Hindsight is 20/20


AUTHOR: JENNIEC
SUMMARY: This starts out with a different take on Birthday – then spins out from there.
RATING: R
POSTED: 29 Nov 2003
CATEGORY: ATS S3, Angst, Humor
CONTENT/PAIRING: C/A
WARNINGS: None Listed
FICPIC CREDIT: N/A
AUTHOR NOTES: As always, Cali, you’re the best! Special thanks to Lysa and Cammy.


Chapter 1

It had been three months since Cordelia’s birthday, three months since she had chosen blindness over death – or losing the visions.

It was still a sore spot with Angel. He could not find a way to convince her that it wasn’t the visions that made her important to the mission – it was her. Still, once again, anything he could say, or do, was too late. She had made her choice, and her choice was to stay with Angel. There was a selfish little – OK, maybe not so little part of him, that couldn’t help but be happy. He was to have her by his side. He decided not to wait any more, and take advantage of the opportunity. In the days following her birthday, he spent every possible waking moment with her, guiding her into the new life she had chosen. It wasn’t long before those waking moments become the quiet ones at night. She began staying at the Hotel, in his room. In the beginning she said it gave her comfort to be near him…and Connor. She always added…and Connor, fearful of revealing her true motivation to remain at Angel’s side. Then one day…

“How did it go, did you kill the demon and save those girls? Come here so I can check.” This was Angel’s favorite part of any battle, coming home so Cordy could check him out, head to foot…with her hands.

“It went fine, the girls should be home safe by now” considering he often lied when she could see, she wasn’t going to let him slide just because she couldn’t now. Besides, groping…errr…never mind.

“Yeah, yeah, big macho man killed the demon. Let me see for myself.” The ritual had begun.

“OK, if you insist.” There was never any resistance on Angel’s part.

“Where did everybody go?” she suddenly realized she hadn’t heard any sounds other than her own heart beating in her chest.

“They dropped me off and went out, something about a movie premier they’ve been waiting for. They said to page them if anything else should come up.” Angel didn’t pay much attention to anything other than ‘can we drop you off so we can not be in the Hotel with you and Cordy, alone…’ or something like that.

“Oh – everything checks out. What do you want to do now? We can finish off the research from yesterday’s vision.” The minute David Nabitt had heard of Cordy’s ‘predicament’ he had rushed over with the latest version of software that allowed the blind to surf the net, and crowned Cordy ‘his favorite beta tester’. Finally, he was doing something more than just donating money to ‘the cause’. He set up an entire department dedicated to just perfecting the software, which helped Cordy’s ‘recovery’ tremendously, knowing how many people were going to benefit from her situation.

“No, the guys are taking a night off, why don’t we?” Angel had waited patiently…ok, anxiously, for this opportunity, and for once in his life, he wasn’t going to blow it.

“Um, ok, but, to do what?” She had adjusted to her new life, but only in the comfort of the Hotel. She wasn’t sure how ready she was to venture out, what he might be suggesting made her a little nervous.

“How about we order in, and have it out in the garden? It’s a great night.” He was getting to be an expert at what she was thinking – no mean feat.

“OK, that sounds nice actually. I’ll just go check on Connor, and you call for the food – surprise me.” She tried to brush aside the feeling she had just been asked out on a first date, but her pounding heart wouldn’t cooperate.

“Sounds good, take your time, it’ll be a bit before the food gets here.” He instinctively kissed her forehead as he passed her, heading for the phone.

“OK, but order from some place that’s quick, I’m hungry” Please tell me that came out normal and not as shaky as I feel.

“Will do, ma’am.” He stood, watching as she glided her way up to Connor’s crib. As soon as she was out of sight, he began his preparations. He had been thinking about this for a long time now, and NOTHING was going to go wrong.
****************
“You were right, this is a beautiful night. I can’t believe Connor is still sleeping. Maybe I should go wake him, he’s due to be up soon anyway. He should be enjoying this too, fresh air is good for a baby.” She was feeling comfortable and nervous all at the same time, and that was making her ramble.

“No, he’s sleeping, let him sleep, Mommy. I promise, there will be plenty of other nice nights we could bring him outside.” He never thought it was possible, but when she went in to ‘Mommy’ mode, he found himself loving her even more. He stared at the beautiful woman before him, all the while gaining the courage to speak the words he had been longing to speak for so long. He hadn’t even realized his slip.

“Mommy?” This time she was sure it came out shaky, exactly what was he saying to her?

Angel panicked. Great, dumbass, start from the middle! OK, not a problem, operative word here – start. He went with it.

“Cordy, you’ve been with me for how long now? Almost three years, and in that time we have gone from barely tolerating each other, to me finding the best friend I have ever, and will ever, find.” He could hear her heart begin to speed up, please let that not be a bad sign. He continued…

“You have been the only one who has ever taken me to task for who I am. You have never pretended that, as Angel, Angelus doesn’t exist. That means a lot to me. You have never let me forget that there is still a demon inside me that can emerge at any time.”

“Angel…” she didn’t want him to think that she treated him as if he could go all evil on her ass at any moment. He interrupted her.

“Cordy, shh, let me say this. For once, let me do all the talking.” Maybe if he teased her a little, she would relax a bit. She could almost feel the smirk radiating off his face, and she did start to calm down…a little.

“Now where was I before you so rudely interrupted?” This time she shared his smirk, and added a mock humph.

“I know…You never let me forget that there is still a demon inside me, and that has only made me try harder to keep him in his cage. For the first time in my long life, I have had real reason to be Angel. You have given me a wonderful gift, made me take a look at who I am, and who I can be. Now, granted, I still keep messing that up, but with you by my side, I’m surer than I thought was possible that I will get to know the person you see in me. Cordy, I have loved and lost and even gone so far as to almost giving up, but when I look at you, when we share a laugh, or a cry, or…anything, everything else is just a blur.” He paused, then rushed on…

“You have become a strong and wonderful woman. You are my best friend, and you have been nothing short of Mother to my son. When Darla showed up here I thought for sure you were going to stake me, but not only did you …eventually…rise to the occasion, you surpassed it. Cordy, what I’m trying to say, have been trying to say for a very long time now, is that…I love you. I want you to always be with me, I want my son to call you Mommy…” She gently placed her small finger to his lips, effectively stopping anything else he had to say. He froze in panic.

“Wow, I never heard you say so much at one time.” She needed a minute to collect her thoughts.

“Wow? What does that mean, Wow?” Oh god, what did I do, I knew I should have just let things stay they way they were, they were ok, weren’t they?

“It means WOW!” She couldn’t help but laugh, there was her dork, present and accounted for; they were back in her territory now.

“Angel, I don’t deserve any credit for you being who you are. It was in you the whole time.” She was being uncharacteristically humble – this can’t be good.

“No, Cordy, you deserve more than just credit…” She cut him off once again.

“I’m sorry, but I’m pretty sure I heard ME talking here!” She needed to get to her point faster; his panic was becoming infectious. She paused, leaving Angel about ready to implode.

“Angel, you are my best friend too. And I would love nothing more than to be mother to Connor, I love that little guy more than I thought possible.”

OK, she loves Connor, at least that will keep her around and in my life – small consolation.

“I don’t want you to feel like you need to do this because you feel obligated…” This time he cut her off with a gentle kiss. She brought her hands to his face, searching for the truth of his words. A gentle tear escaped as she realized that what she felt was the power of his honesty. The love that was written on his face made her tremble. She decided at that moment to take the leap of faith she had fought against for so long.

“I love you, too. More than I thought was possible. Imagine, Queen C in love with a demon, and me…in love with that and so much more.” She held her breath. She did it, confessed her love, and opened her heart. She waited for it to be inevitably ripped from her chest. After all, that was her life story, wasn’t it? The moments it took for it to all become real to Angel were agonizing, then it happened…she felt a tear roll on to her hands, still holding his face, this time it was real, the dream every little girl has – to find true love.

“Oh, god, Cordy” Angel took hold of her like a lifeline, and began to worship every inch of her face with his lips. He took a moment to feel foolish for waiting so long to tell her how he really felt, but just a moment. He vowed, he would never take her, or her feelings for granted again. After years of missed signals, misinterpreted feelings, missed opportunities, he was finally in the arms of the woman he loved, a moment he was sure would sustain him through eternity.


Chapter 2

“Anything yet?” It had been a month since Angel and Cordy finally confessed their feelings for each other, and for every day after that, the greeting Wesley received was always the same. No ‘good morning’, ‘drop dead’, ‘nice hat’, always the same…

“Good morning, Angel. Nice to see you up and about so early. Looks like it’s going to turn in to a nice day today, don’t you think?” always the same…

“Sorry Wes, good morning…”

“…Anything yet?” He couldn’t hide his impatience no matter how hard he tried.

“Angel, I am working as hard as I possibly can to find a solution to your tenuous hold on your soul, I assure you.” Wes no longer bothered to be annoyed with Angel, and his ‘down to business’ morning greeting. If anything, he understood his need to resolve the issue.

“I know, I’m sorry” Angel at least had the courtesy to be honestly apologetic.

“Angel, I understand, and when I find the answer, you will be the first to know. The last thing I want is an audience with Angelus.” Wes had to find a way to get through to Angel and ease the pressure he constantly felt the minute he walked through the door. After all, he was putting enough on himself; he didn’t need any help from Angel.

“Is that Wes I hear? Angel, you aren’t harassing him again, are you?” Cordy couldn’t help but be amused with Anxious!Angel, poor Wes. She continued down the stairs on her mission to get Connor his breakfast.

“No…well…maybe…” Cordy didn’t need to see, to know the look on Angel’s face. She did her best to suppress her laugh. God how she loved this man!

“No, Cordy, he was just inquiring. Unfortunately, I still don’t have an answer.” After all, it isn’t Angel’s fault; he shouldn’t be the one getting in trouble. Wes began shuffling dejectedly, before he was able to catch himself from revealing too much of how he knew he must be disappointing them with his ineptitude.

“Don’t beat yourself up Wes, I mean, it’s been a hundred plus years. If the answer were that easy to find, I would think this would be a non-issue by now. Don’t worry, I have the utmost confidence in you.” She could hear the frustration clearly in his voice and she didn’t like it. The last thing she wanted was for Wes to start feeling like he was failing again, and she needed him to know that.

“Thank you, Cordy.” Angel is a very lucky man.

“Awww, he’s blushing, you’re so cute when you blush.” Her men were so predictable.

“How do you do that? How do you know…” am I really that predictable?

“I know you, Wes” She placed a hand on his face gently, adding a smile that lit the room.

“Morning all, did I miss the ‘can Cordy and Angel have sex yet’ talk, or should I go out and come in again?” Gunn had taken to coming in later and later to avoid the morning ritual.

“It’s safe, and can we stop talking about my sex life?” Cordy shook her head as she turned to walk expertly towards the kitchen for a now VERY hungry Connor’s breakfast.

“It’s all good girl. I just have to remember not to piss off Angel, that right hook has GOT to be a killer by now!” Gunn was never one to let opportunity pass him by!

“Hey!” Angel stood, hands on his hips, trying desperately to defend his honor.

“Good comeback, honey.” Cordy patted his chest as she shifted a now fussy Connor to him.

“I think maybe I’ll come with you, its probably safer, right little guy? Mommy will protect me from these mean…” Angel continued to mumble to the only guy in the place not likely to abuse his frustration as he led Cordy to the kitchen.

“Speaking of protect.” Cordy had wondered how she was going to broach this subject. Although she left the safety of the Hotel for a couple of hours a few days a week to attend classes at the Institute for the Blind, Gunn always took her, waited around, then took her home. She was never left alone.

Unfortunately, especially in their line of work, that wasn’t always going to be the case. She needed to know how to defend herself, or she would remain a ‘prisoner’ inside the Hotel. At first, she found a comfort in that, but as she gradually started to adjust to her lack of sight, the old Cordy began to show her face. Cordelia Chase was NOBODY’s prisoner, especially her own.

“yes…” Angel felt a knot begin to form in his stomach, where could she possibly be going with this?

“Well, I’ve been thinking.” Cordy could feel Angel’s body tense; he wasn’t likely to take this well and she needed to choose her words carefully. She went about her business of preparing Connor’s bottle.

“No, any conversation that starts out with you thinking can’t end well, so, no.” Angel couldn’t help but recall Graduation Day. There he was, this normal, even friendly neighbor looking Mayor, suddenly turning into this twenty-foot dangerous dragon. Folks, let me introduce you to an angry Cordelia Chase. Mental note, never, never speak before at least two cups of coffee and breakfast, you need all your faculties functioning at full capacity when Cordy gets a thought in her head.

