False Claims 17-19

Chapter Seventeen

“I like you.”

Cordelia’s mouth formed a small O of surprise as she tried to figure out which idea bothered her more – that he liked her, or that he thought that would make this situation more tolerable for her. Either way, he was clearly a dumbass.

Sarcasm once again heavy in her voice, Cordelia made her feelings on that particular statement known.

“Well gee, doesn’t that make me feel safe.”

Although Angelus smirked at her attitude, his eyes darkened with the intensity of his words.

“Safe isn’t a feeling, Cordelia. It’s a lack of feeling. It’s an absence of fear, of anger…of love. After all, does love make you feel safe? No, it makes you feel passionate, and possessive, and vulnerable. But not safe. Never safe.”

Stilling the shivers caused by his smoky voice, Cordelia covered her confusion at the effect he had on her by lashing out.

“What do you know about love? Demons can’t love.”

Angelus looked at her the way one looks at a child who still believes in fairytale endings simply because he hasn’t lived long enough to see his dreams crushed under the unrelenting heel of reality.

“Humans; you think that everything begins and ends with you. There are more beings in existence than you can imagine Cordelia, and more realities than you can begin to comprehend.”

“I’m a vampire, true. But that doesn’t mean that I lack feelings. I just lack a conscience – the unending burden of regret to temper my desires. If I want something, I take it. If I want to do something, I have no internal motivation to refrain. And if I choose not to do something, not to take something that I want, it’s not because I’ll regret the action, it’s because I’ll get something I want even more by the denial.”

“So when I love, as with everything else I do, it’s about me, about what I want and my satisfaction. It’s obsessive in nature because the object of my affection is simply the means to fulfill my needs.”

“Human love, when true, is selfless. It’s about being happy because your partner is happy. It’s about wanting what’s best for them even when that conflicts with what is best for you. And in that, it’s a weakness.”

“A demon’s love, by contrast, is a strength. It’s ultimately one more way of achieving my goal of my own enjoyment of existence.”

Leaning forward in an eagerness to share these truths with the girl in front of him, Angelus’ voice deepened with the sincerity of his words as he continued.

“Do you know what the greatest part of being a vampire is? It’s not the power, the immortality, or the endless youth. It’s the lack of restriction. Humans spend all of their short, pathetic lives denying their own happiness to do what’s “right”, or to ensure the happiness of those they love.”

“With every decision you make, no matter how selfish, a part of you still wonders how it will affect other people. Even if you decide to do it anyway, some place deep inside of you still questions.”

“I don’t suffer those delicate sensibilities. I understand that every action I take is for myself, and no part of me, no matter how small, is bothered by that. In fact, I revel in the thought that, ultimately, no one matters but me.”

“But that doesn’t mean that I don’t feel. It’s just that all of my feelings are self-oriented. When I love it is real, it is passionate, and it does hurt when it’s taken away.”

To her credit Cordelia sat silently and allowed Angelus’ words to slowly filter through her mind, weighing each idea as she turned it over and examined it from all sides. Knowing that most people would reject that idea out of hand as not being “real” love, he was impressed by her ability to reserve judgment and analyze new concepts.

Cordelia wondered if Angelus was right. A thought she hoped to never entertain again. Just because demons felt differently than humans, was it right to dismiss them entirely as being incapable of emotions? Sure, she was still all for the human way of doing things, but the vampire way seemed to work for them, so who was she to diminish its importance.

Curious despite her internal warnings, she questioned the vampire, not knowing why she wanted to understand, but knowing that she did all the same.

“Is that how you felt about Darla?”

Angelus seemed surprised by the inquiry. Even though Cordelia appeared to be giving the ideas he had laid out fair thought, he still expected her first verbal reaction to be one of denial. But if she was going to be open about this, then he would do no less.

Thinking over her question, he gave a small chuckle. “Love? Not exactly.”

“Darla was my sire. That’s a bond all its own. I was Darla’s choice, but she was never mine. She chose to turn me for all of the reasons I’ve given, and she did love me. But as I’ve said, that was about her, my feelings didn’t enter into her decisions.”

