“Oh hell!” Fred muttered the rare oath under her breath as she hesitated in front of the door to her apartment that literally vibrated in its frame at the barrage of elephants’ feet hammering on it; feeling grateful that at least the angry vampire on the other side hadn’t just took the door off its hinges and stormed in like a tornado!
“Where is he?” barging past the flustered- and rather scared brunette, Angel didn’t bother waiting for a reply as he stalked from one room to another, his game face already firmly in place, finally appearing in front of the quivering young woman and gripping her upper arms a little too tightly for her liking. .
“Ouch!” the exclamation spilled from her grimacing mouth, and the gold eyes flickered briefly before he loosened his grip a little. Well, the ‘tornado’ bit was a fair simile, she thought, gulping hard
“Spike- where is he?” he elucidated tightly. Angel knew the blonde bastard spent a fair bit of time around the young physicist’s apartment, and assumed he’d be there after finding them both at the Hyperion.
“Sp-Spike went off right after we left Cordy” Fred attempted to keep the alarm out of her tone; she hadn’t seen him this riled since he’d arrived back at the hotel with herself, Gunn and Wes after spending three months at the bottom of the ocean and, once becoming aware of his surroundings finding Cordelia had also been missing the same amount of time.
He’d seemed less interested in finding out who had put him there, more angry and distressed that their ‘heart’ might have suffered a similar fate. They still didn’t know who was behind his watery imprisonment – and Angel, strangely enough, had never bothered to investigate it, seemingly just grateful that his family had managed to locate and rescue him.
“I’m sorry, Angel- I didn’t think-” she began, her voice wobbly, only to be cut off.
“No, you didn’t- God, Fred, you’re supposed to be the smart one; what the hell were you thinking taking that little prick with you?!” as soon as the words were out and the accompanying gasp of hurt feelings from the girl, Angel regretted them.
Pulling away, he half turned, raking a shaky hand through his dark hair; swallowing hard- grimacing when the faint trace of Cordelia’s blood could still be tasted.
“Fred, he’s not to be trusted; why the hell you’re spending so much time with him is beyond me!” his voice a little softer; “After everything he’s said regarding B- the Slayer” he stumbled a little over his words, “that at least should have given you some clue he had an ulterior motive.” Angel added, turning back to face her, his face smoothing to human, but his tone hard. Fred raised a brow at that.
“I hate to say it, Angel, but you kinda brought it on yourself.” Gulping at the instant black scowl he bestowed on her, Fred gathered all her bravado and continued: ” You were just as guilty of the Buffy-loves-me-not-you scenario that went on while Cordy was in that horrible coma.” She reminded him quietly.
Angel opened his mouth to defend himself, then snapped it shut, paling even more as the truth of her words slammed home.
She was right. Hell, he knew it himself- but it just drove yet another nail in the coffin having it thrown in his face by; what was it? – Three independent people so far? And that wasn’t counting the one that mattered. His head swung around at her next words, the scowl deepening.
“-And that Eve thing didn’t help much; it’s still being talked about – poor Cordy,” she murmured, shuddering openly when thinking what a sight that must have been for the newly awakened woman.
“That was out of my hands, Fred- and everyone knows it.” Angel defended roughly: ” Eve? Come on!” he curled his lip with distaste.” Could you honestly see me being interested in her?”
“Well, she’s blonde” Fred muttered, then flushed bright pink at the fulminous glare he gave her. “I’m just saying’ – Cordy always said-“
“Where did he go, Fred?” the vampire cut her off abruptly. Being reminded that his Seer had accused him of that after the Darla debacle caused his undead heart to twist in his chest.
“I don’t know- and I don’t think I’d tell you even if I did- he didn’t hurt her; well, not physically anyway.” Fred sent him an accusing glare; ” it wasn’t anything Cordy wouldn’t have found out about herself, Angel.” She chastised him softly.
Angel didn’t bother to reply- there was no point when he knew she was right. He stepped away, avoiding her knowing gaze and made his way to the still-open door and exited silently.
