Author:Evil Hands of Akasha and seabreeze
Rating:Hard to say. Let's say R for adult content to be on the safe side :)
Spoilers:ATS up to That Vision Thing
Disclaimer:All characters belong to ME and 20th Century Fox. No profit has been made.
Feedback:Yes, please, we crave for it!!!!!
E-mail:AngelsChilde@aol.com and LornesGirl@hotmail.com
Summary: Angel, Cordelia and a bottle of maple syrup. The story happens
right after the events of **That Vision Thing**.
"Cordy, I'm glad you're feeling better, but I'm, y'know..." Angel gestured at the plate in front of him that was holding his toasted waffle.
"... you're not really a foodie, I know," Cordelia finished his thoughts. "But I am, and I'm tired of eating by myself, so there!" She picked up the syrup bottle and spread some over her waffle. When she reached over the counter to pour some over Angel's plate, he tried to stop her by holding her wrist.
"What? Trust me, it's better with syrup!" She tried to tip the bottle further in his iron grip. Angel tried to steer the hand holding the bottle away from him while Cordelia was teasingly tilting it further.
"Stop fighting it, Angel," she joked when he still wouldn't let go. He shot her a questioning look, having clearly missed her meaning, and loosened his hold on her wrist, distracted. Cordelia didn't anticipate him backing down, so before she knew it, she had already tilted the bottle too far and before she could stop, the sticky goodness spilt out of the bottle over Angel's hand.
"Eeek! Now look what you have done," she shrieked.
"What *I* did?" Angel started, but Cordelia interrupted him.
"If you hadn't squirmed like a kid, the syrup would be where it belongs now, not on...well, lick it up already, will ya!! Geeez!"
Angel just stared at her, not really getting her point.
"Come ON!" She coaxed him, still holding his hand, trying to push it closer to his mouth, so he could lick up the sticky liquid. "What, you're scared of anything that's not red and bloody? It's good, trust me! Here..." Following an instinct, she licked up the syrup that had dropped onto his hand. She had tried to convince him, like one would convince a kid, tasting something to show them it was eatable. When her eyes met Angel's, who had stopped resisting, she immediately stopped, realizing what she was doing and released his thumb from her mouth.
"Uh...um...sorry" she mumbled, before she turned around and approached the coffee machine, seemingly to refill her cup, but really only to hide her blushed face from him.
Angel was glad *his* face didn't blush, because the feeling of her hot tongue on his hand and fingers had sent shockwaves through his body that had settled in his groin.
"That's...err...no problem, really" he managed to say before he got up. "I'll just get, you know, cleaned up and I'll be right back." With that, he got up, checking that his shirt was covering his crotch and sped for the bathroom adjacent to the lobby. Closing the door behind him, he took a deep unneeded breath. What he really needed right now was a cold shower, but he figured that would seem excessive for a little spilt syrup. Of course, he reasoned, the syrup was the least of his problems. Images of Cordelia spreading the maple goodness all over his body and licking it off flashed through his mind and he was shocked. Half his mind was reprimanding him for those thoughts involving *Cordelia*, while the other half encouraged him to continue. He was utterly confused and realized, if he was going to leave the bathroom to face her decently anytime soon, he had to put and end to these thoughts.
He discovered he didn't feel as guilty as he expected for thinking of his friend *that* way, which rendered him even more confused. As if his body had had to convince him of his growing feelings toward her......Angel shook his head, trying to free himself of the images before his inner eye.
"No, no, no!" he scolded, "this is Cordelia! Whatever ideas you have in your head, forget them! Never going to happen! She sees you as a eunuch, remember???" He wished he could see his reflection in the mirror, so he could have an earnest man-to-man talk with himself, and sighed. Instead, he opted for washing his hands, where he could still feel the heat of her touch.
Cordelia wasn't that much better off. She had been relieved he had left, so that she didn't have to hide her face any longer. Taking a couple of deep breaths, she tried to calm down. `What was wrong with her?' Sure, she shouldn't have touched Angel in that way, sucking each other's fingers was really not a game they engaged in often, but that only explained her embarrassment. It did not, however, explain the tingling sensation in her body and her quickened breathing. Feeling his cold digit in her mouth had been a sensation so strange and yet so...right, it scared her. She was glad the look in his eyes had pulled her back to reality in time, well, almost in time.
She wasn't quite sure what to say when he came back, if she should comment at all. It would probably be best to joke about the situation to ease the tension, but she didn't know if her voice wouldn't betray her. This was silly, she tried to convince herself, she was probably just worn out from the vision aftermaths. "Ooh, shouldn't have gone that way!" she told herself, as she now remembered how gently Angel had held her hand after one of her latest visions, when she had rested on his bed. How his eyes had burnt with concern for her, how his thumb had gently stroked the back of her hand, slight pressure that had comforted her so much.
She heard him leave the bathroom and took one last deep breath, aware that he could sense any nervousness in her.
"Do you want some coffee?" she asked him in her most casual voice.
He wanted, in the worst way. But it wasn't `coffee' he was craving. Still fighting to shake all these disturbing thoughts from his mind, he was unable to look her in the eye. He just grunted a reply, which Cordelia took for a yes, as she needed an excuse to busy herself. She placed the steaming cup in front of him, where she had already cleared away his plate and the spilt syrup. As she took her own cup, she noticed how he still wouldn't look up at her and frowned.
"Angel?" she tried to get his attention.
"Hm?" he finally looked up.
"What you did for me was unbelievably selfless and brave and amazing. And it's so great to think that my next vision will just be blindingly painful and not turn me back into the Elephant Man or anything," she sighed. "I guess what I'm trying to say is: Thank you! You didn't even consider the dangers, you just..." she trailed off.