“I didn’t stay with Darla for so long because I loved her, I stayed because the bond between sire and childe is compelling. It forces a response from the childe who, being younger, is the weaker of the two. And though in some small way the childe resents it, it’s impossible to resist when one is young and difficult at best as one grows older.”

“For that reason I’m glad that Darla’s gone. Although it leaves that place in me that longs for my sire unfulfilled, it also frees me from her control. It allows me to be my own master with no interference.”

“But don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed a lot of my time with Darla.” Angelus’ voice took on a reminiscent quality and his eyes unfocused as he was drawn into the past. “She was a sadistic bitch, there’s no denying that. She was feared with good reason.”

“But she was limited. She had no creativity, no vision. She always wanted to rush things, to hurry things up. Never wanted to stop and kill the roses.”

“Do I miss her viciousness? Sure. But I don’t like submission. Not to Darla, not to the Master, not to anyone.”

Well that was something Cordelia could easily understand. She, also, hated to be dictated to. It always brought out her rebellious nature, even when she gave in as she often did with her parents.

So as easy as it was to see how a sire might be a problem, it seemed like children were the exact opposite.

“So, if your children -“

“Childer.”

“What?” Questioned Cordelia, confused at the interruption.

“Childer, their not called children. Children are between meal snacks. Childer are our offspring.”

“Okay, first of all, ewww. Thanks for the therapy requiring mental picture there. And secondly, if your childer are so dependent on their sire, why don’t you just turn the humans you like and then have a great vampy relationship with them?”

Angelus smirked at the thought that Cordelia had no idea what she was asking, but with a glint of humor in his beguiling eyes he made it perfectly clear.

“Are you asking me to turn you Cordelia? Would you like to be my childe? To feel my fangs slide deep within you and know that they would only leave you as your life ebbed away? Would you like to be eternally connected to me, to share a timeless bond as we carved out our bloody place in the world?

More than the fear of the bond they already shared growing, this was the subject that caused Cordelia no end of dread. And although she knew the actual choice was out of her hands, this kind of thinking needed to be nipped in the bud.

“Absolutely not. I’ll take growing old, losing my looks, and living out my final years drooling as an anonymous patient in a nursing home over the whole living dead thing, thank you.”

Angelus wasn’t sure why, but that thought disturb him on a deeper level than it should. Maybe it was just the thought of the loss of such an endlessly surprising personality in an undeniably alluring package.

At the frown on Angelus’ face, Cordelia wondered if she had bruised his recently revealed feelings. Deciding not to open that can of worms, she redirected the conversation to its original course.

“I just meant that if the sire/childe thing is so great for the sire, why even bother with humans at all?”

Angelus thought about how best to answer her question. These were things that were intrinsic to his demon nature, not thought about, but automatic responses born of ingrained drives. Normally he wouldn’t even bother to explain such things, but Cordelia’s genuine desire to understand the things he was telling her pleased him and to reward that he would satisfy her curiosity as best he could.

“When a vampire loves another vampire, it’s an endless battle for domination, because both parties are only focused on what they want. With a sire it’s a given that the childe will consistently loose the struggle, but the conflict is still always there.”

“That’s why human pets can be so intriguing for a vampire. It’s rare to find a human that seems worth the effort, but when you do it can be a sublime experience.”

“As Giles obviously made you aware, claiming a person creates a bond between the vampire and the human. That bond will eventually engender love like feelings in both parties if they didn’t exist to begin with.”

“For the vampire these feelings involve self-satisfaction and being with their “pet” is a way to achieve that. As in all relationships the vampire has, it’s about getting their own needs met regardless of how that affects anyone else.”

“For the human, these feelings are an expression of human love. Selfless and devoted, the human can only find fulfillment in the joy of their partner. When two humans love that devotion is returned and creates a balance for the participants. But in a vampire/human bond the focus becomes solely centered on the vampire’s needs. After years of fighting for dominance with other vampires, the results can be intoxicating.”

No matter how open minded Cordelia was attempting to be, that just sounded horrible and disturbing. Giles was definitely in the right when he set the zero tolerance policy on her spending time with her inferior half in this bonded wretchedness.

But since she seemed unable to enforce that policy and, short of Buffy showing up and staking his ass, which apparently came in under “sex with” on her list of things to do to vampires, she couldn’t force him to leave, she might as well find out as much as she could about this bizarre world she’d been thrust into.

