Season of Solace. 121

121:     The Mansion, Crawford Street, Central Sunnydale

“We’re dealing with an ancient clan of vampires,” Angel began, his tone serious, his mouth a straight grim line. The weight of this revelation kept his shoulders tense. “A group deep into the occult that will stop at nothing to gain the power they believe has been promised them.”

“Demon-worshipping vampires. How odd.” Giles found it strange indeed. “Your kind tends to be godless. Allegiances are generally made for the purposes of profit and prey rather than submission to a higher power.”

Cordelia reminded him, “The creepy guy with the bone relic was a vampire.”

“That’s right,” Angel gave her credit for making the connection when it had not even occurred to him until now that there might be one.

“The blood ritual was performed by a vampire?” Wesley looked toward Giles with a look of growing fascination on his face. Excitedly, he ticked off a short list, “Demon worship, strange rituals, prophecy. Good Lord, Mr. Giles, could we be dealing with the Banished Ones?”

Having quietly been wondering the same thing, Giles shook his head and looked at Wesley as if the idea was ridiculous. Stunned to have considered it himself, he said, “The Council never proved them anything more than a legend.”

Wesley stuttered a bit while voicing opposition. “The—the references are rare, but—”

“Their legend is as real as mine,” Angel ended their posturing.

Giles adjusted his glasses. “Angelus’ legacy is deeply rooted in historical documents, and Watcher’s Council records, eye-witness accounts. Most of what we think we know of the Banished Ones has been based upon conjecture rather than fact. We think they once existed, but there has been no evidence of such in the entirety of the Council’s history.”

Striding closer, Angel challenged him to respond, “Because the Council knows everything there is to know about vampires?” He was not in the mood to argue about it.

Holding up a finger to request a pause in the debate, Wesley skittered toward the study.

Neither Angel nor Giles questioned his departure. “The Council knows more than you might imagine. However, I concede that we do not know everything.”

Angel though the point moot. “Believe me when I tell you that I know who we’re dealing with.”

“You might also tell me that…that Xander is a direct descendant of Beowulf. Am I to believe that as well?”

Sitting at the card table, Xander looked over at Willow. “Who? A werewolf? Did he say I’m related to a werewolf?”

“Shhh!” Calming him down, Willow explained the literary reference.

“So I’m not Oz’ long lost cousin,” he grinned, relaxing again.

Angel and Giles were both annoyed at the interruption, but it gave the others a chance to chime in with their two cents on the matter.

“So what’s the big deal?” asked Buffy. “Banished or not, they’re still vampires.”

Cordelia had to agree. “And, hello, we have two vampire slayers to banish their butts for good.”

Lifting his hand to touch her cheek, Angel thought about the danger she was in, now even greater than he had first feared. His chest ached from the depth of emotions he felt when he looked at her. Demonic rage swelled within him at the thought that they planned to make her a sacrifice. A thread of that anger surfaced gruffly, “It’s not that simple, Cordy.”

“Why not?” Using Spike and Buffy as her examples, she pointed at each of them in turn. “See vampire. See slayer. Watch vampire run. Watch slayer stake vampire.”

“If only…,” Buffy sighed while tapping Mr. Pointy against her thigh.

Spike took offence at her elementary scenario. “Oy! We don’t always run. Some of us like to tussle a bit.”

“That’s why most of you end up clouds of dust,” snorted Faith. “Let me know when you’re up for a tussle. I’ll be happy to have you at the end of my stake.”

“That’s my line, luv,” Spike smirked back. Beside him, still holding him up, Drusilla’s smile suggested she knew it was all in fun. Until his gaze slid back over to Buffy who was standing next to them and he added, “Unless Blondie wants to give it a go first.”

With lightning speed, Buffy jabbed Spike in the ribs with an elbow. He growled in pain and doubled over which instantly caused Drusilla to vamp out and start hissing. Buffy held her trusty stake at the ready. “Try me,” she bated the two of them. “Go on. Just give me an excuse.”