“What do you mean no? You don’t even know what I’m going to say! What, you think you can suddenly read my mind? I don’t think so buster. And it would serve you well to remember that fact. You are such an idiot sometimes. How DARE you tell me no when you haven’t even heard what I’m about to say!” So much for choosing your words carefully. She slammed the refrigerator door shut and slapped Connor’s bottle in to his chest.

“Stop yelling, you’re upsetting Connor!” He cringed on how weak that sounded, both as a comeback and as evidence of how hard she hit him.

“Upsetting Connor? I don’t hear anything but slurping coming from him. So now you are going to hide behind wittle Connor when you know you can’t win? That’s low, even for you!” She was getting angrier and angrier by the second, after months of everyone basically walking on eggshells so as not to ‘upset’ her, or her not ‘upsetting’ them, all the pent up emotions were ready to bust out – and Angel was the unsuspecting target.

“Hi, um, is everything OK in here? I heard some yelling and I thought maybe you would want me to take Connor in to the other room to feed him. I just love the little guy, and I read somewhere that babies can pick up on bad vibes and since he’s eating, it could upset his stomach and we all know how he gets when he gets gas and…”

“Morning Fred, yes, please take Connor in to the other room. His father and I have something we need to discuss.” The guys in the other room probably heard the gulp that escaped from Angel’s throat.

“Is it anything I can help you guys with? You know I appreciate everything you’ve done for me, saved me from…” Fred was very sensitive to Angel’s and especially Cordy’s plight and hated the fact that they were fighting now.

“Fred, honey, I know. Please, just take Connor in the other room while his father and I talk. I would appreciate that.” Fred’s rambling served to calm Cordy down, or at least distract her enough to break the fevered pitch she was at a moment ago. Angel tried to remember what kind of flowers Fred liked.

“OK…well…OK…well we’ll just be in the other room…” Fred shot Angel an apologetic look as she took Connor from him; she may have not been around for a Cordy rant yet, but they were legendary. Seeing the looks on the guy’s faces while telling the stories made her very afraid just hearing about them – she walked out slowly, unsure of what else to do.

“Before you open your mouth to shove that foot of yours in any further, hear me out.” Angel wisely kept his mouth shut, waiting for her to continue.

“Angel…” She stopped to take a deep breath and collect her thoughts, and decided to plunge right in, “I need you to teach me how to defend myself. Before you say anything, I know you guys will always be there to protect me, if you can. Let’s face it Angel, its not unheard of that I could be here alone one night while you guys are out on a vision or something…and if I should…decide to go outside or something, I don’t want to be afraid of every noise I hear. Angel…please?” She held her breath waiting for Angel’s answer. She knew that he would argue that she would never be alone, but he couldn’t really guarantee that, and she needed him to understand. She silently prayed she was getting through.

“That’s it? You want me to teach you self-defense?” Angel sighed audibly that this was what she was thinking.

Taken totally by surprise at his reaction, Cordy found herself stuttering, “Um, yeah, so you’ll do it?”

“Cordy, of course…granted, I don’t think you’ll ever need it, but if it’s going to help you than of course I’ll teach you. I think its great that you want to venture out more. And if a little self-defense training is going to help then let’s say we start right after breakfast?” It didn’t go unnoticed by Angel that the old Cordy spark was showing, and he couldn’t have been more thrilled. Besides, a little close one-on-one…

“Alright then, after breakfast. Did I tell you how much I love you yet, today?” The smile on her face reached beyond her eyes. She jumped excitedly into Angel’s waiting arms. Today was going to be a good day!
Chapter 3

True to his word, Angel was good and ready to get back to training as soon as breakfast was finished…

…and the days business was discussed

…and Connor was settled

…and Cordy took her shower

Remembering how much he enjoyed training with Cordy before, he was anxious to get back to it. This time, oh yeah, this time he wasn’t going to have to steal longing looks, gentle touches, holding her close. His excitement was rising so much he found himself ready to jump up and down in the basement like a little boy. If Cordy didn’t hurry up with that shower, he was going to go up there and fling her over his shoulder. He was lost in that thought as Cordy came down the stairs.

“You ready big guy?” Cordy half hoped he said no, not so sure she was ready. Yeah, she wanted more independence, but maybe she was taking on too much. After all, if Angel wasn’t with her, Gunn or Wes was. Didn’t she have enough on her plate?

Angel’s excitement waned considerably as he sensed her hesitation. God, he couldn’t help but love this woman. So scared yet bravely marching on. With his excitement now deflated completely from his guilt for not realizing Cordy’s feelings in the matter, he tenderly placed a hand on her shoulder. It was a rare moment for him to be the comforter, but he had learned how at the foot of the master…his Cordy.

“Cor, if you aren’t up for this, we can hold off for another day,” he may not have wanted to, but it was the right thing to say.

“No…now is good…don’t put off till tomorrow…and…whatever.” She marveled at how the simple act of his hand, placed gently on her shoulder, worked wonders to assuage her apprehension.

“OK, if you’re sure. Let’s start out with some Tai Chi. It’ll help calm…us, and get us focused.” He was careful to share the responsibility. The last thing he wanted was her feeling defensive too.

“If you say so. You’re the boss.” Angel’s laughter at her words served to further dissipate the tension.

“What’s so funny?” Here she was giving him his props and he’s laughing! If he isn’t going to take this seriously, then she was out of there.

“You. Come on, even I know who’s boss here.” A little levity is always good.

“Hey! Oh, who am I kidding, I do kinda have you wrapped around my finger, don’t I?” Her face broke in to a shy, alluring smile. Angel countered by massaging his thumbs in to the base of her neck. He leaned close, nuzzling his nose in to her hair.

Cordelia turned slowly, bringing her hands to his face. She studied every line, every wrinkle, every emotion his face wore. Her journey of discovery served well to awaken feelings Angel had so carefully suppressed as deeply as his demon. A low growl vibrated from his chest as he gently caressed the small of her back, his other hand cupping her cheek as he brought her in for some exploration of his own. His lips parted slowly as he began to taste her lower lip. Gradually their tongues became one as two lovers celebrated their union.

With the dance begun, Angel skillfully glided her to the couch they kept in the basement. Descending slowly, Angel smoothly adjusted his body over hers, his gentle touch smoothing every muscle, his lips tasting all she had to offer. Cordy responded with a rediscovered courage borne of each touch and caress, escalating the heat that traveled to every cell within her. They both paused, she for much needed breath, he in fear of where this was taking them.

“We…um…should be training” It was all he could muster.

“Yeah, right, training.” She was barely grasping his words, still twitching from previous events.

“OK…training…we should be…standing…” He wasn’t so sure he was quite ready to move, the pain in his groin making that seem impossible.

“Right…standing…” OK, now she was up to about every TWO words out of his mouth.

“Right, OK, so, come on, I’ll help you up.” He sprung up off of her, and took her hand; like a band-aid – do it fast and it won’t hurt as much…NOT!

“OK, I’m up, um…we shouldn’t do that any more.” Sometimes she really HATED Sensible!Cordy – the all-knowing bitch!!

“No…yes…I mean, you’re right, we shouldn’t do that any more, at least not until Wes comes up with some answers.” Any time Wes!

“Hey! Stop picking on Wes, he’s trying!” This time reading his thoughts were easy, considering they were hers too.

“Alright, OK, let’s just get to why we came here in the first place.” Training was fun before; he could make it so again. And that would have to do. Damn Gypsies.

“Fine, where do we start?” He was right, damn gypsies.

“OK, now, close your eyes.” Both sets of eyes rolled, like ‘the wave’ at a stadium, at the oxymoron.

“Humor me, it helps the concentration. You need to make yourself aware of what’s around you, and be able to identify it. After that I’ll show you how to take advantage of your opponent. Are you ready?” Business, keep it business.

“As I’ll ever be…”
**************
Days had turned in to weeks, and their training sessions ran pretty much the same – both teetering on the edge of the forbidden Utopia. Though starting the same, the outcome was different. After each session, Cordy was gaining more confidence, and edging closer to the self-reliance she once held so dear. Angel, and their dilemma, had taught her patience – a key element in fighting the unseen.

Although never sightless himself, Angel was skilled in being the unseen, a trait that helped make him deadlier than most vampires of his evil days. He used that knowledge, and began to teach her how NOT to act like one of his many victims. It was working for her; it was often painful for him. If it were not for her grateful enthusiasm, he could easily had slipped into the dark recesses of his memory. Knowing how much this was helping her, he was able to push on.

“Angel, what was it like for one of your victims?” She wasn’t stupid, and contrary to popular belief, far from wrapped up in just herself. She was always attuned to his moods and feelings before, but now with her other senses heightened, it was often overwhelming.

“Why do you ask?” He was extremely uncomfortable with sharing this part of his life with her. He never wanted it to touch her.

“Well, I can’t help but feel that your are a little too familiar with…what I’m going through…I’ve read the diaries, Angel, I’m sorry, I should have been more sensitive to how this could be affecting you.”

“It’s OK, Cordy” At her disbelieving look he continued.

“I’ll admit, sometimes its hard. Even harder imagining that you could be on the other end…not seeing it coming…but it also makes me want to try harder to make sure you can handle yourself. Turning it around for good is actually therapy. Wow, no more Dr. Phil for me!” He let out a halfhearted laugh, hoping to brush off the conversation. He should have known better.

“Promise me you are not just saying that so that I stop this touchy-feely feelings torture session.” She quickly moved to place her hands on his face, not willing to rely only on the tone of his voice for the answer.

He bowed his head and let out a breath he hadn’t realized he was holding. He slowly lifted it and spoke with assuredness, wanting desperately to allay her fears.

“I’ll admit that there have been times that it’s been hard, but those times are overshadowed by your progress. You taught me that, to focus on the good. You’re a very wise woman, Cordelia Chase.” He ended his speech with a genuine smile.

“I love you” For the moment, she was accepting of his words, but not yet willing to let it go. She stored the information for reference, if necessary, at a later date.

“I love you, too” They embraced each other, both lost with their own thoughts of each other.
************
“You have got to let me do something, at this rate the prophesy will never happen!”

“NO!”

“Come on, just a little hint, a carefully left sticky on a certain page…”

“NO, how many times do I need to tell you that? And don’t even think of trying to sneak it passed me. The Englishman is good; he’ll find it. If not, that little wisp of a thing will. She’s kinda cute, in a babbling brook kinda way, don’t you think?”

“Have I told you that you are just Evil, Skip?”

“Yeah, whatever, come on – they aren’t the only team we are supposed to be watching.”

“Yeah, watching…”


Chapter 4

“Oh, Miss Chase, Hold on a moment. Thank you, I’m so glad I could catch you. I just wanted to let you know that there is an opening in the cooking class if you are interested.” Mr. Kendel was the perfect Dean of Students at the Institute for the Blind. He was always their biggest supporter, always urging them on, encouraging them to learn all there was to learn to be able to adjust to the student’s new lives.

“Oh, thank you, but I think I’ll pass on that one.” Cooking, phah!

“Oh thank god” Gunn was never gonna learn, when one sense goes, the others get stronger to compensate. He was still musing under his breath when a deadly object, aka Cordy’s foot, hit him square on the ankle.

“Ow! Hey, what was that for?”

“I heard you, maybe I should go ahead and take that class; you could be my guinea pig!” Cordy knew he was right, but that didn’t give Gunn the right to say it out loud!

“Sorry, I keep forgetting to keep my inner voice…inner.” The last part was directed to his chest; leery of anything else he said that could get him in to trouble.

“Mr., Gunn is it? If it’s about your schedule, we have some wonderful people here who could shuttle Miss Chase to and from home. It’ll free up some of your time and give Miss Chase here more opportunities to take other classes.” He was smiling, proud of his solution, unaware of, a – Gunn’s reasons for staying, and b- his reason for her NOT to take a cooking class.

“No, that’s fine, if she wants to take a…cooking class, it all the same to me. Besides, I get a new GameBoy game out of the deal every two weeks; maybe more classes will bump that up to one, or maybe an upgrade? What can I say, I’m a simple man with simple needs.” Angel had offered to pay Gunn extra if he would be Cordy’s escort, which Gunn promptly refused. Cordy was family and he was more than willing to do his part. He did, however, jump on it when Cordy suggested that the least they could do was supply him with new games to help him pass the time, lord knows, he wasn’t going to waste it reading musty research. That’s for sure.