Fred rubbed her arms, remaining where she was for a long moment, before sighing heavily and walking over to close and lock the door.
She’d figured out for herself that Spike had used her to get to Cordelia, and although angry and not a little hurt, deep down she understood why he’d done it- and really hoped that Angel would come up empty handed- at least for a decade or so.
Angel entered the poorly lit bar he’d ‘encouraged’ a few demons to reveal as a frequent drinking hole of the younger vampire; his nose wrinkling briefly as the stench of unwashed bodies hit him. Several of the clientele slid out as soon as they spotted the dark vampire, whilst others tensed expectantly, only relaxing when his unreadable gaze rested only long enough to check and dismiss.
The Bartender took one look at the newcomer and casually proceeded to move his stock below the bar out of harms way.
Angel spotted the bright blonde head within seconds of walking through the swing door, and like a switch being pulled his temper, already volatile now exploded sending him hurtling towards his target. Tables toppled and chairs flew as he surged through the crowded bar, letting nothing and no one impede him.
The underbelly of LA parted like a wave, content to watch or ignore and continued drinking; those were two demons’ they’d rather not get in the middle of.
Spike caught sight of the thundercloud racing towards him at the last moment and knowing evasive action was futile at this point, stepped into a clear space. The first flying punch only clipped his chin or it might have knocked his head clear off instead of just knocking him into the table behind him.
“Give me one good reason not to dust you, Spike?” Angel asked, teeth gritted and eyes colder than black ice, picking up the dazed blonde by the front of his shirt.
“My great sense of humor – no?” Angel hit him again, a backhanded blow this time that drove Spike’s head to the side with a sickening snap.
Grinning out of a bloodied lip, Spike jabbed up a hand between them to knock aside Angels hand, freeing himself and slipping agilely to the side when a boot came up in a snap kick, whistling past his ear.
“You’re puttin’ me on the spot ‘ere, mate- I know! My charm and sexy as hell body?” Spike never could resist taunting the older vampire, a trait that had got him pummeled many a time in the past. Not that it ever stopped him.
Too fast even for Spike to avoid, Angel whipped up a chair and slammed into that mockingly indifferent face. Stunned, Spike found himself pinned to the wall.
“Not enough to save you Spike. Say goodbye” As he raised a stake, Spike’s hand snapped up and gripped his wrist:
“As fun as this bonding is Peaches, I have one last go at getting the answer right – and I’ve got a real doozy this time” Spike realized time was running out- fast.
“Not interested” Angel twisted his wrist out of Spike’s desperate grip.
“My soul. I have a soul now” His final attempt to stay undead. Angel hesitated, conflicted, but he swallowed down his misgivings and retorted:
“That’s pretty much a moot point- having one hasn’t changed you”
“That’s rich comin’ from you” Spike shot back, bloodied lip curling in a sneer: “- I can smell the chits blood in your mouth- who are you tryin’ to kid? When it comes down to it, you’re no better than me.” Spike gave up struggling and dropped his restraining hands.
Angel loomed over him for long seconds, an internal battle evident in his gold-ringed yes, then he abruptly threw the stake and released the vampire.
“Cordelia is off limits,” he growled, adding warningly; “and keep out of my way, Spike or next time I won’t stop.” His voice deathly quiet, and turned away- only to be halted by Spike’s next words.
“Don’t know why I’m doin’ this, but… that place- your old digs? Stuffed full of little Lawyer gadgets, mate.” Spike straightened up and winced slightly as he strode over to his original table; lifting his chair up before sitting down and catching the barman’s eye, who nodded expressionlessly, and turned to pour him another drink.
Angel’s face smoothed out, hiding the fury that consumed him at Spike’s revelation. They were playing that card again; when he found out who was behind it, he’d have their guts for garters- literally.
To say she’d turned over and fell asleep as soon as the guilty vampire had left would have been an outright lie, Cordelia admitted to herself wearily. The events of the night continued to circle around and around her tired brain like a never-ending loop.
