Two days later, Cordelia figured she’d simply read too much into Angel’s statement. He might have wanted to talk about the weather or the latest Lakers win.
Okay, so the vampire wasn’t much for making small talk and as far as Cordelia knew he had no interest in basketball. Today, she was feeling much more like herself again and had no intention of out-brooding Angel.
Though she did have to admit to herself that sneaking up for Connor cuddles while the vampire was still asleep was not as much fun as it usually was considering that the bed looked crumpled, but otherwise empty.
Normally it was visibly filled by a certain gorgeous half-naked vampire. Not that she stared or anything. Eye-candy was just too good to waste.
Even the baby was being uncooperative by sleeping soundly in his crib. Cordelia was half way to sneaking out of the bedroom when she was stopped in her tracks by the sleep-weighted sound asking her, “Don’t go.”
“Connor’s asleep,” she whispered while turning around to face the bed.
“I think I can hold a conversation better than my son can.” Angel tossed back the sheet and swung his legs over the side of the bed leaving a visible indentation that she tracked with her eyes.
Hands on her hips, Cordelia grinned teasingly, “There are days that’s debatable.”
Predictably, Angel had no immediate reply which left her laughing softly. She walked back toward him, stopping a couple of feet from where he sat. “Today’s the day.”
Angel sounded confused, “What day? Did Wes discover something?”
“Nope,” Cordelia told him having made this decision completely on her own and figuring it would be good for him. “You’ve been all about work, work, work ever since we got back home from Sunnydale. Except for taking Connor and me out for that stroll in the sunshine yesterday afternoon, you’ve done nothing fun since you were turned invisible.”
“Fun?” Angel sounded doubtful. He shifted on the bed, standing and brushing past her.
“Okay, so maybe you’re not exactly the Fun Guru,” Cordelia admitted as she watched his clothes float out of the closet. Apparently Angel was too much of a gentleman to stand in front of her in his boxers.
Assuming you’re wearing any. A flash of heat bloomed in her chest spreading in all directions at that unbidden thought which rolled right into another.Of course you’re wearing boxers. You always wear boxers to bed. Even I know that.
“It’s not like you’d run around the hotel naked,” words followed thought.
“You’re right,” Angel agreed having never considered it. “Was that the fun you had in mind?”
The question came out of nowhere, startling Cordelia who had been focused on the initially amusing sight of Invisible Vamp getting dressed that she never realized she’d spoken. Her hazel gaze had been locked onto the way those dark Armani pants were taking shape causing a momentary loss of brain function.
What did she have in mind? There had been a list, a whole list of creative things to let Angel take advantage of his invisibility and resistance to sunlight while he had the chance. Drawing a blank, she shrugged, “Lots of stuff.”
In the space of a blink, the black pants disappeared from view and Cordelia let out a short sigh of relief. Funny what your mind focused on when there was only one thing to look at.
“Like what?” Angel sounded curious enough, but she couldn’t quite place his tone, the deep timbre sounding almost suggestive. “What would you do if you were me?”
Cordelia snorted daringly, “Things you’d never have the guts to do.”
“Think so?” Angel swung his shirt on, but Cordelia never saw him button it up as he crossed the room toward her. It too faded from view leaving her only with his words.
“Know so.” Who was picking on whom here, Cordelia wondered suddenly. It felt like she was the one on the defensive instead of taking charge of this little funscapade. Hah. She’d see about that.
Before Cordelia could open her mouth again, she heard close to her ear, “Back to what I should do. Tell me.”
A little flustered at his closeness, Cordelia whirled around and took a step back to give herself a little more space. Her calves bumped up against the corner of the bed. Coming up with something she figured he’d never go along with, Cordelia blurted, “Skinny-dipping.”
Angel was back in her personal space again a second later when he asked for a little clarification, “Alone? That’s too much like bathing. No witnesses. You’d have to tag along.”
Pfft! Did she have to point out the obvious? “But I’m not invisible.”
“Right.” The single word accompanied a low rumble that Cordelia couldn’t identify, but knew had to come from him. It ran right through her leaving her skin tingling in its wake. Suddenly, all she could think of was Angel slathering suntan lotion over every inch of her or doing the same to him.
