When Good Spells Go Bad. 8-9

Part 8

Faith’s foot kept time with the deafening music. She loved this band. The angry lyrics and rough beat coursed through her veins like synthetic adrenaline, giving her a fake high as she closed her eyes and pictured the arrow entering Cordelia’s flesh. She had hoped to fatally wound Angel tonight.

He was supposed to be the one to fall, to be punished. She had so badly wanted to hurt him. He had earned it after all when he had shown himself to be just another person who had passed her by, rejected her for someone better, someone cleaner. He was also a vampire. That title alone qualified him for a painful death from either side. She would never feel guilt over killing something like Angel. Cordelia, on the other hand …

Faith tried to block the sight of Cordelia falling again out of her mind by concentrating on the music and flipping through the magazine that lay in front of her face on the bed. It didn’t matter. This was war and she was a warrior. If she felt sorry for every little twit that foolishly stumbled into the crossfire she would never survive.

At least that’s what the Mayor had told her when he found out what had happened. He was right. Promising herself that she wouldn’t think of Cordelia or her eminent death any longer, Faith began to rock her foot back and forth to the beat of the music again and stared down at her unread magazine.

“Enjoying the music?” A voice asked just loud enough to be heard over the chaotic song.

Startled, Faith quickly sat up on her side, recognizing the voice of her intended target from earlier in the evening. She collected herself, stood, and raised her shield of indifference. “God yes. I love listening to this band. Especially after a good kill. Ya know?” she teased.

Angel checked his anger as he reached to the stereo and turned the noise to a modest level. This would only work if he held back. He couldn’t risk killing her and changing some important future event. Besides, he tried to remind himself, he knew how sorry she would be in the future. The girl in front of him was hurting, he had to remember that. But the girl he loved was dying because of this bitch. This was going to be harder than he thought.

“She die yet?” Faith continued to taunt.

“No,” Angel quietly answered. “And she won’t. You’re going to make sure of that.”

“You came here to ask for help?” Faith gave an astonished smile. “Bad news chief, I can’t help you. My parts done.”

“She’s going to die Faith.”

“And that affects me how?”

“I know that you meant to shoot me. In a lot of ways I probably deserved what you tried to do, but Cordelia is innocent.”

“You say that like I care.”

“I know deep down inside you do. You have to make this right Faith. There’s a ritual that can save her but I can only do it with your help.“

“There’s a cure?” Faith asked with guarded interest.

“Yes.”

“But you need me to come with you in order to do it?” she continued with rising suspicion.

Angel nodded.

Faith pushed the hope that tried to creep into her mind away. What was she thinking? This is the same song and dance Angel had tried with her before, pretending to care, to be her friend. She wasn’t going to let her guilt over Cordelia close the trap that Angel was laying for her.

She stiffened and readied herself for the fight that was to come. “Well then, I guess she’s shit outa luck then huh? Cause I ain’t goin’ no where chump. Now if you don’t mind. I was in the middle of a little afterglow celebration here,” she explained as she crossed the room and turned the volume button back to its max. Turning around, she started to walk slowly away from Angel, pretending he was already gone.

She had turned her back on him as if she thought he would go away, as if the reason he was there was unimportant. Angel, with as much restraint as he could conjure, grabbed her arm and forced her back to him. “I told you I can’t cure Cordy without you.” He had had enough. Screw the future and everyone else in the world.

One way or another Faith was coming back with him. The thought of the time he had wasted trying to convince Faith to do the right thing made Angel’s fury at the situation spike. His mind saw Cordelia laying unconscious at the mansion, then in the hospital his first year in L.A., and every other time she had suffered at the hands of someone trying to hurt him. His grip tightened on her arm while his demon fought for release. He had come to Faith’s apartment knowing that he was supposed to take her back alive, but now he didn’t care. The only thing that mattered was curing Cordy and if that meant sacrificing Faith, then so be it.

Faith was confused. Initially she had thought that he had been sent by Buffy to either punish or capture her. Now, he seemed desperate, like she really was his only hope. She looked in his eyes, his human eyes that now barely masked the demon within. She couldn’t help herself.

