Title: The Fine Line
Posted here: 08/05
Summary: He was walking that fine line again – between the soul and the demon, but now, with nothing left but the cold, he found there was no restraint, no leash to hold him back.
Spoilers: Not really. It’s during Angel’s beige period – more or less after Happy Anniversary.
Disclaimer: The characters in the Angelverse were created by Joss Whedon & David Greenwalt. No infringement is intended, no profit is made.
Distribution: JF. Anywhere else, just let me know…
Thanks/Dedication: This one’s for Daisy – Happy Birthday gorgeous! Hope you have a wonderful day with lots of presents – this is one of them. 😉 Also, HUGE thank you to Kel (starlet2367) for the beta. You’re a star!
“I hate you.”
Wesley sighed, placing his hands flatly on the small desk. “Cordelia, this is really the only chance we have at catching him. He’s not just going to fall into our hands.”
The three of them sat in the small office they had taken up after Angel’s firing. Wesley sat at the only desk in the room, Cordy paced a hole into the small floor, and Gunn lounged on the tiny couch in front of the nearly empty bookshelf.
“So I’m the bait.” Cordy threw her hands up in the air and flopped down onto the couch next to Gunn. “Great. Ya know, this is EXACTLY what the A word used to do.”
Gunn raised an eyebrow.
Wesley sighed again. “I’m sure Angel was only – ”
“Ah, ah!” Cordy yelped, pointing an accusing finger at him. “Don’t say his name.”
Gunn smirked, putting his arm around Cordelia’s shoulder. “So lemme get this straight. Barbie goes in as the bait, lures this guy outta the club so we can kick his ass, and then we all go home?”
Wesley nodded resignedly. “Pretty much.”
“Sounds like a plan to me.”
Cordy shrugged his arm off and got up. “Yeah well, YOU don’t have to dress up like Slutty the Boy Slayer. YOU don’t have to seduce some psycho lady-killer and lure him into a dark alleyway. I’m sure it sounds like a hell of a plan to you…”
Wesley took off his glasses, sending a guilty look her way. He knew this wasn’t his greatest idea but there wasn’t another choice. “Cordy, there’s no other way. We nearly caught him the last time – We can’t afford another slip-up. There have already been five attacks. I’m doing this as an absolute necessity and you know I’d never put you in a position like this unless I was positive that – ”
“It’s okay, Wes.” Cordy interrupted him, “You know I’d do anything for you guys.” She grabbed her jacket and slid it on, opening the door that led out of their tiny office. “And hey, while I’m in the giving mood I may as well save a few women their throats. I’ll be there – 9 o’clock sharp.”
Wes shot her a cheeky grin, his guilty look quickly disappearing. “Love you, Cordy.”
Cordelia snorted and shut the door behind her. Wesley spared a glance towards Gunn, noticing the distant look on his face. “Are you alright?”
“Yeah.” Gunn cast a dreamy look at the door. “Just thinkin’ about all the possible outfits she’ll be wearing tonight.”
Wes shot him a dirty look. “I hardly think – ”
“Do you think sending her after this guy is a good idea?” Gunn interrupted.
Wesley hesitated a moment before answering. “No. I don’t.” He rushed on before Gunn could respond, “But I do know that we need to catch this demon before it kills again. And there’s no other way to do it, we’re out of options. As much as I hate sending Cordelia in there,” He lowered his gaze to the table, “It needs to be done.”
“How can there be no fingerprints? There have been five bodies, Willis, find me some damn evidence so I can catch this guy!” Detective Kate Lockley slammed the phone down onto the receiver, letting out an angry breath.
The office was busy as cops wandered up and down the hallways and between desks, chatting noisily with each other under fluorescent lighting. It made her head hurt. She shoved her hair out of her face and got out of her chair, walking over to the file cabinet.
Kate gasped and spun around, clutching a hand to her chest. She quickly lowered it, frowning when she saw the figure in a long black coat standing inches away from her. “Oh great. Just what I need.” She rolled her eyes in annoyance, walking around him and dumping the retrieved files onto her desk. “What do you want, Angel?”
Angel raised his head, sliding his hands into his pockets. He seemed taller, more intimidating in some way – he stood out, a figure in black against the background of white walls and blue uniforms. “You catch this lady-killer yet?”
“I don’t see how that’s your concern.”
“I read about it.”
“Oh good, you read.” Kate snapped. “That’s an achievement.” She pulled a pen out of her drawer and quickly crossed something off a sheet of paper, before scrunching it up and throwing it in the wastebasket. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have work to do.”