That is so wrong, Chase. You don’t think things like that during the daytime. At all. I meant: at all.
“Scratch that idea,” Cordelia grumbled, moving forward with her palm outstretched. It gave her unintentional confirmation that his shirt was still undone as the warmth of her hand pressed up against the cool flesh beneath it.
The sensation gave her a sudden reminder of the season and a reasonable excuse. “It’s winter and even if I was invisible, hello, goosebumps.”
“So no skinny dipping,” Angel chuckled at the quick change of plans. He captured the hand pressing against his chest, pulling it down to her side refusing to step back to give her more breathing room. “Any other grand ideas?”
One by one Angel turned down the outrageous ideas that Cordelia came up with to ensure he had some fun with his invisibility. Finally, she huffed, frustrated, “I give up. You’re hopeless.”
“Then maybe I need a little rescuing.”
Cordelia stared up, focusing on his voice, and suddenly suspicious. Finally, she asked half-jokingly, “Are you flirting with me?”
“Obviously not very well,” the soft sound of irony filled the air between them.
Stunned at the realization that Angel was actually throwing her a line, Cordelia felt her head spinning. “Back in Sunnydale did you…I think you kissed me.”
The hand holding hers shifted, his thumb caressing her wrist in a slow circle. Her eyes darted down to look at the spot only to shoot up again when the fingers of his free hand tucked a stray strand of hair behind her ear. “I must be out of practice if you don’t remember.”
He was joking about it? Now was not the time for him to find his sense of humor. “It was a thank you, right, just gratitude?”
“Oh.” Cordelia couldn’t hide the disappointment that filled that one short syllable.
A weighty pause followed before Angel asked her, “It surprised you?”
What was she supposed to say to that? No, I normally let my chin hit the ground that way? I was just exercising my jaw by letting it hang open? “A little. I wasn’t expecting it.”
“Then I guess there is an advantage to being invisible,” Angel dared a soft chuckle. “That surprise factor might be worth it.”
Trying to follow along, Cordelia rolled her eyes. “Why, are you planning to work your way through L.A.’s female population by playing the Invisible Kissing Bandit instead of the Dark Avenger? Steals kisses by day, saves damsels by night.”
“Now that’s definitely an idea.” Lifting her hand, Angel pressed a soft kiss along the curves of her knuckles.
Cordelia laughed, “Trust you to think that would be fun. Stick with your night job.”
Her amused smirk faltered beneath the sudden pressure of his mouth on hers. Cool lips caressed hers one by one after stealing the gasp caught between them. Only a moment longer, mouth bowed in surprise beneath him and wanting more. Following only to taste the empty air, Cordelia’s eyes snapped open.
“Angel, what was that?” There was no doubting that kiss and it certainly wasn’t on her forehead.
“Practice? Wouldn’t want to let down all of those damsels,” he told her hurriedly. It was followed by grumbled apology.
Suddenly unsure whether it was the apology or the thought of Angel kissing anyone else that made her angry, Cordelia shoved her hands back on her hips. One little kiss and he had her head swimming, her body tingling and he was just warming up for a little damsel smooching. Worse, it was her idea.
“Forget the Kissing Bandit routine.” Cordelia told him it was a lousy plan.
“Sounds a lot better than sneaking into…whose bedroom was that, again?” Angel brought up one of her other not-so-brilliant suggestions. “Jude Lawyer’s.”
As if she hadn’t mentioned the name often enough for Angel to remember, Cordelia reminded him again, “Law. Jude Law. That was what I’d do if I was invisible, not you. With you it would be some silly starlet, i.e. Rebecca Lowell.”
“Silly seer is more like it,” Angel corrected as his fingers skimmed the curve of her face, “i.e. Cordelia Chase.”
“Angel,” she said his name as if invoking it would break the spell of invisibility and let her look into his eyes. Sincerity came with his touch and his words causing Cordelia to conclude that she had been right the first time.
Almost whimsically, she smiled at him, “You really are flirting with me.”
