Fifteen minutes earlier
Angel bolted upright in bed, panicked. Something was terribly wrong, but his brain was too overloaded with anxiousness to grasp the nature of the problem. An echo rang through his mind, an echo of his name, in Cordelia’s voice. Her scream had awoken him, and he wasn’t yet sure if it was a dream or a reality. His breath, although unneeded, came in rapid pants, his eyes darting around his darkened suite wildly.
Throwing back the covers, he darted out of bed and pulled on his clothes in record speed. He had yet to get used to this situation. Ever since he’d bitten her, he’d had a tenuous link to her feelings. Nothing helpful usually came his way, only her strongest emotions. Usually, those emotions were already written all over her face before he felt the answering echo in his mind. But now, when she was obviously more frightened than he’d ever known her to be, he thanked the powers for his ability to share her mind.
He just hoped he could get there quickly enough.
The feel of Sebastian’s cold lips on her mouth made Cordelia gag with revulsion. His tongue tried to breech the barrier of her closed mouth, but she steadfastly clamped her jaw shut, even as she pushed against his solid frame. Ruthlessly, his mouth took hers, again and again, in a way that made her certain her teeth would cut through her lips at any moment from the force of his attentions. Finally, after what seemed like minutes of torture, he pulled away, staring triumphantly down into her eyes.
“Do you really think screaming for your vampire will help you?” Sebastian whispered. “He’s far, far away from you. He won’t be able to save you. You are mine little girl. You’d better get used to the idea.”
As if to underscore his threat, he leaned back into her, his fingers gripping her upper arms so hard she feared her bones would snap. In the next instant, she felt his mouth on her neck, his fangs scraped the delicate skin, right over the mark he’d made before.
“No!” she moaned, even as her eyes closed. Her mind screamed in revulsion, but her body, her traitorous body, recognized the owner of those marks and responded. The wounds began to throb, fogging her mind with lust and threatening to push away the fear that gave her strength. She began to relax into his arms, and as she did, she felt his mouth curl into a smile on her neck.
“That’s it, my girl,” he whispered into her skin. “Your body knows me. I am your master. You belong to me, and only me.”
She felt a slight pressure against her skin, then a sharp, extreme pain that made her gasp. Her eyes flew open, widening, her mouth dropping open in a soundless scream as Sebastian drank from her. She could feel the blood flowing out of her body and into his mouth, his greedy suckling drawing more than he could take in. Her warm blood trickled from the wound and down her back.
She knew she should fight, but she was frozen in place. Her body was acting without her, even as her heart was begging for Angel to save her. God, if he didn’t get her quickly, she’d . . .
“Angel,” she whimpered one last time, just as her world began to go black.
Angel had always thought Cordelia’s apartment was small, but it had never seemed like a longer journey from her front door to her bedroom than it did tonight. Dennis admitted them at once, shoving a notepad into Wesley’s hand with a hastily scrawled note. Angel paid no attention, making straight for Cordelia’s bedroom door. When he couldn’t open it, he roared in frustration.
Whirling around, Angel grabbed Wesley’s arm so hard that the younger man winced. “Do something, Wesley!” he ground out, his teeth clenched.
“I’m trying, Angel,” the ex-watcher said, opening his notebook and handing Fred a bunch of herbs. She lit them quickly, and Wesley began chanting. As he did, Angel and Gunn pounded at the door, trying to break through the barrier by force. Just as Wesley came to the third line of his incantation, Angel stopped suddenly, then swayed on his feet, clutching his head.
“No,” he moaned, his eyes clouding, then turning to Wesley as he recovered. “He’s draining her. Hurry!”
Wesley just chanted faster.
The edges of Cordelia’s vision had begun to grow fuzzy. She shoved at Sebastian again, but her efforts were even more ineffectual now than they ever had been. Why had she stayed here alone? Why hadn’t she asked Angel to claim her when she’d had the chance? God, she’d been so stupid!
Just as she thought she’d pass out from blood loss, Sebastian pulled away from her neck, perversely drawing out his claim and letting blood ooze from the wound. All he had to do to seal his mark was lick them closed, and she’d be his. Forever.
But he wouldn’t be cheated out of her surrender. He needed her to beg for it. He craved it. Knew it was the only thing that would satisfy his need for vengeance. The only thing that would bring justice for his beloved Brianna.
Cordelia’s eyes darted toward the door as it vibrated with each bang from the other side. Sebastian smirked at her, his hand coming up to cup her face and turn her back towards him.
“Your little friends will not break through,” he said, shaking his head. “We are well protected. I have seen to it.”
She got lost in the blue of his eyes for a moment, frozen in a combination of fear and manufactured desire, and he used that to his advantage, moving to seal the wound on her neck.
The movement at the door argued against his bragging. There was a bright flash, and the door crashed in. Snarling, Sebastian grabbed Cordelia more tightly, then to face Angel and the gang.
