Escaping the Light


AUTHOR: VISION GIRL (aka CHRISSY)
SUMMARY: My take on Season One. AU just after Lonely Hearts. What if Angel made a selfish, as in human, decision. What are the consequences? Who does he lose in his life and what does he gain? Will those he cares for die as a consequence of his selfish desires or will his choice make him even more of a hero and able to save hundreds of more lives, including those around him?
RATING: PG13
POSTED:13 June 2004
CATEGORY: AU during AtS Season 1
CONTENT/PAIRING:
WARNINGS: Occasional language
FICPIC CREDIT: None
AUTHOR NOTES: Unbeta’d, unfortunately. Try not to throw hard objects at me, only tomatoes and the boos must be kept to a minimum.
STATUS: Incomplete


Part 1
“Hey! Watch it Asshole!” Cordelia screamed out the window, firming her jaw and shaking her head furiously. It was that time of the day. Everyone was coming home from work or going out for dinner. She didn’t blame some people for cutting her off, no matter how furious she seemed on the surface. They all wanted to get home just as much as she did, but her reason was sort of an emergency.

“Cordy, maybe I should drive,” a deep yet muffled voice came from the backseat of the Plymouth. She glanced back to the floor where Angel was under his blanket, barely escaping some of the rays of sunlight getting into the car, even when they put the roof up and taped some of the windows.

Cordelia simply snorted at his suggestion. “Sure, you can drive. But I’m not cleaning up the mess you make when you TURN INTO DUST!”

Angel remained silent; knowing she was right and there was no angle to argue with.

“And does burnt leather even smell good?” Cordelia asked, slamming her foot on the gas and honking her horn as she switched lanes.

“What time is it?” Angel asked, wincing under the blanket as he anticipated Cordelia’s inevitable remark.

“You’re worried about the time?” Cordelia asked, rightfully and loudly. She wasn’t the best driver and under pressure she wasn’t any better. “Funny, I’m worried about getting out of the sunlight and I’m not even the one whose life is at risk.”

Shifting to find a comfortable position, Angel grunted as he spoke, lowering his voice so that there was a strong possibility she wouldn’t catch what he said. “I appreciate the concern.”

Yet Cordelia did catch it. Working for the vampire didn’t leave her with just some pocket money for the holidays and rent. She’d become accustomed to having to focus her senses, to be able to hear his little mumblings and sense him as he entered the room.

Either that or she’d never hear what he said and would have a heart attack before she turned 20 whenever he spoke suddenly, scaring her.

Hearing him, without sarcasm in his tone, admit his appreciation wasn’t something she normally heard. From neither him nor anyone. Sure, Doyle always praised her, but she had the feeling it was just to get in her pants.

No way am I losing my virginity to him. “You’re welcome.”

* * *

Doyle leaned against the doorframe, yawning. “You sure it wasn’t there?”

His Irish accent was particularly thick at the moment, maybe because Cordelia had lost the willpower to play loud music in her head to zone him out. It was nearly two in the morning and per Angel’s request, she stayed in the office while he figured some things out.

The terms ‘it isn’t safe’ and ‘not alone, you aren’t’ were thrown in the argument they had. He didn’t want her to walk home, alone and in the dark, without knowing that she had an escort and a stake in hand.

“Stupid vampire jackass needs to stop ‘figuring things out’,” she growled, using air quotes to emphasize her opinion on the matter. “I bet he’s not even thinking. He’s either sleeping or having some ‘alone time’.”

“Alone time?” Doyle inquired, though the flicker in his eyes proved he knew exactly what she meant. His curiosity of how she’d explain it or even how far she’d go to explain it high.

Cordelia rolled her eyes, “Shut it.”

“Hey, I know you’re tired. So am I. But you don’t have to be all-” Doyle started to defend himself, pushing away from the doorframe and walking to her desk. But he stopped himself when he took notice of the strikingly gorgeous woman pointing to the door. “Oh…”

Closing the front door quietly, he crossed his arm and bit on his tongue, his head tilting slightly as he watched Cordelia try and act like she was working. Filling out invoices, poking at a few keys on the keyboard and narrowing her eyes while looking at the computer screen…she did it every day when business was low.

Which come to think of it was every day.

A moment passed and he finally got the courage to ask her a straightforward question, to show his concern. “How’re you doing…I mean, is everything alright?”

Cordelia eyed him for a moment, as if daring him to continue with the questions. When he took a step back, keeping quiet, she got up from her seat. Walking through Angel’s office and to the elevator, she was opening the elevator doors before Doyle finally spoke up again, much to her annoyance.

“What’re ya doing?”

“Seeing Angel, why?” She held back a snarky comment at his curiosity, which meant fighting all of her natural urges.

“Take the stairs then. If you’re guessin’ right, which you usually do, he might be catching some shut-eye.”

“Fine.”

* * *

Cordelia descended down the stairs, quietly and stealthily. She needed some food and the mini-fridge upstairs was empty. She kept some extra snacks in Angel’s fridge, much to his displeasure.

Lying to Doyle wasn’t hard. In fact, it was so easy that she hardly noticed she did it until she opened the door and grabbed her sandwich.

He was just so damn curious sometimes and she already had the weird pet peeve of guys being overprotective or overcurious. Besides, she wasn’t going to admit to a man, even if it was just Doyle, that she was going downstairs to scarf down a sandwich like a lion eating a zebra.

Pulling the plastic off of the deliciously smelling and tasting sandwich slowly to make sure she didn’t make too much noise, Cordelia’s tongue absently stuck out of the corner of her mouth as she looked down the way so that Angel’s bed was in sight. But when her eyes focused she came to the realization that Angel wasn’t in his bed. It was made and looking quite inviting as it usually did, what with it’s crimson sheets and matching comforter.

“I was wondering when you’d come downstairs to get that,” came Angel’s immediately recognizable voice from the other doorway leading into the kitchen, where Angel stood with his usual ghost of a smile.

For a moment, Cordelia considered acting like she wasn’t surprised by his appearance but she reminded herself a milli-second later that he could probably tell by her heart rate that she was, in fact, startled, if only for a quick moment.

“I didn’t mean to get up all in your private space,” she tried to apologize, but Angel held a hand up nonchalantly, barely raising it higher than his stomach. His face was soft and soothing, surprisingly.

Not that Angel is a scary looking guy, Cordelia thought to herself, knowing that though he smiled every so often, there was a lot of pain beneath his stoic exterior and it showed through his…well, stoic exterior.

“Don’t worry about it,” he whispered to her and it was just then that she noticed the cup of blood in his other hand, pointedly hidden from her by slightly being held behind his leg. Angel wasn’t one to drink his blood around her, or anyone for that matter.

Cordelia didn’t mind though. The only thing that bothered her about the situation involving him drinking blood around her was how okay she was with it, which was completely and totally. Most vampires were creepy but maybe it was because of her personal knowledge and history with Angel that made her less creeped out.

Sure, deep down she’d piss in her satin panties if Angelus resurfaced, but that was another story. You’d have to be made of steel to not be even the least afraid of his alter ego. But she didn’t shun him away because of who or what he was, it just wasn’t something she allowed herself to do. Anymore. In high school he wouldn’t have stood a chance.

“Just got off the phone with Giles,” Angel said, as if explaining something, the way he was standing or the way his face looked. He was still Angel but he obviously thought he looked different to Cordelia. Maybe it was because of the way Cordelia was staring at him. “Buffy wasn’t there so I asked him not to mention it. Wasn’t a big enough thing to worry her for.”

“True,” Cordelia agreed, taking the sensitivity that was involved with the mention of the ‘B’ word and appreciating it, respecting it and Angel. “If you thought she was in danger at all, you’d tell her.”

“It wasn’t just about her,” Angel told her, a little bit of edge creeping into his tone. He noticed right away and cleared his throat before speaking again, clarifying what he meant. “I called Giles because he has the most knowledge on these kind of situations. Ancient stuff…you know the gist.”

Cordelia simply nodded. “And all those book he’s got. He’s bound to know a thing or too.”

Angel visibly relaxed, “Plus the whole ‘Watcher’ thing. It was a surefire chance at learning something, right?”

“Right,” Cordelia smiled a small smile, not too big to put pressure on her friend to think that he had to be overly enthusiastic but big enough to comfort him, to bring some serenity to his ‘oh-so-tortured’ soul. “You made a good call, boss.”

“Thanks,” he said, his voice as soft as she’d ever heard it, his dark brown eyes twinkling in the dim light, his appreciation shining clearly. “For everything. Driving me there, driving me back. Everything.”

“No prob, Mister ‘I need a mirror’,” Cordelia joked. “Seriously, Angel. I know this is your place but sometimes I end up down here and need to check myself out.”

Angel grinned, his smile widening. “I’ll make sure to have Doyle pick one up.”

* * *

“What’re you doing?”

Cordelia held back a growl, looking up at Doyle quickly before finishing what she was doing. She’d gone home after that sandwich she had downstairs, talking with Angel and actually getting to know him, but in what seemed like mere minutes, she was stretching and yawning and having to come back to Angel Investigations.

Not that she minded she just had the odd feeling that Doyle was going to push her for more back-story on herself. He was like the little brother she never had. Annoyingly curious, asking stupid questions, always in her face, around her and in her stuff. Some times it was cute but at others he needed to back off.

The volume of the answering machine finally turned down so her friend, Aurora, couldn’t be heard, she took a deep breath and shifted her attention to the filing cabinet. “I’m too busy to take personal calls.”

“Right,” Doyle nodded, agreeing unconvincingly. “But I’m sure if Patrick Swayze called you’d be jumping hurdles to answer the phone.”

“Like you wouldn’t,” Cordelia mumbled under her breath, and she swore she could hear Angel, inside his office reading, chuckle. Doyle on the other hand, not hearing her, remained clueless.

Though that didn’t even stop him from sitting in the chair placed in front of Cordelia’s chest, leaning back and just looking at her. When she noticed, she scoffed. Business as usual.

“Why’re you turnin’ down the volume on your friend?” he asked, his customary half-smirk appearing fleetingly on his face. The sunlight shone into the office-area, creating another reason for Angel to huddle up in his room instead of socializing with them. It also made Doyle look unnaturally pale. “If I had as much friends as I know you have, I’d be bitin’ my nails in anticipation of their next call.”

Though he was half-teasing, his voice dripping with slight sarcasm, Cordelia knew he wouldn’t let up till she explained. So instead of sitting there, telling the long, sad story of her life, she got up, slipping into her jacket and grabbing her bag. “See ya, Angel!”

Angel managed a quick ‘bye’, glancing up from his book for only a quick instant before returning to his quiet contemplation and perusing of the tome. Doyle didn’t get a chance to say goodbye though, his hand barely raised in attempt of a small wave by the time Cordelia slammed the door and was gone.

Slipping into Angel’s office, Doyle grinded his teeth along each other in deep thought, all the while edging closer to Angel’s desk. Finally, he took a small breath and just sat down, propping his feet up on the desk.

Angel looked up from his book at Doyle’s feet for a moment before looking him directly in the eye.

“So…Cordelia? What’s her story?” the half-demon asked. “I realize I’ve been pestering her a lot lately-”

“Quite a lot.” Angel managed to slip in.

It didn’t stop Doyle. “About the things she knows about herself that I don’t know. Which we both know is a bit wrong. Since I’ve got that big one kept away from her, locked away in a safe buried in the ocean. Me being half-demon sure isn’t going to persuade her to trust me any more than she does now.”

If he looked hard enough, Doyle could see the faint sign of Angel shaking his head, as if amused and laughing at his foolishness inwardly. “What?”

Angel looked up, closing his book and shifting in his seat before speaking. “She works for a vampire…”

He began in a soft tone, condescending even, as if he were speaking to a child. All the while as he spoke, a smile broke out on his face. “I don’t think she would mind if you were half-demon, Doyle.”

Doyle on the other hand, realizing his biggest excuse not to tell her had just been lowered down a few thousand notches, looked as if he’d just been castrated. “Then why is she being the way she is to me? I’m just wonderin’ who she is. We work together, can’t help but want to get to know her. Is that so bad?”

“It isn’t,” Angel sighed, running a hand through his spiky hair, which surprisingly didn’t contain as much gel as it usually did. Maybe it was because of the endless snarky comments Cordelia made about his overuse of gel. Probably. The eighteen year old was more persuasive then any of the interrogators in town.

For the moment, Doyle jus let out a long sigh, giving up. It was a known fact that later, when Cordelia came back, he’d start up again. Focusing his attention on something more important, he looked down at his hands where several cheap rings were placed, on his dirty, worn fingers. They were his lucky rings for when he went to bet on some ponies. Well, they were sometimes. “You didn’t get the ring?”

“Do you think I made the right decision?’ Angel asked, ignoring his friend’s own question. “Telling Giles not to tell Buffy that I staked Spike?”

“Why would it be a wrong decision?”

Angel shook his head, letting it fall as he thought to himself what he was trying to convey, what to say.

Something in the pit of his stomach was bothering him and he didn’t know why. It sure as hell wasn’t that he killed Spike. Maybe it was Doyle, or Cordelia. No…it was the ring. He wanted it. He needed it. “Spike sure as hell deserved to die. He didn’t have a soul and was bound to hurt someone. I’m actually glad I got that out of the way, one less thing for the To Do list.”

Doyle thought he was using a metaphor or some sort like that until he saw Angel glance off to the side where he saw a piece of paper that said TO DO on it, written in feminine handwriting. “Cordelia make that for you?”

“No,” Angel would have blushed if he had any blood rushing through his system, if wasn’t dead. “She made me write it and make it. It was her idea though.”

Holding back a snort of laughter at the discovery of Angel’s quite girly handwriting, Doyle returned his attention to his boss. “So…you were askin’ if not telling Buffy about killing Spike was a bad thing.”

“Yeah,” Angel whispered absently, playing with the worn spine of his book. “I know Buffy and it’s easy to guess that she probably wanted to stake Spike herself. Maybe she could have helped us find the ring.”

Doyle simply shook his head, “No. She’s in Sunnydale. Small town like that needs its hero twenty-four seven, right? You belong here, she belongs there.”

“I know,” Angel admitted, though it pained him greatly to do so. He’d been the one to break things off with her, to move out of town, to ignore her occasional calls. Until she stopped calling all together and he’d turn out to be the one dialing her phone number, tapping his foot impatiently and biting his tongue in anticipation as he listened to the dial tone.

Ring ring ring. A few rings in and sometimes she’d pick up her phone, her melodic voice politely greeting whomever it was calling with a ‘Hello.’ That’s when he’d hang up.

“Plus she’s got school.”

“True.”

They both just nodded.

* * *

Cordelia grunted as she pushed her key in the keyhole, trying to get it to go in all the whole while hoping she would be able to use it to get inside for the first time in weeks without the help of the landlord. She promised herself she’d either get in by key or by climbing up the fire escape so that she’d never have to burn her eyes out again. Seeing the ‘plumber view’ every time her bum of a landlord knelt down to pick out her keyhole was enough to scar her for life.

“If I’m not scarred already,” she mumbled to herself, pressing her knee against the door as she pushed it open. She would have celebrated her accomplishment at getting it, if only her apartment wasn’t the way it was. Dirty, smelly, and unsanitary for any human being to live in. “Home sweet home.”

Dropping her bag aimlessly on the floor, Cordelia walked over to her sink, hoping for a glass of water to down her last two Motrin IB pills with. Moments later, as usual, her hopes were drowned by the reality that was her life. The water that sprayed all over the bottom half of her shirt and her arms, missing the cup completely, was brown and thick and lumpy.

“We’re supposed to get water through the pipes, not people’s leftover shit,” Cordelia growled, imagining herself actually complaining to the landlord and getting what she wanted. It sounded selfish to get what she wanted, but in the current state she was living, all she wanted was to be able to sleep comfortably, to get good food and to drink healthy, clear water.

Knowing my luck, that isn’t going to happen any time soon.

Cordelia let out a sigh, hoping the mantra of taking in a deep breath and breathing it out slowly would help her nerves calm down. They didn’t. Instead she decided to think of something else. Something neutral. A person, thing or place that made her happy but not too happy.

Doyle left faster then his name popped in her head. He was annoying her too much lately.

Then it hit her. The best person to focus on was Angel. His dark eyes, all mysterious and deep. Yet his frustrating habit of being too distant. He was the perfect candidate for neutral.

But then the guilt of not being able to help him find that ring they were searching for the other day came forward, surfacing to an annoying extent. Angel seemed to need the ring for some reason, a reason that she didn’t bother to pestering him about. All she needed to know was that it was important to him and that was enough.

Angel wasn’t a selfish person, not that he could be. Yet even if he had the chance to, if he no longer or never had that pesky curse of his, she knew he’d be extremely careful when it came to his choices in life, what to take and what to give. So his desire to get the ring she knew wasn’t out of selfish gain.

Running a hand through her brown, shoulder-length tresses Cordelia sighed once again, as usual whenever she came home, unloading the frustration, the headaches, the complete lack of initiative to make her life something, out on her ratty couch with holes in it, her fading, peeling walls and her television set covered in roaches.

Wait, Cordelia thought, catching herself on her observations as she spun around to face her television again. Roaches!

* * *

Angel stepped out of the shower, not bothering to wrap a towel around his waist as he reached for the doorknob. He’d already dried enough of his body off so that not so much water would get on his floor, but he didn’t need a towel. He was alone and there was no point at hiding his manhood.