“What about Spike?”

Cordelia swallowed her laugh at the look of distaste that comically twisted Angelus’ features.

“What about him?” Angelus definitely did not want to waste time talking about his obnoxious grandchilde. Even thoughts of the slayer were less annoying. Of course those thought usually involved killing her, so that could be the difference.

“Well,” Cordelia continued, “Spike loves Drusilla and he seems to want her to be happy. He’s a vampire so why isn’t he all on board the demon love train?”

“First of all, Spike isn’t a very good vampire, so he’s never effective as a vampiric example. But that aside, I think you may have misunderstood me earlier. A vampire’s love isn’t about making the other person unhappy. It’s about making sure you’re happy. If your happiness is at the expense of the other person’s happiness then that’s not really a bothersome fact. But often a happy partner is even more attentive to one’s needs, so if their unhappiness isn’t required then ensuring their happiness can often be a step in securing greater pleasure for yourself. And really, that’s what it’s about – maximizing your own pleasure.”

“As for Spike and Dru, don’t fool yourself that Spike is selfless in his devotion to Drusilla. Spike gives in to her desires to get what he wants – her to stay with him. As her childe, Spike is in the submissive role as Dru could leave whenever she chose, whereas Spike is still somewhat bound to her whims. But Spike’s love for Dru is completely selfish.”

“Drusilla is my childe, and as such she’s utterly devoted to me. It’s always her preference to be with me. Even when I had the soul, Dru would have stayed.”

“Now if Spike’s love for Dru was so altruistic in nature, he wouldn’t have a problem with her being with me. He’d simply want what she wants. But make no mistake, if Spike thought he had a chance of killing me he’d take it in a heartbeat. It wouldn’t matter that Dru would be inconsolable by losing her heart’s desire, because he’d be gaining what he wants – Drusilla all to himself.”

“Spike’s love for Drusilla is real, but it’s not selfless. Even if he’s pathetic enough to want to believe so.”

The couple sat silently, each on one side of the doorway, lost in a world of their own thoughts. Cordelia was the first to surface, and she took the opportunity to study the distracted vampire.

She could see why he took a name so evocative of Heavenly beings. He was truly beautiful. “The face of an Angel” was no understatement when applied to the being before her.

The pallor of his skin, so unappealing in most vampires, served only to heighten his dark good looks, deepening the fathomless pools of his eyes and the dusky sensuality of his sculpted lips.

He was exquisite in every way, from his powerfully muscled form to the innate magnetism that surrounded him both as Angel and Angelus. He was almost a justification of vampiric turning as, although the demonic process were surely a crime against God, it would be one far greater that the beauty He created were allowed to be ravaged by time.

Angelus felt the fine hairs on his neck prickle in awareness as the predator in him sensed the intense scrutiny which he was currently under.

Glancing up he found himself trapped in the smooth, liquid caramel of Cordelia’s gaze. He hadn’t been lying when he told the girl that he liked her. It wasn’t just her beauty, although she had that in abundance. No, it was her spirit.

Cordelia was the strongest of all humans – she was a survivor. There was nothing life could throw at her that would break her. Though circumstances may briefly overpower her resolve it could never completely annihilate that confidence that was an integral part of her make-up. Sure, sometimes she may appear more confident in a situation then she truly felt, but that deep down belief in herself was so much a part of her that it could never really be stripped away.

And that, honestly, was what would make her such an excellent pet. If it weren’t for her association with Buffy he would give serious thought to exerting his claim over the girl. But right now his priorities were consolidating his power and breaking the slayer.

Because as sure as he was that Cordelia could never be completely undone, he was just as certain that Buffy could. Slayers, as a rule, worked alone and died young. One would think that Buffy’s refusal to accept that was a sign of strength, but it wasn’t really.

Although not much for conversation, Angel had been an excellent listener. As such, Angelus knew that even with the divorce of her parents, Buffy had always had tremendous support through her mother. Once called, that need for affirmation transferred itself to her slaying and she created a support system for herself in that endeavor, too.

