Angel smiled in his sleep as the thrum of a heartbeat sounded in his ears; with the murmur of breath following it like lightning follows thunder. And there was the soft sound thunder too, the herald of a coming summer storm was there filling his nose with its scent.
The smell was the pure promise of a refreshing rain that would awaken your mind and shake away the cobwebs that accumulated. The heartbeat became rain, the rain became a heartbeat, the sound of breathing grew and the scent that brought on the vision of trees rustling in a wind became more and more real.
There was earth, water, and the scent of a burning candle, soap and blood. Blood? Angel’s smile faltered and his eyes opened, he sat up wide-awake in that instant. A heart was beating, someone was breathing and there was the scent that promised a cleansing rain? It took a second for him to realize who it was, the memories of the night, the reminder that she almost always smelled like rain or storms to him. He was hearing Cordelia’s heart, Cordelia’s breathing and smelling her unique scent, as well as her soap and her blood.
Memories of the demon fight right after they exited the sewers assaulted him. The image of her in the air, the demon gripping her arm stabbed him and recalled his distraction, his worry for her life and how he’d nearly lost the fight with other demon.
Angel turned and saw her, on a nearby chair in jeans and a t-shirt sleeping soundly, her chest rising and falling evenly as she breathed. He leaned forward, his eyes falling onto the skin of her neck. The demon had been about to cut her throat, he remembered but her skin was unmarred. Golden and mark-free, he sighed in relief but ran his eyes down to her arms and winced as he found where her skin had been ripped. Deep red cuts were on her upper right arm, the dark purple-gray of bruising around it, and it was his fault. The blood and the bruising, he hadn’t been careful enough, hadn’t killed the first demon fast enough to get her away to safety.
In that moment his mind changed about using her for bait, he’d find another way to stop the upcoming sacrifice. Cordelia had been through enough helping out as it was, she hadn’t signed on to drive him, fight vampires and be accosted by demons. He’d promised her she’d be safe and he’d failed.
He leaned back and ran his hands over his face, stood up and realized for the first time he wasn’t at the hotel. He was in an apartment and his eyes moved around the room. He saw the candles he’d smelled earlier, burned out on a table in front of the couch he’d been sleeping on. How had they’d gotten here? Angel sighed remembering he’d passed out after breaking the second demon’s neck; she must have gotten him here somehow. He looked down; saw the faint marks of healing bullet wounds and the faint red lines of what had been the scratches across his chest and stomach. His wounds were healing, hers hadn’t and where was his shirt?
Glancing around he saw she’d tossed it on a table by her front door, it was shredded beyond recognition and Angel sighed, as he went to touch it – it’d been silk, it’d been one of his favorite shirts because it had fit him comfortably across the shoulders. That’s when he saw a note, picking it up he saw that’d she crossed out the first half of it, that said she’d gone to the butcher. Then she’d written that she’d come back of course and that there was pig’s blood in her refrigerator for him and to make sure to drink it because he looked too pale.
“I’m a vampire,” he muttered, turning and walking toward the kitchen. Opening the refrigerator he pulled out a quart sized clear plastic tub of blood. Popping it open, he drank down half the contents and realized quickly she’d been right. He’d needed the nutrients because suddenly his mind felt clearer and sharper. And with that clarity came the realization that Cordelia Chase had bought him to her apartment, taken off his shirt, cleaned up his wounds – because facts were he should be covered in dry blood – and gone out and bought him fresh blood for nourishment.
“Huh,” he said putting the blood back into the refrigerator and walking back into her living room and looking at her. His eyes guiltily drawn to the scrapes and bruise on her arm, his stomach tightening in guilt and subconsciously he rubbed his own right arm.
He looked around the apartment again, realizing that she’d put blankets up against all her windows to block out the sun, which his instincts told him high in the sky at the moment. It was early yet, not quite noon most likely but he’d been gone for a long time from the hotel, and he’d sent Wesley and Gunn to take out a gang of vampires. Angel quickly grabbed Cordelia’s cordless phone and walked back to her kitchen to the far wall. He didn’t want to wake her up but he had to talk to Wesley, about the vampires and about Emily.
