Chapter 25: Nightmare
“It’s started,” Angelus acknowledged as he walked into Rupert Giles’ home for the first time since he laid out Jenny Calendar’s dead body in the bedroom. Champagne and roses weren’t in the cards tonight.
With this new existence, Angelus needed an invitation to enter, something that had to act like a gut punch for the Watcher to issue. Just forcing the words of welcome out of his mouth had to come at a high personal price, but the vampire decided not to press the issue by pointing that out.
Giles took in a deep breath, releasing it as a long sigh of discontent. “Unsurprising though it may be, Angelus, I am less concerned with you and Angel than I am with having to deal with Buffy and Cordelia should the worst of this come to pass.”
“We could be dust for all you care, Rupert. I’m sure you’d wield the stake yourself if I gave you the chance,” Angelus sneered knowingly.
After a pause where silence was the only acknowledgement required, Giles asked the vampire, “Tea?”
“No. I’m not here for the pleasantries,” Angelus swept past the Watcher and walked toward the study where books and scrolls were spread out across his desk. “You’ve started the research?”
“At Angel’s suggestion,” Giles nodded. He’d been at it non-stop for the past couple of months. “I wasn’t certain what I would find. Details on the Moirae are wrapped up in so much mythology that it can be difficult to weed out the fact from the fiction. Not impossible, just time consuming.”
“Understanding more about how their powers work could stop this.” Angelus hoped the Watcher would find his answers soon. The past couple of days had seen obvious changes in Angel, the worst of which was in evidence tonight.
Though Angelus did not really care about the fact that the Slayer’s blood was spilled, the fact that Angel was the one to do it signaled a descent into darkness from which his soul might never recover. Not that he had much affection for the Soul…Angelus just didn’t want the consequences to come back to bite him on the ass. Besides, he had kind of gotten used to having the guy around.
“We can’t stop the inevitable, Angelus. Forestalling what the Fates themselves have laid out for you may be impossible. I can research everything the Council possesses and never find a loophole. Our only true hope was that this would never happen, but that looks rather grim considering your presence.” Giles moved back toward the couch and sat down. “Something triggered your visit here tonight. What was it?”
“Are you sure you can handle the details?” Angelus met the Watcher’s gaze noting that his calm features twitched just a bit.
Answering, Giles removed his glasses and polished the lenses against the hem of his robe, temporarily sending the world into a hazy blur. “Naturally I can handle it. I’m trained to handle it. The more details the better.”
“Remember that, Watcher.”
A shriek of pure terror alerted him to Cordelia’s troubles. Reacting like he was shot from a cannon, Angel raced down the hall and up the stairs. Vampiric speed taking him to the top landing in a matter of seconds, he mentally readied himself for a fight. With who and what didn’t matter just that the source of her fear ended.
Angelus? The thought that his brother would take out his anger on Cordelia came and went so quickly that Angel could hardly consider it. His soulless double was far too protective of his mate.
Despite the demon brawl and the other events of the night, Angel’s energy level was high and he felt like he could take on ten times whatever he found inside that room. It was the Slayer’s blood still coursing through his system, Angel realized. The added rush was there despite the fact that he had actually taken very little.
A flash of guilt hit, quickly pushed back from his conscious mind as Angel focused on the soft sounds of distress seeping through the slightly ajar door. Pushing it open, he used such reflexive force that it rebounded off the wall with a heavy bang. A warning growl sounded from his throat as his demon features appeared, ready to take on the enemy with deadly force.
Except there was no enemy in sight, only Cordelia lying alone in Angelus’ huge bed and obviously sleeping. “Cordy?”
Not only had Angel made enough noise to wake the dead when barging into her room, he automatically found her name on his lips. Sitting up sharply, Cordelia reeled in momentarily confusion coming straight out of her disturbing dreams to awaken with a start at the noise of Angel’s entry. The fear pounded in her chest at the vivid memory of her nightmares.
“Angel.” Relief sounded as her hazel eyes focused on him, his presence quelling most of her fear. Despite the fact that he wore only a pair of dark grey boxers that hugged him like a second skin, Cordelia didn’t stare more than a few seconds of time at the hard wall of muscle standing before her. Recalling the events of the night, Cordelia’s gaze turned cold. “What are you doing here? Where is Angelus?”
Admittedly, Angel had no idea. “I don’t sense him in the mansion, Cordy.”
“He left me alone?” Cordelia’s gasp of surprise made Angel wonder if she specifically meant alone with him.
“I’m not my brother’s keeper,” Angel scoffed as he walked further into the room.