Slipping on the record player, Angel took in a deep breath, closed his eyes and enjoyed the soft sound of whatever random composer he had on. A moment passed and he moved into the kitchen, scratching the back of his neck absently. Blood was on his mind as he absently bit his lower lip and licked his top row of teeth.

Though a knock at the door prevented him from getting close to the blood waiting for him on the kitchen counter. Holding back a growl, Angel spun around and ambled over to the sliding, thick metal door. He opened it and came face to face with Cordelia, whose hair was falling out of her ponytail and her cheeks covered in a thin layer of brown-like soot.

“Angel!” she said his name desperately, walking past him into his living room. Absently stopping the record player, she rubbed her hands all along her legs and chest, as if trying to get some invisible insects off of herself. “Ugh! You won’t believe what happened. Roaches. Can you believe it? Roaches, in my apartment. MY apartment. I’ve never had bugs so close to me and now I’ve got them taking over my bed.”

Angel, with his mouth slack, his tongue lolling in his mouth, turned slowly to face Cordelia. His brow was furrowed as if from confusion as he just stood there, not knowing where to put his hands. “Wha-”

“All skittery, gross and creepy antlers.”

“Antlers?” Angel managed to get in, the groove of his brow intensifying along with his confusion.

Cordelia ignored him as she made a cute little hand movement. It was like air quotes but slanted, signifying her description of the supposed ‘antlers’. And it brought a smile to Angel’s face, albeit a small one that hardly anyone would notice.

Cordelia did. The smile caught her eye and she paused, a smile moving onto her face. However, the moment was short-lived when she came to the observation that he was slightly wet from a shower and was not covered. At all. She had a full-blown view of his…

She cleared her throat, partially to get the thought out of her head and to draw Angel’s attention to what she was so awkward about. What made it awkward was not that it was Angel or that it was his manhood, so blatantly displayed before her, but that she wasn’t experienced in the area of seeing men…fully.

Angel probably doesn’t know I’m a virgin though, she thought to herself, trying to distract herself from replaying the image of him. Unfortunately, or fortunately however she seemed to look at it, it was burned into her mind.

If Angel wasn’t a vampire, it was obvious he would have blushed. Moving into the bathroom, he avoided looking back at Cordelia, afraid that she would be snickering at him for some reason. She’d probably seen a lot of men in high school, bigger probably…

Angel nearly tripped when he entered the bathroom, less at the slippery floor and more because of his self-consciousness at how Cordelia viewed him. She’d been working him for almost two months and he’d come close to knowing her more than her parents did.

To his recollection, her parents gave her money to buy shiny objects, a quick kiss every other time they saw her and a passport. Sure, they probably loved her; they just weren’t there for her. And most likely didn’t know her that well.

They pretty much don’t have a chance now, since being in jail restricts getting to know their children.

Towel wrapped around his waist, Angel ran a hand over his face before exiting the bathroom, where he discovered Cordelia pulling in a suitcase over to his small couch. “Do you need a place to stay?”

She turned around, surprised by his entrance. The gaucherie of seeing Angel naked obviously was ruining her focus so that she wasn’t prepared for his usual quietness in entering a room. “Um…like I said. Roaches. Lots and lots of em’. Wouldn’t want to sleep in a bed full of roach crap, would I?”

“Obviously,” Angel quietly agreed, seeing where she was headed.

“I could sleep on the couch, or the bed, wherever you prefer you want me,” Cordelia said nonchalantly, slipping back into her usual self as she grabbed her own towel from her suitcase. “All this dirt needs to come off pronto, so I’m going to take a quickie shower. Do you have any moose?”

Angel was about to respond, opening his mouth until he realized what she was about to say. Though he hadn’t actually said she could stay, she was a guest at his place, technically, and he decided to allow her one jab at his hair for the night.

“Of course you do,” she said, walking into the bathroom.

Angel sighed. There it is.

* * *

Running a hand along his mouth, Doyle grunted as he tiredly dragged his feet alone the sidewalk. He needed desperately to shave, his usual stubble growing thicker. Just another reason for Cordy to not like me.

Shaking the girl out of his mind, he pulled out his spare key as he entered the building. It was late and he figured Angel to be awake, even though the vampire had unusual sleeping hours, thanks to Cordelia Chase herself who woke him up every morning with a cup of coffee.

It was one of the things that he loved about her but annoyed him the same time. She treated Angel like a human and he didn’t know whether it was because she was too disgusted by his vampire side and was in denial, or that she respected him enough to not treat him like a freak. Either way was acceptable for a woman of her age and background.

Adds to the mystery of her mind. Doyle was about five feet from the door until he realized that there was a man knocking on the door, trying to get in.

Approaching with caution, Doyle readied one of his hands by forming it into a fist. Though as quiet as he was, the spiky-haired, quite short man turned to see him. It was then that Doyle discovered the guy to be about the age of nineteen. And with a quick, quiet sniff, he concluded him to not be totally human.

“Hey,” the blonde-haired man greeted, not a trace of human emotion on his face. Yet Doyle didn’t get a creepy vibe off of him at all, even with the fact that he was trying just a minute ago to get into the offices of Angel Investigations.

“Hi,” Doyle greeted him warily. “Who’re you?”

“Name’s Oz.” His hand reached out to shake Doyle’s and eventually he took it, squeezing him tightly before pocketing his hand again, afraid that the man was about to jump him. “I’m here for Angel.”

“Really? What for?”

A trace of a smile appeared on Oz’ face, making Doyle even more sure that the kid was far from an emotion-conveying kind of guy and that was as much as he’d see from him for a while. “I have something from a girl he knows. Something that’s extremely important.”

Doyle firmed his jaw, glancing into the dark office. Cordelia was gone and Angel was nowhere to be seen. If Oz had been sent by anyone that knew Angel, he’d know where Angel was most of the time. Then again, if Buffy sent Oz, which Doyle had the strange feeling was a spot-on presumption, she probably didn’t even know where he worked yet.

Oz pursed his lips together for a moment, shifting his weight to his other foot before pulling out a bronze-type ring with a large, ruby-like jewel crested in it. “It’s kinda important.”

* * *

Doyle walked behind Oz, making sure to watch his every movement. Spending more than a few minutes with the guy, he’d come to the conclusion that he was a werewolf. Luckily, there was no full moon so it wasn’t a paid assassination by Wolfram and Hart. They weren’t that stupid.

How’d he even get the ring?

“Angel,” Doyle called out his boss’ name casually, walking into the kitchen and looking around.

Oz stood by the stairs, his hands in his pockets. Either he was too polite to walk around a strange apartment or he was actually in a hurry and wanted to stay close to the stairs.

Finally, Angel walked out in boxers and a crimson robe. He saw Oz and froze, not necessarily surprised by his arrival but more curious as to why he was even there. “Gig?”

“Gig,” Oz nodded and again, the small little smile tugged at the corner of his lips. “Plus, I had a short side-trip to deliver something.”

“So you decided to make another side-trip to stop by and say hi?” Angel asked, eyeing Oz. He obviously didn’t believe that and was just teasing, in his own way of course.

“No, Buffy sent me.”

That’s all it took for Angel’s face to harden, his eyes widening slightly as he pulled his hands from his pocket. His attention was caught and Oz seemed ready to explain, albeit briefly, what he was there for exactly.

Until Cordelia walked out, in her own robe, tank top and shorts. Holding a brush in her hand as she tried to dry her wet hair with a small towel, she looked at Angel, not yet seeing either Doyle or Oz. “Hey, I know you’re a vamp and everything. And what with the whole ‘can’t see your reflection’ but come on, can’t you just have a mirror lying around?”

She stopped when she noticed Doyle, not exactly uncomfortable but shocked enough to skid to a halt. It was when she saw Oz that a smile, strained and perfectly and pricelessly faltering under shock, her face lost a little color. Seeing an old classmate from Sunnydale High school as she stood in a ratty robe in her boss’ apartment instead of in a mansion wasn’t something she planned on experiencing. At all.

“Oz…?”

“Hi,” Oz had enough manners to not tease her on the spot. Come to think of it, he was practically the only Scooby who respected her, even if only a little. “How’re you?”

“Fine,” Cordelia said quickly. Too quickly. And Angel noticed. Not only her quick speech patterns but her bottom lip slightly twitching upward, urging her to bite it, and her heart rate speeding up. “You?”

“Alright, actually.” Oz took a step over towards her, more comfortable standing beside her then the odd Irishman that he had an odd feeling about. Maybe it was that he was a demon or that he was Irish, he didn’t quite know. “I’m here for a gig. And to drop something off for Angel.”

“Oh, a present?” Cordelia looked to Angel for support, hoping to get the attention off herself. Angel’s eyes twinkled innocently back at her and she felt her nerves calm slightly, just slightly enough so that she wouldn’t have to be taken to the hospital because of a panic-attack. “Is it shiny? Angel loves shiny.”

“Shiny huh?” Oz glanced over at Angel, casually easing into it and catching on that everything was okay between everyone. Especially Cordelia and Angel, who seemed a hell of a lot closer then they were last and even closer then anyone back in Sunnydale would imagine.

Angel cleared his throat and stepped forward. “What did Buffy send?”

“Buffy?” Cordelia looked startled by the mention of her former rival. Not that she still hated the girl, because she never exactly did. But because of seeing Angel’s reaction. On the outside he looked like he was doing okay, a little tense, but okay. But in his deep eyes she could see he was screaming in agony at hearing her name, at the discovery of her sending him something.

Bu it was expected, from him more than Cordelia, that the object she was giving him wasn’t a romantic gesture, a sign of friendship or trust, just an object that she needed taken away from Sunnydale into a big city like L.A. Angel was just a person she knew in the city, not a trustworthy ally, just a contact.

“It’s a ring. Not so shiny, but hopefully…” Oz slipped out the ring, holding it as if it were worth thousands of dollars, which it most likely was, if sold to the right beings. “You won’t be too disappointed with it.”

Angel grabbed the ring slowly, as if it were covered in holy water. His hesitation obvious along with his awe, Cordelia could swear Angel’s eyes lit up at the sight of the ring.

“What’s so good about this ring?” Cordelia asked, coming up behind Angel and looked over his shoulder, resting her chin on him.

Doyle, who seemed in awe of the ring in a less subtle way than Angel, stepped forward, swallowing hard as if to dispense of a large lump in his throat. “It’s the Ring of Ammara.”


Part 2

“The Ring of Ammara?” Cordelia reiterated the name, her nose scrunching up slightly. She looked to Doyle, whose eyes were glued on the ring, surprisingly, instead of on her as they usually were whenever she spoke.

It was refreshing to not have his attention on her yet at the same time she wanted it back. Mostly because of how stupid it was that two grown men were staring and drooling over a ring that looked like it came from a gumball machine.

“What’s Ammara?” she asked. Angel just shook his head, clearing his throat and slipping it in his pocket.

“It’s a ring, Cordelia.”

“It’s a dang good one too, ‘specially for our boss here,” Doyle snapped out of it along with Angel. “Good on you, you’ve got your chance now.”

“No, I don’t.” Angel almost seemed snappish about it and Cordelia took a step away from him.

Angel sighed, realizing as he saw out of the corner of his eyes Cordelia moving away from him that he was being a little touchy about the ring. It was barely more than 24 hours that he had desired the ring more than anything else, wanted it on his finger.

When he heard Spike was in town, showing off the ring to his friends, he used killing the blonde, annoying little prat as an excuse to be so diligent in his efforts to find him and take the ring away.

Only to realize that he should have expected it of Spike to be lying just for some reputation. He hadn’t gotten hold of the ring in Sunnydale, apparently and Buffy had being smart to give it to Angel after he killed him.

Wait, Angel thought, something not quite right. “What does Buffy know exactly about the entire situation?”

“Spike dug up the ring, lost it. Came here lookin’ for it.” Oz didn’t look impatient but Angel had the knack for telling apart the guy’s subtle differences of emotions. He wanted to go and the trip to Angel’s place to drop of the ring was obviously last on his list at the moment. “She didn’t want to give it to you at first, afraid that Spike would guess to look for it around your place.”

“She was wrong,” Angel pointed out. “I went to Spike. Not the other way around.”

“Really? You did?” Oz apparently didn’t know. Either Buffy didn’t bother to tell him or Giles kept to his word and didn’t inform anyone of Spike’s death.

Angel shrugged, trying to act nonchalant about it. “Yeah. I did.”

Cordelia stepped forward, already annoyed by being left out of the loop. “Alright, could someone please tell me what the hell is going on?”

“The ring makes any vampire totally invincible,” Doyle said in short, trying to get out of explaining in full detail to the clueless young woman. More important things were happening. Spike was dead, taken care of. That meant Angel had the ring to himself. He could go out in the sunlight and everything.

“He already is invincible, right?” Cordelia asked, but caught herself just as Doyle rolled his eyes. “You mean like, he can go out in the sun, get a tan?”

Oz nodded just a little, “A stake through the heart is a spider bite without the poison now.”

Angel continued to remain impassive and still, standing in the middle of the room, not even listening to the three of them babble on about the ring. His mind wasn’t even on Buffy anymore, but on the things he could do, the places he could go.

“Thanks, Oz. I’ll make sure to keep this safe,” Angel quietly dismissed the Sunnydale native werewolf, turning to go back into his room. He paused in the doorway, his back still to the three as he spoke. “Cordy, come here for a minute.”

Cordelia followed him inside as the vampire sat on the edge of his bed, the ring in his palm as he just looked at it silently. She paused halfway, her eyes lighting up. “You called me Cordy…”

Angel missed the point and tossed her the ring. She caught it and looked down on it. Okay, so up close it looks a hell of a lot nicer. “I need you to take that, hide it somewhere where no one can find it. Not even me.”

“Why?”

“Don’t ask questions.” Angel got up from his bed and walked over to her until his face was just inches from hers, his dark eyes looking down into her russet ones for the longest time before he spoke. “I’ll take the couch. You can have my bed for tonight.”

Cordelia watched him walk into the kitchen, rubbing his nose as if overtaken by a sudden headache. “Just for tonight?”

Angel sighed and looked back at her. He offered her an assuring smile. “Tomorrow we’ll figure everything out.”

That was enough for Cordelia, if only for the time being, to be assured that she was safe and had a place to stay. Living in a box on the street wasn’t exactly one of her choices and she would have lived with Doyle to avoid that.

But with Angel she knew. She knew that she’d be safe. She knew she’d be there for as long as he could stand her. And the one thing Cordelia knew about Angel for sure was that he was the only person from Sunnydale who could stand her for more than five minutes.

* * *

“Oz!” Cordelia called out his name, tightening the robe around her as a shiver ran up her spine. The young man stopped and turned to her just as he was about to enter his van.

For a second, he thought she was in trouble but when he noticed she was most likely just coming up to him to speak, his shoulders relaxed. “Yeah?”

“It was good to see you…” Cordelia offered. “I mean, I was surprised and you caught me at a bad time.”

Oz nodded. “Understandable.”

Cordelia bit her lip before beginning to explain what he walked in on, hoping he would be able to get what she was implying and not tell a certain whiny little crybuffy. “I have roaches.”

Oz would have grinned if he had it in him. He was tired and it was late, he had a gig in the morning and he hadn’t slept in two days. “Roaches?”

“That’s why I’m here. I’m staying with Angel because of roaches. He’s on the couch, I’m on the bed.”

“I’ll make sure to update the itinerary so that we know where each of you are sleeping,” Oz snarked, keeping a straight face. “Cordelia, what are you trying to say? Do you not want me to tell Buffy that you and Angel are working together? Or that you guys are sleeping in the same home as each other?”

Cordelia hesitated. She was sure making it seem like she was hiding something, standing out in the cold, subtly begging Oz to not tell Buffy about her living arrangements with a certain ensouled vampire. “Look. Tell her what you want. You guys are friends and I’m not the kinda person who comes out and tells you to keep secrets from a friend. All I’m saying is, there is no secret to tell. So if you happen to mention me and Angel, try and tell her the whole story.”

“I know,” Oz nodded and Cordelia believed fully that he meant it. “Buffy’s great and all, but she can be a little…”

“Yeah,” Cordelia nodded in agreement. Neither needed to say it, but when it came to Buffy and Angel, the two of them were both quite weird and…attached. “Bye, Oz.”

Cordelia turned and started to walk back inside. Until Oz called her name in his usual restrained tone. “Cordelia.”

“Yeah?” she said softly, blinking slowly as her slumber caught up with her. She turned to see Oz, now standing halfway into his van, holding onto the door and poking his head over the window.

“She’s moving on…” he told her softly, sympathetically, as if knowing she’d somehow pass it on to Angel or keep it reserved. Either way, she could tell he knew what their relationship was like and thought she deserved to know. “It’s hard for her, but she is doing it…moving on, I mean.”

Cordelia sighed, looked back at the office and then returned her now sad gaze to Oz. “I wish I could say the same to you. But I’m too tired to lie right now.”

* * *

“How could you do this to me?” Doyle asked incredulously. His voice got caught in his throat as he followed Angel into the kitchen, nearly tripping on the small, sad little chair placed up to the table.

“Do what?” Angel asked absently, his thoughts still on the ring. And Cordelia, for that matter. Firstly, she walked in and was suddenly living with him, and then she saw him naked. Next he knew he’s feeling self-conscious around her and trusting her so easily with possibly the most important thing to him.