Holding onto his bruised ribs, Spike glared angrily. “What is it with you Slayers and jabbing me in the bloody ribs?”

Angel stepped in to remind Buffy that Spike and Drusilla were not to be harmed. “I asked you to play nice. All of you. Now stand back and shut up. This is important.”

Gasping, Buffy’s mouth clamped closed, her eyes wide with shock at the tone Angel had taken with her. “He started it,” she tilted her head high and turned away.

A bit cowed, Spike gave a curt nod. “Just having a bit o’ fun, mate. While we can,” he added somewhat ominously.

Drusilla calmly eyed Angel obediently remaining quiet as ordered. She led Spike a few steps back to a safe distance from both slayers, though Faith shifted to keep an eye on them.

“Those you call the Banished Ones belong to the House of Solaris,” Angel revealed to the group once the situation seemed settled. “Their betrayal secluded them from all contact with their own kind. It is forbidden to speak of them.”

“And yet we do,” quipped Xander nervously. After all, anything that made Giles freak out in that Giles-like way of his probably was not a good thing.

Before he got into details, Angel waited for Wesley to reach them. He carried a thin leather-bound volume. “How much do you know?”

“Very little,” admitted Giles, taking the lead. “I believe Wesley has returned with the only known reference in my collection. I recall reading of a division among the great vampire clans. However, there is nothing to indicate why the Banished Ones were, uh, banished. Only that they were believed to pose a threat to all vampires.”

Willow wondered, “Why not just stake them or leave them out for the sun to rise?”

“Evil little thing, aren’t you, Red?”

“Who, me?” Gulping, Willow shook her head. “No.” She thought it was a legitimate question. “If they were some kind of threat…”

Giles concurred, “Willow is correct. If the master perceived such a threat to his clan, it would have been more prudent to rid himself of it permanently.”

Angel did not have all of the answers, either. He had had other priorities during his time at Darla’s side rather than learn about the past, though he vividly remembered all of the stories she shared.

Jumping back into the conversation upon his return, Wesley handed the book he had retrieved to Angel. “This is the Obscurantist Vampyr, which is a fairly accurate translation from ancient Sumerian scrollwork, compiled and bound by Franciscan friars.”

Angel skimmed over the reference material giving him a picture of just how little the Watcher’s Council knew about their enemy. Quoting passages, he read, “Evil battled evil causing a great division of the clans. The master of all vampires cast out the traitor to wander upon the earth, he and his progeny banished forever.”

Raising his head, Angel asked, “Is that it? Hardly a detailed account considering the House of Solaris has existed for more than a thousand years.”

“Now that name is familiar,” Giles admitted, “but there is nothing to connect them to the legend of the Banished Ones. The Solaris Clan originates in Galicia, I believe, a rare breed not usually found in vast numbers or traveling outside their home territory. Known to be protected by the local human population. The Council was never able to determine why.”

“Because the mountain village where they keep their home lair is populated by other demon-worshippers,” Angel thought that much should be obvious to the Watchers’ Council that seemed to make it their business to know everything.

Anger roiled inside him. He felt torn between protecting his own kind and reviling them. Angel reminded himself that he was on the watchers’ side. It was in Cordelia’s best interest to tell them everything he knew.

“Perhaps this line is important.” Standing next to Angel, though nervous about the close proximity to a vampire, Wesley pointed toward the open page. The entire book was written in Latin. He had been prepared to translate for Angel, but noted that he had no trouble with it. Not entirely surprising, he supposed, but mildly so all the same. “The last reference on the page provides a warning.”

Angel had not skimmed that far. His eyes shifted down the page. The words stirred a few rumors, things that were hinted at even in vampire legends, stories Darla used to tell him. Warnings. Her belief that he could protect her from anything.

Except himself.

Having taken too long to reveal the quote, Wesley told the others, “Beware the light-bringer.”

