their negotiations. Then, it had handed her a contract.

Oh, it was all on the up and up. Her father had sealed it in blood six years before he’d even met her mother. In return for immeasurable wealth and success, he’d hand his firstborn daughter over on the day of her 21st birthday to comshuk with some demon. And wouldn’t luck have it? Cordelia was 21. In one weeks time.

“Y’know, most girls look forward to getting hammered legally on their 21st,” she pointed out angrily, “And instead I get to comshuk with some demon? How unfair is that?”

Her fate had been sealed before she’d even been born! Of all the bone-headed, stupid things her father had ever done? This had taken the cake. He hadn’t even thought of some failsafe that would let him, oh, keep the money? Instead he’d neglected to pay his taxes forever and then signed Cordelia over – signed her over – to have sex with a freakin’ demon.

“It’s not going to happen,” said Angel, the fifth time he’d repeated himself since the demon had left, “I’m not going to let it happen.”

“And what’re you gonna do?” She snapped, “You killed the guy twice, Angel. How much more dead can he be?”

Dead enough to walk out of here. Dead enough to tell her that it’d be back in a week to collect on his ‘debt’.

Cordelia sat down in the chair opposite Wesley’s desk as he poured over the contract, folding her arms across her chest. Why was it that the entire world and its demon dog were lining up to impregnate her? Why couldn’t her lot in life be different? Why couldn’t they want to shower her with, like, many riches or something? Instead she got the shoddy end of the deal – the penis end of the deal – and Cordelia was pissed about it.

“Why me? Do I have ‘incubator for evil’ tattooed on my forehead or something?” She asked, glaring at the contract as if that alone would make the thing disappear, “Can’t I burn it?”

Wesley stared at it for a moment and shook his head, “I’m afraid not, Cordelia. It’s mystical… The contract would only appear again if we tried to destroy it. The only way to pay off the debt is for you to go ahead and–”

“I know, Wesley! Can we skip that part? If I hear that word again, I think I might hurl,” She murmured, “Why can’t my father pay off his own damn debt? It’s not like he wasn’t somebody’s bitch in prison…”

“Because the only way for your father to do that, is for him to give up his life.”

Cordelia balked at that, “Are you serious?”

“I’m sorry, Cordelia, I really am.”

“Don’t be sorry,” she said, her voice high, eyes shining, “Be fixing guy! Find me a freakin’ loophole!”

****

“Yes, Willow. I’ll pass that on, thanks for your help,” said Wesley; his shoulders slumped as he replaced the receiver.

Five days had passed since the revelations about Cordelia’s father and the deal he’d made with that demon had come to pass and Wesley was no closer to figuring out how to get Cordelia out of it. They’d done everything they’d been able to think of. He’d phoned Giles with details of this contract, asked Willow to look into things that could make it null and void… Nothing.

Cordelia had even sung for Lorne at Caritas, who’d got all wide-eyed and panicked when he’d realized what, exactly, was in the brunette’s future. “Jumpin’ Judas on a unicycle, you are in a pickle,” he’d told her, souring Cordelia’s mood even further.

She hadn’t been able to get hold of her father for a week.

In a way, Wesley suspected the man had been fortunate in that respect. He wouldn’t like to be on the receiving end of Cordelia’s ire, especially not since he was the one who’d put her in that situation. No, Wesley would much rather prefer being on this side of the fence, even though it was still most awkward.

Angel was brooding. He’d looked into everything, ways to kill the Groosalugg, make it so that Cordelia wouldn’t have to pay off her father’s debt. At one point, he’d actually suggested that her father pay off his debt on his own, to which Cordelia had frowned.

“He might not be much of a father, but he’s still mine, Angel,” she said, trying to believe – despite everything – that somehow she’d get out of this.

Even Wesley was starting to lose hope. He’d visited friends and acquaintances, even bribed enemies in order to gain some insight into the workings of this Groosalugg and he’d come up with nothing. The dark circles under Cordelia’s eyes were starting to get to him. She was Cordelia Chase and would absolutely not go down without a fight but with every moment that turned up nothing, that quality about her seemed to dim a little.

“Anything?”

There was another thing that was getting to him. Angel. He’d done as much as Wesley had, if not more. The strain of the last five days was showing on Angel who was determined not to lose Cordelia again. Something about that niggled at him.

Subtle changes, like the way Angel acted around her, had all put Wesley on the highest alert. This was getting to Angel as much as it was Cordelia.

“No,” he sighed, “Willow couldn’t help. She told me that whoever had ‘worked the mojo on that contract thingy’ was more powerful than she’d ever dream of becoming. More than she’d want to. its dark magick, Angel, and the price of messing with something like that is often too high.”

“So we’ve got nothing again,” said Angel, deadpan.

