Splintered 5

Chapter 5

Merl entered Caritas, double-checking his pockets before grinning and continuing inside. Tonight he was gonna try out every beer in the place. The last deal of the night had been good, which was a pleasant surprise.

The grin widened with anticipation as he neared the bar, abruptly disappearing upon seeing the familiar leather-covered hulk sitting between the only two empty stools. Why was it that every time he had a run of luck, Angel turned up to sour the deal. It wasn’t like the vampire came to Caritas to enjoy the show. If he was here, it meant he was either going to sing for the Host or he wanted information. Either way, Merl figured it wasn’t a good night to take chances.

Those dark eyes slid away from the stage and connected with his as if Angel suddenly saw him as an opportunity. “Like that’s a surprise,” Merl muttered, the anticipation sucking out of him even as he scuttled back towards the entrance. It looked like he’d have to do with Cheeno’s place instead. The other bar always smelled like it was used as a john, but beer was beer.

“Going already? You just got here.”

Groaning under his breath, Merl looked up at the vampire as soon as the hard grip on his arm spun him around. “Got things to do” his reedy voice came out more whiny than usual, bringing up his other arm to wipe his nose. “Can’t stand around talking, especially with you.”

The tug on his arm was a waste of time, and he was practically dragged across the floor, throwing apologetic smiles to everyone he bumped into. With the amount of greenbacks he had on him, the last thing Merl wanted was any trouble.

Arriving back at his stool, Angel yanked the small green demon until his slight weight jarred him onto another empty stool. Merl tugged at his arm as soon as he was perched, uncomfortably looking around to see if anyone worth seeing could see him. He then looked down and grimaced. “Watch the jacket, man,” the whine grew.

Angel just looked at him with derision before releasing his arm. His plan to grab hold of Lorne once the flamboyant demon climbed off the stage was shoved to the back of his mind as he sized his snitch up. The little green demon definitely looked a little more shifty than usual and he just knew in his bones he’d made the right call.

“Why do I get the feeling that you’re trying to avoid me?” Angel sat back a little on the barstool and rested an elbow on the bar. Merl fidgeted on his seat, his eyes darting anywhere but at the vampire.

“I dunno where you got that idea.” He again wiped his nose with his sleeve, sniffing loudly and Angel grimaced in disgust. “Just came in for a drink and didn’t like the company here, that’s all.”

Angel let it go with a slight nod, reaching for his drink and taking a long draught. It was Merl’s turn to pull a face. He hated scumbag vampires. Didn’t trust ‘em one little bit, especially the one sitting opposite him. For one thing, the bloodsucker never paid him and Merl was one of the best at his game; wouldn’t have known it though, the way this scumbag treated him.

“Any news going around right now?” The question jolted Merl out of his thoughts, and as the words absorbed he froze. Geez!

“No, nothin’ interestin’ to you,” he replied evasively, catching the eye of the barman and ordering a drink. “Why you askin’?” He still avoided the almost black piercing eyes aimed his way.

“No reason.” Angel shrugged, tamping down the urge to shake it out of the little weasel. Observing dryly, “But you’re looking more shifty-eyed than usual.”

With a quip, Merl said, “Eye problems run in the family.”

“What family?” Angel put down his drink and leaned forward until he was in the smaller demon’s face. “You’re trying to hide something. And I don’t like that,” his voice low with a hint of a snarl made Merl’s drink shake in his hand.

“You don’t like anything” Merl muttered under his breath then yelped in fear when the vampire wrapped his hand around his scrawny throat. The beer splashed drunkenly out of his drink as his grip tightened, tipping it askance.

“Let’s not get personal.” There was definitely a snarl and Merl attempted to gulp.

“You’re supposed to be honest with me. Tell me everything and that way you get to live.” A flash of fang and then the hand released him.

Merl dragged in some air choking a little as he looked up mistily at the vampire, relieved to find him fully human again. What the hell was the point of a sanctuary spell that allowed creeps like this to badger the bar patrons.

Angel watched him struggle for air and commented conversationally, “There are times I miss breathing, Merl. You think you’d miss it much?” Merl gulped aloud and brought the remainder of his drink to his trembling mouth, emptying the glass before almost dropping it onto the bar.

He was terrified, but then again, Merl was always close to wetting his pants around this vampire. Yet business was business. “It’s gonna cost ya.”