“Is that warning for us or them?” asked Willow peering at the book in Giles’ hands. Upside down, the words looked even more ominous. Gulp. “Maybe it’s telling us to use the sun against them. If we find their lair we could use mirrors to reflect the light.”

Spike muttered, “Red’s not only evil, she’s a freakin’ firebug.”

“Charred vampire,” Faith gave a thumbs-up to the idea. “Haven’t tried that one in a while. I’m in.”

Buffy agreed. “Sounds doable.”

“Except for the fact that we don’t know where to find their lair,” Xander pointed out the hole in their plans. “Is there a listing for crypt and cavern rentals?” Chuckling at the idea, he held his arms up to indicate their surroundings, adding, “Looks like Dead Boy already cornered the market on haunted mansions.”

Angel wasn’t amused. The stare he sent Xander’s way shut the boy up instantly. This wasn’t the time for amusement. The enemy was dangerous and Cordelia’s life was at stake— and perhaps the lives of everyone in Sunnydale. With Nico and Isobel at the center of this, he had no doubt things were going to get much worse.

“What makes you so certain the House of Solaris is involved in this?” Wesley shifted from one foot to the other. “You mentioned a name—Nicolau.”

“Nicolau’s childe was the one responsible for Spike’s capture.” Angel told him before getting distracted by Cordelia’s wandering hand. The foyer light revealed bruises and scrapes on his skin that she had not noticed outside and she started looking for other wounds. “Cordy, I’m fine.”

She pressed on a still-damp spot at his side where her fingers came away red with blood. “You call this fine? Pfft. How would you like it if I went around saying I was fine?”

“I suppose I’d believe you.”

Cordelia rolled her eyes, but kept on with her rudimentary examination despite the fact that Giles and Wesley were trying to figure out a way to interrupt and get back to the conversation.

It did not help Angel’s cause when he winced as she poked one of his bruised ribs. “Cor, stop, what are you doing now?”

“Obvious much? I’m taking off your shirt,” Cordelia started unbuttoning. “You’re hurt and I can’t tell how bad it is. Don’t worry, it’s not like I’m in it for the cheap thrills.”

Faith’s dimpled grin appeared. “I am. Don’t stop on my account.”

Sticking her tongue out, Cordelia told Faith as unbuttoned the last button, “Faith, I wouldn’t want you to get side tracked. You’re supposed to be watching Spike.”

“Cordy, this can wait,” Angel stilled her hands. The last thing he needed right now was the distraction of her soft, warm hands sliding across his skin.

With a sigh, she muttered, “Okay, but this isn’t over.”

Angel got lost in her eyes for a moment. He wished he could will everyone else away. Unfortunately, having Cordelia’s hands on him was too much of a distraction. “Later.” The word hung between them with an unspoken promise of more.

“I-I think I’ll handle getting Spike and Dru settled,” Cordelia decided as she backed away. “Come upstairs when you’re done with the pow-wow.”

“Not going anywhere yet, luv,” Spike refused to budge. “I got a right to hear this just as much as anyone else. How else am I gonna know who to kill?”

Cordelia rolled her eyes. “Fine.”

Perturbed, Giles inquired, “May we continue now?”

“Sure,” Cordelia shrugged her permission.

Giles pinched the bridge of his nose and squeezed his eyes shut for a moment. “Go ahead, Angel.”

“Nicolau Cibran,” he explained to them, “is a favored childe of Solaris. Every move he makes is calculated toward achieving his master’s goals. Nico thrives on power.”

“Vamp politics?” Envisioning their big bad with ‘Vote for Me’ signs posted around town for the next election instead of ones for Mayor Wilkins, Cordelia doubted that tree plantings, mall openings and kissing babies were high on any evil guy’s list.

“Territorial power,” Wesley corrected, finding the study of vampire history and their social dynamics fascinating. “Vampires equate power to the possession of lands for hunting prey. The more powerful a clan is perceived to be the greater control they possess over selection of prime hunting grounds.”

