Cordelia watched her sire. It looked as if he was honestly stumped. “What’s the matter? I didn’t confess to Kennedy’s assassination Angel.” She crossed her arms and regarded him without humor.
Angel took a shuddering, but un-needed breath. “What did you say?”
She frowned. “I said I didn’t confess to…”
“No before that.”
“What’s the matter…”
“No Cordelia. You really think I won’t save a soul if I knew tomorrow I’d get my humanity?” He watched her ardently as if hoping she’d give him the answer that suited him, but Cordelia never said anything besides the truth.
“Yes. I do.”
He rubbed his temples, his eyes closing. She was right. If he knew he was going to shanshu, he would be too busy celebrating. It had been so easy to slip into normal life. As normal as they could. As close to normal as they could get. So easy to pretend there wasn’t eminent danger hanging over their heads all the time, forgot his house didn’t have a picket fence.
Everything became pseudo-normal. A farce. They didn’t have normal lives. Not when they had so many depend on them.
Cordelia watched the emotions on his face and frowned. “Angel?” When he didn’t immediately speak, she raised her hand and touched his jaw gently.
The touch of her hand on his face brought Angel’s eyes to focus on his childe. He raised his hand to hold hers against his skin. “I’m so sorry.” He missed the warmth there. The warmth in her touch, in her eyes and in her smile.
The young vampire blinked in surprise. “What for?”
His eyes flickered with regret. “For doing this to you. I’m so sorry I forgot Cordelia. I’m so sorry I forgot I wasn’t human. It cost me your humanity to realize that. I’m so sorry.”
The ache in Cordelia’s chest tightened at the sound of her sire’s voice. The pain. The need to make him feel better battled the will to agree with him. To tell him this was his fault. He was the one who brought this upon them all, but she couldn’t say it to him. She couldn’t hate him for anything. “I won’t argue with you there, but the soul won’t give me the warmth you want from me Angel.”
He stepped away slightly. “It’ll give you emotion Cordy. Something besides hunger and lust and possession. I’ll give you love.”
She looked away. “I already love, Angel. I just don’t like it when I do. It makes me soft.”
“Softness becomes a woman Cordy.” He smiled sliding his thumb over her chin and raising it so he could look into her eyes. “That was what I loved about you. Your feminine softness.’ He leaned down and brushed his lips over her brow. “God Cordy, I miss the way you used to look at me, with tenderness and not obedient reverence. I miss the way you loved me because I was your soulmate, not your sire.”
She shivered. “Gota have a soul to be a soulmate Angel.”
The two looked up to see Spike walk into the light of the basement taking a drag on his cigarette. Angel frowned at his intrusion, but didn’t throw him out like he wanted to. If he couldn’t convice the fledgling to accept the soul willingly, maybe Spike could.
Cordelia blinked up at the new comer. “What do you mean?”
“Wot I mean Vix, is that it’s only a technicality. The soul is only half the soulmate. I don’t have a soul and I manage fine. The kicker is, it takes you a step closer.”
“Humanity Vix.” Spike shrugged. “It takes the animal out of you.” He grinned. “Or you could pick the power of the microchip; that works too. Keeps your from killing.”
Cordelia swallowed, her throat itching for some fresh blood. Talking only made her hungrier. The demon was already screaming. She didn’t want to stand around talking anymore. She wanted to feed and she wanted to be free. “I like this power.”
“Intoxicating isn’t it?” Spike took another drag on his cigarette then looked at her. “But do you think the poofter is any less powerful because he has a soul or I’m dangerous because I’ve lost my bite? What you are, you never forget luv. It’s a part of you. Every little hunger pang, but that’s not all we are Vix.”
Angel raised an eyebrow at Spike. Willow had rubbed off on him.
The young vampire looked into her sire’s eyes. “I don’t want to.”
Angel pulled her into his arms and held her against him. “I know. But if you don’t get the soul Cordy, you’ll kill.” He looked down into her wide hazel eyes and hoped his voice didn’t waver. “And I’ll have to dust you, if you do.”