Angel finished his drink before replying. “You think your scrawny little life is worth much? Cos that’s all you’re getting.” He leaned in again, using his bulk to intimidate. “Fork over what you know, otherwise the only cost will be in the form of a lung of two.”

“I ain’t heard anything, man, I swear,” Merl stuttered, pissed when he felt a line of sweat run down his back. He really hated this vampire and feared him like you wouldn’t believe. When a large hand wrapped around his wrist and squeezed, Merl gave in, squealing, “Okay, okay. What do ya wanna know?” He blew out a relieved breath when he was released, attempting to check his wrist for breaks.

“Don’t play dumb. You already know.” Angel’s voice sounded weary, but Merl wasn’t fooled for a second. “Don’t make me give breaks you can find.” After staring back with frightened dilated eyes, Merl dropped his gaze, raising his good arm to scratch his bald head, using it as a cover to look covertly around.

“You ain’t heard this from me, right?” he finally whispered, leaning forward. This time it was Angel that backed off. Lack of dental hygiene was common among most demons, and he doubted Merl’s mouth had ever seen a toothbrush.

Completely unaware, Merl leaned even further forward. “An undead chick rolled into town the other night,” he whispered, taking another look around. “Word on the street says it’s someone you know and she ain’t come here to LA for just the cuisine. Name’s Cilla or summat like that.”

Angel tensed in shock. “Drusilla,” he finally muttered between unmoving lips. Merl instantly nodded.

“Yeah, that’s it. This chick is dangerous from what I heard. Makes you look like a puppy. No offence,” Merl added hurriedly, but he didn’t need to worry.

Angel’s head was swimming with shock. First, his sighting of Darla and to now find out the other female vampire was in town.

“Word is she’s come to collect summat that shoulda stayed in the ground. That’s all I know.” Merl finished in a hushed tone, and then finally noticing the vampire’s distraction he slid off his stool and quickly melted into the crowds.

Lost in thought, Angel never saw him leave. All he knew was that something bad was brewing. The woman he’d seen in that Mercedes was no hallucination, no mistaken identity. He knew the curves of her face and no look-alike could fool him. He’d just been clueless as to how it was possible when he had watched her crumble into dust at his own hand.

She’d been in his dreams at first before he got caught up with fantasies about Cordy. Speaking to him, urging him to come to her. They’d never played the mind games that came so easily to other vampires. They’d never had to.

The sketchy information provided him by Merl made him suspect that Drusilla had come because of Darla. The hows and whys of Darla’s resurrection were beyond him at the moment, but he knew that Dru wouldn’t come to LA without a reason and it seemed that now she had one.

Clinking glass sounded as another drink was set beside him noisily. He glanced up; cursing when he noticed Merl had disappeared. Then sensing another body close to his, Angel’s hand snapped out with a lightning move.

“Whoa, watch the silk,” Lorne looked down pointedly at his forearm. “It’s supposed to be crushed, not ravaged.”

Angel ignored the complaint and pulled him closer before letting go. “Be lucky it’s just the silk.” He nodded his head curtly and the demon sat down on the empty barstool with a sigh.

This is what happened when you eavesdropped on the comings and goings, Lorne figured, not that he’d really had to. The vampire was so buzzed that he didn’t need a song to read him. He didn’t like what he saw. Not a bit.

“You’re not exactly dressed to blend in,” Angel added sourly.

“Can I just say a couple of long zees would do a hell of a lot for those grocery bags under your eyes, Angelcakes?”

Choosing to ignore him, Angel instead got down to business. “Tell me I’m wrong Lorne.” The confusion and shock in the vampire’s voice caused the demon to shudder with severe misgivings, but this was one distress call he couldn’t get involved in.

“Sorry sweetcheeks. My membership to the Psychic Friends Network got lost in the mail.” Lorne took a healthy swallow of his SeaBreeze, then paused, his ruby lips lifting into a parody of a smile.

Angel reached out and again grabbed his arm. “It isn’t a request.”

Lorne swallowed in trepidation but still shook his head; intensely thankful for the no violence spell he had in force. “I can’t help you out here. Think of this little blast from the past as a learning curve. Ciao.” With a flick of his wrist, he twisted out of the vampire’s loosened grasp and rose to his feet, his troubled red eyes resting on him for a split second before wandering off into the crowd.