He tried to hide his embarrassment by waving a hand at her.
"No need to thank me. I just did what I had to do. If I weighed all the pros and cons before every fight, I would have been dusted a long time ago." He took a deep breath. "You're my friend, Cordy. And I don't hesitate when my friends are in danger."
Cordelia tried not show the pain his words had caused her.
`Oh,' she told herself, `**that's** what it was. I was just `a friend' in distress...' She hated the disappointment this realization caused. `Of course! What was I thinking? I was just another helpless in need of his `services', geeez, over-react much?'
She didn't realize Angel had never taken his eyes off her. Her inner struggle was clearly displayed on her features, but he couldn't figure out what he had said or done to cause the turmoil.
"Are you okay?" he asked insecurely, trying to stop the urge to gather her up in his arms and soothe all her troubles away. She snapped out of her reverie, quickly flashing him one of her trademark Cordelia Chase smiles.
"Sure!" she beamed. "Right as rain!"
But he wasn't convinced. He still didn't understand the turn their conversation had taken, couldn't place the emotions coming from her in waves that his vampire senses picked up. He'd be damned if he ever understood women, Cordelia in particular. Sure, he had *known* a lot of women. As a mortal, he had done whatever it took to get under their skirts. Back then, his good looks and charm had usually been sufficient. After he had become a vampire, he became an artist at torturing women, so none of his experiences had taught him the fine art of truly understanding them. He admitted to himself he really wasn't good with the subtleness. Ask him to beat the crap out of a bad guy, and he was in his element, but have a meaningful talk with his friend and he was lost. `Now, there was a joke, Cordelia was so much more than a friend to him and he was still trying to lie to himself', he sighed.
"What do you say we get out of here? The sun will be down in a couple of minutes and I could use some exercise. How about a walk?"
She nodded absently. What she really needed was to get away from him, distance herself from his longing eyes and toned body. But at the same time, the thought of leaving his side was too much to bear. She reckoned a walk would be the best of both worlds; outside, away from the temptations of a couch or a bed, yet still close to him. She shook her head trying to rein her thoughts in, this was not helping.
"I'd like that," she finally replied softly.
"Great!" He fought the instinct to take her hand in his and pull her with him, as he got up and grabbed his coat instead.
Cordelia was going to make her usual remark about the heat outside, but she bit her tongue. Instead, she stole a glance as his flexing muscles under his shirt as he slipped into his leather coat and headed for the door. She glanced outside and as if he had read her mind, she heard his voice close behind her:
"Let's just keep to the shadows for now. I'm old-fashioned, I'd like to be able to take my girl home at the end of the evening..." He missed her widening eyes as she strode past her, Cordelia had to pinch herself not to respond to what she considered his careless remark - his girl.
There, he had said it. She was his girl. He thought maybe Cordelia had missed it, because she didn't comment. `Dammit, what did it take?' Well, him rushing out of the courtyard with her barely able to keep up was probably not the right way, but he was nervous. And she was far more experienced in recent years, she *could* say something. She would never leave a comment like his out there, unless she hadn't heard. No way he could repeat it though.
He slowed down a little to let her catch up, carefully avoiding the last rays of sunshine. Inhaling deeply, he caught the scents of the flowers in some front yard and caught a whiff of her perfume. He made a mental note to find out what it was and surprise her with a bottle soon. Granted, he didn't want to buy her affection, but she had once hugged and kissed him for a couple of clothes... Deeply lost in his thoughts, he missed what Cordelia had said.
"Oh sure. We already had a five minute talk, I forgot your interaction with people was carefully timed!" she scolded him jokingly.
"No, no..." he rushed to object. "I was just thinking, we could cut a couple of corners and go to that park on Wiltshire, I bet it's pretty at night..."
She liked that idea. "Yeah, and we could stop by the ice cream parlor on the way, I could go for some frozen yogurt!"
He was relieved she had bought his hasty excuse. They made mostly small talk on the way, Angel bought her the desired ice cream and was content with stealing glances at her while she was licking it with her rosy tongue, trying hard to not let his mind wander *too* far. By the time they reached the park, the sun had finally set, but there was enough light left to make it a romantic stroll, rather then an eerie reminder of graveyard patrols in Sunnydale. Angel was trying to come up with a comfortable subject, but by trying too hard, he couldn't think of anything. Very well then, he could do this.
"So, Cordy, are you...you know...seeing anyone?"
Cordelia was glad she had finished her ice cream cone a while ago, she was positive she would have choked at his question. She knew she could have bought some time by pretending she didn't hear him but she realized that was silly. He was walking right beside her and the park's current occupants didn't make enough noise for her to not have heard him.
"Um...do you mean like, am I dating someone?"
`Ugh. Idiot! What else could he have meant? Was that the best she could do?' She knew the answer to his question. Yes. She had heard it before. But... but she'd have to be in flirt mode to engage in this kind of conversation, and this was Angel! She didn't flirt with Angel! Oh, and Angel didn't flirt with her. He had probably meant it as a way a concerned friend would catch up with his friend's life. What else?
He looked up. "Yeah. I mean, you haven't mentioned anyone in a while and...and I know you don't like bringing your boyfriends to the office, because..."
"Because you give them the third degree and embarrass me even before the first date?" she interrupted him. But she regretted her remark when she saw his face fall. He dropped his head and resumed studying the pavement.
"If that's how you want to put it," he said, and Cordelia thought she could sense pain in his voice. But that must have been her imagination, they had played this game before. The emerging silence made Cordelia uncomfortable. She decided a change of subject was in order.
"How did you know about this park, do you come here often?"
But he wasn't distracted so easily. "You didn't answer my question...", he insisted.
Cordelia threw her hands up, pretending to ask the heavens for help.