Angel ignored her, perching on her desk. He fingered some of the papers thrown haphazardly across the blotter. “Doesn’t look like you’re making much headway.” He glanced up. “I can help.”
“I really don’t see how – ”
“This guy isn’t human Kate.” Kate froze in her seat, her heart hammering in her chest. “Think about it. No identifiable fingerprints, evidence, or murder weapon. Every victim has been found with a slit throat sporting three claw marks.”
He leaned forward, his arms on the table, his voice low. “Now unless this guy’s some sort of under-appreciated farmer trying to be extra creative with a rake, I don’t think this is a human attack, do you?”
His sudden close-proximity made her uncomfortable, and Kate found herself getting irritated at the calm expression on his face. “How do you know it isn’t an animal attack?” She argued stubbornly.
Angel raised an eyebrow. “I thought you quit being ignorant, Kate.”
Kate’s eyes flashed and she got out of her seat, the chair scraping against the floor. A few of the cops near the desk turned to look at her and she stopped immediately, taking a deep breath to calm herself down.
She glanced warily at Angel, her tone icy. “So what? You think this is some sort of supernatural force?”
Angel shrugged. “Knowing L.A, I’m willing to bet good money that it’s a member of the demon population.”
Kate sighed. “I was worried you would say that.” She was silent for a few seconds, thinking. As much as she hated to admit it, he was right. This had to be a demon attack, there was no other explanation – and that was much more his forte than hers. Grudgingly, she lifted her head to look at him. “What do you need?”
“Everything.” Angel replied. “Everything you know.”
Kate frowned at his commanding tone. She wanted nothing more than to flip him the finger and tell him where to get off but she knew she had to co-operate. This demon had to be stopped before it killed more innocent women.
“We don’t know much. All we have as evidence are the locations of his previous attacks and photographs of the bodies.”
“I’ll take it.” Angel said, backing away from the table.
“Oh, wait.” Kate quickly followed him, keeping her voice down. “There is one thing. The plotted points of his previous murder sites form a pentagon on any regular Los Angeles map.” She shrugged. “I don’t know how relevant that is considering the shape’s already complete – ”
“I’ll try and find a pattern,” Angel interrupted, “If the shape’s complete, how do you know this guy isn’t done for the time being?”
Kate stared at him. “I’m not willing to take that chance. Are you?”
“How am I supposed to recognize this guy again?” Cordy asked, shifting in her seat. They sat in Gunn’s truck, slightly squashed together in the front seat, staring at the front entrance of the club.
Wesley glanced at her. “Don’t you remember him from last time?”
“Well, yeah…” Cordelia nervously played with her hair, trying to prolongue her leave, “But it’ll be dark in there. How will I see him?”
“Look for him.” Gunn replied, shrugging when Cordy shot him a glare. “What? You’re gonna have to.”
“Either way, if we see him exiting the club with anyone, we’ll stop him.” Wes said, feebly attempting a ghetto accent. “We got your back.”
Gunn groaned. “No man! Please, don’t EVER use that phrase again.”
Cordy chuckled, shaking her head. “With you two on the loose, I’ll take my chances with the psycho.”
She rolled her eyes and opened the door of Gunn’s truck, carefully stepping out and shutting it behind her. She waved at them before walking a few yards to the club entrance.
“How did you find this guy anyway? Gunn watched Cordelia walk into the club, frowning when the bouncer winked at her. He waited until she was inside before turning to Wesley. “He has hundreds of different clubs in L.A to choose from – how do you know he’s gonna pick this one?”
Wesley looked up from the crossbow he was loading. “I arranged the previous locations of his murders on a map to see if there was any pattern. Turns out, they formed a pretty distinctive pentagon.” He put the crossbow down, balancing it on the dashboard.
“What was odd was that the shape was complete, so one could presume he’s done with the killings. However, it’s never safe to assume, and I managed to locate one club that was smack bang in the middle of the pentagon, equidistant from all the points of his prior attacks.” He pointed at the flashing neon sign in front of them, its color a gaudy shade of pink.
“The Pink Flamingo.” Gunn stared at him in amazement. “Ya know, your brain will never fail to amaze me.”
“Elementary, my dear Watson.” Wesley grinned at the odd look Gunn shot him. “Thank you.”
Gunn rolled his eyes. “A demon who plots maps and kills in geometrical shapes.” He shook his head disbelievingly. “Is it some sort of ritual? A spell maybe?”
“I don’t know.” Wesley was frowning suddenly, worry flickering across his face. “I…I told her to come out through the front door, didn’t I?” Gunn shrugged, but Wes only nodded, as if reassuring himself. “Yes. Yes, I’m sure I did.”
