Soulbound – Book 2: Chapter 23
The Powers above give warning, lower beings, as the end draws near. Another test must our Champion make, another battle to win. Neither beast nor demon nor those who bend man’s law shall be his foe. The past itself shall rise up against him as troubles draw nigh and the shroud of hidden memory becomes the thinnest veil.
At her apartment, Cordelia spoke with Dennis as she packed some clothes into a suitcase. “I’m just bringing a few things over to Angel’s.”
The drawer she had been emptying slammed shut.
“Hey! That’s not a very nice thing to say.” Cordy’s fists curled up onto her hips defiantly. “I love Angel. We’re together— a lot— and I sleep over most times. A girl has to have her stuff.”
Then she frowned, “Are you feeling neglected?”
Dennis caused the lights to flicker.
“Oh. Sorry about that,” Cordy nibbled at her lower lip. “Want me to ask Wesley to stay with you?”
The toilet flushed from the adjoining bathroom.
“Don’t be like that. Wes loves board games,” Cordelia tried to tempt the ghost into the idea. Lately, she felt like she was abandoning her friend— one who couldn’t leave his house to come out and play. “He’s still living at Doyle’s crappy apartment. You’d be doing him a huge favor if he could stay over on the nights I’m not here.”
After a moment, the dresser drawer opened and under Dennis’ ghostly power he began to move clothes into Cordelia’s suitcase. Grinning at his apparent agreement, she told him, “Thanks. You get the rest of the clothes in that drawer while I grab stuff from the closet.”
Cordelia opened the door to her closet and was struck by the sight of a room filled with clothes of every style and color. Shoes were stacked on built-in racks along with rows of purses. Was this a vision? Another hallucination? Why did it seem so familiar?
Then Angel’s voice sounded behind her causing Cordelia to whirl around. “Come here, Cordy.”
She was drawn to him, walking out of the closet and into a bedroom that was decorated in a way that made her feel at home. Touching his chest, Cordelia met the desire in his eyes with her own.
“I’m here, Angel,” Cordy curled her fingers into the buttoned edge of his shirt. “What do you want with me?”
Touching her cheek, he pressed his thumb down to the fullness of her mouth stirring her own feelings of need. Cordelia knew what he wanted and his words only confirmed it.
Angel purred, “That is a dangerous thing to say to a horny vampire.”
Then a movement behind Angel’s shoulder caused Cordelia’s eyes to flicker away from the intensity of his gaze. She realized suddenly that they were not alone. There was a person lying on the bed. Not just any person— it was Buffy.
Cordelia glanced back up at Angel who kept staring lustfully in her direction. What was this? Other thoughts collected from the many strange images she previously experienced flashed again in her mind. Most came in a new wave of shock as the seer realized these were not visions, not hallucinations, but memories.
An empty mansion. Boxes packed with Angel’s belongings. Buffy kissing them both at the Bronze. Hot, wild wonderful sex with Angel. And Buffy? A decision— her decision. Her mate. Angel was her mate. Her soulmate. Then there was Angelus— oh, it was him in all his evil, soulless glory. Plotting to destroy the world. Angelus arguing with Joyce about not letting him in. Spike wanting a joy ride. Angelus— behind the bleachers— in the library— and with Willow?! Staying at the Summers’ house. The long night of Buffy’s birthday. Angel. Angelus.
The images came so fast, Cordelia staggered back against her closet door. Then Cordelia felt herself reeling in pleasure despite the pain that edged at the periphery of her feelings. Fangs were lodged in her throat. Her back was up against the hard surface of her own Corvette. Angelus was inside her.
Overwhelmed by sensations, Cordelia felt a white haze pull her away from the realm of consciousness.
Angel kicked open the door to Cordelia’s apartment, not bothering to wait for Dennis to open the door or use the key. Calling out her name, there was panic in the vampire’s voice.
“Cordy? Cordy!” He swept into the bedroom, finding it empty.
There was no sign of her in the apartment at all. Angel whirled around and bellowed for Dennis to tell him what was wrong. “I got your message, Dennis.”
Angel had returned to the office, finding that Cordelia was not at her desk. He had been out on a case. Chances were that she was at the apartment since he did not sense her presence close by. That was something else renewed by their coming together again—knowing when she was near. Cordy had said something about picking up a few things to keep at his place.
As far as he was concerned, she could bring it all.