"No. Okay? Rub it in, why don't you!" she stomped ahead.
"No, Cordy, I didn't mean to...I was just..." he started as he quickened his pace to catch up. He was about to reach out to grab her arm, make her look at him when he heard a growl from the nearby bushes. Cordelia stopped immediately, as the first growl was greeted with a similar sound, coming from behind a tree a few feet away.
"What was that?" She whispered, hoping he would say `wild dog' or `goose' or something equally comforting. He actually managed to give her an amusing look. "A life on the hell mouth, three years in LA, and you have to ask what *that* sound is?" He arched an eyebrow at her. "Did you bring any weapons?"
"Gosh, Angel, normally I would. What was I thinking, going out for a walk with my champion and not bringing the weapon's cabinet!" She was so annoyed she didn't even notice her own slip.
He didn't have the time to investigate any further though, as the first vampire jumped up from his hiding space behind the bush. Angel shoved Cordelia to the ground and attacked. She landed on a branch, which she quickly freed of all foliage. Calling his name, she got Angel's attention as she threw the makeshift stake at him. He got the right angle and planted the piece of wood in his attacker's chest. Before he went up in dust, a second vampire had jumped Angel's back and was wrestling him. Cordelia shrieked as now a third demon attacked her.
She heard Angel call her name, but she couldn't respond as she was trying to fend off her attacker. What she wouldn't give for at least a crucifix. For a split second, she was wondering how, on the only night she left the hotel without any means of defense whatsoever, they were ambushed like that. She heard the familiar sound of a vampire being dusted nearby and was sure Angel would come to her rescue any moment now. Cordelia was still on the ground wrestling with a badly dressed female vampire, straining her neck to make out Angel and get his attention. She gasped when she saw him, he was currently fighting three vampires; one was on his back, one was going for the hand holding the stake and one was about to jump him.
"Angel, look out!" she screamed, a moment before she felt the impact of something heavy on the back of her head and her world went black.
Angel was all business. No time for silly one-liners that usually eased the tension when he was out killing demons with the gang. He knew he was outnumbered and he also had Cordelia to worry about. He managed a powerful groin kick against a vampire dressed in `70's clothes, which gave him time to shake a smaller, almost dwarf-like creature off his back.
"Cordelia?" he yelled out and didn't get an answer. He didn't have the time to turn around though, as disco-guy was recovering and approached him quickly with his fangs bared.
Angel had long since put on his game face, he knew he'd need the extra demon power when he saw he was facing more than one of his undead `cousins'.
He kicked his attacker right in the face this time, and as he slumped to the ground, Angel jumped him. With one swift grip, Angel held his head tight and jerked it until he heard the spine break. He knew it wouldn't kill the vampire, but it would give him a moment to focus on the other attackers and find Cordelia. Angel turned around, ready to face Gnome Face, when he realized he was alone. He saw the back of one vampire, exiting fast. Finding another branch, he quickly dusted disco-guy before he regained consciousness.
"Cordy?" he yelled again, expecting her to emerge from behind a tree or a bush, making a typical remark about ruined clothing, or maybe reprimanding him for shoving her to the ground. Anything!
"Cordelia???" his voice was almost a plea at this point. He strained his ears to pick up any sound at all while scanning the terrain. All he could make out was a few frightened people, standing at a safe distance, gawking. He turned back into his human form, now looking behind every tree trunk. It took him another ten minutes of frantic searching to finally let the truth sink in: They had taken Cordy - his Cordy.
She was out there, scared shitless, hopefully still alive and he had been unable to protect her. He had let her down.
"Cordy!!" he screamed one more time, no longer expecting her to answer. He was beside himself with anger, shame and worry. He would never be able to forgive himself if anything happened to Cordelia while she was with him. He always wanted to protect her, but when she was with him, he wanted more, he wanted her to feel safe in his presence. He sunk to his knees in a moment of despair. Now cursing himself for not going after the last fleeing vampire to at least have a trace to follow, he got up and forced himself to focus. He knew her scent, he could follow her. And he was not going to waste another minute pitying his incompetent ass while she was out there!
Concentrating, he was able to pick up her faint scent, but he had to find it among the many scents lingering in the park and it wasn't easy. It took him to a tree on the edge of the park, where Cordy's silk scarf was caught in a low hanging branch. And then it stopped at the curb right outside the park where tire marks indicated a rushed exit of a car, or van, or truck, in short, anything with four wheels and something LA had millions of. So Cordy must have been taken here and wheeled off. At least that told Angel that it hadn't been a random attack, since whoever had staged it had had their transportation here waiting for them.
He didn't know if that should make him feel better or worse. It was good, since that could mean it hadn't been just a couple of vamps out for an early evening snack, and it seemed bad because now the possibilities, and dangers, seemed endless.
Angel knew he needed help, but he'd be damned if he'd call Wesley or Gunn for assistance, he just couldn't face them with the news that Cordelia had been taken from right under his eyes. He fought a brief inner struggle, and in the end, his pride won and he decided to find her on his own. Since the sun had just set about an hour ago, he had time, and he wasn't going to waste another minute of it.
He sprinted back to the hotel in record time, jumped in his car and was on the road to the first address that had come to mind. He didn't know of too many vampire groups in LA, but he knew some lairs and some of their stomping grounds, so that's where he went. And that's where he came up empty handed.
If the lairs weren't empty, the few surprised vampires he found didn't know what hit them and wouldn't know anything about a kidnapped girl even after he had dusted one or two of their "friends" as a threat. That was when he realized he wouldn't be able to make it on his own, and he could only come up with one possible source.
