Archive for June 24, 2015

A Change of Season. 8   1 comment

Chapter 2

The top down on the convertible, the night air felt good rushing against his unusually warm skin. Vampires were rarely affected by temperature changes but his room had definitely heated up taking his normally cool flesh in its rise.

Angel had not called Wesley as Cordelia had asked. What good would come of that? Wesley would likely be asleep by now; and any discussion of the vision would lead to other topics. The would be conversation ran through his thoughts.

‘Is Cordelia alright? I assume she was home when the vision hit.’

‘No actually she was with me, but don’t worry Wes, I tucked her into bed before leaving.’

Wesley would definitely insist they build a cage in the basement. Though considering their evening maybe a cage wasn’t such a bad idea…just in case. Angel had lost focus on the point of his objective. It was true he didn’t think David Nabbit was a suitable companion for Cordelia but thoughts of any man touching her were becoming intolerable.

This was not the time to mull over the cans and cannots with Cordelia. Having refused to involve Wesley, Angel would need his mind clear when taking down the vampires. His confidence was high as usual when it came to battle. Fighting skills honed razor sharp from long years of use and his evil reputation equally disciplined gave him an edge against most opponents.

Parking the car a couple of blocks from the warehouse Angel chose to continue on foot. His prey unaware of his approach would be in his favor. Any shifting of the odds would aid his team of one. Turning the corner into the dark alley keen sight scanned the short distance. Head cocked he listened to silence blanketing the path instead of attacks and screams.

***

The woman eased into the room, sleep and the trickery of magic protecting her silent intrusion. Bending over the bed, she hovered over Cordelia’s sleeping form. Small fingers with modest length nails shining of clear polish stroked through the long, brunette strands spreading them out across the pillow.

“You remind me of Drusilla when she was fresh and new…and reeking of innocence.” Her voice a wicked rasp alluded to the evil horrors to come. “You must be my boy’s current obsession. I approve,” she whispered as fingers trailed a visible cheek. “I’ll be back in the game soon enough but until then…” Blowing across her outstretched palm glittering dust of blue crystals swirled above Cordelia fading into the air. “…join my dear boy in his wickedly sweet dreams.”

Straightening up she rubbed her hands together ridding them of any clinging crystals. She moved through the doorway leaving the sleeping girl undisturbed by her visit. “See you in dreamland.” The quiet murmur floated beside her laughter into the room. Her escape as silent as her entry she turned the lock before closing the front door behind her.

Exiting the old hotel the young woman waited by the curb, her blonde hair glistening under the light of the street lamp. The black limo pulled up only seconds later, the door opening to allow her to slip inside beside before speeding away.

***

A wary stalk toward the alley’s hub caught the muffled mumbles of three, a fourth moving away. His hand slipped inside his coat’s outer pocket fingers circling the stake; its tip filed to a precision point, the wooden weapon felt comfortable in his grip.

“Yo man what’s up?”

Senses narrowed to the path’s dead end but becoming distracted as scattered thoughts lingered on his return home smothered any instinctive detection of an approach from the side. Angel stiffened then lurched facing his attacker and stifling the yelp stuck in his throat. Its release would only give credence to his being caught unaware.

“Damn it Gunn; what the hell are you doing here?” Angel hissed rubbing his fingers over the imprint left on the wood from the tight clinch of his fist.

“Uh…killin’ vampires? What’s your excuse.” A cheesy smile spread across Gunn’s face. He had rattled the vampire, not an easy task and he intended to strut.

“Cordy had a vision,” Angel huffed unsuccessfully hiding the release of a held breath, “a small nest of vampires attacking some teenagers.”

“The vampire nest is a heap of dust and I guess me and my crew must be the teenagers. That was twenty minutes ago; what took you so long?”

“Gunn the visions don’t come with a time chart. Cordelia sees the attack and I take down the attacker, that’s about as complex as it gets.”

“Well maybe you should tell these vision senders not to bother Barbie if the vamps are in my neighborhood.”

Angel looked at the pensive muscles trying to hide behind the forced smile. Gunn’s protective exterior was coming back full force. The alley had felt familiar and Angel recalled the worst night the young man would ever likely experience. His sister had died near here, twice. Once at the hands of a vampire and again at the hand of her brother. “Gunn we agreed, you’d help me and I’d help you. What’s with the I’m on my own routine? I thought we were past that.”

“We are, just lookin’ out for my own. If the vamps try to chow down I can’t be waitin’ for the white hat to come galloping in to save the day. So…” Gunn wanted to change the subject and move away from this place echoing his torment, “looks like we did your job tonight; what’s the plan til sunup?”

“Home and bed,” guilt, Angel instinctively categorized and pushed back; another skill honed by years of practice. Angel caught Gunn’s quizzical look. It made sense, a vampire anxious to get home with hours of darkness to stave off the sunrise. “It’s been a long week, you know, getting the hotel ready.”

“I hear you man; want me to walk you to your car? You know even a big superhero can be sneaked up on in the dark.”

“Funny Gunn and in case you’re wondering, I’m laughing on the inside.” His expression a droll irritation as Gunn’s wiry smile returned, Angel headed toward the alley’s entrance.

“So you guys aren’t still keeping camp in the warehouse are you?”

“Nah man, the young ones are sleeping at Anne’s center. We catch up with them during the day but the nights are usually spent patrolling and staking.”

“Yea fighting evil is definitely not a day job.” Angel answered reaching his car and sliding behind the wheel.

“You got that right.” Already turning around to join his crew in the alley Gunn lifted an arm waving it in the air.

“You guys want a ride back to the shelter?” Angel asked before Gunn could disappear from view.

Gunn stopped at the alley entrance declining the offer. “Nah man, we’ll do a few more sweeps before headin’ back.”

“Come by the hotel tomorrow, the new computers arrived today and I know Cordelia could use some help. I’ve already been told I was interference not help.”

“You got it, catch you later,” Gunn yelled disappearing behind the turn of the wall as Angel pulled onto the street, thoughts of home and Cordelia keeping him company as he traveled the dark streets.


Chapter 3

Angel jiggled his key inside the old lock impatient for its compliance. The silence of his fast-paced trek up the stairs, purposely missing every other rung, evidenced a skilled predator in action.

His coat dropped over the hook as he moved toward the bed to check on his overnight guest. Her dark hair spread across the pillow encased in red silk, a hand resting beside her face created the perfect pose. Grabbing the half finished sketch from his closet, Angel settled in the large chair positioned near the foot of the bed. He slipped off his boots resting his feet on the ottoman before unrolling the sketch on his lap.

The charcoal danced across the parchment capturing the innocent beauty that eluded him just weeks ago. What had produced the impetus, Angel was unsure but the uniqueness of woman and child was now crystal clear.

The faint glow of the small lamp left on while he was away illuminated the finished sketch. The innocence, beauty and perfection captured for eternity belonged to him. Should he leave it out for Cordelia to see? Hiding it now seemed foolish. Ignoring her protest and demand for a reason, Angel had insisted the section of wall opposite his bed remain empty. It was the perfect location, a direct line of his view.

“Angel?” Cordelia rubbed the sleep from her eyes attempting to focus on her friend slumped in his chair.

“Hey,” Angel answered immediately approaching to reach for her outstretched hand. “Sleep good?”

“Oh yea, like a rock. This bed is better than a sleeping pill.”

“Glad to hear it. I look forward to finding out for myself.”

“Hummm, it’s in use at the moment big guy.”

“I see that, but you might have to share.”

Remembering the vision Cordelia jerked up, “the vision.” Angel leaning close, her unexpected action caused their noses to touch and he cupped her cheeks stilling her movement.

“What’s wrong?”

“I can’t believe I forgot about the vision.” Her hands slipped under his shirt checking for wounds. “Are you Ok, what about Wesley?”

“I’m fine and…I didn’t call Wes,” Angel thought it best to give an honest answer. “It was late and Gunn was there to help.”

“So Gunn and his crew were out vamp hunting; was anyone hurt? You took care of everyone; right?”

“Of course,” Angel soothed Cordelia’s worries rubbing his cheek against her forehead.

Cordelia’s hands still under Angel’s shirt pressed against his stomach, the warmth seeping into his skin. Releasing her face from the cradled of his palms he wrapped his arms around her pulling her closer and keeping the warm hands in place.

Too tired to consider right and wrong Cordelia snuggled against Angel’s chest, lulled by the safety she had come to equate with Angel being near. Tomorrow she would deal with the right and wrong of her decision.

“I want to go back to sleep,” her drowsy voice announced and much too soon hands pushed against his muscular form as her body rolled back into the soft, plump covers. “You should get some sleep too,” the words barely out before she rolled onto her side as sleep took her again.

Angel eased up from the bed tugging off his socks. Fingers worked in a fast motion pulling buttons from their holes. This wasn’t wrong; Cordelia had invited him to share her warmth. With a quick jerk, the leather belt slid from snug fitting loops. His hand resting over the button of his trousers Angel paused to consider the removal of that last piece of clothing. Sliding under the covers, he scrunched her half-curled form inside his regretting he had not removed his trousers. He wanted to feel her warmth; he needed her warmth.


Chapter 4

“So, Darla, anything you care to report; like maybe everything went as planned?” Lilah Morgan asked filling their glasses with the third round of champagne.

“Oh, it was much more than I ever imagined.” Darla cooed never taking her eyes from the passing view as the limo traveled through the heart of Hollywood. “Not as many hookers as I would have expected.”

The cigarette long and slender pulled from her pursed lips to dangle between small fingers. Lindsey MacDonald thinking it looked too large in her small hands wished Darla would toss the foul smelling tobacco twig out the window. “You know, you’re human now and that nasty little habit isn’t very healthy for human lungs.”

“An inconvenience which will soon be remedied Lindsey but I do appreciate your concern.” Darla looked at the man sharing the opposite end of her seat. “Who is the woman and why was I not told about her?” Even human the narrowed intent of her gaze caused a nervousness Lindsey rarely felt.

“Care to elaborate,” Lilah interrupted seeing her partner trapped under the gaze of the recently resurrected ex-vampire. “I know Angel doesn’t get much action with females so if there was one at the hotel we may not know about her yet.”

“Young and innocent…very innocent,” Darla added with a hiss unworried by her companion’s reaction, “long, dark hair, maybe athletic, hard to be sure with all the bedcovers.”

“That would be Cordelia Chase, we told you about her,” Lindsey finally spoke.

“Nooo, you told me about Angelus’ seer.”

“Right,” Lindsey gritted out wondering if maybe Darla had been the wrong choice for taking Angel down. “Cordelia Chase is Angel’s seer, graduated from high school about a year ago so ex-cheerleader, quite stunning actually, a brunette, and long.”

Darla slowly turned her head eyeing her companions doubtful they’d ever understand the inner workings of her boy. “A warrior will protect his seer, but a man only prepares his home for his woman. This girl is important to my boy.”

Lindsey lifted his arm presenting the hard, unyielding thermoplastic doctors expected him to pretend was a hand. “I have proof Cordelia Chase is important to that psycho blood bag.”

“My Angelus always was demonstrative in his activities.” Darla chuckled at the man’s anger uncaring of his loss or need for revenge. She wanted Angelus back, the way he used to be before the gypsies interfered in their evilly happy life.

Despite her intentions Lilah laughed out loud at Darla’s declaration. She didn’t find pleasure in Lindsey’s loss but she didn’t waste time worrying about that loss either.

Lindsey listened as the two women laugh at his miserable situation. “This is just great. It’s not enough that I lose a limb, I have to be saddled with two crazy bitches. The hand I can deal with but Wolfram and Hart don’t pay me enough to put up with you two.”

The woman began to laugh again, Lilah reaching for the almost empty champagne bottle before remembering she had intended to correct Darla’s assumption. “Darla, Angelus goes by Angel now. The way we understand it, he’s Angel when he has a soul and Angelus when he doesn’t.”

“Soul of no soul, there’s one thing the gypsies will never change, he will always be my boy.”

Lindsey tucked his excuse for a hand against his leg gulping down the last of his champagne. “Maybe you could come up with a plan for your boy not to have a soul.”

“I’m working on it lover.” Darla closed off from any further conversation with her companions returning her attention to the blurry view passing across the dark tinted window.


Epilogue

“I ran into Lord Nichols, a horrid little man. He was propositioning a streetwalker and dickering over the price; can you imagine? I told him I’d do him for nothing.”

Angelus looked down at the body lying at Darla’s feet, bite marks on his neck. “You’re a very charitable woman,” he cooed kissing and licking the blood from Darla’s lips.

“I have a surprise for my boy but you’ll have to guess.”

Angelus scanned the busy street finally spotting a family with three young daughters. “The three daughters and all virgins.”

“There’s more my love. The one in the middle has something delicate and unique. She has the sight.”

“Visions, she sees the future. Pure innocence, yet she sees what’s coming, she knows what I’m going to do to her. I really shouldn’t keep her waiting.”

“Down boy, let the plum ripen.”

Angel rolled back and forth across the bed, the covers twisting around his sweaty body. He could taste the blood, human blood linger in his throat and he wanted more. It was sweet…like his seer. He wanted to feel her surrender beneath him as he drained the life from her body. She would be his for all eternity.

TBC…

Cydnestorm

Posted June 24, 2015 by califi in TBC

A Change of Season. 7   1 comment

New Note: I want to do one or two parts that explores the growing personal & working relationships for Angel, Cordelia, Wesley & Gunn before the bad times arrive. Beginning with part 3 I’m going to move away from the storylines of episodes and began slowing introducing the Darla arc.

PART 3

Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow

Tonight you’re mine completely. You give your love so sweetly. Tonight the light of love is in your eyes, but will you love me tomorrow? Is this a lasting treasure or just a moment’s pleasure? Can I believe the magic of your sigh? Tonight with words unspoken you say that I’m the only one, but will my heart be broken when the night meets the morning sun? I’d like to know that your love is a love I can be sure of. So tell me now, and I won’t ask again will you still love me tomorrow?

**~**

Prologue

For two days Cordelia scrubbed and polished the counter finally reaping the reward of her diligent vigil. Staring back at her, a reflection, a gorgeous reflection if she said so herself.

And where were her strapping he-men, upstairs painting Angel’s private suite while she toiled alone and labored in silence. It didn’t matter that Angel had single handedly tackled the basement, ridding it of fifty years of collected junk and vermin before hosing it down. If you’re not a day person, where better to spend a sunny afternoon than the basement.

Cordelia Chase now had more in common with Willow Rosenberg than she ever believed possible. Both had experienced temporary insanity, better known as Xander Harris and now both had seen the softer side of Sears. Angel had asked and she had jumped at the opportunity, shopping…with money. They purchased paint and spackle and a few items Cordelia wasn’t sure of their use. Then it was on to the entertaining acquisitions, stylish knickknacks and accessories with understated class, draperies and linen, the good kind, high thread count for that added touch of softness and durability. To insure their shopping spree was an equally enjoyable event Cordelia allowed Angel to purchase her a new dress, but not at Sears.

She had planned to help Angel get his suite ready but Wesley, anal retentive and can’t take a hint had insisted he help upstairs since his slow healing injuries had prevented more than light-duty cleaning and demon book cataloging. Fine, let them deal with the smelly paint and turpentine but she would be there for the decorating and accessorizing. Angel’s new home was going to be light and airy. It didn’t matter that light couldn’t be the sun; she would improvise. His last home had been underground, dark and too gloomy for happy thoughts. Cordelia would make sure Angel understood his new home was at the top of the stairs, not the bottom.


Chapter 1

“Plum,” stepping back to look at his finished wall, Wesley repeated the word with a studious ahum, “plum.”

In an effort to hide the grimace at Wesley’s plum, ahum plum remark Angel’s face remained fixed to his own wall as he dipped the roller into the paint tray. Cordelia had said trust me, we’re going for refinement with subtle masculinity; you don’t need the room to shout I’m a manly man. Trust was important, especially now. A man that screams like a girl was questioning his room being the color of a small fruit.

“Actually it’s sugar plum.” Angel was bold and confident in his correction. “It’s a bit soft at first but when you combine it with the black and red bedding it takes on a more masculine feel.”

“I see.”

“Oh, and there’s accessories,” no need to hold back now, “they give the darks a splash of gold for contrast.”

“Really,” Wesley’s brow arched and he began wiping overzealous brush strokes of sugarplum from the molding painted in french vanilla.

He was a manly man; that much Angel was sure. He turned meeting Wesley’s pompous expression with a confident stare. “These colors work for me, I’m an autumn.”

“Come again,” Wesley requested thinking Angel was either looking forward to cooler temperatures or wanted him to research the correlation between the equinox and the celestial sphere.

“Fall colors work best for me, you know, colors of nature, dark jewel tones.” Angel was simply explaining it to Wesley the way Cordelia had explained it to him. It had made sense at the time, but then Cordelia had been holding up swatches beside a smile that helped him remember the sun.

“I see.” What more could one say when presented with such personal information. His watchers training had not included selecting the correct color pallet.

Angel’s confidence was faltering. Where was a thick book when you needed to slam an arched brow in it? “No self-respecting vampire should know that.”

“Probably not, but then, very few vampires spend three nights in a row shopping with Cordelia Chase.”

“Well maybe they should. They’d be too busy accessorizing to be out at night causing trouble.”

“You’re even beginning to sound like Cordelia.” His voice shrieked higher than he’d liked but considering the topic of their conversation Wesley figured a shriek tone fit.

They had discussed but Angel knew the watcher in Wesley had not been satisfied. He had made a point to keep an appropriate distance. There had been hardly any touching since ‘the’ talk. What did Wesley want from him? Maybe instead of decorating a room they should build a cage in the basement for the vampire. “Out with it Wes; what’s the problem now?”

“It’s just…Cordelia is young, even with the visions she can still have a life outside the agency, even the mission for that matter.”

“And a couple of shopping trips with me prevents that?”

Wesley contemplated the cruel simplicity of their situation. He genuinely understood the need to hold onto this new life. Family and acceptance were nearly as new to him as they were to Angel. It was because he valued Angel’s friendship that he would protect those important to him from a path that could destroy their new life.

“Angel considering the fact that the better part of Cordelia’s days, and often nights are consumed with fighting evil, don’t you think her free time should be spent with people her own age? Shouldn’t she be allowed to enjoy whatever time the visions allow?”

“Spend time with who; one of the losers from her acting class or David Nabbit? You saw the pictures Wes; you couldn’t even tell it was upside down. You do know what he was doing with that demon?”

A brief flinch jerked his body as Wesley recalled the explicit details captured by Mr. Nabbit’s blackmailer. “Yes, I have a rather graphic recollection of that particular photo.”

“So you’d rather Cordelia be with a man who satisfies his twisted fantasies at a demon brothel than with me. Do you honestly think Cordelia is safer with Nabbit than me?”

“That’s not the case and you know it.” Wesley was quick to defend his position and just as quickly dreading the course of their current discussion.

“Then explain it to me. Why is Cordelia safer with Nabbitt?”