Buffy was not, and never would be, a loner. And therein lay her weakness. Her fundamental need for people made her ultimately vulnerable to their loss. The Council knew this, that’s why slayers worked alone. His plans to kill all of her friends and family weren’t about pleasure, although there was no denying that it would be an almost orgasmic undertaking. No, stripping away her support system would leave Buffy with no one but herself. And since she didn’t believe that was enough, why should he?

Cordelia broke the silence, asking, once more, her original question in the hopes of drawing this peculiar evening to a close.

“What do you want, Angelus? ‘Cause as informative as out chat has been I don’t think you Romeoed yourself up to my balcony just to run down the finer points of vampire romance.”

Shaking off thoughts of the slayer in favor of the more pleasant undertaking of speaking with Cordelia, Angelus recalled his original intentions in visiting the young woman before him.

“Actually, I came to make sure that you had a firm understanding of the things Giles explained to you last night. He seemed to believe that you had been made sufficiently awa-“

“What?!” Cordelia straightened up in panic almost leaving the safety of her room in her fear for the librarian’s safety. “You promised. You said that if I told Giles you would leave him alone. What did you do? If you-“

“Cordelia!” In a voice that would have awakened her parents, had they been home, Angelus stopped the cheerleader’s rambling. Although he had been the one to use the watcher’s safety as a motivation for Cordelia’s compliance, he found himself increasingly irritated by her continuing concern for the man. As Angel he hadn’t sensed anything between the two, but then the bumbling soul hadn’t seen much beyond the slayer. Disregarding thoughts of his own age, he reasoned that the watcher was far too old for Cordelia. Although authority often impressed young women.

A low growl was building in his chest as the brown of his eyes was slowly being overtaken by rings of amber. If the watcher was touching what was his then he’d die slowly, plans for the slayer be damned.

Oddly, seeing Cordelia face, filled with fear, allowed Angelus to regain some control over his wayward emotions. Knowing Cordelia to be innocent and Rupert Giles to be an uptight prude, he could allow that it was most likely his possessiveness that was sparking his wrath, rather than any inappropriate interaction on their part. True, her obvious concern for the watcher was upsetting, but it also afforded him greater control in her life, so it was worth the aggravation.

Forcing a more reasonable tone, he addressed her urgent inquiries so that they could return to the topic at hand.

“Cordelia, I spoke with good old Rupert last night. As you most likely saw for yourself today, he’s in perfect shape. Well, as perfect as his shape can be. I didn’t hurt him; I just wanted to make sure that he and I were on the same page when it came to my expectations of you. Of course, being Giles, he was very reasonable regarding my requirements and took great pains to put my mind at ease as to your compliance.”

“But somehow hearing Rupert’s reassurances aren’t the same as hearing them straight from you. We both know that you can tell the watcher one thing and then go on your merry way planning to do exactly what you want. I’m here to make sure that’s not what happened. It’s not, is it Cordelia?”

The menace was back in his voice and the danger that oozed out of his every poor seemed to blanket her in a suffocating layer of threat.

“No, that’s not what happened. Giles explained to me why it would be in the best interest of the group for me to lay off the bait thing and I agreed with him. So no, you won’t be seeing me running around Sunnydale wooing demons anymore. Happy?”

Was he happy? She was doing what he wanted, but she was doing it for the benefit of their little do-gooding group. He wanted her to do what he said simply because he had spoken. So while the results pleased him, the process of attaining them left him agitated and unsatisfied.

No, he needed to remember that this was not the relationship that he wanted with this girl. Their connection was merely a necessity of circumstance and she was nothing more than a tool to help destroy the slayer. Anything else was just the fallout from the bond and he needed to stop obsessing on why he was feeling that pull and she still seemed untouched.

True, he wanted his mere wishes to compel her obedience, but in this instance he would settle for her compliance no matter how it was obtained.

Slowly rising to his feet, Angelus brushed the dust from his snug leather pants. Sometimes it was easy to forget that the vampire before her was not the creature cursed with a soul. This, however, was not one of those times. As a look of evil intent transformed his features into a sinful and yet in no way unattractive expression, Cordelia knew that whatever sprung next from his lips was not going to be to her liking.

She was absolutely correct.