Since it was still early for LA's nightlife, the bar was almost empty. An untalented man was just performing his version of "Heartbreak Hotel" when Angel entered `Caritas'. He scanned the dark room quickly until he found Lorne, engaged in a conversation, at the bar. Not wasting his time with pleasantries, he approached his green-skinned friend.
"I need your help, Lorne!"
Lorne didn't look up immediately but finished his conversation.
"You have to excuse my dark-clad friend of the night, he's always straight to the point. I will talk to you later." The demon Lorne had talked to understood the hint and got up.
"Well, Angelcakes, it is good to see you, as always. I'm doing fine, thank you for asking, and yourself?" He had long since gotten used to Angel's direct ways, often bordering on rudeness. Angel sat down on the vacant barstool.
"Cordy's missing!", he blurted out.
"Well that explains your tattered aura," Lorne stated calmly. "I just don't see how I can help in the matter?"
That came unexpected to Angel. It took a lot from him to even ask for help, and when he did, he expected it immediately. He willed himself to calm down to tell Lorne everything he knew.
"Oh, so you're saying somebody took Doll Face on purpose?" Lorne pursed his lips ,"to get to you or something? Seems like we've just been through this! No, wait, we *have* just been through this!"
Angel was confused, "so you're thinking Wolfram and Hart are behind this?"
Lorne shook his head, "doesn't sound like their style, too crude, if you ask me."
"Then what??" Angel screamed, jumping up and knocking his stool over.
"Easy, Bran Muffin!" Lorne tried to calm him. "I don't know anything for sure. It's just a hunch."
He signaled the bartender to bring them some drinks. When they arrived, Angel drank his down in one gulp.
"This is not helping. Angel, you're not letting me in!" Lorne admitted.
"Letting you in?" Angel asked puzzled.
"It just so happens that the stage is empty. Why don't you grace us with a number?"
Angel winced, if there was one thing he tried to avoid, it was singing in public. Well, for the most part anyway. He didn't see how his singing would help in the matter and tried to argue when Lorne nudged him towards the stage.
"Let's find out if Mr. Manilow can help in the matter, shall we?"
Moments later, Angel found himself bathed in the light of the stage lights and heard the intro to "Copa Cabana". He did know the words to the song, but his performance was painful even to his own ears and he was relieved when it was over. He prayed it had given Lorne some much-needed answers, because it had been quite a sacrifice. Then he realized, no sacrifice was too big if it would bring him closer to rescuing his Cordy. He was no longer afraid to refer to her as his, even if only in his own mind for now.When he sat down to the table Lorne was sitting at, Lorne's frown had deepened.
"What did you see?" Angel asked impatiently.
"I didn't just see, Sweetie, I saw, felt and heard at the same time, my knees are still buckling!" One look at Angel convinced him that the vampire would beat the words out of him if he spent any more time on the prelude. With a sigh, he shared his knowledge.
"It turns out the second chest at the end of your stake was a customer here, came in just the other night. Well, he wasn't a regular, but I remember him. His aura wasn't as colorful as yours, but he was troubled just the same..."
"Lorne!" Angel huffed warningly, urging him to continue.
"Well, it turns out this vampire, Stanley, had a crisis of identity of sorts. He wasn't quite happy with the way he had become a vampire for hire, you know, taking money for being evil, imagine that." He took a sip of his Seabreeze before he continued. "This slug's boss was in search of a pretty young woman and he figured Stan and his crew would be just the right vamps to find her."
Angel cocked an eyebrow. "Who hired him? What do they want with Cordelia?"
Lorne regarded his friend warmly. "Now, I know she's constantly on your mind, Sugar, but that doesn't mean she's on **everybody's** mind. I said young woman, I didn't say Cordy. Although," he amended, "when I first saw her on his mind, I was mistaken, too. Ah, but it wasn't her. The lady in question is a demon princess about to be married off to some underworld prince and it seems that she didn't quite agree with the deal, so she went AWOL."
Angel grunted, he wasn't really interested in any demon matters, as long as they didn't involve killing innocents.
"So it seems that Stanley either didn't get a good look at the princess or at Cordy, because my guess is that he's taking your sweet honey bun to his boss this very moment." Lorne grabbed his glass off the table in anticipation of Angel's next move. He wasn't disappointed, the vampire slammed his fists on the table with full force, breaking it in half.
"He's taken Cordy to some demon prince to be married off?" he screamed. "Where do I find his lair? Lorne, you have to give me that much!" His eyes where shining demon yellow as he focused them on Lorne, grabbing him by the collar.
"Easy, easy, donut," he tried to soothe Angel, not shaken by his friend's outburst. He was used to Angel's tantrums when loved ones were in danger, and he knew now that Cordelia was at the lone top of this list.
"This guy Stan is just muscle for hire. He's not too bright. Everyone with two eyes can see the difference between Cordy and this demoness, I mean the boobs are all wrong." When he felt Angel's grip tighten and heard the vampire growl, he rushed to explain. "No, I mean, there's nothing wrong with Cordelia's. It's that princess', Alania, she has 3, like all women of her kind."
Angel let go of Lorne when he registered his friend hadn't just insulted Cordy's endowments.
The host straightened his suit jacket and took another sip from his drink, trying to calm down. He tried to convey the next bit of information to Angel as calm as possible.
"So I don't think they'll mistake Cordy for the real thing, I mean the bride here, once Prince Makaresh lays eyes on her, so her virtue is safe."
But Angel wasn't pleased, "Where do I find them?"
"Oh," Lorne frowned, searching his memory, "Stanley had just come from his boss, as a matter of fact, you'll find him at the corner of 3rd and Doheny Drive in Beverly Hills, but, Angel," he held on to the dark haired vampire's sleeve, "these demons have protection. You can't just waltz in there and take your girl. Be careful and look out!"
"I always do," Angel replied and freed himself from Lorne's grip.
