Double or Nothing. 35a

The Watcher put a hand on Buffy’s shoulder telling her to let Angelus handle his twin. He didn’t like the fact that Cordelia was headed over there, but he was curious to see what was going to happen.

Both vampires were wrestling on the ground trying to gain some advantage over the other. Unlike that first day in the library, there was no doubting which vampire was which.

Angel’s demonic features were firmly in place as his rage overwhelmed any sense of control left in him. Though angry, his brother maintained his human visage as if it gave him a lifeline.

Letting go might prove deadly to both of them. Getting caught up in this fight might push them both beyond whatever limits still existed within the Moirae’s spell.

“Giles, let me go. Angelus needs help,” Buffy urged her Watcher almost ready to defy him.

“Not yet.”

“Angel’s not the only crazy one around here tonight.” The Slayer jerked away from his light hold, but stood fast.

Xander stayed focused on Cordelia’s progress across the lawn. The vampires’ fight had taken them in the opposite direction and finally the cheerleader was catching up with them. He muttered in concern, “Don’t do anything stupid, Cor.”

“Shut up, Xander,” snapped Buffy. The last thing she needed was him whining over Cordelia Chase. “I don’t want to hear it anything else about Cordy, Cordy, Cordy.”

Turning his dark chocolate gaze upon her, Xander sucked in a deep breath as he heard the tone to her voice. “I thought you were over Angel. What’s with the jealous gig?”

Clamping her mouth shut, Buffy realized her words had come out sounding petty and trite. As Xander pointed out, sounding jealous. Only she hadn’t been thinking about Angel when she said them. Staring back wordlessly, she could only think, Now I’ve got major wiggins.

Without waiting for an answer, Xander strode across the lawn just in time to see his former girlfriend put herself in harms way. Giles cautioned him, but as the teenager kept moving he decided that he and Buffy might as well get a closer perspective on the goings on.

Cordelia waited until Angelus had gained a small if temporary advantage over Angel. He had the other vampire pinned down to the ground as both of them were shouting threats and expletives at each other.

Dropping to her knees beside them, Cordelia’s eyes were pleading even as she told them, “I’m gonna hafta kick your vampire asses myself if you don’t stop this fight.”

“Go to the others,” Angelus ordered not wanting her to get in the way. “You’re hurt.”

“I’m not leaving.”

Angelus was about to insist upon it when he noticed an immediate change in Angel. He stopped struggling against the hold Angelus had him under, his attention turning entirely upon Cordelia. This only allowed him to tighten the grapevine pin that held Angel’s arms and legs secure.

It wasn’t easily defensible, but they’d still have to find a way to shackle the crazed vampire if his behavior continued.

“Cordelia?” Angel spoke her name as if coming out of a clouded dream the confusion in his eyes showing as the rage faded.

With a brief glance at Angelus, sharing her surprise with her mate, Cordelia placed a hand on Angel’s chest. He’d been breathing hard, something that was unnecessary for him, but her touch seemed to slow the rate to a normal human pace. “I’m here, Angel.”

The anger still sounded in his voice as he explained what set him off, “She hurt you.”

“No.”

“You’re bleeding.”

Touching her fingertips to her forehead, Cordelia realized that her wound still oozed fresh blood though the flow was substantially less than before. “I-I did it myself. You two were right about the training.”

Angel flashed his brother a dark look, “Where the hell were you?”

“It’s not his fault,” Cordelia palmed his cheek turning his face back to her. “I did it. Not Angelus. Not Buffy.”

“The Slayer—”

“Was helping me, dumbass,” she pointed out.

Considering that for a moment, Angel shifted back to his human features and heard Cordelia telling Angelus to release him.

“Forget it.”

“What are you planning to do? Pin him to the ground until Giles runs home for a pair of handcuffs? Obvious much?” Cordelia wasn’t entirely certain if this was a good idea or not, but she recognized the change in Angel. He wasn’t in that psychotic rampage mode anymore. “Trust me.”

Xander muttered behind them, “Not a good idea.”

The Slayer had to agree. She readied herself to pounce if Angel made any move that looked threatening. Standing next to her, Giles watched with something akin to awe as Angel’s bloodlust faded and the vampire returned to a state of normalcy all within a period of a minute or two. He could only attribute it to Cordelia’s presence.

Even Angelus recognized it despite his own anger over the fact. It was exactly what the Watcher had suggested to them, only Cordelia’s effect as a balancing force also seemed to affect Angel. Dammit, he didn’t want to do this, but Angelus slowly let go of his brother’s wrists, untangled their legs from the wrestling hold and rose to his feet.

