“Vampires don’t have reflections,” Angel pointed out needlessly. “Whatever you saw couldn’t have been me.”
Cordelia moved her hands to his chest and pushed herself out of his arms. Standing back, she tucked her hair behind her ears, licked her dry lips and tried to calm down. “I know what I saw. You walked up behind me and…”
Turning ten shades of red wasn’t the norm for Cordelia, but he could feel the heat of her blush. She captured her bottom lip between her teeth, tugging nervously at the plump flesh. Whatever it was Angel was supposed to have done, she seemed to find it disturbing.
“That—that mirror isn’t normal.”
Maybe he was a little too curious about the cause of the blushes, but Angel was no longer in a hurry to leave. He stepped closer to the mirror, planning to inspect it and fully expecting to see nothing but the reflection of the room in its silvery surface. Cordelia grasped his arm and moved along beside him inching closer despite her fear of what she might see.
There was a man in the mirror standing next to Cordelia, one dressed like him. Angel could only presume that it was him and tried to recall the details of the sepia-toned daguerreotypes that were taken so long ago.
“See,” Cordelia poked him with a finger. “Told you.”
Angel leaned in, raising a hand to his head. “Does my hair really look like that?”
“Hello, that’s not important right now,” he received another poke of his ribs. “Pay attention, Angel. You can worry about your gel issues later.”
Staring at the reflection, Angel couldn’t help but marvel at the fact that he could see himself. Damn, he looked good. Really good. He looked better than he remembered. When Cordelia’s words finally registered, he met her gaze in the mirror. “Gel issues?”
“Are the least of our problems,” Cordelia huffed as he turned to face her. “We’ve got a magic mirror on our hands.”
He’d have thought she’d be more enthusiastic about it. But, truthfully, anything that could produce the reflection of a vampire had to have a pretty powerful spell cast upon it. Chances were that its purpose had nothing to do with vampires at all. “What exactly did you see?”
Cordelia let out a deep sigh. “It’s stupid. We should just forget we found this thing.”
“Maybe I’ll keep it in my room.”
Grabbing hold of his wrist, Cordelia tried to drag him toward the exit. When he didn’t budge, she let him go, calling him a stubborn, narcissistic doofus. The name calling didn’t bother him so much as her avoidance of telling him what she’d seen. This time he demanded answers, “Cordy, tell me what you saw.”
She glared at him for a few seconds, refusing to speak. “Fine. You want to know? I’ll show you. Look at me.”
Angel was already facing her. He let his gaze drop down from those angry hazel eyes to the soft curve of her lips, the creamy golden skin of her throat down to the swell of her breasts and the little glimpse of cleavage his height afforded him. The sudden smack of her hand against his arm caught his attention. Annoyed at the distraction, he flicked his gaze back to hers.
“You asked me to look.”
“I meant my reflection.”
Turning slowly, Angel was glad that vampires didn’t blush. He focused on Cordelia’s image in the mirror. Slowly, it hit him. It wasn’t just the room that looked perfect. So did their clothes. There was no sign of the traces of dust they’d picked up during their room to room search. And Cordy’s hair wasn’t quite the tangled mess she’d just made by running her hands through it.
The sight distracted him from other observations as he thought about the fact that he liked Cordelia’s long hair. It looked so soft, touchable. He wondered how it would feel if he let his fingers comb through it, if it trailed across his skin as they—
“See!” Cordelia pointed frantically at the mirror. “You’re touching me.”
Angel’s hands were clenched closed at his sides. He was certainly not touching her, but his mirror image was doing just that by lifting his hand to the silky strands of Cordelia’s hair, running his fingertips through it, lifting it to his lips.
“We’re leaving,” Angel swiftly guided Cordelia out of the room without looking back at the mirror. The floor boards creaked beneath them as they scurried back into the hall. They shut the door to the suite leaning back against it as they looked anywhere but at each other.
Breathily, Cordelia muttered, “Well that was weird.”
“We should probably get an expert to check that mirror out,” Angel certainly wasn’t going back in there with Cordy anytime soon.
“An expert,” Cordy nodded. “Right.”
Down in the lobby, Wesley had steeped his tea to perfection having finally decided to take a break from research when his name echoed down from above. The tea cup crashed against the floor in tiny porcelain shards. He nearly slipped on the spilt tea as he rushed toward the weapons cabinet for a crossbow.
Charging into battle, he took the stairs two by two.
Wes was gasping for air by the time he reached the top of the fourth flight of stairs. He held onto his crossbow with one hand and the banister with the other. The rush of blood pounded in his ears as he looked down the hall to his left and then swept his gaze to the right only to see Cordelia and Angel strolling casually toward him.
“What’s with the crossbow?” Cordelia stepped in front of Angel just in case Wesley had a twitchy trigger finger. He wasn’t likely to do something he’d regret if she was standing in the way.