"You're welcome!" Lorne yelled after him, but Angel was already on his way upstairs.
Shaking his head, the host found himself another table to sit at while his bouncer cleared away the remains of the one Angel had destroyed. He let out a deep sigh, hoping Angel would get there in time. He had only told his friend as much as he needed to know to save Cordelia, it wouldn't have been of any use to paint pretty pictures of what kinds of dangers the brunette was in. Lorne knew Angel would do his best.
Angel made it through the evening traffic a lot slower than he wished. He was honking and flipping drivers off left and right, but still didn't get to move as fast as he wanted. He didn't know what he had expected from Lorne and was still confused. Should he be glad Cordy was not a meal or a hostage or afraid because she had been mistaken for the demon princess? What would they do to her if they found out? His mind flashed a few possibilities before his inner eye and he almost rear-ended the Chevy in front of him. Cursing loudly, he forced himself to pay attention to traffic.
He passed the address Lorne had given him an hour later and parked around the next block, he was afraid his run-down car might cause suspicion if parked too close to the mansion's gate. And being alone, he desperately needed the element of surprise. He asked himself one more time if he shouldn't call the guys for back-up after all, but decided against it when he found all weapons he would need in the trunk. He was still hoping he could get Cordy out of this mess unscathed, and then he'd have a hero's rescue story to tell instead of an admission of failure. Packing stakes and his favorite broadsword, he readied himself.
It didn't help much that he didn't know the area or the mansion itself, he had only Lorne's warning to work with. As if he would have thought a house like this came unprotected, he thought as he was nearing the gates. A thick stonewall ran around the property, about eight feet high, spiked at the top. It was only interrupted by the huge iron gates, which displayed a code of arms in their middle. Angel didn't recognize it, but figured it was the demon clan's sign.
He wished he'd have Wesley's vast knowledge of demonology, knowing the code of arms might tell him something about the strengths and weaknesses of these particular demons. "Spilt milk..." he sighed.
The gate wasn't guarded, but he saw two cameras on either side on his walk past it. On the left hand side was an intercom at car window height. Angel strained his ears to pick up any sound from behind the wall, which wasn't easy with traffic rushing by on Doheny Drive. Guards would make noise, dogs and humans would broadcast their heartbeats out to him, but he didn't hear anything. The present of cameras spoke against mystical barriers, or so he hoped. At a safe distance from the gates, Angel took a quick look around to make sure he wasn't watched from the street side and leaped up into the air, missing the sharp iron spikes on top of the wall by inches.
The sword under his coat got in the way of a graceful roll to catch his fall, but he still managed to land without any damage and only a little more noise than he had planned to make, the latter due to the twig he broke under his weight. He had picked this spot to land directly under the big fir tree he had spotted from the outside, and it had worked. With his dark clothes, he was completely invisible to the human eye in the shadows of the tree. With his back to the tree trunk, he took a look around the terrain.
Well-kept lawns were interrupted by groups of bushes here, some trees there, but Angel couldn't make out any movement. The driveway up to the mansion was lit, but everything else was kept dark, even the house itself was only illuminated by a light next to the front door. Angel was pretty sure the grounds weren't guarded, but he gave himself another minute to scan every inch of terrain he could see from his vantage point, keeping his eyes and ears strained.
"Are you half-breed, poor excuses for demons *blind*???" Markaresh's scream boomed through the entire cave-like basement. He sat on what he liked to call his throne against the wall, elevated from the room. Cowering in front of him were the three sole survivors of the park attack, Cordelia bound and gagged between them. She was shooting angry glances at her captors.
Markaresh was ugly by human standards, two twisted horns protruded about five inches from both eyebrows, his skin was the color of wet mud, and his eyes glowed silver-green. Had he stood up, he would measure about five feet, and that was if he could have straightened his back which showed a hump the size of a football between his shoulder blades. He was dressed in a blue silk gown, and he had an air about him that told everyone he was used to being in charge.
"She looks just like her, Sire" the dwarf-like vampire Angel would have recognized from the park spoke up. He produced a crumbled picture out of his pocket to show Markaresh. One of the demon master's minions took Cordelia from their midst and cut the rope holding her hands together with a sharp dagger. He barely missed her finger, but sliced her palm enough to draw blood. Cordy protested loudly, but what she said was muffled through the gag, which she now removed with her freed hands.
"Ow!" she exclaimed. "Would you mind keeping all my digits attached, Mr.??"
"Silence!" Makaresh bellowed. "You will speak only when spoken to!"
Cordelia was about to tell him exactly what she thought of that notion, but the minion in front of her still had the dagger too close to her face for comfort.
Dwarf-Boy spoke up again. "Sire, if you please, she's the spitting image of the princess. Forgive us our error!"
His voice took on a pleading tone, and for the first time, Cordy was scared. She had spent most of her time in captivity being pissed, outraged at how she had been dragged from the park and thrown into their van, furious at having her promising evening interrupted. It was a blessing she had a lot of rage in her, because she would have been scared out of her mind, had she given herself the time to register her desolate situation. But taking her surroundings in for the first time, she had to stifle a whimper.
The room was only lit by a couple of torches, strange murals were on every wall, and the whole room was crowded with ugly demons, some of them armed.Two extremely wide, if not tall, minions guarded the only exit, an arched doorway about twenty feet behind her. `Yup, she was pretty much SOL', she realized, her only hope was that her attackers hadn't succeeded in taking Angel out of commission, she wouldn't let her mind fear the worst. She knew that if he was alive, he'd be moving mountains to find and rescue her. Another demon took the crumpled photo from Dwarf-Boy and handed it over to his master. Cordelia got a brief look at it and her vanity took over.
"You mistook me for *that*?" she was now ignoring Dagger-Guy.