A chill passed down Cordelia’s spine at the tone in his voice. “So why are you in my bedroom? I seem to recall that yours is off-limits to me.”
“You called out to me,” Angel’s revelation came as a shock. “You were screaming.”
Hugging a pillow close to her chest, Cordelia considered his words. Calling for him? Why was that? Still shaken up by the vivid images in her head, she found a perfect defense. “I had a nightmare.”
Having guessed that much, he pointed out, “Makes sense after what happened.”
Cordelia realized then that Angelus told him about the vampire attack. “I’m surprised to hear that someone who isn’t my friend would bother to check on me.”
The cold trill in her voice riled Angel, but he was distracted by seeing Cordelia lift her hand to her neck. “Are you hurt?”
“N-No.” The quaver was enough to dissuade him that Angelus had been completely honest with him about Cordelia’s state of health.
Angelus told him the vampire hadn’t bitten her. Concerned fury raged within him as he rounded the bed to sit beside her. Taking her wrist, Angel pulled her hand aside, demanding gruffly, “Let me look, Cordy.”
Glancing at Angel from the periphery of her vision as he tucked her hair away from her throat and tilted her head aside, Cordy said, “He didn’t bite me.”
There were no fang marks marring her flesh, but her throat was far from uninjured. “You’re bruised.”
It was a lucky thing that the vampire who marred her soft skin was already dust. Angel envisioned dealing with the vampire in ways to assure he understood the extent of the crime before that final moment. His thumb moved over her bruises with a tender touch as if trying to erase them.
Pushing Angel’s hand away, Cordelia glared at him. “I told you I wasn’t bitten. Stop looking at my neck as if you want to change that.”
I’ve already done my share of biting tonight. Angel’s mouth quirked into a smirk that quickly dropped away as her snippy remark reminded him there shouldn’t have been any danger from the out-of-towners to begin with. “You weren’t wearing your choker. Don’t go out at night again without it.”
“Bullshit! I don’t give a crap if it clashes with everything you’ve got. You will protect yourself from the type of scum that attacked you by wearing it,” Angel’s demanding tone left no room for refusal as he crowded her on the bed, his hands on either side of her hips as he leaned into her. Cordelia felt a bump as she nudged the headboard.
“Sheesh! Bossy much?”
Angel ignored her quip, grinding out, “That sun sigil marks you as belonging to the Order of Aurelius and I assure you that another vampire won’t dare touch you unless he has a death wish.”
Cordelia pushed the pillow at his chest, putting some space between them. Grabbing it, Angel tossed it to the other side of the bed recognizing her effort to erect a barrier between them and dealing with it just as swiftly. Raking predatory eyes down her upper body, Angel hungrily gazed at exposed sun-kissed skin and the way the coral silk hugged the ample curves of her breasts. Draped around her waist, the bedcovers hid her legs from view, leaving him wondering whether that nightgown was long or if it just covered the bottom curve of her buttocks.
Oblivious to his scrutiny, Cordelia’s temper was building up to an explosive level. “You have no right to tell me what to do. You’re not my friend, remember. I don’t take advice from you. Not anymore.”
“Did you ever?” He had the nerve to laugh softly at her furious expression. When her eyes widened at his response, Angel cupped her face forcing her to keep looking at him as he told her, “I’m a stupid fool. I wish I never said those words to you. We are friends. We’re just more than that.”
“M-More?” Panicking a little, Cordelia wasn’t certain where he was taking that line.
Angel’s mouth curled up at one corner with a hint of irony in his voice. “I’m not your brother, sweetheart, but we are family. I have every right to tell you to wear that choker. It’s as much my mark as it is Angelus’ and the protection it gives you comes from me.”
Not certain that she understood all of what Angel was saying, Cordelia answered with a scoff, “Yes, master.”
“That’s right.” Angel dropped his hand from her face forcing himself to stop touching her before his anger led to something he couldn’t control. “Ask Angelus if you don’t believe me.”
That came out with such vehemence that Cordelia suddenly realized his little game of Vampire Master had to have some basis in reality. She was wondering if Giles could clear that up for her when Angel added, “Battle me all you want. Just don’t put yourself in unnecessary danger. I don’t want you hurt.”
As he spoke, Cordelia suddenly became aware that he had injuries of his own. She saw scratch marks on his shoulders and neck. Lifting her fingers toward one set of marks, Cordy realized that they looked like deep scrapes from human fingernails. It wasn’t enough just to see them from here. Cordelia crawled up over the bedcovers moving beside him so that his shoulder was nearly nestled between her breasts.