Giles nodded throughout, adding, “Individual vampires can travel outside traditional territories to find prey, but they face the risk of poaching on another clan’s claim. Exceptions are made for vampires with more impressive pedigrees who supersede the rights of lesser clans.”

“We go wherever the bloody hell we want,” Spike told them with a growl, “and the locals can either join in the fun or go fuck themselves. We pick our prey whenever we want, and wherever it takes our fancy.”

“Not impressed,” Cordelia gave him a hard state. She was not about to mince words even though her boyfriend was a vampire. She reminded Spike, “You won’t be eating anybody while you’re staying here.

Spike grumbled, “Killjoy.”

Ignoring him, Cordelia thought she figured out Nicolau’s power play. “So, basically, Nic and his buddies plan to turn Sunnydale into their own personal bistro.”

Shaking his head, Angel told her there was something else going on. “No one clan rules Sunnydale. This is the slayers’ territory.”

“Beg to differ,” Spike gruffed and then quickly closed his mouth again.

Though he did not like talking about the subject, Angel knew it had to be done. “Nico being here in Sunnydale has a far more sinister purpose. Back in the earliest days of the clans, Solaris used to be part of the House of Aurelius until the master grew tired of his dealings with demons. He wanted power and made sacrifices to a demon in order to gain it.”

“Perhaps the same demon god of the prophecy?” Giles concluded that the timing was suspect.

Angel nodded, “Nico’s childe confirmed it. The demon promised them something so powerful, so tempting, that Solaris broke away from the House of Aurelius settling for exile in order to attain it.”

Eagerly asking, “What was it?” Wes’ eyes glimmered with interest.

“I don’t know. Isobel didn’t elaborate except to say that the benefits pass on to all of their kinsman.”

“Ah,” Giles caught on. “The old blood ties between the two houses. The Aurelius and Solaris clans are essentially one bloodline.”

While Angel started to provide more details, Cordelia nudged him. “Who’s Isobel?”

“Nicolau’s mate. Didn’t I mention her?”

Cordelia folded her arms across her chest. “No, as a matter of fact, you didn’t.”

“Playing naughty games with my Spike. Tempting our Angel.” Drusilla let out a hiss, making cat claws out of her hands to scratch the air in Buffy’s direction. “Another blonde slut.”

Buffy immediately took offence at the verbal barb. “Hey.”

“Oh, really?” Cordelia’s gaze swept back to Angel who looked like he was suffering from stomach cramps. Instead of demanding to know the details of said temptation, she let out a soft huff. “I take it Isobel is responsible for the two of you looking like chopped liver. Never underestimate the female of the species—especially when it comes to finding stuff out.”

Angel was not entirely certain whether Cordy was jealous or just teasing him about it.  Clearing his throat, he explained, “Nicolau obviously trusts Isobel enough to— ”

“Do what?”

There was that eyebrow again, quirking upward in that I’m-curious-but-you-better-give-me-the-kind-of-answer-I-want-to-hear way. “Run errands. A little kidnapping here. A little torture there.”

“A little seduction on the side,” Spike added causing Cordelia to spin around to look at him.

Snorting, Cordelia looked at Spike’s sad state. “Yeah, I can see she really did a good job of that. Got a little sidetracked with the torture?”

“Still got a lot to learn about what vampires like, pet?”

Torture was sexy? That did not sound right. “What do y—?” Cordelia was interested to know more, but not with Buffy and Xander listening in. “Shut up, Spike.”

Looking her straight in the eye, Spike warned, “Watch out for Isobel, toots. Got the hots for Angelus, she does, and plans to sink her hooks deep.”

“Cor, I’m sure Angel dusted her.” Faith turned expectantly. “Right?”

Angel rubbed at the building pressure at his neck while wishing that he had kept his mouth shut about Isobel. Before he could answer, Spike butted in again. “No, the big poof sent her packing with a message for her sire.”

While Giles and Wesley were formulating questions about Angel’s strategy, Buffy was focused on a more important issue. “Was she pretty?”

Though Cordelia figured it was not Buffy’s business, the question was still legit. “Was she?”

