Angelus melted into the shadows. Let them cloak him in darkness.
The young, warm bodies that filled the Bronze, surrounded him on every side, seemed to disappear. The sounds of music, of laughter and unceasing chatter, muted until they were gone.
All he could see—all he wanted to see—was Cordelia Chase.
She was stunning. Dressed in a dark red mini-dress—the color of drying blood. Her long, dark hair flowing down her back like silk. A white bandage on her neck evidence that he’d fed from her the night before.
Her scent made him take one deep, unnecessary breath after another. Flooded his senses with the essence of her.
The frustration that had clawed at him since he drank her began to ease. And, in its place, hunger began to burn. A fire raging through his cold, undead body.
And his mouth watered with the craving.
He’d thought it would be weeks, months, before he had another taste of her. That he’d have to slaughter a dozen pretty young things to make up for the fact that he could have one.
And in she walked. Free as a bird. No magical barriers to protect her.
His for the taking.
Cordelia Chase’s eyes scanned the Bronze. Searching for a glimpse of a tall, powerful body. Spiky hair. Black leather. A cruel, malicious smile.
((Good,)) she thought with a sigh of relief. ((He isn’t here. Yet.))
Instead, she saw people dancing. Talking. Laughing. All unaware of the deadly things that stalked the Sunnydale night.
Taking a deep breath, Cordelia gave herself a moment to let the fear wash over her. To call herself all kinds of stupid for walking freely into a place where she knew the vamp who tried to kill her the night before was going to be.
She gave her knees a moment to shake. Her teeth a moment to chatter.
Then, she pushed the fear away. Just, pushed it away, into a little corner where she kept all of the emotions she didn’t want to deal with. A skill she started perfecting the first time her parents weren’t home for Christmas.
With the ease of years of practice, she donned the armor she put on every morning. That of Queen C, Wicked Bitch of Sunnydale High. She who ruled the school, and made freshman tremble when she walked down the hall.
She straightened her spine. Raised one arrogant eyebrow. Put on the mask that told all who saw it to steer clear, because she really didn’t want to be bothered. And anyone who *did* bother her would pay.
Head held high, she started across the room.
The crowd parted before her. She may have lost some of her social status when she started dating Xander and hanging with the Scoobies. But she was still Cordelia Chase.
Sitting down at the only empty table, she looked around the room.
The girl from her vision was there. She stood at the bar. Surrounded by friends, smiling and happy. As oblivious as everyone else in the Bronze.
But Cordelia had “seen” her, face frozen in a mask of terror and pain. Body bruised and scarred. Covered with blood…
((And it’s all because she looks like me,)) Cordy thought. Because, from a distance, under the Bronze’s dim lights, the girl could have been mistaken for Cordelia Chase.
And that was why Angel was going to pick her.
Cordelia shivered. She didn’t want to believe it. That a vicious killer would choose his next victim because they resembled her. But she knew it was true. She’d *felt* it, in the vision.
Cordelia shied away from the emotions she’d experienced in that vision. Sensations that were still too fresh in her mind.
The girl was still alive, still here. Unbroken. Untouched.
And Cordelia was going to make sure she stayed that way. After all, why would Angel go after a copy when he could have…
Suddenly, a hand came to rest on the nape of her neck. She felt the cold of it—cold as death—through the thickness of her hair.
“Fancy meeting you here,” a frighteningly familiar voice purred.
“Angel,” she whispered…as heart dropped into her stomach.
“Cordelia,” he said. And there was something dark and dangerous in his voice. “You don’t know how…happy I am to see you.” And the hand at the back of her neck tightened.
Cordelia squeezed her eyes shut as a shiver raced through her body. Fear was a tangible thing. Like ice, it froze the blood in her veins.
Abruptly, the hand moved away. And Cordelia released the breath she hadn’t even realized she was holding.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Angel pull a chair out from the table. He moved it close to hers, he sat down.
Cordy turned to look at him…and wished she hadn’t. His eyes were roamed over every inch of exposed skin. Like twin onyx razors. Sharp and cutting.
Trying not to let her uneasiness show, she glared at him. “What do you want?”
Eyes still roaming, still cutting, a slight smile quirked his lips. “Something I didn’t think I would get for a very long time.” Finally, his gaze met hers. “And what brought you out of your ivory tower?”
Unbidden, her eyes went to the girl. Angel’s intended victim.
Angel followed her glance. “Ah,” he said with a knowing nod. “You had a vision. You saw the…things I had planned for this evening.”
Cordelia didn’t answer. She didn’t need to.
“So, where’s Buffy? I’m sure the Slayer and her pals would have been happy to ride to the rescue.”
Again, she didn’t answer. And, again, she didn’t need to.