The move answered Angel’s curiosity about her nightgown. The short coral nightie crept up to reveal the edge of matching lace panties as she bent over to examine his back. Angel held still as her warm hands touched his skin. The surface wounds were already healing, but his back was still causing him pain. Burns always took longer to heal. Angel figured, he’d suffer a lot more to keep feeling Cordelia’s gentle touch.
Straightening up onto her knees, Cordelia worriedly asked, “What happened?”
Closing his eyes, Angel shut out the concerned interest apparent on Cordelia’s face. It would frighten her to know the truth about what happened tonight. He didn’t want to do that. Telling her would reveal too much.
As if she read his mind, Cordelia urged him to speak. Brushing close to the healing wounds on his shoulder, she ran her fingers back and forth over the flesh. “You can tell me anything. That was something you once offered me. To come to you. Well, I’m here. Talk to me.”
Whether it was the plea in her voice or the sincerity in her eyes, Angel suddenly found himself telling Cordy everything. She sat next to him now, her legs folded beneath her while balancing her weight on one arm. Giving him her full attention, those gorgeous hazel eyes were focused fully on him.
Even now, pouring out his problems, Angel found her beauty distracting. Waves of her mahogany hair cascaded down her shoulder to tickle his bent knee forcing him to control the urge to bury his hands in that hair. That would be a mistake, no doubt. Soon he’d be kissing her, covering that luscious mouth with his own and then tasting every exposed inch of her sun-kissed skin.
Fucking fantasies. Angel had grown tired of them.
Cordelia was his problem from the start. What led to the entire incident with Buffy. Angel grabbed at the end of Cordelia’s hair wrapping the soft strands around his finger as a reminder of what he couldn’t do.
“I had you on my mind all night,” Angel confessed and watched the surprise appear with an answering light in her eyes. “I acted like an ass leaving you the way I did.”
Cordelia sounded a soft snort of agreement, but said nothing more.
“Buffy and I— our date didn’t go as planned. There was a demon,” he explained with a shrug as if it was a common occurrence. Cordelia supposed it was. “I killed it.”
“The demon burned your back?”
Cordelia lifted her hand to his shoulder again. “What about these?”
“That wasn’t the demon,” Angel told her, his mouth drawn into a flat line.
She’d already figured that out.
“It was Buffy. We were—,” he faltered for a moment uncertain that he wanted to go on.
Cordelia immediately imagined Buffy in the throws of passion as Angel pleasured her with all the skill he possessed. She filled in the silent void with a soft query, “Making love on the beach?”
Angel looked back at her with amber blazing in his eyes again. A harsh laugh came from his throat. How far from the truth was that? “No. It wasn’t lovemaking. More like pure sexual instinct. I-I fucked her, Cordelia, in my demon form. As a vampire.”
“You are a vampire. Is that so bad, Angel?” Frowning, Cordelia wasn’t certain if that was supposed to be a problem. It sounded as if they’d never done it that way before and considering the chandelier shaking dramas, Cordelia was completely surprised. “Angelus and I— erm, forgot— no details.”
What was she saying? That Angelus sometimes let his demon out to play when they had sex? He knew from overhearing them that Cordelia got off on everything that Angelus did to her, whatever that might be. It seemed next to impossible to control the urges that would take over his body when he vamped out with a human, but Angelus had a painful leash to keep him in line, Angel realized. That might make a difference.
Cordelia took in a deep breath and tried to focus on the fact that Angel was trying to open up to her, even though the thought of him being with Buffy suddenly made her kind of queasy. “I-If you both liked it, what does it matter if you were all Grrr Guy? It’s kind of exciting.”
Detecting the proof of her excitement over the idea at the change in Cordelia’s tone and the rhythm of her breathing, Angel imagined her licking his fangs as they kissed. Oh, the things he could do to her without ever breaking her skin.
“I bit Buffy,” Angel told her point blank.
As he watched Cordelia’s mouth drop open, Angel thought he detected more than just surprise or concern etched on her face. He was right, though only Cordelia could tell what it was. The news that he had bitten Buffy came with a shock followed by a stab of jealousy so deep that she momentarily forgot to breathe.
The idea unsettled her to the point that Cordelia sat up reaching for her neck. Angel thought the move meant she was reminded of the attack. “Not the best time to talk about biting. I shouldn’t have said anything.”
Lifting her hazel gaze, Cordelia’s mouth trembled almost imperceptibly as she gave in to her curiosity, “Did she like it? Angelus said it only hurts for a second. That there’s pleasure, too. That if it’s done right the feeling is kind of orgasmic.”