Almost instantly, Angel’s, “No!” emerged as an adamant bark. “I didn’t really notice,” he added with a guilty expression that said otherwise.

Cordelia raised a brow. “So which was it? Either you didn’t notice or she looked like a pug-faced troll.”

When Angel did not immediately answer, feeling like anything he said would get him in hot water, Spike chimed in. “Hot little blonde. Curves in all the right places.”

“Shut up, Spike.” Angel gave him a look that said he was not helping.

“Don’t worry, pet,” Spike winked his good eye at Cordelia. “Next time I see that bitch I’m gonna rip her head off. Won’t be so pretty then.”

Gross, but Cordelia could not find fault with the plan. “Next time Angel won’t be going alone.” She asked Angel, “Did you dust anybody? Sheesh.”

“The minions.”

“Blondie wanted him to sign up. Offered him a nice deal, promised him power and a few perks that included her. Thought he was Angelus. Isobel was too busy creaming in her knickers to notice the soul,” Spike revealed.

Giles focused on the first part. “Isobel wanted Angelus to join them?”

Still talking to Cordelia, Spike told her, “Back in the day, Angelus would’ve taken her up on her offer. Don’t worry pet. He said no. ‘Course it wasn’t that long ago that he was into feisty blondes.”

A second later Spike hit the floor after Buffy’s fist connected squarely with his jaw. “That’s the last time you say anything about me and Angel.” She wanted to forget about the relationship and did not need some annoying, loud vampire mouthing off at her every chance he got.

Buffy’s petite form towered above him as Spike struggled into a seated position. She glared down as if daring him to get up and fight. This time he did not find it much of a turn-on. Scowling, Spike gave a low grumble, “Try that again when I’m ready to take what you’re dishing out.”

Rubbing at his sore jaw, he looked at Dru who crouched down next to him. He half expected her to go after Buffy for punching him. Instead, she grabbed his right ear into a tight pinch and dragged him to his feet. “Remember that, naughty boy. Leave the nasty slayer alone.”

Tired of dealing with Spike’s runaway mouth, Angel instructed Faith to take the two vampires up to the vacant room on the third floor next to her own. “That way you can keep an eye on them.”

Unenthusiastic over the idea of babysitting them, Faith muttered, “Great.”

“Hope you’re not a light sleeper, luv,” Spike smirked as she helped Drusilla walk him up the stairs. “We’ll try to keep the noise down.”

As planned, Cordelia headed up behind them telling the vampires where they could find clean linen. “I’ll get some stuff for you to take care of those wounds.”

Drusilla paused, “My Spike needs blood to heal, someone young and vigorous.”

“Sorry,” Cordelia reminded her that was a no-no. “You’ll be on Angel’s special diet while you’re here.”

Looking back toward the foyer, she called out, “Xander, get some fresh blood from the fridge and bring it up.”

“Me?” Xander looked around as if he expected to find another Xander Harris in the room.

Angel reminded him, “You said you were in charge of the food.”

Gulping, he grabbed Willow’s wrist and whimpered.

“Are they going to drink that stuff?” asked Willow prying Xander’s fingers from her arm. “Piggy isn’t their usual diet.”

“It’s a problem,” Angel admitted. Giles and Wesley were still against having them in the house. Both voiced their concerns again, but Angel had made up his mind to let them stay. “Normally, I wouldn’t trust them, certainly not Spike. This way I know where they are and what they’re doing.”

Giles didn’t like it one bit. “This is your house, but I’m holding you responsible should anything happen.”

“Fair enough.” There were no guarantees. Vigilance was necessary. Though Drusilla seemed to be playing nice at the moment, she could turn on them quite easily. Once Spike’s injuries healed, his influence over Dru might prove problematic.

Buffy remained in the foyer with Angel and the watchers. Impatient, she wanted to get on with this, come up with a plan, and execute it. She wanted this over with and wanted out of this house. “What next?”