She jerked out of his arms, her eyes slightly betrayed. “You’re my sire! You can’t…”
“We have a family and I won’t let you hurt them. You would do the same.”
She watched his eyes and all she found was conviction. Looking away she spoke softly, “You could make me.”
“I can, but I don’t want to.” Angel watched her with firm eyes. “I could never force you to do anything Cordy, not to even stop spiking my blood with cinnamon.”
She was silent for only a second an inevitable smile curving her human lips. “Okay.” When Angel reached for her she stepped back a finger poking into his chest. “No. I’ll do it. But I won’t like it.”
Angel only held back a smile. “I can live with that.”
* * *
Julianne was standing in Willow’s bathroom, her back to the mirror, her shirt slung on the bathtub as she tried to look at the cut that still dripped blood onto her gray sports bra. She sighed. It was deep and she had a feeling it she had been any more human, she would have needed stitches but seeing how she was half vampire, the cut was only slightly bleeding, but hurt like hell.
Stretching her right arm back she cried out softly as the muscles in her side stretched and screamed. With a grunt of pain she pulled her arm back and moaned softly. “Fuck.”
“Oh I like the direct approach.”
She looked up startled in the mirror to meet her own startled eyes. If she hadn’t been who she was, she’d have thought she was hearing voices. With a sigh, she turned back to see the blonde vampire leaning against the bathroom door, a cigarette dangling casually between his lips. “Then sent you to deal with me? Get out.” She glared.
“They didn’t. Need help?”
“Don’t you knock?” She tried to grab the slashed shirt, but he stepped in the way, his blue eyes running over her with a chuckle. “What?” She looked up into his eyes, slightly guardedly.
“Nothing, I haven’t seen Luv.” He leaned closer and put out the cigarette in the sink behind her intentionally invading her personal space and the girl only watched him with narrow calculating eyes. “Let us have a peek.” His cold hands brushed her shoulder and she jerked away. “You obviously can’t bend that way Luv. You need help.”
“I don’t need your help! Get out Spike.”
“Look brat, nothing would suit me better than to leave you here, but you’re staining Red’s nice clean floor and she’ll have my head. So be a good little girl and let me fix it for you.” He remembered another girl who gave him such a hard time. Why did he always had to pick the hardheads?
She didn’t like the way he got so personal so suddenly. Julianne liked her distance, but this vampire had a way of getting too close. “I’m not little and I’m not a girl.” She rubbed her sore side and didn’t meet his blue eyes. They were too blue for her taste. “I’ll wait for dad.”
“Your father’s a little busy with a certain vampire vixen with hazel eyes.” He raised a scarred eyebrow and rolled up the sleeves of his ice blue sweater that he’d changed into. The damn thing brought out the blue in his eyes even more and she shrank away when he tried to touch her shoulder again. “Bloody hell!” He glared. “Wot are you so scared about?”
“I don’t want your grubby hands on me!”
“Afraid you’d like them pet?” He grabbed her elbow and Julianne’s eyes widened slightly as he spun her around effortlessly and pinned her stomach first into the bathroom counter, but his hands were gentle. “Hold still.”
“Julianne. HOLD still!” He growled softly and held the back of her neck firmly with one hand and picked up a wet towel with another. “Cor…you independent women have a real problem with showing your soft side. Your father had the same conversation with your new born mum about that only a moment ago. She’s as stubborn as you are, but the chit is jello in Peaches’ arms. I never knew how he could do it so well. Calm them so bloody well especially since he specializes in driving them crazy.”
She didn’t struggle as she felt the cool towel sooth the burning skin and took a steadying breath. “You have trouble with the ladies.”
“I wouldn’t call it trouble Luv.” Spike chuckled as he set the towel down and picked up the disinfectant, dabbing some on a swab of cotton.
“Don’t start on the conquests again Spike. I don’t want to know.” Julianne wished she could see him working in the mirror. It was unnerving standing with her back to a vampire she hadn’t even seen until today. The same vampire that was called ‘William the Bloody’ on the streets. Although, the hand on her neck seemed anything but harsh and for a minute she wondered why he was treating her with such…well…care. “Did she agree?”