Makaresh didn't reply to her comment, he didn't have to look at the picture to know what he had sent the vamps after, he knew his bride-to-be.
"Any imbecile can tell that you have brought me a human!" he barked. Cordelia wondered if he was compensating for his puny height with an even louder voice.
"Where did you spend the last millennium? It is well known that all women of the Shakrack clan are well endowed, not missing a breast like lowly *humans*!"
"Hey!" Cordy yelled, "Not missing anything here, Mr.!" She knew she had better shut up, but she wasn't going to have her body insulted by some demons that were ugly beyond all ugliness. She stuck her chest out to undermine her point.
"What..." Stanley was now mumbling, he had realized that Makaresh could easily kill him if he was displeased. "I don't understand..."
Makaresh waved at the minion holding the dagger close to Cordy. With a swift movement, he sliced her shirt open from the bottom up, cutting through her bra but sparing her skin this time. Cordy gasped in surprise and jumped back, but as soon as she moved, two demons grabbed her arms in an iron grip. Dagger-Man pulled the remains of her shirt apart, Cordy's naked chest now exposed to Makaresh and anyone who would want a glance. She struggled to free herself, but knew it was useless, the demons easily overpowered her. Now Makaresh grinned while gesturing at her breasts.
"See, only two! A human! Idiots!!!" he yelled. He could clearly read the fear in the vampires' eyes and was satisfied.
"The only reason I'm going to let you live is because Alania is still out there and I need her here by sunset tomorrow!"
All three vampires sighed in relief. They were going to live.
"So, if you want to see tomorrow's sunset as well, get rid of this filthy human and find my bride!!!"
"I got a better idea!"
All heads turned to the doorway, where Angel was standing between the two guards at his feet.
"How about I kill you all now and you won't ever have to worry about sunsets again?" He just couldn't help himself, situations like these brought out the smart-ass in him. Everybody was staring at him, and he sensed it was only going to be moments before they would attack him as one. Then he realized they were waiting from an order from their leader, easily recognizable by sitting on a throne-like chair at the far wall.
Before Cordelia had a chance to think about the possible dangers, she yanked the dagger out of the demon's hand, turned it around and stabbed him. He went down howling. With three quick jumps, Angel was by her side. Recognizing the vampires from the park, he staked the one to his left before that one had a chance to realize Angel was there. Stanley's eyes widened, but he only got to turn around to try to escape before Angel's stake buried itself into his back, right through his heart. His ashes covered Dwarf-Boy, who fell to his knees in complete submission.
Angel raised his stake again and opened his mouth to bid the last vampire farewell with a smart remark as his eyes fell on Cordelia - topless Cordelia.
Cordelia followed his gaze, her eyes widened and she shrieked, throwing her arms around her chest. Angel's hesitation gave the demons the chance to surround him. He could swing his sword once, cleanly decapitating the closest of Makaresh's followers, but two others were quick to hold him, forcing him down to his knees. The one to his left kicked the sword out of Angel's hand. Meanwhile, another minion moved in on Cordelia and embraced her from behind, holding her in an iron grip.
She screamed in pain and looked at Angel for help, but he couldn't shake his captors' grip. Makaresh recovered from his surprise and smiled.
"Well, what have we here? Seems like they didn't bring me just a random streetwalker after all?"
"Let her go!" Angel managed to give his voice a fierce tone, "She's mine!"
Makaresh smiled, "Is she now? That's interesting. Because she was brought here as mine..."
Angel stopped struggling. He took a deep breath and formed a plan. His eyes found Cordelia's and he gave her what he hoped was a look that said `Don't argue with what I'm going to say'. She looked at him in utter confusion, but she trusted him. The remaining demons had surrounded the throne now, Angel knew that he wouldn't be able to fight his way out of this. But he had one other strategy in mind.
"Your highness," he began, "a word if you please. I mean you no harm, you can call your protectors off, I am unarmed."
Makaresh grunted, "Well, you are now, after killing my guards!" But he waved his minions off all the same. This had begun to intrigue him. Instinctively, Angel had found the right tone with him. Over 200 years of dealing with demons seemed to pay off.
"I apologize for my rude entry." Angel stood up, careful not to make any sudden movements. "When I learned my bride had been taken, I was blind with rage."
Makaresh cocked an eyebrow.
"*Your* bride? What makes you think I'd believe you?"
Angel had to think quickly. Even though he couldn't read demon emotions as well as humans', he could sense he only had one try. And since he had already blurted out his first thought, he had to follow up with it now. Cordelia's eyes had widened in surprise, but thankfully, she remained calm.
"She bares the mark!" Angel announced. "She was born to be mine, as has been foretold. She was chosen to be turned by the oldest member of the Order of Aurelius. Tonight, she was to become my bride."
He was still not sure his plan would work, he could only appeal to Makaresh's sense of honor. Although he was making up a prophecy, not even he himself knew if something like it really existed, and he was confidant neither did Makaresh.
Makaresh looked at Cordelia. He got up to get a closer look and Angel had to bite his cheek not to laugh at his puny height. The prince looked at Cordelia's neck.
"Well, that was a nice try, but I don't see anything. Kill them both!!" he barked. The two minions next to Angel moved in as the one holding Cordy tightened his grip.
"No, you wouldn't, not there anyway." Angel forced himself to remain calm when everything in him screamed panic. "She is not some toy to be played with while it's fun, she won't be eaten when I grow bored.."
Once again, a simple gesture from Makaresh called Angel's and Cordelia's attackers back. The prince chuckled.
"Are you taking me for a fool, vampire? I know of the mark, and if you were telling the truth, this low-life would be bearing it!"