She wanted to know. “I tried to kill you tonight Angel. I hunted you down and tried to poison you. Instead of shooting you through the chest I hit the beauty queen, probably my second murder one and you come here to tell me that you need me, the person that caused all of this, to set things right. What in the hell could you possibly need from me to cure Cordelia?”

Cordelia’s name on Faith’s lips was the key that unlocked the cage of his demon. Angel’s face changed just before he answered her question. “Blood,” was his still and deathly answer.

Faith’s pulse raced as fear and instinct set in. She wrenched herself away from his grip and lunged for a crossbow propped up on the far wall. In an instant Angel had launched himself toward her, catching her by the ankle and forcing her body to slam to the floor just inches before she reached her weapon. Faith tried desperately to free herself. Maneuvering her free leg into position and using all of her strength, she delivered a sound kick to Angel’s jaw, giving her enough time to reach the cross bow.

The kick stunned him momentarily. He had forgotten just how strong Faith had been before the coma and the emotional breakdown that had sent her to L.A. as a weak and broken slayer. She had been strong even then, but now, in her prime, she was arguably as strong as Buffy, with an added raw strength that could only stem from a street smart savagery.

Getting Faith back in any condition was going to be hard, but he was determined, he had to succeed. She was Cordy’s only hope of surviving. But a dark corner of his mind reminded him that Faith wasn’t his only option. His thoughts momentarily turned to the only other slayer in the world. His determination grew as he grabbed at the crossbow that Faith struggled to load. He had to succeed. The alternative was too horrible to contemplate – not because it was one of the options, but because he knew, for Cordelia, it was one he would take.

Angel threw the crossbow to the wall, splintering its wooden parts. Acting quickly, if not wisely, he grabbed Faith by the throat, lifting her in the air before tossing her toward the balcony. Her body flew, striking the glass door that stood ajar. Angel was immediately atop her, trying to keep the advantage while it was his.

Faith, her strength waning, still managed a powerful punch to Angel’s face, sending him stumbling back a few steps. She looked at her body, now seeping blood from cuts and gashes caused by the broken glass. She wasn’t going to win, she knew that now, but she couldn’t go back, not to that bunch of hypocrites. She stood and took a couple of awkward strides to the balcony’s edge, perching herself on the ledge. It had been a great ride.

None of them had ever cared about her, but in the end they needed her, that gave her power. Faith looked to the street below. Her death might not cause too much pain, but she could still leave them with a little sting.

Angel stood, now wearing his human face again, and nervously watched a weakening Faith consider her next move. Faith looked toward Angel. “So, this is what you came for?” she said with a ragged breath as she lifted her now bloodied hand from her stomach. She looked behind her and then back to Angel. Her mouth spread into a small smile. “Hope you’ve got a plan B,” she said, and fell back off of the ledge.

Angel raced to the edge as panic took over his body. He watched in slow motion as Faith’s body landed violently on the bed of a cargo truck below. The fall had been violent enough to knock her unconscious and she had lost some blood. He wasn’t sure if she would live, but he knew he couldn’t let her get away – couldn’t resort to plan B. He carefully judged the distance between himself and the moving truck. Taking a few steps back, he ran and leapt over the side of the building.

***

“This is supposed to be past Angel, right?”

“Yes,” Wesley answered Gunn with a sigh. The two men stood side by side, leaning against the hallway wall outside of Angel’s suite.

“Well, if you ask me, the old one ain’t much different than the new and improved one that we’re used to. Forcin’ us to stand out here in the hall while he ‘watches’ over Cordy. Thinkin’ that a little threat and growl will scare us into stayin’ out here.”

“Indeed,” Wesley agreed.

“We outa go in there and whoop his ass.”

“I agree.”

“He don’t even know her man. We’re standin’ out here while a stranger takes care of Cordelia.”

“ … “

“We should walk right through that door and show him just who runs things around here.”

“Yes, we should.”

Neither man moved.

***

Angel burst through the mansion doors with Faith’s bruised, bloodied, and comatose body in his arms, startling Buffy and Giles from their seats.

“Is it ready?” Angel asked frantically as he made his way into the room.

