Cursed. 3

~***~

As they turned into the parking lot of Giles’ complex, Angel stared over at Cordelia. She looked good driving his car. The wind blowing through her thick chestnut hair. The bunny ears had been tossed to the backseat as soon as the first whip of wind had almost taken them, leaving her hair free to dance around her face.

A “what if” ran through his mind as he watched her. What if Buffy had never walked in the night he had been sitting with Cordelia at that table? Would he have gotten to know the real Cordelia then? Or would her barrier have shot up anyway? He had wondered that night if it had been a fluke, a misjudgment of character to think of her as someone deeper than others. Someone worth getting involved with. But now he knew.

There was no mistake. Cordelia Chase ran deeper than any human he’d ever met. Her impenetrable wall was proof of that. Only the deepest body of water needed a dam that strong to hold everything in. Or out.

The lot was crowded. A loud party in the second building most likely the source of scarce parking space. So Cordelia found the only empty spot in sight, three units down from Giles’. After pulling in, she turned off the car and handed Angel the keys. He was staring at her again, he’d been doing that almost the whole way to Giles’. “What?” she finally asked. “Are we getting out, or not?”

He knew he should be moving, racing to the Watcher’s apartment as fast as he could. But he had to know something first. “When did you start to see them?” He asked because he had to. It couldn’t have been for long, maybe tonight was her first time. Maybe whatever connected her to him had made them visible to her. Maybe it was his fault.

“Who?” she pretended and began to check her windblown hair in the mirror. Not that it needed it, it actually looked kind of great in a rebellious sort of way. But she had to distract herself. He was looking at her and God help her she wanted to tell him. Needed to.

Why wouldn’t she talk to him? Why pretend that she hadn’t seen the beast? “Cordelia,” he reached up and turned the mirror away from her, unable to stand her avoidance. “You saw it. I know you saw it. How long? Was tonight the first time?”

Cordelia grabbed the mirror, pulling her face back into her view. She began to dab at her lip glass but noticed that her fingers trembled and opted for a quick digit comb through of her hair. “No wonder the women in the forties and fifties wore scarves, this hunk of metal really does a number on your locks.”

Okay, he was getting pissed now. This stupid act might sit well with everyone else, keep her in some kind of safe zone. But she wasn’t safe. She had seen the monster. And that meant it could hurt her. He found that he couldn’t stand her fake attention to her appearance any longer. Grabbing her by her wrists, he jerked her hands away from her hair and turned her, probably a little too roughly, but damn it, she was going to talk to him.

Cordelia’s eyes grew wide as her body was jerked roughly, her attention demanded physically by Angel. She stared at him, her expression changing. She would not tell him. She couldn’t.

“Damn it, Cordelia. Talk to me. You’re willing to help me. Let me help you.”

It wasn’t his surprisingly rough treatment of her that did her in, or his statement about her helping him. She would have helped him no matter what the consequences. She knew that somewhere deep inside herself. It was his offer of help to her. He said he would help her. Oh, he couldn’t really help her. She knew that. But to tell someone. Someone who might understand. He could see them. It would feel so good just to say it.

Just once. Tell him.

“Eighteen years, one month and seventeen days,” the words tumbled out of her mouth. She hated the fact that her lips had trembled a bit when she said it. She’d wanted her voice to come out strong, as Angel’s had when he had explained to her about the Ancient Ones. A warrior, ready to fight through his fear.

“What?” for some reason her answer didn’t seem to make sense right away.

“You asked me…” she tried to bring strength back to her voice but it seemed unreachable, “how long. Eighteen years, one month and seventeen days.” Crap, tears wouldn’t help them right now. They had to get out of the car, into Giles’, find the reverse spell or whatever Angel needed to get him back to his dark, broody, corporal self. “It doesn’t matter. You can’t tell anyone, Angel. I don’t even know why…..Crap. Let’s just get out…..”