Wesley stood rigid against the vampire’s scowl imagining the possible horrors that could consume the very life each man desperately coveted. Evil roaming the dark city filled with rage and loathing for those who had dared to embrace his humanity. A young woman forced to destroy the person she loved most or accept dissolution of her own soul should she refuse. “Angel we are all safer if Cordelia is with David Nabbit.”

“The curse,” retched from his lips. A crucible inflicted upon the vampire denying his right as demon and taunting him with the unattainable. “Cordelia is not Buffy. How I feel about Cordelia is different.” Brown eyes dark with anger and shadowed in fear pierced the narrow space between the two men. “I won’t make the same mistake Wes. I won’t risk losing what I have now.”

Perhaps the heartache of experience had earned Angel the right to decide his limitations. The choice to be a warrior in the fight against evil had been made freely and Wesley was confident of Angel’s sincerity and commitment to that choice.

A brow arched in purpose lowered to rest above the rim of paint-splattered glasses. The curse and its ramifications may very well be an ever-present threat but fretting over what ifs would not change the truth of their situation. Trust could only be given unconditionally or withheld completely. His lips stretching into a sly grin Wesley gambled that friendship and blind faith could find strength over centuries old avengement. “One final suggestion, if I may…never divulge to your enemies you are an autumn or that sugar plum was a conscious choice on your part.”

***

Three hours after Wesley bid his goodnight, walls rich and deep with color were adorned with gold sconces holding creamy white candles, tasteful landscapes salvaged from the wasteland of the basement and a prized collection of antique weaponry Cordelia scaled down in order to project but not overstate.

Old carpet worn bare by too many footsteps had been ripped away days earlier revealing wide mahogany boards, luckily only in need of a hearty scrubbing and lacquered shine. The refurbished floor was the perfect background for the large rug strategically placed on the master’s side of the bed. Thick and plush for bare feet to sink into, its ebony surface was showcased inside an intricate border of fleur de le of gold, red and purple.

Angel’s old desk rescued from the destruction of their old office and given new life with the same articulate attention fit perfectly in its new surroundings. His new desk chair bought second hand for its combination of leather and wood was the perfect mate. Accessories were sparse giving way to organization and a clutter free surface; a banker’s lamp, a writing pad and ballpoint pen neatly nestled inside its holder and a half-read book interrupted by events more important.

Draperies carefully selected to guard against the sun but with an illusion of light and airy were hung from wooden rods freshly painted and sporting new gold finials. The window received two layers; the first a single piece of heavy fabric for protection, the top layer rich, crimson panels of damask swept back for an open look. A large ceramic disc hung from two chains anchored to the wooden rod. When ingenuity was present improvisation only required dedication. With tender attention the ceramic piece had been hand painted and glazed with the early morning rays of the sun rising above the horizon.

The small étagère, which Cordelia had profusely insisted was more than a bookcase, stood in the corner filled in abundance with antique relics and age worn books that had survived the fiery blast. The middle shelf Cordelia reserved for the small collection of photos scrounged up and fitted into the perfect frames. One of Wesley and Gunn she had captured while they sat at the bottom of the stairs after defeating Thesulac. A wallet size of Doyle tucked inside her purse she would share with Angel. The largest photo, Cordelia and Angel posing in the newly cleaned and polished lobby she placed behind the smaller ones. Her final contribution to Angel’s photo collection, a picture painstakingly sliced from her senior yearbook. Though no longer part of her life, Cordelia accepted that Buffy Summers would always be a significant part of Angel’s.

A sheet of ruby red silk fluttered in the air before settling across the bed, Cordelia and Angel smoothing out the wrinkles as the sheet fell into place. The thick, black coverlet was next, its dark and heavy texture accented with small embroidered leaves of red, gold and dark green trailing around the edge. Throw pillows of assorted accent colors were tossed on top of the bed pillows encased in matching shams, and then repositioned for a more natural arrangement.

Their task complete and cup of warm blood in hand, Angel settled into his large, leather chair propping his feet on the matching ottoman. He was comfortable in this new place; the attention to detail had transformed the room into home. It definitely had a masculine feel and offered a subtle statement that a man lives here, but the underlying success, the soft whispers of a woman’s touch.

Cordelia stretched across the bed; the plush comforter inviting her to scrunch into its plump cradle. She slithered over the smooth surface reveling in her accomplishment. Fine woven cotton felt like velvet against her face and bare shoulders only covered with the narrow straps of her top. “I’m getting excited, are you getting excited?”

The words, spoken as casually as commenting on the weather choked in his throat when the half-swallowed blood gulped back up. Eyes wide and lips pursed Angel struggled to hold the stream of

dark, red liquid inside his mouth. Another lifetime would pass and Angel would not be prepared for the blunt honesty of Cordelia Chase.

Leaping to the foot of the bed to protect the new linens, expensive compared to her limited income, Cordelia squawked at the clumsiness as the last heave spilled red moisture staining his lower lip. “Gees Angel, watch it. You can’t be throwing this in the washer every time bedtime snacks get sloppy.” With a hard gulp, the last of the blood was swallowed down but the confession remained battling coherent thought.

Jaw clinched Angel simply stared, his face blank except for the trace of panic overlooked. The actual occurrence may not have been discussed but Angel was sure Wesley’s list of things not allowed included feeling excited while Cordelia was in his bed. “Sorry; and excited? No I’m not excited.” Why was he apologizing? It was his blood and his new bedding bought with his money. OK technically their money since they had agreed the money belonged to the agency.

“Angel are you OK; you look pale. Maybe the blood’s bad. Did it make you gag.”

“No I’m fine, it’s fine; it just went down the wrong way.”

“You’d think after two and a half centuries you’d have the swallowing liquid thing down pat.”

“Well excuse me Cordelia.” Leaning back into the suddenly less relaxing chair Angel wiped across his mouth and chin checking for smears, “but I usually have my bedtime snacks alone, not with a woman in my bed announcing she’s excited.”

Having rescued the perfectly selected, massed produced, one of a kind coverlet, Cordelia fell back gazing at the ceiling. “I know what you mean big guy. Maybe that’s why we round up together. I mean between you, me and Wesley we can’t even scare up one date, unless you count the losers.”

The mood was swiftly changing and Angel realized he was the victim of Cordelia’s colorful dialogue. Cordelia wasn’t excited about being in his bed; she was excited about her decorating accomplishment. “Why do we need dates? We have each other.”

“Well your one big time might be all you get because of your curse but I don’t intend to be cursed from ever trying again because my one time was a disaster.”

Talk about dating and Cordelia’s next time being better was definitely ruining the ambiance.

“So who are you thinking of dating, anyone I know or someone new?”

“David is coming by tomorrow. He spent a lot of time working up proposals for a long term lease and us buying this place. Well actually it was his staff that spent the time but he was paying them. The least we can do is listen and pretend like we understand.”

“And that has what to do with you dating?”

“We planned on going out afterwards.”

“Cordelia, I don’t think spending time with David Nabbit is a good idea.”

“I haven’t really thought about it as an idea, but if I did it wouldn’t be a bad one. Is that what you think? My being with David is a bad idea?”

A surge of panic shot through his nervous system. “You’re not with Nabbit.” Angel’s nostrils flared taking in a quick scent. Relief followed the easy separation of acceptable prints. Wesley, and Gunn to a smaller degree, but mainly his just as it should be.

“Uh, with?” Eyes wide with confusion and a little embarrassment, “no with is not the metaphor we’re looking for. Which brings to question, why are we looking for a metaphor and did you just sniff me?”

Angel’s turn, discomfort with any situation requiring verbal interaction was a familiar feeling but embarrassment, a bit foreign. Well foreign until Cordelia Chase became ninety percent of his verbal interaction. “No, of course not and I’m not looking for metaphors. It’s more like eliminating metaphors.”

“OK, stop stressing words. It’s freaking me out.”

“If talking about Nabbit freaks you it’s probably a sign it’s not a good idea.”

“Crap!” Hands clamped around her face, fingers turning white from the pressure against her temples as she curled into tight ball.

Vision…Conversation forgotten Angel was on the bed instantly scooping her curled form into his arms. With a gentle rocking motion silent whispers puffed cool breaths soothing her aching flesh. Tense muscles began to relax and knees pressed tight against her body pulled away as her legs slid down the narrow space between them.

“Can you tell me what you saw?” His voice was husky but the words remained whisper soft.

“Yea, uh…” Cordelia leaned from his embrace resting her back against the cushiony bed. Willing her body to relax and mind to focus she recalled the frightening screams and bumpy faces with fangs. “Vampires…where would we be without those,” she added with a faint smile, her eyes still hazy from the pain. “They’re attacking some teenagers hanging out in the alley. Call Wesley, there’s more than a few. I think it was that old blue jean factory where Gunn and his crew patrols. They might already there, you need to hurry.”

Angel was off the bed, Cordelia never leaving the fold of his arms as he pulled back the covers tucking her inside.

“But I’m sweaty and you haven’t even slept on your new sheets yet.” Her protest was weak, almost lost as tired eyes closed against the vision aftermath.

“It’s not important. After you’ve rested take a shower, but I want you to go back to bed afterwards. Can I trust you to listen to me just this once?”

“Who me, Miss Agreeable?”

“Yea you, Miss Never Does as She’s Told,” Angel teased giving the tip of her nose a gentle tap then slipped her hair from the scrunchie making her more comfortable. “This won’t take long, I’ll be back before you wake.”

Reluctant to leave Cordelia alone Angel grabbed his coat. A swift handling of the vision would return him to watch over her. Stopping short when the hairs on his neck bristled sending tingles across his sensitive skin he peered into the dark hallway, first one direction and then the other.

The small figure slinked further into the shadows, a sparkling cloud of red dust floating in the air around her. An intruder maybe but the presence was fleeting, barely detectable. Taking a few steps back Angel looked through the open doorway. Sleeping peacefully snuggled under the fluffy bedcovers the reason for his concerns and possibly, overactive imagination. Maybe a few ghosts still lingered unaware Cordelia Chase had taken over. A silent chuckle sent the suspicions away leaving behind a reminder to make sure the front door was securely locked.

Chapter 2

Posted June 24, 2015 by califi in TBC

A Change of Season. 6   1 comment

Chapter 3

“So let me get this straight, you want us to use our insurance money and our found money to fix up hotel hell but…we can’t do that until after we’ve evicted Methuselah.”

“It’s Thesulac, a paranoia demon.” Wesley instinctively corrected. “It whispers to its victims, feeds on their innate insecurities.”

“Uh, don’t care,” Cordelia warned giving Wesley a glare that assured him she would not be in class today. She turned back to Angel, the fast twirl of her body swishing her hair around her face. “Angel?”

“Yea, pretty much.”

“And you wanted to enthrall me with all this money before telling me.”

“Yea, pretty much.” Angel rubbed against the ache at the back of his neck that was quickly escalating to throbbing. The good times with Cordelia were really good but it always seemed to be his fault when they didn’t last.

“OK then. Just didn’t want to be left out of the loop.” Another fast twirl of her body followed by the swish of long hair and Cordelia was back to Wesley. “Alright Einstein, let it rip. I know you’re about to bust a gut, all that research just bustin’ to get out.”

“Well actually Angel did the initial research when he lived at the hotel.” Wesley announced with a smug face.

Like a whirlwind Cordelia was on the move again. Sitting at Angel’s side, she tapped his knees with a few reassuring pats, “Well it’s their own fault you didn’t get a chance to use it. They killed you too soon.”

Catching the arch of Wesley’s brow Angel shifted letting Cordelia’s hand slip from his thigh. “We need to page Gunn, we’re gonna need all the muscle we can get when we raise this thing.”

“Raise it?” Cordelia leaned forward with eyes widening in disbelief. “Why wake it up? Why not just chop its head off while it’s asleep?”

“The Thesulac is not asleep Cordelia,” Wesley gave an exasperated shake of his head. “We have to force it to become corporeal in order to kill it.”

“Oh, well here’s what I was thinking,” Cordelia announced snuggling into her corner of the couch. “While the he-men evict the hotel hell squatter I’ll visit with David; you know, see if he has any suggestions on how to make this move-in less painful, financially anyway.”

“David?” Angel chose to ignore Wesley’s brow arch at the irritation in his voice. Wes can shove his arched brows in one of his books and I’ll slam it shut for him.

“David Nesbit, you know, geek millionaire, likes to play hero games.”

“Yea, I know the kind of games he likes to play. No, I need you at the hotel.” Angel’s tone held a ring of finality, no room for discussion.

“No? Just like that…no? And what do you need me for?”

“Lots of things. I need you to scatter the divining Powder.”

“Yippee,” Cordelia clapped her hands, “Cordy gets to add dust to the house of dust. How ‘bout you guys start without me and I’ll catch up.”

“Angel if The Thesulac is as powerful as you remember, it might be better for Cordelia not to be a the hotel.”

Angel cursed the unfairness of life. If he were human, he wouldn’t have to choice between a man that indulges in demon brothel pleasures and fighting a dangerous paranoid demon. “OK, but I want you at the hotel before dark. We have a lot to do.”

“Yes Dad.”

“Cordelia, don’t call me that.” Angel growled with a carefully placed smile on his tense face.

***

“Where are you guys?” Angel bellowed into the phone scrunched between his ear and shoulder as he worked inside the open fuse box.

“We have purchased the supplies required and are now in route to the hotel.” Wesley yelled above the roar of traffic. Cordelia had insisted they put the top down because the sacred herbs stashed in the backseat smelled like yesterday’s fish heads.

Electrical sparks surged as wires were crossed. “He knows we’re coming for him. The longer we wait the more ready he’s gonna be.” Angel hunched and dodged as more sparks flew from the fuse box, “I want you down here asap,” then gave into a faint smile as the lights flickered becoming a steady glow.

“Right, we’re on our way,” Wesley yelled before clicking off the phone. “Remind me again why you changed your mind.” Wesley glanced over at Cordelia nestled between him and Gunn mentally noting the vacant backseat except for a few supplies and smelly herbs.

“Duh, because you guys need me. You’ll get yourselves killed and then where would I be?”

“Well since you’re worried about us.” Wesley yelled his sarcastic tone above the squall of wind fluttering past his ears.

“Guys,” Gunn shouted from his tight squeeze against the passenger door, “let’s save the bitch slappin’ for… What did you call this place Barbie?”

“Hotel hell.”

“Right hotel hell.” Gunn faced forward letting the wind take the sound of his words. “Why do I keep saying yes to these people?”

Cordelia strolled into the hotel followed by Wesley and Gunn carrying the supplies. Angel couldn’t help but smile a the sight. “Cordy, you’re here.”

“Where else big guy? I asked David to come by tomorrow. I’m hoping if he sees me toiling he’ll send over his maid.”

“OK, let’s do this. Wes you got everything we’ll need?”

“Yes, orb, powder,” and with a teasing grin to Cordelia, “and smelly herbs at the ready.”

Cordelia stuck her tongue out at Wesley then proceeded to sprinkle the divining powder on the first few steps leading upstairs as Wesley began to chant the spell.

“We call thee forth, Thesulac of the netherworld, we command you, leave our minds and join us on this, the physical plane.” Holding out his hand to Gunn still fiddling with his backpack, Wesley urgently snapped his fingers. “Orb of Ramjerin!”

Gunn looked up yelling into the large room. “Orb of Ramjerin, please makes it happen.”

“Now please! And do be careful, ancient conjuring orbs are notoriously fragile.”

Wesley dropped his book releasing an audible yelp as he caught the orb Gunn had lobbed in his direction. “Angel! These spells are most difficult in the best of circumstances.”

“Guys, don’t listen to it, alright? What ever it’s whispering to you, just ignore it.”

“Oh no, that’s not hotel hell or its squatter. They were like this in the car,” Cordelia rolled her eyes in exasperation at her carpoolers, “all the way over here.”

“Oh.”

The orb glowing, Wesley raised his arm bringing it above his head. “We invoke thee by the power of the orb of priests of Ramjerin. What was once in our thoughts, be now in our midst.”

The air above the stair landing began to shiver and bulge as the demon manifested amidst the screams of Cordelia and Wesley.

“Watch his tentacles,” Angel warned.

“Excuse me? His what?”

“Tentacles!”

“Oh right, cause you don’t want to be touching those without permission.”

Recognizing Angel Thesulac turned in his direction. “I don’t remember ordering take-out, but I like what you brung me. Not as delectable as the last one perhaps but full of tasty paranoia just the same.” The demon gave a hearty laugh pointing at Wesley, “especially that one.”

“What did he mean by that?” Wesley looked from the demon to Angel and then back to the demon. “That one?”

“You had your last meal here a long time ago. You should have gotten out when you had the chance.”

Undaunted Thesulac drifted closer to Angel. “Got out? Now, why would I wanna do that? The room service in this hotel is excellent. Paranoia here is like fine wine.”

“Some things get better with age, some just grow stale. Gunn now!”

Gunn fired his crossbow pinning one of Thesulac’s tentacles to the banister of the stairs. Another tentacle lashed out wrapping around Gunn’s hand preventing another shot, before tossing him against the wall.

Cordelia and Wesley took off in different directions allowing Angel to move in under the distraction. Jumping into a forward roll he grabbed one of the demon’s tentacles before rolling back to his feet. “The kitchen is closed.” Angel shoved the end of the tentacle against the wires still exposed in the fuse box. An explosion of sparks and blue electricity traveled up the tentacle wrapping around the demon. Thesulac hung in the air trapped inside the electrical charge before exploding into a white light with a horrifying scream.

“Is everyone OK,” Angel asked immediately heading toward Cordelia.

“Yea man, I’m good.”

“What did he mean, especially that one?”

“Great now we’ll have to listen to Mr. I left My Confidence In My Other Pants psychoanalyze himself.”

“It doesn’t matter, he seems to enjoy the challenge. Are you OK?”

“Yea I’m fine Big Guy.”

Angel brushed the loose strands that had fallen from Cordelia’s pigtail behind her ear. “So I guess you were serious about fighting demons.”

“No…I said I’d fight demons if I had too…and you needed me.”

“Yea, I guess I did. I’m gonna check the upstairs. I’ll be back in a minute.”

“Just so you know,” Cordelia called out to Angel halfway up the stairs, “if you find any relatives up there they’re staying and we’re leaving.”

After giving herself a minute to enjoy Angel’s smile Cordelia joined Wesley and Gunn sitting at the bottom of the steps.

“I’ve been accused of a great many things in my time, but paranoid has never been one of them.”

“Wesley we just survived evicting a demon with more tentacles than I ever want to remember, please don’t bore us to death.”

Gunn leaned back shaking his head and looking over at Cordelia. “Give it up Barbie.”

“Unless people have been saying it behind my back.”


Epilogue

Angel stood outside the closed door of room 217. “A vampire slaying a demon to help some grubby humans? I just don’t get it.” “To be honest, I’m not sure I do either.” It had taken the vampire nearly half a century but he was finally beginning to figure it out. Maybe home and family isn’t just a dream.

