Kindreds by Psychofilly


Summary: Spike always had been a sucker for a pretty face.


Spoilers: Couplet, Season Three.


Notes: Wow, it's finished. Sometimes, a peice of writing becomes something more than just a story to the writer. I started this fic way back in mid-season three. I had no idea about how to really write, I just had this idea of Spike on a drunken tear, trying to call his sire to pour out his frustrations because he just couldn't take it anymore and getting Cordy instead. I've always felt that Spike and Cordy were kindred spirits, and I wanted to show that, plus have a little fun at Angel's expense. It's taken nearly two years, of struggle, and determination with inspiration and encouragement from my friends (Especially Gabriella) it is finally finished.

This fic has become a journey for me as well as the characters. Over the last two years with the wonderful guidence of Kelley, and lots of practice my writing skills have improved. Also, my outlook on the shows, on the characters, on the 'ships- and on life in general have changed. I think the story reflects this a bit in the change in tone/quality from beginning to end. It’s still largely unbeta’d but instead of going back and tinkering, I left it as-is. I hope it conveys real change and growth as it should have been for all three of the main characters. I also hope that you enjoy reading it as much as I've enjoyed writing it.

Special thanks to: Gabriella ~ her stalking skills are unparalleled, her encouragement invaluable. Imona and LL ~ whom have both been known to remind me that they were waiting for more. Kel ~ for her comments and letting me talk through the story. To everyone who's followed the fic so very patiently... Thank you.


Chapters 1 & 2


"Huh? No...." a groggy female voice replied.

Spike's eyebrows shot up in surprise. His mind racing- who could Angel have in his room at 1am? It took him a moment, then-- "Cordelia?" he slurred.

"Speaking, who's this? Is Angel OK?" The edge of worry took some of the sleep out of Cordelia's voice.

"I wouldn't know, luv."

Cordelia's face scrunched in consternation. "Who *IS* this?"

"It's Spike!" he confessed cheerily.

"Spike?" she was almost fully awake now. She froze, a chill running from her head to her toenails. "Is everything OK in Sunny-D?"


"Is...Buffy all right?" Cordy finally asked.

"Oh, *she's* fine!" he replied, yelling into the receiver.

Cordelia could clearly hear his pain, and frustration over the phone line. "Okaaay."

"She's always fine," his normally clipped accent was sounding rather sloppy. "She doesn't need poor 'ole Spikey!"

Cordy sighed and cradled the phone between her cheek and shoulder. She began to examine her nails. "You're drunk," she observed, dryly.

"Of course!" Spike guffawed. "I'm snockered, I'm ripped...I'm soused! And why shouldn't I be!" he cried petulantly. "She can leave and barely get her knickers in a twist! All, 'I can't do this anymore *William*! (Cordelia could almost hear him pacing.) I don't want to *use* you anymore William!!' WILLIAM died a hundred and forty odd years ago like she would even care to remember-- Say what *are* you doing in Angel's room at 1 (he looked at his watch) 30am?"

"Get your mind out of the gutter Peroxide." She chided. "I'm just looking after"

That brought on a round of laughter from the drunken vamp. "What," he sniggered. "Has the old poofter gone and taken in *another* poor and bedraggled soul."

Cordelia coughed, mentally kicking herself for almost revealing Angel's secret.

"Guess that's one way to make friends. Oh, come live with me in my big lonely hotel, I promise I won't take advantage..."

Cordelia rolled her eyes. "It's really none of your business."

That struck a nerve with the inebriated blonde. "Oh that's RICH! Oh noooo, It's never any of my business...It's not like were bloody related or anything!"

Cordy didn't have to be psychic to picture him pacing again. She could hear the creak of the metal cord. "It's none of HIS fucking business! He's there in LA with his mission, and she's stuck here in Sunnyhell all newly resurrected and vulnerable!"

"Spike!" Cordelia cut in. She studied her nails, frowning, trying to figure out why she hadn't hung up yet. "Is there a point to this call?"


She heard the scrape and hiss of a lighter being ignited, and a long slow breath on the other end.

When he spoke his voice was less slurred and more shaky. "I just needed to talk, you know, get it out. She just sucker punched me, and I-" He stopped. Cordelia heard him swallow, hard. One thing was certain, he had her attention now.

"Hey, hey..." her tone was gentle, holding genuine sympathy. It was the last thing Cordelia expected she would feel, and apparently the last thing Spike expected hear. It threw him off his guard enough that he confessed....

"I'm a stupid git to go falling for the slayer-" Sobriety must have been catching up with him...quickly. He groaned, "And I am a complete *idiot* for just telling you that."

Cordelia chewed her lower lip, uncertain about just what to say. Angel had asserted on many occasions that soulless vampires were incapable of love. James had proven him wrong, in a sick, twisted, vampiric way. She had eyes, and ears apparently. She knew the sound of a heart breaking when she heard it. "How long have you been in love with her?" she asked, careful to keep any trace of judgment from her voice.

Spike began to giggle, a high pitched, crazy, desperate sound that chilled her veins. She wondered how close he was to actually cracking. "Since the first moment I laid eyes on her, I think." He sighed, "I suspect even Drusilla knew it. That's why it was so easy for the flighty bint to leave me back in the day."

Cordelia waited patiently, biting back her instincts to interject. She had enough experience with brooding vampires to know that Spike needed to rant uninterrupted.

"Buffy and I weren't perfect," he continued. "But I thought -and okay, I *know* it was stupid- but I was going to give her the money, and he left again, but now I know she loved HIM more than she could have ever loved me. Oh, that's right! The bitch couldn't love me, just *use* me. I hate her!" His voice crumbled, and she had to strain to hear him. "I told him once, that he was lucky to be able to just hold her, and feel her, but now I know how touching her, holding her but not really *having* her makes you feel, and I hate him for it, and if I could get this chip out of my head, I would rip *his* head off!!!

Cordelia was starting to get annoyed, her mind raced ahead of Spike's words, and as usual, she assumed the wrong thing. "Spike."


"You *know* they are always going to love each other, so why would you even try to get between them?" This was a mantra she knew only to well, She kept it playing in her head whenever Angel was near, and especially when they were bonding over Connor. Buffy was the only thing that kept her from reaching out to him when they were alone. Buffy kept her from leaning over and kissing his crooked, quirky smile from-

"He got over her just fine!" he huffed. "She never really loved him either!"


"At least with him she gave it a try, at least she treated him with *some* dignity!" She heard a loud crack, as Spike slammed his fist into- something. "At least he wasn't *killing* her!"

Cordelia's fist tightened angrily around the receiver. "What do you mean, they're over each other! HELLO! This is Mr. and Mrs. Soulmate your talking about!!! They're NEVER going to be over each other!"

Spike was laughing, which only irritated Cordelia more. "Please!" he scoffed. "If he's not over her, then how come he got married?"

"Married?", she sputtered. "How, when, WHAT?"

"Mr. and Mrs. cardboard commando, and Buffy wants that?"

"Angel's no cardboard commando!" Cordelia bristled.

Spike got himself under control. "Angel? No, you silly bint...Riley!"

Cordelia started to breath again. "Riley? Oh...OH! But, well...I mean didn't they break up about a year ago?"

Spike blew out an unneeded breath. "Well, yeah. Back to the point of this entire conversation, A couple of days ago he came back all commando-like and smashed my un-life all to hell."

"Why?" Cordelia asked truly curious, forgetting for the moment, that it was Spike she was talking to.

"Because!" He let out an explosive breath. "Oh bloody hell..."

"It's okay, take your time... not like I'm going anywhere."

Spike sounded genuinely puzzled. "Hold up. Since when do you care about anyone but yourself, Pet?"

"Don't pet me Buster!" She grimaced, "Okaaay, that came out wrong. Since when have you been capable of true love, hmmm?" She rubbed her temples, wondering *again* why she felt compelled to stay on the line. "We do important work here. We help people, and I'm proud to be a part of that." The silence stretched thin on the other line. "Okay, I'll admit part of it is morbid curiosity. We hardly ever hear from the Scoobies anymore. The other part is that even though you are a looser and evil, I can sense your pain and..."

"And you...what?" he groused. "You want to help me? I thought monsters didn't rate the hero treatment."

"Well I'm a seer not a hero, so..."


"Look, your life is obviously pathetic enough that you called Angel, whom you hate...."


"And even more pathetic you're talking to me, whom you hardly know, and certainly don't like. At least with me you can talk without all the Buffy-baggage getting in the way."

(More silence)

Cordy huffed impatiently, "Hey, I know we're not friends, or probably ever will be, but I've learned to listen to my gut, and right now my gut is telling me..."

"That's indigestion, Luv."

"Screw you Spike!" she said, contemptuously.

"Is that an invitation?"

Cordy's mouth dropped and her eyebrow shot up. She took a deep breath and counted to three. "Quit trying to change the subject, and drop the act. You're hurting Bub, and I'm going to be here for you whether you want me to or not!"

"Are you always this exasperating?" Spike sighed.

"Nope, worse, you caught me on a good night."

Spike groaned. "Okay, you win. But do you think you think we could meet somewhere? I hate talking over the phone."

"That depends," Cordy hedged, "Where are you?"

"About a block away from the hotel."

"WHAT!" Cordelia started to cackle. "You drove all the way to LA to make a phone call!"

Spike chuckled, ruefully. "Yeah well, I *was* pretty drunk."

"Coffee shop." Cordy said abruptly as inspiration struck.


"There's a coffee shop across the street."

"I see it"

"Okay, meet you there in a half hour or so."


Cordelia and Spike both hung up and stared disbelievingly at the receivers. Both shook their heads, and decided they were crazy. Both smiled at the thought. Both let out a deep sigh, suddenly unsure of what they were doing. Spike turned on his heel and headed for the coffee shop. Cordelia went into Angel's bathroom, washed her face and ran a comb through her sleep tangled hair.

She took a critical look in the mirror and her shoulders sagged. She had on baggy sweats and a tank-top, no makeup, and her hair refused to fully cooperate with the brush. "That's what he gets for calling me in the middle of the night." she grumbled. She went to Angel's closet and pulled out a maroon sweater. She pulled it over her head and after scrawling a quick note headed for Connor's crib.

"Let's get you to Fred's room," she cooed as she cradled Connor to her chest. She scooped up his diaper bag, and headed out the door, and came face to face with Lorne.

"AAAHHHH!" A high piercing scream made her jump and the baby scream.

"Krevlorne Swath of the Deathwok Clan!"

"Don't use your high and mighty tone with me, sweets. My heart almost burst out my ass!" He held up a bottle. "AND I almost dropped the Kalhua!" He assessed the situation with a glance. "After recent events, I would think sneaking out of Angel's room with Connor would be a big no-no."

Cordelia rolled her eyes and puffed a strand of hair out of her eyes. "Relax Greenie, I'm just taking Connor to Fred's room. I left Angel a note..." She nuzzled Connor's cheek, as he looked at her and begin to make spit bubbles. She began to sing tonelessly. "Were, goin' to Fred's room and waking h-er up, so she won't get any sleep, just like u-us..." Her voice trailed off at the indignant look on Lorne's face. "What? You moved here 'cause we destroyed Caritas, not because you wanted to play nanny."

"I happen to make a great nanny!" He argued, his dignity affronted.

"I know!" She waved his concerns off with a flick of her wrist. "I just wonder if Angel ever tells you how appreciated you are, and I don't want to take advantage..." She smiled, and patted his forearm. "We demons need to look out for one another."

Lorne's face immediatly softened. he placed his hand over hers. "Thank you, really. Now give me the baby." He insisted. She handed him the sleepy child and he grabbed her arm dragging her in the direction of his room. "I need to talk to you before you go, and don't worry it won't take long."

She followed him and perched herself in his recliner while he fussed over Connor. "What gives?"

"I want you to be careful.."

"Pffft, I'll be fine."

"I read you just now, when you were singing to Connor, which by the way, stop...please. No wonder the kid has no taste in music."


"But more important," He cut in over her protest, "Though it's nice that you are beginning to take on more responsibilities as a seer, this thing with the vampire has to be handled delicately."

"I'm delicate! I can be sensitive, and subtle, and layered." She hesitated, Lorne's expression was dubious. "I can be tactful!" she insisted.


"You bet your ass!" Her tone dared him to disagree.

"That's not what I meant, anyway." He said, neatly sidestepping her challenge. "You and Spike are cosmically connected, and that could be a problem."

"Okay, now I'm lost."

Lorne sighed tiredly, "There's a word for it in Pylea,'s unpronounceable, but roughly translated it means Kindred's."

"Still lost."

His red eyes turned contemplative then brightened. "You're like the opposite sides of the same coin, with similar fates. You're human, with a smidge of demon...he's demon with a smidge of humanity."

"Okay," Cordy agreed cautiously. "I'm following so far, but why would that effect my ability to help him?"

Lorne sighed, looking desperate to find a delicate way to phrase it. "Buffy and Angel were kindred's too."

Cordelia frowned. "So, following your logic, that would make them opposite sides of ...what?"

Lorne gestured excitedly, punctuating his point. "He was a demon with a soul, she was a human whose powers are rooted in darkness...both are champions of the human race, but coming from opposite side's of the spectrum-- opposite's attract...." He stopped and fixed her with a pointed stare.

Cordelia's frown deepened, then her eyes flew open as comprehension dawned. "You mean, Me and Spike might end up with an overwhelming soulmatey, groiny attraction thing? EEEEEWWWWWW!!!"

Lorne laughed at the shuddering girl, "Something to that effect sugar-plum, but not soulmates. That's the thing about romances between Kindred's, It's all angst, drama, and passion. But when you strip it all away, you find that there was no real foundation, just a lot of moira."

"Who's Moira?"

Lorne sighed and put his head in his hands. "Moira's not a who, it's the gut physical attraction between to larger than life souls."

"I guess Angel and Buffy had plenty of that." Angel would never have moira with her. They were friends....She wondered why Lorne looked like he wanted to shake her. "I just can't see myself wanting to bone down Spike, ugh."

"Speaking of, you need to go, and personally, I don't think you and he will come close to ending up horizontal. You are supposed to set him back on his path, not pull him further off of it. The PTB's have *huge* plans for that boy, that's why they sent him to you, god help us." He stood shooing her out the door. "It will be a piece of cake. Just try to remember he's stubborn and abrasive. He has a lot of romantic issues stemming from rejection, but on the inside he's hurting at least as much, if not more so, than you."

"I don't- I'm not-" a shocked pained look flitted across her features. "You *so* need to stop reading me."

Lorne laid his aching head against his door. That girl needed to wake up, and smell the kyrumption. He worried about what would happen if Angel saw Cordelia and Spike together. He turned, pulled the bottle of Kalhua out of his coat pocket, and rummaged through Connor's diaper bag. "I hope she brought plenty of formula, cause I need a drink."


Later, at the 24 hr coffee shop...

Spike cupped his hands around the thick ceramic coffee cup. He wasn't all that interested in drinking its contents, but it's warmth soaked into his palms and up to his wrists. He waited, cursing himself for being stupid. He still wasn't sure what had compelled him to drive all the way to LA, and he certainly didn't understand his willingness to open up to Angel's chit....

He caught the scent of something unexpected, he whirled, eyes flashing golden. "Angelus!" He glared into a pair of dark eyes, but not Angel's.

"Melodramatic much?" Cordelia casually commented, as she slid onto the cracked vinyl stool next to him. "FRANCIE!" she bellowed. A mousy woman scurried out of the kitchen, her eyes lit up momentarily when they saw Cordelia. "Hey, sweetie, I'll have a nonfat tall mocha latte, and Blondie here will have a caramel Angel special." Francie nodded, and with a nervous glance in Spike's direction hurried off.

"That's sweet, luv, but I already have coffee." He tried not to stare too hard at the bedraggled woman sitting next to him. She wore a sweater the color of crusted blood, baggy sweats, and an irritated expression. Her hair was shorter than he remembered, and hung in tousled chunks.

She didn't have on any makeup, so he could see the dark circles under her eyes, and the spidery creases that would eventually become worry lines. She had also put on a few pounds, though it was hard to tell how much under the baggy clothes. It softened her features a bit, and conformed with his old fashioned views of beauty, and he decided, despite her neglected appearance, that she *was* beautiful. She caught him staring and he felt her tense up.

"What?" She barked, defensively.

"Nothing." he said, suddenly feeling very awkward. He tried to sort out the conflicting smells emanating from her. He took a deep breath, disguising it as a sigh. Her head snapped around, and he found himself staring into her amused hazel eyes.

"Are you trying to *sniff* me."

'What?" he croaked. "No, um..."

"Give it up, I've lived around Angel long enough to know you're trying to sniff me up. You vampires are worse than dogs."

He suddenly got a visual of Angel on his knees holding Cordelia firmly by her waist, his head buried in her mound drinking in her scent checking for others who might try to lay claim on her. He shook his head, dispersing the image. Still he wondered if he wasn't that far off from the truth, his scent was all over her.

"Will it help if I let you smell me?" Her annoyed expression brought him back to reality. "You keep zoning out so why don't you get your sniff on, and get it over with."

He shrugged and leaned in close, smirking at her vexation as he invaded her personal space. She sat stiffly still while he hovered just inches from her breathing her in. He smelled her. She was buried under Angel's scent. The shirt, he figured, had to be his. There was someone else, someone inhuman, but the scent was faint. Stronger he smelled- baby powder, also formula, and the unmistakable smell of stale spit up- what the hell?

Then he reached it, the scent of her. the strong musky scent of her sex, the earthy warm smell of her skin, her sweat, the fruity smell of her conditioner, and...he gasped and jerked away from her. "Demon?" He ran his hand through his hair, barely noticing that the waitress had brought them their drinks. He searched her face, but she just sat there, a half smile tugging at the corners of her mouth. "You're a demon?" He repeated stupidly.

"A bit," she said wryly. She took a sip of her latte. "It's a long story, but it was necessary." She shrugged. "I haven't woken up all demony, and I've only levitated once, so it's not so bad."

He was floored by her nonchalant acceptance of this fact. He picked up his latte and took a swig. "Arrgh!" He grimaced, looking at the container like it might bite him. He looked at her, his eyes watering. "Bloody hell, pet! This is made out of blood!"

Again she shrugged. "Angel likes it." she said all innocence.

Spike checked out their surroundings suspiciously. "Is this a...demon coffee shop?" he asked tentatively.

She laughed, pleased with herself. "No, we saved Francie a while back. She couldn't afford to pay, so we worked out an arrangement. She keeps a bit of pigs blood on tap, so Angel can enjoy a latte now and then."

"And this was his idea?"

"Pffft, no!" she rolled her eyes. "This is Angel, were talking about, the only originality he's ever shown is when it comes to slicing and dicing demons."

"So you play Emeril, and 'Bam' spice his blood up a notch?" He grinned at the thought. Another flash of imagery ran through his head, this time of Cordelia standing over a big vat of blood, tasting it and frowning, then throwing a handful of spices into the mix.

She punched him lightly on the shoulder. "Somebody has to take care of the big dork."

Spike wondered if, in his 250 year history, anyone else had the rocks to call Angel a dork.

She tucked her hair behind her ear, and looked him strait in the eye. "So, what brought you on a drunken tear all the way to LA?"

He looked down at his hands, and took a sip of his pigs blood latte.

Cordelia took advantage of his silence to examine the him out of the corner of her eye. "Let me guess," she said sarcastically..."Buffy."

He just huffed and took another sip of his latte.

She sighed, seemingly resigning herself to the fact that she probably wouldn't see her bed until the morning. "Look Spike, I can't help you unless you talk to me."

He leaned back in his chair and finally looked the young seer in the eyes. "It's not that easy, and I'm not sure I can stomach the Oprah treatment."

"Are you trying to say, I'm fat?" she arched a brow.

Unlike Angel, he didn't get all stammery. "No, don't be an idiot." He graced her with a wry smile. "I just don't think you could handle the details, luv. That's why I called on gramps...not a naive little tart like you."

"What, you don't think I can handle a vampire talking about sex? I get the dirty underbelly of an entire city dumped into my head on a regular basis, and you think what a neutered vamp does in his off time is gonna shock me?"

Spike almost spit out his drink again. "Sex!, How'd you...I never said sex!" He slowly lowered his head to the dingy counter and groaned. "*That* was supposed to be a secret. I promised!" He rolled his head to the side and eyed her angrily. "Did you get a vision? Bollocks!" He sat up and pointed an accusing finger in her direction. "Those Powers need to keep their...whatever they have, out of my affairs!"

"Relax Peroxide, I figured it out for myself. It doesn't take a rocket scientist ya' know." She shrugged, "I figured you wouldn't get that hot and bothered about someone unless you were getting some." She swirled the dregs of her drink together and finished it off, trying to keep from looking smug.

"It wasn't entirely about sex." He admitted morosely. "It took a while for the chit to come 'round. I thought she *liked* me at least. After the resurrection she would tell me things, let me in. Besides she started it with the kissing and the innuendo...I should have stuck with trying to kill her."

"Yeah 'cause nothing says 'I love you' more than attempted murder...."


"Are we there yet?" Gunn complained.

"What's wrong Gunn? Is it the slime, or the Brahms?" Wesley sniggered.

Angel glanced at the angry black man in the seat beside him. "There's not that much slime." he suggested helpfully. "And what's wrong with Brahms?" He huffed, "I swear, I thought after the ballet, you were actually developing some taste." He smiled as Gunn shot him the finger.

They pulled to the stop light in front of the coffee shop, and out of habit he glanced inside to see if Francie was there. He saw a pretty brunette laughing at something that a blonde man next to her was saying. The light turned green and he stepped on the gas. He got half a block before the scene in the coffee shop fully registered in his brain. With a growl he spun the wheel as he hit the breaks, sending the car into a 180. Wesley squealed, and Gunn let out a string of obscenities. Angel just gritted his teeth an gunned the engine.

"Wesley gripped the seat, and stared at the vampire like he had lost his mind. "ANGEL!! For God's sake...what's wrong?"

"SPIKE!" Angel yelled over the roar of the engine.

Gunn was holding on to the dashboard for dear life. "What spike?"

Wesley handed him his favorite vampire killing weapon. "Spike is one of Angelus' childer."

"Do we get to kill this one?"

"Maybe," Angel angrily grumbled. "It depends on why he has Cordelia with him."

It was all Angel could do not to let his demon take over him completely. For once they were in perfect sync. All that mattered was wiping that happy smile from Spike's face, and dragging Cordelia away to the safety of his rooms. He sucked in unnecessary oxygen trying to get a grip on his thoughts. There would be no dragging of Cordelia anywhere, nor would there be any throwing her on the bed, and going over her hot tight body inch by inch with his teeth and tongue, removing any smell but his own....

Gunn gripped the handle of his wooden fighting stick tighter, "You think he kidnapped her? What about Connor?"

The GTX screeched to a halt, and Angel was across the street before Wes and Gunn were even out of the car.


"So she just let him tear the place apart? After coming to your crypt like that..." She scowled, "but you *did* have the eggs."

Spike's jaw tensed in frustration. "Well, yeah, but I *wasn't* the doctor. He offered me ten grand to watch the little nippers. He never told me anything about freezing them. I was going to give the money to Buffy for her and the niblet. I wanted to prove I could provide for her..." He looked up and frowned.

"In the stupidest way possible!" She gaped at him incredulously. "Geeze Spike!"

Spike whipped around as a growling blur slammed into him, knocking him over the counter.

Cordelia shrieked.

Spike let the larger man's momentum carry them to the floor, he kicked up and threw Angel over his head. Instantly both vampires regained their feet, crouched defensively as they squared off.

Gunn and Wesley ran through the door ready to back Angel up.

"Cordelia get out of here!" Wesley commanded. Much to his annoyance she vaulted the counter, landing between the two snarling vampires.

Before Angel could react, Spike grabbed Cordelia by the waist and pulled her too him, placing his hand lightly on her neck. He wasn't sure how much they knew of his condition, but he could at least buy himself some time. Angel lunged, but Spike swung around keeping Cordelia between them. He tightened his grip, wincing, as a few tingles of electricity, jolted through his head.

Cordelia turned her head and whispered. "Put me down, you dumbass."

"What, so that poncy bugger can rip me to shreds? No thanks." he whispered in her ear.

"Oooh! This is insane!" Cordelia jerked to the side, and elbowed him in the nose, catching him totally off guard. She then swung into a much more graceful version of Angel's spin-kick, which knocked him back a few feet.

"You....Bitch!" He yelped, checking for blood.

"Asshole!" she yelled right back.

Gunn smashed his weapon longwise against Spike's throat, and Spike kicked him viciously in the chest. He immediately howled in pain and dropped to the floor in a heap.

"What the fuck?" Gunn backed away from the writhing blonde.

Angel rushed forward, but again Cordelia stepped in his way. He pulled himself up short, but ran into her. She fell. He lunged, grabbing her by the wrists and pulling her to him. He stepped in front of her, but kept her firmly planted behind him.

Gunn and Wesley stepped forward flanking Spike.

Cordelia had never seen Angel quite like this. His "grr" face never usually scared her. The fact that Angel was a vampire hardly registered in her mind anymore. The Angel in front of her now...the one whose growls were guttural and leonine, whose face was free of it's human mask and bristling with aggression, whose hard body and arms of steel had her pinned behind him. This Angel was frightening... and he was pissed.

She placed her hand on his shoulder. "Angel, please. Don't hurt him." she pleaded.

"He could have killed you!" Angel snapped, glaring at her. "Forget it, I'm going to tear him limb from limb, I'm going to piss in his skull, roll in his blood..."

She slapped the back of his head. "Gag me, why don't you! He *can't* physically hurt me. Which you would have known, if you would have given us time to explain instead of going all berserker on us!"

Angel turned on her, yellow angry eyes boring into her brown ones. He loomed menacingly over her. She didn't even flinch.

Spike tried to hide a smile. The tart's fire was a match to his grand-sire's, a rare find in a mere human. No wonder he was so possessive. He studied the chit. She, apparently, was clueless to why Angel had reacted so violently to her being here. He lit a cigarette, and smirked at the black man with the pointy stick. He might just have to stay a little longer than he planned. Any chance to piss in Angel's playground was just too good to miss.

Angel stared down the woman in front of him, but she refused to be intimidated. He grabbed her wrist, and dragged her towards the door. "Wes, Gunn, Don't let him go anywhere." He looked at Cordy, she arched a brow, he growled at her. "Don't kill him...yet."

He drug Cordy out of the building and into the alley beside it shoving her against the wall. He heard her grunt as it knocked the air out of her. "What the hell were you thinking?" he demanded, "Where's Connor?"

"With Lorne." she said flatly.

"Why in the hell were you in there with him?" He barked, pacing back and forth in front of her, still in gameface.

"He needs help. Last time I checked that *is* what we do." She snapped angrily, her eyes flashing.

He stopped pacing and glared at her. "Last time *I* checked Spike was having steel pokers rammed through my chest, or did you forget that?"

"Of course not!" she answered curtly. "I came to a public place, away from the hotel, I made sure Connor was taken care of...and I brought this." She shook her sleeve, Angel noticed in passing that she was wearing one of his sweaters again, and a stake slipped into her hand. "And if you don't stop with the angry Angelus act, I'm seriously considering using it on you."

Before she could react Angel was pressed up against her, his hand pinning the weapon above her head. She pushed ineffectually against his chest. He applied a sharp squeeze and she dropped the stake. He pressed his body into her, making it hard for her to breath, his face almost touching hers. "It's *not* an act! This is what I am!" he snarled.

Things were getting *way* out of hand. She took a ragged breath and made a conscious effort to relax. Cordy could understand in part why he would be angry, but Angel had never reacted violently to her before. He was scaring her, yet at the same time it was kind of reassuring that he was so protective of her. If she didn't know better she would have thought he was- jealous. Of course *that* was impossible. He was just concerned for her well-being. She gazed into his angry yellow eyes almost smiled. On impulse she leaned in and kissed him on the cheek.

He pulled back as if she had burned him, stepping away. Shame flooded through him and he turned away, burying his head in his hands.

Cordelia followed and laid her hand on his shoulder, he jerked away. She grabbed his arm and pulled him around to face her. "Hey," She whispered.

He glanced into her eyes, and saw her anger had evaporated. Still, he had almost hurt her, or worse yet, he'd been tempted to succumb the primal urge to take her right there against the wall. Cool tears of shame threatened to fall.

Cordelia could see the guilt etched in his face. Sure he had acted insane, and he *had* scared her a little, but she trusted him. He was her best friend, which in her opinion meant you had to take the bad with the good. She smiled but he tried to look away. She cupped his cheek and pulled his face back towards her.

"Angel, I know what you are, and I don't care. I love you, you *know* that," wishing he understood how much more than just friends she meant those words.

"I could have hurt you." he croaked. He wished he could take her words to heart.

"But you didn't," her hand slid from his cheek and came to rest on his chest, "And somewhere in there you know you wouldn't have either. It just makes me mad that you come bustin' in like Batman, without the cool cape. Spike was sent here by the Powers, but you didn't bother to check with me about what's going on first."

Angel felt like an idiot. "I'm sorry. With everything that's happened in the last few months, I just reacted. I didn't take the time to think it through." He looked at her expectantly. "So?"

Her lips slowly spread into a mischievous smirk. "So what?"

He smoothed her hair behind her ear, grateful once again that the Powers had bound her to him, at least until he shanshued. "Are you going to tell me what's going on?"

"Do you trust me?"

A smile tugged at the corners of his angular lips, "Implicitly"

"Pfft," she stood back and crossed her arms. "You promise that for the remainder of the time that Spike is here, which might be a couple of days, that you won't kill him, or beat him up, unless he deserves it and you won't go all obsessively protective and weird on me?"

He tried to gauge her expression. He had a feeling she was about to box him into a corner with some form her bizarre Cordy-logic, but she had on her pokerface. "I guess."

"You have to promise." She took a step forward, hands on her hips, her dark eyes challenging.

Angel took a step back. "Cordy, I'm not sure that's such a good idea. I mean, stuff, could -you know- happen." He had gone from intimidating her, to being the one intimidated, and he was still in gameface.

"Promise!" She actually stamped her foot for emphasis.

He held his hands up in surrender. "Fine! I promise!"

"Good," she walked out of the alley.

"Hey!" He caught up with her, and grabbed her shoulder. "Aren't you going to tell me what's going on?"

"Let's see, umm... no." she turned away again.

"Cordelia!" He bellowed, thoroughly miffed.

She turned to face him but continued to back out of the alley. "It's personal!"


She waved, "I'll call you tomorrow,"


"I probably won't be in." She turned and hurried into the coffee shop.

Spike was still standing against the wall. He was casually smoking another cigarette, and alternating blowing smoke in Wesley's and Gunn's direction.

She squeezed past Wes, and grabbed Spike by the arm. "Is your car close?"

"Right outside." he drawled.

"Good, come on." She drug him past her astonished friends and out the door.

Spike was grateful to be away from the goon squad, but he was painfully aware of his grandsire's cold stare from the shadows of the alleyway. He grinned as he placed his hand on the small of Cordelia's back as he guided her to his car. He kept it there as he opened the door for her. When he turned he came face to face with the dark hulking vamp. "Piss off Angelus." He snapped.

Angel grabbed him by his collar and lifted him off his feet. "Anything happens to her, your going to wish you were in hell."

"Don't you guys talk with the Scoobies anymore? I can't harm the girl. The government put a chip in my head." Spike rolled his eyes. "Made it so I can't hurt humans anymore." Angel set him down. "Don't get any ideas though gramps, I can still throw down with you." He straitened his duster. "You can call Buffy and confirm it if you like."

"I'll do that." Angel said.

Spike shrugged. "Hell, I even baby-sit Dawn from time to time."

To Angel's surprise, Spike eyes began to mist, and he swiped at his tears angrily, ashamed for Angel to see him all emotional. "Bloody hell, I miss the little platelet," he sniffed as he strode to his side of the car, and jerked the door open.

Angel backed away slowly, between his childe and his seer, he was getting one hell of a headache.

Spike started the car and turned to Cordelia. "So, where to princess?"

"My place, it's not far." She rubbed her temples, this night was exhausting her.

"Is there a liquor store on the way."





"You're not afraid of ghosts are you?"


The hotel.

Lorne was in the lobby, singing. Connor, had decided that sleeping was the last thing that he wanted to do. He was content, just not tired, and he was trying a very sleepy green demons patience. Lorne's Dean Martin number was interrupted by three angry men bursting through the lobby doors.

Angel stalked into the lobby, waves of aggression pouring off him. The humans aura's were similar but theirs were mixed with fear and confusion.

"Wes, phone, now! Get a hold of Buffy, Willow, anyone. Confirm Spike's story..." He looked at Gunn, suddenly realizing he was still covered in goo. "Gunn, clean reek." He strode past Lorne to the foot of the stairs. "FRED!" He bellowed. "FRED!"

Angel turned and, upon seeing the baby, his face instantly softened. "Connor's still up?" he asked, taking the squirming infant from Lorne and kissing him on the cheek. "Hey, little man. You in the mood for murder? Daddy's going to kill your uncle Spike, yes he is. We don't care what your mommy made us promise, do we? No we don't...."

Lorne tried not to look as nervous as Angel was making him feel.

"Hello, Buffy?"

"Oh, Willow, how delightful!" Wes said. "No, nothing is wrong...well, I do have a question. It's about Spike."

"Is it true that he doesn't hurt humans any more."

You're absolutely certain.."

"Oh, oh really...he actually patrols with her now."

"I see, when did this start?"

"No, nothing's wrong. I just wish someone would have told us about it..."

"Oh, you did!" He frowned. "Well I am so sorry to have woken you."

"You too." He hung up the phone, eyeing Angel warily. "She confirmed
everything. Spike has been an active member of the Scoobies for almost a year now. Buffy and he have developed a friendship of sorts, and they patrol together most nights."

"Well, why didn't anyone tell us?" Angel asked impatiently.

"They did."

"When?" Angel grumbled.

"Willow told Cordelia." Wes dryly replied.



Spike was genuinely surprised when they pulled up to the cheerleader's apartment. He hadn't exactly been expecting her to live in squalor, but..."Flat's pretty nice, pet. You been doing a little moonlighting? A little acting, a little prostitution?"

"Don't be an ass," she huffed breathlessly. "Help me carry in the groceries."

He did as she asked. Due to his superior strength, she had him carrying almost every bag.

"The place is rent controlled, and haunted. You think I could afford this under normal circumstances?"

Spike gave a noncommittal grunt.

"Speaking of ghosts, Dennis is my friend so don't be rude." She dug through her purse for her keys. Treat him like you would anyone else." She paused. "On second thought, you might want to treat him better."


Cordelia looked at him dubiously, as she fumbled with the lock. "Okaaay, but if you wake up on fire because he opened the drapes, don't say I didn't warn you."

"Right then, got a point there, luv."

She got the door open only to have it slammed in her face. She kicked the door. "Dennis! Open up!" She smiled apologetically at Spike. "He senses you...DENNIS! I *know* He's a Vampire! He's Angel's Grandchilde, and he's harmless!"

"Thanks ever so... for broadcasting it to the WORLD!" Spike snapped.

The door opened a crack. "That's right Dennis, He's like Harmony, he won't hurt me, I promise."

Spike was so shocked he almost dropped his bags. "Harm was here!" he sputtered. He started to laugh.

Cordelia turned, surprised at his reaction. "Yeah, she came here after a nasty breakup. She said the jerk didn't appreciate her enou- OH MY GOD!!! *You* dated Harmony!?!" She clapped her hand over her mouth, trying to stop the laughter threatening to erupt.

Her eyes began to tear, and her sides to hitch, suddenly she doubled over in raucous laughter. Dennis, curious why she was laughing, finally opened the door. Cordelia stumbled inside while Spike stood at the doorway glaring at her. She took a deep breath trying to reign in her giggles. "Come on in Spike, I don't want the Double Fudge Mint to melt."

He sauntered in, trying to hang on to the tattered threads of his dignity and followed her into the kitchen. He set the bags on her counter, and then jumped up and sat there despondently as she put everything away.

The liquor store was only their first stop on the way home. Cordy now had enough alcohol to stock a small bar. They had also hit the video store, They had jokingly picked out a Dracula movie and Interview with a Vampire. She had grabbed Jerry Maguire, and Spike had insisted they rent Parents, after he had read it was about cannibalism. They then raided the supermarket, and now had enough junk food to last a month.

She enjoyed the companionable silence as she worked. She had to admit she had been surprised how fun and easygoing Spike could be, when he wasn't being persecuted. Their tactless brand of humor meshed, and the occasional rude comment aside, she had found herself laughing and joking with the blonde vamp during their entire entertainment gathering experience.

Once she was satisfied she leaned against the counter opposite Spike. She let her gaze explore the sharp lines of his face, and his slim but taught physique. He was so different from her champion, yet despite his lack of a soul, Cordy could see the trace of humanity that marked him as uniquely as the soul Angel possessed did.

"Spike," She called gently, feeling the weight of the responsibility she was about to shoulder. "I want you to promise me one thing while your here."

Spike met her hazel eyes with his sapphire ones. "What's that, Ducks?" He was a little unnerved by her unabashed stare, but he tried not to show it.

"Complete honesty...I told you earlier, that I can't help you if you don't talk to me, and I mean it." She started to walk towards him, he sat up a little straighter. "I promise, that nothing said here will ever leave this apartment." Her lips quirked into a half smile."Not even if Angel tries to torture it out of me."

Spike stared at the young woman as she stopped in front of him. "You've never been tortured by Angel, so don't go making promises you can't keep." He looked at his hands resting in his lap, not wanting her to read his face. Not wanting to remember what it felt like to be tortured by Angelus.

She leaned forward and placed her hands on the counter to either side of Spike. "True, but I don't intend to censor myself. I am going to be bluntly honest with you." She cocked her head. "Starting now. When's the last time you had a shower?"

Spike jerked back as if he had been slapped. "Are you trying to say I stink?" He asked incredulously. He hesitantly raised an arm and sniffed. He smelled like- himself.

Cordelia leaned in a little closer brazenly invading Spike's personal space. Payback's a bitch, she thought. "MMMM, let's see..." She breathed him in leaning in closer, almost nuzzling his neck.