***

“I can’t believe he ignored my vision!” Cordy put a little too much pressure on one of the gashes that ran across Wes’ chest, throwing up an apologetic grimace at his hiss of pain.

“Not for want of trying, Cordelia,” Wes replied, stifling the groans as the pad of soaked cotton wool pressed a little deeper than he could bear. “I visited the hotel several times during the day, but Angel wasn’t around. In the end I left a message taped to his door.” A yelp tore from his paling mouth as her ministrations became a little too much. “Please, can you not dig in so much?”

Cordy sat back with a sigh, fiddling with the stained cotton ball before throwing it into the nearby trashcan with the rest. “Sorry Wes. Guess I’m too used to An…” her words came to a halt as she spied a much deeper gash that ran a little too close to his heart for comfort. Moisture filled her eyes as the full import hit her hard.

“Here, let me do that,” Gunn rose from his seat at the couch and walked over, while Wes averted his eyes. It was very rare to see her like this, and he doubted very much comfort would be well received.

“How about you make us a nice brew?” suggested Wes on a lighter tone, swallowing hard when she dipped her head, nodding erratically and rising to her feet. Both men watched her until she disappeared into the kitchen. “How’s your arm?” he asked in a hushed voice.

Gunn flexed his fingers and grunted. “Better since you popped my shoulder back in. Where’d ya learn to do that?” he asked almost conversationally. Wes hissed as antiseptic drizzled into second wound before replying.

“I suppose you could call me a Jack of all Trades … still working on mastering at least one skill fully,” he muttered between clenched teeth. Gunn finished up and turned to discard the soiled cotton before getting to his feet.

“Ain’t doin’ too bad as far as I can tell.” He gyrated his arm and threw a tired grin over his shoulder on his way to the couch, flopping down into the soft cushions with a heavy sigh. The men settled into a strained silence, determined to avoid discussing just how close they’d come that night to being killed.

Cordy leaned her hip against the worktop and attempted to pull her ragged nerves together.

They’d waited till the last possible moment until realizing Angel wasn’t going to make a show, and after they’d gone, Cordy had spent the best part of an hour rocking in her seat and the rest of the time ringing the hotel every five minutes. How she’d stopped herself calling her ‘champion’ every name under the sun was beyond her. Each time the answering machine had kicked in; she’d stuck to the details… except for the last call where she’d promised to skewer him with everything wooden if he didn’t get his undead butt there in time.

As it was, only Wes and Gunn returned, and her rage that Angel wasn’t with them burned deep. But her anger had rapidly dissolved at the sight of their weary faces and torn, bloody clothing. But now, reassured that they were going to be okay after all had it escalating yet again; not helped by the shock of seeing that gash on Wes’ chest. Hell, Wesley Wyndam-Pryce was so far from superhero as you could get, and when she thought of what could have happened even with Gunn by his side; Cordy shuddered and wrapped her arms tightly around her waist.

Goddamn it! This was Angel’s redemption, not theirs. She was Vision Girl, and Wes Research Guy, Gunn… Gunn was more driven than any of them, but he was only human, too. Yeah, she’d quit, but she still took her visions seriously. All the pain she went through to pass on the PTB’s message and that big, fat lump of crap shrugged one off like it wasn’t important anymore.

His pattern of sleep-grouch-sleep had now obviously changed. Where the hell was he? The thought was quickly stifled. She was beyond giving a crap now. The friends she did have were more important. One vision had splintered her mind since the day she’d quit. Hopefully, the PTB would get the message that they’d lost their fighter of good and at least give them time to recover before the next vision came along.

Raking trembling fingers through her hair, Cordy squeezed her eyes shut and attempted to stop the flow of hot tears that stung her eyes, and then took a deep, cleansing breath. With one quick swipe across her face, she reached for the tray of cups and entered the lounge.

***

Once again, Angel had come close to making a discovery. For the past couple of days he had done nothing but search for Darla and Drusilla. He’d expected to be able to follow an easy trail. Together, those two would only leave a bloodbath in their wake, but he’d been mistaken about that. So far. There was no sign of his wayward childe, but by a strange coincidence, he caught a glimpse of the blonde from the Mercedes.

It was Darla, all right. All his senses confirmed it. She’d made him into what he was and they had played their deadly games together for more than a hundred years. There was no doubting her identity even if she pretended not to know him. One thing left him confused and that was the discovery that Darla was not a vampire, but human.

