Glass Towers by Psychofilly
Summary: "Where were you at ten o'clock on the night of the twelfth?"
Spoilers: Early Season Five.
Notes: Guys, this goes dark. I'm really sorry (just getting that out of the way *now*).
Angel?" Harmony interrupted, her tone unusually subdued. "There are a couple of
officers here to see you."
Angel kept his game face on, not his vampiric one, but the blank businessman mask he had perfected over the last few years, revealing nothing of the sudden unease that swam through his gut.
"That's okay, Harm. Send them in."
Angel's head whipped back and forth as he frantically searched the crowd of people on the boardwalk. So many sounds assaulted his senses, a painful cacophony of music light and humanity that he could for the most part tune out, but he could have swore....
He'd heard it, that same unforgettable laugh that haunted his dreams night after night. Sure, he'd moved on, continued to "live" after she had slipped away from him, but he'd never forgotten. There! A casual toss of brown hair over bronzed shoulder, a flash of red, Angel began to push his way through the crowd.
Angel watched in silence as two officers and a detective entered the room. As soon as the detective rounded from behind the flatfooted bulk of her escorts, he sat back and steepled his fingers. Her presence was problematic, but not insurmountable. "Kate, it's good to see you again."
"Angel." Her lips thinned and Angel wondered what words she was holding back, swallowing accusations was never her style.
"Cordelia!" Angel shouted as he closed in on the woman. "Cordy, wait!"
She kept walking, completely ignoring him as she wound through the throng at a leisurely rate. She reached the end of the promenade, where the crowd was thinnest. Finally, he caught up with her, circling her wrist in his fingers and yanking her around. "Dammit, Cor!"
"Excuse me?" She said, yanking her arm, but he held fast. "Let me go," she demanded. He searched her hazel eyes, looking for some spark of anything, but all he could see was confusion. She didn't know him. "Look, I don't know what your deal is, but let go of me."
"Cordelia, please...." Angel begged. Her skin was like satin under his fingers. The scent of her after so long was still the same. She smelled of the beach, summer flowers and sunshine. He wanted to wrap himself up in her and forget the world that hammered away his humanity one little chip at a time.
"My name is Elaine, I don't know any Cordelia," she insisted. Angel found the swell of hope that had risen in his chest replaced with anger. She had lost a few pounds, and grown out her hair but otherwise, it was her. Why was she lying?
"Stop playing games with me," he snapped.
She dug her fingers into his hand, trying to loosen his hold. He supposed on a human, it would hurt. There was a new smell emanating from her, this one also familiar... fear. "I'm not playing around here, let me GO!" The last word was yelled as she dug in her heels and yanked her arm trying to wrench free. Could she really not remember? Could this be yet another cruel joke at his expense? Angel looked around. People were watching….
"What can I do for you, Kate?" Angel asked neutrally.
She strode to his desk and dropped a file onto the middle of it. "Does the name Elaine Caldwell mean anything to you?"
Angel instantly let her go. Unprepared, "Elaine" stumbled backwards. Angel grabbed her shoulders, pulling her upright, holing her close for a moment longer than was really necessary. Reluctantly he backed away, hands in the air. He didn't want to scare her away, not when he'd just- "I- it's my mistake. It's just you-" He dropped his hands and backed away, turning towards the crowd.
"I what?" Elaine asked her curiosity piqued. She couldn't see the satisfied a smirk that flitted across his features. "Who is Cordelia?"
With a sigh Angel scrubbed his hand across his face. "She was an old friend. I'm sorry for upsetting you. I just thought you were her." He smiled ruefully, letting her see his embarrassment. After an awkward beat, he held out his hand. "I'm Angel."
The woman snorted, a sound that was so "Cordelia" it tore him up inside. Elaine grasped his hand and shook it. "Elaine." She studied him surreptitiously, thinking he didn't notice the quick darting glances. He let her curiosity do his dirty work. "I, uh, don't normally do this, but- would you like some coffee? There is a Starbucks just around the corner....