Pushing the door open Angel stepped inside. The room empty of presence except for his own Angel took his first step away from the past into the present. “There is such a thing as forgiveness, right?” Looking around the room a small smile graced his faced. “Yea Judy, there is.” Angel walked out closing the door behind him. Looking back one last time he headed downstairs to his future.

“You all right man?” Gunn asked seeing Angel descend the stairs.

“Yeah,” Angel nodded, then looking at Cordelia, “ready to move in?”

“A few throw pillows and we’re home. What’s not to love?”

“Angel, surely you more than anyone must appreciate how for the better part of the last century this place has been host not only to a malevolent demonic presence, but the very worst faces of humanity. This is a house of evil.”

Gunn gave a couple of light slaps to Wesley’s shoulder. “No lie, plus it kind of has an odor to it. You notice that?”

Angel looked around the lobby then at his makeshift family. “Not anymore, we’re home.”

Wesley looked around himself then leaned in closer to Angel. “Angel you don’t find me especially paranoid, do you?”

“Not especially.”

“Oh, thank god. I was worried.”

PART 3

Posted June 24, 2015 by califi in TBC

A Change of Season. 5   1 comment

Chapter 2

Angel entered the apartment surprised to see Wesley stretched out on the sofa reading the newspaper and drinking tea. “Taking a break?” Angel asked looking around for Cordelia, disappointed not finding her.

“Yes a break, of sorts,” Wesley answered without looking up from his newspaper.

“Where’s Cordelia?” So much for her understanding she’s not to go out at night alone. Maybe she’s not alone. “Wes, where’s Cordy?”

“She’s taking a bath. We thought we might get a bite to eat, maybe take in a movie. That is if we can agree on something that won’t make me wish to be deaf and blind.”

Cordelia was going out with Wes. “Oh, a night of fun sounds good. I understand you guys need to take a break from all the research. So what can you tell me about The Hyperion?”

“What can you tell us?”

“Huh?” Angel spun around to face his inquisitor. Skin still damp from the steam of her bath, her fingers tugged through long tendrils of wet hair working out the stubborn tangles.

Cordelia ignored Angel’s weird, dork-like stare stepping around him to the table piled with clippings and printouts from their day’s work. She had worked up quite a steam of her own while bathing. Less than twenty-four hours ago Angel had professed himself her champion, committed himself as her protector and now the hermit vampire was backpedaling. Cordelia lifted a folder; the one that contained what she was sure represented only a handful of his two and a half centuries of secrets.

“Here,” she said reaching the folder out, “this is probably what you’re looking for. 1952 seems to have been an interesting year, well interesting if you’re into murder ala helter-skelter.”

Thinking it best to ignore Cordelia’s agitation for the moment, Angel took
the offered folder. Sitting down in one of the empty chairs at the table he placed the still securely locked satchel at his feet. Opening the folder, he skimmed its contents lingering on the newspaper headlines and various photos, spying a rarely seen face in the background of one. His gaze trailed up to look into Cordelia’s face, which earned him an “umph” before she stormed into the kitchen.

“Why are you so upset?” Angel asked rising up and dumping the folder and its too familiar reminders back onto the table before stomping after her.

“Why am I upset? I’ll tell you why I’m upset.” The juice carton hit the counter so hard the liquid sloshed from its open spout spilling onto the countertop. “Wesley and I spent all afternoon researching that old hotel’s history and you could have just told us, if you trusted us enough that is.” Her accusation finished Cordelia wiped up the sticky mess with jerky smacks of a paper towel before returning the juice to the refrigerator having never poured it into her glass.

“I’m sorry if I upset you,” Angel declared as he began to pace the short length of the kitchen. “But have you considered there might be things that happened in that hotel that I don’t want you to know about?”

“Duh,” Cordelia answered as they met passing each other in their rigid pace.

“Duh, what does that mean?” Angel demanded stopping short. Asking was not necessary since her refusal to answer wasn’t going to be an option.

Cordelia swung to the right mid pace to prevent their collision sending Angel another bite me or burn in hell glare. He couldn’t be sure which only knew which one he would accommodate.

Stepping aside to give room to the waving accusations of her arms Cordelia swished her hands at Angel’s face. “It means Angel we’re only a team if you don’t have to share.”

“I share with you…both of you…all the time and get your hands out of my face.”

“Pfftt, you do not. Tell him Wesley, tell him,” Cordelia insisted jabbing her finger at the man as though she needed to point out her required compliance.

“Well I…you see,” Wesley stuttered. His legs still stretched out he had pulled himself upright on the sofa staring over the back at his two arguing and pacing partners. “You see Angel; perhaps you should…sometimes you.”

“Gees Wesley spit it out. No wonder you kiss like a fish. One uncomfortable confrontation and you go belly up.” Cordelia snipped, providing Wesley with his own foot stomp.

“Well excuse me for choosing my words carefully.” Wesley sheepishly defended. He hadn’t been thrilled about the idea of this confrontation from its conception and now that his kissing skills were being questioned he was against the idea entirely.

“Choose your words, did you pick any?”

“That’s not important right now Cordelia, focus.” Another demand issued, Angel’s voice more harsh than Cordelia could remember being directed at her.

“You’re right; why won’t you-”

“How do you know Wesley kisses like a fish?” Angel asked surprised that his third demand would tempt Wesley to leap in wailed denial.

“I do not kiss like a fish. Cordelia you take that back…and I am waiting for an apology.”

“Wait all you want Wesley, wait for pigs to fly if you want an apology. I have bigger things to worry about…like having two idiots for partners.” Cordelia wasn’t sure what they were arguing about anymore, she only knew Cordelia Chase would not be the yoyo at the end of this vampire’s string.

“Why are we discussing Wesley’s fish kisses?” Cordelia asked, her pace becoming heavier and more erratic as her temper flared higher.

“Because you brought it up.” The two men cried out in unison.

“Aarrrgggg,” Cordelia screamed, pots and pans rattling as Dennis joined in her frustration. “Look the kiss doesn’t matter, it was just the one time when we thought the mayor was gonna eat us. It was bad, worse than being on the menu even and it never happened again.”

“Well except that one time when I first arrive in LA.”

“Oh yea, I forget about that.” Anger and pacing were temporarily set aside as Cordelia and Wesley reminisced his arrival and their experimental vision dispensing kiss. “That one was definitely better.”

“What the hell do you two do when I’m not around?” Was this one harsher than harsh? Cordelia guessed it was since Angel’s voice sounded like heavy grit sandpaper being scrubbed bare as it scraped off the first layer of steel.

“Besides research,” Cordelia asked putting quotation marks in the air. “And let me just say while we’re on the subject of research and kissing, if being left behind to research with Wesley was an aphrodisiac I’d be a freakin’ nymphomaniac by now.”

“Wh–at,” the word nearly choking inside his throat as it battled a stifled growl. What are you talking about, being left behind? When do I leave you behind and since when is researching with Wesley an aphrodisiac?”

“Try all the time.” Her voice mimicked and flaunted. Cordelia was beyond angry now, she was pissed. ‘Cordy you stay here and help Wes research the gray blobby, purple oozy thing while I track and kill it’. Would it kill you to just once ask me if I’d like to join in the maiming and killing?”

“So now you want to fight demons; is that it?”

“Noooo, but it’d be nice if you asked once in a while and researching with Wesley is not an aphrodisiac. God Angel digress much; we’re not you and Buffy patrolling in a graveyard.”

Cordelia was pretty sure some steam might have puffed from reddened ears. She saw the jaw clinch to a crushing tightness and wondered if this was a prelude to fangs and bumpy forehead.

“I’m gonna let that little snark slide because we have more important issues to deal with right now but bite at the wrong thing again sweetheart and I’ll demonstrate what punishment is.”

Sharp fangs and bumpy-uglies be damned. Did Angel just threaten to punishment her for bad behavior? What were they now, father and daughter, priest and wayward sinner, more like dumb-ass and good samaritan.

Cordelia felt static air prick her flesh, Dennis rushing to her defense. Swatting a hand at the non-visual she sliced through the electrical charge buzzing a perimeter around her personal space. Queen C didn’t need it, she would show this dracula reject just what a real bite was.

“Bastard,” the single word trilled from her wrenching chest spilling into the room. Stinging tears much too loose for an audience trailed close behind. Queen C sucked into the emotional oblivion that was her life, Cordelia fled to the one sanctuary left in her overrun apartment.

Eyes snapped shut. The buzzing stopped but his ears were still ringing haunted by the shrill of her bastard inflicted wound. He had allowed their petty argument to escalate beyond control and now he had hurt her and wasn’t sure how to make it right. If he was going to fix this he had to first figure out what they were fighting about and he had lost that particular focal point shortly after stepping through the door.

The slam echoed across the void sending a vibrating swoosh past his form. Angel cringed hearing the tinkling rattle of her precious glass menagerie. His eyes fluttered open falling on the salt and pepper shakers nestled beside the bumblebee sugar bowl. Keen sight picked up the slight residue of sticky goo left behind by hastily wiped juice. The scene had been altered, he blinked, and still not right he blinked again. This view had been obstructed only seconds earlier by innocence and acceptance wrapped in layers of heat and energy and perfectly proportioned feminine wiles.

Cordelia had taken refuge in the one place Angel could not follow. The sunlight wouldn’t do it and as a smart girl would, Cordelia knew the threat of sun and flames did not outweigh need embellished by anger.

Shoulders hunched in defeat Angel turned to the securely closed bedroom door. He didn’t need to feel the snap of electron charged air to know Dennis stood between him and the off-limits door.

“Wes what the hell just happened here?”

“Well Angel,” Wesley sat up swinging his legs to the floor finishing off his upright position with a slap to his knees. “I believe in 1952 you deemed it prudent to reside at The Hyperion and later you went to hell, quite literally I might add. Now you live in LA with Cordelia Chase and well, should your current lodging require any filling in of the blanks I think that would best be done in private. I believe I will take my leave now, maybe get a bite to eat, possibly even take in a show and if I’m lucky…I’ll go deaf and blind. Goodnight Angel.”

His jacket draped across his arm, Wesley walked quietly to the door. He had said all he had to say about the matter. Leaving the two to work out what he considered a subject best left in the dark Wesley pulled the door shut behind his exit.

This isn’t hell. Hell was a sad excuse compared to this. This is the evil place he had been warned of in his youth by crotchety, old priests hell-bent that every sinner would live in fear of its existence. This is limbo, this is purgatory. That place where heaven is an awareness never seen and definitely never touched. Where the shackles of hell hold you in place teasing you with fiery strokes never letting you burn to ash.

Calm, keep your voice calm. “Cordelia open the door so we can talk.”

“Go away Angel, it’s obvious that us and talking do not go together.”

“That’s ridiculous, us and talking go fine together.” calm, calm-calm-calm. “Now why don’t you come out; I’m really not comfortable talking to you while you’re in your bedroom.”

“There’s a remedy for that Angel, stop talking.”

Screw calm. “Cordelia stop acting like a spoiled brat!”

“Spoiled brat?” The door shook and Angel was certain it was because Cordelia’s foot had made hard contact with the lower end.

“OK be like that, I on the other hand will take the more mature road and wait for you to act like the mature, young woman I know you are.” Angel went to sofa. Sitting down he sprang back up before his bottom hit the cushion. “Damn it Cordelia, I’m gonna count to ten and if you’re not out of there I will break down the door.”

Anger followed by a countdown was followed by the twist of the doorknob. “Fine, if you’re gonna pull the caveman antics I’ll come out.” Cordelia stepped from her private seclusion eyes red, the taste of salty moisture in the air. “See I’m out; now leave before I say something that might be remotely unflattering about your precious…” After a quick review Cordelia decided a bite to the tongue would hurt less than another round with Angel. “Angel just go.”

“I’m not leaving; Cordelia I don’t even know what we’re fighting about anymore.”

“Well I don’t either. I mean one minute we’re talking about you not sharing and suddenly Wesley’s a fish and I’m fighting demons.” Rambling stopped Cordelia shook her head trying to stop the tears before they could spill again.

Angel closed the distance between them gently grasping her upper arms. “Cordy, listen to me, I don’t want you fighting. I can’t risk you being hurt and I don’t think that’s something worth arguing about anyway.”

“It’s not and I don’t want to fight demons.” Cordelia admitted leaning her head down to rest against Angel’s chest. “I would…sniff-snort-sniff…if I needed to but I don’t want to.”

“That’s good ‘cause I don’t want you to.” Angel soothed resting his chin atop her head of damp hair that was becoming a bit unruly.

“Where’s Wesley?” Cordelia asked between sniffs.

“He mumbled something about being hungry and then about going deaf and blind if he watched a movie.”

“Pfftt, he’s by himself, he can watch whatever he wants, the melodramatic geek.”

“Hey when I first got here, before all the yelling, Wes told me you guys were going out for dinner. Do you still want to go out? We’ll even catch a movie if you want.”

Cordelia finally lifted her head but only so Angel could see her disbelieving eye roll. “What, I can be brave; I am you’re champion you know.”

And there it was again, her champion. Suddenly Angel wasn’t the guy shutting her out of his life and threatening her for trashing the big love of his life. Now he’s her champion…again. Cordelia wanted off, Angel’s tilt-a-world ride was making her seasick. “Thanks but I’m really not in the mood to go out. I think I’ll just turn in early.”

“Well then how about we have something delivered. We’ll eat, maybe watch a little TV and talk. Then we’ll get a good night’s sleep and tomorrow we’ll discuss what happened at The Hyperion when I stayed there. How does that sound?”

“Fine if that’s what you want but I don’t want you feeling like I forced you and if we’re eating in I want chinese.”

“I don’t, now go wash your face and I’ll take care of the rest.” He slipped his fingers under her chin lifting her face to his. “Cordy,” Angel whispered. Lost were the words that would break the moment and he touched his lips to her forehead. It was brief, barely a brush of cool lips to warm skin. It was innocent, two friends ending an argument that should have never happened. Cordelia smiled, then stepped away breaking the moment.

“Oh, and we can’t discuss that old hotel or anything else remotely related to work without Wesley. The man gets his panties in a wad over the least little thing.”

Wes and panties, that image will haunt me for days.

***

He was prepared to use his key but hearing the almost silent turn of lock and knob the key dropped back into his pocket. The apartment was dark and quiet. The door closing of its own accord, well mostly, Wesley leaned against the solid surface giving his eyes time to adjust. A sliver of moonlight found its way through a narrow gap in fabric casting a misty halo around the two sleeping bodies nestled on the sofa.

“Wes,” the voice was low, not soft tenderness but sleep disrupted gruff. The vampire was slouched on the sofa’s end, his long legs stretched out with his sleeping partner’s head cradled in his lap.

Angel instinctively took Cordelia’s upper arm in a tender grip. The meaning of the protective display not missed by their observer. Wesley reviewed his notes from anatomy 101. The hand had not risen from Angel’s side where it would have come into view from behind the curve of Cordelia’s hip but had slid up the contours of slender, shapely legs.

“Angel,” Wesley finally answered, not sure he had been directed a question. “My injuries were acting up a bit and being nearer here than my own flat I thought I would take refuge on Cordelia’s sofa. At this late hour I had assumed Cordelia would be asleep in her bed and you would be…elsewhere. I see I was mistaken.”

“We must have fallen asleep watching TV.”

Tired feet shuffled toward the lamp. With a simple click a small but adequate glow lit his path. Wesley looked to the TV screen, silent and dark and then to his friend’s vacant face, “I see.”

“I’ll take Cordelia to be-ed, so you can have the sofa.” In a smooth rise Angel straightened his hulking mass lifting the young woman like the weight of a small child. Without a word he turned and slipped into the adjacent room content once again in its cover of darkness.

Wesley watched from the doorway as the bedcovers lifted, Dennis and his not so invisible doting waiting for Angel to slip Cordelia inside. Her body eased onto the mattress with little disturbance and blankets rolled forward stopped by the vampire’s firm but gentle grasp.

Wesley hadn’t missed how the word had choked in Angel’s throat and wondered as he watched the two tuck the blanket around Cordelia’s sleeping form if the vampire and the ghost realized the futility of their desires. Wondered if the young woman was confronted by this revelation, would she embrace it or run screaming into the night. But for now, Wesley was content Cordelia had no such knowledge and neither would-be suitor was prepared to challenge that particular naiveté. So Wesley would be the martyr; experience had taught him that choices were seldom unrestrictive. In light of their circumstances, only one choice could be acceptable.

“Angel, I’m sure Dennis will make sure Cordelia is taken care of. You should leave Dennis to what he does best.” Wesley watched the vampire’s shoulders droop. Regret and defeat were a burdensome weight and many men buckled under that burden.

The back of his fingers brushed down her cheek, tucking the loose strands of hair behind her ear. His spine became rigid pulling him from his lingering hover and he swept from the room grabbing his coat as he approached the outer door. “Goodnight Wes,” Angel whispered as the door closed behind him.

***

Cordelia exited her bedroom with her arms stretched into the air. Her lips expanded in a wide-mouth yawn adjusted its shape into a happy smile when she spied Wesley lounging on the sofa. “Good morning Wesley.”

“Good Morning Cordelia, sleep well?”

“Yea and now I’m hungry, where’s Angel?”

“He went out a little after midnight, hasn’t returned yet.

“Oh…well Angel’s been sun intolerant for a long time, he knows to be careful. So anybody hungry?”

“Pity Dennis can’t cook, then you’d have practically everything a woman wants in a man.”

“Dennis is pretty well rounded for a…you know, and he’s not likely to cheat on me either.” Cordelia instinctively rubbed the scarred reminder through her pajama top. She wasn’t sure why that particular memory called for attention.

“Cordelia is something wrong?”

“No just thinking back to how things used to be. You know, I was a little ditzy back in Sunnydale-OK a lot ditzy. OK fine, I was one ditzy bitch, but I could have had any man I wanted.” Cordelia pressed her index finger against her bottom lip staring at the friend. “You know Wesley back in the day you thought I was beautiful.”

“Well, I…You’re an extraordinary young woman but I…”

“Relax Wesley we’re just having a stroll down memory lane. Don’t get bunched up or we’ll have to buy more stewed prunes.”

“Cordelia!”

“Pfftt, how bad can it be if mushy fruit is the answer? I’m talking about the important stuff, life changing stuff. Like now that we’re in the superhero club the best action I can get is a ghost who’s good with the loohfah and God Wes, you don’t even get that.”

“Who’s doing what with the Loofah?” Angel asked sensing the slight cringe from Wesley and Cordelia.

“Not Loofah, Looh-fah Nooctm…Skumth. It’s a demon.”

“You had a vision?” Angel asked, mild suspicion quickly turning to mid-level panic.

“Nope, vision free. So, you went with the dark clothes today. That’s always a good choice…as in didn’t really have to choose, just reached in and grabbed a hanger. So, who’s hungry?”

“Cordelia keeps throwing subtle hints for someone to cook breakfast. I was just about to concede but luckily Angel, you arrived in the nick of time.”

“OK breakfast duty it is, you want omelets or pancakes?”