Before he could confront her, Darla had disappeared into the sunlight where he couldn’t follow, running from him as if he was out of his mind. She was playing a game, baiting a trap with herself and expecting him to fall into it. That didn’t concern him so much as the reminder of Darla’s appearance in his dreams where she had taunted him and roused dark desires that put Cordelia in danger.

He hadn’t slept since discovering that Darla was somehow alive. The thought that she might look at Cordy as a rival, a threat to her, made it necessary to track her down. Amongst his enemies, there was only one group he knew with the desire to find new and better ways of pissing him off, including the capability of arranging Darla’s resurrection. It was about time that he walked straight into their offices and demanded answers.

Before he did that, there was something else he needed to see to: Cordy herself. These past two sleepless nights had passed without her. Angel longed to see her smiling face and feel the soft touch of her hands. When he glanced at the empty seat beside him, he frowned, blinked and looked again.

Cordelia snuggled up against him as he sat behind the wheel of the Plymouth. His arm went around her shoulder, pulling her closer as her hand smoothed a crease in his pants along his thigh. “Forget about them for now,” she turned her cheek to rub it along his shoulder. “Take me on a drive by the ocean. We’ll find a secluded beach, swim naked in the moonlight, make love on the sand.”

That sounded so much more appealing than what lay ahead. Angel pushed aside the tiredness that weighted his limbs, trying to focus on the traffic. More than once, he had been startled awake at a traffic light, horns blaring behind him. The pleasant diversion of having Cordy snuggled up beside him as they rode along the coastline came to an abrupt end. The mid-town traffic and the empty seat beside him was a poor substitute for his fantasy.

Though he’d survive a car wreck, Angel had no desire to put a dent in his classic convertible, but it was getting harder to stay awake. All he could think about was falling asleep in Cordelia’s arms, her reflexive breathing soothing him, letting him drift into restful slumber. Maybe she wasn’t here with him, but Cordy would be at home where she belonged… in his bed. Waiting for him to return. Tonight, she’d be dressed in those soft cotton panties and one of those tank tops that clung to every curve.

Arriving at the hotel, Angel immediately discovered it to be empty and whatever fantasy still clouded his mind, Cordelia was certainly not waiting for him upstairs.

There was only a note written in Wesley’s handwriting taped to his door. The thin paper tore as he ripped it down. Opening it up, he found it to be dated yesterday and timed at 7:28pm, detailed that way in order to give him a precise time and directions to respond to Cordy’s vision. Rereading the note, Angel cursed aloud as its meaning sunk in. The reality of what had happened between them and the fact that she stubbornly stuck to her plan to quit was all too clear as it came crashing back to him.

Cordelia had called Wes with the details of her vision. That was yesterday. They’d left him a note because he wasn’t around to respond. Growling out his anger, “Yesterday, dammit!” Angel turned on his heel and took the steps at a fast pace.

He knew exactly what would have happened since he wasn’t around to respond to the message. Wes would try to take care of it himself, no doubt calling on Gunn to help out. It was the thought that Cordelia was likely to let herself get caught up in it as well that scared the hell out of him. Within minutes, he was back in the Plymouth, racing across town toward Cordy’s apartment.

Halfway there, he remembered his cell phone and reached into his jacket pocket intent upon calling her first just to make sure she hadn’t done anything stupid or gotten herself hurt when he wasn’t around to stop it from happening. The phone wouldn’t even turn on, the battery dead. Angel hurled it to the seat beside him, suddenly remembering Cordy’s lecture on recharging his phone.

Screeching to a halt, Angel parked the car and leapt out onto the pavement. He was at Cordelia’s door in record time, pounding on it and demanding that Dennis open up when it became clear that Cordy herself had no plans to let him in. The hushed sound of her voice as she spoke to her phantom roommate was all too clear despite the barrier of the wooden door.

“Just ignore him, Dennis,” her voice came from the other side of the living room. “He wasn’t around when Wes and Gunn needed him yesterday, so let’s see how he likes it for once.”

Rattling the door handle, Angel gritted his teeth and stifled the urge to bust down the door. Instead, he swallowed down his irritation and attempted to make her see sense. “Cordy, I know you’re in there.” His knocking became a soft rap.

“As far as you’re concerned, I’m not.”