Angel opened the file and thumbed through the pictures. With an indifferent shrug, he tossed the file back across the desk. "I've never heard of her, no. Do you need us to help you track the assailant down?"
Kate looked like he had slapped her and then nailed her puppy to a wall. He didn't understand the look of betrayal. He may have saved her from herself once, instilled her with a little hope when she was down, but they were hardly friends. His takeover of Wolfram and Hart was old news, so she shouldn't be pissed about that particular compromise…
"Where were you at ten o'clock on the night of the twelfth?" she demanded.
Angel smiled, calm, cool and intended to infuriate. "I was working...."
Angel smiled and took a sip of coffee to hide his impatience. It was time to turn on the charm. "So, Elaine, tell me about yourself?"
"I need better than that, Angel." Kate replied coldly, "Were you with anyone, can you give me an exact location?"
"I was tracking a special case," He gave her a slow once over, noticing the tightness in her shoulders, the way she shifted from one foot to the other and frowned. The supernatural still bugged her. "You know the kind of cases that I specialize in." He sat back and let her think about it for a moment, relishing the way her frown deepened. "I can have Harmony pull the file. I logged my hours in, but there is no one who can confirm my whereabouts."
"Did your `case' take you anywhere near the Santa Monica pier that night?" She asked him in clipped tones.
Angel pursed his lips, and studied Kate for a long hard moment. He didn't have time for games. She was going to make him late for an important meeting. "Cut the crap Kate. You tell me, where was I at ten o'clock on the night of the twelfth?"
Her eyes narrowed, angry and sharp as ice-chips. Kate was a real pistol when she was pissed, and she was pissed. "Fine, I'll tell you…."
"So anyway, after I finally woke the hell up and dumped that looser, I decided my life needed a complete one-eighty. I quit my job, packed everything up and moved to LA."
"And how is that working out for you?" Angel asked, genuinely curious. The woman in front of him was vivacious and engaging, her hazel eyes sparkling with humor and intelligence. "I know LA can be a tough town."
A smile flirted at the edges of her full lips. "It's been okay. I found a job, have a crappy little apartment, and my car is almost ready to be put down, but… things are definitely looking up." Her head dipped and her chestnut hair curtained her face. Suddenly, she tossed the long tresses over her shoulder and met his eyes with the confidence of someone who looked good and knew it. "Getting coffee certainly hasn't sucked."
"No," he agreed, "It hasn't." He stood and held out his hand for her cup, throwing their trash away and holding the door for her. "Walk you to your car?"
Her smile was more dazzling than the Ferris-wheel lights. "Sure."
She opened the file on his desk, "I have a security guard who gave us your description at approximately ten. He said you were harassing a brown haired woman that fits perfectly with the description of Elaine Caldwell, right down to the clothes." She tapped the picture at the top of the pile. There was too much blood to see what color the dress had been. "He claimed the only reason he didn't come to her aid is that you let her go and backed away. He watched as you two exited the area."
"Okay, " Angel conceded. "Let's say, hypothetically, that I bumped into this Elaine. Let's say, I mistook her for an old friend… You have to admit," he ran his thumb over the picture, tracing the curve of her jaw. "Her resemblance to Cordelia is remarkable." Angel's gaze flicked to the detective. He decided to take a calculated risk. "Let's say, still hypothetically, that we even had coffee and I explained the mix up to her and we talked for a couple of hours." Angel noticed Kate's jaw twitch. She knew, which meant he had nothing to loose by revealing it. He shrugged. "It was just coffee, Kate."
"I think it was a hell of a lot more than coffee, Mr. Angel." She retorted. "What happened next?"
"Nothing. We parted ways outside the Starbucks. End of story." Angel didn't like the cold smile that crept over Kate`s face, nor did he like the way she planted her hands on his desk and leaned into his space.