“Can I have just scrambled, like we used to at the old office? Wait does just scrambled give me time to shower?”

“Twenty minutes.”

“Twenty minutes? How can a girl make herself beautiful in twenty minutes?” Cordelia performed a fashion model turn and spin. “Oh, I’m already beautiful. Twenty minutes it is.”

***

Shower accomplished in record time, eggs had been scrambled and eaten. Discussion of the past followed by question and answer time was well underway.

“So you just walked away?”

“Yea.”

“Well Angel, it was a rather emotional time. I mean a Thesulac demon can be very overwhelming to one’s psyche even for a vampire.”

“Yea big guy you were lucky to get out of there with body and soul intact.”

“Probably.”

“No probably, those people killed you. It doesn’t matter that you didn’t actually die, again.”

“But they couldn’t control what they were doing.”

“And neither could you.”

“I guess you’re right.” Angel admitted relieved to feel the past slipping further into its dark shadow with each encouragement. Cordelia had been right, which seemed to be the trend lately. He should have told them about his experience in the hotel. Relief would have come a lot sooner.

“Guess! Have you learned nothing? Of course I’m right.”

Now for the hard part, Cordelia contemplated her strategy carefully. Her usual snark and snarp wasn’t going to get her what she wanted. “So, creepy hotel, hoowee scary. Guess we’re still doing the office and apartment hunt thingy. Don’t worry big guy, we’ll find something.” Cordelia reached across the table’s corner giving Angel’s shoulder a few reassuring pats.

“Actually, I was hoping we could move in this week.” Cordelia’s eyes snapped up, her vision clouding as they glazed over.

I should have shown her the money first. Reacting swiftly Angel attempted to pull in an ally for his endeavor. “Wes, maybe you could check out our chances of leasing the place. You know, figure out the move in cost and whatever else we need to know.”

“Of course, I’ll get right on it.”

Wes is so easy.

“But perhaps it’s best to first determine if Cordelia will be requiring resuscitation.”

Damn, so close. “Cordelia, you all right? Say something.” Angel considered giving her a shake but was afraid she’d spin off her chair if he touched her.

What just happened? I was cute, adorable even. Cordelia gave her head a quick shake. Convincing Angel he didn’t want to move into hotel hell would be harder if she couldn’t see him. “Uh, Angel you know fixing that place up is going to take money. Now I know we have the insurance, which I suggested by the way-which isn’t what’s important.” Her arms slipped off the table, hands firmly attaching to hipbones in subtle disagreement. “But it is worth mentioning.”

Money…she’s mine. “Well I have a little something that might help with that, kind of a silver lining in a dark cloud thing.” Angel announced rising from the chair but holding back his smug grin until he’d turned toward the closet.

“Hear that Wesley, silver lining. Do you think the emphasis was on silver?” Cordelia asked her eyes clear and saucer-wide as she gave Wesley a swat across his arm.

Wesley stretched in his chair, his stomach uncomfortably full from the second helping of eggs and buttered toast. “I would think it unlikely that Angel stumbled across a silver mine in downtown LA.”

“As a child, and I’m taking a leap here that you were one, did you ever do anything just because it was fun?”

Wesley’s mouth fell open but nothing came out. Cordelia deserved a biting retort, he just needed to come up with one.

“Uh guys,” Angel interrupted to Wesley’s relief. Now he’d have more time to deliberate on a well planned, cutting response. “In here,” Angel continued holding up the satchel like a kid to be envied by all for his one of a kind toy.

Angel heading for the couch instead of returning to the table, Cordelia and Wesley scrambled to be the first to follow. “Ladies first, besides you don’t want to risk hitting a bruised rib on my elbow.”

“If there were a lady present I would certainly conduct myself as a gentlemen.” Ha, take that. “Ouch, you did that on purpose.”

“Did not you big baby.”

Angel quietly observed the childish banter but this time there wasn’t any nagging irritation. Cordelia could bring out the child even in a stuffed shirt like Wes, Angel mused with a smile. If snappy dialogue failed, she had no problem using a jab to the gut.

Angel flipped the lock allowing the satchel to open before turning it upside. The contents thumped against the floor scattering at their feet.

“Oh my God. Am I dreaming? Somebody pinch me.”

“Gladly.”

“OW! You did that hard on purpose.”

“Did not.” Wesley mocked Cordelia’s tease pleasantly surprised he wasn’t embarrassed by his behavior.

“Guys…look at what I’ve got. The excitement is over here.”

Did Angel just gyrate his hips? Good Lord this has been a strange twenty-four hours.

“Angel how-where-is it ours?” Cordelia finally asked dropping to her knees to get closer to the pile of banded money.

“That’s an interesting question Angel. Where did you get…all this?” Wesley asked extending a sweep of his hand and returning to his usual mode of composed and analytical.

‘Uh, Judy, the girl I told you about. She stole it from her employer.”

“I see,” was Wesley’s reply accompanied by the lift of a questioning brow.

“It’s a long story. Do you want me to tell you about it?”

“Nope,” Cordelia piped up from the floor scooping up bundles into her folded arms. “Not unless she wants it back. She doesn’t want it back, does she?” Cordelia asked, the dread of that possibility rattling in her voice.

“No, it’s ours,” Angel assured as he settled on the couch making sure his boots safely hung over the edge when he stretched his legs across the coffee table.

Cordelia hunched forward to wipe a palm across her forehead unwilling to release her stash, “whew that’s a relief. Here Wesley,” she reached up with a fistful, “don’t you want to touch it?”

“No, perhaps later,” Wesley declined with a grin taking a seat on the opposite end of the couch.

The two men sat back watching the odd but entertaining show. “You know if it was just me and Dennis I’d roll around in it naked.”

“Cordelia, really.”

“Oh put a sock it Wesley. It’s been a long time. A long, long time. I’m going to enjoy this and you are not going to mess it up with your stuffy butt attitude.”

Cordelia’s eyes had glazed again and Angel was mesmerized by the energy. He was going to enjoy this moment. It was a good moment and he was taking credit for it. The prickling of his neck caused by Wesley’s analytic watcher’s stare was not going to ruin it.

“Everything is fine Wes. Things just got a little confusing last night. That’s all. I had a long walk and did a lot of soul searching. I just needed to get some perspective.”

“I hope you’re right Angel.” Sincerity was clear but Angel didn’t miss the equal match of uncertainty.

“A week ago Cordelia was locked inside a world of insanity. People hurt her because she was with me.” Angel pointed to the young woman temporarily lost in her childhood days of indulgence. “Look at her Wes. This can’t be a bad thing. It can’t be…” Angel’s voice trailed off as his attention drifted back to Cordelia. Stretched out on her stomach, her giggles filled the apartment as Dennis showered her with thousand dollar bills.

Chapter 3

Posted June 24, 2015 by califi in TBC

A Change of Season. 4   1 comment

Notes: By the end of part 2, AI will be ready to move into the hotel. Beginning with part 3 I’m going to move away from the storylines of episodes until the Darla arc is introduced. I want to do one or two parts that explores the growing personal & working relationships for Angel, Cordelia, Wesley & Gunn before the bad times arrive.

PART 2

Hotel California, by The Eagles

On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair. Warm smell of colitis, rising up through the air. Up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light. My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim. I had to stop for the night. There she stood in the doorway. I heard the mission bell. And I was thinking to myself this could be heaven or this could be hell. Then she lit up a candle and she showed me the way. There were voices down the corridor. I thought I heard them say…

**~**

Prologue

Angel, Wesley and Cordelia stood in the large, dust-laden lobby of The Hyperion Hotel. Surrounded by high reaching walls stained and worn with age their eyes drifted over the sheet covered furnishings.

“Sixty-eight rooms, sixty-eight vacancies,” Angel announced, Cordelia thinking he sounded like a Miss America flunky turned too peppy tour guide.

“California Spanish, deco influence, I’d say built in the late 1920’s. It appears to have been abandoned for quite some time.” Wesley surmised as he inspected the lobby, the palms of his hands pressed against the backside of his hips.

“That’d be my guess. This used to be the heart of Hollywood. No telling how long it’s been empty.”

“From the looks of it…years.” Cordelia offered her opinion, unconcerned it not had necessarily been asked for. She tugged at one of sheets watching the dust flutter into the stale air. If that crazy vampire thinks I’m gonna help him clean hotel hell he’s…well crazy. Even a vision girl has to set boundaries.

“Hmm,” Angel hummed spying the strategically unhidden looks of disgust and defiance.

“What’s the interest Angel,” Wesley asked. “Why are we here?”

“I need you to look into its history. Find out who owns it now and why they’re letting it stay empty.”

“Who’s the client.”

“I, uh…we are; Wes, you’ll need to access police files,” Angel continued hurriedly. “Focus on cold cases, homicides, and unsolved missing persons. Start at the beginning, take it up to the present day.”

“I think Mr. Cryptic Much is trying to tell us something Wesley. So this is the place you wanted to show us? You want this to be our new office and your new home?”

“You two have already discussed this?” Wesley asked, a little miffed he had not been included in the private conversation. “So this is more than just a sudden interest in real estate.” It was a statement, maybe even a huff but definitely not a question. “Very well then, the sign out front belongs to Melman Realty and Development, I’ll get the number, start by finding out you has it on the market.”


Chapter 1

“The hotel officially closed its doors on December 16th, 1979. Oh my, on that morning the concierge, Roland Meeks, made his morning wake-up calls with a twelve gauge shotgun, room to room. The hotel has been empty ever since.”

“Guess so, I mean who wants to risk having their head blown off if they oversleep. Hey look at this,” Cordelia added peering into her laptop. “Melman Realty and Development may own the hotel but they can’t tear it down because it was declared a protected historical landmark. They’ve been trying to unload it for ten years…no buyers.”

“Mmm, no wonder, even a cursory inspection of these records indicates a storied legacy of murder and mayhem dating back to the hotel’s construction in ‘28, when a roofer leapt to his death taking two coworkers with him.”

“Yeah this is all really interesting-not, but what are we doing exactly?”

“Doing?”

“Yea doing, I know Angel thinks it’d be a good place to live and operate the agency, and why I have no idea, but why the snooping into the past?”

“Didn’t Angel share that detail during your private conversation concerning the hotel; the one that didn’t include me?”

“Gees Wesley, there was no private conversation and no excluding, paranoid much?”

Cordelia’s eyebrows rose in surprise as her sight landed on a particular photo. “You know that cursory inspection thing you were doing, well curse a little deeper and take a look at who was staying at the hotel in 1952.” Cordelia suggested shoving the black and white photo in Wesley’s face.

Wesley scanned the printout of the old photograph spotting Angel in the background. “Well, now we know one thing for certain.”

“Yup, it’s not that vampires don’t photograph, it’s just that they don’t photograph well.”

“I mean we now know Angel had a personal connection to The Hyperion.”

“So, why didn’t he just tell us?”

“Perhaps he was ashamed to.”

“Hmmm.” Damn brooding, no one knows my pain vampire. Pain in the butt is more like it.

***

He sat in his room, lit a cigarette and listened to the music seeping through the thin barrier of the wall. He brought the glass to his lips.
The sound of gunshot invaded the room un-muffled by frail wood and cheap wallpaper. He drank his blood undaunted by death.

The door locked with the bolt of a latch, the bottled blood slipped into the ice bucket.
“I’ll be finished here in just two shakes, sir.”
“You’re not the maid.”
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“There’s no cleaning trolley outside, those sheets are dirty and you’re the wrong color.”
“I’m sorry, the door was open, and I was just…I didn’t mean…”
“I’ve got nothing here to steal.”
“I wasn’t trying to steal from you, honest; I can explain.”
“Not interested, just go.”
“I can’t.”
“I’ll help you.”
“Where is she? Look pal, this really isn’t something you want to get involved in.”
“That’s true, which is why you’re gonna turn around and go away.”
“Send her on out here; that way I don’t have to come in there and get her.”
You’re not coming in here.”
“You won’t mind if I just come in and take a look around then.”
“Gee, I guess I do mind.”
“Gosh, I mean that was…I know we got off on the wrong foot, my name is…”
The door slammed shut.

He stood outside alone, cigarette tucked between two fingers. The sky was clear, the moon and stars hung low.
“World ends in ten minutes.”
He ignored the intrusion taking another deep pull from his cigarette.
“The guy in 215 killed himself.”
She continued to talk, he continued not to listen.
“Can you imagine that wallpaper being the last thing you see before you go?”
“Maybe it was the wallpaper that drove him to it.”
“I know you didn’t want to help me before, but you did and I need to thank you for that.” “You’re gonna miss the end of the world.”

The guy in 215 was murdered. There’ll be police and questions, I though you’d want to know in case you’ve got something to hide.”
“Everyone has something to hide.”
He lit her cigarette, she pulled the satchel from under the bed.
“Why take it?”
“I don’t know, angry, scared; I’ve been passing since I was 15. My blood isn’t pure, it’s tainted.”
He smiled, slight and brief. “It’s just blood, it’s all just blood.”
“Nobody believes that. I’m not one thing or the other. I’m nothing.”
“I know what that’s like.”

“I am something, a thief. What am I going to do? I’m trapped.”
“You’re not trapped.”
“If I leave now it’ll look suspicious, if I stay and the cops find this…”
“They’re not gonna find it, ‘cause I’m gonna help you.”
He picked up the satchel, placing a hand on her back he led her from the room.

He stepped from the elevator, the hall full of angry people; they clustered around her.
“I didn’t mean anything, please, I’m sorry.”
“Now you’re sorry. I thought you didn’t have anything to be sorry for. Stop lying”
“It wasn’t me.”
She looked at him, tears wet her face. She accused him.
“It was him. Look in his room. He’s got blood. He’s a monster.”
They knocked him down beating him relentlessly. They dragged him into the open hallway above the lobby. He didn’t fight back only stared at her until his vision blurred.
“Get him over there.”
“Come on. String him up.”
The rope was thrown over the rafter, the noose slipped around his neck. She screamed as they pushed him, his body dropping until the rope’s end was reached.
“Swing, you freak. Yea, that’s right, you had that coming.”
The sway of his body became still, his eyes closed, the crowd silently melted away.

He was alone, eyes snapped open. He took hold of the rope above his head pulling himself up and free of the strangling noose. He dropped to the lobby floor below. The evil took form taunting him, laughing at him.

“Well, I don’t know about you but I’m stuffed. God I love people; don’t you? They feed me their worst and I serve it right back to them and the fear and prejudice turns to certainty and hate and I take another bite. What a beautiful, beautiful dance. Oh, you got your feelings hurt, didn’t you? See what happens when you stick your neck out for them? They throw a rope around it.”

He wanted to leave, he had learned his lesson but the evil wanted to laugh and taunt and feed.

“And you thought you’d made a friend. News flash you had. That’s what made her the yummiest morsel of all. You reached her buddy, restored her faith in people. Without you she would have been just another appetizer. But you plumped her up good. Now she’s a meal that’s gonna last me a lifetime.”

He wanted to leave. He had learned his lesson. “Take them all.”

Angel stood in the hallway looking at the closed door. Room 217, he had lived there once in 1952.

Turning from the door of his old room Angel headed to the basement. Spying a chair, he used it to reach over the old, dirty piping anchored from the ceiling. His hands tapped over the pipes landing on a familiar object. He pulled the satchel layered in dust like everything else that had been left behind from its hiding place.

***

Hours later Wesley and Cordelia sat on the floor; numerous folders arranged in front of them, each dated with the year of its contents.

Wesley held a newspaper clipping its headline reading Bellhop Arrested For Murder. “Frank Gillnitz, he worked as a bellman the year that Angel was in residence, we should put him in ‘52.”

“But he wasn’t executed until ‘54. Shouldn’t we put him in the 1954 folder?”

“He wasn’t executed until ‘54, but the crime he committed, the murder of the salesman and the storing of the body in the hotel meat locker occurred in ‘52.”

“It’s kind of like a puzzle. The who died horribly because Angel screwed up 50 years ago game. Do you think that’s what he was ashamed to tell us?”

“Could be, probably,” Wesley reluctantly admitted.

“Screw this,” Cordelia hissed scattering the folders with a sweep of her hand. This isn’t solving anything. The broodmeister is gonna have to open up and tell us what happened, then we’ll talk about it. All of us so don’t get whiny about being left out,” she inserted as a warning to Wesley. “Then we can fix it and move on…but hopefully not to hotel hell.”

Chapter 2

Posted June 24, 2015 by califi in TBC

A Change of Season. 3   1 comment

Chapter 3

Cordelia found it hard to believe. She felt every sexual thought, every sexual feeling she had ever felt for Angel drain from her body. How was it possible for a man so good at so many things to sound like…that? No wonder he listened to that yodeling music of all those fat opera people, not like they’d show him up. Cordelia wondered why they had risked death and maiming so many times. Angel could have sang and the demons would have opted for suicide.

“Well you can almost always find something right out of something so wrong.” Cordelia said casting a doubtful glance at Wesley.

“Right, the man will do anything to save a life.” Wesley answered with a pained look on his face.

“I was thinking more along the lines of our heads haven’t exploded but that too.” Cordelia admitted relieved to see the host take the mike away from Angel.

“Hey how ’bout that, a performer. Why don’t we just call him Angel, the vampire with soul? I’m gonna have a chat with Mr. Tall Dark and Rockin’ and meanwhile, Durthock, the child-eater, is gonna open up to y’all. He’s searching for the gorrishyn mage that stole his power and he’s feeling just a little bit country. So, let’s give him a hand.”

The host led Angel off the stage to a table several feet away from Wesley and Cordelia. “Well, aren’t you a hot ticket? These are the only two seats left but you still have a partially unobstructed view of your…friends.” His remark sounding more like a question puzzled Angel. Why would the anagogic demon doubt his friendship with Cordelia and Wesley?

“What can you tell me?”

“I can tell you’re all business.”

“She’s in danger.”

“No, not at the moment,” the host replied peaking around Angel for a better look. “She was feeling a might queasy earlier but the cause seems to have stopped.”

Angel looked over his shoulder following the green faced demon’s eyeing trail. “No, not Cordelia, she’s fine; she is fine, isn’t she? Did you sense something?”

“No strudels your dumpling is fine. You have plenty of time to take care of any pressing engagements.”

“Then tell me where I can find the woman. She has to face The Tribunal and she’s alone.”

“And you’re feeling pretty guilty about that. Hey, you made an honest mistake. You killed her protector. A lot of guys would have done the same. Of course now she’s gonna have to face the judgment with no champion and that’s looking grim for her and the baby.”

“Then tell me where she is so I can help her.”

“Well, who’s a little curt? Who’s a little Curt Jurgens in ‘The Enemy Below’? The Tribunal will be wherever she is. She can’t escape it.”

“Where is she?” Angel growled his patient past the point of growing thin.

“My question first and answer true, because you know I’ll know; why Mandy?”

“Well, I-I know the words and,” Angel leaned closer to the host embarrassed someone would hear, “I kind of think it’s pretty.”

“And it is, you great, big sap! There is not a destroyer of worlds that can argue with Manilow and good for you for fessin’ up. She’ll be at Forth and Spring. The trial will be there.”