Angel slipped his hands from her wrists, to her hands. His cool fingers squeezing slightly. “God, Cordelia. Why haven’t you told anyone? Do you know what that means? If you can see them they can harm you. It all makes sense now. That’s why you see me. I’m in their domain. How have you survived this long without……” he didn’t want to finish that.

Suddenly the what if game seemed a horrible game. What if they found her out? Took her. Did the things he knew them capable of doing. To Cordelia.

God, his hands felt good, holding hers, pouring strength into her. “I wasn’t the only one in my family apparently with the curse. My great-grandmother and a few others too. She, my Gram, was the one that taught me how to shut myself off. Of course, I never knew exactly what the Ancients were or why I could see them. Gram never told me that. But she tried to help me in her own way I guess. ‘Pretend’ she used to tell me. So I did. I pretended they weren’t there. I pretended who I was and who I wasn’t. And after a while, it just became, life. A way to survive.” Crap, it was spilling out of her so fast, too fast for her to shut herself up.

“And none of them have ever acted as if they sensed you, knew that you could see them?”

She shrugged, “They’re always around. I think they do sense something, here in Sunnydale. But, I guess lucky for me there are a lot of supernatural distractions. Probably hard to track a freak in a town full of freaks,” she gave a shaky laugh that carried no humor.

“You’re not a freak, Cordelia. And I don’t think you’re cursed either.” He searched his brain for all he knew of the old stories and lore about the Ancient Ones. They had walked the Earth, able to move between dimensions freely until they had been sent permanently to the border. But there was another part he couldn’t remember, something about the way human’s had protected themselves from the Ancients before they were cursed behind the veil.

“Let’s go,” he let go of Cordelia hands.

She was glad to drop the subject, she felt drained and more afraid than she had in a long time. Afraid that Angel would betray her secret, afraid that the monsters would finally catch on now that her defenses seemed to be failing her, afraid that there might not be an answer for Angel at Giles’.

The last fear made her stomach roll. How could she witness that? Knowing what was happening to him and being powerless to help? That would be Hell itself, not the border or edge of it.

She slipped out of the car and followed Angel, trying to stay up with him. His strides were sure, purposeful. Well, she though, at least he had hope that there was some sort of answer to his problem in 201A. She hoped he was right. She wanted that answer for him more than he could ever know. He had suffered enough hadn’t he? Turned into a vampire, cursed, sent to Hell by someone he cared for, sent back, anointed with yet another curse.

God, no wonder she felt close to him. He bore all of those things just as she did. Sure, some people knew about his problems, but he kept mostly to himself, not letting anyone in, close. Except for Buffy.

And why in the world did that bother her? Shouldn’t he have happiness. Well, not that kind of happiness. But shouldn’t he have love? Shouldn’t everyone? If she thought anything of him, shouldn’t she want that for him? Happiness. With Buffy. Except, she didn’t like the way he was with Buffy. His walls were just as strong as the ones Cordelia had built around herself when he was around Buffy. So scared he would make a mistake: a bad boy in the principal’s office, a delinquent in the confessional.

Holding back his strength and his nature because he felt…..what? Not good enough? That wasn’t love? Was it? It certainly wasn’t the type of love she wanted. She wanted to be an open book to the person she loved. Acceptance, warts and all. Except, there in lay the problem. For her anyway. Because she could never be open with anyone about who she really was. Well, okay, she had told Angel.

But that didn’t count. Not really, she lied to herself.

Angel walked with a purpose, a mission. To find a way to help Cordelia. Sure she’d managed to keep herself under their radar for years. And maybe she would have lived out her life never giving the monsters a clue as to who she was. But what kind of life was that? To hide everything about yourself, never letting anyone near enough to truly know you, love you?

It disturbed him a bit that he had thought about: Cordelia and love. But it was natural wasn’t it? He wanted a good life for her, a full life. She was helping him, and in some way he felt strongly connected to her, probably because he was so strongly attracted to her and probably because they shared being cursed.

And love was a natural thing to wish for someone. Especially a young girl. Well, technically a young woman, evidently she was over eighteen. But that didn’t matter of course. He just wanted her to be……happy? Was that why he was so determined? He wasn’t sure. He wasn’t really sure what he was feeling. The only thing he did know was that in the search for his fix, he would find hers.