Angel wove his way through the crowd in the tightly packed nightclub, squeezing through the tiniest of spaces between people and growling at those who didn’t move. He still wasn’t comfortable around people, which made the current situation unbearable. He was surrounded by them.
For a split second, he wondered if Darla and Drusilla were here – dancing, seducing, killing…the thought made him ache. He didn’t know if it was just with regret.
He finally reached the bar, taking a seat and scanning the club. After a few seconds, he closed his eyes. His nostrils flared and he took a deep breath, trying to identify anything different, inhuman. He smelled sweat and skin and –
His eyes snapped open. He recognized that scent immediately, once so familiar, so comfortable, now so distant. All he could do was sit there in shock as the distinct scent of Cordelia Chase invaded him. Beneath the fragrance of sweat and gyrating bodies, he could smell her, deep as night and just as alluring.
He got off the bar stool and pushed through the crowd, tracking her to where her scent was strongest. He caught sight of her finally, leaning against a wall, her eyes travelling lazily over every body in the club. She had cut her hair, and the outfit she wore made his entire body tighten; a short black dress that clung to every curve and cut off just below the firm globes of her ass. Her eyes were smoky with make-up, her lips painted red as sin.
His lips curved into a slow smile.
The girl before him froze, not turning, not moving, and something feral in him screamed as if it wanted to come out and play. Angel could hear the blood pumping through her body at a frenetic pace. He licked his lips.
Slowly, she turned to face him, the look in her eyes cold, her face calm, one eyebrow raised in a manner that he used to take comfort in. Now it seemed uncaring, patronizing. “Angel.”
He was walking that fine line again – between the soul and the demon, but now, with nothing left but the cold, he found there was no restraint, no leash to hold him back. Angel let his eyes roam over her body, finally locking his gaze with hers.
The fire in her eyes made him want to push her, burn her, break her, like so many before her. “What are you doing here?”
She turned her head away. “I don’t see how that’s your business.”
Angel took a step closer, enjoying the way her pulse raced even faster. “No, I guess not.” He walked around her, blocking her view so that she had to look up at him. “But since I asked so nicely – ”
“Unlike you, I still have a mission to stick to, Angel.” Cordelia snapped. “And you and I don’t make with the playful chatter anymore so you can take your polite curiosity and shove it where the sun don’t shine.”
Angel chuckled darkly, staring at her. “Aah, such fire, Cordelia…”
“Fire?” Cordy raised an eyebrow again. “There’s a nice word. Ring any bells with you? Cos it rings a big frickin’ gong with me.”
Angel shrugged. “I did what I had to do.”
“Right, so please do it again and get out of my – ” Cordy stopped abruptly, poking her head around his back as if she had caught sight of something. A second later, she huffed disappointedly.
“What are you doing?” He asked.
“Are you still here?” Cordy sighed, leaning back against the wall. “Take a hike, abandoner. I have things to do, demons to kill – ”
“Demons?” Angel narrowed his eyes. “What kind of demons?”
Cordelia’s mouth twisted into a cruel smirk. “Not the blonde kind, dead boy, if that’s what you’re asking.”
Angel’s mouth drew into a thin, angry line. His fists clenched in fury. “What kind of demons?” He repeated the question, saying each word slowly, clearly, as if speaking to a child. Cordy glared at him.
“Don’t you watch the news?” she spat. “Or is your head too far up your ass – I’m sorry, Darla’s ass, for even that?”
“You’re hunting my demon.” His voice was hoarse, restrained on a leash.
“Your demon?” Cordy snorted. “Uh, no. YOU gave up the mission to go obsess after your skanky blonde girlfriend, so do us all a favor and stick to what you’re best at – skidaddle.”
Anger burned inside him and his demon roared in outrage.
Cordy’s smile was brittle. “Or you could stay here.” She waved a hand around the club. “I’m sure there are some desperate and slutty blondes around here who you’d just love to get your fangs into.”
She was pushing him, she knew it by the angry twitch of his tightened jaw and the fire in his eyes, but it felt good, it felt well-deserved after how much he had hurt her.
Out of the corner of her eye, Cordy saw a figure turn around the corner, about twenty feet away. Her eyes followed him as he came closer, his eyes scanning the club as if looking for someone, something.
She wondered why her gaze was riveted on this stranger, and then suddenly her brain caught up with her and she recognised him. OH GOD, he was walking right towards them… She couldn’t let him see her, especially with another man, or else her cover would be blown.