Important…? Angel thought to himself with doubt. When did this whole thing happen? Since when do I care about things like this?

Doyle looked like he wanted to slap Angel but thought better of it. “You knew I was crazy about her. But no! You have to come in all broody, sensitive manly man with you’re rock-hard chest, deep gaze and overhanging forehead.”

Consciously moving his hand over the grooves of his brow, Angel looked to Doyle as he held his other hand up. “Doyle! Whoa. Calm down. Her apartment is infested with bugs and…stuff. Dirty, scary and uninhabitable. She’s staying here with me for now.”

“Oh…” Doyle’s anger faltered and he calmed down, looking embarrassed. “I guess that’s…alright then, right?”

“Right,” Angel nodded, pulling a cup of blood from his fridge and taking a quick sip behind the door, obscuring it all from Doyle. Placing it back inside and wiping his upper lip, Angel feigned a yawn.

Doyle didn’t seem to care if the vampire was tired though. Crossing his arms over his chest, he cocked his head back and arched his eyebrows. “Let me see it.”

“What?” Angel lied through his teeth. He knew exactly what Doyle was talking about and the half-demon sure did seem to catch on to it fast enough.

“Don’t play dumb with me,” Doyle teased, walking over to Angel and lowering his voice. Either he was still joking or was incredibly goofy, Doyle looked over his shoulders before speaking. “The ring! Let me see the ring!”

Angel shook his head, patting his friend on the back as he moved to the couch where he was sleeping for the night. “I need some sleep Doyle. So if you like, we’ll gossip about girls and jewelry in the morning.”

* * *

“Got enough milk in those?” Angel asked, pointing at Cordelia.

Cordelia nearly choked on her own spit when she turned to see Angel pointing at her chest. As she was opening her mouth to call him a Perv or ask what in god’s name he was asking that for, she realized the two cups of milk in her hands, which she’d poured for her and Doyle to drink upstairs.

The water was horrible and milk was the first thing that came to mind. Though they had some in the mini-fridge upstairs, Angel had all the cups.

“You and Doyle have cookies too?” Angel smirked, walking over and taking one of the cups from her and placing it on the table, hoping she wouldn’t stress herself.

Letting out a nervous laugh, Cordelia put the other cup at the table and walked over to the only chair there was to sit down on. “You need some more chairs. You never know when company comes, right?”

“Right,” Angel nodded slowly, not looking at her as he leaned against the table, folding his arms across his bare chest. His robe was on Cordelia, who’d accidentally spilled jelly on hers earlier that morning. He hadn’t gotten around to getting dressed yet and neither had Cordelia, much to Doyle’s displeasure.

She’d been a good roommate so far. Sure, it’d been only a night but from that length of time he’d learned a lot about her.

Her toothbrush had a yellow handle on it, she had a whole bag dedicated to make-up, at least the kind she could afford and no matter how much her life had changed and how much money she had lost, she still made the impossible probable by owning every outfit known to man.

Not only that but she’d mastered the curious talent of being able to pack all those clothes into a suitcase and a duffel bag.

Angel let out a long sigh. He needed something to read. He loved the silence but only if he had something to do. Nothing in his mind was appropriate to think about. It was either to think about the Ring or read something, no matter how boring it was.

His newspaper was around somewhere and he opened his mouth to ask Cordelia. Only to have her hand him the paper before he could even speaks. Must’ve been next to her on the table.

“Thanks,” he mumbled underneath a deep sigh.

* * *

The phone rang and rang until it finally startled Doyle awake. Wiping the drool from his mouth he grabbed the phone frantically and tried to say the catchphrase that Cordelia came up with. “This is Angel’s…place and we hope…that you’re…helpful?”

Wrong number. Doyle dropped the phone on the desk and lowered his head back down into his arms. He’d gotten home the night before, tired and exhausted yet he couldn’t even catch a few minutes sleep.

Cordelia and Angel were on his mind. He trusted Angel but Cordelia was the one he didn’t know what would happen with. Sometimes he loved that about her, her own cute randomness but other times when she was with men, he couldn’t help but want to know exactly what she was planning on doing.

Oh god, I’m a crazy, crazy little Irishman. Obsessed and crazy. Obsessed, crazy and sober.

That’s all it took for him to sit up, looking around for his bottle of scotch, for any kind of drink he left around. Whether it was a whole bottle, half of one or a small little drop, he needed the sweet taste of it on his tongue.

When he couldn’t have that lightheaded feeling, as if he were on clouds, whenever he was around Cordelia or his ex-wife…Doyle turned to alcohol. And he wasn’t ashamed.

Until Cordelia came into his life. Sometimes the comments were lighthearted, casual snarkyness and shit like that. Other times he swore on lucky horse number seven that she was sincerely concerned about his addiction to alcohol and gambling.

Some say he drank because of the huge, worldwide stereotype that Irishmen drink a lot, but those who knew him well would know the truth.

Fortunately to spare him the pain of someone actually knowing the truth, he reminded himself that no one knew him well enough or completely. That may’ve been a sad fact to some, but to Allan Francis Doyle it was a blessing.

* * *

“Crap, I left the bread on the counter,” Cordelia growled underneath her breath. She moved to get up from her chair but Angel stopped her, standing up himself.

“I’ll get it.”

They’d been talking over the last hour about things. Random stuff that they hadn’t gotten around to talking about since they started working with each other. Their childhoods and what color they just hated.

Cordelia’s was brown and Angel agreed that he hated it also, but only on walls on things like that. His hair was brown and so was hers, he pointed out. ‘Besides, if you hate brown so much it’s like saying you have ugly eyes. Which you don’t.’

He walked into the kitchen, scratching an itch on his lower back as he looked around for the bread, forgetting where exactly she had left it.

Cordelia cocked her head to the side as she watched him aimlessly move around the kitchen in search for her loaf of bread. It was the last bit of food she had in the fridge downstairs. She’d have to go shopping for food again, which was more of a hassle then one would think.

They, mostly her, didn’t have the money. Angel probably had some stowed away and her first instinct was to ask for some. But she fought it. Which was a good sign. Ever since leaving Sunnydale she’d been becoming more and more inclined to be not so selfish and it was starting to pay off.

Plus, working for a vampire with a soul whose purpose was to ‘help the helpless’; it was bound to rub off on her.

Her thoughts drifted back to the night before. The look on Oz’s face when he told her that Buffy was moving on and the sincerity in that statement. It made her feel bad for Angel. More than she’d ever felt for him.

Whether Buffy had a boyfriend by now or that she was simply moving on as in being happy and enjoying life, Cordelia knew that if she had the chance, she’d punch the blonde out for hurting her boss.

The urge to be so protective of Angel didn’t surprise her. It actually comforted her.

Throughout the previous seventeen years of her life, she’d been so focused on herself, protecting her ass and buying herself things, making her own self feel better by putting other people down.

The mere fact that she was protective and sensitive to Angel and his feelings made her feel more human, perhaps even redeemable in the eyes of whoever was watching over her.

I guess it’s a common trait. Both of us are looking for redemption. “Having trouble, old man?”

Angel glanced back at her, a smile fleetingly passing across his face. “I found it, I was just trying to cut it up. You want butter?”

“Not too much,” Cordelia replied. She saw him put a slab of butter on one of the pieces and laughed. “A thin layer!”

He was like a child and it made him all the more adorable.

Though something caught her attention. Her eyes were on Angel but the hairs on the back of her neck shot up and shivers ran up and down her spine. It was like her own ‘Cordy Sense’. Someone…or something was behind her.

She didn’t dare to move though. Instead, she acted as casual as possible. Though that direction sucked, since her movements were rigid and her breathing was shallow yet loud. “Angel? Forget the bread. Why don’t we just keep talking? Come out here.”

Angel paused at the cutting board. Cordelia swore she could see a light bulb lighting inside his head, his ears twitching and his grip on the knife in his hand tightening. Whatever was going on, he just clued in on it.

Yet he did a better job of covering his ass as he nodded. “I’m comin’ in. You sure you don’t want anything?”

Though he asked her, he continued to leave the kitchen, not even waiting for her to answer. Not as casual as she would have liked him to act, but it got him in the same room as her which was quite redeemable.

Angel didn’t take his time either. Once he stood there, his face never changing from the hardened expression he had on, he lunged a knife just above Cordelia’s head.

Cordelia turned to see a bald, rat-faced man trying to take the knife from his chest, blood all over his white button-up shirt and his pale hands. Fuck, fuckity fuck. This is damn public building. Forgot about that. Stupid vampire rules.

Once the knife was out and dropped to the ground, the vampire gave up for the moment and ran not through the doorway he came in from but up the stairs. Angel chased after him, right up his tail.

Doyle hearing the noise downstairs woke up suddenly, but not quick enough to catch the vampire running through the office, dodging the rays of sunlight before he grabbed a jacket on the coat hanger and wrapped himself in it.

Seeing this and Angel helplessly staying in his office, unable to go any further, Doyle jumped from his chair and ran out the door.

The vampire jumped into a tinted-window, black van. It drove off. “There’s no license plate on the damned thing.”

Doyle walked back into the office, partially out of breath.

Angel growled when he heard that, slamming his fist into the doorway. “Go after them.”

“But-”

“GO!” Angel bellowed, grabbing the keys to his Plymouth off his desk and tossing them at Doyle. “Check warehouses and such. If you find nothing, then come back. But you need to at least try.”

“Is Cordelia okay?” Doyle asked, his voice not without emotion.

* * *

Angel gripped Cordelia’s shoulder, squeezing it comfortingly. “You sure you’re fine?”

“Yeah.” Cordelia sighed, pushing away from him gently as she placed her hands on her hips and stared to pace around Angel’s place. “I sure hope you got that guy good.”

“I didn’t stake him,” Angel said to her, wincing as if expecting her to blow up.

But she didn’t, partially because she misunderstood. “Good. It’s always better when you cut off their heads.”

Angel wasn’t sure how to answer that and it showed. It didn’t take much for Cordelia to catch up and when she did, she rolled her eyes. “Look, I know you have a soul now but that doesn’t mean you-”

“I would have staked him if I caught him,” Angel assured her without hesitation. His dark eyes sparkled as they looked into hers, conveying the emotions spilling through. He was telling the truth and Cordelia didn’t have a clue whether to be thankful or frightened by his willingness to kill something.

She looked to him expectantly, swallowing hard. “What’re we going to do? If he got in before then he’ll get in again.”

“No, he won’t. I won’t let him.”

“Cut the macho crap, Angel.”

He sighed at her, giving up as he slumped onto his couch. He nearly missed it and thankfully he sat down, because Cordelia would have teased him for weeks because of his clumsiness. “I recognized the guy…”

“What?” Cordelia asked incredulously. “What? Do you know every psychopath or what? Is there a club you have a membership in?”

Angel looked up at her, trying to not wince. But his eyes blinked quickly and his mouth curled into a grimace.

Cordelia noticed it too and her own expression hardened as she stopped walking around. “Look, Angel. I’m sorry…”

“No worries,” Angel shook it off, clearing his throat. “I sent Doyle out to do some checking around. He’ll be back and when he gets here we’ll regroup and try and figure out what the hell that guy wanted.”

Cordelia nodded. “Is that it? What’re we supposed to do until then?”

“Don’t ask stupid questions, Cordy.” Angel spoke in a final tone as he let his head fall, going into a deep train of thought, contemplating what to do.

“Angel!” Cordelia wasn’t going to let the situation simmer down that easily.

She wasn’t trying to be a pessimist but if the vampire had gotten into Angel’s place without detection, intent on doing some damage, then it would happen again. Or whoever sent him would send another person in his place, perhaps even more dangerous then the one before him.

Yet when Angel looked up at her, his dark eyes burning holes through her, she hesitated. He was serious.

She was not only being stupid by asking questions but by pushing Angel’s buttons. No matter how much she tried to think of Angel as normal, to treat him like that, he wasn’t.

And for the first time it dawned on Cordelia that either Angel could never possibly be normal or he didn’t really want to be normal at all.

“What was his name?”

“Marcus…” Angel allowed himself to inform Cordelia at least something, hoping that the more she knew the more afraid she’d be and the less she’d be around, the more she’d hide and be safe.

Again, he had no idea what his problem was. A year ago he didn’t care for her. It wasn’t as if he didn’t give a crap about her, or that he hated her, it was just that she wasn’t on his radar, she wasn’t an important aspect in his life. She didn’t affect the way he thought, the way he felt; she didn’t even affect the things he did.

But now she did.

She wasn’t just an annoying secretary who demanded money for typing crappily, avoiding phone calls and having a snark-tastic attitude half the time…she was his friend.

Cordelia Chase may not have known it, but she was and he hated himself for allowing it to happen.

I’m not supposed to have friends god damnit. It’ll only end in pain and death. Whether today or fifty years from now.

“He specializes in torture of all species,” he further explained, getting up and walking to Cordelia until only an inch or two of empty, silent space was between them.

For the longest time he just looked at her, all over her face, into her eyes, noting the young features of her body, the curl of her mouth, the slightly toned muscles she had from Cheerleading…She wasn’t too much different then a Slayer.

Maybe Buffy was thinner and had blonde hair, she was stronger too; but Cordelia had the strength in her to put up a fight, the mouth to charm her way out of bad situations and if it didn’t work, as much as he hated to think she would do such a thing, he knew that her body could work as an advantage.

If he hadn’t been downstairs to throw the knife in the vampire’s chest, he wouldn’t have just lost a friend, but an asset.

Yet Angel had the strange feeling that she would have put up quite a fight.

“He would’ve taken you and…he would have hurt you,” he voice cracked as he spoke, only because Cordelia was endlessly looking at him, not blinking for long periods of time.

She usually never listened to him but as they stood there, close in proximity and speaking waves of emotions and sensations through silence, she seemed taut with attention.

When Cordelia finally looked away, Angel found himself strangely disappointed. She cleared her throat. Either she was doing so out of discomfort or she was affected by what he said. Actually, it seemed that it was both. Maybe she was finally accepting the fact that working for him was dangerous and could cost her life, or her limbs. Perhaps she was rethinking working for him, being his comrade in the business…and Angel nearly spoke up just at that presumption.

Cordelia stopped him when she looked back at him. “So…what do we do now boss?”

Angel grinned. “This is getting out of hand. Our legal rights are getting violated. I think it’s time that we hired a lawyer.”


Part 3

“Hello! Jackass alert!” Cordelia chimed in, catching Angel’s attention as he stepped into the elevator. He’d forgotten to hold the door open for her and it was nearly closed by the time she even got half of her leg in. Gripping the door, Angel sheepishly held it back so that Cordelia had enough room to step inside.

What surprised Angel and sent a wave of relief throughout him was that she returned his gesture/mistake with a smile. “Thank you,” she said chirpily.

The door closed and Angel pressed the button that had 16 on it. “Lindsay’s got his own office, apparently.”

“How would you know?” Cordelia asked, looking at him over the rims of her fake glasses. Her shoulder-length brown locks were up in a tight bun and she had a glossy look to her lips.

When she’d gotten done dressing in the bathroom and stepped out Angel swore that if he hadn’t had the self-control over his body he did, he would have creamed his pants like a teenage boy looking in a Playboy magazine.

She was in a woman’s version of a suit. A dark blue, almost navy, top that was buttoned up just high enough to show the right amount of cleavage, not too much and not too little, and a matching skirt that covered just about a quarter of her thighs.

Angel shook himself out of the memory and licked his lips, focusing his gaze on the elevator doors, waiting for them to open. “I can read, y’know.”

Cordelia snorted. “Go figure.”

“He’s got good credentials for a southerner,” Angel snarled, nearly spitting. Lawyers disgusted him enough and he always figured they were evil, morally not literally. Wolfram and Hart changed that for him though, they were responsible for all the evil in the world.

Sure, they didn’t commit it but they defended it in the name of law and won a whole lot. It was disgusting.

“What makes you think that Wolfram and Hart even know anything about this Marcus guy?” Cordelia finally asked. It’d been a question that was bothering her the whole way when they drove in Angel’s Plymouth across town to the Wolfram and Hart building. She tapped her foot, firmed her jaw and sighed profusely quite a few times and Angel still didn’t figure it out.

He was a man, sure, and if she ever doubted it she just had to remind herself of his bad social and people skills.

“I just know.”

“Could you be any more subtle?”

“…I have a hunch.”

Cordelia turned to Angel and grinned, pointing at him. “You did it! That was more subtle.”

They were up to the fourteenth level when Angel cleared his throat and firmed his grip on the briefcase he was holding. He had to look like a real lawyer so he took it to his advantage and wore his only suit.

Cordelia complimented him on it but he modestly didn’t take her seriously. Maybe because he didn’t catch the way she was looking at him. If he had then he would have known she was more than impressed by his excellent taste.

“If I get stopped, keep going.” Angel glanced at her for a moment, seeing her absently bite her bottom lip as she ran over the lines she’d practiced. She was obviously enjoying what they were doing and he enjoyed seeing her have fun. “You don’t know me, I don’t know you.”

“So what happens if I get stopped?” Cordelia asked quietly, anticipating him to say that he’d do the same as she would if he was caught.

But he surprised her as he spoke through gritted teeth. “If I guess right a few guys might stop you because of that skirt. I’ll make sure they know you’re taken.”

“Taken, am I?” Cordelia reiterated, her smile faltering. More taken aback then anything else, she thought to herself. He either doesn’t like me in the skirt or he doesn’t like the fact that other people are seeing me in this skirt. Either way…Settle down, vamp boy!