Spike twisted his head around trying to gauge her expression. Her eyes were closed, her lips slightly parted, her heartbeat slow and steady. Her short hair slipped towards her face revealing the smooth tanned planes of her neck. Spike stifled a groan. He had been existing on pigs blood for so long, that his entire body was screaming for him to sink his fangs deep into her neck. It was odd to him that being this close to Buffy never triggered his bloodlust to this degree.

She abruptly turned and hopped on the counter beside him. "You don't stink like 'ewww b.o.' but you smell like cigarettes, several different kinds of alcohol, soot, and grease...and maybe a little demon goo."

Angry now, Spike hopped off the counter. "Bloody hell, you bint; weren't you listening earlier! Buffy and Captain Cardboard blew my crypt all to hell!" He pulled out a cigarette and put it in his mouth. "I haven't been back since....hey!" His cigarette flew out of his mouth and crumbled over the sink. "That was *mine* you bloody wank!"

"No smoking, Spike." Cordelia snickered.

"Oh, you would find that amusing," he said with a sneer. Spike pointed a finger in the general direction of the sink. "And YOU stay away from the smokes!"

She shook her head and hopped of the counter. "The shower's in the bedroom, leave your clothes outside the door, and I'll wash them."

Spike wiggled his eyebrows, "Is this going to be a *nude* slumber party then?" he purred, his voice rubbing against her like silk.

"As if, Spike! I have some clothes here that'll probably fit you, you dork." She pushed him in the general direction of her room. "Now scoot!"

"Your no fun." He pouched his lips into an exaggerated pout. "I bet ANGEL gets nude slumber party's."

She pointed to her bedroom. "GO!"

He went.

Cordelia sighed, as she watched the hastily retreating vamp. She wished he wouldn't put such evil, evil images into her head. Nude Angel.....She shook her hands and jumped up and down a couple of times. Angel, nude, on the couch.... "Arrrgh!"

She stomped to the coat closet and began to rummage through the emergency clothes supply that she kept in the apartment. She pulled out a faded pair of jeans and shook them out, they must have been Wesley's. They were going to be the closest thing she had to a fit. She found a black muscle shirt, Angel's. On him it had hugged the contours of his body in all the right places. She stopped for a moment to enjoy that mental picture.

She wasn't sure if Spike would appreciate wearing Angels cast off's, but her inner bitch loved the idea of making him. She re-folded the clothes and took them into the bedroom. She noticed the shower was already off, and she whirled around to see Spike standing at her dresser with nothing but a towel, which he was using to vigorously dry his hair.

Cordelia's mouth opened, but nothing came out. Her eyes were glued to the wiry muscles of his shoulders which lead to the graceful lines of his back, which in turn lead to the pale rise of his ass, which flowed into the well muscled contours of his legs. He was a Michelangelo masterpiece brought to life in her bedroom, An athletic form shaped by an artists eye in cool, pale marble.... She had obviously been flipping through too many of Angel's books.... She willed herself to run, before he turned around, but she was rooted to the spot.

Spike threw the towel on the floor and began to study the items on the dresser. His eyes lingered on a small blue vial. He reached out and fingered the delicate glass. He picked up, and shook it lightly, listening to the liquid sloshing inside. He put it back, and then turned and with a bemused expression crossed the room to where she was standing. "Those for me?" He reached out for the clothes she was clutching protectively to her chest.

She tried not to look down, she really did, but she was only human. Her gaze slowly dropped the length of Spike's chest and came to rest on his penis. Her face turned several shades of red, as she slowly drug her eyes back up past his perfect six pack, and past his small but well defined manly boob muscles, and back to his eyes. They held the same bemused expression as before, as well as an utter lack of shame.

"Like what you see luv?" This time the purr in his voice was deeper, seductive, hypnotic. It was the sound of a master vampire testing the mettle of his prey.

"Pfft" She straitened her shoulders and held out the clothes. "Don't flatter yourself; you're not my type. I prefer men who *don't* prefer blondes." She turned on her heel and marched out of the room.

Spike ran his hands through his soft unruly hair. He hated the way Buffy had been treating him, but at least he *understood* her. He pulled on the jeans, they were a little loose but comfortable. He pulled the shirt over his head and then froze, a low growl rumbling through his chest. The daft bint had actually gone and given him one of Angel's shirts.

He knew she had been around vampires enough to understand that she was making a slight dig at his manhood. Of course there had been a time he would have reveled in being wrapped in Angel's scent, but that time had long come and gone. Angelus himself had beaten out any soft feeling William had for his grandsire long ago.


Lorne watched Angel with a growing sense of dread as the demon paced the lobby. Angel was quietly muttering all the things that he planned to do to Spike into the giggling baby's ear. He finally decided the only way to keep the situation from getting entirely out of hand was to have a heart to heart with the irrational vampire. He intercepted Angel on his fiftieth turn about the lobby, and reached out for the now yawning baby.

"Let me have the little cupcake." Angel gently placed the baby into Lorne's arms, and before he could walk away, Lorne motioned quietly for him to follow. Angel gave him a puzzled look, but dutifully followed his friend up the stairs. Lorne passed his own room, and went to Angel's instead. He started to protest but Lorne shushed him, pointing to the sleeping child, so with a sigh, Angel opened the door, and followed the green demon as he placed the slumbering infant into his crib and fussed over the blankets. Angels new room had a couch and a recliner in a small alcove on the other side of the room, and Lorne motioned to Angel to go sit while he went to the kitchen area and fixed them both a stiff drink.

Angel was sitting on the couch, every muscle tense, his back ramrod strait. Lorne handed him his drink, and collapsed heavily onto the recliner.

Angel studied Lorne intensely, for the first time realizing how tired his friend looked. He also looked like he was hiding something. "Spill it Lorne, what's going on?"

Lorne downed his drink in two gulps, praying for courage. The vampire was looking at him with a ferocity that told him he needed to handle this as delicately as possible. Lorne sighed. "Cupcake, you can't go to Cordelia's tonight." He heard the rumbling sound of a growl spring from Angel's chest. "I mean it, no 'buts'. More importantly *you* need to stay as far away as possible from Spike."

"But," Angel's jaw clenched at Lorne's look of warning. "Lorne, he's there ALONE with my- our, Cordelia!"

"Yes he is." Lorne smiled ruefully. "And you are driving yourself crazy with the worry. I know your feelings for her are... complicated, but Spike *can't* hurt her. Your friends confirmed that."

Angel, unable to contain himself any longer stood up and resumed his energetic pacing. "Maybe he can't physically hurt her, but I don't intend to underestimate him. There's not predicting what kind of psychological harm he could inflict!"

Lorne's fiery eye's narrowed, as he studied Angel's flaring aura. "This isn't about Cordelia at all is it?"

"What? I don't know what you are talking about!"

"Don't try to hide it from me cinnabun." He tapped a tapered green finger on his pursed lips. "Or, maybe it *is* about Cordelia, about what Spike might let slip about a certain soulless badass that happens to inhabit the same body as you." He could tell by Angel's crestfallen look that he had hit a nerve. "Cordelia knows who you were, and what you are."

"No, Lorne." Angel sank down on the couch, his head dropping into his hands. "She got a taste of Angelus back in Sunnydale, but by vampire standards I was pretty damned restrained. If she gets a taste of what I was through Spike's eyes," His dark eyes locked with Lorne's pleading for understanding. "She may never see me the same way again."

"Cordelia's a big girl, a woman... you can't shield her." He winced at the heartbroken look that shattered the plains of Angel's angular features.

"I know Lorne. She sees so much shit as it is, feels it, and she chooses to stay when all of us would probably have ended up in a loony bin by now. Spike-" he chuckled humorlessly, "Well, I never liked Spike, or William, as he was known back then. As Angelus, I made it my personal mission to break that son of a bitch. I thought him weak and sickly, all because he didn't have the same instincts for evil that Darla did, or the same insane, demonic destructiveness Dru had."

Lorne opened his mouth to speak but Angel silenced him. Now that he'd begun the need to unburden his guilt was too overwhelming to fight. "You want to know what I did?" He shook his head sadly, "The question is more like what *didn't* I do. Physical torture just brought out a masochistic streak in the boy. I used Dru, made him see how I would always be her first pick. He just became even more of a hopeless romantic. I finally tried the only other form of torture and domination left...." His voice trailed off.

Lorne waited expectantly, a sense of dread settling around his heart at what he knew Angel was about to say. He shifted uncomfortably in his chair.

Angel's voice was curiously flat, as if he were holding his emotions in firm check. "A vampire's sexual preference usually remains the same as whatever human host it has taken," he said softly. "It's not to say that after a while vampires don't get curious, and after a long while usually a bit ambivalent towards sexual partners," he steepled his fingers under his chin, his face as blank as his voice. "Spike and I were both firmly heterosexual. I'm not sure exactly when the idea came to me, but it was the one thing that finally got under his skin. The things I did...."

Tears started to flow unheeded down his face. "I finally broke him, and I reveled in it. I used him, and hurt him in ways I would have never dreamed of with Dru, or even Darla. William died a little each time I took my pleasure in him, and eventually "Spike" took his place. He became a cocksure, smartass always ready for a fight, always the tough one, he never showed any sign of weakness or humanity, unless it was for Dru. He never showed disgust at even the most heinous acts I could devise, if anything he tried to constantly one up me. He still was a pain, but he was on his way to becoming a master vampire in his own right. So after a while I left him alone, which I think hurt him almost as much as anything else."

He paused, his voice wavering. "I don't know why Spike came here. Cor said something about the Powers, but if he opens up to her, I mean *really* opens up. She will never be able to love me the way I love her..." His mouth snapped shut as he realized what he had just said.

Lorne got up and sat down next to Angel. He patted the vampire on the shoulder. "It's OK big guy, haven't I been saying Kyrumption for months now?"

Angel raised an eyebrow as he looked at Lorne. "You know I don't believe in that crap. It's not destiny, Lorne. After everything with Darla, Cordelia choosing Groo, loosing Connor because of Wes, almost killing Wesley, getting Connor back...I never had a chance to really look to deeply at what I was feeling." He chuckled, "And I've certainly never said that out loud."

Lorne patted his knee, which only made Angel glare. He jumped up and fixed them both another drink, and then settled back down in the recliner. Angel just stared at the amber fluid, until Lorne cleared his throat, "Drink that Angelcake's your going to need it." He waited until Angel reluctantly downed the entire glass. "OK, I am going to explain what I can to you, and I will try to keep it simple." Lorne eyeballed the morose vampire and mumbled, "I'm thinking the fewer syllables the better off we'll be."

"I can hear you when you do that, you know," Angel grumbled halfheartedly.

"Cordelia did *not* choose Groo. Groo is a great guy, really... a true champion, but he won't be coming back."

Angel perked up, "But I thought-?"

"You think way too much as it is. Cordelia sent Groo packing back to Pylea last week, and if you want to know why, then ask her." Lorne was beginning to doubt that he was using the best approach, as Angel began to frown. "I don't know if Spike will bring up your past or not, but that is not why he came. His problem has it's source, and it's solution, in Sunnydale. Don't ask me to tell you, it's personal." Angel's frown was fast becoming a scowl. "Look, Angel, Cordelia is your seer, but her responsibilities go waaay beyond getting the visions. She is your family's heart. She keeps the line's of communication flowing. She sees a problem..."

"She bullies that person into telling her what's wrong." Angel finished.

"Exactly!" agreed Lorne.

"Where does Spike fit in with all this?" Angel asked.

"He's in some serious need of a little bullying."


Cordelia's apartment.

Spike stared, utterly entranced, at the woman asleep on the couch. Was this the woman that Angel was acting so possessive of? He wondered if *he* had ever seen her sprawled awkwardly on the couch, mouth open, loudly snoring. Her warm feet were digging into his ribs, and he thought she might just be drooling. Five minutes after they had put in Jerry Maguire she had drifted off, shortly after that the snoring had begun...softly at first. She had almost been cute. Now the movie was over, not that he could have heard the end of it anyway. Christ, she sounded like a wounded cow.

He had been glad she hadn't pressed him for any more details about Buffy and himself. Cordelia knew they were having sex, and she knew how they had broken up. He wasn't sure why he had trusted her with that information, but he wasn't sure if he could trust her with what he was feeling. He wasn't even sure *how* he felt. He only knew that he had no clue what he was doing, or how to handle his relationship with the slayer. He only knew that he would rather stake himself, than loose Buffy completely. Spike gave the sleeping woman beside him a dubious look. He didn't know if she could really help him, but she couldn't screw up their relationship any more than it already was could she?

Cordelia shifted, digging her heels a little deeper into Spike's ribs. He looked at the clock on the wall, it was now about 7am. Angel hadn't knocked down the door, and dragged Spike into the sunlight yet. Maybe, maybe it would be OK if he talked to her...It would sure beat listening to her snore. He smacked Cordelia on her thigh. "Hey, rise 'n shine!" He slapped her a little harder, which only produced a snort, and a the sound of her lips smacking.

"Go away, Angel...the chipmunks...grrrr." She smiled a sweet private smile. "I made your 'grrr' face, showed them mmm hmm." She began to drift back down into sleep.

"Come on now, luv." he groaned. "Get up."

"But you didn't make me any eggs." She wheedled.

Spike wondered if Angel actually cooked for her or if she was still dreaming. He didn't think it was possible that Angel would have allowed himself to become so domesticated, especially since it had always been Angelus' main complaint about *him*. Still if cooking would get her up, he was game..."No, Angel forgot to make your eggs, but your good pal Spike will fix you some, if you wake up."

"Liar, Angel never forgets, he never forgets, any- thing." She frowned, and her eyes fluttered open. She found herself staring into Spike's amused blue eye's. She took a moment to get her bearings, and groaned as memories of the last night slowly surfaced. "What time is it?"

"A little after seven. You've only been asleep a few hours." He cocked his head, studying her face. "Are you hungry?"

"Are you kidding? I could eat a hell beast!"

He nodded. "I'll cook you something if you want. Maybe afterwards we, could... talk?"

Cordelia bit back the snide comment she was about to let fly at the sight of Spike's face. His features were hopeful, yet wary, as if he expected her to shoot him down. She wondered how many times the Scoobies had ignored Spike's tentative outreaches, how many times they had shut him out...She felt her heart opening to him, yet she too felt wary. Willow had told her about how he had helped the Scoobies before and after Buffy had died.

He had done a lot of good things, regardless of his reasons, but he had been an obviously unrepentant killer of her kind. Harmony, of all people, had made her understand the evil that was intrinsic to a vampire's nature. Would she be sending Spike back to Sunnydale so he could eventually turn on her friends the way Harmony had? She realized she would never be sure, but that she also couldn't shut Spike out not when he had come to LA for help. "You make me an omelet, and I'll listen to whatever you want to say."

"It's a deal. Now go shower, or whatever you do, like a good little cheerleader." He stretched and headed for the kitchen. Cordelia headed for the bedroom. Spike sighed as he surveyed the bright sunny little corner of the apartment that was Cordy's kitchen. "A little help here, ah Dennis, was it?" Spike waited a moment, and then the shades slowly were pulled down over the corner windows. "Thanks mate and don't be getting any bright ideas with the shades. I know half a dozen good exorcists in LA alone."

Satisfied that the ghost was sufficiently threatened, Spike investigated the kitchen's contents. Cordelia was obviously used to having Angel over, as she had a big bottle of pigs blood next to the milk in the fridge, actually she had several bottles, all neatly labeled...breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack. Curious he opened the one marked breakfast and took a cautious whiff. It was fresh, and smelled of maple and cinnamon. He had to give the cheerleader credit, she was awfully creative. He wondered how many of her concoctions Angel had downed over the years...Buffy should be taking notes, the chit kept a well stocked kitchen. He put the bottle back and set about making breakfast.

Thirty minutes later Cordelia was sitting at her table staring in opened mouth wonder. Spike had made her omelet, and bacon, sausage, pancakes, toast, sliced fruit, and cereal..."What gives, deadboy? You fattening me up for the kill?"

Spike just shrugged. "I was hungry, so I made enough for the both of us." He smiled at Cordelia's surprised look. "We *can* eat, you know."

"I just though you would be helping yourself to some blood. I mean Angel eats, but it's like pulling teeth." She scrunched her nose, and grinned. "Of course it could just be my cooking."

"I'm sure your a great cook." Spike said, neutrally, as he began to fill his plate.

Her shoulders slumped. "Nah, I get shamed by two creatures whose idea of great cuisine is O-negative." She pulled out two mugs. She filled one with water, and one with the bottle of blood marked breakfast, and put them both in the microwave. "Hell, even Wesley is a better cook that I am, and that's just... sad" She pulled the two mugs out of the microwave, and dropped a teabag in hers, and handed the other to Spike. He raised an eyebrow, but took it. He took a sip, and both eyebrows shot up.

"Hey now, this is pretty good!" He took a longer drink. "You, come up with the recipe?" She smiled proudly and nodded. He though of Buffy and his chest tightened. How come she could not be so accepting? He wondered how Buffy would react to him casually sipping blood in front of her. She took every opportunity to remind him of his demon, and just how disgusting a thing she though him, but Cordelia had integrated Angel into her life...It gave him a glimmer of hope, it might be hard to do, but if Cordelia could be so accepting, maybe at some point Buffy could too.

The next few minutes were quiet ones as Cordelia hungrily devoured the food he had cooked. He watched her as she ate. She looked better. Her hair was clean, and hung in thick, sleek, abundance. It was cut short, and highlighted, and he though it complimented her features. She still looked tired, but her makeup hid the worst of it.

He had been right about her weight. She wore natty shorts and a tank top, and though she had put on a few pounds it had done nothing but highlight her beauty. She was toned, and comely, and he found himself itching to run his hands up the perfect curvature of her tanned legs. He shook his head. He was in love with Buffy, he didn't understand why he was having such a strong, gut level, attraction for Cordelia. He desperately wanted to ask her how she did it, how she had learned to live with what Angel was, but he didn't know where to start.

They both sat for a while, their easy camaraderie stretched into a painful silence. A thread of tension pulled itself taut between them...


Spike jumped. "Eh? So what?"

Cordelia rolled her eyes. "You wanted to talk, presumably about you and Buffy...soooo, what went wrong?"

Spike suddenly became extremely interested in the worn Formica table. "Everything, I guess," he mumbled sullenly. Cordelia just stared at him expectantly. He let out an exasperated sigh, and stood up, carrying his plates to the sink. "She thinks I'm a monster."

Her eyebrow raised, and her lips began to curl into the tiniest of smirks. "You *are* a monster. Hello, Vampire!"

He looked at her like she was a errant toddler. "Yeah, I know, but she thinks I can't change...that I'm irredeemably evil."

"Are you?"

"Am I what?"


Spike stood there for a moment, worrying his lower lip with his teeth and thinking. "Bloody hell, how should I know?" He began to pace. " Am I sorry that I survived, that I fed? I don't think so. I never really thought about it. Do you think about the cow when your eating a Big Mac?"

"Why cows? Always with the cows. We're not cattle ya' know." Cordy interjected indignantly.

"Whatever, I'm just saying that of course humans won't like it, but we need to eat. It's not like I feed anymore. I haven't had a decent meal since I saw Dru last." He grinned. "I'm like a bloody vegetarian! Shouldn't I get brownie points, or something, for that?"

Cordelia couldn't help but smile, even if Spike was full of crap. "No. If you can survive off of other types of blood, or at the very least feed without killing, why not do that from the beginning. Why kill at all?"

Spike stopped pacing, and cocked his head, staring at her like she were stupid. "Have you ever had pigs blood?"

"Ew, as if!"

"Ew is right. It's like eating a stale, plain, hamburger every night, when you could be having filet mignon with all the trimmings, and a good lay afterwards. It's also not as nourishing. Since I quit eating humans I've become almost as big a ponce as Peaches."

Cordelia frowned. "Pea- I mean Angel is still stronger than most other vamps, so I don't see how it matters."

"It does. Angelus was one of the strongest vampires ever created, he's still powerful, but not like when he feeds off of humans."

"Oh." Cordelia didn't really cherish the thought of Angelus being stronger than *her* Angel especially if it ever came down to her having to take him out. Last night in the alley had showed her just how ineffectual she could be against him physically.

She had always relied on her connection and friendship with Angel's souled half to influence him, never force. It also made her realize how foolhardy she had been to think she could have stopped Spike if he had seriously intended harm. Her best weapon would always remain her tongue. Yay her. "You still had a choice...kill or chose kill."

He shook his head, suddenly unable to meet her eyes. "No luv, the only choice I had was kill, or be killed."

Cordelia didn't understand, but she could see that whatever was going through his mind it was upsetting him, and maybe the past wasn't as important as the future. She didn't think for a second the PTB's would easily forgive Spike his past, but maybe they could help him with the future. She let it go for now. "What about now? You can't bite but If you really wanted to you could still feed. Why don't you?"

The answer was automatic. "Buffy wouldn't like it."

Cordelia felt a flash of anger. What was it about Buffy that sucked the spine right out of a guy? "You and Buffy are over." She saw him flinch, good, she was hitting a nerve. "Right? Over, finished, finito. So, what's stopping you?" His eyes momentarily blurred and glowed russet-yellow. Maybe the nerve was a little raw, and wasn't she feeling a little stupid, trying to piss of a vampire.

"Bitch" He hissed.

"Your damned right!" She got up and slowly walked towards him, pushing her hair out of the way, and exposing her neck. She heard him take a breath. She didn't know if he was trying to calm himself or whetting his appetite. She hoped her faith in the American technology in his head was well founded.

"So if Buffy told you to stake yourself, would you? Would you jump off a cliff? I know it wouldn't kill you, but I bet it would hurt like hell, oh but *anything* to please poor pathetic Buffy. Come on Spike! Ya' hungry? Don't I smell good? Buffy's not here Spike, what do *you* want to do?" She took another step and he backed away. His eyes flickered from blue to yellow, back and forth, so fast it looked like a flame flickering behind blue glass.

Some part of Spike realized the chit was just trying to get a rise out of him. The rest just screamed to take her up on her taunt and sink his fangs deep, regardless of the headache it would cause. He didn't have the coping mechanisms that Angel had, the conscience that came standard with a soul. He only had the sheer force of the personality that had been imprinted on him when he had taken over this body. He wanted to drink from her, to see the surprise on her face as his fangs tore into her throat, but he didn't want to kill her. The very thought of what that meant made him shiver....

He was a killer. His first and foremost instinct should have been her death and his enjoyment. Could the chip in his head have altered his instincts this much? Any degree of change terrified him. It had taken years for him to adjust to being a vampire. Years that Angelus had turned into a living hell.

He had built a very careful very deliberate persona, and in his own heart had murdered what vestiges of 'William' that remained. The chip had forced him into massive psychological upheaval, but he had adapted. His love for Buffy had brought more upheaval, and for which he'd yet to have the time to adapt, and now his persona was threatening to shatter...with Cordelia acting as the proverbial straw.

If Spike was destroyed, what would be left of him? "Please, Cordelia..." he backed away again, and she stopped.

"What do *you* want Spike?" He stood before her, and she could see the tremors that racked his body. "If that chip were out, and there were no such thing as Buffy, what would you do?"

"Kill you!" His voice grated the air like rusted steel.

She let her hair fall back over her neck, and she walked away, falling in an ungraceful heap on the couch. If he had wanted to kill her it wouldn't have been such a struggle to force the words between his clenched teeth. "I don't believe you."

He opened his mouth to protest then snapped it shut. It was true...why argue. He sat down on the couch beside her. "So sue me," he said as he pulled a cigarette out of his carton and fished in his pocket for the lighter. This time it was Cordelia who grabbed it from his mouth. "Hey!" He snatched at the cigarette, but she jerked backwards with the cigarette held high. Spike followed reaching up trying to capture her wrist.

They lost their center of balance, and with a shriek from Cordelia, tumbled in a tangled heap on the couch. Spike suddenly found his head nestled on the firm swell of her breasts. He immediately pushed up on his arms and stretched over top of her until he could reach her hand and retrieve his cigarette. In doing so it brought them eye to eye, and suddenly he became acutely aware of the woman underneath him. Her heartbeat raced in his ear, and her breath puffed against his neck in short hot blasts.

Cordelia had only been trying to lighten the rapidly darkening mood- really. Now she was in a totally unexpected predicament. As Spike pulled the offending cigarette out of her hand, his knee pushed down on her thigh, forcing her to spread her legs a bit to accommodate him. Suddenly they found themselves settled together in a far too intimate manner. She had expected him to roll of of her, but no. Like a deer caught in the glare of oncoming headlights, he froze. His astonished blue eyes settled on hers, and he became utterly still.

Cordelia's hand fluttered to his chest and like a whipcord, his entire body tensed. Cordelia let out a short gasp as she felt a hard ridge press against her inner thigh. "Spike," she whispered. Her hand slid across his chest and settled lightly on his side.

This was wrong, it was so wrong, but Spike's eyes were so compelling, and so different from the warm brown she was accustomed to. His angular face revealed so much vulnerability, and in the glow of the early morning sun, seemed almost human. His face suddenly grew larger and his clear eyes swallowed her field of vision as he lowered himself over her, and covered her lips with his own.

Spike knew he was being idiotic, but she was so alive, so warm. Her hazel eyes locked with his, and instead of fear, or anger, he saw the same sense of wonderment that he felt. Her hand slid along the contours of his chest, and came to rest on his side. He could feel her heat spreading through his greedy pores. She had said his name. He wasn't sure if it was an invitation, but a vampire is a thief, a thief of blood, of heat, and of life.... he stole a kiss.

Her lips were soft and pliant, she hadn't put on any lipstick so they tasted berry rich and uniquely of her. He ran his tongue over their surface, luxuriating in their taste. Her mouth instinctually parted, and his tongue darted in. Hers met him, and for a moment their bodies meshed, and the kiss was their only reality. Gently but firmly they explored each others mouths, their tastes, their differences...Spike broke the kiss, remembering that Cordelia might need a moment to breath. She took a deep ragged breath, and suddenly her eyes grew wild and panicked.

"Moira!" She shoved him off of her, and he landed on his ass. Cordelia bolted upright and threw herself over the back of the couch, landing lightly on her feet.

Spike found himself more than a little annoyed. "Bollocks! Who the hell is Moira?" He looked around, was Moira another ghost? Was Cordelia a lesbian? It was all too confusing, so he just sat there glaring at the chit. She was keeping the couch between them like a protective shield.

Cordelia rolled her eyes. How could she have been so stupid, she had almost forgotten Lorne's warning. "Moira's not a person. It's the gut physical attraction between to larger than life souls. Lorne said that you and me would have that, and that it could be a problem."

Spike was getting a headache. "Who's Lorne, and why were you discussing me with him?" He got up, and headed for the kitchen. He had a feeling that whatever she had to say would make more sense with a stiff drink or two under his belt.

Cordelia trailed Spike to the kitchen. "I didn't exactly discuss it...he just knew.


"He's an analgesic demon."


"Anorexic? Animorphic?" She shrugged. "He reads peoples aura's when they sing. He uses the ability to help people figure out their destinies. He heard me humming to... a friend, and he knew I was going to meet you. He warned me; I forgot."

Spike downed his drink in a gulp and poured another. "So the -attraction- that I am feeling towards you, it's coming from an outside force, this...Moira." Spike was ready to beat some serious crap out of Moira.

Cordelia grinned, and grabbed the bottle of whiskey out of Spike's hand. She found a glass and poured herself a drink. "Moira's not a thing it's just a word, a label. You're really attracted to me?" She stared at him in amused disbelief.

Spike simply grabbed her hand and pulled her to him in a light embrace. "I love Buffy, with all my unbeating heart, but right now I could throw you on the floor and shag you senseless. I don't want to do that, but I could."

Cordelia nodded, licking her lips. "Exactly." She stepped out of his embrace.

"Did this Lorne say anything else?"

Cordy was unsure of the meaning of the rest of what Lorne had said, but she had promised Spike honesty. "He also said, that you and me are something called 'Kindred's'."

Spike just waited for her to continue. If he couldn't beat the crap out of Moira, maybe he could beat the living shit out of this Lorne fellow.

"Look Spike, I'm really not sure what everything he said means. He basically said that Angel and Buffy, and you and me have parallel destinies."

Spike grimaced, "Don't like the sound of that."

Cordelia understood. "I thought it meant that Angel and Buffy were meant to be together and you and I, but that was just too... ew. Lorne said that we were opposite sides of the same coin, with similar fates." She paused for a moment. "I *know* my fate. I am Angel's seer. I will be until he shanshu's"

"Bless you."

"I mean turn human Spike."

That caught his attention. "You mean Angel gets to be a real boy?" He couldn't help the edge of bitterness that crept into the words.

"That's what the prophecy says at least, but prophecy's are tricky. It wont be for a long time anyway." Spike was beginning to look tense again. "If your fate is similar to mine, maybe it means that your supposed to help the slayer in some way."

"I DO bloody well help the slayer!" Spike exploded. "And all I ever get for it is an ass kicking."


"No! Cordelia, no. It's not just about the sex, or the money schemes. I hunted with her, rubbed her aches and pains away. I tried to be there for her when she was down."

"I know." Cordelia soothed.

"I tried to make her understand that she belonged in the shadows with me."

"Wait, shadows?"

"She tries to live like a normal girl, to have normal friends...she doesn't need that. They only hold her back."

Cordy felt her confusion beginning to vanish. No wonder Spike was having problems. Sex with Buffy was blinding him to the problem. Instead of stepping out of the shadows and helping her, he was trying to drag her down into darkness with him. Men were idiots, and so apparently, were vampires.

"She's the slayer, Cordelia, she's meant to fight alone. She's not meant to have the sodding Scooby's traipsing along, clinging to her shirttails"

Cordy threw her hands up in consternation. "Were you, like, born deficient?" she interrupted. "Are you even listening to yourself? If a slayer is supposed to fight alone, that means without you too, Einstein."

Spike glared, "That's not- No. I didn't mean it like that. Willow and Xander hold her back, Giles, Dawn, all of them. She's like me, not them."

"And just how is Buffy anything like you?" Cordy asked, giving him a dubious once over.

"She's a killer," Spike answered evenly, "By birth and calling. She doesn't need to go to college or take trips to the mall. She doesn't need sleepovers with the girls, or movie nights with her pals. She bloody well exists for the hunt and the kill. All that other stuff is just-" he waved his hand dismissively, "Window-dressing; It's not who she is."

Cordy bit her lip and pushed down the urge to smack the rambling vampire. "You can't be serious, Spike. I mean sure, she's the slayer- she's been chosen. We all know how much she likes to use her fists but all those other things, those things that you say aren't important....they are just as much a part of who she is as the killing parts."

"Like you would even know!" he scoffed. "You haven't even seen her in years." His jaded saffire eyes locked with her defiant hazel one's, "Even if you *had* been bestest of best friends in high school, coming back from the dead changed her. She's just hanging on to the memory of what she was....You can't understand what it's like, to die, to come back, to claw your way out of the earth into a whole different type of existence."

"Sure I can," Cordy said softly. She wrapped her arms around her waist, smiling at Spike's quizzical expression. "I can't pretend to know what Buffy's going through now. I don't know anything but what you say, and I'm not naive enough to believe everything your telling me is true." Her eyes softened at memories she rarely allowed herself to dwell on. "I do know what it's like- I watched myself die," she caught herself and a look of pain flitted across her features, "Or go into a coma anyway. I *would* have died if I would have had another vision."

The chit had Spike's attention. He hadn't really given much thought to the implications of her part demon status. She'd treated it as inconsequential, and subsequently, so had he. He wondered what Angel's reaction to the change had been. He wondered if she had ever let Angel see her this venerable....

"The Powers gave me an out if I wanted it. I could have had everything I ever dreamed of." Her lips slid into one of the most radiant smiles he'd ever seen. "All I wanted was to be with my family, with Angel, Connor and Wes, with Gunn, Fred and Lorne. I guess it took an alternate reality for me to figure out my priorities in this I chose to become part demon."

She shrugged, once more making light of the change. "When I woke up everything was different. I felt reborn, comfortable in my own skin in a way I'd never experienced." Her eyes narrowed as she tried to pin down the changes under the surface. "I'm still me, but I feel like there's more to me now. I still think and react and feel like me." she gestured frustratedly, "I *am* me, but there is this sense of- of-"

"Power," Spike finished.

"Yes!" Cordy agreed. "I can feel it, along my skin, running through my blood, in my mind....It scares the crap out of me." She shuddered, "I have no idea what's going to happen to me, and so I know." She took a step in Spike's direction willing him to understand. "I know how scared Buffy must be, how important it is for her to have those familiar things around her, because that's the only thing that keeps her grounded, that keeps her sane."

Spike backed away. "No, you don't get it at all." He held up a hand, warding off any arguement. "Don't get your knickers twisted, luv. Maybe you understand about changing, I'll grant you that, but you had a choice, she didn't." He chuffed bitterly at her annoyed frown. "Her *friends* hurt her, and expect her to be grateful for it. "

Cordy crossed to the counter and poured herself a drink. "From what Angel said, she *should* be," she replied snippily, "I mean they rescued her from-"


"Exactly! They rescued her from heaven." She choked, her throat suddenly forgetting how to swallow. "Why would anyone want to be rescued from heaven?"

Spike watched her carefully as comprehension slowly dawned. Her expressive face went from confused to shocked to sympathetic in less than a second.

"Oh god!" Her hand covered her mouth and her eyes began to water. "Oh my god."

Spike gently extricated the glass from her hand and lead her to the table. She slid into the chair as if her legs had simply quit functioning. "Willow and Xander did that? But they didn't know, did they? Do they? Does Angel...oh god."

Spike almost smiled despite himself. Cordelia had showed more concern for Buffy's problems in two minutes time than the entire Scooby gang had all year. "It's ok pet, Buffy's dealing with it, badly, but she's dealing." He watched her with a weighted stare. "The others don't one else knows, and that's the way it stays." His eyes narrowed. He was a bad-ass and he was giving her "the look" he bloody well hoped she could take a hint. "Got it?"

Still unable to speak, she simply nodded.

Five minutes later they were still sitting in silence. Cordelia sighed, her nails picking at the worn Formica tabletop. Her eyes boring into the side of his head as she gave his revelation some serious thought. Finally, she spoke up.

"You're right, I could never understand what she's going through but it's kind of hypocritical of you to pretend you can either."

Spike's jaw dropped. "I sure as hell can a lot better than those foolish wanks who did this to her in the first place!"

"You ever been to heaven, Spike?"


She snorted. "Didn't think so."


"I've been called worse and by people I care a whole hell of a lot more about than you."

"Fucking crazy bint."

"Oooh, cry me a river blondie. Your just pissed because you know I'm right. You've been hurting her just as much as the rest of them, trying to cut her off from the small things in life that might give her comfort." She shrugged, then nudged his arm. "Why is it so important for you to pull her down? Didn't it ever cross that pea-brain of yours that you might have to step up, and maybe drag your own sorry ass out of the shadows?"

Spike looked at the chit good and hard, really looked. She had no idea of the amount of changes -the pain- he'd already endured just to be close to the slayer's orbit. She had no idea how frightening it was for him to even consider tearing down his persona any more than outside circumstances had already forced him to. He couldn't be that scared, weak-hearted, poet that had been turned in an alley. He couldn't be Spike the big-bad of evil. He hadn't quite figured the knack of being anywhere in-between.

Cordy was watching him with a concern and empathy that softened the harshness of her words. Before he was conscious of it, he leaned across the short distance between them and kissed her again. She drew in a short surprised breath and his tongue followed it. Hers brushed his briefly, her lips molded perfectly to his, her entire body melting at the contact.

His hand reached up to cup her cheek and she jerked away, eyeing him with distrust. "Whoa buddy! Distracting me with a kiss is so not gonna work!" She licked her lips, her eyes glued to his mouth, then jumped up and paced the floor in front of him. "Just because I haven't gotten any in a while doesn't mean you can just waltz right in here with your blue eyes and to-die-for cheekbones, and your big-" she gestured towards his crotch, "Penis!"

She waggled her finger under his nose. "You have to fight the moira, the moira is *so* not our friend!"

She looked desperate, and horny and downright adorable. Spike smirked. "Not getting any? I thought you were Angel's tart. Must be true love if he's not giving it to *you* every bleeding night. Poncy bugger can't risk letting out his dark half, eh?"

Cordy had gone still and was shooting him a look that screamed "Danger Will Robinson" but he ignored it. "WHAT did you say?" She asked quietly. If he had known her, he'd have run fast and run far....

"Oh come on! After Peaches little display last night? I've never seen him act that possessive of any other bint he's hooked up with over the years- Darla, Dru and Buffy included."

"Angel and I are friends." She stated flatly. "We are just friends and Angel was just concerned for my well-being. I was, after all, with you." She pointed out. "The last time you were in LA wasn't all sunshine and roses, so of course he overreacted."

Spike shot her a disbelieving look, "Whatever." He smirked, his eyes glinting with pure evil. "So, if you two aren't an item, why are you acting so jumpy?" He leaned forward on his elbow's. "Your attractive, I'm attractive....we're both currently unattached." His smirk shifted into a look that screamed seduction. "So why can't we-" his eyebrow shot up punctuating his innuendo, "You know...."

Cordy opened her mouth to argue, but nothing came out. Not. One. Sound. They just couldn't, but to tell him why meant admitting to someone else how she felt about Angel. Putting her feelings into words would make them real. Just as her silence had allowed her to rationalize away her vision pain so she could deal with it without breaking apart, her absolute denial of her feelings kept her at Angel's side every day without going insane.

There was no way in hell she was going to admit to herself and the arrogant bastard of a vampire at her kitchen table that she was in love with Angel.

She was in love with Angel.


And Spike knew it.

"Well," she began breathlessly, jumping on the first idea out of her brain with the tenacity of a ferocious bulldog. "What kind of person would that make me? You come to me for help and I take advantage of the situation! Pfft....I don't think so!"

"Actually, I called Angel."

Damn. Her mind raced. "You come here and confess your love for the slayer but now you want to jump my bones! What does that say about you, huh?"

"Uh, that I'm *evil*, and you're sounding desperate?" Spike rolled his eyes. "Look, forget I even said anything-"

Cordy wasn't listening. In fact Cordy was floating. Spike watched fascinated until she dropped to the floor, hitting her head on the corner of the table.