“Surprisingly. I helped.”
“What did you do? Read poetry.”
Spike growled softly and put the soaked gauze on her cut.
She jerked, the pain zinging thought her body, her fingers digging into the counter. “Oh god.” She whispered as he pulled it away.
“Oh sorry Luv. Did that hurt?” He grinned into her face as she looked up her brown eyes wide with surprise, her breath coming in small gasps.
“Yeah. Don’t insult the poetry. Got it.” She winced.
Spike chuckled slightly as he picked up a gauze. “They’re down in the living room. We should get you packed up right quick to see the fireworks.”
“I’d rather get there after they’re finished thank you.”
Spike raised an eyebrow his fingers holding the gauze in place as he picking up the bandage roll. “You don’t strike me as a coward brat. You sure you’re the same chit that just battled two vampires and two baby Kilrah demons?”
She sighed. “I’m cautious Spike. I don’t invite heartache.”
His eyes softened slightly as he turned her around with the pressure of his hand on her lower neck. He wrapped the bandage under and around her shoulder holding the gauze in place . “She’s still your mother Julia.”
The girl wondered at the ease with which the nick name rolled off his tongue and looked at him, as he worked on her bandage. “She’s never going to be herself and don’t call me ‘Julia’.”
“For someone whose been living with a vampire, you don’t know a lot about them,” he secured the bandage and looked up before continuing, “and the name suits you.”
The tone of his voice was surprisingly gentle for the callous vampire that he was. “I’m half vampire myself, I know enough.”
“Horse shit.” Spike snorted and stepped back to met her eyes. “The bloody soul will not fix anything. It’ll just give her something to regret. Something to feel sad about. The only good thing I see coming out of this spell is that she won’t kill for pleasure. Besides that, the cheerleader is the same. Before the poofter’s deliberate mistake or after the damned spell. The vampire curse is not as clichéd as you want it to be. The whole soul issue is dramatized to make it seem like a punishment and in a way it is. Real power comes without regret or guilt and when you take that out of the equation there is no distinction. We are all good and bad Julia. You can’t separate the bloody soul and the demon. Most people forget and the only reason she’s still refusing is because she always took the package deal; even with your father. The damned poof’s been trying so hard to be human, he’s forgot what he is. The fangs don’t make us vampires Julia; the bloodlust does and even the soul can’t take that away. Otherwise we’re just blokes in a freak costume.”
She hadn’t spoke through his entire tirade. “It can’t be that easy.”
“Facts usually are luv.” He shrugged. “We complicate them with explanations.”
“You have all the answers don’t you?”
The blonde vampire smirked. “I still don’t know what came first: the chicken or the egg.”
The girl groaned and shook her head. “And I can’t believe I was listening to you.” She grabbed his sleeve.
“Come on. We’ve got fireworks to go to.”
“No I get it. No more lecture. Let’s just get this over with.”
“Spike! Come on they might have started.”
“Shouldn’t you put on a shirt first?”
The words were soft. Whispered. The vampire huddled in the middle of the circle watched the witch warily. Every fiber of her being told her to run, to stop the violation, but when she saw his eyes, she stayed. If she was only a demon, why did his eyes and her daughter’s resolve keep her there?
She shivered. Her daughter hadn’t even understood and Cordelia had felt so helpless when she couldn’t explain her needs to her daughter. She’d thought the half vampire would understand and then Angel had been so determined to give her a soul, she’d felt betrayed.
The Witch chanted, the wind swept up the words and carried them around the small group. Cordelia took a sharp breath, the stale air knocked out of her lungs when the wind curled around her, searing her skin, catching her hair and pulling her until she couldn’t keep her eyes open.
Willow watched the shivering girl in the circle and closed her eyes. Please let this work. With a final whisper she pointed her palm towards her friend and the vampire jerked, a soft cry escaping her before the winds went wild and the candles went out.
Then all sound stopped.
