The Offices of Angel Investigations
It began with a question. A simple one, but its meaning struck a note that resonated a warning in Angel’s brain as Doyle asked him, “Tell me something about Cordelia.”
The Irish half-demon had just suggested to Cordelia that if she wanted to spend one night away from her horrific apartment, she should let him know, hinting that she could stay at his place. Angel, sitting at his desk reading, expected Cordelia’s usual snarky comeback putting Doyle firmly in his place, but that wasn’t what it sounded like to him. Not at all.
He was out of his chair and standing in the doorway watching them by the time Cordelia finished responding. There was an almost playful smile on Cordelia’s ripe peach lips. The way she looked in that long green skirt and cream overlay top with her dark chestnut hair long and loose over her shoulders, Angel supposed he couldn’t fault Doyle for trying.
He just hadn’t expected to hear Cordelia answering back with equal amounts of flirtation in her voice.
Maybe that was just the moment Angel decided enough was enough. It all actually started the moment Cordelia came back into his life elbowing her way into just as much as Doyle had done. Her charming smile making it impossible to resist agreeing to anything she and Doyle had up their sleeves.
The girl from Sunnydale certainly made an impression, one that wasn’t lost on him. Though he hadn’t taken conscious notice except to point out to Doyle what was basically an echo of his own thoughts. “You think she’s a hottie.”
That was stating the obvious. Cordelia’s beauty was there for any man to see and Angel had glimpsed moments that suggested a vulnerability she tried to hide. There was the Queen C façade she’d hidden behind for most of her high school years. He’d seen a change, though honestly his thoughts had been so focused on Buffy that he never truly knew her.
Blunt to the point of being tactless, she’d amused him more than anyone might guess. He recalled her relentless pursuit of him before she knew he was a vampire. Then it was hands-off leaving him to Buffy.
In retrospect, that still stung a little.
He could have had her anytime before then. The random thought disturbed him at the time. What was he doing thinking of Cordelia that way? Doyle’s fault. The seer couldn’t seem to stop yammering about her. Cordelia this. Princess that. His little come-ons seemed to amuse or irritate her at first, but Angel was beginning to think that was all some feminine ploy.
Doyle was turning up the heat and Cordelia seemed to be lapping it up like a sponge. Angel couldn’t say why he hated the idea. He simply did. It might be one thing if he knew more about Doyle. So he was a good guy, chosen by the PTB as their seer. But he was a demon, half-demon, with a somewhat shady past and dealings he wouldn’t fully reveal. Potentially a bad influence. Plus, he refused to tell Cordelia the truth about himself.
Angel knew Cordelia wouldn’t like the lies and considering her initial reaction to his own status as a vampire, he couldn’t see Cordelia going after half-demon Doyle. At least, she wouldn’t if she knew the truth.
He was concerned. Just protecting her. That’s all it was. It began with never leaving them alone. But they joked and flirted anyway.
So Angel sent Doyle off to the police station instead of going himself. Leaving him to research with Cordelia. She made some blonde comments, surprised that he hadn’t gone himself to see ‘Cagney & Lacey Kate’. Defending his decision, Angel reminded Cordelia that it was still daylight, not bothering to point out that he could easily have gotten there using the sewer system.
Angel knew now that Doyle hadn’t exactly been keen on going to the police station himself, but agreed after it was made clear that it was an order. Cordelia sounded a little miffed that Angel sent Doyle there resulting in him thinking she was jealous because Doyle was talking to Kate Lockley.
After taking more time than was necessary, Doyle returned triumphantly having obtained the necessary information. Cordelia was all over him, proud that he did a good job, hugging him and joking about having to deal with Kate.
Seeing Cordelia’s arms around Doyle tied Angel up in knots. He couldn’t stand her touching him even in this friendly way. Though he didn’t quite understand why the sight made him feel that way. He was too busy glowering over the thought that it wasn’t just a friendly hug, but something more.
Back at Kate’s Place
“So you were jealous,” Kate easily deduced from the limited version that Angel gave her.
Cordelia listened managing to stop herself from interrupting Angel’s little soliloquy. It was too difficult to stay quiet any longer. “Pfft! That’s an understatement.”