“Yes,” Angel nodded, a sly smile tugging at the corner of his lips. A mischievous flicker was in his eyes when he glanced at her for a brief moment. “As your boss I prohibit you to fraternize with the enemy.”

“If I don’t know what fraternize is, then can I do it?”

Angel shook his head in frustration.

Cordelia laughed. “Kidding. I’m not dumb, just shallow.”

The doors slid open and Cordelia was the first to step out, walking with a good posture and looking like quite the professional businesswoman. Angel was close behind her, yet not too close that it looked like they were together.

In fact, Angel had no idea what he was supposed to do. Who he was supposed to be or if he and Cordelia could speak to each other. They were ‘lawyers’ after all and could socialize with one another and still not get detected.

But if Wolfram and Hart hates me so much, they might know everything about me. Including the fact that Cordelia is one of my employees.

Angel cursed under his breath, realizing just how stupid he was acting and how crazy he was getting as the seconds passed by. Cordelia was in danger by being with him and he was promoting it, to a certain extent. Not good. Not good at all.

Then again, as his eyes drifted from the back of Cordelia’s head down the line of her body, he reminded himself she was quite an advantage. In a seconds time his head was cocked to the side and his tongue was numb, the saliva in his mouth increasing. He knew what he was doing was inappropriate but he couldn’t stop and he wondered what he could possibly do to snap himself out of it.

Apparently a lawyer decided to take care of it for him, turning around suddenly and slamming into Angel.

Cordelia stopped and looked back at Angel as he knelt down and helped the lawyer with his papers. With a roll of her eyes, she continued walking, muttering a quiet ‘dork’ under her breath.

* * *

Doyle searched and searched for his spare key on the key ring he had. About a dozen keys that all looked the same were on it. Sometimes he wondered why he carried so many keys. Half of them he had no idea what their purpose was.

Perhaps it was the sound they made that excited him, like a little boy putting a card in his bike wheel to make that whirring sound. Or that deep down he had the strong sense that he’d need one or all of them to get out of a scuffle, a mess that his gambling addiction would always get him into.

“I need a drink,” he mumbled to himself, sticking his key in the keyhole of his moldy-brown door that lead into his crappy apartment. Cordelia hadn’t seen his place yet and he was glad of it. Knowing her tastes he’d guess she’d be pretty damn disgusted by his rat hole of an apartment.

Then again, Doyle reminded himself, the image of Cordelia Chase’ temporary place, before she left it because of roaches, flashing before his eyes. She isn’t the best housekeeper in the tri-state area neither.

He dropped his keys on the floor absently as he shrugged out of his jacket. The door closed behind him with a soft thud.

“Hello, Doyle,” came a deep, frightening voice from behind him. Doyle turned to face his closed door to see a horned demon, tan skin and a muscular frame, leaning casually against the wall just beside the door. In the dark he wasn’t quite visible but when Doyle switched on the light he recognized him. It was the demon sent to pick up debts by Lenny over at the tracks.

How am I going to get myself out of this mess?

* * *

Angel ran a hand along his jacket, smoothing out the wrinkles as he absently checked inside his empty briefcase, acting as if there were important files in there just waiting to be read.

Letting out a long breath to soothe his nerves he tried hard not to show how nervous or angry he was. Nervous because of where he was and the risk he was taking by brining Cordelia and angry because of how stupid he was to distract himself and end up losing Cordelia in the maze of the office area of Wolfram and Hart.

He’d promised himself he wouldn’t lose her and he did it anyways. Stupid stupid stupid. But when he turned the corner his senses, distracted through his nervousness, finally caught on to where Cordelia was. She was looking in a random file, pursing her lips and only looking up occasionally.

Whoever said Cordelia Chase was a horrible actress should be burned at the stake.

When she noticed him she closed the file and greeted him with a toned-down version of her 100-watt smile. Holding out her hand, she continued to grin as her eyes burned holes through him. She was obviously frustrated with him and his lack of common sense. “Hi. Chase, Cordelia. You working on the Lindam case?”

Angel nodded as he took her hand and shook it, trying to hold back a grin. “Yep. Stupid bastard. If we don’t close the case soon-”

“Cut the bullshit,” Cordelia said, a growl creeping into her tone for only a moment as she started to walk away. Angel followed closely behind her until they were walking speedily down the hallway. “You’re the defensive side, right? You guys need to learn to watch out for those fucking obstacles. If you lose focus you’ll draw too much damn attention. We don’t want that, do we?”

Angel shook his head, still slightly in shock at how well she was getting into the part she was playing. “No, sir. I mean…ma’am.”

When they turned another corner his eyes caught on to the plain brown door that said Lindsay Macdonald on it. Cordelia had led them right to it. Sure, he’d known the floor number and the general direction, but she had found the exact spot of it and his respect for her working cases like this was growing by the second.

She opened the door casually and entered, grabbing Angel’s hand and squeezing it painfully tight to keep him from looking over his shoulder. Once the door was closed she removed her glasses, spun around to face him and slapped him on the arm.

Angel looked at her incredulously. “Ow!”

“Suck it up, baby.” Cordelia shook her head. “The entire drive over here you’re lecturing me about keeping my cool and here you are tripping and knocking over a poor lawyer.”

“These lawyers aren’t poor, for one and why in hell should I worry about knocking one over?” Angel asked, rubbing his arm and dropping his suitcase onto a random plush chair.

Cordelia reminded herself that they didn’t have a lot of time and she walked over to Lindsay’s desk, ignoring Angel’s question. “What exactly are we looking for?”

Angel followed her over to the desk, walking just beside her behind it and looking around aimlessly. “Anything about any new cases. Targets…assassinations. A enlarged picture of me on the wall with darts stuck in it.”

Cordelia paused when she saw a few pictures propped up on the desk in shiny frames. She saw one of Lindsay MacDonald himself with a woman of some sort and she raised her eyebrows. “Hey, he’s kinda cute.”

“Don’t get any funny ideas,” Angel mumbled as he reached over and slammed the picture face down.

Grinning at that, Cordelia shook her head and opened one of the drawers revealing several file folders. “Those must be important.”

Angel didn’t look up as he searched a pile of papers on the desk. “How do you figure?”

Cordelia pointed at the folders, “They’re labeled IMPORTANT and CONFIDENTIAL.”

Pausing, Angel looked and saw that they actually were labeled important and confidential. He grinned. “This guy’s such a rookie. You’d think he’d learn to label the stuff he wants secret something like: Grandma’s Chicken Pot Pie recipe.”

Cordelia moved to grab all the folders but Angel’s hand shot to grab her arm, stopping her. “Don’t.”

“Why not?”

“We want to be careful, Cordy.”

It dawned on her a few minutes later. “Oh, okay. Let’s take the papers but leave the folders.”

Angel grabbed some random papers and held them up, his eyes twinkling playfully. “Better yet, let’s make it look like they’re still in there.”

“Oh lookie here, we’ve got a genius in the room,” Cordelia snorted sardonically.

* * *

“What’re you doing here?” Doyle nearly choked trying to speak, standing frozen as the demon glared at him.

Rubbing his hands together, the demon, named Kev, stepped forward with a sadistic grin on his face. “Collecting a debt.”

Doyle took a step back when Kev approached him. “Oh…really? Well that’s good, I’m guessin’.”

Adjusting his tie, Kev didn’t stop walking towards Doyle, his voice deep and threatening even if his smile remained on his dark, bloated face. “People are mad at people who are mad at you…it’s a tough cycle, Doyle. You can’t avoid it.”

“I know that,” Doyle blurted out, more snappish than expected. He collected himself and probably saved his balls by speaking up again. “But I appreciate the reminder.”

The way Kev looked at him though made Doyle assume his tone came out more sarcastic than he intended and a large swallow came in response.

Finally, Kev stopped, a few feet, barely three, of empty space between them. “I changed my mind…”

“Wha-”

“I don’t think I’ll collect the debt just yet,” he explained calmly, too calmly. Yet with Kev, he was never quite angry unless he was in a ‘mood’ and was tested. Every time he dealt with small, unimportant people like Allan Francis Doyle, he seemed almost relaxed when doing so. As if physically threatening all sorts of beings and killing them too sent him into some sort of Nirvana.

Doyle didn’t have time to really contemplate what he was getting at, whether Kev was headed towards a proposition or whatnot, because a second passed and Kev’s rough, calloused hand gripped his neck and threw him into the wall roughly.

* * *

Angel slipped the papers into his tan briefcase before flashing a smile Cordelia’s way, who in turn looked quite proud of not only herself but Angel too.

She looked quite beautiful in the outfit of hers and was showing off her smarts too, making what they were doing more fun and interesting than dangerous or risky. Or perhaps it was the fact that it was dangerous and risky that made it so fun. Plus they were working together like an actual team.

The only thing missing was Doyle. But he was tired from meeting up with the dozens of contacts he had.

But the moment passed when Angel’s senses caught his attention, his ears twitching when he heard something not too far away, in another room. He sniffed quietly and didn’t move except when he glanced around the room, taking in his surroundings in a different aspect. “It’s daylight…”

“So?”

“Why would he have his blinds closed?” Angel guessed. It wasn’t a surefire clue but everything else seemed fine. Too fine. And maybe that was why his senses and his instincts were pushing him to think. It was too quiet. “Let’s go, Cordy.”

Surprisingly, she didn’t argue. The look on her face expressed that she was in the loop halfway and it was far enough for her to take whatever Angel said at face value. He was the vampire after all, what with his super-senses and such. “Yeah, too much time in here and we might start talking legal terms and stuff.”

She gripped Angel’s arm and pulled him across the room when he didn’t move. He was the one who suggested going but something was holding him back, as if an urge to tear apart the room to find something that would point him in the right direction. The strong feeling that they were being watched lingered in his mind for a long time, even after they left the room.

* * *

Doyle fell to his knees, holding his hands up to his face as blood seeped out of his nose and it ached with pain. “You broke it!”

Kev pulled Doyle up and punched him in the gut before letting the Irishman fall to his knees again. Running his hand down his suit to get some kind of imaginary dust of it and to get rid of the wrinkles, he grinned and bent over to have his eyes even with Doyle’s watery ones. “Of course I did.”

“Consider it a warning,” he said as Doyle coughed and dropped his gaze to look at the blurry floor. “Next time your face will be the least of your worries.”

Doyle heard the door open and a moment later, he heard it close.

Groaning as he managed to stand up, Doyle staggered further into his apartment before collapsing onto the couch.

He pulled his hand away from his face and winced not only from the pain but also at the sight of all the blood on his usually clean, or mostly clean, hands. What kind of man am I?

The question lingered in his mind for what seemed like forever, for eternity and after. Random images flashed before his eyes as he counted the numerous ways he had screwed him over. His mother, his father, his friends…Cordelia.

Again, Doyle groaned. How would she think of me now? Seeing me here sitting like a loser and bleeding from my nose because of a debt I’ve just ‘forgotten’ to take care of.

It wasn’t a question he wanted to answer. Not at the present time nor in the near future.

* * *

Five minutes after Angel and Cordelia departed from Lindsay Macdonald’s office, the bookcase slid open slowly and leisurely, as if the person opening it had all the time in the world.

The room concealed by the bookcase was dark and quiet, but a moment passed and in stepped Lindsay himself, wearing the most arrogant and impressed smirk on his soft-skinned, tan face. His chin length brown locks were casually pushed back with only a small amount of gel holding them there.

Behind him was Marcus, the vampire sent to Angel’s place. He had a small smile on his own face but it was barely seeable behind the hook-like nose of his. “So…”

“Yeah,” Lindsay laughed, shaking his head and pressed a button behind a random picture frame. Out of the wall popped another filing cabinet. “Lucky we have these or else they would’ve had some advantage.”

“Lucky? Far more than that. They got in without us noticing until they were about five feet from your door,” Marcus dared to point out. It was quite easy to assume he hadn’t worked for the law firm before or he wouldn’t have been criticizing them.

“Yeah…I guess you’re right,” Lindsay walked over to his desk where a small piece of wood with glasses and bottles on top of it sat. He pulled out a shot glass and poured himself a drink.

“What’re you smilin’ about?” Marcus asked, more focused on what had just occurred than the young lawyer seemed to be. “He’s going to know what we’re up to when he reads those.”

Lindsay glanced at Marcus as he gulped down his drink. “Exactly.”

* * *

Cordelia slammed her fist on the wheel, the blaring horn echoing in the tunnel they were in. She glanced back at Angel, under his blanket and smiled. He was curled up into a little ball and from where she was seated looked nothing like the strong, stoic vampire he usually acted like.

The daylight spilled into the car once again as they exited the small tunnel and Angel shifted uncomfortably to get out of the rays reach. “You okay?”

He grunted when she hit a pothole. “Be careful. I like this car.”

“Sheesh, it’s a car, Angel.” Cordelia rolled her eyes, firmed her grip on the steering wheel and pressed further onto the gas.

“Fine, hit all the potholes you want. Just don’t speed, all right? We can’t risk getting pulled over.”

Again, Cordelia rolled her eyes. “Why’d you want to get out of there so fast?”

“Something was wrong,” Angel sighed as he replied in one of his quietest tones. Or, at least his voice was quiet and hardly hearable because of the numerous cars screeching out of Cordelia’s path and honking at her furiously. “I don’t think we were alone.”

“Well…that’s…weird,” Cordelia didn’t necessarily know how to respond to what he said. “Why didn’t you just fight em’. Not that I’m promoting violence. But if I had the muscles and the right weapons, I’d kick some lawyer ass if given the chance.”

She swore if she heard Angel laugh under his thick blanket. “I know you would. If you had the muscles, as you said. But you don’t so too bad.”

“Hey!” Cordelia exclaimed trying to act offended by him saying exactly what she said, speaking the complete and utter truth. “I can handle myself. Maybe not against slimy ass demons as well as…some people, but I sure as hell can beat up a laywer. I mean, they wear fucking ties. It’ll be like beating up an accountant, which is just plain easy.”

This time she swore that if Angel’s face were visible it would be plain to see the big grin on his handsome, albeit pale, features.


Part 4

“Look, if you want some blood, you’ll have to go down to the fifth floor,” Lindsay tisked as he sat down and sunk into his comfortable leather chair, reclining back and looking quite relaxed for a guy who’d just got his office broken into by his most threatening enemy. “Bertha’s got some AB positive down there that I know you’ll love.”

Marcus rolled his eyes, crossing his arms over his chest. “You still haven’t told me what we’re going to do. When I signed up for this job you promised me three things. That’d I’d get a chance at Angel, that I’d get the Ring of Ammara and that in payment you’d give me children. So far I haven’t seen any of those three things.”

Lindsay’s smile didn’t falter as he ran a hand through his thick, clean brown hair as it shimmered in the light. He was quite the pretty lawyer boy and he knew if he was ever alone with Angel for more than five minutes that it would come up in a spat they’d have. Angel was his equal but on the wrong side.

If the vampire had been working for Wolfram and Hart, they’d be respectably competitive with each other, fighting for promotion and such. But he was the enemy and Lindsay was more than confident that he knew exactly what to do so that his plan, and in turn Wolfram and Hart’s, would be successful.

“He has the ring, right?”

Marcus firmed his jaw. “That’s the problem. He has it and we don’t know where it is.”

“Let em’ have it…for now,” Lindsay mumbled as his now-filled shot glass in his hand rose to his mouth and he took another gulp. He spun around his chair and pulled a chord that brought the section of blinds in front of him up to the ceiling, soaking the area around him with light. Marcus stood just out of the circle of light, watching the lawyer with a damn big stink-eye. “We have guys who specialize in the sort of thing I’m planning. Sneaking into his place and getting the ring. Then putting it back.”

“Putting it back?”

“Yeah…putting it back,” Lindsay reiterated in a condescending tone. “Angel’s going to see it. Hide it. We’ll go back in there, get it back and put it somewhere else. It’ll drive him crazy having to wake up every night seeing it right beside him. Or when he opens the fridge for some of that damn pigs blood to see it shining in the light, waiting for him.”

Marcus didn’t necessarily get it, though. Not yet anyways but the sparkle in his eyes proved he was getting awfully close. “I don’t get it.”

“The thing about Angel is, he’s all about being the hero, helping the people who need help and making decisions based on not what he wants but what society needs. If we get him to succumb to this…temptation then he’ll be pushed even farther down the path we need him on. You see? Angel choosing the ring and wearing it and having the luxury of being out in the sun whenever he wants…he’ll get arrogant, he’ll be impure. He won’t be a Champion.”

“How does being invincible make you not worthy of being a Champion?”

Lindsay spun around to face Marcus, placing his glass on his desk before pressing his hands together, the tips of his fingers resting on his chin. “Another thing I forgot to mention. Angel’s got lotta guilt. Tends to blame himself for a lot. He won’t ever think of himself as a Champion if he can’t save one of his friends.”

“So you’re saying to strike his home, take out his associates?”

“No.” Lindsay answered quickly, nearly lunging forward in his chair. “We’re doing this the right way.”

He turned to his left, opening a drawer Angel hadn’t noticed. He pulled out a file and tossed it to Marcus. The files the vampire got were placed there to give him some leads, to lead him along the wrong track. He’d know they were up to something, but he would assume it was the Ring of Ammara they were after. “He’s got an Irish friend. Doyle. He’s a demon. Have a little fun with him…hurt him, not kill. Distract the damn ‘hero’ and see how he handles it.”