“An upgrade? That’s all it would take? You are a simple man. OK Mr. Gump…err…Gunn, I can do that. Oh, and don’t worry, cooking classes aren’t how you are gonna have to pay for it.” She said the last part teasingly caressing his cheek. Both men blushed, Gunn jumped nearly out of his shoes. Deep down, he knew she was just playin’ him, but he wasn’t going to bite – not at the cost of the vampire’s wrath, anyway. Cordy burst out laughing, no longer able to carry the charade.

“God, I can feel the waves of nervousness from you two! I’m just kidding! Thank you for the opportunity, Mr. Kendel, but I couldn’t cook before, and I’m not really interested in starting now. Cooking just was never my thing.” It was fun, but Cordy decided to let them off easily. There just was no challenge here.

Gunn leaned over to whisper into Cordy’s ear, “Can I thank god now?”

Cordy let out a chuckle. “Yes, now come on, its almost time for Connor to get up from his nap. Thank you again, Mr. Kendel. See you Thursday. Bye.”
**************
Angel paced the floor with a very fussy Connor, wishing desperately that Cordy would walk through the front door and save him from his misery. He had done everything the books, and Cordy, had told him. He fed, burped, and changed him. He was showering him with attention, and still, he cried. If this kid didn’t learn how to talk soon, and tell Angel what his problem was, then…. He thankfully didn’t have to finish that thought because Cordy was finally home.

“Here, do something.” Angel thrust Connor into her waiting arms, not bothering with any pleasantries.

“What’s ammatta little guy? Daddy making you crazy? Aww, come here. Mommy loves you, you know.” Connor instantly settled into Cordy’s arms, further frustrating Angel.

“How do you do that? I all but promised to buy him a new car, and he has done nothing but cry!” This kid must have it out for him, there’s no other explanation.

“He missed his Mommy. I remember my Ma telling me that I would cry and cry whenever she left. Made my father crazy. He would feed me, burp me, change me, play with me, and still, cry, cry, cry. My Ma once admitted to me that it was probably because I could tell how nervous my Dad was whenever he was alone with me. Maybe that’s Connor’s problem, he can tell you are nervous, and that makes him nervous, in fact I’m sure I read that somewhere. Now, where was it?” Fred began shuffling through the books that were scattered around the lobby, eager to prove her point.

“I’m not nervous! He’s my kid, why should I be nervous?” Angel was quick to attempt defending his honor.

“Oh honey, relax. I think she just means that you are just not sure what to do if he’s still crying and you’ve run through the ‘to do’ list.” Cordy was not sure how she was going to get out of this one in tact. She knew Fred was right, and was just as sure that Angel was unhappy about it. He was really doing well with Connor; she didn’t need his confidence deflated.

“Besides, is it so terrible that he missed his Mommy?” Ok, Cor, now pout; make it be about you so he gets distracted.

“NO, it’s not so terrible, in fact, I’m sure that’s it. After all, I missed his Mommy too.” He finished with a kiss to her protruding lower lip. He glided her and his son over to the couch for his favorite part of any day – sitting with his family close at his side.

“Awww, I missed you too.” She smiled brightly, settling comfortably into his right hip. She was finally where she belonged.

“How was your day?” Angel beamed, he could get used to this domestic bliss, if only Wes could…

“Oh, Gag me! English, you any closer so that they can take this happy horseshit in to the bedroom and leave us out of it?”

“Again with my sex life! What’s the matter, not getting’ any so you want to live vicariously through us? And watch your language around the baby!” Cordy could give it right back with the best of them.

“Oh, no she didn’t, she didn’t just go there, did she? English? Back me up here!”

“Yes, I believe she just did. Cordy, I’ll have you know that what you two do in the privacy of your room, is of no concern to any of us.” Realizing his mistake, he hastily added, “You know what I mean, that you two…”

“Save it Wes, we get it. You were doin’ good there for a minute, till you went and spoiled it with your ‘worrywortness’.” Gunn just shook his head in defeat. He was trying hard to up Wes’s cool factor, but English wasn’t making it easy. One step forward, three steps back.

“Worrywortness, that’s not even a word, that isn’t right?…..

Angel sat back and watched as his family began their banter, although not contributing to this particular conversation, he no longer felt like a bystander. It had taken 249 years, but he had done it. He had the one thing both he, and his demon, had been seeking for so long – a real family. Sure, he had one as a human, but his father made those memories unpleasant. His demon collected ‘family’, but never anyone he was sure to kill if any of them were to walk through the door right now. No, this, this was how it was supposed to be.


Chapter 5

“Well, ‘ello Mick, What brings you here? I heard tell of your demise. Pretty good trick.” Spike loved Willy’s; you just never knew who was bound to show up.

“Hello, yourself, I hear tell of your slayer troubles, here to drown some sorrows?”

“I believe that’s none of your business,” Spike wouldn’t admit it, but he really liked this guy the first time he had met him, but if he was here to bust his balls about the slayer, then all bets were off.

“Ah, but you see, it is. See, I’ve been assigned to watch ‘our teams’ on the west coast – you all being one of them.”

“‘Teams’?”

“Yeah, fer the Powers. You’ve been getting some pretty good reviews, by the way.”

“Oh, goody. Tell me again why I would give a fuck that I’m getting ‘good reviews’ from these so called ‘Powers’?” Spike was rapidly losing patience.

“Because they can help ya. Ya see; there’s this master plan, wrought with sword fights and prophesies, and you seem to figure pretty high on the cast of characters.”

“Really, well color me intrigued, or at least thirsty. So once more from the top. What brings you here?” This oughta be good, or at least entertaining…‘Passions’ just hasn’t been the same without little Timmy.

“I need you to go to LA with a bit of information.”

“LA? As in Angel’s LA? Now what makes you think I would even consider that?” Yup, entertaining.

“Pay attention, we can help you. You do me this favor, and I’ll pull some strings that will help you with the slayer.”

“Help me how.” Spike was by no means stupid, occasionally reckless, but not stupid.

“What’s the one reason she keeps…rebuffing you. You’re a demon with no soul; do this and I’ll work on fixing that.”

“You’ll get me a Soul?” Spike was more than intrigued; he was stunned.

“I’ll do what I can, it’ll probably cost me, but I know some guys…”

Spike sat frozen, unsure of the offer he had just been given. He knew the Mick to be a do-gooder, and this certainly fell into that category, but what was his motivation?

“Why?” was all he could muster.

“It seems our friends in LA have been dealt a bad hand. It pains me to see what they are going through because of the will of the almighty ‘Powers’. Manipulation is an art form with them, just want to even the sides, beat them at their own game.”

“So, we make this pact, we are taking on these ‘Powers’?”

“In a way, yes.”

“Count me in, always up for a good fight, and if I can get the slayer out of the deal, all the better.” What the hell, SunnyD was becoming a dead end the way things were now. Besides, maybe absence does make the heart grow fonder.

“What do I have to do?”

“Find a way to get the Englishman to look in a book called, “Amira Marimé Muló”. He’ll do the rest. You can’t make this obvious, or both you and I will and I will find ourselves counting circles, nine to be exact. My boss will be watching, and if he finds out about this, game over. Oh, and DO NOT tell them I sent you, they can’t know either, free will and all that has to make this work, or I’m afraid the future prophesies will become null and void. Might make for an apocalypse that could have been directed by John Woo, but we’re sure to lose.”

“Seems like an easy enough challenge, how will I contact you for my reward?” Too easy, he better have a good answer or all this chatter was for nothing.

“Don’t worry, as soon as I get back ‘upstairs’ I’ll start working on getting everything in to place for you. My reputation may have an interesting legacy, but one thing always stood above the rest – Doyle was true to his word.”

“Fair enough mate.”


Chapter 6

“Hello, is someone out there?” It was late nights when Cordy was alone in the lobby that she was ever grateful for the protection spell Wes had discovered and placed on the Hotel.

“I’m standing right here, are you blind or just bloody stupid!” This bird is starring right at me, what the hell was her problem? Oh, maybe this was a wrong move. One of these days he was going to learn how to mind his own business.

“Well, now that you mention it.” Cordy let out a little chuckle.

“Cheerleader?” Spike looked through the glass doors more closely, finally noticing her unfocused stare.

“Spike, why don’t you come in.” Cordy had kept up with the goings on in Sunnydale through an unlikely alliance with Willow. After a few awkward emails, the two discovered that they had more in common than either was willing to admit. They had become friends, chatting whenever neither of them were wrapped up in their respective ‘career choices’ – something Cordy had jokingly coined as an accurate description of their lives.

“Cordy? Is everything OK down here? I hear voices…Spike…Cordy, get behind me.” Angel moved with preternatural speed to take a protective stance in front of Cordy.

“Angel, I invited him in.”

“YOU WHAT!!!!!! Cor…” Angel just didn’t understand her sometimes, letting in a professed killer who, when last they met, tortured him unmercifully. She made protecting her a full time job.

“Angel, I told you what’s been going on in Sunnydale, if Spike is here, I’m pretty sure he has a good reason.”

She waited…

“Oh, and you’re sure its not to kill, or TORTURE us?”

And she got it…

“Angel, calm down…besides, you can take him…let’s just find out what’s going on first. If Buffy sent him, this could be real important.” A few months ago, a visit from anyone to do with Sunnydale would have unnerved her, but now, she was secure in her love for Angel, and his love for her. No, if Spike was here, she was pretty sure there was a good reason.

“Fine, but you stand right there, Spike, what’s the message, say it and get out.” He kept Spike pinned to the entrance with his stare and closed stance, resembling a predator about ready to pounce.

“No message, just came to get a break from the Scoobies. Not the most welcoming bunch, and that can wear on a person’s nerves.” He had them there; they both were painfully familiar with that scenario, both having spent time skirting the ‘inner circle’. It served to soften Angel slightly, but not where he was willing to let it show.

“God, he is so stubborn, how do you put up with him, and what the hell happened to you?” Spike was used to this, so he just plodded on to the more important stuff, namely Cordy’s new ‘development’.

“You know Spike, despite everything, I always liked you. Powers, visions, they gave me some options and this turned out to be the best one.” Truth be told, Cordy recognized the similarity between she and Spike. Both lacked pretense, and the ability to pussyfoot around anything.

“Says you.” Angel knew he had lost this battle long ago, but he never missed a chance to try to get his point across. She was important, not the visions.

“Angel, we are not having this discussion again. What’s done; is done.”

“Powers, right. I’ve heard about them, what’s the what with that?” The Powers, maybe I can finally get a little more information on these so-called Powers.

“The Powers that Be, a force on the side of good. They send me visions that are supposed to point Angel toward people in trouble. They used to hurt – a lot, now it’s all relative to the vision. Standard visions rate just an owee, ones that come in at the last minute, or are REALLY important, hurt, and I’m guessing anything apocalyptic are basically gonna suck. Pretty steady gig so far.”

“Oh, and what did you do to get stuck with these, visions.” He recalled what Doyle had said, and began to believe that maybe these ‘Powers’ weren’t so good after all. He couldn’t imagine what she could have done to deserve a fate such as this.

“I didn’t get stuck, I like being able to help the cause. Anyway, Doyle, you remember him? He gave them to me just before he died, sort of a parting gift.” She lowered her head as she spoke; remembering Doyle was still painful for her. Angel relaxed his stance to put a comforting arm around her.

“Ah, yes, I can honestly say I remember the Mick. Heard about his death, sorry, you two seemed close.” If they only knew how fresh his memory was.

“We all were, but lets not dwell on that, I came down here to get Connor his bottle. If you are staying, you can use room 215, the bed is made.” In pure Cordy style, she brushed aside her emotions to get back to the business at hand.

“Staying? Who said anything about staying?” To say that Angel was uncomfortable with him staying was an understatement.

“Angel, its late, the sun will be up soon. And hey, it’s always good to have another fighter on hand. You hear that? I get a vision, and you are out there with the rest of them, no arguments.” She may be letting Spike stay, but not scot-free. Besides, his reaction was sure to offer more insight to his intentions. Comply = good, Baulk = bad. It was of the good…

“Yes ma’am.” He finished with a mock salute, then staring at his hand dumbly when he realized she couldn’t see it. He stood mouth to the floor when she saluted back.

“Good night” She left to finish the task she had started, bringing Connor his bottle.

“How…”

“Don’t ask. None of us can figure it out either; she just seems to…know things. A little spooky if you ask me. Look, she seems to be OK with you staying, so you can…for now. BUT – I warn you; one, just ONE false move and you are dust. You bother anybody, ESPECIALLY Cordy or Connor and you are dust, no questions asked. I’ve got my eye on you.”

“Wow, no reading between the lines there. And who’s this Connor?”

“Our son.” Angel answered curtly, leaving to join his family.

“Our…wait…Son?” Spike spoke to Angel’s retreating form.

“Good night, Spike.”