Chapter 3

Angel was in hell. Ninth Circle, five-hundred years of senseless torture kind of hell. Cordelia hadn't called, she hadn't e-mailed, she hadn't paged- she hadn't driven by the front door and shot him the finger. He had shown more patience and restraint than he'd thought himself inhumanly capable of by not rushing to her apartment to drag Spike into the light of day like every instinct in his body screamed that should.

The worst thing was that Gunn, Wesley, Fred, and Lorne had all made keeping Angel from leaving their collective mission, and collectively they were driving him insane. By eight-thirty Gunn had quit even pretending that he wasn't guarding the door. Wes had tried to "reason" with him- stumbling over explanations as to why he should trust Cordy's judgment and NOT take the sewer shortcut to Cordy's apartment, especially with the big, lethal axe that he was holding lovingly in his hands.

Fred- Fred was creeping him the hell out. Five years in Pylea had made her as adept at the silent stalking thing as any vampire. She'd snuck up behind him on her stealthy little feet, and snatched the phone from his grasp with her long sneaky fingers. He'd tried to assure her that he was calling Connor's doctor, the pizza parlor, Buffy....Fred hadn't bought any of it. Eventually he'd snuck away to his room, only to find that she had disconnected his phone.

Lorne, thankfully seemed to have at least a modicum of common sense. He'd taken Connor from him after his morning feeding and disappeared into his rooms. None of them however, seemed overly concerned with the risk that Cordy was taking by inviting his grandchilde into her home. They all just looked at him like he was being irrational.

Angel felt a sick twisted moment of vindication when the door's to the Hyperion were kicked viciously inward and a smoking, blanket covered Spike rushed in with Cordelia in his arms.

"Put me down, you narrow-assed Billy Idol wannabe!"

Spike shook the blanket from his shoulders and glared at Cordy who was trying to squirm out of his arms. "Would you shut up, you bloody woman! I told you I'm not getting staked for this. You're going to explain everything to Angelus and then I am going to run like hell back to Sunnydale."

"I told *you* jackass, bringing me here is only going to make it worse." She smacked his shoulder. "Now, put- me- down!"

Spike smirked and dropped her unceremoniously onto on of the red couches.

Cordy clutched her head and shot him the mother of all dirty looks. "You are so gonna pay-"

Angel had watched the entire exchange with what could only be described as astonished amusement, that is until he smelled it....a metallic salty tang that quickly permeated the air of the lobby. Cordelia was bleeding. Spike was right to be afraid- if William had been the cause of her injury then he would die. It was just that simple.

Before Spike could back away he found himself pinned against the office wall, Angel's angry yellow eyes locked with his. Angel smiled, flashing some fang. "I was just hoping you'd screw up, Spike. Looks like I get to kill you after all. I can't tell you how happy that makes me...."

"Now, look Peach- uh, Angel- I can explain, or better yet, she can." Spike attempted to look friendly, despite being held against the wall by his throat. "Come on, luv....tell him." His wide blue eyes pleaded with Cordy to fix the situation before he was dust for the dustbuster. It was Gunn that actually came to his rescue.

"Angel, man," Gunn stepped up beside them with his sharpened baseball bat in hand. "I hate to be the voice of reason here, but maybe we should see what Cordy has to say first."

"Yeah," Spike agreed enthusiastically. "The cue-ball has a point....listen to reason."

Gunn's grip tightened on his bat. "Shut up, leech, before I find a reason to dust you myself."

Cordy sighed dramatically. "Oh for craps-sake Angel, put Spike down!"

"No." Angel was listening to his demon now, whispering of blood and domination. Spike had always been an easy conquest.

"Angel." Cordelia's soft tone cut through the noise in his head. He blinked a few times until his irises shifted to brown, and the ridges on his forehead smoothed out. He let Spike go. The younger vampire dropped to the floor, sliding out of Angel's immediate reach with surprising grace.

One look at Gunn and he nodded, turning to guard Spike as Angel sat beside Cordelia. Angel cupped her chin with one hand, pulling her face up to get a better look at her forehead. His fingers lightly traced the long ugly line of the wound. She smiled softly, grabbing his wrist and pulling his hand away.

"That hurts." she said.

"Sorry," he murmured, placing his other hand over hers as he searched her face. "What happened?"

She ducked her head, her cheeks blushing prettily. "It was a vision." She peeked up through the curtain of her hair, "Another floaty one, which ended with me hitting my head on the table." She chuckled. "I think I freaked Spike out."

"I don't care about Spike. Are *you* okay?" He brushed her hair behind her ear, tilting her face up with his fingertips. "What did you see?" he whispered, his hands restlessly caressing her shoulder then sliding down her arm. She captured his fingers and gave them a squeeze.

"Don't be mad, okay? I'll be fine. A few Band-Aids and a little pampering from my guy's and I'll be good as new." She winked at Gunn and his full lips curled into a ghost of a smile, but his attention never left Spike.

"Why would I be mad?" Angel asked, confused.

Cordy pulled his other hand down and held them tightly clasped between her own. "Because the vision was for Spike."

Angel's mouth dropped open, but Spike beat him to it.

"Oh, hell no!" he yelled. "You tell those poncy all-seeing buggers that I want none of what they're offering!" He fished around for a cigarette and out-glared the room as he defiantly lit up and took a long drag, speaking with his cigarette balanced between his lips. "I won't be some dog that heel's every time some all-powerful type yanks my leash...."

Cordy smirked. "Yeah, cause Buffy's already got you on a choke-chain."

Spike's voice dropped dangerously, "Shut up, cheerleader."

Angel watched the two as they verbally sparred. He had no idea what Buffy had to do with Spike and leashes, but he knew he didn't like it....any of it. "Spike's right. The visions are for me. I'll take care of it."

He realized Cordy had taken his hands in her own as a means to restrain him. She knew him well enough to know her words were fixing to piss him off. "You can't," she insisted, shaking her head before he could interrupt. "The powers need a vampire *without* a soul.... so they are borrowing Spike."

"Piss on that." Spike interjected.

Cordelia rolled her eyes but otherwise ignored him. "If Spike will help, then the Powers will see about setting him up for a bigger and better destiny." She turned and fixed him with wide brown eyes. Angel had been on the receiving end of that look countless of times. It worked on him the way his puppy-dog stare did on her. Spike didn't stand a chance.

"If you don't help, tomorrow night, innocent people are going to die." She sniffled a little, and let one eloquent tear fall, her imploring gaze never leaving Spike's face.

Spike was caving. He fought it hard, but the sight of Cordy in tears was too much for any mere man or demon to resist. Angel didn't like the fact that the Powers were throwing Cordy and Spike together, but he had to duck his head away to hide the smirk forming when Spike let out a long smoky sigh.

"Fine! Quit with the water-works already, I'll help, but only this one time." He fixed her with a narrow-eyed glare, waggling a finger in her direction, "And tell those Powers that be that I'll have none of them mucking about with my destiny, got it?"

She grinned, her tears instantly forgotten. "Got it!" She immediately turned to Angel, "My head hurts." The sad-face was back, only directed at him. He didn't need it. He was more than happy to scoop her up into his arms and carry her off to his room.


Angel waited at the door as Cordy twisted and opened it for them. If he remembered correctly, this is where he had left her when he and the guy's had gone hunting last evening, and in his opinion, it's where he should have found her when he returned. Not that sleeping in his bed was a commonplace event, he could count on one hand the number of times it had occurred.

That was one reason he had been so pissed that Spike had stolen her away for the evening. Coming home to Cordelia was a precious and cherished occurrence, at least as far as he was concerned. He'd only actually *slept* in the same bed with her twice. Once after they had rescued Fred from decapitation, and one other time when she had insisted on playing nurse to his patient. Both times he'd been too exhausted or injured to really enjoy the time as fully as he should have.

Now she was here, and even if he could never truly act on his true motivations.... well, she was here and he intended to milk it. He snapped out of his reverie when he noticed she was watching him with an amused, but quizzical expression. He felt his own lips tug into a smile. "What?"

"You know, I think it's neat that you can carry me around wherever, with the vampy strength and all," she quirked her brow, "But I was wondering if you were going to put me down, oh sometime- today maybe?"

"You want me to put you down?" He asked, his brain non-functioning due to the overwhelming beauty held securely in his arms. What if he didn't want to put her down- ever?

"It would be nice."

"I spaced out, didn't I?" he admitted.

"Yeah," she whispered. "Somehow I don't think you've quite come down from wherever you went...."

"Why is that?" He was whispering too. Something- some lingering scent was teasing his memory, distracting him from Cordy's full and luscious lips.

"You still haven't put me down." She licked her lower lip, gaining his full and undivided attention. His arms tightened around her. He leaned in-

"Spike?" Angel could smell him all over her, which considering he had carried her in wasn't all that surprising, but there on her lips, "You kissed Spike?" He dumped her onto the bed.

"What? No! How did-?" Cordy scrambled to her knee's, frantically grabbing Angel's shirt before he could back away. "It was an accident, I promise!"

Angel untangled her fingers from the fabric of his shirt, putting a little distance between them. "Accidental like 'oops, I fell over.' and your lips just happened to catch the fall?" He yelled.

Her mouth curled into a lopsided little smile, "Actually, that's not too far off and the second time *he* kissed me!"

Angel went utterly still. Cordy was nervously chewing on her lip. One time, he could forgive. Spike would certainly go home with bruises, but he'd be in one piece, more or less. Twice- Spike knew better. Cordy might not have a clue and Wes might only have the faintest of ideas, but for a vampire, Angel's behavior last night had been nothing if not clear.

Angel was a vampire in love and he considered Cordelia his. She might not ever reciprocate his feelings and even if she did, nothing could ever come of it. That didn't lessen the claim he'd made on her. As far as another vampire was concerned, he owned her, body and soul. At least that's how his demon half felt about it. His soul was smart enough to realize he'd be wearing his balls in a sling if he ever told her exactly how he felt about his dominance and ownership.

Spike, however, was another matter. "I'm going to kill him," he muttered, turning for the door. "He'll never touch you again."

"No, Angel, wait!" Cordy bounded off the bed after him, only to sway woozily. Angel caught her and walked her back, laying her gently on the sheets. Her features were filled with genuine distress. "Please don't hurt him. It was stupid okay? You can't just blame him. My lips were there too."

She pulled him down beside her, hand stroking up and down his arm, soothing the anger boiling just under the surface. "I'm not sure exactly why you're so mad about it anyway. It's not like you're my boyfriend."

He wanted to be.

"Besides, if it weren't for Lorne and all his moira crap and Kindred's talk- I probably would have never even thought about it. I mean, Spike's hot, but his image is *so* wrong with that coat and the hair." She sighed, nestling her head into his shoulder. "It's done, it's over. It just felt nice that someone found me attractive. My curiosity just took over for my common sense. We argued most of the time anyway...." She trailed off, her eyes sliding closed.

"I think everyone in LA would agree that you're attractive," Angel whispered as he breathed her in, but the maddening scent of Spike still lingered. He wasn't going to be able to lay here all night with that familiar smell that brought such bittersweet, guilt-filled memories to the surface. He slowly disengaged himself from her embrace, smiling a little when she grumbled in her sleep.

"Shh, I'm just going to clean up your wound." He leaned down and brushed a soft kiss against her temple. Before he was conscious of it, he found his lips hovering just over hers. She was his, and Spike had tasted her. He wanted to obliterate that fact from her skin, erase it, and write a new story with his lips....

His tongue darted out and tasted her with just the barest of touches. Cordy's eyes flew open, catching him in the act. Instead of pulling away he simply kept his eyes on hers as he whispered, "Mine." He kissed her.

Angel swept his tongue across her lips, covering them, possessing them with his own. Hers opened in surprise, and he pressed the advantage, stroking her, pulling her into his mouth, willing her to kiss him back. Instead she pushed him away, her eyes dark with hurt and confusion. Angel licked his lips, drawing the taste of her in.

Cordy took one deep shuddering breath and then slapped the shit out of him. The loud crack of her flesh against his rang across the room. His eyes went gold, and hers went lethal. "I don't know what kind of cro-magnon shit you were pulling just then, but I am not going to get caught in the middle of some vampire pissing contest between you and Spike!"

Angel said nothing. He hovered at the very edge of his control. The only thing keeping his instincts in check was the fact that she was right. His kiss had been more about possession and jealousy than any genuine feelings that his heart had been fostering. He raised his hand, reaching out, hoping she'd understand. "I'm sorry."

"Angel-" she warned.

He shook his head, frowning. "No, you're right. I didn't like smelling him on you, I- I'm sorry."

Cordy's expression warred between disappointment and mildly disgusted amusement. "Worse than dogs...." she muttered under her breath. "I'll go home." With a tired sigh, she swung her legs over the edge of the bed.

Angel quickly moved to sit by her side. "Stay, please." Cordy's fingers reached out and traced the still stinging outline of her hand that splayed across his cheek. Her eyes grew moist. He caught her palm, bringing it to his lips and placing a gentle kiss there. "No- no Cor, don't go. It's fine, I'm fine." His spirits rose when she nodded slightly. "Could you, maybe take a shower though?"

Cordy chuckled softly, "It really bothers you, doesn't it?"

Angel simply nodded, not meeting her eyes, not trusting himself to speak.


There were so many reasons....none of which he could tell Cordelia without laying himself bare and vulnerable in front of her. He couldn't tell her for fear that the surface level distaste she showed at some of his more inhuman abilities would take root in her heart. He didn't want to see what telling her the ugly truth about his past would do to the trust and acceptance he readily found in her eyes.

"It's a vampire thing." he said, hoping that she would accept his lack of an explanation and move on.

"You are so full of shit." she huffed, smacking his arm as she got up and trudged to the bathroom. She paused in the doorway, turning and studying him for a long uncomfortable moment. "Angel, whatever it is that you have against Spike, you are going to have to get over it....for a few days anyway." She hesitated, unsure of her place, of her footing, "I know you two have this whole evil history together. I know you've probably seen and done things I can only hope never to imagine. I know there is bad blood between you over Sunnydale and the ring of Amara, but my vision comes first. Got it?"

Angel met her clear hazel eyes. He wondered if she had any idea how close to his thoughts she had come. He smiled for her, "Got it." He could do this, for her sake. He'd concentrate on her vision. The sooner it was resolved the faster Spike could get the hell out of his life. He tried not to dwell on the guilt that having Spike around dredged up. Instead he tried to concentrate on what he would do to Spike if his lips came in contact with Cordy's again.

"Good," she cocked her head. "I mean it Angel. You aren't going to like what Spike's going to have to do. I know you are going to want to be a part of this, but you go all cave-man again- you'll sit this one out."

Angel felt the first pricklings of dread. "Exactly what is Spike going to be doing that I'm going to hate so much?" he asked.

She smiled, a wicked gleam in her eye. "I'll tell you this evening." She shut the door to the bathroom, and on their conversation. Angel decided that Cordelia was a sadist at heart, and possibly an evil minion of Satan. He dozed off fantasizing all the delicious ways he could torture the information out of her. They all involved a lot of screaming, but not all of them involved pain.


Cordelia took a long shower, her second of the day, but if Angel was bothered enough by Spike's scent to kiss her.

She sagged against the shower wall. Boy, howdy did he kiss her. The memory of his lips on hers made her knees weak and her hands tremble. As electric as Spike's kisses had felt, there was simply no comparison to the feel of Angel's cool pliant mouth as it sought to claim her. Therein also lay her problem. She had been around Angel enough to know when he was acting on his own power or his demon urges. That kiss, wonderful as it has been, had been about marking territory.

And that pissed her off.

They would get past it. Cordy knew Angel cared for her. She wasn't blind, and the unmistakable signs of jealousy were there. It just cut to know that there was always going to be a limit to his affection. She'd almost crossed the line with him. Hell when his lips had covered hers she was ready to obliterate the damn line, but if she had kissed him back, she would have laid her heart on the line for him to trample.

If there was one thing she never wanted to hear from Angel it was the "just friends" speech. So here she was washing the scent of another vampire off of her because her best friend was an obsessive, possessive, dumbass demon, who had inadvertently hurt her feelings- yet again. She would see him pay- oh yes. She may not be willing to cross certain lines, but she figured she could dance on them just a bit and make Angel sweat a little. Today was going to be about payback, even if it killed her.

She was smiling once more when she re-dressed and emerged from the bathroom. Her smile broadened when she noticed Angel dozing on the bed. He really was a beautiful man. His features had softened into something close to boyishly charming. She'd pay good money to know what was putting that sexy, devilish smirk on his face. At any rate, sleeping Angel couldn't interfere with her plans.

She needed to talk to Spike.

She crept out of Angel's room, leaving him to his dreams and made her way to the Lorne's room to check on the baby. Connor was sleeping. She could have stayed and watched him for hours, but she didn't know how long Angel was going to be asleep. She headed for the lobby.

Gunn and Spike were pretty much exactly where she and Angel had left them. Spike had sat down on the red couch that faced the lobby, and Gunn was sitting on the opposite couch, facing Spike. He cradled his sharpened bat lovingly in his arms. Spike stood as Cordy reached the lobby, Gunn stood as well because Spike had. Cordy crossed the floor and hugged Gunn from behind, rubbing her cheek against his strong back. He twisted round, a surprised smile on his face. "Hey gorgeous, what'cha up too?" He said.

Cordy tried to look innocent."Who say's I'm up to anything, can't I just-" She pulled his shoulders down and kissed the top of his smooth head. "Kiss my most handsomest friend on his smooth shiny head?" She buried herself into his arms, soaking up his scent, and winking at Spike.

"All right, Cordy, now I KNOW your up to something." He disentangled her from his arms and kissed her forehead. "Spill."

"I'm trying to drive Angel insane." She stated matter-of-factly, ignoring Spike's snickering.

Gunn frowned "Why?"

"Do I need a reason?" she asked.

He laughed, that full deep sound that could warm any woman right down to her toes. "As long as I don't end up on the wrong end of an ass"

She flashed them both with a dazzling smile. "Cool." She twirled a strand of her highlighted hair between her fingers, giving both men in the room a sultry once over. "So, Gunn. Is Spike a prisoner now, or can I have a minute alone?"

Gunn had seen her try and flirt to get her way one too many times. He shook his finger at her and tried to look stern. "Uh, uh Barbie. Angel said to guard the vamp, and that's exactly what I'm doing until told otherwise." Cordy tried for pouty, but he just crossed his arms, one eyebrow rising up into the smooth dome of his forehead.

Inspiration struck and she smiled evilly, dropping the act. "I'm thinking you *are* going to give us a few minutes ALONE in the office, and what's're not going to complain about it."

Gunn's eyes narrowed, "And what makes you think that?"

Ah, she had him now. "Because if you don't, Spike and I will go back to my apartment, *by ourselves* where he could do all kinds of depraved and kinky things to my body, and it would be all your fault."

"Right-o. I'll go start the car then!" Spike interjected, jumping up, only to sit back down under the weight of Cordy's glare. "Just trying to help," he mumbled.

"You wouldn't." Gunn challenged. "Angel might kill me, but he'd kill you too."

"Pfft." Cordy scoffed, "I can handle Angel." She put her hand on Gunn's arm. "It's business, me and Spike just need to talk."

"Just talk?"

"Just talk," she assured.

Gunn let out a defeated sigh, his shoulder sagging. He was rewarded by Cordy once more throwing her arms around him, in a tight bear hug. She jumped up and kissed his cheek and then turned grabbing Spike by the arm and dragging him into the office.

"Do I get a kiss too?" He teased as she pulled the door closed behind them.

"Shut up Spike." She huffed, pushing him towards an office chair. "You've had your quota for the day."


She grinned, sitting on the edge of the desk in front of him. "Save it, blondie. This is business."

"Oh yeah, the ever so important vision," he air quoted. "So, what do your precious Powers need me to do?"

"Go clubbing with me." Cordy replied, chuckling as Spike's eyebrows rose. She waved him off before he could speak. "Have you ever heard -of course you have- you're an evil bloodsucker. It's a vampire club, where the humans, you know...." She gestured towards her neck, blushing a little when Spike's eyes lingered there, "Line up to be chow."

"A Sanguidor?" he questioned.

Cordelia shrugged. "I guess, it's not exactly my kinda scene, you know?"

"Well, yeah." He replied with a hint of dry sarcasm, "Especially with Peaches being more than willing if you ever...." He decided that for the sake of his body parts, mainly his balls, he'd drop that line of thought. If Cordy were to go any deeper into denial, she'd probably drown. "Right then, not your scene." He fished for another cigarette, ignoring her scowl as he lit up, "Smart girl."

She rolled her eyes. "It's one of the demony aspects of LA that we tend to ignore. No harm no foul, like Madam Dorian's, as long as no one gets hurt, we're willing to leave the demons to their business."

"How charitable." He commented wryly.

Cordy ignored the tone, "Everyone's entitled to make an honest buck, ya know?" She gave Spike an appraising once over. "Do you have anything with you that just screams 'dead-sexy' or was that black on black ensemble the only clothes you came with?"

"You want me to play dress up?" Spike blew out a stream of smoke in annoyance. "It's bad enough that you talked me into helping...."

Cordy kicked him in the knee. "Quit bitching! Geeze, you get to go out on a pseudo-date with me and kill things, I thought that would be right up your alley."

"When you put it that way," Spike said thoughtfully, "It doesn't sound too bad. I get to kill things, eh?"

"There is a vampire. He's sort of a vampire-anarchist or something. He's against non-violent feeding and he plans to make an example out of this club tonight. He's going to go in there and massacre everybody, that is unless we get to him first."

The light bulb seemed to go off in Spike's head. "That's why the Powers that bleedin' be need me. I get it now. If Angel tried to go into a Sanguidor and pass himself off, he'd be made in under a minute. Too many vamps would be able to suss out his soul."

Cordy simply nodded.

"It sounds simple enough, luv, but if it's anything like Sanguidor's I've been to....Angel will blow a flippin' gasket at the thought of you going into a place like that." he warned.

"Well it's a good thing Angel's not the boss of me. Wes is, and I bet he'll agree that there is no other way. I'll spot the evil vamp, you'll introduce him to your wood...." She bit her lip, heat creeping up her cheeks. Spike grinned saucily. Cordy decided she just wouldn't let herself get embarrassed. "You know what I mean, dumbass."

Spike chuckled, "I believe the slayer calls it Mr. Pointy." He sniggered when she opened her mouth to speak, then hesitated. She was clearly trying to resist asking exactly which type of wood Buffy had named.

Cordy stood, clearly done with the conversation. "I'll talk to Wes and Gunn, you just be ready by six."

Spike stood and opened the door. "Don't you think that's a little early considering where we're going?"

Cordy stopped and gave her one of her patented 'are you really as stupid as you look' once-overs. "I figure it will take at least that long to convince Angel to let us leave without ripping you into a million raggedy shreds, especially when he gets a load of the outfit I plan to wear."

He smirked, putting a little heat behind his eyes. "You like living dangerously, don't you?"

"Nah," Cordy shrugged, oblivious. "I just like to torture Angel. This whole champion gig is supposed to be about him suffering for all his past evil deeds. I like to think I'm just being pro-active towards Angel's redemption." She smiled mischievously, and Spike felt his knees go a little weak at the sight. No wonder she had all three men at AI wrapped. All she had to do was smile and no man could resist her.

"You are a piece of work, you know that, luv?"


Angel woke from an afternoon of deliciously erotic dreams. He rolled over onto his side, disappointed and yet relieved that Cordelia had not joined him for a nap. He was disappointed not to wake up to her warmth and easy smile, and glad because his dreams had left him hard and aching. The thought of Cordy's soft hands on his cock relieving the sexual tension his dreams had built almost sent him over the edge without even having to touch himself. Picturing her on her hands and knees with his cock in her mouth sent him flying. He wasn't sure how much longer he'd be able to resist from answering the siren-call of her body, especially since he was head over heels in love with the soul housed under those womanly curves and bronzed skin. He wondered where she'd gotten off to....

After taking a cold shower and changing clothes, Angel wandered down-stairs. The lobby was empty except for Gunn and Spike. Gunn was sprawled on one red couch, his bat-stake propped on the side of the couch. Spike was on the other, his feet propped comfortably on the coffee table between them. They were playing cards.

Angel almost dismissed them from his thoughts as he looked for Cordelia until it finally registered that Spike had changed from his usual black jeans and black tee-shirt, into black leather pants and a see-through mesh shirt. He'd also put in his eyebrow ring. Angel swept his gaze along the full length of Spike's lean ripped frame. He gulped at the site of Spike's small dark nipples only half concealed by the fabric of his shirt. The entire outfit screamed "come fuck me" and Angel's demon couldn't help the desire to answer the challenge. The thought immediately shamed Angel to his soul.

He quickly looked away, his mind repeating an endless mantra of *Think about the vision, think about the vision, thinkabouthtevisionthinkabouthtevision* He hurried into the office and shut the door. Wes looked up from the text he was studying and smiled.

"Good afternoon, Angel. Sleep well?" He stood and walked to the side table and poured himself some tea. "It's not exactly o-positive but would you like a cup?" he offered.

"Huh?" Angel shook himself out of his memories, "Oh, sure. Why not?" He accepted the steaming liquid gratefully, ignoring the way it scalded his tongue as he gulped it down. His gaze flicked onto Wes as he set the fine china on the desk. The watcher looked worried.

"Angel, is something bothering you?"

Angel sat back in the chair with an unnecessary sigh, his gaze sliding away to study the books on Wes' desk.

"Ah," Wes deduced, "Spike." Wesley shut his books and leaned forward, his elbows resting on his notes. "He's been quite well behaved this afternoon. I was afraid once Cordelia had left that his attitude would revert back to what passes for normal from him, but he's been content to sit quietly under guard."

Angel studied the back of Spike's blonde head, visible just beyond the glass window looking out onto the lobby. "Cordy left?"

Wes bit back a smile. "Yes she grabbed Fred, a large chunk of the petty cash and announced they had some shopping to do."

"Shopping?" Angel frowned, "Did she tell you anything more about her time with Spike or the vision that she had?" Angel's eyes narrowed as Wes squirmed in his seat. The watcher looked decidedly uncomfortable, which meant that whatever Cordy had told him, he wasn't going to like it. He stood and began to pace. It didn't make him feel better but it worked off the urge to hit something. "Why do I get the feeling, that everyone is trying really hard to keep something from me?" He stopped in front of Wesley's desk and stared down at him.

Wes cleared his throat, his eyes darting nervously towards the door. Angel's nostrils flared, but he picked up no fear. Still...His eyes drifted over Wesley's desk, noticing for the first time the copious notes. Angel stared, his brain slowly registering what was written on the stacks of yellow notepads. "Sanguidors?" He grabbed a tablet and began to flip through it, "Why are you studying these? They're hardly worth our time, you know that." His gaze flicked up from the notes on a club called "Bloody Moon" to take in Wes' tight-lipped, worried expression. Suddenly, as Fred liked to say, it all clicked....Spike's outfit, Cordelia's avoidance, the club.

"Cordy's vision would indicate otherwise." Wes stated. "In fact, the threat is to the club, not because of it."

Angel sat down heavily in a chair. He didn't like it any better but he felt a weight lift from his shoulder nonetheless. "That's why the Powers wanted Spike and not me. There is no way I could go in there without raising all sorts of alarms. I certainly couldn't pass for human, and a lot of vampires would be able to sense my soul." He tossed the pad back on Wesley's desk and grinned, propping his legs on the edge of the desk, "So Spike gets to go in and bust some heads...."

Wesley answered his grin with one of his own. "While we wait outside as backup in case anything goes wrong."

Angel nodded his agreement, "Sounds like a plan."

Wes grunted noncommittally, "I did some reconnaissance on the place while you were sleeping, there is a large sky-light on the roof of the building. I expect that would be the best case to keep an eye on Cordelia while she and Spike are on the inside."

Angel's legs dropped to the floor with a sold thump, "Excuse me?"

The lobby doors opened before Wesley could explain or Angel could argue. Cordelia and Fred entered carrying a staggering array of bags. Angel stalked out of the office, glaring at Spike as he stood. Spike sat down, and Gunn looked at him quizzically, but he only had eyes for Cordelia.

He noticed with some satisfaction the way Cordy's smile froze on her face when she saw him coming. She barely had time to set her bags down before Angel grabbed her by the sleeve of her coat and drug her towards the kitchen. She tried jerking her arm away and dragging her feet but he pulled her down the hall and into the dimly lit room placing himself between her and the door. He crossed his arms and waited....

"What did I tell you earlier." she demanded, "No going Neanderthal on me, or you're staying home!"

Angel chuckled disbelievingly. "Oh, I don't think so. The only person staying home tonight is you."

"Pfft, you and what army are going to make me?" She advanced on Angel stopping about a foot away, crossing her arms, her stance mirroring his. "It's my vision and I need to be there."

Angel scowled, "Why?" he asked gruffly. "You don't go with me half the time, what makes this so important? Is it because it's Spike?"

Cordy lightly gripped his forearms, looking up at him with pleading eyes. "Because I NEED to go Angel, I can't explain it, but I can feel it....I HAVE to be there."

Angel grabbed the ties to her coat and tugged her a little closer, relishing the way her arms slid up and came to rest on his chest. He gazed down at her earnest features and knew in his heart that he could deny her nothing. "Well, I NEED to make sure you are safe and I can't do that from outside the club," he argued. "You don't know what those places are like."

"And you do, I suppose?"

Angel nodded, his expression serious. "Blood and sex, Cordy. It may have been a hundred years ago, but those kinds of places never change." His features darkened with memories he'd rather have long since forgotten. "I don't want you exposed to that kind of....depravity."

The edges of Cordy's lips tilted upwards into a knowing smile. "I'll be fine. I'll stick close to Spike...." She trailed off as his scowl deepened, her fingers drifted up to his forehead and tried to smooth his wrinkled brow. "Hopefully we won't even be in there very long."

"Stick close to Spike, huh?" Her thumb traced along his cheekbone. His own hands rose to cup her face and she leaned into the touch. She'd done her makeup and hair differently. Her eyes were lined heavily and made up in sooty kohl. Her hair had been trimmed and darkened, hanging sleek and black to just brush the tops of her shoulders. The smell of the dye burnt his nose, but underneath the sterile, perfumed, beauty products he could still catch a trace of her scent- and Gunn's. He lightly gripped her chin, pulling her head up to meet his eyes. "Gunn?" he chided, "Are you deliberately trying to drive me insane?"

Cordy gave herself a mental pat on the back for using Angel's possessiveness to her advantage. She had just scored on her opening salvo. He hadn't even seen her outfit yet. She chuckled, her arms sliding around his neck, finger-nails scratching along the fine crisp hairs at the nape of his neck. "Is it working?" she asked in a husky whisper.

Instead of answering he leaned close, his voice dropping to match hers, lips brushing her ear as he whispered, "Just remember Cor, I'll be watching you." Feeling brave, he undid the tie to her coat, slipping his arms around her waist, then ran his hands up surprisingly bare skin, trapping her shivers under his palm. He pulled back and opened her coat. "What are you-?" he couldn't finish.

There was no male on earth that wouldn't have been struck dumb by the sex-kitten bondage get-up that Cordy had chosen to wear. He let his eyes caress every black leather-clad inch of her, starting at the tip of her black knee-high boots, softly skimming the black micro-shorts that were open on the sides and only held together by thin lacings. The piece-de-resistance' however was the black leather, silver-studded bra. He'd seen hookers that would have been ashamed to step out in so little, but Cordelia pulled the look off with plenty of sexiness to spare.

There was no way in hell he was letting her go anywhere other than his bedroom in that get-up. Even his fantasy Cordelia's were too timid to wear an outfit like that, and yet here stood the real thing and all he could do was sputter indignantly, "Oh, no- there is no way in....Did- did Fred help you pick that out?"

She laughed then, secure that she'd produced the desired effect on Angel's libido. 'This is going to be fun,' she thought, 'Let the games begin.'

"Ha," she scoffed, "You should see the outfits she wanted me to try on." She rolled her eyes and bit back a smile, "They made this thing look like a muumuu. I always knew that once you got past the slightly crazy, hometown-girl exterior, Fred was a closet freak...." She put a seductive swing in her hips as she sashayed passed Angel. He was obviously too stunned to react still, because she walked right out the kitchen doors without further protest from him. She stuck her head back through the doorway. "You coming or am I going to have to walk into the lions-den with Spike as my only backup, because you're not gonna to stop me from going." She could have swore she heard him growl as he hurried after her.

Wesley stepped out of his office just as Cordelia rounded the corner. "Bloody HELL!" he yelped as soon as he registered Cordelia's outfit. He searched around, grabbing Spike's duster and wrapping it around Cordy's shoulders. "Under no circumstances are you walking out of here dressed like *that* young lady! Mark my words- you *will* put on something more befitting a lady or this entire operation is off!"

Chapter 4

Four hours later

Spike's arm settled comfortably around her waist, pulling her securely to his side. "You're sure you can do this, luv?"

Cordy hazarded a glance upwards and caught Angel staring back down at them from the rooftop. Wes and Gunn were nearby in the shadows of an alleyway and Fred was in the GTX. She took a deep breath and glanced at the roof once more but Angel had disappeared from sight. Knowing that her family was close in case anything went wrong gave her the strength she needed. "I'm good." He voice was a little shaky, but she wasn't about to chicken out now.

Spike stopped, turning to face her. He lifted her chin with a gentle finger. His blue eyes watched her face as she pulled herself together. A small smile graced his lips and he gave a slight nod. "It'll be okay luv, just- just own the room." He smiled at her quizzical look, "I *do* remember you from back when....noticed you at the Bronze, the way you had the whole place under your designer heels."

He tucked her hair behind her ear smoothing it down her neck, his eyes unimaginably soft. "Don't get me wrong, I like they way you've changed, but I know that that high school princess is still in there somewhere....buried under all those new deep layers." His gaze flickered over her lips and just for a moment, Cordy wondered if he would be crazy enough to try and kiss her, knowing that Angel was watching....knowing that she ached for him to kiss her regardless. "You just have to bring her out, let her play," he murmured. "You show weakness in there and they will eat you alive." His hands slid over her shoulders, and down her arms to gently take her hands. "What do you say Miss Chase, are you ready?"

She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Spike's cool hands were a reassuring lifeline. She tried to dredge up the ghost of Queen C, her brash, tactless, but always stylish alter-ego. It was a defense system she'd long since outgrown, but Spike was right, the bitch was still a part of her. She stood straighter and squared her shoulders, her red lips parted into a devilish smile. "Oh yeah, I'm ready."

Spike threw his arm around her and they walked up to the doors of Bloody Moon like they owned the joint. The bouncer didn't even bat an eyelash as he waved them to the head of the line and through the doors.


Angel paced the edge of the skylight anxiously waiting for a glimpse of Cordelia's dark hair or Spike's pale had been five minutes since he'd left them standing at the edge of the curb to make their way into the club and the anticipation was killing him. He'd almost made up his mind to head back to the edge of the building to see if Cordy had chickened out when he caught the couple out of the corner of his eye.

He watched them as they entered the main room of the club like they were royalty. They matched each other like moonlight and shadow, and he had to admit in the dark recess of his heart that the picture they painted together was quite alluring. Alone on the rooftop, Angel didn't bother to hide his jealous scowl. Every vampire in the joint was eyeing Cordelia with undisguised hunger. They knew the smell of fresh meat and Cordy was a choice cut.

Spike drew her into the protective circle of his arms, and she leaned back into his touch, her head tilting upwards and her eyes glancing briefly to the exact spot where Angel was standing. A tiny private smile danced across her lips sending a pure jolt of desire straight through Angel's heart and down to his groin. She couldn't possibly see him, but she knew....and she knew that he knew....Angel shook the distraction off, eyes narrowing as a vampire approached the couple.

Angel smirked as Spike dismissed the young vamp with little more than a scathing look, his hands sliding down to grip Cordy's waist and steer her towards the bar. He whispered something in her ear and she laughed. More hungry stares feasted from afar and Angel found himself suppressing a growl. Spike bought Cordy a drink while she casually scanned the room, looking for the vampire from her vision.

Angel could tell by the tense line of her shoulders and the wide eyes that didn't quite match her indifferent mask, that Cordy had been wholly unprepared by the activities going on all around her in the dark recesses of the club. He'd tried to warn her earlier, but she'd distracted him with her....flirting? Angel frowned. Had that been what they were doing? He ran over the entire day's memories as he watched Cordy and Spike talk and make eyes at each other.

Angel had kissed her, a huge thing for him, but it had only served to piss Cordy off and she'd gotten over it pretty quick. It was the little things that were beginning to jumble in his head, each glance, each touch, every innuendo....insignificant when pulled out and examined out of context but taken as a whole....lead him to the conclusion that sometime in the last twenty-four hours he and Cordy had started to dance around each other to a beat as old as time itself. Under his breath, he cursed his own stupidity. Even if she were willing, whatever this was between them couldn't happen. She'd already met Angelus twice....

His eyes zeroed in on Spike's hand as it brushed across Cordelia's knee. This time he did growl. Angel realized that Spike was just trying to play the part, but he could also tell that the little bastard was enjoying himself immensely. Another vampire approached them. He talked for a minute, then Cordy shook her head but the vampire didn't like her answer. It grabbed her arm, and Angel tensed, fully prepared to drop through the skylight and rip the presumptuous vamps head off. Spike was already there however and before the other vamp could even react he was sporting a broken arm. Angel huffed, slightly annoyed. Score one for Spike, he thought.

Internally, Angel realized he was acting like a jealous, possessive fool. Even if they could....Cordy would never allow herself to be owned. It was one of the things that attracted him to her like a dark fluttering moth drawn to flame. She was stronger than him, and would probably embrace death before she let anyone, himself included lay claim to her soul. He also realized he was too far gone to pretend nothing was going on any longer. He couldn't couch his protectiveness behind friendly concern, and he doubted he'd be able to hide the fact that he was in love with Cordelia from her forever.

The girl could be dense, but she wasn't stupid. Which meant that Angel was screwed, because there was no way he could pick up and leave again, even if he wanted to....

He sighed, scrubbing his hand over his chin in annoyance as he watched the pair flirt at the bar. He was so focused on Cordelia and Spike that he completely did not hear the two vampires currently sneaking up behind him.