Still holding the weapon toward them, Wes cautioned her to step away from Angel. “I heard you call out for help.”
“That’s because I did.” Looking rather furious that he would come up here armed and ready to fight, Cordelia stood akimbo between the two of them. “Were you really planning to use that thing?”
Tilting his chin a degree higher, Wes confirmed it, “Only if necessary.”
Angel looked hurt. “What did I do?”
“Earlier, you made reference to trying out beds together. At the time, I thought you were making a poor attempt at humor.” Wesley lowered the crossbow to his side. “However, upon hearing Cordelia’s muffled scream, to which I originally attributed to the discovery of a rat’s nest or another roach infestation, followed by the bellowing of my name, I was naturally concerned.”
“Naturally,” Angel gritted his teeth biting back the fury he felt, not at Wes, but over the fact that his suspicion was necessary in the first place.
Wesley sensed that Angel wasn’t very pleased with his assumptions. “Ah, I apologize for the confusion. What is the problem?”
“Angel keeps touching me,” blurted Cordelia.
“What?” Wes raised the crossbow again. Ordering her to, “Move aside, Cordy. One of you had better start explaining.”
Cordelia only demanded that he drop the crossbow. “Tell him what you did, Angel.” She reached back to smack his shoulder.
Taking a step away from her, Angel held his hands up in the air in hands-off mode. “It wasn’t me. Not exactly,” he corrected considering that it would probably be better if he left out the part where he’d been thinking about touching her. “Well, it was, but it wasn’t.”
“Cordy, perhaps you could clarify what the hell is going on here,” Wesley crossed his arms still holding his bow at the ready.
“Fine,” she rolled her eyes. “Let me do the talking. Angel keeps screwing it up.” It was easy enough to explain their task. She’d been talking to him about her scheme to redecorate when they’d gotten into the argument about whether Angel would even allow it. “We were checking out rooms for me to fix up. I wanted one to keep my stuff in.”
Wesley glanced over at Angel, saying nothing about the fact that he knew Cordelia sometimes slept in his room after she’d had a vision. It was understood that the room was hers as long as she was in there. Or so he believed.
Though he’d noticed that the two of them appreciated each other’s looks, it seemed superficial, nothing more than a basic attraction and the mutual understanding that friendship was the most important thing between them. At least, that had been Wes’ spin on the little looks they sometimes sent each other’s way when the other wasn’t watching. Most days he thought he was imagining it.
After all, Cordelia seemed convinced that Angel’s undying love belonged to Buffy Summers. And that was hardly a subject Wesley was going to bring up around Angel. It sometimes popped up during conversations with Cordelia, usually when they were reminiscing about their Sunnydale days. It was clear that Cordy hated the lingering effect of Angel’s love affair with Buffy. He took that simply as friendly concern for the broody vampire’s emotional and social wellbeing.
Perhaps that’s all it ever was, Wes hoped, considering that Cordelia wasn’t keen on the fact that Angel had touched her. “Perhaps you should skip ahead to the crucial part,” Wes suggested when Cordelia started to describe their explorations in greater detail than was necessary.
Sighing, Cordelia explained that they’d gone into the Helios Suite. Wesley found it interesting to learn that the hotel named its suites in that manner. He cut in saying, “Hyperion is actually a variant form of Helios, the god whose chariot carried the orb of the sun across the heavens.”
“Thanks, but I’ve had enough history lessons today,” Cordelia stopped him.
Wes got in one more point before letting her continue. “It’s rather ironic, don’t you think, that a vampire lives in a place with such a focus on the sun.”
Angel found a dark corner to skulk in while Cordelia continued on with the story of their run-in with the magic mirror. He was certain that the mirror picked up on his thoughts. It was a good thing he’d gotten them out of there before it revealed the naked part.
“So I was standing there,” Cordy was saying, “when I saw Angel in the mirror.”
This was intriguing, decided Wes, breaking in long enough to clarify, “You saw his reflection?”
Cordelia nodded. “Yes. At first I didn’t think about it. He was just standing there behind me and he looked really good. Not like that,” she waved carelessly in Angel’s direction which made the vampire scowl. “I mean really hot.”
“You’re certain that it was him?” He needlessly reminded her that vampires had no reflections. “Was Angel in the room at the time?”
Another nod. “I heard the floor boards creak. That room isn’t very stable. Even if it didn’t have a freaky mirror in it, I don’t think I’d stay there.”
Concluding that they were dealing with some form of enchantment or curse, Wesley encouraged Cordelia to tell him everything. The more details he had, the more likely it would be to discover the mirror’s true purpose.
“One minute I was just looking at his reflection and the next thing I saw was Angel macking on my neck,” Cordelia complained, her gaze sliding toward Angel. “He was really into it, too. I thought I was going to end up with a gigantic hickey at the very least.”