“But…oh bloody hell, what did I get myself involved in now?”


Chapter 7

“Spike, Angel has informed me of your visit.” Wes looked up from his book long enough to acknowledge the blonde vampire’s entrance.

“And a big ‘How do you do’ to you too!” God, what’s with these people, can’t an evil demon stop by to say hello without everyone getting their knickers in a knot?

“I’m also sure he has discussed the parameters of said visit?” Wes knew he had, he just wanted to underline the statement.

“Yes, I am fully aware of the consequences of any misstep, you don’t need to repeat it. To think I left the company of the Scoobies for this.” Although mumbling the last part under his breath, he made sure it was still loud enough for the former watcher to hear. He knew that was a sore spot with this lot.

“Yes, well, as I’m sure you are aware, Angel is VERY protective of Cordy and…” Wes tried with much difficulty not to take the bite.

“Duh! You would have to be actually DEAD not to know that, which I’m gonna be if I don’t find that refrigerator Cordy told me about.” Where did she say it was?

“Cordy?” Not cheerleader? Or pet?

“Yes, Cordy! You know, chit with the hots for the ponce.” Why, oh why am I even trying again? Oh yeah, soul.

That was better, “Um, behind you.” Wesley couldn’t help but think that something was up with him, his watcher training rising to full alert.

“Ah, thank you.” Spike moved swiftly to reach his goal of breakfast; he really didn’t want to ruin things by munching on the junior watcher.

‘Thank you’? This was not the vampire he had spent so many hours studying, as soon as this pesky curse was out of the way, he was going to have to look in to any possession spells that had obviously been cast on him.

“What’s all this about?” Spike gestured to the array of books spread out around the watcher. This was his opening, good, nice and quick.

“I would have thought it obvious, I’m researching.” Wes was trying to be careful not to reveal too much, he still wasn’t sure of the vampire’s intentions, and that made him rather uncomfortable.

“Yes, OK, well, thanks for the insight.” Fuck the soul, besides weren’t there other ways to get it that were less painful than this? Perhaps those trials he had heard about. Oh, dammit to hell, in for a penny…after all, he did go through the trouble of finding the book Doyle had told him about. He casually walked over to Cordy’s desk and picked up the book he had carefully placed last night after all had gone back to bed. Figures, right under there noses and still…

“What’s this? Don’t tell me, you are researching a cure for the curse?” He looked up to Wes, donning his best innocent look.

“What? How did you…?”

“Amira Marimé Muló” He held the book in typical Vanna fashion to emphasize his discovery. “Loosely translated, ‘rejection curses for the living dead’. I didn’t realize the Romani had any written history of their magicks. Good find; I’m impressed.” Spike fought the urge to play a game of ‘keep away’ when he saw the look of…was that lust? Oh, how sad. Maybe after this soul problem was solved, he would take on solving the ex-watcher’s hard-on problem…nah!

“How, where, let me see that!” A Romani spell book, how could he possibly have missed that?

“Wait, how do you know what this is? What game are you playing at?” His suspicions were rising to unnatural levels. How did he know this, and why is he being so helpful?

“An ounce of prevention and all that, mate. After that rather unpleasant incident of the curse, I decided to learn a few things about the Romani so as not to get caught unawares myself. A few words here and there, a little of their customs…worked too, managed to steer clear of them this long.” Ha! Stuff that in your pipe and smoke it!

“Yes, well, thank you, this is bound to come in quite handy. Dare I ask if you would be available, should I need help with any of the translation?” Wes struggled with the last part, should he trust him?

“Don’t know how much help I can be, but what the hell, not much else going on at the mo.” Good, the sooner this was over with, the sooner he could get out of here. The love in this room was becoming overwhelming…not!

“Well, then, if you’ll excuse me, I have much work to do.” Wes’s attention to any further conversation was already lost. Spike simply moved on to his breakfast, smug at how easy that was. Now for the ex-watcher to do his part.


Chapter 8
Wes looked up from the book he had been translating, a little stunned by his discovery.

“Oh my.”

“Now what?” Spike groaned loudly, annoyed at the constant interruptions that seemed to never lead anywhere.

“I think, no, I know. If we use this spell, we can remove the curse.” The ex-Watcher continued to stare in awe that the ‘cure’ was in hand. He looked nervously to the Vampire for confirmation. Who would have thought the two would have bonded, and over a ‘cure’ for Angel’s curse no less, although neither would admit it.

Spike quickly scurried to look over Wes’s shoulder, no longer uncomfortable with this new liaison, “What is it? What have you got?”

“Right here, this curse here… Putrav lesko drom angle leste te na inkrav les mai but palpale mura brigasa… I open his way in the new life again and release him from the fetters of my sorrow…it continues on, but by all accounts it serves as a parole of sorts. The curse, his having a soul, is maintained, thereby pleasing the Mulé, or spirits of the ancestors, but; it also achieves Kintala – or state of balance.” Wes’s excitement was rising to a fevered pitch.

“Nice, but wouldn’t it require a Romani to speak those words? Where in the bloody hell are we going to get a Romani willing to free Angelus of the clause?” And this guy is supposed to be the smart one!

“Yes, no, here…read this…Te pochinen penge lazhav, Pay for their shame, and here…O zalzaro khal peski piri, Acid corrodes its own container…its written in a way that allows a gadje, or non-Romani, to uphold the original intent of the curse. OH…” Wes’s shoulders slumped upon reading the next line…

“Oh? What oh?”

“Right here…Roma rituals lose their magick when uttered to a Gadje…” Back to square one.

“Wait, it says uttered to…does it say anything about uttered by? Wasn’t Red successful in restoring Angel’s soul just before he was sent to hell? Wouldn’t it stand to reason that a witch powerful enough can compensate for any loss of Romani magick with that of her own?” Spike’s smile was smug, See, not as dumb as you think, eh Watcherboy?

Wes’s eyes grew to unnatural size as the realization of the Vampire’s words began to form, “My god, Spike, I could kiss you. Yes, if counteracted by a witch powerful enough, the spell will work!”

“Whoa there Nancy Boy, come near me and I’ll forget I’m here to help!” Spike stood, hands raised, ready to repel any advances.

Although barely registering that he had spoken, Wes looked up to find the Vampire at the defense. Too excited at their discovery to care what that meant he moved on. “What? Sorry, please, get Angel for me, he must hear this.”

“ANGEL…” Spike’s yell pulled Wes further from his musings.

“Good lord, man, I could have done that!”

“Then why didn’t you?”
**************
The days that followed in preparation for the ritual were frantic and tense. Cordy had contacted Willow, asking her in confidence to come to LA and perform the spell. She agreed, brushing aside any vestiges of guilt she felt not telling Buffy. She reasoned, if it worked, it was of the good and she could decide to tell her then, and if it didn’t, no harm, no foul.

Willow arrived to find everyone on nerve’s edge. She knew that her magick would never have more of an important impact as the spell she was to perform today. She was never happier at its success.

Angel was at a loss for words, too overwhelmed by the events. “Willow, I…”

“I think what he is trying to say is ‘Thank you’. I don’t know how we are ever going to repay you for this.” Cordy embraced her friend, willing all the love and gratitude to flow from her heart into Willow’s embrace.

“You don’t have to repay me, just be happy. Besides, its not me you should be thanking it’s Wes – and I still can’t believe this but – Spike. After all, they were the ones who found the spell in the first place.”

Newsflash! Spike? Someone has been leaving some very important details from her emails.

Angel was still struggling to form sentences, still overwhelmed by the power of the spell, and everyone’s part in it. “Willow, if you ever need anything…”

“He speaks! Angel, come sit down for a bit. I need you to…regain some strength.” Willow blushed at Cordy’s words, while laughing at Angel’s expression of realization as to what Cordy was alluding to.

“Go, relax Angel, everything’s going to be fine. Besides, I have to get going, we are kinda in the middle of a situation. Granted, when aren’t we, but I still should get back before everyone starts to wonder where I am. I’m just glad I could help.” She did want to stay, not eager to get back to Sunnydale, and the wondering stares she was sure to receive. She was lost in thought about exactly what, if anything, she should tell her friends.

Cordy was genuinely disappointed; she was looking forward to spending some time with Willow. “So soon? Can’t you stay for the celebration?”

“No, I really do have to go, I’m sorry. I promise, next time through I’ll stay awhile, maybe we could go out to one of these LA hotspots, like that Caritas you keep talking about.” Willow embraced her friends, a little surprised when Angel held his embrace.

“You’re on. Next time in, it’s a night on the town – on me.” Angel was feeling particularly light hearted and generous.

Cordy laughed, “You better hurry back then, before he forgets he said that!”

“I will, and you mister, take care of our girl here.” Willow wagged her eyebrows for emphasis, blushing furiously at her nerve to play along.

“Oh, I will, don’t worry about that.” He finished with a playful gleam in his eye, his strength returning.

“Drive safe.” Cordy didn’t want her friend to leave but she new where this was headed, and she was anxious to get to it herself.

“I will, talk to you soon. Bye.”

“Bye.”

Seeing her leave, Spike sauntered over to the anxious couple, hoping to fish out some clue as to what she was going to tell her mates, “So Red is gone…and so quickly.”

Cordy picked up on his stress, “Yeah, said she had to get back, apparently they are in the middle of a situation.” She remained as guarded as he. She had picked up rather easily that as direct as Spike liked to be, he often hid what was going on inside.

“Oh” Situation my ass, the chatterbox probably can’t wait to get back to the old gang.

“Spike, is everything alright? You seem odd…well, odder.” There was something Spike wasn’t telling, and it was making Cordy crazy.

“What? No, nothing going on here except for maybe an empty glass. Are you two going to join us, or get directly to shagging?” There, that oughta distract them right enough.

“SPIKE!” Angel just shook his head, Over a hundred years and not a thing has changed about this boy.

“What? Isn’t that what this was all about in the first place, so you two could shag?”
***************
“DOYLE!!!”

“Yea don ave ta yell, Skip, I’m right ‘ere. What’s up?” Uh oh.

Skip’s impressive expanse, made even larger by his anger, towered over Doyle. He needed answers, and he needed them now. “What did you do? WHAT DID YOU DO????”

Doyle displayed his patented innocent look, fingers inconspicuously crossed. “Me? Nuttin! What?”

Feeling much like the parent to a petulant child, Skip stood firm, hands on hips he continued, “The LA group. Don’t tell me you had nothing to do with them finding that book.”

“Oh that, didn’t think blondie had it in ‘im, I wonder what ‘is motivation is? Probably that Slayer chick ‘e has the ‘ots fer.” Doyle was trying his best, but Skip just seemed to get larger at each statement he uttered.

“BULLSHIT. You turned him on to that book, don’t deny it!” If it didn’t sound so crazy, Doyle would have sworn that the walls just shook. Displaying his best innocent look he continued…

“I swear on me mother, it wasn’t me.” Great, now I’m gonna have both Skip AND my mother after my ass.

“On your mother? You’ll have to do a lot better than that if you think I’m going to believe anything you have to say right now. You know the rules – NO INTERFERING!”

Shit, he’s not buying it, I just pissed off my mother for nothing! Think quick…“Alight, may these lips never kiss the sweet taste of whisky again if I’m lying.” Doyle raised the glass he was holding for emphasis. Thank goodness for props.

Damn, didn’t expect that one, this kid is good. “…”

Its working…yes, I see a crack…now for the closer…“Seriously, mate.”

OK kid, want to test me? Think I don’t know? I’ll give…for now. “Fine, if that’s the way you want to play it.”

Uh oh. “What’s that supposed to mean?” Doyle was not at all happy with this, Skip was way too confident. The warning light in his head went off – he knew trouble was ahead, in fact, trouble seemed such a feeble word.

Skip stood tall, arms crossed around his expansive chest. He hit a nerve – the kid looked nervous. What’s done is done, I might as well have some fun with it. “Never you mind, now go check on that Sunnydale group, I have work to do.”
Chapter 9

“I thought they’d never leave.” The time had come. Angel and Cordy were finally alone, no barriers.

Cordy knew exactly where Angel was coming from, she couldn’t wait either. But they did work hard, and they deserved the celebration as much as he. Stalling to give herself a moment to pat down her nervousness, she playfully scolded him, “Angel, be nice, they all worked hard for this.”

Easily taken in by her tactics, Angel quickly responded. He knew she was, as usual, right – but the smirk on her face told him a different story. She was just as glad to be alone as he. Still, they did deserve a strong show of his gratitude.

“I know, I know. And I will thank them over and over again. I promise.” That seemed to please her. It may have taken him a long time to learn this, but, if he studied her face, really studied it, he could tell. Little did he know, that smirk was more a return of her confidence.