Marcus skimmed through it before taking the papers inside and folding them, placing them in his back pocket.

“Hopefully he’ll be too busy trying to figure out what the fuck is going on to be able to save Cordelia, the girl. She’s the one worth killing. The one to push him over the edge. So that’s what we’ll do. In time, of course. But it will happen if this all goes according to plan.”

* * *

Cordelia and Angel strolled down the tunnel-like hallway leading to his basement-like apartment. They were casually and leisurely taking their time, as if the world was theirs and there was nothing to rush about.

Really, for Angel at least, they were simply avoiding the inevitable. Opening up his briefcase and reading the files they stole from Lindsay’s office. It was probably a good thing to know what they were up to but what they were up to was most likely not good and everything seemed to be going quite well lately, especially between Cordelia and Angel.

They were finally acting like they were partners in a business. Sure, Angel was the boss but Cordelia was the next in line to give orders rather than take them. She could handle herself and Angel was becoming more and more knowing to it, much to her pleasure.

“That was fun,” Cordelia finally managed to break the silence, stopped and looking at Angel, who stopped a few steps ahead of her, looking back at her with a perfectly absent expression, almost clueless. “I mean, not that any other day working for you or hanging out isn’t fun. That was just…different.”

“It was exciting, right?” Angel offered a smile and just looked at her. She was like a child growing up before his eyes. She went on her first real mission not only with Angel but in her life. “How was it for you? I mean…this is your first time working a case.”

Cordelia nodded, “Right. I didn’t think about it. Just went along with the story we came up with and strutted my stuff. Like any lawyer would, right? It’s not like I’ve had any previous experience with this whole thing. I was usually the bait.”

Angel held back a nod of his own. He didn’t agree with her always being the bait or the ‘damsel in distress’. Maybe because now he knew her strengths and her limits. For sure they far surpassed what one would assume about her.

She wasn’t just some hoity-toity rich girl, she had a sharp tongue and a left hook to match. He knew. When he accidentally tripped onto her when he opened the door of his Plymouth for her in the garage, she hit him hard in the arm.

Cordelia wasn’t exactly reading him right at the moment, perhaps because of the rush of what she experienced earlier still affecting her. She saw the look he had and assumed she was starting to do the patented ‘Cordy Whine’. “I mean…it’s not like I put up a fight against it.”

Angel took a step towards her, shifting his eyes as the grin on his face slowly but surely stretched bigger and bigger. “I’m sure you put up a fight…”

Cordelia grinned herself, and blushing quite a lot, her cheeks bright red after a minute or two. “Was I good? I mean, was I believable? Because if I was this is sure to be something to add to my resume.”

Angel laughed, holding his arm out for her to loop her arm around. “You were way better than I was. I think you’re the only person in the world who knows that side of me.”

“What side? The goofy, dorky side of you?” Cordelia asked, putting her arm through and walking towards the door leading to his place with him at her side. “I kinda like it, to be honest. Way better then the broody side. Not that you have to stop. But that smile of yours isn’t something to hide.”

“Thanks,” said Angel, and he meant it as they walked inside, the smile on his face never once faltering.

* * *

Doyle reached for the phone with his shaking hand as the other gripped his nose with a napkin. His head was arched back so that his eyes were locked with the bumpy, grainy texture of his dirty, stained ceiling. Aimlessly searching for the receiver, Doyle made funny faces and cursed under his breath until he finally got a good grip on the phone.

Should I or shouldn’t I? He contemplated as he dialed slowly the numbers to Cordelia’s apartment. It took him dialing about three quarters of the number until he realized that she wasn’t even there. She was at Angel’s.

A pang of jealousy hit him in his gut and hit him hard. Sure, they said their relationship was innocent but he didn’t know what to think about whenever they spent those hours downstairs with each other, when they laughed at their inside jokes.

Shut yourself up, Doyle. He shook his head and lowered his head, pulling the napkin away to finally confirm it had stopped bleeding. Kev thought he broke it and so did Doyle, but the pain was almost nearly gone and it was a relief.

They have no inside jokes. Except for that really annoying one about the chicken. Doyle got up and nearly tripped over the phone line as he moved to his fridge, looking for a bit of alcohol to soothe his pain and to numb his mind so that any thoughts related to the intoxicating Cordelia would go away, for the time being at least. Must’ve been something they learned in Sunny-Fucking-Dale.

Doyle reached inside the fridge and immediately grabbed onto the first thing he touched. He groaned. It was the bottle of vodka he’d bought a few days ago and it had barely a few drops left in it.

Even for Doyle’s standards though, the thought of drinking that much in such little days was a little far-fetched. He’d been called an alcoholic and doubted it time and time again. But those references were when he’d be out all night at a bar, not at home downing a large drink such as the vodka bottle in merely two days.

His grip on the bottle tightened to the point where it cracked and shattered, scratching his hand and sending a stray piece of glass into his cheekbone, just below his eye.

Letting the glass fall, Doyle’s uninjured hand flew to his face and pulled the shard of glass out, realizing it to be deeper than he figured.

Dropping the shard of bloodstained glass to the ground, Doyle looked around his apartment, confused not by his surroundings but by his behavior. What was wrong with him? His jealousy of Cordelia and Angel increasing by the second, his belly full of liquor…something was up.

* * *

Angel scratched his nose and cleared his throat absently as the elevator came to a stop. Sliding open the doors, he took a step into his office before pausing.

The lights were on and the atmosphere was unusual, different than it usually was day-to-day, through the night and such. And the scent that lingered into his office from Cordelia’s caught his attention and made his heart explode.

It didn’t even take him to step into Cordelia’s office to conclude what was going on. It was Buffy, standing beside Cordelia’s desk, absently looking at some of the files placed on there. Her blonde hair was the same length, but styled different, tied up and slightly curled. She looked just as beautiful as the image he had in his mind from the last time he saw her.

She’d been covered in smoke and dirt but looked so strikingly gorgeous that night. Buffy Summers had once again saved the world. And Angel kept his promise once and for all to give her not what she wanted but what she needed. A future. He left Sunnydale that very night with very few of his things, aimlessly driving along the highway without any kind of destination.

Buffy gave him life yet destroyed it with just one glance. She was the love of his life but didn’t belong with him.

She turned to look him in the eyes, her green orbs flashing in the dim light from the lamp on Cordelia’s desk. They were brimming slightly with unshed tears. Maybe being in the office of her former boyfriend, the man she loved who, in her eyes, abandoned her.

But Angel was wrong, of course, as he spoke up, opening his mouth and nearly choking out words. “Buffy…Hello.”

She lifted her hand up slowly. Not to hit him, or to wave, but to bring the object hanging from her index finger into his view. It was a lacy, pink bra. It was Cordelia’s bra.

Oh shit. She forgot to fucking clean up. Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck.

Before he could explain, she spoke, still looking at him painfully and incredulously. “What’s this?”

“It’s um…a bra,” Angel regretted saying as he shoved his hands in his pockets and shifted uncomfortably in the spot he was standing in, not daring to offend her by taking a step back or smothering her by getting closer.

“Whose is it?” she asked and Angel furrowed his brow in confusion. Then he remembered Cordelia bugging him about getting a nameplate for her desk. Buffy had no clue about Cordelia working for him.

Oz obviously didn’t tell her. “It’s my secretary’s. My associates.”

“Oh,” she swallowed hard, dropping it on the desk. “A woman’s, I presume.”

It was a stupid thing to say but quite understandable. Angel just nodded. “It’s not what you think.”

“You think I can actually form a thought right now?” she mouthed, her voice barely hearable over the unbearable silence. Angel’s heart was breaking to pieces with her just being there but now he had an extra shitload of guilt to deal with.

“No…See, she’s…living here.” Angel scrambled to explain, but it seemed as if he were making excuses, what with the way he was stammering and making hand-gestures. He would’ve been sweating if vampires could sweat. “She had a problem with her last place and she’s staying here with me. No…not with me. Just around me. Wait, damnit. That didn’t come out right.”

It got a whole lot worse, making Angel almost suicidal. He heard the soft patter of the bottom of Cordelia’s feet coming up the stairs and could smell her own unique scent clashing with Buffy’s. How ironic.

The door opened and out popped Cordelia. Not just her and her usual nonchalance. But her in just a towel. She’d hopped in the shower before he came up, claiming she wanted to get all he ‘evil aura’ off of her. Sure she’d been joking but she still wanted to be clean.

“Hey, I need to know…now, say the whole truth, if I looked too slutty in that outfit?” Cordelia asked, looking down at her feet, obviously thinking they were too small, as she’d admitted to Angel during one of their talks. She nearly choked on her own spit when she practically screeched to a halt at the sight of Buffy Summers, standing in all her bitchy, emotional and intrusive glory.

“Oh…shit.” Cordelia swallowed hard and laughed nervously. But the smile on her face was quick and almost unnoticeable as all the color left her face. “I mean…Hi. Buffy.”

Two times in a row, damnit. First Oz now Buffy. Next it’ll be Xander and then the shit will REALLY hit the fucking fan.

As expected, Buffy looked disgusted and holding back a big load of vomit from coming out of her mouth. Just like Cordelia, all the color left her face at the sight of her former rival from Sunnydale High School.

“Outfit?” Buffy whispered incredulously, just then comprehending what Cordelia had blurted out upon her entrance. “What…were you two, like, role-playing?”

Angel laughed nervously, scratching the back of his head as he turned to Cordelia, who also stuttered to explain.

Instead, the both talked over each other.

“See, we had a job to do-”

“It wasn’t like what it sounds like. We were pretending to be lawyers-”

“Something we had to do. Because the vampire…with the knife-”

Buffy’s hand shot up as she blinked slowly, the whole thing obviously registering in her mind. “So you two aren’t…?”

“No!” Angel and Cordelia exclaimed in unison, with disgust in their tones.

Angel heard it in Cordelia’s and turned to her, slightly offended. “Wait…is it that impossible to be with me or what?”

Cordelia firmed her jaw and nudged her head in the direction of Buffy, reminding Angel of their company.

“You said you’re associate was living with you,” Buffy reminded him, as if the position of ‘working person’ didn’t fit with Cordelia Chase.

Cordelia stepped forward, “I am his associate, Buffy.”

What shocked and disgusted Cordelia was when Buffy snorted in response. So she stepped forward, her nose just an inch from Buffy’s. “You BITCH!”

* * *

“You got it done with?” Lindsay spoke into the microphone just in front of his mouth, connected to the headphones he had on. “Good. We want that Irish bastard to feel the jealousy burnin’ through him. We want him violent.”

He hung up, clearing his throat. His southern accent was still clear in the way he spoke and he tried to get rid of it when doing business. Nothing was less professional then a damn hick giving you orders.

A knock at the door brought Lindsay back to a ‘kick-ass lawyer’ state of mind. But when it opened and Lilah Morgan appeared in all her bitchy, domineering glory, he swore he would’ve rather gotten a root canal than have to deal with her.

“Hello, Lindsay,” she said in her normal tone, which meant deep, husky and condescending. Two out of the three were okay to deal with but the third nipped it in the butt for Lindsay and his tolerance of her.

“What the fuck do you want?”

“Oh, manners,” Lilah tisked, almost impressed with his loss of control over his feelings for her. “Letting that anger show won’t get you far. It’s alright to be ruthless and a total bitch, like me, but when you start to get whiny, selfish and a tad jealous of others, like you are, that’s when the young get eaten and the older rise to the top.”

Lindsay shook his head, sitting down behind his desk. “Much older,” he muttered under his breath. “Seriously, Lilah. I have a busy schedule, what with the important cases I have, unlike yourself, and can’t bother to have pointless conversations with a skeleton of a woman.”

He would have laughed at himself for saying that. His insult blew. She wasn’t as thin as most women and was quite beautiful if he was willing to admit it to himself, which he wasn’t so he pushed the thought to the back of his head.

“Work on your insults, junior,” Lilah shook her head in disappointment at his comments as she seated herself on his desk, crossing her legs and placing her hands on them, watching him work, hoping to annoy him. “What’re you up to?”

“Like I said, several cases. Plus a special divisions one,” Lindsay informed her, giving her just enough to chew on when security threw her out of his office if she was stupid enough to not leave his office right at this moment.

“The Angel case, I presume?”

Lindsay looked up quickly, cursing himself in his mind for showing any form of surprise or shock. He was supposed to be unaffected around her but sometimes she did, and he emphasized on sometimes, catch him off-guard.

“I suppose you haven’t heard about my new promotion and clearance to new levels…And my appointment to a certain case,” she snaked her hand to the folders before Lindsay and pulled them away, quickly enough so that he didn’t have the speed to catch them but slowly enough to be the tease that they both knew she was at heart. “It’s good news, don’t you think? Partner.”

* * *

“What did you call me?” Buffy asked incredulously, stepping even closer to Cordelia, their noses now touching. Her green eyes were fuming but it didn’t match the anger and frustration in Cordelia’s dark ones. It caught Buffy off guard.

“I said…you bitch.”

“Slut!”

Cordelia took a step back, “You did not just call me that.”

Angel stepped in between them, “Guys. Seriously. Cordelia, go in my office. Buffy, stay here. I’ll talk with her then I’ll talk with-”

“Oh, speak with her first,” Buffy growled. “Maybe you should tell your new girlfriend how to keep her thongs and slutty outfits in her own fucking closet.”

“I’m not his girlfriend, Buffy. God, grow up!”

Buffy moved threateningly towards Cordelia, but Angel stopped her, his strong body placed in between them, keeping her from ever getting to the other young woman.

“What’re you her protector?” Buffy asked, as if the mere thought of it were a joke.

“She’s my friend and I won’t let you hurt her,” Angel growled.

“I can take care of myself, Angel. ‘Specially against Miss Whines-A-Lot.”

Buffy pushed past Angel and Cordelia moved towards her to. Angel grabbed Buffy’s arm though, stopping her. Only she spun around and punched him. He grabbed her again and this time she punched him even harder. His first instinct, which he regretfully followed, was to punch her back.

Angel could hear his fist colliding with her cheekbone.


Part 5

Buffy took forever to turn to face Angel, her hand on her cheek. The bruise wouldn’t appear for an hour or so but Angel swore he could see it already begin to form.

Her eyes were wide and her mouth was hanging open because of the shock and pain that filled her from head to toe.

Angel swallowed hard and struggled to say something as he tried to find a place to put his hands. Not in his pockets, it’d come off as casual and that wasn’t something he wanted to be after punching Buffy for the first time, with his soul at least.

“Buffy, I’m-”

“I’m going to go,” she whispered, a tear streaking down her cheek as her other hand, which was actually trembling so profoundly that Cordelia, standing in the doorway, shocked herself, could see it. “I’ll be back tomorrow to talk about why I came here…”

She looked away from Angel, avoiding his gaze as if she were afraid of him. But really, he knew more than anything that she’d never be afraid of him. She was disgusted. She was always disgusted with him for something and he could never be that way with her.

Angel let his head fall as the sound of her footsteps faded and the door leading out onto the street closed, taking Buffy’s scent, jasmine intermingling with another spring flower, with it.

“Angel…” came Cordelia’s croaky voice from behind him.

Angel winced at the mention of his name, at the breaking of the silence around him. I hit her…

She had the right to be disgusted with him and Angel knew it. He was surprised she hadn’t kicked him in the balls just for payback. He deserved far more than that. “Don’t.”

Cordelia ignored him and stepped closer, placing a hand on his shoulder. He slapped it away and walked a few steps in front of him, putting space between himself and Cordelia. “Angel!”

Her voice was a whisper, but it was still loud and it echoed in his mind. The shock in her tone pained him. If he would hurt Buffy then what would keep him from hurting her. She was probably already contemplating other places to stay other then where she was and how fast she could get out of there.

“Shut up, Cordelia.” His voice wasn’t dangerous, or demanding. It was weak and pleading, he might as well have been on his knees with tears in his eyes. “Please.”

Angel wanted nothing more than to blame it on someone else, on Cordelia even. But deep down he knew he couldn’t. He punched Buffy. Sure, it was to stop the fight but he remembered the feeling he had while doing it. He was protecting Cordelia. Buffy wasn’t his one true love, his former girlfriend who gave him perfect happiness, she was just some object that was threatening Cordelia and his first instinct was to protect her.

His relationship with Cordelia was changing fast, changing Angel and his behavior. Whether it was good or bad, Angel didn’t know. And at the moment, he wanted to be as far from everyone, especially Cordelia, as possible.

Without a word spoken, Angel spun around, avoiding eye contact with Cordelia the entire time, and walked downstairs.

* * *

“Good news,” Lilah greeted Lindsay as he walked down the hallway towards his office, not trying to stop him and walking just beside him.

Her walk was more of a womanish saunter unlike Lindsay’s, who’s was a confident stride. She noticed it and chose to reassure herself that it was just something she did to get to know her competition; it wasn’t in any specific relation to her interest in Lindsay.

“What is it?” Lindsay asked gruffly, looking down at his watch, his voice not without irritation. He obviously had an appointment and Lilah was not planned to be apart of it.

“A certain Slayer has arrived in town…”

“Faith?” Lindsay asked, actually perking up. The renegade Slayer could be a perfect aspect; she was already skilled in the murdering department and Lindsay wouldn’t be too surprised if she already had it in for Angel. He had that vibe that he didn’t have a happy-go-lucky past with the Slayer’s.