“Happy? Not quite.” And reaching out a hand to the still seated girl he revealed what would induce a more joyous state. “Kiss me goodnight, Cordelia.”


Chapter Eighteen

Angelus wasn’t sure where the idea had come from, but once the words had left his lips he knew that nothing would remove him from that balcony until she acquiesced to his demand.

Cordelia, for her part, was in a far less anticipatory state. If he thought for one instant that she was leaving the safety of her home to swap spit with the undead, then the theory that wisdom came with age was being soundly disproved.

Seeing the directions in which her thoughts were quickly traveling, Angelus decided to put a stop to the useless rebellion before it started and further annoyed him.

“Cordelia, understand this. In this, as in all things to do with us, you have no choice. I may, at times, allow you the illusion of control, but for your own sake you must accept that is at my whim and not because of any power you hold. My willingness to do anything to achieve my own ends combined with your concern for others in your life ultimately ensures that, in the end, you will accede to my wishes.”

“Now if it helps you I can threaten to burn your house to the ground or to rip out the watcher’s throat, but I think that you already know that not only am I capable, but that I’m more than willing to do those things. So why don’t we save me the time of saying them and you the trauma of hearing them. In the end, you will obey me, and in the only choice I’ll allow you to have with any regularity, you can choose how painful a trek it is to your compliance.”

Knowing that what he said was true and despising him all the more for it, Cordelia slowly passed her arm through the protective barrier and grasped Angelus’ extended hand.

Before she had time to gasp in surprise she found herself spun off of the ground and into the vampire’s cool embrace. Trapped between his large, unyielding frame and the iron railing of her balcony, Cordelia could only gape in shock at the position in which she now found herself.

Now that he had her in the confines of his embrace, Angelus felt comfortable moving at a more leisurely pace as he brought his mouth down to caress her still slightly parted lips.

Feeling the warmth of her breath escaping from her mouth into his, a rumble deep in his chest expressed his pleasure at the sensation. The taste of her floating on that whisper of air tantalized his senses and drew him in to search out the source.

Running his tongue over her plush lips, Angelus gently eased into the awaiting warmth. The spicy flavor, like crisp, heated apple cider, exploded on his questing tongue, rushing over his enhanced senses. The sensation burned through his body with erotic flames that licked at his nerves and settled in his loins.

Far from unaffected, Cordelia began to tremble as large hands pulled her impossibly closer to the hard body encompassing her. Settling her against him until all distance was eliminated, those commanding hands began long, smooth sweeps up and down her spine, learning her curves and ensuring her closeness.

Cordelia’s moan was swallowed by Angelus’ demanding mouth as the arms embracing her wrapped tightly around her allowing his hands to run gently up her sides and cup the outer sides of her breasts.

Moving his hands back down the path they had just traveled, they ascended once more but this time with no barrier between her inflamed flesh and his unexpectedly tender caress. Reaching her breasts once again, it was his turn to moan as their weight filled his hands.

Freeing his right hand to tangle in her hair, holding her mouth steady for his renewed assault, he eased his left hand further across the satiny skin brushing the tips of his fingers gently across her nipple, bringing the sensitive flesh to a straining peak.

Cordelia wasn’t sure if it was the play of his fingers or the thrust of his tongue that caused the whimper to escape from where she was sure she had secured it.

The erotic sounds coming from Cordelia were shooting darts of electricity to rapidly hardening parts of his anatomy. The feel of her, quivering in his arms was fast undoing him and without even realizing he’d moved he found that he’d balanced Cordelia on the iron railing in front of him, forcing her to bring her legs around him to maintain her balance.

If her warmth had infused him previously, nothing could have prepared him for the blast of heat that swept through every cell of his being as his hips thrust upwards, bringing him jutting into her core. The leather of his pants was no barrier and certainly the laughably thin material of her cotton shorts was no protection from the straining proof of his desire.

A sound that could only be described as a purr issued from the vampire’s throat as he tore his mouth from hers, leaving a moist trail as he worked his way down her throat, honing in on his marks, beckoned by their mingled scents.

As his demon features flickered across his face he could feel his fangs elongate and scrape gently against her sweat-slickened skin. The urge to bite was fast approaching overwhelming, the need to reestablish his claim, declare his ownership of the enchantress in his arms was pushing all other thoughts from his mind.