Glowering at Cordelia now, Angel recognized that it was best to stay silent on that one, for the moment.
Doyle explained to Kate, “Vampires are rather possessive about things and people. Knowing how protective Angel was when it came to Cordelia, I just played off that a bit. He didn’t know what hit him.”
Angel Investigations, Underground Parking Garage
Walking up to his car in the underground parking garage, Angel reached for the door handle of his car only to go tumbling against the wall as a large beam smashed him over the head. It was Spike, vamped out and fighting. Here for one obvious reason: the Ring of Amarra.
“Angel, I believe you have something I’m looking for— a shiny little bauble,” Spike took the opportunity while his grandsire was down to explain his demands.
Picking himself up off of the ground, Angel told the peroxided vampire, “Might as well go home, Spike. The Ring of Amarra stays with me.”
Angry at that response, though Spike truly expected it, he swung the wooden beam at Angel again. The larger vampire caught it in one hand and hit Spike across the chin, in the stomach and then knocked him to the floor. Spike slowly gets back up, board in hand again.
“Why?” Spike asked derisively. “Because you are a vampire detective now? What’s next? Vampire cowboy? Vampire fireman? Oh, vampire ballerina.”
Charging Angel with the beam, Spike heard the snarky response, “I do like to work with my legs.” Grabbing an overhead pipe, he swung both feet into Spike’s chest sending him into a hard fall.
Spike quickly picked himself up and kept stabbing at his grandsire with the beam while Angel danced around like a boxer, dodging the board. When Spike tried to pin him to the hood of the car, Angel kicked him off, taking the beam away from him in the process. Then twirling the beam in his hands, Angel mocked him for such a pitiful attempt at reclaiming the ring.
“We duke it out, huh? This is your strategy to get the ring back?” Angel sneered.
Attacking again, Spike misses as Angel fended him off with the beam managing to pin the English vamp to the car. Spike only complained, “Hey, I had a plan!”
Angel all but laughed at him. The other vampire was infamous for his impulsiveness. “You? A plan?” Not that the lack of one had ever deterred Spike from getting in the middle of trouble, or better yet, causing it.
Spike growled. “A good plan. A smart plan. Carefully laid out. But I got bored,” he admitted while hitting Angel and pinning him up against the wall. “All that watching and waiting…, my legs started to cramp.” Throwing Angel up against the door leading out, told the souled vampire, “Enough with the hit-n-quip. Just tell me where the damn ring is.”
Turning around, Angel had shed his human features allowing his demon to rise to the surface as his irritation with Spike increased. “It wouldn’t go with your outfit.” Hitting Spike for a while felt pretty damn good just to pay him back for interrupting his own plans.
They included helping a client and Spike was delaying him responding. Angel threw Spike against the concrete wall of the garage just as Doyle & Cordelia arrived.
Quick to see that he might turn it to his advantage, Spike got to his feet and zeroed in on the former Sunnydale cheerleader. “Cordelia. You look smashing. Did you lose weight?”
Automatically responding, “Yes, there’s this great gym— hey!”
Spike smirked in a way only secondary to Angelus himself. Offering quite honestly, “I’d give you a good workout, luv.”
Angel stepped closer, his rage at the innuendo keeping his vamp face firmly in place, the feral growl telling Spike everything he needed to know. Turning back to him, “I’ll get that ring. This isn’t over until one of us is a pile of dust, mate.”
Darting off, Spike ran as if a pride of lions was on his tail. Worse, one pissed off poof of a grandsire was more than enough. Fortunately for him, Cordelia made a timely interception pulling Angel into a relieved hug despite that his vampire features were still firmly in place.
“Angel, are you okay?” Genuine worry sounded in her voice as she pulled back just enough to press her palm against his face. She knew Spike was not just an ordinary demon. Like Angel, he was a master vampire of the Aurelius clan and possessed a wily imagination when it came to scheming.
Still caught up in the way Spike spoke to Cordelia, Angel wrapped his arm around her waist, not letting her go even after she released her hold on his neck.