“Yes,” Giles answered in a disturbed tone. Giles looked at the slayer dangling from Angel’s arms. This was wrong. He looked at Buffy as if she could give him an explanation to make it feel right.

“Giles, we’re wasting time. Show me what to do.”

Giles froze. He couldn’t let Angel go through with this. Faith might have been working for the wrong side, but she was still a slayer, and he had vowed his life in the protection of slayers.

“Giles!” Angel demanded, trying to elicit a response from the silent man.

Buffy quickly stepped forward. “The urn,” she began, motioning to an old, ornately carved artifact that sat on the fireplace hearth. “You fill it with blood, recite the incantation carved around its base and poor the blood out in a circle around you and Cordelia. After you finish the incantation, you have to make these markings,“ she pointed to the inside of the urn, “on her forehead and cheeks with the blood that is left.” She couldn’t believe that she was helping him. By performing this act, he was telling the universe that Cordelia Chase was his true love, and she was helping him do it. She almost couldn’t bear it. But she also knew that she couldn’t let Cordelia lay in the next room and die because of her jealousy.

Giles, finally finding his voice, grabbed Angel as he headed into the other room. “I can’t let you do this.”

Angel turned to Giles, a low growl rising from his chest. “If you’re not here to help, then get the hell out,” he ordered in a deadly whisper. Turning again, Angel entered the room where Cordy lay. Wesley stood, leaving the vigil he had kept over her since Angel had left earlier that evening.

“Get out,” Angel commanded as he lay Faith on the floor near the bed.

“Mr. Giles stated that the ritual must be officiated by someone who cares deeply for the afflicted.”

Angel took out a knife and made one of the gashes on Faith’s bare side deeper, trying to finish as quickly as possible the task of collecting her blood.

“Under the circumstances, I think that I am the best candidate,” Wesley continued, unanswered but not unheard. He gently touched Cordelia’s face as he thought of his burgeoning feelings for the young girl.

Angel finished his task and hurriedly carried Faith to the room where Buffy waited, silently hoping he hadn‘t taken too much. “Get her to the hospital, fast,” he handed her to Buffy.

“She’s still alive?” Giles asked hopefully.

Buffy took the second slayer and hurried from the mansion, Giles close behind.

Angel returned to the room to find Wesley now holding Cordelia’s hand between his two slender ones. Noticing the vampire’s return, the young watcher continued his persuasive argument. This time determined to be heard. “As I was saying,” he stood and squared his shoulders. “Under the circumstances, I feel that I am the best one to perform the ritual. After all, I am the only one here who has strong feelings toward her.”

Angel had had enough of this ridiculous crush. Gripping Wesley by the collar of his tweed suit, Angel backed him up against the wall, leaving his feet to dangle inches far from the floor. Wesley let out an effeminate yelp before Angel began to speak. “You don’t love her. You don’t even know her yet. All you can see is some killer body with a great face.” The two men stared at each other for a moment – one in fear the other in rage.

The latter broke the silence. “I’m going to do the ritual. You’re going to go wait in the other room, and if I ever catch you touching Cordy again, I’m going to rip off every appendage from your body – one by one – very, very slowly.” Angel let go and turned his attention back to the most important job at hand.

Wesley nervously adjusted his glasses and left the room.

Angel remembered what Giles had said, about the ritual being extremely painful. He looked at Cordelia’s face. He closed his eyes as if silently asking her forgiveness for what he was about to do. He leaned down and gently kissed her lips. “I love you.” He then lifted the urn and began to pour, reciting the first few words. A piercing scream of agony filled the room as Cordelia’s body began to tremble. Angel’s jaw clenched as he continued.

***

“I said stay out,” Angel responded to the gentle knocking at the bedroom door.

“It’s just me,” Fred answered as she entered the room and closed the door behind her.

Angel growled and turned to look at the petite genius. “What I said to those two idiots goes for you too. If you’re not here to tell me you’ve found a way for me to fix this then stay away.”

Fred thought that Cordelia must finally be rubbing off on her because Angel’s threat didn’t scare her. In fact, it made her heart break for what she knew he must be going through. On some level she could identify with him – being thrown into a strange and frightening place, wondering if you’d ever find a way back where you belong. She rounded the bed and sat in the chair on the opposite side.