“Trial, how does it work?”

“I can only tell you what I tell you. The rest is up to you.”

“Can I save her?”

“Try and find out. You can tell me how it turns out on your next visit.” Angel cast the host a silent question. His reply a big, green grin and a simple, “you’ll be back; tonight’s the easy one. Tootles to you and your…friends.”

There was that tone again, maybe not so much questioning as sarcasm. Angel was sure he didn’t like this guy and he was damn sure he was never singing for him again.

***

The woman, panic stricken, rushed down the almost empty street as fast as her swollen stomach would allow. Three huge thrones rose from the ground blocking her flight. She heard a horse whinny behind her and turned to see a knight in armor riding in her direction. Looking back at the thrones blocking her escape she found three, dark-robed figures prepared to rule on her future and the future of her unborn child. The knight threw down his disk.

“Where is your champion?” The judge asked the frightened woman, her arms clutched protectively around her stomach.

“He’s-he’s dead. I ask for asylum.”

“You have no coat of arms and no champion? Asylum is not ours to give. Two are chosen to meet in combat. One can save your life. One can take it. This is the ancient law. Your life is forfeit. You have no champion.”

The knight pulled his sword prepared to take her life. As the woman backed away a bronze disk landed on top of the first.

“Yes, she does.” Angel stepped up addressing the tribunal.

“The trial by combat will begin.” The voice commanded from inside it’s hooded cloak.

“I really appreciate you coming through for us like this. But you know how you’re not really good at anything? Are you sure you can do this?”

“Hey,” Cordelia challenged, “he may be a little slow coming out of the gate but he makes up for it in the stretch.”

“It’s OK Cordy, let me handle this.” Angel responded urging Cordelia to the sidewalk with Wesley before returning to the woman. “Trust me, I grew up around horses.”

“How long has it been since you’ve ridden one?”

“It’s been a while but don’t worry. It’s not something you forget, I can do this.”

The woman walked over to the side joining Wesley and Cordelia as Angel stepped closer whispering to his horse. “Nice horse. Try not to make me look stupid out there. Cordelia’s already heard me sing so it’d really be nice if I didn’t fall off; OK?”

Angel mounted the horse taking up his shield and lance. One of the judges dropped a red cloth to the street below, the challenging knight immediately charging.

“I guess that means go.” Angel instructed his horse.

The challengers charged, their lances meeting in a heavy clash. Angel managed to strike his opponent knocking him back but he remained firmly in his saddle. They turned and charged again. The impact knocked Angel from his horse, the stretch of his back landing on the hard pavement. Picking himself up Angel hurried to his horse retrieving his sword as the challenger charged again.

Angel knocked the knight from his horse with one heavy blow, their sword fight continuing on foot. Evenly matched their exchanges were fast and furious until a move Angel was unprepared for turned his sword plunging it into his stomach.

Dropping to his knees Angel clutched the embedded sword with one hand supporting his weight with the other.

“Oh my God…Angel,” Cordelia screamed, Wesley’s tight grip preventing her from rushing to Angel.

“Cordelia, you can’t. We can not interfere, the tribunal will not allow it.”

The demon knight approached the Tribunal waiting for its ruling. “The champion is defeated. She and all her issues are yours.” Unaware of the movement behind him the demon drew his knife prepared to slit the woman’s throat.

Angel stood from the street stained with his blood yelling out to stop the would be assassin. “I move to appeal that ruling.” Pulling the sword from his body Angel beheaded his opponent with a clean sweep of his sword.

“That’s the champion I know and love,” Cordelia shouted.

“Cordelia, please.”

“Oh shush yourself Wesley; what are they gonna do, we won.”

Angel dropped the bloody sword panting against the pain of his injuries but managed a quick smile in Cordelia’s direction before addressing The Tribunal. “She’s safe now, right?”

“You have won. The woman is under our protection, as is her daughter until she comes of age.” The Tribunal vanished, taking any trace of the battle with them.

Angel straightened and still panting limped off the now deserted street.

“You okay?” Cordelia asked rushing to his side.

“Yeah, I’ll live,” he answered with a sly grin.

“You sure seem to bleed a lot.” The woman said, taking Wesley’s offered arm as they walked down the street with Cordelia helping a limping Angel.

“It’s part of the job.”

“Yea, the fights may vary but the clean up never changes. Angel bleeds and I clean it up. Gees Wesley, come help me. How much tonnage do you think my back can carry?”

“You think I’m fat? I am not fat.”

“Pfftt.”

***

“Wes, what do you think about us getting rid of the case board?” Angel asked leaning back on the sofa, Cordelia knelt between his outstretched legs cleaning and patching his wounds.

“Good idea. Start over with a fresh slate.”

“Actually, I was thinking of us starting over with no slate.”

“Of course, we shouldn’t be keeping score. We’re not running a race we’re doing a job one soul at a time.” Wesley agreed as he began dismantling the board and its stand.

“There you go big guy, all done.” Cordelia announced with a warm smile and gentle rub to Angel’s stomach. “You did good tonight, champ.”

“Yea I did, didn’t I?”

Cordelia had been surrounded by evil most of her young life and yet she seemed untouched by it as though an invisible protector shielded her from the iniquities that flailed the rest of the world.

She had remained in her spot nestled between his legs, her arms now resting atop his muscular thighs. Angel reached out one hand, his touch wavering. Would this protector stop him if he risked moving a little further into her sunlit world? Would it fail her should she slip into his dark world?

Her smile was warm and inviting, the love in her eyes genuine and he felt that glimmer of hope just a little more. “You know word on the street is that I’m your champion.” Angel whispered placing a couple of light taps on her nose with the tip of his finger.

“Well you can’t believe everything you hear on the streets.”

“I also heard from a pretty reliable source you were going to help me find that light at the end of the tunnel.”

“Well reliable sources are hard to come by these days so I suggest you take good care of that particular source.”

“I intend to,” Angel decreed with a certainty that still felt foreign to him. “Listen, there’s something I need to do tonight but tomorrow I want to show you and Wes this place I stumbled across. It might provide a good office location and me a place to live.”

“Sounds good, OK tomorrow we office and apartment hunt.” Cordelia answered pushing herself up. Angel stood up with her grabbing his coat. “Goodnight big guy.”

Maybe her light wouldn’t be extinguished. Just maybe it was bright enough for both of them. “Cordy, what about your inevitable stardom?”

“I never said I wouldn’t have a day job.”


Epilogue

Angel peered through the thick, shatterproof glass picking up the phone of the prison’s visitor booth. “Hey.”

“Hey,” Faith replied a pleased smile etching across her face.

“How you doing?”

“Pretty good, I guess. I did sign up for this.”

“Regretting the choice?”

“Bad day. One of the girls in the yard tried to build a rep by throwing down with me. She had low self esteem and a home-made knife, so..”

“Oh, is she…you know…alive?”

“She lives to tell the tale. Took the knife away but I can’t say much for the wrist it came in.”

“So you didn’t kill her?”

“I really wanted to…took a big beating from the guards, too.”

“Sorry.”

“Earned worse. Guys like us kinda got it coming.”

“I had to sing Barry Manilow.”

“You’re kidding.”

“In front of people. In front of Cordelia Chase,” Angel added leaning closer to the glass separating them.

“You lie,” Faith challenged unable to stop the laughter. “And here I am talking about my petty little problems.”

“Just wanted to give you a little perspective.”

“Copa Cabana?”

“Mandy.”

“Was Queen C impressed?”

“I don’t want to dwell on it.” Angel dropped his gaze remembering the look of horror on Cordelia’s face. It had been worse than her reaction to the demon pregnancy.

“Food getting any better?”

“It’s not that different from what I grew up on. It’s a little one note, eating the same thing every day.”

“I wonder what that’s like.”

“The road to redemption is a rocky path.”

“That it is.”

“You think we might make it?”

“You know, a week ago I would have probably said no but now I think we just might.

PART TWO

Posted June 24, 2015 by califi in TBC

A Change of Season. 2   1 comment

Chapter 2

“Morning grumpy.”

“Stop calling me that.”

“Stop being grumpy in the morning and I will. Gees Wesley sometimes you’re even worse than Dennis.”

“How can one’s morning disposition possibly be worse than a ghost’s?”

“I told you not to call him that. “Dennis is very sensitive and he thinks of himself as a person not a g-h-o-s-t.”

“Good Lord Cordelia the man is dead not illiterate, he can spell you know.”

“Oh, right; but apologize anyway, he can’t help he’s dead. Speaking of dead, where’s Angel?”

“Hummm, I don’t believe I know.”

“What do you mean you don’t know? Weren’t you even a little curious? If the sun’s up and Angel’s not out here just where did you think he would be? Cordelia asked lifting a questioning brow and pressing her hands against her hips.

“Well… well certainly not in there.” Wesley pointed to her closed door with the jerk of an arm indicating he would not assume Angel’s current whereabouts to be in her private sleeping quarters.

“Oh, well good,” Cordelia responded spinning on her toes and heading towards the kitchen before twirling back to Wesley, “and just why not? Is it totally inconceivable that Angel would be in my bed-” The click of the door cut her off. Abruptly spinning about face Cordelia scurried into the kitchen hiding her blushing cheeks and wishing she had finished her sentence. Bedroom would have sounded so much better than bed, but too late now.

“Ah Angel there you are, we were becoming a bit concerned.” Though grateful for the interruption, Wesley hoped Angel had not overhead their odd discussion and that his cheeks were not as rosy as Cordelia’s.

“Were you and Cordelia discussing me being in her bed?”

False hope is always such a futile yearning. “We most certainly were not. We were discussing you *not* being in her bed, uh…bedroom. Now if you will excuse me I’m making Cordelia’s breakfast this morning as a thank you her for her hospitality before I return to my own apartment.” Wesley had persevered with what he had to work with and now defensive maneuver over he followed Cordelia’s escape to the kitchen. Bloody hell, now I’m stuck with making breakfast.

The room began to spin under the momentum of Wesley’s revelation. Wes couldn’t leave, Angel didn’t have a place yet and being there with Cordelia…alone, was not an option. For an intelligent person Wes isn’t very bright.

“Cordelia I was just telling Angel I’d like to make your breakfast this morning. Consider it my thank you for taking me in.”

“Thanks Wes but we have plenty of time for that, it’s not like you’re leaving now and if you are thinking about leaving now maybe you should rethink that ’cause you wouldn’t want to have a relapse or something.” Cordelia was rambling, rambling and ignoring Wesley’s threat of departure leaving her and Angel alone. She already had thoughts where the vampire was concerned. The kind of thoughts that had to be shooed away like, damn Angel looks hot in that tank. Cordelia wanted Angel to stay with her but she wanted Wesley with them while Angel stayed.

“Wes maybe Cordelia’s right about you staying a while longer. You don’t want to rush things; you were pretty banged up in the explosion.”

Thank God the scarecrow picked now to ask for a brain. Shaking her head to clear her thoughts didn’t work. Angel’s suggestion they join a gym flooded her brain’s empty space. Like me wearing spandex and sweating while Angel pumps things is a good idea. “Well you two work it out. I’m sure after Angel gulps down his breakfast he’s gonna be ready for bed-e-bye. I’ll just go shower and dress so I won’t be in his way.”

***

Angel awoke with a jolt. Sitting up his hand wiped through the slight moisture on his bare chest. “Sweat, since when do I sweat?” It was the dream he slowly accepted lying back. After three hours of tossing and turning and pounding his fist into the pillow, he had finally slept. Finally succumbing to the escape sleep was suppose to offer, he had dreamed of things long ago. Things better left in the past.

More tired than when he went to bed but wide-awake Angel decided to join the others. Maybe if he spent the afternoon reading he would sleep and more important be too exhausted to dream of evil things.

The hard spray of hot water pulsed against his flesh kneading tense muscles. Angel had learned a trick or two over the years; if the water was scalding hot, he could temporarily hold the body temperature of a human. At times, he could forget it was only an illusion and enjoy the warmth of his body, for a little while.

***

Cordelia released a long, breathy sigh. Boredom, lately every day was the same; they’d sit at the table in her apartment pouring over page after page, chapter after chapter, book after book. Where were the carefree days, where were the parties crammed with happy, shiny people? She looked across the table at her study partner releasing another slow sigh. A girl can be certain her life sucks when the liveliest person in the room is a ghost.

His upper torso slouched over the table; Wesley’s face hovered only a few inches above the text he was reading. “I’m sure your breath is minty fresh but blowing it on the book won’t get the text read any faster.”

“How did we ever get by without you oh wise one?”

“Perseverance and a little luck I suppose.”

“Well Mr. Smarty Pants, have you found out anything useful?” Cordelia lifted from her chair stretching her body across the table closer to Wesley, “like where was Angel this morning?”

“I have a few conjectures.”

Cordelia snapped back to her seat, the impact of her jean covered bottom to wood creating an audible plop. “Well?”

“He returned to the old office to retrieve anything salvageable.”

Her eyes crossed at the man still hunched over his book barely acknowledging her presence. “So he told you where he was?”

“No, it didn’t come up.”

“Then you know this how?” This was worse than her non-conversations with Angel and with an exasperated roll of her eyes Cordelia gave up returning to her own boring book.

“He probably saw the books and weapons airing on the balcony.”

“Arrrrrggg!” The cool breath against the side of her neck warned her of his presence less than an instant before his whisper jolted her from the chair. “Gees Angel there’s two of us in this apartment that still has a heartbeat, let’s keep it that way. And what do you mean airing on the balcony? Do you have your big, demon-butcher weapons on my balcony, in plain view…for everyone to see?”

“I didn’t think you’d want them smelling up the apartment. The books need to air out and I thought while Wes researched you and I could clean the weapons.” Angel studied the ‘I don’t think so’ look on Cordelia’s face. “Or I can do it. I just thought you’d rather clean weapons than research all day.”

Hands still shaky from the vampire’s sneak attack slapped against her hips, “How about I do neither.”

“Neither, what are you planning on doing all day?”

“I have a dress rehearsal tonight so I need to get into character and research or nasty weapon cleaning is not what I had in mind.”

“Rehearsal tonight, that won’t work. Wes and I are going to that demon bar tonight.”

The right brow raised as the left eye squinted; she was ready, “and that affects me how?”

“Cordelia, we’ve talked about this already. It isn’t safe for you to be out alone at night.” Angel gave her the look, the one that said I have made my decision end of discussion; but just in case, “so it’s settled.”

Well so much for the ‘who the heck do you think you are’ brow lift. “Excuse me?”

The knock on the door offered a reprieve. Angel was saved from the death glare that could reduce him to a pile of dust. Cordelia stood on her toes stretching to the peephole but saw no one. “Who is it?”

“Gunn.”

All thoughts abandoning his studies, Wesley’s head whipped up at the single word muffled through the barrier of the locked door. “What was that?”

“Something about a gun, what if it’s a demon with a gun? Why would a demon need a gun? First the gym and now guns. What are demons coming to today?”

Wesley quickly made his way to the door standing beside Cordelia. “Listen up, whoever you are, we are well armed and we know how to do battle, so if you know what’s good for you-“

“My name is Gunn with two ns; I’m here to see Angel.”

Cordelia glared at Angel. “You couldn’t shut me up?” Another glare when Angel’s answer was a scrunch of his shoulders.

Pushing Wesley out of the way, Cordelia slid the locks back and whipped the door open. “Well, this is a little embarrassing. Please come in. Wesley, you’ve heard Angel talk about Gunn. It’s nice to finally meet you. I’m Cordelia Chase and this is-“

“I’ve seen you before.”

“Really the Tan-n-Screen commercials,” her voice held a squeal of excitement. Gunn being a nobody didn’t matter, Cordelia Chase had been recognized. “Did you hear that guys I’ve been recognized from a commercial.”

“I saw you in bed.” Her visitor deadpanned or maybe he was an intruder after all.

“What? I don’t think so.” Cordelia backed away nudging up against Angel.

“Ah, I can see this is none of my business. Angel perhaps you would like to-“

“You, too.”

“Now, just a moment,” Wesley ordered straightening his back and squaring his shoulders at the brass young man.

“In the hospital…after Angel’s building blew? He sent me there to keep an eye on you two.”

“Right, you saw us in bed in the hospital. Well then have a seat you’re practically family.” Cordelia gave Angel an angry shake of her head. “You will be punished.”

Ah, Wesley now understood why Angel stood passively silent grinning like a fool. No, actually, he didn’t.

“Well Gunn with two n’s you just stopped by for a visit?” Cordelia asked joining Gunn on the couch.

“Got the word Angel wanted to see me.”

“Took you long enough the word was last night,” Angel responded settling on the couch arm next to Cordelia.

“Sorry man had my own demons to fight; got here quick as I could.”

“So you fight demons; do you belong to a gym?” Cordelia asked, her face glowing with what Angel had labeled as the flirting smile.

“Vamps mostly and nawh, my muscles get a hefty workout with the vamp dustin’.” Gunn crowed enjoying the girl’s playful attention. Angel figured the boy would have to move off the couch if he wanted to strut anymore than he was already strutting.

“It shows,” and there was ‘that’ smile again. Angel’s hand circled her arm ignoring the surprised look as he pulled Cordelia from the couch.

“Uh Cordelia don’t you need to be rehearsing or getting into character…or something? I need to discuss the demon you saw in your vision with Gunn.”

“Oh yea you get the visions, that’s cool. What’s that like, being a psychic?” Gunn asked forgetting Angel’s mention of demon discussions.

“Well I’m not psychic. I’m more like a faulty outlet and when I hit the floor babbling and drooling, it’s not of the cool.”

“Hey I catch you.” Angel defended feeling slighted that Cordelia would overlook his swift reaction skills.

“That you do big guy and don’t think I don’t appreciate it.” Cordelia acknowledged Angel’s effort with an approving pat to his arm.

“Thanks,” Angel grumbled feeling he had received the praise of a well trained pet. “Now about Cordy’s vision, Wes and I are meeting an informant at this demon bar tonight and I was thinking you might tag along in case we need extra muscle.”

“Demon bar, huh didn’t know demon’s had their own clubs; makes sense though.”

“And while you studs are bar hoping with demons I’ll be at rehearsal.” Cordelia piped in leaning around Angel’s broad form to look at Gunn.

Angel huffed but refused to look at her. Why couldn’t Cordelia just go away and leave them in peace to discuss the case? Sometimes the girl was more annoying than a gnat that refused to be swatted. “You want to go to rehearsal, fine go to rehearsal. Wes will take you.”

“Angel,” Wesley whined, “I don’t want to go to Cordelia’s rehearsal. Need I remind you of the last play we attended? Good God man I’ve been injured. Haven’t I suffered enough?”

“Well excuse me Mr. Snooty Butt. Is it my fault you can’t enjoy anything unless it was written by the dead and buried?”

“Enough,” the scowl that followed more than sufficient evidence Angel’s command was not a request.

“OK lets get organized, that’s all good strategy is…organization.” Gunn announced to the small group, his arms draped across the back of the couch. “Hey Julie Roberts, what time is your rehearsal?”