“No, even better,” Lilah smirked, opening the folder she gripped in her hand. It was a security camera capture they had gotten by tapping into it the previous day. “Buffy Summers. Checked into a moderate motel with only an overnight bag. About an hour ago she contacted Angel in his office. She came out with a nice shiner and tears in her eyes.”

“Nice description, but I don’t need to hear a bedtime story,” Lindsay loosened his tie to the point where Lilah wondered why he even had it on. The top few buttons of his shirt weren’t even fastened, showing off quite a lot of his chest, and loosening the tie didn’t help one bit.

Shaking her self out of it, Lilah cleared her throat. “You heading off to a meeting or what? Because if it involves the case we’re working on then I should be-”

Lindsay stopped and offered that threatening half-smirk of his, using his charm to make himself even more disarming. But behind his deep brown eyes was a strength, a intuitive stylishness that impressed Lilah and worried her at the same time. “Look. I work on what I’ve got, you work on what you’ve got. Use the little Slayer for your damn endgame and I’ll…I’ll do what I’ve been planning to do ever since I got this case.”

He didn’t wait for her response though. Lindsay absently brushed his finger along his bottom lip unconsciously. It was a habit he wanted to beat only because there was no point to it. Though he did seem to do it a lot around Lilah. Maybe it was a sign for something…

As Lindsay walked away, too distracted with his own off-topic thoughts, he didn’t feel Lilah’s eyes watching him all the way until he turned the corner, her head cocking to the side and catching a nice glimpse of his cute butt in his dress khakis.

* * *

Cordelia walked downstairs carefully, hoping to not make too much noise. She didn’t want to startle Angel or even blatantly point out that she was there. He made it clear that he wanted to be alone, what with the whole avoiding her eye contact and going downstairs, leaving her upstairs in just a towel.

So if he asks, I’m just down here to put some damn clothes on.

She took her last step off the stairs and quietly edged into the kitchen, the only sound was, if Angel was listening carefully, her soft breathing and the pads of her feet moving across the kitchen floor.

Cordelia had figured if she went through the kitchen first before going into his bedroom to get clothes, going along with her plan, he wouldn’t notice her, or at least if he did, he would be glad she wasn’t ‘trying’ to disturb him. But Angel was in the kitchen, a cup of blood in his hands and his eyes set on looking into it.

Stopping herself, she quietly watched him for a moment. Angel didn’t move an inch or even a centimeter in the minute and a half that she watched. Not wanting to disturb him, even though it was against her nature and that’s exactly what she came downstairs to do.

Angel stopped her though when he cleared his throat, as if to prevent his voice from coming off as anything even remotely related to as weak. It didn’t work; his voice cracked when he spoke and Cordelia’s heart ached to see him feel so guilty for something stupid. “Don’t go…I have something that I…need to ask you.”

Sure, he’d hit Buffy and Cordelia knew she’d feel different if he hit her, but she was asking for it. He was protecting Cordelia, his friend, and that, to her, made it at least a little justifiable.

“What is it, Angel?” Cordelia asked, turning to him but standing in the same spot, not daring to get too close. Not that she didn’t trust him, it was just that he needed space and she was trying to give that to him.

He hesitated for a few minutes, opening his mouth to speak but thinking better of it and shutting himself up before he even started.

Cordelia finally forced him to speak when she cleared her throat and raised her eyebrows at him, her eyes flashing daringly. When Angel looked up, he saw that if he didn’t speak up soon, he’d get a beating of his own.

He would have smiled if he had it in him. “Am I heartless or what?”

“You’re not heartless, Angel,” Cordelia assured him in a soft voice, taking her first step towards him, the large kitchen table still separating the two of them. “What you did…it was stupid but you didn’t mean to hurt her.”

“That’s not it,” Angel looked away again, as if it pained him just to admit what was in his thoughts. “I wish I hadn’t hit her, that we both know. But…I don’t…I mean I do feel a little…”

Cordelia moved around the table until she was at Angel’s side. She even leaned against the counter and dared to place her hand on his leg, hoping that her touch would somehow, even if it seemed impossible, bring a form of comfort to him.

“I feel guilty about not feeling so guilty…” Angel admitted quietly, glancing at her hand on his leg and wondering what she was trying to do and also, surprisingly, wondering whether she had further implications behind it, such as…

Angel stopped himself before completing the though, calling it ridiculous. “You know me well enough to know that I wrack myself badly enough that I’ll feel so damn guilty about the smallest of things. But right now…I just hit Buffy for the first time, with my soul at least. And…Sure I feel guilty but I…I don’t regret it.”

“Why not?” Cordelia asked, far beyond her usual level of curiousness. The way she asked him wasn’t in an accusing tone, as if she was accusing him of not caring or something like that. She asked him straight forward and directly.

“She was going to hurt you,” Angel continued on, his voice wavering on the word ‘hurt’. “I chose to leave Sunnydale and it fucking hurt to do it, I was leaving Buffy for god’s sake. But I think it’d hurt a lot more if…you, a friend, got hurt.”

Cordelia smiled a small smile, her other hand moving up to his face and forcing him, albeit gently, to look into her eyes. “I would’ve gotten a few punches in too.”

Angel finally laughed a little. “I know that. That’s also why I’m so fucked up right now. I just…I actually wanted you to get a punch in. Buffy can be so damn unreasonable and…”

He stopped himself, as if realizing just what he was saying. A moment passed and a disgusted look crossed his face. “God, what am I saying?”

Cordelia watched as he pushed away from her, his strides long as he took a few steps to the other end of the room. “I know I’ll regret asking this but…do you still love her?”

Angel looked at her as he rubbed his head over and over, as if a headache was taking over. The look he gave her said clearly: ‘Yes, that’s a pretty damn stupid thing to ask. What drugs are you on?’

“Not the kind where you care for her, because you obviously do, but that obsessive kind you two lovebirds had in Sunnyhell,” Cordelia explained. “Can you not live without her, do you spend every waking moment thinking about her, wondering what she could be doing, thinking about how she would react to the things you do from day-to-day?”

Angel remained silent; only because the only answer to that question that came to mind scared the shit out of him. Buffy wasn’t who he thought of when he asked himself those things. It was Cordelia.

The suit he wore when they were at Wolfram and Hart, he vividly remembered, he had worn only because he knew not only that he would look like a lawyer, but that Cordelia would like it quite a lot.

“Or do you want her to move on, and more importantly, do you want to move on without her?” Cordelia was asking pretty good questions and she was close to praising herself for it, but in the situation at hand, every last inch of her attention span was dedicated to Angel.

“Because Angel…what you did was…stupid. But the one thing I’ve learned is that you’re allowed to do stupid things. You didn’t hit her because you guys were having a fight, that you two disagreed over something or that you were drunk and stupid. She punched you first and threatened…me. And I guess, from what you’ve told me…I’m your friend.”

She thought for a moment, as Angel remained silent, thinking about what she said, about the word friend. Angel was her friend, sure, but she hadn’t yet to think that he considered her one as well. It was a nice thought.

“You were just protecting your friend,” Cordelia finished, her voice as quiet as a mouse as she approached Angel.

Angel looked up suddenly, “And I’d do it again.”

Cordelia stopped for a moment, just a small one that lasted only long enough for her to nod and smile gratefully at him. Then she stepped closer, taking his hand in his and put on a more serious, sincere expression. “And I’d do it for you too…or at least I’d try.”

“But I still feel-”

Cordelia stopped him, covering his mouth with her hand. “Let it go. We’ll talk to her tomorrow when she comes back.”

Angel nodded, giving in.

A few minutes of time passed between the two, who just stood close to each other, comforting one another through the silence so easily, so simply.

Finally, Cordelia spoke up, a trace of a sly smile tugging at her lips. “So…you think I could’ve taken her?”

* * *

“You did what?” Lindsay bellowed, pulling his tie off of his shirt and throwing it across the room before placing his hands on his hips and striding around the room. “I told you to retrieve the ring and put it somewhere where he could find it. And come to find out that you took it and left with it.”

“Yep. That was what we were ordered to do,” the scrawny man in dark clothing said as he casually walked around the room, running his hand along the edge of Lindsay’s polished desk.

“I don’t recall ordering you to-”

The man looked at Lindsay with an amused expression, obviously knowing more than he did. “Not by you sir.”

Lindsay furrowed his brow in confusion, pausing and pointing to the man with a threatening finger, just daring him to play games and see how many limbs he’d leave the office with. “Then by who?”

His question was answered when the door to his office opened and in sauntered Lilah Morgan, a pleased smile on her face. She’d obviously been listening to the conversation, laughing quietly at Lindsay’s anger over the turn of events and just waiting…waiting for the perfect time to walk inside.

“Sorry, junior. Looks like our partnership is a lot more than you try and make it,” she whispered as she walked over to the skinny man, patting him on the back and dismissing him with a nod of her head towards the door. “You may think you’re Mister Macho, with the ordering around and the big windows and shiny desk, but you’re wrong. I’m right in assuming that you’re just a hick from the wrong side of the tracks who got a lucky break.”

Lindsay didn’t say anything. He just firmed his jaw and looked away.

“Holland may have given you an easy way up to the top, if that’s what you call this,” Lilah sneered as she walked up to him so that her mouth was inches from his ear and her bosom pressed against his chest. “But I’m not going to give you that chance. In fact, I’m going to show the old man and the other Partners that all you are is a pretty boy with a charming demeanor and that’s all the ammo you’ve got. Other than that you should be barely considered an asset to this law firm.”

She moved to go sit down, but Lindsay grabbed her arm and kept her close to him, his head turning, his nose brushing past her cheek. If Lilah hadn’t been wearing layers and the room didn’t have a perfect temperature like it did, she knew she’d have Goosebumps up and down her arm.

For a moment though, she thought, as his boyish eyes locked with hers, that he was going to kiss her. Unfortunately, with emphasis on the unfortunate aspect of it, he spoke in a low growl through gritted teeth. “You bitch.”

Lindsay smirked when he saw the shocked look on her face, even if it only lasted a moment before she gathered her complexion and yanked her hand away from him. She looked quite beautiful up close, he admitted, even more beautiful then she did from far away.

As she sat down he caught a glimpse of her thigh and upwards, her skirt having a cut going up that area. She was a cold-hearted bitch sure, but she wasn’t a bad thing to look at.

This is going to be a long partnership.

* * *

Buffy tapped her toe impatiently as she listened to the dial tone ring and ring until the point where she almost hung up. But then someone finally answered a chirpy ‘Hello?’ was said.

“Hey, Will.”

“Buffy! Where’d you go?”

Buffy cursed herself inwardly when she just remembered that she hadn’t even left a note when she left. News of Spike being staked traveled not as fast as it would have if perhaps it were Angelus or even Angel, but she’d caught wind of it and left for Los Angeles immediately.

Not that she cared for Spike. But she wanted nothing more than to know how in god’s name Angel managed to stake the bastard when she hadn’t.

I’ve had millions of chances; it was my own damn choice not to stake him before.

“I’m visiting a…friend,” Buffy cryptically explained, hoping Willow wasn’t too curious.

But she was. “Who?”

“How is everyone managing without me?” Buffy chose to ignore the question, asking one of her own to distract her redheaded best friend.

“Well…Xander’s busy trying to find a permanent job to support himself and Giles…well, your mom called about some letters that she had for you and that’s when I realized I hadn’t seen you in a day or two.”

Buffy didn’t know whether Willow had intended on being rude but she was. Or at least Buffy thought of it as being rude. Great. No one knew I was gone. Just fantastic.

“I guess being the Slayer doesn’t make you that popular, huh?” Buffy joked, but it fell flat when Willow realized what she had said and how it might have been conceived by her super-sensitive friend.

“Sorry, I just meant that everything’s fine. You can stay as long as you want. Oz will be back in a day or two after his gig is over with and I’ve got the vampire patrolling down pat. Well…I’m doing as good as any non-Slayer could manage.”

Buffy nodded to herself as she fell back on the uncomfortable bed. The Motel she was staying at wasn’t a flea-bag, cheap one, but it wasn’t even close to being a five-star hotel. For the first time since she caught a bus to L.A., she was regretting coming in the first place. “Hey…I have a question.”

“Ask away.”

“What do you know about Cordelia? I mean…do you know what she ended up doing after high school?” Sure, Buffy knew where Cordelia was now but she still wanted to know if, perhaps, her friend or Giles even, knew of Cordelia’s living arrangements with Angel.”

Willow was silent for a moment, obviously thinking hard as if digging anything related to the former Queen-C beeatch of Sunnydale High School. “Last time I saw her was the night of graduation when we went to eat at the diner. After that, what with her parents’ house being sold to a different rich, snotty family, I didn’t think too much of her. Come to think of it, it was weird. I wonder why I didn’t think about it more.”

Buffy snorted and Willow remembered that why would she, it was Cordelia Chase. Then again, over the course of their senior year, Cordelia had become bearable, and she was only mean out of self-defense whenever Xander verbally jabbed at her. She had the right to be bitter with him, with everyone. After what Xander and I did.

Knowing her friend didn’t feel the same way, Willow didn’t voice her opinion out loud. Instead, she offered a suggestion. “I could find whatever I can on her. She might still be using Daddy’s money to buy her way through the country, or if we’re wishing here, out of it.”

“Can you do that?”

“Buffy, remember who you’re talking to?” Willow grinned to herself as she walked as far as the chord of her phone would let her, reaching for her laptop. “I could hack into some systems, find out what she’s up to. But I might not come up with much.”

“Check Los Angeles first, cross-reference it with cheap motels and apartments,” Buffy suggested, remembering Angel’s reference to Cordelia’s ‘roach problem’. She could hear Willow start to curiously ask why she would do that. “Don’t ask, just do.”

“All righty then,” Willow sighed, opening her laptop up and turning it on. When the screen flashed on, she pulled up a search engine, hoping to start simple and dig deeper in time. “Hey…I know you said to not ask, but well, I’m me and always curious so…can I ask why this matters?”

Buffy took in a deep breath. What had happened in that office of Angel’s, his fist colliding with her cheekbone, which still ached profoundly, to keep her from Cordelia. He was protecting Cordelia Chase.

And for all it was worth, she was going to put every last bit of strength and smartness left in her being to try and dig up the dirt on Cordelia. If those two were stupid enough to even be talking with each other she was going to make sure that she knocked some sense into them.

“It’s research.”


Part 6

Lindsay smirked as he hung the phone up, never taking his eyes off of Lilah, who sat in the chair behind his desk as if she were the one calling the shots. “That’ll teach the damn weasel to disobey my orders.”

Lilah didn’t seem too disturbed. “Well, good job, junior. Kill one of our employees. Nice.”

“I took it out of my payroll, but trust me, it’s still up high in the digits…” Lindsay walked around his desk and leaned in close to her, as she looked straight ahead, his nose just barely brushing up against her ear. He was starting to know what drove her to the edge and it was pleasing him more than anything. “I had someone go back and put it in. Angel was too busy having a buddy-buddy talk with that girl.”

Again, Lilah didn’t seem too affected by it, only arching her eyebrows a notch to show any kind of emotion. While inside she was melting, not because of the actions Lindsay had taken to but the Ring of Ammara back, but because of how close he was, his warm breath caressing her face and his hand, once on the handle, now on her leg, on her thigh and inching towards…

She cleared her throat and spun around so that Lindsay nearly lost his balance and fell onto his own desk. Lilah had bigger and better plans than his and she wasn’t going to tell him any time soon, unlike he who was telling her practically everything without that much persuasion involved. “Good for you.”

“You’re hiding something,” Lindsay growled, spinning the chair back around, this time his nose touched hers and when he spoke, she could feel his lips ever so lightly touching hers, so subtly that no one could notice but her, and maybe him, if he was doing it on purpose. “I admit, you’re doing a good job hiding it. But sooner or later…I’ll find out.”

“Sooner of later, you’ll be on your knees begging for me-”

Lindsay stopped her with a kiss to the lips. It was rough and passionate even, his tongue sliding across her lips, forcing them to open and then he pulled away just as she started to get into it. Altogether, the kiss lasted all of ten seconds, but Lindsay knew, by the looks of Lilah’s flushed cheeks and her shallow breathing, that she’d be turned on for hours.

He leaned in and whispered in her ear, his tone not without mischievousness and titillation. “Hopefully you’ll be the one bent over and begging.”

* * *

“So…you think I could’ve taken her?”

Angel swore he was grinning the biggest grin he’d ever grinned before.

Cordelia was leaning on him as she looked up into his eyes, her own sly version of a grin on her face.

“Given the chance…I think you might’ve,” Angel admitted, breaking their locked gazes and bashfully looking away. “Given the chance I think you could’ve taken me!”

“I don’t disagree with that,” Cordelia laughed, looking away herself, allowing her gaze to drop to her hands, which were playing with one another as she spoke. Usually that habit only occurred when she was nervous, but as she stood by Angel, practically forcing him to support her weight as she leaned against him unconsciously, she was far from nervous.

Angel’s more nervous than I am. Cordelia pointed out to herself, not looking too much into it at the moment. When he finally spoke, he looked back into her eyes as she did into his, both of them giving the other the utmost attention. “You think tomorrow will be hard…talking to Buffy and all.”

“Hell yeah,” Cordelia agreed wholeheartedly, pushing away from Angel and walking over to the fridge, only to remember that she hadn’t stocked it up yet, and there was nothing in there but blood. “That’s obvious, Angel. Only thing we don’t know for sure is what we’re going to do.”