Because he couldn’t think about her not being safe. He needed to know she was safe. Cordelia Chase would live without the nightmare that had been haunting her all her life. That was one thing he would make damn sure of.

****

The evening had been warmer than most Halloweens even for California and because of that fact, Giles’ windows as well as most of the unit’s windows were open. Cordelia and Angel walked to the front door, the voices of Xander and Buffy filtering through the screens.

“Great. Just perfect.” Cordelia said under her breath.

Angel didn’t want to face them either, and, lucky for him he truly didn’t have to. But he knew Cordelia was cringing at the prospect of facing her idiotic ex. “It’s alright. You can do this. Just don’t let him get to you.” He gave her the pep talk, wishing he could be seen, that he could glare at Xander and put some fear into the boy.

He would like that. To see Xander practically piss himself, and he could make that happen, in front of Cordelia. Then he could show Cordelia that the fool wasn’t worth her stress. Xander had weaseled his way into Cordelia’s life, her heart, only to treat it like shit. The only consolation that Angel had was that she would be alright, because she hadn’t loved him, not really.

He knew, even though he wasn’t quite sure how, that Cordelia, when in love, would tell her secrets and if not break down her wall, at least throw a rope over it so that the one she loved could get in, get close.

Of course, she had told him. But that was out of desperation. They had been thrown into her secret by the stupid curse the women had accidentally placed on him. She had had no choice but to tell him. So her telling him didn’t really count. Not really. He didn’t know why he should feel depressed at that thought.

That her telling him had been out of force, not will. But it didn’t matter now. They were here. She would speak to Giles, get the info they needed, and fix the problem. For both of them.

Cordelia turned to the door, took a deep breath, a knocked.

Oh, her lucky night just kept getting better, she thought as Xander opened the door.

“I need to speak to Giles,” she said in her haughtiest tone, full of ice, barrier solidly in place.

Xander stared like a deer caught in headlights as he looked at her. His eyes roamed over her, down, up, down again. When he finally reached her eyes, he seemed to catch himself. “Hello, Cordelia. I didn’t know there was a Hoe-lloween party on this side of town. But I must say. You should win the door prize. Where did you get that thing, Sluts-R-Us?”

He was all verbal intimidation, Angel knew it. And he knew it was because Cordelia intimidated him physically. She was a goddess compared to anything that kid deserved. Before he knew what he was doing, Angel opened his mouth to say something.

“He can’t hear you,” Cordelia said before the words came out.

“Who can’t hear me?” Xander asked, a little fear in his voice as he looked around outside. Had she brought one of the football players with her?

“No one, never mind. I really need to speak to Giles. There’s something, important that I need help with.”

“He’s not here,” Buffy joined Xander at the door.

“We came to raid his candy,” Xander continued a little nicer. He hadn’t actually meant to be so mean to Cordelia, but she was just too much. Too pretty, too confident, too everything. It made him so uncomfortable. It was why he had gone after Willow he supposed. Now there was a girl he could handle.

Cordelia was just……Cordelia. “He was on his way out for a date if you can believe that,” Xander rambled on. “Never thought he would date again after Ms. Calendar. But he said we could stay if we wanted.”

Cordelia looked at her side to Angel. She could almost feel him flinch at the name of the teacher Angelus had killed. She sent him a sympathetic look and brushed her hand against his in support, willing him strength the way he had offered her strength in the car.

“Do you know when he’ll be back?”

“Why do YOU need to talk to Giles,” Buffy tried to stop the rudeness that came out in her voice, but damn it. Cordelia had already gotten her grips into Xander. Looking like she was tonight……well, it didn’t look like she was prowling for anyone to “talk” with.

“Tell them,” Angel urged. He couldn’t stand the way they both looked at her. If they knew, they would help, and focus their attention somewhere else besides Cordelia. Xander’s insecurity and Buffy’s jealousy were making them cruel and he didn’t like to see Buffy acting out as she was. Even more so, he didn’t like the fact that they were hurting Cordelia. Even if she hid it well.