Angel watched Cordelia answer seven, that annoying flirty smile lighting up on her face.

“And you man, what time you meetin’ up with your snitch?”

“Ten o’clock,” Angel reluctantly disclosed.

“Then we’re good,” Gunn declared ending the debate with a slap to his knee. “I’ll take doll face to her rehearsal and meet you guys at the demon place at ten.”

So they now had a plan; Wesley was relieved, Angel was dumbfounded, Cordelia was excited and Gunn really didn’t care. He had driven across town and all he had to show for his effort was chauffeuring an unknown starlet and a possible date with a vampire. Gunn figured he had definitely drawn the short stake.

Gunn stood from the couch, his jacket falling into place with a quick body shake before heading for the exit. “What time should I pick you up?”

“Now’s good,” Cordelia suggested crossing her fingers that Gunn would agree. The world outside her apartment was within reach and getting to it didn’t require a vision of something slimy or smelly.

“Now,” Angel spouted; “Cordelia it’s only four o’clock!”

“Yea now,” Cordelia countered absent her flirty smile Angel noticed, “It’s either out there with him or in here with you two and your boring books and weapons that need to be scrubbed. You do the math and you,” she added pointing at Gunn, “don’t leave without me. I’ll just grab my purse.”

Angel was stunned, stunned and speechless. What could he say? Why couldn’t Cordelia spend the afternoon with Gunn? No reason other than Angel didn’t actually know him that well and Cordelia didn’t know him at all.

She had bounced to her bedroom for her purse and strap swung over her shoulder Cordelia bounced back to her escort. “Ready when you are.”

“Angel man, catch you later and English, nice meetin’ you.”

“Yes, nice meeting you Mr. …uh, Gunn.”

And it was over; they had left, the door closing behind them. Where was Dennis’ attitude when a sun avoiding vampire needed it?

Thankful he had been rescued from the depths of hell better known as Cordelia’s acting Wesley decided to celebrate with a cup of tea. Preparations underway he leaned against the counter looking forward to the quite afternoon, researching with Angel and no one talking.

“I’m going out!” A slam of the door trailed the announcement then silence fell.

Well quiet is quiet Wesley figured as he waited for the kettle to whistle.

***

“Angel I don’t think pacing is going to get your friend here any faster.”

“It’s ten fifteen Wes.”

“Yes but you were pacing at nine forty-five.” Wesley rolled his eyes as Angel paced across his path again, “and where did you run off to this afternoon?”

“I had to get out for a while, felt cramped. I’ve got to find a place and with you moving back to your apartment I really need to find a place.”

“Well you know you’re always welcome to stay with me but I’m afraid my flat is even smaller than Cordelia’s.”

“Thanks but I think it’s best if I live alone. I’m not used to having people around all the time, no offense.”

“None taken – good Lord what is that?” Gunn’s truck rolled up to the curb, it was big and loud, had all kinds of things mounted on it, and Wesley could only speculate their use.

“Yoa dudes,” Gunn greeted jumping from his truck.

“You’re late any trouble; is Cordelia all right?” Angel snatched another look at Wesley’s watch shaking his head as the big hand slid onto the five.

“Relax man she’s fine; her gig took a little longer than expected that’s all.”

“I called the apartment she’s not answering.”

“Probably ’cause she’s in the tub. So we going in or not?” Gunn yelled back as he sauntered toward the entrance acting a lot calmer than he felt.

Angel looked up and down the backside of the young man strolling casually away, as casually as he had mentioned Cordelia and her tub.

Eyes now fixed on Wesley, “tub, I don’t like the sound of that.” Angel expected the proper gentleman to be offended. The almost stranger had knowledge of their friend’s bathing habits.

“Angel we have more important things to attend to and besides they’re both mature adults, well sort of. There is nothing inappropriate about Cordelia wanting to spend time with the young man.”

“She hardly knows the guy.”

“She met him through you Angel. If you question his character, perhaps you should not have invited him to Cordelia’s home. Now can we go inside, please?”

Gunn stood at the entrance waiting for Angel and Wesley to catch up. “It’s a karaoke bar. Your snitch feels safe meeting you in a karaoke bar?”

“In this one he does. It’s a sanctuary.” Wesley answered taking the lead.

Angel walked on through ignoring the bouncer as the weapon detector beeped. “Gunn weapons aren’t allowed in a sanctuary; that’s why it’s called a sanctuary. It’s a safe haven for its patrons.” Wesley stared at their companion surprised Gunn would try to sneak in a weapon.

“I know what a sanctuary is and you,” Gunn poked at the demon bouncer attempting to search him, “there’ll be no touching of my person.” Gunn reluctantly pulled the stakes from his jacket handing them to the bouncer, “here that’s all I got. Man this place is packed with demons. Come on English lets find ours.”

Wesley and Gunn found Angel scanning the room. “There,” Wesley indicated with an obscure point.

“Yep,” Gunn added, “ugly, gray and bald to top it off, that’s a demon alright.”

“Hello Merl,” Wesley greeted joining his informant at the bar. The small demon only offered a grunt to the three men encircling him.

“What’s the matter; cat got your tongue?” Gunn asked working hard to ignore his jittering insides. He had never seen so many demons in one place before and was waiting for the command to lock and load.

“I don’t have a tongue.” The small and ugly demon finally acknowledged his visitors as Angel leaned down next to him. “And keep the bloodsucker away from me. I know his rep, he eats his own kind.”

“Especially when they waste my time,” Angel threatened leaning a little closer to their supposed informant.

Wesley slid an envelope in front of Merl hoping Angel’s threat of violence, his answer to every situation, would not lose them their information. “We’re looking for a Prio Motu.”

Merl sneaked a peek inside the envelope and pushed it back to Wesley. “You’ve obviously never seen one up close. Prios are stone-cold killers and they got teeth bigger than your mosquito here. You gotta sweeten the pot…a lot and keep my name out of it.”

Wesley added to the envelope and slid it back to his informant. “This Prio you’re looking for, he don’t like it above ground. He’ll be travelin’ in one of those sub-tunnels of the Rodondo line.”

Having a starting place Angel headed for the exit without a word, Wesley and Gunn following his lead. “Prios are nasty,” Merl yelled out. “Not like your big stake and dust there, best of luck, though.”

Gunn was ready to hit the more familiar territory of the streets. He eyed the exit concentrating on their imminent escape from the demon-infested club until…

The well-dressed demon blocked their path. He was tall and lanky and green. To Gunn he looked like the wicked witch of the west…if she had red horns.

“Love the coat; it’s all about the coat, welcome to Caritas. Do you know what that means?” The green-faced demon asked sending Angel a leer that left him more than a little uncomfortable with the possible subtext.

“It’s Latin for mercy.” Angel answered his voice a copy of his dry expression.

“Smart and cute. How about gracing us with a number?”

“I don’t sing.”

“Neither does Mordar the Bentback! That cat’s a foghorn on two legs.”

“Who is this guy?” Gunn whispered to Wesley. He had finally relaxed a little, freedom only a few feet away and now the witch demon had high jacked their speedy exit.

“He’s called The Host, he owns this place; he’s anagogic.”

“Really,” Gunn sounded doubtful. “He looks like he’s eatin’ enough to me.”

“Not anorexic,” Wesley corrected, “he’s psychic, connected to the mystic. When you sing you bare your soul and he sees into it.”

“This isn’t about your pipes, bro. It’s about your spirit. I can’t read you unless you sing.”

“I don’t sing.” Angel tried again to make his point without violence; the club’s protection spell would prevent it anyway.

“Come on Angel; give the guy a quick tune so we can get out of here.” Gunn was practically begging.

“No.” His answer an erupting spew, Angel sent Gunn a threatening glare.

“It would be for a good cause,” Wesley suggested; “we might learn something.”

“Who’s the boss here?”

“I know you’re feeling smooth, in the groove. Isn’t that the thing that comes before a fall?” The green demon asked ignoring the vampire’s anger and the bald, dark-skinned man’s jumpiness.

“There are three things I don’t do…tan, date and sing in public!” Angel was finished, he stepped around the annoying song-demanding demon making a final attempt at a peaceful departure.

“See you around…big guy.” Angel froze at the familiar reference, the hairs on his neck prickling his skin. It had to be a coincidence, Cordelia was the only one that called him that. The simple intimacy of that private nickname sounded intrusive coming from a stranger.

Angel rubbed his palm across his neck turning back to demon. “Trust your instincts, the past can’t visit unless you invite it in.” Angel shook his head and headed through the exit. He didn’t like this guy. He wanted to know too much, already knew too much it seemed. Angel didn’t plan to return, ever.

“How fabulous would I look in that coat? He’ll be back.”

***

“Whew, freedom and fresh air and a whole lot of space,” Gunn proclaimed when his feet hit the sidewalk; “so what’s the plan man?”

“Wes you head back to the apartment, we still need to determine what this Prio might be doing in LA.” Angel instructed taking an axe from the trunk. “I can find it and kill it but if someone else is calling the shots, it’s only a matter of time before another one shows up. Gunn you’re with me,” Angel finished handing the axe to his hopefully short-term partner.

“Thanks but I carry my own.” Gunn declined the offered weapon yanking his own custom-made axe from his truck, “and since you asked so nice, I’m in.”

Angel had already crossed the street and Gunn hurried to catch up as Wesley pulled from the curb. Gunn watched Angel flip the cover from the manhole tossing it aside like a frisbee and stared into the dark nothing below. “Uh, looking for something, did you lose your keys?”

Angel only grunted much like the little weasel-snitch in the club and Gunn figured it was just something demons do, like growling.

“The Prio, if Merl can be trusted this is where we’ll find it.” Angel’s voice took on a slight echo as he descended into the sewer tunnel, Gunn reluctantly following him down.

“Whoa talk about your dark,” Gunn whispered fishing the flashlight from inside his jacket.

“If the Prio sees your light you’ll lead him right to us.”

“Well if it does we might find him quicker and besides if this Prio can see in the dark like you do, chances are he can sniff us out too.”

Another grunt emanated from the vampire’s barely visible backside. “OK man, spill it.”

“Hummm.”

“We already got trust issues and your tude ain’t helping our hunting a demon with big teeth in a dark hole situation.”

Silence was almost the only thing Gunn heard. His breathing a little louder than he would have liked practically blocked out the sound of his own footsteps and the sound of slow dripping water that lay just ahead.

“That’s just great the vampire’s got a problem with the human. Look man, you asked me. I’ve got more than my share of demons in my own neighborhood. I don’t need to be comin’ to yours. If you don’t need me here just say so.”

“I don’t want Cordelia to be hurt.” Angel’s words rang out as though he had stated the obvious to the world.

Gunn looked around the dark tunnel then eyed the weird behaving vampire. “She ain’t here. I left her safe and sound with that hyped up ghost but he’s lookin’ pretty laid back compared to you right now. Man you’re knotted tighter than a tightrope.”

“How do you know Cordy was taking a bath when I called?”

“Cause the girl was yellin’ for her personal assistant to get Mr. Bubbles ready the minute we walked through the door. You know I didn’t have to spend the better part of my night at some gawd awful play. I was doing you a favor, another one; not that I’m keeping track.”

I know…sorry…and thanks. She was pretty bad, huh?”

“Nah, Barbie was actually good, but the play sucks and good acting ain’t gonna change that.”

“So what did you and Cordy do all afternoon?”

“Man you are a piece of work; you know that?”

“I’ve been told.”

“Well some things can be taken at face value and in case you’re not getting it, that’s one of ’em. Now can we do the chop and dice thing and get back to where there’s street lights?”

Angel put his hand out halting Gunn. “Any minute now, he’s just around the corner.”

“How’d you-” Angel tapped his nose easing into the turn of their path.

The Prio charged the intruders releasing a beastly growl. “You take the lead, I’m the back up so I’ll just be watchin’ your back,” Gunn yelled ducking a hard swing of the demon’s arm with a heavy grunt.

The demon was strong, maybe one of the strongest Angel had ever fought. Its large hands closed around Angel’s throat cutting off the air supply he thankfully didn’t need. He beat against the Prio’s outstretched arms as his feet lifted from the ground. The grip tightened then quickly weakened when Gunn’s axe chopped into the demon’s shoulder blade.

Angel grabbed the small opportunity slipping behind his opponent as he shifted into his demon form. His hands seemingly larger and stronger took the demon in a chokehold breaking its neck with a swift snap, his heavy mass hitting the tunnel floor with a loud thud.

Angel jerked around at the feminine gasp. “Hey, it’s okay. I won’t hurt you. Are you alright?”

The woman stared at him for a moment then gazed down at the slain demon, her hands resting on her obviously pregnant stomach.

“It’s all right, he’s dead,” Angel announced glancing a questing look at Gunn who shrugged his shoulders unsure why a pregnant woman would be in the sewer tunnels.

She walked slowing to the demon kneeling down as much as her large stomach would allow. “Oh my God, what did you do?” She caressed his face with tender strokes then closed his eyes, sobbing quietly. “What have you done?”

“I didn’t… I thought he was gonna hurt you.”

“He was my protector!” She yelled trying to get up. Angel reached out to help her. “Stay away from me!”

“I’m sorry. I was sent here to… I’m not exactly sure, but…”

“You were sent here?”

“By the Powers That – it’s a long story…I help people.”

“You’re joking, right?” The chuckle she had intended was muffled under another jerky sob. “God, I hate this town!”

“Follow her man, you just killed the wrong dude.” Gunn whispered when the woman turned to leave.

“Hey wait, I’m really…what was he protecting you from?”

“Things you couldn’t handle!”

“Like what?”

“Like the Tribunal. Look, I don’t know who you are or what your deal is and I don’t care, he was my protector. I had one friend in this world and you killed him! Now, you stay the hell away from me.”

Angel stood helpless watching the sobbing, pregnant woman walk into the dark of the tunnel.

“Let’s look around, see if we can find where the woman and Prio were staying, then we’ll head back to Cordelia’s and regroup.”

***

Angel stumbled into Cordelia’s apartment, his body battered and beaten. They had been ambushed by two demons and Angel had stayed behind while Gunn took the woman to the safety of Cordelia’s apartment.

“God Angel, are you alright; what happened?”

“The woman, is she here?” Angel anxiously asked ignoring Cordelia’s concern.

“No, Gunn brought us the talisman but the woman, she refused to come with him…and she took off.”

The talisman, so worried about failing the woman again Angel had forgotten to ask about it. He sent a questioning look to Wesley too tired and sore to even ask.

“Working on it,” Wesley responded understanding the heavy glance.

“I told her to come here. She doesn’t trust us…me. Why should she?” Angel asked of no one, his fist smacking against the whiteboard almost sending it toppling over.

“You can’t see everything.” Cordelia offered choosing to ignore her knee-jerk reaction to Angel’s anger. “You’re just a vampire like everyone else…that didn’t come out right.”

“I thought I was out of the tunnel.” Angel confessed slumping onto the sofa, his face buried inside his palms.

Cordelia joined Angel not quite sure what to do. If this were Wesley, a few witty words followed by a few finger strokes through his hair would be her choice of comfort strategy, but this was Angel. Who knew what he wanted or needed?

Angel had stayed after finding out the woman had ditched him because of his fumbling attempt to help. He had plopped down on her sofa instead of storming off to brood alone so he must want something.

“Sure you did… because the tunnel is you know it’s something we all… Are we talking real tunnel or symbolic? Just give me that much.”

“I-I saw the light at the end of the tunnel…that some day I might become human. That light was so bright, I thought I was already out.”

“Yeah, we all got a little cocky, didn’t we? It’s gonna be a long while until you work your way out but I know you well enough to know you will. And I’ll be with you until you do.”

Getting no response from her brooding vampire after her heartfelt encouragement Cordelia laid her hand on his thigh, the heavy fabric of his coat and pants separating the hopefully not too personal contact.

Her touch was soothing. Angel could make the slight touch of warmth last for days if he had to; carry him through the drought until the next morsel found its way to him. Leaning back, his head lobbed against the back of the sofa, his eyes remaining closed. His hand slid down his thigh landing to rest atop hers; so large it covered hers completely embedding the warmth even further into his densely covered flesh.

“Uh-hum,” Wesley cleared his throat hoping to garner attention from the couple on the sofa seemingly lost in another place. “I think we have something. It’s medieval, a small badge or coat of arms, to be presented when going before the Cahair Binse. Roughly translated that’s chair of judgment.”

“The Tribunal,” Angel whispered giving a quick squeeze to the small hand still trapped beneath his.

“Right, an ancient court to settle grievances.”

“You mean with like lawyers and stuff.” Cordelia asked sending Wesley a surprised look.

“This is a little more primitive. It’s a fight to the death.”

“That’s why she needed a champion. Where would this Tribunal take place?”

“There is no way to tell Angel. They’re mystical events, they could rise up in our reality whenever they please.”

“Look, we have to find her right away, whatever it takes.” Angel had vowed never to return to the weird karaoke bar with its even weirder owner but there was really no alternative. “Do you have another rehearsal tonight?” Angel asked finally releasing Cordelia’s hand.

“Yea, but I can blow it off if you need me.”

“Want to watch me make a fool of myself?”

“Always.”

Chapter 3

Posted June 24, 2015 by califi in TBC

A Change of Season   Leave a comment

Chapter 1

Angel had returned to the refuge of Cordelia’s crowded apartment seconds before the threat of sunrise. Hours later he reconsidered gulping down a day’s supply of nourishment under the blanket of his companions’ sleep. Returning his attention to the book propped on his lap he ignored the hunger pains hoping his stomach wouldn’t wake them wake them with growls of empty frustration.

He smelled her, the same instant he felt her warmth. Cordelia had a unique scent often recalling lazy, afternoon strolls in his homeland of long ago. Sifting through his collection of memories Angel questioned if the aromatic recollection was real or if the appeal that in some small way she had always been with him had created the memory.

“Morning big guy.”

“Morning,” Angel greeted tilting his head for an obscure look. Her pajamas looked soft and the pale blue fabric was definitely too thin. He wondered if her choice of sleepwear was habit from having her home to herself or typical indifference to sharing that home with two male friends.

Most likely, the latter Angel assented wandering over Wesley’s long form, his legs curled to fit inside the cramped space of the sofa. Wesley was the epitome of a true gentleman and Cordelia would never feel the threat of that friend’s wandering eye. By her own admission, Cordelia considered Angel less of a threat than even Wesley. Though his pride chided him to dissent Angel reluctantly accepted that Cordelia viewed him as a eunuch, a sexless creature and possibly impotent.

Cordelia watched the myriad of emotions span across Angel’s face before quickly fading behind his stoic, chiseled features. She wondered what his thoughts were, wondered if she would ever know and wished for even the tiniest invitation into that secret place Angel guarded with such passionate secrecy.

“Have you been brooding in that chair all night?” Cordelia asked rescuing Angel from unproductive thoughts.