Angel had actually bitten her! Fair enough, there wasn’t exactly much of the Darla-draining of blood going on, but he had still pushed aside any concerns for her feelings on the matter and marked her in a fit of jealous rage. She honestly didn’t know whether to plan his premature demise or just figure out how she really felt about his actions.
Her recollection of the whole Buffy deal- the blonde trying to pretend that side of Angel didn’t exist, led the soulled vampire to stifling it…and his whole persona at that time was probably in most part, the result of that nigh-impossible task; he was then a shadow of the person he finally developed into after a year or so of living in LA.
Oh yeah, Cordelia was still furious with him, make no mistake – and furious with herself for understanding his motives- in an icked out kinda way . It wasn’t the actual claiming; just the way it came about, which then got her thinking- if all that crap hadn’t happened, and she’d confessed her feelings like she’d originally planned before everything went kaplooey …both possibly developing as a couple…?
The fact that he had claimed her, to her mind had to mean that no matter how he might have denied wanting to do so- if they’d have professed their feelings that night and developed as couple; would he once again have felt in a position where he had to stifle that side of him? – Basically, just how far would her acceptance of his Vampire side, in an honest to goodness relationship, have gone?
This long eke out of maybes eventually brought her to the conclusion that she just wouldn’t- couldn’t hate him for his demon instincts; only truly angry with the circumstances around his action- cos, after hashing it out for God knows how many long hours, Cordelia realized that, yes, she would have taken that step with him- and would have most likely felt even more secure in her place in his life because the demon also felt the need to cement their love.
Problem was- was this just a pissing contest between him and Spike, a display of the inherent possessive nature all vamps seemed to have in excess? – Or, was it; deep down, Angel’s way of making it clear that he loved her as both a man and a demon? Raking her hands through her hair in frustration, Cordelia growled low in her throat as her head whirled with so many thoughts.
With so much happening right now, and the terrible gut-wrenching events that occurred pre-coma, would they ever resolve their problems; and would she ever know for sure that he did, indeed love her as much as he claimed to?
“Should I be surprised that the Buffy-love just had to be involved in this somewhere- Cookie Dough-blech!?” Cordelia groaned, helpless to push aside the pain of that revelation- flushing hotly in belated guilt at the cavalier way she’d pushed aside his denials, refusing to listen; not letting him even attempt to explain what the hell had gone though his dumb head at the time.
Refusing to think about it any more, Cordelia instead strode out of the hotel into the bright sunshine for, hopefully, a long, relaxing, mind-cleansing walk…
“What the hell are you doing here?” Cordelia shot to her feet, throwing the books she’d been reading on the couch behind her as she approached the two males who’d just strode into the hotel. “I told you not to come back” she pinned Angel with a killing glare; he avoided her eyes and continued towards the stairs.
“Not now, Cor,” he responded a little too coolly, wincing at his tone even as the brunette and green demon did.
“Hey, sweetcheeks” Lorne gave a wink, opening his mouth to say more when the vampire grabbed his arm and pulled him along with him up the stairs.
“Just hold it right there!” Cordelia almost growled the demand as she pushed her way to the front, grabbing Angel’s leather clad arm, almost losing her momentum when he continued on as if she wasn’t hanging onto him in a death grip. “It may be your hotel, but while I’m living here, you can’t just barge in whenever you feel like it!”
By now they had left the stairs behind and were walking along the hallway of the first floor. Lorne trailed behind watching with amused interest as the brunette still held onto the leather and was worrying it like a little terrier trying out it’s tiny teeth on a big black wolf – stopping abruptly when said ‘wolf’ turned just as abruptly to sweep up the young woman and disappear into a linen closet. He stood there staring at the closed door before shrugging fatalistically, and wandering off into one of the many rooms.
“What the hell do you thiphh?” her raging hazel eyes widened in outrage, hands instantly rising to tug on the large cool hand clapped across her mouth.