Satisfied for the moment that the outside world was now where it belonged, he took her hands tenderly, kissing each with a love that crossed the boundaries of time. The moment he hadn’t even realized he had been waiting for across the millennia had arrived.

“This is more than I ever thought was possible.” Emotions were threatening to overtake him, leaving him shaking from the power of this moment. She took his face in her hands, offering what little strength she had, as she was feeling the emotion of this moment just as powerfully.

“But now is our time. There is someone I especially want to thank. Someone who I hope will feel that she has gotten as great a gift as I have.” Angel brought his hand shakily to caress Cordelia’s cheek. He lowered his head slowly to gently touch his lips to hers.

She quickly responded as he took the lead, her heart fluttering as his every move brought on an exploration she had never known. The passion of each touch leaving its mark, a feeling intensified as the unexpected caresses exploded within her.

Brushing and teasing until neither could take any more, each devoured hungrily as they took that final leap. Minds and bodies as one, they began to shred the only barriers left keeping them from the moment they had both been dreaming of.

Struggling with the tenderness they felt and the carnal need they both shared, they fell clumsily on to the silk sheets and rose petals Angel had laid out earlier. He wanted everything perfect, as romantic as it was an expression of the love he felt for the woman who gave her heart so freely to him.

As she found herself surrounded by the feel of silk, the scent of roses and the hard barrier of his body Cordy strained to acknowledge his efforts to bathe this night in perfection. If it were possible, it made her love him more. Her fantasies of being in the arms of the man she loved so deeply were quickly becoming shadows with every touch, and stroke they shared. “Angel – so beautiful…”

“Nothing but the best for you, always.” He whispered these words as he began to nibble on her earlobe, causing shivers to run up her spine. She arched slightly, bringing her heat closer to his throbbing desire. Tiny explosions already began as the two lovers taunted and teased their primordial need to become one.

Her reaction to his simple touch drove Angel harder. He began to suckle her breast, massaging its twin’s nipple hard between his fingers. She moaned his name while grabbing hold of his strong muscular back. As his tongue began its journey to her soft curls, she began to scream…then grab her head…

“No, no, no, not now, please not now…I got you. I’m right here. I got you.” A vision. He held her tight, stroking her hair gently, whispering words of comfort.

She emerged in tears, frightening Angel. It wasn’t supposed to be this bad; she made a huge sacrifice so that it wouldn’t be this bad. The anger he felt destroyed the moments they had just shared.

“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. Why? Why now? God, they couldn’t even give us this?” Angel relaxed slightly when he realized her distress was the timing of the vision, not the pain it brought.

“No, Cordy. You have nothing to be sorry for. This is all my fault. I should have known this was all too good to be true.” Angel’s mind became a kaleidoscope of all his evil deeds; punishing himself for the pain it was bringing her. She didn’t deserve this – she didn’t deserve any of this.

“Angel, please don’t. I’m a big girl now. I knew what I was getting in to the day I started working for you. I love you…it’s worth the wait. Go, destroy the demon in my vision, and I promise – I’ll be here waiting for you. Just please, do what you have to do and hurry back. After all, I might be a big believer in the mission, but I’m no saint!” She hoped her words would help to sooth his despair. She laid his head to her chest, bringing further comfort to her words. She was startled to feel the wetness of his cheeks.

“Cordy, how can you be so understanding after everything you’ve been through – everything you are still going through?” He was in absolute awe that he was blessed with this woman. He thanked every god alphabetically for such a precious gift.

“Easy…I love you. No go, I’ll call Wes, Gunn and Spike and have them meet you. Hurry!” With that she pushed him off the bed to send him on his way. The quicker he left, the quicker he could get home.

“I love you too, so much. I promise – slice, dice and we’re out of there.” He kissed her and dressed quickly to leave, “don’t forget where we left off.” And out the door he went.

“Oh I won’t, big guy, trust me, I won’t.” She nestled comfortably in to the sheets, with fantasies sure to make even a pro blush.
**************
Cordy found herself too restless to just stay in her room, so she decided to get dressed and wait in the lobby for Angel to return. She turned as she heard the door open, “Wow, that was fast, you sure it’s even dead?”

“Well, well, well, if it isn’t the Seer. Expecting someone else?”

Her body froze in terror. The first time she was alone, truly alone, and this is who walks through the door. She could not have imagined a more dangerous scenario. She tried her best not to show her fear, thankful that Connor was safe with Fred over at Gunn’s.

Breathing deeply, she put on her best bravado, “Holtz. What do you want? How did you get in? Angel isn’t here, bad timing on your part, huh.”

“I got what I wanted. Just here to make sure you knew.” Any bravery Cordy had in her to face this opponent as Angel had taught her flew right out the window when behind those words she heard Connor’s whine.

“No, Connor…please I’ll do anything, just please, don’t hurt my baby.” Panic flooded every cell in her body as she stood behind those words. She would do anything, even let him take her life if it meant Connor would be safe – and he knew it.

“Yes, I believe you would. But sadly, that’s not to be.” He was dragging this out to be as painful as possible; the little whore actually thought he would show mercy?

“What do you mean? Please take me. Leave him; he’s innocent. I promise, I’ll come with you, I won’t give you any trouble, just, please, leave Connor be.” Her panic was making her dizzy. She lost all concept of where she was in the lobby and the relation to everything around her. She tried to focus on his voice, but he had stopped talking. She tried to calm her breathing so that she could concentrate when out of nowhere, a hand cut her across her check, sending her flying.

“You need to pass on a message to your lover.” He spat the last word out as if he were speaking of the devil himself. His distaste for the thing before him that would bed such a demon permeated his every word, his every move.

Cordy’s body shook uncontrollably as she attempted to stand and get to her crying child, when rough hands grabbed her shoulders, pushing her back down.

“Holtz, you didn’t disappoint. She is a feisty one.”

“Just be quick about it, Sajhan, we are to be gone before they return. Be sure to leave her alive – I want him to feel the pain every time he looks at her.” Sajhan barely acknowledged his words as he began to beat her lips mercilessly with his, grabbing roughly at her breasts.

Cordy fought valiantly with one thought in mind, to get to Connor, but he was strong, much stronger than she. Feeling defeat rising, she reached deep inside herself to find the words and strengths Angel had taught her. She began to deceptively submit to gain the advantage of realizing her surroundings. Her sudden display of compliance granted her opening – he paused to take in his triumph of dominating her, giving her time to ready for battle.

With a swiftness gained by months of training, she gauged her thumbs into his eyes – temporarily distracting him from further onslaught. As his hands came up to pull hers away, he lost his balance, allowing her to shift his body into a more prone position. Although now underneath her, he quickly gained his composure and grabbed her wrists, holding them still with the strength of steel. She countered by using the strength in her legs to begin an assault with her knee to his ribcage, further surprising the demon with her fighting talent. He flipped her over and grabbed both wrists with one hand, using the other to backhand her across the face, causing her lip to bleed. They both stopped suddenly when the sound of screeching tires was heard outside.

“Sajhan, NOW. There’s no more time for this foreplay of yours.” Holtz was standing ready, Connor in hand.

Sajhan jumped away from Cordy and as quick as lightening, waved his hand – opening a portal for Holtz’ escape. Cordy jumped up, ready to follow into the sound of screeching wind – not knowing at all what was going on in front of her, but needing desperately to reach Connor. Sajhan grabbed her shoulders once again, and placing one last kiss to her face he uttered, “No dear, you are to stay here. You are to remember.” And suddenly a deafening silence as the portal closed…
Chapter 10

Gunn’s truck pulled up quickly behind the Plymouth, Gunn, Wes and Spike, jumped out, ready for battle. Without much thought, the small band of warriors ran into the fight armed only with the information Cordy had given them. It wasn’t much of a decision on the part of the men flanking Angel – he was bound and determined to slice, dice, and book out of there; it was all they could do just to keep up. The fight went quickly, almost too quickly, but Angel didn’t care – he had an elsewhere to be.

Walking back to their respective cars, Spike was the first to speak, “Well, that was hardly worth getting dressed for.”

Gunn rolled his eyes in agreement, “You can say that again. Hey bro, you know you could have just asked us to take care of this one, we woulda understood.” He added with a sly grin as the others joined in with snickers.

Hearing the snickers, Angel turned around, a confused look on his face, “Huh…what…oh, yeah thanks, I wasn’t thinking.”

As snickers became guffaws, Gunn continued his taunting, “I bet. You better get home before you wind up hurting yourself.”

“What? Huh?” Angel knew people were speaking, but he was already halfway home in his head.

Spike put his hand to Gunn’s chest, effectively stopping him, while silently shaking his head, “Just, let him be,” he finished with the international signal of waving his hand over his head.

“Wrong head,” chuckles became roars of laughter, the comment made funnier by who was speaking those words.

“You go, watcher boy!” “Nice one, Wes!”

As it all started dawning on him, Angel offered his best indignity, “Hey, hey, a little respect. This is Cordy we are talking about here.”

Spike stood at attention, hands clasped together over his zipper, “I assure you Peaches, respect is being paid as we speak.”

“Oh, no you didn’t. That was just wrong!” Gunn tried valiantly to be offended; after all, it was Cordy they were talking about.

Angel didn’t bother, just shook his head and mumbled as he headed for the Plymouth, “I don’t have time for this.”

“Bye!” “Have fun” “If you need more help, just give us a call”

Both men turned, mouths agape, “Wes! You are on a roll!”

“What? Oh dear god, no. The visions, I meant if she has another vision!”

“Yeah, sure you did.”

“Can we just go, please.”

***********

Angel made it home in record time, although his anticipation still made it feel like forever. He sped to the garage in the back of the hotel, bringing his car to a screeching halt. Hopping out he quickly made his way inside. Immediately, his forehead scrunched in concentration when he felt what he thought might have been the last vestiges of a magical event, but brushed it quickly aside thinking that it was his anticipation of what lay upstairs that had his hair standing on end. That was until he heard it – the low moan of despair that brought his world crashing down at his now still feet.

“NOOOOOoooooooo”

The emotional lightening bolt that hit him at the sound of the sudden scream shook him to his core. His feet began to move as if on automatic pilot to its source while his soul fought to deny the impact. This was not a scream he had ever heard in all his years of stalking and torture. Never in all his combined millennia had he heard such pain, he couldn’t even equate it to the sounds he experienced in Hell. Never before, because he had never heard one half of his soul release such grief and horror in any one breath.

“Come baaaaccckkkk!”

He halted inches from the woman he had come to consider his heart. Seeing her shaking in terror, barely able to breathe over her anguished cries, he felt his soul shatter in panic and rage. What had happened, what or who could have done this to destroy such a strong woman, what was the source of her pain? His mind struggled to comprehend the attack of emotions assaulting his every sense. Overwhelmed by the scent, once considered ambrosia to his demon, and the sight before him, his knees buckled, bringing him within reach of the woman he ached to hold.

“Please, take me, bring him back, I’ll do anything, please.”

Her pleas began to penetrate the nightmare he felt stuck in, her words slowly forming in his brain. This was real, he was awake and it was happening right here and right now. He needed to act, he needed to reach her, he needed to know what had her so hysterical.

Hesitantly, he moved to touch her, to hold her. He spoke quietly as not to startle her. “Cordy”

His sudden touch threw her in to a fit of uncontrolled trembling, causing her to move away quickly from its source. She struggled to speak, “Please, I’ll do whatever you want, I’ll…I’ll go willingly, just bring him home.”

“Bring who home? Go Where? Cordy what’s going on? What happened?” His questions were falling from his mouth as fast as his lips would carry them, his fear growing in leaps and bounds at her silence.

“A…a…Angel?”

“Yes, Cordy, it’s me. Please tell me what’s going on here, what happened?” His stomach dropped further as she flinched from his concerned touch. His mind was reeling from what could possibly have been this bad for her to be…fear…he smelled her fear…was she afraid of him?

“Cordy, please. Please let me hold you. I’m…I’m not going to hurt you,” he finished with barely a whisper as the words he swore he would never have to utter to her struggled to escape. It had been one of his more frequent nightmares; that he would do anything to ever have to assure her of that fact. He was redefining Hell as every second ticked by.