“Hello,” Wesley said a few minutes later, answering the hotel’s phone sounding nervous.
“Good. Where are you, when your car was outside but you weren’t here…”
Angel cringed; remembering that he’d left the lights on and killed his battery for the first time since it hadn’t started. “Uh, yeah, it needs a jump. Cordelia drove me.”
“Oh. I see.”
“She’s fine,” Angel snapped feeling defensive at Wesley’s worried tone. “I’m at her place, right now. I’m just going to wait for her to wake up and ask about sewer access, then I’ll make my way back… but you and Gunn need to go to Caritas. Emily is there and I told Lorne to expect you to take her to Gunn’s buddies.”
“Of course. You’ve spoken to the family; her father knows…”
“Of course Lindsey was there,” Angel said, rolling his eyes at the thought of Lindsey. “And we need to talk about that later…” Angel added, remembering how the lawyer had stood by and talked to Cordelia. He prayed it was the reckless fool’s natural curiosity and nothing more. But he didn’t trust him, Lindsey was ruthless and Cordelia was a young woman. “Fuck,” Angel muttered under his breath.
“Later, Wesley. Get Emily.”
Angel hung up and put the phone down on the counter, walked back to the refrigerator and finished off the first quart of blood, smirking a bit when he saw she’d brought two. Who was this woman, he thought making his way back to the couch and sitting down, looking at her sleeping form. He remembered a haughty and always impeccably attired girl from Sunnydale. He’d admired her sharp tongue, even if he’d always wondered why the hell she was around Buffy and her friends. She hadn’t fit in with them and yet she’d helped. Angel frowned, he’d wondered but never really questioned it then.
Now he was wondering and questioning, because last night she’d agreed to help him with one case and then helped him with another without thought. And he’d known, he’d known the demon had been trying to get her to talk about Emily’s whereabouts and that he had no reason to worry. He’d known she’d never tell anyone where the teenager was, and wasn’t that weird? Shouldn’t he be thinking the worst of Cordelia? She was superficial as a teenager, mean to Buffy and her friends but… there being bait, fighting and helping too.
How had he never questioned the contradictions before? He’d been too busy he realized. Too busy confused by his own contradictions, his own ill fit around Buffy and her friends, the reason and purpose for his being rescued from hell – and by who. And he still wondered, had it been the Powers Doyle had spoke of? Was it something else like The First evil or whatever really ran Wolfram & Hart?
Angel took a breath in through his nose, an act to steady his thoughts and keep his mind straight, and the fragrance of Cordelia hit him full force. The refreshing promise of rain, mixed with the chemicals of her soap and shampoo. A shower, it didn’t sound bad and he stood up. She wouldn’t mind, in fact he was sure she’d understand the need to get dust and blood off of him. Glancing around he moved in the direction of a hallway and found the bathroom.
Angel hurriedly slipped on his pants twenty minutes later, grabbing a towel for his hair as he went. Someone was knocking long and hard on the door of Cordelia’s apartment, and he really wanted to let her sleep. Last night had been a bad night for him, she had have been exhausted from holding it together all night.
Anger surged through him, at himself, as he’d washed off the dust and grime of fighting and racing through sewers. He’d let her go with him into an unknown and very dangerous Wolfram & Hart situation and she’d held her own. Something she shouldn’t have had to do, she’d taken care of the kid, taken care of him, and why? She owed him nothing, she had nothing to do with his fight, with his choices and he’d asked her for help and instantly dragged her into danger. He was more certain than ever she wasn’t playing bait. He’d already gotten her hurt, it was better he just forgot she lived in Los Angeles.
But for the moment, he was going to let her sleep if the infernal knocking hadn’t woke her up already. Forgetting to button his pants, he hurried to the door dripping wet and pulled it open.
“Be quiet will you,” he snapped at the person in the hall.