Julianne stood in the darkness, stumbling slightly. A cold hand gripped her elbow gently. Her heart beat furiously. She couldn’t hear anything. “Mom?”
A candle flickered and came on. Then another, until the circle around the vampire was lit.
Angel watched the woman sit up rubbing her temples gently and grimacing at them. “That hurt almost as much as my visions used to.”
“No. Cordelius.” She glared. “Is it over?”
Angel didn’t know whether to laugh or break her neck. He knew Spike was right. The soul would change very little, but it still soothed him enough to think she wasn’t going to kill anyone he loved. Including herself. He just hoped the rest of his family would survive getting used to the beautiful vampire parading around their home.
Willow held her smile and looked at Angel, as if offering him silent reassurance . “Yes Cordelia, it’s over.”
“Good.” She stood and stretched. “I’d like some food please. Fresh and warm if possible.”
Angel watched her carefully. “Do you feel different?”
The female vampire looked up with a wide grin. “I feel hungry.” Then she took pity on her husband and chuckled. “Yes, I have the soul Angel. Yes, I feel bad for biting my own daughter, although she was delicious, and no, ” she met his eyes with a raised eyebrow, “I don’t feel different. A little less homicidal, I agree, but not much different. Still fanged.”
Angel hid a smile as he stepped closer. “I think the fanged part we can’t change.”
Cordelia lifted her eyes and met the brown eyes of her daughter. The girl stood there watching her with mixed emotions on her face and Cordelia raised an eyebrow. “Boo?”
Julianne started slightly and rolled her eyes as Spike snorted with controlled laughter. “Very funny mom.”
The female vampire snickered. “Sorry. Just checking.”
Spike finally managed a smile. “I’ll get you a snack. I got a new lot this evening.” He motioned to Willow pointedly. “Care to help me luv?”
Willow nodded and made her way around the vampires. “Yes. I think I know where it’s kept.” She looped her arm through Spike’s and was gently led out of the room, leaving the unusual family behind in the flickering candle light.
Cordelia watched the two figures standing beside each other outside her ring of light. Angel stood with his hands shoved in his pants, his brown eyes fixed on his feet and she stood with her arms crossed, her eyes anywhere else but the two of them.
Cordelia sighed. This would take some getting used to. “This had better not make you a brooder Princess, or I’ll make you wear your father’s colors too.”
“Hey! Black looks good on me.”
“Black looks good on anybody, Angel.”
Julianne looked up at her mother. If Spike was right then the soul really hadn’t changed a lot, which mean that the woman standing before her was still a vampire. There was still the air of volatile energy around the woman and the soft cinnamon smell of her mother was gone.
Cordelia watched her daughter’s eyes carefully. “It’s not about me sliding back into my role Princess;” Julianne looked slightly surprised at the blatant words, “it’s about you accepting me back into my role.”
The thin film of moisture in those brown eyes blurred her vision, but the tainted blood in her veins allowed her accurate enough movement to step over the burning candles and into her mother’s arms. The broken words were whispered into the shredded fabric of her mother’s shirt and the tears didn’t burn vampire skin this time.
Cordelia held the shaking warm woman in her arms and the fierce possessiveness returned. The same inane need to draw the woman inside herself where nothing could harm her invaded the vampire’s sense, but this time, she didn’t stake her claim. She didn’t bite her daughter to tell the world she was hers. She just held her tightly, inhaling her scent to remind herself what to keep near.
What to hold dear. She let the previous days of mistrust that her daughter had kept between them melt away in the sheer abandon of her daughter’s embrace and returned it. “Shhh Princess. Don’t cry.” Her hands slid down her soft hair, mimicking the same caresses that had previously been wary of.
The ardent betrayal of a daughter not understanding her mother seemed to fade away with the trust that didn’t waver, even with the vampire’s cold touch on the younger girl’s nape and she met his eyes with a smile.
Angel smiled back. The emotions flickering across his wife’s features were so raw, so potent. Things he couldn’t explain to his daughter or the actions her mother couldn’t have controlled, didn’t seem significant now. He had been afraid that out of all the people who wouldn’t accept Cordelia, Julianne would be the first and he knew what it was like to have a child that didn’t understand or accept who they were.