"Well, this is it." Elaine scanned the dark lot nervously. Angel wondered if she was rethinking the wisdom of having a complete stranger walk her to her car, only they weren't strangers. She'd tried all night to throw him off, but her scent didn't lie. His memory didn't lie. Cordelia lied, she lied and lied and lied and he was tired of playing along.
"Cor, can't you just drop the act?" he asked tiredly.
Her face scrunched in confusion. "What? I thought we cleared that up. My name is Elaine." She hurriedly fished through her purse, yanking out her keys. Angel didn't miss the way her hands had begun to shake. Only someone with something to hide would be nervous.
"Don't do this to me, Cordelia." He placed his hand over hers, ignoring her gasp as he helped her slide the key into the lock and turn it. "Talk to me. Tell me why you left me."
"I-" Elaine wrenched the door open, threw her purse in the passengers seat and tried to get in, but Angel was too fast. He grabbed her by the arm and yanked her up against him. "Please," she begged.
"We are going to talk." Angel growled, just before he punched her.
"The parking lot sweeping service had a truck out there. The man was blowing off a sidewalk when he saw a car, Elaine's car, speed through the parking lot, almost running him over. He got a good look at the driver, Angel -a real good look- what with the lights from the strip center shining into the car and everything." She grinned, but there was no humor in it, only the joy of a hunter closing in on its prey. "Would you care to revise your statement Angel?"
"You got sloppy."
"I didn't get anything. I completed the op and went home. Your blue- collar witness is mistaken."
"You couldn't bring her here because you'd be seen. You couldn't go to her place because you couldn't get in. That's why you rented the hotel room, paid cash…. Am I ringing any bells?"
"I don't get it Cordy. Why do you always try and run?" He hefted Elaine up and rushed her into the cheap, threadbare room. "I just- I worry about you all the time, where you're at, how you are doing. I know we didn't part under the best of circumstances, but really. A little common courtesy wouldn't kill you, now would it? I mean, how hard is it to send a letter or even a fucking post card?" He threw her down on the bed and began to pace.
The young woman only gasped for air as she cried. Something dark and ugly twisted in Angel's heart. He strode across the room and yanked her up by the hair. "Stop it! Cordelia Chase doesn't cry!"
"I'm not her!" she hissed, struggling against his grip. "Let me go!" She shrieked and Angel backhanded her. Elaine whipped around as she tumbled to the bed in a sobbing heap. "Please let me go."
"PLEASE!" she screamed.
"NO!" Angel's patience snapped, he crawled onto the bed, dragging the terrified woman underneath him.
"I think you are the one getting sloppy, Detective Lockley." Angel responded, his demeanor outwardly cool.
Her eyebrow rose as she slowly stood and crossed her arms. Angel leaned over in his chair and eyed the two men that had accompanied her. She seemed to take the hint and with a short wave of her hand, she dismissed them. They murmured their assurances that they would be just outside and left. "What is it, Angel?"
"I'm a vampire, Kate."
"The word, duh, comes to mind." She replied sarcastically.
He sighed, "Think about it. If I did this, do you think I would have left all that warm, tasty, nutritious blood in her body for it to leak out all over the mattress?" He pushed a picture across the desk, inviting her to study it. "That wouldn't be my M.O."
She nodded, touched the picture lightly, then pushed it back in the pile. "I thought about that," she said softly. "I didn't have to ask myself why a vampire would rape and mutilate a woman –Elaine- like you did. You are sick, twisted, evil bastards every one, but I'll admit the blood had me confused…."
"But you figured it out?" he prodded. "Tell me Kate."
"People kill for all kinds of reasons Angel. Vampires kill for food, but that doesn't mean they can't kill for vengeance, or fun… or in your case, rage and betrayal."
Angel clapped his hands, once, twice, again. "Bravo, such a brilliant piece of deductive reasoning, but what the hell did poor Elaine Caldwell ever do to me?"