“Alright,” Cordelia sighed as if the agreement was hard to make.

Angel knew it would be difficult for her to explain. Hard to get out even. It had been hard to tell her when he thought she didn’t know about the border and the Ancients. He waited patiently. He wouldn’t get frustrated or push her. He would let her take her time to try and explain.

They were going to be there for a while.

“Angel’s been cursed, again. Somebody put a spell on him and now he walks a dimension in which no one can see him or touch him but me. And, as luck would have it, our dimension happens to be smack dab on top of or intertwined with this other dimension which also happens to be the border or edge to a demon Hell dimension. You know, the one you sent him to. And there are these monsters that are after him to torture and take him back. And if we don’t find Giles and find a fix for what has happened it may be more than a hundred years- in his life- that you see him again.”

Wow! Angel thought. Straight to the point, no drama, no theatrics. She was great, concise, and to the point. He loved it. No guessing at what was going on. He imagined this must be part of her real self, maybe something that she always let slip through. Truth in everything.

He believed anyone that was ever with her, friend or lover, would always know exactly where they stood and how she felt. Wouldn’t that be wonderful. Never to guess if you were doing the wrong thing, making the wrong move. To just know. Who you were and what you felt.

“How’s that?” she threw back over her shoulder.

“Perfect,” he looked at Buffy and Xander expectantly. It was clear as it could be.

Buffy rolled her eyes, “You’ve got to be kidding me. You’re the only one who can see him, touch him? And why would that be I wonder when he barely knows you. Despite your every attempt to push yourself at him.” Buffy knew she sounded like a jealous child, and she had to admit that she was a little peeved at Cordelia faking closeness with Angel, but something had to be done.

Someone had to take her down a notch. She just couldn’t stand seeing her in that ridiculous Playboy outfit, demanding to see Giles, then telling her that Angel was somewhere where he could only communicate with her!

“Cordelia, I understand that you want to get back at Xander for what he did,” Buffy tried to be kind. She did feel a little sorry for Cordelia and worked with that emotion as much as possible. She would not be cruel, she would try to be as polite as possible. She would not, could not stoop to Cordelia’s level of desperate ploys to seek attention. “But coming over to Giles’ private residence dressed like that,” she motioned to the outfit, “then using my horrible guilt over sending Angel to hell to get what you want won’t work. I feel sorry for you, Cordelia. You don’t understand how to have real friends. What a sacrifice it is to put yourself on the line to keep the people you care about, and some you don’t, safe.”

Buffy started to shut the door and when Cordelia would have reached out to push it open, Angel stopped her. “Let it go,” he said softly, still staring at Buffy as the door clicked shut.

How could she at least not find out if it were true? It wasn’t completely unbelievable. Nothing was in the Hellmouth. But she didn’t even try. Because it came from Cordelia.. A realization came over him then. He cared for Buffy, that would never change, but she wasn’t the bearer of all that was pure.

He’d made her into some kind of Savior. Some kind of measure for what was good, what was right. But she was just a girl. With no more wisdom than the rest of them. No more knowledge of the true purpose of existence. She’d been handed her fate and was dealing with it. Not very well, but still, she was trying. He hadn’t seen love through the window of her home when he first became to know who she was. He had seen a lifeboat, a way out of his despair.

He looked at Cordelia, then began to pace. This wouldn’t include Buffy. Even if he could convince her with words from Cordelia that only Buffy and he would know. Besides, Cordelia didn’t want them to know about her “condition” and bringing them into it would likely cast it into the light.

Would they bring her into the fold then? Because of her curse? No, by the reception she had received she would probably be treated like the “freak” she called herself. Maybe not by Buffy. But Xander would use it. Even though he would hate himself someday for doing it.

“We could always just wait here,” she offered, feeling as if she had failed in some way. Maybe if she was more like them they would have listened. Maybe she’d been too blunt. But time was of the essence, wasn’t it?