The answering machine was beeping loudly from Cordelia’s desk. A glance indicated twenty-three calls. “What’s this? A sign of another apocalypse?”
The phone rang even as his finger reached toward the play button on the machine. Angel picked up the handset. “Angel Investi—”
Loud music blared in his ear.
“Arrgh!” The vampire’s super-sensitive hearing caused him to react in pain. He shoved the phone back down.
Rubbing his ear, Angel was about to reach for the message button again when the phone started ringing. Glaring at it, he let it ring a couple of times before picking it up. Holding it to his other ear, Angel spoke into the phone, “Ang—”
More music was accompanied by the sound of a loud television.
Angel hung up the phone cursing at the prankster. Who the hell would be doing this? It came to him abruptly. Who used nonsensical sounds to communicate? Dennis. The ghost was trying to tell him that there was something wrong. Wrong with the apartment, wrong with himself or wrong with Cordelia.
With a growing sense of dread, Angel leapt into his Plymouth convertible and sped in the direction of Cordelia’s apartment. Now he was there and finding it empty. No sign of any problem. No sign of Cordelia.
A note fluttered from the direction of the refrigerator.
Plucking it out of the air, Angel read it. Two words stared at him from the paper. Just two short words that left him confused and somewhat fearful.
Then something else was floating in front of the vampire’s face. Angel realized what the note meant as he held the crystal necklace in his hand. The formerly white crystal was now completely black, its power broken and the memories contained within released.
Angel knew— Cordelia had left him.
“Angel?” It was Wesley, entering through the broken door carrying a cardboard box. “What happened here?”
The vampire scowled at the Watcher. “She’s gone.”
Nodding, Angel held out the crystal. “It’s over. The spell is broken.”
“Ah ha! I knew there was a spell,” Wesley sounded triumphant. Then he realized there were repercussions to this event that had serious circumstances. “I have the evidence that proves Cordelia’s memories were tampered with. I suspect that mine were as well.”
“Evidence?” Angel wondered what he was talking about.
Wesley placed the box down on the coffee table. “Have a look.”
“This is Cordelia’s ‘slutwear’.”
“What?!” Wesley was still hoping that it was a Halloween costume.
Angel’s mouth quirked at the memory. “That’s what she called it. Lost a bet.”
“Oh.” Wesley was glad to hear it. “That’s a relief.”
“You wouldn’t say that if you saw her wearing it,” Angel returned. “This is evidence of nothing more than Doyle’s desire to see Cordy— bathed in leather. It’s got nothing to do with the crystal.”
Reaching deeper into the box, Wesley pulled out a small tissue-wrapped object. “I’m betting this does.”
Taking it, Angel moved the tissue paper aside. Photographs— all too familiar. Himself and Cordelia. The two of them with Buffy on the day they dragged him to the shopping mall for the first and last time. “New frame?”
“I-I broke it, accidentally,” Wes confessed. “Dropped it as soon as I saw the pictures. It gave me a shock seeing something that contradicted my memories. Then— just an hour ago— I started to remember more about my time in Sunnydale. Things about you and Cordelia, but apparently there was a lot more going on that I know nothing about.”
“Where did you get this?” As far as Angel was concerned, the pictures were still at the bottom of his sock drawer. Obviously not.
Wesley explained, “Harry found it whilst cleaning out Doyle’s apartment.”
“I can’t see Doyle rummaging through my sock drawer.”
“Well *I* certainly didn’t do it,” Wesley frowned.
After a pause, Angel knew who the culprit was. “Spike. He went through everything looking for the Gem of Amarra. Probably left this lying around and Doyle found it when he began *his* search for the ring.”
Then Wesley asked, “Why didn’t he confront you about the pictures?”
“Because I told him what was going on, Wes. He didn’t skulk behind my back and bring them to Cordelia before I had a chance to explain,” Angel retorted with a clenched jaw.
“Yes, you have a point,” Wesley felt a bit guilty about that one, “but Doyle wasn’t the victim of memory-wiping magick. I had a right to be suspicious.”
Angel figured that Wesley had a right to the truth. “Sit down, Wes. You’re getting the short version because you deserve to hear something, but I have places to go.”
By the time the vampire finished his tale, Wesley was agog. Even after seeing the four small pictures of Angel, Cordelia and Buffy that revealed so much, hearing about it was a little overwhelming.
“Have you considered if Cordelia doesn’t stake you for this, Buffy certainly will?” Wes tried to make a joke of it, but the truth of it was that neither woman could be very happy about the choice Angel had made for them.