Angel sensed that Makaresh was continuing the conversation for sheer amusement value now, he wasn't convinced and would have them killed as soon as he grew bored.
"She does," Angel said simply. "Just not in the spot you're looking and not what you are looking for. She was *born* with the mark! You will find the prove right under her left breast."
Without being told, a demon standing to Cordelia's right moved forward and pulled the remains of Cordelia's shirt apart while the one holding her pulled her arms back. Angel's first instinct was to look away, but he realized he was being closely watched, so he forced himself to look at Cordelia. Her beauty took his breath away and it took all his strength not to try and break free and kill everyone who had dared to lay their dirty hands on her.
Makaresh examined Cordelia's chest, discovering the heart-shaped mole right where Angel had told him. Angel barely noticed that he was holding his unneeded breath until Makaresh looked up.
"You are telling the truth. This human does bear the mark. We have no claim over her or her master!"he bellowed before returning to his throne.
"I will not question your means of entering my home, vampire, even though I could. I know your kind is often rash. It is only because my bride was recently taken from my side that I can understand your despair."
With a wave of his hand, he signaled his minions to let both Angel and Cordelia go. Cordy had followed the conversation, she was looking at Angel in awe and tried her best not to comment.
Angel nodded,"I am humbled by your generosity. Please be assured, I will no longer disturb your clan."
He picked up his sword slowly, making sure it was not mistaken for an attack, as he was well aware that about ten pairs of demon eyes were still on him. He stepped over to Cordelia and without meeting her eyes, picked her up and threw her over his shoulder. Cordelia shrieked and started cursing.
"Quiet!" Angel bellowed and slapped her butt. "I've had just about enough of your tantrums. You will be shown proper punishment for your behavior!"
She was too stunned to fight any more and finally let Angel carry her out of the basement. Angel sighed, he kept his best master's expression on his face until he reached the upstairs. When they reached the front door, Angel hopped over another guard's carcass and Cordelia "umphed".
"I'm sorry," he mumbled.
"You're sorry?" she asked sarcastically.
They had now reached the driveway and were leaving the mansion behind them fast.
"Let me DOWN!" she emphasized her words by drumming her fists at Angel's back.
"Not yet!" he advised curtly.
He wasn't sure if they were being watched and for now, Cordelia's safety was his priority. If they got too friendly all of a sudden, Makaresh could still find out Angel had been lying to him, they could both end up dead.
This time, Angel found the front gate open for him and hurried through it. Cordelia was still cursing when he dropped her into the passenger seat of his convertible. Her shirt had come off almost completely while he was carrying her, and he quickly took off his coat to cover her. Her eyes shot daggers at him, but she accepted the coat and pulled it around her. They rode in silence for a couple of minutes until Cordelia took a deep breath.
He took his eyes off the road for a moment to look at her.
"You rescued me again."
"And I will do it as often as I have to, Cordy, no big deal."
She sighed, "But I am sick of you having to!"
He glanced at her again, this time confused.
"I'm tired of being the damsel in distress who has to wait for her hero to save her! I've had enough of being left naked in the face of danger. Don't think I'm not grateful, it's just..."she trailed off, looking at the scenery rushing by.
"What?" he inquired, he still wasn't sure what her point was and he hadn't quite listened after `naked'.
"I want you to teach me. I want to be able to defend myself and maybe later even be able to help you in a fight!"
"Cordy, I'm not sure that's such a good idea..." The thought of having to worry about Cordelia because she was closely involved in a fight was disturbing.
"Oh, but *I* am! You are no stranger to women who can fight on their own, and I know you have a lot of moves you can teach me."
Angel couldn't help but smirk at her remark. Over the past couple of months, he had often thought about `moves' he'd like to teach her, but none of them had involved fighting. He cleared his throat when he felt Cordelia's eyes on him.
"Well, maybe we can, you know, work out together, get you familiarized with weapons..." he conceded. That seemed to satisfy her for a moment, although his own words had quite the opposite effect on him. He struggled to get his mind out of the gutter by telling himself that Cordelia was a friend and she considered him a friend. It was wrong to think of your friends *that* way, especially when they turned to you for help, he tried to convince himself, and again, it didn't quite work. He had to shift in his seat to ease the pressure that started building in his crotch.
"It's been a long night," he started after they had driven a few miles without talking. "I'm going to take you home where you can get cleaned up and get a good night's sleep. OK? We also need to dress that wound on your hand." He gestured at her hand where the wound inflicted by the dagger had stopped bleeding. When she didn't answer he looked at her.
She met his eyes, "No. I don't want to be alone tonight. Can I stay at the hotel?"
Angel wasn't so sure that was a good idea, he found it harder to keep his hands off her with every passing minute. But he knew he couldn't turn her down without telling her the truth, so he simply nodded.
When they arrived at the hotel, Cordelia went straight upstairs. By the time Angel had reached his bedroom, she had already gone into the bathroom and started the shower. He listened to the water run for a couple of minutes and tried hard not to imagine it running over Cordelia's naked body. Since he wanted to put some physical distance between them for her sake, he turned to go when he heard her call his name.
"Angel? Could you, you know, give me something to wear?" she yelled out from the bathroom. "My clothes are pretty much unwearable and I've used up what I had stocked here."
"Sure," he murmured until he remembered she wouldn't be able to hear him.
He took a shirt out of his closet and repeated "sure" loud enough for her to hear. Moments later, the water was turned off. Angel waited outside the bathroom door, the shirt in his hands, and he felt like a complete idiot because he didn't know what to do. He knew what he wanted to do and he knew what he should do, but since the two were opposites he was lost. She startled him by cracking the door open. Her arm came out.