With a jerk of the hand still buried in her hair he exposed her neck to his hungry gaze. Even through the haze of desire that enveloped her, Cordelia’s survival instincts warned her that something potentially lethal was occurring. As her small mew of protest hit his ears Angelus stilled.

What the Hell was he doing?

It was a given that Cordelia was the epitome of desire with her lush, lithe body seared with need and burgeoning lust. But this was the one woman with whom he couldn’t afford involvement. Their unwanted bond and her importance to the slayer made her a better hands off investment than hands on. Even though hands on felt so amazing.

With his single, remaining shred of willpower, Angelus untangled himself from the dazed brunette. Turning towards the doors he punished them both by sliding her slowly down his body, pressing his rock hard length into her abdomen before stepping back.

“Go inside, Cordelia.”

The gravelly timber of his voice brought home to him just how razor thin the edge was on which he now teetered. Cordelia wasn’t helping him to maintain that balance as she continued to stand there looking at him with her swollen lips and heavy lidded desire.

Giving her a gentle push, Angelus sent her back through the barrier trying desperately to forget how easy it had been to breech.

Once she was back in the illusory safety of her room, reason began to return to Cordelia. Shaking off the quaking tremors of need still pulsing through her body she slowly reached forward as if moving through molasses and closed the doors, pretending that was enough to keep her monsters at bay.

As the door closed Angelus grasped the ornate railing and launched himself over, landing easily on the ground below.

He was tempting fate with these interludes with Cordelia. It had been almost impossible to leave this time, who knew if he would even make the effort next time.

And that was precisely why there couldn’t be a next time. He had been honest with Cordelia about humans being tools to achieve his goals. Cordelia, just like the slayer and all of her slayerettes were simply pawns in his game and he couldn’t forget that Cordelia already had an assigned part in this play.

No, no matter how many brunettes he had to fuck and kill to get his mind off this one, he’d do it. Because this definitely had to stop.

As Cordelia switched off her lamp and slowly crawled between her covers for the second time that night, she realized that, despite being outside she was warmer than she’d been when she first got up to confront Angelus.

And why wouldn’t she be with all of the physical activity they’d engaged in? Cordelia cringed with the realization that once again she’d been in a compromising position with Angelus. Worse, she acknowledged, was the fact that she’d been in any position with Angelus.

Giles had spelled out precisely why she couldn’t be around the vampire and the dangers that even the smallest of exposures could create. While she didn’t have his books on the subject, Cordelia was pretty sure that her big ol’ ho routine counted as a major exposure.

And that was the very worst part of all. ‘Cause a part of her was hoping that the bond had taken at least a minor effect. Cordelia may have indulged in a few make out sessions with Xander, but she was no slut. She’d lost interest in Angel as soon as his lack of life was revealed. So she couldn’t possibly be acting like this on her own. Could she? This had to be some sort of mystical whammy. Didn’t it?

At least Angelus hadn’t told her she had to tell Giles about this latest adventure. The natural optimism that kept her grounded through even the greatest of trials reasserted itself to pick out the one decent thing about the night. After all, she wasn’t sure how she could explain to the concerned watcher how the plan to spend no times with Angelus turned into spending lots of time with Angelus – necking. No, that was a conversation that ranked right up there with “Mom, Dad, meet my boyfriend, Xander.”

Emptying her mind of thoughts, Cordelia tried to will herself to sleep. But even her best attempts were thwarted by a single thought that resurfaced again and again – This absolutely had to stop.


Chapter Nineteen: A Bronzin’ We Will Go

It was a night made for love.

The luminous moon hung low in the sky, suspended by delicate chains of glittering stars. Her gentle, pale light rained down on the earth below, softening the shadows on which it settled and imbuing the evening with a sense of wonderment that only touched those whose hearts were enamored of another.

The breathless whisper stirred the night air. “Oh, Angelus. It’s so beautiful here.”

“Ah, you’re the beauty here, lass.” Melodious, with just a touch of an accent, the vampire’s voice curled around the lovely brunette at his side, melting her further into his embrace.

Pushing back a long lock of sable hair, her trembling voice betrayed the depth of her emotion. “I love you so much.”