“It was for their own good,” Angel countered using his standby excuse. “For Cordelia’s safety.”
“What changed, Angel? You two are back together— and obviously intimate again. I know that you have taken her blood.”
Then vampire reminded him, “She’s mine.”
“But is she yours— alone?” Wesley heard that there had been some kind of confrontation here in LA between Angel and Buffy, but he wondered if things were truly resolved between the former lovers. “Until this crystal failed, Cordelia remembered nothing of that shared past. What will she think now?”
“I’m going to find out,” the determined edge to Angel’s voice was reflected in his dark gaze. “I’m not waiting around here to do it.”
Meaning that he was leaving to go after his mate, Wesley figured that was coming. “You said Cordelia was gone, Angel. Gone where?”
That confused the Watcher. “Home— to Sunnydale? I thought her parent’s estate had been taken by the IRS.”
“Not that place, Wes. Home to the mansion. To the home we made for ourselves for almost a year.”
“When are you leaving?”
“Now. Hold down the fort while we’re gone.” Angel instructed already halfway out the door. Then he noticed that it was hanging on its hinges. “Hey, Dennis— sorry about the door. Wes—”
“Go, Angel. I’ll handle it.”
“Bloody hell, Slayer,” Spike stormed after her. “What the hell are you gabbing about? I didn’t have a damn thing to do with it.”
Buffy Summers stalked away at a power walk from the cemetery. “Maybe not, but you obviously knew something was going on. Was it amusing for you— keeping it a secret from me?”
“Never kept anything secret,” Spike scoffed. “Just didn’t wanna talk about you shagging Peaches, that’s all. It’s not like I got anything out of it. Not like the first time when you shagged out his soul and brought back Angelus.”
“Thought that was fun, did you?” Buffy stopped abruptly and whirled to face the leather-garbed vampire.
“I did until Angelus went of his rocker. Got all obsessive about that cheerleader chit and decided to end the world.” Spike figured his grandsire’s plan to have Acathla suck the world into hell would have been very effective. Only Spike wasn’t done having fun with the world just yet.
Fisting her hands into tight balls, Buffy felt like hitting something. “Cordelia Chase! That is just crazy. Angel and me— and Cordelia Chase?!”
“Actually, I thought it was more Angel and Cordelia— and then you. She’s his mate, not some bimbo who doesn’t know when to give up.” Spike’s hands were on his slim hips, his arms pushing his leather duster back to show a hard expanse of the tight red t-shirt covering his chest.
Buffy stared at that chest for a second knowing just what she’d like to do with her stake. Grinding her perfect teeth, she glared at him. “What did you just call me?”
As he grinned in her direction, Spike’s tongue appeared between his teeth as a sign that his thoughts were turning more graphic than simple speech would allow. “You heard me.”
“Watch your mouth!” Buffy gave him a warning. “I’m in no mood to play nice with the Fangless Wonder tonight.”
“You just called me a bimbo.”
Spike kicked his boot at the turf. “Not like I wouldn’t jump at the chance to switch places with Peaches. A hot-blooded cheerleader and a vampire Slayer— who wouldn’t want to be the meat in that sandwich?”
Not to mention the fact that lately he seemed to have a perpetual hard-on for the Slayer despite the fact he was bedding his own blonde bimbo on a regular basis. Harmony was a ditz, but she filled the void in his bed left by Drusilla.
One thought had Buffy saying, “Gross, much?”
The other thoughts filling her head were resurfacing memories of the year she spent with Angel and Cordelia. Love and friendship. Secrets and lies. Pleasure— and lots of it. With a price. Never Angel alone. Couldn’t happen because of the curse. Cordelia’s claim on the vampire could not be denied. Would not be denied. Not by Cordelia or Angel.
Now Buffy had two sets of memories.
One where she was beloved of a vampire. Though cursed, his heart was hers alone. Though he left her, there had always been hope. Until recently. Until her trip to LA when she discovered Angel’s secret journey to Sunnydale and the fact that the Boss/Secretary relationship between Angel and Cordelia seemed to be something more than friendship.
Now a rush of memories had returned, overlaying the others. Memories of an altered spell that made Angel and Cordelia soulmates. Discovering Cordelia had been claimed by Angelus as his mate. That the two shared an unbreakable bond despite the fact that Angel still loved her.