His words, ‘I‘m not going to hurt you’ played over and over in her brain as if repeating it like a mantra would make it so. But she knew better, when he found out that she was useless and that her weakness and vulnerability was the reason they lost Connor, her already shattered heart would just fizzle and die. She resolved that any physical pain he may inflict in his anger would be welcomed, would be better than what she was feeling at this moment. She slowly opened her mouth to speak, “I…when…thought…”

He moved more slowly still, and gracefully brought her to his full embrace. He began to stroke her arm in reassurance, willing her his strength to get the words out. She selfishly accepted his invitation, knowing it would be her last opportunity to nestle so comforted under his protection. She grabbed his arm so fiercely that Angel knew, if he had a circulation, it would have stopped. Her shaking began to ease in to a more controllable level, though never stopping.

“Cordy, please tell me what happened; please let me help you.”

She took a long labored breath and released the words that would damn her forever…

“I lost Connor.”

Chapter 11

“Cordy, please tell me what happened; please let me help you.”

She took a long labored breath and released the words that would damn her forever…

“I lost Connor.”

Every cell in his body went in to overload trying to comprehend what she was telling him. ‘I lost Connor.’ That couldn’t be right; he was safe at Gunn’s with Fred. ‘I lost Connor.’ Was it a vision? Were the visions slowly driving her to an altered state of reality? ‘I lost Connor.’ He thought back to when he had first walked in remembering the tingle of left over magic. He shook his head in denial; no, she was mistaken. This had to be a vision, one he was going to fix, and fix fast.

“Cordy, Connor is safe at Gunn’s. Now tell me what you saw so we can fix this. Connor is safe.”

“I’m sorry, Angel. I’m so sorry. I tried, I swear, I tried. I begged them to take me and leave him but they wouldn’t.”

Angel grabbed her roughly by the shoulders in an attempt to shake some sense in to her. That’s when he noticed the angry bruise on her left cheek, and her broken and bloody lip, her torn clothes. He froze, eyes wide as he took in the evidence that lay truth to her words. She braced herself for his anger and his hate. It didn’t come.

“Oh, God…” was all he could mutter. He released her shoulders, falling back in a state of shock. It was THE moment that would forever be emblazoned on his soul as the true definition of Hell, the one hundred years actually spent there summing up in this one moment. His son was gone. His heart and the woman he loved more than he ever thought possible, shattered. His hope, his future; burned in a fiery pit of nothingness. He felt nothing; he couldn’t feel anything. To feel would make this all real and he was not about to accept that.

No, she was wrong…

“Angel, Cordy…oh god, are you OK? Do you need to go to the hospital too?” Spike came over straight from Gunn’s after they had gotten home and found Fred unconscious on the floor and Connor nowhere in sight.

His entrance shook Angel from his reverie. Slowly, the colors of the room came back in to focus, Spike’s words no longer sounding as if they were being spoken under water. “Spike, what are you…hospital? Will someone please tell me WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON!”

Spike saw the struggle within Angel to dampen his demon and knew he had to start talking, and talking fast. Pushing his concerns for Cordy aside for the moment, he grabbed Angel’s arm to face him as he spoke. If Angel’s demon was going to visit, better it be on him, and not Cordy, who by now was in the corner folding further and further in to herself.

“We got back to Gunn’s and found Fred unconscious and Connor gone.” He waited a moment for a reaction, not getting one from either party, he continued, “We managed to wake her and she was able to tell us what had happened before she passed out again. They worked her over pretty good; chit must have put up some fight.”

“WHAT HAPPENED?”

Spike took a deep breath and continued, “Holtz showed up with his merry men, beat the chit and took Connor. Wes and Gunn are with her at the hospital now, said they’d call as soon as they knew something.”

“Let’s go, we find this mother fucker and get my son back. This ends NOW.”

Both men jumped up to leave when a tiny voice emerged from the safety of the corner Cordy had molded herself to hoping to just disappear, “You can’t.”

Angel turned to the voice, bringing him full circle to the sight he had met when he first walked in. He cursed himself for neglecting her once Spike had walked in. He slid on his knees to her, remembering what she had said, ‘I lost Connor’ . Taking in her appearance, he went with his first instinct, to hold her protectively; it was as instinctive to him as breathing was to any human.

“Cordy, I’m sorry, are you OK? What happened? Who did this to you? What do you know about Connor?”

Cordy leaned away from his hold trying to find any trace of bravery she may have had left to tell him the truth. Her son was gone and it was all her fault, he needed to know so he could get Connor back where he belonged, with his father. She unconsciously held tight to his arm and started to speak.

“I…came down to the lobby to wait for you…and the door opened…I thought it was you. It wasn’t…it was him…with Connor. I heard him, his little cry…” she paused when she felt his body tense, and to regain composure enough to continue.

“I begged him, I pleaded, I offered myself in exchange. I did Angel, I swear I did…” Tears were falling fast and furiously; she put a palm to his cheek hoping he wouldn’t pull away in disgust. He saw her struggle, knew it was tearing her as much apart as it was he. Although he wanted to throttle her for even thinking of offering herself in exchange, he understood. Losing her would have left him as empty as he felt right now, but put in the same position he would have done the same. Grabbing her hand, he held it to his face in a show of support, quietly muttering, “Then what, Cordy? Go ahead.”

After a sharp intake of breath and a lame attempt to pull her hand away, she gave in to her distress. She felt tears wetting his face and what was left of her already broken heart lay dust at her feet. She had nothing left to lose, so she continued.

“He…he fought me, told me I needed to give this message to my lover ; he wanted you to know that it was him who took Connor.” She jumped when she felt his other hand on her head, but calmed as she felt him tenderly stroking her hair. She brought her other hand up to feel his face, surprised when all she felt was concern in the way his brow was worried into the lines she knew so well. Lines that were becoming more and more permanent – all because of her. She continued.

“He wasn’t alone…he had someone with him…he called him Sahjon. That’s who…he was the one who…then they heard your car pull up and Holtz yelled that they had to leave. All of a sudden there was this loud noise, like a tornado with crackling…I didn’t know what was happening. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry! Then it all stopped and it was silent. I tried Angel, I tried to go toward the sound, but it happened so fast. Oh god…he’s gone…”

Angel quickly grabbed the now hysterical woman in his arms trying desperately to offer his support. He mumbled softly in to her hair what words of comfort he could muster, but they were empty. How could he offer her the comfort she needed when he himself was barely able to face this?

“Shh, Cordy, it’s going to be okay, we’ll get him back. I promise we’ll get him back.” He used these words as a battle cry, to build the walls around the emotions he knew he needed to keep in check if he were to be able to fulfill that promise. He needed his family whole again. He needed his son, and he needed Cordy. He needed to be strong or he was getting nothing, and the holes in his soul would forever be void of humanity and his redemption damned.

“Please don’t hate me Angel…I love him, I love him so much. And I love you…this is all my fault, If I wasn’t so useless…”

Both men paused their unchecked tears, shocked that she was taking the blame for this. Spike broke the silence first with an almost humorous ‘hmph’ receiving an angry glare from Angel. How could they not have realized this? That she would take responsibility for something she had absolutely no control over? After all, Cordy wouldn’t be Cordy if she wasn’t taking responsibility for something. Always taking on everyone else, never thinking about herself. It shed new light on the woman he remembered from Sunnydale, realizing that this WAS the woman from Sunnydale, only now it was out – not hiding behind some well crafted ‘May Queen’ veneer.

He made a silent promise to her; she was going to get her son back – even if it killed him.

Angel watched the internal conversation dance across Spike’s face. He shuddered when it finished and he saw the look of determination that reminded him of the days where evil reigned supreme, when together they were unstoppable. He turned his attention to Cordy, silently borrowing strength from his grandchilde, knowing full well he would have to get there himself. But first things first.

“Cordy, stop talking like that. It wasn’t your fault. You shouldn’t have been left alone; neither should Fred. We got careless. You hear me Cordy? WE. WE got careless.” Feeling her bristle, knowing she was fighting any absolution he was offering, he continued on, hoping to get through.

“Cordy, please, I need you. I need you to be strong. I need you to be the person I’ve come to rely on, to love more than I ever thought I was capable of. I can’t do this alone, Cordy. You are not useless; you couldn’t be further from it. Please…stop blaming yourself. If anything you should be blaming me.” He continued his gentle ministrations, rocking her as he spoke. He knew she would continue to blame herself, but was relieved when she seemed to stop fighting him and gave in to his support.

She began to relax as she heard his words; that is until he expected her to be blaming him. She drank in the very last of her reserves and sat up, gently pushing him from his firm hold.

“Angel, don’t. You are right. This isn’t going to get us anywhere. I can’t believe you still love me after everything that has happened, but we’ve been through too much. I love you too much to waste any more time doubting it.” She paused to collect herself. Though unable to stop her tears, she bravely attempted to continue.

“We need to do something and get our son home where he belongs. Angel, we have to…it hurts so much….I can’t…” she finished mumbling in to his chest, holding on for dear life.

He responded by molding her further in to him, as if becoming one would make them stronger. That’s when he realized, they already were. They were together and nothing and no one would tear them apart. They were a force to be reckoned with, and reckon they will. He felt the final transformation of the steal determination he needed to bring their son home.

“I know, Cordy, I know. I’ll bring him home.”
Chapter 12

“SKIP Where are you? I know you are here someplace – show yourself!” Doyle was beyond angry. He had seen what was going on and he wanted answers now. He didn’t even jump when Skip’s bellowing voice appeared behind him.

“I’m right here. What is your problem? This better be good, boy, because I am in no mood for your shit.”

Doyle turned to face the green demon, with no fear of recrimination, “What the hell is going on? This was your watch. Why the fuck didn’t she get a vision about this?”

Skip countered without pause, “Who the hell do you think you are to question the Powers? What’s done is done. Our job is to wait and watch, offering assistance whenever we are told to do so. I’ve told you this over and over: if you can’t handle it then you need to put in for a transfer right now. Unless you want me to do it for you.”

Doyle bit back his scathing retort at the veiled threat. He knew he had to stay put until he figured out what exactly was going on here. His every sense was on alert that he was getting close, so no, now was not the time.

“No need. I’ll take it. I might not like it, but I’ll take it. Obviously there is a greater plan here.” He finished with the words Skip had so often used on him…a greater plan…a plan he was determined to figure out.

Skip studied his opponent; he was not taken in by this sudden change in attitude. Unable to see a crack in his armor, he decided to play along, “Good, now that that has been taken care of – don’t you ever come in here questioning me like that. We have a job to do; now get to yours.”

“Yes, sir.” Doyle fought his every instinct to pummel this guy as he muttered those words through clenched teeth, adding silently, ‘Don’t worry, I will’ .
************
It was an hour before Angel felt strong enough to get Cordelia off the floor. He gently; if a little awkwardly; lifted her up and brought her to the couch, settling comfortably with her firmly in his lap. His move caused Cordy to stir.

“Angel, what are we going to do?” her voice was small and hoarse.

He was exhausted and as much as he wanted to have the answers he was just too drained to think of any. “I honestly don’t know. Spike left about an hour ago to meet up with Wes and Gunn at the hospital. Said he’d bring them back when Fred got the okay to leave. We’ll wait until they get here and figure it out then.”

Cordy jumped up at Fred’s name, “Oh my God! I didn’t even ask about Fred. Is she ok? Do we know anything yet? Did they call?”

Angel gave her a small chuckle, amazed that after everything she was already worrying about everyone else.

Confused, she scoffed, “What?”

“Cor, I think we were a little preoccupied.”

Stopping her before Cordy could argue the point, Angel continued, “I’m sure if it were anything serious, they would have called. Let’s just wait until they get here and you can ask her yourself, ok? How about you? That’s a pretty nasty bruise on your cheek. Are you hurt anywhere else?” He began to check her for more injuries, holding back his growl at her torn clothes not wanting to be the cause for any more trauma.

Cordy pushed his roaming hands away while muttering her usual, ‘I’m fine’ . That’s when the growl involuntarily escaped. She sighed, knowing this part of the routine.

“Really, Angel, a couple of bruises, maybe. But physically I’m fine.”

“I’m sorry I wasn’t here. That you were alone to face all this….”

She cut him off with a finger to his lips, “Angel, don’t. If we let ourselves give in to our guilt about all this, we won’t be able to get to the things we need to do to get our son back. I’m not strong enough for all this; it’s too much. Every time I think about it all, I just…” a sob cut her sentence short. He quickly began to rub her arm; grateful she was accepting the comfort he was offering her.

That one small gesture of acceptance gave Angel pause, and he never felt closer to Cordelia as he did in that moment. He was amazed at how much better he felt taking care of her pain, allowing him the opportunity to not focus in on his own. It elated and saddened him at the same time.

So this is how she does it, concentrates on others to ignore herself. He wondered sadly how often Cordy had done that, and cursed how much she must have bottled up. One day he was going to have to talk to her about this. But not now when they had to get their son back.