Angel tried to stop his mouth from falling open at the bald statement, but failed. She seemed anxious to know the truth. Curious beyond her ability to withhold that little tidbit, her flushed face and bright eyes hinted at her arousal. Here she was scantily dressed—as was Angel— sitting on her bed talking to him about biting and orgasms, obviously ignorant of the fact that her words had sparked an impulse to show her precisely how it could be if it was done right.
It was so like Cordelia to forget about propriety and simply ask what she wanted to know. No matter the consequences. Her curiosity had to stem from the fact that her mate was restrained by the Fates and could not bite her even if he wanted too and Angel was certain that he did. That lack of control and the pain that accompanied it was not something Angel wanted, but he certainly envied Angelus’ ability to have a frank discussion with the woman he loved.
Just imagine telling Buffy some of the things that he wanted to do with…with Cordy, actually. Angel was so far from believing the Slayer would allow any of the things that he would do to her as a vampire that he couldn’t imagine it. Cordelia kept replacing Buffy in his head and he found himself fighting against that conversion less and less.
She expectantly awaited his answers, but he could only tell her, “It wasn’t that kind of bite.”
Cordelia nibbled on her lower lip. Disappointed at his answer, she asked, “You mean that you two didn’t—?”
Since it looked like Cordelia wasn’t going to let the subject drop, Angel went ahead and told her, “Trust me, sweetheart, I came hard and fast when I bit into that soft flesh, but it wasn’t done out of love.” Angel felt that same darkness swirl within him at the memory of piercing Buffy’s skin and lapping up her blood. “For a moment, all I knew was that I had the Slayer in my arms, on top of me, trying to take what she wanted. So I—”
Looking concerned, she filled in the void, “Took what you wanted?”
“Yes. A mouthful of Slayer’s blood.” Angel looked disgusted with himself.
“Buffy’s okay, I take it,” Cordelia assumed suddenly troubled at the way Angel was describing it.
“Yes,” he answered. “As much as anyone can be after their lover tries to rip out their throat.”
“Angel, I know you don’t want to hurt Buffy. What happened— it isn’t like you to lose control like that.” Cordelia worried about him. It was as if Angel was having difficulty restraining his vampire nature. Like his behavior in the hallway earlier before he told her that he wasn’t her friend. Following his senses. Acting on his instincts.
“It won’t happen again,” Angel assured her.
Cordelia frowned at him, still trying to understand this from his point of view. “You’re a vampire. Yes, you have a soul, but I can’t believe you don’t want that. It can’t be so easy to deny that you want it.”
“Cordy, of course I want it. I’ve spent decades trying to convince myself that I don’t need it. Biting to kill or for food—I thought that instinct was so far behind me, but it’s clearly not. Biting with sex is entirely different. To sink my fangs into my lover and taste what she’s made of while I’m inside her. It’s been a while. More than a while.”
Licking her suddenly dry lips, Cordelia released a shaky sigh as Angel’s fingers trailed over her throat. Omigod. Don’t touch me like that. Look at me like that. Not like you want me. Not like you want to sink those fangs into me, to bite me.
Angel saw the conflicting emotions on her face. Was she disgusted with him for telling her the truth? Horrified at what he had done to Buffy? Maybe it was just the fact that once again he couldn’t seem to keep his damn hands to himself. No, she was getting so aroused, Angel realized smugly despite his self-derision. Just by his touch alone, just the thought of being bitten. Unless she was thinking of Angelus, not that his brother could help her with that vampire fantasy. He had no doubts that her panties were damp. She smelled so fucking good.
“Angel, you need to talk to Buffy,” Cordelia told him bluntly breaking through the images filling his head. “This biting thing doesn’t have to be so bad. Maybe you just needed to get across to Buffy that you want it— in a good way. You just need to figure out what you really want.”
Though she waited for a response, Angel simply stared at her, quietly and deeply. He couldn’t say what he wanted, not now. Certainly not here in Angelus’ bed.
Cordelia found his silence pressing upon her, forcing her to break it. “I just want you to know that I— I am your friend. Whether you realize that or not, or understand what it means. You really hurt my feelings today.”
Angel handsome face stared back at her with such devastation that Cordelia knew he was truly sorry for it. She added, “Just don’t do it again.”
Recognizing that it was time for him to step out and let her get back to sleep, Angel told Cordelia, “I don’t deserve you, sweetheart.”
That impish smile appeared chasing away any gloomy remnants between them. “I know.”