“Huh? No, I’ve kept busy.” Angel lifted his book hoping to squelch Cordelia’s uncanny gift for seeing below the surface. He was beginning to understand why Doyle left the visions in Cordelia’s care.

The innocent and confused look on his face gained Angel a suspicious glare followed by a disbelieving uhum. “Why don’t you take my bed; it is technically your bedtime and it looks like I’m up for the day.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea Cordelia.” Angel mumbled burying his head inside the book clutched a little too tight.

“Not a good idea; why not? I don’t have coodies.” Cordelia snapped louder than intended causing a yelp of pain when Wesley attempted to roll from the disturbance. “Now look what you’ve done. Mr. Grumpy is awake; well so much for alone time.”

Angel now understood Cordelia’s offer. She wanted some time to herself and at this moment, Angel could certainly relate to that particular yearning.

“I could use some sleep if you don’t mind and some time to myself would be nice too.” Angel recanted his earlier dismissal of her offer hoping Cordelia wouldn’t stay angry with him.

“Sure big guy go ahead. I’ll stay out her and play Florence Nightingale. I just need to grab my nurse’s uniform.” Teasing the slow to catch on vampire, Cordelia’s lips slid into a sly grin.

“Uniform?” Angel stood from the chair facing Cordelia, his usual blank expression marked with misunderstanding.

“You know the one,” using her hands to accent and accentuate, “low cut and really short to show off the white garter belt.” Still clueless as ever. “Oh never mind.” Cordelia abandoned her one-woman show of unappreciated wit accepting the thick-headed vampire would never get it. “Go to bed Angel you’re no fun sleepy; you hardly rate fun awake.”

“Thanks,” Angel grumbled returning the book to its stack on the table. “Goodnight.” Another muttered utterance and Angel slipped into the bedroom closing the door behind him.

Cordelia leaned over the back of the sofa staring down at Wesley. He was mumbling, more translation gibberish she couldn’t understand. “If you’re a good boy and sleep a while longer I’ll make you some of that nasty smelling tea you sneaked into my kitchen cabinet. Gibbering mumbles fell silent under a contented yawn and his head lobbed to the side as Wesley drifted into a deeper sleep.

“Yay Dennis it’s just me and you. You make the coffee and I’ll drink it. That’s sharing the workload don’t you think?” Cordelia plopped into the chair, her mind mulling over her conversation with Angel. Is it even possible to have a conversation with that dork of a vampire Cordelia pondered exasperated with her friend’s high maintenance. Their usual dialogue consisted of her talking and Angel grunting.

Waiting for her morning coffee Cordelia mused on the chain of events that had brought her to this point in her life. Her life, she sniggered at the implications of that particular phrase. Her new life in LA consisted of a ghost, a vampire with a soul and his redemption-seeking mission that included skull-cracking visions for her, thank you very much and… She looked over at Wesley contemplating his role in her life… And a Wesley she added, a pleased smile gracing her morning-fresh face.

Like most times her thoughts returned to him. That irritating dork, that soul bearing vampire that drove her crazy and gave her warm fuzzy feelings all at the same time. What is his problem? He’s uncomfortable in my home. He’s petrified at the thought of sleeping in my bed. Bite me Angel, Cordelia mouthed glaring at the securely closed bedroom door.

What is his problem, she silently asked again fearing she already knew the answer. Angel had been Buffy blinded in Sunnydale and he and Cordelia had barely been casual acquaintances. Since their reunion in LA, they had definitely moved up on the friendship scale but Cordelia believed Angel still wore the Buffy blinders even after all the good and bad they had shared during the past year. He looks at me but he never sees me Cordelia admitt
ed feeling the gaping hole of emptiness trailing that concession.

The smell of fresh coffee dispelling her unhappy deliberations Cordelia pushed the books and papers aside to make space for her cup. “Careful Dennis, if we spill coffee on Wesley’s precious scroll there’ll be hell to pay and as much as I love you I’m not ready to join the undead just yet.”

***

The soft mumbles from the outer room drifted into Angel’s subconscious. He resisted the urge to check the time, instinct telling him it was still light out. Regardless of the clock’s display, Angel knew he had not slept enough. It had taken him too long to clear his head and find the much needed escape of sleep. Even as he cursed the lingering aromas of soap and lotion, Angel had snuggled deeper into the bedcovers still warm from her use.Thoughts of the tight fitting nurse’s uniform, virginal white and way too short had lingered. Fingers eagerly flicking loose the garter’s tabs holding her stockings in place had taunted him as he fought for the peace that sleep might provide.

Finally sleep had won only to abandon him much too soon. Angel threw back the covers looking down at his wrinkled clothes. Too self-conscious to sleep in Cordelia’s bed wearing only underwear, Angel had slept fully dressed removing only his shoes after several long minutes of deliberation. Naked feet or dirt on Cordelia’s bed, Angel knew which choice he was more likely to survive. He could shower, that would improve his disposition but then what; his clothes were out there.

Remembering that Cordelia had worn a pair of his sweatpants home after a rather messy night of demon killing Angel left the warm, sweet smelling bed to search for the one article of clean clothing available. He pulled the dresser drawer open slamming it shut instantly. Not in there he was certain. Contained there were silky things, frilly silky things and he had no business thinking about much less touching Cordelia’s intimate, frilly-silky things.

The closet, he bounded across the room certain it would be a safer place to search. Relief, hanging in plain view not just his sweats but sharing the hanger was his tank. It wasn’t his first choice for appropriate attire but better than bare-chested. Elated by his bountiful discovery Angel briefly considered the prospect of basking while in the solitude of his shower.

Hair and body parts freshly washed and dried, he dressed in his clean and rather comfortable clothes. Picking up his socks, he considered placing the dirty items on his clean feet. Choosing to be brave Angel opted for feet bare, shoes in hand. Approaching the door, he stilled taking in the private conversation.

“Angel has been rather quiet these last few days.”

“Quiet for regular people or quiet for Angel?”

“Yes, I see your point.”

“Gees Wesley, you told Angel the scroll prophesied his death; not really happy dance news. Then it’s oops, I may have made a tiny mistake, maybe you’re going be human instead.”

“I am certainly capable of understanding how two such varying pieces of astounding information would knock a person off center. But that didn’t happen with Angel. No I believe my original assumption is correct. Angel is cut off from the world and the people around him and therefore not only isn’t bothered by death but doesn’t feel hope when offered the possibility of life. It is our desires that make us human and there is nothing in life Angel wants.”

“And I told you, Angel’s not human…not yet anyway and he’s definitely not big on the sharing. Whether he’s bothered or wants anything, we’ll never know. Besides, I suggested a puppy or a plant. We can force our way in but if Angel doesn’t want us there…well he’ll probably just tell us to leave.”

Admitting that aloud felt worse than keeping it to herself but Cordelia had thought it over. She and Angel weren’t likely to ever have the closeness she wanted. It was best to accept that and concentrate on what they did have. Not even Doyle had trusted her enough to share his most important secret. Now she would never know if Doyle had really wanted to love her or had only wanted *other* things from her.

Angel froze at Cordelia’s words. So taken aback to realize she felt that way he failed to question why that notion bothered him much more than Wesley’s misinterpreted death prophesy. He shared with Cordelia. She and Wesley knew more about his past than anyone did. Regardless of her suggestion, Angel was sure he didn’t want a puppy or some big plant crowding his new apartment, wherever that was going to be.

“Still his reaction or lack of one concerns me.”

“Well then dig a little deeper; maybe you’ll find something that gets a reaction out of the dork. Of course even if you do its not like you can ever tell the Nobel Prize people about your amazing feat.”

“Nobel Prize aside, I shall do my best Cordelia.”

“Good for you. Who’s hungry?”

An opening in the conversation presented itself and Angel jumped at the opportunity jerking the door open. “Hey,” the soft utterance brought attention to his presence as he stooped inside the closet grabbing clean shocks and a more appropriate shirt from his bag.

“Ah Angel, you’re up; slept well I hope.” Wesley greeted choking down the surprised squeak caught in his throat.

“Uh yea thanks,” Angel took a seat at their makeshift research table quickly adding socks and shoes to his skimpy attire. “So what have you guys been discussing?”

Still a little perplexed by Cordelia’s attitude Angel was hoping for a chance to deny her claim. That one he could handle, the other, what would be the point? He had desires, lots of them but he had learned over the last century pursuing his desires always ended badly.

“Zorbo the great is still hung up on that word and your reaction…or lack of one. You know, the one he needs to retranslate every time the sun comes up.” Cordelia gave what she considered a satisfactory answer to Angel before turning to Wesley. “Why can’t you just pick a translation and move on to something else?” You know some of us are aging as you translate.”

“Excuse me for being thorough but I take my research very seriously. Lives may depend on the correct translation of this text. I’m sorry if that’s not as important as your upcoming basement theater play.”

Wesley hurt all over from his recent injuries and now he had a headache. The only reason he was stuck sleeping on Cordelia’s lumpy sofa was she wouldn’t hear of him returning to his own apartment with no one to look after him. Harsh words regretted, his agitation mellowed almost instantly. Wesley doubted Cordelia even realized how much her heart was showing lately.

“He sure gets testy when he’s translating.”

“I told you Cordelia this word is pivotal to what it prophesies about the vampire with a soul.”

“Look Wes why don’t we put the Shanshu prophesy aside for now; we have more important things to worry about.” Wesley stared at Angel his mouth agape. This would be Angel’s opportunity to correct his friends’ assumptions but as usual, Angel couldn’t get his mouth to say the words inside his head. “Just for now Wes; later when things are calm we’ll research the rest of the scroll.”

“Yes, quite right; we must set priorities. I’m sorry, I don’t know what they raised in that box…I’ll keep looking.”

Angel nodded giving Wesley the hint of a grin but his thoughts had already followed Cordelia’s swift retreat to the kitchen. She was either hungry or searching out a less populated space in her apartment. The thought of food, his kind of food, caused Angel’s stomach to clinch again. Pushing the small inconvenience aside, he questioned why Cordelia had no problem sharing her home with a ghost. That’s just great, now I’m jealous of a ghost. The inner workings of Angel’s sometimes-warped brain shifted into overdrive.

Inner ramblings squelched with a hard shake of his head Angel returned his attention to Wesley and their more important research, at least for the moment. “I want to help; where should I start?”

“Page one.” His head still buried inside his own book Wesley simply mumbled gesturing to the stack of untouched books with an extended sweep of his arm.

The smell of blood drifted from the kitchen. Cordelia was preparing blood for him, again. Barely conscious of his reaction Angel’s lips parted allowing the taste to coat his tongue.

Cordelia rejoined her fellow researchers with a tray of food and drink spouting orders under its weight and the lack of table space. “Move your smelly crap; the other tenants are gonna start complaining about the foul odor in here.”

Pushing his smelly, old books aside Wesley continued ignoring Cordelia’s current rant. He may be onto something and this translation was by far the most difficult he had ever attempted. If he was finally making headway he wasn’t about to interrupt the positive flow that had finally kicked in.

Oblivious to Wesley’s disregard Cordelia rested the tray on the table sliding his sandwich and tea in front of him before reaching the cup of warmed blood to Angel.

“Don’t be embarrassed; we’re family.” Angel accepted the cup as the replay of her words warmed his cold heart just a little more. “Thanks Cordy.”

“You’re welcome big guy. Lets just hope Mr. Grumpy gets his translating butt in gear after he eats then we can find out if you’re gonna get dusted before you’re even alive.” Glaring at Wesley, she added with a touch of teasing acidity. “So you eat then back to the translating and let’s get it right on the first try this time.”

Cordelia returned the two stares aimed at her. “Hey I may be the new and improved version but I’m still Cordelia Chase.”

Angel lifted a finger to caress the hand resting on her hip, his voice soft, “you know I like them both, right?” The curled finger dropped to his side before making contact.

“Of course you do.”

***

“But why, Johnny? Why?”

Clutching his script Angel stared at Cordelia curious if rehearsing with the struggling part-time actress could be one of the foretold apocalyptic battles, plagues or unleashed fiends; possibly even the coming darkness.

“Because it’s over.” Angel nervously read his character’s line, his voice so morbidly monotone Cordelia figured it could put wood to sleep.

“No I love you! I gave you everything. Didn’t I?”

“Yea, and now it’s time to move on.”

“No. You can’t. You’re everything to me. I’m nothing without you baby. Nothing.”

Cordelia slapped Angel in the face probably a little harder than she should have.

“OW! Hey and…OW! You hit me!” Angel quickly scanned his copy of the script. “Where does it say that you hit me?”

“I threw that in myself. Eleanor seems so spineless begging this creep not to dump her.”

“Cordelia I don’t think the director is gonna like you changing the script; I’m sure Johnny’s not.”

“Hey this girl Eleanor has never been as bold as I’m doing her. I’m on fire Mr.”

“Yea me too,” Angel agreed rubbing his hand against the sting of her handprint.

“I’m back,” Wesley announced entering the apartment. The load of his two new old books were quickly relieved by Dennis. “Thank you Dennis,” Wesley greeted prepared to duck should the ghost have a another quick change of heart concerning his and Angel’s intrusion.

“Thank God!” Angel threw his script on the sofa contemplating the repercussions of shouting Hallelujah.

“Hey!” Cordelia countered with a foot stomp before throwing her script on top of Angel’s and following him to join Wesley.

“What did you find out Wes?” Angel’s tone was close to begging wanting it to be something he should take care of right away.

“It’s a Praetorian sacrifice and it’s taking place at the North Shore gym at…” Wesley gave his watch a quick glance, “well right about now actually.”

“Demons going to a gym; what’s the matter, demon strength not good enough these days?” Cordelia mused with a bit of a smirk.

“If Wes’ informant is right it’s a Carnyss demon and they love muscles…and mirrors.”

“Who doesn’t…well besides you?”

“Right let’s go stop a sacrifice.” Angel answered shaking his head at Cordelia.

***

Entering the crowded gym the trio marched pass the attendant ignoring his can I help you and spying nothing amiss continued into the next room.

Cordelia looked around the busy room. Everything looked normal. “Are you sure we’re in the right place?”

“Well there is certainly plenty of muscle in here.” Wesley answered with a slight gulp.

“Oh yea and a good bit of healthy sweating too,” mumbling, her eyes rolled over the male patrons hard at work.

Angel slipped his index finger under Cordelia’s chin slowing turning her gaze from the pumped up body builders to the mirrored wall likely hiding the sacrifice already in progress. “And there are the mirrors.”

“Oh right, mirrors.”

“I’m sorry this club is for members and their guests only.” The attendant tried again moving to stand in front of Angel.

“Yeah, well I’m thinking of joining.”

“Excuse me! But you can’t come in here without a membership or a guest pass!” The attendant insisted gawking into the mirrored wall when he finally noticed the gap that should be a reflection.

“Huh, no reflection; I’ll fix that.” Shattering the mirror with a hard kick Angel stepped through surprising the occupants of the small, secluded room.

The Carnyss demon raised his sword over the two bound and gagged human sacrifices while a third human in a red robe chanted at his side.

“Stop that.” The words growled from his vamped out face.

Angel knocked the charging human against the wall heading for the demon. Despite his injuries, Wesley managed to deflect the punches from the human hitting him with a right cross before kneeing him in the stomach. Their human foe now crumpled on the floor Cordelia dropped a round metal weight on his head, knocking him unconscious. Within seconds Angel had wrestled the sword away from the demon and with a stab through the heart, their short battle ended.

“That guy has horns.” Angel heard the attendant’s frightened stutter and donning his human face glanced back as they headed out the exit. “Steroids, not good for you; remember that people.”

***

The apartment was dark and quiet again. His roommates had retired for the night and Angel was alone…again. They had returned to the apartment hours earlier and free of injury other than bumps and bruises had fallen into the usual routine of reviewing cases, leads and prophesies.

Wesley and Cordelia had reviewed and discussed, Angel had reflected and quietly interjected ideas that in his opinion were too readily dismissed. He had thought joining the gym was a good idea, something the three of them could do together. Cordelia had enjoyed her short yet informative tour and Angel figured it would give him the opportunity to show her what real muscles could do. Cordelia had been only mildly irritated with his interruptions. Of course, mild irritation grew after her precious glass figurine crashed to the floor. For Angel the surmisal was simple; it wasn’t his fault. Cordelia had experienced her first vision since Vocah’s spell. A moment Angel anticipated dreading its possible consequences but eager for the first vision to occur without damage.

The concept of his possible future was slowly beginning to take form. Perhaps a bit distorted but the formation had begun and lack of readiness didn’t seem to be a deterrent. Had he foolishly given up the chance of a human existence granted by the Mohra demon’s touch? That couldn’t be his reward, could it? He had done nothing to earn it. Would The Powers have allowed him to unwittingly forfeit his prophesied humanity? No, he had made the right choice, for both of them. Time apart had given him proof, the proof they both had consistently denied in their struggle to be together. They may have found each other because of his soul but his vampire nature had torn them apart. Their union had been too weak to withstand the weight of reality.

Was he still weak? Would he fail again if he allowed himself to believe he could be a part of this world without destroying the good around him? The very force that drove him and Buffy apart had brought him and Cordelia together. She had welcomed him into her life with simplicity and grace, had offered her friendship never doubting his ability to accept and return it.

Angel was unaware he was on the other side of the room until his gaze fell on the door separating them. Panic rose and doubts mounted, the doorknob rattled under the clinch of his shaking fist. Releasing his grip the empty hand grabbed his coat as he fled. The door closed quietly behind him followed by the almost soundless slide of the bolt. Dennis understood. Perhaps the only one that could understand Angel’s doubts and panic. What more could this cursed soul offer than friendship and protection? Protection only proper distance would provide. The engine revved and the car pulled from the curb heading where he didn’t know. Angel only knew it was dark and he was alone… again.

Chapter 2

Posted June 24, 2015 by califi in TBC

A Change of Season. 1   1 comment

Title: A Change of Season         displaced ficpic
Author: cydnestorm
Posted: 5/24/05
Email
Rating: G to R (possible NC17 though not likely) (will indicate if above PG)
Category: angst, humor and everything in between
Content: C/A, C/A/W friendship
Summary: reworking S2 beginning with S1 finale
Spoilers: S1, S2, S3, possibly more
Disclaimer: The characters in the Angelverse were created by Joss Whedon & David Greenwalt. No infringement is intended, no profit is made.
Distribution: Stranger Things, Go Team, Fire Still Burns, anywhere else let me know
Notes: This is the first fic I ever started. I have been researching, outlining and writing scenes for months & months & months. Today I finally put the first chapter together. Reworking S2 beginning with S1 finale. Darla & Pylea arcs significantly changed. Concentrating instead on natural progression of friendships, family dynamics, C/A relationship and the characters moving forward in their lives while battling personal hardships.  Details at bottom of page.
Feedback: Yes Please
Beautiful picfic by Nikkiwawa


PART ONE

In days like these, when the rain won’t fall and the sky’s so dry that even birds can’t call. I can feel your tears disappearing in the air, carried on the breeze in days like these. It’s years like these that make a young man old, bend his back against the promises that life should hold. They can make him wise, they can drive him to his knees. Nothing comes for free in days like these. But you can’t reap what you don’t sew and you can’t plant in fallow ground. So let us fill this empty earth with hope until the rains come down. In lives like these every moment counts. Add up all the things that I can live without. When the one thing left is the blessing of my dreams I can make my peace with days like these.