A deeply buried part of Cordelia Chase wished that she would have listened to Angel. She'd never admit it to herself or especially to him, but this was one seriously creepy club. Angel had mentioned blood and sex. Boy, howdy! To her left, a dark corner was being occupied by a vampire and a human donor currently having sex while he and two other vampires fed off of her. Spike had already declined several offers from other vamps for a taste of herself, and the way they looked at her, she was pretty sure that weren't just talking about her blood.

She scanned the floor, quietly willing the vampire from her vision to hurry up and show already. Pretty much every corner of the club was filled with vampires feeding, humans writhing and moaning, she wasn't going to even think about what *that* vampire was doing. She felt a cool hand brush her knee and tensed. Spike looked worried. He could probably hear the way her heart would jump up and do the cha-cha every time another vampire approached....she tried to smile but it came out more like a grimace.

Spike leaned close and whispered in her ear. "Relax, ducks. No one is going to hurt you." He lazily scanned the interior of the club. "Actually this place looks pretty tame, no wonder the wanker in your vision has a hard on to destroy it." He let out a disgusted huff, "This place is full of posers."

"Yeah, well these posers would be dust if we met them on the street." she groused. She huffed as a blonde and obviously drunk human stumbled past. She had bite marks on her neck and wrist. Cordy noticed two thin trails of blood creeping down the inside of her thigh. "Ugh." she shuddered, turning to Spike. "The vampires I get. They're just doing what vampires do....but what is up with the *people*! God, they're stupid," Her eyes caught sight of the blonde as she swerved into the nearest vampire and smiled drunkenly. "That's just gross."

Spike smirked, "Have you ever been bitten, luv?" He was surprised to see her eyes go hard and flat. "I see. I'll take that as a yes then." To cover his own flustered surprise, he fished out a cigarette and lit it. "Was it trying to feed?" he gently prodded.

Cordelia simply nodded, her mouth clamped in a grim tight line. He covered her hand with his own, squeezing it tight, stilling the slight tremors in her fingers. "It wasn't Angel was it?" She at him curiously as if surprised that he'd even ask, then shook her head.

"No," it came out in a croak and she quickly cleared her throat. "It was a bony, skanky, blonde, bitch-pire," Her eyes narrowed at the memory, and she looked at Spike as if the fact that he was blonde and undead were suddenly to very big demerits against his existence. "She's dead. End of story."

Spike seriously doubted it. He took a breath, preparing to tell her just that.

"Drop it." She smiled wide, but her teeth were clenched, bordering on grinding and her entire posture was stiff.

"Whatever, luv." He took a long drag of his cigarette, "So much for complete honesty, eh?"

"Ass," she snapped.

He chuckled, feeling good to finally have found some moral high ground. His mood evaporated when she scowled, her eyes sliding over his shoulder to the vampire approaching from behind. Spike turned, following her line of site. He had to bite back a derisive laugh at the young vampire waiting patiently for a chance to speak.

Taking Spike's silence for permission, his attention shifted to Cordy. He flashed her with what Spike assumed was supposed to be a seductive smile. The vampires long honey-brown hair slipped over his features as he dipped his head to take in Cordy's outfit and the body that it barely covered.

"Mmmm," the younger vampire smacked his lips appreciatively. "You are truly a feast for all the senses." He took her hand and brushed his lips lightly across her knuckles. "Care to join me for a drink?"

"As if!" Cordy snatched her hand away. "Listen here you lame Lois wanna-be. Brad Pitt you are not, so why don't you save the-" her eyes swept over him contemptuously, "Act- for someone that's lame enough to be interested." She turned back to the bar, giving the long haired vamp the glacial shoulder.

Warning bells went off in the back of Spike's mind as the other vampires expression darkened in outrage. For his own part, Spike found Cordy's imperious brush-off of the other vampire quite arousing. He felt secure in the knowledge that the chit was his, at least while they were here in the club. When it came to matching wits and trading barbs, Cordy could more than hold her own with any vampire that wanted to have a go at her. The problem is that same acid tongue could get her in a physical confrontation that she was wholly unprepared for.

Like now for instance.

The other vampires arm snaked out and grabbed Cordy by the elbow. It was a foolish move. Spike had its hand disengaged from Cordy's tender flesh and his thumb pressed savagely into the back of its hand, twisting its arm and locking its elbow before the other vamp was barely aware that Spike had grabbed him.

Spike brought his elbow down hard, breaking the other vampires arm. To his credit, the Anne Rice wanna-be didn't scream. Spike shoved him off and turned casually back to his psuedo-date. Cordelia's eyes were wide, pupils dilated, breath short. The piquant smell of fear drifted from her pores. Spike decided he'd never seen her looking more alluring.

Spike pulled Cordy close, sensing her need to be touched. He trapped her body between his legs and nuzzled her neck. His eyes, however, were on the room, making sure the other vampires got the message. Tonight the chit was his.

"It's all-right luv," he whispered, running his hands up and down her arms. He soothed and gentled her as if she were a skittish mare, cooing nonsense in her ear. After a little while, she began to relax, her hands slipping around his waist as she lay her head on his shoulder. He could feel the last of her tension leave as he stroked her back and smoothed her hair.

Her warmth and trust were reassuring for Spike as well. She was so soft and trusting in his arms, a direct contrast to the hard angles, sharp fists and even sharper words that was Buffy. He felt his chest constricting at the memory of her last visit to his crypt.

She had been so beautiful when she had come to him....beautiful but sad when she said the words that had seemingly damned him for his eternal existence. When she had dumped him, it was as if she had found a piece of herself that had been missing.

He didn't want to think about what that might mean. He loved her so much that it ripped him to shreds at every reminder that he wasn't what she needed....not because he couldn't be, but because she wouldn't even let him try.

"Spike?" Worried hazel eyes locked with his. "Are you okay?"

Spike blinked a couple of times, dragging his attention back to the present. "What?"

"I'd kind of like to breathe, and -well- let me go, okay?"

Spike immediately loosened his death-grip, grinning a little to cover his embarrassment when she took a couple of deep relieved breaths. "Sorry, ducks."


Spike scowled down at the young woman in front of him, "No."

Her lips quirked up at the corners. "So much for complete honesty, huh?" she said softly.

His only response was to brush his lips softly against hers. She didn't resist, but he felt a shiver run down her spine and his hands slid southward in an effort to catch it. He tugged her closer and hesitantly leaned in once again, knowing that he was tempting fate with Angel watching, only this time she did go stiff. Her hands reached up and dug into his shoulders, her gaze riveted on something behind him. "Cordelia?" he whispered.

She swallowed, and he could hear the dry click of her throat contracting. "Oh God."

Spike tried to turn his head and see, but she pulled him down by the ears into a quick savage kiss. Soon he saw what had to have upset her. A group of about six vampires strode through the middle of the room, all carrying weapons ranging from swords to Uzi's. The two largest vampires were half carrying half dragging Angel, who was slumped between them. Their cover was as good as blown.

"Bloody hell."


Spike kept Cordy trapped in the circle of his arms. There was still a good possibility that they could salvage the situation if nobody panicked. Since Angel didn't look like he'd be doing much of anything for a while, all Spike had to worry about was Cordy.

She once more went stiff in his arms but she kept her cool, burying her face in his neck, bringing her lips to his ear. "We've got to do something." Her breath barely vibrated the air between them.

He leaned down and nuzzled her. "No we don't, not until we know whet they are planning." He felt her sharp nails dig into his biceps.

"We *do* know. I saw it. remember?"

He pried her claws off of his arms. "You saw Angel, and still let him come?"

She pulled back, scowling when their eyes locked, "No, dumbass, but I saw- why can't the Powers for *once* give me a clear vision?" she grumbled, "Fine Einstein, what do we do?"

Spike winked, grinning with confidence he did not feel as he slid out of his seat and held out his hand for her. "We watch the show." He leaned in and kissed her temple, careful to avoid the cut that was hidden underneath her bangs. "Keep your mouth shut and follow my lead."


"Cordelia," he warned.

"Hey, my mouth was shut." She smirked, "Lead on Peroxide....and please, don't get us all killed."

Spike rolled his eyes, but true to her word, Cordy followed silently and obediently, her hands clutching at the waistband of his pants. Spike glanced over his shoulder. "Ease up, luv. I nicked these leathers from Billy Idol."

"Let go of the seventies, Spike, trust me on this."

"Bitch please- " Spike scoffed as they kept their slow, casual pace, bickering lightly as the edged closer to the action. "- So I can embrace parachute pants and power ties?" Spike shook his head, inwardly pleased that she was playing it cool. "Spike: Vampire Yuppie strikes terror in the hearts of no one."

"Well, *I* think it's scary." She wrinkled her nose as she swiped at his hair. "You should at least loose the platinum helmet, maybe go for a honey blonde with darker undertones-"

"Shh." Spike admonished.

They were close. Spike sensed a rise in fear as Cordy went ridged beside him, so much for her casual air of indifference. He quickly followed her line of sight. "That him?"


The vampire from Cordy's vision was definitely not to be trifled with. He wished she would have told him the bastard was so damn big. There was an itchy burn of raw power in the air that told Spike the tall Nordic vampire was at *least* twice as old as Angel. His glacier blue eyes were as cold and dead as a sharks.

He also looked like a vamp that rarely bothered to shift out of his true face. Spike knew that after a while some vampires, like the Master of Aurelius, lost the ability. Under this long wild hair that was naturally as light as Spike's this Master vampire's face was heavy-boned and deeply wrinkled. There was blood on his hands and chin, dried blood gave his hair strawberry blonde tips. Spike would bet good money that this vamp had been a Viking.

He was dragging a terrified patron along behind him. The man's face was a pulpy mess. The Master jerked the barely conscious man up and ripped into his throat. He drank until the man's pasty skin began to shrink in around his bones.

Cordy was beginning to squeeze his hand so hard it hurt. With a deep sense of foreboding, he realized he had been staring hard at the other blonde vampire and it had been staring right back at him as blood slowly dripped from his chin. Spike licked his lips. He bet if he closed his eyes he could imagine the taste of it. A deep moan from Angel snapped both of their attention from their silent challenge to his huddled form.

"Who is this?" The tall vampire demanded of the two lackeys in a surprisingly cultured voice. There was no trace of any accent but there was a strong note of surprise. Spike was pretty surprised that Angel had been taken down by two slags himself. The Master sucked at a bit of tendon stuck between his teeth. "What did you do to him?"

The first lackey, a huge doughy vampire that was only as strong as the weight he could throw around simply shrugged. The second one, thin as a reed, giggled. Spike pursed his lips with distaste. He recognized the signs of a vampire with a habit. Drug addiction among vamps was rare, but just as devastating as among humans. Vamps were addicts by nature. Drugs couldn't kill brain cells that were already dead, but they could still produce some pretty jacked-up specimens of vampire society.

The laconic vampire adjusted his grip on Angel's arm. "I don't know who he is. We've never seen him around these parts before."

The strung out vampire tittered wildly. "He's a strong one though, and pretty old. Not that bright though, or that observant, eh?" He eyed his partner in crime with a mischievous twinkle. "We just snuck up behind him and- pow!" He made a jabbing motion with his hand. "I shot him up with my own special blend; he went down pretty easy after that. Why fight fair if you don't have too. right?"

The other vamp rubbed his chin. "He got in a few good shots."

"Heh, we got in more."

The Nordic Master scowled at the twitching lackey. "I thought I told you-"

"Yeah, yeah, no drugs tonight. I'm clean man, I just brought a little for the after-party." The ill hid fear on the vamps face said he'd been a bad vampire, and had a good bit of his own special blend running through his system. "Anyway's shouldn't we be concentrating on the-" He kicked Angel in the ribs, "Happy peeper?"

Cordelia blanched, her stomach seemingly plunging to her feet, as fear made her insides want to crawl into the darkest corner of the club and hide. She glanced at Spike who was listening to the entire exchange with feigned disinterest. He'd never met Angel while under chemical influence. Maybe- at least she fervently hoped that whatever those vampires had shot him up with was a depressant, and not a happy drug. She eyed Angel's captors, the way that squirrelly little vamp was bouncing around....

They were definitely screwed.

Angel groaned and shook his head, obviously feeling the effects of the drugs as he began to come round. Cordy could see the steady rise and fall of his chest, something he only did when he was really happy, or really upset. She supposed their odds were even, and wondered which side of the coin toss their asses had landed on this time. Experience made her fear for the worst.

Angel's head snapped up, surprising his captors. He searched the room frantically, eyes locking with hers as soon as he homed in on her. There was a world of pain behind dark brown irises, and something she rarely saw in Angel- fear. "Cordelia...." he rasped. "RUN!"

Yep, screwed, and she doubted they'd be getting a kiss afterwards. Angel was a fighter, but this was one battle that she knew he wouldn't win. Spike was looking back and forth between them, but this was a fight going on inside Angel that no soulless being would ever understand or appreciate, not even an exceptional one like Spike.

She sent Angel all the supportive vibes she could, but she couldn't do a damn thing for him now except be there to help pick up the pieces when it was over and hope like hell he didn't kill anybody, especially her. The way her knees were wobbling and her muscles turning to Jell-O meant her instincts knew exactly who Angelus would focus his attacks on, even if her mind was fighting to deny it.

They *so* needed to get the hell out of there.

Angel broke eye-contact. His head dropped back down as he sagged between his captors. Cordelia slowly began to back away, dragging Spike with her. Unfortunately, the vamp from her vision hadn't missed the exchange between her and Angel. With a wave of his hand, their escape route was suddenly blocked by two bouncer sized vamps with guns. Her heart-rate soared until she thought it might pound right through her chest and run off without her.

"Balls," Spike swore, his blue eyes snapping with annoyance, "What the bleeding hell is going on!" Cordy understood Spike was annoyed that Angel had blown their cover, but she didn't spare the energy to worry about it. They weren't dealing with just a pack of bloodthirsty vampires anymore. There was only one bloodthirsty vampire she was worried about, one whose face that still paid occasional visits to her nightmares.... She simply jerked her chin in Angel's direction. He had fallen to his knees, his shoulders shaking with silent laughter.

"You want the cliff notes version? Just look at him." Cordy said. The big vamp from her vision was looking curiously back and forth between her and Angel, clearly impatient to get to the root of their little drama before the killing began. She didn't need to be a vampire to smell the fear coming off the other humans in the club. She struggled, trying to control her own rising panic. She wouldn't do anyone any good by running and screaming like a schoolgirl.

Sometimes her job really sucked.

Angel raised his head slowly, gaze locking with Spike's for the space of a heartbeat before sliding over to caress Cordy from head to toe. "Hey baby," he all but purred, "Miss me?"

Beside her, Spike sucked in a tiny, startled breath of air. Her mind flashed back to Doyle's parting words to Angel. "You never know yourself until you were tested," he'd said, just before he'd sacrificed himself in Angel's place. Cordy had been tested repeatedly since Doyle's death, with the visions, the demonization, and just by trying to keep their ragtag family together after Wesley's attempted kidnapping of Connor. Somehow she knew, deep down, that she could face Angelus.

Her face scrunched into a hopeful expression. "Would you kill me if I said no?"

He chuckled. "I'll kill you no matter what you say, Cor."

Her shoulders slumped dejectedly. "I thought so."

Spike watched his grandsire watching Cordy. She'd said to look at him, and it took him a moment, but then he saw it. With Angel it was all in the eyes. He was still the same monster, his strength and bloodlust lying dormant under smooth pale skin and still chest. The difference was that Angel eyes possessed the warmth of his soul. The one thing that changed dead brown into something rich with pain, guilt, life and love. Angel could push his soul down deep until one look told you he was something dangerous, inhuman, but he never could quite kill the spark, the flash of guilt -that extra something- that marked him as cursed among his kind.

There was nothing now but death behind his eyes.

"Angelus," he breathed. The other Master's eyes widened with surprise at the name. Spike didn't care. He didn't care about the people that were fixing to die. His focus narrowed down to the vampires at his back, the human at his side, and the knowing smirk on Angelus face. He had to get Cordelia out of here.

"Angelus?" the blonde Master queried. "I've heard of you. I thought you had died years ago." He cocked his head and studied Angel with renewed interest. "Why were you spying on me?"

Angelus only had eyes for Cordy. He shrugged, indifferent to the other vampires questions. "I wasn't here for you," he answered simply.

The Master nodded, deducing the obvious. "The human female, you were hunting her?"

"Not exactly, but close enough." He glanced up at the two vamps still holding him. "You know that I'm going to kill you, right?" He shifted heavily then let out a frustrated grunt, "Just as soon as I can feel my legs."

The Master laughed, a great booming sound that made just about everyone, demons included, start in surprise. "There will be plenty of killing tonight without resorting to harming those in my crew. Look around you Angelus. Our brothers have become weak, feeding on the willing, forming relationships with their food. It is sickening....this bestiality. Some of our brothers have forgotten the taste of human's blood laced with mortal fear."

"Oooh, preach it brother!" Angelus mocked, earning a glare from the Master. Angelus flashed him a shit eating grin, "Hey, just agreeing here, it's been ages since I've had a decent drink."

"You drink from the willing?" the Master asked, genuinely surprised.

Cordelia closed her eyes and concentrated on just breathing. She drew on the strength and lessons of nearly three years of constant battles to still her trembling limbs and slow her pounding heart. She drew on Angel's training to set her body into a loose but defensive position. She relied the unfamiliar pulse of power that was now a part of her to put force behind her attack. She drew on the high-school bitch that she had been to wall off her terror until the battle was over and Angel was once again the man she knew and trusted.

Spike sidled up a little closer to Cordelia, his hand brushing hers. She jerked, then settled, lacing her fingers through his and giving his hand a hard squeeze. Spike noted with pride, the high jut of her chin and thin set line of her mouth. He sniffed the air but the scent of her fear had faded and her heart had slowed to an almost steady rhythm. The cheerleader had become a warrior. He bet none of her friends in Sunny-D would recognize the strength that now resided behind her sparkling hazel eyes. She was ready, now they just needed a plan.

The two vampires behind them didn't stop Spike from touching her, but he seriously doubted they would let him reach into his pockets where several stakes lay hidden. Years spent with his grandsire gave him insight into Angelus' actions that the unfamiliar vampires lacked. Spike sensed the time for action was near. Angelus would be all the distraction he and Cordy would need.... If they were quick. He gave her hand two sharp squeezes and let her go.

Angelus grimaced, "Worse, and if I had more time, I'd tell you all about it, but I'm sort of on the clock here, so-" He swept the larger of the two lackey's off his feet, snapping his wrist to release his spring-loaded stake from it's wristband. He drove his hand down hard, cracking the heavy vampires sternum, piercing the heart. "Maybe I'll give you a call, we could meet for coffee and corpses...." He grabbed the second vamp by his skinny little ankle. "Leaving so soon? I'm hurt -well okay- not really." He yanked the reedy vampire down and punched him in the face. "Maybe I'll kill all of you instead, and keep all these tasty folks for myself. I mean who gives a fuck if some vamps like to play with their food?"

"Stay put," he growled and slowly rose to his feet. "I want to talk to you later." A short black vampire took a defensive position in front of the Master, an ancient and deadly Katana raised to the ready position. Angelus grinned. He circled his prey. After so many years hunting his own kind it felt natural, comfortable, but there was other more desirable prey on his mind.

Cordy's smell was driving him wild, and with the leash off he was free to act on desires that his conscience kept buried deep. He wanted to bash and rend and sully the girl, leave a pretty mess for his soul to deal with if he couldn't find a way to make this drug induced freedom permanent.

As soon as Angelus had made his move, Spike whipped around, digging a stake out of his pocket and staking the vampire behind him in one smooth motion. He tossed a stake to Cordy, who had reared back and mule kicked her goon in the knee. She then spun and hit him in the face with the heel of her hand, angling her blow up, driving his nose cartilage into his brain.

Spike winced, on a human that move would have been fatal. Cordelia caught the stake and drove it home, grimacing and shaking the dust off her skin. She picked up the dead vampires crossbow, and jerked her head towards the crowd of humans.

"I'll get them out, you take care of Eric the Viking over there." Spike turned to jump into the fight that had already begun between the two master vampires and the swordsman, but Cordy's voice stopped him. "Wait! Whatever he does, you can't kill him. Spike, you have to promise me...."

"Luv, you know who he is. I have to," he argued, incredulous that she'd even ask. He spun round, hearing the sound of tables breaking.

She had to know she was wasting precious time, but she grabbed him by the arm and jerked him back around, her tone insistent. "NO! You don't understand. This has happened before, and it's only temporary. Whatever that little crap-weasel gave him is making him behave like's still Angel. You *can't* kill him, no matter what!"

Understanding hit like a clear shaft of sunlight. He tried to back away. "Oh no- NO- no bleedin' way, luv." He wasn't even sure why it mattered so much to him, but having spent the last two years on the outskirts of the Scooby's knowing that none of them truly cared whether he came or went, he wasn't going to watch Cordelia willingly allow Angelus to destroy her. Cordelia had let him in to her home, to her circle of friends. They didn't really know each other, not yet, but the promise was there and that meant more to him than she could ever imagine.

Cordy's eyes went brittle, her fingers digging painfully into his skin. "Listen to me you little co-"

"Fuck that, Cordelia! You think that soddin' idiot wouldn't do the same? If he hurts you, he's dead.... If he kills you- I'm staking him, and pissing in his ashes, you hear!" He wrenched his arm from her grip. "If he kills you, he'd be walking into the sunshine as soon as he got his soul back anyway, so don't you dare ask me to spare him!" He pushed her away from him, anger coiling in his gut like a clenched fist. "Now, get those people out of here before this becomes a bloodbath!"

Spike took a few long running steps and jumped into the fray.

Cordelia was seething inside, but one thing Spike was right about. The humans had to go. She ran to the bartender, a tall muscle-bound man, who was just beginning to lean more to the side of flab than flex. "You got a back door?" she snapped. He tore his eyes away from the brawl that was quickly demolishing his club. "Yeah but it's no good....they got it covered."

"By how many vamps?" She barked impatiently.

"Two, I think."

Her shoulders tensed as she considered her options. She had to get these people out, but she couldn't leave Angel. She wondered where the hell Wes and Gunn were. She held up the crossbow. "You know how to use one of these?"

The bartender rolled his eyes. "Sure, but the second vampire would kill me before I got the bolt reloaded," he hedged.

Cordy just huffed and shoved the butt of the crossbow into his gut. "How many people do you have standing here?" She turned on the crowd, "Jeeze folks, you let them suck all on you and *now* your scared? Get the hell over it! There's like twenty or so guys that I see, to one vampire. Some of you *are* vampires even if you are losers. I think you can take them so get a move on....GO!" she shouted, herding them towards the back.

Angel dodged a lethal down-sweep and ducked under an attempt at decapitation. He twisted to the inside, grabbing the swordfighters wrist pushing it and the sword back to knock the other vamp in the face. The startled vampire loosened his hold on the sword and Angel took advantage, ripping it from his hands. He twirled it with a flourish and cut the other vamps head off.

He admired Spike's fighting while the dust settled, grateful that Spike had kept the odds even. One sleeve had been torn from his mesh shirt leaving the arm bare, while the rest of his torso was marginally hidden behind the see-through material. Spike fought dirty, like always, gouging at the Masters eyes, kicking, biting, and yelling.

Angelus remembered all too well how Spike would struggle to gain the advantage over a bigger man. In Angelus' case, Spike always ended up the looser.... He'd picked up some skills since then. The thought of testing those skills had him hard and ready, or would have if the thought of tasting Cordy's blood tonight didn't already have him so hard it was painful. Life was suddenly looking very good. He eyed the little junkie still cowering on the floor. He hoped he could find a way to keep it that way.

First he had some business to attend to while Spike was occupied.

Spike grunted as another punch connected with his ribs. He bent over, feigning injury, only to lunge, spearing the Master, throwing his entire weight into the effort to knock the other vampire down. It only staggered him back a few steps. It also pissed him off. The Viking threw Spike into a table, striding over to a case to pull out a huge, heavy, sharp axe. The Master caught his eye and smiled wickedly.

Spike gave him the two fingered salute.

With a roar the big Viking charged. Spike let him come, using his legs to flip the bigger man over. He hopped up and brushed himself off. "A berserker, eh? Isn't that just another term for someone who can't hold their- oh shit!" He ducked as the axe flew over his head and buried itself in the wall behind him. He laughed, jumping up and grabbing the axe, but it was stuck fast.

The Viking recovered and charged again, picking Spike up and crushing him into the wall. Spike punched him repeatedly in the face, but the bigger vamp only reared back and punched him so hard his vision went gray. He thought now would have been a great time for Angel to lend a hand, but Angelus had disappeared. Cold dread chased away the cobwebs in his brain. While he was stuck dicking around, Angelus was free to run wild. With a defiant roar, Spike began to attack with unrestrained fury....

The bartender had been right, there were only two vampires guarding the exit. He had charged around the corner and shot one with impressive accuracy. The only problem was the one that was left standing was the vampire with the Uzi. A rain of bullets scattered the club patrons, and had the bartender pinned against the far wall.

Cordelia had about had it. Wes and Gunn were nowhere to be found, and the non-violent vampires were running back into the club, leaving the humans who had been their willing feasts to be shot at. She peeked around the corner, getting a glimpse of the vampire slipping another clip into his gun. With a set, determined face, she marched up to about three good sized vampires who were back by the bar.

"What the hell is your problem Nimrods! Bullets won't kill you, now get your asses over there and take out that gunvamp!"

The bravest of the three shook his head. "No way, bullets still hurt like hell. You want to get out of here so bad, then you take him out." The others crossed their arms and nodded their assent.

Cordelia gasped, her eyes flashed with indignation. "You are telling *me* no?" She picked up a barstool swung it round and broke it over the counter. Wood splinters flew everywhere making the three vamps yelp. She picked up a handful of good-sized pieces and shoved them into the dumfounded vampires hands. She pinned all three under a glare that had their testicles scrambling to draw up in their bodies.

"These stupid people come in here night after night to be your chow. It's sick, and it's gross, but that's what they want, so we let them do it....*your* food supply is in trouble and you *will* get in there and stake that gun toting psycho or so help me, I will stake you myself, right here and now."

"Huh?" The spokes-vamp grunted, confused. Cordy's flashing eyes narrowed, her grip tightening on her stake. All three vamps took a step back.

A low chuckle startled them. Cordy turned to see Angelus behind her, the blonde bimbo from earlier at his side. His arm was wrapped casually around her waist, but her eyes said her being there was anything but willing.

"You see, you have to ask yourself which is scarier- A gun toting zealot, or Cordelia Chase when she's pissed and in full-on bitch mode." He grinned at Cordelia and pulled the blonde tightly to his body. She let out a little terror filled squeak. "I know which one I'd be afraid of...."

Cordy's knees were shaking, her throat dry. She didn't want to die for the bimbo. Anyone but her would have been okay, but not the stupid, drunk, blonde, bimbo. She whirled around to the vamps, hating to put her back to Angel but refusing to show him her fear. "Well?" she asked them flatly.

The three vampires looked nervously between themselves and her. "We'll take our chances with the Uzi." They ran to the back of the club and after a moment there was a flurry of gunfire then- silence. She waited until she saw the other people and vampires rushing towards the exit before turning back around to face her own worst fear.

He was still standing there, watching her curiously, while he absently fondled the terrified woman's neck. He smiled. "You are the only person I have ever met that could intimidate a vampire."

She smirked. "Are you speaking from personal experience?"

His features shifted slightly and his playful smile turned cold. "I like strength in a woman. It makes them more fun to break. Of course Darla here-" he snickered. "Imagine that, Cor, such a coincidence don't you think? Darla is weak, needy, addicted....worthless." His lips curved into a sadistic smirk as they brushed the other woman's ear, "Aren't you Darla?"

"Y-Ye-Yes." She trembled under his light caresses. "I am w-worth-worthless- sure. P-please I'll do whatever you want." Her lower lip quivered, and her eyes shown with useless hope as Cordy watched Angelus toy with her. "D-Do you want a-a taste?"

"Oh Darla," Angelus breathed dipping low to suckle her neck. "Why stop at just a taste?"

"Don't do it." Cordy pleaded.

"Or what? Are you going to stop me?" He laughed derisively. "I don't think so, but enjoy the show because- you're next."

Without another word, Angel sank his fangs deep into his captive's throat.

"No!" Cordy shrieked, taking a few steps closer. After taking a few more swallows Angel slowly lifted his head and blinked at her, his expression as innocent as a child's. Blood was smeared across his lips and dripping down his chin.

"Oh, come on Cor. No one is going to miss Darla here, she's already used up." He brushed the woman's hair out of the way, showing the many old scars underneath his fresh bite. Darla's eyes were brimming with unshed tears as they pleaded silently with Cordelia. Maybe it was her demon, but suddenly Cordelia knew- she could see this woman's life laid bare in her watery eyes, like a long empty road, she could see both where she had come from and where she was headed. Darla believed Angelus, but only because she had felt that way for a long time. Cordelia could also see a hidden strength, something that Darla herself had long since believed she'd dumped by the roadside, abandoned and forgotten. "There's hardly enough left of her to make a good snack." Angel leaned down, baring his fangs.

"Wait." Cordy said, softly. Angelus hesitated, watching her with undisguised curiosity. Cordy licked her lips nervously. She could do this, even if it was for the bimbo. "Even trade."

Angelus cocked his head, expression amused. "Excuse me?"

"You heard me." Cordy kept her voice steady. She sounded a hell of a lot more confident than she felt.

"She's not worth it." Angelus replied seriously. "Let me have her, Cor." He rubbed his cheek along Darla's, eliciting a high pitched keen from her. "She wants it, hell she was practically begging for it all night. Look at her, Come on! Take a *good* look at her!" Angel shoved the woman forward, keeping a firm grip on her neck. Darla moaned, terrified gibberish pouring from her lips. "You can't tell me her life is worth more than yours." She squeezed her eyes shut, blocking out everything but Angelus. She couldn't focus on Darla, or she'd loose it.

Hazel eyes locked with dead brown. "It is to me." She took another step forward. "Let her go, and I won't try and run."

"Promise?" The predatory gleam in his eye told her that he didn't believe her, and wouldn't mind the chase.

Cordelia took a deep breath. "Yes."

"Okay," he shoved Darla towards Cordelia. The woman took one wobbly step and collapsed at Cordelia's feet, clutching at her ankles and sobbing with relief. Without taking her eyes off of Angelus she knelt, prying the hysterical woman off of her shoes.

"Listen to me Darla. I'm only going to say this once. You are not some worthless piece of trash. I don't care what your daddy did to you, or what your mamma told you. You are worth more than this. You have a good head for numbers, and are really good at organizing things, right?"

Shocked out of her hysteria,the other woman sniffled, wiping her eyes with the heels of her hands. "What? How do you know about-?"

Cordy grabbed the other woman's shoulders and gave her one good shake. "Shut up. It doesn't matter, I just know. What does matter is that you are never going to set foot in one of these places again. You are going to march out that door, and never look back. Come Monday, you are going to enroll into night school and you are going to clean yourself up, go to school and get your life together. If you EVER let another vampire within thirty feet of your neck, I'll know."

The woman's expression had shuttered and gone defensive. "You can't stop me. You can't make me do anything."

Cordelia finally tore her gaze from Angelus' laughing eyes and fixed Darla with a cold hard stare. "You're right, you ungrateful bitch, but I *can* send him after you."

Angelus laughed, striding over to squat beside them. "You'd better listen to her. She's just enough of a hard-ass to go through with it. Of course, she'll be dead before the night is over, but I bet her ghost could nag me until I caved. So you go and do what she said, and remember. she gave her life for yours. Now you just have to go about deserving it...." He shoved Darla towards the door, sending the woman sprawling. She scuttled towards the exit. Angel wrapped his hand around Cordy's wrist, standing and jerking her to her feet. "Well, I've done my good deed for the millennium."

"Don't hold your breath waiting for a thank you." Cordy snapped.

"I wouldn't dream of it." Angel swept her into a tight embrace, fingers tangling in her hair as he pulled her into a searing, bruising kiss. Cordy tried to push him away, but he pinned her to him, pressing his taught body flush as his blood-slicked tongue slid in alongside hers. She gagged and beat at him with her fists, but that only seemed to spur him on. He fucked her mouth with his tongue, the blood on his lips smeared across hers as he ate at her mouth hungrily. One hand kept her head where he wanted it as the other slid down her back and over her ass, pulling her into his erection. She refused to react or kiss him back, and the next time his tongue slipped between her teeth, she bit down, hard.

She felt muscle tear, and the copper tang of fresh blood. Angel reared back with a hiss. His eyes darkened with desire and anger. He took a short step back and then backhanded her. Cordy felt her world go black and then she was slamming into the bar. Without thought her hand closed around a splinter of wood from the broken barstool. Her legs wouldn't support her, however, so instead of turning to fight, she sank bonelessly to the floor. She heard the sound of growling behind her, and slowly, painfully turned towards the sound. She touched a tooth with her tongue and found it lose.

"That's the second time today you've refused my kiss." He touched his fingers to his lips, as if still slightly incredulous that she had resisted.


Cordelia coughed and spit a stringy mass of blood and spit on the floor. "What can I say, Angelus? You're a horrible kisser." Her mouth twisted up into her singular trademark smirk. "Xander makes you look like an amateur. You'd think with two hundred and fifty years of practice, you'd have picked up a few skills, but-" she shrugged. "Now Spike- that's a vamp that knows how to use his tongue."

Angelus shook his finger at her, as if he were scolding a petulant child. "You'll pay for that." He ran his hands down his chest towards his crotch. Her eyes dropped. Too late, she realized that was exactly what he had wanted her to do. "Fight me all you want, Cor, I like a girl with spirit, makes me feel all manly while I'm raping her."

"Whatever." Cordy answered, dully trying to wrap her mind around the fact that her best friend was sporting a monster hard on and threatening her with it.

"Don't pretend your not afraid." Angelus warned.

She scowled at him as she gripped the edge of the bar and struggled to stand on unsteady feet. "I'm terrified, you happy?" She faced him, elbows resting on the bar behind her. It was a deceptively casual pose. She wasn't sure if she could stand without the solid wood at her back for support. Angelus closed the distance between them, but he didn't pounce this time. He simply stood about a foot in front of her and studied her.

"No." Angelus finally answered.

Maybe Cordy's mind was still foggy from being bitchslapped across the room, but Angelus' answer threw her. "Why the hell not?" she barked. Killing her should have damn well made him happy, and as insane as it sounded, she was indignant that he would insist otherwise. If he said it was because she wasn't Buffy, she didn't care if Angelus was only temporary, she'd stake him herself. Mainly, she just wanted to keep him talking until the cavalry arrived.

Angelus actually stuck out his lip in a very real pout, his finger raising to trace the contour of her neck, and then slide across her shoulder and down her arm. Cordy simply kept up the steely glare. "There are so many things I want to do to you. I mean, there's the blood drinking, torture, and the raping, and more torture, more raping, more blood, a little more with the torture-"

"OKAY!" Cordy interrupted. "I get it. Drink, rape and torture, that's pretty much the vampire M.O." She shied away when he brushed a knuckle against the plump swell of her barely-covered breast. "Whatever happened to originality? How many times can the same story be fresh? Why don't you try for comedy instead?"

"I happen to think killing you will be hilarious." He grinned, nailing her with a wet, bloody kiss on her lips. "It'll be one of my best performances yet."

"Pfft." She rolled her eyes, ignoring the urge to puke, garnering a light but stinging slap from Angelus.

"I don't like it when you mock me." His tone instantly lightened. "Now, where was I? Right, I don't have time to do all three, and even if I were to attempt two, I don't want to be half-assed about it, so I figure I only have time to really do one thing right before the drug wears off, or someone shows up to rescue you. Raping you would be fun, really, but in the long run, it's all about what would be best for the soul."

Angelus closed the distance between them, once more pressing himself fully against her. "So, killing you it is." He stated with a wicked gleam in his eye. "I just want to taste you first. I can't kill you without having one last kiss." He sighed, "The sacrifices I make for my soul's suffering. None of you ever give me enough credit." He leaned down and kissed her neck tenderly, like a lover would.

"Yeah," she scoffed. "You're a real unsung hero-" Her retort was cut off by his lips covering hers. Except for the fact that both their faces were now smeared with blood, it was a damn good kiss, even Cordy would have to agree, though she'd die before she admitted it. Angelus kissed her gently, reverently, keeping his tongue in his mouth, and focusing instead on giving each lip equal attention as he sucked lightly at her skin. His hands wandered down her side, sneaking around to cup her breasts. He groaned pressing his erection against her stomach. He trailed a thin line of red across her cheek as he kissed his way towards her ear, biting down on the delicate skin as he hooked his hand under her knee and pulled her leg up over his hip, bringing them into the most intimate of contact.

Cordelia responded as he rocked himself against her heat. One hand wrapped around his neck, trying to force him to end his teasing kisses and give her something to fuel the fire he'd ignited in her belly. She blocked out the now sickly taste of Darla's blood, as she ran her tongue along his bottom lip, nipping and sucking until he opened up to her. She licked the blood off his teeth, sparking something deep inside Angel's demon. His hands traveled up to grip her shoulders with bruising force, as she rubbed his back in a soothing, familiar pattern and explored the cool cavern of his mouth the way she'd always wanted to. Angelus pulled back panting and stared, completely floored that she would respond to his advances with such passion. She let him see it, hiding nothing, caught up in the moment.

"Cordelia?" he whispered. He was off guard, his soft parts exposed to attack.

"Angelus." she answered, her voice breathless. She acted before the thought could be read in her face, slamming the stake into his gut and jerking it up, trying to rend as much of his torso as her strength would allow. She felt splinters digging deep into her palm but she kept pulling. Angelus features twisted in pain, surprise and then complete and utter rage. Cordy's mind flashed back to the alley, only the night before, when he'd pushed her against the wall and pinned her there.

Angel had warned her that he was his monster. Cordelia got that, and had for a very long time. The difference, the thing that Angel never seemed to acknowledge, was that Angelus could never be Angel. He didn't have a conscience, didn't understand the word mercy. He picked her up one handed as the other clutched at the gaping hole she'd torn into his belly. By some stroke of luck she had managed to hold on to her sharp sliver of wood, and she swiped at his face with it. He jerked away, but she managed to slice his cheek open.