That snappish statement felt dagger-sharp, piercing his chest with a hurtful stab. She was never this way in his dreams. There, her fiery personality was focused entirely on pleasing him. Right now his obstinate little seer had just one taste of what they could be like together. It was about time he corrected that.

There was no reason for being so ridiculously stubborn. “Let me in, Cordy. We need to talk.”

“No we don’t.” Her voice was closer now, emanating directly through the door as if she stood on the other side.

Exhausted, Angel really didn’t feel like arguing about it. He needed to get Cordy back where he could keep a closer eye on her. Where he knew that she’d be safe. That would also let him fix this, whatever it was between them that continued to keep them apart. All he needed was to have her in his arms again, saying without words just what she meant to him. Proving with his mouth and his hands just how much he needed her. Just the thought of laying her down amongst the silken sheets and covering her nude body with his own made his hands shake.

Bracing them against the frame, Angel touched his bent head to the door, aching at the thought that Cordelia was just out of his reach on the other side. “Don’t be this way. You know that you belong with me. I need you with me, Cordy, to keep you safe.”

A long pause followed, a hush so deep that he could detect the quick beat of her heart without distraction. When finally she spoke, Angel could hear the strain in her voice, a plea torn between a sob and a determined shout. “Go away!”

“No, I’m not leaving.” Angel hit the palm of his hand against the door, hearing a gasp from the other side. “Not until you open this door and talk to me.”

“Fine,” the abrupt answer actually surprised him. He figured she’d hold out a little longer before letting him in. Maybe she hadn’t forgotten about their kiss after all. Clicking of the locks followed and the door swung open to reveal Cordelia looking as furious as a gathering storm. “I’ll talk.”

With her blocking the door, Angel made no move to step forward. She didn’t even give him the chance to do so before letting him have it. “Where the hell were you yesterday? Wes and Gunn had to take care of my vision by themselves thanks to your disappearing act.”

“I just got the note.” Angel fished it out of his pocket as proof.

Cordelia made no move to take it. She just glanced down at the wrinkled, ripped paper before lifting her resentful gaze back toward him. “A little late for the party. You missed the gougefest. Wes’ blood was all over my hands.”

He could still scent traces of it in the air and knew Cordelia wasn’t exaggerating the situation. Guilt tugged at his gut, but she didn’t understand the reason he’d been away. He had to explain that it was for her own good. First, he had to ask, “Wesley… is he okay?”

Crossing her arms, Cordelia glared at him, “Do you care or are you just enjoying the guilt trip?”

Angel moved just a little closer, wanting to wipe that tight little pout from her mouth, but stopped to say, “That’s not fair. Of course I care.”

“It wasn’t fair that they were out there on their own.” Her eyes glistened brightly as her fear for their friends’ safety came through all too clearly. Seeing Cordelia on the verge of tears ripped him apart.

At a loss for words, Angel hovered between stepping back and pulling her into his arms. He opted for the latter, needing the comfort of feeling her against him just as much as she needed comforting. Taking one step forward, only to watch Cordy flinch in reaction, Angel bounded off the invisible energy barrier blocking his path. Instant understanding hit and Angel stared at Cordelia in shock, his head spinning at the realization that she went so far to prove that he was no longer welcome in her life.

“What have you done?” Thick with surprise, shock and anger, the question that he should have asked was, “Why?”

“Obvious, much?” Cordelia answered after reasserting her position close to the barrier. “I told you that I don’t feel safe anymore.”

That was ridiculous. He’d always protected her. A red haze glazed his vision for a second. It took everything in him not to attack the mystical barrier in unrestrained fury. Angel sucked unneeded air into his useless lungs in a frantic attempt to force calm, aware of her wide wary eyes pinned on his taut face. As the faint pungent scent of fear teased his flaring nostrils, his badly slipping control reasserted itself. “I’d never let anyone hurt you. That’s why you need to come with me.”

Cordy eyed him closely, suspicion in every line of her tense frame, refusing to be swayed by the wounded expression that had abruptly softened his angular features. “Pfft! You’re the creepazoid I’m afraid of, dumbass.” She wrapped her arms across her chest defensively.

Angel’s broad shoulders slumped under the weight of the condemnation in her unwavering gaze. He couldn’t understand it. He’d done nothing to earn such censure. Their tiff back at the hotel wasn’t something to get so worked up over. Surely he’d shown her just how much he wanted her the last time he was here. Puzzlement overwhelmed the remaining outrage of her actions and all he could do was ask, “Me?”