It actually pained Wesley to see his friend like this, despite what’d happened in earlier weeks. “Nothing again, Angel,” he shook his head, “But I’ll keep looking.”

Angel just frowned at that and slipped back into the shadows, his mood dark.

“Maybe it won’t be so bad,” Cordelia had tried on him last night, when she’d been down in the basement watching him pound the punching bag in frustration, “I mean… He wasn’t that ugly. And he was kind of polite, all things considered.”

Angel could feel something burning inside his gut and as he’d watched Cordelia, her tone glib despite the look on her face, he’d realized what it was.

He hadn’t realized how much he’d missed Cordelia until he was back in the hotel again. The scraps she’d thrown him after he’d bought her clothes and agreed to take the crappy little desk that was just an extension on the hotel counter were enough to keep Angel going because Cordelia was talking to him.

She wasn’t looking at him properly yet. There was too much hurt behind her eyes and she couldn’t trust him with that yet but that was okay because he was willing to do whatever it took to make it up to her again, no matter how long it took…

But this had cut it short and Angel was angry. Angel was jealous. Angel was a lot of things, but mostly? Angel was stupid.

He didn’t know how it was possible to have spent so much time around Cordelia and to not have known how he really felt. It hadn’t been a quick, startling revelation. Just the slow burn of anger that had eaten away at him with the thoughts that he might lose her again. Angel wasn’t willing to let that happen but right now, it seemed like he didn’t have much of a choice.

He’d sat down beside her on the stairs of the basement, placing his hand awkwardly over hers. It was testimony to how truly miserable Cordelia was when she didn’t yank it away and tell Angel he hadn’t earned that right yet. That he wasn’t allowed to comfort her because he’d fucked up and he wasn’t done paying. “Cordelia…” He’d started.

“Don’t, Angel,” she frowned, shuddering as though it would pain her to hear him trying to make this right too, “Just don’t, okay? I’m not happy with this. I’m never going to be happy with this, but since my Dad has decided to take the cowards way out and let me pay off his little debt? It’s not like I get a choice in the matter. I just… God, this is fucked up. I don’t even have words for how fucked up this is. Or how pissed off I am that the Powers don’t have some kind of loophole… I mean, I’m their visionary for God’s sake. I can’t help save the world if I’m being impregnated by it!”

Angel sighed. She was right. “I could try the Oracles?”

“The Oracles are dead, remember? When Vocah got all scythe-wieldy and mind-twisty and made me go into a vision-induced coma for a couple of days?”

He remembered only too well but Angel, like Wesley, was clutching at straws. He wanted to help. He needed to help. After all, that was what Angel did and it was frustrating him to no end to realize that he couldn’t help the one person who’d come to mean so much to him. “I’ll find something,” he said finally, squeezing the hand that was clasped in his. It surprised him that the move didn’t seem awkward and, emboldened by this; he wrapped his arm around her shoulder, pulling her to him.

She didn’t move for a long moment and Angel felt the fluttering of panic as he wondered if he’d been too forward. Then Cordelia reached up and pressed her lips to his cheek, “Thanks for trying, Broody,” she whispered softly. Before he could think anything of it, Cordelia was up off the stairs and away, wrapping her button down sweater closer around her as she stepped out of the basement and into the lobby.

Angel had only nodded, more determined than ever to get her out of this mess.

****

On the eve of Cordelia’s 21st birthday, she’d located her father. While other girls were out planning parties and ways to celebrate their being legal for almost everything now, Cordelia was helping her friends find a way for her not to become some demon’s bitch and the frustration was only growing on that front.

Six times she’d called her mother that morning. Six times and her mother still hadn’t heard from him since their little ‘disagreement’ a week ago in which her father had apparently flipped, gone into one of his huffs and moved out for the week. Cordelia hadn’t explained. It was bad enough that her father knew about demons and hadn’t lifted a finger to help in the entire time he’d known – explaining to her mother would just make Cordelia twice as cranky and twice as tired. Plus, it wasn’t like time was on her side or anything.

In her defence, and Cordelia wasn’t sure how much of a defence this was, her mother seemed blissfully ignorant about the whole thing. Stupid enough to still believe that what’d happened with the whole ‘getting money’ deal was blind luck and the losing it just the opposite. Cordelia knew different. Cordelia knew karma.

She’d been a bitch in Sunnydale, no doubt about that. Three years later and she was still paying, only this time, she was paying for somebody else’s mistakes too and he wasn’t even around to take the rap for it. Not, of course, that Cordelia wanted her father to die but a little in the way of explanation would have been nice.

In the end it had been incredibly easy to locate him. Incredibly easy because since Angel had been away they’d developed contacts in high places and a locator spell was just the thing they needed to find her skulking asshole of a father.

She’d rapped on the door of his crappy motel room, managing to save some shred of her dignity even though Angel wanted to knock it down, and relished in the look on her father’s face when he found his only child standing on the other side of the door.