He let go of his intestines and grabbed her arm. It was slick with his blood, and she almost was able to jerk it free. His grip tightened until she felt bone grinding against bone, and then they both heard something snap. Cordelia screamed. Angelus threw her across the room before sinking to his knees.

Cordelia curled herself around her broken, useless wrist. She lay panting, bruised and dazed but Angelus hadn't beaten her yet. His face had changed as he roared at her in pain and frustration. She grinned, an insane urge to laugh in his face bubbling to the surface. She gave in to it. His eyes glittered gold, but there was a new wariness in them that had never been there before. "I'm going to kill you, you fucking cunt!" he snarled.

"Big words, baby-man, but it's *your* guts leaking all over the floor, not mine." she boasted.

He panted, his words coming out in a gasping breathless rush, "I just wanted to make it nice for you, in honor of all you had come to mean to me. You are the first-" He winced, shoving bits of something back into his chest cavity. "You are the first person who ever accepted Angel for everything he was, including me. Is this the thanks I get?"

"Excuse me for not wanting to die, you asshole!" she hissed. "I think I like you better when you don't talk so much." She pushed herself up to a sitting position, watching Angelus as he slowly crawled towards her. "You are so gonna get it when your soul gets back."

Angelus tried to laugh, but it came out in a pained cough. "I thought you didn't blame the soul for my actions. If I have to spend the next -however long until you die- listening to you bitch at me for every single bad thing I've ever done, then stake me now." Angelus was close. Cordelia began to scoot away.

Angelus lunged, despite the searing pain in his abdomen, and snagged Cordy by the ankle. "Ah, ah, Cor. I believe I was fixing to kill you while you were stalling for time." He yanked her foot, sending her sliding over the rough boards of the floor. He straddled her, his weight pushing her bruised and scraped body flat. "As entertaining as this little interlude was. I think it's time for you to die."

Chapter 5

Angelus kneed her legs apart, and lay down on top of her. Cordy searched Angelus' eyes frantically, hoping against hope that some spark of Angel remained. She only saw the certainty of her death. "No more games, baby," he whispered as he grabbed her chin and forced her neck to the side. "You know why I'm doing this, don't you?" he murmured as he licked her neck.

She closed her eyes, blocking out the sight of his face, identical to the man she loved, only covered in dried blood. "Because you're a prick with the penis the size of a pinky?" she spit.

"Good one, Cor." Angelus chuckled, pleased with her defiance. One hand, locked both her wrists above her head, eliciting a groan of pain out of Cordy. The other hand slid down her side and across her belly, settling over her mons. "We both know that's not true." His fingers stroked seductively over her shorts pressing into her clitoris, teasing it through the fabric. She bit her lip and turned her head away. "Angel loves you Cordelia. My soul loves you completely, and I -want- you. We both already consider you ours." He shrugged. "I hate his happiness." Cordelia felt his body shudder. His cold breath tickled her ear as his tongue traced the delicate shell. "I hate his happiness so much, that I am going to destroy any chance for him to ever find it again." He kissed her lips one last time, his demon visage returning. "Say goodnight, sweetheart."

With preternatural speed, Angelus bared her neck and bit into her throat. Cordy gasped at the agonizing invasion, her body going rigid as Angelus began to drink. His whole body spasmed against her, his erection digging painfully into her hip, even as the pain in her extremities began to fade. Without being conscious of her actions, she wrapped her arms around him and accepted his embrace. She was suddenly so very tired.... The weight of Angel's body seemed to disappear leaving only a dull ache in her neck. She reached up, fingering the bite.... if she could touch the bite, then that meant there wasn't a vampire attached to it. Where did he go?

Slowly, Cordy opened her eyes. Blue eyes swam into focus. She could see his lips moving but it was as if the words had gotten lost behind the roar of the Niagara Falls in her head. She blinked at the other set of eyes. Once, twice, the third time, she noticed the rest of the face. "Spike?" she mouthed, finding that trying to force air through her esophagus was a very bad thing. Spike bent low trying to catch her words.

"What is it, Cordy? Hey, hey now- don't you dare die on me. Come on you bloody bitch, stay awake! We have to get you out of here, you hear me? Fight it!" She lifted her arm, amused by the way it swayed drunkenly. She frowned, dropping it onto Spike's forearm, and pulling weakly, signaling that she had something very important to tell him. "Eh, luv, what?" He bent over her, ear close to her mouth.

"Look out," she managed to whisper, feeling quite proud of herself. Spike pulled back, just in time for his skull to meet the barstool swung by a very pissed off Angelus.

"That's my kill!" Angelus snapped as Spike flew across the room.


Spike was getting pretty damn tired of being knocked into walls. He spit blood and sneered at his grandsire. "You swing like a girl."

Erik the Viking, or whomever the hell the Master had been was a pile of dust now. It didn't mean he hadn't beat the ever-living-shit out of Spike before he'd managed to stake him. Spike had used his speed and the other vamps blind rage to his advantage, dodging the mighty swings of his battle axe and getting in whatever punches and kicks that he could.

The vampire had wasted a lot of Spike's precious time. He knew that Angelus had gone after Cordelia, but the hammer-fisted master kept him cornered on one side of the club.

He'd stumbled, quite literally, over the vampire-gangs weapons bag and come up with a crossbow in his hands. The master had dodged the first bolt, but not the second. Before the dust could even settle, the little Junkie that had started the whole mess was running towards the door. Spike shot him in the back, sparing no more time to interrogate the little shit. Cordy seemed to know what the deal was, and any further problems were now solved.

That left one very big problem still to go.... Angelus. He had no clue how long Angelus had till his drug induced freedom wore off. He simply hoped that he wasn't too late to save Cordelia. He could have sworn he'd felt his heart lurch for one painful beat when he saw Angelus on top of her, drinking her, while she fisted her hands into the torn fabric at his side.

Spike didn't think, couldn't- he grabbed a pool-stick and just reacted, swinging the stick in a deadly arc that would have shamed Babe Ruth or Barry Bonds. The wood splintered as it connected with the back of Angel's neck. The big vamp immediately dropped and Spike kicked him away. He kneeled beside Cordelia, frantically feeling for a pulse. For a panicked second, he felt nothing, then he realized his fingers were in the wrong spot. By that time, her eyelids fluttered and she reached up to feel the bite on her neck.

He could have kissed her. He'd known from the get-go that Cordy was a tough broad. Now she just had to hang on. Her eyes finally connected with his, her pupils dilated to the point that her eyes looked black. He bent over, trying to catch her whispered words.

"What is it, Cordy? Hey, hey now- don't you dare die on me. Come on you bloody bitch, stay awake! We have to get you out of here, you hear me? Fight it!" She lifted her arm, Spike scowled as it swayed for a moment, then dropped onto his forearm, pulling weakly, signaling for him to come closer. "Eh, luv, what?" He bent over her, ear close to her mouth.

"Look out," she finally whispered. Spike pulled back, just in time for his skull to meet the barstool swung by a very pissed off Angelus.

"That's my kill!" Angelus snapped as Spike flew across the room.

Angelus loomed over him, dragging him up by his throat to pin him, one handed against the wall. Spike glanced down, noticing Angelus' torn belly for the first time. "Cordy did that?" He tried to kick out, managing to catch Angelus in the thigh, but the bigger vampire hung on. "Go team good-guys!" Spike mocked. Angelus just growled and Spike popped him in the nose.

Angelus dropped him, keeping one hand pressed to his wounded gut, but returned the favor with a vicious punch of his own. He grabbed Spike by the shirtsleeve, and Spike felt it begin to tear. He yanked his arm away, wiggling out of the sleeve and dancing away from his grandsire. Spike swiped at the blood trickling from his nose and grinned. "I always did fancy this shirt would be better sleeveless. So is that all you've got? You finally get out and you let a soddin' human rough you up?" He laughed. "You really are a wanker."

"What about you?" Angelus taunted. "You're letting yourself be psychoanalyzed by Cordelia. Talk about the blind leading the blind. She would have been dead already if it hadn't of been for you. Looks like the "Big Bad" is still nothing but a pathetic, scared, schoolboy after all." He stood a little straighter. Cordelia's blood was working it's magic, healing him faster than pigsblood ever could. "You don't even feed off of humans any-more do you, William? Since when did you become Dudley Dooright?"

Spike took an uncertain step back, unsure of how to respond without spilling confidences he'd sworn to keep. Angelus took it as a sign of weakness and went in for the kill. His tone dropped, the demon speaking directly through long dead vocal chords, "I think it's been too long since you've been taught a lesson, boy."

That voice, those words- A hundred moments flew through Spikes mind, a thousand images and impressions burned behind his retina's and across his skin. Sire, Master, possessor, dominance, pain- Angelus forcing William to take his thick cock in his mouth, learning on threat of torture how best to please his grandsire. Being wedged apart, torn and bled as Angelus filled him, humiliated him, fucked him. Finding a rising darkness within himself that embraced the pain, learned from it, took pleasure in it.

It also brought his relationship with Buffy into sudden sharp focus. Spike had found another Angelus in her, a matching chasm of pure black that ran through her soul. A mirrored need to lift their own fragile egos up over the broken backs of beings they deemed lesser. Her resurrection hadn't created the darkness, as she liked to believe.

The trauma of her hellish rebirth had only brought the potential closer to the surface. Spike had tried to shutter out the last of the light that Buffy so desperately clung to in the hopes that she would open up and he could loose himself in her inner abyss. He had been her willing supplicant, allowing her to break him again and again and again, because deep in his own unbeating heart, he believed it was his due.

Spike looked at Cordelia, struggling to sit up, blood still leaking from her neck. Was she his mirror? He couldn't reconcile the sassy independent woman with his own broken persona. She would die before she allowed Angelus to own her. Angelus was advancing, but Spike only had eyes for Cordy. He could see her thoughts plainly written across her features. She expected him to fight, to beat back his own demons and face the biggest, baddest, and scariest demon of them all.

Spike always had been a sucker for a pretty face.

His lips slowly twisted into his trademark smirk. Angelus was almost on him, but despite the fear that made his innards want to crawl up his throat and run away, he was curiously at peace. He might get buggered tonight, and there was a good chance he would be a pile of dust before the sun rose, but he was going to face the possibility on his own terms, fist and fang, sod all else. He'd told Buffy he'd found his rocks, only to let her stomp all over them. It was about time he quit trying to live down to everyone's expectations of failure. It was high time he lived up to his own hype.

With a rebel yell Spike charged, meeting Angelus head on.

Spikes unexpected charge momentarily stunned Angelus. He was used to him backing down once Spike had felt his point had been made. He realized his mistake as the smaller vamp tackled him to the floor. This wasn't some pissing contest where Spike would get under his skin, maybe take a few hits, just to revel in the fact that he could get a rise out of his grandsire. Spike was out for blood, his blood, and he'd lost enough due to Cordelia's shenanigans already. He rolled, letting his shoulder absorb some of the fall, using their combined momentum to throw Spike off of him. They both regained their feet, and immediately lunged for each other.

Spike fought dirty, kicking and biting, one hand tangled in Angelus' leather duster as the other found his healing stomach wound and proceeded to try and rip it back open. As soon as Angel let him go to grab his hand, Spike hit him with a series of vicious punches. Angelus crouched under the blows, reaching up, grabbing any part of Spike that he could get a hold of and lifting.

He slammed the other vamp against the bar, using his larger form to pin him there. Spike elbowed Angelus in the throat, but Angelus ignored the pain and instant gag reflex, grabbing Spike's arm and twisting it viciously behind him. Spike cried out, trying to push away from the edge of the bar, but Angel shoved him right back into it, exerting enough pressure on Spike's arm that he was surprised he hadn't broken it yet.

Angelus adapted his plans on the fly. He really wanted to kill Cordy, but re-breaking Spike could be almost as fun, especially with Cordelia here to watch. He smirked as Spike bucked beneath him, the blonde cussed, spit, and struggled, but Angelus had him in a submission hold. The little bastard wasn't going anywhere in the near future.

"Ah, poor Spikey, once again we get to see just how inferior you are." He shoved Spikes head into the counter. "I should have made Dru kill you once I saw what a sorry excuse for a vampire you made." He shrugged, glancing at Cordy who was attempting to stand on wobbly knees. "It's not surprising, really. You should have seen him Cor, he actually wanted to turn his mommy, so he could hide behind her skirts for eternity."

He leaned close, whispering in Spikes ear. "I'd have loved to have been there to see the look on Dru's face- the way she laughed about it, for months afterwards when I made love to her. She would sing songs and make up all kinds of nonsense about her "momma's boy" It's no wonder she could never really love you."

That spurred a brief flurry of struggles from Spike, but Angelus was simply bigger and stronger. As long as Angelus could keep him in a controlled hold, he could dominate him all night. He glanced once more at Cordelia, but she was still swaying on unsteady legs. She reminded him of a newborn foal, unsteady and confused from blood loss. He had time to play, at least until Wes showed up. Angelus frowned. They should have been here by now. It was time to get his evil-mojo on and get the hell out.

He cleared his throat, keeping his tone light as he reached around and undid the button to Spike's pants. "So, Cordy," her face jerked towards the sound of his voice. He chuckled, she must have forgotten they were here. "Did Spike regale you with all those 'day's of yore' stories that you find so boring?" He slowly undid the zipper, smiling as Spike went utterly still underneath him.

"Did he tell you how I used him shamelessly, then fucked his Dru until the house echoed with the sound of her screaming my name? Poor little Spike, always so weak, always at the bottom-" He yanked Spike's pants down, reveling in the humiliated groan from the younger vamp. He slapped the pale flesh of Spike's ass. "Don't cry now, Spikey, it'll all be over soon." He looked up at Cordy and winked. "It's been a while, but I think I remember how he likes it- or doesn't."

Cordelia had watched helplessly as Angelus fought Spike. Standing -well, sitting up first- had been a major feat. Now she was on her feet and that seemed like one of the biggest accomplishments of her young life. She hadn't even truly registered that Angelus had subdued her would-be rescuer and now had him firmly pinned to the solid oak bar. It was the sound of her name on Angelus' lips that brought her world back into focus, fuzzy as that focus still was.

What she saw at first puzzled then sickened her. Spike's dodginess when it came to talking about his vampire past was beginning to make a lot of sense. Not that two guys together under the right circumstances couldn't be hot, but the implications of Angelus' behavior was horrifying. Angelus was planning on raping Spike. From the sound of it, this was nothing new between them. Angelus had abused Spike, most likely for years, and now he was going to do it again, probably as much for her benefit as for Spike's humiliation. She figured Angelus would believe she could never love a monster that could do something so heinous, not if she had to see it first hand.

She didn't want to find out if he was right.

And where the FUCK was the cavalry?

Cordelia let her eyes slide shut after Angel had undone the button to Spike's pants. She tried to focus on her breathing, reaching down deeper than she'd ever gone. She tried to block the sound of Angelus' voice, but she couldn't help the flinch as Angelus smacked Spike's behind. Her eyes snapped open, Angelus looked her way and winked. He was a smug bastard, and that pissed her off.

He knew she was too weak to do much more than stand helplessly to the side and play the damsel. Without thought, her breathing deepened and evened out. Her body stopped trembling as anger and raw, undefined *power* ripped through her veins. Angelus had turned to Spike, who had ceased struggling, reaching between them to loosen his belt and undo this pants. He was completely ignoring her. Cordy's lips parted, spreading into a wide, feral grin.

His mistake.

Cordy took one step, then another, then another as she picked up speed. For the briefest of moments she allowed her eyes to connect with the wide, pissed blue of Spike's. A moment of perfect clarity passed between them, and Spike allowed his rigid body to relax. Angelus didn't loosen his hold on his arm, but Spike's submissive posture lulled him into a false sense of victory.

He smiled, another insult ready to spill from his lips when Spike snapped his head back connecting with his forehead and Cordy slammed into him with the force of a freight train. All three went sprawling, and Angelus lost his hold on Spike. He grabbed Cordy by the hair, rolling so that he ended up on top, fangs bared, ready to finish the job he had started. She raked her nails across his eyes and he roared, slamming her head into the scuffed planked floor. Her eyes rolled back into their sockets and Angelus lunged, only to be stopped short by Spike's hand fisted into his hair.

Spike threw him off Cordy, straddling him. Spike's fist smashed into his face, again, and again. Angelus tried punching him, but Spike ignored every blow Angelus landed and kept pounding. Angelus had never seen such defiance and raw anger as the emotions which twisted Spike's delicate features into a mask of rage. Angelus saw spots of grey crowding at the edges of his vision. He needed a distraction- anything to get out from under Spike's fists.

The main doors to the club flew open and Wesley and Gunn swept inside, crossbows and tranquilizer guns drawn. Spike's head flew up and Angelus used the opportunity to buck him off. They both staggered to their feet. Before Spike could get in a word Angelus pointed. "Gunn, shoot him! He went crazy and attacked us!"


Gunn immediately swung the tranquilizer gun towards Spike. Hard obsidian eyes took in his undone pants, the bruises, blood, everything, before locking gazes. "Bloody-" Spike ground his jaw in an effort to gain control. "Fine, shoot me, but for fucks-sake shoot him too. He's the one that went bonkers, not me." Gunn frowned, finger twitching over the trigger. Spike slowly raised his hands over his head. "I'm not asking you to trust me, just sort it out once Cordy's safe."

"You fucking bastard!" Angel yelled, "You tried to rape her! Don't you dare talk about keeping her safe." His face twisted into it's demonic visage. "Gunn, drop Spike before I do it myself."

"Gunn." Wesley prodded, but Gunn didn't pull the trigger. "What is it?"

Gunn glanced at Angel, then down at Cordy's still form. The tough buck didn't look like an idiot but he was Angel's friend, which meant from Spike's perspective, he lost intelligence points right from the start. Spike could see a shift behind the big man's eyes. He was going to pull the trigger.

"Balls man, think about it! If you shoot me, Angelus will kill you all."

Angelus growled, "Just you, Spike."

Gunn took a deep breath, the barrel of the gun steady as a rock and pointed center mass on Spike's chest. "Angel, dog, your fly is open." Angel looked down, Gunn fired. Angel dropped.

"Good lord Gunn, what in the bloody hell are you doing!" Wes sputtered, rushing to Angel's side. Angelus groaned, his eyes sliding shut, then he was still.

Gunn lowered his weapon with a slight nod to Spike. "That isn't Angel any more Wes. That ain't nothing but a fucking leach."

"What took you two so long?" Spike kept a wary eye on Gunn as he knelt at Cordy's side. He could hear her heartbeat, now that the fighting was done, and her breathing was steady if a bit shallow. She would make it. "Cordy needs to get to a hospital, she's lost blood, got some broken bones, and a concussion most likely."

With a silent signal that only two close friends could have, Wes left Angelus to Gunn and rushed to Spike and Cordy's side. "Vampires, there were about five more outside the club. We got in as soon as we could but they put up a hell of a fight. Damn, DAMN! I knew we should have never let her come in here without better backup."

"Bollocks! We were fine until Peaches got captured and mucked up our cover. They drugged him up with something and he went nutters."

"Wait," Wes interrupted. "Did you say he was drugged? That answers my first question." Wes winced when he saw the ugly, ripped open skin at her neck.

"Yeah." Spike gently scooped Cordy into his arms. "Some sort of designer concoction made to get vamps high. I don't know what it was, but Angelus seemed awfully eager to find out. I dusted the little git before Angelus could question him."

Wes nodded, his lips pulled into a thin hard line. "That was probably for the best. We've worked very hard to keep the knowledge of this particular weakness of Angel's under wraps. We need to get him back to the hotel and chained up as quickly as possible." He helped Gunn pull Angel to his feet.

Gunn slung him over his shoulders in a fireman-carry and headed towards the door. Spike followed with Cordelia in his protective embrace. He was wasting time, but he had to know, Spike cleared his throat, and Gunn stopped, turning- "How did you know which of us to shoot?"

Gunn smiled, a brilliant flash of white set in dark chocolate. "It's all in the eyes dog." He kicked open the door and used his body to hold it open for Spike. "Besides, there was no reason in hell for Angel's fly to be unzipped, at least not one that I ever want to know about."

Spike chuckled, impressed, "You're okay for a meal on legs."

Gunn chuffed as he dumped Angelus into the back seat. "Yeah, and your pretty decent as far as soulless bloodsucking leeches go." His eyes locked with Spike's and for the briefest moment, he saw the calloused hunter behind Gunn's easygoing smile. "Just don't go thinking we'll ever be friends, yo. You're only alive because you most likely saved Cordy's life back there."

Wes and Gunn took positions on either side of Angelus, tranq gun at the ready. Spike slipped into the front seat beside the wide eyed Fred. Without a word, she started the engine and headed for the nearest hospital.


Angel lay in his big lonely bed looking at the ceiling. He wasn't chained, at least not with visible bands of steel. His demon was back on it's leash, immobilized by guilt stronger than any physical bonds. It had been a week. Cordelia had been in the hospital for an entire week due to the violence he had done.

When the drugs had worn off, and Wesley had run down the list of her injuries in his calm clipped manner, Angel had felt like dying. They didn't unchain him, even though the drugs had seeped from his system. Sometimes he cursed the fact that his friends knew him well enough to know when *not* to trust him.

A broken humerous and ulna, four fractured ribs, severe concussion, deep tissue bruising, lacerated neck, three teeth knocked loose, no sign of sexual trauma.... it had become his mantra over the last six days. Every time the door opened and he was met with Spike's angry blue eyes, Wes's coolly assessing grey, or Gunn's deeply suspicious brown, his hope of seeing bright open hazel diminished.

Fred was not allowed to visit. He'd heard the argument held right out side his door about it three days ago. Cordy might have been able to hold her own against the three men watching him and bully her way through the door, but Fred was no Cordy.

After two days they unchained him, and he supposed he could have gone to see her himself, but he was afraid. He was afraid of her anger, he was afraid of himself. The taste of her blood haunted his dreams, waking him to a dry mouth and hard cock grinding into his mattress. His need to have just one more taste, as he buried himself inside her was going to drive him nuts, that is, if the self imposed isolation and his friends hushed whispers and distrustful glances didn't do it first.

How could he face her if he was little more than a wreck? He couldn't, he wouldn't. He'd just lay here, drink the blood his grandchild brought him, and breathe her scent from his clothes. He didn't even know how Spike could stand to face him day after day after what he had tried to do, but Spike came, straight from the hospital to sit in his room for an hour or two. They never once spoke. Angel would turn his back, Spike would chain-smoke and wait for as long as his patience held out, then leave.

Every instinct to kill Spike triggered whenever he walked into his room with Cordelia on his skin. Sometimes, it was just his hands, some days it was obvious he had held her in his arms- arms that Angel wanted to rip from their sockets. Angel rolled onto his side and buried his face in his pillow. Today he had finally broken the silence to tell him she was being released.

One week of pure hell tormented by guilt and want- he wondered if today would be the day she would release him too, tell him the words that would incinerate his heart as surely as the sun at noon. He fully expected her to leave now that she had seen him, really and truly seen him for what he was. It was ironic that he had been afraid Spike would spill all the ugly secrets of their past. Turned out, he didn't need any help fucking up any chance he might have had with Cordelia.

Cordelia stood at the foot of the stairs leading up from the lobby. She had told herself she could do this, over and over again. She had even mumbled it out loud a few times, causing Wes to give her a few strange looks on the way home. Spike appeared at the top of the stairs, his smile crinkling the skin around his eyes, making him look much older and wiser than his mid-twenties.

"Cordelia! As I live and -don't- breathe. You made it." He stopped on the first landing, forcing her to meet him half way. She still ached, deep in her bones, but it was manageable. The skin under her cast itched, but she ignored it. She flashed Spike her most winning smile when she finally reached the landing.

The last week with Spike had been enlightening, to say the least. It seemed that whatever reticence he had about opening up to her had disappeared after Angelus. Maybe it was the fact that he didn't feel he had to hide anything about his and Angelus' past anymore, but they were well on the way to becoming true friends.

Spike seemed to have made some sort of peace with his and Buffy's fractured relationship even though he stubbornly held on to the hope that they could work it out. After several arguments that she *really* didn't have the strength for, she finally bit her tongue, figuring that Spike would have to take that one last hard fall before he learned.

There had been no more kissing between them, though the temptation sometimes pulled at her, and she could see it in his eyes too. It weirded her out to be so drawn to one man while in love with another, which lead her to her biggest dilemma.


She was both hurt by and understanding of his refusal to visit her in the hospital. She just wanted to hear one word from him, to know he was okay, to hear his confirmation of Angelus' confession. Did he love her? She didn't doubt Angelus' words. He always used the truth as his most effective weapon. Did it matter? With the curse and all the other complications of Angel's vampirism, she just wasn't sure.

What she had needed from Angel was a little reassurance. What she had gotten was silence. She was a little pissed about that. Angel was very lucky that she loved him back. As it was, she wanted nothing more than to seek the shelter of her own apartment, her bed, and her ghosts tender care. She sighed.

"How is he?"

Spike studied the young woman for a long moment. She looked tired, her body still operating on it's reserves. Apparently her demon aspect accelerated her healing, but not so fast that there weren't fading yellow reminders of her ordeal imprinted all over her skin like a map. Angel was a selfish bastard to make her come to him. "Still sulking. He hasn't said a bloody word all week."

He noticed her shoulders slump, and her nostrils flare as she took another deep breath. He chuckled, "You weren't actually expecting two stubborn cads like us to kiss and make up now were you?" The small grin that spread across her face was mildly self deprecating and only revealed a hint of her disappointment.

"You can't blame a girl for hoping."

"So how is this going to work luv? I think we've talked ourselves to death about everything *but* what happened that night."

Her eyebrows drew into a frown. "I know I don't want to discuss it here." She grunted distractedly, one long tapered finger slipping under her cast to scratch at an itch that seemed to be just out of reach. "Damn." She shook her arm. "Arrgh!"

Spike caught her arm, slipping her other hand in his and leading her up the stairs. She drug her feet like a little kid dreading bedtime. She tugged him back when they reached the top of the steps. "I need to talk to Angel alone."

Spike thought about Angel laying in his bed, wallowing in grief for a week. He'd been so damn untouchable, and yet the stoic shell was fragile and Spike knew seeing her would crumble it. "I don't think-"

"Don't argue with me on this Blondie. You will loose. In fact, I want you all to stay away from the door." Her eyebrows rose, daring him to disagree. "Whatever happens next stays between me and Angel. We'll get to you later."

"Thanks" Spike answered dryly.

She kissed him on the cheek, and gave his hand an affectionate squeeze. "You're welcome." Without a seconds hesitation she opened the door to Angel's suite and slipped inside.


The room was -not- how she expected it to be. She had imagined, low lights, a build up of dirt and grunge, a musty smell from too much laying around and not enough showering. Both lamps by the bed were on, the place was clean enough to eat off the floor. The only noticeable anomaly was the rumpled sheets. Angel was nowhere to be seen.

She hated to admit it was almost a relief.

She hadn't practiced what she would say to him, had tried not to think about him much. Thinking of Angel meant seeing blood on his lips, his face blurring as he leaned in to bite her- to kill her. To think of Angel was to remember his cold tongue, invading her mouth and spreading the taste of someone else's fear and loathing across her taste buds as he pressed every inch of himself against her, uncaring of how bruised and scraped she was.

A little part of her hated him for making her afraid.

Unfortunately all the rest of her was too stubborn to walk away from what they had barely even begun. Angel was a man of limitations, but he could give her what she needed if he let himself. "Angel? Are you in here?" If he had run from her, she was going to kick his-


She whirled towards the sound of his voice. It was deep as night, husky and a tad bit surprised. He stood in the doorway of the bathroom, hands on the frame, backlit by the bright florescent light. He had been getting ready, probably for her. His feet were bare, but he had his good slacks on. He was only wearing an undershirt. His dress-shirt and belt still sat on the bed. Cordy took in every mundane detail from the gel in his spiky, still damp hair, the way he sucked in a little breath and held it, to the way his hands gripped the wood so tight she could hear it creak.

Absolutely nothing prepared her for the searing fire in his gaze. That mix of want, need, hunger and shame burned her as his eyes dropped and took in the fading bruises, the cast, the healing cuts. When he finally drug his eyes back up, they were blank. She knew he thought he was safely hidden behind the cold mask of his features, but she knew him better than that.

She knew all of him now.

"I didn't hear you come in." His tone was carefully neutral.

She realized he was waiting for her reaction, good or bad. It irked her a bit that he was forcing her to set the tone, to drag this out. "I didn't knock." She glanced at the rumpled bed. "The way Spike talked, I thought you'd be lying down."

"I wanted to be- ready. I thought it would take longer." Stiffly, he pushed away from the doorframe and walked into the bedroom. "Actually, " He hesitated, his, eyes flickering over her face, looking everywhere but directly at her. "I thought you would go home." He took a breath, and it hitched. "I thought I would have to come to you."

Cordelia crossed her arms, finding it hard to look him directly in the eyes as well. She focused on the hollow of his throat, saw it contract as he swallowed. "Why didn't you?" She asked, looking up briefly before returning to the safety zone of his neck. "Come see me, I mean?" This time, she willed her gaze to lock with his. A hundred years of grief stared back at her.

"I didn't think you would want me to- " He took a step towards her, but stopped when she stiffened up. "You weren't ready. I wasn't ready- God Cordelia." He took another step, white cotton and pale skin swamped her field of vision. His hands reached out, but didn't touch her. She started to back away. He was right. She hadn't been ready, still wasn't, but now she was trapped, because his fingers were curling around her arms, and she tried to push, turning her head away, shrinking back....

Angel fell to his knees.

She was here, and she hadn't yelled, or told him she was leaving, or that she never wanted to see him again. He'd heard her hesitant voice when she called out his name, and his heart seized. He'd quickly dried his hands and rushed out only to freeze at the sight of her. She looked tired, a little faded around the edges in her jeans and too-big tee-shirt. He'd gripped the door frame in an effort not to charge her and crush her still obviously sore body to his. Seeing her, he wanted to say a million and one things to her, to tell her how sorry he was, how much he'd thought of her, how much he *loved* her.

None of it was enough.

He pulled in a breath, holding it in, pulling her as close as he dared. She smelled like hope and ashes, and the blood- he could still taste her blood on the back of his tongue. The seductive memory of it sliding down his throat and the white accusation of her cast almost did him in as shame once more overtook almost every emotion. He wanted to walk out into the noon-day sun, and instead they were making small-talk. She had a hard time looking him in the eye. He'd made her afraid, and it killed him in a way he had never thought possible. She had brought his heart to life, irregardless of it's inability to beat.

And now she wanted to know why he hadn't come to see her. Because he had been afraid, afraid of the very fear and distrust that showed on her face as he approached her. Her flinch was like a knife to the heart, the way she turned her head away from him only twisted it deeper. He grabbed her arms, being completely irrational he knew it. Maybe he was only scaring her more, but she wasn't going to leave this room, to leave *him* until she understood that he was sorry, even if his demon half hated the very idea of appearing so abject.

He fell to his knees, wrapping her up, holding her tight as he hid his face in her stomach, as he had when he'd been very young and seeing his mother upset with him tugged at the deepest recesses of a heart still innocent. Cordelia was no mother figure, and from here he could smell both coppery blood and musky femininity. It stirred his lust, but he held tighter to that innocent desire to make it right between them, to have her smile softly and run her fingers through his hair. "I am so sorry. So sorry, please-" He wound his arms up her back and rubbed his cheek against the softness of her cotton shirt, pressing his nose into the fabric and breathing her in. "I couldn't take it if you- you wouldn't forgive me. I hurt you- I can't forgive myself for that."

"Shh, I know," she whispered, pushing at his shoulders until he pulled back and looked up at her face. She took a deep breath, and the corner of her mouth crooked up slightly. "A girl's gotta breathe, Angel." Her hand slid over his shoulder and cupped his neck, the other hand resting on his head, fingernails scratching lightly over his scalp. He lay his cheek against her, gently this time, shut his eyes and just soaked her up, her heat, her touch, her smell. "I'm upset with you Angel, and we need to talk about what happened, what's going to happen now."

"I know," he answered. "I'm not ready for you to tell me you are leaving me just yet."

"Leave you?" she asked, her brow drawn into a perplexed frown. "Who said anything about leaving you? Do you think I'd let you off that easy?" She pushed him back, signaling him to let her go. He reluctantly did so. She trudged to his bed and sat down, running a tired hand through her hair. "What are we going to do Angel?"

"You're asking me?" he said, standing and pacing in front of her. "I've spent all week in my room because I was afraid of what you would say, how you would look at me now and I was right," he gestured in her general direction, "You freaked out when you saw me. I made you afraid. You were the one person that never saw -him- when you looked at me, and now...."

"Of course I did," Cordy interrupted, throwing his thoughts off balance. "I've always seen Angelus." She shrugged, "It wasn't personal, not like it had to have been for you and Buffy, but I never deluded myself that you and Angelus were completely separate." She looked away, a delicate blush creeping over her features. Angel couldn't help but be drawn to it. He stopped pacing and sat down next to her on the bed. "Maybe I did," she admitted ruefully, "But after Darla, I began to realize how thin the dividing line between you and Angelus really was. If he wasn't such a part of you, she wouldn't have mattered so much." She shivered, as if shaking off unwanted thoughts.

"But you flinched," he pointed out. She turned back to him, honey-brown eyes glinting.

"Well duh," she lay her hand on his knee, squeezing it. "I freaked a little, you're right, but it was a normal freak, not because of Angelus." She sighed at his less than convinced look, "I won't lie and tell you I'm completely okay with everything that happened, but I flinched because I'm not used to you being so grabby."

Angel simply watched her as he digested what she was saying. She wasn't leaving, and she understood better than he had imagined about his demon. Cordy tried to work her finger under her cast and scratch. She huffed in annoyance, obviously unable to get to the itch. Angel lifted her hand, scraping his teeth gently on the underside of her arm at the edge of her cast.

"I'm sorry, for hurting you."

"Yeah, I'm sure," she answered sharply.

Angel drew back, surprised. "What, you aren't going to try and make me feel better, tell me how it wasn't my fault?" he asked, hiding his bitterness behind sarcasm.

"You broke my arm. Feel the guilt." She studied his reaction intently. "It turns you on, doesn't it?"

He let her arm drop. "What?" he asked cautiously. She couldn't possibly be asking him what he thought she was.

"That's why you feel so bad, because a part of you doesn't feel bad at all; because a part of you likes the fact that you hurt me. Spike too. That's why you couldn't talk to him either. How do you apologize for something you don't feel completely sorry for...."

"That's not true!" Angel snapped, angrily, his head spinning. "How can you even think that!"

"Do you love me?"

"What? Cor, you need to stop turning me on a dime here. I can't fucking keep up."

"Tough, do you love me or did Angelus lie."

"You know he didn't." Angel ground out through his clenched jaw. "The truth -hurts- more."

Cordy watched him carefully. She was pushing at his edges. The way his eyes cut around the room and his fists balled told her he was getting angry. She had tried not to think about Angel too much over the past week, but certain revelations had been too hard to ignore completely. "If you love me then you owe me the truth, Angel, all of it." They had ignored the fact that they were falling in love. "I'm risking a lot going into this, and I don't want any more nasty surprises." They had hoped by ignoring their feelings, they could avoid Angelus. "He's with you all the time. I get that now."

He looked like she had slapped him, his face gone ashen, his eyes dark and hurt. "Cor, I-" His mouth shut, and he took a deep breath. "Yes. He's who I am, Angelus' evil is a part of me. I'm a demon Cor, that's always going to come between us. A part of me sees broken bones, bruises, smells the blood from your cuts, and is proud that I marked you. Is that what you need to hear? Do you want to know that I've gotten hard every time I remember ripping open your throat and drinking...." He swallowed reflexively, getting up off the bed and pacing again.

"Thank you for being honest with me," it broke her heart seeing him so agitated, "But you couldn't be more wrong." Angel had stopped his pacing to stand stiffly in front of her. "Your soul gives you the one thing that he lacks, the one -no, two- things that set good beings apart from beasts and evil demons."

"What's that?" He asked, his voice small, broken and lost.

"Mercy and love."

Angel blinked at her, face blank. After a moment he dropped onto the mattress beside her.

"You do get that he's not you, that he can never be *you* and that I love *you*. You get that, right?" she asked, watching the hope dawn on Angel's face. "We'll get through this," she raised her cast, "The curse, the vampire kink, the fact that I might die a heck of a lot sooner than you will, all of it."

"How?" he asked. His expression told her he was afraid to believe in love and hope.

She leaned in, resting her forehead to his. He cupped her cheek and the cool caress soothed the ache in her heart that had plagued her since she woke in the hospital. There was so much tenderness in the palm of his hand, and in the way his thumb brushed along the curve of her cheek that she didn't have to think, she knew. "Because I said so."

That was enough for Angel. Cordelia defied expectation, explanation, and his own shortcomings. He realized that living without her would be impossible now. Curse be damned, he loved the woman. Some dark twisted part of him shied away from the revelation, but Angel didn't care. The demon had wanted to ensure his eternal torment by destroying what Angel held dearest and he could think of no better payback than loving Cordy with all his soul.

"I think you need to find a spell," Angel whispered.

"What for? Oh. Actually, Groo and I never used the blue bottle," she confessed.

Angel slowly shook his head, chuckling as hers turned with his. "I was meaning to ask you about Groo, but that's not what I meant."

"No?" There was an obvious note of disappointment in her tone.

"No. I mean, that's great -about Groo- but I was talking about a spell to move Dennis here. I love you Cordelia. I don't know when it happened exactly, but you became the one person in this world who I refuse to live without. We'll work it out, because we have to, because you and Connor are my humanity and my redemption."

He ran the pad of his thumb over her cheek, then down across her lower lip. The petal soft skin parted and she placed a light kiss against his skin. He took a deep breath, mirroring her own, and then leaned in the fraction needed to kiss her. It took all of Angel's hard learned control not to ravage her as he tentatively covered her lips with his own. She was so full of life her heat seared him, or maybe it was the fire building in their kiss.