Cordy felt his ministrations become distant and wondered what Angel must be thinking. She brought her hand to his face and asked him if he was okay.

“Hmmm? Not really, but I still have you. We’ll get through this.” He finished by taking her hand and laying a gentle kiss to her palm.

Cordelia brushed a chaste kiss to Angel’s lips and placed her head on his chest burrowing as deeply as she could. Knowing the time would come where Angel would hate her for this, Cordy was grateful for the comfort he was offering right now. She did her best to offer the same.

Slowly, each gave in to their total exhaustion. It wasn’t long after when Angel felt what seemed to be a tug on his arm. As he slowly became aware of his new surroundings, his resting body began to stir.

“Angel”

“Angel!”

“Doyle?”

“Quiet, you’ll wake her. Yeah, it’s me buddy. I’ve only got but a minute, so pay attention.”

“What’s going on? What are you doing here? Where’s Connor? Am I dreaming? Are you really here?”

“Angel, man, pay attention. I have to do this fast before someone finds out. Get Lorne, he’ll know what to do, how to identify the portal. But, you’ll need to know how to get back. Don’t go in until you know how to get out – that’s very important, know how to get out. Oh, and don’t tell anyone about this – no one can know – I mean that Angel, NO ONE.”

“What? Why, what’s going on here?”

“Angel, please, just don’t tell anyone about this, now’s not the time.”

“Doyle?”

Angel woke with a start, feeling a slight pang at the loss of his friend. He looked down at the woman in is arms, relieved when she merely shifted. He thought back to the dream, a feeling of comfort replaced the sharp pain he had when he first woke knowing Doyle was his messenger, again. Angel committed his friend’s words to memory: Get Lorne. Know how to get out. Don’t tell anyone. His comfort was tempered with his unease. This had to be bigger than all of them if Doyle was visiting and that could only mean things were going to get worse. He concentrated on drawing strength from his dread. If his instincts were right, he was going to need it more than he imagined. He brought Cordy in closer, waiting anxiously for his friends to return.
Chapter 13

Angel shifted slightly so as to not wake Cordy. He needn’t have bothered. Feeling him stir again, Cordy lifted her head from the safety of his embrace.

”Hey, you’re awake. How do you feel?” Angel cringed at his poor attempt to open the conversation.

Cordy took a deep breath. The stakes were much too high to hide behind any false bravado and she knew it. She decided to open up.

“Scared, angry, empty. I’m so sorry…”

Angel cut her off quickly, “Stop. You have nothing to be sorry about. You saved yourself and for that I am eternally grateful. If I had lost you too…”

“But, Angel…Connor…”

“I know, we should’ve been more careful. But we can’t dwell on that now. I can’t do this myself. I need you. We’ll get our son back. I won’t rest until that happens, I promise you that.”

Angel paused; she had done it again. He had noticed earlier how uncomfortable she had seemed every time he tried to reassure her it would all be okay. She was hiding something and he needed to know what.

“Cor, don’t pull away from me. Please. Tell me. There’s something you aren’t telling me.”

Cordy allowed for a tremulous smile, “You really do know me so well.” She took a moment to allow for the truth of that statement and the sudden realization that there weren’t, or more accurately, shouldn’t be any more walls between them. She opened her heart and welcomed all the love he bestowed.

Angel remained silent, waiting for her to continue.

Cordy let out a heavy sigh and borrowed strength from her epiphany. If she were to truly trust her instincts, and him, then she needed to be honest. She closed her eyes and swallowed heavily. It was a leap of faith to trust someone else and Cordelia Chase had learned to guard against that a very long time ago.

But she was no longer Cordelia Chase…she was Cordy.

Releasing another heavy sigh, Cordy let the last of her lingering doubts go free. “You really don’t hate me for this? I thought…I thought you would be angry with me. I thought that this would be the last straw for you and that you would finally realize how much of a burden I am to you, how I seem to be nothing but trouble…that…its just…oh god, I hate me for not being able to do more, for not being able to stop this from happening. How can I not expect it to be ten times worse for you?”

There, it was out. Cordy braced herself for what was coming next. She had just given him the permission he needed to say what he really felt. Nothing in her 20 years of life had prepared her for what actually came.

“Cordelia,” he used her full name, “I am angry.” Cordy slowly started to inch away.

“I am angry that you would even think that.” Her eyebrows shot up in frightened surprise at Angel’s statement.

“Look, I’ll admit, choices made – choices we both made, past and present – have made things very difficult for us. But nothing, NOTHING, your blindness included, outweighs how I feel with you in my life. I wish with all my heart and soul that things could be different, especially for you, but given what we have been given I am selfishly grateful you made the choice you did. It means that I get to keep you with me for what I hope is a very long time.”

Angel paused for a moment, leaning forward with his head in his hands. “I just don’t know how to make you understand that, and that…hurts. Why, Cordy? Why can’t you believe how much I love you?”

Silence masked the sounds of emotional waves crashing heavily on the walls of two hearts; one upsurge eroding away the strong, solid bluff standing watch over the ocean – the other washing onshore, bringing life to a starving desert.

True to form, Cordy was the first to recover. Her epiphany had come to life at his spoken fear that mirrored her own. It was time to end this.

Cordy placed a hand on Angel’s shoulder and spoke the words that would forever seal their fate.

“I believe.”

“Cordy?” Angel clearly was still displaying his doubt.

“Yes. I believe you. I don’t know what I did to deserve someone as wonderful as you, but if you love me even half as much as I love you then it is more than I could ever have asked for.”

He cradled her face in the palms of his hands, holding it as if it were a fragile piece of precious china. “I love you more”

Cordy blushed, “I don’t know if that’s possible.”

“Neither did I, until I met you. Why…how…”

She answered his unasked question and shrugged, “You said it right that time.”

With a grace and tenderness that would leave even the hardest of hearts in awe, Angel placed a reverent kiss on Cordy’s forehead. He took a moment to savor every inch of the woman who was the extension of his soul. Cordy felt his eyes caress her. She lowered her head in an uncharacteristic display of shyness only to feel his finger on her chin, gently lifting her face to his.

“Angel?” her small childlike tone came out like an unspoken command for Angel to hold and protect Cordy from the real world, if only for just this stolen moment. Angel graced her lips with a tender kiss and molded her safely in to his strong embrace.

“Are we really going to get Connor back?”

Angel rubbed his strong hand up and down Cordy’s spine, rocking her tenderly, “We have to. I’ll bring him home, or die…”

Cordy sprung away from Angel, shattering the bubble of love and protection he had so carefully created.

”No, Angel, please. Please don’t. Promise me you won’t get yourself killed. You can’t leave me alone…”

Angel gathered her close again, willing her panic to subside, “I won’t leave you alone, Cordy. I won’t leave you, ever.”

Cordy took no time to analyze his words because she needed that to be her truth, “Good, Ok then, good. Now that that’s settled.” She allowed for a few more stolen moments of comfort they both so eagerly craved before she lifted her head up to his and spoke with that same childlike emotion that ripped into the core of Angel’s soul, “What do we do now?”

Thankfully, Angel was spared having to come up with an answer as the gang chose that moment to return.

Wes rushed over to the couch, kneeling in front of Cordy while placing his hand on her knee, “Cordy, I am so sorry. Are you okay? Hurt? Spike told us what happened here.”

Cordy’s attention focused immediately on Fred. Brushing off Wesley’s concerns she called her best friend over, anxious to offer what comfort she could.

“Are you okay? What did the doctors say? Where are you hurt?” Cordy, unable to see the extent of any injuries, hesitantly moved to hug the woman she considered like a sister.

“I’m fine. You?” Fred held tight to the offered solace.

“Promise me you’re okay, I couldn’t bear it if you weren’t.”

“I am. Cordy, I’m so…”

“STOP. No more apologies from anyone. If I hear those words one more time, I am going to go ballistic! Please, we have a job to do. Can we just…?” Emotion cut off the rest of her sentence, the room stiffened at its intensity. It was Wes who finally spoke.

“Yes, well, I took the liberty of calling Lorne. He is right now attempting to get in touch with a colleague that has the ability to identify portals and their origination. Once in contact, he assured me he would rush her right over.” He lowered his head momentarily before continuing on, “He made me promise to tell you how terribly upset he is over this, and that he would, and I quote, ‘walk through the fires of hell to get the little tyke back’ if he had to. You should both know, we all feel that way…”

Angel placed an indebted hand on his friend’s shoulder, “We know, Wes. Thank you.”

Wes smiled up at Angel and gave Cordy’s knee a squeeze in an attempt to relay the true sentiment of their vow.

Cordy responded with her question of earlier, “Wes, what do we do now? What do we do in the mean time? I can’t just sit here while our little boy is god knows where. Please, I have to do something, anything, tell me what I can do.”

Wes rose slowly taking off his glasses for an intense scrubbing. Never before had his ability to come up with an answer been so important, or necessary, as evidenced by the subtle movement forward by everyone in the room. The pressure was stifling, the self-flagellation painfully obvious on Wesley’s face. Angel came to his friend’s rescue.

“Wes, it’s okay. We’ll put our heads together and come up with something, we always do.” Wes forced a grateful smile.

Realizing that Angel’s words weren’t enough to allow Wes to let go of what she was sure was his self-imposed failings, Cordy offered her own words of comfort for the unfair pressure she had put upon him, “Wes, I’m sorry,” she began only to realize what she’d said. “I know. I broke my own rule, but I’m allowed. It’s my rule – but no one else, and I mean it. Angel’s right. Let’s just get to thinking. What now? I need an answer…” Angel moved quickly to Cordy, wanting to stop her soon to be hysterical rambling. Spike was the first to speak.

“Okay, I got one. Once Lorne brings this bird to identify the portal, we open it so Angel and I can go in. We find and kill Holtz and this Sahjhan and get Conner back. What’s there to figure out?”

“I go alone,” Angel corrected him. “This is…”

Spike cut him off, “I’m going with. End of discussion, we don’t have time to argue over your martyr complex.”

Angel opened his mouth to counter but stopped himself when he saw steely the determination written plainly on Spike’s face. He nodded his consent remembering reluctantly how he had borrowed from that determination previously. This was too big to honor his ego, and if he were to be honest – Spike could be an asset. Any further thoughts were interrupted by Cordy.

“Spike, thank you. Not about that martyr comment, which I promise is going to bite you on the ass when this all over, but for…you know…”

“Don’t thank me yet. Besides, killing Holtz would be a pleasure after having to hear the deviled duo prattling on and on about how they…”

“Holtz is mine,” Angel brooked no argument, and no one countered. His need might have been theirs, but everyone knew it was not even close to the same level. They understood.

“Yes, well, perhaps we should start with discovering the source of his implied immortality. We don’t know how he is still alive after all this time, knowing the source will be of great assistance to expediting his demise.” They were finally back in Wes’s territory. Research was his one source of self-assurance.

Angel cut Wes’s confidence to the quick, “No need to know how he is alive. I find him. I rip his head off. Problem solved. Something I should have done a long time ago.”

“Sounds like a plan to me. Don’t really know anything that can survive that. Except maybe this Sajahn – any idea who or what he is? And will ripping his head off work, too? I would hate to find out after the fact that it doesn’t.” Gunn was finally on ground he felt he could speak to. Killing evil. Finding Fred the way they had, and hearing what had happened to Cordy had left him feeling…emasculated. He let his family down, again. He wanted his balls back and this was how he was going to do it. Seek and destroy. That was the motto he had lived by, and it had served him well.

Angel stilled, placing his fists on the back of the couch he had been pacing behind, “No.”

Gunn started, “No, what?”

“You aren’t going.”

“What? I am, too. I want those motherfuckers dead just as much as you and you or anybody else ain’t gonna stop me.”

“No, you don’t,” Spike kept his retort simple and to the point.

“Gunn, I need you here to protect Cordy and Fred. They managed once, but I don’t want to test that again. Ever. Wes, you too. I need to know they are both…that my family is okay. I won’t risk anyone else.”

“What about Spike. You’re letting him go. Let him stay here and do the ‘protecting’.” Gunn wasn’t ready to back down.

Angel paused, trying to come up with a way to explain his decision to take Spike along.

“I know Angelus.”

Angel’s head snapped up at Spike’s words. It was a truth he wasn’t comfortable revealing to his human family.

“Angelus? What’s that dude got to do with anything? We got rid of him when we did that spell.”

“No, Gunn, we didn’t.” All eyes were on Cordy and she knew it. She took a moment to choose her words carefully, something that didn’t come easily to her.

“The spell was to remove the happiness clause. So, unless those freaks at Wolfram and Hart come up with some evil mojo to remove Angel’s soul, all we did was give Angel control.”