“You and your psycho-maniac other half,” she said and stepped further away as if the thought of Angelus being so close petrified her. He saw her quivering despite her efforts to control it. “Everyday, you remind me more of him.”

“I am him,” he reminded softly, not intending to frighten her with those words. If her wide-eyed reaction suggested anything, it wasn’t a sense of comfort. Anger quickly returned and simmered close to the surface. It wasn’t as if he was telling her anything new. “Don’t try to pretend that you don’t know that, Cordy. There’s no reason to fear me. My soul is still intact. I’m not evil.”

A soft huff of disbelief that sounded on her breath made his jaw clench in angry reaction. “Then what’s with the touchy-feely act? Guess you think I didn’t notice. If it’s not your wandering hands, it’s been your bad attitude.”

Leaning in as close as he could get, Angel told her, “I want you. It’s as simple as that.”

Hearing that seemed to startle her. Angel had no clue what was going on in her head, but her increasing heart rate accompanied other bodily reactions he had no trouble interpreting. A flash of arousal was followed by the electric scent of fear. It was all too clear that the latter was the overpowering sensation.

“Invite me in,” he urged, a hint of desperation sounding. “I need to show you that there’s nothing to fear between us. You know I could never hurt you.”

Grimly, Cordelia nodded her head, “Yes, you can and you will if I let this go any further. Deep down, you know it, too.”

Flashes from his dream easily came to him. Cordy in his arms, her neck bare and bleeding as he lapped up the fluid that gave her life and sustained him. Denial rang from his throat, “No!”

He hit his hand against the barrier with such force that his palm split, dark blood dripping down his wrist and splattering against the threshold. Closing the wound in his fist, Angel dropped his hand to his side, hiding the proof of his anger. Those accusing eyes kept a lock on his, daring him to deny his violent reaction.

The strangled sound of the plea that followed, “Don’t do this to us, Cordy,” was Angel’s final hold on solving this rationally.

“There is no us.” Cordelia whirled around so Angel couldn’t see the tears he knew were wetting her cheeks. “Go! I’ll call if I have another vision. Just be there next time. Someone has to make sure Wes and Gunn don’t get dead, even if it’s me.”

For a moment, Angel considered that as an opportunity, but then rejected it just as quickly. He wouldn’t know about it before Cordelia would be traipsing off into some demon’s lair and getting herself injured or worse. Darla and Drusilla were also still out there, a growing threat every moment they remained unaccounted. Angel wasn’t about to let Cordy put herself into that kind of danger.

“You step one foot outside this apartment after dark on any kind of mission more dangerous than buying take-out,” he saw her stiffen in reaction, “and I promise you’ll regret it.”

Whirling around, smudged mascara darkening her cheeks, Cordelia stalked up to the barrier and stopped just a breath away from his grasp. “That’s it. Go ahead and threaten me. Prove my point. You’re not exactly a boy scout when it comes to getting your way.”

Angel’s mouth quirked up at one corner in automatic reaction to the fire lighting her eyes, “It’s not a boy scout you want in your bed. It’s me.”

He couldn’t help but feel a twinge of satisfaction as her mouth dropped open in shock and then clamped shut just as quickly. While she was uncharacteristically stumped for words, he added pointedly, “You won’t always have this barrier to hide behind.”

“Why, you—” Cordelia started forward as if to take out her sudden rage on him.

Before Angel could take advantage of the moment, Cordelia was hauled back by an unseen force and lay sprawled on the carpet. “Thanks, Dennis,” his sarcasm was clear. As was the phantom’s reaction, Angel realized, as the door slammed shut in his face.

***

Cordy leaned back against the couch cushions and swigged from the bottle of beer Wes was determined not to notice— this time.

“Ahhh, now this is the life,” Gunn let a lazy smile spread across his face as he stretched out his long legs and made himself comfortable.

Cordy gave his ribs a nudge with her elbow when he invaded her space. With a grunt, he moved over to the other cushion and wriggled down until he was settled. Reaching back over, he snatched the upraised bottle from Cordy’s grasp, ignoring her “Hey,” as he took a long draught.

“I brought ‘em, so I get to choose who drinks them,” Gunn responded, lifting his beer and taking a long draft. “And I choose me,” he finished with a smirk.