That confident predatory purr suddenly vanished as Angel nervously asked Cordelia, “Does…is…are you okay with that?”
“More than okay,” Cordelia admitted, now seemingly unable to stop smiling at the thought alone. “I suppose it depends.”
All too seriously, Angel queried, “On what?”
“What were you planning to do in my bedroom once you snuck in there, play with my lingerie?”
“Only if you’re in it,” he said against her lips.
Though he pulled Cordelia close into his embrace, Angel’s masterful kiss never got started. Before he could claim her mouth, Cordelia ducked her head as a wave of soft chuckles overcame her. Finally, she lifted her head up, eyes sparkling as she wound her arms around Angel’s neck.
Still giggling, “You’re pretty corny for a vampire.”
“Yeah, I am,” Angel released a short groan. “Wait! Did you said corny?”
Cordelia curled her fingers along his nape toying with the short strands of his hair. Hope filled her soft query, “Wanna prove me wrong?”
He needed no second invitation. With her name on his lips, Angel kissed her, gingerly at first for daring to act upon desires that welled so deep. The barest touch trailed an internal fire as Cordelia leaned in for more, his fingers gently grazing the curve of her hip, the swell of her breast, and the line of her throat to tangle in her hair.
From the first touch of his mouth, Cordelia’s eyelids had fluttered closed. Mapping out his broad shoulders, the firm muscles of his torso, the line of his back, she greedily explored with her hands what she could no longer see, spreading warmth across his skin. Each touch, each kiss, closer to him. Instantly addicted: to him, to his kiss, to his touch, wanting more.
Tiptoe kisses, arms wound around him, held tight against his frame. Fiery response the only answer to Angel’s ardent caress, his mouth was firm and then gentle yet demanding and then giving. Shifting, their limbs tangling, no longer standing, but surrounded by the soft shifting of cotton beneath them brought only momentary distraction.
Until the cool brush of air against her heated mouth brought Cordelia’s world back into sudden focus. She lay supine against the firm mattress, Angel above her, the heady weight of his aroused body half pressed against her. She wiggled and tried to pull him back down.
“Cordy,” his cheek brushed close to hers, want thickening his words, “I need you so much, but we have to stop.”
Why? No, no, no. Cordelia couldn’t think of a reason. She didn’t want to stop. If anything, that should be her line and she wasn’t gonna say it, assuring him, “No we don’t.”
Gently separating them, Angel rolled so they lay side by side facing each other. Cordelia’s hand curled into the material of his open shirt, holding on. He said, “It’s not fair to you.”
“Pfft! Says who?” Cordelia whined in frustration, her lips swollen from their kisses.
Angel cupped her hip, bringing them close again, letting out a moan as their bodies connected. “I shouldn’t start something I might not be able to finish.”
Thinking fast, Cordelia pointed out, “Super-glued soul, remember. Lorne said so.”
“For now, but what if it’s temporary? I’m talking about more than just this moment.”
He obviously thought they were rushing into things. Cordelia never suspected that Angel wanted her this way. They’d gone from flirtation to foreplay in one fast swoop. Taking advantage of this now might be their only chance, she knew, and not only because Angel’s soul might be safe temporarily. “I know the risks.”
Worriedly, he commented, “I hope you know I’m not trying to take advantage of the situation.”
Cordelia’s hand found its way up to his face. “Maybe I am.”
Capturing her hand, Angel pressed a kiss into the center of her palm. “Be sure about this, Cordy. We only get one first time and I’m still invisible.”
“Bet you’ve never done it that way before,” her eyebrows arched high as she teased him. Then seriously, “This could be our only opportunity.”
Unexpectedly, Angel chuckled in response. “Why is that funny?” Cordelia demanded with a slight pout.
“If it turns out that my soul goes back to the status quo, it doesn’t mean that I can’t touch you,” he promised suggestively. “I guess you haven’t met my creative side.”
“As long as it doesn’t call itself Angelus and consider me a Happy Meal, I’m all for the intro.” Then Cordelia nudged his shoulder until he rolled onto his back allowing her to follow.