Still met with silence, Cordy continued on, “It’s up to him now. The soul may put him on the road to redemption, but it’s now up to him how he chooses to travel it. All we did was lessen the chance of ever meeting up with the soulless version of Angelus. He is still a demon.”

Angel felt his world fall apart as he tried to read into Cordy’s thoughts. He jumped when he felt her hand come in contact with his. He nearly wobbled when he felt her squeeze it, taken totally unaware by her reassurance. He moved hesitantly to retake his place at her side.

Gunn was shaken by this revelation. He had let his guard down after the spell, only to find out now that, that wasn’t such a wise move. He mentally kicked himself for his carelessness. “So, you mean he could go badass on us at any time?”

“Just like any one of us. Give credit where credit is due; Angelus is much meaner and deadlier than any of us, I’ll give you that. But, the fact remains that every one of us could go ‘badass’ at any time.”

“You know, my world was so simple before I met up with any of you. See demon, kill demon. None of this gray shit.” Gunn’s brain was about to explode.

Spike took this opportunity to break the tension, “Well, then, I for one am glad you met up with these guys.”

“Why? Afraid I would have killed yo evil ass?” Gunn was now toe to toe with Spike.

“You and what army?” Spike cranked his head up to shoot evil daggers towards his ‘opponent’. It was poetic contradiction in 3-D. Gunn may have towered over Spike, but it was Spike’s strength that towered over Gunn.

“Gentlemen!” Wes promptly put an end to this childish pissing match, quite certain the term applied to neither of them.

“Thank you, Wes. With all this testosterone flying around, I think I actually started to grow chest hairs.” Angel released a low growl as all the men in the room were caught staring at Cordy’s chest.

Wes, in proper British decorum, was the first to snap out of it, “I highly doubt that’s possible Cordelia. Can we please get back to the matter at hand? I believe we were discussing this Sahjahn. We are quite short of time as I would imagine Angel and Spike will be leaving soon after this woman arrives and identifies the portal. Perhaps, Fred, you can describe him for us.”

“No.”

“Angel, I do believe that is a good place to start, I have not come across anything to give me insight as to the origin or identification of any Sahjahn by name alone. I can only, therefore, theorize that he is some species of demon which we can identify by his description.” Wes was taken aback by Angel’s questioning of his expertise on the matter and it showed in the impatience of his reply.

“No, I mean, we should start with figuring out how to get us back. Research to see if there is a universal ‘key’ of some sort that I can use to get us back.” Doyle’s words were ringing in Angel’s head, Wes was right, once this woman identified the portal he was sure to have jumped not looking back without that piece of advise.

“Yes, quite right. I should have thought of that myself. Fred, are you up to assisting me?”

Fred jumped at the sound of her name being called again. She smiled gratefully at Wes for giving her a purpose. “Yes, I’ll get on the computer right away.”

“Thank you, I’ll call Lorne to see what progress he’s made.” Wes followed Fred over to the office.

“Well, I’m going downstairs to work out. Fancy a sparring match tough guy?”

“Yeah, I’ll show you who’s tough. Bring it on Blondie.”

Angel watched as his family sprung in to action feeling a sense of wonderment. His family. He turned to Cordy and brushed a kiss across her forehead.

“Cordelia Chase, I have never and probably will never, meet anyone who is even remotely like you. What you said back there, about my demon and my soul…”

Cordy cut him off, nervous that he got the wrong idea about what she had said, “Angel, I…”

Angel stopped her with a finger to her lips, “No, Cordy, please let me say this.” She nodded.

“I don’t know what is going to happen once I go through that portal. Let me finish. I have every intention of going in, getting Connor and coming home to you. But, if something should go wrong I want you to know how much I love you and how much I need you.”

“Angel, please don’t talk like that. You are making me nervous.”

“That makes two of us. Cordelia, you make me so very happy, you know me better than anyone has even dared to try. What you said about Angelus, I didn’t even realize how much I didn’t understand until you put it so simply. I don’t know if I will ever live up to your faith and trust in me, but, I would be honored if you would give me the chance to try.” Angel paused, wanting to choose his words carefully.

“Before I go, I want you to have my promise – that is…I guess what I’m trying to say…” Angel knelt down on one knee, taking Cordy’s hands in his and whispered,

“Cordelia Chase, will you marry me?”
Chapter 14

“Cordelia Chase, will you marry me?”

“What?” Cordy’s eyes were wide in confusion. Did she just hear what she thought she heard?

“Will you do me the honor of becoming my wife?” Angel’s voice was much stronger now. He knew what he wanted, and what he wanted was Cordelia Chase in his life for as long as the Fates would allow. With everything that was happening, he didn’t want to waste one more second.

“Ang…I…” she shook her head vigorously as a myriad of emotions danced across her face. “NO!”

Angel folded in to himself at her terse reply, his body imploding with the crushing collapse of his heart

Unaware of his completely dejected body language, Cordy continued at a furious pace, “No, you don’t get to do this right now, WE don’t get to do this. What is wrong with you? No, Angel, I won’t even entertain that thought while our son is lost, and alone.”

Angel felt himself fall deeper and deeper into despair. She was right, as usual. His first priority was to retrieve his son and bring him home. When was he going to learn that he didn’t deserve happiness? And, how selfish was he to bring her along with him into a life of darkness? He chuckled sardonically at his unfortunate pun; apparently he’d already done that.

Cordy choked back the sob threatening to escape, “Angel, what are you thinking? Why now when you are about to leave for…another…Oh no you don’t!”

Angel blinked at the sudden change of expression on her face. Now he was confused on top of everything else he was feeling, “What? Cordy, that’s long been settled, I’m going.”

“I know that. What I’m worried about is you coming back. If this is just your way of easing your conscience for going in there with some lame brain dark avenger plan that is going to get you killed…”

He cut her off, trying desperately to show her his true intent. “No, that’s not it at all. I just…We’ve wasted too much time already, and this latest…Cor, I don’t know if there is ever going to be a right time. Face it, the way our lives are, there’s always something. God, we’ve lost so much already, I just don’t want to lose any more.”

“Stop it. With the loss and the gloom and, and…the loss. Just stop it!” Angel realized his mistake at his chosen words as Cordy got more and more agitated, but he still had a point to make. He wanted her to understand.

“You of all people have to admit, a lot has been lost.” Angel’s mood was sinking deeper, ’Great, just keep listing all the reasons she has for saying no.’

“Okay, I’ll admit it if it will make you happy. My world has completely spun off its axis. Up until even six months ago my plan was, ‘hotel, hotel husband’ with a dash of fame thrown in for good measure.” She paused, waiting for a reaction. Getting none she continued on.

“Newsflash – that ship has sailed. In fact, if I were to be really honest, it sailed without me. Angel, I’m twenty-years old. I’m not famous, and yeah, I live in a hotel and you…I’m blind, I’m a mother, I’m in love. It’s almost as if I’m living someone else’s plan.” Angel’s insides were turning inside out as she spoke. She was twenty years old; she felt like she was stuck in someone else’s life, she was blind. In true Angel fashion, he focused on the negative.

She fumbled to find his hand, “Don’t, I don’t have to see to know you have on brood face.”

Angel allowed a grin to escape; she was soothing him again. One day he would figure out how she always seemed to know. He just hoped that she gave him that chance.

She held on to his hand tightly and continued, “This may not be my plan, and not always even a good one, but it brought me you. I don’t know whose plan this is but I gotta say, liking the fringe benefits.” She toyed playfully with his top shirt button.

Angel was already feeling lighter, and dare he say it, a dash of hope at her words. He attempted to joke, “Oh, so now I’m a fringe benefit?”

Cordy chuckled and replied cheekily, “I don’t know yet, we were interrupted, remember?”

Both stilled at the unintended reminder of the night’s events. Cordy folded herself closer into his embrace. She began to speak quietly.

“When you get back,” she poked him gently, “and I mean that, when you get back if you still feel the same way you can take me to a great restaurant and you can do this again.” She paused to rest her head on his shoulder, “Oh and romance, I want a little romance. I don’t think that’s too much too ask.”

Angel spoke through a tentative smile hoping that he was right in thinking that her answer wasn’t exactly ‘No’, just, “Not right now’. He decided to trust that feeling, “No, it isn’t. I can handle romance. Anything else for m’lady?”

“No.” Cordy stayed wrapped in the cocoon of protection Angel always provided for her. Although it was the only time she ever felt truly safe, she’d never admit it. He’d never leave her side if she did.

As another thought sprung to mind, she snapped her head up, nearly crashing in to Angel’s chin, “Yes, a ring, gotta have a ring. I can’t believe you thought you could do this without getting me a ring!”

Angel couldn’t hold in his laughter, she was adorable when she got like this and it only made him love her more. Besides, her demands made it even more clear to him that it wasn’t him she was rejecting, just his timing. He mentally waved goodbye to the last vestiges of his formally smooth self that seemed to run screaming whenever he was around her. Any lingering doubts that she was the one, and that they were going to be together forever, were finally extinguished.

Cordy pouted indignantly at his laughter, unaware of his epiphany. “Don’t laugh.”

“I’m not laughing” Angel didn’t even bother hiding that he was, further softening Cordy’s mood.

She smacked him playfully, “Yes you are”

“No, really, I just feel silly. All this time I thought the three r’s were reading, riting and rithmatic – not romance, restaurant and ring.” He made a funny; Angel made a funny…he hoped.

“Roses, you forgot roses.” She wasn’t going to let him off easily.

“Ah, yes. Roses. I really did screw this up, didn’t I?” He looked at her with a fondness he had never felt for anyone else before. He had experienced love, lust and friendship, but never all at once. He had that and more with Cordy. He was determined now more than ever to make sure she always got the best he could offer. After all, he was already getting that from her, it was the least he could do. Still there was one more thing he had to ask…

“How? How do you do it? How am I able to laugh?”

Cordy answered as if it were the most obvious thing in the world, “Laughing is living, there are no other options.”

He answered in awe of her spirit, “As long as it’s with you, for as long as the gods allow – then I couldn’t agree with you more”

Cordy blushed at his response, “You’re right, you can handle romance.”

Both jumped at the sound of sniffles behind them.

“Oh, don’t mind me. That was just beautiful. This is better than any movie on Lifetime.” The green prescient demon had arrived in time to hear their exchange. Realizing who was behind them and what that meant – they both jumped up. Angel caught Cordy as she faltered. They both began speaking at once.

“Lorne.”

”Did you get her?”

“Is she here…what is she doing, guys, she’s here” Angel shouted to the others huddled away in the office.

“Shhh, let her do her work. Good news kiddies, the magic here is still strong, she felt it from half way up the block. Give her a few secs and Marguerite will have your answers. Don’t worry, we’ll have the little tyke back in no time.” Lorne rushed to reassure the over-anxious duo.

“VOODÀR TE I AVRÈ DOONYÀS. KER BOOJANDÒ.”

The woman began shouting as the winds began to pick up. Everyone stood in silence as her hair began to turn white and she was lifted off the floor. Marguerite began to repeat, louder each time she spoke. No one noticed as Angel froze in fear.

“What’s happening?” Angel sensed Cordy’s fear but his own unease to the events unfolding kept him frozen. His thoughts were fighting for purchase and his long practiced ability to control was of no assistance. The smell of Cordy’s fear and her frantic questioning was tearing at his insides, but what was happening raised danger signals he hadn’t felt this strongly in a very long time.

“Angel, what’s happening?” Angel was pulled from the inside of his head as he felt Cordy’s level of fear rise to meet his. Suddenly a loud thunder clash resounded, breaking the glass window to the office and the bubble that had trapped Angel’s own personal storm. Marguerite collapsed, leaving the room in an eerie silence.

“Angel, you’re scaring me. What’s going on, what’s happening? Someone tell me what the hell is going on!” Angel instinctively placed a firm hand on Cordy’s shoulder as he turned to Lorne with unbridled fury.

“Explain!” The group remained silent waiting for their colorful friend to shed some light on Angel’s sudden anger. All but Wes and Spike who moved in to a fighting stance at Angel’s flank.

“Angelcakes, it’s not what you are thinking. Believe me. She’s here willingly. In fact, as soon as she heard it was you we were going to help, she jumped at the chance.” All of Angel’s senses picked up on Lorne’s sudden rise of fear, his demon reveled in the aromatic aphrodisiac as he drew Cordy closer to his now hardened body.

“Oh, really. And did you bother to ask her why? Because I find it very hard to believe that a Gypsywould jump at the chance to help ME !”


…TO BE CONTNUED…

THIS APPEARS TO BE AN UNFINISHED STORY


 

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