Wes merely rolled his eyes in a strangely familiar fashion and reached for one out of the pack on the coffee table, swatting Cordy’s hand as he did so. “I think you’ve had enough,” he ignored the petulant scowl thrown his way and leaned back into his chair. Taking a sip of his drink, Wes pursed his lips before speaking again. “Well, I still haven’t caught Angel at the hotel. I have no idea where he can possibly be going in broad daylight.”

Cordy bit the inside of her cheek, halting the flow of words that instantly came to her mouth to tell of the visit by said vampire two nights before. When another vision hit and Wes & Gunn again failed to locate Angel, she insisted upon going with them. No matter his threat. If he couldn’t be found, then he wouldn’t be there to make good on his threat. No matter that his words had left her chilled with fear, she wasn’t about to let her friends head into danger without her.

Not that it had been easy to convince either one of them to let her tag along. She hadn’t failed to notice their protectiveness during the fight, and their exaggerated concern over a small scratch she earned as a result of it.

No. Her confrontation with Angel was best kept to herself, she decided. It would only cause even more aggravation, and that’s the last thing they needed on top of the exhausting ‘missions’. This time, Wes only attempted calling the vampire twice before suggesting they gather their weapons and leave.

Time was of the essence, and they’d wasted 40 minutes arguing with Cordy about her decision to help. Her pale face and obvious discomfort obviously hadn’t put a dent in her stubborn determination to leave with them. They’d been so successful and worked together so well they’d decided to celebrate the next day. Now they sat with beer and munchies, chatting over their fight and how they could improve. Until now not one of them had mentioned the absent vampire.

“Did you check his room? He coulda been sleeping,” Gunn asked nonchalantly. He’d been told of Angel’s habit lately of sleeping the day away, and sometimes well into the evenings. Neither Wes nor Cordy had gone into too much detail about the day she’d quit, but he’d guessed it hadn’t gone well by the amount of times the girl had said the word ‘asswipe’.

“Um. Well, he was asleep once or twice, but I didn’t feel it was a good idea to wake him,” Wes admitted.

Cordy pffted. “Good call,” she muttered under her breath, “don’t wanna do that.”

Wes glanced at her oddly before returning to his drink.

“As good as we’re doin’ we need to know if he’s in or out, man.” Cordy was already shaking her dark head before Gunn had finished.

“Uh huh. That girl was that close,” Cordy held a finger and thumb close together, “to being chow the other night, and last night no show again. I think we know where he stands. Definitely out.” She attempted yet again to snatch a beer- and succeeded, purely because Wes became preoccupied.

“Let’s be fair, Cordelia,” Wes finally replied. “He was most likely sleeping, and you know how hard it is to wake him. I doubt a phone ringing would have roused him.”

Cordy’s spine stiffened. “What do you mean I’d know?” A light flush colored her cheeks but she refused to drop her outraged eyes from her friend.

“I merely meant that the last time you attempted to wake him, you were absent a good ten minutes,” Wes explained, his mind suddenly recalling that particular day. He eyed the delicate flush with morbid interest until her eyes dropped and she fiddled with the neck of the bottle. He leaned forward swiftly, “And I’ll have that, thank you,” snatching the bottle out of her resisting fingers.

“Sleeping that much can’t be right,” Gunn commented. “It’s like he’s on drugs or something.”

“The only thing Angel’s addicted to is O-pos,” Cordy responded, inwardly adding that lately, she seemed to have been put on that short list the last few weeks. She shuddered with a mixture of fear and reluctant arousal.

Wes went silent and crossed his legs, nursing the bottle between his hands as he rolled Gunn’s comment through his mind, then shook his head. No. That would be impossible.

It would have had to begin when both himself and Cordelia had been present most of the day and evening. He doubted anyone had been able to sneak in, especially to go so far as to inject, or somehow ‘encourage’ Angel to ingest any kind of narcotic without waking him. Previous to his seeming need to sleep so much, the slightest noise awakened him.

As for his blood, well, the butcher he used was a rescued victim. A grateful one at that, only giving Angel the best he had. Satisfied he’d covered every avenue, Wes pushed it from his mind and lifted his drink to his lips.

But it wouldn’t hurt to have a little scout around in Angel’s rooms— when he was out, naturally.

Chapter 6

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