“There could be nibbling involved.” Pulling her more fully on top of him, he pressed his mouth to her neck and let his hands wander down her frame.
Squealing in response to the caresses that moved purposely across her skin, Cordelia cried out, “Not there, not there!” Giggling, “That tickles!” Squirming against him, she laughed, “No fair! I can’t see you.”
Just when she was nearly out of breath, Angel rolled her beneath him again, claiming her mouth and picking up where their last kiss left off. Swamped by feelings he had buried and only recently discovered, he recognized their power. Lust pulled sharply tied to instincts he could not ignore. The urge to possess her, claim her as his own, tugged against emotions that he never knew in his soulless days and that he never truly understood until now.
When he lifted his mouth a hairsbreadth away from hers, Cordelia let out a gasp, thinking he was planning to go through with his plan to stop. Instead, Angel’s words made it clear that for him this was only the beginning, “I love you.”
Going still in his arms, holding her breath and desperately wanting to look into his eyes, Cordelia confessed softly, “I love you, too.”
Knock, knock, knock…. The jarring sound was followed by Lorne’s voice calling out to them from the other side of the bedroom door. “Yoo hoo in there. Angelcakes. Princess.”
Cordelia’s head hit the mattress, “Loooorne, please, not now.”
“Come back in a week,” muttered Angel even as he moved off of the bed and helped Cordelia to her feet. This interruption was more than just bad timing.
Upon opening the door, they saw Lorne’s mouth stretched into a guilty smile, “Sorry to interrupt, sweet things, really sorry considering the scorching hot vibes.”
“What is it?” Angel’s unintentional growl suggested he get on with whatever news brought him upstairs.
Cordelia tucked her hair behind her ears, trying to make it appear like Angel hadn’t been running his hands through it. She fixed Lorne with a grumpy frown, “The hotel better be on fire.”
“Only in here, Princess,” Lorne chuckled only to drop the smile after a quick look over his shoulder. “The rest of the place is icy cold. That’s why I’m here.”
Angel understood immediately, “The Kalderash.”
Cordelia realized that Angel must sense them, hearing their voices, their movements down in the lobby. “One more reason not to like that bunch: their timing sucks.”
“They’re here and putting off the scary intense vibes,” Lorne told them. “Madame B and her cronies have come with a purpose, and whatever it is, they’re determined to see it through.”
Angel sounded the same as he responded, “We’ll be down in a minute.”
“Just one word of fashion advice,” Lorne paused on his way out.
Pfft! Cordelia pointed out that it hardly mattered, “He’s invisible.”
“The advice is for you,” Lorne explained with a wave of his fingers in her direction. “You might want to try re-buttoning that blouse before heading downstairs.”
“This is a perplexing situation,” Madame Bosha told Angel as she sought him out. “I find this invisibility distracting.”
The gypsy woman sat upon the couch in the central part of the lobby flanked by six men and women only slightly younger than she. Standing silently, their faces were drawn into masks of resolve. Madame Bosha had introduced them as elders of the clan of the Kalderash Romany; she was their speaker.
“You’re not the only one,” Cordelia cut through the silence that followed the gypsy’s observation only to find that the woman’s dark eyes now focused upon her. “Why don’t you fix it.”
“Sit next to me,” Madame Bosha patted the cushion next to her. “We will talk while the vampire brings his son.”
Angel had no intention of letting her anywhere near Connor. “He’s asleep.”
“Oh?” No sooner had she spoken than the baby’s wail sounded over the electronic monitor perched on the countertop. “I intend no harm, Cursed One. The child is the reason we are here.”
That announcement caused a commotion as the Angel Investigations team suddenly burst into questions, none of which the gypsy answered. Holding up her hands, she signaled for silence. “All will be revealed. Impatience and impertinence will not be tolerated.”
“Neither will veiled threats,” returned Angel bristling at the delay and her demands.
As Cordelia’s hand slid along his arm, her fingers curling through his, Angel felt her silent support. The Kalderash carried no weapons, not even a sharpened stake or a bottle of holy water. Despite their unarmed state, Angel wasn’t about to leave them for the length of time it took to go upstairs to attend to his son.