Doyle was quick to cut to the significant topic, “More importantly, how’s the ring?”
“It’s fine,” Angel revealed as he morphed back to his human face. “I can’t say the same for you two, though. You’d better get out of sight until this thing is over. Spike is out for blood.”
He felt Cordelia’s spine stiffen at his words. She wasn’t about to verbally admit her fear, but it was clear that she knew a run-in with Spike would not end well. It really killed him to suggest it, but Cordelia’s safety was far more important than his own jealousy over her close friendship with Doyle.
Telling his seer, “Take her to your place,” Angel released Cordelia from his arms.
Cordelia looked confused and none-too-happy with the idea. “Why can’t I just go home?”
“Because he knows you, Cordelia. If he wants to, he’ll track you down,” Angel said.
Shrugging, Cordelia agreed that Spike could probably do that if he got it in his head to do so, “Yeah, but he’s not invited, right? He can’t come in.”
Doyle immediately understood what Angel feared. “No, but he can burn the place to the ground with you in it.”
After that description, Cordelia readily changed her mind. “Okay, Doyle’s place it is.”
“What about you, man?” asked Doyle concerned. “You know he’ll be coming back for you before long.”
“I know,” but Angel was resolved to see it through as long as Cordelia stayed safe, and despite his contrary feelings, figured Doyle was the only one he knew and could trust to take care of her.
Cordelia’s hazel eyes were big and bright as she asked, “So what are you going to do?”
“Find him first,” Angel told her, resolved to do anything to end this.
The look she gave him was full of confidence, as though Cordelia believed he could accomplish anything he put his mind to despite the fact that Spike was dangerous.
Her lush lips pressed together in a determined line as her hand traced the sleeve of his jacket and gripped his hand for a moment. “Alright, let’s go.”
Angel knew the situation with Spike was probably far more dangerous than Cordelia might imagine. He knew the fight for the Ring of Amarra wasn’t going to be simple; not as easy as a brawl in a parking garage that was certain. Angel traced his fingers over Cordelia’s face as if memorizing its curves and the green-gold flecks in her hazel eyes.
She waited for him to say something, but Angel couldn’t say goodbye. It had a ring of finality to it that he didn’t want to put to voice. Not with her.
When Cordelia moved away as his hands dropped to his sides, Angel grabbed Doyle and leaned in to issue a final order he knew the seer would obey without hesitation. “You take care of her.”
Doyle’s cheeks dimpled despite the gravity of the situation. “Oh, I will.”
Kate Lockley’s Apartment
Doyle made a long story short by describing the fight over the Ring of Amarra. Angel was so distracted after killing the vampire Spike had hired to torture the information out of him, and after experiencing being able to stand in the sunlight, that he hardly noticed that Cordelia had organized his rescue.
She’d been busy checking him for injuries that had suddenly healed thanks to the power of the ring and asking about Angel being okay that Cordelia probably never realized the extent of her protective behavior.
Like Angel, it wasn’t just friendship driving her actions. Not that either one of them noticed.
Except Doyle. As always, he was watching.
Kate listened to Doyle’s spin on the events surrounding the fight for the mystic gem. Knowing now that vampires were real enough, she had to believe that this story was also true. Though it didn’t surprise her in the least that Cordelia would do anything in her power to save Angel, the thought of magical rings called to something from her childhood that left her smiling.
“You have a ring that makes you invulnerable?”
Glancing down at the vampire’s hands, one of them resting on the table next to his wine glass, the other curled around Cordelia’s, she noted that neither one appeared to have a ring with a gem in it.
“Not anymore,” Angel answered glancing toward Cordelia from the periphery of his vision.
“He destroyed it,” commented Cordelia on a sour note. The fact was still a bone of contention between them whenever the subject came up.
Finding it difficult to comprehend that anyone would do that, Kate could only echo Cordelia’s words as a question, “Destroyed it?”
“Power corrupts, Kate,” explained Angel hoping that Cordelia would also understand now that he was free to share his true feelings about it with her and with everyone.