A tall, well dressed blond man stood in the hall and blinked at him. Angel waited for the man to say something, watched as the man went from looking impatient, to angry, to confused and back to angry again.
“Who the fuck are you?” The man shouted.
“Angel. Who are you?”
Angel narrowed his eyes; this was the asshole from the phone huh? “Cordelia says its just boyfriend.”
“What the hell are doing in her apartment?” Alec snapped pushing his way, shoving Angel against the wall.
Angel had to restrain himself from hitting the man back and took a lot more willpower than he expected because Alec rubbed him the wrong way. He had on the phone that one time, and he did now more than ever.
“Cordelia’s sleeping,” Angel said, ignoring the man’s question. He didn’t have an answer the man would understand or accept.
Alec stood in the center of the living room, looking at Cordelia and Angel realized his eyes were on Cordelia’s wounded arm. Angel flinched, guilt rushing through him.
“You hurt her?” Alec snapped staring at Angel.
Angel met Alec’s eyes, saw anger there and really didn’t have it in him to deny it. He felt like it was his fault, after all, even if he hadn’t been the demon to rip into her skin and bruise it.
Alec ripped off his jacket and hurried to the chair, getting down on his knees and touching Cordelia’s arm. “Cor, Cor, sweetheart, wake up, Cordelia?”
Angel swallowed a growl, he didn’t want her to wake up to an angry boyfriend, and this was just great. He should have asked who was at the door before opening it to make the knocking stop.
“Angel,” Cordelia said sleepily, her eyes remaining closed as she moved toward Alec’s touch.
Angel smirked as he felt the other man tense at the fact Cordelia hadn’t said his name. “I’m right here,” he answered unable to stop himself from bothering the other man.
Cordelia’s eyes slowly started to open and she pulled herself away from Alec, her arms stretching over her head. “Did you find my note about the blood?”
Angel almost laughed out loud because Alec jumped back to his feet, his mouth falling open and staring at Cordelia and then him, then back to Cordelia again with confusion.
“Blood,” Alec said and then his eyes fell back to Cordelia. “You mean your arm? Right?”
“No, dumbass,” Cordelia muttered, her eyes still closed, her voice still heavy with sleep. “I meant pig’s blood, Angel, for you to eat.”
Angel started laughing then, he couldn’t stop himself. “She’s still asleep. Maybe you should let her be,” he said to Alec with a shrug.
“What did you do to her?”
Cordelia’s eyes suddenly opened widely and she jumped off her chair. “Alec?”
“Cordelia, what is this guy doing here? Did he do this to your arm, sweetheart and what the hell do you mean about pig’s blood?”
Angel suddenly felt guilty, not that he really knew why or how he could have stopped her boyfriend from trying to wake her up. How was he supposed to know the first thing she say would be about pig’s blood. He quickly supplied the excuse he’d already offered. “She was dreaming.”
“Right,” Cordelia stammered from in front of her boyfriend, but she sent Angel a wave of her eyebrows as she noted his sopping wet state. “Angel, you’re dripping all over my rug.”
“Oh,” Angel said, taking the towel he’d grabbed and started to towel dry his hair. “You have gel?”
Cordelia laughed at him, a short infectious chuckle that made Angel feel both insulted and like laughing himself. Which was weird, he thought.
“Cordelia, what is going on? You were suppose to come over last night, and I come here to make sure you are okay and this man is here half naked, with his pants undone and you are hurt… look at your arm!”
Angel immediately looked down at his pants and realized he hadn’t zipped or buckled them; quickly he fixed that and looked up to catch Cordelia trying not to stare at him. She caught his eyes and quickly looked back at her boyfriend and then at her arm.
“Eew. Oh, my god, this is going to take forever to heal… this won’t scar will it?” She looked at Angel, and then she blanched. “Oh, God. Angel, it wasn’t one of those…aspecty type of….”
“Oh, no! You can’t catch anything from it.”