Angel nodded, but something behind his eyes caught Cordelia’s attention and when she looked at him curiously he not so casually shifted his eyes in a different direction. When she continued to stare at him, just waiting, he finally spoke up. “You think…maybe that I should, you know, talk to Buffy alone.”

Trying to hide her disappointment, Cordelia nodded unenthusiastically. “Sure. I just…”

“What?”

Cordelia sighed, biting her bottom lip apprehensively. “I wanna give her a piece of my mind. Not because of what she called me. It offended me, sure, but I’m over it.”

“Why then?” Angel asked, his voice quiet but the curiosity was quite clear in his voice, along with the confusion as to what she was exactly offended by, considering that the ‘slut’ comment practically offended Angel too. Cordelia didn’t deserve to be called that and Angel hated to hear it, and maybe it was one of the reasons why he was so willing to punch Buffy…

“She…Buffy makes it hard for me to…” Cordelia shook her head, giving up. “Forget it.”

Angel wasn’t willing to let it go that easily though as he watched her start to leave the room. He immediately took a few steps after her, grabbing her arm and keeping her from getting to far from him. “Whoa. Since when does Cordelia Chase not speak her mind?”

“She makes you miserable,” Cordelia admitted, not turning to face him. “And you’re my boss. What affects you affects me. I just—hate it…no, I hate her for making you so damn broody 99% of the time.”

Not knowing what to make of that, Angel walked around her, so that they were now facing each other. Even then, Cordelia didn’t look up into his eyes, focusing them straight ahead, even if that was the area of Angel’s dark shirt, partially unbuttoned revealing his toned chest.

“I’m glad that you um…care for me but I can handle myself,” Angel tried to assure her, but he didn’t even convince himself.

“I know, I know…but look at yourself Angel,” Cordelia pointed out. “You left Sunnydale because of her.”

“Sunnydale wasn’t important, only Buffy was…” Angel explained. “Leaving that place was far from the hard decisions I’ve made.”

Cordelia shook her head in frustration as if what she wanted to say just wouldn’t come out in the way she wanted. Or that she was saying exactly what she wanted too and Angel just wasn’t getting it.

He noticed though, cocking his head to the side so that his eyes were even with hers, trying to get her attention as she struggled to speak.

Finally, she spoke. “What if…what if everything goes right tomorrow then…? I mean, what if she’s not that mad and she charms you into leaving, into going back to Sunnydale?”

Angel brought his hands up to Cordelia’s arms, holding her as if that’s all he thought she needed. “That’s not going to happen. I swear. There’s no way I’m going back to Sunnydale.”

“Are you so sure?” Cordelia asked him pointedly. “Face it, when it comes to her-” she couldn’t even say Buffy’s name even more. “You’re pretty damn irrational.”

Cordelia was growing more and more worried as the seconds passed by. What she was saying to Angel was really speaking more volumes to herself than to him. Maybe this was the first time she was realizing it, but what scared her more than anything was the prospect of Angel leaving.

Not just because of the fact that s he wouldn’t have anywhere to stay, but the fact that she would be losing a close friend, one whom she’d grown to care for in the span of time she’d worked for him.

Angel couldn’t die, unless he was staked, but the Ring of Ammara, if he ever wore it, diminished that possibility, so the only thing Cordelia could truly worry about when it came to the dorky, ensouled vampire was whether or not he’d get bored of her in time or he’d abandon her for Ms. Likes-To-Fight.

It was a frightening prospect.

“You know what, Cordy. Why don’t you come with me tomorrow? I know I’ll regret saying this, but if you’re there than…” Angel shook his head, holding back a laugh at how ridiculous of a suggestion he was coming up with. “You can keep me from going off the edge. Keep me…rational.”

But it seemed to calm Cordelia down, albeit only to a certain extent. She visibly relaxed in his arms and offered a smile. “And I’m standing here thinking I’d lost the ability to get what I want.”

Though she was half-kidding and half-serious, Angel nodded and honestly replied back. “You’ll never lose that ability. Just don’t use it for stupid reasons.”

“Says the pot to the kettle.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Don’t go using that charming demeanor of yours on me when you want something,” Cordelia warned him half-seriously, pointing a slightly threatening finger at him before turning away.

Angel was surprised and he showed it. “I’m…charming?”

* * *

Brushing her damp hair slowly, Buffy eyed the shiner on her cheekbone carefully, remembering the sound of Angel’s fist colliding with her face. She remembered the image of Cordelia standing there, her eyes wide as if she didn’t expect Angel to do that.

“Yeah…right,” Buffy scoffed to herself, letting the hairbrush drop to the counter with a loud clatter. Cordelia and Angel probably planned the whole thing.

It was a ridiculous thought but it was all Buffy had to hold onto at the moment as she waited, rather impatiently as usual, for Willow’s call.

But a knock at the door came first, much to her displeasure. Buttoning up the rest of her blouse and closing the door to the motel bathroom, remembering that she’d made a mess in there, Buffy moved to the door, regretting that she checked into a hotel cheap enough not to have peepholes installed in the doors.

Opening the door just a crack, Buffy groaned inwardly when she realized it was Oz. She took a step back to allow him to push open the door himself and come in. “Hey, Oz.”

“Hey,” he greeted impassively, only a tinge of curiosity in his voice as he looked around the room before turning to Buffy just as she closed the door. “Willow called me. I was just about to leave, my gig was last night.”

“That’s what I heard before you left,” Buffy nodded, trying to sound interested as her eyes glanced at the phone. “Why-why did you decide to stop by?”

Oz smirked his usual half-smirk as he shoved his hands in his pockets. “I’m surprised you’re not asking me how I know you’re here.”

“Because I knew Willow would eventually drive herself over the edge and search for hotel reservations in L.A.,” Buffy pointed out knowingly, and Oz nodded, a small chuckle escaping his mouth. “Seriously, Oz. Why’re you here?”

“More importantly, I might ask why you’re here,” Oz eyed her seriously, his eyes narrowing his bottom lip twitching. He knew exactly why she was there and he was merely trying to see what kind of spin she would put on it.

Buffy hemmed and hawed until she finally outted herself. “I heard about what happened to Spike. With him being staked, I saw it right to pay a visit to Angel, thank him for getting that off my shoulders.”

“Spike was staked?” Oz asked incredulously, or at least as incredulously as he could manage. His attention shifted a second later to the fact that she mentioned Angel and his gut wrenched at the thought of her visiting him and seeing Cordelia. “You seeing him today?”

“You know, don’t you?” Buffy asked, her voice quieter than whisper but the offended manner she was in, as if she were shocked that he’d keep something from her was a huge offense, was evident. “Why didn’t you call and tell me when you found out?”

Oz shook his head, pulling a hand from his pocket and scratching the back of his head as he turned away for a moment. “It wasn’t dire news.”

“Dire? Of course it wasn’t. No one was dying or in trouble, but come on! Oz, you should have thought it through and called-”

“You? Why would I do that?” Oz turned to Buffy sharply, but his voice remained even and his face like a stone. It was as if he actually didn’t know the answer to his question. Why in god’s name would he call Buffy?

Buffy shook her head, crossing her arms over her chest and firming her jaw as she shifted her weight from one foot to the other. “It’s Angel. My Angel.”

“I thought you were moving on…” Oz whispered. “Back home you seemed fine and I didn’t want to disrupt that.”

Buffy wasn’t quite grateful for his consideration though. “I’ll say it again: You should have told me the minute you found out.”

“I promised Cordelia that I wouldn’t,” Oz admitted regretfully. In his head it sounded like a good thing to say, but he soon regretted it as the words spilled out of his mouth.

“So all of a sudden you and Cordelia are best friends and have your own secrets?” Buffy asked in a disbelieving, perhaps even disgusted, tone. “Cut the shit.”

“I’m being more serious and mature about this than you are, Buffy.”

Buffy took a step back at that, as if he’d called her a bad word or something. “How dare you-”

“There’s nothing going on between them, trust me. I would have known,” Oz assured her. “I would have smelled her on him or the other way around.”

Now he was slightly lying because he did in fact smell a little of Angel’s scent on Cordelia, but that was most likely because of her perhaps wearing his robe or something like that.

Finally, Buffy’s anger and immaturity seemed to falter as common sense kicked in. But the denial remained. “Are—are you sure?”

“Yes. They’re friends. Nothing more than that.” He didn’t know one hundred percent if that was true, since he spent all of twenty minutes with the two of them and he was basing his argument on what Cordelia said to him, which was brief on its own.

Though more convinced then she was before, Buffy still didn’t seem wholly sure whether or not to believe what Oz was telling her.

Then the phone rang. Buffy hesitated, but eventually moved to the phone. “It’s Willow,” she told him before picking it up. “She’s going to give me the information I need.”

“What’s that? What kind of stuff are you even looking for?”

“Stuff to wake Angel up,” Buffy growled, her hand grabbing the phone. Oz walked over and stopped her, placing a hand on hers and keeping it there, preventing her from doing something she’ll regret. “She’s probably done this with other guys too. Made them feel sorry enough for her to become her ‘friend’ and then come up with some half-baked shitty-ass lie like ‘roaches’ and then sneak her way into their lives, destroying them.”

“You’re paranoid.”

“No, I’m not.”

Oz pushed her away from the phone suddenly. His action wasn’t violent but it sure as hell wasn’t something he’d do. Buffy swore she could see his werewolf side just fighting for control. It’d been happening a lot lately, Oz’ full-moon cage-lockdowns were becoming a little too rough for Willow, and even Buffy, to handle. It made Buffy feel a little better that he wasn’t just protecting Cordelia, but his werewolf side was just damn irritable.

“You’re paranoid, Buffy.” Oz spoke in a calm tone and he returned to his usual collected demeanor. “So paranoid that you can’t see how stupid of a plan you’ve come up with.”

Buffy opened her mouth to argue, but somehow she wasn’t as fast to speak as before, as if Oz was finally getting through, albeit only a little bit at a time.

Oz, though, was still able to cut her off, even if she didn’t seem to be forming words any time soon. “You let him go. You could’ve chased after him when he left Sunnydale, but you didn’t. You know why…because it was the healthy thing to do. Breaking up benefits the both of you. You can have a life and he can…he can do what he’s doing now.”

“You mean screwing his sec-”

“Helping people,” Oz finished before Buffy could.

Buffy remained silent at that, her mind clearing long enough for her to see that yes, Angel was helping people. But the fact remained: he was helping all those people with Cordelia. “I just…I don’t get how it’s fair. How Cordelia’s the one to be around him day to day, helping him save people, save the world even…they probably have inside jokes and she probably goes out and gets him his pigs blood. She gets to do all the things that I was supposed to do with him.”

“It’s not supposed to be fair, Buffy.”

Nodding, Buffy watched the phone as it rang, rang and rang. Finally, it stopped and she breathed a sigh of relief as if she had just resisted a huge temptation. “I guess we’ll talk it out when he gets here…”

Oz agreed with a small nod. “Sounds good. Does he know you’re here?”

“Left him a note.”

As if on cue, a knock at the door echoed in the silent room. Buffy offered a pathetic smile as she looked at Oz. “Probably him.”

Yet when Buffy opened the door, whom, or what, she discovered waiting for her with a polished, sharp knife, was certainly not Angel.

* * *

Angel scratched the back of his neck before arching it to the right, wincing as he heard the bones in his neck crack. Having taken a nap, Angel realized he should’ve perhaps taken one on his bed, since Cordelia wasn’t sleeping on it, then he might not have gotten the worst neck cramp known to man.

Yawning, Angel tried to form the name ‘Cordelia’, to call out her name and find out where she was. It was eerily quiet but Angel knew that everything was fine when he heard Cordelia’s heartbeat as he neared his bedroom, the door half-closed. Perhaps she was, in fact, in his bed, taking a nap.

Might as well check in on her, Angel figured it wouldn’t be that intrusive to watch her sleep for a minute or two. He’d done it before when he couldn’t sleep. She had the most soothing affect on him whenever she slept in all her innocence, sometimes murmuring incoherent words to herself and moving around in her sleep just the slightest bit.

He pushed open the door quietly and walked inside, tiptoeing his way in so that he wasn’t making a sound.

Doyle walked down the stairs, self-consciously trying to hide the four stitches he had on his right cheek just below his eye. He’d been smart and went over to the hospital to make sure he hadn’t gotten an infection. But with his other hand bandaged, Doyle knew he’d draw attention the minute he walked downstairs.

But he was down there anyways and the chance had to be taken. He needed to speak with Angel, or Cordelia, or both of them at the same time. Either they’d laugh at him, or become increasingly worried. Not at his assumption that something mystical was going on, some evil was messing with his head, but at the fact that he was jealous of their relationship.

It wasn’t a comforting thought.

Walking over to where Doyle knew Angel had been sleeping the past couple of days, Doyle looked around for the broody vampire only to hear a shocked and loud scream resonate throughout the entire basement-like apartment from the direction of Angel’s bedroom.

Before he could reach for a knife, or a pan or god even a fluffy pillow for protection, Doyle was surprised to see Angel stumble out of the room, covering his eyes. Sure, eh wasn’t blushing, but if he wasn’t a vampire he would have been, and Doyle knew it by the look in Angel’s eyes of pure embarrassment yet pure…

Doyle couldn’t catch the last emotion, for Angel blinked it away as if on routine. “What happened?”

Angel struggled to explain, but a second later Cordelia walked out, clasping her bra.

She slapped Angel over and over on his arm; his chest and she would have slapped him in the face if he hadn’t been raising his hands over it to protect himself.

“What-” Slap! “Is-” Slap! “Wrong-” Punch “With you?”

Angel shrugged and practically fell onto his ass as he backed away from Cordelia, who kept walking closer and closer towards him, pointing a threatening finger in his face. “If you’re going to change, do it in the bathroom or close the…door.”

It was plain to see he regretted every word of what he said when he saw Cordelia’s face contort in anger. Or perhaps it was modest embarrassment. He couldn’t tell. Though he proffered the latter. Cordelia seemed like one to be confident with her body when she was fully clothed, but perhaps not necessarily experienced enough to be self-assured when someone, especially a man like Angel, caught her naked.

In fact, her cheeks were as flushed as Angel had ever seen them and it took all his willpower for him not to grin like a fool. Paradoxically, it took all of his willpower for him to grin like a fool at the fact that he saw Cordelia naked.

He had to fight a lot of urges at the moment after seeing her toned, tan stomach and her perfect, round breasts. Most of those urges would be quite embarrassing and revealing in the situation he was in at the moment, though.

“You need to learn to knock, or ask me what I’m doing in there before you just barge in,” Cordelia suggested, her voice lowering as she dropped her threatening finger.

Finally though, she actually noticed Doyle, who stood slightly gape mouthed at what he had just witnessed and what Angel exactly saw behind closed doors. The jealousy fuming in his eyes was quite evident.

Angel shifted uncomfortably. “Hey, Doyle.”

Cordelia, though she saw the jealousy in his eyes and his expression, remained rather casual and not so frightened by him witnessing what just happened, as if it weren’t that big of a deal even if it was to both of the men. “Could you tell your buddy over here that it’s polite to knock on a door and ask if anyone’s in there. Especially if it’s a woman, who’s most likely changing or doing…feminine things.”

Not saying a word, Doyle didn’t move an inch as he just glared at them. All thoughts of speaking with them about his envious feelings vanished, Doyle forgot completely about the way he felt for Cordelia or the respect he had for Angel. All he wanted to do was not tell them off, but show them to not cross him.

It was an odd intention and feeling, but somehow, it didn’t stop Doyle, as if someone else was in the drivers seat at the moment.

Angel, usually sharp when it came to indifferences in his surroundings and the people in it, didn’t notice Doyle with his firm jaw and fisted hands. All he noticed was Doyle’s stitches. “What happened?”

“Bad mitten,” Doyle growled.

Before he could question it further, the phone ringing distracted Angel. Moving to pick it up, he nodded to Cordelia to try and find out what was up Doyle’s ass and who did the whole ‘stitches on his face’ deal.

Picking up the phone, Angel tried to fight the images of Cordelia, naked, out of his head and to keep a drone-less tone out of his voice. “Angel Investigations, we help the-”

He froze as he heard Oz’s struggling voice. “What’s going on?”

“…”

“Who?”

“…”

“You’re shitting me…where’s Buffy, put her on the phone.”

“…”

“What do you MEAN they took her?”

“…”

“Why didn’t you—what? They…they…oh shit.” Angel didn’t bother to remove the panic from his voice as he ran his hand through his hair, struggling to keep his cool. “Stay there, I’ll come and get you and…and…god, we’ll try and figure everything out.”

And then he hung up, grabbed his jacket and was moving towards the stairs. Cordelia walked up to him and stopped him, panic from seeing him panicking in her eyes and tone. “What’s wrong?”

“Stay here,” Angel ordered her, not looking her in the eyes as he pushed past her and moved to leave.

Cordelia grabbed his arm though and surprisingly managed to stop him. “It’s daylight Dumbass. So if you’re going to be all ‘super-hero-y’ and save the day, do it by going through the sewers.”

Angel shook his head, holding out his hand to show the Ring of Ammara on his index finger. It was placed on the bedside table where the phone was. “You fucking suck at hiding things, Cordy. But thanks, I’ll be back with Oz.”