“Guess they were all busy.” He reached up, pushed her hair behind her shoulder, just as he had that night. Exposing the bandage. “So, you decided to play hero, hmmmm? Well, you’ve succeeded. The girl is perfectly safe. Now.”
“So glad to hear it,” Cordy heard herself say. And was surprised by the touch of sarcasm in her voice.
Angel didn’t seem to hear her. Instead, he draped one arm across the back of her chair. Began to stroke her hair with the other hand.
And something inside Cordelia screamed for her to run. To get as far away from him as she could, and now.
But where could she go where he wouldn’t follow? At least here, surrounded by people, she felt somewhat safe.
But even here, surrounded by people, she felt completely alone.
“Have I told you how beautiful you look tonight,” he said casually. “Except for one thing.” And he used his thumbnail to lift up one corner of the bandage.
“What…” Cordelia began…just as he viciously ripped the bandage away.
Cordelia winced. Her skin stung.
“Everyone should see my mark,” he said. And he traced the bite marks with one fingertip. “Everyone should know you’ve been touched. By me.”
Even as she flinched away from his touch, Angel moved close, until his nose was inches from her ear. She heard him take a deep breath. And he released it with what sounded like a purr.
“I think it’s time for us to leave,” he said.
Cordelia looked at him like he was crazy. “Me? Skip out into the dark, Sunnydale night with the Slayer’s psycho ex just a bite away.” She snorted with disbelief, feeling a spark of Queen C spirit. “I don’t think so.”
Angel seemed un-phased. Instead, his hand drifted, feather-light, down her throat. Down the valley between her breasts. Until his palm rested flat against her stomach.
Cordy wondered how his hand could be so cold, but burn at the same time.
“You come with me now,” he growled into her ear. “Or I’ll kill your little good Samaritan project. And her friends. And maybe a dozen more.”
Cordelia turned to stare at him, eyes wide with dawning horror. He wouldn’t…
“What? You didn’t think I’d kill her in public?” He shook his head. His smile was wolfish. Cruel. “Why not? I love an audience.”
Cordelia swallowed. He’d do it, too. Kill the girl. And who knew who else.
And, since he’d do it because she refused to go with him, it would be her fault.
Not giving herself a chance to think about it, Cordelia stood up.
“Good girl.” Standing, he helpfully handed her her purse. “Let’s go.”
Then, not giving her a chance to balk, he took her forearm and began to lead her…away from the front entrance.
“Wait,” she gasped. “My mom’s car is out front.”
“But I like the back,” he said. “I’ve had some of my best times out in that alley.” And he half lead/half pulled her through the Bronze.
Cordelia stumbled behind him. Her heart raced so fast, she could feel the vein pounding in her temple. In her throat.
He pulled her down the dark hallway, past the bathrooms and the pay ‘phone. Finally paused in front of the emergency exit.
He clutched her shoulders, and turned her to face him. In an instant, his human face was gone, replaced by his demonic visage.
Cordelia couldn’t hold back a startled moan.
Hungry, yellow eyes raced over her body. Devoured her. And, even though she knew he didn’t need to breath, he was panting.
“Now,” he growled. And, without another word, he shoved her against the wall. And, then, he was kissing her. Razor sharp fangs cutting into her lips. Making her bleed.
Cordelia cried out in pain. As his hands roamed freely, roughly over her body, tears began to gather in her eyes.
Trying not to become lost in the horror of the moment, Cordelia reached into her purse.
As he pressed his hips against hers, Cordy rammed the taser into his side.
With a startled, outraged cry, Angel fell, unconscious, to the floor.
“Oh, thank goodness,” a very British voice sighed, his relief evident.
Cordelia barely heard him. Because, suddenly, she was shaking. All over. So badly, the taser fell out of her hand.
“Oh, dear,” the stranger said as he hurried towards her. Concern written all over his face. “Are you alright?” he asked, and reached out to put a comforting hand on her shoulder.
The hand passed right through her body.
“Don’t *do* that!” Cordelia snapped, already pushed beyond her limits.
“Sorry.” Chagrined, Wesley stared at his hand. “I keep forgetting I have no substance in this time period.”
Trying to swallow the lump that had lodged itself in her throat, Cordelia pressed her hands over her eyes. Tried to remember how to breathe.
She just wanted this night to be over.
Pushing away from the wall, Cordelia staggered to the exit and pushed open the door.
Giles was in the alleyway. Preparing.
“Giles,” Cordy called. Her voice trembled.
The Watcher looked up from the symbols he was drawing on the cement. And he was obviously surprised to see her. “Cordelia? You weren’t supposed to lure Angel out here for another”—he glanced at his watch—“fifteen more minutes.”
“Well, he moved the timetable up a little.” She gave him a well-deserved glare. “And I am “never” going to be bait *ever* again!”
The librarian had the decency to look embarrassed. “Yes, of course.”