Angel realized his threat was falling on deaf ears and turned his attention back to the most important person in the room. He tried not to smile as he thought about the two men who had been standing out in the hall for the last hour, debating on just who should come in here and show him who’s boss. He glanced up at the childlike woman who had just taken her seat. Gunn and Wesley spent so much energy hovering over her as if she were a delicate piece of glass that would break at any moment.

It looked to him as if they were the fools who didn’t know much about the woman they loved. Each had complained, when he had forced them from the room, that Angel didn’t know anything about the Cordelia who lay unconscious and fighting for her life, but he did know her. The minute he landed in this future world of his he realized, like all people who find that missing half, that he always had known her.

She was the person that could bring out the best in him, not the worst. She made him laugh and smile and feel like a man instead of a monster. She made him want something that he hadn’t really cared about in a long time. She made him want to live.

Angel looked back up at Fred, this time a more accepting look crossing his features. She smiled a small understanding smile. “She’ll make it through this. She always does,” she offered.

“Fred, how did Cordelia get visions?”

Fred wasn’t sure if she should answer his question. It had been an unspoken but understood rule of Cordelia’s that they were not to talk about the specifics of the visions and what they had cost her. If any of them ever tried broaching the subject they were met with a raised eyebrow or a quick and witty change of subject.

Cordelia might be mad at her if she talked about it, especially with him. She looked at Angel’s tired and questioning stare and down to her comatose friend. Cordy was going to be so angry with her.

“I’ll try to make it a short story because Cordy says that I’ve got to work on making my epic explanations into thirty second summaries. ‘Less is more.’ That’s what she’s always sayin’. ‘That rule applies to life as well as fashion,’” she mocked. She smiled at Angel again and he reflected a small one back to her, trying to encourage what he hoped would be some answers to this crazy mess.

“See,” she began. “There was this guy named Doyle. Well, he wasn’t a guy, at least not all guy. He was half guy. Yeah, I guess that would be right to say Doyle was half guy. Of course Cordy probably wouldn’t agree. That does sound a little insulting, doesn’t it? So I’ll say he was a guy plus some.”

Angel tried to start picking out his answers as Fred began her ramble. Cordelia obviously had a long road ahead of her if she was going to teach this girl to be short and to the point.

“By plus some, I mean he had some demon DNA. His mother was human and his father was …”

A loud piercing scream interrupted Fred. Cordelia’s body began to convulse and shake as her screams of pain alternated with agonizing moans. Angel pulled her to him, as if his body could shield her from whatever horror that had taken hold of her. “Get Wesley and Gunn,” he pleaded to Fred.

“Already here,” Gunn answered, as the two men ran into the room


Part 9

Giles had been right. The ritual had been extremely painful for both of them. Angel sat on the floor by the bed, weak and exhausted. His eyes were closed and his head rested against Cordelia’s arm that draped gracefully off the edge of the mattress. Keeping his eyes closed, he turned his head allowing his lips to touch but not kiss the once feverish skin of her arm.

He had thought that the ritual would be an automatic cure. That, like he had been, she would suddenly be well. She was better, he knew that. The wound in her shoulder had disappeared and the fever had obviously left her body, but she was still unconscious and her breathing was shallow.

He wished that he could pray. That there would be someone or something that would listen to him but he knew that there wasn’t, not for him. Besides, prayers were for humans and the faithful and he was neither. No, he couldn’t pray, but he could give whoever or whatever that was listening an earful of reasons why Cordelia Chase needed to live. He could even give an entire list of reasons that weren’t entirely selfish, even though at the moment those were the only reasons he truly cared about.

For more than two hours he sat, back against the bed, head snuggled against her arm, convincing some higher power that she should live and knowing that if she didn’t neither would he.

***

It had been horrible, watching her body writhe in pain. At least that part of it had ended a couple of hours ago. When it had begun Angel didn’t know what to do. His first instinct, the most natural one, was to pull her body to him and protect her. But protect her from what? He looked down at her still face and listened to her shallow breaths. Wesley had been the first to notice that whatever she had gone through had actually helped her.