“That never happened,” Angel stepped out of the shadows to defend himself.
Cordelia rubbed her neck noticing that her skin still tingled at that spot. She could almost feel Angel’s lips against her pulse point making her tremble at the delicious sensation. “No, of course not, but I saw it just the same.”
“You screamed because I—my mirror image was kissing you—yours?” Angel tripped over the words. She’d been so scared.
“Duh! Vampire at my throat.”
“Cordy, I would never hurt you,” Angel tucked a finger under her chin forcing her wandering gaze to settle on him. “You know that.”
Her hand found a home on his chest again. “I know.”
Wesley suddenly felt like he was intruding which only made him more uncomfortable about his earlier suspicions. Clearing his throat, he commented, “That was quite a complex aberration. Most mirrors are used for scrying spells or to enhance images. The latter may be at play here, but there is obviously more to it.”
“You don’t suppose that creepy tentacle demon has a cousin who’s playing tricks on us?” Cordelia suggested, dropping her hand, but still standing close to Angel.
“No,” Angel assured her that wasn’t the case. He gave her shoulder a gentle squeeze and told himself that it was accidental that his fingertips trailed down the length of her hair as he released her. “I don’t think we’re dealing with a demon, but a magic mirror.”
Cordelia let out a soft pfft, “Magic schmagic. It’s perv-o-vision.”
“Ah, perhaps these supernatural effects have a purpose.” The image had certainly shaken Cordy up, but it was quite impossible to come up with a hypothesis until he had witnessed the effects for himself. “Let’s have a look, then.”
“Don’t bother,” Cordelia suggested it was a waste of time. “It’s broken. We’ve got enough bad luck around here without messing with it.”
“Broken? That could be significant,” Wesley told them, censuring Cordelia for leaving out that important detail.
“Sorry, I was too busy worrying about Fangs-R-Us nibbling on my neck to notice.”
Wesley chuckled inwardly at their priceless expressions. “Perhaps it would be best if I examine this mirror alone.”
He got no arguments from either of them.
Leaving his crossbow in Cordelia’s hands, Wesley entered the Apollo Suite retracing their steps toward the bedroom. The ornate mirror was easy to find on the far wall. It was rectangular, approximately 5’x3’ in size. From this distance, he could clearly see the fractured shards of glass along its surface, a circular impact point centering in the lower right corner.
As described to him, the reflection of the room was bright and clean in comparison to the reality laid out before him. Several possibilities raced through his head. Common spells known to be used by those with a passing knowledge of magic.
This sounded like something else. The manifestations in the mirror had taken a life of their own, their actions different than their real counterparts. It wasn’t until Angel had entered the room that Cordelia noticed anything significant. He theorized that the mirror’s interactive magic might require two participants.
There was only one way to gather more information and that meant experiencing the effects for himself. Angel was only a shout away in case of trouble, but Wes expected none. These type of things were usually little more than illusion.
The floorboards creaked woefully with each step he took. He’d noticed this in other parts of the hotel, but put it down to the fact that the Hyperion had been around for nearly eighty years. It was bound to have dry rot and termites in places. Doubtless having a demon squatting here the entire time did not help the matter.
He felt a wisp of something tickling his cheek and brushed at his skin to rid himself of it. A cobweb, he presumed. The room was full of them.
Wesley approached the mirror at a slow pace watching intently as his image grew more and more succinct. The man reflected there was well kempt, rather rugged in his masculinity, and exuded self-assuredness. Seeing that it was him, Wes stood up a little straighter to match the confident pose of his reflection.
Examining the image, Wes decided he liked what he saw there. “Not bad if I do say so.”
Getting on with his task, he moved his attention to the details of the room reflected in the mirror. There were subtle differences to be seen beyond cleanliness. Personal objects were scattered across the dressing table. The bedcover was turned down in preparation for bedtime, a chocolate laid out upon the pillow.
From the corner of his eye, Wes caught a flash of movement. It was a subtle shift in the mirror’s visual field. As if a fine mist had rolled into the room it covered every surface he could see. He was no longer alone. She was there, behind him walking slowly, steadily toward him, her penoir softly flowing around her feet, reaching out for him.
Wes turned around, a sudden shriek escaping as he held up his hands to ward off an attack. There was no one there. Angel and Cordelia burst into the room only seconds later, but the image was once again the still reflection of the room.
“There was a woman,” Wesley gulped, wide-eyed with equal parts wonder and fear. “For a moment, I thought she was behind me, but she was only in the mirror.”
As Angel silently pondered Wesley’s discovery, Cordelia was faster to guess what he’d seen. “This woman wouldn’t be a skanky blonde with big—emeralds, would she?”
“No,” Wes gave her an odd look. “As a matter of fact, she was a redhead, quite slim, rather tall, wearing a blue nightgown.”