Angel froze for the barest of minutes as he took in the scene. Cordelia lay arched over Sebastian’s arm, her pajama top around her waist, her breasts exposed. Her eyes had a glazed look in them, as if she wasn’t quite in control of herself, and her neck sported an angry bite mark, torn and bleeding. The scent of her blood was thick in the air, and at the smell, Angel’s face rippled as it turned to his vampire visage. There was no doubt in his mind as to what would happen next.
Sebastian was going to die. Nobody touched Cordelia and got away with it.
At the look on Angel’s face, Sebastian’s snarl was replaced by an evil smile. His face shifted back to his more civilized features, and he smirked at his enemy.
“Really, Angelus,” he said, shaking his head. “You have no sense of civility. That barrier was there for a reason. She belongs to me.”
“Let go of her!” Angel’s statement was punctuated by a step forward, a wary step, as Sebastian still had a very tight grip on Cordelia.
“NO!” the word was a growl, hardly human. “This is my RIGHT, Angelus. After what you did to me, I deserve reparations.” He turned back to Cordelia, his fingers trailing down to the wound in her neck. “All I have to do is lick these closed, Angelus, and she’s lost to you forever.” He smiled triumphantly.
Then, his eyes almost gentled as he took in her glazed eyes and flushed cheeks. He trailed a finger down her face, ending at the tip of her chin. “So beautiful,” he whispered, almost losing himself. “And so weak. Even now, despite her struggling, she wants this, wants me. Don’t you, little one?”
She whimpered, her eyes drawn to his mouth as hers parted slightly. One hand came up and reached for his face. She was unable to stop herself; the draw was just too intense.
Angel had seen enough. With speed that none of them had ever seen, he lunged for her, grabbing the arm closest to him and yanking her forcefully off the bed. Sebastian, despite his posturing, was surprised, and he screamed his frustration as his prize was stolen from him. Gunn quickly moved between him and Angel.
As she felt Angel’s hands on her, Cordelia’s body began to shake. His cool, clean scent washed over her, and her mind began to change, the strong desire for Sebastian being replaced by an equally forceful need for Angel. With tears in her eyes, she turned to look up at him, shaking her head and trembling.
“I’m so confused, Angel,” she said. “I need it, so badly!”
Sebastian wasn’t about to be thrown aside. He lunged for her, shoving Gunn away so hard that he hit the wall and bounced off, landing hard on the floor. His fingers encircled Cordelia’s upper arm, bringing her toward him, even as Angel maintained his grip on her other arm.
In the moment that she felt both vampires grasping for her, Cordelia’s body and mind went on overload. The lust consumed her, her body wracked with pain as she was physically and mentally pulled in two different directions. She screamed, the pain snaking through her cruelly.
The two vamps stared at each other, neither willing to give an inch. Angel’s heart ached to ease Cordelia’s pain, but letting go of her now was not an option.
“Angel!” Wesley’s voice penetrated the haze of bloodlust in Angel’s mind. “You have to claim her, now! It’s the only way to stop Sebastian’s power over her.”
Angel’s face turned to Wesley, and he snarled at him. “No! I won’t do that to her,” he said, even as he maintained his grip on her arm. “She doesn’t deserve to be tied to me.”
“She’ll die if you don’t!” Angel’s eyes swung back to her, taking in her limp and trembling form. The only thing that was keeping her upright right now was the two vampires holding her arms. Her eyes were half closed, and even through the fury pounding through him, Angel noticed her weakened heartbeat and her shallow breathing.
Nearby, Gunn had picked himself up off the floor, along with his crossbow.
Wesley’s words had made Sebastian’s mouth turn up in another smile. He had won. No matter what happened, he had won! If he didn’t claim her, she’d die from being torn in two both physically and mentally by he and Angelus. And if, by some miracle, Angelus loosened his grip, Sebastian could complete the claim in seconds. A surge of triumph flowed through him, and he leaned his head back, cackling with the glory of his victory.
That momentary lack of focus was all the gang needed to spring into action. Gunn’s crossbow raised, aimed and shot within seconds, a gasp escaping Sebastian as he felt the wood penetrate his chest. His scream of frustration echoed off the walls, even as his body dematerialized to avoid total destruction.
The minute his hand dissolved and released Cordelia’s arm, Angel yanked her to him, holding her in his arms. His breath soothed her skin, a whispered “I’m sorry,” grazing her ear. His mouth found her neck, fangs quickly sliding in to replace the marks made by Sebastian. Immediately, the taste of Cordelia exploded on his tongue and he groaned, gripping her more tightly.
The moment Angel began to drank from her, Cordelia’s lucidity returned. She gasped, her hands coming up to grasp his shoulders and cling for dear life. Her body sang with the pleasure of his touch and through the mist in her mind, she marveled at the lack of pain.
Angel was careful to drink as little as possible, knowing that Sebastian had already taken too much. Barely a minute passed before he retracted his fangs from her, his tongue swooping in to lave the tender flesh and seal the wounds with his scent. Quickly, he jerked open his shirt and sliced his chest open, pressing her mouth to the wound.