However, although her fever was gone, she still lay unconscious. Angel glanced around the room at the other silent occupants that claimed to be his friends. He couldn’t stand this any longer. If they couldn’t find a way to help her then he would. He stood and headed for the door.

“Angel?” Fred called unanswered.

Gunn stepped in front of Angel blocking him from the door. “Just where the hell you think you’re goin’?”

Angel stared at the young man, almost hoping he would try and stop him. “To find out what the rest of you haven’t been able to.” He moved around Gunn and to the door.

“Angel?” another feminine voice called out, this one in a weak whisper.

Angel darted back to Cordelia’s side, his inhuman speed allowing him to beat the other two men in the room.

“Cordelia?” he said in almost disbelief, staring down at the waking woman.

Cordelia blinked her eyes, focusing in on the room and her surroundings. The last thing she remembered was walking up the stairs with Angel to check on their … on Connor and then feeling mind numbing pain that dwarfed that of the visions. She sat up and looked into the tentative but hopeful eyes of the vampire in front of her.

Angel reached out and embraced her, pressing his face to the side of hers and whispering something that she had heard his future self say not long ago, “I thought I lost you.”

This was not Angel, not L.A. Angel anyway. She struggled to remember that as her body relaxed into the embrace. She placed her arms around him, her mind chanting over and over ‘thisisnotAngel thisisnotAngel ‘ but her entire being wished that it was. She would give anything for this all to have been some terrible nightmare, to have awoken and found him laying on this bed with her, Connor snuggly in between. But it wasn’t a dream and, no matter what her body and a piece of her heart was telling her, the arms that encircled her did not belong to the man she … loved. She pushed back gently and looked off to the side of Angel, lost in a dream like stare.

She tested the word in her mind again. Loved. Love. L-O-V-E. Love. The man I love. She thought that it should make her uncomfortable or at least feel a little odd that she would use such a word to describe her relationship with Angel. But it didn’t. Maybe it was because they had all said it to one another in the past.

They were all family after all and families love each other. She thought about Gunn, Wes, Fred, Connor, and Lorne. Yes, they were a family and she loved each and ever one of them same. Each and every one of them except for Angel. He was different, he always had been.

“Cordelia?” Angel asked with concern.

Broken from her epiphany, she focused on the face in front of her with sad eyes. She was in love with Angel. It had taken his absence to set free the truth that had been locked away for so long. Now, he was gone, and she might never get a chance to tell him or know just what he felt for her. What if he didn’t feel the same? She couldn’t think of that now because at the moment the worst of her torture stared questioningly into her eyes.

Even if he didn’t feel the same or worse even if they never got him back, she could be damned to spend the rest of her life in the company of an Angel that never knew what their friendship meant. That never knew the heartaches and laughter they had experienced together. That still lurked in the shadows, disappeared for days, and worst of all… loved Buffy Summers.

***

Angel had just began again his list of reasons for Cordelia’s life to be spared when he heard a soft moan. He raised to his feet and took a seat beside her on the bed. Cordelia pushed herself up with her hands and looked at him confused. “Angel?”

Angel forgot where he was, who she was and wasn’t, and grabbed her into a fierce embrace. The look in his eyes was wild and for the teenager that he crushed in his arms a bit frightening. She didn’t fight the hold he had on her. Truth be told it felt wonderful to be held in such a way – the way a man holds a woman. Angel pulled back slightly and looked into her eyes. He had almost lost his mind in those two hours.

Old images returned to him. Vocah, Wolfram and Hart, The Powers That Be, they had all caused her so much pain, but it had all been because of him. His eyes stared at her face, unfocused. “I promise you, no one will ever hurt you again.” Angel, the madness caused by her pain still fresh upon him, leaned closer and captured her lips with his own.

Cordelia froze. She had seen the look on his face. His eyes might have been set in her direction, but she wasn’t what he saw. Her mind struggled to process the vow he had made. Just like the look, it was not for her and neither was the kiss. She started to break free, kill his madness, before noticing that she was no longer frozen with stiff indifference but participating quite willingly in the passionate kiss that grew in intensity with each passing moment.