“Do ya now, darlin’? Angelus’ serious tone was belied by the wicked twinkle in his eyes. A twinkle missed by the girl in his arms.

Moist, chestnut eyes gazed earnestly into his as if the pain of him believing otherwise was simply unbearable. The drive to convince him, to prove her love was overwhelming. How had she ever thought herself happy before Angelus came into her life? Why had she ever fought against this feeling?

Delicate hands curled into his shirt as desperate words spilled over quaking lips. “Of course I love you. You know I do. I left my family, my friends, all for you. You know I’d do anything for you. Anything.”

“Anything at all, my love?” The dark intent was there to be seen, but only by willing eyes.

“Yes. Yes!” The tragedy of a young girl so desperate for the approval of a monster would have distressed anyone with the slightest degree of sympathy. Unfortunately that was a characteristic sorely lacking in this particular monster. “Angelus, please listen to me. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for you!”

A look of what appeared to be genuine warmth transformed the beauty of his face to a near heartbreaking level. “Would you lie for me?”

“Of course.” Quick. Decisive.

“Would you steal for me?”

“In an instant, Angelus.” Confident and sure.

“Would you kill for me?”

The girl struggled with the small remnants of her former personality, the morals and ideals in tatters at her feet begging for recognition, but nothing could withstand the need for his approval. She wondered that she could have changed so much so quickly, and yet the need to be anything other than what Angelus wanted, to please him in all things, seemed a lifetime ago.

“Yes.” The whisper was anguished, but still the confirmation he desired. He just needed to know one more thing.

“Would you die for me?”

This answer was much easier for the girl. Would she die for him? Absolutely, for she could never exist without him.

“Always.”

No sooner did that single, doomed word fill the cold night air then her head was snapped back as razor sharp teeth ripped into her throat, easily slashing through the young, supple flesh and freeing the blood below in geyser-like bursts.

Having imbibed to his dead hearts content, Angelus seemed mildly disturbed by the gurgling sounds coming from what was left of the throat of the girl in his arms.

“Please sweetheart, all of this noise is hard on the digestion.” And reaching down, Angelus proceeded to ensure the silence needed to enjoy his dinner by snapping the young woman’s neck, mercifully ending her suffering, although in no way were his motives altruistic.

“Ahhh. What a night.”

Letting the body fall carelessly to the ground, Angelus straightened his clothing and wiped away the stray rivulets of blood from his chin in preparation for the night’s next pleasures. Reaching down he allowed himself one more caress of the rapidly cooling skin.

“Janine, my dear, rest easy in the knowledge that your death has indeed brought me a great deal of pleasure. I’m sure that’s what you would have wanted.”

And it was true. The girl’s demise did fill him with a sense of contentment. It wasn’t the actual killing, nor was it the feeding. No, Janine was far more than that. Janine was the proof that Angelus hadn’t been damaged by the soul. She was the shining validation of his vampiric drives and their ability to survive Angel’s nauseating quest for redemption.

Although definitely not something that he’d want widely known, Angelus was beginning to doubt his ability to initiate this kind of bond. After what seemed like an endless string of non-productive encounters with Cordelia he had begun to question the very fundamentals of his demon nature. Self-doubt was not an emotion that Angelus wore well. His natural state of being was a confidence that more often than not crossed far over the line separating self-assurance and arrogance.

After their last heated interlude, Angelus began to wonder if Cordelia was responding to his hold over her or merely his experience. The nagging uncertainty refused to leave the dark corners of his mind until finally he could bear the internal taunting no more.

Then, three days ago, he saw her. Her back to him, she was a tall, statuesque beauty whose dark coloring and healthy tan tantalized him with erotic images of a similar girl not easily forgotten. Turning, she allowed him a glimpse of her face and he noted with satisfaction that the similarities in outer semblance continued. But as pleasing as this girl was to the eye, Angelus had to admit that she was no where close to approaching the goddess-like beauty of Cordelia Chase. Still, she’d more than suit his purposes.

He could see the moment that he caught her eye. The spark of interest that flared to life in her gaze sealed her fate, but innocent of this fact, she smiled boldly at him. Never one to pass up an easy opening, Angelus slowly made his way towards the girl.