“Fred,” he called out without moving his gaze from the frail woman whose eyes held the knowledge of ages, “bring Connor downstairs.”
Doubt sounded as she agreed with the request. “Okay, Angel, if you’re sure you want me too.”
“It’s okay, Fred,” he assured her, hoping such confidence was merited.
“Your minions are loyal,” the gypsy woman arched a dark grey brow.
Angel knew she was trying to push his buttons. “They’re my friends.”
“So they told me when they came to my ofisa.” Then her gaze shifted from his general direction back to Cordelia. Once again, she patted the couch cushion beside her. “Do not think I have forgotten you so quickly. Come, I wish to meet the woman who is the vampire’s lover.”
Surprised choking and gasping came from Wes and Gunn as they stood behind them. Cordelia glanced down at her blouse, just to check that she’s fixed it. “Whoa, lady, I think you’re making a lot of assumptions.”
Madame Bosha gave her a hard stare, correcting herself, “His beloved, then. Come child, do not keep me waiting.”
When Cordelia started to move forward, Angel held her back long enough to ask the gypsy, “This should be between us. What do Connor and Cordelia have to do with it?”
“Perhaps everything, perhaps nothing,” came the cryptic response. “We shall see.”
“I’m not afraid,” Cordelia said. Not for her own sake. “Creeped out a little, maybe.”
“Feisty and brave,” nodded the gypsy. Then with a frown, she added, “Perhaps too brave for your own good.”
Cordelia sank onto the couch next to Madame Bosha who immediately grasped her hand in a surprisingly strong grip and turned it palm upward.
“You are caught in an abyss of beginnings and endings,” the frown deepened. “Alone you may falter. Your natal day shall bring you to the brink. Choices offered lead you to false paths. Choose neither, daughter. Let hope and trust show you the road you must take.”
Snatching her hand away, Cordelia rubbed at her palm as if it had been burned. She had no idea what Madame Bozo was talking about. Jerking to her feet, Cordelia took a step closer to Angel, but it was Lorne’s eyes that captured her startled gaze. His own appeared dark, his normally jovial expression clouded.
Between the fortune teller and the empathy demon, Cordelia realized that her secret was no longer her own. Though she doubted Lorne could tell the nature of her health problems, he had to sense something. Wes appeared to be mentally dissecting the gypsy’s words, looking for answers, while Gunn simply looked worried.
“We’ve had enough prophesies around this place,” Cordelia told her, trying not to look in Angel’s direction at all.
“Heed my words. For it is truth I speak,” Madame Bosha assured her before moving her frank gaze toward Wesley. “Have you done so? Found the truth within the lie?”
Angel had no idea what the woman was talking about and asked Wesley for details. His response remained just as enigmatic as the gypsy’s message to Cordelia. “She spoke of a false prophesy that would lead to a time of darkness. I haven’t discovered it yet. My research on the Eye of Dakronn has been consuming most of my time.”
“Ah, there is the child,” Madame Bosha watched Fred descend the steps with Connor in her arms. “Excellent. Now the judgment may truly commence.”
The gentle pressure of invisible fingers along Cordelia’s back hinted at Angel’s wishes even as he kept his focus on the gypsies gathered in his lobby. Walking over to meet Fred at the bottom of the steps, Cordelia held out her arms for the baby. Rejoining the group, she instinctively made her way back to Angel’s side.
“Bring the child to me.”
“Not a chance,” Angel responded instantly. “Not until you explain what’s going on here.”
“Very well, vampire,” Madame Bosha agreed to the terms. “I am prepared to answer your questions. Be certain that you are ready for mine.”
Angel sucked in a single breath of air into his lungs and held it there until it hurt, a silent count going off in his head centering him and demanding patience. “A century ago, your people cursed me to bear the weight of my crimes by giving me a soul. I have existed with it for nearly all of that time, though I lost it once until it was given back to me. My friends have a theory that the soul is now permanent.”