She knew that something was wrong. Her brain tried to debate on the wrongness of something that somehow felt right as she gave herself one more second of bliss before pushing away.

Angel’s eyes opened, really opened, and for the first time since she had awoke saw the beautiful long-haired brunette in front of him. “Oh God. Cordelia I …” he began to explain.

Embarrassment over the intimate moment came out of Cordelia like many things often did, in anger, as she pushed harder against his chest. “I don’t know what mental vacation you’re returning from, but could you please get your vampy claws off of me?”

Angel stood and lowered his head, ashamed of his actions. What was wrong with him? She must think him perverted or at least insane. A feeling of betrayal rolled around in his stomach. He had missed Cordy so much, afraid of never seeing her again, afraid of her dying, and how did he respond to those fears? By kissing another woman.

Wait a minute.

Had he kissed another woman? His thoughts began to battle one another. Technically it was her. He looked at the young girl who now stood across the room, as far away from him as she could manage. He could see small signs of the woman he loved in the girl, but she wasn’t Cordy, not yet anyway.

This was Cordelia Chase of Sunnydale and the reason he had never noticed her when he was here before was because he wasn’t meant to. He hadn’t been ready for her then and now, as he looked at her face – unharmed by visions, untouched by accidental plummets into alternate dimensions, unfazed by Doyle’s death, and innocent of the betrayals that he himself had once visited upon her – he knew that she was not ready either.

Did he love the girl in front of him? Desperately. How could he not? She was Cordy – young, innocent, and free – ready to leave this terrible place and discover what lay ahead for her – friends, a family, and love. He loved her, but he had to wait for her. God this was going to be torture.

Cordelia looked across the room. Angel seemed to regain his senses but she wasn’t taking any chances. She mentally said a prayer of thanks that Buffy hadn’t walked into the room during their little make-out session. He’d been delirious. She had seen it in his eyes, but she was sure that that explanation would not go over too smoothly with the Slayer. She couldn’t think.

The fact that Angel had kissed her scared her, but the way she had reacted to it had terrified her even more. “You kissed me,” she finally said, reaching up with one hand, her fingertips touching the pink skin of her lips. “But you weren’t kissing me,” she finished, wondering why her voice was filled with disappointment.

“Cordelia, I’m sorry. I don’t know what I was thinking or …” he couldn’t continue, he didn’t know how.

Cordelia willed her hand to move away from her face. This was ridiculous. Angel said she had been poisoned. Maybe that was what was causing the weakness in her knees and the flush in her cheeks. Yes, that had to be it. She would never be attracted to a vampire, that was just gross. She closed her eyes, forcing her mind to picture his other face. No, she definitely was not attracted to him – bumpy face, long jagged fangs … strong muscular shoulders, perfect lips, and a voice that made her legs …Cordelia’s eyes shot open and she looked at Angel in horror. He might not have been kissing her, but she had definitely been kissing him and enjoying it. But why?

Wesley continued watching from the doorway of the next room, the look of terror on Cordelia’s face sealing his decision. At first, the sight of Angel and Cordelia locked in a passionate kiss had stunned him. He’d initially thought that the kiss had been welcomed, relished even, but the way she had pushed him away, her comment, and the look of horror that now marred her beautiful face told him the truth. Wesley’s watcher mind, and his heart, began to analyze the situation.

Before, he had gone away, resigned to leave Cordelia’s well being in the hands of a killer. He looked from Angel’s hurt and longing stare back to the face of his perspective love, who was still frozen with what seemed to him fear. Something came to him. Angel truly loved Cordelia, the success of the ritual proved that, but that did not mean that she reciprocated that feeling. Being a watcher, he knew something about the possessiveness of vampires, of how they can fixate on something or someone, whether the fixation was welcome or not.

How could he have been so foolish? All of the signs had pointed to this. Angel’s reaction to her injury, the way he pushed everyone away from her. Somehow, someway, this future Angel had become completely obsessed with her. Wesley summoned as much bravery as he could. He couldn’t believe he’d been willing to leave this young, innocent girl in the hands of the vampire. Deciding himself Cordelia’s personal savior from the Scourge of Europe, Wesley squared his shoulders and entered the room.