“As long as that ring existed, I knew Spike and others like him would never give up trying to get it. Keeping the ring, I might be invulnerable, but the people around me are not.” His dark gaze shifted to Cordelia. After a pause, he added, “I couldn’t risk that.”
Cordelia wavered between looking irritated and wanting to kiss him. Leaning in close, both of them smiling, she pulled back at the last second to say,
“Angel conveniently forgets that I’ve kicked a little demon ass and dusted a few vampires without him being around. He just has this whole Dark Ages chivalrous thing going on.”
“I’m not that old,” Angel sat back abruptly. “I wasn’t alive in the Dark Ages.”
“Pfft! You should see him play with his sword,” commented Cordelia with a shrug.
Kate blinked twice before asking, “Pardon?”
Cringing as he realized where Cordelia’s innocent statement automatically was taking his thoughts, Angel knew any response of his would only get him into trouble. Even though she hadn’t meant it that way, Angel had gotten in quite a lot of one-on-one ‘swordplay’ in the weeks prior to them getting together.
Not that he let himself believe it was all about Cordelia. She was just the obvious target for his lustful imaginings because she was there. Normally, he maintained a tight control over his body and the direction of his thoughts, but his petty jealousy over Doyle and Cordelia’s easy and growing friendship kept his thoughts on her.
With that focus it was only a natural hop, skip and jump away from imagining Cordelia and him: with him, under him, on top of him, just beside him. For a thankfully brief period, he acted no better than a horny teenager and chivalrous feelings were the furthest thing from his mind when it came to Cordelia Chase.
High above the ground, on top of a skyscraper neighboring the offices of Angel Investigations, Doyle managed to find Angel. Still wearing the ring, he stared into the glow of the setting sun as he contemplated his decision.
“So how long has it been between sunsets?” Doyle approached slowly.
Angel barely looked away from the horizon, now a brilliant orange with the ever darkening sky above it twinkling with stars. “Two hundred years give or take.”
“Well you got to be feeling pretty damn good then, huh?” Doyle grinned. “I mean this ring— changes everything, don’t it?”
Falling silent again, Angel quickly reviewed the tempting images that flashed through his mind: Cordelia in sunlight with him at her side; taking her to the beach midday, picnics on the sand.
Doyle’s own excitement made him miss the resolve that masked sadness in Angel’s dark eyes. Looking at the horizon, he thought the vampire was just caught up in its beauty. “Yeah, it’s spectacular, I know. But I do promise that there will be another one exactly like it tomorrow.”
“Not for me,” a twinge of bitterness sounded accompanied by steadfast resolve and determination.
Confused, Doyle asked, “What are you saying? That the city will be hit by a meteor before tomorrow night or…”
Suddenly, his friend’s decision was all too clear. “No,” Doyle glanced down at the ring and shook his head in denial that Angel could even consider it. An ache settled in his chest at the thought of what the vampire was about to give up. “It’s too horrible to say the other. I can’t even bring myself to say the other.”
“I’m not going to wear the ring,” Angel told him determinedly, the muscles of his jaw clenched. The dangers of keeping it would far outweigh any possible happiness he would gain from wearing it. Not if it endangered the people he cared about.
“That was the other,” Doyle shook his head unwilling to simply accept what seemed like a crazy decision, especially considering all that Angel would gain by keeping that ring. “You got a real addiction to the brooding part of your life. Anyone ever tell you that?”
“Once or twice,” admitted Angel with a hint of a wry smile lifting the corner of his mouth, his thought turning back to Cordelia again.
Doyle wanted to hear more than just a decision. “Care to explain? I mean this ring is your redemption. It’s what you’ve been waiting for.”
Shaking his head, Angel disagreed, “Nah, it just looks like it.”
The Ring of Amarra wasn’t redemption, but temptation. The easy path to getting something Angel thought he wanted, but couldn’t have: sunlight. He’d been brought back from hell itself for a reason and this mission was about helping those who get lost in the night, not about 18 holes at Rancho or feeling the warmth of the sun on your skin.
Cordelia was his warmth, his sunshine. He felt that with every touch and every smile she bestowed, even if it was unconsciously made. Keeping that ring would only put her in danger. Because Spike and any number of others would eventually come for the ring and that next time anyone with him would be in harms way. Next time, she wouldn’t get away without a scratch.