With her gnarled hands folded on her lap, Madame Bosha sat silent for long seconds before speaking. “Your crimes against my people will never be forgotten, Angelus. It is the Kalderash way to possess a long memory where such things are concerned.”
“The name’s Angel now,” Cordelia stressed.
“What difference is there in a name? Is he not the same being?”
Cordelia held Connor in one arm as she pointed out, “I’m not saying you should just forgive and forget, but that was one girl and it was over a hundred years ago. Angel has suffered enough. Trust me when I tell you he is the King of Brood.”
“Was Enyos’ demise so long ago? I think not, Miss Chase. His death preceded that of his niece Janna by mere days,” Madame Bosha’s reminder left Cordelia floundering.
She’d forgotten for a moment of that recent link to this gypsy clan. “It was I who sent Jenny Calendar to Sunnydale. I who allowed Enyos to follow. For the first time in a century of souled existence, there was a chance that Angelus would find his way to freedom.”
“That’s a dangerous loophole,” Angel commented, drowning out the ghostly echo of Jenny’s neck snapping under his grip.
“Yes,” Wesley wholeheartedly agreed. “Precisely why would you create such a clause in the first place? Bliss might be a rarity, but considering the rather libidinous nature of vampires…”
Angel cleared his throat.
“And historically speaking, Angelus could certainly be counted in that category,” Wes continued despite the attempted interruption, “the chances of closing that loop are statistically significant.”
Gunn leaned in close, muttering, “Way to go. You’ve just convinced Madame B over there that Angel’s a horny vampire.”
“Certainly not,” Wes tugged at his tie. “I was simply pointing out the inconsistency with the formulation of the curse, not acting as a character witness.”
Madame Bosha picked up her cane from its resting place beside her and tapped it on the floor. “There was no happiness clause, no loophole created. Love is the only true cure for any curse tied to the soul, to the emotions. Thus, the curse was broken.”
“We know that part,” Angel felt a little uncomfortable talking about this when the woman he now loved stood at his side. He kept his hand on the small of her back, telling her he was there and hoping she could interpret that touch. “Is the soul permanent?”
“Did the Eye of Dakronn not reveal this to you?”
“Did it?” Angel asked the others for confirmation. “Lorne thinks so.”
“The demon possesses the gift to see what others cannot,” nodded Madame Bosha. “To read a mind, a heart, a soul is far different than understanding whether that soul may be here today or gone tomorrow.”
Lorne completely agreed with that statement. “I saw the difference after you became invisible.”
“Only after you were exposed to the mystic wavelengths emitted by the invisibility ray,” Fred stressed the timeframe. “Since the Eye of Dakronn is the power source of the ray gun, technically it did exactly what Madame Bosha said it would: reveal that which is hidden, your soul.”
“That’s kinda cool,” Gunn admitted. “Did I tell you I really hate this mystic mumbo jumbo?”
Madame Bosha answered with a sardonic twist of her wrinkled lips, “I believe that you have mentioned it before, Gadje.”
“So…,” Cordelia started off, but faltered as the gypsy’s words finally sunk in. “You’re saying that Lorne is right? That Angel’s soul is permanent?”
“We Kalderash cursed him, observed him, but we have nothing to do with securing the vampire’s soul,” admitted the old woman.
Wesley had to ask about the invisibility reversal process and his concerns about the Eye of Dakronn actually removing the soul. His theory garnered hearty laughter from all of the Kalderash present.
Finally, Madame Bosha explained, “The Eye is a bauble, an ancient toy imbued with Romany majicks. It can hide or reveal the truth. That which we see, that which is unseen, that which we know, that which is unknown. It certainly has no power to secure or remove a soul.”
All around him, Angel heard the excited responses of his friends. Cordelia held up Connor to eye level, her smile beaming as she said, “Did you hear that, sweetie pie? Daddy can be visible again.”
Angel wondered if he was the only one thinking that the gypsies hadn’t come here to tell him his soul was secure, to wish him well or to make him visible again. They had come with a purpose that was yet to be fully revealed. Still, he had to ask, “Would you mind if I spent the rest of this little inquisition in visible form?”