“Cordelia, what are you doing here?” He asked, his mouth forming a soft ‘o’ of surprise.

“Well, I’d say it was a social call but I’d be lying,” said Cordelia, darkly, “I’ve come to see why the hell you offered me to a freakin’ demon on the night of my 21st birthday.”

The moment the words left her lips, her father paled. He stood there for a moment, looking from Cordelia and then back to Angel again, risking her ire with every second he didn’t speak. “You’d better come in,” he said finally, once the shock had worn off a little.

He led them further into a little room that kind of reminded Cordelia of his study back home, if his study had been tiny little, with a black and white portable TV and a cooler right at the end of it. He offered them a drink, perplexed when Cordelia seemed all business and sank down on one of the crappy little chairs as Angel shut the door behind them, deflating somewhat. “You spoke to your mother?”

“Not about this,” she shook her head, “That demon sent one of its little flunkies after me but my friends killed it. I called Mom once I found out what you’d done and she said you’d had a… Disagreement?”

She watched as he ran a tired hand over his face. He’d aged ten years in the two months since she’d seen him last and that was kind of weird actually, seeing him like that. Her father had always seemed taller somehow.

“I’ve… I’ve known this was coming for a while now,” he explained softly, not even trying to meet Cordelia’s gaze, “The week of your 21st birthday. My baby’s all grown up… And I’m sacrificing you ’cause of a stupid deal I made with a demon when I was 18 years old.” He risked a look at her then, his head tilting for just a second, “You don’t seem all that surprised about the demon side of things…”

“I work for a vampire,” said Cordelia snippily, feeling the need to instantly defend Angel, even though she wasn’t sure he’d actually earned the title again, “A good one, anyway, and I grew up on the mouth of hell. It’d be a little weird for me not to figure out something was going on, don’t you think?”

“You always were smarter than I gave you credit for, huh?”

She gave a little ‘duh’ scoff and sat down opposite her father, folding her arms across her chest, “You really think flattery is gonna get you off the hook? Start explaining.”

Her father sighed. He’d been going over this in his head so many times this past week – getting it out in the open actually seemed like a relief. “Anything I say is going to sound like an excuse, Cordelia, and you didn’t come here for that.”

“No,” she shook her head, “But I did come here for answers. You owe me that much, Dad.”

“I’ve told you what it was like, Cordelia,” he started, “Growing up where I did, with our family… Before we had the money. I had nothing,” he said, his gaze dropping. Cordelia honestly couldn’t believe the gall of the man – sitting defending what he’d done, but she let him continue. “I was teased mercilessly at school – you know how it was, how it used to be. I swore that it wasn’t going to be like that for me, that I wasn’t always going to be the underdog… And then the demon showed up.”

She could feel Angel’s temper straining against its already incredibly short leash and she shot him a warning look, trying to calm him down in case he got up and totally whaled on her father. Hell, it was nothing short of what she wanted to do herself – Angel had more evil tendencies living inside him than her any day. “So, what, you were a giant geek and you figured making a deal with a demon was the answer?” Harsh, perhaps, but true enough.

“Cordelia, it wasn’t like that–”

“Then how was it?” She yelled, “Because of you I have to mate with some freakin’ demon which, by the way? Is getting REALLY old.”

“You’ve had to mate with a demon?” Her father questioned sharply.

“SO not the issue here! You sold me to one before I was even born!”

He at least had the common decency to look awkward at this fact. His jaw tensed and he sighed and he looked kind of old which was as much of a shock to Cordelia as it was to anyone because even after a couple of years in prison, her Dad hadn’t looked old. He’d just looked harder, kind of… Like prison had opened him up to a world full of new experiences. “I was young, Cordelia. And stupid–”

“You got that right.” She interjected her voice full of venom.

“And if I could take it back now, I would.”

Cordelia frowned, “Because you know that if I don’t do it, you’ll die?”

“No,” he shook his head, “I made this deal when I didn’t know you, Cordelia, when I didn’t know your mother. When I thought I needed money more than the important things. And I’ve made mistakes in my time but this… This has to be my worst.”

“Again with the right,” she breathed out, but this time she felt old. If she didn’t do this her Dad – the very man who’d given her everything she’d ever asked for, short of actual affection – would die because of this demon. Die. And aside from the fact that she loved her father (even though he was a giant kind of idiot), she really could not stand having yet another death she was too late to prevent on her conscience. No, sir.

“Look, we’ll figure something out,” she sighed, “It’s… It’s kind of what I do now. It’s what Angel does.” She paused for a second and fixed him with a glare, “But do not, for one second, think that this means you’re off the hook. You were stupid – real stupid – and you apologizing and being all doting father ’cause you think you’re gonna die if I don’t comshuk with a Groosalugg doesn’t exactly change things.”