The trio headed back into the Bronze. Each grabbing hold of one of the vampire’s arms, Giles and Cordelia dragged him out into the alleyway. The deposited him inside the circle Giles had drawn.
Wesley watched from the sidelines. From the expression on his face, he desperately wanted to help. But, since he couldn’t touch anything, he was powerless.
“I haven’t finished the preparations yet,” Giles said. “Cordelia, if you would guard Angel, please.”
“Whatever,” she said with a tired sigh.
So, while Giles used chalk to draw markings on the ground, Cordelia stood over the vampire, taser in hand.
She glared down at him his unconscious form. Her teeth clenched so tight, she heard her jaw crack. She wanted to…to hurt him. To kick him in his side. To stomp on his groin. To pick up a rock, and slam it into his head. She wanted him to wake up, so she could ram the taser into him again.
She could never remember being this angry. This filled with hate.
And she didn’t like it, much.
“Are you alright?” Wesley asked.
Cordelia glanced at the man who’d appeared in her bedroom moments after she had her vision.
“I’m fine,” she said through gritted teeth.
From the sympathetic looks he was giving her, it was obvious he didn’t believe her. “Don’t worry. It will all be over soon.”
Cordelia nodded, but couldn’t really believe it.
In fact, she couldn’t really believe any of this.
That, thanks to some temporal magic “infection” she and Angel had, their future minds had been cast back into their present bodies.
That this was the *second* time it had happened.
That, in the future, she and Angel were best friends. Closer to each other than they were to anyone else.
“He cares about you a great deal,” Wesley had told. “Which explains why he is so obsessed with you now. Given Angelus’s desire to hurt those Angel loves the most.”
According to Wesley, during their first time trip, very little time had passed in the future while they were in the past. Maybe a second.
But, this time, their future selves had been unconscious for nearly 36 hours.
“Of course,” he’d explained, as he looked curiously around her bedroom, “I had no idea you and Angel were trapped in the past, with no clue who you were…er, were going to be. No idea that you were out of place, let alone any notion of how you could rectify the situation. But I did know it was imperative that I find out what was going on first hand.”
Apparently, he didn’t have the temporal infection thingy. So he couldn’t actually transport himself, mind or body, into the past.
But he speculated that Angel and Cordelia were still connected with their minds, no matter where they were in time. And he could use that connection to make contact with one of them. To project his consciousness into the past.
He’d tried to make contact with Angel first. Several times.
Under the circumstances, they were lucky those attempts had failed.
Once Wesley had finished his little narrative, Cordelia called Giles, who had already found out all about the bizente in his research. So it didn’t take much explaining to convince him of what had happened.
And the rest was history.
“It’s weird,” Cordelia muttered.
“I beg your pardon,” Wesley said.
“It’s just that…we thought the stuff I saw when Angel bit me were visions of the future. It’s weird to think they were memories of stuff that’s already happened.”
Cordelia recalled the images that had flooded her mind. They had *seemed* like happy memories.
“We’re ready,” Giles said. Standing, he dusted the chalk off of his hands. He cast an uneasy glance around the alleyway. “Is your…friend still here?”
Cordy glanced at Wesley. “Yeah.”
“Well, ask him if I’ve done this correctly?”
Wesley’s glance took in the preparations with a glance. “I’m certain you have. The symbols are accurate. The candles positioned precisely at the…”
“He says yes,” Cordelia said, rolling her eyes. Wesley seemed to love words as much as Giles did.
The Watcher glanced down at Angel’s prone body. A speculative frown marred his brow. “I wonder what kind of horrors I could prevent by staking him right now,” he said. He sounded very reasonable and rational.
For her part, Cordelia wasn’t opposed to the idea. Except for in a little corner of her mind that she easily ignored.
But Wesley seemed horrified.
“You can’t…!” he began, alarmed. Then, he seemed to make an effort to calm down. “I won’t lie and say Angelus won’t do some truly evil things in the coming months,” he said. “But his soul will be restored. And, when it is, he will become an incredible force for good.”
Reluctantly, Cordelia relayed the message.
After a moment’s hesitation, Giles began to read from the book.
And a tornado of silver light appeared inside the circle. It swirled around the vampire, like smoke drifting through moonbeams. Faster and faster. Until, finally, the tornado seemed to collapse into him, spreading through his body. And, then, the light vanished.
“That’s it?” Cordelia asked. “It worked?”
“It would seem so,” Giles said with a frown.
“Yes,” Wesley said at the same time. “The spell has transported Angel’s mind back into his future body.” He glanced around the alley. “Now, I suggest we remove all evidence of the ritual. When he comes to, Angelus shouldn’t have any memories of what occurred in the past few days. And I don’t think we should leave him any clues.”
Angelus woke with a groan.