This time, she didn't pull away but brought her own hand up to thread through the hair at the nape of his neck and pull him down more firmly against her. Angel was more than happy to oblige, sliding one hand under her thigh and pulling her into his lap without breaking their kiss. She straddled him, raising onto her knees, framing his face in her hands as she nipped his lower lip lightly then ran her tongue over the same spot, dragging a moan of pleasure out of him.

He wrapped his arms around her, burying his face in her neck only to jerk back as she went stiff in his arms. "Cor?" It hit him like a ton of bricks, crushing the hope that had been newly erected in his chest. She was still afraid, "Oh, god. I'm sorry." He swallowed back his disgust with himself, "I wasn't going to bite you, I promise."

Cordy stared down at him, a deep frown on her face. "I didn't think you were going to bite me, Angel." She tweaked his nose, chuckling when he pulled back in confusion. "Quit being such a dumbass. I'm still sore from the last bite." She glared a warning at him. "Don't start with the 'I'm sorrys' again. I think my cutting you open was payback enough for breaking my arm, and a blue-box apology is the only thing that's going to get you off the hook for this." She ran her finger lightly over her collarbone. Angel had seen the bandage peeking out of her tee-shirt but it hadn't really registered on his radar.

"How bad was it?" Angel asked.

In answer, Cordy pulled the hem of the shirt out of her pants and slipped it over her head. Angel groaned and looked away.

She wasn't wearing a bra.

"Cor, you really should put your shirt back on. Right now." Even with his eyes averted, just knowing she was exposed to him was making him unbearably hard. He heard the soft sound of her pulling tape off of her skin.

"I thought you wanted to see-"

"The bite, not your-" he lifted his hands, "Breasts." Tentatively he turned and looked at her. He licked his lips, murmuring, "Of course, I'm not complaining." He drug his eyes from the soft swell of her bosom up to the stitches on her neck. He hissed in empathy and shame, his fingers fluttering impotently over the wound. He looked away, unwilling to let her see the threat of tears on his cheeks. "You should have staked me Cordy. You should have let Spike do it."

"If your soul had been lost permanently, I would have," she admitted, "but not because you were high."

"If I had of killed the blonde? Would you have killed me then?" He was almost afraid to see the answer in her eyes.

He just had to bring up the blonde. Cordy's mouth pressed into a thin hard line. Angel really knew how to cut to the heart of the issue. Before Angelus, if she were being honest, Cordy would have said no but that night had changed everything for her. "You and blondes," she grumbled narrowing her eyes.

"It was opportunity, she ran past me so I grabbed her. I knew it would piss you off."

"If there was any chance to stop you, I would have taken it." She hesitated, acutely aware that she was making what for her was a tough confession while still topless, straddling Angel, and he was very hard and pressing against her inner thigh. "I can't let my feelings for you come before anyone else. Connor especially and then our family, but every soul is important no matter how corrupted it might seem. I looked into her eyes and I saw something worth dying for, worth killing you for if you hadn't have let her go."

"Good." Angel answered as he brushed his fingers across the short row of stitches. "This was a killing bite," he murmured.

She shrugged, "I know."

"And you are okay with that?" He leaned in and kissed the jagged wound. "This scar will be with you forever. The fact that I tried to kill you can't be erased."

She smiled and kissed Angel's forehead. "Sure it can." Judging by his utterly clueless expression, Angel obviously still had a lot to learn. She rolled her eyes at his ignorance. "I'm thinking laser surgery for the scar and right now...." Mischievously, she let the words die as Angel seemed to be hanging onto every syllable with a renewed sense of hope.

"And right now?" he prodded.

"Sex. Lots and lots of mind blowing sex while you are still feeling too guilty to enjoy it."

"Woman, I love how you think." Angel said with a laugh as he gently lay her back on his bed. He hesitated, "We can't, your visions."

"I took the potion before I left the hospital."

Angel was pole-axed, "So you knew? You planned on us doing this before we- we- but how did you know?"

"Sometimes, I'm so smart, I even amaze myself," she said, gasping when Angel finally cupped her breasts in his palms. "Better tell me how nice they look."

"Amazing," he groaned. "So soft, full, real, perfect." He squeezed them, pinching her nipples gently, finding out what made her moan and writhe. "All of you, I want to see-" He popped the button on her jeans, easing the zipper down to reveal teal cotton underwear. He placed his hand over her stomach, low, close to her pubis. "Is this okay?"

"No," she grumbled. "I suddenly realize that I am topless and you aren't. I don't think that's very fair."

Angel didn't really care, but he was happy to humor her. He pulled the offending garment over his head, smiling at the dazed, smoldering lust in her eyes. She hesitantly ran a single finger down from the hollow of his throat, through the shallow valley between his pecs, and over the ridged landscape of his stomach. His muscles fluttered when she whirled her finger around his belly button, a small gasp escaping his lips.

"Cor," he groaned, the word coming out harsh and needy. He yanked her pants and underwear down roughly, wrestling them over her feet and throwing them to the floor. She leaned up and unbuckled his belt as his lips crushed against hers seeking connection, friction, heat. He cradled her head as he lowered to the mattress. She opened her mouth under him, distracting him with the sinuous tangle of her tongue as she undid his pants and pushed them down his hips.

She grunted in satisfaction as her hands grabbed his ass and squeezed. He rocked against her, whispering her name against her lips, moaning as he slid against her skin to skin, belly to belly. She warmed him, her hands skimming over his pale muscles and tracing words across his back in a language only she knew. He drew himself up on his knees and elbows as he kissed her neck, lathing the hollow of her throat with his tongue. Here her pulse beat strong, so close to the surface. It wouldn't take much to break the satin surface and let the ruby red elixir flow like a fine merlot over his tongue.

He ignored the urge and licked a cool wet trail down over her heated flesh until he came to the supple rise of her breasts. They *were* perfect. The skin was just as bronze as the rest of her, dusky pink nipples pebbling in his mouth. He sucked hard, scraping his teeth over the sensitive nubs, satisfied only when she cried out, arching her back off the bed.

There were bruises there, along her neck and shoulders spattered across her rib cage, He found each and every one, kissing an apology over healing skin. She was right, no matter how good, how right this felt, there was no way he could shake the guilt for having marked her. He could only hope she accepted that he was sorry as much as he could be and understood the rest as much as she said she did.

He thought about burying his face between her legs, parting those moist lips and exploring her with his tongue, knowing she would taste of honey and lemons. He slid his hand down her side, over her hip and between her thighs. She gasped as he slipped two fingers inside her, meeting no resistance as he pumped her fevered, tender, passage. He decided tasting her could wait.He had to plumb those slick tempting depths. He sat up, kicked his pants off and then grabbed her waist pulling her to him.

Cordy yelped in surprise as Angel drug her across the sheets and pulled her ass up over bended knees. She realized slow lazy exploration was out, and desperate hard fucking was about to be in and that was a-okay with her. His lips felt divine, but right now she wanted him inside her *now god-dammit* and she bucked impatiently to get her point across, making Angel grin. "Don't say a word," she snapped impatiently.

"Not even I love you?" he asked as he tilted her hips up and nudged right up to her entrance. He fisted his cock and ran it up and down her slick opening, making sure to graze her clit enticingly on every upswing. The sensation turned her higher brain functions into mush.

"Guh," she arched up, trying to impale herself, "Obviously you can say that whenever you want, as many times as you want. Dammit, Angel!"

He chuckled, sure of himself in this one thing at least. "Is there something that you want?" He rubbed tight circles over her clit with the blunt tip of his erection.

"You," she answered truthfully, staring deep in his eyes. "Just you."

"Oh, Cordelia," Angel groaned as he quit teasing them both and slipped inside her. The sensation brought them both to a halt. Angel curled himself around her, his arms slipping under her shoulders as she locked her ankles at the small of his back. Once more her vision was swamped by a thick neck and broad, bare, shoulder. Her world narrowed until there was just Angel, his heavy weight pressing her to the mattress, cool skin soothing her, thick cock stretching her open. She let out a sigh of perfect contentment and then he began to move.

Angel had held on to the barest thread of control when he buried himself inside her, but the unfocused, happy expression on her face, and soft sigh snapped his reserve. He thrust once, gently, then again, knowing it had been a while for her. She shifted, squeezing her thighs around his hips and moving experimentally against him. Angel nuzzled against the column of her neck, licking the fine sheen of salty sweat that was beginning to form, unmindful of the bitter undertone of antibiotics and hospital soap. Underneath it all was Cordelia, feminine, tasting of wild Sargasso, California sunshine, and sea air.

Her lips found his as they began a hard, fast rhythm igniting a spark that licked bright flames of desire up his spine. He shut his eyes and saw red flare at the edge of the darkness. His arms banded around her shoulders pulling her tightly to him. He groaned, licking her teeth, dipping in and tasting her, ravaging her mouth roughly. She scraped his lower lip with her teeth, licked his chin, bit his jaw, and then buried her face in his shoulder as he pounded into her. Her inner muscles squeezed him tightly, yet at the same time going soft and liquid around him.

She was his, he was hers, for the first time in memory Angel -demon and soul- felt whole, complete, connected. The demon howled in impotent anger at the emotion as Angel roared in release. He wanted to bite her, so he pushed himself up, bringing Cordelia down gently with slow languid thrusts as he softened inside her.

Cordelia couldn't help the tears that slipped down her cheeks. For a few moments they had been one, born out of the flesh magic of sex and bound soul to soul by love. Angel was still moving inside her, as unwilling as she to break back into the separateness of 'Angel' and 'Cordelia'. She had never seen an expression so soft and open as his was now. His thumb brushed her tears away, as he tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. "I love you, Cordy. You deserve better than this- than me."

"Don't be stupid." She leaned up and silenced him with a kiss. She smiled as he licked his lips and gave her a bewildered expression. Her smile grew wider as his eyes tracked the sway of her breasts as she leaned back on her elbows. "Lemme ask you something, big guy."

"Mmm?" Oh, yeah, Angel was definitely a breast man, Cordy thought wryly.

"Perv," she mumbled. That got him to look at her face. "Do you think I deserve to have the things that I want?"

"Of course." he said, obviously still confused.

"Well, I want you, and not just for more Connor snuggles."

"But the curse, you know as well as I do we won't be able to do this very often, maybe never again." He said, wistfully, raising his hand to silence her when she opened her mouth. He pulled out and laid down beside her. "You make me happy Cordelia. Before all this happened, I was already worried about how happy you made me feel. Being able to see you, touch you, tell you how I feel and hear you tell me the same.... even now, making love to you while you carry these," he brushed his fingers over fading bruises along her shoulder. "It was dangerous and stupid."

"I'm not giving you up," she resolutely declared. "Going without will be tough, especially since I know you want it too," her fingers explored mischievously, a small smile tugging at her lips as she ogled him shamelessly, "But I didn't fall in love with you because you had a hot body. Which you do by the way, in case you were wondering. I fell in love with you, the emotionally stunted asshole with the biggest heart of any man I know."

"Thanks," he answered dryly.

"I'm not perfect either." She leaned forward and brushed her nose over his, lightly kissing him on the lips. "I'll put up with you, if you put up with me."

"Are you sure you're not just trying to get close to me for the Connor snuggles?" A shadow of doubt flitted across her otherwise happy features.

"Cordy?" he asked, when she didn't answer right away. "I can't ask you to be his mother, I promised Darla...." He wasn't quite sure how to broach the subject. He didn't want to disappoint her. For all intents and purposes Cordy *was* Connor's mother, if she wanted it. Cordelia would be the face that Connor grew up with, but Darla had begged this one thing from him- for Connor to know who his true mother was and the sacrifice she had made. For his sire's sake, it was a promise he intended to keep. "I can't. I'm sorry."

"Shh," Cordy soothed. "I know." She snuggled into the crook of his arm, and smoothed her cheek along his chest before settling in with a soft sigh. To her credit, Angel could barely discern the disappointment hidden behind her words. "I'm to young to be 'mommy' anyway. How 'bout just Cordy and we'll see about the rest when the time comes. We got a year or so before he's talking anyway."

Angel wrapped his arm around her shoulder, resting his chin on her head. "Is that enough for you?"

"It has to be," she murmured sleepily. "It's more than I ever dreamed I'd have."

"If it's any consolation-" he began.


"You have every part of me," he whispered. Cordelia's only response was to squeeze him tighter. Angel shut his eyes and listened to Cordy's heartbeat slow, he smiled when a soft snore slipped from between her lips. Within minutes he met her in that dark quiet place of simple dreams and healing slumber.


"You shagged him?" Cordy hadn't been downstairs for more than thirty seconds before Spike had taken one breath, flared his nostrils and shouted indignantly, "You, shagged Peaches? You bloody stupid bint! What happened to 'we need to talk'?" His words drew Wes out of his office, curious as to the commotion. Spike threw his cigarette on the floor and ground it under his heel, "You have an interesting way of conversing, I'll grant you that," he grumbled bitterly.

"Spike," Cordy warned, not in the mood to argue

"Really, Spike," Wes chimed in. Cordelia is well aware of the risks...." His eyes wandered over her tousled hair, rumpled clothes, recently scrubbed face and still kiss-swollen lips. "Good-God, Cordelia, you SHAGGED him?"

Cordelia took a deep breath and slowly let it out. Her eyes narrowed, glaring at the two seething Brits. "When else were we ever gonna get a chance to do it? When he's happy, and it would be all 'tra la la, sex with Cordy', and we end up with Angelus on our hands? You know what? Screw you guys, I'm going home!"

"Do you need a ride?" Angel asked quietly as he descended the stairs and stopped by her side.

"Yeah, I'll go get my purse."

"Okay," Angel said as she trudged back upstairs for the forgotten item. Immediately he turned on Wes, expression cold. "Spike I expect to be an ass. What's your excuse?"

"Don't take that tone with me Angel," Wes warned, surprising Spike. It seemed the skinny wank had more of a backbone than Spike thought. "You know as well as I that your actions were irresponsible and potentially disastrous!" He yanked his glasses off his face and rubbed his brow tiredly. "I've known for a while, Angel. Pretty much everyone could see your feelings for Cordelia developing except perhaps Cordelia herself. I trusted that when the time came, you'd act with your head," Wes gestured in the vague direction of Angel's crotch, "And not your- other head."

Spike coughed, trying to cover a bark of laughter that threatened to escape at the watchers accusation. Angel's face was actually reddening, quite a feat for a being with no circulation. Spike noticed the clenched fists under Angel's crossed arms. He wondered if the humans tested Angel's patience to this degree every day. It was almost worth sticking around a while to find out.

"I'm only going to say this once," Angel began in a clipped, terse voice. "What Cordelia and I do -alone- together is none of your business."

"I think it is," Wes started to argue.

"I know, Wes, you are worried about Angelus." Their eyes locked, "So am I. For Connor's sake, for all of you; you have my word that we will be careful."

"Until the next time she wants to have a go, eh?" Spike couldn't help but add. "What then? I don't particularly care to have any repeats of last week any time ever."

"It's a valid question," Wes agreed. "By the very nature of the danger your demon possesses, you cannot expect us to leave you to your own judgment, not when the consequences are so severe."

"Do you trust *my* judgment, Wes?" Cordelia's voice made them all startle.

"In this matter, no," Wes replied.

"Tough," Cordy said, smiling tiredly at Spike. "Angel and I are in this together, long-haul, till Shanshu or death. I appreciate the concern and I love you like the brother I never had, Wes, but you try and break us apart... you won't." Spike watched as Angel put his arm around Cordelia's shoulder and she leaned in, drawing strength from his silent form. "Sex, or no sex, relationship or not, we're connected," she shrugged, "I don't see why we can't try and find *some* happiness where we can. It may not work out in the long run, but you can't ask us not to try."

"So that's it then?" Wes asked. "If you are wrong, if Angel is careless, it's your life and Connor's that will be sacrificed first. If Angelus gets out permanently, he won't just kill you, He'll turn you."

Cordelia looked up at Angel. His dark eyes were unreadable, but slowly, he nodded. When Cordelia looked back at Wes, her features were set in a stubborn expression. "Hence, the fact that we will be careful. Look, I just want to go home." She sighed, leaning heavily into Angel's chest. "I promise, no more wild monkey-love until we've all sat down and you've lectured me until my ears bleed, okay?"

Spike waited, curious as to the watchers reaction. After the initial flash of irritation caused, no doubt, by Cordy's uniquely tactless way of putting things, the ice in his eyes melted and his shoulders relaxed. Perhaps he could see the dark circles of exhaustion under Cordy's eyes or the way she held herself, indicating she was still sore. "In the meantime, I suppose it wouldn't hurt for me to look into ways to secure Angel's soul. There are a few obscure avenues of inquiry that might yield results."

Cordy shot him a look that clearly said, 'I ain't getting my hopes up, bub,' but she smiled and stepped away from Angel to give Wes a short hug. "Goodnight, boss. Don't worry, okay?"

Wes held her tight for a moment, then kissed her cheek. "It's my job," he said, simply.

"I don't get a hug?"Spike stepped forward and opened his arms. Angel growled, and Cordy cocked an eyebrow at him. With an amused chuckle she shook her head, ignoring the offer. She held out her hand for Angel. He took it and hand in hand, they headed for the door. When he turned back, Wes was giving him an odd look. "Bloody unfair if you ask me," Spike grumbled as he lit up a cigarette.


The air was cool against Cordelia's tender skin and the drive home a welcome diversion from the doubts that still plagued her about her and Angel's newly rearranged relationship. The cross from friends to lovers would have come naturally but at a much slower pace if Angelus hadn't have made his brief reappearance. Instead as they drove to her house in silence Cordy could vividly recall the feel of Angel surrounding her, inside her, the way her heart stuttered when he'd admitted he loved her, but it was still so *new*.

Right now, her brain was still trying to get passed the "I saw Angel naked!" phase, and move on to "What now?" She shut her eyes and tilted her head towards the stars. Reality would rear it's ugly head soon enough. She smiled as she remembered Angel's lips on hers, and wondered if the taciturn vamp at the wheel was having similar thoughts.

Angel seethed over Wes' interference as he glanced at his silent companion for about the fiftieth time during their short drive to her apartment. Each time he caught a glimpse of her face, there was a different facet of emotion etched there. When they had first pulled away, there had been quiet anger, later a look that was very similar to how she described him when he was brooding and then her cheeks had tinged pink with embarrassment when their eyes had met, only to screech away like two cars burning asphalt. He could smell the blush more than he could see it, all that blood blooming across her cheeks, close enough to taste under his tongue if her were to lick her....

Of course, it could be thoughts like those that had her embarrassed. He hadn't changed into the demon when they had made love. He hadn't given in to the urge to bite and suckle, to hurt her if only a little but she had to know those thoughts were running through his mind. He wondered if it turned her on or made her uncomfortable. He wanted to ask, but was still buzzing high from the fact that he'd *had* her. She had been in his arms at long last, even if the circumstances sucked. He chuckled at his own pun, glancing once more to see her leaned back in the leather seat, head tilted towards the sky, a smile on her lips. She looked peaceful, happy.

They were here.

He pulled into the nearest available spot, noticed that Dennis had the lights on. He twisted in his seat and nudged her shoulder. Her gaze had turned on him, a gentle caress to his frazzled nerves. She swallowed, still silent, which for her was unusual. "Are you okay?" he asked.

"I'm just tired, Angel." She was, he didn't have to have better than average eyesight to see it. She turned away and opened the door. "Are you coming up?" she asked, a little too casually. Angel scented the air. She was nervous.

"Yes, of course." He got out of the car, hating the stilted silence. He leaned in and grabbed her purse and backpack, offering her his hand as she stepped over the curb. He noticed the shy downsweep of her lashes, another blush, a slight tremble as her fingers twined with his. He stopped walking, tugged her close and palmed her cheek. "Hey."

Her head tilted up, eyes inquisitive, luminous under the lamplight. He opened his mouth to tell her it would be okay, and found that he couldn't say a word. Instead his fingers slid round to the back of her neck as he pulled her in and kissed her. He held his baser emotions in check. The gentle brush of his lips and softly seeking sweep of his tongue was more about reassurance than passion. It had the desired effect. Her smile was brighter than the lamplight and far more genuine. "It's going to work out, Cor. I promise," he assured.

"Take me home, Angel," she said, leaning up and kissing his lips. Her hand slid from his shoulder, down his arm to find his hand once more. He squeezed it and lead her into the apartment.


God, could they be anymore juvenile? Cordy didn't want to push the thought, with Angel the answer would always be yes. Things had been fine when they had arrived. Dennis fluttered the curtains and rattled picture frames, telling her he was happy to see her in the only way he knew how. Angel had put her things in her room, and she had put on some hot tea.

That was when it started, the awkward crushing silence. Angel had leaned in the doorway to her kitchen and stared a hole in her back, as she in turn watched the water boil. An offer to heat him some blood was greeted with too much enthusiasm, covering for the fact that he didn't know where to start any more than she did.

Now they sat on the couch, on opposite ends... Angel was stiff as a corpse, and only looking at her out of the corner of his eye. She sipped her tea, pretending not to notice him either. She knew how he felt. Normally, she would be in her coziest clothes, feet in Angel's lap while he slouched contentedly on his side of the couch and tried to sneak her cushions over to his corner. The TV would be on, and silent or talkative, there would be a comfort level.

Now she didn't know how to act. Should they be making out, or simply acting natural? What was natural when only hours before your best friend had filled you up and called your name while shooting off inside you? She glanced at him, noticing the tug of navy fabric over the muscles of his chest. Was it wrong to want to be licking his bare skin? She didn't want to push him, but his presence was making her horny. God, she wanted to make him sweat so she could lick off that bitter-salty sheen that she had tasted when she had kissed his neck- and now he was staring at her.

Cordy realized he could probably smell her, and her body was definitely reacting to her thoughts. Heat was building under her skin. Her thighs ached with the memory of accommodating him, her nipples hardened into tight painful peaks, and boy was she wet for him. She mentally rolled her eyes. It had been a while for her, and Spike had gotten her libido all revved then Angel had taken it for a test drive. It was a wonder she hadn't combusted yet from the excess of heat, want, need....

"Angel, this is stupid," she huffed. "Either hold me or get the hell out."

"Uh...." He shifted sideways, frowning at her. "I'm not sure if that's such a good idea."

"It's not like you're getting any, so get over it, and get over here."

His eyes boggled and his mouth dropped, then without warning he burst out laughing. "God, Cor, you... I love you, I really do."

The tight band of worry that had been squeezing around her heart loosened. She gave him her best innocent damsel look as she said, "How could you find me anything less than loveable?"

He mock glared at her, "Don't even get me started."

That only netted him her tongue, which she stuck out at him. "Come on, Angel. I know it's weird and there is still so much to deal with. Can't we just skip the awkwardness and go to comfortable? We snuggled more when we weren't a couple."

"Are you saying you want to break up with me?"

"If I have a better shot at getting into your pants, sure." She wiggled her eyebrows. "Are you saying we are a couple?"

"I wanted to rip Spike's arms off and shove them down his throat when he offered to hug you," he said matter of factly. "What does that tell you?"

"Besides the fact that you are a deeply disturbed individual, and an overly-possessive worry-wart?"

"Cor," he admonished darkly, making her smile.

She leaned in and kissed his cheek. "Sounds coupley to me."

"So, you want to get into my pants?" His voice was bland, but one eyebrow shot up quizzically.

"Not tonight Don Juangel," she bit her lip, eyes dropping to his navy-blue button down. "I wouldn't object to you loosing the shirt though."

"What about you?" he asked.

She grinned, "You want me to loose the shirt?" She could see a warm flare of lust behind his eyes, temptation, then disappointment.

"That's probably not a good idea." He watched her thoughtfully for a second, "But, maybe there is an alternative." He stood and offered his hand, pulling her up and leading her to the bedroom. "Dennis?"

The third drawer on the right hand side of her dresser opened and Angel began rifling through it. "Make yourself at home, why don't you," she grumbled sarcastically.

"Now you know how I feel- ah ha. Here it is." He turned and handed her a soft rumpled shirt.

"You want me to wear," She shook it out and looked up at him, confused, "This?" Angel nodded his head enthusiastically in reply. She stared at the old shirt dubiously. "Angel, this is Looney-Tunes."

"Marvin The Martian," Angel added, "I know, but it's-" He held his hands up in front of his chest, then sighed, "Forget it."

"Angel?" She was lost, but the embarrassed and frustrated look on Angel's face told her she was missing something important. "Tell me, is this a vampire or guy thing."


"I'll put it on." She pulled her tee-shirt out of her pants. Angel's eyes tracked her movements hungrily as she pulled the garment over her head. Her skin prickled with goose-bumps under his gaze, but her breathing and her fingers were steady. She could hear Angel suck in an unneeded breath when she let the material drop, exposing herself to him.

His eyes dropped, and he took a step closer, one hand brushing against the underside of her breast as he gently cupped her. She shut her eyes and gave herself over completely to his cold touch. Angel skimmed his palm over the soft mound, and across her collarbone. His fingers fluttered over her pulse, and then his lips were there and his shirt rasped starchily over her skin as his chest contacted hers. Cordy couldn't help the soft moan that escaped as his lips traced the curve of her neck and his teeth nipped her lightly.

She grabbed his waist, pulling him closer, so close she could feel his erection snug against her belly. She wanted to grind herself against it, but instead nudged his chin over so she could follow the same trail across his neck that he had blazed across hers. His skin was cold, smooth, tough and she could taste the years and the stories of horror imprinted there. His muscles corded when she bit him where his pulse should have been and their strength and density surprised her. Everywhere, every part of him was hard and solid, and *hers*.

When she pulled back, she found herself staring into yellow unblinking eyes. She smiled, traced the ridge of his brow and slowly, carefully kissed his lips using the barest of pressure to lever them apart so she could explore this new terrain. Angel moaned into her mouth, his hands spanning her back and yanking her closer still. She twined her tongue around his fangs, dancing sinuously between teeth and the velvet brush of his own tongue as he finally let go of his reservations and took possession of her mouth.

She didn't know how long they stood in the middle of her room, simply kissing each other. Angel's true face would emerge and fade with the ebb and flow of his emotions. Cordy had managed to undo the buttons of his shirt despite the cast on her hand, and the fabric hung loosely at his sides hiding her exploration of his chest, shoulders and back. Finally, they broke apart. Cordy was pleased by Angel's dazed look and swollen lips. Angel was handsome, but his features were severe. Passion softened him a bit and she found the effect breathtaking.

Angel stared down at her for a long, lazy moment, seeming to drink the sight of her in. With a final caress of her face and a gently sweep of his thumb over her own kiss-swollen lips, he leaned around her and plucked her shirt off the bed. She held her arms up and let him slip the faded cotton over her head. "So, what is it about this shirt?"

His eyes glinted and he grinned, "It hides you, yet it-" He thumbed her nipples, causing them to jut out under the cotton. "I always wanted to do that every time I saw you in this shirt," he confessed. "It hides your figure, but if you look hard enough, you can just make out the shape of your areolas underneath."

"I've walked around in more revealing clothes than this- and just how long have you been trying to peeping-Tom under my clothes?"

"Since Sunnydale, Cordelia, not that I would have ever admitted it," Angel just chuckled, the sound reminding her how naive she was compared to him. "It's sexier because it doesn't reveal much."

Cordelia felt a flash of irritation over that little confession, her eyes narrowed suspiciously.

"Yes," he answered before she could ask. "I checked out Willow too."


"But I'm *your* perv," he added confidently.

The irritation grew into full blown annoyance. "I'm watching TV."

"Cor, don't be angry."

"I'm not."

"Uh, huh." Her back tensed at the sound of amusement in his voice.

"Five words, Angel. Holy. Water. In. Your. Blood."

She whirled on him, pushed him onto the couch and then flopped down herself, leaning on his shoulder. He kissed her temple. She opened his shirt and lay her cheek on his bare chest. The chill felt delicious against her skin and she smiled. The silence of his body should have unnerved her. Considering the amount of noise the visions added to her inner-space, she found it soothing. Angel shifted, turning more lengthwise and putting his arm around her. She closed her eyes as he flipped on the TV and started channel surfing. After a few minutes he began to stroke her hair. The situation was almost blissful, which meant there was no better time to ruin the mood by asking, "What are we going to do about Spike?"


Angel's eyes went wide. The moment had gone from almost perfect to tattered in an instant. He wondered what Cordy would think if he just growled and ignored her? Warm insistent fingers drummed against his chest.


Playing dumb had worked before. "Well what?"

Angel felt a sudden and intense stab of pain as Cordelia bit his nipple. "Ow! What the-" He grabbed her by the hair and pulled her away from his chest. "Don't start biting, because I *will* finish." He threatened, letting her see a little gold in his eyes.

She just rolled hers. Fine, playing dumb wasn't going to work. "Why can't we just enjoy being here together for a while." He frowned down at her expectant face. "I spent all week thinking about what happened and reliving the past. I'm tired. We can talk about Spike later." Angel hoped she'd drop it. Seeing Spike every day, the silent accusation that radiated from every pore and lingered in his room like a bad aftertaste, had overwhelmed him with memories.

"Angel," she whined. "It's bad enough that I'm going into this with the specter of Darla and Buffy over my head. You think I want the third in your blonde trifecta of guilt hanging over the start of our relationship?" Angel just blinked, she seemed to take that for a yes, because she immediately responded "Pfft, no! This avoiding thing you are so good at; it stops here and now. You and Spike need to put your issues to bed, because-"

"Cordy," he pleaded. "I understand and appreciate what you are trying to do, but my past with Spike is not something I want to talk about with you right now. "

He couldn't save Spike, he couldn't make up for the things that he had done last week or in the distant past. He couldn't erase the flinch in Spike's eyes when he looked at him, or the memories that they both carried of bloodplay and sex. When he looked at Spike, he saw a scrawny, unworthy offering from a beloved but mad child. He saw a toy to be broken and tossed away, a tool for his own pleasure and a betrayer who sold him out to the slayer at the moment of his greatest triumph. He closed his eyes and tried to shake off the thoughts and images that Spike always surfaced... Angelus' thoughts, Angelus' desires, Angelus' memories. Still in him, still a part of him, still *him*.

Cordy had a shrewd look on her face that he had come to dread. It always meant that she was seeing more than he intended and making connections that a girl of her age and background had no business being able to make. "Just admit that you don't want to talk about it and quit being such a coward about your past. I know what you did to him, Angel. He told me- all of it." Angel's heart dropped at the flint in her eyes.

"No," he said, the denial being easier to accept than the fact that she could know his crimes and still touch him with such tenderness. He sat up, shrugging her off of him and turning away.

"Yes, and I'm *still* here." She grabbed his chin, forcing him to look in her eyes. "I still love you Angel. I knew what you were before I had the details." Her eyes grew moist, but her expression was still firm. "Do you have so little faith in me?"

"No, Cor, no." He choked, "Since I came to know you, you've been the one person I can always count on, but how can you have faith in- in- me?" he whispered.

"Because I know you. I know the man," she placed her hand over his heart, "And I know the monster." She took his hand in hers and kissed his palm. "I know what you are capable of, I know what you've done with these hands." She let go of his hand and smoothed an unruly lock of hair behind his ear. "I also know that you have been the best friend I have ever known, and are a wonderful father to your son." She leaned in and kissed him softly. "If the monster were all you are, you could have been neither."

"Mercy and love?" he whispered, finally taking her words to heart.

She nodded slowly, resting her forehead against his, and closing her eyes as the tears slid free. "Don't you think it's time you showed Spike a little of both?"

"But how?" Angel asked, willing to follow wherever she lead. Her eyes snapped open, blurred and impossibly big so close to his own.

"I have no idea." Angel frowned and Cordelia sighed, leaning back onto the couch. "Angel, I'm not a saint, I don't have all the answers to every question. I'm doing good adjusting to the fact that you love me, and we're officially a couple," she air quoted. "I'll help you talk your way through it, but as far as what to do? You have to figure it out yourself."

"Ignore it and hope it goes away?" he asked hopefully. "A blue-box apology?" That only got him a smack on the shoulder. "Sleep on it?" he said when she cracked a huge yawn. "Maybe one of us will come up with a brilliant idea tomorrow."

She yawned again. "That sounds like a solid plan. You gonna go home?"

"Yeah, Connor should be awake soon." Angel lovingly scooped her up and carried her to her room, tucking her in and fussing over her as had always been his habit. She blinked sleepily, and smiled when he kissed her goodnight.

"I'm sorry."

"For what?" he asked.

"For ruining the good mood."

He smoothed a hand over her hair. "Don't worry about it." He could live with having her worry for him. The fact that she cared so deeply warmed a part of him that his demon-half had hoped to numb forever.

"I just wish I could erase it," she sighed, sinking down into the pillows, "for both of you."

Her words gave Angel pause. "What do you mean?"

Her voice was thick and heavy with weariness but she replied, "Your guilt, his anger. You're lucky. You had Buffy's love, and now you have me...."

"And?" Angel prodded.

"Has anyone ever really loved him, or even just- been gentle?"

Angel didn't reply because Cordelia was already falling asleep, but he knew the answer. Cecily, Dru, Himself... the answer was no.

Guilt was Angel's companion all the way home. It pressed in on him as he got his son from Lorne and fed and played with him while his mind relived the horrors he had inflicted on a fledgling named William. He held his son just a little tighter and vowed never to let his darkness touch him in any way, all the while knowing his boy was tainted by birth.

Cordelia couldn't possibly understand the true depth of Angelus' evil towards Spike, even if Spike had unspooled their time together on the big-screen in Technicolor, but sometime during his late night ruminations, it struck him. Cordy hadn't offered him understanding. She'd offered acceptance. For Angel, it was something far more precious than unburdening him of his guilt.

The germ of an idea took root in Angel's head but he turned the thought under. It was too crazy, and it would certainly put undue strain on his newfound connection with Cordy. Still the thought plagued him, popping up at odd times all through the rest of the night. The idea never got any less crazy, but by the dawn of the next day it had begun to make a certain amount of sense.

Either that or *he* had gone crazy. It wasn't like he hadn't before.... There were however other avenues he could try before proposing something so rash.

Chapter 6

"Quit squirming you big baby." Cordelia squeezed her thighs tightly around his, trying to stop his wiggling. On the couch beside them, Connor gurgled happily, then squealed sharply in pure delight as he unraveled the gauze bandaging that had somehow made it's way into his pudgy little fist. "Angel! I told you to watch him."

"How could I?" he grumbled, "You had my head all tilted back that way and Connor is over there, so-"

"Are you trying to lay the blame on me?"

"If the Manolo fits- OW!" Angel rubbed his chest, "That was harsh."

"It's been two days Angel, two days! We finally get a chance to spend some time with just the three of us, without pain in the ass British vampires or stuffy ex-Watchers breathing down our necks and you show up looking like Stallone in Rocky V. We've barely begun to scratch the surface of harsh." She took a deep breath, then narrowed her eyes in suspicion. "You still haven't told me what did this to you."

"A demon," he answered cagily as Cordy rewound the roll of gauze that Connor had mangled. He could swear his son was pouting after she pried the material from his fingers. He was going to have to have a talk with his baby boy about that. No one in his family pouted, except for him, when he didn't get his way, or-

"Uh, huh, You already killed the demons from my vision, which by the way, if that was the Power's idea of a congratulations gift to us, they had better pray never to meet me face to face." Angel chuckled softly. Whatever romantic notions he'd had about himself and Cordelia and "the morning after" had been swept away the moment she had marched through the front doors the next day and grimly declared they had a case. It had taken all of them, Spike included, to bring the pair of Sny'arks down. It seemed the Powers were taking advantage of their extra pair of super-human hands while Spike was here, which brought him to this morning. "So, spill. What did this?"

Angel sighed. There really was no avoiding it anymore. "Spike."

"What about him?" she asked.

"He did this." Angel replied, gingerly probing the cut above his eye.

"What did *you* do?" She asked pointedly as she slid off his lap and scooped up his son, using Connor as a barrier between them.

Angel wasn't thrilled by her suspicious tone. Why did she automatically assume he was in the wrong? "I apologized."

Cordy frowned, clearly confused. "I don't get it?"

"I've been trying to do what you said and it's- not enough." He watched the lines on Cordelia's face deepen as she got up and lay his son in a bassinet. She turned around and studied his bruised but healing face.

"What makes you think it wasn't enough?"

Angel shrugged and held out his hand for her. She sauntered over and sat down, allowing him to put his arm around her and pull her close. He grunted as she bumped into a particularly sore rib, "It was either him yelling 'It's not enough, you fucking bastard' or all the punching and kicking that was going on."

"What did you do?" she asked softly this time.

"Took it." He leaned into her, rubbing his nose through her hair, breathing her in. He had a brief flashback of fisting his hands in her thick tresses and slamming her head into the ground. He shuddered and took another breath. Her hair smelled of Pantene and baby powder. He let her scent steady him. It was a comfort he was fast becoming addicted to. "He was right. Saying I'm sorry couldn't begin to make up for what I did to him."

"I just hoped-"

"I know what you wanted, but I'm not sure there *is* a way to give back what I took away, except-" Angel stopped, and bit his lip. He'd almost said too much. He felt Cordy's cheek slide over his shoulder as she looked up at him. He looked down. Shit.


Fuck, he had said too much. He should have known those sharp ears would catch his slip. "It's nothing. It's impossible."

"Then you can tell me what it is." she pressed.

"No, I can't," he resisted.


"Is Spike worth more than us, than this?" He squeezed her shoulder. "Is he?" Another flash, slapping Spike's backside as he held him down. Fear pouring off the younger vamp, then a curious calm.... acceptance.

She searched his face in confusion, opened her mouth, then closed it. Her searched turned inward and his stomach dropped as something hard and stubborn slid behind the warm brown of her eyes. "Remember our conversation before we- you know?"

"Made love? Yes."

"I told you that I couldn't let my feelings for you come before those souls we are meant to help. Spike may not have a soul, but the Powers sent him to us. He is a part of the mission." That steely resolve bled away and it was Cordy staring up at him, pleading softly for understanding. "I can't give up the mission. I sacrificed too much to hold on to it. I made it as much mine as yours and I couldn't be happy if I knew I had put my wants above someone else's needs, not if there was something we can do."

"Even if it is... extreme?" Angel asked, the last of his resistance fading. She'd get it out of him and then the ball would be in her court. Cordelia had proved she could handle herself, but this was a lot more complex than life and death.