For a moment, Angel didn’t move, giving his twin a chance to get used to the idea that he had willingly released him. That he was not only trusting Cordelia’s judgment on this, but also trusting him not to take advantage over the situation.

Angel knew the real question. Could he trust himself? Even knowing that Angelus and the Slayer were close enough to stop anything he tried.

Then he realized that Angelus wasn’t trusting him. He was testing him. Waiting to see what he would do next.

Thanks for being so predictable, bro.

“Angel,” he turned back to Cordelia at the sound of her voice. “It’s over here. The demons are dead. Buffy isn’t your enemy.”

Truthfully, he could care less about either one, Angel thought despite the tiny twinge of guilt at using the Slayer for his own purposes. Suppressing it, Angel lifted up into a sitting position next to Cordelia moving his hand up to her face to examine the wound. It was superficial, but in a vascular location causing the bleeding to continue.

“Come here.” Cupping the nape of her neck, Angel gently pulled her forward running his tongue along the wound before anyone could protest.

Angelus knew his brother was simply cleansing and sealing the wound, something he would have done himself as soon as this had ended to prevent infection and scaring. Seeing the ecstatic look on Angel’s face while he lapped up the excess blood around the wound nearly had him grabbing his brother just to pummel that expression from his face.

Barely restraining that urge, Angelus kept telling himself that the idea was to calm Angel down, not to start up another fight.

As Angel’s cool tongue swept across her skin, Cordelia shuddered at the contact. This touch was intimate, him tasting her blood. She knew it and had no doubts of Angelus knowing it as well. And yet Cordelia didn’t stop him. Not now that he seemed stable again instead of losing himself to the violent nature of his instincts.

It was only when his lips brushed against her forehead that Cordelia opened her own eyes. Speaking only brought her mouth within kissing distance, “Angel, I think—”

With his mouth now hovering over hers, Angel realized he couldn’t close the tiny space between them. Not if this plan of his was going to work. “I think you’ll be fine.”

“What?” Cordelia watched in confusion as Angel pulled away, helping her to her feet and turning her in the direction of her mate.

“I obviously owe everyone an apology,” he went on. “If Cordelia hadn’t calmed me down, Buffy might have been forced to stake me.”

Buffy admitted that she considered it. “Next time we’re bringing shackles in the gym bag.”

“You’re okay?” Angel asked her while knowing he hadn’t done anything to cause any permanent damage.

“Yeah.” Buffy continued to eye him warily, holding her stake at her side rather than putting it away.

Angelus put his arm around Cordelia glad to have her back at his side. She smiled at him with a mixture of relief and triumph. “This is good. He’s okay. You’re okay.”

“For how long?” Angelus had to wonder as he caught his brother’s gaze. “Maybe you should be the one to stop patrolling for a while. We can’t deal with your bloodlust on a night-to-night basis.”

Frowning at the idea, Angel commented, “You needed me tonight. I’m not going to be the one to sit at home and knit.”

Xander looked over at Giles. “Vampires knit?”

Ignoring the boy, the Watcher told the group, “There may be a way to balance out the see-saw effect of Angel’s normal and—”

“Psycho?” Cordelia supplied the term Giles seemed to be looking for.

Uncontrolled behavior,” Giles was careful to avoid the other term.

“So what is it?” asked Cordelia when everyone else seemed content to wait out the long pause that followed.

Clearing his throat, Giles told her, “Well, that’s a bit…delicate.”

Suggesting that Buffy and Xander handle the clean up duties, Giles asked Cordelia and the two vampires to accompany him back to the library. Angel followed behind the rest trying to suppress the smile that threatened to appear.

That’s it, old Rup. You knew all along, but didn’t want to come out and say it. Too improper for a good British gent to suggest. Just needed a little push in the right direction and to see the effects with your own eyes.

Angelus kept his arm around Cordelia as they walked into the building. He didn’t like this one bit. Rupert Giles was going to say something that he probably didn’t want to hear. Something he suspected would involve his mate. Hell would freeze over first before he let that happen.

Leading them to the privacy of the lounge rather than the library, Giles waited until everyone was seated. He took a moment to gather his thoughts, trying to ignore the ironic manner in which they sat on the couch side by side with Cordelia between the two vampires. His mind momentarily wandered to a place it did not belong.

“I-I admit to being a little uncomfortable talking to you three about this,” Giles gave his collar a tug.

“Maybe you shouldn’t,” Angelus suggested with a dangerous undertone.