“No,” he leaned against the wall and thought for a moment then pushed away. “Knock again.”

“What? No.”

“Knock again.”

“And say what?”

“It doesn’t matter.”

Cordelia looked at him suspiciously but turned toward the door and knocked.

Buffy opened the door, “What is it?” she said in a defeated breath.

Cordelia didn’t know what to say. She looked to Angel who was making his way around her. Watched as he passed right through Buffy and entered Giles’ apartment. “Cordelia, I have had a long night,” Buffy said in an I-have-the-weight-of-the-world on my shoulders type of way.

She wanted to snap at her. Make some snide remark about how they had all dumped her, not just Xander. How she had laid in the hospital, alone. Her only visitor Xander. But he hadn’t stayed for comfort, hadn’t hung around outside her door to see how she was, to wait for her to work through her anger.

The moment she couldn’t forgive him instantly he bailed. It had been all about his feelings of guilt, not her injuries, both physical and emotional.

She had thought she was becoming close to them. As close as she could let anyone get. But the only reason they had tolerated her at all had been because of Xander. That was now crystal clear. So it wouldn’t matter what she said to Buffy or anyone else. They wouldn’t get it.

Because they didn’t know. Because Cordelia Chase was shallow. Not deep and thoughtful. She didn’t have problems because she was rich and pretty. Right?

But little did they know, she did sympathize with Buffy. The Slayer did have the weight of the world on her shoulders. And she looked depressed. Well, she always looked depressed. But tonight was different. Cordelia could sense that she was truly sad.

“Trick or Treat!” the kids behind her broke the silence and Cordelia moved to the side, letting the fairy and Harry Potter character shove their bags out in front of them. Buffy left, returned with a couple of handfuls of brightly packaged chocolates, and turned back to Cordelia in silence. Never inviting her in, but waiting.

“Never mind,” Cordelia said.

Buffy started to shut the door and then paused half way. “Cordelia,” she caught her attention as she was turning away. “I’m glad you’re alright. What happened to you shouldn’t have happened.”

“Oh,” Cordelia was struck speechless for a moment. Lifting up her hand, she touched the spot where the rebar had struck and absently rubbed it. “The impalement,” she smiled a little because, well, she was uncomfortable and a little caught off guard. It was the first time anyone had said anything about what had happened.

“Yeah, that too,” Buffy said before she shut the door.

Cordelia realized then that she had meant Xander, his betrayal. “Thanks,” she whispered to the door.

****

What was taking him so long? Cordelia paced by the side of the apartment, careful to stay in the shadows. God, he was rubbing off on her. She was lurking! Actually lurking in the shadows like some, some, creature of the night.

Okay, make that more like a candidate for petty theft, she thought to herself as she saw Angel climbing out the loft window above, dropping a duffle bag to the bushes below to conceal the sound of the fall. He, of course, made no sound, as he dropped to the short grass in front of her.

“What’s all this?”

“Books. As many as I could find that might help us.”

“Us?”

He didn’t answer as picked up the bag and waited for her to lead the way to his car.

Cordelia heard a suspicious clank when he began to move with the bag in his hand. “Books huh?” she shot back as they made their way through the pools of light from the poles above.

“And a few weapons,” he patted his jacket. “In case we run into an Ancient again.”

“Can you use them?” she asked when they reached the car.

“You saw me knock the cane from your friends hand in front of the party. I can touch inanimate things. Remember?”

“He wasn’t my friend.”

“I know,” he said as he threw the bag in the backseat and got in.

“Besides, I didn’t mean can you touch them. Because obviously you can. I just meant,” she started the car. “Do you know how? To kill it I mean,” she couldn’t help the hope in her voice. Was it possible that there was a way to destroy them?

Angel hated the hope in her voice. He could kill them. He knew how. He’d learned it the hard way though. But it wasn’t easy and he hoped like hell she never had to see him do it. “Yeah, I know how,” he answered softly, his eyes trained on the road as they pulled out. He couldn’t look at her.