**~**

Prologue

Stars twinkled, imperfect diamonds set into the night sky. From its cloudless hover, the beam of the full moon illuminated his pensive face. Forcing his body to relax against the railing Angel pushed brooding thoughts into the background, for a little while. In reflection so many changes had occurred in the past year; some not to his liking but most gave him hope to believe. His gaze drifted inside the quiet apartment to the dining room table cluttered with stacks of books, scattered papers and the scroll of Aberjian. A carefully hidden secret until a few days ago, this sacred text proclaimed a future that would offer true humanity and a final death. The prospect of either another change in his life and suddenly, time was an enemy.

His roommates had retired hours ago giving into the need for sleep and rest. The room was dark except for the invasion of the moon’s natural light filtering through the glass doors. Angel could hear the rhythmic breaths and steady heartbeat from the man sleeping on the sofa seemingly content in his makeshift bed except for the occasional winch from an involuntary shift. Wesley Wyndam-Price had quickly become a trusted ally to the vampire, more slowly but just as assuredly, a trusted friend.

Straightening from his slouch Angel set the empty cup on the small table. The silent trek on the balcony was short and through the curtains’ narrow gap he could easily view the sleeping girl from his new perch. Her body, stretched out in a relaxed sprawl, took up most of the bed. Just like her he deemed with an easy smile. His fingers brushed a feathery touch across his up turned lips examining one of the good changes in his life.

Tension took his smile as her body curled into a tight fold. In an instant, she was meek and fragile again. The words of Anatole had broken Vocah’s evil spell but the fear of its return still lingered. With each hitch of breath, each slight look of discomfort fear rose inside him. The evil could still return taking her away from him. He released a slow sigh allowing his clinched muscles to relax as she settled into a new position before stretching out again.

Angel couldn’t choose the moment Cordelia Chase had nestled herself into his life; he only knew she had. The bewitching beauty queen of Sunnydale High, a spoiled brat on the cusp of womanhood had forced her way into his life daring him to believe he could have one. He had once been asked if an animal such as him had a heart. Now he could answer that question with surprising but absolute certainty. Angel pressed his cheek against the cool, glass pane and listened to the beat of his heart resting safely within the small frame of the young woman lost in peaceful slumber. A simple and innocent offer of friendship had invited him back into a world he had abandoned centuries ago.

“It’s…it’s saying…that you get to live until you die. It’s saying… it’s saying you become human.” Disappointments lead by misplaced faith had pushed the stuttered promise deep into the recesses of his thoughts but there it was again, a quiet echo daring him to believe. How long was the path to this redemption, who would share his humanity? Hard learned lessons had earned the right to challenge his eager but silent heart. Time was now his enemy; the painful reminder forced its way to the front, he couldn’t risk forgetting.

Pushing away from the window Angel struggled to squelch the desire to move closer to those too fragile to survive his world. Need would lead to wanting and wanting would lead to disappointment. A search of the night sky determined he had at least three hours before sunrise. Angel leapt from the balcony to the dark, quiet street below hoping time alone would do him good. He worked better with distance and proper distance was the best protection for those important to him. The silent warning continued its vigilant chant and the vampire walked the empty streets alone.

Chapter 1


 

Backdrop: S1 remains as is except for minor changes/additions (some will be recalled in flashbacks)
Story begins with S1 finale & first ep of S2 combined as one chapter. * The episode IWRY happened but it had a more positive influence with Angel deciding to focus on his new life in LA. * The Faith arc happened but ended with Angel & Buffy admitting their time had passed & the best way to honor their past relationship was with respect & acceptance as they moved on with their lives separately; however they failed to share that bit of information with friends & family.

The main occurrences in the S1 finale & first ep of S2 combined as one chapter. Some details omitted & instead using variances & additions to existing scenes to better promote the camaraderie and growing relationship of the AI team. * The Darla & Pylea arcs, reworked putting a big dent in the wall of denial for Cordelia & Angel. And because the relationship path is never smooth & clear of pesky debris, the news of Buffy’s death will be included. * Cordelia while still maturing & experiencing personal inner growth will not become a compliant companion believing she must stand by Angel and every moment must to be dedicated to Angel & his mission. * Wesley, though fumbling in his predictable & adorable way will accept the challenge of leader & personal protector to his friend(s) when faced with events beyond his control. * Gunn will remain the street-wise young man introduced in S1 as his acquaintance with Wesley & Cordelia develops into a deep friendship. Gunn & Angel will continue to struggle with their differences trying to find a balance in who/what they are, their joint fight against the evils of LA & their common need to have Wesley and Cordelia in their lives. * Any romance will be a slow & long wait. Even walls of denials with big holes manage to remain intact when strengthened by stubborn determination.

Posted June 24, 2015 by califi in TBC

Displaced. 4   1 comment

Part 4

“It’s too small.”

The dreaded voice coming out of nowhere, Merle jumped, his momentum sending him on a collision course with his digging partner. Arms flailing, their loads of stone and mortar went flying, duel yelps echoing through the dank sewer tunnel.

“You did that on purpose, you…” Angel’s face expressionless except for an sinisterly arched brow, Merle bit into his tongue, effectively saving his neck in the nick of time.

Stepping over the debris scattered at his feet, Angel peered into the lopsided opening. “Make it bigger.” And satisfied neither lackey would risk disappointing him, dropped two crisp one hundred dollar bills as he made his way down the tunnel. “Don’t be here when I get back,” resonating behind him as his form faded into the emptiness.

“You can count on it, Oh Lord of the Dark.” Merle whispered a sarcastic comeback once certain the ornery vampire was beyond hearing range.

“Is that his name this week?” Bert asked as he hurriedly gathered the fallen rubble into a neat pile.

“Be quiet, the blood sucker has ears like a fox.”

“Wouldn’t he have ears like a bat? Hmmm… Do bat’s have ears?”

“Shut up Bert and get the hammer.”

~~~“~~~

The first stack of papers analyzed until nothing was left to pick apart, Wesley slid it to the side; a weary sigh escaping as he prepared to tackle the next. Page after page of evidence rehashed until crisp corners curled from the tight pinch of fingers and hushed conversation turned to agitated rebuttal.

“You’re wrong.” Cordelia quietly contradicted, rubbing the pads of her fingers down the paper’s side, as though its secret hid beneath the neatly typed ink. “I can’t explain it, but I know he didn’t do it.”

“You’re reacting to emotion, Cordelia. That’s a rather unscientific approach.”

“There’s a reason for that. I’m not a scientist.”

Cordelia took the top sheet from the messy pile, holding it up for Wesley’s perusal. “Detective Spade thinks the man is guilty just because he’s a demon. That’s not very detectivey.”

“Perhaps the good detective’s judgment is clouded by personal opinion, but his conclusion was drawn by facts. Mickey Kyle had the motive and the means.”

“Pffttt,” Cordelia offered Wesley’s know-it-all assumption. “Is that scientific enough for ya?”

“Yes, well, I doubt the police will remove Mickey Kyle from their suspect list because you have a feeling.”

~~~

Gunn’s whereabouts unknown, Angel listened for signs of his arrival as he watched the Cordelia and Wesley go about their work. Despite the current head butting, they had accomplished quite a bit in their investigation, tracking down leads and informants with very little to go on. His friends were managing better on their own than he’d expected; his pride colored only by his regret of not being a part of it.

Thoughts turned again to the third member of the group. Gunn was rarely around during his clandestine visits, making him wander if the young man had chosen returning to his roots over the day-to-day grunge work of a detective agency.

The fight he witnessed a few nights ago could have been a random attack rather than a vision, Wesley and Cordelia simply returning the favor by combining forces. Nevertheless, even with the added numbers, they suffered casualties. And determined that Cordelia would not be a victim because of his mistakes; Angel decided to act before she risked challenging his warning.

“Am I interrupting?”

Heads shooting up, their collective attention shot first to the door they assumed was locked then to their unexpected visitor.

“Angel.” Recalling another time the vampire had forced his way into their office, Wesley motioned for Cordelia to stay put before making his way to the front of the office. “Can I help you with something?”

“I want to make you an offer.”

“An offer?”

“I want to handle the visions.”

“That’s very generous of you, but we have-”

“I think it’s a good idea.” Cordelia headed toward the two men, the rough edge of Angel’s recent warning spurring a faster pace.

Accepting Wesley’s surprised stare for all of fifteen seconds, her hands snapped to her hips, presenting a display of confidence and defiance she neither felt nor deserved.

“It makes sense when you think about it.”

Cordelia would have laughed at her flimsy defense if not for the absurdity of their situation. Angel’s offer was a politely delivered order, making it possible for her concession to merely appear as her own. And staring up at the unshakable resolve glaring down at her, she wasn’t foolish enough to believe compliance was an option.

At the moment, Angel’s motivation was the bigger mystery. Not that she’d ask, or expect an honest answer if she did. It was possible that his refusal to let go was nothing more than a bruised and swollen ego. Angel might leave, but no one leaves Angel. His promised shanshu was just as likely a plausible motive. Although, Cordelia reconsidered, whenever more intimate causes made saving the hopeless unimportant, the mission was forgotten and friendships became disposable.

With a little luck, the incentive behind Angel’s relentless pursuit soon wouldn’t matter. Despite their unexpected caseload, Wesley was making steady progress in figuring out how to contact the omnipotent beings currently controlling her fate. Admittedly, the ritual coerced from a reluctant Lorne was a scary proposition, but for Cordelia, well worth the risk. No visions meant Angel wouldn’t need her, which meant she could finally move on with her life.

“You now want us to work with Angel?” Wesley asked, confused by Cordelia’s sudden change of heart.

“I didn’t say that,” Cordelia hissed, “I’m just saying if Angel wants to fight demons let him.”

~~~“~~~

A long, hot summer came to mind. Not that LA had been unusually warm, or remotely resembled lazy. Lives had been turned inside out…again. Loyalties had shifted, and alliances once trusted, now faced off…again. No, Charles Gunn reconsidered, the cliché didn’t fit after all; and whistling his tune a little louder, began to slow his approach. Whatever lay around the corner had picked up his scent at least three blocks ago. It just didn’t know he was ready for an ambush.

The familiar tingle prickling up his spine, Gunn instinctively shifted his stance. Weapon aimed and ready, he stepped into the dimly lit alley, unprepared for the demon laying in wait.

Arms crossed and heads cocked, the two men sized each other up in a silent stand off.

“Gunn.”

“Angel,” and without skipping a beat addressed his troop, “Since when do we take prisoners?”

“Wasn’t sure if you wanted this one dust,” Rondell declared begrudgingly.

Gunn scanned the familiar faces. Boys forced into manhood before they were ready. Loyal friends he trusted with his life, waiting for him to lead, trusting him to make the right choices and keep his people safe.

“He’s a vamp; ain’t he?”

“Cordelia might disagree.” Gruff, almost devoid of emotion, Angel held his opponent’s stare, while inwardly grappling with the surge of doubts threatening to burn him from the inside out.

“Tell you what, if she has any free time in the next few weeks, I’ll ask her.”

Rondell’s sight never wavering from the cold, dead eyes staring back, his finger squeezed against the crossbow’s trigger.

“Is this where I tremble,” Angel scoffed, “Or laugh?”

“No,” Gunn countered moving a step closer, “this is where you regret a bad decision.”

The young man instinctively guarding his territory, had understandably designated himself alpha male. It was an attitude Angel admired, but one he would only tolerate to a degree. “I do regret leaving my friends…and the mission.”

“Actually, I was talking about being in the wrong place at the wrong time, but that too.”

Relieved the time-wasted conversation was drawing to an end, Rondell shifted, aligning the arrow’s path with the lifeless heart, only to be disappointed by another interruption.

“Save your arrow for the next one, the vamp’s with us.” With a dull glint of distrust and resentment at calling off his crew, Gun added a deliberate, “for now.”

Utter shock taking over, Rondell dropped his guard; George and the others flanking his sides to voice their protest. “You have got to be kidding me, man.”

With rumors of vampires setting up a new turf and the demon in Cordelia’s vision needing to be dealt with, Gunn held up his hand, effectively cutting off a debate he didn’t have time for.

“Rondell. George. You need to worry about the vamp nest in the old Clover warehouse.”

“And what will you be doing?” George challenged, stepping to the front of the group.

“Killing a Nequa’el demon. Now get movin’ and I’ll meet you back at camp.” Gunn tossed a look in Angel’s direction then back at his men, “Alone.”

One by one the men headed off, grumbles of dissension falling silent beneath the weight of responsibilities.

“So a Nequa’el.” Angel casually mentioned as he strolled past Gunn, making his way deeper into the alley.

“Yea, you know ‘em?”

“Not really.”

Gunn caught up with Angel’s stride, and squaring his shoulders, locked his sight straight ahead.

“Why are you doing this?”

“How do you know it’s a Nequa’el?”

“English looked it up in one of his picture books.”

“I want to help.”

“So you’ve said.”

Regret, forgiveness, trust, just empty words unless promises were fulfilled. With nothing left to say, the two men continued in silence.

“Because I think I can help.”
“How do we know we can trust you?”
“I guess I’ll just have to earn that.”

Momentarily lost in memory, innate senses missed the abrupt change, exposing Angel to the blow coming from behind. Gunn automatically flanked right as Angel sprung to his feet, spinning around and blocking the second strike. Knees threatening to buckle under the massive weight, muscles intuitively tensed, a heavy grunt pushing its way past tight-pressed lips as he shoved the demon toward the readied axe.

Gunn, confident of a swift victory, swung around fast and hard, his axe slicing through the air and landing dead center of its target. He felt an unexpected jolt, the handle vibrating inside his grip; then stumbled back in disbelief when the fine-honed blade practically bounced off the demon’s thick, crusty hide.

“What the fu-what the hell is this thing; rock?”

The demon already turning for a counter attack, Angel lunged for its back, locking one arm around its neck in a tight vice. A larger, stronger claw closed around his hand, the pulverizing force threatening to crush bone. Snarling against the pain, human features shifted, teeth elongated into sharp-pointed weapons and sank into a semi-tender patch of flesh underneath the beast’s jaw.

“You shouldn’t be alone right now.”
“Maybe, but I need some time to myself.”
“When will you be back?”

Gunn brought the axe down again and again. Each strike, harder than the one before it, buried the blade deep into the softer underbelly. The whites of his eyes paled, blending into the dark around them. His heart raced, breaths became wheezing gasps for air, sweat coated his face.

Angel tore into the demon’s throat, his own feral growls blending with the agonizing howls of his prey.

“This isn’t a personal attack, Angel.”
“The visions, battling supernatural elements, requires stability.”
“And I’m not dependable.”
“No, I’m sorry to say, you’re not.”

The demon beaten down with their combined assault, Angel’s relentless attack continued, undeterred by the smell of impending death.

“Trust me Cordelia. Invite me in.”
“I can’t.”

Staggering back, Gunn gave into exhaustion, collapsing to the ground. Blood, thick and black as oil, oozed from the demon, smearing across Angel’s cheek.

“It’s dead, man. You can stop biting it now.”

Nothing… Angel poured his rage into the lifeless piece of flesh, heavy grunts disrupting the dark silence as teeth gnashed against the leather-tough hide.

“Don’t Cordelia. I don’t want to fight with you.”

Disgusted by the scene of bloody teeth and mangled flesh, Gunn struck his fist repeatedly against Angel’s shoulder. “Let it go man. It’s dead.”

Energy spent, rage temporarily appeased, Angel let go, slumping over the dead carcass.

“I don’t want to fight either. I just want this to be over with.”

~~~“~~~

“Giles? You told Giles?”

Cordelia looked at Wesley as though he’d grown a second head, although, considering her wide-eyed shock, he might have sprouted a third.

Yes, Cordelia. I called Giles. Is there a problem?”

“Of course there’s a problem. What if he tells someone-what if Angel finds out?”

Her arms flailed at the absurdity of the man she’d believed to be intelligent, her fingers pointing accusingly at the idiot that had proved her wrong.

“Giles was most helpful in translating the ritual; besides, who would he possibly tell that would have reason to speak with Angel?”

Okay, he had her there. No one in Sunnydale cared whether or not she had the visions. And no one in Sunnydale talked to Angel except Buffy and she was gone. Oh God. Buffy is dead and Angel is heart broken. No. No. No. Cordelia silently wailed. No more guilt. Angel didn’t need her then and he doesn’t need her now.

“You’re right. I overreacted. So what does this ritual include, a ceremonial hat, live chickens?”

“Good Lord, Cordelia, nothing as grotesque as animal sacrifices. Although, as the bearer of the visions your blood is required – a minimal donation, I assure you,” Wesley quickly added when confronted with her horrified expression.”

“Okay, a little blood; what else?”

“I need to procure the tail feather of a dodo bird, and of course, the dodo bird being extinct for more than three hundred years, plumage may prove difficult to come by.”

“Blood, tail feathers. What else?”

“The remaining ingredients can be readily found in LA, so as soon as I can track down an apothecary that deals in rare antiquities and a shaman, we should be ready to begin.”

Cordelia had to admit, hearing how close they were to actually performing the ritual, anticipation was definitely overshadowing Lorne’s caution of playing with fire. So what if she got a little burned, the doctor had already told her it was only a matter of time before the migraines became life-threatening.

“Great! All that stands between me and a normal life is a dodo. I’ll be free Wesley. Free of the visions. Free of Angel.”

I’ll be free… I’ll be free… I’ll be free…

Excitement waned with each resonation, Cordelia shivered from the cold, desolation crawled over her.

No more Angel…

~~~“~~~

“Where’s my money?” Merle risked a cheeky attitude. He’d labored all day. He deserved it.

Angel reached into the drawer, and with a flick of his wrist tossed a fifty across the desk.

“What do you have for me?”

“I followed a pretty girl all day man, whadda ya think I got? You know,” Merle looked around the messy state of their surroundings, “most people tidy up a little when company’s coming.”

Hands pressed together, his chin resting on the tips of his fingers, Angel leaned the chair back as far as it’s springs could tolerate and said nothing.

“Well excuse me. Forgot this was a working relationship.” Merl jerked his fingers in front of his face, snapping quotation marks around the phrase. “Last I saw her, your squeeze and the professor were talking about vision rituals and being free of you.”

Angel’s spine stiffened, the added clench of his jaw sounding an audible pop. Cordelia thought the visions kept her tied to him. It was time she discovered the ties that bind, and Wesley learned a lesson in boundaries.

“But it don’t sound like they’ll be doing it anytime soon. The professor said something about needing a dead bird and a shaman.”

“The sewer tunnel?” Angel asked, abruptly changing the subject.

“Man you just don’t let up.”

TBC

Cydnestorm

Posted June 24, 2015 by califi in TBC