Cordelia sighed and curled into him the moment his blood entered her mouth. Angel sighed, too, hearing her heartbeat grow stronger as her mouth moved against his chest, gently sucking from him. Her strength and mental clarity were returning, and he breathed a sigh of relief.
Behind him, sparkly particles of dust began to form and take shape, almost unnoticeable before it was too late. Wesley, having been mesmerized by the sight of a live claiming ritual, jerked himself out of his concentration just in time. He nodded to Fred, who brought the jar out and held it ready. Wesley’s notes gave him the incantation, and he began chanting.
At the sound of the foreign words from Wesley, Angel jumped aside, pulling Cordelia with him, as Sebastian was nearly solid again. But the spell held him in stasis, half formed, half dust. He screamed, his mouth taking on a grotesque appearance, but no sound escaped, his vocal cords not yet formed. His frame shook, the particles quivering as he fought the power being wielded against him.
But slowly, Wesley began to win. As his chanting grew stronger, the particles making up Sebastian’s form began to swirl, beginning at his feet and traveling up the length of his body until he was a tornado, whipping in a frothy circle. Everyone took a hesitant step backwards, wary of being too close to the spinning, glittery mass. Then, Wesley’s words changed, and the particles streamed, as quick as a bolt of lightning, to the jar in Fred’s hands. She staggered backwards at the force, her hands gripping the glass tightly, as the particles shoved themselves inside. They ended with a whoosh, and she frantically screwed the cap on tight.
The ensuing silence in the room was deafening. Fred still clutched the jar, its contents now glowing and swirling, Sebastian’s anger obvious even in his incorporeal form. Slowly, Wesley closed his notebook and straightened his glasses, which had become skewed in the frenzy.
“Good work, all of you,” he said softly. Turning to Cordelia, his eyes softened. “Are you all right?”
Cordy opened her mouth as her eyes flooded with tears. Suddenly, she found it hard to speak, almost harder than when she’d been under Sebastian’s thrall. She settled for nodding, curling more tightly into Angel’s embrace.
“She’s fine,” Angel said determinedly, kissing the top of her head. “She’s fine.”
The rest of the gang knew that arguing would be useless, and it was quite obvious that she really would be okay.
Cordelia’s voice whispered against Angel’s ear, making him shudder. Her warm, naked skin rubbed against his, and he moaned. His eyes came open reluctantly and he stared into sparkling hazel eyes, surprisingly vivacious considering the strenuous activities they’d both engaged in all night long. Pleasurable strenuous activities, at that.
“Up and at ‘em, buddy,” Cordelia said, poking him in the ribs. “Today’s the big day.”
“What big day?” he said, frowning, putting his arm around her waist and rolling on top of her, trapping her to the bed. “No big day.” He argued, then began kissing a trail across her cheek. “We don’t have to go anywhere. Bed sounds good. Great. Fantastic.” Each word was a kiss, a lash of his tongue against her sensitive skin, ending at his mark where he lingered.
“Angel!” she said, her annoyance tempered by the pleasure in her voice. “We really don’t have time. We’ve spent practically all day in bed, and if we don’t get up, there will be no sunny courtyard to make this happen!”
Finally, her words registered. Today was execution day. Execution for Sebastian. His mouth curled into a grin. It hadn’t been more than a week since his nemesis was squished into a jar that had formerly housed a rather disgusting concoction that resembled strawberry jam. A week that had been filled with more love and happiness than Angel had ever thought was possible in his lifetime.
After they’d defeated Sebastian, he and Cordelia had remained at her apartment while the gang took the jar and their supplies back to the hotel. It had taken them awhile, but they’d finally worked through the issues that had plagued them these last few weeks. He’d been bold and declared his love for her, and her immediate tears had worried him until he felt the happiness pouring through their bond into his mind and soul. She loved him. He’d known it then, without even hearing her say it.
They hadn’t dusted Sebastian yet, only because every day since his demise had been cloudy. Miserably cloudy, punctuated by heavy downpours. Great weather for making love, bad weather for dusting vampires by sunlight.
“Fine,” he said, grousing. “We’ll get up.”
“Well,” she said, smiling, arching up against him. “Maybe we could wait a little bit longer. . .”
He groaned as her hand wandered down and encircled him. Just as he was about to lose himself in the rhythm of her stroking, someone pounded on the door.
“What?” Cordelia yelled, obviously frustrated.
“Yo! Sunset is in fifteen minutes, so if you wanna see the show, get a move on!”
Gunn’s voice penetrated the thick wooden door as if it weren’t even there.
Angel smiled down at her as Gunn’s footsteps faded away. “So we’ve got ten minutes.”
“Ten?” Her eyebrow arched. “I’d say we have fourteen. Your window overlooks the courtyard. We can have a bird’s eye view.”
He gazed down at her, all the love in his eyes reflected back in hers. “Wouldn’t miss it for the world,” he said, then claimed her lips with his own.
It was over. Finally, she was his. Forever.