Either he was seriously weirded out or there was something more to the situation. It obviously involved Oz and Cordelia had the strange feeling that Buffy was in the mix too, but the ring on his finger, the glint in his eyes. It was as if he’d been desiring for an excuse to wear it the entire time.

He was gone within seconds, the front door slamming close loud enough for Cordelia to hear. When she turned to face Doyle, he had a weird look on his face. Cordelia ignored it though and moved to go get finished changing, realizing that though she wasn’t buck naked like when Angel walked in on her, she was still wearing no shirt.

What she didn’t see though, as she walked into Angel’s room, was Doyle holding a glass bottle behind his back that he’d managed to grab unnoticed from the fridge when Angel and Cordelia were speaking. He gripped it tightly before it shattered to a thousand pieces, a large one in his hand, ready to be used.

And as Doyle moved to Angel’s bedroom, he glanced around to make sure there would no witnesses as to what he was about to do.


Part 7

Oz took a drink of water, wincing slightly as he applied pressure to the deep scratch on his forehead with his other hand. “I’m fine, thanks.”

The vampire he was speaking to, however, barely nodded in acknowledgement. Angel looked around, seeing signs of struggle, some blood and broken glass from the window. Kneeling down, Angel took a small sniff and closed his eyes for a moment. “It’s Buffy’s.”

“They had to knock her out to take her, obviously.”

“Otherwise she would have put up a fight,” Angel agreed unconsciously, taking in a deep, dire breath before standing up and walking over to Oz. “What exactly happened here?”

Oz shook his head, his face blank as always. “Buffy was the first to get hit in the head. She had no idea what was going on and didn’t have time to protect herself. She opened the door and they knocked her out with the butt of their knife.”

“The same knife that…” Angel lifted his hand, though barely, to point at the wound on Oz’s forehead. His mind was still reeling from what he had been told so far. Buffy had been taken captive and it was scaring him beyond belief. Only because he had the strong feeling that Wolfram and Hart had a hand in the entire situation. Just thinking that was disturbing enough.

“I tried to…you know, tried to put up a fight of my own. But I can barely throw a stake straight enough, not to mention having good aim when I punch,” Oz would have laughed at how pathetic he seemed, but considering the situation, he couldn’t help but bury that urge. “Sorry I couldn’t-”

“Don’t,” Angel stopped him quietly, sitting down as if giving up for the moment. “Don’t apologize. You did your best. But I have the strange feeling that even if you had gotten the upper hand in this case, they would have sent more to come after you…or Buffy, considering she’s the one they took.”

“They?”

“Wolfram and Hart.” Angel said the name as if it were the vilest thing in the world, which it was, in his opinion. “I just know that they had a hand in this. There aren’t any other big players in this town that could manage to take in a Slayer, or would even dare to try and do it in the first place.”

Oz cleared his throat, lowering his voice and leaning forward. “So…what’re we going to do about this?”

Angel looked at Oz for a minute, his eyes shifting in thought as he tried to come up with something. “I need you to go back to Sunnydale, inform everyone of what’s happened-”

“I can just call them. It’ll save me a lot of time,” Oz pointed out, but Angel didn’t seem quite affected by it.

“I need you to tell them in person, keep them there, out of the way. We don’t want Willow, Giles and especially Xander to come here and try to get her out their own way.”

Oz shook his head; “Me being there to break the news isn’t going to stop them from trying to help her.”

“You can at least try, delay them long enough for me to get her out of there. Only I know how that law firm works and I can’t risk people’s lives doing it.”

Oz actually smirked knowingly. “Even Xander’s?”

Angel hesitated, “Well, if he puts up a fight, I don’t want you to be too forceful.”

“Good to know.” Oz wiped the smirk from his face when Angel cleared his throat and leaned in closer, his voice just as quiet as before.

“Buffy’s in danger…” Angel whispered, his voice wavering. “And I’m going to get her out of it.”

* * *

Lindsay looked at his watch, glancing up at the snazzily dressed demon only a few times as he pursed his lips before speaking. “So…how’s L.A. for you these days?”

“Don’t try and small talk with me,” the demon gritted through his teeth, still keeping his composed posture, his arms behind his back and his posture straight, his feet pressed up against each other and his eyes set straight ahead, looking out across the skyline of Los Angeles. “I’m here for one reason and one reason only.”

“He should be done now, just for your information,” Lindsay sat down in his seat, motioning to the variety of alcoholic beverages he had to offer. “You a straight-up vodka kinda guy or do you like plain old Jack Daniels.”

Kev shook his head. “Don’t take this as a compliment, because I’d hate to be the one responsible for your ego getting even larger…but I’m impressed. With this entire thing. Doyle kills the girl. I go there, threaten the money, kill him-”

“Hurt him,” Lindsay corrected him.

Kev just smirked. “Whatever. And his boss Angel doesn’t know the better of it. He blames Doyle for the girl’s death, rightly so, no sympathy is won for the beating I give him and the bonus: I get to knock some sense into that pussy of a demon.”

Lindsay nodded. “Exactly. I’m a genius right?”

“Again, that wasn’t a compliment,” Kev growled. “Plus, I hear your lady-friend has got her own shit going on. Stuff to rival yours even.”

Snorting, Lindsay shook his head. “Not possible, trust me.”

Kev cracked his knuckles. “Why would I trust you? Fucking human.”

Seemingly unaffected, Lindsay stood up from his seat and started to shuffle some papers. “I have somewhere to be. But more importantly, so do you. I told you that Doyle’s about done with Cordelia by now. So go there and get this over with.”

* * *

“Why didn’t you tell me about this?” Lindsay asked, holding back a growl.

He was looking through one of those plates of glass where only he and Lilah Morgan, who stood next to him confident as ever, could see on the other side when Buffy Summers, unconscious, could only see a mirror.

It was an interrogation-like room, but she was tied up to the chair by mystical bindings so that even her Slayer strength couldn’t save her in the situation at hand.

Lilah smirked. “I tried.”

“When?”

“Earlier.”

“When was that? Earlier isn’t that specific.” Lindsay demanded, facing her with his brow furrowed and his eyes burning holes through her.

“I would have told you when I was in your office last if you hadn’t…” she stopped, hesitating as the feeling came back, the memory of his lips against hers in a kiss like one she’d never had before. “Angel will come for her. I know it. You’re in that office of yours thinking that Cordelia Chase is what is important to him when really, it’s always Buffy. Even you’re not stupid enough to forget that. Oh, wait. You are.”

Lindsay shook his head, walking across the room as he ran a hand through his hair before turning back to Lilah suddenly, his hand flying upward as if he were about to slap her. But really he was just gesticulating his hands to get some weight off of his shoulders, to blow some steam off. “If you’ve forgotten, he’s got the fucking ring.”

“That’s your fault. You ordered it to be put back there. When Holland hears about this I’ll be sure that he also knows that I fought to keep the ring out of Angel’s possession.”

“You think that’ll save your ass?” Lindsay growled at her, even smirking. “He wouldn’t be coming here in the first place if you’d left the fucking Slayer alone.”

“Yeah, but there’s no stopping his arrival. So we might as well stop arguing. I’ve won, Lindsay. So suck it up and go play your own little game back in your office. That girl you’re getting killed is gonna bring a lot of unneeded attention to this office. While Angel, in our possession, along with the Slayer, will bring a well-deserved promotion to my name.”

Lindsay shook his head and Lilah smirked, a cocky skip in her step as she walked away. Business as usual.

* * *

Gripping the handle on the axe, Angel gritted his teeth and readied himself for the battle that was to come. He denied help, as always. Fight alone. Get the job done. Simple as that.

Whether it was pure cockiness or simple assurance to himself that if he were the one to rescue Buffy, he knew she’d be safe and rescued before the sun rose. No help from Doyle, Cordelia, Oz or anyone from Sunnydale would speed up the process of rescuing Buffy from Wolfram and Hart.

I work alone. Always alone.

The thoughts resonated in his mind for the longest time as he slipped into his car, ignoring the fascinating experience of being enveloped with sunlight. The Ring of Ammara glistened, reflecting the rays of light and catching his attention for about a millisecond before he returned his dark, chocolate eyes to the road ahead.

“Buffy,” he whispered over and over and over. He shrugged off the pain and continued with his stoic affectation.

Time had passed without him knowing and in the distance he could see Wolfram and Hart, the tall building sticking out like a thumb with its brand-new added wing to the west and the shiny black Mercedes parked in rows outside and the high-security garage entrance to the east.

A growl escaped Angel’s lips and he heard for a moment his steering wheel creaked in a way that reminded him his hands were too strong and he needed to loosen his grip. Pulling off to the side of the road, he cleared his throat and kicked open the door. Parking a few blocks away from the building would give him just a few seconds, maybe a minute or two of stealth. He hoped he’d be able to slip into the building before security would be aware of his presence and send stakes flying in his direction.

But hopes were worth nothing to him at the moment as he kicked open the glass doors, cracking them in several places, while stampeding into the Lobby of the main building. His trench coat swinging and his axe flying through the air, he knocked out cameras in two corners and avoided the other two. While guards continued to aggress he kept walking, his strides enhanced by his unwillingness to allow Buffy to die, to be hurt because of him.

Sun rays were flooding the room and he walked straight through them, the overwhelming sensation of being in a room of vast light instead of darkness caught onto him for a moment but he never once faltered or stopped walking, slowing his pace not one bit.

The feeling of power, of invincibility surprised him. It wasn’t even about Buffy anyone. All the sensations in his tortured soul were no long connected to rescuing her. Red light shimmered on the marble floor every so often when the Ring of Ammara caught some sunlight and he realized just what was influencing him, empowering his muscles, his soul, and the entirety of every inch of his being.

It was the most addicting thing he’d ever felt before.

* * *

A puddle of blood on the floor, completely placid for a few seconds before another drop of blood fell into it. The blood came from the limp, feminine hand that just hung motionless, a tremor in it every two minutes, three minutes perhaps.

There was no sobbing, no crying, and no tears. Just blood, dirt, fear and pain. A cut bottom lip, the corner of them sticky from the crimson liquid trickling down from the cut along the cheekbone and forehead.

* * *

“Code fucking red!” Lindsay yelled over the blaring alarms at Lilah, not even bothering to hide his smirk. But the fear stemming from deep down could be seen in it and Lilah could hardly take him seriously.

“We have a security ratio of a 500 to 1. Code Red is good news,” Lilah lied, trying to salvage some of her credibility. “He wouldn’t be having such an easy time if you hadn’t put the ring back in his possession. Remember how this will look. We want him to come into our building, to trap him. We, however, do not want him to be fucking invincible and tear apart our building and employees.”

Lindsay’s smile wavered for only a moment. “Maybe you’re right. What I did was stupid. But you fucked up too. So really, we’re both screwed!”

“Well, pretty boy, now it’s time for you to make the ultimate decision second to joining this fucking law firm,” Lilah yelled at him, closing her laptop with a snap that was drowned out by the alarm. “Choose to die by Angel’s hands or face the wrath of the Senior Partners. For all I know I’d rather die putting up a fight against that maniac vampire then be sent ‘downstairs.’”

“You’re a coward, Lilah.”

“Call it what you want,” Lilah growled, pushing past him and reaching for the door. Though when her hand was about an inch from the doorknob she was knocked out of her wits, flying across the room to crash violently into a wall. The door flung open, flying off of its hinges. Angel stood in the doorway; his face dirty and covered in his own blood.

“Where is she?” he growled, striding towards Lindsay without bothering to even look over at Lilah, who was clearly unconscious. “Where’d you put her?”

“I didn’t order them to take your girlfriend, buddy.” Lindsay seemed pleased with himself that finally something bad happened and it wasn’t he who was to be blamed. But by the look in Angel’s eyes he realized he fucked up by just being alive and in Angel’s way. “You may have destroyed half of the bottom floor of the building, the elevator shaft and the guards who were waiting for you when you got out of it, but there’s a whole entire fleet of tactical assassins on their way to stake your ass.”

The last few words barely made it out of his mouth when his throat swelled at the sight of the ring on Angel’s finger, the blatant reminder that what he just said didn’t matter.

Angel knew what he was thinking too as he kept walking towards Lindsay until the short laywer was pressed up against the glass. “You must be forgetting that I have the ring, pal.”

“What’re you gonna do? Kill me?” Lindsay laughed, finding solace in it while he was on the verge of pissing in his pants. “Didn’t you make an oath when you joined the Ball-less, Soulful Union of Bad Dressers?”

Angel responded to his smartass remark by smashing his head into his, breaking the lawyer’s nose. “I’m going to ask you again, Lindsay. Where. Is. She?”

* * *

Beautiful brown eyes no longer full of life, but emptiness and anticipation, as if waiting for the unconscious being on the floor beside her to wake.

She waited and waited. For something to happen, for someone, a specific someone, to arrive and wake her from the nightmare she was drowning in.

She would wait until that person came or until her body gave out.

* * *

Softly and gradually the engine quieted down, the tinkling of keys ceased and Angel sighed, leaning back into his seat for a moment, closing his eyes and using the pain to remind him that he made it.

Without looking to the blonde woman in the seat beside him, he opened the door and stepped out, suppressing a small grunt in the process as he carefully avoided scraping the wall. He’d parked in a narrow alleyway a few miles away from Wolfram and Hart.

Closing his door and walking around the front of his car, he limped. One of the guards had failed in staking him and instead jammed the wooden stake in his foot, causing him to painfully try and avoid blows to the head while attempting to move his foot.

Once he was on the passenger’s side, he opened the door; his jaw firm and his eyes shining slightly in unshed tears. He knelt down and finally looked to Buffy, who sat quietly in her seat, looking down at her hands, her wrists that were bruised from the restraints that had kept her in that dark room.

Before Angel even could touch her face, she jumped slightly and pulled her head away from his touch, as if on instinct.

“Buffy,” Angel croaked, pained that she was afraid of his touch. “Look at me.”

“I have to know, Angel. I have to know before I can even look at you,” she whispered, her voice thick with emotion as she was on the verge of bursting into extreme sobbing mode. “Did you kill him?”

Angel looked down for a moment, swallowing hard before looking back up at her, his voice strong with sincerity. “No.”

“Then where did all the blood come from?” she asked. “Some of it isn’t yours. There’s blood in places where you don’t have any wounds.”

“I didn’t kill him, Buffy.” Angel tried to hide the frustration from his voice as he looked at her incredulously. “Can’t you trust in what I tell you?”

She didn’t respond, still not looking at him. Angel’s silent heart sank, but not as profoundly as he thought it might. He wasn’t even that incredibly shocked either. As if the feeling deep down in the pit of his stomach had warned him as he spoke of what she was going to say.

I guess she is predictable. “I guess that kinda makes it easier, huh?” she wouldn’t know what he was talking about and he shook his head sadly.

His decision was made for him. There was no reasoning with her. The task he had assigned himself to do before she had been captured was done with, vanished from existence. She doesn’t deserve an explanation when she has no trust in me. Why should I respect her when she doesn’t respect me?

“Huh?” she finally looked at him, but her green eyes were distant, as if looking through him.

Angel didn’t say anything back to her, drawing his attention to her scraped shoulder. With one hand folding her shirt over so he could see it better and the other reaching inside his glove compartment and grabbing a bandage, he took on the guise of ‘too busy to respond’.

* * *

Lindsay groaned in pain as the medic attending to his broken wrist roughly bandaged his arm without sympathy. “Be careful. This hand could be dialing a number to your supervisor to recommend that you be fired.”

“All wrapped up,” the guy rolled his eyes. He obviously despised lawyers. When he was done he patted Lindsay’s hand a little too hard and walked away with a small grin.

“Fucking vampire,” Lindsay shook his head, speaking to himself and to Lilah who walked over, stumbling every few steps, while holding an icepack to the back of her head. “Should’ve just killed us and saved us the trouble.”

“Apparently the point of impact on my head was about two inches from where it would have been fatal,” Lilah shook her head, and then closed her eyes tight when it started throbbing in pain again. “Whatever happened to karma?”

Lindsay clenched his usable hand into a fist. “I swear he’s going to pay. All those laid out plans…”

“You have to admit, they weren’t that laid out.” Lilah was teasing to lighten up the situation and it was obvious. And surprising. “We both screwed ourselves over and Angel…Well, he was just giving us a sneak peek of what’s to come.”

“Are you actually saying that you’re not pissed off at Angel?”

“Oh, I am! You can put that on the record.” Lilah turned away for a moment, her voice getting an edge to it. “I’m just trying to not lose focus. We’re going to lose our necks if we don’t contain the situation. Holland will be back soon and even if it was a disaster the first time around, I’m sure we can come up with something that can redeem us.”

Lindsay nodded, agreeing. Then he laughed. “Whoever heard of two lawyers looking for redemption?”

* * *

Opening the door quietly Angel pressed himself against the doorway so that Buffy could enter first. Once she walked in he closed the door behind him while removing his bloodstained, ripped trench coat.

But then he stopped cold, his body going stiff and his eyes narrowing. His nose itched and he sniffed, catching a whiff of something that disturbed him more than anything.

“What is it?” Buffy asked, not that concerned and looking extremely exhausted.

“Blood.”

Buffy sighed, too tired to roll her eyes. “You have blood all over you.”

Angel blinked slowly, swallowing hard as his stomach turned over drastically. “It’s Cordelia’s.”


…TO BE CONTINUED…

THIS STORY APPEARS TO BE UNFINISHED


 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s