“You should go back to sleep,” Angel suggested. “You have school in the morning and we’ve got the Bronze thing tomorrow night.”
Shaking her head, Cordelia admitted, “I don’t think I can sleep. Not until Angelus comes home. Nightmares, remember?”
Angel lifted up the covers and indicated she should climb in. Cordelia mumbled, but got under the covers anyway. She lay back against the pillows and let Angel tuck her in. “Don’t leave,” she whined just enough to make him feel guilty. “Stay and talk to me. I don’t want to be alone.”
“You don’t know what you’re asking,” Angel wasn’t certain he could stay longer without wanting to fulfill those fantasies running through his head.
“Don’t be a dork, Angel. It won’t kill you to have a real conversation with me.”
“What just happened? I seem to recall lots of talking.”
“Truth and consequences? Pfft!” Cordelia rolled her eyes. “Like you unburdening your soul is going to get you anywhere. There is serious sucking up to do on your part if you want to get back in my good graces, buster.”
Sucking up? Her good graces? “Whatever happened to you saying ‘just don’t do it again’?”
Cordelia snuggled deeper into the covers before answering. Yawning, she explained, “That was your warning, Care Bear.”
Letting out a groan at the use of the cheesy endearment, Angel gave in to her. Just as he always seemed to give in to her. Stretching out on top of the covers, he braced his head in his hand, lying on his side to watch her as she chatted about the Bronze. Despite Cordelia’s determination to stay awake to talk, she was soon asleep.
Angelus walked into the bedroom thirty minutes later to find Angel still there. On his bed with Cordelia asleep beside him, the backs of her fingers brushing against the vampire’s bare chest. He’d detected the purring sound before entering the room, the sound soft and deep rumbling with contentment.
Naturally, the purring stopped as soon as Angelus made his presence known. Angel had been so distracted as he stared down at Cordelia that he missed his brother’s entry into the room. As his eyes darted up, Angel saw the other vampire’s barely contained fury.
Slowly, Angel extracted himself from the bed. Walking over to Angelus who remained quietly fuming, he explained, “Cordelia had a nightmare. You weren’t here to calm her down.”
Gazing through narrow eyes, Angelus considered that possibility. He’d been stupid to leave Cordelia alone with Angel in the first place. Considering his uncharacteristic behavior earlier tonight, it might have been better to call Rupert Giles instead of flying off the handle and stealing the Plymouth.
Angel assured his brother. “We talked about what happened tonight. Just talked.”
Only the fact that Angel’s words had the ring of truth to them kept Angelus from ripping his brother apart despite all that would happen if he tried it. Dammit, he couldn’t even stay pissed at Angel. After all, he had come to help Cordelia. Staying while she was asleep was another matter, but there too Angelus had given Angel permission to look his fill. Apparently, he had taken that literally.
“Where were you?” Angel asked his soulless twin in hushed tones so as not to wake Cordelia.
“Where the hell do you think? I went to the Watcher. Told him everything.”
Angel let out a low growl. “You went to him over this?”
“Figured he might be concerned that you were munching on his precious Slayer,” Angelus pointed out drolly. “It’s not the first symptom, Angel. Just the first one you can’t deny.”
“So I got carried away,” Angel had to admit that his instincts had taken over. “That doesn’t mean anything. Biting Buffy has nothing to do with the Fates or any of their fucked up predictions.”
The fact that Angel seemed to be downplaying the incident with the Slayer made the soulless vampire more wary. Angel’s entire response smacked of denial. Convincing himself that trouble lay ahead might take more than just a few choice words. With Cordelia asleep just a few feet away, Angelus was not about to knock some sense into his brother tonight. Tomorrow, maybe.
“Deny it if you want,” Angelus held up his hands in mock surrender. “We can do nothing until the Watcher identifies the underlying problem. He’s already started research, but can’t even begin to pinpoint anything until he knows the effects.”
“What effects?” Angel snarled the question.
“Looks like you just gave him a damn good example of uncharacteristic behavior. If you had a reflection, I’d tell you to look in a mirror,” Angelus told him. “You’d see me, Angel. Me. As much as it sickens me to admit it, I think this is working in reverse, too.”
To be compared to Angelus by Angelus himself despite the presence of his soul came as a harsh blow. The idea horrified Angel. “Is this permanent?”
Angelus didn’t know. “Could be. It might just be part of an adjustment we’re having to make because we’ve been split in two. Giles is searching for the cause and a cure. Until then, there is nothing we can do except continue as we have been.”
“How is that?”
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