Buffy’s eyes were wide with sadness as she stared up at Spike. “He loved me.”
“Loved you? Kept you,” suggested the blond vampire. “Needed the cheerleader. Wanted her. Lusted after her. What happened, Slayer? I know Angelus claimed her. How did he convince her to let you into their bed?”
Her skin was flushed a bright red hue making Spike lick his lips as he stared at her throat. “It was Cordy’s idea.”
“Yeah.” Spike let out a huff of disbelief. “More like it was the only way she thought she could keep him, what with the way you two supposedly carried on. What’s Red say? Oh, yeah— star-crossed lovers. Bollocks!”
“We were in love!”
Spike leaned up close so that his body was only inches from hers. “Emphasis on were and you’ll be a helluva lot closer.”
That did it! Buffy lunged at Spike knocking him to the ground. He was up so close that he couldn’t avoid the move and suddenly found himself straddled by a pair of powerful Slayer thighs.
Buffy’s fists crashed into Spike’s face after each word spoken. “Take— that— back!”
Angel was halfway to Sunnydale before he thought about calling Willow. Holding onto the steering wheel, he reached into his coat pocket pulling out his cell phone. He pressed the power button, waiting impatiently for it to turn itself on. Upon dialing the number, the phone was picked up almost immediately.
“Angel?” asked the voice on the other end even before he could identify himself. Willow sounded out of breath and anxious.
“It’s me,” he confirmed.
“Where have you been?” Willow demanded. “You turned your cell phone off. I called the office a gazillion times.”
Oh. Willow had called too. Angel thought it was just Dennis. “You called?”
“You mean you *didn’t* get my messages?” There was a gulping sound on the other end.
“No,” Angel told her. “I was calling to talk to you about Cordelia— and the crystal.”
The redhead wasn’t surprised. “Same here, except that I needed to talk to you about Buffy.”
Angel was steering the car one-handed at breakneck speed. “What about Buffy?”
“She remembers everything,” Willow told him. “They *all* remember everything.”
“I figured as much. The crystal is completely black. Something happened to it recently and I think its lattice broke.”
“Buffy is pissed,” Willow could not express that enough. “I mean— really, really ticked off at you right now. She is planning to go to LA on the first bus in the morning.”
“I won’t be there.”
Letting out a surprised gasp, Willow seemed confused, but had to agree with his decision. “Yeah. You probably should leave town. Ever thought about seeing Europe again?”
“Willow,” the vampire sounded exasperated. “I’m on my way to Sunnydale.”
“You’re coming here? So not a good idea, Angel. People here—”
“Cordelia is there.”
“At the mansion.”
“Oh.” That stumped Willow. “When did she get here?”
“Not long,” he figured, “maybe half an hour— an hour at the most?”
Willow offered to go to the mansion to wait with Cordelia, but Angel refused. “I don’t want to chance her running off before I can get there.”
Then Angel made Willow promise to talk to Buffy. To tell the Slayer to stay put and that he was coming to town. That he would call her after talking to Cordelia.”
“Are you sure you want me to tell her that?” Willow sounded hesitant.
The witch told him. “I don’t know if I can find her. Buffy said something about needing to kick Spike’s ass before she left for LA.”
What the hell did his grandchilde have to do with this? Angel knew it was just like Spike to stir up trouble. “He probably deserves it, but why is she so mad at him?”
“Dunno. According to Buffy, Spike’s ass is always in need of attention.”
“What?!” Angel looked down at the phone for a second.
“I think that came out wrong,” Willow certainly had not meant it the way it sounded. “I meant to say that even with his control chip, Spike seems to cause havoc.”
“Find her, Willow.” Angel knew this needed to be resolved once and for all. In the end it was going to have to be all of them hashing this out. First, he wanted to have time alone with Cordelia. “Stay at her house if necessary. I’ll contact you there.”
“Mrs. Summers is home,” warned Willow. “I doubt she’ll be happy about you calling her house right now.”
Angel understood. “Has a thing about vampires being around her daughter.”
“No. It’s just you,” Willow told him not mentioning the fact that most mothers wouldn’t have good feelings about vampire’s taking their daughter’s virginity and then dumping her for the head cheerleader before trying to end the world. “She *likes* Spike.”
Glowering at the thought, Angel instructed Willow, “Stick by the phone after you find her. I’ll call when I can.”