“Catch?” Alec shouted. “Cordelia, what did that to you. Should we take you the hospital for a rabies shot?”
Cordelia held Angel’s gaze and realized he was suppose to answer Alec’s question for her. “No. No, Cordelia. It was safe, that way anyway,” Angel explained.
Alec squared his shoulders and looked over his shoulder at Angel. “I think you should go, now.”
“No!” Cordelia yelled. “I mean, he can’t it’s dayli…” she stopped mid-word. “It’s about our play, uh, he and I need to practice our scene. Why he came over, but I had a late night, which is why, I ended up here and not at your place – I forgot. And well, Alec, you have to go.”
Alec crossed his arms and stared at Cordelia, then glared at Angel. Angel crossed his own arms across his chest, and met Alec’s glare with one of his own. Which to his amusement made the other man pale, put his hand on Cordelia’ waist and direct her out of the living room.
Not that it got them any privacy, Angel thought as he listened to the conversation from Cordelia’s bedroom.
“What scratched you?”
“A big cat. Really, it’s fine, it just looks bad. I really need to practice the scene with Angel.”
“Why is he wet? Was he taking a shower? What is he doing here? Cordelia, I want to trust…”
“Then you better well trust me? He works late; he came in his work clothes and took a shower. I fell asleep when he was in there. Look Alec, don’t go all jealous or possessive right now. I just forgot to come over last night. I have plans with Angel today, so you just have to wait.”
“What is with this guy always calling and being around lately?”
Cordelia let out a huff of air. “Alec don’t do this. I’ll call you later.”
“He is not. Please, this play is important to me,” Cordelia lied.
Angel grew tired of the fight, Alec sounded like a spoiled rich fraternity kid and he didn’t want to listen to him accuse Cordelia of cheating because he thought he might threaten to rip off his limbs. So he moved into the kitchen to get further away from the conversation, to tune it out and sat down on the counter.
A minute or two later, Alec and Cordelia came out of the hallway; the blond man gave Angel a hard look and then kissed Cordelia purposely good-bye before leaving the apartment. Angel decided he really did hate that guy.
The door to his office opened but Lindsey didn’t look up, because he wasn’t shocked. Few things shocked him and Lilah Morgan walking into his office early Saturday afternoon was predictable.
“So, the rumors are true… you lost our leverage to keep Coe from being thrown to the wolves in court.”
“Angel showed up,” Lindsey said, both answering and ignoring her inquiry.
“And yet here you are with your liver still intact.”
Lindsey looked up from the translation he was reading and gave Lilah a grin. “I might have lost the ‘leverage’ as you like to call the girl, but I may have stumbled on something else. Something that Linwood believes the Senior Partners will want looked into.”
Lilah sat herself down on the edge of his desk, leaning over trying to read the paper in his hands from his position.
Lindsey picked it up, and held it out to her. “Go ahead Lilah, read it.”
She took the paper; acting nonchalantly but the hunger and curiosity in her eyes betrayed her anticipation at finding out something juicy. Lindsey just kept grinning smugly as her brow started to wrinkle in confusion.
“What is this?”
“Translation of a prophecy.”
“This is the translation?”
Lindsey shrugged. “Prophecies are ancient and this one has to do with Angel.”
“What about him?”
Lilah looked back down at the paper in her hands and silently murmured a few words and phrases from the translation to herself as she begin to process the words on the paper. “Well this isn’t good for Wolfram & Hart. The woman mentioned in this prophecy is part of Angel remaining all virtuous and heroic.”
“Disgusting isn’t it. Makes one long for the days when he was stalking us.”
Lilah snorted. “I do wonder what got him back on path of the righteous, one day he’s threatening my life the next he’s all with the Batman act again.”
“Don’t know. Don’t care.” Lindsey shrugged and grabbed back the copy of the translation. “What does worry me is this prophecy.”
“Is it happening?”
Lindsey smiled and pulled out a photograph from under a few papers on his desk and handed it to Lilah. “Got it from the firm’s satellite. She was helping him last night. Never seen her before. Have you?”