"Oh God! Stop, no! Please, pleeease, stop…." Angel ignored her as he ripped away the barriers of clothing between them. One more punch added to the map of bruises already drawn across too thin skin. A fine spray of blood spurted from her busted lips. She gulped as he rose above her, cold, hard, ugly. He didn't understand her look of surprise, she had made him this. It didn't make any sense, but at this point, Angel didn't care.
The dirty bedside lamp cast a sickly yellow glow over the entire scene, dulling the once rich bronze sheen of her skin, highlighting the terror that swam behind dilated pupils. Her breath came in hard fast pants as he pushed inside her…. She wasn't as warm as he'd imagined she'd be, but that could just be from shock. It was still more heat than he had felt in so very long, and he wanted to soak up the meager offering. He shoved his cock in hard, skin slapping with an audible crack. She groaned. That was better.
"You said it yourself Angel, the resemblance is remarkable." She walked around the side of the desk and stared down at the city from behind the vampire-safe glass. "Did she ask you to stop? Did she plead, say no. Stop. Don't?"
Angel rotated in his chair, watching Kate with hooded eyes. She presumed to judge him? So much of his life had been ripped away, and now they wanted this too. The very thought roughened his voice and turned his eyes gold.
"I distinctly remember, `Please' and `God' but those aren't necessarily bad things are they Kate?" He stood and glided silently to the spot beside her. You have no idea what it's like in here," he said, tapping his head. "The things I've seen, the secrets I know, the pain I've endured. She's the one thing that's kept me going all these years. I've never stopped looking…."
"Tell me something Angel," she turned and regarded him with dispassionate eyes. "When you find her, are you going to do the same thing you did to Elaine Caldwell, or Vicky Winters, or Melissa Peck, or Tracy Grune?"
Angel stepped back, confused. "Who?"
Angel roared when he came. The woman had stopped moving a long while back but Angel had been too far lost to care. He'd wanted to imprint the loss in his heart on Cordelia's skin, to show her just what her abandonment had done to him. He was dead inside and now, so was she. His eyes narrowed as he pulled out of the cold corpse beneath him, his cock weeping because his eyes could not.
Something about the eyes…. Not quite the same shade of shimmering brown. He stood and surveyed the woman sprawled across the mattress as he wiped the blood off his hands with her jacket. Maybe she was a hair shorter too. As always What had seemed so clear at the start of the night slipped into confusion. Hope withered on a wintery vine.
"Huh," he grunted, staring at the young woman who had reminded him so much of Cordelia Chase. "You were telling the truth." Angel slowly pulled on his clothes. He was tired and sated… for now. He mentally shrugged. It wasn't the first time he'd made a mistake.
Kate shook her head, bitterness coating her words. "Once I made the connection with Elaine, it wasn't hard to spot the same, MO over and over and over." She turned and faced him, staring him down as if she were trying to take his measure. "These are just the ones we know about. How many more are there Angel? How many times have you found Cordelia, raped her, tortured her, and killed her." Her voice rose with righteous indignation. "How many more mothers and fathers are going to loose their children?" she yelled, nostrils flared, heart pounding. "Do you even care?"
She chuffed, walking back around the desk, fingering the file. "How can you? You don't have any idea what it's like to loose someone you love. All you care about is your hurt, your anger and your loss, but I'm here to tell you-"
"You have no idea about me Kate, so I'd suggest you shut up," He ground through clenched teeth. He took a deep breath, mask slipping, emotion betraying him. "I lost a child once," he said softly, a confession. "I don't want to lose Cordy too."
"That doesn't justify your actions."
Still filled with so much hate….
He chuckled, "What are you going to do about it, Kate? You can't take me to trial, even if you tried, I run the most influential law firm in LA." He stalked closer, enjoying the thrill of hunt/chase/match. He had her and she knew it. "She's out there and I'll find her, and when I do… That will be between me and her. For now, I've got my office and my glass tower and I don't need you, coming here trying to fuck with my head. The law can't touch me, you can't touch me. So-"
"I can touch you."