The Watcher merely pressed on knowing that this had to be said. “Something must be done to help Angel maintain his equilibrium. These nearly psychotic episodes of demonic behavior are only getting worse.”

“You have a solution?” Angel asked him already knowing that he did.

Giles nodded. “It may only be temporary, but it should act as a stabilizing measure.”

“What?” Cordelia wanted details. She didn’t need Giles being all flibbety-gibbety and turning red as a beet.

“Is there a reason you’re pointing that crossbow in my direction?” asked Angelus as he wondered if the Watcher was already planning for some impending attack on his part.

Realizing that was exactly what he was doing, Giles put it aside. “Sorry,” he flashed an embarrassed smile in the vampire’s direction.

“You were saying?”

“Ahem. Yes. I-I hope you’ll keep an open mind and consider everything I told you the last time we spoke about Angel’s current condition— and yours.” Giles told him.

“I’m listening,” Angelus commented even though his body language declared he was anything but open-minded. His arms were crossed over his broad muscular chest and his left leg was crossed over his right knee at the ankle.

Giles frowned, but had no choice except to keep talking. “So I see. Very good. My observations and your information suggest that Angel’s aggressive actions, behavior and instinctive tendencies all revolve around Cordelia. Even tonight, though the bloodlust may have started with the demon brawl, he managed to bring her into it.”

“Don’t blame me!” Cordelia demanded.

“Forget about placing blame,” Giles responded quickly noting the hurt expression on her face. “This is resultant of the breakdown of the Moirae’s spell or its side effect. It is a psychological condition affecting both vampires. What I am about to suggest is by no means a cure. However, it may slow down the process until I am able to find one.”

Cordelia told him, “I’m not waiting for your quick fixes. Willow is working on a way to contact the Moirae.”

“What?” and “No!” were the responses from Angel and Angelus who both looked like the idea was not only a bad one, but frightening.

Giles felt a bit vindicated about his own opinion on the matter. “It’s only to be used as a last resort.”

“You have no idea what you’re dealing with,” warned Angel.

“I think I do, but you could enlighten us. Cordelia and I remain in the dark on the whole subject of your original dealings with the Moirae.”

“Forget it,” Angel barked. “I can’t talk about it.”

“Can’t or won’t?”

Angel remained closed-mouthed as did his twin, which only set Cordelia off. “What’s up with the secret keeping?”

After a long pause, it was Angelus who told her, “There isn’t much to tell you to be honest. Just that it involves a promise and prophesy.”

“What prophesy?” Giles inquired. “Perhaps I can—”

“No.” Cutting him off, Angel was adamant that he not get involved any further.

With a sardonic laugh, Angelus explained, “It hardly matters now considering the way things are going.”

“Giles has a way to fix that,” Cordelia reminded her mate. “Are you ever gonna tell us what we have to do?”

Frankly, Giles would rather continue discussing the Moirae, but he figured that to be a closed subject. “Cordelia, you have acted as a stabilizing force for Angelus. His symptoms have been slower to appear and he remains in control of his demonic aspects for the most part.”

She nodded, remembering that part of the discussion. “You said it was because he loved me.”

“You two have a deep and binding connection that stems from mutual emotions,” Giles explained his theory.

There was no denying that. Cordelia relished in the fact that Angelus loved her just as much as she loved him. She would never have thought it possible for a soulless vampire to have the ability to love so deeply, but it was something she had come to accept.

Squeezing his thigh, Cordy smiled up at her mate, her love for him shining from her eyes. Despite having closed himself off from the direction he suspected Giles was heading, Angelus couldn’t stop the grin that spread across his face. Despite the fact that she was still covered in dirt and dried blood, he thought her the most beautiful woman he’d ever known. There was no denying she possessed the key to his heart.

The exchange wasn’t lost on Angel who sat at the other end of the couch gripping the armrest. He was doing his best not to react in a noticeable manner, but Angel saw that his subtle move had captured the Watcher’s scrutiny.

“That brings me to my point,” Giles sat forward resting his elbows on his knees. “I’m going out on a limb here, so try not to rip my throat out when you hear this. That goes for you too, Cordelia.”

“Oh?” That caught her attention.

“I think Angel’s feelings for you are well-known at this point,” Giles commented and waited for their acknowledgement.

Angel fully admitted it. “I’m in love with her.”

His brother merely sounded out a low rumble of a protest. Cordelia licked her dry lips and cast surreptitious glances in Angel’s direction, a soft blush creeping under her golden skin.