Angel knew that he couldn’t have both Cordelia and the ring. That made the decision easy.
“Angel, man, think what you are saying,” Doyle attempted to change his mind.
“I have,” the vampire assured him. “I’ve thought of it from every angle.”
The sun set beyond the line of the horizon leaving only darkness, starlight and the reflected light of the moon shining on their faces. Before Doyle’s disbelieving eyes, Angel removed the Ring of Amarra, placed it on the ledge between them and, after lifting a loose brick, smashed it.
The Offices of Angel Investigations
Consciously admitting his feelings for Cordelia were actually something more than protective brotherly ones was a shock for Angel. Hadn’t he learned his lesson with Buffy? Cordelia deserved no less than she did: a man who could share his life with her. Someone who could give her sunlight and children and all of the other things she so richly deserved.
That wasn’t him, nor would it ever be. But it obviously wouldn’t be Doyle, either. The hell if Angel was going to let Doyle have what he denied himself.
Having exited the elevators from his basement apartment, Angel soundlessly walked into hearing range as Cordelia commented to Doyle, “This is a business. We should be running it like one. We should be charging. I know Angel has been working day and night helping people fight their personal demons, but I need a raise!”
Doyle laughed at her reasoning. “A raise? What, you’ve been working for him for like twenty minutes.”
“A month,” Cordelia corrected as if he didn’t know already, “and I have needs.”
“A person needs certain designer— things,” she explained as Angel emerged from the shadows to lean up against the doorframe behind them. Both seemed engrossed in their conversation, not noticing his stealthy arrival.
Giving Cordelia a long look, Doyle leered playfully, “Personally, I don’t think you need much in the way of clothes.”
Angel’s eyes narrowed at the seer’s comment.
“But you’re right, and I do agree,” Doyle admitted before either Cordelia or Angel could say anything about his tendency to mentally strip anything in a skirt. “Angel needs to start charging. He just hates bringing up the finances with the clients. He likes playing the hero, walking off into the dark with his long coat flowing behind him in a mysterious and attractive way.”
Finding her thoughts focused on that image just as Doyle intended, Cordelia caught herself on an indrawn breath and defensively joked, “Is this a private moment? Cos I can leave you two alone.”
“No, no,” Doyle held up his hands. Trust Cordelia to twist his words around to her own advantage. “I’m not saying I’m attracted. I’m just saying he projects a certain kind of image and that asking for money isn’t part of it. He’s sensitive about that.”
What more did it take to drum the idea into the girl’s head? Stubborn little thing.
Noticing Angel’s presence, with his broad shoulder held up by the frame of the door. Cordelia elbowed Doyle, leaning in and whispering conspiratorially, “Ok, we’re going to stand up to him.”
Straightening up from his position of leaning on the edge of the desk, Doyle quipped, “Yup, standing up.”
The look on Angel’s face suggested he already had a hint of the conversation. She opened her mouth to speak and then thought twice before suggesting to Doyle, “Just as soon as he’s had his coffee.”
Doyle didn’t mind the delay in the least, “Right.”
Angel walked over to the coffee pot out of habit. It was what Cordelia expected, so he didn’t mind following suit. Both Cordelia and Doyle wore suspicious smiles on their faces and if Angel hadn’t already heard them talking about money, he might have suspected something else.
Then again, they had been joking about him instead of agreeing that he might be dark and mysteriously attractive. Cordelia obviously had more interest in Doyle and in making money than him.
“Morning,” he offered them an opening despite the urge to glower at them both.
Minutes later, Doyle’s vision about Melissa Burns, employee of the Pardell Paper Company, distracted them from the conversation about money much to Angel’s relief. He simply didn’t believe they should charge for helping people. It seemed wrong to do so. He’d survived without a salary for two hundred plus years. Not that he’d had rent, utilities or employees before.
Angel headed through the sewers to the paper company to confront the future victim and offer her their services. Only things hadn’t gone as smoothly as anticipated. She turned down his help, but Angel left one of their calling cards behind in case she changed her mind. Returning to AI, Angel informed Doyle & Cordelia, “I scared her.”