“I know, baby,” he said awkwardly, “And I really am sorry.”

“Yeah,” Cordelia sighed, “Me too.”


Chapter 4
Cordelia was sorry. Standing in front of her mirror and looking at what, exactly, she was supposed to wear tonight while being all comshukked by a Groosalugg – Cordelia was real sorry.

It was Angel’s fault.

She’d arrived at that conclusion a while ago, when she was sitting moping in her apartment about the fact that she cared what happened to people these days. “It would have been so much easier five years ago,” she murmured to Phantom Dennis, “Maybe then I wouldn’t have cared so much about Dad taking the fall for this crap…”

Because this was *his* crap and how was it fair that Cordelia had to handle it?

It was Angel’s fault. Angel’s fault by drawing her into this stupid mission and making her care about people and not want to see them die, be it in her head or otherwise. “This sucks,” she fumed, as she shoved a La Perla nightgown as far to the back of her closet as it would go. La Perla – La freakin’Perla and Cordelia refused to let the first item of remotely sexy underwear she’d bought with her own hard earned cash be pawed at by some icky demon. Damn well refused!

Though it wasn’t like the guys would be lining up after they learned of her second foray into the demon side of comshukking.

Cordelia groaned and sank face first down onto her bed. “I hate this!”

She really did hate this. She failed to see both why she should hate this and why she should be sorry, of course, but that was her lot in life, she supposed. Being sorry for things that other people didn’t see and boy, had she become a martyr, she realized, scrunching her face up in the blankets.

“Little Ms. Likes to Fight gets Chosen to save the world on a regular basis,” she murmured, her voice muffled, “I get Chosen to mate with a demon and carry its little demonic babies to term.”

“Was that in the contract?”

The worry in Angel’s voice wasn’t enough to make Cordelia’s heart rate stop spiking off the chart. She yelped at the sudden intrusion of the vampire who was supposed to be making coffee to calm her nerves, and dragged her face up from her quilt cover. “No, dumbass, but demons are shady. Especially that one,” she told him, pulling herself upwards and settling against her pillows.

Okay, so that wasn’t strictly true. She didn’t even know enough about the guy to deem him as shady but it seemed fitting. After all, she was going to be sleeping with him in less than an hour. “I can’t believe I’m actually going through with it,” she said after a beat, worrying her lip between her teeth and suddenly thankful that she’d shoved the La Perla gown back as far as it could go in her closet.

Having this talk with Angel was bad enough; having him realize she sometimes bought sex clothes ‘just in case’ would just be utterly cringe-inducing. “Remind me again why I’m doing this?”

“Because you don’t want your father to die,” he supplied, trying to be helpful. His voice was flat though.

The corners of Cordelia’s mouth twitched slightly, “Once more with feeling?”

“You can’t ask me to be happy that you’re having sex with a demon, Cordelia,” he pointed out, gruffly, “And it’s not like I’m a guru on father-child relationships.”

Fine, she’d give him that one – given that he’d pretty much eaten his father back in the powdered wig days. “At least it’ll be over soon,” she murmured, “Maybe I can go on a course of intense shock therapy to block the whole thing out once it’s done.”

Angel sat down on the end of her bed, “I’m sorry, Cordelia.”

“For what?”

“For not being able to help,” he admitted, frustrated, “If I could do this for you–”

Cordelia pulled a face, “And as much as I appreciate that gesture? A world of eww, Angel. Although it would sort of explain your taste in clothes…” She teased, before growing a little more serious, “Look, I’ll be okay. I don’t foresee the guy pulling any demonic crap while we’re *y’know*… And if he does, I’ll just tell him that it wasn’t part of the deal…”

Funny how she sounded more confident than she actually felt.

Trouble was, Cordelia didn’t know the extent of the deal. There was something in the contract about the demon wanting to mate with her on the night of her 21st birthday, supposedly because she was at her most virile. Only Cordelia didn’t feel very virile or at all life force-y. Cordelia felt like crap and it was a total chore trying to keep up the good spirits around Angel when really she wanted to stamp her feet and declare this as completely unfair.

It was her birthday, damnit. And instead of celebrating and getting presents like any other somewhat normal girl? Cordelia was preparing to have sex with someone – a demon, of all things – and she so was not prepared.

Contrary to popular belief, Cordelia hadn’t been little Ms. Slutty back in high school. Sure, she’d done stuff. Cordelia Chase would have been in the running for Foreplay Olympics Queen of the Year or something, if they’d had such a thing back in Sunnydale, but actual sex? Cordelia had found herself biting off more than she could chew the first time when she’d woke up as big as a house and with a multitude of demon babies inside her. It had put her off sex for life – or it would have done, had it not been for her father making some stupid deal.