Lilah frowned at the picture. “She thinks she’s a slayer?”
“No. She just knows about vampires.”
“She knows Angel.”
“Knows and is helping him.”
Lilah frowned. “The prophecy, when is it supposed to happen?”
“The Prophecy Department is run by a bunch of indecisive and unsure pussies,” Lindsey frowned. “They gave me a bunch of babble about the timing of these things being nearly impossible to track down. According to them Angel could meet the girl in the prophecy, next week. Or he might have met her years ago. Or he might not meet her until years from now. And that’s not all. What’s prophesied about her… they have no clue if it has already come to pass or if it will come to be after she joins Angel.”
“Does she have a name?”
“Wouldn’t tell me.”
Lilah laughed and put the picture down. “And is that why you let her get away?”
“She intrigued me. And I was right to be. She’s the girl. I just know it.”
“Or she’s just a girl. She doesn’t look all that special to me,” Lilah said.
“Tested her. Sent demons to get information on our witness, where Angel hid her. Told them to only question her knew it be pointless to have them try with Angel. She didn’t squeal.”
“Maybe your demon didn’t threaten her hard enough.”
“He was going to kill her. Too bad Angel stopped him. If she was the girl could have nipped this all in the bud before it started.”
Lilah nodded. “Well, we better find out if she’s the girl.”
“We?” Lindsey laughed. “Lilah, this is my operation.”
Lilah’s eyes narrowed and she stood up. “Don’t think I’m not going to do what I can live up to company orders when it comes to Angel.”
“Lilah. You want him dead.”
“And you don’t?”
Lindsey nodded. “It’s against the wishes of the Senior Partners.”
“It is…” Lilah bent forward. “You are going to let me help you mess with him, as we work to find more out about this girl?”
Lindsey smirked at Lilah and stood up from his desk and undid his tie. “I’m going home… maybe I’ll think about your offer to be on my team for this project, Lilah.”
Lilah found herself alone in Lindsey’s office, before she squared her shoulders and went to his desk and grabbed the phone. She was working on this information with or without him, she bit her lip, Lindsey was counting on that. She knew that, he’d told her way too much if he didn’t plan to use her, with or without her consent. “Bastard…” she muttered, her mind working overtime to figure out ways to screw Lindsey, have fun messing with Angel and find out about all the prophecies mentioning a human woman and/or the vampire with the soul. She had to know everything and know more
Cordelia stood by the door to her apartment her stomach churning and her temperature rising higher and higher. What was wrong with Alec? Coming in here all possessive and weird; okay she’d blown him off, again, and she was blowing him off a lot.
Did leaving his bed in the middle of the night really count? She’d shown up all those other times and last night she’d had a damn good reason for being late. And how dare he accuse Angel of scratching her arm, the injury on her arm didn’t even look like something a man could do, or a vampire for that matter. Not that Alec knew that Angel was a vampire, but that ignorance didn’t excuse any of Alec’s accusations. Or the jealousy.
And did she really have a leg to stand on; she was leaving his bed in the middle of the night, even when said bed was her own bed. Last time Alec had spent the night at her place she’d woken up in the middle of the night and lied to Alec about waking up only a half hour before he did.
She winced. She was staring at her door and Angel was probably wondering why the hell she was dating such a jerk, who’d just manhandled her in front of him because he was insecure. Did Alec have reason to be? She felt herself questioning it but then mentally shook herself. No, Alec had no reason to be insecure; he was the right guy for her. She knew it.
Plastering a smile on her face, she turned toward Angel who was still in her kitchen at the counter and walked up to him. Her eyes zooming in on his chest and stomach. The muscles on the vampire where just exquisite, a pure work of sexual art she realized her mouth going dry and the memories of her high school crush on him coming into her mind.
She quickly quashed the thoughts, reminding herself of Angel’s curse and the complications of adding intimacy to a friendship like the one she and Angel – didn’t really have…yet. Did she want to be friends?