Partly because of the possibility that she might see him kill one. The brutality of it would definitely turn her stomach. But also he couldn’t make eye contact because of what he had to ask of her next. But he need it, if he was going to be strong enough to face one of the demons.

“We have to make a stop,” he finally said.

“A stop before where? I’m not sure where we’re going. Are you?”

“We need a place to sit down and rest so I can study these things. Some of them are in Latin, which is no problem. But others. ….I’m not sure I’ll be able to translate.”

“We could go to my house,” she said and he turned to look at her profile, noticing the way she fidgeted with the bodice of the outfit she wore. She was self-conscious now. Xander had done that to her. With his juvenile comments. More so to make himself feel better than to make her feel bad.

“You look great, by the way,” he commented. “The outfit…it‘s…..,” Christ, how did you complement someone in a civilized manner about how delicious they were without coming off so……perverted? He had looked at a Playboy or two. Hell, he’d even been to one of the old clubs back when they were new.

But never before did he want to personally thank Hugh Hefner for making the signature uniform. Not until now. She looked as good as any Bunny he’d ever seen. Better. Yeah, better even. All that crimson satin, hugging curves that made him think thoughts that he had previously believed only came from Angelus. Not horrible thoughts, but dark enough that he believed couldn’t be imagined by someone good. It was why he had gone for Buffy. She had made him think of purity. Of white weddings and picketed fences.

But these thoughts about Cordelia were borderline dark, possessive. And were shocking him to his core. When had this feeling started creeping in? Visions of him stripping off the tight garb ran through his brain. The sound of the material ripping as he pulled it from her body. God, she would look great under there, feel great too. And there was nothing pure or sweet about what he wanted to do to her. What he wanted her to do to him.

Angel swallowed and shifted his position in his seat. His peripheral vision caught her glancing to him now and then. Why was she looking as if she were waiting? They had been heading out and he had said…..oh yeah. “You look….pretty,” he settled on the most civilized thing he could think of.

Pretty? That’s what her outfit inspired in a male who had lived as long as he had? Seen probably hundreds of beautiful women. And of all those, she ranked as…..simply, pretty. She didn’t know why the comment bothered her. It was nice, as compliments go. She liked being pretty, as vain as that sounded.

And she should be grateful that he found her ….pretty….God, she could barely think the word. But she didn’t want to be merely pretty to him. She wanted to be….what? Hot. Desirable. Irresistible? It was insane, she knew. She had seen the way he had stared at Buffy when she refused to help. As if the realization hurt him in some way.

Maybe she just wasn’t his type. Maybe he liked short blondes with no boobs. Some men did. Or maybe he was just trying to make her feel better after Xander’s comment. She had to remind herself why he was with her anyway. She could see him, therefore she could help him.

“Well,” she continued their planning as if he hadn’t given the compliment. Even though she should really thank him. But she didn’t want to. Not for pretty. God, she was vain. “We could go to my house. I want to get out of this thing anyway and my feet are killing me.”

“What about your parents. I mean, I know they can’t see me but still.”

“They couldn’t see you if you were solidly in place in this dimension. Not all the way from Miami anyway.”

“They left you alone?” he said incredulously to her profile.

“I am eighteen. I know you’ve got well over a hundred years on me but technically I’m an adult.”

He ignored the way his spirits rose when she confirmed her age again. She was definitely that, he thought as he looked at her body again. Fuck, he was a pervert. Then he made a mental note to remove that newly acquired word ‘fuck’ from his mind. He didn’t need the images that it conjured in Cordelia’s presence. “No, I mean. They leave you alone knowing what you’re going through? How you have to deal with what you see?”

“They don’t know,” she kept her eyes trained on the red light they had stopped for.

“Why?”

“I just never told anyone. Gram told me that no one would believe me and I think she was right to do it. I’d rather spend my life pretending instead of in a padded cell somewhere, drooling from too many anti-psychotics.”

Angel reached over and removed her right hand from its death grip on the wheel, holding it in his for a moment while she stayed silently still, staring at the red light. “I believe you,” his voice was soft but poured strength into her.