“If you’d just shut up for a –” Angel sucked in a breath with a hiss as her sharp teeth sank into the flesh of his palm, actually drawing blood. He yanked his hand away looking down at the bloodied mark she’d left behind.
“See how you like it, buddy!” she snarled, her expression unrepentant. Angel flooded with guilt, his eyes drawn to the plaster covered wound on her throat for the first time since he’d arrived. He purposely shrugged it off; that would have to wait for now.
“Just listen to me for a minute” Cordelia opened her mouth to retort and he hurriedly cut in: “the hotel is bugged- again.” Her mouth snapped shut instantly, grievances put temporarily aside. “That’s why I brought Lorne” Angel explained softly, “He was able to sense them last time.” Cordelia frowned.
“Why would they bother doing that to an empty hotel? It isn’t as if they knew I would be moving in- and if they did it with me here- way to feel secure!” Cordelia shivered at the thought of W & H toadies creeping round the large building whilst she possibly slept totally unaware. “This is all your fault.” She poked him hard in the chest, her eyes narrowed into angry slits; “if you hadn’t ordered them to stake out the place, none of this would have happened.” She continued to poke him hard until he grabbed her hand.
Angel wasn’t too sure either, and was still looking into it himself. A certain blonde, he was sure, came into the equation somewhere. That would be his next port of call, he decided grimly. The thought of someone sneaking around the hotel for God knows how long again made him aware of just how vulnerable his seer was.
“I think you should stay with me, Cordy; I can’t always be around to protect you here.” As soon as the words were out, his whole body tensed at her inevitable response. He wasn’t wrong.
“Well, if you hadn’t been lured by fancy Penthouse suites and endless closets full of designer wear, you would have been around.” Her brow lifted in disdain at his instantly defensive expression, “What else did they tempt you with, hmmm? – A whole garage of sporty little numbers too?” she snorted inelegantly at the sheepish look he threw her.
“Not a whole garage-full” he replied defensively. His gaze again dropped to her throat when she turned her head away in disgust, fully exposing his reckless actions the night before. “About this” he began, running a long finger over the covering plaster; suppressing the demon’s urge to tear it off and check out his mark, “Cor; I’m so-“
“Don’t, Angel” she interrupted shortly; “I don’t want to talk about that right now- still pissed with you” she reminded, throwing him an angry glare- but he noted, with relief that the cold fury and betrayal of the night before was now absent. “Come on, let’s find out how your personal bug catcher is doing,” Reaching for the door handle and opening it, then glancing irritably at the hand that still held hers as Angel pulled her back abruptly.
For a second, their bodies brushed against each other, and she couldn’t suppress the hitch in her breath when his dark head dipped to hers, his cool lips skimming her ear as he spoke. “Remember; keep quiet about this, okay?” she stared at him, and then rolled her eyes with exasperation.
“I’m getting over a coma, not a lobotomy, jeez” pulling away, Cordelia was grateful when he let her go after an initial hesitation. With her frame of mind right now, dark closets and a certain vampire were not a good mix. Stepping into the hallway with relief, she didn’t wait for him to close the door and join her before going off to look for Lorne.
“Are you sure that’s all of them?” Angel asked as they did one more scout of the ground floor of the hotel.
“Pretty sure- though you’ll have to check the phones yourself; my abilities don’t stretch that far, Muffin.” Lorne finally turned his full attention to the brunette once Angel walked over to lift the receiver of the phone. “Maybe now I can get that hug my sad little arms need?” his lip pouting at her immediate step back. “Princess?”
“Oh, now you want huggage? What- was I unhuggable flat on my back and dead to the crappy world?” Tempted as she was, it still stung that none of them, as far as she knew, had visited her whilst stuck in that coma.
“Ah! But that’s where you’re wrong, pooch,” Lorne straightened to his full, imposing height with a triumphant grin on his face. “I visited you every week- hell, I even tried out all my new numbers out on your delicious unhearing bundle of covers; musical numbers, I hasten to add!” catching the faux suspicious look on Cordelia’s face, and the threatening glare of the vampire’s Cordelia relented, moving forward for an all-encompassing hug- jerking back as another thought occurred to her.