In the four days since he’d last seen Cordelia he’d managed to leave quite a trail of dead brunettes in his path as he tried to clear the scent of her out of his head, the taste of her out of his mouth. Even though he’d given it his best and enjoyed the effort, his mind strayed constantly to the girl he reluctantly owned.

Even Dru was no substitute. Although he was always ready for a tumble with his favorite childe, lately her dark, silky locks ignited fantasies that her cold, pale skin instantly dispelled leaving him angry and unsatisfied. Never a good combination.

And so it was that he’d found himself in the bar that night, flirting with a pale imitation of the one he wouldn’t admit to craving. Ever the gentleman, until it was time for the rape and murder, Angelus offered to walk his newest conquest home. With every step they took he found himself comparing her more and more to Cordelia and finding her increasingly lacking. Even her scent was disturbing. Unlike the compelling aroma of spice, arousal, and himself that had swirled around Cordelia at their last parting, this girl smelled merely of herself; bland and ordinary.

And inspiration struck.

Maybe this was the answer to all of the unsettling questions crowding his brain. Surely the deficiency in this pairing with Cordelia was on her part and not because of any inadequacy in himself. And perhaps his response to her wasn’t because the bond was strong upon him, but simply because it had been so long since he’d sensed himself so intimately connected with a warm, enticing human.

So, reordering thoughts and adjusting plans, Angelus decided that this young woman, the lovely Janine, would be his new pet. He would prove to himself that he could enamor her, enslave her thoughts, and, ultimately, remain untouched.

Now, as he stared down into her dull, lifeless eyes, he reveled in the accomplishment of his goals. He had done what he had set out to do – He clearly established that there was simply something amiss with Cordelia. Maybe too much time with the slayer had created an immunity of sorts in her. Whatever it was, his success with Janine had shown that he was fully functional as not just a vampire, but as Master of the Order. Certain that his growing obsession with Cordelia was merely the result of his downward spiral of doubt, he felt confident in his ability to finally put the enticing brunette out of his mind.

After all, he had new games to play, and those games started tonight.

For weeks now Angelus had pushed the slayer to the back burner. He’d wanted things settled before he broke the girl who’d been foolish enough to entrust her heart to a demon. He intended to enjoy every moment of the destruction of Buffy Summers. Every anguished cry, every decimated dream would nourish his cold dead heart in the eternity that lay before him. And, if there was any justice in this world, somewhere, the soul that had bound him for a century would feel every torturous wound to the slayer’s spirit and writhe in helpless agony as Angelus had for a hundred years.

Yes, his position assured, his power consolidated, tonight was made for pleasurable pursuits. A fine meal washed down with a slayer’s tears. What more could a demon ask?

And to be sure, Angelus had left nothing to chance. Finding a demon willing to be used in a diversion for the slayer was not easy. But it was amazing the compliance he obtained after publicly ripping the limbs off of the first five demons that had declined his offer. Because, in the end, the slayer would just kill her foes, while the vampire would engage in a buffet of endless, sadistic delights with those who defied him.

After making it perfectly clear that the slayer was not to be grievously injured, Angelus sent the Lorapred demon to wait at the cemetery, while he went to Willy’s to give the bartender a “tip” to pass on to the girl.

Angelus knew that Willy wouldn’t let him down. For the very humanity that ultimately protected the bartender from the slayer would simply make him even more fun for Angelus to kill.

Now that everything was set, all that was left was for Angelus to pick his sacrificial lamb. He headed to the Bronze where the flock was sure to be, knowing that this would be the best place to find one of Buffy’s little schoolmates.

It was time to bring death much closer to the slayer. Although not ready to kill someone in her immediate circle, one had to be subtle, of course, the time was definitely right to begin giving her victims whose faces she couldn’t forget as she walked through the halls of her school each day knowing that there was one less student. It was time for Buffy to have names for his victims; names she couldn’t stop hearing as she cried in her bed each night knowing she had failed.

Although the intent was dark and devious, the plan was fairly simple – Find a suitable victim, rip them open, and decorate Buffy’s locker with festive chains of intestines. Existence was almost too good, he thought as he made his way to Sunnydale’s hottest night spot.

Chapter 20

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