A deal that she couldn’t get out of, no matter how hard she tried. If Cordelia didn’t do this, her father would die. Okay, so it was vastly unfair. Cordelia had covered that in her many monologues, especially to Phantom Dennis when she’d ranted and raved about her father being this giant asshole who thought of nobody but himself.

And yet his words were still ringing in her ears: I made this deal when I didn’t know you, Cordelia… When I didn’t know your mother… Not, of course, that this made it all okay. But it was the closest her father had come to showing her actual affection and even if Cordelia hadn’t liked it, at least now she understood why.

Her parents weren’t the worst she could have had by a long shot. She’d been around Wesley enough to know that some scars – even the ones you couldn’t see – lasted forever. She’d been around Xander’s parents all of twice when his father had been his usual abusive self and his mother had stood back and done nothing about it and Xander had just never invited her around again.

Cordelia hadn’t been given the shitty end of the deal on the parent scale but there were times when she thought she wasn’t far off and now she got it, it just made her kind of sad.

“I should probably get dressed,” she told him, glancing towards the drapes. The sun was setting just below the horizon and Angel was just as antsy as she was.

“I’m not leaving you alone with him, Cordelia,” he told her, earning himself a glare.

“And you’re also not staying in my apartment while I make good on this deal,” said Cordelia, making her trademark ‘eww’ face, “its bad enough that I have to do this. Having my best friend listen in on it ’cause his hearing is all supernatural and freaky is so not my idea of a turn on. Just… Just go back to the hotel, okay? I’ll call you when I’m done.”

“But–”

“No buts, Angel,” she replied firmly, “I’ll call you when I’m done.”

****
When the Groosalugg knocked on her door, Cordelia had convinced herself that this was going to be okay. He’d come in, she’d ask him a few questions about what would happen once their deal was complete and all would be fine.

The guy was polite personified. He brought her flowers.

Now Cordelia wasn’t the kind of girl who’d look a gift horse in the mouth, so when he produced the flowers and a pretty expensive bottle of wine, Cordelia took them both, placing them on the table next to her couch.

She sat opposite him a second later, placing her hands in her lap. She’d tried fifty different outfits – going from slobby in hopes that he’d take one look at her and want to walk the other way and then to real-date outfits, because if she was doing this she supposed he’d want her to at least look the part or something…

Finally, she’d decided on somewhere in the middle. Not a real date outfit, but not total slob either. She’d even attempted on the make up front.

“Can I get you something?” She asked, as much surprised as she was pleased that her voice didn’t waver once. She kept repeating her mantra of ‘it’ll be over soon and I can forget’ in her head, so much so that she almost let it slip out loud when the demon was looking at her, a half-bemused look on its face. “Water? Wine? I– What do I call you?”

“You may call me the Groosalugg,” it told her.

Cordelia made a face at that, “How about just Groo?”

It–Groo nodded. “If it pleases you.”

She almost said something at that. Something about how none of this was going to please her, how her father dying really wouldn’t please her and if ‘Groo’ wouldn’t mind, could they just stop now? But Cordelia held her tongue – no easy task, given how much she wanted to rip the guy a new one. This was almost as bad as last time. Almost.

“I can be whoever you wish me to be, if that makes it easier…” said Groo, his voice soft.

Cordelia’s spirits lifted a little, “Jude Law?” Maybe she’d get through this better if she just thought it was another of her incredibly vivid fantasies.

The demon acquiesced and Cordelia swallowed as she was left with Jude Law (naked!) and enough eye candy to fuel her fantasies for months.

“Are you quite sure this is who you want?” He asked.

“Are you kidding?” Cordelia asked, “I’d have made the deal myself if I thought I’d get this.” The fact that she was clenching her hands into fists and worrying her bottom lip between her teeth betrayed just how nervous she felt, making the demon frown slightly.

He was many things but he wasn’t a monster. Forcing himself onto his rather beautiful mate to be just wasn’t going to be in his game plan. So he morphed into something different. “Would this please you, Cordelia?”

Cordelia almost fell off her sofa. “I… What the– No! And very much eww!” Yelled Cordelia, her eyes as wide as saucers, “Why the hell would that please me?”

“I can read energies,” he explained, and it was so very wrong (on levels that Cordelia couldn’t even conceive right now) listening to a Naked Angel talk and trying NOT to look, “You were thinking of your friend.”

“Eww, not in that way – geez!” she said, thinking he’d just killed every chance of her ever thinking of Jude Law in any way again. She’d been thinking of Angel in the ‘oh please find a loophole and quick’ sense but not like that! Geez!

“You do not love him?”

“Who, Angel?” She scoffed, “Sure, but not in an ‘I want to bone you’ kind of way – please. I do have some standards…” Limited, maybe, but still. “Besides, Angel is a strictly No-Bone area, so even if I did…”

“Ahh, you’ve thought about it…” Groo smiled.