He’d been so afraid that he’d lose another child and even more scared to think Cordelia would lose Julianne. Stepping over the flickering candles he wrapped his arms around the two most important women in his undead life and held them. His lips brushed over his daughter’s hair before meeting cold counterparts.
When her father pressed into her from behind, holding her and her mother and she laughed. “Stop the smooching. I’m still here.”
Cordelia held the urge to keep her daughter close, but she figured the girl would only freak if she found out her mother wouldn’t mind having her always nearby. At least not yet. She pulled away slightly to allow her daughter room enough to scoot out before she was wrapped into two strong arms, his lips sliding firmly across hers.
When Julianne moved away with a small laugh and a shake of her head, Cordelia could feel the stiffening in her muscles, but Angel held her tightly, his mouth lifting and their eyes meet. “She’s not going far.”
“I don’t think I could explain this to her Angel.”
He slid a gentle hand down her cheek before smiling the smile that was only reserved for her before. “I don’t think she’d listen right now, but eventually.”
Cordelia sighed. “Angel, just because I have the soul.”
A firm finger was planted across her mouth silencing her words and she looked up. “I know. I may forget about me, but you Cordy, I’ve never had doubt about.”
Her mouth curved up and then Angel lost what little breath he had when the sun came out in her smile. “So that means I’m not going to be tied up anymore?”
Angel laughed and gave her a squeeze. “No. Unless you try and get away from me. Then I might reconsider it.”
“Make a trip to the cellar. I’m getting away in Spike’s bedroom.” Then with a soft purr and a wink she stepped out of the circle.
Angel was about to follow her when Julianne screamed.
Cordelia was the first into the kitchen where Spike was holding the young girl in his arms. He looked up when Cordelia growled. “Oh for, VISION! It wasn’t me!”
Cordelia’s game face melted away and she raised an eyebrow, Angel coming to stand beside him.
Julianne rubbed her temples and whined softly. “Oh God, I thought the quota wasn’t more than one per day.”
Angel grit this teeth. The PTB had given his daughter the visions. “I’m going to kill them.”
Cordelia patted his shoulder. “You don’t kill higher beings Angel. I should know.” She sighed and touched her daughter’s hair gently. “Where’s Willow?”
“Tired.” Spike raised the glass of water he’d grabbed from the counter before he caught Julianne against him and raised it to her lips. “Drink this brat.”
“Yeah but why her!” Angel proceeded to pace.
Cordelia rolled her eyes and looked up at her husband. “Who else Angel? When you got all fang happy on me, they had to compensate.”
“She’s my daughter! I don’t want her involved in their stupid conquests!”
“Your stupid conquests Angel. You are the champion.”
“Excuse me!” Julianne glared. “Can we get back to me? I’m still reeling from vision aftermath.”
Cordelia planted a kiss on her forehead. “What did you see Princess?”
The young girl sighed heavily. “Big green demon.” She shuddered slightly and Spike’s arms instinctively tightened around the girl and she didn’t even notice she was still cradled against him. “Pink scales. I mean what kind of color combination is that? Anyway, there’s a couple making out in the park. They can’t see it.”
Angel’s eyes narrowed at his daughter.
Cordelia nodded. “Well I need to work off a little tension anyway. Come on brood boy, lets go kick some demon ass.”
Angel’s brown furrowed. “He’s coveting my daughter.”
“DAD!” Julianne rubbed her throbbing forehead.
Spike only glared back at his sire.
Cordelia grabbed his sleeve and pulled him out of the kitchen. “Come on Angel.”
“Cordy wait.look.SPIKE GET YOUR HANDS OFF MY DAUGHTER!”
Julianne sighed and stood, one of Spike’s hands supporting her elbow as she steadied herself. She looked up into his blue eyes. “You like pushing your luck don’t you?”
He smirked before squeezing her elbow and kissing the rim of her ear. “Just deliberate mistakes Luv.”