As the line clicked off, Willow let out a heavy sigh. Did Angel honestly think that Buffy Summers was going to sit by a phone if she knew Angel and Cordelia were back at the mansion? Yup. He did. Poor deluded vampire.
“Xander? It’s late.” Rupert Giles was already dressed in his pajamas, wearing a robe and slippers as he answered the door.
“I’m going to LA,” Xander explained. “I need to borrow your crossbow.”
“What’s in LA?” Giles’ eyes narrowed behind his glasses. Then he realized that he was not the only one to experience memory restoration. “Ah. Angel.”
Walking over to the weapon’s chest, Xander opened it to take out the crossbow and a few other items. “I let him get away with it, Giles. Angelus practically raped Cordelia in front of my house and none of us did a damn thing about it.”
“That isn’t how Cordelia tells it,” the former Watcher reminded. “Willow’s magick was a part of it. Angelus claimed her, but Cordelia did not resist. Later on, they became soul mates and out of necessity remained together because of the blood-bond they shared.”
“Only necessity?” Xander’s voice sounded thick and harsh. He remembered the year that Angel and Cordelia became so close following Willow’s tweaking of the soul restoration spell. Though for a while Xander thought something might develop between himself and his redheaded best friend, his thoughts were still caught up between Buffy and Cordelia.
The thought of Angel and Cordelia made him jealous. Okay— maybe even crazy kind of jealous. Stake and crossbow kind of jealous. Then he had to admit to himself that they seemed happy together— most of the time. Except that he would often catch Angel and Buffy with goo-goo-eyed stares. Little whispers and touches suggested that the vampire was cheating or that Buffy simply refused to let go.
Cordelia would watch the two of them, he noticed, whenever the group was gathered together. The looks she sent their way confused him. Sometimes she appeared to want to stomp all over Buffy for standing next to the vampire, much less casually touching him. Xander also noticed times when she wore a secret smile on her face as she looked at them. Most times, he just figured that was the secret urge to start chopping body parts if Buffy moved any closer. Others, Xander had to wonder.
“Giles, I remember two versions of everything that happened from that big blue arm in the box to graduation,” Xander complained. “This Angelus/Angel thing with Cordy and at the same time that Angel had eyes only for Buffy. Am I losing my mind or is there some kind of demon out there playing with reality?”
Putting the kettle on to boil for tea, Giles told him, “No— and yes.”
“There’s a demon playing with reality?” Xander looked muddled and dropped his armful of weapons back in the antique chest.
“In a way.” Giles suspected that a certain vampire— and a witch— were behind this. It made perfect sense considering the conversation he had with Angel in Willow’s presence right before the vampire’s departure from Sunnydale.
Lights were shining from the windows of the old mansion as Angel pulled up outside. He turned off the ignition and hurried inside. Sounds of a radio playing were coming from the second floor and so he took the stairs two at a time. Angel found her in the bedroom adjoining the master suite, the one that Angelus had arranged specifically for her use.
Cordelia had her back to him as she stood by the bed unpacking her suitcase. He watched her for a full minute trying to think of something to say that expressed his feelings, but could not think of a single word. Having discarded countless speeches as he drove from LA to Sunnydale, Angel was at a loss.
He wanted to go to her. Pull her into his arms. Tell her that she was his. That he loved her and would never let her go.
Somehow, Angel sensed that Cordelia would not take kindly to that without hashing this out in a verbal and physical free-for-all. Then, there would be Buffy. She had a right to face him— and Cordelia— knowing what had happened before and learning what was between them now.
“What took you so long?” Cordelia’s curious voice questioned startling Angel out of his private musings. Still facing the other direction, she had simply sensed his presence in the room.
“You knew I would come,” Angel figured. “That’s why you left the note.”
Walking to her side, Angel curled his hand around her arm turning Cordelia to look down at her face. She was beautiful, he thought, but the light in her hazel eyes seemed dim. “I needed some time to think about things. That’s why I took the bus. I knew you’d follow me— I wanted you too.”
“Why come here?”
“This is where it started, Angel,” Cordelia told him. “I wanted to see things. Touch them. Know that they were real.”
The vampire could understand that. “It must seem like a dream.”
Cordelia let out a distraught laugh. “No. It’s a nightmare.”
Explaining, “I remember it both ways, Angel. The things we did before— I’m not that person anymore. At least, I don’t think so. I need time to find out who I am again.”
SOULBOUND – BOOK TWO – THE NEXT CONNECTION: CHAPTER LINKS