“Not at all. While you are taking care of that, perhaps now would be a good time for me to meet your son,” Madame Bosha suggested.
Angel hesitated then changed his mind, “It can wait. You’re a stranger, Madame Bosha. You’re here at your own invitation and you haven’t explained why you’ve come.”
“Fair enough. You are a unique creature, Angelus…Angel,” she corrected at Cordelia’s harrumph. “In a sense, we the Kalderash are your creators. Until recently, there was little else to show for our efforts except that which we intended: your suffering. You remained separated from your kind and though you lived amongst humans for part of that time, you remained a loner.”
She asked pointedly, “What changed that?”
“I was contacted,” Angel began and told her about his meeting with Whistler.
“So you began your service to the Powers that Be without truly understanding their plan for you.”
Frankly, he still didn’t understand all of the plan. “I came to L.A. after that. The PTB sent me a seer, Doyle, to receive the visions that lead me on my missions.”
Madame Bosha pulled out a small white calling card from her skirt pocket. “Angel Investigations.”
“We help the hopeless,” chimed in Cordelia with a charming smile. At least one she hoped was charming. “Angel’s a hero, a champion, one of the good guys.”
“Yes,” nodded the gypsy with a wry look toward Fred, her black eyes glittering. “I believe I was given that information, too.”
Cordelia added, “Well a good defense is… a good defense. All’s fair in love and war and curses so why don’t you folks call it a day. There is no need to throw any hasty judgments around here.”
A hint of a smile appeared on the old woman’s face, her thin lips curling slightly at the corners. “You are Angel’s seer now, his link to the Powers. You are his beloved, the link to his heart, but you are not the reason his soul is secure. That is actually…”
“What…you’re saying th—,” Cordelia couldn’t even bring herself to consider that the old gypsy might suggest that Buffy, or worse, even Darla might be his soulmate.
“She’s wrong,” Angel assured her, placing both hands on Cordelia’s shoulders and glaring ineffectively at the gypsy. Glaring techniques were useless when invisible.
The cane tapped on the floor again, a grumpy demand following, “Quiet. No more interruptions. Tell me vampire, when do you believe it happened? Was it the night your son was conceived?”
Angel hesitated because he knew Cordelia would immediately think about Darla and that was never a good thing. His sire was a forbidden topic, not that he wanted to talk about everything that had happened. Still, he had no choice, but to admit the truth. “Yes.”
He felt Cordelia’s shoulders stiffen beneath his hands, but she said nothing. Madame Bosha, on the other hand, was not so quiet. “Your colleague spoke of the prophetic birth of your son. A miracle in anyone’s eyes, a human conceived by two vampires.”
“I didn’t tell you that,” Wes hadn’t mentioned Darla at all.
“You are not the only one who can do research,” the gypsy shrugged. “I have a few contacts who have contacts. You are fond of theories, Mr. Wyndam-Pryce, and I have one that I will share with you all.”
Cordelia muttered, “Why stop now?”
“The Powers are responsible for the child’s conception,” to which Cordelia let out a soft snort. “Therefore it is they who are also responsible for securing the vampire’s soul. If it was not necessary for the conception itself, then it certainly must be for the child’s development.”
She added, “It is not the way of the Kalderash to deny a human child the love and happiness of his father. So too must it be with the Powers.”
Angel cupped Connor’s head, his thumb smoothing over the downy hair. He wished that it could be so simple, but he had to point out, “The prophesies aren’t exactly pleasant. There isn’t much room in them for happiness.”
Then Wes cut in with a reminder of Madame Bosha’s reading, quoting her, “‘False prophesies surround him.’ Angel, there is no way to tell if that is true. The prophesy itself could be tainted. I can’t be certain. Perhaps I should continue interpretation of the scroll.”
“Vampire, I require your cooperation if the child is to pass the judgment of the clan,”
Madame Bosha explained.
Discovering that it was Connor rather than Angel who was to be judged by whatever measure the Kalderash intended resulted in another round of loud complaints.
Finally, the old gypsy’s quiet voice silenced them all. “Vengeance is an old Romany tradition. It is a way of life, a belief that the only way to settle a debt is to take and eye for an eye, a life for a life, a soul for a soul.”