“So you knew I was stuck in a room full of strangers –and let’s not forget that sucky hospital reject gown they had me in; which they probably didn’t change once?” Lorne rolled his eyes.
“How they forget! Princess, I complained good and loud; but hey, who ever listens to the obligatory demon who only seems handy for the odd witty comment and good to try out every cell phone that was ever made?”
Cordelia snuck a narrow-eyed glance toward the vampire who she knew was eavesdropping just by the tension of his spine and shoulders and asked: “Angel didn’t listen? Hmph, figures.” The tension in those wide shoulders escalated noticeably at her snarky reply.
Lorne blushed a dark green as he admitted “Actually, I didn’t mention it to Angel cakes; he was kinda going through a river in Egypt at the time.” He lowered his voice conspiratorially, adding: “Sorry about those innocent little eyes getting a gander of a deliciously naked Vampire and the bitch from second-class hell; my fault entirely.” Cordelia shrugged in a show of indifference.
“Don’t worry about it, Lorne- what’s it to me who Angel gets groiny with?” Lorne’s eyes narrowed knowingly as her aura screamed anything but disinterest, letting out a sharp breath when her elbow connected painfully with his ribs. “Stop reading me!” Both pairs of eyes turned toward the check-in counter; Angel’s movements becoming savage with the bug he’d found in the receiver of the phone, ripping it out noisily after obviously still being able to overhear their whispering conversation.
Lorne moved away, grabbing the black bag they’d taken from the kitchen, opening it wide for Angel to throw in the last of the paraphernalia they’d removed from the hotel. Taking it as her cue, Cordelia straightened from her place by the stairs.
“I’m sure you guys can let yourself out; it’s late and I’m going to bed.” She turned to begin her ascent up the stairs, jumping a little when a cool hand appeared from nowhere and caught her wrist. Damn creepy vampire speed!
“Cor, we can’t leave it like this.” Angel refused to back down from the instant freezing glare aimed his way.
“Why not? It’s as good a place as any,” she returned, her voice as cold as her eyes. Lorne swept by, flicking them a ‘things to do’ look as he threw a brief farewell and left them to it. This was one discussion he in no way wanted to be dragged into.
“It’s pretty obvious you can’t stay here- you’re coming home with me.” Angel stiffened his spine as the black clouds gathered in her lovely eyes; the firm set of her mouth had him sighing inwardly.
“‘Home’? Now I know you’re deranged! You want to call that place of serious badness ‘home’- that’s fine by me, buddy,” she poked him hard in the chest for emphasis “But like I already told you; I’d rather sleep in an alley than step foot in that place.”
“I could just take it out of your hands, Cordelia” he warned recklessly, swallowing down the trepidation as her features tightened in outrage.
“You really gonna go there?” she dared quietly. He dropped his eyes after long seconds of warring glares.
“No.” The word wrenched out; this was a dare he wasn’t willing to follow through. The way things were right now, it would be yet another stupid move- even though a part of him cursed the soul’s intervention. Having no ethics came in handy sometimes. “But if you won’t come with me, then I’m staying.” Angel waited for the inevitable argument- speechless when she merely turned away and made her way up the stairs.
“Fine- but you’ll have to find another room, ‘cos your old one is mine now.” Cordelia forced herself not to look back as she reached the top, stifling the urge to scuttle down the landing and lock herself in her room.
Once she was out of sight, Angel let his shoulders sag. The fact Cordelia hadn’t ranted and railed until he left was, to him, a good sign that maybe there was a chance to mend seriously compromised bridges. Going through the motions of locking up and then checking every access into the hotel, he wearily ascended the stairs, pausing momentarily outside his own door; his large hands pressed flat against the wood as he listened to the gradually slowing heartbeat on the other side.
With another heartfelt sigh, he walked over to the room Cordelia once thought of as hers and made do with the faint scent that still clung to her bed. At this moment, it was better than nothing.