Angel was oblivious to her thoughts, his body taut with anger, and something else he didn’t recognize at her vicious words. He glared down at her. “Cordelia, you don’t know – ”
Cordelia didn’t spare a moment to think. She simply grabbed the lapels of his shirt and pulled him towards her. All Angel saw was a blur of bronze skin and red lipstick before Cordy jerked him forward and slammed her mouth into his.
“Aw, come on!” Gunn shot his friend a cocky smirk, poking him in the side. “One more game?”
Wesley crossed his arms like a petulant child. “I’m not going to play with you anymore.”
Gunn laughed. “Wesley, just cos you’re a sore loser – ”
“I am not!” Wesley snapped, “You cheated!”
“No, I didn’t!” Gunn shouted defensively, “I won fair and square!”
“Shyeah.” Wesley scoffed, looking out of the window. He wondered how Cordelia was doing. Gunn had suggested a game of cards while they were waiting. The truck was parked directly opposite and a few yards away from the main exit so they wouldn’t miss anyone who came or left.
“Baby.” Gunn muttered, dragging Wes’s attention back inside the truck.
“I heard that.” Wesley shot him a warning look, “Don’t make me come over there.”
“And what?” Gunn rolled his eyes, shuffling the cards, “Hit like a girl?”
Wesley let out an indignant gasp. “You…you…fine!” He crossed his arms and looked out of the window, pouting. “I’m telling Cordy.” He mumbled, cringing at how childish he sounded.
Gunn’s eyes went wide. “WHAT???”
Heat exploded through his system, so hot it burned him to the very core. He marvelled at how wrong it was to be reacting this way to Cordelia, his ex-best friend, a woman he had pushed away from the brink of darkness, a young girl who had always been nothing but a distraction, a responsibility – a friend.
But now, as her lips collided with his, all he could think of was how soft her mouth was, how warm her skin was, how the blood beat so vibrantly beneath the surface, hot and sweet and so full of life. The taste of her flooded him and in that moment he felt alive, human.
So far from the cold, so far from the loneliness, wrapped in her warmth, in her kiss –
She ripped her mouth away from his, gasping, eyes locked on his as if he had her hypnotized. “I…” Her eyes were wide and shocked and her voice came out in a hoarse whisper. “I uh…”
She shook her head, as if trying to clear the haze, blushing, “I’m sorry. He was coming around the corner…I didn’t want him to see me – ”
Angel didn’t know what he was thinking feeling this way, his body humming with lust. He didn’t know what he was thinking when he pulled her to him and locked her in his cold embrace, not giving her a chance to finish before devouring her mouth.
Cordelia gasped, half in surprise, half in outrage, and Angel used the chance to slip his tongue into her mouth. His arms wrapped around her, tight and hard, the warmth of her skin spiralling across his own and making him moan.
Cordy could do nothing but let him devour her, shocked that this was happening, shocked that this was ANGEL, kissing her like a starving man, holding her like a desperate lover. Her body responded as he slid his palm under her thigh and pulled up, hooking her leg around his waist.
She kissed him back, eating his mouth, her body a puddle of mush as he kissed her, hard and hot and deep, his fingers stroking, his hips rocking.
She didn’t know how her mind made its way through the haze and the lust that clouded her vision, her body, her very soul, but it did, and Cordelia’s eyes suddenly snapped open, anger flooding her, every nerve sparking furiously and distinguishing the illusion of lust and heat that she was wrapped in.
She tore free of his arms, his lips, pushing him away with a violent force neither of them knew she had.
Her hand came up and she slapped him hard, her palm stinging.
Angel backed away. When his head shot up, his eyes were golden, but Cordelia stared back unflinching, her pretty brown eyes, hard, dead, cold. “You bastard.”
Angel rubbed his injured cheek. “Cordelia – ”
But she was already moving, her body manoeuvring purposefully through the crowd, eyes searching for something, her movements strong despite the breaking of her heart, her soul.
Cordelia pushed down the lust raging through her body and locked away the emotions that threatened to burst from inside her. She stood up straight, regaining her composure, her features calm despite the hammering of her heart. She’d deal with this later.
Right now she had a job to do.
Her eyes darted around the club, taking in every face, every body, every outfit – until she spotted him, twenty feet away, leaning against a wall, eyes on some woman at the bar. Cordelia shivered, gathering her courage and moving forward.
Just as he took a step forward, Cordelia blocked his path.
“Hey there, handsome – ” She said, her voice sultry, her gaze smouldering. His hair was shaggy, as though it hadn’t been cut in years, but his face was charming, handsome. His eyes scared her though – black holes in his head, which stared at her as though she were a piece of meat.
He took another step forward, not saying a word, but she pushed a firm palm against his chest, stopping him, forcing herself to be strong. “Where you goin’?”