“Wesley,” Cordelia said with a small amount of surprise and an enormous amount of relief.

Angel’s muscles tensed as Wesley crossed the room, ignoring him completely.

Wesley’s fear began to rise at the feel of Angel’s stare on his back. He buckled down his emotion. Cordelia’s safety was much more important than his fear of what Angel could and probably would do to him. He swallowed and placed his hand on Cordelia’s shoulder. “I’m so glad you have recovered. It was unbearable watching you in such pain. How are you feeling?”

“I’m fine,” her eyes turned to Wesley, determined to avoid looking at Angel again. “I want to go home. Can you take me?”

“I’ll take you,” Angel finally spoke, moving toward the couple.

“The sun is rising,” Wesley answered for her. “You could hardly drive her home. Or were you planning to drag her through the filthy sewers?”

Angel’s anger was rising. It had been easy to threaten Wesley while Cordelia was unconscious, but now he restrained himself, not wanting her to see any viciousness toward their future friend.

Wesley began to lead Cordelia to the doorway and into the other room before stopping. “I’d like to speak with Angel just a moment. Can you wait in the other room?” he asked gently.

She nodded and gave Angel a fleeting glance before leaving.

Wesley called upon every bit of nerve he had and turned to the vampire. “I observed your actions toward Cordelia from the doorway.”

Angel only answered by continuing to stare at the empty doorway.

Wesley continued, “I believe you gave me a warning earlier. Let me now repeat that same warning back to you. Cordelia is a young, innocent girl. I don’t know what has happened in the future to cause you to become fixated on her, or to convince yourself that you are in love with her, but I know Cordelia Chase. She would never be able to love a monster such as yourself.”

Angel’s eyes shifted and stared directly into Wesley’s. The two men continued for a moment in a soundless stand off. Wesley was the first to break the cold silence. “If I ever see a look of fear on her face caused by you again, or if you ever force yourself upon her again, I will be more than willing to do what I should have ordered Buffy to do the day I arrived in Sunnydale.”

With that threat, the young Watcher left the room.

Angel let Wesley go, and as much as he hated to see Cordelia leave with him, he knew he couldn’t follow. Day was breaking and he needed to be alone, to think about what kissing Cordelia, this Cordelia, meant. Everything had become so complicated, as if it wasn’t already.

Angel forced a breath into his lungs as he sat down on the bed, for once welcoming the solitude of the mansion. He closed his eyes when he heard the familiar footsteps enter the room from the courtyard.

“Hey,” Buffy greeted quietly, approaching him slow and steady. “I just saw Wesley leaving with Cordelia. She seems all better. The ritual must have worked,” she ended a little sadly.

Angel didn’t answer her or even look in her direction as she sat down beside him on the bed.

“So, I assume Cordelia’s part of that family you’re so anxious to get back to. She’s been going around school for a month now bragging about how she’s getting out of this hellhole. Is that why you leave? To follow her?”

Angel could hear the hurt in her voice. “I didn’t leave for Cordelia Buffy. I didn’t even really know her back then. I left for me, and a little bit for you too,” he answered her in a defeated tone, continuing to stare straight ahead. Gathering his thoughts, Angel allowed the silence to linger before speaking again. “Slayers aren’t just strong Buffy. They’re extremely intuitive. They’re first instinct is always right.”

“You sound like Giles,” she complained, now staring in the same abyss that kept Angel‘s eyes forward.

“ … “

“ … “

“Do you remember what you said to me, right after I killed Darla and you finally knew what I was? We were in the Bronze,” he reminded.

Buffy remembered that night. She felt like she could never forget it. “I said …” tears pricked her eyes when the words came to her. She tried to swallow the lump in her throat. “I said this could never work.”

Angel turned and looked at her for the first time, catching her eye, his face full of sympathy. “A slayer’s first instinct is always right.”

Tears spilled over Buffy’s eyes as she gave a weak but knowing smile, letting herself accept a truth that she had always on some level known.

Part 10

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