“But you gave a soul to Angel,” Gunn pointed out the flaw in her logic.
“Bah! It served its purpose,” she waved off the interruption. “The birth of the child is a sign that the debt owed to us may now be repaid. A Gadje he may be, but to the Rom, he shall be known as a son of the Kalderash.”
“What the hell does that mean?” demanded Angel forgetting to bother with feigned politeness. “My son isn’t going anywhere.”
Holding up her hand, Madame Bosha signaled for peace. “That is not our intent. My people have few written histories. Most are passed down through the generations in stories and legends. Each child of the clan learns of our past through these tales. It is our decision that your son will hear them. He will know the history of the people you destroyed in your soulless state.”
Angel suddenly realized that the Kalderash had no power here. His soul was secure. His invisibility was just a reversal away from being a bad memory. Nothing obligated him to letting this gypsy clan have access to his son; nothing except his own guilt and a sense that he owed them something.
“I have no objections to my son learning the Kalderash history,” Angel told her, “as long as it’s under my supervision.”
Madame Bosha eventually got her hands on Connor, after which the tough old gypsy transformed her countenance into that of a cuddly grandma. Her clansmen relaxed once she announced the boy to be a strong specimen.
After another hour of talking out the details of this future endeavor, the Kalderash left them on their own.
“Nana Bosha,” Cordelia rolled her eyes and let out a loud ‘pfft’ as she sounded out what the old gypsy wanted them to call her. “Why didn’t she say so in the letter? Applying for a role as a foster grandma is a lot less threatening than telling someone to prepare for judgment.”
“Cryptic imagery is very big with the Romany clans,” Wes commented. “As a matter of fact…”
Angel cut in, “I hate to interrupt…actually, I don’t mind at all. Now seems like a good time to get the Invisibility Ray and fix my little problem.”
“Already got it,” Fred held up the device.
She was about to point it in Angel’s direction when Gunn stopped her. “Can I do it? I mean, how often can a guy say he’s blasted his ex-boss with a real ray gun?”
“Just point and shoot,” Angel told him. “Keep the commentary to yourself.”
Lorne offered to take Connor out of the room. “Just in case,” he added on his way into Wesley’s office.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” asked Angel just as Gunn pulled the trigger. A bright beam shot out hitting its target dead center.
Angel shut his eyes and waited for the pain that had come with the initial blast. The only thing he felt was the lush womanly form of Cordelia crashing into him a moment later as she threw herself against him, her joyous laughter ringing in his ears.
“Cordy?” his arms automatically wound around her waist.
“There’s my favorite hunk of salty goodness,” she murmured, hugging him tight. “I missed your face.”
Relief that everything seemed to have worked came out with a sigh, “So you can see me?”
“Mmm hmm,” she grinned. “I’m thinking we should celebrate.”
The triumphant faces of his friends suggested they had the same idea. Thought he felt certain Cordelia had something more private in mind. “I’m thinking we were interrupted earlier.”
Cordelia grinned, “I’m thinking you’re right.”
“Guess we’re on the same wavelength again,” Angel joked, earning him a patented eye-roll. His fingers skimmed the outline of her face, tilting her chin as his mouth descended onto hers.
Unstoppable laughter burst forth as Cordelia cheerfully said, “Dork.”
Angel growled back, “I can see that I’ll have to cure you of laughing every time I try to kiss you.”
Behind them, Fred was grinning at the sight while Gunn pointed the Invisibility Ray in their direction. He asked Wes, “Can I zap, ‘em? I got a feeling we’re gonna regret those two getting together. We can’t see it if they’re invisible.”
“Hmmm,” Wesley appeared to consider it, adjusting his glasses a bit at the sight of Cordelia kissing Angel with enthusiasm. “You may be right.”
Whirling on them, Fred glared at the two men. “Charles, you put the gun down and back away slowly.”
Gunn played along and Fred immediately picked up the device.
She smirked at both of them. “I’ve got an Invisibility Ray. That is so cool.”