Angel looked at the mirror and then back at the two of them. He asked Wes, “This redhead didn’t have a little mole right there, did she?” pointing at the base of his throat.
“Well, I—,” Wes thought about it. “Yes, I believe she did now that you mention it. She was also wearing a rather unusual necklace. Emeralds, I believe.”
“Hah.” Cordelia muttered something about chippies that went over Wesley’s head. Angel seemed to get it, his scowl returning.
Surmising, “I take it that you two know this woman,” Wesley asked for details. “Did you see her when you were in here before?”
“Way, way before,” Cordelia returned rather grouchily. “And it was just him.”
“The woman you’re describing sounds like someone I saw when I was here back in 1952,” Angel explained causing a memory to flicker to life in Wes’ head.
He snapped his fingers. “Of course! That is why she looked familiar. Cordelia, you’ve seen her, too.”
Denying it, Cordelia walked back toward the sitting room. “Have not.”
“I can’t recall the details, but we’ve seen her face before,” Wes assured her. “In one of the newspaper articles we pulled while doing research on the Hyperion.”
They were deep in the midst of rebounding ‘have too’ and ‘have not’ when Angel barked at them to shut up. “Will you two stop arguing and look at the mirror.”
Cordelia and Wes turned simultaneously to stare at their reflections aligned perfectly in the mirror. They’d been reduced to cute five year olds each holding the opposite ends of a tug-of-war rope. “How degrading,” Wes muttered as he straightened his tie.
Snorting at the sight, Cordelia leaned in to tell him, “I so would’ve won.”
As they watched, the mirror’s image swirled filling with a misty haze that fell away to reveal the redheaded woman. There was no mischief in her deep green eyes. Only sadness, loneliness and fear. She spoke to them. No voice emanated from within the mirror, only shadowed whispers almost like a half-remembered dream.
The plea was clear as a bell. Her hand reached out to them. To Wesley, it seemed like she was speaking directly to him, begging for his help. He lifted his hand toward the mirror’s smooth surface, closer to the feminine hand searching for his.
A hard vice closed over his wrist jerking Wes’ hand away from the mirror. “Don’t touch it,” Angel knocked him back a step. “Who knows what that might do.”
Wesley realized that he hadn’t been fully aware of his actions. “Thank you. I believe you are right in that regard. The mirror itself might be dangerous, but I believe that it would be safe enough to handle its frame.”
“We could put it in my office,” Angel suggested. It would be safe enough down there.
“A haunted mirror,” Cordelia thought they were nuts to suggest keeping it. “You’ve got to be kidding.”
Wesley shrugged, “At least he didn’t suggest his bedroom.”
Cordelia’s eyes got big and round. She was about to let him have it for putting the idea into Angel’s head when she realized the vampire was watching for her response. With a casual shrug, she told Wes it didn’t matter. Smirking, “I’ve already got my ghost. Dennis isn’t creepy and knows just how to make me relax after a hard day.”
It took all of Angel’s restraint not to growl. He’d stayed at Cordy’s place long enough to know there wasn’t anywhere Phantom Dennis didn’t go. Good thing Dennis was already non-corporeal.
“I’m fairly certain this isn’t a haunting,” Wesley told them. He decided to steer clear of asking about ghostly relaxation techniques. “More like a curse, it seems that the woman is trapped within the mirror.”
“A curse? Like Angel needs another one.” She really hated the idea of having that mirror around. Considering what happened earlier, it wasn’t safe to be around it if Angel was in close proximity. Not unless she could learn to control her imagination, that is.
Hello, Cordelia wasn’t about to admit that she’d fantasized about Angel pressing his lips against her neck. It wasn’t her fault that the mirror made him look so hot. He wasn’t even there. That made it comparable to imagining Jude Law. Why couldn’t it have been Jude in that mirror instead of Angel?
She could only guess that the second incident was a continuation of the first. The only time Angel was ever seductive like that was when he was drugged or evil—or in one or two really hot dreams that left her sweaty, aroused and tangled in her sheets. The first time she’d called in sick, because obviously it had to be delirium. When it happened again not too long ago, Cordelia had put it down to the fact that they’d been working out down in the basement earlier that night and attributed it to hormones.
Angel reminded her that the woman was one of the ones he’d left behind presumably to be devoured by the Thesulac demon. “I have a responsibility to save her if I can, Cordy. If I’d stayed—”
“Don’t brood about it now.” Cordelia didn’t want him to blame himself for this. “You can’t control everything. If you want to help, we can help. Wes can do research.”
After much discussion, it was decided to hang the mirror in the hotel lobby. Being on the ground floor, it was the most stable area of the hotel. And it offered them the comfort of being roomy enough to avoid falling into the mirror’s effective range.
And Cordelia was happy about keeping it out of Angel’s bedroom. No telling what it would show if she was lying in Angel’s bed post-vision and that thing turned the whammy on again.