“What? No! Not even! Stop twisting everything!” Cordelia yelled, horrified at the fact that the demon had suggested it…and that maybe he’d been right. Oh, holy GOD. There was no way in hell she could love Angel – no way in hell. First of all, she’d sworn off fixer uppers on the night she’d had a rebar shoved through her stomach.

Okay, so Doyle was pretty fixy uppy, she’d give the guy that. But at least there she had something to… Well, something to…

“You’re in love with your vampire friend,” he nodded, morphing back to his original visage which even then wasn’t that bad. It was no Jude Law or anything, but Cordelia was going to have to live with that.

“Okay, for the record? You’re WAY off,” she said, fuming silently and wondering if she could exploit his sheer lunacy to her own gain (loving Angel? Pfft and *please*…who was the guy kidding? ) “But if I did, and you seem to be knowledgeable guy on this… Would that mean the deal’s off?” She asked, brightening visibly.

The Groosalugg sighed. He was officially between a rock and a hard place here. “Alas, no. There was a contract, Ms. Chase, one that your father signed in his own blood and to make that contract null and void…”

Cordelia frowned. To make that contract null and void, he’d have to use his own blood to un-seal the damn thing. Which meant him dying and probably not in a pleasant way either, if Wesley’s earlier Demonology Lesson was anything to go by. “So what you’re saying is that I still have to comshuk… With you. Or else Daddy’s gonna meet a pretty sticky end at one of those Bell End demons…”

His mouth quirked upwards, painfully amused at her choice of words, and corrected her with a sigh, “Belzor Demons. And yes. I wish it didn’t have to remain this way but…”

She knew what he was saying before he even said it. A deal was a deal and though she, herself, had never even entered into contract with the guy, she had to… Make good on it, she guessed. “Okay, but I’m not, like, betrothed to you or anything, right? The way Wesley explained it, I just give you a little of my non-demon womb and you go off do the baby-having yourself?”

“That’s right,” he nodded. There were reasons it was the firstborn and reasons it had to be on the night of their 21st birthday. Something to do with cycles being at their peak or something – Cordelia really hadn’t been listening when Wesley was trying to explain.

“Good,” said Cordelia, getting up and rubbing the palms of her hands against the legs of her jeans, “‘Cause I really wasn’t looking forward to playing Mommy to a host of demon babies again.”

“Pardon?”

Cordelia looked at him, “What?”

“You said something… About demon babies?”

“Oh, that.” Cordelia murmured, “Let’s just say I’m not exactly a novice when it comes to getting knocked up by demons.”

The guy looked horrified, “You’ve been tainted?”

“Excuse me? I’m not tainted!” She protested, severely huffed, “Hell, I didn’t even know I was pregnant until I woke up as big as a house the day after we’d *y’know* and found I was carrying, like, eight of the little suckers.”

“You have been tainted,” he groaned, slumping into his seat.

“I am NOT tainted!” Cordelia growled, then paused a moment, “Wait, does that mean you can’t… With me?”

“I’m afraid not.”

Her spirits soared, “Then that means the deals off, right?”

“No!” It protested, shaking its head, “The contract clearly states that should the firstborn not be willing to fulfil the deal…”

“Hey, I’m willing to get with the comshukking, Buster! It’s not like I asked to be impregnated way back when – that’s gotta be in the rules somewhere!”

“I–But–” Groo was at a loss for words. He’d never before come across such a glitch. And Cordelia, undoubtedly, was a fast talker, used to getting her own way. The brunette was still talking. And the Groosalugg was getting a headache. “Perhaps using tainted to describe our predicament was rather hasty…” He murmured.

“Too freakin’ right,” said Cordelia, folding her arms across her chest, “So what do we do now? You can’t comshuk me ’cause I’m– Well, used goods. And you can’t kill my father ’cause I was willing to get with the business end of this deal… What now?”

“I don’t know,” he admitted, his own spirits sinking. He hadn’t come across this before. Hell, he hadn’t come across anyone like Cordelia before. And now he didn’t have an idea of how this debt would be repaid. “Perhaps some legwork… From your organization?”

Cordelia glanced at him, “You mean I could have avoided all this heartache and misery and seeing Angel naked if I’d just offered up the collective services of Angel Investigations?”

The Groosalugg scowled, “Not quite, Ms. Chase. I’m still rather annoyed that our deal has been thrown into forfeit.”

“Again, didn’t asked to be impregnated by demon spawn,” she said, shaking her head, “What is it you want us to do?”

****
“It’s probably over by now,” said Angel glumly, watching as Wesley bandaged his hand and wishing Cordelia was there to do it.