Frowning, he sat up. And cast a puzzled glance around at his surroundings.
What the fuck was he doing in the alley behind the Bronze? The last thing he remembered was going to sleep at the mansion. Dreaming of new ways to turn Buffy’s life into shit.
How the hell did he get here?
And what was this feeling?
That something important had gotten away.
Something that made his body throb, and his fangs ache.
Something that made his stomach clench with hunger, and hard with need.
Something he couldn’t remember.
Giles finished drawing the symbols on his living room floor.
“Why do I get the feeling I’ve done this here before?” he mumbled.
“Well, you haven’t yet,” Wesley said. “But you will.”
When Cordelia relayed this message, the Watcher gave her a puzzled frown.
“And, of course,” Wesley continued, “once the ritual is completed, neither one of you will remember why you are here, alone, in Mr. Giles’s apartment.”
This news was met with even less enthusiasm.
“Lovely,” the librarian grumbled. “Cordelia, if you would just step into the circle.”
But Cordelia hesitated. “Are you sure I won’t have those really not nice visions anymore?” she asked Wesley.
“Quite sure,” Wesley said with certainty. “You won’t have another vision until you receive the gift from Doyle two years from now.”
“Well, good,” she said, relieved to hear it. But, still, she hesitated.
Because she was about to step into a future she knew nothing about. One that seemed familiar but strange. Unknown, and scary.
She had to remind herself that the part of her that was returning to that future belonged there. And, once it was done, maybe she’d feel right again.
“Okay,” she sighed. “Let’s get it done.”
Taking a deep, calming breath, she stepped into the circle.
And Giles began to read…
Wesley woke with a start.
He was sitting in a chair next to Angel’s bed.
“Hey, Wes man!” Gunn said as he came closer. “How’d it go?”
“Yeah. Did ya…fix things?” Fred asked eagerly. “Is everything going to be alright?”
The ex-Watcher blinked, trying to get his bearings. Yawning, stretching out the kinks, he glanced towards the bed.
Cordelia and Angel were beginning to stir.
“Things are going to be fine,” Wesley said with a relieved sigh.
Moments later, Angel and Cordelia were awake. And looking around with equally puzzled frowns on their faces.
“What’s going on?” Angel asked as he sat up.
“Yeah,” Cordelia said. “Weren’t we just at…that guy Eddie’s house? How did we get here?”
Wesley barely contained a shocked gasp. When this happened before, the two recalled every moment of their experience in the past. It never occurred to him that…
“You don’t remember?” he asked.
Cordelia shook her head. “No.”
Angel didn’t say a thing. Just stared at Wesley in that intense way that said he knew something was wrong. And he intended to find out what.
In that moment, the ex-Watcher decided not to tell them what had happened. After all, he was the only one who knew *when* the two had ended up. That they had been transported to a time when Angel didn’t have a soul.
Angel had come so far in recent months. The last thing he needed was to take on the guilt of things he’d done as Angelus four years ago.
Wesley shook his head at the confusing paradox. In any event, knowing the details of this latest temporal journey, all the things he’d done to Cordelia, wouldn’t help anyone. Especially him.
And if Wesley could spare Cordelia the knowledge of the things Angelus had done to her…
“I’ll explain everything later. After you’ve rested.” ((And once I come up with a believable lie,)) Wesley thought. “But it had to do with the bizente.”
Angel looked skeptical. Like he already knew Wesley was hiding something.
Cordelia’s confusion quickly turned into anger. “Dammit!” she exclaimed. “We have to find some kind of cure for this infection or whatever. Because I don’t want to spend the rest of my life bouncing through time! Especially not to when I was 13, which sooo wasn’t my best year.” Shaking her head, she moved to get out of the bed.
Angel moved so fast, all Wesley saw was a blur. As, with predatory speed, the vampire grabbed Cordelia’s upper arm.
“Ow!” Cordelia yelped, making everyone in the room jump. “Angel!”
The vampire let her go immediately. “Sorry.” He sounded as startled as everyone else felt. “I don’t know what…”
“Great,” Cordy sighed as she rubbed her arm. “I’m going to have bruises, Mr. Superior Vampy Strength.”
“I said I was sorry,” Angel said.
Wesley frowned, wondering if anyone else heard the growl under Angel’s words.
As the Angel Investigations team filed out of the bedroom, Wesley felt the first stirrings of uneasiness.
Whether he remembered it or not, Angel had just spent several days as Angelus, at a time when he was at his most brutal and bloodthirsty. There was no telling who he had killed. How many victims he had taken.
And, in that time, his affection for Cordelia had turned into a dangerous obsession. He stalked her. Terrorized her. Brutalized her. Drank from her.
Well, Angel was back now. Soul intact.
But there was no telling what the consequences of his most recent journey through time might be.