“We finish securing this place against an attack,” Angel glanced around at obvious vulnerabilities that remained.

Wesley reminded him of the spell Willow cast. “Cordelia is the only one able to invite a vampire inside. As we are dealing with a cult of vampires, that should make the mansion secure from attack.”

“From Nico’s minions, perhaps,” conceded Angel, “but they won’t be alone in this.”

“You mentioned the Galician villagers were also demon-worshippers. They, too, are likely to be involved,” Giles agreed. “Who knows how far their influence has spread. And we have already seen they are not above hiring mercenaries to do their dirty work.”

Angel paced across the parquet floor. “We still don’t know a damn thing about the prophecy itself.”

“On the contrary,” Wesley disagreed. “Now that we know the Banished Ones are part of this, we can call for all available resources from the Council. To this point, all our research has been focused in another direction.”

“Now we have a point of reference,” Giles agreed. “With the Galician involvement, I may be able to call in a few favors from nearby resources. Someone local might be able to determine which demon is being worshipped. If a connection is made with the glyphs on the stone obelisk, perhaps then we can determine a way to prevent this prophecy from coming to its fruition.”

Buffy was getting antsy watching Angel pace across the floor. Tapping her stake in a set rhythm against her thigh, she asked, “What can I do?”

Just then, Xander and Willow happened to be making their way toward the stairs from the kitchen. Seeing them, Wesley had an idea. Having already used Willow’s spell casting skills, he felt certain she would be capable of the level of magic required for another bit of witchery.

“Willow!” He called out to her so unexpectedly that she shrieked nearly spilling the plastic container of blood she carried.

Wavering on her feet, Willow stared at him as she recovered from the shock. “Don’t dooooooo that.”

“Sorry,” Wes apologized. He took the blood from Willow, handed it to over to Xander who already held one container. Telling him, “Do go on. I have an important task for Willow.”

Reluctantly, Xander went on with his own job of bringing cold, congealing pig blood to the vampires upstairs. He knew Angel heated his blood. Or, he’d seen Cordelia do that for him. No way was he microwaving this stuff and spicing it up with cinnamon like that.

“What’s the scoop?” Willow asked Wes as they walked back to join the others. “More spell stuff?”

After confirming her guesswork, Wesley asked, “Have you ever cast a location spell?”


“With Angel’s help, I believe that you can help us find the Banished Ones.”

Location spells required some method of identification. The one casting the spell was required to possess personal knowledge of the individual being located, a personal object belonging to the one sought, or a photograph. Since Willow had none of these to go by, Angel agreed to create a detailed drawing of Isobel.

Buffy wanted to know, “How does this give me something to do?” She looked to Giles for an answer.

“If Willow’s spell succeeds, you can try a little reconnaissance. With any luck, we can bring this conflict to them.”

“There’s one other name you need to know,” Angel told the watchers. He had almost forgotten hearing it. Back at the warehouse while Spike was being tortured by Isobel and he was up in the rafters, Angel caught a bit of the conversation. Just enough to hear her say the name, “Kalesh.”

Giles and Wesley exchanged looks again in that contemplative way. Admitting, “The name is vaguely familiar,” Giles waited for his younger colleague to say something.

“I, too, have heard the name before.”

“They know nothing,” Buffy told Angel. “That look means they’ll have to research and get back to you tomorrow.”

Angel knew better than to say anything.

“Can we get on with that find-the-vampires spell?” Buffy sighed. “I’m tired of being cooped up.”

Willow whispered, “You just got back from patrolling.”

A little whine sounded from Buffy’s throat. Seeing her friend’s face contort into a big pout, Willow stammered as she came up with an excuse to get her away from Angel. Being in close proximity to the Cordy and Angel was not making this any easier on her friend.

“W-We’ll need stuff for the spell. Components,” Willow told the guys. “We’ll go get what we need while Angel draws the picture.”