Unable to say anything, he placed the shirt in her hand and stepped over to his bed. When she came out of the steamy bathroom a while later, he wished he had remembered the physical distance he had been working on. Her hair was wet, she was working it with a towel and his shirt only managed to cover her down to her upper thighs. He cursed himself for choosing a black silk shirt for her, the softness of the material made it painfully obvious that she wasn't wearing a bra.
She brought him back to reality and the fact that he was staring at her. He quickly closed his mouth and averted his eyes but not before noticing how her long legs seemed to go on forever. He felt like a complete idiot. All he could manage was to hand her the band aid he had gotten for her, he didn't dare touching her.
"Um, no...I...err...you must be starving!!" he stuttered. Before she could reply, he jumped up from the bed.
"I'm going to, you know, see if I can find something to eat for you. I'll be right back!"
Cordelia stared after him as he left the bedroom like a banshee.
Angel was downstairs in a flash. He was so preoccupied with getting away from the temptation that, for a moment, he forgot what he had come downstairs for. Images of Cordelia, topless in the demon's lair, then barely dressed in *his* bedroom flashed before his inner eye. He realized he needed a cold shower, and pronto, but to get to his bathroom he'd have to walk by Cordy.
Gunn had once told him that thinking of baseball usually helped to get a man's mind `back in order', so Angel tried to concentrate on a ballgame. But he wasn't interested in sports enough, it was no help. For the tenth time, he tried to scold himself, tried to call his mind back. How was he going to work with Cordelia on a daily basis when he kept imagining her naked? He finally remembered what he had come for, food for Cordelia.
All he could find was the opened package of breakfast waffles and maple syrup. He marvelled how it was possible that none of the solid food eaters on Angel Investigations left any food in the office.
For a moment, he thought about ordering take-out or delivery, but then his eyes fell on the syrup bottle and he made up his mind. He was done restraining himself, he would continue what had started earlier that day, before Makaresh's men so rudely interrupted them!
Cordelia was in no hurry to leave Angel's bedroom. She took her time toweling her hair dry, turned on the stereo and found her favorite radio station, then settled on his bed. She was aware she was barely dressed, but she didn't want to change that fact. Feeling ultimately comfortable, she settled on Angel's bed and let her eyes wander over the entire room. A knock on the door startled her. She was about to ask who was knocking when she realized it could only be Angel, being polite. Cordelia hadn't seen any of the gang downstairs, so she had known they had made good on the plans they had mentioned earlier. She was alone with Angel in the hotel. Her body suddenly trembled with excitement at that thought.
"Come in!" she called out when she realized he was actually waiting for her response.
At the sight of him, she had to laugh. He had taken the time to rearrange their earlier meal on a tray, two plates with waffles on them and a bottle of syrup. His eyes were fixed on the tray.
"I'm sorry," he began "I hope you really like waffles because it's the only thing I have, well, aside of pigs' blood, that is."
"That's fine!" she assured him. "I'm starving!"
He set the tray down next to her and sat down in the chair facing the bed. Cordelia started eating, Angel was just holding his plate, watching her. Although the silence wasn't uncomfortable, Cordy spoke first.
"What made you call me your bride?" It was a question she had been meaning to ask him since he had used it as his excuse, but she had waited for the right moment. "I mean, you could have said sister, or friend or something, why bride?"
Angel looked like a kid caught with his hands in the cookie jar.
"And another thing, how did you know about the mole??"
"I...um..." he started, then cleared his throat and tried again. "It never occurred to me to sell you as my sister, I was pretty sure he could tell you weren't' a vampire and, um, I had to give him a reasonable explanation. To let us go without a fight I mean."
"So you decided to tell him I was *yours*?" Cordelia raised an eyebrow. She was thoroughly enjoying this conversation. She could tell how uncomfortable he was with the topic and she just loved to see him squirm.
"Well, yeah...it was the first thing that came to my mind" was all he could say in his defense.
She smiled, this was going exactly the way she had hoped, since she now knew he had apparently taken a very long look at her the one time he had seen her wearing a bikini. There was no other way he could possibly know about her mole.
"And what was the second thing that came to your mind?"
He looked confused.
"Well, I mean, there I was, more naked than dressed..." she gestured at her body to indicate what she was talking about.
Once again, Angel was grateful he didn't blush. He was also grateful his shirt covered his crotch, as the answer to her question started to get obvious again. When he finally looked at her again, he saw the sparkle in her eyes and realized she was flirting with him. He couldn't remember Cordelia ever flirting with him, and he was certain he had never flirted with her. He looked at her through lowered lashes, then let his gaze wander over her body.
"Well, with a body like yours, I can't see how any man could be having decent thoughts when looking at you..."
Cordy had never heard him use this tone of voice before, it felt like a caress. Her whole body started tingling and she smiled at him.
"But what were *you* thinking about??" she insisted.
He got up and slowly walked towards her and picked up the open bottle of maple syrup.
"Food," he said, his voice barely above a whisper.
"You were thinking of waffles with syrup?" she asked confused, trying not to let her disappointment show in her voice.
"Actually, just the latter," he added to her confusion.
She didn't move as he sat down next to her.
"Only I don't need to chew it to enjoy it," he explained while leaning in on her.
Still holding eye contact, he unbuttoned the first button of her shirt. Cordelia held her breath, but didn't stop him. He smiled as he raised the bottle of sticky goodness and tilted it just enough to let a couple of drops fall on Cordy's sternum. Before she could have protested if she had wanted to, he lowered his head and started licking up the syrup, opening button after button while moving further down. Cordelia moaned, his cool tongue on her heated flesh ignited a fire in her. She could feel him smile. She fell back against the pillows when he had unbuttoned her shirt completely and exposed her naked body.
"Angel" she sighed as he closed his mouth around her nipple and started sucking gently.
| Fiction Index | Home Page | Back |