How did he do that? Make her feel so strong with a simple touch, a few words? He made her believe that anything was possible, that maybe her life wouldn’t always be like this. “Thanks,” she finally said and turned to him staring into his deep chocolate eyes.

He wanted to kiss her. The thought and need came quick and urgent. He wanted to wrap his arms around her and kiss her. Kiss her until she forgot about Xander Harris, her absent parents, the Ancient Ones, world hunger, war, the economy cri………a loud HONK broke his thoughts and he let her hand slip out of his.

“Okay!” she shot back to the car behind them. She so had to get a hold of herself because if they had sat there any longer, holding hands like that, she would have kissed him. And made a complete and utter fool of herself. “My house to research but where to first?”

He didn’t like her all business tone. And he was seriously considering ripping out the whole engine of the car behind them as it honked again.

“I’m going,” she said to the headlights in the rearview mirror. “So?” was for Angel.

She was waiting for him to tell her their stop. Great. “I have to pick something up.”

“At your place? Do you have a place?”

“I have a place,” what did she think, he hung out in crypts or something? “But I’m out and I need to stop for a supply,” he cringed even as the words came out.

“A supply of wha….ooohhh.”

Shit, he hated this. She would be totally disgusted now. He’d only drank in front of one other human and that had been Buffy and she had been revolted by the sight. And she was the Slayer. With all of the things she had seen, he would have thought…..oh well, he needed it. He couldn’t risk his strength. Not with Cordelia on the line.

“So, butcher shop?” she guessed hopefully. Surely he didn’t mean something fresh. At least not fresh and walking on two legs.

“Normally, yeah.”

Thank goodness. But then what did he mean by normally?

“But it’s too late. My supplier is closed by now. I have to get it…..somewhere else. And that‘s where you come in.”

“Okay. Why don’t I think I’m going to like or want to agree with any of this?”

“Because you’re not. Believe me, if there was any other choice, I would never ask you to do this.”

Do what? He wasn’t asking her to…..oh no. He had said ‘pick up’ hadn’t he? Her hand fluttered to her neck quickly before she could stop herself, visions of Angel holding her, crushing her close, his face buried in her neck. She flushed, every ounce of blood rushing to her face at the erotic feelings that image brought to life within her. God, she was sick. Why would that turn her on?

Angel noticed her coloring, one hand covering her throat as she drove. Christ, she thought he wanted to bite her? Well, he did. But she didn’t know that, not the part about the wanting to anyway. “No, I don’t mean you. I would never bite you,” he said to reassure himself and her. “We have to stop at this bar. Willy’s. The only problem is……” she was going to hate this, “it’s a demon bar. And tonight it’ll be packed. Most demons don’t roam on Halloween. Kind of like their night off.”

Cordelia thought about what a demon bar must look like. All of Sunnydale’s midnight elite gathered in one dark watering hole. Great. Just great. And she was human, dressed like a bunny, and Angel was invisible. “Couldn’t you just grab something off the street. You don’t have to kill anyone. Just a sip or two. I read in a book once where the lead character hypnotized his victims. He didn’t kill them, just took enough to survive and sent them on their way. A little light-headed, but alive.” She was so ashamed of herself for even suggesting it.

She knew she was probably tempting him to do something he had an urge to do anyway. Shoving a bottle of gin under the nose of an alcoholic. Go on take a drink. One won’t hurt you. God, she was such a jerk.

Angel stared at Cordelia in disbelief. Did she know what she was saying? Well, she did know about one thing. Vampires did have special powers. At least after certain ages and only if consuming real human blood, not the preserved kind from a hospital bank, and especially not animal blood.

Just over two-hundred now, he could feel some of his gifts beginning to stir. But to take from a human. Could he stop? Would he? Wasn’t it wrong? A rape in some way? “The bar is better,” was his answer.

“Alright,” she said, not apologizing for the suggestion even though she wanted to desperately. “Tell me how to get there.”

FOUR

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