"Angel! Just tell me," she said, exasperated.

Angel studied her features with growing trepidation. There were some things you just shouldn't have to ask your brand-new girlfriend to consider. "There is a ritual, of a sorts," he finally replied. "Wes has made you read up on vampire mythology, right?" She nodded. "You understand about hierarchy, don't you, how vampires are ranked by age and prowess?"

Her face scrunched a bit as she thought about it, "I think I do. The Master, the ugly bald freak that Buffy killed, he was the head of your line."

Angel nodded. "He was the oldest surviving member of the House of Aurelius. Buffy killed him and Luke, who would have taken his place."

Cordy bit the inside of her cheek as she considered, "So there was no Master?"

Angel smiled ruefully, "Actually, Darla became the head of the House of Aurelius until I killed her and then the title fell to me."

"So how come the Master guy was so freaksome?"

Angel gave her a stern look for dragging them off topic but he answered her question. "As we age, our demons become more prominent."

"But, you don't-"

"Our human bodies don't age," he interrupted, "But our demons do and as they integrate within their host body, their unique demonic attributes become more pronounced. Some vampires loose the ability to shift into human form, some grow hooves or claws, maybe horns. It's different for each of us."

"So you might eventually be stuck with your bumpies showing?" she asked curiously.

Angel kissed the tip of her nose. "The Master was over a thousand years old. I don't intend to be around that long." He shut his eyes and enjoyed the heat and solid reality of her as she snuggled deeper into his side. He could still remember the fine spray of hot coppery blood coating his lips and throat when he had bit her, but her trust and the simple domesticity of the moment quelled most of the lingering bloodlust. With Cordy and Connor he had been given a gift he'd never dared to dream-

"I'd love you anyway," she whispered, "Even if you had cow feet."

Something tender and radiant banded around Angel's heart and squeezed but the pain was a beautiful thing. He pushed Cordelia away and stood up. She looked up at him quizzically, lips parting to ask him why, but he just shook his head. "Don't," he whispered. "That- the way you made me feel. It was too close."

"I'm sorry," she said and the moment of near perfection was dashed.

"No, Cor. Don't be, I-" He clenched his fists, muscles cording with tension. "It's just so frustrating!" he exploded, beginning to pace, "I'm sorry, it's not your fault."

"I'll just have to remember to be bitchier," she said matter of factly. She gave him a slow once over. "You're hair is ugly and... I hate those socks! Now what's this ritual you were talking about?" She batted her eyelashes at him, dragging a chuckle from someplace deep in his chest.

He continued to pace. "It's not a ritual per se but it would give Spike temporary status as head of the House of Aurelius, symbolically giving him all the power and authority of Master but it's...." He hesitated. Cordelia's eyebrows shot up as she gave him and impatient look. "It's -sexual- in nature," he rushed on, "The thing is, it's the only way I could think of to show Spike I was sincere about wanting to make it up to him, but there is *us* to consider, and it complicates things."

"How sexual in nature are we talking?" Cordy asked warily.

"Spike would have complete control over my body and my life. He would basically be free to do to me what I -did- to him."

"Oh," Cordy's mouth made a perfect circle of understanding. "OH! Angel that could be- he could kill you."

"That's why I didn't want to bring it up. Under the best circumstances it would be violent and bloody, but if Spike took it as an opportunity to take revenge.... unless," he stopped pacing and knelt in front of Cordelia. "Tell me I am crazy and I will never bring it up again, but if you were there, with us, it might keep him from acting out." He took her hands in his squeezing them tightly, "He trusts you, *I* trust you."

Cordelia's lips thinned as she realized what he was asking. "You want me to referee?" she asked disbelievingly.

Angel looked at her sharply, then sighed. "Basically." he admitted. "I don't want to do it if it will make you uncomfortable, but it might be the only thing that will make him understand that I seriously want to make amends." She was visibly withdrawing as she thought it over and already it was killing him.

Cordelia curled up on the couch, putting a little distance between them. She drew her knees up and wrapped her arms around them, dropping her chin on her knees. She thought about it for a few eternal minutes. "Spike has a path, but before he can recognize it, he has to work out his issues with you and...." she hesitated, "Well, you first. I'm sure that's why the Powers sent him."

Angel remained silent, not wanting to pressure her either way.

"I guess this is nothing new to you, is it?"

Angel shook his head.

"I do like Spike okay and it could be sexy, watching two hot vampire guys going at it." She mused. A thought seemed to occur to her and she glared suspiciously, "You won't decide you want to run off with Spike and become the dynamic gay duo or something?"

"I'll never leave you, Cor. I'll never love another as long as you live," he promised solemnly, his dark eyes turning black with emotion. She cupped his cheek and he smiled wryly, "You think I'm hot?" Suddenly his smile faded, "You think Spike is hot?"

She laughed at him then, a deep throaty sound that he decided he would never tire of hearing. "Hey, I'm not the one proposing the threesome."

"Whoa," Angel said, "I never said anything about a threesome."

"But...." Cordelia scowled, "You said you wanted me there. You want me to just watch? That's- so very wrong."

"Cordelia, this isn't just a romp in the sack. This is- when you and I made love it was as a man and woman. I couldn't let the other side of myself out then because your blood still calls to me." Angel pushed down his natural reticence to hide this facet of his nature from her. She had told him she didn't want any more nasty surprises and if Spike fully asserted his dominance over Angel, it very well could be nasty, vicious and scarring for her to watch.

"What will pass between Spike and I will be hard to understand, at best this is going to test the limits of your acceptance of me, of what I am. This sort of power play is nothing new, but I've never been the one without the power and that- terrifies me. I don't want you in the middle of -us- if something were to go wrong."

Cordelia was staring at the floor with wide unfocused eyes. "This is a vampire thing then, vampire sex, vampire emotional issues." She blinked rapidly, looking up at him with shining eyes. "But that's just the thing. I haven't been able to fully reach Spike because I've been trying to appeal to his humanity. This- this is for his demon."


"And you can do this. You are willing?" There was a certain detachment in her voice. This was mission business and she sounded almost clinical.

"I think it could help, so yes."

"You said you've done it before."

Angel sat on the heavy coffee table, facing her. "I've always been the one with the power, the top."

"What are you saying?"

"I've never-" He shifted, suddenly finding it hard to look at her. He'd done everything in the book -and then some- except this one thing. He didn't want Cordy to think about his vast sexual back-story. He knew it was hard enough for her to live down Buffy, Darla, Dru and Spike. "I've taken men in my bed, Cordy but I've never been taken...."

"You've never had butt-sex?"

"Cordy! I- no," he gaped at her when he saw the twinkle of amusement in her eyes.

"Sorry, Angel, I'm just surprised is all. I figured you'd tried everything at least once. I seriously hadn't considered that there would be something you hadn't done." She slid off the couch and nestled between his thighs. Curious as to what she was up to, Angel remained still. He let out a long breath as Cordelia started to nibble her way across his chest. It had should have occurred to him that she would take his sexual history in stride. If acceptance could be considered a strength, then she had it in spades. "So if you've never done it before," She flicked her tongue into the hollow of his throat, making him moan as his head tilted back to give her access. "How do you know you *won't* want to run off with Spike after this is over?"

If she kept doing that, he would be content to stay in this spot forever, Spike, their friends and the Powers be damned. She bit his collarbone and he smiled, giving himself over to her mouth completely. "You are a piece of work, you know that, Chase?"

"That's why you love me." she replied, lightly.

"That I do," he rumbled. His head snapped forward and he looked down at her rapidly descending form. "Cor, what are you doing?"

"If you have to ask," the button of his slacks was undone, "Then you must have a lot less," the zipper pulled down, "Experience in these matters," Silk was pushed aside and his solid cock grasped and kissed lightly, "Than you let on."

"The baby-"

"Is over there." She kissed his balls, "We are here." She licked the long vein all the way up the underside of his erection. "Wanna see if I can make a vampire pray?"

Cordelia's mouth closed around him, sliding down until he was fully encased in her deliciously warm, moist mouth. Angel leaned back on the palms of his hands, watching her as she began a slow rhythm designed to tease and torture. He pushed thoughts of Spike, the mission and everything else out of his mind as his eyes slid closed. He did not deserve to feel this good. "Oh God!" he groaned, as she clutched his hips and took him even deeper.

Spike stared up at the imposing facade of the Hyperion, for what he hoped would be the last time. He'd been here almost two weeks and had decided earlier in the day that he was ready to go back to his own crypt, see his little nibblet and try and pick up the pieces of his relationship with the slayer. Cordy had encouraged the former yet seemed less than confident in his ability to do the latter.

He'd hoped to spend a little more time with the chit. They had spent hours talking through his life while she was in the hospital, but as soon as she'd returned to the hotel, she'd spent almost every waking moment with Angel. Granted, the majority of that time was spent working or listening to mind-numbingly tedious lectures by Wesley. For the last three days he'd been relegated to working as an extra pair of hands. He would have protested except for Cordy's promise of a paycheck for his troubles.

He'd hoped to take Cordy out to an inter-species bar that the green demon friend of theirs had recommended the day before to give her a proper thank-you for her time and trust. That is if he could separate her from his grandsire for a little while.

"Hello? Where *is* everybody?" Spike crossed the lobby of the silent, nearly dark Hyperion. He could sense- "Cordelia?"


His eyes traveled down the brunettes body. The last few days had been good for her, obviously the demon in her had accelerated her healing. The bruises were barest ghosts of blue across her skin and the cast had been replaced with a much smaller brace. "Looking good, pet." The compliment netted him a smile. She was wearing a deep red dress. The cut was simple yet flattering, spaghetti-straps lead to red silk that clung to her curves and ended just above her knee. "Are you and the poofter going out?"

The smile that graced her lips turned slightly wicked, "Actually, we're staying in."

"Ah, run everyone off did you? Don't want the rest of your little gang blushing come morning?" He pulled out a cigarette and lit it, one eyebrow arching as she sauntered across the lobby to stop about a foot away.

"Something like that." Her voice was light, teasing, hinting at secrets that he had no business wanting to know.

"I was hoping you would be free of soul-boy tonight. I planned on returning to Sunny-D tomorrow. I thought you and I might have a spot of fun before I left." She didn't reply, only nicked the cigarette from between his lips and ground it under her stiletto Jimmy Choo's. She held out her hand. Confused, Spike took it, balking when she headed towards the stairs. "Cordy, luv, what's going on?"

She glanced back over her shoulder, dark lashes obscuring him from reading her eyes. "Trust me."

"This is usually the part where if I were smart, I should run the other way," he said as he allowed her to slowly lead him up the stairs. "Of course, I've never been smart when it comes to pretty women leading me into danger."

She only chuckled, playing the role of siren to the hilt. The simple seduction of her swaying hips and bared shoulders sapped his reserves as she drew him down the hall towards Angel's suite. She took a deep breath, as if steeling herself for whatever lay behind the solid oak door adorned only with the number 217. She threw him a reassuring smile over her shoulder then opened the door and lead him inside.

"What the bleeding hell?" Spike let go of her hand and she walked to the far side of the room and settled in a plush armchair. Spike turned in a slow circle, staring in awe at the sight before him. Strategically placed candles gave the room a cozy glow There was soft music playing in the background and the bed- the bed was turned down. Crisp white sheets standing in sharp contrast to the deep purple comforter and pillows. The only thing that was missing was- "Angel."

The bastard was right behind him. His angular features half hidden in shadow, his deep brown eyes reflecting back his years and power. Angel took a step forward and Spike reflexively took a big step back. This wasn't the Angel that he had come to expect over the years. Soul-boy had shed the mask of innocent humanity that he used so well to blend with his friends. This was Angelus yet again, in leather pants that rode low on his hips and a mostly unbuttoned red silk shirt that matched his mate's. "I see you've already let the chit start dressing you. Pretty soon she'll have you calling her Mistress and walking around with a dog collar...."

Angel only took another step forward into the muted light. Spike glanced back at Cordelia. She was watching them, her face a picture of neutrality. "Whatever it is you're offering, mate, I'm not interested."

That got him a sardonic smile out of Angel. "Maybe you should hear what I am offering before you tell me no."

"No, your looking a little too Angelus for my tastes. I think I'll just take my leave of you both and get out while I'm ahead." He angled towards the door, edging closer to freedom when Angel did the absolute last thing he ever expected the older vamp to do. He fell on his knees and angled his head, baring his throat. Spike froze. Angel shut his eyes and stayed in the submissive position- waiting.

Spike gaped at Cordelia. She shifted slightly, her mouth thinning into a frown, but she said nothing. "Bollocks, Cor, he can't be serious?"

"Why don't you ask him yourself?" she replied, obviously knowing full well that once this little dance was initiated, Angel couldn't speak until spoken to.

"And you are okay with this?" he asked incredulously.

She shrugged a shoulder, looking away for a moment before allowing her eyes to rove over Angel's submissive pose. "Angel explained what's going on to me but my approval depends on you." Spike noticed Angel's eyes crack open and cut to her. Cordy wasn't following the script, whatever it was. "If you use this as a way to simply humiliate him then no, I very much do not approve, but if you take this as an opportunity to spank your inner moppet and move the hell past you issues then yes, I can deal."

"Cor...." Angel warned, through clenched teeth. Spike made his decision, Angel was offering him something far more satisfying than pissing in his playground. He stepped in front of Angel and backhanded him, causing the much larger man to sway on his knees as his head whipped back. For a brief second, Spike saw an expression of seething anger slither across Angel's face.

Spike smirked, but Angel quickly schooled his features and stiffly, jerked his head to the side once more, exposing himself to Spike. Angel's fists were clenched tightly at his side but otherwise, his surface was as placid as a lake. Spike however knew all about still waters. He wanted to see Angel ripple and churn beneath him. Despite Cordelia's warning, if Angel had explained this to her, she knew there was nothing she could do about it if Spike decided he wanted to tear Angel limb to limb.

"Do you offer me blood-rights as head of the Order of Aurelius?" Spike asked.

"For tonight only," Angel managed to grind out. "In apology for wrongs committed under the name of Angelus, I give you my life, my immortal body, and my station as head of Aurelius to do with as you see fit."

Spike pulled out his pack of cigarettes, and pretended to consider as he lit up. Angel's nostrils flared, and Spike wondered just how far he'd be allowed to take this. He wasn't a rube. He knew Cordy was here to keep them both in check and in a way he both cursed and respected Angel for having the stones to follow through when his relationship with Cordelia was at stake. Spike took a couple of deep drags and then blew a long stream of smoke in Angel's face. Still, he expected to get his pound of flesh and maybe an ounce of self respect out of this. If he only had the night, then he was already wasting time.

He held out his hand, growling when Angel looked confused. "Your hand, Peaches." Angel immediately placed his hand in Spike's. He relished the small flinch around Angel's eyes when he turned his palm upwards and sank his fangs into Angel's wrist. What struck him first was the taste. Angel drank animal blood, same as him. However after spending time in the vamp, the properties of the blood were changed, perhaps imbued with a touch of mystical necromancy. That unknown thing that animated their kind. It was almost the same as drinking human. He quickly got lost in the taste.

"Stay where you are!" Angel bellowed. Spike ripped his fangs from Angel's wrist, prepared to backhand him once again, until he saw Angel's other hand up, eyes focused on Cordy who was halfway across the room, an expression of panic on her face. Spike licked his lips and placed a finger over Angel's mouth. "It's okay, luv. I was just accepting Angel's offer." Angel tore his gaze from Cordy and looked up at him, a silent plea in his eyes. Spike nodded imperceptibly.

Angel took a deep breath, and turned to Cordelia. "It's okay, Cor. The blood is part of the ritual. He can take it from wherever he wishes. It's his right," he said hoarsely, trying to smile but to Spike's eyes it came out more like a grimace. Spike remembered that as Angelus, his grandsire had avoided most of the older vampiric rituals, though he had used this particular one to his advantage on more than one occasion. It had to suck to be on the receiving end of it. "He was actually being -gentle- by drinking from the wrist."

"Gentle my ass," she huffed.

"If it's too much for you, you can leave," Spike suggested. That lit a fire behind the chit's eyes for sure. Suddenly, the blood-rush hit and Spike didn't exactly care that behind the anger there was a hint of hurt. He was too busy living in the moment, letting the power wash through him, too busy trying to think of ways to humiliate Angel.

He turned his back to Angel and stalked closer to Cordelia. Suddenly he whirled, "Angelus, come here." Angel started to climb to his feet, but Spike shook his head and tutted. "On your hands and knees." There was a brief flash of surprise then Angel shuttered his emotions as he crawled to Spike's side. Angel didn't move like a supplicant however, he moved with a certain rolling-muscled grace, like a big tiger. Spike knew Angelus hated to look the fool, so it made him all the more determined to wipe any trace of dignity away. A memory niggled up from some dark recess of his mind, the last time Angelus had Spike in a similar position. Payback was a bitch. "Now lick my boot."

"Bastard," Cordy quietly said. He heard her sniff, but he couldn't help the swell of elation when Angel dutifully leaned down and licked his shoe.

"Ah, ah...." He lifted his foot. "I meant the sole, Angelus. Lick the sole of my boot." Angel ran his tongue along the grimy rubber soles. He leaned up, grimacing. A growl rumbled low in his chest. He made move to wipe his mouth with his sleeve but stopped when Spike snarled. "No! Come on, have you forgotten so soon, Angelus? I've heard you brag about that memory of yours-"

"I haven't forgotten any of it William."

Spike smirked, satisfied. "I guess you know what I want then, just like my last time, eh?"

"No-" Angel breathed. Spike's foot connected with Angel's head sending him flying back.

"Spike!" Cordy was up, her nails digging into his forearm. "Please!"

Something in her tone cut through his self satisfied haze. "Cordelia, sit down." He gently led her back to her chair, ignoring the tear that slid down her cheek. Bugger all, she was making him feel guilty. Angel cleared his throat. "What is it 'Gelus?"

"May I speak to Cordy?"

Spike took a good look at the chit and then nodded.

"Cor, I need you to stay over there now. I know it's hard-" he swallowed, "But it's going to be all right. I know what he wants and I'm prepared to do it, but I can't if you get upset again."

She sniffled and drew in a ragged breath, "You asked me to be here."

"I know, I need you here- but I need you to be strong."

"I thought you said this would help...."

"I love you Cor. Trust me." Cordelia nodded and wiped her eyes. Angel looked up to Spike expectantly. He knew exactly what Spike wanted and hated him for it. He hated himself more because he'd started this cycle and had enjoyed every second of making Spike do the exact same thing. His wrist throbbed and his mouth tasted of asphalt and ashes but there was no way in hell he'd give Spike the satisfaction of acting humiliated.

Spike waved him up and he stood, following him to the bed. All yesterday as he and Cordelia had talked and planned this out, her words to him had echoed in his head. Mercy, love, gentleness, these things Spike had never been shown. Angel had hit on an idea that made his demon howl in protest, but his soul knew it to be right. He wasn't so sure Cordelia's presence would blunt Spike's stab at vengeance. Not as much as he'd hoped, anyway. Maybe it she would hold him back just enough.

Spike wouldn't break through pain and torture, but a soft touch might bring his walls crumbling to the ground. Angel hoped it to be true. He was in fact, staking his life on it. He fingered the button to his shirt, cocking an eyebrow at Spike. The younger vamp wasn't used to taking the lead and Angel wasn't going to assume anything. However, Spike nodded curtly and Angel quickly shed his shirt. It was petty, but he didn't want to see it ripped. It matched Cordy's dress perfectly. Spike held out his foot and Angel immediately knelt and unlaced his boots, easing them off and then carefully rolled Spike's socks down his feet. This had been a lot more complicated when Spike had been forced to undress him.

He chanced a quick glance at Cordy. She was back in the chair watching them warily, but she seemed calm. At this point, there was nothing he could do for her anyway. He focused once more on Spike, raising up on his knees to begin unbuttoning his shirt. Spike's eyes went a little wide, but Angel remembered well enough how this scene had played out. It had been one of the last times he had been with Spike. The younger vamp had fully come into his own and chafed at being used for Angel's pleasure like the weak yet eager poet he had once been. In short, he had fought and Angelus took him brutally.

Now was the time to erase that memory and make a new one...

Angel ran his fingers across Spike's collarbones, as he slowly opened the material of his shirt, revealing pale white skin and wiry muscle. He let the pads of his fingers speak for him, whispering across skin just as cold as his. He looked in Spike's eyes and smiled. Spike slapped his hands away. "What are you playing at, Paddy?" Angel ignored the insult to his heritage and shimmied the fabric down Spike's arms.

He leaned forward and pressed his lips to Spike's chest. Spike grabbed his hair and yanked his face away. "Angelus?"

"William," Angel answered. "I'm just doing what you asked me to do."

"No," Spike said. "I didn't tell you to kiss me." Angel settled his hands on Spike's thighs rubbing up and down, up and down. Soothing him as he would his fathers horses when they were spooked.

"Don't you want me to do this right?"

"This isn't how I remember it."

"I'm not going to fight you," Angel murmured as he leaned in and ran his cheek over Spike's freezing skin. "You're my master tonight Spike. I'm here for you."

Spike gulped, his fingers sliding through Angel's hair and pressing him closer. "I don't believe you. You don't do submissive. There is no way you would accept-"

"Tell me what you want Spike. I'll do it, I promise I'll do it."

"Suck me off then." Spike said, releasing his hold on Angel and shoving him back. "You've given plenty of those before haven't you? Always seducing some innocent lad into your bed with that mouth. They never dreamed what you had planned for them, did they?" Angel didn't answer, he just began to loosen Spike's belt. Spike caught him across the cheek with a stinging open-handed slap. "I asked you a question, Paddy. You'd do well to answer it."

Angel swallowed hard, letting the pain wash over him. It was far less than what he deserved- Spike was right, there were so many faces. "No," he whispered. "They never knew." His fingers fumbled with the belt, but he got it off, thumbed the button open and unzipped Spike's fly. He heard Cordy suck in a breath. He shut his eyes, not daring to pray, but hoping she would be able to love him still when this night was over. At the very least, he could try and make this look good. There was a part of him that was excited by the prospect of touching Spike again. The blonde demon had always been able to stir his lust, even now. He drew on that as his demon strained on it's leash.

Cordelia regretted her decision to let Angel do this. As many times as he'd explained to her the sexual nature of what he had planned, and the fact that there would be violence involved, his words hadn't seemed real to her. It hurt her heart to see Spike hit Angel, to see the flash of satisfaction in his features as Angel visibly struggled to remain submissive. She could understand how Angelus would reject the old ways, yet according to Angel, he'd used the very same ceremony to force sexual favors out of less than willing partners.

That was the hardest part, reconciling the Angel she knew and the Spike she *thought* she knew with the two vampires in front of her. What they were doing was sick, wrong, and she wasn't sure anymore if it was going to help Spike in any meaningful way. However Angel had made it quite clear that once Spike had accepted the offer there was nothing she could do to stop it.

So she watched, and tried not to cry.

Spike was standing over Angel, naked at last as Angel knelt bare-chested before him. It could have been an arousing sight if she weren't so worried about Angel's safety. There was a cold look in Spike's eyes and Cordelia recognized it for what it was- evil. Spike had no conscience, no regret, no soul. She had forgotten that fact, just as she had with Harmony. Spike had been extraordinarily kind to her, but then again, he had no reason not to. God, what had she let them get themselves into?

Her attention shifted back to Spike and Angel when Spike shoved Angel's shoulder. Something wasn't going as Spike envisioned and he seemed pretty pissed. Angel on the other hand seemed amazingly calm, almost at peace....

Their eyes met for the briefest of seconds and one side of his mouth curled up slightly. She realized he was trying to reassure her, but dread bloomed in her chest. She knew him well enough to know he was up to something. Stupid vampire.

Angel's attention returned to his temporary master and he nuzzled Spike's belly, rolling his face over taught muscle, laying open mouthed caresses down the slight trail of blonde hair that lead to Spike's crotch. Spike sucked in a breath as Angel's tongue drew a wet line along the trailing edge of curly hair. His hands were trembling as he pushed Angel's head down further.

Angel slid his hands up Spike's thighs, drawing concentric circles that radiated closer and closer to Spike's penis. She had seen Spike before, no surprises there but this time he was standing at half-mast as if even his cock was unsure of how to react to Angel's calm acceptance and soft caresses. Angel cupped Spike's balls, squeezing gently and bending down to suckle each one in turn. Spike hissed when Angel licked each pouch with long flat strokes, circling his tongue around the base of Spike's growing erection.

"Quit stalling, mate," Spike managed through gritted teeth. "Get on with it." Angel immediately grabbed Spike's cock and squeezed it at the base, pumping it in his fist, once, twice....Spike's knee's buckled and with a groan, he dropped bonelessly to the bed. Angel chuckled. Cordy crossed her legs as warmth and moisture pooled between her thighs. Angel was trying to seduce Spike, and now that the violence had stopped, the picture he presented was arousing to say the least.

Angel pushed Spike's thighs open, angling them slightly so that Cordelia could see. She shivered in anticipation. She had the sneaking suspicion that Angel was seducing her as well. He needn't have bothered. She frowned, playing them both was risky and could easily backfire. He'd successfully thrown Spike off balance, but the younger vamp was still too unpredictable for Angel to be playing games. Angel was nipping at Spike's inner thigh's, soothing trembling muscles with butterfly kisses as his hand worked Spike until his cock jutted up, hard and proud against his flat stomach.

He raised up on his knees and with no more preamble, swirled his tongue around Spike's moist tip and took him deep. "Fuck, Angelus!" Spike moaned, his hips bucking up until Angel's nose was pressed into Spike's short, dense hair. "Yeah, like that, Peaches."

Angel anchored Spike's hips to the bed as he began a slow deep rhythm. Cordy narrowed her eyes as she watched him work. It weirded her out to see Angel acting so blatantly sexual. They had only had sex once, made out, and she had given him the one blowjob. In those moments, she had seen an expression of lust and desire so strong it had stolen her breath. But those had been all too brief moments, new and exciting times of discovery. She'd been too swept up in the rush of her and Angel's newfound intimacy

None of that compared to the graceful roll of his muscles as he fucked Spike with his mouth, or the way his hands moved across Spike's skin with confidence and provocative skill. She had an illogically envious notion that Angel gave better head than she did. Of course, no breathing, no gag reflex. Angel could deep-throat Spike all night if he wanted. It gave her a wiggins to think about it, so she pushed the thought aside and resumed watching.

Despite her reservations, she found the hardest part of her role as referee was sitting on the sidelines. She wanted to trace the ripple of muscle under Angel's tattoo. She wanted to tease Spike's nipples and overload him on pure sensation, she wanted to see if Angel's actions were making him hard.... She blinked, both vampires were staring at her curiously. She cleared her throat and shifted in her seat. "Sorry."

Spike chuckled. He knew full well that Angel was putting on a show for her benefit, and he didn't begrudge Angel the attempt. Her honey and lemon scent perfumed the air and curled tantalizingly around his senses. Cordelia hadn't tried to deny her arousal, as Buffy would have. Angel undulated his tongue against the underside of Spike's cock as he increased the suction. Spike's eyes went cross with the pleasure. He'd seen Angelus do this hundreds of times, but having been turned by Dru, Angelus had never bothered to lure him into bed through seduction. The end result would have been his bloodless corpse spread across the bed-sheets anyway. Buffy had sucked him off on occasion, her scalding mouth and lascivious touch bringing him to pinnacles of pleasure he'd never dared imagine, but for all that heat, there had never been warmth.

His hips fell into a slowly grinding counterpoint to Angel's mouth. At this rate, he wasn't going to last very long, but that was okay. There were other things he had in mind, desires he doubted Angel would be so willing to oblige. He dug his fingernails into the meat of Angel's shoulders urging him to a harsher faster rhythm, but Angel remained gentle, taking him deep and rotating his head slightly, rubbing the tip of Spike's cock against the back of his throat.

Spike could feel the building pressure in his balls. As if he could sense it, Angel swirled his tongue around the base and sped up. The pressure became unbearable. His erection throbbed, and Spike shut his eyes as a shudder ran up his spine. His thighs tensed, and his stomach quivered like a bow strung too tight. For a moment, Spike forgot that he was after revenge. He threw his head back and moaned. He bucked against Angel's tight grip, hands in Angel's hair forcing him into the tempo he craved, Angel grunted in response but didn't fight and after three erratic thrusts Spike came, groaning his approval as Angel swallowed him down.

Angel rocked back onto his heels, rubbing the back of his hand over his glistening, swollen lips. There was a brief flicker of resentment there, but in the blink of an eye it was gone. Spike smirked. Warm up was over and Spike relished the opportunity to dish Angel a taste of his own... "Pants off, helmet hair, and be quick about it." Angel's hands dutifully went to his belt, unfastening it, and opening his pants before sitting on the bed to pull them off.

Spike pulled his own belt out of his pant loops and folded it in half, snapping it together. Both Cordelia and Angel flinched as the sharp crack ripped through the heavy silence. Spike winked at Cordelia, ignoring the daggers shooting out of her eyes. It wasn't as if neither him nor Angel hadn't been strapped before. Darla had done things with a riding crop that'd made even him cringe. He wondered if Angel had told Cordelia *those* stories, if he'd dare test just how far the limits were to her stubborn acceptance. He didn't hit Angel, only let the belt swing in his loose grip.

Angel stood up, clothed only in what God gave him. His bulky body was tense, waiting, uncertain. Spike liked seeing the wariness in his posture. He glanced at Cordy. She was nibbling on her fingernail and staring with unabashed admiration at her mate. She caught him looking and grinned. She was staring like she thought he was pretty decent looking too. Spike repressed a frown. This wasn't about Cordy getting her jollies by watching them prance around like a couple of poofters. This also wasn't about Angel throwing a pity-fuck his way.

Spike lashed out, the belt unfurling and catching Angel across the hip with a stinging slap. Cordelia gasped and Angel hissed. Oh yeah. It was time to show these two who was the boss. "Don't you move, Cordelia. You get up, and it will only be worse for him, you hear?" He'd succeeded in wiping the smile off her face, but it didn't give him the satisfaction he thought it would.

"On the bed, now," he snarled. Angel backed up, cautiously sliding one knee on and then scooting over till he was fully on the bed, never once turning his back on Spike. Spike whipped him again, catching him low on the abdomen. Angel winced and clenched his jaw but otherwise remained still. Spike feinted, Angel's muscles corded, bracing for another impact. Spike chuckled. "Turn around, Peaches. Get on your hands and knees." As soon as Angel turned, Spike strapped him across the back, "I shouldn't have to tell you how this goes." He sauntered to the edge of the bed, "What do you say, Peaches?"

"I'm sorry." Spike brought the belt down across his backside, once and then again on the backswing. "I'm SORRY!" Angel yelled.

"It's not enough you stupid wanker. Sorry doesn't bloody well cut it, does it?"

Angel dropped to his elbows, his head sagging down to the mattress. "I know," he said, voice muffled by the comforter. "What else can I say?"

Spike grinned, "You don't have to say anything, mate, your screams are what I want to hear." He crawled up on the bed, his dick hard again in anticipation. Angel reared up, but Spike shoved him back down, gripping him by the scruff of the neck and pushing his face into the mattress. Angel growled, struggling reflexively. Spike brought the belt down against his ass again. They wouldn't last long, but he was pleased to see there were welts from his other blows painting Angel with thin red stripes. Angelus didn't like being submissive. Not even Darla could effectively control him, yet Angel calmed, going still and pliant under his grip.

"That's it mate, there's nothing you can do about it. Might as well accept it, right? It's not so easy when you are on the other end is it, Peaches? It's not so fun when you know you're in for a world of pain-"

"I've been tortured before, Spike, by far better than you," Angel growled.

"Oy, your right! Torture was never my big thing, but I've learned a lot since the last time I was in LA. You'd be surprised at what little Miss Slayer is capable of when it comes to giving vampires lessons in pain. Should have turned her when you had the chance, Angelus. She would have made Darla look like an amateur. Of course, I don't want to upset Cordy too much now do I, so I'll just stick with the classics." He squeezed Angel's neck hard, warning him to stay down, the repositioned himself directly behind his grandsire, his true face sliding into place.

"Spike!" Cordy interrupted, ignoring his annoyed growl. "Don't...."

"Stay out of this cheerleader." His hand spanned Angel's hip possessively. "Tonight he's mine, you can have what's left when I'm done." He glared at her in full game face, daring her not to head his warning.

"At least give him something to make it easier. Don't go in dry."

"Like he did me?" Spike countered, outraged. "Like he was going to in the club?" He laughed, smacking Angel's ass. Angel made a low guttural sound, but didn't move. "I could do far worse, Cordelia. I *am* holding back for you. Angel would be hanging from a wall split open from balls to chin if it weren't for you sitting there, so count your blessings." The disappointment in her eyes tugged at that spark of humanity that marred him. He turned away, refusing to let the chit guilt him out of his revenge. He *wanted* this, needed it, just as he needed blood, but the reality wasn't quite what he expected. He wanted Angel to struggle, not soak up his hate to feed his guilt. He could feel Cordy's gaze, laser hot on the back of his head. With a frustrated snarl, he bit his hand.

Angel's head shot up, his bottomless eyes questioning when the first drops of blood hit the small of his back. "Turn around Paddy." Spike let the drops fall, watching as they pooled and then ran down the crack of his ass. Angel groaned. Spike parted his cheeks and ran his fingers down the chasm, spreading the cold, sticky fluid down, circling his tight pink hole. Angel clenched, but Spike kept his fingers pressed against the opening. "Don't be a wanker, won't be near as painful if you just accept it." Angel's thighs trembled with the effort to relax, but his entire body was tense. Spike rimmed his anus and pushed a finger inside.

"Fuck!" Angel swore. Spike pinched his side, reminding him to be quiet. "Nggh," Angel dropped his head to the mattress, his muscles protesting Spike's invasion.

"Does it hurt?" Spike asked.

"Some, not t-too bad." Angel said, finally beginning to relax against him. Spike pumped his finger in and out a few times, painting Angel red, getting him slick. Spike noticed Angel would no longer look at Cordelia.

"This will, I promise." Spike grabbed his erection, pushing the blunt tip against Angel's tight ring of muscle. Angel gritted his teeth and groaned, finally letting out a shout that should have been music to Spike's ears as he began to stretch Angel open. Every muscle in Angel's back went ridged as inch by torturous inch, Spike slowly impaled the submissive vampire underneath him. Finally, he was fully sheathed in Angel's tight channel. He couldn't see Angel's face but he could tell that the penetration hadn't been pleasant. Still it was far more gentleness than he had ever been given.

He flashed on Angelus, carving into his back with some sharp thing or other as he moved inside him.... Spike drew back and shoved himself forward, the hard slap on his pelvis driving Angel's face into the mattress and muffling his scream. It was supposed to be satisfying to see his grandsire brought low, but there was only a hollow void where the satisfaction should have been. He thrust again, and again, pushing Angel's shoulders down, gritting his own teeth as he moved.

This was his chance at revenge.

He couldn't waste it.

Not all the blood painting Angel's backside was Spike's anymore.

He was hurting the only people that had showed him any real kindness or trust in years....


Cordelia watched the scene before her with a growing sense of horror. She had realized that Angel's proposal might involve sex and had told herself that it could be fun and sexy, in a kinky way, to watch Angel have sex with someone like Spike. This was neither sexy nor fun. Angel had warned her about the possibility of both violence and blood, but he'd never said anything about having to watch the two of them self destruct in front of her eyes... because that's exactly what they were doing.

Her gaze kept zeroing in to the point where Spike and Angel's bodies were joined. There was blood trickling down the insides of Angel's thighs. Too much blood to be left over from Spike's effort at lubrication. The smell was cloying, sweet on her tongue with a coppery undertone that made her want to gag. She studied Spike and wondered if he even noticed. His true face was in view but his eyes were closed and tears were falling down his cheeks. There was a grimace of pain on his face indicating to her that he wasn't actually enjoying his actions. She wondered why he didn't just stop.

Angel was no better. He was no longer sending reassuring glances her way. In fact, he steadfastly refused to look at her, but she didn't need to see his face to read him. What she could see was enough to piss her off. Angel's back was bowed and tense, his head buried in the mattress, hands fisted in the sheets in an effort to maintain control. She noticed his cock, hard lonely, swinging untouched between his legs as Spike pounded into him. Spike sure as hell wasn't going to give him relief, and Angel was too busy punishing himself.

She wondered if he thought she was too dense to get it, to understand Angel's desire to go through with this ceremonial rape for what it was. Her nostrils flared as she worked to keep her own anger under control. She knew Angel lived every day with a horrible burden of guilt. So many faces that he remembered, lives he'd snuffed, innocence that he had shattered. He could work to atone, suffer through the confines of his curse but she supposed none of that could really beat offering himself up as a whipping boy. If that were the case, then Spike was being far too gentle because Angel was looking for absolution through blood, sex and come.

The question was why had he insisted that she watch? Angel's reasoning that she might hold Spike back was true enough, but something else niggled at the back of her brain. Why would Angel want to potentially ruin their relationship by making her watch this travesty? Angel had seemed happy enough over the last few days. She hadn't caught him brooding or trying to push her away. He'd professed his love for her and accepted hers for him, hadn't he?

Her mind flashed back to that night, to Angelus words as he'd lain on top of her, ready to rip out her throat. { "I hate his happiness so much, that I am going to destroy any chance for him to ever find it again."} Of course. She should have seen it. He'd been happy, cautiously happy, but in the last three days she'd seen him smile more than she had since they'd met.

Angel was a vampire with more hang-ups than most and an unhealthy sense of self-loathing. She could easily see how Angel might think she wouldn't be able to handle the sight of him laid low for Spike. She could certainly imagine him thinking that she might recognize him for the monster he was and walk away from their newfound relationship. She could most definitely hear Angel guilting himself over her, even as he absolved himself of the ultimate responsibility. If she walked out on him in disgust, it couldn't be his fault, could it?

Cordy decided both vampires were idiots.

