Angel slid the sketchpad across the hotel counter. “Aslan.”
Wesley studied the portrait of the fierce looking vamp. “And you believe Cordelia’s vision was warning us of this particular vampire?” Wesley asked as he studied Angel’s meticulous etching of the fierce looking vamp.
Gunn pointed to the roaring lion on the drawn vampire’s chest. “This the tattoo in Cordy’s vision?” Angel nodded. “Man, look at all this body art, and dude is ripped. Looks like trouble.”
“He does look like an imposing figure.” Wesley commented, handing the likeness to Gunn.
“He’s a problem. But not our biggest.”
“Aslan has always been known more for what the vamps he turns do as opposed to what he himself is capable of.”
Andre waited patiently as Aslan drained the last drop from his dinner. He was in awe. He was so lucky to have a master such as Aslan. Someone who could truly appreciate him for what he was.
As a human he had been so alone. No one understood him or appreciated any of his many talents. It had been such a futile existence, looking for that special someone, capturing one young girl after another, bestowing upon her all of his gifts, loving and caring for her so affectionately and ultimately adding her to his collection.
None of them appreciated the pain he could offer or the art that their death would make in the end. They were all so ungrateful. He had selected each one so carefully, making them famous in the process. He should have been admired instead of incarcerated.
Aslan watched Andre’s eyes follow the young brunette’s body as it fell to the floor. “Reminiscing about the old life?”
“But aren’t you happy with your new one? Don’t I let you have all of the young women you want? Don’t I make sure that your every need is taken care of?”
Andre lowered his head. “Of course you do.”
Aslan approached his childe and gently caressed his face. “Then no more long faces.” Andre blushed and shook his head. “Now, tell me what you have found out about the gem of Amarra and what Angelus has done with it.”
“I don’t think he has the ring sire. Or at least he chooses not to wear it. I found him today, with his humans,” Andre added disgustedly. “He tried to follow one out into the sun but couldn’t.”
“Hmm.” Aslan walked across the room and sat on the hotel room’s plush sofa, pondering the situation. “It may be possible that he has the ring but does not wear it constantly as not to draw too much attention to the fact that he has it.”
“Maybe if we watch him, wait until he is wearing it and then …”
“If he is wearing the ring, he is invincible. We would stand no chance of success that way.” Aslan spoke every word very slowly, driving in the point of how stupid a plan such as that would be.
“We could ask him for it.”
“Ask Angelus, the Scourge of Europe, to simply hand over the most powerful possession a vampire can obtain?” Aslan laughed at his naïve childe. “And how do you suppose to ask such a question.”
Andre smiled. “With his woman in my arms.”
“So, you’re sayin’ badass vamp with the jumbo lion head on his chest gets his kicks off of turning serial killers.”
“Good lord. How many of these criminals do you believe he has turned over the years?”
“Well, as far as I can remember, he used to turn one at a time. Turning people of that notoriety is tricky. They are brutal and overly confident but extremely loyal to their sires, treating them almost godlike. In the end though it never works really well. They’re just too bold and draw too much unwanted attention until eventually you just have to end up ditching them or staking them. I remember this one guy that I …”
Angel paused at the stares from the other two men and redirected his answer. “He usually turns one and uses them until he stakes them or someone else catches up with them.”
Gunn shook off the creepy feeling he was getting from Angel‘s answer. “So, now this vamp and his latest psycho groupie are here in town.”
“It would seem so.”
“That’s what I intend to find out. The sun will be down in a few minutes. We’ll hit the streets as soon as I check on Cordy.”
“How is she feeling?”
“She’s alright. She’s resting upstairs. She ran out of pain killers so I sent Fred to her apartment to get some more.”
The light that crept in from the hallway and through the open door of the suite caused Cordelia’s head to pound. Angel noticed her closed eyes and furrowed brow and quickly shut the door, leaving the room blanketed in darkness. He approached the bed and stroked her forehead. “How are you feeling?”
“I’ll be a lot better when Fred gets back with my medicine and you guys figure out just what the hell that funky vision meant,” she knew she sounded grumpy. She had always tried to hide how bad the visions hurt, but lately it seemed to get harder and harder to fake it. She tried to soften her tone. “Did you guys figure out what we’re supposed to do?”
“We’re working on it,” he whispered as he began rubbing her temples. He couldn’t explain why he suddenly felt that such an intimate gesture, as small as it was, was acceptable now. It was as if their earlier declarations had given him the permission slip he needed to love her. He saw her open her eyes, knowing that even though she stared directly at him, she couldn’t make out his features.
Concealed and comforted by the darkness, he began his confession, “I’m sorry I hurt you. I never meant to. I let myself slip so far, and when I tried to come back, that night at the hospital, you told me that …” He could see her open her mouth to speak and touched her lips with his finger.
“I’m not using what you said to me as an excuse. It was just that at that moment, it had finally hit me that I had lost you, all of you. No matter how much I wanted to come back, I couldn’t. I knew I had screwed things up so bad that I couldn’t fix them and l just wanted to end it. All of it. So, like any suicidal idiot, I only thought about myself, about how I could destroy myself. Never once thinking about just how that would affect the people I cared about, I came back to the hotel and waited for the sun to rise, but it was hours away. When Darla showed up, I traded the sunrise for Angelus as a way to escape. I was foolish enough to think that sex was the trigger for him to surface,”
Angel stopped when he noticed the tears in Cordelia’s eyes at the mention of Darla. He waited a moment before continuing, “When I woke up, I was disgusted with myself. I realized just what I had risked and what I thought I had probably lost for good. I vowed that day to get my family back, no matter what it took.”
He closed his eyes, waiting for her to respond, to say that she had made a mistake this morning when she told Lorne about her feelings for him. Cordelia didn’t say a word. She simply sat up and leaned toward him. Slowly, she wrapped her arms around him and quietly sobbed into his shoulder.
Angel held her to him, “I’m so sorry Cordy. Can you forgive me?”
She nodded her answer against his shoulder, making him hold her even tighter. He closed his eyes and buried his face in the crook of her neck, promising himself that he would never have to ask her that question again.
The medicine had helped quite a bit, but Cordelia still couldn’t wait for the relief that taking care of her vision would bring. She wasn’t sure how long she had been sleeping, or exactly when Angel had left the room, but when she opened the curtain and stepped out onto the balcony, she realized it had been longer than she thought.
She leaned against the ledge and closed her eyes. The cool night air brought chill bumps to her skin and soothed the dull headache that still took up residence in her head.
A smile slowly crept across her face. Angel loved her. She hugged herself as she thought about the way he had held her, letting her rest her head on his shoulder until all of the fear, hurt, and anger had been washed away with her tears.
Angel loved her and she loved him. They were in love.
Before this afternoon, she had thought such a revelation or declaration would ruin things for them – destroy their friendship or terrify them into solitude. Now, she realized that what she had once been so afraid of, the feelings that she thought would rip her heart to shreds, actually mended it, healing both fresh and old wounds.
Her private smile grew even wider as she looked at the night below one last time before turning, anxious to find him downstairs waiting for her and their newfound love.
In a daze she walked back into the suite, unable to wipe the smile from her face or to see the creature crouched in the shadowed corner of the room.