“Yes,” Giles nodded. “That has been established. I would venture to say that it is the cause of your demonic obsession with her.”

Cordelia squirmed uncomfortably. “I thought you had a point.”

“I don’t pretend to know the extent of your feelings for Angel,” he began only to see a look of horror in her eyes, “but I submit to you that they do exist.”

Sitting up ramrod straight, Cordelia told him, “Of course they exist. He’s my friend. He’s Angelus’ brother. Maybe he is a twisted psycho stalker, but he’s still Angel.”

Giles stared at her pointedly. “To whatever extent they do exist, Cordelia, they are the reason you were able to reach Angel through the haze of bloodlust that overtook him tonight. It’s that give and take I was referring to when I spoke of you and Angelus.”

“Okay,” Cordelia shrugged. “So the next time he goes psycho on us, I’ll talk to him. Calm him down. Presto chango!”

“That’s not what Rupert is getting at,” Angelus declared through gritted teeth.

Taking a deep breath, Giles explained, “That was just a quick fix. It might not work the next time, Cordelia. If Angel is to achieve the same level of control as Angelus, I think it will be necessary for you to spend some time with him.”

Pfft! “I spend time with him. What are we doing now?”

“Alone time.”

“Alone time?” Had the Watcher gone nuts too? “Hello! Psycho Vamp.”

“Forget it,” Angelus told Giles. Despite suspecting that it was coming, he let his anger at hearing it come through quite clearly.

Angel remained purposefully quiet.

“What do you mean by ‘alone time‘?” Cordelia sought clarification.

“Isn’t it obvious?” Angelus growled at her. “The Watcher wants me to share you with my brother.”

Cordelia’s eyes widened as she sent an accusatory look at Giles. He quickly explained that was not his intention. “I never said that. My advice is simply to let Angel spend some time with Cordelia. To establish a routine that involves just the two of them in order to stabilize his behavior.”

“You think he’d be content with that?” Angelus asked him. “I doubt it considering his behavior so far.”

“Give me a chance, Angelus,” his brother cut in. “You have reason to doubt me, but I think giving up my rights to you proved my good intentions.”

“Rights?” Giles asked. “What good intentions?”

Angel laughed, “You say that as if you doubt I have any.”

Was he supposed to answer that? Giles chose to remain silent. Considering Angel’s very real threat the night they talked, it might be wiser to do so.

Showing Giles the ring, Angelus told him, “I am the acknowledged master of the Order of Aurelius.”

“Oh?” That was totally unexpected. Giles darted a glance at the other vampire whose stoic expression revealed nothing. “Angel gave you the ring?”

Nodding, Angelus had to admit to himself that the gesture proved Angel was not out to steal Cordelia away from him. If he’d been planning that, he would have simply continued to claim leadership giving him rights to Cordelia herself. Giles’ advice would have given Angel just the excuse to demand those rights.

Not that Cordelia would have willingly cooperated, he assured himself. That didn’t mean Angel couldn’t or wouldn’t seduce her. After all, Angelus knew how the other vampire could manipulate women when he put his mind to it. Better, he suspected, than even Angel did at the moment.

Standing up, Giles decided that he had given them all of the information they needed to make a decision. “This is something you three need to talk about without further interference from me. I have to stress that I believe this is the only thing to be done until a more permanent solution can be found.”

“Just get the hell out, Rupert,” snapped Angelus.

Giles left the lounge as quickly as he could do so pausing only long enough to grab his crossbow and give Cordelia an apologetic look. He only hoped the two vampires didn’t start fighting again. While he felt certain that his recommendation would work in theory, it was something that required time to establish assuming that Angelus would allow it to happen.

Pushing open the library doors, Giles found Willow bent over an open book studying its contents with rapt interest. “What happened to the computer research?”

Glancing up, Willow stumbled for an explanation, but found that her mind was too full of mystical ramblings to come up with something believable. “Eep!”

“Willow, I know that I just lectured you on waiting for the last resort before trying to summon the Moirae, but I have to tell you that I think it’s time to get serious about finding that summoning spell,” Giles admitted.

The Watcher’s advice to Cordelia and the vampires was only a temporary measure even if they agreed to try it. Considering Angel’s behavior so far, it appeared that the vampires were going to need a permanent solution a lot faster than he could supply one. There was only one place those answers were coming from.

“Willow, we must contact the Moirae as soon as possible.”

The witch had no idea what changed Giles’ mind so quickly, but she was happy that her confession would not be frowned upon.

Holding up the talisman, she grinned at him. “Already on it.”

Chapter 36

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