She rose to her feet and quietly crossed the room to stand beside the bed. It was time to put a stop to this and to teach both vampires a little about mercy and love, because neither of them had a clue. The irony of the fact that it was *her* trying to teach this particular lesson was not lost on her. There was a certain element of pure animal power and inhumane instinct-driven sexuality in the picture that Spike and Angel painted. There was only alpha and beta, Spike in control and Angel offering him his most vulnerable parts.

It wasn't a lesson learned watching discovery channel or spending time in the wilderness. It was a lesson imprinted on Cordelia in her own urban habitat of neuvo-rich vs. old money and in the dog-eat-dog wilds of high school. Show weakness and your pack takes you down, another lesson that Harmony had taught her. It seemed to her that Spike was learning that being on top wasn't all that he'd thought it was supposed to be. Only, unlike real life, this situation was manufactured. Angel wasn't going to assert his dominance... so she would. She just hoped she'd created enough trust between herself and Spike to not get herself killed.

She reached out her hand and stroked Angel's head. He turned, clearly surprised at the sudden contact. Cordelia grabbed his chin and lifted until Angel pushed up onto his hands. His demon eyes stared back at her, angry and unblinking. He visibly struggled to maintain his composure, but she could see the pain etched plainly in his face. There was a light sheen of moisture on his forehead and his lips were tinged pale blue and pressed into a hard, thin slash. He tried to turn away, but Cordy cupped his cheek and gently forced him to face her.

"Cor," he croaked. "Don't...."

Cordelia simply shook her head. "It's not going to work Angelus." She bent down and pressed a soft kiss to his lips. He jerked his face away like her lipstick had holy water in it. He growled and turned his head. Cordelia didn't try and push him, her gut was telling her now was the time to focus on Spike. She trailed her finger down Angel's spine, ignoring the small lost sound that he made, or the way his back arched under her touch. Spike had stilled and was watching her curiously. He hadn't told her to back off, and she wasn't quite sure how to proceed if he did.

"I thought I told you to stay over there," Spike finally said.

"Since when were ever the boss of me?" she replied as she let the thin straps of her dress slip down her shoulders. Her heart was threatening to pound through her chest, but she was determined to see this through.

"Cordelia," he warned.

"It's okay, Spike. Everything is going to be okay." She let the dress slide down her body and fall into a crimson pool at her feet. Left in nothing but her thong, she smiled slightly when Spike's mouth dropped. By the dry click of someone swallowing behind her, she figured Angel had turned around to see what the hold up was about. She ignored him and focused on Spike, who was focused on her rack. Typical....

She approached slowly, sliding her hand up his forearm and over his bicep, gripping his shoulder as she stepped behind him. She felt Spike shudder when her skin contacted his. He was still cold, despite the way he'd been fucking Angel and the difference had her nipples pebbling against his skin. It always intrigued her how vampires could work up a sweat but never heat, not without absorbing it from the living. She shushed him, pressing her chest against his back, giving of her warmth willingly. She kissed his shoulder, sliding one hand down to his chest while the other pressed against Spike's damp forehead. She eased him back until he was leaning against her. For a moment, he resisted and then his weight swayed her as he melted into her embrace, letting his head fall against her shoulder.

"What are you on about, ducks?" he asked, suspiciously.

"I want to help if you'll let me," she whispered into his ear. "It can be so much more than this if you trust me."

"This is my reve-" His words were cut off as she kissed his mouth softly. He turned his head away. "It's all I have left. Buffy took everything else I had, Cordy. This is all I am...."

"No," she insisted, stroking his temple as he rested against her. "At least- it doesn't have to be. It doesn't have to be this way for either of you. Let me make this the way it should be. You don't have to hurt each other, Spike." She gripped his hips and leaned forward. Spike allowed himself to be manipulated and together, they gently pumped his cock in and out of Angel's ass.

"Angel deserves to suffer," he insisted stubbornly, even though his voice hitched as he said it. Cordelia let go of his hips to stroke his shoulders. She kissed his back as her hands slid down over his wiry arms. She circled his wrists, placing his palms flat on Angel's back, drawing them in wide circles over Angel's white skin. When she released him, Spike continued moving as she'd directed... slow, tender, mellow. Spike took one ragged breath then let it out slowly. She kissed his neck, lightly biting the corded muscles before tracing each spot with her tongue. She moved directly behind Spike, letting him lean on her as she carved her hands down his abdomen, ignoring the cold sticky moisture that could only be Angel's blood and raking her nails down through his stiff curly hair until she brushed up against the base of his erection.

They moved as one. "He suffers every day, Spike. He hides it from us. He thinks we don't see it, thinks he has to carry his burdens all by himself because no one could possibly get close to him and still love him when they've seen all the blood on his hands...." She circled the base of his shaft and squeezed as he jerked erratically against Angel. "He still can't see what I see when I look at him. He's a good man." Spike grunted, "He's also very stupid and insecure, but I love him and I can't watch him use you to hurt himself anymore."

Spike snapped out of the lull she'd created, then pulled away, staring at her like she'd grown two heads. "What?"

"Look at him, Spike." Spike looked. She bit her lip, using the pain to steel herself from running to Angel's side, gathering him into her arms, and crying for the next week. He was laid out on the bed, ass in the air, shoulders shaking as he crumbled before their eyes. He tried to curl into himself, for the first time, Spike seemed to register his blood washed thighs and raw buttocks. Angel buried his head into the pillow and then it started, an anguished sob that shattered her heart. "I'm sorry, I can't-"

She went to him then, sliding onto the bed next to him and pulling as much of him as she could get into her lap. Angel's arms wrapped around her and buried his face in her stomach as he let it all out in big, messy, gulping sobs... She scooted down until she was underneath him, his head now pillowed on her breasts, as Cordy began to rock him, stroking his head and ignoring her own tears as she made comforting, motherly sounds in a language far more basic than words. She couldn't understand most of what Angel said. She thought he might go down the list and apologize to her breasts for each and every person he'd hurt, but after an eternity his litany became a dazed mumble and he quieted in her arms.

Spike watched it all with a new sense of crystal clarity. He'd done it. He'd actually broken Angel- or he and Cordelia had to be more exact. Angel had steeled himself for Spike's anger and violence but it had been the soft touch of his hands, guided by Cordy, that had done Angel in. Spike shivered. It had broken him as well. He found the taste of his victory curdling in his mouth. Cordelia should have staked them both but she'd- what had she done? She had kissed him, rubbed up against him like a cat begging to be petted, given freely of her heat... Cordelia had shown him love. The very thought staggered him.

He knelt over Angel, still inside him, hands spanning his back as Angel cried into his mates chest. Guilt rose like bile, stinging his throat. For perhaps the first time he saw Angel as separate from Angelus. Angelus wouldn't have fallen to pieces because Spike hadn't spilled enough blood to begin to fill the ocean wide gulf that Angel believed he owed the universe for his sin. Angelus wouldn't have cared, Angelus wouldn't have sought Darla's arms for comfort, even if she'd had heart enough to offer them.

Spike bent low over Angel's back, running his hands over his shoulders and tentatively enveloping him in an embrace. Spike wasn't sure if it was an apology or not. A declaration of a feeling he had no name for... a start. He lay his cheek against Angel's broad back. "Shh, Angel. It's all right now." He whispered, tightening his embrace, his weight shifting slightly, causing his cock to push a little further into Angel's ass. Angel groaned softly. Spike wondered at the sound, if it were shame or pleasure. It could have been either. "I-" Spike's thoughts stuttered to a halt as Angel instinctively pressed back, grinding into Spike's hips. "Fuck, Peaches."

Angel lifted his head out of the warm soft down of Cordelia's breasts. She was staring at him with a mixture of love and compassion that took his breath away making him grateful that he didn't rely on it. Spike was a cold solid presence at his back, inside him- god, he'd hurt going in, even with the blood. Angel had been a fool, playing them both for his own ends. He should have known they'd turn his game on it's head. When Spike bent over him, awkwardly hugging him from behind, and for the first time since sleeping with Buffy pure emotion reigned inside of Angel as the remaining walls around his heart crumbled.

This time, when Spike's hips moved, there was pleasure mixed in with the pain, a sharp sensation that spread from his buttocks up his back, making him shudder. Cordelia felt it run through him. She smoothed her hand over his brow "You okay?" Angel nodded kissing her once, tasting her sweet tongue before moving away. He flexed his thighs as he pushed back against Spike's hips. He felt his cock throb inside him, getting harder. He ground against the sensation.

Cordelia frowned as she realized what he was doing. Her hands, which had been tracing circles on his back, dropped to his sides, feeling the slight rocking of his hips. "Angel?" she whispered, concern etched across her face. "Are you sure?"

He stared down at Cordy, wanting to memorize every feature and every facet of emotion that he could see there. Spike surprised him, moving his hips gently, but the action pressed him down against Cordy, dragging his cock across her inner thigh. Her hands clenched against his side and a moan escaped her lips. Angel thought he might spontaneously dust if he wasn't inside her right then. He shifted his weight onto one hand, pushing on her shoulder with the other until she scooted down. Her legs parted as Angel gripped her hip and without any preamble drew back, pushing Spike in deep and then with one powerful thrust bottomed out into Cordelia's wet and waiting heat.

Angel groaned, almost whiting out at the sheer sensation, filling, being filled. Spike gripping his shoulders, Cordy his waist. Cordelia arched her back, pressing her pelvis hard into his. Spike remained still, waiting for Angel to make the next move, and so he did- sliding smoothly back until he'd almost withdrawn from Cordy, and he felt the soft slap of Spike's belly against his ass. He surged forward creating a powerful yet slow rhythm. He kept the pace as his partners adjusted, Cordelia scooting slightly down, spreading wider for him, Spike letting him go to grasp her thighs and tilt her hips as he nudged Angel's knee's further apart. Suddenly, their bodies went from fumbling limbs and awkward movements to locked together comfortably from cock to cock to womb and Angel *felt* it in the way that Spike groaned, sending shivers from the small of his back tingling across his thighs to Cordy's breathy moan as she clenched his shoulders and mumbled something unintelligible against his neck.

Just as suddenly there wasn't any one person steering the action. Instinct took over and their movements flowed out of the other. Angel sought absolution, forgiveness, mercy, love- and he found it in Cordy's eyes, in the way she stroked his shoulders and whispered her devotion in the shell of his ear, reaffirming to stay with him always. It was in the sure sweep of Spike's thumb across his the small of his back and the gentle way he fucked him. It wasn't love, not with Spike, but it was a start. It began to mend the shamefully-hidden, shattered bits of his soul that had been drug into the light these past few weeks. Angel shuddered as pressure built in his balls spreading across his belly and back to the base of his spine. His back trembled under Cordelia's touch as her hands snaked down his back until they met Spike's hands at his waist. Fire and ice touched, mingled, and together they guided him towards welcome oblivion.

Cordelia slid her fingers over Spike's sinking between them and holding on for dear life as Angel rode her. She had thought that nothing could top the sheer intensity of their first time, but Angel's steady pace stoked a fire in her belly that threatened to lick up her spine and spill out her fingertips, her mouth, her eyes. She shut them against the black depth of Angel's gaze but his stare burnt like hot embers behind her eyelids. Spike's hands anchored her, holding her trapped beneath Angel. This ritual had spun far out of control, but for the first time since Spike had walked through the door, she wasn't afraid. She arched into Angel's hand as he palmed her breast, fingers squeezing and rolling her pebbled skin as his lips skated over her face pressing feather light kisses over her eyes, her mouth, her cheeks... his teeth worried her earlobe and then so soft, she almost believed she imagined it he whispered, "I love you."

This time when his lips sought hers, there was only greedy passionate hunger. Her mouth opened under the assault as Angel kissed her roughly, his thrusts becoming harder, faster, more frantic as Spike let her go and grasped Angel's shoulders, slamming into his backside with each and every thrust. Angel gave a sharp cry, fingers fisting in Cordelia's hair as his weight pushed her into the mattress. Cordelia tried to pull him even closer, as his cock throbbed inside her and her muscles answered the call, clenching hard as she felt her orgasm build. Spike cried out as he leaned over Angel's back, watching them both as she did the first thing that came to mind and sunk her teeth into the meat of Angel's shoulder when she came.

Angel let loose with a roar as Spike pulled him up, covering her bite with one of his own, sharp fangs breaking the skin where hers had only marked it. Angel hooked his hands under her ass, pulling her up over his thighs and driving her into the bed as he pumped into her erratically, the pure white evidence of his passion marking them both. Cordelia was spent, her muscles felt like warm jelly, her eyelids heavy. Dazedly, she watched a single line of red creep down Angel's chest, followed swiftly by another. Spike's thumb intersected it at Angel's nipple, painting the small bud red before he slipped the digit into his mouth. Angel tracked the movement with predatory eyes, his lips parted, tongue pressed against his teeth. She knew she couldn't be thinking clearly, because she wanted to see Angel kiss that cocky smile off of Spike's face.

She chuckled softly, turning Angel's attention back to her, his features immediately softening. "What?" he whispered.

"Do it," she commanded. Angel didn't even blink, only twisted, grasped Spike's face between his hands and proceeded to try and lick every trace of his blood from the cavern of Spike's mouth. Cordelia sat up, swayed slightly, holding Angel's hip to steady herself. She bent slightly shouldering Spike over enough so that she could take Angel's nipple into her mouth. She circled it playfully with her tongue, smiling against his skin when he moaned. Spike's hands found her shoulders, pulling her fully between them. She switched to Angel's other nipple, uncaring that it was smeared with blood. She took it between her teeth, biting down just enough to elicit a gasp from him. Spike chuckled and pulled her around to face him, his compelling blue eyes sparkling- the dark cloud that had shadowed them in the last week finally gone. Without thinking she leaned in, the corners of her lips curving upwards when he cocked his head slightly and closed the remaining distance.

His kiss was cool compared to Angel's heated intensity, and his tongue moved like silk against hers. The connection sent a small jolt through her as she tasted the copper of Angel's blood on his tongue. She felt the soft press of butterfly kisses against her neck and shoulder as Angel tried to keep their physical connection even as he waited for them to finish. Spike grasped her waist, pulling her flush, chuckling against her mouth when she felt him stiffen against her. He leaned into her, pushing her back against Angel's solid chest. She felt Angel's fingertips skate up her ribs as Spike broke the kiss.

Spike pulled away, admiring the picture Cordelia made, flushed pink and heated from his kiss. He liked getting a reaction out of her, watching her expressive face register so many emotions at once. They still had a long stretch of night left and Spike had no more stomach for torture. His eyes drifted around the room, the soft plum walls and comfy well-lived in space so at odds with the Angel he remembered. His eyes stopped when they came to rest on Cordelia, on her knees, leaning against Angel as if she would float -feather light- back down to the mattress if he wasn't there to hold her up. Her stomach was toned but soft and curvy, the supple swell of her breasts were begging to be touched.

"I want-" he whispered. She had pressed that beautiful body into his back and held him with a gentleness that he had never experienced. She had watched him hurt her mate and still reached out to him in love. "I want-" Her eyes locked with his and a shudder ran through him. Angel had stopped caressing her and was looking back and forth between them in confusion but Spike was mesmerized by the shimmering brown of her irises, the glow of her skin and the sensual sweep of her lips. Gracefully she pushed away from Angel and rose up, her body swaying with pure womanly seduction as she splayed her fingers over his chest.

"Whoa, wait a minute!" Angel interjected.

"What do you want?" Cordelia asked, her voice soft and husky, wrapping around his heart and warming it like a shot of single-malt scotch.

"I want you." He said reverently as he trailed one finger up the outside of her thigh and over the elegant rise of her hip. Cordelia's eyes slid shut as she let her head fall back. Spike palmed her waist, rubbing his hand up the cage of her ribs to brush the underside of her breast. Angel made a startled, strangled noise in the back of his throat, causing the building swell of desire to fade. Cordelia opened her eyes and looked over her shoulder. Spike turned watched his grandsire, not missing the way that Angel was staring at Cordelia- with eyes burnt to coal, smoldering with jealousy, hurt and ravenous need.

Interesting. "Does it turn you on, Peaches, when I touch her like that?"

Angel growled deep in his chest. He sprang off the bed, dragging Cordy with him and put himself between her and Spike. There was no way in hell that he was actually going to let Spike have a go at her and yet the truth of his always observant grandchilde's words cut. Cordelia had responded to Spike's caress and he'd never seen her look more alluring as she had in that moment. He whipped around, glaring down at Cordelia. She was his and no others. He may not deserve her, but he wanted to throw her against the nearest flat surface and prove his ownership. She, however, just looked confused.

"I-I'm sorry, I d-didn't expect him to do that." she stuttered, clearly thrown by what she had nearly done.

"You didn't exactly try and stop him either," he snapped.

"I'm right here, you two, and *still* in charge," Spike grumbled.

"Not of me, Peroxide." Cordelia challenged. Spike opened his mouth then seemed to think better of it.

Angel smirked at Spike's frustrated expression. He knew just how infuriating Cordy could be. Watching her draw away from Spike soothed his battered ego. She refused to live within his expectations of her and he wasn't quite sure what to think about that yet. She should have run. She should hate him. She *was* angry, no doubt, but she had turned this entire night on it's head by simply being true to herself and not putting up with his crap. It pissed him off, made him desire her and love her just that much more. If he could, he'd flay her alive for interfering and then lovingly fuck her raw, pouring every emotion she elicited back into the vessel of her body.

It was too much, like starving for an eternity only to be dropped into the middle of a Technicolor dream banquet. He wanted her to run, yet he couldn't get enough of her touch. He was terrified of his neediness in regards to her. He'd been able to keep it in check for the past few days but the idea of Spike having even a fraction of her affection stirred a deep primal sense of possession in him. She was his and Angel had almost let himself ruin the best thing he'd ever had. Thinking about his actions was too much for him to handle, so he turned his attention to Spike.

That didn't help much. Despite Spike's assertions, it was clear they were both looking to him for what to do next. Ignoring the burning pain that was beginning to plague him with every movement, he put his arm around Cordelia leaning heavily on her as he lead her to the bed, pushing her down onto the mattress, "So."

"Yeah," Cordy agreed.

"Right then," Spike concurred.

Angel had his "we need to talk" face on. Spike wasn't in the mood to sit for one of Angel's "lectures" about love, acceptance, forgiveness and as Dawn liked to say- blah blah blahdycakes. Instead Spike scooted off the bed hurried to the bathroom. Running the tap and wetting a towel helped cover for the tremble in his hands. When he returned he noticed that Cordelia had managed to get Angel onto the bed. It seemed that since the festivities were over for the evening- Angel was finally registering what a mess he was.

"Here, ducks." He eased himself behind Angel laying the warm wet towel against his backside. Angel's muscles spasmed, but Cordelia cooed and shushed him, her whiskey colored eyes searching his. "I'm not going to hurt him anymore, it's over." Cordelia nodded but Angel's chest started to hitch again. Spike noticed Cordy flinch as Angel's fingers dug into her hips. He shook his head in pity, it wasn't like the chit was going anywhere. Spike patted the towel around Angel's ass then gently wiped his thighs as clean as he could. He winced slightly at the deep red stripes he's painted across Angel's back "It's all right Peaches."

Angel breathed deep and then pushed away from the comfort of Cordy's warm, soft body. She kept a hand on his shoulder, but he ignored it. His expression was haunted by the screams of thousands and yet his eyes spoke clearly of a single memory, a single man, of Angelus and himself. "It's not finished, it never- never stops Spike."

Spike narrowed his eyes as he studied his grandsire. "Don't you bloody well think it's time?" he snapped, repressing an angry growl. "I'm sodding tired of trying to make you love me, to make the slayer-" Spike snapped his mouth closed. His relationship with Buffy was not something he wanted to discuss with Angel whose expression had gone from surprised to suspicious to angry in an eye-blink. Shit.

"Make the slayer what?" Angel asked, voice low and dangerous.

"None of your business, that's what." Spike replied, his lips curving into a sneer. He just couldn't help himself. "The slayer hasn't been a priority of yours since she returned all hurting and vulnerable. I'm the one that's seen to her needs, not you!" Behind Angel, Cordelia looked like she was about to swallow her tongue, Angel had gone completely still, eyes flat and dangerous.


"Guy's" Cordy cut in, her nervousness palpable. "This isn't the best time-"

"Shut up Cordy," they said simultaneously.

"Fine," she huffed. "Rip each other to pieces over someone who neither of you are *ever* going to have again, what do I care?" She slid off the mattress and marched to the bathroom slamming the door.

"Again?" Angel ground out through clenched teeth. "Since when did you get a first time?" His true face emerged. "If you hurt her...."

"You'll what?" Spike laughed incredulously. "You'll hit me? If you plan to stake me then do it now so I don't have to listen to you talk about the purity of your bleeding star-crossed love!" Angel's fist lashed out too quick for him to react. Spike flew off the bed and landed heavily on the floor. Angel was on top of him, clearly recovered from his freak out a few minutes before.

"You don't think I don't wonder if things would have been different if I'd been there?" he snarled, shaking Spike's shoulders. "You don't think I'm not haunted by her face every day? I saw her, Spike. I don't know what her friends did but they hurt her and I had to let her stand on her own. You think that doesn't kill me inside?"

"Then why didn't you come?" he asked quietly. "She wanted you, but she- she settled for what she could get," he finished brokenly.

Angel's shoulders sagged and he let Spike go, crawling back until he hit the bed. He sat and leaned his head back on the mattress, staring at the ceiling as he began to speak in a weary monotone. "At first I blamed myself for not being here. We couldn't back you guys up because we were in Pylea. Cor got sucked in by accident and I couldn't leave her there. I felt guilty because I wasn't there to fight by Buffy's side, and guilty because if I had a chance to do it all over again, knowing the consequences... I would have still gone to Pylea." He lolled his head to the side and stared at Spike. "I didn't realize then that I was falling for Cordy, but I already had, little by little, and it felt like I had betrayed Buffy."

Spike sat up and crossed his legs, glaring sullenly at his grandsire. Unfortunately, he understood but, "That doesn't explain why you didn't come back when she was brought back from the dead. Cordelia was safe."

"But my son wasn't." Angel replied evenly.

Spike blinked. His brain went on momentary pause, rewound the last thing Angel said, played it again and still drew a blank. "Your what?"

Angel sighed heavily and scrubbed his hands over his face. Spike was waiting for him to crack a smile or Alan Funt to make an appearance, but no such luck. "I did go to her, and I *did* offer to stay-" There was a loud crash in the bathroom, "Buffy wanted me to, I think. She wouldn't talk to me about what happened. She was like a walking open wound, but she wasn't blind.... My -heart- wasn't in the offer and she could sense it." Angel stood and padded silently to Spike's side, holding out his hand. "She told me she was fine and to go home, so despite my reservations, I did." Spike ignored the fact that Angel was still very naked and slightly bloody. He took the proffered arm and allowed Angel to pull him to his feet. "If someone had told me how bad off she was, I would have come-" He glared at Spike, clearly laying a portion of the blame on him, "But then a few weeks later Darla showed up on the door-step as big as a fucking house."

Spike crossed the room and dropped heavily on the bed. He was finding that making Angel the scapegoat for all the suck in his life wasn't as simple as he'd hoped. Angel had made the offer to help. It may have been halfhearted but it was more than what Willow or Xander had done. Hurt fisted deep in his gut as he finally accepted that Buffy's behavior was due to Buffy, and not because her friends had failed her or she had come back wrong. Spike may have channeled Buffy's darkness to fuel his need for sex and pain, but the darkness was hers to give and twist- Angel's latest bombshell finally registered. "Half a mo- Did you say Darla?"

Angel smiled ruefully and shook his head before Spike could ask. "Yes, she was dead. She was brought back to drive me insane and very nearly succeeded." There was a loud "Pfft." from behind the bathroom door. Angel rolled his eyes. "Cor, you might as well come back out here," he yelled.

Spike frowned, asking, "Why'd she go in there in the first place?"

Angel shrugged, eyes tracking her movements as the door swung open and Cordelia emerged. She'd put back on her deep red thong, she marched proudly across the room and sat in the armchair, slouching down into the oversized seat as she scowled at them both. "Probably because we were talking about Buffy, and she figured if we couldn't see her we'd get it all out without worrying about her feelings."

It sounded logical to Spike except, "Cor, luv. The whole out of sight out of mind concept only works if you don't bang about every time you hear something you don't like." Cordelia just shot him the finger.

"I actually had to go pee, or did that never cross your very tiny, very limited brains?" she asked, her response heavily laced with sarcasm. Spike's brow rose. It seemed that Cordy was back to form.

Spike laughed at her peeved tone. "Since it's been about one hundred and forty years since I've had to take a piss, and two-fifty for the poofter, I think you can cut us some slack." Angel chuffed, not quite a laugh, but at least his sense of humor hadn't completely been lost.

"Whatever," Cordy snapped. "So what's next on the agenda for this oh so lovely evening?"

Spike turned to Angel, "I'd like to see this son of yours-"

"Not a chance," Angel said, with steely conviction.

"I'm still in charge of the festivities this evening, Angelus." He cocked his head, an arrogant smile playing on his lips. "I could order you."

"I'd die first," Angel replied flatly. "Take your pound of flesh, Spike. You have my body for the night to do with as you wish, but my son stays out of it." Spike took a good look at Angel, the fierceness of his expression, the decisiveness of his posture, despite the welts that cut across his chest. He knew then that Angel was telling the truth. He knew because he'd been prepared to do the same when Glory had tortured him to try and get her filthy hell-god hands on Dawn. He ducked his head in acquiescence.

"We could play pictionary," Cordy suggested completely deadpan.

Spike looked to Angel for his reaction, but his face was inscrutable except for a small smile. Then he did the last thing Spike ever expected for him to do. He held out his hand.

"You're right, William," Angel whispered, his gaze drifting from Cordelia to lock with his, "It's time to let it go." Tentatively, Spike grasped the proffered hand and they shook once, then again, "I can't make it up to you, but-"

"You can stop being a wanker about it," Spike said with a soft chuckle.

Angel's eyebrows rose, "Well, I can try."

"I still hate you," Spike said matter of factly.

"Same here," Angel replied leaning back on the bed, resting on his elbows, his thighs parted enough to give Cordelia an unobstructed view

"Yeah," Spike agreed, not even bothering to hide his grin at Angel's less than subtle attempts to tempt Cordy. "It's not like we don't have eternity to thrash it out." His expression grew serious. "I'm bloody well tired of being upset because Angelus was an evil ponce. I've got my own unlife, you know. I don't need his sodding approval."

"And Buffy?" Cordy interrupted, her tone skeptical. Spike's lips thinned, pursing as he thought it over, truly considering it.

"Buffy has problems that she can only help herself with." His refused to look her in the face, choosing to pick at the bedsheets instead. "Much as I hate to admit it, You were right about Buffy. I'm going back to her, you can't stop me from that, but I'm willing to back off a tic and see if we can work together instead of pounding each other senseless every other day." He shrugged, "That's got to better- for both of us," he mumbled.

"Great." Cordy grunted, as she levered herself out of the chair. "Now that you've gotten that out of the way, could we get dres--?"

The vision struck her like a closed fist, knocking her to her knees. Angel was across the room, scooping her up before Spike could blink. He'd moved fast, even for Spike's preternatural senses.

Cordelia spasmed as every muscle in her body went stiff as a board, she was dimly aware of Angel catching her, Spike asking why the vision seemed to be hurting her, and then she was gone. She stumbled over the cracked concrete of an inner-city sidewalk, almost busting her ass, but she righted herself and looked around. She stomped her foot on the ground, surprised at the solid thwack of her feet against the pavement. She then walked to the nearest store front and laid her palm on the glass.

The dull reflection thrown back by the dimly lit glass showed that she had her dress on again. She ran her hands down the front, smoothing the silky material. She was just grateful that she had been sent here clothed, avoiding the elements and embarrassment, because everything was too damn real for this to be a vision. She wasn't dumped into someone's head. *She* was here -across town- in one of the worst neighborhoods in LA. She heard footsteps behind her, two sets. "Craaap!" Not knowing why she was there, she ducked into the dark alcove of a grimy little pawn-shop. Slowly, the unhurried footsteps grew more distinct, as did the sounds of relaxed conversation.

"Did you see it!" There was a high-pitched squeal of a young woman who sounded like she was about to break out into a cheer, "I *so* rule!"

"You did good, little bit, but not *that* good. You dropped your guard and the Helvitica almost poked those baby-blues out," an amused male replied, his voice lightly accented. Cordy recognized it immediately from her years with Giles and Wesley- British, mid to upper-class. More importantly, they had mentioned fighting a Helvitica, which meant they were definately demon-aware and hopefully good guys. Of course if this was some sort of vision, danger could be ready to pop out and imperil them.

"Puh-leaze!" the young woman scoffed. They were almost on top of her hiding spot. Cordelia squeezed herself into the darkest corner, wondering how Angel seemed to effortlessly blend. She had to be sticking out like a sore thumb. "I know I still need training, but with these key-riffic hands-" They were passing directly by her now, and Cordelia stifled a gasp, her eyes riveted to the mystic glow that outlined the woman's fingers. "-There was no way it would get close enough to hurt me." Cordy's eyes snapped up, trying to glimpse who these people were but they had already passed her by, oblivious. The man was blond, wore a dark leather jacket, and the girl had long honey-brown hair that gleamed in the diffuse yellow light of the street-lamps.

As the man spoke, he gestured animatedly, reminding her somewhat of herself. "But that's the problem luv. You are too overconfident. Wolfram and Hart have too many ways to counteract mystical powers- just ask Cordelia...." Cordelia's jaw dropped, both at the mention of her name and because at that exact moment, the woman turned around. She looked annoyed and was making a yapping motion with her hands. The face was probably ten years older than she remembered, but it was one that she would know if she saw. Dawn threw her hands up in the air in an overly dramatic show of frustration.

"God, Spike!" She marched up so that they were standing toe to toe. "I know you guys are friends, but ever since we moved into the hotel, it's Cordy- this and Cordy- that. what is it with you and Angel always falling for the same girl, huh?"

"I-" Spike stepped back, reeling as if her words had physically stung. "I don't- love Cordelia, or I do, but not like that. She's a friend- a *good* friend. She's head over heels for tall dark and hair-gel, and he completely wrapped by her. You said it yourself, not two hours after we got to LA." His voice seemed to gain a little of his devilish attitude. When he stepped up to her, Cordy noticed the swagger was still present. "Where do you get off anyway, little bit? If anything all I hear 24/7 is Angel- sodding Angel. He's so cute, he's so bad-ass, his wrinklies are bigger." Spike tapped Dawn between the eyes, "But I'll tell you right now, mine are bigger where it counts."

Dawn's expression shuttered closed. She mumbled, "Like, I'd know," as she stepped around him and took a step in Cordelia's direction

"What's that supposed to mean?" Spike asked as he turned and trailed after her. "Dawn, what are you getting at?"

Her head ducked, that long mane of hair shadowing her face. She flinched when Spike laid a gentle hand on her shoulder. "What is it luv?" he quietly prodded.

Cordelia caught the flare of a woman who couldn't take something for one more second in Dawn's eyes- just before she spun around and grabbed Spike by the ears, pulling him into a swift, fierce kiss. Her lips broke from his with an audible smack. "It's been five years Spike. She's been gone five years, but I've been here- I've been here but instead of finally seeing me, all you do is talk about Cordelia!" With a wrenching sob, she took off down the street the way they had come.

Spike stood for one long stunned moment, his fingers touching his lips. "I see you, Bit," he said, suddenly realizing he was talking to the lamp-post while Dawn was running- "Oy, Dawnie!" he yelled. "I see you!" He hesitated, "Pidge?" With a huff and a roll of his eyes, he took off after her, his black coat swirling around him. "Wait up, Nibblet! I *see* you every bloody God-damned day!"

Cordelia continued to hide in her shadow, completely floored by what she had just witnessed. Could this be real? She pushed away from the wall and ran a few steps down the sidewalk, pulling up short when she saw them almost a block away, locked in a passionate kiss. The kind of kiss that would keep them busy for a while.... Cordelia's muscles spasmed again, causing her to loose balance. She screeched as she toppled over, hands coming up to protect her face. The bone crunching impact of the sidewalk never came. When she opened her eyes she was curled into Angel's lap, Spike's face hovering just over her shoulder.

"Jeeze guys!" she yelped pushing them both away. "I'm fine, no need to squeeze me nearly to death!"

"What did you see?" Angel replied tersely, his entire being focused on her in that creepily intense way he had.

"Uh," Cordy reached up, waiting for Spike to get the hint and offer his hand. Like the Spike in the vision, there was a few seconds of delayed reaction before he reached down and pulled her up. "I think I need a little while to process this one, but relax. It wasn't about big-evilies, it's just a lot of info for me to process, okay?" She staggered towards Angel's bed. "Whew, I so don't need to do that again any time soon!" As she crawled up onto the sheets, she glanced back at the two vamps wearing matching expressions of worry and confusion. "It's okay, really." She studied Spike, ticking through the details of her vision carefully. "Tonight was intense even without the vision cherry-topper. I'm beat." She couldn't tell him what she had seen. Buffy apparently gone, presumably dead, and that kiss- It wasn't even close to appropriate right now, but whenever that was.... and they were living in LA.

Spike and Dawn in the hotel.

She didn't think Angel would be to thrilled with that bit of news either.

"Spike, why don't you stay at the apartment, pack what you came with, try not to steal anything else. If you come by tomorrow, I'll have cash for you." She burrowed under the covers, yawning as she twisted and shuffled until she was comfortable. She shut her eyes, shutting their blank faces from her view. "It's time for you to go home, Spike."

Cordelia smiled softly when she heard him mumble, "Pushy chit isn't she?" as he put on his clothes.

"You have no idea," Angel replied with a chuckle. "Goodnight William." The bed dipped under Angel's weight as he slipped under the covers beside her.

"Piss off, 'Gelus." Spike retorted, purely on principal, she was sure. Cordy heard the flick of Spike's lighter, and deep breath as he took a long drag. "G'night Cheerleader," he said as he slipped out the door. Angel's arm slipped around her waist, drawing her in. He kissed the nape of her neck, his thumb stroking the skin just below her belly-button. If he said that he loved her, she was too asleep to hear it.


The day was almost gone. Cordelia stood facing Spike, sheltered in the deep shadow of the hotels three story wall. They had been standing, awkwardly casting about for something to say for the past five minutes. She was beginning to get impatient.

"So," Spike began. He rubbed the back of his neck, ducking his head and staring back up through his lashes at Cordelia. "Are you really going to do the relationship thing with Peaches? Him having the whole sunlight allergic, cursed, vampire issues, and all? Plus you know, there is the fact that Angel is an idiot. "

"Yep, we're going to give it a shot." She rocked on the heels of her feet, hands shoved into her back jeans-pockets. "I mean, it will be hard, sure, with the happiness clause and the fact that there's a part of Angel that would probably get off on killing me." She waved her hand dismissively, then added in her best cuttingly sarcastic tone, "Thank you *so* much for pointing out the glaring problems, as if they aren't hanging over our relationship in bright red neon."

"I guess this is- you know, goodbye," he said, ignoring her. "Unless you want to come to Sunnyhell, and verbally emasculate Xander for shits and giggles...." His eyebrows rose, as if he actually thought there was a chance she'd agree."

"Don't let the door hit you where the-"

"You know, I'm trying to be all polite here, seeing as you actually paid me for my help instead of being wankers about it, and we all spent the day trying to act like what happened last night, didn't really happen, and I think I'm actually going to miss you," Spike exclaimed.

Cordelia grinned, "That's why goodbye's suck, Spike." She took her hands out of her pockets and held her arms out. He embraced her without hesitation. "Besides, I'm visions girl, remember- you'll be back, I've seen it."

Spike pulled back a bit and looked down at her curiously. "What *did* you see in that vision, pet."

Cordelia stared hard at the vampire in front of her, a strong jolt of mixed emotions running through her at the memory of what she'd seen. "You looked happy," she said, simply, as she stared into his brilliantly blue eyes. "You had a future, and you looked happy...."

Spike pulled her back in, covering her mouth and capturing it in a sweet, tender kiss. She deepened the kiss, touching her tongue to his, moaning as they slid silkily together. His hands traced the length of her spine, pulling her flush against the hard ridge of his erection. The jolt of it, brought her to her senses and she pulled away.

Spike smiled sheepishly. "Keyrumption and Moira, eh? Are you sure I can't beat this Lorne fellow up?"

She laughed. "They're just words Spike. Fred used to say that about me and Angel, but you know what? We're friends, and we fell in love. Doesn't matter what tag you want to put on it, Soulmates, Keyrumption.... I think people get so caught up in the idea of destiny, that they forget that it's simply about living your life and grabbing happiness where you find it."

Spike stared at her, expression dubious. "Is this some veiled message that I'm supposed to suss out and have some grand epiphany about at some opportune moment down the road?"


"I'll keep that in mind then, Cheerleader."

"You do that, Blondie," she said as she turned and headed for the courtyard, where she knew Angel would be lurking- hoping to eavesdrop on their conversation. She didn't try to hide the smugly self satisfied smirk on her face. Not only had she gotten the last word, she'd also made sure that Spike had her and Angel's cell and home phone number tucked into the dash catch-all of his car. It would probably be a few days before he found it, and that was fine by her.

As she passed through the gate into the hotels private garden, she immediately spotted Angel standing at the edge of the shadows, holding his son so close to the late afternoon sun that she wondered if he'd singe his fingers. The sounds coming out of his mouth were bizarrely incongruent with his severely handsome good looks. He was making baby talk, a goofy grin plastered to his face as Connor giggled and kicked his feet.

He cradled his boy to his chest, slowly turning to smile at her. "Is he gone?"

"He is."

"Good." Angel said, gently rocking back and forth. "You want him?" he asked- as if there was even a question.... Cordelia nodded, hurrying across the courtyard to join him in the shadows. with practiced ease, Cordelia took their most precious family member, rolling her eyes when Angel's fingertips lingered on her breast for a long moment before sliding away.

"Perv," she said with a snort. Angel winked as he kissed her forehead, turning her by her shoulders and nudging her out into the sunlight. He watched them as she jiggled Connor on her hip, walking over to a sun-splashed Bougainvillea and let Connor wave his arms happily at the swaying branches. The expression on Angel's face was content, and so for the time being, Cordy decided to quit worrying about the problems that would try to define them and concentrate on making Connor laugh for his father.


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