His mood was dire. Most of the time, Angel healed quickly but after the impromptu session with the punch bag and one of the basement walls downstairs, his hand was feeling more than a little bruised. A large cut adorned three of the knuckles on his left hand and Angel kept flexing it, watching the way the skin broke, the pain keeping him grounded.

He’d been trying, unsuccessfully, to keep Cordelia out of his head. He’d been gone from her place an hour. An hour in which lord only knew what had happened. It should be over by now. Cordelia should be calling him to pick up a vat of ice cream and he should be going over there, trying to ignore the scent of that goddamn demon.

The one that had touched Cordelia. His Cordelia.

Angel groaned.

“It’s only a little antiseptic,” Wesley scolded. A closer look confirmed that it wasn’t the antiseptic that had pained Angel so but rather thoughts of Cordelia. “Have you told her yet?” He asked, not so ashamed to admit that he pulled Angel’s bandage a little tighter, just to cause him an extra pinch of pain.

“Told her what?” Asked Angel, glumly.

“That you love her.” Wesley waited until the shock on Angel’s face had passed before continuing, “Really, Angel, I have eyes. Did you think I wouldn’t notice?”

A bolt of panic shot across the vampire’s face, “Is it that obvious?”

“Not to everyone, no. But I know you, Angel. I know Cordelia. And these past few weeks… You’ve been scrambling for her approval. It would be rather amusing, if it wasn’t so pathetic to watch.”

“I– Hey! I didn’t mean for it to happen,” Angel protested, “I just… All of a sudden she was *there*.”

Wesley’s mouth quirked upwards into a smile. He knew how that happened. One minute she was a rather beautiful distraction at Sunnydale High School – a student, no less – and the next… Wesley happened to know for a fact that once you’d fallen for Cordelia, she was a hard girl – woman – to get over.

Even after their disastrous kiss, Wesley had sometimes wondered what could have been, but that ship had sailed a long time ago and now Wesley was trying to focus on the future – what Angel’s feelings would mean – not only for him and Cordelia, but for the rest of them.

“I don’t envy you, Angel. The things you take on would make a regular man balk at the thought but with Cordelia…” He straightened a little, meeting Angel’s gaze, “If you even think of hurting her again, of putting her through anything like what you have these past few months…”

“I won’t.” Said Angel, immediately.

“Good.” Wesley nodded, finishing wrapping up Angel’s hand, “Because I don’t think you’d like to find out what Gunn and I would do to you if you did.”

Angel sighed. “I love Cordelia. I’m really screwed, aren’t I?”

Wesley smiled, “I’m afraid so, Angel. At least she’ll make your life… Interesting.”

“That’s an understatement.”

“Just be careful,” said Wesley, “And tell her before she decides she’s too old to wait around for you to ‘get with her program’…”
****
Right, thought Angel, tell her before she’s too old for me to get with her program. All sound advice, except he didn’t have a clue how to even broach this, especially not when Cordelia had just been having sex with some demon on the night of her 21st birthday.

Angel only felt incredibly guilty about that, even though the deal had been made before he’d even met Cordelia. He hadn’t been able to stop it and he could only imagine the things they were doing right now.

Typically, Angel was sitting up in his room, brooding. He’d tried to kill the guy twice – short of having him sucked into some inter-dimensional portal, Angel was really at a loss, so when Cordelia arrived at his door, simply smelling Cordelia-like, he thought he was imagining things.

“Cordelia?”

“Hey, Angel,” she said, not entering.

They stood like that for a few moments, apart from each other and not speaking, until the silence got too much for the particularly broody vampire and he gestured for her to come inside. “Are you… Are you okay?”

“Peachy,” she nodded, “With a side of keen. You?”

“Fine.” He nodded, “Did you—How did it go?”

“It didn’t.”

Something stirred inside Angel – something awfully like hope – and he stared at her for a long moment. “You didn’t go through with it?”

“I was ready to,” Cordelia admitted, “We’d even got as far past the pleasantries as him turning into my hearts desire or something equally as lame… And then he found out I’d been ‘tainted’.”

Angel growled. He couldn’t help it. “Tainted? What the hell does that mean?”

“Breathe, Angel,” said Cordelia, a gentle smile lifting the corner of her lips, “He found out about my last brush with demon impregnation and after that… Let’s just say he couldn’t perform any more.”

“So you didn’t… What about your father?”

“I just got off the phone with him,” she said carefully, “Things aren’t great between us and he’s gonna have a hell of a time trying to explain to my mother what he’s been doing this past week but he’s not dead, at least, and there aren’t gonna be any Belzor demons knocking down his door in the next few weeks.”

And I didn’t have to comshuk with a demon, so all is right with the world. Almost.

“I still had to cough up on the deal front though.”

Angel balked at that, his face falling, “What does that mean?”