Angel whirled towards the sound of a familiar voice. He whipped back around questioning Kate with a look. "What's going on?"
Kate looked past him, "Did you hear enough?" Angel backed away, eyes darting between the two blondes.
Buffy nodded, "I think so."
"What the FUCK is going on?" Angel roared.
Wesley stepped through the door to the adjoining office. He was holding a crossbow. "I got a rather interesting call from Detective Lockley last week."
Kate edged closer to Wesley, knowing her words would not be well received and her gun would be useless. "See, Angel. You were right. I. Can't. Touch. You." The resolve in her eyes froze his already numb heart. "After I found out about the existence of vampires I did a lot of research. Reading about vampires, you pretty much can't help but stumble across references to vampire slayers." Her eyebrow rose as she glanced towards Buffy. "You can imagine my surprise to find that you were married to one."
Angel finally pulled together the courage to look at Buffy. She was trembling, barely holding it together. Her big expressive eyes were shining, her cheeks wet with tears. The expression on her face was even more determined than Kate's, and a hell of a lot more chilling. His gaze dropped. She was clutching a stake. "Buffy-"
Slowly, she shook her head. "Don't," she said through trembling lips. "I can't believe you-" Angel noted something else, her ring finger, red where she had worked her wedding ring over the knuckle as she'd removed it.
"She didn't, believe me, I mean. I had to set up this meeting to convince her." Kate said.
"It's not what you think," he reasoned, ignoring Kate. "I love you."
Angel watched as something inside Buffy Summers crumbled to dust. Most likely any last shred of feelings and hope that she harbored for him. For the first time in years, Angel felt something- fear, anger, regret. It was better than the cold. Finally, the glacier began to melt, feeling tingled back into long deadened nerves.
"I just want to talk to her, but she always tries to run away. She makes me so angry," he reasoned desperately, clenching his jaw, fighting the red rush of violence that came with thinking of bronze skin and dark hair. "If I could just talk to her, if I could put Cordy behind us… but she lies and I black out and then-"
Buffy turned her back to him, cutting him off mid-sentence. "Thank you Kate, I think I've heard everything I need. Wesley and I can handle it from here."
"I'd rather stay," she replied sardonically.
"He won't hurt anyone again, I swear to you."
"What are you talking about?" Angel asked, not liking the direction Buffy was headed.
"I'd like to verify that for myself," Kate said.
Angel couldn't see her face but Buffy's words were soft and thick with held back tears. "You did your part. This is my part, Slayer business. You have my word that it stops here and now."
Whatever misgivings Kate had, once more she seemed to swallow them. "All right." She stepped close, laid her hand on Buffy's arm, "I'm sorry," she said gently. With that she let herself out the door.
Angel crossed his arms and glared at his wife and best friend. "What do you mean, `it stops here and now'? I don't know what you are thinking- I- I said I could explain."
"There is nothing to explain, Angel." Wes said, his tone heavy with regret. "This can't be allowed to continue."
"Buffy," Angel said, eyeing her cautiously as she shook out her arms and readied the stake. "I don't want to fight you."
"Then stand still," she said.
"Why?" He recognized her tone. It was hard, glacial, authoritarian- her Slayer voice. Understanding dawned, and curiously, Angel didn't feel all that inclined to resist her. In fact he held out his arms, like a parody of Jesus embracing the cross. Angel walked the line between acceptance and denial. She couldn't really do it, not here in his tower of glass and metal, his keep.
Buffy frowned, poised on the brink of cutting out another little piece of her heart for the greater good. Buffy Summers didn't lie, and she didn't run away. "You know why, Angel. Cordelia Chase never woke up from her coma, she died five years ago."
Finally, as the stake slammed home, it all made sense.