Doyle, sitting close to Cordelia as usual, commented, “Sounds like she was scared to begin with.”
Pacing, Angel turned back to them, “Am I intimidating? I mean do I put people off?”
Glancing up at him, Cordelia offered him a smile, “Well, as vampires go, you’re pretty cuddly.” Angel only repeated that word in his head and tried to hold back his demon’s sudden fury at the comparison. Cuddly? She thought he was cuddly. That might not be so bad. Then she added, “Maybe you want to think about mixing up the black on black look.”
Looking down at his clothing of a black shirt, black pants and his black leather coat, Angel frowned at the thought that there was something wrong about the outfit. Then he turned his thoughts back to the issue at hand. Suggesting to Cordelia, “Maybe you should talk to her.”
Cordelia told him, “When she hires us, I’ll get involved.”
Even Doyle had to agree that they should barge into the woman’s life when it was clear that she didn’t want them there. “Cordelia is right.”
“I don’t think so,” Angel told them as he walked over to lean up against the table. “I’ve got a bad feeling that we need to get involved now. This shouldn’t be about money.”
“It isn’t,” Doyle said.
Already geared up for putting their plan into action, Cordelia automatically agreed, “Yeah you should listen to…,” she stopped to give Doyle a hard look. “It isn’t?”
“No, it’s about doing what’s best for the people you’ve helped, Doyle watched Angel straighten up. “People get attached to a mysterious savior, and can you blame them? But as long as you’re just a man who’s doing a job and getting paid, they can feel like they’ve paid their debt to you and they can move on independent like.”
The subterfuge was not lost on Angel, but he saw the way Cordelia gave Doyle the credit for coming up with that explanation. “You’re a lot smarter than you look,” she told the seer before flirtatiously joking with him, “of course you look like a retard.”
Angel’s jaw tightened almost imperceptibly at the way Cordelia and Doyle smiled at each other. Only Cordelia could insult a man and have him drooling for more. He realized they still spent a lot of time together when he wasn’t around and Angel quickly came to hate that idea deciding that was going to stop.
An opportunity came later in the case, a time when Angel would normally have gone looking for information from their one Police Department contact, but gave the task to Doyle instead.
“Again?” Doyle groused about having to go anywhere near the police station.
“You contacted Kate Lockley the last time,” Angel reminded. “Makes sense that you do so again. Familiar face.”
For Cordelia’s benefit, Doyle pointed out, “I’m not the member of this team Katie girl is interested in seeing, man. I think she’s into tall, dark mysterious types.”
Cordelia quipped, “Your entire existence is a mystery, Doyle.”
Surely Angel wasn’t at fault for believing she was jealous of Doyle and Kate seeing each other even in this capacity. For Angel, it was an easy mistake to make.
“Give Kate a little credit. She’s a capable officer. You don’t have to guess where you stand with someone like her,” Angel pointed out. She either accepted you or you’d be thrown to the wolves. Cordelia was the big mystery. She gave off so many mixed signals, it drove him crazy wanting to strangle her— and just wanting her.
“Really,” an icy tone crept into Cordelia’s voice. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
Hesitates, Angel realized he hadn’t really meant to say that about Kate. Since when was Cordelia’s runaway mouth contagious? He tried to fix it by saying, “Kate seems uncomplicated. Easy to understand where she’s coming from. Don’t you think so, Doyle?”
Wisely, Doyle said nothing, trying to give Angel the high signal to shut up, but the vampire only continued without realizing that he was sinking into deep quicksand. “You, on the other hand…”
Realizing that Angel was about to make a comparison, Cordelia snapped, “You know, Angel, it’s actually a lot harder being one-dimensional than it is to be like me. Ask Kate! She even has a gold star.”
Cordelia stalked out of the office leaving Angel gaping in confusion at her response and Doyle wearing a pitiful expression as he stared back at the vampire. His little mission to get those two together might be impossible.
“Two hundred forty plus years on this planet and you still haven’t got a clue about women. No wonder you brood so much.”