Wesley provided a list of items they could obtain from the local Magic Shop. The shopkeeper was known to keep late hours. Wes wasn’t keen about letting two girls go it alone, but Buffy reminded him that she was a slayer. They headed out on their shopping mission and the two watchers settled in for a long night of research.

Thinking about Isobel with the level of detail required to draw her for this spell was not pleasant. She might be beautiful on the outside, but there was nothing but ice inside. Just a cold-hearted ambition that matched her sire’s. Spike was right about one thing. In many ways, Isobel was a lot like Darla.

Angel climbed the stairs suddenly feeling every bruise and scrape marring his flesh. He pressed his hand against his injured side and held it there against the stickiness where blood clotted against his shirt. He allowed himself a grunt to acknowledge the pain, and then gritted his teeth against it as he made his way up to the bedroom.

When he saw that Cordelia wasn’t there, he glowered toward the third floor realizing she must still be helping Spike and Dru get settled. It was difficult enough to find a few minutes alone with her and now Spike was getting the attention that belonged to him. Realizing it was unreasonable to be disgruntled about it Angel did not bother to push aside the feeling. Spike might be family of sorts, but he was still a vampire.

Before he did anything else, Angel took the sketchpad he kept in his nightstand out to complete his assigned task. Isobel’s image was still fresh in his mind and he did not want to dwell on it any longer than necessary. Opening it to a blank page, he drew two pictures, one of Isobel looking serene in her human beauty and the other as a vampire.

Angel set the sketchpad down on the bed and tossed the pencil beside it when he was done. He looked toward the door again. Still no Cordelia. For a moment, he considered stomping upstairs to find out what was taking so long, but Faith was there to protect her and he did not relish the idea of coming across as a jealous maniac.

Taking off his jacket, Angel carefully draped it across a chair. He would have to check it for rips and holes later. The leather often protected him during fights, but it was not indestructible. Neither was he, apparently. He winced as he peeled his shirt away from his side where it adhered to a wound.

The smaller scrapes and scratches were already starting to close. Some of the deep bruises would take a little longer. This wound needed flushing out. He headed toward the shower turning the water on hot.

Angel emerged fifteen minutes later in a cloud of steam, a towel wrapped around his hips. His gaze immediately went to Cordelia who was lounging on the top of the bed with his sketchbook lying open in front of her.

“So this is the pug-faced troll.”

This was going to one of those conversations. Steeling himself for what was ahead, Angel walked over to the dresser to pick out some clothes. “I never said she looked like a troll.”

“Were you lovers back in the day?”

Angel denied it immediately. “No. We never met.” He discarded the towel to step into his boxers noting the way Cordelia watched him through her lashes. Even now she remained a little shy about his body.

“But she wants you.”

Stalling, Angel tried to determine how to respond to that. Finally, he opted for the truth. Coming to stand by the edge of the bed, he said, “Isobel wants Angelus. Sounds like a crush of sorts. She does not know about the soul. Angelus’ reputation is pure evil. It’s the thrill of power, the love of torture, the bloodletting.”

Cordelia rolled her eyes. “Yeah, real turn-ons. Oh, and talking about yourself in the third person— don’t think I’m going to fall for that.”

When Angel was not certain what to say next, Cordelia pointed to a mug sitting on the nightstand. “I brought you some blood. Sorry, but that’s the last of it. With three vamps in the house, we’ll have to stock up tomorrow.”

“There’s plenty of night left,” Angel told her after taking a big gulp. “I could swing by Willy’s bar and pick up a fresh supply.”

“No way! You’re still bleeding, you big dork. I’m not letting you go out like that.” She pulled a First Aid Kit from the top of the nightstand and patted the bed.

Glancing down at his side, Angel noted that the wound was still seeping blood. It was almost closed. The blood he was drinking would help fortify him as well as speed the healing process. Angel gulped down the rest and climbed onto the bed taking care not to drip blood onto the covers.

“I thought you weren’t into the Florence Nightingale thing.”

Cordelia bent down to press her lips to a bruise on his shoulder. “For you, I’ll make an exception.”

Scene 122 

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