“You’re all healed,” she said, her hand stopping just before her fingers would connect with his skin. She pulled it back and looked him in the eyes, deep brown eyes that were looking right into her and they were unhappy. “What?”
“I…” Angel trailed off. “Nothing.”
“Have it your way. I can’t believe this, you were ripped apart last night and now look at you…not one tiny pink or red mark. No bruising. How is this fair? I look like the one who took on two demons and you look like the damsel in distress…well not very damsel-y but you get my point I’m sure.”
Angel lifted up the blood he was holding. “This helped,” he said and he looked away from her, pinning his eyes somewhere beyond her shoulder before he looked back at her. “It was a smart thing to do.”
Cordelia met his eyes, wondering if telling her she made a smart move was his way of saying thank you and instantly huffed. “Pfft. It was common sense. Bleeding vampire, buy him blood. Which I got to say, weirdest experience of my life and I grew up on a Hellmouth. But facing demons, vampires and other various fiends, no where near as weird to me as a butcher not blinking an eye when I ask to buy pig’s blood and asking me if I’m planning to make Blood Pudding or Blood Soup, with it. There are like delicacies that cooks and chef’s actually make for people, with that!” She pointed at the blood. “How weird is that?”
Angel just stared at her.
She met his stare and felt stuck in place. Standing in her kitchen, a bit too close to where he was sitting. If he wasn’t who he was, Cordelia would feel like she was trapping him but the fact it was Angel made her feel trapped. Trapped by his eyes and all the things that were in them that she couldn’t read. She shivered, thinking that it would be frightening as hell to be in the mind of a man like Angel. All the years of ruthless, bloody murders and torture.
“I’ve changed my mind,” he said, suddenly and Cordelia blinked and made a noise to convey her confusion. His eyes were still on her but they’d moved from her own to her arm. She followed him there, and saw the ghastly wound on her arm. Gutted and torn skin, gross deep purple bruises and the rusty red of dried blood and she took a breath. It would heal, it would be ugly for a long time but it would heal, so what was the problem she wondered.
Guilt. It was etched on Angel’s face, his guilt, his self-blame for her wound and he wasn’t about to stop himself from wallowing in it. She frowned and lifted her arm up and batted him playfully upside his head.
“What the?” Angel stared at her confused as his hands flew to where she’d hit him. “Ow!”
“Like that hurt. Stop staring at my wound with Guilty-face, and explain to me what the hell you meant two seconds ago?”
“You aren’t going to be bait. You did plenty last night and you ended up hurt. So the job is off.”
“You’re firing me?”
Angel opened his mouth, closed it and then opened it again. “Cordelia, it’s not exactly like you were working for me…”
“You’re firing me before you even see my job performance.”
“I caught plenty of the performance last night,” Angel snapped. “It’s too dangerous.”
“It was dangerous to begin with.”
Angel shook his head. “I was thinking about the innocent victims before, I didn’t considering making you one of them.”
Cordelia stepped backward and opened her refrigerator and pulled out a carton of orange juice. “Those innocent victims still need saving.”
“And I’ll save them.”
“I’ll figure another way to get the intelligence we need. Or Wesley will.”
“Or that guy, Gunn?”
“And yet you all agreed to asking me to be Bait-girl.”
“That was before…”
“Before what?” Cordelia asked him looking at him innocently, as she pulled a glass off a shelf.
Angel scowled at her, guilt flickering over his features as his gaze fell to her arm. “You’re hurt.”
“It’ll heal. And I’m probably crazy for this but I’m going to play bait girl for you. I agreed to it and it seems to be the only option you have. And it’s my choice.”
“No,” Angel growled and before Cordelia could even think about continuing their juvenile argument he was in her personal space, his hand gripped around her injured arm, just missing the cuts and bruises but digging into her nonetheless. “You are too brave and stubborn to risk, if there is trouble you’ll jump right into the fray again and maybe get killed. No.”
Cordelia lost all coherent thought except for one thing. “You think I’m brave?”