The man said nothing. He stared at her for a few seconds. The he curled his spiny fingers around her wrist and held it there, a slow smile sliding onto his lips.
Cordy smirked, despite the fear that coiled around her heart. She wanted to push his hand away and run for the hills but she sucked it up, taking a step closer, her voice dropping. “Do you wanna get out of here?”
Angel willed his body to calm down as he leaned against the wall, watching her walk away from him. He couldn’t stop the jolt of jealousy that shot through his system at the sight of her flirting with some other man…some other –
Angel’s eyes went wide. He watched anxiously as Cordelia grabbed the man’s hand and led him towards the back exit. He took a deep breath, smelling the fragrance of Cordelia’s skin and the scent of the other man…his scent was off, different from the humans dancing in the club and Angel recognized it immediately for what it was.
Cordelia and the man walked out of the back door, and Angel swallowed hard. He was tempted not to care, he certainly wasn’t supposed to. He was supposed to push her away and let her lead her own life, while he pursued what he felt he had to. But she was in danger…
A memory surfaced, one of a young girl with long brown hair making a promise to a vampire with a soul – that she would be with him until he achieved his dream, his humanity.
And suddenly something in the armour he had so carefully built cracked and he ached, if only to see her, to make sure she was alright, just once before he was forced to put that shell that kept her out back into place.
That demon had to be killed anyway.
Angel pushed away from the wall and sped towards the exit door, barging through it and slamming it behind him.
She was struggling when he got outside, kicking and punching against the hold of…
Angel blinked. The man he had seen in the club had vanished. In his place stood a seven foot tall demon, its skin green and bumpy, three razor sharp claws shooting out of each hand, one that sliced through the air, the other at Cordy’s throat. Fangs grew out of its teeth, sharp and jagged, and the odour it gave off was almost unbearable – the stench of sewer grime and old eggs.
“Hey!” Angel shouted.
Both the demon and Cordelia turned to him, equally surprised to see him there. Cordy took the opportunity to kick out sharply with her heel, stabbing the demon in the stomach. It growled and released her, and she quickly ran towards Angel, standing beside him.
“Are you aright?” Angel’s asked, keeping his eyes on the demon.
Cordy nodded. “Yeah.”
“Good.” Angel took a step forward. “This’ll only take a second.”
He leapt, at the same time as the demon and the two ploughed into each other, throwing a punch in mid-air before gravity caught up with them and they fell to the ground, hard.
Angel pushed up on his hands and stood, kicking the demon with such force that it went flying into the wall. He jumped at it and punched, again and again until he felt the wet coating of the demon’s blood on his knuckles. The demon howled, fisting Angel’s shoulders with its claws and throwing him off. Angel flew a few feet before landing in a sprawl on the ground.
When he got up, his face rippled and he felt the vampire slide smoothly across his features. The demon lashed out with its claws but Angel ducked, catching its arm in a deadly grip and pulling the demon forward, head-butting it.
The demon’s free arm came up to hold its injured head and Angel wasted no time in whipping out the sword that sat snugly under his coat and swinging it in a graceful arc, slicing the demon’s head from its shoulders. The demon’s body stood upright for all of two seconds before it toppled to the ground, lifeless.
Angel sucked in a breath, dropping the sword on the ground. He turned abruptly, heading for Cordelia, who stood staring at him a few feet away.
She held her back straight. “Thank you.” She shrugged. “I still detest you, but thank you.” She quickly spun on her heel, walking towards the end of the alley.
“Cordelia – ” Angel called out.
Cordy froze, tilting her head slightly back. “What?”
“About what happened in there – ”
“Forget it, Angel.” Her voice was clipped, angry, hurt. “Nothing’s changed. You still abandoned me, I still couldn’t help you, we’re still not friends.”
Angel stayed silent for a few seconds, before he took another step towards her. “I don’t want you to be dragged down where I’m going.”
Cordelia’s voice was cold, steady, eerily calm, so different from the anger that Angel suddenly wanted it back, when she replied. “Right. So you did me a favour. While you’re playing the Good Samaritan, do me another one.”
She turned her head a little further so that she could see him. “You walked away from me. Stay away.”
With that, she turned her head, her heels clicking against the ground as she walked off. Something struck him deep inside, and it hurt more than he cared to admit. But he was careful to keep his eyes hooded, uncaring, shuttered from the world and the woman who was walking away.
He closed them just as she reached the mouth of the alleyway, dismissing her presence, dismissing her cutting words, sinking back into the darkness, into the deepness of his obsession, into himself.
When he opened his eyes, she was gone.