“Well the demon wanted something… In return for, I don’t know, services not rendered?” She said, actually shuddering at those words, “So in return for my father still being alive and my keeping my comshukkedness intact, I agreed to give him everything we had on Wolfram and Hart.”

Puzzled, Angel stared at her, “What do they have to do with this?”

“Well it turns out, Groo—” and she could not believe she was on a first name basis with the guy now, “—kind of has a problem with oh law firm extraordinaire. Apparently they represented something that killed his brother and got him off way lightly, so in exchange for my not humping the guy, he gets information. He’s downstairs talking to Wesley.”

Angel shook his head, “So we could have just offered him information and you wouldn’t have had to—”

“Already gone down that road and no,” said Cordelia, “He had to know that we couldn’t before he’d take something else on offer. I’m just glad he found out before he got with the comshukking ‘cause that would’ve been embarrassing.”

Not like this whole thing hadn’t been, but Cordelia would take what she could get. “So… Is there a reason you’re up here brooding?”

Angel frowned, “I wasn’t—I thought you were—Y’know. And then I realized I didn’t want to be thinking of that, so I came upstairs.”

“Was that before or after you smashed the wall in the basement?” She asked, archly, “Wesley told me.”

Panicking slightly as he wondered what else Wesley had told her, Angel could only stare. “I—Well—Happy Birthday, Cordelia.”

Cordelia grinned, “It kinda is, huh?”

“I, uhm, I didn’t get you anything…”

“I kinda guessed. I mean with everything that’s been going on around here lately… We’ve had other things to worry about. I’m sure you can make up for it later,” she teased.

“I will,” Angel promised, taking a step towards her, “How about dinner?”

“What, all of us?”

“No,” he shook his head, deflating a little, “I mean… You and me. To celebrate.”

“You mean like a date, dinner? Where you pay and everything?” She asked, brightening again.

And though Angel would once have been mortally afraid of that word, given how his love life tended to go, he nodded, “A date, dinner. You look… Nice. And it’s a shame to let tonight go to waste…”

“Well, duh,” Cordelia smiled, “This is officially my ‘I didn’t sleep with a demon’ outfit. What could be better?”

Angel chuckled lightly, remembering Wesley’s earlier words about letting Cordelia know how he felt before she deemed herself too old to wait for him to get with it. “Cordelia?”

“Angel?”

“What happened with Darla—” he could see her good mood begin to plummet already, the mention of his sire the perfect mood killer for both of them, “I’m sorry. I know I’ve said that. I know I bought you clothes… And I know that’s not enough. I was just trying… I’ve made some mistakes, that’s all. Big mistakes—”

“Huge, but go on,” she interrupted, folding her arms across her chest to see if this apology was as good as it was turning out to be.

“I missed you,” he said after a beat, “And I only realized when something threatened to take you away from me again. I just—I’m not good at this. My dating history could be summed up by the words ‘tragic’ and ‘farce’ and I don’t—I don’t want you to be among that too.”

For maybe the first time in Cordelia’s life, she was speechless. Completely speechless. She stood staring at Angel for what felt like forever, her mouth working open and closed. “You mean—you’re—and you want me to be—Okay, this is new. And very scary.”

And oh God, Groo had been right. Cordelia sat down heavily on the end of Angel’s bed.

“You really hurt my feelings, Angel,” she said eventually, her voice quiet. “You fired me and kicked me out of the hotel and let’s not forget the moment where you shoved me against a bookcase all because of your little obsession-y period over Darla…”

“Cordy—“

“I’m not finished!” She said sharply, cutting him off, “We did okay without you, Angel. We weren’t the best demon fighters out there but we got good. We became family again…”

Angel’s heart sank.

“But there was always something missing.” She sighed, “And I realized this week that the something was you. I kind of hate you for that,” she said quietly, “But I kind of love you too and I’m hoping that’s what you were gearing up to say during all that babble ‘cause if you weren’t I might just have to shove a stake somewhere not pleasant and…”

She felt like her heart had stopped. The entire world had, definitely, but her heart (the thing that had previously been jack hammering against the inside of her ribcage and threatening to burst through) had absolutely stopped.

“You love me?” Asked Angel, a completely goofy (and incidentally, adorable) smile appearing on his face.

“Yes,” she sighed, “I love you. Even that demon knew it. I’m just… Slow on the uptake, is all. I swear to God, Angel, if you ever fire me again or cause me unnecessary pain, I’ll—”

“Shove a stake somewhere not pleasant,” Angel reiterated for her, grabbing the hand that was waving erratically, “I know.”

The brown of Cordelia’s eyes softened and Angel leaned towards her, one thumb coming up to stroke gently at her cheek, “I really am sorry, Cordelia.”

Cordelia slid one hand round his neck and pulled him towards her, “Actions speak louder than words, Angel,” she whispered, before pressing her lips to his.


…THE END…


 

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